Our Girl Turned ONE!

It’s hard to believe our sweet girl turned ONE in December!

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We love a good party in this house, so we went a bit wild for her 1st birthday party. I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means a crafty or artsy, so I was scouring the internet months before for help with invitations and decor ideas. We knew we wanted it to be rainbow-themed because one of her favorite books is about the colors of the rainbow, but I needed some creative help. Richard, on the other hand, has this creative side that most people don’t see, so he had some great ideas as well. With the internet and my husband as guides, I knew the party would be excellent and it did turn out so well.

The morning of was a bit of a disaster (that I really want to describe with some not-so-nice words!) because we had put up a marquee (basically a big tent) with heaters in it in the back garden earlier in the week to allow people to mingle outside as well as inside. Richard and his dad even lined the inside of the marquee with colored Christmas lights and it looked wonderful and went perfectly with the party theme. Well, the night before the party, a terrible windstorm blew in and it was actually lifting the marquee up in the air! In the rain and vicious wind, Richard, my dad, and I were outside taking the sides down from the marquee. We can look back now and laugh, but at the time, it was quite frightening to think this tent could just fly away at any moment! Richard had big plans for a back wall full of rainbow balloons, so he was gutted when it wouldn’t work out. Truthfully, so was I, as it would have looked great.

Originally, I had wanted to order a cake, but we decided to take on the task with me baking and Richard decorating. I’m so glad that Richard convinced me that we should do this. We had so many compliments on both how they tasted and how they were decorated. A few people even asked where we had bought the cakes! Score one for Team Becky & Richard!

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We had hot snack foods for the adults and kids, but the shining stars of the snacks were the rainbow fruit and veggie platters. We were really proud of these. (It’s funny the things that make you happy, isn’t it?!) I love Jelly Belly jelly beans, so we bought some in each color of the rainbow to add to the food table.

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Our little lady played with her friends and had lots of attention showered on her. We could tell she was getting tired (she had refused to nap that morning), so we lit the candle on her cake and sang happy birthday to her. She looked around at all of the people and had a little smirk on her face. It seemed it was kind of clicking that this was all for her. After the singing she went straight for a nap in the middle of her party! Haha…the life of a toddler!

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Because we had two cakes, we cut one after she went for a nap and used the other for a little cake ‘smash’ later on in the day. We did that with just the grandparents there, which was really nice for them to see her for a bit without so many other people around. However, we failed to consider that the cake was iced with fondant making it near impossible for her to do any smashing! Instead, Richard had to cut some of it and she went for it. It’s fair to say this girl loves her sweets!

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It’s hard to believe that our gorgeous and clever daughter is already ONE! (Honestly, I feel like I can definitely be inducted into the ‘parent club’ now because I have actually heard myself say, “I can’t believe how fast she is growing up!”) She keeps us on our toes and always laughing. She adds joy to every day, and I love that I get to spend my days with her. We love to watch her explore and pick up on how things work. She chatters non-stop and is saying “hi” and “Daddy” and a million other words that we don’t quite understand yet. She loves to eat and especially loves it when Daddy shares bites of his breakfast (either cereal, bagels, or crumpets) with her. She is becoming strong-willed and won’t hesitate to let us know when she isn’t happy. (The first tantrum, which stemmed from me not peeling her satsuma fast enough, was definitely a bit of a shock. Wow!) We’re so proud to be her parents and love when she gives us kisses and cuddles.

It was really nice to have so many of our friends and family there to celebrate our little girl turning 1, so a big thank you to all of them for coming! I think we were surprised at how many people we could fit into our house and it was definitely cozy, so maybe we should also thank them for being so accommodating and not flinching when not everyone had a place to sit!

I’m so happy we threw a party to celebrate her birthday (because let’s be honest…it’s really for the parents anyway). It was the perfect way to wrap up her first year of life that has been such a fun and wild ride for all of us!

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A Night in with Friends

After a wonderful but busy Christmas season, we’ve now entered into ‘stay in and save’ mode, as have a lot of our friends. Last Saturday, we were invited for a relaxing get together at the home of two of our great friends, James and Amber. We chilled out and chatted and even got a tour of the beautiful home they are building just a short walk from their current place. A nice thing about going to the home of good friends is that they were completely fine with us bringing our girl and putting her to sleep at their house just as we were sitting down to a delicious homemade curry.

One of the funniest parts of the night was Richard’s amazement at watching his lifelong friend cooking a curry. He just could not get over seeing James cook this meal for us! He was even more blown away once he tasted the samosas, curry, and naan – all homemade! Richard kept telling him he must open his own restaurant. I agree that it was absolutely delicious and the right amount of spice for my liking.

The next day, I was thinking about what a fabulous night we had talking and laughing with these two. This will sound extremely cheesy, but that night was like you see in the movies where friends are smiling and laughing and full of joy for being able to spend time together. The conversation flowed as we reminisced about past memories and planned for future ones. We left with full hearts and feeling energized from spending quality time with such wonderful friends.

Thank you so much, James and Amber, for being such amazing friends that we’re so glad to have in our lives.

xx

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Our First Real Visitor from the U.S.

