Monday, October 31, 2011

Back to the Woods

4 years ago October 26th Nate and I got engaged....in the woods.  The woods are located by my dad and step-mom's house and we had picked up my mom's dog Koby and then picked up my dad's dog Ella and were taking them for a walk in the woods Friday after work.  

We walked around the woods, talking about regular things and some things that Nate didn't typically bring up like marriage, our wedding someday, our house someday etc.  I started to have an inkling of what might be coming but I kept quiet.  

We were playing hide-and-seek with the dogs.  We would find a tree that was big enough to hide behind and then call the dogs to come find us.  As we were hiding behind one tree, Nate proposed.  I'll spare you all of the sweet details, or save them for later.

Anyhoo, this weekend we took a trip back to the woods.  We showed Griffin where we got engaged, or at least a tree that looked like the one where we got engaged.


 Cooper had the time of his life.  Running so fast through the woods....
 I could barely see him....
Cooper had a great time playing frisbee and swimming.  
Yes, swimming in October, he is a lab remember.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chunky Monkey

This is Griffin.  He is my little Chunky Monkey, and he wears Chunky Monkeys, cloth diapers that is.  While I was pregnant, Nate and I (and a huge thanks to my mom who did enough research on cloth dipes that she could write a thesis on them) did a lot of research (online and talking to cloth diaperers) on the whole diapering situation and after knowing full well that cloth diapering would be an extra commitment on our part, we decided to take it on.  In our opinion, the pros outweighed the cons.  What are the pros and cons?  Well, although they are more money up front, they tend to save $2,500-$3,000 per child from birth to potty training.  Disposable diapers also have a lot of chemicals in them-the thing that makes them absorbent, in fact.  They also save on garbage, and diapers my friend, take a loooong time to decompose in a land fill (around 500 years).  One of my friends once said to me that if aliens invaded our planet and looked in our landfills, they would think that we thought this baby poop stuff was super valuable because we preserved it so well:).   And although it does take a few extra loads of laundry each week, we really are just talking 2-3 loads per week.  So, we did it.  We have a ton of different kinds of cloth diapers, because we didn't want to pick just one and not like it.  If you haven't explored the world of cloth diapers, you should, it is amazing how many different types, styles etc. there are.  We aren't just talking burp cloth and clothespins. 
 
So here is my little diaper model.  In the above picture, Griffin is wearing a Chunky Monkey, one of many Chunky Monkeys in his newborn diaper stash.  So I should mention, there are a few different ways you can do sizing.  Chunky Monkeys have newborn, small, medium and large, much like the store bought disposables that have sizes newborn, 1, 2, 3 etc.  Other cloth diaper brands have one-size diapers that can snap down to become small and then adjust larger as the baby grows. 
 The one size diapers are great because you really only need to buy them once, whereas buying small, medium and larges you need different diapers stashes as the baby grows.  The downside of one-sizers is that since they are designed to fit a potty training toddler, they can be quite overwhelmingly large on a newborn.  So these pictures are Griffin in his "newborn" sized diapers.  We opted to get newborn sized diapers and then transition to one-sizers as he gets bigger (he is currently in some smalls and some one-sizers on the small settings).
 The Chunky Monkeys are great, made locally, and come in adorable patterns.  They can be velcro or snaps, you choose.
Is that not the chunkiest monkey you've ever seen!

 Some other brands of cloth diapers we have tried are Rumpaooz, bumGenius, GroVia, SoftBums, FuzzziBuns, Thirsties, BottomBumpers and I'm probably forgetting a few others. 
 When I started researching, I wanted to find the one perfect cloth diaper, easy to clean, easy to put together, easy to put on the baby, doesn't leak, doesn't stain, isn't bulky etc.  However, I actually like having a bunch of different kinds.  When I need one that is going to be extra absorbent for night time, I use Rumparooz.  If I need one that is easy to change on the go I use a bumGenius all-in-one, if I want one that isn't going to be very bulky (and therefore Griffin can wear regular 6 month clothes) I use the Chunkey Monkey. 
 We also installed the bumGenius Diaper Sprayer on our toilet.  We haven't had to use it a whole lot since Griffin's poops roll nicely into the toilet without spraying (gross I know, but one of the joys of cloth diapering).
So there it is, Griffin in his newborn stash of clothies (as Nate calls them).  I am really happy that we chose to do cloth diapers and stick with them.  It's a small thing that we can do for our budgets and the environment, as well as Griffin's little heiny which rarely gets diaper rash because of the awesome cloth diapers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carmel-by-the-Sea....away-from-Griff

We have officially taken a vacation since Griffin was born!  It was both an amazing vacation and incredibly gut-wrenching to be away from Griffin for 5 days.  Nate and I have a high school friend whose fiance was from California so they decided to get married in Carmel, CA this October.  Back in June we were a little hesitant to pull the trigger and book tickets for October not knowing what Griffin would be like to leave with my parents as a 6 month old.  All signs were pointing to Griffin being an incredibly easy-going, predictable, happy little boy, but who knows-a lot can happen in baby world in the span of 6 months.

