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**
On Friday, May 17th, 2019 Mike and I got married at Saratoga Springs in California. I knew I wanted to get married at Saratoga Springs before Mike even proposed. Which meant finding a venue wasn’t a hard choice for us. We actually only visited Saratoga Springs once and signed the contract without visiting any other locations or doing other research.
This quick-decision making turned out to be the unwritten theme of our wedding. We met with one photographer and decided to move forward; I tried on 3 dresses and bought the first one I tried on; I asked my good friend Lauren to make cookies for dessert and never looked back. We opted early on to make decisions fast and not to dirty ourselves with too many details or time consuming indecision. If you’re not about stress, I recommended this method.
It helped that my drumbeat for the day was unwavering: our wedding had one great importance and that was us. Spending a lot of money of other things wasn’t of value to me. Of course I wanted nice centerpieces, decent food, and flowing drinks, but they had to be simplistic, no stress options, with little monetary investment.
Our centerpieces were thought of and crafted as a collaborative effort between myself, Mike, my mom, and two of my friends, Allysa and Leslie. We were fine with the buffet style meal the venue would provide – which was BBQ – and aside from picking the side dishes, we didn’t think more about it. For us, a huge perk about a wedding a Saratoga Springs was that, if you picked the house options, the wine and beer were unlimited. (Our one splurge was for an upgraded keg because I love an IPA and I’m picker about my beer than my wine.)
When I think back on our wedding day, one word comes to mind: joy. I think, in part, this is a testament to words being powerful, and what you say mattering. Leading up to the day, I repeatedly said a top priority was our friends & family having a good time. As mentioned already, things like the food or decorations just weren’t as important.
If my drumbeat was Mike & Ashley, Mike & Ashley, Mike & Ashley, my mantra for the day was everyone just dance and have fun!
All love, no drama.
Minimum effort, maximum enjoyment.
Before the wedding, I asked Mike if once it was all said and done, would we deem it worth it? After all, even with the laissez-faire attitude I believe I had when planning our wedding, it still had it’s stressful parts…
I’m delighted to report that it was 100%, would-do-it-again-in-a- heartbeat, worth it.
Our wedding day was the most magical, whimsical, wine-fueled, joyful, love-filled, special day of my life. Everyone we love was there, and I believe it was all of their missions to have the best time while celebrating us. ♡
We got married on a Friday and a week before, it was a gorgeous day in the Bay Area. A beautiful 70 degrees outside, Mike and I went to dinner at a favorite Greek restaurant to toast the upcoming week and hope that the good weather continued.
Spoiler: it didn’t.
The ironic thing was, when we picked a date for our wedding, we pushed it to mid May – closer to summer – to try to get the best weather for our outdoor shindig. In the end, it all worked out wonderfully but we were obsessively checking the weather that week leading up to the big day.
Mike’s parents, his sister, brother in law, and their 2 kids arrived from Canada the next day, the Saturday before our wedding. It was pretty late EST for them so we turned in shortly after a tour of our new house that they hadn’t seen yet.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and we hosted brunch at our house for our moms and Mike’s sister. Mike made French omelettes, which are my favorite way to have eggs (I realize now that I was the only non mom there and the one who decided on the brunch menu / how everyone would have their eggs… but I think the buttery-pillow soft French omelet is enjoyed by all). We also had bagels, berries, and pineapple. My go-to brunch hosting menu.
The day morning was full of the best kind of madness, with kids running wild and family chatting everywhere. It was a nice way to kick off our wedding week.
My favorite quotes came from Mike’s niece when they were playing outside and asking each other silly questions. Mike asked Ella if she knew his favorite color, which she delightfully answered “yes, Ashley!”
You heard it here, folks. Mike’s favorite color is Ashley. 🙂
Monday was mine and Mike’s last day of work and it was a busy one. Despite thousands of things going on, I am happy to report I successfully didn’t check my work email the whole week of our wedding; and quickly silenced our internal messenger app when my vibrating phone buzzed me awake on Tuesday morning.
Later in the morning on Tuesday, my mom picked me up to get my wedding dress from the tailor. A few people asked me if I was doing any special diet before the wedding and I decided against it. Partly because I didn’t want our wedding day pictures to be some kind of bar I set for myself of a hard-to-achieve body for myself; but mostly because life generally doesn’t slow down leading up to your wedding. I basically maintained my same diet and exercise and certainly didn’t have time for much more.
As I expected my dress fit without problem. Next it was off to my last dance lesson to try moving around in my dress vs. the leggings and hoodies I usually wore to mine and Mike’s sessions. Fitting in with traditions, Mike didn’t attend this lesson with me as not to see the dress before the big day.
After some preliminary wedding errands we drove to Santa Cruz with Mike’s family. Besides what trip to California is complete without a beach day? The weather was actually decent at this point and we took turns strolling on the beach, slipping our toes in the water, and chilling out on the sand while Mike surfed.