Do you have those friends that you might not see or speak to for months at a time, but you know that they are always there and they know the same about you? The friends that when you do see each other again it’s like no time has passed at all? I feel really lucky that I have a number of friends like this in my life, and at the beginning of May, one of those friends, Jeff, came to visit us! Jeff and I met when we worked at the same study abroad organization as recent college grads. I’m sure he (and the rest of those work friends) would agree that was a funny time because we were still young and figuring out where we wanted to go with our lives, but we all had a great time together – both inside and outside of work.

Jeff was one of the first to leave our office to move on to bigger and better things, like grad school in London! I’ve been pestering him since I moved to England about when his next visit back to the UK would be as he still has friends in the city and has a strong love for this country. Finally, the time had come for him to dish out the cash for a ticket across the pond, and he took the train up from London to spend a few days with us during his trip.

On Sunday, we picked him up from the station then headed to Hebden Bridge and showed him around the funky little village before stopping in for a drink to avoid some of the misty rain that had started. After a quick stop at our house to show him his room for the next three nights, we went to one of our favorite local pubs for a meal. I think Jeff would agree that the fish and chips up north really have something on the fish and chips of other parts of England – not that I am partial or anything!

The next day, we decided to take the train to York as he had never been before. Thankfully, we had pretty good weather to walk around and enjoy the city. First, we checked out York Minster. I had only admired it from the outside, so we paid the admission fee (your ticket is then good for a year) and spent awhile exploring the Minster and the various rooms inside it. There are many areas to explore and discover once inside that make the building so intriguing. It is extremely impressive, and I would definitely recommend paying the admission fee because there is so much more to it than the main cathedral section.

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Next up, we wandered around in search of some lunch, and we took care of making sure Jeff visited one of the restaurants he wanted to be sure he hit at while in the UK, Wagamama. Then, it was down to The Shambles. The Shambles is definitely one of the most unique streets that I have seen here in the UK and is worth a nosey. (Unfortunately, and I don’t claim to be a good photographer at all, my photos of The Shambles came out extremely poor.) We then walked over to the York Museum Gardens. The sun had come out by this point, so there were a lot of people milling around the gardens and lounging on the grass. The gardens are home to the ruins from St Mary’s Abbey, the Abbey Walls and Gateway, St Leonard’s Hospital, and the Roman Fortress as well the Hospitium (They book weddings!). It’s a beautiful area to walk through and snap some photos.

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Earlier in the day, Jeff had spotted the old walls that circle the city, so after our stroll through the gardens, we decided to explore the walls a bit. We got on near the train station and followed them the entire way to Clifford’s Tower. We walked to the top of the hill that is home to the tower, but decided against paying the admission fee to visit it. We took a few photos then headed back to the train station to return home.

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On the way, there was one spot with a great view of the York Minster from a distance, so Jeff asked another tourist to take our photo. That resulted in the most hilarious photo, as seen below. The best part of this is the man then asked Jeff to take a photo for him and he wasn’t happy with the first one, so he had Jeff take a second one yet he had no issue that there was a giant bus directly behind us in the photo he snapped! Ha!

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I just noticed the blur of his finger in the bottom left corner, too! Such a laughable photo!

It was a fab day with a fab friend! Thanks for visiting us, Jeff! I just wish you could have seen the new house, but we’ll save that for next time!

So much to share!

I’ve wanted to write for awhile now, but a multitude of things have kept me away. And of course, today, when I woke up and started to tackle my to-do list which included me publishing this post, I remembered the power had been shut off for some works happening right up the road from us, so the post would have to wait due to lack of electricity leading to lack of wifi!

During the next week(s), I plan to recap a lot of what has been happening in the last few months. This particular post won’t be anything spectacular (well, maybe it will be!), but I knew that if I just wrote one post then I would want to keep writing more posts. You need to start somewhere to get to where you want to be, so this little post is it for me!

(I really cannot believe I have not written since March. Yikes. Not happy with myself about that, but such is life sometimes!)

Our days have been filled with visits from friends and family, a trip to Wales, a trip to Edinburgh, purchasing an incredible new house and moving into that house, and putting our old house for rent and saying a tearful goodbye to the place where we started our life in England together. Needless to say, it has been an exciting and emotional time for us!

There is one thing that I haven’t mentioned, and to us, that thing is the most important of all. We’re still in disbelief some days and completely over-the-moon excited to have found out right before Easter that our family of two will become three in late November! We’re going to have a little British-American baby!

So yes, there is a lot for me to cover and I’m looking forward to sharing it all!

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You’ve heard me moan about the horrendous weather here and are probably wondering if we are buried under this much snow in mid-June. Thankfully, we aren’t and we’re actually experiencing a stretch of beautiful weather! The relevance of this photo is that I took it on a walk the day we found out we were going to become parents. Every time I think about that day, I remember our excitement and I remember the snowstorm. 

