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Tag Archives: love

Royal Russia – Day 2

5 Feb

Our second day in Saint Petersburg was completely dedicated to the Royals.  It started with a trip to Pushkin to visit the summer palaces and ended with a fine meal at Tsar.  Pushkin seems a bit like the Hamptons of Saint Pete…sans beach of course.  In addition to numerous Royal Palaces, modern-day Pushkin is full of summer houses belonging to Russia’s upper class.  Our first stop was Catherine’s Palace – nothing if not over-the-top.  Gilded…gilded…everywhere!

Although this palace was originally commissioned by Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great.  It was her daughter Elizabeth, who oversaw the completion of the palace in all its gleaming splendor.  Her specific request to architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli was to build –  “a palace with truly splendid ornaments, fit to be an abode for the ruler of a huge empire”.  And so he did…

In the Grand Ballroom of Catherine's Palace

It turned out that our decision to brave the freezing cold in order to visit Russia in the winter and fulfill our Dr. Zhivago fantasies had other perks…NO other tourists.  We ultimately had all of the Royal Palaces to ourselves.  I don’t think any of these pictures would have been possible in the summertime with wall to wall people.

The main staircase inside The Catherine Palace.  I think I tour guide did a nice job snapping this picture!

Before touring The Pavlovsk Palace, commissioned by Catherine II (i.e. Catherine the Great) for her son Paul, we decided to take a little sleigh ride in the beautiful and freshly fallen white snow!

To be honest…it was almost (okay it was) too cold for this frosty little ride.  But I knew that we could not come back from Russia and tell my Mama Jean (my 80-year-old grandmother who loves snow and all things Russian) that we did not take a “Troika” ride.

After Pavlovsk Palace, we toured The Alexander Palace, built by Catherine the Great for her favorite grandson, Alexander I.  Of course the Palace itself was quite grand, but it was the history of it that intrigued us most.  This palace eventually housed the last Tsar of Russia – Nicolas II, and it felt more like a home than any of the others.  My absolute favorite display case of all is pictured above – Romanov baby clothes.   They really put Baby Gap to shame.

At the end of a full day of trekking through palaces, we decided to treat ourselves to another meal of traditional Russian cuisine at Tsar.  More caviar…more vodka…and their delicious cherry dumplings!

Post dinner dancing at Tsar Restaurant

Stay tuned for Royal Russia – Day 3!

 

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From Russia with NO Love

2 Feb

Walking down the never-ending hallway of LEFT luggage....

I suppose it is not really fair to use the phrase “NO Love” when, in fact, we did feel a Dr. Zhivago and Lara kind of love during our time in Russia.  That said, it is very fair to say that immediately upon arrival, we felt NO love.

It all started when Aeroflot decided to cancel the redeye flight from Beijing.  This forced us to take the morning flight 12 hours earlier than intended and add an overnight in Moscow.  Honestly, we were thrilled.  Our original plan was to visit Saint Petersburg only. Now we had the opportunity to see their capital city and experience some serious Russian nightlife!  I immediately booked a hotel  – just feet from Red Square and began chatting with the concierge about bookings for the evening.  Thanks to our great friend, Michael Davitiashvili and his wonderful recommendations, we were set with a 9PM dinner at Pushkin on the 2nd floor in their romantic Library room, 11:30 after dinner drinks and dancing at Karlson, and a 2AM reservation for dessert and more dancing at the Soho Rooms.  It could have been the perfect evening…but as you may have guessed by now – we never made it.

Perhaps it was excitement that clouded our judgement or perhaps it was just plain ignorance, but neither Brett nor I thought about the implications that arriving to Russia 12 hours earlier might have on our Visas.  You see – getting into Russia is not a cake walk.  The visa application alone is quite comprehensive – requiring all sorts of personal history including details of education, employment, and family.  Somehow – even after completing this lengthy process, it still did not occur to us that our Visas would have such rigid arrival and departure dates.  After all, every other country we have visited that requires Visas (which of late has been almost all of them) offers a window of at least 30 days for arrival and departure.  We now know (after learning by way of quarantine) that Russia is an exception.

