#MyBestFriendsWedding Chapter 7 Meets #TravelTuesdays – Nola Bach Weekend Activities

You guys know by now that I can write for days on end, but this entry will be three Harry Potter books-long if I don’t reel myself in. So I’m diving right into the day-by-day itinerary of the bachelorette I planned for my biff Michelle. Buckle up!

*If you want a version of the plain hourly itinerary without my schpeal, here you go!*

Thursday, March 1st: Arrivals, Set-up, Welcome! 

I flew out early on Thursday morning to set up the apartment. Vanessa (Michelle’s future SIL) and her friend Stephanie were also flying in early for a meeting with a client, and Ashtine (bridal party) would land in the afternoon. The bride and the rest of the crew would arrive at night.  I headed to our HomeAway rental (Michelle wanted us all together, so a hotel was not really an option) as soon as I landed – this place was kind of a miracle find after endless searches on AirBnB, VRBO, etc. because 1. It’s a newly built condo (in an old building), 2. The location is PERFECT, near Bourbon and Frenchmen but not in the midst of the party craze and 3. The price was about half of what all other rentals in the area. MIRACLE I tell you! Stephanie put together the welcome boxes for the girls before heading out to her meeting, and I had a light lunch at Cafe Envie right across the street while I waited for Ashtine to arrive. Once she landed, she came with me to the nearest Walmart (the one on Tchoupitulas, which has a full Liquor Store inside) to stock up on supplies for the apartment. I’ll link you to my shopping list, which includes some things I forgot (since I’m not a coffee drinker, I forgot about the cream and sugar, but there was some in the apartment thankfully). I ordered Uber Eats from Louisiana Pizza Kitchen to have at the apartment waiting while we got the girls at the airport. Caro had this awesome idea to get picked up at the airport in a party bus, so we booked with Luxe Limousine, and our driver Darrow was AWESOME! He was there early, and even accommodated our request to stop for a drink right before dropping us off. Thanks Darrow! Once we got to the apartment, we quickly changed, ate, and headed out to party on Bourbon! The best stop of the night was undoubtedly Cats Meow, which is always a great time with nostalgia-driven karaoke, and consistently great MCs running the show! We even got on stage for a rendition of single ladies 😉

 

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Friday, March 2nd: NON-STOP Activities! 

We started off our morning with light breakfast in the apartment from our shopping spree the day before, and we had planned to do the Panty Line Poem (an activity where all in attendance get a pair of underwear that celebrates a specific milestone for the bride/couple, and goes with a poem) for Michelle at this time. We caught her totally off guard and she absolutely loved it! Then, we headed to what would probably be the most memorable meal of the whole trip (and I knew it would be) – Atchafalaya. I came here during my first trip to Nola back in 2014, and it was my first meal priority for the bach. Their largest table accommodates 12 and we were 13 so they split us in side by side tables, but it was totally fine and WORTH IT. Try the grits. Just trust me. Then, we headed to the Gray Line Original Walking Cocktail Tour, which was a very informative and fun walk around hidden gems of the French Quarter with so much history and great boozy drinks! The group got to try Absinthe, Sazeracs, Sidecars (my personal favorite), Hurricanes (the good kind, stay away from the Pat O’Brien’s blend!), and more! After the tour we headed back to the apartment to get ready for the nighttime activity: Drag Show! Now I have to say, on the website, they advertised a Diva Royale “Real Housewives of New Orleans” show which I thought would be so much fun for the group, but they called us earlier in the day to let us know that they were merging the show with the guys from Hunk-O-Mania… aka male strippers. Basically, we were REALLY going to have a bachelorette now! Ha! One of the things Michelle was VERY clear about from the beginning was: no strippers. I knew it and I was 100% down to comply, but it just so happened that things took a turn (for our benefit) and so we just rolled with it. When we got to Mags 940 (the bar where the show is hosted), I was approached by the owner of the drag show to ask if we wanted to put Michelle in the hot seat. I said it was fine as long as Michelle was only in a drag segment and not with a male stripper. They totally respected our wishes and Michelle had an awesome experience on stage with a gorgeous, funny and great queen. The rest of the brides in attendance got the full Hunk-O-Mania treatment and we had A LOT of fun watching it, but Michelle (or her fiance) definitely would not have been ok with that lol! The show ran late and we were INCREDIBLY late for our dinner reservation at Three Muses, but they were SUPER accommodating and texted us through the show and accepted our rescheduling needs and OMG the food was BEYOND delicious. This was the one place I had not tried, and it was so so good. They also don’t take parties bigger than eight, so we had to split into two tables again, but it was fine/worth it. Michelle and a few other girls kept the party going down Frenchmen Street and that was that for Friday!

