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One of the perks of our somewhat unconventional jobs is the flexibility to travel without taking a ton of time off.  As the dates solidified for my most recent trip to Arizona, my best guy offered to join me for the first week of my two week assignment.  My wonderful boss was also joining in for the week, bringing her husband and two boys, and was staying a few extra days to visit the Grand Canyon.  Add in my awesome teammates Skye, Jenny and Erin, we had a whole gang meeting up for some hard work and fun in the sun!

I flew out Sunday so I could be there first thing Monday morning, and James caught a flight Monday after work.  We found a great deal on Allegiant  that would arrive a little before 11pm in Phoenix.  So after my all day meeting, I grabbed dinner and went back to my hotel to relax when the Google App on my phone reminded me that it was time to leave for the airport and it would take about half an hour.  I looked at the pop up and thought "silly Google, Sky Harbor airport is like 10 minutes away!"  Then I clicked on the email and realized I had booked his flight to Phoenix-Mesa airport, a small regional airport around 20 miles away.  Thank goodness for the alert from Google; I can only imagine how it would have played out otherwise!

We spent our week dining out with friends, celebrating my boss' birthday with dinner and Ping Pong, and cooling off (it got up to 114 degrees!) in the pool.  The obligatory stop at In-N-Out burgers did not disappoint!  My rental Mustang was extra fun to zip around in, but less fun when we added passengers to the backseat.  James daytime excursions included meeting up with our gang for lunch, checking out Mill Avenue, Alice Cooper'stown restaurant, and a Diamondbacks game in their air conditioned stadium.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and we're already planning our next visit!

More Fun in Tempe

Tuesday, July 11, 2017



One of the perks of our somewhat unconventional jobs is the flexibility to travel without taking a ton of time off.  As the dates solidified for my most recent trip to Arizona, my best guy offered to join me for the first week of my two week assignment.  My wonderful boss was also joining in for the week, bringing her husband and two boys, and was staying a few extra days to visit the Grand Canyon.  Add in my awesome teammates Skye, Jenny and Erin, we had a whole gang meeting up for some hard work and fun in the sun!

I flew out Sunday so I could be there first thing Monday morning, and James caught a flight Monday after work.  We found a great deal on Allegiant  that would arrive a little before 11pm in Phoenix.  So after my all day meeting, I grabbed dinner and went back to my hotel to relax when the Google App on my phone reminded me that it was time to leave for the airport and it would take about half an hour.  I looked at the pop up and thought "silly Google, Sky Harbor airport is like 10 minutes away!"  Then I clicked on the email and realized I had booked his flight to Phoenix-Mesa airport, a small regional airport around 20 miles away.  Thank goodness for the alert from Google; I can only imagine how it would have played out otherwise!

We spent our week dining out with friends, celebrating my boss' birthday with dinner and Ping Pong, and cooling off (it got up to 114 degrees!) in the pool.  The obligatory stop at In-N-Out burgers did not disappoint!  My rental Mustang was extra fun to zip around in, but less fun when we added passengers to the backseat.  James daytime excursions included meeting up with our gang for lunch, checking out Mill Avenue, Alice Cooper'stown restaurant, and a Diamondbacks game in their air conditioned stadium.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and we're already planning our next visit!



Three years ago today, I married my best friend.  He's an amazing partner and father, and I often ask myself how I got this lucky.  In celebration of our third anniversary, I wanted to share the story of our unconventional backyard wedding.  Enjoy!

On a rainy summer day three years ago, my best friend and I exchanged vows and rings in front of our friends and family in our backyard. Never ones for the ordinary, our celebration was actually a surprise, as our guests thought they were attending my 30th birthday party! 

Let's rewind a bit, shall we?  When the topic of marriage came up, we both wanted something simple and wanted to avoid the big to-dos that come with big weddings.  After recently combining houses, the last thing we needed was another toaster or crockpot, so we wanted to make sure we wouldn't get any gifts.  Drawing some inspiration from one of our favorite television shows, a surprise wedding ceremony seemed like the perfect idea for us.

