the sparkly life

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

You're Going to LOVE This Backyard Makeover

tree house
I'm excited to finally show photos of our backyard renovation! This overhaul has been a long time coming--and quite the ordeal. Part of the reason it took us so long to tackle it is that we actually felt guilty even doing it. See, we didn't have a "bad" backyard. We had a pretty awesome one. In fact, when we bought our house five years ago, part of the reason we fell in love with it was the backyard. It was gorgeous! See this photo below taken by the previous owners. (Note: It never looked remotely this good when we lived here!)

english garden

But soon after we moved in, we realized it just didn't make sense for our family. Neither my husband nor I are big gardeners (to say the least) and this type of yard requires a lot of upkeep. Without the constant pruning and care, it constantly looked overgrown and "jungle-y" back there. And though the fountain was beautiful, it was huge--bigger than it looks in the photo--so it took up a major portion of the backyard. (We also never used it. We turned it on once. At my son's 1st birthday party--four and half years ago.) It just wasn't functional for us. We really wanted to be able to use our backyard for entertaining and for the kids to be able to play, but the fountain and large planting areas meant that we really couldn't use it for either one of those things. It was the perfect space for people who just wanted to sit outside and quietly enjoy their plants, and that just wasn't us. But it was beautiful. So we let it sit there, neglected, for years. 

But this year, we finally got the nerve to get rid of the fountain and we haven't looked back since. We gutted the entire backyard (well, we didn't--we had a contractor and designer!), and basically created an entirely new space. We laid new brick designed to look old (but not as old as the crumbly existing brick. We had tried to save that, but we were talked out of it. Huge, extra, unexpected expense. Ugh). We stained the fence gray (a little thing that made a huge difference), built an outdoor kitchen and a fire pit, constructed a treehouse (!), and created three separate, distinct entertaining zones: a dining area, an upper lounge area, and a lower lounge space around the fire.

restoration hardware outdoor furniture
restoration hardware provence dining chairs
outdoor space

backyard kitchen
The upper level

Our backyard consists of two levels: The main, upper area, which takes up most of the space, and a smaller, lower area. Up top we did the dining area (we got this Belgian Trestle table and the Provence chairs from Restoration Hardware), a lounge-y area (with the Provence Luxe sofa and these Santa Monica lounge chairs from Restoration Hardware, plus these pillows from RH and this big embroidered one from Serena and Lily). I love how--even though nearly everything ended up being from one retailer--we mixed furniture from different collections, so it didn't feel too matchy-matchy. (BTW, none of this was sponsored. I freaking wish.)

And of course, the kitchen! The kitchen is definitely larger/longer than I had originally imagined, but it has been awesome. It has a grill, my husband's beloved Big Green Egg, a fridge, storage drawers, a built-in trash can (this has been a gamechanger), and a fridge. Plus all of that counter space is awesome for serving at parties. 

And everyone asks about that brick wall/big barn door! No, it is not a garage. (I wish.) Or a guesthouse. (Again, wish.) The brick wall actually isn't even ours. It belongs to our rear neighbors and it is the backside of their turn-of-the-century carriage house! And that barn door is actually a faux door; it doesn't lead to anything or even open! The previous owners of our home had the brilliant idea of having that door made to add interest to the wall. I love it so much and am so glad they did it, because I never would have thought of the idea in a million years. 

Oh and if you're wondering why we don't have any grass back here, here's why: First, upkeep. We got spoiled by the ease of having an all-brick yard with no grass to mow. We live in a city where storage is at a premium and there is literally no place in our home to store a lawn mower. Second, we get no sunlight in our backyard. Zero. So real grass wasn't even an option. We could have done fake grass back there (and we considered it--it actually looks and feels surprisingly real), but at the end of the day, we just preferred the look of the brick. It feels like a little courtyard back there (between our home and our--hee, hee--garage) and I love it. 

outdoor fire pit
The lower patio

We went back and forth over what to do with this lower space. We briefly thought about lining it in faux grass, so it could be a little playspace for the kids, but it's really too tiny for that. (Maybe when they were babies/small toddlers, but that ship has sailed.) At first it seemed crazy to do a second lounge area, but I'm so glad we did. When we had a big party a few months back, it was a great option for more seating. And we have actually used it a ton as a family when we want to make s'mores over the fire.

