The Party Makes It Official

10469699_10203685934445439_1970003201694366915_nOur engagement party was a success! Anthony and I started our Saturday in Flatiron for my Drybar appointment. Since blow outs seem like a pretty New York thing to do, and our engagement party would be one of the more important events we’d celebrate in New York, I figured a blowout at the indulgent salon was worth it. When we entered the bright yellow salon, we were given cookies and champagne. Not a bad way to start the weekend! Anthony did some reading on one of the plush chairs in the lounge area, while I was taken to the back to get my hair rinsed. Even Drybar’s sinks are fancy! Their sinks tilt so that you don’t have to strain your neck. After, I was seated facing a huge TV that was screening “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” It’s a pretty awful movie, but I guess there’s not really enough time for Ang Lee. My very sweet stylist gave me a “Mai Tai” blowout, which consists of loose, beachy waves. I loved it. The whole appointment took about an hour – longer than I expected, so Anthony and I had to rush to Dominique Ansel to pick up our cannelés. Each cannelé was individually-wrapped and sealed with a bright orange sticker. Next, we did our last errand: picking up some balloons. We power-walked through Soho up to Greenwich Village and bought two teal and two cream balloons at Village Party Store. And then that was it – time to party!10541415_10203707604267171_3789721448465323300_oWhen we finally arrived at Milk + Honey, the owner had been anxiously waiting for us. I gasped when I saw the place – it was perfect. Originally, I had assumed we would have a few tables in the back, while the front half of the space would be open to the public. Instead, the owner had cleared out the entire coffee shop and even purchased flowers, table cloth, and balloons for us. Milk + Honey is naturally stunning, so we didn’t need much decoration. Since it was a mild, breezy day, we were able to open the entire wall of doors instead of using air conditioning. I tied four balloons outside by the door. About twenty minutes later,  I heard our two teal balloons pop, so it’s a good thing we still had the owner’s balloons, which were safely tied to our vase of white roses.10517459_10203685933045404_2905696767098043544_nTwo tall tables with white table cloths were placed in the back corner. They held the gifts, our photo caption game, flowers, and cannelés. We moved some smaller tables to the center, creating four clusters.All of our guests arrived late, but I guess we should have expected that since our invitation said “5:00-8:00 pm” instead of just “5:00 pm.” I’ll have to remember for any future parties. As each guest arrived, we told them about our photo caption game. We had printed out four goofy photos of us and put them in black and white frames. Guests could come up with their own captions and write them on a piece of paper below each frame. Guests were also greeted with a quiz. They had to match Anthony and me to twenty different items, such as favorite food, dad’s name, past pet, and college major.10369914_10203685934005428_732186926216157866_n

10538640_10203685933685420_2064923005701910272_nTwo types of drinks were presented in punch bowls: watermelon juice and ginger mint iced tea. We were also able to order coffee beverages from the barista. Once our final guest arrived, we handed out our last game: a 4×4 grid containing a unique fact about each guest. Unsurprisingly, my incredibly sociable friend was the first to complete the grid, so she had first dibs on the prizes. The previous week, I had purchased $10 gift cards at three of my favorite places in the city: The Strand, Fishs Eddy, and Eataly.10514739_10203685934685445_2107985269799026384_nBy then, the food was ready. Staff sliced and placed our flatbreads and sandwiches on adorable pizza boards. I had printed out a menu of the food, so I placed that in an extra photo frame and put it at the beginning of our buffet. We had ordered two grilled flank steak panini, two grilled veggie sandwiches, two zesty chicken sandwiches, two baked salmon flatbreads, two asparagus and artichoke flatbreads, two roast vegetable and pesto flatbreads, arugula salad, and kale salad. Our guests told us that they loved the food.10514474_10203686137250509_534339499680164854_n 10462684_10203685937565517_2463063743483016658_n (1)As the meal winded down, we continued with our games. We went over the correct answers for the matching quiz. My friend got an impressive 19 out of 20 correct, so she chose the Eataly gift card. Anthony and I voted for our favorite caption to our goofy photos. One of Anthony’s friend won that one.10393685_10203685935885475_3849849720241798203_nOur party ended a little late, but everyone seemed to have a great time. Each guest was given a cannelé before they left. Despite coinciding with the second-to-last World Cup game, I’m glad our friends could join us to celebrate our engagement. It was a lovely, low-key night with good food and some of our favorite New Yorkers. 10384336_10203685938525541_8344648224710980006_n10552580_10203685933365412_79329159435758870_n


Hosting a Party in New York

I’m pretty sure engagement parties are more of an East Coast thing. I had never heard of them growing up in Hawaii, and neither has my Californian fiancé. When some of our New York friends found out that we got engaged, they asked if we were having an engagement party. (New Yorkers sure love their parties!) After flirting with the concept for a few days, I decided that – hey, we’re semi-New Yorkers; let’s have an engagement party. Anthony, always a good sport about my whims, agreed that it would be nice to announce and celebrate our engagement to our few New York friends, especially since our wedding is so far from now and on the other side of the country.

