Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recent Books That Have Changed the Way I Live

I've been pretty lucky this year to have read some mind-blowing change-the-way-you-live books. I haven't quite done book reviews on them, because honestly, they'd be pages and pages long. I could brag on them all day. However, here's a sneak-peek shortened version, because I just can't keep quiet about them.

The Curated Closet, Anuschka Rees

Great For: finally figuring out your personal style; creating "uniforms" or "signature pieces" which make shopping for new clothes and choosing daily outfits a breeze
Why I Love It In One Sentence: Very detailed book that will help you understand clothes, fashion, and your style better than you ever thought possible.
Good Habits I've Now Started: I'm no longer spending money experimenting with clothing. I know what my staple pieces are (colors, fabrics, cuts, etc.) and know my personal style. It's so easy to spot what is and isn't going to look good on me in the stores.

The Little Book of Skincare, Charlotte Cho

Great For: learning how to take care of your skin and age beautifully; intro to Korean skincare
Why I Love It In One Sentence: Very personable book written to truly help you prioritize and take care of your skin, for your lifetime.
Good Habits I've Now Started: Sunscreen! Lord knows I don't want wrinkles any sooner than I have to, so sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. I also take way better care of my skin because I pay attention to what it tells me it needs (moisturizer, Dr. Jart acne mask, exfoliation, etc.). I've also adopted the 10-step Korean skincare routine because of this book.

7: An Experimental Mutinany Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker

Great For: someone who is overwhelmed by all of their "stuff" and wants to get out of the consumer lifestyle
Why I Love It In One Sentence: A great, spiritual book that will help you take a closer look into your own personal habits, see what you can pair down to, and truly understand how richly blessed you already are.
 Good Habits I've Now Started: Truly thinking before I purchase. So many of Jen's personal stories will pop into my mind as I think about shopping or spending. Do I really need this? Don't I already have 10 purses at home?

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler

Great For: women of all ages and life stages, but even more specifically women who are wanting a family soon
Why I Love It In One Sentence: This book will educate you like never before to really understand and embrace your body and monthly cycle.
Good Habits I've Now Started: Charting my monthly cycle and paying attention to what my body is telling me. I could go on and on about this book, but basically this book feels like the real health-science class you never got, the one with actual, helpful information. Toni is a master at gently giving information we all wish we knew, and demystifying the female cycle.

Each one of these books has changed the way I think and live. Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts? I hope they are as powerful for you!

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Friday, May 19, 2017

We're Moving!

It's a little crazy, but Daniel and I are moving to north Florida at the end of this month. Our home is in boxes and the POD is coming!

This exciting new adventure came after a long time of preparation and waiting, prayer and dreams. We have always loved how beautiful north Florida is, and look forward to having slight seasonal variation.

We've traveled up there a few times before, as we used to have friends who lived there (they've since moved on to Little Rock, AR for medical school). Everything has more of a small-town feel, and a very distinct Southern vibe.

Right after we got back from London, we were able to sell our house, which is both a relief and also sad. As I pack boxes, there are so many memories that come back to me. All the furniture we've built custom for this house, all the parties we've hosted, dinners we've made for friends and family. The list goes on and on. This little home in Orlando will be missed, but it's time to start a new chapter and embrace change.

Stay tuned for all the fun details of us buying our second home together, renovation, design, and diy! It's gonna be a fun summer!

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kensington Palace & Hampton Court Palace in London, England

I want to finish out my London trip series with two very special palaces.. Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace.

Us in front of Hampton Court Palace
Touring these royal palaces was an absolute thrill for me. I could totally imagine myself back in time, visiting as a guest of the monarchy. It was surreal to be able to walk the halls where Queen Victoria would have walked, or look over the gardens as Anne Boleyn would have.

We first toured Hampton Court, most famously known as the home of Henry the VIII (the one with 6 wives, remember him?). I totally loved it. It was opulent, glamorous, and absolutely huge!

Great Hall in Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court is a huge palace, with extensive grounds. Beyond the gardens, they have wildlife, so we got to see some deer roaming around. Just stunning!

Hampton Court Palace Gardens
We spent the whole day at Hampton Court, had a wonderful lunch, and then headed back into London for the evening.

