Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Airlines Are (Finally) Offering High-End Food

This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on January 21st, 2016 by THEHIPMUNK. You can find the original post here. I'm thrilled to be sharing a post near and dear to my heart in two ways: travel and food!

While some airlines have distinguished themselves with awesome in-flight entertainment options or stellar amenities in first, business, and economy class, for the most part airline food has failed to keep up with these new high-end innovations. Until now.

That’s right: Airlines are officially improving their menus, especially on domestic flights. From using fresh ingredients, to offering healthier options, to recruiting talented chefs to revamp their menus, airlines are going out of their way to make their food better, reports USA Today.

It’s hard to say exactly why airlines have suddenly started to up their food game, but odds are good that the increasing presence of higher-end eateries in airports and consumer pressure are big factors. Airlines are finding that better food options result in higher online ratings and can offer a competitive edge in a review-happy marketplace. Here’s how that translates into better options for you.

Airline Food

The Arrival of Better Food

Who benefits the most from improvements to airline food? Travelers, of course, in the form of fresher, more diverse, and more flavorful fare. Here’s an airline-by-airline preview of what hungry travelers can expect. 

American Airlines

In an effort to provide healthier food options to passengers, American Airlines has added seasonal vegetables to its food options on several domestic, first-class flights. (The new dishes are inspired by restaurateur Sam Choy.) The airline is also in the process of revamping its first-class menus on other domestic flights by adding options like beef filet, shrimp and grits, and mac ‘n cheese. To top things off, American is featuring snacks from gourmet grocer Dean & Deluca—think raw almonds and spicy Cajun snack mix.

Alaska Airlines

In order to reflect and celebrate the airline’s home city of Seattle, Alaska Airlines now invites economy passengers to purchase Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches or other multi-ethnic offerings during their flights. The airline has also recruited acclaimed chef Tom Douglas to develop its hot meals (which are available for sale on any flight longer than 2 ½ hours), and works to source local ingredients from its many destinations.

Delta Airlines

In November, Delta doubled the number of menu items offered to its first-class passengers on domestic flights. Entrรฉe choices now include restaurant-worthy dishes such as grilled shrimp with roasted corn and tomato salad and lemongrass chicken with a Japanese Cobb salad. Delta is also upgrading its fare on transoceanic flights by introducing a seasonal rotation of menus influenced by various regions.


JetBlue is taking fresh in-flight food to a whole new level. The airline has gone so far as to open its own farm and garden at JFK’s Terminal Five, dubbed T5 Farm. The farm has been developed in partnership with GrowNYC, an NYC-based nonprofit that works to support the development of gardens and farmers markets throughout the city. The goal is for the farm to provide food that’s ultimately incorporated into the airline’s in-flight meal options, such as potato chips made from the farm’s own blue potatoes. In addition to potatoes, the farm will also grow herbs, leafy greens, carrots, and beets. If all goes according to plan, these items will make their way into JetBlue’s edible fare over the next few years. 

What to Expect on International Flights (Food and More)

United Airlines

United has decided to offer fancier menu items, such as roasted duck and flatiron steak, in its first-class cabins. The airline is also using cage-free eggs in its economy-class entrees on domestic flights (as well as on international flights that depart from airports in the U.S.), and it’s attempting to add more flavor to its lunch and dinner options for first- and business class customers by infusing dishes with spices and aromatic herbs. To top things off, the airline has started to serve food in first-class cabins on a larger number of flights (even those that don’t take place over traditional meal times).

In addition to their custom initiatives, many of these airlines have also begun offering a healthier paid food option to passengers in the form of snack boxes. Delta’s Eat Tapas, JetBlue’s Pump Up box, and United’s Tapas Snackbox all contain hummus, crackers, olives, and perhaps some nuts. The airlines then put their own twist on the tapas concept by adding in supplements like pepper and artichoke dip (Delta) or roasted fava beans (JetBlue).