Anthony and I racked our brains for all possible venues around the city. We sent out emails to our favorite restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Our budget, though, seemed too small for the types of places we desired. I know this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but we quickly learned that renting space in New York is obscenely expensive.

Finally, one surprising bakery fit our budget: Dominique Ansel. Anthony and I were both shocked, as Dominique Ansel is easily the trendiest pastry chef around, and his bakery is located in the pricey West Village. However, a gracious contact at the bakery said their Greenhouse would be perfect for a party of our size, and would fit our budget. We were ecstatic. The Greenhouse is an enclosed, air-conditioned room in the back of the main bakery, with seating for up to 20 people. The next weekend, we met with our contact at the bakery, which gave us the perfect excuse to eat some Dominique Ansel goodies. The Greenhouse is very sleek, with metal furniture, a glass ceiling that fills the room with light, and hints of bright orange.dom dom 2After eagerly pre-ordering enough pastries for our menu, we were given an updated invoice. I finally understood what “sticker shock” is. While the initial price of renting out the Greenhouse fit our budget, the pastries and beverages added up quickly. Plus, I had forgotten about gratuity and tax. In the end, the final total was twice as much as what we had planned to pay. We woefully had to decline Dominique Ansel and look elsewhere.

Fortunately, I received an email from the owner of one of our neighborhood coffee shops. Max apologized for taking long to respond and said we could host our party at Milk + Honey. The following weekend, we walked down to Newkirk Avenue to discuss the details. Milk + Honey is a beautiful coffee shop that I’ve been to a few times before. It feels very Brooklyn, with exposed brick walls, a vertical plant growing on one side, a wall of French doors open up to the bustling neighborhood, and fantastic Counter Culture drinks. When I had first emailed Milk + Honey about hosting our party there, I immediately wrote the place off because it was so spacious that I assumed it would easily be out of our price range. However, when we visited, Max said he could work with our budget – which would include the cost of food and drinks, even though he usually charges three times as much for the space. I’m still not sure if it was because he pitied us, or because he found us charming, but we were eager to work with him.milk3 milkandhoneyWith the venue finally set, I could go forward with the rest of the planning. I ordered our invitations from Paper Source, which has stationary shops all over the country. We chose a simple design called “Ampersand” in the color “Peacock.” I appreciated that our names were the focus of the invitation – not flowers or diamonds or birds. And while we weren’t really thinking of what our wedding colors might be, Peacock sure is pretty…IMG_20140621_112937The rest of the party planning was easy, thanks to years of practice hosting Christmas parties for my dad’s office at my house in Honolulu. Back then, I was always in charge of entertainment. I would create Christmas-themed games and play Christmas carols on our grand piano to which our guests could sing along. For our engagement party, Anthony and I came up with three games: one to play in the beginning so our friends could finally get to know each other; a matching game called “Jenn or Anthony?”; and one that involves creating captions for goofy photos of us. While we couldn’t host our actual party at Dominique Ansel, we did return to the famous chef for individually-wrapped cannelés as party favors. Although I’m not a fan of roses, I passed a bouquet of white roses on my way home and thought it fit the occasion perfectly.IMG_20140710_081205The days leading up to our party have been a whirlwind of last-minute decorations, such as photos and balloons. In the end, I’ve learned that everything will usually work out, even for a somewhat naïve, hopelessly-in-love couple trying to plan a party in an overpriced city. We’re excited, and we hope this Saturday is a success!

We Aim for Stability in Order for Mobility

It’s been almost two months since my last post. The shops have started playing Christmas music, my gloves and cashmere are out of storage, and everything that was flavored pumpkin a week ago is now flavored gingerbread. Perhaps the biggest change is that I now live in Brooklyn, like every other twenty-something-year-old. Anthony and I moved to Ditmas Park two days after Hurricane (Post-Tropical Storm?) Sandy. It wasn’t the best timing, but fortunately, our new street seemed as unaffected by the storm as our old street. Thanks to a couple of college friends who were leaving America for Africa, we scored our very own apartment in one of those six-story brick buildings in a neighborhood of oddly suburban mansions, just south of Prospect Park. After a month of residing in our new place, we have finally chosen our favorite grocery store, determined the best layout for the bedroom, and learned exactly which car on the Q train to aim for on my way to work.

