Category: Angel’s Life

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 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.  :)

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

—-

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

Last week was such a wonderful week, filled to the brim with outings and meetings and celebrations!  I have lots of posts to share but for now, I thought I’d sum up the activities of last week in one teaser post.  ;-)

1) We took Olive to Disneyland (her very first time) with our friend Jackie and her sweet baby X.  It was an amazing day and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Her Mickey encounter was picture-perfect!

2) I had a first meeting with a sweet new bride and we had so much fun chatting and planning that we had to schedule a second meeting later that week because we ran out of time!  I am truly grateful that I get the privilege of working with such smart, creative, kind-hearted clients.

3) I had a long overdue girls’ night out with two of my favorites: Mara and Eden.  We had the most scrumptious vegan + organic fare at Gracias Madre (highly recommended!) and more importantly, lots of laughs and great conversation.  Isn’t it the best when you can sit down with friends and feel like no time has passed since your last meeting?  Can’t wait for our next outing!

4) In 2010 I had the exhilarating and joyful experience of helping very special clients (now dear friends) plan their weddings here in LA and Taipei, Taiwan.  Last week I met up with them for a day full of meetings as we plan their extra-special vow renewal!  (They were technically married in 2009 — this year is 5 years!)  I am doing the planning and am collaborating with my fab friend Tori on the design which means double the outrageous detail and style!  We have a seeeeerious dream team in the works that includes Siren Floral Co. (I totally fell in love with Rachael after meeting her last week!), Braedon Photography, Heirloom LA, Elysium Productions, and many more to come.  Hold onto your hats for this one; it is going to be BEYOND.

just a few of the yummies we tasted at Heirloom LA

brian, tina, me, and Nicolette of Heirloom!

5) I turned 30 years old (woohoo!) and spent most of the day just hanging around with my family, doing some shopping and relaxing.  We had a delicious family dinner (my sister and brother-in-law surprised me and drove through rush hour traffic to join us!) and I felt so loved by all the texts, calls and messages I received that day.  Thank you to everyone for making my day so memorable!

shopping and Umami Burger at The Grove

my sis, Olive, me

6) And on Saturday… my sweet husband threw me a surprise birthday party!  I will admit that I knew something was up… He isn’t the best at keeping secrets (that’s a good thing!) and he was just acting odd.  I am not the easiest to surprise, either.  I could not have imagined what he had prepared with the help of my sister and brother-in-law (who opened up their beautiful home to be the hosts!) and my BFF Kristin (who prepared amazing flowers and decorations).  It was SO much fun!  I was shocked by all the sweet pals who made the trek to join in on the festivities.  I sure am blessed by my friends and family!!!  I can say that my 30th birthday was my very best yet, and if that’s any indication of the year ahead, I can’t wait for it all to unfold.

Today was a family work day in the garden as we visited 2 nurseries to pick up plants for our two large planting beds.  I love all the beautiful flowers and shrubs we picked out and I can’t wait to do the planting tomorrow.  Our vegetable garden is looking lovely; everything has sprouted and it is so neat to see some of the crops already looking like their mature forms (like the adorable bean sprouts and multicolored mesclun lettuces).

I’m going to grab a cup of coffee, finish clearing out my inbox and hop into bed early-ish.  We have another packed week ahead and if you can believe it, a very special little girl turns TWO in just a couple days.  I know, I know… I don’t want to admit it either!  :)

See you again soon!

This is going to be kind of embarrassing but let me first say that no, we did not go to Sydney recently.  You may recall that our family went to New Zealand and Australia in the middle of 2013.  I slowly but surely blogged our New Zealand north island highlights in three parts: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3.  Now, nearly 8 months after we returned, I am getting around to posting about Sydney.  Yikes!!  But, I do believe that in blogging, late is MUCH better than never.  Let’s jump into it!

I had been dying to visit Australia since I was a child.  I had all these dreams and visions of kangaroos and boomerangs and the Opera House.  I wanted to put shrimp on the barbie and what not.  ;-)  Well once we knew we were going to New Zealand last year, we knew we had to take advantage of flying halfway around the world and make a stop in Australia!  We could only stay for 5 days after our extended time in NZ (we were also in the middle of escrow at this time; we literally had the notary greet us with paperwork when we got home from the airport!!!) so we decided to stay in Sydney the entire time.  I’m hoping that we can take future visits to Melbourne, Perth and beyond!

In those 5 days, I felt like we were able to soak up quite a bit of the major attractions in Sydney.  First and foremost, I have to tell you that our trip was truly anchored by the incredible hotel we stayed at: the one and only Park Hyatt Sydney.  It is a world renowned 5 star property that sits right on the Sydney Harbour in the Rocks and is pretty much the opposite of the type of place Erik and I would typically stay.  Thanks to the incredible generosity of my parents and their coveted Hyatt Diamond status, we were able to experience the phenomenal luxury and hospitality of this hotel.  I told Erik over and over that I couldn’t believe we were staying there!  Our room was modern yet warm and had a private balcony perched right over the harbour.  We were fortunate enough to be staying during Vivid Sydney (a light festival) so we had the most spectacular views each evening.  We began each day with breakfast on-site in the Dining Room.  Imagine beautiful glass-doored fridges stocked with fruit platters and bowls, yogurts, cheese and meats, and stations with artisan breads, freshly baked pastries, nuts, cereals, juices, etc. We sampled different hot entrées everyday as well.  The service was impeccable and we were treated like royalty by everyone on property.  I have to give a special thanks to Jonathan, the debonair hotel concierge, who always had the best dining recommendations and truly made our stay in Sydney complete.

