And the Winners Are…

Congrats and high fives to Megan Bristow and Fern Hummert for winning a $25 Visa Gift Card!! I appreciate both of you playing along in the blogiversary giveaway. You’ll have to let us know how you end up spending your prize. 😉


I also want to offer a huge thanks to each and every one of you who has taken time to read, share, comment and just simply encourage this little blog that could over the past two years.

This has been such a fun experience. And as I think about all of the possibilities for future posts, I feel confident this can continue being a spot you’ll want to bookmark and visit often. #bloggoals

Here’s to at least two more years for The Neat Nook! Haha. That’s my way of hoping for more, while simply wanting to put one foot in front of the other.

Blessings to you and your home!



10 Beautiful Quotes for Welcoming Fall

You’ve seen me profess my love of the fall season, so this should come to no surprise that I’m truly and officially excited for today. I can finally say, “Happy Fall!”

In fact, I found ten different ways to say it. Feel free to share any of these on Facebook, Instagram or wherever you want to spread seasonal cheer.


And finally, as I mentioned on my personal Facebook page…”Here’s to turning new leaves, opening more doors, and seeing the beauty in all colors.” #findingreasonwithintheseason 

My love to you all this fall!



Back to School Pep Talk: We Did It

Yesterday was the first day back to school for my 13-yr old and 10-yr old twins, which means I have an 8th grader and two 5th graders in my house. How did we get here so fast?!

back to school

All smiles – so far!! We had to do separate pics because of different start times at school. Also, Evan’s pic was taken after school. Long story, which I’m about to divulge.

For our first morning of school, I had visions of waking up super early (which already makes me laugh), getting dressed, braiding the girls’ hair, and then making a solid breakfast of sausage, eggs and toast before proceeding outside for our traditional family first-day-of-school portrait. Then Brandon and I would both escort our children to their schools and lovingly say our goodbyes and collectively pray for smooth sailing on this awesome first day of school.

Are you laughing with me, yet?

Here’s how it went down…

Brandon gets up super early to help get Evan ready for school. He’s in cross country this year, which means he needs to report to school at 6:30 am. SIX THIRTY. That’s way too early for this mama bird.

When the girls get up, they’re not very hungry. Too early to eat. Protein shakes in the blender it is. They want to do their own hair and don’t feel like braids. Clara leaves it down and “flowy” and Avery, my little sporty spice, throws it up in a pony and calls it good.

Meanwhile, Brandon is back from taking Evan to school. I ask how it went, and he explains Evan didn’t want to take in his school supplies. No one else seemed to be walking in with large shopping bags, so he ditched them in the car and walked into school. When Brandon rolled down the window to see if he at least had a notebook and pencil, Evan shot him a desperate “OMG, please don’t talk to me in front of all of these kids” look. So Brandon rolls on – chuckling and wondering if he’ll EVER get those supplies to school.

I make lunches and nearly forget to toss in a love note. The girls are busy making a game time decision on their outfits. They both change shoes, and Clara swaps out her shirt before jetting out the door – with their dad.

After all of the commotion, I wasn’t ready for work, yet. I give my hugs and kisses at the door, feed our zoo of animals, microwave a frozen breakfast sandwich and shove it in my mouth on my way out the door.


Now that I’m sitting still, scrolling through all of the back-to-school Facebook posts, and texting my close friends to see how they’re holding up, I’m able to reflect on my own morning. It was super hectic, and certainly didn’t go as planned.

But, we did it.

And all five of us – plus a dog, rabbit and fish were all surviving just fine. I decided to look back at last year’s post to remind myself of how the first week of school went that time. It was pretty much the same, but with a teething, potty training puppy. What were we thinking?!

I guess the lesson in all of this (for me) is to keep embracing this messy, imperfect, and lovely life.The journey is far more interesting when I allow myself to laugh, cry and wonder along the way.

I’m also reminding myself of this golden gem…


{source} And boy do I love those monkeys.

