Palm Desert Vacation

If you’re looking to get away on a relaxing vacation, lounge by the pool, maybe do a little shopping and be in the hot sun, I know just the place….Palm Desert, CA! (Or Palm Springs). My husband and I traveled to Palm Desert in the middle of May with four of our close friends. This was our first trip flying somewhere new since our honeymoon to Thailand back in January 2020, 16 months ago. (Wow that is wild to think about!)

Palm Desert is full of restaurants, colorful shops, swimming pools and many luxury cars! Oh and golf, lots and lots of golf. My husband said the courses here were some of the nicest golf courses he has ever played on.

The six of us stayed at Embarc Palm Desert which was right in the center of everything and close to the main strip, El Paseo Shopping District. The community was right next to a couple of golf courses and had multiple pools to lounge by. This was great for the guys to head to golf in the morning and the girls to go for a swim.

We went out to eat almost every night which was new for us since we hadn’t dined at a restaurant in so long with covid restrictions. My three favorite restaurants from the trip were:

  • Guillermo’s Restaurante – Delicious Mexican food! The chips, salsa, guac, margs…all amazing. I had the chicken fajitas and would recommend.
  • Ristorante Mamma Gina – Incredible homemade pasta and Italian food. They even gave us a complimentary slice of cheesecake for desert!
  • Wilma & Frieda’s Cafe – Everything you can imagine for amazing brunch food and drinks. Short rib eggs benny, churro waffles, home-made buttery flakey giant biscuits with raspberry jam. Yum!

One memorable night was when we out to eat at the The Nest in Palm Springs. We sat out on the patio in 70 degree weather (my favorite temperature) and watched live music while eating dinner. As we were getting ready to leave, one of our friends recognized a woman at the bar from the show: The Real Housewife of Orange Country, Elizabeth Lyn Vargas. My sister-in-law and I went up to her and got a photo. Even though neither of us watch the show, we pretended like we did and pretended like we knew who she was 😀 (She was very friendly and we can now say we had a celebrity spotting).

On our second to last day my husband and I took an early morning drive to Joshua Tree National Park which is about an hour away from Palm Springs. The park is full of beautiful scenery, places to camp, rock climbing and lots of trails to explore. In mid May it was 100+ degrees outside so we didn’t do much hiking but enjoyed driving through the park and taking in all the sites.

About a 20 minute drive from Joshua Tree is a place called Pioneertown which was such a unique town to visit. This historic landmark is an Old Western Town built as a 1940s movie set that has all the Westworld feels. Surround by frontier stables, saloons, a jail, and a church along a dirt road; it truly felt like a step back in time into the wild wild west.  

We were there for 6 nights and like any vacation the time always flies by! Most of our days were spent relaxing in the sunshine, eating out at a bunch of different restaurants and spending time with each other at the resort.

The best part about any vacation is who you spent it with and I had a great time vacationing with my favorite people!

Weekend Road Trip to…Montana!

A 10+ hour road trip from Washington to Montana and back in 3 1/2 days? That’s over 20 hours of driving. Normally I would try to extend a trip like this but since my husband and I only had a couple of days and had the urge to travel, we decided to go for it! Oh, and there was a special reason why we chose to road trip to Montana…our friends who live there were getting engaged!

We left Thursday and started the 10+ hour journey. Tommy made a little bed in the back of the car with an air mattress, pillow and blankets to trade off napping. Our first stop was Ellensburg for some lunch. We discover THE BEST little sandwich place. If you ever find yourself passing through Ellensburg, definitely stop at Daily Bread and Mercantile. We had the Very Veggie and the Mean Green Panini. So, so good.

We continued to drive until we reached St. Regis Travel Center where apparently they have the best huckleberry milkshakes. **One thing to note, Tommy started filling up the gas tank and then we went inside to grab a bite to eat. We were so excited to get back to the car and eat our tater tots that we forgot to put the gas nozzle back. So Tommy drove off and the entire gas thing flew off dangling from the car!! 😂 Luckily it was able to go back on and reattach but this was definitely a first for us.

