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Saturday, June 11, 2022

Hammonasset Beach State Park Walk - Paved Recreation Path in Madison, CT

 I always appreciated a good rec path and this summer I started thinking about including a rec path section on KW. Why do I love a good recreation path? They are often flat, in a super scenic area, and provide a safe place for you to walk, bike, run, walk your dog, rollerblade, or whatever you want to do outside (without a motor). Once I had Whitney, I learned to appreciate these dedicated pedestrian lanes even more as a safe place to run. Exercise is a priority for my physical and mental health and finding the time to fit it into my busy day usually involves bringing Whitney along for the ride. I run around our neighborhood a lot out of pure convenience (right out the door) and safety (quiet roads with cul-de-sacs). The only problem is it's very hilly and sometimes you just need some flat roads and a change of scenery. 

I started upping my mileage to include some long runs and knew I was bringing Whitney. It had been a while since I visited Hammonasset State Park a few towns over in Madison, Connecticut. It's known for its paved rec path through the park, beach access, campground, and nature center. It's all in the details like the rentable pavilions here families host birthday parties, the playground along the path, water stations along the trail (attached dog water stations included), boardwalks, a nature center, and some trails through the park. It's a great family-friendly place and truth be told, it's a great spot for a longer run. Safe, restricted paved path, bathrooms, a snack shack, a view, and flat terrain.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Farmington Polo Summer Saturdays

It's polo season here in Connecticut. It sounds pretentious but the thing about heading to Farmington for a polo match is it can be anything you want. Bring the kids and the dogs and hang out with the family. Dress up and bring your girlfriends for a picnic. Bring your friends and some wine for cocktail hour before dinner. Bring nothing and grab food and drinks there and relax. I've been a few times and every time we go we plan it picnic style. We bring the dogs, pack a few chairs, bring a picnic-style dinner, and enjoy a sunny summer Saturday here in New England. It's relaxing, social, and a fun way for the kids to blow off some energy and the adults to mingle. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Road Trip with a Toddler

If you read my last post, you already know that we went to Maryland as a trial run for traveling with a toddler. Just when you think you have it all figured out, they are out of one stage and into the other and you have to pivot or even completely change your strategy. Traveling with a newborn vs a 6-month-old vs a 1-year-old is all very different. Gone are the days of sleepy babies happy to nap in the car or at a restaurant. Here are the days of a mobile toddler who hates to be restrained in any type of way and demands all sorts of food at all sorts of times. If you are nervous about traveling with a toddler, I can't stress a trial run enough. This road trip gave me confidence that we can travel with him as he moves through his toddler stages and we had the chance to test out some new gear and new strategies. Today's post is all about some tips and tricks that worked well for us. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Weekender's Guide to: Northern Chesapeake Bay, Maryland

Today's Weekender's Guide was a chance to visit Maryland and a trial run of sorts. We are going to Portugal next month and traveling abroad with a 15-month-old (his first flight will be nearly 7 hours) was giving me a boatload of anxiety. Whitney is in that age range where traveling with him is a complete wild card. He is on the move, full of attitude, and on a schedule. Gone are the sleepy, immobile days of traveling.  

I was especially terrified of "naps on the go" as we can't rush back to the Airbnb for 2-3 hours every day while we are out traveling. We traveled a fair amount his first year but he has changed a lot since some of our last trips. I needed the confidence to travel with a toddler out of his element and routine. He is an amazing sleeper at home but he is conditioned to that dark quiet room and his crib in his room. I really needed him to be able to nap in his stroller or in the car on the go. More importantly, I needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

Downtown St Michaels, Maryland

For our "trial run" and weekend getaway, we decided on a road trip to the Northeastern Chesapeake Bay of Maryland. I had never been to the state (besides driving through) and I was excited about spending time on the water with Adam and Whitney to kick off the summer. I'll share a separate guide on a few things that really helped us road trip with a toddler (through temperatures ranging from 60s to 90s). But this is a travel guide. This is a Weekender's Guide, the things worth seeing, the food worth eating, and a few things in-between. It focuses on the northern/central portions of the pay, visiting Chesapeake City, St Michaels, Easton, and Annapolis. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Charles River Running Path, Boston, MA

2022 is the year that simply put, work got crazy. 

