Friday, February 6, 2015

Reflecting on 2014 in 2015

Photos from wedding photographer Ashley Richards via her Instagram @ashleylynnrichards

Happy 2015!

If you're wondering where I've been, I needed a break to work on my mental health, but good news, I'm almost recharged. 

To sum an entire year into a few sentences is difficult.  But I will say that two-thousand and fourteen was an eventful year: my Peter Pan themed 25th birthday, Coachella, two work promotions, insanely busy summer because of work, planning a wedding (with lots of help), bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs, Moroccan themed bridal shower, weekends spent crafting and diy-ing for the wedding and finally getting married (which I'll fully document in blog posts).   Let's not forget the holidays, which are always a busy time.  In 2014, I followed through with resolving to print pictures more frequently and spending more time with friends.  I took charge of my relationships in 2014, building stronger friendships with most and conversely let go of others.

Here's to the next 11 months.

Adios!  Off to Rosarito for a girls weekend!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer 2014


At some point during the last 2 months I've been thinking about needing to write— I swear.  But let me explain why I've been so busy this summer... 

At the end of May I got a promotion with the company I work for (yayyy!). But with it of course came more responsibility and work.  What I do is I find homes that are open to hosting international students for 1-6 weeks during the summer for a private academy in Pasadena.  The Chinese students anywhere from 10-16 years old came to our school along with American students from our local
Charter schools for a summer enrichment  camp. Where classes like cultural literature and art, vocals, acting, dancing, chess, English, animation, fashion, film making, and photography were taught. 

What I didn't realize I became- was a sales woman.  We were short 10 homes to place students, so we had to do anything necessary to get homes: walk door to door, flier at farmers markets, put fliers on car windsheilds, post on craigslist, etc.  In the desperation of being short homes, I called past hosts that said they could not participate this summer again and again- just to check that they were still unavailable, because, hey, you just never know. 

If you are unfamiliar of the "host international students" shtick–let me explain and maybe sell you on participating. (kidding... kind of...)

Young, Chinese students come to attend our Summer camp, and on the weekends go on excursions with their group.  You open your home to them to stay in their own bedroom, each with their own bed to live in and get the "traditional, American home" experience.  You act as their parent, because remember the kids are 10-16 years old, drive them to school, pick them up after Disneyland, make sure they get to bed on time, teach them to spend their money wisely (because they carry $1,000 cash) etc etc.  It's an amazing cultural exchange, especially if you have young children (plus you're paid!).  They have minimal to excellent English skills, but their goal is really to practice their English.   Sound like something you're interested in????????? 

See what I mean.... 

Working with the community and with students was really rewarding and as difficult as it may seem.  On call 24/7 and in the office 9-14 hours a day leaves little room for basic human routines (sleeping, showering ...kidding!, exercise, eating, blogging? what is that?). 

Imagine managing 200 Chinese students, plus all 50 of the host parents. And the demands coming from every which way, like these: student lost a cell phone and $500 cash, a parent is repeatedly calling me to explain an issue between her 4 students, a parent calling because she needs to pick up her check, a Chinese group leader repeatedly asking for a solution to her student that doesn't like his homestay, coordinating chaperones for the groups going to the mall and my travel agent waiting for emails for the homestay information of groups arriving on the weekend. Just to name a few of the dozens of things that need to be done with a sense of urgency and immediacy. 

I haven't even mentioned, that between all of that, I was also a host-sitter for a family that had a weekend trip planned long before committing to participating in the summer program.  They were such a great family that for me to stay in their home with their 3 exchange students was an amazing opportunity to really get the feel of what it's like to host.  And it's not easy, especially getting up at 3:30am to get them to the school at 4am to catch their flight. 


The easiest thing I'll do this year is plan a wedding. 

Well not really— but it will be easier than what I endured this summer. 

One thing I wish I could have been better with was interacting with the students. Calls from host parents, paperwork and other coordinating and planning took all of my time that stepping out of the office to mingle with the kids in their classes was pretty difficult.  As you can imagine the language barrier was difficult to manage, learning Chinese is my next goal after summer. And going to China is in the foreseeable future! 

