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easy freezer meals for the month

LIFESTYLE, MOMLIFElissa-anglinComment

If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you know I am a big fan of freezer meals. I shared on my Insta Stories a few of the recipes I made this month and thought I would share it here, too - with a little updated info and the links!

If you’ve never done freezer meals before, get started by reading this post (4 years old, but still the way I do it!) which contains a ton of information on how I do freezer meals:

Some updates since this post:

  • Our grocery bill has gone up about $150 per month with the addition of a new child and the fact that they all eat more these days. I still grab some fresh produce and a few essentials every week and try to stay in the $30-40 range.

  • Costs for the freezer meals per month are about the same ~ $300.

  • I have stopped trying to bake anything while making freezer meals. It gets too complicated and makes more dishes to clean. Plus I will inevitably burn something.

  • I WAAAYYYYY prefer “dump” meals - meaning ones I can dump in a gallon freezer bag, freeze, and then dump out into my crock pot or instant pot when it’s time to cook. Most of the recipes I use are dump meals.

  • Most of the meals I make really just consist of the main protein for the meal. I will also stock up on frozen veggies, bread, and rolls in the deep freezer so I can bust those out as sides.

  • I typically sub ground turkey for any ground beef for the heart health benefits and lower cost. So, in all of these recipes, I actually use ground turkey.

  • I also started browning all my turkey in the oven using a roasting pan. HERE is exactly how I do it. I do this first thing so that it is cooking while I chop and combine the rest of the ingredients. It saves me a ton of time when it’s time to actually eat the meal - I just thaw and reheat!

  • Make your list, and ORDER YOUR GROCERIES. Seriously. Instacart for the win, you guys! Ordering your groceries and having them delivered TO YOUR DOOR is 100% worth it, especially when doing freezer meals because the shopping portion can get very tiring. If you haven’t tried Instacart yet, here is a coupon for $10 off your first order!


Now for what I made this month! All of these are “dump” meals and can be frozen in gallon ziploc bags.

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Click on the meal title to be taken to the recipe.

BBQ Chicken (x4)

Sides: Hawaiian rolls or baked potatoes, frozen veggies

Sweet and Tangy Meatballs (x4)

Sides: rice or noodles, frozen veggies

French Chicken (x4)

Sides: rolls or baked potato, frozen veggies, Brussels sprouts or asparagus

Asian Lettuce Wraps (x4)

Sides: Romaine lettuce, frozen dumplings and/or rice

Taco Soup (x 4)

Toppings: Tortilla chips, avocado slices, sour cream, cheese, sliced olives

This recipe was created by a family friend and has always been a favorite. This recipe makes a LOT so if you are cooking for two, you’ll definitely want to split this into two meals. I have tweaked the recipe a bit, so here is my version:

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INGREDIENTS

1.5 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can stewed tomatoes (crushed is fine, too)
1 16 oz. can Ranch Style Beans
1 16 oz. can hominy (if you’ve never tried hominy before, it is delicious in this recipe so don’t skip it!)
1 16 oz. can black beans
1 16 oz. can whole kernel corn
1 packet ranch seasoning
1 packet taco seasoning

DIRECTIONS:

Brown beef and combine all ingredients (no need to drain canned goods). You may need to add 1 can of water (16 oz) to thin the mixture. Heat until onions are clear and soup is bubbly. Top it and eat!

FOR FREEZING:

If making freezer meals, cook beef in bulk and portion evenly into 4 Ziploc gallon bags. Then, empty the rest of the ingredients into the bag and freeze. When it’s time to cook, let thaw and heat until onions are clear and the soup is bubbly.


I hope this was helpful for your fall meal planning! I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to our favorite freezer meals.

fall fashion staples

LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment

Every new season, I like to stock up on a few new items- and over the years, I’ve learned to select things that will easily mix and match, so I never get bored. This fall I’m definitely seeing a theme- and I can’t wait to share some of my great finds with you!

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  1. A great denim jacket. It’s been a staple in my wardrobe for a while, and it’s perfect for those days in West Texas when the weather has no idea what it’s doing (which is every day, August through November- haha!). If you haven’t found a good denim jacket yet, here’s a great one.

  2. Leopard Jeans. I’ve been on the hunt for some leopard jeans for about a year now- and finally found some that are actually more like a legging- buttery soft and stretchy. These are super comfy and sure to be seen on days I am feeling more badass than usual :). I’ve always agreed that leopard is a neutral- so it’s easy to pair these with just about anything! I’ve also loved wearing these with longer tunic or oversized tops.

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3. Oversized Sunnies. I love these designer dupes I snagged on Amazon and was surprised at the good quality.

4. Geometric Barrettes. The barrett trend is here and I love these simple gold barrettes. I’ve never claimed to be great at styling my hair, but I love the way these feel a bit sophisticated and are easy to use. They’re under $8 for a set of 5!

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5. Snakeskin Booties. Another item I have been hunting for- and finally found a GREAT pair. These are super comfy and I love that they are neutral in color and can be worn with pretty much anything. Snakeskin is HUGE this season!

6. MOM JEANS. If you follow me on Insta, you know how obsessed I am with these pants. They are super comfy and I love the distressing. They’re also super affordable! I’ve also linked a darker version below if the light wash isn’t your jam.

7. Lightweight cardigan. I actually bought this cardigan last year and have been surprised at how much I’ve worn it. It’s a great fall color and longer so I’ve enjoyed layering with it.

8. Grey Leopard Tee. This is a super soft tee I picked up that I’ve worn a lot already. I went up 2 sizes for a baggier fit, and I love it! I’m linking a brown leopard tee I found below if you prefer that color too!

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9. Moto Jacket. Another item I’ve been on the hunt for- and I found a great affordable one! When I tried it on, it just fit perfectly. The fitted look makes my jeans and tees a little less boring, too. This will be great for a football game or cool evening.

10. Tie dye tee. Tie dye is back in a big way- and this super soft tee is also super affordable at $9! I would size up one or two sizes, though, as it runs small.

11. Golden Goose Dupes. I have had stars in my eyes (literally, haha!) over Golden Goose sneakers for years, and now we are finally seeing some great dupe options at literally hundreds of dollars less than the real deal. These are very comfortable and the only dupes I’ve seen that have the distressing just like the actual Golden Goose sneakers. You’ll be seeing these everywhere- and the website I bought mine from have several different colors.

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12. Madewell Overalls. I splurged on these last year and still LOVE them. They are super comfy and a fun addition to any wardrobe!

13. Camo tee. Also a print I consider a neutral, this tee has a fun collar detail and is a steal at $8.

There are a few more things I’ve found and loved but aren’t pictured above, so I’m linking them here! Just click on the photo to be taken to the item! Happy shopping and YAY for fall!

our stay in seaside, florida

TRAVEL, LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment

It’s been many, many years since I’ve visited the Florida Panhandle- in fact, we were staying in Destin when I first watched the movie Jaws! Not the best choice for a beach vacation, haha! But this summer we made it back and absolutely loved it. Our family drove (yes, 15 hours one way!) to Seaside, Florida a few weeks ago and could not believe how family-friendly it was.

