Seeing ATL by Bike

To cap off my birthday staycation earlier this week, we booked a tour with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta. We’ve lived in Atlanta for just over 10 years now, but there’s still so much we don’t know about different neighborhoods around the city. When I found this company online, and then saw that it was rated #1 for outdoor activities on TripAdvisor, I knew I wanted to check it out.

We got up early on Wednesday morning and drove down to Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward (which is an interesting building to check out on its own) to meet up for our tour. Turns out, we were the only ones signed up for that morning, so we got our own private tour with Robyn, the owner of the company! Taking a staycation in the middle of the week has its perks. 🙂

After getting a quick lesson on the bikes and using gears (since we haven’t done that in a long time), we headed out on a 3 hour, 8 mile tour of the city. We started on the Beltline, and we stopped periodically to hear some stories and bits of trivia about different art pieces along the way. The story behind this giant installation, “The Art of Reconciliation” by William Massey, is really interesting. I’m not going to spoil all the fun by sharing Robyn’s stories here, so you’ll just have to take the tour to find out more!

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The backside of the installation, which I’d have never thought to look at when just passing by. Can you spot the various pieces of “trash” used to create this piece?
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Fun fact: The owner of the building that houses Junkman’s, Savage Pizza, etc. in Little Five Points asked a local mural artist to paint the back of the building so that other street artists wouldn’t continue covering it in graffiti. From what we understood, mural work is respected by fellow street artists and is usually not “tagged” or painted over.
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Art by Greg Mike near the Krog St Tunnel. His work is recognizable not only by the colorful, surreal style, but by the chipped tooth in the mouth. We had fun looking for his other works along our ride the rest of the morning.
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Krog St Tunnel — thanks for the great photo, Robyn!
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You’d never guess that this piece is a self portrait painted by a 70-year-old lady named Dot, would you?
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We found more Greg Mike work with the chipped tooth! This was part of a multi-artist collaboration, and I loved the “Where the Wild Things Are” inspiration. #staywild
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Like I said, we’ve lived here for 10 years now, and there are still so many neighborhoods that we have yet to really explore. Sure, we’ve been to shows and restaurants in Inman Park and Little 5 Points, have walked the Beltline, and have driven past Oakland Cemetery too many times to count. But seeing these places by bike is a much more up close and personal way to get to know the city that we call home. We rode into The Stacks Lofts complex in Cabbagetown, which has amazing history and also houses one of the coolest, most unique pool areas I’ve ever seen. We rode through part of Oakland Cemetery, which I’m sort of embarrassed to admit I’d never been in until now. It’s such a beautiful, fascinating part of Atlanta, and I can’t wait to go back for an event or tour. Who knew that they host about as many weddings each year as burials??

I’m so happy we tried out a different way to see Atlanta. It doesn’t hurt that we got in some good exercise, too. Robyn, who started Bicycle Tours of Atlanta, is such a lovely lady and is truly a wealth of knowledge about the various neighborhoods of Atlanta and the history that consumes them. This is something I’ll suggest to anyone who is new to the city, visiting for a weekend, or even who has lived here for years.

Also, Robyn was kind enough to offer a 15% discount to you guys for any future tours booked by Labor Day (9/5/16)! Just use code: MELISSA at checkout. I hope you’ll check them out soon!

Celebrating 33 with a Staycation

When Craig asked what I wanted for my birthday this year, I asked for an experience instead of tangible gifts. He happily agreed to my idea of doing an overnight staycation in Atlanta, so he booked a room at the Intercontinental Buckhead, and I got to planning. (Of course I wanted to plan my own birthday outing, right?)

My amazing mom kept Leighton for the day and night so we could have a fun little mid-week getaway all to ourselves. We started the staycation off with a walk on the Beltline and took a break for lunch at Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall — somewhere that we’d yet to make it to, but that has been on my list for quite a while. It did not disappoint! We shared the fried pickles (the basket included fried red peppers, which were our favorite) and a couple beers along with our sandwiches. He had the Torta Cubano and I had the Spatchock Chicken Melt – both were super filling and tasty. The decor inside is like a campfire mixed with a lodge with a big screened porch and tons of outdoor seating to enjoy the Beltline. I can’t wait to go back!