The truth is – we noticed the specificity of the dates on our Visas for the first time as we were filling out our immigration arrival cards at 30,000 feet just 30 minutes before landing in Moscow.  Initially is seemed like a cause for concern, but our flight attendants assured us that everything would be fine.  In retrospect, I believe that they were just trying to shelter us from our inevitable fate; and that they didn’t want to disrupt our last glass of champagne before being thrown to the immigration wolves. I may have done the same thing…I mean – who wants to be the bearer of bad news if you don’t have to be?

When we got to the immigration hall, I received a text message that our car service was waiting for us just outside of baggage claim.  We believed (thanks to the false positives of the Aeroflot Crew) that are trip was off to the perfect start.  Immigration was blowing people through the lines, and in no time at all, it was our turn.  Unfortunately, “our turn” turned out to last for almost 10 hours…

While our plane landed at 4:40PM – we were not allowed into the country until midnight.  After flying for 8 hours, the last thing you want to do is hang out in the airport for another 8…especially when you have already reached your destination!  We begged and pleaded to no avail.  Finally, a member of the security crew of the airport  came to our rescue – sort of.  He agreed to escort us to the First Class Lounge and free us from immigration purgatory where there wasn’t even so much as a water fountain.  Unfortunately for us though, the Olympian skilled speed walker was already out of sight when we discovered that our previous first class boarding passes did not currently qualify us to relax in the lounge.  So – from immigration purgatory, we had now entered duty-free purgatory.  Bad duty-free purgatory –  liquor and cigarette only duty-free.

What else could we do but laugh?  Perhaps I laughed after I shed a couple of silly girl tears…but I assure you that the laughing came fairly soon!  We decided to get something to eat, have a beer, and then try to find a place to get some rest before our freedom would ring at the stroke of midnight.

Not exactly Belluga...and not exactly the Blinis or toast points we were hoping for! But we did have pre-packed butter and plastic knives so that's something.

I am not sure why we thought airport caviar would be a good idea…but when in Russia, right?  It was definitely not the caviar tasting experience that I was expecting…but that would come later.  Looking back, I kind of love the way it turned out.  I mean – at least I didn’t fall into a fire or anything!

At 11:30, after several hours of terrible sleep piled up like two puppies on a park bench, we trekked back to the security office to wait for an officer to escort us back to the immigration hall.  At 11:50, a half-naked man poked his head out of the office door to say he would be with us in 5 minutes.  A man of his word, the three of us were on our way to immigration at 11:55PM.  We arrived at 11:57 and were told to wait for 3 minutes.  3 minutes became 10 – but at 12:07 we were released!  Not without being fined first though –  for breaking their immigration laws. 2000 Rubles each (about $75 USD).

I received yet another text message alert that a second car service had been sent and was waiting for us again just outside baggage claim.  (FYI – we had to pay for the first one as well – which is awesome!)  We thought we had reached the promise land…but we were wrong.  Apparently, it is just too easy for them to leave your bags in the terminal in which you arrive.  So they sent our bags to a far, far away Moscow airport land.  For those of you who have spent anytime in the Moscow International Airport, you can appreciate what this meant.  It meant a 10 minute drive plus an hour-long walk down what seemed to be the longest, most disturbing hallway (outside of a mental institution) that I have ever seen.  Eventually, we were reunited with our bags – but there was no shortage of paperwork filled out in order to claim them.  And why have a copy machine when you can just re-write the 3 page bag-reclaim application by hand 3 times?

It was after 2 AM before we reached our hotel.  According to our original plan, we would have been sitting down for a delicious dessert at The Soho Rooms…instead we opted to share a Ritz cheeseburger and hit the sack.  We drifted off to sleep with prayers for a brighter tomorrow.  It’s affirmative.  God does answer prayers!

Stayed tuned for the rest of our Russian tale….I promise it get’s better – and so do the pictures!

TRAVEL TIP:  When we return to Russia (and we will because despite the above story – it is absolutely lovely) we will most definitely allow for wiggle room in our agenda.  The fact that it is necessary for an American Tourist to be sponsored by a hotel (or other travel institution) makes this a bit difficult.  If we had it to do over, we would have initially booked our stay in the hotel for a longer period of time, obtained our Visas, and then altered the reservation for our actual intended stay.  There are probably even better ways to do this…just be sure to look into all the details before you take-off!

Royal Russia Up Next!

