Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Entries in aruba (19)


5 Things I Dislike About Traveling

First thing's first. After you've read this stimulating blog post (;)), and The Peach & The Pit, please check out my Chocolate Glazed Golden Grahams Cookies guest post over on The Sunday Sweet today! Next week I'll be donating a batch of these for auction at The Sunday Sweet's online bake sale, so check back to bid!

In a few short days, I'll be leaving for our annual family vacation in Aruba. If you recall, it's also the home of my 2008 beach wedding and pirate-themed rehearsal dinner. Though I don't really think it's possible to be anymore excited than I am, there are some things that I dislike about traveling. Things that give me anxiety and things that I'd all together rather not do.

1.The trip preparation

Though I like to think of myself as a master packer, the pre-trip 'get ready' always puts me a little on edge.

I'm a definite list maker, but the idea of plotting out outfits for minimal packing, getting on top of my laundry and shopping for any other needs still feels a bit daunting.

2. The airport experience

Am I alone in this? I doubt it. Airports are one of the worst places ever. Everything about them is meant to cause anxiety. Will the car pick us up on time? Will there be traffic getting to the airport? Will there be a line at check-in? Will there be a long line at Security? Do I have anything that will be confiscated at security (like a rogue sharp hairpin, bottle of moisturizer or bottle of water)? Will I set off the metal detector (even though I've removed essentially everything but my leggings and a low cut, tight tank top)? Once I'm through security, should I stop to get food or water before getting to the gate? Or put my stuff down first? What about the bathroom? Will my flight be delayed?

I know, I'm crazy. But these are the things I think about.

3. The flying experience

This one I've actually gotten better about. I used to be terrified of flying. Since I've done quite a lot of flying over the last 2 years, I've had to get over my fears and just get to it. I don't love turbulence, but I'm getting used to it. It doesn't hurt throwing in a trip to Europe too...suddenly it makes all domestic flights seem like a cake walk.

4. Not having all my options

I try to pack light but it's a tough one. I like to have options. Sometimes I don't feel like wearing the clothing that I brought or realize I am missing an appropriate item to wear. I also try to leave my hair dryer at home if possible, but it's inevitable that the hotel hair dryer will be a significantly less awesome option than my own.

5. Weight gain

This is usually inevitable for me. I overindulge. I get bloated. But I do thoroughly enjoy all of the different and delicious food that is eaten on vacation.

I just hate coming home to tight clothing and a feeling of dread about the upcoming (and necessary) detox.


With all of this in mind, I'm still super excited! Today I'm feeling daunted to cross everything off my list. I hate laundry and I hate packing! I usually have more fun making the list than actually doing anything on the list. I'm not complaining though. In a few days I'll be in paradise, and that, my friends, makes all of the anxiety caused by the above completely worth it.

What is your least favorite aspect of traveling? Or do you simply love every second?

Psst...if you like what you see here, please check out my other blog that I write with my 2 fab sisters, The Peach & The Pit Of It! Hope to see you over there!


Our Pirate-Themed Beach BBQ Rehearsal Dinner

First thing's first...when I arrived home last night I had a fabulous gift waiting for me. Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean had sent me a birthday gift! She sent this adorable tote and a very sweet card. I cannot wait to rock this to cart around summer goodies, my shoes and lunch to work or even to the beach! I love Lindsay's blog because she always has great, healthy ideas and she uses ingredients that all of us have on hand. Thank you Lindsay!

Today I'm still dreaming of my beach wedding, and so I thought it would be fun to also tell you about our rehearsal dinner since it was just as fun as the wedding itself. As part of our wedding weekend in Aruba, Shaun's parents graciously hosted a rehearsal dinner for all 80 of our guests who had traveled for the wedding.

We started the evening with a rehearsal under a big white tent at the Westin Aruba Resort, in prep for our sunset beach ceremony the following evening. While Shaun donned a Tommy Bahama shirt (in my favorite color), I rocked a cute black and white dress from White House Black Market with pearls which were a gift from my dad. I also carried my ribbon bouquet, which was made by my bestie Catherine at my bridal shower.

