How to Have an Epic Family Vacation in Squaw Valley

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After traveling multiple hours on ground or air, with restless children in tow, many parents want a one-stop shop for fun, food and accommodations, happy if they never have to look at their crumb filled vehicle the entirety of the trip.

Squaw Valley has answered this prayer, crafting a village that offers nosh for all palates, ski runs for every level of courage, hotel rooms with a mix of luxury and minimal breakables (I’m looking at you mischievous tots) and live music that makes even the tiniest of feet burst into dance.

If family vacations full of equal parts thrill, relaxation and simplicity are your jam, use the following guide to relish the goodness of Squaw Valley.

Find Your Peace at Wanderlust Yoga Studio: This studio has multiple classes geared to prepping your body (and mind, and spirit) for a stellar day of skiing, and for restoring your muscles after that last run. The variety of offerings sprinkled throughout the schedule allow flexibility for you and your fellow child-sitter to each catch a class.

Entertain Your Kids at the Children’s Program: Because most children loathe being taught sports (or anything) by their parents, let a trained instructor ignite your child’s passion and skill for skiing or snowboarding. This program accommodates children three to thirteen years of age and ups the fun ante by utilizing kid-specific tools and games during instruction. And because we parents are nosy, the instructors provide a post-lesson report card detailing your little skier’s skill and cognitive-based progress.

Read more on Vagabond Family! 

The Pregnant Woman’s Guide to June Lake, California

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Most vacations to extreme sports destinations, while pregnant, are annoying – you can’t do much but eat, sleep and be bummed that you’re not participating in the adventure seeking. But not at June Lake – while famous for its family-friendly downhill skiing, this cozy mountain town offers plenty of ways for “with child” ladies to have an envy-worthy snow sojourn.

Just thirty minutes away from the chic resort of Mammoth, June offers a slower pace and amble amounts of relaxed rustic vibes. This isn’t a town where you need to feel pressure to have the cutest winter gear, “put on your face” to go out, or be fearful of your bank account being drained during your stay.

June Lake is just the place for you – you hardworking “baby maker” you – to recharge for the remainder of your epic journey into motherhood.

Read more on Vagabond Family!

Mini Guide to a Lake Tahoe Baby Moon

IMG_9428Are you due this summer and looking for one last dip into relaxation before the real fun begins? I’ve had a few readers ask me for summer #babymoon ideas and I thought of one of my fave spots, Lake Tahoe, and some fun (#pregnant lady approved) activities.

Here’s your mini guide to the ultimate Lake Tahoe baby moon:

Stay: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe

While packing a baby in my womb I like to strap a seat belt on about as much as I like to drink two gallons of water and go for a jog. So, this resort is ideal as it allows you to walk to pretty much all of the following spots and offers rooms so comfortable you’d be happy to skip the activities and enjoy your final days of pregnancy resting and binging on television and room service. 

Eat: Stillwater Pool Bar & Grill

This spot is my personal fave as it allows you to enjoy a meal while still wearing your damp bathing suit. A juicy cheese burger at this pool side eatery is just what the midwife ordered – and you already have a round belly so who cares about a bit of poolside bloat.

Explore: Sunset Catamaran Cruise

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Explore Lake Tahoe without having to move your legs! This sunset cruise usually includes a captain overflowing with strange yet interesting history of the area and crew members that are rich with wit and jokes that are actually funny.

Pamper: Stillwater Spa & Salon

A spa trip is obligatory if you’re preggers, and you can tell your partner I said so. Ask about the Citrine Dream treatment, Basil, Cilantro and Avocado treatment, and couples packages – and don’t skip the pomegranate mocktail.

Happy baby mooning!

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino #Pregnancy #Travel#SummerVacation

Inside the NYC Music Scene with The Delancey Five Leader Svetlana Shmulyian

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There are many voices flowing through New York City’s music venues, but few as alluring as Svetlana Shmulyian – a woman who channels the essence of Ella Fitzgerald, while mixing in an aural flavor that’s all her own.

Svetlana is the leader of the swing band The Delancey Five, and a regular at many of the jazz clubs and speakeasies that together form a web of old school musical magic. But, as intriguing as Svetlana’s pipes are, I’m equally enthralled by the fact that she’s churning out all this goodness while also being the mother to three young girls (go team mompreneurs!)