Circus of Love: Family, Friends & Festive Features!

30 Dec

My dear Auntie Lorna reminded me this week via email (during an apparent moment of insomnia…it was 4AM Beijing time) that I never finished uploading the rest of the photos from The Circus of Love.  This was a complete oversight on my part.  With the Chinese wedding, the trip to South Africa, the burn incident, the Hutchinson visit (those pics to come soon), Brett’s birthday, and then the holidays…it totally slipped my mind!

I think I have actually saved the best for last though – the pictures of our family, friends, and the festive atmosphere (created with the amazing help of my mom and Aunt Lorna) are so much fun.  Enjoy!

**If you missed the other entries about the Circus of Love – here they are: Calling All Circus of Love Guests, An Upstaged Bride, Southern Ladies and Their Lipstick, Silly Schafers…Tricks are for kids, Happy Couple at the Circus of Love, The Classy Bride.

Tates, Raglands, Hites, Bolins, Lehnings, Neelley's, and newly wed Hutchinsons!

The Hutchinson Klan

Greeting our Guests!

Besides being greeted by us, our guests were also welcomed with the sounds of a vintage carnival themed horn section, cotton candy, and circus themed cocktails like Mint Julep Snow Cones and Spiked Pink Lemonade.

It's a Mo-Mo! My wonderful mom. I don't what was causing her to look so serious...maybe it was the power outage issues. The venue wasn't used to having so many "carnival" food stations. In fact...every time the cotton candy machine started going - the band lost power! In the end, we opted for dancing over spun sugar.

With my Dad and Becky

My sweet Alabama ladies. Brandace Burnham, Morgan Hutchinson, Christa Crow and Jessica Solon.

We really wanted to have fun with the decorations.  Hence, the Morgan and Brett flying trapeze artists in the background of the picture above.  You can get your own custom set at www.cardboardpeople.com!  We also used hundreds of yards of awning striped fabric in circus bright colors, striped table clothes, giant 36″ helium balloons, and any other circus inspired trinkets we could find to play up the theme.

Brett chatting with the Alabama gents. I have to assume the topic of conversation was SEC football.

Part of the NYC Crew. Shana Spavin and Jill Hacker.

With one of Brett's childhood friends, Kelly Campbell.

With mom and two of her best friends from college. These lovely ladies (plus 5 more) have been getting together every summer for over 30 years! Love it.

With cousin Lizzie and Aunt Cindy.

Friends since the first grade. Ellen Carpenter and Morgan Hutchinson

Columbus ladies taking advantage of the candy cigarettes!

Tate Family Dance Number. We had to at least "try" to keep up with the Schafers!

Mom and I with great family friends - Ruth and Anne Bligh.

With the Amazing Hutchinson sisters - Emmy and Jess! Looks like all of us had just made a trip to the Pabst Blue Ribbon bucket!

With my Auntie Lorna. Thank you so much for your help and creativity. The Circus of Love would not have been the same without you!

With my fantastic mother-in-law!

Pretty in Pink with Fiona!

A big thanks to the lady who introduced us in the first place! With Miss Shana Spavin.

With Leigh and Damir. Love Leigh's self-made feather accessory!

In addition to the rides and games, we also hired a stilt walker, a flame thrower, and a unicyclist to keep the guests entertained.  Truth be told though – it was the silly stuff on the prize table that kept them happy all night!  Who knew that wax lips and bangle bracelets would be so popular?

Newlyweds - Brett and Morgan Hutchinson with Andy and Jess Schemick

With Christina and George Karolis...and their little one that was still a bun-in-the-oven at the time!

Dancing with my dad

We danced to the lovely sounds of Mr. and Mrs. Todd Hill and the Todd Hill Band. Here is the lovely Kala Hill.

Todd Hill singing and playing one of the classic tunes they are known for.

Dancing with Aunt Lorna and Nannie.

With my two gorgeous grand-mothers: Jean Blankenship and Bettie Tate

One of my favorite pictures of the night. The lovely Mrs. Amy Barto getting her groove on!

Of course, Brett and I also wanted to be sure that our “outfits” were Circus of Love appropriate.  So, we added special details whenever we could – like the pink lining of Brett’s dinner jacket with M+B monogrammed on the inside and our special shoes!

