Discovering New York City at Christmastime with our Boys!

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I wanted to post this before it became absolutely irrelevant (you could argue that it's irrelevant now), but I wanted to share my NYC pictures from our family Christmas trip! So many of the things that we did are still on display until mid-January, so if you get the chance to visit NYC between now and then, DO IT! Our 8-day trip was 3 weeks ago, and since then a LOT has happened. I don't know how, but the holidays seem to absolutely devour the time. I am always astounded at how fast these few precious weeks pass by in December, but goodness gracious, they do. However, this trip was honestly magical. Maybe I just have rose-colored glasses when it comes to my favorite city (Stevie says I do), but being able to share my favorite place with my favorite people at the best time of year was just the most ecstatic thing for me.

Stevie's been working incessantly the past few months, and he's been in NYC almost every week. When he mentioned that he was going to work in NYC right before Christmas, my heart almost burst. Forget that, I decided to load up my billions of pounds of baby gear and take the boys up there with him! I made an insanely long list of Christmas-y things to do with the boys everyday, and I'm happy to say that we did most of those things! I wanted to share them in case you want to save this post for when you either visit with your kids, visit during the winter, or visit at Christmastime!

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1. Grand Central Station Holiday Train Show!
My pictures of this one are terrible because it was crazy crowded and there was bad lighting. But the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Station was AMAZING, especially for little boys who adore trains. Basically they built a train track that goes through a miniature NYC and the train choo choos through the set up and it's just really really cool. Go to there.

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Okay, this isn't Christmas-specific, but I've got to talk a little bit about the pizza at Juliana's. I've  talked about this famous pizza joint many times before ( here  and  here  and a little bit  here ), but I can't get over how amazing it is. Even Daxton knew that what he was eating was extra special. And Juliana's  shared this photo on Instagram , which just made the proudest parent.

Okay, this isn't Christmas-specific, but I've got to talk a little bit about the pizza at Juliana's. I've  talked about this famous pizza joint many times before (here and here and a little bit here), but I can't get over how amazing it is. Even Daxton knew that what he was eating was extra special. And Juliana's shared this photo on Instagram, which just made the proudest parent.

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2. Christmas Tree Crawl.
Every big building, store and apartment complex goes all out and decorates an enormous Christmas tree in the lobby. It's so fun to walk through the different buildings and get inspiration for your own Christmas tree. Or just gawk. They're beautiful. My absolute favorite this season was at The American Museum of Natural History - it was a tree entirely made of origami animals!

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3. The Tree at Rockefeller Center.
The tree at the Rockefeller Center is an American icon, which is why it gets its own bullet point here. It's insanely busy and crowded and I'll admit that I was kind of on a vigilant mom watch for terrorists while we visited this tree, but it is so beautiful. I'm so impressed with how many lights they manage to get all the way to the top. (Is it just me, or do the lights on your own Christmas tree seem to taper off up at the top?) Also, if you have older kids, you can take them down to the plaza below and go ice skating! I've never done it because this area makes me kind of claustrophobic, but if crowds this dense don't make your neck hot, you should totally give it a try!

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4. See the Christmas Displays on 5th Avenue.
The window displays in the big department stores along 5th Avenue are always spectacular. This year, Saks 5th Avenue did a series display showcasing elaborate scenes from the movie Snow White! It was completely gorgeous and so creative. But all the big stores do extra special displays - Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co. were also some of my favorites this year :)

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5. Visit Santa everywhere!
I made free appointment to meet Santa downtown at Macy's in their Santaland! It was a great experience and the boys' pictures are hilarious. Although, they were supposed to email me some digital copies and I have yet to receive them soooo.... I need to follow up! But Santa is ubiquitous across the city and there is an opportunity in every major section of the city. We also met the Santa at the Plaza (informally - we were just there to grab pizza in the basement) and he was super charming. However I've heard the best Santa is at ABC Carpet downtown. So I still have something for next year's bucket list!

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I have a similar picture like this with Everett when he was a baby. And he was in my bathrobe with his little head peeking out just like this one!

I have a similar picture like this with Everett when he was a baby. And he was in my bathrobe with his little head peeking out just like this one!

The origami Christmas tree I was talking about! It's so impressive.

