Why You Should Take Your Family On A Cruise

Hey friends! I’ve missed you. I took a few months off from the blog as I was working on an exciting project with Google, but I’m back!

Our family just got back from a Caribbean cruise for Spring Break and I’m here to tell you that if you’ve been thinking of going on a cruise but haven’t yet – this is your sign.

First I’ll start off by saying that I used to be that person who wouldn’t even consider a cruise. I assumed they’d be overcrowded, the food would be terrible, and the rooms would be small and not a place I’d want to be. I reluctantly booked a European one with my husband shortly after we got married for our “babymoon” and fell in love! I was wrong about everything!

I will say the cruise line matters and I would suggest getting a balcony room to give you some extra space and views. They really utilized every nook and cranny for storage space. Even with our family of 4, the one balcony room works just fine. Our favorite cruise lines are Disney, Celebrity, Princess, or Royal Caribbean. Celebrity is my top favorite for food, Royal Caribbean has the best ships for families. There are always “upgrade” restaurants on all lines but as far as the free dining options, Celebrity was the best in my opinion.

I’m going to share all the reasons why YOU should consider a cruise too:

  • A floating city is a fun thing to experience. You don’t even feel like you’re on a boat more like exploring a small city.
  • You can visit multiple destinations in one trip.
  • They are super easy to plan, all you have to do is show up!
  • Everything is very organized and cruises offer lots of options for off-shore excursions from scuba diving to swimming with dolphins, visiting beaches, walking tours, wine tastings, and more.
  • You’ll never run out of things to do on the ship. They have something for everyone from casinos to shopping, bingo, trivia, yoga, and more.
  • Cruising is very family-friendly. The ships also provide FREE childcare in their kids’ clubs! The kids LOVE spending time in the clubs and it gives parents a break to enjoy all the adult activities.
  • Many ships now have water slides, rock climbing walls, mini-golf, and sports courts. This makes for fun sail days.
  • Ships have theatres to showcase Broadway-like shows, comedians, magic shows, and more.
  • There are so many itinerary options throughout the world to choose from.
  • You meet new friends with each cruise. We still keep in touch with friends we’ve met on multiple cruises throughout the last ten years.

If you’re considering a cruise, I would research the different ships to see what best suits your travel needs and sign up for their email campaigns so you snag deals when they post them. Here’s a photo dump of our recent cruising adventure!

My kids already can’t wait for our next cruise. We are thinking of Europe next summer! Want to join us?

Living The High Life in LA – A Travel Guide

I haven’t been to Los Angeles in a good fifteen years so when we added LA to our west coast adventure, I was thrilled to head back. Palm trees, perfect weather, an ocean breeze, and hiking – what more could you want? We only had three days there so we had to squeeze in as much as possible. Any of these recommendations are great for kids too if you’re traveling as a family.

OUE Sky Space.

Once we arrived we headed to the OUE Sky Deck and it was so much more than I expected. OUE features unparalleled 360° views from California’s tallest open-air observation terraces where you can see iconic landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign and Capitol Records. You also get a bird’s eye view of Dodger Stadium and can see as far out as the Santa Monica Pier. On your journey to the top, you walk through an interactive space filled with Los Angles history, fun facts, and displays of artist’s work. My favorite space was standing in front of a screen with a red carpet and paparazzi jump out to take your picture to give you the true Hollywood experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the Skyslide! This slide sends you sailing down to the floor below on a small carpet in a glass encapsulation. It’s a separate charge but totally worth it. If you’re headed to LA, make sure to add this to your list.

Griffith Observatory

Another must. Griffith Observatory is Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign. We went during the day, but I bet it is even more magnificent at night. There is parking up at the top, however, it fills very quickly. I recommend getting there early if you want to get those prime spots. Otherwise, there are parking spots all up the mountain. Once you get to the top, I recommend strolling throughout the museum and going to the top of the observatory. You can also have a picnic on the front lawn. Before you leave don’t forget to take a picture featuring the Hollywood sign behind you. You have great views of the sign from many areas of the property, but the best is on the north side by the outdoor restrooms.

