Friday, October 31, 2014

A Mini Miami Getaway

[ The Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. ]
This weekend we are continuing my husband's 30th birthday celebration with a quick trip down south to Miami Beach. G decided that, for his birthday, he'd like to see his favorite team, the San Diego Chargers, when they came to Florida to play the Miami Dolphins. So that's what we're going to do. On Sunday. But outside of game time, we're going to take advantage and explore the Magic City, South Beach and environs.

We leave tomorrow and will come home Monday. Here's our game plan for our mini Miami getaway:

[ A look inside the $200-million Fontainebleau renovation. Glitzy. ]
  • Check out the elaborate and recently renovated landmark hotel, the Fontainebleau Resort & Spa. I didn't know much about Miami before researching for this trip, but I did know about the famous Fontainebleau. 
[ Scarpetta Miami Beach, a nautical version of the urban-rustic Italian original in New York. ]
  • While at the Fontainebleau, we plan to pop into Scarpetta, the Miami Beach outpost of celebrity chef Scott Conant's original New York Italian eatery. The menu is pricey, as is to be expected, but I figure we can just have a glass of wine, share an app and enjoy the ambience and ocean views. G and I are huge Food Network fans and love watching acclaimed restaurateur Conant deliver deft criticism (and, sometimes, praise) on "Chopped."
[ Urban art at Wynwood Walls. ]
  • Visit the Wynwood Walls, an open-air museum of sorts in the Wynwood Arts District. The graffiti garden is filled with Instagram-able, world-class street art painted on warehouse walls and doors, and there's even a restaurant and bar on site. The collection of urban murals is definitely a Miami must-see for me.
[ The Cafe at Books & Books. ]
  • Browse Books & Books, the best bookstore in the city, and perhaps have lunch at the Cafe, which serves up a mix of Latin and Southern cuisine as well as plenty of people-watching if you snag an outdoor table set along Lincoln Road, SoBe's main shopping artery.
[ Our home for the weekend: The Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. ]
We'll be staying at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach, a brand-new luxury beachfront hotel in Miami Beach, on Collins Avenue, in an up-and-coming area called "Millionaire's Row." With cabana in the hotel's name, the pool area looks unsurprisingly amazing and I got a new bathing suit for the occasion. I just need to remember to pack the sunblock!

[ Sparkling pool and ocean views at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. ]
In between these rough plans there is bound to be plenty of imbibing and at least one night out on the town. Not sure where we'll go exactly (and what flashy nightclub we'll be able to get into-- hopefully we won't have trouble getting past the velvet ropes) but we'll just see where the weekend takes us.

If you've been to Miami, we welcome any recommendations on places to go, things to see, or where to eat and drink! I'll be sure to fill you in next week on our adventures.

[ Story, named 2014 Nightclub of the Year. ]

(Fontainebleau images via the resort's Facebook page and website, Scarpetta image via the restaurant's website, Wynwood Walls images via Goldman Properties,  Books & Books image by Justin Namon via Cafe's Facebook page, Hilton Cabana images via its website, Story image via club's Facebook page)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Horizon : Jersey Girl & Manhattan Dreams

So, a little announcement today. I won't bury the lede. If the map didn't make it abundantly clear: The hubs and I are going to be moving. Again. Yes, we only arrived in St. Pete five months ago, and we were slated to be here for three years, but we'll be picking up and moving north to New Jersey next May or June. When Uncle Sam says go, you gotta go. That's military life.

Now, let me explain.

When we found out last October that we would be moving to St. Petersburg, Florida, right after our wedding, G was thrilled. It was his top pick (mine was Boston), we had heard nothing but great things about St. Pete, and my gunner's mate husband was excited to be going back to a boat after three years at a land job.

But not long after G began working on Coast Guard Cutter Ocracoke in July, he learned that the boat was going to be transferred to another crew, in Portland, Maine, at the end of October. Of course, we had no idea that was going to happen. The detailer that sent him, us, to St. Pete didn't know either, or else he wouldn't have assigned G to the Ocracoke. One would think that a detailer would know if a boat is set to be transferred or decommissioned, but that is not always the case. Again, that's military life.

