{ Cole & McKyna’s 21 Run }

November 11th was a monumental day in the Harris/Jacobson family history. The youngest members of the family finally arrived at their 21st birthday! Cole and McKyna had requested that the occasion be celebrated with only their immediate family as opposed to going with a group of friends. So we all bucked up to put our party pants on to make their 21-run with their parents and much older brother and sister and their spouses the best weekend ever!

The older siblings and their spouses have spent a fair amount of time in Las Vegas, especially in our twenties. It was surreal to be back in Vegas as we were all flooded with memories of birthdays, bachelor/ette parties, and “just because” party weekends. We had each shared our suggestions of places to go and things to do to make their weekend exactly what they wanted it to be. Also, my in-laws/Z’s parents haven’t been to Vegas for THIS type of trip and were happy to rely on us for guidance to cultivate the party weekend Cole and McKyna desired. As a family, I think we can all agree that we really packed it ALL in and it was a weekend we won’t soon forget!

We each arrived on a Thursday evening and we met up at the Bar at Times Square at the New York New York hotel (I know, I know. The irony of flying from New York to Las Vegas only to end up in New York!). Zach’s stepsister Sally, her husband Nathan and Z and I got in earlier than the rest of the family so we spent a solid hour dancing to the dueling pianos and drinking cocktails to warm us up for the night ahead. My in-laws Dorothy and Chris and Cole and McKyna arrived just at the stroke of midnight when their 21st birthday was official!

The next day we hit the pool to relax and surprise Cole & Kyna with custom shirts made by Sally to commemorate the party and its crew! The day in the sun felt so nice after leaving the cold autumn of New York. Z spent some time teaching Kyna how to play Black Jack which turned into a slight obsession for her throughout the weekend.

Since this day and evening was the official birthday we went big for celebrations. Sally and Nathan had driven in from Temecula, CA and brought with them the most incredible cake I have ever seen. We were all so impressed it made it from the five-hour drive to the hotel room in one piece! Vegas-themed and included their college logos (rival schools!) on either side of the cake. It was ridiculously cool!

The plan was to surprise Cole & Kyna in their room with the cake and presents before we headed to dinner. Dorothy had decorated their room and Z and I had prepped our present for the family to sign before the official surprise. A little backstory on our gift…three years ago I went on my first family vacation with Z’s family to Cabo San Lucas. Cole and Kyna were 17 at the time and one night we went on a pirate ship booze cruise. Cole and Kyna had gotten permission to drink, particularly since Dorothy and Chris were there, and we’d all be there to monitor. Welp, only 2-3 drinks in and they could not handle it. They were so certain they would be able to hang and within an hour of the cruise they were passed out on the side of the boat. At the time is was part comical and part bummer but when we all came to laugh about it at the end of the trip I promised that the picture I took of them would come back to haunt them for their 21st birthday.

The time had come!

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Each of us signed their personalized frames with birthday wishes and our favorite hangover cure (a takeaway from my 21st birthday that I loved!) and the gifts were a hit. It was so fun to bring it all back full circle!

Top of the World & Ghostbar. After pre-dinner cake and gifts we headed to the Stratosphere’s restaurant, Top of the World, which had 360-degree views of Las Vegas and the strip. The food was delicious and the views weren’t bad either. It was a perfect celebration spot!

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I was pretty insistent that at some point over the trip we visit Ghostbar at the Palms hotel. It was one of my favorite lounges on my previous visits and I thought it would be a perfect segue-way from our views at dinner to drinks with a view. The bar itself wasn’t actually that crowded but it made for a good warm-up for Dorothy and Chris as well as Cole and Kyna. The music was loud, people were dancing, and the older siblings were able to buck up and hang until 3:30am when the new 21-year olds were ready to go home!

Strolls on the Strip. After the late night/early morning we were struggling a little tired so we planned a low key day to get out of the casino and get a little fresh air. Since Cole & Kyna had never been on the strip we hit all the classic stops, including the Fountains at Bellagio show and walking through the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Later, we headed back to our hotel to watch college football at the sports bar before we got ready for our last night out. And by watch college football I mean the boys watched football while Kyna sporadically gambled, Dorothy and Chris alternated naps before the games, and I attempted to watch football before I succumb to a much needed nap.

XS. A couple weeks before the trip, Cole had mentioned his favorite DJ, Diplo, would be playing at XS at the Encore the weekend we would be there. Dorothy immediately jumped to action to figure out how we could guarantee entry for all of us at this very popular club and also allow her and Chris to be able to sit down throughout the night as opposed to standing all night on the dance floor. After some research between her and Z, they landed on a surprise bottle service table for the night. The plan was to make Cole and Kyna stand in the general admission line (which was SO long!) to make them worry we wouldn’t get in and eventually Z led us to the other side of the club with the much shorter bottle service line. Once we got into the club Kyna and Cole thought their brother was some kind of Vegas bad-ass hustler but once we arrived at our outdoor table the surprise finally revealed itself. Cole and Kyna were so surprised and thrilled at the plan and it really made the entire evening!

