Good things!

The last time I wrote was two weeks ago. Since then, my husband accepted a new job, I traveled to Boston and Indianapolis, we went to the Heat/Bobcats game (and Shane Battier sent me a personal message on Twitter), I ran 25 miles, I got certified in Change Management, my husband was interviewed for a follow up story in the New York Times, I turned a year older, and we bought a house. So, per usual, my excuse for not writing is that we have been BUSY. However, I could not be happier about the busy moments that are happening in our lives right now.

jarWe started a “good things jar” on New Years day and have been diligently putting in notes about any thing that we determine to be good (i.e.: new job, new house, fostering puppies, etc.). I love this idea because not only can we see how our jar fills up (cup overflowing much??) throughout the year, but at the end of 2014, we’ll be able to sit down and remember all of the good things that we might have overlooked otherwise. It will be a good reminder to us of how blessed we were throughout the year and how lucky we are to have so many good things in life. Bonus: the jar was used as a decoration in our wedding festivities!

handsAs we were frantically getting pre-qualified for our adorable new house, in the middle of a bidding war, and me having just returned home from -2 degrees Indianaoplis, my husband made the comment that he felt like everything was happening to us all at once. I had to remind him that we wanted all of this to happen: he wanted to go to grad school, I wanted to be certified in Change Management (which required me being out of town the week we were trying to buy the house – the same house that I had never even seen the inside of!), he wanted that new job, and we wanted to buy the house. None of these things just happened. Yes, it’s a lot and all at once, but isn’t that life? If it wasn’t this scenario, it would be me in grad school, consulting on social media, taking on new jobs, traveling for work and planning a wedding.

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We are not alone in our busy-ness. How we choose to handle the situation is up to us. I choose positive. I choose to be excited about everything that is happening in our lives (not to us). I choose to be happy about our new house, his new job, and all of the new adventures we are going to have.

I’ve decided to transition my blog from a bridal/wedding blog to a life blog about maintaining happiness in your life. More to come as I build out this place where I’ll share more of our stories and more on keeping a positive attitude and cultivating happiness in your life, your marriage/relationship and maybe even rubbing off on some of those Eeyores we know in life. I hope you’ll continue to follow along!

 

10,000 hugs!

Yesterday, my blog hit 10,000 views (actually 10,022) – and it’s been viewed all over the world which is even more incredible. I want to give all of my readers a big, big hug today for reading along through my wedding adventures and staying tuned even after the big day!
10000Some of the most interesting places that I never thought I would have readers from:

Austria + India (thank you!)

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Germany (thank you!)

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Nigeria + Canada (thank you!)

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Mexico + Indonesia (thank you!)

blogviewsI’ve also seen views from Ukraine (Thanks, Inna), Australia, the UK and Kenya. So exciting to be connecting to folks all over the world. I’d love to hear what you think of the blog or if you have any suggestions for upcoming posts. I’m definitely thinking of moving into more of a “life” blog, perhaps Eat, Run, Be Married? Those are three of my favorite things.

Thanks again and know that I’m sending everyone big, virtual hugs today – especially all of my readers from the USA since you make up the large majority! If you want to connect with me on other platforms, I’m on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (all with the name @ashleighwnc).

xox

Favorite Wedding Gifts

Last night, I had dinner (and a quick run) with a sweet friend who is also a newlywed. While catching up, the topic of wedding gifts got brought up: Do you HAVE to buy from the registry? Do couples prefer cash? Is it okay to get creative with the gift? It got me thinking about our own wedding gifts.

We had 3 registries: Honeyfund, Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond. Honeyfund is awesome because it allows you to put gifts from any site on there (you can link to it), or you can ask for monetary gifts towards a larger item. Some of our “larger items” were a new bedroom set, honeymoon dinners, honeymoon excursions, and honeymoon splurge money. We reserved more traditional items such as dinnerware, silverware and appliances for Crate & Barrel  and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Some of our most used gifts are our: griddle, Kitchen Aid stand mixer, serving utensils, dishes, Keurig drawer to hold our K-cups, cutting board, and our knife block that we were able to buy with the money we were given for our wedding. Also, the specific dinners and excursions people got us for our honeymoon were also BEYOND AMAZING.