I started a company in 2020 a few months before we found out I was pregnant and right when the pandemic was in full force. After working from home for a few months, the small company I worked for decided we all had to come back into the office, pre-vaccine. The second stipulation was my dog was no longer allowed to attend. She had been there with me from the day I brought her home as a 10-month-old puppy and 9 years later, the rules had changed.  The "office" was a windowless trailer in a warehouse where 3-5 people would work. Safety measures at the time were two pieces of tape to make "social distancing" in our tiny trailer and I would have to bring Olive to daycare every day. 

I felt it was unsafe to return to this kind of environment and frankly, there was no need. The world was adapting to remote work and it was working really well. Having people back in the office seemed to be a matter of control and it simply wasn't safe. 

I always wanted to start my own consulting business focusing on a small sector of the environmental consulting industry. I decided a recession and global pandemic was a terrible time but also the push out of the security nest I needed. I gave my notice and got to work creating a company. 

The first year was slow and I focused on the logistics like the website, insurance, taxes, and logos. The second year I had a newborn and took a few small jobs with the idea that "I would let work find me" while I took a maternity leave. Six months into my maternity leave I decided it was time to grow the business and I actively reached out to other companies and clients and started to grow the business. Whitney is a year old now and I can't keep up with the workload finding its way to my desk. A lot of my work over the last few months has involved site visits all throughout the northeast and I've spent a lot of time driving all around New England.

I was spending long days behind the steering wheel and quickly decided to always pack my running sneakers and a sports bra when I headed out the door in the morning. My goal was to try to find a new place to stretch my legs in between jobs, a way to stay active and do a little bit of Katie Wandering in the meantime. It's been a fun way to prioritize my workouts and give them a little refresh with a change of scenery. It's also led me to check out some pretty cool spaces and places, especially the designated rec paths throughout New England. 

So I guess this was the long roundabout way of saying "I went to Boston for work and ran the Charles River Rec Path while I was there". 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Wicked Tulips Farm - Preston, CT

Spring in New England always takes its sweet, sweet time. The weather warms up and the grass slowly comes back to life. The crocus pop up first and you are so excited for the sunshine and the daffodils follow along. And then, you look at the treeline and it's still gross ugly stick season. I am willing the trees to bloom, to brighten up the skyline and give me something to see from a scenic vista while I hike.
While I impatiently wait for the trees to bud and bloom, the tulips show up and offer a bit of eye candy and color back into our gardens. I planted 50 tulips in one of our tiered garden beds and seeing them as I leave the house or work around the yard always puts a smile on my face. Why didn't I plant them before? They are perennials, come back every year, require very little maintenance, and make amazing cut flowers. I was too smitten with my sweet little tulip collection to cut a stem but thankfully, a friend told me all about a tulip farm in the state covered in tulips with a "Pick Your Own" policy. A quick google search and a reservation was made and we were on our way, a 40-minute drive to the tulip farm.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Reima Rain Gear - Baby/Toddler Clothing and Outdoor Gear

Getting outside with Whitney is an everyday activity, rain or shine. If you read my review of "There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothes" you know I believe in being prepared for any type of weather. You also know that few are doing it better than the Nordic countries and we aren't done talking about them yet.

You can find me outside during the cold of winter, the rainy days of spring, the heat of summer, and the chilly nights of fall. Life in New England demands versatility and preparedness as the weather can be sunny one minute and storming the next. A glimpse into my gear closet will show you a variety of high-quality gear acquired over many years and a lot of research. I have everything I need to get outside and quickly built up Adam's gear stash as well. But Whitney? While we received a lot of hand-me-downs from friends and family, we didn't really have any high-quality raingear or outerwear. I took to the internet and quickly discovered how hard it was to find this type of gear for infants and babies. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Bringing Up Bébé - aka How to Now Lose Yourself in Motherhood And Other Important Things

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman - thoughts and a review

Before I had kids, I envisioned myself as the type of parent who would be as involved as possible. I would have all the workbooks to help my kids get ahead, let my kids try each and every sport, and basically, follow the sequential steps to be by their side to nurture them every step of the way. I thought I would set them up for success in the very typical way of American parenting. 

Once I was old enough to see friends and family have children in a more personal setting, it turned into a social experiment and I did a bit of a u-turn on what I thought was the right way and what wasn't going to work with my lifestyle. I quickly saw how toxic this "overparenting" culture was not only to our children, but to the relationships we spent a lifetime cultivating with our partners, family, and friends.

