Category Archives: random

Texas Bluebonnets

If you live in Texas, you know that when spring comes, so do bluebonnets. If you don’t live in Texas, you probably think Texans are crazy for plopping their kids in a big patch of blue flowers. Taking pictures in the Texas bluebonnets is definitely a tradition in my state, since it is the state flower of Texas! I have no idea if that is a “thing” anywhere else, but it is one of the many things I love about my state.

Logan, One Year Old - Dallas, TX Bluebonnets

Oh yeah… a lot of kids don’t really like being stuck in a field of flowers – for example, my nephew Logan! In this picture, he had just turned one and was not having it. At all. This was taken in Dallas in 2008.

2014 Bluebonnets - Fort Worth, TX

Fast forward a few years – 6, to be exact – and he only took the picture with me so I would shut up. There may or may not have been bribery involved. This was taken in 2014, on a very sunny day (obviously). 

Last Friday, I got a bee in my (blue)bonnet and decided that I needed to go see the flowers in the Texas Hill Country. I recruited my dad (it was not difficult) and we made a day of it! We started at 8:00 am and I got home around 8:30 pm. As you may know, I’m a planner. Big time. However, with just hours notice, there wasn’t much time to do any planning. I knew where the bluebonnets were, and that’s about it. I did have a little time to do some googling and realized that a BBQ place I’ve heard about was in the same city – so we decided that’s where we would eat lunch!  

In Texas, we have a show called Texas Country Reporter. I grew up watching this on weekends, because I feel like my dad wanted to BE the host, Bob Phillips. I also grew up taking lots of fairly impromptu road trips with my family – Dad has wanderlust just like I do. TCR is still on, but there is another show that I love even more, and it is called The Daytripper. It is on PBS, and it is one of my favorite shows on TV! Chet Garner is the host, and he is so goofy and funny – but also super smart and nice. He basically goes to one city per episode and explores it, talks to the locals, eats the food, acts a fool – you know, stuff I love. Last year, the day before we left on our Colorado vacation, Chet was speaking in Arlington – so my husband and I had to go! I had a killer migraine headache, nothing was packed for our 10 day vacation – but we were going to meet him no matter what. 

Kevin, Chet, and Heather - Daytripper - 2014

We did it.

Barbecue Map Central Texas - 2014

That atlas you see me holding is very special to us. Kevin and I dated long distance for four years before he moved to Fort Worth (he lived in Lubbock, TX), so when he would come visit for a long weekend we would take small trips instead of staying in Fort Worth. Austin was (and still is) our favorite. Back then, GPS didn’t really exist. We had a Texas atlas spiral bound, and we have marked it up so much. We both like to just drive and explore, so there are so many little notes in there from the past 19 years – it is one of my most treasured possessions! I took it with us to meet Chet, and asked him if he would sign it for us on the Austin page. He did, and he also wrote down and circled his favorite BBQ spots in the area for us. It was so awesome! Anyway, Opie’s in Spicewood was exactly where I was headed on our Texas bluebonnet adventure. 

Now, my dad HATES highway driving. HATES. I pretty much feel the same way, but you know, when you’re in a hurry they just make sense. We weren’t in a rush yesterday, so we drove through several small towns to get to our destination. If you are interested in how we got there, we took Highway 67 through Cleburne and Glen Rose, then 220 to Hico, then 281 through Hamilton, Lampasas, Burnet (small detour here*), Marble Falls, and finally Spicewood. Highway 281 is not a major highway – it is usually 2-4 lanes and goes through several small towns. It is a really pretty drive and I highly recommend it if you are going between Fort Worth and San Antonio – definitely my favorite way to go! There are wildflowers all along the highways and roads the whole way down there! All of the little towns have some cute shops and restaurants too. 

*In Burnet, we took Park Road 4 out to Inks Lake and came back through Kingsland to end up in Marble Falls. It was beautiful! A little out of the way, but nothing crazy. Maybe an extra 30 minutes – totally worth it. 

On our way down, we called some of our family friends that live in Austin to see if they wanted to meet us for BBQ and Texas bluebonnets. They happened to be free, so they made the hour drive and we had a great day! 

