Montauk, NY

A group of our good friends here in NYC headed over to Montauk for some truly legit beach camping over the first weekend in June.  We stayed at Hither Hills campground for two nights and had the BEST time.  I'm so glad we ended up going because we almost cancelled at the last minute.  Brian was out of town and I came down with the absolute worst cold of my entire life- I felt so miserable and trying to pack a car and drive 4 young kids and set up camp by myself on the edge of Long Island over a weekend in NYC is a daunting task under perfect conditions (I am admittedly the most novice camper in the history of ever).  When I told the kids I just didn't think I could manage it with how bad I felt, I could tell they were super bummed.  I rallied the ounce of energy I had to mostly bark orders at my older kids to help me hurriedly pack our minimal camping gear in our rental car.  We had purchased a pop-up tent from Costco, which pretty much saved us.  No, actually, the other families that came with us and shared their food is really what saved us (read: me).  We got to camp after dark and had a ton of help setting our stuff up and then hung out for a couple of hours while the kids shared scary stories and we cooked s'mores over the fire. We then blew up our air mattresses ("glampers" unite!) and fell to sleep quickly in our nylon home.

It was supposed to rain the entire time we were there, but we woke up the next day to blue skies and high temps- opposite of what was supposed to happen!  I am so glad the kids threw swimsuits in their bags because it was such a gorgeous day and the beach was so beautiful!  I, however, had to go find a swimsuit at a store in town because I wasn't as smart.  After I found something, I picked Brian up at the train station and we joined the group at the beach.

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These kids had so much fun playing on the sand and in the FREEZING water pretty much all day long, until a truly nasty storm rolled in late afternoon.  We huddled in our tent and it only fell down once!  It wasn't too hard to get it back up (I can say that because I wasn't the one outside getting soaked doing it...thanks, Brian!) and we hung out while the skies cleared about an hour later.  You can see in the pictures below how bad the clouds got- it happened in literally seconds.  Bright blue skies to total downpour.

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After the storm calmed, we drove out to a local grill and had an early dinner and then headed back to hang out some more.  Today was Kate's 14th birthday, so we grabbed some cupcakes and everyone sang to her over a campfire.  I hope thats a really fun birthday memory for her down the road.  She has zero requests for birthday celebrations as she is sooo low-maintenance, but this was a great kick-off.

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We got up early (as you do when you're camping with kids) and had a delicious breakfast and then got all packed up and ready to head back home.  But, first we stopped at the famous Montauk lighthouse at the "end of the world".  We walked along the cliffs to the beach on the other side of the lighthouse.  

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This group of kids has so much fun with each other.  They could play for hours and there is zero drama.  So fun to see our kids make such sweet friends.  And, their parents are pretty awesome too!

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We stopped at the cutest candy store on the way out of Montauk and loaded up on the necessary chocolate and gummies.  We grabbed pizza and then made our way through the Hamptons and over to NYC.  This part of New York is simply gorgeous.  The beaches are so nice and the homes are just something else.  This weekend was so fun for all of us (so glad my kids forced me out the door) and we made so many lifelong memories that we will cherish forever.  We have such a huge love for the friends we've made here and it was magical to spend time with them in such a beautiful part of New York.

The Mighty Dolomites

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Is there anything better than the Alps? I'm not sure. I love spending time here. 

A couple weeks ago, I was in Munich, Germany for a board meeting. The girls were in UT, so I decided to add a few days to the trip. I headed south, through Austria, to hike a few trails in the Italian Alps.

I only had time for a few Google searches in terms of where to stay and ultimately hike. Limiting the searched ended up providing a bit more serendipity into quick trip. Usually, we spend time planning. I typically have a picture already in my head of what I'll be seeing. 

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After being steered in the right direction from a few locals, I ended up at Lago di Braies. A beautiful alpine lake, Braies is mostly secluded, except for the large hotel and parking lot on the north side. Once I arrived, it felt like the best place for a home base. And although the hotel listed wifi, it didn't work, which was perfect. 

I snuck these pics in before our first hike. It was about 5:30 in the morning. You would think I was the only one up at that hour desperate to get a good shot. What you don't see is the 20 other tourists behind me. By 9:00 AM, it was packed. 

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The first hike was about an hour south of lake, Tre Cime. I may have taken hundreds of pictures during the 9 hours of hiking. And despite the on/off raining and cloudy weather, the temperature was perfect.  

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 I didn't have my girls to photograph, so the cows and horses got shot. 

I didn't have my girls to photograph, so the cows and horses got shot. 

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Back at the lake ... home base. A relaxing evening and dinner at the boat house.

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The next hike was on the other side of Cortina d'Ampezzo (Queen of the Dolomites),  at Cinque Torri. There was an option to climb the mountain by way of tram, but I hiked up. 

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 This town was beautiful. Borca di Cadore is hard to describe. It feels Austrian but very much Italian. It appeared they were in the middle of some festival but apparently, it was just every day life. 

This town was beautiful. Borca di Cadore is hard to describe. It feels Austrian but very much Italian. It appeared they were in the middle of some festival but apparently, it was just every day life. 

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A few shots of Lago di Braies:

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On the way back up to Munich, I stopped in Austria to repeat a hike the girls and I did a couple years back while we lived in London. 

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These horses were super friendly--and much bigger than they look here. 

As for the Dolomites, we'll be back. Lauren and I are already planning her 12-year-old trip! 

Another 24 Hours in Jerusalem

I've tried to make a quick visit - at least 24 hours in Jerusalem every time I come to Tel Aviv for business. I love coming up to the BYU Jerusalem Center to attend church. It must be my favorite building in all of Israel. 

This past visit was extra special because Elle was there, doing a semester abroad. It's the very thing I hope my girls get to do once in college. It's a special place in every way. 

It's been over three years since Elle lived with us in London. It was great to catch up as always and to meet her roommates. I couldn't help be jealous of the experience they are having at this time in their life. When Rachel and I were at BYU, the Center was closed due to security and safety concerns. So we never had the opportunity. I'm only living vicariously through their once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

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Once I got to Jerusalem (Friday evening), I met up w Elle and her roommates for dinner. Afterwards, we went to the Western Wall to welcome in the Sabbath. There is quite the celebration each Friday night before sundown. 

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I always find some time to walk around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Always fascinating to watch the visitors and activities that take place inside the church. I'm never really sure what is going on. :)

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One of my favorite places in Jerusalem. The BYU Jerusalem Center aka Mormon University to the locals. 

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After church, Elle and I, and her roommates grabbed a few pictures. Such amazing views of the Old City. 

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My go-to spot after church is the Garden of Gethsemane. It's beautiful and peaceful (when there are few tourists)