Friday, November 25, 2011

Hawaii Part 3 - Kauai

It's a hard choice between Maui and Kauai, but I think Kauai was our favorite island. So green, so lush, so beautiful.

We flew into Kauai in the afternoon and checked into our condo at Kuhio Shores #314 in Poipu. The condo was amazing. I know, I'm using that word a lot, but it had a huge lani (balcony) and it was right on the ocean. We fell asleep each night to the sound of the waves crashing into the shore and the windows wide open. If you're going to Kauai, you should definitely stay here.

Our first day in Kauai we went up to Waimea Canyon. They call it the Grand Canyon of Hawaii and it's pretty spectacular. Not quite as massive as the real Grand Canyon, but still pretty awesome. Everyday we were on Kauai it rained for some period of time then the sun came out; today was no different. We slowly took the long road up to the top, stopping every few miles for some photos. Jeremy picked out a 4 mile hike for us to do through the rain forest on the ocean side of the canyon. It is only in the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook "Kauai Revealed" and it's called the Honopu Ridge Trail on page 196. You'll definitely want to wear long pants that you can roll up into shorts or zip off. We went to the end of the marked trail, and then a bit more, but while we were out there we saw some serious hikers hike all the way to the end of the cliff. It's a gorgeous hike through a forest, dense with ferns and bamboo and culminates with some awe inspiring views of the Napali coast. I highly recommend this hike. That night we went to dinner at a restaurant right next to our condo called The Beach House. It was very romantic and the best part was that we could walk home. Okay, the best part was the food and Mai Tai's but the walk home was a nice bonus.

Our second day we spent the morning going on an ATV tour with Kauai ATV. My parents did this when they were in Hawaii a few years ago and they highly recommended it. The best part about the tour is that they encourage you to hit every mud puddle. We were covered in mud by the end of the adventure; it was so much fun! Though I don't think it would be as much fun during the dry season without any mud puddles. We took turns driving the mud buggie (you have a choice between mud buggie and ATV), to the right is a picture of Jeremy driving while I hold on tight.

After getting all cleaned up, we spent the afternoon snorkeling at Poipu Beach Park and boggie boarding at Brennecke Beach. The waves at Brennecke Beach were huge and we got beat up pretty badly. We were exhausted when we got back to the room, so we stayed in and made some pasta.

Because we were in Hawaii for so long, all the days are starting to blur together, so I'll just tell you about some of the other stuff we did on Kauai, in no particular order.

One day we spent doing the first half of the Napali Coast hike on the Kalalau Trail. This is also a 4 mile round trip hike, well the first part, and it is very popular. The day we did the hike it was again raining on and off, so the trail was very muddy, and the stream crossing at the 2 mile mark was raging. We couldn't cross to get to the beach, and if one were to hike the full trail, I don't know how they would have continued on this day. The full trail is 22 miles round trip, with a camp ground at the far end at mile 11. I've been told by friends that it is a beautiful hike. We enjoyed the first part and hope to do the full hike next time we go back.

A few days later we went for a hike on the east shore on a trail called "Sleeping Giant" (Nounou Mountain). The trail is called this because it traverses up the mountain that is said to look like a giant sleeping on its back. Legend says that in the case of an impending attack, the Kauai people would light fires behind the giant to illuminate his profile. If you squint hard and really really pretent, you can kind of see a giant... maybe.

There are three trails up the mountain; we took the east trail which is about 4 miles long and rises 1000 feet. This is a beautiful hike and one that we will always remember. There are so many amazing views of the Wailua Valley. Once you get past the picnic tables there is a trail that continues out to the chin and forehead of the giant. The hike is well worth it as you can see vast amounts of the island from up here. We spent a good hour at the top hanging out and having lunch. Jeremy also surprised me up there with a necklace that I had been looking at for a while. It was very special.

Besides hiking, we spent a lot of time snorkeling outside our condo, walking around Poipu, and just relaxing. It was so nice.

Our last day on Kauai we went for a doors off (of course) helicopter tour with Jack Harter. The tour was amazing and our pilot was very informative. Of the two helicopter tours we did, this one had the best views, though I did quite enjoy seeing the lava from the sky on the big island. We were mesmerized at how many waterfalls there were on Kauai. Every direction there is a waterfall, and because it had been raining the day before, the sights were even better. Our pilot took us around the whole island, darted in and out of the canyon walls in Waimea Canyon, got up close to the waterfalls, and even spotted a wild hog from the air. If you'd like to do a helicopter tour on Kauai, I would recommend this one for sure.

With so much fun stuff to do on Kauai, it was hard to leave. But we were so excited to get to Maui.

Hawaii Part 2 - The Big Island

After Ohau we jetted off to Hawaii, aka The Big Island. Because the island is so big, we flew into Hilo, drove across to Kona and flew out of Kona. This time we tried to rent an SUV, but much to our surprise rental SUV's don't seem to come with a trunk cover! Not that we were storing lots of stuff in the trunk, but it's nice to have somewhere to keep your snorkel gear and towels or an extra change of clothes. Fortunately we were able to switch into a ford mustang convertible again. Sweet!

