The Short List: May

Disclosure: This post is part of a yearly series in partnership with Netflix. As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I’ll be sharing ideas throughout the year on some of the best Netflix titles to stream with your family. The content, as always, is whatever streams through my own mind! In addition, this post contains affiliate links. Hope you enjoy!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m really, really good at coming up with ideas for blog post series, but not so great at following through with them. I’ve played around with different ways to do a monthly roundup post of the things I’m into, stuff that might not need an entire post devoted to them, but still worthy of sharing. I like these kinds of posts – both reading them on other blogs as well as writing them myself. I think that maybe, just maybe, I’ve found a way to incorporate my favorite things to share (things I’m loving, what I’m reading and watching, good stuff I’ve come across on the web) into a monthly roundup. That being said, let’s not get too attached, m’kay?

May is always a crazy month, with Mother’s Day, the end of school, our anniversary, upcoming June birthdays. Mike and I celebrated 18 years of marriage in the most romantic way possible: apart. It was almost as romantic as the anniversary a couple of years ago where we ate hot dogs for dinner. Mike was in Vegas on our actual anniversary, celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday. We celebrated in a small way when he got back, enjoying a middle-of-the-week day date while the kids were in school. I posted this picture on Facebook and Instagram on our anniversary:

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There’s no one else I’d want to share this crazy life with. Also, life’s too short to marry somebody who won’t do the chicken dance.

As the Deflategate saga continues, I can say with all seriousness that I am DONE talking about balls. Still, I couldn’t resist sharing my new favorite t-shirt with some sage advice for Patriots fans who have their knickahs in a knot about the punishments and fines Goodell handed down:

Hey Tom Brady and #Patriots nation, #deflategate got you down? This sage advice always makes me feel better.

(The shirt is from Nordstrom, by the way. I know you secretly want one, too.)

If Tom Brady’s four game suspension holds, his first game back will be against the Colts. In Indy. You know where to find me on October 18th.

Watching:

As you may know, I’m a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam. Oddly enough, I’m probably the person in the family that watches the least amount of programming on Netflix. If I watch something, it’s because we’re watching something as a family or I’m watching a show or a movie with Mike. That changed this month, when I discovered Netflix’s new documentary series Chef’s Table. The series takes you inside the lives and kitchens of six world-renowned chefs: Ben Shewry (Australia), Magnus Nilsson (Sweden), Francis Mallman (Argentina), Niki Nakayama (USA), Dan Barber (US) and Massimo Bottura (Italy). It’s fascinating, both seeing these creative geniuses at work in their restaurants, as well as seeing them at home and in their own kitchens. If you love food, cooking, travel, or really unique documentaries, you’ll  love Chef’s Table.

Mike, Elena and I also finally started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt together. We laugh so hard, and have to rewind over and over again because we missed something hilarious. So many one-liners, and Ellie Kemper is fantastic as Kimmy. I think my favorite line so far has to be “Hashbrown. No Filter.”

I’m also hoping to check out Grace and Frankie, a new Netflix original series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The cast looks amazing, and I love the story line.

Reading:

I’m working my way through Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2015 Reading Challenge, and this month I’m tackling (pun totally intended) Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger in the category of A Book in a Genre You Don’t Typically Read. I’m hooked, and I think it’s going to make me start binge-watching the entire Friday Night Lights TV series when I’m done.

Elena and I started listening to the audiobook of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. We’re only on the 2nd of 9 CDs, but we’re both really liking it.

My library offers free audio and ebooks through Hoopla, and I’ve listened to several books while folding the laundry and washing dishes. I just finished The Vacationers by Emma Straub (with a lovely Spanish setting), and I started Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall last week. I’d definitely recommend The Vacationers as a light, by-the-pool-or-beach summer read. I’m not too far into the other one yet, but it’s a lot darker than I thought it would be. I guess the cheerful fair scene on the cover mislead me.

