four days in florida

Cam and I went to Florida last week! We took a red-eye! We survived! We went to the beach! We ate key lime pie! It was fantastic. The trip that is. But the pie was, too.

img_2663.jpg

^^photo credit: alli^^

My dearest friend Alli had a baby in February, so I'd been planning to make a trip to Minneapolis to meet lil Charlie, but she and her parents were kind enough to invite me to their place in Fort Myers instead. I love Minneapolis, but who could say no to some Florida sunshine? Frontier is kind enough to have a direct flight from DIA to Southwest Florida International Airport at the worst times imaginable, and I'll do anything for Alli and also not to have a connection, so I signed us up. It was fun to travel with just Cameron, and I must admit I was much less nervous for this first flight of his than I was when I took Willa on hers at around the same age! Of course I missed the other half of our family, but I was happy to have a few days of just girls + babies.

^^11:55pm at DIA. i put him to bed at 7pm so he could sleep until we left for the airport at 9:30. he then took another snooze in my arms at the gate around 10:30, but woke up excited to hear we had a 30 minute delay. as he smiled and squirmed around on the floor at our gate, several people looked on. i decided to tell myself that they were marveling at his cuteness rather than judging me for putting my baby on the dirty floor. but when you have 4 hours ahead of you on a plane with a lap infant, you gotta rest your arms while you can!^^

^^arrived! happy to meet his new best bud charlie.^^

^^on our first morning, we hit up a farmers' market. florida style: in a parking lot at a mall. i did, however, get a smoothie that hit the spot like nothing else. what is it about fruit juice in hot weather? so good.^^

^^aquatic facilities + cam's first swim!^^

^^dudes in hanna andersson pjs enjoying some back time with orange toys.^^

^^indoor/outdoor living is the best.^^

^^even bigger aquatic facilities + another dip.^^

^^we made a trip to barefoot beach. i was in heaven. cam was unsure about the water. but he did enjoy a long nap to the sound of the waves.^^

^^i can never get enough of tropical vegetation. or rodes key lime pie. we bought it on my last night there, so i of course ate 4 pieces.^^

^^cam figured he should test out the carpet at southwest florida airport too. you can see on his face that he was a bit bummed about going home though. or maybe that's because it was 6am. i was happily drinking a $6 starbucks latte to energize myself for the flight home.^^

frikadelle + other fun

FRIKADELLE!!!! That's German for "meat patty." Apparently, during the industrial revolution, German immigrants in NYC needed a way to eat them faster and on-the-go, so they put the frikadelle between two slices of bread, and the hamburger was born. We had frikadelle a week or so ago, thanks to my friend Marret who was visiting for a few weeks last month. She's from Hamburg, Germany, and was an exchange student with my parents 10 years ago (what!? 10 years!?). It was so fun to have her here to spend time with us. We were able to reconnect, have a lot of laughs, and eat a lot of good food. And it was amazing to watch her get to know the kids. (The day we took her to the airport, as I was getting Willa ready for her nap, she suggested we take "a lot of planes" to Germany "next weekend." Melted my heart.)

dsc06991.jpg

^^There's the frikadelle. On greens with roasted butternut squash and potatoes. It was delicious. Marret made the disclaimer that it wasn't really a "German dinner" that she made us. But, I say, she's German and she made a dinner that she would make at home, so that's pretty much a German dinner. No? Whatever you call it, it was healthy and delicious and it was so nice of her to do the cooking. (Not to mention all the dishes she did while she was visiting!)^^

^^There was a sunny hike with Willa's playschool group. And on another day, a trip to the mountains to snowboard!^^

^^Falafel was made! ^^

^^And a marzipan cake! (Willa is always game to help with baking. She loves to cook and/or knows she'll get to lick some batter.)^^

^^We went to Union Station and hit up Zoe Ma Ma for lunch.^^

^^Willa learned where Germany is. Or at least that Germany, is.^^

^^Pizza salad and gelato at Parisi!^^

^^Girls' night out at The Source. Comida tacos of course. Hold the cilantro for Marret. And the avocado thanks to my newly developed intolerance (aka the worst development ever!).^^

