What It’s Like to Be 28 + 30 By 30 Update

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Y’all should know by now that I LOVVVVVVVVVVVVE my birthday. Always have and probably always will. But two years ago, when I turned 26, I had a weird moment. Literally, that picture at the top of this post could not be more real. 25 was my golden birthday – turned 25 on the 25th – and I felt soooo adult-y and grown-up. And then I turned 26 and was like, “Hold up…”

28 wasn’t intimidating until I remembered that my mom had me when she was 28. When Daniel and I got married, I was 22, and I never felt in a hurry to have kids because my parents were 28 and 30, and they did just fine. But I also didn’t expect to be married for 6 years and still not have kids, and as my birthday approached, I couldn’t stop the flood of thoughts:

I’m about to be the age my mom was when she had me. And I’m the oldest kid. I better get a move on; I can’t have my first kid when I’m 30. And what in the heck am I doing with my life?? I’m almost out of my 20’s and haven’t I cured cancer or created a new social media site yet. Everyone else is doing super important things with their life and yesterday I tried to get out of my car with my seat belt still on. *sigh*

All things considered, though, my birthday was actually AMAZING. My husband woke me up with breakfast in bed and some wonderful birthday gifts, we went to lunch with a group of friends from church and did a little shopping, and then celebrated with friends, pizza, cake, champagne, games, and a movie night at our house that night. It didn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive – just knowing that Daniel planned everything in advance made me feel very loved. ♥

I also wanted to take a second to fill you in on my 30 By 30 progress, since I brought it up – so here’s a few things I’ve accomplished since my last update!

30 By 30 Update

#5. Throw someone a surprise party.
I actually did this twice last fall – a Stranger Things party for Jeremy, and a 13 Going on 30 party for Courtnie!

#15. Take Fitz on a trip.
Fitz goes to Thackerville with us all the time, but he also took a little vacation to meet up with a female German shepherd named Scarlett…! Haha. Things apparently went well, because Scarlett had a bunch of super cute puppies.

#17. Make a map of places we’ve visited.
When we went to Colorado with my family last summer, I found the perfect thing in one of the shops in downtown Silverton – a tea towel with a giant map of the United States on it, with all the states outlined. I’ve started coloring in each state we’ve visited with a Sharpie.

#27. Go on a fancy dress-up date.
We got to do this in Vegas for the MONAT gala. I just love dressing up!

I also finished another book (The Meaning of Marriage) and traveled to another state (Nevada). I never would have guessed when I created my list that I’d go to so many new states so quickly. My goal in 2016 was to visit five new states by February 2020, and I visited four in 2017 alone!!

What’s coming up in 2018? Nothing definite yet, but hoping to check #13, #19, and #26 off the list. What do you have planned this year?

Stranger Things Surprise Birthday Party

Seriously – could anything possibly top a Stranger Things birthday party?? Only one thing could, and it’s a SURPRISE Stranger Things birthday party, on the very day that the new season was released on Netflix. *angels singing*

Our dear friend Sheridan wanted to throw this party to celebrate her husband, Jeremy, and asked if I would mind helping/hosting, to which I immediately responded “YAAAASSSSSSSSS.” With the help of a few friends, she was able to bring her amazing vision to life, and I am still so impressed with how this party came together!

In keeping with the Stranger Things theme, she tacked up “Missing” posters of Barb, Will, and Jeremy all over the house. She also set up display on the stairs featuring Dungeons and Dragons, a record player, a baseball bat, and a bicycle! I painted the Castle Byers sign for her, which they used in the living room. String lights were everywhere, of course, and the living room was transformed into one giant blanket fort.

The dining room was the pièce de résistance, though – we couldn’t have a Stranger Things party without the infamous alphabet wall!

Even though Brandon almost ruined it….lol…thankfully Jeremy was COMPLETELY surprised when they came inside! We had so much fun hanging out, listening to the Stranger Things soundtrack, and snacking.

For the food, we set up an Eggo waffle bar with loads of toppings (including fried chicken strips!), chips and salsa, birthday cake, and “Demagorgan Blood” punch.

