Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Unforgettable Road Trip Out West

We busted out of Kansas the day after Christmas and embarked on a 10-day road trip out west. Thank you to all who followed along on Instagram! The original catalyst that even got us talking about this trip was that our football team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, would be playing in the Rose Bowl game. This game would take place on Jan. 1st in Pasadena, CA. Steve and I met at Iowa, and are huge Iowa fans. After many debates on whether or not to go, lots of planning and organizing logistics, we decided to go for it! My parents also joined us on this adventure (also huge Hawkeyes), which made it that much more special. I wanted to share our experience not only to push some of you to consider a road trip (yes, even with kids!), but I also want to have this journal of our adventures!

We rented an Expedition and planned out our routes before leaving. The original plan was to stay on a southern track because we were worried about weather. However, the south randomly had a blizzard the day we were supposed to leave, so we altered and went straight west, through Denver, on to Vegas, and ultimately, to Santa Monica, CA. The first day we drove from Kansas City to Denver, about a 9 hour drive. Kansas is a brutally boring state to drive across, but we were on a first day high, so it went by fast. We found a cool brewery/restaurant to stop at in Hays, KS that I would highly recommend if you are ever in the middle of Kansas!

We realized once got to the hotel in Denver that we forgot to pack Drew's luggage. Total parent fail! Drew was calm about it, I admittedly was not and I'll leave it at that. :) We went to a few stores (they were open late because it was the day after christmas), but most places were totally picked over. Solution to this problem below...

The next morning, we drove across Colorado and Utah. This was my favorite driving day of all the days.

Utah is amazingly beautiful, and it had recently snowed in Colorado so the tips of the trees in the Rockies were topped with snow. It was 11 hours worth of beauty and I will never forget it. It was on this gorgeous drive that it occurred to Steve to have friends go to our house and send us some of Drew's clothes. That is exactly what we did, and it worked out perfectly. The clothes arrived that next day in California and we are ever grateful to our friends for doing this for us!

We arrived to Las Vegas late. I have never been to Vegas, my kids have never been, and my parents hadn't been there in over 30 years (Steve goes every year)! We stayed right on the strip, and decided because we were there that we had to stay out late and walk and see the lights/water show. Kate loved the lights and the energy. Drew has requested to never go back. :)  I can honestly say that I don't need to go back either. Though, I'm happy for the experience!

After Vegas, we had a short day of driving (about 5 hours) to get to our final destination of Santa Monica, CA. We stayed right on the beach, just steps from the Santa Monica Pier. It was wonderful. It was late December in California, so the temps were in the 60's. Our kids had a ball on the beach. It was so wonderful to watch them be so carefree. I will never forget that. We spent time at the beach, the Pier, walking around the town, eating, drinking. These midwestern kids were so happy to be at the beach!

After two days/nights in Santa Monica, it was time to move to Costa Mesa, CA. On the way there, we drove through Beverly Hills, stopped on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and saw the Hollywood sign. One of the first stars we saw was John Stamos. This "Full House" lover was in heaven!

Iowa was hosting a "Hawkeye Huddle" that afternoon in downtown LA. The reason we made this trek was for our Hawkeyes, so we had to go!

The next day, New Year's Eve, we went to Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach, CA. It is a hidden gem of a beach, with tide pools and large rocks, and large waves. We strolled the beach for a few miles and it was very relaxing. This day was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Finally it was game day in Pasadena! We all had tickets to the game. The energy at the game was incredible, and boy do Hawkeye fans travel well! It was a sea of black/gold. Despite the terrible outcome (we lost BAD), we are so happy for the experience and wouldn't trade going for anything. Who knows if/when we will ever go back to the Rose Bowl, so it was definitely a bucket list moment (especially for my dad and Steve).

The day after the Rose Bowl, it was time to start the journey home. We did plan to stay south this time so we could experience a few different things. The first day, we drove from Costa Mesa, CA to Flagstaff, AZ. On the way, we stopped off at the Grand Canyon. I had been there with my family when I was about my kid's age, so it was awesome to go with my own kids. It was frigid and we arrived just before sunset, but it was worth the drive and something you can't ever forget. The beauty and magnitude was just unbelievable.

