My Wedding!

So… I haven’t posted in forever… I’m not sure why… I guess I’ve been wrapped up in domestic life and well a lot of travel and a lot of new exciting things!!!  Eep!  But first I want to record my wedding day!  Oh my gosh!!!!

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First of all my family and my best friends flew in.  As a military brat this is a BIG DEAL.  Never have I ever had all of my loved ones in one place at one time!  My heart was so full.  And best of all everyone got along.  My friends who traveled from different parts of the country to be there for me on my special day, became friends!  They still keep in contact with each other!  That makes me so happy!

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Matron of Honor

Second of all the wedding was so beautiful!  My reception was the most beautiful room (gigantic room) I have ever seen.  My husband and my husband’s family and friends worked so hard to make it perfect, and it was.  I have to admit right now my husband did 80 percent of the planning, maybe 85 percent.  He left me in charge of flowers, my dress (he picked out my shoes and purse with me) and the cake.  Nick the baker and his wife Grace made our cake.  I stole ideas off of Pinterest and what they brought to the table, the cake table that is, was definitely Pinterest worthy!

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And tasty, considering I don’t like cake!  I am more of a cookie girl, hence why there were so many cookies at my wedding to take home.  Sad but funny story really quick:  I made myself a box of my favorite Italian cookies to take back to my hotel room after my wedding and then I somehow dropped all of them while I was crossing the street from my venue, The Huntington Bank building, to my hotel, The Kimpton.  Luckily, someone driving by who was at my wedding pulled over to give me some of the cookies that they had boxed to take home.  Ah I may have been all dressed up but I was still clumsy Chantelle through and through!

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And the flowers/lighting: Pieter Bouterse and Gwen Hashimoto did an AMAZING job.  It was exactly what I wanted yet I could never really put it into words for them when I was trying to explain it.  I like to think I’m an easy going person, but after picking out flowers and my dress for that matter I’ve come to realize that with certain monumental things in my life, I am incredibly nit picky.

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Oh and speaking of the dress, my husband still makes fun of me for how long it took me to find one.  I think I went to 11 different stores.  I looked in Italy (I was there anyway, I didn’t actually fly to look!) New York City (beautiful but EXPENSIVE) Pittsburgh, Cleveland (of course) Miami and finally Chicago.  I was convinced I had found the dress of my dreams, well two of the dresses of my dreams, at Chernaya in Miami.  Ladies if you are looking for a dress Chernaya bridal has the most beautiful dresses!  I was working with a man named Renato and he was absolutely wonderful.

The dresses that could have been.

But!  I took one last minute trip to Chicago.  I went into a store downtown called Myra’s with my mom.  I picked out a few ball gowns because I was convinced I wanted a huge ball gown.  My mom pulled this little silky thing with flowers on it off of the rack, now I love flowers so I said, “why not?”  Well, that was it.

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And the strangest thing!  When I first started looking at dresses and cutting pictures out, that dress was the first dress I cut out and stuck inside of my wedding planner, but I completely forgot about it!  It wasn’t until a couple of months after my wedding that I looked back at my planner and pulled the photo out!  First loves die hard.   Anyway we bought the dress off of the rack at an amazing price.  Another strange thing, I said a few Hail Mary’s that morning asking Mary to help me find a beautiful dress that was under 5000.  Then I was bold enough to say okay under 3000.  And then I got up the courage to say, you know what all things are possible with God let’s make it under 2000!  No way that’s going to happen but I’m going to put the prayer out there, I thought.  Sure enough that dress ended up being under 2000.  I know God has more important things to do than answer a young woman’s prayer about finding a wedding dress that wouldn’t fill her with guilt concerning price, but I’m glad God came to the rescue yet again.

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Something Blue

So finally, after my part of the planning was complete we had our beautiful rehearsal dinner at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine.  There was a harp player, my family and friends had arrived, the food was great, the tables were decorated beautifully.  It was so pretty, it could have been my wedding!  The next day I ran around Cleveland trying to spend time with friends but also trying to fit in a facial.  We went down to Little Italy for a little celebration before the wedding.  I didn’t do a bachelorette party so that little run through during the Feast of The Assumption was about as crazy as it got for me.

