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A Week in Palm Springs, California with Family

Plam Springs Natalie Kladder.jpg

The tie to Palm Springs, California goes back 3 generations with the Kladder family. It all started with Jeff's grandparents Peter and Arlyne who vacationed there with friends in the wintertime, some of whom still live there seasonally today. Now, Jeff's parents (Tom and Mari) and his Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob spend time there during the colder months, and his Uncle Steve and his partner Samuel live there year round. And lucky us, the kids and grandkids are invited to visit regularly. Needless to say, the tradition Peter and Arlene began still lives on today. 

And it was very clear to see why during our first family vacation there last week. I instantly fell in love the moment we stepped off the airplane... PSP is an open-air-airport which beautifully showcases Palm Springs most welcoming attribute: the perfect weather. We spent 7 fantastic days with Jeff's parents getting to know the city. Here's what we did... 

Our first full day in town we visited Jeff's Dad's favorite spot: The Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The gardens are incredibly maintained and great for walking with a stroller. But the show stoppers for us were the animals, especially the cheetah run. Twice a day the zoo keepers toss meatballs (for real) into the cage as a treat for the animals and also to display the cats incredible ability to go from zero to 60 mph in only seconds. We also enjoyed the giraffs, big horned sheep and the zebras (aka the 'horseys' according to Natalie). 

The zoo was followed by lunch at one of Palm Springs most popular hamburger places, Tyler's. Their burgers were tasty, their fries were fresh and their coleslaw was certainly something to write home about. I was super sad to miss tasting the potato salad - they were out! Next time. Nat shared a strawberry shake with Grandma and Thomas slept through the entire meal. We enjoyed every minute (and calorie). 

Sharing a strawberry shake with Grandma at Tyler's Burgers in Palm Springs, CA. 

Sharing a strawberry shake with Grandma at Tyler's Burgers in Palm Springs, CA. 

That same night Jeff's parents gifted us the night out solo to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. It's been 4 years of one fun thing after another and my goodness I love that man. We toasted martinis at Copley's, a great spot downtown with fantastic outdoor seating. They are known for their manhattans and they did not disappoint. After dinner we took an Uber to the Ace Hotel & Swim Club for a night cap. We sat poolside and enjoyed the night air from our corner table chatting about our kids and life and how quickly time has flown by.

Friday morning Jeff and his dad played 18 holes at Escena Golf Club. Jeff golfed his best score of the season and so it goes without saying, he had a great time. While the gents golfed, Mari and I went downtown Palm Springs with the kids for a little shopping. We mostly found souvenirs and sweets! Later we met up with the guys for lunch at the clubhouse for salads and sandwiches. The food was good but the view from our table was even better. There are no words that can describe nor photos that can depict the scenery in it's true majestic beauty - you just have to go see it for yourselves! 

That night Mari prepared the best steak dinner for everyone and Jeff's Dad opened a bottle of wine in honor of our anniversary. It was the best meal we shared together all week and I would attribute this to the delicious food and drink, but mostly to the conversation. The strength of their partnership is one to emulate and we are grateful to have the two of them as part of our foundation.

On Saturday we took our second field trip to College of the Desert (COD) which is quite literally, a college in the desert. But on the weekends a portion of the campus is taken over by the street fair. There you will find art, jewelry, produce and so much more. It's a flea market of sorts and excellent for treasure hunting. I found a dress and Jeff bought a wallet and some new sun glasses. Mari picked up some asparagus (you never can have too much!) and Jeff's Dad devoured an apple fritter. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday morning. 

That afternoon we laid by the pool soaking up the rays and playing in the water with the kids. If the photos aren't telling enough, the pool there is quite possibly what heaven must be like. After relaxing all afternoon we headed for Cabazon to the outlet mall. You want it, they've got it. In order to see the entire stretch of stores we stayed well past the kids bedtime which was well worth it because we made out with some great deals. 

Sunday morning we rose bright and early for the trip I was most looking forward to: Joshua Tree National Park. Approximately 45 by 30 miles worth of desert that reminds you of a mix between the surface of planet Mars and a Dr. Seuss book. I'm not kidding, if Thing 1 or 2 would have popped out from behind a rock I would have thought, "Oh, for sure, that makes complete sense." The rock formations were incredible and the vegetation was so starkly different than what we're used to here in the midwest. Jeff and I put the kids on our backs, Mari packed us a picnic lunch and we made a few hikes into the desert to get a closer look. It was a very memorable experience. 

