Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scenes from Arizona

It's sometimes hard to believe that we've lived in Arizona for about 10 months now. It's cheesy but true, but time flies when you're having fun. We've had a lot of firsts since moving here. We're still surviving, and surprisingly not hating, our first summer in the desert. We also saw our first dust storm. It wasn't nearly as exciting as I was hoping. We still miss our family and friends very much, but I think Arizona is doing a nice job growing on us.

 don't be fooled... this is turf and not real grass

 watching our first dust storm roll in

 we caught a local 4th of July parade

 trying to stay cool in the pool

 watching a little team roping

 what little boy doesn't love breakfast at the airport?!

starting him young ;-)

Have you ever been to Arizona?
Did you love it or hate it?
If not, come & see it for yourself!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Grand Canyon :: aka Wow

This is incredibly indicative of my nature, but I worried about our Grand Canyon plans for weeks before leaving. We would only have a few hours there, and I didn't want to blow our opportunity to really experience the natural world wonder. I was concerned that we would have unrealistically high expectations and be disappointed after viewing it from the parking lot or a crowded overlook. Thank goodness we're only about a 4 hour drive away, so we should be able to visit again.

After our Arizona road trip and a stop in Las Vegas, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon. Everyone says it, but it really is one of those places you need to see with your own eyes. I also tend to say this about a number of places, but pictures and videos really don't do it justice. I hope my pictures do this beautiful place at least a little justice or maybe even make you want to visit for yourself!

The night before our Grand Canyon visit, we spent the night at a hotel in Tusayan, Arizona. It's just a couple miles south of the southern entrance gate. It killed me being so close to the Grand Canyon and having to wait until morning to actually leave the hotel and see it. Patience may not be one of my strengths, especially when it comes to travel. What can I say? I want to do it all and with a limited amount of time.

Driving into the Grand Canyon from the south, we were pleasantly surprised at the number of trees and how lush the plant life seemed. I guess I have no idea what we were expecting. You tend to imagine Arizona as simply a desert filled with cacti, dirt, and various other shades of brown. However, you'll find the landscape varies tremendously, especially in the northern mountains of the state. The 48th state has been surprising us since we moved here.

We drove into Grand Canyon National Park, purchased our National Park annual pass and proceeded a parking lot near the main visitor center. All along we're wondering when are we going to see this incredible canyon. We made a stop at the visitor center and gift shop before proceeding down the trail to one of the many overlooks.

We wound our way through the trees and followed signs to the canyon. I couldn't help but wonder how much further until we could see it. (Patience is a virtue.) Then all of a sudden the trees ended and, bam!, there it was. There we were standing in front of the Grand Canyon itself. I can honestly say it took my breath away. Even our 16 month old could sense the wonder of it, because he repeatedly hollered "wow" with amazement. All my worrying about where to park, hike, overlook didn't matter anymore. We were there standing in front of one of the grandest sights in all the world. It was incredible.

Utilizing all of your senses is a must when visiting the Grand Canyon. The sound of the blowing wind next to the giant chasm is indescribable. The sound masks all the noises of daily distraction. No horns honking, planes flying, or phones ringing. When the wind blows and you're standing next to the Grand Canyon, all you hear is the thoughts in your head. That can be a good or bad thing, but I think it helps you really take in the sights.

I wish we would have had more time at the Grand Canyon. That tends to be a theme when we travel. There never seems to be enough time. Such is life though. We enjoyed the little time we did have. Even the littlest adventurer among us seemed to enjoy shaking fences while shouting his amazement into the canyon.

It blows me away that we heard multiple different languages and accents while walking the canyon trails. People from all over the world stop to get a look at this wonder, and all too often we take these types of places for granted. They are right underneath our noses, and we often don't make the time to see the beauty of our own country.

