Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just like the states!

This weekend was so busy. On Friday, I had my hair and makeup trial for the wedding and then we went to do our engagement pictures at the beach where we got engaged. I had a ton of make up and I don't think my fiance recognized me, but I felt like a Disney princess and the pictures that we took turned out great. We'll have to see what the actual professional pictures look like when they come, but hopefully they look even better than ours.  For the first time, I looked older than a teenager and I really liked it.

After pictures, we went to dinner, which was a new experience for us on St. Croix because we got to cook our own dinner at a restaurant (more on that in the restaurant review below). And then we went to our brand new 8-screen movie theater! You probably take your movie theater for granted because you have a few others within driving distance and some are bigger and nicer than some others. On St. Croix, we had only one movie theater. It was very small and did not have stadium seating. Now, we have a gigantic movie theater with huge screens and stadium seating, and it still has that new car smell. We went on opening night and we were the first ones to sit in our seats. We got fancy popcorn and it was a really great experience. The best part about this theater is that while we have to pay outrageous prices for almost everything here, our movie tickets are only $8.50. This is about a $1 more than we used to pay for our not so great theater but it's definitely worth it.

On Saturday, I had my first island facial and I also met some very nice people from Wisconsin at the grocery store who were here on vacation (shout out to them, sorry I didn't get your names). Getting back to the facial, when you first move to an island, every time you go to the beach feels like getting a facial.  After two years, the beach facial wears off and dry skin comes back in full swing. I got the facial at the Buccaneer Hotel Spa and it felt amazing. All in all, this weekend reminded me of being in the states. When I lived there, I went to huge movie theaters, got facials and went to all kinds of do it yourself restaurants. Living on an island is very different on a daily basis but doing things that remind you of the states is good sometimes. I'll take these fun parts of living there minus the traffic, sub-zero temperatures and massive crowds any day. That's what makes living in our island bubble so magical sometimes. We get the best of both worlds.

Restaurant Review:

Starlite Grille at Divi Carina Bay Resort

On Friday, after our engagement pictures, my fiance and I were really hungry. Divi Carina Bay Resort is a stone-throw from our house so we decided to go there for dinner. We figured this is an all inclusive resort so they would probably have some good dinner options. We went into the hotel, saw the Starlite Grille and decided we'd try it out. We saw some people having meals brought to them on a hot lava rock and we just figured that was some sizzling skillet dinner choice. We sat down and ordered (btw, we had the option of dining inside which is somewhat rare here) and then it hit us; We realized that all the food served in this restaurant was served on a hot lava rock where the guests get the privilege of cooking the food themselves! We had a laugh about sending the food back as it was way underdone, but when our raw food did come out, we cooked it, seasoned it and proceeded to eat it.

Now a little bit of back story before I proceed with the review. My fiance is a chef so he cooks while at work and also when we eat at home. I am not a chef and I think that hot pockets are perfectly suitable meals when out of time or ingredients with which to cook (apparently my chef fiance does not agree with my adoration of hot pockets but we agree to disagree on such important issues which is what makes our relationship amazing), so cooking my own food at a restaurant comes as a unique experience while out to dinner. To my fiance, this is just another opportunity for him to cook which apparently he doesn't necessarily enjoy if he's going out to eat.

Once we finished cooking our food and it took probably not more than 10-15 minutes, our food was pretty tasty. The ingredients were really fresh and plentiful (he had the lamb, I had the veggie dinner) and the mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and steamed vegetables did come out already done. I looked at Divi's web site after we came home and it says "this is stone age cooking with a modern flair." I think it's a unique experience and the food tastes good. I'm not sure if I would order the chicken and try to cook it myself on a lava rock but I would definitely come back here again, and I may invite visiting guests for a "different" island experience as all island experience are sometimes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A new year on St. Croix

It's been a while since my last post and some people have emailed me and have asked if we still live on St. Croix. The good news is we are still here and we are still in love with a lot of our island experience. The less great news is the reason that I haven't posted in a while is that a few months ago we got robbed. It was hard to come back here and keep writing, not really knowing how to explain how I felt still being here after that experience. We were in our home unfortunately when it happened but we were asleep and we didn't see anything and nobody was hurt, which is most important.

