Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here!

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

After the stress that was my daughter's birth, I had very low expectations about how things were going to go with this second labor and delivery. I figured that if I went in with only the most basic idea of the experience (i.e. to have a healthy baby), I wouldn't be hideously disappointed as I was with Britton 3.5 years ago. 

Ultimately, I shouldn't have worried, as our son's delivery was perfect. Because of how Britton was born, I elected to go for a scheduled c-section in the hopes that we could have a bit more control over the birth. 

Even though scheduling surgery allowed me to get all of my ducks in a row ahead of time, it came with a whole set of other stresses: knowing that I was going to have major surgery and the associated recovery time, and dealing with the fact that I'd be awake while said surgery was occurring. I hate needles with a passion, so going into a surgery without the anxiety of an emergency c-section was seriously overwhelming. 

Very, very early on November 11, Landon and I headed to the hospital to welcome our son. The nurses worked quickly to get me prepped and ready for surgery, and, before I knew it, the anesthesiologist was walking into my room to tell me how the spinal block was going to go. I warned him that I'd tried to punch the anesthesiologist during my previous labor, despite the fact that I was having hideous contractions at the time. I wasn't kidding when I said I hate needles, especially in my back. Yuck. 

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

The anesthesiologist was so calm that it made me calm, and he walked me into the operating room while Landon waited for the team to prep me for surgery. I'd had major anxiety over the spinal block process for months, but one of the nurses gave me a huge hug while the anesthesiologist placed the numbing medication and spinal. The numbing shot was like a huge bee sting--not pleasant but definitely doable--while the spinal block burned for about five minutes. Almost immediately, my legs went numb and the nurses helped me get into position on the operating table. 

Landon was allowed in then, and I knew I'd be able to get through the surgery just fine at that point. The spinal made me lose feeling in my chest cavity, so I couldn't feel myself breathing, and that was a very strange feeling. Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was very patient with all of my in-surgery questions and kept me focused on my baby instead of the strange sensations I was feeling. 

My doctor (whom I adore) and her co-surgeon (another of the amazing doctors in my practice) kept things light as they began the surgery, joking with Landon and I and chatting with the nursing staff in the room.

Just 10 minutes into the surgery, my doctor asked Landon if he wanted to watch our son be born. If it was the other way around, I don't think I could watch a baby being born via c-section, but Landon decided to stand up and peep over the curtain. I felt an immense pressure and suddenly, I heard my new baby! 

Gibson had some seriously good lungs from the start, and I started bawling as the nurses started calling out his Apgar numbers: he was so healthy and perfect. As soon as Gibson had gotten quickly cleaned up and evaluated, Landon brought him around so I could see him for the first time. I couldn't stop staring at his little nose and tiny, tiny face. 

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

Just 30 minutes after Gibson was born, I was wheeled back into my hospital room to start the hour-long observation process. Thankfully, I had no complications, so the nursing staff quickly cleared out to allow the three of us some bonding time. 

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

Things went smoothly for the rest of my hospital stay, though the second day (when I had to get up and walk for the first time post-surgery) was seriously painful. Gibson and I were released from the hospital last Monday morning, and we've spent a blissful week at home. 

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

He's a serious eater and a champion sleeper, so that's made for an easy first 10 days as a family of 4. After the NICU stay and townhouse flood that we experienced during Britton's birth, this second birth experience has been incredibly stress-free, and, honestly, quite healing. I struggled with the idea of having more kids for years because of Britton's birth, and having my miscarriage last year didn't do anything but add to that sadness and stress. I am incredibly thankful to have had an easy, positive birth experience this time around!

Oh, and about that name. Gibson is my mom's maiden name, and I just love surname-y first names. It seemed to go well with Britton, and Landon and I loved Gibby as a nickname. I was worried that it might be too much for a newborn, but, now that he's here, I'm glad we stuck with it since he looks just like a Gibson. 

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

Britton is thoroughly obsessed with her baby brother and is a great helper with everything from fetching new clothes to assisting with diaper changes. She's taking her new role as a big sister very seriously. 

