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My Top 10 Book Recommendations

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I have always loved reading and writing. Once I grew up, got out of school, and began college, reading got put on the back burner. I often question why I put something that I am so passionate about below everything else. I couldn’t find an answer. So, I am on a journey to start reading again in my adulthood– the problem: I am not really into “adult” books. (You know the self help books that everyone seems to be reading and writing lately) So, I am about to recommend my favorite books that I have read in the past couple of years (Because, I am still working on reading 2 books in a year). Most of them, are probably going to make you judge me because I know Jr. High and even elementary age kids reading the same things, but these are the books that actually make me want to read.

1.Because of Winn Dixie

This one HAD to be at the top for me. As a kid, it was one of my favorite movies and books. I re-read the book a couple of years ago and it was still just as captivating. As an adult, this one is very do-able if you have limited reading time. I was reading it for a class one semester and read the whole thing in two days.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is about a young girl that just moved to a different city with her dad. She finds a dog at the beginning of the book, which leads her to meet many different people. It is a heart warming novel that even a fourth grader could read if they wanted to. (Disclosure: There are some tear jerker parts of the story, but it is mostly pure joy).

2.The Lipstick Gospel

This is a great book for Christian girls that are college age. (Though it could be read by anyone and any age) It is also a quick read if you are trying to get in a habbit of reading again, this could be a great start.

Its an autobiography about a sorority girl that just went through a hard breakup. She ends up flying across the world to Europe where she meets Jesus. It is by Stephanie Mae Wilson and it is her true testimony. I could read this book over and over again and the best part is that you can get it for free on her website. Visit stephaniemaewilson.com to get the free digital download of the book.

3. The Who Was…? Book Series

Here is one of those books I said that you would judge me for recommending. I love a good biography (especially if it is about a historic figure or someone I look up to) . This series has such a great selection of biographies including Dr. Seuss, Jesus, Harriet Tubman, and Mark Twain. They were written for elementary aged students, so they are very easy to read and include all the important information, some funny facts, and illustrations. These books are right up my alley !

4.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Disclosure: I have not read Tom Sawyer yet. I am sorry. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are some of my husbands favorite books from his childhood. Last year, I wanted to get into some of the classics that I had (for some reason) never read. I figured that I’d start with these since they were so important to Cody. I started with Huck Finn because I had heard more about it, but (half way through) was teased by my husband for reading them out of order. Tom Sawyer is now on my list of must reads this year, but Huck Finn made it into my top 10.

If you are like me and never really got familiar with these books, but I’ll give you a quick summary of Huck Finn. Its about a boy that’s pretty much an orphan (his dads a drunk and only comes around when he needs money ) and his mom died. Huck gets sick of being abused by his dad and decides to run away and fake his death. He later runs into a local slave that he knows, Jim. Jim also ran away to be free. Huck decides to help Jim and they both raft down the river, where they run into lots of exciting adventures. I don’t want to ruin it too much for you, but it really is a great read!

It took me a few months to read. Although it is good, it is a bigger book and because of the way that it was written, it may take some extra time to get through the pages. If you are looking for a great book to invest some time into this one is perfect. (But maybe read Tom Sawyer first since it references it a lot.)

5.The Giver

If you have ever seen the movie, it does not do the book justice. This book is set in the future, which makes every aspect tug at my heart in someway (like, “What if this really happened?” and ” Oh my gosh! That’s pretty similar to this!!”) If you think like that too, then you will love this book. It’s more of a junior high level book, so it may take a little longer to read.

It’s about a future where you really have no choices or differences. (Skin color is not a thing, divorce is not a thing, miscarriage and infertility is not a thing, and poverty is not a thing. ) The government has found systematic ways to get rid of all of these things. (It goes into more detail in the book as to how this started and why the world is this way)

In the book, everyone is assigned their jobs. Some people are nurses, some are teachers, ect.The main character is a boy named Jonah. It takes place around his 12th birthday, which is the age that everyone receives their assignments. Jonah gets a strange assignment that he has never heard of which allows him to begin training under The Giver. While training, he gets to see glimpses of how the world used to be. You’ll have to read the book to find out how he reacted and how he kept this new information a secret.

6. The Harry Potter Series

Here’s another series for ya! I have always loved the Harry Potter series ! I haven’t read it in years, but this series is on my reading list for this year…fingers crossed that I get to it. I feel like this is too popular to have to explain what they’re about. However, I will say that the books are so much better than the movies. The details are better and the characters are more rounded out. Overall, this is a series that I can read over and over again and never get sick of it. The books are super big though, so it will probably take a while to read even one with a busy schedule. (Unless you are a quick reader) .

7.The Life We Bury

We have picked up a new hobby when road tripping: audible. I have a lot of trouble staying focused while listening to books, but I found that a good mystery book will always keep me interested. The next 3 books are all audible mystery books that we could not get enough of.

The life we bury is about a college student (Joe) that visits a nursing home to interview someone for a project. The interviewee turns out to be an ex-convict that got released with months left to live. He was convicted of rape and murder over 30 years ago. As Joe continues the interviews, he comes to believe that the man is innocent and is determined to prove his innocence before the man dies.

8.Safe Houses

Safe houses started my love for audio books. This book switches between 2 main characters. (So it can be difficult to keep up with on audio book) . With this being said, it is a great read that will have you listening to every detail to try and solve the mystery.

One of the stories in the book is based in 1979. The main character overhears a C-I-A conversation that was top secret. It shares her story as she runs from the C-I-A and tries to decipher their code words.

The other story takes place in 2014 . The main character’s parents have recently been mysteriously murdered. She begins to go through her parents things and uncover the reason for their murder.

9.Something In the Water

This book draws you in from the very beginning and has you questioning the entire time. It is so easy to binge read this mystery thriller and I am sure you could re-read it multiple times and find something new every time you read it.

It’s about a couple that finds a lost treasure on their honeymoon and decide to keep it. After this decision, their lives start to get more complicated and the husband eventually goes missing. While continuing to interview criminals for work, the wife begins to take advice from the criminals in an attempt to figure out what happened to her husband and if it has something to do with what they found that day. It is a page turner and you will not regret reading it.

10. Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH

This is another children’s book, but it’s such a good read. I was obsessed with the movies when I was younger, so when I found out that the movies were based off of a book, I had to read the books. Sometimes it’s refreshing to read a lower level book that reminds you of your childhood. Books are supposed to be a great way to escape everyday life and that is exactly what this one did for me.

It is about a small mouse that is widowed. Her son is ill and she heard that her home was going to be destroyed soon. She searches for a way to move her family without exposing her son to the cool air that may kill him. In a panic, she reaches out to the rats of NIMH for help.

This story seems boring or basic, but it spices up when you find out that the rats are geniuses. They have figured out how to create electricity in a hole under a rose bush and have libraries where they all know how to read. You will have to read the book to find out the secret of why the rats are so smart!

Whether you are trying to fit reading into your busy schedule as an adult or you are just looking for a new book to read, I hope this helped you. Lots of these books are easy reads to fit into your everyday life. Thanks for reading along and if you have any recommendations of your own, let me know!

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How We Knew RV Life Was For Us

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“Y’all are crazy!” “How are you really going to pull this off ??” Statements that I’ve heard over and over since I started telling people about our plan to get an RV, live in it, and travel around the country full time. My only answer to these statements is, ” Yeah we are a little crazy and we have no clue how we are going to pull it off… but God does.” This was not a long time planned thing. A year ago this was no where on our radar, but here we are. Today I am going to walk you through the crazy process we went through and how we decided that RV life was for us.

Cody an I have always loved traveling. After our first mission trip we fell in love so hard that we thought we would be full time missionaries. (that could still be true, you never know what God has up his sleeve.) In 2016, I remember planning out our 10 year plan. We were going to do long term missions and eventually start our own organization. I was caught off guard when someone on our mission trip that year told us that our future was going to be different that what we were planning, but it was still going to serve God and the kingdom. I had no clue what that really meant (and still am not sure if I do.) I just remember thinking, ” So we aren’t going to get to do missions in Greece one day?” and I was a little bummed.

Fast forward and we got married. Reality started to take place. We had bills to pay, school to attend, money to make. We had way less time than we ever thought. We started settling. I was planning on graduating and then getting a house. Long term travel was no longer in the picture. I just wanted stability. Just like all the other small chapters of our lives, the chapter of becoming adults and being unstable ended.

In August of 2019, we were planning on spending the summer of 2020 in Spain. I threw out another crazy idea.( I have lots of them, but most don’t happen) ” Why don’t we spend a year there?!” Cody said I was crazy and getting a visa would be too difficult but we still threw around the idea of spending 3 months there. We just weren’t sure if it would be during the summer or in the fall. These plans came to a very sudden halt when COVID hit.

Everywhere was locked down and we saw no hint to when things would begin to open again, much less when we would be able to safely travel abroad. I began to look for houses. I wanted a change. I just wasn’t sure what kind of change.

Here’s a little fun fact about me: I have always felt like a homebody. I told myself that I don’t like change. I don’t like to move. I want a place to call mine and that is all I need. I was wrong in every single way… and I am somehow just now seeing this. We were in our first home for 6 months before I decided I wanted to move. We were in our second home for less than a year when I pitched the Spain idea. I am realizing that change is no issue to me. I do love being around family… but family can come to me and I can always come back to them. I am fine going where ever… as long as Cody is with me. (sounds sappy, but it’s true.)

Anyways, I was looking at houses. We even tried to buy a fixer upper in Ponchatoula, but our credit wasn’t where it needed to be yet. I had no clue at the time, but not getting this house was a God send. I started looking at potential houses in Florida, Colorado, Texas, and Hawaii. I just couldn’t find peace about any of the places I was looking into. Them I had (yet another) crazy idea… We should get a camper and travel for a few years!!! Cody was not on board. The price was way more than he thought acceptable. He was concerned about money. He didn’t know about leaving our family. Lots of factors went into our thoughts on if we should stay or just go! I couldn’t explain it, but I just had an easy feeling about this one.

I didn’t say another word about it. I just prayed that night while Cody was in the other room. I remember telling God that if this was just another one of my crazy ideas to let it pass. I wasn’t ever going to mention it again. If it was something that He had placed on my heart and this was His plan for my life, then let Cody agree to it, but I was not going to interfere by talking about it. Without saying another word, the first thing Cody said when he woke up was, ” Do you really want to get a camper?” Cody had no clue about my conversation with God at this point, but the fact that those were his first words to me confirmed that this was, in fact, God’s plan.

As time went on, Cody started to doubt it. He was getting nervous about leaving and being financially stable and all the other things that are completely normal to worry about, but I knew this was our calling.

In August, we took a one month road trip through Colorado while tent camping. This was where Cody really jumped on board with the camper idea. He said, ” This is life. This is living. This is where we are happiest. On the road, exploring new places.” That trip sealed the deal.

When we got our stimulus checks, we used them to pay off all of our debt. (except our credit cards) We spent the next few month restraining from traveling and working our butts off. We got our credit up a substantial amount, got the loans and by early December, ( a month before our lease was up) we had the camper and truck.

We aren’t sure what the future holds. We don’t really have a plan. We are just living in the moment and looking into all the options possible for income on the road. We are excited for this journey and where it is going to take us. Make sure to follow along. Our first big trip kicks off soon and I will make sure to to write all about it, vlog about it, and constantly update Instagram. Thanks for all the support!

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2020 Wasn’t That Bad

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The new year is here and in full force. 2020 was labeled a horrible year for most. Alot of people suffered losses of loved ones and their dreams were crushed with the mandate to quarantine, but others found 2020 to be great. They found out that they were capable of so much more than they thought and they found creative ways to see family, maintain businesses, and build relationships. I fall in the 2020 was good category.

I have always been a positive person, so I’m not really sure I would have ever seen this year as “the worst year ever” even if I had accomplished nothing. That isn’t the case for me, though. I accomplished alot and plan on accomplishing even more during 2021. (I am not saying that to be cliche. I truly mean it. I have big things planned for this year.)

This post is just going to be a small review of 2020… so, LET’S GET GOIN’!

2020 started off great we headed out to Banff within the 1st 2 weeks. It was my first trip that I planned all on my own and it was Cody’s Christmas gift. It was a learning process, but you can read all about it, because that was my first ever blog post!

Outside of the hot springs in Banff.

Canada kicked off my blog which was a long time dream of mine. I have always loved writing. (I even used to write chapter books back in grade school) I knew I wanted a way to share our adventures with our friends and family and I finally got up the courage to start the blog in 2020.

When school started in January, I decided to take all online classes so I could make more time to work, make money for summer road trips, and save for a house. God switched that plan up a little bit, but I fully believe that He already had this year planned for me when I was picking my schedule for the semester. Because of the school schedule I had lined up, I was able to continue school with no interruptions when we shut down for quarantine.

Since I had a ton of free time because work was closed, I had more time to focus on school and to pour into the blog and my soul. I spent hours a day going on walks, reading on the balcony, having dance parties, and writing blog posts while binge watching my favorite shows.

Once numbers began going down and places started opening back up, Cody and I had had enough and started going on trips. We spent nearly the whole month of May at the beach catching up with our friends and family. We also took a 1 week trip to Chattanooga and another month long trip across Colorado.

Gulf shores, AL
Foster Falls , TN
Alamosa, CO

When we returned home at the end of August, we had tons of wedding festivities lined up for 2 of our good friends that were getting married in early October. So September revolved around celebrating them & I am not even mad about it. Celebrating people always brings me joy and I always wish I could do more for them … so when it’s 2 people I care this deeply for, I will happily go all in !

In October, we decided to start saving up for our camper. We finally got our stimulus checks and used them to pay off most of our debt and worked our butts off to get the rest paid, so we could work towards our dream life.

We spent pretty much the rest of 2020 doing this and enjoying the time we had with friends and family.

I know everyone’s 2020 story looks different. Some are filled with sadness, some are filled with pure joy, others are just boring, and a few are similar to mine… good, full of accomplishment, but still weird. Now, 2020 has passed and we have a new year to make memories for. Take this time to think of how you want your 2021 summary to look. Don’t let society label how your year will look. If things get messed up, look at it as a blessing and see how it helps you… not how it hurts you. You got this!

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Top 5 Things to do in Gatlinburg, TN

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Gatlinburg is a great destination for people that love city life and the outdoors. It’s the perfect spot for group trips because there is a little something for everyone. You can go on a walk and see mountain views and then drive for 20 minutes and take a tour of the city. In today’s post I’ll be summing up some of my favorite things to do in the Gatlinburg area.

