Month: February 2018

kirsten + gabe // Adirondack Woodcraft Camp

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It feels like I’ve been wanting to blog this wedding for a million years and the day is finally here!  So, I’m not big on having “favorite venues,” because for me, this work I do is all about the people. The place just doesn’t matter all that much. But, if I ever did have to choose a favorite, I think Adirondack Woodcraft Camp would have to be it. I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondacks. My family spent time up there every summer of my entire childhood, so I think my biggest reason for loving this venue is the nostalgia I feel when I get to spend time up there as an adult. It’s a truly magical place for me. The weekend we spent with Kirsten and Gabe was just incredible, and I’m so excited to finally share these images. The thoughts and memories they shared throughout the post really bring it all to life, so make sure you take a minute to read them! They are the sweetest couple. 

Kirsten: “Our first date was the first time I flew to NY to visit. It was terrifying and soooo awkward because we had only been talking via phone and Skype as friends at that point. But Gabe picked me up from the airport and we went to Fort Stanwix, which is this weird historic fort. We were followed around by this super enthusiastic actor dressed and acting like a soldier. It’s was incredibly awkward and hilarious at the same time.

Kirsten: “So the story of my dress is actually pretty funny. I went to Charlotte NC for the weekend with one of my bridesmaids and met with my Mom, aunt and grandma. We had a wonderful weekend filled with mimosas and dress shopping. Finally found a dress that we all loved and we decided to order it in champagne! I’m not a super girly girl so I wanted something simple and with gold undertones. Well, a couple weeks went by and one afternoon I received a frantic call from the woman who helped me find my dress. Another woman had chosen the same dress and color and hers had come in that day. She called right away to tell me we had a huge issue- I had accidentally ordered a pink wedding dress! My least favorite color. The color ‘champagne’, which was supposed to be slightly gold, was actually pink in person. I was pressed for time and Gabe could tell I was stressed so the next day he drove me two hours to the shop and he actually helped me pick out my dress that I wore on our wedding day. It was pretty hilarious because obviously he was the only man in there and was super uncomfortable but he actually picked the dress out off the rack and when I tried it on I knew it was the one!

Kirsten: “Before our First Look I was so nervous for Gabe to see me all dolled up, but it was the perfect moment and he reacted in the best way.

Gabe: “When I first saw Kirsten at our First Look I thought to myself ‘I’m the luckiest man alive’.

Kirsten: “Gabe will always make me laugh. He will go exploring anywhere I want to. We are constantly finding new adventures to take together. We like to hike, take photos and just generally explore. We love to find ghost towns and abandoned buildings (basically anything creepy). We value each other and the time we spend together exploring new places.

Kirsten: “My favorite special touch was the Girl Gang jackets I had custom made for my babes. I wanted the bridesmaids gifts to be something they could use on the wedding day and also take home with them and wear time and time again. Seeing the looks on my bridesmaids’ faces when I gave them their gifts was something I will hold on to forever.

Gabe: “Looking out into the crowd before the ceremony started and realizing that all of my family and friends from all over the country were all here, in one place, made me feel incredibly thankful for each and every one there.

Gabe: “Having Bailey as our flower dog was the perfect addition to the wedding party. She walked down the aisle like a pro and laid quietly through the whole ceremony. We were very proud dog parents that day.

Kirsten: “Gabe and I wrote our own vows during a weekend getaway in the mountains and saying them to each other in front of all of our closest friends and family was an unforgettable experience, made possible by Gabe’s cousin Stephanie, who officiated our wedding.

Kirsten: “Our first kiss and the moments that followed were the happiest I have ever felt!

Gabe: “After the ceremony we slipped off into the woods while everyone went ahead to the cocktail hour. Those quiet moments were a chance for everything to sink in. All I kept saying was, ‘We are really married! We did it.‘”

Kirsten: “The wooden mountain landscape [above the fireplace at the reception] was a surprise that Gabe’s Dad made for me for the rehearsal dinner. He created it using our wedding invitations as his inspiration and when he showed me I was stunned. It is so beautiful and Gabe is planning on making us a new a bed frame and using it as our headboard!

Kirsten: “The Ciotti’s have a chant that they like to yell during family functions and a few minutes before going into the reception, while standing outside with the wedding party, I could hear a crowd of people chanting ‘C- to the I to the O-T-T-I’ and that’s when it hit me, I was officially a Ciotti!!!