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com

Here's to many new adventures with both of my little Cosmos Mariners!
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day}

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

While I'm taking a bit of a maternity leave to get some snuggles with my new little one (and my preschooler, too!), I asked Becky from Disney in Your Day to share a post about her travels. While she primarily writes about her love of all things Disney--from her visits to the parks to monthly souvenir subscription boxes--Becky also shares her experiences in blogging and community theatre. I'm a fellow Disney fan, so I was so excited to meet Becky through her blog (which has quickly become one of my must-reads!).

Today, she's taking a break from her love of Disney to focus on the Germany trip that she and her husband took earlier this year. Read on for Becky's tips on how to make the most of a quick trip to Deutschland!

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Last month I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Paris (I’ve been writing a bit about Disneyland Paris over at Disney in your Day!) – and we managed to add a couple of days in Germany too!  We met up with friends who are stationed over there due to the military.  And these are actually friends we made thanks to the Disney community!  Megan and Chris have shown that these “Disney friends you meet on the internet” can really become close friends – basically family.

My husband and I arrived into Frankfurt airport on Friday morning, where Megan was kind enough to come pick us up.  We spent some time with them (feeling rather jet lagged!) before driving up to Garmish, Germany, where we’d be spending a couple of nights.

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

The next morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast before heading off to Neuschwanstein Castle.  This castle was actually built in the mid/late 1800’s in the style of a medieval castle by “mad” King Ludwig II.  So it had some of the modern amenities of the time in the style of an old castle.  It was never actually completed before Ludwig died under mysterious circumstances.  The castle is very beautiful on the outside and the rooms that were completed are quite opulent.  The castle is high on a hill and normally you can take a bus but it wasn’t running that day, so we had to walk.  It was about a 25 minute walk for us uphill so quite a workout!

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

While we were at Neuschwanstein we also got to see the “cow parade”.  Apparently it is something that happens 2 times a year there.  Once in the spring to bring the cows out for summer, and once in the fall when winter is coming.  All of the sudden there were all of these cows passing us – like a ton of them!  It was a pretty cool thing to be able to see.

To end off our day we had dinner in a German restaurant.  It felt very German which was definitely an experience we wanted.  I had veal schnitzel with a side of spaetzel, as well as enjoying some German beer.  While we ate there was an accordion player and some German boys who came out to dance.  It was neat to have entertainment while we ate!  As a side note, this was the only place during our trip that we encountered someone who didn’t really speak English.  Our server was extremely nice and put up with our attempts and German.

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

The next morning we were off to Munich for Oktoberfest!  We arrived around 10:45am.  While most of the tents there fill up with reservations, we managed to get into one early enough where they let us sit at a table before the reservation had it at noon.  The beers there are huge – they are 1 liter each!  We each enjoyed a beer as well as a giant pretzel, currywurst, and ½ chicken.  We heard people rave about the chicken and they were right – it was absolutely delicious.  We walked around the festival for awhile but it was raining so then we tried to get into another tent.  We lucked out that there was one with some open seating upstairs so we enjoyed some more beer and snacks before heading back to the hotel!

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

Oktoberfest is definitely a unique experience.  It rained most of the day so we didn’t spend too much time at the outdoor festival, but there are lots of carnival games, rides, parades, and souvenir stands.  One thing I didn’t realize before I got there is that many of the guests dress up in lederhosen and dirndls!  If I had known that I would have gotten an outfit myself, as I love to get into the spirit of things by dressing up.  If I ever go back I will make sure to get a dirndl!

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

While we didn’t spend too much time in Germany we really got to do some cool things while we were there.  And then it was up early the next morning to catch the train for Paris!

All photos courtesy of DisneyinYourDay.com

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

Since I made the jump into AirBnB rentals on our trip to Ireland (where my husband and I stayed in some incredible spaces--including an Irish castle!), the home rental site is now my go-to when starting to plan a trip.