We had asked guests to come dressed in 80’s costumes or like a character from the show, so I dressed up as Barb! After we all took some pictures together, we settled in to watch the first episode of the newest season together, and ended up watching four or five more episodes before the night was over.

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Are you as ready for Season 3 as we are??

If you need help planning a party on a budget, picking a theme, or figuring out a menu or decorating scheme…let me know! I’d love to schedule a consultation with you (“consultation” can be defined as “let’s go get ice cream and hang out”). 

Vegas, Baby!

Once again – I am blogging about Vegas WAYYYY too late, but better late than never! This mini-getaway was SO much fun, especially since the majority of it was free!! I earned the trip as an incentive through the hair products company I’m part of, and I’m so glad I worked my butt off and got to go. We felt like total tourists and didn’t even care, ate amazing food, and soaked up the gorgeous view from our hotel room. I will never forget walking into our room on the first night, pushing back the curtains, seeing all the lights from the strip and screaming “We’re in a free hotel room!!!” Such a cool opportunity, and hopefully not my last!

Our strip started with three absolutely heavenly things: Hopdoddy Burger Bar (with fries so good they might make you cry), Starbucks (the only place where “Daniel” is too difficult of a name to spell), and a double rainbow sighting at the airport right outside our gate.

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I love traveling, but especially when it’s with him. ♥

We had a choice between Paris and Planet Hollywood, and on the advice from several friends, decided to stay at Planet Hollywood. And I’m really glad we did. The room was huge, the hotel was modern and fun, and like I said – our view was spectacular.

For our first full day in Vegas, I spent most of the day in training, and it was AWESOME. The energy in the room; the stories that were shared; being the first to find out about new products and updates – I loved every second! Daniel had to entertain himself while I was busy, but we met for lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s burger place inside our hotel, and yummmmmm. Super good.

After lunch, Daniel told me I had to try one of the old-fashioned slot machines with the handle you pull – so I did! I put in $10, got it up to $15, and got nervous, so I cashed out. Haha!

We had some free time in the afternoon, so we decided to walk around the Strip a little before it was time to get ready for the gala that night. It felt like we were right in the middle of the action!

Watching the fountain shows in front of the Bellagio was one thing I really wanted to do while we were in Vegas. Luckily, we got to see them multiple times, including from our own room!

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After our mini walking tour, we headed back to fancy up for the evening.

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MONAT had reserved the entire second floor of the hotel for our event, and even took over the elevators!! It was so fun getting to dress up, eat dinner with my friend Juli and her husband, and then dance (and photobomb other people’s pictures) at the reception after dinner! Easily one of the most fun things I’ve done with MONAT so far.

I just love her.

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And him. He was such a good sport that night.

The next two days were free days to ourselves! We spent Thursday exploring more of the Strip and eating ridiculously good food.

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Our first stop was the Bellagio, which was right across the street from our hotel. I had read about the gorgeous chihuly ceiling in the lobby, and I wanted to see the conservatory and botanical gardens as well. They did not disappoint!

They change the displays out every season, and we got to see the fall display!I was blown away by the size of those peacocks. See all the different colors in their feathers? INDIVIDUAL ROSES.

 So. Many. Roses!!!

We also got to see the world’s largest chocolate fountain…

…AND this massive sports bar with virtually every game that could possibly have been on at that moment. (Probably not the world’s largest but still enormous.)

After taking in everything there was to see at the Bellagio, we walked over the Caesar’s Palace and wandered around in the Forum Shops. We made it just in time to watch “The Fall of Atlantis,” an animatronic show with special effects…

…like actual flames!

We had lunch at the Bacchanal Buffet inside Caesar’s (O…M…G) and then headed back to the Strip to walk off the 30 pounds of food we ate. Seriously – best buffet I have ever been to. You know how most buffets have, like, decent food at most stations and then one or two really good stations? At this place, EVERY station was the good station. They had gourmet sliders and fries, mini chicken and waffles (my fav), make-your-own street tacos, sushi, kobe beef, a dozen kinds of pasta, seafood, a crêpes station, gelato…….I truly don’t know if I have ever been that full after a meal, before or since.

