Pretty in Pink Bucket List

I’m going to ask you upfront to share this post far and wide so that we can reach a goal and help make some wishes come true. 

I was introduced to the Pretty in Pink Foundation by my husband’s sister. For the past 5 years, she has participated in their annual Fashion Walk Gala in Wilmington. She participates because she is a cancer SURVIVOR. The Pretty in Pink Foundation helped her with some medical bills as she went through her treatment, and within them she also found friends and a support group. We are proud to support this organization that helps women here in North Carolina with their medical bills, co-pays, and also holds their hand as they go through testing, diagnoses, and treatment.

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We attended the Fashion Walk Gala earlier this month and as always, I was touched by the stories shared. The strength of these women who are fighting battles that no one should have to is inspirational. One mother had our whole table on the verge of tears as she talked about never giving up because she has an 18 month old and she wants to be there for his whole life. An older lady laughed with her husband as she talked about all the medical woes they had faced – and vowed to keep moving forward, together.

14220_10101000932779793_2122672083804079527_nThis year’s fashion walk participants wrote down their top 3 things they want to do in the future and that’s where you come in. These women show us on their bucket lists that they have so much life left to live and so many things they want to do to have fun, see the world, spend precious moments with their families.

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I’ve compiled a list of at least one thing that these women wanted to do and an estimated cost of each. Through a Go Fund Me site that was set up, we can raise the money for these things and purchase them for these women. For the things that can’t necessarily be purchased, I am reaching out to others to help with connections and making some of these other wishes come true.

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I’ve set a goal of $20,000 to raise to grant these wishes. So please, share this post with your Facebook friends, share it on Twitter, email it to family and friends near and far and let’s help bring some happiness to these women as they travel down their unimaginable journeys.

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Here is the Go Fund Me page which outlines some of the bucket list items such as learning to speak French, horseback riding on a trail, riding in a hot air balloon, go kayaking, visit Bald Head Island, go see a broadway show, go to Santa Fe, see the Steelers in Pittsburgh, see Paul McCartney live, take the family to disney world. I’m positive that together we can make these wishes come true.

Sneaking away to St. Martin

During the week of Labor Day, we hopped on a plane to St. Martin for a relaxing getaway. The trip started off on a good note when we were bumped to first class on our US Airways flight and had the most wonderful flight attendant (Judy) waiting on us on our 3.5 hour flight to SXM.

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Since the planes land on the Dutch side of the island (St. Maarten), we got a tour of island in our taxi ride to our resort – The Grand Case Beach Club. It was nestled between picturesque mountains and turquoise water right there on the beach (or two beaches: Le Petit Plage and Grand Case Beach).

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We had a stunning view of Creole Rock, and even spent one afternoon snorkeling there with some amazing rainbow parrot fish, eels, and about a gazillion more caribbean fish species. It was some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done.

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Our resort offered kayaking, sailing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and snorkeling right off the beach, too. We spent an entire morning exploring the gorgeous water in front of the hotel and just for the record, I only fell off my board ONCE. (Fact: SUP requires some serious balance and core strength, and your feet will hurt afterwards from holding on).

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Each morning we went to the restaurant on site for our continental breakfast. My favorite was of course the chocolate croissant. I actually took my Shakeology with me on this trip so that I could remain somewhat healthy (and I embarked on my attempt to be vegetarian for a month on 9/1). Listening to the waves was so tranquil and such a relaxing way to start our mornings.

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We ventured into Grand Case (the best culinary experiences on the island) for dinner most nights. Our favorite spots were Le Cottage and La Villa, although we also had a lovely creole experience where the chef was also the owner and took plenty  of time to come out and just chat with us. The food was nothing short of spectacular on this trip.

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We ventured out to Orient Bay Beach one day, which is the famous nude beach on the island. However, since we were there in September, it was the “off season” and all the nudists stayed home. We pretty much had the run of the place while we were there and dined at an excellent beach restaurant before setting up in some chairs just steps away from a bar for the rest of the afternoon.

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Our resort was totally gated and had security guards walking around at all times which made it feel very safe. We were upgraded upon arrival there to a suite style condo with bed/bath upstairs, and living room, kitchen and another bathroom downstairs. Our patio led right out to an overlook over the beach (the stairs were no more than 5 feet away). We also had an upstairs balcony which provided amazing views of the island. The pool at the resort was one of the prettiest set ups I’ve seen, just dreamy!