Opies BBQ - Spicewood, TX

Spicewood is a tiny, tiny town. Opie’s BBQ was CROWDED. We waited in line for about 15 minutes before getting inside – that is pretty normal/fast for Texas! 

Opie's Chalkboard Menu - Spicewood, TX

(Please excuse that dude’s head. He would not get out of the way, and I’m short – so there you go.) Their menu is hung right above the giant smoker. It smelled like heaven. We decided on brisket, baby back ribs, and sausage (with AND without jalapenos). For our sides, we got tater tot casserole and spicy corn. 

Opie's Smoker - Spicewood, TX

Look at all that meat. Don’t come here if you’re a vegetarian.

Opie's Lunch - Spicewood, TX

Between the 4 of us, we had a little bit of everything. Sharing is caring, guys. Also? EVERYTHING WAS SO GOOD. I dreamed about the tater tot casserole and the brisket last night. No lie. If you are ever in the vicinity of Spicewood, TX, this is a must stop. We even got to meet and talk to Opie. Nice guy!

Bluebonnet Central happened to be in Muleshoe Bend Recreational Area, right on the Colorado River, very close to Lake Travis, in Spicewood. Spicewood is about an hour from Austin, so it’s kind of “out there”, but as you are about to see – totally worth it. Unfortunately, bluebonnets don’t live for too long (maybe 6 weeks?) for the most part so you have a fairly short window for viewing. Some years are better than others for bluebonnets – this happened to be a very, very good year for the Muleshoe Bend area! 

Next up: Bluebonnets. Now, I was expecting it to be pretty, from the pictures I’d seen online – but this took my breath away. Fields and fields covered with bluebonnets. It was insane! Until yesterday, I didn’t know that bluebonnets had a smell. They do – when you’re surrounded by them, it smells a little like honeysuckle. I miss it already! Here come all the pictures 🙂

Muleshoe Bend - Spicewood, TX

 

Muleshoe Bend Bluebonnets - Spicewood, TX

Bluebonnets on the Colorado River - Spicewood, TX

Bluebonnets everywhere - Muleshoe Bend - Spicewood, TX

Bluebonnets - Muleshoe Bend - Spicewood, TX

Muleshoe Bend Bluebonnet Selfie - Spicewood, TX #bluebonnetselfie is much better than #poopingonbluebonnets (it’s a thing. Google it.)

Heather and Dad - Bluebonnets 2015 Spicewood, TX This is the best father/daughter picture we got. After 3.5 hours in the car and a heavy BBQ lunch, I wasn’t feeling too photogenic!

I am so glad that we went – it made for a long day, but I love spending time with my Dad doing fun stuff like this. My brother and sister don’t have the same love of road trips that Dad and I share! Lots of memories were made, jokes were told, and good conversation on our 13 hour, 460 mile road trip. I try to soak up as much of that stuff as I can, while I can. 

During our trip, I kept saying how glad I was that we made the drive and how I wanted to do more things like that, so I decided to make a Texas wish list and start checking them off one by one. Texas is huge, so day trips are great – but not always possible. Some will have to be longer trips, and I’m okay with that. Have map, will travel. Keep checking back, I’ve got the travel bug now! 

Magnolia Market | Waco, TX | Queen of Everything

Have you read my post about our day trip to Waco to stalk Chip and Joanna Gaines, the Fixer Uppers on HGTV? You should

 

 

 

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Road Trip to Waco, Texas

If you watch HGTV, you have probably heard about the show Fixer Upper. The two stars (Chip and Joanna Gaines) live near Waco, Texas and basically work magic on old, dilapidated houses in their area. They own a real estate company, a renovation company, and a retail shop – and Joanna blogs too! They seem very laid back and down to earth on their show, and that makes them very likeable and popular.

I got my sister hooked on the show. I love the way they do the houses – it’s not always my style, but it is always perfect for that specific house and/or family. So, Whitney (my sister) suggested that we take a little road trip to Waco, Texas for my birthday this past weekend. We live in Fort Worth, so it’s about 1.5 hours south of us. Just about perfect for a day trip! I decided that we were going to “stalk” Chip and Jo Jo and they were going to just love me. (Didn’t happen. I mean, we didn’t find them. I’m sure they would love me if they met me.)

