Vacation Re-Cap: Florida 2019

Good morning!

Last week I was pretty quiet on the blog and social media because I was busy soaking up sunshine and warm weather with my little family in Florida. Justin had a conference to attend for work in Sarasota so LJ and I happily packed our bags and joined him for the week. Today I’m just going to give a recap of our trip – spoiler alert: we didn’t want to leave!

Saturday

We flew out early Saturday morning and the plane ride went smoothly. I’ve blogged about my tips for plane rides with a baby before and even though LJ is now a toddler, we still do things pretty similarly. I still swear by bringing a boppy pillow so your lap child has something to sit or lay on and it doesn’t feel like you have to actively “hold” them the whole time. I also always keep him in a sleeper so I don’t have to worry about socks/shoes getting pulled off and he’s mostly covered from airplane germs. After reviewing the flight safety packet (ha!), LJ was able to sleep most of the plane ride.

Side note: a few weeks ago I posted on Instagram that I found my old GameBoy Color and a Pokemon cartridge and my excitement got Justin sucked in too and now he’s playing too! That little light kills me! #beforebacklitscreens #relivingchildhood

Flight 3

We landed in St. Petersburg and got a rental car to make the hour-long drive to our hotel in Sarasota. Before checking in at our hotel we stopped at Trader Joes to stock up on some groceries and diapers (I don’t waste precious luggage space on diapers if we’re gone this long – it’s easier to just buy a pack when you get to your destination!). We stayed at the Westin in downtown Sarasota and it was gorgeous! Since we had been traveling most of the day, we spent the afternoon and evening relaxing in the hotel room, leaving only to grab some dinner. It was nice to just let LJ run around and explore the hotel room. It’s always fun to see what he thinks of a place…and where our items might end up. 😉

Hotel Room Surprise

A general rule for hotels with toddlers: if something goes missing, check a trash can.

Sunday

Sunday morning was pretty lazy with a makeshift breakfast in bed and playing in the hotel room.

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We got LJ down for his nap (a difficult process when you’re all sharing a room!) and he thankfully took a pretty good nap. I’ve blogged previously about hotel rooms with a baby and two of my standard tips are bring a sound machine and your own crib sheet – we try to make it seem as much like home as possible and I do think it helps!

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Once he woke up, we let him run around and burn off some energy while we packed up to head to the beach! The view from our room showed a gorgeous day and we were excited to take advantage. We ate a very quick hotel room lunch and headed out!

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We headed for Siesta Key beach and after circling for a while, managed to snag a parking spot at the main beach pavillion. I had never been to Siesta Key before but this beach is AMAZING!

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The sand is a gorgeous white and feels cool to the touch. It was so pleasant to walk on even though the day was hot. We set up camp and LJ immediately got to playing in it. We enjoyed a couple hours of soaking up sun, sand, and surf.

Well, not surf so much. The water was pretty cold and LJ was not a fan! But he had so much fun playing in the sand, finding seashells, and watching all the other beach-goers. We ended up staying out there much longer than we anticipated because he was doing so well and enjoying it!

After we’d had enough of the beach, we headed into the little village area where there are lots of cute little shops and restaurants. We enjoyed walking around and stopped for some food, ice cream, and a souvenir magnet (a tradition on every vacation!)

We headed back to the hotel in time for LJ to go to bed. Since we had to be so quiet and couldn’t watch TV, I opted for reading the book I had brought along before bed.

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Monday

Justin’s conference started early Monday morning so LJ and I hung out in the hotel room all morning. I finally got him down for a nap after 40 minutes of trying (usually it takes 5 at home) and since I couldn’t make any noise and I was so tired after the effort that I decided to take a nap too. I posted about this on Instagram, but this is one of those situations where I tried to see the silver lining. It’s not always easy to travel with a child, but it leads to some special moments that don’t happen otherwise. I haven’t slept next to LJ since he was a six week old baby in a bassinet in my bedroom so it was pretty sweet to hear his sweet little baby snores while I drifted off.

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Justin’s conference was only half-day so once he got back, I quickly headed down to our hotel gym to get a quick workout in.

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We ate lunch in the hotel room and then headed up to the rooftop pool for the afternoon.

