Mouse House Romance: A Disney Couple Origin Story

Once upon a time…

in the year 2005, there lived a restless, angsty young lady and a somehow (impossibly) more restless and angsty young man, in a small town by the sea, just outside of Los Angeles.  This young lady and this young man had spent 4 years, being informally educated by the public school system together and as they neared the end of their high school careers, the pair planned to partake in the tradition of senior ditch day together.  And so, on May 5th, 2005, they went to Disneyland where their flirtation mixed with pixie dust and turned into pure Magic.  And together, they have lived happily ever after.

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Listen, as cheesy as that intro sounds, its the way the story really went.  I know, because I am that girl and my husband is that boy.  Today is June 5th, 2019 and it has been exactly one month since my husband and I celebrated our most recent Disneyversary.  As I was adding our photos from this last anniversary our Disneyland album, it dawned on me just how  special of a role Disneyland has played in our relationship over the last 14 years.  I mean, there are photos in that album that predate our facebook debuts (and our myspaces before that)! As I flipped through the album, I witnessed 14 years of growth as a couple and I was so moved that I set an intention to write this post to pay tribute to a place that has given so much to me.  So, here we are and here we go…

In the Begining

We were young; 17 to be exact.  We had been flirting for the entirety of senior year without ever making it an official “thing”.  This was, in part, because we were young.  Mostly though, it was because we were equally charged magnetic ends, perpetually attracting and resisting one another.  When it came time to make plans for senior ditch day, we somehow settled on going to Disneyland together, though I can’t for the life of me recall how or why we came to that decision.  I do remember waking up early with my heart in my throat and being obnoxiously giddy at the promise of the day.  I remember changing my outfit about six times before settling on a denim mini skirt and a blue long-sleeved crop top, then drowning myself in Tommy Girl perfume. I remember sitting in my car on his street, waiting for him to come outside and wishing he were the one picking me up because then it would somehow feel like a date.  I remember panicking when he was late and not wanting to knock on the door or ring the phone and alert his father to our plans.  I remember feeling silly when he eventually came out for having panicked.  I remember anxiously driving on the freeway with him navigating from a Mapquest printout because we did not know the way there by heart yet.  I remember not being prepared to pay $10 to park and him not batting an eye at what I found to be an outrageous price as he forked up the money. (I remember stashing that parking ticket in my keepsake box at the end of the day too).  And once we were finally in the park, I remember the awkwardness that hovered between us as we took stock of the hand-holding, matching-T-shirt clad couples.  Then it just sort of happened, he put his arm around my shoulder in line for Pirates of the Caribbean.  We held hands later and talked for the first time about the prospect of an “us” after high school while we were in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (the irony is not lost on me). We decided to give it a try, a real one.  Because, after you’ve seen your crush in the light of Disneyland fireworks there really is no turning back.

Unfortunately, we have no photos from this day as they were all taken on a single-use fuji camera and the prints were accidentally tossed when I cleaned out my closet one summer.  Still, my husband and I both remember all these details and we enjoy revisiting the park every year on May 5th to celebrate the anniversary of the day we became an “us”.  I do still have the parking permit that Josh purchased that day (pictured above). In fact, I have every parking permit and most of our park tickets from all of our anniversary celebrations over the years! It’s really neat to look at them all and see the dates (and prices) laid out chronologically.

Life, like a Disney fairy tale, has it’s dark spots.  Time is not always on our side, and we have sadly had to miss spending our anniversary at Disneyland twice in the last 14 years-once, in 2011 when my grandmother passed away days before and I was too distraught to attend, and again in 2015 when I will ill.  The year that my grandma passed I was so sad to have missed our anniversary and my OCD was very triggered from the emotional stress I was under, so I had a melt down over not having a parking permit dated 05-05-11.  Not having this ticket somehow made me feel like a failure, like I had been collecting these things for so many years and now my collection was ruined because I was too sad to celebrate.  I was so upset about it that when I was sick in 2015, Josh actually drove to Disneyland just to pay for a parking permit with the right date on it so that I would not beat myself up over missing the date again.  This gesture meant (and still means) more to me than I believe he knows.  (I have no idea where the 2009 ticket is- we definitely went that year, and I’m sure I’ve just accidentally stashed the ticket in the wrong place where it will hide until it is ready to be found). We now keep all of our tickets and pressed pennies and other small mementos from our anniversaries in this beautiful keepsake box that we purchased on Main Street in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 was a special year because we got engaged in January.  Naturally, we used our Disneyland app to purchase Maxpasses and had the Photopass photographers in the park take our save-the-date photos.  We had our wedding date engraved on a pair of classic Mickey ears and used that as a prop in our photos and I was endlessly in love with the results.  Later, when we were having dinner and drinks at the UVA bar in downtown Disney, one of the bar staff noticed our celebration pins that said “engaged” and notified the mariachi band that was there for Cinco de Mayo.  The band came to our table and congratulated us then invited us to dance to a beautiful rendition of “At Last”.  It was so special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2018, we got married… on St. Patrick’s day.  What can we say, we like holidays! Since Josh was living in barracks at his fire academy, and was only granted a 3-day absence for our wedding, we decided to go to Disneyland for a “minimoon” or “Disneymoon”, as the folks on Pinterest say.  We got new celebration buttons that said “Happily Ever After”, and on It’s A Small World we got our own private boat, which was super neat.  We had such an amazing time and it was the perfect way to celebrate our marriage, at the place where our relationship began.

Going to the park in March presented a new dilemma for us: could we justify spending the money to go again in May?  The admission price has gotten expensive, and with our Hawaiian honeymoon planned for June, spending an extra few hundred dollars did not seem sensible, especially since we had just gone to the park two months earlier.  So we did not go to Disneyland on May 5th, 2018.  We tried to rationalize this choice by telling ourselves that we now had a new anniversary and from then on we would just go on March 17th.  And then in 2019 I bought a pair of so-cal resident 3-day passes as a wedding anniversary gift for Josh and we were able to go on both St. Patrick’s Day (our wedding anniversary) and Cinco de Mayo (our dating anniversary).  It may seem excessive to celebrate two anniversaries but I am okay with an excess of both love and Disneyland, so I am going with it.  As long as Disney continues to offer the so-cal resident 3-day pass, Josh and I will celebrate both of our anniversaries in the park from now, to infinity and beyond. Yes, yes I did just do that.

Favorite Memories and Must-Do’s at Disneyland:

I love looking back at our photos from older years. I think it is funny to watch our fashion senses evolve with the changing park! Also, note the vast difference in photo quality with the introduction of photopasses to the park! Having the photopass option is so nice since it’s only $15 to upgrade your ticket to a Maxpass and link all your photopass pictures to your phone! There are professional park photographers scattered throughout the park to take high quality photos for you. Once they’ve snapped their shots, they scan your maxpass to link the photos and your pictures arrive on your phone withing a few minutes! This is such a good deal considering most theme parks charge an arm and a leg for photos that their professional photographers take (I believe we payed $45 for 3 photos elsewhere).  If you’re headed to Disneyland, you’ll definitely want to download the Disneyland App and take advantage of this deal… unlimited professional photos at Disneyland for only $15 is truly a magical deal and the photos will be cherished for years to come.

