Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Prologue to our San Fran Trip

Here's something you may not know: I'm NOT spontaneous. Thomas teases me that I "plan for spontaneity." I like to plan everything, even my free time, and a lot of my decisions are well thought out, deliberate and pretty safe.

So in the spirit of being more carefree and laid back, I suggested to Thomas that we take a vacation. You may be thinking, "come on Amanda, planning a vacation isn't that spontaneous." Maybe you're right, but what if I told you we planned this trip in just two days? Wouldya cut me a little slack? 

When Virgin America airlines announced they would be flying in and out of Austin, they had a huge sale on airfare to generate some buzz. Back in February, my mom forwarded me the link to check out the prices, suggesting that maybe Thomas and I might like to plan a fun trip. It's nice to dream, and I thought, "suuuure, I'll just look and see what places we might want to go someday." Clicking through the amazing rates, I spotted a city we've always talked about visiting. I realized then that I'd been bit by the travel bug and immediately texted Thomas from work... "what would you think about a trip to San Francisco in May?"


"Let's do it!!!!!!!!" he answered. 

I kid you not, we had our flights booked that same night, and by the next night, had reserved a place to stay in the city AND purchased our tickets for Alcatraz. That, at least in my books, is pretty spontaneous, thank you. Sure, we had to wait three months to actually go on the vacation, but the whole trip came together in no time. 

We flew out of Austin on Tuesday, May 28 and spent Wednesday through Friday exploring all that San Francisco and the Bay Area had to offer. Fisherman's Wharf, a double-decker bus tour of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, Napa and Sonoma, Alcatraz and China Town, Coit Tower... we did it all. 

Stay tuned - photos and more blog posts to come! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Austin | Newborn Photography

This sweet boy was born just in time for his mama's first Mother's Day and her birthday, and he is the answer to so many prayers! I've known Adrienne since I was kid, and now she's married to Chris, the pastor of our church. 

Plekenpol family, I loved spending the afternoon with you to capture the happiness of Austin's arrival. It will be so fun to watch this little man grow up! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Welcome {back} to my life.

We're up and running! After 28 days without the luxury of cable and Internet at our new apartment, the Reeds are now happily browsing the web, taking care of little chores online, and watching hours of HGTV and Food Network. We're happy to have our DVR back this week, too!

To catch you up on the fateful moving day of Friday, May 10th and what we've been up to since then...

Thomas and I decided to downsize {within our same apartment complex} to save some $$ for a future home. A 2-bed/2-bath apartment was so nice to have for the first nine months of marriage as we adjusted to living with a member of the opposite sex and merging all of our possessions. But after cleaning out our closets, purging a whole bunch we didn't need, and taking a look at our finances, we thought, "you know what? We can definitely live in a smaller, simpler space for the sake of saving money." When it came time to renew our lease, we made the decision to lose a bedroom and a bathroom. This meant moving from one third-floor apartment to another third-floor apartment in a separate building across the parking lot. Translation? We hired movers.

In the days leading up to the move, I held my breath each time I looked at the forecast. Thunderstorms were predicted all day Friday, so Thomas and I prayed prayed prayed that God would hold off the rain. Friday morning when I woke up, this is what my weather app said. Couldn't help but smile. The movers were scheduled to come between 10 and noon, and what percentage do you see at 11 a.m.? That's right - ZERO. You may think this is just coincidence, but I believe in a big God who also has a liiiiiiitle sense of humor. Here he's saying, "really, is a little rain that big of a deal? Trust me, you'll be just fine, rain or not." 



Moving day itself was a little crazy... it rained for several hours before the movers came, and right before I went to pick up the keys to the new place, I noticed that they were setting up ladders to re-paint our stairwell. You've got to be kidding me. I panicked, imagining the movers lugging our couch and mattress down the stairs and bumping up against the wet paint. Apartment management was no help, saying that the painters were "being paid and had to stick to a particular schedule" so they couldn't ask them to stop just for me.