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Svetlana and The Delancey Five

Below is your key into the mind of one of the most badass ladies gracing the most interesting stages in New York.

Bailey Gaddis: Any advice for NYC tourists wanting to make the most of their time being immersed in the city’s music offerings.

Svetlana Shmulyian: It all depends on what you want to see! NYC has a “scene” for everything – whether you are into avant-garde jazz, or swing dancing, or salsa, reggae, or indie rock – there are multiple spaces­ to listen to this specific kind of music and mix with other lovers of it.

There are highbrow spots and underground spots for every kind of music, each offering a unique experience – and an “only in New York” thing to do is to experience these different spots in the same night!  So, search online for a specific kind of music you are interested in, on a specific date, and go to a high-brow show at 8pm (for example, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola for jazz and swing), grab a small plate or a snack after (like a falafel or noodles in Greenwich Village), and then “club-hop” through a few hidden speakeasy spots, like Mezzrow, Back Room, or Smalls for an after hours jam session.

BG: Being a mom, how do you find time to explore the live music in NYC? Do your daughters enjoy jazz and swing music? 

SS: I mainly explore the live music scene when I perform – and then stay later to check out after-hours shows of friends, or other acts I am interested in. On the nights I do not work, I prefer to stay home with my daughters, unless there is a very special show going on.

On the other hand, attending shows is part of a continuous education and improvement for anyone – and a feeding of the soul, so I try to do it as much as I can. That said, keeping a work-life balance is a challenge for any working mom, being a musician mom is no exception – we all do the best we can!

My daughters like jazz and swing – my older one is exploring other genres in her school orchestra, band and chorus. My little one always asks me to put my record on in the car and knows all my songs by heart!

BG: What inspired you to put together flashmobs? What is that process like?

SS: The idea to create a flashmob came from dancers themselves, and one of the swing DJs that often work with my band (DJ Douglas McMilan). The idea stems from our love for swing music and swing dancing, and is meant to celebrate a great community of swing dancers, and our beautiful town of New York. Because of these factors, we wanted to pick a dramatic spot against which the dancers and the band can be best seen, listened to, and danced to – Times Square!

The infectious vibe of our first event gained momentum for the gathering, and the following summer’s event went viral with several thousand people RSVP-ing, and hundreds of people actually attending. Our flashmob this summer, around SeaGlass Carousel, was profiled on WPIX 11 with live music and dancing at 8am (clearly way too early, but still very cool!). And our last flashmob was, once again, conducted in Times Square on Halloween night, and was listed in Time Out New York as the top free event to do on Halloween. Our next Times Square flashmob will once again take place in Times Square – all the information will be listed on the band’s Facebook page, and the website, where folks can find videos and photos of the last year’s events!

BG: What are you currently working on?

SS: I am currently working up songs for my next album, which will be a Volume Two of Night at the Speakeasy (our first album produced by Guy Eckstine, featuring Wycliffe Gordon). The vibe will remain ‘swing’ and ‘music that makes you smile,’ as the first album did. But, I will continue to develop my voice through the new original songs, some of which may go outside of the swing idiom, while definitely still retaining a vintage feel, and a feeling of ‘social music’ (a term coined first by Miles Davis and today championed by Jon Batiste).

‘Social music’ is music for your mind (sophisticated music played by first rate musicians), your feet (music you can dance and move to!), and your heart (music that will make you feel warm and welcome to the world of art, imagination and music).

I also enjoyed having special guests on the first album and will continue this tradition in the second album. I wrote several songs, some with my songwriting collaborator, Ryan Smith, and received permission to record original songs written, and arranged by, friends and collaborators – Wycliffe Gordon, Jay Rattman, Ruby Choy, and others.

I am also working on the birthday show that will include some of this new material for the performance at Joe’s Pub (date pending for early March).

In honor of the chilly weather flowing across the United States, check out Svetlana’s rendition of Baby It’s Cold Outside.

*This article has been edited and condensed.

