Downtown Austin Living (with a Dog)

This morning I walked downstairs to Joe’s Coffee for breakfast with my brothers, sister-in-law, mom and daughter. I’ll give them this, even though I kept waking up in the middle of the night to city sirens and people yelling (not to mention, trying to go to bed while the bar across the street played “Ice, Ice, Baby”), it has been nice being able to walk everywhere. My brother and sister-in-law’s downtown Austin apartment is directly across the street from the W Hotel and in the middle of it all. A huge change of pace for my suburbian crew.

Their apartment is surrounded by tons of great restaurants, boutiques and the new Austin city library (pictured here). It was nice, last night everyone went to a comedy show at Austin City Limits – and, as they got downstairs they realized the line to get into the concert was wrapped about two blocks. They were able to do a quick 180 and come back upstairs to wait as the line died down. That’s convenience that I would pay huge money for! You just don’t get that in the ‘burbs.

Anyway, when we got back from breakfast, I went onto their patio to try to snap a photo of their basset hound, Lucy. She is truly a city dog by every sense of the word. Shaun and Sabrina fly in a fresh patch of grass every two weeks (from Fresh Patch) so Lucy can “do her thing” outside in real grass – the sights and sounds of the streets below don’t even phase her.

Huge thanks to these guys for hosting us this weekend and giving us a peek into your lifestyle. I can’t wait for the next chapter in your lives and to see where this crazy journey takes you. xo

The New Austin City Library

We took my little bookworm to the new Austin City Library yesterday. The library is six stories! It was remarkable. It really puts all of our library’s to shame. The children’s section is amazing – filled with interactive games, reading stations, outdoor areas and shelves upon shelves of books. If you are in Austin and you haven’t been, the Austin City Library is a must-visit. The architecture alone will make you stop in awe.

Austin city library

Austin city library

Pardon our hair. We weren’t expecting to take photos (ha!) and it was record high heat plus humidity in Austin yesterday. 86 degrees in November! What gives, Austin?

Birthday “Silobration” at Magnolia Market

For my birthday, I wanted to cross something off my bucket list. Maybe that’s what you do when you get older. I’m 35 today, and – as my mom kindly put it – I’m half way to 70. So, that’s great. In all seriousness, I have actually loved getting older. Since I met my husband every year has been better than the last. I’ve been blessed with three kids, a wonderful husband and a lifestyle that I feel privileged to live.

So when my brother, mom, sister-in-law and daughter all agreed to drive up from Austin to Waco, TX and spend the day at Magnolia Market, I didn’t pass it up. We bought a lot of great things, got inspired by Joanna’s incredible visual merchandising and stood in line for an hour for one of the most moist and delicious cupcakes that I have ever had! Thank you to my family for making my birthday one to remember.

Here are a few photos from our day at Magnolia Market.

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Magnolia Market with Kids

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Magnolia Market with Kids

I was taking my brother’s photo when I realized, THEY LOOK JUST LIKE CHIP AND JOANNA. Like, just like them. Am I right?

Magnolia Market with Kids

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Magnolia Market with Kids

I’m telling you … these cupcakes were worth the hour wait. Incredibly delicious and the shop inside was so cute. Not to mention that every associate was so nice and helpful. They ask you where you are from and really make you feel like family while you are there. Besides that, they all say “y’all” and to me … that is so dang cute!

Magnolia Market with Kids

Magnolia Market with Kids

Magnolia market

Magnolia Market with Kids

Magnolia Market Silos

Magnolia Market with Kids

Thank you so much to my family for making the trek with me! It was truly a day to remember and I loved every moment of it. I could seriously go back … and back, and back again and see different things each time. If you haven’t been and are on the fence … GO. It’s worth it.

Magnolia Market with Kids

 

Magnolia Market with Kids

When I told the sales associate it was my birthday, she went into the back room and came back with this, it is called the “Silobration cupcake.” She said, “This is a little treat from Chip and Joanna.” It was so sweet! Literally. This little gesture made my day feel that much more special.

Magnolia Market

Magnolia Market with Kids

magnolia market with kids

Magnolia Market with Kids
Kelsey found this magnifying glass and would go around telling me how much everything was. She was my little helper.

Magnolia Market with Kids

magnolia market with kids

Thank you to the Gaines family for creating this special place and for living up to my every expectation.

A Sheraton Staycation in Phoenix

What a day! My family stayed at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass over the weekend and invited us to come down and lay by the pool. Little did we know the resort had a ton of activities for kids! And by a ton I mean they had a BALLROOM filled with inflatable bounce houses (with a bar for the adults!), pool DJ, water slides, food, games, music … it was truly a great day spent poolside.

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phoenix many hats of a mom blog
phoenix many hats of a mom blog

phoenix many hats of a mom blog

Hi, mom and dad!

