Our final adventure of 2014 (pictures + words)

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It is January 4, 2015, and I am just now sitting down to share the last leg of our Christmas journey. Like almost everyone else, Caleb and I ended 2014 with big goals for the New Year; a healthier lifestyle, a fast from television for the month of January to focus on each other and spend more time with God, and a plan to take more walks and time spent outdoors. Instead, we have been plagued by exhaustion & sickness. A New Year is always a great time to make life changes, but I am so thankful that change is not dependent upon a certain date or time of year. Tomorrow is a new day, and the perfect chance to start using our juicer, and finally find the energy to go food shopping for something other than beef flavored ramen.

I belong to a couple of online blogging groups, and in both, I have seen other writers choose a phrase/word/verse for 2015. I have been thinking a lot about what I’d like to focus on in the next 361 days, but nothing has really stood out to me. However, I have the next week off before I start student teaching, and am hoping that I’ll be able to come up with something profound. 😉

Anywho, here is a glimpse into our time spent in Upstate New York with my family.

As we headed out of Kentucky towards New York, we made a stop at Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

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This was the actual cabin that Lincoln was born in, and the entire site quickly became one of my favorite national parks. If you’re ever in the area, I would definitely recommend a quick stop.

Ten hours of driving, one bathroom break, and half a bag of beef jerky later, we made it to Horseheads, NY. We ordered pizza & opened belated Christmas presents. I also took some pictures of my parents’ cat, who likes to sit in the bathtub and drink water.

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My parents gave us the complete series of Seinfeld (YAY!!), a new food processor (DOUBLE YAY!!), and work clothes for both of us (TRIPLE YAY!!).

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We gave Sophie a ukelele, and I had a lot of fun taking pictures of her with my new camera.

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Whenever I share pictures of Sophie, most people tell me that we look identical. I always take that as one of the greatest compliments I could receive; my sister is beautiful, caring, compassionate, intelligent, brave, and strong. My parents are currently in the process of buying a new house, and with it comes new neighbors & a new school district. While I don’t know everything she’s feeling on the inside, outwardly she has accepted this new change with patience and grace, and for that, I beam with sisterly pride.

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That Monday, one of my dearest friends surprised me! Wendy was my very first college roommate, and even though we were roommates for only one year, we have stayed in contact over the years. Wendy just accepted an amazing nursing job & scored a beautiful apartment in Vermont. It was so nice to see her (and her mom) before she starts this new journey.

Tuesday was spent adventuring in Ithaca – one of my favorite cities.

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Wednesday/New Year’s Eve was spent at the church I grew up going to. There was a time of food & fellowship (my dad’s chili stole the show), and then a short church service with special music.

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My lovely parents. 🙂
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Then we all went home, played a board game, drank Sparkling Cider, and fell asleep at 11. We’re so old.

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We had originally planned on staying until Friday, but after being away from home for two weeks, we felt that leaving on Thursday afternoon would be best. Even though it’s never easy leaving my family, it was nice to return to the familiar comforts that our apartment provides. Milo was really happy that we were home, and promptly cuddled on the couch with us to watch his new favorite show, Friends.

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How did you spend the end of 2014?

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Kentucky (pictures + words)

In true Anderson fashion, we left Illinois yesterday morning, drove six hours to Louisville, Kentucky, and of course, stopped to eat great BBQ. Iif you’re ever in the area, I would definitely recommend Mark’s Feed Store. The ribs & fried corn on the cob were both amazing…the Buttermilk Pie, not so much.marks3marksmarks2

 We then drove another hour & a half to Cave City, Kentucky. A few years ago, we spent a week in the Outer Banks and discovered the National Parks Passport. Now whenever we travel, we make sure to visit the nearest National Park & are able to make cancellations in our Passport. Caleb and I have been looking forward to visiting Kentucky so that we could visit Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave in the world, and as of 2013 was found to be 400 miles long. However, experts believe that the cave might actually be more than 600 miles long.

This morning we went on two different cave tours.

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The first tour we went on was the Historic Tour.

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Overall, it was a great introductory tour, but it could have been a little bit better if the group size was smaller. There was also a couple that decided to bring their two year old on the tour, and although I would never vocalize my distaste for this small child screaming in the cave, and holding up the line as we walked through small spaces (there is one spot called Fat Man’s Misery), I may have rolled my eyes a few times.

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Our second tour, Domes & Dripstones, was amazing! The tour started with a 280 stair descent, and we were able to see beautiful stalactites towards the end.

