Vacation Time!

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We are headed to North Topsail, North Carolina for a week long beach vacation. My entire family is sharing a house on the beach (Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister-in-law, Pop-Pop, Ryan, and myself)!

I’ve been counting down to this vacation since the winter. Although I’m not looking forward to the 9+ hour drive while 33-34 weeks pregnant, I can’t wait to arrive, kick up my legs, and do nothing but sit on the beach and read, eat, and sleep all week.

This week will be a great time to celebrate Ryan being officially done with school and exams forever. It will also be our last vacation as a childless couple, our family’s version of a “Babymoon”. I can’t wait to just hang and relax with some of my favorite people all week. 

As I’m typing this I have yet to pack. Oh, and we’re also bringing the car seat and the hospital bag “just in case”. Yep, we’re crazy worriers. But bringing it is mostly insurance that we WON’T need it, right?!

I’ll be taking the week off blogging but you can always catch up with my on Instagram!

 

 

Weekend Getaway in Luray, VA

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For Christmas this year, I gifted Ryan a weekend away in the Shenandoah Valley. A pleasant 3.5 hour drive to Luray provided us with a getaway from everyday life and a chance to rest, relax, and reflect before he starts his last semester of school and before we must battle another winter.

I booked this awesome cabin through AirBnB. I mean check at this view from the house! We could never get enough of this view of the Shenandoah Valley and River.

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However, when I think of cabin, I think of rustic, small and cold. This was more of a house, complete with a huge fireplace, lots of cozy places to take in the view, Netflix, wifi, and Apple Tv. It was the perfect house to cozy up for the weekend, with little plans other than to relax, read, cook, and watch some movies. 

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We grabbed a delicious lunch at Gathering Grounds in the sleepy little valley town of Luray before driving up 2,200 ft to our home for the weekend. Ryan got to work making a fire and we changed into PJ’s and hibernated for the rest of the evening. The house had three huge bay windows overlooking the view that allowed us to enjoy the scenery despite the chilly temps. I made my favorite Martha’s Stewart Mac and Cheese. Comfort food at it’s best. 

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I loved walking out on the deck at night and gazing up at the stars. It felt like we were in them, so close and so bright.

Our host said that watching the sunrise was the best element of the house. So each morning I set my alarm and wearily crawled out of bed expecting to see a breathtaking view. Yet each morning it was the same. We were greeted with a sky full of dark clouds and nothing else. So back to bed we went.

On Sunday morning we decided to venture out and tour one of the local Caverns. I’ll be recapping that experience next week!

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After our caverns tour we hit up a small pub with a great happy hour before retreating back to the house for another night in front of the fire.

On Monday we slept in and leisurely spent the morning sipping coffee and reading before our noon check out time.

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After another great lunch at Gathering Grounds, We took Sky Line drive home in the Shenandoah National Park where we drove along the tips of the Blue Ridge mountains and were able to take in amazing views from all directions.

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Jamaica Part 2, a day in the life

Take me back!

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Earlier this week I shared Part 1 of our Jamaican vacation recap. Today I’m going to be sharing the last of our photos. My entire family spent a week at Secrets Saint James in Montego Bay

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A week later, I still feel energized from the trip. I think these vacations should be mandatory every 6 months. What do you think?

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Our family always takes a yearly summer vacation, usually to a beach house in North Carolina. My brother and his wife live in North Carolina, and sadly we usually only see each other twice a year, once on our beach vacation and once at Christmas. 

Our vacations are true family vacations. Every one, including Pop-Pop, camp out on the beach for the entire day. We catch up on the past year, tell nostalgic stories, swim and play on the beach, read and take naps, and enjoy a few beach drinks. In the evening we all pitch in to cook dinner and end the night with board games and drinks and laughter. 

Our 89-year-old Pop-Pop wanted to do a big trip with everyone before he got a little too old to fly. After some research we chose Jamaica, an easy flight for him, and booked our trip in the dark of winter. 

We were a little nervous that Pop-Pop would miss the routine and familiarity of a beach house. He’s legally blind and was very nervous about not knowing the grounds of the resort, not knowing what he will eat, or if we will all be off doing our separate things.

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After a few days, and after a couple of beach vodka tonics, Pop-Pop was sitting in the pool and exclaiming that this place was “beautiful” and he would love to come back. We were doing all the same things we’d do on a beach vacation, but in a much prettier environment with absolutely no worries. No need to run out to the grocery store for the third time that week. No need to cook or clean up. Pop-Pop didn’t have to make his own morning bloody mary or “flimosa” (what he calls mimosas). 

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It was a great family vacation. I’ll walk you through a basic day in my life in Jamaica. Please don’t hate me. Trust me, by the end, it will be hard for you not to book a vacation to Jamaica. 