One of the first calls we made was to Woody's Smoke Shack for catering.  Several of our early dates were at Woody's and their award-winning barbecue made it the easiest decision. One minor drawback; the owners are family friends of my parents!  After swearing Cheryl and Woody to secrecy, we picked out our favorite foods and enough to feed a small army.  

We sketched out plans to transform our backyard into a wedding venue, adding a privacy fence and ordering tables and chairs.  Since the cover for the party was a surprise party celebrating my 30th birthday, we had to be creative with invitations.  Most of our friends were invited via Facebook event, others by email, and a others received an actual invitation for the surprise birthday party.

A week before our big day, we needed to apply for a marriage license when we remembered our county publishes them in the local paper.  With our newly-ordained friend as our witness, we drove to the next county over, and told them about our surprise wedding.  We were nearly busted a few days before the wedding when James returned to pick up the license and he ran into a friend who works in the county courthouse!  Making up a somewhat-plausible excuse, the friend offered to accompany him in the recorder's office - uh oh!  He was explaining his false reason to the clerk, (who was thoroughly confused) until the friend was out of earshot and he whispered what he was really there for, and the clerk discretely found the license for him.  It was a close call!

The week of our wedding we finished up a few backyard projects, printing programs, purchased flowers from Trader Joe's and drinks from the grocery store.  The forecast looked more and more like rain, so we added a jumbo tent to our order from AtoZ Rental.

My best friend since childhood was expecting her second baby, and I asked if she'd stop by after work on Wednesday, and I let her in on the secret and asked if she'd stand up with me.  Tracey and I shared happy tears and it made me even more excited - it seemed so real to tell people!  James, his daughter, and I spent the night before putting together center pieces and making bouquets.  Around midnight we went to bed, taking time to write our personalized vows to each other.

Saturday morning, we woke up and got a jump start on our to-do list.  As we started setting up, our dear family friend Judy stopped by with flowers and a balloon, so we quickly scrambled to hide everything.  My sister had been tasked with taking me out to lunch - remember, she thought it was a surprise birthday party!  My mom had asked what I was doing on my birthday and I lied, telling her that Meredith and I were going out to lunch and that James wanted me out of the house while my birthday present was delivered, and that I thought it was a hot tub.  Oh the tangled webs we weave!  So a little before noon my sister arrived to take me to lunch when I asked, "Will you be my maid of honor?" She squealed "YES!  Are we going to Vegas?" and I replied:

"The wedding is tonight.  I know about the surprise party, 

and we've got hair appointments in twenty minutes."

She was overjoyed and asked what to wear, so we went to her place to grab a black dress.  In true little sister form, the dress she picked was actually one of mine, she had stolen it!  Then it was off for our hair appointments followed by lunch.  My friend Melissa had been in on the plan for about six months and by some miracle happened to still be in town, and she joined us briefly at the salon before heading home to get ready as my third bridesmaid.  Meanwhile, James and his daughter set up the tent, tables, and centerpieces before cleaning up.

After a couple quick stops, we collected my future bonus kid and met up with Tracey for manicures as the caterers and guests arrived back home.  James kept a close eye on the weather from our home office and he kept the tent structurally sound by clearing the rain that had collected.  Our friend and photographer Sarah Franczyk captured all the details, with special instructions to capture our parents' expressions at the big announcement.  

All photos provided by Sarah Franczyk - Sarah B Photography.

Our guests mingled inside our home as they waited for the rain to pass.  When the time came, we made the drive back to the house, and I was full of excitement.   James greeted me in front of our house with an umbrella and we made our way around to our side gate.  Everyone shouted surprise and I pretended to be shocked - trying to hide my giddiness at what was going to happen next.  

After a few minutes, James took the microphone and thanked everyone for coming and announced that we were liars because they weren't here for a birthday party, they were here for a wedding!  My mom's reaction was absolutely priceless! My parents had returned from vacation a day earlier than they originally planned after James had visited and told them about the birthday party.  
James asked his three closest friends to meet us inside as his groomsmen.  Tracey, Melissa, Meredith and my soon-to-be Bonus Kid joined us inside to get ready, and  my mom helped me pick out my dress.  I had ordered three off-white dresses, and she picked the perfect dress for me to wear.  James shirt had been soaked by the rain, so he put on a white knitted shirt and grabbed similar shirts for his groomsmen to wear while the rest of our friends mingled outside.  Melissa's husband Joey was a huge help by setting up a spot under the crab apple tree and spreading extra cedar chips so we didn't have to stand in the mud.