We hit up a local brewery after where we got the exciting news that Mike and I had been hoping for. Which, to explain, you have to know that the weather forecast was turning out to be worrisome, calling for cold temperatures and rain on our wedding day. Stressful! As mentioned, we were obsessively checking the weather and eventually reached out to our OUTDOOR wedding venue asking what the contingency plan was if it rained.
We discovered it was a pricy $8k for tents to be put up. Wait, what!!! There was no way.
On Monday afternoon (while still at work) we got an email telling us there was an event happening the day after our wedding and they might purchase the tents for it. In which case, our venue could put them up the day before and we could have them for F-R-E-E.
Happily, over pints, we found out that the tents would be, in fact, up for our Friday wedding. Such a relief! The forecast was still calling for a chilly evening, so we upped our heat lamp count and cheers’d.
(Ironically Tuesday night was the one night I didn’t sleep well before our wedding.)
On Wednesday people started arriving from out of town. We had family friends of Mike’s come for a house tour and coffee in the morning. It was a rainy day, which I’m sure our Canadian friends and family were not expecting of my home state in mid May… Thanks for really showing people your good side, Cali! (Not)
Later in the day, we escaped the rain and took Mike’s niece to the children’s discovery museum is San Jose. She was the flower girl in our wedding and we wanted to spend some quality time with her before. Whew, it was great spending time with her but that place was chaotic. Luckily after about 2.5 hours there, she was fine leaving when we said it was time to go.
That night we went out with Mike’s sister and husband for drinks at our favorite local restaurant, OCK, to test out cocktails for our first look before the wedding. We decided to do a first look at a special place to us; where we’ve been countless times, where we take our friends and family who are visiting from out of town, where we went for sandwiches and champagne after we got the keys to our house. OCK also has some of the best cocktails and we were certain some nerve calming juice would be in order on the big day. Anyway, the cocktail menu is rotating so we wanted to be sure we picked “photogenic” drinks for our first look, hence the cocktail tasting with Wendy and Andy.
After drinks (and our first look cocktails decided) we walked back home to meet friends who arrived that day. We ordered Zume pizza and had a mini-house party with wine free of sulfates and house tours for all. Oh, how parties have changed!
It was so nice catching up with friends from out of town and showing them our house though. Looking back on the week this is one of my favorite memories. If only everyone lived closer! (Or if I remembered to take a picture with everyone… whomp whomp whomp)
Thursday morning, the day before the wedding, I happily did a yoga class with Mike’s mom and sister in the morning before we had our walk through at the venue. My mom and stepdad met us there after and it was pouring out! I was freezing in my yoga pants and flip flops but, surprisingly, wasn’t stressed about the weather. We did everything we could with the heat lamps and tents, so it was all out of our control at that point. We sloshed through the wet grass to check out where we would I say “I do,” asked some questions, and made our final payment. There was no turning back now (not that that ever was after our first deposit was paid hah).
After the walk through, it was time to cash in on Mike’s Mother’s Day present and get our nails done (I guess mine was technically a pre wedding gift vs. a Mother’s Day one).
With freshly painted nails (and the constant fear of ruining them before my wedding), I checked into the hotel everyone was staying at with my dad and sister. The hotel was less than a 10 minute walk from our house (a 2 minuet walk from the nail salon and OCK) which made logistics a lot easier. If you’re planning a wedding, I recommend having things as close to each other as possible. There is so much going on, it is nice to have the flexibility to walk wherever anyone needs to be.
Mike and I wanted to host a Welcome event for our family and any friends traveling in from Canada before the wedding. We decided to have a casual dinner at Campo di Bocce, where people could mingle, fill up on Italian food, and play bocce ball. Besides, nothing bonds strangers like some friendly competition.
I heard from a few people that they loved the whole bocce night. The food was great and, luckily, the rain tapered off just in time for us to fully utilize the outdoor courts we had rented. (I didn’t realize the potential chaos I was signing up for between an outdoor wedding and courts for bocce. Thankfully it all worked out in the end.)
In good spirits, we headed back to the hotel. Originally I wanted to just spend the night with Mike before our wedding. We opted for the fireplace suite at the hotel, so there was plenty of room, and I thought it would be easier. Instead Mike wanted to spend the night before with his dad having a drink and talking …manly things, I guess. That’s what we ended up doing and I’m so glad we did.
My dad joined Mike, his dad, and brother in law for some whiskey; while my mom, Mike’s mom, and a few other girls had champagne back in my room. It was a nice, chill night on my end, plus, I got the whole king bed to myself! After all the girls left, my mom and I hung out for a few moments alone and it was so special to have that time with her the night before my wedding.
I went back and forth on having a friend (or my mom) spend the night with me the night before and, in the end, logistics won out as I really just wanted a good nights sleep before the wedding. I’m usually pretty ceremonious, and thought it would be special and quintessential to spend my last “single night” with a close girlfriend, but everyone has their thing that beats out others and mine is sleep.
