Passport to Paris

UGH the jet lag is real…. I think it’s finally starting to set in as I’m writing this! This past week I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Paris for a long weekend getaway. Now that I’m back I’m trying to do everything I can to get back to a functional routine and writing this post seems like the perfect way to start! 

This entire trip starts with a tremendous story. One night, shortly after Thanksgiving, I received a text from a good friend of mine in LA saying she found round trip tickets to Paris for quite literally an unbelievable price (round trip from LAX for less than $400, cheaper than a flight home to Iowa!) My friend then proceeded to ask, “Who wants to go with?” Being that the trip would only be a few weeks away and having to hastily decide in order to take advantage of flight prices made me both incredibly nervous and extremely tempted. I began to think my way through the logical steps.  First, check the bank account and then check the amount of PTO I’ve acquired. Next, I make a phone call to my mom fully expecting her to be the practical one and reel my crazy thoughts back in (as one does when they call their mom in moments like this.) However, much to my surprise that wasn’t her response at all. It was actually something along the lines of When are you going to have this opportunity again?”  So true… 

Hearing her say that, I knew my mind was already made up! So, I went home and booked a round trip ticket–there was no turning back! A few days later 6 women in total (many of us having never met before) had booked their tickets and started planning the trip of a lifetime! 

First night in Paris at the Eiffel Tower

Many people I’ve talked to have said they only spent a few days in Paris and that that was enough. After having been now, I can attest to that! We arrived in Paris late Thursday afternoon and left Tuesday afternoon arriving back in LAX Tuesday evening. (Time changes will always be confusing.) Four and a half days was perfect in my opinion! It was enough time to see the city and cross majority of the things off my list without feeling too rushed. By the end, I was exhausted and ready to return home. 

Next we had to find a place to stay! After looking into hotels, hostels and Air BnBs, considering there was six of us, Air BnB seemed like the best option! Paris is divided into different districts and with help from a friend of a friend going on the trip, we had the best insight into the perfect locations. We ended up staying in 2, from which everything was perfectly walkable. Contrary to popular believe, the Eiffel Tower is actually not centrally located so when planning your trip, you may consider staying in a more central neighborhood like we did. My favorite thing about Paris is how easy it is to get around. Whether you want to walk, take the subway, or Uber, all options are readily available and easy to navigate even if you don’t speak any French! 

Like most major European cities, I’ve noticed so far, you can get by with only speaking English. However, it’s always important to me to at least try and speak the language when interacting in public at a restaurant for example No matter where you’re traveling to, I challenge you to at least prepare a few words such as…

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Yes/No
  • Thank you 
  • Sorry
  • Excuse me
  • Bathroom 
  • Check/Bill

I attempted to learn a little French before I left using a free app called Duo Lingo! Although it was helpful to learn some phrases, it’s important to practice consistently in order to retain any of it… I wasn’t very diligent and realized all I could remember was how to say “cat” and needless to say, that didn’t come up in conversation very often.

When I travel, I’m just as much about seeing all the sights and main tourist attractions as I am about finding happy accidents and things off the beaten path. One of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a new city though, is to take a hop on/hop off bus tour. It’s an affordable way to make it to all the main attractions in a city in a short amount of time. It also always helps me to get the lay of the land and realize where things are at in relation to another and not to mention its essentially “free” transportation that you would have paid for to get around anyway! Tours like this are offered in most major cities in the US and Europe. My favorite has always been City Sightseeing or Big Bus tours! We got a two-day pass that included two different bus routes as well as a river boat tour. 

My favorite path less traveled spots included the covered passageways that have been transformed into little shops and restraunts. I also fell in love with the small vendor booths known as Riverside Bouquinistes, that line the river around Notre Dame and contain collections of old prints and books as well as other trinkets and paper goods.

Paris being the city of love was the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although not with our loved ones and out on a girl’s trip, we still made sure to celebrate. We went to an amazing restaurant, Matignon (located in 8, an area equivalent to Rodeo Drive or the Upper East Side). It was surely a group date even the Bachelor would have approved of! Afterwards we hit the town for a night out and wound up at a Spanish inspired spot complete with Latin music and dancing. The whole night scene was lively with places that stay open all hours of the night. There was a lot of influence from other cultures depending on the bar, so there’s no reason to not come across an Irish Pub that feels too close to home or a place that feels so foreign you don’t know where to start! 

