Stone Barns, snow days and one super healthy (delish) cookie recipe.

We’re waiting on spring here in NYC, or getting confused by the weather gods. One day it’s warm and sunny, the next snowing.

Here are a few sweet pics from last weekend that pretty much sum up the crazy weather.

princess picking flowers stone barn

Friday, we headed to our weekend house, making a pit stop at a favorite of ours, Stone Barns. It was a warm beautiful day, and Aria (ever the princess) decided to pick a few flowers…

until we realized they weren’t wild…(oops!)

spring flowers for oma

…but not before gating a sweet bouquet for Oma.

Fast forward to the very next day, where we woke up to SNOW covering the cars and deck…

snow

…and an anxious 4 year old ready to get out and enjoy it.

snow day kids

Ah…the parental joys of kids and snow gear.

The romp in the snow was short lived, so we moved on to a warmer activity.   I found this Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe online (always up for a healthy treat), and Aria and I baked them up. I’d cut the cinnamon down to 1/2 the amount called for, but really they were pretty stellar (and healthy!)

chocolate chip healthy oats cookies yum

So, here’s to making the most of any weather, and hoping spring finally arrives… for good.

Summer’s sweet end… holiday weekends in NYC… and beyond.

Despite it being well over 90 degrees (as I write this the sweat is pooling under me), I’m told summer is unofficially over. Aria begins pre-k tomorrow, and I’m trying to wrap my head around that, and the fact that the lazy days of summer are virtually behind us (not to mention that I’ll be a mother of 2 next month!).

We spent a good part of the Labor Day weekend in the city, taking full advantage of it being a bit emptier and the weather being absolutely beautiful– a perfect combination of warm sunshine and cool breezes. Aria had her dad chauffeuring her all over Manhattan via bike– with trips up and down the west side highway bike path (the Hudson River Park has so many amazing kid-friendly spots).

Saturday stops included the carousel just north of Chelsea Piers, and plenty of time at her go-to neighborhood playground. We even made a last minute run up to Turtle Cove Golf Range in the bronx, for some extra daddy-daughter time. It was so sweet to get to see them have so much time together– and both enjoy it so.

turtle cove golf

Sunday the biking twosome even journeyed around the tip of southern Manhattan, catching the ferry across to Governor’s Island. They romped around, hitting the playgrounds, eating lunch in the shadows of the old fort, and capped it all off with ice cream cones and silly selfies. She was spoiled, and so was I since I got  a few hours of time to just to relax my increasingly limited pregnant-girl body.

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We all dined out, trying places we’ve long been meaning to– like The Clam on Hudson (scoring a sidewalk seat with no reservation). We didn’t do quite as well when we attempted to drop in at Grand Banks (a cool schooner turned oyster bar) at sunset. Apparently, there were enough Manhattanites left in the city to leave the line winding longer than our limit with a toddler in tow. It was a gorgeous time on Pier 25, the sun setting low casting a warm glow over all,  so no hard feelings. And obviously (pic below), Aria was sleeping off her fun hangerover, so perhaps it was best.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 2.34.58 PMOn Monday, we got the treat of being invited out to a friend’s beautiful golf club, where the guys got in a round, and a good girlfriend and I had the chance to catch up over a leisurely lunch, followed by a cart-ride along the back nine to join the boys. (She also took the beautiful shots of my girl below — thank you Ana Photo!)

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Of course Aria had a blast– taking every opportunity to run through the greens’ sprinklers when they popped on (ah- to be a kid) and, of course, soaking in her dad’s golf skills (we’re hoping it all rubs off and she’s the future of the LPGA).
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She also insisted on “driving” the cart on my lap, which resulted in a few near misses, and far too many pushes of my hands off the wheel. She was adamant she could do it herself.  Little Miss Know It All is not quite the master driver…yet. hamilton farm golf feast

We capped it all off with an amazing seafood feast overlooking the course, and watched the sun (and summer) fade away over the greens.

Adieu summer. You will be missed.