The program is still going on, but much more manageable, we're down to our last two groups here.  I'm looking forward to getting to spend more time with the kids that are here and keeping in touch with the Chinese leaders I grew rather close to.  We talk and share photos through WeChat (WeChat- Wēixìn, in Chinese, is a social networking, messaging, all-in-one app that is highly popular in China,)  

What I got from my job, were truly, invaluable relationships created with amazing people across the world.... and that– was worth all of the work. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Gin Day

World Gin Day comes every year in June, one of my good friends Kadie LOVES gin so of course she threw a gin party.  She did everything and it was amazing.  All I made was the papel picado that say "drink", "gin" and one has a martini glass.  

Thanks Kadie for hosting an amazing party! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Woodland Baby Shower

Delicious adult drinks for the non-pregnant. 

Andrea's baby shower Sunday was such a cute affair.  Being already 9 months pregnant she did a lot of it by herself with some help from myself and other friends.   I was mainly responsible for the center pieces.  She put Kyle, her boyfriend in charge of cutting stumps and making the cupcake stand.  I loved the letters for big sister idea, she's going to be putting them in a scrapbook for Isabella to read when she gets a little older (or mom will read them to her! Even cuter!).  

Congrats to Andrea & Kyle they are expecting their little one any day now! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Workspace Wants No. 1

Desk Lust

Nate Berkus Gold Shears

I have an office to fill with all of my stuff and am looking at all of these cool things I can have on my desk.  I am an office supply hoarder, I promised myself  I would not buy any post-its until I run out....  Here are some things I want ASAP for my desk! How cute are those cactus erasers from Paper Source

Hope you have a lovely Monday and great start to your week! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Untraditional Wedding & Save the Date Photos

Since being engaged I have gone through a flurry of planning and schematizing.  It's crunch time.  Our wedding date is November 1, 2014 and we have finalized our location and not where initially thought.   We are going to have the wedding of our dreams in a family friend's backyard.  (Which is also the same backyard we hosted the Craftravaganza in.)  

What I want out of my wedding is what anyone wants from their wedding, a beautiful day spent with friends and family, delicious food, drinks and marrying their best friend for a memorable day.  I'm planning a casual wedding and doing everything myself with the help of a team of bridesmaids, future sisters- in-law and a lot of family & friend support.  If you are a diy and crafty bride that's planning a wedding yourself or plan to when it's time, russell+hazel has a great template of a timeline/checklist that's FREE!  Their organizing systems are amazing and make planning easy.  

In this reviving diy age, everyone is using their creativity (Pinterest) to have an outside of the box wedding and I love it.  Weddings don't have to all be the same, most of the time people do what they're expected to because of perception.  The ring, for example should cost so much or be so big.  (More on this soon)  There are dozens of wedding traditions, originating from many countries, religions, and time periods that are antiquated and useless as can be read here, here and here.  For instance, the garter toss:

This practice, as it turned out, was devised as a way to actually physically protect the bride from the wedding guests.
It derives from a tradition in medieval England and France called "fingering the stocking." Guests would actually go into the wedding chamber and check the bride's stockings for signs that the marriage had been consummated. Further, in France, the bride would shudder with terror at the end of the wedding ceremony because guests would actually rush her at the altar to snag a piece of her dress, which was considered a piece of good luck.
A wedding would end with a battered bride sobbing at the altar in a snarl of tattered rags.
Apparently, these practices were so intrusive and invasive that someone, somewhere, decided to pacify the mob by tossing out the garter.

Crazy right? Doesn't sound like something I want to do.  

A bride and groom should be free to do what it is makes them happy to celebrate their day.   Like this couple that for their wedding registry wanted to "register" to different restaurants because they love going out to eat.  The couple, who married later in life, didn't need home goods, because they're grown adults that live on their own.  But the blog post from A Cup of Joe, poses it as a "do or don't" in the title- because it's a nonconformist idea.  While the over 100 comments in the comment section were elated by the idea, one commenter accepted she was an outlier by admitting she was "lukewarm" to the idea and that it seems "self indulgent and wasteful".   