Magnolia Market | Waco, TX | Queen of Everything

The first place we went was (obviously) Magnolia Market. I’m pretty sure the rest of Texas had the same idea. Apparently the show is bringing tons and tons of visitors to Waco – which is good for Waco, but bad for me because the antique stores have raised their prices quite a bit since I was there last summer! Magnolia Market is Joanna’s shop. She sells a lot of the things they use on the show to decorate the houses with. The store was beautiful, just like I figured it would be. Crowded and beautiful! I took lots and lots of pictures for you. 

Sweet Stuffed Goat | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Hanging shelf | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Magnolias | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Metal Stool and Chandelier | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Shelves Vases Mugs | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Window Displays | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Window Light Fixtures | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Window Vignette | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Wire Basket and Sconces | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Wire Light Fixture | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

If you have ever watched the show, you know that Joanna likes to use wooden and metal letters to decorate most of the houses. She’s always talking about her secret stash of letters – well, her secret stash must not be at her shop because the letter “yard” was pretty empty. I would be willing to bet that it used to stay pretty full before the show took off! It is out behind the store. 

Doors to Letter Yard | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Letter Yard | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Letter Yard 2 | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

Arched Windows | Magnolia Market | Queen of Everything

After browsing Magnolia Market (I’m kicking myself for not buying that sweet little stuffed goat head and a couple of those chartreuse bud vases), we drove around and saw a few of the houses that were featured on Fixer Upper, including their furniture guy’s (Harp Design Co) house that is right next to his shop!

Cabinet Doors | ReStore | Queen of Everything

After that, we headed towards the next shop, but were sidetracked by a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Of course, we had to turn around and see what they had! We left with some cabinet doors with cute little handles. I think we have big plans for those, but that is for another post! 

After sweating our way through ReStore (it was hot, y’all. H.O.T.) we continued on to Spice Village, which I knew had air conditioning! Spice Village is made up of individual booths, and we probably spent a good 2 hours in there. 

Your Castle | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

Your Castle

Gin Tonic | Queen of Everything

Gipsy Bridge | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

Gipsy Bridge

Hollyhock Boutique Monograms | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

Hollyhock Boutique

Tags | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

The Round Top Collection | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

Thirty Five Designs | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

Thirty Five Designs

Sisters | Spice Village | Queen of Everything

Funny story about this picture. I handed this sign to Whitney and just told her to “hold this up so I can take a picture of it” – she didn’t read it before I took the picture. I just love it. 

Health Camp | Waco | Queen of Slacking

From Spice Village, we decided to eat some lunch – so we went to Health Camp. Apparently, it is THE place to go in Waco. The shake lived up to the hype, but I could only eat about half of it!

After lunch, we rolled out of Health Camp and drove to the La Salle Shoppes, an antique shop. I bought a couple of things there (upcoming post!) and we had a lively discussion about chalk paint with the employees. 

  Dark Teal Dresser | Junque in the Trunk Waco | Queen of Everything

Then we went down the street to Junque in the Trunk – lots of painted furniture and knick knacks. I fell in love with this teal and gold dresser, but it was already sold. Not to mention that I don’t NEED another dresser…

After that, we may or may not have gotten a little bit lost trying to find a Sonic (it was HAPPY HOUR, give me a break!) but we ended up finding the best little shop in Waco because of it. Junque Queens. Seriously. The owner let us in even though she was closed for the day – how sweet was that? She had excellent prices and tons of stuff to look at. I’m so glad that she let us sneak in for a few minutes – Whitney found several things to buy and we will definitely be going back. Such a cute little shop AND we had a blast talking to Lacy about painting furniture/price difference in DFW vs Waco. If you are ever passing through Waco, you must check out her store. Take a trailer with you, because she has good stuff. She keeps the Junque Queens Facebook page updated – I’m watching it! She’s worth the drive. 

Once we left Junque Queens, we drove through Cameron Park. I was so impressed with it! It is a HUGE park and you definitely don’t feel like you’re in Waco (I say that with love). There is a river, a zoo, hiking and biking trails, multiple playgrounds, multiple overlooks, beautiful houses, lots of trees – you could easily spend a full day there. We are planning on taking the kids back in the fall once it gets cooler. If you’ve ever been to Zilker Park in Austin, it reminded me a lot of that.

