St Louis Trip

Well it only took me 3 months but I finally finished our trip write up!  We went in early May and the weather was great. Cool but not cold.  We only stayed 2 nights so there was only so much we could fit.  Next time I’d love to stay longer and do more.  Spend more time in Forest Park, at the botanical gardens, and at the Magic House.  Here’s a rundown of our trip.


Where We Stayed

Home2 Suites Forest Park.  This hotel is only a year old and was perfect for us.  We prefer to stay in suites whenever we travel so that we can stay up after Gretchen goes to bed.  Having a partial kitchen is great too.  This suite was huge with a fridge, sink, microwave, dishes, and a table to eat at.  Gretchen slept on her cot in the living area (pull out couch was there if we wanted it) and we had a king bed in the other room.  Huge bathroom with a nice big tub.  They offered a really great complimentary breakfast and had an indoor pool (saltwater) that we enjoyed.  Location was very central to everything we did.  Kind of steep at $250 a night but worth it!


  • Anthonio’s Taverna– Italian restaurant in The Hill district.  Great Italian restaurant but not too fancy for kids.  They do take reservations but we forgot to make them and walked right in and got a table around 5.  Sorry, no pictures of our delicious meal (including the St. Louis special, toasted ravioli)
  • Gelato Di Riso– this was just a couple of blogs from Anthonio’s and the gelato was FANTASTIC.  Wish we had a great gelato place like this in KC.


  • Bailey’s Range– this restaurant is downtown near CityGarden and the arch.  They have great burgers, salads, and make their own ice cream! Very kid friendly place to eat while not sacrificing great food.

Things We Did:

  • St. Louis Zoo– while admission to the zoo is free, parking is not and neither are the extras like the train, sea lion show, feeding the stingrays, and the children’s area.  If you have a zoo membership elsewhere you can get a discount but we opted not to get one this year. We were able to see most of the zoo in 3 hours with the help of the train.  Gretchen loved the penguins, polar bear, and the hippos.  The hippo exhibit was phenomenal.  The children’s area of the zoo was very shaded which was nice and there is a playground and splash pad there where you can stop and play.
  • Turtle Park– this is a park right by Forest Park and next to the highway that has a bunch of turtle sculptures that kids can climb on.  Big turtles, baby turtles, turtle hatchlings.  It’s really unique and a fun stop.


  • Missouri Botanical Garden– This was my favorite stop on our trip and I could have spent more time here.  The gardens are beautiful and there are almost too many to see them all.  We got there late in the afternoon so didn’t get to spend as much time in the children’s garden as we probably would have liked as it closes early.  It is AMAZING though.  Treehouses, slides, a general store for pretend play, and in the summer there is a splashpad to enjoy as well.13263791_768470697971_4784912242508492926_n13255926_768470084201_9103440642436251344_n



  • St. Louis Science Center – I was feeling pretty exhausted the morning we went since we’d walked all over the zoo the day before.  The museum is free but the extras are not.  Our Union Station/Science City membership got us a free admission to the kid’s Discovery Room which was Gretchen’s favorite part.  I wish the sessions were longer (you only get 45 minutes in there) since there was so much to do and explore.13230104_768469924521_4222101808238888441_n
  • CityGarden– Only a short walk from Bailey’s Range, CityGarden is a sculpture park right in the heart of the city.  It was a little cool for us to enjoy the fountains but it would be great in the summer.  You can also get a good view of the arch from here.13232996_768471421521_130822128540047043_n13254298_768471167031_1705166848221008063_n


  • Magic House–  I was SO excited to take Gretchen here as I have clear memories of going as a kid.  We got there right when it opened but after about an hour it got somewhat crowded (depending on which room you were in).  This is a children’s museum for kids of all ages.  Gretchen is very into playing pretend right now so she loved the vet clinic, pizza parlour, and baby nursery.  I loved the things that made me nostalgic, like the static ball, three story slide, and the bubble room.  We spent only about 2 hours here but could have spent more, sadly it was time to head home.13260233_768471536291_2770321847287516267_n13239206_768472025311_8674125121213880493_n



Oregon Trip- Cannon Beach

Part 1 of our Oregon trip can be found here

Day 3: We arrived in Cannon Beach too early to check in at our hotel and quickly discovered that most restaurants in town are closed on Tuesdays.  None of the places we’d bookmarked to try were open so we ended up at Local Grill and Scoop.  It was okay but nothing to write home about. After we drove up to Ecola State Park and walked around at Ecola Point.  We drove over to Indian Beach but decided we’d come back later when we had more time to explore it.


