toddler friends

Since I’m still catching up from not blogging over the summer, I wanted to share more highlights that didn’t make it on the blog yet.  Just like I wrote a “friends are important” post sharing moments I had with my girl friends throughout the summer, I wanted to do the same for William.  And toddler friends are important.  Friendships develop at an early age.  Obviously most (all) of his friends are because I’m friends with the mommas, but still!  It is really fun watching our toddlers become friends, especially now that they are playing with each other instead of just parallel play.  Here are the particularly adorable moments from the summer:

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William and Dylan kissing.  Is there anything sweeter?

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Wolf and William, best buds!  They’ve literally been friends since William was just a few months old.  They see each other and Facetime on a regular basis.  We were reading a book the other day about owls and William started naming the owls.  “William, Wolfie, Julie (Wolf’s mom), and momma!”  They were jamming out here together.  And don’t worry, my tv is no longer on the ground; I have a stand. 😉

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These darlings were at a Fourth of July parade together (could you tell?).  I love how festive they all are!

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William’s girlfriend, Carly.  These babes have been an item for years (ok, slightly over two years).  Their slide show for their wedding is coming together quite nicely.  William and Carly have also gone to school together since the beginning.

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Boys will be boys!  It’s nice that they’ll actually stand and pose for a picture these days.  Sometimes simultaneous smiles are difficult to come by, but they sure were trying!  I’m pretty sure I offered, “If you want a cookie, stand against this wall!”  Hey, whatever works.

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William and Leo racing for the ball!  They’re just four weeks apart, and I’ve worked with Leo’s momma for eight years.  We were obviously pregnant together, and it’s been fun to share stories since they go through the same age-based phases together.

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Since we started with a kissing picture, I thought we’d end on one, as well.  This is Emily, William’s runner-up girlfriend.  Emily’s momma, Diana, is one of my best friends, who happens to live in my neighborhood and teach at the same school as me.  Since we have summers off together, these two lovebirds spent a lot of time together, including grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.

Are you still friends with people from your childhood?  My first friend was Annette; we met in toddlers when we were two and still remain very close today!

friends are important

Friends are important. All the time, no matter who you are, how old you are, what stage of life you’re in, how long you’ve been friends, or how the friendship developed; the bottom line is: friends are important.  Friendships develop very early on, but just because you grow older, they don’t stop.  Friends change, just as people do, but true friendships last no matter the time that goes in between seeing or talking or the distance that may keep you apart.  I have friends that I’ve known my entire life and also friends that I’ve made in the last year.  I have friends from my childhood, high school, college, previous jobs, current coworkers, playgroup, etc.

As I was scrolling through the photos in my phone, I was smiling remembering the time spent with my friends throughout these past couple of months when I wasn’t blogging and thought today was a good day to share some of these snapshots.

steph sara julie

On Saturday night, a few of us had an impromptu girls night out.  I picked up my sister Stephanie on the way out, and as she entered my car, she said noticed, “Do we have the exact same outfit on?!”  Not planned!  Then, when we met Sara and Julie out, we saw their outfits were almost identical, as well.  Not planned either.  Friends who stick together dress the same?  Or something like that.  We had a wonderful evening, talking, and laughing until there were tears in our eyes.

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I’m lucky in that I get to teach with ladies who have become some of my closest friends.  It’s funny to spend over 40 hours a week with each other during the school year, and then not see them very often over the summer.  We planned a couple girls night outs, so we didn’t go the entire two months without!

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Caitlin and I met when we were 15 hostessing at First Watch.  Despite going to different high schools, colleges, and living in different states the last ten years, we’ve remained close as ever.  Now that Caitlin is back in St. Louis, it’s like we were never apart, and we get to have as much fun now (or more?) than we did when we were 15!

linking up with katie and erin 

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When I became a mom, I knew I wanted to join a playgroup to be able to connect with other women going through the same thing I was.  Little did I know, these girls would become some of my closest friends.  Two and a half years later, we continue to plan play dates, celebrate special occasions, share / question / discuss the ins and outs of being mommas to our littles.