 

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Saturday, March 3rd: Sisters, Beignets & Aphrodisiacs! 

During my first trip to Nola in 2014, I had Sunday brunch at the Court of Two Sisters. I remember it being delicious and a great overall experience, so when it came time to do the bachelorette itinerary, it was a no-brainer for me to host a brunch here (and I really wanted it to be a full-on floral brunch outside in the courtyard, with the live jazz band! The whole nine…) but upon doing my research this time around, it seemed the service and the food quality and variety had dramatically worsened since that visit. They were receiving really harsh reviews and it seemed their best days were behind them. I battled between doing Commander’s Palace, Brennans, Cafe Amelie, and many other brunch spots but for some reason (floral courtyard jazz!) my heart was set on the Court. Fortunately, I kept checking reviews and they seemed to be improving closer to the trip, so I pulled the trigger and made the reservation. The said they couldn’t guarantee courtyard seating but they made it happen and it was GORGEOUS. We couldn’t have asked for better weather that entire weekend, and the brunch was simply whimsically beautiful AND delicious. Everyone loved the food and gave rave reviews to everything, except the gumbo, not that it was bad but they simply had a MUCH better version at Three Muses the night before. That’s still a 99% overall, so I’ll take it! After the court, I set up the itinerary to give us time to walk around, try Cafe Du Monde/Cafe Beignet, visit the French Market, and have a lax afternoon until our 4:00pm Aphrodisiac Tour from Witches Brew Tours. Now, I can’t remember where I found this and they’ve remodeled their website since I first found the info, but this tour was awesome. Our tour guide Marillyn was just a delight, so funny and knowledgeable and she had a blast with our group. She gave us background stories on aphrodisiacs and then took us to experience them first-hand – chocolates from Sucré, hot sauces from the Pepper Palace, a quick look at toys and other fun items at Mr. Binky’s Boutique, oyster shooters from honestly I can’t remember where, and if you’re up for it, you can also fit in a quick visit to a Voodoo shop just as a learning experience. Again, can’t say enough good things about Marillyn, totally made our last afternoon in Nola a memorable fun one! And finally, for our last Nawlins supper, I booked us dinner at Criollo, inside the Monteleone hotel, so we could fit in a quick visit to the Carousel Bar. I told the girls from before the trip not to get excited about the bar as it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get a seat on it, no matter the time of the day, so they knew it was more of a picture opp than anything else. To our huge surprise/delight/amazement, because of our party size, the Criollo staff welcomed us in one of their private rooms. We felt like the Real Housewives of all the cities rolled into one, getting such VIP treatment! It really was the perfect closing to the trip. We actually sang happy birthday to Michelle here because her birthday was coming up that following week, so we took advantage to get the festivities started. After this awesome dinner, we headed out to enjoy our last night experiencing all that Bourbon had to offer, and then we made our way back to the apartment for a few hours of sleep, and back home we all went!

 

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I hope you enjoyed my endless recount of this weekend that I will forever cherish as I hope Michelle and the rest of the girls do. New Orleans is a very fun city, not for everyone, but it’s definitely a top choice destination for bachelor/bachelorette parties because of their chill party scene, yummy food (seriously, you have to make an effort to find bad food in Nola), and cheap drinks!

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Oh [Mini] Christmas Tree!

