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May 31, 2016

Sanibel Island: Babymoon

The last 2.5 months have been a total whirlwind of change. With a pending cross-country move, a house to sell (it's SOLD, thank goodness!), and an entire life to pack up and restart in a new state 3,000 miles away, it was safe to say D and I needed some time away from all the chaos. Even amidst the the busyness that is this military life, we wanted to take a moment to relax, recharge, and celebrate our baby girl in a way that we both love...on vacation! Since writing about our Florida Bucket List the end of last year (and thinking we'd have 2 more years to try and check things off that list), I knew our babymoon destination would have to come from that short list. It wasn't long before reservations were booked and off we went to Sanibel Island for 4 sweet days of sand, sea, and celebrating our little Heidi.

Sanibel is just about as dreamy as islands come. Palm trees and lush tropical greenery line all 33 miles of this gulf coast town and the water...oh, that GORGEOUS turquoise water...was so blue & clear that it sparkled in the sunlight. Everything about Sanibel was quaint, from the colorful beach shops and non-chain restaurants to the charming B&B's and 25 miles of scenic bike trails, the island felt like our own secluded slice of paradise those 4 bliss-filled days. Instead of staying at a large resort, we opted for a small inn on the Eastern part of the island called Song of the Sea. It was perfectly beachy, came with a continental breakfast each morning (hello, fresh Florida fruit!), complimentary bike rentals, and swoon-worthy views of the coast that kept me starry-eyed each day. There's nothing like waking up to salty sea air in the morning. Heaven must be a beach...MUST be.

Our Sanibel days were spent waking up early for sunrise walks on the beach, lounging by the pool, searching for shells on the beach, exploring the island by bike, and chowing down on local seafood by night. We talked about our days in Florida and how we felt we didn't fully appreciate our time in the state until it was being cut short. We reminisced about the last 5 years of our lives together...from Germany to now...and how crazy our journey has been. We tried to picture what our lives in California might be like with a baby and a whole new set of responsibilities on the horizon. And we prayed for our sweet girl, our move, and our marriage. There were some tears (mostly mine), but a whole lot of clarity and time to make peace with the big changes we both were still trying to wrap our heads around. Those moments, just the two of us, remain in the forefront of my mind as we continue to navigate our way through this move. I fondly look back and take solace in the words we said and plans we made every time I feel overwhelmed with all the tasks still before us. Thank goodness for the inception of the "babymoon"...trendy as it may be, it was too good for our souls. Two babymoon believers right here. 

If you're interested in making Sanibel your babymoon destination (or just a super fun vacation, for those not expecting), here's a few places you should try hard to not miss:

If you need help planning or booking your Sanibel getaway, I know a good travel agent! A little shameless plug, I had to. Email me at Casey@destinationstoexplore.com ;)

A few tips for planning the perfect babymoon:

  • Travel before you're 30 weeks! We only had a free long weekend around the time I was 22 weeks and it turned out to be just perfect. I wasn't too big to enjoy lots of activities, but still pregnant enough to be offered free ice cream and prime sunning spots. ;)
  • Minimize your travel time. Drive no more than 6 hours and stop every two hours to stretch your legs.
  • If you're a maternity body pillow lover (I'm obsessed with my Leachco Snoogle Body Pillow), bring it along with you! And grab a king-size bedroom reservation to add extra comfort.
  • Don't forget to pack pregnancy-friendly sunscreen (I LOVE this kind from Kiss My Face) and all your vitamins, belly creams (big fan of Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter), bug spray (I use Cutter All Family 7% DEET Bug Spray), comfy breathable clothes/shoes, healthy snacks, and a water bottle to keep hydrated.
  • Is your destination safe from Zika Virus? Sanibel is! Avoid any babymoon destinations with Zika Virus travel restrictions. For more info on the virus and it's affected locations, click here.
  • Check with your OB before you travel! Typical recommendations are to not fly after 36 weeks and most cruise lines won't allow you to cruise after the 24th week of pregnancy.
  • Make time for naps or ample down-time between activities. Be active, but know your body's limits while pregnant. Don't overdo it!
  • Document it all! We brought along our FujiFilm Instax Mini and took loads of fun Polaroid photos to put in Heidi's baby book. We also Snapchatted (find me at Caseadilla1016) much of the trip, so now we have little videos to share with her when she's older.

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory"
-Dr. Seuss

May 23, 2016

What's in a name?

When I was younger, I was always snooping in my parent's bookshelves -- pulling books and photo albums off the shelves, flipping through the photos and pretending I was a librarian or a school teacher. My mom had a book titled Big Book of Baby Names (circa 1983) and it was always one of my favorite books to browse. Even though I could hardly read a word in it, I loved the silly photos of babies wearing costumes and sitting on strange props. Why? Who doesn't think a baby riding a seahorse is hilarious?

 When I was all grown up and D and I were moving into our first apartment as newlyweds, I asked my mom if she still had this book. We weren't planning to have kids right away (we were still just seniors in college at the time), but I always hoped this book would be passed down to me. Thankfully my mother is just as nostalgic as I am, so the book I'd loved for so many years finally took its place on my own bookshelf.

Since the day she gave it to me, the book remained on my bookshelf...its cover faded, tattered, and torn in some places. Somehow it's managed to survive all 6 moves we've put it through. With every new apartment or house we made a home, I'd unpack this book and flip through it, always knowing that when we did finally decide to expand our family, his or her name would come straight from this book.