Without a rehearsal, I had made a list of the order we'd process in.  As the rain changed to a slight mist, I queued up the music and our short ceremony began.  Our guests stayed huddled under the tent and umbrellas, we exchanged our vows and rings and said 'I do' and then the party started!  We ate, drank and danced until long after the sun went down.  Our first dance as husband and wife was to Etta James' At Last, fitting for this moment after a decade of friendship.  Despite the rain, it was an absolutely perfect day.  Enjoy these photos, courtesy of Sarah B. Photography.






Happy Anniversary to my best guy!



Our Surprise Wedding - June 2014

Wednesday, June 28, 2017



Three years ago today, I married my best friend.  He's an amazing partner and father, and I often ask myself how I got this lucky.  In celebration of our third anniversary, I wanted to share the story of our unconventional backyard wedding.  Enjoy!

On a rainy summer day three years ago, my best friend and I exchanged vows and rings in front of our friends and family in our backyard. Never ones for the ordinary, our celebration was actually a surprise, as our guests thought they were attending my 30th birthday party! 

Let's rewind a bit, shall we?  When the topic of marriage came up, we both wanted something simple and wanted to avoid the big to-dos that come with big weddings.  After recently combining houses, the last thing we needed was another toaster or crockpot, so we wanted to make sure we wouldn't get any gifts.  Drawing some inspiration from one of our favorite television shows, a surprise wedding ceremony seemed like the perfect idea for us.

One of the first calls we made was to Woody's Smoke Shack for catering.  Several of our early dates were at Woody's and their award-winning barbecue made it the easiest decision. One minor drawback; the owners are family friends of my parents!  After swearing Cheryl and Woody to secrecy, we picked out our favorite foods and enough to feed a small army.  

We sketched out plans to transform our backyard into a wedding venue, adding a privacy fence and ordering tables and chairs.  Since the cover for the party was a surprise party celebrating my 30th birthday, we had to be creative with invitations.  Most of our friends were invited via Facebook event, others by email, and a others received an actual invitation for the surprise birthday party.

A week before our big day, we needed to apply for a marriage license when we remembered our county publishes them in the local paper.  With our newly-ordained friend as our witness, we drove to the next county over, and told them about our surprise wedding.  We were nearly busted a few days before the wedding when James returned to pick up the license and he ran into a friend who works in the county courthouse!  Making up a somewhat-plausible excuse, the friend offered to accompany him in the recorder's office - uh oh!  He was explaining his false reason to the clerk, (who was thoroughly confused) until the friend was out of earshot and he whispered what he was really there for, and the clerk discretely found the license for him.  It was a close call!

The week of our wedding we finished up a few backyard projects, printing programs, purchased flowers from Trader Joe's and drinks from the grocery store.  The forecast looked more and more like rain, so we added a jumbo tent to our order from AtoZ Rental.

My best friend since childhood was expecting her second baby, and I asked if she'd stop by after work on Wednesday, and I let her in on the secret and asked if she'd stand up with me.  Tracey and I shared happy tears and it made me even more excited - it seemed so real to tell people!  James, his daughter, and I spent the night before putting together center pieces and making bouquets.  Around midnight we went to bed, taking time to write our personalized vows to each other.

Saturday morning, we woke up and got a jump start on our to-do list.  As we started setting up, our dear family friend Judy stopped by with flowers and a balloon, so we quickly scrambled to hide everything.  My sister had been tasked with taking me out to lunch - remember, she thought it was a surprise birthday party!  My mom had asked what I was doing on my birthday and I lied, telling her that Meredith and I were going out to lunch and that James wanted me out of the house while my birthday present was delivered, and that I thought it was a hot tub.  Oh the tangled webs we weave!  So a little before noon my sister arrived to take me to lunch when I asked, "Will you be my maid of honor?" She squealed "YES!  Are we going to Vegas?" and I replied:

"The wedding is tonight.  I know about the surprise party, 

and we've got hair appointments in twenty minutes."