I absolutely LOVE Christmas, December, the Holidays, everything related to this time of year. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t feel the same excitement, so the past few years it’s fallen completely on me to bring the Christmas cheer to my house. I believe the last Christmas tree I put up was in 2013, but that’s also because I haven’t spent the holidays at home the past few years, so it didn’t make sense to put up a tree if I wouldn’t be here to light it/take care of it if it were real. Last year I hosted Friendsmas and tried to make up for the absence of a tree with the decor, which I think I got away with. This year, I will most likely not be home for Christmas or New Years, but I did want to have at least a bit of holiday cheer at home. Let’s get to work!

I bought a small white tree a few years ago when I was still working at an office to put up in my cubicle, and had mini ornaments in the colors that were “in” that year – purple, teal/blue, pink and green. I used that same tree last year at Friendsmas for the gift table so there was at least some semblance of the Christmas staple present, with a few red ornaments. This year, the obsession with rose gold has been extremely real, but my search for mini ornaments in that color had very little results… Until I remembered, “hey, I’m a crafter!” I found one set of mini ornaments from Target that were a metallic color scheme that included “caramel, silver, and gold,” and I decided let’s make this right. Since the pack was only $3, what did I have to lose?

I ordered the ornaments as well as a gold star topper online and went to pick them up at the store. I have gallons of rose gold paint at home working on items for my best friend’s bridal shower/bachelorette/wedding, so I needed nothing else. I got creative with my placement of the items to spray with color, and got to work! I let everything dry for about an hour before touching it, decorated my mini tree, and placed it on my kitchen table. Voila! A little bit of holiday cheer is here, and Mariah Carey is on all day. I love December ❤

Last but not least, I found this set of copper string lights at JoAnn that were down from $19.99 to $11.99, and now my little tree is properly LIT! 😉

Making The Most Out of Late Gift-Giving

With Christmas just around the corner, this post might be very timely for you, so pay attention!

As I imagine it happens to many of us, the gift I ordered for my friend didn’t arrive in time for her birthday. We’ve all been there at one point or another – whether our fault or not – and it sucks. It happens to me a lot more frequently than I care to admit, and I’m working on it. Amazon Prime has made me overconfident to the point I think if I order a gift five minutes before I leave to the party I’m attending it’s going to arrive on time (and I’m not talking about Prime Now. #JustCrazy).

My friend’s birthday was December 2nd, but the gift didn’t arrive until today, December 5th. I didn’t notice the delivery estimate until after I’d placed the order, and I’m assuming Black Friday/Cyber Week orders trampled all deliveries. I didn’t want to be empty-handed since I’d actually see her ON her birthday, and I know I could’ve just told her what I got her or gotten her a card, but I wanted to make it a little extra special. So…

I got my friend a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9, that comes in a very unique and pretty color I thought she’d love. I looked up the packaging, and I decided that it would be cute to make a little imitation box. Do you remember in elementary school when they taught us how to make 3D cubes and other figures with construction paper? That training came in handy for this! I went over to my trusty PowerPoint, pulled some images from the interwebz and used shapes to create some tabs where I thought I’d be making the folds, and printed it out – #FixItMoment: I forgot to print on thick card stock, and printed on regular paper. Since I didn’t want to re-print, I just glued the paper to the card stock with a glue stick and called it a day. #ItsHandled. Also, since you can’t really gift a Polaroid camera without film, I got her a pack of black and white film to play with! Which also came in today… so that got a little cute box too.

So that’s it! If your gift is late, your friends and family will understand regardless, but going the extra mile so that you don’t show up empty-handed and getting them excited about what you got them in a cute way can always give you extra brownie points 😉

 

Making It vs. Buying It… What Gives?

The “why buy it for $7 when you can make it for $92 worth of craft supplies?” meme runs my life. I have a very hard time just buying something when I KNOW I can totally make it myself and it will turn out almost identical to the original. The satisfaction of seeing something made by me next to something that is produced elsewhere is so tempting, that I find myself having a dilemma on a weekly (if not daily) basis. “But isn’t it more expensive when you have to buy all the supplies and you probably won’t use all of it?” you say?? Nonsense.