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About 30 minutes east of Destin, the entire town of Seaside is idyllic and literally picture perfect- they filmed The Truman Show there! The perfectly-planned streets are lined with palm trees and beautiful beach “cottages” (some are much too large to be called a cottage!). People are biking or walking everywhere, and there are plenty of opportunities for a shopping, a snack, or a delicious meal.

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One of the biggest pros to Seaside for us was the ability of nearly every restaurant to accommodate our large group quickly. In all, our group totaled 13 people- my side of the family came with us and we had 5 kids in that group. So, we are used to long wait times at restaurants and difficult table configurations- but had zero issues in Seaside!

Our kids LOVED the bunk beds! They were large enough that the girls actually shared one.

Our kids LOVED the bunk beds! They were large enough that the girls actually shared one.

There are many, many places to stay in Seaside, and condos or homes outnumber hotels by far - which is our preference, anyway. After doing some research, we decided we could save quite a bit by staying just on the other side of 30A (the main thoroughfare that the area is named after- it follows the shoreline). So, while we didn’t have an oceanview, we were able to walk there quite easily and felt it was a really good decision!

Our condo was perfect for our family and had two bunk beds, a pullout couch and 1 king bed with 2 bathrooms, a small kitchen, living area and enclosed balcony. One major perk of the place (besides the location) was the huge crate full of beach toys, chairs and even a beach cart. It was also above an ice cream shop, urgent care clinic, and surf shop which we utilized at different times throughout the trip. The condo we stayed at is called Cassine Station, so look for that when searching vrbo or AirBnb.

Our property also had access to a pool which was handy when there were 2 red flags up at the beach and we were unable to get in the water. This happened 2 days we were there, but it wasn’t a huge issue- the kids still played in the sand and then we swam in the pool.

This is what they call Ocean View, not Oceanfront. 😂 Still, we loved our little spot by the ocean!

This is what they call Ocean View, not Oceanfront. 😂 Still, we loved our little spot by the ocean!

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FOOD…because it’s our favorite souvenir

There were so many great spots to eat around Seaside, and we didn’t scratch the surface- but here are some we’d definitely visit again and enjoyed-

Pizza By the Sea

Pizza By the Sea

Pizza By The Sea- my favorite meal! Wine and pizza and the beach…welcome to my dreamland. The pizza was amazing and went beyond basic ingredients. They also had a shelf of children’s books to entertain while waiting on food. We ate here the first night, and it worked out really well because Publix is next door and we were able to buy groceries after dinner.

Fantastic frosé found here!

Fantastic frosé found here!

Great Southern Cafe- This was a delicious meal! Of course, we all ordered seafood and it did not disappoint. I would say this is more adult-friendly, but it was no problem to have the kids there. We also hit up the little stand right next to the restaurant for some frosé before our meal which was totally overpriced but delicious and hey….vacay!

Cafe Thirty-A- My parents volunteered to babysit one evening, so we got to go out with my sisters and brothers-in-law for dinner. This is the most upscale place we ate, and it was so delicious. Great service and menu variety- everyone loved their food and the drink list was extensive. Great for a date night.

Seagrove Village Market Cafe- We ate on the patio for this dinner and it had a great atmosphere. This place knows how to fry food, for sure- most of what is on their menu is fried (but good!).

Seagrove Village Market Cafe

Seagrove Village Market Cafe

Frostbites

Frostbites

Frostbites- We had to stop by this Seaside staple for a snow cone one day! It was a great break from the heat and the entire area beside this food truck is adorable. There are several more food trucks in this area and space to play for the kids.

It’s Heavenly Shortcakes & Ice Cream- We ordered wayyyy to much here (read: lots of sticky ice cream mess) BUT everything was so yummy. Centrally located in Seaside Circle.

Bud and Alley’s- This restaurant has a casual bar with an ocean view, or a more formal restaurant. The night we dined at the restaurant, it was getting late and we had cranky kiddos, so the formal setting was a bit much for us. We should have just gone to a burger joint! But, the food was great. However, this was one of the more expensive meals we had.


Walking to The Perfect Pig

Walking to The Perfect Pig

The Perfect Pig- This was a great breakfast/brunch place just a short walk from our condo, and was so delicious! Great coffee and GRITS!

The amphitheater at Seaside Circle. This was a fun spot to people watch and let the kids run around. So many great shops and food nearby- and a short walk to the beach!

The amphitheater at Seaside Circle. This was a fun spot to people watch and let the kids run around. So many great shops and food nearby- and a short walk to the beach!


Now for our Tips for Seaside:

  • Buy groceries (but don’t overdo it!)- We planned to eat breakfast and lunch at the condo, and that worked really well for our family. I made sure to buy things that were super portable, and didn’t require any real cooking, haha. Pop tarts, sausage biscuits, Lunchables (our kids don’t get these first three at home very often so this felt special to them, haha!), snack cheese, turkey pepperoni, crackers, etc. We also grabbed paper towels, extra wipes, sunscreen, and a couple of inner-tubes. The Publix in Seaside has plenty of beach toys if you need any!

  • Consider skipping the ocean view- Let’s be honest, if you’re traveling with kids, there won’t be a lot of time for porch-sitting and basking in the view from your condo- unless you wake up super early, and on vacation, we don’t. :) It was such a huge savings for us to be just off the ocean, and we’d do it again.

  • Set a timer for sunscreen- I mean, this isn’t that revolutionary, but we needed to! After we forgot to reapply the first day and had several bad burns, we were pretty hard core about it. We aren’t used to that extra sun at the beach, and so we literally needed a reminder.

  • Take a break in the afternoon. Most days, we had an intentional slow start to the day and wandered out to the beach by 10-ish, and stayed until 1 or 2 when we’d come back to the condo, eat lunch and make the girls take a nap. This worked really well for us and that rest time was my only “peaceful” moment to read, nap, etc.

  • Don’t bring it to the beach unless you want sand on it. Again, obvious, but worth remembering when packing! We designated a waterproof cosmetic bag I had for our phones, wallets, etc. and that worked really well.

  • Hit up the beach in the evening. We did this one night and loved it so much. At 5 pm, condos that set our beach chairs for their guests pick them back up for the night, and many people leave for the day. It was cooler and much less crowded in the evenings, and in the future we’ll visit more often during this time.

  • Don’t reserve rentals ahead of time- I wondered if we needed to reserve rentals in advance (there are a TON of rental places that rent everything from beach chairs, to bikes, to baby cribs), but I’m glad we didn’t, because our condo had everything we needed.

  • Double check amenity deals before you go. Our condo offered some special deals on fun things like parasailing, jet skis, mini golf, etc.- but there was a catch- one free adult per day (and you can’t stack your days) AND most of the activities were at least a 30 minute drive. We considered doing one or two of them, but decided that this trip, we’d rather just have more beach time. I think we will probably be into this stuff once our kids get older and can participate.

  • Get a condo with washer/dryer and do your laundry the day before you leave. I would assume that most condos have one, but it was SO handy. The condo provided one extra pack of laundry detergent, which wasn’t enough for us, but I brought some travel detergent. So, you may need to buy that or bring some extra.

