Skip to main content


I look forward to doing a round up of all my favorite posts each year! It's a fun excuse to go back and read through the things I've written. Sometimes I'm surprised to see a photo and realize it happened this year, when it feels like a lifetime ago. 

2019 was filled with great trips, fun crafts and plenty of pug pictures! It was also the year of my rebrand from Pugs and Pearls to! Super exciting and I feel like that little makeover re-inspired me. Blogging under my own name just feels right.

What's interesting though, is when I started selecting favorite posts to share in this round up, I noticed they were all on the same theme. I've never been a niche blogger, but I really talked about simple living a lot this year. That's so reflective of how I felt personally. After a few crazy years, I truly enjoyed getting back to basics and uncomplicated living. What makes me happy is being at home, spending time with friends, and being productive. Not hustling. 

If you are struggling with 'the hustle' I think this round up of posts will truly help you get started on simplifying. Although it's an ongoing journey, the benefits begin right away. 

My Favorite Posts of 2019 |

My Favorite Posts of 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019

I've been sharing our family cruises on the blog for years now! We go almost every year, and most often in late November or early December. We love cruising, and this trip was just as great as always. The past two years we've gone to Cozumel, Mexico and I wanted to share the amazing beach club we are now obsessed with! 

Paradise Beach is an all inclusive beach club located just 10 minutes away from the cruise port. We decided not to do a cruise sponsored excursion last year and found Paradise Beach on Tripadvisor. It had good reviews so we gave it a shot. We loved it so much that we came back this year! 

A Few Facts:
Paradise Beach has a great pool and about 1,000 lounge chairs on the palm tree lined beach. The water is crystal clear, and they've got tons of water sports and inflatables. There are several bars, a taco truck, a mojito cart, and spotless bathrooms. 

They have an all-inclusive option now, something they didn't have last year when we visited. Pull up at the front door and decide on what you want. It's only $3 to get in if you don't want to do all-inclusive. We did the all-inclusive option! It's $63, or $72 if you want to do the inflatables (you do!) 

Someone helps you pick out seats and gets you all set up. (I love that.) A waiter, or two, immediately introduces themselves and you will end up with a drink in your hand really fast. Our waiters came by our chairs literally every 15 minutes to make sure we were good, and they were easy to spot if we needed something. 

The drinks are great, and I ate my weight in chips and salsa! Totally burned off all the calories doing the inflatable water toys though! It's one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life. Also the most exhausting.

There are also kayaks, snorkel gear, paddle boards...all available to you if you did the water sport package. I didn't snorkel personally, but our friends said they saw a variety of fish and a few starfish under the pier. They also provide life jackets, which was awesome when I took my nephew Carter out on a kayak. 

We love it there!! It's perfect for a family, a couple, or a group of friends. There is something for everyone to do at all times. You can relax, or you can be active. There is plenty of shade, and plenty of chairs in the sun too. It's very clean and everyone on the staff is so friendly. Top notch service. 

Taxis are also a breeze to grab when you are ready to head back to the ship. We were lamenting that Paradise Beach isn't a resort with hotel rooms, because we'd totally skip the cruise and just go back there next time. 

But, we did enjoy our cruise as well! It's always just nice to be together. Having several course meals and your bed made for you everyday is pretty sweet too. As much fun as we had, I'm happy to be home with the pugs. December is already flying by and we are so excited for 2020! We probably won't be taking a cruise next year, as we already have several other trips planned, so we really relished this one. 

I didn't take a ton of photos, but here are a few from the cruise!

Leave a comment below and tell me where your favorite place on earth is! Also tell me what you think of our overly airbrushed cruise portrait! I think it's so funny that they go crazy with the photoshop, but I still bought it.