One of the first books I read about raising kids was "BabyWise". The book has a heavy focus on sleep training and essentially helps you to teach your baby the benefits of a schedule and has a heavy focus on teaching babies to fall asleep independently. After that, I dove into SolidStarts on babyled weaning before turning to a few books that were centered around more of the big picture parenting techniques. I read "There's No Such Thing As Bad Weather" and found a culture of parenting that more closely aligned with the way I actually wanted to parent, in a way that made sense to me and my lifestyle. I looked back at the books I read and quickly realized I was really drawn to a more structured parenting style that focused on independence.

I read about "Bringing Up Bebe" and added it to my request list at the local library, knowing this book had similar themes to the books I have read, but under the lens of a different culture. I was right and soaked up Druckerman's advice as an American living in France. I saw so many similarities between this book and There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather, revolving around autonomy and independence but I also saw some differences. While both cultures emphasize good eaters, the French take food ten steps further and it's admirable how important food is to the French culture right from the start. Sweden is the leader in sustainability and environmentally conscious actions in nearly every aspect of their life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Outdoorsy Parenting - "There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothing" (Book Review and Highlights)

If you "know" me, you are probably really sick of me talking about the Swedes.

I'll admit it, I'm obsessed. I've become absolutely infatuated with their culture, their home design, the way they parent, and the way they approach life and the outdoors. It started with the change of the season as I felt like an outsider for getting outside every day through the winter with my son (for his sanity and mine). All winter long, you could find him in a sled while I towed him on my cross country skis, out for a chilly winter run in his jogging stroller, or snowshoeing the trails with him on my back. Side glances and comments were cast my way as we headed outside despite the temperatures, sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for two hours. 

I knew I wasn't the only one who believed in the importance of the outdoors despite the season and I kept blurting out my defensive response "What do you think Canadians and Nordic countries do, stay inside for four months of the year?" Well, now I know exactly what they do. I started to do some research and it was all over by the time I finished reading a Swedish/American parenting book. "There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge)" by Linda Åkeson McGurk

This book is the perfect reflection on this stage of life I'm currently in. An outdoor advocate and a parent in love with the outdoors. I read this book and so much of what the author said resonated with the way I want to raise my son.  I understand why Scandinavian countries are so passionate about the outdoors, why they are so green/environmentally conscious, and how they truly embrace an active outdoorsy lifestyle in all sorts of weather. I grabbed a copy at my local library and devoured this book in a few days. I kept the notes app open on my phone, quickly jotting down the points that I wanted to remember and share with you. Today's post is a bit of a review and a highlight reel of some of my favorite points from the book. 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Giving Our Kids a "Better Life" - The Modern Twist

As parents, we always want to do "better" for our kids. We want to give them "the things we never had" and "a better life".  My parents grew up very poor before immigrating to the U.S. from the Azorean Islands of Portugal. While their lives improved drastically here in the United States, it still took a lot of grit, hard work, and a bit of luck to get where they are today. While raising a family, it was important for them to follow through on the "give them better" logic. While my father never even graduated high school, he worked hard to ensure we all had the financial means to have the things we wanted (within reason) and to attend a good college without the burden of student loans. As a kid and young adult, I traveled the world, sat down to a homecooked meal every night, was loved by two happily married parents, I had my health and healthy siblings. I lived on a cul-de-sac in a safe quiet little town in coastal Connecticut with a great school system. Heck, I even had a horse. 

While I had a lot, I wasn't raised as a spoiled rotten child. Our family had strict rules that I had to abide by and my parents did a great job of balancing the "give" and the "go get it yourself". I had a busy schedule of babysitting gigs before legally entering the workforce as an ice cream scooping teenager.  I truly had a great childhood by any conventional standard. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Four Day Colorado Ski Trip - Affordable Travel and the Epic Pass

By the time March rolled around, we were feeling fried.  My business picked up, Adam was working a lot of overtime, and we had survived the childcare less month of February.  Plain and simple...we needed to get away.  We hadn't been on an airplane since before the pandemic and we were desperate to get away for any amount of time.  While a lot of our friends headed south for sunshine, we planned an entirely different getaway.  Our 2020 ski season was cut short due to the pandemic, and winter 2021... I was very very pregnant. And so, this was our first year back on skis. We bought the Epic Pass to make sure we got out there and used it and it worked.  We spent four days in Colorado, three days skiing in the most perfect warm and sunny spring skiing conditions. It was long enough to recharge but not too long away from our one year old.  It was the perfect amount of time to enjoy a ski weekend without going insanely overbudget on an expensive trip. We were so happy to come home to our baby and our dogs, and both agreed these were some of our best ski days yet. We returned home perfectly windburned and happily recharged. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