The next day was Flagstaff, AZ to Amarillo, TX. We spray painted cars at Cadillac Ranch (Google this and go if you are ever near Amarillo)! Cadillac Ranch was like nothing we have ever experienced before and another highlight!

We ate dinner at The Big Texan in Amarillo. Just total Texas and so much fun for the kids. Kate was serenaded with "You Are My Sunshine" by this crew! We have lived in Texas twice in our marriage, including once with kids (Dallas & San Antonio), so we consider ourselves honorary Texans! :)

The last day, we finally made it home. We surprisingly were not that exhausted. We took our time, stopped when we needed to, and all slept well, despite the many different hotels we stayed in. We were all grateful for the experience and couldn't believe how everything fell into place (despite the forgotten luggage). Many people questioned us and were surprised that we would take a 7 & 8 year old with us on this long trip. We simply say, why not?! Kids are amazingly resilient. They crave experience. Travel is educational. Family time together in this capacity is unmatched. I think kids surprise us in ways when we push them. Sometimes you just have to do things, and make your kids do things, and when it is over, you ever wondered why you questioned it.

I hope our kids will always remember this experience. I want them to have a deep appreciation for travel and new experiences. I know it makes them want to travel more. It makes us all want to travel more and see more of the country. Drew now wants to move to California! Road trips force you to appreciate the beauty in the small things, it allows you to bond in a deeper way, it frees up time to stop and do things along the way. And as Steve kept saying before we even left, "you just have to do things like this, even if they seem hard or exhausting." He is right. And my parents were, and still are lifelong road trippers, so it's sort of been instilled in me from a young age. I'm just so thankful for the experience.

Our kids were traveling rock stars. Traveling by car is such a different experience, and thank goodness for movies and iPads (and great views). We have moved a lot and traveled to many new states, and taken our kids many places. We now know they can do anything with us. They are at a magical age of goodness and wonder. I love the collected experience with family. It just brings you closer. Lifetime memories are priceless and worth the effort and cost of travel EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Steve was the trip MVP. He drove every hour (except about 4 that I drove), he booked all of our hotel rooms, he secured our Rose Bowl tickets, he schlepped luggage in and out of every hotel. He was a travel agent in a former life, I'm convinced of it! My parents are still young, and fun, and easy, and RETIRED! We are so lucky to have them so close, and they are always up for adventure. I'm so grateful for this time spent together. Here is the trip in numbers, and because we had some time on our hands, we totaled up our state counts too!

Total hours in car: 62
Miles Driven: 3,653
Hotels stayed in: 6
States traveled in: 9
Kids total state count: 26
Steve total state count: 36
Andrea total state count: 33
Memories made: Too many to count :)

Sorry for the photo overload, but we saw and did a lot of things! I hope you will think about hitting the road with your kids (and/or parents) soon! xoxo

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What's Up With The Blog?!

Hello friends! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and new year! I realize it is February, and I have been blog absent! We went on a long trip at the end of December, and getting life back in order after returning has left me here, on Feb. 3rd, finally posting about the status of this little blog.

Life is happening and we're enjoying the ride very much! Our little people are growing up so quickly and I am soaking up all minutes with them when they are not in school, at an event or practice, or with their friends. They are at fantastic ages (7 & 8). They also still really want to be around me and Steve, which I hope lasts forever :). Ha! I know better, which is why these years are so important to me. Steve works from home when he is not on the road, and having him home all day has been so great. I started a part-time preschool teaching job back in August that I am loving as well. This also means I have 16 other little people to think about and care for too!

With a husband that travels for work, and activities most nights, even family dinners have become precious around here. Time with the people I love is precious in general. I know the struggle of trying to do it all is real for all of us. My priorities are Steve and the kids and making a happy and loving home and that is where my attention is focused. This has always been my focus, I am just trying to slow down a bit. I don't want to be crazy and doing everything and saying yes to everything. I don't enjoy life when I'm like that. I have begun to realize more than ever how quickly the time is going by. I want to enjoy simple days, be present, relax, travel, stare at my kids, volunteer at school, have meaningful conversations with Steve, and be intentional about my time. And let's be honest, I want to watch Bravo after the kids go to bed! Because of this, some things just have to take a back seat. I don't like the feeling of doing everything at 50%. I want to devote 100% to the few things that are most important to me. The blog, sadly, hasn't been making the cut!