That night we tried El Mirasol, a Mexican restaurant downtown, for dinner with the kids and it was terrific. Tucked in a small courtyard off the main drag we found cafe lights and endless chips and salsa. It was here that we realized Natalie is completely capable of fending for herself while eating out as we watched her, dumbfounded, order herself a, "Chocolate milk and a taco please." My heart melted with pride and I was half tempted to follow with, "Make that two!" But I really wanted a margarita. 

El Mirasol Mexican Restaurant in Palm Springs, CA. 

El Mirasol Mexican Restaurant in Palm Springs, CA. 

On Monday the guys hit the golf course again and Mari and I hung out with the kids by the pool. It was a true 'vacation' day as we did absolutely nothing all day long! We had plans to ride to the top of the mountain on the Tram but quickly decided we'd save that adventure for another trip in order to stay lazy by the pool for a few more hours. 

Desert Lanai Palm Springs Pool.jpg

Our last full day in Palm Springs Jeff's Dad took us on a walking tour of the Movie Colony Neighborhood. It's a mix of Spanish Style and Mid Century Modern architecture and stars such as Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope once called this neighborhood 'home.' They are massive estates including pools, tennis courts, putting greens and some of the most beautiful landscaping you ever did see. This walking route is part of Jeff's Dad's morning routine and he served as our guide. Thomas fell asleep and Natalie ate snacks. Fun was had by all. 

Our last evening in Palm Springs we dined out at one of my in-laws favorite spots: Al Dente's. It's an Italian place right on the main street with a great little private, outdoor room with a table that was perfect for our party of 4 plus a toddler and a baby. We enjoyed the seafood dinner special and vodka gimlets as our week in Palm Springs came to a close. 

I'm a Midwesterner to my core and always will be, but I'm starting to believe that a small part of my heart was left in Southern California. But just to be sure, ask me again when our temps are above freezing again! 

Palm Springs was a great place to spend time with family. We had 7 busy days there and left more on our list to see for next time. We'll certainly be back!

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Kladder Update: Bonfires, Baby Showers & All That Is Fall

Provin Trails in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Provin Trails in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

I'm just over here making all the soups because, at last, (we knew it was coming) our Michigan Fall weather finally showed up. Last week I made an incredibly easy butternut squash soup recipe using the crockpot and it turned out fantastic. I ate the leftovers for lunch today and with the cooler weather, it tasted even better! Not to say that we haven't enjoyed the warm temps and sunny skies... 

This past weekend was perfect for hosting the annual Smith Family & Friends Bonfire at my folks house down in Schoolcraft, Michigan. It's a tradition well over 10 years old now that includes a potluck dinner, beer pong tournament and of course, a massive bonfire. Each year my Dad calls into the local fire department to let them know the date of the event. By now, we've learned to warn them so they aren't rushing out to every 911 phone call. A weekend out in the country is just what our family needed after a busy week at home. 

Since our last update our basement got carpeted (just waiting on trim and paint for it to be complete), I chopped my hair, we started a new house church with friends from our neighborhood, I attended my first Women's Golf League Board meeting and we somehow squeezed in family photos. Thank you, yet again, James Fry for the fantastic photos. 

On the 13th I hosted our dear friend Amber's baby shower at our house. Her and her husband Jon are expecting a baby boy in early January. Amber writes a blog as well and you can read more about her adventures HERE. Amber went to high school with Jeff and she and I became close after Jeff and I started dating. The shower was great: we played games, ate lots of cheese, drank Hugos (a new cocktail I was turned onto during Germany travels), opened gifts and chatted all the girlie stuff. It was a successful event and the mom-to-be left with a car load of goodies and in return, Amber gifted me a bottle of vodka for playing hostess. All that to say, Pro Tip: forget the thank you note, send vodka! 