In fact, I've talked so much about the AirBnB properties that I've stayed in that my mom asked if I could help her find one for the trip to Saluda, North Carolina, that we had planned in early fall. With all of the fun, funky, and beautiful spots in the greater Asheville area, I knew that the perfect mountain getaway had to be waiting for us.

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

We ended up settling on this property in the tiny town of Saluda, North Carolina. On our previous annual mountain trips, we'd rented cabins and homes in the areas surrounding Saluda, but this was our first experience being in the town proper. While we forfeited some of the on-the-edge-of-a-mountain views that we'd experienced in years prior, I loved being so close to the restaurants and shops of adorable Saluda.

The Home Tour

When you first roll up to the house, you're greeted with a front porch, multi-colored outdoor lights, and colorful Adirondack chairs.

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

There are two front doors to the home, but the main one brings you into the fully furnished kitchen. You then have a few options: turn right to go to two of the bedrooms, go straight ahead for the back porch, or turn left to enter the open living/dining space.

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

In the corner of the living space is one of my 3-year-old's favorite elements of the house: an iron spiral staircase. She loved going up and down between the main level and the basement below.

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

If you head down the staircase, you'll then find a reading nook/playroom, a pass-through bedroom, a large bathroom, and another enclosed bedroom. While we didn't use the pass-through bedroom, I can see it being a great space for several kids to stay if you were visiting for a big family gathering.

The backyard, which is accessible from the basement level, is quite large, and is a great place for kids to run off steam in the evenings.


What We Loved About the Saluda Cottage

The home was deceptively large. Despite it's unassuming cottage exterior, the property could easy sleep up to 10 on all of the beds (plus a few more if you had people willing to stretch out on couches). There was plenty of room to lounge in the living room, screened-in back porch, and wide front porch.

The decor was fun and eclectic. One of my favorite parts of AirBnB properties is seeing how each is decorated (I'm also that person who can't get enough of HGTV, so this shouldn't come as a surprise). There were so many fun pops of color all over the house, and the mix-and-match decor made the entire space seem inviting and home-y.

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

The point of contact was quick to respond and welcoming. There's nothing worse than having a host (AirBnB, hotel, or otherwise) who won't return emails or phone calls. Thankfully, our point of contact for this property, Susan, was fantastic, and clearly communicated how to enter the house, when we could move in, and what time we needed to be out.

The property is quite private despite being surrounded by houses. Thanks to the trees and bushes out front, and the large hedges in the back, the cottage feels as if it's tucked away in the woods somewhere instead of sitting squarely in the midst of the Saluda residential area.

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

It's close to everything in the area. Not only are you a quick car ride from downtown Saluda, but you're also only minutes from Sky Top Orchard and Pearson's Falls. If you hop on the nearby interstate, you're a 35 minute ride from the Biltmore House and Asheville.

What Wasn't So Great

Since the property is located at the very back of the Saluda residential area, it was difficult to find at night. There are lots of tiny streets in that area of Saluda, and our GPS got confused on exactly which house we needed to go to. If you're planning on staying here, I'd recommend making that first visit during daylight hours since it's tucked away amidst several other houses and the entrance is dominated by trees and bushes.

It was billed as a walkable, easy distance from downtown. Perhaps if you were a power walker or a very, very quick mountain climber, you could make it from the property to Saluda's main street in five or ten minutes' time. However, for us non-marathoners, the very hilly (and often very steep) walk back to town probably isn't something you want to undertake, especially if you know you're going to be shopping and bringing packages back to the house with you. There aren't any sidewalks in the residential area, so you have to walk in the narrow roads. Plus, without any street lights, it would be an extremely dark walk back to the house post-dinner.

Have you stayed in an AirBnB property yet? What did you think?

A Cozy Mountain Cottage AirBnB in Saluda, North Carolina: A Home Tour | CosmosMariners.com

Want to book this cottage? Head over here.

I was in no way compensated by AirBnB to provide this review. I just really, really love my experiences with them!
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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Monthly Blog Goals: November 2016

Monthly Blog Goals: November 2016 | CosmosMariners.com

October's Goals: A Recap

I went into October with some huge goals and the need to get as much blog love in as possible before baby #2 makes his arrival on or before the 11th of this month.

