I have been MIA but I am back! I am sharing my favorite things I have been using this month!
I freaking love single serve avocado cups. I will prep some carrots or pretzels the night before and have these as a snack mid day! I’m obsessed and they are so budget friendly. I think they are like 50 cents a cup versus hummus cups are usually over a dollar.
2. I am currently obsessed with anything that is a romper. I love that they are comfy, they can be dressed up, and most are work appropriate. My husband actually got this really cute one for my birthday for me (yay!) from target and I love how casual cute it is.
3. Ya’ll if you know me, you know I am obsessed with everything hair. I will watch hair tutorials on youtube for hours sometimes. Borderline obsessed. However, I have been really digging Kristin Ess since my dad got me her straightener for Christmas that you can straighten and curl hair with. As a side note if you are looking for a great straightener get hers and it’s super budget friendly at 80 dollars. However, number 3 of my favorite things belongs to her Soft Shine Beach Wave Spray. I have thin stranded, dry hair but I have a lot of hair. That means the under layer of my hair tangles easy and my hair usually takes a bunch of product to be shiny but then it usually feels heavy and greasy because I added so much product. This stuff is legit magic. It leaves my hair tangle free and shiny with no added weight. I love it so so so much. Best part is a little bit goes a long way so I bet one can would last a year.
4. I have been redoing my unfinished basement closet. It is a patch job for later on when we convert it totally to a master bath and closet. Right now we have other projects and this is the last one on our list. I needed flooring for concrete that I could put in myself. I found the cutest peel and stick flooring that was $1.28 a square foot. AKA 100 dollars to redo the space for now. I also got my rug at Ollies and I love the color and pattern. It’s so girly and I am always trying to pick more gender neutral colors for my husband around the rest of the house but this room is all mine (yay!).
5. Alright guys I have to admit, it’s hard to cook, be presentable, take care of my dogs, have a life, and clean. This year has been especially hard on me because of the rain and we have a muddy backyard. I found that any spare time at home I am cleaning and there is a layer of dust on everything within a couple of days. I did myself some research and we just got a Deebot robot vacuum and I AM IN ACTUAL LOVE! I am running it everyday and it is making my life easier! I can double task when I clean too. Now they are expensive which is why I waited for a sale but this vacuum scored high and is way less expensive than a Roomba. I am literally so happy. I got the one for pets because we have a lot of pet hair.
6. As I said above it was recently my birthday and I asked for pj’s. While I love my old athletic t-shirts and PJ pants from when I was 10 (literally have not grown since then) it was time for me to buck up and get rid of some of them. My mother in law got my a cute pair from TJMaxx and my husband got a really cute set from Target. The set from target is $22 and the softest pj’s ever and so cute. I need all of the colors!
7. Like I said above I am semi redoing my closet to make me happy everyday when I wake up. Most of the things I used to decorate we had bought but hadn’t found a place to use around the house. The last thing on my list is curtains but I am trying to find some that speak to me and I haven’t found any yet. Anyways I needed to replace my ten dollar college dorm over the door mirror but I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a mirror. I happen to have come across this 100 dollar mirror that is gigantic at Walmart for half off and I jumped for excitement. It is so perfect but I almost could not fit it in my car but nevertheless my Honda fit fit’s everything. I could not find the link for it and I don’t have a great pic but you can see how big it is above to be able to see my whole closet.
8. Skincare is really important to me because I have very acne prone skin and still have active breakouts all of the time. I love these acne pimple patches by Hanhoo because I can wash my face when I get home and put these on and they keep me from picking and they feel like skin! I love them and they are really inexpensive at $2.50. WHATTTTT!
Please feel free to share new things you have found and are loving for this summer!
Why go out to a fancy dinner when you can make one yourself?
Don’t get me wrong Kevin and I enjoy a nice meal out but nothing sounds less romantic than going out to a restaurant knowing there will be long waits and lots of people.
We’ve decided this year to make a date night for ourselves but we are not sure what we want to make for dinner yet.
I tried out a recipe tonight, a healthy recipe for chicken pot pie made in the crockpot. I’m not going to lie it wasn’t great so I am not linking the recipe but the biscuits were delicious. If you’d like to make chicken pot pie I would stick with the full fat version. I found one here. The biscuits we got from the store and just cut into heart shapes at home before we baked them.
Here are some dinner ideas I am toying with for now.
Come on you can’t go wrong here and I found a bunch of cute ideas. I saw some in heart shapes and some with pepperoni cut in heart shapes. This blog has a cute one.
#2 Chicken/Eggplant Parmesan
Most people think this meal is difficult but it is actually really easy to make at home. I saw a couple of blogs that cut the mozzarella cheese on top into hearts and I thought it was pretty cute. I like this meal because you can make it healthy and can serve it with a salad.
Here are some of the dessert ideas I’ve been thinking about too.
#1 Chocolate Fondue
I love the restaurant The Melting Pot. In college we would make ourselves dinner and then stop their for dessert to split between four people because it’s super expensive! However, now that I am thinking about it, it can’t be that hard to make yourself! Another perk is that most of the foods on the plate are actually healthy and I can kill two birds with one stone and get some food prep for lunches done too. I found a decadent homemade fondue plate here.
#2 Strawberry Cheesecake
I have a sweet tooth for all things with a dense texture; tiramisu, brownies, and cheesecake! Nothing goes better with cheesecake than strawberries! I saw this recipe and it looks really easy and delicious!
We will have to see which recipes will win out this year. Feel free to share your favorite meals to make for your loved one on Valentines Day below.
Hey everyone! I am so excited to share our Alaska honeymoon with you! That’s right we went to Alaska for our honeymoon! We had a hard time narrowing down places at first (because I haven’t been to many places) but then we started to look into Alaska and we were hooked.
I wasn’t sure at first if Alaska was something we could afford to do. It is definitely a larger budget vacation but not impossible! We actually learned a couple more tricks we could have done to save even more on our budget. For one person you can expect to pay $2500.