In Hilo we stayed at the Volcano Village Lodge on the recommendation of my parents. This place was awesome! Truly beautiful. We spent one night in the Hale Kilauea room and one night in the Haleakala Lodge. Both rooms were so beautiful. I photos and descriptions don't do them justice, but I'll try with a photo. First Hale Kilauea second Haleakala Lodge.

After checking in we headed to Kiawe Kitchen for lunch and then off to Volcano National Park. Kiawe Kitchen was pretty good. We stopped there one day for lunch and then for dinner. Lunch was some pretty good pizzas with amazing homemade pesto, but dinner was pretty slow and terrible. Go for lunch, skip dinner.

When we arrived at the park I was so excited to see lava. I wanted to view it from anywhere and everywhere I could. Unfortunately, since the new eruption in August of 2011 there isn't much lava flowing on the surface anymore. The normal viewing points are mostly cooled off and the only thing you can really see from those is a faint glow. Also because of the latest eruption in August, 2011, over half of the crater rim drive and all of the extension off the Thurston lava tube are closed due to toxic gasses and unstable rock. So we decided to first start by walking the Thurston lava tube. Even though the part we really wanted to do was closed, we were still amazed by it. We even walked it twice. Right across the street from the lava tube is a trail that wanders around a rain forest and then down through the Kilauea Iki crater and back up. It's about 3 miles and took us around 2.5 hours. Really an awesome hike, highly recommended. The details are on page 194 "Kilauea Iki Hike" in the Big Island Revealed book. We spent a lot of time on the floor of the crater walking around and feeling the heat coming out of the steam vents. Around 4:30 we headed up to the Jagger Museum to watch the sun set over the Halema'uma'u Crater and catch one of our very few changes to see lava coming out of the Pu'u'O'o vent. It was pretty cold up there, but we came prepared. As the sun set you could slowly start to see the glow from the lava light up the area around the crater. It wasn't the flowing lava that I had hoped for, but it was still beautiful.

The next morning we woke early and drove up to Hilo to take a helicopter ride over Hilo and the Volcano National Park. We flew with Paradise (aka Tropical) Helicopters and flew with no doors! It was awesome. Only 4 people plus the pilot and everyone gets a great seat. The only person in the middle is in the front. We loved it so much that we took a second, no doors, flight on Kauai, but more on that later. Our helicopter pilot flew right over the Pu'u'O'o vent and over the huge lava field. We got to see some lava flowing on the surface and then some waterfalls over near Hilo. It's pretty amazing to see the lava destruction from the air; where the flow stops and the tree line begins.

After the helicopter tour we drove around to some waterfalls and took a drive on a 4 mile scenic route on the old highway. We headed to Akaka Falls, a 400 foot waterfall, and spent about and hour walking around the small park. After grabbing some ice cream in the small town near the falls, we drove back toward Hilo and stopped at the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden. I'm really glad that we picked this one, because it was beautiful. So many different flowers and plants and orchids, plus it meets right up with the ocean. Also interesting is the story of how it became a botanical garden. There is too much to tell here, but lets just say you should read about it HERE. That night we had dinner back in Volcano (yes, it's the name of the town) at the Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant. It was so good, I wish I was there right now eating. Highly recommended, but you better go early or make reservations.

On Saturday, I think, we headed out of Volcano and over to the drier side of the island: Kona. Along the way we stopped at the Volcano Winery. Although Hawaii isn't exactly a wine producing mecca, they had some pretty decent wines. We bought a bottle of their macadamia nut wine and some other little goodies. We also stopped at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach on the way. This beach is very accessible and pretty awesome. The sand is really really black, and genuine. That is to say, it is created when the chunky 'a'a lava flow meets the ocean and shatters into small pieces. Overtime those pieces are tossed by the ocean so much that they form sand. And guess what else we saw there... a turtle! Just chillin on the beach, getting slightly annoyed every time the water came in to soak him. Guess he should have moved up beach a little more.

After passing several "farmers markets" that were more like crap markets, we arrived in Kona. The next two nights we stayed at the Sea Village #3214. The view was nice, but we weren't too impressed with the rest of the place. It seemed really dirty and just dingy. Fortunately we were there for only 2 nights. Oh yea, and the other guests were weird. Every morning we woke up to a new sign in the parking lot claiming one of the parking spots for a particular unit. I think there was a little infighting between some of the units while we were there. There was also a coffee shop just outside the complex called Green Flash Coffee. The first two days I couldn't figure out why I never saw this place open. The last day I got my answer. When we drove back to the condo to get our stuff to leave, we saw the coffee shop wrapped in plastic being fumigated! Not just sprayed, I mean the whole thing was covered in plastic wrap. I'm so glad we never went there.

After checking in we decided to do some snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. But first, food. We stopped at this place Jeremy found on Yelp called 'Da Poke Shack'. AMAZING. So so good. If you don't know what poke is, well look at the picture to the right. Think tuna tar tar but with bigger cube like pieces and different types of sauce. I liked the simple sesame myself. They also serve it as a plate with rice and a side, or you can get ahi tacos which were also pretty good. We stopped here every day we were in Kona.

