We’re back from New England…

and…

WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

First, I want to send out a big THANK YOU to all of you who entered the contest.

And now without further ado..

it’s time to get down to business!

So you must be wondering what quintessential New England treasure(s) I found.

I had no idea what I would find, but the one thing that a New England autumn is known for is fall foliage, maple syrup and pumpkins!

On our fifth day, we hadn’t really experienced true fall foliage because up until that point it had been an unseasonably warm autumn.

Although our first days in Boston followed by Maine gave us just a small sampling of fall foliage, the autumn we hoped for started once we entered New Hampshire!

Green leaves were being overtaken by bursts of reds, yellows and oranges – a glorious display that made my heart beat faster with every turn of the road!

One thing I really enjoyed photographing in addition to autumn leaves were covered bridges, and New England had them in abundance!

But what’s better than a cute covered bridge in the heart of New Hampshire…?

A cute covered bridge that has a souvenir shop inside!  (Squeals of delight!!!)

Behold the Bartlett Covered Bridge!

Talk about a kid in a candy store!

Hubby watched our son so I could play (as he calls it) and see if anything caught my eye.

And something did…

The Birch Necklace

It reads:

“The gleaming white bark of the silver birch and its graceful branches have rightfully earned the name ‘lady of the woods’. This product contains a real leaf that has been carefully selected, preserved and transformed from nature into treasure.”

How could I refuse?

It’s so delicate, and the light just dances off of the leaves, and the color, well…it just truly represents a New England autumn!

I hope the winner enjoys wearing this autumn-themed necklace all year round!

But wait…there’s more!

How can I not include something maple-y in this prize package?

As we drove south on Vermont’s Scenic Byway Route 100, we stopped off at Cold Hollow Cider Mill to enjoy lunch, try some cider and of course, check out the gift shop!


This Maple Flavored Pop was too cute to pass up!

We stocked up on these for my hubby’s team at work and also one for the winner (ok and one for me too!!!)

Our second to last day found us back in Massachusetts on the Mohawk Trail in search of the Johnny Appleseed trail.

After getting turned around a few times, we literally stumbled upon Sholan Farms in the town of Leominster.

Sholan Farms

Filled with pumpkins, produce and autumn-y goodies…

I couldn’t refuse to check it out!

Well before I knew it, the Wicked Pumpkin Crunch lotion was in our car going back to the hotel with us!

After testing out the sample, I thought, now THIS is autumn!
I mean, who doesn’t want to smell like pumpkin pie?!
And bonus – it’s made locally!

So there you have it!

One lucky winner will receive the Birch Necklace, the Maple Flavored Pop and the Wicked Pumpkin Crunch lotion!

Now it’s time for the second item of business – who won?!

Rafflecopter did the honors and randomly selected the winner out of the 225 entries.

Can we have a drum roll please?

And the winner of the New England Mystery Giveaway is…

(Round of applause echoing through cyberspace!)

Congratulations Robyn!!!

I hope you enjoy wearing this necklace as you savor the maple leaf pop and indulge your senses with pumpkin crunch lotion!

Robyn, please email me the address you’d like to have your goodies shipped to at passporttobliss@gmail.com.

If I don’t hear from you by midnight (PST) on Wednesday, October 11th, another winner will be announced on Thursday, October 12th.

Thanks again to all who entered.

Stay tuned for a recap of our New England adventures!

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HAPPY FIRST DAY OF AUTUMN!!!!!

Hi everyone!

I’m back!

Well, I haven’t really gone anywhere except into motherhood overdrive!

I’ve been so busy with the many facets of being a mom that this blog, which was once treated like my baby (before baby), has sadly taken a back seat.

Summer hasn’t given us many opportunities for family travel, and the motivation to write just hasn’t been there…until now! 

That’s right, I’m excited to say that in one short week, hubby, baby toddler and I will be boarding a plane and taking the red eye to…New England!

A destination that was once unchecked on our bucket list will soon be crossed off, and I look forward to giving you a first hand account of our New England road trip and the many adventures we will surely have with our squirmy, curious, happy, fussy, soon-to-be 2 year old!

Our itinerary will consist of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont…but I must say, even though I’m looking forward to exploring all 4 beautiful states, I’m looking forward to Maine the most!

Why Maine?