Since then, we have moved to a different part of the island and we have started over, renewing our relationship with a place we really do love. It has felt like a long journey but we are in a really good place now where we can start to see everything that is great here once again.

While we did consider moving off island, there are so many reasons we want to stay. We love the way of life, our friends, the beautiful views and of course, the perfect weather. I have spent the last several months repairing my relationship with this island and I'm in a really good place now. We have a new beautiful view and an amazing outlook on the future. I'm also really happy that our wedding planning is almost now complete and we still have about 4 months to spare.

Life is definitely a lot busier than it was when I first moved here, from repairing car tires to going to dentist and vet appointments, but it's a good busy because our lives have transitioned from just being on a temporary hiatus from our old lives to our new long-term lives on a small tropical island in the Caribbean.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Wedding Planning on St. Croix

Who knew that this blog would go from losing the Olympic Games to moving to an island to Wedding Planning! If you're still reading this, I'm very lucky to have such loyal readers.

So if you've ever met me, you'd think I'd have binders and Pinterest boards full of planned ideas for any event, especially for a future wedding. But somehow I never really thought of any plans involving my own wedding. I've seen my friends get married, and I've been in their bridal parties, but I was so focused on them that I never really thought of anything that I would do for when the time came. I never knew how much really goes into planning your own wedding and how expensive it gets. It makes you want to elope... a lot of times during the course of any given day post-engagement and pre-wedding.

But we're making it work and we're doing traditional/island/modern and our guests are going to have an amazing time. When you live on a island, you start wanting to waste less paper, use less plastic bags and go as organic as possible. When that dream fades and reality sets in, you try to get at least a balance of these things in your life, moreso than when you lived stateside.

So when it comes to wedding planning, the island lacks in a lot of the things you would need for the "details" of the wedding. There aren't really many bridal stores (just one) or party favor stores (maybe two). So two weeks ago I went dress shopping in the only store that has wedding dresses here. And I found my dress! It's absolutely not the kind of dress I thought I would wear at my wedding (I did think about it a little bit before and I always envisioned this huge dress that doesn't really exist and is probably extremely impractical for a beach wedding). And I already have plans to shorten it after the wedding because I really want to be able to use everything I have here, including the dress that I am only supposed to wear once. My mother is horrified at this idea because after all, it's a wedding dress, but in my mind it's a really pretty dress that I will wear at my wedding that would look amazing when shortened so I can wear it again and again because I love this dress (especially the back).

This brings me to what I love about living here. There is a way that things are "supposed to be" when you live in the states or probably in most places. But here, it feels like I can make my own rules for how things are supposed to be, especially with something like this which back in the states we make such a big deal about but in reality, is just one big party with our family and friends. Would we still get married without this "party" that for some reason has to be perfect and white and without one hair out of place?" Of course we would, so instead of trying to please absolutely every tradition that has ever existed, we are going to plan our party our way and we're going to be happy regardless of whether it works out exactly as we planned or not or whether there are an equal number of bridesmaids and groomsman or whether it rains during the ceremony which is going to be very much outside on the beach in the sand with no real Plan B because we're on an island and it rains sometimes and that's okay (back in Chicago, there would be a tent ready and a plan C location in case of Apocalypse, and I would make sure that all the guests knew about both the tent and plan C
).

So since we decided we can do whatever we want, we did want to add some tradition into this experience and that's a good thing, because being on an island and trying to gather your wedding necessities means you have to be creative. For the veil, when I didn't find exactly the one I wanted from the four I had available as my options here, I asked if anyone on the island had a veil that they loved. Someone answered and now I have my something borrowed and I love it! I would never have thought to do that stateside, but here, it feels wrong not to do this and it's all working out when I do.

Another necessity of weddings... trinkets!!! It's really easy to go online and find all these trinket things that every wedding should have. And I am not against wedding trinkets (although I am somewhat against trinkets in general since I moved here). I think trinkets that make other people feel good are great and I've ordered some for our guests because I think they'll feel really special when I give it to them when they're here. But then there are things from the island that we really want to incorporate into this big party that we're throwing. We're having friends make our card box and signs from wood they find here on the beach and we're keeping those to pass on in the future, and I love the idea of that. I love finding the balance of blending the island with modern ideals and some stateside values. This lets us retain all the good that comes from stateside living and incorporate them into what makes us love living here as well.