^^Most importantly, chocolates were exchanged.^^

THANK YOU for coming to visit Marret! We loved having you!

winter weekend :: crested butte

Willa's first vacation was to the Black Hills, South Dakota. Last month, Cameron went on his first, to Crested Butte. We were so excited to have a weekend away from the city, and Crested Butte is such an idyllic Colorado ski town. We'd been once before, and were excited to get back there to enjoy snow, skiing, and a lot of bacon. (Okay the bacon wasn't exactly planned or essential, but we bought some and ate it for breakfast. Everyday. So it wouldn't go to waste. Worse things could happen. And yay for a VRBO with good pans!)

Cameron was a bit too busy being cocooned in his fleece inside the baby carrier to participate in much of the winter fun that CB has to offer, but I think he had a nice time nonetheless. And the rest of us had a wonderful time, so it was by all counts a success!

^^our rental house // the view of the butte^^

^^i was thrilled to have a chance to get out on the slopes despite cameron's bottle woes and thanks to help from my mother-in-law who joined us for the weekend (thanks again!). we debated whether or not to have willa try out skiing, but we ultimately decided to wait until next year. she had plenty of fun just playing in the snow!^^

^^the town of crested butte is great. to me, it's what i've always pictured when i thought of a colorado ski town. our rental house was easy walking distance to the main part of town, and one night we went to the brick oven pizzeria and pub. they had decent pizza and great beers on draft. (we'd actually wanted to go to the secret stash, where we'd been a few years ago, but we didn't realize they'd changed locations.)^^

^^walk home after dinner. CB, you pretty.^^

^^such fun in the snow! (the snow was not that fun, however, when we had to drive home through monarch pass. that pass, man. scares me every time.)^^

snowmass + aspen

Last weekend we packed up the car for another adventure. This month has been full of trips, which has been fantastic, but also totally exhausting. This time, we headed to Snowmass for a long weekend "in the mountains." Dan competed in the Tough Mudder with some friends, so we'd decided to make a whole weekend of it. We stayed in a perfect little condo in Snowmass Village (I love you, VRBO) and the weather couldn't have been better. It was blue skies and sunny the whole weekend (minus a quick shower when we arrived on Friday) with just enough coolness in the air to make you think of fall. Although...I did get pretty sunburned watching the race on Saturday, so I suppose the weather was actually mostly summer-like. That Colorado sun at altitude will get you every time! We also had fun exploring Aspen, just a few miles down the road. I loved the beautifully preserved historic buildings against the backdrop of mountain peaks. Willa's favorite part of Aspen was an art installation of three monkeys that appeared in a few different spots around town. She actually leaned in to one monkey and said, "I love you very much."

^^despite a passing rain storm, we had a great time checking out aspen on friday afternoon. we took shelter from the rain at the main street bakery & café, where we had a delicious lunch, and after we'd eaten the sun was back out!^^

^^once dan was registered for the race in snowmass village, we found bia hoi for dinner. sitting outside by the fire, we enjoyed surprisingly good (albeit not too authentic) southeast asian street food. the banh mi, sausage lettuce wraps, and vegetable fried rice were all fantastic! the pork potstickers? not so much.^^

^^race day! despite getting a bit sunburn in the beautiful weather, willa and i had so much fun watching the race. i got my own workout walking up and down the hills to see the different obstacles! willa loved looking for daddy at each stop, and it was so sweet to see them hug before dan continued on the course.^^