8:00 a.m.: Wake up with the bright sun shining through our window. Roll over in bed to peer out the window and see the Caribbean Sea

8:30 a.m.: Have a buffet breakfast with the family. Mimosa, coffee, all you can eat omelettes, french toast, or sausages, or whatever your heart desires. I usually stuck to the fresh fruit, yummy croissants, and a variety of cheese. 

9:30 a.m.: Get lathered up in sunscreen and hit the beach. Our family would secure a group of lounge chairs on the beach as our “home base”. 

9:40 a.m.: Hop in the sea to cool off. Admire the clear turquoise water. Check out the fish, one day we saw a sting ray and another day a barracuda!

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10: a.m.: Secure a beach drink, I liked the Bob Marley, a frozen layered drink in the Jamaican Flag colors. First layer a strawberry daiquiri, second layer mango daiquiri, top layer a green mango daiquiri.

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Read and talk on the beach

11:00 a.m.: Hop in the pool to cool off. With another drink of course

11:30 a.m. Take out a kayak or a sail boat, see the resort from the Sea. 

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12:30 p.m. Grab lunch at the all you can eat buffet, a seaside restaurant, or a veggie burger at the grill. My favorite was the Jerk Chicken cart. 

1:30 p.m. Head back to the beach for an after lunch nap

2:00 p.m. Hit up the swim up bar, spend the afternoon in the pool, lounging on a raft, chatting and sipping cool drinks. The only way to beat the heat.

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4:00 p.m. Head up to the room to shower and take a quick power nap before dinner

6:00 p.m. Meet up in Pop-Pop’s room for a before dinner drink. Walk outside and enjoy the heavenly sunset. 

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7:00 p.m. Choose a restaurant to eat. You can choose between Asian, Italian, Mexican, French, Seafood, or Jamaican. 

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7:15 – 9:00 p.m.: Have a very leisurely dinner with 3 courses. Service is slow, but hey, you’re on Jamaican time! 

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9:30 p.m.: Walk Pop-Pop back to his room. He was falling asleep at dessert and needs his beauty rest.

9:45 p.m. Check out the evening entertainment. One night we watched a guest dance off competition. (think tipsy newlywed men shaking their booties. Hilarity ensued).

Another night we were entertained by a local band with bamboo dancers and a fire breather. Cheesy yes. But also fun.

Another night they recruited volunteers for a newlywed game. Eric and Ryan both wanted us girls to play. Thank goodness our French dinner went late and we missed the sign up time. Questions included, “Who in her family would you wish to just disappear” and “where is the craziest place that you’ve had sex”. Thank goodness we escaped those questions in front of our mom and dad!

Another night we hit up a beach party, where we learned a new line dance on the beach and did some amazing people watching. 

10:30 p.m. We enjoyed joining the sing a long at the Piano Bar. Just don’t request Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”. 

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11:30 p.m. After enjoying some cocktails outside, get ready to head into the cheesily named “club” Desires. Us kids enjoyed a night dancing to a good mix of 90’s music and current hip hop. #turneddownforwhat became our to go phrase for the rest of the week. Another night we were entertained by karaoke night.

If the night doesn’t lead you to “Desires” enjoy a romantic night-cap overlooking the sea or take a late night dip in the pool. 

12:30 p.m. Promptly fall asleep, ready to do it all again the next day!

On our last day we made sure to really soak up every minute. We lingered on the beach for as long as possible and then captured our last sunset and minutes of daylight seaside before enjoying a seafood dinner. 

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 I’d highly recommend Secrets Saint James to any traveler looking to book either a romantic vacation or a family trip. 

We returned home exhausted but with a refreshed perspective and with a desire to find ways to relax more at home and bring the Jamaican lifestyle into our everyday lives as much as possible. A good reminder before Ryan starts his jam-packed final year of law school. 

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xoxo Katie

Jamaica Part 1

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Hello mon!

We’ve returned from our Jamaican vacation. It was everything a vacation was supposed to be. We relaxed, we unwound. We drank and we ate. We bonded with family and got nostalgic over old stories. We tried new things and let loose. We opened our perspectives and remembered the important things in life. 

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For a week my entire family (89-year-old Pop-Pop, Clyde, myself and Ryan, my brother Eric and his wife Veronica, and my parents, Pat and Jim) stayed at the Secrets Saint James in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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I simply have too many pictures I want to share, so I”m dividing up my Jamaica post into two postings. I know looking at vacation photos are low on many people’s list of fun, but I love looking at vacation and travel photos and learning about new places. 

