The Year 2013: A Review

Hi friends,

Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …

February
In February we took an amazing weekend trip to Tarrytown for our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, where I had one of my absolute favorite meals of this entire year.

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March
In March I took a relaxing trip to visit my best friend in D.C., where we practiced wedding makeup for Chris and my upcoming wedding party in April.

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April
April was a holy-cow-of-a-month for us! First, I turned 30 (ah!), and we celebrated with a gorgeous hike up Breakneck Ridge with friends.

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

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Holy rock climbing!

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Then Chris’s parents came for a visit, and we all took a trip to London so that Chris could run the 5th race in his World Marathon series.

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Geared up!

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We also celebrated our marriage at Magnanini Winery in upstate NY with friends and family in April, but I didn’t blog about that because I didn’t have photos for a long time. I have them now, though! Here are some of my faves.

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June
In June we celebrated our wedding in Jersey with some close friends and family. Here are some of my favorite shots from that party:

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July
In July we took a trip out to Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona to visit an old, old friend of mine.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

August
In August I took another trip back down to D.C. for a “sprinkle” baby celebration …

^^The beginning stages of lemon bars. Can you say yum?!

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^^ Blueberry Crumble for the dessert bar.

^^We also made these to-die-for apple crumble bar with cinnamon. The sign in the back was a piece of corkboard that Lisa painted with chalkboard paint and strung some twine across. People wrote notes on little cards and placed them on the twin for Alison and her new baby boy.

and we visited what has now become our new favorite upstate winery — Warwick Valley Winery.

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Summer Happenings
I feel like I should take a moment to pay homage to all of the activities we took part in this summer that were right here in New York City, like seeing Shakespeare in the Park, hosting my nephew’s very first trip to NYC, riding bikes through the park, seeing the NY Philharmonic in the park (are you sensing a “park” theme?!), checking out the Met, going for a sail from Pier 25 on the west side and strolling around DUMBO, Brooklyn … to name a few.

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^^ I seriously forgot how many hills there are in Central Park. I had to take a break about 3/4 of the way through.

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^^Stolen from Istagram, thank you very much.

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^^ So -- what's the theme? Can ya tell? Hint: I'm wearing a red wig!

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^^ Freshman year JMU roommates -- go Dukes!

September
September was another busy month for us. First we took the ferry out to Governor’s Island to go exploring.

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^^ Carousel ahead!

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We also headed to St. Augustine, Florida for the Gentleman of the Road Mumford & Sons tour for Chris’s Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip … (also talked about here)

^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night's show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we'll get to that ...

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October
We headed to Australia (also here) at the end of September and into October to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, as well as to take a honeymoon trip to The Great Barrier Reef.

^^What bride gets to wear her wedding dress three times? This one, that's who!

^^ Mom and baby. Man I'll never stop loving it when I see these guys!

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^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

November
I headed to the suburbs of Philly in November to visit an old friend and her family, and we took a trip out to the Philadelphia Zoo while I was there …

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she'll be making an appearance in my children's book very soon!

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^^ Rhino!

and we celebrated Thanksgiving in both Newburgh and New Jersey.

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December
This month we surprised my stepdad with a Super Secret weekend trip to Syracuse, his alma mater, for his 50th birthday.

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And we took a Christmas trip to Stowe, Vermont with some family

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And that about sums up 2013, friends! On the docket for 2014 so far is …

  • A trip to Saratoga Springs the first weekend in January to celebrate our one year anniversary. I’m particularly excited about the hotel where we’ll be staying — Saratoga Arms it’s gotten amazing reviews.
  • Iceland in February!
  • Denver in April with my sister and her boyfriend
  • A trip out to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding (not to mention lots of other friends’ weddings scattered throughout the year!)
  • A potential 1.5-3 month trip in South America at the end of the year. Lots more on this to come.

Bis bald, friends! And may your new year be filled with fun travels, great friends and awesome experiences!