The origami Christmas tree I was talking about! It's so impressive.

The boys stayed so warm in their  JJ Cole Bundleme stroller blankets . I seriously wanted to climb in with them, they were so sunggly even when the weather was scary.

The boys stayed so warm in their JJ Cole Bundleme stroller blankets. I seriously wanted to climb in with them, they were so sunggly even when the weather was scary.

6. Central Park in the SNOW!
This parkkkkkkk. You guys it's perfect in every season of the year - it's absolutely magic. MAGIC! Even in the freezing temperatures, this park is glorious, and when it's snow-covered, it makes me cry. It's so beautiful and dreamy to waltz, I mean walk through.

I had to throw this photo in the mix because we did a lot of  Seamless  meal delivery to our hotel room and this little guy ate in this  foldable travel high chair  like a champ! I was so proud of how easily my little men adapted on this trip ;)

I had to throw this photo in the mix because we did a lot of Seamless meal delivery to our hotel room and this little guy ate in this foldable travel high chair like a champ! I was so proud of how easily my little men adapted on this trip ;)

We spent a lot of time at the park. He's a man after my own park heart.

We spent a lot of time at the park. He's a man after my own park heart.

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These two. Couldn't love them any more. Anthony and Jess, I miss living on the same block as you guys!!! And sitting on the floor of your living room week in and week out, eating your snacks and talking about Jesus. And getting escorted around the city by you, receiving an education in NYC foodie culture. You're just the very best.

These two. Couldn't love them any more. Anthony and Jess, I miss living on the same block as you guys!!! And sitting on the floor of your living room week in and week out, eating your snacks and talking about Jesus. And getting escorted around the city by you, receiving an education in NYC foodie culture. You're just the very best.

We ate at Old Rose, located in the Jane Hotel downtown. Made us feel like trendy folk, for the bit of time we were there and child-free.

We ate at Old Rose, located in the Jane Hotel downtown. Made us feel like trendy folk, for the bit of time we were there and child-free.

Note  The Plaza Hotel  in the background (the white building with the green roof) - it's such a beauty!

Note The Plaza Hotel in the background (the white building with the green roof) - it's such a beauty!

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7. Visit the Holiday Markets!
There are these splendid holiday markets that set up all over the city around Christmastime. The big ones are at Columbus Circle and Bryant Park and they have hundreds of vendors selling everything you've ever heard of (plus a lot of things you've never heard of). It's the perfect place to shop for gifts that no one else will have!

We stopped by the Columbus Circle market a lot because it's at the corner of the park. Plus there was a spot where I could charge my phone and eat lots of snacks. This was the day when we discovered the Nutella churros - EPIC.

We stopped by the Columbus Circle market a lot because it's at the corner of the park. Plus there was a spot where I could charge my phone and eat lots of snacks. This was the day when we discovered the Nutella churros - EPIC.

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Can't tell you how many people asked if they were twins.

Can't tell you how many people asked if they were twins.

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Our old block!! I miss the Upper West Side. So much.

Our old block!! I miss the Upper West Side. So much.

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9. See a Christmas show at The Swedish Marionette Theater!
I walked the boys up through the park one day and we saw the Christmas puppet show at the Marionette Theater. It was the sweetest, most fun thing and I will always treasure that memory with my two sweethearts. Truly. If you have littles, make sure to check the schedule and catch a show! It's so special!

Things that are still on my NYC Christmas Bucket List:
- See the Rockettes Radio City Spectacular! I saw so many people in line for the show while we were in town because Radio City was right around the corner from our hotel, so I was having major jealousy. But I don't think my two wiggle worms would have been able to sit through that show. Next time!
- Ice Skate! There are so many outdoor rinks that look magical! Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park have ice skating and I would love to do this sometime in the future!
- Seeing The Nutcracker performed by The American Ballet Company at The Lincoln Center. It's my dream dream dream to see this show - I wish Stevie would just get on board! He's not a fan of ballet.
- Seeing Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim Museum - it's supposed to be an awesome show for kids but still a bit too mature for my boys' ages. But just gives me another reason to bring them back!


There you have it! Let me know if you have bucket list must-haves that I should add to this list! Christmas in NYC is so remarkable and MUST be experienced., if you like city sparkle. I hope this is helpful! xx

Our Do-Over Trip to Madrid, Spain!