To be clear, our first time away from Griffin was two weeks prior to going to California.  We went to Chicago for my cousin Charlie and Jaisa's wedding, but it was so quick-in on Friday afternoon, out Sunday morning, that it barely felt like we left!

My dad and step-mom took Griffin while we were in Chicago and it was great!  I wrote a novel on the ins and outs of Griffin's schedule and gear, probably way more information than anyone would need to know (I wouldn't have blamed them if they never even finished reading it!), but better to have too much information than not enough:).  The best call I got was when my dad re-capped the first day and explained how Griffin had done exactly what he was supposed to do, when he was supposed to do it (literally, I said he'd wake up from his nap at 3 pm and at 3:01 he woke up, I said he'd go to bed at 7:15pm and he was asleep at 7:15pm, I said he'd wake up at 7, he got up at 7:30).  WOW.  Griffin is a trooper, and thanks to my dad and Sig for taking such great care of him and making it so seamless
for him to have a weekend away.

My mom and step dad obviously wanted a turn at having some overnights with Griffin so they kindly volunteered to take him should we decide to go to Cali, which we did, so they were on deck for a long weekend with Griffin.  They rocked it too-he was himself, Mr. Predictable, Mr. Happy and Mr. Easy Going.  They had so much fun with him, taking him for walks in the Vintage baby buggy (circa 1984), going to the apple orchard, lots of playtime with the dogs and of course his favorite, bathies.  Suffice it to say, Griffin was well taken care of for our almost back to back weekends of being out of town.  We are so blessed to have such wonderful grandparents who take such great care of Griffin, it made it so much easier for us to get away and help our friends celebrate their weddings!

Now that we have covered the Griffin situation, a little bit about Carmel.  Carmel is one of the sweetest little towns I have ever been to, and it is amazingly picturesque to boot.  Nate and I traveled with 3 other couples who are friends of ours from high school.  We arrived late Wednesday night and ate at cute Mediterranean Bistro called Demetra Cafe-the food was delicious, especially for ravenous mid-westerners adjusting to the new time zone.  We hit the hay fairly early to get a good start on Carmel the next morning.  

Thursday morning we split up boys and girls, the boys went golfing at Bayonet in Monterey and the girls went on a whale watching cruise with a little hesitation.  We'd had a last minute change of heart earlier in the week and canceled our whale watch in favor of spending more time in Carmel walking around and taking it in, but upon arrival to our hotel, the bridal party convinced us to hop back on the whale-watching wagon.   

It was nice to get out on the Pacific Ocean, though we did not see too many whales, at least not that close up.  We did see some dolphins and jellyfish!  The whale watching trip left many of the passengers seasick so we were grateful to get back to the dock and  back to quaint Carmel.
Dolphins

Jellyfish
After getting back from whale watching, we quickly got ready and headed to the clubhouse at the Links at Spanish Bay, one of the courses that is a part of the Pebble Beach Resorts.  Each night at sunset, a bagpiper follows the final group up the 18th back to the clubhouse.  We sat outside reveling in the phenomenal views of the sunset and the golf course we had tee times to play the following morning.  

The Links at Spanish Bay

The Links at Spanish Bay

Clubhouse at Links at Spanish Bay




The Bagpiper

After leaving Spanish Bay, we went to dinner at Casanova in downtown Carmel.  It was fabulous.  It was a set menu but we had some choices, and it had great ambiance-we barely noticed we were outside and the roof was merely a tent!  We started with an antipasto, and then for our second course we tried the house cured prosciutto, the spinach gnocchi (AMAZING), the caprese, and oysters.  Entrees we ordered were, veal oso buco, scallops, cannelloni, lamb chops and sea bass.  All were great, my favorite was the sea bass, and I tend to not prefer seafood, so that's saying a lot.  We went to a dessert reception for Brett and Leslie (the happy couple) at Forge in the Forest a few doors down from our dinner, which was another charming spot, with an adorable courtyard which hosted the dessert reception.

Friday morning we had tee times at the Links at Spanish Bay at 8:45 and 9:00.  The boys thought it necessary to get there by 7:30, so we had plenty of time to take it all in and get ready for our round.  In fact on a scale of 1-10 for how pumped we were for golf, Judd claimed a 14.