My nonfiction book at the moment is All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior and it’s fantastic. She talks about the modern paradox of parenting, and how our kids can bring us immense joy while at the same time draining us of energy and enthusiasm for our own life. She highlights each stage of parenting and how every season has its unique challenges. Really great stuff if you’re in the parenting trenches. Eli, however, was not amused with the title and premise of the book: “I’m ALL joy and ALL fun, Mom.”

Eli and I are reading Masterpiece by Elise Broach. We’re only a few chapters in, but we’re both enjoying it the story of a beetle and a boy in New York City.

Loving:

It’s no secret I’m a freak for anything coconut. I mean, when you have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to coconut

I’ve been treating myself once a week or so to Amy & Brian’s All Natural Coconut Juice. I love the variety with pulp, which means I need a big, fat straw to get those chunky chunks delivered to my belly. I know that makes a lot of you want to barf, which means more coconuts for me! I wish it wasn’t so expensive. I tried a brand I found at Aldi’s, but it had added sugar, which I’m trying to avoid.

My last Birchbox had a sample of Number 4 Blow Dry Lotion. I’ve had a hair-volution over the last 6 months or so, and I’m only washing my hair every third day. It was rough at first, and by the third day my hair looked every bit like it needed washed. But as my hair and scalp have adjusted, I’m finding that my hair is so much healthier and I have more good hair days than I’ve ever had. The tradeoff is that I find I have to use good quality hair products or else my hair suffers and seems like it needs washed more frequently. I used to blow-dry my hair straight every time I washed it, but now I probably only do that once a week. The other days I let it air dry into a wavier style. It’s a pain to blow my hair out, as there’s a lot of it, and it takes work to get it straight. This Blow Dry Lotion not only cuts down my drying time by a good 5 minutes, but it makes it easier to straighten. But the best part is that my hair feels full and soft for another two days after I blow it out. I’ll definitely be buying the full-size when I run out of my sample.

Surfing:

There’s never been a safer time to be a kid in America (contrary to what the news and other parents want you to believe).

When life isn’t simple. I’ll be reading and re-reading this as we head into summer, when my simple and quiet routine gets all discombobulated.

To alleviate the stress of my discombobulated summer nerves: 8 rosé wines to drink right now.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?

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All Day Every Day With Eli

Way back in the early days of blogging, I used to just randomly post funny things the kids would say. I’m not sure why that fell out of favor. Did mommy blogging get too serious? Did my kids stop being funny? I think the answers are yes, no, and Facebook. Sadly, goofy kid stories don’t rank high in SEO or get lots of repins on Pinterest. My kids are still hilarious in my mind, although if Elena says anything funny we’re not aloud to laugh too much and I’m definitely not allowed to write about it. And in the strange way that blogging continues to evolve, I find that I’m more likely to share these kind of snippets on Twitter or Facebook, as opposed to including them in a blog post. The kids these days call it microblogging, and apparently it’s passé to share these kinds of things on anything so wordy as an actual blog.

Well, it might be lame and it might only be amusing to me, but that’s probably been the case with 92.4% of the things I’ve written on this blog from day one. Hasn’t stopped me from oversharing in the last 9 years now, has it? In the spirit of nostalgia and writer’s block, here are a few things that have made me chuckle lately.

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One evening at dinner, we got to talking about middle-school kids and experimenting with illicit behaviors. (I promise our dinner conversations aren’t always so worthy of After-School Special topics.) Does anyone drink? Smoke cigarettes? Smoke pot? This got Eli’s attention.

“Smoke pot?” He said, his face all screwed up in confusion.  “Like smoking chicken pot pie?”

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He’s already very concerned about “cigaretting.” Smoking is much more prevalent in Spain, and you could tell it bothered him. It’s a very bad thing, right? We stayed at a guest house in Barcelona where we were mostly on our own, but there was something akin to an “inn keeper” who would be there in the mornings and evenings to keep an eye on the place and be available if you needed anything. She was a pretty, young girl who spoke excellent English. One morning Eli was out on the patio with her, talking her ear off. She lit up a cigarette and he got all serious. He sat down at the table, crossed his arms, and leaned in close: “You know that’s going to kill you.” Oh, those precious American kids!

