Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Alder Collective Link Party #30

Hey, y'all! We missed you last week, and are happy to be back with the link party! We enjoyed last week in San Francisco, and had a blast checking out Napa and Sonoma. It's so beautiful out there. In case you missed it, I recently shared a post about What to Do in Kansas City. Hopefully you will check it out and then come see me in our city :) Don't forget to enter the travel giveaway on the post for a free travel app for the city of your choice!! Have a great week!


The Alder Collective Link Party

Welcome to The Alder Collective Link Party! We're so happy you stopped by to show off your stuff. A friendly reminder before we jump into the party: make sure you're visiting at least as many posts as you're linking up. This party is no fun if you don't see traffic and comments from it. Now check out what your hosts have been up to this week:
  The Alder Collective Link Party
Each week we pin every link to the Alder Collective Link Party Pinterest board, where it will be seen by thousands of people. Here are our favorite links from last week's party:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Stay Salty

This spring, the hubs and I took a trip to the Northeast. On our first night in Boston, we stopped in for a delicious dinner. A sign on the wall in the restaurant caught my eye. "Salty", it read. I had to stop and snap this picture, because this statement was one I heard quite a bit from my very own high school students. But for some reason, on this particular day, and in this particular place, I thought about the word a whole lot differently.

I recognize that not all of you may spend the large amount of time around high schoolers that I do (as a teacher, YoungLife leader, and coach), so I'll help you out if this word means nothing but a spice to you. In today's lingo, being salty means that you are upset or bitter. For example, if I gave kids a hard time about doing their work, they'd respond with something like this: "Klein, you're so salty today!" or "Mrs. K, you're still salty about the Royals' loss last night." Strange, I know. But this is what the kids are up to these days. God bless 'em.

Just as I was snapping a quick pic of the sign, I found myself thinking a whole lot differently about being defined as "salty". Yes, there's quite the gap to bridge between Urban Dictionary lingo and a Bible verse, but my mind jumped that gap with little effort. Salty. Funny how the kids have taken it to mean something negative, when in fact being "salty" in another way is a Biblical calling of sorts. In Matthew 5, Jesus is giving his famous Sermon on the Mount, and has just finished teaching the Beatitudes. He goes on to say this in verse 13:

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet." 

The salt of the Earth, huh? Think about what salt is and has been used for: flavor and preserving. Just as salt was used to keep food good and to offer it flavor, Christians are called to do the same. To enhance the earth with a positive influence, and to preserve the good in it from the wicked ways of man. To maintain a focus on the Lord and His will for us all. 

You see being "salty" is a good thing- something we are called to. By following the Beatitudes and the Word of God, we become "salty" in a whole new way. We have the ability to help prevent the moral decay around us. The call to look different, and to be set apart in our words, deeds, and love for others. But we are cautioned in the passage above that if we lose our saltiness, we are no longer "good for anything". In fact, the very effect of our saltiness is lost if we become like this world. We are not called to be like the world, but instead in it and set apart from it. Our very influence for the kingdom depends deeply on our ability to be distinct, instead of identical.

This isn't always easy. We're human. We mess up. We can't save ourselves, but instead depend fully on the Lord and His loving grace. But we've got to remember to be salty. To be set apart, a light in the darkness, a city on the hill. We've got to live and love in such a way that others wonder why we do it. How we do it. And then when they notice, and ask, we will have an answer for our hope. And it will be the Lord. 

We are salt and light. We are tasked with moments day after day where we can look like the world, or be set apart. Where we can choose to live out our faith, or lose our saltiness. So I'm adopting this mantra: stay salty. Choose life. Choose the Lord. Choose to look and love in a different way. We are the salt and light of this world, friends. Let's not forget it. Stay salty.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

4 Mini-Projects That Will Refresh Your Home

Today's guest post is from Lana, an architecture student and interior decorating fiend! She offers some fabulous ways to tackle small projects in your home that can make a big difference! Check it out. 

Homes need constant updates and refreshments, and sometimes making the right decision could be tough. Instead of engaging into big renovation projects your home might not even need, opt for making small differences that will make a change. Start your mini projects and do everything yourself, and achieve a whole new and better atmosphere of your home.

