Monday, January 31, 2011

Here's to the Vixens at Indie Wed!

Being relatively new to the business world of wedding professionals, I still have much to learn. For example, when it comes to getting in the know about upcoming vendor events, I am super wet behind the ears! So, I didn't hear about Indie Wed until it was too late to sign up as a vendor! Lame.

Luckily, I know people. In fact, I know some very wonderful and talented people! And that's exactly how I got my fancy creations into Indie Wed this weekend: my great friend and long-time stylist Vanessa Vargas of Vixen Beauty Lounge offered to let me come aboard and help spruce up her booth. I'm so grateful for her generosity!

I made one bridal bouquet and one centerpiece to match the Vixen brand, which is full of fancy black lace damask, fire engine red lips and pinup attitude! As you may imagine, I had a good time with this. It was a color scheme I don't normally get to play in, and I went for some knockout blooms: fiddlehead ferns, kangaroo paws, classic red roses with black beauty sweetheart roses, black calla lilies and more - with white anemones for polka-dot pop. Peacock feathers added a touch of cabaret quirk. Fun!

For the centerpiece I also threw in a cluster of deep purple artichokes, to introduce a groovy texture. I love working with artichokes almost as much as I love eating them.

Vanessa, Diana and Sarah were all a blast to spend time with at the event. I helped set things up while they worked their magic on hair & makeup for the bridal runway show.

And in the end, all was a success! If you were there at the event, feel free to pop by here and say hello! I think all in attendance had a great time, met new people and were blown away by the talented vendors. I also ate my weight in food samples.

And you know, I've got to just say this before I leave... GO TO VIXEN BEAUTY LOUNGE! Brides, their hair and makeup packages are fantastic. And even if you're not getting married, check them out for cuts, color, waxing, even professional makeup for nights out. I've been working with them for years now and have never been anything but wowed every time I leave the studio. And believe me, I've given Vanessa some tough challenges, including self-butchered bangs and a few pimples I thought would never be hidden from sight. These girls can do it all.

Okay, Indie Wed is over until the summer and it's not exactly wedding season here in Chicago... time to hunker down for the upcoming blizzard. Yikes. Stay warm, everyone!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's 3 degrees out, you say? Let's bring a little Jamaica to Chicago!

Matt and Lora were married in Jamaica on November 25, 2010. It was warm and sunny, the sand was most likely quite hot under toe, the rum drinks were definitely flowing, and the flowers were tropical.

Aren't they gorgeous? Doesn't that look nice? I want to go!

Okay, now, fast forward to January 22, 2011: the day of their state-side reception back in Chicago. It looked more like this outside:

You know, it wasn't exactly like this. But it was close.

I believe it was a whopping 3 degrees out when I arrived at the Stonegate, where the reception took place. But the show went on! The goal? Bring a bit of the beach back to the tundra! Not a problem. Minus a few instantaneous floral casualties due to the freezing air during loading and unloading, everything went off without a hitch.

A lot of sand, boat-loads of soft flowers in bright shades of pink, and tons of candlelight combined to successfully create the look of "beachside elegance" the couple wanted to achieve. Here's a sneak preview - just some candid shots of the centerpieces and bouquets. Professional shots to come in due time!

A thousand congratulations, Matt & Lora! Here's to a lifetime of fun in the sun - whatever the weather may be!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Matt + Lora: Everything's coming up roses!

My head is too full of ideas to sleep! It's the big day before Matt and Lora's big day, and all I can think about is garden roses, orchids, lisianthus, white sand and candlelight! It's all going to be beautiful.

Matt and Lora were married in a sunset beach ceremony in Jamaica this November, and now it's time for a stateside reception-blowout-good time! I hope they have warm beach memories in their hearts though, because today in Chicago the high is 9 degrees... and with the wind chill figured in I think it's supposed to be -20!

Unnecessary, Chicago.

Anyway, I'm so excited to get to work on the flowers! I've already got the roses sitting in water so they can open up and get gorgeous in time for Saturday. It's amazing when you think about what flowers can withstand.

These roses, for example, made the long journey from their gardens in Ecuador and other parts of South America (and a few from California) in boxes, all the way to my water buckets here in the Midwest. And I have to tell you, they're none the worse for wear:

I have, in my possession, the most gorgeous batch of garden and spray roses I've ever seen. They smell amazing, and they look even more amazing. I can't wait to get the rest of the order today! The orchids coming in from Thailand are sure to blow my mind.

Lora, if you see this, rest assured! Everything is going to be so beautiful!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Words of wisdom from two Party Pros.

Hello! I should start by stating that this post is grievously overdue. I actually interviewed these guys back before Christmas, and to make matters worse I told them I wanted to put the blog up right away! Then, I flew off to California for a whirlwind holiday break and when I returned, I was busier maybe than I've ever been.

