Friday Wrap: A Lovely Laguna Beach Break

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Thanks to my husband, Brandon, we were able to experience a four-day stay in Southern California this week. It was beyond incredible. Even with the rain we encountered, which apparently hasn’t happened in quite some time, we loved every split second of this vacation.

Brandon earned the trip through work, so most of the details were planned for us – including reservations at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Nigel. Whaaat? This palatial resort is perched on top of a cliff in Dana Point.

There was so much to explore, I’ll try my best to summarize our trip in five “buckets.”

I’ll include lots of photos, so you can feel just like you were there with us. And if you ever get a chance to visit this lovely part of the world, by all means, these are definitely things worth checking out.

{ONE} The Destination: Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

entrance-of-hotel

This is the entrance of our hotel. The colorful vinca and juicy succulents that surrounded the grand entrance provided a little foreshadowing…

lobby-flowers

As you stepped inside, you were greeted with a visual display of flowers arranged in incredibly tall vases. Apparently there’s also a signature fragrance at the hotel. It’s a light floral scent and is piped through the vent system. So all of your senses are engaged the moment you walk through the door.

lobby-roses

Gigantic bunches of roses are lined along the main hallways.

top-view-of-ritz-carlton

This is a view of the hotel from the back side. See all of those adirondack chairs down on the right? B and I spent as much time as we could there soaking up some sun – and maybe enjoying a drink or two.

best-mojito-ever

This was the best mojito to ever hit my mouth. It was from one of the hotel bars called 180blu. The drink was bright green and had cucumbers. I didn’t ask questions. I just enjoyed every delicious sip.

pool-view-of-ritz-carlton

Look at this gorgeous pool! It rained the first couple of days, so we didn’t get as much pool time as we would have liked. I guess we’ll just have to go back. Darn. 😉

{TWO} The Sights and Sounds

kate-in-laguna-beach

The moment I heard the waves and smelled the salt air, I knew I had arrived…welcome to the Pacific Ocean!!

beach-with-bird-of-paradise

Remember those adirondack chairs I was telling you about a moment ago? This was the view from that spot. It was the perfect place for watching waves – and even hummingbirds! They loved the Bird of Paradise flowers that were planted all around the resort. I was pretty much in Kate-heaven.

beach-walk-morning

Every morning Brandon and I hiked down the hill and walked along the shore. I loved how different it looked each time. This particular day the water had created a shelf of sand. See it on the right? I could stand here for days…just watching and listening to the waves crash.

sea-stone

Being from Arkansas, I’m more accustomed to the beaches along the Gulf Coast, which are covered in sea shells. So I enjoyed looking at all of the treasures that the Pacific Ocean pulled onto her shores – like this sea stone.

surfer

Dana Point must be a hot spot for surfers, because there were TONS of surfers in the water. All day, every day. It was cool.

fancy-house-on-beach

Okay, so The Ritz-Carlton isn’t the only fancy-pants destination on “the hill”. Check out this mansion. In fact, there were many more like this dotted along the upper ridge. Apparently many of them are owned by stars. Anyone know who this belongs to?! I’d love to know.

tom-cruise-house

We heard this one belongs to Tom Cruise. It was literally right next door to our hotel. Hey, T-Cruise!

 

blackbird-on-ledge

Other than hummingbirds, there were flocks of blackbirds always passing through. This guy was perched on the ledge of an outdoor restaurant at the hotel. I think he wanted my chips. Sorry, dude.

bird-of-paradise

Speaking of birds…here’s a closeup of a Bird of Paradise that was growing next to the pool. I remember the first time I ever saw one of these was in the flower shop where I worked in college. When I unpacked them for the first time, I felt like I had just released a rare bird. And I remember thinking it had the most perfect name.

eucalypus-tree

This photo also reminds me of the flower shop from college. We used seeded eucalyptus all of the time as greenery. And this, my friends, is how it grows. Tall on a tree like this! It smelled so clean and medicinal. I could feel my head clear as I stood in her shade.

