Dairy & Dessert Free

For October, I have committed myself to going dairy and dessert free. The dairy is for health reasons (self-diagnosing a dairy allergy) and the dessert is for waist reasons. I am running my butt off these days (almost 26 miles last week) and not dropping a pound.

So, I made a deal with myself to cut out all dairy products for a month… and dessert. Chocolate milk (Horizons Organic) and ice cream are basically food groups for me, so those are probably the hardest two to say goodbye to. Dessert is another story in itself, because I LOVE chocolate. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, seriously ALL chocolate. So, it will be tough (and I might scream) but I think I can do it for 31 days. almond
I have stocked up on Almond Milk (not a dairy product) and am making great efforts to avoid the delicious cheeses housed in our cheese drawer. Jalapeno Mango? Habenero Honey? Honey Goat Cheese? It’s only a month. Only one little month.

Hopefully my breathing will improve this month and maybe I’ll even drop a few pounds (not trying to pack them on now just because we’re married!).

Last night I made shrimp creole for dinner and we had leftovers today for lunch. My sugar is coming in the form of a banana and a vanilla creme protein shake today. Yes, I actually started yesterday with the plan. They say it takes 21 days to create change – whether it be with eating habits, working out, or a new routine in your life. So hopefully by 10/21, I’ll be able to say that I’m no longer craving a Starbucks Chocolate Cake Pop after lunch or chocolate moose tracks ice cream after dinner (or delicious flourless chocolate tortes wherever we go!).

Here’s a helpful website with sugar-free recipes if anyone is interested in cutting all sugar out of their life (I will refrain from calling you crazy).

What favorite item have you successfully cut out of your life? Do you miss it now or even enjoy if you do have it now? Would love to hear from you!

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Friday Favorites!

After a LONG, brutal week, I am grateful for a weekend at home, dinner with friends, and a visit from my mom. First, I have to get to 5 PM tomorrow! However, since I do finally have a weekend at home and no *big* plans, I am not going to blog. I’m going to spend time with my husband, my dogs, my friends and my family and enjoy each second. So, I want to share with you some things I’m LOVING right now and wish you a happy weekend!
Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 9.21.44 PM1. My new gold Tieks. I bought these for my trip to Boston a couple weeks ago and loved every second that my feet were in them. While they are pricey, they are worth it – and well-made too, so they’ll totally hold up for all of your walking around the city! (PS- their customer service is out of this world!).

2. My DSLR that was abandoned while in grad school. I recently signed up for a course on digital photography (forever a student!) and I’m excited to learn how to really use my camera instead of just snapping random shots of my dog sleeping. Stay tuned, this blog may be infiltrated with my personal photography in the near future!

3. Iced Green Tea (unsweetened) from Starbucks. I’m obviously still holding onto summer with this one – but I can’t help it. Caffeine without coffee breath? Plus it’s a super refreshing afternoon treat.

4. Klorane Dry Shampoo – this gem came in a Birchbox just before my wedding. Thank goodness! I used it several times while on our honeymoon. Having hair that NEEDS to be washed daily is not fun, but Klorane is up to the challenge. (Secret: I can get by with not washing my hair for work and just using this!!). Also – if you’re not on the Birchbox bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for?

5. My J. Crew Peter Pan sweater – it’s actually from the Factory Store and apparently sold out now, so I’m glad I snagged it when I did. I am looking forward to a Fall spent wearing this comfortable shirt.

6. HOKIES! I am from right near Blacksburg and have a family full of Hokies (and I married one!). We are excited for the games we get to go back and see in Lane Stadium, but the ones on our couch (like tonight) aren’t so bad. Excited for college football season to be in full force and for the butt-kickin’ Georgia Tech is receiving tonight!

Alright y’all, signing off for the weekend. Go enjoy this gorgeous Fall weather we have been having. Spend some time with your significant other. Go for a run with your pup. Do what makes you happy!

Vendor Review continued…

Continuing with my review of our fabulous vendors

6. Shutter Hutch Videographers 5 hearts

This was a last-minute decision but one of the best that we made. Jaime & Chad were AWESOME to work with and so much fun. Jaime even picked me up in a van and drove me back to the barn so I didn’t have to keep walking in the rain (I did have an umbrella). Chad made sure to get all the best shots and we are DYING to see our video – pinky promise to post a highlight one here! I HIGHLY recommend using ShutterHutch if you’re in the market for a videographer (they also offer photobooths). They are so very wonderful. 5 hearts!