Don’t just book when you see them, be patient. We had to wait and check everyday to find the lowest fares. We found the cheapest flights to be around $800 round trip per person but they went up as high as $1300 on some days. Another thing we learned about when we traveled to Alaska was there is a credit card that can help with flight expenses, Alaska Airlines Credit Card. If you join during a certain time of the year you can get a companion pass(you’re companion flies for just 100 dollars anywhere one time per year) and you can earn points to fly yourself. When we were on the plane ride home we actually got the credit card (they fly to more than just Alaska). A disclaimer: don’t just open a credit card – make sure it’s the right choice for you.
Hotels and Car
We rented a car and paid for hotels in Alaska as you’ll find out below. However, both combined were the highest expenses we paid on the trip. Our small rental car, which was the cheapest I could find at the time, was $850 for the week. Each night we stayed in Alaska it was hard to find a hotel under $175 a night. Yikes. We noticed as we traveled around that we were stopping to take pictures at campsites along our drive. They were in each city and huge! The best part about them was they had the best real estate. Yep, you heard me right better spots then our hotels! You can rent a camper van for the week for the same price as an SUV and you’ll be all set! Most of the campground fees were like $25/night. When we go back for another road trip this is what we will do.
Alaska is so big it’s impossible to fathom being able to travel there enough times to see everything. We wanted to be able to see as much as we could in what little time we had. We booked 2 days worth of flights and 7 full days to road trip. I used this blog to help plan some of our trip and some of my dad’s suggestions since he has been to Alaska to fish a couple of times.
What to Pack
I actually had to buy quite a bit of clothing to prepare for our trip. You’ll definitely want light layers that are insulated. We went at the end of the summer, August 31st to September 8th, and the weather was chilled in the morning and at night around 35-40 degrees and warmed up to 65 degrees almost everyday (I swear their 65 felt like 75!). I know everybody said it rains frequently but it only rained a little bit when we were in Denali (this is normal because it has it’s own weather system due to the mountain) so we had a clear, dry week.
The weather at this time of year is great but I was definitely in about three layers in the morning and down to one layer by mid-day. There were even some days I just was in shorts and t-shirt. The cool part about Alaska is that they get more sunlight then we do so the sun was up early and went down later so it felt warmer longer.
We also found out that the week we traveled to Alaska was the last week of open season. This means most of the businesses close up after labor day weekend. While our weather was absolutely gorgeous I would not plan on visiting past these dates.
Day 1: Anchorage to McKinley Park
We flew into Anchorage and grabbed our mid-size sudan rental car from Enterprise right at the airport. For your rental car skip the GPS and grab a map because there are only five paved roads in all of Alaska.
We drove a couple of miles from the airport to sleep off our long day of traveling at the Alaska House of Jade. It is a quaint bed and breakfast that my dad’s friends had recommended. It did not disappoint. We stayed in a large room with a comfortable king size bed. In the morning the couple made all their foods from scratch and we tried reindeer sausage for the first time (so good!). We discussed with the other travelers about their plans. One couple told us they were going to the Alaskan State Fair because the vegetables are so giant you have to see it to believe it. Unfortunately we could not fit this into our trip. The couple that owned the B&B also lent us a cooler and beer spray when we were discussing our plans for the week! If we could have we would have stayed their longer.
We noticed Anchorage is a bigger city in Alaska, with the mountains in the background it’s very picturesque. You will find native Alaskan’s working everywhere and they are laid back and pleasant people. We grabbed food at the grocery store before our start to the road trip. Be prepared to pay top dollar for some PB&J sandwiches and snacks. We asked why the groceries were so expensive ($10 for a loaf of bread) and they said it’s due to the fact that they have to ship everything in and that drives their prices up.
As we set off on our road trip we were giddy. We were heading north to Denali National Park and it was about a 4 hour drive total (our longest ride of the entire trip). I thought I would nap but turns out that every new scene we drove by had me wide eyed and crying most of the way. I have never witnessed land as beautiful as this.
We stopped for lunch at McKinley Creekside Cafe and then we were right back on the road again. We had a ATV ride planned for three pm through Denali Park. We arrived to our destination to go on the ATV ride and immediately regretted it. I had gotten the idea from the blog above but it was not what we thought. What we learned was that Denali National Park has a piece that was not put into the park due to there was an active coal mine (still active). This property was allowed to be developed and it felt immediately wrong in my gut upon arrival. We still enjoyed the tour, don’t get me wrong, and saw our first moose but overall we went to Alaska to be in the quiet and nature and this was not that. We also saw the bus from “Into the Wild” too.
After our ATV ride we settled in for the night in our cabins we rented through Denali Cabins. These cabins were nice but a bit overpriced due to the good location. A perk was that they had a restaurant right near the cabins so we got dinner and breakfast there and that was really convenient. Not going to lie though we were hurting due to the time change. Even though the sun was still up I still was jet-legged by 7-8 pm (which was 11pm our time) and this did not go away the entire week.
Day 2: Denali National Park & Preserve
The day we had been waiting for anxiously had arrived. It was a foggy morning and I was worried about the weather but there was only about 10 minutes of freezing rain and the rest of the day was rather pleasant. As we pulled into the park there were winding roads and evergreens all around us. We pulled into the visitor station and paid for our pass for the day. I would just like to note the lady told us the buses would stop and bring us back to our car after we finished our hike but do not believe them – they did not pick us up and about ten buses went by…
We stayed within mile marker 15 but the park goes in 80 miles. I was really nervous about being dropped off for off-trail hiking so we played it safe and stayed within the first 15. Now that we went I think I’d feel more comfortable going in further. I was expecting to see wildlife everywhere and guess what, that is not true. You have to know where to look and be looking. Moral of the story don’t be afraid just be prepared.
We hiked the The Savage Alpine Trail and it was still spectacular. When you get close to mile marker 15 there were more people but for the majority of the hike we did not see anyone. It is a difficult due to length being about 7.7 miles total but you don’t need to do any rough climbing. There is no peak to this trail and they tell you to stay on the trail to help preserve the land otherwise Kevin and I would have continued to venture up. We saw some mountain goats, Arctic squirrels, and a couple more moose (not on the trail) for the whole day.
By the time we got to our car we said our goodbyes and departed from this magical wonderland mother nature has created and headed south towards Talkeetna. It was about a 2.5 hour car ride. I kept on thinking it was a mistake leaving and maybe I had gone all wrong with my trip planning. If you are feeling this way, don’t worry, you will feel like this in every place you travel too in all of Alaska (they’re all majestic).