How to Have the Ultimate Christmas Family Vacation in Downtown San Francisco

I’m addicted to the spirit of Christmas – so much so that I would happily pull up roots and move to Santa’s Village if the big guy extended an invite.

 

This ever-present craving for all things jolly, cheery and evergreen-y pulled me to downtown San Francisco two weeks before The Big Day. I wanted a chance for my young son, husband and I to get away for a mini and merry trip before we were absorbed into the loving chaos of our extended family.

 

While most Christmas themed areas leave me wanting more (more mistletoe, more lights, more hot chocolate, more classic holiday tunes, more wreaths, more red, more green, and more cheer) I left my holiday getaway to SF full of joy, wonder and peppermint flavored spirits.

 

Have a hankering for your own holiday themed sojourn? Here are events and activities in downtown San Francisco to help you create the ultimate Christmas family vacation.

Read more on Huff Post!

Where to Stay, Eat and Explore In and Around Boston’s Legendary Kenmore Square

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Photo Credit: Hotel Commonwealth

Boston’s vibrant hub of Kenmore Square is an area rich with history that serves as a favorite hangout for Boston University students, and sits on the doorstep of Fenway Park.

I recently had the opportunity to explore this area on a solo trip to Boston. This solitude allowed the city to be my companion and show me the nuances that make it so special: vine covered facades of Georgia and Federal style buildings, the creatively decorated plots of Fenway Victory Gardens, and the changing leaves that were like bright flames of Fall.

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Because exploring a city can easily make one feel hurried and drained, the following guide will help to ensure you absorb the historic adventure the area around Boston’s Kenmore Square has to offer, while tapping into comfort and creativity along the way:

Stay

Hotel Commonwealth

I splurged on a room at the iconic Hotel Commonwealth because I wanted all aspects of my trip to be drenched in Boston vibes. While many hotels feel separate from the heart of the city, because of the often-generic ambiance of the rooms, I felt that I was actually staying inside the heart as I perched in the window seat of my room overlooking Commonwealth Avenue. This cozy space above the chilly and bustling street allowed me to take in the big picture of Kenmore Square at all hours of the day.

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The rest of the hotel was filled with adornments that reminded me I was in Boston: large paintings depicting classic events like the Boston Marathon, seats from Fenway Park, and other Boston Red Sox memorabilia.

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Fenway Executive Suite Terrace at Hotel Commonwealth

Eat

Eastern Standard

I was hit with old school charm when I first walked into this large brasserie-style restaurant. The waiters were friendly and eager to discuss the elaborate cocktail menu that read like an ode to the alchemy of mixology. I didn’t understand half of what I was reading, but trusted my waitress to guide me down a yummy path.

The drinkable art, called a Southside Royale, that arrived woke up every one of my taste buds – and they had a raging party. Best. Drink. Ever. I did not have just one.

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Main dining area of Eastern Standard. Photo Credit: Flickr- Nathan Forget

The food that quickly followed was equally unique and delicious: A Turkey and Bacon Cobb salad that had uncommon Cobb salad accompaniments like roasted squash and cranberries that elevated the dish in all the right ways.

Bruegger’s Bagels

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Photo Credit: Lara604

For easy, hearty and mega-tasty breakfasts I would wander over to this New York- style bagel shop that stuff their fresh-baked-goods with generous helpings of classic breakfast ingredients, and serve up coffee strong enough to get me through a full day of city strolling.

Island Creek Oyster Bar

This elegant, yet unpretentious, establishment offered similar creative and OMG-delicious cocktails to the ones found at Eastern Standard, and seafood selections so good the noise of the patrons was drowned out by my happy tummy howling “Oh yeah!”

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Photo Credit: Marco Varisco

Explore

Fenway Victory Gardens

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While making my way to a museum I stumbled on these 7.5 acres that house over 500 gardens tended by Boston community members. Each garden featured eclectic décor, vegetables, flowers and more. Curious geese roamed the gardens alongside members who were busy caring for their colorful fares. One woman I talked with has been gardening there for over 50 years in rain, snow and sun.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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I had two hours to explore this palace of masterpieces, but I should have allotted two days. This museum is home to almost 500,000 works of art: paintings by masters like Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, jewelry from ancient Egypt, Buddhist sculptures, thought-provoking pieces by contemporary artists and so much more you could spend years visiting this museum and see something new on each trip.