A year of Whitney - Celebrating in a Winter ONEderland

On February 24th, we celebrated Whitney's first birthday. It's wild to sit back and think that 365 days have passed since that moment I first saw Whitney. The past year has been filled with ups and downs and I can say with certainty that loving him has changed my life in an amazing way. My fears about motherhood slipped away as I stepped into the new role. I worked hard to ensure I "bounced back" to my physical and emotional self as quickly as I could. I made it my main mission to integrate Whitney into my life, not just change my life to always serve him. Having a child was not a death sentence to my identity, to my body, to my sleep schedule or the way I enjoy life. He enhances my life in a way that is hard to describe, adding another layer to my persona, not stripping some away.

His first birthday felt like such a celebration. You laugh at the "congratulations for keeping him alive for a year" texts but I started to take them to heart. I didn't want to throw a huge party but I wanted something thoughtful that brought my family together to celebrate a year with this darling little boy. As I spent hours making a balloon arch and assembling floating snowflakes to the ceiling, I kept telling myself "It's a party for us too". I put out the popcorn, ordered the pizza, and popped champagne to celebrate the sweetest year of Whitney. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Layering 101 (Kid Edition)

If you read my earlier post about tips for getting kids (or anyone really) outside comfortable, you are probably sick of me shouting LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS across your screen. I know I'm being obnoxious about it but a layering system is essential to staying dry and comfortable outside, especially with the ever-changing weather here in New England. 

This topic felt so important and detailed that it deserved its own post (welcome!). When I plan to spend time in the outdoors with my family, I want to be prepared. I wanted to research the importance of each layer, different materials, different brands, and clothing items that fit the bill. This blog is a way to share all of that research with you, doing all the hard work so you don't have to. I learned a lot in this deep dive and today we are talking about merino wool, synthetic layers, the best water repellant shells, and more. These brands are tried and true and range from big names like Patagonia, companies from Nordic countries who know a thing or two about weather, and small family-run businesses here in the U.S. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Winding Trails - XC Ski and Outdoor Activity Center in Farmington, CT

I love downhill skiing but it wasn't something I grew up doing. It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I put on my first pair of skis. I never touched the bunny slope but instead, a boyfriend convinced me to take the lift up and ski down the green trail where I nearly close lined myself skiing off the trail. Despite my disastrous start, something clicked. From there it was winter weekends in Vermont, two years in Salt Lake City, and then a few random ski trips to Wyoming, Colorado and Canada. I've skied some wonderful terrain and season passes like Epic and Ikon certainly make the sport a bit more affordable for someone who wants to spend their winters on skis. 

While season passes help, it's still an expensive hobby when you factor in lunch at the lodge, childcare, dog sitting, and likely lodging. Let's also consider just how busy and overcrowded some of our resorts are which leads to long lift lines and safety concerns. I love downhill skiing but I am also open to a more family and fido inclusive affordable way to enjoy the winter with a bit more solitude. 

Cue Cross Country Skiing. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Cybex Libelle - Travel Stroller Review

If you told me three years ago I would own four different strollers/trailers, I would have laughed at you. It sounds ridiculous, right? Okay, hear me out. If you are active and on the go, you need at least a few different strollers for different reasons. Our UppaBaby Vista v2 is the perfect everyday stroller. It's clunky but there are so many features that make it the perfect everyday stroller (huge storage basket, adaptable for two seats, large sun canopy, great infant bassinet and adjustable toddler seat). For running, I needed a true jogging stroller, something with a single lockable front wheel, and something that is smoother and off-roads a bit better. We also have a bike trailer that converts to a two kiddo running stroller and ski sled and I take this out on a run sometimes when I want a covered shelter for him.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Winters with Whitney - Getting Outside in Winter with Kids

If there is one thing I have learned from a life as a New Englander, it's this: you have to find something you love to do in every season. Summers in the northeast are insanely special but there is a bit of magic in every season. Short days and cold temps often mean that winter is a dreaded season but I'm hoping this post changes your mind. 

If you are reading this and thinking "why would I go outside when it's below freezing", there are a few good reasons and it starts with changing your perspective. Winter isn't "cold stay inside" season, it's "get outside there are less people and no bugs" season. Solitude and not a mosquito in sight is the break we all needed from crowded parks and bugspray.