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Another amazing thing about friends is when friends from different areas of your life get together.  These were some girls during my birthday celebration and they only know each other through me.  We had such a fun night and everyone got along great.

julie mara sara jen

Maintaining and making time for friends can be challenging.  Everyone is busy, so putting in time and effort is required.  It’s not to say that you’re not friends with those who you may not speak with on a regular basis.  I have many friends who we have phone dates every so often or we see each other maybe just once a year due to location, but it’s always as though no time has passed.  Friendships are strong and I’m grateful to have so many important friendships in my life.  Obviously, many of my friends are not pictured in this post, but looking through past pictures was a nice reminder of how I’m surrounded by loving, smart, caring, and inspiring ladies.

In a time where the world can be a scary place, friends (and family) are more important than ever.  Reach out to those you love and keep in touch! 🙂

new scenes

Happy New Year!  Now that we’re a few days in and my schedule goes back to normal, I thought I’d share a few new scenes from life lately.  I’ve been thinking about some goals for 2016 and reflecting on the whirlwind of 2015, but I think I’ll save those ramblings for another post.  After all, it is the Monday after a long holiday break, so let’s keep things light and easy today!

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Obviously we’ll start with the little man. 🙂  He’s been a bundle of joy this winter break.  William runs faster, talks more, and gets smarter every single day.  Lately, he’s been loving chase and loves it even more when he is caught as he bursts into a hilariously adorable bout of contagious giggles!

Speaking of giggles, I was in stitches when I noticed William’s hair:

crazy static hair

For Chanukah, one of William’s big gifts was this awesome play set.  (For those interested, it’s the Step 2 Woodland Climber and it’s amazing!)  It’s plastic, so as William climbs up the stairs and goes down the slide, his hair builds up some crazy static.  I always see how long his hair is in the bath tub when it’s wet and straight, but it looked even longer when it was sticking straight up!  So funny!

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Many of you know that Annette from Enjoy Your Healthy Life and I have been friends since we were just toddlers at the same Montessori school when we were two years old.  Every time she comes in town to St. Louis (which is far too infrequently, if you ask me!), we always make sure to get together.  Our catch up dates have become even more special now that we bring our little ones.  Just as we played for countless hours growing up, now our littles can, too.  This was the first time I got to meet Annette’s new little peanut, Lexi!

linking up with katie and erin

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(Stephanie, how in the world do you get such amazing shots of babies, toddlers, and families?  Clearly a skill I’m missing!  I used the one shot – out of 100 – where they were at least all somewhat looking!)

I’m grateful to have had this friendship in my life for 28 years!  Annette is such an inspiring woman who is kind, intelligent, and passionate in all aspects of her life (and bold!).  She’s an amazing mother, friend, sister, wife, and fitness instructor, and always has time to catch up!  While we live thousands of miles apart, we text often and always pick up where we left off from the time before.  Conversations between us are honest, lively, and endless and remind me what true friendship is.  Now only if I could convince her to move back to St. Louis…

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I love having time off work because it means a lot more time to have play dates with my friends!  One of my best friends, Diana, has a baby who is almost one named Emily.  We always laugh when we get Emily and William together because William can be a bit rough with Emily.  It’s funny because he’s not usually like that, but William usually is the youngest of his friends, so, really, he’s the one getting pushed.  Well, this play date was no different.  William threw a fit when Emily played with his toys (we are working on sharing), so I asked him to find Emily a toy she could play with.  He brought her one of Zoey’s dog toys… That was no accident, I’m sure!  Little stinker!

We definitely made progress when we moved the play date to the basement and William actually wanted Emily to sit at his table with him.  Baby steps!

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Another play date with William’s best bud Wolf happened.  Wolf is a few months older than William (and one that definitely beats up on William, at times… out of love!).  Wolf got a new tent for Chanukah and the boys LOVED playing in it.  It was so fun to watch them actually play together, instead of parallel play which is the stage that happens before kids playing with each other.  Sometimes their playing together led to quarrels (who was pushing the grocery cart first?! who gets to hold the bottle of ketchup?!), but in general, the boys play very well together!

julie h

Wolf’s momma is Julie, one of my closest friends.  We went to a St. Louis Blues hockey game last week.  While we may have been more interested in taking selfies, talking, and deciding what food to get for dinner, we had a blast and did watch part of the game.  We brought home a winner!