Hollywood Sign

Speaking of the Hollywood Sign, there are so many great areas to get the perfect photo. You can head up to Runyon Canyon for a hike and get a great view there, you might even spot some celebs. Another spot to get a great picture of the Hollywood Sign is from the 3rd floor of the Highland Shopping Center on Hollywood BLVD. If you want an Instagram worthy shot then head over to 5th Street and S. Windsor BLVD. On a clear day, the Hollywood Sign will be your perfect backdrop. There was smog when I was there so my picture didn’t turn out clear, but still a beautiful shot! If you enlarge it you can barely see the sign.

Pop-Up Museums

There were two places I wanted to go but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time. The Museum of Illusions and The Museum of Selfies came highly recommended. You can’t NOT have fun at a pop-up museum!

Los Angeles Museum of Art

Another spot on my list to visit was the largest museum in the west. The LACMA has an installation called Urban Light and it’s a sight to see. Composed of 202 historic streetlamps dating from the 1920s and 1930s originally spread throughout Southern California, the large-scale sculpture, the Gordon Family Foundation’s gift to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign, has become ubiquitous as the face of LACMA, a point of pride for many Angelenos, and a destination for visitors from around the world. 

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Even if you can’t catch a show here at least drive by to check out the architecture and snap some pics. It’s breathtaking.

Walk Of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre

Both very touristy spots but worth it if you haven’t been before. It’s similar to Time Square where there’s a ton of people, it smells, and it’s complete chaos with street vendors and people trying to sell you stuff. My advice is to find the stars you want to see on the walk of fame, check those out, and skip the rest. Walking through the TCL Chinese Theatre is fun, historic and worth it if you move through it fast during a downtime.

We were with the kids so we didn’t get to experience too many nice restaurants but we did get a chance to go to Yamashiro. Not only do you get incredible scenic views here but the food is incredible! We had a few celebrity sightings, too. I read it is a popular place for celebs. I don’t really care about celeb sightings, but it was cool to see Russell Brand and Nick Cannon there. We also had an incredible brunch at Blue Jam.

If you’re an Instagrammer, two spots you have to check out are The Pink Wall and The Dream Butterfly Wall for some photo ops!

Santa Monica

If you want to head to the beach or see another beautiful area north of LA, head to Santa Monica and Malibu. We stayed in Santa Monica one night to stroll the Promenade Shops and have a beach day. The Santa Monica Pier is fun to see but it gets insanely busy with some interesting people, so I would plant too much time there. The Beach was clean and not that crowded. Across from the beach, there were a ton of awesome restaurants to visit. I advise making reservations anywhere you go. A little further North is Malibu and equally as beautiful and less busy.

I hope this Los Angeles travel guide helps with your future travels. Feel free to share your top spots below!

Site Seeing In Sedona

Last month my family and I decided to take on a west coast adventure starting in Arizona and working our way to Los Angeles. We flew into Phoenix from Chicago, rented our car and headed north to our first stop – Sedona.

I have to admit, Sedona has never been on my radar. I’ve been to Phoenix, Tuscan, and Scottsdale many times but never considered areas outside of these cities to explore. It wasn’t until I had a family and rekindled my love of road trips and traveling that Sedona took a spot on the top of our must-go list. For the last four years, we’ve been covering thousands of miles all over the country and we could not wait for this trip.

We flew into Phoenix early in the morning so we could have the whole day as our time was limited in Sedona. The drive was just under 2 hours. Once we arrived we checked into our hotel. We stayed at Arabella, which was a cute little boutique hotel. The room was nice and it served its purpose for the one night we stayed. Two days was plenty of time to explore Sedona with our kids. More of the activities, restaurants, and hiking are for older kids and adults.

Once we arrived, the red mountains were more majestic than I could have imagined. I understand the spiritual aspect of Sedona now. I could’ve sat at a restaurant and stared at the landscape and scenery all day – it was very peaceful.

Now onto my recommendations.

Jeep Tour. Our first activity was a tour of the Broken Arrow trail with Pink Jeep Tours. Everyone told us to do this and they were right! Not only was it a blast for our entire family, but we learned so much about the history of Sedona and got to see spectacular views off the beaten path. The tour took about two hours and felt like minutes as we had so much fun. They have several tours to choose from to fit a wide variety of budgets, time frames, and preferences. If we had more time I would have done the full day one where you go to Antelope Caverns. It’s definitely on the list for next time!

