#TravelTuesdays – A Birthday Weekend in Cartagena!

For those who do not know, my mom is Colombian and my Colombian heritage is very strong and kept alive by constant visits to this beautiful land I’m blessed to call one of my homes. I was born in Venezuela, but I’ve spent a good chunk of my life and gone through some important milestones while on trips in Colombia. The only thing is that since 99% of my family is from and lives in Santa Marta (the oldest city in Colombia, a coastal town next to Barranquilla), that’s pretty much the only place I go to and truly know. So when my friend Iselle told me she wanted to celebrate her birthday in Cartagena, I was very excited for the opportunity to finally expand my horizons and see another part of this homeland of mine!

Trip logistics, really quickly for your amusement:

My friend Ashtine was having her engagement party in Miami on Friday, December 23rd. I booked my flight to leave on December 24th at 2:00 am, meaning I went straight from Ashtine’s party to the airport. Landed in Santa Marta on the 24th around 11:00am, minus my carry-on which they made me check at the door and they lost in Bogota, but it thankfully arrived in the afternoon! Stayed in Santa Marta until Friday, January 13th, when I went to Cartagena by car (it’s about a three-hour ride), and after spending the weekend there, flew from that airport back to Miami. So when I booked my flight, it was:

MIA-BOG-SMR — //– CTG-MIA  –> Thank you multi-city booking function!

Now, on to the action: Hola Cartagena! When I agreed to the trip, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard a lot about Cartagena’s “ciudad amurallada” or walled city, which is where the historic downtown festive area is, surrounded by a wall (hence the name), and because I’m so used to Santa Marta, I expected a similar vibe. The first thing that I will tell you I assumed and was DEAD wrong about was that Cartagena would have beautiful beaches. NOPE NOPE NOPE. Santa Marta has dozens of beautiful beach locations, reachable by car/boats/hikes, in every direction. Cartagena is surrounded by water, but the tide is very high and the wind makes tons of little sandstorms, and there really isn’t much “beach” space per se. You have to sail off to find a semi-decent beach, and even then, it’s just not good. More on this later. Let’s go day by day –

Friday, January 13th: 

Iselle, Ian and I were the three amigos embarking on this trip. Ian and Iselle were flying in separately, and I was driving in. They both arrived at the hotel before me, and went off to wander around. Iselle found a deal for us to stay at Casa Cordoba Roman (or Casa Roman, it has a few different names), a house type of place. Our room had a nice balcony, two stories, and space for about 4 people to sleep comfortably in a king bed, and two twin-size mattresses. Iselle and Ian found a bar and some wifi and texted me so I went to meet them there. We had some drinks at Plaza Santa Teresa and kicked off the weekend festivities. Went off for some yummy dinner at Juan del Mar, went back to the room to drop our leftovers and then went to check out the bars and nightlife. The place that stood out the most to me was Alquimico. Perfect libations spot for some new and exciting drinks! Went to a bunch of random bars all within the walled city, and since I was still not tired when we got back, we went up to the rooftop of Casa Roman to take a night/morning swim before bed. Just what the doctor ordered!

Saturday, January 14th: 

We woke up “early” (8ish) with the goal of checking out Islas del Rosario (Rosary Islands), which I’d heard very little about, other than you got there by boat, which I was very used to doing in Santa Marta. When we got to the information spot, it was like 9:30, by which time the boats are gone. It’s also a 45 minute-1 hour boat ride, so it was not what I was used to or expecting at all. But now with our newfound information, we knew to come prepared tomorrow. We ended up meeting up with one of Ian’s friends who is a local in Cartagena, and he took us on a walk outside of the Walled City for us to see more of the Cartagena every day life. We decided to go to the Castillo San Felipe – one of the oldest structures in Barranquilla, built to defend the city from a siege – and then ended up at the Boca Grande mall for some yummy desserts. Went back to the hotel to change, and then did a Chiva Loca tour at night (“crazy goat” party bus, no actual goats involved) which was super fun. I’d always wanted to do one in Santa Marta, but it never panned out, so this was my first Chiva experience, and it was a great introduction. We went out in Getsemani, which is the neighborhood across from the Walled City, where college students and locals typically go out the most. It’s less of a tourist trap than inside the Walled City. We hit up a few bars and after we had our fill, we went back to the hotel, ready to get up early (really early this time) for our Islas del Rosario adventure.