Link Love: Week of Nov. 18

Linkes_I_Love

Hi friends,

Hope everyone’s gearing up for an amazing Thanksgiving. This is most definitely my favorite time of year, and I’m finding it hard to stop myself from buying up all the thick tights, sparkly skirts and fun jewelry that I come across.

Of course, when I come across travel deals that I’d love to splurge on, it’s much easier for me to tuck that credit card back into my wallet and save up for some faraway destination ….

Speaking of which, here are five great deals I’ve seen across the web this week:

  1. 7-night land package to the Galapagos Islands, from $1,299 (Travelzoo)
  2. $60-worth of wine and food at Bahr Che in New York, $30 (TravelZoo)
  3. 2-night stay for two at the Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa, $219 (Living Social)
  4. 6-day trip to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, including round-trip flights from Boston, Chicago, LA, NYC or DC, from $1,499 (Living Social)
  5. 1-night stay for two at the Mount Airy Casino Resort in The Paconos, PA, $99 (Groupon)

In the spirit of the celebratory season, I thought I’d also share a couple of the wedding photos my mother-in-law just sent us through from our party at the Algona Mount Panorama Estate in Bathurst, Australia.

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Bis bald, friends!

Photo via Flickr

Australia Part III: Ships of Sydney

^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

^^ The Sydney Harbour’s a real beaut – isn’t she?

Hey friends,

I’m back now with my third and final Australia installation. I seriously cannot believe it’s been more than a week since we’ve been back. Time honestly flies by.

So back to two Fridays ago, Chris and I were boarding our flight on Hamilton Island to meet up with our family back in Sydney …

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Chris & Cheryl Go on a (Belated) Honeymoon: The Great Barrier Reef

Hi friends,

Welcome back. On to Part II of our Australian Adventure. Last Monday morning (was it seriously only last Monday morning?! Gosh a lot’s happened since then.) Chris and I left his house in Bathurst seriously early in the a.m. with his brother Ben and Ben’s girlfriend to head back to Sydney to catch our flight to … drum roll … THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!

^^ Flying over the Reef.

^^ Flying over the Reef.

^^ Be-aut-iful!

^^ Be-aut-iful! [Ed note: Please ignore the smudge on the lower right-hand side of my lens. It pains me that it's there in some of my photos, and were I any good at Photoshop, yes, I would try to take it out.]

It only takes about two hours to fly from Sydney to the island where we were staying , Hamilton Island, which is part of the 74 Whitsunday Islands all located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. And thank goodness, because I was ready to get my relax on! The place we stayed — the Whitsunday Apartments — was actually a group of apartments … obviously.

^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.

^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.

So we had a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room and really huge bedroom. It was nice that we really felt like we were on our own during our honeymoon, but at the same time had the help of people in the lobby if we really had a question or concern.  The island itself is relatively small, and it’s pretty easy to walk to the majority of the places you’d want to go (like the downtown shop area, the other resort pools and stores, the beach, the place where you could eat breakfast with the koalas!), but it is pretty hilly, and some of the spots (like one particularly gorgeous sunset area), is much more easily accessible via free bus transportation, or …..

^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around -- no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.

^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around — no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — the beaches here are gorgeous. And during low tide, you can walk out for what seems like miles into the ocean, with all of these little pools of warm water around you, and tons of sea life surrounding you.

^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you'll be obsessing over it the whole time you're in the water.

^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you’ll be obsessing over it the whole time you’re in the water.

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^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It's like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying -- everyone was welcome everywhere!

^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It’s like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying — everyone was welcome everywhere!

While we spent most of the day Monday familiarizing ourselves with the island and the pools and the oceans, we wandered into town around 4:30, just to check it out, and ended up squatting at the Manta Ray Cafe, which turned out to be a great place to catch the sunset over the harbour, as well as to learn about some of the local wildlife from our waiter:

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^^ What? I'm not paying attention to you.

^^ What? I’m not paying attention to you.

^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.

^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.

^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!

^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!

On Tuesday we rented our little golf cart early in the morning, and then spent the morning eating breakfast with the koalas (yes, my favorite ever), and checking out the zoo.

