I've been meaning to write this post ever since we got back from our Washington-Texas road trip. We went out to lunch with some friends and they asked us how we planned all our destinations and specific activities, restaurants, and hotels. My answer ("Instagram!") was met with confused head tilts, which made me realize that most people still think of Instagram mostly as a way to keep up with their real-life friends. Which, of course, it is. But Instagram is also an awesome tool for researching and planning vacations--or even weekend plans in your own city! I've been using it a lot since we moved to Spokane to scope out places to go/see/explore. It's like a big crowd-sourced gallery of real-time, seasonally appropriate ideas!
The first place I start is the "Places" tab on Instagram, which pulls up photos from users that have geotagged their photos with that location. You can search for broad places ("Spokane, WA") or specific locations ("Rockwood Bakery"). A broad search is worth doing to see if it yields any ideas, but be warned: you'll probably also find a lot of irrelevant stuff like people's dogs, workouts, and car selfies.
For that reason, I usually try to start with a list of a few top-rated restaurants, coffee shops, and things to do, which I get from TripAdvisor and people's recommendations. Then I search for those specific places under the "Places" tab. What I like about this is you can see recent photos from real people. This is especially helpful if you want to do something that varies by the season. You can see, for example: are the cherry blossoms in bloom yet? how big is the waterfall this time of year? is there still snow on the ground? etc. When you click on the most recent photos, you can see the timestamp when they were posted, which helps determine if it's worth going. We did this when we were considering going to Palouse Falls a few weekends ago. When we saw that the waterfall was really big and beautiful that day, it convinced us to take the detour!
Looking at recent photos also helps me narrow down restaurants, because I can see if the food looks good, if the restaurant is cute inside, and whether it looks fancy or casual (and baby-friendly). Instagram also has a little map above the photos, so I can quickly see if the location is near whatever else we have planned for the day.
In addition, looking at real people's photos can help you figure out what to wear: is this a legit hike where I need running shoes, or are people wearing sandals? was it raining there as of an hour ago? are people dressed up, or can I wear jeans? You get the picture. I could see this being helpful for researching other things too, like if you're starting a new job and you want to see how the other employees dress, you could look at the "Places" tab for their corporate headquarters to get an idea of the overall vibe.
I also take a look at the "Top Posts" from each location. These are usually from local photographers, bloggers, and influencers, who often have similar taste to me. I'll click on their profile and see if there's anything else they posted from the area that looks interesting. This can often help me get more unique ideas that aren't listed on TripAdvisor.
One last thing about the "Places" tab: there's a feature at the top called "Near Current Location." If you click that, it'll show you some popular locations near you, which can be a good place to start if you haven't done any prior planning. When we were in Flagstaff, that's how we found Lockett Meadow (the birch forest we hiked through)...it was especially popular at that time because all the trees were changing color. That feature is also helpful for finding a place to eat when you're on the road!
Other ideas: you can check hashtags for the destination you're planning to visit, follow tourism accounts, and find locals with similar taste. You can even reach out to those locals for recommendations if you feel comfortable doing so. And of course, you can always post on your own account asking your followers/friends for ideas.
I'll leave you with a couple more photos from our recent day trip to Palouse Falls. If you live in Washington, it's definitely worth a little road trip!
Have you used social media to plan a trip? Give a try next time!
How have you guys been? Last week was super lame for me. I barely got out of the house and yet I still managed to get sick, on Friday of all days. Boo! Worst of all, Ian got the same bug and the poor guy threw up for the first time in his life and had a fever of 101.9. It was so sad to see him feeling miserable, especially since he's normally such a happy kid. But this week, we're all feeling muuuuch better, it's officially spring, the weather is getting nice, and my sister is home for spring break. So things are looking up! YAY. I am ready for flowers and farmer's markets and barbecuing and long walks.
Speaking of which...since the weather has warmed up, I've quickly realized something that I miss about our last neighborhood: it was SO walkable. We were within minutes to the beach, the library, multiple parks, coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, hair salons, etc...I got spoiled. My parents' neighborhood is nice, but it's basically just a residential suburb blocked in by major streets (that don't have very accessible crosswalks). I don't think I fully appreciated how nice it was to have almost everything we needed within walking distance. So far, that's what I miss the most about our old life (besides the people, of course).
In other news...Ian turns 9 months old tomorrow!!! I've been kicking myself for neglecting to write down regular monthly updates or journal entries to him. I haven't even kept track of his milestones very well...and he's my first baby! But oh well. I was reminded that Ian doesn't care whether he has a super detailed baby journal, or whether I've lost all my pregnancy weight, or whether I make dinner and keep the house clean, or whether he's dressed in a cute outfit or not. Those are pressures that I put on myself. He just wants me to play with him and interact with him.