Well, ever since grade school, I was fascinated by lighthouses, and I envisioned myself living in a Maine lighthouse.  The thought of this California girl traveling to the easternmost state and being in charge of lighting the way for souls at sea pulled at my imagination! To me, Maine was the ultimate nautical destination, and it had an aura of mystery! I also was pretty certain I’d marry a Maine fisherman while I was living in my Maine lighthouse! (And this was all from the mind of an 11 year old!)

Well, even though it was a nice childhood dream, little did I know that a much better California dream would unfold that didn’t include a lighthouse or a fisherman!

Things happen for a reason!

So here we are, getting ready for our first extended trip with our youngin’ to a place I’ve only dreamed of.

I also can’t wait to experience a REAL AUTUMN and to also brush up on one of my favorite hobbies…photography!

With the recent California drought, we get to experience leaves in various shades of brown.

It doesn’t make for a thrilling autumn, but the influx of pumpkin spice lattes at most coffee shops slightly makes up for it!

I must say though…I don’t know how I’ll react when I witness the vibrant punch of reds, oranges and yellows painted across New England!

I might just shed a tear!

To commemorate our journey and to KICK OFF THE FIRST DAY OF AUTUMN (WOOHOO!) , I’m having a fun little

As in true Passport to Bliss style, this giveaway is so mysterious, even I don’t know what I’m giving away!

As we peruse quaint little New England shops and markets, I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for something quintessentially New England…or maybe it’ll be something that truly represents autumn, or…who knows!

So how do I enter, you ask?

Well, it’s really easy.

Follow this link to enter the drawing via Rafflecopter, and choose your entry option! Or you can do all 3 and increase your chances of winning!

The giveaway begins TODAY (September 22nd) and will close at midnight (PST) on Sunday, October 8th. The winner will be announced on Monday, October 9th.
*Open to U.S. & Canada residents only!*

It’s just my little way to say thanks for just dropping by or following me (even though I’ve been on a mommyhood hiatus) and for being so awesome!

Good Luck to you all….

& HAPPY AUTUMN!

 

 

 

 

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Being a mom of a toddler has opened up a whole new world of discovery!

From bubbles to tupperware to butterflies and toes…it’s all new and exciting to my little one!

So when we venture outside of the home, it’s fun to see his wide-eyed reactions to his new surroundings.

Part of the challenge of being a parent to a young child is finding places to visit that are fun not only for him but also for us!

When we took a weekend getaway to San Diego recently, I read about the Keys Creek Lavender Farm and thought that would make a nice side trip on our drive back home.

Located in Valley Center, it’s a fun little adventure just getting to it!

Get ready to go off the beaten path…

…and enjoy the twists and turns along the way!

Don’t worry about getting lost – there are markers to direct you!

Welcome! You made it!

If you love the smell of lavender, you’re in the right place!

Where to begin? Well, that’s the fun part!
Just follow the arrow of your choosing…

or follow a self-guided tour…

or pay $15 per person for a private tour!

We opted to explore the grounds at our leisure.

Words of wisdom as we started our journey.

With over a dozen varieties of lavender to enjoy,
it was fun to just follow the path and immerse ourselves in over 8 1/2 acres of lavender splendor!


Sam loved breathing in this heavenly aroma new to his senses!

Did I mention the gorgeous views?

…and the bees?  Yes, there were buzzing about!
Surprisingly, they kept to themselves as long as we didn’t bother them.

A pleasant surprise were the various activities to enjoy on the grounds.
A crystal labyrinth and meditation zen garden were there for visitors to
reflect or relax.

Where the lavender is distilled to use in their commercial products!

Tah-dah!
This charming frame was the perfect photo op for guests to pose and
capture their visit!

Quality time with my boy!

Ready for a treat?
Well go check out Mrs. Jones’s Tea House & enjoy all things lavender!


You can’t go wrong with the lavender scone/jelly and lavender lemonade!

We all enjoyed it – even the wee one couldn’t stop reaching for another little nibble…

…or big nibble!
(Okay, YES, that’s my bite! Guilty as charged!)

The lavender lemonade was oh so light, floral and refreshing!
Simply delicious!

Try not to gulp it down all at one time!
It was amazing how quickly it disappeared!

Before we left, a stop at this charmingly decorated gift shop was in order!
We went home with lavender lotion and jelly.