So poor Ricky and Carlos rushed their answers to me and then sat waiting for this blog. For months. It's likely they haven't been able to do much else with life aside from sit on this blog site, constantly refreshing the page. Poor fellas. What a jerk I am!

BUT. I have found a spare moment, and with Oscar parties and maybe even some of the ever-popular "Screw Valentine's Day!" parties coming up, maybe now's a good time to unleash this blog. Because when it comes to throwing a party, these two do it better than anyone else I've ever met. Jesus can these guys throw a party! So without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to Ricky and Carlos.

Okay, here's Carlos in the foreground chatting with me, and Ricky's in the kitchen whipping up some truly amazing Chicken and Dumplings and never skipping a beat when it comes to adding to our conversation.

This photo is actually highly indicative of what this blog's all about: this is the Dream Team of party time. They both know how to have a good time more than most people I've encountered in life, but when it comes to attacking the party planning Ricky handles the food while Carlos handles the fun.

Every year these two throw the holiday party to end all holiday parties. I look forward to it all year long! Carlos' birthday is just before Christmas, so Ricky throws this party as a sort of birthday gift. (Isn't that fantastic? What better birthday gift than to get all the friends and family together for the best party of the year, every year!)

Let's be clear: this is not just a regular holiday party. It's insane! The decorations cannot be believed...they always transform their entire aparment. You have to see it to believe it. There's always a door prize to the person who comes closest to guessing the correct number of ornaments hanging from the ceiling, and it's usually something fantastic like a Crate & Barrel wine glass set, or something. I never, ever win.

And the FOOD! Ricky is an amazing chef, and every year he comes up with something different. While there is always a table of delicious delights set out, you'll also find Ricky in the kitchen keeping stomachs full, or wandering around with a tray of hors d'oeuvres (always home made!) or signature cocktails. They change every year. It's incredible.

Just a side note, last year they had PROFESSIONAL SAMBA DANCERS bust out of nowhere just as the party was really getting crazy! It was astounding:

Carlos gets down with the dancers.

This year, while I had to miss their party due to my trip home to see the family, (I HATE MISSING THIS PARTY!) I did get a chance to have dinner with them the week before. Carlos already had some of the decorations up and I got a sneak peak! Take a gander...

Pretty awesome, right? (And that was just what they'd already done a week in advance!) For anyone who's ever thrown a party, you know how stressful it can get. Especially when you're going all out like this. So naturally, I began my line of questioning with the guys: how DO they DO IT?

Forget me Knodt: Your holiday/birthday party is, at least for me, the best party of the year, every year. It's always so highly anticipated! Do you ever feel lots of pressure to out-do what you've done in the past?

Carlos: Not really. Ricky and I just make sure we stick to the consistencies that make a party great: Good food, good drinks (and plenty of them), great music and awesome guests. All of these together really make the party. The only “pressure” we might feel, is in making sure everyone has a good time and feels welcome and at home. We want to make sure everyone has a great time.

FMK: That said, where do you start each year with the planning? Do you set a loose theme? Or is it with the signature drinks? Or the food? Or the decor? Or something else?

Ricky: I think we actually start by buying new music throughout the year. Carlos is usually in charge of it, he searches more and I give suggestions. Carlos always has something up his sleeve.

Carlos: There’s not really a theme…I tend to look through art work, websites, magazines, etc. and there might be images that strike ideas for the party’s decorations. I run them by Ricky… sometimes he likes them, sometimes he doesn’t, but we collaborate and make it work. This year, our friend Michael sent me a link to online holiday invitations and I saw an image that was very geometric and just became obsessed with it. So I immediately started thinking about what materials I could use to replicate that image in order decorate the ceiling.

As far as food is concerned, Ricky's the chef, he comes up with the ideas. This year we want to make the food as simple as possible, but of course delicious as always! The same goes with the drinks – there will definitely be signature drinks, but we want people to serve themselves. Last year Ricky was stuck making drinks most of the night and wasn’t able to enjoy spending time with guests. Each year is definitely a learning experience. Ricky loves doing that, but he also wants to enjoy spending time with guests – not just chatting while he prepares their drinks.

Ricky: Exactly! I always want to go all out on the food but that just keeps me in the kitchen, and doesn't give me enough time to mingle with our guests. I want to change that this year!

FMK: There's just so much that goes into your party - it's a LOT of work! Do you have a system for organizing it all to get ready in time? Like, do you prep things for days in advance so that you can heat, pour and serve on the day of, without having to spend the day decorating, cooking and cleaning? Do you divide and conquer? Is there an Excel spreadsheet involved for all the organization?!?

