Honeymoon Part 6 :: Pompeii and its ancient ruins

One of the reasons we chose Italy for our honeymoon destination was because we don’t like to be tied down. When Mr. Pilot and I travel together, we like to fly by the seat of our pants, deciding what we’ll do the night before and then seeing where the day leads us. The Amalfi Coast turned out to be a great destination for this type of travel, and our visit to Pompeii is a great example.

We didn’t plan to visit Pompeii during our one week trip, but it turned out to be an easy last-minute addition to our itinerary. Our return flight left Naples in the evening, so we checked out of our beautiful bed and breakfast in Positano and had our driver pick us up in the morning and take us to Pompeii for the day. Our hostess called and arranged the transfer, and our driver kept our luggage in the van while we explored the ruins.

What we didn’t realize was that we could have spent the entire day—or more!—inside the ancient city. We had two hours. It wasn’t nearly enough, but we still saw some truly amazing things! I was especially blown away by the artistry seen in the mosaics and brickwork. Here are a few photos…

column
pots
mural
mosaic
view
flower
victim
building
4
pots
stadium
oven
ruins
fountain
brick design
street
pompeii
garden

Honeymoon Part 5 :: Last supper at La Terra in Montepertuso

No trip to Italy would be complete without food and wine. Spending our last night on the Amalfi Coast at Ristorante La Terra was one of the best decisions we made. Our hostess at the bed and breakfast called in the morning to reserve us a table (beside the window!) and arrange for free transport to and from the restaurant, which is located in the next town. Montepertuso is situated high above Positano, giving it a spectacular view of the coastline and the town below.

Any place that begins the meal with complimentary sparkling wine is tops in my opinion! We also received an amuse bouche before ordering calamari salad, pasta, prawns and flan for dessert. Halfway through the meal, the owner brought out a saxophone and started playing while a waitress sang a song in Italian. It made for a memorable night before we set off for Pompeii the next day.

view of positano
la terra
champagne flutes
amuse bouche
calamari salad
italian pasta
prawns
flan

Honeymoon Part 4 :: Hiking the hills to Ravello

As soon as we arrived in Amalfi and took in the Cathedral, we set off to find a way to hike up to Ravello. This was sort of a crap shoot, since we knew it was possible but had no idea where to go or how to get up there. As we walked up the main street deeper into the town of Amalfi, we stopped and asked a group of locals. One translated for the rest and they told us to keep heading inland to the second plaza, turn right and look for a Madonna on the wall. Then we would see the stairs that would lead us to Ravello.

These turned out to be extremely vague instructions. We couldn’t seem to locate this plaza, so we stopped and asked another local, who asked a second local, before leading us behind some buildings and pointing to some stairs. And just like that, we were on our way to the hilltop town! It took about 2.5 hours and countless stairs, but the views were breathtaking and the victorious feeling of reaching our destination, priceless. Here are a few snapshots from the experience…

ravello landscape
madonna and stairs
poppies
rose
lemons
ravello sign
white blossoms
hike
flowers
end of hike
town of ravello
fruit stand in ravello
garden
hotel
view from garden
morning glory
musicians
seascape
ravello hills

Honeymoon Part 3 :: The Town of Amalfi

After spending time in Positano and Capri, our next trip along the Italian coast took us south to Amalfi. Every coastal town has churches, limoncello, pizza and views of the sea, but each is unique, and Amalfi was my favorite. Here are a few snapshots from our adventure, including a wonderful visit to St. Andrew’s Cathedral….

amalfi, italy
newlyweds, amalfi, italy
hilltop church, amalfi, italy
boats, amalfi, italy
anchor, amalfi, italy
fountain, amalfi, italy
amalfi, italy
chilies, amalfi, italy
duomo, st. andrew, amalfi, italy
duomo, st. andrew, amalfi, italy
duomo, st. andrew, amalfi, italy
holy spirit, duomo, st. andrew, amalfi, italy
painting, duomo, amalfi, italy
duomo crypt, amalfi, italy
crypt ceiling, duomo, st. andrew, amalfi, italy
painting, st. andrew, duomo, amalfi, italy
madonna fountain, amalfi, italy
turtles, amalfi, italy

