Once You Know Her It’s Hard to Leave Her

…New Orleans that is.  I picked up a tee with that saying on it from the popular Fleurty Girl shop during our recent trip back to New Orleans. (Note: Denning Beta also got a pretty cute onesie to commemorate its first trip to the city.) It was my first time back to New Orleans since we moved away not quite two years ago and it was good to be back. Two years was long enough that I could enjoy my visit and it feel like a vacation, but not so long that I would forget how to get around or where my favorite spots were. All in all a nice get-away.

New Orleans is the kind of city where visits are centered around drinking and eating, and because Denning Beta put a cramp on the drinking part, we made this an eating tour!

New-Orleans-1P1110207We started at Cake Cafe and got there just before the morning rush to enjoy delicious pastries, egg sandwiches and biscuits and gravy. Then, as if we hadn’t had enough of a morning wake up, we headed a few blocks away to our old favorite hang-out, the Orange Couch, for a cup of coffee and a chai tea latte.

New-Orleans-2We beat the rain for most of the afternoon and wandered the quarter like tourists, shopping, enjoying the music and reminiscing.

P1110246New-Orleans-4{the obligatory pregnancy shot – 20 weeks, can you believe it?}

New-Orleans-3Just as the rain was starting to roll in, we hopped on a bus toward the bayou for the most amazing catfish po-boys and sweet potato fries. There was no way I was leaving New Orleans without one.

P1110260And lucky for us, we had good company while we took shelter at the bar and waited out the rain.

I was reminded of lots of things about our time in New Orleans while wandering the city, but I think what I missed the most was the relaxed and easy-going nature of the city, the appreciation for time spent enjoying good food and good music, and the sense that you can walk slowly and get there when you get there. We will never be able to replicate the rich culture that is New Orleans, but I think we can certainly remember to slow down and enjoy life, wherever we are. Until next time New Orleans!

5 Fantastic Things | March

March

March was an insanely busy month. Now that we can finally see that I am pregnant, the realization that these next few months are going to fly by has really set in. So we’ve been making lists, cause that’s what we do, and actually crossing things off as we go. And in between the check boxes, we both managed to squeeze in a work trip, a visit with friends and a trip to see my family. I wish I could say that April will be different but I am anticipating much of the same, and that’s ok! At least spring is here and we can tackle our projects with some sun and open windows.

5 FANTASTIC THINGS I want to remember:

  1. Watching Phil’s face when he heard the baby’s heart beat for the first time.
  2. Showing Cincinnati to our dear friends and ending the night dancing to a New Orleans-style band at one of our favorite bars.
  3. Finally upgrading our phones after months of frustration, research and debate. (we stayed with Verizon and got the iPhone 5s and the Nokia Lumia Icon).
  4. Witnessing the intense rivalry between our friend, the high school ping pong champion, and my husband, her arch nemesis.
  5. Hearing from so many friends after finally sharing the news. The heartfelt congratulations and notes of encouragement were overwhelming. It’s so nice to know we are loved!

5 FANTASTIC THINGS I’m looking forward to:

  1. Getting back to New Orleans!  This will be my first visit back since we moved to Cincinnati almost 2 years ago. I already have a list of restaurants and food that I want to be sure to get before leaving.
  2. Seeing a big house project finalized so that our back bedroom will finally experience heat in the winter and AC in the summer.
  3. Hosting our neighborhood krewe for another Friday get together.
  4. Finishing the Divergent series. Can’t wait to find out how Veronica Roth wraps up the trilogy.
  5. Enjoying a Reese’s Easter Egg…my all-time favorite Easter candy.

Past “5 Fantastic Things” posts:
February // January // 
December // November // October //
September // August // July // June // May

Something New

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The ideas for this post have been in my head for weeks, but somehow every time I sit down to write the words I am unable to.

Have you ever kept a secret for so long that when you’re finally able to tell the truth, you’re not sure you can? Because the secret has become something that belongs to you and you’ve learned to protect it so much, the thought of sharing it is frightening, even though deep down you know that it will be a relief?

Well, we have been thinking for awhile now that we’re ready for something new. And while change is not something that I always welcome with open arms, sometimes you just have to trust yourself to do the right thing. So this summer we will be bringing something new into the world and our lives will change in a way that I can’t even fathom. I am nervous and excited at the exact same time, and yes, sometimes I wonder what we got ourselves into. But I am lucky to have Phil who reminds me that we are going to be amazing parents and that everything our baby needs, we already have.

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So I guess the secret’s out…and I do feel better to have shared it with you. In fact, I’ll probably be sharing a bit more with you about our journey between now and August if that’s ok. Here’s to something new!

The inspiration for this post’s title came from this song.

