My Life: Summer Travel 2018 Part 1 - Arizona

Day 1 - Flight to Phoenix, Cosanti, Arizona Science Center, Taliesin West

This year's trip took us out West.  We flew into Phoenix late Thursday night.  You can see how I rocked baggage claim in the middle of the night when we arrived early Friday morning!  We spent our first day exploring Scottsdale, AZ, with a stop at Cosanti to see the wind chimes by designer Paolo Soleri and a visit to the Arizona Science Center.  We concluded our day with a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, which was just as I remembered it from when my parents took me in 1995!

Day 2 - Sedona

Day 2 was spent exploring Sedona.  We started off the day at the Chamber of Commerce to get some information about hiking.  We wanted a hike with rocks and water, so after a mile or so in the incredible heat of the Baldwin Trail, we were rewarded with the cool waters of Oak Creek and the vortex near Cathedral Rock.  I have to say, I'm definitely a believer in and senser of the Earth's energy, and my family definitely got back in the car happier.  We finished our day with an off road jeep ride, where we were blessed with a driver who also knew how to handle my camera, and was able to get some lovely sunset family photos of us!

Day 3 - Grand Canyon

On Sunday, we explored the Grand Canyon.  First we biked around on the South Kaibab Trailhead.  We were so busy stopping to enjoy the sights along the way, we didn't even make it out to Yaki Point!  After we returned the bikes, we stopped in the General Store within the park for some snacks and drinks.  We finished up the evening taking the shuttle bus out to Maricopa Point, walked to Powell Point, and finished enjoying the sunset at Hopi Point.

Day 4 - Antelope Canyon, Kayak Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend

Lower Antelope Canyon was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  It was a good almost hour (with stopping to take many photos along the way, of course) of walking through seemingly endless twists and turns of incredible colors and rock formations in this incredible slot canyon.  We spent the afternoon kayaking on Lake Powell, and the evening enjoying the sunset at Horseshoe Bend.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post, which will highlight our adventures in Southern Utah and our road trip conclusion in Las Vegas!!

Winter Break Family Camp 2017 - Ramah Darom - Clayton, GA

Last week, we had the pleasure of attending Winter Break Family Camp (WBFC) at Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA (about 2.5 hours North of Atlanta) for the second year in a row.  When I have vacation time, I like to travel, and travel days are filled with a morning activity, an afternoon activity, and an evening activity.  No naps, little rest.  I want to see each city as though I'll never return.  

Family camp is different.  It gives us a chance to slow down a bit.  I like to describe it as a cruise, but on land.  That's the easiest way to explain it to someone who's never been.  There are activities for the kids, activities for the adults, family time, 3 communal meals a day, and more adult time after the kids are in bed, all in the beautiful mountains.

Last year I did the Odyssey Ropes Course challenge during the day.  When I went to sign up this year, the day group was full, so I went on the first night!  Not being able to see where I was going in the dark definitely added a new layer of challenge!  After that, there was lots of singing and dancing, some spiritual time, yoga, sports, arts and crafts, and a camp fire with s'mores. One family even celebrated a Bar Mitzvah up at camp!  A New Year's celebration rounded out the week and was a great way to finish camp and head home into 2018. 

My Life: Halloween Trick-or-Treating

I've always enjoyed Halloween.  I love the anticipation of deciding what you're going to be this year, the challenge and creativity of making costumes (most years), watching as your neighbors' Halloween decorations go up, dressing up and getting ready to go, more anticipation as the sun sets and the air cools, walking around in the dark, knocking on doors, that moment of mutual appreciation when they open the door, the sound of the candy hitting your bucket, how that sound becomes less hollow as the night goes on, how your bag becomes heavier, dumping out your candy when you get home, the bright fun colors of your candy pile, the sweet taste of candy on your tongue, taking your costume off, showering, and going to bed completely satisfied. 

As a photographer, I enjoy trying to capture the feeling of Halloween, of trick-or-treating, of community, of hospitality, of meeting new neighbors, of joy.  While my camera can't capture the sound, or the cool air, or the sweet taste, I think it can capture this.  And I like to shoot Halloween with available light and capture how that light changes from house to house, how it changes when the door opens, and fun that goes with it!

