This post is sponsored by KEH Camera. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links are included, and I will receive commission for any sales generated through these links.
I mentioned in my last post that I've been working on upgrading my camera. It's something I've wanted to do for so long--ever since I learned the difference between a full frame camera and a crop sensor! My Canon 60D has been a trusty sidekick and a good camera to learn on, but the tight crop makes it hard to get photos of small rooms and candid shots of people. I always have to back up really far. Plus, my friend Corlana (who is a legit photographer) has a camera that lets her send photos directly to her phone. Once she showed me that feature, I was convinced! I might be justifying here, but I honestly think that will motivate me to take more photos with my big camera instead of my phone. Which is one of my goals for the year! So it's totally worth it right??? Think of all the beautiful photos I'll take of our children throughout the years! All the precious memories we'll capture! (Can you tell I've been working on Ben?) I finally convinced him to let me upgrade to a full frame, on the condition that I sell our current camera to offset some of the costs.
So when KEH Camera reached out to me about selling a used camera with them and documenting the process, I was like, "it's a sign! let's do this!" They are the world’s largest provider of used cameras and photography equipment, and they make the process super easy and convenient. And the prices were totally fair--actually, a little better than I expected after doing a little comparative online research.
All you do is enter the gear you have to sell, then select what items are included (battery, charger, etc.) and the condition according to their grading system. It lets you know what their estimated price is, and you decide whether you'd accept a lower price if they determine it's in a lower condition. You can also opt to have your gear shipped back for free if that's the case.
KEH also gives you an extra 5% if you choose to receive your payment as a gift card. Since we were planning to get a new camera anyways, we decided to do that. Then we checked out, downloaded the packing list and shipping label, boxed up the gear, and sent it on its way! No arranging meetings with strangers from Craigslist, no wasting time on potential buyers that don't pan out, and no paying for shipping. Pain free!
I just got my gift card last week and wasted no time in ordering the camera I wanted (a Canon 6D). I'll keep you posted on how it turns out buying a used camera! Overall, I would say the selling experience was super positive, easy, and straightforward--and I love that it was all online. If you're thinking of selling or upgrading your camera gear, or if you're looking for deals and you're open to used items...definitely check out KEH! From now through the 31st, you can get 7% off your order with the code LUCKY7 as well. Depending on what you're getting, that 7% can be pretty significant.
Anyways, I hope this review was helpful for some of you. I can't wait for my new camera to arrive!
I know I still haven't posted pictures of the house we bought! I'm in the process of trading in my camera, so all I have so far are some dark iPhone photos. We're currently working on painting all the common areas white, which is taking longer (and way more paint) than I thought it would. Lesson learned: if you're going white on top of a dark color...double the amount of paint that the online calculators say you're gonna need. Especially if you're hitting the ceilings too. I think this process has confirmed that we're glad we didn't get a major fixer-upper, because even painting is getting us overwhelmed, exhausted and impatient. Can we be done and move in already?!? Haha.
While I'm waiting, I've been collecting lots of inspiration. It's fun to look through my old pins with the lens of what we're actually working with, and see what could be possible in our own house. It's definitely not "there" yet, but I see the vision. All these photos are more to do with space planning, and less with the actual decor.
Living Room: The best thing about our living room is the tall vaulted ceiling and big windows. I think it would be cool to add some faux box beams to emphasize the ceiling, kinda like this house photographed by Jessica Comingore. But I can't decide if this is just a trend or if we'll actually like the beams long-term. Is it silly to add beams when they're not really needed for structure?
Dining Room: We currently have two possibilities for the dining room. One is a small space connected to the kitchen, more like a dining nook. It could fit a round table (similar to this space via Decor8), which would be perfect for family dinners.
However, we already have a large rectangular dining table and I like using it for bigger dinner parties and game nights. So our other option is to put that table in the same space as the living room. We eventually want to open up the kitchen, so it will make more sense then (like a big great room), but it might be kind of weird until we do that. I'm thinking about doing both options--a small dining nook/kitchen table AND the bigger dining table for when we have people over. But I also want to eventually have a kitchen island with barstools. Is that too many eating areas???