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We wandered around Krog St Market (and may have made a stop by Little Tart Bakeshop) and then walked the Beltline back to Ponce City Market to kill some time until Skyline Park (the Coney Island-style rooftop park) opened for the afternoon.
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Skee-ball is one of my favorite games ever — it totally makes me feel like a kid again! So we of course got a few rounds in, and it was so nice being there on a weekday because we practically had the place to ourselves. We won a little plush duckie for Leighton, which was so fitting, as she just started saying “dut” (for her rubber ducks) this week!
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We also rode the Heege Tower, which is so not scary like it looks, and it gives an even better, 360 degree view of the Atlanta skyline.
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Another perk of being there on a rather empty day… we beat the bartender there, so the manager treated us to samples of a few of their most popular drinks! They included 2 frozen options, which were yummy and so refreshing on such a hot day.
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We finished up with a friendly game of putt putt… I can’t even remember the last time I played this game. It was a little tricky, so that’s what I’ll blame my loss on…. 🙂
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Ah…. so nice to check into a hotel (or house/wherever we’re staying) and not have to haul half of our house in with us! Our room had the prettiest view of so, so many trees and Stone Mountain in the distance! We spent a little late afternoon time at the pool, helped ourselves to the complimentary lounge bar and snacks, and came back to the room to find a birthday cake and balloons from the hotel! Nicely done.
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We capped off the most amazing day with a wonderful birthday dinner at Aria in Buckhead. The atmosphere is dark and romantic, and the food was delightful. I loved my beef short ribs, and Craig loved his scallop dish. Even though I’d already had the best peanut butter cookie at the hotel earlier (and a couple bites of that birthday cake), I couldn’t resist the warm caramel and chocolate cake for dessert.
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Despite originally wanting to sleep in on this staycation, I ended up booking a tour with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta for the next morning, and I am so glad I did! Waking up early was not welcomed, but once we got going on our bike tour with the owner, Robyn, I think we were both happy we decided not to be totally lazy instead. 🙂 We rode for 3 hours and covered about 8 miles on part of the Beltline and through the neighborhoods of Inman Park, Candler Park, Old Fourth Ward, Little 5 Points, and more. It was such a cool way to see the city!

Robyn was kind enough to offer a discount code for my blog readers! Use code: MELISSA to receive 15% off any future tour booked by Labor Day (9/5/16). I’m going to share more photos and tidbits we learned in a dedicated post, so check that out soon!
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We had the best 24 hour staycation. It was just what I wanted and just what we needed. A little relaxation, a lot of fun adventures, and some solid time for just the two of us. Best of all, we didn’t even have to go far to do that! Our city is filled with so much to do, and I have a new appreciation for the greatness that is the “staycation.” Before it was even over, we decided this needs to become a regular thing. A big thank you to Craig for treating me to an amazing birthday gift of adventure, great food, and time together!

Leighton @ 11 months

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Weight: approx 20 lbs 15 oz (in late July at a doctor’s appt)

Milestones: She walks!! At just 10 months and 2 days, she officially took her first multiple steps all on her own! Each day, she takes more consecutive steps before plopping down on the floor, but she’s always right back up again. She also learned how to climb the entire basement staircase… (with me right behind her and holding on, of course). She’s one determined and fearless little girl.

Just a few days after hitting 10 months, we realized she’d cut her top front tooth (on the right)! Other than waking up slightly earlier several days in a row, we haven’t noticed any signs of teething or fussiness, thankfully. And while on vacation, she cut her top left tooth – soon she won’t be so snaggletoothed. 🙂

She’s learned how to point and clap, so her little bag of tricks is growing quickly.

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Likes: Food! In this month of the finger food adventure, she’s been introduced to (and likes) strawberries, black beans, Hawaiian rolls, Greek yogurt, baked sweet potatoes, silver dollar pancakes, pears, potatoes, yellow bell peppers, pinto beans, peaches, and yogurt… oh, and cheese dip. So far, the only things she’s not a big fan of are meatballs and mandarin oranges. (She doesn’t know what she’s missing out on…)

She loves being clapped for when she does something good, and she’s obsessed with the rubber duckies who live in her bath tub. Every day, she makes a beeline for her bathroom to go rescue them.

Dislikes: She is generally quite happy, except when we take one of her favorite things away from her (my wallet and car keys tend to be the top favorites). She’s also still annoyed almost every time we put her on the changing table, but there’s no getting around that. 

Fun stuff & firsts: Leighton has started “dancing” to music (rocking back and forth). It’s the cutest! She can stand up on her own without needing to pull up on anything, and she walks around the house with her arms up, following Coco wherever she goes. Coco is not a big fan of this game, but she tolerates it because she loves LL.

We had some fun play dates, picked blueberries at our friend Anna’s new house, and are in the process of setting up LL’s playroom down in the basement. She loves it so far!

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New sounds include “ooooooo!” (usually while pointing at the air) and “na-na-na-na.”

