Tuesday, February 2, 2016

[travels] Waiheke Island and Auckland, New Zealand

We planned an 8 day New Zealand crash course and landed midnight at the Auckland airport haggard, hungry, and a little dazed.  Luckily, we happened to be staying at one of the most iconic and easily recognizable hotels within the entire city center-- the SkyCity Hotel.  Take me to that tall spindly building please!  This was the country we had dreamt about visiting well before our engagement, and the one we had chosen to visit for our honeymoon trip.  Best decision ever.

 The airport felt desolate and it seemed as if the passengers on our plane were the only ones there-- a bit of a "Silent Hill" creepy vibe at that time of night.  We got checked in and sorted out with sleep as the only item on our itinerary.  The next morning I surfed on Yelp to find a few walkable options for breakfast and settled upon Federal and Wolfe.  Much to my delight, I discovered New Zealand eggs are of the vibrant yellow-orange variety which always reminds me of Japan.  I feasted upon a hearty smoked Fish Kedgeree plate accompanied by a soul-satisfying cup of chai latte.  At this point, our surroundings still felt quite familiar to home; big city life, work commuters going to and fro, keys pounding on laptops in cafes, and business conversations all around. 

Another short walk took us to the ferry dock where we had pre-purchased tickets to Waiheke Island for $36 NZD roundtrip per person (via Explore Group).  There are frequent departures and returns since so many people commute from the nearby islands to work in Auckland.  A ferry commute is definitely up there on the totem pole... I'd take that over driving any day.  The ferry itself was clean, spacious, and even equipped with USB ports in certain areas. 

40-minutes later we docked at the Waiheke port and purchased our first flat-white drink.  This is the infamous cup'o'joe served up in New Zealand.  Essentially, perfectly steamed milk is poured over a shot of espresso.  It's similar to a latte, but has slightly different proportions and tastes much creamier in my opinion.  Our ziplining tour group, EcoZip Adventures spotted us in the terminal and we were whisked away into a van.  We took a slightly windy and scenic drive up the island and stopped at the course; which was the highest altitude zip course on Waiheke.  Ziplining is the perfect combination of heights, safety, small doses of adrenaline, and beautiful sights.  It's relatively easy to find a course all over the world, so be on the lookout when planning your next trip.  Post-zip, our guide took us on a nature walk through the native forest where we were taught about the tree varieties and quirks of the plants.  I couldn't believe how many extraordinary plants there were in the lush landscape.

Another great perk of being on an island, is that it typically leads to an abundance of divine seafood.  Oceanview Road is a great place to stop, wander, and get a meal on Waiheke Island.  It wasn't long before we found ourselves perched on the upper deck of The Oyster Inn with a spread of oysters (paired with a chardonnay vinegar nonetheless) and beers in hand.  The Inn is impeccably decorated with fresh farmhouse whites, and snappy yellows and blues.  This place would certainly be on my radar if we had plans to stay overnight.  Just across the street, we could see the wide expanse of the ocean.

There are several convenient paths with beach access, and we found one with several interesting carved wooden thrones.  As you can see, I'm a sucker for these opportune photo set-ups.  Once down on the sand, I was enthralled, no FLOORED by the amount of whole seashells on the ground.  It was incredible and a such rare treat to see.  Our next destination, Cove Bites and Brews was a few minutes walk back up the hill.  We feasted upon a platter of house specialties including ribs, pulled pork, calamari, lamb meatballs, and pints of local beer.  With all the food we had been eating, I was at thankful we had previously been walking to several of our destinations.

A convenient bus route ran regularly from Oceanview Road, so we hopped on and made our way back to the ferry station and back into Auckland.  By this time, a spot of jet lag had set in, and a nap went underway.  I woke up in a state of confusion and slight panic when I realized it was ten o'clock in the evening.  My sights were set to dine at Elliot Stables, which is a food hall of sorts that offers high quality restaurant dishes all at one venue, but the kitchen was already closed down at that time. Luckily, renowned kiwi chef Al Brown's restaurant, the Depot was right next to our hotel and came highly recommended by our concierge.  Our first day in Auckland ended over velvety bone marrow, delicious fare, and more beer of course.  Not bad... not bad at all.

Up next: Queenstown and the Milford Sound

Monday, January 4, 2016

[diy] Bloominous Wedding Flowers

Remember my previous post about alternative and more economical wedding flower options?  Event florals can eat at your budget and that's a truth! Luckily, there are options out there that won't compromise the experience.  I am happy to report back that I have now used Bloominous.com for my wedding in Maui. My bridal party and I had so much fun throughout the process; from the design, to assembly, to rockin' out with our bouquets on the big day.  