Arguably the best part of traveling has to be trying all the food! Part of the fun of it for me is ordering but not always knowing what you’re going to get! France is no exception! The bread is outstanding, the desserts are worth every bite, the onion soup is unbelievable… but my favorite French cuisine has to be steak and pommes frites (French Fries) What an unexpected pair but man is it good. 

On our last night I treated myself out to a restaurant that came highly recommended, le Relais de l’Entrecote. Not only is it delicious but it’s a genius business idea, really! It’s a beautiful, higher end restaurant that you’ll most likely have a wait to get seated (but it’s totally worth it.) Once you sit down you can order a drink but there’s really no menu. The entire place only serves one thing- steak and frites. I got a wonderful glass of red wine and was then treated to a side salad and baguette while I waited for the main course. The waitress then brings the steak and fries from the kitchen, takes them over to a serving station and then prepares the plate for you. (I sat right next to her station, so I got a first-row seat at how it’s done.) She brings you ½ your steak covered in a sauce that’s a cross between au jus and a very subtle pesto along with an order of fries. Meanwhile the other ½ of your steak is covered and resting on a heated tray and when you’re ready she’ll bring a fresh order of fries straight from the kitchen and the other ½ of your steak… two meals for the price of one! Then if you’re really looking for the whole experience, you can select from the extensive and incredible dessert menu (which I couldn’t read a single thing.) I let the waitress pick for me and wound up getting the most incredible two-part chocolate cake (one half is like a brownie and the other a fudgy, very rich flourless cake topped with mint whipped cream.) I left there having never felt so full and got all that for $40 dollars. 

Getting the money shot with your 7 euro cappuccino… priceless

That being said… Paris was actually way more expensive than I thought especially compared to other places like Rome. A double espresso shot would be 5 euros when I could have just got a Starbucks cappuccino at home for cheaper… still it seemed worth it. Overall, it was very comparable to the prices we pay in LA (very expensive to drink cocktails and dinner is typically in the $25-$35-dollar range.)

 Something else that reminds me of LA, the traffic. Although it’s not as densely populated with cars, 15 miles can take you an hour to drive. For example, I always thought Versailles was much further away but when we looked it up, it was only about 15 miles from where we were staying but it’d take over an hour to get there by car. We ended up taking the train all the way there and it couldn’t have been easier! 45 minutes and $3 later we found ourselves standing outside the Palace of Versailles, one of the places I’ve always dreamed about visiting since studying it in Art History classes in college. This was my favorite place we went to during our trip! The palace itself was a little underwhelming but the palace grounds were spectacular, even during off season. I loooooved visiting the Estate of Trianon (something I didn’t even know existed) and I’m now convinced my dream house will resemble Marie Antoinette’s Queen’s Hamlet. You could spend days walking through these parks and still never see it all and if your feet are too tired to go on you can always rent a bike or golf cart to zip around! I would love to go back sometime in the late spring, early summer and see everything in bloom and fully landscaped!

Overall, I’m so glad pulled the trigger and went. It taught me that not everything in life has to be planned and well thought out.  Sometimes just taking a risk can pay off in ways you never even dreamed of. Seeing the world, experiencing history firsthand and learning about other cultures makes traveling so worth it and so important to me. I hope everyone has a chance to explore new places and see the things they’ve dreamed of in real life. 

Birthday Bash

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This weekend has been one to remember and I can’t wait to share my festivities with you in this post! But first I would like to thank you all for all of your kind wishes this past week and weekend. I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life to celebrate with and I definitely felt the love this past week!

I’ve been thinking about Birthdays a lot lately (coincidence, I think not!) How some people love to celebrate and go all out while others prefer to keep it to themselves and enjoy their day in private—we all have different personalities!  I’ve also been thinking about how we sometimes look at it as being one more trip around the sun and a time to reflect on all our accomplishments in the past year. It’s also interesting to me how our personalities change and develop with time, but also how we sometimes rely on our age as being a standard to measure where our priorities should be focused and what goals we should work towards next.