Snoopy Rock. You can see Snoopy taking a nap from many areas of Sedona, but if you want to get a nice view while checking out some great shops or sip a Starbucks coffee and admire the view, head to The Shops at Hyatt Piñon Pointe. You get a panoramic view of the red rocks and Snoopy Rock. His friend, Lucy is looking over too! There are also some great restaurants with balconies facing the rocks. This sunset you can’t beat! Shhh, Snoopy and Lucy are sleeping.

Slide Rock State Park. We didn’t get the chance to make it here, but it was something we really wanted to do and bummed we couldn’t fit it in. We did drive by it and it looked so fun. On our list for next time for sure! Slide State Park is a beautiful state park with hiking, camping, some historical sites and a natural water slide on the rocks. Even if it’s just to take a few rides on the natural slides, it would be worth it.

Chapel of The Holy Cross. Another site to see. Chapel of the Holy Cross, sitting high atop the red rocks, was inspired and commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude. In 1932 she was inspired to build such a church by the construction of the Empire State Building. Parking is limited and so are the tours so check the website if you want to tour the inside. Otherwise, it’s worth the quick drive just to see its beauty up close.

Sky Tours. If you’re really brave, you can take it up to the sky and book a hot air balloon or helicopter tour of the red rocks. I, however, am not that brave – but I was in awe watching the balloons going up. Maybe one day I’ll muster up the courage but for now, I leave it with you.

Restaurants. If you’ve followed me for a while now, you know I’m a foodie. I worked in the luxury hotel industry for many years and food is one of the best parts about traveling. There were so many amazing restaurants to chose from in Sedona. My recommendations are Hudson (the food and the views – incredible!), Mesa Grill, Elote Cafe, Hideaway House, and Creekside Sedona.

If you’re driving and want even more breathtaking views, head up to Flagstaff (or Grand Canyon) from Sedona. The drive north from Sedona was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The mountains reminded me of Colorado and the air was crisp and fresh. I’m so glad we made the drive on to our next stop, the Grand Canyon, as the views were worth it alone. Sharing all my Grand Canyon recommendations in the next post!

Here’s to a summer of adventure.

spritual stuff.

Living Your Best Life In Miami Beach

Miami is a favorite warm-weather destination for my family. My husband went to college there (Go Canes!) and it’s the perfect escape from these horrendous Chicago winters.

Typically we take our boys with us everywhere – but this time, we went sans kids. First vacation without them in eight years. I know, we were way overdue!

As a foodie, I was most excited about hitting up some amazing restaurants and having a meal and conversation without being rushed or interrupted. Parents, share this post if you know what I mean!

I also wanted to spend plenty of time lounging by the pool with a book and possibly an adult beverage. Such activities require picking the right hotel. Having worked in luxury hotels for many years, I’ve stayed at so many amazing properties. I tend to stick with Starwood/Marriott properties because you always know you’re going to get great service and a great product – but this time we went with the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Resort. I went through VRBO and got a sweet deal on an owner’s unit in the Sorrento Tower. This is nice little travel hack – if you want a room with more space for less money!

The perks of staying at the Fontainebleau Resort include the amazing on-property restaurants, the great lobby bar, onsite shops, a gelato bar (ummmm…. this makes it worth it alone!), the resort location directly on the beach, and it’s on the north end of Miami Beach. If you don’t know, South Beach can get a little crazy – at least for this not-a-20-something-anymore gal.

Also, the pool area is huge with several different options. Some are adults only, which makes it nice when you travel alone. Some pools are kid-friendly, which is great if you wish to be with other families who won’t get annoyed when your kids start acting a fool. Win-win. There are also 100s upon 100s of chairs, which means you don’t have to run down at 8 am to save your spot. They also have options for loungers and cabanas which range in price. While there, we got a deal on one of the cabanas for the day because the TV and speaker system weren’t working. Who cares about the TV when you’ve got that beautiful view and pool vibe! Further, each cabana comes with water bottles and a fruit plate. Parents – they have a kids club there with half-day or full-day options. Rejoice!

I could have spent the whole four days at the pool or beach (they have similar lounge offers and a food delivery service via an app to beach goers) and been just fine. However, we decided to venture out to check out some of the local Miami sites.

First stop was the Vizcaya Museum. Talk about breathtaking! The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, previously known as Villa Vizcaya, is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. The early 20th century Vizcaya estate also includes extensive Italian Renaissance gardens; native woodland landscape; and a historic village outbuildings compound. You can tour the entire property, check out the beautiful views, landscape and even tour inside the mansion.

