I’ve heard from multiple men (read my husband and grandpa) that their biggest gripe with finding recipes on blogs is the long stories that come before the actual ingredients / directions. I personally love the extra context but to appease the divos of the world 😉 I’m bringing you this recipe with barely any background about the cold day I whipped this chili up on.
All I will say is that, the hack in this recipe is a chili game changer. TRY IT!
Chilly weather chili
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 large can or 2 cans of fired roasted tomatoes
zucchini to chop
corn (as much as you like)
spices: cumin, garlic powder, and oregano
optional: avocado and green onion for garnish
optional: sweet potato as a base
*HACK* Blend pinto beans and 1/2 of the fire roasted tomatoes (this will make your chili the perfect consistency)
Add your blended mixture with the rest of the fire roasted tomatoes (if you have some tomatoes around the house like I did, you can chop these up and add them too) in a large pot
Add strained and rinsed black beans and kidney beans + chopped zucchini and corn
Add spices (as much or as little as you like, I personally love cumin and garlic but went easier on the oregano), stir, and bring to a boil
Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes
Mike doesn’t LOVE chili like I do, so I steam and mash sweet potatoes to use as a base. This makes it less of a “soup” consistency and more of a hearty meal.
I also serve with chopped green onion and some avocado on top to round it out. Enjoy!
After flying to Toronto for our close friend’s wedding (gorgeous!!) we stopped in Vancouver for a few days on the way home to celebrate my birthday.
We took the train from the airport to the Four Seasons, our blissful home base for 3 days where we treated ourselves to an upgraded full suite room. I’ve heard getting a full suite is a good idea when you have kids, so after they fall asleep you can close the door and enjoy a glass of wine together (or whatever you fancy). Obviously this wasn’t the case for us this trip but, let’s just say we were practicing for when this babe gets here!
We dropped our bags and dashed to happy hour in the lobby, splitting the calamari and a flatbread. I also ordered a cucumber mocktail that was so good I didn’t mind the missing alcohol.
Next we actually hit up the gym…! Usually if we use the gym while away it is in the morning, but when you’re pregnant – and happy hour is over with one good mocktail – it’s not a bad way to spend an hour. Shoutout to the Four Seasons for providing complimentary workout clothes for both of us.
The plan was to originally go Mike & Ashley style and do a food crawl that night, but the time difference caught up with us and we opted for dessert and HGTV back at the hotel before turning in for a early bedtime.
I was still on east coast time on Wednesday and woke up at 6:30am ready to start the day. Bundled up, we walked to Nemesis, Vancouver’s #1 voted coffee shop. I ordered a black tea that had a mild, nutty toasted flavor. It was so good – and usually I don’t have that much to say about a tea’s flavor profile – plus the perfect companion to the chilly walk down to the harbor.
We hopped on an aquabus for a quick jaunt across the harbor to the Granville Public Market. Oh how glorious this place is! We arrived right when it opened at 9am, making our experience a lot more enjoyable as there weren’t huge crowds. There are so many good food stands that we decided to scope the place out before making any purchases. In the end we did a morning/breakfast food crawl sampling a fresh berries; splitting an egg, spinach, and cheese bagel; and then indulging in lattes and donuts from Lee’s.
We explored the island and walked off our hearty breakfast after, being sure to also buy a little onesie for the baby. So fun and cute! Then is was off to the main adventure of the day: the Capilano suspension bridge.
This basically is like it sounds, one big suspension bridge over a river that gets you from one side to the other. The set up on either side is pretty cute and made me feel like we were in a little winter wonderland. It wasn’t very crowded when we were there either, and the holiday lights were already up so it felt extra magical.
Once you cross over the main bridge, there are a set of smaller bridges going between various trees. There’s also the cliff walk, which is just a narrow pathway close to a granite slab. If you have a fear of heights, this probably isn’t the place for you!
While there, we had a very romantic lunch in the cozy cafe. We were the only ones in the place so it felt intimate, particularly with the fireplace and twinkle lights.
There is a convenient free shuttle back to the city (and great to rest after so much walking). As an afternoon pick-me-up, we went back to the same dessert place from the night before, called Thierry, for coconut drinking chocolates; basically very rich, thick hot chocolate that became our obsession in Vancouver.
After a lot of walking, foot massages sounded like a great way to end the day. We found a place called Queen’s Feet and for $40 we each got a 50 minute reflexology foot massage. Not bad if you’re okay with a no frills spa experience, which, at that point, we were.