And this is especially important for all of us mommas to remember this school year…

Here’s to a great school year – for all of us. #letsdothis




Friday Wrap: South Dakota Surprises

Hello, dear friends! We’re finally back home and are in the reminiscing stage of our trip to South Dakota, which was awe-some! I highly recommend this destination to everyone.


The girls and I were feelin’ our inner cowgirl all week. (These cute hats were gifts from our chuck wagon cookout, which we’ll discuss later.)

Now, I knew (from the pictures online and stories from friends) that we were headed to a really cool part of the country with plenty of sights and activities. So I shouldn’t have been so caught off guard by this trip, but I was. South Dakota is seriously beautiful.

Case in point…I’m one of those easy car sleepers who can log a solid 2-3 hour nap as soon as I hear the engine running. But once we hit the border of South Dakota, I was both-eyes-open.

It did help that we were able to divide the trip in half. We spent a couple of nights with our sweet family in Nebraska. So when it was time to keep driving north, I was refreshed and ready to roll.

Anyway, it was such a fun time overall, I want to dedicate this week’s “top five” to our trip. And specifically the five most surprising, breathtaking, exciting, and downright happy things we discovered. I’ll try my best to show restraint on the number of photos. I’ll do my best. Bear with me.

{ONE} Incredible Stops

First off, we’re usually beach people. We’ve never vacationed in the mountains in the summer – outside of a family reunion in Colorado when Evan was 3 months old. He’s 13 now, so it’s been awhile.

I had no idea how to tackle this trip, which meant I spent an enormous amount of time planning. Not only were hot mountains a new thing, but also the amount of time spent in the car. We logged a total of 35 hours. The lifesaver move was to map out strategic places to stop – to keep things interesting and give us a place to stretch.

Sioux Falls

I loved this stop right out of the gate. We’re standing in front of “the falls” in Sioux Falls! This was right after our delicious lunch at the Falls Overlook Cafe.

Corn Palace

Welcome to the Corn Palace! If you’re ever near Mitchell, South Dakota, you have to stop here. It’s the world’s only corn palace, so there’s that to check off the bucket list. 😉 On a more serious note, I was really touched by the image on the lower right. It was in the center of the arena, so it had a prominent place for everyone to appreciate. (Yes, it’s made out of ears of corn.)


Another “must see when you’re near” place is Carhenge. You know, like Stonehenge, but made with old cars? It’s both hysterical and completely cool. We hit this on the way home, since it’s in Alliance, Nebraska. We drove across the entire state of South Dakota on the way there, and drove across Nebraska on the way home. Another trick that allowed us to see something new the entire way!!

{TWO} Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse

Of course these iconic monuments made the top five list. Mount Rushmore was pretty much the main reason for this trip. The girls had free fourth-grade national park passes, and we were feeling adventurous. The next thing you know…

Mount Rushmore family pic

We made it to Mount Rushmore!! I love this classic family picture. You may or may not see this again around Christmas.

Mount Rushmore montage

I thought we were just going to take a few mountain pics and call it good. But there are all kinds of things to do at the Mount. Avery worked her tail off to become an official Junior Ranger. (It’s legit, too. She spent forever filling out a workbook, and she had a test at the end and everything!). Don’t you like the picture of her and her new park ranger friend? After this, we worked up an appetite for some Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream, because apparently he invented it. Then we walked through the Avenue of Flags and found a few states that are dear to our hearts – like Arkansas.

Mount Rushmore Sculpture

On one of the hiking trails (because there are those, too) we learned exactly how the mountain was carved and what the sculptor and his 400 workers attempted to create. This is the nearly 3-story model that stands in the sculptor’s studio. It was quite a monument unto itself.