We finally arrived at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and it was about 65 degrees out and an absolutely clear night. If you are in Talkeetna you have to stay here! This was my second favorite place we stayed because of the view. The amenities were normal but the entire place is lined with windows and you can see the entire Denali National Park. The dinner I got here was also the best meal I’ve ever had! Get the reindeer meatloaf!
That night was so clear people were everywhere. I’m not kidding when I say the place was lined with photographers saying they’ve lived here forever and they had never seen Denali Park that clear. It was wild.
We attempted later that night to wake up to try and catch the Northern Lights. When we got up we were surprised to see about 50 people in lawn chairs out waiting too. Unfortunately they did not show for us but we did download an app, My Aurora Forecast, throughout the trip that helped us immensely.
Day 3:Talkeetna to Girdwood
We checked out of the lodge at nine am and said our goodbyes to an absolutely cloudless sky (I did not grab a picture). We headed south for three hours down the road we came from, past Anchorage, and followed along what they call the Turnagain Arm Pass on the Seward Highway. As soon as we hit this spot we were in awe!!!! We totally took a 45-minute detour just hanging out and taking in the view.
Now I wanted to hike one of the mountains, The Bird Ridge Trail, that lines the pass but Kevin was really jet-lagged so we ended up ditching our plans for the day and just kind of hung out once we got to Girdwood.
Girdwood is a very unique town that has formed from the tourism that comes from their ski resort. (Side note: The skiing here is death defying so I’m not sure who actually skies.) Basically the town is at the bottom of a U basin with the Chugach Mountain Range covering all side and water on the open side. The mountains have glaciers at the top, 7 to be exact, one of the glaciers is called Alyeska. They named the ski resort after this glacier, Alyeska (Allie-esss-kah). This is very confusing because people use Girdwood and Alyeska interchangeably but the town’s name is Girdwood. Either way Girdwood is very beautiful.
We found a local brewery, Girdwood Brewing Company, to chill at for the afternoon. Ironically we sat in Adirondack chairs and looked at the mountains until we could check into our cabin. We found out here that Alaska has a law for how much beer you can consume in one day. Turns out you can only buy 36 ounces total (3 beers)! This would never fly in New York…
While in Girdwood we took the Alyeska Aerial Tram ride up the mountain to the Seven Glaciers Restaurant. If I could go back we would have skipped this and just hiked up (about a 1 hour hike) and down. It was expensive and nothing special to be honest. When we reached the top of the mountain we ate at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant. I had been watching Chef’s Table and thought we would splurge for a night here to have the experience. To be honest it was really expensive and food was not good, like at all. We both agreed if we could go back we would get drinks at the bar, which actually has the best view of the mountain tops and glaciers, and we would have ate at, Jack Sprat Restaurant, which locals raved about.
After dinner we did a 15 minute hike up to the top of the glacier. The view was pretty spectacular. Our pictures look as though we were photoshopped into them.
After dinner we checked into the Alyeska Hostel. We rented the tiny cabin and it was so cute! It is very small, be warned, but fine for a short stay. We were worried we would be cold but it was actually the exact opposite, we were quite toasty! I loved this cabin and the owner was very nice! This place was a steal and we did not have to share with anybody so I could not complain.
Day 4: Girdwood to Homer
We set off early in the morning for our fly fishing trip on the Kenai River out of Cooper’s Landing. It was a foggy morning to start therefore our drive was unremarkable into Coopers Landing. Once we arrived we met our fishing guide and got set up for the day. We packed our lunches and were dressed in layers to take off as the day got warmer. It was 7:30 am when we started and we ended at 4 pm.
We hopped into the row boat and the water was crystal clear. Our guide told us the water in the river comes from glaciers. This makes the bottom silty and gives the water a grey turquoise color.
We started off fishing for “silvers” which I know as Coho Salmon. Ironically when they enter the Kenai River they start to die and turn a blush color. You don’t want them to be too blush or they will be not good to eat. We actually used spinner rods and spoons to catch them. I unfortunately, did not catch any but Kevin got one. Our guide filleted the fish right there and gave us ideas of how to use it at home. We ended up shipping this home and we bought some other fish to ship too since after a certain poundage the price to ship is about the same. Aka, we should have caught more fish haha.
As the morning went on, the fog cleared and suddenly we were surrounded by sun and mountains. The entire ride was serene and beautiful. I was happy I was dressed in layers because I was down to my base layer for the majority of the day.
After the fishing spots for silvers were exhausted we spent the rest of the day fishing for small rainbow trouts and dolly vardens (which I called dolly partons haha). As we were fishing it was really cool because you could see 1000’s of sockeye salmon and big King Salmon swimming in the river too. It was pretty incredible. This was definitely Kevin’s favorite day.
We were really tired by the end of the day and wish we could have had dinner with our guide but knew we would be crashing later on. We decided to head out to Homer and get dinner on the way.
As we continued south the drive continued to become even more breathtaking. After you pass Soldotna it’s all beach houses and mountains. If you want to own a home in Alaska this is where I would go. The drive follows along the water and in the distance is the Aleutian Mountain Range. You will be able to spot two of the highest volcanos along the drive, Illiamna and Redoubt, that you will swear look higher than Denali.
We stopped in a town called Ninilchik and ate at a sandwich shop. On the way out the parking lot we saw a fish processing spot and popped in to see if we could get our fish processed. It is called Tanner’s Fresh Fish Processing. We met with the owner and he was super helpful especially since we had caught only a couple pounds of meat. You can actually order from them at any time and I think is great Christmas gift idea.
We finally arrived in Homer and for the first time in our trip got lost. I was using google maps and it took us right onto the Homer spit. Homer is a cliff town surrounded by water with this amazing landform, the spit, that juts out a sandy beach where there are restaurants and bars for a couple of miles. It is absolutely wild. I really could not believe it was real. After we called the owner we ended up finding our way to the Kenai Peninsula Suites.
I got the idea to stay here from the blog I mentioned earlier. Be warned this place is pricey but it was our honeymoon. This was the only place we were staying for 2-nights and it was so, so worth it. It had a jacuzzi, a personal deck for ourselves, a kitchen, a sunset view with two mountain ranges on different sides in the distance, and a beach view below. We spent at least an hour running around the property just exploring and taking in the view and watching the sunset in the jacuzzi on our first night.