It’s not only U.S. carriers that are getting in on the action. Take just two international examples: Aer Lingus allows its passengers to pre-order traditional foods and meals, including Irish Breakfast. And British Airways is committed to offering a fresh snack or meal on every flight within Europe.

So rest easy, travelers: Your plane ride is likely to come with better food options in the (very) near future.

I've always been pretty impressed with airline food, and it's nice to know that the food options just keep expanding. Yum!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Five on Friday: Gold, Grateful, and Goofy

Here there, friends! It's been a couple of weeks since our last update, and with good reason. The dreaded back to school (also known as work) time has come. I can honestly say that this first week hasn't been all that rough, other than the typical struggles: losing my voice a little, hurting my feet in cute shoes, and needing lots and lots of iced coffee (the struggle is real when my nap time is gone). Here's the highlights of the last week or two, along with some exciting things we're looking forward to!

One of my first day activities. Got some great answers from some great kiddos!

1. Back to School: Year Six

If you follow along on Instagram, you saw that I just started my six year of teaching this Wednesday, which means that I am now a tenured teacher at my school (and in the state of Missouri). I'm of course planning to go buck wild now....haha. Overall, I've got really fabulous kids who show great promise and make me excited for a really solid school year. I really do look to hold true to what my classroom is all about, and I'm grateful for the chance to start over with a fresh new year.

2. Second Softball Season

If you've been around for a while, you know that I coached C Team softball at the other high school in our district last year. I'm back again, folks. I'll be taking the field with my crew of 15 (not all at once obviously), and I'm really excited to get some games going. Practicing for three weeks straight in the hot 100 degree sun can get a little rough. Last year we set the record for the "winningest" season with four wins; this year I'm going for more! The girls legitimately seem like a fun, goofy, fairly-drama free group... for high school freshman and sophomores. I'm sure I'll have lots of stories to share!

3. Olympic Lovin'

I don't know about you, but we've really enjoyed watching the Olympics together in the evenings. I'm not a big TV person, and we don't even have cable, so it's pretty rare for me to be watching something so regularly. But it's always pretty special to see the US win medals, hear the national anthem, and watch the thrilling ends of races in swimming, track and field, and more. And every time I come downstairs and something else is on, I play that "it will be another four years" card. Can't miss out, even if it's ALWAYS past our bedtime!

4. Gold Medal Hubby

Speaking of the Olympics and gold medal winners....my own husband has been the absolute champ of a help this week. With school and softball and working out, I'm not getting home until around 7 pm every night. And of course I'm starving since we have 10:30 am lunch (whose idea was that?). Aaron has cleaned, done laundry, packed lunches, and cooked dinner every night this week, and had it ready to eat the moment I walked in the door. My goodness, I've got me a winner! So thankful for the ways he's been stepping up to cover my slack in this crazy busy season.

5. Travel Plannin' and Dreamin'

I've finally started getting around to sorting and uploading our bajillion photos from our fun summer adventures. Yesterday, I shared my Secrets to Saving Time at Disney and Universal. I was seriously so impressed by how much we were able to tackle in such a short amount of time at the parks. Check it out if you haven't. There are a few more travel posts on your way soon, but in the meantime we are already dreaming of our next adventures. We've got a wedding in St. Louis over Labor Day, and then I'm thinking maybe Seattle, Chicago, or Houston, hopefully in November. Maybe another small trip in December or January. Not sure where just yet. We're also planning to go back to Mizzou this year for homecoming, since we will have that Friday off for school! Hope you have a wonderful, restful weekend!


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Secrets to Saving Time at Disney and Universal

On our amazing thirteen day "anniventury" trip this summer, we had a blast exploring Niagara Falls, Jamaica, and beyond. But one part of our trip was surprisingly more fun than I expected: Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. For a 25 and 26 year old without kids, you wouldn't think that these two places would be anywhere near as fun as they were. But how did we navigate the parks in early June, when Peak season was just beginning and the weather was heating up? Let me tell you, we didn't wait longer than 25 minutes for a SINGLE ride. Here's are the secrets to how we pulled it off, and how you can too!