After lunch we headed to Kahalu'u Beach Park for some snorkeling and then over to White Sands Beach (aka La'aloa Bay, Magic Sands, etc.) for some relaxation. The snorkeling was pretty good, but the waves at White Sands were awesome. We didn't bring boogie boards this day, but we did come back the next day with them in hand. We had so much fun boogie boarding on this beach. It was also our first experience swimming with a turtle! The "little" guy just floated up right behind us and nearly made us jump. How cool is that, swimming with turtles! That night we headed to the first place Jeremy wanted to eat dinner, Kona Brewery of course. They have so many brews on tap, probably 20 or more, and I think we sampled over half of them. I wish they bottled more of their brews so we could enjoy them in the states. BTW, did you know that Kona beer that you get in the states isn't made in or by Kona at all? They are apparently part of a coop with Craft Brewers Alliance and have all their beer bottled, packaged, and distributed in California; though they claim that it is still their beer since it is their recipe.

The next day we took a kayak trip out to the Captain Cook Monument and had some of the best snorkeling that we did all trip. The waters are so blue and so pristine around the monument. It really is some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. However, it gets really really crowded by big boats, so get there early if you go. Also, it's protected land, so if you want to go you'll have to get a permit from Hilo to land your kayak, or go with a large boat, or pick one of the two or three companies out of kona that have a permit to land there. We went with Adventures in Paradise. Our kayak guide was really fun and we got there super early so we had the place to ourselves for a while. They also supplied us a nice snack. After kayaking we were craving a burger, bad. So we stopped at Annie's Island Fresh Burgers. Amazing! You have to go here if you are in kona.

The rest of our time in Kona we spent walking around, relaxing, and boogie boarding, of course. We had dinner at Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill one night, which was pretty tasty, and also stopped by Island Lava Java for breakfast, though the food is good, the servers weren't the nicest, or maybe it was just ours. We also took the brewery tour at the Kona Brewery, limited to 15 so go early if it's the weekend. That tour was very informative, and I appreciated that they limited the tour to 15 to make it easier to walk around and listen. While in Kona we bought some clay orchids from CC Whisper Gallery. We had them shipped back to the US and they should be here Tuesday! While the hours on the shop aren't very reliable and the shipping slow, the products are so beautiful and realistic it makes up for the hassle.

After 3 days in Hilo and 2 1/2 in Kona we jetted off to Kauai!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hawaii Part 1 - Ohau

Our honeymoon was a blast! I can't wait to go back already. We spent 3 weeks in paradise and hit all four major islands: Ohau, Hawaii, Kauai, Maui. Since there is so much to write about I'll split it up into four different blogs. I should also note that for each island we had the Revealed books by Andrew Doughty. You can find them on Amazon, and if you decide to take a trip to Hawaii I definitely recommend getting them. Now, all about Ohau.

From Houston we got a direct flight into Honolulu, Hawaii. My mom and Jeremy arranged for someone to be waiting at the airport for us with beautiful fresh flower leis. They were made of pink bom orchids and were gorgeous (and huge!). I tried to dry them and bring them home with us, but about half way into our time on Kauai they really started to smell bad. On Ohau we rented a Ford Mustang convertible and stayed at the Outrigger Reef Hotel on Waikiki. It was a nice hotel and I would recommended staying here for anyone traveling to Ohau. Because our room wasn't ready when we arrived, we dropped our luggage with the bellman and headed to the bar for some Mai Tai's. Happy hour special, $3.50 each. How can you go wrong. It was the perfect way to start our honeymoon; mai tai's on the beach. After we checked into the room we walked around Waikiki. We checked out the Duke Hahanamoku statue and watched sunset on the beach. We then headed back to the hotel and had dinner at their fancy restaurant, The Ocean House. The fish was amazing and the entries were heavy, but well crafted.

The next day we got up early, which wasn't hard to do because of the time change, and went to Pearl Harbor. If you decide to visit Pearl Harbor, I recommend getting there by 8am to get reasonable tickets out to the USS Arizona Memorial. We got there around 7:45am and our tickets were for 8:30am. While at Pearl Harbor we toured the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri (where the second World War officially ended with the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945), and the USS Bowfin submarine. I learned I would not do well on a submarine, those things are tiny! We also spent an hour or so walking around the grounds and looking at the other memorials. I would leave yourself a good 4 hours to do Pearl Harbor, and more if you wanted to visit the museums.

After Pearl Harbor we headed back to the hotel for some lunch at their third restaurant, the Kani Ka Pila Grill. This is the one that is right out front by the pool, and we liked it the best. The portions are large and the Mai Tai's delicious. The coconut shrimp is very tasty. After staying here for 3 nights we started to understand why people opt to stay in resorts so often. The convenience is just so nice. That evening we took a drive around the island and along Tantalus and Round Top Road (see directions in Ohau Revealed). The 10 mile curvy road is lined with beautiful lush trees and plants and gives you some great vantage points of Honolulu. On our way up the 1600 foot climb we saw some long boarders flying down the road. Along the way you'll come to Pu'u Ualaka'a State Wayside Park. We watched sunset over Honolulu from here. It was beautiful.

