The 2015 Travel Calendar is HERE!!!

Tuesday, November 25

Friends, I could not be any more excited with you to announce that the 2015 Travel Calendar is now for sale! All the pictures in this calendar ware taken by Kevin or I on our travels around the world, and the calligraphy was done by my sweet friend Emmy Clausen who owns Hazel Fern Calligraphy. For weeks Emmy and I have been meeting with the printers, picking the paper, getting the details just right…and today I picked it up in my own hands. Ohhhhh it is gorgeous!! Just what I was envisioning! 

Each page features a unique travel print, a hand written calendar, and a special travel quote to inspire you on the adventure! The Calendars are being sold for $25 each. 

You can start pre-ordering them NOW! The calendars will be printed early next week and will mail them out ASAP in case you need them for Christmas gifts!! They will be the perfect gift for the travel lover in your life…or anyone who loves to dream! 

To purchase a calendar, visit my Etsy shop here. 

I will be on a cruise for Thanksgiving from Wed-Sun. Once I get back I will respond to emails and get your calendars shipped out!! I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating. There is just so so many blessings upon us, I am grateful. YOU readers are a dear blessing to me!!  


Guess where we are going next????

Sunday, November 23


{via}

It probably comes as no surprise to most of you, that the minute Kevin and I get back from one trip, we start dreaming about our next! What can I say? Travel runs thick in our veins.

This past August, on our anniversary, Kevin took me on a sweet date to the beach for a bike ride, to my favorite restaurant, and then to a coffee shop to plan our next trip! {#travelnerds, I know! haha} When we arrived at the coffee shop, we had NO idea where we wanted to go…the world was our oyster!

Being a complete Europe lover, and having spent all last year in Asia, we decided it was high time to branch out!  South America it was!

But where to go? What to do? Google became our best friend, and the research was on!

After a few hours sipping tea and lattes, we smiled wide, ready to click "purchase" for a flight to a new destination!

Where are we going? Well…I'll give you a few clues. First of all, we are traveling to 2 different countries. Let's see if you can guess:

The first country...
- houses a large portion of the Amazon rain forrest
- does not share a border with Brazil
- and became famous when Charles Darwin discovered their unique set of islands

The second country…
- is the world's leading source of emeralds
- is world-renowned for their coffee
- was named after Christopher Columbus

{via}

If you guessed Ecuador and Columbia, YOU WIN!

Now, I need YOUR help! Do any of your know any one that lives in either of these countries? We LOVE meeting up with new friends in new countries, and would love to connect with your contacts!! Let me know, I will love you forever!!

We leave late December, and get back mid January! Be sure to follow along on IG!! 

Any fun trips in YOUR future?
xoxo 

do not judge

Friday, November 21



My sister-in-law and I were laughing so hard the other day talking about how celebrities, when asked if they ever have any regrets in their life, always seem to say "no". My jaw always drops when I hear this because i'm like I HAVE 543 MILLION REGRETS. How in the world do people honestly say they have no regrets?

Anyway, the point is, one of my biggest regrets in life is the measure to which I have judged people. I'm not really talking about the occasional judgement of "her dress doesn't fit right" or "her hair looks weird".

I'm talking about how we can so easily judge the motives of others, or their decisions, or the way they approach situations. We can just be so critical. And have you noticed how this judgement seems to grow in size when we are actually really green with envy over what someone else has? "That person have a bigger/nicer/prettier ____ than me" and so we somehow find fault with them in order to elevate ourself. Bleh…it's yucky stuff.

A few years ago I found that this judgement stuff was especially true with a specific person in my life. Of course I never voiced it, but in my heart I harbored a very clear sense of black and white in terms of how I analyzed this person's behavior. If she did something that I thought was "wrong" then I judged it as all "bad". I literally made a judgement call over her decisions, instead of just accepting her choices as her choices, and trusting God to be in control of the situation.