1. Ripley’s Mirror Maze

There are two and one is way better than the other, so make sure you go to the right one. The one we like so much is inside of a candy shop. If you purchase tickets, you can go back as many times as you want that day. This is the perfect thing for families, but it can also be great for just adults… and let me tell you how. There are 3D glasses that you can buy for $3 extra that will distort the room. It is the main thing that brings this attraction from something for kids to something an adult will love. If you drink, go drop in on a few of the moonshine tastings around town and then go take another visit to the mirror maze with your glasses on…. good luck getting out!

2. Rowdy Bear Ridge Lazer Gun Coaster

Rowdy Bear Ridge is actually a whole adventure park, but it looked closed when we went… not sure it it was because of COVID or other reasons. I found the lazer gun coaster on Groupon originally, both my husband and his friend love lazer tag, and the tickets were under $20 (even without groupon)… so we went for it. When we got there we found out that the ticket price includes 2 rides on the coaster.

On the coaster, you sit beside someone you know and each of you get a gun. There are targets below the coaster that you have to shoot. Each color is worth a different amount of points, but if you max out the points on your gun, you get a free ride on the rowdy bear alpine coaster.

This is a great family activity because it can include and entertain all ages. It can also call for some friendly competition between family members. (If you are into that)

3. Sugarland Distillary

I will stand by my opinion that Sugarland is better than Ole Smokey. The atmosphere is amazing. The people just seem like they love their jobs and they are so helpful and friendly. If you stop at Sugarland you HAVE to do the moonshine tasting. You will pay $5, but it comes with a coupon for $5 off of your next purchase. (& you can combine them and collect them for a few days which is helpful if you go multiple times or want to split a jar with a friend or 2.) With the tasting you get to try 12 different flavors and a bonus cocktail made from 2 of the flavors you are tasting. Every day the flavors are rotated and changed, but I haven’t tried very many flavors that I didn’t like. (Hazelnut and apple pie are the best along with all of the sippin’ creams)

4. Ripley’s Aquarium

This is by far the best aquarium I have ever been to. There are so many different sections to see. There is a play area if you have young kids (it’s about halfway through so you can stop if you have so they don’t get tired of just walking around) . They also have a glass bottom boat tour over the shark aquarium. My favorite part was the Ripley memorial section. There is a short movie about his life and a room full of Ripley fun facts and things that he discovered from all over the world. This place is great for families or adults. All ages can have fun here.

5. Rowdy Bear Alpine Coaster

We have gone on a few alpine coasters when visiting Gatlinburg, but this one really stood out. You can pay extra to get the lazer tag feature and play lazer tag while riding the coaster. When you get on the ride there are Christmas lights everywhere, which gives the best experience on a night ride. (These may only be here because I went in December) Overall the riding experience was great. They also had different deals to get multiple rides on the coaster.

Gatlinburg is one of our favorite places and every time we go, we find more things to do. If you are planning a trip to this area any time soon, I hope these things helped you find great ways to spend your time.

My College Experience

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Wow! This Holiday season has been a little weird, kind of stressful, really exciting, and a bit bitter sweet. In the midst of all the holiday chaos and COVID panic, Cody and I decided to make a HUGE move and I graduated from college. I’ll touch more on our big move in another post. (why, how, what our plans for the future are, and all the other big questions.) But, today’s post is all about college and life after graduation.

This whole year has been weird, so it’s only right that my graduation be weird and confusing too, right? I actually finished school this summer with a summer semester. The commencement was originally moved to August due to COVID, but since numbers weren’t really dropping, it got moved, again, to December. I ultimately decided not to participate in commencement due to the guidelines, budgeting, and the fact that I hadn’t attended school since July.

Since I didn’t make a big deal of graduating, I wanted to share a little post to wrap it up and honor the past 5 years like they should be. No matter the circumstances or the degree, I feel like graduating is a huge accomplishment and deserves some celebration. So, here we go … my 5 years of college, summed up!

I graduated high school in 2015 and was 99.99% sure I wanted to be a nurse. (My engagement ring size and style was even based on the fact that I didn’t want to rip my gloves at work) I only had 1 week between my high school graduation and my first day of college. I am kidding you not, I worked on homework on my senior trip and family vacations. I wanted to graduate early and was pretty determined to.

My high school graduation night.

I had a dorm my first semester, and let my tell you, sharing that small of a space with someone you don’t know is really weird. I didn’t have roommates that I didn’t like, it was just odd… like how do you set boundaries when you both share a desk and a sink ? My first roommate moved a month in because she was a germaphobe and just couldn’t deal with the shared showers (I can’t blame her). My second roommate wasn’t horrible, we just didn’t talk much. (So you can guess how that went. )

My dorm room.

This semester I worked 2 jobs, went home on the weekends, took 18 hours of classes, and still finished with all A’s and B’s . So, far college was off to a great start.

As my next semester carried on I had moved home and dropped one of my jobs. My grades dropped and I began to get exhausted. My plans of summer classes got canceled. I was burnt out. I thought a break for the summer would refresh and recharge me. Little did I know…

A week before the next semester started, I got engaged and our entire city flooded. My home and Cody’s had flooded and we were both living with friends or family by the time school started. I still kept my 17 hours of classes that I had planned… that was a mistake.

Cody proposed at the aquarium.
Some of the flood photos

At the end of the semester… about a month before the semester had ended I remember saying to Cody, “If nursing doesn’t work out, I may try teaching.” I had made this statement so many times in the past about so many different things. I am super multipassionate and have so many things I want to do with life, so this statement had always been a thing that I say, shrug off, and we move on. That was not the case this time. He said, “Why don’t you?” We weighed out the pros and cons and it seemed right. I had failed microbiology and anatomy for the second time this semester… I was just wasting money at this point. So, I did it. I switched my major to early childhood education. I wanted to be a first grade teacher.

The next semester was the semester before we got married. I had so many wedding events to attend, but my education classes were so intriguing and exciting so I didn’t struggle at all. I was so excited to be learning new things.

Before my first observation in the education field.

I decided that I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher the following semester after observing the same kindergarten class 10+ times that semester. I fell in love with the kids at that age. We had some issues with financial aid after that semester, so I took a semester off to get that straight and worked at PJ’S and at our church pretty much full time.

When I returned I only had a year before I started methods (1 step before student teaching.) Things were getting more serious, but I was still so excited and happy with the major I picked I loved the kids and all of the education classes. They were all so full of positivity and fun.

Come fall of 2019, everything changed. I was in methods … I had made it… so I thought. This class was not full of positivity like all the others had been. It demanded so much time and so much money. And they talked about all the ways you can fail. I paid, I spent the money, I went broke. I couldn’t work. I was stressed. I finally broke after my first full week of teaching. I decided to drop. I needed a break. Maybe this wasn’t for me. Maybe I just needed a break and then I would be able to tackle it again… I wasn’t sure. The only thing that I was sure of was that I needed to get out for my mental health, financial health, and for my marriage.

After lots of thought and prayer, I decided to switch to general studies. I could graduate by the end of the summer. I still had no clue what I wanted to do, but I knew college was not it.

The next semester was so easy. All of my classes were online except one, so I wasn’t really phased when everything shut down. In fact it gave me a ton of time to focus on my school work.

So there you have it. 5 years. Engaged. Married. 1 major natural disaster. 2 pandemic. 2 changes of my major. I made it out ! I’m not really sure where I am going, but I’m on my way. I still have so many plans with life and can’t wait to see exactly what God has up his sleeve for me.

To anyone reading that’s still in college: It’s ok. You’re going to make it. You are doing great and if you feel like what you are doing isn’t working, try something new. Don’t listen to societies opinions or what you think will make someone else happy. Do you and do your best at it. It is enough.

Top 5 Go-To Budget Family Christmas Party Games

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The holidays are upon us, Christmas is just two weeks away, and parties are around every corner. I love hosting parties and always find myself as the host of most of the holiday parties around here (which I have no problem with.) The only problem that I run into every year is what games to play. Today I am going to share five Christmas party games that we have found to be big hits at our Christmas parties

1.White Elephant

This is a usual at almost every Christmas party we attend. There are different names for it and different ways to play, but no matter what you call it or what rules you use, your friends are sure to love it. This game requires everyone to bring a gift. Make sure you choose a reasonable price range. The gifts can be funny or serious. (A couple of funny ones usually ensure a good time)

How to play:

. number a few pieces of paper or cards (if you have 9 participants, only number to 9.)

. Have your guests draw 1 card from a hat or bowl.

. The guest that chose the card with the number 1 on it gets to go first. They can choose any gift in the stack without knowing who it’s from or what it is.

. Once guest number one has revealed their gift, the guest that picked number 2 gets to choose between taking guest number one’s gift that is already revealed or choose a mystery gift from the stack.

. If guest number 2 chooses a mystery gift, carry on with the game and move on to player 3. If player 2 has stolen player one’s gift, allow player one to choose a new gift.

. Continue with these rules until each person has got a chance to pick a gift.

.Once everyone has a gift, allow player one to have a chance to steal a gift. If player one chooses to steal someone’s gift, they will give their current gift to the victim.

2. Santa Clause Drinking Game

This game has simple rules. You just place a Santa hat on the corner of your T.V. and turn on a Christmas movie or show episode. (Depending on how much time you want to spend on this) Every time it looks like a character is wearing the Santa hat, everyone drinks. You can also make this as intense as you and your guests want. We usually just take a sip of wine or whatever we happen to be drinking, but if you are up for getting a little crazy, you can do shots.

3.Snowball Shake

This game went viral, so I am sure you know how to play, but if you don’t know, I’ll explain.

You will need an empty tissue box, some string or a belt, and some ping pong balls.

To play, you are going to loop the belt or string through the tissue box and fill the box with ping pong balls. Then you will tie the box around the players waist using the string or belt. (This is where the rules can become your own) Choose to pit 2 players against each other and have the person to shake all the balls out first win or (to move the game along) you can time them and see who can shake the most balls out in the short time frame. However you decide to play, your guests will have a blast watching everyone shake their butts to win the game!

4. Cookie or Gingerbread House Decorating.

(If you choose to do a gingerbread house, I would pair everyone off into teams) all you need to do is set a timer and let your guests get to work. Allow them to use all the icing and sprinkles their heart desires and don’t forget to have fun. Have at least 1 judge (or let everyone vote for someone that isn’t their own) the best looking house/cookie wins!

5. Christmas Charades

You can find printable cards anywhere or make your own. If you don’t know how to play charades, you will just need to pair everyone into 2 different teams. You will need to have 1 player from the 1st team come up and try to act out a card. If their team guesses the card correctly, they can keep choosing cards until the timer is up. Once that team’s turn has run out, record the number of cards guessed correctly and move on to the next team. Allow all of the players from each team to participate and the team with the most cards guessed correctly at the end will win.

These are just a few small ideas. Most of them don’t require alot of materials or a huge budget. Remember to have fun with it and find a game that your guests will love too. Take a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a chill might with your friends. Merry Christmas !

5 Easy and Popular Party Foods

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I know I have been talking a lot about food lately, but it IS the holidays and good food is everywhere ! I just can’t help myself. I won’t be sharing any recipes today but I will be sharing some easy, fun foods that I love enjoying at any holiday party! I always have great ideas for parties and party foods, but when it comes down to it, I just procrastinate a little too long. These are some party foods that I can always turn to if I am running behind and looking for a treat that will be loved.

1.Pepper Jelly Dip.

My first pick is so easy, yet so good. Pepper Jelly Dip is perfect for when you are throwing together a quick party or forgot to make a dish for tonight’s Christmas party. All you need is a block of cream cheese, a jar of pepper jelly, and some crackers to dip in it. Go ahead and bring a serving knife or butter knife because cheap plastic knives and a cracker won’t cut through the cream cheese easily.

2. Bacon Wrapped Smokies

Need I say more? So easy & you can find the recipe online for cooking instructions. These take a little more time to prepare, but they don’t require a lot of ingredients and they are a crowd favorite at every party we serve them at. You just need bacon, a pack of smokey sausages, brown sugar, and tooth picks.

3. Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Cody’s mom always makes these around the holidays. They are great if you have a sweet tooth . I have made them for teachers as Christmas gifts and we have served them at parties. You just use chocolate chip cookie dough and a peanut butter cup and place them in a mini muffin pan & POOF!! You have a perfect sweet treat for any holiday event.

4. Deviled Eggs

Okay, so these are kind of hit or miss but my family and I love them. They are a staple at any family gathering. Once the eggs are boiled and peeled, the prepping process is so easy. They are a great finger food to have at any party.

5. Cake Balls

Homemade cakeballs are always a hit. Never fails. You almost can’t mess this one up. They have to be baked and frozen, but they are so simple. The hardest part is the chocolate coating, but even if they look bad they are still usually a hit because they taste so good.

I hope some of these holiday food ideas save you at this year’s holiday parties. We love these items at almost every party and they are usually the things that people gather around and clear out before the party ends. If something caught your eye and you do want me to make a recipe post, leave a comment. Happy holidays !

Easy Green Bean Cassarole

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Time for another pre-Thanksgiving recipe! I can literally shovel this stuff into my mouth at any time of year…Green bean casserole! This is by far my favorite Thanksgiving food of all time.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

. 1 (10.5 OZ.) can of condensed cream of mushroom.

. 1/2 cup of milk

. 1/8 TSP. of ground black pepper

.2 (14.5 OZ.) cans of green beans (I prefer cut green beans, but any type will work)

. 1 1/3 cup of crispy fried onions.

LET’S GET COOKIN!!

1.preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit

2. Mix pepper, milk, and cream of mushroom in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

3. Stir in green beans and 2/3 cup of crispy fried onions.

4.Bake for 30 minutes. Stir.

5. Top with remaining onions. ( I never measure this part. I just cover the top on the casserole completely)

6. Bake for 5 minutes or until onions are golden brown.

That’s it! Such an easy recipe and a crowd favorite for any holiday (or enjoy it any time of year!) I hope your family enjoys this dish as my as my husband and I do!

Gift Guide for Boys (8-12)

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year and everyone is bustling around looking for Christmas gifts. People can be hard to shop for, especially if you are trying to find a gift they will actually like. I always have the most trouble buying for the boys and men in my life….what do they even like?! I’ve put together 5 gifts that are sure to be a hit with any 8-12 year old boy in your life.

