Florida Vacay: Part 2

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From Part 1: When we got back to the beach house, I decided to go take a look at the ocean for the first time on the trip. It was so nice to be so close! We spent the rest of the day cooking, playing games, and watching movies….and prepared our minds for DISNEYWORLD!

I don’t know if I can explain how many dreams came true on this day. The entire time leading up to it – the road trip to the park, waiting in line to get our tickets, riding the ferry, walking down Main Street, U.S.A – it felt surreal. I kept saying, “Is this really happening??” I’ve wanted to go to Disney World since the very first Disney movie I ever watched, and I can’t thank my sweet parents enough for making this amazing trip a reality. ♥

To tell you the truth, we really didn’t take very many pictures. But I don’t even care, because we got the important ones and spent the rest of our time enjoying ourselves!

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Observations:

  1. HOLY CRAP there were so many people, and yet, the park operated very efficiently – we were really impressed!
  2. Even though we had to wait awhile for a couple of rides, the only one that wasn’t exactly worth the wait was the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. But only because it rained while we were in line and they had to close the ride down twice. By the time everything was said and done, we were too invested to just leave the line, so we stuck it out. It was still fun, but not exactly worth 3 hours of waiting…lol. *thumbs down* Other than that, the lines moved relatively quickly, and our second longest wait was for Space Mountain (which was expected, and also the first ride we did).
  3. Dole Whip lived up to the hype! So good!
  4. I literally have no idea how people do multiple parks in one day.
  5. Probably one of the best moments from the entire day was Mom getting to relive her college days and ride Space Mountain again – she never stopped laughing. :)

Funny enough, the place I took the most pictures (besides the castle) was the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse! This movie was a Simma kid favorite when we were growing up, and it was also the first movie Daniel and I watched together, the night we finally confessed that we liked each other. ♥

I know. We’re cute.

We spent the rest of our Florida days playing more games, watching more movies, and laying on the beach. Before Daniel and I flew home, we also got to meet some of Corey’s coworkers, learned how to play Jackbox games (which are awesome!!), and ate some seriously good Cuban food at Mambos Cuban Café. If you’re ever in Jacksonville, you neeeeeed to go there!

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Ready to go back! Just let us know when to take off work next summer, Dad… ;)

Florida Vacay: Part 1

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As of this summer, my first trip to Florida is officially in the books! What a great almost-week spent with my family. ♥ We hadn’t been all together since our group road trip to Colorado last year, so our time together was precious and long-overdue.

We stayed in this CHARMING beach house (which Dad has already said he would like to stay at again…!) that was only two blocks from the beach. My brother Corey moved to Jacksonville last Christmas for a new meteorologist position, and he worked at the station a few times while we were there. But he spent as much time with us as he could, and we filled our days with lots of fun outings, including beach trips, exploring St. Augustine, and a day at Disneyworld!

I really enjoyed our trolley tour of St. Augustine. Corey had taken Mom and Robyn when they visited him earlier in the year, but they both liked it so much that they decided they wanted to go back to show the rest of us. Trolleys stopped at 20+ locations across town, and you could hop on/hop off as many times as you wanted to see the sights (and get some gelato, of course).

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My people.

One particular place my dad wanted to stop and see was the Lightner Museum, a huge historic hotel in downtown St. Augustine. It was filled to the brim with bizarre collections of antiquities – everything from crystal dishes to shaving mugs to musical instruments to pocket watches. The picture above is a cafe now, but when the building was a hotel, it was actually a giant pool!

Daniel, Robyn, and I explored the St. Augustine distillery, which had a very cool atmosphere. We even got to taste-test a few things and try a sip of their bourbon on National Bourbon Day.

We met back up with Corey and my parents at the Castillo de San Marcos – the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. Unfortunately, we were a little too late to go inside, but it was still neat to walk around the outside, and the view of the bay was gorgeous!

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The Shades were reunited after all these years. ;)

When we got back to the beach house, I decided to go take a look at the ocean for the first time on the trip. It was so nice to be so close! We spent the rest of the day cooking, playing games, and watching movies….and prepared our minds for DISNEYWORLD!

Click here to read Part 2!

Life Update: The Park + The Coffee Shop + The Woods + The Desert = The Memories

One of my favorite things to do, weirdly, is go back through all of my pictures on my phone. I always come across random things I documented that I forgot to post on social media, or funny screenshots of texts from family members, or ideas for parties that I wanted to save on Pinterest. I especially love getting to relive good memories, and this last photo purge was FULL of them!

#1: The Park. What a blessing it was to spend time with my dear friend Brittany and her cuties earlier this summer. She actually has another boy now, too – I think an east Texas road trip is in order to go meet him!

#2: The Coffee Shop. A new coffee shop opened in Durant this year, and even though I’ve only been a few times, since I’m not a coffee drinker, every visit has been spent with good friends. I love the atmosphere of the place, and I’ll definitely use it for a shower or two in the future.