It's that small freaking problem called SIN!!!! When we start believing that we are God and have the right to judge others, we have plummeted. We are NOT God, and we do NOT have the right to judge. Ever. While in Nepal, the good Lord showed me a thing or two about what His word has to say about judgement. Friends, it was depressing in the sense that I caught a deeper glimpse of my nasty sin and depravity, but also SO SO empowering and freeing learning it doesn't have to be that way! I realized my thought-life could be redeemed!

Jesus makes it very clear that the measure we use to judge other WILL BE USED TO JUDGE US.  Matthew 7:1-2 says "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you"

For a few years there, I was critical and unkind in my judgement, and let me tell you, I reaped the consequences. I felt depressed, bound up, anxious, and judged by others. I'm convinced this was a direct consequence of my own judgement.

But when I learned to forgive, and pour out grace in greater and more bountiful strokes, a beautiful thing happened in my life. My anxiety and depression lifted, I felt a deeper acceptance from others, and my heart began to roam free.

Christ set us free not to judge others, but instead to be graceful and loving. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Know that everyone is facing their own battles so be kind. When a situation arises or an event happens, allow it to pass without ascribing a label of "good" or "bad" to it. Accept that "it is" and that you don't have to judge it as anything other than what it is.

Don't be swept away and enticed by the thrill that it sometimes is to criticize or judge others. Have you ever heard that joke "they're friends because they both hate the same person". Satan's lie is that gossip and judgement is glamorous, but it is not. It's evil, it's unkind, it's hurtful (not only to the other person, but to your spirit), and it grieves the Lord. It is NOT healthy for you in any way, shape or form.

Bottom line…entrust God with the judgement. Hopefully that will free you up to be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col. 3:12). Because I don't think judgement and kindness can happen simultaneously. So choose wisely.

Happy Friday friends, and may your heart be free and graceful as you enjoy your weekend! 

A walk through the trees…some Fall reflections

Tuesday, November 18

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” - Jim Bishop

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” - Lauren DeStefano, Wither

“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile." -William Cullen Bryant

There is something so incredibly magical about the Fall. Like the wind brings something new and the leave blossom so ripe and red and everything blazes with an intensity that makes a heart swell. Twelve years ago I was a brand new freshman in college. I was nervous and excited, bubbling with energy, a bag of fresh school supplies in tow, and eyes ready to drink my new life in.  My first day I bumped into a sunshine of a person in the hallway, her name was Holly. She was from San Diego, and it was her first time in Northern California. She came home with me a weekend that Fall, I raked up a leaf pile, and she jumped in the leaves for the first time in her life. It brings a smile wide on my face, remembering our laughter, as we delighted in the joys of Autumn. Truly, Autumn is a JOY. Now our roles are reversed. Holly and her husband live in Northern California, and Kevin and I live in Southern California. I am leaf and Fall deprived this time. But on Saturday, Kev and I drove up, into a world of dripping and painted with hues so rich and deep my heart felt so right and just alive. 

This was our walk. Through the trees. Happy Tuesday sweet ones…





Yard Sale Style: A litte country

Friday, November 14




TGIF, right? {whenever I say that expression, I still think of Full House, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World! anyone else?} This week was crazy for me, but filled with so many new adventures. Regardless, i'm glad it's the weekend!

I'm actually headed up to visit my family this weekend, and it feels so right. I grew up in an adorable community nestled in Northern California, with a beautiful park running through it, a gorgeous brick university bubbling with students and energy, and a tight-knit community. Growing up, all I wanted was to break free from our little town and see the world. I always swore up and down i'd never move back, but now i'm pinning to park myself back in this sweet place. It's funny how God gives new eyes for old places.

My parents have this gorgeous home, and my favorite feature is the fire place. At night, when it's cold and blustery outside, the fire roars on, and my mom {who is a hosting queen} makes a yummy dinner and we sit long and talk much. So much laughter. So needless to say, i'm looking forward to a weekend home. I'm also getting to stay with one of my best friends from college, and she's planning a dinner with a bunch of college friends I haven't seen in a while. Oh man, I love reunions!!