My first gift idea is a classic…nerf gun. For real, guys never get sick of a good nerf gun. They make so many different kinds, so you can get creative and get one big one or get a set. (Maybe even one for the whole family & have a family nerf war?!)

The next idea is darts and a dart board. Get a set. The boy will like it because it’s entertaining and it looks cool in their room. It also helps with coordination if they practice. This one is under $30!

Next is a little pricier… a lazer tag set. It comes with 4 vests and 4 guns in different colors so you can play as a family or your son can have his friends over for a fun backyard game of lazer tag.

Another pricey but good gift idea for boys is an activity table. This one has 3 table tops with a different game on each one. It comes with foosball, air hockey, and pool. Its a miniature table, so it won’t take up a ton of space in their bedroom, but it will give them entertainment that will last. (I mean how cool would this have been as a kid?!)

The final gift idea is a gaming chair. These are a little pricey, but most boys like to play video games and these chairs make that time so much more fun. Gaming chairs have speakers and a space for your headphones so they can surround themselves in the game and enjoy it alot more. Perfect gift idea for any boy that loves gaming!

Other than video games, gaming consols , or phone gear I think these gifts would be great… pretty much just because most of these can be enjoyed with their friends too. I hope these ideas help when you are thinking of gifts for your son/brother/nephew.

5 mistakes I made at my Bob Ross Paint party.

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For my birthday I had my sisters and some of my girl friends over to have a Bob Ross paint party. I had it complete with wine, halloween candy, pizza, and mimosas. I used Google to find which episode to use. There is a list of episodes by painting that has the picture of the finished painting next to each episode. (I thought this was so cool!) Since this was my first party like this, there were a few bumps in the road. So, today I am going to be sharing some things that I would’ve changed.

The first thing that I would have changed is time. I am so bad with procrastinating. I picked my episode, bought supplies, and food the day of. If I could do it over, I would have picked the painting at least a month before and ordered the EXACT colors online. Looking for the colors in hobby lobby the day of was ….oof!!

The next thing that I would have changed is the amount of paint that I bought. I read a blog that said to buy a small bottle of each color for each person…. I did not need that much. We had five people there and we didn’t even go through 1 small bottle of each color. (I also used 8×10 canvases…so this might be why?)

Scrapers!! Oh my goodness the scraper. Bob Ross rarely uses an actual paint brush. I bought paint brush sets for each person and in 90% of the video he was using his scraper. Figure out what exactly he is using and get it for everyone… it seriously would have saved us so much trouble. We ended up using finger nails, butter knives, or whatever else we had on hand.

Next, he talks and moves fast. You, most likely, are not going to follow along easily. We paused it, but we made a mistake. We were using acrylic paint, which dries easily, and when we would unpause we would end up having to “drag the brush across” to smear some of the paint colors. By the time we unpaused, our paint was completely dry and no smearing was happening. I suggest that if you use acrylic or fast drying paint that you wait until he is fully finished and had moved on to the next step of the painting…. if you have to pause. If not, keep it going…you got this!

Building on that, I would change the paint I used. If you have the time, use a slow drying paint or oil paint. It works alot better for this type of party so, if you have the time to let it dry…take advantage of it !

I want to leave this by saying that this party was a blast. None of our paintings looked like his, none looked the same, but we all had fun being creative. Support your friends when you have this party and let them know that it won’t look like his and that is ok.

Thanks for reading along and I hope this helps you if you have been thinking of throwing a Bob Ross party. It is so fun and can be as strategic or relaxed as you want to make it. Just have fun. Until next time, have a great week!

Easy, Budget Friendly Pumpkin Pie Recipe

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November is here, which means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Thanksgiving holds a place as one of my favorite holidays. The food, the family gathered around the table, remembering to be thankful (something that I need daily)… how can you not love it? In honor of Thanksgiving and all the yummy food we are going to be enjoying, I will be sharing one favorite Thanksgiving recipe of mine each week. The first recipe is a Thanksgiving must have: pumpkin pie.

I am a firm believer that some things aren’t worth the time, trouble, or money to be homemade… sometimes a cheater recipe is just as good. You can also do this recipe without a crust, in a pie pan to make it gluten free.

INGREDIENTS :

.frozen pie crust (or not if you are making it gluten free)

.15 oz. can of pumpkin

.14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk

.2 eggs

.1 tbsp of pumpkin pie spice

.1 tsp of sugar

LETS MAKE IT !

1.preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.Mix pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar in a medium sized bowl.

3.Once ingredients have been mixed well, pour the mixture into the frozen pie crust. (or into the empty pie crust if you are trying the recipe gluten free.)

4.Put the pie in the oven and let it bake for 15 minutes.

5.After the pie has baked for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for 40 minutes.

6.Once the pie has browned slightly, allow it to cool on the counter or a cooling rack before serving. (& don’t forget the cool whip when you are ready to serve!)

Thanks for reading along. I hope that this pie finds it’s way to your table and can be enjoyed by all of your friends and family. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be hard or expensive… just keep that in mind. Happy baking! Make sure to follow the blog to get updates on future posts!

Christmas Gift Ideas for Teen & 20 something Girls

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Christmas is less than two months away. With it coming up so quickly, I figured I would share some gift guides every couple of weeks to help you with ideas if you are stuck. I have four sisters between the ages of 14 and 21. Sometimes buying for them is so easy, but other times it can be hard because their interests and styles change so quickly. So today I will share five gifts that wont break the bank too much (most will be under $20) and will be a home run with any young woman in your life.

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My first option is the new ‘rock’ pop socket. Pop sockets have been popular for a while now, but this new pop socket looks classy and stylish, while still accomplishing the same thing (preventing you from dropping your phone).

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/epdv39cxj87

The next item on my list is a belt from Pink Lily. It just recently restocked, too! We all know that Gucci Belts are in high demand in the fashion industry, but Gucci is not what I would call affordable, so this is a cute and stylish alternative that your girl will still love. It looks almost identical and is only $22!

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Kendra Scott jewelry is a little more on the expensive end, but it is always a hit with this age group. You can buy pretty much any type of jewelry for a good price and it is pretty hard to get something that they wont like. They have so many different styles that you are sure to find something for everyone.

If you are looking for something a little more affordable and you want to support local businesses I highly recommend that you visit @silassistersco or @c.cain_art on instagram for some beautiful handmade clay earrings that are under $10 and stylish.

Fab fit fun boxes are also a really great gift idea for this age group. You could get them the subscription that will give them 4 boxes throughout the entire year or you can also just buy one box per person. It is full of tons of goodies that you can handpick to make the box special for the girl you’re shopping for. You can find these on fabfitfun.com

I hope this post gave you some inspiration when Christmas shopping this year. Thanks for reading along. Have a great week & make sure to follow me so you don’t miss any of my new posts this holiday season.

How to Throw a ‘Killer’ Murder Mystery Party

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As you know, murder mystery parties are a favorite of ours. We love to throw them, but they take a ton of work & involvement. A murder mystery is not a party you want to throw last minute.

You’re first step when throwing a murder mystery is to make a guest list. Figure out how many people you are wanting to invite, because each murder mystery package is made to accommodate different numbers of characters. You don’t need to buy a 50+ person package if you are only going to have 10 guests.

Once you know how many people you want to invite, visit any murder mystery website. (My go-to is mymurdermysteryparty.com) Here you can skim through several different packages and you can filter the packages based on difficulty, occasion, and guest number. There are even packages themed for certain holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, valentines day, and so many more)

Now that you have your guest list & your party package, figure out a date & either text or mail out an invite .( I always text, but I still make a cute invitation by using the evite app) As people respond, send them a photo with the description of their character. When you assign characters make sure that you only assign the required characters to your most reliable guests. If you have a guest that is always late or cancels last minute, give them an optional part. (This ensures that all of the important people for the night to carry on will be there and things won’t fall apart if someone doesn’t show up.) Don’t forget to assign yourself a part!

If you are having a large party and run out of characters, don’t worry! You can buy extension packages with extra guests on the website, or if you are a creative with a tight budget like me, you can create your own character and character descriptions. I did this for my first murder mystery party. I typed the character descriptions up to look like the original characters so people wouldn’t know that they were made up by me. (If no one knows that you made them up, they can still qualify as the murderer. If you tell them that their part was made up, they are basically disqualified from being the murderer, so keep it fun for everyone) Only a few people found out that I had written their part… and I wrote over 15 parts, so I would say it was a success. (I also only went off of the characters descriptions and first round when writing, so i wouldn’t ruin the party for myself.) Writing your own parts is a lot of work, so if you opt for it, keep that in mind.

Once everyone has RSVPed and knows their character, all you have to do until the party date is plan. Make sure you know what you want to eat, what you are going to wear, and how you want to decorate (if that’s your thing) We usually go all out for our murder mystery parties. We try to decorate our house to look like the setting in our murder mystery package, we dress for the part that we assign ourselves the best that we can, and we usually have a home cooked meal, wine tasting bar, and dessert. Make sure that you have everyone’s envelopes and name tags ready ahead of time. There is typically one envelope per guest for each round. The envelopes have each person clues for each round. (Don’t forget to label what character the envelope is for and what round it is for…this is super important!)

You made it through planning. That’s the hardest part! The day of the party can be stressful if you procrastinate like I do. But if you followed my advise,(Do as I say, not as I do. I am trying to let you learn from my mistakes) your day will go smoothly. You should only have to worry about getting dressed, having the envelopes and name tags set up, and setting up the food now.

During the party, make sure that you have an order you want to do things in, but don’t stress too much about it. Read the room, talk to your friends, and try to relax. When guests first arrive, direct them to the name tags and let them find their character. (Having a list of everyone’s name and character is a great hack because some people might not remember the name of their character.) Let everyone hangout and snack on some appatizers and finger foods while you wait for the rest of your guests. Once everyone has made it, allow everyone to introduce their character, explain how the party works, and pass out the round one envelopes.

Once round one is over, we usually have a break where everyone gets to eat dinner. At dinner, we pass out the round 2 envelopes and get started with round two once everyone is finished eating. During the rounds you and your guests will have certain conversations and clues that you will have to share with certain characters. For the most part, everyone will be mingling and joking around, just make sure that everyone has done everything on their card before wrapping up each round.

After round two, have one more little break between. We usually let everyone get refreshments and serve dessert before round 3 starts. Round 3 will start with someone finding the victim. During this round, everyone will take time to fill out a card with who they think is the killer and why based off of the information that they gathered throughout the night. Give everyone the chance to read their card before continuing round three. Once everyone read their card and get to say who they think the killer was, allow everyone to read their statements. (The card will tell each person who goes next) At the end, the killer will be revealed. Have fun with it and see how many people guessed right, you can even do a little prize for the people that guessed correctly.

Once the mystery has been solved, you are done. Feel free to get out of character and hangout with your friends for the rest of the night. A lot of time and money goes into these parties, but we have never had anyone say anything but positive things about it. We have also been to other friend’s murder mystery parties and had just as much fun. Just remember that even if you mess something up, most of your friends only came to spend time and celebrate with you, so don’t stress too much!

Christmas Gift Guide for Mom

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Parents in general can be so difficult to shop for. For the most part, I still view it as my parents have more money than me, so they can just buy whatever they want. Why would anything I get them be better than what they already have? Thoughts like this usually lead me to not buy them the original gift that I had in mind so that I can buy them the perfect gift when I find it, which usually results in me not buying Christmas gifts until a week before Christmas. Yes, your parents can usually buy whatever they want, but the gift you get them will still mean a lot for a few reasons: it’s from their child, they may not have even known about the ‘perfect gift’ that you were planning on buying them, and most parents choose to spend their money of necessities, bills, and their children, so they enjoy getting gifts.

Before you stop reading and get sassy with me, I am not skipping Halloween or Thanksgiving. I am not just fast forwarding to Christmas. Fall is still my favorite season for way too many ways to name. I am simply trying to help out some fellow gift-givers find the perfect gift for their mom without having to settle or stress because of time restraints.

Birth Flower Jewlery Collection

Charm necklace: https://rstyle.me/cz-n/ekzr7mcxj87 Bracelet: https://rstyle.me/cz-n/ekzr9acxj87 Layered necklace: https://rstyle.me/cz-n/ekzr56cxj87

The first gift that I wanted to share is a jewelry line on mademymary.com. Made by Mary is such a beautiful jewelry shop. They do so many special things. My favorite collection is the birth flower collection. Each month has it’s own birth flower… similar to how every month has a birth stone. Made by Mary engraves the hand-drawn flowers onto their jewelry in such a beautiful way. (Can you tell, I kind of want one for myself?) You can choose if you want gold, rose gold, or silver and even how many flowers you get, depending on the piece you choose from. Any of these pieces would be perfect for your mom, grandma, or any new mom in your life. Just get it engraved with their children’s birth flowers on it.

Recipe Tea Towel

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I found this on Etsy and it is such a genuine gift for any sentimental mom. These towels use a photo of a handwritten recipe from a loved one and have it printed on the towel. You can choose what style you want to do and if you want to add any special touches. This gift is a really good idea for your mom if you have handwritten recipe cards from her mom or grandmother.

Family Photoshoot

This is one that I have been thinking about for years. Moms love photos of their kids. Especially once all of their kids have grown and it is so hard to get them all in one place at the same time. This is something that I know my mom, grandma, and mother-in-law would all enjoy. You can do this one of two ways: You could do a photoshoot of just the children before Christmas and gift your mom the digital copies or a photobook or you could print a card of some sort, letting your mom know that you booked a photoshoot for a specific time or day after Christmas so the whole family can be there.

Massage or Spa Day

We did this for my mother-in-law a few years back. I went to massage Envy in Baton Rouge and got a gift card with $50 on it, which is good for a one hour massage there. Use google to find a local spa or massage therapy place near you and talk to them about a gift card or a package that you could gift someone for the holidays. A good company will find some way to accommodate that request if they don’t already have something prepared. This gift is a good way to tell your mom that you love her and give her a much needed day away from you, your siblings, and your dad after the holidays.

Barefoot Dreams

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A Barefoot Dreams robe, blanket, pair of socks, or pajama set would be such a great gift for any mom, especially if she is home a lot. Get one of these items or get a few and make a gift basket for her. These items are all extremely soft and comfortable. I know for a fact that the moms in my life would be all over the socks and the robes. This is a great, practical gift that your mom will use on a daily basis.

