My drugstore beauty favorites, all under $20!Read More
After years of using the products and talking about them on social media, I am SO excited to be partnering up with my friends over at Opalescence™ to give a greater look into how I keep my teeth so white. It all started a few years ago when my family discovered their whitening products at the dentist. Their whitening trays are designed to stay in contact with the teeth to oxidize the molecules that cause discoloration, without coming into contact with soft tissue. We all became quickly obsessed—so much so that we started purchasing the whitening trays for each other for holidays, no joke! The love affair continued when I learned more about their other product offerings, specifically their toothpaste.
Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste™
was developed as an easy and effective way to maintain a bright, white smile. It removes surface stains, but more importantly, helps strengthen teeth with its unique formula. It’s safe for everyday use with its very low abrasiveness, it has been proven to remove surface stains to lighten teeth two shades in just one month. It is also gluten free and kosher certified, so it conforms to the dietary requirement of people from many backgrounds. It is also the only Ultradent product that is available for consumers to order online and there’s always free shipping!
You can order it here and use CARALYN for a discount off of your order.
at-home whitening product Opalescence Go™ trays:
My absolute favorite professional alternative to over-the-counter whitening options. The trays are easy to use and a great-tasting way to start a whitening treatment or to use for whitening touch-ups. I like to use them right after a trip to the dentist and monthly, as needed for touch ups. With no impressions or custom trays necessary, you can use Opalescence Go™ right out of the package. The trays conform to the shape of your mouth by using your own body temperature. They come in two different options: Mint and Melon flavors and two different strengths: 10% (wear for 30–60 minutes for 5 to 10 days) and 15% (wear for 15–20 minutes for 5 to 10 days until desired whiteness.) I prefer the Mint and wear them for the full time. When I first started using the trays, I’d wear them for the lowest amount of time to ensure I wouldn’t have any sensitivity. Everyone is affected differently so be sure to talk to your dentist about which option would be best for you.
To learn more about the whitening products, click here!
You can purchase the whitening trays through your dentist, their only authorized retailers.
So that’s the secret behind how I keep my teeth pearly white! I’m a true believer in Opalescence™, as I’ve said I’ve been using them for 4+ years now and I know you will love the products too!
Have any questions about the products? Feel free to leave them below!
Thanks again to Opalescence™ for collaborating with me on the post, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos by Ryan Kell
Coming in HOT with this one, you have requested this one like crazy. I’m excited to bring you my sports bra #TryOnConfidential featuring my favorite styles ranked from high impact to low impact. I’ve been working on this post for over four months, wear testing these for you. Be sure to tune into my IG stories to see how all of these styles fit on me. I wear a 34FF - 36FF (UK sizing), I’ve formerly worn a 38DD. If you haven’t been fitted for a proper bra in the last year, PLEASE do yourself a favor and go get professionally fitted at a local speciality shop or a Nordstrom. It will change your life. Feel free to reach out with any questions.
Here are some of my favorites that I’ve tried just for you:
Size Range: 32GG - 46D (UK Sizing)
Size Worn: 34FF
Good For: High Impact (long distance running, jumping)
Size Range: 28DD - 40GG (UK Sizing)
Size Worn: 34FF
Good For: Medium Impact (jogging, weight training)
Size Range: 34DDD - 44H (US Sizing)
Size Worn: 36G
Good For: Medium to High Impact (Running, weight training)
Size Range: XS-XL (refer to size chart)
Size Worn: Large
Good For: Light Impact (Yoga, Strength Training, Walking)
Size Range: XS-XL (refer to size chart)
Size Worn: Large
Good For: Light Impact (Yoga, stretching)
Size Range: XS-6LUXE (refer to size chart)
Size Worn: LUXE
Good For: Medium Impact (jogging, weight training)
What did you think about this? Was it helpful? Again, I HIGHLY recommend getting fitted if you’re unsure about your sizing. Feel free to reach out with any questions and be sure to tune into my IG stories.