Although this blog is important to me, blogging has clearly taken a back seat lately!! I'm okay with that. Life ebbs and flows. I used to care a lot more about getting things done and making things and blogging about them. I'm done putting pressure on myself about that. We are still definitely doing stuff around the house, changing things up, adding new things, trying new recipes, shopping for deals. I will never stop! It's just taking photos and editing, and typing and publishing that takes all the time!

With all this being said, I'm still not going anywhere! I've said many, many times that I write and share things for fun and hope to inspire someone along the way. I don't do this for the fame (ha!) or the money (even more laughable)! I simply just don't want the pressure of "having" to post something, just to post something. I want to post and discuss what is inspiring me at the time; whether it be a new recipe, something I wore, a good deal, our latest home project, etc. I love having this creative outlet that I have had for many years. I hope you will continue to follow along!

I intend to post and share things as they happen this year or when I feel inspired to do so. Maybe that will be a few times a week, or once a month, or not even in the month (like January-whoops). I love Instagram so much for quick, in the moment photos of our life/home. That is where you will find me most often anymore!

Also in the new year, Steve and I have decided to tackle one unfinished room at a time. I usually have so many things going at one time in the house, it's hard for me to focus. Basically, we have lived in this home for 4 years, and every space is about 3/4 of the way done. I need "done-ness" to happen in this home, people! I do take time to carefully make decisions about our home. I want to love every space and everything in the space. I like to edit and make sound choices about purchases. Now that most rooms are almost there, it's just putting the finishing touches on things. The fun part.

The first room to be tackled is our home office, as that is where Steve spends his days when he is not traveling. I also have a desk in the office, and love spending time in there. Definitely more to come on this room as we are still filling the space with plants and artwork, but devoting time to just this one space has been so great! I have focus issues, but Steve is reeling me in one day at a time!

We have had such a mild winter here in Kansas City, but I am so looking forward to spring and flowers and green grass and getting outside in the yard. I hope you will find me on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, and as always, thanks for reading!  xo

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Fun & An Upcoming Road Trip

Hi friends! I hope you have all been enjoying family, friends, and festive times! We have been busy in a good way over here, and soaking in every moment while we still have two little believers (I guess I should say one believer, and one mostly believer with a little skeptic thrown in there)! Christmas in KC is always fun. We have done some of the same, and tried some new things this year. And our December weather has been unseasonably warm - I love it! We are hoping for a few snowfalls this year though. It's not a midwest winter without a little snow!

We always see the Von Maur Santa. He is the best and the lines usually aren't very long! I guess they are getting too big for laps. Sniff, sniff.

A family pic from when we picked out our Christmas tree. It was the coldest day of the year and all of the trees were full of ice. We found a good one and have been enjoying it so much - and it still smells good!

I turned 36 big ones this month...officially on my way to a bigger birthday in a few years. I feel good about it. In my head, I still feel 25, and my 30's have been my greatest years to date, so I can't complain! I dragged my needle fearing hubby out to donate blood on my birthday. It's an important cause for me because I received blood transfusions after Kate was born. He was a first-timer and it was comical to say the least (see second photo)!  He survived, and I think I might have even convinced him to start going more consistently. Let's jus say he needed ice packs, sprite, and lots and lots of encouragement.  :)

We were able to sneak away for a little overnight date night with our best friends down on the Plaza for a little birthday/holiday celebration. We ate at Gram & Dun (outside by the fire!), strolled the streets, and enjoyed kid free time. Ever thankful for grandparents who watch our kids overnight.

We missed the holiday lights tour on the bus this year, but we did a tour of our own one night in PJ's with Grandma and Grandpa in tow. Christmas Place in Overland Park is a small neighborhood with a great display. This year they had a Salvation Army donation bucket in one of the cul-du-sacs. What a great idea!

We had never been to Union Station at the holidays and it did not disappoint in the beauty department. Union Station is one of the places that just puts off good vibes. I just love it.