There are so many more gifts your could give your mom this year that she will love, but if you were stuck, I hope reading this gave you some ideas for some Christmas gifts. Happy Holidays!

Fun, Budget Friendly Halloween Costumes

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October is here & that means Halloween is right around the corner ! Planning Halloween costumes is a huge deal for me I love finding cute costumes every year & when Cody will dress up along with me, it makes it all the better! Today I am going to share some of my favorite costumes that I’ve done with Cody through the years !

INSIDE OUT CHARACTERS

Joy and Anger. Sorry it is so blurry. It’s a pretty old picture.

These costumes were so easy and you can do them by yourself, as a couple, with friends, or as a family. For our clothes, we just went to goodwill and found clothing similar to what our characters wear & then we took a trip to the costume store to pickup body paint and a wig for me. They only had long blue wigs so I had to cut it myself, but that wasn’t too hard…it just made a little mess.

A HUNTER AND HIS DEER

If you live in louisiana and your man likes to hunt, this one will be so cheap and easy. He just needs to dress in camo and find a toy shot gun. For the deer costume you can find one of the animal costume kits that have the ears and tail or you can make them. (like I did) Then, just paint your face & you’ll be set!

STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

This one was so easy and my husband prepared everything by himself! He just needs a shirt with lightning on it . He cut and sewed his own, but you can probably buy one or make one with a cricut if you don’t know how to sew. For the female part of the costume , you will need to actually burn some clothes, so use old clothes or buy some from goodwill. You will also need an umbrella that you can burn too. The secret is to burn small holes in your clothing and all over the umbrella that leave singe marks around the hole. Use lots of shampoo to make your hair stand up and find black makeup to brush on random parts of your body to give the illusion that you are “fried”.

Pocahontas and John Smith

Okay this is really just an indian and a pilgrim, but I like to spice it up and give it a Disney flare. My indian costume was made with a pillow case and alot of creativity. The pillow case just had holes cut for the arms and head. Next, accent pieces were added to the neck and bottom to give the look a more “indian” feel. Finally, a head piece and a belt were made to tie the look together. I recommend wearing moccasins or going barefoot so you don’t throw off the rest of the costume… and don’t be afraid to get creative with face paint.

For the pilgrim, we used a black button-up shirt and black joggers. Both can be found at walmart or the dollar general for super cheap. You can find a pilgrim hat or a tall black hat at the costume store for cheap. Finally, use a white cloth for the neck piece and make a belt with a large belt buckle to tie this piece together. Wear dress shoes with long white socks to keep the pilgrim look.

Flapper and Mobster

These outfits were originally bought for my 22nd birthday murder mystery party, but they can easily be a cool halloween costume. I found my flapper girl costume on amazon. It came with the dress, boa, gloves, head piece, and a fake long cigerette. I found my shoes on amazon as well. I wanted authentic 1920’s style shoes, but I think that any heel would work. Just make sure that the shoes match your outfit. I found my fishnet stockings at the costume store. They were about $10 and I wear them with everyday outfits now too.

The mobster outfit was an even easier costume. Cody already has a ton of suits, so he picked out one that he thought was fitting and he already had suspenders. We found his hat at the costume store and he found his shoes in his closet as well. I even let him buy a fake tommy gun prop from the costume store to emphasize what he was supposed to be.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our favorite Halloween costumes through the years. And hopefully this inspired you for Halloween this year. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a great costume. You just have to open your mind and get creative. (or find a creative friend. )

Favorite Fall Activities

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I am sitting outside, on my balcony right now and it is 73 degrees in Louisiana.The cool wind is blowing and I swear that I can smell pumpkin everywhere that I turn! So with this cooler weather, I am going to set aside the travel blogs and the summer ideas and pickup some seasonal topics. This week, I am going to give you a whole list of fun fall activities that you can do even with COVID regulations. There will be a mix of party, stay at home, and day time activities. Let’s go!

My first personal favorite activity is a murder mystery party. I love to throw a good party and this is one that we have started doing every fall. This is a perfect party to have with new guests that may not know each other because everyone plays a different part and has to speak to everyone at the party. This gives your guests the perfect opportunity to get out of their shell and get to know each other. You can also make the rounds last as long or as short as you would like and just hangout or sit at a fire when it’s over. You can find party packages by googling, but our favorite place to get them is mymurdermysteryparty.com

Go visit a haunted house or a haunted maze! I am sure that most places require you to wear a mask during this one, but it could still be so fun. Just bring a big group of friends and grab dinner before hand. These usually aren’t terrifying, but they are a great way to enjoy the halloween season.

Photo by Alyssa Fisher Photography

The next activity is more of a two in one. I love visiting the pumpkin patch and since it is outside it is a perfect place to go during COVID. You don’t have to worry about wearing a mask usually and you can stay as far away from people as you would like. The reason I said that this was more of a two in one is because of what happens after the pumpkin patch. Once everyone has their perfect pumpkin picked out, head to the store and get some tools to carve or paint pumpkins. I prefer to paint my pumpkins because it isn’t as messy and it keeps the pumpkin good for a longer period of time, but to each his own. If you enjoy carving pumpkins, carve to your heart’s desire. If you like to paint, just remember to give your pumpkin time to dry.

This is probably the most laid back and pro social distance idea on this list. Movie night. Get all your girlfriends together or just grab your guy and binge watch your favorite fall movies! I would defnitely have all of the Halloween Town movies and Hocus Pocus on my list!

A halloween costume party is a given at this time of year! Tell all your friends to put on their favorite costumes, get a bunch of fun fall games prepared, gather fire wood, and fill the table with all the yummiest fall snacks you can find. This is another party idea, but this idea is a classic and can be as chill or as put together as you choose. Just don’t forget to do a little costume contest at the end and enjoy yourself.

A bonfire is fall given in the south! Around here, having the first bonfire of the year is a privilege and once someone starts a bonfire, they usually occur every weekend until the weather begins to warm up. Fall is the perfect time for a bonfire because the weather is cold enough to enjoy a warm fire, but it is warm enough to enjoy being outside. I am not a cold weather person, so this is very important to me! hah!

Photo by Alyssa Fisher Photography

Another great fall activity is just going on a walk. For real! I love to watch the leaves change( though that is super rare in Louisiana) and soaking up  all the cool weather. Just find a nearby park and go take a stroll. Take time to look at the sky, the leaves, and the animals.

The final activity on my list is baking! I love to bake in the fall. All of the warm toasty tastes of the fall comfort food just gives me chills. You can get so creative with this and there are even pre made cookies and easy recipes for those who don’t have a talent for cooking.

Alright, so now that our creativity has been awakened and the world hasn’t completely ended from COVID, go out and enjoy fall. Try some of these activities, put your own spin on them, or come up with your own! Comment and let me know what your favorite fall activity is! Have a great day and Happy Fall Y’all!!

10 Best Camping/ Outdoor Products

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Camping and traveling are a big part of our lives. Having the right gear can ensure that you enjoy your time…wherever you may be. Today’s post is about our top 10 recommended camping products/gear.

1.Ozark Trails 6 Person Tent

This tent has been a life saver. Before getting this tent, we had a pop-up tent that we absolutely loved…until we didn’t. It always had a problem with the zipper and then it finally gave out in November 2019. The zipper broke and we were caught in a tropical storm. When we got this Ozark Trails tent, we were so over-the-moon happy with it and still are. We can fully stand up in it, it has LED lights inside of it that are battery powered. It is also a pop-up tent, so it is super easy to set up and take down. We have not had a problem with it yet.

2. 2-Person Sleeping Bag

This is really good for couples and has been a life saver for us. We bought it for our 1st camping trip after we were married. It keeps us warm because it holds in body heat and it isn’t much bulkier than a normal sleeping bag. So, you don’t have to waste space with 2 sleeping bags or worry about forgetting one of them. For extremely cold weather, put a blanket inside the sleeping bag and cover your head. It will keep you so warm and toasty.

3. Mess Kit

This is a life saver for any camper! These pots are small, but they can get the job done! Before we got a camp stove, we used to use these on grills and fire pits that were provided at the camp site. We have cooked so many things from pancakes to spagetti. It is a must have if you plan on a longer trip and you aren’t going to be eating hotdogs and marshmallows everyday.

4. Ozark Trails Camp Stove

This has been the ultimate life saver when camping. No more scrambling food over a fire. No! This stove is fueled by the mini propane tanks and it is so easy to use. It cools down in under 30 minutes. You do have to use something to help start the flame. The best thing to use is an electric lighter. The wind won’t stop the flame from blowing out because there is no flame, there is a safety button on the lighter, and it stays charged for such a long time. Thanks to this stove, we have gone from cooking mediocre foods to cooking normal foods that we would cook at home. For example: on our most recent camping trip we had a spagetti dinner with a side of cooked down green beans.

5. Igloo BMX Cooler

This ice chest works so well. We bought it for our most recent trip because we were going to be gone for 3 weeks. We needed something large enough to hold all of our groceries (milk, cheese, meat, etc.), but we also wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be buying ice to refill it everyday. It kept ice for days. We filled it up and 3 days later the ice hadn’t event melted. It also has a drain on it so you can easily empty the water from the melted ice. This cooler was $100 and so worth it. Would buy it again and again if we had to.

6. Ozark Trails Cooler Bag

This cooler bag is one of our favorites for camping, beaching, or just plain traveling. It is small and light weight. It doesn’t hold water for too long. (1-2 days depending on how much stuff you keep in there. More stuff = less ice) When we camp, we use the big ice chest to keep our groceries and drinks and we use the small ice bag to carry what we need into the tent. It is so light weight and doesn’t take up a ton of room. Perfect for a night in a tent or even a picnic.

7. Puppy Water Bottle

I am not going to lie. We just bought this for our most recent trip, but it was a game changer! We got it so we could easily give Zoey water when hiking, but found out that it was also good for our long car rides. All you do is fill the bottom section with water. When your pup wants something to drink, just flip the safety switch and push the button to fill the bowl. So stinking easy and you can carry it anywhere!

8. Tent Kit

We found this tent kit for cheap on Amazon. It has all the little tools we need to help us in rocky areas. It comes with extra tent stakes, a mallet to drive them into the ground, a tool to pull them out of the ground, and a little broom to sweep up any dirt that you may track in. It is easily something we could do without, but we wouldn’t want to because it makes camping life so much easier.

9. Ozark Trails Fanny Pack

I begged Cody for this fanny pack for our anniversary. It is big enough that it can carry our lunches, phones, and Zoey’s water bottle inside. It also has 2 pouches for water bottles on the outside and it feels alot better than carrying a backpack during a hike. It puts no pressure on your back and you can easily grab whatever you need in the moment because it’s right in front of you.

10. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a must when camping. You never know when you are going to burn yourself, trip, cut yourself, etc. There are so many ways to hurt yourself outdoors. Having a first aid kit is just a little extra assurance that you won’t get any kind of infection.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found some of these products useful. I linked all of the products below. Let me know if you tried a product and what your thoughts were. Have a great week!

Here are the links to the products:

. 6-Person Tent

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqarecxj87

. Sleeping Bag

(This isn’t the exact one we have, but it’s similar and has good reviews.)

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqbg9cxj87

.Mess Kit

( These aren’t the exact ones we own either, but they are good price, with good reviews, and one kit even has a few extra pieces you may need.)

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqbstcxj87

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqbnucxj87

.Camp Stove

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqccqcxj87

.Igloo Ice Chest

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/ehgijecxj87

.Cooler Bag

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqcmhcxj87

.Puppy Water Bottle

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/ef4swicxj87

.Tent Kit

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqb73cxj87

.Fanny Pack

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/ea9ecicxj87

.First Aid Kit

https://rstyle.me/cz-n/egqb6acxj87

How to Plan a Last Minute Road Trip

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It’s no secret that Cody and I love to travel. We aim to go somewhere new each month. But, did you know that most of our trips are not long, thought-out trips? In fact, we usually leave within 2 weeks or deciding we want to go somewhere. Once a destination is in our brain, we are ready to hit the road that day. In today’s post, I’m going to go over what goes into planning a trip last minute.

The first step to taking any trip is to figure out your destination. We usually think of a state first and then start googling places to go in that state. I thoroughly do my research for each place. I look up things to do and I look up pictures of the location on instagram to see if it’s actually up our alley.

Once I have our final destination in mind, I usually look at the route to get there. If it’s going to be a long road trip, we usually try to make 1-2 stops along the way. I try to look into the places just as thoroughly . I find cities that we are going to be passing through and google things to do there, places to stay, and pictures on instagram. If the city looks good, I add it to the trip.

Next , I decide if we are going to be staying in hotels, Airbnbs, or camping . The weather plays a big part in the decision. If it gets over 80 degrees, we usually vote not to camp. If the weather is nice, we also have to look into campgrounds. Never assume camping is just available. We have stayed in some pretty sketchy campgrounds because we didn’t do our research. Call and check the prices (do you really want to pay more than a hotel to sleep in a tent?) , look at photos and ratings. Make sure it isn’t sketchy and it lives up to your standards. Tents aren’t that hard to break into, so a safe campground is the best option.

Next, is my favorite part…and most people’s least favorite:making lists. I make a list for what food we are going to eat. ( I don’t research restaurants until we are there so that we can actually look at cool places and get recommendations from locals) Then, I start my packing list. I try to list what we need besides clothes. (Including cooking gear, towels, bath bag supplies, and snacks) Before I list out my clothes I make a list of outfits for each day. This helps to keep me from over packing and forgetting stuff. I also usually add 1 or 2 more shirts incase an accident happens . (If you know me, you know this is necessary.)

The last thing to do is week-of prep: Cleaning the house, double checking the list, cleaning the car, making sure the car is in good condition (tires, oil,battery, etc.), and loading the car.

That’s it. That’s the trick. You are going to run into pot holes during you trip. It isn’t going to go perfect. Be prepared for the worst and find little ways to enjoy yourself.

Going Back to Work After Three Months: What I Wish I had Done.

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Monday made one month since I went back to work after exactly three month off. This is something that most of us are facing or are going to have to face in the near future. In today’s post I’m going to share a few things I wish I had done before going back to work and over all how this past month has been for me.