P.S. Due to the power outage, our security alarm has gone off twice today leaving me frantic and unable to shut it off. No matter how many times I punch in the code, the alarm will not stop screeching! I ran out of the house earlier to apologize to the neighbors on either side of us, and thankfully we’ve lucked out in the neighbor department because they were so understanding and one of them was actually outside checking to make sure everything was okay. It’s now off, but I’m afraid to move around the house for fear the motion sensors will trigger the alarm again! (I just spoke to Richard again and he has assured me this will not happen. Phew.) The irony of the situation is Richard works in the security systems industry and he is in London until the evening, so he’s had to helplessly field both of my panicked calls – one of which was me sobbing! Oh, the pregnancy hormones are out in force. Ha.

 

{Our Wedding} Getting Ready

The first two posts about our wedding can be found here and here, if you’re interested!

We woke up to sun – and a good bit of wind – on the 29th. I darted off to meet my parents and three of my bridesmaids for breakfast whilst the Brit stayed in our room putting the finishing touches on his speech. After breakfast, we all headed to the pool for a couple of hours. Honestly, the fact that we could do that just made the day even better. We all had time to relax, share some laughs, and sip on mimosas (aka Buck’s fizz to the Brits). It. Was. Perfect.

Around 11 AM, we met with Silvia to check the weather reports and to determine whether we would continue on with the plan of having the ceremony and the reception outside on the beach. The reports looked fine and clear of rain, but there was no sign of the wind calming down. Silvia gave us an hour to determine what our plan would be, so back to the pool it was for more relaxing before we finally just said we were going for it and stuck with the beach ceremony and reception because it is what we had imagined of our wedding from day one.

Soon, it was time for me to head to our room to begin getting beautified. I feel very fortunate that my good friend, who was also my hair stylist when I lived in Washington, made the journey to celebrate our wedding with us not only because she was there to celebrate with us, but she so generously offered to do my hair and my make-up on the wedding day. This was a major added bonus that I wasn’t expecting because I wanted her to enjoy her vacation, so I was overjoyed when she brought it up with me. Having her help with my hair and make-up was incredible because she knows me, she knows my hair, and she knows what I like. She also did an incredible job with my mom’s hair and make-up. Mom and I were happy ladies!

Me&TawnyHugs with my incredible friend who worked her magic on hair and make-up. And, special thanks to my sweet sister-in-law, who surprised me with the cute robe to wear whilst getting ready!

All of the bridesmaids were in the suite as well getting ready and chatting away. It was so fun for my mom and I to be there being made pretty by one good friend whilst my bridesmaids flitted around the room laughing and chatting. I loved every minute of that because I was really surrounded by some of the most amazing women I know.

Soon, the photographer arrived and he was snapping away at us. The next knock on the door was from the best man – still in his swim shorts – with Richard’s gift for me. We had made the decision that he would buy me my jewelry for the wedding and I would buy him his cufflinks.

BmirrorYou can catch a little glimpse of my new favorite earrings!

Because he had never seen my dress, I sent him some ideas of what styles of jewelry would look good with my dress. Well, he went his own route, as he normally does (I truly love this about him!), and he completely blew me away with what he chose. I had images of chandelier-style earrings and a matching cuff, instead he went with beautiful bubble-style studs and a matching bracelet. I never in a million years would have chosen those two pieces on my own, but he knows me better than I know myself sometimes and they were perfect. (I wear the earrings nearly every day!) Funnily enough, he had purchased the jewelry prior to us choosing my wedding band and they all matched! We are terrible at keeping secrets from each other, so I am in awe of the fact that he never let it slip that the three pieces look like they were purchased as a set.

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For his cufflinks, I found a vendor on notonthehighstreet.com who stamps cufflinks with the longitude and latitude of a location, so I had them stamped with the coordinates for Punta Cana. I also found a vendor on Etsy who does something similar with collar stays for shirts. I had one of the stays stamped with the coordinates of another very meaningful location to us and the other stamped with a simple two-line message. I’m so glad we chose to do our gifts this way because it meant we both contributed in an extra special way to the other’s wedding day attire.

Those few hours before the ceremony went by in the blink of an eye, and Silvia was soon in the room telling us we didn’t have much time to go. Truthfully, I had no idea what time it was at any point during the week and the same held true on the wedding day. It was awesome not to care one bit about timing (a first for me!) and this was made better when Silvia informed us that the bride being 10 to 15 minutes late to the wedding is good luck! You can’t not love that!

By this time, my gorgeous bridesmaids were all ready whilst I was still in my robe, so they quickly helped me dress. I did follow the tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” with the added UK bit of “and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” The two most touching were my something old/blue and the silver sixpence. My mom had found her garter from her wedding to my dad in 1980 and had gifted it to me. I was unbelievably touched by this gift from my mom. The marriage the two of them have is one Richard and I look to as inspiration in how we want to live our life as a married couple, so it was with extreme honor I wore her garter on our wedding day. What’s even more amazing is she has trusted me with it, and hopefully, one day, if we are blessed with one, I can pass it on to my daughter. It was a really amazing moment to have my mom put that garter on me.