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Secrets Saint James is an all-inclusive resort about 20 minutes from the airport. It’s connected with Secrets Wild Orchid and the two resorts share amenities and restaurants. 

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The grounds, the beach, and the pools were pristine and impeccably clean. It felt like heaven on earth. 

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We arrived on Wednesday morning. Upon landing in Montego Bay, full of excitement to get to the resort, we discovered that Southwest had lost my mom’s luggage. Even though we were on a direct flight from Baltimore….

After searching the airport for an hour and filing the necessary claims, we headed through customs with the hope that the bag would arrive later that afternoon. 

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We piled into a shuttle bus and began the short drive to the resort. This short drive was such a different experience than our honeymoon, when we stayed at Sandals White House a full hour and forty minute drive through the country and mountains. 

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Upon arriving at the resort we were treated like royalty. While sipping champagne and Red Strip we got checked in and showed around our area. Our family chose to stay in the “Preferred Club” section of the resort, which included a more private pool and beach area and a private lounge that had a buffet of food and a private bar available all day. 

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Since we had two semi handicap people, my 89-year-old grandfather and my foot surgery healing mother, it was nice to be in this smaller private section. 

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Our rooms were not quite ready yet so we headed to lunch by the beach. Once we were able to check in we were in awe over our rooms complete with a jet tub by the bed and another tub out on our ocean view balcony. 

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Thank goodness my mom packed a bathing suit in her carry on bag so that we could all head out to the beach and jump in the water. Heaven on Earth! I’ll let a few photos do the talking for me:

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Above is the sunrise view from our balcony. Sadly, my mom’s suitcase did not come that first day, or the next. Yep, it took three full days. One day for it to arrive in Jamaica. Another day for the airport to find the missing customs form that I filled out for her and a whole other day for it to be delivered to the resort. She was without any clothes or makeup, except for a bathing suit, cover up, and the black pants and t-shirt she were on the flight. It put a little damper on the first part of our trip, but after spending hours on the phone with the airport the problem was solved. 

If I had to hear “no worries mon!” one more time in regards to this incident..

Once her suitcase arrived we all celebrated with drinks at the pool swim up bar. The resort as a strict “no shot” policy but the bartender was convinced that my mom needed some extra celebratory fun and awarded us all with “little drinks”. It was a lot of fun!

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It was fun to try out the 7 different restaurants at the resort. The first night we went to the traditional Jamaican restaurant. The second night was Mexican night and the third night we celebrated at a seafood restaurant in the pool beach area. My mom was so happy to have clean and pretty clothes to wear!

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Ryan and I had a lot of fun on the Hobie Cat sailboats, we went out with a guide one time to refresh our sailing skills and then took it out again. Just lounging with my family in the pool was a blast. My Pop-Pop who usually never swims was so hot and relaxed he got into the pool AND got his head wet! This is the man who throughout every single childhood vacation to the beach he would never get more than his feet wet. Meanwhile his grandchildren are fish!

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Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week!

xoxo Katie

 

 

 

Top 10 Attractions in Annapolis, MD

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Annapolis, MD, the sailing capital of the world, is one of my favorite cities and top five east destinations. I lived here for 4 years in my twenties and go back to visit a couple of times a year. Maryland’s State Capital is full of history, charm, and beautiful waterfront views.

Situated on the Chesapeake Bay and at the mouth of the Severn River, Annapolis is a mecca for waterfront activities. It is also ideally located 25 miles south of Baltimore and 30 miles North of Washington DC. It’s a walkable small city with an eclectic mix of traditional seafood restaurants (crab cakes anyone?!) and new fusion eateries. Nautical prep your thing? Then you’ll love all the shops and boutiques. Love history? The historic district is a goldmine of colonial architecture, historical buildings, and history tour.  Annapolis is a perfect fit for both young people and families. There’s enough of a night life to satisfy the younger crowd and accommodating activities for those with kids or older family members.

I pulled together a list of my top ten favorite attractions in Annapolis:

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(please note this is for the historic downtown area – there is much more to do outside the historic area and in the surrounding region. All of these spots are in walking distance from each other)

1. Tour the State House

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The Maryland State house (1779) is the oldest state house that has been in continuous use and was the site of many important events during the Revolutionary War including George Washington’s resignation as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from the army, and the ratification of the Treaty of Paris.

2. Mexican Cafe

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I know, odd that a Mexican Restaurant is my number 2 but believe me, go! Low key, budget friendly, great vegetarian options, and the best margaritas you will ever have.

3. Pusser’s

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Come for their famous Painkiller’s – the perfect water front drink. Stay for the Caribbean food, nautical history and the laid back atmosphere. The only true “dock bar” in town.