My Life: Tennessee Family Vacation to Nashville and Gatlinburg

Every year, we like to explore a new city as a family.  So far we've done Boston / Newport, RI / NY, DC / NY, and last summer Denver / Breckenridge, CO.  This summer, I was drawn to Tennessee.  I feel like a lot of people have been visiting there lately, and it has intrigued me, and seemed interesting and fun.  We decided to spend 2 days in Nashville and 2 days in Gatlinburg.  It's kind of a whirlwind, but enough to give us a feel for the city.  I typically plan a morning, afternoon, and evening activity, so we really pack it in and make the most of our travels!

Day 1 - Travel to Nashville

I started off the trip shooting!  With my kids having been at camp all summer, I was excited to capture them just being themselves.  We got great direct flights on Southwest.  It happened to be my youngest's birthday, and they really made him feel special.  They turned down the cabin lights, had everyone turn on the flight attendant call light so the cabin was illuminated, sang happy birthday, and had him blow out the 'candles'.  His in-flight birthday celebration was completed by a crown they made out of peanuts and coffee stirrers.  I'm sure it's a happy birthday we'll never forget! 

When we arrived, we wanted a snack, and were told Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams was the place to go, so we did!

Day 2 - Nashville

On quick trips, I've found bus tours to be a great way to get a feel for a city.  In my research of Nashville, I found that JoyRide offered these cool golf cart tours, so we started off the day with one.  We had lunch at Dick's Last Resort.  Totally touristy, but totally humorous, which is right up our alley.  We're not big fans of country music, but were told the Country Music Hall of Fame was a must-see, so we visited, walking along Broadway on the way.  We had dinner, I did some line dancing, and we experienced some of Nashville's music scene at Wildhorse Saloon.  

We really lucked out, because the Thursday night we were there, was the first night of the free Live on the Green Music Festival, which runs Thursdays in August, through Labor Day weekend.  We walked in that direction, stopping in a fun old timey candy store called Rocket Fizz.  Then, we walked into Museum Hotel because we had to use the bathroom, and it turned out we'd stumbled upon another gem, because it was a free modern art museum!  Apparently there was more to see on the floor above and below us, but we only had time to explore the main floor.  Then we headed over to the park to listen to Michael Franti and Spearhead.  The kids weren't interested in standing in the concert crowd, but did enjoy some cornhole, giant Connect 4, and a photobooth.

Day 3 - Cheekwood and Paddleboarding

Since we explored downtown on Thursday, on Friday, we wanted to explore some of Nashville outside of downtown.  We had breakfast in the lovely airbnb we stayed in, where the light in the kitchen was amazing every morning, so of course I had to take a pic.  Our morning activity was exploring the Cheekwood Mansion and gardens.  The mansion was slightly underwhelming compared to the gardens, where the kids enjoyed throwing rocks into the lake, watching leaves flow down a stream, and model trains, but we enjoyed our visit overall.  

For our afternoon activity, we went out to the Hamilton Creek Recreation Area for Stand Up Paddleboarding, a sport I have enjoyed in several cities.  It's always interesting to explore the water, as well as the land when travelling.  The water was the perfect calmness for SUP, and the perfect temperature for swimming.  We headed back for showers, and then to East Nashville for the Tomato Art Festival.  The festival was to take place on Saturday, with a preview Friday night.  There was a bandstand, music, and a bunch of people trying to break the Guinness World Record for most people dressed like fruits and vegetables in one place, but not much art set up yet, so we had some dinner, and hung out at Soda Parlor and played games.  We introduced the kids to Cards Against Humanity, censoring some inappropriate cards, and answering questions about others, and they really had a blast with it.

Day 4 - Drive to Gatlinburg, White Water Rafting

On Saturday, we woke up and drove to Gatlinburg, stopping for lunch on the way, and headed straight for our white water rafting excursion.  I had gone once on a family vacation in North Carolina when I was my kids' age, and my husband had gone a few times with his sleepaway camp in North Carolina, and it was the kids' first time.  Our guide with Smoky Mountain Outdoors was excellent, and we were treated to some serious rapids, since the river had seen much more rain this summer than they usually do. 

We had dinner in downtown Gatlinburg.  Now, I chose this city for this trip b/c I had heard about the interesting kitschy things here, but holy tourist, it is well beyond what I could have imagined, and I have quite an active imagination.  Basically the entire strip is restaurants, souvenir shops, and tourist activities.  We had dinner on the roof of a Mexican restaurant, and headed back to our cabin, where I enjoyed looking at the stars, and the boys enjoyed some pool before bed.