Day 5: Homer
This day was my pick for an adventure. What’s an adventure without horseback riding? I was thankful I found this guy through facebook called Trails End Horse Adventures and he said there were openings for our date! He is a real cowboy, doesn’t have running water, barely has a facebook and only accepts mailed in checks before hand. At first I was like please don’t be a scam! However, he called me back to confirm what heights and weights we were so he could match up his horses and his address!
We met at 8 am as a group and he drove us down to the state land we would be trail riding on. Just a warning don’t drink too much coffee or water or you’ll have to potty in an outhouse with no door. He was definitely a character and was nice overall but can be mean at times if the horses are acting up so watch out. Props to him though because he did give me the most beautiful horse because he thought we matched up nicely. He wasn’t wrong! I’ve been around horses growing up and this paint horse was a beautiful horse and I was praying I would get matched with her.
If you don’t like heights like me, the ride down the hill at first is rough. I was basically having an anxiety attack due to the steepness. Of course I am here to tell you I survived so it all works out, right? Once we got to the bottom it was gorgeous. He took us through homesteads with some of his cattle. He is part of an association where they share a very large piece of land. It was all grass land with mountains on both sides of us with glaciers between the cracks. There were little streams we went through and bigger streams we did not. For the majority of the trip I could not take pictures because I was on the horse. On the way back I tried and failed. Therefore the only pictures I have are from when we stopped and had lunch.
As a side note some of the horses seemed like they were struggling and may have been a little lame so I wasn’t totally happy about that. Not to mention the climb down and up were very, very steep and difficult for them. However, he did say he basically took these horses in from people who were trying to place them and they do get rode often so it seems like they have a pretty good life. I don’t want to give him too much slack because his barn and stable were nice. While there were some negatives I have to say my overall experience was good and this was still my favorite day of the trip.
We finished the ride and said our goodbyes. At this point I was dying to get into the car and get home! I was overheated and my thighs were screaming. We decided to grab dinner quick at La Baleine Cafe on the spit and rushed home so we could nap. We ended up taking a 3 hour nap and we woke up just in time to catch the sunset.
Day 6: Homer to Seward
We got a late start to the day and we knew once we got on the road we were going to miss our cruise in Seward. We called the cruise and asked if we could have it switched to the next day and they said no problem! We were so surprised but thankfully it all worked out.
The drive to Seward was about three hours and we were there by lunch time. We didn’t have anything planned so we checked into our hotel and dropped our stuff off. Seward is a small port town surrounded by mountains and very developed compared to the other towns we had been too. There’s even a college here! Many people had talked about Seward being their favorite place in Alaska throughout our trip. While I will admit it was cool, I felt like it was probably my least favorite city but still spectacular in its own way.
We decided on venturing around the city by foot since it was nice out. We made our way around the port, board walk and saw a ton of jellyfish right off the bat. Above us were fisherman filleting their fish at the fish station. If you don’t like the smell fo dead fish stay clear of those. As we made our way to the shoreline there conveniently was a walking path that we could follow. The walk was picturesque and calming with sailboats in the distance and fisherman on the shoreline. Lookout to the water and you’ll notice big brown blobs floating, those are very large sea otters. During certain times of the year whales come in but this was not that season.
As we got closer to the end of the walk we came across a sign that said mile marker 0 for the Iditarod! We had no idea Seward was where it started.
Shortly after we passed the Iditarod sign we found the Alaska Sealife Center. It was actually pretty cool but small overall. Afterward we stopped into the Seward Brewing Company across the street for dinner and drinks! We loved it here. The whole ambience was sophisticated and the fish tacos here were to die for. After dinner we just stopped in from store to store until we found ourselves back at our hotel. At the hotel we decided to stay in and enjoyed the hot tub and the pool for the rest of the night.
As we walked onto the boat they took our picture and we found our seat. I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a Park Ranger on the boat to narrate the tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park. While I knew this was touristy I was excited!
As the boat launched they served us lunch immediately. It was surprisingly pretty good! Kevin and I moved up onto the top deck after lunch with our camera and binoculars trying to spot some wildlife.
We ended up seeing seeing puffins, eagles, seals, and at the end we saw a super pod of killer whales. This was so neat! They approximated it was about 45 whales. I’m not going to lie it was a pretty cool experience not just to see them but to hear them breath as they came up to the surface.
After the boat ride ended we got dinner in town at Chinooks restaurant. The restaurant looks over the harbor and was a great way to end the day in Seward and our Alaskan adventure. The rest of the day we spent driving back to Anchorage to fly out in the morning.
If you made it this far good for you! Feel free to share below what your next big trip is or if you have any suggestions for other things to do in Alaska!
Who has a husband who loves to eat meat?!?! Mine does and he’s a hunter, so we always have a cache of meat at home available from his hunts. However, sometimes I just want a lighter meal with different textures and flavors. So this week I said “No to the meats”(que Arby’s slogan) and just focused on all vegetarian dinners.
Here are a couple of recipes I tried and I have one left that I’d like to try this week:
I found the recipe here. It was very easy to make and you don’t have to get as fancy as they did. The only part I struggled with was getting the zucchini cut into thin strips! Our peeler was not wide enough to slip over the width of the zucchini! What I ended up doing was using a sharp knife to slice the strips very thin.
Taste wise, all the flavors went really well together and I got the husband stamp of approval.
The Buddha Bowl
I have seen these pop up on my instagram recently and I thought ‘those look delicious!’ I dared a little with this one and made a few additions (that aren’t in the recipe) and it was absolutely delicious. I have to say – don’t plate your food like this – layering makes it taste so much better. I found the recipe here. I also bought quinoa boil-in-a-bag (I did not know this existed!) to cut time to make the dish and it was a success!
Roasted Veggie Pitas
We keep pita breads on stock for last minute pizza dinners but I’ve been getting bored with them lately and was looking for a different use. Obviously, Gyros are the first thing that came to mind but I’m avoiding meat this week. As I was floating through Pinterest, I stumbled upon this bad boy of a recipe here! This was absolutely excellent and it made two large sandwiches (one I had for the lunch on day two and it was still good). I really enjoyed this one! I did mix it up and added in some extra seasonings for the chickpeas that I already knew I liked: dill weed, garlic powder, and onion powder. I also used FAGE plain yogurt instead of sour cream!