In true Canadian fashion, we wanted poutine for dinner. Opting for a slightly healthier – and likely trendier – version, we went to Meet, a vegetarian place in Yaletown. I ordered a side of guac with it and a sparkling water + splash of grapefruit juice beverage. I’m (obviously) loving places with good non-boozy options.
After our gravy, fries, and cheese curds, we walked back to the hotel for more HGTV and macaroons in bed! (So.much.HGTV. …but also so fancy with those macaroons.)
We kicked off my birthday with croissants and hot chocolates at Thierry (again). I wrapped up my first trimester blog post and hit publish. Then is was time for a quick photoshoot to try to get a cute picture of the bump for our instagram baby announcement (I know, I know, soooo millennial).
Lunch was at Burgoo and it was the coziest soup and sammie spot. We each got grilled cheeses and tomato soup. Major comfort food on a chilly day.
Walking was our main way of getting around, and one of my favorite things about the city. We averaged 15,000 steps every day we were there. After lunch we walked down to the harbor for tea and cake overlooking the water. Pretty romantic!
On a whim, we rented bikes after and toured Stanley Park. Unexpectedly the bikes were electric which was great! It’s fun just to crank up the speed on a hill and fly up it.
Mike made dinner reservations at Hawksworth and I went full American ordering a steak and fries for dinner (both were delicious). For dessert we got candy cap ice cream and learned after that is was actually mushroom ice cream (better than it sounds).
We ended the night back at the hotel with, you guessed it, more HGTV. 🙂
We walked to breakfast the next morning and then got one last fix of liquid chocolate at Thierry.
In summary: walking, cozy meals, and gallons of chocolate pretty much summed up the trip. Cheerrrrs!
Our little one is due in March and after some back and forth, I decided to blog about my pregnancy via trimester snapshots. My first trimester was July – September and I was oddly happy to start the journey in the summer vs. being super pregnant during the warmer months. Plus I get to openly indulge in all holiday treats “for two” now as I’m in my second trimester during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I found out I was pregnant on a Sunday, after being only one day late. The plan was to wait the “5 days after your missed period” but I had a dream that night that I was pregnant and sleepily decided to just see in the morning when I woke up. I grabbed an expired test we had and … 2 minutes later ran into our room to wake up Mike with the news. I will say, I do suggest at least letting your partner know before you take a test (if you’re actively trying anyway, and both of you know a test is in your near future) as it was a bit of a surprise for Mike; particularly since I changed the plan from taking the test on Wednesday without letting him know.
Of course, as the common troupe goes, we went out and bought more pregnancy tests later that day to be sure. The second one was a deeper colored positive, and, of course, had the benefit of not being an expired test…
That first day of knowing was so surreal. There was a mix of feelings and also a sense of perplexity… like, is this really real (even after two definite positive tests).
I called my doctor the next morning and they set up an initial phone appointment. I figured they would want to see me in person for an exam right away but it turns out you have to wait until you’re 6 – 8 weeks!
I finally went in when I was 7 weeks and 4 days pregnant. (Longest 3 week wait of my life.) During this appointment we saw the heartbeat for the first time. Of course it was such a special moment; coupled with wrapping my head around my body growing this little sweet thing while I seemingly did nothing different (aside from cutting my coffee consumption, eliminating alcohol, and avoiding foods I had heard not to eat).
Overall the remaining 7 weeks of my first trimester were relatively easy. I didn’t get any morning sickness but I did feel waves of nausea throughout the day. I also felt fatigue that I’ve never experienced before, like down-to-the-bones tired. I slept like a rock and was consistent in getting 7 – 8 hours every night. The only real aversion I had was a seemingly never ending sour/metal taste in my mouth. I was eating more to keep the taste at bay than out of hunger. Dried mangos at work became my best friend because I could suck on them slowly throughout the day.
Thinking about it, I generally wanted a lot of sweet things, which is off-brand for me. In the early days, lemonade was a favorite (my mom mentioned she craved lemonade when she was pregnant with me too). Meat was another one that I typically don’t eat much of but all the sudden I was eating it every day. I’ve always been a coffee lover but our affair got more serious – at least emotionally – during my first trimester. Ah, that sweet, sweet hot black magic… I WANTED SO MUCH COFFEE but with strength, limited myself to a cup or two a day.