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So you know how I mentioned that Dorothy was concerned her and Chris would need a place to sit for the night, which prompted the bottle service conversation in the first? Ha! They were on their feet for most of the night until 2:30am when we called it quits. They were dancing and even had people coming up to our group to dance with them! Love you two so much!!!

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We danced the night away and seeing Diplo was a total blast! Kyna eventually reached her limit at 2:30am when she requested to go home so she could sleep and wake up early to play Black Jack before her flight. Ha! Z created a gambling Black Jack monster! To be fair, she did bring home some winnings. The boys ended up staying at XS later than the rest of us and didn’t get back to the hotel until 4:30am which included a food run to Fatburger on the way back. Everyone woke up ready to kiss the weekend goodbye, feeling accomplished, exhausted, and a little dehydrated!

Cole & McKyna. Welcome to 21. You’ve now officially crossed over into what will be the most fun time in your twenties. Embrace the responsibility, enjoy the silly good times, and continue to be the best friends you are to each other no matter how far apart you may be. Your bond is enviable and perfectly unique and I’m proud to be your sister from another mister!

Dorothy & Chris. I don’t know many parents that would be willing and able to participate in such a trip. You really are the most stellar and selfless duo when it comes to your children and there are no lengths you wouldn’t go to make them happy and feel loved. You’ve created quite a motley crew and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Sally & Nathan. I missed your kiddos this trip but truth be told I absolutely loved getting time with just the two of you. Between you guys and Z and I, we make such a playful and easy dynamic that I am so grateful for. Thank you for the belly laughs and memories we made together on this trip. I’m already planning the next trip in my head!

Harris. You are the best big brother ever. Your soft spot for your siblings only makes me love you more every time we’re with your family. You are always willing and able to give what you can to make every situation memorable. Also, thanks for cutting yourself off at XS so you wouldn’t be hungover for our anniversary the next day. You’re the best.

{ Autumn in New York }

As the seasons fly by in this new city of ours we learn more about the traditions and “must do’s” of the present season. Amongst coworkers and friends we learned that heading upstate to visit apple orchards and pumpkin patches is amongst the things you must do in the fall. A coworker of mine told me about Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm which not only has pumpkin patches and apple and peach orchards but it also has a wine tasting room and state famous bakery with apple cider donuts. Umm did you say wine tasting room?

After a few convincing conversations to persuade Zach into this plan, we picked a Sunday in October to make the trip. One hour long train ride from Grand Central and a fifteen minute cab ride later we arrived at the farm. It is a family owned estate where the family home actually resides on the property, and boy was it bustling with people!

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We made our way to the tasting room first which was FULL of twenty-somethings and parents who were gettin’ their drink on while the grandparents played with the kids elsewhere on the grounds.

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Alright, I’ll confess. I am not a huge fan of New York or Northeast wine. I’m not actually sure how to explain it in words but it lacks something rich and full-bodied in flavor like Washington and California wines. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we drank the wine (c’mon, it’s me we’re talking about!) but we definitely skipped purchasing a bottle to bring home like the original plan.

One of the hooks to Zach agreeing to come to the farm was learning that they had a corn maze. After wine tasting we made our way over to the corn maze to see how long it would take us to get through it. A few steps into the maze and Z was quickly disappointed to learn it was a very easy maze to get through. Thus began the Harris off roading game through the untamed areas of the maze to create our own way out.  It was actually pretty fun despite my hesitation and bizarre fear of really getting into the corn maze. I’m used to mazes being around Halloween with scary dressed up monsters inside! But this was playful and silly and it ended up being a very fun part of the day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the grounds through the pumpkin patch, Christmas tree fields, and farm gift shop. I’ll use the work pumpkin patch loosely. The “patch” was more an area where pumpkins were set up after they were taken from their actual patch so people could shop more easily. While we intended on bringing a pumpkin home we realized we didn’t want to carry a giant pumpkin back on the train for an hour and then during the walk back to the apartment. Oh well! The farm was gorgeous to walk around and it certainly put us into the autumn spirit. It was so NICE to be out of the city and just absorb the quiet and calm of the country. It just reminds us how important it is to get out of the city every once in awhile to ground and calm yourself in the great outdoors.

Oh and those famous apple cider donuts? Well the line at the bakery was constantly 20 people deep outside the shop so we gave up before we even jumped in line. It turned out to be a very cold and windy afternoon so we headed back into the city for dinner. We both agreed it really was such a fun outing despite the hiccups in the day (no wine, no pumpkin, no donuts) and we loved being in the country for the day. It might just be a seasonal Harris tradition!

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Mr. Harris. I am grateful that you are willing to humor me when I come up with some of these more Joey-centric adventure ideas that may not always be your cup-of-tea. Your playful nature and silliness throughout the day gave me belly aches from laughing all day and your attitude about embracing the day is so appreciated. My partner in crime always, I love exploring this vast state with you and learning more about this new lifestyle we’ve entered into. It makes me happy that your open mind led you to being glad we did it. I’m making a mental note for next time we embark on a Zach-centric adventure!

And thanks for sacrificing your normal Sunday on the couch with the NFL. That doesn’t go unnoticed. I know that’s a pretty big deal 😉