Planning with My Disney Experience Website

First off, I was super super impressed with everything on the DisneyWorld website. From booking fast passes (you get three for free when you buy your ticket, so book them early!), to checking out show and meal times, to even planning out the attractions you'd like to visit, the My Disney experience website truly makes your trip that much easier and more efficient. But to really beat the system, you've got to download the app!

Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle

Using My Disney Experience App to Maximize Fast Passes

Once you've downloaded the app to your phone, you'll not only be able to check on ride waiting times, but you'll also be able to update your fast passes on the go without having to go to a kiosk. This saves you tons of precious time because after you redeem your first three fast passes (we booked Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain), you'll be able to book another fast pass (one at a time). You can continue repeating this system: use it, book another, and so on.

You can see from our schedule below that we were actually able to use EIGHT fast passes in the one day we spent at Magic Kingdom. We even rode Space Mountain twice: in the rain the second time and with NO WAIT even though there were a billion people in the regular line (fast pass riders have a separate waiting line that's usually much shorter).

My big secret? They'll usually let you in about five minutes before your assigned time window. As soon as we crossed the initial fast pass entrance, where you scan your wristbands or tickets to gain timed access, the app would immediately register our fast pass as being redeemed. So while we were waiting the 5-10 minutes or so in the much smaller fast pass line, I'd already be on and searching for our next ride. It didn't matter that we hadn't reached the secret fast pass check in line they use to keep people honest!

DisneyWorld Fast Pass Secrets

And Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Despite the fact that it was the newest, most popular ride in the park that we were unable to get initial fast passes for (meaning it wasn't one of our three early reservations), I got on the ride after only a ten minute wait in the fast pass line. The ride was broken down all morning and people were livid. We didn't even get to the park until 9 am. People waited for almost two hours in the regular line to ride it. But I just kept refreshing my fast pass search for the ride while we ate lunch at yummy Friar's Nook. And I was able to get a time slot for about 30 minutes later where I just showed up and got on the ride. So big take away here? Keep searching and searching for better times or for a ride you really love if you want to ride it. People are constantly accepting and dropping times, so be patient. And you can always say you want to "modify" your reservation, so that you won't have to give it up just to search for a better time! Don't ever wait hours and hours in a line- you can do better!

Although Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise aren't top tier attractions worthy of burning an initial fast pass reservation on, the fact that we had the ability to book a fast pass and then walk right on to the ride made for literally no wait in the regular queue line. Rule of thumb: if the line is 15 minutes or less, it's probably worth it to just wait instead of trying for a pass. We just walked right on to several smaller rides in between the ones we had fast passes for (things like Haunted Mansion, The Hall of Presidents, It's a Small World, etc). You can always fill in the gaps of your Fast Pass reservations with smaller rides.

For great tips on how to navigate the Magic Kingdom in the number of days you have, check out the Disney Tourist Blog. I loved their 1-Day Magic Kingdom Ideal Plan, which gave me a lot of guidance for how to make the most of our day. We were at the park from like 9 am- 6:30 pm with rain, and yet we rode every single major ride (some more than once) and had a lunch break!

Using Undercover Tourist App Day Plans

Another app that I had and really loved for both parks (Disney and Universal) was the Undercover Tourist App. It was free and had really great touring plans to really maximize the time that you had in the parks. We did one day in Magic Kingdom, and one day at Universal Studios Florida. I added one day plans for each park, and then eliminated or added the attractions based on what we wanted to ride. The app also showed ride wait times, so I had an idea of whether or not we should change up our plan to accommodate a shorter or longer line.

You can check things off as you ride them, which removes things from the plan and helps you see what else you've got to cover. You can even add in meal or snack stops, or nap times if you need to! 