Our Favorite Place: Paradise Beach in Cozumel Mexico

Monday, December 23, 2019

Life Lately | North Florida Lifestyle Blog |

Practicing Hiking Outfits
I'm sure it's no surprise to you that I am Type A enough to practice outfits months in advance, right? For our tenth anniversary early next year, we are doing an amazing trip to see the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and other really cool stops. We've already mapped out several hikes and even a horseback tour. It's going to be fairly cold when we go, so we've been stocking up on cool weather hiking gear. I'm obsessed with my LL Bean hiking boots! Our trip includes something like 6 hikes, and we are going to attempt to only bring maybe you can see why I am thinking so far ahead.

Life Lately #8

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Whoops! Haven't done one of these in awhile! After reading a ton of books at the beginning of the year (you can read all my book reviews here!), I took a reading hiatus over the summer. Partly because of being generally more busy, and partly because I rely on the library for 99% of my books and for some reason they didn't add a whole lot of new books to the Libby app over the summer. 

That being said, I made a goal to read 12 books this year, and I'm on no. 24!

Recent Reads |

Recent Reads #5

Monday, December 16, 2019

Must Have Cricut Accessories

When I first started using my Cricut machine I was so overwhelmed with all of the possibilities! There were so many projects I could do, and SO many products to buy. I wasn't sure what accessories I absolutely needed, and I wasted a whole lotta vinyl because of buying the wrong thing. I thought I would compile the must haves and my favorite products here, in case you are in the market for a Cricut machine. I have a Cricut Explore, so if you have or are getting a Maker keep in mind you have more options for materials to use. 

Must Have Cricut Accessories

Monday, December 9, 2019

This post is going to make me seem like an old lady, but this is the kind of stuff that gets me excited! Clothes and makeup don't do it for me quite like home improvement does. None of this is super glamorous, but I wanted to share a few things we've purchased this year that have made our lives easier and better!

This post contains affiliate links!
Best Home Purchases of 2019 |

Best Home Purchases of 2019

Monday, December 2, 2019

One | Fancy Cups!
I shared one cup that my friend Dana made for me recently, but I had already asked her to make two more! She can take a cup you already have (which is what we did) and make it completely over. I chose a Disney themed cup for myself. We love Disney, but the fireworks are especially special to me because that's where Blake proposed to me! Blake's cup turned out so sick. Guys are hard to design for, but she knocked it out of the park. Dana is awesome to work with, and I know she'd love it if I sent you her way.

Just Five Things

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I don't think I need to tell you that I'm obsessed with my Cricut! I lurk in a Cricut Facebook group for people with these machines, and it's absolutely incredible what some people are making! Some women (and a few guys) are entering craft shows, selling on Etsy and making some serious money! It's so inspiring. I'm not quite ready to dive into a real side hustle, but it's so fun to feel creative and whip up a project. 

Here are a few things I've been crafting lately!
This post contains affiliate and referral links.
Cricut Craft -Homebody Sweatshirt |

Cricut Creations No. 2

Monday, November 18, 2019

New Products I'm Loving |

By no means am I a beauty guru, but I do love trying out new products and finding great stuff! With so many 'misses' when it comes to beauty products, I thought I'd share a few products that I've tried recently that I love! 

New Beauty Products I'm Loving

Monday, November 11, 2019

Since I'm on a self imposed buying freeze, one thing that has helped me limit my spending has been adding things to my Amazon Wish List-instead of just adding it to the cart. In fact, I've noticed that I previously added a few items to my wish list and later decided I didn't want them after all. It's a great strategy to prevent impulse purchases! 

Wish List |

After glancing through my list, I thought it'd be fun to share these random items! Click on the photo to take you to the product link. Affiliate links are present.
(A few things aren't on Amazon, but I'm including them as well.)

What's On My Wish List

Monday, November 4, 2019

There are 65 days until 2020! It seems like as I get older, the faster time flies, and it's kind of jarring. We have so many exciting things planned for 2020 that I have been thinking of 2019 as a prologue. The prologue of a novel really sets up the story, and so, I'd really like the rest of this year to set up the next in the best way possible.  In fact, the post I shared on January 1, 2018 was all about doing something today, that you will thank yourself for tomorrow. 