Pre-Photopass Pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

Photopass Pictures:

2017

 

 

 

 

 

2018

 

 

 

 

 

2019

 

 

 

 

 

As these photos make clear, we have explored so much of Disneyland over the years, and witnessed much of the park’s recent changes (like the transformation of Tom Sawyer’s Island into the Pirate’s Island and the updated Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the most recent addition of Galaxy’s Edge).  We have our favorite spots throughout the park, like a specific bench in Adventureland where we like to sit and rest our feet, or the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction for a moment of quiet on a crowded day.  We’ve eaten at nearly every food cart or window and tried everything from the churros to the Mickey shaped pretzels and of course, the famous Dole Whips, Mickey beignets and mint juleps. We’ve also dined at some of the park’s restaurants, from burgers and fries at the Gallactic Grill  (which used to be Buzz’ Cafe) to the fancier cuisine at the Blue Bayou.We have ridden every ride and had our photos taken with so many characters.  Our favorite rides are: Pirates, The Haunted Mansion, Small World and Space Mountain (with honorable mentions to Winnie the Pooh and the Disneyland Train).  We have brought home so many Disney mementos, from my Eeyore pillow pet to a set of Beauty and the Beast figurines for our Bookcase to photo albums and frames and so much more. We have pressed countless pennies and cast our wishes into Minnie’s toon town well. With so many magical memories already made, it is easy to envision a real life happily ever after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story Continues

In 2020 we will celebrate our 15th year of togetherness and our 2nd year of marriage.  Naturally, we are planning to make a special occasion out of it, since 15 years together is definitely something worthy of celebration. We are considering booking a room at the Grand Californian in Downtown Disney, and having dinner at the Jazz Kitchen.  I’m also hoping to have our portrait done together in the Main Street Photo Shop.  I have wanted to stay at the Grand Californian since it opened, but since we live just half an hour away we never really needed a hotel room and so we have always just gone in and enjoyed some drinks and charcuterie at their Hearthstone Lounge.

I’m also hoping to knock off a few items from my Disneyland Bucket-list in the coming years:

  • Try the grey stuff from the Red Rose Tavern
  • take a photo with Mary Poppins
  • visit Club 33
  • own and wear something from the Dress Shop to the park
  • Watch the Main Street electrical parade as an adult (at Disneyland NOT CA Adventure)

And, OF COURSE, we will eventually make the trip to Disney World on the other side of the country, one day. And then who knows, maybe later, when we have more time and less work, we can make it to the Disneyland’s in other countries! I would LOVE for that to be how we spend our family vacations over the years- traveling the world, living out a real life fantasy as a Disney family.

Have you tried/done any of my bucket-list items? My husband and I would love to hear some feedback on staying at the Grand Californian or tips for getting in to Club 33, so please leave your suggestions in the comments.

You Plus Me Plus She is Three!

We are having a baby! We found out in May, 2019 and have spent the last 9+ months preparing our home and hearts for the arrival of our baby girl.

There’s a lot of things people don’t talk about when it comes to pregnancy (like the fact that it typically lasts closer to 10 months than 9, for starters). Maybe it’s because I’m a first time mom, or maybe it’s because I’m someone who craves information, but I’ve spent an alarming amount of time researching all things pregnancy and baby related online lately. From sleep training methods, to breast feeding techniques, to baby registry items, to labor and delivery statistics and vlogs… if it’s about having a baby and it’s on the internet, chances are I’ve recently visited it. I figured I would share some of my experiences and insights here on my blog, in an attempt to sort of organize all of the information I’ve gathered (and also to share some sweet photos of our journey thus far).

First things first… finding out I’m pregnant and selecting an OB. Whew! What a whirlwind couple of weeks! We were trying to conceive, so it wasn’t so much of a shock that we had done so, it was just a bit surprising how quickly it happened. I had been on hormonal birth control for 13 years, and was told by my gp that it could take upwards of 6 months for my hormone levels to regulate and for my body to be ready for a pregnancy. This was not the case… 2 months, that’s how long it took. At the time, I was in the process of switching my insurance provider and was in between coverage plans. So when I started feeling nauseous and had trouble maintaining my energy level, I took an at home test (or 2 or 3) to confirm my suspicions. Then I had to wait for my insurance to kick in so that I could enroll in a plan and select an OB. That took a couple of weeks, during which time I worried about all the things a gal over 30 worries about in the early stages of pregnancy. When I was finally able to see an OB, I was approximately 6 weeks pregnant and a faint heartbeat was confirmed. My husband was with me at the appointment, which I was so grateful for because it was amazing to share the experience of hearing the heartbeat for the first time.

The first trimester was rough for us. We considered waiting until the recommended 12 week “safe zone” to tell our parents, but decided that we would want their love and support even if the worst were to happen. This is a deeply personal decision- to share or not to share the news before 3 months- because miscarriage is more common than many people know and sharing the news of a baby then having to share the disheartening news of a miscarriage can be an exceptionally painful experience. We were incredibly fortunate and our pregnancy was healthy and viable. Still, the only people we told at first were our parents. We waited until about 4.5 months to go public with our news. This was mainly due to the fact that I was so sick (which I’ll talk more about in a minute). and not feeling up for many visits or congratulatory celebrations. At this point we knew the gender of the baby and put up a cheeky little post to announce our pregnancy on Facebook.

As elated and fortunate as I felt to be carrying a healthy baby, there were a couple of things that I struggled with throughout my pregnancy; hyperemesis plagued me during the first and second trimesters and then expedient weight gain triggered some severe body image issues in the later half of my pregnancy. I want to talk about both, but also want to take care to express again how grateful I felt to be carrying a healthy child. It is possible to feel many things at once, of course, and talking honestly about the struggles/anxieties of pregnancy does not negate one’s gratitude for their body’s ability to create new life.

On that note, here’s a bit of what I struggled with… Hyperemesis & body image. Early on in my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (hg). HG is basically severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. I had a really hard time keeping food or even water down, and as a result, I wound up in the ER a couple times, needing IV fluids/nutrients (mainly potassium) and I wasn’t gaining weight or maintaining a healthy nutrient intake. During this time, I had no energy and found it difficult to do even the smallest of tasks. I was in graduate school, and working 30hrs a week as a nanny to 3(!) children (ages, 2, 5 & 8). I had to make some difficult choices regarding how I managed my time and energy, so I left my job (which I loved) and I stopped trying to maintain my 5-day-a-week workout regimen. I gave all that I could to maintaining my gpa and was able to finish out the semester with a 4.0, but my emotions were all over the place and I missed my job and the gym greatly. Throughout all of this, I was throwing up almost hourly, every day. I’m talking, stopping in the middle of the road, opening the car door and throwing up in the street; waking up in the dead of night and throwing up in the sink because the bathroom is too far away; entirely unpredictable and uncontrollable throwing up around the clock. It was terrible. In school, I sat nearest to the door and excused myself during lectures as needed. You just don’t get used to being sick like that. I never acclimated to it; I just suffered through it as best as I could. Luckily, around 4.5 months in, I started getting some relief from a medication which I had previously declined to take because I was worried about the affects on the baby (remember how I said I was addicted to information? Yeah, I read a LOT about these anti-nausea medications during pregnancy). After my Dr. insisted that the affects of a malnourished mother outweigh the risks of the medication, I began taking the medicine and after a couple of days I started throwing up less.

At around 5 months, I started gaining weight rapidly. This was difficult for me because prior to being pregnant, I was very committed to maintaining my fitness and staying active. Not working out and not having my nanny job, left me feeling anxious and depleted. By the time I started feeling better physically, I was so nervous about my pregnancy being impacted by my activity level that I sort of gave up on trying to be active, which left me feeling mentally strained. Instead of kickboxing and hitting heavy cardio days, I just settled for walking my dog and doing some light yoga at home. Once I was able to keep food down, I just ate whatever I wanted. This resulted in a significant weight gain between months 5 & 6. So I entered the third trimester feeling really down on myself in regards to my body image. I should note that I’m someone who has struggled with body image throughout adulthood. I lost 50 lbs when I was 28 and spent 3 years vigorously committed to maintaining my “goal weight”. I felt happiest and healthiest at around 135-140lbs (which is where I was at in the first stage of pregnancy). I gained about 50lbs in all. I didn’t expect this because of how slowly I gained weight in the beginning. And while I know weight gain is healthy and normal during pregnancy, I have struggled to accept it.