The first thing I wish I would have done is get my sleep schedule back on track. During self quarantine, my sleep schedule got really confused. I was staying up until 4 a.m. and waking up at 11 a.m., sometimes even 12 p.m. I am a barista, so I have to be at work as early as 5 a.m. some days. Not fixing my sleep schedule bit me in the butt and over all made me exhausted everyday for the next two weeks.

The next thing I wish I would have done before starting work is get into some type of routine that fit work into it. My quarantine routine worked great. I got all my housework and school work done everyday , worked out, went on a walk with my husband, and was ready to hangout and relax by 10 p.m. that was my routine. When work got thrown into the mix it put everything to a halt. I still haven’t gotten caught up on dishes and I haven’t worked out since I started work again.

The last thing I would have done is write more. I would have gotten caught up on my school work and on my blog posts, so I wasn’t hustling to get everything done each week. I’ve gotten in a good groove with all of these things recently, but when I first started work again, it was awful.

Over all, this month at work has been a challenge. I have worked more often than I planned to and been exhausted everyday when I got home. I just recently (about a week ago) got into a good groove and got my whole daily routine and schedule planned out. I have seen more productivity from myself in the past two weeks than I had the 2 months before everything shut down.

If you are starting work again soon, go easy on yourself and give yourself lots of grace. Things around your house are probably going to be chaotic for the next few weeks. That is okay. It will get better. Thanks for reading and if you have already gone back to work, leave some comments below about what you struggled with or advice you may have!

Blind Pizza Tasting. What Frozen Pizza Is The Best?

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On July 1st, my husband turned 24. That Friday we celebrated by inviting some of his friends over for a small party and a blind frozen pizza taste test. In today’s post, I’m going to share how we did it, what the guys thought of each pizza, and what the end results were.

I bought five different brands of frozen pizza: Red Baron, Totinos, Freshetta, Great Value, and DiGiorno. I cooked all 5 pizzas (wrapping the ones that were cooked first in foil and placing them in a warming tray so they would stay hot.) When they were done we sat the guys down at the table and served them each a slice of the first pizza. They were not told what brands they would be eating before hand or while they were eating them. We served the guys one slice at a time and let them take their time tasting, commenting, and ranking the slice they ate. I asked them to rate it on a scale from 1-10 and wrote their numbers down. I got the final number for each pizza by adding up all of their responses . (For example one brand was rated 6,4,5 8,6. So I added 6+4+5+8+6=24 . So, 24 was the final score for that pizza.)

The first pizza that the guys were served was DiGiorno. The guys really liked it, but immediately guessed that it was DiGiorno. One guy said, ” I like the sauce, but it’s a little greasy.” Another said, ” I didn’t really like it, but it was worth eating. It was better than average.” The final score for DiGiorno was 24.

not my photo

We then moved on to Great Value. Cody has eaten a double stacked Great Value pizza and liked it, so I thought it would be interesting to toss into the mix. This one was not a fan favorite. “This dough looks like it was microwaved, not like it was put in an oven.”, one guy said. Another said, ” This tastes like you got cardboard and soaked it in pizza sauce.” “If there was a pizza made for dogs, this would be it. This is nasty.” , another guy commented. The over all score for Great value was 11.

not my photo

Next up on the tasting table was Red Baron. On a normal night this is our favorite frozen pizza to buy. Tonight, we saw that this pizza was average. (Cody claims it’s just because I cooked it wrong.) There weren’t many comments on this one. It wasn’t good or bad enough to get a comment out of the men. One guys said, ” This is better than the last one, but still disappointing.” The only other comment made said,”The first taste was terrible…but now it’s not bad.” The final score for Red Baron was a 21.

not my photo

Freshetta was the next brand to be tried. It had the most positive reviews. The guys thought they wouldn’t like it because it sounded “healthy” , but it took them by surprise. In the cooking process, the pizza did burn a little but that did not stop the positivity. “This is quality pizza.”, was one comment. Another said, ” This one has a more meaty taste to it.” The final score for Freshetta was 32.

not my photo

Next, we ate Totinos. Everyone knew what it was. It wasn’t truly in the competition, but we had to do it! Someone described it on point when they said, “It feels like we are trying to rate our childhood, not pizza.” Another said, “This tastes like Totinos, not pizza.” This one tied with our winner for number one with a high score of 32.

not my photo

So, the end results for ojr pizza contest were:

*insert drumroll*

First place : Freshetta with a score of 32/50.

Second place : Totinos (if you are counting it as a pizza) with a score of 32/50.

Third place: DiGiorno with a score of 24/50.

Fourth place : Red Baron with a score of 21/50.

5th place…the loser: Great Value with a score of 11/50.

This activity was so fun to work on and such an easy task to try at home. Thanks for reading along. If you have ever tried any of these pizzas, leave you opinion in the comments. And if this post inspired you to try a blind taste test at home make sure to let me know how it went ! Happy tasting!

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Living in a Tent for a Week Chattanooga, Tennessee

This time last month Cody and I were in Tennessee living in a tent. Yes you heard that right. For a whole week in June we slept in a tent… and it actually wasn’t bad. This weeks post is going to be all about that week: what we did, where we went, and how we survived living in a tent for a week in the summer with a dog.

Originally we wanted to spend our anniversary in Texas on Lake Travis, but due to the pandemic we decided it was best to go to Tennessee. The weather was going to be perfect for camping, so we looked around for different camp sites to set up camp at. We finally landed on Lookout Mountain KOA. It was reasonably priced, nice, and it wasn’t booked up yet! Although this campground isn’t actually in Tennessee, it’s right on the state line.

Our Campground was alot nicer than we expected. We had showers and multiple bathrooms. Our campsite was also more closed off from everyone else and every tent site has water and electricity. The woman in the campground store was so nice. We went in every day for ice and by the second day she knew us and would always ask what adventures we had gone on that day and how our stay was.

We ate at a few restaurants, but we also cooked at our campsite using our Ozark Trail camping stove. We cooked spagetti, garlic bread, eggs, toast, and sausage on our stove. It worked so well and helped us expand our food options since we were there for a week. (We knew hot dogs over the fire wouldn’t cut it every night)

Our camping stove

On the night of our anniversary, we decided to go on a date. There was a local pizza restaurant and winery pretty close to our camp site. The Lookout Winery exceded our expectations. They are family owned and make real italian, wood fired pizzas. They even import their ingredients from Italy. The owners wife was talking to us about their pizzas and wine. We did a wine tasting and found out that all of their wines are homemade in the restaurant and made with no chemicals. I didn’t know this before, but most wines have chemicals in them to preserve them and those chemicals give you hangovers. So, the owner actually told us that with their wines you don’t get any hangovers. We did the sampling deal for all 15 wines (we shared and it was 1 oz. of each flavor) and they gave us a sheet to rate each wine. We spent the evening enjoying our wine and pizza and watching the sunset on the lake. It was so beautiful and a great way for us to celebrate. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in/visiting the area around Chattanooga . They really had a passion for what they do and a kindness like no other toward their customers.

Pizza from Lookout Winery
Pizza and Wine tasting at Lookout Winery

We also stopped for lunch at the Terminal Brew House in Downtown Chattanooga . We had Zoey with us, so we had to sit outside in the heat, but their patio was so beautiful and shaded us from the hot sun. We shared a baked chicken with peach salsa and a flight of beer. One of my favorite things to do when I visit a brewery is to get a flight of beer, mainly because I love drinking out of the little glasses, but also because it gives you an opportunity to try different beers and find one you like. At this particular brewery, they had a flight with six beers that offered one of each of their beers. Overall our food and service was amazing. Everyone was so nice and accommodating. Our waiter even brought out a bowl of water for Zoey to stay cool.

Beer Flights at Terminal Brew House
Happy Zoey at Terminal Brewhouse

Though the food was beyond what we expected to eat while camping, our main goal for this trip was to explore outdoors. We visited a lot of different swimming holes and went white water rafting. There are alot of different companies that you can go with if you choose to go white water rafting. We chose Quest Expeditions. There was absolutely no social distancing involved, so if you are worried about that I would probobly look into other activities. We were loaded on a bud and then paired off for our rafts. The guide taught us how to use our paddles, what all of the different terms meant (because times are tough when your boat is about to flip!) ,and showed us what to do if we went over board. The rapids weren’t too crazy. They were rough enough to have fun and create a challenge, but not too rough.(To give you an example, there were kids out there in rafts) Our trip took about an hour and a half to go all the way down the river and no one from our group was thrown overboard.

We visited two different swimming holes that involved hiking. This first swimming hole that we visited was ‘The Blue Hole’ in Soddy Daisy. We weren’t sure where we were going, we just started hiking. We hiked for about two miles before we got to the swimming hole.(There are so many different swimming holes along the way if two miles is a long way for you. We just had a goal to get to The Blue Hole.) The hiked involved crossing a stream with a heavy current. (Also not a great place to go if you easy get hurt.) Once we got to the swimming hole, it was worth the hike. The hike weaned a lot of people out, so there weren’t a tone of people there, the water was crystal clear, and there was a diving spot where people jumped off a cliff.

The other swimming hole we went to was Foster Falls. It was a much shorter hike , but it was mostly down hill and steep. I almost fell twice ( luckily I caught myself. ) it isn’t the best place to visit if you have no coordination and you are walking a dog. The swimming hole had a huge waterfall and clear water, but it was packed. There were so many people there that it was hard to find a spot to keep our things. Luckily everyone there was pretty chill.

Foster Falls

Overall, I loved our trip to Tennessee. The weather was great the whole time and there were so many things to do in the area (even with the riots and pandemic happening.) If you ever find yourself in the area, make sure to stop by some of these places and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading along !

A Week in Puerto Vallarta

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I really wanted to share more travel stories lately. So, today I am going to be sharing our honeymoon destination. I’ll be going over what we did , where we ate, and how we afforded it.

We knew that we wanted to go to Mexico for our honeymoon. We just had to choose between Puerto Vallarta and Tulum. Honestly either option was golden. We ended up choosing Puerto Vallarta because we wanted to visit Playa del Amor. It had been on our bucketlist for years and this was our chance to make that a reality. Sadly, it was not open when we went. We were twenty and this was our first real trip that we booked ourselves. We should’ve looked into it. So, Playa del Amor is still on our bucketlist, but I promise to share when we actually make it.

Playa Del Amor (not my photo)

We did get to go on three excursions. Our hotel had a deal for buy two get one free. We had so many to choose from, but we chose to go on a day trip on a private island, a dinner show on a private island, and go zip lining. All of our packages were through vallarta adventures.

The day trip on the private island was a blast. We took a boat ride to the island where we were greeted with breakfast tacos. They had an itinerary of different things going on through the day. We did a mezcal tasting, went snorkeling, and after lunch, we hung out in our own little spot on the beach. It was perfect for a romantic honeymoon experience.

Next, we visited the same island for a dinner show. We got a dinner buffet on the beach and a tribal show after dinner. I had never seen anything like it, so it was so fun! This is a really cool experience for families or couples .

Our zip line experience was unlike any other zip line I have ever been on. It was such a fun time. They joked with us the whole time and took so many photos of us. It wasn’t just zip lining either. We scaled a tree, bungee jumped, zip lined on our stomachs (superman style), and went down a water slide. Whether you are traveling in a group, as a family, or on a romantic trip, this experience is a blast!

The rest of our trip was really chill. We just took the time to relax after months of wedding planning and actually feel like adults on a vacation without our parents. (LOL) We stayed in a marriot hotel that Cody ended up finding on Groupon for a great price. This hotel was more of a resort and had so many things to do. (Which is why most of our chill days were spent here) The day we arrived, we went to the spa to get a massage. It was a full blow spa too. There were packages you could buy, hot tubs, saunas, and tranquil music playing. After our massage, they gave us a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. (Talk about knowing the way to my heart!) We spent another chill day at the pool where we were served sushi by a chef in the pool and got to watch a scuba class take place. Our last chill day, we walked around the market and gift shops.

Most of our meals were eaten at the hotel. There were a number of restaurants to eat at and room service. But on occasion, we would go out on the town away from all the tourist places and checkout the local restaurants. There were two restaurants that we ate at and both were amazing. Our favorite of the two was Pipi’s. They made guacamole fresh at the table and one day they even had a mariachi band come play for us. The food was amazing.(This was where Cody determined that he actually liked mexican food) The other restaurant that we ate at was Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana. This restaurant was a little more touristy than Pipi’s, but the food was just as good. The service at both restaurant’s was remarkable. I highly recommend that if you take a trip to Puerto Vallarta, step outside of the resort and tourist driven parts of the city and come visit one of these restaurants. You will not be disappointed.

Getting guacamole at Pipi’s

So we did a few things to pay for this trip. Obviously alot of the money came from our wedding day, so we didn’t have to budget too much. We also were still learning how to travel on a budget, so when we came home times were really tough… like ramen noodles for a month tough. We did, however, find ways to cut corners when we could. Like I said, Cody found our hotel/resort on groupon. He also used one of the cheaper airlines (Southwest). Normally we would not use Southwest because we don’t like how they do their seating, but if you are only looking at prices, they have some pretty great ones. The only other thing that we really did to save money was use coupons. The woman at the help desk helped us out with this. She gave us a coupon for Pipi’s and gave us the package deal for our excursions.

This was by far one of my favorite places that I have visited. Maybe it was because it was my honeymoon or maybe it was just that good. One thing is for sure, I cannot wait to visit again… I’m thinking five year anniversary? (LOL) Anyways, thanks for reading along and, once travel is back on the board, I hope you feel inspired to visit this beautiful destination that holds such a special place in my heart!

Highs and Lows of My Wedding Day

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I have typed, deleted, and re-typed this post so many times trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go with it. So many details go into a wedding and mine was no exception. I am going to split my wedding day post into 3 posts. Anyway, today I am going to be writing about my favorite and least favorite parts about my wedding. So, let’s get started!

HIGHS :

I really had to think about what I wanted to say my favorite parts of my wedding were. I decided to give it a number. So, these are my top three favorite parts of my wedding day.