Universal Studios Secrets to Saving Time Using Single Rider Lines

Aaron and I didn't pay the extra $80 a person or so for the fast-pass ticket at Universal (they aren't included like they are at Disney). Although the fast-pass is unlimited at Universal, and can get you into any ride instead of just three, we just decided it wasn't worth it to us. Our solution for super long lines? We rode as single riders! Although it would be a little harder if you had younger children, Aaron and I figured that we weren't really going to talk on the ride anyways, so we single rode on big rides like The Mummy, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Transformers, and Men in Black. People were waiting for 45 min to an hour for these rides, and we literally just walked right on (sometimes more than once).

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Butterbeer

Eating at Off-Peak Times

Another way to save a lot of time at a park is to eat before or after the main eating hours. You'll save a lot of time that's often wasted waiting in line for food. We grabbed a yummy frozen Butterbeer (there's not alcohol in it, if you wondered) in the amazing Diagon Alley, and waited a bit to eat lunch until things were less crowded. Eat a big breakfast before you come and you can make it work. Or eat an early, bigger lunch, and go hard all day, then leave for dinner. You'll save money this way too!

Universal Studios

Riding Things in the Rain, or at Open or Close Times

Another tip is to take advantage of rainy Orlando weather by hopping on the rides that are still safe and don't close at that time. While others are weenie-ing out or taking a break, you'll be able to navigate around the park and enjoy some rides. It's also a good idea to ride super popular rides right at the open or closing times if you can, when there are typically smaller, shorter lines. Definitely don't forget your poncho!

If you're smart about it, do your research, and use phone apps and fast passes to your advantage, you truly can get a lot done in a theme park in one day. Sure, if you've got little kiddos and character visits are a big part of your vacation, then you may need an extra day for that. But if you're looking to get in and ride things, enjoy the atmosphere, and not be there forever, then this post will give you a good start.

Have questions? Let me know! I'm happy to help you have the most fabulous theme park experience you've ever had, with less stress and a whole lot less time waiting in lines. Happy planning!


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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dreamy Boutique Hotels in Hawaii

It's no secret that Aaron and I have been blessed to see a lot of the world. From Florence to Dublin to Venice and more, we've fallen in love with travel and all the amazing places we've visited. But one major place on my bucket list still looms...and it's a place we'll need to get to finish off our 50 states: HAWAII! I've had several friends who visited this amazing place on honeymoons or other trips, but Southwest doesn't fly there and thus we can't go free. So we haven't yet. But that hasn't stopped me from dreaming and planning and looking at some awesome places to stay. So without further ado, here are four dreamy boutique hotels in Hawaii, along with their nearby attractions.

Waikiki: Ala Wai Yacht Harbor

Source: Hipmunk.com
The Hawaii Prince Hotel promises amazing oceanfront views and a beautiful location on the harbor. With four star ratings and a close vicinity to the beach, this hotel promises to please travelers of all preferences and on all types of trips.

Waikiki: Waikiki Beach Walk

Source: Hipmunk.com
Maile Sky Court Hotel in Waikiki is another great option that allows for easy beach access at a great price. The Beach Walk is nearby and offers lots of dining and shopping options. Families may also enjoy a visit to the DFS Galleria. The $10 resort fee includes a shuttle that will take guests within a five mile radius, offering the opportunity for lots of exploring!

Waikiki: Volcano Crater and Memorials

Source: Hipmunk.com
The incredible, beautiful Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort offers not only stunning views, but also a close proxomity to several popular attractions including the Arizona Memorial Center, USS Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, and the Iolani Palace. There is also a nearby nature preserve, located in an exctinct volcano crater. With five pools and nightly resort activities, this location is a bit more pricey, but you get a lot of bang for your buck!

Waikiki: Waikiki International Marketplace

Source: Hipmunk.com
Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki is an excellent Hawaii option if you're looking for a room with a kitchenette. Just a short walk to Waikiki Beach, the resort fee of $15 includes sun loungers and beach towels for your day of relaxation. Dining is also located nearby, as is the Waikiki International Marketplace where you can find artisan items from around the world.