Note: I am doing a personal review of Bloominous and all opinions are my own (no compensation, no strings attached, nada).  Photos taken by the outstanding team at Aihara Visuals and on my iphone.

I had been scoping out the Bloominous website debating whether I would use them for my destination wedding in Maui.  There were so many logistics I worried about (shipping to the island, freshness of the flowers, difficulty of assembly, etc.) not to mention the company was relatively new with few online reviews. Ultimately, I decided that flowers were not going to capitalize a major part of my wedding budget and I needed to be open to different methods.  I needed a company that could help me arrange a bouquet, choose the best flowers, all at the right price.

The design process was extensive and I worked with one person from start to finish.  He asked me to share ideas, my Pinterest board, and we even talked through the entire vision from wedding outfits to decorative accents.  I ended up adding corsages and boutonnieres to the order just a few weeks before the wedding and it was no problem at all.  I was excited to see what the designers at Bloominous would come up with, and they sure delivered.  This method worked well for me, because I had a clear vision of what I wanted, but also the flexibility for ambiguity.  I'm the kind of girl who loves structured surprises :).

Two days before the wedding, my box of blooms got shipped via FedEx. There were instructions to hydrate the flowers right away.  We opened each package and pruned the stems, which took a good 45 minutes or so.  Practically every vase and container in our rental unit was used for flowers and the kitchen transformed into a garden!

 The day before the wedding, we had a casual rehearsal dinner party at our rental condo and asked the bridal group to help afterwards with various wedding assembly projects (centerpieces, decorations, bouquets, corsages boutonnieres, music playlists).  I was so tickled to see so many other friends and family members opting to stay back and participate in the assembly. If you plan on doing this, don't forget to notify your bridal party beforehand so there are no scheduling mishaps.  Here were the teams and an estimate of our assembly time:

  • Corsages (3): Two people for 45 minutes (mother of the bride and groom... how cute!)
  • Boutonnieres (7): Five people for 45 minutes
  • Bridesmaid bouquet (5): Five people for 1 hour (one extra bouquet for a table)
  • Bride bouquet (1): Two people for 1 hour
  • Succulent centerpieces (15): Four people for 10 minutes

Total cost including taxes, fees, and shipping: $645

Bloominous provides video tutorials to walk through the prepping and bouquet making process, which proved to be extremely useful.  We applied the methods shown in the video and made a few tweaks to fit our situation. The bouquet stems were left long so they could stay hydrated in the vases.  We decided it would also be best to wrap the ribbon and trim the stems the morning of the wedding to keep it all dry.  It took about 45 minutes the next day to put on the finishing touches and remove the torn/yellowing petals.  The bouquets rode with the bridesmaids to the wedding venue and were put in water to await the special moment.

Each table centerpiece had one bronze colored mercury vase with water to hold the bouquet as soon as the ceremony ended.  Assorted succulent vases sat around it, along with the illuminated glass teepee (copper LED lights inside), and golden pyramids of mints and ice breakers.  The embossed table tent number was another project I had made a few months before the wedding.

The mini set of succulents were incredibly easy to put together.  One of my bridesmaids stopped by the Target store on the island and bought three containers of decorative rocks for $6 a piece.  I borrowed the rest of the vases (including the gorgeous mercury cylinders) from my wedding planner for free!  If you have a destination wedding planner, be sure to ask if they have a stash of supplies you can borrow from.  This will spare you money and shipping costs.

The succulent boutonnieres were a bit heavy and began to droop, but thankfully they held on long enough for the photos. The corsages turned out a bit awkward because the flower buds were all full sized rather than the "mini" variety. Luckily, no one had any issues with it and happily wore their personal creations. My mom got a kick out of showing everyone her handiwork!

The bridal and bridesmaid bouquets turned out better than I could have ever imagined!  I am so thankful for my talented bridal party, friends, and family that pitched in the night before to help.  We had such a great time working together to create beautiful memories for the wedding and many of the guests fondly remember the fun we had.  What's more, my floral vision was complete, within our budget, and created with lots of love.  I'd say that's a huge win... don't you?

Update: Bloominous featured a few pictures of my florals on their "Real Weddings" page!