How did I do? Let's see!
  • Rehab 4 older posts and share on my social media channels. I managed to rehab and share three very, very old posts, which is close enough to the goal for me to be satisfied! 

  • Write 6-8 new posts. Yes! I managed all 8! 

  • Lay out all posts through December. I've figured out what I'm posting when through the end of the year, but I haven't actually written them all (which I'm sure is a recipe for disaster). At least I've got some sort of game plan to get me through the next hellacious 8 weeks of having a newborn and a toddler and a work from home job.

  • Get guest posts lined up for maternity leave. Another success! I've got several great guest posters coming to you with some exciting content while I'm adjusting to my new normal. I just have a few pieces to schedule on my social media channels, and I'll be done. 

  • Get my Facebook page followers up to 2500. Current total as of this morning: 2527. My organic reach still isn't where I want it to be (thank you, horrible Facebook algorithm), but I'm taking baby steps. For the record, Facebook is still my least favorite of the social media platforms.

  • Get Instagram up to 8350 followers. Major fail. MAJOR MAJOR FAIL. When I decided to focus on Instagram this past month, I didn't take into consideration that I hadn't really posted anything since late April on that platform. So, when I did start posting again consistently, I began to lose followers in droves.

    I realize that this inadvertent purging is probably a good thing since it's good to get rid of people who won't interact in favor of new followers who are interested in my feed, but it is soul crushing to see a notification that you got 22 new followers but your total follow count went up back a meager 3 people due to the number of people who also unfollowed me at the same time. I'm holding steady around 8200 right now, which is up over 100 followers from the start of October, but I feel as if I've had to do some serious magic to get it there. 

  • Get my sponsored travel e-course revamped and ready to launch! DONE! And if you're interested in taking the completely reworked and seriously awesome e-course, head over to this page for more information.

  • Figure out PayPal button. This was the last thing holding me up for the relaunch of the e-course. After stressing way too much about it, adding a PayPal button to my e-course page was super, super easy, and only required a tiny bit of coding. Win.

  • Comment 3x weekly on other blogs. I started out very, very strong on this front, but slowly petered out by the end of the month. Connecting with bloggers is one of my favorite things about being in this community, and I hate that I've let it drift by the wayside. I definitely need to keep my momentum up here!


November's Goals: A Look Forward


I won't lie: I have one big goal to accomplish this month: get through it.

But, if by the hand of fate, I manage to do that, I'm going to throw a few blogging goals in there as well. I'm great at trying to do too much at the worst possible times--why stop now?!

  • Freshen up my blog header. While it will mostly stay the same, I'm hoping to add a few things to it. I want to add a slogan, which will help new visitors to the blog more immediately recognize that they've landed on a travel and lifestyle blog instead of a nautical-themed one. 

  • Rehab 2 old posts and share on social media. I just need to keep plugging away at this, one old post at a time. 

  • Write 2-4 new posts. I have a few guest posts to help me out while I'm making the hospital-to-house transition and recovering from my c-section, but I do want to publish a few new posts of my own during November. Still, I'm keeping things very basic in order not to put too much pressure on myself. 

  • Keep pushing forward on Instagram (goal: 8400). Given the tough time I had of making progress this past month, I'm going to keep plodding along on Instagram. It really is one of my favorite social media platforms, but the one-step-forward-five-steps-back thing gets old quickly.

  • Give my Twitter account some love. Twitter is a great traffic driver for me, but I tend to play with it in spurts (i.e. when I remember). I'd like to schedule out two of my posts each day for the entire month so my Twitter feed will get some love even when I'm in the hospital and bleary eyed.

  • Comment on other blogs 1x/ week. Fellow bloggers, I promise I still love you!
I'm at the point in this pregnancy where the spirit is willing but the body is weak--I have so many goals and tasks for the blog, but I have very limited time and even less energy. As of today, I'm only 8 days out from my scheduled c-section, so I don't want to plan too much for this month. Still, I love my blog, and I want it to keep moving forward ever so slightly as we meet tiny Cosmos Mariner #2!

