Thursday, July 11, 2024

A Stunning Wedding Celebrating the Other N and M

It's taken me ages to blog about the wedding that was the main reason we travelled back home recently! Longtime readers will know that the other N and M are dear friends of ours, with whom we've spent many late karaoke nights and memorable trips together - particularly during our time in South Korea. I was honored N asked me to be a bridesmaid, and I was thrilled I made it back to the States for her bachelorette and wedding.

The other M is Kenyan American, and N and M did an awesome job of incorporating Kenyan traditions into their wedding weekend. The rehearsal dinner was a Kenyan feast where I got to eat kachumbari, nyama choma, sukuma wiki, and other Kenyan foods I've really missed since we lived in Nairobi. N and M wore a few sets of traditional clothes, and baby S was enchanted by N's final outfit (and especially the headpiece with gorgeous beads and face-framing chains, which he thankfully did not tear asunder with his adorable but destructive little hands).

Then, the night before the main wedding, I had a sleepover with N. We giggled late into the wee hours not because we were swapping stories and gossip but more because of a series of comic mishaps from a freezing room to uncomfortable sheets to loud, barn-style bathroom doors that didn't quite shut out all the light. Little did we know this was just an ominous taste of what was to come the next day. (Don't worry, the bride's face was spared. And mine eventually recovered... Keep reading if you're dying to know from what.)

N has fabulous and elegant taste, and combined with her eye for detail I knew the wedding would be stunning. N went a step further and even made the bridal suite special. From breathtaking views over the DC Waterfront in floor-to-ceiling windows to an Instagram ad-worthy pastry/fruit/champagne spread, we started off our morning on a lovely note.

Soon enough, the hair and makeup artists arrived and the styling rotation began. I was one of a few bridesmaids who had opted out of the hair and makeup. I had recently had my hair damaged by a salon when I had gotten it styled for the annual Marine Corps Ball. On top of that, I've found my fine hair and sensitive skin occasionally don't take kindly to the intense products and methods professional hair and makeup artists use - and I didn't want to take any chances.

I decided to do my own hair and makeup to play it safe. Thankfully, I used to wear makeup every day and I don't think I was too rusty on my skills with that and my chosen heatless curls (that I had simply slept in the night before). Surprisingly, that curling method seems to last longer than any other in my hair, and I wish I had known that technique for my own wedding, where my curls promptly fell flat about halfway through.

Unfortunately, right as the photographer arrived to start taking photos of our group getting ready together, we started panicking because the groom's bowtie was missing and there was a concern it might mistakenly be in one of the bags brought to the bridal suite. (By we I mean the bridesmaids because our bride was a queen and cool as a cucumber. From what I heard, the groom and groomsmen weren't particularly stressed, either.)

The worst part was I, clumsy woman that I am, frantically opened a closet door only to have an ill-balanced ironing board shoot out and peg me right in the face! I had just put the finishing touches on my makeup, so that was annoying, but it also was quite painful and my upper lip bled and became swollen. I was in distress and totally failed to hide it, but everyone was so sweet and promised me they could barely see the swelling. I dipped into the ice from one of our champagne buckets and iced my face until it went down and had just enough time to reapply my makeup before the photos. You can't even tell, right?

Thankfully later we (myself included) were all able to laugh about it. I'm so relieved it didn't derail N's special day! After we finished getting ready we went outside for some photos along the DC Waterfront. It was so much fun, and groups of people kept shouting and cheering for us since we were obviously a wedding party.

Once we finished pictures, we went inside to wait for the start of the ceremony. The ceremony was my favorite kind: personalized, sweet, and not too long. I almost cried when I saw N, radiant, float down the aisle in her gorgeous dress. Our friend S was the officiant and I almost cried again when he described what a lovely person N is so beautifully and perfectly. I was close enough to see her groom's thrilled face when he saw her walk down the aisle, and that filled me with so many tender memories of my own wedding almost 10 years ago now. (And yes, they did find him a bowtie!)

After the ceremony, we had cocktail hour where we could catch up with old friends while N and M took photos with their families. I was also excited to find they had zero-alcohol beer at the bar. Once we finished cocktail hour and had our wedding party entrance to the reception my accompanying groomsman and I decided to toast and clink beer bottles when we walked in, which we were happy to see entertained the crowd as we'd hoped.

The decorative details were extraordinary, from the fresh floral custom seating chart outside to the lush centerpieces and wicker-accented chairs perfectly matching the garden party theme inside. I sat at the wedding party table for a delicious seated dinner. It was so good, I could not believe it was wedding food! The elegant cake also tasted as good as it looked!