We had a great time in Waco! Texans always kind of joke that Waco is a “great place to stop and pee” because I-35 runs right through it – but I was really happy with our day there. We will definitely be going back… and next time I’m gonna find Chip and Jo Jo. 

Muleshoe Bend - Spicewood, TX

Want to read more about Texas day trips? Check out my Texas bluebonnets post

 

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The Queen’s Favorite Things #1

The Queen's Favorite Things | Queen of Everything

In lieu of showing you yet another picture of my unfinished embroidery project, I thought I’d share a few of my current favorite things. Now, this can change by the minute – but this will be pretty up to date! (Some links are affiliate links)

Not Your Mother's Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo | Queen of Everything

Ah, dry shampoo. Whatever did I do without you? Oh yeah – I sprinkled WHITE baby powder into my DARK BROWN hair. Good looking out, Heather. I’ve tried many, many dry shampoos and Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo is by far my favorite. It doesn’t stink, it doesn’t take forever to “soak in”, and it’s not expensive! It was on sale at Target a couple of weeks ago, so I grabbed two cans. I’m stocked for a while now! This is great for second day hair. I actually have been putting it in my hair at night before bed and it seems to work even better, so there’s a little tip for ya.

Parenthood | Queen of Everything

Okay, I know most (if not all) of you know what “binge watching” is. Most people do it with shows like Orange Is the New Black, Arrested Development, The Office – fairly lighthearted shows. Not me, though. Nope. I chose to watch all 4 seasons of Parenthood that were available on Netflix over the course of about 2 weeks. Big mistake! I got sucked in and I will just say that Parenthood is most definitely NOT lighthearted. It has its funny moments, but for the most part, that show deals with some serious issues! Now I need to catch up on the current season (5), but I needed to cleanse my Netflix palate. With The Office. Then it’s back to The Braverman family. 

How About No Necklace | Snark Factory  Queen of Everything

So, a few months ago I won a nice gift from Larissa over at Prodigal Pieces – 2 beautiful teacups, an Etsy gift card, and a Home Depot gift card. SCORE, right? I *finally* decided I was going to spend that Etsy gift card last week. Don’t you hate it when you see everything you want, and then when you can actually purchase it – you can’t think of anything to buy? Or is that just me? Well, I went back and forth, to and fro, you get the point – and I landed on this bad boy. If you haven’t figured this out yet – I’m pretty sarcastic. I say, “How about no?” quite a bit. Obviously, this was meant for me to have – so I made it mine. Bonus: The girl who makes them lives in Texas! Her shop is called Snark Factory on Etsy – this thing is awesome. (I will warn you, there are some pieces that might be seen as offensive to some people – nothing crazy, but it’s there!) Go check her out. I’m sure you can find something else I’d like to have. 

Rimmel Kate Moss 08 | Queen of Everything

If you know me at all “in real life”, you will know that I am slightly addicted to lipstick/lip gloss/lip balm. It’s a real thing, y’all. I probably reapply lipstick about once an hour, sometimes more. It’s not like the lipstick I buy doesn’t last, because it does – it’s a mental thing with me. I kind of freak out if I don’t have lipstick with me at all times. I really can’t explain it. Anyway, I found myself without my other favorite lipstick the other day, so I had to make a quick purchase. This is the first Rimmel lipstick I’ve tried (I’ve used some of their mascara and loved it), and I love it. It’s the perfect “neutral” color – I generally either wear a reddish lipstick or a pinkish-brown and this is a great pinky brown. (Rimmel London Lasting Finish by Kate 08) It IS matte, though, so obviously I have to put a gloss over it. I’m really just feeding my lipstick addiction. 

Foldover Elastic | Queen of Everything

If you have long hair like I do, I’m willing to bet that it ends up in a ponytail more often than not. Mine is generally up in a messy ponytail by 9:00 AM, because it is HOT in Texas in the summer! Plus, I don’t like my hair blowing in my face. I’m really not sure why I have long hair since I seem to hate it (I like it). For years and years, I used rubber bands. First, the kind with the balls that would pop your fingers and make you want to cry or punch someone. Or both.

Evil ponytail holders | Queen of Everything

Yes, those are instruments of the devil.