The next day, we explored Helena where our friends Kevin and Mary live before setting off to Livingston, Montana where Kevin was going to propose! (Livingston is a former railroad town in southwestern Montana along the banks of the Yellowstone River. It has this old western charm and a small town vibe. They stayed at Livingston’s famous historical hotel called The Murry, which is the place to stay if you are visiting the area).

The day of the proposal we went to this little restaurant called Faye’s Cafe in an old school building called The Shane Center. I cannot recommend this gem of a place enough! Customers pick out 2-3 words from the menu to describe the meal you would like. Then the waitress takes the words back to Faye (the cook) and she will whip something up just for you! The words I chose were potato, veggie and cheesy and this is what I had. Poached eggs, cheesy hash browns, green beans with balsamic, pesto and hummus on naan bread and citrus orange corn bread. Incredible. So rich and so flavorful. I’m still dreaming of this breakfast.

Next we set off for our hike to Pine Creek Falls where our friend Kevin was planning on proposing! Around 2.5 miles, this hike was short and sweet with beautiful views all around us. (But be careful if you go in late October. We were slipping all over the place since it was very icy. A couple of close calls on my end but no major falls).

We got to the falls and it couldn’t have been more perfect. There was this little bridge where Tommy and I stood to take photos. Kevin proposed and Mary said YES (She also had no idea and was so surprised)! Then we popped some champagne and enjoyed the moment before making our way back. The most special and memorable hike with great friends.

Next was the second part of Kevin’s proposal plan, to go to Chico Hot Springs! This resort was established over 120 years ago in 1900 and is located in the heart of Paradise Valley. It definitely didn’t feel like our typical cold Halloween day in Seattle. We felt like we were on a mini tropical vacation with the warm hot spring water and pool side drinks. So much fun!

We ended the day by going out to dinner in Livingston to celebrate the newly engaged couple! (I really enjoyed taking photos of all the neon signs that lit up the streets).

Then on Sunday Tommy and I started our long journey home back to Washington. I was so grateful for that extra hour we got with daylight savings. And the bed in the back of our car really came in handy for naps. Not to mention the scenic drive was absolutely beautiful.

This was one epic Halloween weekend to celebrate our friends’ engagement and an amazing quick little road trip to Montana!

Hot Tub Boat Adventure – Seattle, WA

My husband Tommy and I celebrated 1 year of marriage last weekend! It’s so crazy to think a year has already passed by. I feel like we got married just yesterday and can’t believe how quickly time is going. I wanted to surprise Tommy with something fun and unique for our anniversary and stumbled upon Hot Tub Boats which is exactly as it sounds, a hot tub in a boat!

We rented our private Hot Tub Boat and cruised around Lake Union. It was SO MUCH FUN! Also so very easy to drive. There is a small joystick which you maneuver around to determine where you want to go. It felt like a video game. The boat goes about as fast as kayakers and felt very safe. It’s large enough to hold 6 people. There was also plenty of room around if we got too hot and wanted to sit outside the tub (I jumped into the lake to cool off).

We brought some boxed wine (super classy but ya know it’s a hot tub), put some music on the speaker and soaked in the views. Our rental was for 2 hours and this allowed us to make a loop by Gas Works Park and back.

We had an absolute blast! This was such a unique experience and definitely an adventure I won’t forget, especially to celebrate our 1 year of marriage. If you are in the Seattle area, I highly recommend renting a Hot Tub Boat, no matter what month it is. We are already looking forward to doing this again with a group of friends!

Beautiful Weekend Getaway to Lopez Island

If you live in Washington, chances are you’ve heard of the San Juan Islands. The islands are between Washington State and Vancouver Island, Canada. Surrounded by scenic shorelines, mountain vistas, endless Evergreen Trees and beautiful views. This is definitely a place to visit for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The three most popular islands are Orcas, (where my husband and I went for our mini honeymoon – read about that trip here), San Juan and Lopez Island. About a 2 hour drive north from Seattle, you’ll head to Anacortes to catch a ferry and will then experience one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the state (seriously, the views are incredible!). I highly recommend making a ferry reservation so you are guaranteed a spot to board. Depending on which island you choose to visit, the ferry lasts about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

My husband and I initially planned our trip to Lopez Island for our friends wedding. Being the planner that I am, I booked us a place to stay last year when we received the save the date in the mail. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the wedding was rescheduled. We still had our reservation booked. So we decided…why not? Let’s keep our reservation and go there anyway since we’d never been. We also decided to bring our pup Edgar to make this trip a little family weekend getaway.