There’s also bubble bath, sleep balm, essential oils, room spray, candles and
countless other goodies to enjoy!

Anywhere on the farm is really a photo op!




Open to the public in May and June, Keys Creek Lavender Farm is a fun, unique experience for the whole family!
Don’t forget to bring $5 for parking.


Keys Creek Lavender Farm
12460 Keys Creek Road
Valley Center, CA 92082
(760) 742-3844

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All my life, I’ve always loved the experience of going to the airport, boarding airplanes and taking to the skies!

It usually signified the adventure and excitement of visiting a new destination or special memories that were soon to be made with distant relatives.

But as a relatively new mom…flying has become a whole new experience!

Preparing for flights require just a little more time, organization and checklists.

And the flights themselves…well, let’s just say that a big dose of patience and a sense of humor goes a long way!

Let’s get this show on the road!
(Seeing what it’s like to have his own seat…before adjourning to the “lap” seat…aka Mommy & Daddy.) 

Last year, my hubby and I experienced our first flight as new parents. Luckily our then 6 month old son was an easy flyer.  A warm bottle, cuddles, pretty views and checking out the magazine in the seat pocket was pretty much all that was needed to keep him entertained.


Let’s see…where shall I fly to next?
(6 months old and enjoying his first airline publication.)

But we learned to expect the unexpected.

A few weeks ago, our now healthy boy was ready for his second flight..as a 16 month old toddler!

We had to take into consideration that he wasn’t the easy flyer we knew a few months prior.  Nope, he blossomed into a curious, squirmy, “I must touch everything I see” toddler, and we had to prepare for this transformation all the while sitting in our laps for the entire flight.  Once he turns two, then he can enjoy his own seat, but for now, it’s the mommy and daddy seat!

Daddy, let’s see if our flight is on time!

Here are a few steps we took to ease his (and our) flight :

  • Bring wipes.  Our boy loves to touch EVERYTHING, and he is a GERM MAGNET!  Needless to say, we wiped down the arm rests (and the buttons on those arm rests), the tops and bottoms of the tray tables and the seats in front of us.  And wouldn’t you know it, those were the exact places his curious little fingers touched…over and over and over again!  Luckily, he remained healthy on this trip and didn’t bring home any unwanted bugs!

    Time to investigate…EVERYTHING!

  • Bring snacks. We don’t usually automatically give our son snacks when he starts fussing, but on a packed flight with layovers, we’ll do whatever it takes!  Cheerios, food pouches or just another bottle did the trick and kept his fussiness at bay.
  • Bring their favorite cuddle lovies.  They might take up more room in your carry-on, but for us, they were lifesavers! A nice soft blankie to cuddle up with and his beloved “brown-bear” joined us on the flight, and they brought him so much comfort.
  • Prepare bottles or sippy cups for take-off and landing.  This will help immensely to prevent any earaches and the associated screaming (and dirty looks from passengers).  😉
  • Technology is your friend!  We normally try to limit screen time, but when it came to flying and keeping our boy happy, we loaded up the iPad with apps and games for him to enjoy…and he did!  I do think I’ll invest in toddler headphones next time so he can watch a fun show or movie.
  • Bring their favorite toys, new toys or books.  We brought only a few of his favorite smaller toys (including some teething items), but we also brought a relatively new toy with us called pipSguiz. This is something I purchased after reading all of the rave reviews online…and I’m glad I did!  These colorful toys have suction capabilities, so we were able to stick them to the windows and tray tables, and our boy enjoyed batting at them, hearing the rattle noises, squishing them and trying to unstick them. They’ve become one of his favorite toys especially when we go out and about – perfect for putting on the stroller table!
  • Bring a change of clothes for you and your child!  This is where I had an epic mommy failure! Usually I’m on top of this when we go out, and I always have a change of clothes for him, but on our return trip, I think I had mommy brain and completely forgot to pack a change of clothes for both of us!  Luckily we were about 15 minutes away from landing at our layover destination, but while he slept ever so soundly on me, I felt something get increasingly warm and moist on my lap. Sure enough…as I shifted him to check, this warm sensation became a waterfall running down my leg!  Hubby checked the diaper bag to get out the spare pair of pants we *of course* packed because how could we forget to pack a change of clothes?!  Well…guess what? No pants, no top, not even a burpee cloth!  Mommy brain had reared its’ ugly head! Luckily we DID have diapers, and because the seatbelt sign was on, we had no choice but to change him there on our laps in our seats.  (NOTE: This is something we would normally NEVER do!!!)  Luckily the guy in our row was understanding since he was a seasoned grandpa! (phew!!!)   And in a crowded Vegas airport bathroom, I washed his pants and used the super charged hand dryer to get them ready for the last leg of our journey.  Lesson learned!