So, I’m writing this post at 40 weeks pregnant, and I’m realizing that soon I’ll be in the post partum stage. I’m in my brother’s wedding in 6 months, and I want to get back down to at least close to my target weight by then. But that’s not going to be my priority. My priority will be nursing my precious baby girl and taking care of both her and I. It’s going to be difficult for me, because I’m in my final semester of grad school and I’ve got comp exams approaching, and I hear that having a newborn can be… well, tiresome. I’ll need to be gentle with myself and remember to count my blessings and love my body. I know I can do this because I’ve got a great husband and strong family in my corner. Beyond that, I’ve waited a long time to become a mother and I just know that I’m about to embark upon the most beautiful journey.

Now let’s talk about due dates & pregnancy misconceptions…

My due date was expected to be February 13th, which is 40 weeks! I always thought due dates were set at 39 weeks but it turns out that’s just one of a million common misconceptions about pregnancy. At my last two checkups, I was only 1cm dilated. My OB has now scheduled me to be induced at 41 weeks. 41 weeks!!! Right now, at 40 weeks along, I just can’t fathom waiting that much longer. I’m already so uncomfortable and I’ve had 2 membrane sweeps done! Oh, and did you know that carpel tunnel syndrome is a common symptom of pregnancy? I didn’t, but I sure do know it now. My fingers feel like sausages and it hurts to hold anything. Speaking of pain, sciatica has been keeping me pretty uncomfortable lately also. Pair the tossing and turning from side to side with the sudden onset of snoring and my poor husband has taken to sleeping on the sofa (he has to wake up early for work & sleeping next to a severely pregnant me has not been easy). He and I are both quite ready for baby to arrive!

We’re ready but baby doesn’t seem to be. And being first time parents, we aren’t exactly certain what signals to look for when she is ready. I thought I would just know when my water breaks, but as it turns out, that’s another common pregnancy misconception. Only about 15% of first time moms have their water break before labor begins. In fact, it’s quite common for the nurse or doctor to have to break your bag of water in the labor and delivery room, after contractions have started. Also, to be admitted to labor and delivery (at least with Kaiser), you have to be at least 5cm dilated, or have contractions that are occurring 5 minutes apart. Yes, they will turn you away and tell you to go wait at home for “true labor” to begin, if you arrive only 3cm dilated or having contractions that are more than 5 minutes apart. I start my nst observations tomorrow, and am scheduled to be induced in one week. I’m glad my husband and I attended the prenatal class and hospital tour, because I would be a complete anxious mess without the information we gained there.

The nursery is ready, our car seat is installed and our bags are packed. So now we just wait. If you’ve read all this way, you’re a real one! I hope my experience sheds some light for any expectant first timers out there. I know I read my fair share of mom blogs in the beginning and I’m excited to add to my own blog with some momish posts. I’ll be doing a registry and nursery tour post in the near future, and of course a birth story and post partum update eventually. I’ve always blogged sporadically about my major life events and scholastic endeavors, and I’m excited to add this new chapter to the blog!

For now, here are some photos from our baby shower (which was an adorable and heartwarming event for us).

DIY Diaper Cake Tutorial

I recently became an auntie (and you KNOW I’ll be blogging all about that soon)!  My brother’s baby mama had an extraordinary team of ladies throw her the most adorable shabby chic baby shower and I had the pleasure of making of the diaper cake.  Since this was my first time making a diaper cake, I decided to document the process so that I could share my diaper-cake-crafting methods with all of you.  Okay, who am I kidding?  I had no methods going into this project- all I had was a pinterest inspo photo and a dream- which is why I played around with the look a LOT before finalizing this thing.  I took photos of various design attempts to showcase the diversity of a DIY diaper cake; you can pretty much build your base and then design the cake to your heart’s desire.

What You Need:

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Products Pictured: Foam board ( $1 at Dollar Tree), Rubber Bands (aprx $2 at Office Depot), Huggies 140 ct box of Disney print Newborn Diapers (aprx $20 on Amazon Prime).
  • Foam board (for base)
  • Paper towel roll (for base center)
  • Lace or ribbon for the trim of the base (optional)
  • rotary cutter, hot glue gun & hot glue stick
  • Diapers (I used Huggies Disney print in Newborn size)
  • Rubber bands (for rolling the diapers)
  • Twine or Ribbon to wrap around each tier of the cake (holds diapers in place)
  • various decorative products

Making The Base

I decided to create my base using a foam board, because I knew I would be making and transporting a LARGE diaper cake (and I would not be getting the base back, so using a nice, large cake stand was out of the question).  This wound up working for me, but in the future I will use my measured cutting mat and rotary cutter to create a more perfect circle shaped base (I free-handed this one and it’s a bit lopsided).

Here is my *slightly lopsided* base.

Here’s what I did:

  1. cut foam board in half, horizontally
  2. cut first half into a half circle then, placing the cut piece on top of the uncut piece, trace and cut the second piece to match (so you have two, identical half circles)
  3. hot glue the pieces together to make a circular base
  4. hot glue a paper-towel role to the center of the board (you will shape and secure your diaper cake tiers around this paper-towel pillar).
  5. You may choose to add your lace/ribbon trim to the base now or later, using your hot glue gun.

Time to Start Rolling Diapers

You can roll as you go, or pre-roll them all at once.  I did about 20 at a time, adding to and shaping my tiers a little along the way.  The rolling technique varies from crafter to crafter, but mine is pretty straight forward:

  1. start with the logo facing you
  2. fold the top inwards towards you
  3. roll from the top to the bottom
  4. place your rubber band around the rolled diaper (you should have a *pretty* side  & a not so pretty side)
  5. As you roll your diapers, try to keep your rubber bands in the center, so that you can cleanly cover them up with your decorative ribbon later.

 

Tier Time

From here, you start placing the rolled diapers on your base, in a circular pattern around the paper-towel role pillar.  There are a couple things to keep in mind as you go:

  1. make sure you are keeping your rubber bands centered on your rolled diapers
  2. try to secure the rolled diapers with the pretty side facing outward and the not so pretty side concealed.

 

Next, you’ll want to determine the size of your tiers, based on how large you would like your cake to be.  I made a three-tiered cake, on the larger side.  As you can see, I debated going even larger but since I only had 140 diapers, I scaled it back.  Once you’ve got your first tier at your desired size, simply start your next tier by repeating the process directly on top of your first tier, making each tier slightly smaller than the one beneath it.

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I secured my tiers with a decorative twine ribbon, purchased at Michael’s for about $3

Decorate That Cake!

Now it’s time for the fun!  Once you have your cake tiers stacked and secured you may begin to decorate your diaper cake.  I played around with mine a lot, only because it was fun to showcase the versatility of my creation.  I know a lot of diaper cakes have cute baby shoes/socks/toys/etc. displayed on them, but that was not the desire of the mama I was creating this cake for.  Instead, we went for a shabby-chic theme featuring antlers, floral and feathers. Here are some of the variations I played around with:

 

 

Here is my finished diaper cake at the baby shower:

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Hawaiian Honeymoon Part II: Kauai

Aloha 🌺

Welcome to part two of my epic Hawaiian honeymoon blog post! My last post covered the first half of our honeymoon, which we spent on Maui. If you’re headed that way, and need recommendations on where to stay, which Luau to attend or tips for driving the Road to Hana, then you’ll definitely want to check ssout that post. This post will cover our time spent on the Garden Isle aka Kauai. Full disclosure: Kauai was my favorite of the two islands that we visited! Fuller disclosure: we both enjoyed our time there so much that we went back for a 4-day weekend just 5 weeks after our honeymoon.

Look, Kauai is a magical place that captured and kept a piece of my heart, so this post may read like a love letter to the island. Now that you’ve been properly warned, let’s get to it.

