Camping in Big Sur

Pre-kids, Doug and I went camping quite a bit. We even bought our huge F-250 partly so we could set up an air mattress in the back and avoid the whole tent situation. We hadn’t been brave enough to try camping with kids until 2014 and even then we only took then 4.5-year-old Reece on a camping trip to the Sequoias because we were fearful of Emme waking up the whole campground during her screaming phase (a “phase” she still hasn’t outgrown, unfortunately).

While Reece enjoyed that camping trip, we learned a few things about what to do better next time. Mainly, he really wanted to hang out at the campsite all the time. We had picked a beautiful area for hiking, but we needed to drive out of the campgrounds in order to do that and it took some convincing each time. Also, he hates to walk, so hiking is not always the best option with him.

Finally, with Emme at 3.5, we thought both kids would be ready, but we knew we needed to pick a campground that we could stay at for most of the trip without needing to drive anywhere. I remembered a camping trip to Big Sur Doug and I had done pre-kids and how at the time I thought it would be a great place to take them. So we looked it up and were fortunate to find any availability during the summer since it gets booked up quickly. My memory served me well and Big Sur Campground turned out to be a great place for a family camping trip.

Big Sur is just about a two-hour drive from Silicon Valley with some gorgeous views along the way. The kids are accustomed to getting to use electronics on long car rides only, but we told them that we were going camping, so no electronics were allowed (aside from a few Pokemon checks on my phone at bathroom stops–not once we got to the scenic parts). With scenery like this, getting there was part of the fun.

Rocky Creek Bridge Highway 1

Rocky Creek Bridge Highway 1 Highway 1 family pic Rocky Creek Bridge Highway 1

Bixby Bridge sign

The Big Sur Campground itself was amazing–beautiful redwoods, friendly staff, cool playground, river to play in with tubes to rent, clean bathrooms and free coffee. Since we booked so late, our campsite itself was just “eh,” but the whole place is beautiful in the middle of the redwoods and we were just happy to be there at all. If you go, book far in advance and try to get a campsite right next to the creek.

One of my favorite things about the trip was how much freedom we were able to give the kids. The playground was close to our campsite and we just sent them over there to play on their own.

Brother sister at Big Sur Campground

When I went over there at one point to remind Reece of some rules and not to go off with anyone, etc, he practically rolled his eyes at me and was like “Mom, all the other kids are here all by themselves too!” He was right and it was pretty neat.

Playground at Big Sur Campground

We also sent them over to the little camp store to buy cookies and ice cream cones on their own a couple times. It was nice to give them that freedom and responsibility and I think they learned a lot from it.

Ice cream by the creek Big Sur Campground

Not to mention it was pretty great for me and Doug to hang out around the fire together with glasses of wine in the evening while the kids were off playing. It was a much more relaxing experience than I had anticipated, since we didn’t have to figure out how to keep the kids entertained all the time.

reading by the campfire in Big Sur

Dirty camp feet and reading The Nest

Mornings were pretty chilly, but the marine layer burned off fairly quickly, giving us nice warm afternoons at the creek. The tubes were fun to float down the river on, although, Emme was scared over some of the “rapids.”

Floating in tubes on the river at Big Sur Campground

Drinking beer by the creek

Emme looks like she’s the one who’s been drinking!

Since it had been awhile since I planned camping meals, I was really unsure of what to make. Once we were there, I realized that simple is perfect.

There’s nothing like a big, hearty breakfast when camping, so we went all out for breakfast with pancakes, eggs and bacon.

mixing pancake batter camping

Mixing pancake batter

Lunches were simply sandwiches and fruit since they are easy to transport in case we wanted to eat them down by the creek or while on a hike.

Dinner one night was steak cooked on the hibachi we brought with corn and sautéed veggies that we cooked the camp stove.

Steak dinner camping

The next night, we had a fun dinner cooking hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls over the campfire.

hog dogs in crescent rolls camping dinner

I highly recommend this one since it was a huge hit a fun thing to do while camping. We also had corn and salad to go with it.

Overall, it was a successful camping trip and the kids were kind of bummed to go home. I, however, was super excited to take a shower at home. The camp showers were nice, but we got so dirty almost immediately after that it seemed pointless. I’m looking forward to our next camping trip here since we all had so much fun.

