Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Décor Inspiration: DIY Water Bead & Hydrangea Centerpiece

A couple weeks ago, I had the honor or coordinating a wedding for two wonderful clients and friends, Kim and Francis, who recently spent the past week honeymooning in sun-kissed Cancun. Their wedding day was incredibly beautiful, and I of course can’t wait to share more details and photos very soon.

In the meantime, I was so inspired by Kim’s vision for a quick, easy and eye-catching centerpiece that I just couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. Taking only mere minutes to assemble, this centerpiece is perfect for a wedding or dinner party, and could even be tailored to add a splash of prettiness to your home and office décor. 

How's it made? Read on! 

Items Needed

* Wide glass containers in the style and quantity of your choosing

* Glow sticks

* Water beads, also known as jelly beads, in the color of your choice

* Hydrangeas or another flower type of your choosing


* Place one or two lit glow-stick necklaces in the bottom of a fish bowl or other type of wide glass container.

* Cover the bottom of the container with a layer of water beads, filling as high as you desire.

* Cut a hydrangea stem, or the stem of another type of flower you prefer, so that only a small portion remains beneath the head. Place the cut flower in the center of the bowl atop the water beads, inserting the stem to help hold it in place.

And that’s it – fun, fast and lovely! Have you ever experimented with water bead décor, and what are some of your favorite DIY ideas? 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Grad School: Round 2

Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence. 
~ Abigail Adams 

After several blissful weeks of travel, weddings, reading and writing, Tuesday's the day I’ll kick off my second and final year of grad school. Though I’m excited to get back to learning and ever closer to graduation, I also can’t help but look back over the past year and feel that as far as I’ve come and as hard as I’ve worked, I still have just as far left to go.

Without a doubt, my going back to school has required my husband and I to make some major life choices that haven’t always been easy, including the decision to continue living on the East Coast for the time being. Plus, though I’ve truly enjoyed my program, professors and classmates, going back to school after five years as a working professional has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, especially since throughout my first year, I continued working full-time while going to class. The majority of my classmates did the same, all of us succeeding through a great deal of effort and determination.

Even so, after a year of juggling classes, a career on Capitol Hill and then with Weddzilla, serving on the board of a charity, earning my wedding coordination certificate, and starting to work with my own clients, something simply had to give for me personally. That's why this year will bring about yet another big change, even though it’s hard for me to fathom no longer working full-time, instead accepting that I realistically can't do "it all" right now.

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Still, I absolutely plan to continue coordinating weddings, taking steps toward building my business and seeking out part-time or freelance opportunities, knowing without a doubt that this is the best decision -- one that will allow me to get the most out of my education and continue pursuing my dreams at the same time. My husband, family and friends support me 100 percent, and I’m incredibly thankful that my own advance planning throughout the years has left me in a position where I’m able to make this type of personal choice.

More than anything, the past year has shown me that as much as I'd like to believe it at times, I really can't take on the entire world at once, and that sometimes the decisions we make can feel like little more than a shot in the dark, a leap of faith, with an outcome entirely unknown. That scares me, but also exhilarates me. When all is said and done, I’m here for the adventure, and I’m doing my best to live it to the fullest every day. Year two, here I come!

How do you find balance when it comes to school, careers, pursuing long-term goals and making other major life choices?

P.S. Thank you all for your fabulous blog suggestions in response to Friday's post, and for your well wishes ahead of Hurricane Irene. We made it through just fine, hunkering down for the weekend with good books, a couple bottles of wine and our trusty iPhones as we waited out the tropical-storm force winds and rain. Other than a few downed trees and a temporary power outage, it looks as though our immediate area thankfully made it through without any severe damage. My heart goes out to all of those facing serve flooding and destruction as a result of the storm. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Share Your Favorite Blogs!

Making the leap from wedding blogger to lifestyle blogger has been tons of fun, especially when it comes to discovering new and inspiring blogs to add to my ever-expanding Google Reader. Since I’m still pretty new to the scene outside the wedding realm, I thought I’d use today’s post to ask for your help getting acquainted with some of the top blogs you just can’t wait to read each week.

Help me get inspired by leaving a comment sharing a couple favorite blogs you think I should check out, and take a look at my Savvy Reads column at the right for a list of my own top faves. Don’t see your blog listed there? I’m adding to it as I go, so just leave me a message!