^^pretty views from our rental condo.^^

^^we made another stop in aspen on our way home on sunday for a quick bite and a stroll around town. such a fun town, full of cool restaurants and stores i can't afford to shop in. but hey, there's a lovely playground in the middle of town that's free! also, that's what i look like at 32 weeks preggers...^^

the land of 10,000 lakes

Last week, we piled the whole fam into the SUV and made for Minnesota. It sounded like quite the endeavor, but in the end, the roadtrip really wasn't that big of deal. Willa always surprises me with how well she does in the car (for the most part). At this age, she loves talking to us (repeating the same thing over and over again), especially about things she sees out the window. A train spotting can pass at least 20 minutes. She slept some, and we definitely utilized the iPad a decent amount this trip. Hour by hour, the fields of Nebraska and Iowa zoomed past and after a night in Des Moines, we were delighted to be in Minneapolis. We spent the week visiting good friends, and had the chance to go up to their cabin for a few days. It wasn't as hot as we might have hoped for a lakehouse vacation, but we still had a fantastic time. I went swimming several times, we cooked good food, and we encountered tons of wildlife. I slept so well in the dark, quiet, cool cabin. It was delightful. A good night's sleep when you're pregnant is THE BEST.

Back in Minneapolis we were able to go out for an adult dinner at a hip new restaurant, Hola Arepa, and ice cream at Sebastian Joe's. And if that wasn't enough to eat, the next day we hit up the Minnesota State Fair. Holy fried food. And big pigs.

As is the case with any trip, I learned a few things on the road:

At 2.2 years old, Willa's totally over the travel crib. But put her a "big girl bed" and she'll sleep like a champ. (Or perhaps she heard what I said about her in my recent post and was trying to prove me wrong with a few sleep hiccups.)

Super 8 went through a phase a few years ago when they were spiffing up all their hotels. I think that phase is over. We might need to upgrade.

Iowa isn't joking about the corn. We took a detour off the highway for awhile, and wow there were a lot of corn fields. And soybeans. We were listening to an anti-big agriculture podcast at the time. That seemed fitting.

You really can fry anything. Just check out the Minnesota State Fair. It's also a great place to check out strollers.

Wendy's frostys are still good. Oh and their fries are better than McDonald's. And there's no healthy food options off the interstate in Nebraska.

Des Moines had some of the most fantastic Thai food I've had in awhile.

Booking a last-minute hotel from your phone can result in a great deal. Check out the Hotel Tonight app!

Rest stops never appear when you want them to.

Starbucks milkshakes aren't nearly as good as their frappuccinos.

Arepas are hard to split but probably should still be split because they are super filling.

Vacation is great.

campers

I like to think of myself as a camper. You know, someone who camps. Like a girl scout. But not. A camper. Growing up near the Adirondacks, my family camped a lot. I also went to summer camp for almost 10 years. I can build a fire and set up a tent. I have some mean canoe skills too.

But, truth be told, I haven't been camping in probably three years. We went a few times in Washington, but since Willa was born, we've been scared. Sharing a hotel room with her is daunting enough, let alone a tent. Until recently, I just didn't really understand how it would work. Our tent is a backpacking 2-person tent that barely fits the two of us and our dog. As I've mentioned, Willa is a great sleeper in a crib of some sort, but she's never been much into the family bed idea. Where would she sleep? Squished between the sleeping bags and Bryna? That had to be a suffocation hazard, no?

But then a friend of mine organized a camping trip for a group of us and our littles, who are all about the same age. It seemed like the perfect chance to take the plunge! So, last weekend, we all headed up to a campsite near Pine Junction. Aside from the fact I ended up insanely exhausted the next day, the trip was a huge success! Much fun had by all. The city kids got nice and dirty, we swam in a (natural!) lake, and indulged in campfire cones after the littles went to bed. And apparently, I was really overthinking (or underthinking?) the sleeping situation. All we really needed was a tent big enough for a travel crib.

It all went so well that I've been feeling really sad we can't get back the last two years of no camping trips and go a few more times. But there's always the future, right? More family camping trips! We just need to invest in an awesome "family tent" like the one our friends lent us. And some type of mattress pad! (Can I still call myself "a camper" if I don't sleep on the rock-hard ground? Maybe just for use when pregnant? Oconto ladies, what do you think?)