Since graduating college, I’ve taken on the mentality that age is just a number. I look at the various friends I’ve surrounded myself with and although we’re all very different ages, we’re all in similar stages in our lives and that’s what brings us together rather than a number or “what grade we’re in.”  However even at 24 now, I’m still often one of the youngest when it comes to groups in LA. The youngest at work. The youngest in most of my friend groups. But being the youngest has been something that I’ve learned to cherish. When looking back at all the things I’ve accomplished during 23 there are a lot of milestones on that list and I’m so proud of myself that I accomplished those things sooner rather than later. There’s no time like the present to just go for it and get things done when you know they feel right. At the same time, I hope that I have plenty of time to look forward to.  There’s no perfect age to do things so from now on I’m just trying to live in the moment and try my best not to plan every step of the way.

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It’s no secret how much I love holidays and my day of birth is no exception. While it’s nice to feel extra special at one day out of the year and get a little extra attention, I most look forward to using my birthday as an excuse to get family and friends together (and maybe even throw a party or two!

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My Birthday celebrations started a week early when I went back to Iowa! My brother and I are 4 years and 1 day apart which always made for a bittersweet celebration growing up (bitter because he usually got to pick what dessert we were having and sweet because it was unique and we could celebrate together—which I’m sure made it easier on my parents too.) So, this year was no exception, we celebrated both of our Birthdays together with a family cook out! I also got to celebrate with Emory

 

Between traveling and having an already busy week and big weekend plans, I wanted to keep things a little more relaxed on my actual birthday! I decided I wanted to do something that I’ve thought about doing for years but always chickened out and made an excuse—more ear piercings! A girl friend and I made our way to Oak and Poppy (the coolest tattoo parlor I’ve ever seen and a place that also specializes in piercings.) I was not brave and was nervous as could be, but honestly it really wasn’t that bad. Also… did you know using a piercing gun are not the normal method and actually if you go somewhere that’s using one… there’s a greater chance for them to be messed up? Well me neither but now I know. They do not use gun here but do it all by hand which is honestly a relief considering the noise the gun makes was always the worst sound! Afterwards we met up with a few other friends and treated ourselves to some fancy desserts at Crave Café (easily one of my favorite casual restaurants I’ve been to in LA.) I got a chocolate brownie cheesecake… YUM!

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Saturday was the day for the big celebration! As I mentioned, I love coming up with different ways to bring people together and try new things and make memories! This year I wanted to come up with something that I could invite all my different friend groups to so that everyone could all have a chance to meet one another AND I wouldn’t have to pick and choose who I do with what. Also, as I get older, I certainly can’t handle going out quite like I did during my Iowa City days… I like to go to bed at a decent time now, I can’t drink that much without being hungover the next day… I sound so old already. BUT I still love an excuse to get all dressed up and I still enjoy night life energy of being out and about.

All these factors lead me to the idea to do a Classy Cocktail Crawl, like a bar crawl but classier. LA has sooo many bars, many of which are very cute and are designed to look good on your Instagram at any part of the day. Since many of us are always up for a crazy rowdy party— I thought it’d be better to start earlier and end earlier. Then I picked a location that was somewhat centrally located for everyone, Hollywood, and then from there I researched bars in the area within walking distance of one another and picked 5 places I had never been before.

We started the night at 5:00 pm at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. This bar has been on my list for a while. It’s like walking through a time machine and traveling back to 1968 completely styled in 60s and 70s decor. We started here early because this placed gets packed as the night goes one. There’s also outdoor patio space, throwback music, the option to get food, and the coolest entrance ever! I will be going back at some point!

 

Next, we walked a few blocks to The Highlight Room, a pool and patio bar and cocktail area at the top of the Dream hotel. This was by far the fanciest stop of the night with the most amazing views and priciest drinks. I loved the atmosphere and it was so great to be able to sit down with everyone and catch up. It was also the most “LA” place we went too but I loved every minute of it.

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Afterwards we literally walked around the corner to the next bar, Beauty and Essex. Again, a cool and interesting place. Primarily a restaurant/lounge kind of place. When you first enter, it looks like you’re walking into a high-end pawn show with a whole bunch of sparkly jewelry cases and an assortment of memorabilia.

