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Girls Trip to Santa Monica

Every year, my sisters and I plan a trip together.  This year we decided to go to Los Angeles.  My mom and my sister-in-law joined us!  How did we decide LA??  Easy!  Southwest was having a big sale and my sister, Richelle in El Paso, and I started searching for cheap flights to somewhere we haven’t been to since we were children.  I’m always on the lookout for inexpensive flights!

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The crew:  Julie, Andrea, Richelle and Rita (not pictured:  ME!)

We decided to stay in Santa Monica within a few blocks from the beach so we could walk around the city with ease or use the Bird Scooters!  You have got to check those out if you go to Santa Monica!  When we went into LA, we took Uber so we wouldn’t have to pay for parking.

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Definitely head to Venice and check out the shopping on Abbot Kinney.  After you shop til you drop, you have to wander over to Venice Beach just to say you’ve been there!  We didn’t stay long.

One day we went into LA to check a couple places off our list.  The first was the OUE Skyspace and the fun slide!  We had brunch at Perch and enjoyed the views from the rooftop.  We strolled through the LA library and then took an Uber to Griffith Observatory.  Here is your fair warning about Griffith Observatory:  Be prepared to sit in traffic on your way up.  Also, it is not as peaceful as it looks in all the pictures online.  It is crowded and there are people everywhere.  On the flip side, it has gorgeous views!

 

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It was a great girls getaway and I’m looking forward to next years with my sisters and my mom!

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El Paso

El Paso is a west Texas gem!  We recently traveled to visit my sister and her family over the Christmas break and had so much fun!  There is so much to do in El Paso!  First on our lists of places to visit was Chamizal National Memorial and the El Paso Zoo.  The Chamizal National Memorial is part of the US National Park Service so don’t forget to bring your National Park Passport to get stamped!  We haven’t been to many national parks so we bought our first National Park Passport when we visited.  The museum does not take long to walk through so bring a picnic lunch or walk around the park to enjoy all it has to offer.  The El Paso Zoo is close by so after we had our picnic, we headed to the zoo.  The zoo takes about 2 hours to go through if you aren’t in a hurry and let the kids play on the giant playground.  We also saw the bird show that I highly recommend!  These two attractions are located in close proximity so you could definitely do both in one day.

The next day we headed to the National Border Patrol Museum.  The kids enjoyed being able to get into the vehicles and helicopter that are in the exhibit.   Do plan ahead as it is only open Tuesday through Saturday, 9-5.  Oh and lunch at Burritos Juarez!  Y’all have GOT to go to Burritos Juarez!  Everything is made fresh and their aguas frescas are delicious!  We wanted to go back before we left but realized that they were closed on Sundays.  You must go to Burritos Juarez when you are in El Paso.

And now for our most fun day…..  WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO!  White Sands is less than 2 hours away from El Paso!  Make sure you bring your disc sleds!  We brought 4 to share between the 10 of us and it was fine.  It was a beautiful day and we stayed for a few hours.  Here’s a tip:  drive back as far as you can go and it is less crowded.  Find a covered picnic table and park next to it and it’s yours for the day!  We looked for an area with a bathroom as well since we had 6 kids with us!  Don’t forget to pack your picnic lunch, snacks and drinks because there is nothing out there.  And your National Park Passport to get stamped!

Sunday was our last official full day in El Paso.  We started off the morning by going to church on base and then headed to lunch at L&J Cafe off Stevens and Missouri.  Make sure you get there early because there will be a wait.  But it’s worth it!  The service was great and everyone enjoyed their meal, even my vegan daughter!  After lunch, we headed over to the Wyler Aerial Tramway located in the Franklin Mountains State Park.  Be prepared to wait in line for a little while if the weather is nice and if you are going on a weekend.  (The tramway does close during bad weather and high wind.)  Be sure to ask questions as you ascend to the top of Ranger Peak!  The park rangers are so knowledgeable and the kids were asking all sorts of questions.  You could also hike up to the top but the hike is about 90 minutes to 2 hours long.   Once the tram reaches the top, you have all the time you want to explore the gift shop and take pictures.

Our family thoroughly enjoyed the city of El Paso!  We would have never put El Paso on our list of places to visit but since my sister and her family have lived there for over a year, we knew we had to come out and visit.  The drive out to El Paso from Austin is a long one, I’ll admit.  But so worth it!

Did we miss something spectacular in El Paso?  If so, comment to let us know!