At the start of the year, I’ve decided to share more wellness topics with you. Wellness can mean so many things, from working out, to getting organized, to meditation, to the foods we put in our body! I am definitely no expert on any of these topics, but I’ve learned they are all important to focus on for finding that balance for a healthy lifestyle. Finding that balance is a journey, definitely not a destination, in my opinion. It doesn’t hurt that I LOVE food… so I’m excited to be sharing this with you.
More recently, I’ve been sharing lots of recipes on my IG like this 2 ingredient pizza dough recipe and you have been LOVING it. I’m no chef or culinary guru whatsoever but I do know how to follow a recipe. I’m a firm believer that variety is the spice of life, because of this I rarely eat the same thing every day because I get bored. I’m a big snacker, during the day I like to keep it simple and easy. But if I HAD to narrow in on what I typically eat in a day, it would be a combination of these:
I like to track my meals via an app on my phone, it helps me be more mindful. For dinner, I often feel much more inspired especially since Brian is usually home for dinner. Here are a few of my favorite recipes and food bloggers’ IG accounts who give me inspiration daily!
What are your go-to recipes? I’d love to know and add them to my rotation. Also, are you liking this food content? Leave a comment if you think I should share more!
I’ve been inspired by a few of my favorite bloggers to take a deep dive into what posts and products were your favorite last year. It was my first full year using the LikeToKnow.It app to share my clothes, accessories and other items with you so I was very excited to see what your absolute favorites were.
Here’s the countdown of your favorite items.
10. Honorable Mentions:
Ice roller, salt and pepper grinders, wine stoppers + Oprah’s favorite makeup bag. These items were featured on my holiday gift guides and I’m still using these items all of the time!
9. Bauble Bar Earrings:
The perfect way to accessorize any outfit! If you are lazy or struggle with adding a little oomph to outfits, statement earrings are my go-to to make any outfit pop.
8. Madewell shoes
These babies went ALL over with me this year, I love how versatile these mules are. You can pair them with jeans, jumpsuits, dresses and they always pull the outfit together.
6. Leather Leggings
In case you missed my ultimate guide to leather leggings, be sure to check it out here where I go into great depth and detail on each pair. Hopefully the guide will help you figure out which pair is right for you! Either way, these leggings are a staple in my fall through spring wardrobe and I’m so glad you’re loving them too.
This makes me extra happy because I love swimsuits too, almost as much as I love celebrating my curves in a suit that makes me feel confident! It seems this year many of you may have caught the bug, wearing statement suits too!
4. Moto Jackets
Yasss, queens! A moto jacket is the perfect way to layer onto any outfit and instantly give it that cool factor. My favorite thing about moto jackets is you can wear them year-round. Investing in a nice faux leather or suede option will last you for YEARS! They’ll never go out of style.
I’ve had so much fun sharing my bra knowledge with you this year. As a lingerie model, I’ve learned so much about the importance of fit and I feel it’s my mission to share with you. Did you know most women are wearing the wrong bra size? UGH! We need to change that. Over the next year, I hope to evolve and share even MORE different types of bras with you which will hopefully inspire you to find your fit.
1. Jumpsuits + Rompers
Calling all Jumpsuit Kweens!! 2018 was the year of me stepping outside of my fashion comfort zone, discovering jumsuits/rompers and never looking back. They’re just so easy and comfortable- yet chic and elevated. I’m so glad you loved them too! As I got married in 2018, one of my favorite style moments of the year was my bridal shower look at my lemon themed party. I opted for an off-white jumpsuit by Eliza J for my bridal shower, which is RE-STOCKED for 2019 by the way. I had so much fun sharing my bridal journey and got to connect with so many other brides. It means the absolute most that I could be a small part of someone else’s big day by inspiring some of you to rock a white jumpsuit of your own!