Honeymoon Part 2 :: The Isle of Capri

We spent the second day of our honeymoon visiting the Isle of Capri — a 40 minute ferry ride from Positano. We enjoyed exploring the meandering streets of the town, swimming on the rocky beach and sipping wine while overlooking the lovely Mediterranean. Here are a few snapshots from our time there…

isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
ferry ride, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
harbor, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
boats in the harbor, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
lemons for sale, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
view of sea, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
shopping, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
flower shop, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
seagull, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
wine, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
sea view, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
newlyweds, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
beach, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
flowers, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy
beach, isle of capri, amalfi coast, italy

Wedding Retrospective Part 2 :: 10 details that mattered

I’ve already reflected on the big picture elements of our wedding day that made a huge difference for us. But it seems the entire bridal industry is centered around the details — the tiny touches that make the event “yours.” These days, everything must be personalized, sensational, full of meaning and emotion. You can’t just use any thank you card, or ring pillow, or napkin. Everything must fit together for a cohesive, beautiful, personal, original design. If that’s not enough to turn a girl into a Bridezilla, I don’t know what is!

I realized early on that I didn’t have the budget or the mental fortitude to create this kind of wedding. That didn’t keep me from trying to selectively include details that I found beautiful and personal. Some projects and purchases paid off more than others. Here are the details that proved to be worth it — the ones that had the most impact for us and for our guests.

10. A special hanger for my wedding gown.

This was a luxury item I ordered from Delovely Details in the final weeks leading up to the wedding. I didn’t need it, but I knew the photographer would be taking photos of my gown and I just didn’t want to display it on an ordinary, plastic hanger. Also, I figured I could use it again! It turned out to be one of my favorite purchases and looked gorgeous in our photos. I feel like it gave my dress the special feeling it deserved, and brought a smile to my face as I prepared to walk down the aisle.

9. Flowers in the bridal suite

I was so surprised when my bridesmaids brought me flowers on the morning of my wedding day — I assumed our bouquets would provide some floral decor. But the gift turned out to be more than a sweet gesture; the flowers looked gorgeous in the background of all of our getting ready photos in the bridal suite! This was a blessing because the bridal flowers didn’t arrive until later in the morning, and then they were delivered in a large bucket that prevented them from being displayed.

8. Pretty robes for my bridesmaids

Yes, this is a trend, but it’s a great one! I knew I wanted to order robes even before I was engaged because we would all be getting ready in the suite together. The photos look amazing and fill the room with color. The patterns I chose contrasted especially nicely with my white gown as they helped me with final touches. Even better, the lightweight fabric from Plum Pretty Sugar is perfect for summer and my girls love them as a gift!

7. Specialty linens.

This is where I had planned to save a lot of money. I bought super cheap white tablecloths—cheaper than renting—and washed and pressed them all myself. However, I did want 1) a nice backdrop behind the sweetheart table, as a centerpiece for the room 2) a beautiful cake table and 3) colored napkins. Because of this, I ordered draping, a special tablecloth for the cake table, 150 pink napkins, and rented two detailed linens for the cake and sweetheart tables. When I saw the final result, I was thrilled. The extra purchases were well worth the expense for the splash of color they added to the room and the “wedding” feeling they created.

6. A mailbox for guests’ cards.

This was an extra purchase I didn’t need, but I really wanted something for the guests to put cards in. I also wanted the gift table to be more than just an empty table. I was unhappy with card boxes and birdcages, and many of the options I did like were too expensive. I settled on a $29 mailbox from Lowe’s. The colors totally matched my theme and it looked super cute at the reception. The best part was that we ended up receiving a lot more cards than I had ever expected, so I was very glad to have been prepared!

