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Jul 192017
 

Hello there! Today I’m popping in with another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand, this time with the details of our quick trip to Pai! If you missed my previous recaps, you might want to read those first.

After spending a few very fun days in Chiang Mai, Fabio and I checked out of our hotel (for now) and hopped on a van to Pai. Pai is a smaller town north of Chiang Mai and is known for its natural attractions like waterfalls and hot springs, and also for being a popular spot for backpacking tourists.

The ride from Chiang Mai took us only three hours, but unfortunately the winding roads were very hard on people who get car-sick easily, which is usually me. Luckily I bought some motion sickness medicine at a 7-11 in Chiang Mai and took some before we got into the van, but one passenger got sick on the way to Pai and then another (different) passenger got sick on our way back from Pai. One was outside the van after the driver pulled over, but one was…not. And she didn’t have a bag. Gross. But anyway, just a word of warning for anyone looking to travel to Pai!

Once we arrived, we saw cute little streets with lots of shops and restaurants.

We also saw lots of dogs in Pai, and most of them were really friendly. Fabio fell in love with this little lady, who followed us around during our whole time in Pai even though we never fed her any food. If she didn’t have a collar on we definitely would have looked into adopting her!

After getting our bearings, we walked over to our hotel, Pai River Corner. Although there are tons of incredibly cheap accommodations in Pai (you can find places for $6 per night), we decided to go with a nicer hotel option – it was our honeymoon, after all. We had the top floor of this bungalo all to ourselves!

(Please excuse the candidness of that one!)

The room was nice enough, with clean bathrooms and wifi. Plus it was still a steal compared to hotel prices in the U.S.!

And our balcony had a nice view of the lush greenery and the pool. Beautiful!

Pai River Corner is also located – you guessed it – right along the river. The restaurant and bar had a great view of the mountains and the river!

Once we dropped off our bags, Fabio and I decided to do a little exploring via scooter! We had read that Pai is a great place to rent scooters since it’s a lot smaller of a city than Bangkok or Chiang Mai, and the roads are pretty tourist-friendly. The scooters themselves are also really cheap, so you can rent them for 24 hours for just a few dollars.

Then again, I had also read about how dangerous the scooters could be, and we saw plenty of tourists walking around with bandages from scooter accidents. I do think most of these were from people driving the scooters after having too many drinks at the bar, but it made me nervous regardless. In fact, I was pretty much dreading climbing onto that thing, and was really regretting my decision at this point.

In the end, Fabio and I decided to take the scooter over to Pai Canyon, a cool lookout spot that was, most importantly, not too far away. I’m pretty sure I gripped Fabio and the scooter for dear life the entire way there, and I was so relieved when we arrived safely just about 15 minutes later.

Pai Canyon featured lots of narrow, winding peaks, and we could see other tourists who were climbing around on top of them. I walked to a relatively easy area of the canyon before realizing I’d have to get down on my hands and knees/crawl on my butt to go any farther, and I decided that was enough for me. There was a huge drop on the side of the peaks, and it seemed like one misstep could leave you very badly hurt. No thanks!

We did see some dare devils who rode motor bikes all along the cliffs, and Fabio and I agreed they were crazy. Again, no thanks!

Once we were done exploring Pai Canyon, Fabio and I scootered (safely) back to the hotel and then enjoyed some happy hour cocktails by the river. I think I earned it for facing my scooter fears!

There was also a cool bamboo bridge near the restaurant, so of course we had to check that out.

It was really rickety, but cool!

While we waited for our cocktails to arrive, it started drizzling and then we saw the most beautiful rainbow!

It was actually a double rainbow and if you look closely you can see the second one above the brighter one. It was so beautiful, and Fabio and I took it as a honeymoon gift from our grandparents who are no longer with us. 🙂

After happy hour, we walked into town for some dinner (we went to the Witching Well per some recommendations I had read online – it was pretty good but not amazing) and then waintod in to Boom Bar since it seemed like one of the more lively bars on the street.

Any place that serves up its cocktails with a slice of water melon is a-ok in my book!

Boom Bar had all kinds of lounge areas, a dance floor area, a pool table, and a couple of tables for beer pong! Fabio and I watched a couple of games of beer pong, but ultimately decided not to play. Instead, we hung out at the bar and made friends with some other travelers, two of whom were from Colombia!

They were so, so nice and we had a great time talking to them throughout the evening.

Oh and just a quick side note: When we got back from the trip I had a hard time explaining to my friends and family what the people in Pai were like, and would usually just say they were mostly Western hippies. Then I saw this drawing in the bathroom at the bar, and thought it described the average Westerner in Pai perfectly:

Precicely!

The next morning, Fabio and I set out for a full day of tours around the Pai area! We opted to do a private tour instead of one of the big group ones, mostly because we wanted to set our own schedule for the day. We had planned to see a water fall, a hot spring, and a cave, but we really wanted to go to the cave in the evening because I had read that’s when all the bats come out. None of the big tour groups went to the cave at that time of day, so we hired our own tour guide to take us. It was a little more expensive than the group tours, but still relatively cheap and definitely worth it.

Our first stop was Mo Paeng waterfall.

This was a really lovely waterfall for swimming in, and we slid down the wet rock next to the waterfall and splashed into the pool. We also met a couple of other nice tourists here, and spent some time talking to them while splashing in the chilly water.

Up next was Sai Ngam hot springs – aka Pai’s “secret” hot springs – which featured a couple of pools of warm water. It wasn’t as hot as hot tob water (and pretty different from the hot springs we swam in at Yellowstone) but it was the most perfect temperature for relaxing and I’m pretty sure we could have staying in the hot spring all day. Plus, our tourist friends from the waterfall joined us, so we got to talk to them some more!

Our last stop of the day was Lod Cave, which was probably the coolest thing we did in Pai.

When we arrived, we bought some food to feed the fish and were amazed at the swarm of them that jumped up to get the food. This water was teeming with them, and some of the fish were huge!

Then we wandered into the cave while following a woman who spoke no English and was carrying the cave’s only source of light, which came from a wind-up lantern. I’m pretty sure Fabio and I were sprinting to catch up with her at some points – if she walked away, we would have been completely in the dark.

We spent some time climbing up into the caves and observing all the interesting shapes in the stalactites and stalagmites.

Then when we had seen two of the caves, we climbed onto a narrow bamboo raft that would take us over to another cave.

It was so narrow and flimsy, and all I could think about was that all those giant fish that we had seen were swimming right below us. Eek!

While we were going down the stream, we kept noticing drops in the water. Fabio and I both assumed it was condensation dripping down until our guide shined her flashlight up to the huge ceiling of the cave, and we saw hundreds of thousands of bats above us. Ok then, those drops are clearly bat poop.

Soon we emerged near the mouth of the other cave, and we saw thousands and thousands of bats swarming around the entrance. It was just about sunset, so it was time for the bats to go eat their dinner, I suppose. It was really, really cool, and definitely worth hiring the private tour guide to see. It was incredible!

You can see our raft in the background here – it really was tiny!

All in all, it was a really fun day exploring the sites around Pai!

When we got back to our hotel, we cleaned ourselves up and then got some dinner from the street vendors. I started with a mango smoothie, and then got green curry and brown rice for my meal.

(Yes, I joined the crowds of tourists and bought myself a pair of elephant pants.)

This was probably my favorite Thai dish that I had during the whole trip, and it came from a food truck!

Fabio got stir fried noodles with hot basil and chicken, and his was equally delicious.

The street food in Pai did not disappoint!

After dinner we walked around for a while to do some shopping and then called it a night as we had to hop on the van back to Chiang Mai early the next morning.

All in all, I would recommend a visit to Pai for anyone who’s interested in seeing a smaller, unique Thai city with all the creature comforts that we tourists enjoy. It was wonderful!

Question(s) of the day: Have you ever been in a cave? Would you ride on a scooter?

