Traveling with Kids 01: Monterey! <+giveaway> by Kate Brightbill


We traveled to Monterey this weekend. I use the term "travel" loosely-- it's a quick 2 hour drive, and we broke the drive in half with a blissful visit to my aunt and uncle on our way-- but REAL summer travel is right around the corner, and I'm thrilled to cover all little doses of our travels on this blog this summer. I read about traveling with kids, therefore, I will write about traveling with kids.

With an infant, let me tell you: all plans have to be held relatively loosely. My suggestion is to make a plan, have options to go with said plan, and then be flexible if and when we need to redirect the plans slightly. 

Our grand scheme (we knew it was unlikely we would manage it all, but we wanted to have options in case we somehow could!) when we traveled to Monterey County was to:

  • Spend the morning hours at Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Perhaps take the 17 mile drive and stop for picturesque beach time
  • Drive slightly further down the coast to the gorgeous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur 

We managed #1. HA.

Bixby Bridge will have to wait, and we've already done the 17 mile drive, so we just ate up everything "Monterey" this time, and were thoroughly satisfied with that choice.

Monterey has so much to offer, and there's a long list of fun family activities HERE. SUCH a good resource.

We started with our top choice: The Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

  Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction.&nbsp;

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction. 

We spent about three hours at the aquarium. There is so much to see, and I honestly think my older two could have spent six hours gazing everything. Brian and I kept things moving, because obviously babies only have so much patience, and we wanted to see as much as possible. ;)

Maggie's highlight was the Splash Zone. Kids can get hands on with the water and play and get some energy out. It's especially nice for ages 5 and under. There's also this little tunnel nearby and the girls were big fans... The water would crash over the tunnel every couple minutes and the girls would shriek and laugh hysterically. 


Sophie and Brian loved the Open Sea... I did too, but we visited late in the game, and Jack needed to keep moving. The Open Sea has the enormous fish, sea turtles, & hammerhead sharks in a 90 ft window... and it's an incredibly dramatically large and beautiful. Mesmerizing, really.


I'm a huge fan of the jellyfish. They're so picturesque and every detail is so beautiful. I'd hate to be near them without the glass between us (memories of being stung by their jelly cousins, the Portuguese man-of-wars when I was 10), but they are gorgeous in this totally safe setting. 


OKAY. Jack was done after the Open Seas, and we were all hungry. Like, VERY hungry. Sometimes I get cranky when I'm hungry. We had game-planned with a few options nearby beforehand, thankfully. While I'm sure the cafeteria at the aquarium would have gotten the job done, we really wanted to walk around a bit and get some fresh air on and around Cannery Row...

Now, before we headed to lunch, we needed candy...we would have had some regrets if we had forgotten. ;)


Yes, I have a sweet tooth, and no I hardly say no to a mom & pop style candy shop. My children are grateful for that quality of mine. Seriously though, rock candy sticks??? I love them so much. Side note: have you see smaller versions served with coffee? Brilliant. So brilliant. 


Oh and heyyy, here's that classic shot you've been waiting for. I have one of Jack and me under the Disneyland version of Cannery Row. Regretting not getting another pic under the real version... next time. ;)


As I was saying, we were hungry. You know how it can happen that you're in a place surrounded by restaurants and you really just don't quite know what to do about food? Crowds aren't good with hungry kids (ahh, okay, with ME. I'm the one who can't handle missing a meal), and our first choice option had a 30 minute wait... and it was actually in a MALL nearby, which just didn't appeal. Yelp users didn't mention that when they rated it #1 for the area (or maybe they did and I just didn't read enough reviews)! Anyway, #3 on my prepped-in-advance-list became number two when I realized it was only two blocks from the top rated one. 

Here I am looking up the directions to the next spot on our list... I was smiling, but mostly thinking about food and thinking- wait, he's taking a picture of me in this state of hungry?


I'm SO glad we found Vivolo's Chowder House. It's just 2 or 3 blocks from the aquarium and the food was perfect. No wait to get a table!! Here are my tips: the portions are generous. The kids' fish and chips was probably more than I could eat by myself, so I cannot imagine what an adult portion would be. Order less than you think you'll need and then add more food if you are still hungry. I strongly recommend the clam chowder-- SO GOOD-- and clams appetizer. My husband and children love ordering steamed clams, and I'm so totally adverse to it-- I'm not a picky eater, but I'm definitely not a clam fan even though I love clam chowder with all my taste buds. So why, you ask, do I recommend them? Ohhh the garlic buttery broth that came with the clams. I dipped all the fluffy bread in there. I couldn't stop. So good. 