My most recent and blatant example of the ridiculous journey I was about to embark on to make something instead of buying it was for my best friend’s bachelorette that I’m planning. The destination for the bach is New Orleans. Woot! What’s synonymous with Nola? Masks. Should I buy them? Honestly, even if I found really cheap masks, like at Walmart, they’re still not cheap enough to include in the bundle of items I’m making for the girls, and it’s a hard expense to justify. While browsing Pinterest for inspiration, I came across a pin that listed very easy instructions on how to make a mask with just puffy paint and tulle! Ooooooooo! Jackpot! What could be easier than making a mask out of puffy paint? In this particular instance, the paint and tulle I’d need would actually probably come out cheaper than buying the masks anywhere, so that part of the plan was solid. What wasn’t so solid was the amount of time it would take me to make the masks, which I was ultimately ok with, but after making one and trying it on, I knew there was a fundamental problem with them: puffy paint stretches, but only so much… I knew the masks would last 2.5 seconds before one of the ends snapped, and I didn’t want to be all proud and mighty giving the girls things I’d made myself, only to have them fall apart on Bourbon five minutes into the night. This is what the project was looking like:

After 3 puffy paint masks, I decided to take a look at Ali Express, and hoped to find something extremely cheap that would surpass the flimsiness of the puffy paint mask structure. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to find really cute lace masks for really, really cheap. Like under $0.60 each cheap. I thought about it for all of 6 seconds when I immediately decided that in this case, buying was a no-brainer. My saving grace through this process was also that I began planning this practically before my friend even got engaged, so I’ve been doing things with plenty of time, and I didn’t have a problem placing an order for items that would take about a month to come in from abroad. With shipping, 13 masks came out to $11.04 dollars! Yes, all of them! TOTAL! I know.

Absolute steal, absolutely worth it, and unquestionably cheaper than buying all the materials you’d need to make the mask, which if you didn’t own, you’d need:

  • Big tube of Puffy Paint
  • Tulle
  • Parchment paper
  • Printout model of mask
  • Clips
  • Ribbon

As a crafter, I did of course have all those things in hand, so my expense to make the masks would’ve technically been zero, but realistically, that money had already been spent, and in this case, the outcome wouldn’t have been equal to or superior to the purchased product.

Today, buying wins!

5 Settings to Use on VSCO to Improve Your Pictures!

Hello shutterbugs! This post can be useful not only for product pictures but also for shots of humans and landscapes and really many types of photography! I’m a huge fan of the VSCO app for editing all kinds of images on my phone, and I’m going to share the top settings I play around with to get my pictures to look almost professional.

I remember when I first started taking pictures of my products for my Etsy shop, I thought I was killing the game, and now looking back I realize how lost I was. What helped? Things took a turn for the better once I took Hilary Rushford’s “Instagram With Intention” free online workshop, where she introduced us to VSCO (I’m a big advocate for taking any and all free seminars you see offered, there’s always something to learn and you have nothing to lose, especially when they’re free. If it just so happens that you like what you hear, you can subscribe or get a membership to keep getting useful content). Without any further ado, let me share the very basic but completely life-changing tips I learned from Hilary and immediately implemented to my picture-editing game. Let’s keep this interesting with a step by step example: pizza picture please!

  • Natural light: this is an obvious one for many (and not a VSCO setting, but I got you guys with a bonus later) but the perfect foundation for good pictures is to take them in natural light – aka, not being hit by direct/yellow light, but placed where it would receive a diffused, indirect “bath” of light. Check out this original shot of a yummy pizza in what looks like natural light. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s definitely not Instagram ready. Yet!

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  • Exposure: exposure is the vert first setting option, and it stands for the amount of light you want to add or remove from your picture, or how much light you’d want it “exposed” to. I usually move the dial to the right on average to +2-3.5 as shown in the picture, so that it looks like it was professionally lit, and that sometimes helps diminish imperfections as well. Play around with the button and always start off small, because there is such a thing as “overexposed” pictures. This is going to make the pizza look a little pale because there was already light, but the combination of edits is what does the magic.

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  • Contrast: the contrast feature strengthens the properties of each color, making the light tones lighter, and the dark tones darker. This one is also good to keep at +2-3.5.

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  • Saturation: saturation is here to make your colors look extra alive! Now, this one I’m super extra careful with, because it usually brings in a strong yellow/orange aura to the picture. So you can play around it and keep it around a +1.5-2.5. The pizza is ready to pop off the screen, but it almost looks like it was under a lamp light to stay warm. Not good yet!