Last Saturday my friend Diana came yard sailing with me. We hit the jackpot friends. I know I say that every week, but this week was especially good! I found the most adorable shirts and dresses (A few unique tops from Urban Outfitters and Anthropolgie for the win!!), and have worn one almost every day this week! This dress is from American Rag, and I got it for $1. The earrings were $1, and the purse I got for $3~ hooray!

Hope your weekend is full of joy and rest, just a like a good weekend should be!

Happy Friday!! 

Gifting Freedom…A fun opportunity this Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12


 Last year, while we were working in Nepal, we became good friends with a woman who started an organization called Beauty for Ashes. I went to their office many times to check out their jewelry and scarves, and to look into potential job opportunities to employ the girls from the home we worked. You see, BFA employs women coming out of sex-trafficking. They have an incredible discipleship program, where they mentor these women with love and care. This holiday season, Trade for Freedom, who is partnered with BFA, approached me with a neat gift idea for Christmas, and I wanted to share it with all of you….
_______________________________________________________________________________

As you see her hands working the beads onto the thread, you can't see the darkness her hands have had to live through. You can't see that these beads have set her free, because the beads mean income and the beads mean discipleship. The beads mean her life is set free.

Beauty of Ashes Nepal is what's working every day to set these hands and several other sets of hand free from sex trafficking and to provide safety to those who are at-risk for becoming a statistic.  When you live in a country that ranks fifth in the world for the population entrapped in sex trafficking per capita, someone needs to provide hope.

This Christmas, Trade for Freedom is partnering with Beauty for Ashes Nepal to help be that hope. These beautiful hands are crafting an exclusive jewelry line and working themselves into a future that has light and life.

Will you join with us?

Will you join with us to gift freedom?

This year, we are offering the gift of a jewelry subscription. Each month, a special jewelry item will be delivered to your door. You can buy a subscription for 6 or 12 month increments. 

One hundred jewelry subscriptions sold means 5 new women will be employed and become discipled next year. 


And the beautiful hope that they weave into each design will be delivered to your home, or the home of someone you love, each month, reminding you that we can change the world and that we can be part of the hope.

We must be that hope. Because each year more than 10,000 women and girls are trafficked from Nepal into the international sex trade, to be prostituted in brothels, in India and increasingly around the world.  

This Christmas, join us in gifting hope. 

To gift hope, you can purchase a jewelry subscription handcrafted by the Beauty for Ashes family from Trade for Freedom.  www.tradeforfreedom.com
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Ladies...I just spoke with the director from Trade for Freedom and she said this
"Also, I just finalized the new, exclusive designs today with Beauty for Ashes! The pieces are gorgeous.  A collage of gold, turquoise, tibetan beads, and rose wood." 

Really…is there anything more lovely than gold, turquoise, and rose wood? *swoon*
Well… Actually there is…and that is supporting a cause that offers a life-giving employment opportunity to a sweet sister across the world. I think it's a win-win! 

Happy Wednesday Friends! 


A few fun updates for your Monday, and a give-away

Monday, November 10


{I took these pictures at our Bible Study retreat to Mexico…you can see the full post here}

Hi friends,

I hope you had a marvelous weekend. I sure did! It was filled with lots of friends, family, food, yard saling (of course, right?), and home work (a girls gotta study!). Oh ya, and our kitchen remodel is done so now I'm gonna cook 500 recipes in the next week because i'm SO SICK OF EATING OUT. Glad I got that off my chest:) There just is nothing like a home cooked meal, amiright??? Roasted veggies, come to me!!!

Anyhow, a few fun to things to share with you today!

1) First, we've gotten the green light to start printing our 2015 travel calendar! I'm so excited. My friend Emmy (who did the calligraphy) and I met with the printers on Friday. We picked out the paper (it's called recycled linen…can you visualize the beauty already?), and worked on the picture layout. Ladies, it's going to be a gorgeous addition to your home, filled with bright and colorful travel pictures, inspiring quotes, and just stunning calligraphy. So…hold off from buying a calendar for next year! You will be the first to know when it comes out! I can't wait to show you!! Thank you for all your encouragement last week with it!