On a different day, Daniel and I went to Kensington Palace. It's right in the city of London, and an easy walk with the Tube. My favorite part of this palace was how close it was to the parks- Hyde Park and Kensington Park. It felt like a quiet retreat, right in the heart of the city.

Front gate of Kensington Palace
Rear view of Kensington Palace, and parks beyond
The palace was stunning. It is most famous for being the home of QueenVictoria, as she lived here most of her life. Her statue sits out behind the palace (my photos, above and below). After our self-guided tour, we had a wonderful lunch in the cafe, and I purchased some Royal Palace china in a tea set for myself. Yay!

Overall, I loved our days at the palaces. I would go back in a heartbeat. I could tour them over and over again. Next trip, I'd love to visit Kew Palace and Gardens, and in August (the only month it's open) Buckingham Palace.

I loved every moment of our London trip, and long to go back.

Relive our trip with some of these posts:
City of Bath
City of London

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bath, England

Bath, England. We took a day trip out to Bath during our time spent in the UK. Based on where we were staying (southeast of London), it took us about 3 hours by train to get to Bath. But, it was so worth it! 

We headed straight away to the Roman Baths and did the audio tour guide. It was fascinating to learn the history and see how well preserved the structure was. The Roman baths are fed from underground hot springs, so naturally warm water comes up from the earth. 

Spa water has been used for curative purposes for two thousand years. Originally treatments involved bathing in the hot waters, then in the late 17th Century drinking spa water also came to be a recognized treatment for certain conditions. 

Here's a view of the warm water: 

At the end of the tour, they allow you to taste as sample of the mineral water. It was pretty good! Daniel didn't care for it.

By the time we completed the Roman Bath tour, and made a side trip to the gift store, it was time for lunch. We got lucky and were able to get right into the Pump Room Restaurant (which is on-site of the Roman Baths). We had a delicious "Traditional Pump Room Tea" for two. It was absolute heaven!

It really made me feel like I was in England. The Pump Room had live piano music while we ate, and the wait staff was excellent. It felt really romantic, just Daniel and I.

After lunch, we hit the streets and headed to view the homes on the Royal Crescent and Circus. I had read about this area in books for many years, so it was breathtaking to be there in person. I truly felt like I was back hundreds of years in time.

After traveling and walking around all day, we stopped briefly at the Jane Austen Center on our way back to the train. I wish we could have done their tour, about Jane's time when she lived in Bath, but it just wasn't meant to be. At least Daniel got my picture!

All in all, it was such a great part of our time in the UK. I really enjoyed the city of Bath, and would gladly go again. Until next time!

Check out our parts of this trip:
City of London
Kensington Palace and Hampton Court

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Our Trip to London

Buckingham Palace

London.. there's so much to say about London! I can't believe last week we were in the heart of this lovely city. We traveled over Daniel's spring break, which meant the weather was a bit chilly for us. But it gave us the chance to use our boots and coats! Super cute! Weather was in the 50's and we had a few good days of sunny weather.

We were fortunate enough to be able to stay with long-time friends, and then take the train wherever we wanted to go. During our 9 days overseas, we spent about 3 days in London, and used the other days to visit other towns in southeast England.

Westminster Bridge

Some of my favorite moments in London include...

  • Touring Westminster Abbey The inside is stunning, with it's statues and mausoleums. It really blew me away.
  • Walking along Westminster Bridge (photo above) This connects Big Ben and Parliament to the London Eye. You walk over the river Thames, and feel like you are in the heart of it all. 
  • Seeing Daffodils in the Parks So gorgeous! 
  • Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens The ample green space and parks are just amazing. If I lived in London, I would walk in the park every day. We saw lots of people biking, jogging, and playing with their dogs. 

St. James's Park

We were fortunate enough to have locals come with us into the city and help us navigate all the streets. It was so special to have our first experience in the U.K. be with British friends. We did get one day in London on our own, and we didn't have too much trouble navigating. We did pretty darn good on the subway!

Westminster Abbey

I won't go into great length on all the spots we hit, but we did get to see all the famous and historic sites. The Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, St. James's Park, Charing Cross Station, King's Cross Station, the Underground, etc. 