Meaning of Mount Rushmore

I must confess, I went into this visit fairly uninformed, so I read everything in sight. This description about the meaning of Mount Rushmore was fascinating to me, and it made me feel incredibly patriotic for being there. #godblessamerica

We also took time to visit Crazy Horse. Some of the travel sites said you could just drive by and get the whole gist of it, but from our experience at Mount Rushmore, I wasn’t about to miss out on learning about the significance of this monument. I mean, I was right here!

crazy horse

As an interesting fact, Crazy Horse is a privately owned monument that’s still being carved. You can see the face on the top/middle, and the white paint on the lower right is where the horse will be carved one day. To put the overall size into perspective, the entire sculpture of Mount Rushmore would fit into the lower portion of Crazy Horse’s face. Wow, right? This thing is a huge undertaking. And pretty much by one family.

crazy horse different angles

These two pictures give me all the feels. The top shows what the final monument will look like one day. Crazy Horse is pointing to the land in front of him to symbolize his statement, “My lands are where my dead lie buried”. The picture on the bottom shows Clara receiving a handmade bracelet from a Lakota Indian. He carefully explained to her it was made with glass beads and buffalo hide. He also sold beautiful earrings made with ink-dipped porcupine quills. <3

crazy horse museum

Right next to the monument was an extensive museum filled with thousands of artifacts. We had fun exploring and learning about all kinds of Plains tribes. Education for the win.

{THREE} The Badlands

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but…we almost didn’t go to the Badlands. It was a pretty long drive from our hotel in Hill City, and I had completely underestimated its awesomeness. Thank goodness THREE separate people said to me before we left, “You’re going to the Badlands, aren’t you?!” Man, I’m so glad we did.

Badlands 2

We entered the park from the side that’s closest to Wall Drug. The first view literally took my breath away. We pulled over and jumped out of the car to soak this in with a clear, windowless view.

Badlands 4

I kept telling Brandon to pull over for pictures. He was so patient with me. I mean, this place looked like another planet!

Badlands 1

God was definitely showing off here. I could have stood here for hours.

Badlands 3

Okay, just one more picture. I have close to a hundred where these came from, but I’m showing restraint. Please be proud of me.

{FOUR} Custer State Park

If we ever go back to visit, I want to plan more time in this park. In fact, I would even stay here in one of their beautiful lodges. I’m about to take you on a photo tour that will help explain why…

Custer State Park Lake

This is Sylvan Lake that has a hiking trail, boating, swimming, fishing and picnicking all within a manageable distance. After so much time in the car, it felt amazing to get some much needed exercise – and you can’t beat this view! You might even recognize it from the movie National Treasure 2 with Nicholas Cage.

Custer State Park

We also ventured over to the newest lodge and lake experience called Legion Lake. It wasn’t as busy, so we spent quite a bit of time kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. What a day!

Okay, get ready for some incredible rock formations.

Needles Highway_Cathedral Spires

After we played in the lakes, we needed to head to the other side of the park for our Cowboy Cookout, so we took the scenic Needles Highway. It definitely gave the Badlands a run for its money in terms of stunning views.

Needles Highway montage

We drove through a tunnel that was nearly the size of our SUV with a luggage topper. Whew. I love the picture on the upper right, because you can see just how tall some of these rocks were compared to our cars! There were rock climbers all over this park, too. Ideal place for that kind of thing. The bottom left is Cathedral Spires, which I thought was the most perfect name. The girls were all about becoming explorers among these hills.

Family Wagon

Once we got through the Needles, we landed at the Blue Bell Lodge just in time for our chuck wagon cookout. We sang songs with a cowboy on the way to dinner while watching buffalo herds move around us.

Cowboy cookout

Our dinner site was in a large meadow in the middle of this forest-like park. They grilled steaks and served it up with all the usual fixin’s of beans, slaw, cornbread and watermelon. It was THE best meal of the entire trip. Hands down. These singers were each on a wagon. Our cowboy was the one on the far left. He was hilarious. And a 4th grade teacher, so he was absolutely charming with all of the kids.

{FIVE} The Wildlife!

Lastly, I have to mention Bear Country USA!! This was Avery’s number one destination. She’s obsessed with bears, so this was a “must do” on our itinerary according to her. I was so glad it met her (very high) expectations. We were also pleasantly surprised with tons of other wildlife on our trip.

Black Bear

Bear Country USA was full of black bears. You were able to drive through (with your windows rolled up!!) to get up-close and personal with these giant creatures. It was extremely hot when we were there, so the bears were moving slow. It gave us a false sense of security, I’m sure. They could probably tear us apart in one swipe, but from the comfort of our air-conditioned car, they looked so cute and cuddly!! I mean look at this guy above. I just wanted to give him a big pot of honey.