We stayed at a quaint Garden Cottage next to Lopez Center. If we ever go back to Lopez Island, I will definitely be booking this spot again! The charming cottage was within walking distance to the beach, the farmers market (which we quickly realized is the place to be Saturday morning) and close to the main restaurants. We spent our time at the cottage sunbathing in the garden and listening to the sounds of nature while drinking mimosas.

When we got off the ferry, the first thing we noticed about Lopez Island is how flat it is. This makes it a great place for bike riders who want to explore the island without a car. You could even do this as a day trip – bring your bike on the ferry no reservation needed, bike around and then catch the ferry back that night. We brought our bikes on this trip but didn’t bike around as much as we wanted since we had Edgar. The one time we brought him with us on a short bike ride, he saw a bunny and zoomed away racing as fast as he could trying to catch it (luckily he didn’t but I did end up chasing after him in a panic).

Lopez Island aka Bunny Island is full of so many bunnies! Tommy and I saw over 100 hopping in the fields, crossing the roads and burring themselves in burrows. Edgar especially enjoyed watching (and chasing) them.

Not only are the roads perfect for bikers and the endless bunnies surrounding the fields great for nature lovers, but Lopez Island also offers many trails with family friendly hikes. Tommy and I went to IceBerg Point in the morning which is a short trail that takes you out to a gorgeous cliff surrounded by water. We even saw a couple of sea lions. In the evening we went to Shark Reef to catch the colorful sunset that lite up the evening sky.

Overall if I had to pick between Orcas and Lopez, I prefer Orcas Island. It felt like there was more energy compared to the Lopez Island vibe, which is definitely more laid back and slow paced. The restaurants and stores close very early. The main grocery store closed at 7:30pm and the ice cream shop closed at 5pm. I don’t know if this is their COVID-19 hours or if this is the norm. There isn’t as much to do on Lopez Island but that is typically the reason people travel there in the first place. To relax and unwind, which we definitely did.

Sunshine, the smell of salt water, sand in our toes, garden flowers, beautiful views and our pup running around in absolute heaven made Lopez Island a great little weekend getaway.

Girls Trip – Punta Cana

Looking for a fun, all-inclusive, affordable, beautiful beach vacation for a girls trip? Head to Punta Cana! My girlfriends and I traveled to the Dominican Republic in August 2018 for our annual girls trip and we had a blast.

We chose to travel to the Dominican Republic for a couple of different reasons.

  1. Distance. The plane ride from Seattle to the Dominican Republic is very reasonable. We took a red eye flight from Seattle to Charlotte, North Carolina. Then had a 2 hour layover and flew another 3 1/2 hours from Charlotte before arriving in Punta Cana that morning.
  2. Weather. We wanted to plan a tropical girls trip with beautiful beaches and scenery and that is exactly what we got. We went to Punta Cana during the last week in August and the weather couldn’t have been better.
  3. Price. This trip was very affordable, especially since we chose to stay at an all-inclusive resort. The best decision with unlimited food/drinks (and unlimited bottles of our favorite drink – champagne). The total amount paid with round trip flights, transportation, accommodation, food, drinks and excursions was around $1,200 for 5 days.
The Boss. The Mom. The Hot Mess. The Bride. The Wild One.

We stayed at Majestic Colonial Resort and booked our all-inclusive trip through Expedia. We arrived at the resort and were immediately greeted with drinks and some small bites while we waited for our butler (yes we had a butler during our stay) to check us in and show us to our room.