Wednesday was our last full day in Ohau. We woke up early and had breakfast at Bogart's Cafe. Then we headed to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling. The parking lot fills up quick, so get there early. We arrived around 8am and were down to the beach by 8:45. When you first get there, you have to watch a 10 minute presentation about the marine life and not harming the bay. I think this is a really good idea, though I'm not sure how effective it is. I guess it must be somewhat because the bay still looks beautiful and pristine. I just love looking at the beautiful blue waters off Hawaii, I never once got tired of it. The water was pretty cold, but we spent about 2 hours in the bay and a little more time just relaxing. We forgot how much further south we were than Texas, because in Texas you don't burn at 10am, but in Hawaii, you do. We spent the next two days with a bottle of Aloe close by.

That afternoon we took a drive around the north shore. Stopping every once in a while to check out the scenery, we decided to eat lunch at a small BBQ joint called Uncle BoBo's. They had plate lunches, which was perfect for Jeremy because he couldn't wait to get one. What is a plate lunch you ask? Well it's a traditional Hawaiian meal consisting of a meat, a side of macaroni salad, and a side of rice. Meat and starch, my favorite. This place is terrific and if you are in the area you should stop by. I highly recommend the pulled pork, and the people working here are super friendly. After lunch we continued our treck around the island until we came up to Turtle Bay. It had been 3 days and I still had not seen a turtle, so we had to stop. As we walked toward the beach, there were a bunch of people crowded around the water. Much to my delight... a turtle! I was so excited and enamored with this turtle swimming in the water that I failed to see the other huge one beached just 30 feet from me. Jeremy looked at me and pointed over to the left saying "hey, what's that rock over there?" Oh man, I thought my head was going to explode. 300 pictures later, Jeremy finally pulled me away and back to the car.

Our last stop in Ohau was the Dole Pineapple Plantation. We didn't take a tour or anything, but it was pretty neat to see the pineapples growing out of the ground and the different stages of the growth. Do you know each plant lasts for two harvesting cycles before being replaced. While there we had to get some pineapple dole whip with fresh pineapples... of course! Okay, maybe it was a little too much pineapple, or so my stomach was trying to convince me. I should note one important thing, if you leave the Dole plantation at 5pm when they close, you will hit rush hour traffic on the way back to Waikiki. With my stomach full of pineapple and Jeremy driving, there was nothing left for me to do but sleep the whole way home.

The next morning we jetted off to Hawaii, aka The Big Island.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wedding Vendor Review - Austin, TX

I promised that I would write up a summary of all my vendors that I used for my wedding which was in Austin, TX, so here you go. I hope you find it useful. If you have used some of these vendors before, feel free to leave your own comments too!

Hair - Jennifer with A'Salon on Jollyville Road - Jennifer is my regular hair stylist, but when I was looking to get my hair done for the wedding I had this weird preconceived notion that I needed to use a "wedding" specialist. I did two trials with different girls, and eventually decided on Bella's Ball. However after she arrived late to my bridal shoot, and my curls fell out an hour into the shoot, I knew I needed someone else. One day Jennifer finished off my hair cut by giving me a curly look using just a straitening iron. It was amazing and it held all day. I immediately booked her to do my hair and my moms and my girls. Oh yea, and because she doesn't bill out just as a "wedding" specialist, her prices are ridiculously reasonable. My dad was shocked when he saw the bill, he said it was too low! Jennifer is amazing and I would highly recommend her to anyone. My curls stayed in all night and my hair usually never holds a curl.

Makeup - Rhea McCarter - Rhea is wonderful. I did a trial makeup session with two girls and Rhea was by far the best. I would highly recommend doing a trial because she really needs to get a feeling for what you want and you need to decide what you like too. We did my trial and we did a trial for my mom. I was really glad because it meant that my bridal shoot makeup and especially my day of makeup was perfect! I was really happy with the natural look that she gave me. And she's so much fun to work with. Really sweet and really talented.

Limo - Cynthia's Manhattan Limo - Clean and on time. What else can you say. The driver was good and picked everyone up either early or on time and when we left something in the limo, he came back to give it to us. I used them to take us from the house to the salon and then to the ceremony/reception.

Getaway Car - Enchanted Antique Limos - My husband didn't want to use a limo as our getaway car, so we rented a Rolls Royce from Enchanted Antique Limos. The car was beautiful and clean and the driver was very nice. He took us from south Austin up to the Driskill and took all back roads to make the drive nicer. He also drove us straight up congress toward the capitol and asked if we wanted to drive up to the capitol to take some more shots. We were too tired at that point, but it was a nice offer.

Venue - The Hummingbird House - Oh my god this place is amazing. I must have looked at 30+ venues before I found this place. The grounds are perfect and in the middle of a drought you would never expect for a place like this to exist. The reason why it is so beautiful is because the owner also owns The Great Outdoors nursery on South Congress. The ceremony is outside and the reception is held under a beautiful white fabric draped tent. All the trees are wrapped in LED lights to make for an enchanted evening. The grooms suite is a little small, but the bridal suite is in the main house and is 3 rooms. They also went out of their way to help my mom out who is handicapped. Guest bathrooms will surprise you.

Day of Coordinator - Lauren & Danny @ The Hummingbird House - I wasn't sure if I should put this above or give it its own section. Lauren and Danny run The Hummingbird House, but if you ask, they will act as your day of coordinator for a small up-charge. I paid this and it was sooooo worth it. First of all, at the time that I got married the fee for their day of services was very very affordable, especially compare to other day-of coordinators. Lauren is amazing. This girl is just as organized as I am, and that's saying something. She truly will go out of her way to make your day exactly as you want it. And she will email you back in a timely fashion, which is so important. I was very grateful to have her and Danny coordinating everything on my big day. If you get married at The Hummingbird House, use them!