Some of the more creative and not on our registry gifts were:

photo-1Honey or “Honeymoon Honey” straight from Chatham County (where my husband hails from). We have devoured this entire jar of honey – including my first peanut butter & honey sandwich. Seriously delicious. We thought this was such a thoughtful gift, since a dear family friend of my husband’s family (who is also a bee keeper) gave us the honey.

plateThis plate made us “ooh” and “ahh” when we opened it. How sweet to give a personalized gift that is so very thoughtful. While we never would have registered for this, we love it so much! It’s proudly displayed so you can see it when you walk in our home.

mapThis map/painting is hanging in our stairwell. My sister-in-law (the best woman at our wedding) gave us this gift. She took a map and painted over it so we can mark all the places we travel to in our life together. It says “Home…. is wherever I am with you.” Pretty darn sweet!

We were so thankful for every gift that we received and would have been more than happy just having everyone there to celebrate with us. Back to my original questions, I don’t think you HAVE to stick with the registry when giving gifts, but I do think you should be familiar with the bride/groom’s personalities/tastes if you are going to venture off of the registries.  What do you think? Would love to have some readers weigh in on this subject!

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!

Ariba Aruba!

Sorry for the hiatus, we returned from our extended honeymoon late Thursday and have been busy with unpacking, decluttering (anyone moving and need boxes???) and of course, college football (Go Hokies!). We loved every second of our trip to Aruba, in fact, we loved it so much that I am going to have to break it up into multiple blogs to give you all the best details. I’ll start with our adventures in Aruba – and don’t worry, I will also have a recap of the day before the wedding and the rehearsal and our actual wedding (perfection!). So stay tuned, and thanks for reading for the past 10 months! Below are a few of my favorite pictures (out of 1000!!) from the best trip of our lives!

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Our first adventure in Aruba was obviously to the beach. Eagle Beach is where our hotel (Amsterdam Manor) was located. We had a suite – which was perfect for us with a kitchen (we made breakfast and lunch a few times), a living room (great retreat from the Aruban sun!), and the most adorable patio where we savored many moments, including a champagne breakfast and afternoon drinks. We had a view of Eagle Beach from our room and let me tell you, this was the most beautiful beach.
DSC00632Yes, there were TREES on the beach. But they were so stunning. There were also palapas available at any time of day. We went out one morning at 8 am (early birds!) and claimed our chairs underneath the very last palapa on the row and another day at 2 PM we were able to find an available one. It was NOT crowded and not full of children. The sand doesn’t get hot despite the 90 degree weather, so you can walk on it without fear of burning your feet. And the water was so clear, that we were able to walk out to our shoulders and still see our feet. IN-CRED-IBLE!
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We also had a beach bar with the most delicious pina coladas which made beach days even better. Our next adventure was a trip to the Butterfly Farm. We LOVED this experience. There were dozens of colorful creatures fluttering around inside the farm and we got a tour from a knowledgeable young man and even got to hold a giant (baby!) moth! We highly recommend this to any nature lovers or someone looking for some great photos!
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With our honeymoon package from Amsterdam Manor, we got a sunset cruise (open bar!) on a catamaran. We sat with another couple who was enjoying their honeymoon (until we got splashed!) and watched the sunset over the water. It was beautiful and peaceful and while we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we said we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to do it on our own if it had not been included in our package.
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Didn't see that wave coming!
Didn’t see that wave coming!