More party planning posts to come! It's funny because I used to have so many lovely island pictures on my phone that have now been replaced by engagement rings, wedding dresses, homemade pizzas and veils. I can't show these here (except for the homemade pizza my fiance made) because I do want my dress to be a surprise on the actual day of our big party to a certain person who always reads my blogs and is my biggest fan, but I will be sure to take some cool landscape pics for the next post!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My fairy tale and an island

I'm still on St. Croix but I haven't written in a while. A lot has been going on and the blog took a back seat. In the last three months, my then boyfriend broke his arm, we both went to see one of my best friend's get married in Chicago, and he asked me to marry him (thus the "then" boyfriend and now fiance)! That's a lot to digest, even here, and I honestly couldn't be happier.

Watching an adult break his arm and watching him go through everything that comes after was not fun at all. The good news is that St. Croix has all the facilities needed to treat broken bones and all the physical therapy facilities needed to slowly get those bones working again. It was honestly no different to go through that here than anywhere else stateside. The main difference was that we were able to go to the hospital, get medications, see a specialist and take the dog to the vet all before noon because everything is so close to everything else here. Did I mention that Bill Clinton was giving a speech and my aunt and uncle were coming to visit the day after this all happened? Well, all worked out and my aunt and uncle seemed to have a really nice time visiting.


And then after everything calmed down a bit, my fiance and I took a trip to my hometown of Chicago and we watched two really nice people get married. It was so sweet and nice, and Chicago was actually pretty nice from a visitors point of view. Then we came back to St. Croix and we went for a walk on the beach with our dog. And then my life changed forever.

It was really like a fairy tale. A lot of what I've seen and experienced on this island has been pretty magical (apart from seeing actual fairy dust in the bioilluminescence bay) but this was pretty much what every woman dreams of when thinking of someone asking to marry her. When I first came to St. Croix, I was so relieved to have less stress and to just be happy that I didn't really think about getting married any time soon. It was such a stressful thought back in Chicago that I was just happy to be happy and I accepted the fact that it may not really be in the cards for me. Then I met my boyfriend and it has been exactly like I dreamed it could be someday ever since. It was like once I didn't need it, I got exactly what I always wanted.

We went for a walk on the beach. The tide was high and there was a voyeur sea turtle nearby. Everyone loves sea turtles so it was a great day already. Then my boyfriend pointed out a piece of sea glass in the water and I went around it as I was almost certain tetanus would be imminent if I touched it. He told me to not to touch it so I obviously haaaaad to pick it up then. I saw that it said "Mar..." through the sand and I picked it up and it said "Marry me." I thought it was so sweet that someone had asked someone else to marry them in that same spot so I turned around to show my boyfriend and he was on his knee in the water with the ring and the sun setting behind us. I'm pretty sure that turtle was nearby watching everything as all voyeur sea turtles do. I was shocked and my hands were shaking and it was the best feeling I have ever had. It just felt right just like everything since I met him has felt right. You really do know when it's the right person because it feels so different with anyone else.

So now we're in the midst of planning a wedding. They don't tell you this if you're not engaged yet, but after the engagement comes this not so fun part of actually planning every minute detail of your upcoming wedding. This is especially tricky on an island because while we have every facility necessary for a broken bone, we do not have ever store necessary for everything that goes into a wedding. Thus, we are now going to become very creative in order to make this work because like everything else since I've come here, it's definitely going to work and it's going to be amazing.

I gave up everything and I moved to an island, and I found the perfect person to spend the rest of eternity with. The best part of this is that this isn't just a story, it's my life and it's real and I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Two Roads, and I took the one less traveled by

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;       
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,       
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.       
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In 1995, my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Palmisano (who I had a huge crush on) handed out poems to our English class. One of these was written by a guy named Robert Frost. It was called The Road Not Taken. I never really enjoyed poetry very much but Mr. Palmisano had this effect of making me fall in love with this one. And as I was grew up, I firmly believed that by becoming an attorney, I actually had taken the road less traveled. This was a popular thought because by the time I was a licensed attorney, there were way too many attorneys available for the demand necessary in our society. Along with the invention of the smartphone, being an attorney became a 24/7 hijacking situation of which in 2015, I decided I no longer wanted to be a member.