Next, we headed over to the Wynwood Art District to check out Wynwood Doors. Known for its many colorful murals, Wynwood is one of the city’s most happening districts. Wynwood Walls is an outdoor museum showcasing large-scale works by some of the world’s best-known street artists. The surrounding streets have converted warehouses housing craft breweries and funky art galleries. A hip young crowd frequents the neighborhood’s chic clothing boutiques, stylish bistros, and late-night bars. Such a cool place to walk around and check out all the art. Even the sidewalks had fun little messages and art on them.

Last, we headed over to Coconut Grove. My husband went to”The U” so we had to go buy some swag for our boys. We’ve spent a lot of time here in the past and headed over to one of our fav lunch spots, Lulu In The Grove.

Now back to Miami beach and what we were most excited about – the food!

Here are the places I highly recommend:

Baoli Miami – I think this was our most favorite out of all the places we went. It looks like a magical scene out of an enchanted garden. Inside, the service was perfect, and the food was insanely good.

Katsuya South Beach – Located inside the beautiful SLS South Beach hotel, Katsuya masters the art of Japanese cuisine. The food was stellar and the service was great. Bonus, their cozy and swanky hotel bar is right outside the restaurant so you can have a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.

Mr Chow – A staple. I’d been to their location in Los Angelas years ago, and was excited to dine here again. It is very high end as far as service goes. The space itself is beautiful to look at and the food will not disappoint. It also helps that it’s located inside one of Miami’s best hotels – The W South Beach.

Larios on South Beach – I know there are a lot of great Cuban restaurants in Miami and I wish we could have hit up a few more but we decided on revisiting an old favorite – Larios. They have Cuban classic dishes, a great ambiance and a patio that makes for great people watching. Oh, and some great cocktails!

Below are some recommendations from friends we were unable to get to:

Caja Caliente, Mandolin, Soho House, St Roch Market.

We’ve been home for a week now and already can’t wait to return! Miami was just what we needed.

How To Take Instagram Pictures Like A Pro When You’re Not

Hey hey, friends. A lot of you have reached out asking how I make my pictures all look the same and ask if they are professionally done. The answer is no! I do have an awesome photographer friend who I plan on working with in the near future, but for now, I’m my own photographer. Well, sometimes my husband or 8-year-old son are the photogs but for the most part – it’s just me.

So let’s get to it.

First things first, your cell phone takes amazing pictures! You do not need a fancy pants camera. We had one and I sold it because it’s easier to take pics on my phone and I always have my phone with me. I have the iPhone X, but even my old 6 worked fine.

Let’s talk about lighting. When taking pictures inside you want to make sure all the lights are on. Natural light looks best, so if you get a lot of sunlight coming inside don’t worry about turning the lights on. I take all my pictures during the day. I don’t like the way pictures turn out at night or with the flash on.

If I’m taking a “selfie” type of photo or one within close range of an object, I like to use Portrait mode. It looks cleaner and more focused on what you’re taking a picture of. When taking a picture, in general, you also want to tap the screen to adjust the focus and exposure.

Now, this is my favorite tip: You’re likely not going to get a shot you like on the first take, so take tons of pictures. Photo burst like crazy! Then you’ll have options and are more likely to find ones you like. During the bursts, move around, try different poses, facial expressions, etc. Trust me!

When I’m at home or out by myself, how do I take the pictures? I have a portable tripod! It’s super lightweight, comes in a carrying case and sets up in seconds. It also comes with a remote and an adjustable base to create perfect angles. This is the one I use.

If you want studio lighting, perfect selfie light, or light for video recording – you’ll want to go with this Halo light. It’s AH-MAZING. Lightweight and also comes with a carrying case and remote. Perfect to take to events or take pictures at night. They have mini ones for selfies that clamp right on to your phone too. I mean – brilliant.

Photo taken at night with my Halo light. Perfect for headshots.

Okay, so we’ve finished talking about taking photos. That was easy, right?

What do I do with them after I take them? As a blogger, I have to take pretty pictures that are visually appealing or no one will take the time to read my work. Same goes for social media. Your Instagram page is your highlight reel, it better look nice. Save your “real life” stuff for your stories. For my highlight reel, I want everything to have the same theme as far as edits go. This makes the page pretty to look at and streamlined.