{THREE} The Extras: Yoga, Cooking Classes and Parties

yoga-view

Part of the perks of a four-diamond hotel are things like complimentary yoga classes every day. #truestory I got up pretty much every morning and enjoyed my yoga practice – with this view.

fitness-center-at-ritz-carlton

The fitness center had a rows of ellipticals and other machines that faced the ocean. I told B that if I had this view, I’d easily workout every day. No questions asked.

chef-anthony-enosteak

B’s company offered one free activity, and we chose a Cooking with The Masters class. This is Chef Anthony from EnoSteak, which is one of the featured restaurants on the property. He walked us through how to make a rustic rendition of bruschetta using heirloom tomatoes, followed by a sherry dijon vinaigrette that was drizzled over greens and grilled vegetables. Then the main course was chimichurri marinade flank steak that was grilled outside over coals. Talk about de-lish.

b-and-k-in-cooking-class

This was a picture of our table as we enjoyed the full menu that was prepared by Chef Anthony, who was such a kind and soft-spoken man with a deep passion for food.

outdoor-party

This was our view for the final dinner. Brandon’s company invited everyone to dine out on the lawn under the stars. We enjoyed a buffet of pretty much anything you can imagine: steaks, grilled swordfish, lobster risotto, a taco bar, etc. There was also a coffee station next to a full spread of desserts, which included s’mores. You could roast your own handcrafted marshmallow squares over an open fire pit. #todiefor

The people at this event came from all over the country, but we did know one other couple from Arkansas. This is us grabbing a quick pic before I ran over to stuff my face with some lobster risotto. (B and I are on the right, and our friends, Kurt and Leann, are on the left.)

{FOUR} Shopping in Downtown Laguna

laguna-avenue

We squeezed in a tiny bit of shopping. Much like the pool situation, we didn’t give ourselves nearly enough time to enjoy this. Another reason we must go back.

tuvalu

Downtown Laguna is adorable, quaint and perfect for pretty much any kind of shopper. You don’t have to be loaded to shop at many of these stores, which made it super fun. This was one of my favorites called Tuvalu. It had a friendly vibe and reminded me of a beach-themed Anthropologie.

the-flower-stand_laguna-beach

A market-style flower shop. I mean…beauty served on a sidewalk right there.

driftwood-kitchen-logo

If you ever head to Laguna Beach, you must eat here. Trust me. We ate here for dinner one night and I’m still dreaming about that chilean sea bass.

driftwood-kitchen

This will be your view. Look at those ocean waves.

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Our table was on the far left. I used this pic from the restaurant, which is way better than mine – since it was full of people. The restaurant is surrounded in glass, so there really isn’t a bad view – or seat – in the house.

beach-sunset

We caught the sunset just as we arrived. Talk about taking your breath away.

dinner-with-friends-at-driftwood-kitchen

Hands down, the best part of the day – and maybe even trip – was catching up with Ryan and his girlfriend Jamie. Ryan was the best man in our wedding and lives near Los Angeles. Needless to say, we don’t get to see him very often. We were honored he drove down the coast to see us. We spent hours talking, laughing, swapping stories and learning about various forms of healing. He’s one fascinating dude. And I loved getting the chance to meet Jamie. She’s such a beautiful and warm person. She’s also smart and has her own business making orgonite pieces, which I’ll need to feature in an upcoming post. They’re really beautiful.

{FIVE} Togetherness with Brandon

brandon-and-kate

Okay, so as I wrap up this photo journey of our time in Laguna Beach, I have to say “thank you” to my sweet B for working so hard and making this trip possible for us. I loved every step we took, every meal we ate, every sound we soaked in, and every new experience we had…together. #buddiesforlife

And we’re home…

sweet-girls

While B and I were off splashing in the ocean, my awesome niece stayed at our house with the kids. We couldn’t have made this trip without her, so big kisses to our Sarah!!

XoXo and blessings for a beautiful weekend,

Kate

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Friday Wrap: Busy Like A Bee

Yay! It’s another happy Friday! Although, most Fridays are. This one kind of snuck up on me, though. The week was so jam packed, that it flew right by.

I was a busy bee trying to make things happen at work, around the house, for the family, and even for myself. Somehow I managed to squeeze in some time to shop for a few necessities. It didn’t all go as planned, but the things that needed to happen got done – for the most part.

just-bee

PS. Isn’t this a darling design? It was created by my talented friend, Stacie. She has an Etsy store where you can buy this (and many others) as a download to print and frame.