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I didn’t diet before my wedding.  I ate whatever I wanted because I was happy and when I’m happy I eat!  I did exercise more than usual though.  I ran and worked out with Nick’s cousin, Joanna and our trainer Kelsey.  The one thing I did do diet wise was a juice cleanse prior to the big day.  I will never ever do a juice cleanse again.  My stomach hurt so bad.  I finally had a salad the night before the wedding and felt healthy again.  I appreciate one freshly squeezed juice a day for nutrients and general wellness but a juice cleanse, no thanks.  I believe in balance, fresh foods, veggies, a colorful plate, but if someone makes you a home cooked meal from their heart- you eat it!  And so far in life that philosophy has worked for me.

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Finally the day of the wedding!  Okay wait let’s back up.  I could not sleep the night before.  Of course I was excited but there’s also that super reflective part of me that had to think about the entirety of my life experiences that led me to this one amazing day in my life and then there were the fireworks.  The literal fireworks that went on outside of my huge hotel room windows for honestly I think it was an hour.  Go Cleveland Indians but seriously a girl needs to sleep before her wedding.  Okay now for the wedding day.  I was incredibly nervous and I have no idea why.  Im pretty sure I was having mini panic attacks, trying to make sure I got to the church on time, worrying about my etiquette, considering the amount of people who were coming to my wedding.  I think it was 500…  I did not feel calm that entire morning until I walked down the aisle and finally saw my husband.

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Then I felt like a child who had finally gotten their security blanket back!

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It was a hot August day in there…But isn’t it beautiful?

After Nick and I were officially wed in the church we went straight to lunch.  My husband wanted to have a huge lunch with food trucks.  Originally we were supposed to have the lunch outdoors at St. Ignatius High School but with the weather report threatening rain, it was moved to Cibreo.  I thought it was lovely, although I must admit I spent the majority of lunch trying to get marinara sauce off of my breast area!  Someone eating a meatball must have hugged me!  By the end of the night I smelled like a tide to go stick!  I am just not the kind of girl who can wear white!  Between my own hot mess self and my pasta eating guests… let’s just say my bridesmaids were in charge of dress maintenance all day.

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After that busy morning I finally started to feel calm.  We had a slight drizzle after lunch and I had an hour or so to get ready for the reception (always my favorite part of any wedding!)  As stressed out as a I felt during the first part of the day, my attitude completely took a 180 during the second part of the day.  I think I just needed my best friend.

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The reception was unbelievable.

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It was perfect… and it was fun.

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We danced to, “Let’s Stay Together.”  It was the first song we had ever danced to when we first started dating.  Nick and I had a choreographed routine.  I never needed the dance to be perfect, to be honest I just enjoyed doing something productive together as a couple, just the two of us.  I would suggest that for any couple.  Do something together, work out, cook whatever.

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And the best part is, Ari got what she always wanted and needed.

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Kindergarten

Dear Ari,

I just tucked you in.  The night before your last day of kindergarten and I am feeling a little sad and a little shocked and just left wondering why time goes by so fast…  I remember being young and seeing older people say that childhood goes by so fast.  I remember wishing I could be a grown up and sometimes being frustrated about the boredom of being a kid.  When you grow up you realize that being a kid is as simple as it gets.  When you become a mom you realize everyone around you who said, “enjoy them now, they grow up so fast!” was right.  You are growing up so fast.  I do try to enjoy the moment and be present but it’s like sand slipping through my clutching hands.  The moments are gone so quickly.  Wasn’t I just buying your backpack for your first day of school?  Wasn’t I just running out the door with your lunch box and gym shoes, frustrated that we would be late to school one random day in February?

I love you so much.  I know that you know this.  I can tell by the way you look at me and how you always feel so safe and complete when you are around me.  I’m so proud of you Ari.  I still have so much to teach you as does your school and the world around you.  But, you amaze me.  You are the happiest person I know.  You bounce back so quickly.  You are truly resilient and this trait is something that I hope you will always have.  I can’t stop the world from breaking your heart, from hurting your feelings, from not being fair to you all of the time, but I can tell you that you get to choose how you respond to it.  I hope you will always remain resilient.  I hope you will always choose to be strong and have the courage to heal.