Look at that innocent little face…

  • Bring a sense of humor!  Because *shit* (or in our case *pee*) happens!  (See above!)

I know we have SO much more to learn about surviving flights with our toddler, but I think in the end, all we can really do is smile, hope for the best and prepare for the worst…

…and hang on tight! 

Have you flown with a toddler?  If so, what suggestions do you have for a smooth, happy flight?

Beyond the Horizon

lahaina, mauii

Sometimes your dreams are just beyond the horizon! 

*Inspiration provided by this glorious Lahaina, Maui sunset.

Taking the Plunge

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As I sat on the floor of the small aircraft with my feet dangling out of the open door and the wind tousling my hair at 13,000 feet above the earth, I glanced over to my husband, shouted (possibly for the last time), “Love you honey!” and rolled out of the aircraft straight to the earth below.

You see, last year at this time, we reached our 5 year anniversary, and we wanted to do something a little fun…adventurous…exciting.

Something at least one of us has never done before.

Sure, we entertained the idea of tandem skydiving for our previous anniversaries, but as the years faded and we got older…and wiser…I didn’t think the idea of skydiving would resurface…and I was fine with that!

I was no stranger to skydiving.

Ten years earlier, I experienced skydiving for the first time in Queenstown, New Zealand…and I loved it!  Shaking up my stagnant life is what I was in search of, and so naturally, falling out of an airplane was the perfect remedy…as was tossing myself off of a bridge!

Years later, when my husband and I married, he said that one day, he, too, would love to experience the thrill of skydiving.

“Maybe for one of our anniversaries?”

I thought it might be fun, but the yearning for a thrill of that magnitude wasn’t at the forefront of my bucket list anymore.

Gentle adventures are what I craved.

But alas, we made our reservations to take the plunge for our wedding anniversary knowing that this might be the last chance we get to do something exciting insane before our adoption dreams came true.

That early August morning, we enjoyed a relaxing drive to Oceanside where Tsunami Skydivers (now called GoJump Oceanside) awaited our arrival.

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When we arrived at our destination, apprehension replaced excitement especially when we were requested to sign our lives away!

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After filling out our paperwork we-won’t-sue-you-if-there’s-an-accident waiver, we joined the other participants in the outside waiting area where we watched a group ahead of us get briefed, rigged up and filed into the tiny aircraft.

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About 30 minutes later, we watched the van return with the newly invigorated jumpers, eager to recount their adventures in the air!

At long last, our time had come, and we met our assigned instructors that we’d be flying  falling-out-of-a-perfectly-good-airplane with.

For an additional charge that we were happy to pay, our instructors would also be our cameramen using their GoPros to capture videos and photos of
the moments before, during and after our jumps!

DCIM100GOPROSure, we’re laughing and having a good time here…

DCIM100GOPRO…but we’re shaking inside!

After being briefed & harnessed, we boarded the aircraft and were packed in like sardines.

Counting the skydivers in our group, I realized that I was the last one to board, and quick deductions concluded that I would be the first to jump.

Gulp!

Those before me got to sit on benches, but me…I got prime floor seating with a soon-to-be stomach-churning view!

And with that, we were off!

As we ascended higher into the sky, Joe, my instructor, scooted closer to me and attached himself to my harness.

He then started to open the roll-up aircraft door, but for whatever reason, he needed some assistance.

“Jen, can you help me open this?”

Umm, what?!”

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As we worked on opening the door, I clenched anything I could on the floor of the aircraft with my free hand to prevent sliding out accidentally.

I looked over at the indicator light on the door. It was red.

Phew!  It was NOT time to jump!

I tried to enjoy the view, but the gaping void one foot to my right was at the forefront of my mind!

Joe asked me if I saw a camera on the floor by my feet. Being too nervous to care or wonder why he asked me that, I scanned the floor, reported that nothing was there & then quickly refocused on the matter at hand.