Cut to January 2016 (almost 9 years later) -- me, 2.5 months pregnant with an iPhone notepad full of baby names I loved -- D, a proud daddy-to-be with a strong opinion about every name on that list (go figure). D and I spent countless nights those first few months hemming and hawing over this name and that name. We settled quite quickly on a boy's name, but a girl's...that was proving to be a thorn in our sides (more of a tell-tale sign she was sure to be a "she"). We had a shortlist of somewhat trendy, somewhat popular names, but none felt like "us". We'd always come up with some outlandish reason why the name was sure to cause our child years of intensive therapy...and back to square one we'd go. Since unpacking my box of books a few weeks after we moved into our new house here in Florida, I hadn't touched the Big Book of Baby Names (nor had I thought of it). All of a sudden, the book popped into my mind. I flew out of bed to my office to grab it, and thus began the late night combing through its monikers.

I'm typically a realist. Logic and concrete facts fare me better than making decisions based off pure emotions. That being said, if something punctures my tough exterior and makes me emotional, it often means I really care about it. The moment I spotted "Heidi" in the book and said the name out loud, tears burst from my eyes and I just knew. That was to be her name. If she turned out to be a she, a little girl named Heidi would become a part of our family forever. We quickly tried to decipher all the ways silly school boys would try to make fun of it, or if it would sound strong to a job interviewer, or what it would sound like screaming it across a grocery store...and then D smiled and said "that's it, Heidi Cote." 

We fell in love with the name Heidi for more reasons than one. Not only is it a name you don't often hear, but it gave a little nod to one of the most wonderful times in our lives as a couple--living abroad in Germany. With German origins and a meaning "of noble birth" we continued to fall more and more in love with it as each day passed. 

As for her middle name, well, that came soon after. "Lorelei" (meaning "alluring") had been a name on my iPhone short-list, but I didn't love it as a first name (mostly because I knew people would have trouble spelling it). When we finally settled on Heidi, it seemed almost serendipitous that Lorelei be her middle name. Lorelei Rock is a rock we'd passed by many times on our countless days spent sipping wine and exploring little German villages along the Rhine River. While the story of why the rock is named Lorelei isn't quite so pleasant, we though it flowed well with Heidi and still meant something special to us. Hopefully our little love will be beautiful, but leave all the tempting to her siren namesake. ;)

So, there you have it...the story of how Heidi Lorelei came to be! It was such a sweet feeling to finally be able to call her by her name the day we found out she was a she. More tears...and more confirmation that "Heidi" was perfect for our little lady. Since that day, I feel so much more connected to her. Funny how a name can really solidify things. We can't wait to meet our sweet Heidi in just 14 short weeks!

May 11, 2016

STAY: TownePlace Suites Orlando at Flamingo Crossings

[My stay and this post come to you c/o TownePlace Suites by Marriott. While there are sponsor links throughout, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the businesses that support this blog!]

A little over a month ago, I was approached to be a part of partnership opportunity with TownePlace Suites by Marriott for their 2016 "Military Spouse Squad" Blogger Ambassador Program. D and I have been Marriott Rewards Points travelers since living abroad with the military, so I felt the partnership to be quite the serendipitous one...especially with our pending cross-country move this summer!

Being a military family, we're no strangers to traveling, staying in numerous hotels for long periods of time, and trying to make the most of locations we aren't familiar with. Thankfully, extended-stay hotels like TownePlace Suites exist to help make our travels with the military (and for fun!) so much easier. For our Orlando adventure last weekend, we were visiting Walt Disney World for one last jaunt around the parks before we're no longer Florida residents. Sad!! 

While we love staying on Disney property, sometimes we like to opt for more space, amenities, and a lower price point without straying too far from the parks. When we heard TownePlace Suites had just opened a new hotel outside Disney's West Entrance this past February (making it a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel), it was a no-brainer! With amenities like free HOT breakfast, plush bedding, and speedy on-line check in, we felt right at home with Towneplace Suites Orlando at Flamingo Crossings for our 2-night stay. 

Upon arriving, we were highly pleased with the beautiful, modern design and the overall layout of the room. Plenty of space for our luggage and room to move around without feeling cramped. We always love having an in-room fridge to store snacks and bottled water, so having a FULL KITCHEN at our disposal was even more of a bonus! D was quite impressed with the amount of closet space our Studio King room had. He's big on hanging up his clothes to avoid wrinkles while we travel (that military boy). Happily there was also a iron and ironing board in our room.

As for me, a fluffy bed with lots of pillows is always my favorite part of a hotel stay. TownePlace Suites made this 6-month pregnant lady very happy by having extra pillows on hand for my finicky sleep habits. Needless to say, we were happy campers all around.

Perks of staying at TownePlace Suites:
  • FREE Wifi in rooms and throughout hotel
  • FREE Continental Hot Breakfast (ours had giant Mickey waffles!)
  • Customizable elfa closet system through their partnership with The Container Store.
  • Fully equipped kitchen (plates, cups, bowls, pots, cooking utensils, full-size fridge etc.)
  • Spacious Suites with more than enough room for luggage and a few family members.
  • Giant TowneMap of local area in lobby with neighborhood tips for dining. Local area brochure guides in room (in participating locations).
  • Pool and outdoor green space available.
  • Laundry facilities and fitness center on site.
  • Pet-Friendly!!

With a large portion of TownePlace Suites located near military bases (and attractions that appeal to military and civilian families alike), this extended-stay brand is dedicated to supporting the military community and making life away from home a little easier. Now that we've had a taste of the good life, D and I looking forward to a handful of TownePlace Suites stays in cities across the USA during our Florida to California road trip next month! Stay tuned!

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