7. ROSE Shuttles & Transportation 5 hearts

Rose was wonderful to work with and on time for everything. My husband did all of the major communicating with them. On the day of the wedding, the shuttles for us and the guests were timely, the car to pick us up was on time and the rides were fun! It wasn’t THAT expensive either! I would recommend using them if you need shuttles to/from your hotel for your guests or if you’re looking for a getaway car for you and your new husband/wife!

8. AMB Media Photo Booth 4 hearts

This was a surprise to our guests since we hadn’t previously mentioned that we had a photo booth! We lucked on out on this deal and bought a Groupon for it. That can be tricky, cause you never know what you’re going to get but they were such a fun group to work with, had great props and they made sure our guests were having fun. Everyone got prints of their pictures and we ended up with a CD of these.
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9. OMB – we had a keg of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Copper for our guests. Everyone enjoyed it. Enough said.
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10. Our programs were ordered from Etsy. We were very happy with the quick turnaround of them. Had we known our wedding was going to be inside, we would not have made them into fans (time consuming) but they turned out nice!
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All in all, we loved our vendors. We also worked with J. Crew for some items, Jos A. Banks, Diamonds Direct for our wedding bands, Modern Salon & Spa for hair, Dolce Lusso for make-up. Each vendor played an integral part in making our day special and we are so thankful for them. The day was perfect.

Vendor Review

While the groom and the bride are obviously the most important people on the day of the wedding, a few others play a significant part: the officiant, the parents, the wedding party, and the vendors. Our vendors helped make our day special. Our vendors transformed a very empty barn into a rustic-chic paradise. Our vendors are still being praised by our guests for their mouth-watering food. Our vendors (coordinator) held the day together and made sure everything went smooth.

So for other Charlotte brides out there, I thought I’d provide a run down of our vendors and review them on a 1-5 heart rating scale. 1 being the worst, 5 being the best. This is just my opinion, you should form your own opinion.  I do recommend meeting your vendors before booking them and “interviewing” them. It’s okay to meet with multiple vendors in the same category before making your decision.

1. The Dairy Barn 4 hearts

We chose The Dairy Barn after many internet searches for photos, talking with the staff and visiting for a tour. We loved it. However, the Dairy Barn is bare-bones. You get the structure of the barn, the grass outside and if you’re lucky the sunshine outside. You are locked into a deal with Creative Solutions to provide your tables/chairs/decorations and cannot use another vendor. It is also suggested that you use Leroy Springs Catering for your food, as other vendors do not have the ability to enter the barn before a certain time the day of the event.
DB1The barn is beautiful. The inside is spacious. The upstairs is stunning. Like I said, we loved it. We had planned for a wedding by the cabin on the hill, facing a tree and a field, but instead we got married in an old loft. A perfect tribute to my grandfather, who used to let us spend hours playing in the hay loft. During the wedding, we had a “barn monitor” who sat under the stairs. Not quite as troll like as it sounds, but that is essentially what it was. He was there to make sure things were not out of control, to problem solve and to assist us with getting in the cabin for photos.
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I give them 4 hearts for the space, the communication, and the quick return of our deposit!

2. Creative Solutions 4 hearts

Creative Solutions is contracted with the Dairy Barn to be the sole-provider of decorations. You can bring your own items in as far as chalkboards, pictures, etc. And if you wanted, you could bring your own larger items, but you have to remove them at the end of the night, so you end up paying for convenience to rent these things. I appreciated their continuous ability to work with us on our constant changing of the floorplan (pictured below) and adding and removing items. My biggest qualm was finding out 3 weeks before my wedding that they had to know by 9 A.M. the day before if it would be inside or out. At 9 A.M. the day before, I couldn’t even get a 24-hour forecast. Now, we all know that the day before I was a mess, and I was easily able to make that call since skies were grey and everything was wet. They actually worked with me on this as well and I had until 1 PM the day before to make the final decision.
floor planWe loved the decorations that were in the barn, including the linens and the white chairs. We weren’t able to rehearse with the chairs in the upstairs of the barn due to the late call of moving it inside – but that didn’t really throw anyone off.
creative solutionsI also give Creative Solutions 4 stars. You can be assured you will get what you ask for with them and they were great to work with.

3. Leroy Springs Catering 5 hearts

Leroy Springs Catering should actually be number one on the list because they were far and above the best vendor we had. Our guests are still raving about the food. I even had someone text me this weekend asking for NC BBQ recommendations and when I provided some options, they asked “How does it compare to your wedding food?”
leroyWe had a Southern spread at our wedding: Pulled pork barbeque, fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, sweet potato souffle, green beans, slaw and cornbread. Stop drooling! It WAS as delicious as it looks. We barely remember tasting it the day of the wedding, but luckily, the Maitre-d’ William packed up two big ol’ plates for us and sent them in our getaway car. If Leroy Springs opened a restaurant, we would be regulars (and probably weigh 10 lbs. more than we do today).