Even though it was quite a walk (and once we got there, I got real depressed thinking about having to walk all the way back), I’m really glad we made it up to the Venetian. The Grand Canal Shoppes were really beautiful, and I loved watching the gondolas! Plus, we found a really cool hat shop and some giant art installments to take cheesy pictures in front of.

These next two pictures are literally just pictures we took for other people – the Holsteins one is for my family (“Holshteen’s books eez eh book shop”, lolllll) and the Transformers one is for Daniel’s brother, Isaiah. :)

Thursday night, we had dinner at this fabulous Italian place that Daniel’s boss had recommended called Scarpetta. It’s inside the Cosmopolitan and gets two thumbs wayyyyy, way up. Literally the best pasta I’ve ever had. And after dinner, we went to see DAVID COPPERFIELD!! Which I sadly took no pictures of, because it’s not allowed. Lol.

David Copperfield is a legend, and I was really pumped about the chance to see him in person. Although, I have to admit – his show felt just a teeny bit stale, almost like he was a bit bored with it. I kind of get it though. After all, he’s been doing this for decades. But still, what a show!! He did multiple things we had no explanation for, including making enormous objects appear and disappear out of thin air. Definitely entertaining!

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On Friday, our final day in town, we wanted to visit Fremont Street. I wish we could have gone at night, but it was still neat to walk around and look at all the old neon (and people watch – there are some weeeeeeirdos in Old Vegas!!).

We ate lunch at a cute little place called Therapy that had amazing deconstructed s’mores and took a walk through Container Park, an offbeat mini shopping center built from shipping containers. The playground in the middle looked like a giant tree house. We were obsessed with the atmosphere and spent almost an hour just hanging out on the terrace before we had to head to the airport for our flight home.

Probably one of the funniest parts about planning this trip was trying to figure out what to do with our free time, besides eat. I remember googling “what to do in Vegas if you don’t gamble or go clubbing” and was a little surprised by how many articles popped up about things to do with your kids in Vegas. And I was just like, whyyyy would you ever take kids to Vegas?? Who knows.

All things considered, I don’t know that Vegas would have ever been on our bucket lists, but hey – if someone tells me I earned or won a free trip somewhere, I’m gonna go!! Thanks, MONAT, for an awesome getaway! ♥

 

13 Going on 30 Surprise Party

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My beautiful friend Courtnie turned 30 recently, and I had the honor of helping plan her surprise birthday party! Her husband Andy planned the event and invited a bunch of us via Facebook, and when I reached out to him to see if he needed any help, he immediately took me up on my offer. I asked what he had planned, and his response was, “Umm I was thinking like cake, maybe some balloons and a happy birthday sign?”I chuckled to myself. Oh, I can do better than that. I probably should have warned Andy – when I plan a party? I don’t just do cake. I needed a theme, and 13 Going on 30 was absolutely perfect. And Courtnie is the very definition of 30, flirty, and thriving! :)

Easily my favorite decorations from the party. I made faux Sparkle and Poise magazine covers as a nod to the movie and printed them off to put in the frames.

Once I decided on the theme, the decorating was easy. I opted for a “sleepover” decor scheme, incorporating slumber party necessities like junk food and beauty supplies. I bought the gold “30” balloons, some teen magazines, and scrunchies, and borrowed a few things from my own stash, including the big white chalkboard. All of the serving dishes and table decor are things I’ve picked up over the years, and I’m glad to have such a big inventory to draw from.

I also owe a big thank you to Paige Scott for letting me borrow her daughter’s dollhouse!! It was the perfect movie tie-in and statement piece, and it got lots of compliments.

For the food, I decided to do an 80’s themed candy bar with fruit roll-ups, gummy bears, Ring Pops, Sour Patch kids, and – of course, Razzles. We also had bottles of Coke, popcorn, and cherry chip cake, Courtnie’s favorite!

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That cake though – I am super proud of that cake. You don’t even know. It’s the first time I’ve ever tried to make a cake with flat layers, and thanks to some tips from my mom, I did it! AND I even frosted it as a semi-naked cake without messing it up. SO. PROUD.