5. Fancy custom thank you notes.

I originally bought some super cheap blank notes on sale at Michael’s that I had planned to print at home. When I opened them up, however, they were such cheap quality that I was too embarrassed to send them to anyone. I finally splurged and ordered notecards to match my stationery, with specialty envelopes and all. This is a decision I am so happy to have made. Our guests were so wonderful to us, both by coming to the celebration and with many generous gifts, that they deserved a really amazing thank you. This is a detail I don’t think any bride should overlook.

4. Covering the chairs at our ceremony.

In our parish, the Nuptial Mass features chairs for the bride and groom to sit in during different parts of the ceremony. These are standard, red-cushioned church chairs. I couldn’t understand spending so much time making the space beautiful and ignoring these ugly chairs. I ordered $3 satin chair covers online and tied a pink sash around them that matched my program covers. Easy solution, big impact. These chairs are in our photos, but now they enhance the altar instead of distracting from it.

3. Locations for couple portraits.

I couldn’t be happier with the beautiful backdrops in our couple portraits, which were incredibly important to me. We took photos both before and after the wedding, and they are exactly what I had hoped for. We scoped out locations with our photographer a month earlier while doing our engagement shoot, so we were prepared on our wedding day. The giant oak trees and lazy moss bring a smile to my face every time I see them—it’s every Southern bride’s dream!

2. Pretty, handmade favors.

Favors are something I don’t really believe in. Most of them are silly and cheap, and guests care much more about food and air conditioning then a box of mints with your wedding date on it. However, I love edible favors, and adding something with personal meaning to a celebration is never a bad thing. The groom’s family has a tradition of making pizzelle cookies, and he remembers making them with both of his grandmothers growing up. These are not only delicious, but also beautiful! We spent the week before the wedding making these lovely treats and bagging them up with ribbon and custom tags. We placed them at every setting on our banquet tables and they served as decor as well as a treat for our guests. (Several people gathered up the extras at the end of the night to take home with them!)

1. Rose petals.

Rose petals cost a pretty good chunk of change, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than a special rose petal exit from the church. Rose petals are pretty. Rose petals are fun. And we were having a long reception, so we knew many guests wouldn’t be around for an exit at 10 p.m. We opted to make our “grand” exit from the church in the beautiful spring sunlight and it was unforgettable. All the guests were able to participate and celebrate the wedding they had just witnessed in a tangible way. We loved it AND the photos are breathtaking. I’ll never forget the feeling of walking to the car with my new husband, being showered in petals and cheers. This is a detail I absolutely wouldn’t trade for the world.

————-

Did you miss the first installment? Read about the 10 things we got right at our wedding.
Still to come: 10 things we would do differently

Father’s Day from the ICU

My dad and I, dancing at my wedding on May, 17, 2014.

My dad and I, dancing at my wedding on May, 17, 2014.

Four weeks ago, I was dancing with my dad on my wedding day.

Today, it’s Father’s Day, and I’m sitting in the ICU at Banner Thunderbird Hospital in Phoenix.

My dad is here, but he’s in someone else’s body.

His face is spread out and swollen. Every part of his body is being run by machines. Tubes stretch out from his mouth, his arms, his shoulders, his abdomen, his groin and his legs. Everywhere.

And yet, he is here. He listens to me as I tell him what I ate for lunch; my flight from Atlanta; my exercise classes; and all manner of vapid things that we both know don’t matter to either of us right now.

But I keep talking, because it’s the only thing I can do and because he can’t. The ventilator keeps him breathing, and he can’t speak with it running down his throat. That doesn’t keep him from trying.

He listens. I ask him a question, and he will raise his arm or squeeze my hand in response. He will form the words “I love you,” and become incredibly irritated that he can’t say more.

Nurses hover around us constantly, checking one medication or the other; noting numbers; changing dressings and bedding and bags; pressing buttons on the dozens of machines that are supporting my dad’s broken body.

I smile and try to stay positive for my dad. I keep talking.

——–

I got the call on Thursday night. I knew it wouldn’t be good.

My dad had gone in that morning for a scheduled procedure. When his pacemaker was installed this spring, they had trouble completing part of the surgery. Because of this, the device wasn’t as effective as it should be. Still, my dad was doing much better, getting stronger. He was able to walk and drive and travel. The doctors hoped that finishing the surgery would give him an even better quality of life.