The Power of Scent

AromatherapyLast weekend I took an aromatherapy workshop at my yoga studio because…why not? I’ve always been interested in aromatherapy, but I’ll be the first to admit that my exposure to it has been limited to mass-produced room and pillow sprays (bath & body works lavender spray anyone?), which I know is not the real deal. I think scent is one of the most powerful senses and I have always been more drawn to products that have a natural aroma like lavender, lilac, eucalyptus or tea tree. Even at my yoga studio, just the incense and lotion used during savasana has an immediately calming and relaxing effect on me. I figured if I could learn just a few ways to incorporate the power of scent into my life at home, I would be in heaven.

As it turns out, there is a lot to aromatherapy. We learned about essential oils, how they are created, what to look for when purchasing your essential oils, how to apply them in your life, and most importantly, what the benefits of each oil are. There are so many essential oils that we would have been there all day smelling and learning if we had discovered them all, so our instructor selected the most common and most versatile essential oils to review:

  • Lavender: The grandfather of essential oils. Lavender helps relieve headaches, pains, and sleep disorders, works as a mosquito repellent and is antibacterial.
  • Lemon: Energizing and uplifting oil that works as an antiseptic and provides relief for colds, flu, acne, and headaches.
  • Peppermint: Revitalizing and cooling oil that calms nausea, fever, and muscle pain.
  • Eucalyptus: Invigorating and balancing oil that treats asthma, bronchitis, cough, and sinus infection.
  • Bergamot: Uplifting and normalizing oil that reduces anxiety, stress and depression.
  • Tea Tree: Invigorating oil that treats acne, cold sores, cuts, and colds/flu.
  • Rosemary: Clarifying and invigorating oil that provides mental and physical energy and stimulates mental recall.

I’m still digesting everything I learned and am thinking now about how to incorporate these scents into my everyday life. There are many applications for essential oils. I could add them to a bath, use a diffuser, create a room spray, do steam inhalation or in a few select cases, apply the oil topically. I left the class with my own creation of rosemary and eucalyptus and took my instructor’s advice. She suggested putting a few drops into some standing water at the end of my shower (I put the drain cover in as I am wrapping up) and allowing the steam to carry the scent and also the oil to be absorbed through my feet. Because rosemary is an oil that provides mental and physical energy, it’s a great way to start the day.

Do you use essential oils or any form of aromatherapy? Don’t you agree that scent is one of the most powerful senses and can have such a profound effect on our mood, atmosphere and memories?

Tips for Creating an Annual Photo Album

Tips-for-Creating-an-Annual

For the last two years I have been creating a “Denning Photo Album” that includes all of our pictures from the year. The book begins with New Year’s Eve, ends with Christmas and includes everything in between. It’s anchored by our annual vacation and any other travels, but it also includes the everyday events that we capture like home improvement projects, birthdays or holidays, and this year I added a 2-page spread with my favorite Instagram pictures.

I hope I’m not sounding like a pro because I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not an easy project for me and it was extremely daunting the first time I opened up MyPublisher to get started. I’ve never been one for scrap-booking or photo books in general; that was always my sister’s strength. But ever since we got our new camera and started taking more and more pictures, I realized what most people realize – that they were going to waste just sitting on our computer’s hard drive. So I picked the same program that our wedding photographer used for our album, sat down, and just started dragging and dropping. The hardest part honestly was finding and organizing the pictures, the rest just sort of came together naturally. But I have learned a few things along the way that might help you if this is the first large photo album that you’ve attempted. So here are my tips for getting started with an annual photo book:

  • Take lots of pictures!  Be the person who carries the nice camera with her to all occasions and snaps lots of pictures.
  • Be selective. Every time you upload pictures to your computer or hard drive, only keep the good ones. Make sure you have enough photos to create a summary of the event, but nothing more. You will have enough to do to create the album that you won’t want to also go through all of your pictures then picking out the best ones.
  • Organize with folders. Create folders that start with the year and month and then as you are saving pictures, store them in the appropriate folder. There will be no question about which pictures should be included and in what order.
  • Know what you like. Take some time to look through examples of different album styles to determine whether you like text or no text, patterned backgrounds or solid backgrounds, collages or full-page photo spreads.
  • Forget about the number. A lot of photo album sites have a set number of pages that come with their album before you start incurring a per page cost. Don’t worry about that number. If it takes you 20 pages or 100 pages to capture a year in the life of your family, it doesn’t matter. Don’t limit your book while you’re building it. If you need to trim it down, do it at the end.
  • Wait for the sale. If I bought my 75 page book at full-price, it would be quite the expensive project. But because I build the book no matter how many pages, I create it and then save it until the right sale comes along…and it always does. Then, I can usually get up to 100 pages for the price of a typical 25-30 page book.