 Posted by on July 19, 2017
Jul 122017
 

Well friends, it’s time for another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand, and this time we’re talking about my favorite part of the whole trip: visiting Elephant Nature Park! If you missed my first two honeymoon recaps you can read about our day in Bangkok here and our Chiang Mai hike and wat tours here.

When Fabio and I first started researching where we wanted to go for our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go somewhere where we could see animals (we are huge animal lovers, if you couldn’t tell that by now). We thought about the Galapagos because of its amazing marine life (I’ve heard the sea lions are incredibly friendly!) and we thought about an African safari (how cool would it be to see lions and giraffes in the wild?). But after reading this review about Elephant Nature Park and hearing lots of other great things about Thailand, our decision was made and we booked our trip!

I did a lot of research before booking any activities for our vacation, and I learned that while riding elephants is an extremely common tourist attraction in Thailand, it’s actually really bad for the elephants. And the crazy thing is that everyone does it! In fact, there are so many tour companies offering elephant rides that most tourists have no idea that it’s not good for the animals. In the U.S. something like this would absolutely be regulated, but every country is not like the U.S., and Thailand relies heavily on its tourism industry so they let this practice continue. Tourists ride the elephants all the time (so don’t feel bad if you’re reading this and you’ve done it!), but more and more elephant sanctuaries are starting to pop up in Thailand to educate people about the right way to interact with elephants.

Elephant Nature Park is one of these places, and they rescue and rehabilitate elephants that have been abused through the tourism industry, kept as pets, or hurt during the nearby Burmese civil war. The park is housed on 250 lush, hilly acres (it looks a lot like Jurassic Park!) and serves as a home to elephants, dogs, cats, water buffalo, and other animals. It’s enormous!

On the morning we were scheduled to visit the park, we were picked up from our Chiang Mai hotel and then rode in a comfortable van for the 60-kilometer (37-mile) drive north to the park. (Warning: If you’re ever getting picked up from a Thailand hotel for an excursion, make sure it’s for the right excursion. We had a language mix-up that could have ended with us driving ATVs around instead of seeing the elephants, which I would not have been happy about. Luckily it worked out fine in the end.)

On the way to the park, we watched a horrifying video showing what trainers do to elephants who are used for things like trekking with tourists and performing in the circus. It was really terrible, and I had to look away at certain times. I understand why they make us watch this video though; it reaffirms our commitment to supporting elephant sanctuaries instead!

When we arrived, we entered a large, open-air building. And we instantly saw elephants!

Our first activity of the day was feeding the elephants some watermelon. Apparently this is just their appetizer, as they eat 10% of their body weight each day. That’s a lot of food! We stood behind some protective bars to feed the elephants since some of them can be unpredictable around food.

I watched a couple of other people from our group feed the elephant, and then it was my turn! The elephant gripped the watermelon in its trunk and then easily transferred it to its mouth.

Then it was Fabio’s turn!

We were both a little hesitant the first time around, but got more comfortable once we got to the second and third pieces of watermelon.

Here you go, big guy!

After the watermelon was gone, the elephant hung around for about 30 seconds to make sure he got all the food, and then he walked away. Clearly he wasn’t hanging around for our company! Ha!

Then we walked over to a hospital area where our guide explained the elephant rehabilitation process. When the owner of Elephant Nature Park hears about an elephant that’s injured, old, or just needs help, he will buy it off of other tour companies or owners.

The elephant then goes into the park’s vet center for all kinds of testing, and if needed they have a hospital where elephants can stay. Our guide told us about two elephants who stepped on land mines after their owners made them climb over the mountains from Burma to escape the civil war there. Those elephants had to be in the hospital for two years because they kept stepping on their injured legs and breaking their plaster casts. Poor things! It’s so nice to know there’s a place like Elephant Nature Park to take care of them.

Once the elephants are deemed healthy, they are matched with a trainer who will take care of them and help them find their herd. Some elephants match up with a herd right away, and others take years to find their new “family.” It has to be a mutual acceptance all around, and it was nice to realize that all of the elephant families we saw throughout our stay were really adoptive ones.

After learning about this process, we walked over to a female elephant with an injured foot. Sadly, her foot will never be able to heal fully and she will have to live in the enclosed vet area for the rest of her life so she doesn’t injure it more. She didn’t seem to mind though, as she was super friendly and got lots of food to herself.

This was the first elephant we got to interact with up close, and I think we were all a little nervous at first. These creatures are just so big!

Our guide reassured us that she was a gentle and friendly elephant, and encouraged us to get really close to her and pet her. Ok then!

Her skin had course prickly hairs all over it, which was surprising to me. She was really sweet and didn’t mind having us there at all!

FYI – those cement cylinders are there so the elephants can scratch up against them, like cats!

After we were done visiting the sweet injured lady, we walked over to another area of the park where an elephant family (remember, they’re not actually related) was enjoying another snack. This time we got to see an adorable baby!!

The family was really cute, and I loved hearing that there was a grandmother, mom, and big sister elephant that all stayed close to the baby. (Meanwhile the dad was way off in the distance…apparently they’re more like dogs and don’t stick around to take care of their offspring.) You can tell which ones are the older ones based on how deep their temples are – cool!

These elephants were also friendly, and we got to get up close to them.

We even got to pet the baby, which might have been the highlight of my whole trip.

Here’s a screenshot of the video Fabio took of the interaction. It was so amazing! The baby was small compared to the other elephants, but was still really big and strong next to me.

At one point when I was walking away from him, he decided he wasn’t quite done with me and reached out his trunk for me. He almost grabbed my leg and I would have gone flying! These creatures are pretty funny and I don’t think this little guy even knew his own strength.

Amazing!

As I mentioned, there were also tons of dogs at Elephant Nature Park–more than 400!–most of which were rescued after the 2004 Thailand tsunami. They get along with the elephants pretty well, and it was cool to see them hanging around together.

There were also lots of water buffalo, which was both cool and scary. I was happy keeping my distance from these guys. 🙂

After we were done petting the elephant family, we walked them down to the river to watch them swim and spray each other with water sucked up through their trunks.

And after they were clean from the river, they rolled around in the mud!

We learned that elephants have sensitive skin, and they use mud as both their sunscreen and insect repellent. Interesting!

After the mud bath it was time for us to eat lunch, and we headed back up to the building to enjoy a delicious vegetarian Thai buffet-style lunch. We got to know the rest of the people in our group much better during this time, and we had a nice time talking to them!

After lunch we spent some time with another elephant family, which had another baby.

Right when Fabio and I squatted down for a photo, the little guy turned around so we got more than just his butt in the picture. What a little ham!

At this point we could see another elephant tour group (a riding kind by the looks of it) making their way down to the nearby public river. As soon as the elephants near us smelled them, they got really nervous and protective. The mom elephant made the baby go with her into their enclosure where they knew they would be safe if anything were to happen. The elephants from the other group were still pretty far away, but it was amazing to see how protective this group got as soon as they smelled them.

Once everything settled down, we said goodbye to this group of elephants and then headed down to another section of the river. It was elephant bathing time!

Each elephant got another basket of fruit (watermelon and bananas this time) and they contentedly ate their snack while we splashed them with buckets of water from the river.

They seemed to really enjoy this, and used their ears as fans to blow cool air on their damp skin.

This was a perfect way for us to wrap up our amazing day with the elephants!

Soon it was time for us to say goodbye to the park, and we climbed back in the van for the drive back to our hotel in Chiang Mai. It was such an incredible experience that I will never forget, and I’m so glad we were able to support such an amazing organization. If you ever go to Chiang Mai, you absolutely have to visit Elephant Nature Park, and please don’t ride any elephants!

Question of the day: Would you enjoy this or be scared?

One guy in our group discovered that he was afraid of elephants (something he didn’t know until he got close to one!) and decided to skip out on most of the activities for the day. Poor guy!