Flowers - Trisha from Visual Lyrics Floral Art in Cedar Park, TX - This is a hard one to review. First the end product - The flowers were amazing. Just beautiful. I did a large bouquet of roses for my bouquet (40-50), and I used roses, white calla lilies, and pink bom orchids for the girls and the mothers bracelets, pink bom orchids for the guys, white roses for the dads, a long greenery piece with small spray roses for the front of my moms electric scooter, 4-5 roses for the toss bouquet, 1 orchid and 1 rose floating in tall vases with lights and black beads for the cocktails, and roses, lilies and orchids for the big tables. She also put together a huge red rose display for the center of the food tables. She was on time dropping everything off and she picked up the vases afterward. The reason I say it is hard to review her is because she is terrible at getting back to you. At one point I must have called and left 3 messages and 3 emails for her. I couldn't even get a hold of her to pay my balance until it was like a week late. I guess you could say she is laid back, but as a bride, I would have liked a little more interaction and response. Her prices are reasonable compare to others. In the end I would probably recommend her because the work was flawless, just be prepared to have some communication issues.

Cakes - Heidi at Envy Pastries - These cakes were amazing. Heidi made two cakes for my big day, one traditional and one grooms cake. The traditional cake was covered in white fondant and decorated in white lace icing. It was huge! The 5 layers from top to bottom were: 6" White Godiva Chocolate with strawberries and cream filling, 9" Carrot Cake, 12" Vanilla Bean with lemon mascarpone filling, 15" Chocolate with peanut butter moose filling and mini Reeses peanut butter cups, 18" White Godiva Chocolate with strawberries and cream filling. The cake was gorgeous! The grooms cake was a 1:1 replica of my husbands guitar and it was chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Again, just amazing. Each layer was 4 layers of cake an 3 layers of filling. While the vanilla cake was a bit dry, I loved the chocolate and I highly recommend working with Heidi. But get on her schedule early, because she only does one cake a day.

String Quartet - Musical Discovery Chamber Players - These four musicians are wonderful. They played from 30 minutes before the wedding through the cocktail hour. You can find many of their pieces on you tube and I highly highly recommend them if you are looking for a quartet to play during your ceremony. The only thing I wish was that we would have put them closer to the ceremony site or hooked them up with a microphone. Probably just putting them 5-8 feet closer would have been nice. They did a very nice job with Canon in D as well as our exit song, The Wedding March. Jill, the coordinator of the group, is very nice and so easy to work with. The first time she played Canon in D for my parents was when we met them at a bridal show, and I knew right away that we were about to hand them a check to guarantee our spot on their calendar.

Band - The Matchmaker Band - These guys are awesome. They are a 10 piece band and they really made our night excellent. They are so much fun and do a great job getting people onto the dance floor. Two weeks before the wedding we sent them a list of songs that were sorted into tiers: must play, 1st choices, 2nd choices, and a 'do not play' list. This really helped them put together a set list that we would like and that we felt our guests would enjoy. Their sound guy, Alex, is great. He really worked with us and the Hummingbird House to keep the music at a perfect level for dancing while not being too loud. I highly recommend these guys. Also, they tend to play at the Highball in Austin on Monday nights if you want to check them out.

Photographer - Beverly Demafiles - Beverly and her husband, David, are awesome. I've used her three times now, to do my engagement photos, my bridal shots, and my wedding photography. Her style is journalistic, in that she works to tell the story of the day through her shots. I love that her photos are full of color (or some black and white) and aren't overly artistic or styled with Photoshop. They are what I think of as true photos. Both her and David do a really great job of capturing the moment. There were so many great action shots from the wedding that we are having trouble narrowing them down. I love that they both come ready to do whatever is necessary to get the shot. There were several times that I saw Bev on the ground shooting up just to capture the moment. She's not afraid to get right into the action and her eye for great unique shots is unmatched. The other thing that struck me was this. The week before the wedding I sent her a list of my "must have shots." Right after the ceremony when we were taking pictures, I saw David standing there with the list in his hand making sure we got all the shots that I wanted, and they did! It made me feel instantly at ease because I knew nothing would get overlooked. They captured so many details from the day, I love them!

Videographer - Wes Shepard of New Road Productions - We met Wes at a bridal show the January before our October wedding. We hadn't thought much about having a videographer at the wedding, but when I saw his videos, I knew we had to hire him right away. Him and his assistant worked great with Beverly and David to make sure no one was in each others way the day of the wedding. And they both came out to the Hummingbird House the weekend before to plan out the day, which was nice. I didn't even notice Wes was around videoing until the last few dances when the night got really dark and the light on his camera started to be ever-so-slightly annoying. But it was so dark he had to have a light on somewhere if he wanted to capture the moment, and it wasn't that bright. For the ceremony he hooked Jeremy up with a lapel mic to record the vows and the pastor, but you could hardly see it as he placed it right behind the flower. He also worked with me to create a video package that was just what I wanted. I highly recommend that you try to get a videographer if you can afford it, and I recommend Wes.