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Whew, lots of info and that’s not even half of what I could tell you about! All in all, we will definitely be back. Seaside was charming, laid-back, and that sugary white sand was the best we’ve ever experienced.

I hope this post was helpful, and if you have more Seaside tips, please let me know! Also, if you haven’t checked out my Road Trip Travel Hacks & Must-Haves, you’ll need to! That was a whole other portion of this vacation I didn’t get into this post. :)

Our Travel Hacks and Must-Haves

After 40+ hours in the car, here’s what we know…

my year in books - book review

LIFESTYLE, MOMLIFElissa-anglin1 Comment

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”


Charlie Tremendous Jones

One of my favorite quotes, and a great excuse to read, read, read! It’s been a long while since I’ve shared an update on what I’m reading- and I’ve never really reviewed any of these books, so I thought it would be a good habit to start!

In this post, I’m reviewing all the books I’ve read since last July. You guys, there are some DUDS and SO MANY GOOD ONES! Hopefully you’ll enjoy my regular-girl quick reviews on these.

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In no particular order- let’s go!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

EVERYONE was telling me I needed to read this one- and they were all exactly right! Odds are you’ve been told this as well- and if not, hear me say it! The book is described as a coming-of-age story meets murder mystery, and it is- woven with such beautiful descriptions of the North Carolina swamp it made me actually want to go visit. This one is culturally interesting (the South in the 1950’s-70’s) and had a great ending. I read it in 3 days- it’s that good.

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

I bought this one at an airport bookstore because I liked the cover, haha- and I’m so glad I did! As I was reading this one, I couldn’t figure out why I liked it so much- but I just HAD to know what was going to happen next. This book is about a girl going through a bad breakup, who also needs a job and ends up as the admissions director of a private school in New York City. It is understated but entertaining. In the end, I really think the beauty in this one is the depth that Poeppel gives her characters- insight into their thought lives and what makes them act the way they do. I ended up loving this one- one of my favorites of the year.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

Oh, you guys- this one is understated yet so significant. I still don’t believe I really have processed all that God spoke to me while reading the beautiful, imperfect stories Shannan has so thoughtfully documented in this book. This book forces you to really think about the everyday in new ways- our “inconveniences”, our “needs” and being thankful in everything.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

This is a really easy and fun read- and if you love Tom Hanks, you’ll probably enjoy this book of semi-random short stories he wrote. Reading it I kept hearing his distinctive voice in the text, and about 3 or 4 stories in I realized the common theme- there is a typewriter woven into every story. My favorite story was the one about time travel. I gifted this book to my Dad for Christmas and he loved it too.

Everybody Always by Bob Goff

This is a great book with a great concept- and many quoteables. I love Bob Goff and the way he thinks. The stories inside this book are proof of how God truly does love everybody, always, which is also our calling as believers. I didn’t love this book as much as Bob’s previous book, Love Does, but it is a good read.

Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Ugh, I wanted to love this one- and in some ways I did- but it was missing something major to me. Let me explain- I have all the respect for Rachel Hollis- she is full of gusto, honesty, and I loved reading her boots-on-the-ground, learning-as-I-go stories, but I wish this book had Jesus in it. Yes, Rachel is a Christian, and did intentionally choose to make this book not geared toward one religion, but I feel like because of that the message is much more “save yourself” than “Jesus died to save you”. However, lots of great content and encouragement, especially for women business owners.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

So after seeing Hamilton the musical, I really wanted to read this one- which is a historical fiction book about Eliza Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s wife, who accomplished a LOT in the 50 years she lived after his death. I enjoyed the first 1/3 of the book, but after that it just felt really slow and political which wasn’t my jam. But hey, I know a lot more about the founding fathers now! So, if you love American history/colonial era, go for it- if not, might want to move on.

Hotels of North America by Rick Moody

I found this book at Dollar Tree (yes, for $1!), and thought it was an interesting concept. The entire book is a series of hotel reviews by one man (apparently on a popular travel review site like TripAdvisor). His reviews reveal unusual glimpses into his life that are intriguing, a little disgusting, and also made me chuckle. I really loved Rick Moody’s descriptive writing style. I can’t say I loved this book so much- but I won’t forget it soon, so take that for what you will.

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

READ THIS. It’s great. So intriguing. Another one I devoured in about 3 days. 1990s in suburban, idealistic America- mystery, mother-daughter relationships, coming-of-age…it’s got it all and so many will find a relatable moment while reading. Little Fires Everywhere is going to be miniseries on Hulu starring Reece Witherspoon and Kerry Washington so this is a great one to read before it releases!

Limelight by Amy Poeppel

I loved Small Admissions so much, I couldn’t wait to read Amy Poeppel’s new book, Limelight. This one is entirely different in subject- but is so enjoyable. It’s the story of a mom who becomes a teen celebrity’s (think Justin Beiber-like) personal assistant on accident. It’s set in New York City so I loved the story of a family moving from Texas to the Big Apple- seeing their transitions mixed with the celebrity antics is entertaining. It’s a good easy read.

Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards

This book is full of research on what it takes to really captivate people. I wanted to read this one after hearing Vanessa Van Edwards interview on a podcast. She is incredibly well-spoken and I loved her practical applications- like suggestions on where to stand at a party and how to connect with people quickly and effectively. I’m going to have to re-read this one a few times just to take it all in.

Small Victories by Anne Lamott

I picked up this one after reading Uncommon Type, thinking another volume of short stories by one of my favorite authors was a good idea. I LOVED Bird by Bird and so I had high hopes for this one. This book is a collection of more spiritual essays by Anne Lamott focusing on “improbable moments of grace”, and I have a feeling I will appreciate this one more at a later stage in life. I’ll keep it around but it wasn’t my fave.

The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner

This one was SO GREAT. It was perfect for me, in this stage of life- trying to raise kids, work, be a great wife and friend. I really appreciated Jessica’s practical perspective and also her ability to make me think about what really matters the most to me. I went in prepping for a guilt trip (as if we working moms need another one)- but that’s not at all what this book is. It’s freedom-giving and encouraging- reassurance that we’re not alone.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This book was recommended to me by several friends and I’m glad I’ve read it- though I did feel it got a bit long. It’s a great book about racism with twisted moral dilemma that drove me to keep reading. In the end, I enjoyed this book though it got a little long.

The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang

I read this one on the tail of finishing the Crazy Rich Asians Series (I don’t know- I guess I was on the Asian current?!), and it was disappointing. The concept is a bit Beverly Hilbillies-in-reverse- a wealthy family falling apart after experiencing fabulous wealth and then total material loss. There were a few funny moments but in the end I didn’t love it.

Beneath the Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Another historical fiction book, this one is based on the true story of an Italian spy during World War II. It is a truly incredible story- if you love this time period, or have any connections to the Alps, you will love this. I did feel it got a bit long and boring, but there are also quite a few moments that are so incredible, it’s hard to believe it’s actually a true story.

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman

If you are a Christian creative, this is a MUST READ. I love Emily’s work (I say this as if I know her personally! ha!) and this may be my favorite thing she’s ever written. It is FULL of gems about God’s purpose for creatives and how to create with that understanding. It’s already time for me to read this again.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I’d seen lots of great reviews on this one, so I picked it up to read on vacation. It is charming and mysterious- getting to know Eleanor as she simultaneously makes a friend (seemingly her first ever) is sweet and awkward all in one. There is a great twist at the end of this book, but I can’t say I really loved it.

