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Tag Archives: Celebrations

Today = 2 Years in China!

28 Dec

Two years ago today, Brett and I (along with 700 pounds of my clothing) boarded a plane in Newark bound for Beijing.  To celebrate this exciting anniversary, I would like to share photos from our Chinese Wedding party from this past August.  I think you will see that I went all out to play the part of a Chinese bride (short of dying my hair of course!)

Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Brett and I knew that we didn’t want to host our Beijing wedding celebration in a Western style (for those of you not living in Asia – that means that we didn’t want an American or European style venue…it does not mean that Brett and I were considering a Wild-West Hoedown).  When in China, right?   So when we stumbled upon Gui Gong Fu, a restaurant famous for its history, as well as its imperial cuisine, we were sold.  Housed in the former residence of the Empress Dowager’s little brother, Gui Gong Fu set the perfect backdrop to our Chinese wedding party.  Although we didn’t hold a actual ceremony (we saved that for just he two of us in South Africa – see Chitwa Chitwa: Part 3 for more details) we did host a traditional Chinese, family style dinner for 150 of our dear friends and colleagues here in Beijing.  It was quite a feast! Luckily, Brett and I went for a tasting before hand as I don’t remember us sitting down long enough to eat any of the meal on the actual night of the party.  Between visiting each table to drink a shot of Mou Tai (Chinese liquor) with our Chinese guests and being toasted with Champagne by our Western guests…there was little time to do anything but “Cheers!”  Thankfully, I do remember being giving a bowl of rice by the lovely Connolly sisters to coat my tummy with something.

Here is the evening in pictures.  It really was such a memorable night.

Cocktail Hour. Explaining this concept to a very traditional Chinese restaurant was no easy chore. Passed hors d'oeuvres is just not the local way of doing things at a Chinese Wedding. In the end - they got it! Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Costume change! While it is actually a Chinese custom for the bride to change from her red dress into white...I didn't need an excuse for a second dress!

Notice the size of Brett's Mou Tai glass. We are no fools! The smaller the glass...the less you have to drink! By the way...I am holding my wine glass, NOT my Mao Tai glass.

These little Chinese women can drink! Look how she is showing off her empty glass. Bottoms up!

Thank you to all of our friends in China for celebrating such a special time with us.  Thank you to Michael and Natia Davitiashvili for joining us, two great friends from New York who just happened to be in town and gave their only Saturday night in Beijing to us!

While I am in “thank you” mode…Thank you Beijing for 2 very exciting years.  We have had our moments…and let’s be honest, I have certainly “hated” you from time to time – but overall it has been loads of fun.  You have brought me dozens of amazing new friends and countless once-in-a-lifetime moments.  Most importantly though, you have given Brett at I the opportunity to share a life-changing experience together, and for that I will be forever grateful.  Xie Xie!

All images courtesy of www.sweetvision.com.  The same amazing photographers who did our engagement photo shoot.  Click here to have a peek.

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A Bride in Beijing

17 Feb

A Kiss at the Carlyle

To say that we kicked off our 2-week trip to the States during Chinese New Year with a BANG! is a major understatement.  Within 4-hours of landing in NYC, Brett asked me to marry him…and I said YES!

So for all the romantics out there (but mainly for our friends and family – and who am I kidding, I want to have all the details in writing!) – I would love to share the story of how my wonderful new fiancé popped the question. Apparently, unbeknownst to me of course, his process began in late October when he started a search for the “stone”.  Props to Chris Carioti of Carioti Jewelers in Columbus, Ohio who managed to find exactly what Brett was looking for from 6800 miles away.  It took several months of back and forth via email (Brett only saw the ring in person for the first time just minutes before proposing) but by December Brett knew the ring would be ready in time for our trip to the States – so he put his proposal plans in motion.  He started by giving me two nights in a suite at the Carlyle Hotel, a New York institution and home to Bemelmans Bar – where we met, in my stocking on Christmas morning.  This was one of his ways of throwing me off the scent! The sudden increase in the number of “ifs” when referring to our future was another tactic…which (btw Brett) I could have done without!

 

I said YES!

Brett continued planning for the big night with the incredible help of Fred Petry, manager of the Carlyle.  I just want to say that Fred and every employee of the Carlyle from the concierge to the elevator operators were absolutely spectacular in every possible way.  Even upon arrival (looking like homeless rag-a-muffins and smelling like plane after our 14-hour flight from Beijing) we were greeted with the utmost respect.  Albeit – possibly because the comedian Elaine Stritch (a longtime resident of the Carlyle) was collecting her mail at the check-in desk while we were checking in, and she sarcastically wished us good luck “staying in this dump”.  The look of fear on the staffs’ faces  – unsure if we knew the famous comedian or not was a bit entertaining.