We came back to town and shopped at the farmers market for picnic food: salami, hummus and pita bread, and fresh peaches.  It was finally time to check in so we got settled in our room (with a killer view!) at the Hallmark Resort and Spa and then walked down to Haystack Rock to explore the beach and the tidal pools.

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We went back to Ecola State Park and enjoyed our picnic at Indian Beach and watched the surfers and the sunset.  This was a highlight of the trip for both of us.

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Day 4: We had breakfast at the Lazy Susan Cafe.  They take only cash but fortunately there was an ATM across the street! This place is tiny and has less than 10 tables.  The food is GREAT.  I had waffles and bacon and Tyler had…something. I was hungry and dove right in and paid no attention, lol.


After breakfast we drove a little over an hour south to Cape Meares.  Sadly it was enveloped in fog, so we couldn’t see the ocean.  This was a bummer but still made for some good pictures and we saw the mysterious octopus tree so that was fun.

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We decided to part ways for the afternoon and Tyler hiked at Ecola State Park and I shopped and explored in downtown Cannon Beach.  I picked up food and wine for another picnic at Provisions 124 and I got a nutella crepe from Crepe Neptune that was divine.

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When Tyler returned we drove down to Hug Point and explored the rock formations, waterfall, and cave.

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We ate dinner in our room and then went down to the beach and enjoyed the sunset.  The hotel had free beach blankets so that was a nice amenity.  Originally we were hoping to have a campfire and smores on the beach (hotel provides everything for this) but due to the drought and a fire ban this was a no-go.  The sunset was beautiful and after the sun went down we watched as the stars came out one by one until we got too chilly.

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Day 5: After checking out we ate breakfast at The Wayfarer.  Excellent views of Haystack Rock but the food was mediocre at best.  Then it was on to Portland….

Oregon Trip- Columbia River Gorge

Tyler and I decided to head to Oregon to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary a few months early.  Fall seemed like a good time to go and my in laws were happy to come stay with Gretchen for a week.  The first two days of our trip were spent in Hood River, Oregon.

Day 1: Flew into PDX on Southwest Airlines (no fee for checked bags, woo!  C boarding group, boo!)  Picked up our rental car from Alamo (got a great deal through Costco) and drove up towards Hood River. It was 50 degrees and raining lightly so our plan to visit some scenic stops along the way were postponed. We did hike down to Bridal Veil Falls though, not realizing the trail was very steep and pretty treacherous while wet.  Also I was wearing a maxi dress and flip flops so not the best hiking gear!  Fortunately I had my rain jacket and a husband to hold my hand and keep me from falling!  The falls were worth the hike, so beautiful!


Drove on to Hood River where it was not raining, just cool.  Still it wasn’t too cool to eat outside so we did just that at 6th Street Bistro.  The food and beer were good, nothing out of this world but it was a good meal.  After dinner we walked around down by the river and watched the sunset.  We got some amazing strawberry and hazelnut gelato from a little gelato stand that used only local and organic ingredients.


Day 2: Delicious breakfast at our B&B, the Villa Columbia, before we left to drive the “fruit loop.”  We stopped at several places along the route, including Gorge White House, Apple Valley Country Store, Packer Orchard and Bakery, and some scenic stops along the highway where we got pictures of Mt. Hood.  We ate lunch at Solstice and had a delicious cherry and chorizo pizza and salad with local pears, goat cheese, and hazelnuts.  In the afternoon we wanted some downtime so we sat on the balcony at the B&B and read books we’d brought along.  260


In the evening we went back to Gorge White House for dinner (pear quesadillas, YUM!) and wine/cider tasting.  Without the sun directly overhead we were able to walk through the orchard and the flower fields and really take it all in.  This place is beautiful.  A million thanks to my friend Stacy for telling us about it!  It closes at 7 so we went back to the river front park and watched the kite boarders and the sunset.



Day 3: Tyler did a 12 mile run this morning along the closed portion of the scenic highway. We had breakfast at the B&B and checked out and then headed towards the ocean.  Along the way we stopped at Horsetail Falls, Multnomah Falls, and Vista House at Crown Point.  It was a beautiful morning and not crowded since the holiday weekend wa s over.




