5 Easy Ways to Pull a Room Together

When INSIDER polled interior designers on the biggest mistakes people make when decorating their homes, they chimed in with responses ranging from cookie-cutter matching furniture to open storage revealing untamed clutter. If you’re looking for ways to create a cohesive look in your home, the good news is you can do it without the need for a ton of new furniture and accessories, nor the price tag of a professional designer.

But it does take more than a fresh coat of paint and a thoughtful throw pillow to give your home a refresh. Here are five ways to pull a room together while still keeping it easy, fun and affordable.

1. Choose a color palette

Get down to business by first choosing a color palette. Winging it with white on white won’t necessarily make your room look like a fresh and breezy beach. Instead, it could just leave it looking sterile. HGTV suggests plucking out colors from the largest pattern in your space. If you’re working on transforming your living room, look at that upholstered ottoman or rug, and look for colors that speak to you. You can also grab a color wheel and use it as inspiration with that pattern you choose. One idea is to contrast warm and cool colors.

2. Focus on small furniture

Your sofa and armchairs are likely the largest pieces of furniture in your living room. It’s easy to overestimate how much space you really have and keep looking for big pieces to complete your room. In reality, smaller furniture can work better and maximize your space. The end result is making your room look bigger and less cluttered.

3. Find the right accessories

One mistake designers see people making is forgoing the home accessories altogether. Leaving a room barren doesn’t evoke a warm feeling and can leave your home feeling less than welcoming. Rely on small accents to tie together the room from colorful vases to wall hangings and a photo gallery. Working with accessories is also an ideal time to experiment with color. For example, a canary yellow light fixture could look fantastic in your dining area with a fresh coat of white paint on the walls.

4. Refresh your floors

Dusty and worn floors aren’t pleasant to look at and won’t do much to inspire your refresh. There are several things to try including painting the existing floors or putting down new hardwood planks. A sky blue floor in your kitchen or entry area can turn an average room into a refreshing gathering spot where everyone feels inspired. Or skip the paint altogether and grab a throw rug with a geometric pattern that incorporates your favorite color palette to jazz up your room and pull it together.

5. Utilize your windows

Instead of going for demure window coverings that fade into the background, refresh them with something bold that makes a statement. Choose curtains with prints and patterns that complement the colors and accessories in your room. For just a pop of color to tie everything together, look for window coverings with a stripe of color at the top, middle or hem to draw your eye without overwhelming the room.

Think of pulling a room together as an opportunity to re-inspire your home and experiment with your favorite colors and styles. You can start small with the ideas on this list and slowly venture into new furniture and bedding as you master the art of pulling a room together with ease.

 

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Who Else is Ready for Spring Break?!

This winter so far has been long and harsh – did I mention long?? We aren’t even in the middle of winter yet, and I’m already dreaming of Spring Break! No waking up early to get the kids ready for school, and lunches packed, or driving home in the dark on the way home from work..I mean,who else is ready for Spring Break?

Whether you are going on a road-trip, heading to the beach or the mountains check out Alamo’s Scenic Route page they give you a collection of travel stories, guides and advice that will inspire your family to achieve maximum memories-per-getaway on your next vacation! Like 10 Bucket List Vacations to Take Before Your Kids Grow Up (we’ve already hit up #3 and #8, and the rest is on our list as well – especially Yellowstone!)

Once your Spring Break is planned, be sure to check out Alamo’s tips to staying healthy while traveling (it is that time of year!) One of the worst things is to get sick while you are traveling, and these 5 tips will definitely help keep you healthy on your road to fun!

 

 

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First Timers Guide to Universal Studios (Part 2)

Ok so last week I talked to you about general things in my First Timers Guide to Universal Studios (Part 1) – like hotel, tickets, Express Pass, the dining plan, etc. This post will be about all the ‘other’ stuff – tips to make your trip the most enjoyable.