Linens - Premiere Party Central, Manchaca Road. - They have a great selection of linens and other necessities for your day, especially helpful if you need to provide these things for your event. If you go here just make sure you work with Kelly and only Kelly. I found most of the other staff to be less than helpful and often making my life a headache. They have a huge sale in January/February where you can get linens half off if you reserve them during their sale period. (note, my wedding was in October, but I was able to take advantage of this sale)

Caterer - An Affair to Remember Catering (AATR) - This one is also hard for me to review. Let me start with the good. The food is amazing. Hands down better than Pink Avocado or Sterling (of these two I'd pick Sterling for food). The other reason why I initially chose these guys was because they seemed like a smaller operation than Sterling. That is to say, they seemed a bit more local and not quite so much of a large corporation. I worked mainly with Matthew, and this is really where my impression of the company started to go downhill. Matthew likes to talk, a lot. But that also means that he is not listening to you and what you want. He spends more time explaining why he hasn't gotten something done than just doing it, and more likely than not you will have to hound him down the weeks before your wedding. AATR does some of their glass and plate rentals through Premiere (above) and then they send you the inventory list for you to double check, even though you always go through AATR. Matthew kept blaming Premiere for why the order was wrong, but it took me 10 minutes and one phone call to Kelly to get it all straightened out. In my mind, I shouldn't have to do my caterers job. Matthew kept telling me what he wanted to do for the table arrangement on the day of my wedding, and it took me more than 3 occasions to finally explain to him that it was my wedding and we were doing what I wanted. I should have known then to fire him. Oh and two weeks before the wedding I sent him a text message asking why I didn't have my final invoice yet. His response was "which bride is this?" To which I replied "Oh, I see I'm not the only one waiting for you to get back to them." This is consistently Matthew. The day of the wedding the food was great, but there wasn't enough! Not because I didn't order enough, but because they couldn't produce it fast enough. My dad went back to the kitchen when the food ran out and the response he got was "people are eating too fast" Are you kidding me! You know 100 people are going to rush a tent, you need that food ready, or you need to bring more help. At one point the water station was empty and my dad again had to go back and find someone to fill it. Horrible! And then I found out through a guest that they ran out of lime juice. Why? Because the bartenders were making the wrong ratio of lime juice to tequila for the margarita drinks so they ran out of juice. But Matthew didn't come tell me this, so I, the bride, had to go to the kitchen and bitch him out. I *think* they eventually got more. My parents and I are now in the process of trying to get the company to refund the money that we are due because of all these disasters. Oh yea, and the pasta bar was to have 4 burner stations, but one didn't work and they didn't bring any backups, so they only had 3. Why would a reputable caterer not bring backups? Oh and although we went over the wine/margarita glass order about 20 times, they were still wrong. Which means I paid for something I didn't get. Unless this company shapes up and fires Matthew, for all the headaches that I had, I can't recommend them. Yes, their food is the best, but I can't imagine telling any other bride to go through what I went through with Matthew. Oh and their "chef's station" is a joke, avoid that. I'm happy that my guests got food and didn't realize too much what a disaster this caterer was. If you're set on using this company just make sure that you get a different planner than Matthew, and perhaps you'll be okay.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some wedding hints, for all you brides

Since the wedding a few of my friends have asked me what I learned and what pointers I could give them for their weddings. Here are a few things that I realized at the wedding that I didn't think too much about before hand. If you're getting married soon, you may want to take notes.

1. flip flops are a must! I had 4 water blisters on my feet from my shoes. Of course I didn't realize it that night, but the next morning they hurt. And if you do get water blisters, just pop them with a pin and squeeze out the water, it's painless cause the skin is dead already. Then put on a bandaid. That should take most of the pain away.

2. make sure your emergency kit is well stocked with large and small safety pins (large ones were key for me), bandaids, straws, razor, straight pins, powder, lipstick, crochet hooks, etc. I won't go fully into mine right now, but take a look at the many examples online.

3. make sure they put plenty of tacks in your dress for bustling. The seamstress will tell you only "x" number are needed, but that's for a typical wedding, where people aren't dancing their ass off. Granted, my dress was lace, but the first time someone stepped on the dress the lace got pulled out of the buttons and the bustle fell out in no time. I would ask for at least 3 more than what she recommends and/or make sure she really really re-enforces the tacks. When all else fails use large safety pins (see point 2)

4. also regarding the bustle, make sure none of is dragging on the ground. when she did mine, she left some dragging so it still looked like a mini-train. This looks nice but is terrible for dancing. I tripped on my own dress a few times and the bottom was completely black by the end of the night. You want it all off the ground if you plan on dancing a lot.

5. something will go wrong, and it will be okay. the two big things that went wrong on my wedding day were, 1 - the caterer didn't get all the food out fast enough. and 2 - they ran out of lime juice. This was the most problematic because they started serving straight tequila. Even though I went and yelled at the caterer, there was nothing that could be done until more juice got there. Oh yea, and I also lost a side diamond out of my engagement ring 2 hours before the wedding. But my dad got it fixed! Like I said, something will go wrong. Try to laugh it off.... Try.