Image via Lonny
Kitchen: Which brings me to the kitchen!!! This is the space I'm most excited to remodel. It's going to make such a big difference. Right now, our kitchen is closed off by a half wall, which we want to tear down. That will open the kitchen up to the living room, and make it so much more spacious and light. This kitchen by House*Tweaking is similar to the layout that I'm thinking...an L-shaped kitchen with an island. We also have dutch doors off to the right that open to the backyard.
As for style, I've always loved white kitchens, but since the whole house will be painted white...maybe we need to paint the island a color? Or do darker lower cabinets? I love the combination of white, soft green, and marble in Sarah Sherman Samuel's kitchen.
The backyard: This is another space I'm extremely excited to make our own. It's our first ever backyard!!! It's actually a pretty good backyard with cherry trees, lilacs, lavender, peonies, and more plants and trees that I don't recognize. But there's also some weird landscaping with a lot of rocks, and a Trex deck that's been torn up by the previous owner's dog. Eventually, I would like to make a brick or concrete patio that leads out from the dutch doors, then put an outdoor seating area, an outdoor dining table, and a hot tub on it. And hang some string lights of course!
Those are some of the main spaces I've been thinking about so far (all the common areas). We also need to set up the laundry room, furnish the bedrooms, and (eventually) renovate the bathrooms. So there's a lot of work ahead! It's gonna be fun...
This has been one busy summer so far! Ian turned one last week, and a few days later our house closed (we get the keys tomorrow). We're trying to squeeze in as much travel as possible, while also getting started on house projects and plans. In the whirlwind, I'm aware that I've been neglecting the blog. But even though I'm not posting very often, I still think about it every day! I'm trying to figure out what direction to go in the future. Now that we own a house, will I go back to posting more interior design inspiration? Should I share more personal, family related posts? Or do I want to do something else entirely??? I'm not sure yet. For today, I'm keeping it simple and just sharing a few snaps from our family life over the past few months. Hope you all are doing well!
Here we are at a good friend's wedding. It's rare that we get a non-selfie photo of all three of us, especially one where we actually made an effort. ;) Thanks, Corlana.
Hanging out in my parent's backyard (we've been doing a lot of that this summer). I just love Ian's outfit in this photo. Who says you can't put little boys in bonnets?!? Ok, Ben says. But I'm disregarding him. :) The bonnet and jumpsuit are from Little Goodall (who makes the sweetest baby clothes), and the sandals are from Pediped. The bead coaster is Ian's latest favorite toy...it's from Svan Toys.
We harvested our first bowl of backyard raspberries the other day and Ian loved them. I've been trying to increase his solid food intake now that he's one, and these organic NurturMe packets have been awesome for when we're out and about. They're so convenient you don't even need a spoon, and they're all-natural so I don't feel bad about feeding them to him. I had originally planned to start weaning Ian when he turned one, but now that the time is here I think I might make the transition a slow one. I still enjoy the bonding time with him when we're at home, but I would looove to stop breastfeeding in public places and friends' houses. What with pregnancy and nursing, I haven't worn half of my wardrobe in the last two years, and let me tell you, stretchy t-shirts are getting O-L-D...I'm ready to bust out my dresses again!
Speaking of all-natural, I found a new brand for baby skincare that's made with better ingredients. I never used to be the kind of person who was particularly concerned about getting organic products, but there's something about a sweet and innocent baby that makes you want to get the safest, best stuff.
Last weekend, we took a spontaneous trip to Coeur d'alene and stayed with some friends at their family lake cabin. It was beautiful and relaxing and just what we needed...a lovely spot to spend Ian's first birthday.
When we came home on Sunday, we threw Ian a little birthday party with my family. I thought about trying to do a bigger party with friends, but I'm glad we kept it simple. Burgers in the backyard and salted caramel apple cake were all we needed for a good time. Ian loved the balloons and splashing around in his new kiddie pool. And this mama shed a few tears over the fact that her baby is already ONE! We did a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photos of Ian. What a difference a year makes!
Look at my cutie now! So proud of him.
And can you guys believe the 4th of July is this coming Tuesday?!?! Summer is flying by already. If you're looking for some ideas, get the recipe for this "red wine & blue" pie over on the Kendall-Jackson blog. It's super delicious if I do say so myself.
What do you guys have planned for this weekend and the 4th? Ben gets both Monday and Tuesday off (woohoo!) so we're trying to decide if we should go somewhere and take advantage of a rare 4-day weekend...or if we should be practical and get started on house stuff (painting, moving, etc.) We'll see, either way should be fun!