On the 11th Jeff and I were invited to a Farm to Food event in Alto, Michigan (about a 30 minute drive from GR) hosted by USA Today in partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The 3 course dinner was prepared by Chef Sarah Welch of Outstanding in the Field in Detroit which was followed by a very surprising and delicious dessert of Captain Crunch pancakes by Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli.  All parts of the meal incorporated dairy including the signature cocktail, a milk-washed punch. While we ate, USA Today facilitated a moth-story-telling portion of the evening where we heard from 3 speakers including a representative from Feeding America, Chef Giorgio (who made the dessert) and one of the owners of Swisslane Farms (where the event was hosted). All in all the food was fantastic and we left feeling pretty solid about how much milk Natalie consumes. Part of our participation in the event was signing away rights to use the photos and video scheduled to be released in a few weeks. Curious to see how the coverage turned out and I'll be sure to share it when it's published. 

And as much as I'm at peace with the cooler weather, the rain however, can stop anytime. I had really hoped to make it out to Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Klackle Orchards this week for family date nights. I'm still holding out hope for clear skies this Saturday for The Zoo Goes Boo at John Ball Zoo. If not? I'm certainly down for a return visit to Koetsiers Greenhouse where they bring the outdoor fun inside! If you're looking to get out of the house with the kids in this mess, Koetsiers is the place to be. For $10/kid you get hours of bouncy house, corn crib, tractor racing, pumpkin painting fun! And... AND, it comes with a bag of popcorn. Kladder approved. Bonus, you can pick up mums and more while you're there. Be warned, they don't have donuts so plan accordingly. 

Our costumes are ready and we're looking forward to Halloween fun on Rosewood next week followed by our first family of four vacation to Palm Springs, CA. But before we go, for the love of all things holy, we're sending as many positive vibes as we can to mother nature for good trick-or-treating weather! Stay dry everyone! 

POSTSCRIPT - Stuff we're into lately... 

  • Big Bobs Pizza - Tucked just off the main drag in Gaslight Village behind the dry cleaners you'll find Big Bobs Pizza and it's perfect for all your family dining needs. It's on our list of where to 'happy hour with kids'. Last weekend we took our own advice and the pizza did not disappoint. 
  • La La Land, the movie - Yes, we finally just watched it. Jeff hated it. I loved it. But no one warned me how sad I'd be at the end of it. Good date night in paired with a bottle of wine. 
  • Vander Mill - Great spot for dinner with family. I recommend the veggie hash. 
Veggie Hash at Vander Mill in Grand Rapids, MI. 

Veggie Hash at Vander Mill in Grand Rapids, MI. 

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Kladder Update: ArtPrize, Autumn & Travel

Natalie running wild and free at Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI. 

Natalie running wild and free at Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI. 

We eat so many apples in our household. We're talking Costco sized portions of apples. So, as you can imagine, fall harvest is an agreeable time for us Kladders. This weekend I made Pumpkin Apple Sauce (see recipe below) and despite the summer like temperatures outside, inside it smelled just like Fall. Over the next few weeks we'll take full advantage of Autumn by visiting as many of the orchards, pumpkin patches and cider houses as we can. Goodness I love Fall in Michigan.

But before we skip ahead to apple picking and hayrides, lets touch on ArtPrize. Each year the event seems to come and go at a quicker and quicker pace. Over the last couple of weeks I can't tell you how many times I've heard friends and family say, "We never made it down this year because..." and the list of things that got in the way vary. And we hear you, we've certainly got our list. But our commitment to ArtPrize is slightly unique: I moved to GR for a job with ArtPrize over 8 years ago (I now work at Steelcase) and plainly said, it's something Jeff and I (and now the kids) really enjoy doing together. So it shouldn't take you by surprise that we 'ArtPrized' 5 times this year despite me being out of town for one full week of work during the event. Proof that we do, indeed, love us some ArtPrize. 

I share all of that to say (and to give more meaning to) our opinion about the event this year: we were left wanting more. Is it just us, or was their less art? Is it just us, or were there less venues? Where was Site:Lab this year? Is it just us, or did we see that piece last year? Why isn't this venue packed right now?... it's Saturday afternoon.

This year in particular, there was a slew of opinion articles/blogs speaking to the 'formula' for winning the public vote at ArtPrize. Even the jurors mentioned it during their critical discourse during the final week: something big, a giant drawing or paining, something with a cause behind it... and so on. After 9 years of the same event, are the artists tipped off as to how to get the most votes and win the cash? We're not sure. We're certainly not experts. We're just lovers of the event. But to our friends who 'never made it down' to see the art this year... you didn't miss much. 