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The other was the silver sixpence which was gifted to me by Richard’s mum. It was another incredible surprise when she walked into our suite on the wedding day and handed me this tiny box. I was worried I would lose it in the sand if it were in my shoe, so you can see the concentration in the photo below as my friend uses body tape to stick it to my side. It was really amazing to be able to take part in a tradition that reflected Richard’s heritage as well.

BMshelpingI wish I could say this photo was staged, but I was in need of major help in getting ready. It’s not easy to fasten your shoes in a form-fitting dress!

M&DbeforeweddingMy incredible parents!

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Next thing we knew, after a few quick snaps by the photographer, we were in the elevator heading to the ceremony. On our way to the ceremony location, we had to walk by one of the resort pools and the people there were clapping and offering their congratulations. The bartenders at the pool bar were crying, which in turn had my mom crying. My bridesmaids were all smiles, and my best friend from when we were in middle school was twirling around in her dress and I was overcome with happiness! I wasn’t nervous. I was SO happy and I could NOT stop smiling! I had my best girls in front of me, my parents on either side of me, and a handsome groom waiting for me by the ocean. This was the wedding day Richard and I had planned for and dreamt of. We were about to become husband and wife with the most amazing group of people as our witnesses.

All photos were taken by Miljan Vasovic from HDC Photo.

{Our Wedding} The Rehearsal ‘Dinner’

Want to read the first part of the {Our Wedding} series? Find it here.

I’ve mentioned before that the rehearsal dinner is not a wedding tradition that is common in the UK, but we still wanted to honor the tradition in our own way. Also, because we knew we wanted to invite all of the wedding guests (instead of limiting the invite list to immediate family and those in the wedding party as is common with most rehearsal dinners), we chose to host a cocktail reception. With the resort being all-inclusive, we felt that everyone would be fine having dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants and then we would all meet up later on Friday evening.

We did have a very short wedding rehearsal earlier in the day dressed in our best swimming attire. This gave Silvia, our wedding coordinator, a chance to let us all know what would happen for the ceremony. It was also a good opportunity for our friend who was marrying us to give us a brief outline of his ceremony and to let those doing readings know exactly when they would need to come to the front of the ceremony space. (I tried to think of a better word for this, but couldn’t as we got married on a random spot on the beach.) It was absolutely hilarious because as we were gathered in a circle listening to Silvia an older gentleman in bright multi-colored Speedos joined in to listen. A friend of mine did catch this in a photo and posted it to Instagram with the caption of ‘Honorary groomsman,’ but I feel a little weird putting it on the blog even though I’m really tempted because I want you all to see how enthralled he was in what she was saying despite him having nothing to do with our wedding!

We approached our wedding coordinator, Silvia, with this idea of a cocktail and dessert reception, and she thought it was a great idea, but had to check with their chef about the dessert portion. She also knew immediately of the perfect location at the resort for the reception, which she showed us during our visit in November. That space is a terrace off the buffet restaurant that she planned to decorate with tiki torches amidst the tropical surroundings of the resort. We could truly picture it and it was exactly what we wanted. So, that was the plan!

carnivalterraceCarnival Terrace during the day

Then, Christmas Day rolled around and the Brit, myself, and our friend went to dinner at the Mexican restaurant at the resort — how’s that for mixing it up for your Christmas dinner?! Our waiter was absolutely fabulous, so fun, and kept calling us his ‘table of beautiful people!’ (I’m sure he has a new table of beautiful people every week, but we were loving it!) We enjoyed our whole meal immensely and he made it so much better. When Friday rolled around, he was the bartender at the swim-up bar and asked us where we were eating that night. We told him we had no plans yet, so when he said he would be serving at the Mexican restaurant, we thought, ‘Why not?!’ So, he was kind enough to reserve two tables for 10 in the back of the restaurant for us. There were 24 of us that all went to dinner together, so in the end, we did have a a slightly more traditional yet informal rehearsal dinner and it turned out to be great! Because there were so many of us at dinner, our meal took a little longer than expected so we were 20 minutes late to the cocktail and dessert reception, but it didn’t matter as everyone was on island time and not too concerned.

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The Brit and I finished our meals and raced over to the terrace for the reception. As we were approaching the terrace, the doors that lead out to it were opened for us and we were both greeted with a melon cocktail, which was the ‘welcome drink’ they created for us that night. The terrace looked absolutely perfect with the tiki torches lit and the moon shining down. Scattered around the terrace were high tables lit by candles for people to gather around. There was a bar at one end of the space and a table full of dessert bites at the other side. (I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was too busy enjoying myself!) A server passed the desserts around while people were arriving. There was a great mix of desserts ranging from cheesecakes to chocolate tarts, and the whole gathering was exactly what we had imagined!

BMrehdinMe with my beautiful bridesmaids.

Everyone mingled and those who hadn’t met each other yet were introduced. It was absolutely amazing to see all of these people we love – most of whom had never met before – getting along so well. I walked up to a table full of my closest girl friends just chatting away like they had always known each other. It made my heart burst and my smile couldn’t have been bigger. I think one of the incredible things about a destination wedding is that because everyone is there longer than just an afternoon and evening – as is the case with a more traditional wedding – then people really have an opportunity to get to know one another. It’s a pretty fun time, and I say that having been a guest and the bride at a destination wedding.

