This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of checking out the brand new Santa Barbara Public Market for their Friends & Family Preview Day.  It has been a long time coming so I was excited to finally see the plans come to fruition.  I have always loved Public Markets… a cross between a farmer’s market and a gourmet food court.  From Oxbow in Napa to Granville Island in Vancouver to Quincy Market in Boston, I have visited quite a few of them.  I love the stacks of stunning produce, the exotic scents, the stalls with unique food purveyors and the energy!  A public market also reminds me a lot of depachika in Japan: the basement of a department store, lined with stalls offering bento lunchboxes, fresh fish, delicate mochi and more…

The beautiful new SB Public Market is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, just a block off of busy State Street.  The beautiful white building seems quiet and calm until you push through the doors into the bright and bustling activity inside. Natural light streams in through the windows, the ceilings are tall with exposed pipes for a modern industrial feel, and reclaimed wood is used prominently throughout the design of individual shops.

My invitation to visit the SBPM was courtesy of my dear friends Amber and Kevin of Enjoy Cupcakes.  They are one of the shop owners at the SBPM and I am so excited for them!!  Clearly, my first stop was at their stall to pick up a strawberry basil chardonnay cuppie and give my congratulations.  If you ever wanted to try Enjoy Cupcakes but haven’t had the occasion to drive out to Los Olivos, I hope you make sure to visit them in SB.

I also sampled some incredible pistachio ice cream from Rori’s (a Montecito favorite), cold pressed juice from JuiceWell and organic olive oils from Il Fustino.  I could have roamed around all day, just taking in the sights and tastes.  I can’t wait to return later today to pick out some special gourmet gifts for the foodies in my life, as well as local treats for Santa Barbara wedding welcome bags!

If you find yourself in SB, make sure to swing by and visit; they officially opened on Monday!

Enjoy your evening and see you all again soon!

Happy Monday, everyone!  Thank you SO much for all the love and encouragement you shared regarding my new logo/blog/site launch last week.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who took the time to take a look and send some support.  I’m sending out big virtual hugs!

I used random.org to select a winner for the giveaway and CONGRATULATIONS goes out to Jennifer Anne Merrett of Stick Girl Jam.  Woohoo!  I will be emailing you to send you your prize.  :)

Today I thought I’d kick off the week with something sweet.  Something decadently, indulgently sweet.  I mentioned in a recent post that one of my favorite activities of my weekend with the Kaisers was making homemade ice cream.  There is nothing like a rich and creamy batch of fresh ice cream, is there??  I let Grace choose the flavor we made and she was quick to suggest caramel.  That’s my kind of girl!  This creamy and buttery ice cream is mind-blowing.  When Nate took his first spoonful he said, “WHOA.  This stuff is legit.”  And I don’t know if I can put it much better than that.  It rivals any premium ice cream I’ve had anywhere else, and trust me when I say I’m quite the ice cream connoisseur.  I can’t take credit for the phenomenal outcome since I used a recipe from who else — David Lebovitz aka the King of Ice Cream.  But, I can tell you that it is worth the time it takes to make homemade caramel as your silky base.  Grace and I had a Monopoly game to get to so we skipped the caramel praline mix-in (little caramel chips).  I’m sure they would add some scrumptious texture but you won’t miss a thing without them.  If you try it out, let me know.  I bet you’ll love it as much as we did.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream // makes a generous quart
**Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 2 cups of whole milk, divided
  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • 4 TBS of good salted butter
  • scant 1/2 tsp sea salt (the best salt you have in the pantry)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes (about halfway) and a bit of water so they are floating.  Then placing a metal bowl on top of that so it is surrounded by the ice cubes.  You want an extra cold bowl to add your ingredients later.  *A key to successful ice cream making is having a completely cold custard (un-churned ice cream) before pouring into your machine.

Pour 1 cup of the milk into the metal bowl and put a mesh strainer on top of it.  (You need a mesh strainer.  Invest in one).

Spread the 1.5 cups of sugar in a large saucepan in an even layer.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof utensil (such as a silicone spatula).  Gently stir the liquefied sugar from the edges toward the center until it is completely dissolved.

Continue to stir and cook the caramel until it begins to start smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. (I know that sounds scary but it wasn’t that dramatic.  I saw the tiniest wisp of smoke rise and noted the distinct caramel scent in the air.)

Immediately remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, continuing to stir.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cream.

At this point your caramel may harden (because you are adding cold/room temp ingredients to a hot melted caramel), but retirun it to low heat and continue to stir until it is amber liquid once again.  Stir in the other 1 cup of milk.