See more of our weekend pics (and my lounging belly!) on my Instagram page @vanessaalfanotv

These are the times to hold onto…

savor the momentI’m amazed that summer is flying by and the calendar is already approaching September. I posted a picture on Instagram this morning and captioned it, “These are the times to hold onto,” and have been increasingly aware of enjoying the moment, and that time is so fleeting. I was discussing parenthood with a student in my yoga class the other day, and he said, “yes, the days are long but the years are short.” How true.

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So, increasingly I am trying to savor the moments. We’ve spent a lot of time at our lake house this summer and I feel incredibly grateful for the serenity that I have here, the time for quiet reflection and the pure enjoyment that it brings us. We bought it when I was pregnant with Aria, and being pregnant here again is a blessing– and big relief from the city heat and our walk up apartment stairs! Aria is increasingly excited about her baby brother coming, showering my stomach (and him) with love, sweet words and adoration. Life is sometimes so sweet.

kids swim lessons learningShe’s also spent plenty of time splashing around, just recently beginning to swim on her own. I wrote about swimming lessons of past– which ended up being very short lived as she wanted no part of being told when she had to get in the water (my little stubborn girl). However, her determination is also are what got her swimming all on her own. All she needed was a little time, and the ability to do it on her own terms. That’s my girl.

So, today may we all be a little more mindful to not let the sweet moments just pass us by. To be grateful and focus on all the good that we do have in our lives, and hold onto to it tightly.

Waterfalls & Wonder

Magic days of summer. Winding trails and hidden gems. Deep forest discoveries. Waterfalls and a secret swimming hole. Simple pleasures and child-like wonder all around.
swimming hole garrison

This was our day today after faint recollection lead us on a little treasure hunt. To a secret  place tucked away but oh so close (who knew this was only a few miles from the house we go to every weekend?). We felt like we were worlds away from everything.

waterfalls

Arizona Dreaming….

ImageSince spring is taking it’s time to be steady in NYC, I still find my self reminiscing about our latest vacation. I’m all about the luxury resort (always have been), but now that Aria is usually in tow, I also have my eye out for “family-friendly” spots. Our latest find was the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, which is totally kid-friendly without feeling kid-friendly (yes, that’s a compliment)!

The expansive resort combines lots of great amenities for all ages, and still feels like a luxury resort. They have 5 pools on site, two of which are great for the whole family. We spent most of our days lounging at the zero entry pool, where we could keep a close eye on the little one but still enjoy pool service, palm trees, and amazingly (for a kid’s pool) a good degree of peace & quiet. The same pool area also boasts a water slide on the back end, playground on the far end and a great covered sandbox for the littles to enjoy. Aria LOVED them all and also made a few little friends that made her time (and ours) more enjoyable.

ImageThe Fairmont also offers an amazing kids camp. Aria was still too young for that, but The Trailblazers Kids Club is another way kids get to enjoy and mom and dad get some free time to enjoy the adult amenities– which incidentally include 2 Championship Golf Courses and the AMAZING Well & Being At Willow Stream Spa (a must visit!).  We also loved that all the restaurants on site (including the high end ones) offered kid’s menus, and the resort’s VIP lounge made grabbing a drink or snack at any time of day easy (another necessity with little A).

All in all, we so enjoyed our time there. The Fairmont Scottsdale is the best of luxury & family friendly, without any pretense and with plenty of relaxation. So, until we can return (or until the sun & warm temps return here), we’ll all be Arizona dreaming…

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City Escape: Kid Friendly In The Florida Keys

founders park islamorada

So, we’ve been back in snowy New York  for the about a week and the Florida bug must have been contagious because since returning I’ve had two different mom-friends ask about recommendations in The Keys. The Florida Keys are an easy escape as the start of them (Key Largo) is only about an hour and a half from the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area. It’s an easy drive and great way to get a quick taste of island life. Aria’s Pop and Uncle Adam live there, so I’ve gotten quite familiar with them, especially the little treasures on Key Largo & Islamorada.

