I took an unannounced blog vacation, then when I came back to start writing again I had no blog at all because of technical difficulties. But no worries, all that is behind us.
I had every intention of keeping up with my blog posts but after the eightieth trip up and down the steps in my parents house (our house is one story living) and days filled with activities I was too tired to do anything at night but go to sleep.
As exhausting as any trip with the girls is, I love visiting my home town. I always run into people I know when we are out and about. My parents get to be reminded how great empty nest life is and my husband and I get to let the girls in on our favorite North Carolina treats.
Hello Donut World!
We made a quick stop after our last supper before the start of the holiday and the taste has been lingering in my mind ever since. If you are ever in Greensboro, NC or even just passing though a quick detour for these donuts will not disappoint.
Back to crazy twins…Talia and Jordan have become little performers. In the last week or so they put of the crazy toddler show when ever they have an audience.
Jordan front, Talia back
They run around crazy, climbing and jumping of anything they can reach. They dress up in hair accessories, hats, tutus or anything else that’s handy to get a laugh. They crack each other up, dance and clap for themselves at a performance well played. Eventually they tire and have started asking to be put to bed.
The fun never ends.
Jordan left, Talia right
Here’s a short Video of the girls Jumping dance.
Jordan left, Talia right
Talia front, Jordan back
There are quite a few things to consider when traveling with toddlers. We thought we had sorted through all the necessary details of traveling with toddler twins before we set off on this trip to the gulf coast. We quickly learned that a road trip and a hotel stay are no easy feat when toddlers are involved. And the biggest lesson we learned… If you don’t have to travel and stay in a hotel with your toddler, don’t. It’s just not worth the effort and exhaustion.
The drive was long. We timed it around their naps as much as possible but they only sleep for 1 1/2 – 2 hours max. So for a six hour car ride plus time for stops to eat and change diapers and let the little ones run around it feels like the never ending trip. We had a bag full o toys and books handy to keep them entertained. I am able to sit in the back with them which also helps but a ling drive is a long drive no matter what you do and Talia and Jordan still sit facing back so we cant even distract them with TV yet. we did give them each an ipad or phone during the final 30 minutes of the trip to keep them calm until we got home. We will be limiting our road trips to under three hours for the next year or so.
It would have been much more practical to have stayed in a condo. Even a one bedroom with a sleeper couch for us would have worked. Sharing a room with the girls basically meant that at 8/8:15 when it was their bed time it was ours too.
A major issue with the hotel was the room they gave us, first floor on the middle if the hall with tiled flooring. The tile was not only really cold making it hard to play on the floor but it was so hard.
The smallest tumble by one of the girls meant a big booboo. I was constantly on edge trying to keep them from getting hurt. The second day we were able to move to a different room with carpeting. This little difference made our time in our room so much more fun and comfortable.
The few pictures of the hotel room online all showed carpeting in the rooms, so I didn’t even think to ask for a carpeted room. Keep this in mind when renting. Condo as well. Most beach condos have tiling in common spaces.
On our second day in Destin after switching rooms we stopped by the grocery store to get more milk and picked up some masking tape as well. The drawers and cabinets in the hotel room were offering too many opportunities for tiny finders to be smashed and heads to be bumped by corners. So we taped everything up.
If you must stay in a hotel with your infant or toddler bring a pack and play. The hotel cribs are small, cold metal cages. They don’t have bumpers so if you have to use the hotel crib bring your own bumpers. We use breathable bumpers at home and they would have packed easily and fit well. I suppose you could use hotel towels to weave in and out of the bars of the crib to keep hands and feet from sticking through the spaces, touching cold metal and pacifiers, loveys and blankets from falling out. But it’s not the safest option.
Our original hotel room had an alcove at the hall way end of the room with a built in bunk bed. There was just enough space to awkwardly put two cribs there as well. But between the noises of people walking and talking and doors closing in the hall way, the light from under the door and the unfamiliarity of the cold metal cribs, the girls ended up sleeping in our bed with us. No one sleep very well or for very long. I didn’t take a great pictures of the arrangement but you can see the crib in here behind the girls and my husband playing hotel bowling (video).
Our second room didn’t have the kids sleeping alcove, which may have been useful considering this room was the last room on the hall. Very quiet. So we did a little hotel room rearranging and “hid” the pack and plays behind the couch on the window side of the room. We still have to have the lights out and be super quite until the girls fell asleep but they slept much better in this room than the previous night.
And speaking of re-arranging a room. I never messed up a hotel room this bad in my entire life, and I spent many a night in a hotel room hanging out with friends after a concert.
If you have a baby that is use to co-sleeping then go for it, travel to the ends of the earth and tell me all about it. But with two light sleepers who are use to their own space it just didn’t work out.