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#3. The Woods. Boy, have the Love County woods been good to us. I absolutely love going to see Daniel’s family and adventuring on their land! It’s my favorite place to take Fitz because he can run around like a maniac, we take four-wheeler rides on the trails, and we get to revisit the spot where we married 6 years ago.

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And also I get to snuggle my nephews (one of which has too much energy to actually snuggle or take pictures with me), which is always a good time. :) Also, this picture is already so out of date – Luke is HUGE now!

#4. The Desert. I had the privilege of traveling for work earlier this year – Merrill Lynch hosted us at their annual client conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. And HOLY. MOLY. I felt like a queen! The resort was beautiful, my suite was huge, and there was so much attention to detail: chocolates on the pillows, mini jars of honey for your tea, and my toiletries were even organized for me by the housekeeping staff.

One of the best parts of the trip? The “field trips” they took us on: dinner, dancing, and hot air balloon rides in the desert, and an evening at the Musical Instrument Museum.

We were so spoiled for days with delicious food, musical performances, and guest speakers, including Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank!

One of the best things that happened all summer was Mother’s Day weekend with my bestest best and her little family. After YEARS of hard work, Jennifer graduated from med school and is officially a doctor!! I am so crazy proud of her.

Few things are sweeter than getting to hold your person’s little person. ♥

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Finally, here’s a sneak peek at the EPIC 30th birthday party I threw for Daniel! A separate post is coming soon, don’t you worry. ;)

Thanks for reading!

2018 Travel Plans – Guess Where We’re Going??

Guys, I have a problem.

A big, wanderlusting, list-making, suitcase-packing problem.

The travel bug bit me HARD last year! In six months’ time, Daniel and I got to travel to three places neither of us had ever been before: Alaska, Colorado, and Las Vegas. For almost a year, I consistently had a trip to look forward to, and ever since we got back from Vegas last October, I’ve been dying to go somewhere again. Thankfully, we have a few plans in the works for 2018, and I’m so excited to finally share them with you!

Ever since Daniel and I got married, one of our goals has been to travel together as often as we can. It doesn’t have to be a luxury vacation or anything, but we’ve made it a priority to get away from home and spend extended time together at least once a year. Getting to visit new places or travel with other people we love is just the icing on the cake.

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Vacation Plan #1: Jacksonville, Florida

After my family went to Colorado last summer, it wasn’t long before my dad started talking about making the trip again this year. But then my brother moved to Jacksonville last December to become the newest meteorologist at Action News Jax, and even though my dad has never been a big beach person, I not-so-subtly suggested that our vacay plans should be to Florida this summer – and he took the bait!! I haven’t spent much time on the East Coast and I’ve never been to Florida before, so I’m really excited to get my tan on.

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Vacation Plan #2: Royal Caribbean Cruise

When Daniel and I took our first Caribbean cruise, we both said at the end of the week that we would love to go on a cruise with a group. We enjoyed the time away, just the two of us, but we kept thinking about how fun it would be to eat, lounge, and explore with some of our friends. We FINALLY booked our trip to Honduras, Cozumel, and Costa Maya after months of talking about it, and I’m freaking out a little!! So ready to go on a friendscation.

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Vacation Plan #3: Beaver’s Bend State Park

Equally as much as we want to travel with a group of friends, we’ve specifically been wanting to travel with two of our best friends for several years now; it’s just never worked out because of conflicting schedules and new babies. But I think the stars have finally aligned, haha! Spending an extended weekend in a cabin is actually on my 30 By 30 list too, so I’ll get to kill two birds with one stone. Please spam me with any cabin recommendations if you’ve stayed in the area before!

I can’t wait to start packing! Where are you going this year?

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! ♥

 

Playing Catch Up

It does NOT feel possible that tomorrow is the first day of November. October went by in a FLASH, and boy was it full! I’ve got lots of content planned, but here’s a little preview/life update in the meantime!

This wasn’t technically in October, but I hosted a sprinkles-themed baby shower for my friend Brianna and her baby girl Mallorie, and it was so perfect!! I’ll share more pictures soon. I can’t wait to meet Mallorie in a few short weeks!

Daniel and I got to take a trip to Las Vegas at the beginning of the month, because I EARNED IT. Still doesn’t feel real to say that, even though I’ve got the pictures and everything to prove it. I met some goals in my MONAT business this year and earned this trip, for free. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood resort, and it did not disappoint!

Fitz continued to be adorable, like always.

Speaking of adorable – I got to welcome the most perfect human into the world last week, and my heart still explodes every time I look at this picture. Say hello to my “nephew”/self-appointed secondary child by proxy, Cole Alan! ♥♥♥

I also got to check something off of my 30 By 30 list – throwing someone a surprise party! And what an EPIC surprise party it was. My friend Sheridan wanted to throw one for her husband, Jeremy, and asked me to help. It was incredibly nerve-wracking keeping the secret and hoping it didn’t get ruined, but we pulled it off! Jeremy was very surprised, and we had a blast celebrating with everyone. And it’ll be really hard to top a Stranger Things theme.

What a lovely month it was! Stay tuned for more detailed posts and lots more photos of our October adventures :) 

Colorado Road Trip: Part II

If you missed Part I of this trip, read this post first!

I honestly don’t know how people drive safely in Colorado. Everywhere you look, the view is constantly like this:

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And for those of you who have been to Colorado before, you know this picture doesn’t even do it justice. I mean, seriously – how do drivers keep their eyes on the road??  The closer we got to Pagosa Springs, the more beautiful the view became, and I, for one, couldn’t stop staring.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I completely forgot to take any pictures of our cabin. But I did snap a few of the view from our wraparound porch! This one ⇓ was taken from the front door, facing the driveway…

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…and this one ⇓ was taken from the side. If the photo panned further to the right, you’d be able to see that the trees get even thicker. This was my favorite spot to sit and read – the air was clear, the view was spectacular, and the atmosphere was so calming. It did my heart good.

One of my favorite things we did on the trip was go whitewater rafting! My parents aren’t super outdoorsy, particularly my dad, but they had gone rafting on several trips they took together and knew they wanted to take the rest of us. We rafted the San Juan River with the guys from Pagosa Outside, and it was a BLAST! Our guide was hilarious, and I was really thankful that they put us in full wetsuits – the water in the river was snow less than 12 hours before we were splashing around in it! I have nothing but good things to say about that day.

Another place we visited that was really enjoyable was Chimney Rock! It doesn’t look very big in the picture below that I took from the highway, but trust me. It’s ENORMOUS.

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Funny story (actually not really that funny), we ended up going to Chimney Rock twice! Our original plan was to check out Mesa Verde, but we decided it was a bit too far of a drive from where we were staying, so we looked for something a bit closer. Chimney Rock was only about 20 minutes from our cabin, so we drove up after lunch. We paid for parking and entrance to the area, only to find out after going on a truly dumb self-guided walking tour that we were too late for the actual hike up to Chimney Rock. Which the park volunteers neglected to tell us before taking our money. *facepalm* So basically, we paid to walk around a sidewalk for 30 minutes before going back to the cabin. We were very frustrated, but Dad really wanted us to get to explore the mountain, so we went back again later that week. And it really was incredible! I’m not a big history buff, but I love looking at old structures and imagining the people who lived there, and I’m always a sucker for a good view.

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This is about as close as we were able to get – the trail leading closer to the rock mounds had gotten really scary, and they don’t take guests that way anymore. The pictures don’t even do justice to how huge they were.

Aaaaaaaaaand this is what happens when you try to get Daniel to take a picture of you jumping in the air on top of a mountain.

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We could literally see for miles. One of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen.

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The rest of the week was spent watching movies, eating, and taking turns washing dishes after discovering that the cabin we were staying in didn’t have a dishwasher. Lol. But it was an amazing week, regardless, and I hope we get to go back!

P.S. Oh and also, for the sentimental types: I met Daniel 8 years ago today, on August 2nd, 2009. EIGHT. YEARS. AGO. Time flies! ♥

Colorado Road Trip: Part I

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Ahhhhh, this trip was such a breath of fresh air – literally! Colorado fully exceeded my expectations and was unbelievably beautiful. Neither Daniel nor I had ever been to Colorado before, and this was also our first time to go on vacation with my family. So many wonderful memories were made!

The first leg of our journey took us through Amarillo to pick up my brother, Corey. He’s a meteorologist for KAMR, and an amazing one at that. We got a tour of his station, stood in front of the green screen and pointed at nothing, and even watched him do the weather live from inside the studio! Proud sister moment. :)

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The next morning, we drove the rest of the way to Colorado and made it to our cabin, which I somehow managed to take ZERO PICTURES OF. *facepalm* Regardless, it was comfy and cute and had a terrific view! I’ll share some picture of the view from the front porch in my next post.

Our week was spent relaxing, watching movies, playing games, and taking in the scenery through several means, including whitewater rafting and hiking. Our first activity was taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train from – you guessed it – Durango to Silverton. We had a front-row seat to mountain views and the rushing river from our open-air car, and it was an amazing experience!

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Silverton, it turns out, is just baaaaarely a town. Definitely touristy, but it was easy to navigate and I was very impressed with the shopping. Almost every store carried genuinely cute, clever things I had never seen before, and the downtown walk through all the little shops really was enjoyable. Especially when all you had to do was glance up and see huge mountains towering above everything else around you. *sigh*

Can you imagine if that were your Main Street??

After we got back to the cabin, Daniel and Corey decided that they wanted to take me and Robyn on a hike to a spot they visited the night before. Little did I know how much further they would take us past the point they hiked to before, and how much I would hate everyone by the time we were done. Lol. The altitude was killing me, and I felt out of breath after going just a few yards. But we made it to the top of a pretty significant peak, and the view from the top was choice.

This is the face of a girl who realized she had to climb all the way back down and already hated everything after scaling a very steep mountain and almost dying.

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But still. That view, right??

Part II coming soon!

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.