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  • Temperature: to the left, to the left! The solution to most of your yellow/orange problems is to make the picture colors “cooler” in tone, so literally lowering the temperature will bring on the blue hues. Don’t go too far, just enough to see yellows turning white is perfect. A -1 or -2 usually does the trick.

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Now those are the ones I use pretty much for almost every picture edit, but not all pictures are created equal and there’s no one size fits all edit. These are not filters, these are enhancers that work under your guidance to get the tones jussssst right, on an individual basis. But this picture is not perfect yet. The light colors are now a little too light, and it has lost some of the detail. Since I’m more used to playing with the app now, I know exactly what to do next. In this case, I’m going over to the “Highlights” feature. I moved this one up to +10, but I really have no parameters for it since I seldom use it. See how now there are more spots in the cheese? All the colors garnered strength again.

 

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And now, our pizza is ready to get all the glory of Instagram and make your followers salivate. Let’s see the before and after, side by side. Shall we?

Now, the first picture almost makes it look like the pizza was in the oven for a little too long, but the second one literally has me ready to #TBT in real life and go back to that magical moment before having it.

Anywho, I’m no foodie blogger or expert picture taker, but I definitely saw a huge improvement in my pictures over time, and my feed got much, much prettier. The other secret for me has been the white background. That’s a product photography staple, and as much as I tried to fight it at first, it’s simply perfect. I hope these tips help elevate your picture game and if you have any suggestions on other features to use, please drop them in the comments below!

Carlos’ 60th Birthday Cuban Musical Props

My best friend’s father-in-law to be just turned 60 years old this past weekend! What a milestone, and such a beautiful number. I am very fond of the 60th birthday because while doing some research when I was planning my mom’s 60th turn around the sun (shh, please don’t tell her I mentioned that number, anyone who puts her over 35 goes on a kill list! haha!) I found out that in Chinese culture, the 60th birthday is sort of a re-birth. 12 x 5 = 60, and that means that by the time you turn 60, you’ve done a full life cycle around all the signs (and sub-types) in the Chinese Zodiac, so it’s a new beginning. Anyway, I digress…

For Carlos, one of the things he has most fun doing is dancing, and since he’s Cuban, salsa is probably at the top of his favorite genres. His birthday was a perfect moment to go all out, celebrate his Cuban heritage and the music he enjoys so much. Check out the props & banner I was asked to make for the occasion!

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Some bongos, maracas and musical notes represented the hobby and genre he loves so much! The fedoras & cigar were a nod to his Cuban heritage and style!

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Rhymes and banners, nothing is… smarter? 😉

The birthday boy danced the night away and all the guests took turns posing with the props. Cheers to Carlos’ 60 Years!

Halloween 2017 DIY – Two On The Run Costumes & Winter Is Here!

You know I’m ALL about the DIY life for Halloween costumes. Do you remember this one? I’m still super proud of those two costumes, but this year was a whole new ball game, on a much tighter deadline.

My bff wanted to keep it simple but cute, so she decided she wanted to be a unicorn, but like the chillest unicorn ever. Horn from amazon, and a shirt by yours truly that said “I’m a unicorn, DUH” for anyone who dared ask. Done.

Her sister went shopping for one idea, and changed her mind during the shopping trip. She came to me with a yellow shirt and some felt and wanted me to turn her into a pineapple. Done.

Cut up the shirt. Drew the peaks. Made a crown out of felt, a headband and some poster board scraps.

I had been thinking about my costume for a while, but decided to pull the trigger the week of Halloween. My red hair was finally in its full glory, and my Game of Thrones fever was (is!) as strong as ever. I also just happened to have a burgundy statement necklace and a newfound love for makeup. Melisandre, you’re up. DONE!

Red hair? Owned. Necklace? Owned. Makeup? Owned. Robe? $12 on Amazon.

And that’s all folks! Another DIY Halloween in the books. Start preparing early for 2018, for the night is dark and full of terrors and you don’t want to show up in the same costume as everyone else…