Celebrating in Texas: A Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, Loves!

What. A. Weekend.

I cannot even begin to tell you how tired the Raiford family is this morning. We had the most amazing weekend – but it was tiring. We took the kids to Texas to visit my grandmother for her birthday, and it was such a wonderful trip. But, it wasn’t a trip that included a lot of sleep.

Let’s see…I think the most we slept was Thursday night in our hotel room in Amarillo. We went to bed around 10:30 and woke up at 7 am. Other than that, we are talking very little sleep. We had a late flight into Dallas on Wednesday night that put us in our hotel room at 11:30. We all needed showers and baths – I will not let anyone go to bed after being in an airport or on a plane, ever – and it was later than that when we went to bed. We woke up at 5:30 am so we could get on the road to my grandmother’s. It’s an almost 6 hour drive, which is a lot.

But, we were able to spend the entire afternoon and evening with her, then we took the kids to dinner. Then we checked into our hotel and my cousin, Lesly, and her daughter, Tamia, checked in after their flight from California. We got to spend a few hours visiting with them, and that was amazing! Despite living on opposite coasts our entire lives – Lesly in California and me in Florida – we spent a LOT of time together growing up. Our dad’s are brothers, and my grandmother lived near us in Florida until I was 18. So, they visited at least once a year, and we spent so much time together.

We hadn’t seen her in a few years, and it was SO good to spend some time with her this weekend, too! Friday was my grandmother’s birthday, so we went birthday shopping, picked out a cake, bought her favorite beer for her, and we had the best time with her. She is so much fun – and our kids are so fortunate to get to know her like they do.

She spent the weekend sharing her life with us, and it was so much fun. Our kids are so excited to go back to school and share some of the things she told them, and who can blame them? They had no idea that their grandmother had tea with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House many year ago (she was invited because of the work she did for the government following the terrible Pearl Harbor tragedy and all that came from that). They had no idea she’s been to the Super Bowl. They had no idea that following her work for the federal government in her early 20s, she decided to get into a car with three girlfriends and drive for 10 days clear across the country to live in California.

It took them 10 days. They had to get an oil change every 1,000 miles. They went through 8 new tires, and they slept during the day and drove at night when the reached the desert so they would not overheat the car. She then landed in LA, where she spent several more years of her life. She traveled by train to see her family – and my grandfather would visit her at the train station where she had a 2-hour stop in New Mexico – so they could spend time together every few months.

They had no idea that they have a very famous cousin – well, she’s my dad’s cousin. My grandmother’s sister Alice’s daughter. So, my dad’s first cousin, June Lindemann. Grandma showed them the book that June – who was not just my grandmother’s niece but also her godmother – wrote about her life as a beauty pageant queen. She was Miss California when she met and became engaged to the son of a wealthy South American Ambassador. She moved to Chile to live with them when they got married, and then they had a baby. Unfortunately, she had to flee the country on the very last plane that left before the Communist state took over and lives changed. Her husband decided that rather than go against the communists, he’d join them so that they would not target his famous, prominent family. And she took the very last flight authorized to leave Chile to escape with her newborn son.

Her story is in her book – Pageants, Politics, and Promises. And it’s unbelievable. Read it.

My kids had no idea that their great-grandmother had so many stores to tell, and they are in disbelief that their grandmother lived this life.

We had the most fantastic weekend. We met new people. We had a lot of cake. We painted rocks and hid them in my grandmother’s neighborhood for people to find. We had fun. We really, really, really had a great time.

We are tired, but our hearts are full.

Now that we are home and everyone is back to their normal routine, we are still exhausted, and that’s all right. It probably doesn’t help we were gone the entire weekend before and only home for two days before we took off for Texas, but we will get over being so tired.

We will never, ever get over how much fun we have with my grandmother. We will make that long ass trip several times a year to spend time with her. This was our 3rd weekend in Texas in the past six months, and we are so overwhelmingly fortunate and blessed to be able to make the trip so often to spend this time with her. I won’t lie – I strongly dislike where she lives, but she’s happy there and she’s got all the farmland in the world to look at every morning when she drinks her coffee. It might smell like cows and the entire place is orange – orange – and colorless, but I will tell you that those Northern Texas sunsets and sunrises are spectacular. In fact, they are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and sunsets in California and Hawaii – and even the sun setting between the buildings on Fifth Avenue in New York City. You can’t beat a Texas sunrise/sunset.