The other piece of the first trimester is having the best news of your life and not really sharing it with people. We basically only told our family – which is pretty typical – but man, it was hard to keep it to myself for those first few months!
Things We Did
Met the Reagans! We spend every 4th of July with our friends Gary, April, and now their little one Grayson. This year we flew down to Simi Valley for the weekend and visited the Ronald Reagan Library. I was only a few days pregnant here and obviously didn’t know yet.
The Oakland Triathlon! A few weeks after finding out we were expecting, Mike participated in an aquabike. It was an early wakeup call and a cold morning, but always good to be there cheering on Mike (future daddy)! We grabbed brunch after with friends we don’t get to see nearly enough, which was also great (although so hard not to tell them the exciting news).
A group of us were supposed to go camping at Big Sur in early August but plans fell through. We took advantage of a rare free weekend and went kayaking in the Half Moon Bay Harbor with our friends Lauren and Ian (you can reach about other HMB adventures here and here). It was such a fun thing to do for an hour! After we hit up a brewery (where I had to pretend I just wasn’t in the mod for a beer…. suspicious, I’m sure) and then got iced teas and dessert at a local cafe.
Wedding time! Right before I started the 2nd trimester we went to my friend Debbie’s wedding near Santa Barbara. Look at that strategically place soda water and lime. 😉
We’re in Vancouver now, celebrating my 30th! Stay tuned for a vacation post and my second trimester recap. 🙂
Where are my Big Little Lies fans at?!? Sadly I binged season 2 long ago but still felt a twinge of excitement spending this past weekend in the sleepy little beach town where it was filmed: Monterey, California. Meryl Streep walked those streets!
We arrived on Friday evening within minutes of our friends Jessica and Neil. Starving, we quickly said hello and made our way down the street to Goodie Grill, a funky retro spot with way better food than it’s name leads you to believe. The girls went for the “Man’s meatloaf” with mashed potatoes and veggies, while the boys ordered fish. We all splurged for decadent housemate desserts; the apple crumble with ice cream and berries being my favorite.
Jessica and I went to high school and college together so we have some late-night party stories under our belts, but this weekend was not about reliving the past. After dinner and some light channel surfing back at our Airbnb, we were in bed by 11pm.
I was excited to try Acme Coffee the next morning, just a few minutes drive from where we were staying. It didn’t disappoint but I was confused because there wasn’t any bread there. (For those who don’t know, Acme bread is a Bay Area favorite and so, so good.) I guess they are different companies?
Instead of bread, we opted for pastries and donuts so no real complaints there… (and still all of the carbs!)
We spent the rest of the day navigating cute shops, cafes, and eateries between the wharf and Cannery Row. We lucked out with beautiful weather and great views of the ocean.
Jessica and I did some yoga back at the Airbnb before dinner and, after 10,000+ steps it was much needed.
For dinner, we decided to take multiple people’s recommendations and try Monterey Fish House. Maybe it was just too hyped up – or maybe Goodie Grill is just the real deal hidden gem – but we were all underwhelmed with our meals and the restaurant in general. The place was cozy but a little too bustling for our taste. The food was good but didn’t leave a lasting impression. I would say it’s worth going once (if you go early and the wait isn’t hours long, which apparently happens!) but not a repeat place.
After it was game time! We broke out Sheriff of Nottingham, which is one of my all time favorite games, and had fun trying to smuggle contraband through the market (play the game and you’ll know!).
We went to sleep again at a reasonable time because 1. none of us are in college anymore and 2., Mike had a race the next morning that we were getting up early for.
Before the sun came out, we bundled up and trekked down to Lover’s Point (a filming location from BLL) where Mike was participating in an aqua-bike (just the swim and bike portion of a triathlon). It was cold, dark, and foggy. I typically go with Mike to his races and will hangout with him until the start and then go grab coffee somewhere are read a book. It was a luxury having Jessica and Neil there this time to go on a coffee run, while I waited with Mike on the beach. It’s amazing what a hot cup of coffee and a fresh blueberry muffin can do for you at 7am. 🙂
In the end the fog didn’t dissipate and the race coordinators canceled the swim portion. Bummer! Mike still did the bike part of the race while Jessica and Neil headed home. I found a sunny spot and read a book until Mike finished and then we were like BRUNCH! We found a local spot called Crema that was the perfect end to our beach get away.