From there we walked next door to grab a slice of pizza from Lucinis and across the street to the Powder Room. I have to say although we had a great time playing games and hanging out… this was my least favorite stop of the night. It was way smaller than expected and the décor was a little off due to the child’s bedroom additions. All around it was interesting…

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Last but not least we went to No Vacancy, another beautiful house that has been transformed into a bar! We got there a little behind schedule about 11:45 and had to wait a good 15 minutes to get in but we easily could have had to wait a lot longer. The experience of entering the place and the surprise at the top of the stairs is by far the most exciting part. When we got in… it was beyond packed and felt like we were at a frat party. We hung out, danced a bit, and fought our way to the bar.  It didn’t take long before we were already to go. I would definitely go back, but earlier in the night for sure and leave before the crowd gets so out of hand!

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The whole weekend was a blast! I enjoyed every minute of it and 24’s celebration will be a tough one to beat. Thanks again to everyone who celebrated with me and made this year so special.

 

Up on the Update

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Long time and no post, I know… but the hiatus is finally over. It’s a new year (which is so hard to believe but I hope it’s going well for you!) There has been so much going on that I gave myself a little break to focus on spending time getting a lot of things accomplished in my professional life and enjoying relationships in my personal life. I’ve been challenging myself to be more present in the moment (one of my main goals for the new year which you’ll hear about in a later post) especially over the holidays during my two-week trip back home.


Since so much has been going on, I wanted to take a moment to share with you what I’ve been up to, what’s been keeping me busy, and the reason as to why you haven’t heard from me sooner. You last heard from me way back in October (one of my favorite months) and well that came and went and flew by even faster. I was fortunate enough to get to go back home for Thanksgiving and then before I knew it, it was time to start getting ready Christmas!

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Most people who know me, tend to know that when it comes to the holidays-I tend to go a little overboard and Christmas is certainly no different. Every year I have an Elf friend come and visit me and cause so much mischief I have to stay on my toes. If you have not met Herrick, you can learn more about him— he’d love to meet you!

 


I also got to celebrate my first ever work Holiday party. I’m not sure why, but I have always been so excited and have looked forward to work parties. I think it’s always a special moment when you find opportunities to bond with you co-workers outside of work-related conversations. After all I spend more time with my coworkers these days than with any of my friends or family. Our party was at an LA favorite, the Odyssey and if you couldn’t tell why-well check out that view.

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No Holiday season is complete without a party though… and your favorite hostess with the most-est had to get creative since I only have a studio apartment that’d be lucky to fit a handful of friends. Instead I hosted an event at a piano bar called Howl at the Moon! (Check to see if there’s a location at a city near you because seriously it’s the most fun ever!) The event was a great way to introduce friends to one another and just have a really great time!

Finally, it was time to get to go back home and although a cold tried to slow me down, my time in Boone was all speed ahead! I had the most wonderful time celebrating the Holidays with my family! We had a great time keeping up with life-long traditions and even starting some new ones.


From there I just kept the party going… Of course, no trip home is completely complete without a trip to my second home- Iowa City. And no Winter trip to Iowa City is complete without going to an Iowa Basketball game! I had such a blast getting to take Emory to his first ever Iowa Basketball game — and I even convinced him to root for the Hawkeyes. Plus, I got to catch up with one of my dearest friends, celebrate her birthday (although a little early) and visit one of my all-time favorite brunch places- Blue Bird Diner.


Next, we kept driving down i-80 until we ran into some familiar faces in the great city of Chicago. Emory and I got to spend New Year’s enjoying the company of some loved ones and friends that we hadn’t seen in waaaaay too long. We also took some time to explore the Chicago Art Institute and Millennium Park. What better way to ring in the new year??? Although the trip seemed waaaaay too short we were both ready to get back home (because the party was still not over, in fact it was really just beginning.)


Here just a few days later after returning from Chicago, I got to witness and be a part of one of my greatest-friend-ever’s big wedding day! It was the first wedding I’ve had the pleasure to be in and I was honored to have been a part of such a beautiful day! She was the most beautiful bride and the whole event from the rehearsal dinner, to getting ready, to the ceremony, and dance party- it was all perfect! Love was definitely in the air. Again, I was trying to live in the moment and didn’t get near enough pictures, but I can’t wait to see the moments the photographer was able to capture and can’t wait to share more with you.

So, phew… see I have been busy. Not to mention Emory was in LA with me all last week and getting back to real life has been a hard reality to face. I’ve decided the my “New Year” is going to start on February this year! I still need some time to reflect on 2018 and plan and prepare for the new goals and ideas I have for 2019 so I hope you can bear with me and wait just a little while longer while I give myself the time to figure things out!