 Posted by on July 12, 2017
Jul 072017
 

Hi friends! Today I’m back with part 2 of my honeymoon recap, which included visiting lots of beautiful wats (temples) in Chiang Mai! We even hiked up a really cool monk’s trail to get to two of the temples, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, if you missed my Bangkok recap you can find that here! And, just a warning, this is a looooong post, so get comfy. Here we go!

After spending just over a day in Bangkok, Fabio and I hopped on a flight north to the second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai. We flew through Nok Air and it was very comfortable and quick!

When we arrived at around 10:30 a.m., we got in a cab to take us to our hotel which was inside the old city near the East Gate (Tha Phae Gate). We were staying at The 3 Sis, a boutique hotel/bed and breakfast right in the heart of the city. When we pulled up, we were in awe of the massive mango tree out front. Wow!

The lobby was peaceful and inviting, and we were greeted with the most amazing Thai iced tea. Ahh! I could use a glass of that right now.

Our room was comfortable and spacious (we stayed for four nights total), but my favorite part of the hotel was the view of Wat Phan Tao (one of the temples) right across the street. This was what we saw when we ate breakfast every day!

Amazing!

After we checked in and dropped off our bags (our room was ready early, thank goodness), we decided to walk around the old city of Chiang Mai. On our maps this part of the city had appeared to be pretty small, but we soon found out it was much bigger than we thought. We spent quite a while walking around the streets and still didn’t cover everything.

The first thing I saw that piqued my interest was all the monks! They were everywhere, much more so than in Bangkok. We knew there were lots of wats in Chiang Mai so this wasn’t surprising, but it was still really cool to see. There were even lots of monks shopping in our local 7-11!

After getting our bearings, Fabio and I decided it was time to see some of the wats! The dress code for these was definitely enforced more than in Bangkok, and I made sure to wear pants and a top with sleeves whenever we were exploring the temples. It was super hot, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful!

There were ornate decorations everywhere – on statues, walls, the roof, and even the ceiling – and everything had so many beautiful details.

Like with Christianity, Buddhists believe that making beautiful temples to worship God is a way to get into Heaven. It sure was beautiful!

It was cool seeing some of the older wats too – this one is part of Wat Phan Tao, which was the one that was just steps away from our hotel. Check out the monks! (Obsessed.)

As we were wandering around admiring the beautiful temples, we saw a sign in English that said “Come Meet a Monk.” We noticed a bunch of other Westerners sitting at tables talking to young monks, so we decided to see what it was all about.

When we sat down, we started talking to a 16-year-old monk who was interested in interviewing us for his English homework. Cool! He asked us where we were from, what our jobs were, and what we thought of Thailand so far, among other things.

In turn, we asked about his life and found out that he’s from a very small village in northern Thailand and that he decided to come to monk school to help out his family. He said his father passed away a few years ago, and he has many brothers and sisters. His mom works multiple jobs – all of which are about two hours from their home – and she can’t afford to pay for high school for all the kids (it’s not free in Thailand, apparently).

This monk (I forget his name!) was really dedicated to his studies and has a dream to go to college, so he decided to become a monk for a while so he can get his education for free. Though he doesn’t want to stay a monk forever, he said that once you learn the Buddhist monk values, you’re always a monk at heart. This was one of the highlights of our trip for me, and I loved hearing his story! Also, his English was great! What a smart kid.

Side note: He wasn’t allowed to sit or stand next to me since I’m a woman. Interesting. He also was amazed at how tall Fabio is. Ha!

After that, we checked out a few more wats inside the old city before calling it a day. (I’ll write another post highlighting all the other stuff we did in Chiang Mai like restaurants, bars, and massage places, but today’s post is about the wats!)

The next day, we had plans to hike up to see two more wats: the quiet, remote Wat Pha Lat and the busy, touristy Doi Suthep. This hike was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited to get to the two wats by climbing up an old monk trail instead of riding in a car or tuk-tuk.

We relied heavily on this blog post with step-by-step instructions for following the hike, so if this is ever something you’re interested in doing, definitely check out that post!

Anyway, after taking a tuk-tuk out of the old city one morning and walking uphill a ways from our drop-off point, we arrived at the entrance to the trail.

There we met a fellow American (who took this picture), who has been living in Thailand for a few years. She warned us that the hike was not easy at all and asked how much water we had with us. *Gulp* What did we just get ourselves into?

We aren’t quitters though, so we forged ahead with her word of warning swarming in our heads.

The trail itself was made by monks who needed to climb up the mountains to get to the different wats. They still use it today, and do the whole climb in sandals! The path is marked by pieces of their customary orange cloth, which served as reminders that we were in a serene and sacred place.

Some areas of the trail were absolutely covered in cloth, and other times we would walk for a while without seeing any.

One tip for this hike is to put on lots of bug spray! The hike takes you through some really dense woods and there were lots and lots of bugs. Sometimes the bugs would also be super loud, and all you could hear were bug noises and the rushing water of some small waterfalls along the way.

After hiking for about 45 minutes and seeing a couple of other hikers along our path, we crossed a somewhat rickety bridge and then arrived at Wat Pha Lat.

Wat Pha Lat is a very quiet temple that was built next to a waterfall. Apparently it used to be a resting point for travelers on their way to Doi Suthep, but when they built the road to Doi Suthep this place became a quiet retreat accessed only by monks and hikers.

The only real way to get to Wat Pha Lat is by hiking to it since it’s located deep in the forest. This, of course, limits the number of tourists who go there which allows you to really soak up the beauty and serenity of the place.

Since it was pretty hot and humid during our hike, I packed some light-weight pants and a shirt in our backpack and just put them on as we walked around the temple. Again, I wanted to be respectful, but it was too hot to wear those kinds of clothes during the whole hike.

Wat Pha Lat was beautiful and so peaceful! Fabio and I really enjoyed our time walking around and taking in the calm atmosphere. It felt like we were in a movie!

Then it was on to part two of our hike, which was the much steeper and much longer climb up to Doi Suthep!

This is the part of the hike we were most worried about and although we were fine, it definitely was a little challenging at times. At one point it started to drizzle and the clay trail got wet, making it super slippery to walk up. We were able to find some walking sticks though which really helped us keep our balance! Better hiking shoes would have been helpful here, but we only had our sneakers.

We also met a really nice Swiss girl at this point and spent lots of time getting to know her during the hike. It made the time fly by, and before we knew it we were close to the top! (Not before we made a wrong turn and Fabio had to climb a waterfall in search of the trail. Oops. Wrong way!)

We also spotted this crazy blue Lion King-esque bug when we were almost at the top. Gross! Its body was probably four inches long.

Right after the giant bug sighting, we arrived at the end of the trail! Woohoo! The second half of the climb took us about an hour and fifteen minutes and was definitely more challenging than the first half, but not as impossible as that other American woman had made it sound. Thank goodness!

At the top, we rewarded ourselves with fresh mango smoothies and then headed in to visit the famous Doi Suthep. (There were lots of tourists and carts selling things here. Very different from Wat Pha Lat!)

Doi Suthep is pretty famous for its dragon stairs, which are intricately decorated all the way up to the top.

It was a pretty long climb to the top, but nothing compared to the hike we had just done!

The view from the top was definitely beautiful, but it was pretty crowded and made me appreciate the peacefulness at Wat Pha Lat all the more.

Still, it’s worth a visit when you’re in Chiang Mai!

Once we were done at the temple, we hopped in a songthaew (a red pick-up truck that acts much like Thailand’s version of Uber pool) back to the old city. During our ride, we met some interesting tourists from Los Angeles and the UK, and it was nice to hear about their respective trips.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we took some much-needed showers since we were coated in bug spray and mud. Yuck!

All in all, I would absolutely recommend checking out the wats in Chiang Mai, and would especially recommend doing the hike and trying out the “Meet a Monk” program!

Question of the day: What would you ask a monk?