Then I moved on to the regular ones minus the balls on the end. They hurt, and they popped your fingers too, but they didn’t bring the pain quite like those SOBs right up there. THEN I discovered hair ties and the angels sang. Now, people will sell them and charge a ton for them – don’t be crazy. I make them for super cheap, and so can you. It’s called foldover elastic. You can find it at the craft stores, but I’ve had the best luck buying it online. (Pick Your Plum sells it every once in a while and I stock up when they do! Best prices and best color choices!) I even made a tutorial on my old blog (RIP RCHOTX) for them – I have one or two on my wrist at all times, a few in my desk, and a baggy of, oh, 200 of them JUST IN CASE of a ponytail emergency. 

Embroidery Progress | Queen of Everything

HA HA, I got you suckas! You knew I couldn’t not post a picture of the progress on my top secret embroidery project. I only have two words left to do, and the only reason it’s not finished is because I had to take a 3 day migraine break. I think that we’re back in action after tonight, so you are in luck. It’s going to be awesome! 

So, do you agree or disagree with me on my favorite things? What are some of YOUR favorite things? 

 

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How To Be Nice on the Internet

Being nice on the internet | Queen of Everything

I know, I know. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? How to be nice on the internet? Really? 

Well, it’s been pretty rough in that arena lately. I haven’t personally been the victim of an internet meanie recently, but I’ve seen lots of it go down. And, because I’m a blogger, I mainly see it on blogs and social media (big shock, right?). 

Now, this is not to say that I’ve never been rude/snarky/tacky/mean on the internet, because that would be a big fat lie. In fact, I would venture to say that every single one of you has said something online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Right? I’ve done my fair share of it, but now I really make a concerted effort to be nice online – I try to go by the saying that was pounded into my thick skull by my parents throughout my childhood: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It is more difficult than you think! We all slip sometimes. It’s normal. No one is perfect!

I used an adorable pic of my nephew to illustrate my point – I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the vast majority of us were raised to be nice to other people. We were taught manners. We were taught to ignore or walk away if someone wasn’t nice to us. Our family is already teaching those kinds of things to my nephew at just one year of age! Unfortunately, he will grow up in a world full of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. that most of us did not have to deal with until we were older. We will have to teach Benjamin how to handle the responsibility that those things bring. 

Yesterday, I witnessed a post on a Facebook group for a home/DIY website that grabbed my attention. This blogger that had been featured was being attacked – not because of her project, but complete strangers were attacking her parenting skills. Huh? How do you even think about saying someone is a bad parent from 3-4 sentences on a DIY project? It went on and on, and I have some friends that jumped in and defended the blogger. These people were jumping to conclusions about something as personal as parenting from a picture of a project that was meant to keep a child from ruining a TV. News flash: no matter how “well-trained” your kids are, they’re not perfect. It was appalling the way this woman was being attacked. 

Front view | Queen of Everything

I got ripped to shreds on this same Facebook group for *gasp* painting wood. It was my antique stereo that we refurbished and redid. They didn’t like the fact that I painted the wood (that’s kind of the running joke with most bloggers – “they’re gonna get you for painting that wood!”). They didn’t like the fact that I covered the speakers with new fabric. They didn’t like the paint color. They didn’t like the fabric I chose. You know what? I did it for ME. Not anyone else. ME. I have a fairly thick skin when it comes to this kind of stuff (no, it wasn’t always that way, but it comes with age in my case!) but not everyone does. I blew them off and moved on. 

Just today, someone used another blogger’s comments section as her own personal political platform. What she was saying had very little to do with the actual blog post, and it made several of us think that this person was just looking for a place to get people riled up. It worked. I definitely have my beliefs and views, but I try my best to keep them off of the blog. There is a time and place for everything, and I choose to keep my blog about what I want to keep it about. That’s another thing: it’s MY blog. I can write what I want. So can commenters! That’s the nice thing about living in the USA – freedom of speech. While I may not necessarily agree with everything you are saying, I am glad you have the opportunity to say it. So many other countries do not have that freedom. However, like I said, there is a time and place for everything and it just came across as a little bit hateful. 

That said – comment! If you don’t like something, that is fine. Tell us! BUT tell us why, and in a tactful way. We all learn from each other! My style is definitely not everyone’s style – I know that. We just like to hear from you. Period.