And you cannot hate a place where the world’s coolest woman lives.

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Orange County, California Travel Review

We are always California dreamin’ in Casa Raiford. I spent a year living in Northern California when I was a teenager, and my husband and I just can’t get enough. It’s probably our favorite place (does it count if we also say that when we talk about that time we spent a week in Hawaii or every few months when we spend a weekend in NYC?) – and we’ve fallen hard for every California city we’ve visited. San Francisco has our hearts, and so does Napa – but it’s SoCal that has our hearts. Why? Not just because some of our very favorite family members call the OC (Orange County) home, but because of every single thing.

It’s barely been two months since we were there last, and I thought I’d bring you an OC travel guide guaranteed to make you never want to leave (including a few places we love and adore in and around LA, too).

There’s just something so beautiful about the mountains on one side of you and the ocean on the other. The beautiful sunsets, the blooming flowers everywhere, and the gorgeous architecture help. A view everywhere you go isn’t the worst way to live. Craig and I live our best life when we are in the OC, and it’s where we will eventually end up calling home – though probably not until the kids are grown and out of the house.

Where to Stay

If you’re in the OC, you want a view – and we have four very favorite places you cannot miss.

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  1. The Balboa Bay Club Resort

It’s situated directly on the bay in Newport Beach, and it’s everything. You get gorgeous views, amazing restaurants, and the most fun staff. And if you want to pick up a Ferrari or a Maserati, you can just cross the PCH and pick one up across the street. It’s seconds from Fashion Island, not far from South Coast Plaza, and an easy drive up or down the PCH anywhere you want to go.

 

  1. The Montage Laguna Beach

Listen, this is THE place to stay. We cannot get enough of the Montage, and it is our first priority every single time we are in the OC. Do not forget you must have lunch at The Loft – and ask to sit outside over the pool, over the ocean. It’s a must.

  1. The Surf and Sand Laguna Beach

You cannot go wrong at the Surf and Sand. It’s centrally located in LB, it’s gorgeous, it’s upscale, and it’s literally on the sandy beaches in Laguna. If you want to be about 7 feet from the Pacific, you want to be at the Surf and Sand.

  1. The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

It’s not really a big secret we are huge RC fans, but this is by far our favorite anywhere in the world. The hotel sits atop a gorgeous cliff overlooking the ocean. There is nothing better than grabbing a glass of vino in the hotel bar and taking it outside to grab a seat in one of the Adirondack chairs in the gorgeous lawn at the edge of the cliff. If you can grab one before the sunsets over the ocean, do it. Bucket list item, for sure.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel photos 

Where to Eat

Okay, so I have about a million places on this list, and they’re not all in The OC simply because we do take day trips to LA and have fallen a little bit in love with more than one place there. I’ll break them down for you, however.

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Javier’s Newport Beach If you want a gorgeous view of the setting sun over the ocean, amazing food, and the most spectacular atmosphere with the best prices imaginable, you want Javier’s. It’s chic, it’s fun, and it’s amazing. The décor is to die for.

The Rooftop LoungeYou’ll find this little gem at the top of the La Casa del Camino hotel, but you’re going to want to find parking wherever you can (get your quarters ready for the meters) because you won’t find valet here (major downfall). However, the rooftop bar sits directly above the ocean, it’s spacious, and the drinks are on par.

{Do not forget to order the fresh cinnamon donut bites as a brunch appetizer at Splashes…}

SplashesThis gorgeous Surf and Sand Resort restaurant has the most spectacular Sunday Brunch, and we never miss it. You can make a reservation, but you’re almost always better off just heading downstairs to the bar and taking in the view if you can’t get one of the most spectacular little tables for two directly outside on the deck. The Bloody Mary’s here are everything.

The LoftEvery time we get to Laguna, we check in and head straight to the Loft at the Montage. Sit outside. Enjoy the view – and perhaps you might consider splitting an appetizer and an entrée with the person you love most because the servings here are so big you’ll still never finish if you’re both working on them.