We were a bit upset by the news, to say the least. We had just packed up our whole lives, said goodbye to friends and family, to move across the country for a tour in St. Pete. Suddenly, all our plans changed. That job G had looked forward to was being snatched away. With no new boat coming to replace the Ocracoke, he would have to go back to a land job, working in the armory like he did in San Diego. We had signed a seven-month lease for a one-bedroom apartment and rented a storage unit with the intention of settling into something different after getting the lay of the land. Had we known we'd only be here a year, we would have rented a two-bedroom place, had more space and not thrown a considerable amount of money each month into keeping a large storage unit.

All this, coupled with the summer's oppressively hot and humid weather and my difficulties finding a journalism job, made us feel defeated. St. Pete wasn't working out for us. It definitely wasn't what we thought it would be.

Lesson learned: Things rarely turn out like you think they will. Sometimes it's better, sometimes worse. Expect the unexpected, and embrace it.

So that's what we did. After the initial shock wore off, we shifted our perspective. G losing his boat could be a win. The chance to pick another adventure.

G printed out the list of available boats and brought it home to discuss. Initially, he was interested in going to Miami, where new, super-fast, state-of-the-art FRCs (fast response cutters) were scheduled to come online. I wasn't as thrilled by the idea of moving to Miami, and since the Ocracoke gig wasn't what G thought it would be-- he had hoped to be working drug interdiction cases-- I urged him to research the Miami jobs. In doing so, he discovered that the Miami crews almost exclusively work migrant cases, something G isn't all that interested in. And while I told the hubs that I would support going to Miami in order for him to work on the latest, greatest cutter, I started to have misgivings, secretly wishing he would consider a place I never thought I'd want to live:

New Jersey.

One of the locales on that "early sea solicitation" list was Bayonne. And while the largely industrial city is certainly not the prettiest or hippest place to live, it is just about 30 minutes outside Manhattan.

It has always been my dream to live and work in New York City. I have never been to the Big Apple, and I'm sure my "Sex and the City" fantasies will quickly be shattered once I get there, but there is no question that it is the hub of journalism in America. G knows all this and said before we got married that if there was ever a way to make my dream come true, he would pursue it. Bayonne seems like that chance, and I didn't want it to slip through my fingers. We don't know where the Coast Guard will send us in the future, and the opportunity to live in or close to NYC may never come around again.

For G, being on a boat was the most important thing. He wants his Cutterman's pin, a symbol of having achieved five years total sea time-- a status he would have earned had his tour on the Ocracoke not been drastically cut short. G is determined to get his pin, and he can get it, working on the Sitkinak in Bayonne.

So after much discussion and consideration, G submitted his assignment preferences to the detailer. He put Bayonne as his No. 1 pick, and Gloucester (a town just outside Boston) as his second choice. On Monday he officially received orders: We're going to Bayonne.

We've known for several weeks that G was slated for New Jersey but given all that has happened the last few months, we wanted to be totally sure (orders in hand) before making any kind of announcement. We still have seven months here in St. Pete. Even though the Ocracoke had its change of command last week, we won't move until the transfer season, next summer. So there's still plenty of time to explore Florida and we have a couple months at least before we need to start planning for our next big move.

Still, it's exciting to know, for sure, what is on the horizon and the new possibilities the future holds. This Cali girl is staying on the East Coast for a while longer. I doubt I'll turn into Jersey girl (or a Jersey Shore girl, for that matter). But maybe, just maybe, my cosmo-sipping, city-living, Carrie Bradshaw-channeling Manhattan dreams will come true.

(Sitkinak photos 1 & 2 by Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger, via

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wedding Wednesdays : Artisan-Made Details & Gifts

Since I recently got hitched, and have all the photos from the big day, I launched a weekly series sharing my favorite images and memories, and a few tips and resources along the way. If you're planning a wedding, make sure to check out "The Credits" at the end. Enjoy!