Months before, I had decided to say a few words that night because we planned to keep the speeches at the wedding reception in line with the English tradition, which include speeches from the father of the bride, the groom, and the best man (in that order). About halfway through the Friday evening event with time moving very quickly as we were having such a good time, the Brit pulled me aside and suggested I give my little speech. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t just fumble through it with tears streaming down my face, so I put thought and planning into what I was going to say. Not that I really had to be worried about being embarrassed in front of this crowd, but I wanted to be composed.

We managed to pull everyone away from the amazing time they were having with some shouts and maybe even a whistle or two, and I started off by thanking everyone for joining us in this celebration and expressing how touched we were that so many of our nearest and dearest made the journey to be there with us. I maybe then might have poked a little fun at my handsome groom before I went on to thank my incredible bridesmaids, the Brit’s parents, my parents, and finally, the Brit. I think it went down well, and I even had my dad and the Brit tell me I had stolen pieces of their speeches! The bonus of going first!

Soon after, we were kicked off the terrace and continued the celebrations at the lobby bar before a large group of us made our way to the night club. It was a blast, and I think our dance party gave us all a little insight into what a great time we would have as a group the next night! The photos, which include one of my brother and the Brit embraced in a hug on the floor and another of the Brit on our good friend’s shoulders, really paint a picture of the fabulous time we had. I can’t remember what time it was, but the Brit and I (okay, it was mostly me) decided it was time for us to go to sleep. We did have a big day ahead of us in a few short hours!

brosisrehdinUs with my brother and sister-in-law

And, in case you are wondering, we had planned to stay in separate rooms the night before the wedding and try to stick with the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony, but we soon realized we would definitely not be able to avoid each other during the day of the wedding, so we just stayed together and it actually kept the whole thing so much more relaxed.

Next up, the WEDDING DAY!!

{Our Wedding} The Week Before

I’m still laughing at myself for hitting ‘Publish’ instead of ‘Save Draft’ on this post the other day — oops!!

The Brit and I knew from the start that we wanted to have a destination wedding. We wanted to find a balance and a sort of ‘neutral territory’ between our two countries, and although the Caribbean is closer to the US, we knew we wanted a warm destination so it seemed like the best choice.

After two weeks of debate and scouring the internet for resorts and locations that suited our styles, we finally decided on a resort in the Dominican Republic called Now Larimar. One thing with destination weddings is you aren’t always so lucky to visit your resort prior to making a decision, so we chose Now Larimar based on the website, the advice of a travel agent we were using in the States, and online reviews. (Although I later came to realize that TripAdvisor can sometimes be your worst enemy having worked myself into a tizzy a few times about things I read, so I had to stop myself from reading reviews.) We were able to visit the resort a month before the wedding because we were in the DR for my cousin’s wedding, so that made the last month incredibly easy as we knew exactly what details needed our attention and what decor we still had to purchase.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was on the second floor on the far left. I want to go back.

Because this trip was not just any old holiday but our wedding, we splurged on the Preferred Club Ocean Front Master Suite. It was a great decision! We had plenty of room for all of the wedding things we brought with us with a living/dining room, two bathrooms (one of which was the size of the entire downstairs of our house and I am not exaggerating), a wonderful bedroom, and a stunning balcony boasting a hot tub and an outdoor shower that allowed us to wake up to this view every morning….

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The Brit and I left for Punta Cana on Christmas Eve, so we actually spent Christmas Day there. This was the first time both of us were somewhere warm for Christmas, which was weird but incredible all at the same time. (I mean, we saw Santa arrive on the beach in a helicopter!) We were both so excited to be in the sun again and definitely made the most out of our time by the pool. A friend of mine was also there with us beginning on Christmas Eve, so the three of us amused ourselves by making trips to the swim-up bar, soaking up the sun, taking walks on the beach, and tearing up the floor at the disco at night! It was really great!

crabcococollageWe also watched a crab race and drank from coconuts. All funny touristy things that we had a good laugh about!

The Brit and I did have some wedding errands to complete (for example, assembling welcome bags for our guests and our centerpieces) and we had some loose ends to tie up with our wedding coordinator, so we took care of those things as well. One advantage of having the wedding at an all-inclusive resort is that most have their own wedding department, which means they take care of everything from the flowers to the food to the entertainment for your wedding day. We were assigned our own wedding coordinator when we first put our deposit down in early 2012 and she was our contact at the resort throughout the whole planning process. I feel we really lucked out with our coordinator, Silvia, as she was extremely kind with some of our crazy requests and had some great ideas that she thought would suit our tastes.

DSC03681The welcome bags and booklets we made for our guests. The booklets were a BIG surprise to our guests. I’m so glad the Brit came up with this idea because our hard work on them paid off with everyone loving them!

The whirlwind began on the evening of December 26th when more guests began to arrive. It was so exciting and fun to see everyone in a warm and relaxed environment! Our friends and family were there to celebrate with us and they all came with the best attitude of just wanting to have fun! It was really amazing!