And if you're interested in the baby side of things, I'll be sure to post pictures and updates on my social media channels when he decides to show up. It's so close now!

What goals are you hoping to accomplish this month on your blog? Which is your favorite/ least favorite social media account?

Monthly Blog Goals: November 2016 | CosmosMariners.com

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Monday, October 31, 2016

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

Ready to gear up for the holidays? I've broken my years-long streak of waiting until the last moment to buy presents since I'm pretty sure that a newborn + toddler + Christmas shopping don't really mix. I'm actually completely finished with Britton's holiday gifts, which makes me prouder than I probably should be. 

If you're still on the lookout for the perfect presents for the traveler in your life, I'm here to help! Instead of listing my favorite travel products from the past year (as I did in both 2014 and 2015), I decided to go in a different direction this year. 

I love Etsy and supporting small businesses, so I try to buy from the site as much as possible. Instead of showcasing my travel faves from Amazon this year, I decided to see what the talented sellers over at Etsy were offering this holiday season. And I came away with SO many amazing options! 

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

{1} Wanderlust illustration via Homemade Millesime
{2} Custom suitcase music box via Esdemusica
{3} Map Monogram by Made by Mrs. Jones
{4} Life is Short print by DideshDelights

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

{5} Custom mixed media portrait by Asma Original
{6} Framed postage stamp collage by Tangle Crafts
{7} Vintage Americana mixed media art by Escape Kitty
{8} Personalized world map with handstitched route by Ship Street Studio

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

{9} Hawaiian photography calendar by Susan Wickstrand
{10} Wanderlust wall calendar by Eye Poetry Photography
{11} Photo calendar by Sparks of Life
{12} Black and white Paris calendar by Vita Nostra

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

{13} Wanderlust compass women's t-shirt by Population Now
{14} Frequent flyer women's t-shirt by ViiiJJA
{15} Always on Vacation women's t-shirt by Hyper Wave Fashion
{16} Mountains are Calling women's t-shirt by Clair Ashley

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

{17} To Travel is to Live keychain by Ashley Lorren Designs
{18} Expedition personalized leather passport cover by Holtz Leather
{19} Wanderlust bracelet by NKDNA
{20} Travel scarf w/ secret pocket by 4theloveofoils (and read why I love mine here!)

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

{21} Coloring map journal by Absolutely Evo
{22} The World is a Book travel journal by Bookishly UK
{23} Handmade travel journal by Too Good to Forget
{24} Hand branded adventure journal by Curtis Matsko

Which of these gifts would you want to buy for yourself? When do you typically start shopping for the holidays?

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase one of the items listed, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

A Travel-Themed Homemade Holiday Gift Guide | CosmosMariners.com

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Traveling while Pregnant: Expectations versus Reality

Traveling while Pregnant: Expectations versus Reality | CosmosMariners.com

While I had this blog when I was pregnant with my daughter three and a half years ago, I wasn't really into the whole blogging thing.

Honestly, I was a bit of a mess blogging-wise: I would forget that I even had a blog for weeks at a time, I actively refused to make a Twitter account, and I had no cohesive theme or focus. If you look back at those posts (while I hang my head in blogger shame at how ramble-y and unreadable they are), you'll see that I sometimes talked about my pregnancy and sometimes I talked about my travels, but never together.

Over the last 900+ days, I've gotten my blogging game together a bit more, and I can now share my thoughts on what it's like to be a pregnant travel blogger. Some of it is good, and some of it is downright miserable. I know that the experience of pregnancy is vastly different from person to person, so I'll try to avoid making too many generalizations and focus instead on how I felt while out and about during this (not-so-glamorous) nine months.

First Trimester

Expectation:
With my past experiences being pregnant (both with my daughter back in 2012 and the little boy we lost in late 2015), I expected that the first trimester was going to be rough. I'm one of those lucky people who are prone to morning/ all-day sickness, so I very much expected to have to work around that on the travels we had planned during February, March, April, and May.