Overall, I really loved London. It's a very clean and safe city. It was super easy to fly there, as there's a direct flight route from Orlando to London. Both Daniel and I agree that if you're going to do Europe for the first time, London is your best bet, and not just because they speak English. I promise that you'll feel like you already know a bit about this country, thanks to US history classes you took as a kid. 

More posts on our U.K. trip to come!

City of Bath
Kensington Palace and Hampton Court

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Ecclesiastes 7:8New International Version (NIV)
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
    and patience is better than pride.

I stumbled across this verse a few years ago, and really struggled to understand it. The end of a matter is better than the beginning, what...? I'm not sure about that. Shouldn't starting be celebrated more? I mean, it is hard to take on a new hobby. You have to learn everything from scratch! Or what about that new exercise routine you've got for the new year? Getting started in something new is super hard!

As I started questioning and wrestling with this verse, the more and more it began make sense to me.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning.

Or another translation lists it like this:
Finishing is better than starting.
    Patience is better than pride.

Finishing is better than starting. I'm not sure about you, but as a 20-something, I don't know that I've actually "finished" very many things. Or maybe I should say, finished many things of value. This concept that the finish line is so much more special, is a little bit surprising to me.

Except recently.

We bought a short sale home in the summer of 2012 because at that time, homes were in surplus and apartments were scarce. We've always known this was not our dream home (or dream location), so it's always been in the back of our mind to move. Fast forward almost 5 years later, and we've decided this summer is the time to sell.

Boy, let me tell you, finishing is definitely more honorable than starting. These past few weeks have been so mentally tough for me. And that's why Ecclesiastes 7:8 keeps coming to mind. I've made it my personal mantra to #FinishStrong.

The reason it's been so tough is that we've had to finish small projects we either never got to, or finish  items that were incomplete. Touch up paint for scuffs and dents throughout the years. Kitchen backsplash install, that should have been done at the time of countertops two years ago. Replacing the doorbell that stopped working eight months ago. Installing a new bath vessel sink to replace the one that cracked after a year. Caulking. Staining. Cleaning. Replacing. And the list goes on and on. So yes, let me tell you, finishing is better than starting.

These jobs aren't the glamorous ones, like new granite counters. They aren't super fun where we get to work together and have no deadline or timetable. It's been tough. But I know that finishing this house the way we want to, is the honorable way to pass it along for someone else.

And just when I think I'm done, and the finish line is so close, the realtor comes in and talks about staging.

Oy vay! Here we go. But I must remember, finishing is better than starting, and patience is better than pride. God is growing resilience in me, along with patience. I'm becoming stronger than I ever thought I could be, and being given faith each day to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Whatever you're in the midst of, I hope this verse challenges you as well as encourages. Know that whatever God asks of you to stick with and finish to the end, He will give you sufficient energy to complete. His love and energy, and patience never run out.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Magnolia Story Book Review

Title and Author: The Magnolia Story, Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino

Release Date: October 2016

Page Length: 208 pages

How I got the Book: local library

Shop Online: Goodreads Amazon ChristianBook.com

DescriptionThe Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.

They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day.

My Thoughts:

I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about this book at first. After being a loyal Fixer Upper show watcher for years, and actually visiting Waco (that's a story for another time!), I was starting to get a tad tired of the HGTV power couple. However, I put their book on hold at my local library months ago (I was like #50 on the holds list- good grief!) and it actually became available last week.

Oh. My. Gosh. I could not put this book down, it was that good. I knew I wanted to blog about it and share my thoughts with you all. So, here we go!

When I picked up the book at the library, I was surprised at how small it was. The book is just shy of 200 pages. There are also some really sweet family photos throughout the years in the middle of the book. Too cute!

The book starts with the story of how Chip and Joanna met, and shares snippets of their dating years, engagement, early marriage, babies, right up through present day with the TV show. Most of the stories are centered around the Magnolia business and various projects they took on, but through those stories of up's and down's, you get a very real look into who they are as people. This is what I absolutely enjoyed the most about this book. I felt like they were real people, and not just talking heads on a glamorized TV show.

