Sunday, May 31, 2015

Family Fun in Frisco

For pretty much every summer of my childhood, my dad's side of the family hopped into our cars and  caravanned out to gorgeous Summit County, Colorado. My brother learned to ride his bike there, we all learned to ski by age five, and we spent weeks at a time hiking, biking, fishing, and exploring the gorgeous mountains. If we didn't make it in the summer, we visited over spring break. This last week was a special treat, because I got to spend it back in Colorado with my family for the first time since 2010. And this time, I got to bring my hubby along for his first visit! Mountains are so amazing to me; they always remind me just how small I am.
Kicking off our trip at the Continental Divide.
We always stay in Frisco, Colorado, a sweet little mountain town nestled right between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. Check it out here. The city has grown a TON since my parents first started coming out in the late 80s, but it still has a small town feel with well-kept paths and a cute main street. They always have fun events going on, especially during the Fourth of July. What is ruled by skis and snowboards in the winter becomes mountain biking and hiking country in the summer. While there are occasional mountain storms, they don't last long, and the weather is always a nice escape from humidity. There is nothing like mountain sun.
The condo where we spent our week- "Papa Bears".
When we go, we always rent out condos from various owners, but our favorite has always been Mountain Side condos. They have a great clubhouse with some amazing outdoor hot tubs, and various sizes of places to stay, ranging from apartment style 1-2 bedrooms with lofts, to townhouses, to full houses that can hold up to 15 people. They also have access to tennis courts and a fishing lake, and are right off of the bike path. We took a rainy bike ride back from Breckenridge, a mostly downhill 9 mile trip that's actually super fun.
Our condo had access to Bill's Fishing Lake, just a few steps away. It was beautiful.
Aaron and Kirk caught fish! I had a nibbler that got away.
When we stay, we usually prepare meals ahead of time and cook them in the condo. It saves time and money, and the condos' kitchens are always fully stocked and ready for use. Plus my mom's an awesome cook, so that's a perk. We make a lot of runs to Safeway. It was a special treat to go out to eat to celebrate my mom's birthday while we were there! After dinner, we play cards and crazy board games or fall asleep to movies.
We celebrated Momma's birthday at a Mexican Restaurant in town.
Skiing in the summer is a well kept secret. My dad and I actually once skied in July. No lie! The only place that is normally open late enough for this is Arapahoe Basin. This time of the year, you can get excellent prices on ski rentals and lift tickets. We always use Pioneer Sports. They're great. We got a super deal, so my brothers and I decided to take Aaron on his first ski trip ever. The first run may have been a little iffy (since the bunny slope was closed this time of year), but by run number two he was getting off the lift and skiing down the entire mountain like a pro. It's a little slushy at the bottom by the afternoon, but the temperatures are glorious.
Sibling Ski Selfie. Arapahoe Basin is open through June!
It's so fun exploring the Summit County area. Great ski resorts like Keystone, Vail, Copper Mountain, and Breckenridge are all a few minutes away from Frisco. We went down to the Breckenridge area to do some shopping and ate some amazing cookies from Mary's Mountain Cookies. Seriously, get a sandwich cookie. There are lots of deals on ski gear this time of the year. The resorts are much more laid back this time of the year, but their events start up again in mid June. You can even ride the lift up for free at some of them.
A quick visit to Copper Mountain. Everything is closed for "mud season".

We drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park one day. Sadly, there was a lot of snow so the road was closed part way through. We made the most of it, parked the car, and just walked on the road for a while. We even enjoyed a picnic lunch while a few elk nibbled on some grass in the background. Everything is so beautiful here.
On a hike to the falls on our Rocky Mountain National Park visit.
Safe to say, the mountains, and this man, will always have my heart.
I'm so thankful that we were able to escape away on a mountain adventure. If you have any questions about Colorado, or Frisco, please let me know! I'd love to help you plan the perfect family trip to the mountains. Contact me here, or on my Facebook page. Or you can always comment below. Thanks for reading, friends!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The IHG Rewards Club Credit Card: Stay for Free

A few weeks ago, I shared some tips on using the Southwest Rapid Rewards card to fly free. Check out that post here. Flights are a huge expense, but if you can get a free place to stay, it can be an incredible help on the ole wallet. So here's the second installment of travel tips on Currently Kelsie, this time telling you how to get free hotel stays using the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) Rewards Club Credit Card.