Sunday, January 15th: 

As I mentioned earlier, I have lots of experience riding boats to beaches in Santa Marta from before I could even speak. It’s normal, chill and totally not scary, even though the boats are super dingy and old, I know the drill. Those are my people. Cartagena though, is a whole other animal. Santa Marta’s 5-10 minute coastal boat rides have nothing on this open water hour-long business. First, you have to outsmart the people trying to hustle money out of tourists around and outside of the Walled City. Being from Colombia and having our local friend there was huge in not letting these people screw us over (they still kinda did, but it would’ve been so much worse if we weren’t aware of their tactics). So, the trip works like this: you leave at 9:00 am on a speedboat that takes you outside of Cartagena’s water limits, into the open water of the Mar Caribe. The ride to the first stop is about 45 minutes. My friend Iselle and I were not big fans of this speedboat, as you can tell the drivers are a little reckless and just wanna get to the islands fast. We were holding on to the poles for dear life, and the waves were very high so the boat bumps were no fun. Ian, on the other hand, loved it and felt he was being rocked to sleep… different strokes! When you’re sold on the tour, you’re told you’re going to make 2-3 stops. Playa Blanca (white beach), the Aquarium, and another beach on the way back. As soon as we boarded the boat, they told us we wouldn’t be able to go to Playa Blanca because of the tide, so we’d go to the Aquarium instead, and if we didn’t want to go in there, we could swim elsewhere. Once we made it alive to the islands, the story changed and they wanted to charge us to do the aquarium or another snorkeling activity. Jesus (our local friend) and I fought these guys and did not let them screw us over, until they took us to a nearby spot where we could swim as we were promised. After that, we started heading back towards Cartagena for our second stop, when the boat died mid-ride, in the middle of the open sea, with a lottttttt of waves. Thank God I’m not one to get seasick, because that was enough rocking to make anyone throw up. The crew managed to get the boat running just enough to get us to the next stop, which wasn’t the pretty beach we were promised, but rather a murky shallow stop in a small town. Kids are coming up to you constantly begging for coins, it’s honestly so sad. We had lunch there, which was included in the price of our boat ticket, and after an hour or so, we headed back and I’ve NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY to be done with a tour, and ALIVE! I legitimately feared for my life, and it wasn’t just paranoia. A couple of weeks before we were there, a boat tipped over and at least one passenger died. It’s not uncommon for those accidents to happen, as those boat drivers seem like they’re actively auditioning for Fast & Furious, Cartagena Drift… Anyway, after this adventure, we went back to the hotel to shower and change, and then headed to a restaurant that was recommended to Iselle by her coworkers called La Vitrola. So, so good. We were almost turned away because the place gets packed and requires reservations, but we managed to make it in. The food was delicious and the service stellar, couldn’t have asked for a better last night in Cartagena. Afterwards, we went out to hit up all the random bars we hadn’t visited during the first two nights, and went back to pack and get ready for our return home. Ian would be flying out at 5 am, I was flying out at 7, and Iselle at 11.

Thanks for the memories, Cartagena!

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#DiliaCumple80 – My Grandma’s Mexitastic Eightieth Birthday

Some NSFW content ahead. You’ve been warned!

What do you do when you have three themes that could be standalone concepts for a party, but you can’t decide which one to go with? You go with all three, of course.

My grandma, Dilia, is a very special lady. She’s the only grandparent I grew up knowing, with all others passing away before I was born or when I was very little, so she’s extra special to me. If you know me, you know a bit of her as well – she’s colorful, scandalous, loud, funny, loves music and loves to party, and she’s unruly like no other. So when her 80th birthday was coming up, we knew we had to do something as special as she is.

Dilia – or Yiya, as all of us have lovingly called her since babyhood – is very simple when it comes to things she likes: she loves Mexican actors/singers and music from the golden age: Tony Aguilar (whom she named her son after!), Pedro Infante, Juan Gabriel, Javier Solis and a few others can count themselves among the lucky chosen ones that my grandma considers her “husbands.” She also loves, LOVES flowers and plants of all kinds. Gardening and growing nature are one of her favorite past times and I swear she loves her trees as much as she loves her kids. Last, but definitely not least, she loves penises. Yes, you read that right. My grandma has a hilarious obsession with all kinds of penile paraphernalia, and everyone that knows her knows it, and loves that about her. My grandma’s 60th birthday was actually COMPLETELY penis-themed, and since I was 6 at the time, I asked her why her cake and her pinata were a letter “T” if her name started with a D… oh, little Kathy, if you only knew!