This party was so fun, and I can’t wait to plan more birthday parties in the future!

 If you need help planning a party on a budget, picking a theme, or figuring out a menu or decorating scheme…let me know! I’d love to schedule a consultation with you (“consultation” can be defined as “let’s go get ice cream and hang out”). 

2018 Goals + My Word for the Year

One year ago today, I started something new! Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food or working out every day – uhhhh yeah right), I made a list of a few specific, measurable, realistic goals for the year. A list that I could come back to now, a year later, to see how I grew in 2017.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a roller coaster for us. We experienced some really high highs and some really low lows. But when I took time to reflect on 2017 through my 20 Questions post, I remembered how many good things took place and how faithful God was to us. When the ball dropped and we toasted at midnight on January 1st, I took a deep breath and let it out, feeling both relief and resolve, thankful to leave 2017 in the past and step forward into a new year. I knew I had to continue this tradition from last year, and just like last year, my hope is that at the end of 2018, I will see obvious growth and progress from where I am now.

What I did last year:

  • Almost every night (as often as I could), I wrote down something that made me happy that day. This was surprisingly therapeutic and a great way to remind my heart that at least one good thing happened each day. I’m thankful to be able to go back and read about seemingly-small-but-still-significant things that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down. I don’t remember how I came up with this idea, but I’m so glad I did, and I want to continue it in 2018.

  • I took a week-long vacation with Daniel to celebrate and refresh our marriage. ♥
    We went on a wonderful Alaskan cruise, during which we visited Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria! Yay for good views, good food, and good company.

  • I (semi)permanently integrated healthier eating and exercise into my lifestyle. Doing Keto was honestly life-changing. I had no idea I could exercise that much self control for that long. We are actually doing it again for a month or two, right now!

  • I learned something new on purpose. Although it wasn’t hand lettering or a different language, like I had planned. :) I learned how to have self control with food. I learned how to lead a group of newly-married couples and become a family. I learned how to sing the lyrics to that Shane & Shane song – “Though You slay me, yet I will praise You” – and mean it.

  • We had intentional date nights at least once a month. Lots of yummy food, a murder mystery dinner party, David Copperfield, and binge-watching TV shows. Originally, my goal was date nights that WEREN’T dinner and a movie, but hey – we love dinner, and we love movies! Why mess with what works?? (Here’s the full list of our dates, by month.)

  • I began to view food as a gift to enjoy with wisdom, not as an indulgence I deserve. 
    Again – Keto was life-changing. I’ll be forever thankful that God helped me do it successfully, and that it’s something we can easily revisit and incorporate into our lives when we need a boost.

As far as the other two goals go: I didn’t cut down on screen time quite as much as I should have, but I did nurture new relationships and finished multiple books! And although I didn’t earn $1500+ every month from MONAT, I did earn enough in bonuses in one month to pay for our Alaska anniversary photo shoot, including a plane ticket for our photographer; I more than doubled my number of team members; and I earned a free trip to Vegas with Daniel in October. I still consider that a win. ♥


• 2018 •

Each night (or as often as I can), write down something that made me happy that day.

Read through the whole Bible chronologically.

Send 12 random surprise gifts to family, friends, or coworkers.
1. Took ice cream to Daniel at work.
2. Surprised my coworker Sarah with a birthday cupcake.
3. Left a “welcome home” basket for the Wesberrys when Laeklyn was born.
4. Mailed Robyn a bride-to-be package.
5. Sent Eliya a date night gift card when Corey came home from Afghanistan.
6. Gave Jen & Stacey a date night gift card for their anniversary.

Create new blog/social media content more consistently.

Go on a group vacation with good friends. ✓
Easily one of my favorite things we’ve done this year. We made such great memories on our Caribbean cruise with Brandon and Ashley and the Rains family!

Have at least one TV-free day per week, and one social media-free day per month.

Become a MONAT Mentor by the end of the year.