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These pictures definitely don’t do the cave justice, but it was the best I could do without using my flash.

Even though we went out of our way to drive down to Kentucky, it was 100% worth it.

Tomorrow we leave bright & early for Upstate New York! I’m so ready to see my parents & sister. Ringing in the New Year just wouldn’t be the same without our family.

A Very Illinois Christmas (pictures + words): Part II

 On Christmas Eve, we drove about an hour away from Belvidere, IL to Skokie, IL to visit the Lawrence family, which consists of Uncle Brent, Auntie Lala, Jamie, and Rylie. Skokie was also where I lived before my parents decided to move us to Upstate New York.

As we rang the doorbell, we were greeted by a very surprised and excited Jamie. She screamed, and jumped up and down, and gave us big hugs.

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Then there was sweet Rylie, who did the same, but could not believe that we were actually there! Throughout the entire day she continued to talk about how surprised she was, and how she was so happy that we were visiting.

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Rylie also loved photo-bombing all my pictures. 🙂

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Naturally, I had to take pictures with my camera. Auntie Lala was just as thrilled about my new gift, and may have tried to commandeer it. 😉 It’s completely understandable. I still can’t believe how beautiful each picture turned out.

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The Lawrences took us out for an amazing Christmas Eve dinner (Caleb is still raving about the Prime Rib), and then we went back to their cozy home to eat a delicious homemade apple pie, mini cannolis, and Italian cookies.

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They opened the presents that were in their stockings, and gave Caleb and I a gift bag filled with goodies & warm socks. We were also given the game Blokus….which is actually one of my least favorite games, but I am willing to be open minded and play at least once. 😉

Auntie Lala had this beautiful tea pot, and gave it to me as well! I can’t wait to find the perfect place for it in our apartment.

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Caleb and I had such a wonderful time with the Lawrence family, and the only thing that made leaving easier was the fact that we were going to see them again on Christmas Day.

Christmas morning came & we were awoken by the sound of little feet, and loud whispers. The cousins were so excited when Caleb and I finally emerged from our room.

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Caleb got a Seahawks shirt. I love his face in this picture. Heck, I always love his face. But in this picture particularly.

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That afternoon, the rest of my family came over for a very Italian Christmas dinner. We had a roast, lasagna, and for desert, cannolis and Italian cookies. There may have been a fight over Auntie Lala’s Pignoli Cookies.

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Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetMy beautiful cousin Raquel.

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My sweet cousin Isabella.

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Sisters.

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Jamie, Raquel, & Rylie.

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They’re all beautiful, but the best part is Joy picking her nose.

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Caleb had a cookie in his mouth.

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Emily brought out her trumpet, and played us a few Christmas tunes.

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Uncle Brent.

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The Iampaglia Family: Uncle Sam, Auntie Sara, Isabella, & Raquel.
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THIS picture is my favorite. Joy loves Caleb, and finally stopped running around to cuddle with him for a quick picture.

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“You’re the bacon to my eggs.”

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At the end of the night, no one was ready to say goodbye, but as you can see, Joy was ready for everyone to leave.

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This morning, we took our time drinking coffee, eating Christmas leftovers, and spending time on the couch telling stories. We spent five days in Illinois, but it feels like a blur.

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It was hard to say goodbye, but as we started the next leg of our Christmas journey, I was filled with thankfulness. It’s so easy to take family for granted, but it is a beautiful thing when you can make every moment intentional. Hours were not wasted in Belvidere, but memories were made, and I had an amazing camera to capture each and every one. Caleb and I were blessed to be surrounded by cousins, and aunts, and uncles, and even though we were far away from both sets of parents, loneliness was foreign to us.

Even though it would be easy to drive back to Illinois & pretend that we never left, I’m so excited to see what the next few weeks have for us.

I hope you had a great Christmas!

xo,

Kelly

A Very Illinois Christmas (pictures + words) : Part I

On Friday we got out of work, grabbed a bite to eat, and went home to take a short nap before we started our trip to Illinois. We were planning on leaving at 10:30 and driving through the night so we needed a little bit of rest.

When we woke up, we packed the car and started our trip when Caleb “remembered” he left his phone charger in the apartment. A few minutes later, he called from inside & asked if I would come in to help him find it. I ran in, and instead of finding a lost phone charger, was welcomed by a table filled with Christmas presents.

For the past year I have been asking for a camera. Growing up, my mom often called me a “leaky faucet” because I am notorious for being persistent with my requests. I love taking pictures, and drool over photography in my spare time. Every time I brought up the idea of buying a new camera, Caleb would brush it off, and I finally came to terms with the fact that iPhone photography was going to be my destiny.