2) Secondly, you know how i'm kinda crazy about my yard sales? Well...I decided to open an instagram account called @shopmyclosethopeengaged ….Basically, it's like an online yard sale. I will be periodically posting my clothes at very cheap prices (I think most items are $2, $3, or $4 plus shipping).  So, head on over to Instagram, and start following my online yard sale! It's first come, first serve! Happy Shopping!

3) Lastly, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to you, my sweet readers. You have no idea how encouraged I am by your comments, emails and just general love. I love blogging because I get to know such lovely ladies as yourselves! Because of that, I wanted to offer 2 free ad spots to two lucky readers for the next month. To enter to win a free ad spot on my sidebar, all you need to do is leave a comment letting me know if there are any kinds of posts you want me to do more of in 2015! Is there anything you've been dying for me to share about, etc? And if there's not, that's totally fine too!! Looking forward to picking 2 lucky winners to feature on my sidebar!!

Have a great Monday friends. Wish I was saddled up next to you at a coffee shop, chatting away and sipping tea! But instead i'm spending my Monday finishing up a final. So fun! Much love to you all…. 

Yard Sale Style: Going Out

Wednesday, November 5


Oh hey there second hand clothing, I love you. I do. Clearly i'm not a fashion blogger, because if I was I would have shown you the back of this shirt because it's magical. It hangs down further in the back and just generally looks sweet. But instead i'm striking the same pose in all 3 pictures. #fail

Moving on. 

This past Saturday I only went to two yard sales, but I hit the jack pot! It was raining (which happens like twice a year), so of course nobody was out because nobody (including myself) knows how to drive in the rain. It's a serious problem, people. We freak out like it's armageddon. All my friends from the east coast that live here make so much fun of us Californians. Don't even ask me ever to drive in snow, I would be clueless. Snow…what's that? 

I digress again. 

One yard sale was at a church. And evidently this church is made up of people who like to get rid of perfectly awesome and super fashionable pieces of clothing. I literally bought 10 shirts (ranging from Madewell, to Cottonon, to Gap, to Banana Republic, to Max Studio, and of course F21 that all looked brand new!). I also scored an adorable purse and shelled out the big bucks ($3) for it! Cue me dancing in the streets!

That night, I had a friend's bachlorette party. I threw my newly acquired loot in the laundry machine, hang it to dry, and then donned a brand new outfit (to me!) to wear to the party!! 

The yellow shirt is from CottonOn, and the pants are some brand i've never heard of but I LOVE! The necklace was a $1 at a yard sale a few weeks ago. This outfit (besides the shoes) costs me $3. Hooray!! 

This story was WAY to long for basically saying nothing. The end. 

Actually, i'm not done. Ok, so I asked on IG, but I will ask you all now! I'm toying with the idea of making a travel inspired calendar for 2015!! The calendar will have 12 of my favorite travel photos from around the world, gorgeous calligraphy (done by my friend Emmy), and inspiring travel quotes! It would be the perfect Christmas gift for any travel lover in your life…or YOU! :) 

So the question is…are you interested? 
xoxo 

Our 3 week South East Asia Itinerary

Monday, November 3

Kevin and I travel a lot. But whenever we mention our South East Asia trip, we both get this twinkle in our eye, the kind that says "that was really the best trip ever". We never rate our trips, because we do love every where we go. But there was something about this trip that was incredibly special. I wanted to share with you the places we went, the hotels we stayed at, and the activities we did, because they were just so…magical. *sigh…i'm getting all nostalgic on you…*

Kevin and I chose to visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a 3 week span, with one week in each country. If you have more time, I would add Laos on to the trip! If you have less time, I might just subtract a country.

Thailand 
Kevin and I had been to Thailand before this trip, hitting up the major places to see such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and closer islands such as Koh Samet and Koh Chang. Because of this, we decided to spend our week in Thailand in a place we'd never traveled.

Railay Beach

Kevin and I had been living in Nepal prior to our 3 week trip throughout SE Asia. Therefore, on coming to Thailand, we were absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. Because of this, we wanted to find an oasis to completely unwind and just relax. And we found Railay Beach, and it was absolutely perfect. This is the closest place i've found to heaven on earth, and I can't even tell you how much I loved it here. It has the most beautiful beaches, gorgeous and economical accommodations, and was quiet and peaceful (unlike some of the surrounding islands which are known for being party magnets!).