Now that I’ve scurried through the week, I plan to take the advice of this piece of art. I’m gonna rest my weary wings and just be! First, let’s have a mini sharing sesh.

Here are a few {of the more exciting} things that happened:

{ONE} Ordered My 2017 Day Designer

day-designer

Check out all of the pretty 2017 Day Designers here! {affiliate}

Talk about time flying…can you believe we’re already thinking about 2017 day planners?! The new Day Designers by Whitney English went on sale this week, so I went ahead and ordered one while they were still available. Those suckers sell so fast!

This is the pattern I ordered this year – from the Flagship Collection. I can’t wait for it to arrive so I can start plugging in some goals and dates for the coming year.

{TWO} Corsages by Kate: Part Two

corsage-with-gold-ribbon

corsage-with-babys-breath

So…Evan was invited to the Sadie Hawkins dance at his school, which was super cute. When we were talking about what he was going to wear and how formal it was, he said that no matter what, he wanted me to make corsages for his date – and his best friend’s date. I guess he liked the ones I made for him last year?

Melt my heart.

It’s not every day your 13-year-old son asks for something sweet like this – and that requires flowers, beads and ribbons. {Pretty much my dream team of all craft supplies.} Of course I said, “Heck, yeah!” And I quickly got to work on these creations. P.S. Floral glue is my new BFF.

{THREE} Created Monster Cupcakes

monster-cupcakes

girls-with-monster-cupcakes

I can’t take credit for this adorable project. These monster cupcakes were the creation of my twin girls – and our rock star sitter. I decided to spend some time with friends, and I came home to these sweet treats looking right at me from the kitchen counter.

They made multi-colored frosting, which was store-bought vanilla divided into several bowls – then they added gel food coloring to make a variety of colors. The candy eyes were from Walmart. So simple, but so fun. I’ll take two, please. 😉

{FOUR} Made Home-cooked Happy Meals 

One of my readers mentioned she wanted more recipes, so I thought I’d share this delicious number from Pioneer Woman. It’s called Sour Cream Noodle Bake.

noodle-bake

Get the full recipe and instructions here.

As you probably know by now, I’m a fan of simplicity. So any recipe that involves fixing and forgetting it, or making ahead and freezing, are high on my happy list. And when it tastes so good you could eat leftovers for a week and still not get tired of it, that’s just plain magical.

This is one of those recipes, which I whipped up this week. Mmmm…

Note: I like to double the recipe and freeze half of it for a rainy day. It’s also a great dish to take to someone’s house who needs a little home-cooked-pick-me-up.

{FIVE} Purchased Travel Essentials

Travel?! Yes, Brandon and I are headed to Laguna Beach this weekend!! B earned the trip through work, so we’re staying in a fancy hotel. I’m super excited – even if I don’t know what “resort wear” means and I still haven’t packed. At least I’ve shopped for my beauty essentials >>

sephora-face-mask

These masks are ah-mazing. My face tends to get greasy, so I like the Green Tea Mattifying* mask. You wear it for 15 min before bed. Once you take it off, you don’t rinse. Just head to bed and wake up with super soft, dreamy skin. I think this will feel good after a long day of flying.

*According to Sephora, the Rose mask is the best selling of them all. Since I’m a sucker for marketing, of course I had to buy one of those, too. I’ll let you know my thoughts once I try it.

living-proof-dry-shampoo

Any time I travel, I feel like my hair gets limp and greasy. Not pretty. So Living Proof Dry Shampoo to the rescue!! I love this brand, which was created by Jennifer Aniston. It doesn’t leave a weird white residue in your hair and it smells awesome. If you’re looking for a really good dry shampoo, I’d recommend this one any day.

facial-mist

This product was something I read about in an issue of Real Simple magazine. It was “road tested” as one of the better facial “mists” that mattifies and refreshes. It’s called Grease Relief Facial Water.

By now you can probably see a theme with my products. I’m super oily 🙁 This product works best sprayed onto a cotton pad and then dabbed on your trouble spots. I like to use it after a workout or even in the afternoon when my skin needs a pick-me-up. Ahh.