 Posted by on July 7, 2017
Jul 052017
 

Fabio and I spent an amazing weekend with my Aunt CC and Uncle Steve at their house in Otis, Massachusetts, but unfortunately we found out some sad news on Sunday night which definitely put a damper on the trip. Fabio’s grandfather, who we call Abuelo, passed away on Sunday at the age of 93.

Fabio’s grandfather lives in Bolivia, and I am so incredibly thankful that we were able to make a trip down there in 2014 to meet him. Though he’s lived in Bolivia for quite some time now, he lived with Fabio and his family for a while when Fabio was growing up, so they had a pretty close relationship.

I am so sad for Fabio and his family right now, but I know that Abuelo lived a long, happy life surrounded by people who love him. He wasn’t sick and didn’t suffer much – he was only in the hospital for two days before passing. Fabio is on his way down to Bolivia right now for the funeral (I wasn’t able to take more time off work since we just returned from the honeymoon), and I am sending all of my love down there with him. Rest in peace, Abuelo!

Despite the sad news about Abuelo, we still had a really nice weekend in Massachusetts. Here’s my recap!

Friday

Fabio and I drove up to Massachusetts after work on Friday evening. We had a few pit stops to make first, so we didn’t really get on the highway until around 8:30 p.m.

At that point, we had a scary driving incident about 10 minutes into our drive – we narrowly avoided hitting a small deer, only to have car next to us clip it and send it flying into my passenger door, which left a nice dent, made a loud boom, and scared the crap out of us. Thank goodness it didn’t have antlers or it would have shattered the window for sure. It was definitely scary!

After that, the rest of our 6.5-hour drive was uneventful, and we arrived at 3:00 in the morning. We spent a few minutes chatting with CC and Steve over wine and late-night snacks before crawling into bed. The birds were chirping and the sun was starting to rise when we fell asleep!

Saturday

We slept in until about 10 a.m. on Saturday, and then enjoyed a nice breakfast at CC and Steve’s house. I just love it here!

The weather wasn’t looking too great on Saturday and we had afternoon plans to attend a concert at Tanglewood, so we stayed close to home during the day. The boys played a bunch of lawn games (kan jam, horseshoes, and a golf chipping game they made up) while CC and I lounged on the deck enjoying the intermittent sunshine, and crossing our fingers that the rain would stay away for just a little longer.

Eventually, it was time to head out for the concert! We drove over to the town of Lenox, MA, for some dinner before the concert, and then headed to the venue, Tanglewood. This concert venue is super popular for the Berkshires, so we’d been dying to check it out ever since CC and Steve bought a house here a few years ago.

It was drizzling when we arrived, so we were glad we had tickets under the “shed” area, which is the covered section of the venue.

There were plenty of people with lawn seats who were stuck out in the elements, but most of them looked pretty prepared with lots of umbrellas! The good thing about Tanglewood is that you can bring in your own coolers with alcohol and snacks, so it was really cool to see some of the elaborate set-ups. Some people even had tables, chairs, and candelabras!

We didn’t bring a cooler ourselves because we knew you weren’t allowed to bring them into the shed area, so we enjoyed some beers in a designated area of the concert venue. Cheers!

We also walked over to see the beautiful Stockbridge Bowl, which is a big lake with some beautiful rolling hills around it. It was pretty hard to see through the mist, but you could tell it was beautiful!

Then it was concert time! We wound up seeing John Mellencamp on Saturday evening, and I really enjoyed hearing his classic hits like Jack and Diane, Hurts So Good, and Pink Houses.

He did an amazing job and was a really great performer! His band really killed it too, especially the female violinist. Wow!

When we got home, we had some late-night dessert of homemade peanut butter pie courtesy of CC.

Yum!!

Then the boys played a bunch of games downstairs (per usual) before we all called it a night.

Sunday

CC and Steve had two friends coming down on Sunday, so we went to the nearby diner for a quick breakfast and then spent some time getting the house ready for the day ahead.

When their friends arrived at a little past noon, we got the kayaks and paddleboards ready for an afternoon on the lake!

CC and Steve’s friends brought their adorable lab Ellie along for the trip (we sadly left Jack with my mom this time) and she even went on the kayak!

It was SUCH a beautiful afternoon on the lake with perfect temperatures and plenty of sunshine, and we wore ourselves out paddling around for a couple of hours.

When we got back to the house, we enjoyed a lovely happy hour on the deck!

It was around this time that Fabio got the call about his grandfather, so we stepped away from the festivities for a while so he could talk to his family members and coordinate his trip to Bolivia. It was a much more subdued night for us after that, but when we were ready to rejoin the group we enjoyed a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken, ribs, corn, and squash salad. Everyone was very understanding and sympathetic to Fabio, and I’m glad we had them there for extra support.

Monday

Monday morning was another beautiful day in Otis!

We all decided we wanted to go on an early morning bike ride, so we got ourselves ready to go and hit the road! I borrowed CC’s mountain bike, and though it was pretty challenging to keep up with the rest of the group who were all on road bikes, I think I did a pretty good job!

The views were gorgeous as well, and I enjoyed checking out all the lakes and ponds that we passed.

This was my first time riding a bike while being clipped in (other than on a stationary bike), so it took me some time to practice clipping out before stopping, but eventually I got the hang of it. I’m sure I’ll get better with practice too!

We wound up covering 20 miles (well, 19.9, which drove CC and me crazy) before heading back to the house.

At this point I did some work for a while, and then later in the afternoon we headed out for some more stand up paddle-boarding and kayaking!

We took it easier on Monday and spent more time relaxing and soaking up the sun on our boards compared to the more strenuous paddling from the day before. Ellie came again, and rode in the car with us on the way back.

In the afternoon, we had another concert at Tanglewood on the agenda (like I said, it’s a big summertime thing to do out in the Berkshires!), this time to see James Taylor. We stopped for dinner in Lenox again and enjoyed a nice meal outside at Firefly.

CC and I both ordered the white peach sangria, which was quite delicious.

And we got a bunch of appetizers to share for the table. Yum!

For my entree, I got a salad made with arugula, goat cheese, blueberries, strawberries, pistachios, and lobster, with a side order of truffle fries for good measure. 🙂 It was such a fun way to kick off the evening!

Then it was concert time! The Stockbridge Bowl was looking much prettier than it did on Saturday, now that the skies were clear.

We also brought a cooler and a picnic blanket this time, which meant we could enjoy our beverages right on the lawn.

The whole group of us!

The vibe for this concert at Tanglewood was really fun with lots of families picnicking, drinking, and playing lawn games. James Taylor performs every July 4 weekend at Tanglewood, and, according to Steve, it’s basically a Berkshires right of passage to go see him. There were tons of families who clearly come to the concert every year, and Fabio and I thought this would make a really fun tradition. We hope we can go back next year!

When it was time for the concert, we moved our cooler over to a spot near our seats (which were under the shed again) and we picked a spot that was also close to the bathrooms and the exit. Excellent game plan!

Though we couldn’t take our cooler or our drinks into the shed, we chose a spot under a tree that was pretty inconspicuous, and no one wound up stealing it or anything while we were at our seats. During the intermission we all came out to enjoy another drink, which worked out perfectly!

Truthfully James Taylor is not my favorite performer – I think his music is a little slow – but we had such a fun time at the concert anyway! I would absolutely go back next year; the atmosphere is just so fun!!

Tuesday

On Tuesday morning we left Otis by 7:30 a.m. since we had a long drive ahead of us. We made it home in the early afternoon and then I dropped Fabio off at the airport. Now I’m working on this post and trying to decide if I feel like venturing out amidst the crowds to watch any fireworks. I’m thinking watching them at home on TV in my PJs is sounding like a better option after this busy weekend! 🙂

Question(s) of the day: How often do you go to concerts? Do you like watching fireworks?