A&OIf you have time for a light lunch, try stopping at the Balboa Bay Club to enjoy bayside dining. The drinks are good, the food is good, and it’s always fun to watch the multi-million dollar yachts go by. If you have time, rent a Duffy Boat and take a few hours (and a bottle of champagne) out into the Newport Harbor to enjoy the most beautiful views.

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(Photo by Geoffrey’s Malibu)

Geoffrey’sIf you’re interested in heading up the PCH into Malibu, make this your stop. Breathtaking views, beautifully crafted cocktails, and inspiring menu-items are everything you love and more.

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(Photo by Dorchester Collection)

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-AirIn Bel-Air? Eat here. You’re sitting in the garden beneath the gorgeous bougainvillea, by the amazing landscaping, in the gorgeous California weather – you cannot go wrong. Ever.

Honorable mentions – Mozambique and Las Brisas in Laguna Beach are both amazing, but they don’t quite make the cut as far as must-see when we have a quick trip and no additional time. If we do have an additional day, we stop here.

Things To Do

So, I’d totally recommend spending time with some of our most amazingly favorite people on the planet if you’re in the OC, but they’re ours – sorry. If you can’t spend quality time with Action Alan and the gorgeous Helene, however, I’d recommend you ask someone else what to do for fun around here.

We basically find the most beautiful views, sit down and order a cup of coffee or a cocktail, and we drink in the view. Or we go shopping; South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island, please and thank you. Crystal Cove is super cute, too.

It’s also one of our favorite things to do is to park in Corona Del Mar and walk up and down the gorgeous streets looking at the quaint little homes, the amazing oceanfront homes, and stopping in the cutest little boutiques and restaurants. We love the do the same on the Balboa Peninsula and in Laguna Beach, too. Stop, walk, shop, eat and drink, laugh, ask ourselves why we haven’t made the move to California yet, remind ourselves that we need to be near our parents until the kids can babysit themselves, and laugh some more.

Basically, California is always a good idea, especially if it’s Orange County. It’s perfection.

 

{All photos taken by Tiffany Raiford using iPhone 8 Plus except Geoffrey’s Malibu photo by Geoffrey’s Malibu and Wolfgang Puck photo by Dorchester Collection}

In Need of Last Minute Fourth of July Inspiration? Here Are My Fourth of July Favorites

Happy Birthday, America!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sitting here work, work, working away the day before the Fourth of July, and I have no complaints. The big girls are at a sleepover, the babies are at school, and I’m using this day as a chance to catch up, to work a little bit ahead in anticipation of our upcoming vacation, and to get organized. I needed this day!

It was such a fun weekend! To recap just a little, we spent Friday night low-key and casual at home. We had plans every night last week that kept us out late and meant late bedtimes for everyone, and we were mentally and physically drained.

Saturday was busy. We loaded the kids in my SUV and headed to Tampa for the morning. Some of our very best friends host an amazing Fourth of July party every year – I mean, guys, you should just understand they grace us with a PRO fireworks display without the hassle of joining thousands of people and crowds and parking problems, etc…it’s amazing – and I like the fam to match. Unfortunately, the dress I bought myself was the wrong size and I needed to head to Lilly Pulitzer to get the correct size, so it was a shopping day.

Saturday evening was so much fun. Our friends put on the best show. I literally cannot even express to you the amazingness of their show. The kids had a blast – and they wore us out. Twins are no joke, you guys. We did nothing all night but watch them in the pool, playing outside, and running after them as they used their energy and sapped ours completely!

Sunday was a day of rest and relaxation. We took the big girls to see Despicable Me 3 – which was beyond adorable. They’ve been so excited for so long. Of course, we’ve been excited about it, too. We really enjoy the franchise…I won’t even pretend we don’t.

Tomorrow we’re doing the low-key pool day thing with my in-laws. My father-in-law is in town for the week, and we’re headed to spend the day with his side of the fam so the kids can spend a little time with their grandfather – which they are SO excited about – but not before we have to run back to Tampa so I can take my favorite bracelet to Tiffany’s to have the clasp repaired. My wrist feels empty without it.

Today, though…it’s all about catch up, work ahead, get it together. I have a few new clients and contracts to deal with, and I need to get my calendar organized like you don’t even know.