Maui: Kahului

Source: Hipmunk.com
Since I've also heard so many great things about Maui, I had to throw in the Maui Beach Hotel for a taste of another island. I have to be honest, I think I saved my favorite for last! This Maui hotel is incredibly affordable, and offers amazing views of the Pacific from its dreamy pool area. They also have a free hotel shuttle that will take guests anywhere within a five-mile radius, so you can hike, golf, and check out the shopping at the Queen Kaahumanu Center. And of course, there's plenty to explore in the waters of the Pacific!

Have you ever been to Hawaii? Which island or hotel was your favorite? I'm hoping we can take the leap and make the visit in the next couple years. If not, I'll just keep dreaming and checking out awesome hotels like these. Happy travels!


Monday, August 8, 2016

Farmhouse Living Room Update

If you were around for the Rustic Dining Room Reveal back in January, you know that it's been my desire to figure out how to brighten, lighten, and add some character to our home without having to bite the bullet and paint alllll that stinkin' wood trim. I've been blown away by the HUGE difference that paint colors and bringing white into a room can make, without having to commit to painting all the trim white. I was absolutely thrilled by the results of our dining room, but of course completing it made me feel that our front room just didn't fit and flow with my favorite new space. And thus, the dreaming for the farmhouse living room front room began.

Farmhouse Living Room Update

Our front living had a fun mini gallery wall that spoke of our love story and travels. I had put literally no money into this room at all, using Aaron's old college couch, a thrift store coffee table, a hand-me-down shelf, and a rocking chair that we found outside on our neighbor's curb (you can't make this stuff up!). But it just felt so black and white heavy, and the dark red accents didn't do it any favors. I was ready for something new.

Front Living Room: Before
Gallery Wall: Before
After much debate on painting the entire room (high ceilings and all), I decided that I liked the pale tan color enough to keep it around. I decided instead to focus on bringing in the whites, pale grays, and pale greens that I had leftover from the dining room painting. Check out the difference in this mini gallery wall alone. Same photos, so much brighter. Literally zero cost and very little time.

Gallery Wall Black and White
Gallery Wall: After
Next on the list was to bring the oak rocking chair to new life. I took the white sample paint that I hadn't ended up using for the dining room and used it to cover the chair. After letting it dry, I grabbed a small piece of sandpaper and took some paint off the edges to give it a weathered, rustic look. Of course, my favorite "Hey Y'all" pillow (Hobby Lobby) made the perfect finish to the chair- one of my favorite parts of the new room's vibes. I love how it pops in the space, instead of blending into the railing like it used to.

Rustic Rocking Chair Re-Do

Farmhouse Rocking Chair White and Pale Greens

My next project was to bring our free black cube shelf to new life. I used my favorite color ever, Cliveden Gray Morning, which is the pale green that I used on the top half of our rustic dining room walls. I love the flow it creates into the other room now, and the perfect pop of color it brings without being too dark and dreary. It brings air and light into the room, and is the perfect place for my favorite white, green, and wicker accents.

To accessorize, I found several items at IKEA that I love: fake plants, pot holders, and pale green cubes that made our movie shelf look much more organized and a whole lot more pretty. I had two matching wicker baskets from Kohl's that had just been sitting awkwardly, so I made one basket of chick flick movies and one basket of guys' night movies. I'll probably write something clever and cute on the front chalkboard slabs. 

For the top of the shelf, I brought in greens and pale whites to keep the theme going. I used the white vase (wedding gift) and another fake plant from IKEA, found an awesome 80% off frame at Michael's, and finally printed one of my favorite photos from the amazing Lacey Rene' Studios shoot we did last September. Throw in my rustic candleholders and a pale green frame I found on clearance at HomeGoods, and we were set.

Farmhouse Gallery Wall

Another area of focus was the gallery wall. I set to work paining all of the frames in white and Cliveden Gray Morning. I also painted the red wood frame the pale green, and then found the perfect baby wreath from Magnolia Market. (This place is the bomb!) It sits just perfectly on the top of the clip the frame had for photos (which I didn't really want to add). The space is so much brighter and lighter.

