Category: travel

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One of my most favorite things to do with the family is getaway for little staycations around Southern California. There is really so much to see and do but yet we sometimes over look it with our busy schedules. This last weekend was open so we hit the road to Santa Monica to visit with some family and see Santa Monica and Malibu. It still shocks me that it took us this long to bring the kids. We were a little rained out on Saturday (compliments of a lovely tropical storm) but by the evening we were back on track. Sunday was gorgeous and the kids finally experienced the famous Santa Monica pier. Another staycation checked off the list.

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Also! The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale officially begins today! If you weren’t able to shop the Early Access, this is your opportunity to pick up all your goodies! Things sell out fast so I recommend not hesitating!
To see all my Top Picks for Women, click here.
To see all my Top Picks for Men and Children, click here.

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This Spring Break was a lucky one.  My kids go to private school and very often, we have a different Spring Break than the public schools do.  It is baseball season so what ends up happening is that we will be given a week off of baseball while we are in school since the public schools are on break, and then our break hits and we have practices and games scheduled, making it extremely hard to sneak away.  As luck would have it, this year they overlapped and for the first time in years, we had NOTHING scheduled during Spring Break.  I have never seen parents run so quickly to schedule a vacation.

When it came to selecting where we wanted to go, one thing we wanted to avoid was a lot of travel.  With the hubby’s work, we wanted a location that was far away enough to feel like vacation and yet close enough that we could be there in a few hours.  Santa Barbara seemed perfect.  Bacara Resort and Spa has been on my list of hotels to visit for what seems like forever and so I was determined to make it work.  I was a little hesitant about bringing the kids simply because I was not sure if the other guests would love to have three maniacs running around while they are trying to relax in one of the nicest resorts in California.  I called the hotel to chat a little bit about that and what rooms would accommodate a family of 5 and the woman I spoke to put me at complete ease with bringing the kids and found us the perfect room.  The countdown soon began.

We arrived Easter afternoon to blue skies, an amazing room, a pool and a pool bar.  All five of us were in heaven.  This continued all week.  In fact, we were suppose to leave Wednesday but were enjoying ourselves so much that we added an additional night.  Thursday when we checked out we were all sad to leave but said we would definitely be back.

So what was so great about this trip?  First and foremost, the hotel was stunning and chic, yet understated in the most perfect way.  The service was fantastic and the food and drinks were just as good.  It was the perfect combination of pool and beach, with a view of the Channel Islands.  At one point I even told my husband that if he was to tell me we were in Hawaii, I would believe it.  It was secluded yet close to downtown Santa Barbara, which we ventured out to one rainy morning.  We swam, we ate, we went on a hike, we walked the beach, we relaxed, and simply, we received the downtime as a family that we needed.  It is rare that the kids love a hotel as much as we do.  It hit all points for all ages.  The cherry on top?  It was only 3 hours away from home.  No airport security.  No traveling all day.  We simply loaded the car and a few hours later, we were on vacation.

They had to pull me out by my heels Thursday when we left but I cannot wait to go back.  It was wonderful discovering another slice of heaven here in California.

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Brunch.

The best meal of the day.

Not breakfast.

Not dinner.

Some beautiful place in between that offers you all the deliciousness of breakfast, the justification of a Bloody Mary, a reason to dress up and good company.  Who has ever said that they don’t like brunch?  No one.

I would take the opportunity to attend a brunch any day of the week, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to taste test the new Brunch menu at Fig & Olive in Newport Beach.  The added bonus?  They were also launching a children’s menu alongside the Brunch, which made for the perfect opportunity to turn this into a Girl’s Day with my daughter.  Dresses, delicious food and of course, a stop at Fashion Island after.

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There was a lot of anticipation prior to Fig & Olive first opening their doors.  It instantly became the perfect destination for Girl’s Nights, Date Nights and Happy Hour.  From day one, they have been delivering incredible food and service in Newport.  Brunch however, was not something I had anticipated.  When I received the invitation I instantly thought, “NEW BRUNCH SPOT!” as I would eat Brunch three times a day if I could but I was also questioning whether they would be able to deliver to the expectations of someone who has eaten Eggs Benedict at every restaurant in south Orange County.  I was also a tad bit concerned about bringing a four year old into a restaurant that I have consistently perceived as an “adults only” location.