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We spent more time on a boat the following day thanks to our friends Matt & Amanda (I claim Matt as my favorite co-worker). They have traveled to Aruba several times and had a fabulous list prepared for us when we announced our honeymoon destination. Matt and Amanda got us a snorkeling trip for our wedding present, which included TWO sites. One was the Antilles Shipwreck and the other at Catalina. I enjoyed Catalina more due to the calmer waters, but obviously, the shipwreck provides the opportunity to see more sealife. The tour was through De Palm tours and was also open bar!
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One of our most favorite tours was a Jeep tour (in a Land Rover) through ABC Jeep Safari with Ivo as our tour guide. We really loved that ABC was a family owned company and that we could support small business! Our tour took us on steep, narrow roads bordering cliffs with the most amazing views of our lives. We saw the first chapel in Aruba, the Ruins of a gold mill, the Natural Bridge which collapsed the year following Hurricane Ivan but still makes for great photos (we saw a sea turtle in the water below!), and lastly, swimming in the Natural Pool created by the ocean. It was a little overwhelming/scary getting in but once you were in you could snorkle or just relax while others dove from cliffs and the waves crashed around you.
DSC_0283 DSC00713 DSC00739 DSC00752CSC_0294Excuse my hair in the last photo, that was after the natural pool adventure and after I slipped while trying to get out and went under (Clumsy is my middle name). Our favorite adventure was actually the most strenuous but totally worth it. We kayaked from the Spanish Lagoon to De Palm Island where we got to spend time doing whatever we wanted! We chose to snorkel while there (cannot wait for our underwater pictures to be developed) but they also had options for massages, ping pong, SNUBA, water slides (great if you have kids), lounging on beach chairs by more gorgeous water and two restaurants for eating. We were amazed with the color of the water that we were kayaking through – however, the trip TO the island exhausted this girl and we chose to take the ferry home versus kayaking back.
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Between biking on the island (it’s only 6 miles wide and 19 miles long), we ran almost every morning while we were there. I got in over 25 miles while there! Not all of our activities were active, but all were fun. Parasailing was the last thing we did while we were there. It’s a tad expensive for the short amount of time you get (13 minutes – felt like 5), but the views were worth it. We could see all of Aruba, and straight to the bottom of the ocean. I enjoyed the experience, my new husband only felt it was so-so and wouldn’t do it again.
DSC00888DSC00884 DSC00887On one of our last days in Aruba, we explored downtown Oranjestad. Water was a must on this trip! We took the bus into town (it’s only $2.30 per person versus a $9 cab ride). Being in the city, you don’t feel the trade winds like you do on the beach, so it was extremely hot. We saw the Parliament office, a gathering of Iguanas, and explored the mall (high-end stores). We attempted to go to lunch at Pinchos while there; however, they are only open for dinner, so we ended up at what we called our worst lunch. Not the food – just the service. Do your research before you eat in-town. Many of the restaurants that are visible from the road are touristy. While we were disgustingly sweaty by the time we returned home, we really enjoyed our trip into the city.
DSC00913 DSC00915DSC00929 DSC00930 DSC00939 DSC00947We spent a couple nights trying our luck at the casinos (slots for me, computer poker for him). It was fun, had free drinks but I hate being around smoke. Hate is actually not a strong enough word for how I feel about smoke. We didn’t go to any clubs, and we didn’t make it to the Sopranos Piano Bar but we had planned to. Lots of restaurants have live music in the evenings which is nice and our hotel had some events such as happy hour (daily), movie night, Mexican night, etc.
DSC00712While this blog highlights some of the fun to be had on Aruba, it doesn’t do it justice. It was truly a remarkable place with incredible locals, atmosphere and views. We enjoyed literally every second of our trip and cannot wait to go back. Oh – and if you’re already packing your bags and planning your escape, take extra hair ties (it’s windy!) and lots of sunscreen (we used SPF 50 for most of the trip – and nothing less than 30).
DSC00775Oh – and I’d be remiss if I didn’t recap our last night of the trip. We took a bottle of champagne out on the beach and watched the sunset (swoon). It was romantic, wonderful and everything I could have asked for. I am so in love with my darling husband.
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