Now whether on if you are going with kids or not – you need a general game plan. Personally I do NOT like to plan my entire day. Too many things can go wrong, lines can be longer than you expected throwing you off – plus the heat, grumpy people (like your children). Just be flexible! Remember this is vacation, so relax, and enjoy!

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Clothes. Now I am used to heat – but not quite the Florida- heat- in- the -middle -of -summer -heat. It always takes me some time to adjust. If you are going in the SUMMER do yourself a favor. Pack comfy! I’m talking cotton or that work-out clothes material. I sweat a LOT. I am going to blame it on 3 pregnancies and hormones! And when you are in that heat you are gonna sweat a LOT. So here are my recommendations for you mamas out there:
BLACK pants. I wear black yoga capri pants or shorts all summer long. 1. You are less likely to see the sweat coming from your backside 2. They are comfy 3. they are light unlike jean shorts, which don’t do well with sweat or water from water rides (or rain).
I would also recommend tank tops or sleeveless tops. All a t-shirt is going to do is get wet with sweat – at least this way you can air dry!
If you have the Express Pass like we did, you are gonna’ do a LOT of walking – more than others just standing in line (longer than you had to). So you are going to want to bring more than one pair of shoes. We all got blisters, but at least they weren’t rubbing the next day because we had a different pair of shoes to wear. Now I HATE my feet being hot. So I wear supportive flip-flops nearly everywhere. My favorite are Sketcher Go Walks (they are the only flip-flop that don’t leave me hurting after wearing them all day). I have several pair so I swap them out. My kids brought their flip flops and sneakers, so we were set!

Bags.
When I first read about Universal’s policy regarding carrying items on rides, I kinda’ freaked. For several rides you MUST put all loose items in a storage locker if you can’t fit them in a button/zipped pocket on your person. Now I was the sole adult with 3 kids in tow – storing away my phone, credit cards, keys and cash- well I was a bit nervous. I read several blogs that mentioned you are allowed to carry a fanny pack that sits around your waist IF you are still able to fit in the seat and buckle completely. Now I grew up in the 90’s so fanny packs to me – uhh yeah.. I wasn’t a fan. However, they’ve made some great improvements to the fanny packs of the 90’s. For example, this pack holds your phone, credit cards/cash/ID and key without a problem.

Now I have to admit, we still had to use the lockers at each ride because we carried more than just a small fanny pack around for the day. The rides that require you to put your belongings in the lockers are actually FREE during your ride. You use your fingerprint to open the locker when your done, and though I’ve read that some people have had some issues – we didn’t have any. It was fairly simple, though crowded.

I carried around a backpack, and my girls carried these ‘fanny backpacks‘ – small and compact but carried everything they needed. (not too heavy means a lot when you are walking a lot day in and day out!)

Also more necessities to care in your bag: ponchos (they are $10 a piece at the park – which can really add up), first aid kit, tissues, sunscreen, chapstick, a brush or comb, hydration pack (you can refill your waters in the park) gum, some easy to carry but not easy to smash snacks, if you wear contacts you may want to bring re-wetting drops, I also carried a travel size pain meds, and a travel-size deodorant and maybe even a body spray.

Let’s Talk Phones.

Now we all know we need NEED our cell phones, especially if we are in a big amusement park and traveling with multiple people. Even me traveling with just the kids, sometimes my girls would go ride while my son and I took a break – I made sure they had their phones on them. And making sure that your phone is protected – and always charged – is especially important. Make sure you have a protective waterproof case (even if you have your phone in your bag or fanny pack). I ordered myself and my daughters a waterproof pouch that works like magic (trust me. I had my phone in the pouch and on a float when I was cleaning the pool last weekend – my nephew jumped in and knocked it off, and it floated to the bottom – but it was perfectly dry!) It’s better to be safe than sorry – and these pouches come with nylon lanyard so you can wear it around your neck if you need to (and yes, you can fit money and credit cards in there as well. You could probably tuck it in your shirt in lye of the fanny pack if you wanted!)

