5 Reasons Family Vacation is Awesome

5 reasons family vacation is awesomeMr. Grassroofs and I recently got back from a family trip to Cape Cod with my side of the family.  Super Fitz went with us- have you read about his adventures?  But so did my mom, brother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, two cousins, another aunt, and a second cousin.  Phew! It was a lot of people to coordinate- getting out the door was always a multi-step process.  But we had a fantastic time and I wouldn’t give up family vacations for the world (of course, I do think they should part of a well-balanced travel diet).

Here are five reasons why my family vacations are so great:

1. You go to places you’d never think to go-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

Mr. G and I probably wouldn’t have chosen to travel to Cape Cod if we were traveling alone.  As two young people with no children, we are always attracted to international travel.  Remember the honeymoon/funnymoon?  So, we would have written Cape Cod off and maybe never have gotten there in our whole lives! We are so glad we ended up there, though, because Cape Cod was awesome!  We loved noticing the similarities each small town had to our little beach community, while appreciating the nuanced differences too. We went lighthousing. We went wine tasting.  We went beer tasting.  And kayaking. And ate ice cream almost every day. So, basically, a hundred awesome things that we would have missed if we hadn’t gone on family vacation.

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

2. But you still get time to be normal-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like I always need to be going, to be doing something.  Otherwise I feel as though I’m not doing my destination justice, as though I may never be back so I better drink it all in.  Family vacation is a good reminder that there is as much beauty in doing nothing as there is in doing something.  Some of the greatest moments of week came from sitting around the dinner table watching a cousin douse his food in Mr. G’s white barbecue sauce or listening to my bro groan over a lost life in Call of Modern Duty Fare.

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

3. You get time to appreciate one another-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

During the Rat Race that is 9 to 5 life, keeping all the plates spinning can get tricky.  Two jobs. Ducks. Chickens. Renters. Dogs. Friends. Husbands. Blogs. Oh yeah, and family.  Not that it is right, (and is certainly something I’m working on) but keeping in touch with far away loved ones can accidentally fall to the bottom of the to-do list.  Then, when we do speak, we are trying to make up for so much time that the chat ends up sounding more like a reading of a dossier than like a real conversation. Family vacation is great because if removes so many of those spinning plates.  My brother and I aren’t particularly good at talking on the phone, so I was thrilled to spend the week with him.  He is kind and patient and is a just-plain awesome SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL!  When did that even happen?! Okay, freak out over.

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

4. You may get different amenities-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

I know this one sounds strange, but go with me.  Because there were so many people traveling to Cape Cod, we ended up renting a house which helped alleviate the cost of booking hotel rooms for 11 people for 7 nights. Plus, the addition of a kitchen cut down on the cost of meals we had to eat out.  The house was beautiful, of course- colonial and historic and decorated with blue tinted Mason jars. If Mr. G and I had been traveling alone, we would have stayed in a hotel and wouldn’t have had access to laundry facilities. Can I just say that it is lovely to travel home with a suit case of clean clothes.  But the biggest, best, most fantastic amenity that arose from renting a house instead of a hotel room is that we could bring SUPER FITZ!  It was simply perfect being on vacation with our pup and our family.

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5. Your Good-Byes are sweeter-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

When you’re visiting a place, leaving the place can be a little sad. I am sometimes left with that feeling I mentioned before of not feeling like I did enough to appreciate that place or that I may never make it back.  But when you are traveling with family, the location is secondary to the company, so the good-byes are different.  If you have to say good-bye to family that you won’t see again for a while, for whatever reason, what a gift it is to have spent so much time celebrating with them.  All of my extended family lives across the country, so I’m really glad that when we had to say our good-byes I had a whole week’s arsenal of fantastic memories shored up to take home too.

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The World According to Fitz: Super Fitz in Cape Cod

Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

Oh hey!  The humans let me write again. Well, sort of.  I don’t have thumbs.  I wish I had thumbs.  Thumbs seem awesome.

 

Speaking of awesome. FRISBEE!  This frisbee is awesome! See it?  It is red and rubber and you can bite it. Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

After we took the groaning metal people-and-animal mover for a gazilllllion hours, we got to this place with a yard. I soon came to realize that in this new yard I had to protect my frisbee.  The humans kept trying to grab it! You can’t trust humans.

Just kidding, I love humans. Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

I loved being in this place with the new yard; I think they called it Cape Cod. I loved it because there were lots of new humans to play with.  The girl human was related to them all some how.  Like they were from her old pack or something. It was very confusing.

Sometimes the new humans would get my frisbee.  Which unleashed….

Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

SUPER FITZ!

Faster than a speeding bullet.

Stronger than a lion.

Cleverer than a…clever thing.Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

I mean, seriously, look at those ninja moves! HI-YAH!

Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

And always, despite the human’s best efforts, peace and balance were restored to the new yard; I recovered the frisbee and sat down to protect it again.Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

Watch out, humans, Super Fitz is not gone.  He’s merely lying in wait until his frisbee needs him next.Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

 

Side bar: Do you know how fun it is to chase rocks that have been thrown into the ocean?! You should try it.

Best To Do in Cali Round-Up

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So you’re going to Northern California, but you only have a few days to do it?  Sounds familiar.  Mr. Grassroofs and I were visiting family and thus were dividing our time between visiting with them and being tourists (with some hope for simple down time thrown in the mix too).

We recommend staying in Sacramento.  It is a lovely town in it’s own right, but has the added benefit of being about an hour and a half from ALL the THINGS!  I won’t write about Tahoe and other adventures farther inland, but Sacramento is a great place to stay if you have an interest in exploring those too.

Here is the two day itinerary we recommend:

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Day 1: Napa

– Begin your day with a drive through the rolling hills of the Napa Valley, pop some folk music into you rental car stereo and cruise through the lovely country side.

– Stop at a vineyard and have a tasting and tour. We liked William Hill Estates. But you will surely have success at most of the vineyards in the area.

– Perhaps your first tasting location will give you a half-off coupon for another tasting room (William Hill did!). In which case, you should go to the second tasting room.  This is some of the best wine in the country, so take full advantage of it!

– Stop by The Farmstead restaurant for appetizers and drinks. Be sure to try the local bourbon, Hooker’s House. Mr. Grassroofs claims it is the best ever. If they have the cheesecake that comes in a mason jar, then you MUST get it.  Next to my mom’s this is probably the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.

– Enjoy some more driving through the country- it is exquisite, after all.  Make your way toward downtown Napa.

– Eat some more snacks at Oxbow Public Market.  Enjoy the weird juxtaposition of bustling energy and relaxed appreciation of the world.  Try Ritual Coffee and top everything off with an ice cream from Three Twins.

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Day 2: San Francisco

– Begin your day at the Sutro Baths at Land’s End.  Enjoy the murkiness and pen the next great mystery novel.  You can do it!  Take lots of photos and hike around on some of the trails to enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Take water and maybe a snack, because there are only two restaurants near-by and they both tend to be overpriced, one is even cash only.

– Grab an Über or a cab across town to the Ferry Terminal.  Eat your way through the building (using our handy dandy eating guide), drink coffee, celebrate local artistry and enjoy even more views of bridges,  this time the Bay Bridge.

– Take a cable car from the Ferry Terminal to the end of the line and walk off some of your delicious foody fullness before making your way to Ghirardelli Square for a look at some old-fangled chocolate making machinery.  Share (or don’t share) an ice cream sundae, revel in the soda shoppe environment, maybe get serenaded.

– Walk through the pier area.  As you walk off all that sugar, take the time to appreciate all the trick skaters and people painted as gold statues.  The National Park Service’s boat restoration exhibit is worth a glance.

– If you get hungry again, we recommend Scoma’s for a bowl of clam chowder and a setting that convinces you that you are actually on a boat.

– Driving?  This would be a perfect time to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and mill around.  We loved the Barrel House, which had sodas made in-house and infused with things like rosemary for a pleasant surprise.

 

And that’s it.  We know there are several thousand more wonderful things to do in either town.  But if you do these things, we think you’ll have a perfect time and will feel very satisfied with your visit.  Are you an avid Bay Area Aficionado?  What would you add to or remove from this list?

Best To Do in Cali: Sutro Baths

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Are you ready for more San Francisco tales?  This is the last of our stops that I simply must write about.  I’ll work on a Fab Five post here shortly to sum up our trip to The Golden State. 

The Sutro Baths is a must see in my book if you have the time.  There couldn’t be a more perfect place to take photos, take a break, or just take it all in.  

These are the incredibly interesting ruins of what used to be a public bath house (a.k.a. a swimming-pool-community-center extravaganza) owned and paid for by self-made millionaire, Adolph Sutro.  What would you do if you were a millionaire?  Open a community swimming center?

But I digress. Anyway, after many years, the family was no longer able to retain the financial load.  But a fire destroyed the baths before the family had to sell it.

Now they are there for you to enjoy!  Great views.  A Nice hike.  Plenty of things to climb on.
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Mr. Grassroofs took the erie, Jekyll and Hyde fogginess as an opportunity to take “staring of into he distance” photos.

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Don’t I look pensive?

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The Baths were constructed in such a way that they capitalized on the rise and fall of tides to cut down the resources needed to operate such a massive pool.  We think the picture above was part of that intake system.  But we are not swimming pool experts, so don’t take our word for it.

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If you are very lucky, you’ll get to see the hilarious spectacle that is a pair of ducks propagating their species. Image

You will probably also see a well-meaning sign that asks you to be careful even though it would be awfully fun to jump off the cliff.  