I like to think that the bloggers I know (in real life and online) stick together. We may not all love each other to pieces, but when it comes down to it – we’re going to stand up for each other. The DIY/Craft blogging community has honestly been nothing but helpful for the most part – everyone encourages each other, we help each other when we need it, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it. 95% of the time, we have nothing but nice comments and readers – but it’s that 5% that makes some of us want to take a step back. 

I know this has been a little bit preachy, but it’s been weighing on my mind. Have a great week and I PROMISE I will have something up this week. I’m working my fingers to the bone!

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How to go on a family vacation

How To Go On A Family Vacation and Still Love Them When It's Over.  

 I just returned home from a family vacation last night. We don’t go on big trips often, maybe once every 3-4 years, but we decided that this year was a vacation year. We started planning this trip around Thanksgiving, so it’s been in the works for a while (I’m a planner. I can’t help it). I thought it would be nice to 1) recap a little of my trip for you without boring you to death, and 2) give you some hints/tips/tricks that worked for us this time. As always, any and all suggestions are welcome in the comments! Vacations are NOT always easy.

Plan Ahead | Queen of Everything

I know, I know, Captain Obvious over here. My family was not completely set on the travel dates, which made it a bit easier when looking for a house to rent for the week. We were traveling from Texas to Colorado and knew we wanted to go sometime in the summer. We didn’t have too many schedule conflicts (luckily!), just a few swimming lessons/camps/blackout dates at work to work around. When trying to organize a trip for an entire family, you HAVE to plan ahead! 

Rent A Big House

As much as I love staying in (nice) hotels, when traveling with a group it isn’t always the smartest thing to do. For our past 4 vacations, we have rented a house for the duration using VRBO. We had 6 adults, 2 kids, and 1 infant with us for this trip so it was imperative that we find a house large enough for everyone to have their space. I spent hours (okay, maybe I just really like looking at other people’s houses too much) looking for the “perfect” house and narrowed it down for my dad. My siblings and I asked him to pay for the house in lieu of Christmas gifts last year, because none of us needed a thing. It worked out great – he chose one that was in his budget yet still large enough for all of us. We even had an extra bedroom after all was said and done! Any of us could easily “get away” for a little while as needed – and sometimes, it was needed. We didn’t have to wait for the showers (there were 4 bathrooms), there was plenty of room to sit (two living areas and two decks/patios), and it came with a fully stocked kitchen. It was pretty perfect. (If you ever need a vacation home rental near Durango, Colorado – let me know! The house was great!). I believe it cost around $250/night, which is a steal, when you think about how much 4 hotel rooms would have cost. 

Plan Your Meals | Queen of Everything

We aren’t rich. We can’t afford to eat out for every meal on vacation, and I don’t know many people that can. Another reason we rent a house (vs. staying in a hotel) is because they come with kitchens. Kitchens = meals. Now, we don’t do anything fancy for our vacation meals, but we don’t have hot dogs over the campfire every night either. My sister and I generally make a list of some easy meals, then make a grocery list and some kind of schedule, depending on what the plans are for the day. We always buy breakfast food because we eat breakfast at the house every day. We buy lunch/sandwich stuff because on most days, we stop and have a picnic. We buy lots of snack stuff because we do a lot of driving on most days, and it is easier (and healthier) to not have to stop at random gas stations for snacks. We kept a cooler in each car and refilled it with water, snacks, and ice every day. We also ate dinner at the house every night. I emailed the owner of the house and asked if there was a crock pot in the kitchen, and there was – so we made use of that for 2 of the nights. The house also had a grill, so we used that as well. 

Entertain the kids | Queen of Everything

We decided to make this vacation a road trip instead of flying to save some money. Road tripping has its advantages AND its disadvantages. We rented a large SUV and took my dad’s mid-size SUV. Yes, they are gas guzzlers, and no, it wasn’t cheap to keep gas in the cars – but it was less expensive than paying for plane tickets AND rental cars AND gas. It worked out great for our family. Since we had two 7 year olds and one 1 year old going, I decided to make each of them a road trip goodie bag. That will have to be a separate post, because I admit I got a little out of control with it and bought a TON of stuff for them. It was so worth it, though, and the older kids loved them. I’m sure my 1 year old nephew loved his too, but he couldn’t TELL me he loved it! Yes, we could have rented a 15 passenger van, but I don’t think I would feel safe in one of those on mountain roads – so we stuck with the 2 SUV decision and it was perfect.