While waiting for our room, we took the short walk to the beach, went swimming and got some pineapple drinks from our favorite bartender. That night we went to dinner at one of the six restaurants there and explored the resort. My favorite restaurant from the trip was Ma + Suri which was delicious hibachi style food with the best atmosphere.

We spent our next day at the beach, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Punta Cana is similar to Mexico where vendors will walk for miles in the hot sun and relentlessly attempt to sell you things. It really wasn’t hard for them to sell us souvenirs because we were eager to buy them. We all got henna tattoos and purchased jewelry with the famous Larimar stone. This stone is typically only found in the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean so we stocked up.

The next day we had a pool day and lounged around the main pool areas. Our butler got us our own personal golf cart and drove us around the resort to whatever places we wanted to go. Swim up bars, pool snacks, inflatable floaties, music, sunshine and endless tropical drinks makes for a fun day in paradise. Mid-afternoon they also have a foam party, so the lazy river pool is filled with foam to swim in.

The following day we decided to do an excursion. The resort makes it very easy to plan since they have an excursion booth on sight and everything is within walking distance. We chose to do the Shark and Sting Ray Tour. We took a speed boat about 30 minutes out to this area in the middle of the ocean where they had the sea animals. It felt like a sand bar that was full of people and other tours (there was even a pirate ship excursion with pirates walking around). We put our fins and snorkel gear on and jumped in. The sting rays have their stingers removed and are held and passed around to tourists each day. You are able to swim around with the nurse sharks in this huge under water cage. It was a very memorable experience swimming above the sharks and being able to touch the string rays. But honestly it made me feel sad thinking about the sea animals living in this way and I wouldn’t do this excursion again.

We spent the rest of our days enjoy the sunshine and exploring the resort. They have a show every night and one night we went to see their number one hit, Michael Jackson. An impersonator with lots of singing and dancing. Later we went to the resort sports bar and watched/sang Karaoke with the locals and other tourists. One night we put on our bath robes, got on the golf cart and got some late night eats because why not, it’s vacation!

We had 4 nights at Majestic Colonial Resort and that was the perfect amount of time. Any more nights would have been too many in my opinion since we saw and did everything at the resort during our time there. The one thing we did not do was venture out and explore Punta Cana. If you are looking for an adventurous vacation where you are out and about exploring the city, Punta Cana may not be the best place to do this. Where it lacks in local bars and cultural sights, it makes up for in the all-inclusive food/drinks and beautiful beaches. Going to Punta Cana is an easy way to experience an exotic destination while feeling safe, comfortable and pampered the entire time you are there. If this sounds like your type of vacation, I recommend planning a trip! Plus, girls trips are the best.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

For my 25th birthday one of my bucket list dreams came true…I went on a hot air balloon ride! Click the video below to watch our adventure in the sky.

My mom and I woke up around 4am and drove to Ballooning Snohomish. We arrived about 30 minutes after sunrise, checked in and then drove to Harvey Field nearby where we began setting up the balloons. Once the balloons were laid out, they used a powerful fan to fill them up with cold air. Then they replaced the fan with propane burners to heat the air until it became hot enough to lift the baskets off the ground. The whole process took about 15 minutes.

Then we were ready for take off! Hot air balloons float with the wind and the wind moves in different directions at different elevations. So the wind patterns dictate the flight path for the day. Our pilot controlled the temperature of the balloon using a propane burner to heat the air inside and guided us along the path.

The views were breathtaking! It was magical being so high up in the sky and looking down on the world. We traveled for about an hour and saw panoramic views of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and the beautiful farmlands of the Snohomish valleys.

My mom and I got lucky because there were only two other people in the basket with us (another mom and daughter). Depending on how many people book a flight that day you could have a small group like we did or a larger group of 8 + the pilot. One thing to mention is the balloon ride is very noisy (from the hot air inflating and deflating). We got used to it after a bit but if you have sensitive hearing I recommend bringing ear plugs.

We landed in Bob’s Corn Maze (a field nearby in Snohomish) and then we were driven back to our home base where we had champagne and cake. A special day with my mama, beautiful views, fun adventure, lasting memories. Definitely recommend going on a hot air balloon ride. You will have the best time!