Carlos: Ha - no Excel spreadsheet involved at all! We come up with a to do list and head from there. We get the liquor and hit the grocery store a few days ahead. This year, Ricky will prepare all the food the day before, drinks and shots will be prepared in large batches in order to save time. We definitely divide and conquer, but we team up on cleaning! We both clean before and after the party. Ricky is obsessed with waxing the floors the day of, and I tend to become obsessed with the little details in regards to how the place looks.

Ricky: We do try to have the decorations up weeks in advance because that's the most time consuming part, but we're always scrambling at the end. Every day something is added and something is subtracted.

FMK: Carlos, while Ricky's planning the menu, you are always the one facilitating the dance portion of the festivities! Music must be an incredibly important part of the party.

Carlos: I usually put the playlist together for the party, but I run it by Ricky as well to see what other songs I could include… you know, not just the popular songs but also the old reliable ones! Music is DEFINITELY important. It takes you back and brings great memories, so hopefully people think of the great time they had with us when they hear certain songs.

FMK: Finally, if each of you could disclose your simple secrets to a successful soiree, what would they be?

Ricky: New and old school music, good but not over the top food, tasty drinks... but most of all, good people and friends.

Carlos: Awesome music, delicious food, great drinks and definitely making everyone feel at home. Our friends are our family, so we want to make sure they have a great time.

So there you have it! Some tips from two certified Party Geniuses. Just something to keep in mind as you plan your next bash. I know I will! Since I had to miss this one, if any of the readers here happened to make it out, feel free to comment and tell us how it was! What was your favorite moment, or favorite detail?

In closing, I'll leave you with a photo of Ricky and Carlos' cat, Jett. Because he's just perfect.

Happy 1st Birthday, Élan!

Welcome to 2011!

It's a brand new year, full of new beginnings and new possibilities! It's snowing outside and I just ate an entire frozen pizza by myself. (After I cooked it, don't worry.) I'm snuggled up with Forget me Knodt's sleepy mascot, and life is good! So gather 'round, friends, and let's talk about happy things. Happy things, for example, like the celebration of a gorgeous little life! This blog is dedicated to little Miss Élan Rose Orrico, for her first birthday.

[Author clears throat, gargles wine.]

When my beautiful, compassionate, talented and spirited friend Mara announced that she was pregnant, everybody was happy. Especially her husband, Mike:

(Mike, coincidentally, is the BEST DENTIST IN THE ENTIRE WORLD! Even if you don't live near Michigan City, Indiana, I can attest with 200% confidence that the drive is well worth it! He once took out my wisdom tooth and I had NO idea! He totally got me! He's brilliant! Don't delay, make an appointment today!)

For the love of Pete, even Santa Bejeesus Claus trusts Dr. Mike with his pearly whites! See?

Anyway, I'll never forget the day Mara told me she was pregnant. We were knoshing on vegetarian reuben sammiches at a Jewish deli in River North when I asked her how she was.

Me: "How're you doing lately, anyway?"
Mara: "Meh... I've been feeling kinda ucko lately."
Me: "Oh no! Ucko how?"
Mara: "Well, I have a parasite."

Me: (blank stare. holding sammich partway to mouf'.)
Mara: (smiles slyly. slides a picture of an ultrasound across the table to me.)
Me: (commenced bawling, jumping up and running around the table for hugs and smooches!)

It was such great news to hear! I knew she'd be a great mom, that Mike would be a great dad, and that their child would grow up to have a fantastic set of teeth! Of course, none of us could have been properly prepared for just how special their little one would be. Little Miss Élan Rose made her debut last January, and the world's been getting brighter day by day ever since.

She is BEAUTIFUL! And such PERSONALITY! She's a perfect little lady, see?

Photo stolen with neither regret nor remorse from Mike's super rad brother Frank Orrico.

Now it's been a year, and it's time to celebrate this amazing little gal. I asked Mara if I could have the honor of making a centerpiece for her birthday party this upcoming weekend, and access was granted. I chose lots of pinks... not because Élan's a girl, but simply because pink is her signature color! She is a little lady, through and through!

So, a dozen glorious South American roses, a bundle of fragrant sumatra lilies and a handful of happy snapdragons in a perfect blush vase, with one fancy birthday candle in the middle for good measure. I think I did right by her...what do you think?

I wonder if she likes it. I'm tempted to say "It's beautiful! Of course she likes it!" But there's only one way to really be sure. We'd have to ask her...

Yep, she likes it. Thank goodness!

Well, there you have it. A successful first year and many, many more to come! Élan, sweet baby, happy first birthday! Mara and Mike, I love you both! I couldn't be more grateful for the friendship you've given me over the years. (And Dr. Mike, I promise to come in for a cleaning soon... fingers crossed for zero cavities!) :D

I look forward to all the adventures your little lady will have in the future... and I promise not to give her booze until she's 21.