 Posted by on July 5, 2017
Jun 282017
 

Hello there! Today I’m coming at you with the first recap of our amazing two-week honeymoon vacation in Thailand! Our first stop was Bangkok, where we only stayed for one day. We were told by friends who had visited Bangkok previously that we probably didn’t need to allocate more than a day or two to seeing Bangkok’s sights before moving on to the rest of the country, so we took that advice to heart!

Our trip began with a 9:50 p.m. flight out of Dulles the day after our wedding. That day was such a whirlwind – we woke up as husband and wife, enjoyed breakfast with our wedding guests, packed up everything at the hotel, came home to do some laundry and swap suitcases, and then headed to the airport. Phew!

When we arrived at Dulles airport, we realized we were able to access the airport lounges through a travel credit card that Fabio has (I think it’s Chase Sapphire Preferred, but I’m only like 80% sure about that). Anyway, we got into the lounge and took advantage of free champagne! Woohoo! Kicking off our honeymoon in style. 🙂

Cheers!

We then embarked on a 12.5-hour flight to Qatar via Qatar Airways. In case you’re wondering where Qatar is, it’s here:

The country is actually having some diplomatic issues right now so we weren’t sure if our flight would be affected, but luckily it wasn’t. By the way, Qatar Airways is very nice (it is usually ranked either the best or second-best airline) and we had a very comfortable flight. We were pretty tired from the wedding, so we slept the whole way!

As our flight was landing, the flight attendants came around serving breakfast to everyone (although it was early afternoon in Qatar and they called it lunch – it felt like breakfast to us). Fabio and I had read that the Doha airport in Qatar had tons of nice restaurants, so we decided to skip the airplane meal thinking that we’d get something to eat at the airport. Then of

Then of course we landed and the flight attendant made an announcement reminding us that since it was Ramadan, eating in public in Qatar is prohibited until 6:30 p.m. Um, what?? Noooo!!! We definitely were not planning for this, and I was wondering if I was going to have to smuggle one of the protein bars I had in my carry-on into a bathroom stall or something.

Once we got off the plane we asked more about Ramadan customs at the airport information desk, and we were told that while the restaurants remain open, it would be pretty disrespectful to eat at them, but ultimately the choice was up to us. I asked if drinking water at the gate was ok, and again was told that it was up to us. Well ok then.

Luckily we found another one of those airport lounges that we were allowed to access through Fabio’s credit card perks, and I was SO happy to see that everyone inside (who was also a tourist) was eating and drinking. THANK GOODNESS! I don’t know what we would have done otherwise, since we still had another 7-hour flight ahead of us to Bangkok. Phew.

There were some other interesting sights at the Doha airport, including this weird teddy bear art installation and some cool middle-Eastern/deserty things. 🙂

Then after a pretty uneventful flight, we arrived in Bangkok! We took the Bangkok airport skytrain (also called the Link) out to the very last stop on the red/blue line, Phaya Thai, and from there got in a taxi headed to our hotel near Khao San Road. Todo, we are not in Kansas anymore!

Quick note for anyone looking to book a stay in Bangkok: We chose to stay close to Khao San Road, which is a really fun/popular area with lots of night markets, clubs, bars, restaurants, etc., but we didn’t stay on Khao San Road because we’d read it can be kind of loud and noisy. Our hotel, Casa Nithra, was about a 10-minute walk to the really popular area, which wound up being perfect for us!

When we checked in to Casa Nithra, we were greeted with the most amazing chilled Thai tea drinks (something we found all throughout our Thailand travels!) and were thrilled to find out our room was ready early. Thank goodness, as we really needed to shower after all that time spent on planes! After freshening up, we headed up to the hotel roof to check out the view of Bangkok.

The area where we stayed is also much more “old city” compared to the neighborhoods with lots of modern high-rises, which I was ok with. I like seeing the old culture much more!

Then we headed out to begin our adventures! (BTW – Thailand is 11 hours ahead of D.C., so it was around 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning by this point. Mind-boggling for sure!)

Our planned agenda for the day was to walk to the Grand Palace to visit the Emerald Buddha and see our first temple, Wat Pho, to check out the reclining Buddha, but a super sweet pedestrian stopped us in the middle of the sidewalk to ask us where we were going, and told us that there was a special ceremony for the King happening at the Grand Palace that day and that if we wanted to go, we’d need to be dressed in black with long sleeves and pants, and would have to wait about four hours to get in. Ok then, back to the drawing board. She helpfully told us about a few other tourist stops we could see nearby, and even told us how much we should pay for a tuk-tuk (basically little open-air, three-wheeled taxis) to take us to all the places.

Fabio and I were both waiting for her to sell us a tour or something, but with a friendly wave, she went on her way. This was our very first insight into the Thai culture and gave us a preview for the kind of generosity and hospitality we’d discover throughout the rest of our two-week Thailand trip. The people here are just genuinely kind (I think the Buddhist religion is a big reason for this) and so helpful!

Here we are in our first tuk-tuk!

Our first stop was Wat Intharawihan, a temple with a huge standing Buddha. The temple itself was really lovely, with lots of gold, ornate details (which we came to find is typical for almost all temples, or wats, in Thailand).

Then we saw the big standing Buddha! It was…big. Lol.

Then we hopped back in our tuk-tuk (the driver waited for us outside of each stop) and headed off to the Golden Mount, or Wat Saket. You had to climb 344 steps to get to the top of the Golden Mount, but there were lots of interesting little sculptures along the way to keep you entertained.

And there was even some “wildlife.” Yuck.

Halfway to the top, there was a little coffee shop (we came to find out coffee shops are EVERYWHERE in Thailand), so we stopped for iced cappuccinos. Yes please! It was hot in Bangkok!

We made it to the top!

And we looked like total tourists once we got there. 🙂

The wat was really interesting because there were lots of people praying and making offerings to Buddha, so Fabio and I just kind of quietly walked around and tried to be respectful. You are also supposed to cover your shoulders and thighs in wats out of respect, but since our plans had changed in the morning I didn’t bring anything with me for this, and it didn’t seem to be a big deal in these particular wats (there were others, especially in Chiang Mai, where I definitely had to wear extra clothing to cover myself).

After the Golden Mount, our tuk-tuk driver took us to a suit-maker! The Thais make excellent custom suits, so it’s a popular stop for tourists. Fabio wound up getting a couple suits and shirts, and spent tons of time haggling down the price. I always think this is so awkward, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to get ripped off.

The suits actually should be arriving at our house this week – they are quick!

After this stop we decided we were hungry, so we asked our driver to take us somewhere for lunch. I have no idea where he took us, but it was a cute little spot right on the river and we had fun watching some big fish and lizards jumping around in the water. Note to all: Do not swim in that river. Ever.

For our meal, we got some Tom Yum soup (with chicken since Fabio is allergic to shrimp, which is more traditional in this soup) and Pad Thai. Everything was phenomenal!! Sigh. I miss Thai food already. The flavors are so unique!

And even though we were full, we had to get mango sticky rice for dessert. It’s our absolute favorite, and this one did not disappoint! YUM!

After lunch, it was time for our final stop of the day: a boat tour along the canals! Our tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at the docks, and we couldn’t believe how cheap our day with him had been. For the whole day’s worth of stops, he charged us just 70 baht per person. This comes out to $4 total!! All of the other tuk-tuk rides we took during our trip were slightly more expensive than this, so it goes to show how much they increase their prices for tourists versus when we had the helpful Thai lady tell us how much to pay. Our tuk-tuk driver had also been really friendly, so we gave him a nice tip before saying goodbye.

Then it was onto the boat!

This was such a cool way to explore Bangkok, especially since so much of it relies on the canals and waterways. We got to see lots of cool houses, shops, and wats!

At one point we slowed down so a woman on a small wooden boat could offer us souvenirs and snacks. Ice cold beers? Don’t mind if we do!

The local Thai beer brands – Chang and Singha – are both delicious too!