Woah, I used to post a “Friday Favorites” basically every month. It’s been reduced to a seasonal post but here are a few things I’ve been loving this summer.
Does anything say summer perfection like a good patio happy hour? One of mine and Mike’s favorite spot is a ~20 minute bike ride away, with $1.50 oysters and $5 cocktails. Yum!
When we were in St. Barts for our honeymoon I went on a shopping spree …in a pharmacy. This might sound weird but with all the French influence on the island, I had a feeling there would be a good collection of products from France. I’m happy to report I was right. I actually bought so much stuff, the lady working there gave me a free makeup bag as a gift. We had a language barrier but it seemed like “I’m here to spend money” (me) and “you are buying a lot of stuff, here’s a gift” (her) didn’t need any translation at all.
We did, however, need some help communicating when I was looking at their selection of bar, vegan shampoos (pictured above). Mike and I had just spent the entire day in the sea and my hair wasn’t looking particularly …managed. I had tangles. There was probably sand in there. Not cute. As I was flipping through the different shampoos, I decided on the one for “normal” hair. The beautiful French pharmacist came over, pointed to my shampoo selection in my hand while shaking her head. Is she trying to tell me this is a bad purchase? I wondered.
“You,” she pointed to me and then to the shampoo for dry hair. “This one.”
Ooooh, no, she just assumes my hair always looks this thirsty and I need to step up my shampoo game to the dry hair variety.
I tried to explain that I had just been swimming all day – yes, with many hand gestures to obviously help us understand each other despite speaking different languages – and my hair isn’t normally like this. Eventually she dropped it and walked away, while I was left thinking… leave it to the French.
Despite being called out for my presumably bad shampoo choice (and hair?), I’ve been enjoying using this product, as well my clay mask (also pictured above).
🎶I don’t practice Santeria…. I ain’t got no crystal ball…. Well, if had a million dollars but I’d, I’d spent it all… 🎶
Who else loves Sublime?! I’ve been a fan since I was little (singing along to songs I had no idea the meaning of half the time). My favorite song of all time is Bad Fish and I got to see it performed LIVE this summer by Sublime with Rome at the Mountain Winery.
The Mountain Winery is the prettiest venue. Mike and I went for the first time last year and we plan to splurge once a year to go back for a show every summer.
In July I went out to Chicago for a quick work trip. It was perfect weather, having just avoided a heatwave the week before. I was there for a conference (where we had a nice view of the Chicago river all day). The days were busy but we got out for a few fun dinners in the evening, plus a bean viewing one night!
Would this be a true veg vibes post without mention of some nom fruit or veg?! (The answer here is: no.)
HOW GOOD IS STONE FRUIT?! I love all of them; nectarines, plums, peaches, EVERYTHING. We found ourselves with a lot of peaches this summer and I made a sort of agua fresca with them; mixing peaches (skin and all) with ice, a bit of lemonade, and water. So good & refreshing during the really hot days we had in August.
Another fun thing we did this summer was MONDAY NIGHT BOWLING. Mike has been in a league for a few years now, but I joined him for the summer. 12 weeks of bowling (my best game was a 188, which was my one-hit-wonder of the season), ending with a group potluck (the real highlight, if we’re being honest).
On the first Friday in September we decided to start a monthly movie night with our close friends Lauren & Ian. We’re dubbing it “First Friday” (original, I know) and will continue to get together for dinner and a movie into Fall.
…Whiiiich, who else is looking forward to sweater weather, boots, and all.things.pumpkin?!
I think this may be my first ever meat recipe I’ve posted… Most of the time Mike and I don’t eat meat at home but do make exceptions when people come over for a meal. Long story short for this creation: I had leftover chicken from a dinner party and I wanted to create a simple to make, weeknight recipe for two.
With only 5 ingredients, there isn’t a ton of prep work required. I loved the kick from the hot sauce, that the boiled chicken didn’t add unneeded oil or butter, the crunch from the carrots & celery, and the tang + light taste the Greek yogurt adds vs. mayo.
This chicken salad was flavorful enough to stand on it’s own, and can be easily eaten over some greens for a filling lunch or dinner salad. It also wasn’t runny at all which GROSSES ME OUT about some other chicken salads.
Note that it is messyyy so I actually suggest wrapping it up in a tortillas vs. putting it on bread like I did. (Although how good is a freshly toasted piece of sourdough bread!?)