She was overjoyed and asked what to wear, so we went to her place to grab a black dress.  In true little sister form, the dress she picked was actually one of mine, she had stolen it!  Then it was off for our hair appointments followed by lunch.  My friend Melissa had been in on the plan for about six months and by some miracle happened to still be in town, and she joined us briefly at the salon before heading home to get ready as my third bridesmaid.  Meanwhile, James and his daughter set up the tent, tables, and centerpieces before cleaning up.

After a couple quick stops, we collected my future bonus kid and met up with Tracey for manicures as the caterers and guests arrived back home.  James kept a close eye on the weather from our home office and he kept the tent structurally sound by clearing the rain that had collected.  Our friend and photographer Sarah Franczyk captured all the details, with special instructions to capture our parents' expressions at the big announcement.  

All photos provided by Sarah Franczyk - Sarah B Photography.

Our guests mingled inside our home as they waited for the rain to pass.  When the time came, we made the drive back to the house, and I was full of excitement.   James greeted me in front of our house with an umbrella and we made our way around to our side gate.  Everyone shouted surprise and I pretended to be shocked - trying to hide my giddiness at what was going to happen next.  

After a few minutes, James took the microphone and thanked everyone for coming and announced that we were liars because they weren't here for a birthday party, they were here for a wedding!  My mom's reaction was absolutely priceless! My parents had returned from vacation a day earlier than they originally planned after James had visited and told them about the birthday party.  
James asked his three closest friends to meet us inside as his groomsmen.  Tracey, Melissa, Meredith and my soon-to-be Bonus Kid joined us inside to get ready, and  my mom helped me pick out my dress.  I had ordered three off-white dresses, and she picked the perfect dress for me to wear.  James shirt had been soaked by the rain, so he put on a white knitted shirt and grabbed similar shirts for his groomsmen to wear while the rest of our friends mingled outside.  Melissa's husband Joey was a huge help by setting up a spot under the crab apple tree and spreading extra cedar chips so we didn't have to stand in the mud.


Without a rehearsal, I had made a list of the order we'd process in.  As the rain changed to a slight mist, I queued up the music and our short ceremony began.  Our guests stayed huddled under the tent and umbrellas, we exchanged our vows and rings and said 'I do' and then the party started!  We ate, drank and danced until long after the sun went down.  Our first dance as husband and wife was to Etta James' At Last, fitting for this moment after a decade of friendship.  Despite the rain, it was an absolutely perfect day.  Enjoy these photos, courtesy of Sarah B. Photography.






Happy Anniversary to my best guy!




My mom is a big George Strait fan.  Like big, big.  Huge.  Her and her bestie Sherrie have traveled to see him in Minneapolis, Dallas, and Phoenix on multiple occasions, so I wasn't terribly surprised when they planned a trip to see him during his residency in Vegas.  Since George retired from touring, this was a bigger deal than some of the other concerts, and they ended up with a group of seven meeting up in Vegas - leaving one extra ticket for me!

I couldn't commit to the trip early on because of work projects that were up in the air.  When I finally nailed down my assignment, I was to be in Atlanta the week before and realized I could probably find a good deal on a flight from Atlanta to Vegas.  Sure enough, as a hub airport, there were a ton of cheap fares, and for $195 I booked a flight on Frontier, arriving at 7pm Friday.  Since I would be arriving at the arena directly from the airport, so I packed a change of clothes and toiletries in my sister's suitcase.


So I spent the week in Atlanta, and around 4pm changed into a dress for the concert, and drove to the airport with just my purse.  The flight to Vegas was uneventful, and after some confusion, I found my Uber driver who got me to the venue quick enough to still enjoy the opening act, Casey Musgraves.  If you haven't heard of her, check out her video for Biscuits - it's pretty cute!  Last time I saw George, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunn opened for him.
George Strait and the Ace in the Hole band were as awesome as ever.  But even more enjoyable was seeing my mom fangirl and have such a great time with her best friends.  The eight of us were split up four and four, so my mom, sister, and my 2nd mother Judy sat together, and Sherrie, Casady, Holly, and another friend were about six rows ahead of us.  George played one of my two favorite songs of his; Troubadour, but didn't play I Cross My Heart from the movie Pure Country.  