I could write for ages about our trip but for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to dump a bunch of photos here and comment along the way…

the magical view from our room on the first night in Sydney // we were in awe.

Olive enjoyed the view as well ;-)

the rooftop pool was gorgeous but never dipped a toe in it — it was winter in Australia!

view of the Opera House from the walking path on the Harbour Bridge

we did lots of strolling // Sydney has so much gorgeous architecture!

We took in some culture at the Art Gallery of NSW

We meandered through the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens.  My favorite was the fernery!

We tried not to laugh (or offend anyone) while visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art

A view of the Harbour Bridge from the Opera House

We took a guided tour of the Opera House and were so enchanted by it, we couldn’t resist getting tickets to a show that evening!

One of my fave photos from the entire trip!

The concert that evening featured Saint Saëns symphony No. 3, so their organ (the largest in the world) was played that evening.  I’ll never forget the experience.

The sails of the Opera House (and the façades of most buildings downtown) featured funky changing light projections each evening.

We visited the Sydney Aquarium and Olive’s mind was blown.  We had never seen her so excited about anything before!  To this day, she still loves and is fascinated by marine life.

There’s one more Australia post coming soon.  ;-)  It was fun to relive some of these moments now, so many months later.  Olive looks like such a baby!  I am so grateful we were able to take this special trip as a family and make treasured memories together.

Hello everyone!  I’m sorry it has been quiet around here lately; I set a goal of finishing my taxes this past week and hooray — I made it through!  They are off to the CPA this week and it feels so good to have them off my shoulders.  ;-)

Did you all have a great Valentine’s Day?  I know some people aren’t crazy about V-Day, but I’m a fan.  I get that most holidays are driven by consumerism.  I get that love should be celebrated everyday.  Still, I will gladly take an excuse to remind those in my life that they are precious to me.  I took the time to write handwritten Valentines to some gal pals this year and the process made me feel so blessed to be surrounded by so much love myself.  Most importantly, I reflected on the love of my Savior — my first love.  I love because He first loved me (1 John 4:19).

This Valentine’s Day was so much fun for our family.  Olive and I started the day at the cutest party with some friends.  Thank you to the hostess with the mostest, Alexandra, for putting together such a thoughtful and creative party.  You could see she put so much heart (pun unintended but I’ll take it!) into all of the details.  We all (moms and kiddos alike) had a great time!  In the evening, Erik took his girls to dinner and dessert.  Olive was well-behaved and had so much fun with us that I don’t regret having her crash our date.  I am deeply grateful to be married to a man who is such an amazing father as well as husband.  It was our 11th Valentine’s Day together and I truly love him more today than ever before.  <3

Here’s a glimpse of our day…

Olive’s Valentines for her friends

sweet treats from the other mommies, including Alexandra’s yummy strawberry butter!

homemade strawberry coconut milk — SO good!

matching heart sunnies?  check.  People who know me know that I’ve been wearing heart sunnies for well over 5 years–they’re sorta my thing.

the babes!

lauren & me & alexandra (hostess!) // I’m cracking up here because Olive wouldn’t let go — she wasn’t happy I was taking a photo without her.

Alexandra had us make these adorable crafts for the Dads — it features Olive’s hand and footprints.  Erik loved it and it’s going straight to his office.

We went out to dinner as a family and then stopped at the beach for frozen yogurt.  It was a sweet and simple evening together and it couldn’t have been better.

Thank you all for reading; I love YOU for the support and encouragement you send my way.  See you soon!

Happy Monday everyone!  I knew I wanted to write a catch-up post today and I realized that I already did a “life lately” in January… only a couple months ago.  It didn’t feel right putting February in the title, since most of these photos are from last month so… there ya go.  ;-)  Here is a glimpse of what we’ve been up to around here…

Daddy made a new mailbox (refinished this Saddlerock wine barrel for the base!) and Olive had to inspect it

Girl dates at Sally Loo’s!  This one with some sweet college girls and another one with the lovely & talented Jennifer Young.  Great conversations accompanied by yummy açai bowls = my favorite.

roasting lots of veggies

planning and prepping for 2014 clients!

waking up with the sun to workout (who am I??)

dipping our toes in the sea

chartreuse ladybug sighting (we match in our dots!)

beach time with some pals and their mamas (Olive was not in a picture-taking mood, even with the treats in her mouth) // loved catching up with Ally and April and their girls

Olive loved hanging at the park with Boden — aren’t they precious together??

This pic is my fav, though — she is literally falling off the back here.  haha  (Don’t worry, she was fine.)

Me and Boden’s mama, the multi-talented Jess Wilcox

coloring with my girl // can you tell which side is mine?

our hellebores are starting to bloom!

wallpaper weekend!  Erik put up my dream wallpaper, Cole & Son ‘Woods,’ in our bedroom.  I can’t wait to share the final result with you all!

a quick snap during breakfast yesterday; I wanted to capture the length of Olive’s hair when it’s all down.  I love this sweet pic of her profile, too.

splashing in the rain yesterday, as encouraged by Daddy.  She got soaked and loved every second of it!

Things have been great around here; busy with all good things!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!  I have a sweet client coming to town for some meetings so I can’t wait to finally meet her in person (yay!) and get down to business planning for her oceanview wedding.  See you soon!