St Barts! (honeymooning part 3/3)

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? Too hot?

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.

The loot

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.

Mike on our last night in Saint Martin, with a parrot he walked right past a few times before noticing

Saint Martin (honeymooning part 2/3)

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.

Driving to our spot

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.

Mike’s whole fish he ordered (that they nicely deboned for him table-side)
The camper kitchen

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!

You can take the girl out of California but you can’t take the Cali (avos!) out of the girl…

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.

The view of our private beach

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**

BUT HOW CUTE!!?!?!?

Our wedding day ♡

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, so finding a venue wasn’t a hard choice for us. We actually only visited Saratoga Springs once and signed the contract without having to see anywhere else.

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 quick decisions, not to dirty ourselves with too many details and 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. Of course I also wanted nice centerpieces, decent food, and flowing wine, but those things weren’t worth much of a time or monetary investment to me. 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 sides, 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. (Although, we did splurge for an upgraded keg to add to the drink rotation because I’m picker about my beer than my wine and love an IPA.)

When I think back on our wedding day, one word comes to mind: joy. And I think that is a testament to what you say mattering and words being powerful. Leading up to the day, I repeatedly said people having a good time was a top priority.

All love, no drama.

Minimum effort, maximum enjoyment.

If my drumbeat was Mike & Ashley, Mike & Ashley, Mike & Ashley, my mantra for the day was everyone just dance and have fun! These are the two things thoughts that shaped our wedding.

Before the wedding, I asked Mike if once it was all said & 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 100%, would do it again in a heartbeat, was worth it.

Our wedding day was the most magical, whimsical, wine-fueled, joyful, love-filled, special day of my life. Everyone we love were there, and I believe it was all of our missions to have the best time. ♡

Wedding Week!

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. 

Yay!!

(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). 

Practicing for the big day!

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.

My dad and sisters ❤
Soon to be Mrs. & Mr.
Mike and his mama
Me and one of mine and Mike’s best friends, Melissa

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.

The ladies toasting in my room the night before

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).

A selfie between coffee and flowers

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!

*** pictures coming soon ***

non boozy beverages

I’ve been sipping on some new concoctions lately and I thought it was time I got over here to post about them ( / just write something in general… the last time I hit publish was in March).

Cutting to the chase, my current obsession is chia seed water.

It’s as simple as it sounds but it’s been a game changer for the amount of water I drink in a day. I mix 1/2 teaspoon of chia seeds with a bottle of water and SHAKE. You have to shake it up right away to make sure the chia seeds don’t form their gel-like consistency on the bottom of your water bottle and get stuck. I usually wait a few minutes to be sure the seeds have absorbed some of the water before taking my first sip.

I can’t get enough of the flavor and texture chia seeds add to my water (I know that texture part sounds weird but idk how else to describe it). This hydration hack might not be for everyone but the mild toasted rice essence (almost like a green tea would have) and what-feels-like mini bobas keeps me coming back for sip after sip. Sometimes I add lime and cucumber for a splash more of flavor but most of the time stick to just h20 and ch-ch-ch-chia seeds.

Disclaimer: people will likely ask you what the heck is in your water during meetings, or any other time you are drinking it 😉

I’ve also been pouring myself an extra large chia seed filled glass on Fridays and Saturdays, when Mike and I are more likely to indulge in wine, and like to believe it’s been warding off any hangovers quite nicely.

If you’re thinking, “hard pass, I would rather be hung over,” I encourage you to just give it a try! I’ve already converted 4 friends who are regular chia seed water drinkers now.


Next up is my macadamia nut milk with cocoa powder. Colder days were hanging around longer than usual in California this year, and I enjoyed curling up with this beverage before bed. I would heat up a cup of macadamia milk, add 2 Tbs of raw cocoa powder to it, mix, froth, pour, and sip.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and often find most hot chocolates way to sugary for me. This on the other hand is pure perfection. Since the weather has warmed up, I might try it iced but I think the frothed milk is most of the appeal and part of the magic so we’ll see.


Lastly, it’s time to share the news. After years of wanting to try it, I finally gave making my own kombucha a go. A friend gave me one of his SCOBY babies from his homemade ‘booch and it was game time.

Love this SCOBY but it looks so gross!