Two of my favorite words are compassion and perseverance.  When I was pregnant with you the one thing I wanted to become was more compassionate to the world.  I wanted to become the woman who you would one day admire.  Compassion, empathy, understanding, humility and charity is what we should show our fellow brothers and sisters who share this planet with us for this short amount of time we are granted.  You are kind and you are loving, I pray that compassion continues to grow and flourish in your little heart.

Perseverance is something that I learned growing up through the darkest of times.  Everyday we must choose to persevere, whether it be from the little things or the big things.  There is so much beauty and warmth in this world but storms do come.  You have to pray and you have to get through it.  Physical pain, emotional pain; it will all come down to a battle of the mind.  You choose to be strong.  You choose your perspective.  You find the light in the darkness.  Lord knows there were times in my life when my heart had been so trampled on I just wanted the earth to swallow me up.  But I have always had this hope inside of me.  This echo of God.  The best is always yet to come Arianna.  You have to hold on in this life and you have to persevere.  I know in my heart that you always will.  I can tell how strong your mind and heart are even now at your young age.

Life may never be as simple as it is right now in Kindergarten.  Next year, you will have less play time.  You will have more homework.  You will be expected to know and obey the rules.  You will be an example for the future kindergartners.  Arianna, you worked so hard this year.  You learned so much.  You made so many friends.  Despite being new to this state, this culture let alone school in general you adapted so quickly.  Not once did you cower behind my legs afraid of new environments, situations or people.  Instead you welcomed everything with your warm radiant smile and captivating personality.  I am so proud of you and so inspired.

All of this is in my heart to tell you, but of course it is only the last paragraph that I’m actually going to say out loud to you at 6 years old.

Love,

mommy

 

Venezia, I Dolomiti, Trento, Monte Cassino, Perugia, Frosinone

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Nick helped me accomplish one of my life long dreams!  Seeing Venice or Venezia as the locals would say!  It was beautiful and surreal.  I had no idea Venice was composed of so many islands!  I also didn’t believe that you really can’t get around without a pair of good walking shoe and a boat!  Seriously I thought maybe they had little cars to get through certain parts of the city… but nope!  You need a water taxi for that!

What can I tell you about Venice?  It is a city on the sea that remains captured in the past.  Depending on the rain, the city may be flooded and the locals are prepared for this frequent occurrence.  I love old Italian architecture and I love the sea.  This blends my affinity for both.  There is nowhere else in the world like Venice.

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They eat lots of seafood, eel is a specialty (personally I couldn’t get past the first bite!  I had eels as pets for a very brief period of time and I just could not stomach them).  There was good wine and food that I have never seen before (which is one of the things about traveling I love!!) such as these little fried shrimps that were given to us before dinner instead of bread.  I was so confused by them and how to eat them I had to watch other people eat them first!  (You just pop the whole thing into your mouth!)

We went to Venice during their Carnival!  What a treat!  Our hotel had dance lessons and everyone, I mean everyone in the entire city was dressed like they came out of The Renaissance!  Venice’s carnival is famous for the beautiful masks that people adorn and there were several shops that sold handmade masks.  I had to get one of course!  I wore it the entire time I was there!

The next stop was the Dolomites.  I thought Heidi was going to come out of the mountains at any moment and say, “yodelayeeooo!!!”  The north of Italy is interesting to me.  The very touristy areas like Lake Garda, where I went last summer, are filled with Austrians and Germans.  In Lake Garda I felt like I spoke more German than I did Italian!  The Dolomites were beautiful though.  They were pristine white and so big… when I think about how big they were I get the terrified feeling of being stuck at the top of them with no other way down but to ski.

I told Nick that I went skiing in New Jersey once and that I really liked it.  Mind you, it was New Jersey and I was on a bunny slope.  He then assumed that he could put me on a ski lift to the top of The Dolomites and I would have a great time skiing down with him.  Well, after the eighth fall I had had it!  I wanted off of that mountain.  Nick then told me the only way down was to ski down.  After two and a half hours of sinking in snow, tears, fears that I just might actually die or seriously break a limb, the frustration of my own continued yelling, “when will this mountain ever end!?  I finally figured out how to ski.

