Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Fabric Addict's Escort Card Board

A few months ago, I covered a bulletin board in my favorite fabric in hopes of using it as an escort card board.  I had gathered escort card board inspiration from around the web and loved the idea of incorporating fabric and a beautiful frame into our board. A short time later, I came across a beautiful frame at Michaels and was able to get it for a great price, thanks to a 50% off coupon.

The board sat in a corner for a few months and once our RSVP deadline had passed (and we chased down a few replies), it was time to finish this project.  I knew I wanted our escort cards to hang from ribbon.  After an exhaustive search, I found a company that sold sheets of printer-friendly card stock with perforated hang tags on them.  Just a few weeks after I placed an order, Avery debuted a similar product that is not being carried at office supply stores, so anyone thinking of trying this can probably find the supplies needed locally.  Using a downloaded template, I designed escort cards in Adobe Illustrator.  I used my new favorite font, Carolyna Pro Black by Emily Lime Designs, and used the glyph feature to make the tags a little more ornate. If you've been around a while, you might remember Weddingbee's Mrs. Penguin's introduction to using glyphs (she was inspired by Mrs. Licorice, another Weddingbee blogger) .  Once you become familiar with using glyphs, I promise that you'll be hooked!  I spent a wee bit too much time selecting the perfect embellishments for every escort tag I made.

Once the tags were printed, it took quite a while to carefully punch them out.


Our venue sprung a few surprises on us when it came to how our dinners would be served (more on that in the future), so instead of hanging the tags on ribbon that matched the rest of our color scheme, which had been my plan, we used the ribbons to indicate the meal selection of the guest whose names was on the tag.

We used blue ribbon for meat, pink ribbon for fish, green ribbon for children, and yellow ribbon for one vegan meal.


I wasn't too excited about using simple push pins on the board, so I bought some upholstery tacks to use.  I thought having tacks that are normally used for nail head trim on furniture was a nice nod to my past as a design blogger. 


Though the board I made was large, it wasn't large enough for every single escort card to hang, so I bundled couples and families together.  I had a little internal debate about whose card to put on top when two or more tags were hung together.  I decided that "ladies before gentlemen" made the most sense, so the order was women, men, then children.


I was thrilled with the result!  This is a project that turned out almost exactly like what I had envisioned in my mind.  I never saw the escort card board in person, but my coordinator, Amanda Gray, snapped a picture that I was able to see on Instagram the next day.

Photo by Amanda Gray of Ashely Baber Weddings / Used with permission

We assigned tables to our guests, but practices seem to be getting more casual these days.  Do you like the super formal style where your seat is assigned?  Do you like being assigned a table?  Or, do you like open seating, which seems to be more popular than years ago?
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs

National news has covered this briefly, but the town of Colorado Springs, CO has been devastated by a massive wild fire, called the Waldo Canyon Fire. I can't fathom what it must feel like to be in the position of the residents there, but this picture gave me a hint. So sad.


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Friday, June 22, 2012

8 Tips for a Jamaican Honeymoon

Last time, I wrote about our honeymoon in Negril and promised to write some tips and recommendations for those who might be planning a honeymoon in Jamaica.  We stayed at Couples Swept Away in Negril, but I hope these tips are broad enough to apply to other locations.

1. Room selection is important
Some people say that so little time is spent in your room at a resort that a basic reservation is all you really need.  There were days when we left our room early and didn't return until it was time to get ready for dinner. However, there were days when we spent a lazy morning on our patio with our breakfast (our resort offered breakfast in the restaurants or room service). 

At Couples Swept Away, the lowest tier of rooms closest to the edge of the property that bordered a major road.  We read a few complaints online about traffic noise from people who stayed in those rooms.  Also keep in mind that some of the the restaurants, pools, and bars at your resort will be hives of activity.  We talked to one couple who were originally staying near a restaurant that stayed open until 5 AM.  It was a natural gathering spot for people who were partying late into the night.  They asked to switch rooms on their second day.

Marc wanted a room that had a hammock and would be quiet.  He picked a room in a tier that was away from the road, but also away from the beach front, where there was constant foot traffic all day long.  There were times when we felt like we were totally alone because of how quiet the area around our room was.


Hammocks are necessar


2. Take naps, don't sleep in
The radio/ipod dock in our room woke us up at 6 AM on our first morning in Negril. We both thought it was totally insane that someone set an alarm that early at a resort.  Little did we know that early birds catch all kinds of wonderful worms at resorts. So, while I think your honeymoon is a great time for those of us who are sleep deprived to catch up, I don't think that has to happen through going to bed early or sleeping in.  Naps are a wonderful thing.

In reality, that 6 AM alarm might have been set for someone who was catching a flight.  However, there are people who leave their rooms as early as 5:30 AM to reserve a beach cabana at Couples Swept Away.  One merely needs to put towels down on beach chairs and there's an unwritten code that people will consider the chair yours for the day.