^^we drove to nearby wellington lake for an afternoon swim/play in the water. i wasn't wearing my bathing suit but i still couldn't resist a dip in the inviting lake. it was so refreshing! (plus we had to get our money's worth because they charge a steep $5 per person and $5 per vehicle to get in!)^^

^^i'd been saving this nescafé gold (straight from taiwan thanks to my dear friend bai) for a special occasion. and it totally hit the spot in the fresh air of the early morning. milk and sugar already mixed in? yes please!^^

^^future "camper"!?^^

Huge thanks to NM for organizing everything, GB and SL for being awesome camping companions, MH for lending the tent, and RKGB for the delightful coffee hook-up!

party animal

Prior to Willa's arrival in our lives, I could be quoted as saying something to the effect of "I'm not going to be tied down by her sleep schedule." Or, "Kids don't have to go to bed at a certain time." My overall philosophy on this matter remains largely the same, but I now know how quickly things can deteriorate when a tired baby or toddler is in the mix. Those newborns I see sleeping in public places in carseats? Yeah, Willa gave that up when she was about 4 weeks old. When she got really tired as a baby, she'd just cry. And cry and cry and cry. On a plane, I could only ever get her to sleep by nursing her.  "When she gets tired enough, she'll sleep," people would say. Nope. Not this one. Then there was the time she was 20 months and we took her to Costa Rica. She didn't sleep a wink our evening flight down there. She was up for over 12 hours. But you know where Willa does sleep really well? In her crib. Or now her bed. At night. Yep, seven to seven since seven months. She's pretty awesome like that. I'm all for flexibility, but why mess up a good thing? And even her naps have gotten much better too. In her bed that is. On the go? 20 minutes max. If it happens at all.

The point of this ramble is that going into last weekend's familiy wedding, we were a bit nervous about how Willa would do with the late nights a festive weekend required. Plus the time difference put us at a disadvantage. But the part of me who said those things back in the day kept reminding myself that kids need to be adaptable. And everything would turn out okay. Right?

Well, hey! Guess what? It did! Willa proved to be the life of the party. She stayed up past her bedtime three nights in a row, making it until almost midnight on the night of the wedding. She danced and danced and ran circles around her lame-o pregnant mom. She slept in her carseat on the drive home and then barely woke up when I moved her to her crib. She slept in until 9am the next day. And the day after that. And then easily slipped right back into her regular schedule. Score! A toddler sleep machine! Proud parents over here. As a wise family friend has always said, "Add up the pluses. To hell with the minuses." I think that applies particularly well to parenting.

^^photos above from night number two of partying. she was up till almost 10. after eating some cupcake herself, she then decided to distribute it around the room. any guest she could find got a little crumb. "why, thank you crazy toddler," they must have all been thinking...^^

^^"that the moon. means it's naptime. i say bye-bye." she wisely declared.^^

DSC04122
DSC04122

Sooooo, those are some pictures of our little lady in action! Such a fun weekend. And most importantly: huge congratulations and all the best to the happy couple!

burma superstar

I had Burmese food last weekend! It was sensational! I'm very excited about it! Can you tell by the exclaimation points!? On Thursday, we flew to San Francisco for a family wedding. Our flight left early in the morning, so we were on the ground in California by 9am. We opted for a rental car this trip so we could have some flexibility, and the timing worked out perfectly; we pulled up to Clement Street at 11:20am, and Burma Superstar opens at 11:30. Rumor has it there are usually long waits, but due to our lucky impeccable timing, we were able to snag a table right away. Willa was a bit out of it from the morning of travel (and the fact we woke her up from her carseat snooze), but luckily she settled in happily once she heard rice was involved.

^^rainbow salad. we weren't sure which to pick - this one or the tea leaf salad, but we wanted to be sure to try some noodles, so we went with the rainbow. i'd say it was very good but not out of this world. it could have used a tad more kick.^^

^^chicken and tofu kebat. now this dish was FANTASTIC. it had so much flavor it was unbelievable. i used the spoon to eat every last drop of the sauce.^^

^^willa would like you to know that the coconut rice was also quite above average.^^

^^when we finished lunch there were a good number of people waiting outside. it really is a destination restaurant but i'd say the hype is justified. it's impressive how good their food is after being open for over 20 years.^^

^^after lunch we enjoyed walking around the neighborhood (clement street in inner richmond). we found a great cantonese bakery where we enjoyed an egg custard and a black bean cake. oh and also, i'm pregnant. haven't i mentioned that? 28 weeks in this pic!^^

a night in vail!