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Another day, Elena was goofing around with Gus, and Eli wanted Gus to himself. (Funny, they don’t fight over him when it’s time to walk him. Or clean up his poop.)

“Stop pet-tronizing him!” he yelled at her. “Wait. What does that even mean?” I don’t know buddy, you tell us.

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Eli, eating ribs: "I feel like a wolf or a black bear, eating my prey." Gus: "Dropitdropitdropit."

We’re terrible about getting Eli’s hair cut until it’s well past time. It had gotten more than a little shaggy, so at dinner the other night, Mike commented that with the way it was kind of swooped forward, it reminded him of a certain celebrity.

“You have the beginning of Bieber hair, buddy.” Elena piped in, “Like, 2009 Bieber hair.”

Eli tilted his head, apparently shuffling through his mental catalog of Bieber images. “You mean the Bieber before he peed in the trashcan?” Yes, that’s the one we’re going for.

It’s your turn to amuse me. What’s the goofiest thing your kids have said or done lately?

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Traveling With Kids: An Andalusian Road Trip {Jaén, Granada & Ronda}

In June of 2014 my family spent a month traveling through Spain and London. I’m highlighting our individual destinations, giving you tips on traveling with kids and sharing some of the best things we discovered. You can find previously published travel posts on my Travel Page. You can find all the photos from our trip on my flickr page. 

Spain with kids: Traveling by car through Andalusia, with stops in Jaen, Granada and Ronda - including a stay in a castle! Family Travel | Tips | Destinations | Europe

Well, friends … it looks like I may very well drag these Spain posts out to the one-year-anniversary of our trip! I have this post plus one more to get in before June 8th. Think I can do it?!

Andalusia Spain by car: itinerary for Jaen, Granada, and Ronda

When I last left you, we were wrapping up a few glorious days in Barcelona. From Barcelona we took our very last Ryanair flight to Sevilla. As we got savvy to Ryanair’s ways, each flight got progressively better. Still, I was happy to put our bargain European air travel days behind us. For this leg of the itinerary we were road tripping! I have family in Sevilla, so after picking up our rental car we spent the night with my cousin, Elena, and her family. They had just been to visit us in the States two months earlier, so it was a lot of fun to see them again so quickly.

Panoramic view of Ronda, Spain

In the morning, we packed up the car with a feast of snacks Elena and her husband, David, prepared for us and were on our way. Can I just take a moment to say how amazed I was at Mike’s European driving skills? Here are just a small selection of things that happened which he handled with ease (where I would’ve driven the car into a ditch and cried): a handy, energy-saving feature that caused the car to turn off when you stopped at a light (great idea, somewhat terrifying on a steep hill when the car starts sliding back into traffic). A GPS that gives up when there’s construction, and directions from a construction worker that you understand approximately 0.9% of. Narrow ancient roads that keep getting narrower and narrower and then just kind of end. (At one point this happened and Mike had to back up very slowly for a long way. The car had sensors on it that would beep if you were too close to something. The sensors on every side of the car were going off!) And the horn-honking. So much horn-honking.

Parador de Jaen Spain

Our first stop was Jaén. There isn’t a major tourist attraction in Jaen, but friends of a friend had stayed at the Parador here and after seeing her photos I knew we had to stay there as well. I mean, how many chances do you have to sleep in a castle?
Paradors are hotels run by the Spanish government. They range in price, but they’re known for their luxury, unique atmospheres and excellent food. It was a splurge for us, but worth every penny.