6. make sure there is one person who is responsible for getting the groom to the wedding and that person is not responsible for anyone else. Because my soon-to-be husbands family was sharing cars, his brother had to take him and his cousin and one of his other groomsmen to the wedding. Of course running around and getting everyone coordinated meant that he got there later than he wanted and missed having the photographer get more than like one or two pictures of him getting ready. Plus, you don't need that stress!

7. if you think your dress may fall down in the front, use Curvana tape. it may leave a slight rash on your skin by the end of the night, but my rash went away in like 2 days. That stuff is sticky! If you do use it, put it on the dress the night before and create yourself a peel tab to quickly pull the back off to stick it to yourself. In fact, just try it before hand and you'll see its kinda a pain to use, but it works really well. You can get it at Michaels and yes they have it, so don't let them tell you that they don't, because I found that the people there just didn't know what it was. It's in a red tape dispenser.

8. make sure you eat! I went to the grocery store the day before and got a finger sandwiches plate and a fruit plate to take in the limo and to the hair stylist. Just before I got my makeup done I brushed my teeth and stopped eating (though I did have some cucumbers and water at the venue). Also, bring a straw for once your lipstick is done and you want some water. You can bring touchup makeup if you want, but I found that I just forgot to us it! And the lipstick really stayed well the whole time I cared about. Really after pictures you stop caring anyway. The only thing that I used a few time was this white powder to take the sweat glare away. I had my dad hold that for me since he had pockets. I also used it on him! :)

9. Relax! I think we started about 15 minutes late, and it was okay! I was even ready before that. Take your time to really take it all in. I took some time to peer out the window and watch people sign the guest book. It was fun.

10. Even though I had a copy of the photos that I wanted, I was instantly relaxed to see my photographers assistant holding his copy that I had emailed them earlier in the week. Make sure your photographer has a "must take" list and give it to a friend if you don't see them carrying it around. It was nice to have all the pictures that I wanted written down, because you will forget. And at some point you'll just be so pre occupied that you'll say "oh I don't care." I did that once and the photographer looked at me and said "really?!?!?" and then I was like "yea, you're right, lets take that one."

11. speaking of photos, take the time to take the ones that you want. at the end of the night the photographer grabbed us and said "lets do some tree shots" We didn't want to leave the party but we did and they are some of the best shots of the night. We were really happy that we took them. When we got back to the dance floor, my friend who is recently married said to me "I wish we would have taken more pictures, you'll be happy you did that" And I am! I think it took us about 1 hour after the ceremony for pictures and then maybe another 20 minutes during the reception. You won't miss much but you'll be happy to have that time just the two of you (well and the photographer/videographer). We missed the cocktail hour, but I think most brides do.

12. have a list of everything that needs to leave and possible people who can take it. it's hard to have a list of exactly who should have what, so I would just be simple. Here are the 20 things that have to leave, here are 5 people who can take them.

13. have a good 'day of person' who can make sure everything is running smoothly. Lauren, my coordinator, was great. She didn't interrupt anything but she found lulls to make sure we did the cake and the bouquet toss. We also did the toasts first to get them out of the way. Even though I'm sure 1/2 the people didn't even hear, but that's okay.

14. Have fun. Make sure to say quick "hello" to people but then let them come to you on the dance floor, they will! Everyone says "oh you wont get to eat, you won't get to dance." Well I ate, and I danced and I let people come to me. I remember the whole night because I was on my schedule and didn't feel like I was under pressure to say "hi" to everyone right away. People understand that it is your wedding. Also, having a sweetheart table to put your food and drinks and purse and bouquet on is nice.

Hope this helps you brides out there have the most awesome wedding ever... just like I did!

Monday, November 14, 2011

You can call me Mrs. Rea

10.22.11 - What a day!

photo credit: Merrick Ales

I was planning on using this post to tell you all about my fabulous day, but I don't even know where to begin. First, the days before...

Actually first a disclaimer: There is only one picture in this post. It is above. The rest will come later when I can narrow down the 624 that my photographer took into something more manageable. The one above is from a friend who has his own other photography business.

Now, about the wedding...

The days before the wedding were spent hanging out with family and cousins and friends. It was nice to spend time with family before the festivities really got started.

Important Note #1 - If you are getting married, try to spend time with your family BEFORE the wedding, as the day before, of, and after are CRAZY!

The day before the wedding we did the rehearsal at The Hummingbird House and then I took my bridesmaids for lunch and my mom treated us all to 90 minute massages! And boy did I need it! Then we got all dressed up and went to the rehearsal dinner at Sullivans in Austin. It was fabulous and they did a great job. Jeremy's dad did the first toast HERE and my dad followed up with the second HERE. Sullivans was even nice enough to make up unique menu's for us with our name and occasion on them. I would highly recommend using Sullivans in Austin for any private party you may be having. Pictures are HERE.

Important Note #2: If your camera does video, set it up on a wine glass (I literally did this) to record the parents toasts if they aren't doing them in front of your videographer. You'll be happy you did!

The morning of the wedding I was totally anxious. I went for a run and then took a walk with my flower girls. At 10:30 am the limo arrived to pick us up and take us to the salon to get our hair ready. It was great seeing the look on Kylea's (one of my flower girls) face when the limo showed up. She kept asking if we would ride in a limo and I told her "no." hehe, tricky :)

Side note: Because there are so many vendors, I'll use a different post to tell you about the vendors and such that I used for the wedding and give you a little review about each of them.