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I’m also still blogging over at Bicoastal Bride about all things wedding, and am on Facebook at the Bicoastal Bride and High Heels & Flip-Flops fan pages. Stop in and say hi when you have a chance! You can still find me on Twitter @Bicoastal_Bride, too.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! I’m hoping to attend a makeup line launch party in Baltimore tomorrow, depending on the latest hurricane forecast, and I hope to have lots of fun tips and tricks to share here soon. Cheers! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Horseback Adventures, Undersea Snorkeling & Surfside Sunsets

Once upon a time, when I was 4 years old, I was thrown from a horse at a family friend’s ranch. Though I was young, I remember this experience vividly, from the sound of the skateboard that spooked a normally gentle animal to my crashing to the earth as my parents struggled to catch me. Though I’d never have the makings of a jockey after this experience, I luckily wasn’t traumatized to the point that I never wanted to ride again.

That’s why 24 years later, when choosing our excursions in St. Maarten, Stephen and I were incredibly excited to see the option of riding horses on the beach. After signing up and traveling to family-run Bayside Riding Club on the French side of the island, we set out with our guide for a private hour-long tour on Aztec and Wizard, two of the gentlest horses in the stable.

As novice riders, we both had some mishaps to start out. First, we weren’t holding the reigns the right way, and the horses kept stopping to snack on plants and trees growing alongside the trail. This made us fall behind our guide, who kept admonishing us to keep up. Add in a pop-up rain shower that left us all soaked, and this trip could easily have turned into more of a hazard than an exciting trek along the shore.

Luckily, we continued having fun in spite of these few hang-ups, becoming better at guiding our horses as the tour went on and actually enjoying the rain, which cooled us off after a hot and humid afternoon in the sun. And, of course, we were far too mesmerized by the stunning views to really care about much else!

Yes, I'm riding barefoot because the only shoes I packed for this trip were -- what else -- flip-flops!  

The next day, we set out on another adventure – snorkeling with Captain Allan, an outfit popular with resort and cruise tourists alike. Heading out on a catamaran with a group of about 10 other visitors, our guides took us to two different snorkeling spots, interspersed with stops at Happy Bay Beach for a skin-softening mud bath and Pinel Island, a small tourist enclave that's home to restaurants, shops and the most massive iguanas I’ve ever seen!

Relaxing beside crystal blue waters at Pinel Island. 
Post-snorkeling, hair a mess, covered in mud & feeling silly at Happy Bay Beach.

Isn't he huge? 
After we arrived back at the dock, we waited out an afternoon rainstorm with lunch at a local beachside café and then headed to our resort for a little beach time, followed by dinner in Grand Case, St. Maarten’s culinary capital. 

Though we had planned to eat at a specific Italian restaurant we’d read about in a magazine, once we arrived, our taxi driver recommended instead a local hangout called Calmos Café, where the tables extend right down to the water’s edge and a live band plays island music late into the night. This unexpected detour ended up being perhaps my favorite experience of the entire trip, as we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, fresh shrimp and scallops, and a couple samples of the restaurant’s homemade banana rum.

All in all, it was an amazing highlight of a truly amazing trip. I can’t wait to head back to the Caribbean again sometime soon, maybe to one of the next hotspots on my must-see list – Puerto Rico!

Travel Tip of the Day: While it's good to plan ahead, stay flexible and take locals' suggestions to heart when in a new place. Had we not listened to our cab driver's advice about Calmos Café, we would have missed out on a truly incredible experience! 

Which places top your vacation wish list right now? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricanes & Earthquakes

It’s been a déjà vu kind of day.  

Back in 1994, I was just 10 when the infamous 6.6 Northridge Earthquake hit Southern California, damaging our home and my grandparents’. Over the years, I’ve felt plenty more earthquakes but have never, ever gotten over my fear of them, and have certainly never experienced a strong one here in the DC area.

In fact, whenever I felt inclined to complain about East Coast weather or start to miss certain things about the West, I’d laugh and think to myself, “Well, at least we don’t get hit by earthquakes.”

Memories of Northridge. Image Source: NASA Ames Research Center
Apparently, I was wrong, and you can imagine my shock when I suddenly felt the familiar shaking and heard the telltale creaking this afternoon during a 5.8 quake centered right here in Virginia! As much as I'd like to say my Cali girl experience left me cool as a cucumber, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Yeah, I freaked out, majorly, just like I always have. 

Now that it's over, I’m just thankful our brick high-rise held up OK and that the shaking didn’t last longer than about half a minute. Plus, I now hear Hurricane Irene is set to wreak havoc throughout the Mid-Atlantic and potentially along the entire East Coast this weekend.