Party Planning

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Party Planning has always been one of my favorite hobbies and I seem to have a knack for it. I love everything that goes into the process of planning a big event from deciding the theme to organizing even the smallest of details. Party planning really plays well with my OCD. I like to have some control, think out of the box, organize things, make decorations, but most importantly create an experience and memories for others!

“There’s nothing that makes me happier than a social event that brings people together.”

Needless to say, that when one of my greatest friends asked me to plan her bachelorette party, I was beyond excited and ready for the challenge.  It was going to be a new experience for me having never been to a bachelorette party let alone never having planned one.  It’s also the first event I’ve ever planned remotely here’s how I got started…

Party Planning for Bachelorette Babes

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1.) Research

The first step of planning a Bachelorette party (or any party really) is doing your research. I made sure to ask the bride-to-be all about what she’s interested in and how she’d like to celebrate. It’s really important when planning a Bachelorette party to keep the bride’s personality in mind. You want to plan an event where everyone will have a great time but also be comfortable with one another (not everyone is excited about having a male stripper show up to their home, and I don’t blame them…)

Although it can be awkward, it’s important to have a conversation about budget and realistically what you can contribute as well as the bride (and in some cases, what you’re asking of the attendees.) They’re your close friends, they’re going to understand one way or another! Making sure all of that is transparent from the beginning will make the rest of the process go a lot smoother.

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2.) Location

Picking out a location can be a fun and exciting trip. While it may be tempting to road-trip it to Nashville or book a flight to Vegas, keep in mind that that can be a pretty big ask of people and a pretty expensive weekend.  A mini-weekend getaway or even an overnight somewhere nearby can be a great compromise.

For Rachel’s party, she knew she wanted to have it in Des Moines. It’s where she lives and is the city she loves. It’s also pretty centrally located for all of the friends and family she was planning to invite. BUT also, it was realistic for everyone’s time and budgets!

Knowing the party was going to be in Des Moines, we also had more resources available to us and most of the guests were somewhat familiar with the area. We had her apartment available, tons of bars, restaurants, and other activities easily accessible, AND Rachel’s apartment was nearby and a perfect solution for a cost-effective venue!

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3.) Theme

The foundation of a great party usually stems from an awesome theme or event. When comes to picking activities and themes, it doesn’t hurt to look around and see what other people have done. Of course, Pinterest is an excellent source and a great place to get started.  It was my personal goal to plan a party that would not only be a great time, but I also wanted it to be memorable. I wanted to get everyone out of their comfort zones a little bit and do something that they wouldn’t do on and regular basis.

I started brainstorming with the bride ideas of what she thought would be fun. We talked about all the things Rachel loves to do in Des Moines and in general and came up with a list that included minor league baseball games, tailgating sporting events, going to breweries—you name it!  One of Rachel’s favorite things though, is the Des Moines Farmers market…

I think she knew I laughed a little when she first suggested that… I mean come on, Farmers Markets don’t usually scream “Party” let alone a Bachelorette Party. But it’s her day and it’s what she wanted to do, and it was now up to me to make a Farmers Market into a party-worthy activity (also… I love a good challenge.)

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4.) Help & Delegating

Being over 1,000 miles away, there’s only so much I could do.  I knew I’d have to fly in for the event which was not only and expense on my end but also meant what I could bring with me was very limited.  Luckily so many of Rachel’s friends stepped up and offered to help! Since I love the whole process of planning things… It can be hard for me to let go of responsibility sometimes—it’s hard to give up control (but I’m getting better at it.) Delegating out the tasks though was THE MOST IMPORTANT step. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the other ladies, they pulled through to help make it happen!

So, I planned out the itinerary and then asked the other girls to pick a portion of the day that they’d lead and take care of the background stuff. We divided and conquered:

  • Bringing Snacks
  • Making Party Favors
  • Decorations
  • Hotel Reservations
  • Planning Games & Activities
  • Dinner Reservations

5.) Itinerary

After we decided on the date, I moved forward with planning the Itinerary around the Des Moines Farmers Market!