Okay, friends…that’s pretty much a wrap! Thanks for visiting today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be sure to share a few pics on Facebook or Insta as we travel into the Pacific Time Zone.

In the meantime, bless you and your sweet home!

Kate

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Friday Wrap: Family Road Trip

Aaaaand we’re off! Our family trip to South Dakota has officially started. In fact, I’m writing this post as we’re driving. I have the computer in my lap, coffee in the cup holder to my left, and sunscreen on my right arm…you know, all of the important passenger stuff.

Although, according to this hilarious diagram, as the shotgun rider, I should also be keeping my eyes on directions and ears on the radio. (They don’t call me DJ Mama Bear for nothin’)

For today’s weekly wrap up, I thought it would be fun to share a few items we put on our Must Pack list.

Inside the car, we have…

{ONE} A New Road Trip Tee

road trip shirt

If you saw my Road Trip Tip board, you may have noticed this cute number. Well, I decided to order it! How fun is this to kick off a little Griswold-style vacation?

It was also the first time I’ve ever purchased something directly from Pinterest. Has anyone else tried this, yet? It was super easy.

ready to road trip

See the “add to bag” button on the right? You just click and go to your cart – like any store.

{TWO) Travel Books

travel book cover

My girls wanted a special journal for their trip, and we decided to go the super fun route with Wreck This Journal. There are a few in the series, and this is a special edition is specifically for travelling. Perfect.

Just look at the first page…

travel book warning

How awesome is this? And the back cover offers suggestions for places to wreck your journal…

travel book back

{THREE} Furry Friends

You know how my girls love stuffed animals? Well, they have accumulated so many that it has caused a few situations. One being that they can’t take everyone on road trips.

So Avery and Clara held a “Bear Meeting” where they took inventory of everyone in the room. Then they listed all of the upcoming trips and assigned animals to attend each summer adventure. Girls after my own heart with all of this organization.

Here’s the official chart, complete with names.

animal list

Now, those who weren’t lucky enough to come along can still join virtually. The girls took glamour shots of each furry friend, so they’re on the iPad. Crisis averted. 

furry friends

{FOUR} Playlists & Podcasts

I was perusing for a good playlist for our trip and I came across this compilation that was featured on Lauren Conrad’s blog. Even though it’s a few years old, I thought it was a great list. (It had me at Matt Kearney.) <3

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Brandon and I also have a few podcasts up our sleeve. You know the Serial podcast, which sparked much debate about an inmate named Adnan Syed who has served nearly 16 years in a prison in Maryland? Well, many people believe he’s innocent, and he was just granted another trial – like on July 5th. So, now we’re planning to listen to Undisclosed, which is continuing to follow Adnan’s journey. #fascinating

We’lll probably mix things up with some humor, too.

{FIVE} Portable Snacks

Each person in our family has a favorite go-to road trip snack. So here’s the rundown of our stash.

I love a pack of cherry Twizzlers and ice water with a shot of Mio.

MIO

Brandon goes for more salty choices like a trail mix or Chex Mix. He likes those mixes 😉

ChexMixflavors

The girls like to wait until we’re at a rest stop to get an ice cream treat. They especially like those F’real shakes. As the name says, they’re the F’real deal. So tasty.

F'Real

Evan is pretty much the only health nut in the car. He likes fresh peaches, apple slices, or string cheese. Where did he come from?! Lol.

What’s your favorite road trip food or other Must Have item to survive a long drive?

I’ll be filling up on Twizzlers, snapping tons of pictures and simply enjoying some family time for the next few days. So I’ll see you on the flip side. Have a wonderful weekend (and week ahead), my sweet friends!

XoXo,

Kate

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Hello again!

Hello, friends! If you’ve been wondering where the heck I’ve been lately, not to worry. I was on a whirlwind, family-style adventure for the past few weeks, and now I’m back and ready to blog about it all.

Where exactly did I go?!