Sorry to be the Debbie Downer. Let me leave you on a high note regarding ArtPrize. If there was ever a true Cinderella of the event for 2017 her name would be Red Dirt Rug, which is kind of fitting... dirt rug... Cinderella. You get it. Red Dirt Rug was a time based piece that was installed at the WMU building by artist Rena Detrixhe. By laying out 200 gallons of sifted earth on the floor in a 300 x 480 rectangle and stamping hundreds of soles of shoes into the surface, she created what looked like an oriental rug. It was something we'd never seen before which is not a statement you hear often at ArtPrize these days. Red Dirt Rug did win both the public and juried award for the Time-Based category. Moving on... 

I traveled to Germany for work last month and you can read more about that HERE. I love traveling for work, especially when it means getting to visit Oktoberfest on my free time! Jeff didn't skip a beat while I was gone and upon my return home Natalie seemed more amped about her traditional German Cookie Necklace and Kinder Surprise Eggs than my arrival. Ah, well... she's two (the excuse I tell myself). 

Real life visual: 9pm return from Munich, Germany to Miss Natalie jazzed about her gift. 

Real life visual: 9pm return from Munich, Germany to Miss Natalie jazzed about her gift. 

These days Natalie is SUPER girlie. We're talking nails-painted, must-always-have-a-ponytail AND a bow-in-her-hair (even when she goes to bed) girlie. She loves all the jewelry and this past weekend I put a bath bomb in her tub for the first time and she was all giggles; it was adorable. The aftermath of glitter will likely remain for weeks to come. Sorry, Thomas. 

Bath bombs are the new bubbles! 

Bath bombs are the new bubbles! 

Thomas passed the 6 month marker two weeks ago - time. is. flying. He's such a happy guy with his 5 teeth, chubby cheeks and laid-back personality. He's easy to crack a smile and loves him some one-on-one attention. This weekend while shopping at Target with my Mom and the kids (Christmas is coming!) I picked up some adorable jeans and cords that make him look so grown up - whoever said dressing boys isn't fun was never introduced to the Cat & Jack brand. He's rolling and scooting and eating little bowls of real food. I've had to trim is hair twice with scissors which is hilarious to us because Natalie still hasn't had her hair cut yet. 

Jeff was out all last weekend with friends for their annual Guys Golf Trip which is what allowed for Grandma time at Target Saturday morning. And after a busy couple weeks at the office, spending time with my Mom and the kids is just what the doctor ordered. We shopped for Christmas (I wasn't kidding earlier), picked up the essentials (and the nonessentials) and had lunch at Panera, who, by the way, took away the broth bowls from their menu! This likely happened forever ago which tells you how often I eat at Panera. 

With October fully upon us, we're looking forward to the start of the holiday season. We've got our Halloween costumes ready, plans for trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving gatherings are in the works and Christmas shopping is well underway. Enjoy the changing colors of our surroundings and take time to smooch your family extra today! 

POSTSCRIPT - Stuff we're into lately... 

  • Bare Apple Chips - From Costco and eating them by the handful. Organic dried apples (only apples and nothing else!). 
  • Being Mary Jane, the TV show - Recently needed a new 'me' show to watch and started Being Mary Jane. Something to have on in the background while I fold laundry. High powered single female who's navigating work, family and love. Some mindless matter for you! 
  • Hands Free Pumping Bra - Real mom talk: I do not know why it took me this long... why!!!! If you haven't, try it. Life changing. 
Pumpkin Apple Sauce in progress! 

Pumpkin Apple Sauce in progress! 

PUMPKIN APPLE SAUCE

Place all ingredients in slow cooker on low for about 5-8 hours; stir occasionally; near end use mashed potato smasher to blend ingredients; I left mine slightly chunky to preference. 

  • 9-10 medium peeled/cored apples (of your choice)
  • 1 T cinnamon 
  • juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1/2 C vanilla cashew milk (or water) 
  • 15 oz can of pumpkin 
  • 1 T vanilla 
  • 1/4 C maple syrup (or brown sugar) 

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