Thank you to our wonderful family and friends for celebrating with us!  Sharing our Circus of Love with each of you was such a blessing.  Thank you to our parents for countless hours of help, for storing loads of “Circus” paraphernalia in your homes, and specifically to the Hutchinsons for a fantastic golf tournament, Friday Night BBQ, and Sunday Brunch at the Club.

We would also like to send big thank yous to A Catered Event – the catering company who helped create the perfect “carnie” menu, Laura at White Star Farm – our venue, Sterling Funways for the rides and entertainments, and Abigail at Eden Ink Photography for capturing every moment so perfectly.

Images courtesy of Eden Ink Photography.

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.

A Burnt Bride

23 Dec

After our ceremony in the wide open bush (see Chitwa Chitwa Part Three for more details) we were taken to a surprise location for a romantic wedding dinner for two.  Tucked away in the quaint courtyard of the lodge and centered around a roaring fire-pit, the crew at Chitwa, once again amazed us with a perfectly picturesque setting.

A lovely wedding dinner for two!

Within a few minutes of being seated, we began to hear a rumbling of strange noises…drums…unusual calling sounds – and then they appeared!  An authentic tribe of African dancers to perform for us!

These dancers were no joke. Completely in sync with their moves and their chanting. Incredible!

Then…they ask us to join in the fun with a special serenade for us to have yet another first dance (officially our fourth!).

Then the party really got started (before dinner of course…I mean why not?).  The leader of the group called out to all with a loud party cry!  I have never heard anything quite like it.  I hope to hear it again some day!

African Style Congo Line!

This is when things started to go south…Actually – when they started to go DOWN south…down in flames really…

The photograph above was the last picture taken at our African Bush Wedding Celebration…why you might ask?  Well…moments later when my feet actually came back down to earth, they were completely twisted and intertwined with my wedding dress – which caused me to lose my balance ,and I fell flat on my back into the FIRE!  That’s right…at that very moment I became A Blonde Burnt Bride in the Bush!

Luckily, the tribe leader and Brett were able to pull me from the flames in record time.  Thank God.  Do you know how much aerosol hairspray I use?  I would have gone up like a nuclear bomb if my entire head of hair had hit.  I did lose a few locks – but the real victims were the dress and my back.  “Sorry” to our future daughter (or maybe a, “you’re welcome” is more likely in order) wearing your mother’s wedding dress will not be an option.

Thanks to Shannon – Dr. Shannon that is – lodge manager, wedding planner, and burn unit warrior extraordinaire – things turned out much better than they could have.  The lodge had all the tools and equipment necessary, and she had the skills to treat my wounds (2nd and 3rd degree burns) just as a hospital would have (which was hours away BTW).  Note to self: avoid dancing around fire-pits when miles away from medical care.  In fact: avoid dancing around  fire-pits all together.

The shock of it all (and let’s be honest the Champagne probably helped the cause) allowed me to power through it for a bit.  Truth be told, I remember laughing about it at first.  Thinking…you silly blonde you.  What a hoot!  That hoot turned into serious hurt within about 30 minutes – leaving our lovely wedding dinner uneaten and a beautiful 3-tiered pink wedding cake uncut.  (Silver lining…wedding cake for breakfast for the rest of our stay at Chitwa Chitwa.)

Back in our room, the smell of singed skin, scorched silk, and burnt hair (sounds lovely for your honeymoon night right?) filled the air.  Shannon was in and out throughout the night checking and/or changing the dressings on my back and arm.  Let’s just say – it wasn’t an ideal situation for romance.  That and the fact that they gave me some crazy pain killers that knocked me out….  But – it does make for a great story now, right?  Frankly, even if this entry has bored the pants off of you, I hope you will at least lie to me.

The picture above was taken a few days later when we were finally near a pharmacy on our way to another lodge.  The pharmacist prescribed an antibiotic and Silvadene creme (this stuff works miracles).  My arm had nothing on my back…but my back just looked too gross to show the pictures.  I would like to report that 3 months later – things are looking much better.  I will most likely have permanent scars – but at least Stefan du Plessis got a lot of pictures of me in a backless dress that day.  Plus, I know how much worse this could have been.  I thank my lucky stars (i.e. God) every day, and I am more than happy to LIVE with scars.  And truthfully, the happy memories of that day way outweigh the burnt ones.