Homemade Ramen Bowl
This is my next recipe in line for this week. I actually got the idea to try a recipe like this because our local grocery store, Wegmans, started making plain ramen noodles and I have been dying to try them! It looks so delicious and I am a sucker for a salty soup. Here’s the recipe I’ll be making.
Please feel free to share your favorite veggie dishes below!
Ahhh, so I got married last year and I am finally getting around to blogging about it because my wedding photos are finally in! As a DIYer I really wanted to DIY everything in our wedding including my wedding dress (kinda, lol) and we had a tight budget(as in still way too much to spend on a one day) for 250 people.
Now if you just got engaged a little advice – take a deep breath and everything will work out. Our wedding was two years in the making so it doesn’t happen overnight.
We picked out our venue using Wedding Wire. This was the easiest site to use to narrow down venues that would accommodate the amount of people, cost, and type of venue we were looking for. We nailed it on our first visit using this site! We also used this site to create a FREE wedding website. No need to spend any money on a website when they have tons of templates to choose from fooo freeee.
We really needed a big barn to accommodate our large family where we could get married inside or outside depending on the weather. We landed on a gold mine about an hour from where we lived called Barnes Barn . This venue is a working family farm with sprawling acres, set in the beautiful countryside of Upstate NY. I still pinch myself that we found this place! We had the entire week to come and set up, they provided tables and chairs for the reception and ceremony, and they had the best overlook of hills in the area. We also could choose our own catering! This was a huge cost savings compared to other venues as most would force you to use their overpriced catering. Lastly, the owners here are just wonderful people, they were super understanding and helpful throughout the entire process.
After we chose the venue I started looking for a florist. This was really frustrating because I had no idea how expensive flowers would be. After just about giving up altogether I decided to make my own arrangements. I Pinterested flower arrangements of what I liked and walked into JoAnn Fabrics on a mission. I spent about two hours arranging the bouquets until I landed on something I liked. In hindsight I probably should have done this last but it ended up working out. Outside of the flowers I only had to buy a couple of spools of twine, heavy duty scissors, mens pins, and women’s bracelets for accessories ($30). I basically just put the flowers together the way I wanted and wrapped twine around it with a couple of knots. No fancy stuff needed here. Also JoAnn Fabrics has 40% sales all of the time so I waited for those to come up to buy all the flowers as I finished each project. I ended up spending about $700 total on my flowers for the entire wedding (including some real flowers too). I went out the week before and bought potted flowers to decorate our ceremony and entrance way to the barn. We then repurposed these flowers in our landscape at our house, which was a double bonus.
I had to do a little problem solving that week before to try to figure out how to cover or replace the plastic bottoms of the potted flower arrangements. I ended up buying burlap fabric for super cheap at again, JoAnn Fabrics! I then cut that into large pieces to wrap around the existing pots and secured them with twine. Overall, I was very pleased with the end result and it only cost me some time and about $15 for the fabric.
I found that what helped me the most with decorating the venue was looking at what other people had done on the venues facebook page. That helped me envision what I liked and disliked. I found the whiskey/wine barrels were something I really wanted for decoration with the barn. However, finding barrels to rent became a huge headache. I had exhausted all avenues as most quotes to rent barrels were about $1000 dollars for the day (wtf?!?!?). Finally we got a reasonable quote from the The Finger Lakes Barrel Co. The owners were so sweet and even delivered our barrels an extra 50 miles total round trip for us.
The welcome sign I originally was going to buy from Etsy but then I saw the price tag for that too….are you seeing a trend here? Everything’s expensive when it says “wedding” on it. I ended up borrowing my Sister-in-laws chalk board and bought chalk pens on Amazon. I was really nervous this would ruin her chalkboard but I bought their cleaning solution and it came right off.
I also knew I really wanted drapes for the barn door openings. A bunch of other couples who had been married had them and I thought they looked so pretty. I found some sheer white curtains on Etsy that were perfect! We needed them to be a really large size as the barn doors were 15 feet high. Now I didn’t realize they came only as one piece but that was no problem in the end. We just cut them in half to make two pieces and placed the cut sides towards the doors.
One thing I regret was renting the tablecloths through the caterer. I had specifically requested floor length and certain table sizes and we definitely did not get that. At the end of the day we just rolled with it and made the best of it. I think it still ended up beautiful.
I wanted to keep the decor simple since the barn was very intricate itself.
I have broken down where I got each piece of decor above. The old apple crates were antiques my parents had that I borrowed. My in laws had brass candle sticks just laying around waiting to be used. I bought Magnolia candle sticks from Target to put in each brass candle stick holder. All of the votive candles were 10 hour candles from JoAnn fabrics. The burlap cards banner was from Amazon. The card holder was from JoAnn fabrics. My father in law cut the wood slabs for us from his backyard. The guestbook was from the dollar bins at Target. The table numbers were from JoAnn fabrics. All of the picture frames were from Marshalls ($70 dollars total and I think I had gotten 10 frames). The wine bottles were either from us or we bought some for super cheap on Ebay.
The biggest DIY undertaking went to……. the flower boxes and the seating chart!
For the seating chart I had an idea in mind from someone else but I could not find anything remotely close to that online to order. I started by finding an empty frame to match the wood of the apple crates. I would like to take a moment and say I on a personal level choose not shop at Hobby Lobby but I ran out of options of places to look and did find my frame there. Then I needed to find chicken wire. We found some at Lowes but let me tell you – be careful- this stuff is sharp and not easy to cut. At home I used a staple gun to adhere the chicken wire to the back of the frame. Then I bought stencils at JoAnn fabrics and used leftover white paint at home to color in the letters. I used some white card stock and little white clothes pins from JoAnn fabrics to pin up the table assignments and boom it was finally done!
The flower boxes I bought unfinished from Joann Fabrics and stained myself. I then took my leftover chicken wire and cut it to fit the square hole. The long part of the process was cutting and arranging the flowers how I liked them. Originally this was going to be my centerpiece idea but the boxes needed so many flowers and it was super, painstakingly difficult that I gave up after two were completed and decided to use them as another piece of decor for the wedding.