Based on his recommendation, I stepped 4 Earl Gray tea bags and a cup of sugar in a pot of boiling water. I added this and the SCOBY baby to a glass jar and let it sit on my counter for 2 weeks. Over time it turned into a beautiful golden honey color.

Full transparency, I was nervous to try it. It almost seemed too easy. I surely must have done something wrong…

Turns out, I didn’t! I brought a jar in to try with some colleagues and can proudly report that my ‘booch turned out decent …good even. I didn’t double ferment so the tea is pretty flat but I plan to try it with a splash of sparkling water to jazz it up a bit.

As for that SCOBY baby? It’s living in my fridge until I made batch #2. Holler!

NYC

Manhattan; city of dreams, hangovers, and an endless list of things to do, places to eat, and boroughs to explore. Armed with 3 of my closest girlfriends, I made it my mission to cram as much of it as I could into 3 days during my bachelorette party.

I arrived Thursday afternoon after an uneventful flight and was immediately assaulted by the cold as I exited JFK. Shit, I thought as I jammed my hands in to the depths of my pockets, how am I going to do this weekend? My breathe was visible and my body shaking until I finally got into my Lyft.

$50 and 50 minutes later I was at The Ace. I stayed at The Ace last November when I went to Chicago and decided it’s funky little vibe was perfect for a girls weekend in the city.

I knew my friend Melissa was already there but I wasn’t fully expecting to walk into a room decorated with all things bachelorette. There was champagne, a flower grown that had a veil attached to it, streamers with tiny unmentionables dangling from the walls, and more.

Melissa and I caught up while we got ready for dinner and waited for my other friend Morgan to arrive. As a side note, getting ready with your friends is probably my favorite part of being a girl. So.much.bonding happens!

We ate dinner at abcV, which I am going to say is equal parts amazing and perplexing. I guess it is a carpet store, but there are also two restaurants there? It’s like Anthropology and Urban Outfitters had a love child, then decided to add trendy AF restaurants to the equation. Essentially every girl’s dream.

When we sat down we were instantly greeted with glasses of bubbly (cute!) (because my friends are the best and called the restaurant ahead with word of my LastFlingBeforeTheRing). Of course abcV was tapas style (#trendyAF). We ordered veggies and hummus, avo lettuce cups, fried artichokes, and the tofu. After our plates were cleared and our stomachs (almost) full (are tapas ever really enough food tho?) we were delighted with a complimentary matcha creme brûlée dessert. Yum like, woah.

Next up? Cocktails! We wondered over to Dear Irving but there was a wait. The hostesses recommended we pop into the bar directly downstairs until she had a table ready for us. So there the three of us went, to sit in a dark, cozy, deliciously-New-York-feeling bar drinking Manhattans. As you do.

On Friday morning we woke up with one collective thought: bagels. We hit up Black Seed Bagels, which has a nom poppyseed bagel. After carbing up, we went to Chillhouse for coffee and manis. What a gem of a place! It looks pretty unassuming from the outside but it is cute inside. Coffee was necessary at that point and in between strokes of nail polish, we sipped our java and marveled at how great Chillhouse was.

I can see this place getting packed on the weekends, which would decidedly make it a little less chill, but we were lucky to go on a Friday morning and were basically the only ones there.

With fresh nails, we calculated that we had just enough time to walk down Broadway to Wall Street before Lauren arrived at the hotel that afternoon. We dodged 1.5 miles of busy New York sidewalks to see the Charging Bull and The Fearless Girl statue. The latter felt particularly special as it was International Women’s Day.

After some pictures with both statues, the cold and being outside for around 2 hours was wearing on us. We went back to the hotel to get ready and wait for Lauren to arrive for our 5:30pm drink reservations at The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza, which has gorgeous views of the city and Central Park. We sat at a table facing the park and shared a bottle of wine and a few appetizers. It was the perfect way to kick off the weekend with everyone finally there!

After, we walked to dinner at Fig & Olive, which might have been my favorite eatery of the weekend. We started with the burrata, goat cheese, and prosciutto crostinis, and then spilt the sea bass, lobster ravioli, and risotto. Once dinner was a wrap, we went back to the hotel for a outfit change 😉 and the hunt for another perfect NYC bar. After a few tries, we finally nailed it with Oscar Wilde. This place was everything I wanted on a Friday in New York; it was trendy with good drinks and music. Plus we scored a table in the middle of it all.