Getting to Railay: We took a domestic flight from Bangkok to Krabi (you can find cheap tickets on Air Asia!). Once in Krabi, take the shuttle to the port of departure for Railay. You will then get into a longboat, and be shuttled over to Railay Beach. RB is not an island, but a peninsula that you can't get to by land.

Days Needed: We stayed on Railay 4 nights and 5 days. It was the perfect amount of time for us, as we needed to recharge before we tackled the rest of SE Asia! Two days we stayed on Railay Beach, swimming and reading and eating and swimming some more! One day we spent on Phra Nang Beach (a 5-10 minute walk away!) and one day we did a speed boat tour through all the islands. If you are in a time crunch, I would say you need a minimum of 2 days!!

Where to Stay: I'm not kidding, some of my favorite accommodations ever were on Railay! We stayed at the Railay Garden View Resort. We paid $20 a night, and had our own bungalow that was absolutely adorable, updated and clean!! Every morning we would sit in the dining room area that overlooked the beach and drink coffee and just soak in the view. The staff is super nice too!

To see more of our time in Railay, click on the posts below!
Railay Beach
Phra Nang
Speed Boat Tour  & snorkeling {Koh Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island}

Cambodia

From the minute we stepped foot in Cambodia, we felt welcome. We just fell head over heels in love with the people, and the sights…wow, don't even get me started! So, so good. We started our Cambodia introduction in Siem Reap and then went on to the capital of Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap

Hands down my favorite place in Cambodia. This sweet little town is both laid back and also bustling with action! Siem Reap is the jumping off point for seeing one of the great wonders of the world…Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples!

Getting to Siem Reap: We took a bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It only leaves once a day in the morning, so arrive with plenty of time to buy your ticket! Go to Mochit Station, and ask around for the bus to Siem Reap. The ticket costs around $25 and you can read more about it here.  Since you are crossing international borders, you will need to get a visa. Kevin and I bought our visa online (e-visa), but you can also buy your visa at the border crossing.

Days Needed: We stayed 3 nights and 4 days in Siem Reap, and it was perfect. The first full day we spent visiting the majestic temples! (Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, etc). It is absolutely majestic, but also tiring! After a full day of temples, we felt satisfied. So the next full day we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us out into the country side! We visited a lotus pond, Ton Le Sap Lake (with the floating villages) and stopped at a country restaurant filled with hammocks. It was a perfect day!

Where to Stay: Don't stay anywhere else but the Golden Temple Villa!!!! This place is incredible! For $12 a night you also get a free 30 minute massage, complimentary snacks and drinks, and a computer lab with free wifi! The grounds are just gorgeous, with a garden, hammocks, and their restaurant is amazing. We so enjoyed our stay here and would go back again and again!

To see more of Siem Reap and the surrounding countryside:
Siem Reap
Angkor Wat
Lotus Pond
Ton Le Sap Lake
Hammocks and hikes


Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh truly surprised me. As the capital of Cambodia, with a violent history, I suppose I was expecting something a bit more undeveloped like Kathmandu (where we had been living). But instead, we found a bubbling, vibrant and friendly city with wide boulevards and regal monuments (a product of being a French colony).  We found the people to be so kind, and the history incredibly heart breaking. Our time in Phnom Penh was life changing. 

Getting to Phnom Penh: From Siem Reap, Kevin and I took a mini-bus to Phnom Penh. I believe it took us around 6-7 hours, but that was an hour faster than the bus! 

Days Needed: We spent two nights and three days in Phnom Penh. It felt like the right amount of time. We spent our only full day starting off with the genocide monuments, with the Tuol Sleng prison and the killing fields. Both powerful, but hard. We then explored the markets, the river walk, and the palace (which was gorgeous!). 