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phoenix many hats of a mom blog

phoenix many hats of a mom blog

Kelsey bought these pineapple shades when she was four years old. Three years later and she still loves them!

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A Flytographer in Paris

Paris Flytographer - Krystal

Can you imagine having your own professional photographer follow you around on vacation, snapping candid photos of you and the remarkable scenery that surrounds? A professional photographer who captures exactly what you are seeing, while you stay present in the moment.

Well, my friends … have you heard of Flytographer? They are just that. A team of professional photographers you can hire for candid photo shoots in over 200 cities worldwide! My sister-in-law and brother just hired Flytographer to take photos of their recent trip to Paris. They had the best experience. Their local photographer, Krystal, took pictures on the streets of Montmartre – which is a scenic hill in Paris located in the artistic district. They also got some great shots inside Le Relais de la Butte (a charming cafe) and Patisserie Gilles Marchal bakery.

I was so impressed with how their photos turned out (although, I don’t think I’ve seen these two ever take a bad photo) that it’s inspiring me to start planning our next vacation! Here are some more of their photos that I just adore.

flytographer Paris krystal

flytographer Paris krystal

Flytographer Paris

Paris Flytographer - Krystal

I can’t think of a better way to capture your special moments. In fact, I’m kind of in love with their business model. Check our Flytographer the next time you’re on vacation.

Our Disneyland Spring Break Vacation

We had the time of our lives on a three-day vacation to Disneyland! Last Sunday, we told the kids that we were going to a very early church service and as they were about to jump into the car we told them we were going to Disneyland instead. You should have seen their faces!

Along with my parents we arrived at the airport at 7am for an early flight to Orange County. It was Nolan’s first plane ride and besides being way too large to be a lap child, he was perfect! I’m telling you, this kid makes life with three so much fun (and actually not too difficult). When we landed, we persuaded my parents to give Uber a try for the first-time. It took a bit of convincing since my mom is certain that everyone is “out to steal her credit card” and Uber is no exception but after one ride, they are now believers.

We arrived at the hotel, dropped off our bags and boarded a shuttle to Disneyland! We were inside the Disneyland Park gates just in time to eat lunch with Darth Vader. Perfect timing! Below are some photos and stories from our Disneyland vacation. I had a hard time narrowing down photos for this post, so apologies for the photo overload.

 

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As I was waiting for Ryan and the kids to finish up a ride, Nolan and I were walking up and down Main Street. I was people watching and he was chasing anyone who had a balloon. About five minutes later, he decided to sit in the MIDDLE of Main Street. I apologized to about 50 people who had to walk around him, but then noticed that everyone smiled the minute they saw him. There is something about a cute pudgy baby that no one can resist.

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Disneyland_phoenix_momBlogger

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Our favorite California residents Aunt Lauren and Uncle Brian drove down from Los Angeles to meet us for dinner. About seven minutes into this plate of spaghetti I realized that I forgot to pack two important things: Nolan’s bib and my makeup bag. Looking back on this photo, the bib was missed the most.

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It took this picture just as we arrived at California Adventure Park. Since Kelsey “remembers more” from the last time she was here, she took Colton’s finger and started pointing at all of the sights – explaining to him, “this is this and that is that” – it was so incredibly cute! And, believe it or not, these two got along the ENTIRE trip. Not one fight between them. If you have two kids close in age you know how miraculous this is!

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*Colton is pointing to Cross street. 🙂

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Nolan woke up from his nap, jumped out of his stroller and strutted around Cars Land. This was the cutest moment … he looks like such a man on a mission.

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Talk about the thrill of the ride, these kids were obsessed with all of the exhilarating rides like Thunder Mountain. Which was so interesting to me because the last time we went to Disneyworld (seen here) they were more into the characters than the rides. It’s funny how quickly their interests change.

Ryan and I were riding Thunder Mountain with Kelsey and Colton – if you have been on this ride, then you know it’s a jerky rollercoaster with a lot of turns and dips – and, I don’t love rollercoasters, in fact, I’m pretty terrified of heights so I’m not the best one to partner up with. Anyway, as we were on our second dip my eyes began to water. This is new, I thought. Must be something that happens when you get old (ha!) but then Kelsey turned to me and I noticed her eyes were watering too. She and I busted out laughing and the boys just looked at us like we were insane. Guess that’s a genetic thing we do … we cry on rides.

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I love this photo. Colton’s face is so sweet, innocent and filled with joy. Ryan’s got our 18 month old on his own horse. And, if you look closely, you’ll noticed Ryan is strapped in. Yep. He is THE ONLY adult in history that uses a seatbelt on a merry-go-round horse. That’s my husband, folks. Mr. Safety First.

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I tried so hard to stay away from desserts on this trip, but when your son hands you his incredibly messy and melting Mickey Mouse ice cream and says he “is done” you kind of just devour the rest of it without thinking. And the churros … don’t even get me started on the churros.

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*That moment you realize you’re on a baby ride.

Bug’s Land was a trip. The kids loved the bumper cars but after Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, the Bug’s Land “rollercoaster” just didn’t cut it. However, if you get the chance, do the Bug’s Life 3D movie. It was incredible and the kids enjoyed every second of it.

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*Spring was in full bloom at the park.

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* What happens when Grandpa is in charge of getting breakfast

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The kids wanted to go on Space Mountain (whose kids are these?) and Ryan snapped this photo just before we boarded the ride. Colton’s face symbolizes how he felt going in … and coming out. He wasn’t a fan but Kelsey took about 30 seconds to regroup and then asked if she could ride it again. Little thrill seekers, I tell you.

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disneyland-phoenix-mom-blogger

My dad bought the kids these Mickey bubble wands. They light up at night and put out a gazillion bubbles. It added to the magic. Thank you, dad. And thank you for buying three of these things (Colton lost his first one on our last evening so Grandpa replaced it).

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I have so many great memories from this trip, but the Electric Light Parade was particularly special. I remember seeing this same parade with parents when I was little, and here I am watching it with them and my husband and three children.

I twisted my ankle during a workout the day before we left for Disneyland (good timing, I know) and about 45 minutes before the parade started my ankle gave out on me. I told Ryan I would just sit alongside the street with Nolan to save our seats while he rode some rides with the kids. For awhile it was just Nolan and I in the center of Main Street watching the sun set over the Park. It was a special moment because Nolan just lit up my heart with his giggles as he danced in the middle of the street to the music. Moments later Ryan arrived with a churro in hand (he loves me so!) and we bundled up to watch the parade.

Disneyland has given me so many magical memories over my lifetime and this is another one I won’t forget.

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*No more pictures, mom!

There is something about Disneyland that gives parents freedom from judgement. Am I right? It’s like, if your child is throwing a tantrum or screaming in the middle of the restaurant … it doesn’t matter because everyone around you is in the same boat. At Disneyland, it’s like you’re in a safe zone because everyone around you “gets it”. I wish the world was more like that, don’t you? No judgement for parents. Just everyone living for the moment.

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I snapped this photo on our last night from the top of Tarzan’s tree house. We were climbing up the treehouse when I happened to glance back and see this gorgeous sight and it’s one I will never forget.

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And that’s a wrap! The kids (and my mom) have already started to plan for Disneyworld 2019. We have plans to go back to Florida with my brothers and sister-in-law. Maybe for Ryan’s 40th birthday? He wants to go to Europe, but maybe we’ll end up at Epcot instead. Or, maybe I can convince him to invest in both. Wish me luck on that!

All Aboard the Polar Express Train!

We kicked off the holidays (and celebrated Colton’s 4th birthday) in Williams, Arizona. We drove 2.5 hours north to embark on The Polar Express train ride that takes you to the North Pole and back. It was truly THE MOST magical experience for Ryan and I and incredibly memorable for the kids. Beside that, we saw snow! The minute we spotted snow on the ground, Colton excitedly asked, “Mom is that really snow?” At that moment I realized he hasn’t seen snow since he was one years old so of course this was a huge deal for him. Nolan on the other hand was more interested in the rocks on the ground than the snow, but he’s still figuring things out.

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polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

We arrived on Saturday afternoon at The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel where we booked their hotel package that includes free breakfast, dinner and train tickets. It was the cutest little hotel in the heart of a really charming town. We got checked in and immediately let the kids loose to run around and throw snowballs at each other.

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polar express Arizona

We then grabbed appetizers at the hotel Pub (and took a few glasses of  wine back to our room) so we could snack and gear up for the evening. We dressed kids in matching holiday pajamas from Hannah Andersson (our favorite!) and watched as they ran around the hotel room giddy in anticipation for what’s to come.

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It was 28 degrees so we had to bundle up which unfortunately hid their cute jammies under big jackets but that’s the price you pay to avoid freezing your face off. Nearly every family was dressed in either matching outfits or pajamas (my kind of event!). It was really darling to see so many loved ones grouped together.

One family had grouped a few tables together at the hotel’s restaurant and had a game of Monopoly going. I thought to myself, that’s a huge commitment as no-one can finish that game in under two hours, but nevertheless they had the right idea. Grab some hot chocolate, snuggle up by the fire and indulge in game night with your family. Moments like this one where happening everywhere you looked.