My dad definitely had a tough time at the rehearsal. I think the idea of his oldest daughter getting married started to set in! My dad and I are very close. I was SO excited to marry Shaun, but admittedly a part of me was very sad that my 'kid' days with my parents were ending for good.

With all my ladies after the rehearsal...Love them all!

Following the rehearsal, we headed down to the Holiday Inn, where Shaun's parents had planned a beach barbecue!

Complete with food, wine & beer and a DJ to boot, I'm pretty sure this was truly a one-of-a-kind rehearsal dinner.

Not only did they plan a great party, but they also handed out party favors at the start of the barbecue...pirate gear! Everyone received a bandana, eye patch and giant gold hoop earring. After all, nothing says ice breaker like pirate paraphernalia. Both of our dads rocked the pirate look...

We all settled in for some delicious food and drink...

...followed by an evening of dancing under the stars!

I have to say that this was one of the best nights of my life. The best part about this dinner was that all of our friends and family on both sides got to know each other before the wedding! By the time the wedding actually rolled around, different friends and family members were becoming friends! My cousins were hanging out with my friends; our families were intermingling. I really can't think of anything better.

I'm not going to lie...there may have been multiple playings of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. We are from Jersey, after all.

Christine, Me & Lindsey

Shaun dancing with my sisters, Kimbelry & Christine

Dancing with Catherine

A group of our AMAZING friends who joined us for the weekend!

No one wanted the night to end. We kept yelling to the DJ, "One more song!" And to our delight, he obliged.


Our group of 'non-parents' at the rehearsal dinner - love all of these people!

So there you have it...our fantastic and extremely unique rehearsal barbecue on the beach. So what do you think? Have you ever been to an out-of-the-ordinary rehearsal dinner? Any other themed ones out there?


Our Dream Destination Wedding in Aruba

Today is a wonderful day. Exactly 3 years ago, I married my best friend and the love of my life on a beach in Aruba. Happy Anniversary honey!

2 nights before our wedding, Aruba 2008
I’ve been wanting to tell you all about my destination wedding for some time now, but I thought it appropriate to wait until our anniversary celebration. I hope you’re ready for a lot of information and a lot of photos. Because that’s just how I roll.

After we got engaged in September 2007, Shaun and I decided that we wanted to buck the lavish Jersey wedding tradition and do something a little more low-key...a little more ‘us’. Aruba had been my family’s annual vacation destination for some time so I immediately knew that the laid back ‘tude, blue seas and breezy, never-fail weather would also be the perfect place for our dream wedding. After a lot of discussion and a lot of family-convincing, we planned our big day for July 11, 2008 at the Westin Aruba Resort.

Unlike most weddings, we had more than just one evening to play with so we planned a full-blown long weekend wedding. We planned lots of fun activities, dinners and of course, a sunset beach ceremony. And since we have such wonderful family and friends, we had a whopping 80 guests in attendance, one of the biggest weddings Aruba has seen.

To plan from far away did mean relinquishing the power of options (since there's about 3 photographers and 2 bands to choose from), but just because we got married in a far away place didn't mean sacrificing an ounce of style or personality.

Since it was a beach wedding, it was easy to carry my favorite color - blue! - through in each and every detail. Starting with the invitations, we settled on dark blue, light blue and white. The invitations featured information about the nighttime rehearsal dinner and sunset beach ceremony and reception (which we chose to do indoors since the Aruba humidity can be a bit overwhelming and we wanted our guests to be comfortable) all wrapped together with a light blue ribbon.


We also included information about restaurants, activities to do while in Aruba, and recommended attire for the big day. I should also mention that we sent out very detailed Save-the-Date cards way in advance so that people would have lots of time to plan, should they want to attend.

The theme of the wedding was casual...or island elegant, as I like to call it. It meant no suits but also no shorts. We tried to keep some sense of formality while still taking to the elements - sun, sand and water.