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

This was the second time I gave this book a go. I’d heard it referenced so many times on the Dave Ramsey show but wasn’t prepared for it to be so textbook-like. So, when I decided to try to read it again, I was a couple years older and had some more life under my belt. I feel like every household needs this book- it’s a great reference on healthy relationships and how to keep them healthy. My favorite quote, which my husband quotes to me often, is “You are responsible to other people, not responsible for them.”

The Crazy Rich Asians Series by Kevin Kwan

I kept seeing this series and wasn’t sure what it would all be about- but a chapter or two in, I couldn’t stop reading. This series features an extremely wealthy elite group of Chinese families living in Singapore- their escapades, relationships and inheritances. It was romantic and funny- and of course made me want to visit Singapore. My favorite book of the series was the last one- Rich People Problems, where everything is tied together nicely in the end.

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

This book is a great kick in the pants and actually encouraged me to start exercising regularly. It is a very simple strategy for getting things done explained by optimistic-yet-real Mel Robbins (a woman!). If you’ve seen her viral Ted talk, this book is the result of that. I also listened to this one on Audible and it is read by Mel and includes several extra offsides and stories you won’t get in the book.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Another one I devoured in just a few days- this book is a great novel about the volatile relationship between police and African Americans, and is such a relevant and important read. I loved Starr’s character and her interesting relationships with her family and the rest of the world. This is a definite page-turner and thought-provoker. Shawn and I watched the movie after I read this and we both really liked it.

And, if you’re not the page-turning type, I’d recommend checking out Audible. I’ve had a membership for a few years and love it- I listen to books while driving, working out, editing, doing laundry etc!

our road-trip travel hacks + must-haves

TRAVEL, LIFESTYLE, MOMLIFElissa-anglin1 Comment
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So far this summer we’ve spent about 60 hours in the car as a family, getting to our vacations. :) It’s not been near as bad as I anticipated, and we’ve learned a few trips along the way- so I’m here to share!

Our best road-trip travel hacks:

  • Slip on shoes for kids. Keep in one place when inside the car so you don’t have to search for them every time you need to get out. We especially love Natives so this is usually what they are wearing.

  • Small neck pillow and blanket for each kid. We keep in a basket of these in the back of the car all the time.

  • We are big fans of leaving early in the morning so that we can take a pit stop at lunch. So, we get up early. To help the kids sleep, and because I just love it, I keep my car diffuser on all the time- usually with a relaxing scent like lavender. I will throw some peppermint oil in there if I’m driving and feeling sleepy and it perks me up right away. This is the one I have, and it works well, though I wish I would have tried this one since it doesn’t take up a cupholder.

  • Unlimited screen time & cell phone hotspot or downloaded movies. That’s right- we give our kids unlimited screen time and turn on one of our cell phone hotspots while driving. We came really close to using up all of our data this month, but didn’t and it was worth it for the peace and quiet! Also, we say “unlimited” screen time, but in reality they fall asleep watching or their devices die. If you don’t want to turn on your hotspot, you can download selected movies from Netflix for free. They expire in a week so be sure to do it just before your trip. A couple of must-haves for this are some good headphones (we have had plenty break, these are the best), durable iPad cases. We keep a designated backpack to hold all 3 tablets, headphones, and chargers so that they are easily found when not in use.

  • Stay hydrated- We also always bring an insulated mug for both Shawn and I and a water bottle for each kid. The kids know they are in charge of their own cup, so it gives them a little responsibility- though we are still picking them up a lot! Did you know you get a .10 discount if you bring your own mug to Starbucks?! Also, on this note- you’ll want to check out the travel potty that we love because it definitely came in handy!

  • I bought several snacks in bulk at Sam’s before the trip and they really came in handy and kept us from buying junk at the convenience store. (However, my love for chewy Sweet Tarts did overpower me once!) For these trips I bought fruit snacks, Goldfish, Pop Chips, zBars, turkey pepperoni, bottled water, powdered flavorings for water, Babybel cheese, and apples. We kept them all in my favorite travel cooler bag with these flexible ice packs and the cold items stayed nice and cool!

  • Get a good gas station routine. To cut down on time and confusion at pit stops (and there are many when you have 3 littles), we stick to this plan every time- Shawn gets gas and takes Knox to bathroom, I clean out trash and take girls. Seems small, but saves us a lot of stress.

  • I always bring a small dish brush (this one fits in my toiletry bag) and a travel sized container of dish soap. I’ve used it for so many things- namely cleaning our water bottles, but they have come in handy with shoes, stains, and lots of other things!

  • I love to pack with compression bags. I have found I can fit so much more in and keep it all organized with them.

  • When there’s room, I bring a foldable laundry hamper that I set up in the room where we are staying. Makes doing laundry after we get home a breeze and keeps the room clean.

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I love a good list- so here are some things that makes life easier for us when traveling!


IN THE CAR

AUX Cable with iPhone/iPad charger port

• Band-Aids (these are for practical purposes but also entertain when you’re in a pinch! Warning- they make lots of trash)

The Best Portable Potty Seat + Liners (we LOVE this foldable potty seat and the throw away liners. It comes with a bag to store everything in and fits under a seat!)

Car Seat Protectors & Kick Mats


FOR THE KIDS

Cute backpacks they can carry

Contigo cups

Boogie Wipes (we love the grape ones)

Kid’s Melatonin (We first used these to help with jet lag while in China, and they work so well for our kids that we now take them with us whenever we travel.)

Kickee Pants Blankets So soft and lightweight, fold up to a small size

Boogie Board

Water Wow

Wikki Stix

• Our Favorite Activity Books

Durable Headphones

Tough iPad Cases


FOR THE BABIES

Tula Carrier

Airlight Carrier - we used this when the Tula was too hot. The airlight is mesh and breathable, perfect for a newborn to about 6 months. It packs small and is also great for water/splash pad/pool situations because it dries quickly. Of course, I wouldn’t swim in it- but it was nice to have when I was supervising one child while wearing another.

Snack Cups

Portable Placemat


BEAUTY/HEALTH

• Mineral Sunscreen (my favorite for face, for body)

Essential Oil Carrier

Oils that I typically carry are

  • Thieves - germ blaster

  • R.C. - excellent for congestion

  • Lavender - sooooo many uses but great for allergies, bug bites, promoting sleep

  • Peppermint - Shawn swears by this for headache relief, great for tummy aches and cooling in the heat

  • DiGize - for all those tummy troubles after adventurous eating

  • Geranium - this is a MUST HAVE for us because Liv gets nosebleeds and this oil stops them quickly

  • Oregano - ear infections, other infections)

Travel Size Dry Shampoo

• Travel Size Dish Soap

Small Dish Brush

Thieves Hand Sanitizer (Young Living)

Probiotics (we use Life 9 by Young Living)


LUGGAGE + GEAR

Hardside Rolling Suitcases - These are great because they are expandable and hold a lot.