Best to do in Cali: Ghirardelli

Are you tired of hearing about the food that Mr. Grassroofs and I ate in California?  Well, if you are, this is not the post for you. After we ate our way through the Ferry Terminal, we worked our way over to Ghirardelli Square.  During your visit to San Francisco, it is worth stopping there for a sundae and a cup of coffee (not drip coffee this time).Image

Before going, I had childhood memories of a factory tour where Oompa Loompas lead you through a tunnel magically lit with rainbows and glitter.  Okay, maybe not the part about the glitter.  But definitely the rainbows.  Seriously, I did remember there being a guided tour.

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There is no guided tour, and probably never was.  However, the old fashioned soda shoppe has a full set of machinery in the back.  Things grind and churn and stir and roll.Image

The atmosphere of old advertisements on tin, parlor chairs, and striped barber poles just makes you want to don a poodle skirt and saddle shoes.  The restaurant serves a zillion (approximately) different sundaes, but I enjoyed simple vanilla with chocolate sauce.  Ghirardelli is known for the chocolate after all.

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If you are very polite, a lovely man in a silly hat may take your picture and sing Sweet Caroline to you.  This happened to us and we loved every minute of it.

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Mr. Grassroofs found the experience finger-lickin’ good.Image

Best To Do in Cali: Ferry Terminal

Mr. Grassroofs and I love to eat.  Like, seriously.  People write sitcoms about eaters like us.  So this next post is dedicated to our best day in San Francisco.  We ate our way through an entire building, and here’s how we recommend you do it!

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    1. Get a Chili Dog from Panther Ranch Meat Company– I know, I know. A chili dog? In this veritable treasure trove of deliciosity?! Well, you’re pacing yourself, and this is only the first stop- remember this a marathon, not a sprint. While you wait, read all the great literature they have about their happy cows who led healthy lives not too far from where you are standing.Ferry Terminal 8
    2. Get a Meat Cone from Boccalone– notable for their “Tasty Salted Pig Parts” this little gem serves a variety of…you guessed it, salted meat.  They sell loads of perfect salami sandwiches and prosciutto panini, but this paleo duo just wanted meat in a cup. That’s what we got and we loved every second of it.Ferry Terminal 6
    3. By now you’re probably relatively full…or at least satisfied.  So take some time to look at all of the homemade goods, revel in the textures.  Talk to the people who are so happy to share their craft with you.  Read tags that show you which rural towns all over the world will be benefited by your purchase.Ferry Terminal 5Ferry Terminal 4Ferry Terminal 3
    4. Make your way over to Cowgirl Creamery to check out a cheese plate, complete with local cheeses, almonds, and pears.  Enjoy even more happy cow literature and the wooded, rustic feel of the whole place.  They also make a great Arnold Palmer!Ferry Terminal 7
    5. Top off your visit to the Ferry Terminal with a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee. I got another drip coffee- you can’t believe how much I enjoyed having somebody prepare my coffee only at the moment when I ordered it.  Or you can be like Mr. Grassroofs and order an espresso with milk (cappuccino? cafe au lait? I can’t remember).  The team of baristas will make sure it looks too good to drink.
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  1. Being summarily satisfied, we suggest you take a nearby trolley to the end of the piers and walk back- reflecting on your post-eatery bliss all the while.  Ferry Terminal 2

Best To Do in Cali: Oxbow Public Market

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Okay Okay! So I know that yesterday I blogged about Napa as a whole and now I’m about to rave about Oxbow Public Market, which is in Napa.  But trust me,  this place deserves its own accolades.

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If you’ve ever been to the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco, this place is awesome little brother of that megahouse of deliciousness (that blog is coming soon). A large warehouse building, fitted with little food stands, Oxbow Public Market was everything we ever wanted from a late evening snack.

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Remember how I mentioned Farmstead in my last post?  Well, as decadent as it was, we only ate appetizers and dessert.  So we were good and hungry for “real food” when we finally decided to head home.

This isn't the drip coffee I mention below.  It is the piece of art Mr. Grassroofs called a latte.

This isn’t the drip coffee I mention below. It is the piece of art Mr. Grassroofs called a latte.

Ritual Coffee was a refreshing experience.  As I approached, I thought they were going make me answer for my political beliefs before serving me.  But everybody was friendly, and the barista made me a drip coffee.  Nobody has ever made me drip coffee before.  Did you know that drip coffee is more delectable than other coffee simply by the virtue that somebody made it by hand?  Truth.

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We ate duck tacos.  And bison burritos.  It was the best weird mexican food I’d ever had.  Goat cheese on a taco?  Yes, please.

Are you going to Northern California?  Stop at Oxbow! Been to Oxbow?  What do you love about it?

Oxbow Portrait