Sunday, August 26, 2018

Visiting Southeastern North Carolina

In mid-July, we snuck away for a little family vacation to Raleigh, North Carolina. We were looking for a place with cheap flights from KC, beach access, and the ability to see several cities within short drives. Raleigh was perfect! Located in the mideastern part of North Carolina, Raleigh isn't far from popular destinations like the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach, and it's super close to Durham and Chapel Hill! Here's a recap of our trip, and some great reasons to visit the Raleigh area.

Visiting Southeastern North Carolina: Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington

The Jacksonville, NC Area

Since we're big fans of thrifty travel, we planned this trip around the fact that Eli could still fly free. We had flight points and hotel points to use, so we looked into IHG hotels in the area where we could use those points while still having a little diversity in the places we were seeing. We flew into Raleigh, rented a car, and then drove to Jacksonville, NC. This area has a really large military presence, and was mainly our access point to the beach, as it's only 45 minutes from the ocean. While in Jacksonville, we enjoyed Aruzzo's Pizza and Mi Cabana Mexican Restaurant. We bought Eli a little dollar store pail and shovel, and he was in heaven! 

On our first full day, we headed to Topsail Beach, which is known to be a great place for sea turtles. It was a little overcast, but the water was actually pretty warm. We also hit Surf City, which lived up to its name with incredible waves so intense that Aaron couldn't really use his snorkel. Eli could've dug in the sand all day.

The next day, we drove a little further east to check out Atlantic Beach and the Emerald Isle. Eli ended up falling asleep in the car, so we kept driving all the way to historic Beaufort, where we visited the free North Carolina Maritime Museum. We had a tiny rental car, so Eli's umbrella stroller was just perfect. Traveling with him at about 16 months old meant we had less "stuff" to bring with us, which was kind of nice. But he was more difficult on the airplane than back when he just slept the entire time. Still, he was pretty golden almost the entire trip!

Wrightsville Beach

One of my very favorites parts of the trip was our time spent in Wrightsville Beach. We had a free IHG night to redeem, so we stayed for free at the beautiful Holiday Inn Resort, which was right on the beach! The resort had a "happy hour" with free cookies and milk, as well as a couple of restaurants, a bar, pools, and a hot tub all right on the grounds. And you could walk right down to the ocean! They had a shuttle that took you within five miles, so we rode that to a fantastic dinner at Tower 7 Baja Grill, and then we just called them to come pick us up when we were done! I also enjoyed a little shopping at a downtown store called Wings- right across the street.

We had a perfect sunny day that day, and I ended up getting to have beach and pool time, while also going on a run on the beach while Eli napped in the hotel room with Aaron. Side note- Pack and Play naps in the bathroom for the win!! They made it possible for us to actually watch TV, play games, and talk while Eli was napping- almost like a separate room so that he could get the mid-day sleep he needed in order to be ready for the rest of the night. He does one 3 hour afternoon nap, so we'd go adventure in the morning, come back for his nap (when I'd typically go work out), and then we'd adventure again before coming back for bedtime! Anyways, I'd definitely come back to Wrightsville Beach! There is more of a suburban city presence, but then the beach is right there within a 10 minute drive.


The next day we headed to Wilmington, which is a port city right on the Cape Fear River. It has a really cool downtown with fun restaurants and shops, and is just the right mix of historical yet suburban. It rained our first evening, but we came back the next day and took a trolley tour around the city, which was really fun and reasonably priced.

Because it had been so rainy, we spent part of our time at the Independence Mall, but we also enjoyed an incredible meal at Casey's Buffet! We'd definitely go back. Another highlight was eating dinner at Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn. I got my nails done here, and I'll forever be a fan of dipping powder, because they lasted a month! We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which was newly remodeled and really nice.


From Wilmington, we started to make our way back North towards Raleigh. We had a free cheap point night to stay in Wallace, NC. There wasn't a lot in the area, but we did make a quick stop at the world's largest frying pan! We also enjoyed dinner at Mad Boar, which was right next to our hotel. If you're a fan of sweet wine, Duplin Winery is nearby and has cheap tasting and lots of events!

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill

From Wallace, we headed north to Raleigh. Our favorite thing in Raleigh were all of the free museums that were really well done! We took Eli to a storytime at the Museum of Natural Science, where he also got to "pet" a cockroach, bunny, and lizard. We also had a lot of fun riding the train at Pullen Park, which had free admission, awesome playgrounds, and really reasonable attractions. We also enjoyed visiting the State Farmer's Market and sampling fresh produce.