While our wedding wasn't a complete DIY event, I would describe our day as semi-handmade. My husband and I spent many hours making items ourselves but we also supported many indie makers in the process, most found on one of my favorite websites: Etsy.

So today, I thought I’d share those makers and their lovely handmade goods that added to our unique, personalized wedding day.

(Lots of photos and shopping details after the jump!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Halloween Love Story

[ A kiss during our engagement session. ]
While Halloween has never been my favorite holiday, it will always hold special significance for me and my husband because it is when we officially became a couple. Since our three-year dating anniversary is tomorrow, Oct. 29, I thought I’d share the story of how we met.

[ A sign at our wedding. ]
G and I actually grew up in the same small-ish Southern California town of Simi Valley but we didn’t meet until 2001, when we were sophomores in high school. We are fairly certain our first encounter was not on campus but at the church youth group our mutual friends attended. But soon enough G was part of our close-knit circle of friends, hanging out every weekend, eating lunch together at school. I saw him all the time.

However, we never dated, which I think may be many people’s first assumption when I say we knew each other in high school. Funny enough, one of my longtime girlfriends had a huge crush on G, while I became smitten for his best friend at the time. I even went to prom with him! (Though nothing ever happened, us innocent church kids.) G, on the other hand, went to the prom with my best friend (and maid of honor)—but just as friends. Suffice to say, no one would have ever put G and I together back then.

After graduation, I went off to college (Pepperdine, not far from home) and G joined the Coast Guard, which took him to Virginia, New Jersey, Seattle and Alaska. We kind of lost touch, seeing each other once or twice when G came home to visit. As embarrassing as it is to admit, it was the power of Facebook that reconnected us, and in 2011, after Greg purchased a condo, my best friend and I decided to make a trip to San Diego to see the new place and catch up with our old friend.

[ Exploring San Diego during a Labor Day weekend getaway in 2011. ]
[ Dancing (and sweating) the night away in the Gaslamp. This is the night something changed between us. ]
It was during that Labor Day weekend getaway that we first had feelings—much to our surprise!—that we could be more than just friends. The sparks flew one night while dancing at a club. After that trip, we continued to talk for hours over Facebook messenger or on the phone, but being my insecure self, I was so nervous that he didn’t really like me (that I was making his sweet comments out to be more than they were) or that admitting my feelings could ruin the relationship.

[ A snippet from our first Facebook conversation, when we reconnected in August 2011. ]
The long-distance flirtation lasted for about two months until G journeyed from San Diego to Simi Valley to come with me and my bestie to a Halloween house party. He had invited me to SD, saying the holiday celebration down south would be “epic,” but my best friend had already committed to the house party and I was too nervous to go hang out with G by myself. So he came to me—a fact that my BFF tried to convince me did mean something.

That night, G famously dressed up as Lt. Dangle from "Reno 911!" and he helped me tweak his Coast Guard work uniform into a "sexy Coastie" costume. We were inseparable at the party and late in the night, while talking on the couch, he kissed me. And that was that. The romance became a real relationship.

[ All dressed up at the Halloween party where we had our first kiss and became a couple. ]
I’ll fast-forward the rest of the story: We dated for more than a year and a half until I finally made the move to San Diego. He proposed immediately, in June 2013 during a vacation in Maui, and we were married in La Jolla this past May.

And it all may never have happened if it wasn’t for that Halloween party three years ago. OK. I guess I like this holiday after all :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekend Recap : Guavaween & A Bucs Game

We had an eventful weekend, with Guavaween, a Halloween party in historic Ybor City, on Saturday night, followed by (too-early-if-you-ask-me) tailgating on Sunday morning before the 1 o'clock Buccaneers game. Still tired from all our fun, let's cut the words and rely on pictures.

A few scenes from our weekend...