Whisk your 5 yolks in a separate bowl and then “temper” the eggs.  This means you very slowly and gradually add in some of the warm caramel to the yolks, stirring them, and then add a bit more, stirring…  If you just added the eggs to the caramel right away, you’d end up with scrambled eggs (eww).  The goal of tempering is to bring the eggs up to the same temperature as the caramel in a very gentle way.  I add the warm caramel to the eggs a spoonful at a time, vigorously stirring the entire time.  When the yolks are warmed up, you can add (slowly) to the caramel and continue to stir.  You want to heat this mixture up until it reaches 170 deg F.

Pour the custard over the mesh strainer into the milk (in that metal bowl over the ice bath).  This helps in case you didn’t temper patiently and have some floating egg bits in your custard!  It also ensures that the final product is super silky smooth.  Add the vanilla and stir over the ice bath until the mixture is cool.  Then, put the custard into the fridge for at least 8 hours, or ideally overnight.  This is a KEY step — your custard must be thoroughly and completely chilled.  If not, it won’t freeze completely in the churner and you’ll end up with soupy ice cream.  Delicious, but soupy.

When your custard is fully chilled, freeze it in the ice cream maker according to instructions.  I use the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment that works with my stand mixer.  I love it!

Once the ice cream is churned, remove to a freezer safe container and chill until firm.  (Fresh churned ice cream will have a softer texture since it doesn’t have any artificial stabilizers, but it will firm up nicely in the freezer.)

Enjoy!!

Have a sweet evening and chat again soon!

Happy Friday, everyone!  At this time one week ago, I was fluffing pillows and chopping veggies and preparing for a sweet little weekend with our dear friends, the Kaisers.  I met Nate and Jaclyn (photographers behind The Image is Found) in 2006 when we were all young and fresh-faced in the industry, as we worked with some amazing clients on a posh Hollywood Hills estate wedding.  We had an instant click that night and over the course of the last 8 years (!) we have made some awesome memories together.  They have photographed us multiple times, most notably for this bride & groom session we shot in a dried out lake bed in the rain in early 2007.  ;-)  My friendship with Nate and Jac has always been so natural and easy.  We just get each other.  We can go months without seeing each other and then boom — we get together and laugh until we cry like we never were apart.  Jac has also been such a loving and supportive friend to me through hard times.  When I had my first miscarriage in 2011, she was the first to send me a little love package, an encouraging book, and a heartfelt note.  To know the Kaisers is to love the Kaisers and I am so grateful they are in my life.

circa 2010??

When we used to live in LA and they lived in SD/Oceanside, we would meet in Orange County for catch up lunches.  Now that they live in the mountains and we live further up the coast, our visits have been fewer and farther between.  So, I was thrilled to have them stay with us for a few days while they shot a wedding in Paso Robles last weekend.  They arrived on Friday and we shared a scrumptious homemade vegetarian meal (butternut squash ravioli and sundried tomato soup!) together before staying up late giggling and catching up.  On Saturday, we had a delicious brunch at The Natural Cafe in SLO before Nate and Jac headed off to shoot their wedding.  Erik and I took the three kiddos (Grace, Jasper, and Olive) to Avila Valley Barn where we visited adorable animals (including alpacas and goats), enjoyed saltwater taffy and local honey, and took a requisite hayride.  Back at home, Erik took Jasper and Olive in the backyard to hunt for four-leafed clovers (we found 7 in under 15 minutes!  Isn’t that amazing?!  I don’t think I ever found one as a kid.) while Grace and I made a batch of homemade caramel ice cream.  You guys — it turned out to be the most decadent and luscious ice cream ever.  Recipe coming soon!!

While Olive napped, Erik and I played Monopoly with the Kaiser kiddos.  We had heard Jasper was a fierce competitor (and he was!), but Erik took no prisoners and destroyed us all (typical).  Around sunset, we headed to one of my favorite local parks (overlooking the vast Pacific) to run off some energy and explore the shores as the tide came in.  Then we picked up some delicious local pizza and ate it on a blanket spread out in the living room, picnic-style, while watching Frozen.  It was such a sweet and simple day.  The kids got along SO well.  I think I pinched Erik a few times throughout the day and whispered how much I’d love to have three kids one day.  ;-)

Nate and Jac got home after the kids were tucked in, and we sat up late (again), devouring caramel ice cream and cracking up over hilarious stories about our awkward teen years.  Oh geez!