We’ll probably hold off another year until we go again to see if Emme does better during the night. Even though we had practiced sleeping in a tent with a backyard campout before we went, she did not do well at the campground. The first night she woke up crying and unsettled about every 20 minutes for a few hours. Then she woke up at 4am to go potty, acting like normal as if she had snapped out of it….almost like she wasn’t actually awake the other times. In the morning she didn’t even remember it. The second night she woke up like that again, but was screaming quite loudly and Doug had to bring her into the truck at 1am for about an hour so that she wouldn’t disturb the campground. She mostly settled into sleep after that, but still woke up a few times crying with me having to calm her down.

I’m not sure how people go camping with younger kids, but a lot do it, so maybe they just have quieter children than we do?? Would love to hear your tips for what has worked well for your family with camping!

Keep in touch with me:
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Father’s Day Weekend Picture Post

A weekend with lots of photo opps calls for a weekend picture post. It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, but I had a reader request for these types of posts again, and this is a good weekend to start with.

Mini Getaway – Oakland

The weekend began with a long overdue mini getaway. Ellie and I have been trying to plan a real getaway for some time, but none of our free weekends matched up. We had one night this weekend to do something, so she whisked me away to her place in Oakland for some fun. She even kicked her hubby out to a friend’s house for the night. 🙂

There were food trucks and festivities at Jack London Square Friday night, so we hung out there for a bit.

Curly Fries with Chipotle Mayo and Shrimp

Curly fries topped with grilled shrimp and chipotle mayo–yum!

Jack's Night Market June

There was a painting setup from Art is Mobil that anyone could paint on, so we decided to try that. Painting sounded fun, but plenty of the participants were actually quite good, making me feel a little silly for painting my basic hearts to support the love theme. But hey, it said ANYBODY can paint, so I did. 🙂 It was fun to participate even with my lack of skills. You can check them out on Facebook to see the final products from various events.

Art is Mobil anybody can paint Art is Mobil anybody can paint

Back at Ellie’s place, we enjoyed wine, chocolate and good conversation out in the hot tub before calling it a night.

hot tub robes

Mini Getaway – San Francisco

I almost wasn’t able to sleep in on Saturday–I initially woke up right at the time Reece and Emme usually do–but fortunately I was able to fall back asleep for awhile longer.

We started our day with coffee and croissants and then caught the ferry to San Francisco for the day.

oakland bay

san francisco ferry

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The upper-60s temperature was the perfect weather for the city and enjoying its beauty.

golden gate bridge backdrop

We planned our day around where we wanted to eat and walked everywhere in between. According to our iPhones, we ended up logging nearly 13 miles and 25,000 steps! Not only were our feet feeling it, but my shoulders felt bruised on Sunday because of the weight of my bag.

We walked along the water to sightsee, then headed to our lunch destination in the Marina.

lunch at blue barn

We wandered around a bit and decided on Blue Barn for some beautiful salads and a glass of wine.

blue barn salad and wine

We walked off our lunch, heading over to b. patisserie for coffee and dessert.

b. patisserie coffee and dessert

Feeling full, we had another good walk over to the Fillmore District where we shopped and browsed bookstores (ok, we did the latter in each area we were in–so many cute independent shops!).

We kept walking down Fillmore St and walked right into the Juneteenth Festival. We really stood out as the minority, which felt a bit awkward, but it was an experience and I’m glad to know more about that.

After we paused to look at the map to decide our next destination (Union Square), we were about to head the wrong way until a nice man helped us get back on track. He questioned if we were sure we wanted to walk it. We thought it was because of the distance and let him know we were enjoying our walk. I wish he had pushed a little harder that we not.

A long ways into our walk, the vibe started to get a little sketchy and we were having to walk through some, let’s just say unsavory looking groups of people. One look up at the signage overhead and we realized we were walking right through the edge of the Tenderloin, which has the reputation of being San Francisco’s worst neighborhood.

If you don’t know about this area, this article provides a good look at it. Thank goodness we only walked along the outskirts, on a street busy with cars, which made me feel slightly better because, lots of witnesses…

It was quite a nerve-wracking (fast-paced) walk those few blocks. I could breath a lot easier once we saw Nordstrom in sight. That’s the funny thing–the Tenderloin is bookended by a good shopping area and the civic center area. I hear they have good pho and curry there, though, so maybe worth a trip back according to that article??