I still feel very strongly about that life strategy. What better way to set up next year, than starting right now? There are 3 areas of my life that I am going to focus on, and doing so will really help me finish the year strong. Those areas are Health, Wealth and Self.

fourth quarter goals |

Let's Finish 2019 Strong!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Contentment Challenges and Tips |

a state of happiness and satisfaction.
Contentment is a struggle for me. I'm a goal getter, an obsessive thinker, and someone who is constantly looking for ways to improve. While none of those things are truly negative traits, discontment usually follows. 

I never want to give up pursuing a better way. My need to improve is actually something that works to my advantage most days. However, when Blake and I started battening down the hatches on our budget, I realized just how often I was adding things to the wish list. 

Contentment is something that I want to work on in all areas of my life and personality, but today I specifically want to talk about contentment with material things. 

Contentment Challenge

Monday, October 21, 2019

One | West Palm!
We go to West Palm every year, with Blake's family. The group has been different everytime, but we have so many wonderful memories there. Usually we go the last week of July or the first week of August - but this year we were in Europe! So, it was a real bonus for us to fit in a long weekend in October. The weather there is perfect this time of year- still hot, but the sand doesn't burn the bottom of your feet like it does in July.

It was all too short. I felt like I had just started to relax and it was time to go. 

Friday Five

Friday, October 18, 2019

Often I feel like what I write in a blog post would be what I would share if I were on a coffee date with a friend-whatever has been on my mind lately. That's exactly what I want to do right now. I don't drink coffee, but I do drink hot tea, so I'm going to sip on some while I catch you up on a few things I've been obsessing over lately. (Because I don't just think about things, I obsess.)

I'm so so thrilled to be a runner again. On the blog over the years, (5 by the way! I completely forgot about my blogiversary.) I've recapped various races and fitness goals. In fact, in my office I have all of my race bibs displayed, and I think there are at least 30. So, I guess I've always been a runner. But it's been a very long time since I've felt like one! 

It all started with finding my 30 Before 30 list. I wrote it when I was like 24, and now that I'm 29 I realize how ridiculous my aspirations were! So, I rewrote it. Some of the things on the list remained the same, one of them being running a half marathon. After almost spending over $200 on a Disney race, I found a half marathon in my home town for $40 and decided to sign up. It's in the beginning of February, which gives me plenty of time to prepare. 

I also signed up my reluctant sister and mom. We found a half marathon training schedule and have stuck with it for 4 weeks. I'm super proud. The mileage has been low so far, so we've been working on endurance and speed. It's SO exciting to see progress from run to run. 

What's Been On My Mind

Friday, October 11, 2019

One// New Cup
My friend Dana started a business making epoxy tumblers, and I had her make one for me! I was inspired by the Happy Stripe pattern from Simplified, and Dana knocked it out of the park. A cup this size is only $30. Thought I'd mention it in case you are on the hunt for a great gift! Here's her page.

Two// New Recipes 
Have I mentioned that I purchased an air fryer? If not, I have to tell you how much I love it. It's been a complete game changer in the kitchen! We use it almost everyday. It makes vegetables taste so much better. I recently tried a recipe for 2 ingredient bagels in the air fryer, and they turned out so good! 

The recipe is just 1/2 cup self rising flour and 1/2 cup low fat greek yogurt. Mix it until you have a dough ball, then divide into 4. Shape into a bagel shape, and coat with a beaten egg. Top with whatever seasoning you want. I went with everything seasoning. 350 degrees for 10 mins! These end up being about 150 calories a piece, which is about half of a traditional bagel. 

2 Ingredient WW bagels in the air fryer

2 Ingredient WW bagels in the air fryer

The second recipe I made in the oven, but you can certainly make a smaller batch in the air fryer. This recipe is for a healthy pumpkin muffin! They are only 65 calories per muffin. Or about 100 if you add chocolate chips, which I did. 

Here's the recipe:
1 15 oz canned pumpkin
1 cup egg whites
1 cup flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp clove
3 tbsp stevia
1 tbsp baking powder 
(chocolate chips are optional)
Mix and pour in a muffin tin. Makes 12 muffins. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. 