Day 5 - Laurel Falls Hike, Zipline, Alpine Coaster, Island

We started our morning with a hike to Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We were slightly fearful of seeing bears on our hike, but were excited to see a baby bear on the drive in!  We chose this hike because it wasn't too deep into the park (and we had to be at our ziplining appointment early in the afternoon), it was one of the shorter trails, and it was paved.  This made it very popular, and there were a lot of people there.  It was steep and uphill, and didn't feel terribly adventurous because of the paved path and tons of people, but, the humans did frighten away any bears.  

In the afternoon, we ziplined at Foxfire Mountain, and then enjoyed some of their rope bridges.  They had more hiking trails which would probably be lovely to enjoy in the fall or spring or first thing in the morning, but by that point we were a bit burnt out from the heat and our morning hike, so we stopped at the Alpine Coaster, which we'd done the previous summer in Colorado and loved, and headed over to The Island in Pigeon Forge to enjoy their musically choreographed fountain, and dinner.  

Day 6 - Lane Motor Museum and Home

Since any flight from closer to Gatlinburg would have required a layover and pricier tickets, we made the drive back to Nashville for our flight home.  By now, you can tell I like to pack it all in and see everything, and the Lane Motor Museum had been on my radar, and something we missed in our 2 days in Nashville.  It was also close to the airport, so we were able to swing by for a quick visit before heading out of town.

My Life: Travel to Colorado – Denver and Breckenridge Summer 2016

Michelle and I were born on the same day in the same year, twins we say, but to different mothers on different coasts.  We met our Freshman  year at college in NYC, and have been friends since!  Since we live so far, it makes us logical travel buddies as there are plenty of places to meet up!  This time, we planned to get together with our families in a city neither family had explored, as close as possible to the middle of the country.  Since we’re both from hot climates (Ft Lauderdale, FL and LA, CA), we wanted to pick somewhere that would be cooler. 

There was a lot of beauty on this trip.  Beautiful scenery, beautiful blue skies and white puffy clouds, beautiful sunshine, beautiful families, beautiful moments, and I think these photos capture some of that.  I shot with my Canon 6D and a Yongnuo 35 mm f2 lens with no flash (available light only).  I also managed to hand off the camera a few times so I appear in a few too!  There are many photos, and I could easily break this down into several blog posts by day, but here we go in one long digest.  Grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy!

Day 1:  Travel, Tiny Town, Drive to Breckenridge

We flew into Denver on Thursday after work and spent the night there.  The next morning, we went to Tiny Town and enjoyed our drive through the mountains on our way to Breckenridge.

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All the road signs we don’t see at home!

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We pulled off the road to explore this stream.

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Day 2:  Hike, Breckenridge Summer Fun Park, Playing Catch

We started the next day with a short hike behind the house where we were staying before heading up to the Breckenridge Summer Fun Park at the bottom of Peak 8.

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There were many fun things to do here today.  We rode an alpine slide and an alpine roller coaster (uh-mazing), played mini golf, mined for gems, and jumped on a bungee trampoline.

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Apparently, Michelle’s boys travel with a baseball and glove.  What a great idea!!  We had a blast playing catch before dinner.  And I am obsessed with the light in this next shot.

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Photo credit for the pic on the right goes to Ben.  I’ve trained him in how to focus and compose.  He had the camera while I was throwing the ball, and said this little guy came up to him with a big grin, so he snapped the shot, and what a great shot it is!

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Day 3:  Biking Vail Pass to Frisco, Drive back to Denver

This bike ride was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.  A friend from Florida had posted a photo of her bike ride a few weeks before, so I asked about it.  Her description was spot on, and we followed in their footsteps!  The bike rental company takes you to the top of Vail Pass in a van, and then you ride the 14 miles downhill.  Except for a bit of pedaling through Copper, it’s pure coasting downhill through the gorgeous mountains on a paved path with the wind in your hair (or through your helmet).  It was an absolute pleasure.

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We went to Jazz in City Park when we arrived back in Denver.  We were a bit too far to enjoy the music, but the kids had fun playing catch again.

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Day 4:  Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Rockies Baseball Game

The home where we stayed in Denver had a pool table, which the kids loved.

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They had a great time at the science museum exploring Space, Nature, the body, gems, and a children’s exploration area.

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For this body challenge, whoever could be the most relaxed would force the ball into their opponent’s goal.

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We had dinner at the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall before heading over to the game for a great ending to a great trip!

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A homerun came our way!  Check out the screen shot from and our crew checking out the replay on the cel phone!

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