Once the pictures are done, I open up my Lightroom App. It’s a free mobile photo editing app that you must have. I’ll wait while you download it.

Okay, once you open your Lightroom App you’ll see all the recent photos you took (if they don’t autoload you can add them to an album in Lr). This is where you’ll want to do your edits. You can pay for upgrades for different features, but I don’t think that’s necessary for these purposes. Label the album what you want to keep it organized.

Then you’ll look for a photo preset you like. A preset is a pre-determined position all (or some) of the of sliders in Lightroom, meaning the “edits” are already done. In other words, you can edit a photo to your liking, and then save that exact combination of slider positions for future use on another image. Get it? Good. I like clean “minimal” presets that I can adjust a little for some variety. You can see what I mean on some of my photos.

Where do I find photo Lightroom presets? You can Google and find some popular bloggers and photographers use. Those are typically more expensive and can be difficult to install if you’re not super “tech-y”. I’d consider myself somewhat tech savvy and some of these higher-end preset download instructions were WAY over my head. They run anywhere from $20-$70.

If you want something easier to use and less expensive, check out Etsy. There’s great presets on there for $10 or less. Each store that sells them has its own download instructions, but I found them to be pretty easy. You download the photo with the preset already in place then save it to your Lightroom App. Once you save it in there in its own folder – you click on the ellipses (or the three dots) on the top right of the preset photo and you’ll see a menu pop up. You’ll click “copy settings” then go to the photo you took in your other album, click on the ellipses on that photo then click “paste settings”. You’ll see the settings from the preset automatically edit your photo to look like the preset photo. If you want to make adjustments you can use the edit bars in Lightroom to do so.

Example of a preset photo

I like having a few presets that look along the same theme to switch it up a bit.

To summarize: Buy a tripod. Capture moments special to you. Load those photos into Lightroom. Buy a preset you like. Copy the preset on to your photo. Save it back to your camera roll and post away! You can follow me on IG for inspo at hollydays_chicago.

I hope this was helpful. If you have any of your own tips and tricks, please share them in the comment section.

Everyday Practices To Keep You Thankful All Year Long

It’s that time of year again! The holiday season. The season that reminds us all to be thankful for our blessings, family and friends. Every year across social media I see people reminding themselves that life isn’t so bad after all, but wouldn’t it be great if we could be thankful all year long? When you take on this perspective, it’s pretty amazing how your outlook on everything changes.

I’m happy most of the time. Sure I have my bad moments. I cry, I get upset, I get depressed sometimes, but overall – I’m happy.  I’ve always been a glass half full kind of gal, but I’ve also had many challenges (like most of us) in life that greatly tested that happiness. So, for the last decade I’ve been training my mind to be thankful for everything – even the bad times. When you do this, you start to realize just how amazing your life actually is.

Here are some best practices I’ve adopted over the years to help me stay positive and not let outside influences ruin my happiness.

Dinner time is thankful time.

Every night at dinner my family and I go around the table and say three things that made us happy that day. When we first started this I got a huge wake up call because my son would say things like, “I’m happy I got to play with a ball and hug mommy and I’m thankful for this cheese stick.” Those were the things that made him happy. A cheese stick. I knew if he could find joy in a cheese stick that I should be grateful for a lot more.

The beautiful thing about this activity is….. even if you had horrible day, your mind finds at least three things that were positive and you forget about the bad stuff. You also start appreciating the little things like: I’m happy I got to drink my coffee hot today! I’m happy my boss didn’t yell at me today! I’m happy I didn’t break my ankle when I fell and only sprained it instead! You see – there’s even a silver lining in the bad stuff!

Have your phone remind you. 

I love putting reminders in my phone. I have six that go off everyday starting at 8 am. They are a combination of goals I’ve set for myself in my personal and professional life and reminders to be thankful. Keep them simple. Mine are: Be grateful, you got this, you use to pray for what you have now, and the best is yet to come. The last one I recently added, thanks to a work friend making the recommendation, is just the word RIGGED. This reminder goes off in early evening to remind myself that anything that happened during the day was supposed to happen. Life is rigged my friends – so start finding the joy in the journey.

Cut yourself a break.