They set off for Solvang on Sunday so I had Grace snap this quick photo on our steps before church.  I love hosting guests in our home but even more than that, I love nourishing enduring relationships with wonderful friends.  Thank you, Kaisers, for such a wonderful time!  We love you and can’t wait to come see you in the mountains!

I hope you all have a great weekend!  I’m speaking at the sold-out Enjoy Events Co. workshop on Sunday and will be up tonight putting the final touches on my presentation.  Yay!  If you haven’t entered our blog/site launch giveaway, make sure to do so before Sunday night!  Thanks for stopping by — see you again soon.  :)

I have to start by saying THANK YOU to all of you for your overwhelming love and support in light of our big logo + website + blog launch !  If you haven’t seen the new site and blog yet, please make sure to take a peek and enter our celebration giveaway!  I truly am grateful for the sweet words and encouragement so many of you have shared with me.  THANK you for making it such an exciting week!

Today I wanted to feature one of my previously-unseen weddings that debuted in a new website gallery: the beautiful Paso Robles nuptials of Tiffany and Leo.  This dream of a wedding started with an enthusiastic email from the sweet bride.  Bliss and excitement oozed from every line of that first message.  It concluded with the simple yet bold statement: “You will love working with us.”  And guess what?  She was SO right.  I cannot tell you what a pleasure it was to meet and work with these two lovebirds.  They have hearts of gold, incredible taste, and SO.MUCH.LOVE.  I was taken aback by their beautiful love for one another, the tenderness in their interactions, the sincerity and kindness with which they treated everyone throughout the planning process.  And now, these two are expecting their first little babe and I couldn’t be happier for them.  <3  I LOVE you two, Tiffany and Leo, and I am seriously hoping to make it to Austin to visit you!!!

Their wedding took place at the picturesque Denner Vineyards, nestled in the rolling hills of Paso Robles.  A heartfelt ceremony took place overlooking the heavy golden vines (right amidst harvest season), performed by their hilarious friend, Patrick.  Hanging in the nearby trees were windows that were salvaged from St. Leo’s Church in Murray, Kansas, which was founded and built by Leo’s grandparents in 1943.  I loved this personal touch.  Vintage church pews and a lovely golden arch from {found} vintage rentals helped round out their outdoor ‘chapel.’  The sunset cocktail hour featured fun music from the Get Down Boys and bocce ball.  Cozy lounge vignettes from {found} added to the celebratory scene.

For dinner, guests enjoyed a stunning meal of seasonal fare presented by Chef Charlie, gathered around farm tables set with the loveliest Casa de Perrin china, flatware and glassware.  Their botanical collection added such an approachable elegance to the placesettings.  I still can’t get over the jadeite and crystal salt and pepper cellars!  One of my favorite moments of the night was a surprise serenade for the couple by singer Josh Krajcik, who had been flown in by the groom’s brother and best man.  As dinner wound down, we enjoyed the beautiful voice of Ray Fortune, who is one of my favorite local musicians.  Cake and cupcakes were provided by the one and only Enjoy Cupcakes (yum!) and guests closed out the evening by rocking to the totally rad stylings of 80′s throwback band The Spazmatics.

Soak in all the beauty of their day through these glowing images from the talented and gracious Allyson Magda….

I’ve shared it before but please, PLEASE take a moment to watch this gorgeous film of their day from my dear friends Ben & Drew  of Cana Family:

Leo and Tiffany Married in Beautiful Paso Robles, CA from The Cana Family on Vimeo.

{ Vendor Team }

Event Planning and Design: Love & Splendor | Venue: Denner Vineyards | Photography: Allyson Magda | Videography: Cana Family |  Ceremony Music: Santa Barbara String Trio | Cocktail Hour Music: The Get Down Boys | Special Music: Josh Krajcik | Guitarist/Singer: Ray Fortune | Reception Band: The Spazmatics | Cake and cupcakes: Enjoy Cupcakes | Pies: Linn’s of Cambria | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Vintage furniture and rentals: {found} vintage rentals | Tabletop rentals: Casa de Perrin | Catering: Chef Charlie | Floral: Camilla Svensson Burns | Paper Goods: Le Partie Sugar | Hair and Makeup: TEAM Hair and Makeup | Bride’s Gown: Jenny Packham| Placecard Calligraphy: Anne Robin

// See you all again soon!

Love_and_Splendor_FULL_LOGO_low-restightcropIf you’re reading this post in bloglovin or another similar subscription box, today is the day to click over to the actual blog and take a look around. I’m SO thrilled to finally unveil the long-awaited (and long-overdue) new branding and sites for Love & Splendor. HOORAY!