 Image source: Pinterest 

Gallery Wall in the Living Room 

 As its name suggests, the living room should be lively and offer comfy living. However, if your walls are white and blank, you cannot fully enjoy the comfort of this room. Dust off your boxes filled with family photos, frame up some of your kid’s best art or even gather some posters of your favorite classic movies and bring this room to life. Organize the frames above the couch or a fireplace and create an entertainment corner. Think outside the box and display your best memories and show off your creativity. You can even frame some old postcards, old money, inspirational posters and anything else that comes to your mind.

 Image source: homemydesign.com 

Green up Your Home 

 The most refreshing things in your home are plants. Not only do they look good and bring the soft colors inside, but they are also filtering the air and providing you with a fresh batch of clean air every day. You can go big with potted plants in the corners of your living room or hallways, or go small and build your own indoors garden. Arrange a few plants inside of a terrarium and decorate with small rocks, marbles and sand and bring fun refreshment into the home. Probably the best plants for such DIY decorations are air plants which are the portrayal of cuteness and the best air filters that exist. Also, if your days are too busy and you find it difficult to grow plants, than you can opt for cacti or even faux plants that still look gorgeous and can last forever.

Image source: abeautifulmess.typepad.com 

 DIY Racks for Everything 

 If you are tired of constantly misplacing your keys, scarves, jackets, purses and other small objects you need on a daily basis, it is time to roll up your sleeves and start building. Racks for any purposes are quite simple and easy to make. All the necessary tools can be ordered online, and honestly, you will need a few wooden planks, a hammer, some nails and desired decorations. In your hallway, nail a wooden plank into the wall and hang up some hooks for all of your jackets. Decorate it a little bit with paint or even glitter and voila! Also, right next to the door, you can hang up a small magnetic rack for your keys and another wooden one for your bags and purses. Another useful and interesting rack is a wine rack. For the most minimalistic look, get some help from your man and build together a simple wooden wine rack and display your best wines, while providing your kitchen or dining room with a touch of elegance.

Image source: diys.com 

 New No-Sew Pillows 

Refreshing your bedroom and furniture does not require refurnishing or buying new bedspread and covers. All you have to do is change the pillows or add some if you do not have them. If you are tired and bored by your old used up pillows it is time to either get rid of them or give them new cases. Go to the mall and make your afternoon all about the pillows. Look for some new cushions for the couch and bedroom or simply visit the fabric store and pick new patterns and designs for the pillowcases. The best thing when it comes to modern pillowcases is that no sewing skills are required. Everything is made simpler because of the cute buttons and easy zippers. So pick your pattern and give those pillows new outfits. 

 As you can see, your home can get a whole new vibe without spending a fortune. The secret is in the details, and that is why you should try out some of these ideas. Turn these mini projects into fun family time which will result in a cozier home.

Lana Hawkins is an architecture student and an advisory editor at Smooth Decorator.  She enjoys writing about interior decoration and landscaping. Lana is interested in sustainability and green building, and that's where she gets most of her inspiration. Thanks to her for sharing this great post!


Monday, May 23, 2016

What to Do in Kansas City

Whenever people ask us where we're from, we're pretty proud to claim Kansas City as not only our hometown, but also our current home. The city has gotten a lot more press with the Royals winning the World Series last year, and it's seen a ton of change and improvement in the last decade. In fact, KC is the place to be right now. From barbecue to fountains, sporting events to friendly folks, Kansas City has something to offer for everyone. Here are my top 12 recommendations for a visit, along with local insight and links! If you'd like to have a GPS-guided version of this article, check out my app on GPSmyCity!

1. Cheer on a team.

You've most likely heard of the Kansas City Royals, and Kauffman is super nice, but there are also several other sports teams to cheer on in the area. Our NFL team is the Chiefs, and they share a parking lot with the Royals (and are located right next to them in the super loud Arrowhead Stadium).  These stadiums are in the Independence Area, where you can also catch Mavericks hockey at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, or you can cross the state line and watch Sporting KC play soccer in Kansas City, Kansas. All tickets are pretty reasonable, and the environment is great at all of these venues.