The Intercontinental Hotel Group, otherwise referred to as IHG, consists of several hotel brands including Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites. Their rewards program is free to join, and offers points for hotel stays. You can also earn points by doing the dining or cruising rewards programs, but the best way to get them in a hurry is with the credit card. At the time of this post, IHG is offering 70,000 points when you signed up for the credit card, but when we got the card, we got 80,000 points. Sign up when bonuses are highest in order to maximize your free stays.

How It Works:
You apply for the card. Once you receive it, you have to spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account. Then the 70,000 points are yours! It's pretty easy to reach this within a month, just by buying groceries, filling up the gas tank, and paying bills. You can always purchase pre-paid gift cards as needed.

The Rewards:
  • 70,000 bonus points can usually get you at least 10 hotel room stays, as long as you are decisive about which hotels you use for points. Point Break hotels are the real way to go (more on that later).
  • An Annual Free night that you can use ANYWHERE in the world ANYTIME. (Aaron and I are using ours at a hotel in Geneva, Switzerland that would be worth over $600. For free.)
  • Automatic 10% point rebate. You use them, you get them back. It's a beautiful thing.
  • Platinum Elite Status, which gets you priority check in and room upgrades.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Super nice if you're going out of the country.
  • $0 Introductory Annual Fee. Only $49 the next year, which is nothing since you get your free night anywhere in the world. A no brainer.
  • Earn DOUBLE Points on gas, groceries, and at restaurants. Really adds up!
  • Roll-Over Nights. If you don't use them, you don't lose them. And dates are never blacked out.
Using the Website and Booking Rooms: 
Their website,, is easy to navigate. When you sign up for the card, you are automatically given a member number. You use this number and password to access hotels online. Just search your destination, dates, and select "Reward Nights" under Rate Preference. List view will show you all of the hotels that match your search, as well as the number of points required to book them:
Notice how it allows you to book nights with points, or with a combo of points and dollars. This can help if you have some points, but not enough, or if you want to break up the use of your points. San Fran is pricey for points.

Using the Map View is super helpful. You can see all of the different IHG locations in the area. This is an example using San Francisco, CA. The map view is perfect for planning road trips! Also, San Francisco isn't the best place to use's pretty expensive.
Point Break Hotels:
Point Break Hotels are one of the BEST things about this card. Every few months, IHG releases a list of hotels across the world (with most in the US) that you can get for only 5,000 points. This is HUGE because it means that you could get up to 14 free nights just on your card bonus alone (and remember, you're going to earn points for all of your spending too!). It's best to be flexible in order to really use these. Think about various places you would like to go that are within driving distance. You can only book two nights per each specific Point Break hotel for that round of released options, but you could book as many total as you wanted.
This is a selection of the Spring Point Break hotels, available to book through July 2015. You'll have to have your points earned in time to book fast when they come available. Being flexible on your travel location is huge.

How We've Used the Card:
Aaron and I have stayed ten nights for free so far on this card, and we still have points to use! We used three free Point Break nights for our Southwest Spring Break trip. For Spring Break 2014, we used seven free nights as we drove across the Southeast. You can really maximize this card when you have a car (either rental or your own). This way you can stay at Point Break hotels or other cheap point hotels across the nation, stopping to sleep for free before you head to your next destination. Staying out in the suburbs is always worth less points than staying in the city, but it's so worth it. Honestly, we don't even bother booking reward nights unless they are 10,000 points or less. You really want to get the most bang for your buck (or free points in this case).

Ready to Get Started? To apply for the card, check out this link.
Still have questions? I would love to tell you about our experiences or answer any questions you may have. Click here to contact me, or comment below. If you'd really like to dive deeper into making IHG work for you, check out this awesome guide: If you liked this post, and want to be updated when new travel tips or posts are shared, click here to sign up for our newsletter. Happy Travels!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Squirrels in the Attic: A Survival Guide