We used compostable plates and utensils because we really wanted to “Go Green” for the wedding. These were so cute and also a huge cost savings as it cost us about half the price of renting real tableware from the caterer. Our napkins were linen and the caterer supplied those. They came pre-folded which was such a relief for setting up!
Our wedding was catered by Seymour’s Catering and they were fantastic. We really liked the idea of having Barbeque and they were literally right up the road!
My neighbor, bridesmaid, and one of my best friends made our cake for us. Now she could have made extravagant cupcakes and flavors but we really wanted to keep it to simple flavors and colors. I took some of the leftover flowers and gave Danny the arrangements on each tier and it came out perfect. Ughh, she is so talented! She also made the arrangement platters for less than $20 all together! She bought the most beautiful glass plates from the salvation army and glued on glass candle stick holders from the dollar store (ahhhh they were so elegant).
One of the last priorities on our list was invitations. You can really save a lot of money by using the online sites when they have sales. We used Shutterfly but there are a ton of online sites for this stuff.
We had our rings custom made by a family friend so there is no other ring like mine and its rose gold! For pictures I put it in a vintage ring box from my grandmother and this is her handmade vintage table runner she handed down to me too. Not pictured was the rest of my wedding jewelry. I got matching rose gold earrings and a bracelet from this cute Etsy shop.
Update: I recently had my ring sauntered together so that it doesn’t move around as much! Also getting the ring handmade will save you literally thousands of dollars compared to buying it in the store. Spending a little time looking up if there are any local jewelers in your area can definitely save you money.
We started the day by getting ready in the dressing room built right into the barn! It was so cool! The ceremony was not until 4 pm so we had the entire morning to get ready at a relaxed pace. One thing I had not thought of was lunch the day of, ekkk! I was so lucky to have wonderful friends who went out of their way to bring us subs so we didn’t starve until dinner!
My hair was a main focus of mine. I tried out a couple of hairstyles but at the end of the day it just looked better down and curly. One of my coworkers where I work is a hair dresser so she came to do everyones hair for the wedding which was really lovely. I wanted my curls to be very tight and then she hand separated them instead of combing them out. I go back and forth with what I should have done because I don’t necessarily like the the uncombed out look but my hair snarls in the back easily and my curls usually fall quickly so we decided to just hand separate. I think it was the best choice as you can see by the end of the day the curls were definitely falling.
I want to take a moment to say that we did not buy any fancy outfits to get ready in (I bought myself a romper of course lol) just because everybody in my group had different styles and I just thought it was more us to just be ourselves. This also allowed me to get a meaningful gift for everybody instead. I found the cutest personalized leather clutches for my bridesmaids and matching rose gold with crystals bracelets for the moms.
Makeup was a toughie too. I was originally going to do my own makeup but then I started to panic the closer we got to the wedding. I’m glad I chose to get a makeup artist because my makeup lasted all day and was better than anything I could have done myself. You get what you pay for! I was able to do a make-up trial and I would highly recommend it – we changed a couple of things before the wedding day.
Picking out my dress was by far the longest decision I made in the whole wedding planning process. I probably tried on over 100 dresses in total. There were so many that I loved but they just didn’t feel like they fit my personality. The more I dress shopped the more I was able to define what styles I liked and what flattered my body type. Still there wasn’t a dress where I loved the top and bottom together as a whole. I also knew I really wanted a blush colored dress so that was always in the back of my mind although I was open to white or ivory. If I could have found mermaid or a trumpet style dress in blush I would have, even today, but the dress just did not exist.
What did I end up doing? I found bridal separates. Yep you heard me right. The skirt of my dress is by Martina Liana and is called the Stevie Skirt in blush. I literally could have never, ever, ever in my wildest dreams, afforded this skirt but I found one on a used wedding dress site for 1/5 of the tag price that had never been worn and snagged it. The top, made by Watters, I had been eyeing was from BHLDN (the cutest bridal site!) but I really couldn’t afford it. Then magically it went on sale for half off and I bought it! I was literally sweating bullets with every passing second trying to imagine what would happen if it arrived and didn’t match but thankfully the colors went perfectly! I paired everything up with a belt I had bought on a whim while dress shopping earlier at Davids Bridal (I don’t think they sell this anymore b/c I could not find it). For my shoes I needed a heel because my skirt could not be hemmed and a wedge just in case the ground was soft so I didn’t trip. I found a really cute, comfortable nude wedge from DSW for $35 that fit the bill (I now wear them to every wedding I attend because they go with everything). Last but not least was my veil. At first I thought I was doomed but Davids Bridal started selling plain champagne veils a couple of months before the wedding at a reasonable price of $50 dollars.
Just a quick side note. I had no idea what type of bra to wear with this top since I am large chested (34DD or 32DDD) and the back went down lower than normal. I ended up finding a really cheap option that actually worked from Target that was stick-on! I know, right?!?!?! I never thought I’d say a stick on bra worked but it did! I had to buy two of them because of trying the dress on for alterations and just saved the second one for the special day.
When we picked out the bridesmaids dress color and the suit color I had to bring the flowers and swatches just to double check they coordinated with everything. The men ended wearing a mute navy from Tuxedo Junction. They were quality material and the only place we could find where the navy that wasn’t that bright blue. The girls all chose the same dress (I originally thought they’d want to chose their own style but turns out I was wrong)! They chose a long, one shoulder dress with a cute slit on the side in the color Sangria, which was a little more pinky of a wine color, from Davids Bridal.
I learned when planning our timeline that if you have an early wedding you don’t need to do a first look but if you have a late wedding like us at 4pm there is no time for pictures after the ceremony. Therefore, we did a first look even though I really wasn’t fond of the idea. I wanted to make it more personal than just looking at each other lol so we decided to read our vows aloud to each other at our first look for a personal moment together.
We also really wanted to include our dog Birdie into the wedding but didn’t want the responsibility of actually taking care of her on our wedding day. We ended up paying a friend to drive her up to the wedding for pictures to hang for a few minutes and then return her home. We wanted to dazzle her up for the day so she got a bath in the am and a handkerchief to wear! It took me forever to pick one out on Etsy but I finally found the perfect handkerchief!
