Weekend “Staycation”

Lately we’ve been spending most of our weekends out exploring Ireland, so we decided that this weekend  it was time for us to regroup and spend a few days here in our own home. Even though we were staying home, we still wanted to plan something fun. So the idea of the “staycation” was born. Jon cooked up a plan for a little father-son back yard camp-out, and I planned a little getaway to the spa. It was the best weekend ever.

On Saturday morning Jon and the boys prepared the campground (i.e. our back yard) for the boys’ camp-out. We’d brought our little 2-man backpacking tent with us from America and we haven’t used it once. There is no way I’m going to bring something half-way around the world to not use it, even once. This being Memorial Day Weekend–one of the busiest camping weekend of the year in America–we thought it would be the perfect excuse to dust of the little tent and let it breathe the fresh Irish air. The boys had fun scouting out our yard for the perfect location to pitch their tent (I believe the criteria consisted of flat ground, soft grass, not too mushy, and not on top of dog poop). David and Jacob watched on as Daddy expertly raised the tent and, most importantly, covered the whole thing with a rain shield. Then they piled blankets and pillows and stuffed animals and Buzz Lightyear action figures inside. The tent was complete.

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After the tent set-up was finished I sneaked out of the house (er…campground…) for a little mommy TLC time. My Mother’s Day gift this year was a massage at a local spa, and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since I opened the gift certificate. Now it was finally time for my dream to materialize.

The Maryborough Spa was–how do I put this?–heaven on earth. Seriously, the most luxurious pampering I’ve ever experienced. Upon my arrival I was greeted and then given a brief tour of the spa. I had an hour until my scheduled massage so I was able to take advantage of the Thermal Suite. This was an area that included saunas, steam rooms, heated lounge chairs, a multi-jet shower and the most incredible hot tub I’ve ever seen. The hot tub was huge–big enough to swim laps in–and it had all of these water fountains and jets you could turn on and loungers to sit on and lighting that made it look as if you were swimming under the stars. It was incredible, and I would have been happy if the whole spa day just ended right there. But I’m so glad it didn’t, because there was much more incredible-ness to come.

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After I was nice and serene from my hour in the Thermal Suite I was guided to my treatment room where I received a relaxing massage. I have had many massages over the years, but this was the single most relaxing massage I’ve ever had. I got to choose my own mix of calming body oils, the mood lighting for the room, and the precise adjustment of my contouring massage table so that everything was perfectly suited to me (and isn’t this all about me anyway?). During the massage I drifted off to sleep and I’m pretty sure I drooled, but they must expect that when they go to all the trouble of making everything so darn perfect.

When my massage was over I was led to the “relaxation suite”–a peaceful window-lined room overlooking a waterfall in a courtyard. After I was settled in my plush lounge chair and covered with a warm blanket they brought me a refreshment tray with juice, smoothies, and a bowl of fresh fruit to munch on while I read a magazine or finished my nap. Note: at this point it had been nearly 3 hours since I’d changed a diaper or winced at a whining child. It was truly surreal.

But, wait! There’s more! After I was good and relaxed I was led to my next room-of-paradise: the tea lounge. Here I was served afternoon tea, which is just another way of saying “towers of cakes”. This exquisite stack of scrumptiousness spoke to my very soul.

I took my time nibbling each little delicacy set before me: warm ham and cheese pastry, almond cake, chocolate chip cookies, scones, raspberry napoleons, fruit tarts, scones with jam and cream. I didn’t really intend to eat the whole tower of food, but it happened. And I relished every single calorie I consumed.

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After my tea/gorge-fest I returned to the relaxation room to sleep off a bit of the tryptophan from my dainty turkey and brie sandwich. When one of the spa staff members came to check on me I told her I was moving in to the spa forever. She must have thought I was joking, because she laughed and walked away. While I was scouting out the relaxation room for the best after-hours hiding spot I was awakened by a sense of duty to my family. I decided to go back home after all. Besides, I really didn’t want to miss out on the camp-out dinner (sheesh, I’m starting to sound really gluttonous here…).

When I got back home Jon had already started the “camp fire”, a disposable charcoal BBQ set that he found at the grocery store. Despite having to use it in the rain, our little BBQ worked perfectly for roasting sausages:

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And marshmallows for s’mores:

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We had to improvise a bit with the s’mores based on the availability of ingredients in Ireland–you can really only find pink marshmallows here and we had to use tea biscuits in place of graham crackers. In the end, though, they were every bit as good as the s’mores you eat in the dirt at any American campground.

After dinner we had a family movie night (the feature presentation was “Toy Story”) and then it was off to bed. Since the tent is only big enough for two (and *maybe* because I didn’t want to sleep outside in the rain) I sacrificed my place in the tent so that Jon could sleep out there with David. Jacob slept in his crib inside the house because nobody wants a toddler who wakes up at 5 AM sleeping right outside their bedroom window when 5 AM rolls around.

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David was so excited for his camp-out (and so confused by the daylight that lingered until nearly 10:00) that he didn’t fall asleep for a good long while after he and Daddy went out to the tent. Jon told him stories and they snuggled and eventually the sky darkened and they slept until 7:00 the next morning. Jacob woke up at his usual 5:00 but, since I was the only other person in the house, I decided to let him whine in his bed for a good long while before I dragged myself out of bed to get him. I decided to bring him back to bed with me and as soon as we were lying down he fell back asleep until 8:00. I’m not gonna lie, I kind of loved it.

