Sunday, March 31, 2019

My Travel Must-Haves

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Whether it's a mid-Missouri road trip or an international adventure backpacking through Europe, traveling is one of my very favorite things to do. In a world that often seems crazy busy and demanding, hopping on a plane or in a car and getting away is one of the best ways that Aaron and I can truly escape. We've never been the best at staycations- they always turn into productive weeks knocking out our mile long to do list. But I love everything about traveling: the packing anticipation, the boarding passes, the photos, the long conversations and fantastic books. Since we're fairly frequent travelers, I've had time to hone my travel favorites (and find new ones). Here are my list of travel must haves! 

An Excellent Carry-On

If you're going to be traveling frequently at all, you need a great carry-on. Big suitcases can be nice if you're flying with a pack and play and tons of baby stuff (been there), but carry-ons are always my luggage piece of choice. They're lightweight, easy to check in and out of a bunch of different places, and you don't have to check a bag: which saves time getting in and out of the airport (not to mention, you don't have to worry about your luggage getting lost). You also don't have to pay for luggage if you're flying an airline that charges for that (although we're Southwest people and previously had the Companion Pass, so hit me up if you want more info on all of that)! 

I recently took the leap to investing in a better carry-on because I was tired of buying something that just fell apart after the first couple of uses. And guys, I'm legit in love with my new Chester Minima Carry-On Spinner Suitcase. So much so, that I ordered a matching one for Aaron (and we aren't those kind of people ha). It's a dream in the airport. I took it on a recent trip and I loved the ease of the zippered compartments, how well it fit in the overhead bins, the little laundry bag that was included, and how cute it looked while being so functional. And it also comes with a 10 YEAR warranty, a 100 day trial, and free returns, so I know I'm covered and working with a great company who believes in a great product. They also offer free two day shipping, and you can use the code 10AF to get 10% off!! Click this link to hurry up and get yours today! I'm seriously SO happy with the bag and can't wait for all the adventures it will be a part of, especially Europe this summer!

A Great Personal Bag

Since carry-ons are often a little smaller and you're usually only allowed one personal item, I really recommend also getting a small personal bag that can serve as your carry-on bag if you're checking your luggage. I found this bag online and I'm in love. It has a lifetime warranty, and I love the way its little pocket slides down over the handles of my Chester Minima Carry-On so that I can push my suitcase with one hand and move everything I have like it weighs nothing! This bag is a great size to hold my laptop and charger, my purse, a water bottle, some games, and a book. I feel like I always have room for souvenirs if needed. Between this and my carry-on, I could honestly comfortably pack for a week long trip! If I'm going on a little overnight trip somewhere, this is perfect- and it has a nice shoulder strap and longer strap included too if I'm not rolling it on my suitcase (which is my favorite hands-free way to do it). 

A Comfy Travel Outfit

If you're going to be traveling for any length of time, it should be in comfort! Over time, I've learned that comfort doesn't have to mean not cute though! My go to travel outfit is now leggings (unless it's summer) and a comfy top with a layered cardigan or jacket. I also like to wear boots, TOMS, or Chacos depending on the time of year- anything that doesn't have to be laced up. Bonus points if they would have taken up a lot of room in my bag! I also bring along ear plugs because I can't sleep to save my life if there's any noise. And if I'm going to Europe, I do a travel pillow and eye mask!

Packing Cubes

If there's one thing I love about packing, it's trying to see just how much I can fit into my carry-on! Packing cubes are my jam! I love using them to separate tops and bottoms, or sepaarting clothes for me and Aaron if we're traveling together but being strategic about our packing across suitcases (a wise choice if you're renting a car and you don't want to bring in two suitcases each night- pack for the first few nights in one suitcase and then switch). My Travelwise packing cubes have been so great, and have accompanied me everywhere from Branson, MO to Venice, Italy. If you'd like to read more about them or my backpack for our Europe trip, click here! 