Look, you’re not perfect….. but you don’t have to be! Moms, you’re going to forget crazy hair day at your kid’s school sometimes. Don’t worry! Your kids will remember the hugs you gave them and how often you told them you loved them, not that you forget to gel their hair up one day.

You’re not always going to get the promotion you wanted. It’s okay, something better is around the corner. Maybe you weren’t ready. Maybe it’s the universe saving you from mountains of stress!

At the end of each day you should thank yourself for getting through another day as a mom, wife, friend, leader, employee, etc.! It’s hard out there sometimes.

Use resources.

There’s some really great books and people out there that helped me along the way. My recent reads that I absolutely loved and put into practice are: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.

If you use these best practices every day, they become habit. Habits become part of your behavior and then you’ll start to see some positive changes. There are so many things to be thankful for, we just need help and reminders to be able to see them every day.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! I’m thankful for all of you.



Considering A Renovation? Read This First

First, I’ll state that I am in NO way shape or form an expert on renovation or design. To be clear, my knowledge of home renovation stems from obsessively watching HGTV for the last 10 years and having a big brother who was a contractor for 20+ years. I have my Pinterest boards, love strolling through design showrooms on weekends and have two amazing friends, Keki and Ann, who inspire me daily. If you want to hear from real experts, they are your gals.

Aside from that – it’s the blind leading the blind. Wanted to throw that out there to check your expectations of me. However, since I just went through (well, still going through) a renovation, I thought I’d share some of my beginner tips!

I live in Chicago, which is an expensive city, so we just bought our very first home. YAY! When we signed on the dotted line, I couldn’t wait to move in and call it home. Finally! No more sharing a bathroom with three boys. I know, right! Torture. Go pee on your own toilet seat now! Just saying. No more sharing walls – even though my neighbors have always been pretty cool! And, no more tight living quarters for my boys. Thank you sweet Jesus.

But, before we could move in we had a LOT of work to do. The house had great bones, but was outdated and not our taste. The 90s were an interesting time. Lots of browns, dark greens, mustard yellows and in this house – a lot of teal. Since I just crawled my way out of the “baby stage” of my life and no longer have to change 1000s of diapers a day (okay, sometimes it just felt like 1000s) – those are colors I don’t care to see for a very long time. So, we changed everything!

What we’ve done so far and some (wanna be pro?) tips:

Paint the inside of the entire house.

  • HIRE someone to paint your ceilings unless you want to be at the chiropractor every day the rest of your life. WORTH the money. You can paint the easy stuff: bathrooms, inside of closets, small bedrooms, etc.
  • If you need help painting, ask for a recommendation on a neighborhood or mom Facebook group! You can find someone who does side jobs and get a deal. I paid a fraction of what it would normally cost to do my main floor because I gave the business to an independent guy who just wanted some extra cash.

Gutted and redid our kitchen.

  • Facebook Market Place – USE IT! It would have cost us $1000 in demo with our kitchen contractor to remove our old kitchen, so I posted it on FB Market Place! I prefaced with ONLY contractors or experienced handymen to remove, that way they didn’t destroy the walls and/or plumbing. Someone came with his team who renovates properties and removed our old kitchen – granite and all! I made money and saved the $1000 it would have cost to demo. There are also non-profits that will come and take it out for free and use it to build homes, etc.
  • Go small. We love supporting small businesses! We used Boca Cabinets (if you live in Chicago – they are amazing!). They were several thousand less in pricing than other big box stores and we got a great product.
  • Pay people in cash if you can! We had saved up for renovation so had cash for the larger items. If you pay in cash you avoid the credit card transaction fee and they will pass that savings on to you.



Refinished the fire place.

  • We hired someone to do this, but I think after a few YouTube videos we could have done it ourself. We ended up doing most of one of our bathrooms and several other jobs ourselves – after learning how to do it on Youtube! You can do a lot more than you think you can!



Remodeled Guest Bathroom.

  • Negotiate! Contractors (or anyone in sales) usually throws out the higher prices because they are ready for you to bring it down. A lot of people take the first price and consider it the final. I’ve been in sales my whole life – so I love to negotiate a deal! You want to be fair and pay people for their hard work, but you also don’t want to be ripped off. The worst they can say is no! I didn’t pay any of the original quotes on any work in this house. Just ask, “Is the best you can do?”, or get several quotes and see who will match the lowest one.
  • Use the same contractor, or his connections, for multiple jobs. This will allow for more negotiation – and you won’t have to worry about scheduling issues.