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New Year’s Eve 2015 was wild and crazy over here!  William played with his cousins Audrey and Jacob, they partied with crowns, and William was out by 7:30.  Oh baby, oh baby!

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Too early to wake up!  No pictures, Mom! C’mon! Ok, fine, just one.

Maybe how some of you were feeling on New Year’s Day? 😉

What new scenes do you want to share? What’d you do for NYE?

From the bottom of my heart, I wish each of you a healthy, happy New Year full of love and laughter! Thank you for your ongoing support. xoxo

William’s First Chanukah 2014

We want to wish everyone who celebrates a very Merry Christmas today!  Since we obviously don’t celebrate, I thought we’d recap William’s first Chanukah 2014 since it just ended a couple of days ago.

first chaunkah

We had lots of family time which is the best part of any holiday.

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William even got to spend some time with Uncle Justin and Aunt Dana who were in town from Arizona.  William intently explored Justin’s face.

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I like how they both have the hair flip thing going on. 🙂

We had lots of playdates with our buddies!  William and Wolf:

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And William with his twin buddies, Asher and Sam:

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We celebrated the last night of Chanukah with our good friends. It was a beautiful way to end William’s first Chanukah!

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Happy holidays to all! xo

so many dates

If you were this cute, you’d probably have so many dates, too! 😉

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Over Thanksgiving break, the little man and I got to spend lots of time with family and see several friends who were in town for the holiday.  That’s what holidays are all about!  Well, and food, of course!

We went out for ice cream with Annette and Lily.  Annette and I became friends when we were just two years old, and were inseparable throughout elementary school.  We played with baby dolls countless times, so it’s an absolute blast when we get our real babies together almost thirty years later with our friendship stronger than ever!

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As you can see, William slept for the first part of our date.

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Baby, that’s as close to eating ice cream as you’ve ever gotten!

I mean, they’re best friends already.

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Just the cutest little babes in the world!  Hopefully, the first of many ice cream dates!

We went out to lunch with Melissa.  The last time we saw each other was for our sushi date when baby William was just two months old!

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Melissa is fabulous with babies and was helping me with him the same way my sister does.  Plus, baby William obviously loved her!  He has good taste.  Pretty lady!

The weather has been crazy lately.  While it’s cold and rainy now, it had snowed on Thanksgiving, followed by 60 degree weather.  Needless to say, we took advantage of the sunshine and got our babywearing on!

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William and I met Bianca at Nadoz Cafe.  I ordered a green juice for the first time in way too long; it had kale, celery, apple, and parsley and was fantastic.  William got all cheeky cheeky with Bianca.

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I told you, he has good taste with the ladies!

Other dates, but not pictured, included going out with my friend from high school Jessica, seeing my college friend Cassie, hanging out with my pregnant friend Diana, and catching up with my good Caitlin.  Friends are important and I’m lucky to have so many supportive friends in my life.

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And this baby. I’ll tell ya what. I just love him!

What dates have you been on lately?

New Years 2013

Happy New Year!  Itz only January 2nd; I’m totally allowed to still say that. I thought I’d recap our New Years with you all.  Jonny and I like staying low-key for New Years.

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We’ve never been ones to go out to bars, drink all night, and be on the roads late at night.  Nothing against it, just not our thing.  We much prefer house parties and low-key dinners, even more so now that I’m pregnant.  My in-laws went out of town for a few days, so we’ve been dogsitting, and they allowed us to use their home to have a few friends over for a nice simple dinner.  It was faaaantastic and deeeelicious.

NYE dinner

We set out buffalo cheddar popcorn, white chocolate covered pretzels, and toasted ravioli (a St. Louis favorite!), and Whitney made a Greek yogurt, artichoke, and kale dip to use with vegetables and crackers.  For dinner, I made Texas Toast (from a box thankyouverymuch), roasted potatoes, roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter, and a caprese salad.  My dad graciously offered to make and deliver a beef tenderloin!  Boy, did my friends think I was fancy!  Ok just kidding, I fessed up to my dad being the magnificent chef, but we did all thoroughly enjoy it!  Diana made a ridiculously good molten chocolate lava cake to serve with ice cream for dessert.  Our bellies were stuffed, that’s for sure!