 Mr. Gangsta and Mrs. Flapper make their entrance at Guavaween, at The Cuban Club in the historic district of Ybor City. Needing costumes in a pinch, I recycled the outfit I wore to a 1920s-themed NYE party two years ago and added a white boa.

 The hubby proving he's a beer-shotgunning champ while tailgating before the Bucs game. We were hanging out with GT's Coast Guard crew. Of course, the hubs had to show his San Diego Chargers pride, even in Florida!
 Enjoying the crowd, the sunshine, hot dogs and super-sized frozen drinks at the game.

Hoping you had a wonderful weekend, too!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fri-YAY for the Best Days

Saturday and Sunday are always the best days. Too bad there's not more of 'em! But I guess having just two days for going on adventures or simply doing nothing provides the motivation to make the most of them-- whatever you do, or don't do.

This weekend, the hubby and I do have plans. New friends invited us to tag along with them on Saturday night to Guavaween, a "Voodoo Carnival" in Ybor City. I did a little googling and discovered it is quite the rowdy and rollicking Halloween party, with booze and beads, burlesque and side show acts, street performers and a costume contest. So, as to blend in with the wild crowd, I may have to throw together some kind of edgy, creative costume in a jiffy. We'll see how that goes. I was kind of looking forward to not having to purchase a tacky, over-priced costume this year... I need inventive, affordable ideas post-haste!

Sunday is all about football, of course. But instead of heading to a bar, we'll actually be at a game! GT's Coast Guard shipmates (and their girlfriends/spouses) are gathering at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for tailgating, and then we'll go inside to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Minnesota Vikings. It'll be my second time at an NFL game and while I'm not the biggest football fan, I am excited to drink some beer, eat a mustard-topped hot dog and meet some new people. 

I'm also thrilled that the weather will be much nicer than my first NFL game, when we saw the Chargers at home in San Diego and basically melted in our unshaded seats, suffering through each quarter in sweltering 100+ degree heat. Yuck. I couldn't even pretend to have fun that day. Even GT, the biggest Chargers fan ever, was miserable. Fortunately, the forecast this weekend is predicting temps in the high 70s and low 80s. Perfect. That's Florida in the fall.

Have a great weekend!

(Image via A Fabulous Fete)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thinking Outside the Jack-O-Lantern

Succulent Adorned Pumpkin Stack by Succulents & Sunshine, via Wedding Chicks

Contrary to most bloggers, Halloween is not my favorite holiday. Not even my second-favorite holiday. I mean, I don't hate it but I guess the holiday has just never lived up to the hype for me. (Kind of like New Year's Eve.) I'd say my best-ever Halloween happened three years ago, when my now-hubby and I got together. (We shared our first kiss at a Halloween party in 2011. But more on that story next week.)

Anyway, even though I'm not the strewn-the-house-in-cobwebs, place-skulls-on-the-mantel, plan-my-costume-for-months type, I am a bit smitten by all the untraditional pumpkin decorating DIYs I've been seeing lately. Especially the no-carve ones! Those are the best in my book. No (pumpkin) guts but all the glory. 

Here are some of my favorite "think outside the Jack-o-Lantern" ideas:

Festive Message Painted Chalkboard Pumpkin by Long & Found, via Glitter Guide

Floral Fall Planter by Oh Joy! (follow link for video)

Metallic Studded Pumpkins by Lily Shop, via Wedding Chicks

Painted Ombre Pumpkins: Pink to Purple by Cosmopolitan // Pink & Orange by Funkytime, via Glitter Guide

Spray Paint & Washi Tape Pumpkins by Lil' Luna, via Wedding Chicks

Pumpkin Bud Vases by Green Wedding Shoes, via Wedding Chicks

Would you create any of these untraditionally decorated pumpkins? The thumb tack and washi tape versions are so quick and easy, they're hard to resist! Plus, they'd likely last until Thanksgiving. Maybe transforming a gourd or two will help get me in the Halloween spirit. If nothing else, it would sure pretty up our doorstep.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wedding Wednesdays : The Details : Dessert Bar

Since I recently got hitched, and have all the photos from the big day, I launched a weekly series sharing my favorite images and memories, and a few tips and resources along the way. If you're planning a wedding, make sure to check out "The Credits" at the end. Enjoy!