Split the driving up | Queen of Everything

The drive from D/FW to Durango is about 13 hours (833 miles) if you drive straight through, don’t hit traffic, and don’t make any bathroom stops. Realistically, we knew we were looking at about a 15 hour drive each way. Now, if the only people on this trip were me and my husband, we would have driven straight through just to get there – but we had kids to contend with, so that was not going to happen. We drove about 500 miles the first day, and stopped in Santa Rosa, NM for the night. (The above picture is the Blue Hole, in Santa Rosa) The next day, we drove the remainder of the miles and got to the vacation house around 6:00 pm or so – we stopped in Taos, NM for an extended lunch/explore the town, so that took about 3 hours (which we factored in when deciding where to stop for the night). We had 3 hotel rooms, thanks to using loyalty points and Priceline! 4 hotel rooms would have been optimal, but it was fine since all we really did was sleep. On the way there, we ate dinner at a local restaurant. On the way home, we detoured through Santa Fe and ordered pizza once we got to the hotel in Santa Rosa. Since we took 2 vehicles, we were able to stop in Amarillo on the way home and see my husband’s mom and grandmother – they were thrilled. The car with the kids kept on going while we got to have a sit down lunch with his family. 

Plan Your Days Out | Queen of Everything

My family made SO much fun of me for “overplanning” this vacation – but by the end of it, they were all so thankful that I took the time to write out what we were doing every day. I probably spent way too much time on it, because I LOVE planning vacations, but it paid off in a big way. I knew we would basically be driving for 2 days each way, so I planned stops for lunch breaks in cities we would be passing through on each day of driving. The kids loved getting to check out a new playground in a new city! It took some thinking and lots of maps, but it was so worth it. I also knew that after driving for 2 days, it wouldn’t be good to do something that required a long car ride on our first full day in Colorado – so I didn’t plan anything too far away. The next 3 days were pretty full, and then our last full day we just took it easy and explored Durango on foot. I had my reasons for planning things the way I did, and it worked out very well for all of us!

Be Flexible | Queen of Everything

As much I stress the planning part of vacations, just know going into it that everything is not going to go according to plan. For instance, I got a migraine 2 days before we left, and was basically unable to get out of bed until about 10:00 pm the night before we left thanks to my migraine medication. I didn’t plan on spending the day before vacation in bed, but it couldn’t be helped. We had to miss an outdoor movie one night because the kids were exhausted. Yes, it would have been fun, but they needed some time to cool down – so we picked up some BBQ for dinner and played UNO together. One of the nights we were there, we were unable to have a fire in the fire pit for S’mores due to the wind. We made them in the microwave instead, and the kids were just as happy with that. Everyone will survive if plans change a little bit!

Take 2 Extra Days Off | Queen of Everything

At my former job, I had 6 weeks of paid time off every year. I never had to really “budget” my days off – in fact, I generally gave about 2-3 weeks BACK every year because I couldn’t take it all (I know, I know). However, at my new job, I have 2 weeks of vacation. As you can imagine, it hurt to use 5 days for this vacation! It really did. That’s why I cringed when I thought about what I had always done in the past – taking the day before we left off AND the day after we got back off. 7 days? More than half of my yearly vacation allowance? Am I crazy? It may mean having to really budget my other days off for the rest of the year, but I can tell you that FOR ME, it’s the smartest thing I could have done for myself. The day before I was down for the count with the migraine from hell and wouldn’t have been able to work anyway. The day after – I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation!” – yes, yes, YES. I needed that extra day to relax, enjoy some peace and quiet, unpack (ha), watch a little a lot of TV, and cuddle with my dogs that I missed like crazy. If you can swing taking those 2 extra days off, do it. 