We also decided to give it a totally different vibe for the furniture, and I'm so glad we did. I like how the blue cushions tie in to the blue pillows above, but that the space just has a totally different look and feel. These chairs (the Mustique Aluminum chairs from Restoration Hardware) were a stretch for me; I'm usually way more classic/traditional with furniture. But now, they might just be my favorite thing in the space: so cool-looking, super deep, and SO comfortable. 

Also, if I could do it again, I probably would have got darker cushions (maybe charcoal?) for the upper level, too. The blue is so much better at hiding stains. The upper level is a light gray (that, really, looks off-white), and I swear, every speck of dirt or fallen leaf leaves a mark on them.

cedar shingles tree house

The treehouse

This was kind of decided on a whim. The kids have space to play in our new yard, but it's definitely more focused on being a space for entertaining than on being a place to play soccer or something. We wanted to give the kids some more space to play, so we had been toying with the idea of a treehouse for a long time. We have this huge magnolia tree that sort of had this very defined center with four large branches jutting off from it. We imagined a very simple, open platform, accessible by a little ladder. We explained that to the designer, who basically said, "Yeah, we could do a simple platform and a ladder. Or we could do...THIS!" Once we saw the plans for a true house with a freaking deck, we knew we had to do it. 

So we went for it and then ended up going for the Rolls Royce version where we added the cedar shingles, because we were realizing that a huge plywood box kind of looked like an eyesore. I love how it looks like a little Hamptons house! It's the first thing that every kid who comes over wants to see, it's a definite conversation piece--and my kids had better play in it until they are at least 18.

We love our new backyard, and are so glad we finally pulled the trigger. Unfortunately it didn't get completed until the end of July (and then we were off on this vacation), so the time we had to enjoy it was limited. But get ready for lots of outdoor-space content coming in 2019! The outdoor fridge is already stocked with rosé--and I'm pretty much going to live out there. 

So...what do you guys think?!


Friday, November 9, 2018

14 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

grim reaper costume

After a lot of Halloween drama (we had a grim reaper girl and a Minecraft costume), we moved into this week, which was...a lot. Not only did we have to say goodbye to our beloved au pair of the past year (I still get teary-eyed thinking about it!), but we had the election and all the butterflies that went along with it. So, the beginning of the week was a bundle of nerves and emotions, and despite the fact that more nerveracking suff pops up seemingly every hour, I'm going to try to relax at least a little bit this weekend.

I want to catch up on The Good Place (do you guys watch it? So funny!), and hopefully get a much-needed pedicure. (No one sees them for pretty much the entire week, and then I get to Pilates and am super embarrassed when I take off my socks! Does that happen to anyone else?!) Anyway, whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you make it a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime.

• My deal for free holiday home products is still going on! You can get three free Mrs. Meyer's products in your choice of holiday scent, plus a cute red metal caddy, and more just for trying Grove Collaborative (an awesome site that I love and use regularly!). Details here.

• J.Crew is having a big sale right. Get 30% off with code FRIENDS. A few of my picks: this  zip-up camo sweater, this sweater-blazer, this silk blouse, and this (subtle!) rainbow sweater.

• Nordstrom is having a big sale, too! I have my eye on this blousy-sleeved cardigan (just $57!), this long sweater (I own several of them already. So good with skinny jeans or leggings!), and this gorgeous gray turtleneck (uh, how is it $29?!?). 

• I just bought my first pair of over-the-knee boots! I love the fleece-y detailing, and I also liked that they weren't crazy expensive. Super cute in person, too.

• Let's talk books! I recently The Size of Everything by Erin Cole. This is a memoir that just came out this week about a girl growing up in an incredibly abusive home. I'm about halfway through and really enjoying it (despite the subject matter, it's actually funny as well as jaw-dropping). It reminds me a ton of The Glass Castle (another amazing read), so if you liked that, you'll probably love this. (It's also free right now on Kindle Unlimited if you have that!)

• Then I listened to Busy Philipps's memoir, This Will Only Hurt a Little, via Audible, and I loved it. I also really recommend doing the audiobook. I'm sure the regular book is great, too, but the audio version is on another level. Busy cries various times throughout the book. She does voices for all of the characters. You really, really feel her emotions and it totally draws you in. Again, I'm sure the book is awesome, too, but the audiobook is truly a special experience. (And--this is not sponsored--but if you sign up for an Audible trial, you can get two books free. That's what I did!)

• I recently made these banana muffins, and they were so yummy!

