Archive for the ‘Feed my Senses’ Category


Thursday, May 7th, 2015

roma trevi fountain

{Fontana di Trevi}

One year ago today I was arriving in Rome!  In May 2014, my husband and I took a two week trip to Italy.  My grandmother left me a small bit of money.  I wanted to use it for something that would make her happy.  Neither of us had been to Europe so this trip was extraordinary for us!  It has obviously been months and months since our trip, but I wanted to be really thoughtful when writing about this experience.  It was life-changing in some ways, stressful at times, and truly unforgettable.  I will post every week for the next several weeks, since our trip consisted of 3 distinct parts-all with their own amazing sights and memories.

Roma:  The Eternal City {Day 1-5}

Rome is an amazingly busy city!  Scooters zip by, cars navigate streets the width of a jogging path, and people fill the streets day and night.  We loved the energy and felt comfortable as soon as we arrived.  Aaron and I quickly learned how we DID NOT want to travel.  Our first two days in Rome were jam packed and crazed with historical sites and museums. And miles and miles of walking.  By the end of the night two, after we left the Vatican, we finally broke down and took our first cab.  As I leaned back in the seat to rest my head I muttered out loud, “If we do that again tomorrow, I will hate Italy and I will hate you.”  A lesson quickly learned:  You don’t need to see it all.

roma street fun

Click through to read more about our trip and all of my tips for Rome…. (more…)

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Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

destination italia

It’s official and I am freaking out!  My husband and I are traveling to Italy.  It has been a long time dream and now I finally have a ticket in hand.  Skipping backpacking through Europe may be one of my only regrets in life.  While others were sleeping on overnight trains and exploring all of Europe, I went right back to school and began work on my Masters degree.  Responsible, but not very adventurous.  Now we are going for it!  2 weeks, just us, and the enchanting country of Italy.

Our rough itinerary is set.  Fly into Rome and spend time exploring.    Travel to Southern Italy (Calabria) to visit my grandfathers’ villages and meet cousins who still live in the area.  Both of my grandfathers immigrated to the United States from Italy in the early 1900’s.  From there, travel to the Amalfi Coast and explore Positano, Capri, and Pompeii.  How amazing, right?

That is where you all come in!  I need all of your tips.  What is the inside scoop to Rome?  What should I pack?  How should we get around once we are in Italy {train or car}?  Should we stay in Positano?  What is the best way to communicate with boys when we are gone?  Have any secrets to getting over jet lag?  Apartment or hotel?  Guide books you found most helpful?

Any and all recommendations are wanted!  May can’t get here fast enough.



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Friday, February 28th, 2014

Lake McGillivray

I don’t downhill ski.  Funny thing is, my family takes a ski vacation every year.  What is a girl to do?  Snowshoe!  We just returned from a stay in Sun Peaks, Canada.  I spent our days there on my snowshoes taking in the sights!

I find my time snowshoeing relaxing and invigorating at the same time.  The views are often breathtaking.  The valleys are peaceful, yet the workout is strenuous.  This year I took on a challenge.  A 12km trek to a wilderness lake.  My friend Jeremy and I left the village at 10am and returned just after 4pm.  Yes, that is 6 hours on snowshoes.  Even with an hour break for lunch, it was still a hell of long walk in the snow.  We had heavy snow fall, then bright blue skies, and deep snow.  Our destination was McGillivary Lake.  Frozen over in the winter, we were able to walk onto the ice and snap some pictures.  We enjoyed a delicious warm lunch in the warming hut that our guide, Robert, packed for us.  We signed the Nordic log book and visited with the cross country skiers that were eating lunch as well.  Funny thing, they were all from the Seattle area.  Guess the snow is better in Canada!

I will admit the walk back was LONG and my left hip flexor was screaming.  By the end I was no longer chatting, but simply daydreaming of the beer that awaited me in the village.  Sore feet and muscles were certainly worth the awesome day we had on those advanced mountain trails!  The pictures don’t do this hike justice.