In honor of spring cleaning and the joys of home-ownership, I've put together a small survival guide to offer you guidance on what to do if you find squirrels in the attic. Enjoy.
  1. Realize that the strange scratchy sound you're hearing on the ceiling is in fact a live animal.
  2. Remove clothes from the closet and figure out how to get into the attic.
  3. Prepare the bravest member of your family for entry. Don't forget the baseball bat.
  4. Scream loudly and move attic door around so all animals are scared away.
  5. Climb through hole into attic and pull self up to look around by iPhone light.
  6. Locate hole where squirrels are getting in.
  7. Attempt to close hole. If possible, climb on roof to do so.
  8. Continue to hear noises. Proceed to step 9.
  9. Get poison. Place in attic.
  10. Wait. It may take days; it may take weeks.
  11. Find dead squirrel on the sidewalk as you are leaving for friend's wedding.
  12. Husband is gone, so work up the nerve to grab shovel and flip dead squirrel into your landscaping. Try not to stare at its still open eyes.
  13. Smell strange smell in house.
  14. Go into attic for recon.
  15. Have bravest member find dead squirrel and hand down in plastic bag to partner waiting below.
  16. Throw away, while trying not to think about the fact that you're holding a dead squirrel.
  17. De-stinkify your attic.
  18. Celebrate your success.
And yes, this was a true story. Happy home ownership!


Friday, May 22, 2015

A Young Homeowner's Tips for Saving Money

Aaron and I have now owned our sweet first home for almost two years. We aren't real flashy people. We like to have an inviting place where we are comfortable having lots of people over, but we aren't willing to go broke just for aesthetics. Over the past few years, we have figured out several things that have helped us to throw extra money at our principal each month, while also paying off any student loans we had in our name. Here are a few of our favorite secrets to living well and saving money on a young homeowner's budget.

A Young Homeowner's Tips to Save Money

1. Cut the cable.
We don't have cable. We pay for internet, but we have never spent a dime on cable TV. Netflix is amazing, and only $8 a month. With all of the add ons and extra fees that cable companies offer and slap on your bill these days, cable can be over $100 a month. Saying no for the past two years has saved us around $2,400. That's more than enough to pay for a nice cruise, a deck upgrade, or an extra payment on the good ole mortgage.

2. Embrace the hand-me-downs.
Aaron and I were blessed to have several pieces of furniture given to us when we first moved into our house. Our dining room and kitchen tables, a sectional with a pull-out couch, and a bed set were all given to us by those who were happy to be rid of them. And we actually had a decent amount of furniture to furnish our four bedroom home. If you aren't blessed with as many hand-me-downs, not to worry. There are several opportunities for you to find these things: garage sales, antique markets, and thrift stores. Someone's old piece could be a great addition to your place, and you can always give it a little TLC or paint upgrade to make it really pop. Then someday, you can start to buy some new things for yourself little by little, without breaking the bank. You can see how we put some of these pieces to work in our own home by checking out this post.

3. If at all possible, DO IT YOURSELF.
Again, I'm blessed in this category. Aaron is amazingly handy. I mean, the guy works on cars and re-built part of our fence last year. Not to mention all the little things he can do with electrical and toilet issues. If you're not blessed with an Eagle Scout hubby, not to worry. Thanks to the internet, there are several little things you can figure out how to do or find on your own that can save you loads of money. If there's a job that's really meant to be left to the professionals, ask around, use your connections, or find someone local as much as possible. They are likely going to take good care of you for a lower price, and may even give discounts to repeat customers.

4. Regulate the temperature.
One of the biggest changes in homeownership is having a lot more space. This is awesome, but you also have to heat and cool that space accordingly, which can get pricey when you've got numerous floors and vaulted ceilings like we do. A few months ago, Aaron and I got a new thermostat put in for free by KCPL. The thermostat is not only pre-set, but can be adjusted instantly through an App on my phone. We tell it when we are coming home, and when we are gone, and the temperature adjusts to keep our home at the most cost efficient temperature. Our bills have gone way down.

5. Wash in cold. 
Washing your clothes in cold water will save you money. It takes less energy for the machine to wash things in cold, and thus your bill will be much lower. Seriously, I'm not making this stuff up. Check it out: It's fine to do the occasional hot or warm load of sheets or towels, but otherwise, stick to cold. You could save over $200 a year.

6. Shop clearance, embrace imperfection, and be patient.
We scored big at a 70% off sale when our local K-Mart went out of business. We got a huge steal on a nice patio set for our deck, an outdoor bar set, and a great grill. You don't have to do this all at once though (we just couldn't pass up the deals). Be patient. Don't worry if some rooms sit empty. Add a piece or two at a time to your home. Be on the lookout for clearance markdowns- they could be discounted because of a minimal scratch or dent that you really could care less about. I love love love shopping thrifty, and it makes it even more fun when you find something you love at a great price. Be patient, be choosy, and don't go over the amount you budgeted for a certain item. Odds are great that it will go on sale, especially if it's a seasonal item.