Between taking pictures and surfing Facebook while standing in line, your battery probably won’t last all day. I ordered 2 of these Dual Portable Power Banks.  I charged them every night and threw them in our bags in the mornings. Usually by about 3:30 or 4 one of us were in need of it. It made me feel a lot more comfortable knowing we’d all have phones to get a hold of each other if we got separated at all.

Souvenirs. 

If you are taking kids to Universal you are going to be spending some money on souvenirs – however, you can keep your cost down and still get the kids everything (or almost everything) they want. First things first – if you got the park to park tickets, and especially if you have Express Pass you need a lanyard. (see photo below)

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I didn’t know we would need them – and I sure wasn’t trying to pull out those tickets every single time we got in the Express line. So we bought these at the gate at Universal. They aren’t super expensive; however, they had a limited supply. Amazon has (for lack of a better world) crap load. Especially some awesome Harry Potter lanyard options. Anyway, they scan it each time, and it makes it easier if everyone is wearing them.

I felt like generally the souvenirs at Universal were pretty average for an amusement park – they have a lot of ‘toys’ you could find at any Toys R Us or Target; but they had a lot of unique items too. Like Ollivander’s Wand Shop. If your child is lucky enough for the wand to pick them during the experience – well, that’s quite a special opportunity. Even if not, being able to buy their own wand for Ollivander’s – well, it’s a Potter fans dream. At nearly $50 each it’s not a cheap souvenir, but it’s one I would consider worth it.

Then you have the robes – depending on how hard core your Potter fan is, you may or may not want to buy your robe in advance. The robes at Universal (though made very well) start around $100 each. For me, $100 x 3 kids = too much. I found some pretty cool Hogwarts robes on Amazon for around $25 each – and even scored some pretty cute Harry Potter glasses for my son.

#HarryPotter is ready for his trip to Hogwarts @UniversalOrlando this week #universalorlando #hogwarts

A photo posted by Krissy Higgins (@krissyar) on

You would be surprised the number of people (kids and adults) walking around in their favorite house robe – it’s quite a fun place to be!

Summer adventures in Diagon Alley! #VZConnectingUS #sweepstakesTH @triphackr

A photo posted by Krissy Higgins (@krissyar) on

Don’t forget to try the Butter Beer (or my kids favorites Butter Beer Ice Cream)!

 

Do you have any questions I didn’t cover? Message me, or leave a comment and I will do my best to help! 

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The Ultimate Gift Guide for the Outdoor Man in Your Life

Whether he works outside – or just plays there – sometimes finding a gift for him can prove to be a challenge. Since I know men who do both, they helped me put together the perfect gift guide for any outdoor man in your life.

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refrigiwear_softshell_jacket Refrigiwear Softshell Jacket – The RefrigiWear Softshell Jacket is warm but not heavy, with an outershell that is durable, windproof, stretchy and water-repellent. A tunnel collar prevents zipper chafing, and soft velcro wrist tabs and a drawcord hem seal out the cold. Zippered handwarmer pockets and chest pocket provide extra storage. (you can buy it directly through them or even on Amazon!)

Refrigiwear has a lot of great outdoor gear besides the softshell jacket – such as fleeces, sweater jackets, hybrid-top, and more. Check out their website here.

 

thermacell

ThermaCell Heated Insoles – Using state-of-the-art wireless thermal technology with a built-in thermostat, Original Heated Insoles are the perfect solution to your cold feet blues—keeping your feet warm without getting hot to the touch and making them sweat. It’s the best way to keep your feet warm while hunting, working, and enjoying outdoor passions.

This has been a favorite of everyone I have talked to. Especially great if your husband (or father or brother) if they work outside, or hunt a lot. There are 3 different types, the Original, The ProFlex, and the ProFlex Heavy Duty. You can find them on their website or on Amazon.