Mary Baker Eddy Library and Mother Church

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If you want a dose of female empowerment do not miss these stops: the library tells the story of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, during a time when women weren’t even allowed to vote, and the awe-inspiring adjacent church shows what a purpose-full vision and dogged passion can produce.

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The library also features the Mapparium, a three-story, stained-glass globe you can walk inside, offering a surreal and poignant experience.

To take in this landmark city in all its glory I recommend visiting in October when the vivid colors and crisp air of Fall are present, but the layers of snow have yet to appear.

And don’t forget to take an obligatory selfie in front of Fenway Park!

My Mama Mint Experience

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I nestled into a JetBlue Mint seat the morning after the 2016 election results rolled in. I was tired, and in need of nourishment. I was ushered to my space by a flight attendant who smelled like a fresh-linen candle and quickly handed me a “refreshmint” (hehe, good one JetBlue) cocktail.

My first twenty-ish minutes in a plane are usually laced with anxiety, but not this time. As I settled into my cushy airplane nest (a Mint “seat” is much more than a seat) I felt safe, cared for and free of my usual need to wring my hands and breath deeply (in a kind of creepy way) until we reach cruising altitude.

The alchemy of the following Mint elements is what made my experience so… well, minty.

The Nest

I walked onto this flight with a bone deep yearning to bury myself in blankets and check out, and was hoping I wouldn’t be met with the standard itchy, thin and strange-smelling airplane blanket. My nest came with a comforter-esque blanket and full-sized pillow. “Oh yeah,” was on repeat in my mind and body as I laid my seat flat (!), sunk my head into the pillow and cocooned myself into the blanket that easily covered my entire body.

And the partition between myself, and the kind lady seated next to me, saved her from being exposed to my drooling-sleep-face.

The Food

As I slid my seat out of the supine position, my candle-scented flight attendant re-appeared to ask what food I wanted from the small plate menu created by the NYC restaurant Saxon + Parole. The menu read like an ode to edible art, each item unique and begging me to have a try.

After an embarrassing amount of time hemming and hawing (and salivating) over the menu I ordered the Tuscan kale salad, goat cheese tortellini soup and pan-seared halibut with roasted cauliflower.

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Then I ate, and it was everything.

The Drink

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Most wines served on airplanes make me feel hung-over before I reach the bottom of the plastic cup. But JetBlue’s wine-service, curated by wine expert Jon Bonne, only offers the good stuff, like really good stuff; the stuff that makes your taste buds happy, body warm and fuzzy and mind strangely more creative and capable. And the bubbly is just as lovely. (Yes, I tried both. And had them put Bailey’s in my cappuccino.)

The Entertainment

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The blue glow of the large screen situated in my nest knew how to tickle my fancy. Unlimited access to programs I could watch without conferring with another adult and my three-year-old? Yes, please. Although I usually sink my airplane time into work, I let my laptop stay in its case and binged on movies with ratings naughtier than a G, as I took tiny bites of Blue Marble Ice Cream.

The Gifts

My persona can usually be summed up by the words “stale, tired and cranky” halfway through a long flight. So, I wanted to bear hug the flight attendant when she handed me a Hayward “designed for her” kit right as I was entering the “stale” realm. The denim clutch (that is so chic I now use as a clutch) was filled with an orange towelette, lip balm, breath mints, screen cloth, earplugs and a non-itchy eye mask.

Oh, and then there was the farewell gift box of chocolaty, buttery, uber-yummy treats from Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery that served as my dinner when I arrived at Hotel Commonwealth. The apple was nice too.

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The Lack of Arrogance

I adore the “Mint Experience” term versus “business class” or (bleh) “first class.” The lack of snootiness in the terminology employed by JetBlue conveys the message that they offer a special experience I can choose to treat myself to, not an area of the plane I deserve to be in because I’m somehow “better than” the folks sitting in the more affordable seats (the seats I’m usually sitting in.)

As a mom, my alone time usually equals being squished in my car during traffic, but no more. This mama is skipping those daily fancy coffees in favor of saving up for a Mint experience on my next solo flight, because I deserve it, and so do you.