At the end of the day, owning a home is a huge commitment, but it's so much fun. By just following a few simple steps, you can save a lot of money, which then allows you to splurge on that vacation, that new piece of furniture, or that unexpected maintenance necessity (which likely WILL happen). A home is an amazing investment and a great place to live a life and grow a family. We love our home, and all of the people who bring life to it.

What's your favorite thrifty homeowner tip? How do you find ways to cut the costs of homeownership? Let me know on the contact form, or comment below! Like what you're reading? Click here to subscribe to the Currently, Kelsie newsletter. I'll keep you up to date on recent posts, and provide some extra bonus tips on living well. Happy home ownership!


I'm linking up with A Fresh StartThe Shabby Nest and Chic on a Shoestring. Check them out! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Letter to My Students

Dear Students,

We did it! Woohoo! We made it to summer. Yes, certain days crawled by, but it seems like just yesterday that we were learning each other's names. Then we blinked and another year was in the books. I usually won't admit it, but a part of me gets a little emotional when I say goodbye and ship you off to the next grade, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on our time together. Because you matter.

Thank you for filling my desks each day and making my room full of life and laughter. Thank you for making me smile, and saying just the perfect thing to bring my spirits up on a bad day. Thank you for sharing your life with me through writing and conversation. Thanks for keeping me up on the modern lingo and newest YouTube videos. You keep me young. You give my job meaning.

I'm sorry that there were times I was too overwhelmed and exhausted to chat with you. I'm sorry that there were times when I got frustrated, or lost my patience after stretching it as far as I could. But mostly, I'm sorry that we ran out of time. I'm sorry that this is our last day together, and I'm even more sorry that I won't be seeing any of you again next year. At least not regularly.

Truth be told, I'm going to miss you all quite a bit. I'll miss your jokes and your smiling faces. I'll miss the funny things you say that crack me up. But mainly, I'll just miss you. Even you, class clowns. You know who you are. Yep, I'll miss you too. You are much more to me than your actions.

I hope you learned something from my class. I hope you learned to like at least one book. I hope you feel more comfortable with writing. I hope that speaking in front of a large group isn't quite so scary now. But most of all, I hope that you saw my passion- my passion for teaching, my passion for kids like you, and my passion for life. It is my hope that I showed you that you matter and that you have potential and purpose in life. Because you do. Trust me, you do. I hope I taught you to laugh at yourself and to never be too busy to have fun.

You're off now to bigger and better things. In a few short years, you'll say goodbye to high school and hello to the rest of your life. I am so excited to see all the amazing things that you'll do, and the amazing places you'll go. Wherever life takes you, I hope you remember to live fully and enjoy every second of the moment you're in. Because trust me, they go oh so fast. Too fast. Then one day you wake up and you're my age and you wonder where the last ten years of your life have run off to.

So enjoy it, dear students. Enjoy the time you have here. Make the most of it. Don't wish it away. Laugh daily. Love each other well. Sacrifice for others. And never give up on your dreams. Because if you think you're too cool for something fun or you think that you're better than someone else, you're really just hurting yourself. You're stealing your own joy before you even get to experience it. Be a kid. Live a life of fun and adventure. Support and build up; don't tear down and destroy.

For now, it's time to say goodbye. Come back and see me. You know where I'll be. I promise I won't forget you, and I hope you don't forget me either. I can't tell you how much joy it brings us teachers to have a student come back and say hi, or tell us how they're doing. Because you will forever be a part of our story here. Now go write your own.

Kelsie (aka Mrs. K)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sweet Little Bride

Sweet little bride, you're in for the ride of your life. It's one of the hardest, most humbling, most wonderful experiences on this earth. There's no way to be fully ready, but you'll be just fine.

You'll get lots of advice, and you won't listen to all of it. You shouldn't. No matter how hard you try, you'll still get caught up in planning a wedding. You'll know that your marriage is more important than one day, but inevitably you'll worry about the little details that no one else will notice. There will be a day when you'll compare your wedding to those of others, and if you aren't careful, it will steal just a little of your joy.

Sweet little bride, you'll learn more about yourself in your first few months of marriage than you ever thought possible. You'll be met with the ugliest parts of yourself, and you'll wonder how you could ever be so selfish, or why you get so incredibly upset about the littlest things. You'll wonder who you've become.