My old site was built in 2007 and slightly updated in 2008. Yikes! Although I launched a new(er) blog in 2011, I never updated the website because I knew it would take a lot more than a facelift. We needed something completely fresh and new. As I embarked on my rebranding journey, I reached out to my incredibly talented and dear friend Julie Song Ink. I am coming up on 2 years of having Julie in my world and she still wows me every single time. She is truly one of the most innately gifted illustrators/artists I have ever known, yet she has the most humble demeanor. I poured out my vision to her in the form of run-on sentences and an excessive amount of adjectives, colors, images, etc. She thoughtfully took in every single word and brought to life exactly what I had desired. Every stroke and detail was beautifully executed and somehow, I felt very personally connected to each bit (as if she had dipped her brush straight into my heart and let it spill out on the page). The new L&S logo is truly representative of both my personal aesthetic and our wedding design brand. See the dainty ginkgo leaves? I love how she integrated them as they come from my favorite tree. The site is clean (lots of white space) but the logo gives it that splash of signature L&S whimsy, charm, and exuberance. Playful with polish.  In addition to the dramatic Love and Splendor logo, Julie is responsible for the beautiful header on the new blog as well as all the pretty hand lettering you’ll find around the sites.  Julie // I can’t thank you enough for working so hard to bring this logo to life.  Your meticulous, careful, attentive nature paired with your natural talent bring about magic.  Pure magic.  No one else could have captured my heart in this way; you are the only person I would have wanted for this project.  I adore you so much and am thankful to call you a friend!!  Love you!!

Thanks are also due to the ever-patient and hard-working Steph Anne of Yellow and Savvy (along with programmer Raz) who helped design and code both the website and blog.  Steph Anne actually did my previous blog (in 2011) and I love working with her.  She has a great eye and offered lots of helpful advice along the way, while staying true to my vision.  I am grateful for all the effort and heart she put into this project and I absolutely could not have done it without her.

Thank you to my amazing colleagues (photographers, floral designers, etc.) for helping me bring this site to life.  The images that you see on my website and on the blog are the results of heartfelt collaboration.  It takes a village to put on a flawless event and I am blessed with the best of the best.  Working alongside amazing artists fuels my own creativity.

Finally, a huge thank you to my precious clients and blog readers who allow me to do what I love everyday.  I count it a tremendous blessing to have been in this industry for nearly 9 years, still working and being inspired and enjoying every minute.  I am also so humbled by each of you who take the time to stop and visit me here on the blog, and those who have written me encouraging notes and comments over the years.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your love and support.

Still coming:  new team photos (woohoo!) and even more beautiful images for our portfolio.  Is it funny that I already know this season will turn out weddings that will become portfolio galleries?  ;-)  Get ready for a great year!

To celebrate the ALL NEW website and blog, I wanted to share a little giveaway!  Simply leave a comment below letting me know how you found my blog (or how do you know me, anyway??) and you’ll be entered to win a random assortment of some of my recent favorite things: an Emily Isabella tea towel, Maybelline BabyLips and a few other surprises.  ;-)

white_folded

You have until 9pm PST this Sunday, April 13th, to enter.  The randomly selected winner will be announced on Monday morning (the 14th).  Good luck and thank you again for celebrating with me!!!

Have you guys ever had banana milk?  It’s one of my favorite childhood drinks and lately I’ve been making it all.the.time.  It’s healthy and totally guilt-free yet it feels like a treat.  I don’t think you can consider this a recipe, since it’s ridiculously basic — you literally throw four things in a blender and whirl.  But, if you have the ingredients sitting at home (I bet you do!), give it a try and let me know what you think.  I’m betting you’ll love it as much as I do.

Banana Milk // makes two servings

  • One frozen RIPE banana — your banana should be really ripe, with perfectly “freckled” skin.  If you use a banana before its prime, you won’t get that yummy sweetness.
  • 1 cup of milk (I bet non-dairy milks, including coconut, would be scrumptious!  I use whole organic milk, or raw when available.)
  • handful of crushed ice
  • 1/4 tsp of pure vanilla (optional, and to taste)

Cut up the frozen banana into four pieces and add to your blender with the other ingredients.  Whirl until smooth.  Add additional milk to make it thinner (more or a drink), add less to give it a milkshake/ice cream texture.

If you’re feeling wild, feel free to add in things like a drizzle of honey or a dash of cinnamon.  You can also defeat the healthy-factor by adding some salted caramel sauce and chopped walnuts for a bananas foster shake.  YUM.  I’m still a purist when it comes to banana milk, though.  I don’t mess with a childhood memory.  ;-)

What’s your favorite childhood treat?  I’d love to hear.