Lake McGillivary Canada

The rest of my trip was spent solo on shorter trails.  With my ear buds in and music pumping, I rarely saw another hiker.  I enjoyed the time alone.  And the views.  Man, I can’t get over the beauty of new snow and brilliant sunshine!  I feel so lucky to have found a sport to enjoy while my boys are making turns up on the mountain.  {A happy wife = a happy life.}

Sun Peaks on Snow Shoes

P.S.  We HIGHLY recommend Sun Peaks, Canada for a family ski vacation.  It has a wonderful village, tons of skiing, virtually no lift lines, and lovely people.  You truly can’t go wrong.  {Sun Peaks for life!}

Interested in the guided snowshoe tour to Lake McGillivary?  Book with Adventure Centre.  Robert was a fantastic guide!


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Monday, February 24th, 2014

fresh tracks

After a 9+ hour drive home yesterday, we officially hit the ground running this morning!  Our school calendar grants us one week in mid-February to get away from it all.  While some choose warm vacations, my guys prefer the slopes this time of year. Our trip was fantastic {more on our adventures later this week} but the coming home is ALWAYS the hardest part.  I mean look at that blue sky and those fresh tracks!

I am still trying to master the art of {re} entry.  What did I do this morning?  I got the kids up a bit earlier than usual. This gave us more time to get all of the essential tasks complete.  I filled their tummies with gooey cinnamon rolls.  While vacation is over, it is nice to have one last decadent treat to ease back into normal life.  Lastly, I reassured Little Man that returning to school/work is hard for everyone.  To go from skiing all day with your buddies to sitting all day at a desk is a tough transition.  A quick kiss and a reminder to “BE GREAT” and they were out the car door.

It usually takes a few days for life to return to normal.  What are your tricks to easing back into real life?

A few other travel posts:






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Monday, September 23rd, 2013

chicago love

I seriously fell in love with Chicago.  A direct, mid-morning flight from Seattle got us to the Windy City in time for cocktail hour.  We explored the city by foot, taxi, train, and boat!  We took the Blue Line into the city from the airport.  For $5 it was a total bargain and kicked off a weekend of adventure.  It was great to walk Chicago because it was totally flat!  I felt like we could walk for miles and miles-which we probably did!  I highly recommend the Architecture Boat Tour on the Chicago River.  The 90-minute tour provided excellent history and stories regarding the buildings, the architects, and the city itself!  My favorite building was the Chicago Tribune building [sadly, I don’t have a picture!].  The food was outstanding.  We ate late [since we were on rock star- I mean Pacific time].  Dining with a party of 8 can be a challenge, but we had excellent service and outstanding food!  One evening at a tapas bar we ordered the entire left side of the menu.  We were having so much fun, decisions were easy.  It was a luxury to travel with dear friends, dress up, dine out, stay up late, and have little [well, actually no] responsibilities.

chicago 1


chicago 2


chicago 3

We ate well, slept little and laughed heartily.  The deep dish pizza, 4am closing, and social media may have got the best of me-but the trip was fantastic.  I wasn’t fully recovered until Wednesday.  Thank you, thank you, thank you Chicago!  I will be back.


Fairmont @ Millennium Park  Centrally located just a few blocks from the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue.  It was an easy walk to Millennium Park [home of The Bean] and The Art Institute of Chicago.


Quartino  Delicious Italian.  So good.

Xoco  Mexican done right by Rick Bayless [none of us knew how to pronounce it….we were told it was “cho-co”].  Casual dining.  My favorite was the Guacamole Bar [add mix-ins] and fresh to order churros!

Giordano’s  Home to the famous stuffed pizza.  Death by cheese, but oh so right!  Can’t go wrong.  [They also offered gluten-free thin crust.]

The Gage  Great place to grab a drink and something to eat before the game.  I loved the interior.  Felt like old school, Chicago [what ever that is!].