We ended the night with french fries, vodka sodas, and some classic mirror pix back at our hotel.

Saturday started with coffee at the cutest cafe Melissa knew about called Felix Roasting Co. This place is coffee lovers oasis. Plus, they have their own house made nut milk on tap! We were running behind to make a 11:45am walking tour at The High Line so hopped in a cab to get there on time. (Shout out to Lauren for hailing it like a champ.) For the next 2 hours we walked suspended above Manhattan’s meat Packing district, learning the ins and outs of the old railroad turned city park.

Luckily the weather wasn’t too bad, even somewhat nice if we were lucky enough to steal a few minutes in a spot of sun. The walking tour was a highlight of the weekend for me. Our guide had a lot of great information and insider stories that he shared with us. The High Line is also just beautiful. There is something special about being somewhere tranquil in the middle of city madness.

We went to The Park for lunch, which was another gem of a find. Unfortunately though, I got a salad that left me feeling nauseaus. Not fun! I was bummed because we were in Greenwich, my favorite part of the city, and I just couldn’t rally… So many cute streets and bars left unvisited! Lauren, Morgan, and Melissa were saints and took me back to the hotel for a 2 hour nap in the middle of our last day there. I felt pretty bad that we had to go back but the rest could have been good for us all, and the fuel we needed to party that night.

I woke up feeling better and ready to hit the city again. We had dinner reservations at 8:30pm, which is absurdly late for this west coast chica, but right par for the course in New York. I love visiting Manhattan but could never live there partly because of the constant hussle and late night social scene that pluses through the streets and avenues. On a typical night, when New Yorkers are just starting their evening, I am ready to start calling it a night. Ha.

Of course being that I was on vacation with 3 of my girls, I was all in for a late night out. After dinner at Acme (which was delicious and definitely recommended), we walked to Whiskey Town, a dark little bar in Greenwich Village.

So this is what I’ve learned about going out when you’re a little bit older and in a relationship: the places that are actually fun to dance at are fewer and farer in-between. Look, I know I’m not even 30 yet but I still don’t want to spend my night with a whole bunch of kids who just become of legal age to drink. I was one of those annoying early 20 years olds once, I don’t need to relive it by proxy.

Prior to the trip, when we were trying to figure out where to go on Saturday night, my one request to my friend Lauren was that is was like this bar/club, Razzoo’s, we went to for her bachelorette party in New Orleans last summer. We wanted good music and no sloppy drinkers. Whiskey Town basically fit this bill! …Which meant, we stayed there all night.

Some, more adventurous souls, may have wondered to another bar in search of other scenes or people to meet, but not me. I was content holding down our spot – right by the DJ with barstools (for our coats) and a ledge (for our drinks) in close proximity all night. We took turns buying rounds and running to the bathroom (“breaking the seal” is as real as it was when I was 21;). We danced and shouted (both lyrics to songs and in an effort to communicate).

I wore my flower crown veil and fielded inquires about the wedding. As well as the general “are you getting married?!” question you get a million times when you go out in public wearing a veil to a bar.

And when it was all said and done, it was time for …pizza. Late night, after the bar, huge New York slices of za.

Melissa was the first to leave on Sunday, on an early flight back home to Toronto. I gave her a messy, sleepy hug and got back into bed until 11am when the rest of us had collectively set our alarms. Initially we had brunch reservations for 10am but when we got back to our hotel at 5am, it was without a question that we canceled them to sleep in instead.

When we were finally up, showered, and packed, we had just enough time to walk a few blocks to Scarpetta, a divine little spot located in the NoMad hotel. The twinkle lights and live jazz music make Scarpetta feel like a fairy tale. …A fairy tale with good coffee and avo toast. (Which, in my opinion, is better than being saved a prince!)

Despite the cold weather that weekend, New York was a blast. A huge shout out to my ladiiies for such an incredible trip. Next up? The wedding!

Sunday onion soup

This past week has been freezing in the Bay Area. Like, we got snow in some areas cold. Not used to it and not really about it.

My Canadian fiance, of course, jokes that I don’t know what cold is and to this I ask, is it possible that coldness is relative? I’m not used to the frigid weather – where he is experienced in frosty temps – so it must be actually colder for me, right? RIGHT??

Anyway, the (only) good thing about chilly nights (past Christmas when it’s festive, not cold) is soup. Comforting, yummy soup. So, to warm up tonight we made a vegan French onion soup.

Actually, decidedly it was just onion soup since we didn’t add the bread or cheese. We are getting married in almost 3 months after all…… (Shred before the wed)

This soup is good but I’m not going to lie to you, the cheese and bread are the best parts of French onion soup.

With my favorite meal in Chicago as my muse, we paired our soup with a mezze platter of sorts. The hummus, fluffy pita bread, Greek salad, and turkey meatballs really rounded out the meal this time. However, if I make this soup again I will definitely be adding some gooey cheese and carby bread.

All in all this recipe is worth the work. It’s a nice way to end the weekend and warm up. Give it a try!


Onion Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large white onions
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or another oil with a high smoke point
  • Dried thyme*
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  • Slice 3 onions and add to heated soup pot with 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Add dried thyme and the other tbsp of oil on top of the onions, stirring occasionally for the next 45 minutes to 1 hour until the onions are caramelized (a nice golden brown color) *note: I didn’t realize my thyme didn’t have a cap with holes on it and accidentally put too much of in the pot. I’m actually unsure how much you should put in but I would guess about one teaspoon…
  • After after onions are caramelized, add the balsamic vinegar to continue caramelizing for about 15 minutes and to add a greater depth of golden brown to the onions
  • Add veggie broth and water and bring to a boil
  • Lower heat to simmer and cover for a half an hour

Home owners! [+ spicy vegan cheese recipe]

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.)

The day we got the keys!

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.

The living room was the first space to be unpacked

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.

All of the unpacking mess behind Mike

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.

CHICAGO

The week after Portland I flew to Chicago for work. Oh, what a town! The food scene there is like nothing I’ve experienced before. Every.single.thing. I ate was delicious. I probably came home a few lbs heavier but there are no regrets (just mourning for the yummy pasta and pizza and burgers and burrata (so much burrata)).

I touched down Tuesday evening and immediately meet my manager/friend for dinner at the hotel we were both staying at, The Ace Chicago. Inside, we found an equally chic and cozy restaurant called City Mouse, where we split an order of grilled carrots, burrata, fried artichoke, and octopus. 😋

We had a productive working session as a team on Wednesday, complete with another yummy lunch. That evening I got to try RPM Italian, Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s restaurant. This might not be cool to say, but I love celebs. I’m not into reading trashy magazines about them but I do like following my faves on instagram and going to their restaurants when I can!

In theme with Chicago itself, everything I had at RPM was delicious. We started with the Giuliana salad (will have to recreate), and an order of the burrata and fried artichokes. For our main meals, we tried the lobster ravioli and the chicken parmesan. The standout for me was how good and fresh the pasta was that came with the chicken parm. In all honesty though, the whole meal was carb-y, cheesy bliss.

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Ok, so aside from all the nom food… it was COLD in Chicago. I know, I know, when I went it wasn’t even as bad as it is going to get BUT this California girl was freezing nonetheless. That night I actually went to bed thinking, well at least it isn’t snowing… 

And, of course, guess what I woke up to on Thursday morning… snow.

We spent the day working from City Mouse; with a pretty view, hot tea, and cozy soup and a grain bowl for lunch. Not too shabby!

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I worked a half day on Friday and then MIKE ARRIVED! Our first stop was the bean (or Cloud Gate). I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to see this landmark but there is just something appealing to me about that steel shaped giant bean! It was so cool to see it in person. Next time I’m in CHI, I’m making another stop here but in the early morning when it isn’t so crowded.

Also, it was freezing…! So we left after about 5 minutes. Hmm.. maybe a summer trip is in store?

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Next up was a drink at Cindy’s in the Chicago Alethic Association Hotel. Cindy’s is a convenient ~5 minute walk from the bean. We didn’t have a reservation (I learned resos are key in CHI) but luckily were able to slip into two seats in the back.

This is another place that seems like it would be cool in the summer, with their rooftop patio and gorgeous views. Although there was a fire pit outside, we opted to stay indoors. The cocktails at Cindy’s were good but the company was better. It was good to see Mike after a few nights away!

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Like I mentioned, Chicago is a reservation city! (Which I actually prefer because, based on my experience, they do sit you within five minutes when you have one – unlike California where reservations don’t really mean anything.) It was still early but I knew we had to figure out dinner. Mike did some Googling and found this place called The Deerborn, which was recommended to us (by the big G) because it was “similar to OCK” (our favorite restaurant at home). Let me just say, Google can have ALL OF MY DATA just for this recommendation alone.