Where to begin? I’ve been going back and forth on whether I include information from both trips in this one post, or to separate them into two posts. I decided that, for continuity, it would be best to include all the goodies here in this one post- I’ll just make clear the different travel dates, as it’s important to keep these dates in mind when planning your own trip (there was a lot of rain and wind in the later part of summer).

Arriving on Kauai

We arrived at Lihue Airport– in June, we flew in from from OGG (the Maui airport) & in August we flew in from LAX. From the airport, we boarded our enterprise car rental shuttle bus (located directly in front of the airport) and were transported to our rental car location. We rented a small 4-door Nissan (I forget the model but it was basic and perfect for our needs). Once we secured our rental car and loaded it up with all of our luggage, we put our resort into our gps and hit the road. It was about a 25 minute drive from Enterprise to our resort on the south side of the island. Yes, we stayed on the south side both times, though not in the same resort (more on that soon).

Tip: regardless of what time of year you’re visiting, I highly recommend renting a car on Kauai. The public transportation is limited and much of what you’ll want to see and do is spread out across the island. The island is small, and you can drive from the north side to the south side in under 2 hours. Just be sure to check the road conditions before starting you drive to avoid being turned around at flooded bridges (more on this later).

Where to stay: North vs South Shore

You’ll want to do a bit of planning ahead when choosing your resort/rental location. Most of the resorts are located on either the North Shore or the South Shore. We opted to stay on the South Shore during both of our visits because there were more dining and shopping options, while still offering plenty of opportunity for outdoor fun! We mostly stayed on the south side of the island during our honeymoon, with the exception of taking a self-guided driving tour of the Waimea Canyon (which I’ll cover soon). On our second trip, we spent a great deal of time exploring the north shore. Here’s what I think the main advantages are to each side of the island:

The south shore is home to some beautiful resorts and fine dining selections, as well as my favorite beach- Shipwreck beach (great for sunset and surf photography as well as for Honu sightings)! This side of the island feels more touristy.

A view of the Grand Hyatt alongside Shipwreck Beach

 

The North Shore boasts miles and miles of serene beaches and has many hiking/walking trails as well as some really great roadside food/fruit/smoothie stands. This side of the island feels more like an authentic (non-touristy) Hawaiian experience.

Resort Selection

The Point at Poipu- we stayed here during our honeymoon, in June.

Our room was in the building pictured here.

The pros: We had an ocean front, two-bedroom suite, complete with a washer and dryer as well as a full kitchen! We LOVED this location. The lanai!! There’s really nothing quite like enjoying your coffee on the lanai before you tackle the day! There is a paved walkway that takes you directly from the resort, down to shipwreck beach, which we loved since we had set aside an entire day for beach lounging. We also loved the food and drinks at the poolside bar & grill! The fish tacos were to die for and our bar-tender Many was embodiment of Hawaiian hospitality.

The cons: the pool area is small and there isn’t a separate pool for families/children so you can pretty much expect to be surrounded by kiddos anytime you’re at the pool. The rooms are large and full of amenities but the furniture/decor is dated. We also wished the room had some beach towels/snorkels/other beach toys included.

Fish tacos from the poolside grill
My husband, enjoying a poolside cocktail. You can see the beach gradient of the pool in this photo.
This is one of the buildings adjacent to ours at the point; all 2 & 3 bedroom suites.

Koloa Landingwe stayed here for our 4-day getaway in August.

Sunset over the infinity pool

The pros: The pool! Oh my goodness this pool! Or should I say, pools? There’s a water slide, an infinity pool, a larger pool with a grotto, and several jacuzzi spas skirting the large pool. This is the pool that other resort pools aspire to be like. There’s even a separate pool are for kids! The room was also great. We had a two bedroom “condo” with no view (except of the parking lot). Our beds were comfy and the TVs were large and the kitchen was giant. We loved the amenities, such as fancy full-face snorkeling gear and boogie boards!

The cons: the bar/grill was overpriced and under-serviced (the gal working it was doing her best! She was great she just needed help). There is no beach access trail, and when you do walk down to the beach it’s quite a ways before you reach a sandy point- lots of rocks! Great for watching sunsets and for fishing but not for accessing.

Complimentary poolside mai thais on our first night
It got stormy on our trip but the pool & bar stayed open so we made a fun day of it!
I dunno what’s prettier- my husband or this waterfall wall
The water slide is clearly fun for all ages

We took full advantage of the storm & enjoyed jacuzzi hopping without a crowd

South Shore Dining & Shopping

Koloa is home to a fun little shopping village where, in addition to local eateries, you can typically find an array of food trucks. We enjoyed the pizza from Pizzeta Italian Kitchen & Bar, and I purchased an adorable mermaid tank top in one of the boutiques. We really loved walking around the quaint gaslight village, reading the historical plaques.

Another fun place to dine on the south shore is at Tidepool’s at the Grand Hyatt, in Poipu. We didn’t eat there but we did visit the location to check out the grounds and they were certainly impressive.

Tidepools restaurant sits on this koi pond overlooking Shipwreck Beach.
There are beautiful geese and koi fish surrounding the restaurant

And of course, there are also two shopping malls in Poipu: the Poipu Shopping Village and The Shops At Kukui’ula. We visited both and preferred the later. We ate at Bubba’s Burger when we visited the shops at Kukui’ula and it was really tasty.

This guy is made of human-waste items retrieved from the sea and is on display at the Shops

Tip: My husband isn’t exactly and adventurous eater, so that’s why you’re seeing pizza and burgers in the post, rather than traditional Hawaiian cuisine. If you’re traveling with a picky eater, try finding places that serve classic comfort foods for them and localized appetizers for you. Or, do what I did- I ordered as much pork, poi and poke as I could at the poolside grills.

Best Beaches

There are so many beaches to choose from when visiting Kauai. I’ve narrowed it down to my top 3 beaches, just because I’ve still got excursions & driving tours to cover (and this post is getting lengthy).

1. Shipwreck beach. This beach is on the south shore. My husband and I agree that this is a favorite spot on Kauai. This is partly because it was walking distance from our honeymoon suite, but also because of its diversity! This beach has so much to offer! From sandy shores to tide pool banks and tiny sea caves, there’s something to satisfy whatever beach vibe you’re feeling. Honestly, it’s almost like two beaches because the Hyatt side is so different from the Point side. In front of the Hyatt, there were tons of surfers in the water every day and even some people jumping off the giant cliff at the far end of the beach. My husband and I enjoyed the seascape and cave-like rocks in front of the Point (on the other side of the beach). We sat and watched the turtles play here two nights in a row. We visited this beach in June and again in August; the weather was much nicer in June.

Sandy shore between the Point & theHyatt (also, see that rock? Yeah, people were jumping off it all day)!

Rocky area in front of the Hyatt

Cliff side in front of the Point
Turtle! There were tons of them here

2. Moloaa Beach. This beach is North shore(ish). We visited this beach in late August & caught a bit of hurricane conditions but we still enjoyed the sightseeing. This is where they filmed the first season of Giligan’a Island! I’m a sucker for pop culture tourism, so this was a win for me. But it was also cool because of its remote location- we would never have found it without the Shaka Guide! (I’ll talk more about the Shaka guide in a bit).

3. Kahili Beach. This is a north shore beach, which we also visited in late August during hurricane season.What I found most interesting about Kahili Beach was its surroundings; it’s lined with trees and trails. This could be a great spot for family picnics and camp outs (I’m not sure if overnight camping is permitted but I did see some campers). I noticed a giant rope swing hanging from a tree and it looked like there had recently been a bone fire.

Things to do: Excursions & Driving Tours

If you’re an adventurous traveler, you’ll undoubtedly want to select an excursion or two to enhance your vacation experience. The diverse Kauai landscape provides a wide variety of adventurous opportunities. From water sports like surfing and kayaking to boat and helicopter tours of the Na Pali Coast or the Waimea Canyon, to thrill seeking activities like inner tubing through old sugarcane ditches or atv tours through the Kauai landscape- there’s something for everyone to do on the island. We looked into several excursions and ended up picking the one we thought would get us the most bang for our buck- the most hours of entertainment as well as the most variety in our day.