Tactical Flashlights are also great gifts for your man of the outdoors – now I don’t have as much experience with tactical flashlights as I do the ones we use at our house, so go on over to the Best Survival Guide and check out their list of the top 10 tactical flashlights out there!

 

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Hot Shot Men’s “Predator” Pop-Top Mitten Men’s “Predator” brushed tricot touch glove with pop-top mitten, lined with 80 grams of 3M Thinsulate Insulation, Odor-XCHANGE anti-microbial lining, elasticized binding on pop-top opening, embossed rubber palm patch, tip and back side of pop-top opening with bite tab, pull back thumb, solid colored spandex fingers inside with PRO-TEXT touch sensitive material on index fingertip that allows the use of your touch screen device, zippered heater pack pocket on back side of mitten, silent magnetic closures on pop-top and thumb, fleece cuff and an elasticized wrist.

The Motorola 2-way Radio are more than just a lot of fun (which they really are) they are quite useful  it has 10-hour alkaline or 8-hour rechargeable battery life, 11 weather channels (7 NOAA) with alert features,

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22 channels each with 121 privacy codes for superior interference protection.|
Pair of two-way radios with up to 23 mile range
Includes: 2 radios, 2 belt clips, 1 dual drop-in charger, 1 charging adaptor, 2 NiMH rechargeable battery packs.

 

 

Check out some more great ideas over at Outdoorsy – more great gifts and stocking stuffers for the RVing guy in your life!

I would say any of the above gifts would be perfect for any outdoor man on your gift list!

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The First Timers Guide to Universal Studios (Part 1)

If you follow me on social media you know that last week I took my kiddos down to Florida and we spent a few days at Universal Studios. I read forums and blog post before I went, but I don’t feel like it really prepared me for the trip. I did find some useful hints (and I would attribute them if I could remember since I read soo many) that I will share here, but I feel like being a first timer to Universal (OK not first time, the last time was over 20 years ago though) I needed to share some tips that can help make your trip successful, fun, and maybe even save you some money in the process.

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TICKETS/HOTEL.

.Ok so I did a lot of homework on this subject. I mean like 3 months of going back and forth, and even switching reservations twice. Obviously your best bet price wise is to go in an off-season. This doesn’t always work for all of us, especially those of us with kids going into high school who can’t miss school for a week vacation. So when we go we are going during a very busy time – when prices are up, so some of this might not apply to off-season park visitors, but a lot of this will still resonate with you, just let me get there.

There are 2 types of trips to Universal.

Budget vs Complete Enjoyment

Here’s what I mean.

When you take budget vacations you take the cheap of the cheap. You stay at the cheapest hotel, you buy the cheapest tickets, you pack food and drinks and you come prepared for everything. I have taken lots of these vacations (I remember when we visited when I was 17; we ate continental free breakfast at our hotel, and we shared 1 pop between the 4 of us during our trip. We didn’t eat or get snacks, we left the park to go to McDonald’s for dinner and came back). If a budget trip is the only way you can afford to go here at all, then by all means, do it. It’s worth it. It’s just a lot of work to me.. Like a LOT and I’d rather go without my drive-thru coffee or lunches out for a few months and save to do the ‘complete enjoyment’ trip than the budget trip. But that’s just me.

A complete enjoyment trip to me is you really , for lack of a better word, easy. No need to worry about anything. You pick the time you want to travel and you book it. The end. There’s a few ways to do one of these trips – my recommendation is, if you can afford it, do it. Plan a year in advance like you do for Disney. Buy the tickets, stay at one of the premier on-site resorts so you can get an hour early admission and FREE EXPRESS PASS* (more about this later), buy the food pass (their dining plan) and just go freakin’ have fun with no worries. You’ve already paid for pretty much everything, so any additional money is for extra snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. When we go again ( probably 2 years from now) I will most definitely book one of their premier resorts again, but the one thing I would do differently is buy their dining plan. The park has all kinds of vacation packages  and with the research I did, they are the cheapest. I visited all the sites, looked at booking everything separately supposedly getting better deals and that’s a big fat NO. So just book through the Universal website.

