De-stress tip: Un”wine”d from time to time

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First of all, if you don’t like/care about/want to hear about wine, this one isn’t for you.

I, however, love wine and love to take trips with my girls where we relax, catch up, sample some good wine, and eat some good food. After all, it’s nice now and then to not have to sneak-eat the last cupcake to avoid sharing it with a kid or shove an entire Uncrustable in your mouth as someone clings to your leg. Amiright?!

One of my absolute favorite “Mommy Juice” trips is a quick haul down I-77 through Virginia and right into North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. This area is chock full of wineries and vineyards, and in my opinion is one of the best kept little secrets in our area. In this area, you’ll find a lot of sweet wine options, but there are plenty for us dry-wine lovers too. There is also the occasional craft beer selection, which often balances out the wine in between tastings.

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Accommodations: You simply must stay in the Hampton Inn in Dobson. Not only is it wine-themed with its own little wine bar, it is newer, clean, and has a shuttle to the Shelton Vineyards about a mile down the road. (ALWAYS have a designated driver once the sampling begins!) This hotel is also in a great location for access to many wineries in the area. Location, location, location!

More on transportation because, I cannot say it enough: designate a driver! We have img_7169actually enlisted the services of a shuttle/van to take us around touring the area. The Hampton Inn shuttle only goes back and forth to Shelton, so that’s a good place to start/end your daily tour for that convenience, as well as their amazing on-site restaurant. The shuttle service we used was Grape Escape Tours, and it was perfect. You can tell them your wine preferences (dry, sweet, etc) and they will recommend a tour. They had a basket of snacks in the van, too, which was a nice touch. Our driver was a very nice and patient lady who took pictures of our group at the various stops. As you can imagine, as the day of “tasting” went on, dealing with us gals on the loose probably got interesting. I know from the pics that our smiles kept getting bigger and bigger. (Gosh, I wish I could remember her name…. she was just so patient. So very, very patient. Bless her.)

Here is a list of the places I’ve been in the area that I would highly recommend:

Shelton Vineyards: This is a Napa-style winery and vineyard. Take the tour and do the VIP tasting! It is worth the extra money for this awesome experience. While you’re there, eat at Harvest Grill. The food is amazing and the entire property is just breathtaking. Wine recommendation: Family Reserve Claret (or really anything from the Reserve collection).

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Grassy Creek Vineyard: This is an old stable converted into a winery! The cool factor is definitely “up there” and it just has a very chill vibe. The two men who run the joint are great to chat with and they also have events from time to time on the property. They also have a fun little gift shop selection. Wine recommendation: Red Barn Blend. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Elkin Creek Vineyard: This place is quaint and cozy and just plain old special! The girls and I had a blast sampling here, and next time I am definitely going to try one of their brick oven pizzas. Wine recommendation: Adequate Red (trust me when I tell you it is MUCH better than “adequate”)

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Round Peak Vineyard: This is a great “first stop” as it is north of the hotel exit (but again, remember to designate a driver!). They have wine and craft beer, but no matter what, do not miss the view from the back patio! Take your beverage out back and sit and enjoy the immediate relaxation that comes with knowing you are on holiday. This place is definitely a “must see.” (featured picture at top of post is a glimpse of the view from the patio)

222 Public House (now Angry Troll Brewing @ 222): This wasn’t quite a brewery last time I was there, but they had an awesome vibe and great food and cold beer. What more could you ask for? Definitely try the nachos!!

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Whew! This one is making me nostalgic for some girl time!! Hopefully my girls will read this and agree… it is time to getaway!

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Into “The Wilds”

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I’m starting with our most recent adventure first since it is fresh in my mind and is really what served as the tipping point for me wanting to start this blog. My niche tends to be these quick 1-3 night trips that aren’t too far away. After all, whoever said “getting there is half the fun” clearly never drove 12 hours with two kids under the age of five. That being said, my kiddos really are troopers at traveling. Start ’em young, I say!

I also find a lot of joy in planning travel, and not just for us. I love it when people come to me for travel advice. Being a former “frequent flier” and “road warrior,” I am quite familiar with the in’s and out’s of the travel industry, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of putting together an itinerary. The one drawback of my planning obsession is that I tend to fixate too much on what I think the adventure should look like, and sometimes build up an unrealistic picture of how the whole thing will play out. But then again, don’t we all want that picture-perfect experience? I assure you, our adventures are anything but perfect, but the memories are made in the imperfections that make up the adventure.