 

When we made it up to our room on the 33rd floor – I was in awe.  It was beautifully decorated

The Living Room

in classic upper east side style, and it felt like a real apartment.  We even had our own kitchen – stocked with amazing snacks, beautiful stemware, and a surplus of diet coke!  Of course, I immediately began to hoard the precious soaps and chocolates embossed with the Carlyle Crest

From silverware to pillows...everything was marked with a C

as I explored the room  – but Brett wanted nothing to do with it.  In fact – he was noticeably rushing me…something that he just doesn’t do. Mainly because he is a sweet and patient man – but probably also out of defeat that it doesn’t really work.

 

After getting fancied up, I suggested we enjoy a pre-cocktail hour cocktail in the comfort of our darling living room overlooking Central Park.  He apathetically agreed and then proceeded to drink his as if it were a shot.  Needless to say – I was seriously confused.  We had been planning to make this a “date night” for weeks knowing that the next day would commence our world wind trip of trying to see every single person possible all across the country.  I finished my drink faster than normal (trying to keep up) and we headed downstairs to Bemelmans.

Welcomed with a charming jazz quartet playing old standards – we instantly entered the world of MADMen.  Surrounded by whimsical murals of scenes from Central Park painted by Ludwig Bemelmans himself, this bar exudes classic Manhattan. The room was buzzing for a Monday night.  I noticed immediately that the exact two seats where we had met 20-months before were reserved.  I looked to him – he flashed a big grin – letting me know that it was his handy work.  Even then – I didn’t see what was coming. Possibly because on our last visit, almost a year earlier, we tried to sit in the seats but the two guests before us hogged them all night – never allowing us the opportunity.  It wasn’t until we sat down and ordered a drink that I began to realize what was happening…

Sweet treats in the room!

His nerves were the biggest give away – and it was really cute.  In those next few moments, he told me that from the first time he saw me sitting in that very seat as he walked into the bar, he realized that life as he knew it was about to change.  He told me that he never imagined finding such a perfect fit – that he had hoped for a love like this, but wasn’t sure that he would ever find it – and then, the biggest smile I had ever seen spread across his face, he pulled the ring from his pocket and said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Morgan.  Will you marry me?”  To which I replied, “Of course not.”  JUST KIDDING!  Of course – I said YES!  (For the traditional ladies out there – he didn’t kneel right then as the bar stools are really high – but later, he reenacted the moment and took a knee.  It was sweet.)

 

Countless hugs and kisses later (not at all creepy like Michael Scott and Holly during last week’s PDA episode of The Office) the celebration began with pink champagne and mini burgers.  After filling me in on all the details of his planning process, we headed back up to the room for “more surprises”.  While we had been toasting and calling family at the bar – the engagement elves had filled our room with hundreds of candles, pink roses, rose petals, chocolate treats, and a bottle of 1980 (the year of my birth) Dom Pérignon that Brett special ordered.  So thoughtful, right?

Our Special Champagne

 

We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning (it was easy with the help of our jet lag) talking, planning, and toasting to our future.  And in the morning – the only appropriate thing to do was to continue the celebration with room service.  It was a perfect night.  I am an extremely happy and an incredibly blessed lady!

And, obviously…I forgave him for rushing me!

The Morning After Breakfast...Everything Frette!

3 Weeks…7 Company Parties

31 Jan

Well – one thing is clear – the Chinese certainly finish out the year (the lunar calendar year) with an endless series of parties.  Here are a few pictures from our Nianhui (annual party) Marathon!

Xi'an BMW Showroom Grand Opening. FASHION: Ivory Silk Dolce and Gabanna Jacket with a Black Wool Pencil Skirt

We kicked off the celebrations with the Grand Opening of a new BMW Showroom on Xi’an’s newest and most prominent International Shopping Street.

With Chris – The Most Darling Girl from Xi’an!

Chris is the assistant to Harris, the General Manager of the Xi’an stores.  She is such a doll.  Not only does she help us plan our trips and arrange our entertainment during our stays – she also talks Gossip Girl with me!  (And let’s be honest – with Brett too. He is a shameless fan!)

Brett, Morgan, Oscar, Brandi, Fancy Nancy, and Terry. FASHION: Taupe and Black Lace Dress from Forever XXI with Leopard Print Stockings

Dinner with some of Brett’s Team – from accounting to IT.  Lucky for me – we didn’t have to discuss numbers or motherboards! And, I was able to speak Mandarin almost the entire meal.  Ok -it might have been 2nd grade Mandarin…but you have to start somewhere!

Nancy, Morgan, Brett

Fancy Nancy (as I call her – due to her love of bedazzling every office accessory on her desk with pink crystals) is Brett’s amazing assistant.  Her english is outstanding (after studying in New Zealand) and she is just a ball of fun!

Me and My Xi'an Boyfriend Edward. FASHION: Black and Royal Blue Polkadot Strapless Dress from Tootsies circa 1986

At the Xi’an Nianhui with Edward (Marketing Director of Xi’an stores and MC of the annual party) who introduced me as a Hollywood Movie Star to the crowd of 500 guests.  Who knew all I had to do was move to a country of brunettes to be considered a star?  Hair dye…worth it’s weight in gold!

Morgan and Brett Xi'an Nianhui

Seating assignments are taken very seriously in China.  In fact – there is a well known science to it.  Most (if not all) of the tables are round and seat up to 12 guests.  The guest of honor is seated in the center seat facing the stage – to the right and left are the next round of important guests (or me if I am with Brett!) and so on and so on.  The special seat is marked with a napkin folded to look like a dragon.   In a private room or residence, this seat would be placed furthest from the door, and it would be assumed that the person sitting in the special seat would pick up the check!

Urumqi Nianhui. FASHION: Lavender Silk BCBG Runway Cocktail Dress with Traditional Urumqi Headgear

Urumqi – a city in the most western province of China that borders Kazakhstan and has a population of over 2.5 million – was absolutely freezing!  I wore open toed shoes of course and lost feeling in my toes after hoofing through the snow.  But I mean – boots just don’t work with a cocktail dress.

Urumqi Nianhui Mask Game

In all fairness, Brett was blind folded when he drew this.  But should I be concerned if this is how he pictures me when his eyes are closed?  I sort of look like Sloth from The Goonies.

Filling the Ice Sculpture with Champagne at the Beijing Nianhui

This was actually pretty cool.  It originally looked like a big plain block of ice – but as it filled with the Champagne  – all of the NCGA brand logos (BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Volvo, and Mini) magically appeared!

Beijing Nianhui

This picture was taken seconds before Brett climbed into a black magic box to “appear” out of nowhere in front of the 1000+ guests.  After mysteriously emerging from the box – I was asked to verify his identity – which I did entirely in Chinese!  Maybe even 3rd grade Chinese!

Group Pic at Beijing Nianhui
Beijing Jaguar Showroom Grand Opening

This showroom (the largest in all of China) is absolutely stunning.  Hats off to the designer!  Also – a live band performed and at one point, Brett and I thought they were actually playing an Alicia Keys CD.  The singer was phenomenal!

Jaguar Showroom Opening

Brett and I with Fiona (left) one of the in-house attorneys and Sherry (right) the VP of HR.

Driver Dinner

Brett and I with our dear driver Allen whom we also consider to be our 21 year old son!  We (along with others and their drivers) treated him to Peking Duck and presented him with his Hong Bao (a red envelope filled with his year-end bonus).  It was his first time to try Maltai (a Chinese Wine that literally burns your throat and makes your face turn bright red!)  Needless to say – we provided him with a driver to get him home.  No drunk driving aloud!

Solena, Morgan, Allen, and Brett at Driver Dinner

Solena (our Chinese teacher AND friend) joined us for the dinner.

Allen and Brett

This season of company parties, while a bit exhausting, was also so much fun.  I love to experience new ways of celebrating!

Welcome 2011!

29 Jan

New Year's Eve 2011 at Maison Boulud

Maison Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s restaurant here in Beijing.  It is clearly the best “pretty” french food in town.  Although, we prefer Brasserie Flo for the classics like steak tartare and frisee salads!

NYE 2011! FASHION: Vintage Silver Lame Animal Print Strapless Dress with a Thin Black Patent Leather Belt, Michael Kors Pewter Platforms, and a Black and Silver Tulle Fascinator

I wanted to get a full length picture before the meal – or should I say…before the I put a giant food baby in my belly!  The dress was already a bit tight!

NYE 2011

The grand entrance to Maison Boulud – which at one time was the American Embassy.  It is absolutely stunning!

New Year's Eve Wrist Corsage

Like I said before (in the Christmas Eve Blog Entry)…I am trying to bring the wrist corsage back.  I actually just ordered 2 dozen elastic bands from a floral supply  store in the states.  I will be bringing them back to Beijing after our trip home next week!  Can’t wait!  The options are endless here as far as flowers go – and they are soooo cheap!

New Year's Day at Union Cafe in Sanlitun

We went to Union Cafe (a western restaurant that caters to expats) in search of Black Eyed Peas, Pork, and Greens…no luck! Hopefully – this doesn’t mean 2011 is going to be a bust.  Fingers crossed!