1) THE NIGHT BEFORE & GETTING READY. I put these two things as one detail because they were pretty similar. The night be fore my wedding, my bridesmaids joined me for dinner where I gave them their gifts. It was a ton of fun and all of my favorite girls were together at one time. The night didn’t end there. We were having a giant sleep over at my townhome afterward. I gave one bridesmaid my key while another bridesmaid came to my dad’s house to help me finish packing. We headed to the townhome after and I did not believe what was waiting for me. ( I really wish I had the video) The five bridesmaids that had been waiting at my house had turned out the lights, lit my feaux centerpiece candles and had them positioned through the house , and threw clothes throughout my house , and were playing **sensual** music. It was honostly hilarious! We stayed up nearly all night finishing some DIY wedding decor & then all 8 of us passed out throughout my 600 square foot house. The next day, we headed to PJ’S Coffee before heading to the venue. Getting ready was just as much of a party. We had mimosas, coffee, mockmosas, cheese trays, veggie trays, yogurt, breakfast bars, and donuts. We turned some music on blaring and got the party started !

2) THE RECEPTION. What I mean by this is the part of the reception where the lights turn off and everyone is dancing. I used to not be a dancer, but at my wedding I danced. All of my closest friends were there and this time was honostly just filled with joy and laughter. It is by far the purest amount of joy I have ever had. (Laughing and dancing with my best friends and family)

3)THE REHEARSAL DINNER. I’m not even sure if this should count, but it’s my post, so it counts. The reason this made my list is because it was basically a small wedding with all of my favorite people. We did the normal walk through of the ceremony, talked about how we wanted to decorate, and then headed to Tope la for the dinner. We had our very own building complete with toasts and champagne . It was a small party. Like a wedding pre-party!

LOWS:

I feel like so many things went wrong with my wedding . I could name way more negative aspects than positive and I hate that. But I have to pick three.

1) MY SISTER. During family portraits, my sister was inside and had a seizure. She was 12 and had never had a seizure before. (She was diagnosed with epilepsy later on that summer) It was pretty much the scariest thing I have ever been through. It was 30 minutes before the ceremony and my sister couldn’t remember where she was or what was going on. I cried so much. I honostly wanted to call off the wedding, sign the marriage certificate, and head to the hospital. But, everyone was there and I couldn’t leave. The ambulance took her and my grandmother away and I dried my eyes, finished photos, and got ready to head down the aisle.

2)THE WEDDING COORDINATORS. First, I had a wedding coordinator that I disliked from the day I met her. She had a negative energy that I didn’t want to be a part of my big day. But she was there. The same lady pushed me out of the way while my makeup was being done so she could hang colorful flags from the balcony. When I asked what those were for, she said they had a summer camp coming tomorrow and were going ahead and setting up for it . Later, during our couple portraits, our photographer asked us to walk for the type of picture she wanted to take. As soon as we walked off of our portrait spot, they put up an inflateable water slide where we had been taking photos. The coordinator also yelled at me for saying that I didn’t care if I was rained on a little during my ceremony and told me I HAD to have the ceremony inside. Finally, she told me that I was cutting my wedding cake wrong. All of it was annoying.

3)THE RECEPTION. Before the dancing began. During this time, I had numerous people coming up to me asking when certain things were going to happen. Someone even told me that we were running out of food. (Later, I found out that we had PLENTY of left overs.) It was the most stressful thing that I have ever lived through. I was trying to be happy, but was torn between aggravation because of people micro-managing and wanting to break down in tears because of my sister.

My wedding may not have been the happiest day of my life. But there are plenty of memories that I will cherish forever. This is right before life got chaotic and we stopped seeing a lot of our friends. We saw family that we rarely see. We had so many people there to celebrate us. As stressful as it was, it’s a great thing to look back on. Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to share more about this day later on!

Our First Trip after Three Months of Isolation: Pensacola, Florida

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Things are finally starting to get somewhat normal after being inside for three months. My favorite part of everything opening back up is that I get to travel again. Last weekend we took advantage of the beaches opening and went on a small weekend trip with another couple to Pensacola. That trip is what this post is going to be about.

I am not sure why, but somehow none of our trips ever go as planned. We always have at least one ridiculous story to tell. This weekend was no exception. We left late at night because our friend wasn’t getting off of work until around 5. We loaded the car and headed off to our Airbnb. We got our first taste of fast food on our way to the beach. We stopped at Raising Canes and it was like eating gold…minus the burnt toast and burnt french fries. The rest of our trip went pretty smooth…until we got to Florida. As soon as we crossed the state line. We got warnings that there was a traffic stop ahead.(keep in mind that we are still under a stay at home order in Louisiana and it is 1:30 a.m…we were freaking out.) we cruised up to a group of about 10 police units . They stopped us and asked us a bunch of questions. They were not wanting people coming from the states with high rates. Somehow, we made it through this checkpoint and sped down the interstate before they saw our Louisiana plates.

It was 2 a.m. when we arrived at our Airbnb. We always check the inside of the house out before unloading our stuff. (Just to make sure everything is safe and looks good) We typed in the code for the door, tried the knob, and it did not open. We looked at the check in details once more and saw nothing about the lockbox on the doorknob. We called our host constantly for about 30 minutes. We spent a while trying to pick the lock and open the door with a credit card with no luck. Finally, Cody tried the window and it was open. He crawled through the window of our Airbnb at 2:30 a.m. and opened it up for us. (I’m sure if anyone else saw us they would have called the police.) Once we were all in the house, we noticed that it had not been cleaned. There were hairs in the beds, a dirty towel in the room, dirt all over the floor, and dirty clothes in the tub. I was disgusted.

We took a few pictures for our host and tried to call around to find a hotel to sleep in. It was 3 a.m. and we were all exhausted. Nearly every hotel was booked up due to a swamp fire that had happened earlier that day in the area. We finally found a holiday Inn that had 1 room left and we took it! We rushed over there and by the time we settled in, it was 4 a.m.

The next morning, our host refunded us and apologized for the unclean house. He told us that the cleaners got confused, but he would have everything sorted out before we returned for the night. We packed up our things, loaded the car and went to checkout. The hotel manager even gave us breakfast to-go bags since we had slept through the free breakfast.  We had to make a quick stop at the store to get our groceries and sunscreen, then off we went!

We drove all the way to the end of the road where the dog beach was since we had my dog with us. We unloaded and set up our spot. The rest of the day was pretty normal. We swam, napped, and played fetch. The entire beach was social distanced. It was honestly kind of nice to not have another family sitting right next to us.

When we were done at the beach, we made our way to the gift shops. There was someone sitting at the door telling people to put their masks on before entering, but the rest of the shopping experience was no different. They still let us try stuff on and look around. The store also wasn’t pack, but I don’t know if that was their rules or just the fact that not a lot of people wanted to go in the stores.

After shopping, we made a reservation at Red Fish Blue Fish. We saw the restaurants were open and we couldn’t resist. It had been nearly three months without eating in a restaurant. When our reservation time came, we called to tell them we were on the way and they informed us that they ran out of food and had to close early. We still went to the beach in hopes that there would be another restaurant open. After driving around for a while, we decided to try Crabs. We were in luck! Crabs was open and still had food left. We opted to eat inside. Every other table was opened, and we got sat in the back corner away from everyone. The menu was limited, but still had some amazing food on it. I cannot explain how great it felt to sit inside of a restaurant and eat fried seafood!

That was pretty much the extent of our short celebration trip. We left and our bodies were fried … as they are after any good beach trip. As fun as it was, the screening scared us, and we will not be coming back to Florida until everything opens back up completely. Thanks for reading! I am happy to say that I am already planning our next trip and I cannot wait to tell you about it!

Motherhood from the Perspective of Three Different Moms

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day and while there is not a lot that most of us can do at this time to celebrate with our mothers, I did want to make a small post to celebrate them. This week, I talked to three mother’s that have a huge impact in my life. These women are all different, from their personalities to their age, and how many children they have. I thought it would be great to get insight from mothers in all stages of life to celebrate this time. I chose five questions to have these moms answer. They were:

1.How many children do you have?

2. What’s your favorite part about being a mom?

3.What’s your favorite memory of your kids?

4.Do you think your kids are more like you or their dad?

5.What is your least favorite thing about being a mom?

My mom and me

First, I asked my own mother. If you know me, you know that my mom and I have a strange relationship. She’s my best friend, but it’s more like a friendship where you get really mad at each other and don’t talk for a while, but then when you see each other again it’s like you were never apart. We have been through so much together and I really wouldn’t trade her or our relationship for the world.Here are her responses to my questions:

I’ve been sitting here for hours trying to answer these questions, but I can’t and I don’t know any mother that could.  Except for the first question of course. I have four kids. Olivia, Dylan, Andrew, and Kadyn.

You are asking me to look back and pick a moment that means the most and I can’t because there’s no one specific answer to these questions. How am I supposed to tell you what the best part about being a mom when the truth is, I don’t remember what it’s like NOT to be a mom.  I guess if I can’t remember what my life was like before I became a mother then it must not have meant very much.

Everyone has the idea that motherhood enables you to feel a particular kind of appreciation that is unique to the experience of parenting a child but for me, parenting is a kind of time travel. On the one hand, I can look at my children and I see them not just for who they are, but for who they are becoming. They give me these glimpses into the future (which, in turn, gives me hope that the world isn’t going to continue to be a massive dumpster fire). To sit here and try to tell you or anyone else a favorite memory I have with my kids is impossible because every moment that I have spent with my children is my favorite memory. I see my kids experiencing things for the first time and remembering how I felt to have similar experiences as a child, but yet it somehow feels brand new to me.

I really don’t know who my kids are more like. It’s almost like God picked two of the most imperfect people and put them together to create a masterpiece. You, Olivia, have your dad’s strength and determination but your love for writing, list making (lol), love of coffee, and finding beauty in the little things, I would like to think came from me. I know your wild & crazy side definitely did. Ha!

The best and worst part of being a mother is…well, being a mother. Watching your child grow up to actually be a good and responsible adult is bittersweet. On one hand I’m proud of them but on the other hand, it’s terrifying because I can’t protect them anymore. I can’t monitor who they talk to, where they go, or what they do. I have to trust them, and trust is not something I’m good at; and I know it’s selfish of me to say but the hardest part is being alone. Knowing that they don’t need me anymore. There are books on how to raise a child, how to cope with losing a child but no one ever tells you how to let them go as they grow. My kids are my world. Everything I am is because of them.

My grandma and me

Next, I asked my grandmother. My grandmother is my person. She has always been there for me. She is probably the person I am closest with other than Cody. Here were her responses to my questions:

I birthed two. My favorite part about being a mom is seeing they’re smiles, getting hugs and love, and seeing them succeed as adults, and as parents themselves.

I have so many memories. In my mind, I see Brandy’s large smile as she holds her new brother for the first time. For brandy, it’s carting around a large Siamese cat by its front legs then stuffing said cat into a doll carriage. Jamie loved his trucks and toys. He would sit watching tv with this collection of trucks , cars and action figures .

Are your kids more like you or their father? This is an interesting question. Jamie is like his dad in the sense that he can seem to separate himself from things. So, I guess he seems to have more of his dad’s personality and Brandy more mine.

My least favorite thing is when they were babies, having to leave them to go to work.  After their dad and I divorced, having to tell them no for things they wanted or wanted to do because I couldn’t afford it.

I will add that both had many influences in their lives which enriched them. My dad spent lots of time with them both since their own father didn’t. They had playmates in their cousins and were brought on adventures by my parents. Hopefully they both will look back on their lives with fondness

My mother-in-law and me

The last mother that I asked to answer these questions was my mother in law. I know there are a lot of jokes and stereotypes about women hating their mother-in-law, but I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better one or a better family to be married into. I asked her these question’s because she is my other mother and she raised the man I married, so I wanted to see her perspective of motherhood.  Here are her responses:

I have three children. My favorite part of being a mom has been to watch three tiny little humans grow up to be three amazing adults that can do anything they put their minds to.

I have so many favorite memories of all three but some of my favorite times were in our living room just listening to them laugh and play with one another. I always loved nighttime’s after everyone had their baths and we would sit and read stories or sing songs.

I think all three are a lot like both of us. Looks wise, I would say Lila looks most like Richard, Bella looks most like me, and Cody looks like his Podner. Personality wise, I think they all three have a lot of each of our traits.

I don’t have a least favorite thing about being a mom. It’s the hardest job I think there is and there’s never a day off once you become a mom but I wouldn’t ever say that I dislike even one thing about it.

As you can see, each woman had their own unique way of responding. They have all experienced motherhood differently and they are each in a different place in motherhood.  Motherhood is not something that one woman can describe and define for the whole world because it is different for everyone and that is beautiful. I am not a mother myself, but I loved hearing these answers from these moms and seeing how unique motherhood really is. Thanks for reading and if you are a mom, happy belated Mother’s Day!

Silverton, Colorado

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So, on my last post, I talked all about my road trip to Colorado. Well, once we arrived in Colorado, we stayed for about a week. We did not have an Airbnb booked or any kind of itinerary planned. (which is very out of my comfort zone)It was more of a spontaneous “what are we gonna do now?” kind of trip. Which, I am happy about because it led us to some pretty great places. In today’s post I’ll be sharing about the many places that we stayed, what we did in Silverton, and the (very few) places we went out to eat.

Like I said, we did not have anywhere lined up to stay, so we stayed in so many different, interesting places. You can read about the two nights that we went camping in Big Molas lake on my camping blog post. Both nights made my top 9 camping stories!

On this trip, we experienced our first stay in a hostel. We had never even heard of one before. We stayed at The Blair Street Hostel and to my surprise, it was actually a good experience. When we got there, the owner gave us a tour. She showed us where the kitchen, the bathroom, and our bedroom were. We were blessed enough to have our own bedroom. The only negative thing I will say about our experience was that we had to share a bathroom (including shower) with the rest of the guests and there was a shower curfew that we had to follow. (No showers after 10 p.m.)

Our next stay was in the Avon Hotel. This hotel was an old miner’s hotel and bar from old Silverton…back when the town was ran by gold miners. The new owners had just bought it and were refurbishing it. It was still under construction when we stayed… but we could tell that one day it was going to be on the must-stay list in Silverton. There was a full bar and restaurant on the main floor and a small library in the upstairs foyer. From my experience and the look of the photos on google now, I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Silverton, Colorado.

The last place we stayed during this trip is a small motel. It was the end of our trip and we needed somewhere small and cheap… and nothing is wrong with a little motel. The prospector motel was small and quaint, and the owner was so kind. We sat in his office when we were checking out and he was talking to us about so many things and the whole time he had such a big smile on his face.

