Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dress Your Kitchen in Scandinavian Style

Today's guest post is from Lana, an architecture student and interior decorating fiend. She shared 4 Mini-Projects That Will Refresh Your Home back in May, and today she's here with some drool-worthy kitchens! Check them out.  

Scandinavian people just know how to keep things to the minimum but make it look stylish, gorgeous, and functional. To embrace the real elegance and functionality of your kitchen, you should dress it just like our friends from the North would.

Image Source: Flickr 

Paint it White

This style is all about gentle and bright colors that can introduce calm and bright atmosphere. Cover the floor with light colored beach wood, and avoid using too many rugs on it, since it opens up the room and makes it look fresh and big. Also, the all-white look enables you to easily match your small accessories with the entire kitchen. Bigger pieces of furniture can be completely white, and you can bring character through hints of beige, gray, and potted plants for a better ambient.  This calming atmosphere will make your kitchen more enjoyable and you will love spending your time preparing delicious muffins, Swedish meatballs, and cakes for your family.

Natural Textures

Scandinavian style is bare, but is fun and comfortable. To fill your empty and sleek kitchen, you should introduce textures that are common for other parts of the house. Cover the wooden floors with some stylish and cheap rugs that will bring warmth and color to the kitchen, and on the seating you can place some tasseled cushions or faux fur.

Image Source: Flickr

Scandinavian Furniture

There is no doubt that every piece of Scandinavian furniture is a true piece of art that will last forever. That is why you should incorporate different elements of their furniture in your kitchen. The great attention to detail of Scandinavian manufacturers will bring fun into this room, and the smooth curves and lines of the furniture will make it look simple and elegant. Take a trip to the famous IKEA and see what best fits your kitchen, go with gentle colors and fine lines, and you will completely transform the kitchen.

Show off your Crockery

Even though their designs look somewhat modern and minimalistic, Scandinavians adore showing off their vintage and eclectic crockery. If you have any vintage plates, teapots and cups, especially if they are decorated with symmetrical motifs, it is time to bring them down from the attic and incorporate them into the kitchen design. The best way to do so is to show them off on simple, open shelves and make the whole space look less cluttered. There is no doubt that your kitchen will immediately become more interesting and vibrant.

Image Source:

Bring Functionality

In order for everything to look good, it has to work well and even be multifunctional. Since this whole design looks empty and clutter-free, you have to make sure to buy the furniture and appliances according to that characteristic. Turn your kitchen island into a countertop and a classy wine cabinet that is easily accessible and neat. Also, make sure that all the space under the sink and countertops is fully used up and that you can easily store all the necessary things there, and leave the counters free of any items. Another important trait of this design is that everything has to work properly and you should avoid keeping any old appliances and dishes. Schedule new stove installation, have regular electrical and plumbing installation checkups, fridge cleaning, and basically keep your kitchen clutter-free. After everything is in order, then you will embrace the real Scandinavian design.

Let there be Light

Scandinavian countries have up to 60 days of Polar Nights, and that is why the daylight is essential, and the whole bright interior should be embraced. So, in order to take advantage of springs and summers, Scandinavians have thought of a kitchen design that is open and lets all the possible light inside. Take their advice and build big windows in your kitchen. Not only will you open up the space and make it look much bigger and fresher, but you will provide enough natural light. This is a great way of preserving health of everybody in the house, making everyone feel better and your bills will decrease. Do not be afraid to open up your kitchen to the nature and embrace the warmth of the sunlight.

For a much better mood and atmosphere in the kitchen, you should try out this Scandinavian design. Incorporate bright colors and simple furniture, and the kitchen will become the favorite place of your whole family.

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, August 29, 2016

Downtown Chicago Hotels for Any Budget

This post is sponsored by Hipmunk’s Hotels series. is a budget travel service, which I'm all about, so I'm thrilled to write for them and hope you find it useful!  