Lightened up chicken salad
2 chicken breast, boiled and shredded
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
Greek yogurt (varying amounts based on how you like it – I used about 2 large spoonfuls)
Hot sauce (as much as you like it spicy – omit if you prefer)
Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix
Scoop out onto a wrap, toasted bread, or on top of a salad
This recipe came to life after our housewarming party (all the way back in March… that’s how far behind I am in posting recent recipes).
For as much as I love to be in the kitchen, I am a lazy host. I almost never throw an elaborate dinner party. I prefer to host brunches, BBQs, or get togethers with nothing but finger food.
Things that are on the simpler side are my jam; like toasting bagels and throwing some berries in a bowl for a simple brunch, or grilling chicken and zucchini pairing with a crusty baguette and a good olive oil for dinner.
For our housewarming party, we went the heavy appetizer route and Trader Joe’s was our third host. I bought salsa, guac, hummus, and veggies; we did a simple cheese and salami plate; some focaccia and balsamic + olive oil; baked some taquitos and called it a day. (Aside from the homemade meatballs and tortillas chips that my arguably better-at-hosting husband made.)
After everyone came and ate, drank, and toured the house, we had a few leftovers. Namely a jar of corn salsa that I had never bought before… what to do, what to do with you? I thought as I crammed it into the fridge with our other leftovers.
Later that week I was eyeing a bag of spinach we had and thought, maybe… maybe some leafy greens, corn salsa, and black bean pasta will go well together?
And oh how well they do go together! The combo was such a hit I’ve picked up a few jars of that TJs corn salsa since and have made many more dinners of Party Pasta. This recipe is gluten free and can be vegan if you omit the parmesan cheese. It is the real MVP in our house and so simple that is just might make it into the lazy-host rotation for our next shabang.
Cook black bean pasta according to the package and then drain cooking water
Add pasta back into the pot with spinach (the heat will wilt the spinach if fresh or defrost it if frozen) and corn salsa (we really like the flavor of the salsa so I am generous with the amount I use)
Dish and garnish with parm and freshly cracked black pepper
When we booked our honeymoon, St Barts was the destination in my mind. Disney World and Saint Martin we great and all but I really couldn’t wait to get on the island that is allegedly littered with celebrities, taking in all of the luxury St. Barts has to offer.
I could see the difference between Saint Martin and St. Barts immediately when we stepped off of the 45 minute ferry we took between the two islands. Instead of having to deal with renting a car, the hotel we were staying at arranged transport for us. And despite being later than our estimated arrival time, there was still a shiny white van waiting to swoop us up when we got there. This wasn’t your standard carpool minivan either; it was all tan seats, A/C blasting, and a cooler of Evian water waiting for us. It was let us help you with your bags and closing your door and is it too cool in here? Toohot?
Honestly it was so nice, looking back I’m shocked they didn’t have something more outrageous for us, like flavored oxygen tanks to make breathing more pleasurable… (which, if they did, I would have opted for pineapple flavor).
We arrived at Hotel Christopher after a somewhat fairytale-esque drive across the island, with everything being bright and pristine and smaller than what we’re used to in the states. Naturally the staff greeted us with welcome cocktails and we were directed towards a changing room, where we got in our bathing suits to enjoy the pool while we waited for our room to be ready.
We dipped in and out of the pool, alternating between reading, chatting, and huge iguana sightings. At some point we spilt a yummy lunch of freshly baked bread, the creamiest burrata, truffle ham, kalamata tapenade, and artichoke hearts.
We were “Sir’d” and “Madam’d” to our room, where we read some more and dozed off on our patio. We had a great view of the pool and it was easy to fall asleep in the sun, with the sound of fams splashing in the background.
When we woke up I was ready to explore the island, having a bit of cabin fever from being at the hotel for so long. I wanted to go into town for dinner but didn’t realize the location of our hotel didn’t allow for easy walking. Our options were to take a €30 cab there or to eat at the hotel restaurant. Given that we were renting a car the next day, we stayed at the hotel for dinner. Although the burgers and peach cocktails we ordered were devine, I did feel a bit trapped there our first night.
Our second morning started with a hunt for chocolate croissants and coffee. Part of the reason we picked St. Barts for our honeymoon was to experience the laid back island vibe with a bit of European flare. In short, I was really looking forward to the cafe scene! Sadly the chocolate croissants were sold out by the time we picked a place. Instead we got essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, “basically a ham and cheese croissant,” the waitress told us when ordering.