Luckily we brought our own pack and plays and promptly got them from the car before the girls morning nap the next day. Things went much better after the switch.
We bought travel high chairs when the girls were around six months old. They have proven to be the most useful piece of baby gear we own. We brought them to the room so we could feed the girls an early breakfast when they woke up then ended up using them to eat dinner in the room as well both nights.
We purchased them both second hand from Craig’s list for $15 each. It’s also available on amazon.
We also brought with us a bunch of food. We didn’t want to have to go to the store the night we arrived knowing it would be late already. So we brought enough milk, food and snacks to get us through until the next day. The hotel room had a good sized refrigerator which was a great help. Some hotels don’t have refrigerators any more so you can always call ahead to find out and request one be put in your room.
We had hoped that we would have pleasant enough weather to spend some time playing in the sand. But the day were were there was exceptionally cold and windy. We did go to the indoor pool in the morning but the water and the air were just a bit too cold for the girls to be comfortable so swimming only lasted a short time.
We spent the afternoon at the shopping village at the resort. There was a playground but our girls were still small for it, especially with a couple dozen big kids running around. There were no baby swings for them to use. And aside from he green area where they ran around a bit and ducks in the pond to see there really isn’t much for young toddlers to do at Sandestin or is Destin at all during the winter.
We actually cut out beach trip a day short and headed to meet our friends in Alabama.
Off the subject of babies for a minute, an important tip when traveling, with or without babies, get gas! This is not so much an issue in the north eastern part if the US, but in the south it’s not uncommon for there to be large distances between gas stations. To be on the safe side, fill your tank as soon as possible when you get down to half. Don’t assume there will another gas station down the road, there may not be. We made this mistake and ended up an hour off course to get gas. Lucky for us they had 87 left.
With the busy Christmas season behind us my husband and I wanted to get away as a family with our girls. We decided to spend the time off and go down to the gulf coast where we were hopping for warmer weather and could visit with my long time girl friend and her family. It was far from the relaxing family vacation we had envisioned, but more on that next week. In the end we had a fun adventure staying in a hotel with the babies for the first time and an even bigger adventure visiting with my friend Jaclyn and her family at their hunting camp in Alabama.
It was a long drive down to Destin, Florida we stopped in the quaint little town Eufala, Alabama, the road leading to downtown is lined with beautiful historic homes. We had lunch in the one restaurant that was open and peeked around the old building it was housed in which use to be a hotel with retail on it’s street level. Then we visited the biggest thrift/antique shop I’ve ever seen. I was in a little bit of heaven in this place and I think the girls enjoyed their window shopping experience as well.
It was quite late when we arrived to our Hotel, the Hilton at Sandestin, we settled in to our room for the night and the girls got in a game of toddler bowling with the plastic toy balls we brought that bounced and made loud noises on the tile floor.
Up early as usual we spent the morning at the indoor pool and after the girls naps went over to Sandestins’ Baytown Warf shopping village. We had lunch at a restaurant that came recommended to us, Acme Oyster House. Apparently they weren’t mistaken, the food was great and Emeril Lagasse was seated at the table right behind us! Sorry, no picture to prove it, my husband wouldn’t let me be that tourist.
There was a playground that the girls played in for a bit, but even more fun was watching the ducks and running around the grassy lawn with a new little friend. It was too cold to go to the beach that day but out of the wind and in the sun it was nice to be outside in the village.
The next day we packed up and headed north to meet our friends in Spanish Fort Alabama to follow them into the camp. We had lunch at a bass pro shop, an experience all in it’s self then let the kids get some energy out at Kangaroos, a kids indoor play place with a bunch of inflatables.
While they were off watching the trees sway Jaclyn and I entertained the kids, fed them and tried to make sense of this new environment. It was Jaclyn and her kids first time there as well. Clearly this was the ultimate man cave and was in dire need of a female touch. After a quick sweep of the floor and a little furniture rearranging it was family friendly.
The camp is a private club of members who pay an annual fee to use the land for hunting and the facilities. There are about 40 members to this particular camp and about 1700 acres of land. There are rules to follow and respect of the property is expected from everyone who visits. Some of the members who have belong to the camp for several years have caravans parked on the property that they sleep in when they are staying the night. One member even built his own small cabin!
This place has so much character. Decades of people coming and going has left such a mark on this place, every inch of this place has been touched and retouched. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt the whole time I was there. I wonder if anyone knows this full size jenny Lind style bed is worth about $150?
We stayed in the main cabin and were the only overnight guests for new years.
The main cabin has a covered and tarped porch to shelter it from the wind, a main livingroom/kitchen, a large bunk room with eight beds, a smaller bunk room with two beds and a full bathroom. It’s simple, rustic and perfect. There is nothing to fuss over, it’s a place for relaxing and enjoying nature and the people around you.