So with all three themes in mind, and knowing she had some aspect of each incorporated into a previous birthday, I decided to throw all the ideas together and have a theme on steroids. Here are all of the things I put together for the party:

  • Digital Designs & Memes: my grandma is a breast cancer survivor, but she had to have a mastectomy and it was obviously very hard on her not to have her breast reconstructed. Since my cousin is an artist, she has jokingly asked him many times to do a nude portrait of her, but with a young body and both boobs. Since I knew my cousin was busy, I put my digiskills to the test, got carried away, and created six nude portraits using different paintings I found online. Here’s the least offensive (but still NSFW) one:
DNP 1

My grandma LOVEDDDD these portraits! Right up her alley!

Meme Compilation

Dilia has a myriad of expressions that we all know her by, so I made some memes that were used as photo props throughout the party

Fave Artist Compilation

Since my grandma found love in the musicians of her generation, I photoshopped her into images with them, so she could live out a bit of her fantasy and imagine herself with them. I put these all over the walls of the party hall.

  • Photo Booth Props: of course, my bread and butter had to be a part of the party, but these are no standard set of props. There are many custom designs with sayings that only those close to her understand, as well as some, ahem, inappropriate ones:

DSC_0376

  • Decor, in general: we hosted the birthday at an event venue in Santa Marta, Colombia (where my grandma and a big chunk of my family lives). We asked for colorful linens for the tables and chairs, and we brought all the accent decor items with us from the US. I made two standing 3D numbers (the 8 and 0 for 80th birthday) out of poster board and pictures, and created a backdrop for the photo booth station out of a dollar-store shower curtain, a Party City fiesta kit and some folkloric posters from on Amazon.
  • The clothes: we asked everyone to come dressed in colorful outfits for the party, but my grandma’s clothes had to be extra special. I found her this folkloric dress on Amazon, and I made my nephew David a “Charro” (mariachi) outfit.

My mom and my brother helped me with the logistics, music, drinks, food, etc. and my grandma had THE TIME OF HER LIFE during the party. She was in her element, and all of her friends came up to me saying they’d never been to a party like that. A group of her friends also decided to do a sort of poem/acronym with her name, and she totally loved it. But why tell you, when I can show you? Enjoy!

What do you think of the theme mix and the party in general? I had so much fun planning this and it’s something I hope my grandma will never forget. Here are my favorite pictures from the party: my grandma walking in and seeing the papel picado banner that said “Dilia Cumple 80” which I designed, me showing her the memes I made of her, and her hugging me to say thank you for everything I had done ❤

Christmas & New Years Without My Craft Room :(

Lately, when I leave my house I feel a little bit of anxiety… for being away from my craft room, out of fear I’ll need a tool or something else I may have in there while I’m away. Or if I have an order in progress, I’m afraid of my house catching on fire, not because of my house, but because of the order. I know, I need a therapist lol, I’ve just really grown fond of being there and all my crafty possessions.

With this in mind, you can imagine when I go on an actual trip out of town, I may or may not go as far as caressing the walls on the way out, a little bit like this…

So when I left to Colombia for my prince’s birthday and to spend the holidays with the family, I took some coloring pencils, all my sketch books, some photo booth props I pre-made (for the birthday, Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve), and that was it. Basically, anxiety to the MAX.

Then, my family decided that Christmas Eve would be celebrated at my grandma’s house, where we barely have some lights here and there, but no tree, or nativity, or garlands, or pretty much anything to make it feel like the season. With very little time and zero knowledge of places where I could get supplies, all while trying to not spend much money, my mom asked me to transform the house into a Christmas town. Want to guess how long I had to make this happen? SIX hours. Want to guess how much I missed my craft room and supplies? Manic depressive mode FULLY ON.

So… I ransacked my grandma’s closets and boudoirs looking for possible decor, grabbed my coloring pencils and my agenda, ripped out some pages, and tried to make a semi-cute garland. On ruled paper. I died a little inside. But hey, true creativity comes not exclusively while in the optimal environment. On the contrary, the true test of creativity is when you “make do” with what you have. Chopped style!

Here’s a little gallery of the transformation I was able to pull off for Christmas at my grandma’s!