During our trip we mostly walked around the town window shopping and rode ATV’s up the maintain trails. On one of our ATV rides we nearly fell off of a mountain. We tried to go up a steep incline on a mountain trail and some of the other vehicles infront of us began to slow. My dad was right in front of us and knew that he was not going to make it up unless he came back down. So, he yelled for us to back up and get out of the way before his brakes slipped. We began to go backward very carefully. We had a mountain and large rocks on one side of us and a cliff that was at least a 30 foot drop on the other side. Cody steered toward the side with the rocks, but our vehicle hit a rock at just the right angle and we were thrown off. I laid there with a 4-wheeler on top of me while my dad was still yelling and the only thing I thought was, “I guess I’ll just lay here. I can’t get up. Either he will run me over or someone will lift this bike off of me. We will just have to wait and see.” Obviously, someone got the bike off of me and everything was okay, but I know it could have been a lot worse.

On the days that we weren’t doing those things, we were off having our own little adventures. One of those adventures was going to see a ghost town. It is straight through the town and up the mountain. It was almost a two-hour trip from where we were staying, but it was a pretty cool thing to witness. We saw old homes and buildings (like an old jail). They were surrounded by meadows full of flowers and the greenest grass. We stayed for a little while before we had to hit the road to try to beat a rainstorm. We did not beat it… instead I learned a quick lesson about why I should always be carrying rain gear with me in Colorado in July. Rain and hail poured down on us while we were exposed on a four-wheeler. By the time we made it back to my family’s Airbnb our toes were blue and our bodies were feeling pretty stiff.

Part of the Ghost Town That We Found

We also experienced a mining tour. We toured the inside of a mountain and got to see antique mining gear and hear stories about a miner’s work day and how they would get the gold. It was a really interesting tour that I would highly recommend to anyone that loves history and nature.

The Old Hundred Mining Tour

We mainly ate with my family during this trip or ate some of our road trip food, but we did occasionally go out to eat. The first stop was at Handlebars food and saloon. We stopped here on our first day in town for dinner and it was right up our alley. Everyone in there seemed to be locals, so they kind of looked at us weird, but the food was amazing.

Our next stop was at the avalanche brewing company because we needed pizza and heard they had the best around. What we heard was not a lie. The pizza was amazing, and the restaurant had the perfect small-town feel. It even had a spot to sit outside with your pup!

 The only other place that we ate was the Coffee Bear. It was exactly what I needed to get my coffee fix and if you like italian cream sodas (which is my favorite!) , they have a very extensive Italian cream soda menu.

So, this pretty much sums up our trip to Colorado. It was such a fun, laid back trip and we got to spend time with our family. If you are ever traveling through Colorado, make sure to stop in the sweet little town of Silverton. Thank you so much for reading along with me and I cannot wait until the day that I can go on more trips and share more stories!

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Our Favorite Camping Stories

Cody and I love to travel, but sometimes we can’t afford a big, elaborate trip to escape reality. Camping is one of our favorite low budget and most adventurous ways to travel. When you have little to no money to spend, you can run into some interesting things that make for great stories. In today’s post, I am going to share some of our favorite and most interesting moments we have had while camping through the years.

  1. The Haunted Campsite: When going camping on a tight budget, Cody and I like to use freecapsites.com This website has a list of all kinds of campsites that are free because they are either ran by kind people, WMA’s, or abandoned. In March 2018, Cody and I decided to take a camping trip to Florida where we were actually going to stay at a free campsite. We drove for hours and around mid-night we could not find this campsite. The town we were in was abandoned and we were exhausted, but there was not even a gas station to stop at for a nap. We had to find this place. We were in the middle of nowhere. Around 1 a.m., we found the entrance to the campsite. It was a state park, which is weird because those usually are not free to stay in. There was a small, gravel parking lot with 2 trails and a dock. Next to one of the trails was a paper with a map of the park and some of its history. Cody and I began reading. We wanted to make sure this place was actually approved to camp in and see where we should go to set up camp. As we read, we learned that one of the trails on the property had been part of the trail of tears. Stories in the history section talked about a haunted presence that would cause people to do irrational things and some to disappear. No matter how exhausted we were, there was no way we were going to stay here tonight. We put that car in reverse and sped out if there. We had a go-to campsite that was only an hour and a half away. We would land there for the night. This was the night that we found out why these campsites are free.
  2. Sleeping Under the Swings: On the same night as the previous story, our go-to campsite was Vortex Springs. We have stayed here many times, our first trip here was back in 2016. We arrived around 3:30 a.m. and the campgrounds were pitch black. We tried to drive quietly so that we would not disturb the other campers. We found a spot and began setting up camp. We packed in very few things. We were just ready to crash. 3 hours later the sound of kids screaming and running into our tent woke us up. We tried to sleep through it, but it got to the point where we needed to see what was going on. I peeked my head out of the tent to find a slide just inches to the left. Somehow in the darkness and exhaustion we had set up our tent in the middle of a small playground. No wonder there were children everywhere.
  3. A dog in a Hammock-This is probably the worst experience I have ever had when camping. It was November 2017 and we wanted to camp in our hammock. This was already a bad idea because it was going to be under 30 ° that night, but we had our dog, Zoey, with us too. Zoey has been camping before and she loves it, so we figured she would do fine in the hammock too. So, we set up our hammock, added a comforter and a sleeping bag in it to keep us warm and cozy, which worked perfectly. We stayed up and roasted marshmallows (my favorite camping past time) for a while. When the time came, we piled into the hammock and put Zoey under the sleeping bag where she slept for a solid 30 minutes. Just as I began to doze off, I felt her wiggling … she was hot. This was the end of the peace for the night and the beginning of a nightmare. Zoey crawled to the top and laid on my legs on top of the sleeping bag. She never made it to sleep. Every time an animal would approach the camp site or rustle in the woods, she would freak out and bark obnoxiously. (I am eye rolling right now just thinking about it). Eventually we all decided it would be best if we slept the rest of the night in the car. So, we did and at 6 a.m. we came back home to finish sleeping. Now we know to never let a dog in a hammock at night.
  4. A 4 course meal on the beach: In October of 2016 we decided to go camping on the beach with one of our other couple friends, Naomi and Josue. They had found a campsite that is about half a mile walk down the beach and you can actually pitch a tent in front of the ocean. We arrived late at night and could not find the campsite area, so we found a motel outside of Pensacola Beach. This motel seemed sketchy, but it was the closest one and the price wasn’t terrible. Well, we thought the price wasn’t terrible until we got in the room. The bedsheets were still dirty and sloppily made, there was trash in the trashcan, dirt in the shower, and mold all over the room. We got out of that place so fast. There was no telling what we could’ve caught by staying there. We demanded our money and they guy at the counter understood. We found a red roof inn across town that was going to give us a discount because of the time. They charged us for their cheapest room and gave use a suite with a kitchenette and 2 queen beds. We stayed up all night watching married at first sight. When we woke up the next day, we set out to find our beach destination. Before going, we decided to pick up dinner. Naomi had found a groupon deal at a steakhouse. We each paid $15 and got a steak, 2 sides, a dessert, and a drink. Someone had the “bright” idea to eat it all at the campsite. What we failed to think about the walk. We all walked half a mile while lugging all of that food, our tents, our clothes, sleeping bags, ice chest, and a foldout picnic table. We kept dropping stuff, someone busted their drink, and someone dropped their dessert. It was a nightmare, but we made it, set up the table and enjoyed our food as the sun was setting. It was one of the coolest moments, but if anyone had seen us, they would’ve thought we were crazy.
  5. The onward store: This one is going to be really short, but it is a must. We were heading to camp in Arkansas for the weekend with our friends and we came up to a point in the trip where we were in the middle of nowhere. Cody had been complaining that he needed to use the bathroom for an hour before we finally came up to some sort of civilization. It looked like an old gas station, but it was closed, so the guys went behind what looked like an outhouse. While they were doing their business, I noticed a pretty official looking plaque in front of our car. The plaque read ” Here is the point where Theodore Roosevelt got his nickname “Teddy” . This is the spot where he refused to shoot the bear. ” My jaw dropped. Cody had just peed on a historical landmark, even more so a historical landmark of his favorite president!
  6. Redneck Paradise: We were going camping in a WMA area we had found a few months back. It was a huge chunk of land right on the Mississippi river. We were warned that Mississippi had been experiencing some flooding recently but figured this place would be fine…not really sure why. We arrived and realized very fast that this place was flooding. We didn’t even get a mile down it’s trail before we ran into a pit of water. We still needed somewhere to sleep though, so we googled some campsites in this empty town. The nearest place was a couple of hours away, so we began our journey again. We finally arrived at this campsite around 1 a.m. We drove around, picked our spot, then went to check-in. (Yes, the office was still open) The office was being ran out of someone’s house. The owners gave us a map and told us that they have a pool, a playground, and a museum. We were astonished and also confused as to where all of this was since we had already toured the campsite. We set up camp in the pitch black and piled into the tent for the night. When we woke up, the campsite looked completely different…not in a good way. Our tent was in a puddle of (what we can only hope was) mud, the playground was one single rusty swing, the pool was a plastic baby pool, and the museum was no where to be found. (Though, I am sure it would have been interesting) This was the most redneck campsite we had ever stayed at. We decided to head back to the WMA where we explored the dry places and pet some cows and we also took a trip to The Onward Store. (The historical sight from the last story) If you ever find yourself in Onward, Mississippi it is a nice little shop and their restaurant has some great food.
  7. Callin’ Colorado: In July 2018, we took a family trip to Colorado. My family planned to drive there in one day, but that was not Cody and my style. We decided to take 2 weeks off and take 4 days to get there. We stopped along the way (I’ll make a post about this trip another time),but when we finally got to Colorado, we still needed a place to stay. We googled a bunch of campsites and found one that was rated “The most beautiful campsite in the nation” It was after hours, so we could not reserve a spot, but this was our only option. When we got there, we drove around looking for a spot to set up the tent. We settled on a little spot tucked away in some trees. The roots were not bad, the spot was isolated, and it had a tree to stand behind. (Major priorities) Once we set up camp and ate, we crawled in the tent for bed. When we woke up, the view was overwhelming. When we had set up camp, we could not see any of our surroundings, but we were in a spot right on the lake with beautiful mountains surrounding us. It really took my breath away, because this was my first time seeing anything like it. The campsite was called Big Molas Lake, and it is definitely a bucket list destination.
  8. Green, Green Grass : One of our last nights in Colorado, we stayed at Big Molas Lake again. This time we did not get a lake front spot, but we found a nice field that looked like the biggest of the camping spots. We set up tent in the beautiful field and crawled in our tent to watch Netflix (basic, I know) About 30 minutes after settling down, we started to smell something strong. It had a slight smell of pot. This wasn’t uncommon in Colorado, but we cared because we thought someone was by our tent smoking when we knew that there were no tents around us. We got our phone flashlights out to inspect the area and what we found shocked us. There was no one by our tent…we had set up camp in the middle of a marijuana field. You heard me right. It went on forever the entire freaking field that we were staying in was full of pot, not grass at all. We decided we had better get back to our tent after we realized this. The stench filled our whole tent, but this was the only open spot on the property, so we had to stay. Our minds were still blown that this was an actual thing…marijuana was growing wild in Colorado. (My mind is still a little blown to be honest)
  9. Camping in the Storm:  In October 2019, we decided to go to Northern Alabama in the Appalachian Mountains. We stayed at The Cathedral Cavern State Park. We left after work and knew we would not be there until around 10 p,m., so we called and confirmed that we could stay. We got direction from google maps on how to get there and off we went. There was a huge storm the night we were heading there. We could barely see the roads and there were mountains all around us. Easily one of the scariest things to experience while driving. We saw the sign and knew we had made it to our destination. We found a campsite and waiting in the car for the rain to lighten up. When the rain got light enough , we set up the tent and started loading all of our stuff into it. As we were finishing up, the rain began to pour. Cody finished loading stuff in, while I used a towel to wipe the water out of the entry and set everything up inside. We finally got both dogs inside of the tent and decided to hunker down for the night. Cody crawled in, but when he tried to zip the tent, it would not zip. The screen zipped, but the rain flap was not having it. “Great!” We both said. We pulled everything as far from the door and edges of the tent as we could and laid a towel in the entry  to catch any water that may try to enter. We froze. I woke up at 4 a.m. to rain dripping on my face and my feet cold with water. I curled up in a ball and covered my face with the sleeping bag… this was going to have to wait until tomorrow. When we officially woke up for the day, all of our clothes, blankets, and our sleeping bag were soaked. Our entire tent had an inch of water covering the floor. We loaded everything back into the car and headed to the nearest laundromat to get everything dried off. We stayed here for about an hour, so we sat in the car eating sonic corndogs and watching Netflix while we waited. After everything was dry, we made our way to Walmart to buy a heater and a new tent. We were not going to spend another night like that again.
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Our Latest Adventure: Alberta, Canada

Canada. Why Canada? This was a frequently asked question when I began to tell people where our (Cody and me) next big trip was. It was relevant. It is not a secret that I am not a fan of the cold. So, why Canada? Even more so, why Canada in January?

It was mid November, about a week before Thanksgiving and I had Christmas gift ideas racing through my head. I sat in the car trying to figure out what to get Cody. His only requests were new underwear, socks, and sweatpants. I thought, “Have we really sunk that low? 2 and a half years of marriage and the best I can do for him is socks and underwear? No way!” It had been a while since our last big trip, and I was longing for more. Then, the thought crossed my mind, “What about a trip for Christmas?!” Cody is always the one planning our trips. I usually deal with organizing how much we spend and making sure we actually get out and see the places we go, but I had never actually taken the reins and given him a trip he would like. So, I passed the idea by him and he loved it. “…But I don’t want to know anything about it.”, he said. So, the google searches began. I searched for days and narrowed it down to 2 places. New York or Alberta, Canada. Canada was just slightly more expensive. I gave it a week. I prayed, googled, searched for all the best deals and determined that this was a dream trip and it would be a reality. Now, I just had to figure out how to pay.