Reality:
While I felt as if I was on a rolling ship at sea during a tsunami on some days, I actually had much less morning sickness with this baby than I did with either of my other two pregnancies. The days when I did feel bad were rough as my toddler really didn't care and gave me zero sympathy, but I clung to my Ritz crackers and ginger ale and did the best I could to keep going.

One thing that I wasn't expecting was the overwhelming anxiety that came with this pregnancy after a second-trimester loss last year. When we lost our son August, I was in Florida on a trip, and went through the experience by myself since my husband couldn't drive quickly enough from South Carolina. It was absolutely traumatic, and, because of it, I found myself being abnormally content at the house.

Between my doctor's reassurances and my husband's willingness to put up with my clinginess while we traveled, we managed to get in a few solid trips to different places here in the southeast including Seabrook Island for my sister's bachelorette (below).


Second Trimester


Expectation:
This is the sweet spot in pregnancy for most people I know. You're not too big, so you can still get around pretty easily, but you're showing, so other people tend to hold doors for you and act a bit nicer. I anticipated this being my best part of pregnancy and planned our travels accordingly.

Reality:
Not only did I have lots of energy, I started becoming more confident in this little one's health (thanks to lots of extra visits with my doctor since I was considered "high risk" after that late loss). More confidence = further visits from home and more traveling!

I did the theme park thing at Walt Disney World twice during my second trimester: once with my husband and daughter in late April, and then again with my parents and daughter in late May. We also had our usual trip to Edisto Beach in July with my inlaws, which was quite relaxing.


Third Trimester

Expectation:
I figured that, by month 7, I would be ready to retire to the couch and live out my final days as a parent of one in misery (much as I did while pregnant with Britton!). There's really nothing glamorous about those last few weeks of pregnancy: you're huge, you're uncomfortable, and you're so over getting pummeled in the ribs.

I purposefully didn't plan much travel between August and November because I just knew I was going to be miserable to be around.

Reality:
I won't lie: I am huge and generally uncomfortable and not at all my usual spry self. However (and this is a huge thing that I didn't see coming), I'm not as bad off as I expected. Yay for small victories!

I even felt good enough to go with my parents to Saluda, North Carolina, a few weeks ago, where we went to the Biltmore House and Sky Top Orchard. I made it--though a bit slower than usual--and had a blast.

We also ended up evacuating for Hurricane Matthew, but turned it into a bit of a mini-vacation. We went to Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls in upstate South Carolina, went fishing near my in-laws, and walked around our alma mater, Clemson University. I got plenty of stares from other people we met along the way, but I managed to motor my way around.


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I'm definitely ready to get back into my regular travel mode once this little boy makes his debut in just a few weeks, and my husband and I have started planning a few easy weekend trips we can make to ease us into being a family of four. Bring it on, 2017!

For my fellow parents, have you done much traveling while pregnant? What are your best tips for enjoying your travels during this time in your life?

Traveling while Pregnant: Expectations versus Reality | CosmosMariners.com
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend}

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com

I'm slowly checking off the things that I need to accomplish before I head to the hospital, which is keeping me from spazzing completely at this point. I have just over 2 weeks at most since I've already been scheduled for a repeat c-section at 39 weeks. (If you're wondering why a repeat c-section, read my daughter's birth story here. We're looking to avoid all of that this go-round!)

One of things on that very long to-do list was to show our 3.5 year old just how much we love her. I know that sounds silly because obviously we love her, but we're about to turn her life upside down.

She seems excited about the baby, but, at the same time, she's started acting out more and more as I get bigger and bigger (which is totally what I need at this point). Yes, some of it is classic toddler, but I think that a good portion steams from the fact that she has no clue what's happening.

As a way to do that, my husband and I decided to do a Big Sister Weekend that revolved around all of Britton's favorite things. At three, she's got definitive ideas about what she likes and doesn't like, so we tried to get her to help us plan her special day. She suggested "Walt Disney World" and "Ludwig's castle in Germany"--I love the way she thinks, but I wasn't quite up for a trip to a theme park or a trans-Atlantic flight, so we had to help her scale things waaaaay back. (Spoiler: she still had a blast even though we didn't leave Charleston!)