At one point we stopped along a little set of concrete steps that led down to the water (these are everywhere, and seem to be like docks for the locals to access the river) and saw a little boy throwing bread into the water. Remember how I said don’t swim in this water? Yeah. There’s about a million big fish in there, and even some alligator-sized lizards. Yeesh! Fabio and I were both wondering how safe we were in our wooden boat. LOL!

Soon enough, our tour concluded at the Grand Palace!

Once again we thought about visiting the palace, but were told by a few other helpful people that we’d have to be wearing all black and would have to wait a long time because of the King’s special ceremony. Darn. Next time, Bangkok!

After this, we strolled around for a while, looked into some shops, got quick 30-minute foot massages (this is very common in Thailand and massage places are everywhere), and then headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap. The jet-lag was catching up to us!

When we were ready to resurface, we got changed and ready for dinner at the famous Sky Bar! We had heard that Sky Bar was ridiculously overpriced (it was) but that the views were worth it (they were). Plus we received money from our wedding to use for the honeymoon, and we figured our friends and family would want us to have a nice, romantic dinner out!

We hopped in another tuk-tuk (about 100 baht this time) and made our way across town!

When we arrived around 9:00 p.m., we saw that it (thankfully) wasn’t too crowded and we were able to really enjoy the view!

Hello, Bangkok! You are beautiful!

A table was ready for us in no time, and we enjoyed some delicious cocktails while we waited for our food. We weren’t too hungry after the big lunch, and since the menu was pretty pricy we decided to share a steak dish. It was pretty tasty, but nothing crazy, especially considering the price. Clearly, you are paying for the atmosphere here.

Despite the relatively expensive bill, we had an amazing time! I’m so glad we decided to trust our gut and go to this beautiful spot.

Me and my husband!! <3

After Sky Bar, we took a tuk-tuk down to Khao San Road and walked around for a while ogling at the crazy bar scene. Most of the parties were in full swing when we arrived, so we had fun walking around and watching lots of rowdy and drunk tourists. We weren’t really in the mood to try to catch up with them, so we decided people-watching was good enough for us. We also passed a number of vendors selling all kinds of delicious-smelling street food, and even some trays of bugs for tourists to try! Eek! No thank you.

When we’d had enough, we walked back to our hotel and fell asleep instantly. What a fun day in Bangkok!

The next morning, we headed off to Chiang Mai! More adventures to come!

Question(s) of the day: Would you try eating a bug? Would you have gone to the expensive restaurant or skipped it?

 Posted by on June 28, 2017
May 302017
 

Helloooo! How was your weekend? For those who celebrated Memorial Day, I hope you had a nice day off from work! My weekend was spent in Ocean City, MD, with some of my best friends, and it could not have been better! Here’s a look back. 🙂

Friday

I was allowed to leave work at 2 p.m. on Friday, so you better believe I was walking out of there right when the clock struck two (or 2:05 according to my snapchat – lol). Fabio was downstairs waiting for me in the car so we could hit the road right away!

Traffic wasn’t bad at all, and we were able to make it across the Bay Bridge without any backups. Woohoo!

After crossing the bridge, we dropped Jack off with my grandparents who were kind enough to watch him for us over the weekend, and after another hour and half or so of driving we arrived!

We stayed at Bianca’s (my Maid of Honor!) aunt’s condo on the bay side of Ocean City, and as soon as I got there I swooned over the view from the balcony.

So beautiful!

Upon arriving and having a celebratory glass of prosecco, we changed into some nicer clothes and prepared to head out for dinner. Of course we had to take some photos on the balcony first!

How pretty is this sunset behind us?

Only two more weeks until this guy is my husband! Eek!

Then we also got some pictures with the girls! Here I am with Hana, another one of my besties and bridesmaids!

We’ve all been friends since high school, and I’m so lucky that through group texts and technology we still talk every day.

Bianca’s boyfriend, Squalls (real name = Pasquale) was there too! Group selfie!

After we were done with pictures, we headed over to Macky’s for dinner. We snagged a table outside and were treated to this awesome view.

Seriously, how pretty is that?! I especially love the couple taking a selfie in the bottom left corner (upon zooming in after taking this picture, I realized it was Bianca and Squalls. 😉 Ha!). But then again, we took a selfie like that too, you just can’t see the sunset as much.

But then again, we took a selfie like that too, you just can’t see the sunset as much.

It was too pretty not to!

For dinner, I got a Caesar salad with a crab cake on top and it was quite delicious! I was also super impressed with the service at Macky’s, which I expected to be very slow since it was so crowded, but that wasn’t the case at all. Our server Chase took great care of us!

After dinner, it was time for dancing! We spent the rest of the evening navigating a very crowded dance floor but I loved every second of it. 🙂 Love these girls!

Saturday

Saturday was Seacrets day! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Seacrets, it’s a gigantic bar (well, technically 16 bars or something like that) that’s half in the bay and half in the sand. Memorial Day is always their busiest day of the year, so even though we knew the line would be long we decided to brave it anyway.

Well, after two hours of standing in line we finally made it in! At least standing in line is actually kind of fun when a) there’s some amazing people-watching and b) you’re with your best friends. We weren’t in any rush, so it was actually not bad!

As soon as we made it inside we immediately ordered a round of orange crushes. Woohoo!

There was one concert area that was absolutely mobbed with people, so we decided to bypass them with a secret (seacret? Lol. ) sky bridge. 🙂

It was a cute opportunity for a photo opp too!

Eventually we made our way over to the water – which is always my favorite area of Seacrets – and nabbed a table on the sand.

Success!

We spent the next few hours drinking orange crushes and “pain in the ass” drinks, and dancing/talking/snapchatting/enjoying each other’s company.

Apparently I took the most pictures with Hana since she was sitting right next to me, but I promise the others were there too! 🙂 It was such a fun day and waiting in the line was definitely worth it.

We wound up taking it easy Saturday night and ordered pizza and watched Split from Redbox. It was a pretty weird movie, and although I’m not sure I would recommend it, it still kept me engaged and entertained. It was a fun night in!

Sunday

On Sunday morning, I headed out for a solo run! I wound up making my way to the boardwalk and back, and covered about four miles.

It was a beautiful morning for it!

Then I walked another mile or so with Bianca and Hana to Dunkin Donuts for some iced coffee and breakfast before we ladies headed to the beach! (The boys were golfing, which suited everyone just fine. 🙂 We love girl time!)

It was a nice and sunny morning, and we actually wound up getting a decent amount of color! At one point the clouds came out and Hana and I decided to do a little yoga. 😉 Haha!

Soon rain clouds rolled in and it started drizzling so we headed back to the condo. We decided to clean up the house a bit and when the boys arrived back at 3 p.m. we decided to hit the road to get a head start on traffic.

We stopped by my grandparents’ house on the way back to pick up Jack, and they convinced us to join them for dinner and then spend the night since we were already tired of driving. We had a fun evening catching up with them and I felt so happy that we decided to spend some extra time with them. 🙂

Monday

We came home on Monday morning (avoiding any traffic – hooray!) and spent the entire rest of the day doing wedding planning stuff. Oof.

At least we got a lot accomplished!

Question of the day: How did you celebrate Memorial Day? Have you ever been to Seacrets?

 Posted by on May 30, 2017
May 082017
 

Well hello there! Did you have a good weekend? Ours was spent in New York City! Our good friend Hayden (also Fabio’s best man) recently passed the CPA exam to become a certified accountant, and his parents threw him a party in NYC (where he lives) to celebrate. Obviously, this meant we had to go up to join him!

Friday

On Friday evening, Fabio and I took the bus up to New York right after work. We took a 6:00 bus out of Rosslyn, and even had time to grab dinner from Panera beforehand. Sadly, I finished all my food really quickly, and then was wishing I had some extra road trip snacks to munch on (mostly out of boredom).

Our bus ride was super easy though, and we made it into the city in record time!