Bear Day

The girls were over the moon about our “bear day”. We even got to feed the baby bears! PS. They love grapes more than strawberries. Now, on the right you’ll see a much different kind of bear. This was taken at Teddy Bear Town, which is the largest collection of stuffed animal bears in the world. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records and everything! Talk about finding heaven on earth. We had visited this bear village earlier in the day.

Wild animals

Here are a few other furry friends we saw on our trip. The upper left was a herd of buffalo that passed us in Custer Park. The deer on the right was in the park, as well. The baby bear on the lower left was inside Bear Country USA. Also at Bear Country was the big horn sheep on the lower right. He was just wondering through. Beep. Beep.


This is more buffalo in Custer Park. They were everywhere. You can’t believe how large these things were. And look, they were right on the road!!

That’s pretty much a wrap. I hope you enjoyed a few of our pictures and consider visiting this place for yourself.

Now that we’re back home, it feels nice to sleep in my own bed and eat out of my own fridge. I will say, though, I’m gonna miss this constant view from my passenger seat. Good thing I get to keep these little bears >>

Car ride

Many happy trails to you!



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What My Parents Have Taught Me About Marriage

As my parents celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary today, I was thinking about the significance of this event. Fifty-eight-years. That means they’ve been married for 73% of their lives so far. (Can you believe I just did math?)

Honestly, that sounds like a long time to wake up and look at the same person each day, but my parents have met this milestone with grace, love and gratitude. I believe they’ll be in this marathon until the finish line, and I couldn’t feel more honored to witness this relationship.

Anniversaries that reach double digits, let alone almost six decades worth, are incredibly rare these days. Not all marriages are created equally, and I’ve wondered what contributed to my parent’s years of success?

I imagine they’ve had many rough spots along the way, although they’d never let us see it. And when I say “us” I’m referring to my two brothers and two sisters. Yes, my parents have not only managed a strong marriage all these years, but also raised five kids through it all. They’re certifiable saints.

They’re also fairly private with their feelings. They never sat me down and gave detailed instructions on how to be in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything from them. It’s quite the opposite. I’ve been a keen observer and quiet witness to their patience, humor, frustration, forgiveness and unending love for at least 43 years of their marriage.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my parents from when I was younger. (Look at the cute bow in my mom's hair!)

I’ve always liked this picture of my parents. Look at the cute bow in my mom’s hair. <3

As I thought about how to celebrate them today, I decided to shine a light on a few things I’ve secretly learned from them so far. I know there are many more, but these were top of mind.

{Know your strengths}

There was a period of time when my mom was busy raising us kids while my dad was serving our country in the war. I have a feeling this was a time of tension and worry for everyone. I was just a baby during this stage in their marriage, but I think the lessons remained forever. My mom realized she had more endurance than she thought, and my dad grew in his appreciation for life back home. They each had to be strong on their own – and in turn, they became a stronger couple.

This is something deep and real for me to think about. Having a solid marriage doesn’t mean Brandon and I always have to be side-by-side wearing the same team colors. Now, I say this lightly, as “quality time” is my major love language. I make the entire family go with me to Walmart for groceries, for pete’s sake. But sometimes, when life throws us a curve…a tough job, an illness, a friend in need…where we can’t always be together 24/7, maybe one of the best gifts I can give my husband is to stand strong. Let him know not to worry. I can be okay on my own, and I believe he can, too.

{Pray together}

Prayer is something my parents have held dear to their hearts for many years. They raised us as a good Catholic family and showed us how to start each morning, begin each meal, and close each day with a prayer of gratitude. (I’m sure my parents had all kinds of other prayers in between, but that’s between them and God.)

All I know is that I learned prayer is a sacred and special part of the day that you can share with others – especially your family. I also learned prayer keeps us humble and kind. And I don’t know about you, but those are two qualities I could love in a person for 58+ years.