We really enjoyed our photo shoot time but we wished we had looked up poses and actually practiced a couple prior to the wedding. When it came to the day of we had no idea what to do even though I have a million pins of what I liked. Definitely would have come in handy.
One of my favorite gifts was from my Mother-in-law. I was really close to my grandparents when Kevin and I first met but they both had passed away over the years before we got married. She had charms made for my bouquet so they could be with me on our special day and I just think it was the most thoughtful gift.
Then it was finally time to get married!!!!! We had our DJ play songs for the guests as they sat down. We chose the songs for this playlist. This was definitely a fun little touch. Now I have to say I am not super emotional in public but when I heard the music I chose to walk down the aisle to start playing I was actively trying not to cry. I chose for everybody, including me, to walk down the aisle to the acoustic version of “How Long Will I Love You” cover by Ellie Goulding.
We planned our ceremony to be 10-15 minutes long total. Neither Kevin nor I like the attention on us for too long. We also wanted to make the ceremony as “us” as possible. Our best friend, groomsman, that we lived with for about a year while I was going to school married us. I had my Grandma read the St. Francis of Assisi Prayer as our one and only reading (my grandfather who passed loved that prayer and his name was Francis). Then we shared our own vows. This was really hard. We both promised to keep them short so that helped. Our best friend also put some speech stuff in before, in between, and after each of us and he blew it out of the park! I think all in all it was 10 minutes total and that was perfect!
Now our biggest regret of the day was not doing a receiving line. We thought since we had so many guests and the reception was down a big hill that we would just make our rounds during 1.5 hour cocktail party and let everyone start to get food and beverages. However, we were wrong! There were so many people to talk to that we had to split up to conquer! Just do a line…
We wanted our reception to feel laid back and fun so we included an outdoor area with lawn games and table games to play throughout the day and night. These were a big hit!
The rest of the night went pretty smoothly. We had dinner, gave speeches, and danced the night away. We skipped the cheesy stuff like cake cutting and bouquet tossing, etc. We even got to sneak off to the tip-top of the property to take some sunset pictures for 30 minutes and enjoy some time together alone. It was sincerely the best day ever.
We did get to sneek away to the edge of the owners property at sunset for a little alone time. We were floored to see almost a 360 view of the rolling hills. Definitely one of my favorite little moments of the day.
Last but not least I did change into my rehearsal dinner dress for the last hour of dancing since my skirt was big and the dance floor was steamy. I had packed it just in case! I pulled a quick hair change to a low pony and I was ready to really get low on the dance floor.
Just want to give a huge thank you to our photographer who flew half way across the country to take photos of our wedding. Her photography, Kara Gardner Photography, is out of this world and she is just a lovely human being. We were so blessed to have her there with us to document our day.
I have been dying to cross Acadia National Park off of my summer bucket list over the past few years. This summer we had a vacation planned in New Hampshire and took the chance to jump on a weekend trip!
Essentials to pack:
bikes, kayaks, paddle boards (we only have bikes so we hooked those up to our car)
hiking pack with water sack
Acadia is the first National Park I’ve ever visited! Alike to most trips I like to do my research. Unfortunately, I found there was not much available as I was combing the internet for blogs with reviews. I did stumble upon one blog that was very useful, Musings of a Rover, with detailed information about the park!
After the long car ride we had a general list of things to accomplish but no real game plan. Essentially, we tackled Acadia National Park by winging it and it actually worked out!
First things first, before you go over the bridge onto the Island you need to stop at the information center, Thompson Island Information Center, on the right of the road where you can get a free map of Acadia(you will need this) and a weekly Almanac guide to Acadia with tide times and sunrise and sunset times – grab those too. Then buy your park pass here for $30 for your car – it pays for everyone in the car. If you are planning to bike ride – print out a separate Carriage Road Map before the vacation.
[Thompson Island Information Center: Hours open May 16 to Oct 12 are 8:30am to 5pm Address: 1319 Bar Harbor Rd, Bar Harbor, ME 04609]
Map of Acadia National Park for Reference
Number one on your list should be to drive the Park Loop Road. This road is amazing because most of the major attractions are along the ride.
Note: the top half of the park loop is a two-way street and the bottom half is a one-way street so you will need to drive clockwise around the loop. We drove counterclockwise and got lost for a bit. It wasn’t the end of the world but it would have been easier if we had this information to start.
We started our journey around the island around 1:30 pm by driving up Cadillac Mountain. It was full of switch backs and beautiful overlooks. When we arrived at the top there was a large parking lot fulls of cars and people. This is definitely a tourist spot but the view was spectacular. We stayed for no more than ten minutes and then decided to head back down the mountain.
Note: you can hike up the mountain separately & many decide to view the sunrise/sunset here.
Next we headed towards Jordan Pond – do not do this! Turn around and drive the opposite direction because you are driving counterclockwise around the loop.
I wanted to try the famous popovers at Jordans Pond Restaurant for lunch but the parking lot was packed. We had to wait ten minutes just to drive through it! When we eventually arrived back at the road we decided to skip this lunch spot and continue driving.
We ended up at Seal Harbor. This was a beautiful surprise….. once we realized where we were! We found parking was easy on the street and we were quickly able to bike around and explore the harbor at low tide. This harbor was a quiet, family friendly beach spot worth the extra couple of minutes of driving (this is not technically part of the park). After about thirty minutes of venturing we headed back out on the park loop.
At this point our time had been crunched. On our way back around the loop we stopped in Bar Harbor. We quickly dropped off our things where we were staying at The Central House. We were a little nervous as we were early for check-in but the owner didn’t mind at all and let us right up to our room!
The rooms were better than we had anticipated for the price and the location was the perfect spot to walk around the harbor.
Note: I had read in a magazine and other blogs to stay in some of the lesser known harbors on the island because of overcrowding in Bar Harbor but I totally disagree! This is the perfect spot! There are endless side streets to choose from to explore. I felt like we could have spent an entire week here. At the same time it was nice because it was equally quiet due to the islands vegetation. The spot is a must stay, sorry not sorry.