The entire experience far surpassed my expectations.  First and foremost, let’s chat about the food.  They started out with chocolate croissants.  Need I say more?  Baby Girl ordered the chicken fingers from the children’s menu while I over-indulged in the Fig & Olive salad, one of the best Crab Cake Eggs Benedict I have ever had and I washed those both down with Baby Girl’s truffle fries.  Perhaps I could have stopped there but I have never been one to say no to dessert.  The Chocolate Pot de Creme was to die for.  If you have ever wondered why I work out, it is for meals like this.  We ate and ate and ate and I could not have enjoyed the entire meal more.

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Then there were the children.  The staff was perfection when it came to handling young ones who couldn’t quite sit still for the entire meal.  Whether it was delivering their chocolate milk, refreshing the bread basket or bringing their entrees out with our first course, they made dining with children easy. Believe me, that is a challenge unto itself.

Now regarding the details.  The pre-fixed brunch menu is $28/person and also provides you with one complimentary children’s meal for those 10 and under.  This not only makes for an extremely delicious morning out but also a reasonable one.  Brunch is offered Saturdays and Sundays at the Newport Beach location: 151 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, Ca.

You can book your reservation by calling the restaurant at 949-877-3005

Thank you Fig & Olive for hosting Baby Girl and I.  We will definitely be back.

 

We made it through our first week back from being out of town, the travel hangover is over and I think we are just now getting back to our regular schedule.  It was actually a pretty good transition and not too terrible but the kids were definitely a bit thrown off, waking up entirely too early some days and sleeping in later than normal others.  I even found myself extremely tired at night which is a little out of character for me.  There is a bit of sadness when your summer vacation comes to an end.  You look forward to it for so long and then when it is over, you realize that school is right around the corner and summer will surely be coming to an end soon.  We are going to make the most of these last 19 days!

As I mentioned in my New York post, we spent Sunday through Friday morning in New York and then headed on the train at Union Station for Washington D.C. to visit some of our dear friends.  For this West Coast family, it is entirely new to think that in a three hour train ride you can travel through 5 different states.  New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware,  and Maryland.  It was a great way to see the country a bit. The last time we were in D.C. we had a tour of the White House and saw the Lincoln and Washington Memorials so this time we visited the Capitol building and Georgetown.  Georgetown was one of the cutest towns I have ever seen and I am really crossing my fingers that one of my children go to college there so I have a reason to visit.  It is not only home to some of the best shopping ever, but Baked & Wired might just have the best cupcakes I have ever tasted.  We also ate lunch in the city at Founding Farmers, a delish farm to table restaurant located a few blocks from the White House.  The weekend was spent in Virginia at our friends home and we did everything from completely relaxing in their backyard to floating down a river for two hours (this was the kids favorite) and wine tasting at Cana vineyards prior to catching our plane.  Every time we go to D.C. I am amazed at all there is to do in the area.  I feel that sometimes this city gets overlooked when compared to New York, Chicago or San Francisco, but it is one of our families favorite.  I am guessing we will want to be going back a third time soon.

Happy Weekend.

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“One cannot paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt” – Georgia O’Keefe

When I travel, I really hate to over plan.  Part of my love for seeing the world is not having a set schedule and being able to walk the streets, grab a coffee and rest when you want and find hidden gems that you could perhaps overlook when you are quickly on to the next.  As our plane took off in LA, there were only two things that we had purchased tickets for; the 9/11 Museum and Memorial and a Yankees game.  Other than that, we were just going to figure it out as we go, understanding that this may limit how much of the city they see but making the entire trip more enjoyable for everyone.  What we didn’t realize is that this approach actually brought us through more of the city than I could have ever imagined. The children now love New York as much as I do and are asking when we can go back.  I must say, if you have thought about bringing your children to New York but have been a bit hesitant, GO FOR IT!  It is crazy how much there is to do with them.  I am going to share our day by day (apology in advance in how long this post is) with just a few photos on what we did and what they loved.