Foldable Laundry Hamper

CamelBak - I bought one of these years ago and now Shawn mostly carries it. It’s been great for family camp and other days when we’ve been outside a lot.

Tough Luggage Tags with Privacy

Compression Bags

Double Inline Stroller - This one folds down relatively small and we have loved it!

• Extra Gallon Ziploc Bags/a few empty plastic grocery sacks- these are great for alllllll sorts of things. Use them as a dry bag or to cover super dirty shoes. They don’t take up much room and I love having them because I always find a use for them.


BEACH SPECIFIC

Foldable Cart (Beach) - Thankfully, the condo we rented had one of these, but we found out quickly that the wheel size matters! This cart is pricier but worth it when you’re dragging your stuff across the sandy beach.

Portable Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Pop-up Beach Tent - a MUST HAVE with an infant!


GO-TO SNACKS

Freezable Tote

Dried Chile Mango (addicting!!!)

Larabars (Lemon is my fave!)

ClifKid Zbars

• Turkey Pepperoni

• Beef Jerky

Yeti Ramblers for Coffee

Nalgene Water Bottles

SHOP THE POST


lissa's lists • 50 things to do with your kids this summer

MOMLIFE, LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment
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I don’t know about you, but as a working mom (who offices from home), when summer draws near- I start to panic. I photograph a lot of weddings during the summer and so for me, it’s my busy season. Add 3 potentially bored children to that, and my eye twitch is back in full force.

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So this Monday, I’m writing this list for me- so I literally have something to reference when I need an idea to keep little hands busy.

Most of these can be done at home, and I tend to favor ideas that I don’t have to monitor. I know sometimes we just need to get out of the house, so I’m including a few ideas for “field trips” as well. I’m also including a few things like pool and water toys that we like to buy at the beginning of the summer.

1) Freeze toys in ice and let them dig them out

2) Create a pinwheel garden. Buy some pinwheels at the dollar store or create your own, and let the kids “plant” them in pots or the ground. Maximum effect and no watering necessary!

3) Make your own pinwheels (helpful for number 2!)

4) Do some target practice with water balloons in the backyard. Draw a target with chalk on your fence and let the kids go at it! These quick-filling water balloons are the BEST and totally worth it!

5) Paint with water on the driveway. We like to add in chalk to make it extra colorful. Have I mentioned I buy sidewalk chalk in bulk?!? Ha!

6) Print out a free scavenger hunt from my Pinterest board. There are several that will work in the car, at home, or out and about. I also love this D.I.Y. one that is perfect for younger kids who don’t read yet.

7) Blow up some balloons. And just let the kids do as they please. Somehow this is always entertaining.

8) Throw in some paper plates and let the kids play balloon tennis. Don’t forget to have them decorate their plates beforehand! More busy time. :)

9) Love this balloon puppy idea from The Craft Train. My girls would love it and Knox could probably make some Pokemon/Minecraft version for himself.

10) Water balloon volleyball with towels.

11) Create a scene on your driveway with sidewalk chalk that your kids can pose in and take pictures.

12) Make a summer movie bucket list that include some of your old favorites. There are so many great ones available on streaming services we already have. I like to use Common Sense Media to get some ideas and a run-down on the content before they watch.

Best Kids' Movies on Netflix in 2019

13) Mix up a new popcorn recipe for movie time using these recipes from A Grande Life.

14) Create an outdoor mud kitchen. There are many elaborate ones on Pinterest but for us this usually looks like me handing the girls a few plastic kitchen utensils and bowls they don’t normally get to play with.

15) Up your game by including some pantry staples you’ll never use (rice, pasta, etc.) to use in their outdoor play kitchen.

16) Plant something and let them tend to it every day. Grass seeds grow quickly and potato vine is cheap and grows quickly. You can let each kid have a vine they take care of.

17) Make some watering cans from old milk cartons.

18) Have a scheduled fashion show. Assign number of outfits. Designate a stage tech who is in charge of lighting and music.

19) Give the kids a couple of old bedsheets and have them create a fort in the backyard.

20) Create an easy pulley system in the backyard and have the kids haul goods.

21) Create a care package to mail to someone. Make a card, create a scavenger hunt. Have the kids fill out this All About Me printable book and mail it to a friend with a blank one inside for them to fill out.

22) Make a music video using an ipad or a phone and send it to a friend. Assign each of the kids a job.

23) Mystery snow cones. Test the kids’ ability to try new things and have them guess the flavors of their snow cones (you’ll have to order, of course).

25) D.I.Y. Pantry popsicles. We have made popsicles many times with some cheap popsicle molds and ingredients we had on hand- powdered lemonade is a staple for us so we mix it with whatever fresh fruit we have- canned fruit works well, too! Add in sprinkles, crushed candy, yogurt- you name it, we have probably tried to make a popsicle out of it! Or you could just try these tried-and-true delicious popsicle recipes!

26) Play snow! This stuff makes a mess but brushes off the skin very easily. And one little bag makes a ton. Our kids love playing with it.

27) Play florist for a neighbor, grandparent, or friend. Buy a cheap bouquet while you’re at the grocery store, have the kids make a card. Use a leftover vase or mason jar and help the kids create a bouquet. Add ribbon. It doesn’t have to be pretty. One bouquet can make several small arrangements. Add in greenery from your backyard as filler. And deliver it!

28) Prep dinner. I have found my kids will eat so much better at mealtime if they “help” make dinner. We do a lot of crock pot/instant pot meals so I have begun appointing a helper at every meal who assists me.

29) READ. Knox is a great reader but never really wants to read, so if I give him a time requirement (usually 30 minutes) with a reward at the end (such as screentime), he’ll often read longer than he is required to.

28) For non-readers, let them “read” on youtube! Start here! Tons of great children’s books.

Our library hosted a free petting zoo last year and our kids still talk about it as one of their favorite things we did!

Our library hosted a free petting zoo last year and our kids still talk about it as one of their favorite things we did!

29) Hit up the local library, which has a lot more than books. Ours has an array of free or cheap activities for kids.

30) Wash the car! And the bikes! Good soapy fun is always enjoyed.

31) Leaf Rubbings are always enjoyed at our house. You can make people or flowers out of them.

32) We used to love making hot rocks with melted crayons. This does require using an oven but I still enjoy doing this as an adult and you’ll have some pretty rocks for your garden!

33) Make paper airplanes and have awards for most decorative, longest flying, etc.

34) Make these awesome sponge balls instead of water balloons. Reusable and cheap!

35) Paint with watercolors on a block of ice. Use cheap watercolors- they will last a long time!

36) Show them how to create a summer dance playlist on spotify or Apple Music. Make a “dance floor” in the living room. Our girls love dancing with these play scarves, too.

37) Let them take something apart. This could be an old sports ball, outdated electronic, old stuffed animal, etc.

38) Run in the sprinklers. Put a sprinkler under the swingset and BOOM! Instant water park.

39) Go geo-caching. Super fun and free! Bring a few small prizes to leave when you find something. Start here!

40) Observe the constellations on your phone by downloading the Sky View app. Our kids love this app and you can print out this free constellation map to use!

41) Give the dogs a bath. Or the baby dolls.