ThursdinnergroupOur Thursday night dinner crew — we have some AMAZING friends!

It was also on this day when a storm decided to sweep through the midwest and the northeast of the US, which is of course where nearly all of our US guests live. It’s so funny looking back on it now because I had some tears the morning of the 27th when my parents’ flight was cancelled, but then I just moved on with it because they were rescheduled on a flight for Friday (which ended up being cancelled too and the woman at United got them re-booked with US Airways when my mom explained her daughter was getting married the next day — thank you, United woman!!). Soon after, we found out my aunt and uncle’s flight as well as the flight of one of my bridesmaids and her fiancé were also cancelled, and it didn’t appear they would make it at all. Ha! Still, I was oddly calm. I think I knew it would all work out. And, it did because they all ended up arriving on Friday!

The best part of this is we had no idea my bridesmaid was able to reschedule her flight, so we just happened into the lobby and who comes running at me?! Jessi! I would have loved for someone to have captured a photo of that moment because I didn’t know what to do, and my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All I could say over and over again was, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.” I then remembered I had cancelled their dinners and her bouquet, so the Brit took over and ran to the wedding coordinator’s office and added them back on — no problem at all! That excitement was soon followed by the arrival of my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my aunt and uncle.

Everyone had made it and it was time for the fun to continue with our own take on the rehearsal dinner!

To be continued….

Still feeling the love.

Remember in this post when I said how loved I felt on my hen party?

As if it couldn’t get any better, the Brit and I were showered again with love on Saturday the 19th of January by about 35 of our friends and family here in England. Two of our most special friends and their kids were sadly unable to come to the wedding, and as their gift to us, they asked if they could throw us a party when we returned. We were extremely touched by this gesture, and they set off planning this party for us. All that we were told was the date and that we would be picked up at 7:30. The rest was a surprise!

Remember my love-hate relationship with surprises I mentioned with regards to the hen party? The Brit and I together to talk about and wonder is about 100 times worse than me on my own! Oh, it was a fun three weeks in our house. Regardless of how much we had attempted to find out the details prior to the party, we were very much looking forward to seeing what was to come on Saturday.

We dressed in our ‘rehearsal dinner outfits,’ which were completely inappropriate for the time of year as we had just had a snow storm. (As the Brit says, “Everyone should have a rehearsal dinner outfit!” Ha!) To make it even better, I wore my wellies to the party as I had visions of myself wiping out in my heels before we arrived. We were quite the sight!

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Us with our amazing friends who planned the party for us!

We were picked up and whisked away to the unknown (okay, at this point it was known because we are super sleuths!) location, and we were both a little nervous just because of the unexpected. I walked into the room first, and it is such an odd sensation having a party thrown for you because you just do not know where to look. I realize that sounds completely daft, but when all of these people are there to see you and to celebrate with you, then you want them to all feel equally special to you.

So, in we walk to Club Tropicana by Wham! – me in my wellies and the Brit in what he has come to call his ‘game show host jacket’ – and we were truthfully surprised by how many people were there! Their kids, who are just great*, were waiting for us at the door with tropical cocktails, and you could tell how excited they were for us to be there and to see everything they had done. It was so sweet.

They decked the venue out with beach-themed decor, including our actual centerpieces and a sign we had made from the wedding day. Our professional photographs were streaming on the television. The amount of effort and love that went into the whole evening was so touching. We were overwhelmed! Everyone was so excited for us and really wanted to hear about the wedding day! It was really nice.

After lots of chatting, our friends asked the Brit if he wanted to say a few words, and so he said some very nice things and gave a big thank you to our hosts for the lovely night. Then, as if we weren’t surprised enough, they said they had some people across the pond who wanted to wish us well. (I tear up even thinking about it now.) What a shock! They had gathered video messages from my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and three of my bridesmaids. It was so thoughtful. As an expat, there are a lot of things you want to share with your family and friends back home, but it just isn’t possible. It’s something you have to come to terms with when you live abroad and sometimes it is easier than others. I would have given anything for all of them to be with us on that night, so having them be part of it through their videos was extra special.

A friend of ours DJ-ed throughout the night, and we boogied the night away. There was a brief intermission in which we lit off sky lanterns, which we had bought to set off on the beach on our wedding day in the DR. However, it was fairly windy on our wedding day, so to avoid catching the palapa huts on fire that idea had to be nixed. This meant 20 lanterns came back to the UK with us. It was such a cool thing to do and the night of the 19th was very still, so the lanterns went up perfectly. (I wish I had some good photos of this, but the combination of alcohol and darkness hindered my photography skills.)

After the lantern lighting, it was back to the dance floor until last call when 8 of us decided we still weren’t done partying and we sauntered (the wellies came back on!) to the nearest dive club/pub. True testament to the divey-ness of this place…they didn’t serve wine, so some of our friends were drinking Smirnoff Ice. (I, by this time, was only on water.) It was an incredible night that both of us felt the effects of the next morning!

