Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Bliss

For me winter holidays start with snowy-themed coffee cups :)

They are also watching a snowstorm outside...

....with a bowl of cranberry-walnut-brown sugar oatmeal in front of me.

It is in decorating our place early this year by Belorussian standards

Getting a real tree, because the smell of pine is a part of the holidays

Our balcony table and chairs are attributes of summer, and it is very unusual to see them covered with snow
The holidays are filled with cozy evenings by Christmas-New Year tree.
All all this glitter, lights, cups of warm tee the longest night of winter become the coziest.

What are winter holidays for you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Halloween Career Lesson

I have been told I look like Paris Hilton on multiple occasions. I never took that as a compliment - Paris's list of accomplishments isn't to be proud of. However, I got a free dinner from a fancy restaurant in Jacksonville, FL, and a sight of a cashier at Lowe's and in Panera Bread losing their composure, as they thought Paris or her sister Nicky visited them.

When it was time to come up with a costume for a Halloween party this year, my resemblance with Paris history came to mind. I decided - yes, I am not fond of that comparison, but how can I not use it for my Halloween transformation?

I went to the mall and picked up a luminescent pink fishnets, a pair of shorty shorts, a pink shirt, a small purse with a Playboy logo, huge hoop earrings, plenty of bracelets for extra Bling, and finally and most importantly - a blond wig!!!

I thought this was the most creative costume of the party - Sarah Palin

Here I was working my "Paris Look"

I also met some pirates

Well, let me tell you - it was a very ordinary night for Paris - she enjoyed total and complete attention!!! :) For me - the Halloween outing was a lot of fun. This whole experience got me thinking ....

... Career lesson: sometimes people around us recognize our talents we might not find important. If you know about any, take a closer look at them - perhaps you are missing out on an easy opportunity?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wedding: Choosing a Location

Actually, choosing a wedding location isn't that difficult.
The whole process took Andrey and I 1.5 weeks and only 2 interviews!

At a very special wedding we attended on August 30, it became clear to us that location is extremely important to set the atmosphere of your most magical day right.
The wedding was set in a castle in the middle of Canadian metropolis Toronto - Casa Loma.

The reception banquet took place in the castle's library, so the walls of the room were not wallpaper, but bookshelves with old fashioned lights. I felt I was a part of a historical movie, not just a beautiful wedding.
Bottom line: there should be more to enjoy at the wedding than the food, you want your guests not to just travel to your wedding, you want them to transcend into a special atmosphere they will remember. And this can be done on any budget!

Understanding the level of importance of this decision, we began our selection.

Phase 1, imaginative: In the beginning we kept grinning at each other because the same thought came to us undiscussed: to wed somewhere in South Carolina, Georgia or, Alabama! Did you know that Alabama has a great ocean coast and plenty of new resorts? Just imagine: a classic southern home with wrapped around porch, set back at the end of an oak alley at some plantation in the South .... like the Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana:
Photograph from Oak Alley Plantation web-site

But than we got thinking..... :)

Phase 2, analytical:
As much as the event is about us, it is also about who we want to see at our wedding. We didn't want to make traveling plans more complicated for any of our excitedly anticipated guests, taking in consideration that a whole bunch of them will need to get 2 international visas to begin with. So, a decision was made to have the wedding here, in Western New York. Yes, in Western New York, in Buffalo-Niagara area!! Did you know that summers, and winters, even falls and especially springs are very beautiful here? We will prove that to you!

Phase 3, rational: Next we stumbled upon a necessity to know the size of our wedding - what if any particular place isn't big enough? So we've counted. .... 2, 4, 16, ....88 ....100!

Phase 4, methodical: To target our search we sat down and thought of what is important to us in a wedding location. Our list of requirements for the reception place came down to:
1) windows with a nice view;
2) a nice outside area;
3) beautifully decorated inside;
4) lots of light inside;
5) the easiest travel for our guests.
With these requirements our choices narrowed to a very few options.

Side story, necessary:
My college summer job was waitressing in a club restaurant, one of the most beautiful in the area - Niagara Falls Country Club. It sits on the escarpment - that very edge where long-long time ago Lake Erie spilled into the lower laying lake Ontario and created Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls moved in about 10 miles creating a deep gorge, but the crease with a beautiful view remained. 100 years ago one of the spots on the crease got occupied by a golf club house. The clubhouse dining rooms overlook Niagara River that falls into Lake Ontario. On a clear day Toronto's CN Tower shines across the lake. So, to begin with, I had my expectations set really high and I was strongly biased in my preferences. Honestly, in all these years I have not seen a more beautifully located and better maintained club restaurant in Buffalo-Niagara region. Since my non-objectiveness was obvious, I left the final decision to Andrey.

Phase 5, executive: Our runner-ups were:
a) Queenston Heights Restaurant - smaller, cozy restaurant overlooking Niagara River, but from a different angle than the country club. We spoke with the manager, toured the restaurant and left delighted - cozy, neat, has a porch for dancing and cocktails, located in a well-groomed park.
b) several wineries at Niagara On the Lake - a beautiful town on a turn of Niagara River surrounded by wineries. The wineries were too small to hold our wedding.

The last stop of our reception places quest was Niagara Falls Country Club. After a tour and a chat with the manager that I known for years - Mr. Alan Cohen, Andrey thought our choice was clear. I didn't object. ... :)

The club met all of our requirements. It also came with bonuses:
1) there is a magnificent back terrace and garden for the ceremony;
2) if the weather isn't sunshiny, the ceremony can be brought inside - to the living room;
3) ladies locker room is perfect for bridal party getting ready;
4) a two room girls bathroom will give ladies plenty of space to pretty up;
5) there is a grand piano in the living room that can be used for live music during a cocktail hour;
6) I know the place inside and out, and, will use all of its advantages for the celebration.

Since my "choosing a wedding location" story turned out rather narrative, I also found a couple of articles that are more methodical advise in choosing wedding location and will be helpful if you don't know where to begin with:
1) eHow article
2) The Knot article

Oh, and ... since the place we set our eyes on for the wedding is quite popular, it "picked" the wedding date for us - September 6, 2009. !!! :) A fall wedding.

Let me know if you think there is something we didn't consider while choosing our wedding location. I'd love to have this information covered, and so, I am sure, anybody who is reading this post.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hush City

Monday morning my work email spam filter caught a message from my very talented friend Yulia. She granted me with a link and a note: “Look!!!!” – this always means I would definitely enjoy it.

I do not want to give away my impressions before you watch this, so lock your palms around a mug of your favorite tea or coffee – you are for a 20 minutes of a special treat.

One of the main characters of the movie is my dear native city of Minsk. I must warn that the loading is a little slow, so be patient – it’s worth it. After you are through with this special show, you can read my impressions in the comments to this post. And, I’d delighted to learn what you think as well, so leave a comment!

Hush City