A little past three pm we headed out to accomplish our hike. We had decided upon the Gorham Mountain Trail. We parked on the road by Sand Beach and headed towards the Beehive Trail head. Gorham Mountain Trail is tricky because it technically starts at the Beehive Trail head (so you could essentially do both). Honestly, we had some extra time at the end of our hike and I chickened out on the Beehive Trail. I regretted this choice later on as we talked with one of the locals at dinner about the trail. He said the Beehive Trail is fine as long as you are sure-footed and take your time. Note: Some trails are periodically closed during the year due to falcon nesting because they can attack people at speeds of 140 miles per hour.
Gorham Mountain gave us magnificent views all the same and only fell slightly shorter in height than the Beehive trail. It boasted the beautiful Maine coastline, wild blueberries, cairns, and a spectacular view of Sand Beach. The best part was that compared to the Beehive Trail there was saw very few people.
As we descended the mountain we decided we would check out Sand Beach. We had heard that the beach is typically jam-packed with people but were curious. The beach was actually the exact opposite. To our surprise when we arrived it was mostly empty. Walking off the trail onto the beach it felt like I was in a dream. This is the type of beach you see in the movies but don’t actually believe exists. If I had a week to spend in Acadia I would have spent an entire day here!
As the night was coming to a close we decided to cruise around the rest of the park loop. There are so many spots to pull over and walk around on the rocks! However, due to our time constraints we just enjoyed the ride and made our last stop at the Otter Cliffs before dinner.
As we finished the loop and made our way around back to Jordans Pond Restaurant. This time we were pleasantly surprised to see an empty parking lot. We were seated right away and enjoyed the popovers with the quiet of the pond looming in the background. The popovers were like nothing I’ve ever tasted. They tasted like a mash up of a croissant, eggs, and crepes. They were delicious! After dinner we took a walk around the pond too. The pond is as magnificent as the pictures, definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.
After dinner we headed back to get drinks at Bar Harbor. There were so many cute places to stop to grab a beer and dessert. I can’t say this enough but we really enjoyed the nightlife here.
In the morning we walked to Thrive Market for breakfast. Kevin thought smoothie bowls might balance out our beer intake from the night before, lol. I of course loved all of the superfood ingredients and the presentation of the food!
After a nutritious breakfast we headed out to the Carriage Roads. We typically take our bikes on every vacation therefore this was the perfect excursion for us. We followed the Musings of a Rover Aunt Betty Pond Loop. We ended up getting lost at first. because we didn’t have a map of the carriage roads, but we eventually found our way. We saw “Rockefeller’s teeth” and a grouse flew right above us at one point. The hills were challenging at times but it was a very leisure ride overall.
With only a couple of hours left to spare we headed to our last stop at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. The drive through the rest of Acadia was serene. The smaller harbors were quaint but much smaller than Bar Harbor. The lighthouse was majestic but alike to Cadillac Mountain it was very touristy. You definitely won’t be there by yourself. That aside we saw some crabs and sea life that were neat. As a last stop this was definitely fitting.
Before we headed to New Hampshire we grabbed lunch at Seafood Ketch in Bass Harbor. This harbor was really cute! However, at low tide the smell of fish was so intense that I left extremely nauseated. This was a real bummer but the food was great.
So that was our weekend trip! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any cool experiences to share from your trip Acadia Trip – share below!
While it’s a seemingly simple question it ends up with a wide variety of answers and how-to’s. Here is a short guide of why, when, and how to start your baby on solid foods.
How do I know when my child is ready?
Around 6 months your child will develop the skills to be able to eat, swallow, and absorb pureed foods. This is based on research of how the gastrointestinal tract of infants develops and what’s best for their short term and long term health. Organizations who support this are: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the list goes on. (If you’d like more details on the health benefits scroll to the bottom of the page)
Signs to look for around 6 months
Your baby can sit up well without support
Your baby has interest in foods
Your baby brings hands and toys to their mouth for exploration
Your baby no longer has a protrusion reflex
Protrusion Reflex: also known as the tongue-thrust reflex, your babies innate choking reflex, is when your baby pushes its tongue out as anything comes into the mouth or pushes on the tongue
How to start foods (6-8 months)
Small spoonand bowl (never put food in the bottle)
Start small, 1-2 tablespoons at a time (their stomachs are only the size of an egg)
Introduction of new foods every 1-2 days
It’s recommended to start a variety of foods from 6 months on to reduce the risk of allergies.
Acidic foods like, berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and some vegetables may cause a rash around the mouth or buttocks that goes away relatively quickly. This is not an allergic reaction just a common irritation from the acidity.
Texture to start should be pureed
Gradual introduction to textures increases neck and swallowing strength from 6-8 months to reduce the risk of choking
Gradually transition over two months from pureed -> mashed -> lumpy -> soft finger foods
Foods to start are pureed meats, beans, vegetables, fruits, baby cereals, whole milk yogurt (click the link to go my favorite handouts and books from Nutrition Matters)
If you are fully breastfeeding having cereal, meats, and beans are important because they are the only food sources your baby will have that include a quality source of iron.
Most people start with cereal as a first food but the order of first foods doesn’t necessarily matter. As a rule of thumb I recommend vegetables before fruits because your baby’s taste buds will be primed and ready for anything sweet.
Feeding From 8-12 Months
Remember, breast milk and formula should still be the main source of nutrition until age 1 to support healthy brain and central nervous system development. Your baby should have 24-32 ounces a day or breastfeed every 4-5 hours.
Your baby may still have pureed foods but soft, chopped up table foods with established mealtimes should now become the main routine.
If you haven’t already, introduce the sippy cup and cup. I recommend 360 cups as they have a lip on the cup, which supports the strengthening of the cheek muscles needed to speak, and are better for your child’s teeth. They are also relatively spill proof, which is good for mom too.
Health Benefits of Waiting to Start Foods Until Around 6 Months of Age
Your baby will be physiologically able to swallow and chew pureed foods without the fear of choking.
Your baby will be better protected from illness. The greatest immunity benefits come from exclusive breastfeeding. This is because exclusive breastfeeding promotes the development of “good” bacteria within the gut.
Your babies gut will have the time it needs to mature. Your baby is building its digestive system as it grows. Before 6 months your babies gut is “open” and allows for the passing of pathogens and macromolecules directly into the bloodstream. This is beneficial when its just breast milk but can be harmful when other foods and bacteria are introduced. Introducing foods early can also cause spit up, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.