I don’t think I can say it enough that our friends and family (on both sides of the Atlantic!) are truly special people. I feel especially grateful to have been welcomed so quickly and lovingly into the Brit’s group of friends. It really does feel like I’ve been here forever when it comes to hanging out with all of them. We can’t thank our hosts and the people who attended enough for helping us celebrate our wedding one last time!

*The first time we saw them after the wedding, their daughter asked me if I was part of their family now…and then I melted into a puddle. Okay, really, I gave her a big hug and a kiss. But seriously, I wanted to cry big fat tears of happy — in their eyes, we are no longer Uncle Richard and Becky, but Uncle Richard and Auntie Becky. 

{Flashback} My UK Hen Party

Let me just start by saying that I am incredibly lucky to have made friends with some amazing ladies after a mere 16 months in England. And, those lovely ladies took it upon themselves to make sure I left single-dom with a proper send-off! The funny thing is that in the short time I have known these ladies they have really gotten to know me so well. So well, in fact, that I don’t think I could have planned myself a better hen party! It was a fabulous weekend in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. (You might remember me writing about our other adventures in Newcastle when the Brit ran the Great North Run.) And, the fact that we were going to Newcastle was all I knew about the weekend until we arrived at the hotel! I have a love-hate relationship with surprises – I love them when I know nothing about them, but when I know something is happening in which I am being purposely kept out of the loop, then I am constantly dying to know what is going on. These ladies knew this about me, so I think they had fun torturing me. Also, I like to plan well in advance what I am wearing for big occasions, and I really stressed way too much about the packing portion until I was given extremely vague information a few days before our departure.

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The logo for the hen party!

So, I was picked up on a Saturday morning in October by my friends, Michelle and Jane, who were oh-so-secretive about putting the hotel address into the GPS while we laughed about how hilarious the whole thing was. We had a lovely drive up north chatting away, but once we got closer to Newcastle, I started to get a little more nervous about the unexpected. We walked into the Hotel Indigo, were greeted by the rest of the ladies (there were 8 of us in total), and off we went to explore/shop/lunch until a little later in the afternoon when our first activity was planned.

[If you are ever in Newcastle, I highly recommend the Hotel Indigo. Everything about it was spot on. It’s a fairly new hotel and very contemporary in the decor. It’s centrally located, which made it easy to walk to the shopping, a variety of restaurants, and the bars and clubs. The rooms were amazing. The beds were incredibly comfy. The staff at the hotel was so friendly and accommodating to our giggling group. The breakfast was delicious. I really cannot say enough good things about this hotel.]

Our first activity of the weekend was a cocktail-making class with one of the lead bartenders at the hotel. But, before that could get under way, I was presented with a Statue of Liberty crown with a veil attached as well as a sash that read ‘Miss America’s Hen Party’! It was so cute, and I’m not big on getting dressed up for these sorts of things. Each of us were given a goodie bag that included a mini cocktail-making kit, a booklet with cocktail menus, a booklet of Geordie English (Geordies are the people of Newcastle), plus the MOST amazing coasters made by my friend’s sister. (I should also note we commissioned her to do our wedding favors, which I can’t wait to share!) Each of our heads were super-imposed onto a pin-up girl with a cocktail name beside it. For example, I was Miss Mojito and you can seen mine in the center if the picture below. The ladies on the hen do each got the one of themselves, but I got a full set and I still can’t believe how cute they are!

There are 9 because they were nice enough to do one of my mom who couldn't be there!

There are 9 because they were nice enough to do one of my mom who couldn’t be there!

The plan was for the bartender/mixologist to teach us to make three different cocktails, he’d then make one of those cocktails for each person, and we would be brought fancy canapes between each round of drinks. The first drink we were taught was the French martini (delicious!) and that was followed by the mojito, which is one of my favorites, so the mixologist had me up at the front with him and instructed me through the process. The third cocktail was some sort of cream-based drink and none of us were keen on the combination, so the mixologist was extremely accommodating and allowed us to each pick any drink we wanted off the cocktail list and he made us each our own. It was really a great afternoon (and I’m not just saying that because I drank 3 full cocktails in a short amount of time!)!

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While we were enjoying the cocktails, we played a game that had us all laughing in between cringes, and I was presented with an incredibly touching book with messages from my family and friends from the States who couldn’t be there. (Cue ugly tears.) Since then, the seven women on the hen party have added their own messages as well and I read them all the day after our wedding. It was a lovely gesture.

I also should mention that I had not yet been to my room, so when we finished our cocktails and headed upstairs to get ready for the evening, I had a little audience outside as I walked in and I couldn’t quite understand why until I opened the door to see the most incredible (and huge!) arrangements of flowers from the Brit! I guess they all knew they were there, so wanted to see my reaction! He’s a good one, I tell ya!

hen party flowers

Once we were all ready to take on the night, we headed to Tokyo bar for a pre-dinner drink and some more games. (I’m not overly keen on games where I am the center of attention, but these games were all perfect and did not include me making a fool of myself. The only thing that happened was I had to tell my most embarrassing moment and the Brit’s mum was present when the story came out the first time in which she thought it was a joke, so now she knows that it was true! Awesome.) Then, it was time for dinner at Babucho, which is described as ‘New York style Italian brasserie and bar’… I can’t remember the exact pasta dish I had, but I know it was good and filling. It was so sweet of them to arrange for us to eat at a restaurant that would help me feel like I was back in the States!