• And I made this Paleo Whole 30 Buffalo Chicken Casserole, and it was delicious (and healthy!).

• If you missed it, Ellen sent her producer Andy and Chrissy Teigen through a haunted house, and the results are hilarious.

• Bella Hadid has a freakishly organized fridge.

• Remember the New York subway bomber from a few months back? They captured his morning on video and it's absolutely fascinating. 

And in case you missed it, I...


• Shared some awesome freebies.

• Got the cutest custom sandals made-to-measure to my feet.

• Went on a West Coast road trip (and here's part two of the trip!)

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

These *FREE Products* Make Your Home Smell Like a Christmas Tree.

alyssa hertzig

Years ago, when I first moved to New York to intern and hunt for a full-time magazine job, I worked at a popular clothing and home store during the holiday season. It was hard. The store was crowded, there were never-ending lines of cranky people, and the hours were long enough that I often found myself folding sweaters late into the night while my friends were enjoying themselves at holiday parties. 

But there was one aspect I absolutely loved: The store where I worked sold incredibly beautiful holiday candles, which they kept burning all day long during the season. It smelled like a Christmas tree constantly and I was there for it. 

Because I love holiday scents.

If that's you, too--and if you also love free stuff like me--you will love the holiday deal I have for you today. (Details below...)

grove collaborative deal
Many of you guys have heard me talk about Grove Collaborative before, but if you're new here: Grove Collaborative is a site that carries natural products for home and body, and somehow, manages to offer these high-end, normally-pricy brands at very competitive, very affordable prices. (They carry lines like Mrs. Meyer's, Method, Caldrea, Seventh Generation, Acure Organics, Burt's Bees, and many more.)

The other awesome thing about Grove is that, from time to time, they offer these amazing, limited-time free gifts just for trying out the site. And I have a good one for you today where you can get the limited-edition Mrs. Meyer's holiday scents for FREE!

grove collaborative deal
The three Mrs. Meyer's limited-edition holiday scents (Peppermint, Iowa Pine, and Orange Clove) are so good, and make washing dishes or wiping down countertops noticeably less grueling.

If you'd like to try them out for free, I've partnered with Grove once again to bring you this deal: 
With your first order of $20 from Grove Collaborative using this affiliate link, you will get the following (full-size!) items for FREE in your choice of scent:

• Free Mrs. Meyer’s Holiday hand soap

• Free Mrs. Meyer’s Holiday dish soap

• Free Mrs. Meyer’s Holiday multi-surface spray

• Free Grove red metal caddy

• Free Grove walnut scrubber sponges

• Free shipping and VIP trial

The products are worth over $30, so it's a great way to check out some really nice home products that you might otherwise never have tried.

*FYI, if you're already a Grove Collaborative customer, you aren't eligble for the deal above (sorry!). BUT *if you use this link,* you'll get a FREE set of Grove's awesome walnut scrubber sponges.

grove collaborative deal

You can cancel anytime, so honestly, it's worth at least placing one $20 order and getting all the free stuff! Then you can decide later whether or not you want to continue ordering through them. (That's what I planned to do when I got my own deal way back when, but I've totally stayed on and I order all of my cleaning products through Grove now. Since I live in a city, it's way easier to have my heavy cleaning products delivered!)

I'll also be going live later this week talking more about this deal, these products, and Grove, so make sure you've liked me on Facebook and followed me on Instagram, so that you get a notification. It should be fun!

Don't forget: This offer is only available while supplies last, so grab your free products now!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Our West Coast Road Trip, Part Two: California

cambria air bnb




san francisco with kids


foreign cinema kids menu

I'm finally back with part two of our road trip! Hopefully, you've already read the first part where we hit Seattle, Portland, and Mt. Rainier. (If not, click here.) And now, let's pick back up where we left off...

Day 4: Portland/San Franciso

The guys' original plan had been to drive from Portland to San Francisco, but since it's a ten-hour trip (versus a one-hour plane ride), I nixed it. So we flew into San Fran on an early-afternoon flight and headed to The Fairmont. It is a huge, beautiful, very grand hotel, and the view from our window was insane. But all we could think about was how freaking cold it was: It was in the 50s! In the daytime! In August! (And it felt even colder since we had been in 90 degree weather literally that morning.) 