Well, at least we don’t get hit with tornado warnings or struck by major blizzards, right? Oh yeah, wait…

Are you calm when faced with a natural disaster, or do you freak out the way I do? Anyone else experience the Northridge quake or any of the other California big ones? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

On the Wings of Butterflies

I’ve always loved the beauty of butterflies, and even selected a butterfly-inspired design for the white chocolate favors we gave to guests at our wedding. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to learn during our trip to St. Maarten that the island is home to a lush tropical butterfly farm offering tours to visitors who want to learn about and interact with these magical creatures.

After taking a cab from our resort to La Ferme Des Papillons, located on the French side of the island, Stephen and I each paid $14 for a weeklong pass, and then went inside to explore the garden and pond areas as we awaited the start of our guided tour. As we entered the large mesh-enclosed habitat housing hundreds of butterflies, flowers and plants, we were instantly calmed by the peaceful atmosphere as gorgeous butterflies of all colors and sizes flitted about, a few even pausing to rest on our heads, feet or (sunburned) shoulders.

Once our tour got underway, the guide led us throughout the enclosure discussing the different species that live there while also pointing out examples of eggs, caterpillars and pupae, or cocoons, many of which look like shiny jewels. She also explained that the mission of the farm, opened in 1994, is to conserve butterflies and educate the public about their fate both in the tropics and throughout the world, where many species are quickly disappearing as a result of such harmful factors as invasive vegetation, climate change and habitat destruction.

As she talked, I thought back to the days when I was a toddler and used to see butterflies all the time while playing at the park with my mom. These are in fact some of my earliest childhood memories, but today, I rarely see butterflies when I head outdoors, whether on the East Coast or West Coast.

This species features owl-like markings to dissuade predators. 

Giant moth -- I'd never before seen one this colorful or big! 
In an effort to promote conservation, the farm’s website offers advice about butterfly gardening and other ways to help support these creatures. All in all, this was without a doubt one of my favorite activities throughout the entire trip, and I couldn’t help but imagine how beautiful it would be celebrate a wedding at such a unique and inspiring location.

Up Next… Surfside horseback riding & snorkeling beneath the waves 

Travel Tip of the Day: When in the tropics, consider expanding beyond beach days and water sports when looking for fun things to do and see. Take the time to learn about the unique culture of the island you’re visiting, and check out its museums and nature sites, some of which may be more off the beaten path.

Do you love butterflies and nature as much as I do? What types of vacation activities do you like to focus on? 

Friday, August 19, 2011


One thing the Caribbean's best known for is without a doubt all the duty-and-tax-free shopping, as prices on items from jewelry to electronics to liquor and more can be up to 40 percent lower than in the States.

St. Maarten is no different, and when we saw that our resort offered a complimentary ride to a jewelry shop in Phillipsburg, the main Dutch port that is usually crawling with cruise ships during the fall and spring high seasons, we jumped at the chance.

Image Source: TripAdvisor
Image Source: TripAdvisor
Image Source: The Gangway Gazette 
There was just one little problem... Once we got there, the shop’s owner promptly began trying to sell us “discounted” pieces that started at $700 and went all the way up to $10,000! Um, as much as I love a good deal, I’m in no position to spend that much on jewelry right now!

Luckily, to help avoid a completely awkward situation, the shop did have a few items that fit within our price range, including a classy $200 Seiko watch with tiny crystals and a blush face – the perfect stylish accessory to accompany me throughout a long day of managing a wedding or meeting with classmates to work on projects.

Image Source: Seiko

Also catching my eye was the Thomas Sabo Charm Club display, featuring sweetly chic bracelets with crystal and embellished charms to match. For roughly $100, I started my collection with a silver bracelet and a twinkly flip-flop clip-on, which has now become my avatar for this blog. Though some people might think of charm bracelets as more of a kid’s thing, the pretty yet not saccharine Thomas Sabo designs have just the right mix of style and simplicity to complement my casual wardrobe pieces and help personalize my look.

I can’t wait to add a few more charms to my collection, including these lovely little gems!

Images Source: Thomas Sabo Charm Club

Up Next… Exploring a Tropical Butterfly Farm

Travel Tip of the Day: Duty-free doesn’t automatically mean cheap! Set a clear shopping budget ahead of time so that you can easily deflect pressure and make confident buying decisions while traveling. Also, do your research before visiting a particular shop to make sure they have what you’re looking for at an affordable price.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’m off to coordinate a rehearsal and wedding for a friend and former co-worker who is marrying her high school sweetheart of more than 10 years tomorrow. How sweet is that?!