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Now on to the city of Trento.  Trento was beautiful and full of history.

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Perugia was next, we met up with Nick’s friend Sara and her fiancé Matteo.  Perugia was beautiful and I can not wait to return.  We did not stay long, just enough time to have dinner and walk around the city.  We also had an amazing meal there.  Sara runs a winery in Perugia.  Her wines are exceptional.  Hopefully we will return to Perugia for their wedding.  Sara and her fiancé were just as beautiful on the outside as they were on the inside.

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We kept driving South to get to Frosinone, the town where Nick’s grandfather is from.  On the way we again made a quick stop, this time in Pisa.

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And of course we couldn’t miss mass, so when Sunday came Nick drove an hour out of the way to go to Monte Cassino.  He promised it would be beautiful and worth it.  And it was.  The history behind Monte Cassino and its war torn past is beautiful and almost haunting.  One day I will go back.  I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful monastery.

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It was an amazing Winter Italian adventure!

 

 

Argentina

I went to South America!  That thought in itself makes me feel so happy!!!  After our engagement Nick and I went on a series of adventures it seemed like!  We woke up on Christmas morning, let Ari open her presents and then went to three different family member’s homes to celebrate Christmas and of course share our news!  Around 2 pm we took off on a flight to Florida.  The next day Ari went with her grandparents while Nick and I drove to Miami.  From Miami we flew to Peru and I must say Peru is beautiful!!  On one side I saw mountains and with the turn of my head I saw ocean on the other.  At the airport in Peru, there were men playing traditional Peruvian music and it made me smile because they seemed so happy to be with one another and so in love with their music.

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Soon enough it was time to board the flight to Argentina.  We landed in Buenos Aires and then took a cab to a smaller airport, from there we went to Mendoza, Argentina’s wine country.  Mendoza is beautiful and the food was fantastic.  Nick was excited about all of the wine and of course the meat.  I was really interested in the Argentine culture because I have met a few people from Argentina who actually turned out to be Italian!  I wanted to see how the Spanish and Italian culture blended in this far South American country.  Here’s what I noticed about their food (besides the infamous quality of their wine and meats).

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Their pizza has a ridiculous amount of cheese on it.  An American would definitely appreciate their generosity with cheese.  Yes they have pastas and many kinds with lots of different sauces.  They love pumpkins in this country!  I love pumpkins too so I was more than content.  If you’re going to get a side dish that isn’t french fries with chimichurri, it’s probably going to be a small roasted pumpkin (or other squash) or a pumpkin souffle.  They like to cook their fruits there!  Oh my gosh… so yummy!  Roasted and/or poached pears, lightly grilled pineapples!  Ah, I want them everyday!!!  Nick fell in love with empanadas and had to have them with every meal. If you go to Mendoza you must go to the restaurant 1884.  Visually and aesthetically ‘on point’ as the kids would say these days.

The food?  Amazing, and the portions are huge!  We could not finish our food and I barely had room to eat any of the delicious gnocchi that we ordered.

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In Mendoza we mostly just ate.  We did walk around the city a bit but my favorite part was driving to the vineyards to see the mountains.

The night we went, there was a lightning storm.  Imagine a beautiful sunset behind vineyards nestled in mountains with lightning flashing.  It was one of those nights I just wanted to hold on to in my memory forever.  It gave me that feeling of being infinite but ephemeral at the same time.  God made such a beautiful world.  I will leave it at that because it’s hard to explain the visceral magnitude of it when I see such natural beauty.

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The next morning guess what?  We were on another plane back to Buenos Aires.  When we first landed I remembered why I did not like living in the city.  It was very busy, loud and I felt claustrophobic especially with so many people asking to exchange money (which is illegal in Argentina).  We quickly left that side of town and went to quieter and calmer streets.  Over the next couple of days we saw some beautiful architecture, that looked heavily influenced by Europe.  My favorite building was the French embassy!  We strolled around an area called Palermo that had a bunch of boutiques and cobblestone streets (my kind of neighborhood). We also walked along the outside of the botanical gardens and the zoo.  I wanted to go in but we ran out of time!  I did see these little guys running around! I had to take a second look because I remember thinking, “did I just see a little dog or a rabbit?!?” It’s amazing all of the animals in this world that we don’t even know exist!  It’s a Patagonian Mara.