I slept without a care or dream that night. It was ideal. I woke up on Friday, May 17th, 2019 to a message from Mike that read “we’re getting married today!” I smiled, rolled over, and fell back asleep for another 1/2 hour. When I actually got out of bed, I showered and didn’t check my phone again. It might sound corny but it was such a tranquil morning. Looking back, I’m glad I had that time alone.
Once I was dressed, I wandered to my mom and stepdad’s room to say hello and give my little brother Gio a cuddle. My stepdad and I walked to get a coffee after and then to pick out my flowers at Whole Foods.
The day was generally stress free aside from when I first went to pick out my flowers. I suddenly had no idea what I should get and remember telling my stepdad “this is why people don’t do this the day of their wedding!” Luckily he was the calm in the middle of my bridal breakdown (I had also almost rolled my ankle moments before while texting and walking so was generally on edge at that point).
The flowers worked out – I went with white peonies and orange tulips – but there was room for error there. I’ll say it was more my style to get a $20 bouquet from Whole Foods, wrapped with brown recycled paper and string, but don’t advise it for the next bride! Having those moments with my stepdad before the madness was another really special time for me though.
When we got back to the hotel it was Go time. My sister, who is a LA based makeup artist, was essentially my glam squad. My friends Lauren and Morgan were there to assist with my hair. The whole morning was relaxed. We didn’t have the proper mimosa toast or matching floral robes to get ready in. There weren’t loads of people in and out of my room. Friends was on in the background. I was chugging water like it was my mission, while we snacked on apricots. My dad popped in and out with offers of slices of pizza or to just check on us. And then it was time to put my dress on.
I loved my dress. It was whimsical, romantic, and forgiving. All things a wedding should be in my opinion. 😉
My mom zipped me up and my grandma tied my sash around my waist. Morgan helped me with my sandals. I put my earrings in and a bracelet my good friend Allysa gave me on. I forgot to take off my engagement ring (but wouldn’t notice that until hours later when Mike was sliding my wedding ring on). I was ready for our first look!
It’s been a busy few weeks for us because, as the title of this post suggests, WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!
We’ve been searching for about a year, putting in offers here and there, but sadly always got outbid; upwards of $100K! Bay Area real estate, man!!
I’ve heard time and time again that moving in winter is the cheapest time since most people don’t want to move in the cold, or they have kids and don’t want to uproot them in the middle of the school year. Well, based on our experience, I’m saying this is true. We finally had an offer expected in late December!
We were over the moon at the prospect of owning our first home, and even better, in the city and location we’ve been pinning for. A lot of the initial paperwork we had to do was when we were in Canada visiting Mike’s family for the holidays. I’m sure all of the forms would have been relatively stressful even if we were home, but having to deal with it all while traveling was a lot (for Mike! I really didn’t do much when it came to securing the loan, getting home insurance, etc).
We knew there was the possibility of everything falling through but, brimming with excitement, we basically told everyone we were in the stages of buying a house over the holidays. What a blow it would have been if it didn’t work out!
Luckily everything went through (THANK YOU MIKE!) and we closed on January 9th, not even a month after we found out our offer was accepted. Suffice to say with the general madness of the holidays and the added To Dos of buying a house, it’s been hectic. (Hectic in the most exciting way, of course.)
We are officially out of our condo now and mostly unpacked. We’re getting used to living in a place with 2 floors (“damn, I left my cellphone upstairs again“) and having 2 bathrooms (so much storage space!). We’re constantly talking about renovations and all of the things we have to do. We’ve already had to deal with 2 leaking pipes but we’ve also had a lovely evening having a glass of wine with a neighbor. This weekend we hosted our first overnight guests and spent a cozy Saturday curled up by the fire (we have a gas fireplace, win!) and watching YouTube videos (we also have pretty poor WiFi for some reason and have to use Chromecast vs. our regular smart TV in the living room). We went for a bike ride this morning on a nearby trail and will be hitting up the Farmer’s Market next week. Our carpets are shaggier that I would like (can’t wait for that reno!) and the garage needs a rescue mission but I’m delighted that we own a home.
To celebrate our first night in the new house, I pulled inspiration from my trip to Spain and made us a meal of potatoes with spicy vegan cheese*, melon and prosciutto, and Spanish cheese. It was easy to prep this ahead, which was important mid-move, and a nice splurge with seemingly hundreds of boxes surrounding us. Of course we also toasted with a nice bottle of champagne and really just basked in our purchase.
We’re looking forward to having our friends over for a house warming / “before” party to showcase the new digs / show what it looks like before we tear up everything and bring our house into the current era. 😉
I’m particularly looking forward to a costume closet and a cozy little library-inspired nook in our bedroom. Stay tuned for Before and After pics. 🙂
*I followed Oh She Glows All-Purpose Vegan Cheese Sauce basically step by step but added paprika to give it some kick. This was the last thing I made in our condo the Friday before we moved, so I can vet that is stores and reheats well.