I'll fast forward... at the end of the day, our move was {mostly} successful. The sun was out by the time the movers arrived and the paint crew just so happened to start painting another stairwell after my panic attack, so paint wasn't even an issue. We got everything into the new place, we cleaned out our old one, and the only thing that went awry was the fact that every previous tenant had Time Warner Cable and the apartment wasn't wired properly for our AT&T Uverse. But all that is fixed now!!

The busy weekend continued when we hit the road the next day to attend the beautiful wedding of our friends Matt & Melissa in Dallas. Gorgeous bride, beautiful venues {their reception was at a Biblical Arts museum - how cool is that?!}, and one blissfully happy couple, PLUS getting to see tons of Baylor friends! We had a blast. Oh, and did I mention that the bride and groom's family joined them on the dance floor for a surprise flash mob? Check it out here!



The weekend after that, Thomas and I held a garage sale at my parent's house. Oyeeeeee, was that a lot of work. Made some good cash, both got sunburned, and took the stuff that didn't sell to Goodwill afterwards. It felt good to get rid of things we'd been stashing in "to-sell" piles for forever.



Memorial Day weekend was spent in Houston as we celebrated yet another wedding, this one for Jenn {one of Thomas' grad school besties} & Stephen, the cutest high school sweethearts you'll ever meet. The reception was held at The Houstonian, so we got a room at the hotel and made a mini-getaway out of it, and we got to see Chris & Clara (Thomas' sister and her hubs) while we were there too!



Thennnnn, the day after Memorial Day, we headed to the west coast for a few days in beautiful San Francisco! Can't WAIT to share more about our trip!!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Honeymooning in Cancun

In planning our honeymoon, Thomas and I decided we wanted a tropical getaway, but somewhere we could get to in just a few short hours. We wanted an all-inclusive {a must for any honeymoon} adult-only resort with plenty of options for activities, but somewhere that still felt like an escape if we chose to do absolutely nothing. Cancun, Mexico was the perfect destination for us, and we decided on the gorgeous Excellence Playa Mujeres resort to spend eight days honeymooning as husband and wife.



The morning after our wedding, we arrived at the Austin airport to catch a quick flight to Dallas for our connecting flight to Cancun. We were absolutely giddy. Nothing could diminish our happiness, not even the news that our first flight was delayed. So delayed, in fact, that we would only have four minutes to change planes and get to a completely different terminal at the DFW airport. American Airlines hooked us up, though! Both of our flights got rescheduled for later, which meant we arrived just a few hours after originally planned, but we got to fly first class from Dallas to Mexico. Heck yesssssss. It was a first for both of us. Plenty of leg room, drinks offered as soon as we sat down {didn't have to wait until we were up in the air}, a tasty lunch, and even warm chocolate chip cookies, fresh outta the plane's tiny oven.

For your trip to Cancun, or any honeymoon spot for that matter,
I highly recommend reserving your airport transportation ahead of time. We didn't want to hail a cab to take us, and we didn't want to be stuck on a 15-passenger van with couples from other nearby resorts, further delaying our arrival. We went through CancunTransfers.com and paid less than $150 round-trip for a private transfer, meaning it was just us and the driver. We felt a little like celebrities... a man holding our last name on a sign, Black Expedition with leather seats, a cooler full of beer, wine and soda to enjoy on the drive. It was so great!

The awesome thing about arranging transportation before you get there is that they have all of your flight information on file. Say weather delays your flight and you get there two or three hours late. You won't have to worry about being stranded, because your driver will keep an eye on your flight status. Since we changed flights completely, however, I called their 1-800 number while we were still in Austin and updated them on our delayed arrival.


The drive from the airport to our resort was only 30 minutes, and
I loved how exclusive and secure the resort was. We had to pass two security checkpoints to even be dropped off at the lobby, allowing the resort staff to check our driver's credentials and take a look at our passports. Made us feel very safe!