Weekend trip to Omaha

We drove up to Omaha for a couple of days as a mini-summer vacation/early celebration of Gretchen’s 3rd birthday.

Where we stayed: Homewood Suites downtown.  We got a 2 room suite which I thought meant we’d have a living room and then a bedroom.  Instead we got 2 bedrooms and a living room/kitchen in between!  Gretchen had 2 queen beds in her room but slept in her pack n play 🙂  The living room and kitchen were great.  Having a full fridge/freezer was perfect since we brought our own food for lunches.  We got a good rate thanks to our AAA membership.  This was a really nicely appointed hotel with complimentary breakfast AND complimentary dinner (Monday-Thursday) that includes beer/wine.  It was pretty standard continental breakfast fare: fruit, cereal, muffins/bagels, eggs, sausage, waffles, juice, coffee, etc.  We did not try out the complimentary dinner.  This hotel has an indoor pool and hot tub which was a big hit with Gretchen.

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Where we ate: Since it was only a 3 hour drive from home we packed sandwiches, fruit, and other lunch fare to take to the zoo with us on Monday and Tuesday.  This was a time and money saver and we avoided the typical zoo fare of chicken fingers and fries.  We dined out for dinner both nights and had lunch at a restaurant before leaving town on Wednesday.

Monday night: Upstream in the Old Market followed by dessert at Ted and Wallys which was just around the corner.  Ted and Wallys was worth the wait, truly amazing ice cream!


Tuesday night: La Casa Pizzeria followed by dessert at eCreamery (Shark Tank fans will probably recognize this brand of ice cream that you can personalize and have shipped to your friends).


Wednesday: lunch at Wheatfields in the Old Market.  Next time we go to Omaha we will eat here again, this was our favorite of the 3 restaurants we went to.

Henry Doorly Zoo: We spent two half-days at the zoo since we knew Gretchen could only do a few hours before she’d be a mess.  Happy with that decision especially since we got discounted admission with our KC Zoo membership.

Day 1: On Memorial Day we got there at about noon and it was packed, not surprising for a beautiful day that also happens to be a holiday.  We bought basic admissions tickets (Gretchen was free and Tyler and I got in for half price with our KC Zoo membership).  We stopped and ate our lunch first and then visited the aquarium, giraffes, and the jungle exhibit.  The aquarium was nice but so incredibly crowded.  Gretchen loves fish so she loved it.  I definitely think the penguin exhibit at the KC Zoo is superior, however as a whole, the aquarium was is much better than KC’s Sea Life aquarium.  The giraffes will be moved into the new Africa exhibit when it opens but when we visited they were all indoors.  Gretchen said at the end of the day that the giraffes were her favorite.  Tyler and I really enjoyed the jungle exhibit.  It was way bigger than we initially realized and had so many great animals including otters (Tyler’s fave), pygmy hippos (my fave), and a sloth, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before.  Gretchen was kind of freaked out by the waterfalls and I was definitely freaked out by the bats, ick.  By 3pm she was getting fussy so we checked in to the hotel and she took a nap.

Day 2: Rain was in the forecast but we decided to go anyway because we figured it would keep the crowds away.  Gretchen got in free again and Tyler and I got half off admission.  We did pay full price for the transportation/sting ray package as our zoo pass didn’t get us a discount on those.  For the first hour we practically had the zoo to ourselves, it was awesome.  We visited the big cats, the bears, the orangutans (so loud!) and gorillas on our way down to the train depot.  After checking out the kid’s area and riding the carousel we took a ride on the train.  Tyler fed a sting ray and Gretchen chased some peacocks around.  At this point it started raining.  We walked through the bird aviary but the decking was extremely slippery from the rain.  I managed to avoid any major wipe outs.  We also visited the Madagascar exhibit before stopping for lunch and then heading up to the Desert Dome.  The Desert Dome was unlike any zoo exhibit we’d visited before but it was a bit crowded by that point and Gretchen was getting cranky. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the underground exhibit, Kingdoms of the Night.  We hauled our whiny kid out and took her back to the hotel for a much needed nap.