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While we’re talking safety, nothing happened to us while we were there but upon asking advice on a couple trips we were thinking of taking on our own, I was told, “Just don’t take anything with you.” There was also a “theft insurance” charge for renting cars on the island and parts of it were not very well lit. That being said, the locals left us alone. Only once (on Orient Bay Beach) were we asked if we wanted to purchase something. Philipsburg was more touristy and probably the least safe place we went for that reason.

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In Philipsburg, we had lunch before walking around. It was gorgeous on the water. The shopping area was your typical Caribbean shopping area which owners out front asking you to come in and a few peddlers on the beach asking you to purchase their items. We didn’t spend TOO much time there before we headed off to Maho Bay beach to see the planes land. Since Maho Bay is also on the Dutch side where the casinos are, we popped into one while we were there. My (risk adverse) husband won while playing poker and immediately quit playing, so we weren’t there for more than 45 minutes before we headed back to Grand Case.

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Their signature drink on the island is the Guavaberry Colada since they have a guava berry rum factory on the island. Each restaurant offered their own specialty after-dinner (or lunch) rum. Some of the flavors we tried were caramel, banana, coconut and a delicious mixture of coconut rum, grenadine and pineapple juice.

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We very much enjoyed our trip to St. Martin and would recommend the French side to anyone going to visit. However, if you’re still deciding where to visit, our vote is Aruba. Aruba is still our favorite island. The friendliness of the people is unmatched (and they’re all so incredibly intelligent). Not for one second on the island did we feel unsafe, even when we walked or biked the .75 miles back from the high rise area at night. While Aruba has a desert climate and St. Martin has a tropical climate, we didn’t mind the heat and no humidity in Aruba. It never rains in Aruba (it only rained on us once in St. Martin). Aruba had happy hour which we loved, St. Martin did not. The food was amazing in both places but Aruba holds a special place in our hearts. If we had a free trip back to either of these islands, we would undoubtedly choose Aruba.

When do to what!

I’ve gotten some questions lately about when to send gifts, when to send Thank Yous and of course, how long can you wait to do either?

First of all, if you’re going to the wedding and it’s a reasonable sized gift, you can always take it with you (hint, hint: card with cash!). If it’s a large gift, you’re in the wedding, or you don’t want to make the bride + groom lug the gift home after the wedding, you can have it shipped to them in advance – most websites like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target do this for free or a small fee. Most people wait to send wedding gifts until the 2 month range prior to the wedding, or when one can assume showers/engagement parties are over. If the couple sends you a message saying they are having a small ceremony this year or going to the courthouse and plan to do something bigger with the whole family/friends crowd next year, it’s acceptable to wait until the bigger party, but certainly okay to go ahead and send them something (they did just get married!).

If you’re on the receiving end of the gifts, it’s in your best interest to write those thank yous as you receive the gifts – I promise you will be glad you did later! If you just can’t bring yourself to write thank yous before the wedding, keep a detailed list of who sent what so that when you do have time, you’ll be able to write detailed notes. In the event you don’t receive any gifts shipped to your home pre-wedding (doubt this will happen), you have up to 6 months to write your thank yous after the wedding. I would advise you not to take the full six months. Sit down each evening for a week after your honeymoon and split the list with your hubby and bust out 10 a piece each night, you’ll have it done before you know it and guests will appreciate the quick acknowledgement of how much you loved their gift. The Knot has a great guide for Thank You notes that will help you with this task.

As with everything else in life, you’re better off being early than late ;)

 

Beach Body!

About 6 weeks ago, I ordered the 21-day Fix from Beach Body and my first order of Shakeology. AND I FELL IN LOVE. The workouts are do-able, only 30 minutes, and I saw results. I then decided to do the 3-day Refresh – which, let me be clear, is not a cleanse, and is definitely not a colon cleanse as I had to reassure my husband several times. It’s to re-start your body and flush out processed foods that we tend to eat.

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So you only eat the shakes provided and fresh fruits and vegetables for 3 days. Everything is scheduled for you and packaged all nicely, except for your snacks and dinner. My favorites were hummus and carrots and the cucumber/tomato salad with vinaigrette. The salad can be seen below (but I didn’t have the spinach and turkey burger while doing the refresh). 

IMG_3972I didn’t see major changes but I felt better. And my favorite part was that I didn’t need coffee. I haven’t had coffee but once in the past 2 weeks. I lost about 2 lbs. on the refresh and I’ve now ordered PiYo which is a combination of pilates and yoga. While it’s still a high-intensity workout, there’s no jumping – which my knees will love me for! I’m sold on Beach Body and it’s products as I continue to see changes in my body. 