I don’t know enough adjectives to rave about this place with due justice.

In classic Ashley and Mike form, we ordered a few things to spilt. Starting with the French onion soup (which we now want to make at home) and the mezze platter, that included dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, babaganoush, and the best flatbread to soak up all the dips in. It was basically my dream … on a platter.

To be sure we were nice and full, next we ordered the mac and cheese and maple fried chicken. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Also, we’ll be saying screw it to the turkey next year for Thanksgiving. We’re making maple fried chicken (and mac n cheese, and an epic mezze platter, and onion soup).

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On Saturday we walked to a cafe nearby to caffeinate for the day. My go-to, to-go order is an almond milk cafe au lait and, as to be expected in the magical city of all good food and drinks, wasn’t disappointed once. I’m also a huge almond milk snob and ask to see which one they use before placing my order soooo double points to Chi-town.

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Next we decided to bear the rain and hit up the Christmas market. What a mistake! We didn’t even do a full loop before we left and sought shelter in the mall nearby. Ok it was time for pizza. DEEP DISH PIZZA.

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The roasted nuts weren’t even worth the rain.. 

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Everyone I asked recommended I go to Lou Malnati’s for the best deep dish in town. We got there around 11:30am and I’m glad we did! It takes about 40 minutes for them to make your pizza (which is expected for deep dish) but when we left, the waiting area was packed.

We ordered a pie with spinach and mushrooms, despite the menu mentioning it isn’t truly deep dish unless there is sausage on it. Which I can say, I wholeheartedly disagree. Our pizza was deep-dish-delicious sans sausage. It was ooey and gooey and buttery crusty. Oh, and the tomatoes on it. Perfection in every bite.

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Ok, we’ve made it to the part of the blog post program that I am going to stop talking about how frickin’ good all of the food was and tell you my favorite part of the trip (if you can believe it wasn’t the noshes).

Two words: Paper Machete

Actually, four words for more context: Green Mill Paper Machete

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The Paper Machete at Green Mill was recommended to me by a colleague. When I was bummed that Second City tickets were sold out, she told me to go here and to be early!

The show starts at 3pm. We got there at 2:07pm and snagged the last open table by the stage. One beer for Mike. One martini for me; gin please.

The band rehearsed. I complained about how loud it was (I have v sensitive ears) and started to wonder if this was really the best use of out last afternoon in the city…

The showed started and before the first act was over, I knew. I knew it was going to be real good and real raw. I was ready for the ride.

The Paper Machete was a 2 (ish) hour live magazine where performers acted out various current events. The first was a monologue my the First Lady, Melania; so good and so funny and such a relief to know most of the audience was Democratic.

There was also a pianist, a trio of female singers, a few other skits sprinkled in between, and the headlining band (which I still think was a little too loud but it was fine). Mike and I were belly laughing almost the whole time. I also fanned out at the end and asked to take a picture with the girl band (one of the members had already gone home though, boo!).

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Buzzed (from both the martini but also creatively from being around such talent) we left hungry and ready for dinner. Remember when I said Chicago is a reservation city? Well, we didn’t have any for dinner that night. Whomp, whomp.

We tried a few places near the hotel but most had a 2 hour wait. A little defeated we walked up the stairs in the SoHo house to the Chicken & Farm Shop. They sat us immediately and I was nothing short of suspect… Why wasn’t there a wait?

I still can’t answer that question because um, this place was reason enough to go back to Chicago. We ordered the collard greens, chicken nuggets, mac n’ cheese, and the best burger I’ve ever had that was infused with bone marrow that should be how all burgers are ever made…!

On our last morning in Chicago, we got ultra touristy and went to the Skydeck. Basically we stood in line for 1.5 hours and paid $50 for 60 seconds in a glass box 110 stories up.

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I was a little nervous I would be scared to step out onto the glass floor, but felt so rushed I didn’t have to think about it. We shared the box with another party and we were both trying to cram as many pictures in one minutes as possible. It’s actually pretty chaotic. I wouldn’t do the Skydeck again but it was worth trying something new!

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After that, it was a wrap. We hurried back to the hotel to pack, hit up Ballast Point for one last pint, and we were on our way to the airport.

