Monday, November 28, 2016

The Best Way to See Niagara Falls

When Aaron and I went on our thirteen-day "anniventury" to Orlando, Jamaica, and more, there was one stop on our list that may have been a bit surprising: Niagara Falls. I'd never seen the falls before, and it was something that I'd always wanted to do. Since Aaron and I are both teachers, we didn't waste time coming home between our travel destinations; we just flew from one place to the next. We hopped on a plane straight from Jamaica to Buffalo, drove to the Niagara area, and had an amazing, less-than-24-hour visit with a perfect view of the falls. Here's the best way you can see Niagara Falls in one day.

The Best Way to See Niagara Falls

1. Fly Into the Buffalo Niagara Airport and Rent a Car

Aaron and I flew into the airport late in the evening, but we had no trouble renting a car and driving the half hour into Niagara. If we had more time, I would have stopped for dinner in the Buffalo area, but we kept driving. Just so you know, renting a car in the States and driving across the border is very common and not hard to do at all! We had a bit of a wait at the border, but this wasn't too troubling because we weren't going to see the falls until the next day. Make sure you have your passport if you'd like to return to the States!

Niagara Falls , Canadian Side

2. Drive to the Canadian Side of the Falls

I'm all about supporting my country with my money, but let me be real: the American side of the Falls isn't very exciting. Other than a large casino and some souvenir shops, there isn't much to see. The Canadian side is much more well-kept and has a ton of hotels and touristy activities to choose from. We actually stayed another 30 minutes past the falls in St. Catharine's, Ontario, because the hotels were much cheaper and we didn't mind the drive.

Niagara Falls

3. Stay the Night in a Hotel or See the Falls

When you see the falls will depend on how what time you get in. We arrived late at night, so we just went to dinner and to our hotel before getting up the next morning to drive to the falls. Since this is a tourist destination, I recommend finding hotel coupons and other discounts so you don't spend all your money on lodging.

Even with this plan, we still made it back to the airport and off on our next flight in less than 24 hours. You may want to visit the falls right away when you're driving through, especially if you have an early-morning flight the next day. Parking can be expensive, so see if your hotel includes it, or use this handy website to find your best option. We ended up doing some metered parking right near the viewing area, and it was reasonable and convenient.

Niagara Falls

4. Take Plenty of Photos From the Canadian Side

This is easy to do, since you'll already be on the Canadian side. That being said, if you'd rather stay on the American side of the falls, you do have some options. You can walk across the Rainbow Bridge on the pedestrian walkway, but make sure you have your passport so that you can return. There is a toll to cross the bridge, either by foot or by car. You'll obviously have to cross the bridge at some point. We found it easiest to park on the Canadian side, take our photos, and then cross the toll and come across to the US to ride the Maid of the Mist!

Niagara Falls

5. Visit the Maid of the Mist

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip! There is a Canadian version as well, but I liked the idea of seeing the Falls with my fellow Americans. You get up close and personal with the falls, and even get your own souvenir poncho, which you'll need or you'll get totally soaked! The line was surprisingly short for the Maid of the Mist if you book ahead of time, and the boats are constantly departing. Note the schedule, as the ride does not run year round (and could be pretty chilly depending on when you go!)

Niagara Falls

Overall, visiting Niagara Falls was a blast! We didn't need more than a day to visit, but it was definitely a worthwhile stop on our trip, and you can make it an easy stop on any vacation by following these simple tips. Since we saved money on this excursion, we're planning our next trip. We might head to Las Vegas and check out the shows in Sin City. Happy traveling!

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


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Two Days in Paris: The Thrifty Travel Guide

When Aaron and I planned our 16-day adventure through Europe, I had no doubt that Paris would be one of the stops. Since high school, I had dreamed of visiting France and its delicious food, amazing culture, and priceless history. Although we moved around Europe pretty quickly, we committed a couple of days to Paris. Follow this guide to fit in the major Parisian attractions in a short visit and on a limited budget.

Two Days in Paris: The Thrifty Travel Guide

Traveling in and out of Paris

We started our adventure in Dublin and visited London before arriving in Paris, so we flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport. If you fly into the city like we did, you'll need to take the RER train into Paris. Buy your tickets at the airport, and keep in mind that the last RER train for the evening leaves from the airport at 11:50 p.m.

Find some helpful tips for navigating the train on this site. If you're planning to travel in or out of Paris by train, your best bet is to use Rail Europe. We left Paris through Gare de Lyon and took the train to Geneva, Switzerland.

Arc de Triomphe


Inner-City Transportation

After pricing things out carefully, Aaron and I ended up going with the Paris Pass for our stint in the city. Given our transportation needs and our itinerary, the pass was a no-brainer! It includes unlimited travel throughout the city on the metro, RER, and buses. It also saves you time by offering quick entry to major attractions.

We purchased the two-day pass, so the only other transportation we paid for was the train from the airport and our visit to Versailles. Use Wi-Fi to download the Paris Metro app ahead of time, because the map is so helpful as you navigate through the city.

Eiffel Tower

What to See and Do on a Budget

Paris has enough attractions to keep you busy for weeks, but we only had a couple of days. In addition to granting us entry to the main attractions, the Paris Pass also included the Paris Big Bus Tour. We would recommend this hop on, hop off tour, which provides information about sights like the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées, the Grand Palais, and more. The bus runs from 9:15 a.m. to 6 p.m., and we found it to be the perfect way to see the essential attractions quickly without killing our feet.

We timed our bus stops so that we ended near the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré-Coeur. Then we took the Petit Train du Montmarte around the area before fitting in a quick wine tasting.

We also got to see a gorgeous view of the Parisian sunset on the Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise, which the pass also includes. The cruise starts near the Eiffel Tower, which was perfect because the tower sparkles on the hour until around 1 a.m. Be careful of scammers in the area!

We didn't feel like we could visit Paris without seeing the Palace of Versailles, so we took a commuter train out of the city and visited the palace and its musical gardens on my birthday. The palace was beautiful but packed. Be sure to get there early, as the line winds around for what seems like miles.

Palace of Versailles

Where to Stay

We stayed in a hotel near the Gare de l'Est train station. It wasn't the most fabulous area, but hotels in Paris can be pretty expensive, depending on where you stay. To find some great deals in good parts of town, check out these options in Paris! To make the most of your visit, consider staying in the Champs-Élysées area or the more central arrondissements. You should also be aware that not every Parisian hotel has air conditioning. We were there in July, and it really wasn't bad. We just slept with our windows open.

Notre Dame

All in all, Paris was pretty fabulous. Although it's a huge city with a ton to do, you can visit all the main attractions like the Louvre, the Notre Dame, Versailles, and more in just a couple of days. If you're going to be visiting several museums and attractions throughout the city and you could use the unlimited transportation, then be sure to use the Paris Pass to make life easier. It's worth the cost!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

26 Years: A Birthday Letter to My Amazing Husband


 Today you're 26. Officially closer to 30 than 20, and yet, still younger than me (lucky duck). The years are ticking by, and I love spending all of them with you. I love the way you love others with all that you have, know all the words to the oldest country songs, and can't make it through the evening without falling asleep on the couch. I love your passion for learning new things, teaching middle school kiddos (who think you're the coolest), and inviting people into our home on a regular basis. I love that you're not afraid to tackle anything, no matter if it's gardening indoors, sewing pontoon boat seats, or navigating the streets of Venice with me. And most of all? I love getting to sit back and watch you rock at basically everything from a distance, then point and say, "That's my husband." You make me proud.

A Birthday Letter to My Amazing Husband

 I want you to know that I think you're the best guy in the world. That even when I'm cranky or passively-aggressively making a statement about cleaning or something stupid, that I'm so completely head over heels for you. That I wake up daily still not completely sure why you chose me, especially when I'm so good at revealing my selfish side on one too many occasions. And that I truly believe with all of my heart that you are the best thing that has ever happened to me on this side of eternity. 

For the past six months, I've had the joy of carrying our unborn child. I've shared tears, excitement, and dreams with you. You've been there for me through the struggles of being afraid of a baby to being afraid for our baby, the one we have yet to meet but pray with all we have that they will love Jesus with all that they have. You've wiped away my tears, been a listening ear, and made me laugh at the stupidest things at the perfect moments. 

And as the time for baby draws near? I've felt my heart leap with just the thought of you being a dad. That the very moment our child comes into this world, you'll be so completely in love with and protective of our little one that I'll love you even more than I already do. And that even though you joke about wanting to be the one carrying the baby right now because you're missing out, that you won't miss out on a thing as Baby K grows up. I know you'll be there, whether it's for Boy or Girl Scouts, ballet or basketball (or both). You will be so amazing.

A Birthday Letter to My Amazing Husband, Love, Marriage

I know our lives are about to change, and that this is your last birthday without fully being "dad", but I also know that you will fight for our marriage with all that you have. That you'll still date me and dance with me and rub my feet on the nights when your hands don't hurt too much from car work. I know that we will have our challenges and sleepless nights, but I also know without a shadow of a doubt that you will always pursue my heart, just like you have from the moment you decided you wanted to date me. And my goodness, I'm so glad you did. Because life without you would just seem empty. Because you truly get me and you are my very best friend in the entire world.