Pulling up to the entrance of the resort, we felt like royalty. Staff members had our luggage on carts before we even got out of the vehicle, and a man brought us hot hand towels to freshen up. Walking up the marble staircase to the front desk in the lobby, we were brought flutes of champagne, and the first words out of their mouths at the check-in desk were, "welcome home, Mr. and Mrs. Reed." I think it was the first time I heard someone call me Mrs. Reed in real life and it was toooooo good.




After getting settled in our gorgeous room, we unpacked and relaxed on the patio before heading out to eat our first meal. And with NINE restaurants to choose from, we were really in for a treat! That night we ate at The Grill, an outdoor restaurant built over the pool, and enjoyed great steaks.



Left (above): The door to our room. See that extra portion to the right? When you order room service, there's no need to open the door to receive your food. Just request for it to be left in the box. They'll unlock that little cabinet, leave the tray of food, and you can access that same box from the hallway inside your room! It was perfect for mornings when we wanted breakfast in bed, or for a pre-dinner snack when one of us was still in the shower or wearing a towel. When you're finished, just stash your dirty dishes back in the cabinet and they'll pick them up. 

Middle (above): Our bathroom, to the right when coming in the door. Standing at the sink, you can see all the way through the room to the patio. My only complaint was that the mirrors {the sunbursts} were a little too high for this short gal. The toilet is in a room behind you when you're standing at the sink, with a frosted door with huge gaps at the top and bottom. Not much privacy there! But we absolutely looooooved the shower. It had a rain shower head, and now all we want in a future home is a shower head just like it {okay, so maybe there's a bunch of other things we want in a home, but a rain shower head's on the list!}! There was also a window in the shower looking out into the room, so you never had to lose the view of the palm trees outside.

Right (above): The chaise bed out there was nice when I wanted to continue reading my Kindle in the afternoon but had had enough sun for the day. 

Now, more on the rooms and amenities of Excellence Playa Mujeres. When booking your trip, you're given a few choices on the type of room you stay in:
  • Junior Suite (spa or pool view)
  • Junior Swim-Up Suite (spa or pool view)
  • Two-story Rooftop Terrace Suite (spa or pool view)
  • ... and a series of "Excellence Club" Rooms, which get you rooms with an ocean view or on the ocean front. 
We went the cheapest route (junior suite) and were completely happy with our choice! At first, we thought adding on the Excellence Club membership would be a fun splurge for our honeymoon, but friends that had been before told us not to. It really wouldn't have been that worth it, in my opinion...
  • Private check-in: There was no one else checking in when we arrived, and even if there had been, I can't imagine it would have bothered me. 
  • Private lounge with free Internet access: Like I want to be checking email and social media on my honeymoon... no, thanks! 
  • Upgraded mini bar in the room: We were peachy keen with everything in our room's fridge {completely free! Lots of soda and beer, and a few liquor options}. 
  • Fresh flowers upon arrival: The room was gorgeous without them!!
  • Complimentary newspaper delivered to room each day: see above comment about Internet access. Hello? I'm on my honeymoon with the love of my life. The real world can wait. 
  • Access to the private beach and pool: the regular ol' beach and pool were perfect.
  • Complimentary beach bag: brought our own.
The ONLY thing that would have made the Excellence Club upgrade worthwhile would have been the view. The Excellence Club rooms are in a more "convenient" spot to the pools and beach, and you have views of the ocean - so if that's what you're wanting, by all means, do it! Just wasn't something that was important to us.

Here's a tip for ensuring the best room at the lower rate. Check out guest reviews online, many of which have exact room # recommendations. You can add room requests to your reservation, but you won't know exactly where you'll be until the day you check-in. After reading several reviews on Trip Advisor about the ideal spot, we requested to be in Building 7B. Our room looked out over one of the private pools, so it was nice and quiet. We didn't have access to this pool {Excellence Club only}, but like I said, not worth it. Our building was in a great spot - close to the spa and tucked away from the open-air theater, but it was an easy walk to the main pools, spa, beach and lobby/restaurants.