The girls & the boys:

friends

After dinner we played a hilarious game.  I’m not sure the name of it, but you choose a letter and each write down several things that start with that letter.  For example, our first letter was S and some of the words were: school, silver, shorts, soccer.  Then there are three rounds.  The first round is just like Catch Phrase.  You have a minute to describe which word you pull from the bag and you get as many words as you can describe.  Once the bag is empty, the teams count their points and put the same words back in the back.  For round two, you can only use ONE word to describe your word.. and if you say “um,” that counts, so your team just has to guess like crazy.  Again, you have a minute and keep passing the bag between teams until all the words run out. Once the bag is empty, you tally points, stuff the bag back with words, and play round three which is exactly like charades.  Hard to explain, but really fun.  We played two full games.  The boys won one and the girls won one; tiebreaker will need to happen.

And get this…. we stayed up til midnight!!!  Crazy talk, I know, but itz true.  I couldn’t believe it myself, to be honest.  Stevie and Whitney left around 11 as they had their little Ainsley to get, and Diana and Andy left promptly at 12:01 haha.  We couldn’t have asked for a better New Years!

Jonny and I (and the dogs!) stayed in bed until 7:30 in the morning which is pretty amazing all around.  After doing their feedings, eating, and lounging for a bit, I eventually went to the basement for a two-mile walk on the treadmill.

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Hey, a little somethin’ is better than nothin’!  After showering, lounging, and lunch, I met my good friend for a Starbucks date.  Coffee for her, tea for me.

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After a couple of hours of girl talk, I headed home to spend the rest of the day laying low with the dogs and Jonny.  I’m sure I didn’t look nearly as cute as these sleepyheads.

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They partied too hard on New Year’s Eve. 😉

I’m back at work today and tomorrow for meetings, so vacation is officially over.

What did you do for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day?

Five Things Friday

Itz Friiiiiiday!!! Woot woot!! Let’s get right to Five Things Friday!

Linking up with Clare from Fitting It All In today.

#1) Today is my last day of work before winter break!  I get a week and a half off which I plan on making some progress in the baby-to-be nursery, lounging around, and visiting with friends and family.

2)  My sister, Stephanie Cotta Photography, posted her take of my gender reveal on her blog.  She wrote all about how it was done and how the moment was captured.  See it HERE.  Yes, she’s incredible and she’s the best.

reveal steph

3)  I found some new recipes that I’m digging.  I tried a new recipe out last night when I had Annette, her hubs, and baby over.  Risky move using a new recipe when guests are coming over, but it was a Mexican casserole dish, so I felt like it was fairly foolproof.  Itz the Southwestern Salsa Chicken Casserole by Baking with Blondie.  It went over well and I actually doubled the recipe, so we have pleeeenty leftover!  I also made Banana Bread {using coconut & almond flour} and added chocolate chips.  I’ve made this recipe a few times, and itz perfect for using super ripe bananas.

4)  Annette, her hubs, and Baby Lily came over for dinner last night!!!  This was super exciting as I hadn’t seen Annette in a few months, and it was my first time meeting eight week old Lily! (It was a perk to see Jared, as well – heh heh!)

annette lily

Annette and I have been friends since we were two, so we can literally talk for hours.  And Lily looks good in my arms, eh? 😉 She was so stinkin’ adorable and snuggly!  This picture doesn’t do Lily’s cuteness justice, so be sure to check out Annette’s blog for the real deal Baby Lily pictures.  Now if only I could convince her fam to move back to St. Louis…

#5)  I worked out three times this week.  While I realize that may not sound like much to some, after taking four months off completely, three times is an accomplishment.  I’ve got to take it slow and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  I’ll do a full post on my current pregnant fitness routine later.  At least I’m movin’!