Thank you for choosing me, again and again, day after day. Thank you for greeting me each afternoon with a smile and leaving me each morning with a kiss, even though I'm still in bed. Thank you for telling me that I'm beautiful even when I can't fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, and letting me drive the new car with the butt warmers (which is no small sacrifice). You have shown me what a hard-working man who provides for his family looks like, and I don't want you to ever think I take it for granted. You put up with my indecisiveness, my buyer's regret on all purchases over $100, and my constant inability to make it through a movie without crying- and you do it all with a smile and a snuggle. You make me a better person, and really, you make everything better.

A Birthday Letter to My Amazing Husband, Love, Marriage

So thank you for being my rock, my joy, my constant reminder that God is good and that He had us planned from the start. Thank you for the blessing of being your wife, and for making me a mommy. Thank you for sharing your days with me, supporting me, and making everything fun. You remind me that we don't need much in this life, other than Jesus, each other, and a whole lot of laughter. I hope this is the best birthday ever, Love, because you deserve a day just as special as you are. Here's to many, many, more.

Love you! 

Sometimes our words can be best summarized in a letter to those we love most. Check out last year's  25th birthday letter for more about my amazing hubby.

Monday, November 14, 2016

8 Blogging Mistakes I'm Guilty of Making

Blogging is definitely not easy, but there are so many mistakes that are easy to make with each and every post. Like I shared in 5 Things I Learned in My First Year of Blogging, maintaining and growing a blog is a lot of work, and there is always something new to be learning and mastering. As bloggers, we've got to give ourselves a whole lot of grace, and constantly reflect and learn from our mistakes. Here are eight mistakes I'm guilty of making, how I'm learning from them, and how they can be avoided.

Blogging Mistakes I'm Guilty of Making


1. Being Afraid to Promote My Work

From the start, I'd spend time writing a post I was proud of and excited about, but then I would just sit and wait for people to read it. I had a Facebook page, Pinterest account, and Instagram account, but I wasn't using them to promote content regularly. As time has passed, I've had to teach myself that sharing content on social media and asking people to follow along was a good thing. Of course, I want to find a good balance and not over-promote, but I've got to share what I write if I want people to read it. As bloggers, we can't be shy about promoting our work.


2. Trying to Post Too Often

It's easy to feel like you're not posting enough when you see lots of fabulous blogger and writers posting multiple times a day. But as someone who works a full time job outside of blogging, it's just not realistic for me to blog more than a few times a week. I've finally landed on about two posts a week, and I think it's consistent enough but also manageable. I also have to give myself grace in the fact that sometimes I may only post once a week. We've got to be flexible and focus on quality over quantity.

3. Forgetting My Audience 

I think there's something so important about being vulnerable and real with our readers. After all, that's the heart of this blog in the first place. At the same time, when sharing personal posts I have to remember that my audience needs to find something of value in my post. Sure, it's fun to follow along and learn a little more about my life, but if the reader doesn't learn something, think in a new way, or find what I say to be valuable, then they won't come back to read more another time. As bloggers, we've got to ensure that we are giving our audience something worth reading.

4. Letting Numbers Determine My Worth

In the world of blogging, it is so, so easy to let numbers and page views and followers seemingly shape your worth. I've found that it's easy to get frustrated or impatient about growth in social media or other types of follows. But you know what? I didn't start blogging because of page views. Sure, I want people to read what I write. But I'm still learning and growing and figuring it all out, and I can't solely determine my success based on a series of digits. If I do, it's easy to doubt myself and feel like I'm too scared to really go all in with blogging. We've got to give ourselves grace and room to grow in this area.

Blogging, Computer

5. Forgetting Vertical Pins

This one is Pinterest specific, but it's so important. I love including lots of great images in my posts, but I often forget to include a vertical image that can easily be pinned and shared on the web. Pinterest loves vertical pins, and I hurt myself for the first year and a half by only sharing horizontal images. I should probably go back and update these images, but I've yet to square away time to do it. Word to the wise, get those vertical images in the first time around! You definitely won't regret it, and will see huge growth in engagement.