From there we had a short walk over to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. There we took the elevator up to the 21st floor to the Starlight Room, which I highly recommend for a great view of the city. A few drinks and laughs about our walk through San Francisco’s worst neighborhood were just what we needed.

wine at the starlight roomThen it was back to the ferry for the ride to Oakland under the full moon with the twinkling Bay Bridge. Ellie drove me back home to Silicon Valley after we met up with her husband for a late dinner in Jack London Square.

full moon bay bridge

Doug had a fun day with the kids at Happy Hollow while I was walking all over San Francisco with Ellie. I got to see cute pictures like these from him throughout the day, which made me smile.

happy hollow ride ice cream with dad

Father’s Day Fun

Unfortunately, Emme was starting to come down with a cold and her throat was hurting, so I didn’t make it to my favorite cycling class Sunday morning. We decided she could rest just as well at the beach as at home (because really, she’s no good at resting), so Doug met us in Capitola after he enjoyed a Father’s Day mountain bike ride.

On Mother’s Day, I wish to sleep in. On Father’s Day, he wishes to wake up early and get a bike ride in.

It was another beautiful day–80 degrees at the beach, which is perfect since it can be cool and overcast there.

beach exploring

We played in the sand, explored the kelp and climbed rocks.

building sand castles

Making faces since I tried to take his picture

decorating sand castles

Beautifying her sand castle with her treasures

exploring kelp

I even got Emme down for a much needed nap. Poor thing didn’t want to eat or drink much today because of her sore throat, but I think the ice cream helped a little.

beach nap

We ended the day with a nice dinner at Paradise Grill. With Emme being sick, all she wanted was soup and Reece followed suit with his order. I’m glad they love soup so much because I’d much rather they eat that than most of the junk food that is on kids menus. They’re not always up for it at a restaurant when they could be having french fries, though.

I’m glad we were able to make the most of the sunshine and that our own dads didn’t mind us doing our separate thing this year. The beach weather was just too good to pass up! Hope you all had a lovely weekend as well!

Keep in touch with me:
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In My Unsponsored Opinion: 13 Reasons Why the Y is the Best Gym

Since I’m not blogging as much anymore and just using this space to share whatever I want when the mood strikes, if there’s something I love, I’m just going to tell you about it. This post is NOT sponsored, it’s just my honest opinion about how much I love the YMCA. There are so many reasons why the Y is the best gym for families and I want to enthusiastically pass along this message. But first, let me touch on the fact that this is an unsponsored review.

family at the Y

My babies!

A Note About Sponsored Reviews

It’s really hard to write a truly honest review when you’re getting something for it.

For instance, it seems like every product I look up on Amazon these days has many glowing 5-star reviews, but after closer inspection, most of them have received the product for free in return for writing an “honest” review. I have to sift past those ones to read the reviews from a completely unbiased perspective, usually with an accompanied lower rating. I’ve come across this enough times lately, that I wish Amazon would sort the sponsored reviews into their own category.

As this relates to blogging, I don’t want you to have any doubts that my reviews are completely honest. I’m not saying I’ll never do sponsored posts anymore–and I always do my best to be honest–but at this point in my blogging “career,” I’m not seeking them out much anymore either.

My love for the Y began long before I started teaching Pilates there. In fact, I sought out teaching there because I love it there so much. I receive absolutely no benefit for writing this post (financial or otherwise–my superiors don’t even know about my blog), I truly just want to spread the love.

And with that, here are my Top 12 Reasons The Y is the Best Gym

Teaching Pilates at the Y

1. Childcare is Included

Emme hanging out at the Y

This reason alone makes the Y unbeatable. At the other gyms I belonged to, I had to pay each time I worked out because childcare was extra. The Y believes that having children should not be a hindrance to working out, so childcare is either included or very low cost. Joining the Y is what encouraged me to workout nearly everyday. It ensured I both got out of the house and had some “me time” each day.