What types of jewelry do you like to wear, and what are you up to this weekend? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sun & Sand in St. Maarten

Welcome to paradise! After months of hard work going to grad school, serving as editor of the Weddzilla Blog and making the adjustment to working from home, I couldn’t wait to head out of town last month for a couple weeks of R&R with family, friends, and of course, my husband.

First stop, California, where we spent a restful week in my hometown visiting, sightseeing and stopping in at some of our favorite local haunts. Recaps of that trip are on the way soon, but for now, I just can’t wait any longer to share all the fun details about our trip to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, which I won last year through a giveaway by one of my all-time favorite bloggers, The Relentless Bride. (Check out her new blog, Fry, the Baby!) 

Since Stephen and I were flying out from the West Coast, we left early in the morning, arriving in St. Maarten late that evening after a brief delay in Miami. Because it was dark already, we couldn’t see much during our landing at the infamous seaside Juliana Airport, where misguided tourists often try to jump up and touch the planes as they land or take off right over the beach.

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We were so tired by that point, however, that after we'd passed through customs, we were more than happy to snag a cab and head to our resort for a good night’s sleep. On the drive there, our cab driver explained that the island of St. Maarten is split into two enclaves – St. Maarten under Dutch control and St. Martin under French control. However, due to the open-border agreement between both governments, travelers are able to pass seamlessly from one side to the other without showing passports or being otherwise delayed, which would definitely come in handy throughout our weeklong trip.

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We were staying on the Dutch side, also where the airport is located, so after a 40-minute ride through both some shady local areas and past several other grandiose resorts, we arrived at the Westin Dawn Beach, where we had a complimentary reservation for the next seven days. After checking in, we headed upstairs to our ocean-front room, which was incredibly spacious, overlooked the beach, and came complete with a complimentary bottle of champagne and platter of canapés, which we snacked on right away (although we left the shrimp and fish untouched, since we weren’t sure how long they’d been sitting out).

After a late dinner at the resort’s main restaurant, Ocean, we collapsed exhausted, ready to get some rest and wake up to these gorgeous views!

Up Next… Bargain jewelry shopping in Phillipsburg

Travel Tip of the Day: If at all possible, make your travel arrangements so that you arrive at your destination while it's still light outside, which will make it much easier to get your bearings and become familiar with your surroundings, especially if you're new to the area and concerned about safety. 

Have you ever traveled to the Caribbean, and if so, what's your favorite island? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pet Birthdays: From Kitten to Cat

One year ago today (or somewhere right around this time), in a hoarder's crowded one-bedroom apartment filled with more than 10 cats and countless litters of kittens, my beautiful kitty Molly was born. Thanks to the caring team at the local ASPCA, she was soon rescued, along with her one-month younger cousin/half-sister Twix and many of their other siblings.

Growing up in a small apartment throughout my own childhood, I was never allowed to have pets other than those that could fit easily into cages or tanks – fish, guinea pigs and the like. Making the decision to adopt Molly and Twix this past January has without a doubt introduced me to an entirely new and exciting experience, one that's constantly filled with surprises and adventures.

Molly & Twix at 4-5 months old, just adopted. 
As they turn one, transitioning from kitten to cat, both girls love to explore, play, cuddle, talk and show their distinct personalities every day as they grow into healthy and strong adults, a life they definitely wouldn’t have experienced in their old environment. 

Molly is the curious one, fearlessly jumping up onto countertops and darting into doorways, meowing excitedly as she explores every nook and cranny. Svelte and poised, Twix is every bit the athlete, pouncing on pencils, burrowing under rugs and covers, and sitting at attention in my lap as I work on the computer. Truly, more than they will ever know,  Twix and Molly’s companionship has made all the difference as I continue making the adjustment to working and studying from home – alone – each and every day.

Molly, discovering the wonders of a LOFT bag!

Take me out to the ballgame! 

Twix, just chillin'. 

Studying hard.

Nap time!

My personal assistant. 
In honor of today's milestone, Molly's received an e-card from the vet, and we’ve surprised her with new toys, including a fresh pack of plush mice and a few new string wands with feathers and sparkly ribbons. Though she may have been born into a place where she was just another kitten out of dozens, Molly has become a real princess in our house, along with Twix, truly changing our lives just as much as we've changed hers. I can't wait to share many more years of birthdays with both of these beautiful and adventurous girls! 

Guarding the fresh laundry. 
What kind of pets do you have, and how have they changed your life? Do you celebrate their birthdays in a special way?