Take a trip to visit my brother at his new place in Florida. 
Our 2nd annual Simma family vacay in June was so much fun – we explored St. Augustine, soaked up the sun at the beach, and even visited Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World!

Plan a few out-of-the-ordinary date nights – new things we’ve never done before.
1. For our 6th anniversary, we went to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and ate one of the best meals either of us has ever had.

Walk more: with Daniel, with Fitz, in the park, on a beach… ;) 
We walked allllll over Disney World until our feet about fell off! And we started trying to take Fitz on walks again, even though he is frustratingly strong.


Last year, I also picked a word to be my theme for 2017 – Hope. The anchor of souls, assurance despite repeated disappointment, and the companion of trust. It couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. As the end of December drew near, I started thinking about a word to define 2018. Everything I came up with seemed cheesy or didn’t quite fit, until one particular word starting showing up everywhere.

Courage. AKA, Something I suck at.

When I googled “courage” to find a photo for this post, I came across this quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, and my heart swelled with encouragement:

“Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.”

I believe with all my heart that God Himself gave me the word “courage” for 2018, just as He gave me “hope” for 2017. I felt Him nudging this word closer to me for about a week, and although I tried to ignore it and pick another word for awhile, I have finally accepted it as a gift from Him. Although hope was my word for last year, I still spent too much time living in a state of fear. I refuse to let my life be dictated by “what if’s” anymore. ♥

What is one of your goals for this year? Tell me in the comments!

20 Questions for 2017

Before the ball drops and we sing our way into another January, it’s only fair that we take some time to reflect on 2017. Maybe it was an amazing year and all your dreams came true! (And if so, just shut up and enjoy being a Disney princess.) Or maybe this year completely sucked, and you’ve been ready for 2018 since June. Either way, we can’t successfully walk into the future without making peace with our past, whether it was good or bad. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several other bloggers do different versions of this reflection exercise, and I absolutely love it.

What was the best thing that happened this year?
Hmmm…that’s hard!! There was a lot of goodness in 2017. But I think our Alaska trip takes the cake. Glaciers, anniversary pictures, mountains, delicious food – pretty difficult to top.

What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
To be real? Infertility. I haven’t talked about this publicly at all, and it’s scary to put it out there. But I would be lying if I answered this question with anything else. We’ve been dealing with it for awhile, but it really kicked me in the teeth this year. It’s almost impossible to explain to anyone who’s never experienced it. But we know that the Lord has not overlooked us, and we trust His timing. ♥

Who were my most valuable friendships with?
I consider all my friendships valuable, of course, but the newest friendship value came from our foundation group! We host a group of young married couples at our house every week, and they truly have become our tribe. We’ve seen each other through a lot in just a year.

What are some new skills that I learned?
I learned that I CAN be disciplined about food. Keto changed my life. Seriously. We aren’t doing it currently, but I have never felt as good about my body in my entire life as I did when we went on Keto. I learned how to cook differently and treat food with a healthy perspective, and I’m so thankful for both of those things.

Pick three words to describe this year.
Wait. Hope. Heal.

What was my biggest personal change from January to December?
Probably switching jobs. I finally moved from an entry-level position as a college recruiter to more of a mid-level position as an HR Communications professional. Intimidating, but rewarding, and definitely a big piece of my adulting process this year.

What was the best book I read this year?
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller.

What did I do to serve others this year?
The biggest ways were (1) participating in activities with the young adult ministry at our church, and (2) serving my new mom friends by hosting baby showers, taking them food, and helping around the house.

Name a couple of positive memory-making experiences from 2017.
1. Our cruise to Alaska
2. Colorado with the Simmas
3. My niece Karis and “nephew” Cole were born
4. The MONAT Vegas trip
5. Absolutely everything about our foundation group

What 2017 accomplishments am I most proud of?
Losing 30 pounds on Keto and earning a free trip to Vegas!

What are some things I’ve learned to accept this year?
I don’t know that I’ve fully accepted it…haha…but I’ve learned that I’m not really in control of anything in my life. I try to be, really really hard, but ultimately, everything plays out exactly the way God designs it. My job is not to control everything and make it make sense, but to continue to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus and trust that what He does is always right.

In what ways did I grow spiritually?
I have a deeper understanding of how powerful and purposeful prayer is. It’s not about getting God to do what we want if we cry and beg and plead enough. It’s about communication: talking AND listening. Telling Him our joys and sorrows, asking Him for things while accepting that He may not give them to us, affirming His faithfulness and goodness, and truly being still with Him so He can speak back.

What did I gain in 2017? What did I lose?
Gained = new friendships, new job, and a stronger marriage.
Lost = time. I wasted too much of it by worrying.

Name a difficult situation I overcame.
About halfway through Keto, I hit a weight plateau. Daniel had gone off of it because he met his goal and was still losing weight (the jerk); meanwhile, I was stuck gaining and losing the same pound for more than two weeks, only FIVE POUNDS from my goal. It was miserable. I couldn’t understand why I had stalled, and I just wanted to be done. I finally figured out that I needed to adjust my macros and eat less calories, since I had lost weight, and lo and behold – it worked!! I finished Keto just in time for our trip to Vegas. :)

What is something I want to do better in 2018?
Write more. I get out of the habit and forget what a great outlet it is.

What was the best thing I did with my time this year?
Spend almost every Monday with Dara, Sheridan, Kendra, and Brianna (and their husbands). I really can’t overstate how special these couples have become to me this year.

What was the single biggest time-waster in my life this year?
My phone.

What am I most grateful for in 2017?
Two things! First: the chance to travel to so many new places. 2017 was a wanderluster’s dream come true. Second: after experiencing some awful personal tragedies this year, I have never felt more loved by our families and friend community. Their prayer support was overwhelming, and I will never forget that feeling.

What do I want to leave behind in 2017?
My lack of trust in the Lord, (many) moments of failure, fear about the future, and tears shed over all three.

Who do I want to be in 2018?
A woman of wisdom and courage. ♥

I can’t think of a better year to close the book on 2017. Feel free to join in and answer them for yourself, if you want!

Alaska Anniversary Photo Shoot

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When Daniel and I took our Alaskan cruise, one of the most exciting parts of the trip was meeting up with one of our wedding photographers in Juneau for a 5-year anniversary shoot. And honestly, the whole day feels like I dreamed it. There were a few mishaps, like the fact that our original location was covered up by clouds and it rained on us a lot. But it really didn’t matter because we had the most incredible time wandering around Mendenhall Lake with Catie, and I will treasure these pictures forever!

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Nugget Falls. Aka, the waterfall of my dreeeeeams.

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Cool story – see that glacier behind us? The adventure excursion we took later that day included paddling across the lake, hiking up on top of the glacier, and exploring the ice caves underneath!! AH-MAY-ZING. Pictures from that part of our trip are here.

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In this next little mini segment, Catie told Daniel to cuddle up close and whisper in my ear. So naturally, he did this: ⇓ ⇓

Catie: “Whisper sweet nothings!”
Daniel (seductively): “I love asparagus…”

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Man, I like him.

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The pose above has almost become a “signature” for us – we have an engagement picture and a wedding picture posed and positioned exactly like this, so I asked Catie to take one like them to keep the accidental tradition going.

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SIGH. I seriously want to take a photographer on all our vacations now. So dreamy! Thanks again, Catie! ♥

 

 

30 By 30 Update, June 2017

Y’all I’m SO FIRED UP right now!! I have checked a bunch of stuff off my list lately, and I’m totally giddy. Something about crossing things off of a checklist gives me a boost of energy to go cross everything else off. Haha! Here’s what I’ve done since my last update in November:

#2 – Take an Alaskan cruise. I cannot appropriately explain how mind-blowingly awesome this trip was. We got to visit Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria. Plus, we got to take anniversary pictures in Juneau (SWOON) and hang out with friends on our last day in Seattle! Dreamy, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m still reeling from the beauty of it all.

#6 – Read 10 new books. I really feel like I’m on a roll with this one. I’ve finished a bunch since my last update, and I’m excited about the ones in my ‘queue’. So far, I’ve read Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown, and Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. Our community group from church is reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, and I’m also working my way through Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers again (I’ve read it before, but MAN it’s so good).