I loved being at the camp and the girls did too. In the morning they played to their hearts content in the pea gravel and dirt. They loved having almost free reign to go and do and to have other kids around to play with.
The other day I was talking with a friend about how fast the past year of my life has gone by. In previous years I would think back on the year of all the trips I took, nights out on the town with friends, events I attended and tasks I accomplished, and every year I amaze my self with how much I could pack into a year. This year I think I could count on both hands the things I did other than raise two babies.
Despite loving spending every possible moment enjoying the babies, it’s important and necessary that my husband and I take some time for ourselves. To revive our minds and enjoy each others company every once in a while. As the girls have gotten a bit bigger we are somewhat more comfortable with leaving them with a baby sitter, but we do take advantage of family to do the job when ever possible. So while we were in Israel my in laws took the girls for the day so that my husband and I could go and spend a romantic day in the city of Zichron Yaakov. Complete with a boutique winery tour, a romantic lunch at a quaint little cafe and a stroll down the main street.
Zichron Yaakov is a quiant little hill top town with views to the sea and to the west bank. The town boasts a great variety of restaurants, galleries and shops. The arid climate is ideal for growing grapes so there are dozens of small family wineries.
We visited Somek, this family winery was founded in 2000 by Hila Ben Gera and Barak Dahan. It produces wines from vines near Zikhron Ya’akov that belong to the family and has been cultivated by it since 1882. The winery is also their family home. An out building serves as the the processing facility and barrel storage. Another temporary building is used as their labeling and packing center.
If you get the chance to go to Israel and to Zichron Yaakov, I hope you’ll stop in to Somek for a bottle or just a taste. We enjoyed it and brought home a bottle of the Carignan and a bottle of the blend.
After the winery tour we walked down the main street visiting a few shops and galleries then stopped in to the restaurant Barak recomended called The Kiss.
While away in Israel my husbands parents babysat the girls for a night so he and I could have a much needed and much appreciated vacation! We left in the morning and returned the following evening, but the 33 hours in between were some of the most relaxing we have had since, um, last summer. (since being more than six months pregnant with twins is not relaxing).
After stocking up on some road trip food we drove south through the desert.
Our destination was The Dead Sea (yam hamelach, yam=sea, ha=the, melach=salt) the saltiest place on earth. It’s called the dead sea because it’s so salty that nothing can live in it.
As we drove the winding road down to the sea there were markers in the rock walls around us noting the current sea level, 500, 100, -100 and so on.
It was hot, the kind of hot where you feel like you are a cartoon and at any moment you are going to burst into actual flames.
Our hotel, Isrotel, was beautiful, the pool was perfect (even though it was quite warm). The garden, the view of the blue water of the sea. There were plenty of lovely places to relax outside… During the cooler months of the year.
We ate a long quite dinner in the hotel, which included carpaccio! A favorite of both mine and my husbands, and since it was an all you can eat buffet, we must have gone back and forth to the carving station about ten times! Yum.
The next day we went to the actual sea to check out how we would float. And sure enough the water is so salty, which makes it really heavy, you float, without having to hold your breath. It’s really a cool feeling.
The hotel has its own little private section of the beach with sun shades in the water for us to stand under, unfortunately the 129 degree temps didn’t give the sunshades a chance. The water was so hot I had to ease in as if I was getting into an overheated hot tub. But not to worry the dead sea isn’t always a boiling pot of water. In the spring and fall the water and weather are supposedly quite pleasant in the region.
But the heat didn’t bother me, sure it was hot and we had to limit our time outside, but I would go back to the dead sea in a heartbeat. I love the desert and this was a really cool spot.
Turns out our hotel had an indoor pool filled with salty sea water! The water was much cooler than in the actual sea and there was no sun! It was the perfect compromise. Check out this how you float in rally salty water video I made for you!
My husbands family lives in a quaint suburb of Tel Aviv. Their house is toward the edge of the neighborhood where the municipality has recently finished constructing a walking/biking path along the edges of the lettuce and strawberry fields.
Here’s what we saw on a thirty minute walk!
I’ve always enjoyed seeing how different plants and bugs look in different countries.
What’s your favorite thing about visiting a new place?
If preparation for our trip overseas I Put together a packing list, two actually, one for our flight there and one for our stay. The list included everything we use in a daily basis and then some.
When it came to formula and diapers I carefully calculated how much I bring so that we would have just enough for our stay and return trip. Turns out I am as bad at math as I have always admired and I grossly underestimated how much formula and how many diapers we would use. Luckily they have lots of babies in Israel so they sell diapers and formula in the stores! The problem was that as a doting mother I wasn’t sure how the change in formula/diapers would affect my babies.