Did you try any of these items from my posts this year? If so, which one(s)? I’d love to hear. Thank you for choosing me to be your go-to girl for all things fashion! I look forward to seeing where 2019 takes us.
GIFTS FOR THE DIFFICULT PEOPLE TO BUY FOR
These gloves are not only fashionable, they are FUNCTIONAL! Featuring tech-friendly tips on three fingers, the set comes packaged in a gift-ready pouch and includes a spare so you'll still have a pair if one glove gets lost.
Slippers are a great gift, I love wearing these ones around the house! I’ve had them for a few years now, it’s time for a new pair. They are the best and I love that they have a solid gripping bottom. Don’t forget about a pair for your favorite fella!
This small but mighty speaker does it all. It connects to your phone via bluetooth so you can take it anywhere from vacations, to parties or at home! We have it and use it all of the time. It comes in a few different colors too!
What better way to improve somebody’s quality of life than to get them automatic salt and pepper grinders? When I shared these on my IG stories a few months ago, you all went crazy for them! I knew I had to include them here.
This blanket makes a great gift because everyone loves to get cozy in the winter! They are excellent quality and come in a variety of colors - you can’t go wrong here!
Personalized stationary makes a special gift for anyone! From note cards to note pads, everyone can use it! I love how easy yet thoughtful this one is.
You might’ve seen these bags on my Ultimate Beauty Gift Guide, but I couldn’t resist sharing them again. They are SO good and they fit WAY more than I thought it would. It also has an LED light inside so you can find your products easily at all times.
I love and exclusively use these wine bottle stoppers. They come with a pump to remove the air in the bottle to help keep it fresh! Gift with your favorite bottle of wine.
It took me awhile to adapt to the layered necklace trend, this three piece set is an easy way to do just that! You can wear them all together or separately, mixing them with necklaces you already own.
I LOVE using this ice roller for a little extra self care. Keep it in the freezer and use when you need to get rid of puffiness, headaches or when your skin needs a little pick me up!
I’ve shared these leather pouches on my Newly Engaged / Newlywed Gift Guide earlier this week. They make a perfect gift because you can use them for all of your little belongings, headphones or as a coin purse. I love that you can monogram them too!
I LOVE these no-show, no-slip socks! They are truly no-slip. I wear a size 11 shoe and they fit me perfectly, Brian who is a men’s size 12 also steals them from me and wears them. They are great for everybody and come in a few different sizes.
You may remember me talking about Invisibobble’s before here, these are THE BEST hair ties. They don’t leave dents, they prevent breakage and they don’t give you headaches. I love this mini set but I’ve also previously featured the bigger set here!
These unique napkins are stunning and make the perfect gift for the favorite entertainer in your life. They come in a few different varieties + colors so you can choose accordingly!
Are you loving these gift guides? Leave a comment below!
shop the items:
Last week in NYC, I had the chance to join Miele and Good Housekeeping to learn about the latest style trends and how to keep them looking their best. The night featured Miele’s new W1 Washing Machine and T1 Tumble Dryer.
The evening began with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a panel hosted by Editor in Chief, Jane Francisco, Style Director, Lori Bergamotto and GH Institute Textiles Director, Carolyn Forte. We chatted all things fashion and laundry. My favorite takeaways from the panel were to invest in clothing that will wash well. It’s not the smartest investment to purchase a $20 top that will cost you $100+ in dry cleaning. The other discussion revolved around stains! Always do something, never just leave it and start by blotting the stain before adding any solutions to it.
Miele is revolutionizing the standards of laundry with their brilliant and unique technology. The W1 Washing Machine features Miele’s exclusive TwinDos system. It is the first two-phase automatic liquid detergent dispensing system, which saves about 30% on detergent versus manually loading. This feature operates in two stages: UltraPhase1 and UltraPhase2. The first phase combats grease and soiling while the second phase removes difficult stains.
We had the opportunity to witness this magic happen during a demonstration, the pictures don’t do it justice but it was magical! Miele has really perfected their process on stain removal. They showed the UltraPhase1 and UltraPhase2 in action.