That same night, we saw the Governor's tree at Crown Center. Our kids love busting out of the suburbs, especially this time year.

The boys in my life went to opening night of the new Star Wars movie. They both loved it! It is so fun for Steve to have a son who is just as into it as he was as a kid. I don't get it, but I love seeing them so excited. :)

And while the boys were at Star Wars, the girls made and served food at a local women/children's shelter. The shelter was hosting a Christmas party for their residents and we were lucky enough to share in their excitement by serving. Kate was a rockstar and is already asking when we can help again. This was my favorite thing we did this December. Our hearts are full.

And lastly, Kate was part of a trio/solo group at church this past Sunday. Here is just a small snippet.  Another favorite moment for me. For the record, I cried. :)


We also decided this month that we would be taking a 10-day road trip to California over Christmas break!! Our beloved Iowa Hawkeyes are heading to the Rose Bowl and we are heading there too!

My parents were already planning on it, so we decided to just make it a family adventure! I haven't been on a road trip with my parents in over 20 years! I am sure there is going to be lots of fun and exhaustion along with way, but I can think of no better way to make memories with our kids! I would love for you to follow along on our adventures on Instagram! xo

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Home Tour 2015

Welcome to this little blog and our home! It's been a busy few months around here, but our halls have been decked and our lights have been strung, and we are enjoying unseasonably warm temps here in Kansas City! I'll take it!

I am so pleased to be participating in this Christmas Home Tour with so many talented bloggers. A huge thank you to Marty from A Stroll Thru Life for organizing. The tour left off yesterday with Sherry from No Minimalist Here and you can find links to all the home tours at the bottom of this post!

I do say the term "home tour" loosely because I really only decorate a few rooms on the first floor of our home. It's where we spend the most time and where we entertain, so that seems like enough to me! I went very minimal this year and left much of our Christmas stuff in the basement. I wanted to keep our regular home decor at the forefront and supplement with festive and fresh touches. My husband and kids recently told me how much they love our home this time of year because it's so cozy. Creating a warm, inviting space for your friends and guests doesn't have to be time consuming or stressful! I don't decorate for the blog, I decorate because I love doing it. I also have young kids who won't remember a perfect house, but will remember time spent together. When my family feels cozy and at home, I have done my job. Sharing with you is just a bonus! :)

We installed a new front door this year (my favorite upgrade of the year), and it looks especially great with fresh garland around it! Can you find me?! Those container pots were a fun little DIY project this year too!

Our dining room is right inside the front door. I wanted to keep it simple and classic in here, so I jazzed up the bar cart, added a wreath to the large mirror, and added fresh greens.

We have a very open concept first floor, so our tree always finds a home right in between the living room and dining room. From here, it can be seen from every angle and room. We always pick out a real Frasier Fir, and the kids love decorating and pulling out the ornaments. Our tree topper is an inexpensive glitter bow, and our tree skirt is a $13 blanket!

Our living room is very neutral this year with fresh garland on the mantle, mixed metallics, and non-traditional pillows. The tree is the shining star in this room, as it should be!

More fresh garland, a DIY glitter garland, and a white poinsettia round out our eating area. Fresh plants/flowers/garland never disappoint. And pink is festive in this house all year long!

I added a fresh wreath at the kitchen window and decided to display our holiday cards on the pantry this year using pink satin ribbon and clothespins. It adds such fun color to the kitchen! You can see our chalk wall peeking out to the left.

We have made summer and fall bucket lists on our chalkboard, but this is the first year for a winter list. The kids love these and it keeps me from having to change the chalkboard too often! This chalk wall is one of my absolute favorite things in our home...such a fun conversation piece!

Thank you for stopping by our home! I hope you are enjoying this time with your family and friends and taking a little time to relax and give yourself a break!

Our home has looked different the past two years, so please check those tours out too!

The next stop on the tour is Eleven Gables. I hope you will check out all of these Christmas home tours and link up yours at the end of this post! I would love for you to start following along too! xo

Monday - Dec 7th
Tuesday - Dec 8th
Wednesday - Dec 9th
Thursday - Dec 10th

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