Divvy Bikes  All over the city we saw racks and racks of awesome blue bikes.  It was a bike share program.  Too cool!

The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise  Awesome.  You have to do it!

The Magnificent Mile  Every shop you could want!  Get your credit cards ready.

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Thursday, September 12th, 2013


We are off!  My husband and I are headed for a long weekend in Chicago.  And the party starts as soon as we back out of the drive way.  If you travel with kids, you know exactly what I am talking about!  Without them, everything is 100% easier.  [I have almost missed flights when traveling alone.  I am too darn relaxed.]  My carry on has earphones, a new book, a couple of magazines and my camera.  THAT’S it!   I don’t need to worry about snacks or on-board entertainment.  I won’t need to light a fire under anyone’s ass.  We simply drive to the airport, breeze through security, sit back, relax and arrive just in time for cocktail hour in Illinois.  The plan is to eat, drink, and take in the city from ground and water.  We can’t wait!

Have a wonderful weekend.  See you back here Monday!  xoxo-denise

{This someecard created by moi!  I couldn’t help myself.}

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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Where is June | Destination: Chicago

In just a few weeks, my husband and I {sans children} are headed to Chicago for a long weekend.  We are traveling to watch our beloved Huskies play at Soldier Field.  It has been 15 years since I was last in Chicago.  I remember loving the city, so I am more than excited to be going again.  There will plenty of time to eat, shop and drink!  Where should we go?  If you know Chicago,  I would love and need your suggestions.  Where should we eat dinner, grab brunch, shop for a great pair of shoes, and stumble in for last call?

{Image via}

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Monday, August 19th, 2013

Where is June | Hells Canyon

Our family was lucky enough to spend three days rafting the Snake River through Hells Canyon.  It is North America’s deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet.  Yes, that is deeper than the Grand Canyon.  It’s beauty is undeniable.   I found myself looking up with my mouth dropped open for much of our time on the river.

The 3 day trip through class 4 rapids and over 30 miles of river was a guided by experts from Mountain River Outfitters.  MRO gets 5 stars in every category.  Simply top notch.  We were joined by two other families-for a total of 6 adults and 6 kids ranging in age from 6 to 10.  [An extremely kind German couple booked the trip at the last minute and were a great addition to our group.  Lucky them, right?]  Just prior to our trip I was nervous about taking my young boys, especially my 46 pound little man.  Once we were through our first set of rapids, I knew I had worried for nothing and purely enjoyed the rest of our time on the river.

We arrived in Riggins, ID [population 424] the day before our trip.  After a sleepless night {for me} and an early wake up, we left the hotel at 6am. We had a four-hour drive [in a large passenger van] to the launch point just below Hells Canyon Dam.  The weather was amazing-hot and sunny!  Armed with sunscreen, a camera, our dry bags and courage…we pushed off.

Where is June | Hells Canyon

We witnessed a ton of white water, paddling and adrenalin!  Right away. (more…)

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Monday, July 15th, 2013

We spent less than 24 hours in Napa Valley this weekend.  We didn’t arrive until 1pm on Saturday, but it was worth it!  The summer brings large crowds on the weekend, yet the beauty of the valley somehow makes up for the “big business” of wine tasting.  We started north in Calistoga and worked our way south toward Napa.  Using Silverado Trail for much of the afternoon, we avoided the traffic and we were able to visit three wineries plus have lunch before 5pm.  Then a quick rest and dinner in downtown Napa.  Pictures tell the best story.

First stop, Chateau Montelena .  Amazing grounds, historic chateau, and the winery that put California on the map of the wine making world in 1976.  [If you haven’t seen Bottle Shock, rent or stream it tonight. It tells the story perfectly!]

chateau montelena

Lunch in St. Helena.  La Condesa.  A girl can not survive on wine alone.  Chips, guacamole, and tacos paired with the most refreshing margarita!  It had me at cactus lemongrass-infused salt rim.

la condessa

A quick jump over to the Silverado Trail and Rombauer after lunch.  Red wine a hot day is tough, but the views from the deck cannot be beat.  Rombauer is a great spot for a picnic!  Tables are scattered throughout their gorgeous trails and grounds.