Where to Stay: We stayed at the White Linen Boutique Hotel, which we chose very carefully and consciously. Because Cambodia has a huge problem with sex-trafficking, especially among little girls, we chose the White Linen because it supports an organization called The Daughters of Cambodia. The DOC works with women who have been trafficked, helping them heal from their trauma as well as teaching them job skills. Therefore, the workers of our hotel were young rescued women training for a future in hospitality. This hotel was incredibly gorgeous, and I'd totally recommend staying there! 

To see pictures and read more about our time in Phnom Penh, click here

Vietnam

Vietnam has quickly climbed to one of my top favorite countries in the world! Growing up in the USA,  Vietnam is so closely tied to the Vietnam war, that like most people, i'd never thought of it as a tourist destination. However, after hearing so many of our friends sing the country's praises, we were curious to explore there. And are we ever glad we did! Vietnam is absolutely stunning, diverse, fun-loving, colorful, and the food is off the hook! I could not recommend it more!!

Hoi An
Even though every where we went on this trip was special, Hoi An was just magic. Kevin and I both looked at each other numerous times in our 4 days here and said "we could move here". Hoi An is a sleepy backwater town with SO much culture and SO much yummy food! It is the perfect mix between quaint little city, and gorgeous beach! We biked every where, ate delicious food, and relaxed for hours on the sand and in the stunning waters! 

Getting to Hoi An: Coming from Cambodia, it took some planning to make our way across the border into Vietnam, and then up the country to Hoi An. First, if you fly into Vietnam you can get a visa on arrival. However, if you take a bus, you need to get a visa ahead of time (at least as an American). Kevin and I went to the Vietnamese embassy  while we were in Holland, and secured our visas. We took a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam. It was a janky bus filled with many hilarious memories, and 6 hours later, we made it. Once in Ho Chi Min, we took a domestic flight up to Da Neng, where our hotel picked us up and drove us the 40 minutes into Hoi An. It seems complicated, but it actually went really smoothly! 

Days Needed: Stay as long as you can!! Once you come to Hoi An, you will never want to leave. We stayed 3 nights and 4 days, and we still felt like there were things to do and see! We rented bikes and a scooter and were able to see a lot of the surrounding countryside, beaches, and canals! 

Where to Stay: We stayed at the Botanic Garden Homestay and loved it. It was between the town and the beach, which was a nice compromise. It was quiet and had beautiful gardens! I think we paid around $30! 

To see more of Hoi An {and trust me, it was a photographer's dream!} see {Day 1} and {Day 2 & 3}

Halong Bay 

If ever there were a dream world, Halong Bay would be it. I looked forward to cruising Halong Bay our entire trip, and it did not disappoint. We spent our days kayaking, eating delicious food, meeting new friends from around the world, swimming, and soaking in the breathtaking views! Do not miss this incredible place! 

Getting to Halong Bay: From Hoi An, we took a flight from Da Nang to Hanoi. From Hanoi, your cruise company will come and pick you up at your hotel and drive you out to the launching point (about a 4 hour drive). You will cruise around for 1-2 days, and then they will drop you back at your hotel in Hanoi. 

Days Needed: You have the option of doing a 1 night cruise or a 2 night cruise. We chose the 2 night cruise and could not have been happier with that decision! Here's why…on the 2 night cruise you actually get to go further into the bay than anyone else. You get a full day of swimming, kayaking, and lounging. Everyone that only paid for the 1 night cruise did not want to leave and was a bit jealous that we were staying! Go for the 2 night cruise!!! 

Where to Stay: Well, in Halong Bay you have the choice of a LOT of different boat carriers. We chose the Halong Dragon which was a mid-range ship. I think we paid $175 a person (which included the pick up and drop off in Hanoi, lodging, food, and excursions! A great deal!). Our friends chose the Marguerite Junk (which is a step ahead of ours) and they loved it! As a tip, you'll save money if you book your ship when you arrive in Hanoi! 

To see more pictures and read more about our time in Halong Bay, click here. 

I hope this was helpful for you! If you ever have any more questions, don't hesitate to email me!! I truly hope you get to explore South East Asia…it will take your breath away! 

Happy Monday!