Our little family of five trekked up to Hastings, Minnesota for a family reunion. Then we headed down and over (very technical directions, I know) to Lincoln, Nebraska for my nieces’ wedding. It was a trip that took us two weeks and all the way through the entire state of Iowa. We saw lots of agriculture and wind farms (cue the 12-year-old boy jokes) and even a few rainbows spread across the sun-stormy skies.

rainbow

A beautiful rainbow over Somewhere, Iowa

Our whole adventure started with a full day’s drive to Owatonna, Minnesota where we visited Brandon’s sister and brother-in-law over cold beers and grilled burgers.

owatonna pic

We made it to MN! We’re in my SIL backyard next to a gorgeous koi pond.

But let me back up a bit.

If your family is at all like ours, the adventure actually begins before you even leave the driveway. First we had to stop off at the vet to drop off Rosie the Rabbit. That’s where she stays when we go out of town. That little bun arrives with more stuff than you’d pack for your first-born child. It’s pretty ridiculous. Once we got Rosie settled and said our dramatic good-byes, we moved to the task of shoving our suitcases, pillows, stuffed animals, coloring books, snacks, drinks, magazines, electronics and all of the associated chargers and adaptors into the car – and the car topper.

At one point, there wasn’t enough room for either Avery or Clara. Since it wasn’t an option to leave them Home Alone style, we rock-paper-scissored our way down to one stuffed animal each. When it was finally time to pull out of the driveway, we only had to de-program the house alarm twice to get things we forgot before we were officially on the open road headed for middle ‘Mercia.

family road trip

Road trip!!!! Of course Mr. Fluffers and Hershey made the cut.

Adventure Part One…Done!

Back to being in Owatonna. After our visit to this cute town, we decided to head to Mall of America before things kicked off at the family reunion. Now, I was a bit leery about this particular outing – only because this was our family’s second attempt at shopping here.

The first occurrence happened back when Evan was 3-years old and the twins were a mere 3-months old. We had a four-alarm meltdown right in the middle of Rain Forest Café where visitors were not able to distinguish between the sounds of automated rainstorms with screeching monkeys and our three whaling children. Our car was parked MILES away, and we could not get out of there fast enough. It’s a memory I’m still trying to forget, which is probably why my right eye started twitching the moment we pulled into the multi-storied parking garage.

I’m happy to report that all went well this time! There were a few screams, but only out of delight when we rode the roller coasters (yes, plural) and other crazy rides in Nickelodeon Universe®, which is smack dab in the middle of the mall. Evan found the Lego store, which was clearly marked by the two-story Transformer – made entirely of Legos.

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We also managed to find the Godiva Chocolatier store where we stuffed our faces with truffles like we were Lucille Ball. Aaaand…we ran into both of my brothers and their families. It was a delightful day – one I’ll be happy to remember for a long time.

Godiva chocolate store

Yes, we found the chocolates!

It was the perfect way to kickoff our reunion with the Clark family (my dad’s side), which started later that day.

Our reunions are special because they happen once every three years.

It’s amazing what can happen in that amount of time – both joyful and tragic. We spent the entire weekend catching up, hugging, laughing, eating, drinking, swimming, canoeing, and even praying together.

frisbee golf

This is just a few of my nieces and cousins who were there! They were the “frolfers” – frisbee golfers 😉

One of my favorite outings was a boat ride along the St. Croix river that docked in the darling town of Stillwater, MN. The mosquitoes there are no lie, but the views are worth the extra spritz of bug spray.

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River Boat on the St. Croix

Once we said our good-byes to all 85 or so family members, our little family headed to Nebraska where we spent the week helping my niece and (new) nephew prepare for their wedding. This is the same couple that I made a scrapbook for – which pulled together really well, btw!

Anyway, I may have to dedicate an entire post to this event, because it would be worth it. This couple is absolutely adorable, and I’m not just saying that because I’m their Aunt Kate. People unrelated to them say the same thing. They had a picture-perfect wedding, and I felt honored to be able to share in their joy.

emma and paul

I mean…look at that sweet couple. Am I right?

Talk about lots of family time!

We certainly enjoyed every minute of our trip. Well, except for a couple of bad decisions on gas station stops. #sanitizer All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience. I even picked up a few “rules of the road” I’ll share with you tomorrow on my Friday Wrap. It feels good to be back on the blog and I’m so glad you’re here.

Can’t wait to visit more tomorrow!

-Kate

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