{Have your own hobbies}

My mom is a Master Gardener who loves digging in the dirt, sewing, and keeping the cookie jar full, while my dad loves volunteering and playing golf with his buddies. They share the love of the outdoors, but I believe having their own distinct passions – and being supportive of each other’s time away doing them – has helped them remain strong as a couple.

This is a very good thing for me to remind Brandon as I slowly take over the garage with my craft supplies and spend evenings (like right now) writing entries in my blog. He’s allowing me to follow my passion for creative living. Thank you, honey. 😉

Actually, he’s probably watching a Jason Bourne movie or checking Husker football pre-season stats at the moment. It’s all good. See?

{When in doubt, laugh it out}

My dad is a complete pro at this. Anytime things get stressful, he’s quick with a joke, pun or some other twist of language that makes you laugh out loud. He knows how to keep things in perspective, and I think he has taught my mom to do the same. Maybe she has always been this way, too? She just allows my dad to tell his classic dad jokes? All I know is that I love to watch her laugh at him.

{Be financially responsible}

This may be one thing my parents sat down and explained. We may not have talked about the birds and the bees (as I was provided books for that kind of thing), but we did discuss the importance of being smart with money. And this tip alone can be enough to save a marriage.

It was explained to me that marriage is about having three types of relationships with a person: You’re friends, lovebirds and also business partners. Many people don’t realize this third role, but it’s important to realize you’re the president and CEO of the household. You have to talk about money, never hide things from each other (including those shoe purchases you stashed in the trunk), and have annual meetings where you map out your family finances and dreams. It doesn’t matter how much money you do (or don’t) have in your account, you still have to talk about it – and be a team. Lesson noted.

{Serve others}

If you combined my parents’ hearts into one, it would be the size of Texas. They have a fondness for helping the poor and have been involved with countless organizations over the years that have provided food, clothing, Christmas gifts, counseling, and even shelter for those in need. I truly admire their dedication to humankind.

We haven’t specifically talked about their “why”, but I imagine it has a little something to do with being grateful for the many blessings in their own lives. And I have to believe the fact they volunteer and do this hard work together (both physically and emotionally) has to be another ingredient to their lasting marriage.

{Never give up}

Through the years, my parents have shown fierce dedication to each other. It has never crossed my mind that they would ever give up. Again, I’m sure they’ve had rough patches and will continue to have bad days. After all, they’re people, like you and me. The one thing that’s special about them is they know how to keep a promise. A promise they made before family, friends, God and each other 58 years ago today. One that included holding each other from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health.

And you know who wants to thank them for being the best role models and parents a girl could have? I do.

This is a picture of my parents dancing at my wedding.

This is a picture of my parents dancing at my wedding. They’re showing us how it’s done 😉

As Brandon and I celebrate our sweet 16 this year, I promise to cherish each of these lessons and carry them with me for many years to come. Happy anniversary, mom and dad. Here’s to many more years of love, laughter and lessons ahead.

Love you the world full,



Five Things I Learned While Camping

As you may know, our family just had our first official campout. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how it all went down. I was expecting sweltering heat and vast amounts of insects. While we had a bit of both, it wasn’t obnoxious.

The kids were super-troopers and willing to risk life beyond air conditioning and electricity. I think all of those episodes of Man vs. Wild may have helped in this department. Needless to say, we were all in.


Campers at work <3

The moment we pulled into our campsite, I felt ready to take on nature. The Girl Scout force was strong with this one. I was armed with glow sticks, homemade bug spray, a Swiss Army knife, battery-operated personal cooling devices, and a slew of other camping hacks.

What I didn’t realize is that nature would take hold of me, and teach me that not everything I needed could be neatly tucked into a backpack.

Here are five things to prove that…


What’s the quote about “best laid plans…?” Well, inevitably we didn’t have everything we needed for our trip. As much planning and list-making as I had done, we forgot a few fairly important things.

One of them being a pot holder to remove food from the fire. Yikes. We also didn’t pack enough bottled water or a rain tarp for the tent. Triple yikes. Once we heard thunder, I started to panic. Then my husband reminded me that…

a) It wasn’t raining, yet, and the clouds could blow over, and

b) We were fairly smart people who could figure things out. (We also held keys to a car that could drive us back home, if needed.)