Our Do-Over Trip to Madrid.

We made it! The first time I visited Madrid, things went horribly wrong. But Since Stevie had previously lived in Spain and LOVED Madrid, we decided to attempt a do-over. I am so glad we did! Madrid is an incredible city, ripe with sangria and paella and flamenco and oranges, thriving with edgy modernism in spite of it's anciently old history. I am so glad that we decided to take our son and explore this festive city together as a family of three. This was our first trip abroad with a baby, and whoa, we learned a few things along the way. But more on that later. First! Madrid!

We chose to stay in an airbnb in the Recoletos neighborhood, which is mostly a residential (non-touristy) area of town. This spot is close to the city's enormous Retiro Park (much like New York's Central Park), and we knew that would be a nice feature for Everett. We spent a lot of time walking around the park, truly mesmerized by its well-groomed, fanciful beauty. It reminded me of the Queen of Hearts' lawn in Alice in Wonderland, where they are all playing croquet and the hedges are all perfectly manicured. So pristine was this park. Though I had a hard time not staring at all the couples, um, coupling in the grass. I am always rudely reminded of what a modest American I am when I blush at Europeans' very public (let's be real graphic) displays of affection. But I got past it, and we had a lot of fun, lazily picnic-ing and wandering about, and also, SWINGING. Everett loved it, although the other little kiddos on the playground could definitely tell he wasn't Spanish like them. All that blonde hair, you know.

The park! And THOSE HEDGES.

Lunch! We watched a family play soccer while we tore into some baby food pouches.

I don't know how I am going to teach my son not to play with his food. Because I play with his food.

The park itself is huuuuuge. There is a darling little lake with people boating around, and there is a spot called the Crystal Palace - hello! That was clearly a must-see. Because when you go to Europe, you see as many castles as possible. Even if they're like, fake ones. This one was kind of a fake one. But it was still really really pretty, bending the sunlight that was streaming through all the crystallized panes. Pretty pretty.

Speaking of palaces, we spent Stevie's birthday touring the Royal Palace of Madrid! Oh what a delight. He liked the armory, while I preferred the King's residential wing of the castle. Although I must say, the Spanish are sorely under-jeweled. Their crown jewels were pathetic. AND. They don't even use them ceremonially. When someone is "crowned", they don't wear the crown at all. It just sits next to them while they take the photo. WHAT?! I mean. C'mon guys. Wear those baubles. Work that updo.

It made me realize that the queen of England is seriously, seriously endowed. I will never forget the rooms and rooms of crown jewels that she is in possession of. For real. KATE MIDDLETON IS SO LUCKY. Inheritance and whatnot.

The Royal Palace. Not too shabby. I mean, I'd take it.

Palace views of the city. And the country. And the mountains. I suddenly feel like such a peasant.

Birthday boy picking our his birthday baked good. I was like, GET ALL OF THEM.

 There are some strange statues in this city.

We wandered around and grabbed a very Spanish birthday dinner in the Plaza de San Miguel. Cheese plate! Wine! Crazy amounts of jamon and baguettes and olives! Everett was such a little champ, staying out much too late with us, sitting in the plaza and laughing and watching the sun go down and the stars come out. It was such a sweet time, the three of us, just being family, exploring the world together. It was exciting and very normal, all at once. Exciting, because everyone around us spoke emphatically in their native tongue, and normal, because we were just eating dinner, like we do everyday. It was such a strange and oddly humbling experience.

Mercado de San Miguel! Where one buys hip wine and overpriced cherries.

Fancy cheese. Of the Spanish varietals.

Oh, and in case you were worried that we weren't experiencing enough Spanish culture, we toasted to Stevie's birthday with hot chocolate churros. So yeah, the trip pretty much felt complete all in one moment. THE TASTE IN MY MOUTH WAS SINFUL AND HEAVENLY ALL AT ONCE. And if you want to be a drillionaire, you should open a hot chocolate churros food truck in the States. I will be the first in line. THE VERY FIRST.

