Friday, August 29, 2014

Arizona Storytellers: Stories of Phoenix

It took me three years to finally make it to an Arizona Storytellers event — for shame! Last month I finally decided enough was enough and purchased my ticket to the August event held at First Draft Book Bar, a new bookstore/bar in my neighborhood.

It was perfect: The theme was the city of Phoenix (my first love) and the event was being held at a place I've been dying to check out. Graham and I have watched the former Beefeaters restaurant go from an eyesore to a cool new venue that also houses Southern Rail restaurant. 

I don't have many photos because, as host Megan Finnerty (a former coworker of mine) said, the event really isn't Instagram- or tweetable. It's more about listening than taking photos. And I'm glad I put my phone away to hear the touching stories. At least two of them brought me to tears: one was about a father-daughter relationship and the other was about Navajo Code Talkers and a 50th anniversary ceremony held for them in the '90s. Another story, told by chef Aaron May, made me tear up for a different reason — it was just so damn funny. I didn't expect the night to be so emotional.

I should mention that our tickets even included a drink each. It was the best $11 (each) I've spent this week. 

Interested in checking out this awesome event? The next one is September 10 and will be held at the Phoenix Theatre. The topic is Stories of Our Phoenix Families. One I am especially looking forward to is the December event at the Arizona Biltmore, where stories of holidays will be told.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lessons and Tips for Planning a Maui Wedding

Graham and I have spent the last nine months planning our destination wedding over e-mail and phone. (And by that I mean I have.)

Wedding planning, whether it's a Hawaii wedding or not, is an eye-opening experience. You learn a ton about yourself, your family and friends, and the wedding planning process.

Tips and lessons for other Maui brides:

  • Slow down. I was in such a hurry to cross things off my to-do list in the beginning of the process that I didn't take enough time to really think some things through. This is especially true when it comes to the guest list. I sent Save the Dates to people I had lost touch with because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. If I could do it again I would wait longer and send out fewer Save the Dates. I also ordered favor bags months ago when I thought the guest list would be longer. Over time more and more people have bowed out for various reasons. (We understand, it's a big trip.) But I could have saved a little bit of cash if I had waited until right now.
  • Do things your way. Who says your wedding has to be like everyone else's? I have to remind myself not to feel pressure to impress others. This applies to the music at our reception. We won't be having a dance floor or a DJ because we opted for a dinner reception at a local restaurant with an amazing view. A dance floor just didn't seem feasible given the number of people going vs. the cost. I did initially worry about whether guests would be disappointed, but I tell myself that those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter. (Plus I'm sure they'll be entertained by the musician at the ceremony and the sound system playing our own tunes at dinner.)
  • Don't get carried away with Pinterest. I love the site as much as the next person, but I think it creates unrealistic expectations about what your wedding should look like. Either 1. You spend a lot more money on the details by having someone take care of them for you or 2. You spend a lot more TIME on the details. And with a destination wedding, you have to think about how you are going to transport all those details and favors. (I'm packing them in a suitcase.)
  • Be prepared to be a travel agent. People want to know when airfare prices will go down. Family and friends want to know whether a certain hotel rate is a good deal, and they want to know when you buy your ticket so they can buy theirs at the same time. (I guess it's so you don't back out and leave them with a ticket to Hawaii, I don't know.) I do think you should provide help with lodging suggestions and securing hotel blocks for discounted rates. Wedding coordinators can also put guests in touch with a travel agent, though we didn't go this route.
  • Ask the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau for help. They can provide you with free information about vendors and venues. They will also send up to a certain number of free maps and postcards for welcome bags. (More are available for a small fee, and they ship the information to you for free or the lowest cost possible.) 
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Always ask if there is a more affordable option, especially for things such as flowers. Tropical flowers are obviously going to be more economical than blooms such as roses, which aren't native to Hawaii. 
  • Be patient with vendors. Wedding vendors usually focus on the weddings they have coming up next, so while they respond to all queries, sometimes it will take a day or two to hear back. Brides like me can get nervous and want immediate answers, but just know that a quality wedding coordinator will assist with everything you bring up as soon as possible.

Are you planning a destination wedding? What did you learn?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cash Mob at Shine Coffee

Last week I participated in my first cash mob. I received a Facebook invite for a cash mob benefiting Shine Coffee, a local coffee shop in central Phoenix. I made my way down Central Avenue on that rainy Tuesday to do my part.

I traded my usual Starbucks drink for a chai latte and as the friendly owner took my order I remembered why it's important to frequent local businesses. Her big smiled showed she was genuinely grateful for my business and made me feel welcome.

I wished I could sip my drink at the table while the rain cleared up. But, alas, I had to get to work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monsoon Sunset

Waking up to the sound of raindrops on my window was a pleasant surprise on Tuesday. It was also a treat to see the downpour from my office building's windows that afternoon. The sun made an appearance for a few hours before sunset storms put on a show for us as we watched from Dreamy Draw Recreation Area.

A rainbow was auspicious start to the hike.

We could see the storm over the West Valley just before sunset.

The sky proceeded to get more and more beautiful.

Storm watching/chasing is one of Graham's favorite things to do.

Best of all, the temperature was in the 80s with a breeze that picked up as the storm started building again over central Phoenix.

Here's hoping we get more storms this week!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yogi Bridal Shower Brunch at Postino

My yoga-teacher training friends and I went to brunch at Postino to celebrate my marriage to Graham. Our time together is always full of laughs, love and, this time, mimosas!

I loved my brunch dress. I found it at Marshalls for $10!
 You can't go wrong with a farm scramble at brunch.

Afterward we walked across the street to Churn for some ice cream made of all-natural ingredients. Few things are better on a summer day.

We also looked for our favorite artists on the cassette wall. I think I spotted local favorite Black Carl!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunset hikes are my favorite

Recent monsoon storms have led to beautiful skies lately. Graham and I took our pups on a hike after a productive Sunday afternoon. We explored a different Dreamy Draw trail than our usual route — it was such a good idea!

We rushed to the top of the hill to get an unobstructed view of the sunset. The payoff was this splendid view ...

I was mesmerized by the clouds. We are so lucky to live in such a gorgeous place, aren't we?