An Excellent Water Bottle

I never go on any trip without a solid water bottle. Of course, it's empty on the way through airport security, but then I've sure saved a pretty penny just filling it up wherever I am. Not to mention, I've always had an option ready whenever I got thirsty. Lately, I'm loving my Thermoflask because I can screw the top closed and I don't have to worry about it leaking inside my bag like many other water bottles would. 

A Great Read (Plus Some Tunes)

Not everyone may care about this as much as I do, but travel time is prime reading time for me! Whenever I know I'm going on any type of little getaway, I load up on recommended reads from our local library. I brought three books with me on my last trip, and I knocked two of them out. On longer trips, I've packed as many as five books- some in suitcases and some in personal bags. Some people love reading on Kindles, which would eliminate some packing space, but I really love kicking it old school with a paper book. I also would recommend having a cord and a phone with either Spotify or some tunes on it so that you can make the most of your time in the car. 

I could go on and on about other important things like carry-on sized toiletries and packing games in Ziploc baggies to save space (love me some travel hacks), but I think these are the main biggies! Hit me up with any questions you may have- I LOVE talking travel and probably should have been a travel agent in another life!! Don't forget to use the code 10 AF to save 10% at Chester Travels


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Clint Harp on Why Marriage is a Funeral

"Marriage is a funeral." That's probably one of the last things I expected to hear Clint Harp say when I was invited to attend a meet and greet interview with him last week before the Johnson County Home and Garden Show. Clint is best known for his role as a carpenter on Fixer Upper, but he has also been busy with his own DIY Network Show, Wood Work, and a recently released book Handcrafted. Clint's journey with Harp Design Co. is pretty inspiring, and I was so excited to meet him in person!

My husband, Aaron, was also able to come along with me, which was extra exciting because he teaches a basic woodworking class at his school and loves to build things on the side (like our front room pew). One thing that we liked about Clint was how down to earth he was, along with the fact that he loves to share his story in hopes of inspiring others along the way. Handcrafted isn't all about woodworking, but rather the story that brought Clint to where he is on his journey- all the tiny little steps and people along the way that led him here.

Clint runs Harp Design Co. with his wife Kelly, so they are not only spouses but also business partners. I asked Clint if he had any tips for working with your spouse, and he responded with “Be very careful. It’s hard.” This led into some really beautiful points about marriage (and even business/life in general):

Marriage is a funeral.

“Marriage done well is you allowing this person that you have created to protect you from everything else, to control everything around you, that person has to die. That person is not going to do you any good moving forward.” Man, I love this point, and it is SO true. Numerous times I have found myself sitting in my stubbornness, wanting things a certain way- and not wanting someone else to mess it up. But as Clint said, “That is not going to let me survive, that’s going to kill my marriage.” So marriage is not a funeral because you’re stuck with someone else forever and dying as a result, but rather because you need to die to yourself in order to be willing to open up and let someone else in. That’s love right there. 

Let them royally screw up.

According to Clint, this idea is even harder in business, where you freak out even more about decisions, and feel like everything will undoubtedly fail if you don’t get your way with how high the curtains are hung or what color you’re going to paint the walls. But I loved Clint’s point in this. That in so many areas, “If we want to get better, we have to let each other try things and mess up- to fail in order to get better.” And this is something I’m also not so good at, but it’s so true. Just like I don’t expect perfection from my students - we can’t expect perfection in life, and we certainly can’t expect it from our spouse or loved ones. So let go. Let them royally screw up, and don’t be mean about it. Give them room to grow, and go work on things that you’re good at.

Let them own it. Stay in your lane.