For foodies out there, HERE is where you find only the best options in Monterey County. Another big tip for traveling with kids or without: plan those restaurants before you get to your destination. The last thing you want is to spend hard earned cash on an overpriced meal that had only one star, but you didn't do your homework and everyone is too anxious to find reviews and make the right choice... you know? (been there done that, lesson learned!).

Kids were exhausted after lunch (and it was 2pm, so that makes sense!), so we headed to our car to drive home... but then.


It's not every day you see giant swans floating on a lake.

As much fun as I had had all day, I had really gone into the day assuming we would get some quality time outdoors with fresh air before heading back home. Monterey has so many fantastic outdoor family activities to offer, and we were about to get in the car without taking advantage of any... until we passed the swans.

Ten minutes later, WE were floating on a lake.

(I'm thinking you saw where I was going with that)

We did not rent a swan because the ever-so-kind employees of the boating house told us they are way more work to maneuver (and it's not like we can really make the kids pedal us around the lake!). They're also $15 more, and technically fit five adults, whereas the rowboats only fit FOUR (or four + a baby). We rented a sparkly turquoise row boat for 30 minutes and $20 and miles of smiles.  


And now, in exchange for you reading every single word of this lengthy blog post... 

See Monterey is giving away five pair of tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Entering is simple! Visit the See Monterey site and leave a comment here letting me know one thing you'd like to do if you go on a trip to Monterey County!

I'll tell you what plan I'm making for next time: a night in a bed & breakfast, a beach walk on 17 mile drive, and a drive down to Big Sur for a glimpse of Bixby Bridge. :) Yes, please!

MAUI + Live Health Online by Kate Brightbill


Maybe you heard- we went to Maui last month! We came home tan and refreshed and willing and ready to tell everyone that Maui may just be our favorite place in the whole world. I said it the last time I was there when I was 17, and I'm still saying it after this trip. 

Maui is not too busy, not too quiet. It's juuuust right. 

StyleSmaller #maui
StyleSmaller #maui
StyleSmaller #maui

Have a few pictures, eh?

Time is one of- if not my MAIN love language. I need quality time with those I love or I go nuts. This was a beautiful way to spend quality time all together. Our kids are at a really ideal age for travel... both can communicate and articulate what they need {in contrast to some past flights during which tears were flowing, both for them & me! HA}. Both have had swim lessons for most of this year, so Sophie can swim sans floaties under our watchful eyes, and Maggie wore the safety floaty belt and could enjoy blowing bubbles in the water happily.... last year she wouldn't step closer than five feet from any swimming pool, so this is true progress. 


This trip came at the perfect time in our lives. We actually haven't had many family vacations for only the four of us... we generally travel with family or friends! This trip was work-related for Brian, so the first few days we WERE with his associates, whose families are dear friends, enjoying a serene pool, fabulous meals, and beautiful views. The following days were juuuust us, the pool, the beach, and a world of no schedules.

I found I love paddle-boarding. It was the most serene time. I took Sophie out a couple times, but she noted my far-from-graceful disembarking onto the beach and was a bit nervous. It was amazing to be out on the water, away from the noise, in the most gorgeous setting, getting a little me-time. Brian is a gem for sending me out there twice. If I lived the island life, a paddle-board would be my first investment. 


When we travel, I'm always a little extra cautious. I slather my little girls with sunscreen, I do my best to keep them hydrated, nutritious {tricky when the cheap kids meals are burgers or chicken fingers & fries!! We often opt for the girls splitting a grown-up meal rather than ordering two children's meals. Adult meals have ironically more nutritious options.}, and I try to keep them from pinkeye, rashes, colds, etc.

That said, for any and every family, there are about a million variables. Perhaps unknown allergies. Perhaps a stray piece of coral on the beach. Perhaps a meal that didn't sit well. I'm a bit of a worrier by nature {though thankfully it's far more under control than it once was}, so I was incredibly pleased to have heard about LiveHealth Online before traveling. "There's an app for that," they say. In this case, there's an app for a little peace of mind. What is this app, you ask? Let me tell you:

LiveHealth Online is a 24-hour-per-day doctor... talk via two-way video chat from a tablet, phone, or computer. You can sign up online or download the app, log in, and for $49 {way cheaper than urgent care, yes?} Also- LiveHealth Online is a covered benefit for many Anthem Blue Cross PPO, EPO and HSA plans. The cost is the same or less than a PCP office visit}, you talk to a doctor about pain, or you SHOW them your rash, you look at them and they at you and you discuss your concerns with a U.S. Based Doctor. This is available in 44 states right now, with 38 of those states allowing physicians to prescribe medication for acute illnesses if they feel it's beneficial to their patients. Average wait time is 3 minutes! It's secure, it's private, it's efficient.