We spent the afternoon exploring different beaches around the island. Some highlights were the baby goats we spotted on one beach and our picnic lunch. The water was so incredible; clear, blue, and warm. Perfect for hours of swimming and long walks on the beach. Hehe 🙂
It was a blissful day that we ended with a trip to a local store for breakfast the next morning (having learned not to rely on the cafes after all) and getting a pizza to go for dinner. It sounds simple but sharing a bottle of wine and pizza back at the hotel was one of my favorite moments.
On our final full day there, Mike wanted to go surfing. We packed up the rental car with beach towels and an umbrella the hotel generously provided and set off to find a broad to rent. We ended up at St. Jeans for the entire day. Mike was able to surf while I lounged on the beach, reading, eating snacks and WATCHING PLANES TAKE OFF AND LAND.
As the afternoon was winding down, we went for one last swim to a platform you could sit on in the middle of the deeper part of the sea. We ended up meeting another vacationing couple. After chatting for a while, we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up for a drink later.
Delighted and drowsy from a day in the sun, we went back to the hotel to shower and change for our last dinner there. Word to the wise, if you find yourself in St. Barts and you want to go out for dinner, MAKE RESERVATIONS! Many of the restaurants base their food ordering for the day based on the number of reservations they have that night. So despite a place not looking crowded, they might literally not have food for you to eat there. We experienced this at 2 restaurants we attempted to eat at, which was frustrating but we finally hit the jackpot with a canceled reso at Bonito.
Bonito was an open restaurant, up on a hill that overlooked the harbor. The food was very French (read: very good, very small portions, and very expensive). It was a lovely last meal, the fancy atmosphere fitting the occasion.
After dinner we met our new friends for a beer and, of course, instagram handle exchanges to stay in touch (hiii, Jenna!;)
We had an early departure the next morning back to St. Martin for our last night before flying home. Overall St. Barts was as exquisite as you can imagine. I’m glad we went there for our honeymoon – a trip of a lifetime – and indulged in all the island has to offer, but I don’t know if we would go back…
Comparing the two islands, to me, is like this: St. Barts is more caviar and champagne, while Saint Martin is calamari and Corona. St. Barts in where you go to relax, but Saint Martin is where you get the stories. Overall both islands where great – one more glam, one a bit more girt – and I’m glad we experienced each of them, although, as much as I love a glass of sparkles, it doesn’t beat local flavor; where the people are kind, courageous, and ready to tell you their tale.
We left Orlando ready for some r&r and island time. After an early flight we arrived in the Caribbean, specifically on the island of Saint Martin, which is somewhat confusingly both a French and Dutch territory. We decided to spend 2 nights on the French side, then ferry over to the island of St. Barts before coming back and spending our final night on the Dutch side.
We didn’t book transport prior to our trip but luckily rented a car without much trouble to get us to our hotel. There are very few places you can actually walk on both Saint Martin and St. Barts so a car was key. It was a good thing Mike drives a stick and we live close to San Francisco, because manual was our only option and Saint Martin is hilly.
We arrived at Grande Case Beach Club and treated ourselves to a welcome cocktail and shared calamari + a Caesar salad since our room wasn’t ready. It was nice to be right on the beach, kicking off the 2nd part of our honeymoon. The water was such a clear, pretty blue, I couldn’t wait to hop in.
We were able to check in shortly after. I was very impressed with our room, which had fresh flowers scattered around, a bottle of wine to enjoy later, and a patio that opened up to a private beach for hotel guests. Without question the first thing we did was take a dip in the ocean.
Not having eaten much that day with an early wake up call and traveling, we were ready for dinner shortly after. We decided to try the hotel restaurant and it was one of the best meals I had there! Even more impressing was that it was all cooked in a small camper as the hotel kitchen was still under construction from the hurricane damages. This – among other things like chipped concrete and a few patches of dried out vegetation – were signs that the island was still recovering.
We walked to the little down town area after dinner for a drink at the Blue Martini. (At the time, I didn’t realize that is was rare to be able to walk anywhere on Saint Martin – or St. Barts – so we took this walk for granted.) The Blue Martini was everything an island bar should be; outdoors, not cramped, nothing too fancy with good spirited bar tenders and live music. We stayed for 2 drinks and did what you’re supposed to do on your honeymoon, just enjoy each other’s company!