After the concert, we walked around a bit before hailing a couple Uber's back to the home they rented on AirBnB.  The house was a perfect pick by Casady, and had plenty of comfy beds for everyone, plus a pool to keep cool during the day.  Our group needed two Ubers to get around, which was a bit cumbersome at times, but way better than dealing with cabs.  Luckily for my mom and her friends, Cas and my sister were in charge of transportation, making it easy for the over-forty crowd. We spent the morning at the pool before heading back to the strip for lunch and shopping and my first trip to the Venetian hotel, which was a welcome escape from the desert heat.  We ventured to Fremont Street for more souvenirs, people watching, alcohol drinking, and gambling.   


When it was time for me to head to the airport, I said my goodbyes as the ladies continued on their adventures, returning to Des Moines a few days later.  Anticipating a chilly red eye flight back to Atlanta, I got a souvenir sweatshirt to keep warm!  Taking off 25 hours after I landed, the same flight crew got me back to Atlanta just after 3am.   


What a fun, whirlwind trip with so many fun people I love!






My mom, me, sister, and 2nd mother Judy.


Vacation Flashback - 25 Hours in Vegas

Monday, June 19, 2017


My mom is a big George Strait fan.  Like big, big.  Huge.  Her and her bestie Sherrie have traveled to see him in Minneapolis, Dallas, and Phoenix on multiple occasions, so I wasn't terribly surprised when they planned a trip to see him during his residency in Vegas.  Since George retired from touring, this was a bigger deal than some of the other concerts, and they ended up with a group of seven meeting up in Vegas - leaving one extra ticket for me!

I couldn't commit to the trip early on because of work projects that were up in the air.  When I finally nailed down my assignment, I was to be in Atlanta the week before and realized I could probably find a good deal on a flight from Atlanta to Vegas.  Sure enough, as a hub airport, there were a ton of cheap fares, and for $195 I booked a flight on Frontier, arriving at 7pm Friday.  Since I would be arriving at the arena directly from the airport, so I packed a change of clothes and toiletries in my sister's suitcase.


So I spent the week in Atlanta, and around 4pm changed into a dress for the concert, and drove to the airport with just my purse.  The flight to Vegas was uneventful, and after some confusion, I found my Uber driver who got me to the venue quick enough to still enjoy the opening act, Casey Musgraves.  If you haven't heard of her, check out her video for Biscuits - it's pretty cute!  Last time I saw George, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunn opened for him.
George Strait and the Ace in the Hole band were as awesome as ever.  But even more enjoyable was seeing my mom fangirl and have such a great time with her best friends.  The eight of us were split up four and four, so my mom, sister, and my 2nd mother Judy sat together, and Sherrie, Casady, Holly, and another friend were about six rows ahead of us.  George played one of my two favorite songs of his; Troubadour, but didn't play I Cross My Heart from the movie Pure Country.  

After the concert, we walked around a bit before hailing a couple Uber's back to the home they rented on AirBnB.  The house was a perfect pick by Casady, and had plenty of comfy beds for everyone, plus a pool to keep cool during the day.  Our group needed two Ubers to get around, which was a bit cumbersome at times, but way better than dealing with cabs.  Luckily for my mom and her friends, Cas and my sister were in charge of transportation, making it easy for the over-forty crowd. We spent the morning at the pool before heading back to the strip for lunch and shopping and my first trip to the Venetian hotel, which was a welcome escape from the desert heat.  We ventured to Fremont Street for more souvenirs, people watching, alcohol drinking, and gambling.   


When it was time for me to head to the airport, I said my goodbyes as the ladies continued on their adventures, returning to Des Moines a few days later.  Anticipating a chilly red eye flight back to Atlanta, I got a souvenir sweatshirt to keep warm!  Taking off 25 hours after I landed, the same flight crew got me back to Atlanta just after 3am.   


What a fun, whirlwind trip with so many fun people I love!






My mom, me, sister, and 2nd mother Judy.


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