In honor of tomorrow’s Independence Day, I wanted to share a few last minute Fourth of July ideas with you. I know some of you are still figuring out what to wear, what to make for your friends or parties, or even what to drink – so I’m sharing a few of my Fourth Favorites for your last-minute shopping list.

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Last Minute Fourth of July Outfits

I fell instantly in love with the Star Struck print by Lilly Pulitzer and knew immediately it would be our Fourth of July print. I bought the girls these shorts and myself this dress for the Fourth and everyone loved it (my dress runs TTS and I’m wearing an XS. The girl’s shorts all run a little big, but they have pull tabs inside I was able to use to make them smaller)! My husband and our son sported Patriotic Under Armour I picked up at our local Dillards.

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Fourth of July Cocktail Recipes 

You can make this with or without the alcohol depending on your preferences, but I thought this was the most fun drink when I was looking up something light and fun to drink. I’m a sucker for a good sangria, and how much fun is this recipe I found online?

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Fourth of July Decor 

We don’t host a Fourth party in our house – we are Halloween party and Christmas party people over here. But, I did order these fun napkins from Crate and Barrel just because they are so adorable. And, really, I’m in love with anything they offer me.

I’m super excited about the Fourth and a laid back day of fun in the sun with the family! What are your plans for the Fourth?

Weekend Recap: 24 Hours in NYC

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Who doesn’t love a good weekend? Cheers to fun Friday nights, amazing Saturdays, and Sunday Funday. I sat down here to tell you what my ideal weekend looks like, and I find myself unable to do it. There are too many things I love most about weekends to break it all down into one perfect weekend. Whether we’re traveling with or without the kids, hanging out at Disney for the day, spending time with the people we love most, or just relaxing, there is nothing about weekends I don’t love. There should be more of them.

Everyone loves weekend. Since we all love this time of the week more than any, I thought it would be fun to do a weekend recap with you on a Wednesday. It’s halfway since the weekend and halfway until the weekend, so it seems like the perfect time to relive a few amazing memories while making plans for a few new ones in the coming days.

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New York City

That’s how this Florida girl spent her weekend. In the city with my handsome husband for 24 hours of fun and enjoyment, no kids allowed. We do it a few times a year. It’s a quick flight, it’s our favorite city, and we have fallen in love with a handful of places we love to visit each time we’re in the city. I also have several events in the city during Fashion Week twice a year, so we get to enjoy the city during February and September each year a little longer than just a whirlwind weekend.

Would you believe I hated the city the first time we visited? It was 2007, our second wedding anniversary, and we did it all wrong. We did it the way tourists do it, and it was so crowded, congested, and not my style. It took three years for me to desire a trip back, and that’s when we learned how to do the city our way.

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Want to see the Statue of Liberty? Go to the bar at the Ritz-Carlton and check it out from a quaint table with a bottle of champagne. Want to see Central Park? Head down to 72nd and 5th and take a five-minute walk into the park to have brunch at the Boathouse. Mimosas, the most amazing view, and the best service. If you want to see Rockefeller Center, do it from the window seat at Morrell’s Wine Bar. The best glass of wine – and coffee – in the city comes from the Champagne Bar in the Plaza Hotel.

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I love New York City now that I know how to see the city the way that works for me. I hated it the first time I visited, and I just arrived home from my 16th trip to the city. My husband and I always go together (except once when I went for the day to attend meetings at the NFL offices and NYFW Spring/Summer ’17 when I took my bestie and my MIL), and this weekend was no exception. We decided on a quick trip. We flew in Saturday morning and left Sunday afternoon.

As always, we checked into our favorite hotel. The Omni Berkshire is located on 52nd between Fifth and Madison Avenues. We’ve stayed at the Waldorf Astoria on Park a few times, just a few seconds from the Omni. It’s gorgeous, but we love the Omni because it’s such a little gem. It’s hidden just off Fifth, and it’s never crowded. The rooms are large and lovely, the staff always so welcoming and amazing, and because we are Omni Select Guests, we always get a sweet little surprise in our room as well as coffee delivered to our room each morning. We love it. There’s just something about being in a city bustling with people and feeling as if we’re the only people there.