Not wanting to wimp out, we fired up our adventurous spirit and started tackling each issue at a time. We had metal skewers that could double as tongs. There was a water fountain by the restrooms to fill our bottles. We had plenty of trash bags that could stretch across the top of our tent. Check, check and check!

Later that night, when we realized we needed more kindling for the fire, Clara quickly said, “We could use these dry leaves over here!” Atta girl. We may not have packed enough gear, but we had our resourcefulness. And nothing, including a little rain, could ruin our camping parade.

lets go

The girls loved exploring this dried up creek bed. They were looking for hiking sticks, cool rocks – and probably a few leaves to burn.


Right after we unloaded the car, we took a dip in the campground pool, checked out the scenery, and eventually got back to our campsite for the evening. That’s when we realized our mistake. We started the charcoals too late.

As we sat staring and waiting for those damn bricks to turn gray so we could cook our dinner, I realized I left my patience at home. We all did. The kids were getting grumpy as the sun was setting on our hungry faces. We tried to distract ourselves with music on our phone, only to discover we had no service. Not even one bar.

We found ourselves with a choice: sit with our impatience or enjoy this beautiful evening, which turned out to have little to no rain and a gorgeous moon.

100% thanks to my husband, we chose the second option. We made up our own version of frisbee golf, and even caught a few fireflies, while we patiently waited for our food. And when it was finally ready, it never tasted so good.

The same lesson showed up in the morning. As I waited…and waited…for the eggs to cook and the water to boil for my coffee, I invited a little patience to join me. I picked up a book to read, but I ended up just sitting in the quiet with my family listening to the crackling fire. For the first time in at least 24 hours, I didn’t feel the need to rush around. I was healed for a moment from my lifestyle of constant movement. And it felt really nice.

finally coffee

My sweet B and I tasting our delicious morning coffee. (Which, by the way are those Starbucks instant packets!!)


One of the reasons we chose to camp at Devil’s Den was because of its hiking trails. There are several to choose from, so we went with the one named Devil’s Den. I figured it would be like a restaurant…you can’t go wrong ordering the item named after the joint. Well, it lived up to my expectations. This trail was filled with crazy rock formations, tons of native vegetation and plenty of scurrying creatures.

At one point we were met with a fork in the road. As cliché as it sounds, we took the road less traveled. We decided to be adventurous, and look what we found!

stacked stones3

The tiny winding path led us right to this spot where there were hundreds of stacked stones along the creek. Maybe it wasn’t so “less traveled” after all? Regardless, we stopped to take pictures and add our contribution before we were on our way.stacked stones1

And I left feeling thankful we were bold enough to take this path in the first place. We could have easily blown past it and missed this delightful landscape – which would have been a shame. Adventure for the win.
stacked stones2


Being outdoors, you have to be aware of your surroundings for safety reasons. You could come upon a poisonous snake or even a bear in some parts around here, and you need to know how to handle the situation. That goes without saying. It’s also nice to just look around every now and then and be aware of how beautiful things are.

When I took time to notice, I saw all kinds of friendly creatures just doing their thing. It reminded me that these woods are their home, and I was merely a guest.


We saw bunnies, beavers, bumbles and butterflies!!


The idea of being out in the wilderness without access to texting, gaming or any form of electronic communication sounded scary to my kids. I even freaked out for a bit when we couldn’t even get music. But once we started exploring and playing games that required frisbees and a deck of cards, we started to realize how much we needed this.

family walk

Look at those trail blazers. I love that they’re walking in birth order. I don’t think they even realize it. Although, Clara  is only 1-minute younger than Avery, so she should be following a little closer 😉

family pic

My world…standing on a bridge to happiness.

I hope you have a chance to go camping, or at least spend time in the great outdoors soon. It can be life changing – if you let it all in.

finding yourself

That’s my awesome Evan trekking across the creek.