Hope you’re all having a great Thursday!

No April Fool’s jokes here… I am honestly just excited to see this month arrive.  Once April unfolds, I feel like the entire spring and summer come tumbling behind at super speed.  I glance at my spring/summer wedding calendar and know that all of these dates will be here before I know it.  I can’t wait!

tulips and muscari in our mailbox planter

Today I have been cleaning house (literally), having been recently inspired by Clean My Space.  I found Melissa on YouTube this weekend and was instantly hooked on her fun cleaning videos (I know it seems crazy, but stay with me).  Am I the only one who gets major clean-spiration from watching and reading things like this??  You give me a cleaning checklist or show me a new trick for organizing and I’m totally energized to tidy and mop and scrub.  Anyone??  Well today I tackled four loads of laundry, overhauled Olive’s closet and vacuumed two rooms… and dinner is already in the works.  I’m feeling unstoppable!  ;-)  My toughest task is purging.  I’m not a hoarder by any means, but I’m certainly nostalgic and I find it difficult to let go of mementos.  Thankfully I am getting better at it but I still wonder if one day someone will rife through my stuff and find it odd that I kept all my high school drama production playbills.

In other news around the house, Erik spent most of the weekend leveling and filling in our side yard with float rock (a light colored landscaping rock).  I love the look of it and can’t wait to add some outdoor furniture, a grill, and maybe a hammock??  He also built another raised bed planter to add there.  We picked out four heirloom tomato varieties for planting and we’re nearing harvest time for some of our leafy veggies.  It’s amazing to see how beautifully everything has come up, when all we did was plant and water.  Next up, he’ll be putting up a new wooden fence and gate for that area.  I’m hoping that by the end of the month, we will finally get to refinishing the hardwood floors inside the house and tackling the kitchen cabinets.

from two recent site visits // dallidet adobe & saddlerock ranch

Our busiest time of year for weddings is just ahead so I’m handling lots of walkthroughs, timelines, stationery design, floor plans and design presentations right now.  Seeing things fall into place for each event makes me so excited.  I’m also working on my presentation for the Enjoy Events Co. workshop next weekend in Santa Barbara.  I am honored to be a guest speaker and hope to share lots of useful information with the attendees.  I think a couple seats may still be available if you want to check it out!

And perhaps most exciting of all: my completely new website and blog will launch very soon!!!  I cannot wait to share them with you so stay tuned.  ;-)

meal plan + shopping list from a few weeks ago // LOVE this meal planning pad from my friend rachel of heart of light

For now, I’m off to pour myself a glass of home-grown lemonade (yum!) and finish my weekly meal plan before we go to the grocery store this afternoon.  How was your day??

requisite photo of Olive :)

See you again soon!

Just a few weeks ago, I turned 30.  You won’t hear any whining over here about it — I am embracing 30 with open arms and am grateful for each day on this earth.  I don’t fear or mind getting older, probably in large part because I know that there is more ahead beyond this life on earth.  :)  I thank God for the joy and lessons He puts in my life in the meanwhile.

So far, 30 has been incredible and I have to say the year was kicked off in style by a heartwarming 30th birthday party thrown for me by my husband, my sister, and my best friend, Kristin.  I’m not going to lie and say I was 100% clueless.  If you know me, you know I’m really difficult to surprise.  On this particular Saturday (the day after my birthday), Erik told me we were going to go hang out with my sister and brother-in-law at their home before heading home from a busy week.  I found this quite odd because: 1) they live 60ish miles south of where we were, and we were going to drive 170 miles north that evening.  Going in the opposite direction just to hang out seemed weird and 2) they told me we were just going to hang out and we had no real plans.  I’m all for spontaneity but it seemed extremely sketchy that we were going to make the drive to their house just to “hang.”  ;-)  Well even if I suspected something was up, I could not have dreamed of what was in store for me when I rolled up to their home that morning.

When I walked in the door, I was greeted by some of my dearest friends and family who had traveled all over soCal to join me for the celebration.  I was so touched and moved to know each of them had made the drive and taken the time to be with me.  I say it all the time but I am thoroughly and richly blessed by the people in my life!