We chose the Na Pali Experience afternoon boating excursion and we couldn’t have been happier with our selection. Our day was scheduled around this tour, and it wound up being one of the best vacation days I’ve had as an adult. We had the time of our lives riding in a small boat up the breathtaking Na Pali Coast. In my opinion, you really shouldn’t visit Kauai and not experience the Na Pali Coast in one way or another, be it by boat, helicopter or the infamous hike in via the Kalalau trail.

Our semi-private boat had six passengers (including us) plus the captain. Our captain effortlessly maneuvered the vessel in and out of several stunning sea caves, stopping to take our photos and letting us get all the selfies our hearts desired.

Inside the Instagram famed open ceiling cave. Hence the stellar lighting.

During our ride up the coast we stopped to admire a pod of dolphins playing alongside our boat.

On the way back down the coast, we anchored off the shore of a private beach, accessible only by boat or hike (no roads lead here), for an hour of snorkeling with turtles! This beach has been featured in many movies, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Perfect Getaway.

We were served fresh pineapple and Hawaiian juice before heading back to the marina, ending our tour with a 45 minute boat ride along this stunning coastline. It was a magnificent day spent in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I used 2 GoPro batteries on this tour.

We had intended to take this tour for a second time, when we visited again in August but the tour was not operating due to the hurricane conditions. We will certainly take this tour again when we next find ourselves on Kauai, and I would confidently recommend this tour to anyone looking to explore the Na Pali Coast via boat. And you should all be looking to explore the Na Pali coast via boat in my opinion! The only other way to see this beautiful coastline is by helicopter tour or a strenuous hike (which may be closed due to weather).

Here are some other excursions we are considering for our next visit:

  1. Sugarcane ditch inner-tubing
  2. Kauai ATV tour
  3. Wailua River Kayak & waterfalls hike
  4. Jurassic Falls Helicopter Tour

Another fun way to explore the island, without breaking the bank is by downloading the Shaka Guide app and enjoying one or more of the self-guided driving tours. While on our honeymoon, in June, we did the Waimea canyon driving tour; when we visited in August, we attempted twice to complete the North Shore driving tour but due to the storm, we never made it past Hanalei Bay. Here are some highlights from each tour:

Waimea Canyon Driving Tour

This drive is beautiful but not for the faint of heart. The winding roads will get the best of any passengers who are prone to car sickness. I should mention that we did this drive on our last day on the island, after checking out of our resort. We were tired and didn’t have the time to fully explore everything this drive has to offer since we had to catch our flight back to the mainland. We want to make a camping reservation and do one of the hikes in the canyon during our next visit, and if you’re an adventurous traveler you likely will want to also after completing this drive. There is nothing to eat once you start making your way up the canyon, so grab food and water beforehand!

The beginning of the road up the canyon
Red dirt waterfalls at the start of the drive up

The first of many breathtaking viewpoints
The start of the canyon with the river feeding out
The falls lookout was crowded so we did our best to get roadside photos of the famous Jurassic Falls

Kalalau Lookout provides a view of the Na Pali Coast from above but it’s often too cloudy to see the ocean

We attempted to hike this, but the elevation and vacation diet got the better of us
View of the canyon from the highest point; green as far as the eye can see.

North Shore Driving Tour

We did this drive in the middle of a hurricane warning in late August. That probably sounds crazier than it really was. Honestly, the weather wasn’t so bad in Koloa (on the south shore), where we were staying. So we didn’t even think about checking the road conditions on the North Shore. We should have. There were high winds and sporadic showers that rendered road closures in Hanalei both times we attempted this drive. It was still a fun drive, with tons of great beaches and scenic stops. We enjoyed walking the village shopping center in Hanalei and ate a tasty BBQ lunch at Chicken in a Barrel.

A scenic walking trail at the start of the driving tour.

King Kong Rock is another one of Kauai’s neat pop culture/ natural phenomenon tourist attractions.
Streams, bridges and vibrant plants in the Moloaa Bay neighborhood. The vacation rentals here looked amazing!
Driftwood at Moloaa Bay; this beach is a photographer’s paradise with white sand and washed up coconuts and driftwood in abundance!
We got delicious smoothies from the Ferring Family Farm thanks to the Shaka Guides recommendation.
Kilauea Lighthouse Lookout
The lighthouse was closed due to the storm but the viewpoint provides a variety of angles to view the structure. This was taken on my cellphone.
A pair of the Hawaii State birds- The Hawaiian Goose- these guys were all over the lighthouse grounds.

Both driving tours were fun and easy to navigate using the Shaka Guide app. I definitely recommend using this app if you like to travel off the beaten path and explore at your own pace. There’s certainly an abundance of adventure to be had on each drive! We only did 2 of the drives offered in the app., but you can explore them all!

More Sights Worth Seeing

We didn’t do the South Shore driving tour since we spent so much of our time on the south shore and felt we had seen most of it already. However, there was one spot I wanted to check out that we ended up driving to: Spouting Horn. It was cool, but you can’t very close to it. Still, it’s a neat sight to see and there’s a bunch of local art and crafted-goods for sale in the vicinity.

We were fortunate enough to stumble upon this last place by mistake when we stopped to grab a bite at a food truck parked in an old hotel parking lot. We had heard of there being old hotel ruins in Princeville, but we weren’t looking for them and we really should have been because this place was a true gem of a discovery. I’m talking of course, about the abandoned Coco Plams Resort! The gate was open, and some people had gone in ahead of us so we decided to chance it. Full disclosure: this may be frowned upon and you should obey any signs telling you to keep out, should you encounter them (we did not).

The Coco Palms was a prominent Princeville hot spot in its prime, having been the setting of the Hollywood blockbuster Blue Hawaii, staring Elvis Presley. However, Hurricane Iniki struck Kauaʻi in 1992 and wrecked irreparable havoc upon the resort. As it stands now, nature is slowly taking back the grounds but much remains of the structural beauty. Have a look at some of my favorite photos of the resort ruins below.

Clearly, Kauai was good for my camera roll and my soul. Thanks so much for checking out my post, I hope it helps with any plans you may be making for your own visit to Kauai. Really though, there’s no way you won’t enjoy your time spent on this magical island. Happy travels!

Hawaiian Honeymoon Part I: Maui

Last June, Josh and I finally went on our honeymoon.  Having been married in March, we had been looking forward to our Hawaiian get-away for months. Naturally, this meant that I had been pinteresting and plotting for months and had far too many activities planned than we could possibly cram into our designated 9 days and 2 two islands.  But we’ve always been the up-for-a-challenge type of couple, so we certainly weren’t about to let something like logic deter us from trying to see and do all the things. Perhaps this is why it has taken me so long to write this post… there is an overwhelming amount of photos and videos and itinerary details to cover here.  In fact, there’s so much to cover that I’m writing 2 posts: 1 for each Island that we visited 😉

Island #1: Maui

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Maui is a beautiful Island with a little bit of something for every type of traveler.  Foodies, thrill-seekers, luxurious loungers, photographers, shopoholics- Maui can satisfy each of your desires. For Josh and I, Maui was an obvious Island selection because we wanted to drive the Road to Hana (which we did, and I’ll tell you all about it in just a minute).

Where to stay

We stayed at the Kanapali Beach Club  through Diamond Resorts, courtesy of my mom and step dad (a wedding gift).   Since neither of us had been to Maui before, we had no prior knowledge of this place but apparently it is popularly known as “the pink palace” – an obvious nod in the direction of the resort’s enormous size and bright color.  While I had read some reviews online which complained of beach erosion, we had no trouble accessing the beach right in front of the hotel. In fact, the first thing we did after checking in to our room was pick up a pineapple drink from the bar to sip as we explored the beach access trail.