#11 – Deliver meals to new parents. So far, we’ve taken food to the Whitley family to celebrate baby Abigail, and the Newton family to celebrate baby Éowyn! And there are lots more babies coming this year (including my first niece, Karis – she’s a doll!!), so I know we’ll get to do this again. :)

#18 – Take anniversary pictures with Daniel. Check check CHECK!! I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to top the experience of one of our wedding photographers, the amazing Catie Bartlett, taking our pictures at a glacial lake in Alaska.

#20 – Update my home décor. Technically this one was already on my last update, but I’ve added new things since! I got a gorgeous wooden ‘Oklahoma’ from my mom for Christmas, I updated our living room bookcases with new decorations, added a gallery wall in our master bedroom, and finally decorated the guest bathroom with an easy DIY craft project that I unfortunately did not take pictures of – bad Laura.

#21 – Make our backyard fun. There’s still lots to do, but adding some globe string lights and a planter of wildflowers definitely improved the back porch!

#26 – Visit 5 new states. Washington, Alaska, and Colorado are new additions – three down, two to go! We technically visited Utah…but we were only in the airport, so it doesn’t really count.

#30 – Take a road trip. The Simma clan family vacation to Colorado helped me knock this one out. Wayyy too many hours spent in the car, but lots of music, pretty views, snacks, and inside jokes with my siblings made it better.


Can’t wait to keep checking more off of this list – almost a third of the way through, and I still have 2½ years to finish the rest! To check out what else is on my list, go here.

 

Alaska: Part III

PART III // Ketchikan, Victoria, & Seattle

The last three days of our trip were spent wandering around Ketchikan (a tiny Alaska fishing town), Victoria (a gorgeous British-like Canadian city), and Seattle again! We had shorter port times in Ketchikan and Victoria, so we didn’t get to explore much, but we still enjoyed walking around town. And it was fun to be shown Seattle by friends who actually live there, rather than running around aimlessly on our own.

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Ketchikan:
–Breakfast at Sweet Mermaids
–Creek Street

It rained on us in Ketchikan, so we didn’t spend too much time walking around. But we found a cute little coffee shop near the waterfront called Sweet Mermaids, and Daniel got the best cheese danish either of us had ever tasted. We also walked through the historic Creek Street area and stopped in a few of the shops along the way.


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VICTORIA:
–Empress Hotel
–British Columbia Parliament Building

I was heartbroken that we didn’t have more time here – it was absolutely charming! The only place I knew I wanted to go was the the corner of Belleville and Government to see the Empress Hotel and the British Columbia Legislature, and both were stunning. I would have loved to have visit the Butchart Gardens or go whale watching, but I’m glad we didn’t book an excursion, because it took FOREVER to get off the ship and we would have missed it.


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SEATTLE, Take 2:
–Pike Place Market
–Kerry Park / Gas Works Park
–Elliot Bay for lunch

I LOVED this day!! We got to visit some beautiful places AND hang out with some old friends from Oklahoma. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do between getting off the cruise ship at 8:00 am and our flight at 5:00 pm, and Stephen and Jimi Hightower totally saved the day. They picked us up at the cruise terminal, drove us and our suitcases around all day, and basically gave us a personalized tour of Seattle. We got to see Pike Place Market (a bucket list place for me), lots of parks, and their new apartment – isn’t their mug holder cute?? Jimi is ultra crafty, and you can check out some of her other projects here!

Thanks again, Stephen and Jimi, for showing us your city! :)

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The only dark cloud on our entire trip was trying to go home. Our flight was supposed to leave at 5:00 pm, so the Hightowers dropped us off at the airport at 3:00. We went to a self-service kiosk to check in, and the screen told us that it was too late to check our bags. Confused, we went to the desk to check in there instead. When we handed the lady our tickets, she got a weird look on her face and started typing on her computer.

“What time is your flight?” she asked.

“5:00,” I said nervously.

More typing.

“Hmm….that flight was actually moved to 3:20.”

My heart raced. “Um…what???”