Jaen, Spain

Cross overlooking Jaen, Spain

The Parador of Jaén sits high above the city, next to the Catalina castle. The views were ridiculous. We spent most of this road trip just gawking at the views around us. If you ever have the chance to spend some time driving around Andalusia and its renowed white towns, do it. Even the most jaded person (or tween) will be taken aback by the beauty. You are surrounded by mountains, quaint towns, olive trees and sunflowers. I love all of Spain, but if I had to choose one region to settle down in, this would be it.

Sunflower fields in Andalusia, Spain

Parador de Jaen hotel room

The Parador was unreal as well. Our room was gorgeous and big, a luxury we desperately needed after being cooped up together for much of the trip. I just wanted to lie down on the beautiful tile in the gigantic bathroom. We had a big terrace that overlooked the mountains. While we did drive back down to Jaén to walk around, we mainly used the time in Jaén to relax and explore the Parador. After nearly two weeks of nonstop sightseeing, it was heavenly to relax and enjoy our surroundings, including this amazing pool we had all to ourselves.

Parador de Jaen pool

Sunset over Parador de Jaen

Later that evening, we put the kids to bed and snuck out for a romantic mini-date at the hotel bar. Our stay included breakfast delivered to our room. Now, I’m used to the free Hampton Inn breakfast, so nothing prepared me for the feast that was delivered to our room. There were two trays packed to the gills with toast, butter, jam, pastries, fruit, rolls, jamón, cheese and yogurt. We washed them down with thick, warm drinking chocolate, coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice. We sat on the terrace and stuffed ourselves, then packed up the leftovers in our cooler, which fed us for lunch and the next day’s breakfast.

Breakfast at Parador de Jaen hotel room terrace

View of Granada, Spain from the Alhambra

From Jaén we had an hour’s drive to Granada. Granada is best known for the Alhambra, a former fortress and Islamic palace. It’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We checked into our hotel, Pensión Alfin, which was just steps away from the entrance to the Alhambra. I’m not sure how we continued to get so lucky with accommodations, but this was another winner (and extremely reasonable). It was a little shabby and dated, but clean. We each had our own beds (Elena even had her own room) as well as a small refrigerator, and the location couldn’t be beat.

Alhambra Granada Spain

We had early afternoon tickets to tour the Alhambra, so we didn’t have much time to relax. You definitely want to purchase your tickets ahead of time, as they only allow a certain number of visitors in each day. I don’t remember a lot about the museums and sites we visited in Spain when I was a child, but I have vivid memories of the Alhambra. I hope my kids will remember it as fondly as I did. It really is breathtaking, and just mind-blowing to think of the work and vision it took to create this place centuries ago. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Courtyard of the Myrtles Alhambra Granada, Spain

Alhambra Granada, Spain

Alhambra. Granada, Spain. Generalife Gardens

Alhambra. Granada, Spain. Generalife Gardens

Alhambra. Granada, Spain

We took a siesta in our room, then ventured out again to explore el Albayzín, the old Muslim quarter of Granada. Full of narrow, twisty cobblestone streets with tiny bars and shops, it’s delightful to stroll through.

Bride in Granada, Spain

We made our way up to the lookout point of Mirador San Nicolás, just in time to catch a cool breeze and see the sun set over the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada mountains.

Mirador San Nicolas, Granada, Spain overlooking the Alhambra

On our walk back to the hotel, we had our second ice cream of the day at Los Italianos. I mean, when you pass an ice cream shop that’s rumored to be Michelle Obama’s favorite, you have to stop, right? I had their specialty, la cassata, and it was amazing.

Cassata from Los Italianos Heladeria, Granada, Spain

After a breakfast outside at the cafe run by our hotel owners, we set off for Ronda and yet another beautiful drive through Andalusia. Ronda is smaller, and therefore easier to navigate than previous towns we’ve been to. We were able to check into our guesthouse, Hotel Enfrente Arte, early. If all of our hotel stays were hits, this one was a home run. Again, very reasonable, with a funky atmosphere we all loved.