Ripped out all carpet and put in hardwoods.

  • We (my husband, my 7 year old son and myself) ripped out all the carpet. Easy peasy and saved on labor!
  • Paid in cash to get discounts for hard wood.
  • While you’re doing the floors, might as well replace all the base boards and shoe. It makes the house look instantly better – and updated!

My stairs are my favorite thing in the house. I just love them!



Replaced all doors.

  • We did all our shopping during black Friday sales – so paid almost half for all the interior doors, closet doors and appliances AND carpet for our basement. Wait for those sales around the holiday times.
  • We removed all the casings ourselves and painted all the doors, again, to save on labor.
  • SELL all your old stuff on FB MARKET PLACE! I’m telling you – we sold all our old appliances, closet bi-fold doors, trim, etc. on FB. We were making money as fast as we were spending it.

Repainted all our outdoor decks.

  • Must easier and cheaper than sanding and staining.
  • A good ole’ power washer can make a world of difference, too.

Remodeled our guest bathroom.

  • Did demo ourselves and hired a handyman to help install new vanity, toilet, and lay the tile.

We still have our two upstairs bathrooms to finish, which we will get to next year. We did all of the above in three weeks, you guys. Three weeks. It was mayhem, but we made it happen and I still can’t believe this is my home. Now, on to filling it and putting in the final touches.  This is where my blogger and IG design friends come in!

My last bit of advice is to have fun and keep your eyes on the prize. It’s all worth it in the end, I promise! You can check out the process and more before and afters on my Insta Stories under “Home”.

Share your renovation secrets with us in the comments!





Making….AND Keeping Those New Year’s Resolutions

WE did it! We made it to another year. That’s a goal achieved in and of itself, right?! I would say so.

This is my favorite time of year. A clean slate. A new start. A refreshed state. A cleared mind. Each new year presents the opportunity to make changes, enhance your life or start anew.  Now is the best time to look for that new job, or get your health and finances in check. Unfortunately, the excitement and determination with New Year’s resolutions fades fast and most give up before they even remember to write 2018 – instead of 2017.

So, how can you do it? How can you keep those New Year’s resolutions?

Start with your WHY.

Your “why” has to be a strong one. Unbreakable. Why did you choose this specific resolution? If your WHY makes you cry – then you have a greater chance of sticking with your goals.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight – is it because your health is depending on it? Or, because none of your clothes fit? Are you on medications for weight related issues and want to get off them? Is your health creating a negative impact on your life? These would all be great reminders when you feel like giving up. Make giving up not an option.

Is your resolution truly achievable?

When people make goals they have a tendency to go big or go home. Should you dream big? Yes, ut, those dreams have to  be achievable. When you make grandiose goals – you put too much pressure on yourself and as time goes on you get more and more discouraged.

Make little individual goals to help you achieve your end goal. 

If your goal is to finish a marathon, the last thing you want to do at the starting line is think about the 26 miles you have in front of you. Talk about overwhelming! If you tell yourself to make it to mile five and then see how you feel – you’re much more likely to continue on with another five miles, and another and another.

Take it one day at a time. 

If you want to lose thirty pounds by year end, make a goal of losing three pounds per month. If you only focus on the end goal – you assume you have so much more time to get there. Then, December rolls around and you turn into a maniac trying to make magic happen. Spoiler alert – you’re not a magician. Make a decision every day to eat healthy. If you slip one day, don’t beat yourself up – just start over the next day.

Make a plan.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. You’re not going to wish your way to a slimmer waistline, although that would be amazing if you could! So, how are you going to lose the weight? You need to go to the gym a minimum of two days a week. You need to track 20,000 steps a day. Sunday can be your cheat day. Start a meal plan, etc.
Celebrate each victory – big or small. 
If your goal was to pay off debt, but you only paid off half – that’s a victory! You worked toward your goal and made some headway. This is not an all or nothing goal. You may have underestimated the timeline, but the important thing was that you stuck to it! Move the end date back and pour a glass of bubbles because you deserve to celebrate!
Take these tips and own your 2018.
Wishing you all a year filled with blessings and resolution successes!