IMG_3415I also love that I can have real food like the turkey meatballs above. I do try to avoid cheese, milk and bread; although, I occasionally have some greek yogurt with berries and granola as a snack. Never hurts to have probiotics! 

IMG_3413I’m one of those people that gets hangry if I don’t have enough to eat, and I haven’t been that way while doing any of these programs. I’ve had plenty of food and even though I may technically be eating less than I would if I wasn’t on one of these plans, I am feeding my body the right foods and it’s loving it. 

I use the Shakeology for my breakfast and it tides me over until lunch most days. I have the chocolate vegan which tastes like brownie batter (I’m not kidding. A lady at work didn’t believe me today, asked me to taste it and couldn’t stop raving about it after her first sip). I’ve also tried the regular chocolate, vanilla and strawberry but our bodies absorb plant nutrients better, so that’s why I selected the vegan this go-around. I have it on a recurring shipment so I get a 30-day supply each month. I even ordered some extra packets for my upcoming trip to St. Martin so I can try to be healthy between pina coladas and mojitos. 

I decided to become a coach recently. My own coach has invited me to two challenge groups where I’m surrounded (virtually) by others who are doing Beach Body programs and we all encourage, motivate and inspire each other through posts of pictures, workouts, and meals. It’s such a great group and a great way to stay accountable and have a support system of people who are doing the exact same thing as you. I’m looking forward to hosting my first one with my very own team! 

If you have questions about Beach Body, Shakeology or any of the workouts, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to have a conversation with you and tell you more and welcome you to join one of our challenge groups so you can see how amazing it is for yourself! 

 

 

 

Life is short!

As we drove to the triangle area this weekend to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday, I found myself thinking about the first boy I ever fell in love with. He was cute, funny and nice and I was 16, so that’s all it took to sweep me off my feet. You see, two years ago as we drove to visit my in-laws for my FIL’s birthday, my phone started buzzing with texts and Facebook messages telling me that my sweet Scott had died in a car accident.

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Those words felt like a sucker punch and my breath was totally taken away. Now, at that time, I was madly in love with my husband and hadn’t talked to Scott in almost a year, but it didn’t lessen the hurt. I dialed my best friend’s number, while crying hysterically and shaking my head to my my (now) husband as he mouthed, “Do I need to pull over?” When Brittney picked up she just said, “Oh Ash…. ” and let me cry. Because that’s what best friends do. When I had finally calmed down my crying to a whimper we said goodbye, and my mom called. I think moms have a sixth sense for when daughters are crying from hundreds of miles away. I broke down again.

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My mom had listened to me cry over him for years and had also seen the way I lit up when I was around him. He left for the Marines when I was 17, breaking my heart for the first time. There were many more times, and many more reasons, but I always held out hope for us. I even told one guy on our second date that we probably wouldn’t work out and I’d end up with Scott. We even ran into him that night and he told that guy that if he hurt me he’d have to answer to him. I loved talking to him. He could make me laugh over the stupidest stuff. We ended up with a really great friendship and he asked me when I started dating my husband if it was serious and upon hearing me say “yes”, he decided to let me be happy and not interfere.

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I realized at some point that day that I had been called twice the night before by a number I didn’t recognize. The sinking feeling in my stomach told me it was him, and after a few quick messages to mutual friends, it was confirmed. I didn’t have his new number. I ignored the calls (it was 2 AM) and he didn’t leave a message. I would never know what he wanted when he called. And I don’t necessarily need to, but life is short. We don’t have all the time in the world to talk to people (or do all the things we want) like we think we do. We should make a point to reach out to people before it’s too late and tell them that we love them, catch up, stay current.

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I have sorority sisters all over the country that I need to do a better job of keeping up with (I am thankful for Michelle in Charlotte and our dates every few months). I need to make more plans to see friends and family or take the time to schedule a phone chat (Erica, me + you this week!). My BFF and I realized the other day we haven’t seen each other in MONTHS and we only live 2.5 hours apart.  While I think relationships/friendships should work both ways, we shouldn’t be scared (or too stubborn) to be the first one to reach out. You never know when it will be your last chance to talk to someone. I’ve heard so many crazy stories lately (heart attacks, fire ants, hit by a car while running…) that you just can’t assume you have time.

Not to sound all gloom and doom, this is more to prompt you to reach out to that college friend you loved so much but haven’t talked to lately, or cousin who moved to Ohio and you don’t get to see as often as you’d like, or your childhood BFF who now lives in San Diego and is 8 months pregnant. It’s so easy to send off a text, an email, or set aside 30 minutes to call someone. I challenge you to make plans to catch up with 3 people over the next 3 weeks. I bet you have a great chat, find out some new things and you might even make their day.