Here is our little adventure in New York…

Monday – The American Museum of Natural History, Central Park and The MET (for just a second)

We were staying right on Central Park South so it made sense that the first day there we would simply walk out the door and head toward the Upper West Side and the American Museum of Natural History.  The children love Natural History museums and we had heard this was one of the best.  It made complete sense to walk because it was gorgeous outside and it would give us a chance to see the park.  The museum was incredible and to make it even better, we grabbed Shake Shack for lunch right across the street.  On impulse we decided to walk across the park to the Upper East Side and the MET.  Though we did not decide to go in (there is only so much museum time a child has), we did decide to drive remote control sailboats in the park for a while, allowing us to soak up the sun and spend some peaceful time together.  The perfect first day.

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Tuesday – The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty, SOHO, the Bowery

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum was a MUST when we first decided to go to New York.  Our Middle Man was born on September 11th and has always known his birthday was important but never has fully understood why.  Our Oldest has started to learn about 9/11 in school and it seemed like the perfect time to share with them this tragedy in American History.  We headed downtown early so that we could take them to Battery Park and show them the Statue of Liberty (no boats or Ellis Island for us today).  Then we spent some time at the Memorial, explaining a bit of what they were going to see inside and paying respect to those who were lost.  The museum absolutely blew us all away.  They did an incredible job and it brought back all the sadness and loss that I remember so vividly from that day in 2001.  For the boys, they experienced for the first time the planes hitting, the buildings falling and all the loss.  At one point I saw tears in my Oldest’s eyes.  They now understand the weight of that day.  The entire museum was incredible moving and I recommend everyone visit if they can.  We then headed to SOHO for lunch and a small bit of shopping at my favorite French boutique, Comptoir Des Cotonniers .  That night we met friends in the Bowery at Bacchanal.  This was our one “adult” dinner, the food was amazing and thanks to three iPads, we made it through.

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Wednesday – Chelsea Piers, the Highline, Little Italy, Time Square

Our dear friend Maritza of MilkShop NY and her husband live right outside the city and we had planned on getting together with them and their beautiful family.  They suggested the driving range at Chelsea Piers and this was right up the kids alley.  For an hour they were able to “golf” while we caught up on life and all that has been going on.  When leaving, they had mentioned they had never been to the High Line, which was only a block or two over, so we headed there next.  It is such a cool urban park with food, things to do with the kids and beautiful views of the city.  After that we headed to Little Italy where we completely over-indulged at La Mela and made a visit to the cutest children’s boutique, Piccolini NY.  At this point in our trip we had stayed clear of Times Square but we all figured the kids would love the lights and craziness so we headed over there, only to unload the car and have a major thunderstorm surprise us, drench us and give us an excuse to all head home.  I have not laughed that hard in a long time.

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Thursday – Yankee Game, 5th Avenue

A Yankee game is where all the chatter about visiting New York began.  We even picked the week we went because they had a day game that would be easier to bring the kids to.  So, the boys got their Yankee game (the only bummer for them is that Jeter didn’t play!) and then the girls got to do some shopping on 5th Avenue.  I introduced Baby Girl to the shoe floor at Saks and she anxiously helped me try on shoes though she was disappointed I did not walk out with the jelly sandals.

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It amazes me how much of the city were were able to see in juts a few days without ever feeling like we were trying to do too much.  Between walking, the subway and a cab here or there, everything seems extremely close, which was one of the great things about staying in Midtown with kids.  On Friday we jumped on the train at Union Station and headed to Washington D.C to visit our friends and enjoy the weekend there.   I will share our fun adventures there soon.  I am sure you have had enough photos for now.

 

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SAND.  SALT.  SUN-KISSED.  STYLE.

Four words.  One incredible shop.

Located on Pacific Coast Highway in the heart of Laguna Beach sits The Shop, a boutique designed with long, sunny beach days in mind.  The moment I walked in I knew I was going to love this store.  Walls filled with bathing suits, cover ups, dresses and tees shared space with shelves filled with jewelry, candles and beach towels.  I had to stop for a second to take it all in.  Everything epitomized the casual yet chic beach style of Orange County.  I was hooked.

It takes some time to walk the entire store as there are treasures and unique pieces around every corner.  Your day at the beach is taken care of with Beach People towels, Mikoh swimsuits and Nena & Co kimonos.  Gifts for family and friends are a breeze with Lil Coconut clutches, Heart Majestic necklaces and skincare products by Herbivore Botanicals.  When transitioning from the beach to dinner, nothing makes it easier than a Gypsy Queen romper and Matisse sandals.  And of course the classics.  The Shop carries all the surf lines we have loved for years such as Billabong and Rip Curl.  There is something here for everyone.