But my dad didn’t call me.

I knew he would update me when it was over. It wasn’t supposed to be a complicated procedure. He always calls me.

When the phone finally rang, it was the cardiologist. I expected bad news—the worst—but not this bad.

He said my dad became very sick during the surgery; that his blood pressure plummeted and they had a difficult time stabilizing him. He had internal bleeding and couldn’t form a clot, so his body was filling with blood. He was on a breathing machine. He was on a ventilator. His organs were shutting down. I was told he may not make it through the night.

So I got online and booked a plane ticket to Phoenix. My husband and I drove through the night to Atlanta, where we got two hours of sleep in a hotel before I boarded a plane at 8:30 a.m. I arrived at the hospital at 11 a.m. Friday.

I had no point of reference for what I would find. I thought I would be prepared and strong when I saw him, but I gasped and burst into tears immediately. He barely looked human, and he definitely didn’t look like a person who should be alive.

They had found the source of the bleeding and stopped it, but his abdomen was still open, swollen and filled with gauze. They needed to go into surgery again to remove the gauze and check for further problems. In the meantime, he was awake and responsive, and I was able to talk to him.

“I’m here now, Daddy. I’m here. It’s going to be okay.”

It’s a silly thing to say—absolutely nothing is okay—but it’s what comes out of my mouth just the same.

I tell him all the things I hadn’t made time to tell him before Thursday. I sign the consent forms for the second surgery. They roll him away, I cry, and I wait.

The doctor finds me an hour later. It went well, he says. There is no more bleeding. Now they must focus on healing and recovery. I return to his room, where he is semi-conscious. I know they will sedate him for the night, so I tell him I’ll be back tomorrow. I don’t know how many tomorrows there will be.

——–

They change his medication to sedate him further. Maybe he can hear me, but he won’t respond now. In this deep sleep, he will be calm, stop fighting the ventilator, be still so he can heal.

There is nothing more I can do here, so I head back to the house we have been renting in town for the past three months.

There are his shoes, right where he left them.

There are the notes he took down from a phone call earlier this week.

There is a pile of clothes he wanted to give to charity, sorted and ready to be delivered when he returns.

Sadness creeps up as I wonder if he will return. I let it wash over me and carry on.

I stayed with my dad in this house multiple times, caring for him while he was ill or recovering from surgery. We made good memories here: we sat on the patio outside watching the golfers on the coarse across the street; we went to the Farmer’s Market; walked around the botanical gardens; watched movies; cooked dinners. We shopped for the shirt and tie he would wear to my wedding. We grilled out back. We went shopping in Scottsdale.

Sadness hits me again, stronger still, because I remember and I miss him. I want to do more things together; make more memories; spend more time. I want to arrive at this house and find him here, just like it was before. I want to call him on the phone and hear his voice on the other end. I can’t understand this new world I am facing, where that isn’t possible, where he isn’t there.

I am sad. I am afraid. I am confused. I am calm. I am everything all at once. It is emotionally exhausting.

And so I keep waiting, but don’t know what I’m waiting for.

I keep praying, but don’t know what I should pray for.

I keep hoping, but don’t know what to hope for.

I keep riding this roller coaster of the unknown outcome without knowing when I’ll be able to get off.

And so, I keep talking.

“I’m here now, Daddy. I’m here. It’s going to be okay.”

——–

Happy Father’s Day to my Daddy, and to all the other fathers out there. If you are celebrating with your whole and healthy Dad today, take a moment to appreciate what a wonderful blessing he is; be thankful; keep making memories.

Wedding Retrospective Part 1 :: 10 things we got right

Planning a wedding is worlds away from enjoying a wedding while it’s happening. Our journey from proposal to vows wasn’t easy, but there were many decisions we made that paid off when the Big Day arrived. As I reflect on a day that took forever to arrive and then flew by too fast, I’m proud of some of the things we got right.