The pool was heated and had a fantastic view! It was 82 degrees outside and just the perfect day to lounge poolside and swim. Glorious!

We hung out at the pool until we had to head back inside for naps, dinner, and bedtime.

Tuesday

After Justin’s conference Tuesday, we checked out of the hotel because we were going to spend the rest of the week staying with two of my college friends, Eric and Kaitlin, who live in Sarasota. We dropped off our stuff at their house after lunch and headed to the Jungle Gardens for the afternoon. This place was awesome! It was basically a little zoo with a lot of interactive opportunities for kids. LJ got to go in the petting zoo where he was in goat heaven. He also loved looking at all the different animals!

The paths are all shaded and it really did feel like we were in a jungle. It was very pleasant to walk around!

My favorite part was when we got to a free-roaming flock of flamingos! I’ve never seen one up close before and they are so cool! We got to feed them and they would just walk up to us at eye level – it was awesome!

After the gardens, we headed back to the house to get ready for dinner. Eric and Kaitlin love to play games and so once we had dinner and put LJ down we spent the evening playing card games and catching up on life. We’re all pretty competitive so it was a fun evening!

Wednesday – Friday

The rest of the week we settled into a good routine. Justin would head into the conference in the morning. LJ and I would hang out at the house and play a little. He would go down for a nap and I would get a little work done (perk of my work-from-home job: I can do it anywhere!) Justin would come home around lunch and we would hang out in the afternoon. Our friends both work from home so if they finished up working they would join us in games or just lounging. We’d all do dinner together and once LJ was down, we’d play games until bedtime. Rather than recap each day individually, I’ll just share a few highlights from the second half of the week:

-Their backyard pool was the perfect place to lounge and read during naptime when everyone else was busy! It was seriously like being at a resort!

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-Owen’s Fish Camp was a fantastic restaurant for dinner! I wish I had taken more pictures but the back patio (where you can hang out where you wait for your table) had delicious appetizers, live music, and such a fun vibe!

-Games, games, and more games. They taught us a new one called “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” which we all got SO into. The final night we beat a really hard level that we had been working on and we all were super pumped!

-Everyone had a light day Friday so we headed to the beach after lunch and it was a great way to end the week! We are so thankful for the great hospitality of our friends!

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Saturday

We left early Saturday morning to catch our flight back to Indiana. It was hard to leave the 80 degree sunshine for 32 degrees with some snow on the ground! But we had a fantastic week and I’m so glad we had the chance to get some mid-February sunshine! Until next time, Florida!

 

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My Ultimate Book Recommendation List

Once again I’m linking up with Shay and Erika for Let’s Look and today’s topic is favorite reads so I thought it was the perfect time to share my master list of book recommendations!

Top Book Recommendations

Let's Look

I frequently get asked for recommendations for books and I have been wanting to make a giant list for some time now (and even put it on my 19for19 list this year!) I do want to first to share this disclaimer though: I realize everyone’s preferences are different. These books are my personal favorites and the ones I find myself going back to again and again when others ask for recommendations. I think most are well-written, enjoyable reads. Some are on here even if they covered difficult topics that weren’t necessarily “enjoyable” but were thought-provoking or challenged my mind in some way. Some are included because they gave me a book hangover and I just could not stop thinking about what I read! I love them all for different reasons. You may not! I think what is most helpful is to read through my previous book reviews and see if you agree with my take on books that you have also read. If you find yourself nodding along to my reviews because you felt similarly when reading, we likely have similar taste. If you find yourself frequently saying “what was so great about that book? I thought it was boring” or “she’s crazy – how did she not enjoy that book? I thought it was brilliant” then maybe we just have different styles and you might not like my recommendations.

I didn’t have time to include a review of every book but did sometimes add a little note with a quick thought or two. I also tried to somewhat categorize these into basic genres just for ease of searching. I hope you find something here to enjoy! Without further ado, here are my top recommendations!

MY VERY FAVORITES

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman (easy to read yet captivating and meaningful. As my fellow book lover friend Kaitlin described – “a beach read with depth”)

-ANYTHING written by Kate Morton. The Lake House, The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton, The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours  – she is brilliant and I LOVE her books (I still need to read her most recent one – The Clockmaker’s Daughter). They are just phenomenal historical fiction – if I had to choose one to start I’d say The Secret Keeper but you honestly can’t go wrong with any.