Breakfast Beginnings

We woke up early, which is par for the course with our little morning person, got dressed, and headed to Britton's favorite breakfast place: Waffle House. She happily scarfed down part of a chocolate chip waffle, some bacon and sausage, hashbrowns, toast, and orange juice.

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com
Matching braided ponytails and Clemson hoodies are essential for a good breakfast!
She even got to pick out a few songs on the juke box, which delighted her to no end. Her choices were her two favorite songs: Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel" and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com
Making a very difficult decision at the juke box

A Bit of Nostalgia

After we ate our fill of our All-Star breakfasts, we waddled back out to the car and headed over to Britton's school, where they were holding a fall festival. Going to it was a lot of fun, but a bit surreal for me since I used to attend the same school--and go to the same festival! I haven't been to the annual event since about 2000, but not much has changed. Major nostalgia for me, and lots of fun for Britton.

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com

We ate snow cones (purple because those are her favorite), played a few games, watched the cheerleaders perform, had her face painted, and unsuccessfully tried to win a cake at the Cake Walk booth.

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com
Nothing says happiness to a toddler like a grape snowcone.

Time to Catch a Flick

We couldn't stick around for too long because we had somewhere to be: the movie theatre! My kid adores going to the movies and asks for a visit at least once a week. She's normally someone who cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes, but she'll happily snuggle into her big chair at the theatre for the entire movie. We saw "Storks," which is super cute and made me cry far more than it probably should (darn you, pregnancy hormones!).

We were going to do a manicure/pedicure as well, but we were all tired after our running around all day on Saturday. We headed back to the house to rest and ended up retiring early.

Work and Things Left Undone

Sunday was our catch-up day: we're in the midst of clearly our 7 acre property, so it's a constant battle to keep ahead of the weeds and to keep moving the felled trees around. Landon hopped on the tractor to do some work while Britton and I did some chores in the house, a process that goes soooo slowly now that I am roughly the size of a hot air balloon and can't bend more than 35 degrees forward.

Landon and I were supposed to get our hospital bags ready, but somehow another weekend has come and gone, and they are still sitting empty on the floor of my bedroom. We WILL conquer that by next weekend!

How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun? 

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, we don't have much of a fall. And by that, I mean that the trees stubbornly hold onto their leaves well into November, only to give a great sigh around Thanksgiving and discard crumbling, brown bits on the ground around Thanksgiving without any of the colorful pomp and circumstance found elsewhere in the country.

We don't have real pumpkin patches, but rather ones where the pumpkins are shipped in and sold rapidly before they start to mold in the 80 degree weather.

We're in shorts and t-shirts long past the official start of fall. If we wear boots and sweaters in October, it's because the meteorologist called for plummeting temperatures in the mid-70s. (Go ahead, laugh. We're kind of ridiculous that way.)

So, with all of that working against me, what's a gal to do to get a little fall in her life without sweating buckets?

For many residents of North and South Carolina, the answer to that is head to Flat Rock, North Carolina, for a day out at Sky Top Orchard. Visiting there has become a bit of an annual tradition for my family, coinciding with our visits to nearby Saluda. And it's not just us: I've seen so many of my friends who live here in the Carolinas share their visits each year to the apple orchard, too!

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

If you find yourself in the mountains of Western North Carolina between August and December, do yourself a favor and open up a few hours to spend here. It's classic fall fun for the entire family that's not too expensive (unless you really hit those apple cider doughnuts hard...which I totally wouldn't judge you for doing!).

Although Sky Top first opened its doors in the early '70s, it operated exclusively as a commercial grove for years. It wasn't until the original owners' son was in college that Sky Top began to transition towards a you-pick fall destination; now, that son, David, and his wife, oversee all of the fun that happens each year here.

