February 24, 2017

Life, The Universe & Everything

In a world of oversharing, Danny and I have decided to err on the side of caution when it comes to privacy. Sure, we share details about our travel experiences, which oftentimes get personal, but we tend to be mum on our lives outside of that and practice especial care in regards to our little gypsies. Both here on the blog and on our social media, we have a strict no photo policy of our children. You may see a bit of cheek, the back of the head, or cute little toes, but you will not be seeing their faces. While this decision garnered a few teasing comments from family and a few eye rolls from those who didn't fully agree with us, we've been very careful not to share our daughter's name or photo online, no matter how innocuous or well-meaning our intent!

But it's been a while since I've given a general update on our family, how having an energetic one year old (and another on the way!) impacts our travel plans and travel style, or sharing how we split our budget between exposing our little gypsies to the world and ensuring that they get to enjoy the highlights of their own culture and country when we're at home. In other words, it's time to get a little personal!

Baby Gypsy #2
This past week we had a small party for Baby Gypsy #2 (hmmm, I might need to redevelop pseudonyms now that we're having more than one kid!), and our cupcakes revealed that we are expecting another daughter! Even more importantly, the ultrasound showed that she is developing quite normally, healthily, and energetically as she has plenty of energy to make herself felt through tiny kicks and punches. Seeing her little face on the ultrasound was yet another reminder as to how miraculous a gift life is and that even the unborn can make you fall in love with their personality!

Baby Gypsy #1
Sometimes I think that we have the Energizer Bunny for a daughter - she never stops moving! So far I've gained very little weight this pregnancy (a blessed relief after gaining so much last time), and I could undoubtedly attribute most of that to the thousands of calories burned chasing a toddler around the universe. Ever since she learned to walk at 10 months old, she has hardly paused since. She particularly loves being outdoors, whether visiting her daddy at the downtown mall in Charlottesville, trotting around Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, or chasing her puppy on her grandparents' hobby farm. Taking her to Germany seems like such a distant memory, and I dearly wish we could put firm plans in place for our return. She would be so much more fun now at this age, although the plane ride would probably be even more of a handful.

Absolutely fascinated by goats. She likes to "woof" at them.
Budgeting for Travel
Buying a house, having a "hungry hippo" toddler, and throwing the impending arrival of another little girl into the mix can make the budget do back-flips if you're not careful! We still make saving for travel a priority in the midst of life's everyday expenses. We managed to take a long, low-key weekend getaway to Mount Airy, North Carolina, for Danny's birthday (I tend to gift him trips away instead of things), and I still squirrel money away for our next, as-yet-unplanned-and-unbooked return trip to Europe. We've spent the last two World Cup finals in Germany, so we're looking to make it a tradition with a visit in July 2018. Sneak peeks at the general cost of flights in July and realizing how expensive 3-4 plane tickets will be nearly gave me a heart attack, but it'll be so worth it.

On top of that, I've dedicated $10 a week for a Girls Getaway... in 2023. You may laugh at that far-off date, but I'm completely serious! While we are all busy having babies and raising little ones right now, a few of us are hoping to take a (by then) much needed ladies-only trip somewhere. Maybe the Caribbean. Maybe Croatia. Maybe Spain! In saving $10 a week, by 2023, I'll have $3,120. Not a bad chunk of change!

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Recently, we booked my mother in law's round-trip tickets from Washington D.C. to Frankfurt for a total of $605 - a very, very good price for mid-May (thank you, IcelandAir!). That familiar rush of finding a good deal and dreaming about beloved places abroad has left me feeling a little sad that we likely won't be venturing beyond our state's borders much this year, let alone the country.

Thankfully, that sadness only lasts until I see a picture of my daughter's face and then I start making plans to take her someplace new a little closer to home. Having kids is hard. Traveling with kids is hard. But I wouldn't change my life for the world. Unless you happen to have a spare million laying around to share!

What's new in your corner of the universe?

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February 17, 2017

How to Scratch the Travel Itch (When Stuck at Home)


You know that feeling when you're driving home on a Friday night after work wishing you were driving to the airport for a weekend getaway? That itchy, have-to-travel compulsion that almost inevitably occurs when your next planned trip is months away? Or worse, not even in the works?

Yeah, that feeling can sting a little sometimes.

So what's a girl to do when the travel bug starts itching? I have a few go-to methods that help me travel vicariously when my butt is stuck in central Virginia.

⇒ Watch a travel show or movie.
This can be anything from joining Rick Steves in Europe, hopping behind Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on their Roman Holiday scooter, or questing with Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings (Can I get a #MiddleEarthIsAREALPlace trend going, please?). Movies have the ability to transport you away from reality for a while; why not immerse yourself in another culture to quench your travel thirst?

Recommendations: The Amazing Race (tv show), The Sound of Music, The DaVinci Code, Mary Poppins, almost any James Bond movie.

