Vancouver

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.

Looking pretty nervous on our first crossing!

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.

Totem poles in the park

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!

Chilly weather chili

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  • *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!


First Trimester Recap!

The Gist

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. 🙂

Beach getaway

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.

Thinking about Reese and Meryl…..

Friday Favorites – SUMMER Edition

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).

Team pic!

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?!

Obviously we’re really comfortable there, making ourselves right at home!

Lightened up chicken salad

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

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix
  • Scoop out onto a wrap, toasted bread, or on top of a salad

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 ***