And oh, sweet little bride, you'll know heartache and the pain of thinking that your groom can fulfill you. He can't. You'll have unrealistic and unspoken expectations, and he will too. You will be more frustrated than you ever thought possible. You'll hope he'll morph into who you want him to be, not who he is. Then you'll realize you need him to be who he is.

You'll struggle to say goodbye to your independence and hello to thinking like two people living as one. You'll realign your priorities as you work on submitting and not leading. You'll navigate through balancing two families and their different ways of life. You will worry about letting others down. And you will let them down.

But it's okay, sweet little bride, because you'll also know joy. You'll watch him from across the room, and your heart will leap in knowing that he is totally and completely yours. Forever. You'll dream of babies and making a house a home. You will wonder how you could ever love him more. And yet, everyday, you will.

Grace. Oh, I pray that you will know grace. More grace than you thought a human could give. Grace and love from someone who won't run away when you're sobbing on the floor, who'll still love you and kiss you goodnight before you fall asleep. Who will hold you in his arms when you need it most, or make you laugh after you just had a fight. Who will pursue you daily. You'll know love and commitment in a totally new way.

And oh, dear one, I hope you'll know trust like you've never known before. You'll know the ins and outs of someone more intimately than you ever thought possible. You will know that he always has your best interest at heart. You'll share secrets you'd never tell another. Part of you will always be with him. And part of him with you.

It won't be easy, sweet little bride. But I can promise you, it will all be worth it. So worth it.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rock and Run Brewery and Pub

Wow. All I can say is, wow. If you're looking for a place that can deliver in taste, service, and value, you've got to try Rock and Run Brewery. Located on the historic Liberty square, Rock and Run has been around since mid-December of 2013. One owner loved rock, one owner loved running, and there you have it: Rock and Run. The restaurant brings craft brewery to the Northland, and provides a friendly atmosphere in a modern remodeled historical building. I'd been in once with friends for happy hour, but was excited to come in again on a Friday night with Aaron when we had time for the full experience.

From the very start, we were pleasantly surprised. There were plenty of TVs showing the Royals game, so we were able to watch them win while we waited for our table. It didn't take long to be seated, and live music was just starting up in the back. Our server was very attentive, and we were incredibly impressed by the manager. He wasn't the sit back and watch kind of guy; he was running food, greeting tables, and attending to our every need. Man in the bow tie, you know who you are. Keep up the great work! 

If you like beer, Rock and Run's got you covered. They offer 40 craft beers on tap. Up to 10 of those 40 are beers that they brew on site. A great way to taste several is to get the beer flight sampler, where you can try 5 different beers for $10. They also offer sips to taste for free, or a sample of one for $2. Yearly Brew Crew Memberships are also available for $20, which gets you lots of perks and special offers. Aaron's sampler included the Liberty2, Farmhouse Funk, Pacific Jade Pale, Cherry Bomb What, and Ryely Porter. 

Beer Flight Sampler
Now, for the food. 
We started with a house salad, which was a nice mix of ranch, fresh cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, and red onions. For the main course, Aaron went with the chicken fried steak. No lie, it was the best chicken fried steak we've ever had. It was so tender and the flavor of the creamy bacon gravy was just peppery enough to give it a slight kick. The mashed potatoes were incredible, probably the best I've ever had as well (and I'm a big potato girl, so that's saying a lot!). I had more than a few bites of this because it was so yummy.
Chicken Fried Steak
Side Salad
If you can only get one thing here, get the pizza. Seriously, my Diablo pizza was DELICIOUS. I'm not a huge spicy person, but I really enjoyed this pie with a little bit of a kick. The creamy sambal sauce mixed with the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes made for the perfect combination. Spinach, red onions, chicken, mozzarella, provolone, and basil made up one of the best pizzas I've ever had.They have lots of other pizza combos as well, including BBQ Chicken, Mediterranean, Pulled Pork, Pesto, and Reuben. For under $9, you can't go wrong.  I only ate about half of it, and took the rest home, so you could probably share or split one.
Diablo Pizza
Even though I was pretty stuffed, I couldn't say no to trying dessert. Don't let this picture fool you- the Campfire Smores are a BIG portion. I ate more than I needed to, and Aaron and I still couldn't finish it off. Think rich chocolate fondue meets melted marshmallow and graham cracker and you'd be on the right track. It was delicious, and you can get it with peanut butter added if you want. They also offer milk and cookies, root beer floats, and featured dessert specials.
Campfire Smores
Everything about our visit to Rock and Run was amazing, and we will most definitely be back. Their chef is creating some of the best dishes we've ever had in the KC area. They offer several food and drink specials, along with hosting private events in their upstairs space. They even offer discounts for customers with regularly scheduled events. Check out their website at or like them on Facebook here. You won't regret it. Happy eating!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Paul and Jack's

If you're like my hubby and me, you get kind of stuck in a food rut every once in a while, and only eat at the same restaurants over and over again. In the spirit of Currently, Kelsie and my desire to make life a fun and fearless adventure, we've been really pushing ourselves to try out some new (to us at least) places. Thus, our visit to Paul and Jack's Tavern.