10. Fancy paper.

This was a splurge, but it’s also what I do for a living. Even though I knew few guests would care about the quality of the invitations, I couldn’t bring myself to fully compromise here. This was my only chance to design my wedding invitations, and it was truly a labor of love. I wanted specialty envelopes, a custom embosser, envelope liners, matching programs, pretty stamps and soft, rich paper. There aren’t that many occasions that call for fancy formal stationery, so I went all out and I’m glad I did. The invitation is a guest’s first impression of your event, and it ends up feeling like a representation of yourself. This is even more pronounced when you design stationery for a living and people know you made them!

9. The attire.

Even though this was a point of contention for months (the groom didn’t purchase a suit until April!), we both made great choices here. I loved my dress before, during and after my wedding day. It was exactly what I wanted, it photographed beautifully and fit perfectly. I loved my veil. I was also insanely thankful that I wore flat shoes! I can’t imagine how women survive a day like that in heels, no matter how great they look.
Mr. Pilot looked sharp too, and the color of the suit he chose was perfect for the overall feeling I was hoping to achieve. The suspenders were his own idea, and he totally pulled them off!

8. Keeping it (relatively) simple.

It didn’t feel simple when I was buying up mercury glass votives from six different stores across town, and ordering linens, and trying to envision what our tables would look like. Or when I wondered if spending $100 on a tablecloth was justifiable. Or when I wanted to create a backdrop of handmade paper flowers (ha!) But in the end, our decor could have been a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive. Online photos of other weddings constantly made me feel the need to strive to create a level of sophistication and splendor that couldn’t honestly be achieved on our budget. It was a constant struggle to stop purchasing more “stuff” to make our wedding special. In the end though, I’m happy with the candles, lanterns, photo frames and linens I chose to purchase for our reception. They weren’t grand or over the top, but they were enough, and I loved every one. Besides, sometimes simple is chic!

7. The food.

This was our biggest expense. It was more than the cost of the venue and alcohol combined. BUT it was fantastic and plentiful, and feeding our guests a great meal was a priority for us. We served a buffet broken into stations that included: beef tenderloin, peach-glazed chicken, squash souffle-stuffed tomatoes, green beans, cornbread, spring mix salad with fresh strawberries and pecans, and an attended grits bar with andouille sausage, sauteed shrimp and tomato gravy. Yum!
Another thing that worked out well: Our plates were waiting for us at the sweetheart table after we made our grand entrance. So while our guests were getting food, we were actually able to eat a meal before getting up to greet everyone.

6. Our cake.

If one single part of our wedding surpassed all of my expectations, it was our wedding cake. This was another top priority for us as a couple. I have had a lot of lackluster wedding cakes. I love cake, and if you’re going to drop several hundred dollars on one, it better taste amazing.
It did.
Our cake had four tiers and we offered our guests three flavors: almond, Godiva chocolate and Italian creme. Besides the flavor, I loved the end result for our cake’s design. I will never forget how I felt when we entered the room and I saw our cake for the first time. I was blown away — like I said, it was even better than I had imagined. And because of this, I am brought to my final thought on good cake decisions…
Display it! We changed the layout of our event in our final meeting with the caterer and decided to place our cake table in the middle of the room, right in front of guests as they entered the building. Considering how gorgeous our cake turned out to be, I am so glad we did this! It was a show stopper and everyone could fully appreciate it because it was out in the open and not tucked away in a corner.

5. Breaking tradition.

Honestly, our wedding was pretty traditional. But we did decide to nix the expected when it didn’t feel right for us. We raised a number of eyebrows when we walked down the aisle together, but that is how we wanted to approach our ceremony — side by side. On the other hand, there were traditions that I initially wanted to break but ended up being happy to have relented. I didn’t want the wedding party to walk down the aisle or stand beside us during the ceremony. But now, when I look at the photos, I’m so happy our friends are up there too!