 

The room we stayed in was perfect for us and we loved our ocean view lanai. While the furniture and decor is a bit dated, this place offers 1 and 2 bedroom suites with full kitchens and large bathrooms– perfect for families or couples like us who like to feel at home on vacation. We were also impressed by the grounds here, and greatly enjoyed our morning strolls through the lush gardens to get tasty pastries from the coffee shop. What we enjoyed most about this place was the pool and bar area- it’s just what you picture when you think “Hawaiian Resort”. We spent an entire day lounging at the pool and slurping tropical drinks from a hallowed out pineapple. Mind you, this is a family friendly and appropriately budgeted resort- there will be children in the pool.

Kanapali Beach Club is located in Lahaina- a central area for tourism, boasting fine dinning and luxury shopping options as well as a wide array of resort and spa options.  Our concierge mentioned a walking path to the shops, but it would have been about a 15-20 minute walk to the down-town shopping area, so we opted to use uber and had no issues. We really enjoyed our time at this resort and would definitely recommend it to friends. The only cons were: no bloody Marrys bar service before 10am (gasp), and its about as far from Hana Town as you can get on the island (which just meant we had to leave a little early for our Road to Hana day trip).

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The view from our Lanai: Sunrise over Kanapali Shores

What to Do

We had 3 main objectives for our time on Maui: explore the Road to Hana, enjoy a resort pool day, and attend a stellar luau.  We did all 3 and I am so excited to finally be writing about it all!

The Road to Hana

We decided to make our first full day on the island a day of adventure, so we rose with the sun, packed ourselves and all our gear (cameras, extra battery chargers, snacks, sunscreen, changes of clothes) into our rental car and set out in search of paradise.

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surfboards line the beginning of the road to Hana

This brings me to my first tip: rent a car! There are tons of bus tours and expensive guides to accompany you, and making the choice to drive yourself can be intimidating when researching the treacherous road conditions.  That said, we found that waking up early and driving ourselves worked well for two main reasons: firstly, it was super easy and we had the road practically to ourselves so there was no need to be fearful of those infamous one lane portions of the road; secondly, we also had all of the beautiful destinations to ourselves and were able to explore entirely uninterrupted by others.  So yes, rent a car if you are wanting to set your own pace and explore specific destinations. Just don’t drive with the top down if you get a convertible -it is a rain forest after all- we watched a rather unfortunate couple learn this the hard way.

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The road was empty enough for us to pose for pictures even in the narrowest parts of the road.

Second tip for this drive: download The Shaka Guide I downloaded The Shaka Guide in the app store, and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made for our trip!  Seriously, this guide is amazing! It’s a self-paced audio tour that uses gps to navigate and  optimize your Road to Hana experience (plus they have other driving tours on all the islands).  We loved being told exactly how far ahead each banana bread stand was, or where to turn off for specific waterfall trail heads. We also greatly enjoyed the informative and entertaining audio during the miles of open road.  Without this guide, we would have missed cool spots like the waterfall pictured below.

On our drive to Hana Town, we stopped to walk a loop trail around mile marker 7(ish),  saw a lot of  very active waterfalls along the road, ate some fresh banana bread from a roadside seller, and of course we hit the black sand beach and the red clay beach. This was all done before 11 am, when we rolled into Hana Town ready to eat!

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We filled up at the Hana Town Ranch, where I enjoyed the most delightful poke dish I’ve ever eaten. Hana Town is small and beautiful, but there’s only one or two options for eating (depending on what time you make it to town- the ranch opens at 11 but there is a general store that opens earlier).  We got there a bit before 11 so we purchased some beers at the general store and drank them at the beach while we waited for the restaurant to open.

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You might think we wold have been ready to head back to our hotel after all of that exploring and eating, but you would be mistaken!  We drove past Hana Town to the Haleakala National Park.  Due to flooding, the seven sacred pools were closed when we visited, which meant we didn’t have to make the choice between hiking down to see them and up to the Pipiwai Trail.  Upward we went.  The hike was pretty easy, just muddy. We ventured off the trail and stumbled into a cool little spot with a view (but there were warning signs so mind your TLC and don’t go chasing waterfalls if you’re a stickler for rules). This hike was cool because of its diversity; we saw a giant banyan tree, some seriously impressive waterfall action and a neat pocket of bamboo forest.

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After our hike, we were pretty ready to head back to the hotel for showers and food.  While it’s almost certain that you’ll always want to see more of the road to Hana, I think we did a pretty good job of seeing as much of it as we could in one day.  Next time we visit Maui, I plan to book a night at an airbnb in Hana Town so that we can explore the National Park more.

The Luau

After a full day of adventure, we decided to take it easy on our second day, opting for a relaxing (and intoxicating) afternoon of poolside lounging before heading out to an evening luau. I had done some research ahead of time, because I was worried that my adorable but picky husband would have a difficult time finding anything he would enjoy on a tradition luau menu.  I scoured yelp for the best reviews and The Feast at Lele caught my attention because of their private seating and fine dining experience.  The feast takes place on the beach, at sunset.

This was not your average (or traditional) luau- not that either of us had ever attended a luau prior to this, but we knew that luaus were generally picnic style and not a five-course fine dining experience on the beach.  The dancers and performers were spectacular and I pretty much recorded the entire show so we get to re-watch it over and over whenever we want (but my video files are not supported by this domain, so I cannot share them with you).  We were greeted with cocktails and leis and then shown to our table.  We got there early to take advantage of the on-sight photographers and we ended up purchasing all three of the photos that we had taken. When in Rome.

After cheesing it up on the beach, we took our seats and started eating the delicious banana chips at our table.  Our waitress came and let us know that we could order up to two drinks a time (oh yeah, all drinks are included so come prepared to kill your liver), so we did that too.  I pretty much stuck to red wine, and Josh to whisky… we like adventure but not when it comes to our drinks 😉

Once the show started, the food started coming, and coming and coming. I lost track of what I was eating but did manage to take photos of all of the courses. We left full and drunk and endlessly entertained.  But we did not go back to our hotel without stopping into a local bar for an unnecessary top-off.  Thank goodness for Uber.

Where Not to Stay

Due to a scheduling gap, we needed to check out of our resort a day before our flight to Kauai.  We waited a bit too late to book and we were not looking to spend a ton on a room for just the one night, so we took a chance on a hotel closer to the airport thinking that it would make catching our flight a little easier. This was a mistake. But also, an adventure.  Here’s the deal: you get what you pay for.

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We did not care for our room or the staff at the Maui Beach Hotel.  Our room was dirty and the staff was pretty rude when we inquired about late check-outs.  BUT we did like the mall across the street and the beach behind the hotel. We ate dinner in the mall that night and then took a bottle of wine down to the beach where a turtle washed up to watch the sunset with us.

After a night in this hotel, we were ready to hit the airport in the morning and as always, eager for our next adventure. We flew into Kauai for the second half of our honeymoon and I’ll be sharing all the details from that portion of our trip in my next post.

Til next time. X

 

Celebrating our Accomplishments

Life rarely gives you such lengthy threads of happiness as Josh and I have been enjoying lately. In March, we tied the knot after spending the first months of the year prepping for and celebrating in anticipation of our wedding. We did so while each working tirelessly to achieve our individual goals: for him it was completing his live-in fire academy and for me it was conquering my first semester of graduate school (which I wrote about here).

I write extensively about my academic experiences on this blog (under the “Academia” tab), so this is not another post about school. Rather, this is a post about all the love and support that other people put into the accomplishing of our goals. Josh and I have been fortunate and have received endless support (and on-going financial assistance) from our families. Of course, we have also supported one another throughout this process. I am as proud of him as he is of me. We did it!

I just wanted to take a brief moment to appreciate the smiles in these photos and commit them to my memory. We are leaving for our honeymoon next week and we really just couldn’t be happier these days. Life is good.