Restaurants! Our favorites were Chez Isabelle {French cuisine, too many amazing things to list} and Spice {Asian fusion, killer pad Thai, sushi and fried rice}, both of which we visited twice during the week! Agave is their Mexican restaurant that I loved {Thomas not so much}, and their Italian place {Toscana} wasn't anything to write home about. There were some restaurants we didn't even go to because we loved the first two so much: Flavor Market {tapas}, Barcelona {Mediterranean}, Lobster House {seafood}, and Basmati {Indian}. Every day, we'd eat lunch at The Grill {restaurant over the pool} where we'd have enchiladas, chips and guac/salsa, nachos, and fish tacos! There's also free 24-hour room service which we took FULL advantage of. You will not go hungry at an all-inclusive resort!



With Monday being our first day of true relaxation post-wedding, we spent it like anyone should... at the the MiilĂ© Spa. Absolutely heavenly! We did a three-hour couples treatment, which included a swim in the hydro-spa pool, a marine scrub, a milk mousse bath, a scalp massage, and then a one-hour botanical oil massage. We only wish we could have afforded to be at the spa every day of our honeymoon.


For the rest of the week, we switched back and forth from having planned activities, and days of total relaxation with no plans. Tuesday was spent at the beach and the pool - soaking up the sun, reading, napping, eating, drinking. Wednesday was SCUBA day! Thomas is certified, and I was too busy with work and wedding planning to get fully certified before we got married. Luckily I was able to take a beginner's class in the resort's pool Wednesday morning, and Thomas came with me and my class on our dive in the afternoon.


Thursday was another no-plans day, and on Friday we did a full-day excursion to a theme park of sorts called XPLOR. It was all-inclusive: we paid one price for the bus to get there and the park ticket, and the ticket included zip-lining, a buffet lunch, juice bar with smoothies and snacks to refuel, driving through rainforest and caves, and cave swimming too... we definitely recommend this place if you go to Cancun!


Honeymooning is the greatest idea anyone ever had. Relaxation, romance, fun in the sun, time alone without the distractions of the real world... it was the perfect start to the rest of our lives together. Did I mention we HIGHLY recommend Excellence Playa Mujeres?! We have so many friends who've been before us or who are going for their honeymoon this year, and we'll definitely go back for an anniversary trip sometime! 

Check out the video below for a closer look at the resort we love!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gone AWOL

Y'aaaaaaall, it's been so long since I last blogged and I'm super unhappy about it. But I have an excuse! Long story short, Thomas and I downsized from a 2/2 apartment to a 1 bed, 1 bath apartment to save money for a house. We were unable to immediately transfer our AT&T Uverse cable and Internet service to our new apartment due to a faulty cable line (or something?) and our apartment complex is dragging their feet to get it fixed. Pointing fingers, asking for US, the renters, to call someone to come fix it, promising results and NOT communicating at all... it has been soooooo frustrating! So here we are, one whole month into our new apartment, STILL without cable and Internet. The good news is, our property manager assured us that their contractor is coming out today to fix the problem (fingers crossed) and we should have everything up and running whenever we can schedule the 4th (yes, fourth!) AT&T technician to come set us up. Hallelujah. 

Much to share with you all when our Internet is restored, not necessarily in this order: 
  • Moving from one third-floor apartment to a different third-floor apartment on a day with forecasted thunderstorms and painters in the stairwells
  • Wedding weekends
  • Garage sale hilarity
  • A long-awaited recap of our honeymoon!
  • Lots of photos and stories from last week's vacation to San Francisco, along with our opinion of booking a HomeAway rental for your trip (Spark Notes version: do it!)
I'll leave you with a few Instagram photos to tide you over. Missing my blogging community like whoa, but hope to be back soon!