Tell me FIVE things! (Or just one really good thing.) 🙂

mutigers

So I’ve got a funny story for you on this lovely Monday.  (Itz a short one, no worries.)  When I was in college at Mizzou, my parents occasionally came up for football games.  Well one particular afternoon, my mom was reading the big screen and asked if I’d ever been to, “Mutigers.”  I hadn’t heard of it, so I peered in the direction she was looking and realized she was reading MUtigers (MU tigers) as one word.

mizzou

My dad and I got quite the laugh and we still tease her to this day.  (Love you, Mom!)  Anyway, this past weekend Jonny and I went to Mizzou with our best friends Diana and Andy.  Diana and I were people watching (aka paying really good attention to the football game) and Diana asked, “What’s O-B-E-Y?”  Again, I was confused so I glanced in the direction where she was looking.  I replied, “You mean ‘obey?'”  Instantly, we busted out laughing as it was just one of those moments.  So funny.  Diana definitely won’t live that one down for quite some time.  😉

As we headed to Mizzou, we packed our bags, filled the coolers, and attached the tiger tail.

tiger tail

A tiger tail is a must when driving to Columbia and we saw tons of other cars with them.  We had such a fun day and night at Mizzou.  Diana, Andy, and I all went to Mizzou for school and Jonny has always been a fan just being from St. Louis.  Not only did the Tigers win, we had a blast, as always, with DiAndy.  We had a wonderful dinner at Sophia’s followed by frozen custard at Andy’s.  It was marvelous indeed!

Marvelous in my Monday hosted by Healthy Diva Life!

Itz awesome being in Columbia on game days because literally 99.9% of the people are sporting their black and gold.  The only thing that’s different now compared to when we went to Mizzou, is that now a lot of people get really dressed up for games.  Like, heels or boots and dresses, something we would have never worn to a football game in our days (yes, a mere five years ago!).  Apparently itz because Mizzou is now part of the SEC.

Diana Andy

Diana & Andy

We all still dressed pretty casually to the game.  Plus, it was 95 degrees outside under the blazing sun, so wearing anything remotely nice was not appealing whatsoever.

jonny mizzou

What’s your alma mater?  Did/do you tailgate and go to the football games? MIZ!

Happiness

Life isn’t always happy.  In fact, sometimes life is downright hard.  It can be busy, sad, stressful, but it can also be full of joy and happiness.  Happiness is an outlook and I truly believe that happiness is what you make of it.

happiness is what you make of it

So today I’m sharing a few things lately that have been making me happy.  Simple things.  But itz happiness nonetheless.

Happiness is… seeing adorable and enormous baby animals at the zoo.  My class took a field trip to the St. Louis Zoo on Tuesday.  We had gorgeous weather and it seemed like all the animals were out.  Couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this baby elephant.

elephant

Happiness is… old friends.  Annette from Enjoy Your Healthy Life and I have been friends since we were two years old.  Inseparable during our elementary years, really, and itz just seven days before we are reunited at the Blend Retreat!  Annette just announced she is having a girl, so let the pink bows, dresses, and dance shoes begin.  Speaking of dance, Annette is an expert dancer; she’s danced her entire life and even convinced me to do a session with her (if that’s even what they’re called).  Please enjoy this beautiful picture of Annette and me from a dance recital probably fifteen years ago.

annette

Happiness is… receiving an awesome package from Victoria’s Secret!  I ordered four of their Perfect Burnout shirts – two V-Neck Tees and two Tank Tops.  Love the burnout look.  Itz a little sheer which will be sexy for summer!

summer shirts

Happiness is… Zoey!  Come on, did you really think I could do a whole happiness post and not include a picture of my little pooch?  Get real!  The sun is shining and summer is nearing which means Zoey’s summer apparel is surfacing once again.  I love this little red jumper dress.  Rainbows just scream summer!

Zoey

Happiness is… cake batter protein milkshakes.  My cake batter protein is as good as it sounds.  (I order it from iHerb.com – itz Muscle Milk brand – use code VAJ523 to receive a discount on your first order!)  The sprinkles addition is a MUST!

cake batter

What’s making YOU happy?