One thing I look for in a boutique is whether they offer pieces that you cannot find anywhere else and Jessica, the owner of The Shop, has done a phenomenal job of selecting merchandise and designers that feel special.  You know that you won’t find certain pieces anywhere else.  That is what makes shopping at The Shop even more fun.  We all want something a little special don’t we?  Add the “Endless Summer” feeling that washes over you the second you walk through the door and you can’t help but enjoy the entire experience.

If not for a time constraint I could have tried pieces on for hours but I still managed to bring home some goodies and can’t wait to make another trip in again for a little wardrobe pick-me-up.  If you are in Laguna Beach I highly suggest stopping in for a visit as the staff is extremely friendly and I know you are going to find something to take home.  It is impossible not to!  You can find The Shop at 1020 South Pacific Coast Highway.  I also suggest following The Shop on Instagram.  They post new arrivals all the time and if you find something you love, they can ship it directly to you!

Thank you The Shop for having me!

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As you drive down Pacific Coast Highway into Laguna Beach, you cannot help but notice all the adorable shops and boutiques that begin to pop up on both sides of the road.  It is a boutique shoppers dream.  Each extremely unique with their own style, you can spend days restocking your wardrobe in this famous beach town.  I made some stops over this past week, picked up some cute pieces and took some photos to share with all of you.  My first stop was Taim Boutique.

Tucked next to the La Casa del Camino hotel on PCH in Laguna Beach is the cutest beach cottage turned boutique.  Taim Boutique (named after the Irish word, “I am”) is a women’s boutique with the mission to “make women feel confident and beautiful by helping them discover and refine their style”.  When walking into Taim, you are instantly drawn into the comfortable feeling of being in someone’s home.  I could not get enough of the cottage decor and felt like I wanted to not just shop there but stay there for vacation.  It is the epitome of beach town chic.

Beyond enjoying all the racks of lovely clothes, there was two things that really stood out to me regarding the merchandise at Taim.  The first was versatility.  There is definitely something for everyone.  Brands such a Natural light, Mavi jeans, Fresh Laundry and Seven for all Mankind will help you stock your basics.  If you are headed to a special occasion such as a wedding or baby shower, the Rachel Pally and French Connection dresses are perfect.  The large selection of jewelry, candles and products make for the perfect gifts.  The second was the price point.  This is a store that you can shop, and shop well, without breaking the bank.  Who doesn’t love that?!  Since opening Taim two years ago, Kendra, the owner, has committed to carrying incredible pieces that are at an affordable price point, allowing women to shop and pick up a few items without emptying your wallet.

I filled a dressing room with all sorts of pieces to try on and kept coming back out for more.  I don’t know if it was the June gloom, the coziness of the boutique, or the easy and fun conversation with Kendra but after all the trying on, I walked out with the coziest of pieces; their signature “Life is better at the beach” sweatshirt and a pair of Fresh Laundry linen pants.  I am guessing my mind wanted to stay a bit longer in the cozy clothes, have another cup of coffee and hang in the cottage at the beach.  Until next time Taim!

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You can visit Taim Boutique at 1259 S Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, Ca. or follow them along on Instagram and Facebook to see some fab looks from the store that have been pulled together by Kendra.  No matter where you are located, Taim will ship anything you see on Instagram directly to you!

The Beach House Baking cookbook giveaway ends in one day!  Make sure you enter soon by visiting here.

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Camping is definitely not my idea of vacation.  In all honesty, it simply involves too much work.  And on vacation, I don’t want to work.  I want to relax and enjoy myself, not clean dishes in a bucket and sleep on the ground in a tent.  Nope, just not for me.

Then our friend asked us to go “Glamping”.  Yes, official “glamorous camping”.  A place that we could tell the kids we are camping but the responsibilities of being an actual camper really does not add up to real camping.  I was told we would not have to cook a thing and that we would be sleeping inside a cabin.  Plus, we were  going to be a few steps from the beach.  I was in.

After a quick 2 1/2 hour drive to Santa Barbara up the 101, we arrived at El Capitan Canyon, a 300 acre+ resort nestled on the Pacific coast that provides a new way to enjoy nature with all the comforts we are not willing to sacrifice.  We went with two other families and had booked Canyon Bunk Cabins because we heard that they could sleep up to 6 (we were the big party of 5) and were located extremely close to the market/restaurant and beach.  When we arrived, we pulled into the resort and were directed to the cutest little village of cabins and tents with a large grass space in the center.  The perfect spot for parents to relax by a campfire and kids to run around like crazies, just like camping should be.  The cabins had two sets of bunk beds, full bathroom, kitchen area and a loft for two additional sleepers.  It was just enough space and lets remind you, I was sleeping in a bed with a down comforter!  No sleeping bag necessary!

Beyond the accommodations, El Capitan offered a market and restaurant where we would grab a morning latte and breakfast, order lunch for the beach and picked up pizzas for dinner.  The only thing we ever cooked were s’mores.  This was only steps from our cabins and made quick runs for snacks or additional food (or wine) extremely easy.  They had it all.  We spent our days at El Capitan State beach (just a quick walk down the road) and our evenings watching the kids play every sport possible while we sipped wine by the camp fire.  On Saturday night we attended the resort’s barbecue and concert which brought the entire resort together for an evening of good music and good food.  It was so much fun.

Glamping is definitely my kind of camping.

This past weekend was one of the best family getaways we have done and we all were sad to leave.  Going back is a no brainer.  The price is incredible, you cannot beat the beach side location and everything (from the accommodations, events and food) was done extremely well by the resort.  I may never go camping, but I will go to El Capitan Canyon.

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And because any time I am near Los Olivos, it is a must that we stop, we had lunch in my favorite small town on the way home.  It is only 25 minutes from El Capitan!  Even more reason to like the place.

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You can visit the El Capitan Canyon website here and preview all the accommodations available.  If you are thinking of going, make sure you book early.  I believe we booked our cabins in February for a June trip and the resort was almost sold out at the time!

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“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.  Anything you want to, do it.  Want to change the world, there is nothing to it” – Willy Wonka

Chocolate. Gummy Bears.  Candy Bars.  Cake.  Licorice.  Ice Cream.  Soda.

It is hard to image a place that could really bring together all the greatest sweet indulgences that we lust after when watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  A fantasy world that could make any child’s mouth water, not knowing where to begin and never wanting it to end?  It can’t be possible.  Or is it?

Last week we were invited in to Sweet XO in Huntington Beach to experience their store and I do not think the kids realized the fantasy world they were about to enter.  The second we walked in they were surrounded by every sweet treat you could possibly image.  Candy.  Frozen Yogurt.  Cake Bombs.  Soda Fountain.  Ice Cream.  There heads began spinning as they were not sure which direction to go in.  Along with candy, the shelves were filled with unique and entertaining gifts, books, clothing, bags, glasses, notepads.  You name it, they had it.  I had expected the candy portion but was blown away with how much retail there was.  From baby gifts, to graduation gifts, bachelorette parties to a teen’s birthday, Father’s Day or a hostess gift, you can really find something for everyone throughout the store.  While I perused the merchandise, the children fill their bags with gummy rattlesnakes, jaw breakers, gummy fish, and numerous other goodies.

Once the bags were full, they began to indulge in numerous tastings of frozen yogurt and the homemade ice cream.   With every turn there was another creative flavor such as “Circus Animal” or “Frozen” (my daughter about died with this one) or “Dole Pineapple”, making their decisions on what they actually wanted extremely hard.  The hardest decision of the day was for my Oldest, deciding between the ice cream, frozen yogurt or the soda fountain that offered 125 different flavors.  Like I said, a candy paradise.  As for me, I had my eye on the cake bombs and quickly grabbed the birthday cake and maple bacon flavors before another customer cleaned them out (they sell out extremely quick!).

Like any kid in a Candy Store, we laughed, shopped, ate and all walked out on a crazy sugar high.  It was our own little Willy Wonka paradise.

You can visit Sweet XO in Huntington Beach at 7631 Edinger Avenue, Suite 151.  They also have four other locations around Southern California.  You can view the list here.

Thank you Sweet XO for having us!

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Stuart

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The Spire Giveaway closed over the weekend.  Congratulations to Sharon for winning the Turquoise Tribal Necklace!