After settling into our room, we were going to head out to explore a bit before dinner. I went to open up the suitcase that my husband and son were sharing, and then realized...it wasn't there. What was there was a suitcase that definitely wasn't ours. My husband had grabbed the wrong one in the airport. (Keep in mind: Ours was gigantic and teal; this one was medium-sized and...black. Don't ask. #men) All I could think was, thank god it wasn't me who did that! (Long story short, we got the right bag later that night, but my husband had to go all the way back to the airport to exchange them. Ugh!) 

After the drama, we Uber'd to dinner at Foreign Cinema, which was amazing! Not only is it gorgeous, the service impeccable, and the food incredible (I had foie gras and risotto), but they have the coolest kids menu I've ever seen. For $15, kids get an appetizer, their choice of a main course, and homemade ice cream for dessert. The first course was definitely created by someone who either doesn't have kids or has them but they aren't picky because they are chef's kids, but I appreciated the effort. At the very least, it was entertainment! Each kid got a big plate of various fruits and veggies plus a dipping sauce. My kids didn't go near the radishes, endive, etc, but they loved the more familar things like strawberries and carrot sticks. 


san francisco with kids
san francisco with kids
fisherman wharf carousel
san francisco with kids
chinatown san francisco
china live with kids

Day 5: San Francisco

Our original plan was to visit Alcatraz, but there was a last-minute ticket mixup (again, thank god this wasn't my fault), and we quickly learned that it is essentially impossible to get Alcatraz tickets if you have not successfully purchased them long in advance. So, while the guys headed out to get the van we'd be using the following day (more on that later), the rest of us headed over to the Exploratorium after a quick "what do do in San Francisco with kids" Google. It had all sorts of hands-on science-y exhibits, plus areas for tinkering, stop-motion animation, etc. The kids--and in particular, my son--were in heaven. 

Once the guys came back, we walked to Fisherman's Wharf, which taught us that that's really too far to walk there with a bunch of kids in 50-degree weather. Once there, we walked around a bit, grabbed lunch at some non-special pizza place that I don't even remember the name of, gawked at the noisy sea lions, and took pictures as the kids rode the carousel. We got bored--and tired--fast, and headed back to the hotel to change for an early dinner. 

We walked from the Fairmont to Chinatown for our dinner at China Live. It was so good with kind of a fancy, cool twist on traditional Chinese dishes. We got a ton of stuff to share, and everything was super yummy, but I have to say that the Char Siu BBQ Pork Dutch Crunch Baked Buns were out of this world. They were--by far--the best pork buns I have ever eaten, and I've even had them in Hong Kong and China. They were crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with a slight sweetness that was just perfect. Oh my god. Incredible

road trip with kids

california road trip with kids
pacific coast highway
california road trip with kids
california road trip with kids

Day 6: Pacific Coast Highway

We woke up at the crack of dawn, so that we could get an early start, and man, it was cold. I was going to miss the restaurants of San Fran, to be sure, but I was not sad to be leaving the weather. We piled into the van, which was to be our ride for the next two days. It was a ten-passenger van complete with an X-box and (hallelujuah) USB ports. We headed out, my hands over my eyes, as my husband manuevered that giant van through the steep, twisty streets. 

Our first stop was Stanford. My niece loves it, dreams of going there someday, and wanted to quickly check it out and buy a sweatshirt. Turns out, it's stunning--all Spanish-style buildings and green, open spaces. It looks like the high school in Beverly Hills 90210. 


Next stop was one of my only requests for the entire trip: Winchester Mystery House. I had gone there twice as a child, and was obsessed back in the day. We had tried to go again about six years ago when we were nearby for a friend's wedding, but got there right as it was closing and weren't allowed to enter. So I wasn't going to miss it this time, dammit! If you're not familar with the amazingness that is WMH, here's the deal: It is a gigantic sprawling mansion built around the turn of the century by Sarah Winchester, who was heir to the Winchester Rifle company fortune. Legend goes that she visited a medium who told her she was doomed to be cursed by the souls of all of the people killed by Winchester rifles, and that her only way to keep the spirits at bay was through constant, noisy construction. So for decades, she kept building, adding on to her home and creating weird architectural quirks (stairs to nowhere, doors that opened to big drops or brick walls, etc). You take a tour where you walk through much of the house and learn about her life. If you like spooky stories, cool, old homes, or just generally crazy stuff, it's the best

After Winchester, we hit the road again, caught some beautiful PCH scenery (impossible not to think of Big Little Lies when you see those cliffs!), stopped at a (delicious) hole-in-the-wall taco place, drove some more, and then stopped for a break at Cannery Row in Monterey, CA. The dads took the kids to the aquarium (at $50 a pop for adults, the moms decided to sit it out). Instead, we did some window shopping and a ton of walking, grabbed some Starbucks, and had a delicious cinnamon roll at Lily Mae's Cinnamon Rolls.