Growing up, birthdays were never a big deal in our home.  We celebrated simply with things like a new pair of shoes or a special homemade dessert.  I can’t remember ever having a genuine birthday party as a kid (I know that sounds sad but I promise  my childhood was great!).  So, Erik ran with that and threw me a throwback kids’ bday party complete with Hello Kitty plates and décor, balloons, streamers, the whole bit.  He also got Jamba Juice for everyone, which was a nod to my love of smoothies.  There were games (like his ridiculously goofy word scramble, and pin-the-bow on Hello Kitty), pizza, ice cream and my favorite banana cream pie.  Kristin made beautiful decorations and floral arrangements and Anna prepped the food, made a delicious salad, and of course lent her beautiful home to host the occasion.  I loved seeing so many of my favorite people in one place, and watching them interact with each other!  I look back on these photos and just smile.  Erik jokingly said (in a welcome speech) that the party wasn’t going to be up to my fancy wedding world expectations.  How silly!  :)  The party was perfect because it was planned with love and populated by an amazing community of people I love, too!  Thank you, Erik, for such an unforgettable day.

Me and Krissy, being goofy as always

two of my faves: Eden from Sugar and Charm and Mara from M Loves M

Tina & Brian — clients turned friends turned clients again!  Their insane vow renewal is coming up this summer!

My sunshiney Koko

my gorgeous little sister, Anna

my (engaged!) sister-in-law Megan, me, my wonderful in-laws and my sweetie

Trista and Evie <3

Jess, another client-turned-friend who is now renowned for her macaron making skills at Sweet and Saucy Shop!

Christina and Grant!

Carlie and Melody!

Thank you again to each of you who came out to celebrate with me.  You made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world (and often, I think I am).

With the weekend approaching, I am currently: working on invitation designs for two summer couples, prepping for two site visits two days in a row, putting out a new contract for a September couple (hi M&S!) and getting my new website and blog prepped for launch in just a few weeks.  Whew!  I hope you’re having a lovely Wednesday; see you all again soon!

Just a couple weeks ago, Olive had the time of her life visiting Disneyland for the very first time.  As longtime Disney-philes (Erik and I have been to Disney World in Florida 2x, Tokyo Disney, and are previous Disneyland annual pass holders), we had been eagerly awaiting this milestone with her.  But, I am glad we ultimately waited until she was nearly 2 to make this special trip.  I think she was at the perfect age to really soak in everything around her, interact with some characters and remember (in the short-term, anyway!) things about the day.  If we ask her about Disneyland, she can recount to us the rides she went on, the characters she saw, and on and on.  ;-)  It was a perfect first Disney experience.

Our visit was facilitated by our dear friend Jackie whose husband, Brendan, (Erik’s longtime friend — he was in our wedding and Erik officiated Brendan and Jackie’s wedding!) works for Disney.  That means she can sign us in (woohoo!) when we are in town.  ;-)  A biggggg thank you goes out to Jackie (and baby X!) for making our day so special; we can’t wait to revisit with Brendan joining us!

her Mickey from home had to join us!  She didn’t love her 1st visit button so this is the only pic of her wearing it.

Erik and I weren’t sure what to expect with Olive’s first visit.  Would she be terrified of the characters?  Would she be overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds and activities?  Would she be too scared (or too small) to go on any rides?  When would she nap and where?  Would we push her in the stroller or let her walk?  Would we have any fun?  Well, here’s a recap of our adventure and a few suggestions I’d offer to anyone planning their own child’s first Disney trip!

We got to Disneyland about an hour after opening and it was just right.  We didn’t have to stand around waiting for the park to open and we didn’t have crazy parking drama from arriving too late.  We parked quickly, grabbed a stroller and got straight to it!  We decided to do both parks that day (Disney CA Adventure + Disneyland) so we started at DCA.  Olive’s first ride was Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.  The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie growing up so I thought it was only appropriate.  ;-)  Olive was fascinated overall but did find some parts (with Ursula) “too scawy.”  Other rides we hit in DCA were:  The Golden Zephyr (maybe a little too fast for her.. she got nervous toward the end but luckily the ride was already winding down at that point), Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train and Francis’ Ladybug Boogie (a teeny version of the teacups).  Our lunch stop was the Lucky Fortune Cookery at DCA.  Their rice bowls are pretty yummy and filling.  (My other quick DCA fav is clam chowder in a Boudin bread bowl!)