I had been to Paul and Jack's once before with friends, but I wanted to come back in since it had been a while. We stopped in on a First Friday around 9:45pm, so we were hitting the last bit of the dinner hours. Located on Clay street in the Northtown area (near Neon Wild and Cinder Block Brewery), Paul and Jack's has been around since 1948. When you enter the door, you are immediately met by several newspaper articles highlighting the restaurant over the years. Lots of interesting history!

We were seated in Walt's booth, which was a pretty sweet tribute to one of their regulars who always sat in this specific booth. The dining area was broken up into several different rooms, all with excellent views of multiple TVs. This was definitely a great place to watch a game, and we cheered on the Royals to a victory as we ordered.
Walt's Booth
We decided to splurge and start with an appetizer because we were both pretty hungry. We ordered the Jalapeño Bottle Caps, which are battered, deep fried jalapeños that come in both snack and full size. We got the snack size for only $2.99. I'm not a big spicy person, but they were really good!
Jalapeño Bottle Caps
For dinner, I got the Cuban Sandwich, consisting of pulled pork, pickles, swiss cheese, garlic aioli, mustard, and delicious ham. It normally comes with fries, but I got the veggies on the side and they were really fresh with nice flavoring. I took home half of my sandwich as leftovers for the next day's lunch. Definitely a good portion of food for under $9.
The Cuban Sandwich

Aaron is my burger man. He got the PJ's Double Cheeseburger, which was just like it sounds- two burgers and two pieces of cheese. Pretty filling with great flavor. Fries are his go to on the side. Very reasonable at $6.99.
PJ's Double Cheeseburger
Paul and Jack's also offers some super great specials. We missed them since we were eating so late on a Friday night, but they offer a happy hour menu for each day of the week. Check it out:

The restaurant also hosts live bands essentially every Friday and Saturday from the end of May through October. The bands play from 8 to midnight, and cover is often free and is never more than $7. Their huge outdoor patio area and stage can easily host special events such as rehearsal dinners, class reunions and more. They also cater.

All in all, we were very happy with our experience at Paul and Jack's. We had great service, the menu was reasonable and offered a variety of options, and the food was great. We will be back again to try out some of their other specials. Check out their full menu at , or find them on Facebook here. 


Saturday, May 9, 2015

What My Momma Taught Me

This is my mom. She's pretty awesome. People say we look like sisters, and that I'm the spitting image of her. Safe to say, as I've grown, I've realized more and more ways that I'm like her. I've got her tiny hands, her quick-tanning skin, and her loud, excited voice. From Girl Scouts to graduation, from dreaming of a wedding day to celebrating my own, she has always been there. I've learned so much from the most influential woman in my life. In celebration of Mother's Day, here is a little tribute to my wonderful mother. This one's for you, Momma!

What My Momma Taught Me

Celebrate the little things (and the not so little things).
Every holiday, every award, and every achievement were always celebrated in our home. It may have just been a card with a note of encouragement, or a run to Dairy Queen for a sundae, but Mom has always been amazing at making us feel special. (This could be related to the fact that she works at Hallmark.) But in all seriousness, life's too short to not celebrate the little things. Surprise someone. Make them feel appreciated and loved.

Invite others into your home.
I can't even remember a time when our home wasn't filled with life and laughter. My parents are always hosting family events, parties, and celebrations. My mom is an amazing cook, and her lasagna and brisket are top notch. She can pull off a party for 100 people with just last minute notice. I'm still working on my hostessing skills, but I hope I can someday be as good as she is. No cups or stomachs go empty when she's around.

Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself.
I distinctly remember my mom getting drilled in the eye by a baseball once when we were playing as a family in Colorado. (She may have thought the phrase "Heads up" was to be taken literally.) People legitimately scowled at my dad because they thought he had beat her or something. Her reaction when she looked in the mirror? She laughed. What else can you do? Things happen that we can't control. Life is short and we're all silly. We've all got our quirks. We can't be too cool or too afraid to laugh at ourselves sometimes. It's healthy and real.