42) Use these free printable tangrams! These are great for a variety of ages. Our 8 year old son enjoys origami, too- find some youtube videos that teach.

Bubble machines are relatively cheap and great for littles who haven’t figured out the wands quite yet.

Bubble machines are relatively cheap and great for littles who haven’t figured out the wands quite yet.

43) I love this create your own paintbrushes idea! Grab some tempera paint that will wash out easily or use watercolor.

44) Practice the alphabet with sticky notes.

45) Get the GoNoodle app on your computer or smart TV. Tons of great songs and activities there.

46) Code.org is an awesome learning tool for school-aged kids and a lot of fun.

47) We also love Cosmic Kids Yoga, too!

48) Make (or just buy!) some different varieties of bird feed and hang a paper on the window to track which feed is most popular and what birds are eating it.

49) Make some bubble wands with pipe cleaners. We love bubbles and stock up on them always!

50) Watch some silly or interesting kid-friendly videos. We love episodes America’s Funniest Home Videos, BBC Walk on the Wild Side videos like this one, and we also love to research trips or upcoming vacations by finding informational videos on those places.

Most of these ideas have a corresponding pin on my Summer Activities for Kids Pinterest board!


I’m also planning on picking up a few items for the pool or outdoor play for the summer- here are a few of the things I’ve been eyeballing!

Hope you found this helpful! Here’s to a fun summer!

cruisin' with kids • our family's tips for those really big boats

LIFESTYLE, TRAVELlissa-anglin1 Comment
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So it's been far too long since my last post- but not for lack of content! In the past month, we've spent two weeks in the mountains of New Mexico (one was family camp at Glorieta- that post is coming soon!), delivered 3 gorgeous weddings to newlyweds, and road tripped to Galveston where we boarded a 5 day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso.

We all had a blast on the cruise and Shawn and I deemed it an overall success, with a few stressful moments thrown in there for good measure (because it's not a real family vacation if there aren't a few screaming toddlers). 

This was our 2nd Carnival cruise- our first was when Knox was under a year old, so this one included 2 more kids and required a lot more of us as parents. We were aboard the Carnival Valor which made port in Cozumel, Mexico and Progreso which is on the Yucatan peninsula. We traveled with my parents and my youngest sister, brother-in-law, and my niece who is 17 months. It was extremely helpful to have extra adults willing to help feed a kid or take them for a walk if they were getting restless!


Before You Go:

• Book your excursions! We waited until a couple of weeks before we left to do this and we almost missed out, because some fill up fast. 

Cozumel

Cozumel

In Cozumel, we'd selected a "beach" excursion that included lunch and a sea lion show. While the property was nice (Chakanaab), the time it took to actually get on the beach (after a bus ride and tour of the property) was way too long, and once we finally got there, it was densely populated. Plus, the restaurant and bar with our included meals was quite a walk- making it tough to watch kids and eat. 

Chankanaab in Cozumel

Chankanaab in Cozumel

Progreso, on the other hand, was surprisingly great. We'd been warned there was a 40 minute bus ride both ways to the resort where the beach was, but that turned out to be a great nap time/applying sunscreen time for our kids. We ended up at Hotel Reef where the beach was beautiful and not too crowded. There were several food stations with delicious Mexican dishes and waiters who were very friendly and efficient at bringing drinks. After hanging out at the beach most of the day, we got in one of several pools to wash the sand off and swim before it was time to get back to the bus. 

• Get passports for everyone. No, you don't necessarily need passports for kids while traveling on a cruise (birth certificates will work), but it sure does make getting trough security easier. Plus, now you can easily travel with your kids anywhere! We had to jump through some hoops to get Lucy's passport (she still doesn't have a Social Security Number!), but thankfully it came in time and was a lot more convenient than hauling around her original adoption decree. 

• Download the Carnival App (if you're cruising on Carnival) The app is great and not only lets you see what's going on around the ship, but is the best way to communicate with your group. The chat function is $5 per device and worked pretty well for us. There were a few quirks- like keeping the app running so you don't miss messages- but overall it was great.

• Download music, videos or apps for any devices. Unless you pay for service on the ship, you won't be able to access any of your normal apps, etc. We chose to not bring the kids' iPads on the ship, but it was really handy to have our normal bedtime playlist downloaded when it was time to put kids to bed.

This is our room- with kids in bed. Liv and Lucy are in the upper left bed (you can see I wedged lifejackets between the bed and the wall because I was worried someone would wiggle out and get stuck- haha) and Knox is in the upper right. It was a little crazy, but our bed was very comfortable!

This is our room- with kids in bed. Liv and Lucy are in the upper left bed (you can see I wedged lifejackets between the bed and the wall because I was worried someone would wiggle out and get stuck- haha) and Knox is in the upper right. It was a little crazy, but our bed was very comfortable!

• Consider booking two rooms. Ya'll, I knew our room would be tight, but when we walked in with our luggage, it was laughable. Of course, we booked the smallest interior stateroom and really- it is ingenious how they have fit in a king sized bed with two twins. We made it through the week, but it was definitely tight- and now we know we could live in our utility room for a week if we had to (yikes!). Next time, we'll be going for the adjoining rooms so Mom and Dad don't have to worry about someone rolling off their bunk onto them. :)

• Don’t fall for the soda upgrade. Sodas aren't included in your cruise price, and in the weeks before you go alcohol and soda packages are heavily marketed via email. We really expected to be dealing with children begging for Sprite (we don't usually have it at home but do allow it on vacation), BUT they never even asked about it because there are several delicious juices and milk available at all times for free. 

• Check your phone plan. Most companies include Mexico and Canada free (turn on service while at port). This is a great time to check for important texts/emails for free without paying for the pricey-yet-slow internet on the ship.

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• Make a daily budget. We set a budget for ourselves every day and it really helped us enjoy the cruise and not stress out over money constantly. You will need to budget $65-70 per person in gratuities (no, it's not optional).  This will hit your account the last full day- read up on this before you leave so it's not a surprise. 

• Call a few weeks before the cruise for free upgrades. We did this the first time we cruised as a family, and my sister did it this time with the same result. She'd called Carnival to check about cribs (yes, they provide them), and they offered her a free room upgrade since there were available rooms and it was close to the sail date. Wish we would have given it a shot this go-round!


Packing:

• Kids' arm and chest floaties. We have these PuddleJumpers and this Speedo one (this one is great for Lucy since it has shoulder straps- the others tend to slide down on her). They provide lifejackets on the ship, but we utilized the kids' floaties in port as well. They were really nice to have on the beach- especially since the girls wanted to play in the sand and wade in the water a bit.

• Peppermint oil for nausea. I used this a ton while I was pregnant, and it still works for me (not pregnant!). Simply inhale it or apply it to your chest with some carrier oil, like coconut oil.

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• Swim diapers AND a reusable swim diaper (like this one). We did not know prior to the first morning that there are NO DIAPERS ALLOWED- NOT EVEN SWIM DIAPERS in the ship's swimming pools. We were lucky that Lucy is close to being potty-trained and just took her swim diaper off- but this rule is strictly enforced by some lifeguards (not-so-strictly by others). If I had an infant, I would definitely bring a reusable swim diaper like the one I linked above so they can take a dip in the pool on ship days, AND disposable ones for port days. 