One morning of our stay, Marc woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep.  He decided to grab a cabana.  At 6:30 AM, only two cabanas were left and he quickly put our towels, books, and sunscreen bottles down to claim it before returning to our room to write a note directing me where to go.  I joined him at 9:00 AM and the beach was almost completely quiet.  Just before 10 AM, when the beach bars would open, a staff member walked the beach serving fruit kabobs to all the early risers.  It was a nice touch!

Another benefit to waking up early is getting in on some of the excursions that are popular (snorkeling) or require some travel (golf, deep sea fishing).

The early bird catches the cabana and the fruit kabobs!


3. Leave the TV off, but use the WiFI
Some people say that they want to be completely unplugged on their honeymoon.  I personally found the idea of returning to hundreds of emails pretty unsettling.  I used the resort WiFi to check my email every morning.  The simple act of deleting messages that didn't need responses cut down the amount of email in my inboxes considerably.  That allowed me to enjoy myself a little more than I think I would if I was totally out of touch.

Some of the rooms at Couples Swept Away have TVs in them.  I'm glad we didn't opt for a room that had one.  It was kind of funny to walk around at sunset and see the blue glow of some rooms where people were watching TV.  The real show was outside!


4. Get off the resort...strategically
I usually try to blend in when I travel and not look too, too much like a tourist.  I usually shun organized tour groups and strike it out on my own to explore.  As a redhead, it's pretty much impossible not hide that one is a tourist in Jamaica.  So, when exploring off the resort, it can be smart to travel with others.

Originally, I was perfectly content with staying at our resort through out honeymoon.  There were at least six restaurants, nine bars, and loads of activities to occupy our time.  Marc, having been to Negril before, insisted that we get off the property. 

One trip that I wish we had planned differently was to what Marc called "the straw market."  The resorts operate shuttles to a large market where vendors sell crafts and souvenirs.  The shuttle schedule conflicted with something else we wanted to do, so we took a cab to the market ourselves, which was a mistake.  There were precisely two other couples at the market when we were there.  This meant that we had to interact with almost every single vendor.   We felt a lot of pressure to look at countless wood carvings and knick knacks with Jamaican flags or Bob Marley's image on them.  With many of the vendors sell very similar things, this is exhausting.

Marc had been to this market when it was crawling with tourists.  He said it was a fun, bustling place to visit.  We still had fun, but we were so tired when we finally emerged from the stalls.


The straw market

5. Step away from the buffet
When it comes to food, you can certainly eat at the popular spots, but I strongly suggest making reservations for a few nicer restaurants. We went to one buffet at our resort and felt as though quantity won out over quality.  At Couples Swept Away, there were two reservation-only restaurants.  We booked ourselves at each when we arrived.  Lemongrass, the Thai restaurant was fine, but not extraordinary.  Feathers, the fine dining restaurant, was wonderful and we wish we had made more reservations. By mid-week, they were completely booked.  Part of me wishes we had eaten there every single night!

We ate outside of the resort a few times.  Marc loves conch, shellfish that is pretty common in the Caribbean.  One restaurant at our resort served conch fritters at night, but they were more pancake than fritter and didn't have much conch in them.  We asked the staff members where to go and everyone sent us down the beach to Cosmos.  Marc was over the moon at how many conch dishes were on the menu.  We also ate at Rockhouse, which some staff members told us had a chef who went "Best in Jamaica" for two years running.  Rockhouse is a much smaller resort and it was nice to get away from Couples for an evening.
  
Mr. Mink gets his conch

6. Adjust your expectations
I guess this might be considered part of my bit about rooms, but it was funny for us to learn that some people were critical of the overall environment in Jamaica. Jamaica is, technically, a third world country.  People live simply. They depend on tourism in certain areas and they are eager to talk to visitors. Some are very eager to sell things, but a simple "no, thanks" is all that's needed if you aren't interested.

At our resort, someone I encountered couldn't get over the fact that there were no windows on our villas.  Instead, there were screens and floor-to-ceiling shutters.  Closing the shutters kept the air conditioning in and opening them let the fresh air and the wonderful sounds of the ocean and tree frogs come in.  There were also people who didn't seem to want to see salamanders on their patios, stray cats around the villas, or loose dogs wandering the beach, which are a reality in Jamaica.

 We named the salamander-chasing cat at our villa Orange Sherbet


7. Take note of who helps you
Most all-inclusive resorts say they have a "no tipping" policy. Having worked in the restaurant industry when he was younger, Marc is pretty adamant about tipping service people well.  We found ways to leave money for people who helped us.  We also learned that we'd get a survey on our last night at the resort and it would ask for the names of anyone who was especially helpful.  Knowing this, I carried my iphone with me everywhere and made a note of almost every staff member we encountered.  I hope putting their names down on the survey gave them some nice perks with their supervisors.