This road to St. Croix is definitely the road less traveled and many times, not taken (and I think my parents still wish I hadn't taken it although they love the beach at Hotel on the Cay so that's something :)).  It's been almost a year since I set out on my big move that I dubbed "New Beginnings" and while I can't believe I actually did this, I'm so glad I did. In the last year, I learned that you know you live on St. Croix when you have no water when the electricity goes out, and when killing a 4 inch gigantic cockroach is no longer worthy of a Facebook post. In the last year, I found a job in management that I really wanted, I made many new friends and I found someone to have a relationship with who loves me even though "Ancient Aliens" is one of my favorite shows on TV.

I started writing this blog because I wanted to keep in touch with my friends and family back home, but I have received so much more from all the people who ready it everyday. Last month we broke 10,000 page views and I have made friendships with many of my readers and I have even had the cool opportunity to meet some of you who will be moving to the island very soon! During this whole experience, I began to really appreciate the world around me. I can be driving down the road and see piggies on the side of the road and cows in the pasture, and I can go into a very indoor type of store and see wild birds going up and down the aisles looking for their favorite products. I can also see goats, horses and chickens everywhere. And my favorite part is that I am almost devoid of having advertisements shoved in my face. St. Croix isn't Little House on the Prairie and we still do very much live in the 21st Century with plenty of online advertisements (I live with someone who really had to have the new Samsung Galaxy s7 and I get woken up to a literal "Mooooooo" sound every time a new text message is received) but we select when we're exposed to them and it's nice to have that kind of control.

After a year, I'm not really sure what the future holds but I know that there is a really happy future ahead. When I made this move I read a lot of blogs about attorneys who gave up very successful careers because they wanted a better quality of life. I needed the support of others like me to be able to know that taking this leap didn't make me completely crazy. It made me think back to that first year after law school when I quit my job and became a magazine editor. I went back to a law firm after the relationship I was in lead me into that direction again. The irony about my current move professionally and location-wise is that I would have stayed in the law profession for a relationship again but my life didn't have that plan for me and I'm so glad I didn't stay because I found exactly what I needed here. Every day is a new adventure here and I can't wait to get to know my new friends better and to make amazing memories because I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

And for all of you who have been asking for a picture of our dog, here she is. She's the sweetest and the first thing I see in the morning (literally, as she pushes her wet nose into my face to wake me up for a walk) and the giver of endless hugs and licks.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My perfect island Sunday...

Sunday is one of my favorite days. The weather is usually perfect and there's nothing to do all day but to relax. And you'd think we'd be at the beach all the time but we haven't gone in weeks, and being at the beach today and smelling the salt in the air was so relaxing and perfect. We are so lucky to be here and to to be able to do all these things that most people have to go on vacation to experience, but life and work are a reality when you live in paradise so sometimes things just get busy. Even if you're not working 40 traditional hour work weeks or traveling an hour to and from work, somehow things get busy and the beach and other island outings seem like something that can be done anytime and thus, not very often.

But I remember why I moved here and it wasn't necessarily because I loved the beach. I wanted to have less stress and I wanted to relax more. But there is something about the saltwater and the sand and just sitting  and smelling the beach air that is very relaxing. I can come home and eat twinkies on the couch while watching Dateline on TV any day but that isn't necessarily the same relaxation that I moved here to experience. I can have that type of relaxation anywhere. I moved here to take pictures of pretty ocean water and to to be able to take in the outdoors and to share my outdoor space with chickens and all kinds of animals. I moved here to talk to people on the street who know who I am. And most of all, I moved here to have a better quality of life on a daily basis than I had before.

The people I met here have given me the ability to have a better quality of life. My life is better every day and I still have to do my part by going out and experiencing everything that this island has to offer. So I am going to be make it my goal to go to the beach more often, to talk to more people on the street and I will be more patient as I embrace "island time." There are so many people that wish that they could have this type of life that I can't waste it by trying to rush through it.