However, Caleb not only surprised me with a brand new Canon, but with two lenses, filters, a cleaning kit, a tripod, and other things I can’t think of as I write this.

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After I cried & Caleb took this picture, we hit the road (for real), and drove 14 hours straight to Belvidere, IL. When we decided to visit Illinois for the holidays, I asked my Aunt & Uncle to keep our visit a surprise for the cousins. It was so great ringing the doorbell & hearing squeals of joy from Emily, Luke, Aaron, and Joy as they realized what was happening.

Here are a few pictures of our visit thus far (some from my new Camera, and others from my iPhone):

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Baby Joy is by far my favorite person to photograph

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Christmas 7 Christmas 8We went to church & saw Luke, Emily, & Aaron in their Sunday School Christmas Program.  

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Luke let me practice taking pictures of him:

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Today we went into the city and visited Millennium Park & The Art Institute of Chicago:

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We saw a few of our favorite paintings: 

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Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

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Shoe Shop by Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones

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A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

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Greyed Rainbow by Jackson Pollock

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American Gothic by Grant Wood 

It’s only Monday, and we already feel so blessed to be here.

An extremely late Thanksgiving post (pictures & words) + a little Christmas spirit

Finals Week almost killed me. Am I exaggerating? Probably. But I’m definitely relieved that this semester is finally over – it was the most mentally/emotionally challenging semester I have faced so far, and am really looking forward to our Christmas adventures. Only six days of work stand between us and a two-week Christmas road trip.

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On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Caleb and I packed our flea market suitcases (which are amazing), jumped in our car, spent an hour+ in traffic, went on a scavenger hunt for a parking spot at the Park & Jet, endured a lengthy security check, and spent too much money on a bag of chips because I didn’t eat breakfast.

After a 2 hour flight, we landed in Florida. We then proceeded to eat way too much chicken at Sonny’s BBQ.

Monday: Sea World 

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I got to feed & pet Sting Rays!

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This dolphin has a secret.

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I was so excited about seeing the Shamu show that I only took this picture. The guy behind me was just as thrilled. I don’t even care about the black speck in my tooth. I love this picture too much.

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Even though Thanksgiving hadn’t even taken place, Sea World was getting into the Christmas Spirit. The train fulfilled my greatest childhood dreams. The ride did not. It was pretty lame.

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Although it was in the 80’s, there was a vendor selling hot chocolate. We decided to get ice cream instead.

Tuesday: Wycliffe Headquarters & Rain

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We had originally planned a beach trip, but then it down poured the entire day … and into Wednesday. We opted out of the beach trip & visited the headquarters for Wycliffe Bible Translators instead. We also ate really great fish sandwiches.

thanksgivingbreak1Visiting Wycliffe was so exciting. Caleb and I have big dreams, including one day working with Wycliffe Bible Translators as missionaries. The visit made our dreams seem a little more real. They also had a really great section of photo shoot props which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Wednesday: Super Friend Day 

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One of my closest friends, Meredith, got married this past summer (go look at her wedding pictures here because they are beautiful), and moved all the way down to Sebring, Florida. Even though we were only able to hang out for a little bit, I am so glad that I was able to see her (and her cousin Elizabeth, too). 🙂 She is definitely a kindred spirit, and it’s easy to catch up where we left off….even after being apart for five months.

Thursday: T H A N K S G I V I N G 

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Two turkeys = a very happy me.

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I’m ashamed to say – these are the only pictures I have of Thanksgiving Day. I was definitely blessed when I married Caleb – his family accepted me as one of their own from day one, and it was so nice to spend the holiday with such hilarious and loving people. Baby Adam also helped brighten things up because he is adorable. Even though it was my first Thanksgiving away from my own family, I felt right at home eating my father-in-law’s smoked turkey, and my brother-in-law’s stuffed mushrooms. (If you decided to read this, Zach, I heard Tito Sandy would pay money for those)

Friday: Wreath Day

Today was one of my favorite days on our trip. Because Caleb’s family lives in Florida, we don’t have the luxury of short weekend visits. We get a lot of opportunities to visit my family, so when we see his family it’s a big deal for us. On Friday I was able to spend the afternoon hanging out with my mother&sister -in-law, and making these adorable burlap wreaths.

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We used the burlap wreath tutorial (it’s super easy), and added holly for the antlers, an ornament for the nose, and a bow for a bow tie. We had such a fun time making them!