4. Go on a Guided Historic Tour

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photo courtesy of Annapolis Tours

The best way to learn all the fun facts about this old town is to take a guided walking tour. Various ones are offered, including ghost tours!

5. Joss Sushi

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The best sushi in town. Charming atmosphere and great service.

6. Tour the Naval Academy

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Very interesting for even non military buffs! Highlights include the USNA Chapel and John Paul Jones gravesite.

7. Chart House

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Yes, it’s a chain, but the views from this location are fabulous. Yes, the food is pricey, but the best seats are in the cozy bar with wall to wall windows. Stop in for an appetizer and a cocktail. Located across the waterfront in Eastport, it’s a nice walk across the bridge.

8. Red Red Wine Bar

Great selection of wine and beer, delectable cocktails, talented bar tenders and a chic setting.

9. Harry Brownes

A classy art deco themed restaurant and bar. Great Sunday brunch!

10. See Annapolis by water! Take a boat tour!

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You are in the sailing capital of the world – get out on the water!

http://www.schoonerwoodwind.com/

http://cruisesonthebay.com/

Have you been? What are your favorites?

If you have any questions, just comment below!

xoxo Katie

Something Is Coming

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Something is coming.

Each night the sun decides to dance together a little longer. She arrives earlier in the morning, excited to spread her warmth over us. She knows we crave it so and she delights in our dance as we linger a little longer under her rays.

Something is coming.

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It feels like bare feet gracefully stepping on large blades of grass colored in the most luscious color of green. It feels like farm fresh air grazing between your outspread fingers as you sway your hand outside your window to your favorite song. It feels like your favorite Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream melting off the cone and down between your fingers. It feels like warm sand that you move around with your feet as you pour yourself into a new novel. It feels like you’ve just woken up from an afternoon nap and have an entire evening ahead of you. It fees like possibility.

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It smells like chlorinated pool water dripping of tan bodies laying on bright beach towels. It smells like burgers and hot dogs on your neighbors grill. It smells like fresh ocean air, opening your lungs and making your soul feel young. It smells like fresh rain on hot pavement. It smells like burning sparklers joyfully competing with fireflies to light up the night sky. It smells like suntan lotion that your brother has slapped half haphazardly on your back but you don’t mind, you have the whole day in the ocean ahead of you.

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It tastes like juicy tomatoes freshly picked from the local farm. It tastes like salt water meeting your lips. It tastes like ice-cold cocktails giving you that day time buzz. It tastes like the purest and coldest water that you must gulp down after going for a long run. It tastes like bright red strawberries, juicy watermelon, and plump peaches that taste as good as candy.

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It sounds like ice clinking in glasses brimmed with condensation. It sounds like gulls cawing over the crashing wave. It sounds like music blasting from car windows, decks, and lawns. It sounds like basketballs pounding, bat cracking, children shrieking, and skateboards rolling. It sounds like voices filling the warm night air as friends chat outside late into the night. It sounds like cicadas filling the night air, reminding us that even the dark can’t quiet the fun of the season.

Summer is coming. It really is. I couldn’t be more ready.

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Thanksgiving Vacation in Asheville, NC (mini post)

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Is it really Monday morning? Am I really back in PA? So this is what the internet looks like? Excuse me as I recover from spending 11 hours in the car, driving home from Asheville, NC after a whirlwind 5 day trip (with two days worth of driving included). We had quite an adventure and I can’t wait to tell you all the details!

But, my own bed is calling my name and work tomorrow is going to be brutal – so this is kind of a cheat post – a quick check in to say hello and hope y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and share some photos of the cute cabin we rented.

We were SO happy to make it to the mountains of Leicester, NC (about 40 minutes outside Asheville) after driving through a surprise snow and ice storm. My brother and his wife live in this rural town in an adorable country house. My parents and Ryan and I rented a beautiful cabin about 5 minutes from their home.

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When we arrived there was about 4 inches of snow on the ground – a surprise for this time of the year. It was tricky navigating the curvy mountain roads and the steep driveway up to our cabin. But my brother Eric’s smiling face greeted us and the snow just added to the peacefulness and beauty of the serene mountain views.

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Thanksgiving 2013 Asheville, NC

We were more than ready to have some drinks, eat a big meal, and get cozy by the fire. We had a busy three days ahead of us! Can’t wait to share our other fun adventures and pictures.

We had zero internet or phone activity unless we were in town. So that meant zero texting, zero calling, and no internet. It was kind of hard to get used to – I kept running to my phone to look up something or to check a black friday sale. But soon enough we were leaving our cell phones behind and relaxing. So, Please forgive me as I catch up on being back in the real world.

Can’t wait to share more tomorrow!

xoxo katie