Love and hugs,



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How to Beat Summer Boredom

According to the Farmer’s Almanac and other trusty sources, today is pretty special because it’s not only a full moon (the strawberry moon, to be exact), but also summer solstice. Yay for summer!

Apparently the last time these two occasions landed on the same day was nearly 70 years ago, so enjoy that little piece of trivia.

Now that summer is (officially) in full swing, and we’re experiencing the longest day of the year, I thought I’d share an activity I started doing with my kids.

My intention is to keep them feeling motivated, so summer boredom doesn’t set in.

While a little boredom can be good…

I also think it’s helpful to provide some guidance every now and then so total chaos doesn’t ensue. That’s how I landed on this simple activity.

I decided to ask four questions each day.

{One} What can you do to learn?

{Two} What can you do to help others?

{Three} What can you do that’s active or healthy?

{Four} What can you do that’s fun?

We found these to be the most well-rounded questions that spark all kinds of ideas and support good habits. We also think it’s funny that it spells LOAF. With that said…

Our no-loafin’ list has included these activities.

{Learn} Going to the library, reading, researching places to visit on our trip to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, and running a lemonade stand.

Side note: Lemonade stands are full of life lessons…making change, marketing, balancing supply and demand. All good stuff.

{Others} Helping each other slather on sunscreen, taking a baby gift to our next door neighbor, giving fresh flowers to a stranger at our campsite, and feeding the ducks behind our house.

{Active} Making healthier choices with snacks, drinking plenty of water, swimming laps, running, biking around the neighborhood, and taking our puppy Leo for a walk.

{Fun} Having lots of sleep overs and play dates, going to the Farmer’s Market on the weekends, playing games at the pool, going to movies, swinging in the hammock, and camping!!

During dinner, we check in to see how it’s going. Have we been able to answer our questions? Whatever is left on the list provides ideas for what to do in the evening.

Now, this isn’t a mandatory list of questions. I didn’t want this to become a chore. We simply use it as a guide to help answer, “Mom, what can we do now?” And hopefully prevent, “…I’m soooo bored.”

So far it’s working, although it’s only just the beginning.

pineapple with sunglasses

Stay cool! {source}

What are some things you’re doing this summer to stay busy and have fun?



30A Beach Trip Memories

How is it possible that a full week’s vacation felt like it was crammed into a weekend away? Maybe we were having so much fun that time ticked faster than the normal tock? Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting old? Lol. Regardless, it was a much needed getaway with the family, and I could have easily stayed forever.

heart in the sand

We could have all stayed forever!!

As promised, here are a few snaps we took along our journey, which took place along 30A. There’s a stretch of quaint, seaside towns that extends from Destin east to Panama City Beach, FL. The highway that connects these communities is 30A, which is why the area is lovingly called that, or South Walton.


beach shot_best day

We were greeted with clear water and sunny skies, which made for the perfect introduction to our beach home for the week. <3

Our Beachy Digs

beach house

Speaking of beach home, this is the little rental we found on VRBO. It was darling and had lots of beachy charm. The deck upstairs is off of the master suite – and was the perfect spot for a glass of wine in the evenings.

sign in house

I loved this sign that reminded us how blessed we were to be so close to the shore.

Food for Days

watching Lilly

I won’t go into every detail, but once we were settled into our space, we headed out for some dinner at my favorite restaurant, Great Southern Cafe. (I’m still dreaming about the shrimp and grits.) My niece, Lilly, was diving in the NCAA Championships, so we watched her compete while we ate. You can see the town of Seaside in the background. Lilly did great, by the way! Next up is the Olympic trials for this amazing girl.

la cocina

While we’re on the topic of food…another favorite meal was from La Cocina. It was voted the best Mexican food on 30A, and it lived up to its accolades. I had the fish tacos with mango salsa, which was heavenly. The girls had their first pina colada (non-alcoholic, of course) and their lives changed forever. They asked for one at EVERY place we visited – even at the gas station on the way home. Wish I were kidding.