Something that I've had on my bucket list for years is to see the infamous Velazquez Las Meninas painting in The Prado Museum. And we finally got to it! It's such a magnificent painting,some say one of the most important in the world. The meaning of the painting is disputed; there are dozens and dozens of theories about what the different subjects are doing and why - but I personally wanted to see this painting after learning about how it impacted Pablo Picasso. A few years ago, when we were in Barcelona, I saw his series of "Las Meninas"-inspired paintings, which he was compelled to create after being so taken with Velazquez's masterpiece. He created 58 paintings, in his own spectacular style, reinterpreting the original and skewing the sense of light, color, composition, angle and subject. It was fascinating, I remember thinking, "I have to see this crazy Las Meninas picture!" And now, I can say that I have. Picasso was no fool. The original painting was outstanding, so complex and intelligent and full of mystery. It was exhilarating to finally see the real picture, the one that inspired all the others. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt around the world, and a piece of the map came together for me on that day, in the Prado. I wish I could have lingered. But Everett discovered how his voice echoes in the museum and he reeeeeeally liked that... so we had to jet out of there as fast as lightning. I mean, he was loud.

Having a baby along for this particular adventure made me feel connected to people in a way that I never had. Even though I couldn't understand their words, I knew what their smiles, their gestures, and their warm words implied as they leaned down and spoke so sweetly to my son. Wherever we went, Everett somehow wormed his way into the hearts of everyone we met. I thought he was the apple of my own eye, but oh my! He left those little old Spanish women in a wake.

It made me realize that no matter what the vast differences might be between people, not only the language, but the culture, religion, politics, heck, the OCEAN that lies between the United States and Spain, the practice of adoring babies is truly universal. Young men, old women, children, couples, people of all heritages and walks of life - they approached us with warm eyes and excitable hearts. They wanted to speak to the baby, touch his hands (which made me cringe), and engage with his little presence and personality. They wanted to connect, and my little baby boy was the bridge. The olive branch. The conductor of electricity between us and them. It made me feel very human. Very human and very much a citizen of this vibrant world.

I feel insanely grateful that I had opportunity to experience this rich city just like this - as a wife and a mother, and a student of the world, exploring the Earth with my treasured ones.

And We're Off!

Off on an adventure!

I'm packed. Stevie's packed. Everett's packed. I really hope I'm not forgetting anything.

Today we leave for a 9-day family trip, exploring Madrid and Rome! The last time we were in Madrid, this is what happened. So needless to say, I don't remember a lot of the trip. But what I do remember... isn't great. So we are excited for a do-over! And the last time we were in Rome we toured hardcore, going underneath the Vatican and meandering through ancient Roman ruins. That trip was pretty epic, because we experienced 30 days of travel with just two backpacks and Rick Steves guiding us to and fro.

This time around, with Everett and his mammoth stroller and all the baby paraphernalia ON EARTH, we hope to take a more relaxed approach. Not necessarily touring and hitting tons of museums. Just wandering around, eating in cafes and taking in the deliciousness of the dolce vita. It feels very strange to have such a loose approach to this trip, but we figure if we set the bar pretty low, the trip will feel like a success if we just make it there without a major breakdown. And eat some gelato.

I am leaving my computer at home (gulp). I can't remember the last time I didn't travel with my laptop (it's been years), so I am excited and a little freaked about that. But I really want to detach and just experience this vacation with my family the old-fashioned way. I know I will have my hands full with my son, but I also don't want him to feel like second fiddle while mommy is blogging incessantly. So it's a big decision for me but I feel really good about it. However, my phone will be working and I will be posting to instagram like a crazy person, because, well, I'm a crazy person. So you can follow along our trip there, if you're into drooling over travel pics like I am. Also, I have a few posts ready to go, so there will be some content that I am excited to share even while I am away, so you can hang around the blog next week and there will be some fun recipes and recent travel posts to browse through :)

We are suuuuuper excited to celebrate two of our friends getting hitched in Rome, and anticipating what it will be like to travel abroad with our little baby... who is just shy of 10 months! Stevie's birthday is this weekend, too, so there is more than enough to clink our celebratory wine (or sangria!) glasses to!

For those of you who have been to Rome and Madrid before, do you have any suggestions on places or things to do/see/eat? Leave me a comment and let me know! And also - prayers for the 9+ hour flight with a baby pleeeeeease!

Love love love.