A Delayed Christmas Gift

Our weekend away was a belated Christmas gift to my parents. Instead of buying them a present to put under the tree, my siblings and I blocked off a weekend on our calendars to get everyone together in the same place as our “gift”. (We did this two years ago in Coralville, and just check out those photo of me pregnant and snuggling Colin in this post.)

Upon John’s recommendation, we booked rooms at Hotel Renvovo in Urbandale. John has stayed here a few times for work in the last six months and had nothing but praise for the unique, urban farm inspired design of the hotel. If you’re a Chip and Joanna fan, you should stay at this hotel. The decor fits the area because it’s located right next to The Machine Shed and Living History Farms.

While I was worried about a snowstorm hitting the weekend of our preplanned vacation, I didn’t think about illness. Unfortunately Tony and Ashley’s family had to sit the weekend out due to the flu. They were definitely missed. Is it spring yet?!

Even though our pool time took place indoors this spring break, I just needed to get out of town to reset. Mission accomplished and I’m in a better place mentally than I was three days ago. I’m praising God for spring break and so sorry for anyone in education who doesn’t have this luxury. I know I’ll go back to school next week a better and more patient teacher.

Scottsdale Valentine’s Date

John and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early with dinner at Hand Cut.

While the dinner and drinks were great, the dessert. Oh. My. Gosh. The dessert.

Salted Caramel Butter Cake with slow roasted peaches and vanilla ice cream.

John and I both declared it the best dessert we’ve ever had. 

We’ve celebrated 16 Valentine’s Days together, but celebrating in Scottsdale was a first. It’s safe to say they just keep getting sweeter.

“Outside!” “Outside!”

I promised Elijah the 3+ hour plane ride would be worth it because we could play outside as soon as we arrived in Arizona.

He stood on John’s lap and chanted “Outside!” “Outside!” as soon as we landed. He made a lot of friends with fellow passengers who were feeling the same way.

Soaking up the weather and spending time with my parents were our entire agenda.

Thankfully my parent’s place had yard space (hello, green grass!) with plenty of ducks for Elijah to watch and chase

Pool time, walks, shopping, climbing Camelback, and iced coffee allowed us to fit a lot into four days.

It’s honestly unbelievable what a few days in the sunshine can do for a person’s mental and physical health.

Thanks to my parents for giving us a reason to escape the snow.

Magnolia Market

No, I didn’t find Chip or Joanna.

I did find Lindsay and Andy. 🙂

If you’re not familiar with the content in this post, I suggest you watch Fixer Upper on HGTV. Chip and Joanna take rundown houses in Waco, Texas and remodel them into absolutely stunning yet functional homes for families.

In one of their episodes, they build Magnolia Market at the Silos. This touristy spot includes the Market, food trucks, a garden center, and a bakery. It’s designed to be a place to shop but also bring families and friends together. The yard includes tables, lounge chairs, yard games, and room to spread out and relax.

If you can’t make it to Magnolia Market, read their book. I blogged about, The Magnolia Story, earlier this year, and I stand by my recommendation.

Thanks to my Loras housemate, Lindsay, and her husband, Andy, for welcoming us to Woodway and Waco. Lindsay is a professor at Baylor, and we had the opportunity to take in the campus following our Magnolia visit. Who knew there were real bears on campus?

Catching up with these two was even more magical than Magnolia.

John’s LA Week

John was in LA for a work conference from Sunday-Thursday.

I was dreading morning drop-off four days in a row with a couple of extra early mornings at school, but Elijah spoiled me. I even had time to grab Starbucks twice. Thank you, mobile orders.

Our 80-degree weather was warmer than John’s, but he had a pool view. While we were embracing the warmth for park dates, John was able to take in a Lakers game. I’m glad his trip wasn’t all work, but I was jealous when we FaceTimed and I saw the palm trees and his balcony. If only the timing would have been different, I would have spent my week along side of him. Another time.

Fall in South Bend

It’s not fall until we’ve cheered on the Irish.