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^^ Don’t worry — he was behind glass ;)

^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia's deadliest bird. Doesn't he look like a turkey?!

^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia’s deadliest bird. Doesn’t he look like a turkey?!

^^ I know, right. It's like, how can this  much cuteness exist in the world?

^^ I know, right. It’s like, how can this much cuteness exist in the world?

The rest of Tuesday was a pretty chill day for us. We checked out the island a bit more, had some drinks at the swim-up bar, slept on the beach, drove the car out to this spot with gorgeous views. You know — pretty typical Tuesday stuff.

^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.

^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.

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^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.

^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.

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^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.

^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.

^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our Fish & Chips dinner by the harbour. We think he's a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.

^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our fish & chips dinner by the harbour. We think he’s a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.

Onto Wednesday. Wednesday was an amazing day because, as a wedding gift to us, good family friend’s of Chris’s got us a half-day boat ride out to Whitehaven Beach.

Oh Whitehaven Beach … how beautiful were thee? The beach stretches out over 7 km (yup, that’s Aussie speak), and is completely uninhabited. It’s received a ton of accolades, such as “Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach,” and for good reason. The sand is pure white, and it never gets hot. Plus it’s so fine, it’ll clean your jewelry for you while you sunbathe.

Not too shabby.

Oh, and there’s some sort of ridiculous fine if you were to try to steal sand from it. Something like $35,000. So don’t do that.

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So that was how we spent our Wednesday morning — chillin’ on the most beautiful beach in the world. When we got back mid-afternoon we did a bit more pool-hopping and beach sleeping and eating and drinking and card playing … just general merriment.

Thursday, then, was the day of all days. On Thursday, we took a full day boat excursion out to the Great Barrier Reef. This tour included oh-so-much. There was a breakfast on the boat, lunch out on the pontoon once we arrived at the Reef and a tea service on the ride back. There was snorkeling equipment at the Reef, a glass-bottom boat ride and an open observatory deck from the pontoon. All of that was included in the price. ($225 per person which, honestly, wasn’t that bad.) You could also purchase some additional activities for an added fee, like Scuba diving (which Chris did), and a guided snorkel tour (which I did). So when we arrived, luckily Chris and I were the first group to go on our perspective diving and snorkeling tours. (A quick note about the jellyfish: Since it was stinger season, we had to wear wetsuits into the water. This was my first experience wearing one and I have to say — I didn’t hate it. I mean, they definitely aren’t the most attractive things … but they kept me warm and safe, so I’m okay with it!)

Then we met up afterwards for lunch, went on the glass bottom boat ride and then spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling together.

Me oh my, it was amazing. Besides how gorgeous the Reef itself is (don’t stand on it or touch it! it turns to sand!), we saw Clown Fish (aka Nemo), sea cucumbers (which no one else was impressed with, but I was), giant sea turtles, clams the size of my body, this other fish that I don’t remember the name of that is so territorial that when my guide picked up a rock and placed it near the fish, he picked it up with his mouth and spit it out far away from him. Amazing. Plus tons of other awesomely colored and incredibly interesting sea life. Experience of a lifetime, to say the least.

Of course I didn’t take a ton of pictures here, because I was busy doin’ stuff (sorry), but here are a couple shots I was able to snap:

^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass bottom boat ride.

^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass-bottom boat ride.

^^ Some coral from the same ride.

^^ Some coral from the same ride.

^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!

^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!

^^ A storm was brewin' on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.

^^ A storm was brewin’ on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.

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Thursday night we had dinner reservations at coca chu, a restaurant that one of Chris’s aunts had recommended. We ordered delicious cocktails, a bottle of wine and more food than we could even possibly hope to eat in two days. (Seriously, our waiter even told us we ordered too much food. We can’t be stopped.) The food is South East Asian, and our table overlooked the ocean as the fish jumped in and out of the water.

Am I setting the scene enough for ya?

