Part of Me Blog

LIFESTYLE

our road-trip travel hacks + must-haves

TRAVEL, LIFESTYLE, MOMLIFElissa-anglin1 Comment
2019-06-19 06.39.15.jpg

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.

2019-06-25 15.05.17.jpg

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

Freezeable 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
Sprinklers-2612.jpg

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.

partofmeblog.com.png

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

LIFESTYLElissa-anglin1 Comment
2018-07-14 14.34.25-2.jpg

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.

2018-07-16 09.39.45.jpg

• 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.

2018-07-15 09.56.21-1.jpg

• 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. 

Cruise-0004.jpg

• 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. 

2018-07-18 15.08.53.jpg

• 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. 

Cruise-0244.jpg

• 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!

Cruise-0656.jpg

• 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!

rainy day

LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment

It was a grey, rainy day here in Lubbock yesterday- a vast difference from the high 80's we were experiencing just last week- and I wanted to challenge myself to shoot in the darker environment within our home. So, I photographed Liv doing her thing at home for a bit and then when Knox got home from school, we decided we'd better go splash in those puddles! Once we came inside and were warming our feet, my mom showed up with the cutest Valentine's cookies from The Cakery. Turned out to be a pretty wonderful afternoon. 

Here are the images I shot- these everyday moments always end up being the ones I treasure most!

I shared more images and some info behind how I shot these with my private How To Work It Facebook group. If you're interested in learning how to work your fancy camera, check out my online workshop here!

These were all shot with my Sigma Art 35mm lens.

If you are a part of my How To Work It group, just click this image to be fast-tracked to the behind-the-scenes video (you will need to log in first).

In this one, I share my thought process behind how and what I was shooting, my settings, and a few tips on how to make your images better. Hope this is helpful for you!