While most of our guests spent the day on the beach, my bridesmaids and I spent the afternoon at the hotel spa getting our make up and hair did.

The Westin put us up in a gorgeous suite, so the girls and I got ready there. It seemed like it took forever (!) for the wedding planner to finally call us down to the beach. After getting into our gowns - and doing a paparazzi-style photo shoot on the terrace outside the room - we had some champagne and I got my sweat on waiting for the call.

My dress (which I still dream about because it is hands-down the best garment I’ve ever worn) was classic and simple crisp white chiffon. It was tight, corset-back and fell straight down. No poofieness for the beach. Oh and I walked down the aisle barefoot. Meanwhile, Shaun wore a fitted light brown suit matching the beautifully tan sand with a shiny white tie to match my gown.  

I chose a shiny, strapless light blue dress for the bridesmaids while the groomsmen wore dark blue Tommy Bahama shirts with light blue details. While the guys wore dark brown boat shoes, the ladies ditched their shoes at the top of the aisle for a barefoot beachy vibe.

The bridesmaids’ flowers were a mix of coral, blue, white and purple, the perfect complement to the girls' dresses. For my own flowers, I chose calla lilies, the same flower that my mom had carried at her and my dad's wedding 30 years earlier.

After the guests and groomsmen were in place, the girls and I headed down to the beach. The beach was set with white covered chairs with blue and silver sashes along with a calla lily-crested archway at the end of the aisle.

I also designed sweet beachy wedding programs for our guests.

The religious aspect of our wedding was very important to our families, so we also invited Shaun’s family’s pastor to join us and perform the ceremony. As their long-time pastor and family friend, it was wonderful to have him officiate our ceremony, rather than an island-issued ordained person (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either).

With our closest friends and family by our side, we promised to love and take care of each other until the end of time and beyond. It was the happiest day of my life, and one that was 8 years in the making.

Following the ceremony, we had a small cocktail hour on the beach while Shaun and I posed for sunset photos.

Inside the reception, the beach theme carried through to all the details. Table assignments were written on sand dollars and each table featured flowers reminiscent of the girls' bouquets. I also had blue and white starfish shipped down for the occasion to be used as table decor. We even did the matchbook thing, once again showcasing starfish as the signature icon of the night.

Since the whole event was fairly casual, we chose a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner. We dined on stuffed Dover sole, cornish hens, lamb with rosemary (Shaun's favorite), beef tenderloin, plantain & sweet potato salad and lots more!

My sister Kimberly gave a beautiful toast that made me both laugh and cry.

The cake was fun and playful in white and our signature blue. The top was adorned with an H monogram, signifying our last name. The flavor? My favorite chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream (since Shaun isn't a dessert person, I was given free reign to choose the flavors).

We also knew that a simple favor just wouldn't do the trick to thank all of our fantastic family and friends for not only attending our wedding, but spending more than a couple of days with us in paradise. In welcome gift bags, we supplied Shaun & Rachel's Wedding in Aruba t-shirts (which everyone dutifully wore the morning after)...

... bottles of Aruban water (they are famous for their fresh water) and a matted photo of a Divi Tree, a beautifully slanted tree that is swayed by Aruba's strong island tradewinds.

It's a signature icon of the island and as a gift to us, some friends picked out a plaque with a Divi tree painted on with the words Bon Bini scrawled beneath it (Bon Bini means Welcome in Papiamento, and it's now happily displayed in our kitchen, which you may recall from my Avid Kitchen article).

We danced the night away. I'm pretty sure that every person there had a fantastic time at our wedding week!

As you can tell, I'm kind of obsessed with our wedding. And I'm not going to lie...I kind of want to do it again :)

I have a couple other posts coming up for you this week, including our civil service at the Aruba town hall and our pirate-themed rehearsal beach BBQ.

So there you have it. A lot of detail about our beachy island wedding. I hope you made it this far without changing the page :) So what do you think? Have you ever been to (or had) and out-of-the-ordinary wedding?

Psst...if you like this, check out the story of how we met and fell in love.