The washing machines also feature CapDos, a one-time use capsule that adds special detergents and conditioners that are formulated for different types of garments. They optimally dispense during the wash cycle which takes all of the guesswork out of washing. The W1 also features QuickIntenseWash, a superior quick load setting and SingleWash for lighter loads, which preserves water.
Let’s not forget about the T1 Dryer- it stands on its own with Heat Pump Technology, helping to reduce energy and operating costs with fast drying times. It also features PerfectDry, SteamFinish and FrangranceDos.
Another fun feature about the W1 + T1 is that they’re both able to connect to WiFi, which allows the user to connect to the Miele mobile app. This allows you to monitor your laundry and your cycles- how cool is that?!?
To learn more about these superior machines, visit Miele’s website here! Thank you to Miele and Good Housekeeping for partnering with me for this post. I will never view laundry the same way again!
SHOP MY OOTN:
Today’s Try On Confidential is taking a different approach but one that has been very much requested... I am BEYOND excited to finally show you how to achieve my easy waves in a hair tutorial. Be sure to tune into my Instagram Stories today to see how I do it. In case you miss it, I will save it as a highlight on my IG profile under “hair.”
My technique is very simple. I use an incredible curling wand made by Sultra Beauty. The Bombshell 1-inch curling rod lets you create beachy curls and waves in half the time of a traditional curling iron with no clip lines or dents while styling. The reason why this iron is superior to others that I’ve tried is because of its even heat distribution, it ensures your curls and waves are consistently true to rod size for that easy breezy look. This also helps cut down on the amount of product/ hair spray I use. I have super fine and flat hair - my waves (with minimal product) last 2-3 days!
Step 1: Use a heat protectant.
It’s really important to use a heat protectant spray when you’re using hot tools. It forms a protective barrier over the cuticle on the hair strand, preventing heat damage and enabling your hair to keep its shine. I usually prefer curling my hair the day after I wash it, so I apply it when its wet but it all depends on your preference. These curls usually last a few days so I can go about three days in between washes with my favorite dry shampoo!
Step 2: Brush and section hair but putting half into a clip or ponytail holder.
Depending on how much hair you have, you may want to do your waves in “batches.” It makes it a little easier and this is a great way to avoid missing any pieces!
Step 3: Grab a bunch of hair (about one inch wide) and twist hair section around the wand, away from your face.
You want the wand to be vertical and you want to wrap the strands around and away.
Step 4: Repeat!
Keep grabbing one inch sections until your entire head is complete! Don’t forget about the back.
SHOP MY FAVORITE 1 INCH CURLER:
SHOP MY OTHER HAIR FAVS:
What did you think of this tutorial? Would you like to see more beauty content from me? Leave a comment below!
When the dust of the wedding and honeymoon excitement settles, real life kicks in. Now that you’re officially a newlywed, it’s time to find your new normal and tackle the daunting process of the name change. To be honest, I wasn’t always sure that I wanted to change my name. I’ve been Caralyn Rose Mirand for my entire life and career, after all! I decided to change my middle name to Mirand so I could still keep things fluid professionally and still have the same last name as my husband and potential future children. So now I’m Caralyn Mirand Koch (pronounced “cook”). It’s a personal choice what to do with your name - there is no right or wrong way to go about it. This is my experience and journey on the name change process and I’m happy to share it with you!
I discovered HitchSwitch on Instagram a few months before the wedding. I was incredibly skeptical about it but saved it to revisit after the wedding. I reached out to them and told them I’d share my experience, they gave my readers a code. Use “CARALYN” for 15% off a package of your choice.
HitchSwitch has two different packages to choose from ranging from $69 to $89. The services essentially make the process significantly easier but you still have to put in a decent amount of work because the US government still has a certain way of how the process needs to be done.