The course was incredibly picturesque, similar to Pebble, but almost every hole was on the water.  It was a tough course, there is a lot of natural landscape which is OB and even the rough that is technically playable is very difficult to navigate.  Bottom line is you have to be in the fairway.  The greens were tricky with lots of movement, but they weren't overly fast and putted pretty true.  I wish I could reminisce hole-by-hole, oh wait I can at their website (and without losing too many balls!).  
Tee #1


I birdied this hole:)

Our fabulous foursome




Golf was memorable (not our scores), but the experience.  It was pricey but it was worth it, an incredibly scenic, challenging round.  After hitting a bad shot, all you had to do was look up and admire God's beautiful creation and suddenly the scorecard doesn't matter (that's what I keep telling myself anyway).  Wow.

After golf, we had to hustle back and get ready for the Friday night wedding at Chateau Julien Wine Estate in Carmel Valley.  Another fabulous venue, and dare I say, picturesque?  The wedding was outside in the middle of the vineyard and the reception was in the room where they store the wine barrels-so cool.  It was a great ceremony and reception, and of course great way for Brett and Leslie to celebrate the beginning of their marriage together!
Just before the ceremony...


The doors to the reception open!

The happy couple makes their entrance!

Saturday morning we were up and at it again, grabbed a quick breakfast at our new favorite breakfast cafe in Carmel, grabbed some breakfast sandwiches, pastries, coffee, water and we were headed on a road trip to Big Sur.  We drove about 35 miles south of Carmel down California Highway 1, which was probably the most beautiful 35 miles I've ever spent in a car.
Taken while moving inside the car
Our first hike was to the McWay Waterfall.  It was beautiful, but seemed very "built for tourists."  The falls were cool but far away and the hike was pretty short and easy.  We took some pics and then headed back to our car for our next trail.



McWay Falls was as far south as we went, so we headed north, back toward Carmel and stopped to try Partington Cove Trail.  There were a few different trails within the trail. 

This one along a creek up into the mountain....
 This one through the tunnel...
 To Partington Cove...
 And out to the ocean...
 After hiking around for awhile, we worked up an appetite and headed north a few miles to a restaurant that came highly recommended by my sister-in-law Elissa, called Nepenthe.  Basically it is a restaurant built into the cliffs and it looks straight out over Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean.

After our hike we headed back to Carmel, and some of us headed to Pebble Beach to walk 17 and 18 and check out the Pro Shop.  It is exactly as it looks on TV, but more intimidating.  Especially when you feel how strong the wind is and you look from the tee box on 17 straight into the water.  Someday....
Pebble Beach

Looking back down 18

Looking across 18 fairway to the ocean

Lone Cypress
Looking down 17
 Oh, and I forgot to mention, the greens are TEEENY!  I'd have better luck (insert impossible task).  Pebble is Bucket List activity....to much cha-ching to fork over at this stage in our life....in addition to Griffin's college savings we should start one for playing Pebble.

We headed back to the hotel for quick showers and then headed to the beach in downtown Carmel (by-the-sea is the technical name).  We did make a pit-stop on the way to a late recommendation we got to go to Clint Eastwood's restaurant called the Mission.  It is a little ranch style property, complete with sheep!  They don't take reservations so we didn't chance it, but we heard they have fabulous live piano music!

I need to taken an English class and learn new adjectives whose synonyms are picturesque, beautiful, gorgeous.  I guess I'll just let the picture speak for itself.  Here is Carmel-By-The-Sea.  So in addition to being an incredibly charming, quaint, artsy town, it's on the ocean!


We walked just up the street from the beach to Portabella where we ate dinner on Saturday night.  The food was great, I think there were a total of 10 tables, more than any other place we had seen!  We again had several tasty dishes, scallops, lobster, filet mignon and payaya.  

Though I have to say the highlight was dessert (from our favorite breakfast spot).  Rachel realized it was almost 10pm and the ice cream shop closed at 10.  So she left Portabella, ran to get ice cream, and brought it back to our dinner.  It was such a hit, she ran back and got two more bowls-Coffee ice cream with cookies swirled in.  AH-MA-ZING.

 The trip was fabulous, great memories with great people in great places.  Once we were headed back to MN I couldn't wait to see Griffin, it made traveling difficult, that antsy feeling you just can't shake.  When we finally got to see him, he was just as perfect as I remembered and I fell in love with him all over again.  While I wouldn't want to take a vacation from him frequently, it was the best vacation Nate and I could have imagined for ourselves and for Griffin.  My mom even told us as we called her on our way to the San Jose airport, "You can stay a few more days if you want and we'll just keep Griffin."