We regularly use Enfamil formula. We have since the the girls were born because that is what the nurses at the hospital gave them. I did breastfeed for over six months but it took several days for my milk to come in and the girls usually needed a top off of formula.
Enfamil is not sold in Israel, it’s a tiny country with a population of only 8 million so there can only be so much variety that can be sustained by the consumers. The two formula brands that are sold in Israeli grocery and drug stores are Materna (which as far as I know is not sold in the US) and Similac (a popular brand sold in the US). So after a failed attempt of finding someone through my facebook network who would be traveling to Israel that could bring us Enfamil I got girls Israeli Similac.
After comparing the ingredients I realized they are practically the same, Enfamil has some added ingredients to promote healthy eye and brain development. And you can see that the Enfamil (top left) has a smoother texture than the Similac (bottom left and right).
As for the diapers buggies and pampers are the two most available brands sold in Israel. Aside from different but just as ridiculous characters all over them they are he same as the diapers sold in the US.
The girls got try out something else new and different while we were staying in Israel, IKEA highchairs! The basic white plastic highchairs are very popular all over the world, and at $20, they can’t be beat. So why did we spend $150 and get the Graco 4-1, they are comfortable and versatile with the travel ability and separate booster, other than that I think we felt like more money meant better highchair. But after seeing the girls eat so nicely and comfortably in the IKEA highchairs I would recommend them to anyone for a baby that is sitting up well and older.
Part of me hates to share this little secret, but I am a blogger and therefore an open book and not sharing this little treasure would eat away at me until I did.
While in Israel my husband and I left the babies with my in laws and went treasure hunting for the day. My husband would probably call it junk shopping but he knows how much I love it so he plays along and even enables me.
He took me to Jaffa shook (market) a few city blocks of market stalls selling a variety of wares. Touristy stuff like handmade judeica items for your home, jewelry, clothing, scarves and old metal candle sticks and a section that is more flea market/yard sale than souvenir market.
Mid century modern furniture lining the streets, piled high in some spots and layered ten deep in others. There was wood, vinyl, metal and plastic, bright colors and faded stain. I asked for prices on a few items I was dreaming of bringing home and even before the negotiations (haggling is an Israeli national pastime. If you pay asking, you paid too much!) the prices were good.
After I stopped drooling over the furniture we turned the corned and there were rugs, as far as I could see. They were beautiful vibrantly colored hand knotted wool rugs. Vendor after vendor of the softest rugs.
And that’s not all. As I’m walking along in the scorching heat, wishing there wasn’t more to see so we could get back in the car with the wonderful air conditioning, I see a cloth, unfolded laying across some rolled up carpets on the sidewalk. I opened it, it was a hand embroidered Suzani textile. They are hard to find and very expensive. In the US they can cost between $600 for a small and $1500 for a king size. As I was admiring the cloth the shop owner told me the price, 1500 shekels, or $375, a great price. Still a lot of money. He wasn’t fluent in English and I am not fluent in hebrew, so in my trying to explain to him that I want to pay a fair price I just can’t spend hundreds of dollers on a bed spread, he kept lowering the price. Eventually he was going to sell me the beautiful textile for $120. The problem was, if I was going to spend $120 on one of these textiles I would have wanted to open every single one that he had in his shop to pick my favorite.
And I know, knowing what I do of Israeli shop keepers, as soon as I picked my favorite the price would be at least double and the whole haggling would start again. So I told the shop keeper that one day I would be back with enough money to buy all the Suzani textiles I can.
A girl can dream.
Israel is in the desert, it’s hot. Sure they have a winter when it gets cool, even chilly in the northern part of the country but not in August. No, in August Israel is hot, north to south and east to west. It’s just plain hot. I think it was about 100 degrees everyday, temperature is measured in Celsius over there and I am not too good at math, so it may have been hotter. It felt like it.
When the weather man says it’s going to be 37 to figure out the temp in degrees you double it, then subtract a tenth of that total and add thirty-two. So it would be 99 degrees or HOT.
We wanted to take the girls out and do stuff but it was so hot it just wasn’t fair to do that to them, being outside during mid day.
One day we went to a mall. While we were there we visited the baby store, Shilav, that had a little play pen with a couple of kids in it. I put in my kids and the had a ball. They explored every inch of the four by four area and loved every minute of it.
The next day my mother in law and sister in law took them to a different mall with a similar play area but much larger.
And a few days later we went back again. Later in the week we went to another place with a whole room of play equipyement just for babies, the girls played hard and had so much fun.
My question is do these type of indoor playgrounds exit in the US? Where? I know there are classes, but what about a big open space with sensory objects for babies to roam around and learn on thier own?