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form what's called the research triangle, or simply "the triangle". You can get to any of them fairly easily, and they all have big colleges present: NC State, Duke, and North Carolina, respectively. We visited Duke University's campus in Durham and saw the beautiful and famous chapel. We also walked around their gardens, which were free to visit.

My favorite of the three triangle cities was Chapel Hill. It had a really cute downtown area within walking distance of campus, as well as lots of shops and restaurants. It definitely had that college town feel. We enjoyed visiting The Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery for our last dinner. We also liked walking around the North Carolina campus and seeing one of their gardens. If we went back, we'd probably visit their planetarium. We did make a quick visit the the free College Basketball Museum, which had a cool Michael Jordan exhibit.

All in all, it was an amazing trip with just the right mix of beach, history, food, and college town fun. Eli did great overall and we were able to do a lot during our week away, while still building in time for afternoon downtown (and a nap for E). I'm not sure if we'll be flying with Eli as much once we have to pay for him to fly, so it was a perfect trip to an area where we probably wouldn't have driven. We loved our visit to the area and the trip couldn't have gone better. Have any questions? Let me know! 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

How to Create the Perfect Playroom for Your Kids

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

When you're dreaming of your next interior design project, odds are good that you aren't thinking about a playroom. You're probably more focused on an awesome nursery or a cute living room.  Though it isn't anything cute or special, I have to tell you that my life has been changed just by clearing out our mess of a fourth bedroom and converting it into a playroom for Eli! It is LIFE CHANGING to have a space where his toys go to land, he can play safely, and I can just shut the door and deal with the mess later (without having to pick up the same thing over and over or trip over toys while cooking). Kids are going to be messy- they're kids. And because of that, finding a space to call their own is so worth it! Here are some tips to get you started on the playroom of your children’s dreams. 

Find the Right Space in Your Home

Where's a place that you'd be okay having toys around? Where could your kids play safely without things to hurt them or stairs to fall down? Bonus points if it's a place you can shut off and leave without others seeing a mess! For some, it may be basement area, a bedroom, or even a covered patio. You may have to clear out a current space- just consider where the ideal place in your home is and see if you can make it work.

Figure Out Your Organizational Plan

Do you have a toy chest you'd like to use for lots of small toys? Do you want to rotate your kids' toys in and out each season? One of the main benefits of a playroom is that all of this business stays out of your nicer living areas (and therefore out of the eyes of your guests). Consider if you'd like to use tubs, include books, or have designated places for drawing or certain activities (see next point). 

Have Plenty of Activities (and Areas to Match!)

What do your kids love to do most? If you have more than one kid, how can you keep them all entertained with the least amount of fighting? You want to keep your kids entertained in their playroom, and the main way to do that is to create distinct activity areas and plenty of materials to have fun with within them- especially if you have more than one. When you’re designing your playroom, make sure you’re sectioning it up into at least four separate areas, and have an activity or theme planned for each. Maybe you have a soft play area in one corner,  building blocks in another, a doll’s house and a box full of Barbies in another, and then a reading corner in the final space. Whatever way you set it up, make sure there’s always some variety, and that there’s some organization to the chaos!

Soundproof as Much as Possible

Does the place you've chosen for the playroom already offer a potentially quiet space that won't be loud for other napping kids or even guests? Kids make noise, there’s no getting around that. Though I'm with Eli anytime he's in his playroom right now, at some point your kids maybe able to play alone. So consider how to keep the sound down so that they don't wake up their sleeping siblings or interrupt your small group meeting upstairs with adults. Instead of asking kids to be quiet over and over again, simply soundproof the playroom! Soundproofing doesn't have to be ugly- consider using padding like curtains and paint and turn the room into a fairytale. And then you can stick some DMX 1-Step under the carpet (or get some that is actually carpet!), so you won’t even know it’s there.

If you've got kids with tons of toys and a good amount of imagination, help yourself out and give them a space to play without having to worry about the mess. It's a win win for everyone! 


Saturday, August 11, 2018

4 Small Ways to Make a Big Impact on Your Kids

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

Being a parent is one of the best, sometimes hardest parts of life. There is nothing quite like bringing a child into the world and watching with joy as they learn and discover, grow and shape into an incredible little person. Sometimes when I look at Eli, I honestly can't handle the depth of my love for him. As a parent, I think most of us would really love to have a huge positive impact on our little ones. Here are some ways you can do just that- for both the present and the future.