I chose the Platinum plan which includes:
Beginning the name change process in minutes
Online access to all of your paperwork
Receive your auto-filled paperwork in the mail
Pre-paid mailing envelopes
Free printed passport photo that you can take on your phone
Name Change Concierge to answer all questions
You submit a form directly on their website with some basic information: your current name, desired name, wedding date, your address, etc. They then send you all of the paperwork that you need in the proper order to begin the process.
In the mail, you receive a personalized package filled out by the HitchSwitch team with all of the basic and redundant information that you may not want to fill out over and over again (i.e Name, Date of Birth, Your new married name). Each set of documents will come with a set of easy to follow instructions and the appropriate envelope and pre-stamped for your convenience. All of the paperwork comes with a sheet that tells you exactly what to fill out and what else you need to complete that step. The rules and process can vary state by state so be sure to pay attention to the exact order that they suggest. For example, in New York State it can be illegal to change your maiden name to your middle name unless you follow a certain order. HitchSwitch really lays it all out for you in a thoughtful, fool-proof way. The first official step to a name change is changing your social security card, which they encourage you do to in person. After that, I mailed in my passport information to be updated. I then renewed my driver’s license in person - it was quicker than mailing it in.
Once you complete the major things - social security card, passport, license, you can start updating your TSA Pre Check number, your credit cards, bank accounts, frequent flier accounts, car insurance, health insurance, email address (if you want- I didn’t), etc. This part was actually quite frustrating for me because every credit card and airline had a different process on how to update your name. This is when the HitchSwitch concierge came in… I sent them an email asking for the specific process on each of the store cards I had left. They sent me back these tailored PDF’s of each way to do things. This was SO helpful!
Bask in the glory of your new name change. You deserve it. Buy yourself something nice with your new initials on it! I sure did… here are a few things I bought with my new initials:
Other Helpful Tips:
Get more than one certified copy of your marriage license. In some cases, a photocopy will not suffice. You have to mail a certified copy in for your passport so if you want to speed up the process, get an extra copy so you can update your driver’s ID without having to wait for the other one to get mailed back. You can go back to the county clerk’s office (where you got your original copy) for another one. For me, it was $10 for an additional copy.
Don’t feel like you need to get this all done in one day. I dedicated a solid week in the beginning to doing something each day but overall the process overall took well over a month. Fact: there are still a few things I need to update. Don’t stress over it!
If you’re a frequent traveler, don’t forget to update your Known Traveler Number (TSA Pre-Check Number) BEFORE you book a flight in your new name. Otherwise you will NOT get Pre Check, my rookie mistake there!
The name change process is NOT easy but HitchSwitch makes it manageable. I would definitely recommend this service based on the fact that they help keep you organized and provide an easy step by step process of doing things. Considering every store, bank and airline have a different way of changing your name, HitchSwitch has all the answers on how to make this as seamless as possible!
They were kind enough to give my readers 15% off their name change package and they told me they would not let it expire! Use “CARALYN” for that discount!
Would you use a service like this? Do you have any questions? Leave them below!
If you caught my “Let’s Get Caught Up” post on Monday, you’d know that I’ve been traveling a lot. This week, I modeled two days in Miami and then I flew across country for another modeling job in San Francisco this weekend. I knew with this week’s try on, I would have to get a little creative considering I only was able to travel with a carry on for six days.
Therefore, you voted on my stories that you were interested in me dabbling into my beauty and skincare routines. I’ve decided to share my skincare routine, keeping up with my skin while traveling and my travel kit! A bunch of you were requesting my makeup routine- that is coming soon but I wanted to focus on skincare first. You can’t have a gorgeous face of makeup until you have your skin down first!
Let’s begin with skin
I discovered Drunk Elephant less than four months ago and I’ve been amazed by the results. I’ve always had pretty decent skin, I identify as “combination sensitive,” with an oily T-zone and the occasional hormonal breakout. Ever since I started using these Drunk Elephant products, I literally get stopped in the street by strangers to tell me I have beautiful skin. The first product that made me a believer was the Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil- but we’ll get to that shortly.