After lunch, we headed over to Disneyland.  As we were walking through the gates, we spotted Mickey Mouse in front of the Main Street Cinema.  It was perfect timing as we only waited about 5 minutes to meet the mouse.  Olive’s initial Mickey meeting was better than I could have dreamed.  She walked up to him slowly, then held both of his hands and asked gently, “Mickey??”  They hugged, she kissed him on his nose, and they cuddled some more until I realized we probably should let the other families in line have a turn.  :)  As soon as we had finished, we bumped into both Donald and Pluto so we had to meet them, too!  Since we were able to get photos with 3 characters in one place, we decided not to spend any additional time that day standing in line to meet other characters.  We’ll save Minnie and co. for next time.  ;-)

Rides we went on in Disneyland: Dumbo (2x), the carousel, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (I love the nostalgia of it but it is a pretty disturbing ride!  Olive deemed it “too scawwy” as well.), Storybook Land Canal Boats, Casey Jr. Circus Train (a must for my Dumbo-loving girl), Pirates of the Caribbean (Olive was half asleep for most of it, haha) and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.  We also made a requisite stop for Dole Whip (which resulted in a near meltdown when Olive got a taste and wanted to desperately shovel the rest into her mouth.  Erik took her for a walk while I finished it off!).  What did we expect?  Everyone knows Dole Whip is irresistible.  ;-)  We chose the ubiquitous Mickey ears for her first souvenir and she still can’t get enough of them.  Even with the personalization, they were quite a bargain and well worth the price.

Olive usually runs on a very normal schedule.  She naps like clockwork everyday for 2-3 hours.  So how did she do with all the stimulation at Disneyland?  Well, she fell asleep in line for Casey Jr. (at her typical nap time) but we chose to wake her up when we finally got on the ride because we knew she’d love it.  And of course, she was completely enthralled when she heard the song cue up and we began moving.  Unfortunately she never truly fell asleep again, aside from another quick catnap in the evening.  Erik and I decided to take a chance and go on Pirates with her on my lap and it paid off.  I’m glad we got to enjoy one of our favorite rides together.  I think Olive did really well sans nap (aside from the Dole Whip incident, no other meltdowns occurred) but I know this will vary from kiddo to kiddo.  If we were visiting the resort over a few days, I’d probably return to the hotel in the afternoon for her nap to keep her happiest.

We ended up staying until closing (at 8p) but skipped World of Color (the spectacular nighttime show in DCA) this time.  It was a fantastic day filled with so much laughter and joy and wonder.

getting sleepy on the Storybook boats

Dole Whip, pre-incident

Here are my tips for anyone planning first trips with their little ones:

  • Start early — I’m glad we began our day early when Olive is generally the most energetic and happy.  It also meant we got to ride a lot of rides without much of a wait, avoiding the burgeoning afternoon and evening crowds.  And although we skipped World of Color, we did get Fast Passes for the show (which run out very quickly in the day) because we arrived early.
  • Pack snacks — Disneyland is great about letting you bring in your own bottled water and snacks.  We brought a bunch of goodies including Plum Organics pouches, almond crackers and fresh fruit.  It helped us keep Olive content and well-fed throughout the day, especially when she suddenly needed a snack and we were smack in the middle of a line.
  • Rent a stroller — we went back and forth about bringing our own nice stroller but ultimately didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of leaving it at the entrances of rides.  Instead of buying an umbrella stroller (which would never use again), we rented a Disneyland stroller.  It was roomy, comfortable, had a better height than most umbrella strollers (Erik is 6’4″ so pushing short umbrella strollers is awkward for him!) and had room for storage under the seat.  The canopy is also really big which was great for sun protection and some extra storage (we put Erik’s backpack on top of it).  We still carried our valuables onto each ride but it was great to not worry about our stroller in the park.
  • Let your kiddo set the pace — We knew that taking Olive meant going for her.  We are both huge kids at heart and we love rides so it was different going to the park and not hitting any of our favorite attractions.  But, we ended up riding things we had never gone on before (!) and enjoying the experience in an entirely different way.  With adjusted expectations, we were able to enjoy our visit so much more.  That said, I still can’t wait until Olive is tall enough to go on the “big rides” with us!
  • Be flexible — We didn’t have a real plan or list of things to do or see.  We went with the flow and never pushed the pace.  I felt like we were never rushed but we were still able to do and see a lot!

last pic of the night!

I hope you all are having a great week!  It has been such a busy few days that I am in disbelief that it’s Thursday.  Wasn’t it *just* the weekend??  I’m off to run errands with Olive; see you again soon!

Our little sweetheart turns TWO today.  Unbelievable!  I started writing Olive’s birth story to share here (which I’ve never done!) but I’ve got cupcakes in the oven and lots of chores and emails to handle so it will have to be posted anther day!

Today, I wanted to share another love note to my little girl.  Hope you don’t mind.  ;-)

then

now!