4. Multiple wedding weekend events.

Many people have a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, but we had an extra busy weekend. Some family and friends came to town Thursday night, so we had a big, long, home cooked meal at the house that night. That was a fantastic experience because it was a smaller group and we were still somewhat relaxed, since wedding mania hadn’t kicked into high gear yet. We also had a brunch on Sunday after the wedding. This meant getting up a little early to get ready and head to the house, but what a wonderful chance to see people one more time before they left town. With the wedding behind us, we were relaxed and happy. We got to reflect and relive the celebration, and hear about the things we missed the night before. We got to spend more time talking to the people we had seen less of during the reception. The brunch was a huge success and a great decision, and then everyone waved us away as we left for our honeymoon!

3. Taking our honeymoon immediately after the wedding.

People approach the honeymoon in many different ways: leave after a few days; delay it by a week; take it in another year. But if we were to do it again, I would do it the same way: We left at noon the day after the wedding. This meant packing earlier in the week and it did stress me out a little during planning. But it ended up working out great, mostly because we had just gotten married! There is no greater high than when the wedding you’ve been planning and obsessing over for months has happened and it went really well! There is no better feeling than being surrounded by all the people in your life you love most. We were floating on a cloud the whole day, and that joy carried us right into our honeymoon.
After all the stress of planning a wedding, and all the chaos and emotions involved in surviving one, a honeymoon is a release. It is an escape. It is a reward. It is a chance to stop, take a deep breath and realize that life just changed. Everything has shifted, and you just entered a life long commitment with this wonderful person who loves you. Isn’t that a great reason to break routine? To take a moment away from the stresses of everyday life and take all that in?

2. The photographer.

Everyone says that after all the expense and heartache and joy of your wedding day, you are just left with the memories…and the photographs. It turns out this is absolutely true, and our photos let us relive all the unique moments of this very special day in our lives. A talented photographer was an absolute must for me, and thankfully we found Ashlee Culverhouse. When it comes to weddings, I can’t think of much that is more important to a bride than loving the way she looks in her wedding photos. What an amazing feeling to get our photos back and have them completely embody what we were hoping for, and more.
Priceless.

1. The people.

You could plan the prettiest wedding day in the world, but if you’re surrounded by people you don’t care to be around, what’s the point? We knew from the beginning that we would only invite our nearest and dearest. We kept the list as tight as possible. This wasn’t for our budget’s sake — it was because we wanted to spend time with people we loved the most. The more people you invite, the less time you can spend with each person. I believe we actually did speak to every guest at our reception. We also felt totally comfortable and at ease because we weren’t surrounded by dozens of strangers or friends of friends of cousins. We had a wonderful group who knew how to let loose and have a party.
And that was the ultimate great decision.

Coming next week: 10 details that mattered
And still ahead: Things we would do differently

We’re Married!

wedding portrait

Mr. Pilot and I were married on May 17, 2014 in Albany, Georgia.

The blog has been on a bit of a hiatus lately, but I’m happy to say everything should be getting back to normal this summer!

Mr. Pilot and I got engaged in November, and since then life has been turned upside down. Planning a wedding was so much more difficult than I had ever imagined, and I couldn’t juggle everything in my life while trying to prepare for this huge event. Between shopping for a veil, meeting with the caterer, researching decor, considering rentals, coordinating transportation and assembling invitations — PLUS working full time and attending to family — putting my blog and Etsy shop on hold was a necessary step for me.

Luckily, we had an absolutely beautiful wedding on May 17, 2014 and it was more than I could have wished for. Despite taking place in South Georgia, it didn’t rain and it wasn’t sweltering hot. This in itself was a small miracle. We had many friends and family travel from far away to support us — from California, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and more! And that is what we will always remember: the amazing amount of love we felt from the people who are most important to us.

I loved our cake. I loved the rose petals people threw as we left the church. I loved our ceremony. I loved dancing with my husband. But most of all, I loved having all of our favorite people in one place at the same time, because I don’t know when that will ever happen again. It was truly a once in a lifetime feeling.

So all the stress and hard work paid off, but Mr. Pilot and I couldn’t be happier to put it behind us and move forward into married life together! I will post honeymoon photos soon, and try to put together some insightful reflections for brides going through the crazy experience that I somehow survived.

It’s good to be back!