Monday, January 24, 2022

On The Go - Baby In Tow (Day Trips)

Leave it to a global pandemic and parenting to really change the way you travel. Before I had a baby, travel was a big priority. I spent my 20s taking my hiking boots to anywhere my budget could accommodate. I had some big-ticket trips like sipping champagne in Paris, hiking through Iceland, or scuba diving in Bonaire and they were grand 20 something adventures. As lovely as it was to get on a plane a few times a year, a lot of my travels were pretty local. Life as a weekend warrior who worked a 9 to 5 meant that I became quite skilled at packing an adventure into a long weekend or even the day.

A lot of my trips were with a day bag packed with snacks and a full tank of gas. COVID made local travel even more important as the world struggled with understaffed flights, access limitations and testing requirements. 

The pandemic changed the way we travel and being a parent changes it even more. Now that we have a baby, we plan a lot more day trips to small scenic towns and head out for exciting hikes throughout New England. 

Whether you are heading out for the day, the night, or the week, traveling with a baby requires a different mondset. It isn't always easy and there are plenty of frustrating moments. I promise that it is all worth it, worth the Xtra packing and planning to share our favorite places with Whitney and to discover new spaces with him in tow. It's also a skill you improve with time, the more you go, the more you know. but before you set out on your next adventure, there are a few foundations that make it all run smoother. Today's post is my non-expert advice, my tips and tricks to get you out on the go with a baby in tow - the day trip edition. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Mt Ascutney - a Vermont Winter Getaway

I am great at traveling but I have to admit, I am terrible at relaxing. Lazy days aren't in my wheelhouse and if there's a quiet day on my weekly planner, you know I am going to fill it with something (a new house project, a house deep clean, etc). There is nothing like the holidays and getting sick to show you just how run down you are. I also took a few new projects for work which added to my work and stress load. Holiday hustle, work, and back-to-back colds left me worn down. I was all ragged edges and little patience, so much congestion and attitude, all just in time for another COVID surge. 

Winters can be long and dark here in New England. The only way to survive is to find something you love to do in the winter. For me, it's skiing and we planned a winter ski trip in January, strategically placed before Adam's parents head out for a month-long trek to Florida. We bought Epic passes, so excited to ski after being pregnant last winter, only to forget we were running really low in the childcare department. We invited Adam's parents to stay with us (and watch the baby while we skied) and it could not have worked out better. They were happy to hang out at the condo, we snuck away to ski, and we all spent the afternoons and evenings relaxing. Vermont is a perfect place to unwind, to acknowledge that winter is a season of stillness. That you can spend cold bright sunny days enjoying the mountains but when the sun goes down at five, it's time for stillness.  The landscape reminds you to slow down as you drive down its windy roads. No traffic, just long drives through small towns that beg you to pull over and admire a covered bridge or winding river. Four nights in Vermont recharges your batteries. It was slow mornings, easy days, and lazy afternoons. We went out to dinner one night and the rest of the time, opted to stay in the condo, cooking meals and enjoying the slow pace of life. Nowhere to be, nothing to do, no project to be completed. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

A Neutral Nursery

I think most women who want children someday have daydreamed about what a future nursery would look like. When we started renovating this house (and before we found out we were expecting), we started calling this room in the corner "the nursery". It was sweet and dreamy, to be sitting in this terribly old outdated and dirty room in the corner of the house, thinking of all its potential. We peeled wallpaper and painted walls, installed new windows, and redid the floors, envisioning how this room would all come together when the time came. And then, it did. 

There are so many themed and styled nurseries now, ranging from safaris to unicorns and while they are fun, they just aren't for me. When I found out we were expecting a little boy, I knew I wanted something more neutral. I didn't want anything decked out in bright blues and dark greens and figured a neutral nursery would also work for a possible Baby #2 down the road, regardless of gender. 

Future planning aside, planning a very neutral nursery was something I wanted to do for me. My thought was this - he isn't going to know or care what the room looks like as a baby so I may as well make it a calming room I love, a room that matches the rest of the house. When he's older with opinions on decor, I will embrace planes and trains on the wall.  But for now, I wanted something neutral and calming that matched the rest of the house which is a simple clean Scandinavian neutral design. I didn't want to invest insane amounts of money into decorating this room, but knew I needed a few solid staples. Here's what we came up with for Whitney's room and how it became my favorite room in the house.