And then, of course, comes the ever so fun task of pillows. Before we had three gray and white striped pillows that had come with the couch with Aaron bought it. I had one small red accent pillow as well. I decided to find pillow covers to cover the pillows so I wasn't buying six new pillows, and  then find a few new pillows I loved.

Pillows and side table before.
Pillows, side table, and gallery wall after.
IKEA had the perfect pillow covers to give just the right pale pop of green, while also having a tan option to balance the neutrals and brighten the couch a bit. I found two patterned pillows that I just loved, one in tan and one in white, at HomeGoods, and I was sold. After playing around with arrangement, I found one I loved.

Farmhouse Living Room

For the last few fun accents, I rearranged a few things I already had, painted the side tables pale green, and found a cute print on the She Reads Truth Shop with one of my very favorite reminders.

She Reads Truth Shop

I also found this too cute sign at Hobby Lobby, and switched it out for the dark brown and black sign that once held its place. I'm slightly obsessed with the cute handwriting, and love how it ties in the white from our black and white wedding photo canvases.

It's So Good to Be Home

Now every time I come into our new Farmhouse Front Living Room, I smile and agree that "It's So Good to be Home". Ever have moments like that? I'm so grateful that I didn't have to paint the entire room to make it feel more like a farmhouse, rustic, flowing room that fit with the rest of our newly re-done upstairs. Especially because it gave me more time and money to dream and play a bit with pillows and fun new pops of decor.

How are you bringing light and farmhouse charm into your home? What room do you have new dreams for?


Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to See the Rainforest on a Budget

This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on March 31st, 2016 by THEHIPMUNK. You can find the original post here. I'm thrilled to be sharing such a fun, dreamy post that inspires a whole new level of adventure!

Most people hear the word “rainforest” and immediately picture the Brazilian Amazon or the lush jungles of Costa Rica. Not surprisingly, trips to these rainforest destinations are priced accordingly: Everybody knows about them, so trips are in high demand—and that means they can drive high prices.

If “visit a rainforest” is on your bucket list but you’re operating on a small budget, don’t despair. There are plenty of rainforests to see, and many of them reside outside the confines of the most popular (and pricey) tourist destinations. Here are five great options for anyone looking to visit the rainforest on a budget.


While Brazil gets much of the attention for its Amazonian rainforests, the Amazon basin actually extends across several South American countries, many of which offer cheaper (and less crowded) rainforest tours. Bolivia falls into this category, and it offers two different types of tours: the pampas tours, which wind through a wetland savannah on the edge of the Amazon jungle and offer ample wildlife sightseeing opportunities, and jungle tours, which are a bit pricier but take travelers deeper into the rainforest. Whenever you’re ready for a shower, head out of the rainforest and into vibrant Santa Cruz.

British Columbia

US citizens can cut down on travel time and fees by taking a quick trip to our neighbor to the north. Canada’s British Columbia is home to the 25,000-square-mile Great Bear Rainforest, which is renowned for its wildlife (including, not surprisingly, its large population of bears) and stunning outdoor recreation opportunities. The rainforest isn’t too far from popular Vancouver and Whistler, BC, so you can balance urban and rainforest exploration in the course of the same trip.


Peru is gradually building a reputation for itself as an eco-tourism destination, and for good reason: The country is home to the Manu Wilderness, which boasts a larger population of plants and animals than almost anywhere else on the planet. Jaguar, parrot, and giant otter sightings are common, so do not forget the camera. The rainforest isn’t far from Cusco; if you have the time, it’s also worth making the trek to lively and historic Lima.

Puerto Rico

Travelers from the US can save money on passport application or renewal fees by visiting El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. You’ll also save vacation time: It takes just under four hours and approximately $200 to fly from NYC to San Juan, which is only 30 miles from the rainforest. Once you arrive, walking tours of the tropical rainforest cost just $3 to $5. When you’ve had your fill of the jungle, soak up some rays on any of San Juan’s white sandy beaches.