Hotel Enfrente Arte, Ronda, Spain

Our room was a 2-story suite, complete with a grand staircase! Elena was thrilled to once again have her own bed upstairs in the loft area. The hotel patios had amazing views of the Spanish countryside, and there were lots of fun nooks for the kids to explore, including a fish pond and an aviary. I was so bummed that I didn’t figure out until after we left that the fish pond is full of the tiny fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet. I’ve always wanted to try that! Oh well, guess I’ll just have to go back.

Hotel Enfrente Arte, Ronda, Spain

The kids loved the funky rooftop pool. It was way too cold for Mike and I, but it was glorious just sitting there, reading, and soaking up the Spanish sun. Bonus: the hotel provided unlimited, self-serve drinks … even of the grown-up variety. If we didn’t want to explore Ronda so badly, we could’ve just camped out at the hotel for the rest of the day.

The rooftop pool of Hotel Enfrente Arte in jaw-droppingly beautiful Ronda

Ronda is adorable, and I could return here again and again. The small streets are filled with cafes and shops. We chose a cafe on the plaza and had a delicious lunch. Two weeks in and we FINALLY manage to eat a meal at the appropriate Spanish time! On the walk back to the hotel we enjoyed some amazing views from the “New” Bridge – finished in 1793!

Puente Nuevo, Ronda, Spain

Ronda, Spain

After relaxing at the hotel, we returned to visit the Ronda bullring and bullfighting museum, Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Ronda. It only takes about an hour to tour, but I highly recommend it. The kids enjoyed it, and it was so different from everything else we’d seen so far.

Bullfighting Museum, Ronda, Spain

Bullfighting Museum, Ronda, Spain

Bullfighting Museum, Ronda, Spain

Notice the posters on the outside of the museum? They say “Vivan Los Reyes.” Pretty cool side note: we just happened to be in Spain when Felipe VI and his wife, Letizia, succeeded the throne following the abdication of Felipe’s father, King Juan Carlos I. The ceremony took place in Madrid the week before, but I thought it was cool to see these posters on display in southern Spain.

Poster from Bullfighting Museum, Ronda, Spain

We ate dinner and then walked through the old town of Ronda to the bottom of the Gorge and the “Old” Bridge (built in 1616). The kids will kill me for this some day, but they took my lecture on an ancient use for fig leaves very seriously.

Fig leaves in Ronda, Spain

Ronda, Spain

Ronda, Spain

The hotel offered a full breakfast, including freshly fried churros. Eli had the poor churro guy working overtime! From Ronda we drove to my mother’s hometown of Morón de la Frontera. This stop was all about family. I have an aunt and an uncle that still live here, along with a host of cousins. I was able to take Mike and the kids to my uncle’s store, which has been in the family for over 50 years, as well as walk through the apartment upstairs where my mother and her siblings grew up. This was my abuela’s home, and most of my childhood memories of my abuela take place in this home. My Tita Pilar fixed us lunch at her apartment. She’d obviously spoken to my mother recently because she made us Mike and the kids platters of fried chicken and homemade french fries! Later, we rolled ourselves out the door for coffee and pastries with my cousins. Elena ran off for the afternoon with her cousins, which made me insanely happy to see her connecting with the other kids.

El Gallo de Moron de la Frontera

Mike, Eli and I had the treat of taking in the famous Morón monument, El Gallo. Yes, that would be a rooster – long story. But the best part of all was finally reconnecting with my favorite Spanish food, only available for a short season each year: caracoles (snails). Trust me, a bowl of those and a cold beer are the way to spend an afternoon.

Caracoles y cerveza, Moron de la Frontera, Spain

We only spent the day in Morón, opting to finish the road trip by driving to Sanlucar de Barrameda to stay with my aunt and uncle two nights. We were nearing the end of Mike’s stay in Spain – he would leave for Madrid to fly home in 3 days.

I’ll wrap up our Spanish holiday with details about the last days of our trip, spent with family in the bustling city of Sevilla as well as the laid-back beach town of Sanlucar.

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