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5 GREAT Reasons to Head to the JW Marriott in San Antonio!

Need a family getaway that won’t break the bank?  One of our favorite places to vacation is the JW Marriott in San Antonio.  It’s just a short drive down I-35 and you don’t actually have to drive into town when you come from Austin.  We took a family vacation and met our extended family there to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.

  • The pools!!!  There are so many pools including an adults only one!

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    This was the beach entry pool that was perfect for the kids AND the adults!
  • Waterslides!  They just added a couple more slides that the older kids and adults can enjoy.
  • Lazy river.  The lazy river is perfect for leisurely floating and has a bunch of entry/exit points.
  • Kids activities.  When you arrive, you get a weekly schedule of everything that is happening.  From s’mores to gagaball, there is plenty for the kids to do.

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    As we were waiting for our lunch, one of the Kids Activities employees started a kickball game with the kids!
  • The food!  So good!  Poolside ordering, lots of restaurants.  Our favorite was the jalapeno jelly and biscuits from the Crooked Branch.  And the sangria was refreshing as a poolside drink!DSC01634

This is one of our favorite hotels to visit!  We spend all day at the pool and let the older kids run around together.  There is so much to do here!

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Day 2 of Sisters Weekend in Brenham

Day 2 started off with a rainstorm that woke us up before 7 am.  With 9 kids between the 3 of us, we were looking to sleeping in, just a little!  Oh well, it left more time for mimosas in the morning before we were off to the spa.  Julie made us some sausage and eggs and we paired that with cran-pomosas (my version of a mimosa – champagne & cranberry pomegranate juice).  We finished breakfast and then took our cran-pomosas to the hot tub!  It was still early enough that the mosquitos weren’t quite out yet.  We soaked in the hot tub and talked all things sister.  Richelle is moving to El Paso soon (insert crying emoji here), Julie is putting her house up for sale soon and her kiddos are switching schools, and me…. well for now, there are no life changing events happening.

Let’s head back into Brenham!  We booked massages at the Thyme Day Spa & Salon.  While the massage (and masseuse) was awesome, the staff…. not so much.  It seemed like they only had 1 masseuse and 1 hair stylist.  It was a really cute place with alot of potential if they had more people working.  My advice – skip this and save your money to do some shopping.

Lunch was at the Funky Art Cafe.  This was one of the places I scoped out online the week before and it did not disappoint!  We ordered a Bucket of Bubbles (more champagne!), Chipotle Corn Dip, Chicken Artichoke Pot Pie and a wrap.  DELICIOUS!!!!  Check this place out next time you are in Brenham.  Food was great and so was the service.

SHOPPING!!!  This is the main thing I wanted to do!  I love antique shopping!  Hermann Furniture was next to the cafe and they were having a warehouse sale.  I found a box of huge outdoor Christmas ornaments for $4 each!  And Julie found a petite silverware set for her daughter that she knew she would love.  There were some great shops but alot of the antique stores were pretty pricey.

After shopping for a couple hours, it was starting to get hot so we headed to Burton, TX, off of Hwy 290 to Saddlehorn Winery.  The staff there was really sweet and we had fun doing a wine tasting of 6 different wines.  I ended up buying a bottle of Pinot Grigio, even though I’m more of a Chardonnay girl.  Saddlehorn usually pizza cooking in the evenings but they had cancelled it earlier that day due to all the rain.  We will definitely come back on a Saturday night to enjoy wine and pizza!

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When we got back to the cabin, we snacked on a meat, cheese and olive plate and sipped our wine.  We took a walk around the property and watched the sunset.  It was gorgeous!

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And that’s about it for Sisters Weekend 2016!  Sunday we didn’t do much but sleep in a little.  It was a fun weekend of relaxing, shopping, exploring and connecting.  Next year, Richelle will be in El Paso so Sisters Weekend 2017 will be in West Texas or maybe…. New Mexico.

 

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Sisters Weekend in Brenham, TX!

My 2 sisters, Julie and Richelle, are my best friends.  We like to take one weekend out of the year and take some time to ourselves.  This year we decided to meet halfway between Houston (where they live) and Austin (where I live) in the town of Brenham.  Julie found a cabin in the rolling hill country.  The cabin was easy to find and was ready for us along with a personalized sign on the door welcoming us.

We brought along our own snack foods, water and of course champagne and juice for mimosas!  The owners left breakfast in the fridge for us to prepare in the mornings – muffins, biscuits, sausage and eggs.  It was perfect!