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins

Three// Closet Clean Out
I am on a mission to continue decluttering, and my closet is one place I can always find things to get rid of. I did a massive clean out, and even said goodbye to some pieces I had been holding on to. It was encouraging too, because I found some shorts I had set aside because they had become too tight. Now they fit like a glove! 

I ended up with an entire rubbermaid and a TJ Maxx bag full of clothes. My sister got several pieces, but, I also posted quite a bit in my Poshmark closet. Head on over to take a look! 

If you aren't already on Poshmark, you can use my code KESWOOLSEY for $10 to use towards clothes. I also do big discounts if you purchase more than one item. 

Let's Chat! Leave me a comment below with something you've got to share! Buy anything new lately? What about new recipes you've tried? Do you have an air fryer?! Tell me what you think!

Just Three Things

Monday, September 30, 2019

With our annual passes expiring at the beginning of October, we wanted to go out with a bang and do one last big Disney trip! We are not renewing our passes this time. 2020 has a lot in store travel wise, and we needed to make some adjustments in the budget. Florida Residents can pay monthly for their passes, and even though that's helpful, you still spend so much money on hotels and food. 

Before our passes expire we wanted to make sure that we got to see the new Star Wars land area and visit each of the parks one last time. We had an awesome long weekend and definitely got our money's worth. That being said, I think I've got Disney out of my system for a long time. 

Day One | Magic Kingdom After Hours Event
19,872 Steps
After we did After Hours at Hollywood Studios earlier this year, I am convinced there is no better way to do Disney. It's a seperate ticket, but you get access to the park from 7pm to midnight. Usually the other guests leave when the park closes around 9. At HS we only waited for one ride, but when we did Magic Kingdom this time, we did not have to wait for anything. Walking on every ride was awesome, especially when the wait times were over an hour when we arrived at 7. 

Additionally you get free bottled drinks, popcorn and ice cream. We both brought backpacks to fill with drinks for the rest of our weekend. 😂 Both of us attempted to take a few pictures to show how empty the park is, but taking night photos on your phone is always a gamble. 

We had basically every ride to ourselves. Our own boat on Pirates...Smallworld...

Day Two | Animal Kingdom & Disney Springs
16,381 Steps 
We kept it pretty easy going on Friday, since we were up so late the night before. Mostly, we were very excited to do the new animation class. They used to have this class at Hollywood Studios and it was our favorite thing to do. So we were thrilled they brought it back to AK! 

After doing a few rides, we actually headed back to the hotel for a nap. This is my absolute favorite way to do Disney. Go early, go take a nap and then do something at night. Our hotel was right next to Disney Springs, so we walked over for dinner. Before dinner we looked in a few stores, and then we went to Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar so Blake could try a bourbon flight he'd been looking forward to. The bar is based on an Indiana Jones character, which we loved. 

Then we went to Paddlefish for dinner, which has been a restaurant we've been wanting to try for ages. It was fantastic and the service was top kotch. 

We got the tableside lobster guacamole, and holy moly, it was fantastic. It serves maybe only order it if you have a big group! I felt like I needed to be rolled out of that restaurant. 

Day Three | EPCOT Food & Wine and A Sneak Peak at Batuu 
21,965 Steps
We wore matching shirts on Saturday! I loved how these turned out. Having a Cricut made me ultra critical of the shirts I saw at Disney this trip. I saw SO many shirts that were improperly pressed and looked reallllly bad. I really hoped that those poorly done shirts were DIYs and not something that people spent a fortune on through Etsy. 

We arrived at park opening and that helped up get several rides done without waiting. Early bird gets the worm! Epcot on Saturday is not really the best plan. It got busy really fast. We were still able to try several snacks and drinks at the festival booths though! It was probably the first time we actively went around with the passport and picked out things we wanted to try. 