Another glorious thing I took for granted when we were at Grand Case was the free breakfast the hotel provided in the morning (foreshadowing that this was not so on the next island we went to $$$). We enjoyed coffee/tea, croissants, and fresh fruit seaside before packing our stuff and heading out to explore.
Our adventure of choice that day was jet skiing. Equal parts fun and anxiety-filled for me, 100% thrill for Mike (when he was able to go fast without me jamming my fingernails into his ribs hahaha). Once our hour on the jet ski was up, we bobbed around in the warm ocean water for a bit, which was quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to spend our days (aside from gloriously reading for hours at a time and enjoying delicious wine and food, of course).
This might be weird coming from anyone else but I’m sure “on brand” for me: one of my favorite things to do when traveling is going to the local grocery store. And I knew I wanted to hit up a few with that French influence on the island. Hi, all of the cheese and nom fresh ingredients!
We bought a small sampler of different cheese, some grapes, and nuts before promptly going back to our hotel, opening a bottle of wine to pair with our local goods and sitting right by another beach to enjoy the waves again. Ahhh, bliss.
For dinner we sauntered over to a gorgeous French restaurant downtown and enjoyed freshly baked bread, more wine, fresh fish, and seasonal vegetables. For such a gorgeous place, I was surprised it wasn’t packed. We chatted a bit with the owners who mentioned they were just starting to make their slow recovery from the destruction of the hurricane. It’s a small drop in their economy but I’m glad we contributed and spent our money there. Plus, we learned about the best spot to go to from our conversation with the locals: a rum bar just next door.
Omg, this rum bar! Looking back it was our favorite night. When we first arrived we were the only ones there, which meant all of the owners attention. We learned about rum made from molasses vs. sugarcane and all of the different places it came from. Then we got real bold and asked if we go off-menu, ordering a sampler instead of one drink each. The owner agreed. We gave him creative liberty to pour us his choices. And then we learned how to properly drink rum.
Smell. Swirl. Sip.
Waft to smell, inhaling from one nostril and then the other by alternating which one you cover. Swirl to see the legs (similar to wine). Sip. Hold it on your tongue. Savor. Swallow.
Pour more. Repeat! (Bonus points, of course, if you’re enjoying your honeymoon and away from the daily grind.)
We walked back after our rum flight happy and content, crossing paths with a little black cat that I loved and wanted to take home. Not one for the superstition of bad luck, I fell asleep without a care that night; looking forward to the next day and our final stop on our honeymoon, St. Barts! **post coming soon**
The Monday after our wedding we flew to Orlando to experience Disney World. It was my first time here, but Mike grew up going to Florida and seeing Mickey & co for spring break.
We stayed at the Port of New Orleans – French Quarter and overall, we were impressed. It had the magic of Disney but was relatively affordable. Particularly at a place like Disney – where you won’t be spending much time in the hotel – as long as it’s clean and convienetly located, it’s win.
My favorite part of the hotel was the NOLA inspired food there. On the shuttle from the airport, we received a text telling us our room number before arriving (Disney magic, friends!) so Mike was able to go drop off our stuff (accessing the room with our ✨magic bands✨) while I ordered food on our first night there.
After dinner, we grabbed a cocktail and hit up the hot tub for a little bit before it closed. With full day of traveling under our belts, it was a nice way to end the day. Even though it was still on the early side for us, being on California, we went to sleep shortly after in preparation for a packed next day.
Despite going to sleep early, we still slept right through our alarms on Tuesday (maybe we were still recovering from all of the wedding festivities?!).
Mike loves going to parks from opening to closing, so it was a bit stressful that we’d already missed a hour at his favorite place, Typhoon Lagoon. We arrived at the water park only 1/2 hour later after quickly getting ready and running out of the door.
Typhoon Lagoo didn’t disappoint, despite our late start! The wave pool was the best and we spent most of our time treading water in the deep-end where there weren’t as many people. Of course we also gave the lazy river and a few slides a go, before it was time to go to the next park: Epcot.
My lovely friend Lauren gave me a ton of good information about Disney World, like making dinner reservations 90 days out and when to get our fastpasses, so a special shout out to her before I dive into our Epcot experience (her and her husband’s favorite park).
First up was the new Frozen ride, which I am glad we had a Fastpass for. The ride was cute but not worth the 2 hour lineup for it. I’m also stating to wonder… how many slow-moving boat rides can Disney make?!