Bachelorette in Nashville

My best friend Diana is getting married in June, so this last weekend a group of ten girls headed to Nashville for her bachelorette party.  To say it was “fun” is a total understatement.  While it was way too short of a trip, we made the most of it while we were there.  Itz definitely a weekend never to forget!

bachelorette

We didn’t end up leaving St. Louis until 6:00 pm on Friday evening.  The drive was supposed to take approximately four and a half hours.  It took closer to seven…  There were torrential downpours literally the entire way there.  One of the other bridesmaids, Amy, gave Diana a “Bachelorette On Board” flag for the car, so we hung it out the window for the first hour or so.  When we pulled it in, we laughed at how quickly it became tattered from the terrible weather.  It was like the flag partied too hard before the weekend even began!

bachelorette on board

Fast forward seven rainy hours later: We finally arrive in Nashville!  At this point itz close to midnight and we’re exhausted.  We run into Aloft Hotel where we had reservations for the past two months and were told they overbooked and had no rooms available!  Uhhh what?!  We absolutely could not believe it.  They explained that they would put us up in a room elsewhere, on them, and then tomorrow night they would have a room ready.  The “other” hotel ended up being a less than stellar (and pretty dingy, dirty, and all around gross) Holiday Inn Express.  Not cool, Aloft Hotels, not cool.

We managed to get a few hours of a shut-eye after grabbing a bite to eat of greasy (yet delicious) grub at Tavern, got ourselves together, and headed out to explore Nashville!  One of the first stops was at The Bluebird Cafe which, apparently, is a big deal for those who love and follow the show Nashville (I had never heard of it…).

bluebird cafe

It was closed, so a picture under the awning had to suffice.  🙂  After The Bluebird, we did a little shopping downtown.  My favorite store was called Festivity.  It was trendy, super cute, a little hippie, and reasonably priced.  I ended up purchasing a headband and a tank top perfect for the summer.  While it continued to rain throughout the day, it definitely didn’t detour us from any stores.  We took another group shot outside a boot shop for a classic Nashville picture.

Nashville girls

I’m wearing my new headband from Festivity!

Around two o’clock we started becoming concerned that we had not yet heard from Aloft Hotel.  They had told us they’d call us first thing in the morning as soon as someone checked out and they got a room cleaned, so we could come check-in early.  Regular check-in was at three, so a little after two we headed to the hotel to see what was up.  Unfortunately, the two new desk people had no idea what we were talking about when we explained the situation.  It was beyond frustrating, especially when we had received room confirmation just a couple days before.

Long story short, we ended up getting a room comped.  It was a nice gesture as the rooms are $250 per night, but the hassle we dealt with was not worth it at all.  I would not recommend this hotel because of the inconvenience, lack of communication, and no guarantee that your reservation actually holds a room.  Itz very unfortunate because the rooms were awesome and enormous.

aloft hotel

My picture doesn’t do the room justice.  On the opposite side of the tv, there was a pull out couch.  There were two huge bean bags for lounging on, as well (you can kind of see one of them leaning against the wall).  Plus, I loved the artwork as there were several pieces hanging in our room, bathroom, and many more throughout the hotel.

Aloft hotel art

After a day full of fun (and rain), it was time to shower, get dolled up, give fun presents to Diana, and spend a night on the town! Since Diana is seriously my best friend ever, I let her borrow my bachelorette dress I wore to my own bachelorette party.  I wouldn’t have wanted (or let) anyone else wear it, and it was fun to see her in my special dress.

Diana Bachelorette

Reversed roles!  Amy gave Diana a custom sash that was covered in bling and read, “Future Mrs. _____.”  (Obviously, it said her actual future last name, but for privacy purposes I’m keeping it blank.)  In case anyone is interested, Amy ordered the sash from The House of Bachelorette – it makes the perfect present and is gorgeous too!

After gifts and drinks in our hotel room, we headed to the lobby to wait for a cab and take a group shot before leaving.  Gotta love the sorority kneeling pose!

Nashville bachelorette

We went to dinner before hitting up Rippy’s.  Rippy’s is a large bar with several rooms; there were two bands playing great music – mostly country, but not all.  Tons of dancing was done as we were moving and grooving and a great time was most definitely had!

Diana bachelorette 1

All in all, it was a totally awesome weekend.  Diana, I love you and cannot wait for your wedding day!  I’m glad I got to experience Nashville for your bachelorette party!

Where was your (or a friend’s) bachelorette party?  Mine was in St. Louis in July 2010 and a total blast!  I kind of want to relive it…