Last Saturday, Dan and I headed west on I-70. Destination: Vail. My parents kindly offered to watch Willa for a night, and after contemplating camping or some other more adventurous outing, we decided to just book a night in a hotel in Vail, and spend time relaxing and exploring the village. Let’s be honest; I needed some rest.

When we arrived in Vail, we first headed out on a hike along the Gore Creek Trail. The hike takes you to Gore Lake after about 4 miles, but we knew we wouldn’t make it that far. Still, it was a beautiful hike along the creek and it was kind of liberating to be hiking with no dog or toddler in tow.

dsc03764.jpg

After the hike we made our way into town to the Tivoli Lodge, which we’d booked without much research, but it ended up being just perfect. Our room was quite and peaceful with a nice balcony and mountain views.

We went out for the most fantastic dinner. A quick search on Vail restaurants led me to the relatively-new Mountain Standard. When I saw the menu and the partitioned pig graphic on the website, I knew it was a good fit for us. They didn’t have any reservations available, so I wasn’t sure if we’d get in, but we easily got a table at around 6pm.

Every single dish we ordered was superb. We hesitated before ordering the $7 “coal-roasted” olives, but figured, “hey, we’re on a mini vacation!” And boy did we make the right choice. I’ve never had olives so good. They were piping hot, and served with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. I honestly had no idea olives could be so delicious.

Our other appetizers were shrimp and grits and a stone fruit salad. Both were fantastic; one in a hearty, rich, and spicy sort of way while the other was light, fresh, and sweet. We had Rocky Mountain trout for an entrée, as well as a rotisserie chicken salad. The salad was perhaps the lowlight of the night, but by no means bad, just lacking that something special. The trout, on the other hand, was splendid. For some reason it’s hard to find local-ish trout in Denver restaurants, so it was a nice treat.

We hesitated about ordering dessert. We were pretty satiated and thought about just walking around town and finding some ice cream, but the peanut butter pie sounded pretty good, and we definitely made the right call. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

On Sunday morning we slept in a bit, and then hit up the Vail Farmers’ Market. We scored some goat cheese curds to eat with a fresh bagel on the way home...quite good, but I think I’ll stick to cow’s milk ones. Goat cheese is too soft! But I of course still had no problem eating them.

We got home Sunday just in time to deal with transitioning Willa to a toddler bed. Of course she would decide to start climbing out of her crib the night we're trying take some time off. Parenthood!

vashon island

When we were in Seattle last month, a main stop on my itinerary was Vashon Island to visit my dear friend Brenna and her family. They'd moved out to Vashon after we left Seattle, and I'd never otherwise made the trip, so Vashon was a total mystery to me. (Ok, "total" is probably an exaggeration, since I'd heard lots about it from Brenna and others, but I was still very excited to check it out.) Brenna's daughter is the same age as Willa, and we were so happy they'd have a chance to play together for a couple days. Vashon was beautiful. The island itself, and in particular my friends' house, made me feel like life had slowed down. Everything felt calmer. Quieter. More relaxed. It was lovely. I was super excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest. So green! Moss! Trees and flowers of all types! Friends and fresh air are quite rejuvenating.

dsc03162.jpg

^^ferry riding^^

^^coffee, pastries, and steamed milks @ the vashon island coffee roasterie. it was the birthplace of seattle's best coffee. and they now "specialize in heirloom coffee." (i love seattle.)^^

^^just look at all that green! don't you feel more relaxed?^^

^^around town. we had the most fabulous lunch at snapdragon. it was so hard to pick our sweet treats; such options! and, how cute are the little ladies?^^

^^beach time. breakfast time.^^

^^this is what trying to do a self-timer shot with two toddlers looks like.^^

Thanks for everything, Brenna!

girls' trip to seattle

Where oh where has the last month gone? It was just April, but now May is nearing it's end? Things have been happening. Lots of doing. Lots of comings and goings. Lots of sleeping.