We can't bring our doctors on vacation with us, but sometimes we just have to consult with a professional. On our honeymoon, Brian got the worst sunburn of his life. He was hardly red, but somehow his body was prickling and the only semi-relief was a cold shower. I had no access to LiveHealth Online- this was nine years ago! I made several long distance calls to family for consultations, and racked up hundreds of dollars in long distance calls to do so {just typing that sentence makes me feel ancient! Someday in my future I'll hear, "mom what are these 'long distance call charges' I've never heard of that"}... 

How do you get this service at your fingertips? Download LiveHealth Online or visit their website and sign up quickly and easily! Peace of mind- a visit with the doctor- in minutes!! We believe you'll love this app so much that we're offering to let you try LiveHealth Online for free using the code LHOStyleSmaller until December 31, 2014. 


This post is sponsored by Live Health Online. All opinions are my own.


NYC by Kate Brightbill

I'm not entirely sure how to summarize a million miles of walking, cabs, and one subway ride all over NYC for four days, so I'll just jump in with pictures. Pictures literally do say 1000 words. If you click on the picture and they have a website, I've done the work for you and linked to it. Just lookin' out here, in case you're on your way that direction and would like to see some pretty spots! 

On our last trip {see it HERE}, we navigated upper manhattan and a bit of union square. Basically I stalked the You've Got Mail scenes in the upper west side with Brian, and ate a lot of bagels in a tiny 24 hour period. 

This trip, we covered lower manhattan: Meatpacking, Chelsea, Flatiron, Soho, Noho, Tribeca, Wall Street, and little bits in between. We got a great last-minute deal on The Standard Hotel for one night, and never wanted to leave! Floor to ceiling city & hudson!! YES. 

Williamsburg, Brooklyn:

NYC is massive, a tiny bit overwhelming to attempt to conquer, filled with treasures and shops and dreams and we absolutely love it. I love traveling. Experiencing life in different places, watching other people's day-to-day, seeing friends in real life and visiting them in their own home is such a treat.


Now we're home sweet home, with a lovely little heat wave sending us to the beach yesterday {with bathing suits! such a rarity in San Francisco!}, and now circulating a bout of flus and fevers to round out the week.

More soon! I have so much to say since my real life is going lightspeeds ahead, and my screen time has been totally depleted in order to keep up!  



Resolution 2014 by Kate Brightbill


A new year. I'm writing this a week early because I really like to spend time thinking about resolutions, and New Year's Eve and day is reserved for late night memory-making parties, and slow, easy mornings. 

Resolutions are a fabulous thing. I'm so glad that we reserve the first of every year for a clean slate that we can practice introspection and strive for betterment in our lives. 2013 was a decent year. We played hard, we worked hard, we did a LOT. The first half of the year felt long and gloomy and challenging; the second half lovely and full and warm. It's not a year I'd choose to repeat, but I do believe there was character built, and obstacles overcome, and I'm grateful for that. 

There is a lot I'd love to improve in the next year, but most of all, I'd like to resolve: 

To become an intentional person in 2014. 

Does that sound too vague? Maybe. I actually look at it the opposite way. I'm kind of a free spirit sometimes. I like leaving my options open, having no schedules, letting things flow and play out the way they "should." Before having children, this was no big deal, but this year I began to feel loose and scattered rather than organized and put-together. I'm an organized person, so "loose and scattered" is not the day-to-day I picture for myself. 

There are things we say we'd like to do. We say it until we're blue in the face, but until we get something on the calendar and make it happen, it's not just going to happen.

To be intentional is to change "Hey, let's hang soon," to "Hey, are you free on the 20th to get dinner at ___ with me? Let's put it on the calendar now!" or "Oh, I need to grab this that and the other to start teaching Sophie some kindergarten prep" to "Sophie let's do a lesson, and while you work, I'll order those books on Amazon." 

Sometimes I spend far too much time THINKING about what I should do and far less time DOING. 

To be intentional is to adjust that mentality daily.

{Starting with a calendar I'll be ordering riiiiiight now!}




Ps. You might also like: 2013 Resolutions


NYC by Kate Brightbill


Quality time in NYC is just what the doctor ordered. Two days, about fifteen miles of walking, and one night next to central park at the Essex House was perfect. 

Brian and I are a good match for traveling. We want the most out of our time, and we love walking the best. We're also big on food, but when it's such a short trip, we don't necessarily want to spent excessive time sitting and eating. I needed a good bagel, and Brian needed a couple good slices, and we were good. 