Jumping Right Back In: Spring 2018, Graduate School Begins

I completed my BA last fall and was accepted into the graduate program on the same day that I handed in my last blue book exam. After contemplating taking a semester or so hiatus from the academic life, I opted to just continue straight on through with the hope of finishing my MA by 2019- ya know, since getting married this spring wasn’t keeping me busy enough (she said with a heavy degree of sarcasm). So here I am with my first semester of graduate school coming to an end, which means it’s time for my end of semester write-up.

Keeping mind that I now also operate a separate blog, dedicated entirely to writing methods and literary criticism, I gave much debate over whether or not to continue my semester write-ups here, in the student diaries portion of my personal blog. I’ve decided that I will continue to post my semester write-ups here because they are more of a reflection of my personal experience than an open dialogue on literature or the writing process (which are the primary focuses of my writing blog). However, should you want to read more posts about the discourse generated in my graduate literature seminars, please check out what I’m writing at the Caffeine & Ink Blog.

The Road to an MA in Literature

What’s required? First, you must pass 10 graduate seminars (and in graduate school, passing means getting an A or a B… anything below a B- is failing and you will have to repeat the course). Then, you must obtain either a passing grade on the comprehensive examinations OR a thesis approval. Comprehensive exams are pass/fail and you only get 2 chances at them before you have to start your entire degree over. I write far better than I test, so my goal is to write a thesis. A thesis will only be approved if: the student applying to write a thesis has a gpa of 3.7 or higher, a faculty member has agreed to sponsor the proposed thesis, and 2 additional faculty members have signed on as committee members for the thesis. So, yeah, hoops. I had best get to jumping.

My First Semester as a Grad Student

Graduate seminars are structured a bit differently from undergraduate courses. For starters, the class size itself is considerably smaller- while my undergraduate courses had anywhere from 25-45 students, my graduate seminars are capped at 15 students. Which leads directly into the next difference: the classroom discourse. Naturally, a smaller class body renders a more intimate and productive setting for discourse. Having taken a few of these graduate seminars as an undergraduate student, I was prepared for this and it was what I was most looking forward to as well. There’s really nothing like collaborative learning spaces. I’ve found my graduate-seminars to be the most productive of any academic setting I’ve encountered thus far. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility… I’m talking of course, about the seminar paper that is due at the end of each seminar course. This is the biggest difference in the grading structure between undergraduate and post-bachelor work; where undergraduate literature seminars are typically graded by averaging your scores on 2-3 essays and 2-3 exams, the typical graduate literature seminar is graded by averaging 1-2 exam scores with 1 large seminar paper. Your seminar paper should reflect your understanding of the overall course theme or themes and is typically between 12-15pages in length. The seminar paper is weighted heavily (usually between 30-45% of your grade) and will make or break you in a lit graduate seminar. Because of the weight of the seminar paper, professors will typically scaffold the work by asking first for an abstract/proposal, then an annotated bibliography before accepting your actual paper. A well executed seminar paper requires self-disciplined research and writing methodologies (and about twelve gallons of espresso). I am enjoying the challenge and look forward to reaping the benefits of a well-informed world view.

The Courses

ENG530- MEDIEVAL LITERATURE (Arthurian Legend & Outlaw Literature)

Professor: Dr. Best

Seminar Paper Title & Grade:

Course Grade: A

ENG549– MODERN BRITISH LITERATURE

Professor: Dr. Kalaidjian

Seminar Paper Title & Grade:

Course Grade: A-

ENG557– TEACHING OF COMPOSITION

Professor: Dr. Sherman

Seminar Paper Title & Grade:

Grade: A

The Day We Said “I Do”

The Venue

The Redondo Beach Historic Library.

For an English major, having your wedding in your hometown’s original library seems like an obvious win.  Now factor in the fact that the library  just happens to stand atop a grassy hill, overlooking the very beach  you and your husband grew up on and there truly is no other venue more perfect.  Having met at Redondo Union High School and spent much time together on the Redondo pier and beach, Josh and I jumped at the opportunity to have our wedding at the  Redondo Beach Historic Library.

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Things to Know:

  • The Venue is contracted with Spectrum Catering- an events and catering company operated by Kathy Villa (she’s the boss lady for all things venue related).
  • This is what’s considered an all-inclusive venue.  What that includes is: catering, linens, event staff, valet parking, and a cake from King’s Hawaiian Bakery.
  • The dinner options are either a formal seated and plated meal with choice of 2 entrees, or a buffet.  (we opted for the buffet and loved it).
  • Prices are about $2K cheaper in the off season (November- April, I believe).
  • You can reserve the lawn for an outdoor ceremony for an additional $1200, but you may also have your ceremony performed inside at no additional cost.
  • The site only books one event per day, so you get 2 hours of set up time, then 5 hours for your event.  Additional hour are available for $1,200/hr (it may be $1,500… I forget the exact number, but we did extend by one hour).
  • You may host the bar for the entire event for $1,200 (I know… everything at this place is $1,200… kinda odd).
  • You get a day-of coordinator for the event, and a one hour rehearsal is hosted the day before your event (but no dinner).

Overall, we were so pleased with our venue selection, although there will always be things to knit pick.  We wished the DJ was more adaptable to our schedule falling behind a bit.  We also would have liked it if members of our coordinating staff (who happened to be friends of ours, who we opted to hire for our special day) were able to enjoy a glass of champagne at the end of the night, but Kathy- the venue manager- put the kabosh on that (she said it was a violation of our contract for employees to consume alcohol).  Despite our minor complaints, we loved the ambiance of the library, with it’s vaulted ceilings and hundreds of white lights, and we were thrilled to be able to take our portraits on the beach, so the setting was perfect for us.  One of my personal favorite aspects to this venue is the large tree beside the library, which turned out so breathtakingly in our photos.

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Decor & Details

Florist: Kristin’s Magical Moments

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Kristin is a friend of both Josh and I (she actually went to high school with us too)!  I’m big on supporting small, independent businesses, especially those owned and operated by friends. Kristin approached me after learning of our engagement, and let me know she was in the events business.  For these reasons, hiring Kristin to be our florist was an easy decision.  About half way into the planning process, I realized I was in over my head and took Kristin up on her offer to also be our event coordinator.  I must have been difficult to work with ( I wanted a beach wedding, a vintage library wedding, and a whimsical romantic wedding all in one), but she never let on.  _MG_4183.jpgShe did a fabulous job.  She thought of everything from having our families sit on opposite sides of the isle so they could see our faces during the ceremony (instead of the backs of our heads), to booking great additional staffers to help set up and take down all the decor.  She was even able to incorporate my vintage Remington Rand and leather-bound books into our welcome table. I loved the centerpieces and our sweetheart table so much.  Truthfully, some of my favorite photos from the wedding are of all the wonderful details.

Photography

George Street Photo & Video

Picking a photographer was one of the most difficult parts of planning a wedding, mainly because it was important to both Josh and I (and trying to arrange meetings with both of us was difficult with Josh being in the fire academy at the time).  Naturally, I spent an embarassing amount of hours researching photographers on Pinterest and The Knot app. In the end, we went with an agency that I found on The Knot.  (I may eventually write about my wedding planning experience, but for now just know that The Knot app is magic in my book).  We chose the agency for a few reasons, first being that we liked their photo/video and album packages.  Other things we liked about opting for the agency route were: the ease of adding additional time and/or talent to our photo plan, the photo plan itself- getting to set a detailed timeline of which photographer/videographer would cover each part of the day- was very helpful, the constant communication between the couple and the agency as well as the security of knowing you’re guaranteed coverage even if your selected photographer is ill.  We met with a rep from the agency to view portfolios and select our lead photographer.  From there, we set an engagement shoot to get to know the photographer (the cost of this shoot was included in out package).  We loved our engagement photos so we knew we would be satisfied with our day-off photos too.  Plus, our package included an associate photographer and a videographer.