Perhaps most exciting of those things was a trip to Seattle during the last week of April. My mom, Willa, and I flew out to the sunny PNW for a week. (Yep, it was mostly sunny!) The goals were pretty simple: food, fun, family, and friends. We accomplished pretty much all of that, and more. It was wonderful visiting some of our favorite places and showing them to Willa for the first time. Not to mention it was fantastic having my mom's help with Willa because, in case you didn't know, traveling with a toddler is exhausting. Thanks mom!

^^greens and blues. really nothing won't grow in seattle.^^

^^seattle: where even the highchairs are hip. (@ skillet diner)^^

^^brunch at café presse on capitol hill^^

^^BFF. dressed up. lake washington views.^^

^^ladies who love seattle. and each other.^^

^^i love denver. but there are no views like this in colorado.^^

^^afternoon at the aquarium.^^

^^din tai fung, u-village. where i learned that not only do they have the best XLB ever, they also have the best kids' plates ever. but they are not for sale. i asked.^^

...

Check out more Seattle posts here, as well as my Seattle restaurant list!

a weekend in minneapolis

I spent last weekend in Minneapolis. "I." Not "we." My first significant time away from W. Of course I missed my family a great deal, but it was wonderful to spend some time on my own and to see dear friends. I think it's so important to continue to prioritize yourself sometimes after you've gotten married or had kids, but sometimes that's easier said than done. I was proud of myself for making this weekend happen, and I felt lucky to have the chance to focus on my friendships and myself. The weekend was full of serious and silly conversations, laughs, hugs, many moments of just sitting down because I could, and lots of good food.

^^cupcakes! we stopped at cocoa & fig for some treats, and i of course ate more than my share.^^

^^on saturday afternoon we did some antiquing. alli scored a cool old record player cabinet turned coffee table, while i found some great maps at hunt & gather. i could have stayed there for hours!^^

^^for dinner we hit up the rabbit hole, which was pretty darn amazing. basically an updated take on korean street food and "funky cocktails." (don't mind the blurry photo of me, the restaurant in the background is in focus, and that's the important thing to see!)^^

^^poutine with kimchi, brussels sprouts, and mackerel. the brussels sprouts were the best dish of the night, i thought. i'm always a sucker for brussels sprouts and i'll eat an asian preparation of them every day of the week. so. good.^^

^^cheers! to for years and years of friendship and frequent visits.^^

^^snow! i totally forgot what serious snowbanks are like. in denver, snow never stays around long enough to accumulate, but the very opposite is true in minneapolis. i snapped this shot as we were walking to patisserie 46 where i had the most delicious pain aux raisins.^^

^^after staying in and making khao soi on sunday night, we wrapped up the weekend with another sweet treat: sebastian joe's oreo ice cream. i was amazed to see such a packed place amidst the cold minneapolis weather, but apparently everyone likes their ice cream. and it was mighty good.^^

no more bottled water.

I'm a rule follower. When someone of authority tells me to do something, I do it. And when I break rules or recommendations, I do so only with intense anxiousness. Before we left for Costa Rica, I called my doctor's travel clinic to talk about our trip. We had all the necessary vaccinations, but the lady I spoke with emphasized that we should not drink the tap water there. I asked a few follow up questions, because what I'd read had made me think the tap water was safe in Costa Rica, but this woman insisted there were serious health risks.

dsc02451.jpg

^^costa rica sunset. february 2014^^

I hate buying water. I hate creating unnecessary waste. Both of these principles are hard to stick to when you're traveling in a place without potable water. I've spent a good deal of time in China, and it's actually not hard there, because boiled water is readily available. When I studied abroad in Harbin in 2003, I'd fill my Nalgene with boiled water and stick it out on the windowsill to cool off. Sure, bottled water was cheap. But think of all the people in China. If they're all drinking water from bottles, imagine how many plastic bottles that is. Where do they all go?