Roman Holiday, anyone?

⇒ Stalk your fellow travel bloggers and 'grammers.
Chances are, one or two of your favorite travel bloggers are currently tripping around the world or are still writing about their recent adventures. Go drool over their photos, laugh at their snafus, and let their travels distract you from your wanderlusting itch. Don't have time to read? Fill your feed with some kick-ass Instagrammers!

Recommendations: [BlogsWhat Up, Swags?! | A Nesting Nomad | Megan C Starr | Snow In Tromso | Em Busy Living | The Travels of BBQ Boy and Spanky  [Instagram] What Up, Swags?! | InSearchOfPrettyPlaces | The Wandering Wife | A Nesting Nomad | Megan C Starr


You could always just follow me!

⇒ Go explore your back yard.
Have you ever thought about the fact that all those exotic places on your bucket list are someone else's "back yard" and that your own back yard might be on someone else's bucket list?! When traveling far isn't an option, don't overlook the cool places close to home! Make yourself an expert on your city, region, or state.

Recommendations: Check out your locality's tourism board for suggestions or use Trip Advisor's "top things to do" for your area.

The OBX isn't quite my backyard, but it's pretty close!

What are your go-to travel itch distractions when you're stuck at home?


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February 09, 2017

7 Wineries in 6 Hours


My friend Meghan is a Wine Nazi. And I mean that in the most flattering, complimentary way possible!

On a cool April day, we three girls - Meghan, my fellow #252by2022 challenger Brittany, and myself - piled into the car and headed west for Virginia's wine country. We hoped to visit at least three wineries; we dared to think we may even see four. But seven?! Well, when you have a determined wine fanatic like Meghan at the wheel, all things are possible!*

(c) Brittany James
1. Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery
As our taste for wine tends to run on the sweeter or less dry side, we were very pleased with a lot of the selections at Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery as most are fruit-based wines and meads. My particular favorite was their strawberry "Sweet Vixen" wine, but the Sweet Melon was a close runner-up.

2. Bold Rock Cidery
Bold Rock is an old favorite of ours as Brittany and I first concocted our #252by2022 challenge after a spontaneous visit to their establishment earlier that spring. The Virginia Apple and Vat No. 1 are our ciders of choice, with the latter resembling more of a champagne than a true cider.

3. Flying Fox Vineyard
The wines of Flying Fox Vineyard suit the palate of dry wine aficionados, of which we are not. However, we found the 2013 Pinot Gris and the White Table Wine to be drinkable** and were pleased that the price for tasting included keeping the stemless wine glass as a souvenir!

Flying Fox Vineyard. (c) Brittany James

4. Afton Mountain Vineyards
With a sign at the front of the property proclaiming that "Grapes Don't Grow in Ugly Places," we had high hopes for beautiful scenery at Afton Mountain Vineyards, and we were not disappointed! Similar to Flying Fox, Afton has many dry varieties of wine, although there were a few sweeter ones which we fancied, such as the Muscat and Mountain White.

5. Cardinal Point Winery
Folksy, bluegrass music greeted our ears at Cardinal Point Winery's outdoor porch and patio where we settled down on comfy couches with a glass of 2014 Quattro, a blend with tastes of apple, peach, pear, and, of course, grape. It is slightly drier than my normal wine favorites, but I took a bottle home with me anyway!
Virginia Is For [Wine] Lovers.
Veritas Vineyard & Winery. (c) Brittany James

6. Veritas Vineyard & Winery
Veritas numbers among the nobility of wineries in the general Charlottesville area. The atmosphere is what I imagine of the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley. Polished. Aristocratic. Aloof. Veritas' wines have a reputation for being solid performers, but my only favorite of the day was their 2013 Rosé, which was light and crisp.

7. Pollak Vineyards
We capped our wine blitz at Pollak Vineyards, squeaking through the door shortly before their official closing time, but were treated as warmly as if we were the first guests of the day. If the weather hadn't been so depressingly foggy (and it hadn't been so late in the day!), we would've taken advantage of the beautiful patio and scenery around the tasting room. Although Pollak's wines generally run more on the dry side, by this point in the afternoon, I liked almost all of them with the Rosé 2014 (sensing a pattern here?) taking the top spot of the line-up.

Have you visited any of these wineries in Virginia? What's your all-time favorite wine?


Pollak Vineyards.
(c) Brittany James

Wine barrel art.
(c) Brittany James
We four winos!
(c) Brittany James

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* Meghan later went on to visit 8 wineries in 5 hours on a separate occasion. This should be a Guinness Book of World Records title!
** For all we know, they could be very good wines, but as we have not yet developed the taste buds for the drier varieties of wine, we can't recommend either way.
***All photos were taken by and used with permission of Brittany James. Unauthorized use of these photos, as with any photo on The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels, is strictly prohibited.