6. Considering Others Competition, Instead of Community

I think it's just human nature to constantly compare ourselves (and our success) to others. When it comes to blogging, there are so many others out there that it can make you feel like a total failure on a daily basis. I constantly have to remind myself that other bloggers are knowledgeable, valuable, potential friends who have much to share- and I have much to learn. I've always loved the statement "Don't compare some your beginning to someone else's middle", and it's so true. Just because I've got fewer page likes or Instagram followers doesn't mean I have to be disengaged with or jealous of another blogger. It's much the opposite- that bloggers have to unite and provide community for one another.

7. Neglecting My Newsletter Subscribers 

The struggle with newsletter subscribers is real, y'all! Anyone else feel my pain? I started out promoting my newsletter subscription and getting some people on board, but I honestly have done nothing with it for months and I've totally neglected those who have signed up. I guess I feel like it's just one more thing to do. I know it's important though, so I'm working to be more consistent in this area. Any tips from you bloggers out there?

8. Slacking with SEO Optimization 

Another area where I've really dropped the ball is when it comes to consistent SEO optimization. Sure, I like to think of good titles and the occasional keyword, but I really haven't done a tone of research or focused much on optimization. Although it isn't the end all to blogging, I do recognize that it could help bring readers and success to my blog, and thus I need to dedicate a little more time to it. That's on my list of goals for the next year.

What mistakes are you making in the blogging world? How can you make some changes to bring fresh life and success to your writing? I'm all about learning from others, and would love for you to join in the conversation with a comment below, or on the Currently, Kelsie Facebook page. I'd love to have you follow along! Cheers to community and meeting the needs of our readers with renewed success and excitement.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

24 Week Bumpdate

Hey there, friends! It's been a little while since my last "bumpdate", and now I'm already six months into this pregnancy. Say what?! Pretty crazy to think that our little blessing will be here within the next four months, and life will change forever. Some days I feel like I'm ready for baby to be here now, and other days I just sit and soak up the joy of being pregnant (and "kid-responsibility-free") while I still can. I've always loved reading other people's little "bumpdates", so here's all the details on how I'm feeling, what's new in the last six weeks, and what I'm most looking forward to (complete with my weekly maxi dress photos)!

Pregnancy, Baby Bump


 How I'm Feeling

Second trimester has been just fabulous! I've been puke-free for months and really haven't had a lack of energy at all. I've still been working out at 9Round, although you won't see me doing a lot of burpees at this point. It feels good to sweat and get my work out on, though running is noticeably harder too. I do sometimes have moments where I'm a bit self-conscious about my changing body, but all in all I feel blessed to be a mama and am grateful to be a part of this amazing journey.

What's New This Month

Let's just say that Baby K is going to be active. Movement has become much more regular, and I'm feeling kicks multiple times a day. At our ultrasound (where we didn't find out the gender), the sonographer even pointed out how much baby was moving around and making photos and measurements tricky. In other news this month, I've also definitely started to look pregnant...which is both exciting and a little scary ha! I must say that I do like having a baby bump, and it's fun for people to know that I'm not just getting fat. Also, Aaron totally thinks that Baby K is a boy at this point. I initially was leaning towards girl, but the heartbeat has been lower for the last few appointments, and I'm carrying low. Time will tell, and y'all can take votes when it gets a little closer!

What I'm Wearing

I'm still wearing many of my pre-pregnancy tops and work out clothes, they just fit a little tighter in the belly now. Some of my shirts were normally loose-fitting anyways, so I really don't even look that pregnant in certain outfits. I have started to rely more on my Motherhood Maternity trusty black leggings, along with dresses and maternity pants for school and more dressy occasions. Even when I don't feel quite so pretty, Aaron says just the right thing at the right time, and reminds me how beautiful he finds me just because I'm carrying our child.


 How I'm Sleeping

I'm trying to avoid sleeping on my back, since I'm over 20 weeks at this point. I'm normally a side and occasional back sleeper anyways, so sleeping on my side isn't out of the ordinary. I cuddle up my belly with my body pillow and do sleep pretty soundly still, although I'm still waking up to pee at least once a night. I also find that getting up out of bed is taking a little more effort, as I pull my belly and my over-a-pound-now baby out of bed in the morning! I hear it only gets worse from here, so I'm trying to enjoy it while I can.


What I'm Nervous About

In the next month, I've got the dreaded gestational diabetes test scheduled, as well as another ultrasound check up to see how baby is doing. I'm not a huge fan of having blood drawn, and would love to pass the test so I don't have to go back for the longer test, so all prayers would be greatly appreciated! It's always a little nerve-racking to think about all of the things that can happen during labor and delivery, as well as the days after. I'm definitely learning that I can't spend my whole pregnancy (or motherhood for that matter) being worried, so I continue to find my hope in the Lord and to trust Him in the midst of my pregnancy fears.