We ended up spending longer there than originally intended, so we were a bit behind schedule. We drove some more and went straight to dinner at Centrally Grown in Cambria, CA. It was good, but we were all so tired. Plus, I was stressing out about driving to our AirBnB in the dark. 

And it was stressful. Our AirBnB was "off the grid" (help) up a long, narrow, winding, private road that meandered through the mountains and had zero street lights. And we were in a giant van! It was so scary. But perhaps even scarier than our drive was the house itself. It was way older/shabbier than the AirBnB photos had let on, the front door was broken, and--by far the worst part--it was 90 degrees inside. And I'm not exaggerating. That is what the thermostat said. NINETY DEGREES. The heat was blasting when we arrived, and it wouldn't turn off. It was broken. We had also been banking on doing laundry there but there was no washing machine in sight. (We finally found it later in the basement when we were looking for a fan. It was hidden in the back under a hoader's worth of stuff. We were exhausted, hot, and scared of this house. We decided it would just be easier to buy clean underwear when we got to L.A.) We opened up a bunch of windows and fell asleep.

california road trip with kids
california road trip with kids
california road trip with kids
california road trip with kids
Day 7: PCH/Los Angeles

Once again, we were getting a very early start, but before we left, we got a quick glimpse at the one very cool thing about the house: the stunning views. We also got a better look at the steep drops that we had driven blindly by the night before. Yikes. 

We piled in the car and headed out, grabbing breakfast at the gas station, and vowing to power pretty much straight through to L.A., which we did, pulling into our hotel, the SLS Beverly Hills, a few hours later. (BTW, the hotel is very nice, kind of "rocker cool." It's definitely not a hotel geared for kids, but they did fine there.)

After settling into our rooms and grabbing a quick lunch in the lobby restaurant, we Uber'd to Venice Beach and walked around for a while watching the street performers, then headed to Santa Monica to check out the pier. (The kids rode some rides and played some games, then we quit when one of mine threw a fit when the other one won a stuffed unicorn. Sigh.) We finished the day with yummy tacos, much-needed margaritas, and kind-of hilariously awful service at Punta Cabras (the guy was a clearly born to be an actor, not a waiter, so we kind of got the full L.A. experience there). Then we headed back to the hotel--everyone tired and cranky, including the adults--and went to sleep. 


california road trip with kids
california road trip with kids

california road trip with kids

Day 8: Disneyland

I had known the guys had hired someone to take us around Disney to help us avoid lines, and I was annoyed about it. It seemed like such a waste of money, and I was terrified they had been inspired by this story that ran years ago in the New York Post. Turns out, he had hired a young (able-bodied) guy named Tommy from Stone Vacation Services, and though definitely not cheap, it turned out to be so worth it. 

Tommy knew Disneyland like the back of his hand and had so many tricks. He scheduled our entire day (we did both Disneyland and California Adventure), handled our Fast Passes like a ninja, and we never waited in line once. He even got our kids into the Star Wars Jedi Training experience, which apparently, is really tough to do. It was amazing! All in all, it was a very fun day, as we got to do everything we wanted to do, and had minimal complaints from the kids as we were constantly busy and we could just throw up our hands and say that Tommy made the schedule, not us or them. 

My favorite rides were the Incredicoaster, Radiator Springs Racers, Pirates of the Caribbean (so much better than the one at Disneyworld!), Thunder Mountain, and Soarin'. My adventure-loving daughter loved the Incredicoaster (she went on it three times!), Guardians of the Galaxy (that one's a hell-to-the-no for me), and Space Mountain (I love that one, too, but had to sit it out because my son wouldn't go). And my adventure-adverse-"Does this go fast? Does this have drops?" son loved Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan, and Mater's Junkyward Jamboree


hugo's west hollywood
california road trip with kids
sls pool cabana

somni potato croissant

somni tomato bread
Day 9: L.A.

