two months with our Avie Girl

Tuesday, June 13

This peach.
Can you even handle the cuteness?
That double chin!
Those eyes!
That little button nose!
I know... i'm bias:)

She is an absolute joy. Even when she's having a meltdown in the evening I find her little lip quiver adorable. I don't think I was expecting to have so much fun with a newborn.

She's two months now, and I can't believe it! Every morning I put her up on my legs and we play and she laughs and I just melt. She's so interactive for such a little babe. It's amazing how their brans are taking so much in now as they figure out the world. She's a happy girl in her swing and will often fall asleep in it (hooray swing!), and loves being held outward so she can see the world. She is obsessed with staring at fans (when we're inside) and trees (when we are outside). She's been smiling up a storm, and recently started chuckling (which might be the cutes thing ever! however only Kevin has been able to make her laugh, which is sweet). She does NOT like her carseat (i'm hoping that's short-lived!) or being too hot or too cold. She sleeps and eats very well, which we are throwing up all the praise hands for! PTL!

In other news, we've had one of those "when it rains it pours" kind of months. Our house flooded from a malfunction in the washing machine, and now we are in the throes of working with our insurance to replace the floors/walls/bookcases/vanities, etc. Kevin also came down with norovirus, so he couldn't hold Avonlea for a while which was killing him. On top of all that our AC broke and it's been blazing hot here, so that's pretty much what i've been dealing with the last few weeks (flooding, throwing up and sweating... haha!)  Honestly though, I don't even care. I feel like having a baby helps you put things in perspective. The fact that Avonlea is healthy and happy makes me so grateful:)

I've been learning so much spiritually. I hope I can put into words some of the growth i've been having in a blog post, but seeing how little time I have to blog/write we'll see! (How do you mama bloggers do it? At the end of the day I just want to fall into my bed, ha!)

How are all of you?? I miss the community, and hopefully can start getting back on the ol' blog train!! Enjoy this sweet girl, I hope you have an amazing day! xoxo

How I turned my positive Group B Strep diagnosis into a negative

Wednesday, May 31

 I had no idea what Group B Strep was until I was about 37 weeks pregnant and being tested for it. As I'm a very healthy eater and healthy person in general, I didn't think much of it, and assumed I would be negative. Wrong! My next appointment, as the nurse brought me into the room, she casually mentioned I tested positive. WHAT?!?! I hadn't even sat down yet when she broke the news, and I wanted to burst into tears (and immediately go on google and figure out what the heck Group B Strep was, ha!).

According to the American Pregnancy Association "Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection that can be found in a pregnant woman’s vagina or rectum. Women who test positive for GBS are said to be colonized. A mother can pass GBS to her baby during delivery."

The doctor told me it was no big deal and that I would need to be put on antibiotics during labor, and those antibiotics would also enter the baby's blood stream. Now, as someone who doesn't have the greatest track record with antibiotics (I had to take them for years for a different health issue, and they pretty much stripped me of all my good gut flora, which led to other complications), I wasn't too excited about me or the baby being on them.

So...I stared researching to see if there was a way I could rid myself of GBS naturally. Turns out there are lots of great resources on the internet of women who have followed a protocol, and have reversed the positive diagnosis. I thought "it's worth a try, right?".

Long story short, after 2 weeks of following the protocol to a T, I was retested. And when I got the results back, I was negative! Hooray! I was so excited:) Both my doctor and nurse were pretty surprised, and my doctor allowed me to labor with no antibiotics!

What did I have to do for this protocol? Well, I actually followed the protocol that I found on the Wellness Mama blog. You can read her post regarding GBS here.  (Thanks Katie!) Essentially, here is what she recommends:

- 2,000 mg of Vitamin C in divided doses each day
- Consume 2 cloves of raw garlic each day by finely mincing them and drinking them down with water
- Consume at least 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil daily for its antibacterial/antiviral properties
- Use a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse vaginally each day
- Take 6+ probiotic capsules a day
- Consume large amounts of fermented foods and drinks (I bought fermented pickles and fermented cabbage at my local natural food store!)
- You ready for this one? It was definitely the most weird, but anecdotal evidence supports that this is very effective.  Insert a garlic clove vaginally at night. (The Wellness Mama said she just did it once, but I did it every single night of those 2 weeks!)

I also ate SUPER healthy, and didn't eat ANY sugar. Sugar can just help bacteria grow, so I eliminated that bad boy from my diet. 

I can't say it was wasn't. I dreamed of ice cream and my favorite tea latte with tons of steamed honey...just ask Kevin. About 5 times a day I reminded him of the foods I wanted to eat after Avonlea was born, haha! 

But...I can say it was totally worth it! Not only did eating super healthy and following this protocol kill the GBS, but it also gave Avonlea some really good nutrients while in the womb! (I kinda wonder if she'll love or hate garlic, we'll see...haha!). 

I don't share this to stir up controversy. If you are GBS positive and feel comfortable taking the antibiotics, then go for it. This post is to encourage those of you who don't feel comfortable with it to know that there are ways to get rid of it and avoid the antibiotics! I'm not a doctor, so this isn't medical advice, just encouragement of something that really helped me! 

I hope this is helpful. Have any of you tried this?? 

In other news, Avonlea has been the biggest blessing in my life. I just love this girl. She's 8 weeks now, which blows my mind! I live for those sweet smiles:) Hopefully i'll share more pictures soon!! Have a great week! xoxo 

Avonlea's Nursery Tour

Tuesday, May 16

Avonlea's nursery was an absolute joy to put together. As I began to dream about how to fill the empty space, the words that came to mind for her room were simple, sweet, airy and joyful. I envisioned this space being a place where God was glorified through the every day tasks of caring and loving and changing diapers:) 

Being on a total eucalyptus kick this past year, I knew for certain I wanted a huge eucalyptus wreath over her crib. That's what I started with. And then little by little things fell in place. I felt drawn to raw wood, eucalyptus, baskets, and a touch of pink:) 

As the eucalyptus green color was incorporated into the room, I really wanted a vintage green chalkboard. I scoured the internet and just couldn't find one that worked. So I decided to make my own. I got hardboard at Home Depot and painted it (clary sage is the color). I found some scrap wood and Kev and I nailed it together to make a frame. It was easier than I imagined. I really wanted a quote that magnified the Lord, and found this one…a line from the Common Book of prayer, or what we know as the  Gloria in excelsis Deo. I got chills the first time I read it, how awesome our Lord is! I want Avonlea to grow up knowing how loved she is by God, and how she can worship him in awe and wonder.  

Avonlea's middle name is Grace. As I was praying over what encouraging words I wanted hung in her room, the Lord gave me this verse in John 1:6… "for from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace". My talented friend Melody kindly penned this verse and it encourages me each time I glance at it.

Avonlea's name comes from Anne of Green Gables, and of course the following book Anne of Avonlea. In Anne of Avonlea, Anne befriends a woman who is very difficult to love (as she's had a very hard childhood which has made her bitter). Anne looks past her mean exterior and invites her home to Green Gables where she is welcomed with open arms by Marilla and Rachel. I'm always touched by this scene, and pray that our sweet Avonlea would invite people into an environment of gentleness and grace. 

I adore Rifle paper company, and wanted to incorporate some of their prints into Avonlea's nursery. My  lovely mother sewed this adorable quilt for Avonlea using 4 different Rifle fabrics. As a child my own Nonnie made me a blanket and I had it until after college when it was so loved it shred into tatters and had to be thrown away. I know Avonlea will cherish this blanket from her Nonnie:) I also used the Rifle letters above to spell out JOY. Doesn't it just evoke a smile? 

My mother is a very talented sewer, so besides stitching the beautiful quilt, she also made these doily buntings for the windows. I think it adds the perfect whimsical touch:) 

One of my favorite parts of the room is the shiplap wall! Being cheap, its not real shiplap but instead its plywood from Home Depot that we had stripped. Our dear friends came over one day in January and helped put it up. I loved how it turned out!!

If you're curious where I acquired certain items in the nursery, I've tried to make a list below! 

- Crib: Ikea Snigler Crib (this one is non-toxic and got GREAT reviews!) 
- Glider Chair: This is actually the Jenny Lund chair from Ikea (we found it on craiglist for super cheap, 
                       and then just bought a new cover for it). We followed this tutorial to make it into a glider. 
                       We took off the feet, bought a glider on amazon, and then Kevin attached the glider to 
                       the chair and Voila! It was perfect. 
- Rug: Braided Wool Rug from Rugs USA. I love this online store. This is the second rug i've bought 
           from them and i've been really impressed. They have amazing coupons (so get on their mailing 
           list). I got this during one of their crazy sales, and it was a fraction of what it costs normally!   
         Wool is evidently supposed to be a healthier option as it's a natural fiber, as opposed to synthetic. 
- Large Eucalyptus Wreath: Made by my cousin who is an incredible florist! 
- Small Eucalyptus Wreath: A gift from my sisters from a local boutique here in town 
- Blanket Ladder: I made this using a very easy diy tutorial (found here). If I could make it, so can you! 
- Dresser: Ikea Hemnes Dresser. I made it look a little more unique by adding hanging brass knobs to it. 
               I found them on amazon for super cheap here. 
- Bunting: We found lace doilies at yard sales and my mom sewed them into a bunting. 
- Chalkboard: I made it with hardboard and painted it Clary Sage, then framed it in raw wood. Lauren  
                   lettered the quote onto the board. You can see her lovely shop here. 
- "Fullness of Grace" Print and "Avonlea Grace" Print: Both done by my beautiful friend Melody. 
- Side table, lamp, stool, and bookcase: Yards Sales and Craiglist!! Gotta love good deals, right? 
- Non-toxic organic Crib Mattress: Naturepedics  It was really important for me to have a non-toxic crib 
                                                    mattress, as my baby's face will be on this for long stretches of time  
                                                    over the next few years. I splurged and think it's worth it! 
- Non-toxic organic crib sheets: Magnolia Oh MY GOODNESS these crib sheets are amazing. So soft 
                                               and a great fit on the mattress, plus organic and GOTS certified!! 
- Non-toxic changing pad: Oeuf 
- Organic changing pad cover: Burts Bees 
- Frames: Aaron Brother's (They always have a 50% off coupon online, so make sure you print that!) 
- Book Shelves: These are actually spice racks from Ikea haha! 
- Lace Curtains: IKEA 

Did I forget anything? Hope this was helpful!! Thanks for letting me share with you:) 

A father and a daughter

Monday, May 1

A loving father is a gift. I look back on my childhood and have the warmest memories with my dad. His faith and how he walked that out, with patience and grace and good humor and tenderness, stole my heart in a special way. I know God's love in a deeper way because of my dad.

So of course when I watch Kevin with Avonlea it feels my heart so deep with gratitude that our girl will walk through life with a man who will love her and guide her and teach her in the best ways possible this side of heaven. Right now as I write this, Avonlea is laying on Kevin's chest as they both lay sound asleep on the couch. It makes me smile. There is a tenderness and a sweet security about this scene.

These moments I snapped were totally candid, as Kevin previously gave her a bath and then was soothing her from that traumatic experience, haha. She hates being cold (just like her mama), so Kevin was working on warming her up after the bath. I helped with the bath, and then had to jump to grab my camera as the warm fuzzes were all over the place with this dad and daughter! I wanted to capture the moments:)

I hope you all have a beautiful week. I put a little sneak peak of Avonlea's room at the end, and hope to share pics of that either later this week or next. I'm really excited to show you, as it was a labor of love! Hope your week is off to a great start. My sweet Emmy Lou is driving into town to visit me today (and snuggle Avie), and I can't wait for her visit. Happy day friends!
 *The yellow peplum top is from here, and the tribal embroidered jacket is from here*

Enjoying our girl

Tuesday, April 25

A week after she was born my mom and I snapped these photos of Avonlea around our house. She's now 3 weeks old and I can already tell she's grown! She's an amazing little eater, and her stomach is so round it's hilarious!

We are just in love with this sweet girl and enjoying her so much. Yes, we are a bit sleep deprived, and yes, I spend my days mostly nursing and rocking her, and yes, I'm mostly covered in spit up and breast milk…but I honestly can say that I really love it. More than I thought I would, which has surprised me. I'm not sure what I expected to feel like in the weeks following the baby, but it certainly has been really lovely. This little one has charmed my heart:)

I'm healing up well, and starting to take walks which has been a game changer. She loves to walk! It's been raining a lot, but starting Thursday it's supposed to be in the 80's and completely sunny for a while, so i'm pumped!!

The flower game here in northern california is strong, and I'm loving all the wildflowers in the hills, the gorgeous blooms at the farmers market, and the bouquet of daffodils on my kitchen table. The camellias in the pictures above were cut from a bush in our yard, just love them!

We've got some sweet visitors this week so i'm looking forward to that! Any fun plans this week for you??

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Avonlea's birth story

Wednesday, April 19

 While I was pregnant with Avonlea, I kept a prayer journal. I often asked the Lord for any words, verses or pictures he had for me with the birth. The words He gave me were trust and dependence. I wasn't sure what to make of the words, but let me tell you, in hindsight, I needed a lot of trust and dependence during this process, so I'm glad the Lord had prepared me:) So much of my pregnancy and birth forced me to abandon my plans, and trust His!

To "prepare" for birth (can you really ever prepare with your first? haha!), Kevin and I took a 5 week birth class at the hospital. It was helpful to gain some basic insight into the process. We also took an online Kingdom Childbirth Class called A Heavenly Welcome. It incorporated a Christian perspective into the birthing process, and was just so encouraging. It taught me to release fear and embrace birth as something so beautiful! A Heavenly Welcome also has free birth podcasts, where women share their birthing stories (which I found fascinating!). The one thing I gained from the podcasts is that your birth will not go as you plan, but as God plans.

So…from the start, I felt pretty good about holding things very loosely. I'm a very natural person, so of course I wanted to try to give birth with no drugs at all…but I told myself I wasn't opposed to it. And I'm so glad I had that attitude, because I can tell you right now that my entire experience didn't go at all how I would have planned! But…it was absolutely perfect because it's what God planned for me. I had to trust and depend on him each step of the way.

To begin, Avonlea was two weeks past her due date. Those two weeks were so hard emotionally. I was So ready to meet our girl and each day I would excitedly arise and think "this could be the day!" only to go to bed with absolutely nothing happening. My mom and I walked every single day (sometime multiple walks!), I bounced on a ball, did lunges, put essential oils on, and even tried castor oil (never again!)! She just wouldn't budge!

Finally my OB scheduled to induce me on Monday night, April 3rd. Again, "my plan" would not have included being induced, but I just had to trust God. Deep breathe! Kevin and I went in and around 9pm they gave me Cervadil to soften my cervix (as up until this point I had only dilated to a 1- my cervix being so far back they could barely get to it!). Around 4am, I started having some pretty intense contractions. Kevin stood next to me, holding my hand as I slept between contractions. Around 7am the nurses checked me and I was at a 3 and my cervix had finally moved down into the right position (which was something to celebrate! haha).

They hooked me up to an IV and started the pitocin. The contractions started becoming pretty massive and close together. My mom came and brought me a smoothie in the morning, and then went right to work massaging my back during the contractions as Kevin looked me in the face and walked me through each part of the contraction. My mom and Kevin were lifesavers during this time. The pain was excruciating! I tried all the methods I thought I would like…getting into the whirlpool tub, holding on to Kevin, etc…and I hated all of it. Everything felt so painful. The only position I liked was sitting on a folding chair with my mom and Kevin around me. I had read the book by Marie Mongon on Hypnobirthing, and her hypnobirthing cd (which I had downloaded on my phone) literally got me through the worst of the contractions. I can still hear those chimes now…haha! But really, I was able to sleep between the contractions and stay relaxed.

Around 10am they checked me again and I had progressed to a 6! We all cheered! The pitocin was really doing it's job. The next 4 hours were the most excruciating as I continued to labor through the contractions. At 2pm they checked me again, and I was still only at a 6. Being in so much pain, and feeling like nothing had happened in the last four hours prompted me to ask for an epidural. I had tried hard without it, but felt no shame in asking for one. I just trusted that this was going to be part of my birth, and let me tell you…it was heavenly. When the drug started working, I was on cloud 9. Even though I could still feel the contractions, they were more a dull pain. I was able to nap, my mom and Kevin were able to eat some lunch and rest, and we all just relaxed for about an hour or so.

Around 5pm the nurses checked me and I was at a 10! I was so happy I cried! Actually I sobbed. I couldn't believe I was finally there (except little did I know I still had so far to go, haha!). The nurses had me start pushing. At first, because of the epidural the pushing wasn't hard, and I thought "this is easy!" haha…that was not my tune later!. An hour in, the doctor came in and told me we needed to turn down the epidural so that I could feel myself pushing. I pushed a total of 3 hours, and Avonlea still wasn't coming out!

At this point, my doctor gave me three options…he said I could have a C-section, I could keep pushing naturally (but she wasn't going to come anytime soon), or he could use the vacuum to get her out. I literally told them I didn't like any of the options. In this moment, after laboring 16 hours and pushing for 3, I was exhausted and felt like I couldn't make a decision. Kevin mentioned we try the vacuum, and I went for it. Three sets of contractions later, Avonlea came out. (I won't mention the part where her head was stuck half inside me and half outside of me, and I had to wait 4 minutes until the next contraction! I can honestly say, that was the worst!!!)

But what a miracle! Honestly, when they put her on me, Kevin and I were so overwhelmed with emotion. We couldn't believe that our little peach was finally here and sitting on my chest. Everyone was cheering, my mom was taking pictures, and it was just such a holy moment. My dad and siblings and Kevin's parents were all in the waiting room, and over time they came in to see her. It was just such a beautiful celebration of our baby girl's arrival into the world.

I literally look back at my birth experience and rejoice at each part of it. It all felt holy and miraculous to me. I felt the Holy Spirit at each stage through my nurses, the doctor, and especially my mom and Kevin.  It was such a sweet bonding time for me with both of them as they worked SO hard to support me. I couldn't have done it without their constant encouragement. The room was so peaceful, and I felt like I was able to bring her into a calm and loving atmosphere. Like I said, nothing really went the way I had envisioned it going in some ways, but the way it went seemed perfect to me. I learned to just depend and trust God in a tangible way, and that was beautiful.

Thank you all for being so loving and supportive to us in this time. I've received so many lovely blog comments, cards in the mail and emails. Thank you ALL!! xoxo 

An honest 2 year review

Monday, April 17

Organic and All Natural Beauty Prodicts

I hope you had a wonderful Easter:) This one was special as it was Avonlea's first time celebrating the  resurrection of our sweet Savior! My parents hosted in their beautiful home, and every fire place in the house was roaring as it was pouring rain outside. It was actually rather magical with the fires and tons of candles all over the house. My huge wonderful family had driven in for the event, and Avonlea got more than her fair share of cuddles. I barely held her, haha! Today I thought I'd share a review of products that have truly changed my life:)

It's been exactly two years since I was introduced to 100% Pure. I was in the beginning of my quest to rid my life of the toxins that I so cluelessly was rubbing all over my body (lotions, make-up, etc). I started my search at the local natural food shop, and found that the make-up there was just not cutting it.  I did an online search, but was overwhelmed with options. Finally, I read a review from another blogger on 100% Pure products, and thought "i'll give them a try". So, I bought some basics…foundation, mascara and a lip stick. When my package arrived, I excitedly tore it open and tested them out. I was amazed at how beautifully they applied, and then lasted the entire day!

Now…two years later, I can honestly say these products have changed my skin in the best way possible. If you are someone on the beginning of your search for a toxin-free lifestyle, I would really recommend trying out a few staples. Of course they are going to cost more than the products in the beauty aisle at the grocery store, but that's because they are made with only the BEST pure of all toxic chemicals and anything that will harm your body. I literally felt the difference the minute I put the make-up on, and my body did too!

Here are the staples I use on a daily basis. I hope you'll consider trying them for yourself!

I wash every morning and every evening with the Purity Facial Cleanser + Mask. It's amazing, and I will never part with it!

After washing, I rub a dollop of the Coconut Whipped Body Butter all over my face. I actually started using this on my face by accident, as one day I ran out of my face lotion and tried this. My face loved it so much i've been using it for about 8 months and my skin is so hydrated and no break-outs!

For make-up, my routine includes:
Mattifying Primer: This is a total STAPLE you should try. Game changer in my opinion! Regular primers make me break-out for sure, but not this one. It is smooth, healthy, and makes my foundation slide on my skin!

Fruit Pigmented Healthy Foundation (in Peach Bisque) : Another staple I will always buy. Great coverage and so smooth!

Maracuja Mascara: Black Tea: Best mascara i've ever used!

If you're into lipsticks, this one is my favorite. If you're looking for something more subtle, I adore this lip glaze, and if you like a good lip gloss, this one is my favorite!

At night, I wash with the Purity Facial Cleanser + Mask, and then apply a serum that they actually discontinued. Once I run out of the serum, I'm planning on trying their new night cream product called the Retinol Restorative Overnight Balm.

They also source baby products too!! I got this lotion, this shampoo, and this sunscreen for Avonlea. I feel super comfortable using them on such a tiny babe as they are all non-toxic and gentle as can be!!

So that's that! These are the staples I use on a daily basis! My advice is to start small, purchasing just a few foundational products (foundation, mascara, etc) and try them out! If you like them, then over time add a few more to your routine. Everything lasts a good amount of time, and I swear you'll notice the difference!

Hope this helps get you where you want to be with your more natural, non-toxic lifestyle:) And as a fun added bonus, in the month of April 100% Pure will plant a tree for every item you purchase! So cool, right?

Hopefully this week i'll be sharing my birth story and more pics of sweet Avonlea! Have a lovely day:)

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Our little girl is here!!

Tuesday, April 11

I am seriously overjoyed to announce that our sweet daughter,
Avonlea Grace,
 who we have prayed for and carried for 9 months, 
has arrived into our arms. 
She made her debut a week ago, 
Tuesday April 4th at 8:30pm. 
She weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces and was 21 inches long. 
We are so so smitten. 

I have always loved the name Avonlea. 
I first heard it about 10 years ago when I met a little girl in a coffee shop name Avonlea, 
and thought it was beautiful. 
Being that Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books and movies, 
it was a top contender for girl names. 
For months Kevin and I tried to find a name we liked better, and we never did. 
I think we always knew it would be Avonlea:) 
The name means
"A return to childlike faith, simple beauty, noble purity, and compassion for the least"
all beautiful qualities I pray for our girl! 
I think it fits perfectly for her:) 

Grace, her middle name, is the anthem for our life. 
I am encouraged by this verse in John 1:16 that says, 
"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace"
Jesus offers us gifts we don't deserve, an immense love beyond measure. 
As Avonlea is a gift, grace felt like the perfect middle name:) 

I am excited to write out my birth story on here, as it was beautiful and unique 
(and not what I expected at all!). 
Hopefully that will come this week or next, as I don't want to forget it! 
This past week of being parents has been a crash course in figuring out what to do with a newborn, haha! But she has been wonderful, and I'm still on a total high. 
Kevin and I spend hours just staring at her, laughing hysterically at her funny faces, and praying over her tiny frame. 

In our eyes, she is just perfect:) We praise God daily for his generous and kind gift to us, one that we so don't deserve…what a privilege it is to bring a baby into the world. 

Don't worry, more pictures and stories to come:) 
But for now, thank you for your prayers and your excitement for this sweet babe. 
We are just filled to the brim with gratitude! 

Still waiting for our sweet babe

Monday, March 27

We are officially 6 days overdue with our sweet baby girl, and this mama is going crazy!! Waiting is so tough, especially since i've already spent 9 months dreaming about our baby and so looking forward to the day I get to meet her. Each day I wake up and think "is this the day?"....and then I go to bed with no baby. She's still moving and for that i'm grateful- she is doing well and kicking strong- but oh...the longing to hold her in my arms and kiss her chubby face is irresistible! Our bags are packed, Kevin's cleaned the car, installed her carseat in the backseat, and we are ready!

Any of you have overdue babies and want to share your story? I'd love to hear! And I could totally use your prayers:) I'm trusting in God's timing, but it's totally not my timing, so it's real lesson in faith, haha! Hopefully the next time I write she'll be out and in our arms!!

Thanks lovely ladies...just love this community!!

My top 5 Favorite Tropical Destinations in the world

Tuesday, March 21

Being a total lover of all things warm and relaxing, it comes as no surprise that I tend to gravitate towards places that are tropical, especially when I need to kick back and rest! There are SO many amazing tropical places around the world, but these 5 beaches/islands have captured me in a special way and I wanted to share them with you today! I'm sure i'll have like 100 honorable mentions to list, but these 5 places are sure-fire bets to get you dreaming about a fabulous tropical holiday:)

1. Railay Beach, Thailand
I've said it before, and i'll say it again…this beach stole my heart. Thailand has hundreds of amazing islands and beaches, but this one was hands-down my favorite. While many beaches in Thailand have turned into crazy party hubs, Railay has retained it's kick-back feel. Kevin and I would just lay on the beach at night looking at the stars and it was so peaceful. The beach itself is amazing!! Gorgeous sand, crystal clear waters that were warm enough to swim in but cool enough to refresh you from the heat. Railay (and it's sister beach Phra Nang, just a few minutes walk away) are the closest i've ever felt to heaven on earth. That's how much I loved Railay!! And if you are an adventurer, there are SO many fun things to do on Railay (like rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, etc) and then you can take boats to other islands for some top class snorkeling and sight seeing. Something for everyone!
To see my pictures of our time in and around Railay:
Railay Beach
Phra Nang
Speed Boat Tour  & snorkeling {Koh Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island}
Our 3 Week Itinerary in South East Asia

2. Hoi An, Vietnam

Besides just being absolutely obsessed with the quaint little town of Hoi An (and wanting to move there!), the beaches on the outskirts of the town were pretty fabulous. Every day in Hoi An, we'd either scooter or ride our bikes to the beach for some serious R&R. They had great chairs and umbrellas you could rent for pennies, the water was warm but also refreshing, and it was lined with beautiful sand and palm trees. The Vietnamese people are just the best, and we found some delicious food just minutes walking from the beach to fulfill our hunger.  And as a whole, Hoi An is magical. If you've never even heard of this Asian hamlet, then by all means head on over to my posts about our time in Hoi An:
{Day 1} and {Day 2 & 3} and Our 3 Week Itinerary in South East Asia

3. Riviera Maya, Mexico
I think Mexico flies under the radar when people think about traveling to a tropical location. But let me tell you, I was SO impressed with the strip of beaches in the Riviera Maya, below Cancun. Kevin booked our honeymoon at this resort, and it was sheer bliss. The beach was absolutely incredible, with white sand and turquoise waters that were just the right temperature. There is SO much to do in the Riviera Maya…we went zip lining, snorkeled in a gorgeous lagoon here, and explored the ruins at Tulum which was fascinating. If you've never given a thought to the Riviera Maya, then you are missing out. I'm already dreaming about when we can return:)

4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Kevin and I got the chance to take a once in a lifetime trip this past summer…a yacht cruise through French Polynesia with Inspiration Cruises & Tours. It was unbelievable. My favorite island (by FAR) was Bora Bora, and lucky for us we got to anchor there for two whole days! Bora Bora is gorgeous. What makes it such a special tropical location is not necessarily the beaches, but the reef activities. There is a beautiful coral reef surrounding the island, where you can discover a whole new world under water! We got to swim with manta rays, sharks, and all sorts of tropical fish. I will confess to you that i'm terribly afraid of fish, but even I couldn't wait to get into the beautiful waters and interact with the wild life! While Bora Bora is harder to get to than many of the other places i've shared, it is worth every penny!
To see our pictures of French Polynesia (and in specific Bora Bora):
An Introduction to Inspiration Cruises & Tours 
Our First Day in Tahiti 
Exploring the Island of Moorea
This Island of Ta'Haa
Exploring Raiatea
Bora Bora Day 1 (swimming with sharks and Manta Rays!) 
Bora Bora Day 2 (Luau and fire dancers!) 

5. Bali, Indonesia
Kevin used to coach basketball in Indonesia, and Bali was a $50 plane ride away. The first time I went to Bali, I assumed it would be like the rest of Indonesia…and boy was I wrong. Bali is a magical place unto itself. As you may know, Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population in the world…but Bali is Hindu. There are shrines everywhere (you literally have to make sure you don't step on the offerings) and it is shrouded in a very mystical feel. The whole island is utterly spectacular…from the beaches to the mountains to the terraced farming to the coffee plantations. My favorite places were Ubud (a little mountain town), the beaches at Candidassa, and visiting the coffee plantations that dot the island. And in my humble opinion, Indonesians are literally the nicest people in the world. Just love them:)

What tropical locations would you add?? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Have you been to any of these?  Maybe one day i'll do my favorite beaches, as there are TONS of beaches in Europe that are gorgeous, just not necessarily tropical!

And if you're checking in on baby-watch 2017, our sweet girl is not here quite yet. Today is her due date, so feel free to send up some prayers that she will come soon. I'm SOOOO excited to meet her! Hope you all are doing well! Much love…xoxo

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