Leroy Springs gets a 5 in our book, and I think all of our guests would agree. If we ever plan a vow-renewal, we are going to use them again and have breakfast for dinner. I can only imagine how heavenly that would taste!

4. Ta-da’s Florist 5 hearts

We used Ta-da’s not only for our flowers, but also for our coordinator (more to come on this because Melanie deserves her own section). The flowers were combinations of garden roses and hydrangeas. They were gorgeous and just what I had envisioned. Jan was great to work with and helpful in identifying what types of flowers we could use.
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5. Wedding Coordinator: Melanie McKelvey 5 hearts

Initially, I did not want a coordinator. I figured, I will tell people where to go, what to do, and we’ll be fine. THANK GOODNESS I DID NOT GO THROUGH WITH THAT IDEA! The first time I met Melanie, we talked for over 2 hours. The second time with my husband-to-be (at the time) was only slightly shorter. She was SO easy to talk to, so easy to walk through ideas with, and so friendly! We loved her. And we loved having her there on the day of the wedding because everything, I mean everything, went smoothly. Melanie was the best money we spent for our wedding day. I HIGHLY recommend using Melanie for your wedding, and if not Melanie, use A coordinator. It makes all the difference in the world to have someone else dealing with minute details that the bride doesn’t need to hear about on the wedding day. Melanie can be contacted through Ta-da’s florist and does wedding planning as well as coordinating.

Whew! That’s only 5 pieces of our big day, and this is getting long. Going to stop here and let you catch up on those reviews and we’ll pick back up tomorrow with videographers, beer, shuttles, etc!

Post Wedding Purge, part 2

As mentioned previously, I have a lot of stuff that I no longer need since our big, wonderful wedding day has passed. Here’s what’s still available:

1. Mr & Mrs. chair signs: $15 for both (come with navy ribbon)
DSC_03222. Tree Stump (was used for sweetheart wedding cake but can be used for other decor): $12

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3. Vintage mailbox used to collect cards at wedding (monogram can easily be sanded off and changed): $15
DSC_03374. Easel (medium sized) for holding large photos (bridal portrait?) or chalkboard: $12

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5. Pig shaped chalkboard (used for menu) – would be great for a kitchen or BBQ: $10

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6. Please “Leaf” your thumbprint sign and 4 green ink colors (great for wedding tree thumbprint sign): $9DSC_0315

DSC_03277. Burlap & gold table cloth runner: $7

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8. Navy stripey straws – unopened 3 packs of 20 straws, 60 in total: $9

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9. Green stripey straws – unopened 1 pack of 20: $4

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10. 50+ mini bubble bottles (great for leaving reception): $10

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11. Large “W” monogram (can easily be repainted): $13

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Let me know if you’re interested in something! Some items not available for shipping. Some items may incur additional charge for shipping.

 

International Cuisine

I think I’ve mentioned a time or two before that I like to eat. I like appetizers, entrees and dessert with most meals. So months before our honeymoon in Aruba, my groom was researching the best-of-the-best places to eat and taking recommendations from dear friends. And boy, did he deliver! The food was TO DIE FOR.

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My favorite appetizer was the ceviche at Bugaloe bar (at the De Palm Pier). Okay, so this wasn’t somewhere that we researched as much as stumbled upon, but it was fabulously placed on a pier over turquoise water and with stunning sunset views. What more could you ask for?
DSC00906The Hot Shrimp Diablo was my favorite dinner entree. Amadeus is a must when visiting Aruba – especially if you’re looking for a cozy, romantic spot with delicious food. I would forego the appetizer and add dessert to the bill.
DSC00865Another favorite entree was the lobster/grouper/shrimp combo at The Blue Lobster. Serious heaven in your mouth. The outside is a little deceiving but once you’re in, you can tell it’s going to be good. The menu appears a tad pricey, but they offer a surprising special menu for $36.99 per person for a wide selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts and a bottle of wine for the table.
DSC00531Dinner at Passions was also completely wonderful. Dining on the beach? Who doesn’t enjoy that experience?

DSC00782We had lots of sunset dinners. The picture above is from The Pelican’s Nest in the high rise district. Food and service were good but it didn’t make our “best” list.