So on that note, I won't spend too much longer writing this post...I've got better things to do. :) But first, I wanted to jot down some quick milestones and memories for posterity! Since I've been utterly failing at Ian's baby journal, maybe these blog posts can serve as a reference for us to look back on...
At 9 months, Ian:
- weighs ~17.5 lbs
- can sit on his own
- is doing a fast army crawl
- says "hey" and waves...and we *think* he also says "iyuvyou" as one word, although that could be his parents' wishful thinking ;)
- has two teeth
- loves hoodie strings, dad's guitar, cards being shuffled, foot rubs, tickles, and chewing on anything/everything
- hates getting into his carseat, having his face and hands wiped, and getting his temperature taken
- has eaten banana, sweet potato, avocado, broccoli, peas, apples, pears, carrots, and a tiny bit of raspberry sorbet
- is cuddly, giggly and super sweet to be around
And...that's pretty much my life lately! What have you been up to?
Happy Friday! Hope you had a great week. I thought I'd share a bunch of random things that have been on my mind lately, interspersed with Ian pics that may or may not relate. Since we're living at my parents house, I don't have any house projects or updates to share, so my blog posts are probably going to be similar to this for awhile...super casual. I have to say, it's kind of nice to have no deadlines in the queue stressing me out! On the other hand, I'm itching to do something creative, and I'm anxious to start looking for a house over here. I've been on Zillow of course, but it's almost too overwhelming because then I have ideas for aaaalllll these different houses running through my head, instead of focusing on just one. So far, I have a couple favorites that I'm keeping an eye on, but I'm also hoping more inventory comes on the market once the weather warms up (it's STILL snowing here, gahhh), because I haven't seen anything yet that makes my heart pitter patter. At least, not in our price range. ;)
We still haven't decided what our ideal neighborhood is, because, well...we want to be in the country but also close to Ben's work, but also in a good school district, but also in a walkable neighborhood, but also have a view, but also get a great deal, but also be close to our friends, but also be close to our other friends who live on the opposite side of town. You know the struggle! Haha. At least we've narrowed it down to a few general areas that we like, and we'll probably just look in all of them and see how it goes.
On the topic of houses, because I'm obsessed lately...I've been kicking around the idea of not using a real estate agent. Is that crazy!?! Let me try to justify. We had one in Seattle while we were (briefly) house hunting there but he never actually suggested any of the houses we were interested in. We found them ourselves through Zillow or Redfin, and for the most part, we went to open houses ourselves too. He was definitely knowledgeable about all the paperwork and legal stuff, but I read that you can hire a real estate lawyer for that and they cost way less than the 3% commission that typically goes to an agent. I know that commission gets paid by the seller, so you might say why not use a real estate agent when you're the buyer? My thought is...can we offer less for the house and save ourselves that 3% (or so) off the purchase price? Because if so, I'm willing to do a little more legwork on my end. My parents have sold their house by owner and bought their current house without a real estate agent, so maybe I'm less weirded out by the idea because I've seen it work. But I know a lot of people would never feel secure making such a big and important transaction by themselves. What do you think??
Here's another thing I've been struggling with. We've shared a car for our entire marriage (6 years!) and it's worked out because we always commuted together or Ben took the train/public transportation. But now, he definitely needs the car for work which leaves me stranded at my parents house unless I drop him off and pick him up. It's been ok so far but we will definitely need another vehicle eventually. Sooo we are trying to decide: car, SUV, or minivan? A car is the cheapest option and fits our needs for now. An SUV would be nice for driving in the snow. And a minivan would be the best when our family gets bigger. We rented a minivan for the majority of our road trip in the fall, and it was sooo convenient (seats that drop into the floor! automatic sliding doors! a plethora of cupholders!) so that's where I was leaning until now, but we don't really need a minivan yet with only one baby. What would you do?
Along the theme of spending money smartly (is that a word?)...Ben turns thirty in June and I'm trying to plan a fun birthday trip that will be awesome but also not crazy expensive. Now that we live in eastern Washington, one idea is to do a big road trip (can you tell we like road trips!?) to Glacier, Banff, and Jasper. We also have a companion pass and lots of points on our Alaska Airlines credit card, so maybe we could go to Hawaii. We've also tossed out the idea of an Alaska cruise, because cruises can be a pretty affordable way to travel and we'd love to see Alaska. On the more expensive side, we have some friends living in Germany, so I thought it could be fun to visit or meet up with them. And last but not least, I know Ben would loooove to go back to Iceland. June is coming up, so we gotta decide soon!