After we settled in, we went to check out the closest winery, Pleasant Hill Winery.  It’s a pretty small winery.  We ordered a tasting to learn a little more about the wines but each time, we were told that the grapes from that particular wine came from Lubbock.  So we weren’t too sure if any of the wine we tasted actually came from grapes at this establishment.  Would I recommend this winery?  Mixed feelings…. The staff was very nice but the establishment was small.

Time for dinner!  We ventured into the town of Brenham to check out Volare.  These Italian girls had to check out the Italian restaurant!  Super cute restaurant with decent Italian food.  As we walked back to our car, we noticed the museum was having an event at that time.  The Brenham Heritage Museum was having an event to showcase the guns of the Texas Rangers and that included food and drink, typical of the saloons of Brenham and Washington County. Richelle and I let Julie do all the tasting!  

 

We decided to head back to the cabin with a quick stop to RedBox to rent the movie, Sisters.  HILARIOUS!!!!  We had been waiting until we were were all together to watch it and it did not disappoint!  We ended our fun Friday night in Brenham on a good note.

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9 Items You MUST Pack On a Disney Cruise!

When we started planning our Disney Cruise, one of the first questions was “what do we pack???”  I’ve compiled a list of the items we brought.

  1. Clothes – sounds easy enough, right?  If you are headed to the Caribbean, you are thinking swimsuits and flip-flops.  But you need to remember to bring at least one sweater for inside the ship and probably a pair of jeans or nice pants.  Our cruise left out of Galveston in January so we boarded with our winter outfit on and reused pieces when we got chilly.  If you are planning on dining at Palo, you will need a nicer outfit.
  2. Laundry Basket – go with a pop up one you can throw away at the end of the trip.  We found an inexpensive one at Dollar Tree.  You’ll want to contain all the dirty clothes into one spot and not all over the floor.  I would suggest buying 2.
  3. Toiletries – you won’t need shampoo, conditioner or soap.  Your stateroom will have those and can by restocked as needed.  Just bring your medicines and any other toiletries.  Don’t forget sunscreen!
  4. Nightlight – it gets pretty dark in the rooms at night and if you have little ones, you may want to plug in a nightlight.  We bought an inexpensive one from Target.
  5. Ziploc Bags – bring sandwich and gallon size.  I can’t tell you how many times these came in handy!  I grabbed a couple croissants at breakfast and packed them in our day bag when we went on our excursion.  Gallon bags are great for keeping clothes dry and to pack wet ones.
  6. Sunscreen – I know I mentioned it above but don’t forget it!  We packed 3 bottles and went through all of it with our family of 5.
  7. Autograph Book – the kids loved getting autographs from all the characters!  All you need is a small notebook for each kid.
  8. Passport – each cruiser needs their own passport as Disney requires this.
  9. Wine – yes wine!  I know!  Disney lets each passenger 21 or older bring 2 bottles of unopened wine or a six-pack of beer on board.  You must bring it in your carry-on bag.  Wrap up the bottles with bubble-wrap and use the wrap later to protect any souvenirs picked up on your travels.

Items not to pack:  alcohol, power strips (surge protectors), or an iron.  These items are not allowed on a Disney cruise.  If these items are in your suitcase, the crew will confiscate them and return it to you at the end of the trip.

So tell me, am I missing anything from this list?  I would love to hear any experienced Disney Cruisers list of packing essentials!

 

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Excitement in the air!

Hi everyone and welcome!  I am so excited to share with you some of my journeys!  Whether it’s a trip around the world, a walk down the street, or a spiritual journey, I will be sharing it here.  I’m not sure where this journey will lead me but I do know that life is all round us and I want to enjoy it!  Who is with me???

My hope is that my words inspire you to live out loud.  Whatever that looks like to you.  For me, that means traveling, seeing the world, enjoying what’s in my own backyard, spending time with family and friends and growing my relationship with Christ.

So here we go!  I would love to hear back from you!  Where is your favorite place to go in your hometown?

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My daughter and I exploring our town of Hutto.  Can you see the old silo in the background??
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First blog post

Welcome to Oh Joy Journeys!  This journey will take us up, down and all around!  I can’t wait to share with you all my journeys and tips!  I hope this inspires you to find joy in your journey and share it with others!  Take the time to travel and see what this world has to offer.  It’s beautiful!

This picture of Trunk Bay was taken in January 2016 on the gorgeous island of St. John!Trunk Bay