^^woman sweeping up trash at the forbidden city in beijing. taken by my mom when visiting me in december 2003.^^

But back to Costa Rica. While there, we bought bottled water. 6L jugs of it usually, so only 4 or 5 were needed to get us through the 10 days. But still, those bottles made my heart hurt. Especially when an expat in line at the supermarket lectured me about how Costa Rica's drinking water was totally safe. I know, lady, you're preaching to the choir. But I didn't want to risk it with Willa, and getting sick was not in our vacation plans. I didn't want to go against what my doctor had advised.

^^selvatura park. monteverde, costa rica. february 2014.^^

But during our trip, I vowed I'd do something different the next time. Once home, I went through my bookmarks and favorited tweets, and found two fantastic organizations I'd previously heard about: Ban the Bottle, and Travelers Against Plastic. I've been following Ban the Bottle for a few years since I support their mission of: "eliminating plastic bottles in schools, offices and public areas...[so] we can eliminate unneeded waste in landfills." Travelers Against Plastic has a different, but potentially even more important slant. Their mission is to "educate global travelers about the harmful impacts of plastic water bottles usage and encourage travelers to be prepared to clean their own drinking water."

^^GUILTY! penang, malaysia. july 2011.^^

On their resources page, they recommend a few methods: a SteriPEN, which is likely familiar to those who go camping, as well as old fashioned iodine tablets. We used to use those when I went to summer camp, and the water always had an odd taste. But apparently they're more advanced now and you can get neutralizing tablets which elimiate it.

As someone who cares a lot about these types of issues, I am mad at myself for not thinking more about this before our trip. It would have been so easy to buy a $50 SteriPEN or pack a few iodine tablets which are even cheaper! But even I didn't think of it. The only way to make change is to educate people. I'm glad I've been thinking about it lately. I hope you, too, will think twice before buying a bottle of water?

costa rica :: what we packed

Before we left for Costa Rica, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to pack. A lot. I wanted to make sure we had everything we'd need. But I didn't want to overpack. It can be a hard balance to strike. Right?

We had to take a travel crib for Willa, so I decided it made the most sense to take one big suitcase for the three of us. I have an old hardshell Samsonite suitcase that is always overweight if you fill it with clothes, but since the travel crib takes up half of it and only weighs 7 pounds, you can fill the rest of the space and still sneak in under the weight limit.

willa's clothes:
4 dresses
3 short-sleeved onesies
3 t-shirts
1 long-sleeved shirt
3 pairs leggings
1 pair shorts
1 sweater
1 light cardigan
1 full-piece pjs
1 sunhat
2 bathing suits
1 swim diaper
1 sunglasses
1 pair sandals
1 pair Crocs
1 pair running shoes

my clothes:
2 maxi dresses
1 short dress
1 pair lightweight pants*
1 pair cropped legging
2 pairs shorts
2 t-shirts
1 lightweight blouse
1 sweatshirt
1 athletic t-shirt
4 tank tops
2 bikinis
1 sports bra
1 regular bra
2 pairs socks
running shoes
flip flops
hat
sunglasses

non-clothing items:
2 small bags of toiletries
5 Clif bars
5 Lärabars
powdered goat milk
2 sippy cups
2 water bottles
travel highchair
canvas tote (for beach, groceries etc.)
1 small bag of toys
3 storybooks
AquaDoodle
2 small notebooks + crayons
1 book each for dan and me
iPad
camera
Ergo baby carrier
carseat
travel crib

I didn't include a list of what Dan packed, but it he brought less than I did. Although men's clothes take up more room.

After our 10 days away, I was pretty pleased with how the packing worked out. Overall, we brought just the right amount of stuff. I washed a few things in the sink mid-trip, but not much. Mostly just stuffed the sand-filled clothes in bags at the end of the trip. (Oh yes, bags! I pack everything in gallon-sized zip-lock bags. You have to roll them to save space. Willa likes to join in and roll anything she can get her hands on. It's not always that helpful but it's so darn cute.)