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Barefoot was another darling restaurant on the beach. They had beach front seating or a deck (with sand) if you didn’t actually want to walk through sand to your table (or be out in the sun). My favorite part of our meal at Barefoot was the mousse duo – white chocolate + milk chocolate. (Hi, my name is Ashleigh and I’m a chocolate addict).
DSC00631Passions surprised us with a sweet dessert to celebrate our honeymoon (below).
DSC00542And our FAVORITE dessert came from Madame Janette, which is another MUST GO if you’re visiting Aruba. The atmosphere was wonderful and they had live music. The food was perfection. And the souffle was heavenly.
DSC00771We also enjoyed quite a few Balashi beers while on the island. Balashi is Aruba’s own beer and competes with Heineken and Amstel. The Balashi Chill was similar to a Corona Light and was served with a lime.

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Pina Coladas just seem like the perfect island drink, so I consumed those more than anything else. Mojitos were also a favorite (they put 15-20 mint leaves in each one and hand muddled!!). Plus, happy hour was 2 for 1, so it was easy to get a mojita + a pina colada for each of us to enjoy!
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I cannot say enough about the delicious delicacies that we consumed on this trip. We loved just about everything. I’m disappointed that I didn’t take a picture of the meal I had almost daily for lunch. A spicy thai chili shrimp quesadilla served with sour cream and fries. I loved it!! My husband likes to try new things each time he eats somewhere so he had various things from the Passions Beach Bar menu.

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We will definitely revisit some of these place upon our return to Aruba but we also look forward to trying some new ones as well. What’s your favorite island food? Any MUST GO restaurant recommendations for other island travelers (doesn’t have to be Aruba!)? I would love to hear them!

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks one month of being married. We’ve each been asked a dozen times if it feels different- it doesn’t. But it’s still amazing. In honor of our first milestone, I’m re-capping our wedding and sharing some of our wedding photos (the ones that our photog is not submitting to magazines).

Pixel Photography
Pixel Photography

The rain started bright and early and caused me to move my wedding day run indoors. No problem, I knocked out a hotel-gym workout before my bridal brunch. My mom hosted the brunch for all the lovely ladies on both sides of our families.

After the brunch, mom and I headed off for hair at Modern Salon in Philips Place. I had done a trial back in March, so it was a pretty quick effort when I got there – just lots of extra hair spray to defend against the rain.
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Then I had to rush back to the hotel for my make-up to be done and to get ready with the gals. At 2:45 we headed off to the Dairy Barn for pre-wedding photos. From here… I feel like the day flew by. We were inside and out taking photos, then the guys arrived and we were hanging out in separate areas. My groom later informed me he got to speak to guests as they arrived and enjoyed seeing everyone.  Although it rained, we didn’t skip a beat. My mom (love her!) rushed out to buy green and navy umbrellas to match our color scheme so that our wedding party could stay dry and I could still get at least a few outdoor photos.

Pixel Photography
Pixel Photography

I’m thankful everyone was a good sport when it came to the weather. I had my bridesmaids walking up hills, through grass and gravel, to get some of the shots I had planned pre-rain. We all pretty much had to re-do our hair before the ceremony but to me, it was worth it.

Pixel Photography
Pixel Photography

My sweet brother walked me down the aisle to “What a Wonderful World” played by my husband’s aunt and uncle on a banjo. Our mother’s came down to “You are my sunshine.” We chose to go with part traditional vows and part of our own. And just like that we were kissing and walking back down the aisle to “How Sweet it is” as husband and wife.

photo-8We had a photo booth which our guests thoroughly enjoyed – as did we. After immediate post-ceremony pictures, we scooped up plates of southern goodness and tried to eat as quickly as possible. While the real food was incredible, I cannot stop thinking about our cake. It was vanilla coconut with pineapple filling and coconut buttercream icing. Yeah – YUM.
DSC_6912bwOur first dance was to “You & Me” by Dave Matthews Band and we cut our cake to “Oh” by Dave Matthews. We’re big DMB fans, if you can’t tell. Our last dance of the evening was to Ryan Adams “I love you and I don’t know what to say.”

Pixel Photography
Pixel Photography

We haven’t stopped talking about how perfect our day was and how wonderful it was to be surrounded with everyone that we love so much. I’m glad three of my sweet friends are planning 2014 weddings so I can help with wedding related tasks and get my fix now that my own planning is over. At times it seemed like the big day would never arrive, and now it seems like it flew by and a whole month has somehow come and gone. We are enjoying every moment of our happily ever after!