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling all that well that night (major bummer). I think the travel and jet lag and drinking and eating had all finally caught up to me. No matter — it was still an awesome night with delicious food and fabulous company. That’s all you can really ask for, right?

Friday was our last day on the island, and we spent it doing a bit of shopping, grabbing some delicious breakfast at the local bakery and eating by the harbour, and drinking the last of our wine and beer on the beach. It was seriously sad to say goodbye to Hamilton Island and our little honeymoon, but we had the best, most amazing time. Chris and I both keep saying how we loved that the island provided the perfect blend of fun activities and adventure with just the right amount of leisure and relaxation. You can chose to do nothing at all, and still have fabulous time, or you can do all the activities your little heart desires. (Chris even took a 2.5 mile hike one day while I took a nap. Gotta love that.)

Friday afternoon it was back to Sydney to meet up with our families for our last weekend in Australia, as well as to take in the International Fleet Review.

But I’ll be back with that blog post next week ;) Bis bald, friends! Hope you all have awesome weekend activities planned!

Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!

Hi friends,

So we’re back home safe and sound (booo!), and things here have been a bit hectic since we landed. (You can thank our cat and her terrible lungs, which have now been fixed, thanks to the surgical team at the Animal Medical Hospital and our dwindling bank account!)

Anyway, I finally have some time to blog today, so I’ve upgraded to a better photo package which hopefully should keep me blogging for the next couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Back to our epic adventure, this trip really was separated into three parts:

  1. Our time spent in Bathurst with all of our amazing friends and family for our (fourth!) wedding celebration and the baptism of our niece/Goddaughter
  2. Our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef
  3. Our last weekend in Sydney before we left, which just so happened to coincide with the International Fleet Review where over 20 ships from around the world docked in Sydney Harbour. (Plus they had the largest fireworks show Australia has ever seen … and Prince Harry was there!)

As I like to do (to keep the trip lasting longer, and to stop your eyes from glazing over at one ginormous post), I’m going to break my blogging about this trip into the three sections accordingly.

So back to last Tuesday, we had boarded a Qantas flight to Australia …

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A Slight Change in Plans …

Hi friends,

So it’s been a while–how are ya?! Things here have been moving along at a crazy pace this year–jobs and wedding planning and pets and travel … you know how it goes.

Speaking of wedding planning, there’s been a slight change in ours. And now that we’ve updated all of our friends and family, I can go ahead and share here, as well. So the deal is this–Chris and I have decided to get married, just the two of us, by ourselves. Most likely here in New York City, the place where it all began.

Then, we’ll go ahead and have some parties with our individual families. The way we see it, it just gives us more chances to celebrate. (And more chances for me to wear my dress. And less stress. So basically good things all around.)

Now that our plans have changed, though, I feel the need to share the information I have about the place we visited back in Palm Springs. The cancellation of this wedding had absolutely nothing to do with our visit to this place because, let me tell you, we adored this place. We loved this place. If we were going to have a fancy, full-on wedding, this would have been the place.

So here’s the deal. The place that I found was called The O’Donnell House (even looking at this site brings a pang to my heart…how beautiful!).

There are so many reasons that I loved this place. Let me see: It’s on the smaller side, so our guest list would have had to have been capped at 125 (which, as amazing as a smaller wedding sounded to us, it turned out to be stressful when it came to actually planning the guest list); it’s outdoors, surrounded by mountains and cacti and natural beauty; The O’Donnell House itself is this old, quaint hotel, with tons of charm and old-world feel; Laurie, the event planner for The O’Donnell House, is an angel. Honestly. When I wrote her to tell her that we actually would not be signing the contract, on the day it was due, after I had asked her to keep that date open for me (yup, I was that nightmare bride), she was nothing but professional. And when I told her that I was so sorry, and that I felt so conflicted about it, she proceeded to share a very personal, very lovely story with me about her daughter, which really did make me feel better.

I thought I’d share a few more photos of our weekend here now, in case they might be inspirational for any of you brides (or soon-to-be-brides!) looking for a destination wedding location. Check it out:

These are the adorable golf carts that our guests would have ridden up to the venue in. Too fun.