Once we were done with the meal, I hit the dance floor with the bridesmaids and danced most of the night away (with periodic breaks to sit with M and to take photos in the photo booth with friends). We went all the way until the event ended and even joined the afterparty. I could barely keep my eyes open but didn't want the night to end. I wished N and I could've had more time together (like that one time we took a girls' trip to Richmond), but I had to fly back to Dubai the very next day. I'd missed N so much, and I was so happy at least to be there with her on her wedding day.

I'm sure we'll be reunited with the other N and M again, whether that's back in Washington, DC or somewhere else in the world. We are so glad to welcome them to the married club and all the adventures married life brings. Congratulations to our dear, dear friends!

Monday, June 17, 2024

A Week in Denver, Colorado with Family

I'm finally catching up on posts from our multi-week trip back home to the United States for my friend N's wedding and to spend time with family. We spent a week in Colorado staying with my sister C and her husband A, and we had a blast. Colorado is such a beautiful state, and I love getting to know it better through my family visits since my sister and mom moved there.

Coincidentally, the first full day we had in Colorado happened to be the same day my friend Rachel Rueckert was doing a book event in Denver for her debut novel, If the Tide Turns! We went with C and A to an awesome local bookshop called Tattered Cover for the event, where we learned all sorts of pirate facts and got fun swag.

I highly recommend If the Tide Turns to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It is well researched and beautifully written - I couldn't put it down! (I also recommend the vegan sushi restaurant a short walk from the Tattered Cover: Wellness Sushi! As a non-vegan sushi lover, I was skeptical but all of us loved it.)

S spent a lot of quality time with grandma, too, including a day we spent at the Denver Botanic Gardens with the whole family and my friend from college K who lives near my sister. My favorite part was the bonsai garden, with a range of bonsai trees that taught me that the art of bonsai is much more localized than I thought.

There were many bonsai using plants native to Colorado at different stages in their cultivation. All of them were beautiful in their own way. For the Nintendo gamers out there: doesn't the one in the photo above look just like it might be hiding a Korok?

We also encountered a few of these walls filled with twigs, fuzz, fur, and other things that local birds can come and take to use to build up their nests. It's such a cool concept and the first time I've seen anything like it.

The other stop that was an absolute hit was the Denver Zoo. S was in a state of pure delight for the many hours we were there and probably could've kept going if I wasn't so exhausted from so much walking. The zoo also included some aquarium exhibits, which were nice to enjoy without paying separately for an aquarium admission.

I can't believe how I got no pictures of any of the food we ate, but C and A are excellent hosts and wonderful cooks so we ate extremely well the whole time we were there. It was such a healing trip in so many ways, from the special family time to the refreshing and cool Colorado air (which also gives me the best hair and skin of my life while I'm there). It was hard to say goodbye at the end of our weeklong trip, but we're looking forward to the next time we can go back!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Bachelorette Weekend in Savannah, Georgia

My Foreign Service bestie is getting married, so we flew to the States for the wedding and to visit our family. The timing worked out so I was able to attend my dear friend's bachelorette weekend in Savannah, Georgia. I've been to Savannah before as part of an American South road trip I took with M many years ago, but this time was completely different given the crowd and the occasion. I'm normally such a hardcore trip planner that it was such an unusual and nice experience for me to show up to a trip where someone else made the itinerary.

Longtime readers of the blog will know the importance the other N and M play in our lives from my many posts on our previous trips with them in Korea. This was N's bachelorette, and it was a blast. I hadn't met most of the other bridesmaids before, but I learned a lot about them and we all had so much fun celebrating N. We all arrived Friday night to our Airbnb in Savannah and hung out over drinks and pizza. I was the first to get there and with another bridesmaid helped the maid of honor decorate the Airbnb. This was my first time doing a full-on bachelorette trip like this, and it was so special, especially thanks to the two maids of honor: the one who attended and the one who couldn't attend but did a lot of the planning and logistics from afar.

(The theme for the weekend was Veuve before the Vows because N loves champagne. I learned in the process of writing this blog post that "veuve" means widow in French and became associated with champagne when widowed Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin changed the name of her late husband's business she decided to take over from Clicquot-Muiron et Fils to Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, which "suggested a certain kind of respectability to the beverage… some of these beverages had gotten associated with the debauchery and wild parties of the royal courts of old" according to historian Kolleen M. Guy. You can read more about that fascinating history on the BBC website.)

On Saturday morning, we kicked off the day with a phenomenal brunch at Collins Quarter at Forsyth Park. Everything was delicious, and I was thrilled to find one of my favorite herbal teas on the menu: butterfly pea tea. To my shock, they were planning on serving the tea without lemon, when the signature perk of this deep blue tea is that acid turns it purple. The effect is so fun to watch, and they were happy to oblige my request for a few lemon slices.