Happy 2011 to you all!  Or better yet…Tu Nian Kuai Le!  Happy Bunny Year!

The Circus Comes to Cairo…Tents, Belly Dancers & a Lion!

11 Oct

Birthday Dinner by The Great Pyramids! FASHION: Off White Linen One Shoulder Jumpsuit with Detachable Gold Lame and Metallic Green Brocade Skirt. Tailored Made in China.

Our last day in Cairo fell on my actual birthday (which I had clearly been celebrating for over a week already…typical only child, right?). Spoiled by a fantastic boyfriend – I woke up to the sound of room service wheeling in a table with fresh pancakes and cold champagne. While the waiter popped the cork, Brett surprised me with another birthday treat – stunning diamond hoops.  The day was off to a spectacular start! Although I must say that I would have been happy with a bowl of Rice Krispies and a Hallmark Card – so long as Brett was there beside me.  That said – what girl doesn’t like champagne and diamonds!

The plan for the day was pretty simple:  room service, a bit of sightseeing and lunch, some pool time, and dinner in a tent overlooking the pyramids.  In my opinion, it was the equation to the PERFECT 30th birthday!  A good friend of mine recommended a lunch spot in Al-Azhar Park that overlooks the Citidel and offers lovely views of the entire city.  The weather was actually very pleasant that day with a nice breeze, and because it was Friday (the Muslim equivalent to Sunday for Christians) the park was hopping!  Honestly, I was a little concerned when we first got in line to buy our tickets to the park.  I couldn’t believe it – the ticket counters were divided by gender!   Brett and I had to stand in separate lines.  Although the funniest thing about it was that my line moved faster, and I was still able to buy 2 tickets.   So – it really didn’t make all that much sense….

Lunch in Al Azhar Park. FASHION: Silk Chiffon Animal Print Jumpsuit with Metallic Gold Empire Waste Detail. Tailored Made in China.

Inside the gates, the park was filled with people.  It was wonderful to see all the families scattered about sharing picnics and playing games.  We strolled for a bit and weaved our way to the restaurant, located at the highest point of the park to provide the most optimal views of Cairo.  While the park appeared to be full of locals, the restaurant had more of an eclectic crowd of tourists from all over the world.  The menu offered some familiar options (sandwiches, salads, etc.) as well as some popular Egyptian dishes.  After stuffing our bellies and taking in the views, we heading back to the hotel to relax by the pool.

SIDE NOTE: I want to be sure that I am clear about something for anyone visiting Cairo….even though I have not mentioned it – we did NOT skip the Egyptian Museum.  It is a must see!  How can you leave this city without seeing the mummies and the treasures from King Tut’s tomb?  The answer is that you cannot!  Tip: you have to check your camera at a little security building outside of the museum by the ticket office.  We learned this the hard way and waited in line to get inside the museum twice.  Also, we went without a tour guide, but I think you might find a guide helpful.  The museum is in the process of moving to a new location, and it is not all that easy to navigate.

Now….back to the birthday! After the perfect amount of Vitamin D, we headed up to the room to shower and get ready for dinner.  Our fabulous concierge, Noha, organized a tent dinner for us overlooking the pyramids.  She timed the reservation perfectly for sunset.  We feasted over lamb and chicken kofta (kabobs), delicious hummus, and other Egyptian cuisine.  Not to mention…I smoked a hookah pipe for the first time in my life.  The most popular flavor of tobacco used is apple.  Truthfully, this

Smoking a Hookah Pipe

sounded terrible to me (let’s just say there may have been an incident in college involving an apple martini) but it was actually sort of fun and the apple taste wasn’t very strong.

At the end of dinner, Noha came to escort us to a “different” table for dessert.  Little did we know that she (with help of course) had prepared an entire surprise birthday party complete with balloons, confetti, belly dancers, traditional Egyptian performers, and cake!  What a treat! We even got to learn a little belly dancing ourselves….

Surprise Party!

While Brett and I rested from the belly dancing lessons (harder than you might think) in the tent, I noticed a man in the distance holding what appeared to be a rather large dog. Brett agreed that something looked a bit off, and slowly we both realized that not even Cujo had paws that size.  It was not a dog at all – it was a lion.  I knew that it was probably some sort of money making scheme – but I really didn’t care. How many opportunities do you get to hold a baby lion?  Plus – it saved me the expense of a microdermabrasion treatment. Their tongues are no joke.

At the end of this perfect night, I found myself feeling sincerely guilty.  It had been the best day. Thank you, Noha and everyone at the Four Seasons 1st Residence!  To Brett – there are no words…. You seriously outdid yourself!

Next up:  Luxor

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