10:00 am         Arrive at Rachel’s Apartment for Brunch and Ice Breakers

11:00 am         Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt

12:30 pm         Return to Rachel’s Apartment & Go over scavenger hunt findings

1:00 pm           Lunch at Apartment and Games

3:30 pm           Check into Hotel: Get ready, games, gifts

5:30 pm           Special Surprise

7:00 pm           Dinner

9:30 pm           Going Out

Itineraries are a great game plan, but they shouldn’t be set in stone. Keep the schedule flexible! It’s always a good idea to have some back up ideas and filler ideas in case things take longer or shorter than you expected. If something doesn’t work out, stay calm and keep moving on and try not to rush anything. As someone who is never on time to anything… I knew I couldn’t jam pack the day because I always under estimate how long things will take. This day was about me and I knew it needed to run smoothly for the sake of my friend. I always had a game plan but tried to go with the flow as much as possible!

The Big Day

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Arrive at Rachel’s Apartment for Brunch and Ice Breakers

Since the Farmers Market ends at 12:00 we had to get the party started early!!!  I always feel better about waking up early when I know there’s going to be breakfast involved.  We had a breakfast buffet complete with a mimosa bar in Rachel’s apartment. It worked out so well because everything could be bought directly form the store or easily prepared ahead of time and warmed up on the spot!

Bachelorette parties can be challenging because usually you have guests from all different parts of the Brides Life. Our party was no different, there were women she’d grown up with, friends from college, friends from graduate school, and family members. Many of us didn’t know one another so it was a little daunting to be social with strangers that early in the morning. I knew we’d need a little ice breaker to get everyone started wile ate our breakfast.

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I ordered a Wedding’s Mad Libs book off Amazon and it was just the perfect solution.  First off, it’s very affordable and required no additional planning or materials. It’s a good activity to get everyone involved in coming up funny words to create some silly stories. The Mad Libs in the book were also still pretty PG (maybe PG-13 after we added to them) so everyone was comfortable and participated.

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Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt

So, the morning of the big event—typical Iowa weather, it was storming all morning and they canceled the Des Moines Farmers market. My initial reaction was— oh-crap! (but I always have a backup plan!) I originally designed the scavenger hunt to incorporate a little bit of all of Court Avenue. Court Ave. in Des Moines is where Rachel’s apartment is located as well as the Farmers Market, so everything is walking distance. There’re tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and even a grocery store. We went ahead and did the scavenger hunt any way, we just all had to get a little more creative about how/where to complete the tasks.

 

We split up into four teams of three. I gave each team a bag with a pen and they’re scavenger hunt card and the option to either take a photo of the things for 1 point OR bring back the item for 3 points. We all had so much fun with it.  It was challenging, sometimes awkward, and funny as can be. By-standers got so excited about it too, coming up and asking us what we were doing and how they could help! It was a hit.

Go over scavenger hunt findings & Prizes

Afterwards we met back at her apartment and went over what we had found!  The pictures we comical!  One group went around the grocery store and asked for a sample of almost everything and the store agreed and gave it to them!!! One group made a lot of new friends and found a dog with an impressive mullet, and I somehow wound up taking a shot of Fireball with a lady at 11:30 in the morning… too much fun.

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Lunch at Apartment and Games

Afterwards we had lunch. One girl brought these croissant sandwiches from Costco… they were beyond amazing, and I now crave them all the time. If you have a party, I’d highly recommend them! Another girl planned out a game where she asked the groom-to-be 20 questions about Rachel and their relationship and she had to tell us the right answers, what she thought he might say, and then we revealed what he actually said. Man, this couple is meant to be because he was spot on for everything! It was great, simple, and provided a lot of heart felt laughs.

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Check into Hotel: Get ready, games, gifts

The hotel we were staying at, the Hyatt Place in Down Town Des Moines. It was beautiful. We got two double queen rooms with pullout couches that were next door to one another and they were perfect!!! We all freshened up and got ready for the rest of the evening and changed into our party clothes.

We “signed in” by signing a picture frame matt and kissing it to leave our lip-print. One of the girls made goodie bags for everyone that had lipstick (for the kissing frame) nail polish, band-aids, Advil, shout wipes, gum, a hair tie, and a Florapy facemask. AKA everything you could need to survive a bachelorette party out! We opened gifts and even played a “drop your panties” game where everyone anonymously brings a pair of new panties for the bride, and she has to guess who brought which ones—this game was not so easy, but still fun!