Pregnancy Weekly Photos


 What I'm Looking Forward To

Even though we didn't find out our baby's gender, I'm really starting to feel a sense of bonding with our little nugget. The movement inside of me has made this all more real, and I'm totally that mama who sits on the couch in the evenings and tells Baby "Hi" every now and then while holding my belly. I'm also excited about all of the progress that we've made with our gender neutral nursery, and we are on the hunt for a white door and a great glider recliner for this mama to spend hours in oh so soon! Follow along on Facebook so you don't miss out on the final product!

As the holidays near, I'm excited to see friends and family, to get plans underway for a registry and showers, and just to really soak up this sweet time as God partners with me to grow our little one. Love to you all!


Are you following along on Instagram? It's where I share extra little photos and fun updates from daily life. Don't miss out!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Five on Friday: October Recap and Halloween Fun

And just like that, November is here. It's hard to believe because it's been so stinkin' warm around Kansas City, but hey, I'm not complaining. The months are flying by, so much so that I'm already over halfway through my pregnancy, we're getting close to the holiday season, and our first semester of the school year will be over before we know it! October was a month of joy, progress, and a much needed getaway (along with lots of travel blogging and some Halloween fun). Here's what we've been up to for the last few weeks.

Baby Pumpkin- Halloween

1. Halloween Fun! 

For the first time ever, we were actually at our own home for Halloween night. Normally we have Trunk or Treat at our church, but they moved it to a weekend this year. Instead, we had friends over, dressed up in costumes, and enjoyed handing out candy and keeping track of all the fun costumes of our 60 trick or treaters! One Pokemon themed family really rocked the costume department, and we had a few brave young trick or treaters who proceeded to walk right in our door and down the stairs to our basement. Another cutie named Cooper spotted our "baby pumpkin", which led to a discussion of whether he could see the baby in my tummy or not. Crazy to think that we'll be dressing our little one up for next Halloween (likely as a farm animal to join the farmer's collection).


 2. Pregnancy Updates

I'm finishing up week 22 of my pregnancy, and it's hard to believe that I'm already over halfway done. I'll admit, I'm starting to feel and look like a pregnant lady. I've got a bumpdate coming your way in the next week or two, so be on the look out for some updated photos and info about the new adventures facing me (and my growing belly) this month. As always, I'm continuing to remind myself to trust God through all of the pregnancy fears that sneak into my mind, and prayers for the health of our sweet little nugget are always appreciated.

Baby Ultrasound Picture

3. Travel Planning

Even though Baby K will keep me from traveling too much come January and on, we do have a few travel plans in the works. We're looking at a short Chicago getaway in early December (deep dish pizza and the "L" for the win), followed by a fun Nashville visit with friends over the Christmas season. After that, this mama will be hanging around KC and awaiting baby's arrival, but I'm already thinking ahead to June and July and figuring out which place will get to be baby's first travel adventure. We've got the Southwest Companion pass through next December, so baby will be flying free along with mama at a young age!

Gender Neutral Nursery Inspiration
Read the full post here.

4. Nursery Updates

We have a CRIB, y'all! It's so crazy to look across the hall from our room and see it in there looking all official and ready for a baby. We were actually planning to have Aaron build our crib (because he's basically awesome and can do everything), but we found an amazing deal in the clearance section at Nebraska Furniture Mart that we just couldn't pass up. Aaron is already rockin' the dad department, and he's been such a go-getter on getting things together in the nursery that we've got the walls and trim done, "new" blinds we found for $3 at the ReStore, and a painted dresser and nightstand in place. Now we're just shopping for a white door for the closet, fun decor, and a new glider for this mama! Any favorites out there, moms??

5. A Houston Visit 

With softball officially over with a Quarterfinal loss, Aaron and I were able to sneak in a little visit to Houston Texas for a long weekend this month. We spent time eating, shopping, relaxing, and even hitting up the Texas Renaissance Festival with his fabulous aunt and uncle. We were also able to meet up with one of my very dear college friends/roomies/bridesmaids and her husband. The visit was short and sweet, but it was so nice to hop on a plane and get away for a little while!

Happy November (and Friday) to you all! May this month of family, food, and thankfulness find you in good health and spending lots of time with those you love most!

In Case You Missed Them This Month: 
Five Ways I'm Conquering My Pregnancy Fears
18 Week Bumpdate
The Best of Washington D.C
Ten Stunning Places to Visit in Greece
Gender Neutral Nursery Inspiration
How to Book Your Vacation with IHG Reward Nights
What to See and Do in New Orleans
GPS Guided Travel Articles