30A beer

Brandon was almost as excited about this beer as the girls and their pina coladas. This brew is from one of the local towns called Grayton Beach, which made it that much more enjoyable.

donuts at Alys

It’s not a proper trip to 30A without a stop at Charlie’s Donut Truck in Alys Beach! Checkmark.

Beach Time

jumping for joy

I promise we didn’t just eat the whole time. We had tons of great beach time. This was one of the first pics I took once we unpacked all of our sunscreen, snacks, drinks, towels, books, music, buckets, shovels, and nets from our bags. Whew! Thank goodness we had chair service so we didn’t have to schlep those down to the beach, too. Anyway, I loved this picture of Clara dancing in the sand. I totally feel her joy!

surfer girls

The water was fa-ree-zing, but that didn’t stop the girls from boogie-boarding right into that water. My little fish, those two.

girls in the water

This helps demonstrate just how chilly the water was.

best friends at the beach

I adore catching the girls in moments like this. This is what family vacation is about, right?

kate and evan

Meanwhile, Evan and I were usually bundled under blankets having a few chats ourselves. The water (and the wind) could get pretty chilly. We had a few sunny days tucked in there, though. It was all good.

evan's beach style

On the sunny days, Evan created a cozy spot under a tilted umbrella. He was mostly into reading and chillin’ next to me on this trip, which was a welcomed treat. (By the way, B was a trooper and was usually in the water with the girls or behind the camera. He’s such a good historian.)

Sun, Camera, Action!

clara tee

Yes, it is. And we had lots of it.


We took a boat ride over to Shell Island one day and part of the trip included a dolphin encounter. There were dolphins EVERYWHERE. A few of the smaller ones came right up to our boat. I was so excited, I fumbled with my phone and didn’t get good pics. This, my friends, is why I’m not a photojournalist. #missedthemoneyshot


I did manage to snap this cool shot of seagulls flying next to our boat. The captain gave everyone Cheetos, so we were feeding them as we pulled out of the marina.

collecting shells

This is me in my happy place…walking along the beach looking for shells and any other kind of sea creature that has washed up on shore. I didn’t realize B even took this shot, but I’m glad he did. It pulls me back to that very spot every time I look at it.

beach collections

A few things I discovered on my walks – besides beautiful shells. L to R: sea urchin, driftwood, jellyfish, and a bird hunting for fresh mussels.

coconut friend

Avery discovered a coconut floating in the water. With her creative flair, she quickly made it her friend, named him Sandy, and dressed him up with glasses and sunscreen. It was almost like a scene from Castaway when she had to leave him behind.

kate and kids

This was taken on one of our family walks along the shore.

b and and the kids

“Home is wherever I’m with you.”

shopping art of simple

We did a little shopping while we were there, too. We walked past this store and Clara said, “Ooh, mommy. This place has your name all over it.” It was so cute. Of course we had to step in, and she was so right. I wanted to wrap up the entire store and stick it in my purse. PS. Yes, that is a 32oz mimosa in my hand. Thank goodness we were walking everywhere that day.

kate and kids_dressed up

Back at the beach house, we spent a few moments hanging on the sunporch. This was right before we went to dinner one night.

kate and b

Best buddies for life! <3

bonfire at seacrest beach

Each night, Seacrest Beach had a bonfire and live music in the town square. We spent several nights sitting around the fire enjoying some local tunes. It was such a relaxing way to end the day.

Heading Home

As all things eventually come to an end, our time at the beach did, as well. I’d like to add, “…for now.” I know we’ll head back when time and budget allows. Until then, thank you 30A for a great family vacation.

avery profile

On our drive home we stopped in a hotel for the night, and I woke up early…to a quiet room. Everyone was still sleeping, but Avery. She was standing in the window contemplating the day, or perhaps savoring all of the experiences and memories she had just made. Here’s to making many more together, my sweetness!




Happy Easter!

As we travel home from our spring break trip today, I wanted to be sure and wish all of you a happy, blessed Easter day. See you next week with a few beach pics. In the meantime, here are a few adorable bunnies to warm your heart. As they symbolize new life, may they also remind you of the significance of today.

For more sweet bunny pics, check out my special Pinterest board.