If you know me well, you know that my dad grew up in Chicago and that we are pretty big Chicago Bears fans. We spent several summers going on the occasional 10-hour road trip to the Windy City, mostly to indulge in deep dish pizza, watch the Bears' training camp, and enjoy the fun of downtown areas like the Magnificent Mile and Navy Pier. Now that I'm older, I'm sad to say that I haven't made a return trip to Chicago since around 2008. My heart and my stomach are longing to fit one in within the next few months.

Of course, planning any good trip involves checking out and drooling over lots of awesome hotels. Here are my hotel picks for the perfect Chicago getaway in the heart of downtown and for any budget!

Low End (Hostel)

We stayed in a hostel for one night on our trip to London. Honestly, it wasn't anywhere near as scary as I expected. We really were only there to sleep, so it wasn't so bad. A stay at the Chicago Getaway Hostel starts at only $30 a night, and it puts you right in the heart of the action. With laundry, ironing boards, and clean bathrooms, it's a safe choice. If you're looking for a cheap stay and some adventure, this is the perfect place.

Mid Range (Water Tower Place)

If you're looking for a mid-range hotel within walking access to nearly all of Chicago, then the Millennium Knickerbocker is an excellent option. Although it's located a little farther north, you're still close enough to walk to many local attractions, including shopping and dining favorites near Water Tower Place and Michigan Avenue. You can also get to the Riverwalk in a hurry, and you can expect clean, well-kept, stylish rooms with a good night's sleep.

Mid Range (Millennium Park)

The Hotel Monaco Chicago, a Kimpton Hotel, is located in the Downtown Loop, and it's an excellent option if you're looking to visit Millennium Park, the Riverwalk, and Willis Tower. If you're a pet lover, the hotel even lets your dog or other small animals stay for free. You'll have easy access to all of the city here, along with ornate rooms and excellent service. You can often find this hotel on special for around $150 a night, which is a steal.

High End (Magnificent Mile)

Although it's priced a little higher, The Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago offers a great location on the Magnificent Mile, and it's also quite close to Lake Michigan. Navy Pier and Wrigley Field are both close, and you can reach both by public transportation. You can also expect high quality and excellent views of the beautiful water.

Overall, you can't go wrong with any of these hotels for your downtown Chicago stay. So long as you've got walking access to the El (Elevated Metro Train System), you'll be able to do some damage and see all of the city with ease. Be sure to hit up Giordano's, which is my personal favorite, and spend an evening on the water at Navy Pier.

Cheers to Chicago! Hopefully we'll be able to share more about a trip soon!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Baby K is on the Way: Coming March 2017

Well y'all, our greatest adventure ever is underway. After keeping the biggest, most exciting, most life-changing secret ever for the last two months, Aaron and I are beyond thrilled to announce that we've got a sweet little baby on the way! (#BabyKisontheway) With so many amazing, intentional, and fabulous friends and family like you all, it's been super hard to avoid sharing for a while, and I feel like shouting it from the rooftops today!

YoungLife Pregnancy Announcement

How We Found Out

Exactly two months ago tomorrow, we finished up the final departure meeting for our Greece Trip, and then I ran upstairs and finally convinced Aaron to let me take a pregnancy test. Even though I was only a couple of days late, I just knew that I was pregnant. And in about five seconds, those two little lines showed up and our world changed forever. We headed to Applebee's for half price apps to celebrate and bask in the reality that we were going to become parents. If you read 9 Reasons I'm Afraid to Have a Baby back in February, you may wonder what happened in the last six months or so. I'm excited to share more about that heart journey in my post How I Knew I Was Ready for a Baby.

Shoes Pregnancy Announcement

How We Told Our Parents

Since we found out just days before we left for YoungLife Camp, (yep, totally preggers the whole time I was there) we decided to tell our families sooner rather than later. I felt bad because Aaron had to fib to his dad about cancelling some plans in order to come to my pregnancy confirmation nurse's visit. Once we got the green light that I was in fact pregnant on June 30th, we made plans to spill the beans in a fun way.