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Today I looked at booking a 3 day trip to Universal for 2 adults, 2 jr’s and 1 child for next summer. The total cost for the hotel, the tickets & the dining plan (for 3 days) averaged $2,500. If you want to go next year, start putting back $210 a month – and more if you can, for extra expenses. (*This does not include flights, rental car, or any additional fees/taxes,etc)

EXPRESS PASS

When I originally looked at staying at cheap motel and buying the EXPRESS PASS I was shocked – for the 4 of us (me and the kids) it was CHEAPER to stay at the premier on-site resort WITH FREE EXPRESS PASS than to stay at the cheap hotel and buy the EXPRESS PASS separate since it came with the resort. Seriously. I double checked it twice myself. Now the EXPRESS PASS prices do change; so off season this might not be the case, you may be able to save more by staying at a cheaper place and buying them; but the convenience of the resorts- well, they are priceless.

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We had 3 days at the park, and I wanted to make sure that we hit everything (after all, I really never know when we might be back – if ever). So I try to treat each vacation like it’s our last. The EXPRESS PASS is the way to go!!! We never waited in line for more than 20 minutes – and even though the EXPRESS PASS does NOT work for some Harry Potter rides, those lines seemed shorter than some of the other lines that people were waiting in (maybe the new wore off already?!) We walked past a lot of people waiting in line for an hour or so to get right on. It was awesome, and I will never be able to go another way (and my kids won’t either) in a way it spoiled us, but it gave us the opportunity to ride nearly everything, and even ride quite a few multiple times. If it’s in your budget or possible at all – get it!

WALKING.

Now I’m not a lazy person – I am relatively active though I do sit at a desk 8 hours or more each day; however, nothing could have prepared me for how my feet would feel after day 1. I still say some of it had to do with the EXPRESS PASS – we spent less time just standing in line, and a lot more time walking from place to place (I swear that’s a big part of it). I would suggest bringing multiple pairs of shoes, so when blisters start to appear, you can switch to another pair, and at least get blisters in other places lol. My girls had the same issue so it wasn’t just my old body! So be prepared to walk – and walk some more. Bring Tylenol!

 

FOOD.

So here’s what I didn’t plan for. I budgeted about $100 a day for food – I was figuring drinks and snacks included. To have real meals for 4 people, that’s not enough. When kids are hot, hungry and cranky you aren’t going to tell them that they budget is exhausted lol. You are going to get them the churro, or the ICEE, or soft pretzel. This is why I wish I would have planned ahead and bought the dining plan. Not only do they give you a discount overall, but then you just don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to leave the parks and go ‘off campus’ to find something to eat; just stay and enjoy and relax and don’t worry about any of it! If you don’t do the dining plan, PLAN PLAN AND PLAN SOME MORE.

My suggestion for budget-friendly food options is to do this: if you drive, bring a nice big cooler. Stop before you get into Orlando and get bottled water, whatever soft drinks your family likes, snacks that are easily eaten and carried, pick-up some breakfast food, maybe even some lunch meat and bread. Most resorts have refrigerators, but you could also bring in your cooler to keep things cool. We started at the parks early (8 a.m.) so my kids didn’t want breakfast until later; carry something with you that you can eat that’s filling but not too heavy (especially if you are visiting during the summer). We left the park around 5ish each night, and we were too exhausted to go back – we went out to dinner at a local restaurant one night (though the walk allll the way to the car and back in was exhausting) and we ordered room service the other nights. (again, this all stems also from our poor tired feet!) If we would of had some lunchables ,lunch meat or even cereal I could of saved a LOT of money on food for dinners and snacks. You can carry a bag around the park, though I recommend not making it very heavy (and make sure its water proof) more on this later*

 

UPDATE: See part 2 “First Timers Guide to Universal” here

 

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