Case in point: This past weekend, our Magic Mini Van took us to “The Wilds” in Cumberland, OH. “The Wilds” is a private, not for profit safari (yes, a safari in Ohio) that focuses on conservation. It has a pretty cool backstory as well. We left Saturday afternoon and made our way about 3 hours north of Huntington to Cambridge, OH, where we stayed at a Hampton Inn. I’ll go ahead and issue this disclaimer now: When I travel, I stick with 3 vendors… Hilton, Delta, and Hertz. It’s a matter of personal preference, and those are mine. This particular Hampton Inn was clean, safe, quiet, and it had an indoor pool (that no one else seemed interested in). Score! So, we flipped on the Marshall game and went for a family swim. Has anyone else ever noticed just how freaking exhausted swimming makes kids? That was an added bonus for us parental units. We got a queen suite for a little extra space. Pro Tip:  We have found that instead of traveling with fancy toddler bed solutions, we opt to pull the mattress off of a pull-out sofa and put it on the floor for the floppy little dude to sleep on. Who needs a pack-and-play anyways? Not Leo.

After a fun night of getting assaulted in our sleep by small kicking feet, we awoke refreshed and ready for breakfast. We hit up Denny’s right down the road for easy in and out and fun kid options. There are plenty of restaurants around this hotel. Nothing fancy, but all reliable.

Next… onto The Wilds! The day prior, I had made the mistake of mentioning we were going to see animals to Leo and the poor little guy must have said “Animals?!” at least 20 times. Lesson learned. Keep it a surprise next time. I started to feel bad lying to him by saying “just a little bit longer” knowing full well we were a solid 24 hours out.  But, alas, the time had come for ANIMALS!

It’s a bit off the beaten path, but then again, it is a safari. In Ohio. I keep having to wrap my brain around that. My expectations were not high, if I’m being honest. But I can honestly say it was amazing with hints of Jurassic Park (picture double gate systems locking around you before you can move onto the next section). You park at the bottom of the park and a cool khaki-colored bus shuttles you to the top. It is $6 to park, and right across from the parking lot is a free butterfly sanctuary you can walk through. We did not get to partake in that as by that time, my dear sweet Woodland Creatures were ticking time bombs. (Mandatory family fun is hard people!)

Once you get to the top, there is a little concession stand-like area, a small gift shop, and a kid center and building where you can see what I would consider the stuff of nightmares, The Hellbender. We played in the kids area for a little while (a cool little classroom setting area for kids to explore) and admired the view. Then, our open-safari bus picked us up! We had made reservations ahead of time (highly recommended!) and the tickets were $30/person. Again, I was skeptical about this being worth the drive and the money, but I’ll try most things once.

We boarded the bus and went to the back. There are NO bad seats on this bus, so sit anywhere. Warning: If you sit in the back, it is very bumpy. Do not sit in the back if you have any issues with being jostled (neck/back problems or pregnant are two that come to my mind based on our experience). Leo went airborne at one point. Jeremy caught him. Such good parents, we are. We even dressed our kids in adorable identical sweatshirts! Just kidding. I forgot jackets and it was cold so I had to buy the sweatshirts at the gift shop.

We wove through the park with a fun tour guide/driver named Jeff. He was the King of Dad Jokes, and Jeremy bowed down in his presence. We had a fun little checklist of animals we would see, and we did indeed see all but two of them. One of those was a beetle that laid its eggs in dead carcasses, so I didn’t feel like I missed out. The animals are roaming free (with the exception of the carnivores like the cheetahs and dholes), so they can come right up to the open air bus. We were within spitting range of camels, almost touched a wild horse, and had a family of rhinos come right up to us. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun checking the animals off our list!

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The ride has two stops: one to feed fish and parakeets and the other stop to see things that would like to feed on you (carnivores). First stop: Highly recommend springing the $1 to get a seed stick for the parakeet house!  You basically get attacked by these adorable little Australian parakeets. Birds aren’t really my thing, but Leo loves them and they were pretty cute. The second stop was at the carnivore area where they have a little grill/concession area. I very much recommend bringing your own drinks and snacks! You can’t eat/drink on the shuttle because you might choke, but you can eat your own stuff at the stops.