Chicago, you stole my heart (my stomach and my skinny jeans). I can’t wait to see you again.

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Portland, OR

The best birthdays I’ve had have been the no-fuss kinds; filled with good food, friends, and family. Throw in a weekend away and it’s golden.

I turned 29 last Wednesday and, after celebrating with Mike, a bottle of wine, and stuffed pasta shells, we were on our way to Portland early Thursday morning. Friends from Santa Cruz flew in later that night and friends from Washington drove in on Friday morning.

Since we all wanted to stay together, we opted to stay in an airbnb in Vancouver, WA vs. staying directly in Portland. Our airbnb was pretty baller but with 6 people and all the money we spent on XL Lyfts, I’m not sure I would pick suburbia over downtown again.

 

After some avo toast at home base, Mike and I headed into the city to enjoy our day together. Our first stop was a gem that my manger recommended called Knot Springs. You. Guys. This place. An oasis in the outskirts.

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“Ya. Basic.” (quote of the weekend)

We treated ourselves to a 2 hour “soak,” forgoing any spa treatments or workout classes that are also offered there. We were greeted with plush, trendy patterned towels and a cup of hot custom blended tea. Then we showered (required before getting in) and were given a tour of the tubs. The whole idea is to alternate between warm, hot, and cold water to revitalize your system. (There are a whole bunch of other benefits they list but I forget them!) We spent the next few hours dipping in different temperatures of water, trying our hand at some light yoga in the sauna, and enjoying the industrial views (I know that sounds like a contradiction). Not a bad way to spend a Thursday afternoon!

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We stopped for beers and fried pickle spears at Wayfinder after. Mike is picky about his fried pickles and prefers spears to chips. So, whenever we see spears on the menu, you can bet we’re going to get them. Wayfinder had good beer and looked like a cool spot to go to in the summer but it had nothing compared to our next stop, Product Row Cafe.

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cheers!

Mike and I love a good food crawl, and initially, that was our plan for the night – small noshes at multiple restaurants – until we sat on the enclosed patio at Produce Row Cafe…

The twinkle lights were dreamy. The wooden tables and wall paneling gave the place a rustic feel. The DJ playing mellow tunes set the right vibe.

…Plus, the cocktails and the company … intoxicating. 😉

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We left full of nom food and good spirits.

The next morning we walked to a nearby coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings. I love when I find local spots that use good ingredients like this place did. I ordered a coconut milk cafe au lait and sipped it on our walk back. It was creamy dreamy and had the added bonus of keeping my hands warm while we got our steps in on the walk back. It was a chilly weekend up north!

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Caffeinated and dressed in layers, it was time to head into the city for some sours. I love a good sour beer, and they paired perfectly with the baked brie we ordered as a snack.

We stopped at one more place (with legendary artwork in the bathroom, pictured below) for another round before walking to an event called My People’s Market that celebrated a diverse marketplace of multicultural vendors.

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those cat pix tho

At the market we sampled wine, tasted ginger cotton candy, and browsed different booths with things from T shirts with political messages to essential oil rocks.

Next we filled up on bread, fresh olive oil, pasta, soup, salad, and all good Italian things at Nostrana.

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My girls ❤

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On Saturday morning we explored the Japanese Gardens, which was as gorgeous as expected (and also had the biggest leafs I’ve ever seen). Aside from the chilly weather, it was fun to wonder around the gardens together, with plenty of pictures sprinkled throughout the adventure. 🙂

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Next up it was time to warm up. …with sake and sushi (staying in theme of the day, obviously). We made our way to Bamboo Sushi and I had some of the best rolls I’ve ever had. The honey miso roll… drooling just thinking about it. Plus, what’s better than miso soup on a cold day?

We ended our day with adult slushies and karaoke at one bar (as you do) and then at dinner at Bye and Bye, a vegan restaurant that I was pretty stoked to go to. I ordered the BBQ platter that came with BBQ tofu, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. The food was good (!) but I think the atmosphere would have been better for lunch as it was pretty dark in there.

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Love Mike here lol

One more XL Lyft ride and we were back at the airbnb ready to hit the sheets (hi, weekends with late 20/mid 30 year olds!).

We’ll all be reunited again at mine and Mike’s WEDDING! ……in 6 months… what? time is flying. …should we have adult slushies at the wedding? 🙂