Saturday: Our last day

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The last day is always the hardest day. We went mini-golfing (I’m not the best at it, and may have hit a little girl with my golf ball), inhaled the most amazing ribs (smoked with love by my father-in-law), and gave long hugs and shared reluctant goodbyes.

Sunday: our trip home 

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Our trek home began way too early, but after 2 hours in a plane, and an hour drive from Philly to Phoenixville, we were home. Traveling is something I love to do, yet I love the comfort my own bed brings. As much as I say that I want to be a wanderer and see as much of the world as I can, coming home always reminds me that one day we need to plant our roots … somewhere. Thankfully we have some time to figure that out.

That next week we were able to recuperate, do some laundry, and finally decorate our apartment for Christmas.

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This past week we did some Christmas shopping, and were able to put some gifts under our little tree.

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My owl ornaments.

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I love our little barrel wrapped with lights. In my opinion, lights make everything a little more magical.

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I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

How are you getting ready for Christmas?

grateful heart monday: fall break pictures & words (pt. II)

On Saturday, I wrote about my much anticipated weekend home, and a few fall traditions that Caleb and I have with my family.

This morning we had a late breakfast with my parents and then made our way back to Pennsylvania.

As I sit here in our apartment, I am so grateful for the weekend that I was able to share with my family, and that we made it back to Pennsylvania with zero car issues.

My last grateful heart linkup was all about how I couldn’t wait to see my parents, and I’m here to say that it definitely was everything I had hoped for.

  Let me share a little bit more about what made this weekend so wonderful: 

Sunday morning we went to church, and by the time we got home, my dad was awake (he works a long night shift) & was so excited to show off his new motorcycle.

This is a pretty big deal because he has been asking for a motorcycle for years, and was finally able to buy one a few months ago.

I’d like to think that I look pretty tough.
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Because our car had given us trouble on the way up, a good friend of the family said he would check it out. While we were at his house, his wife offered to take us to her mom’s garden to pick veggies. She had so many different kinds of vegetables to pick, but my absolute favorite was picking the carrots.

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Her mom is 91 years old, and is still able to garden! She gave me a few great gardening tips, and made it sound so easy. I hope that one day Caleb and I have a plot of land that we can use to grow vegetables, and live off the land.

*sigh* one day…

We also carved the pumpkins that we picked at the apple orchard. Kitty decided to join in on the fun.

(FYI: She’s not as great as Milo)

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I carved Milo into my pumpkin:

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And then, we had to go home.

 It’s always difficult saying goodbye to my family, but seeing the hills and the fall colors made it a little bit easier:photo going home

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Krispy Kreme also helped:

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I’m grateful for these trips because they remind me of how blessed I am to have such supportive and giving parents. They love so unconditionally, and support us even when we talk about moving half-way across the world.

I know that God is preparing my heart for the day when Caleb and I buy two one-way tickets to South Korea …. but for now, I am thankful that we live in the same time-zone, and that we are able to visit them even for short weekend visits.

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fall break 2014: pictures & words

Last night after work, Caleb and I jumped in our car and began what was supposed to be a four-hour car ride to Upstate New York.

About 2 hours in, Caleb noticed that our engine gauge had gone up to the red zone, so we stopped at the nearest gas station. 45 minutes and a $20 bottle of Antifreeze later, we were on our way … and then we hit traffic. However, Jesus was definitely watching over us the whole time, we made it safely to New York, and were welcomed by a warm dinner and even warmer hugs.

Have I mentioned my family is the best?

Today I woke up to this view, right in my parents’ backyard.morningPennsylvania is beautiful, but nothing can compare to Upstate New York in the Fall.

Fall Break Tradition #1: we left the house early to visit a few Estate Sales, and Sophie and I took an obligatory sister selfie. (Am I the only one who hates that word?)
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Fall Break #2: Mr. Chicken came next, and it was just as good as the last time we visited. I almost bought a Mr. Chicken shirt, but couldn’t justify spending $15.50 on a chicken themed t-shirt … so we bought more gravy fries, and a couple slices of pie instead.

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Fall Break Tradition #3: Apple Picking

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Fall Break Tradition #4: Seneca Lake

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The day ended with manicures with my momma, cider doughnuts, a big mug of chai, and currently, as I finish typing this post, we are waiting for our apple chips to finish cooking & are watching Family Feud (let’s be real, you love it too).

The best part?

This weekend isn’t over yet.

I hope your weekend has been as lovely as mine! 🙂

xo

-Kelly