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Special Surprise

I wanted to do something special for the bride and have a surprise that she wouldn’t know about. Something to look forward to and of course something to hold over her head and make her guess a little bit. All week she was texting me begging that it wasn’t going to be a stripper but of course I had to tease her a little bit. The surprise however, was a photographer.

I hired a talented photographer friend of mine, Meursault Photography, to meet us down town Des Moines to meet us and take some cute, sorority-ish pictures of the whole group as well as individual shots with each girl and the bride. I knew it’d be great to have the photos for all the memories as well as content for everyone’s Instagram. Also, who doesn’t get excited about a photoshoot and being all dressed up, with a fun group of girls having their pictures taken. I brought a few fun props to try including some balloons but then really let the photographer go for it.

We lucked out and had the perfect window of no rain to get some great pictures (it was steamy and as humid as could be though.) It was also nice knowing we got some great pictures early on and could relax a little more the rest of the night and not worry about it!

IMG_8307-4I’m so thankful to Meursault Photography for capturing these moments and couldn’t be more impressed! If anyone needs photos for any event or even just because you’re in the mood to have your photo taken, I’d highly recommend (especially if your located in Des Moines OR Eastern Iowa.)

Dinner

For dinner we went to one of Rachel’s favorites, Malo. It’s a trendy Mexican restaurant close to the hotel and the bars. Mexican food was great because it’s a lot of carbs before drinking but also because some of us weren’t that hungry and just got a few street tacos. One thing to keep in mind when you have a large group is to definitely call and make a reservation a week or two in advance!  We also addressed the check situation when we made the reservation too. We knew everyone was going to want to be on a separate ticket, so we requested that ahead of time. That way the restaurant and wait staff were prepared. They had 2 people to handle our table of 20 and they automatically added in gratuity for us as well! They were amazing and did such a great job, and no one was un-happy because they got stuck picking up a 20-person tab only to have no one pay them back!

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Going Out

After dinner, it started raining! A lot of us were a mess, but since we already too photos we decided to go back to the hotel, take a moment and a few of us changed out of our cute shoes for more comfortable options (it was the best idea I ever made!)

We then headed to Hello Marjorie, craft cocktail lounge that is super trendy (because of this adorable sign) as well as the amazing atmosphere and delicious cocktails. It never hurts to start a long night out with a good-quality cocktail! From there, I didn’t really plan it out. I knew we’d head to the area of Court that’s lined with bars, but I didn’t want a strict plan (remember my itinerary comment.) We went where ever the night took us and as long as we had a good time! We stopped and got Fong’s pizza just before bar close and headed back to the hotel where we talked for a while and tried to recover. Then we all went to sleep, woke up, at free hotel breakfast and went on to our other weekend activities.

I think everyone would say it was just the right amount of everything. Everything was relatively affordable (nothing out of the realm of a normal dinner and night out) everything was pretty walkable, so we didn’t have to coordinate too many Ubers back and forth. Everyone got to go where they wanted!
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I had such a blast celebrating my friend and her engagement and upcoming wedding. I was so happy to be a part of it and so glad to see everything work out. I hope you were able to come up with some ideas of your own after reading this for whatever the next party is that you’re planning OR if you need help planning an upcoming party—let me know and I’d love to help!

Malibu Mission

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What to do when you’re in Malibu?  I’ve had a lot of followers asking about where and how I met Stanley the Giraffe. The answer is a trip to Saddlerock Ranch and signing up for a Malibu Wine Hike. The suggestion for this activity came from my good friend Jordan, and I’m so glad she suggested it.  I knew my boyfriend was coming to visit and we were looking for some ideas on unique things to do in the area. Malibu Wine Hikes was the perfect solution and I think we would all continue to recommend this adventure.

First off, the word “hike” is being used pretty loosely (we both did the entire hike in Sperrys). It’s more of a nice walk through a beautiful vineyard that’s rested among the Malibu Canyons. Along your walk you’ll get to explore beautiful scenic views, rows of grape vines, a unique garden, and romantic event and venue spaces (you may even spot the Bachelor mansion). The highlight of this trip though, is of course all of the friends you’ll meet along the way.

There was about 10 of us in our group all of different ages and backgrounds, but most were all from the surrounding Los Angeles area. Now the hikes we did were group hikes, but if you have a big enough group, you can book a private hike as well.