Clint has learned that he has to step out of the way in several areas and “Let [Kelly] own it— and she lets me own my stuff, and the more we do that with each other the better it gets.” Clint also has this same approach with his employees, and I love that. No one can feel good about what they’re doing if no one lets them truly do it, or if they constantly feel you breathing down their neck. And when you stay in your lane and let other people be in theirs, it’s a beautiful thing when they start asking you to come into their lane- to help them out, and to just them be themselves but “when you are constantly forcing yourself on each other, it doesn’t happen”. Yes. We may be offense and defense, but we’re all on the same team. That’s powerful stuff. I think it’s a safe bet that Clint’s employees, along with his wife Kelly, appreciate this approach, and I’m pretty dang inspired to do the same in my own life.

In case you're interested in other nuggets from Clint:

We knew that Clint started his business with really no money, so we asked him what advice he had for those lacking the finances to fund their dreams. His answer: take the little steps. Keep taking tiny steps along the way, even when you can't see the end result yet. This is how he ended up going from totally broke to someone who now employs over 30 people. He may have only been able to pay his first employee $750 cash every two weeks, but with the help of local bankers, they just kept inching their way forwards towards their dreams.

Clint's story is an incredible testament to the idea that one little small thing can set you on a crazy path to something huge. From time working in ministry, serving as a missionary overseas, taking a medical sales job, moving back to Waco, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, and then eventually buying the Habitat building for a shop, along with buying the house next door for $10,000: it has been a crazy ride. Oh, and did you know that he met Chip Gaines at a gas station one day while filling up after playing at the park with his kids? If you remove any of those small steps, there's a chance that none of it may have happened. That's inspiring. Nothing is by chance. Nothing is wasted!

You can read all about this (and more) in Handcrafted. I'm reading it on my trip this week, and I can't wait to let you know what I think. (Be sure to follow along on Instagram for more!) In the meantime, visit the Harp Design Co. website at and use code HARP10 for 10% off of your purchase of anything! Treat yourself!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Space Saving Ideas for Your Master Bath

Ensuite master bathrooms are a plus in any house. There’s something luxurious about being able to head straight to the toilet without running down the hallway in your jammies. It’s almost like the convenience of a hotel room in the heart of your home. I never had a bathroom in my bedroom until I moved into an apartment during my first year of teaching, and I knew there was never any going back! If your bedroom and bathroom remodel priorities are anything like mine, I will absolutely neglect my own private space because I know other folks won't really see it. But that's not a great way to handle remodels because you'll end up hating the outdated decor and space wasting appliances you see on a daily basis. Here are some space saving ideas to consider for your master bath!

Sneaky Storage

In the majority of cases, ensuites are so small that they don’t exactly scream storage. It may be so bad that you have to keep all your bathroom basics shoved in the larger bathroom (like I do). Of course, we can’t literally create more space in your ensuite. We can, however, suggest sneaky storage solutions which might achieve the same goal. Something as simple as a cabinet under your sink could do the trick. This won’t take up more room than a standard option, but it can provide you with at least a few shelves. Other good choices include shelves that don’t take any floor space at all. You definitely don't want to make the room feel any more crowded than it already does, even with your stuff there.


Wetroom Designs

If you try to fit a bulky shower cubicle or bathtub into your master bath, you may struggle. These take up an enormous amount of square footage, and you may not need them. By designing a wetroom, you can make use of options like these showers for small bathrooms without needing a cubicle. With the right flooring and wall tiles, you’ll be able to simply stick one of these on your wall and open the whole room up. That means more space all around, as well as an on-trend design.

Floating Appliances

Along the same vein as shelves, you might want to think about floating appliances. Again, these work wonders for freeing up floor space. If you pair these with that wetroom idea, you can bet your master bath will soon feel more extensive and open than ever before. That’s because you won’t have any bulky bottoms to attend with. You won’t have to worry about tripping over your sink stand at night anymore, or stubbing your toe on that toilet. You’ll be able to glide in without any obstacles and do the do in ultimate luxury.

It's take to take that cluttered master bath and make it a space you love (one where you can actually move). Go for it!