An extra day during Labor Day weekend made the trip to South Bend a relaxing one. Combing the 49-16 victory over Temple with the picture-perfect weather, and the weekend was perfect.

We arrived to campus early Saturday morning and scored an outdoor table at O’Rourke’s. John went straight for the Guinness, but I loved sipping an Irish coffee on a cool morning as we watched the crowds arrive.

We made our way around campus to all of the hot spots before the game and finally took in the newly remodeled stadium. It was the first game with the video board, and it definitely changed the experience. The cheerleaders are no longer in charge of pumping up the crowd because the video picture and sound take over. My favorite moment was when the video board showed the team saying the “Our Father” in the locker room and then followed them the few steps onto the field immediately after the prayer. I love that a fall football weekend can spotlight faith and tradition more than tailgating.

Thank to my parents who kept our little bear for a few days and spoiled him with plenty of ice cream and love! We’re so thankful we can get away and know Elijah is in good hands and having just as much fun as his parents.

The Markket

A group of English teachers didn’t let the fact that The Markket is spelled “wrong” bother us once we were blown away by its beauty and charm.

The Markket in Edgewood, IA, a new destination to all of us, was just one stop during our day trip. This home decorating store opened a couple of months ago and displays gorgeous home furnishings, full kitchens, and stunning woodwork. The gray/blue kitchen cabinet model gave me some serious home envy. The store also features paint, decorations, rugs, curtains…etc. from the Joanna Gaines collection in Waco, Texas. If you watch Fixer Upper, this store is her style of modern meets rustic. Is that a style?

Another highlight of the trip was time outside at Franklin Street Brewery. Even though we work together every day during the school year, a lot of our conversations revolve around our students. Time away from school and out of town was a breath of fresh air. It put a limit on the “teacher talk” and allowed us to just catch up with each other as friends.

If you want to join us next year, let’s get a date on the calendar NOW. Summers fill up too fast. Destination TBD.

The last two years we’ve spent a summer day at the White Water Park and a couple of days soaking up Life at the Lodge.

Blank Park Zoo

Introducing Elijah to his first zoo was on this year’s summer bucket list. Even though I’m convinced he thought every animal was a “pup-pup”, he loved it. Side note, he gets very distracted on walks when a puppy goes by, and I absolutely love his excitement and curiosity. He can also hear a dog barking long before I hear it. Little ears but a lot of love for animals.

Our friends Paige and Tony joined us with their little girl, Harlow. Watching Harlow and Elijah interact was a joy in itself. Even though we live a couple hours apart, more playdates for these two are a must!

Choosing a Vacation Hotel

Following our California vacation, my friend Katie asked how we always manage to find incredible hotels/resorts when we go on vacation. My answer might surprise you.


I use Expedia to book flights and hotels, but Instagram tells the honest story. I started using Instagram to look into hotels because I wanted to know if pictures people were posting at these places actually looked like the sales photos sponsored by the hotel. Written reviews only tell you so much. Instagram gives you real, present time photos. You simply search the hashtag of the hotel (or surrounding area), for example #hyattregencyhuntingtonbeach or #marriottwaikiki and judge for yourself. Most resort style hotels have their own Instagram, so make sure you’re looking at people’s photos who aren’t getting paid to tell the story.

Since this extra step really seems to work, I wanted to share.

Celebrating Seven Years

John and I celebrated our anniversary at Santa Catalina Island- Avalon.

We started our morning in Huntington Beach and took an Uber to Long Beach before boarding the Catalina Express for a hour boat ride to the island.

I’ve been to California a handful of times, but this was my first time on the island. It’s charming. The bright beach homes nestled in the hill, the seafood restaurants right on the ocean, the ice cream and coffee shops lining the streets, and of course the rows and rows of boats docked make this worth the travel.

The pictures only begin to highlight the island’s beauty.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect way to celebrate marriage with a man who challenges me to be a better version of myself each day. Love doesn’t even begin to describe it!