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Unfortunately, we encountered a few set-backs in the photography department, but they were beyond the control of the photographers.  For example, the wind speed was 17mph that day, so my hair (and my bridesmaids’ hair) was messed up during our getting ready portrait session, which left some of us looking a bit unkempt during the ceremony.  The wind also made for some red noses and interesting facial expressions.  Also, let’s just say there were some lighting issues with having the ceremony set before a glass wall, overlooking the ocean… at sunset.  Still, we were able to get tons of great portraits and candids of the bridal party and some great shots of the reception.  We love most of our photos, there are just some that we wish we could have done differently given the weather and the lighting.

The Attire

Bride: Mariposa Bridal (embellished and altered by my aunt).  I purchased my dress at a bridal show and gave it to my aunt to alter and add all the bling on the bodice and back.

Bridesmaids: David’s Bridal- The jr Bridesmaids wore this tulle dress from the White by Vera Wang collection in blush; the bridesmaids wore the David’s convertible dress in ballet.

Groom & Groomsmen: Men’s Warehouse (my husband probaly did not get any of the detailed information but they wore charcoal colored suits with blush bow ties and black vans).

The Ceremony

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We were fortunate enough to have Josh’s uncle, Fred, officiate our ceremony.  Fred is a minister, and he lives about 5 hours away so he and his wife were able to make the trip for our special day.  Although Josh and I are not religious, we really loved Fred’s delivery and we were grateful to have him.  We opted to write our own vows, which did get emotional, but we both had so much to say and we had each been eager to recite our vows so I know it was the right call for us.  As I mentioned before, we had some issues with the lighting during the ceremony, which is evident in the photos.   The small space, large bridal party, and setting sun behind the glass wall was a bit difficult to shoot, but our team of photographers did their best and we were able to get some good photos.  The flowers girls and ring bearers did not get the greatest photos, but they came out cute in the video.

The Reception

We had so much fun at our reception.  The food was amazing, the music was poppin and the guests were enjoying the heck out of the open bar!  After twirling through our first dance, I cried my way through all four toasts (given by my dad, Josh’s dad, my brother Rob and my Sister).  When the dance floor opened up, all of our closest friends and family joined us for some classics by the Back Street Boys, the Spice Girls, and of course, The Cha Cha Slide. Oh, and we ate cake! It was truly a night to remember, and a day of dreams coming true.

And They Lived Happily Evans After

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Embracing the Basic Part II: My Flower Power Bridal Shower

For my bridal shower, I was spoiled by my mother, sister, bridesmaids and a small army of dear friends and family.  It’s true what they say about tribes and vibes- my shower was a bucket of rainbows and butterflies powered by happy tears. There was so much love.  I voice my appreciation for all the strong women in my life often, and in moments like these I am reminded that there is a reason for this.  I am so proud to belong to such an amazing community of women.  I am eternally grateful for the strength, grace, wisdom, nerve, and love that has surrounded me on my bridal journey.   From family to childhood friends to friendships forged along the journey to adulthood- I have been so fortunate in collecting a fierce female tribe.

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My maid of honor and little sister, Jennifer did an amazing job planning my shower with the help of my mom and bridesmaids.  My mom and sister, along with my aunt and cousins, worked tirelessly to prepare a pasta bar and a dessert bar for my guests to enjoy.  My mom also made her famous champagne punch, which was a huge hit.

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For entertainment, I hired my bridal florist to set up a DIY flower crown bar for my guests, which was  a huge hit.  I loved watching my guests bond over creating their beautiful flower crowns.  Flower crowns ARE my favorite accessory, and not only did they add a whimsical touch to our photos, but building them was an enjoyable experience.

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We also played a few classic bridal shower games. My bridesmaid, Arie set up an adorable game table with all sorts of fun bridal shower activities.

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I ordered a photo stand and backdrop from Amazon, which we were able to set up and embellish with some large paper flowers and ribbons.  All of the photos came out really well and they are perfect keepsakes for me to remember my shower.  I ordered a chatbook of my shower, which is actually pretty neat.  I like it because I was able to upload my photos directly from my facebook album and the Chatbook has my photos displayed with my captions.  Here are some of the fun photos we got, using the backdrop:

 

Embracing the Basic Part I: Bachelorette Weekend in Temecula

There are very few times is a girl’s life, when it is acceptable for her to embrace all things Basic.  21st birthdays, Dirty Thirty birthdays,  and bridal events- all appropriate times to embrace one’s God-given talent for being unapologetically basic. Capitol B. I’m talking, nails done, face caked, champagne glass in one hand, iced coffee in the other, Cardi B bumping, thigh-high wearing, flower crown adorned B.A.S.I.C.  And so, when the time came for me to plan my bridal events, I went with it.

 

Part I: Bachelortette weekend in Temecula!

Theme: She’s so Basically Basic

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For my bachelorette party, I wanted to do three things: 1) get wine drunk with my girls, 2) wear my signature romper & flower crown combo, and 3) do things one and two on a party bus.  Annnd I also thought it would be fun to glamp, so finding an RV campsite somewhere near a winery was my initial goal.  I figured the most logical place to make my most basic bridal dreams a reality, was Temecula.  Naturally, my Pinterest fingers were on the job… I found a party bus company, Rockin Wine Tours, that fit the bill: a fully decked out bus (with a variety of themes available, we went with the obvious bachelorette option),stocked with snacks and champagne, with options for an afternoon departure, making stops at 3 local wineries and/or breweries in the Temecula valley.  I was also able to find an awesome RV spot at Vail Lake RV Resort.  We booked 2 nights at the RV resort, planning to glamp it up for the weekend.  Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen health issues, my mother needed to sit out the party bus portion of the weekend, so my friends and I stayed in a hotel the second night, and let my mom and step-dad enjoy a quiet night in the RV.  We did enjoy the RV resort (and their bar) on the first night of our trip.

The party bus picked us up in Historic Downtown Temecula, in a large parking lot behind a cowboy bar.  Our bus driver was dressed in steampunk(ish) bus driver getup, clearly ready for a rowdy group of girls. The bus was decorated with streamers and banners and there was a “bride” sash for me.  Before we took off our driver popped a bottle of champagne for us and showed us where to plug our music in.

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Then we headed for our first destination:  Callaway Vineyard & Winery.   Upon arrival, our driver ushered us to the entrance, where he took a few group photos for us, then handed out our drink tickets.  (The drink tickets at all tour locations are included in the per person ticket price, paid upon entry- the tour includes 5-ticket cards per person for each location).  From here, my large group set out to divide and conquer the tasting bar, finding space for 3 to 4 of us at a time.  After grabbing drinks, we took them outside to explore the patio and grounds.  Callaway sure is on some beautiful land.  We enjoyed the wine, the views, and endless selfie opportunities.

 

 

After about an hour here, we hopped back on the bus to head to our second destination: Lorimar Vineyards & Winery.  I. Loved. This. Place.  We had a private seating area, outside of the tasting room, so we never did go inside but the deck and outdoor bar that we were seated at, were awesome.  We were here for sunset, and man was it beautiful… the  tangerine, Temecula sun, setting over the endless vines and hills of the valley was the perfect setting for our tasting.  We were also served a tasty (but small) charcutterie board with our wine.

 

By the time we left Lorimar, we were all pretty drunk awesome and also hungry, so we were really looking forward to our third and final destination: a brewery which I cannot remember the name of because I was properly wasted.  Here, we received more tasting tickets and about 15 pizzas! It was heaven.  Although I am still amazed that our driver was able to corral us all back on to the correct bus and get us back to our drop-off location.

 

We had an amazing experience with Rockin Wines, and I definitely recommend them to anyone looking for a fun party bus experience in the Temecula valley.