We grabbed an early breakfast at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Hugo's in West Hollywood. (The Pasta Mama--which is BREAKFAST PASTA--is truly one of my favorite meals ever.) Then, we split up. The men and the kids headed out to do a Hollywood tour (the sign, Hollywood Boulevard, and a few celeb homes), but as I had lived in L.A. years before, I didn't want to do that sort of tourist-y thing. So Kerri and I went to MiniLuxe (which I first told you about here) for pedicures, followed by a trip to Amanu where we had beautiful, custom sandals made on the spot (I did an entire separate post on that experience. You can read about it here.) Then we went back to the SLS for an afternoon of relaxation (finally!) at the pool.

The guys had rented a cabana for the day, which was nice since the kids could lounge in the shade when they weren't splashing in the pool. Speaking of kids, while the SLS rooftop is a total scene, it also happens to be pretty great for kids since the two pools are really shallow. For once, we didn't have to be in there with them; we could just watch them from the side. After a few hours of lounging, sipping cocktails, and snacking, we headed back to the room to change for dinner. 

Our au pair was watching the kids for the night (thank you, Pau!), so that we could go to Somni, Jose Andres' super fancy restaurant right there in the hotel. It was a 20+ course dinner (!), and everything was so inventive and crazy and delicious. Some of my favorites were chicken skin and foie gras, potatoes formed to look like a croissant, kohlrabi with snap peas, and pan con tamato and jamon.

harry potter world
california road trip with kids

Day 10: Universal Studios Hollywood 

Guess what? Tommy does Universal, too, so he came back! (And since Disney had been such a success with him that I was fine with the expense this time.) Once again, thanks to Tommy, we zipped through the park, waiting in pretty much zero lines. My nephew and daughter are both Harry Potter obsessed, so they were truly living their best lives at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (I loved it, too. It's very cool.) All of the kids got wands and my daughter and nephew got the robes. (Joke was on them though. They had to wear those things in the 90-degree weather. But they both still stubbornly did so for most of the day!) The Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey ride is amazing, but definitely scary! (My son sat it out, obvs.) The rollercoaster is kind of lame (he still sat that one out, too). We ate lunch there, too, in the Three Broomsticks restaurant. (Note: The line there looked terrifyingly long, but it goes super fast.)

Beyond Harry Potter, I actually thought Universal Studios was kind of just okay though. There's not a ton for a young kid who is scared of a lot of rides. My son even found The Simpsons too scary, and then refused to even go on Minions. Weirdly, he loved Transformers and THE WALKING DEAD --a thing I was too scared to go on--though.  He also loved The Kung Fu Panda movie experience (the seats shake and move slightly), and everyone enjoyed the WaterWorld show. (Do not sit anywhere near the front though. They literally pour water on you in the  "splash zone" and it doesn't get you any sort of better view anyway.) 

The other issue I had is that a lot of the rides are just different variations on the 3D-simulation-ride theme, so it feels like a lot of the same thing over and over again. And the studio lot tour, which I had loved as a kid, seemed kind of ehh as an adult. (My kids--especially my son--weren't that into it, either.) There were some standouts though! The Mummy--an indoor rollercoaster in the dark--is awesome, and the Jurassic Park River Adventure was fun though you do get pretty wet. (The whole time I was wishing my son had gone on it because it was pretty tame, but then there was a huge drop at the end, which he would have hated.) 

We had an early flight the next day, so we spent our last night at The Westin Los Angeles Airport, which was no SLS (!), but totally fine, and it made the next morning so much easier. 


plane trip with kids

Day 11: Fly home

You know how you don't want vacation to end, but then the morning of, you just want to get the hell out of there? That's how we felt. It had been a great vacay--and I'll always be a West Coast girl at heart--but we were tired and ready to head back to the East Coast...and home. 

--

So, that was our road trip! It was definitely more jam-packed than I would have planned it, but that had its advantages, too, so I'm not sure if I'd even do it differently next time. And, of course, our road trip had lots of privileges like nice hotels, roomy vans, and flights instead of super long-haul drives.

I think the key things that made a road trip with kids work for us were 1) traveling with people we got along with, 2) traveling with other kids, so that our kids had more options than just their own sibling, and 3) planning things to do with the kids ultimately in mind (a pit stop at an aquarium, restaurants with kid-friendly food, etc. Hell, they probably even preferred the Exploratorium over Alcatraz anyway. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself.)

Have you guys ever done a road trip with kids? Tell me your secrets!

Note: Nothing on this trip was sponsored. We paid for every damn thing ourselves.