I don’t know about you, but I tend to wear black A LOT, particularly in the fall and winter months. Maybe it’s the gloomy and dreary weather or how it’s already pitch-dark when I’m leaving the office at 5pm that makes me want to reach for one of my black sweaters, tees, tunics and leggings. Or maybe wearing all black just so happens to do a better job of covering up those extra few pounds I usually put on around this time of year thanks to all those social events that fill up my calendar for two months straight primarily consisting of overindulging on victuals and libations.
Well, whatever the reason, I think we can all agree that there’s just something about an all black outfit or an article of black clothing that will always look classy, chic, sexy and mysterious. So in honor of Black Wednesday and Black Friday this week, I have linked some of my favorite fall and winter black must-haves for you to shop or use as a guide to complete your wardrobe with what I consider to be black essentials.
A couple of weekends ago, I joined close family friends of ours and their three boys for a fun-filled day of apple picking, hard cider and wine tasting, freshly baked apple donuts and kids’ activities at Jonamac Orchard in Malta, IL, a new fall tradition in the making.
Jonamac Orchard is 90 minutes west of Chicago and fairly easy to get to. The orchard has been in business for 32 years with over 105 acres of land and over 10,000 apple trees consisting of more than two dozen varieties to choose from. There are a variety of kids’ activities including the Barn Yard Play Area with a jumping pillow, petting zoo and an Apple Train, as well as a corn maze, campfire and a 12 acre pumpkin patch. If walking through a 12 acre pumpkin patch doesn’t entice you, the Pumpkin Corrall by the Kettle Corn Building near the play area already has hand-picked pumpkins ready for purchase to take home. While my friend Dave and the boys spent some time in the play area, my girlfriend Gwen and I decided to partake in the $5 a person tasting of different blends of apple wine in the Cider House, giving us a head start over Dave until he was able to join us. Our samples of choice included the Orchard Blend (the bottle Dave and Gwen purchased to take home), Orchard Reserve, Autumn Harvest (served warm), Pomme Nouveau and Pumpkin flavored (our least favorite).We then headed over to Jonamac’s 20 acre apple orchard where we were able to hand-pick our own apples for $13 a bag, filling each of our bags with a variety of Fuji and large, bright red, tasty Pazzaz apples, a first year harvest at the Orchard. This was our first time trying Pazzaz apples and they were absolutely delicious, a crispy and juicy alternative to Honeycrisp.
We concluded our day in the kids’ play area where the boys ran around in the haystack, bounced on the jumping pillow, petted goats and slid down the slide, which of course, this big kid right here had to partake in as well. On our way out, Dave and I stopped in the bakery to purchase a homemade apple pie and some fudge, barely making our way through the long line of people waiting to get their hands on those warm, freshly baked, cinnamon coated apple donuts that we got our fix of when we first arrived, a definite must when visiting Jonamac Orchard. Until next year…Shop my look:
Two years ago, we traveled down to Cancun, Mexico with 68 of our friends and family members to host our long-awaited, tropical destination wedding. After visiting a handful of cities in Mexico over the years, John and I felt that Cancun was the ideal destination because of its convenience and picturesque location with pristine-white sand beaches and turquoise waters of vibrant teal and bright blue hues.
We chose Secrets The Vine Cancun, a chic and contemporary adults-only hotel, in Cancun’s hotel zone, to host our wedding and accommodate our fairly large group. We were fortunate to have been able to stay at the hotel when they first opened in late 2012 when we flew down for a site visit giving us a true experience of what we could expect if we chose to host our wedding there. After an extensive search and narrowing down our choices to six hotels in Cancun and Riviera-Maya, not one compared to the service, cleanliness, location and style that Secrets The Vine provided. From the refreshing glasses of champagne and cold towels that were handed to us upon arriving, to the modern ambiance and simplistic interior decor, to the chill-down lounge music playing in the lobby, the exceptional cuisine between their six à la carte gourmet restaurants and 24 hour room service to choose from and the genuinely friendly and attentive staff that made sure our stay wasn’t anything short of excellent, we had no doubt that this was the perfect location to host our May 10, 2014 wedding.Our family’s travel agent assisted our guests with all travel arrangements including flights, hotel and round-trip shuttle services to and from the airport since everyone’s arrival and departure days varied. We reserved a block of rooms at the hotel to make sure everyone stayed on the same property and we included detailed information on how to go about booking hotel reservations on our wedding website which was included on our Save the Dates. Our Save The Dates were mailed nine months out and our wedding invitations were mailed out about four months before the wedding.
We put together welcome bags for our guests which included a personalized itinerary, beach towel clips, a first aid and hangover kit and miscellaneous travel size items such as sunscreen, Aloe Vera Gel and lip balm that we dropped off to our guests’ rooms on the days they arrived. The night before the wedding, we hosted a welcome dinner for all of our guests at Sea Salt Grill and then had everyone come back to our suite for after dinner cocktails. The Master Suite that hotel management so graciously upgraded us to, was over 1,300 square feet with a wrap around balcony and an ocean front view, making it an ideal intimate setting to spend time with our guests. On the morning of our wedding day, I got ready in our room and I had my bridal party join me so we could spend the day together. I selected ombré themed purple and lavender chiffon gowns for my bridesmaids while my adult flower girl stood out in a gray chiffon gown to offset the rest of the bridal party. I wore a strapless tulle mermaid style bridal gown with sweetheart neckline that was custom made by Rachel Alvia of Avail & Co and I chose a classic white rose bouquet while my bridesmaids’ bouquets were a mix of white hydrangeas and lavender roses. John wore a light gray suit that was custom made by Durus’ Custom Tailors while his groomsmen went with a laid back casual look with gray pants, white button ups and black suspenders.
Even though John and I had decided to forgo exchanging wedding gifts on our wedding day, he surprised me with an iPad that was hand delivered to me while I was getting ready with an uploaded personal video message from him and video montage of his childhood. It was by far the sweetest and most thoughtful gift that he has ever given to me and one that I will cherish for many years to come. We opted for a first-look photo session with our wedding party and family before our ceremony. The wedding ceremony took place on the Lounge Terrace at 5:30 pm followed by cocktail hour on the bridge and a 7:30 pm poolside reception. During cocktail hour, John and I ventured off with our photographers for a beach photography session and you can view more of those photos here.
Our reception was one of the most entertaining and lively receptions I have ever been a part of and one that turned into a non-stop dance party that kicked off in the middle of dinner and went into all hours of the night. John and our best man put together the evening’s play list with a variety of 80s, 90s and current Top 40 pop music which included tunes by our favorite artists such as George Michael and Sade that played during dinner and later transitioned into EDM beats that kept everyone on the dance floor through the end of the night.
Our wedding day was absolutely a day to remember and we will be forever grateful to have had our friends and family travel the distance to be able to celebrate the day (and week) with us. Although the day has passed and today officially marks our second wedding anniversary, we are so lucky to have had Bethany Petersen of BP Film & Photo fly down from Utah to capture the day’s events through photo and film which will always bring back warm memories as we relive our perfect day. You can watch our wedding film by clicking below.