Ultrasound pregnancy announcement

We'd missed Father's Day with my dad because we were on our anniventury, so I sent my mom a text suggesting that we celebrate it at 54th Street with some late night apps (a common occurrence for our family). My mom agreed and said that both my brothers would be coming too: perfect. We brought along a card to give my dad once we'd ordered, and so did my mom, which made it even more normal. We wrote all sorts of fabulous things in his Father's Day card, and then put that he would be an amazing March!! We'd kept my parents totally in the dark on our baby "timeline", so needless to say they were pretty shocked and excited. See for yourself. (Warning, I cry every time I watch this):

Aaron's aunt was in town and we were planning to go over for a family dinner. We made a stop at Babies R' Us and picked up a bib that said "What happens at Grandma's stays at Grandma's". Aaron prayed before the meal, and then made some comment about how we got his mom something to wear while she was eating. She opened the bib, read the words, and this was her reaction:

Again, oh so sweet, and so joyful. I LOVE that we have these videos to cherish and watch forever, especially since our parents are going to be first time grandparents on both sides. It has been such a huge blessing and joy to be wrapped in love and prayer by our families for these last two months, and to share such an amazing secret with them!

When I'm Due

My official due date is March 5, 2017. We are thrilled for a March baby, and it will work out pretty perfectly with spring break and the end of school. I'm super grateful that I've only taken like six days off in the last six years, because it means I've got a whole bunch of days to take off when Baby K arrives!

Pregnancy Announcement

How I'm Feeling

I'm at 13 weeks pregnant, and all in all, I've been feeling pretty great! I did end up getting sick quite a bit when we were in Greece (morning sickness and Mediterranean food don't mix, this we know). Let's just say that I was wayyyy ready for American food by the end of the trip, although baby seems to like ice cream and I didn't have trouble keeping that down. Once we got home, I wasn't sick as much, just super super tired and of course starving at a moment's notice. I got sick a few times the week of softball tryouts (right before school started), but since then I've just felt kind of nauseous. Even that has been fading, so I think I'm finishing up with feeling yucky! Also, my bump is starting to make its appearance, ever so slightly. Bumpdates to come!

Shoes pregnancy announcement

Where I'm Planning to Deliver

Baby K will be born at North Kansas City Hospital. I have an amazing doctor that I love in the women's center there, and she has actually delivered two babies for one of my friends. It's so nice knowing someone who has been through the whole process with my very same doctor, and who has had such fabulous experiences. NKC Hospital is about 15 minutes from both school and our house, which makes it a great location whenever baby decides to make his or her appearance!

Pregnancy Announcement Photos

This post wouldn't be complete without a huge shout out to these two sweet girls. I decided I wanted to have a few fun photos to announce our pregnancy with, but I also wanted to use it as a way to tell them our big news! So I texted these two awesome YoungLife girls that are also amazing photographers, told them I wanted to take some "photos" with Aaron, and kept them in the dark as to the specifics. When they showed up at our house, I revealed my "props" to them, and they completely freaked out. It was so fun having them be a part of the surprise, while also surprising them. Shout out to @creativekaylee and @hillystansbilly for the fabulous photos you see here, with even more to come in future motherhood posts! 

Mechanic Pregnancy Announcement

Aaron and I are so, so grateful for this amazing journey, and we feel so blessed and overjoyed at the chance to become parents. I am overwhelmed by the opportunity to partner with the Lord in bringing this child into the world, and we are already so in love with sweet Baby K! Thanks for being a part of this adventure with us!


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. Entrée 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 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!


(If you'd like to have a GPS-Guided version of this article, check out the app on GPSmyCity!)

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dreamy Boutique Hotels in Hawaii

This post is sponsored by Hipmunk’s Hotels series. is a budget travel service, which I'm all about, so I'm thrilled to write for them and hope you find it useful!  

 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

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

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

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

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

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?