Immediately, Daniel asked, “Well, can we make it??”

Without a shred of sympathy, the lady said, “No, I’m sorry.”

I was speechless.

Daniel: “Okay…what time is the next available flight?”

Lady: “Let me check….(longest pause ever)….it looks like the next earliest flight is at 11:15 pm.”

Cue me dissolving into tears.

Long story short, we had to transfer from American to Alaska Airlines and sit in the airport for 8 extra hours. We checked and double-checked our emails, and neither of us had received any communication from American at all that day – not even a regular check-in email for our original flight time. We should have gotten home around midnight or 1:00 am, and instead, we pulled in our driveway around 7:00 am. NOT IDEAL. But besides that nightmare, we had a wonderful trip! And here is a picture of my Starbucks, because when you’re stuck in an airport for that long, what else is there to do than be a basic white girl?

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In case you missed them, here’s Part I and Part II of this trip.

If you’re not ready for the vacation pictures to end, don’t worry – I’m going to Colorado with my family this month, and I’ll have lots of more gorgeous goodness to share soon!

Alaska: Part II

PART II // JUNEAU, SKAGWAY, & GLACIER BAY

Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay: the three loveliest days of our trip! I’m so glad I took pictures, but I’m also glad that I had the strength to put down the iPhone and just look around every once in awhile, and believe me – I drank in every detail. The strongest memory I have from the trip is how many times I felt so incredibly small, staring up at the towering mountains and trees around us and losing all my words. I’ve never been anywhere so beautiful in my life. It’s hard to believe that the locals actually get used to such breathtaking views and forget how wonderful their ‘backyard’ really is! I could ramble on for way too long about how gorgeous everything was – but I think I’ll just show you instead. ;)

JUNEAU:
–took anniversary pictures at a glacial lake
–went on an ice caves excursion
–ate the best seafood I’ve ever had

So many words, and yet so few at the same time. AMAZING day. Shout-out to Catie Bartlett for taking what I know will be the most incredible pictures (separate post to come later!), to our glacier adventure crew for taking us on the most baller excursion EVER, and to Tracy’s King Crab Shack for the most ridonkulous crab bisque – possibly the best soup, period, that I’ve ever had in my life. During our excursion, we paddled across the lake, explored the ice caves, and hiked up on top of the Mendenhall Glacier. Not for the faint of heart, but wayyyy worth the tired arms and legs!


SKAGWAY:
–rode the White Pass Scenic Railway
–EXPLORED the idyllic downtown area
–LUNCH at skagway brewing company

Another amazing day! We booked the train ride because it was the #1-rated excursion for Skagway, and it did not disappoint – the views were unreal. We went all the way up into Canada and turned around on the track, so we got to see both sides of the track during the trip. I loved the guide’s narration about the railroad and the route hundreds of people traveled during the gold rush. Afterward, we walked around town (very picturesque!), got some fudge and truffles from a candy shop, and ate lunch at Skagway Brewing Company.


GLACIER BAY:
–perfect sightseeing spot on the boat
–Margerie Glacier and Lamplugh Glacier
–roughly one billion sea otters

Honestly? I don’t even know where to start with how pretty this place was. The glaciers were enormous. The Margerie Glacier is 250 feet high and over a mile long! We had a completely unobstructed view of the bay for the entire day, aside from an obnoxious 20 minutes when a huge group of very rude people stood directly in front of our chairs to take about 700 pictures together. Literally, they were maybe a foot in front of us. *eye roll* But besides that, we had a great day on the ship! We spent a lot of time watching the mountains and the water for signs of wildlife, and I’m not kidding – we probably saw at least 200 otters float by the ship within a 30-minute period. They were so cute!

One of my favorite things we did all week was watch the sunset from the back of the ship as we sailed back out of Glacier Bay. Funny enough, it was 10:00 pm when I took this picture! We were the only people on deck, and it was such a sweet, peaceful moment.


The third and final piece of the Alaska trip series is coming soon – stay tuned for photos from Ketchikan, Victoria, and our one-day tour of Seattle with the Hightowers!