Mumm Napa was our last stop.  We were able to grab a table on their patio [umbrellas and misters help with the heat] and we each enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine.  We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing way to end our afternoon of tasting.  I highly recommend the Santana Supernatural Rose.  Delicious!


After a thirty minute power nap at the hotel, we were off to The Thomas in downtown Napa.  I will not belabor the point, but this place is top rate.  Food, service, ambiance.  The entire package.  The dining room is cozy with an open kitchen.  It is keenly decorated, with one entire wall displaying antique white table cloths and windows into their wine collection.  In the heart of downtown on Main Street, The Thomas also has a roof top bar and deck which looks over the Napa River. I tell you-it is a must visit! While everything we ate and drank was outstanding, the warm cinnamon, sugar doughnuts with black pepper strawberry sauce put the meal over the top!

the thomas interior


the thomas details

Our afternoon is Napa was the end to a great weekend in California.  We had time together [just the two of us] and we were able to see our dear friends get married!  A huge thank you to my mom and dad for holding down the fort and keep our boys fed and watered.


Salt Spring Island: more favorites and travel tips.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

I am so happy to be able to share the rest of our favorites from our trip to Salt Spring Island and our travel tips. [Read my first post here.]

1.  The food!
We ate WAY too much on this trip and enjoyed every minute it.  As you may know, my husband has Celiac Disease and eats gluten free.  And this island was a gluten free haven.  Every restaurant we ate at offered gluten free options, including gluten free breads, beer, pizza crusts, and buns.  Most importantly, the food was amazingly fresh.  Farms are abundant on the island and the cuisine is truly farm to table.

Our favorites:
The Treehouse Cafe– Delicious breakfast.  They even had gluten free french toast on the menu.  I am sure lunch or dinner would be just as great!  The cafe is built around a tree and is open air.  Heaters at your feet and blankets keep you warm if there is a chill.  My kids loved this place.  [more on why in a bit.] 

Burger Bar 537–  Seriously one of the BEST burger I have ever had.  Gluten free buns and beer for my man!

The Harbour House –  The freshest meals are prepared using much of the bounty from the 15-acre farm that sits behind the hotel/restaurant. 

2. The Elves
A small door at the front of The Treehouse Cafe made this trip for the boys.  Elves live on the island. There were pictures, in the treasure box, of small doors at the base of trees all over the island.  Little Man spent a great deal of time searching for a door on our hikes!  If you leave a note-they will send a reply.  My kids were eager to write the elves questions and anxiously await their response.

3. Tsawaout First Nation Reserve
A hidden gem!!  A waitress gave us the lead on this amazing place.  At the very end of Bridgman Road [on the way to Ruckle park], you find a simple marker and a narrow trail.  It was the most beautiful place we visited.  We did not see a single person on our hike and had the entire beach to ourselves!  Simply breathtaking.

You may not go this summer or this year, but I highly suggest you put Salt Spring Island on your “must visit” list.  I was not disappointed.

Travel Tips if traveling to Salt Spring Island:

Getting there:  BC Ferries
Crossing times vary depending on which ferry you catch.   The crossing is beautiful, with amazing scenery and lovely views.

Stay:  We stayed at Harbour House Hotel.  It was not fancy, but it was very clean and the staff was incredibly friendly.  You can visit the farm and the restaurant was amazing.  Located in Ganges-the heart of the island.

Other lodging choices:
Hasting House Hotel 
a Bed and Breakfast [so many to choose from]
Vacation rentals

Salt Spring Island restaurants via TripAdvisor

Other resources:
Things to do in Salt Spring Island via TripAdvisor
Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce
Salt Spring Market

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Where is June?


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