Don't try to hide your feelings.
Why do moms always have a way of knowing that we aren't okay? I remember telling Mom in my frustrated little middle-school voice that "nothing" was wrong, but she always knew that something was. Eventually I learned that speaking my mind was healthy, and that keeping things all bottled up really wasn't the best. This was preparing me for my marriage and I didn't even know it. She taught me what it meant to be honest and that we didn't always have to pretend to to have it all together. That it was okay to cry. Thanks, Momma.

Sacrifice for others.
My mom is seriously one of the hardest working people I have ever met. While we were growing up, she juggled three young kids, a demanding career, three sports schedules, a coaching husband, church activities, and a puppy- all with ease. She would always take us shopping every year for new school supplies and clothes, but I don't recall her once going shopping for herself. (Seriously, the woman still has clothes from the 80s.) She never complained, never asked someone else to cook dinner, and never told us that she'd had enough. She just played Gloria Estefan CDs and danced in the living room while folding laundry, always finding time to read a story with us or say our prayers together while she tucked us into bed. Oh, and did I mention that she sacrificed a whole lot to help her four year old son beat cancer while she was also raising a toddler and a second grader? (See A Miracle).

Seriously, my mom is a wonder woman. I hope I can be half the mother you are someday, Mom, and I know that my future babies are going to have the best grandma in the world! Thank you for all that you've done and continue to do. I'm so thankful that God gave me you to learn from, to love, and to laugh with. Love you!

Currently (and forever),

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Southwest Rapid Rewards Card: Fly Free

I love traveling. I don't love spending money, as described in my recent post, We Aren't Home. When Aaron and I first got married, we decided one thing we would do during our "DINK" (dual-income, no kids) years was to travel like crazy. Granted, we're both teachers, so our "dual" income may not even add up to your single income. But I digress. Being a rather thrifty person, I figured we would budget and just save up for trips. And we do, to some extent. But thanks to the help of a couple of dear friends who had been traveling in this way for a few years, we've hit the jackpot by making points work for us.

One of the best ways to use points in loyalty programs is to get the company's credit card. Many offer instant spending bonuses that can be worth their weight in gold, or groceries, or bills, or whatever you spend your money on to earn them. With the cards that we have, we literally just pay off our bills and end up getting all sorts of free perks like hotel rooms, flights, VIP treatment, and more. You just have to make sure that you're choosing the best cards for your travel goals. So today I'm featuring the Southwest Rapid Rewards Card- my favorite flight card. I'm not getting paid to advertise for them (though that would be nice), I just want to share my knowledge with others looking to travel cheap, or in this case, FREE.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

Southwest Airlines offers a great loyalty program called Rapid Rewards. You can sign up for free, and you don't have to get the card to start earning points on the flights you are paying for. But the real way to earn a lot of points in a hurry is to apply for the credit card. It's a simple application, but you want to make sure that you're applying when you can earn 50,000 points, not 25,000 points. We'll talk more about points in a second.

How it Works:
You apply for the card. Once you receive it, you have to spend $2,000 on the card within the first three months of opening your account. Then the 50,000 points are yours. For most people, this can easily be reached within a month by just paying for gas, bills, groceries, and other necessities. If you're not big spenders, you can even purchase gift cards that you can use for a later date, or pre-pay your bills.