It was nice to have my girls at the salon with me and to have my mom and dad there. My mom looked wonderful and my dad was even treated to a hairdo complements of my hairstylist. Just as we were about to leave, I put on my engagement ring and found one of the stones to be missing! Yes gone! I quickly called the jewelry store and told them the situation. Fortunately they were right up the road and my parents, along with my wonderful bridesmaid Kristen Tan, were able to get it fixed in under 5 minutes. Thank you to all of you for dealing with this situation... 2 hours before the wedding!

We arrived down at the Hummingbird House around 3:30 and started to get ready. I organized a few things while my girls got ready, then my bridesmaid Kristen Shehab, helped me into my dress. I was standing there completely naked with my mom watching, my photographer watching (but not snapping pictures of course) and the videographer with his back turned, and in walks Jeremy's mom. I freaked out a little, but only because it was just unfortunate timing and I was naked! Sorry Sue, if the timing was just 2 minutes later that would have gone better!

Important Note #3: If you have a dress with buttons in the back, go to a craft store and buy a crochet hook. Actually buy two. One for your bridesmaids to put it on you, and one for your groom to take it off! It makes life go MUCH easier.

After doing the "first look" with my dad, not Jeremy, we snapped a few pictures and went back inside to relax a minute. Throughout the day I made sure to have food and water everywhere, so that I wouldn't forget to eat. I had veggies in the bridal suite and mini sandwiches from HEB at the salon. This helped a lot.

Pretty soon it was time. I wasn't nervous, in fact I was most nervous about my hair! I had to pull back some of the front ones because the wind picked up a little and I didn't want them blowing in my face. After all we were having an outdoor wedding. As we walked outside to get in position I remember telling my dad "it's just a walk, it's just a walk, don't make me cry my makeup will run!" haha. Of course it wasn't just a walk, it was one of the biggest days of my life! (I say one of, because I think there are many big moments in our lives).

My dad and I walked down the isle arm in arm to "Canon in D". I remember wanting to look at the crowd, but all I could focus on was Jeremy's eyes. My dad gave me away beautifully. During the ceremony I do remember taking a moment to "remember" it all and just be happy. We composed our own vows out of three that my Pastor had given us to look over. I'm not sure how much the microphone that Jeremy was wearing picked up, because I do distinctly remember choking up while repeating them. I'm also sure everyone in the back row didn't hear what we were saying, but that's okay. I mean really, you know the guests only show up for the cake anyway. :)

Karen and Tim did a great job with the readings and Pastor Lyn was excellent! I'm so happy he made it down from Pennsylvania to officiate our big day. It really meant a lot to me. After our first (and second) kiss, we exited to "The Wedding March". It was awesome.

After many pictures, the details of which I won't bore you with, we started the PARTY! My dad rode in on the back of my moms scooter which was pretty amusing. The parents and the bridal party were introduced to DC3 - "Saturday Night" and Jeremy and I were introduced to Mingo Fishtrap - "Bitta Honey," one of our favorite songs.

After the Best Man, Jeremy's brother Matt, and the Matron of Honor, my best friend Karen, did their toasts (on video, but I do not yet have), Jeremy and I did our first dance. We danced to a song called "I do" written by Jeremy and recorded by our friend, Alvero. It was so sweet. We even choreographed the dance. And although my dress bustle was too long (note about that in another post), it went great. The photographer got an awesome dip picture that you will just have to wait to see :) Okay okay, I give, here is a sneak peak. After our dance, my dad and I danced to Ray Allure's "My Daughter is a Bride." HERE is the slideshow that we played during our dance. Then Jeremy and his mom, Sue, danced to Elvis's "Loving You." HERE is their slideshow. There was some panic that the sound guy couldn't hook up to the computer, but we worked it out quickly by downloading the songs from iTunes and having someone hit play on the sound and the computer together. Isn't technology great.

The rest of the night we partied to the Matchmaker Band, a 10 piece band that did an awesome job. Our cake was amazing and the food tasted great. We had so much fun with our friends, and thank you to those who had to deal with some of the caterer issues (ahem, slow food & lack of lime juice for a few hours - though I didn't hear too many complaining about the straight tequila during that time). We are so happy that you all were able to join us and you made our evening spectacular! At the end of the night we did a sparkler exit and it was so much fun! Thank you to the Hummingbird House for letting us. Interestingly enough I had people come up to me the next day and tell me that drunks with sparklers isn't the *best* idea. Though they never told me it was the worst! We left the wedding in a Rolls Royce that Jeremy picked out and our photographer got an awesome 'Robin Hood' picture of us (see above sneak peek). After the wedding Jeremy and I went to the Driskill Downtown to spend our first night as husband and wife. (Apparently we left in just enough time to avoid some of the shenanigans afterwards, ahem Jake & Brandon).

Sunday morning we met about 30 people for brunch at The Salt Lick (and more cake!) and then we jetted off Monday to Hawaii... for 3 weeks! Man it's hard to be back, but I sure enjoy being Jeremy's Wife!