So, how did I manage to pay for 2 round trip plane tickets and a condo at a resort in Alberta, Canada in just one month? A lot of it was Jesus, but I also really set my focus and saved. One of the most expensive aspects of booking the trip was the flights. So, I set google to track the flights for me. I planned on paying for the flights within the next week or two, so I knew the prices wouldn’t fluctuate a ton. The tracker alerted me anytime the ticket prices would drop or rise, so I was able to use that knowledge to determine how low these prices would really go. The lowest price that I saw was around $600, so I knew that I wanted to book when I saw those numbers around that price again. I did. I paid less that $610 for two round trip tickets thanks to google flight tracking. It allowed me to book my flight directly through United to get the best price options. The next step was to find where we were going to stay. Although I was focused on booking our flights first, I never took my eye off of places to stay. My line of thought was “If I don’t continuously check Airbnb to confirm availability, we may book a flight and have nowhere to stay.” I had my eye on one place in particular. It had a hot tub, full kitchen, and mountain view for under $100 a night. The day I booked our condo, the place I had been watching disappeared. Though there were many other options at low prices, I was upset. After a few minutes of weighing out my options, I found a condo in the same resort as the one I had been set on and it was only $2 more! I paid in an instant. I paid less than $1,500 total for flights and a condo for a week. Those prices were low, but to save for it in a month was a lot of work. So, how exactly did I manage to save that amount of money? I picked up shifts at my work and small odds and end job wherever I could find them. I was working 40-50 hours a week and saving every bit of it that I could.

As with every trip, we ran into some unexpected problems. A trip is never going to run as smoothly as you think, so Cody and I have learned to roll with the punches. Our first dilemma was that we had no snow gear and that stuff is expensive. Luckily, with the help of some loving friends and family members, we managed to get everything we needed for our trip. Once our bags were packed and our budget was made, we were ready to go. The next punch didn’t come until we were sitting in an airport restaurant. Cody left $250 of our spending money at home. I pretty much facepalmed right then and there. We were going to have to rethink our budget, but if you know Cody and me, we are very low maintenance, so this wasn’t going to be a huge fall back. Another issue we ran into (because of my lack of preparedness) is that we did not have a mode of transportation and our condo was an hour from the airport. We took a cab and dropped nearly $200 Canadian dollars within our first couple of hours in Canada. Our condo was also not near the city, which was great when we were there, trying to relax, but was not as appealing when we wanted to go out. The cab experience was our biggest financial set back, but it was a great experience that lead to us meeting new people and finding local places to see. On Friday evening we caught the last bus to the top of Mount Norquay to go snow tubing (which I had already paid for), but upon getting there found out that it was closed for a cardboard sled derby. (I will elaborate more on this later in this post). This set back was our favorite and probably the most minor. The final set back that we had wasn’t until the day we were leaving. Our flight from Calgary to Chicago was delayed by an hour due to technical difficulties. We arrived at our connecting flight as they were calling the final boarding call. Overall, none of our setbacks on this trip were too major to overcome, but my word of advice to any new traveler is to expect some kind of setback. Some trips it may be minor, and others can be major. If you have backup plans and a good attitude, you will survive. Find ways to enjoy the little things, even if they are not what you planned. This is advice that I have to give myself during any trip or crisis. Things could always be worse.

Although, you know how I saved money to book our trip, I have also mentioned budgeting our trip spending. We did not have a lot of time to save for our trip after I booked it, so our money was limited. So, how did we manage to enjoy our time in Canada without breaking the bank? We planned. First, we determined our priorities when traveling. Our three major priorities when traveling are: Explore the local area, try local foods that we may not get at home, and relax. When we are home, I am constantly planning our days, weeks, future trips, home decorating, ect. Cody and I have no off mode when we are home, so no matter where we are off traveling to, we never try to over stretch ourselves. We limit how many activities to do each day and usually our first and last day at our destination are strictly reserved for relaxing. Since food is a huge priority to us, I wanted to eat, but also not spend all of our money on food (because if left to it, we will).I set a limit of 4 places to eat and we bought supplies for 2 homecooked meals. (I will give information to what we cooked, how we stretched it, and where we ate later). We were in Canada for 5 days (not including the days we spent in an airport). Our first and last days were set aside for relaxing, exploring the resort and snow, and grocery shopping. We spent one day strictly walking around and exploring Baff and two days doing activities. Cody and I usually only do 1-2 activities per day when traveling to ensure that we are not overstretching and exhausting ourselves on our vacation. Another thing that seems like a big deal to most, but is not to us, is souvenirs. We love to look at souvenirs (and occasionally something may catch our eye that is a must.) We tend to take as many photos as possible, because honestly we will relive the moment through a photo or video better than we will through a trinket or a shirt. So, my biggest advice to someone who wants to travel on a budget is to find what brings you joy and what you want to be a priority and form your trip around that thing.

Cody and I had a handful of excursions planned for this trip. Since we were on a budget, we did not plan a ton of activities. We booked our activities through Banff adventures. They had lots of deals on their website, but the one we chose was for a sleigh ride, tickets to the hot springs, and snow tubing for less than $100 each.  We decided we wanted to go snow tubing at night, but it was only offered on Fridays and Saturdays, so we saved it for Friday night. On Thursday we woke up and caught a taxi and a bus from Canmore to Banff . We were told to walk to the horse stables to save money and enjoy the scenery. It took us about 30 minutes in the -10 degree (Farenheit) weather. It began to snow while we were walking, too, but the walk was enjoyable and worth it when we arrived. There was a heated barn with hot chocolate waiting for us and no one else signed up for the sleigh ride with us, so we ended up getting a private horse drawn sleigh ride (which is $200 value for two people). They took us around their land and through a park where we got a view of the mountains and got to see animal tracks. Our guide was really friendly and had even been to Louisiana once. When the ride came to and end, our tour guide allowed us back inside to get more hot chocolate while she put together a fire and a marshmallow toasting station. It was the best feeling, a toasty fire in the middle of the snow. After we had our fill of marshmallows and had defrosted our toes, we started back toward the city.  Once we got to town, we picked up our tickets for the hot springs and tubing and made our way to the bus stop. The hot springs were just out of town and may have been my favorite part of the trip. We arrived at a cabin where they took our tickets and sent us to our locker rooms. I felt ridiculous changing out of snow gear and into a bikini. “This is crazy”, I kept repeating to myself. I threw my hair into a bun and sheepishly made my way outside to Cody. We met in a freezing hallway and as we walked toward the outside door, we were greeted by what felt like burning hot water. It started at our ankles and got deeper as we walked. We never had to feel the freezing air on our bare skin. We were submerged and as the air got colder, the water felt better. It was like sitting in a hot bath with the air conditioner blowing on you. All around us everything was covered in mounds of ice. The lifeguard wasn’t even able to sit in his chair due to the amount of ice buildup. On Friday evening we made our way to Banff for the last time. We had a bus to catch at 5:30 pm. It was the last bus up to mount Norquay for the day. It took about 15 minutes to get up the mountain.  Once we got up to the snow tubing area, we were told that snow tubing was closed for a cardboard sled derby event. This wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if we hadn’t waited until our last day and taken the last bus. The next bus wouldn’t be for three more hours, so we called Banff adventures to get a refund and we decided to enjoy the event. Banff Adventures was understanding and had great customer service. They had us refunded immediately. The event began at 6:30 PM with children and then adults later. They would make their way to the top of a giant snow mound with their creation in tow and race down the snow in a decorated cardboard box. Most would wipe out, while others would bolt past the finish line. While the participants were competing, the locals, parents, and bystanders sat around a fire talking and hanging out. This was probably the most at home we felt during the entire trip. So, overall this night probably ended up being a lot more fun than it would have been if it had gone as planned. Most of our time in Canada was spent sightseeing, window shopping, and eating.

Like I said previously, we had a limit of four times that we could eat out at some sort of restaurant. On our first day there, we began to google food options. We had just arrived, had absolutely no food inside the condo, and we were hungry. Cody’s mom had told us to try poutine, so we decided that would be our first Canadian food venture. We found one place that looked locally owned and had great reviews, so we layered ourselves in snow gear and called a cab. (We tried out three cab companies while we were there, and our best experience was with Canmore cabs) The restaurant that we chose was called 514 Poutine. We later found out that it was owned by a local from Quebec, which is where Poutine originated. So, we knew this was going to be a great place for us to try this dish for the first time. If you do not know what Poutine is, it is twice fried French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy. We got our first taste of poutine with smothered onions and ground beef added in and IT WAS AMAZING!!( If you could see me typing this now you would see me drooling and rolling my eyes just from thinking about it.) It is a MUST when visiting Canada. Our next food venture was to The Old Spaghetti factory. We were missing home and needed some red sauce in our lives at this point and this restaurant had been calling our names all week. When we arrived, it had a feel like Olive Garden or another chain Italian restaurant feel, which is not usually the environment Cody and I go for. We ventured on and found that the quality of the food was not similar to a chain such as Olive Garden. This restaurant had a deal that originally drew us here. If you pay the price of the entrée, you also get bread, salad, dessert, and coffee. We paid less than $35 for chicken parmesan, a Caesar salad, bread, ice-cream, and a cup of hot coffee. The best part was that the price did not diminish the quality of the food. It was just as good as a local Italian restaurant. The only other place we graced with our presence for food was (of course) another poutine restaurant. It was our last day in the city and we needed a taste of poutine one last time, so we took a tiny break at Banff Poutine.  The space was small, offering only high-top wall seating and one restroom. It had a modern, city feel to it. While it was not as good as 514 Poutine, we still enjoyed it. We got fried onion added in this time and it did not disappoint. The price was a little cheaper than 514 Poutine and it is in another city, so if you go to Banff or Canmore, make sure to check out one of these amazing places. Although we had to make a limit to how many places we could eat out, we still cooked and ate at the condo. This was a key component to save money. We bought ingredients for two meals. We also chose meals that were sure to have leftovers to carry us through the week and the ‘midnight snack’ feeling. Our two home cooked meals were potato soup and spaghetti with green beans. These are both extremely easy and cheap recipes which makes them perfect to cook when traveling with limited resources.

I have been wanting to share this information for so long and am so glad and relieved to have it out there. I wanted to share that traveling is possible while keeping a tight budget. You can still experience some great new things in the great big somewhere. Do not limit yourself at home watching Netflix all day and having a pity party when you see someone else’s post about traveling. You don’t know what they sacrificed to get to experience that. If you want it bad enough, you just need to sacrifice, pray, and save. Adventure is waiting and I can’t wait to see where the next one takes us. Thank you so much for reading and I cannot wait to share more another time.

Valentine’s Day Gift Guides for Him & Her. (For the last minute couples)

I am a last minute shopper. I will admit it full heartedly. I will plan the perfect gift for a year, then forget to make the time to buy it until the week before. This one is for all my fellow last minute shoppers. Valentines Day is one week away. If you still don’t have a gift, I have you covered! Today I am sharing some great gifts that have exceptional turn around time (and just so no one feels left out I have included a list for guy gifts and girls gifts) We have no time to waste, so lets get started!

GIFTS FOR THE GIRLS!

1.Jewlery

Anyone could tell you that girls love jewelry. If you didn’t already know that….well, now you do! You also don’t have to go all out spending hundreds on diamond jewelry. Most girls are good with the basics. Just stop at her favorite local boutique, the Kendra Scott store (if there is one near you) or check out @silassisterco & @c.cain_art on instagram (if you are near the Baton Rouge area) to find handmade earrings for a great rate. (and support local businesses) Basically as long as you don’t have to order the jewelry online, you will be able to get any of these pieces before Valentines.

2.Something Casual

Just get her something casual that she’s had her eye on and make a themed date around it. For example: If she has been needing some kitchen stuff, make her brunch, get her a Dash mini waffle maker, some nice serving spoons, and some groceries. Heck!! You could even get her to cook a romantic brunch with you if you think she would be into that.

https://bydash.com/products/heart-mini-waffle-maker?variant=33051212152886&currency=USD&utm_medium=product_sync&utm_source=google&utm_content=sag_organic&utm_campaign=sag_organic&gclid=Cj0KCQiA6t6ABhDMARIsAONIYyyUISsXMUNTwV4b0pDsFl5uvCjYDh8z612jEN4r3TkFFTCSf-XsaP4aAo2gEALw_wcB
only $11.99 at Target right now .

3. The Classic : Flowers

If she has work that day or night, go ahead and get flowers, her favorite snack, and (maybe even) her lunch delivered. Show her (and her coworkers) how much you love her. This, along with a dinner somewhere, could be all the gifts that your loved one wants this year.

4. Concert Tickets

So, concerts aren’t really happening right now, but plenty of artists are holding virtual concerts or have recorded concerts on youtube. Set up a cute picnic in the living room, back yard, or local park and spend that whole night jamming out to your favorite artist. You could even throw in a couple of band shirts to make it really feel authentic.

5. Personalized Food

Ha! It sounds weird, but just hear me out! So many people are learning how to do really cute custom cookies now. Find a local or check out @caseycambre on instagram for cookies. You can also get her favorite cakeballs from @candacescakeballs on instagram if that’s more her style. You can pretty much personalize anything you want .. even M&Ms. (Though I don’t think you’ll get those in time for this year’s valentines day).

GIFTS FOR THE GUYS!

Ladies, you can’t expect your man to be the only one buying a gift. Guys have to feel the love too. Also if you are thinking of doing a date, just go ahead and ask if he has made reservations or wants you to before you plan anything. It could ruin the day if you both have a date or whole day planned around 2 different things.

1.Outdoor Gear

I really don’t know a single guy that wouldn’t want something outdoorsy. You can go as small and cheap as a fishing shirt to as big as a kayak. The options are endless.

2. OOni Pizza Oven

Okay, this one is a little bit on the pricier side… but guys can be really hard to shop for! This pizza oven is great if your man is a pizza lover or enjoys cooking. It works so well and is super easy to transport if you want to take it camping.

3. Date night

Guys always plan the dates. You plan the date for once. Make sure it’s somewhere he enjoys eating or go do something he enjoys for the day (like fishing or gaming). Make the day all about him. (Believe it or not, guys actually don’t need much to feel like you love them).

4. Leave a surprise.

What ever you do, DO NOT leave a sticky note in his lunch box or surprise him at work with flowers. No indeed. That is not going to fly. Instead, have all those cute gifts waiting for him when he gets home. Go ahead and make him some bacon roses, have his favorite food and snacks waiting for him and maybe even a nice home cooked meal.

5. Couples Massage

Guys love massages and most likely, he needs one from working and picking up all the heavy stuff. Go ahead and make it a couples massage so you get something out of it too!

Last minute gift buying does not have to be stressful. Let this post spark some creativity and light a fire under you butt to plan the perfect valentines day.

If you need other last minute gift ideas, check out my other gift guides. They are all focused around being last minute or budget friendly! 

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