One year anniversary!

Yesterday marked one year of wedded bliss for me and my handsome husband. We’ve had a crazy busy year (new job + travel, buying a house, becoming landlords, personal travel, etc.) and it’s been pretty amazing.

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However, we discuss quite often that marriage is not all cotton candy and candy apples (not even in the first year). But marriage, as a committment you made in front of family and friends and most importantly, to each other, is a job. And it should be the job where you focus most of your energy. Not saying that it should be your toughest job, because if you’re with the right person, a lot of it comes easily and naturally. But it’s work to not snap at your sig-o when you’re hungry (or hangry, as I sometimes get), it’s work to step away from what you’re doing sometimes and focus on what your other half wants to do, sometimes we forget to put the phone/iPad down and listen to the other, sometimes we are preoccupied with our own thoughts, or sometimes we just want to be alone. But it’s important to remember that your other half is your partner, not your enemy. They’re on your side. They want to spend time with you, talk to you, and listen to you.

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My husband and I met as co-workers and I’m glad he’s still my co-worker in marriage. Working together is incredibly important. I know how much it bothers him when I slip my shoes off at the door instead of putting them in the closet, and while it seems like a REALLY LITTLE thing, it’s easy to get caught up in really little things that annoy you. It’s a really little extra step for me to walk over to the closet and something that I should do because I KNOW it bothers him. It’s important not to get caught up in the little things and to focus on the big picture.

Taken by Sarah Photography
Taken by Sarah Photography

Ever since we started dating we’ve talked about goals for our life and our future and we continue to fous on those. We love to travel and continue planning out trips to places domestic and international. We made a list of our Top 5 destinations for each and cross matched (3/5 on both lists were the same). We’re managing owning two houses, although it’s not ideal, and I never wanted to be a landlord, it’s working. The plus is that we’re building equity in our other home and when we DO sell, we’ll be better off. We’re working on making our new house very homey and enjoying spending time in our yard, our rocking chairs and screened-in porch. We’re both very career focused right now and fortunate to be with a good company and doing what we love, or at least what our degrees are in. And we get to spend plenty of time with friends and family (including our new baby niece!). And yes, kids are in the future just not right now.

Taken by Sarah Photography
Taken by Sarah Photography

We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we have a darn good one. We’re still falling in love with each other day over day, laughing until our bellies hurt and there for each other when there are tears. I try to focus on the good, be happy and cherish all the little moments. I saw a quote this morning that said:

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

How true, and how very bad of us. What people post on social media is not them at their worst, it’s laughing, smiling, happiness. Try not to compare yourself, or your relationship to that of others. Try to focus on how to continue, every day, making your relationship the best it can be. Your marriage is yours and your husband’s and you’re the only ones responsible for making it work. Social media has us questioning things that don’t need to be questioned. Spend time in reality, loving the most, focusing on what matters and sticking to your vows. Spend time cultivating a marriage that other people desire. You have your own highlight reel that is by far the most important one in the world.

Two tickets to paradise!

Life has been busy, what’s new? We have so many wonderful things that I’m dying to share (nope, not pregnant!), but can’t just yet. We have to let a few more things fall into place and then all news can be shared. For the time being, I’ll share that we are headed to St. Martin (French side, although we’ll definitely explore the Dutch side) to sepnd 5 heavenly days frolicking on white sand beaches, dining on 5-star French cuisine and celebrating a year of marriage. Hard to believe it’s been a whole year (in less than 2 weeks). St. Martin is our big trip for this year and we’re back on for our European getaway next year. We’re thinking Ireland – London – France will be a nice combo. For this year? #TheWhitesDoStMartin

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My husband has already been checking out restaurants for our trip. I’m leaving the planning to him on that, he always chooses so well. Our honeymoon in Aruba was full of delicious food!

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First year anniversary gifts are supposed to be paper, so we’ll consider those airline tickets our gifts to each other. We’re much more into experiencing things together rather than purchasing physical items.

Baby Shower (7/13)
Baby Shower (7/13)

And before we head off to this spectacular Dutch/French island, we’ll be meeting our new neice, Andi, who is due to arrive on August 10th! Follow along on Instagram with hashtag #comeonAndi!

If you have suggestions of things to do/see or places to eat in St. Martin/Maarten, let me know! I always appreciate recommendations!