• Storage-sized Ziploc Bags. These were super handy for all sorts of things- but I was glad I had extras to keep dry clothes, sunscreen, and phones from getting sandy and wet in the beach bag.

• Snacks. We stock up on Z bars and Clif bars- they are our favorite travel snack since they don't get crushed or melt easily. You really don't need many snacks (there is PLENTY of food on the ship), but these came in clutch on port days or if we were just not at a place to get kids food and needed something quick for them. My sister made a good habit of grabbing a few cereal boxes from the buffet line (the individual-sized boxes) in the morning and those were great (free!) snacks too.

• No towels needed. There are plenty of beach towels provided in every stateroom, and if you need more they will bring them to you. You can take these with you to port and as long as you bring them back, it's free. You can also check out towels at the ship's pool area if you don't feel like dragging wet towels in and out of your stateroom.

• Insulated cup for coffee/water. I drink coffee all day (yes, really) and there were a few times we really needed water but there was none to be found (on the beach mostly). I was so glad we'd brought our favorite insulated mugs to keep our coffee hot and our water cold. 

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• Baby carrier or harness. Surely I am not the only mama who booked a cruise and then had a kid-goes-overboard nightmare...or two (yiiiikes!). We had this harness from when Knox was a baby and we totally used it on the ship with Lucy, who has a history of running off. I also carried Lucy in our trusty Tula carrier during embarkation, debarkation, and on the long walk on and off the ship at port. It was so nice to give her a place to rest and I loved having free hands.

• Signs or decals for stateroom doors. I saw lots of people bring decals or signs to hang on their stateroom doors, and thought it was a smart idea for kids. I would avoid using anything with our names for safety reasons, but having a picture or symbol that kids could recognize could be really helpful if someone gets lost and can't find your room.

• Umbrella stroller. My sister suggested this one- and I agree- a small umbrella stroller (anything larger would be too much for many of the tight spaces on the ship) would be helpful if you have a sleeping infant or one who does not like a baby carrier.

• Kid's water bottles. We carry one of these for each kid pretty much everywhere we go, and they were super handy on the beach in Mexico when we weren't about to give them water from the restaurant to drink. We filled these each morning in the ship's restaurant with ice and water. 

• Travel-size dish soap and small dish brush. This is just one of my travel norms that has paid off many times. We use them to wash our water bottles and mugs, and have even treated stains in clothing with it. 

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• Card games, wiki stix, board games. The last day of the cruise we busted out some fun goodies that my mom had brought for the kids and just hung out in the restaurant- out of the hot sun. The kids loved playing with wikki stix and some modeling clay. I saw several families playing card games or board games, too.

• Cheap flip flops. To keep from overpacking, I try to keep it to 2 pairs of shoes per person. After this trip, I'm adding cheap flip flops to that rule. During our last day at port, Knox's shoes went missing. We're not sure if they were stolen or just buried deep in the sand, but either way, we left without them. I was glad he had another pair of shoes to wear, but wished I would have brought some cheap flip flops to take to the beach/pool since he didn't want to wear swim shoes. 

• Silicone wedding ring. These are inexpensive and worth using instead of your actual wedding ring. Please, listen to the girl that lost a diamond while ziplining in Puerto Rico (thank goodness for that warranty!). I have these rings

• Tampons/Feminine Products. Trust me, you don't want to have to buy these in Mexico (sketchy) or on the ship (super expensive).

• Probiotics. Just to keep everything regular while you binge. I use Young Living probiotics for myself and heard they just came out with kids' gummies! You're welcome.

• Bucket/Shovel for playing in the sand. Our kids played in the sand 90% of the time we were at the beach and even used them at the pool on the ship. These were a little annoying to carry around, but worth the few dollars we paid for them for the amount of entertainment they provided.


On the Ship:

Real life- this is what most of my photos of the three of them look like :)

Real life- this is what most of my photos of the three of them look like :)

• There are lots of freebies! Check the daily schedule to see what is being offered that day, and even if it sounds a little lame, show up. We had a ton of fun at the trivia games and shows. There were cooking demonstrations and art and jewelry presentations (that boasted free champagne!). They even had a Dr. Seuss parade for the kids. All free!

• Take advantage of the childcare. Truthfully, I intended to snub the childcare on the ship, assuming it was a sad, lonely place full of disgruntled workers (sorry, my mom-judgement is harsh sometimes), BUT when we boarded the ship, they told us we needed to go register the kids whether or not we were planning to utilize the childcare area and services. I was totally surprised to see a very cool, clean, brightly colored space with an underwater theme and friendly workers. They walked us through the facilities and their procedures- which were very safe, clean, and totally age appropriate for our kids and told us that anytime we had kids there that we'd be given a phone that they could use to reach us. We ended up taking the kids almost every day because they enjoyed it so much- and they even ate most of their dinners with the childcare program (called "Camp Ocean"), which meant we got to have a peaceful, adult dinner every night. They served kid-friendly food our kids loved- and the same childcare workers were there every day, actively involved with them. This was a major win in our book!

• Wear your swimsutis and apply sunscreen first thing in the morning. This may seem super obvious, but our family just doesn't tan...we burn (well, Lucy is our exception). But, applying sunscreen before we even left the room was super helpful because without fail, the kids wanted to get in the pool right after breakfast. Which leads me to my next tip...

• Hit up the pool first thing in the morning to snag the good chairs! This may seem silly, but trust me, it will pay off about 1:00 P.M. when the pool is packed and you still have a prime spot in the shade to watch your littles while you drink your piña colada. 

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• FREE Room Service! I'm usually too cheap to order room service during hotel stays, but Carnival offered free room service until 10 PM to staterooms (you can get it for a small fee after hours as well). There were actually door tags in our room where we could order what we'd like for the next morning. We were able to select what we wanted delivered, pick a delivery time and set it on our door before 10 PM. Then amazingly, the next morning we had hot coffee delivered for us and bananas to tide hungry kids over until we made it to breakfast.

• Don’t stress about what your kids are eating/not eating. This is one vacation rule I've adapted this summer and it has been a great thing for my mindset. We battle "how many more bites" from at least 1 kid at almost every meal, and it wears on Shawn and I both. Since food is readily available 24 hours of the day on a cruise, we chose to just not worry about what- or more importantly how much- our kids were eating. No, they didn't just eat ice cream the whole time- but we definitely had it for breakfast on the last day!

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• Keep bedtime routine. Our kids were exhausted every night, but somehow when their heads hit the pillow, they still wanted their normal bedtime music. We had downloaded our bedtime music playlist on Spotify and brought our bluetooth speaker which were really handy. 

• Unpack when you get there. Like I said, our room was TIGHT. I unpacked all our suitcases and utilized the drawers, cabinets, and shelves in bathroom. It made getting ready and keeping the room organized much easier. I laid kids' clothes out paired in outfits and made a shoe drawer the kids could throw their shoes in. We hung a giant laundry bag (purchased at Ikea) in one of the closets and all dirty clothes went there. When it was time to pack up, I just filled one suitcase full of dirty laundry and it was so nice to just dump it in the laundry when we got home.