Participants were shouting and having fun in the back, and Joe kept documenting my reaction. Sure I had fun with it, but there were times when I was in no mood for witty banter.

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Suddenly, the indicator light turned GREEN!

“It’s time.” 

My stomach churned and my mouth instantly rivaled the California drought.

Joe began to scoot us toward the gaping hole in the aircraft.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!”

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I grasped the sides of my harness thinking that would somehow protect me from my inevitable fate.

Everything he told me about a proper dismount vanished.

My feet were now dangling over the ledge.

I said goodbye to my fellow jumpers and turned to look at my husband.

Realizing these could be the last words spoken to him, I shouted,

“Love you honey!” 

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Random thoughts filled my head including “What the heck are you doing?!”,  “Have you gone completely mad?”,  “What if the parachute doesn’t open?” and “SH*T!!!!”

When I looked at the earth below and the beautiful scenery all around, I was still paralyzed by fear, but a sense of excitement swept over me.

Adrenaline was at maximum capacity!

Sometimes you just have to give it up to God…and so I did.  And with a loud scream, we exited the aircraft.

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And let me just say – that first step is a doozy!!!

But what a view it was!

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Free falling at 13,000 feet is the most exhilarating feeling I have ever experienced!

For almost one minute, the loud, powerful wind rushed by us at 120 miles per hour.

With an ocean view all around, I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy every second!

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I even managed to blow my hubby a kiss!

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The two things I forgot from my first skydiving experience though was the immense pressure in my ears and the difficulty I had breathing!

You’re supposed to breathe through your nose & keep your mouth shut.

Well, that didn’t work for me!

I tried various ways to breathe – through my nose, through my mouth, through my teeth, creating “o” shaped funnels with my mouth and even sticking my tongue out…lol!)

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But before I passed out (LOL!), the parachute deployed and we were pulled upward to the sky and were soon gliding through the air in pure silence taking in the California coastline below!

I let out a huge sigh of relief, took a deep breath and squealed,

“Oh my God!!!”

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Joe kept asking how I was doing & what did I think…and all I could say was “Amazing!!!”

We glided above Oceanside and the Pacific Ocean for a few minutes.

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Joe helped me remove my face-squishing goggles to enjoy the scenery below.

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He then asked if I could hold his GoPro.

“Huh?”

Apparently he lost the camera portion of his GoPro and was only getting video of me this entire time. Hence his earlier request for me to search for his camera on the aircraft floor.

Because he had to navigate with two hands, he needed me to hold this expensive piece of equipment thousands of feet above earth.

“Don’t drop it!”

The hand-off of his GoPro to me was probably more nerve-racking than the jump itself because I was visualizing it falling right out of my hands and possibly onto somebody’s head!

Luckily, that didn’t happen, and it was back safe and sound with Joe after he finished his maneuvers.

A few more minutes of quiet peace, breathtaking views and smooth gliding, and we were headed for the drop zone in a dry field.

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I must say, this landing was far better than my first 10 years prior!  I literally just put my foot to the ground and took a step!  No rear slide-in landing for me this time.

Hubby landed before me since he did some turns & tricks that brought him down faster.

We ran to each other and hugged…happy to be on earth, still breathing and intact & able to celebrate the rest of our anniversary!

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Would I skydive again?

Maybe, but not until our little boy gets much older so he can join his crazy parents if he wants to!

(We’ll just see if our bucket list has room for another skydive adventure in 20 years or so!) 

As for my husband, he had a BLAST!

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You would never guess that this was his first time skydiving.  You can see both of our videos in my silly montage below.

I’ve been asked what the worst part of skydiving is for me. I must say, it’s the anticipation…the waiting…the random thoughts of doom entering my head…the seconds before leaving the aircraft…the feelings of utter panic, fear and numbness.

But once you take that leap of faith…all of those feelings vanish!

And if you’re wondering…yes, Tsunami Skydiving gave me a credit for the photos that I didn’t get from my skydive. Luckily, I was able to capture stills from my video.

If you’re ready to shake up your life with an adrenaline rush unlike any other, I highly recommend Tsunami Skydiving (now known as GoJump Oceanside).

You won’t regret it!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reminder…

IMG_3326Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so live life to the fullest, do something you’ve always wanted to do, always tell the special people in your life how much you mean to them, and find the bliss in every single day!