The adventure terminates at the gift shop (of course, right? It is owned by a zoo, after all) and another grill/concession area. The view here is AMAZING! For adults/older kids: they have a lot of other activities such as horseback riding and zip lines. Oh…. and they have yurts! It is on my bucket list to stay in a yurt, so this Glamping experience opportunity is definitely on my radar.

We left the park refreshed from the beautiful weather and exhausted from a whirlwind trip full of fun. I always bask in the happiness of my kids when I know I’ve shown them something pretty darn cool. Have you ever heard of a Sichuan Takin? Interesting creatures. Don’t forget to tip your guide! They really are a wealth of knowledge and entertainment on this tour.

On the way out, I asked the kids which animal was their favorite. Caroline said “giraffes!” I agree. Cool creatures.

Leo’s response? “Cows!” (Ya know, the ones we saw on the way TO the park because it is in the middle of Ohio.) Asked him again what his favorite was, and he responded slightly more adventurously with “hippopotamus,” which would have been great if we had seen those.

All in all, well worth the quick 26-hour turnaround trip and another fun weekend adventure in the books!

Weekend Worrier: The Beginning

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Hi, my name is Holly and I’m obsessed with weekends.

“Hi, Holly.”

(But really, who doesn’t love the weekends, right?)

I’m jumping on the Blog Wagon with this new adventure in technology and sharing, and I’m so excited to see how this goes! My inspiration comes from the things I love the most: my friends, my family, and adventures! Whether at home or out seeing the sights, I love every part of travel and adventuring and trying new things with the ones I love most.

Except unpacking. I could do without that.

But where did the name come from? It’s kinda a long story, so buckle in…

I used to travel for work a lot. As in, at one point I had about 500,000 frequent flier miles to my name and reserved parking at many a-Hilton property. But that meant my weekends with my family were spent recovering from these work trips, which was kinda a bummer. I also suffer from what I discovered to be called “Sunday Blues.” (It’s a real thing. Look it up. Seriously.) This is where a person gets kind of anxious/antsy for the work week to start. I’d like to think of it as “Monday-Eve Anxiety” wherein I turn into a bit of a nut, so any distraction is welcome.

Oh, and did I mention I’m a mom to a 5- and 2-year old? First of all, no one can fully prepare you for the anxiousness brought on by the constant feeling of vigilance that is required to keep these crazy kids happy, healthy, and safe.These kids are the absolute loves of my life, but dang they wear us out sometimes.

Never one to wish time away, I admit to occasional yearning for the stage of life where we can just throw some stuff in the van and go without packing 100 diapers, 2 strollers, a million bottles/nipples/rings, a pack-and-play, a bottle warmer, a breast pump, a gazillion safe toy options for baby, 3 changes of wardrobe for each day of planned travel (you get the idea ….. Parents: Can I get an AMEN?).

Well, I think we are getting to that point! While we still have to pack some diapers (potty training is the WORST) and the occasional extra change of clothes, I am happy to announce that this past weekend, our entire family of four packed in one bag.

Yes, it was only for 2 days/1 night, but still. How is that for easy?

To bring this whole word-vomit full circle, I no longer travel for work, which frees up the weekends to take some seriously quick, easy, and fun adventures with my family and friends! Admittedly, I’m also from the school of thought that adventures and getaways should occur regularly; not once a year. Occasionally, we will plan a “big” vacation (i.e. a Disney Cruise), but most weekends, you can find us just scooting off to someplace new and fun, or sticking around here to try something fun and new or tried and true. It keeps the mind and body busy, while creating new memories with the ones we love.

My hope with this blog is to share some of these adventures to inspire readers to take on some new adventures themselves! Many of these posts will be geared toward families/younger kiddos, but I also have a handful of AMAZING girlfriends with whom I like to go a little crazy with as well sometimes, so the occasional Adventures with Mommy Juice (wine) will make an appearance. You’ll also see some info about little activities and great gear that makes my life easier and more enriched so I can focus on what matters most.