Images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis – South Africa Photographer.

Chitwa Chitwa Part 3 – A Bride in the Bush

21 Dec

Brett and I decided to say our vows to each other at sunset in the wide open bush of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve in South Africa.  Countless emails were exchanged between our travel consultant, myself, and the amazing team at Chitwa Chitwa to create the perfect setting for our special moment.  Bags upon bags of rose petals were ordered for the aisle.  An unusual duo of musicians (a classical violinist and an African drummer ) were hired to create the perfect background melody. Pink roses were selected for bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Pink Champagne was ordered for celebratory toasting.  A perfect spot was chosen and decorated with lanterns and candles galore.  And of course, a minister was hired to bless the vows and the marriage.  For how many guests you might ask?  Well…for two!  It was just Brett and myself (and our new friends at Chitwa Chitwa). That is all you really need though, right?  A Bride and a Groom.

Very little about the day could be considered traditional.  I mean our guest list consisted of a herd of giant Water Bucks…  Also, the fact that the Bride and Groom got ready together.  I did wait to put on my dress until after they had taken Brett to the ceremony spot…but for the make-up and hair roller portion of the primping process – we were together!  The day was lovely – perfect really,except for one little, itsy bitsy glitch – but I will save that for later!

Here is the our day summed up in pictures photographed by the wonderful Stefan du Plessis.  Warning!!  Lots of photos!

Brett sees me like this every day...I figure he must like it or he wouldn't have proposed in the first place! (Although, I am not sure why I am posting it for all of you to see!)

My good-looking groom tying his wedding tie.

Oops! I guess I should have waited to apply my lipstick until after I kissed him goodbye. The groom is not supposed to have ruby-red lips, right? Brett & Morgan Hutchinson

The Dress! I designed and had this made here in Beijing. It was my something new and my something blue!

Brett on his way to the ceremony site. Just about a 5-10 minute drive through the bush.

The elegantly rustic archway that God and the team of Chitwa Chitwa created. (God because the tree became an archway when it was struck by lightning). Tristan, our ranger even made the rails on either side of the arch with fallen branches and covered them with lanterns.

Here comes the bride! (In her open-top ride...) Hair and veil be damned!

The groom - what a jack of all trades. He escorted me down the aisle as well.

The lovely sounds of Anneke Coetzer. In fact, I think their unique beat would be perfect for Hotel Costes soundtrack!

Of course I already knew that I loved this man...what I did not know is what a poet he is. Truth be told...his vows put mine to shame 🙂 Morgan Hutchinson

My turn now! I did get a big laugh from our guests (Water Buck excluded) when I pulled them from my cleavage...I mean - it's not like my wedding dress had pockets!

The prayer and blessing after our vows.

Now you may kiss the bride!

Signing our marriage certificate. This one is just for show...the real one was done back in Beijing. That said - if you are planning to wed in South Africa, they can take care of everything for you so that your marriage is also legal in the USA (or other countries for that matter).

Our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Brett Hutchinson! (Okay...to be fair - it was our third. First at the Circus of Love and second at our Chinese Wedding celebration). Third time is a charm, right? Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Popping some pink bubbly!

This might be my favorite. You can see the Water Buck in the background! Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Just look how perfectly Stefan captured the sunset in our hands

I actually requested the photos on this termite mound. Why you ask?? Because termites are incredible. Not the "eat your deck" kind of termites. They are terrible. South African termites; however, are the bee's knees. The queen can live to be 20 years old and she can lay 300,000 eggs a day. Can you believe that? A 20-year-old insect. Plus they make their own food - it is a fungus, but still. I mean - I love mushrooms so who I am I to judge. Seriously - I heart nature.

Our get-away car! Chitwa Chitwa...you left no stone unturned. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Tristan let me use his Ranger's Rifle as a prop for a few photos. Don't get any ideas - the problem I mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry did not involve me shooting myself or anyone else for that matter!

Just before taking off for our night-time game drive. That's right...we went to see the lions eat before we ate our own wedding meal - in full wedding garb and all. Surreal to say the least!