General Fiction

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (This one is haunting. It stayed with me a looooong time)

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (read first)

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams (read second; they aren’t technically sequels but I would still read them in that order)

Defending Jacob by William Landry

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (very thought provoking in a what-the-heck-would-I-do-if this-happened-to-me way)

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

-My Grandmother Asked me to Tell you She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio (read first)

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio (read second)

“Beach” Reads

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

If You Only Knew by Kristin Higgins

Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan (the last one is my favorite!)

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (cute little fictionalized William + Kate story)

Psychological Thriller

Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins (I feel like everyone has read it by now, but when it came out it blew my mind!)

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond (creepy and cult-like)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Final Girls by Riley Sager (part psychological thriller, part homage to campy-slasher movies)

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (if you’ve read Gone Girl or Girl on a Train, it’s similar and may feel overdone but it comes with a HOT DANG twist)

Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

World War Two Historical Fiction

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (this book does get very heavy and difficult to read at times)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosay

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Young Adult

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (this is a series!)

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

-And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include that Harry Potter is among my very favorite series 😉

Nonfiction

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

-Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Educated by Tara Westover

 

And that’s my list (for now!) What are some of your go-to book recommendations?

Simplifying Preparation for Trips

Good morning!

Once Justin gets home from work tomorrow we are heading to Florida for the next 8 days. He has a conference for work and LJ and I are going to tag along and enjoy some sunshine! After last week’s Polar Vortex we are more than ready for warm, sunny days!

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Throwback to our last beach vacation. So excited for more sun and sand next week!

Today is going to be spent cleaning, packing, and preparing for our trip. Since traveling with a little one always seems to add a layer of chaos, I’ve learned that early preparation is key for trips. Today I thought I’d share a few things I do before we leave on a trip to try to simplify the chaos of packing/remembering everything. Some of these things may seem overly simple, some may not work for you. These are just the things that work for us and have helped me pack and prepare for vacations with as little stress as possible!

Get whatever you can permanently “ready”

I used to write out a detailed list for our dog sitters with everything they needed to know/do for our dogs, and since there were always little variations, I would re-write the list each time. Now, I have a generic instruction list that is always ready to set out and if there’s anything “extra” (like asking them to pick up our mail if we’re gone more than a few days), I just write that on a sticky note next to the regular list. This is a small thing, but it saves me time and mental space because it’s one less thing I have to prepare before leaving (and we inevitably always forgot to write out the list until we were heading out the door so it was stressful to have to remember everything to include).

The Week Before

In the week leading up to a trip, I start setting aside clothes for LJ. I did a big load of laundry on Monday, so I set aside all the clean clothes that I knew I wanted to take on the trip. This prevents last-minute panic; I’m not stressing out because we have no clean sleepers when it comes time to pack. This does mean I have limited options for what he can wear for the rest of the week after I’ve set aside the clothes to pack, but it’s really not a big deal and we manage just fine.

As I get things out and ready to pack, I lay them out on our guest bed. This includes setting out all the extra things (for example, this trip I need his swimsuit, hat, swim diapers, etc). So on packing day, I’ve already set out what I need and I don’t forget anything. I also can see if there’s anything I need to get for him in advance (this time, I needed a swimsuit since he’s grown out of his old ones). Once LJ’s clothes are all out, I’ll set mine out as well. Justin is on his own to pack what he needs. 😉

The Day Before

In the day before leaving, I get out all the extra things we’ll need to take (pack n’ play if we’re driving, carseat bag if we’re flying, umbrella stroller, etc). I prepare LJ’s diaper bag, set aside his boppy pillow, and will typically get everything packed in suitcases except toiletries or other items we still need to use. I’ll also do a load of laundry, which serves the dual purpose of making sure everything I want to pack is clean and also keeping there from being a laundry mountain waiting for me when we get back.

I also clean up the house for our dogsitter. Because of my super-simple cleaning routine, this doesn’t usually involve much cleaning, but I’ll do things like run and empty the dishwasher, freshen up the guest room if needed, etc.