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Omaha Children’s Museum

This place did not disappoint at ALL and I wish we’d had more time to explore. The 3 of us got in free as our Union Station/Science City membership gets us 100% reciprocity. Saved us over $30 on admission! Oh how I wish Kansas City had a children’s museum of this caliber. Wonderscope and Science City just aren’t nearly as magical.  Gretchen LOVED the HyVee grocery area.  She shopped, had her daddy check out and bag her groceries, made me pizza in their pizzeria, and then had to be bribed to leave the area and see the rest of the museum.  She flipped burgers and dogs at the Omaha Steaks grill area like a pro, played at the water tables, and pretended to drive a fire truck. The ball room was huge and made me wish I were a kid again.  Before leaving we went upstairs so she could ride the carousel.  This is where we discovered MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES RESURRECTED!  It was the Richman Gordman zoo animals, fully restored and ready for my kid to play on just like I did as a kid when we shopped at the store in Topeka.

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First Family Vacation

In early May we went on our first family vacation since Gretchen was born, and we brought along her Gpop and Gran Jan as well as Aunt Sarah and Uncle Steven.  To save money and have room to haul all of our beach gear we drove, splitting it up between two days.  Gretchen did really well in the car with a steady stream of snacks, books, and Daniel Tiger as well as her first feature length films: Finding Nemo and Frozen.

Destination: Pensacola Beach, Florida.


the view from our deck!

When planning this trip we were really open to any part of Florida where we could find a house ON the beach that was handicap accessible for Gran Jan.  I was really surprised at how hard it was to find this kind of lodging for a state known for catering to older folks.  After lots of time on VRBO I narrowed it down to a couple of houses but Spikes Beach Place was perfect. 4 bedrooms, roll in shower and roll under sink, wider doorways, and an elevator!   It passed the accessibility test with flying colors AND is newly remodeled, fully stocked, and RIGHT ON THE BEACH!  Even though we booked last winter we still just barely managed to book in time to get one of the last weeks available, clearly this place is popular and people come back year after year.  I was worried it would be too cool the first week of May but it was actually ideal weather.  70s-80s every day, only rained once, and since it was post-spring break and pre-summer vacation it wasn’t crowded either.  Like I said, perfect.

We learned a few weeks before our trip that Gretchen hates sand.  And by hate I mean screams and flips out if she touches it.  Little kink in our plan for a beach vacation but we made it work with the help of beach blankets, towels, and water shoes to keep her feet off of the sand.  She did way better than expected and even played with the sand, as long as she was sitting on the blanket and not in the sand.


had to have this adorable whale suit and hat from iplay!  

My family is amazingly chill and great to travel with.  I was really glad Gretchen got to spend so much time with her extended family playing on the beach, reading books, and being silly.  Lots of great memories were made.  Now for more pictures!


first time at the ocean at 22 months old.  


this beach wheelchair was AWESOME and allowed Gran Jan to join us on the beach.  Rented from Funny Cars and was only about $125 for the week!  Breaks down into 2 pieces so it’s easy to transport despite its size.   


we went on a dolphin cruise on one of our date nights.  


got sand on her hands, toddler problems.  


left the stroller at home and took our toddler tula, which was perfect for our day trips to the Naval Aviation Museum and the Gulfarium.



the whole family on the boardwalk

San Francisco: Trip Review

How we flew: Midwest Airlines- I typically love this airline but was not smitten this time, it’s just not what it once was.  The seats are smaller, you have to pay $50 more for the large signature seats, and you have to pay to check your bags now of course.  No free snacks, and no freshly baked chocolate chip cookies if you fly before noon 😦  Plus we were delayed both there and back and they gave us no explanation for it either time.  We did get cookies on our return trip as it didn’t leave until 2 pm.

Where we stayed: Best Western Tuscan Inn at the Wharf, a Kimpton Hotel- We took our chances and booked through which worked out well for us last year when we went to Chicago.  Due to the Nike Women’s Marathon taking place the same weekend we went to SF, we weren’t able to get a decently priced hotel in our first choice area: Union Square.  After considering the touristy things we wanted to do, we realized that staying at the Wharf really wasn’t that bad of an idea, and we were able to get our hotel for $85 per night (three star hotel rather than the four we originally tried for).  We were very happy with this hotel, it doesn’t feel like a Best Western since it is managed by Kimpton, and it is not right on the wharf, so the crowds/noise are not as bad.  They let us check in 2 hours early, had a very helpful concierge, and our room was clean and comfortable.  The bathroom had been upgraded recently and was very attractive.  Best part?  Free wine reception in the lobby from 4-6pm every day.  You get 2 free glasses of wine, they usually had a white zin, a chardonnay, and a red.  Not the most expensive of wines, but they were good, and FREE!  To get to our hotel from the airport we took BART to the Embarcadero station, then an $8 taxi ride to the hotel.  You could also take the F-line Street Car from Embarcadero, but that can be tricky with luggage so we went with the taxi instead.