At Port:


• Cash is king. You need cash for tips and spending. Yes, many stores will take cards, but if you take an excursion you will need cash for tips.

• Keep passports with you always. Never, ever leave your passports on the ship while in another country. Yes, it may be annoying to keep them safe in your beach bag, but you do not want to have an emergency in another country and have no identification.
 

Just a biiiiiit windy on the top deck!

Just a biiiiiit windy on the top deck!


Yikes, I hope that was helpful- because it ended up being super long. I'm just writing the blog post I really wanted to find before we headed out. Happy cruising!

My mom bought the girls these sweet dresses in Mexico so we had a very quick photoshoot. There were 4 other adults watching to make sure no one got too close to the rails and about 186753 outtakes, haha!

My mom bought the girls these sweet dresses in Mexico so we had a very quick photoshoot. There were 4 other adults watching to make sure no one got too close to the rails and about 186753 outtakes, haha!

FRESH OUTLOOK • playlist

LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment
We are about DONE with this cold winter weather. Entertaining kiddos inside all day is making us a little cray cray.

We are about DONE with this cold winter weather. Entertaining kiddos inside all day is making us a little cray cray.

When it comes to listening to music, Shawn and I tend to annoy each other.

Shawn loves the beat, the individual instruments..."did you hear that sweet loop"?

And I'm like, "did you even listen to the lyrics?!"

So when we both like something, it's like...explosions in the sky.

(+1000 points if you get that reference)

I'm constantly updating my Spotify playlists, and today I'm sharing one that is just chock FULL of positive/upbeat/happy/vibey/go-get-em-ness. It's the music I play when I want to just get lost in the music, sing out the lyrics and shake my booty a little. So, this one is for you, girl who finally got out of town and has a road trip ahead of her. Or mom who needs to forget that your kid just peed on the floor and you still have a load of laundry to fold. You got this. Just put on this playlist and GO.

I'm calling it FRESH OUTLOOK because it's still the beginning of a new year(ish) and all of these songs have me feeling just so darn optimistic. I hope you love it. 

Click here to open it in the Spotify app! 

Let me know if you have a listen!

6 MORE Great Places To Get Married in the Lubbock Area

LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment

It's been almost two years since I first posted my first list of favorite venues in the Lubbock area- and amazingly, there have been many more pop up in just the past year or so! A couple of these I had just not shot at previously, but several have been recently built (which means they are all nice and new facilities for you and your guests). 

Finding a venue is one of the very first things a bride will need to do when she begins planning her wedding. There are many venues in our area, but not all are well-known. While I love photographing at churches, I've excluded from this list as most people will select their church ceremony based on their individual faith or denomination. Here are 6 MORE wonderful venues around Lubbock you definitely need to check out: 

The next two venues are brand new to the Lubbock area and have both been built so thoughtfully, with the bride in mind. I love shooting at both:

Autumn Oaks Event Center

www.autumnoakslubbock.com   •   10210 Woodrow Road, Ropesville, TX   •   806-553-0532

Autumn Oaks has large and luxurious getting ready rooms for the bride and groom and I LOVE shooting with all the natural light the venue offers. 

Autumn Oaks has large and luxurious getting ready rooms for the bride and groom and I LOVE shooting with all the natural light the venue offers. 

Eberley Brooks

www.eberleybrooks.com   •   8602 CR 7000, Lubbock, TX•   806-777-0422

THE WOOD, CONCRETE, AND BRICK TEXTURES OF EBERLEY BROOKS ARE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL BACKGROUND FOR MANY DECORATING STYLES AND THIS VENUE ALSO HAS WONDERFUL GETTING READY ROOMS.

THE WOOD, CONCRETE, AND BRICK TEXTURES OF EBERLEY BROOKS ARE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL BACKGROUND FOR MANY DECORATING STYLES AND THIS VENUE ALSO HAS WONDERFUL GETTING READY ROOMS.

This venue has been around forever, but I don't get the chance to shoot there since I am usually doing larger weddings- but I LOVE St. Paul's for so many reasons!

St. Paul's Church on the Plains

www.mylubbock.us   •   40th & University, Lubbock, TX   •   806-767-3724

ST. PAUL'S IS PERFECT FOR AN INTIMATE GARDEN WEDDING AND HAS A ROSE GARDEN ADJACENT FOR A SMALL RECEPTION AS WELL.

ST. PAUL'S IS PERFECT FOR AN INTIMATE GARDEN WEDDING AND HAS A ROSE GARDEN ADJACENT FOR A SMALL RECEPTION AS WELL.

You might notice a theme with these next three. If you're a wine-lover, prepare yourself for pure bliss here:

McPherson Cellars

www.mcphersoncellars.com   •   1615 Texas Ave. Lubbock, TX   •   806-687-9463

MCPHERSON CELLARS IS LOCATED IN DOWNTOWN LUBBOCK AND HAS A COLORFUL, COOL VIBE WITH AN OUTDOOR COURTYARD AND INDOOR INDUSTRIAL SPACE. OF COURSE, YOU CAN SERVE THEIR DELICIOUS WINES AT THE RECEPTION.

MCPHERSON CELLARS IS LOCATED IN DOWNTOWN LUBBOCK AND HAS A COLORFUL, COOL VIBE WITH AN OUTDOOR COURTYARD AND INDOOR INDUSTRIAL SPACE. OF COURSE, YOU CAN SERVE THEIR DELICIOUS WINES AT THE RECEPTION.

Llano Estacado Winery

www.llanowine.com   •   3426 East F.M. 1585 Lubbock, TX   •   1-800-634-3854

LLANO ESTACADO IS JUST SOUTH OF LUBBOCK AND HAS A GREAT SETUP FOR WEDDINGS WITH AN ADJACENT VINEYARD. I ALSO RATE THIS BRIDE'S ROOM TOP-NOTCH! I LOVE LLANO'S ROSÉ, AND SO WILL YOUR GUESTS. 

LLANO ESTACADO IS JUST SOUTH OF LUBBOCK AND HAS A GREAT SETUP FOR WEDDINGS WITH AN ADJACENT VINEYARD. I ALSO RATE THIS BRIDE'S ROOM TOP-NOTCH! I LOVE LLANO'S ROSÉ, AND SO WILL YOUR GUESTS. 

This last venue is actually a little south of Lubbock, near Abilene- but I loved it so I wanted to include it, just in case any of you Lubbock brides might be interested in a local "destination" wedding!

Christoval Vineyards

www.christovalvineyards.com   •   Christoval, TX   •   1-325-315-8077

CHRISTOVAL VINEYARDS IS A WIDE-OPEN, LOVELY PLACE WITH MANY CEREMONY AND RECEPTION OPTIONS- AND OF COURSE, PLENTY OF WINE!

CHRISTOVAL VINEYARDS IS A WIDE-OPEN, LOVELY PLACE WITH MANY CEREMONY AND RECEPTION OPTIONS- AND OF COURSE, PLENTY OF WINE!

I have not been compensated by any of the venues listed here or in my other blog post- this is simply my professional opinion. Happy wedding planning!