Love is sweet, I'm sure you've heard, so a wedding wouldn't be complete without a bit (or a lot) of sugar.

I love the dessert bar trend and while my hubby and I knew we wanted a cake to cut, we also wanted to go beyond the traditional. I'm a fan of having a little bit of everythinga nibble of this, a nibble of thatopposed to a big piece of one thing. Not to mention a table covered in varying, bite-sized desserts is just plain pretty.

There was something for everyone on our dessert bar, which was filled with a mix of bakery-made and homemade goodies, for a personal touch.

We got our passionfruit chiffon cake from Twiggs Bakery, which has a storefront in the University Heights/ North Park neighborhood of San Diego. The sweet-and-tart tropical-flavored custard reminded us of our Maui vacation, where GT proposed. We tasted at Twiggs first, and while we tried out a couple more wedding cake bakers before making our final decision, Twiggs was impossible to beat. We were able to try all their cakes and frostings and the flavors were wonderful. But what really sold us was the affordability factor. Their fair price points (coupled with a military discount) enabled us to upgrade to a three-tiered cake (initially we were going two-tiered) and get a groom's cake. Being the huge football fan he is, GT's cake featured a Chargers theme. We went out-of-the-box with the flavor: Mexican chocolate, a chocolate cinnamon cake spiced with cayenne and black pepper and frosted with a cinnamon buttercream.

Friends and family contributed the mini desserts. Since I love fruity desserts and GT is obsessed with Oreos, my maid of honorwho is a master baker, in my humble opinionmade lemon bars and cookies 'n cream truffles. (She also made lemon-lavender shortbread cookies that were placed at our infused-water station, for guests to enjoy before the ceremony.) My mother-in-law made her famous Mexican wedding cookies, which I thought was a nice family touch, especially since GT's paternal grandmother was born and raised in Mexico.

And since I love macarons (who doesn't?), but they can be tricky to make if you've never made them before, we ordered six-dozen from bouchée, a gourmet organic confectionery maker, also based in San Diego. I picked flavors that complemented our color scheme: Pistachio, Rose, French Lavender and Nocciola (hazelnut). Those 72 cookies went fastI think my hubs and I only had one or two each! In fact, all of our mini treats were gobbled up so quickly that we didn't even use the cute, hand-stamped to-go bags we made for our guests. But we did have lots of leftover cake. (Which we shared with friends and family for weeks after the wedding. And it was still good! That's sayin' somethin'.)

This is likely the final big recap post of our wedding day, but fear not, I will keep up with the Wedding Wednesdays series! There is still more to share (Etsy finds, albums, videography, pre-wedding ideas, DIYs, etc.). Plus, my bestie is getting married soon. (Not to mention several other friends! It's that time of life.) So please keep tuning in.

Also, if you missed any previous Wedding Wednesdays, you can catch up here:

Getting Ready: The Bride & The Groom


SWEETS: Wedding Cake and Groom's Cake from Twiggs Bakery | Macarons from bouchée | Lemon Bars, Oreo Truffles and Mexican Wedding Cookies homemade

DETAILS: Custom Pale Gray Love Bird Cake Topper from Dances with Clay | Wood slices from Michaels | Colored glass cake stands and wood bark pedestal stands from World Market | Green ruffle plates from Anthropologie (discontinued, similar here) | Love is Sweet chalkboard-style sign from Hallmark | Blank place cards and decorative tape (for dessert signs) from Paper Source | Mini succulents (potted by bride and groom) from Succulents Galore

FLORALS: Modern Bouquet
PHOTOGRAPHY: heidi-o-photo
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