We were all full from dinner, but ready for some dancing so off we went to the clubs. One of my friends is the most efficient party planner and organizer in the land, so she had called ahead and gotten us on the list for three clubs. This had us all laughing and saying everyone needs an Amber in their lives because she just gets stuff done! Because we were still stuffed from our meals, we each maybe had one cocktail the rest of the night and instead took turns buying rounds of water and Diet Coke — it was hilarious! Most sober hen party ever! But wow, did we have fun! We danced the night away hopping from Florita’s, Madame Koo’s, and one other (that I can’t remember the name of!). We had a great time and finally landed back in the hotel around 3:30 AM. (We were all terrible about taking photos, but just know we all looked glam in our frocks, and I was happy to prance around in my sequin dress from French Connection!)

The next morning, we all gathered for breakfast and some of the ladies set off while four of us stuck around. I, again, had no idea what the plan was, but I soon found out we were off for a morning at the Savannah Spa. I had an amazing massage, which included being able to choose the scent of oil the masseuse used on me. It was absolutely heavenly. Plus, I was able to indulge myself in the Aveda peppermint tea that I loved so much when I used to go to an Aveda salon in Washington for my hair cuts…yum. We chilled in the relaxation room until we all finished our treatments. At which point, we headed back home sufficiently relaxed.

It truly was an incredible weekend with such amazing ladies! I’m so thankful to have stumbled into these friendships!

Starting 2013 off on the right foot!

I started this post on Thanksgiving Day, and I still want to share it because I think it is a good segue into writing about our wedding and all the festivities associated with it. But really, why didn’t I post it then? Because I convinced myself I was ‘too busy’ to write or to even hit ‘publish’. That’s a silly and stupid excuse because the truth is that I allowed an air of uncertainty to take over my excitement in writing this blog. I had moments when I felt I wasn’t good enough and that I have nothing worthwhile to write about…seriously lame. But, in actuality, I have so much to share about this time in my life and about how I am trying to make the most of the waiting game that is caused by the UKBA visa application process. I started this blog because I love to write and I need to keep that in mind, so I thank those of you who stuck around through my sabbatical because I can honestly say it feels good to be back.

I’m determined to start 2013 off with optimism! And, why shouldn’t I?! I did marry my best friend just over a week ago!

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Oh, hey, remember me? I’m not sure what caused my absence from the blog, especially after proclaiming I wanted to write every day for a month straight. Yea, that didn’t go so well. But truthfully, I haven’t even signed on and attempted to write a post. Rather, I chose to avoid my blog and I’m not sure why because, in all honesty, I really enjoy writing it and sharing my experiences with those of you willing to read about them.

The Brit and I have spent very little time at home during the past month. We’ve been home so little that we have already made a deal with each other that the month of January is meant to focus on us and making time for ourselves. Do not get me wrong because we love our crazy life and the fact that we have so much on our plates (both work and personal), but sometimes you just need a break and you need to spend more than one weekend a month in your own house. That being said, we have so much excitement ahead of us that I don’t want January to get here too quickly (let’s just say I’m SO glad January is here!), but at the right speed so we can really savour and enjoy what is to come for us in the next 5 or so weeks.

The biggest of these excitements is our wedding on the 29th of December! Umm…how did that sneak up on us?! We arrived back in England last Thursday from a week in the Dominican Republic celebrating my cousin’s destination wedding, and we finally made it back home on Friday as the Brit was working away and I went with him. That night, over takeaway from the most amazing little Thai restaurant in our village, we lit a fire under both of our bums and got to work on wedding planning. It hit us both that we have quite a bit left to do for the wedding and we were up until 1:30 AM that night focused on wedding details. (As a sidenote, I love planning this wedding with him! We make a great team, if I do say so myself!) Since then, it has been non-stop on the wedding organizational path with some stress thrown in, but mostly excitement! I am truly beyond ecstatic about marrying this guy, and it’s been so fun making it reflect our personalities and working to emphasize the importance of our family and friends who will be making the trip to be there with us. I can hardly wait!

And, jumping around here, as I think about the people who will be coming to our wedding and those close to us who can’t make the journey, I’m ever so thankful for having such amazing people in my life. Most of you likely know that yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is hard to be away from home during Thanksgiving, and I never realized that until living in a place that doesn’t celebrate this holiday. I sort of feel like I have taken advantage of spending Thanksgiving with my family in the past, and I think it will make our next Thanksgiving in the U.S. even more special. I believe I’ll cherish it more. And, I love that the Brit has embraced Thanksgiving and has enjoyed celebrating the holiday with my family in the US in 2010 and 2011. Despite how hectic our life has been, he humored me when I suggested making Thanksgiving dinner for his family on Saturday because I think he realized what a special holiday it actually is. I’m glad we can share it with his family and try to show them what the day is all about (aside from the delicious food, that is).

We really do have so much to be thankful for this year.