You might be wondering how it's going staying with my parents as grown, married adults? So far, surprisingly well! I'm sure eventually we will be chomping at the bit to have our own space again, but right now it's nice to have other adults around during the day to talk to/play games with/watch Ian so I can take a shower. And they're enjoying all the time with their first grandbaby! My mom has been "teaching" him Chinese, and my dad pulled out some old toys from when I was a baby to play with Ian.
The Bachelor finale is on Monday, anyone watching? Honestly, it's been one of my least favorite seasons but I've gotten this far so I obviously have to see who he picks! I'm rooting for Raven, mostly because Vanessa annoys me (sorry if you love her). Ok, and then I need recommendations for new shows to watch! Including older shows to binge watch. I've heard good things about Victoria, and I think Parade's End looks interesting. But I'd also like something light hearted and funny (I already watch New Girl and Modern Family). Recommendations??
I've also been loving podcasts lately for entertaining me while still leaving me free to play with Ian. My favorite ones currently are about personal finance, parenting, and (surprise, surprise) home design. Any recommendations in those categories?
Ok, now I gotta talk about Ian!!! The other night when he was sleeping, we started looking through photos and videos from when he first came home and I can't believe how much he's already grown. He's so big now! It makes me proud, but also a little sad that time is going by so quickly. He's 8.5 months now, which means he's been out of me longer than he was inside. When he was born, we got a bunch of clothes as gifts or hand-me-downs, and I remember looking at some of them and thinking it would be foreverrr until he could wear them. Lo and behold, he's already wearing most of them and I'm running out of clothes to put him in! Crazy.
He's mastered sitting, and loves trying to stand (not quite there yet, unless he's holding onto furniture). Lately, he's really gotten the hang of scooting and can move fast when he's trying to reach something. And he has his first two teeth! Soooo cute. He's still super happy and good-natured, and is probably the most friendly baby I've ever seen--he gives everyone big smiles and doesn't have a lot of stranger-danger around new people. He doesn't say any words yet, but he babbles a lot and does fake coughs and funny noises, which I love. And he still has blue eyes! They've actually lightened up even more as he's gotten older, and his hair is coming in lighter too (!!!).
A friend asked me the other day whether becoming parents has been a strain on our marriage. We were together for 10 years before Ian, so on the one hand, yes...it's definitely been an adjustment finding our new rhythm. But on the other hand, I think having a baby has brought us even closer. It's been so fun for me to watch Ben as a father (he's so good at it!), and it makes me love him all the more. One of the biggest changes for both of us has been going from having similar roles (both working and sharing household duties equally) to having very different roles (me at home with Ian, and Ben as the wage-earner). We're still getting used to that, as well as living in a new city and figuring out how to be parents...so yes, there's a lot of adjusting. But I think going through life changes together only makes a relationship stronger. We got married young (21 & 23) and someone told us we "didn't know who we were yet" and we were bound to grow apart. I disagreed then, and still do. I think as long as you go through changes together, you grow even closer!
So anyways, now you know what's been running through my head this week! How are you all??? What's on your mind?
P.S. Next time I'll try to include pictures of myself--I always forget to have people take pictures of all three of us and I feel awkward in selfies!
P.P.S. This post ended up being way longer than I expected. Tell me the truth...do you like wordy, meandering posts? Or do you prefer ones that are more succinct and cohesive?
Tomorrow we'll have been in Spokane for one full week! It's still sinking in that we actually LIVE here now, and aren't just on a long visit...but so far we're having fun! It's been a very busy week full of carrying boxes, unpacking, meeting up with friends, and exploring new places. I'm very happy to be (pretty much) all set up at my parents house, and to be honest I'm not in a huge rush to move everything again when we buy a house ourselves. There's nothing that will make you get on the minimalist bandwagon faster than moving, I tell ya! We sold and donated some stuff before we left, and fit everything into a 16 ft moving truck (plus our car) but still...it felt like a lot.
There's still a lot of snow on the ground here, but I'm hoping it will start melting soon. Hello, it's March!
In the last week, we took day trips to Couer d'Alene and Cheney, and have gone all over Spokane to check out different neighborhoods and visit friends. There are so many new restaurants and coffee shops that have popped up since I last lived here, I keep wanting to eat out like we're on vacation! But I'm trying to resist the temptation since after all, we have plenty of time to check them out.
Speaking of food...we finally set up Ian's high chair! I got it awhile ago, but once we found out we'd be moving we decided to keep it boxed up until we got over here. It's from OxoTot and I really love the clean, modern design. It's nice to have a dedicated spot to put him during mealtimes, and he's really enjoying trying new foods--and holding the spoon himself! He's also using their wipeable rollup bib, feeding spoon, and glass baby food container in this photo.
So far, it feels good to be over here! I'm excited to start house hunting in a couple months, but I'm also trying to enjoy this time to relax and spend time with my parents. Feels weird to be in their house again--but this time, with my husband and my baby!