After brunch, we took a delightful stroll through the farmers market at Forsyth Park. I bought a paleo cookie that was one of the best I ever had, and a kind man selling honey gifted a bottle to N for free when he found out she was getting married. Another friend, A, bought a bag of delicious, local Georgia peaches that she and I enjoyed eating throughout the weekend. Farmers markets are something I really miss living in Dubai. The closest we have in the UAE is something called Ripe Market, which has food but mostly food trucks and not a lot of fresh produce.

Then we did a pedal pub, which most of us had never experienced before, with another group who was also on a bachelorette trip. A pedal pub is not a pub itself but a vehicle powered by the pedaling of the customers and steered by an experienced conductor that you use to travel from pub to pub, where they offer special deals for pedal pub clients.

It was so much fun and we were able to get a light workout in while exploring a bunch of different places. The standout stop was Mint to Be Mojito, which has not only great mojitos but the best empanadas we've ever had. It even had a speakeasy in the back called La Aparicion that we got to experience since we were on the walking tour.

After that, we embarked on a cocktails and bar bites happy hour tour where we learned a bit about Savannah's Prohibition history and enjoyed drinks and food. I was grateful every stop had a mocktail option; I've become so used to mocktails in Dubai that I was surprised that multiple restaurants we visited had no non-alcoholic options listed. (The tour advertised itself as offering "heavy food tastings" but we felt like the portions were on the smaller end, so I would not recommend skipping a meal thinking the tour will be enough. It will not be enough for most.) We went back to the Airbnb to shower, eat some leftover pizza, and get ready for a night out.

Our evening started with Savannah Smiles dueling piano bar. Most of us (myself included) had never experienced a dueling piano bar before, but I had heard about them and was excited to go. Once we got in, I was blown away by the talent of the musicians. They were incredible pianists and singers (which I suppose on further reflection you have to be to succeed in such a heavily tip-based business where you are constantly improvising based on what the crowd demands). We could write things on napkins and take them to the stage with some cash to make song requests or insert a phrase. Of course, we had to get N and us up there for a dance as the bachelorette party. The maid of honor had brought several large prints of N's fiance M to the bachelorette and we took one of the faces on our night out, so even he made it up to the stage. (In case you're curious, we danced to Dancing Queen, which is a much longer song than we realized when we requested it. But now we have a fun memory!)

We then walked from the piano bar to the Electric Moon Skytop Lounge, a bar with a stunning view over the water. The highlight of the whole night was the Electric Moon dance floor, where people from seemingly all walks of life and all flavors of bachelorette were brought together by the most incredible DJ any of us had ever seen. We were tired from a full day of activities, but that DJ made us not want to leave. Every song and every transition was perfect. N loved it so much that she went up and got the DJ's Instagram handle so she could let her wedding DJ know that was the kind of vibe she was going for at her reception. We ended the night on such a high note.

On Sunday, we had bagels for breakfast at the Airbnb and then went to Tybee Beach for the day. Traffic was out of control but we made it there eventually. We had umbrellas and chairs reserved on the beach, and the maid of honor brought an inflatable engagement ring. We took photos, swam in the freshingly cool ocean water, sunbathed, read books, consumed an assortment of snacks and drinks we'd brought, and chatted. It was so relaxing. Even though Dubai has plenty of great beaches, we don't go often since M isn't a fan and it's a bit of a drive from our part of town. I hadn't realized how long it's been since I've enjoyed the beach until I was there. I love swimming and sunbathing and reading my book on the beach, and I managed to wear enough sunscreen that I didn't burn.

It was a bit of a nightmare trying to get food at the beach - everything was overcrowded and the wait times were very long. We decided to head back to the Airbnb, where we snacked, showered, and got dressed up in pink for our dinner at The Olde Pink House, a historic Southern restaurant. The food was so good, the portions were generous, and the ambiance was fantastic. It was the perfect choice for our final meal of the bachelorette. We decided to spend the rest of the night hanging out comfortably at the Airbnb, so we went back and changed into our pajamas and chatted and played games for hours. It is such a precious memory and I loved the chance to get to know these amazing women united in our love for N.

I already miss Savannah and there's even more I wanted to experience but didn't get a chance this time. (I'm looking at you, murder mystery book-themed tea house.) I feel so thankful I had the opportunity to come home from Dubai early enough to attend the bachelorette and meet the other bridesmaids and spend more time with N. At the same time, I missed M and S and was so excited to see them again. It's always good to come home.