Saturday

On Saturday morning, we headed downtown (we were staying at Aunt CC and Uncle Steve’s apartment on the Upper West Side) for a birthday celebration! Fabio’s cousin Nick happened to be turning 21 this weekend, so we joined him, his sister, and a bunch of their friends for brunch at Sons of Essex.

I got the breakfast tacos, which were delicious and came with eggs, spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Yum! Plus some delicious home fries on the side.

After brunch we weren’t quite ready to say goodbye yet, so we all walked over to one of my favorite bars, Hair of the Dog. It was pretty empty when we arrived, but I knew it would get crowded soon! And I was right – by the time we left around 4:00 p.m. you could barely walk in there!

Anyway, we had a lot of fun hanging out with Fabio’s cousins and getting to know their friends. I’m so glad we happened to be in town for the celebration!

Fabio’s cousin Ligia even bought her little brother – the birthday boy – some shots, which he was not too thrilled about. Lol!

But that’s what big sisters are for, right? And it was his 21st birthday. 🙂

Since Fabio and I knew we still had a long night of drinking ahead of us, we took it easy during all of this and drank our beers slowly and sipped lots of water. We aren’t as young as we used to be – we had to pace ourselves!

Eventually, we decided we better head back uptown, but not before stopping for a late lunch at the famous Katz’s Deli.

Fabio and I shared a delicious pastrami sandwich with mustard and some house-made pickles. Everything was delicious, as always!

After eating, we headed back to Aunt CC’s place and took a quick nap. Like I said, we can’t hang like we used to, and we knew we had a long night ahead of us!

At around 8:30, it was time for us to head out to the main event of the trip: Hayden’s CPA party! How cute are these two? 🙂

There were lots of fellow Sigma Nu brothers there, which of course made Fabio happy. It was so great seeing everyone!!

And their respective significant others. 🙂

We had a great time catching up with old friends, and celebrating with Hayden!

Lol – my face after the bartender gave me a gigantic glass of rose. 😉

We stayed at the bar until around 12:30, at which point a couple of us moved on to another bar where we danced for a while. We wound up heading back to Aunt CC’s at around 2:30 a.m., which makes three weekends in a row of super late Saturday nights. Oof. I’m definitely getting too old for this.

Sunday

Fabio and I caught the early bus home on Sunday, and arrived back in Rosslyn by 2:30 p.m. We immediately headed over to my mom’s to pick up Jack, and she and my stepdad had an early dinner waiting for us.

We started off with these amazing fried cheese rosemary bread things that my mom has been making lately, which are insanely delicious.

Then we had homemade coleslaw, grilled chicken, and cheesy potato casserole. Yum!!

Plus my mom’s cheesecake for dessert, which was phenomenal and even better than I remembered. Holy cow.

After dinner we came back home, unloaded our bags, and finished opening up gifts from our bridal shower that arrived last week. As I write this (on Sunday night), I am surrounded by tons of cardboard boxes and packaging and trying to figure out how we will break all of the boxes down so they will fit in the recycling bin. Yes, #humblebrag but also, not an easy task. I’m hoping that Fabio will take care of it for us…which, I guess, is partly why I sat down to write this post right now isntead of dealing with it. 😉 Ha!

The end.

Question of the day: Pie, cheesecake, or cake?

 Posted by on May 8, 2017
Apr 242017
 

Hi friends! How was your weekend? Ours super fun, and was spent mostly in Philadelphia! One of Fabio’s good friends/fraternity brothers, Jake, works at his family’s jewelry store called Sydney & Rosen in Philadelphia, which has been in business for more than 70 years! Fabio got my engagement ring from Sydney & Rosen back before he proposed, and we always knew we’d be back to buy our wedding bands there too. Way back in January we coordinated with Jake to figure out when we should come up to buy our bands, and the weekend sort of snuck up on us!

More on that in a minute though – let’s stick with the order of events and talk about Friday first.

Friday

It was a beautiful evening on Friday, so after walking Jack, Fabio and I decided to walk to get something to eat for dinner. We decided on one of our local favorites, Taylor Gourmet, since Fabio could get a breaded chicken sandwich and I could get something a little on the healthier side. 😉 I got “the parker” salad, which came with chicken, dried apricots, barley, and watermelon radishes, among other things. It was delicious!

We took our food home to eat because we are right in the middle of binge-watching the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Is anyone else watching?? It’s so, so good.

A little later in the evening we took a break from our binge to pick up some sweet treats from the grocery store: enlightened ice cream for me and Snickers ice cream for Fabio. Plus wine. 🙂

The englightened ice cream was just ok – it’s supposed to be lower calorie/lower sugar/higher protein, but I thought it also tasted like it was all of those things, so I’m not sure I’d buy it again. It’s still ice cream though, so I was happy. With ice cream in hand, we watched another episode of the show before calling it a night around 10:30.

Saturday

On Saturday morning it was time to head up to Philly! Our amazing friends Jojo and Jadd agreed to watch Jack for us and, after dropping him off and then sitting in loads of traffic due to some rainy weather, we eventually arrived at Jake’s jewelry store in Philly.

After saying hi to Jake and his fiance Greg (another one of Fabio’s fraternity brothers), it was time to get to business. I had sent Jake some pictures of wedding bands I liked, and he had a couple picked out for me that he thought I might like. He nailed it, unsurprisingly. I decided to go with something similar to the ring in the photo below, only with slightly smaller diamonds.

It should be arriving in a few weeks, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out! Fabio also picked out a really nice ring, with lots of help from Jake. 😉

After ring shopping, we drove over to my good friend Kristen’s house where we’d be staying for the evening! We sat around chatting with her for a while before deciding to head over to Kraftwork for a late lunch. Kristen and I shared a tasty chicken sandwich. Yum!

After chatting for many more hours (it was SO nice to catch up with her one-on-one) it was time for dinner! Our friend Greg is one of the managers for the restaurant Double Knot, and since he couldn’t get off work for our visit we decided to come to him instead! He made a reservation for us in the lounge area of the restaurant, and I was honestly surprised when I saw how trendy it was. It was like a Japanese speakeasy!

The lighting was pretty dark, and we wound up having to use the candles on the table to read the drinks menu. It definitely had a fun ambiance!

My friend Sam, who also lives in Philly, joined us for dinner too. Love these ladies! 🙂

All of the food we tried at Double Knot was incredible, and Greg took such good care of us for the evening. It was so nice to see him and Jake! I love these college buddies. 🙂

After dinner, we walked over to McGillin’s for an evening of dancing. Kristen’s boyfriend Mark was there too! (He was supposed to be away on a business trip but wound up getting an earlier flight home and surprised her at dinner. So sweet!)

It was such a fun night, and Kristen I got a big kick out of the songs that were being played at the bar from artists like Celine Dion (My Heart Will Go On and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now) and Vanessa Carlton. Lol! There was lots of signing happening on our end, before the bar closed at 2 a.m. and it was time to go home. Phew!

Sunday

On Sunday morning, Kristen, Mark, Fabio and I met up with Jake and Sam for brunch at For Pete’s Sake, where I enjoyed some delicious chicken and waffles. After that, we stopped by Sam’s house for a minute since it was close by, and then Fabio and I hit the road!

Our drive home wasn’t too bad, and now we are relaxing for a bit before I’m sure we will continue watching 13 Reasons Why. I’m not sure a grocery trip is in the cards for us today, so we will see how we make it through the week without any fresh produce. Eek! Maybe we will go on Monday after work?

Question of the day: Are you watching (or did you watch) 13 Reasons Why? What did you think?

Edited to add: Ahh we wound up finishing it late tonight (Sunday)!! It was so good and now I’m so sad it’s over.

 Posted by on April 24, 2017
Mar 302017
 

Hey friends! I’m back today with the final recap of my bachelorette weekend! Here are the first few posts in case you missed them:

And today we are talking about our last full day in sunny Florida, which took place at the beach!