2. Walk the Country Club Plaza.

Even if you're not a huge shopper, the Plaza is definitely worth a visit. It boasts big name restaurants like The Melting Pot, The Cheesecake Factory, and family style Italian at Buca di Beppo. There is also a movie theatre, several coffee shops, reasonable to high end shopping, and several dessert spots. Great times to visit are  when the lights are up from Thanksgiving to mid-January, or for the Plaza Art Fair in September.

I love this video from BostWiki. It really helps explain the city and highlight some of the neighborhoods I mention!

3. Check out the downtown neighborhoods by car or streetcar.

KC has lots of fun neighborhoods with great food and things to do. Check out Westport for great dining and drinks (and the Doughnut Lounge!), Waldo for amazing pizza, and City Market for the Farmer's Market or to see Steamboat Arabia. Brookside is also super cute, and has lots of coffee shops and restaurants. The KC streetcar is free and new, and can connect you all the way from City Market to Union Station. See the route here.

4. See the animals or a show in Swope Park. 

Swope Park is home to both the Kansas City Zoo and Starlight Theater. Spend your day touring "Africa", and then watch a Broadway show under the stars at night!

5. Explore the nightlife in the Power and Light District.

If you're big on nightlife, you'll want to be sure to visit the Power and Light District. Home to bars, restaurants, and the huge outdoor area known as "KC Live", Power and Light is always hopping. The Sprint Center is also located in this area, and hosts sporting events, concerts, and other events. Check out this video for more!

6. Bring the kids (big or little) to Crown Center and Union Station.

For fun for the whole family, head on down Grand St to Crown Center. You'll be able to shop, eat, and check out fun places like Kaleidoscope, LEGOLAND, and SEA LIFE Aquarium. They even show free movies outside in the summer, and have an Ice Rink and huge Mayor's Christmas Tree in the winter. Union Station is located nearby, which houses Science City and a Planetarium.

7.  Enjoy a performance.

There are lots of places to enjoy great concerts and shows in KC. Some of the most popular places are Sprint Center, Starlight, Uptown Theater, the gorgeous Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, the Coterie (which is in Crown Center), and the Midland.

8.  Eat good barbecue (or other food!).

KC is known for barbecue, and there are SO many different kinds to try. Some of our favorites are the famous Joe's KC, Q39, and Arthur Bryant's. If you aren't feeling barbecue, you should definitely check out Grinders, or one of the Mexican restaurants along Southwest Boulevard like Ponak's. (The Boulevard is also home to Boulevard Brewing Company, which has free daily tours!)

9. Visit on First Friday. 

KC has this awesome once a month party called "First Fridays". On the first Friday of each month, there is a big art festival in the Crossroads, complete with music and food trucks. On the entire first weekend of the month, head to the West Bottoms areas for awesome warehouse weekends where you can find awesome, vintage and antique goodies and home decor. My favorites are Bella Patina and Hickory Dickory!

10. Learn more in a museum.

You can visit the well-known Nelson Atkins Museum of Art for free, and the lawn is beautiful! I would also highly recommend the National World War One Museum, which is pretty incredible. The Liberty Memorial is located here, and offers the best view of the KC skyline and downtown. You can also check out the Jazz Museum or Negro Leagues Baseball Museum if you'd like some KC history!

11. Have worlds (or oceans) of fun at a theme park.

Just north of the river, you'll find Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, a theme park and water park respectively. One ticket gets you into both parks. Be sure to ride the Mamba and the Prowler! Schlitterbahn and Great Wolf Lodge are other water parks in the area, and are located near the Legends in Kansas City, KS.

12. Visit as many fountains as you can.

With over 100 fountains within the city and its suburbs, Kansas City truly is the "city of fountains". Check out this link for a map of them all, and a list of their locations (with addresses). You can even go on guided tours or walking tours specific to fountains! (See more about walking tours below!)

Travel App and Walking Tours! 

One of my favorite ways to explore any city is by walking, especially when it doesn't cost me money! Although KC is pretty spread out, there are still several places (especially downtown) to go on some amazing walks. I recently got the chance to try out a few of the Kansas City walking tours from GPSmyCity, and they were a blast. They tell you where to go, what you're seeing, and the history behind it. The app also includes a city map, custom walks, and a list of attractions that are near you. Here are examples of what you'll see on the app.