Since this entry is already quite long…and very photo heavy, I am going to write about the wedding dinner and party portion of the evening separately.  This way I can keep you in suspense as to what went WRONG on our wedding day.  Believe me… it was pretty terrible.   But when looking back, it does make for a great story.  Stay tuned!

All images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis Photography

Chitwa Chitwa Part Two with Stefan du Plessis

21 Dec

On the morning of our wedding ceremony, we asked our wedding photographer to join us on the morning game drive.  His photos gave us an entirely different perspective than those that we took.  Stefan’s  pictures confirmed to us that even though we have the same camera base (Canon 7D) – skill and type of lens (but mostly skill) make all the difference!

Up and at 'em! 5 AM and ready to see the big 5!

Our transportation for the week

Brett cracking me up as usual...what "Brettism" could he have possibly just said??

Treking through the bush to get closer to a group of giraffes

Morning coffee on game drive

Chatting with the gang about the weather report...it was calling for rain that night. Rain, rain go away!

Finding our perfect ceremony spot...an open area of the bush with a tree struck by lightning forming a natural archway. Of course the crew at Chitwa Chitwa transformed it later into something even more magical!

Brett taking a little bathroom break in the bush behind a termite mound...

With Tristan and Natalee talking ceremony details. I really do prefer candid shots. Thank you, Stefan for capturing every moment of the day!

Our version of a rehearsal...

As my favorite 2-year-old little girl, Drewsie Willson would say, "I am hap-hap-happy!"

I pray that we are still making each other laugh like this 40 years from now!

 

Trying my hand at photographing hungry lions

These big guys took down this baby Cape Buffalo and cleaned it out within 24 hours. Their bellies were so full they looked pregnant!

Nature is amazing. So is this photo!

With a pride of 4 male lions surrounding our range rover, I love the fact that we were still more interested in each other. Or as Cory Hutchinson and Brett Sweyer would mockingly sing, "Young love!"

Sitting down for breakfast after the drive. I swear we ate more on this 3-week trip than we usually do in an entire year!

At breakfast with the sweet and very helpful staff of Chitwa Chitwa. Thanks for the paparazzi-esque shot, Stefan!

Sitting down with the minister who married us later that day. Lovely man. Jesus lover and great joke teller. Killer combo.

After this breakfast we went for massages, manicures, and some down time in the room to finalize our wedding vows to each other.  I highly recommend writing your own vows.  We  said the traditional ones as well – but saying our own made it even more special – and honestly, more real.

Wedding pictures up next!

All images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis Photography.

 

 

Classy Bride?

25 Sep

I don’t know if it was the carnival theme itself that made me forget that I was the “bride” or just the nature of being a Kentucky girl at heart that brought out my “trashy” side…but after looking through the photos, I realized that I may have had a few questionable moments at the Circus of Love.  I mean – there was a point when my mother’s amazing friend, Jeannetta, told me to put down “one” of my drinks.  Seriously…a double-fisting bride?  Who did I think my groom was? Edward Forty-Hands?

Taking a shot of Blanton's with my friend, Ellen. Clearly, she is also a Kentuckian!

 

Big Top Bourbon Tasting

 

Ouch! Caught "pink" handed with 2 drinks!

 

Cracking open a Pabst Blue Ribbon!

 

Why toast with champagne when you have PBR?

Images courtesy of Eden Ink Photography

Paris in the Springtime….Part I

3 Jun

There is a reason that a song was written for this time of year in Paris…because springtime in Paris is absolute perfection!  And while one doesn’t need an excuse to visit the city in all of its blooming glory, what better reason to go than a Parisian Wedding of a fellow Kentuckian childhood friend?!

Like any trip to Paris – ours was filled with delicious cuisine, tasty wines, outdoor cafes, rich culture, high-end window shopping, and a highly contagious “c’est la vie” attitude.  I think I can best describe the trip through our photos…they speak much louder than my words!

First though, on a quick practical note – I would like to share with any Beijingers traveling to Paris that we flew on the direct flight from PEK to CDG on Air France which left around 11AM getting us to Paris by 2:30PM.  This was actually really convenient timing – it allowed us to check it, take a quick catnap, and freshen up before hitting the town that night.  On our last visit we took a redeye on Aeroflot and connected through Moscow.  This trip was much easier and we were more adapt to “Parisian time” (i.e. waiting until 10-11AM to really get the day started!).