The other friends I was talking about though, are the main attractions- an eclectic family of exotic animals. On your hike you’ll make plenty of new friends when you stop and feed goats, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, zebras, and even Stanley the Giraffe. On the hike you’ll spend quite a bit of time interacting with the animals and you’ll get to learn more about them as well as the history behind the ranch’s owners, the ranch, and the vineyard.

Be sure to have your cameras ready and fully charged because there are tons of photo ops along that way that you won’t want to miss. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget and is definitely worth it.  Once you’re done with the hike you’ll get to go up to the wine tasting area and sample 5 of the most popular Saddlerock wines (a $20 value included!)

Tips & Tricks of the Day:

Whether you’re from LA, just here visiting, or have a special celebration coming up, Malibu Wine Hikes is the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy the area. Our hike was $65/person for about 4 hours of fun.  I booked our hike about 3 weeks in advance. Just be aware that the spots can fill up fast since it’s such small groups. The hike itself took about two hours then we spent about two hours in the wine tasting area.

***things we didn’t know but wish we did***

You can stay after in the wine tasting area as long as you’d like. On the weekends they often have live music playing and it’s a very hip and trendy spot to spend a day or afternoon. They also sometimes have a food truck, BUT you can also bring in as much food and non-alcoholic beverages as you like. Tons of people had gourmet picnics set up and one group even had pizzas delivered.  You and a group of friends could easily make a day out of it (plus if you’re worried about driving so far and drinking, it’s not as expensive or uncommon as you’d think to just take an Uber especially from the valley.) Regardless of doing the hike or not though, the only way to get to the wine tasting area is by trolley or shuttle from the main parking lot.  The main parking lot address is associated with Saddle Rock Ranch and the same parking lot for the Wine Hikes and safaris.

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Other things to keep in mind:

Check the weather before you go.  Since it’s deeper in the canyons and at a higher elevation than the beach it tends to be warmer and sunnier.  In the event it rains, or the weather is horrible (extremely unlikely) they do have a rescheduling policy that might work for you. You’re definitely going to want to make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen.  There’s very little shade along the path and bringing sunglasses is also a smart idea. You’ll also want to bring a water bottle with you.  They do have filling stations along the way, but they don’t have any bottles or cups available at the time we went.

As far as what to wear, I wore jean capris, a light weight sweater, and Sperrys (you have to wear close toed shoes for the hike). I was waaaaay too hot in my outfit, but I managed just fine. If you’re most comfortable in workout gear, I would suggest you wear that.  If you want to dress up a little more and be more fashionable for photos, you’ll be fine just make sure you can move freely and be prepared for about a  two-mile walk.  The reason why people would want to look cute for the hike besides photos, is because the wine tasting area is extremely trendy and very LA. To me, going can even feel like being part of a fashion show. There’s always a very diverse group of people there though, and of course other people will be in casual hiking clothes as well so just wear whatever you will be the most comfortable in.

When you look to book your trip, you might also come across the Wine Safaris. They’re at the same location and you’ll see many of the same things, but you’ll miss out on the exercise and won’t get to interact with the animals quite as much.  But for larger groups, it still looked like an extremely fun experience.

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Extend your Day:

If you drove (or even if you didn’t) you can always extend your day before or after your hike and go to one of Malibu’s beautiful beaches.  We went to El Matador before our hike (one of my favorite beaches in the area.) I love El Matador because it’s very scenic due to its stunning rock outcroppings.  Again, it also makes for great photo opportunities.  Don’t worry though the sand is still perfectly soft and not rocky at all.

When visiting El Matador beach, you can pay to park for pretty reasonable fees in the lot, but if the spots are all full you can park a little farther away along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for free.  (I haven’t got a ticket yet for doing that and everyone else does it, so I think it’s fine!) 

It is a bit of a journey to get down from the parking area.  You’ll have to trek down a pretty steep slope and then make your way down a few flights of stairs, so I’d think twice before you bring too much stuff to carry. The view is amazing, and you never know what you might see, perhaps a pod of dolphins swimming in the distance, a few surfers catching waves, or you may just find the lost swing.

Malibu Wine Hikes and beaches were great suggestions and I am more than happy to recommend!  Please let me know if you sign up for a Malibu Wine Hike and feel free to ask any more questions.  I’m always taking recommendations and suggestions of what to do next for my Things To-Do List at dayofjae@gmail.com!