What the app shows as KC sightseeing walks. On the right, the "Downtown Nightlife" route info and sights.
Each "sight" provides you with more information. You can also see each of the stops for the walk on the map!
If I've talked you into coming to KC, you can even stay with us at our Airbnb listing! I'd love to meet you in person. Send in a request and let me know you're coming from the blog for a little discount :) Have fun!


Friday, May 20, 2016

Five on Friday: Planes, Paint Wars, & Packing

Friday is here, and this one is especially significant because it's the last Friday I'll be at school for a loooong time. Hello, summer: my absolute favorite time of year. I know some people frown upon teachers who get summers off, but let me tell you: we desperately need it. I love my kids, but teaching is a lot more work than you may assume, not to mention all of the "non-contract time" work that we put in without extra pay. Summer is the perfect time to unwind and recharge for a new crops of kiddos. Here's how we're ringing in this new season!

1. Paint Wars! 

Every year in YoungLife, we have a fun little year-end event we like to call "Paint Wars". Basically, it involves kids showing up, listening to some music, taking "Before and After" photos, and getting completely and utterly covered with paint, paint powder, you name it. It's a fun little getaway, a study break during finals, and a celebration of the end of another school and YoungLife year! Check out the rest of the fun photos here. Next up is camp in July at the beautiful Crooked Creek Ranch!

2. Goodbye, Classroom

Every year we have to pack up all of the books and items in our room so that they can move them out and wax the floors. It's this weird process where the room starts looking lonely and empty for the last few days of class (and is even more weird on the years we have to take our things off the walls too)! On the plus side- many of my students had sweet, fun things to say in their final essays: that we were like a family, that they had learned to challenge themselves instead of going for an easy A, and that they were going to miss my class. They may be slightly brown-nosing, but hey. This is what keeps us teacher folks going: what our classrooms are all about!

3. Hello, Adventure

Another thing I'm packing up is my suitcase. I can't believe we'll be off on our San Fran/Napa Valley journey in just a few days. I'm beyond excited to relax and enjoy some much needed away time with my hubby. What a way to ring in the end of the school year. I've had a few recommendations on places to visit or eat at, but if you've got any other San Fran/Napa/Disney/Jamaica/Niagara Falls advice, feel free to leave it in the comments below. Going to be a pretty awesome end of May and June!

My trusty REI pack and home to all my clothes on our 16 day European Adventure! 

4. Ready to Read (for Fun!)

With all the travel we've got coming up, I'm looking forward to actually reading for fun for a change! It's hard to find time during the school year, but I'll have plenty of time to read this summer on planes, in the car, and on the beach. Hit me up with some book recommendations! I've got a few on my list, but am looking to add more!

5. KC Fun + Giveaway

I've got a super stinkin' fun post coming to you Monday, and I'm excited to be offering a little giveaway for you travel lovers. Let's just say that I'm giving you a good glimpse into our awesome city, along with links and a few fun videos. Stay tuned, and don't forget to enter next week!

Cheers to summer livin' and lovin' with those you love most! Have a wonderful weekend!


I'm linking up with A. Liz Adventures The Diary of a Real HousewifeUniquely UnfoldedGrace and Love Blog,  Running for Cupcakesand Life in Leggings.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Alder Collective Link Party #29

I can't believe this is the last week of school! We've only got about three days left, and I couldn't be more excited for the start of summer. Travel has been on my mind lately, and I've been finally getting around to sharing the last bit of our spring break adventure. If you missed my post on The Northeast Road Trip, be sure to check it out (and laugh about our silly state sign selfies!). Can't wait to see what you'll be linking up this week. Have a wonderful day!