The Rewards:
  • 50,000 points can usually buy at least two roundtrip flights for two people, depending on where you choose to go and how many points the flights are. We BOTH flew to Cancun and back and Vegas and back for free, and we still have points left! (Yes, they fly internationally now!) Keep in mind, you will get the 50,000 points when you spend $2,000, PLUS 2,000+ points for the dollars you put on the card. 
  • 6,000 points will be credited to your account every year that you keep the card open. That's enough points to get from KC to Chicago and back if your dates are flexible. These 6,000 anniversary points make the $99 Annual Fee more than pay for itself.
  • No foreign transaction fees, and NO blackout dates. I love this about the Southwest Card. You can find flights for much cheaper point rates than you would with any other flight loyalty program. All flights are available on all dates and time, though the cheapest point flights generally fill up the quickest.
  • You can earn points with various programs, including Dining Rewards, Shopping Rewards, hotels, and other specials like TurboTax. You can also buy and share points as needed, with a small fee. 
  • Points don't expire, and two bags per person are always free! Enough said.
  • You can cancel your flight up until 24 hours before with no fees. No questions asked!
Southwest Flight Search
The flexible dates calendar shows you when points are cheapest. Make sure the fares are showing in points.
The Companion Pass:
This is super cool. There are two different Southwest cards you can get. If you get both cards and earn the 50,000 points on each card, then you will have 100,000 rewards points. If you can get to 110,000 points within a calendar year, then a companion of your choice will fly FREE for the rest of that year AND for the entire next year. So your points basically become double value because you are only having to use them for one person. You can do some major damage with 110,000 points and your companion flying free- you just have to make sure that all your points post in the same calendar year. And putting $10,000 worth of spending on your card in a year, which should be doable, especially if you're planning to make a big purchase. Or you can even transfer point over from another rewards program, which is what we did to get the pass for the rest of 2016 and all of 2017!! 
Southwest Flight Search
The Rewards Flight Tracker lets you see available flights from your home airport. It lets you search a range of available flights and check dates or track points for the best value.
Using the Website and Booking Flights:
Southwest automatically assigns you a Rapid Rewards number when you get your card. Their website,, is incredibly easy to navigate. When you search for flights, just make sure you've clicked points and not dollars. From there you can look at the flexible date calendar for the best price.

The only thing you're charged is the non-negotiable airline fee, which is usually around $5, or a little more for international fees (which happens no matter what airline you use).

Ready to Get Started? Check out this link. Still have questions? I would love to tell you about our experiences or answer any questions you may have. Click here to contact me, or comment below. If you liked this post, and want to be updated when new tips or posts are shared, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Happy Travels!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Back and Forth Journal: Our Love Story

How did I know Aaron was THE ONE? There were several factors, of course, but one of the main reasons was because it was so easy to talk to him about anything and everything. It felt natural. It felt right. When Aaron started pursuing me (which he did very intentionally and very patiently), we were two and a half hours apart. Because of this distance, our only means of communication was on the phone, via Skype, or through simple text messages.  It's safe to say that I fell in love with Aaron during these talks. Through our words.

By the time I decided to take the leap and go on our first date, I already knew I was going to marry him.  Between Bo Ling's dinner and dancing in the rain while waiting for the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games, Aaron had an idea: we should get a journal at Barnes and Noble. We could each write in it: one person wrote for a week or two, and then we would switch when we saw each other.  I agreed, and our story was born.

Our Journal. Our Memories. Our Story.
When we had a bad day, a Bible verse to share, a story to tell, or a laugh to remember- it all went in the journal. Even when Aaron moved and we were in the same city, we continued to rotate writing. It was so fun to read it on the day of our wedding. There was our entire love story, all penned out for us in our own handwriting, in a series of back and forth letters. What a gift. What a joy to see the different phases of our relationship. What an incredible reminder of the emotions that we felt early on, the longing to be in the same place, the excitement of an engagement, and the anticipation of a marriage. Oh, and lots of laughs.

Going through the journal on our wedding day.
I've always been an incredibly nostalgic person. I want to enjoy today and live fully in the moment, but I also want to take the time to appreciate and remember the past. Because of our journal, I've got a timeless piece of history: our story that will live on long after we do. I get emotional every time I flip through it. When I'm caught in a moment of frustration, I turn to a page and get to read my own loving words about Aaron. It's pretty hard to be upset after that. I can read the stories of the troubles we've endured together, the secrets we've shared, and the dreams we've dreamed. I love our journal. I love our story. I love writing it together.

Because of our experience, I highly recommend back and forth journaling for everyone. It's a great way to remember things from all phases of life. You could easy use a back and forth journal for several reasons:
  • Writing back and forth with your child
  • Writing back and forth with your friend(s)
  • Writing back and forth with your sibling(s)
  • Writing back and forth with your significant other/fiance'/spouse
  • Writing to your future child/baby (from both you and your spouse)
You can do it! Just find a journal, decorate it if desired, and get to writing! You could do this electronically, but I really recommend handwriting it- it's much more authentic. If you feel like you need help getting started, there are several different journals you can purchase that provide for more structured responses. Check out the Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in 150 Questions.  Another cool one is Our Q&A a Day: 3-Year Journal for 2 People. Need help? Have questions? Contact me here.

Write your story. It's worth telling.


I'm linking up with Welcome Home Wednesday.