Monday, December 21, 2015

[travels] Maui Destination Wedding Packing List for the Bride

Packing for a destination wedding is a scary, but manageable. My biggest tips are to start early, be flexible, and always remember to keep your wits about you.  We had a Saturday wedding in Maui at the Olowalu Plantation House and stayed in Kihei.  Arriving a few days before (we flew in on Wednesday around noon) was extremely helpful, as we used those days to buy supplies for the wedding and organize a few fun group activities for the wedding guests.  

It's important to note that destination wedding decoration planning can be difficult because you will eventually need to figure out how to get the items to the venue.  Try to be resourceful and only buy things you absolutely need.  Determine whether they can be shipped directly there or if you need to bring it yourself.  Ask your family and friends for help if you need to add items into their suitcases.  Ship a few boxes through USPS Priority (cheapest, most secure method for Maui) a few weeks beforehand, and create shopping lists for what you can buy on the island.  Going to Amazon Prime it?  Don't forget that shipping to the islands will take a few extra days.

And if you are up to your neck drowning in wedding details, just remember to keep the absolute essentials in your carry on bag.  As a rule of thumb-- if not having the item will spoil the big day, then make sure it is brought with you.  Everything else can get shipped, brought by a trusted friend or family member, or go in your checked baggage.  Many thanks to Cynthia of Destination Wedding Details for getting me started on this list and photo credit to Aihara Visuals for the lovely photos (plus one picture from my trusty phone).

Carry On
  • Wedding rings
  • Wedding dress in a garment bag **Most airplanes will allow you to store your dress in their special closet... just ask!
  • Wedding day jewelry (earrings, bracelet, necklace)
  • Veil (carefully folded in a shopping bag attached inside of the gown garment bag)
  • Wedding day shoes (in a shoe bag to keep it pristine)
  • Marriage license paperwork & payment
  • Wedding vendor paperwork/contracts
  • Vendor tip envelopes (I wrote each person a card with a cash tip and sealed the envelope)
  • Honeymoon itinerary (have a hard copy of every confirmation and ticket)
  • Foreign currency for honeymoon, travel cards, insurance, etc.
  • Passports & Visas

Wedding Items
  • One of your invitations and other stationery for the photography
  • Cute robe or outfit to wear while getting ready (my robe was a gift from the bridal shower)
  • Wedding night lingerie/undergarments
  • Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
  • Printed copy of vows
  • Assorted pictures for the reception table
  • Groomsmen, bridesmaids, and parent gifts
  • Mini supply kit of scissors, hot glue gun, safety pins, permanent pens, ribbons, sewing kit, tape, etc.

Toiletries & Personal Items
  • Extra contact lenses & solution
  • Reading glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunblock
  • Aloe vera
  • Toothpaste & toothbrush
  • Visine
  • Deodorant
  • Comb/brush
  • Hair ties & Bobby Pins
  • Hair Spray & Products
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Chapstick
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers & File
  • Allergy medicine, ibuprofen, assorted medicine etc.

  • Makeup (blush, mascara, foundation, eyeliner, lipstick/gloss, eyeshadow, etc.)
  • Makeup brushes
  • Moisturizer, eye cream, etc..
  • Makeup remover
  • Facial cleanser
  • Hair gel
  • Hairspray
  • Flat iron and/or curling iron
  • Face mask
  • Lip balm
  • False eyelashes
  • Perfume

  • Kindle
  • Phone - don't forget to clear up ample memory space for pictures!
  • Camera
  • Mobile chargers
  • Portable Battery
  • Power converter
  • Wifi device
  • Tablet
  • Headphones

  • TSA Approved Luggage locks
  • Beach bag
  • Extra duffel bag or backpack in case you need to send along supplies home
  • Bridal shower gifts that might come in handy on the trip. It's an extra special gesture towards the guest who gives it to you!

**It helps if you plan outfits according to your travel itinerary (e.g. 4 dinner date outfits, 2 activewear, 3 beach days, etc.)
  • Summer dresses
  • Walking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Sun hats
  • Wedges
  • Shorts
  • Swimwear
  • Cardigan or wrap for chilly air conditioned airports and restaurants
  • Swimsuit cover up
  • Evening dresses/shoes
  • Strapless bra
  • Evening bag/purse
  • Travel purse
  • Activewear
  • Dinner date outfits

I hope this list proves useful in preparation for your big day. Even if a few things are forgotten, take a deep breath and find your inner calm. Remember you are there to marry the love of your life. It will all work out marvelously!