If we’re flying, I also double-check flights and make sure we’re set with the airline rules for traveling with children (some allow free checked carseat and/or stroller, some allow free diaper bag in addition to personal item, etc). Each airline is slightly different so it’s always good to double check to make sure we know what to expect with our flight. I’ll also set out any documents we might need (passports if applicable, some airlines require a copy of a birth certificate, etc).

The Day Of

Usually I will have packed the clothes in our suitcases the day before, but if we’re not leaving until late in the day I may wait until the day of. I pack up our toiletries and any other final items, we (eh-hem, Justin) pack up the car, do a last minute sweep of the house, and head out! Because I’ve done so much prep work earlier in the week, the day of travel typically goes pretty smoothly.

If you’re interested in some of my other travel-with-baby related posts, check them out below!

Tips for Road Trips with Baby

Tips for Flights with Baby

Tips for Hotel Stays with Baby

Simplified Packing for Travel with Baby

What tips do you have for preparing for a trip?

Making Time for Reading

Good morning!

I’ve been preparing for a big book recommendation post outside of my normal monthly reviews (stay tuned for that next week!) but I thought today I would take a little time to just talk about how I actually fit reading in my days. To be honest, some days are easier than other to squeeze it in, but these are the biggest strategies I use to make time for reading.

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My happy place – so many possibilities!

Choose reading. I truly believe that you have time for whatever you choose to have time for, whether that be working out, reading, crafting, cooking, etc. I sometimes hear people say that they don’t have time to read and I just don’t buy that. You have time to do whatever you prioritize doing. If you have ten minutes to scroll through your Instagram feed, you have ten minutes to read. If you have an hour to binge something on Netflix, you have an hour to read. Reading might not be what you choose to do with the time you have, but you can make time for it if you want. For me, I just love reading so it is what I prioritize and often choose to do instead of other things (like watching TV in the evenings).

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Settle for a C+ with chores. Some days, when nap time rolls around I put housework or other tasks on pause and take a little mental escape into a book.  I feel so relaxed and refreshed and ready to jump back in to work after 30 minutes cozied up on the couch with a snuggly blanket and a good book! This doesn’t mean that I completely ignore my housework, it just means that I am okay with occasionally putting off things like folding laundry until later in the day.

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Happily reading with laundry waiting to be folded … later.

Stop reading crummy books. I used to be someone who finished every book I started, even if I didn’t like it. Then, I read The Goldfinch. Oh. My. Gosh. I truly hated this book and about 237 pages in, I realized I was dreading reading. I wasn’t enjoying the book, I was avoiding reading, and I still had over 500 pages to go. Umm, no thank you. I decided I value reading way to much to waste time on a book I don’t like and I returned it to the library. And instead of feeling like a failure, I was so excited to read again! I knew I could give myself permission to stop reading if I didn’t like the book. It’s easy to put off reading if I’m not enjoying the book but it’s so much easier to make time to read when I’m excited about the book and enjoying what I’m reading. This doesn’t mean I only read books I 100% adore because I think it’s important to stretch yourself a little, but if I’m totally dreading reading, then I stop the book.

Utilize down time. I do often read during LJ’s nap time, but I’m also not afraid to read when he’s awake and just having some quiet playtime. He is very good at independent play so sometimes I’ll sit on the playroom floor with him or in my cozy spot and read my book while he stacks blocks or plays with other toys. He likes to play with me nearby but this doesn’t mean he needs my constant undivided attention. I like that he has developed the skills to play by himself but I also like that I’m right there and can easily put down my book to engage with him if he brings over a toy to play with together. This doesn’t happen super often but it’s always nice when it does.

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Take books on errands.  If I’m in the middle of a book and leave on errands, I often take whatever book I’m reading with me. Maybe everything will run efficiently and I won’t have a chance to read a single word, but maybe there will be unexpected down time. I stopped in the pharmacy for my flu shot and had an unexpected 20 minute wait. Perfect time to read instead of just mindlessly scroll on my phone! I will especially make sure to take my book along to any type of appointment where I might have a wait before being seen – doctor, dentist, hair salon, etc. By having my book handy, I have the option to read a few pages instead of flip through a magazine there or my instagram feed.

 

What strategies do you use to fit in reading?