I then tone the skin with this gentle, alcohol-free toner and a cotton square—it has purifying chamomile and linden extracts—to remove every last trace of cleanser, leaving skin pH balanced, de-stressed, and spa-refreshed. If you use a toner, you should NEVER feel dry or tightness after.
I recently started using this duo in the morning and I definitely feel like my skin has been brighter. I also started adding Di-Bronzi into one of serums to give my face that “sunkissed glow.” My face is actually 3-4 shades darker than the rest of my body because I never tan my face so this helps me even my color out.
My skin is now primed and prepped to put on makeup or just breathe for the day.
It is SO important to wash your face from the day, whether you wear makeup or not. I usually use the same cleanser from the morning but then I also use a Neutrogena makeup removing wipe to make sure I get everything. If I’m feeling ambitious, I will also tone and throw T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum on. At the very least, I ALWAYS remember to put on this Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil. I was super skeptical about oils because of my combination skin but I seriously wake up GLOWING! It’s magical.
If you’re interested to try Drunk Elephant products but are a little unsure of the price tag, these sample kits are a great way to try the brand without having to commit to each of the items. If you’re going to splurge on one though, I’d highly recommend giving the oil a try. It seriously works on every skin type, my skin hasn’t been the same since.
Here is my favorite travel case for beauty products, it hold EVERYTHING in a way that you can actually see!
Are you loving this beauty content? What products are you interested in trying? Leave your feedback below!
My friend Kristin and I met our first day of college at Clarkson University. We have been through a lot together, including planning our weddings! I had the honor of helping plan her bridal shower brunch in Sodus Bay, NY earlier in the summer. She was such a special part of my planning process, I was ecstatic to return the favor. I wouldn't call myself an expert party planner, but after going through this a few times I wanted to share a few of my tips for planning the perfect bridal shower!
tip #1: determine the venue + theme
The shower took place in a refurbished barn on Lake Ontario. We decided to go for a floral and champagne theme. We wanted to compliment the natural elements of the space while giving it a light and airy feel! The bride loves brunch so we decided to complete the day with a mimosa bar, served with fresh fruits!
tip #2: personalize + have fun with it!
Aside from simple gold frames with pictures of the bride and groom in them, I wanted to incorporate a little personalize fun from For Your Party! FYP offers a wide variety of party/ paper goods for any event. I decided to go with cocktail and luncheon napkins to reflect the theme of the party, I've linked the exact ones that I customized below.
tip #3: stay true to the bride
It's so easy to get lost in Pinterest ideas but remember to stay true to the bride's personality and style. At the end of the day, this day should reflect her! For my shower, I didn't want guests seated at tables the entire time so I opted for a midday cocktail hour instead. My friend Kristin had a similar format with a brunch feel, complete with an DIY mimosa bar!
tip #4: designate a photo spot
Most bridal showers I’ve been to include some sort of photo opportunity… Everyone wants either a picture with the bride or a picture of the bride opening her gifts. We decided to set up a super simple photo backdrop using white curtains and fresh eucalyptus for the bride to sit in front of while she opened her gifts. Push the gifts aside afterwards for some adorable group shots!
Shop the post!
Feel free to click on the images below to shop them directly.
This week’s Try On Confidential decision to feature Rent The Runway was fueled around this pretty red dress that I wore to my Sonoma trip last week. I’ve seriously never received so many messages about a dress before, I knew I needed to feature it this week. I’ve been a longtime Rent the Runway fan, using it as my go-to for special events. It’s so easy- they send you the items with a pre-paid UPS label and you send back the worn clothes when you’re done with them. Ship them back and they take care of cleaning the items too! Stay tuned for my IG stories to see more about the process.