Finally, a new blog post!!! Sorry it's been so long, this post took me forevvver to finish. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we recently took a cruise to Alaska, to celebrate Ben's 30th birthday. We got super lucky with the weather and didn't hit any rain at all, plus we got to see tons of amazing scenery and wildlife. And we ate to our heart's content (and then some)...so overall it was great! :) I've had multiple people tell me they're considering a trip like this, so I wanted to share a full and honest review of all the good and the bad of cruising to Alaska. Take it for what it's worth--it's just my opinion, after all. For reference, we did a round trip from Seattle through the Inside Passage, and we went with Princess Cruises (we were on the Emerald Princess ship).
Going into this trip, we were sort of skeptical about cruising in general. We tend to prefer traveling on our own and getting away from the crowds, so we weren't sure if we'd like being stuck on a boat with thousands of other people. But we both wanted to see Alaska, and since we live in Washington state the logistics were super convenient! Ben's dad dropped us off at the Port of Seattle and we got on the ship--easy as that.
I was super happy with the room we got. For those of you considering a Princess cruise, we were in room D735, which is an "aft" balcony (in the back of the boat). It was sooo nice because there's hardly any wind back there, plus we could see to either side and enjoy the view of the wake. Also, our room was next to that middle section where there's no rooms (four levels down) so we had no neighbors on one side! I would definitely pick that room again, or any aft balcony.
And the views were AMAZING. Endless mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, islands, lighthouses and more. The best part of cruising to Alaska in my opinion was seeing so many beautiful places that you wouldn't be able to get to otherwise. Our itinerary included Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, and Seattle. Three of those destinations (Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, and Juneau) are not accessible by car. Plus along the way we passed by so many gorgeous places that you can't even fly to. Not to mention all the wildlife! We spotted multiple humpback whales, sea lions, porpoises, and bald eagles, just from the cruise ship. So the journey itself is at least half the fun.
All of the pictures above? Taken from the ship. For that reason, I would say a balcony truly is sooo worth it. We went back and forth on this, and originally I wanted to keep the trip as cheap as possible with an interior room. But some of my favorite memories are from sitting on our balcony watching the scenery go by, playing games with Ben, sipping coffee and indulging in free dessert. SO relaxing and fun! It was especially nice for us because it meant we could still enjoy the views while Ian was napping. I think we might have felt trapped and stir-crazy in an interior room.
Speaking of Ian, I would say that a cruise is a great trip to take with a baby. It's just so easy. There's no driving necessary, no lugging a car seat and stroller through the airport, no checking in and out of multiple hotels. Ian had a great time, and we were able to do (pretty much) everything we wanted to!
On the flip side, one of the hardest parts for me was the tight itinerary. All of our stops were beautiful places, but we were only allotted a few hours in each (I think our longest time at port was 10 hours, but when you count the time it takes to get on and off the boat, it's less than that). I always felt a little panicked, like we had to hit the ground running and cram in as much as possible. And I never felt like we fully explored an area to our heart's content, the way we would if we were road tripping and on our own schedule. One piece of advice to help with this: room service is free, so on the days that you arrive early to a port city, order room service for breakfast so you can eat in your room and don't have to wait in line.
The first port we stopped at was Ketchikan. It's a picturesque town that faces the Inside Passage, with the Tongass National Forest behind it. We didn't do any excursions here--just walked around the town and the harbor, took a little tram to see the view from Cape Fox Lodge, ate fish 'n chips and yummy chowder, and got some hot and fresh caramel corn (so good). There were bald eagles everywhere, which was cool. And there's a street of colorful houses that used to be Alaska's red light district, now turned private residences and tourist shops. Kind of interesting.
The next day, our ship we were supposed to sail down Tracy Arm and see Sawyer Glacier, but they announced that due to the amount of ice blocking in the channel, we would go to Endicott Arm instead. I was a little disappointed, but I do have to say that Endicott Arm was gorgeous. It's a narrow fjord with mountains on either side, beautiful azure water, and chunks of blue ice floating along that hint at the spectacular grand finale at the end of the fjord--Dawes Glacier. The cruise ship got about as far away as the photo below, then a smaller boat came and picked up the passengers who had paid to see the glacier up close. I have to say, that excursion might have been worth it. I would have loved to get a closer look at that beauty.