2. Quality Childcare

Not only is childcare included with your membership, the Y takes babies as young as six weeks old so mamas can get back into their workout routine. Other gyms start at six months. They also will feed babies their bottles, give kids snacks and change diapers, unlike other gyms I’ve belonged to. I had very poopy, very hungry babies and toddlers, so I used to get interrupted EVERY workout when I belonged to other gyms. It discouraged me from going when I knew I was going to get called down to childcare after 20 minutes, making it impossible to get back to my workout after a diaper change because my kids would just want to leave after that.

3. Affordability

No one is turned away from the Y because of their ability to pay. The Y is there for everyone and they want the whole community to be healthy. So even if you don’t think your budget can swing a gym membership, go check it out. As it turns out, the monthly cost of the Y is actually more expensive than some other gyms in the area, but the included childcare more than made up for the extra monthly cost for me. I’d recommend checking it out in person to see if it will work within your budget.

4. Great Equipment

matrix treadmill

I would not make it through cardio without watching TV and the Y has some of the best viewing there is. Individual TV screens with Direct TV (lots of channels!) are way better than a few large TV screens in the distance or an individual screen with barely anything to watch. My cardio frequently goes longer than intended because i have to know–did they love it or list it?? 🙂

5. At the Y, you are family

This is what the Y is known for. Each of our members is a part of the Y family and it is our job to get to know you and encourage you in your fitness goals. We love our members and seeing their faces everyday!

6. Discounted programs

Y baseball

Anyone can enroll in a Y camp or swim lessons, but if you’re a member of the Y, you get a discounted rate. This is actually how I originally joined the Y because I called to inquire about swim lessons when Reece was one year old. Once I found out about the free childcare, I was hooked.

7. Year-round pool use

snacks at the Y

Post-swim snacks

This is a definitely a huge bonus of belonging to the Y. Not only is it our gym, but it’s our pool. Even though the rules are more restrictive than community pools, I love that I don’t have to pay for both a gym and a cabana club.

8. Safety

Part of the reason the Y pool is more restrictive is because safety is a top concern. During the summer, they have three lifeguards at the outdoor pool. During swim lessons, not only does each group have their instructor, but there are a few lifeguards on deck to keep a safe watch on everyone. I’ve been to pools at other gyms where they only had one lifeguard watching over a crowded pool. With my non swimmers, that did not make me feel safe. It feels good knowing that our safety is top priority at the Y.

9. Diversity

The Y is for everyone. Not only will you find a wide range of skin colors and languages, but you will see people with a wide range of abilities and challenges. This is very unlike what you will see at other gyms and I’m glad my kids will be exposed to many different types of people so young.

10. Free programs for kids

Kids basketball at the Y

Along with the free (or very low cost) childcare, the Y has a number of included kids programs. From tumbling type classes, to preschool, to ballet, each Y offers something different. This is a huge benefit as these types of programs can be quite costly elsewhere. It’s also a great way to meet other moms since some programs are for babies as young as six months old.

11. Amazing range of classes

Working out at the Y

The Y has hands down the best range of group exercise classes I’ve seen. Usually there are multiple group exercise rooms, so more than one class can be offered at a time. At my Y, there will be a strength training class, cycling class, yoga class and TRX class all going on at the same time. This makes it easy for members to find something they love at a time that works for them.

12. Clean

Pilates at the Y

Don’t be fooled by fancy new gyms–they are not always as clean as they appear at first glance. The Y may always be in an old, funky building, but it is clean. The janitors are working round the clock keeping everything nice for members and it shows. As a Pilates instructor who has laid on many a gym floor, the Y is by far the cleanest–especially in the studios.

13. They’re everywhere

YMCAs are located all around the country, so no matter where you live, you can find your Y home there. Click to find your local YMCA! All Ys have different features–even each of the ones here in Silicon Valley run things slightly differently–so be sure to check with your local Y to see what they offer, as some of the benefits listed above may differ.

Pilates at the Y

Joining the Y was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and my family. If you know me in real life, you’re probably already well aware of that since I pretty much tell everyone how great the Y is. It gave me a place to connect, to enjoy time out of the house as a stay-at-home and boost my fitness. So I spread the love. So that you can find a Y to love too.

Do you love your local YMCA? Tell me why you think it’s the best!

Keep in touch with me:
Twitter -> @FitMamaLaura
Pinterest -> FitMamaLove
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Facebook -> FitMamaLove
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