Every now and then we caught a glimpse of the Colorado River down below. It's sometimes too easy to forget that a river, plenty of passing time, and the forces of mother nature shaped this place. The Grand Canyon doesn't give credit to any human for shaping, creating, building, or forging it. Man has designed and built some pretty spectacular things, but natural wonders like the Grand Canyon exist outside of man. Quite simply, it's a place to be enjoyed and experienced.

We walked a rather small portion of trail along the canyon rim, and it's shocking to think that plenty of people make the hike down into the canyon each year. I'm sure that experience is something completely different and one for the record books. Maybe some day we'll tackle the trails leading down into the canyon, but for now we have visions from atop the canyon seared into our memories. Our little guy probably won't remember our visit, but we have pictures to prove he was there.

Thanks for reading!

If you've never visited the Grand Canyon in person,
I hope you'll get to see it some day.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Falling for Faux Fur

I have always loved wearing at least a little bit of faux fur when it gets snowy and cold outside. I think part of me is clinging to the cold-weather girl inside of me. What can I say? I grew up in northern Michigan, and I love cuddling up to something cozy when it gets cool outdoors. My winter coat has a faux fur trim around the hood, I had a fun pair of tall boots with fur trim around the tops, and I even wore a faux fur jacket on our wedding day. I guess you can say I'm a little crazy for faux fur.

picture by Alison Rose Photography in Denver

Finding the perfect faux fur vest for fall has consumed me recently. I searched online for quite some time and thought I knew what I wanted, but there are so many different styles out there. For now I found a really affordable option (under $40) at Forever 21. I can't wait to wear it once the temperatures drop a bit!

 :: some of my favorite faux fur vests ::

Falling for Faux Fur

1. Forever 21 Open-Front Vest I recently bought this and can't wait to wear it in cooler temps. The Arizona weather isn't exactly faux fur friendly at the moment.

2. H&M Brown Fur Vest I almost purchased this one. It's a little looser fitting than I wanted, so it would be great for layering over top of larger items of clothing like sweaters.

3. Mark & Graham All-Over Fur Vest this is a nice versatile, brown vest for fall.

4. Camille Faux Fur Vest by Lovers + Friends This vest is a little pricey, but I love the color variation in this one. I think this vest looks a little more like real fur than some others.

Do you have any favorite faux fur items?
Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Taking in Tacoma, WA

After experiencing Seattle and spending some time relaxing in our hotel, it was fun taking some time to explore Tacoma. It's such a fun artsy-fartsy city. After all the years my cousin attended college at the University of Puget Sound, I can see why she loved (loves) it there so much. It was fun finally seeing the place that she called home for so many years. In Tacoma, you come across something beautiful at every turn. We spotted intricate murals, beautiful parks, ornate and historical buildings, wildlife, among other things. The city surpassed any expectations that we had.

If you attended high school in the late 90s, then chances are you've heard of a little movie called 10 Things I Hate About You. Chances are you also grow a little wistful at the thought of Heath Ledger singing and running up and down the stairs in the image below. If not, then you can at least appreciate the interesting architecture of this beautiful high school. Yes, this is probably one of the most spectacular public high schools you'll ever see!

My cousin's college campus was likely pulled straight out of storybook. It was beautiful and lush and everything you would expect from a northwestern location. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather for an outdoor graduation. It had apparently poured the year before, so we were thankful for sun and blue skies. A rarity, I believe.

We had a little bit of time to drive around Tacoma and explore Point Defiance Park. It wasn't nearly enough time to fully enjoy it (theme of this trip), but we did come across the cutest raccoon on our drive. We did take a few steps into the forest in order to get the full effect of the towering trees and their giant canopy. I have to be honest, I couldn't help but see why vampires like it up there. (This just gave away my Twilight books obsession.) Needless to say, we need at least another week in Tacoma!

One evening we stumbled across the coolest little brewery and restaurant near the University of Puget Sound campus. Engine House no. 9. The brewery had set up residence in an actual old fire engine house. Back when they used it for such, the engines were pulled by horse. You can see the horse stall openings in the brewery walls today. It's a fun place with a great atmosphere and good beer and food to boot. We call that a win, win.