Since many of the subways were down due to the storm, I commuted to work with a stranger we met through Craigslist for my first few days at our new place. Vehicles were required to carry a minimum of three passengers in order to enter Manhattan, so subway riders and car drivers were encouraged to get in touch with each other and coordinate schedules. You know that myth that New Yorkers come together in times of hardship? It’s true.

Coincidentally, the person with whom we ended up commuting studied at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, which is where my dad studied for grad school. Then, on our ride back home, I met his partner who, turns out, spent a lot of time in Hawaii. After a roughly thirty minute ride of bonding over our love of restaurants in Fort Greene and our disdain for the color choice of Barclays Center, it was refreshing to see how much one can share with a complete stranger, in a city of anonymity.

The trains are now back to normal, Anthony has decidedly enough winter clothes, and our apartment is furnished with the bare necessities. We can finally settle in comfortably. With that, of course, comes the ironic yearning for change. People aim for stability in order for mobility. Now that we have our own place and feel like New Yorkers more than ever, we will be leaving the city quite frequently (or, as often as our income allows). We spent a weekend in Boston earlier this month and will be in Portland and the Bay Area next month. Eventually we plan to go to DC, Chicago, and back to Hawaii in the summer to visit my family and avoid part of the miserable East Coast humidity. Hopefully next year, we’ll be doing some international traveling.

Whether one goes to escape or to explore, traveling provides opportunities to discover how other societies function, try unfamiliar cuisines, and examine various ways of life. The monotony of life, even when completely satisfying, still tastes sweeter with the sporadic snack break. Now, however, I compare every city I visit to New York — my home, at last.

First snow of the year!

Gone Are the Days of 820 Fifth Avenue

Apartment hunting is the perfect activity for someone [slightly obsessive] who likes to research, shop, and organize. Since I’ll still be over 5,600 miles away from New York until June 6th, I’ve been doing the only things I can do right now: learning as much as I can about different New York neighborhoods and browsing current apartment listings online to get an idea of what to expect when I can do something. I’ve signed up to receive emails every morning from, informing me of apartments that fit my requirements (studio for under $1100). These emails are encouraging, if not a little painful because I must kiss each apartment I like good-bye.

Besides getting attached to apartments I can’t have, I’ve also been doing a lot of research for neighborhoods. Unsurprisingly, this has led me to creating a list. I’ve finally been able to narrow it down to six neighborhoods (down from 14!) that I’d consider living in, each reflecting a mélange of influences, such as my own memories from past visits, suggestions and advice from friends, and online descriptions. The current list is as follows:

  1. Fort Greene, Brooklyn: My friend Shani took me here on my first time in Brooklyn, and I immediately fell in love. It was exactly what I thought Brooklyn should be. I had been impressed by its anomalously perfect balance of grit and comfort, home to artists and professionals and everyone in between. Apparently the neighborhood is frequently studied by sociologists, who are just as intrigued as I am by its remarkable racial and economic diversity and integration. With access to most subway lines and located on the northwest portion of Brooklyn, Fort Greene is easily my top choice.
  2. Astoria, Queens: Astoria is an up-and-coming neighborhood, with lots of rentals, waterfront views and parkland, easy access to Manhattan, and, most importantly, a mouthwatering selection of cuisines. Nearly every avenue has managed to develop an array of authentic family businesses, from the Greeks on 31st Street to the Brazilians on 34th Avenue, and national chains are crowded out by local ones. Streets known for specific cultures? That has to be a good sign!
  3. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn: Adjacent to Fort Greene, this tree-lined area prides itself on its brownstone blocks. Hopefully those Pratt kids are going home for the summer and leaving some nice studios for me. It’ll also be nice to be surrounded by an arts community.
  4. Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Yeah, I know. I judged myself for putting Williamsburg on the list, too, but I keep forgetting how large this neighborhood is. It’s not just for hipsters!
  5. Jackson Heights, Queens
  6. Long Island City, Queens

(I’m not as passionate about the last half of my list so I didn’t bother to go into detail.)

In case you didn’t notice, everything on the list is either in Brooklyn or Queens. Gone are the days of 820 Fifth Avenue. That eighth grade dream of mine vanished as soon as I first visited New York years ago, when I realized that stuffy granite wasn’t really my thing. Besides, Brooklyn is the brunt of so many jokes on Gossip Girl (yup, I watch Gossip Girl – non-ironically, even!), how could I not want to live there?

Brooklyn when I went in the winter