JW Essex House

We got a great deal at the Essex House and couldn't have asked for a better location- it was so central to Manhattan. Met up with a friend and took a subway near Union Square and grabbed Thai at ROHM on 20th in the flatiron {totally recommend it... good food/location}, coffee at The Grey Dog on University {and the most massive brownie ever served}, then called it a night. Sometimes it's good to call it a night when you're reeeeallly jetlagged and you want to get the most of the next day. 

  We wanted to stop at the ShakeShack, but ah, not enough time...&nbsp;

We wanted to stop at the ShakeShack, but ah, not enough time... 

So we legitimately made the most of the next day. We grabbed bagels at Ess-A-Bagels... friends, that place is SUCH a delicious tourist trap. 

While seriously enjoying our bagels, we discussed the crazy tourist situation... The place is packed-line-out-the-door, and the friends of the ones out the door waiting were sitting in the 10 tables available... none with bagels yet, most with glares, and most also with five extra chairs for future companions. Yelp didn't mention this sort of madness.. we had some good laughs about the seriousness of ordering bagels there. Don't get me wrong, I'd go back in a heartbeat. The bagels are legit. I'm talking insanely good. How do the places in New York manage to get bagels so right, and why don't they give SF bagel shops their secrets? At least we've perfected the sourdough and the dutch-crunch breads. 

  The Shop Around the Corner is, indeed, a cleaners now.&nbsp;

The Shop Around the Corner is, indeed, a cleaners now. 

So I was browsing the good ol' internet Friday night and noticed the 15th anniversary of You've Got Mail {thanks to SometimesSweet Friday links}, and quite perfectly, we were in the vicinity of the sites where the best rom-com was filmed... so naturally, I dragged Brian to the Upper West Side with me. We discovered that The Shop around the Corner is a standard cleaners, rather than the enchanting deep-green-with-patterned-floors- book shop it once was, but gosh, I was excited to be there. The block was charming, and I decided that if I lived in Manhattan, the Upper West is my ideal. We made it to Gray's Papaya {W 72nd}and I embarrassingly took a picture there too, without any hotdog purchase. Somehow in the moment, it felt right to stand at that corner. In retrospect, I can't decide if it's awesome or ridic. Both, I think. 

NYC Pizza
Central Park
  The dream slices of pizza,  Bella Vita Pizza , 58th St.

The dream slices of pizza, Bella Vita Pizza, 58th St.


Yes, I'll go back anytime. I love you so, New York City. I have the best husband ever! xo


Vacations are Beautiful by Kate Brightbill

Brian and I went on a trip! Without kids!  I missed them with all my heart, but we really needed this time away...

If you follow on Instagram or Twitter, this is old news. If you don't, hey... follow! 

I'm currently sitting on my own couch in our own home and I am refreshed and excited about life as can be. We flew in, gave our kiddos a million kisses and a couple little toys from our travels, and now we are blissfully enjoying our last moments of peaceful quiet before we hit the ground running tomorrow.  

Tomorrow is the day before Halloween, during which the girls and I will be scrambling to create a Halloween costume from who-knows-what. If you see them as cowgirls again on Thursday, you'll know that I had an epic Halloween fail and decided to re-use the rodeo ensembles for the holiday, but I'm hoping I have some creative tricks up my sleeve. I may need to scour Pinterest during their nap/rest time tomorrow.  

We didn't go far for our long weekend... a quick one-hour flight down to SoCal. We started our time at a pumpkin patch to hang with some friends and I'm hoping we can make it to the pumpkin patch with OUR kids before they notice the pictures of us enjoying a hayride with other friends' kids, ha!  


  When our children aren't around, Brian and I turn our cameras on each other... and yes, we did do the wagon ride, corn maze and pumpkin patch on our weekend away... ;)

When our children aren't around, Brian and I turn our cameras on each other... and yes, we did do the wagon ride, corn maze and pumpkin patch on our weekend away... ;)

Brian and I needed this time away. Goodness, does anyone chase toddlers for a living and relate? The loveliness of motherhood can somehow get lost and forgotten in the depths of exhaustion, so this opportunity to refresh has just brightened everything. We had full, thorough, un-rushed conversations about any and everything that came to mind. Some may say we totally planned our weekend poorly because- well- we planned almost nothing, BUT, the lack of planning was intentional. Having absolutely nothing on our agenda meant we could improvise and do whatever we wanted!! At this stage in our life, this is a total novelty. 

I have so much to say, but so little time. Bedtime now, because two little cuties will be waking us bright and early tomorrow! More soon!