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We also saw a tango show.  I love the tango there are so many emotions in the dance, it’s feisty, passionate, romantic and sexy.  Nick has the tango show photos on his phone-sorry!  We also went to a large park that had a cemetery in it.  This was no ordinary cemetery.  It was filled with beautiful above ground tombs from the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  I’ve never seen anything like it and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to play hide and seek in there on a Halloween night!  We also spent New Years in Buenos Aires at Puerto Madero.  It’s their water front.  They have a lot of restaurants there and that night they had a firework show.  People lit fireworks wherever they pleased that night and I was terrified one was going to hit us!  Luckily we were fine and with all of the walking we did in Buenos Aires in their hot summer heat I’m pretty sure we burned off all of our calories from Mendoza.  I was happy to come home to our family but it was also wonderful to just spend alone time with my now fiance.

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He’s so handsome!!! 

 

 

 

Our Engagement

The night of Christmas Eve or I should say Christmas morning, Nick proposed!  It was such a surreal experience.  I love those moments in life where I am just completely giddy and in disbelief that something is actually happening in the present moment.  It’s like is this really happening to me?  Am I dreaming because there’s no way something I’ve dreamed about for so long is actually happening right now!!!

Ari, Nick and I went to midnight mass and afterwards we knelt down by the nativity scene to say a prayer and he took my hand, which didn’t seem strange because he usually touches my hands, but this time he was trying to put something on my finger.

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In my mind I always imagined that I would cry and give a big speech to the man I love when he proposed but, I just could not stop smiling.  There were no tears and since it was the middle of the night I had to wait until morning to call or text anyone, and there was something beautiful in that.  I had this amazing happy secret all to Nick and myself (Ari too but she was in dream mode) for an entire night.  I couldn’t even sleep that night I was so happy.

It is strange to think of how fragile the timing was when we met.  What would have happened if I didn’t look up?  Or why did we not meet sooner?  I was in Naples visiting family for the greater portion of my adult life… Were we walking down the wrong aisle in the grocery store?  I have a feeling that we met at the perfect time though and that everything we went through separately made us perfect for each other now.  Growing up apart and all that we have gone through apart I’m sure made us both more compassionate, understanding, considerate and most of all appreciative. I admire him so much for so many different reasons.  I thank God for him everyday.  I could go on and on about my love for him so I will stop!

Anyway, now we get to plan our wedding and live in this beautiful anticipation for the next several months.  The planning and the anticipation is so much fun and I realize it will go by so fast so I’m trying to enjoy it!

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Arianna’s Smoothie

Ari loves strawberry banana smoothies.  To add a little extra goodness in it, I’ve started sneaking a few ingredients in.

In this smoothie, little to Ari’s knowledge, there is a handful of baby kale and a spoonful of flax seeds.  It’s topped off with orange juice and coconut milk.

Garnished with a strawberry

Seeing Clearly Now

I have not been handling coffee or caffeine well at all.  Coffee has been making me a bit nauseous and really any form of caffeine is now giving me the shakes a bit.  I decided to lay off of the caffeine for a while, including my favorite cup of Early Grey with honey and coconut milk.  I’m also trying to stay away from sugar, so that batch of chocolate chip cookies that I really want to bake may have to wait.

I was feeling sluggish mid-day so I grabbed a few fruits and veggies to try and get my energy up naturally.  This juice is quick because there’s not much washing and cutting to do.  I’ve also been craving carrots and citrus lately so this hit the spot.

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This juice has several carrots, a few handfuls of fresh pineapple and broccoli, a generous pinch of cilantro to give it a fresh taste, the tiniest bit of ginger for digestion and half of a lemon.

The end result was everything I needed (=

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My substitute cappuccino filled with natural goodness that my body actually needs.