When we woke up, we immediately saw sunny skies and headed outside by the pool. Going straight from PJs to bathing suits is a wonderful thing!

We all still had our Fabio tattoos on from the night before, which was so funny. Everyone was walking around making coffee and getting bagels, and I just saw Fabio’s face everywhere. Haha!

Also, we had another new spachat filter on Saturday. Amazing!! 🙂

After everyone was up for the day, we decided to walk over to the beach! It was about a 10-minute walk from the house, which wasn’t bad at all.

The water was really cold so I only dipped my feet in, but we had a really fun day sitting on the beach and chatting. This actually was one of my favorite parts of the trip, since we told lots of embarrassing stories (mostly Bianca telling everyone about our awkward middle school years) and laughed for hours. It was so much fun!

Eventually we got hungry for a late lunch, so we walked along the boardwalk until we found a delicious-looking beachfront Mexican restaurant. I got fish tacos and a Corona and was a happy girl!

After lunch, we headed back to the house to relax for a bit. When we got to the front door, we noticed there was a package on the doorstep addressed to me! When we opened it up, we saw a dozen Georgetown cupcakes from our friends Jess, Jess, and Courtney who weren’t able to come on the trip with us. So, so, so thoughtful of them. 🙂 Thanks, guys!!

After relaxing around the house for a little while, we had dinner delivered (Megan had ordered a bunch of kabobs, rice, grilled veggies, hummus, and pita in advance) and spent more time sitting around chatting before it was time to go out. Sometimes these quieter moments when we just sit and chat are my favorite!

When it was time to go out, everyone wore black except for me!

This naturally meant we had to take lots of pictures in front of the BRIDE balloons. 🙂

Me & Catrina…

My bachelorette planning princesses, Megan and Bianca…

Sloppytown!

Kappa Delta pledge sisters, Britt and Kristen <3

And one with Hana and the E for my new last name!!

I also got to wear my bride-to-be sash and veil, which was so fun.

I actually got a little emotional when I put the veil on – this is starting to feel real!!

That night we went out to a bar that was a lot of fun, although I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of it. When we arrived and got our first round of drinks, we were told that they were paid for by Jess, Jess, and Courtney! Ahhh! I couldn’t believe it. As if the cupcakes weren’t enough…sheesh! I really do have the best friends.

We stayed out at the bar for a while before eventually calling it a night.

The next day we had to pack everything up and leave the house. Womp womp.

Before we all had to head home though, we went to brunch at the Marriott along the boardwalk. The kind bellhop let us leave our suitcases with him even though we weren’t staying at the hotel, which made navigating the restaurant SO much easier!

The food and atmosphere of the restaurant were great (except for the fact that it was SUPER windy since we were right on the beach, though there’s not much they can do about that!) but I just have to take a minute to comment on the amazing service we received. All of the waitstaff took such good care of us and when they heard it was my bachelorette party, they brought me a celebratory drink and a key lime pie dessert.

This was just the icing on the cake pie! What a perfect way to end such an amazing trip.

After brunch we all headed to the airport and went our separate ways. Luckily Megan was on my flight home, so we spent the whole plane ride talking about how much fun we’d had and doing some more wedding planning. Now I can’t wait for the rest of my wedding events! My bridal shower (which is more of a couples’ BBQ) is up next! Woohoo!

Thank you to every one of my amazing friends (and my mom) who made my bachelorette party so amazing. I am so blessed to have such thoughtful people in my life!!

Question of the day: Cake or pie?

 Posted by on March 30, 2017
Mar 232017
 

Well, I really tried to make this the final recap post of my bachelorette party in Fort Lauderdale, but I couldn’t do it! So, you will have one more post after this one. Sorry! Hopefully you don’t mind too much. 🙂

If you missed the first two recaps, you can read about our first day and night in Fort Lauderdale here, and read about our fun day by the pool here! When we last left off, we had just finished chatting in the hot tub before going inside to get ready for dinner.

We decided to wear our fun bachelorette tanks for this night – mine was white and in gold sparkles said “Drunk in Love” and everyone else’s were black and said “Just Drunk.” Yep! Sounds about right! 🙂

Once we were all just about ready, all my friends secretly got together in the back room. I had no idea what they were doing, but then they all came out with flower crowns and – get this – tattoos with Fabio’s face on them!!

(FYI – they got them from my sorority sister’s Etsy store, Dunkirk Designs!)

How hysterical, right? They had one for me too, obviously. 🙂

How funny! They also had tattoos that said “Make good decisions,” so I decided to wear that one on my lower back. Haha!

I then took the opportunity to take a million pictures with my amazing friends! Here I am with Sam, Hana, and Bianca. I’ve been friends with Hana since first grade, and Sam and Bianca since middle school!

Bianca is also one of my maids of honor, and she did a great job planning some of these fun bachelorette decorations and surprises. 🙂

I also grabbed a picture with Kristen, my pledge sister! We met in the fall of 2008 – the same time that I met Fabio – and have been such good friends ever since. <3

Then there’s Megan, who was basically the bachelorette planning Queen! She’s super organized and helped Bianca with a lot (ok, all) of the planning logistics. We’ve also been friends since college, and she’s now the only one still living in Arlington with me (all of our other gurlays have moved away!). I don’t know what the heck I would do without her.

Then we have Catrinaaaa! My California girl, fitness buddy, fellow foodie, and amazing friend. I don’t get to see her enough!!! Move back to the East Coast, Treen!

A Megan/Catrina sandwich!

And then there’s this. Lol.

That right there is probably one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip. It’s so us!

Once we were done with our photo shoot (this wasn’t even all the girls – just a few of them!) we hopped in a Lyft and headed to a drag show at Lips!

When we got there, we saw that Hana had coordinated another Snapchat filter for us. Seriously, my friends spoiled me rotten during this trip.

Somehow we got SUPER lucky and wound up with a table right up front. Look at my bachelorette crew! Aren’t they beautiful? (People probably hated us, lol. We were definitely “those annoying bachelorette party girls.”)

Yay!

Before the start of the show, we met our waitress for the evening, Chocolata. She had such great energy and right from the get-go I could tell she was going to make the night so much fun.

We ordered our food and a couple of drinks before the show started, and I ate some surprisingly good mushroom raviolis. (I say surprisingly because I’m not sure good food is the main focus of a drag show place, haha!)

Then Chocolata brought over two bottles of champagne and said they were from Claire and Jojo!! I couldn’t believe it – two of my sweet friends who weren’t able to come on the trip had coordinated to have the champagne brought over to us. How many times can I say that my friends are the best?

Once we were done with our food, it was time for the show! Our front and center seats came in handy and we had a great view.

After a couple of entertaining acts, Chocolata came out in a whole new outfit and worked the room with an amazing lip synching and dance performance!

I looove this picture of her putting her boot on the table in front of Megan.

LOL!!

Basically, Chocolata was phenomenal.

Then before I knew it, the main part of the show was over and I was being called up on stage with a bunch of other bachelorettes for a challenge! I screenshotted this picture from Hana’s Snapchat. 🙂

For the challenge, we had to get on our hands and knees and take a “blow job” shot without using our hands. Yep, I had to do that. On stage. In front of a bunch of people.

Ready…

Go!

The challenge was a lot of fun, and at the end I fulfilled my dream of taking a picture with Chocolata (who had changed outfits again).

Right before we left, I talked to Chocolata a bit more (probably too much) and thanked her for empowering women everywhere to be the best version of themselves and to just be confident in their own skins. Yep. I’m not making this up. Luckily my friends pulled me away and we left Lips before I got too annoying. I hope, anyway. Haha!

That’s some love right there.

What a fun night!!

Question of the day: Have you ever been to a drag show? Also, do you get stage fright?

I thought I would be nervous about going on stage for the challenge, but since my friends were all right in front of me I didn’t feel nervous at all. The drinks beforehand probably helped too. 😉

 Posted by on March 23, 2017