Kirsten: “Our first dance song was ‘I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire’ by The Inkspots. It’s an older song that not many people know about. I hadn’t heard of it until Gabe played it for me on the guitar. He sang it to me early on in our relationship and it quickly became ‘our song’, so when it can time to chose our first dance neither of us had to think about it. It just seemed silly to chose any other song.

Kirsten: “The father-daughter dance was very hard to chose a song. Growing up, my dad and I would watch The Muppets all the time and I love the song ‘Rainbow Connection’. Gabe and I spent hours listening to covers trying to find the perfect song. We never liked any of them as much as the original, but having Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy sing at our wedding also felt a bit absurd. Luckily Gabe comes from an incredibly talented family and his uncle, Elliott, and cousin, Stephanie, are especially amazing. I asked Stephanie and Elliott if they would be willing to perform the song at our wedding and they did. It made the dance so much more special having them play and sing it. Having the other Ciotti cousins chime in and sing along was the perfect ending to a beautiful moment.

Kirsten: “A piece of advice: have a day of coordinator! We luckily have a wonderful friend, Maggie, who offered to act as ours during the wedding. She made sure everything went smoothly and answered questions so Gabe and I didn’t have to! Honestly without her I’m sure we would have been stressed out, but having someone in charge left us carefree and able to have the time of our lives!

Working with Jenn and Ben was so wonderful. They are incredibly talented and knew how to keep us on our timeline, which I’m sure was difficult because I get distracted easily. We felt very comfortable with them and I recommend them to everyone I know who is getting married. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or better photographs!

Wedding Vendors Include:

Venue: Adirondack Woodcraft Camp
Cake: Kenwood Kakes

All other elements of this beautiful wedding were DIY

the journey of a rescued golden retriever

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When we adopted Sophie from the Golden Retriever Rescue of CNY, we didn’t give much consideration to how she would be with children because that wasn’t even on our radar at the time. We knew we were adopting a dog with disabilities who might never walk without a wheelchair, but we didn’t know that she was also a complete mess mentally and emotionally due to her rocky start in life. She had severe dog aggression and honestly had no idea whatsoever how to be a family pet. Anytime the doorbell rang she sounded like a viscous lunatic ready to attack. If she could have bit a hole through the front door, she would have. The entire first year with her was pure insanity.

Our other Golden. Lily, whom we’d had from a puppy, took her under her wing and patiently taught her how to be all of the things that a Golden Retriever is supposed to be. Sophie followed her lead in all things and their friendship started to slowly transform her. You could see in their interactions that there was actual teaching going on and it was remarkable to watch. Sophie made her biggest strides mentally and emotionally by learning to trust and rely on Lily.

When I found out that I was pregnant with Elsie, one of my first thoughts was, “Omg, how is this crazy nut going to react to a baby?!” Around the same time we found out we were expecting, we also found out that Lily had a rare heart valve defect that would ultimately result in congestive heart failure. She was only 5 years old, so we were completely blindsided. Devastated.  We did everything we possibly could to help her, but in the end she was really suffering and we had to let her go.

Sophie laid next to her until she took her last breath. That was absolutely the hardest day of my life. After they took her away, Sophie went and laid down in Lily’s bed and would stay there – uncharacteristically silent – for the next 24 hours. The following day, she emerged a different dog – calm, poised, maybe even a little bit wiser if that’s possible. It was almost as if (and this may sound crazy but I truly believe it) she knew that it was time to step up to the plate and put into practice all that Lily had taught her over the past two years. She saw me through to the end of my pregnancy, providing me with steadfast emotional support just as Lily would have done (which was much needed since I didn’t stop crying for at least a month), and when we brought Elsie home from the hospital, Sophie fully blossomed into the proper Golden Retriever we always hoped she would be.

With every new stage of development, we would have new doubts. “What if she pulls her fur? What if, what if, what if…?” But every single time she proves herself to be the world’s most perfect family dog; amazingly tolerant, sweet, and loving. The way their relationship has grown over the past three years has been such a joy to watch. If you’ve ever seen my Sophie and Elsie IG Stories, then you know exactly what I mean. ;)

My favorite part of this whole story is that it seems so obvious to me that Lily knew her time was short. So she hand picked the perfect dog for us, brought her into our lives, and prepped her and primed her for life as the Ayres family Golden Retriever. Every time I watch Elsie layer her with dishtowels or brush her hair with a doll brush, or try to feed her plates of imaginary food, it feels as if we’re honoring Lily’s memory, and that is so special. Forever grateful that we took a chance on a crazy special needs dog who was looking for a miracle. She is the absolute best friend we could have ever hoped for.