For the first 2 nights in Paris, we stayed in a lovely Relais & Chateaux hotel in the 8th Arrondissement near the L’Arc de Triomphe.  Lucky for us – we were able to communicate with our taxi driver very easily…because he spoke English?  NO!  Because he was Chinese/French and he spoke Mandarin!  www.hoteldanielparis.com

   

Hotel Daniel in Paris

Living Room at Hotel Daniel - So Cozy!

On our first night, we started at Hotel Amour in the 9th Arr. for a romantic dinner for two in their outdoor courtyard.  The hotel is a bit edgy with a fashionable crowd, and the food was tasty.  Not Guy Savoy tasty – but not Guy Savoy prices either.  It was a very reasonable dinner (great prices on wine) and the setting was lively and Parisian chic.  I recommend a reservation – specifically for one of the hidden tables in the back, tucked among beautiful hedges in a glow of candlelight.  TIP: It is a bit difficult to find a direct contact online.  I suggest emailing your concierge to make the booking for you.

Outside the Amour Hotel. Not our best photo – but the crowd was a bit too cool for tourists! Clearly – this is a self-portrait.

Bird's Eye View of Amour Hotel's Outdoor Restaurant Seating

After dinner we grabbed a taxi to the recently renovated Royal Monceau Hotel (a Raffles Hotel) for a few drinks at Le Bar Long.  It was here where we found our second wind…a second wind to the level of a couple of 21 year olds and we would pay for this later!  Specifically, we would pay for this the next morning!  Maybe we can still go out like 21 year olds – but we can certainly not recover like them!

From The Royal Monceau we headed to Le Baron (in the 8th Arr.  Opens around 1AM).  Proud of ourselves for getting “in” ahead of a line full of 18-22 year old extremely put together Parisians, we danced the night away and left around 4:30 AM with sore feet, hungry bellies, and an inevitable headache on the way. But…what a fun way to get there!

Needless to say, we slept in on Friday and room service seemed the only option for our first meal of the day – around 11!  Afterwards, we threw on some clothes and hit the streets with the intent of buying a wedding gift for the happy couple.  Unfortunately, after unsuccessful visits to the bridal registries at Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, we realized that Jennifer and Jean Marc were actually registered at Bon Marche.  With too little time to get there, we scurried back to the hotel to get ready for the rehearsal dinner and shop for the betrothed online at  www.mariage.lebonmarche.fr. Finally…success!  And let’s be honest, a bit of window shopping in two of the most famous department stores in Paris was not so bad…

Unsuccessful Shopping Excursion. I apparently decided to dress like a human traffic cone.

I love that he is still this jolly after two failed attempts at bridal registries. What a good husband!

Our very kind cab driver made a quick stop by the L'Arc de Triomphe for a photo op on the way to the rehearsal dinner. Who says the French are snobs? I think they are quite lovely!

 

Outside the Buttes Chaumont Park in the 19th Arrondissement. The dinner was inside this beautiful park at Le Pavillon du Lac. It was a fantastic evening full of great conversation with old and new friends alike! FASHION: Vintage 1980's Silk Carolina Herrera Jumpsuit & Red Bottega Veneta Clutch

Paris in the Springtime…Part Deux COMING SOON!

Engagement Photo Shoot in Beijing

16 Mar

Our engagement photo shoot in Beijing had everything a girl could ask for…a Bride, a Brett, and a plate full of bugs! Okay – scorpions, silk worms, and a star fish to be exact.  BTW – scorpions and star fish are not so bad – but silk worms…they are disgusting!

Thanks to the wonderful photographers at GIB Studio, our day of picture taking out and about in Beijing (albeit freezing cold Beijing) was a true success.  We wanted an authentic Chinese feel to them – and I think we got it! From bug eating on a snack street in Wang Fu Jing to sightseeing at the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we had a blast celebrating our engagement Beijing Style.  We also spent a little bit of time in the studio.  I have to admit that is was hilarious to see what a little ham I am about to marry!

For information on hiring GIB Studios for your next photo shoot please contact them directly:

  • 186-0127-5025
  • gibphotostudio@gmail.com
  • www.gibstudio.com
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