They’ve recently launched their Unlimited program where you can rent 4 items on rotation and swap them as often as you’d like for $159 a month. It is the smarter, better, more thrilling way to access the fall fashion of your dreams without the typical drawbacks of seasonal transition - shopping trips, closet restocking, unpredictable weather and, worst of all- overspending. I told them I was doing this and they were kind enough to offer my readers an exclusive code for 40% off your first month of membership (cancel anytime btw)!
Use “CARALYNPERK40” for 40% off, sign up here!
Here are the four items I was able to rent, I rented with the intentions of my Sonoma trip and an upcoming wedding! Check out my stories to see how these items look on + what sizes I wore. As always, the links are all shoppable- you can shop these items directly from this page!
As I’m sure many of you saw on my Instagram account last week, I was invited, along with some other amazing bloggers, to join the Sonoma County Vintners as we celebrated Sonoma County Wine month. The purpose of the trip was to take a deep dive into Sonoma County’s history of wine making and experience all that the region has to offer. I can honestly say that I have a whole new appreciation and respect for wine and winemakers after this trip, I’m excited to show you a glimpse of my time there!
Traveling to Sonoma was quite a long trip, but everything went very smoothly! I went from Buffalo to Chicago, Chicago to San Francisco, San Francisco to Sonoma. The Sonoma airport was so small yet efficient. It was about 10 minutes from our hotel in Healdsburg, we stayed at the H2 Hotel which was adorable! I had the chance to experience this with four other incredible bloggers: Ashley Robertson, Erika Altes, Kathleen Barnes, Sira Kante and Chrissy of Harlowe James - be sure to follow them too!
Our first full day in Sonoma County started at Frei Brothers Winery. This winery is truly a historic landmark as they have been in Sonoma County for over a century. We had the the pleasure of taking an open-air Jeep tour throughout the grounds which was incredible. One of my favorite moments of the trip while at the Frei Brothers Winery was learning about how falcons and their trainers are brought in to watch over the vineyard. When grapes are ripe, they are incredibly tasty which makes them targets for all types of creatures. Falcons are natural born hunters and are used to keep these unwanted creatures away. I was incredibly moved by this because in 2018, you’d think we’d have all of this crazy technology but they were thoughtful enough to revert back to nature!
After we wrapped our tour we were treated to grape stomping. Used in traditional winemaking before machinery, grapes were crushed by having barefoot participants repeatedly stomp on them in large buckets to release their juices and begin fermentation. We were provided shoes but opted for a more authentic experience…
By this point we worked up an appetite and we were welcomed to a Farm to Table lunch with local chef Gia Passalaqua, fresh pizzas from the outdoor wood oven and the most beautiful charcuterie display I’ve ever seen! I have more photos of this on my phone than I’m willing to admit. There were a number of Frei Brothers wines that paired perfectly with this spread! My favorite was definitely the Chardonnay.
Later that evening, we were welcomed to MacMurray Estate Vineyards by Kate MacMurray and she shared the history behind the impressive property. We then retreated to the barn and mixed our own blend of Pinot Noir. The Sonoma County wine region is very large and the tastes of grapes can vary. We tried five different Pinot Noirs from Sonoma County and were able to create our own bottle and cork it and bring it home with us.
Later in the evening, we were welcomed by Bear Flag Wines for an epic dinner. We met winemaker Aaron Piotter and enjoyed a feast under the dazzling canopy of the Sonoma sky. Sonoma weather is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced- known for it’s hot days and cool evenings - we were well prepared with blankets and heaters for our meal outside. No meal is complete without dessert - we had bear-shaped homemade graham crackers for Bear Flag Wine s’mores by a rumbling campfire.
Day two began exploring Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s 2018 harvest in their vineyards with their on site viticulturist. We tasted their Zinfandel grapes that were about to be picked within the next week or so! Once we learned a little bit more about the property, we were invited to a formal tasting of Coppola wines. I was really excited to learn about all of the different types of wine they offer- at many different price points.