We are all entitled to our own opinions but my point is how attached many women are to wedding traditions.  Wedding registries don't have to be solely for stuff anymore.   Couples have registries that help guests contribute to honeymoons, charities and experiences.  Find ideas here and here.  

Going dress shopping for the first time was a weird thing. (But that was probably because I went to David's Bridal which I would never recommend to anyone!!!)  Ladies started asking me if I wanted white-white or ivory or eggshell or whatever other shades of white exist in the wedding dress industry because apparently every woman knows, "my dress has to be ::insert shade of white::".   I honestly didn't care and white in general is becoming less of the norm as brides are wearing any color (and length) and there are lists of dresses for that very non-traditional bride.   Dresses are also incredibly expensive and there are many alternatives to the standard a-line, strapless wedding dress have come to fruition like H&M marketing to the budget-conscious bride with their  $99 wedding dress.  

Why Are Wedding Dresses So Expensive? The disappointing truth is:

 The reason stores get away with this [a mark up of 200% the actual cost of a wedding dress], Kenney found, springs from two economic concepts: asymmetric information (the buyer knows virtually nothing about wedding dresses) and signaling (the “message” that an expensive dress sends, both about the bride’s social status and her seriousness about the marriage).  - Caitlin Dewey The Washington Post

For this reason and how budget friendly I aim to be, I am considering a dress rental or buying pre-owned.  Speaking of dresses, I didn't want my bridesmaids to spend a lot of money on a dress. So I gave them the freedom to find what ever dress they pleased that was black.  Here's an article where a woman had to basically defend why she was comfortable having her bridesmaids buying a Zara dress because it was "received like revolutionary news" when people found out she got her dresses at Zara.  Hmmm.  A dress fit for a wedding can be found anywhere, it doesn't have to be from a bridal shop made out of boring satin with bows on it.

The average cost of an American wedding is $28,000, that's not nearly as much as I am comfortable spending on one day.  A story I found just endearing was a thank you letter from the mother of the bride to her daughter in how thankful she was for her untraditional (and low budget) wedding.

 My favorite article and one that exactly relates how I feel is, "Confronting Tradition: Weddings and Feminism".  She explains it perfectly, "we decide to reclaim and remake the institution of marriage, and shape it into something that works for us."

"That is what I hope for all of you: the ability to embrace who you are and what you want with zero guilt (and a really pretty dress, if you want it)."

Follow my inspiration and ideas on the wedding's Pinterest account, RayaWedd.  And find ideas here and on Off Beat Bride.

Photographs by Ashley Lynn Richards

Monday, May 26, 2014

Succulent Pens DIY

While on my last visit to Michael's I found these artificial succulent pots.  I love them because they can't be overwatered, mistreated or otherwise killed!   (Woohoo to those with not the greenest of thumbs.)  What I also like is that you can have one of these cuties on an office desk and not worry about moving it to find sun.  

This weekend I am celebrating an amazing promotion I just received on Friday and I thought of this as a cute way to have pens on my new desk at work.  Working in a school office can lead to not being able to keep much on your desk as pens and post-its are constantly being used off of your desk!  I upgraded the flower pen that elementary students usually make as mother's day gifts with these super chic succulent pens.  I also used a great ball-point pen for them too, because if you know me, you know that I looooove pens.  These Poppin pens from Staples write super smooth and dark but they aren't the cheapest either.  

If you want to make these I suggest going to Michael's soon because these succulents are in their "bargain section" or what I call it, not-dollar-section.  You also need ribbon, pens and a glue gun.  Super easy. Traditionally those flower pens were made with floral tape, but the succulents are heavy so that is not recommended.   Glue on the succulent first and let it dry and then start by placing a dot of glue at the top and putting the ribbon, again let it dry because you will be pulling on it.  Then begin wrapping at an angle and every half inch place a dot of glue to secure.  

Happy Crafting!