So all in all, thanks to some last minute rentals, my foresight to bring the props and some bibbidi bobbidi boop magic, the Christmas town transformation was successfully pulled off! But just imagine what I could’ve done with a tenth of my supplies?

Moving on to December 31st… For New Year’s Eve, we were going to my grandma’s sister’s house, so thankfully I wasn’t in charge of decorating, but I still wanted to pitch in for the festivities, so besides making props (which everyone really enjoyed!) I wanted to make a garland I had seen… where do you think? Pinterest, of course. I don’t know what possessed me to make the props yellow and black, but they seemed like a good color palette for NYE, and so I wanted to also make the garland in that combination so that it seemed orchestrated. I got some tissue paper and got to work (toggle over the pictures to see instructions in each caption!)

So that’s it! Even though I missed my craft room and supplies TERRIBLY and I wish I could carry my entire stash on me, Mary Poppins style, I’m still happy with what I was able to accomplish on the fly 🙂

HAPPY 2016 EVERYONE!!!!

 

Fly in? Check. Props? Check. Unexpected decor request? Oh boy…

I don’t know if I’ve said it enough, but I’m absolutely, irrevocably, head-over-heels in love with my nephew. My little piece of heaven, David Alejandro, is a ball of smiles that melts me into oblivion and when he says “I yo yu” (I love you) the paramedics need to be called to resuscitate me, only for me to die right back.

Now that I got that out of my system…

My little scrumptious “little lung” or “pulmonsito” as I like to call him, (because I want him and I to breathe through the same respiratory system) turned the big number TWO this December. The theme for his party is absolutely no surprise, because it’s been making the rounds for a while now like a virus – Minions. These lovely yellow creatures bring out some great smiles out of David, and the way he says Minions is just AW-DOOR-AH-BLE.

David lives in Colombia, and I live in the US, and this long distance relationship kills me. I count down the days until I get to travel and hold him again, and we FaceTime to keep me alive in the meantime. We planned to fly in the day before his birthday, and of course, I wouldn’t show up empty-handed, so I decided to create some custom props that I’d bring with me from SoFla. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction and see him wearing them!

I pulled out the props from my suitcase upon my arrival, and placed them in the bed so I wouldn’t forget them the next day. David was walking around, and as the curious creature he is, the yellow caught his attention, and he immediately said “Minio” – and. I. Died. I showed him how to put it on his face, he walked over to the mirror, stared at himself, and started dancing and singing “Minio Minio Minio” and I had to receive CPR for 3 hours straight. Then I had to take the prop away from him because he got too excited and started banging it on the wall… After all, he is 2.

As I continue unpacking, my brother asks “soooo… at what time are you coming to decorate?” and I was like “hmm what?!” My family is well aware of my capabilities and love for the craft of event planning, and so it’s an unspoken expectation that I’ll show up to decorate every event ever. Even if I have to go straight from the airport and I don’t even know what decor items are available. So I said 10 am.

My #1 go-to piece of decor that is CHEAP, easy to make, versatile and makes a big pop are streamer paper garlands. I learned to make these when I was 5 in my after school care, and I’ve used them ever since.

Once everything was set up, it was time to party, and whip out the props! I’ve been making photo booth props for a while now and I’ve been present while they’re used at adult parties, but I’ve never seen children using them. Oh. My. Gosh. What an amazing feeling. The props became the ice breaker between all the kids, they didn’t let them go for one second, and at the end of the night, they all took one home as a favor. I didn’t even get to say goodbye lol! And my little prince would just stare at them and put them on his face (even if they weren’t face props) and all my dreams came true.

And that’s all folks! The party was awesome, David had a blast eating sweets and running around with his friends, and the WCB Craft Studio Photo Booth Props made it to Santa Marta, Colombia!!!

Photography Corner – Taty & Jorge’s Wedding

Within the realm of event planning and all related activities, one of my favorite things to do is photograph the occasion. I’ve always loved photography and even though I have no schooling in it, it’s a beloved hobby of mine. I closed off my 2014 event photography portfolio with an unexpected opportunity to shoot a wedding in a beautiful location in the coast of Santa Marta, Colombia called Los Alcatraces. The bride and groom – Jorge and Taty – seemed just so happy to take this step in their relationship, and I am so honored to have been asked to capture this huge moment for them. Here are some of my favorite shots of the day: