What I Wore to Disney World

I hadn’t planned on making this kind of post because I’m not a fashion blogger AT ALL and I just don’t ever really make those sorts of posts. However, looking back on my recent trip to Disney World, I realized that I actually put in a lot of planning and effort into my Disney World outfits. Why? Well, because it’s Disney World of course. What other place can you possibly dress up with your favorite Disney movies’ quotes and characters all over your outfit? I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to express the things I love most about Disney during my trip there.
So, I figured I’d do a quick roundup of the outfits I wore during my time at the parks in August (2018). Some choices were better than others (I really should have thought more about my shoes considering all the walking lol), but in the end, I don’t regret anything I wore.
Outfit 1 – Epcot 
I found this adorable overall dress on Forever 21 right around the time that I first booked my Disney World trip. It turned out to be the perfect thing to wear to Epcot. It was a little short, but I didn’t really feel like I had to be tugging it down, so it worked out. I paired it with a basic striped white shirt, but I’ve actually seen this same dress styled a lot of different ways on Instagram. Unfortunately, the one I bought is sold out, but the plus size version is still available here. If you’re looking for a similar easy outfit that channels Mickey Mouse, I also found this cute Mickey romper still available.
Epcot outfit
Outfit 2 – Animal Kingdom 
The search for my next outfit led me to Etsy. Pocahontas is my favorite Disney princess, so of course I wasn’t going to miss the chance to wear something that channeled her, especially while at Animal Kingdom, the park of her meet and greet. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good Pocahontas clothing items out there (same thing with Mulan, sadly). But I got lucky when I found this unique pocket tee from Etsy. It was a bit smaller than I expected, but I made it work with some loose fitting tribal shorts from H&M (similar ones here), and some simple sneakers from Target similar to these.
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 If you’re wondering, Pocahontas did comment on the fact that she was on my shirt
Outfit 3 – Magic Kingdom
And now for a Disneybound outfit, which is a popular way of subtly channeling a Disney character while at the parks. I think it’s pretty obvious who I was channeling here. I found this top online, which was perfect because of the red rose on it. I also loved the skirt because it’s one of the few things I bought that I can actually wear outside of Disney. Warning though, it is super see through and I had to buy a slip so I could wear it. The flats (seen in the second photo) are just some of my everyday flats (similar here). Where I went a little overboard on this outfit, however, was the jewelry. I bought a Beauty and the Beast necklace and earrings from Hot Topic, and I don’t regret being that extra at all. It’s all in the details, as they say.
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you can’t really tell, but I was also wearing these Tangled inspired bracelets that I wore at every park. 🙂
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The rose necklace and earrings. My favorite part was how there were some loose petals at the bottom of the necklace bottle! 
Outfit 4 – Magic Kingdom
I may have also gone a bit overboard with the fact that I actually wore two different outfits during my day at Magic Kingdom. That’s right, I actually packed another shirt, shorts, and shoes into my backpack because how could I not wear a shirt I found on Etsy that had one of my favorite quotes from any Disney movie ever? It was also perfect to wear right in front of Cinderella’s Castle. I might have loved the Little Mermaid shoes even more though, which I will probably never wear again but don’t regret buying because they made me so happy when I put them on at the park. Is it a little crazy to wear two different outfits to one park? Yes. But I couldn’t choose between both, so what else was I supposed to do? 😉 Shirt here, shoes here.
Magic Kingdom outfit 2
I used this backpack every day at the parks and I loved it. It fit everything, kept things waterproof, and also just looked very nice with all my outfits. I also ended up buying these sunglasses at Disney Springs, and they are now some of my favorites.
And there you have it. Those were all my Disney World outfits. There’s only one thing I would do differently, and that is to buy Dr. Scholl’s shoes inserts! I am not exaggerating when I tell you my feet hurt so badly by the time we got to Magic Kingdom, that sometimes I just wanted to sit down for a bit. I didn’t though, because I mean, I was in Disney World. But people aren’t joking when they say comfortable shoes is the best way to go at parks where you will be walking around 5 miles everyday. Other than that though, I loved my outfit choices, and I’m glad I put a lot of planning into them.
Original post is available here
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Top 3: Once Upon a Time Edition

Tonight, the final episode of Once Upon a Time will air, and it’s a very nostalgic thing for me. This show started the year I was a freshman in college, and I can still remember my excitement when I first saw the trailer for a show that would focus on retelling fairy tales. It was the sort of idea that I couldn’t believe hadn’t done before on TV, and yet I was so excited to see the creative stories that would come out of it.
Seven years later, I’ve watched every episode of this show as it’s aired (and that’s rare for me with most shows), and while there have been some seasons I’ve liked more than others, it’s always been a show whose creativity and imagination inspire me.
Since it’s finally coming to an end, I’ve decided to do a tribute to OUAT by sharing some of my top 3 favorite things about the show, (there will be some spoilers, but I’ll warn you when they’re coming).
TOP 3 CHARACTERS:
Snow White 

While I like most of the characters on this show, Snow White was the one I really started watching the series for, and the main character I’ve most admired. Sure, she’s done some questionable things (like an affair with Charming, while they were both cursed), and even murder, that one time. But she was generally kind and selfless, and incredibly resilient. She’s the best version of Snow White there is – a princess who learned to fight, stand up for herself, and go after what she wants.

Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket 

Of course one of my favorite characters would be the “conscience” of the show. Archie was more of an important character in the first few seasons, and after that he kind of faded away. But I loved his character every time he appeared in an episode. Archie was the voice of reason and kindness in the middle of all the chaos of Storybrooke, and his story was one of the first I fell in love with. Characters like this, with soft hearts and resilient optimism, always become my favorites. So it’s no wonder Archie did, despite not being a part of the main cast.

Jasmine 

Jasmine was even more of a minor character than Archie, yet the little we did see of her was enough to make her one of my favorite of all the princesses that appeared on this show. What I really liked about Jasmine was that once she came to terms with the fact that she was meant to save her nation, she didn’t let anything distract her from that mission. A lot of other princesses got caught up in their own love stories, or the drama of their family, but Jasmine always had her priorities straight. She was one of the best political leaders on the show. And her story with Aladdin was pretty cute too, of course.

Honorable Mentions: The grown-up version of Henry Mills in season 7 (who is adorably sweet), Drizella (Regina 2.0, who I wish we could have seen more), and Sabine/Princess Tiana.

TOP 3 EPISODES 

(From the top 3 seasons, since those are the ones I’ve been re-watching lately. Maybe someday soon when I re-watch the whole thing, I’ll make a post about my favorites from the whole series): 

Snow Falls 

This is hands down my favorite episode in the entire series, and perhaps also the most iconic. It’s basically the story of how Snow White and Prince Charming fell in love. From Snow robbing Charming’s carriage, to the two of them trading insults and then saving each other’s lives, this is probably one of the best told relationship starts I’ve seen on TV. And it all happened in one episode. If you’ve never seen OUAT and are wondering if you should, I recommend starting with this episode, because it really sets the tone for the first couple of seasons.

Lady of the Lake 

The best episodes of OUAT tell a good story while also advancing character development. This one did that so well. Not only was the story with Charming’s mom one of my favorites (and one of the saddest!), but we also get to see Emma start to process the reality of who her parents are here. From visiting Snow’s old palace, to realizing her mom knows a lot more about surviving in the Enchanted Forest than she does, it’s as if the reality of her parent’s background finally starts to come together for Emma. And that sets her up to finally truly accept her parents as family later on in the season. (Also, there’s a surprise important wedding in this episode).

Quite a Common Fairy 

I love this episode because it’s all about one of the major themes of OUAT: redemption. In this story, a fairy by the name of Tinkerbell (yes, that Tinkerbell) takes a chance on the Evil Queen, in attempt to help her find happiness and abandon her plot for revenge. Spoiler alert: it goes terribly wrong and Regina goes back to her original plan. Which also means that Tinkerbell loses her wings and pretty much gets cast out of being a fairy. I think some of OUAT’s best moments are when they tell a story with a tragic ending and yet find a way to tie that back in to the main character’s development. And that’s exactly what this episode does.

Honorable Mentions: Skin Deep (Belle and Rumple’s origin story, which is one of my favorites) and There’s No Place Like Home (which has everything from time travel to a blossoming relationship to surprising plot twists).

TOP 3 PLOT TWISTS

(Spoiler alert for all of these, of course) 

Neal Being the Dark One’s Son

I don’t think anyone suspected this twist when Henry’s father, Neal, was first introduced in season 2. It was such a great plot twist because it made Neal even more of an important character than he already was, and it brought Rumple into the core family in a way that’s lasted throughout the series (and made his constant betrayal of them even more terrible…). When Neal died, his death was also more impactful because it touched everyone on the show, and changed the lives of both Emma and Rumple.

Peter Pan is Rumple’s Father

Another twist no one saw coming because Pan was (seemingly) decades younger than Rumple. However, the show did a good job of explaining the history behind that. And it paralleled Rumple’s story with his own son, Bae, quite nicely. I also had to add this in here because I think that out of all the villains on OUAT, Pan was the best. The actor who played him did an awesome job, and I have never looked at Peter Pan in any movie the same way because he was truly awful here.

Zelena Impersonates Marion 

When Emma and Hook bring home a character from the past in an attempt to save her life, who could have predicted that she would have been the wife of Regina’s new love interest? That plot twist was already great because it upped the stakes in Regina’s redemption arc. But the fact that it was actually Zelena, Regina’s sister, impersonating Marion to make her sister’s life miserable was another twist no one saw coming. And then to top it off, she had a baby with Robin Hood… It was crazy and dramatic, but what makes it such an important twist in my view is that it challenged Regina’s quest to become a better person, which was such an integral part of the show.

Honorable Mentions: Snow and Charming are caught in the same, alternating sleeping curse (season 6), and Roni/Regina wakes up from the curse but has to keep Henry from breaking it in order to save him (season 7).

17 Things I Learned in 2017

New Year’s Eve truly snuck up on me this year. My tree is still up, our stockings are still hung, and I’m just barely starting to use the gifts I received from family and friends for Christmas. And already we’ve only got less than 24 hours left of 2017…

Perhaps the holiday season in general snuck up on me this year. Our city has been going through a lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and not long after all the chaos, I started a new job which quickly became my focus for this last third of the year. Sometimes I can’t even remember what 2017 looked like before August. It feels like one blindingly fast blur.

I do remember some of my favorite moments, though. Like the week I spent in San Francisco serving with an amazing ministry and learning so much about God’s love. And the weekend I drove all the way to my hometown of El Paso, then spontaneously decided to spend the night in one of my favorite New Mexico towns. I do remember that though 2017 had its share of hardships and uncertainties, it also brought a lot of unexpected good. I got to start a new job at my church for example, and while its got its own challenges like any job, it’s truly amazing how comfortable and at home I feel there. God knew what I needed this year, and He led me right to it. He has an amazing way of doing that, of expanding my own small goals for bigger, grander ones that fit much better into my life.

Last year, I paid homage to 2016 by creating a list of 16 things I learned that year, and I’ve decided to continue the tradition (the inspiration for this actually came from this lovely blog). To me, the most important thing about a year is always what I learned because of it. If I can recognize an improvement in myself, a better way of dealing with problems or a more optimistic outlook on life, then by all accounts, I consider that year a success. 🙂

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Here are just a few of the things I learned in 2017, and the things and people that taught me them.

1. Anyone can long for beauty in faraway places, but to have a true eye for beauty is to be able to find it in your own backyard.

– Getting reacquainted with my local beach on a few spontaneous day trips

2. You can stress out when things don’t go your way, or you can use it as an opportunity to reevaluate your routines and perspectives.

– My car breaking down on me on the other end of the state

3. Few things can awaken and restore you like nature.

– The crisp mountain air of Ruidoso, New Mexico

4. Inner peace begins with learning to accept, and on occasion laugh, at your mistakes. Failure is part of being human, but being miserable about it doesn’t have to be.

– All the mistakes I’m prone to

 5. Even when we work as hard as possible and do our part, God finds a way of still exceeding our expectations.

– My sister getting into her top choice medical school

6. For all the heaviness in the world, we’ve been given so many light things to lessen our burdens (puppies, laughter, the ocean, and chocolate being a few of them).

– Morning drives on the way to work

7. Kindness is still one of the most attractive things in the world.

– I re-learn this every year, always thanks to different people.

8. The homeless person you see on the side of the street is more than just “a homeless person.” They’re a person with a unique backstory and beliefs just like you and me, and they deserve the same amount of dignity.

– A week serving with San Francisco City Impact

8. The more you have to fight for joy and peace, the stronger they both become.

– Finding joy and peace in the little things

10. People may be capable of extraordinary cynicism, but they’re also capable of extraordinary kindness.

– The local heroes that rescued many in our city during hurricane Harvey

11. A good story inspires you. A great story changes you.

– Writing this blog post

12. We are not immune to the sufferings and tragedies of life, but we’ve got a God who longs to be so near us in the midst of them.

– The book Daring to Hope (and Jesus himself)

13. The most natural result of gratitude and compassion is service.

–  The ridiculously long lines of volunteers after hurricane Harvey

14. When our circumstances are unpredictable and stressful, the peace God gives is like a solid rock that never wavers.

– Transitioning to a new job and routine

15. Hard work, dedication and trust in those around you will help you triumph even when the odds are stacked against you.

– Our hometown Astros winning the World Series 🙂

16. The proof of a good time isn’t in the likes you receive on an Instagram photo, but in the peace (or lack of it) it brought you.

– A perfect, lazy Christmas break spent cozily indoors

17. Keeping a sense of wonder and unbridled optimism is underrated, but so much more powerful than most people would believe.

– Anne of Green Gables (the book, the 1980s movie and the Netflix series 😉

Here’s to next year. I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve!

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Gifts that Give Back: For the Introverts & Homebodies

Finally getting around to update one of my gift guides for you all. This was probably my favorite guide last year, because everything was just so cozy and supported my preferred lifestyle (at home in bed, reading or watching Netflix ;). But in all seriousness, while these gifts are all very introvert-friendly, I think anyone would appreciate them.

Again, this is not a sponsored post, these are just items I love and whose proceeds go to great causes.

Cozy Loungewear

I shared about Punjamees last year and wanted to include them again because they have some of the coziest loungewear out there. Sudara helps to provide sustainable living wages for women in India, helping them avoid sexual exploitation. They also focus on providing women and girls with valuable training and education.

Left: Varasi Robe, $79. Right: Suja Full Lounge Pants, $49.

Ivory Ella is all about helping save elephants in the wild by donating 10% of their products’ net profits to the cause. They’ve donated over $1 million so far to help preserve and protect these gentle creatures and other animals in the wild. Ivory Ella has tons of products featuring elephants (of course), but my favorites are the ones that make a relaxing day at home even cozier. Like these cute gray slippers and warm varsity joggers.

Left: Elephant Slippers, $25. Right: Varsity Jogger, $49.

 

Soft Blankets & Pillows

A year later, Sackcloth & Ashes remains one of my favorite brands for cozy blankets. Their products are genuinely so soft, and for every blanket you purchase, they’ll donate one to a homeless shelter for someone who needs one. These are two of my current favorite styles. The geometric patterns of the Darling Gray blanket would make it perfect for a throw across a bed or couch, and I just want to curl up in that chocolate blanket.

Left: Darling Gray, $119. Right: Queen Chocolate, $65.

Amani Ya Juu (which means “Peace From Above” in Swahili), is an awesome company that employs women in different parts of Africa who make beautiful products by hand. All their products are handmade from natural materials and help women rise out of poverty and adversity.

Left: Quilted Kenyan Throw, $130. Right: Amani Leaf Pillow, $36.

 

Coffee + Mugs
What’s a cozy day at home without a hot cup of coffee? Actually, I don’t drink coffee, but I do appreciate its wonderful smell and don’t blame anyone for being obsessed with it. There are so many amazing fair trade and charitable coffee brands out there, but 734 Coffee is one whose mission I really love. Coffee purchases from Refugee Campus go straight to helping refugees in South Sudan thrive, and from what I’ve heard, their coffee tastes amazing.
Is there a better way to enjoy a perfect cup of fair trade coffee than in a cute, minimalistic mug? The Created Co. donates 10% of their proceeds to charity water, an amazing organization that works to provide clean water access to the thousands of people around the world who don’t have it. They have tons of mugs to choose from, but these were my favorite because I love their messages.
Pampering Essentials
One of my favorite nonprofit organizations is Preemptive Love. They have an amazing approach to the work they do in places like war-torn Syria and Iraq. Their focus is always on peace and providing care for the most vulnerable, and they work to empower the populations they work with. One of their awesome projects is selling these lovely candles and soaps for the holidays, which are all handcrafted by refugees. People rave about their natural soaps and candles, but they sell out fast so I would order asap if you know someone who would love them.
Another awesome cause is the one supported by Thistle Farms. They help heal, empower and employ women survivors of sex trafficking by providing housing and the opportunity for economic independence. They have a lot of neat products, but this bath set (with eucalyptus mint body wash, bath soak, shave gel and lip balm), and energy and immunity support essential oils kit were pretty much made for the most relaxing spa night.
The next gift guide will focus on gifts for the world traveler, so stay tuned!
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Gifts that Give Back: Apparel & Accessories

Well, I’m finally emerging from my blogging hibernation (don’t ask me why, because I don’t have an excuse other than life has been crazy) to share a few gift guides with you all. I loved making these posts last year, so I wanted to share a few more this season too.

Like last year’s posts, these will all include gifts that give back in some way. I’ll be posting some new ones (like today’s) as well as updating my old ones, so stay tuned. 🙂

As for today’s guide, it’s going to be a long one because it’s focused on fashion, and there were too many great finds not to share them all. This is not a sponsored post, these are just items that I love and whose proceeds go to great causes.

Apparel

Parks Project has some of the coolest tanks and sweatshirts that are not only perfect for national park lovers, but whose proceeds actually go directly to improving the parks. I think this would be a perfect gift for someone who’d love a reminder about a special trip they took to one of these parks. But they’re so cute that I think they’d be great for anyone, even if they haven’t visited yet.
Sevenly is an awesome nonprofit organization that designs shirts and hoodies whose proceeds go to all kinds of different causes. I love that they tell you exactly which cause the product you’re buying will benefit. For example, proceeds from this awesome hoodie (one of my favorite items on this gift guide) go towards helping wounded service members, and proceeds from the t-shirt go to providing people with clean water access around the world.
Bags
I’ve loved FEED bags from the moment I laid eyes on them, and over the years their style has evolved to become even more modern and sophisticated. They’re incredibly durable, and of course the best part is, purchasing one helps provide meals to kids around the world. These leather bags are two of my current favorites, and each provide 100 meals.
These work-friendly leather crossbody’s are from the brand FashionABLE, which employs women who’ve faced hardship in places such as Ethiopia and Peru. I love how versatile they are, as they can be dressed down with jeans (like in the photos), or easily dressed up for a day at work.
Accessories
Krochet Kids is another one of my favorites. Women from around the world hand knit these scarves, beanies and other items (and even stitch their names into the tags), which helps them have a stable income in the midst of an uncertain environment. Their items are so wonderfully cozy and perfect for the cold.
While Alex and Ani isn’t actually a nonprofit organization, they do some awesome charity work through their Charity by Design line. 20% of the proceeds from these two pieces go to great charities (Unicef and Project Common Bond, respectively).
Shoes
Of course I had to include a few TOMS shoes in this guide. My favorite shoes of theirs are the booties, and I loved these two styles especially. If you don’t know about TOMS, for every pair of shoes purchased they donate one to a child around the world who is in need, and they do amazing work.
Last but not least are some rainboots by Roma. Founded in Romania, Roma has a similar business setup as TOMS, donating one pair of shoes per pair that’s purchased. They’re also focused on providing education and empowerment to the countries they work in.
Happy shopping, and stay tuned for another gift guide soon!

Daring to Hope: A Book Review

Daring to Hope

A few months ago I signed up to be part of the launch team for an awesome new book by Katie Davis Majors, who founded Amazima Ministries after moving to Uganda and adopting 13 girls (yes, 13). I loved Katie’s first book (Kisses From Katie), so I expected I’d love this one too. But I honestly didn’t expect just how much it would affect me.

Daring to Hope is a powerful read, and probably my favorite book I’ve read all year – which is why I really wanted to take the time to blog about it here. While it starts off a bit of a slow, it quickly builds up and by the middle of the book, you won’t be able to put it down.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that all the stories in Daring to Hope are real. Some are inspiring and full of happy endings. And some are full of tragedy and pain that breaks your heart as you read them. But that’s exactly why this book is so powerful – it’s honest about the hardest things we face in life, and speaks on how to find hope in the midst of them. Though Katie’s living out life with her family in Uganda, her experiences are relevant to anyone who’s ever encountered loss, heartbreak, or uncertainty.

When I finished Daring to Hope (after, predictably, a night of staying up super late because I couldn’t put it down), I was so in awe of God’s grace and goodness, and how He draws closer to us in times of pain and sorrow. Though we can’t always understand why He allows some things, we can always trust in His love for us. It’s what carries us forward and what makes life beautiful even in the darkness. And Daring to Hope illustrates that so well.

If you’ve ever wondered why God allows pain into our lives, I think you will get so much out of reading this book. It’s one of the most honest and remarkable stories I’ve ever read about what it looks like to love the person in front of you, to give even when you’ve lost much, and to trust God even through heartbreak and pain. Here is the link to purchase it if you’re interested. You can also check out Amazima Ministries to learn more about Katie’s work in Uganda.

A few of my favorite quotes from the book…  

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our god wields a