Start Saving For Their Future Now

One of the things we often don’t think about in the midst of diaper changes and temper tantrums is the financial future of our kiddos. Once children get through basic schooling, what's your plan for supporting their higher education? What would happen if your child wanted a car or even a phone? While it isn’t our responsibility to do all of these things as parents, or give our kids everything in life, many parents do like to be able to help their child along the way. It's never too early to open a bank account for kids, or getting a saving plan started. We're working on getting one for Eli, and you can even have family members add to it for birthdays or Christmas, while saving in little amounts here and there. My parents did this for me, and it was a tremendous help! Just saving a little adds up quickly.

Support and Supplement Their Education

Education is one of the very greatest gifts we can give our children. What they learn and what they develop a passion for can ultimately shape the rest of their lives when it comes to the career they choose. As a teacher, I have a special respect and appreciation for parents who are very involved in their kid's learning. Not that they do work for their kids, but rather that they put in the time outside of the classroom to read to their kids, help them with homework, and just ask them questions about what they are learning. Giving them this support will make it easier for them to pick up the skills and knowledge they need to move on with their lives.

Make Time for Making Memories

This suggestion may seem a little farther out there, but stick with me here! Even when we're looking ahead to their future, there is something to be said for living in the moment and making memories with your children. Even if they are too small to remember things (like Eli is), someday they will look back on the photos and hear the stories, and know just how loved they are! As your kids get older, continue to make the effort to spend time doing things you love with them. They'll only be little once. Go on vacations, visit the park, and think outside of the box. Each day is a chance to make some incredible memories with your family- ones that you'll both cherish for a lifetime.

Teach Them Age-Appropriate Life Skills

Teaching kids skills is an essential part of parenting, and one of the best ways you can prepare them for the future. Teach them to swim so that they can be safe around water. As they grow, teach them about budgets and finances so that they can avoid getting into a mess with bills and commitments when they get older. Teach them to care and be empathetic to others. Teach them the importance of chores, and assign them some small ones around the house so that they can learn responsibility. These are all things that will help them as they march towards being independent adults (all too quickly).

Of course there are so many other ways to influence your child in a meaningful way. I also love the idea of teaching them to love others, be a hard-worker, love the Lord, and so much more! Our children are our greatest blessings, and we need to consider ways to give them the best opportunity to do big things in life that we can! 


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tips for a Getaway to Hermann, Missouri

Aaron and I had talked about visiting Hermann for a while now, but when the opportunity officially presented itself before the end of the summer, we knew we had to take it! Hermann is only three hours from where we are in Kansas City, and is only about an hour from the St. Louis area. And oh friends, it is beautiful!! If you're looking for a perfect little getaway in the heart of the rolling hills of the Midwest (and in our own little wine country), then look no further! Here are some of our favorite tips for an amazing trip to Hermann. 

Tips for a Trip to Hermann, Missouri

Where to Stay

Hermann has some really excellent history, mixed with lots of great wineries, beautiful scenery, and a dash of newer distilleries and breweries mixed in. And of course, delicious food and German heritage! My best tip for you? Stay in the heart of it all! We stayed at the Hermann Crown Suites, which was right on 4th and Market Street. I'll sing more praises of it later, but first, hear me out on location. If you stay in a guesthouse or boutique hotel right in the middle of it all, you can easily walk the main part of the Hermann downtown in a very short amount of time. While we did drive our car to get to some of the farther out vineyards (and just to check out surrounding views and cities), we were able to walk in and out of our place to go eat, stretch our feet, shop, and even hit some of the nearby wineries. Additionally, a lot of hotels and or wineries provide free shuttles to farther out destinations as needed. There are lots of trolley tours, and you can come in on the Amtrak from KC or St. Louis as well, so I can totally see how you wouldn't really even need a car once you're there. I loved that about this city. 

This was our first visit to Hermann, but I would definitely recommend the Hermann Crown Suites, and I'd stay there again for sure. It's a collection of private "suites", ranging in size from a place with one queen bed and a private bath to a suite that can sleep 8! We stayed in the Winery Suite (which you can book on Airbnb here)! It was really great, and came with two drink coupons, a free shuttle, free breakfast, and it even had a historical wine and craft beer bar onsite. We were there on a Thursday and Friday, so we stayed on a Thursday night- which made it really really affordable. We actually used our Airbnb credit from being hosts and paid nothing! I'll be honest, Hermann can get quite expensive on weekends and especially on special festival weekends- so keep that in mind when planning your visit. Side note: lots of places are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so don't visit then! 