Joanna shares about the real struggles they faced- with their business, as parents, even her as a designer. Which was so freeing for me to discover. What we see on TV today, is years and years of growth and maturity in them. Joanna wasn't an amazing dream designer in her 20's, so I shouldn't feel pressure to be that way myself, at age 28.

I loved the chapter where Jo describes the moment she realized home design shouldn't be perfect, fussy, or staged. Your home design should fit with where you're at in life right now. Amen, sister! That helped me take in a breath of fresh air, and accept where I'm at in my life, which is still discovering my style. What inspires me, what is just clutter, and what will stick around with me for a life time.


A really great, quick read that tells the story of two people who had the tenacity to follow their dreams. I could totally relate to their stories as a young married couple, especially the times where money was tight (or impossible), and the times they moved from house to house. It felt very authentic and personal. This book really encouraged me (and came at the perfect time too), as we look to sell our house and move onto another fixer upper (more on that soon!). If Joanna can tackle a new house, so can I! I hope you'll take a chance on this book, I know I'm glad I did!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NFL Pro Bowl Experience 2017

This past Sunday night my husband and I attended the NFL ProBowl game here in Orlando. I thought I'd share some thoughts and tips if you'd like to plan a trip next year!

The best way I like to describe the ProBowl is that it's a bit like Fantasy Football. All of the best players across the league get voted on by fans to make the roster of the ProBowl at the end of the season. (Only the players participating in the SuperBowl don't attend because they're gearing up for the big game the following Sunday.) So, like Fantasy Football, it's all the big stars from a multitude of teams, playing together. Kinda neat!

During the week leading up to the big ProBowl game, there are different events held at ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Disney. They had a skills challenge, a 5K race, and game practices. I wish we could have gone to that, but we both were working (it was held during the weekdays). Maybe next year?

For the big game itself, it was a blast! We got to the stadium around 4pm and pulled right in to our pre-paid stadium parking. In the Fan Zone, there was so much to see! Food trucks, merchandise pop up's, plus a plethora of photo opportunities. You could take a photo with ProBowl cheerleaders, the ProBowl trophy, jersey mannequins, team mascots, etc.

My husband with Rowdy, the Dallas Cowboys mascot

Gates to the stadium opened around 5:30pm, so we hightailed it to our seats. We were third row on the NFC side, right near the tunnel. We got a great view of so many players warming up on the field and interacting with fans. The only bad part was that we weren't able to get any autographs. But I did have fun taking photos!
Richard Sherman (Seahawks) catching a football 

Travis Frederick & Zack Martin (both Cowboys) headed back to the locker room

If you are planning a trip for next year, here are some of my top tips:

  1. Buy ahead of time the clear, plastic stadium approved bag, to carry your things. I found mine on Amazon for $10. The stadium approved size is usually 12"x12"x6", but check ahead of time on the venue's website. I was on the fence about buying the bag, but I'm so glad I did. It really came in handy for holding tickets, my phone, and scarf (it was super cold that night!), and it made security a breeze. 
  2. Buy your seats right next to the tunnel, behind the goalpost, if you want autographs. It was killing me all night to be so close, but on the wrong side for autographs. The best seats for actually watching the game are not behind the goalpost, but they are the best seats for getting player autographs.  Once they open the stadium gates, run to get a spot along the wall so you can hang a shirt or poster over with a marker to have players sign. (Oh, and if you have a small child, players flock to that too. Figures, kids get all the love.)
  3. Buy the stadium parking lot parking ahead of time. Don't wait to hand over cash the day-of. It was such a wonderful experience to park so close (we were in Lot 9) and get in and out fast. The area around the stadium is super scary, so I was not taking any chances. 
  4. Take lots of photos! And make sure your phone has enough memory to take them! Don't ask me how I know this.. lol
    Dak Prescott (Cowboys) tossing a football
  5. Enjoy yourself! Most of all, enjoy yourself. Football season is just about over, and then there's basically nothing til September. Baseball. Soccer. You can tell how thrilled I am (not really). I love the Pinterest sign that says, "There's only two seasons in a year, football season, and waiting for football season." #thestruggleisreal

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