My Mother's Dress

I got married last summer and our wedding weekend was perfection with just one exception. My mother wasn't there to see me marry the man who was making good on a promise he had made to her just before she passed away. He told her she didn't need to worry about me anymore and that he would always take care of me. I'm certain that seeing me walk down that aisle towards him would have been one of the greatest joys of her life and I hope that the words my husband left her with gave her the ability to dream about it a bit as she drifted in and out of drowsy consciousness. 

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we could honor her and incorporate her memory into our wedding celebration without making her absence a major focus. Someone made the lovely suggestion of leaving an empty chair in the front row and placing the petite bouquet she would have carried on the seat (she once told me that she wanted to carry a bouquet at my wedding. Okay, Mom. Whatever you want). We considered that and then decided that it would make us sad when we should be anything but elated. Also, the seat next to my dad couldn't be empty since his new wife would need to occupy it. 

A few months before the wedding I realized I had the perfect solution. I should wear her wedding dress.

She was very proud of her wedding dress. It was a designer gown but it didn't have a label in it  and I never thought to ask her so who knows who actually designed it. She purchased it right off a runway model at a trunk show for something like $250. That seems like a steal compared to the average cost of a wedding dress in 2017. Clearly she was a bit delusional when she snapped up that gown (aren't most brides?) because even though it was beautiful and completely on trend for the time, the dress had long sleeves, a high collar, and was made of the heaviest satin fabric I've ever touched in my life. I mention this because my parents were also married in the month of August - in HOT Alabama. She must have been so uncomfortable in such an unseasonable dress but pain is beauty, people. 

My parents wedding day - August 13, 1972

My parents wedding day - August 13, 1972

I think about what it would have been like had she been alive. She would have helped me deconstruct  and redesign it to feel more modern and age appropriate. She would have taken my measurements, added more sparkle, and she would have stitched it back together herself. It would have consumed her and, truth be told, caused several classic mother/daughter fights, but she would have been so proud that she made it and I was wearing it. Since she's not here, my hope was that another incredibly gifted seamstress in the family would jump in and offer to help me. I dropped a few hints without any bites and eventually knew it was time to move on to Plan B. 

Plan B: I found a dress shop on the UWS of Manhattan and asked them to turn her dress into something I could wear to my rehearsal dinner. The women all gasped and started clapping when I pulled it out of the box and one sweet little (she was tiny) dress maker squealed "Vintage, oh how beautiful!!". Initially I was delighted at their response and then I quickly realized that the dress being vintage could only mean one thing: EXPENSIVE. Cha-Ching!

At Sillouettes and Profiles on Manhattan's Upper West Side

At Sillouettes and Profiles on Manhattan's Upper West Side

We removed the sleeves and set them aside to work into baptism outfits or something special for future children. They took most of the length off but left some of the train coming from the cape in the back because DRAMA. The back of the dress was arguably the best part of the whole thing. The collar was removed and it was the perfect width and length to wrap around my bouquet (we fastened it with my late maternal grandmothers beautiful purple brooch). 

I felt beautiful and special in my mothers dress and it felt so good to incorporate her memory with something that was so special and precious to her. As it turns out, I didn't need to worry so much about how I would honor her and make her presence felt at the wedding. It was just there. I felt her in the love that was shared by everyone in that room. I saw her in the details of the decor and heard her in the notes played by our string quartet.  Every person who held a microphone mentioned her and spoke of her as if she was standing right there in front of us. I remembered how she warned me that I would need to practice walking down the aisle with my dad because he'd probably never make it in one piece if I didn't (he was just fine), and I could hear her laugh when my adorable flower girls acted like 4 & 6 year old girls.

It was never really about a dress. It was about making sure I honored my mother and made sure she knew that I hadn't...and never will...forget her, stop missing her, or stop needing her. 

I plan to wear it again on our First Anniversary. 

2016 & 1972 with 44 years of wedding dress evolution in between

My bouquet with her lace and my grandmother's brooch

My bouquet with her lace and my grandmother's brooch

Kauai: A Second Honeymoon

Aloha! Traveling is something that Patrick and I both love to do so we've made it a priority. His work schedule isn't quite as flexible as mine so when his calendar opens up we get the bags packed. We considered Hawaii as our honeymoon destination but ultimately landed in Italy's Amalfi Coast (we weren't disappointed with that choice and I'll share those details eventually). With a week of vacation time on our hands over the New Year's holiday, we decided to take full advantage of all the credit card points we've accumulated over the years by booking a trip to Kauai, Hawaii.

(I left my good camera at home so all the pictures were from my iPhone 6. Not too shabby!)