I’m sure my albums will evolve over time, but these are the basics that make an otherwise daunting project pretty manageable. I hope it inspires you to think about getting those pictures off of the hard drive and into print. Even though I’ve only got 2 albums at this point, I can already see what a great memory they are going to be. We’ve already looked at last year’s album and exclaimed, “I forgot we did that!”.

What I want to remember

Last week I promised photos from our recent trip to Costa Rica, but I wanted to share more than just a few of my favorite shots. I wanted to also share some of the memories. It’s true, all of the pictures that we took that week, and there were many, will be great memories in and of themselves, but there are some things that I want to document for those days when I really want to relive it. So here is what I want to remember about Costa Rica…

Costa-Rica-2The view from our balcony as the sun rose and set each day and the accompanying soundtrack of birds, breeze and howler monkeys. I should note that because we were right on the equator, the sun set somewhere around 6:00pm every evening and it set quickly. You would go from beautiful, bright sunlight to almost complete darkness in no time!

Costa-Rica-1The long and challenging hike to the beach and the reminder that we should be on the lookout for all types of animals. Even if we had no regard for the many animals on the sign, a pace other than slow was not an option.

Costa-Rica-5The color of the flowers and yes, the SLOTH that lived in the tree next to our house. We named him Capi Capi. We could see him just feet from our balcony and even had “sloth watch” assignments to see if he would move. Sadly, he slept most of the day and would move around at night when we could no longer see him.

P1100587 (1280x855)The hours spent reading, relaxing and reflecting. If I wasn’t in that rocking chair or a lounge chair by the pool, I was in a hammock.

Costa-Rica-4The surrounding area. There was so much we could walk to and a public bus that cost $0.60 for everything else. We explored the local food and took a guided tour through the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Costa-Rica-3The beach. It was perfectly peaceful and quiet, with plenty of shade and waves that would fill your suit with sand in a single crash. It was by far my most favorite place and best times of the trip.

P1100946 (1280x855)The friends. We are lucky enough to have 8 friends who are willing to drop everything, jump on a plane and go on an adventure every year, and 1 friend who is willing to plan it. I don’t know many people who do anything similar to what we’ve done for the past 3 years and I have to believe I am pretty lucky. Thank you to my wonderful friends, old and new, who make each trip unique and memorable!

P1110076 (1280x855)This guy. Those who know us might consider Phil to be the more frugal one between the two of us, but when it comes to travel, he is all in. His goal is always to make sure that we have an amazing trip and when I am stressing about packing or leaving for an entire week, he reminds me of why we travel, and I never regret it. I am so glad to have a partner in life with whom I can travel.

To see pictures from our past trips, click here {Mexico} or here {Grand Cayman}. Any suggestions for next year’s travel plans?

Giving It Up

FacebookLet me share with you a typical conversation that happens most nights in our house right around bedtime…

Phil: Katelyn…what are you doing?
Me: Nothing [while I quickly switch to the alarm screen on my iPhone]
Phil: Were you looking at Facebook?
Me: Nooo…
Phil: I hope not, because you should be going to bed.
Me: [feeling guilty]

I was checking Facebook and had been for the last 30 minutes when I should have been enjoying some much-needed sleep. But I just. can’t. help myself! And who is Phil to tell me I can’t check it if I want to? Well, he is technically only doing his job, because what you don’t know is that I complain a lot about being tired and needing to get more sleep, but for some reason my willpower is non-existent when it comes to shutting down and going to bed. So I’ve asked Phil to help remind me and what I’ve learned is that 9 times out of 10 I am doing something silly, like checking Facebook!

It’s not just at bedtime that you can find me wasting time on my phone. I do it while I’m a passenger in the car, while I’m sitting on the couch watching a movie or even when I’m “keeping Phil company” as he cooks. All this wasted time when I could be in the moment, I’m instead spending it in the Facebook moment! I know that it’s not just Facebook that distracts me. There are plenty of other apps, but Facebook seems to be the worst for me.

A few months ago, Danielle at “Breakfast at Toast” deleted the Facebook app from her phone with a promise to live more in the moment. If something was important enough to share, she would do it later, at her computer so as not to take away from the moment. Social media apps on phones are convenient when we’re on the go, but they also prevent us from really engaging with people, doing things that we care about and they’re just a distraction in general. I don’t always give up something for lent, and technically I don’t have to since I’m not Catholic, but this year, I’m giving up Facebook on my phone. That’s 40 days of only logging on from an actual computer, when I intentionally sit down to do just that. No more checking just to check because it’s convenient. Now I will check with a purpose. (Plus it’s more work to open up the laptop, so I’m hoping I do it less!)

Do you think you could remove a social media app from your phone? Which one distracts you the most? Are you making any changes this lenten season?