My dearest Olive,

Happy birthday baby!!  I simply can’t believe you’re two years old.  Well sometimes I can.  I honestly cannot imagine life without you so in some ways, I feel like you’ve always been with me.  But most of the time I’m in a state of shock as time whizzes by and you keep getting bigger and lovelier by the moment.

Since you won’t remember much of anything of yourself at this age, let me tell you all about you at two.  You are a complete and utter joy to me and your Daddy.  You are so full of life and energy and laughter.  You love to dance and run and jump and play. You could go down the slide at the park all day long (and sometimes you do).  The swings still aren’t your favorite, though.  No matter how often you ask to be put in them, it’s only three or four swings before you abruptly tell me that you’re finished with them.  You love the beach and the sand and you aren’t afraid to get dirty.  You’ve helped me loosen up about this, too.  ;-)  You love shoes and you are constantly pointing your shoes out to strangers when you meet them in the store.  “Shoes! Shoes!” you excitedly exclaim as you point down at your sparkly Toms or shiny boots or Saltwater sandals.  When we get dressed in the morning, you love picking out the perfect pair for the day (although I admit I often steer you away from the patent leather dress shoes and toward the sturdier options).  You are an incredible talker and chat with us all day long.  You have an extensive vocabulary and surprise us with how well you can repeat things back to us after hearing them only one or two times.  You are sensitive and empathetic.  When you see me wince or even cry (as you did recently), you come over with furrowed brows and say, “No cry, Mommy.  It’s okay!”  You hug me tightly and rub my back and kiss me until I show you my smile.  I thank God for giving you such a sweet nature and kind spirit and I know you will share so much love with others as you grow older.

You are daring when you’re with Daddy — you can jump off of anything if he’s within arm’s reach and love to rough house with him.  But you find a few things frightening, like Ursula on the Little Mermaid ride at Disney’s California Adventure.  You declared that “too scary” and buried your head in my chest until the ride was over.  You are a great eater and have never been picky.  Even if you refuse something (to test us?), you will try it when sternly asked and almost always ask for more.  I love watching you devour a bowl of Japanese-style pork curry or my homemade Thai coconut-lemongrass soup (tom kha gai).  Despite our initial efforts, we caved and have let you watch a little bit of media here and there (on Netflix or on the iPad in a desperate situation).  Your favorites are Peppa Pig and the Leap Frog learning videos, so we lucked out there.  You also adore Dumbo and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  You love music and always want me to sing to you, or with you.  You can sing “Let it Go” and “Do You Wanna Build a Swowman” from Frozen and Daddy and I die laughing when I say “Go away Anna!” and you hang your head and say “Okay bye….” like in the song.  It cracks us up that you can already “act” and get the meaning behind the words we’re singing.  You also love singing “Baby Mine” from Dumbo and “Jesus Loves Me.”

You love your extended family and have a great group of local and hometown friends.  I am thankful that you are growing up alongside so many wonderful kiddos.  We are blessed by our community!  Your closest friend is probably Jetta from church, and you get uncontrollably excited whenever you see her.  I love seeing the two of you girls together!  Although you have always been pretty social, you’ve been a bit more clingy with me lately.  I know it’s just a phase so in the meanwhile, I’m enjoying the extra snuggles and cuddles.  I hope that even when you’re older, I can be a source of comfort for you, turning your eyes and heart to the great Comforter, our God.

Olive, you have turned our lives upside down in the very best way and we thank God for you every single day.  We pray as a family at bedtime each night and I still get choked up thinking about how long we prayed for you.  The fact that you are here now, for us to hold and laugh and learn with… it is such an amazing blessing and joy.  As you grow older, I pray you will come to know our Lord and I pray that your Daddy and I will be strong examples and encouragers to you.  As you graduate from babyhood, I think it’s only natural that I have been wondering if God has a sibling in store for you.  I catch myself being fearful or anxious about how life will/would be if you were an only child.  I know these worries are fruitless.  Although we are praying daily for another little one to add to our family, I hope you always know that you are so special and precious to us.  I know that whatever the Lord decides for our family, it will be the best.  For now, I will continue to strive to pour out my heart and energy and love into your life.  I know I will make lots of stumbles and mistakes along the way but know that I will always do my best.  Whenever you read this, I hope you can get just a glimpse of how loved and treasured you are.  You are such a gift, sweet Olive.  I love you with all my heart and everything I am.

xoxo, Mommy

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I hope you’re all having a wonderful day; I’m off to frost some cupcakes!  See you again soon!