 Welcome to Party #29! We'll be taking next week off, but be sure to come link up with again on Tuesday, May 31!
  The Alder Collective Link Party

Welcome to The Alder Collective Link Party! We're so happy you stopped by to show off your stuff. A friendly reminder before we jump into the party: make sure you're visiting at least as many posts as you're linking up. This party is no fun if you don't see traffic and comments from it. Now check out what your hosts have been up to this week:
  The Alder Collective Link Party
Each week, we'll pin every link to the Alder Collective Link Party Pinterest board, where it will be seen by thousands of people. Here are our favorite links from last week's party:

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Northeast Road Trip

In case you missed it, Aaron and I went on a rockin' adventure in the Northeast for our spring break this year. We are on a quest to visit and take a photo together in every state in the US (and I'm assembling them into our state photo map). We've got a good chunk completed at this point, thanks to our 2014 spring break trip to the southeast, our 2015 spring break trip to the southwest, and this year's northeast adventure. In the last month or so, I shared a Boston Travel Guide and a New York City Travel Guide. These two guides showcase how we spent our first four days of the trip. After that, we went on probably one of the most beautiful road trips I've ever been on through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and upstate New York. Here are some ideas, tips, and funny photos to give you some guidance on the perfect Northeast road trip.

I'll start with a bit of a disclaimer: we only had about eight days to work with because of our week of spring break (we're teachers, if you didn't know). Because of this time limitation, as well as our goal of seeing all of the states and taking state signs pictures, we didn't spend a ton of time in each of these places. In fact, in some states all we did was drive in, take a picture, and leave. Sorry 'bout it, Maine. We'll hopefully be back to visit some of these places later on in more depth, but for this trip, we focused some of our days in Boston and NYC, then built our road trip schedule around seeing the other states and making a nice loop.

We flew into Baltimore, because it was the cheapest place to both fly and rent a car. It's also conveniently in between DC and Baltimore. We drove immediately to Philadelphia to stay for the night, and crossed a couple of state signs off our list right away. We then got up in the morning and made the drive to NYC, then on to Boston a few days later. Check out the other posts mentioned above for more info on those places!

Once we left Boston, we drove into Maine, and then through New Hampshire. For a trip like this, you'll want to be sure that you actually do drive into each state so you can find those precious state signs and say you've been there. Here's a picture of our overall route, along with a link to the directions.

It may sound crazy, but 20 hours is probably the LEAST we've ever driven on these crazy, super fun circular road trips. For the record, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are absolutely GORGEOUS. We spent several hours driving on Highway 9 from Maine to Syracuse, NY. This is also known as the "Molly Stark Byway", so you'll pass through historical places like Bennington with lots of battlefields if you're a history buff. It was probably one of my most favorite drives ever. So beautiful, mountainy, rugged, and open. Love, love, loved it and would highly recommend.

A little stop through in Vermont at a cute little convenient shop where we bought actual Vermont maple syrup. They sell it everywhere! 
 After we finished up this beautiful, historical part of our drive, we continued on back through New York to Syracuse. It was a little rainy, but we did have time to visit the Syracuse campus and shop for a little bit at the HUGE Destiny USA indoor mall and shopping center. After shopping, we headed over to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for some of the best barbecue I've ever had- which is saying a lot because I'm from KC!
Sorry for the low quality...check out all this food! 
I can't say enough good things about Dinosaur Bar-B-Que! They had live music which was super good and fun, friendly servers, and amazing food in huge portions. I got the Carolina pulled pork sandwich with the to-die-for mac and cheese. Seriously, get the mac and cheese. Aaron got the combo option where you can pick any two from the list of meats. We complimented the food to the manager and she even gave us a free cookbook where they give you access to almost all of their recipes, including their "Not Your Momma's" sauce. I've cooked a few things from it and they were super good!  Here's a link to the Syracuse specific menu. Thee are other Dinosaur Bar-B-Que locations across the Northeast, as well as in Chicago. Seriously, give them a try- they aren't top-ranked on TripAdvisor for nothing.

Source and Article: Syracuse.com
To finish up our trip, we headed in to Washington DC, before flying out from Baltimore. Of course, we made sure to get the rest of our state signs in, even if it meant being a little risky and abruptly parking our car in strange places and running over to the street signs. So fun! I'll leave you with a few more state sign photos! 

If you'd like to pull off a road trip like this, hit me up! I'd love to give you some more travel advice and help you pull it off. Also, word to the wise- the Northeast tolls are shockingly frequent and fairly expensive. Make sure you bring an extra $20-30 cash with you to pay tolls. Not kidding! Thanks for checking out this guide. Be sure to check out other travel posts if you've got the travel bug like me!