Where to stay:
The beauty of having family in any vacation spot is getting to crash with them and not worry about hotels. The Keys leave something to be desired when it comes to accommodations– a lot of roadside motels and no-frills spots that still end up being pretty pricy.

My first recommendation to friends to is check out Airbnb. Often you can find great apartments or private homes for rent (for a lot less than hotels). If you can get a waterfront spot, go for it– the beauty of the keys is really on (or in) the turquoise waters.  If you can’t score being seaside, don’t worry– most of the Keys are only a mile or so wide, so you’re never really far away.

One hotel I do love is Cheeca Lodge. It has gorgeous ocean front accommodations, beautiful spa, tennis and golf courses on site and a pool and private lagoon (which is perfect for the kids). They also have Camp Cheeca,” a day camp for kids 5-12 that explores the natural wonders of the Florida Keys.

What to do:
Now that Aria’s a toddler, I got to experience The Keys in a whole different way. This go-around, I was scoping out playgrounds and kid-friendly spots. And I found them.

Founders Park: This is a municipal park in Islamorada. It’s about $5 for non-residents to park and inside there is a huge pool area (separate fee) and a very pretty little beach with calm waters and two great playgrounds. It’s definitely worth a visit with a little one. Picture above!

Theatre of the Sea: I had passed this place hundreds of time and this trip the whole family made a visit for Miss Aria. It’s a bit of a mini tropical Sea World, but one geared towards preservation and education. They have dolphin and sea lion shows, a nature walk, a fun little bottomless boat tour (where dolphins and iguana’s make appearances), and a bunch of other fun things for kids.

Theatre of the sea

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Another spot w/little beaches, endless bike and walking trails, and access to Key Largo’s best asset– the water. They do snorkeling tours and scuba tours, but you can also just rent a snorkel, mask and some fins and go in off their beaches. They are in the midst of the mangroves, which are a signature of Key Largo and great explore by kayak (also available for rent on-site).

Where to Happy Hour & Eat
There are endless spots for food and drink, but here are a couple of my regulars when in Key Largo & Islamorada.

Breakfast: Made To Order— sit out on the back deck and enjoy water views and good food.

Lunch:  The Islander Resort: Go for the shrimp tacos and stay to use their pool and beach area.  The pool area is “resort guest only,” but locals can always be found there. The pool also has a wide gradual entrance (zero entry) on one side and mini-waterfall which is great for the little ones.

Dinner: Morado Bay— This bayside retreat offers two great options– The Beach Cafe for casual dining and Pierre’s for a more refined dining experience. Both come along with good food and amazing views.

Happy Hour: The Lor-e-lie (Islamorda)— Great sunsets, drink specials, live music, island vibe. Grab a table or one of the adirondeck chairs next to the water (and away from bar) and let the little one loose in the sand.

Want to know another amazing Florida island spot for families? Check out my all time favorite kid-friendly vacation spot HERE. 

The Islander resort nap

New York Snow Over Florida Sunshine: My toddler made me do it.

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This morning we were supposed to head out on a flight to Florida. Ah, yes, the warm Florida Keys where 80 degree temps and flip flop wearing days await. Instead, I sit at our lake house, watching snowflakes swirl — grateful for warm socks and good decision making.  You see, back in the day (pre-Aria) a little snow (or talk of it) wouldn’t have had me rescheduling flights. I would have grabbed my carry-on and headed to the airport, trusting that our early flight out would beat the first flakes in. However, with a little one in tow, everything changes. All the time.

I have to laugh at how the carefree traveler in me has been totally replaced by Miss. Play-it-Safe. For there is no easy delay with a toddler in tow. And hopping in a cab home (if said delay turns into cancellation) is not easy breezy with a two year old, car seat, stroller, suitcase, etc. etc. (and forget getting them all back up our 6 floor walk up in the city). Gone are the days of chancing it to make sure I get in as much sun as possible. These days I choose to watch the snow fall with a little one toddler napping in her crib, knowing that Florida isn’t going anywhere (and neither is my sanity).