 8. Continue the honeymoon at home!
Red Strip and Appleton's rum might be Jamaican staples, but a drink called the Dirty Banana (called a Dirty Monkey at some resorts) became my go to drink in Jamaica. I loved it so much that I scoured the web for recipes and we are making them at home. For the last week, this yummy drink has been easing me back into vacation mode.

The Dirty Banana
  • 1 oz. rum cream (common brands are Rum Chata, Sangsters, and Cruzan)
  • 1 oz. rum-based coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
  • 1 oz. simple syrup (not critical, but adds a little sweetness)
  • 4 oz. milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups ice
Mix all ingredients in a blender, pour, and serve.  Makes two servings.



Are there any other Jamaican honeymooners out there?  What are your tips for people headed there for their honeymoon?

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Surprise Honeymoon

Before I share pictures from our honeymoon, I thought I'd explain how our honeymoon came to be.

If my nearly constant DIY posts didn't tip you off (and there are more DIY posts coming!), I took on a lot of projects during our wedding planning process.  Marc offered to help almost daily, but I rarely took him up on the offer.  While I loved all the crafting, I knew it wasn't his cup of tea.  I wanted Marc to think wedding planning was fun.  If I put a glue gun in his hand every time he walked in the door, Marc would probably accept it and go to work, but I knew he wouldn't be enjoying himself.

With all the little projects on my plate, I didn't feel I had any time to investigate honeymoon options.  I tried to do some reading on TripAdvisor a few times, but I'm the type who needs to research for hours before drawing a conclusion and quickly stepped away.  Marc became our honeymoon planner after I told him what I needed and what I wanted. The "must haves" were the option to do nothing by lay on the beach for a few days and the ability to see some dolphins.  The "nice to haves" were a short plane flight and no major change in time zones (I travel a bit for work and crossing more than three time zones can wipe me out).  Marc, who has been to almost every tropical island I can name, decided that we'd go to Jamaica.

He became the researcher from there.  He spent weeks on message boards and review sites comparing options.  He eventually narrowed the options down to Negril, Jamaica.  Then he decided we'd go to an all-inclusive resort.  Finally, he selected Couples Sept Away as our honeymoon destination.   

Couples Swept Away / From couples.comcouples.com

For the first few days, we didn't schedule anything.  We did a lot, but we didn't have any specific time when we had to be anywhere.  I live by my Outlook calendar at home and have only taken vacations where activities or events were planned. Much of the day looked like this:


We did plenty of things, but we just didn't make appointments or reservations for those first few days.   We felt like going shopping, so we went to the concierge and had them call us a car.  We heard about a great chef, so we had the concierge call  a cab to take us to his restaurant.  We saw a two person kayak free, so we took it out into the ocean. On the morning that we forgot what day it was and didn't care what time it was, we decided the vacation had taken effect and it was time to make a few plans.

We wound up scheduling a couples massage the the resort's spa and making an appointment to swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove near Negril.  We read that the Dolphin Cove near us was larger than the Ocho Rio version, but not crowded and less touristy.  I'm well aware that some people don't like to see animals in captivity, but I'm grateful that we had the chance to interact with the dolphins and a nurse shark that day.

Foot push by two dolphins / Photo by Dolphin Cove employee

We had heard that some of these encounter programs were cheesy, but the staff at Dolphin Cove was extremely knowledgeable.  Obviously, they had to be entertaining, but it was clear that working with the animals came first and the tourists came second.  The handler who worked with the nurse shark told us that his hope is that seeing sharks up close in this environment will make them less likely to mess with them in the wild and turn them off as consumers when they see shark products sold in shops and restaurants.

It was an amazing week of relaxation.  I'm so glad we went to an all-inclusive resort, but didn't cling to the schedule that the resort had.  By the end of the week, we were rested and happy, but ready to come home.


Next time, I'll share some reviews and recommendations for others who might be headed to Jamaica. 

What kind of vacation do you prefer?  Are you the highly scheduled tourist or are you a "go with the flow" vacationer?

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Good-by from Miss Small & Chic

This is the last time I'll be writing to you as Miss.  I have to admit that the week leading up to our wedding hasn't been what I expected.  As the various weather forecasts started to line up and agree, we had to define what had been a fairly vague rain plan.

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I've shed some tears in the last 48 hours over the weather and the changes to our plans.  My main wishes for this day were to get married outdoors, with the Blue Ridge Mountains behind us, and to have my dog present.  Thankfully, our venue briefly lifted their "no dogs inside" rule so Baxter can be part of our ceremony.  However, getting married outdoors seems impossible right now.


Screen shot from Accuweather.com


I wish I could write a dreamy, bliss-filled "morning-of-my-wedding" post like others have done before me, but I feel I have to be real.

So, good-bye from a sad Miss. While I'm thrilled to be marrying Marc and am looking forward to tonight, I'm very sad that everything from our pictures to our decor (corn hole in the rain, anyone?) will be negatively affected by the rain.
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