Having not really eaten breakfast, we were ready for lunch quickly after. We went for tacos + margs in Mexico and it was really nice to just sit for a bit. We enjoyed the water views and the breeze in that hot FL sun. The company wasn’t too bad either. 🙂
Next we walked around and went on some more rides but were really just killing time before our next meal. Hah 🙂
Dinner was at Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse. People raved about this place. And, being that I married a Canadian, we had to go. Sadly we were both disappointed with the food. The experience was great; it was nice to go to a fancier sit-down restaurant in Disney World and our server was kind (obviously, he was from Canada), but we were more impressed with the bread basket than the filets. Not the best sign. My recommendation would be to go here for the dessert and to try ice wine but save your money and eat dinner somewhere else.
After dinner we finished “walking around the world,” which was my favorite part of Epcot. Everything is cute and clean and I just loved seeing it all.
On Wednesday we were up early and at Magic Kingdom before it opened. Now, I am a Disney Land girl all the way. I spent many summers driving south to spend a few magical days with my grandparents and mom there. This to say, I was excited to experience Magic Kingdom because I heard it was the most similar to Disney Land.
First up was, of course, Space Mountain. Space Mountain holds a special place in my heart because it is a family favorite (probably like many other families). The story from the first time I rode it goes like this: I was with my grandparents and my mom waiting for probably hours to ride Space Mountain. I guess as a small girl I was pretty nervous about riding a roller coaster in the dark and kept telling my Grandpa about my concerns. It worked out that he sat in the row behind me and, the same as I do today, I was screaming my head off the entire ride. My grandpa felt pretty bad during the ride, thinking, I made her go on this ride she hates and is screaming through the whole thing.
The punchline is, when we got off the ride I immediately requested we go on it again. 🙂
Ok, back to our honeymoon! After more rides, we went to lunch at Jungle Navigation Skipper Canteen, which was one of my top 2 favorite places in Disney World. It was a nice air conditioned break from the heat and the menu had the most vegetables I saw there.
Next we made the game day decision to go back to the hotel room for a dip in the pool and an afternoon nap. Much needed!
We went to dinner that night at Be Our Guest, which I heard was hard to get reseverations for so I was proud of our planning. This restaurant is in the beasts and Belle’s castle, which was cool to see, and they have a 3 course prefixed menu. The big draw though is the “grey stuff” you get for dessert. It is indeed delicious (after I figured out what it was! I can’t enjoy food or tastes that I can’t place).
Turns out I must have gotten my fill of Disney Land when we went a few years ago because I was ready to leave Magic Kingdom after dinner. We went to the Boardwalk in the search of souvenirs but quickly aborted mission for something a little more lively! Cue Disney Springs. Ah, this place was actual magic for this soon to be 30 year old.
We grabbed a beer and caught the last few songs of a live band. It was kind of sad we’d already eaten because it looked like there were some amazing restaurants, including a wine and oyster bar. The real highlight was when it was time to go back to the hotel and we wanted to take a ferryboat. We walked to the pier and caught a skipper just in time to hop on the last boat heading our way.
Maybe it was the excitement of perfect timing or maybe it was the beer but for whatever reason, Mike and I loved that boat ride home.
Our last day was spilt in between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom was a jammed few hours on rides between our fast passes, some short lines, and opting to go as “single riders” instead of together to bypass waits. If you’re fine going solo on a ride, I recommend trying the single riders hack. It is such a time saver!
In my opinion, the actual gem of the day trip was lunch at Sanaa that afternoon. You have to leave the park and go to Animal Kingdom Lodge – which, let me just pause for a second and say loveeee. If we ever go back, I want to stay here; for the lodge’s atmosphere and also because I want to eat at Sanna and have their bread service for lunch everyday.
The bread service is it, people. Fly to Orlando, eat here, and you can go home right after.
On top of the amazing food and aesthetics, you get to watch different animals walk around in the courtyard while you eat.
After lunch it was time for Hollywood Studios and a 85 minute line up to go on the Tower of Terror. Normally fast drop-down rides aren’t my favorite but I can handle (somewhat) Tower of Terror, which is good because it’s Mike’s favorite ride!
Per usual, I screamed (and death griped my seat) the entire time.
We rounded out the day with a few more rides before going back to the hotel and packing for our early morning flight to the Caribbean! **post coming soon**