Tasting definitely works up an appetite, so on the second day we went outside to meet Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Chef Tim Bodell for a “garden to table” luncheon using fresh fruits and vegetables from the winery’s garden- which we were able to pick ourselves! We definitely enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
After lunch we were welcomed to the Coppola Winery’s iconic pool, complete with our own cabana. After a few hours in the sun, we went back to our hotel, freshened up a bit and went back for an intimate Italian dinner. The next day, I headed back home to Buffalo.
We experienced A LOT in our short time in Sonoma but I will forever remember my time there. I was so moved by the passion that the community has for creating wine, I will definitely be purchasing Sonoma County wine- knowing all that has gone into it makes it taste THAT much better. If you are contemplating a trip out to Sonoma, DO IT! The people, the wine, the food- it’s incredible. Would you visit Sonoma? Leave any of your comments or questions below!
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While it sounds exciting, planning the trip of a lifetime can be a stressful task in top of planning a wedding. We tossed around ideas of exotic locations, touring the Amalfi Coast or sailing Santorini, but when it came down to it our love for relaxing in the warm Caribbean sun made for an easy decision.
Not quick to raise his hand for wedding related tasks, Brian volunteered to lead the search for the perfect Caribbean honeymoon spot. We knew wanted something off the beaten path but also all-inclusive. After writing checks the last six months, the last thing we wanted to was pull out our wallets daily. Unfortunately, outside of the usual spots like Cancun, Jamaica, and the Dominican, the concept of “all-inclusive” isn’t all to wide spread.
Nevertheless, the Eastern Caribbean island of Antigua has always been on our radar. Boasting 365 white sandy beaches (one for each day!) and offering some of the most beautiful resorts in the world, it quickly moved to the top of the list. The only problem was that outside of your typical Sandals resort, Antigua wasn't home to many all inclusive resorts that fit our vibe. That was until we stumbled upon Cocobay Resort! We were immediately drawn to Cocobay through their beautifully curated Instagram account. Without hesitation we reached out and booked a 10 day trip in one of their Premium Waterfront Suites.
We were lucky enough to be able to leave for our honeymoon two days after our wedding. After a quick stop in NYC we were off on a quick four hour direct flight to Antigua. Upon arrival, the online images of Cocobay’s immediately came to life. With its colorful collection of pastel cottages, white sandy beaches, and turquoise water we immediately fell in love with our surroundings.
Upon entering our Premium Waterfront Suite we were instantly relaxed by its spacious interior and one of the best oceanfront views either of us have ever seen. The view was complemented by the cottage private balcony fully equipped with a hammock, daybed, and our very own private plunge pool. Being able to enjoy coffee and cocktails in this private and intimate setting was a highlight of our trip!
Cocobay offered two main swimming pools along with a main bar/clubhouse and food was served at their restaurant, Rafters. Being veterans of the all inclusive life we were a bit skeptical of only having one restaurant to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, however Cocobay exceeded our expectations. We looked forward to the dinner menu daily and frequently indulged in menu items such as beef tenderloin and spiny lobster. There were also plenty of food options off the resort that were easily accessible via hotel arranged transportation. Luckily for Cocobay guests, the grounds also is home to Sheer Rocks, voted the #1 restaurant in the Caribbean in 2018. We frequently visited Sheer Rocks for cocktails and one night for dinner for a culinary experience we will sure never forget.
Where Cocobay really won us over though was through their warm and welcoming staff. From the moment we arrived and we were personally greeted by hotel manager O’Neil Richards, we felt the staff’s personal dedication to making sure our trip was a trip of a lifetime, and they certainly succeeded!
While we are sad that the wedding journey has come to an end, we are happy we can look back on not only the wedding, but also our honeymoon with no regrets. Thanks to Cocobay we were able to unwind and recharge -together- in one of the most picturesque settings on earth. If you are looking to do the same I recommend checking them out. We surely hope to return one day!
Questions about planning a honeymoon, anniversary trip, or couples getaway? Leave them below!