Following check-in, we don our winter clothes (because it’s 70 when we depart Florida and 20 when we land in NYC), and we head the 20 blocks to the Boathouse. This time we Uber’d (ubered? Took an Uber?). We love Uber in NYC, because we are obsessed with Uber Black. We usually walk, but it was cold and windy and we were famished. As ever, the Boathouse was immediately accommodating, we took our seat overlooking the lovely little lake and the outline of the city in the distance, and we enjoyed mimosas and our favorite brunch items…eggs Benedict for me.

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We enjoyed a lot of shopping along Fifth Avenue, a glass of wine at our favorite little wine bar just off Rockefeller, Morrell’s, a much-needed cup of coffee to warm up at the Plaza Hotel, and then we capped off our evening with a stop at the Peninsula Hotel. If you make time to do anything in the city, make it sunset at Salon de Ning. You’ll go all the way up to the rooftop and catch the sun setting down Fifth Avenue from the rooftop bar with a glass of malbec. There are amazing heaters everywhere, so it’s bearable to be outside. It’s just the most breathtaking view. It’s gorgeous at night, too, when the city is lit up…but nothing beats sunset. It opens at 5, and you need to be there.

We have two favorite restaurants perfect for dinner. We love to dress up, order a great bottle of wine, and linger over dinner. The Four Seasons was our long-time favorite, but with the end of their lease, they recently moved and we just miss the Pool Room and the gorgeous location so much we haven’t gone to the new location just yet. The other is Il Tinello. Fun fact; I heard about it from Regis Philbin on his morning show with Kelly Ripa many years ago. He talked about it all the time, so in September 2015 when we were in the city for some Fashion Week events, we decided to go.

Lo and behold, during the most amazing dinner (I mean, the service is stellar) in walks Regis and his wife, Joy. They are seated right next to us, and I could have died. I held it together, said nothing, and finished the most amazing meal of my entire life. It was everything. Anyway, it’s still one of our favorites. It’s seriously amazing, and you will not find more beautiful service anywhere.

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This weekend, however, we decided to try something different. We’ve heard so many amazing things about Valbella on 53rd, so we gave it a try. It was everything promised to us. Hidden just off the street between Madison and Fifth, it’s all white, floor-to-ceiling wine bottles along the wall, and our food was decadent. If you order the flourless chocolate cake for dessert, you will actually bite into a piece of Heaven. And the bottle of wine we ordered was top notch.

We went back to our room far later than we anticipated after enjoying a gorgeous bottle of wine, and we slept in Sunday morning. Room service delivered our coffee, and we laid in bed and did all the lazy stuff grown-ups do when their kids aren’t around. We sipped coffee on white sheets without spilling, watched the news, no one begged for cartoons, and we didn’t move for an hour.

It was glorious.

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After that, it was an Uber to the airport, more coffee and breakfast, a toddler-size tantrum from a woman who was well into 60s because a man accidentally hit her with his bag walking down the aisle of the plane (she actually cried to the flight attendant that he hit her and didn’t apologize). He didn’t even know his bag hit her. It was the most entertaining, sad, kind of pathetic scene I’ve ever witnessed – and it made me feel so mature just not being that woman.

Honestly, who books a flight to Orlando and doesn’t expect to have a plane filled with families with multiple kids and bags that might accidentally hit you walking down the aisle? Let’s be real here, people.

It was a short weekend filled with fun, and always one of our favorites. We needed that time away just the two of us, and we appreciated every second of it. It’s always nice to be reminded dinner can be eaten warm once in a while; we don’t take that for granted. And we’ve learned to appreciate doing NYC our way in the many times we’ve visited the city whether it’s for work or pleasure. It’s so much more enjoyable, and I’m always happy to recommend our favorite locations to anyone who is going to the city for the first time or the 50th time.

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Nothing beats getting home Sunday evening to kiss our babies, though. We left them after they went to bed Friday night to spend a night in Orlando so we didn’t have to wake up so early Saturday morning, and we missed them desperately. Their little faces make coming home so much fun, even when they’re mad we didn’t bring them anything, In our defense, we forgot about picking something up and it was a coffee mug or a shot glass from the airport. So, we bought them chocolate to make up for it. Then we ate it.

Oops.

What did you do this weekend?