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Since I had been to Maui during the same exact week just three years prior (one of the most consequential trips of my life) I requested that we see a new part of paradise. I asked friends and read a ton of travel blogs to see where we should go and all feedback pointed to Kauai. December is rainy season for the island so we knew going into it that we may be faced with less than sunny skies but hey, we're optimists. Guess what? It rained. A lot. We had a few gorgeous days but much of the trip was overcast, rainy, and sometimes chilly (70 degrees is, in fact, chilly for a tropical island when you've packed like an idiot). Regardless, we (meaning Patrick) were determined to have a great time even if that meant we wouldn't be coming home with sun-kissed tans. Or maybe that was just me since he's all about slathering on the 70+ SPF in an effort to keep his Irish skin glowing. So it was really just a sad un-tanned sun lover: Party of 1. 

Ready for all the deets?

Where we stayed...

We wanted to experience the best of the entire island so we split our time between the north and south shores. Since we booked this trip just a few weeks prior to departure, we were limited in our options. Needless to say, Hawaii is a popular destination over the holiday season so it was slim pickens.

  • The Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue was our south shore resort for the fist few nights. It's enormous in an overwhelming way and it's in an industrial part of the island but it got the job done. They have the largest hotel pool in Hawaii (not sure if that makes it awesome or just attractive to super tourists?) and apparently it's ice cold all the time. I can't confirm the pool situation because I stuck by the beach (where it was nearly impossible to snag a chair) for the few short hours we spent there each day.  The hotel was fine and if you were traveling with a large group or family, I think it would be a good choice. Couples should spend their money (or credit card points) somewhere else. Oh, and don't eat on the property because the food is not good and way overpriced.

  • The St. Regis in Princeville on the north shore was where we stayed for the second half of the trip. I realize that it's a 5-star luxury resort and I should keep my druthers to myself but this property was pretty disappointing. It's in a magnificent location and has unparalleled views of the Kauai sunset but the hotel is super dated (think 1980's) and the service is incredibly inconsistent. We would meet a sweet and extremely helpful hotel employee only to turn around and encounter an apathetic and rude employee. The pool is awesome (and most of the pool staff) but it was crazy loud and not relaxing at all. No snoozing by the pool at this place! In short, it's a fancy property that was teeming with families full of little kids and poolside adults who had clearly been over-served. I wouldn't suggest this property as a honeymoon destination and had we been there on our honeymoon, I probably would have packed up, island hopped to Maui and checked-in at the Four Seasons. When you're paying that much for a hotel (cash or points) then you better believe that the service and experience should mirror the price tag. They missed the mark. 

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Where we ate...

We like to eat where the locals eat and steer clear of clear of any tourist traps when we travel but sometimes the TripAdvisor reviews just suck you in. That said, you should go into Kauai knowing that the island is famous for it's beauty and natural surrounding - not its food. 

(south side of the island)

Island Taco was our lunch venue of choice three different times. Super simple and tasty fresh fish tacos, guac, salsa, and chips. It's a must. (They have two different locations - one in Waimea and the other in the Poipu Beach area).

The Fresh Shave serves up shaved-ice with artisan like concoctions. They're based out of a food truck that moves around the island but we found them both times on the south shore near Poipu Beach. You will not regret this.

Pietro's Pizza in Lihue was surprisingly delicious. The pizzeria is owned and operated by a guy name Tom who grew up in Long Island. He studied the art of pizza making (yes, it's an art...and don't ever try to dispute me on that) in multiple NYC pizzerias and traveled to Naples, Italy for an apprenticeship. The atmosphere isn't spectacular but we went for both lunch and dinner while we were there so that says something.

Anuenue Cafe in Poipu Beach lived up to the breakfast hype. Get the macadamia nut french toast (The Tow-In). The wait was long but actually worth it (the earlier you go, the less wait you'll have).

JO2 is actually on the east side of the island and was supposed to be great according to all the TripAdvisor reviews we read. It was not and I found it to be a waste time and money. I was beyond disappointed with this meal and overall experience. Maybe it was just an off night? 

The Chevron: Coconut + Lime topped with Coconut Chia Cream

The Chevron: Coconut + Lime topped with Coconut Chia Cream

(north side of island)

The Dolphin in Hanalei was one of the best dinners we had all week. Everything on the eclectic menu was good but the sushi was excellent - and I don't even really like sushi. They don't take reservations and we had a run-in with a super rude waitress but all ended well.

Akamai Juice Company sells tasty fresh pressed juices and cold brew coffee. The iced coffee there was a life saver for Patrick since there isn't a Starbucks on that side of the island. 

Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei was meh. You can't really screw up scrambled eggs and toast so just go into this joint with low expectations for the food and lower expectations for the no frills (yet efficient) service and you'll be a-okay.  

Bar Acuda is a trendy tapas place that requires a reservation. It was good enough that I'd recommend it to you in a blog post. Cool story.