Take A Friend | Queen of Everything

We decided to invite one of our lifelong family friends and her little boy to come with us on our vacation. She has always been like my dad’s third daughter, and her son is my nephew’s age. She wouldn’t have been able to do this on her own, so she came with us and made so many new memories with her son AND with us. I know that my nephew just loved having someone to play with and they really did keep each other entertained. Sure, there were times when we had to separate them (because really, two 7 year old boys aren’t going to get along all the time) but 95% of the time it was just great. I loved hearing the giggles and the talking about what we had done that day. I know that it was nice for our friend to “escape” for a while as well! Food/housing/gas for 2 more people was not even an issue because we already had everything figured out before we even invited her. I’m just glad she was able to go and bring her son! 

Don't go every year | Queen of Everything

As much as I love going on vacation with my family, it’s not necessary FOR US to do this every year. Like I said before, we try to do this every 3-4 years and that’s enough for us. Next year, I plan to use my vacation days for a trip alone with my husband and a conference or two. I feel like by NOT going every year with the whole family, everyone appreciates it more and looks forward to it! For your family, you might want to do this every year – every family is different – but it isn’t a huge thing for us. Now, that’s not to say we don’t do ANYTHING in between – we go on lots of little weekend trips that are closer to home and have a blast – but we don’t do full on vacations every year. 

Other Helpful Travel Posts | Queen of Everything

Since I’m a planning freak, you know good and well I went to blogs and Pinterest for help. Here are a few of the best posts I found throughout my planning! Maybe they will help you as much as they helped me. 

Charlotte @ Ciburbanity

Kimberly @ Stuffed Suitcase

KC Edventures

ParentDish

Pauline @ Lessons Learnt

YTravel

 

 

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Random thoughts from my drive home tonight

The one thing I HATE about my job is the commute. I love, love, love my job – but living in Fort Worth and driving to North Dallas every day blows. Luckily, I’ve pretty much figured out the sweet spots for coming and going – like, if I don’t leave work by a certain time I might as well stay for another hour! I have about a 35 mile drive each way, but in Texas we measure distance in minutes/hours. So 35 miles = approximately 1 hour 10 minutes in rush hour traffic. As you can see, I have a lot of time to think about things when I’m not trying to dodge stupid drivers. I mean seriously, why can’t I just be the only one on the highway? Anyway, here are a few of my random thoughts from tonight.

* So I got an iPhone last night. This is my first one (yeah, I know, I’ve always been an Android fan) and I was thinking/hoping that it would be love at first sight. It’s not! I’m sure I will grow to love this thing (it IS really pretty. And gold), but right now I feel really dumb. I don’t know how to do jack on that phone! I feel like Carrie Bradshaw when she gets left at the altar (oh, sorry if I just spoiled the Sex and the City movie for you – but it’s been 6 years) and needs to borrow a phone to call Big. You know, right before this happens. Man, I still love that show. And the movies. What?

carrie_wedding_fight

* I finally got my beloved Silhouette Cameo! It was a right time, right place situation, but I got a great deal on one that a friend was selling. I had to order new mats, but they showed up yesterday (thanks, Amazon Prime!) so now I can cut, cut, cut the day away. Now I have to decide what I want to do with my old Silhouette SD. Sell it? Keep it? I just don’t know. 

* I am trying to see if I can swing going to Haven Conference for my third year. Part of me really, really wants to go – but part of me realizes how much money it will cost. Going with a group was a great money saver, but going alone? Different story! I’m not scared of GOING alone at all – just don’t like adding everything up money-wise! I do love going, so I’m trying to figure out a way to make it happen. I mean, really – who doesn’t need more pictures like this?

Haven 2013 Fun | Queen of Everything

* I am SO excited to go to Round Top for my first time ever! My friend Lindsay (she writes the awesome blog Makely School for Girls) invited me to come down to Austin and go with her in April. Uh, yes! First of all – Austin = my favorite place in the whole wide world, second of all – hanging out with Lindsay and her fun family = always a good time, and third – hello, shop till you drop! I’ve never been able to go because I worked every weekend. Monday – Friday jobs have their perks. I will be taking a 3 or 4 day weekend, though. 

* Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. No explanation necessary. Wait. HOLD UP. From my very basic Google searching, it appears that Talenti may be based in Dallas. Field trip, Dallas friends? 

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I told y’all there would be some randomness in here, so tonight was a prime example. You’re lucky I am tired, I could type for hours about all the thoughts in my head. Now I need to go eat some gelato – see ya! 

 

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