There were, however, a few things I wish I'd packed: another beach cover up (that sun was hot!) dish soap cutlery + travel knife

*When I go on a long trip to a warm-weather place, I like to bring a pair of "vacation pants." Really this started when I was in Thailand and bought way too many pairs of what I call "hammer pants" but I believe are actually called harem pants. Or maybe it's fisherman pants? Whatever their name is, I'm sure it's inappropriate. But they're absurdly comfortable, and you should get yourself a pair. On this trip, I brought a slightly more mainstream pair from Target (but bought via thredUP). Vacation pants can come in many forms, they just make you feel relaxed. You know, like you're on vacation.

things i learned in costa rica

We just got back from Costa Rica! (Well, we got back Saturday, but I picked up a cold somewhere along the way, and Bryna got sick at the dog-boarding place, so it took a few days to get back into the swing of things.)

It was a long-planned adventure for us, and a lot of firsts: Our first international family vacation. Our first big trip with a toddler. Our first trip to Central America. The first time we'd been on a beach vacation in a long while. Our first time relying primarily on a rental car for transportation in another country.

We flew in and out of San Jose, and spent the first and last nights of the trip at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport to make arrival and departure easy. From San Jose, we drove to Monteverde for two nights, and then spent six nights at Playa Negra in Guanacaste, just south of popular Tamarindo.

There's lots I want to write about the trip, and many pictures to sort through, but while they're fresh in my mind I want to share a few things I learned on our first international family vacation. These won't apply to everyone, but they're thoughts I want to remember and keep in mind for our next big trip!

It's worth it. Despite the challenges of traveling with a toddler (and there definitely are challenges!), it's totally worth it. The ups and downs and the memories you make will bring you all closer together.

Even if your "worst case scenario" comes true, everything'll still be fine. Our 6-hour flight to Costa Rica left at 4pm, and Willa had had an early nap. I'd told friends before we left that, "worst case scenario," if she didn't sleep the whole flight, we'd arrive at 9pm Denver time. Sure enough, she didn't sleep the whole flight. And she stayed awake until 11:30pm Denver time. But we all made it through in one piece. Everything carried on as planned.

Kids can be better travelers than adults. We were a bit worried about how Willa would do during our three 4-hour drives. She did great, and on one drive, we dubbed her "MVP," because she was happy and content the whole drive, whereas Dan and I got a bit crabby because we needed a bathroom and were hungry etc. etc. And, although this trip was probably an exception, usually Willa sleeps much better than we do while we're traveling!

You might want to splurge on A/C, but it'll be okay if you don't. It was a little tricky figuring out how to get Willa to nap. At her usual naptime, 12ish, our bungalow at the beach was extremely hot. My initial response was to curse myself for not paying the additional money to rent a bungalow with air conditioning. But really, all we had to do was move her nap a little earlier. If she napped around 11, it wasn't yet that hot in the room. This worked well, too, because she woke up at 5:30 or 6 most of the week (ugh!) since it gets light so much earlier there. We also took her for late afternoon walks in the carrier, which gave her a chance to catch a few more minutes of sleep if she needed it. But still, when you have little ones and need to be in your room midday, it could be a good option to have A/C.

Carefully selected toys are key. You can't take many toys on a trip. (Well, I guess you could, but that would just be silly. And we all know I strive to pack light.) So you have to make sure you pick ones that serve many purposes. The main players for us this trip were stacking cups, an AquaDoodle, and a Sesame Street coloring book.

I really like breakfast. The places we stayed for the first three nights had breakfast included. I really like rolling out of bed and having coffee and breakfast treats available at my fingertips. At the beach we bought groceries and had breakfast on our porch each morning. That was also nice, but not the same.

Give things time. When I travel, I sometimes feel a lot of pressure to be having an "amazing time" every single moment. But for me, it takes time to settle in to a new place and to a new schedule. Even when all you're doing is relaxing on the beach, it might take some time to figure everything out. Just let it happen. It will.