As for us, we left our hotel room at 5:10 to get into the train line by 5:15 (it was that close of a walk). The kids had their train tickets in hand as we approached the station. “Don’t lose your ticket, Colton”  Kelsey would remind him. “That’s what happened to the kid in the movie and we don’t want that.” She was right. We were in train car J so we made our way through a crowd of excited families to find a conductor waiting to welcome us aboard.

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You get reserved seats when you buy tickets (just indicate if you’re doing two separate reservations that you’d like to sit together). We were so excited to find that our two rows were located in the back of the train car, making the ride feel a bit private and cozy. The train cars flip around (thank you to the kind lady who pointed this out) so we were able to face each other during the train ride and better contain our wiggly and always-in-motion toddler.

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As the train took off from the station I caught a glimpse of Colton starring out the window. He was stiff as a board and perfectly poised during the initial moments of the train. You could tell he was a little nervous and excited for what was to come. The team did a REMARKABLE job of bringing the Polar Express movie to life through the talent and decor aboard the train. I was incredibly impressed.

Less than five minutes into the train ride they started handing out hot chocolate and huge chocolate chip cookies. The hot chocolate was served at the perfect temperature for our kids little taste buds and must have been made with chocolate heaven because Ryan and I “got ours to share” but I really devoured most of it.

They played Christmas tunes as we entered a “magic tunnel” – the tunnel helped us jump into time so we could get to the North Pole much faster. They read the Polar Express book so bring your own if you want to follow along. As we approached the North Pole, Colton and Kelsey ran to the other side of the train and glued their faces to the window to get a peek at Santa and his reindeer.

We saw little itty bitty elf houses and some other scenic buildings from Santa’s hometown. As we slowed down and started going back to Arizona, we were told Santa boarded the train! This was super exhilarating for the kids. As we waited our turn for Santa to join our train car, they gave us song books and we sang Christmas carols. I’m telling you … does it get better than this?

It does because Nolan started getting sleepy and curled up into my lap as Santa arrived and greeted the kids, giving them ‘jingle bells’ just like in the movie. Colton got an extra special birthday bell and off Santa went. Ryan and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with our family.

We highly recommend it if you get the opportunity. Next year we plan on visiting the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Arizona. Please let me know if you’ve been and if you have any tips!

Falling in love with Pinetop, Arizona

Pinetop, Arizona does not disappoint! Especially in the fall. Last weekend we took our kids to Pinetop to enjoy cooler temps, the golden leaves and to get a little R&R. The kids loved touring the Pinetop-Lakeside Fire Station, riding their bikes around the neighborhood and roasting s’mores by the fire. We are so lucky that we can drive 3 hours east of Phoenix and find fall!

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Believe it or not, it was Nolan’s first time seeing golden leaves all over the ground. Every time Kelsey would throw leaves into the air, Nolan would gasp, “Ahhhhhh!” as they came crashing to the ground. He was in awe and I can’t say that I blame him. It was beautiful.

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Notice anything? She’s missing her third bottom tooth! She’s only lost the bottom row of teeth so far, which I love because I get so emotional when those things come out. I know, I know … it’s a mom thing.

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Nolan is twinning with his dad. Morning walks called for jackets and we were more than willing to comply .

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Morning walks around our cabin lead to moments like this where I just stop, stare and thank my lucky stars for kids like this.

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Touring the fire station and getting to crawl into the firetruck was the highlight of the trip for the kids. A huge thank you to the Pinetop-Lakeside Fire Department for all they do for the community and for opening their ‘home’ to our kids. They provided hot dogs, burgers, snacks, fire prevention educational tips, a bounce house and lots of goodies for the kids. We had a blast!

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How is it that she can sit on a curb, eat Cheetos and appear so much cooler than I will ever be. Sigh.

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When the boys were napping, Kelsey and I walked around the neighborhood collecting leafs for a bouquet. As soon as she walked into the cabin she threw them across the counter and forgot all about them, but it was a fun game while it lasted.

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I set up my camera on a timer and wanted one family photo. However, Colton is holding a hair brush. No one brushed Nolan’s hair. Kelsey is posing behind dad and I’m barely standing  after sprinting back into position after setting the camera’s timer. I love every bit of this photo though because it’s real life.

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I caught a glimpse of Nolan throwing rocks into the lake with Ryan at sunset. It’s really cool to see Nolan hanging out with the big boys. He is walking everywhere and trying his hardest to keep up with his dad and brother.

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The last night we were in Pinetop, we walked over to the golf course and let the kids roll down the hills. You’re probably not allowed to do this so let’s keep that between us.

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Look at that determination in Nolan’s face to get up the hill! Meanwhile, his brother comes rolling down at record speed. He was so confused. ha.

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I’m framing this. He was trying to tell me that his pockets were “dirty” which then proceeded with a little giggle attack.

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Now, let’s go back!