When you arrive, you'll have to make a tough decision: head out into the orchard to pick your own apples or grab a few half-pecks of the pre-picked apples that are laid out under the main shed. There's something about eating a big bag of apples that you picked with your own hands, but to get those prized apples, you've got to walk quite a ways up and down several hills.

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Despite my obvious pregnancy waddle, we went for the you-pick option this year and slooooowly made our way to the Granny Smith rows, which were, naturally, one of the furthest available apple types.

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
My mom and Britton leaving me and my ridiculously slow pregnant self.
Before you head out into the picking orchard, grab a basket--and a cart if you're planning on bringing back lots of apples!--and head over to the friendly employees just to the left of the sampling table. They can help you figure out what type of apple that you want to pick, and they'll hand out maps of the orchard so you'll know where to go.

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Look! My dad found the rare Britton apple in the orchard!
Another must-do at Sky Top is the food. You'll definitely want to come hungry, as the apple cider doughnuts are ridiculously delicious. (I apologize in advance for how much I talk about the doughnuts in this post. I'm obsessed.) They are deep fried as all good doughnuts are and then quickly dunked in a cinnamon and sugar coating. Imagine if your favorite apple fritter married a churro, and that's what these things are. YUM.

I also love getting a cup of frozen apple cider, available under the shed. There's also hot apple cider if it's a particularly chilly day. And, if you want to bring home the apple-y goodness, you can find gallons of cold cider in the refrigerator cases in the shed.

Next, head over to the hayride for a quick trip around the 100-acre property. This was a particularly hot ticket item for my three-year-old this year, though you'll see visitors of all ages on it. Tickets are sold under the shed at the long cash register counter, and the 15-ish minute hayride departs and returns to the open barn at the back of the main shed.

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The animals on property are another big draw for the little patrons. You can get up close and personal with peacocks, goats, chickens, and more. If you've got kids who'd rather play than pet animals, you can head over to the play yard, where there are close to a dozen treehouses, slides, swings, and playhouses.

Tips for Visiting:

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.comApple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
(left: Britton in 2016, me back in 2010)
  • Go early! During peak season (mid-September to late October), Sky Top is PACKED. This year, we went the third Saturday in September, and, when we arrived at 9:45, the place was already crawling with people. Know that most people will either head straight to the doughnut window or out in to the orchard, so hop on the hayride or let your kids play in the massive playground when you first get there. 


  • Don't eat the apples when you're picking them. It's hard, I know. Really hard. You're holding a fresh, crisp apple in your hand, and it would be so easy to chow down on it for a quick snack. But, since the apple price is calculated by weight, eating or throwing out apples in the orchard is basically like stealing since they aren't included in the final weight. 


  • Go for the full dozen apple cider doughnuts. In all of my visits to Sky Top, I've never said, "Wow, I wish I'd gotten less of these babies." They are crazy good, and the line is usually daunting, so splurge and get the entire dozen. You won't be sorry.


  • Bring cash. There's an ATM onsite, but it's always easier to arrive prepared. The orchard does not accept any kind of plastic as payment, so it's either cash or check. Without some green in your pocket, you'll just be sadly staring at the people on the hayride, everyone buying apples, and the other patrons stuffing doughnuts in their mouths. The hayride is a few dollars, and the doughnuts are $10 for a dozen, so you could bring around $40 and do everything that's available here. 

  • Check the website for what's available. Not all varieties mature at the same rate, so you'll find different apple varieties at different times of the fall. I was sad to find that my absolute favorite apples, the Pink Ladies, weren't ready during our most recent trip, but there were plenty of Granny Smiths, Jonagolds, and Honeycrisps for the taking.
I can't wait to take our new baby next year--hopefully, I will be much, much more comfortable then than I was this year and will be able to walk around the property with a bit more ease. I'm sure our daughter will be showing him all of her favorite parts, although I bet she'll probably keep the doughnuts and cider all to herself. :)

What fall traditions do you have? Do you have a favorite apple orchard or pumpkin patch that you visit?

Apple of My Eye: Tips for Visiting Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


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