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Taco TWOsday Birthday Party

February 23rd has come and gone again and our sweet Eli is two! Last year, we had a blast at his Onesie First Birthday Party, so we knew we wanted to have a party again for his second birthday. I was hunting around for ideas, and fell in love with a fiesta themed "Taco TWOsday" party- because what's not to love about tacos, fun bright colors, and pinatas? Here are all the details (plus fun pics) to help you plan your own Taco TWOsday Birthday Party (or really any fiesta)!

Decor And Theme Apparel

I wanted to keep things pretty simple, but go with bright fiesta colors: red, orange, yellow, and green. I found my color inspiration with a super cute fiesta flags banner from Hobby Lobby. I also knew that I wanted to highlight the whole "Taco TWOsday" title, so I bought this gold Taco TWOsday banner that I found on Amazon. I loved hanging it in our dining area as a great backdrop for fun photo opportunities! I designed my own little fun photo of Eli wearing a sombrero and mustache, and used that to make a simple twine banner for downstairs, along with the birthday party online evite for invitations. 

To let others in on the fun, we bought a few "props" for people to enjoy: plastic party hats and mustaches, both from Hobby Lobby. I also wanted E to have a cute shirt that he could wear for not only his party, but for the year. His "I'm Dos, Let's Fiesta" shirt was made by Ali Mordhorst Designs, and it turned out absolutely perfect! Definitely check out her Facebook Group for all sorts of designs, bags, shirts, and more!

The boy just wanted to get down and play with balloons...

Food and Drinks

A taco bar is an obvious must for any good fiesta! We went the street taco route, complete with grilled steak and chicken, flour and corn tortillas, an onion/cilantro mix, chips, salsa, and sour cream. Aaron did all the main course cooking and it was delicious! We ended up going without printables for our taco bar, but if you're looking for something pretty you could use these ideas from Wedding Chicks! We also bought a pack of Mexican Coca Colas from Costco and they were a hit!

Samantha of Crumbs and Confections did an AMAZING job on Eli's adorable fiesta cake, the cupcakes, and these incredible taco and cactus cookies! They were just as delicious as they look. If you're in the Kansas City area, be sure to check out her website and Facebook page. She's does weddings and special occasions cake and more, and she's great!

To round out our desserts, I made Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars which turned out to be pretty yummy! They were super easy and you can find the recipe here. I finished the table with Eli's "I love" and "I can" statements to add to his time capsule from last year. I also had him draw a picture of his family, and we filled out a birthday info sheet, so I'm hoping to keep up with those traditions in the years to come!

Games and Activities 

It definitely wouldn't have been a fiesta without a pinata, and when we found this taco pinata at Hobby Lobby, we knew it was the one. We loaded it up with candy, and had five kiddos (ages 10 and under) take a whack at it. It was pretty funny to watch and we got some great video footage of it. Now Eli is kind of obsessed with hitting balloons with bats, so I guess we're working on hand eye coordination for his future athlete days!

Eli had been raving about his party for weeks, and he kept telling us that he was going to "candle, blow out". He even got some good practice in before we lit it. He was so cute while everyone was singing to him, holding my hand with a big ole smile while he listened. Gosh, he's great!

After the cake, we wanted to throw in a fun party game for all, so I printed out this Amigo Bingo game I found online. Our winners got lottery tickets, but sadly no one walked away a millionaire. I also had a lot of fun making Eli's One Second Everyday video again, which I put on loop on our TV in the background, along with his video from last year. It's sooo awesome to watch a little bit of his entire year in less than six minutes, and I love seeing all the memories and firsts as he grows. Check it out!

All in all, it was a really fun party. I loved piecing together the theme and decor, and most of all I loved having our home full of forty of our closest friends and family. I love seeing our cozy little home full of laughter, and having our "village" there with us was the very best part. They have been such a huge part of this year for Eli, and I honestly wanted to celebrate and throw this party for them just as must as for E. Here are a few more fun pics!

I hope you have a blast celebrating and planning your fiesta. We sure did. Let me know if you have any questions or need any help- party planning is my jam!