One of our favorite things she currently does is pick up an item and flip it over and over again in her hands, and then she’ll grab another item and stack them together in one hand to carry around the house. These items range from teething toys to notepads to sunscreen bottles. She doesn’t discriminate. 

We’re saying “NO” a lot now that she’s walking and free to roam around (with supervision) and get into things. Sometimes she listens and stops whatever we’ve told her not to do. Sometimes she completely ignores us… but I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s doing. 

One of her favorite things to do is push the kitchen chairs around the room until she runs into a wall or counter. She also has a serious newfound love for her little bucket of plastic shapes (which she’s had for months). She’ll carry the bucket all around the house, pull the shapes out, put them back in, and bang two together. Aside from random items like coolers and plastic cups, I’d say this is her favorite toy right now. 

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Leighton took her second beach trip this year – we went to Rosemary Beach, FL for a full week with my family. Read about it here! 

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It’s hard to believe that this our monthly update before Leighton turns one. She’s walking, babbling, and so silly. She loves to wave, clap for herself, and give very slobbery kisses.  The time flies so quickly, and she just keeps getting more and more fun! 

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A Big Family Vacay in Rosemary Beach

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We used to take a yearly vacation with my family, and those trips have always created fond memories for us. The past couple years went by without a trip coming together, so this year, we decided a beach vacation was in order. We rented a gorgeous home in Rosemary Beach, FL for a week with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, and her parents. We’ve been to the area a few times for weddings, and we’ve always wanted to go back for a longer period of time to just relax and enjoy the quaint little towns that line 30A.

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On our way down, we stopped to visit our grandmother Nannie in Samson, AL, and I’m so glad we made time for that. We hadn’t seen her since Christmas when Leighton was just 3 months old… so needless to say, a lot had changed! She got to watch her walk all around the house and see her wave and clap, which are our favorite new tricks of hers. She also made us her famous lemon cake to take down to the beach. Yum!

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The week went more quickly than I thought it would. We spent our lazy days trekking back and forth from the white sand beach, hanging at our pool, eating out and cooking at the house, riding bikes and taking long morning walks through Rosemary down to Alys Beach, and enjoying everything else Rosemary has to offer. Oh, and baking in the unbelievably hot, humid weather. I’m from Florida, and I really don’t remember it being this hot.

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My favorite day started with a nice couple mile walk along 30A while Leighton snoozed in the stroller (our morning routine), followed by a lazy morning at the house with Leighton before eating lunch and then heading down to the beach by ourselves to enjoy a little sun. Craig acted as the imaginary net for Andrew and Lauren’s very competitive paddle ball game in our pool that afternoon, and then we had our own little happy hour on the patio with a game of Buzzword, snacks, and wine.

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The day was followed by of a home-cooked meal of flank steak, au gratin potatoes, green beans, and rosemary bread and peach cobbler from the local farmers market that we’d picked up that Sunday. After putting L to bed, we hopped on some beach cruisers with Andrew and Lauren and rode down to Seacrest Beach to listen to some acoustic music under the stars (and amidst the many bikes for rent). Andrew had us in hysterics over the pineapple bucket hat he’d bought at the souvenir shop and would not take off, despite the many pleas from Lauren. We told him that 1995 wanted its fashion statement back, but he did not care, as usual. It was a pretty perfect vacation day.

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On our last full day, the boys played golf while most of us girls went to The Pearl (the local boutique hotel) for a few hours of pool time, lunch with a view, and massages. After chasing an infant around for several days and having many fun but not-so-relaxing trips down to the beach, it was a much-needed escape for mama. It was hotter than I would have liked (as it was the entire trip), but it was so nice to sit by the quiet pool with a mojito and a magazine and not have to entertain a tiny human in the hot hot sun. My most amazing mom offered to babysit Leighton so I could enjoy an afternoon of pampering and relaxation, and it was much appreciated!! We truly are so fortunate to have such an incredible grandmother for Leighton… she loves spending time with her, but she’s also so very generous in giving her time so that we can have a little time to ourselves – even when she’s also on vacation. I can’t thank her enough for everything she does for us!

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Leighton wasn’t a big fan of the sand, but she seemed to enjoy hanging out in the ocean with us, taking beach naps (as long as I held her, which I didn’t mind), eating lots of puffs and yogurt melts (a new discovery for her this week!), playing with her toys (and coolers) in the beach house, and getting lots and lots of love from her grandparents, aunt, and uncle. I think she’s really going to miss all of her fans now that we’re home!

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It’s always nice to come home after being away for a week, but it was such a wonderful trip together! This was our first Sims family trip with grandbaby in tow, and it was certainly one filled with laughter and great memories.

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