Wrought iron gates lead to the area where the tables and dance floor would be set up.

Imagine this area filled with friends, family, food and dancing. Love it.

Another view

Little touches like these cute lanterns really help make the venue shine.

This porch off the bride’s prep rooms on the top floor provides an amazing view of the valley. I envisioned me and my maids drinking coffee out here in the morning before getting ready, talking about how my whole life was about to change …

Chris and I would have been getting married right at that teeny, tiny tip of the grass area.

The stairs I would be walking down to get married.

We were thinking Mexican food for our rehearsal dinner…I mean who doesn’t want to eat that, right now?

Oh yeah, and this was going to be our wedding cake. Yummmmmm

Tasting different wedding cake options is, I believe, one of the best things in life.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway rises 8,500 feet above the desert floor. A ride on it was going to be our gift to our guests as a thanks for celebrating in Palm Springs with us.

Oh, and we ended the trip with Mexican food and margaritas. Not too shabby!

So that, my friends, was our trip (and our wedding!) in a nutshell. Like I said, if you’re looking for a place for a potential destination wedding, I’d highly suggest checking out Palm Springs and the O’Donnell House. It’s the stuff that wedding dreams are made of.

On another travel note, I have some very exciting trips coming up. Something came up last minute for the end of August and, despite the expense of it!, I just had to do it. Now I can’t share all the details of that here just yet, because part of it is a surprise, but let’s just say it’s a trip of a lifetime, and I am so, so blessed to be able to be a part of it. I can’t wait to share more about it here!

Then, Chris and I have finally finalized everything for our Europe trip in September. While we originally thought we’d have time to head to Cinque Terra, unfortunately that just wasn’t in the cards, so instead we’ll be doing Berlin (for the marathon), Munich (for Oktoberfest), renting a car and dropping Chris’s parents off in Salzburg before heading to Venice for a night, then it’s off to Rome for three days.

I can’t wait!! Having travel to look forward to really does make everything in life worth it, doesn’t it?

Bis bald, friends! Hope your summer’s are going swimmingly!

Mission Accomplished

Well friends, I’m wary of sharing too much information here, or too many photos, but I just have to say–Chris and I both LOVED Palm Springs. It was absolutely everything I had hoped it would be, and I am beyond excited to get married there!

It’s beautiful. The people are so nice. There is so much to do.

It’s exactly the type of place we were looking for. Here’s a little bit of what we saw this past weekend:

Well folks–what do you think? It’s pretty … pretty, right?!

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the havoc that was our trip on Thursday. After barely making it back to the apartment by 1 to meet Chris at our appointed time (this, my friends, is because it took me AN HOUR to arrive by bus to my apartment, all of 80 blocks from my point of origin), we made it to LaGuardia. After loading our plane to Dallas for our connecting flight (and being placed in AWESOME seats in the first row behind first class), we were quickly de-planed after it was announced to us that the air conditioning wasn’t working on the plane, and they needed to fix it with us off the plane.

Once back in the terminal, we realized that, with the delay, we would never catch our connecting flight in Dallas to Palm Springs, and that flight turned out to be the last out of Dallas to Palm Springs for the night.

Also, the earliest flight on Friday morning would not allow us to get in with enough time to make our first two appointments–meeting the wedding planner, seeing the destination venue and meeting the DJ.

All very important things.

To make a long story short (sort of), we ended up getting a car service (thank you American Airlines) from LaGuardia to JFK, where a flight was leaving at 7 directly to Los Angeles. Then, in LA, we had to rent a car and drive the 2 1/2 hours to Palm Springs.

Needless to say, we arrived–tired and starving and not a little cranky–at our hotel in Palm Springs at around 3 a.m. on Friday morning.

At least our stewardess has been amazing. She loved the fact that Chris and I were engaged, and gave us champagne before the flight took off, then a full bottle before we got off the plane.

That nearly made it all worth it ;)

Bis bald, friends!