Seattle, Washington

Don’t feel like paying for an international flight? Then head to Seattle, which serves as a great jumping-off point to Olympic National Park. Spanning nearly a million acres, the park features unparalleled ecological diversity in the form of glacier-capped mountains, Pacific coastline, 3,500 miles of rivers and streams, and old-growth temperate rainforest. These ecosystems provide homes for over 70 species of mammals, 300 bird species, and 1,100 native plant species. The park is also distinguished as a World Heritage Site and an International Biosophere Reserve.

I hope this made you just as excited for a rainforest adventure (on a budget), as it did me! Happy travels!



Friday, August 5, 2016

Five on Friday: The Last Bit of Summer

I can't believe the first week of August has already flown by. We have to go back to school for teacher work days next Wednesday (gulp). At the same time, I've already been in a bit more of a routine this week, so I don't think it will be quite as bad as I'm anticipating. I'm looking forward to seeing all my teacher friends, though I'm not so pumped about losing my summer freedom. Summer travel has been amazing, but it sure did help the months fly along a little too quickly! Here's what the Ks have been up to this week!

1. Softball Season #2

I'm starting my second year as C Team softball coach at Liberty North. It's nice to have a year under my belt and have an idea of what's going on. Keys, putting buses in, making lineups, and all that jazz isn't foreign territory to me this year, and I'm looking forward to that. After a week of tryouts, I can also say with confidence that I've got a lot of super sweet, super great kiddos that I'll be spending my time with. Bonus points for the fact that Jimmy John's is in charge of our sandwiches this year before away games. Beach club for the win, am I right?

Cozy Room with Private Bath In KC

Kansas City, MO, United States
Whether you're looking to visit Kansas City for a few days or are just passing through, our home is the perfect place to stay. We are just minutes away from major highways. Located in a safe, quiet...

2. Welcoming Guests

Not sure what it is about August, but dang, people sure are looking to travel to Kansas City this month! We've had so many Airbnb requests that I've had to turn people away. It's been a lot of fun meeting everyone from other YoungLife leaders to flight attendants who live in places we've visited this summer. I've really enjoyed getting to open up our home in this way, and it's fun to be in my super host groove after renting out our room for the last year. If you're coming to KC and want to try out Airbnb, give our listing a look and let me know you found it on the blog :) Also, here's a list of all the awesome things you can do while you're here!

3. Day Date Fun

This Tuesday Aaron and I decided to take advantage of our early morning freedom by hitting up the movies before noon. All movies are just five bucks at AMC in the morning, so we finally made our way back into the movie theatre after a long absence (we're usually Redbox people). Our movie of choice? Finding Dory. Why not, right? It was a lot of fun to see the connection back to the original, and we loved hearing how interactive the little kids were around us...they were really into it. We've been spoiled this summer with the ability to go out to eat and just do random fun things together whenever we wanted. Married teacher perks.

Our new beaut of a car...any name ideas?

4. Cars on Cars on Cars

If you know my hubby, not only is he awesome, but he's also an incredibly hard worker. Ever since we got back from Greece, the man has had car after car lining our street. I'm so grateful that he can fix not only our own cars, but also the cars of so many awesome folks who are looking to save some money and have a trustworthy, honest mechanic behind the wrench. If you're ever in KC and looking for some car work, give Aaron a holler- he's pretty awesome and can do just about any work you need! So thankful for his dedication and commitment to providing for our family.

5. Family Celebrations 

This week we got to celebrate several birthdays with both of our families. Seriously, half of our family decided to be born in July. This makes for one heck of a birthday celebration that ends up looking almost more like a mini-christmas. I've always loved sharing my birthday month (and even birthday) with family members, and it's so fun having time off to enjoy the pool, an amazing meal, and just sweet time with each other. We're nearly all teachers too, so we definitely know how to party it up in the summertime. Have a great weekend!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

San Francisco in Two Days

I'm way behind on sharing travel posts about all of our adventures since May, but hey- you've got to start somewhere. I managed to squeeze in a post on Napa and Sonoma back at the end of June, but the rest of that trip included a couple of days exploring the amazing city of San Francisco! The land of seafood, streetcars, and amazing sunset views did not disappoint. Here's what we did and what we'd recommend for an amazing trip to the city by the bay.