Where we ate: This is documented (with pics of course!) over on our food blog.  Check out the good, the not as good, the sweet, and the cheesy things we ate.

What we did Day 1:

-Explored Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach (Tyler LOVED the sea lions, he had no idea there would be hundreds)

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-Bought breakfast groceries at Safeway which we were able to store in the fridge in our room.

What we did Day 2:

-Picked up our rental car at Budget, right behind our hotel, SUPER convenient.


-Drove to Fairfield, CA for a free tour of the Jelly Belly Factory (saw the legendary portrait of RR made out of Jelly Bellies)

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-Drove to Muir Woods and explored the redwood forest.

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-Returned to our hotel via the Golden Gate Bridge


-Night tour of Alcatraz (make sure to book ahead, these book up weeks in advance at times).

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What we did Day 3:

– Checked out the Saturday market at the Ferry Building, also the arts & crafts booths across the street.

– 3 hour city tour with Mr. Toads Tours

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What we did Day 4:

– Returned to the Ferry Building for our lunch reservations at Slanted Door, also picked up some bread, cheese, and pastries to enjoy in our room for dinner.
– Rode the cable car down to Union Square to do some window shopping and check out CB2, sadly didn’t buy anything!
– Took the bus back to the Wharf and explored the free stuff at the Maritime Museum and Ghiradelli Square.
– Relaxed in our room, enjoyed the food we bought that morning at the Ferry Building, watched some tv and spent the evening unwinding before returning home the next morning.

Budget Breakdown:

  • flights & luggage fees: $568
  • transportation in SF (BART to and from airport, 3-day MUNI passes, and taxi fare):  $88
  • hotel: $402
  • rental car & gas: $67
  • food: $384.84 (while we spent a lot in this category, we never spent more than $60 on a meal, including tip)
  • Alcatraz tour: $66
  • Mr. Toads Tour: $90
  • Muir Woods: $10
  • Souvenirs/Gifts: $50
  • airport parking: $90 (ouch)
  • pet/house sitter: $150

TOTAL: $1965.84 we went a bit over budget, as we had budgeted approximately $1500, however it didn’t squeeze the wallet too bad as we paid for hotel & airfare back in July when we booked them, tours when we booked them in September, and the rest while we were actually in SF.  I also worked every weekend in September (sometimes twice a weekend) so that we’d have more for our trip.  Despite going over in our budget, it was definitely worth it, we had a fabulous time and were really able to relax and reconnect, we’d do it again in a heartbeat and I’d love to go back to San Francisco.  Tyler rated this our “second best trip”, nothing tops the honeymoon 😉 We don’t have any vacations planned for next year, but our next trip will likely be a week in Colorado, a pug friendly vacation!

And we’re back!

San Francisco was fabulous, and I have tons of blog posts in my head but so little time to write them as my first paper of the semester is due Thursday.  Don’t ask me how I am 2 months into the semester with no assignments under my belt yet, I don’t understand it either.  But I do know that the weeks until I finish the semester on December 10th are going to be crazy.  I would rather be working on the house, blogging, helping my sister PLAN HER WEDDING!!!! or anything else but school work, but it’s gotta be done!  Here are a couple of pics from our trip to tide you over until I finish this stupid paper.

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Jelly Belly Factory was AMAZING, so silly but we had so much fun (and od’d on sugar that’s for sure)

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Muir Woods was breathtaking, we felt so small!

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I loved the Ferry Building, so much amazing  food to drool over (and sample whenever possible!)

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Alcatraz freaked me out (night tour = scary!) but the ferry ride at sunset was beautiful!

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and the bridges, both beautiful!  couldn’t get enough of them!

detailed posts to follow about the highlights and lowlights of our trip, as well as lots of posts on the food we ate over on the food blog!