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If I could change anything about this weekend, I would make it longer. Longer to have my family together, longer to roast marshmallows in the rain, longer to watch my son and my husband bond in a tent, longer to relish in pampering at the spa. But I know that all good things must come to an end, and so did our weekend. I’ll tell you one thing, though. If I’m having a rough time this week I’m just going to close my eyes and go to my happy place–that magical place where the only thing interrupting my sleep is a tower of cakes.

Our Anniversary Weekend Getaway In Seattle

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Last week Jon and I got to do something that all parents dream of: we left our children. Overnight. For two whole days. It was…amazing. We had a lot to celebrate last week: my birthday, our anniversary–and the fact that we are about to move 5,000 miles away from grandparents who willingly take in our offspring when we need to get away for some Mommy-Daddy time.

So where did we go for our thrilling weekend “away”? Our own hometown of Seattle! This was our first time leaving baby Jacob overnight, so we decided to stay close to home in case he started freaking out and we needed to go back and rescue him (or if I started freaking out and needed to go back and see him). Plus, Jon and I were both feeling a bit nostalgic now that we know we’re actually leaving this place for the next 2 years. It ended up being a wonderful weekend getaway that we will always remember. Here’s our itinerary if you want to check out some of our favorite local spots for yourself!

Where We Stayed:
Since there were lots of things we wanted to do in the downtown area, we chose a hotel right in the middle of all the action. We stayed at the Sheraton Seattle, located at 6th and Pike. I’ve always wanted to stay there because at Christmas time every year they host a fancy gingerbread house showcase in the hotel lobby–I have many fond memories of wandering through the hotel looking at those gingerbread houses (and wondering if anybody would notice if I sneaked a bite off one!). The hotel was every bit as beautiful and comfortable as I imagined it would be. The staff was helpful and friendly–they even sent a complimentary bottle of wine up to our room when they found out we were there celebrating our anniversary.

Where We Played:
Our first afternoon was spent shopping downtown. We went to all of our (and by our, I mean my) favorite stores. I’d gotten a few gift cards and some cash for my birthday, so it was fun for me to be able to shop to my little heart’s content with no little voices whining at me from a stroller. After my shopping spree we dropped off our bags at the hotel then started walking toward Lake Union for dinner. It was a gorgeous day–and I knew we were about to stuff ourselves silly at dinner–so the mile walk was quite welcome.

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After dinner we flagged down a cab to get us back to the hotel (the walk to dinner was great–however, my choice in cute yet inappropriate-for-walking shoes was not the best idea). Then, after a quick shoe change, we were ready to go again. Time for a movie! We love going to movies but rarely have the opportunity to get out to an actual theater. The Meridian 16 movie theater was across the street from our hotel so we just walked over a few minutes before show time. We saw the new bank-heist movie Now You See Me–it was pretty entertaining, and such a treat to see it before it hit Red Box.

On Day 2 we slept in. Late. Really, that’s all either of us wanted to do for the whole weekend away from our kids. We even got a late check-out so we could sleep uninterrupted for as long as we wanted. It was glorious. I’d be happy if the whole weekend just ended there, but we did actually have more exciting things planned for later in the day.

After our late start, we headed down to Pioneer Square so we could go on the Seattle Underground Tour. Back in the 1800’s Seattle basically burnt to the ground and the residents decided to rebuild on top of the old city. There are still about 36 blocks of underground passage ways and old store entrances that you can visit on the tour.

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We used a brand new tour company called “Beneath The Streets”. They started about a week ago so they don’t have a website yet, but it was a great tour. I’ve been on the main underground tour before, but this one went to the same places and was half the price. Their office is located less than a block away from the other Underground Tour location on 1st and Cherry.

After our tour we headed back up the hill for our favorite treat: massages! There’s a great urban spa across the street from Westlake Center called Ummelina. They start every treatment with a foot bath, tea and relaxation in their “sanctuary”. I’ve been there probably half a dozen times, and they never disappoint. We were feeling great after our afternoon of pampering, so we decided to top off the day with a delicious pizza dinner down the street.

Then, it was time to go back to reality. We picked up fancy cupcakes (for us) and a coconut cream pie (for the babysitting-grandparents) at Dahlia Bakery–then we left our dreamy “vacation” to drive back to our children. It was an incredible two days away, but somehow we still missed those two little munchkins like crazy!

Where We Ate:
Pasta Freska
A great Italian restaurant recommended to us by my sister-in-law. There are no menus: the chef comes out and personally greets each customer to discover their food preferences. Then he goes back to his kitchen and prepares you a custom 7-course meal. Everything we ate was delicious and we’ll definitely be going back!

Specialty’s Bakery– We stopped by to pick up a late-morning breakfast on our way down to Pioneer Square. We both ordered warm ham and cheese stuffed croissants. I also bought a peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie to munch on after our tour.

Serious-Pie-in-SeattleSerious Pie-Tom Douglas’s iconic pizza kitchen in downtown Seattle. They had a great happy hour until 5:00 with personal-sized pizzas for only $6 (there were also drink and appetizer specials). We ended up getting three wood-fired pizzas and a ham terrine–all were fantastic.

Dahlia-Bakery-2Dahlia Bakery– Another Tom Douglas institution. They’re known for their coconut cream pies and fresh sandwiches. The “fancy cupcakes” weren’t half-bad either.