My cousin wanted to take us to her favorite local farmer's market, The Proctor Farmers' Market. We enjoyed food, music, coffee, and the sights & smells. I have a soft spot in my heart for tamales, so I was pleased to find some really delicious ones at the market. My cousin also took us to the Pacific Northwest Shop right around the corner from the market. We got some nice little souvenirs to remind us of our trip.

If this post feels a little hectic, it's probably because our trip to Tacoma was a little hectic, in a good way, as well. We crammed in as much as humanly possible during our limited time there, and we did a little of this and that. Hopefully we'll find ourselves up that way again soon! I know my cousin would love to show us around her city some more. Until then, see you later Pacific Northwest! We had fun.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hotel Murano :: Tacoma

Yesterday I recapped our time spent in Seattle. Today I'm sharing our experience at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma. It was quite the hotel.

It's not often that we stay in a hotel that should go on our list of places to stay again. However, my cousin's graduation from University of Puget Sound was one of those special occasions that calls for a boutique hotel experience. The Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington did not disappoint.

Upon entrance, your eyes are drawn to the various pieces of art on display. We spotted beautiful glass Viking boats hanging over the stairway that leads to meeting spaces below. There was also an eye-catching and shiny blown glass chandelier hanging near the check-in counter. Among other artwork, the building architecture is interesting as well. I loved the mix of warm and cool textures, materials, and artwork.

All of the hotel staff provided excellent service, and they were more than happy to help whenever needed. An extra set of hands on luggage is always welcome when traveling with a little one. Room service was also a savior when we didn't want to leave the room with our little guy who ended up with a little head cold from all our travels.

We walked into a guest room with really unique and interesting decor. The couch under our windows made a perfect perch for our son who loved staring at the tiny cars from our 14th floor room. There was one point in time where we were able to see Mt. Rainier. Too bad Mt. Rainier stayed in hiding for much of our trip. Although when it did come out, we thoroughly soaked up its presence. When it's out, you can't miss it. The clouds part, and the mountain looms over the area like a giant watchdog. You can't always see it, but it's out there. Even with the clouds, we enjoyed our views of Tacoma from our room.

We enjoyed dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Bite, on a couple of evenings. Their menu changes seasonally, so you can expect different menu items throughout the year. My aunt had her heart set on the beet carpaccio, but the waiter had informed us it was no longer on the menu. He said it had just been removed, but he told us if the chef still had beets it might be possible to have it. Lo and behold, they had the ingredients and would make us a plate. My aunt was thrilled, and we all happily enjoyed the beet carpaccio.

The fried green tomatoes were a hit as well. I can't pass up any meal consisting of kalamata olives and capers. "Nosiree!" Actually, I don't think any of us had a bad meal. I enjoyed the halibut, plus who can resist joking about having their meal "just for the hal-i-but". Cheesy. I know.

Even though our little guy was battling a head cold, we managed to enjoy some time just relaxing and taking in the views from our room. Again, room service is great when traveling with kids! We enjoyed a couple of meals with a view.

Tacoma seemed like such a thriving college city. There was always a bit of hustle and bustle occurring in and around the hotel. Having multiple college graduations on the same weekend may of had something to do with it, but there was a nice energy about the city.

Like Seattle, we didn't get to spend much time in Tacoma. Hopefully we'll return. The Museum of Glass was right down the road from the Hotel Murano, and we didn't even have enough free time to visit. Taking a 15 month old to a museum of glass seemed like a bad idea as well. It made me sweaty thinking about our child knocking over something fragile and expensive.

For a beautiful hotel within walking distance to some of Tacoma's attractions, the Hotel Murano fits the bill. If you don't want to leave the hotel, it's perfect too. You get to choose. Don't forget to check out the artwork on each floor as you exit the elevator. The Hotel Murano is an experience in itself. It really holds its own in a city like Tacoma.