This was the day I realized I was getting Disney out of my system. We had kind of done everything we wanted to do by 11am, but we had a lunch reservation in the UK pavilion that we had to stick around for. I have been wanting to try it for a long time, and hadn't been able to get a reservation. We randomly looked on the app one night the week before and one had become available. Turns out the food was just okay and it was so expensive. 

One of the problems with Epcot is that they do a tiered fastpass system. You can only get 1 fastpass for a 'big' ride and then your other two are 'smaller' rides. It makes it hard to do a lot, because it forces you to wait in hours long lines to ride more than one big attraction. /rant. 

Blake had been *dying* to go to see the new Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios. We originally planned to do it on Sunday, our last day, because we had just recently done everything at HS with After Hours and could devote a whole day to that land if we wanted. Well, after basically becoming bored at Epcot, we decided to go anyway. 

I'm SO happy we did because it was fantastic. After feeling bored earlier in the day, it was so refreshing to do something new and to see what all the fuss was about. We were able to grab a few HS fastpasses and did those rides after checking out the new Star Wars land. 

Can we just compare the smiles between the photo above, and the one below?! He was so stoked. I was too honestly. Disney knocked this area out of the park. The details are amazing. Saturday was a bit crowded, but not bad at all. We were able to do some exploring, try some food and ride the new Smuggler's Run ride. It's a blast. The wait time hasn't been outrageous either. 

You really feel like you've stepped into a movie. They've got characters walking around and interacting with guests. We were able to distract some Stormtroopers to help Rey and Chewie get back to the Falcon. 

Day Four | Hollywood Studios 
13,889 Steps
We found out that our hotel had Extra Magic Hours, which allowed us into the park at 6 am. Only a handful of people were up that early, and those who were in line that early were heading straight to the new SW land. We decided to head to the Toy Story area and do Slinky Dog and Toy Story Mania while they were walk on rides. Toy Story land heads right into the Star Wars area so it was a great strategy.

We grabbed breakfast at one of the Star Wars restaurants, which was really good. And then we rode Smuggler's Run again. It's just so fun. Especially when you have a group that's really into it. 

Then Blake went full on geek and bought a lightsaber. I have to admit, it's pretty cool and the shop you buy them in is amazing. 

The blue milk is actually tasty, even though it's a bit different. I enjoyed it. Plus you can get it with alcohol...which we didn't, since it was only like 8am. 

After riding a few other rides with fastpasses, and seeing the Indiana Jones show, we ate at The Brown Derby. This was a restaurant we never wanted to eat at before because the menu never looked  that appealing. We ended up there last year randomly, and now we are obsessed! They have a famous cobb salad that is to-die-for. 

It was about 2 or 2:30 when we decided to head home. Because we had arrived at the park so early, we were parked in the first row. It's so nice when you are ready to leave and you aren't parked miles away! 

I loved getting home before 5. Our pugs were excited to see us and we still had plenty of energy to unpack and get things cleaned up. We had such a nice weekend together, just the two of us. We also left feeling really satisfied with using our passes. We definitely got our money's worth. Those passes are so nice for free parking and you get a pretty decent discount on merchandise too. But, we feel ready to let them expire and put that money towards other things. 

If we do get the itch to go to the parks next year, there is a cheap Florida resident 3-4 day pass that I feel is a great deal. Alternatively, we may just do After Hours. The parks are just more fun after dark, and the temperature is always so much better. (Although I didn't mention that this weekend had the best weather!! It was warm, but very very breezy!) 

Alright, that sums up our last Disney trip for awhile! I hope you had fun following along. Leave a comment below if you've been to the new Star Wars land, or have a Disney trip coming up soon! Tell me what you have planned trip wise in 2020!

4 Days at Disney | Magic Kingdom After Hours | First Time In The New Star Wars Land

Monday, September 23, 2019


Hi friends! I'm Kristen, and this is the Life and Style of an early 30's Floridian living the Best Life Ever, with her husband and three pugs. Runner | Avid Reader | Small Shop Owner

Follow me on Instagram