We rolled into town on the BART after returning our rental car on the way back from Napa and Sonoma.  The BART was very affordable and clean. We got on at the Oakland Airport (where our rental car company dropped us), and then rode through to the Coliseum stop, where we transferred and rode to the Embarcadero stop.

Club Quarters Hotel San Francisco
Rooftop Lounge at Club Quarters Hotel

We stayed at the Club Quarters Hotel in the Financial District. It was only an 8 minute walk from Chinatown and a 9 minute walk from the Ferry Building. There was also shopping right across the street in Embarcadero Center. We were upgraded to a suite, which was awesome because we stayed for free on the credit we'd earned from submitting Best Rate Guarantees on Orbitz. All in all, it was a great location where we could easily walk and get around to all the major city sights!

We checked in and headed out just in time for a little pizza at Golden Boy Pizza (which was recommended by a local). It's located in San Francisco's Italian area- North Beach, which has tons of awesome food. It was served by the slice and was the perfect lunch before we headed off on our biking adventure.

My favorite activity of the day was when we biked the Golden Gate Bridge! We used Basically Free Bike Rentals, which I would highly recommend. There is literally no catch- you just pay to rent the bikes, but get store credit at their retail store, Sports Basement, for the full amount of your rental. The credit is good for three days.

Sports Basement
We rented two bikes for the full day for $64 total, then rode to the store and used that credit to buy Aaron a new pair of running shoes that he needed anyways. Winning! The views were amazing, and the ride was super comfortable and pretty easy.

After biking, we explored some of the crazy super hilly streets of San Fran, and then walked over to the Ferry Building to eat at Gott's Roadside where we enjoyed the most delicious burgers and the best Mexican corn I've ever had!

Gott's Roadside


Of course, a San Francisco visit isn't complete without a visit to Alcatraz, so we walked over to the Pier 33 for our reserved time to tour. Make sure you purchase these tickets in advance, or you won't be able to get them. You can find the official site here.

Alcatraz Cell

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz was super interesting, and we had a really great time doing the audio cellblock tour. It was kind of creepy, but definitely worth seeing. Ferries run back to the Pier quite often, so you can linger as long as you like.

Fisherman's Wharf

After Alcatraz, we walked to the super touristy Pier 39, where we grabbed a yummy lunch at Mango's Taqueria and Cantina. We had a beautiful outdoor table that overlooked the harbor. Then we walked on through the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood, which is also super touristy but fun to see. We're not really seafood folks, but this would be a great area to get it!

Ghirardelli Square

If you've got a sweet tooth like me, any trip to San Francisco has to include a stop at Ghirardelli Square. I had an ice cream sundae with hot fudge that was to die for!

After our sweet stop, we walked up the crazy, crazy hills to the ever popular Lombard Street, which is known as the "crookedest street in the world".

Lombard Street

And of course, I just had to ride the streetcar! We rode it in the direction of our hotel, back into Chinatown. After that we were pretty beat, so we went up to the enjoy the hotel's views, and then ordered some Chinese to our room.

If you've got the time...

We had a little extra time the next morning before our flight left, so we made a couple of fun pit stops.

1. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
You can see them actually making the fortune cookies, and you can even personalize a message to put inside if you'd like. Pictures cost 50 cents. Located in Chinatown.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

2. Ferry Building Farmer's Market 
If you're in San Francisco on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, it's worth a stop at the Farmer's Market in the morning. They have lots of yummy food and craft booths set up. We had fun exploring!

Ferry Building Farmer's Market

Hopefully you're able to make a visit to San Francisco in the near future. We loved it, and would definitely go back for a visit again, probably coupled with Napa and Sonoma again. Let me know if you have any questions!