That same day, we sailed into Juneau, where we saw another stunning glacier: Mendenhall Glacier. If you go to Juneau, it's definitely worth seeing and very easy to get to. There were lots of tour buses taking cruise passengers there--and at the park, we saw two bears! One was up in a tree right next to a hiking trail (there were rangers blocking off the path so it felt safe...ish) and another crossed the road right in front of our tour bus. So cool! Unfortunately, I was not fast enough to get a photo.
After the glacier, we went on a whale watching tour. This was the only excursion we paid for because I love whales and totally wanted to see a humpback breaching. And it was cool! We saw lots of whales--blowing water, flipping around, and diving with their tails up. But I have to say, if I was to do it again I would pick a different excursion (especially if you're only paying for one). We had already seen SO many whales from the cruise boat, and we couldn't get super close to them due to whale watching regulations. So I kind of felt like it wasn't much different from what we'd already experienced, albeit a little closer. Also, we had just gotten off a big boat, and here we were getting on another boat. Don't get me wrong, it was fun...but in hindsight I think I would do an excursion that's more different from the general cruise experience. Maybe going a float plane, or getting up close and personal with a glacier...something more unique like that.
Our last port in Alaska was Skagway, and it turned out to be our favorite! It's a tiny little town of less than 800 people, with buildings maintained from its heyday during Klondike gold rush. The town is charming and cute, but the surrounding area is really what we loved. Gorgeous mountains, blue-green waters, and some beautiful hiking trails that were an easy walk from town.
There were three cruise ships docked there when we arrived and the town was FULL of people, but we hiked out to this spot (Smuggler's Cove) and had it entirely to ourselves! It felt really good to get away from the crowds. If you're like us, I would recommend asking locals for recommendations or looking up things to do besides the popular cruise excursions. It seemed like almost everyone was getting off the cruise ship and going straight into another crowded mode of transportation--a tour bus, the historic train in Skagway, or a helicopter tour. While I think all those would have been fun, we got to enjoy some tranquility and stunning scenery without spending a penny.
Our last stop of the cruise was in Victoria, BC which is one of my favorite cities! We went there for our babymoon last year when I was 31 weeks pregnant (little did I know I would give birth in just two weeks!). Since we'd already explored Victoria before, we didn't feel as frantic about seeing all the sights. We walked to Red Fish Blue Fish and stood in line for our favorite fish 'n chips, got some fancy dip cones at Chocolats Favoris, and showed Ian the Inner Harbor and the stately Parliament Building. It was lovely!
A few more things about the cruise in general...I was worried that we'd get sick of the food and bored of the ship by the end of the week. But Princess does a great job of mixing it up so there's always something new to try every day. There's multiple sit-down restaurants and a buffet with an ever-changing menu, a pizza place, a cafe with deli food and baked goods, and a grill with burgers and hot dogs (and on one day fish tacos)--all for free. Plus, there are several specialty restaurants with more upscale food that you can pay for (a crab place, a steakhouse, a restaurant by celeb chef Curtis Stone, and more). We liked the free food and it was varied enough that we never felt like it would be worth paying for one of the specialty restaurants--but it's nice that there are additional options to switch it up if you want. The regular coffee is free and unlimited, but you can pay for espresso drinks. Alcohol and soda are not included, but you can bring one bottle of wine per adult for free, as well as your own soda. Overall, I thought the food was a pretty good deal!
The entertainment was also different everyday, and most of what we wanted to do was baby-friendly so that was great! We got to see a musical/magic show by an award-winning Broadway composer, listen to an expert naturalist talk about Alaskan wildlife, watch our fellow passengers compete in an entertaining singing competition, and see some outdoor movies from the deck (they even bring around hot cocoa, cookies and popcorn!). There's also multiple pools and hot tubs, a gym, mini golf, ping pong, and of course just wandering around taking in the views from different sides of the ship. I'm probably missing something too. So we didn't get TOO stir-crazy, even on the days that we were at sea. Also, all the different options meant that the crowd was pretty well dispersed, so it never felt like we were on a ship with thousands of other people.
Overall, we had a great experience! I'm really glad we got to go take this Alaska cruise adventure as a family. Although one week was too short! We've got to go back and explore more of this majestic state sometime...
Hope this helps anyone thinking about taking a similar cruise. I'm happy to answer any q's! Just leave me a comment.