Hanalei Bread Company is a gem . We didn't stumble upon it until the last morning we were there and it's a shame. Great coffee and lot's of fresh pastries and egg dishes. Hit it up!

I  made Patrick re-take this pick 14 times! Despite the awkward hand placement, it looks totes candid, right?

I  made Patrick re-take this pick 14 times! Despite the awkward hand placement, it looks totes candid, right?

What we did (and what you should do too!)...

Rent a convertible if you can swing it. We drove all over that island and loved cruising with the top down. It was a couple hundred dollars more than a standard car rental but Patrick and I agreed that it was one of the best decisions we made about the trip since we spent a significant amount of time in the car. Do it. 

Waimea Canyon State Park is a must. We simply drove through and stopped at all the different lookout points but if you're the outdoorsy kind then you'll want to bring your hiking gear. Our plan was to hike the Canyon Trail but we accidentally drove right by it and by the time we realized where it was, it was getting a bit too late in the day to start a hike (hiking in the dark is def not my thing. Scratch that...hiking in general is definitely not my thing). The hike we did take is documented in the video below.  5 out of 5 would drive again.

Na Pali Coast Helicopter Tours are well worth the $ if you fly on a pretty day. We think this is a MUST DO and we booked our trip through Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Words can't describe how cool this experience was and there's no better way to see the island. For what it's worth, I can confirm people who have a severe fear of heights/falling successfully completed this flight with ease. This is not a sponsored post but if Blue Hawaiian would like to reimburse me in exchange for this stellar review then I would not object. 

Kauai Coffee Company wasn't all that exciting for me because I'm not a coffee aficionado (hand me a Donut Shop K-Kup and i'm set. Sorry to the environment in advance). That said, it was cute and worth our time since it was a super cloudy day and there wasn't any point in hanging at the beach. 

Hanalei Bay Pier on a nice day is something to check off the list. There were tons of locals and tourists taking it in and jumping off the pier into the clear turquoise water (not me though. I'm a wuss). The view of the entire bay is totes pretty. 

Sunset Cocktails at The St. Regis is a really nice experience as long as it's a clear evening. The bar manager shares some history about the hotel and the island and  then sabers a bottle of champagne while you sip on smooth cocktails that may or may not bankrupt you. Worth it. 

 

What we didn't do (and should have)...

Snorkeling and Boating just didn't happen for us on this trip. The ocean was super rough on most of the days and quite frankly, a rocky boat doesn't sound appealing to me. 

Hiking to some of the beautiful beaches, cliffs, and secluded waterfalls via the Ke'e Beach Trail on the north shore didn't work out for us due to the combination of weather and poor planning. Finding a parking spot at the popular trails is near impossible if you venture out after 9am. We prioritized sleep and coffee over hiking on three consecutive days and lost out on some awesome experiences. I still feel guilty about it. FOMO. If you go, don't do what we did. Be smart about it and get there by 9am (even earlier if possible). 

Surfing and Swimming in the ocean weren't in the cards because the water was simply too rough for us. We both swim relatively well but we're calculated risk takers and the riptides were something fierce. Patrick and I love the water but we also fear it's power. I know...we flew all the way to Hawaii and we didn't go into the ocean beyond our ankles. Oops. I'd like to live, thanks. 

Na Pali Coast in Kauai

Na Pali Coast in Kauai

Would we go again?

ABSOLUTELY! We would love to go back! The Na Pali Coast is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen and it just takes you're breath away. If we could plan a second trip, this is what we would do:

  1. Travel from April through June or September through November for better weather
  2. Rent a convertible again (or a Jeep Wrangler)
  3. Rent a house or apartment via Airbnb, VRBO, or HomeAway
  4. Boat out to take in the Na Pali coast by sea 
  5. Hike the Powerline and Ke'e Beach trails on the north side and the Canyon trail on the south side
  6. Snorkel on our own at Tunnels Beach on the north side and take a few snorkeling excursions 
  7. Take another helicopter ride (it was that good)

I wouldn't consider myself a super seasoned traveler and I'm sure professional travel writers have so much more to offer in terms of suggestions and advice. That said, I hope this roundup and list of suggestions was helpful if you're planning a warm weather getaway. Mahalo for reading!

Are you planning a trip to Kauai or have you been and experienced something totally different from the one we had? 

Lumahai Beach on the north shore

Lumahai Beach on the north shore

St. Regis Princeville Pool

St. Regis Princeville Pool

Obligatory helicopter photo

Obligatory helicopter photo

Hanalei Bay on the north side of the island

Hanalei Bay on the north side of the island

Waimea Canyon Lookout Point (one of several)

Waimea Canyon Lookout Point (one of several)

Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast

We spent days looking for rainbows and this little guy popped up just before we left for the airport to return home.

We spent days looking for rainbows and this little guy popped up just before we left for the airport to return home.