What to See and Do

If you are okay with spending a little more money and fighting the crowds, there are lots of special "wine trail" events throughout the year. These different events typically pair food and wine along with special events and music throughout the year. We noticed that things seemed pretty dead on Thursday, which we actually loved because we had the place to ourselves and we were perfectly content playing Chinese checkers and eating cupcakes to end our evening- not to mention saving a whole bunch of money on our hotel. But if you're looking for a little more lively social outing in the evenings, you may want to pony up the money to visit on a weekend or even during Octoberfest. Check out the Hermann Event Calendar and plan ahead because weekends fill up fast! 

Within the Hermann wine trail, there are seven main wineries that stretch between Hermann and nearby New Haven. There are also some a little farther out that we just didn't make it out to this time. I'll highlight a few of our personal favorites! 

Hermanhoff Winery 

This is where we kicked off our trip and it was hard to beat! Julie in the tasting room was phenomenal, and the wines were varied and quite good. In general, tastings are $6 for 5 samples. Hermanhoff also has a Dierberg Star Lane Tasting Room, which is for tasting their estate wines from California. They also run Hermannhof Inn, Tin Mill Brewery and Restaurant, Hofgarten, and Hermann Farm. Basically, they're a huge presence in the town, as their website will show you! A can't miss, and easy to walk to.

Hermanhoff Tasting

Stone Hill Winery

This place is HUGE. We're talking, second largest producer in Missouri huge. They have a beautiful location up on a hill, and they offer a free tour every hour that is super cool. We didn't walk from our hotel, but it was like a six minute shuttle ride. You get to see the old wine cellars that were dug by hand. Tastings are also $5 for six samples. We didn't eat at the German restaurant here, but everyone says it's the best in town! They have some good sweet wine and 25% discounts on their wine of the month. Here's their website.

Stone Hill Winery

Robller Vineyard

This place is farther out in New Haven, but it's huge and beautiful. Definitely a lot more open, with 15 acres of planted vines on an even larger property. You'd definitely need a car (or a tour/shuttle) to get out here, but they host huge concerts and a variety of fun events each year. My knowledgable hubby says their wines are some of the very best, and they were just awarded "Best Winery in Mid-Missouri" by Feast Magazine to prove it. The gentlemen here were so friendly, and even took us into their basement to show us their production. Tastings are free, so be sure to make a stop. Check out their website for more info!

OakGlenn Winery

This place has the BEST view around, so you definitely need to get in your car or on a shuttle/trolley and make a visit. It's not a long drive and it's all so beautiful. OakGlenn has a lot of fun outdoor events and live music, and it is open far later than anywhere else in town, so consider ending your evening here! They do free tastings, so give it a try! We also heard they have more mixed drink and beer options than other places in town do.

We did visit a few other places, but the ones that I've mentioned above were our favorites. If you have questions about any specifics, feel free to shoot me an email here and I'll share any insight I can.

Other Things We Loved in Hermann

We had a great dinner our first night at the Fernweh Distilling Company Restaurant. The spinach dip and pita chips were the best I've ever had. I have the Avocado Ranch Chicken Club which was just as yummy and it sounds, and Aaron enjoyed the Brisket Grilled Cheese. Mains are around $14 and come with a side.

We loved Wings a Blazin! It was delicious and very affordable, especially with daily lunch specials. Yum! It also was literally a two minute walk from our hotel, just a couple of doors down.

We wandered into UnColor Wine Bar and Gallery (also literally right next to our place) for cupcakes and games later in the evening when most other places were closed. The owners were really nice and people around us were enjoying wine flights.

I found two adorable pairs of earrings in a cute shop called The Vine Boutique (which also has a super adorable guest house available to rent. It's on Schiller, along with a few other places that are supposed to be cool, like the Bank Bar.

If you have the time, and make it out to New Haven, enjoy the riverside views of downtown, and be sure to visit Pinckney Bend Distillery for a distillery tasting. They are $5 and include a souvenir glass and a gin and tonic at the end. I don't even like gin and I loved their drink!

All in all, we had a great time and we felt like Hermann was the perfect little two day, one night getaway. You could make it two nights, but you'd probably need to come on a weekend so that a little more would be going on to see and do- just keep in mind that you may be doubling your hotel cost and fighting crowds a bit more. We'll be back! Let me know if you have any questions. If you're a Hermann regular, where are your favorite places??