Sunday, July 30, 2006

Location scouting

I've spend the past few weeks on the hunt for locations for the wedding. Sounds nuts right? Yep, until you find out that many places book well over a year in advance. One location we like is booked most Saturdays next summer already!

Saturday, Tim and I went to take a look at one of our current front-runners, Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu. Tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains, the ranch is only an hour from Hollywood but far enough away from the traffic and aggrevation we call LA. The ranch is also a working winery and horse stables and in addition to the grapes and horses, they have veritable ark of other animals including zebras, llamas, and buffalo.

More Photos of Saddlerock Ranch

On Sunday we also checked out The Wattles Mansion in Hollywood which is actually just down the road and is a beautiful old home, but we thought is was not quite suitable for what we wanted. The floorplan is a little too broken up for what we are looking for and as convenient as it would be to just go down the's also just down the street and we didn't think it would feel quite as special that way.

The Wattles Mansion Website website

We also trucked down to Santa Ana to look at The Hacienda which was cute, but not quite intimate enough feeling for the size of our party. It would be a great venue for weddings of 150 + since it's so reasonably priced though.

The Hacienda's website (photography is very flattering, it's less elegant and more Rio Bravo-esque for all of my Atlanta folk

After our long day of free lunch and touring beautiful locations for our wedding, we decided we needed to relax so we ended the day at Newport Beach where Tim managed not to drown himself and where I was able to indulge in my new hobby, wedding magazines! We also lucked out and saw a school of dolphins playing about 10 yards off shore.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Best Vacation Ever!

Aside from al the mushy engagement stuff, we had an AMAZING vacation! I hope everyone gets a chance to do this trip at least once in their life. It made us feel almost happy about astronomical rent, gas, and traffic in LA! You can check out all our photos here

First step to this awesome vacation: If you're going to drive around country this beautiful, GET A CONVERTABLE OR A MOTORCYLCE! Driving around southern california with the top down on a warm sunny day is in itself a joy, but add in a crystal clear sky, some huge mountians, and exapnsive valleys, and you've got something that few places can offer.

Bristlecone Pine Forest
Yeah, yeah, it might sound boring, a bunch of old trees out in the middle of nowhere and yeah, Tim and I are all gushy about it because it's the place we got engaged, but it truly is an amazing place to take in the Sierras and great valleys of southern California. Plus, the road that takes you up to the park is deserted, windy, perfectly paved, and empty.

Mammoth Moutain and Lakes
Little skiing in the morning, dirt biking in the afternoon, hiking, fishing, boating, horseback riding, goncola rides, anything outdoorsy is here. Mammoth is only an hour outside of the easter entrance to Yosemite and along the way you will pass by Mono Lake which is yet another gorgeous natural phenomenon to gawk at.

What can I say? It's Yosemite, it's huge, it's gorgeous, it does not dissappoint. If you happen to head there from Mammoth, stop by the Mobil Station at the Tioga Pass. For some weird reason, there's a gourmet deli inside it with great fish tacos and huuuge cakes. Tim's parents actually know someone that held their wedding there!

Favorites in Yosemite
Olmstead Point, Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Glacier Point

Paso Robles

What a find! Imagine Nappa/Sonoma 20 years ago before it was overrun by buses full of tourists and you've got Paso Robles. There are over 100 wineries in this area 15 miles east of the Pacific and half way between LA and San Francisco. Well worth the drive. The wineries are in a fairly small area so it's really easy to hop around and hit a bunch of them in a short amount of time. They specialize in Zinfandels but there are lots of Roses, Pinot Gris, and other blends and when you go in for a flight, most of the wineries pour a generous 6-8 glasses for $3-$5. We actually got a little tipsy and had to take a long lunch to sober up. The little town of Paso Robles itself is also quite cute with a little town square dotted with shops and restaurants.

We stayed at a pueblo style B&B called the "Wild Coyote Winery. The "casitas" style buldings were designed and decorated by the inn keeper and his wife and the love they have for this place relaly shows through in al the little details, even down to the hair dryer! Not to mention the breakfasts the inn keeper's wife cooked every morning, way above and beyond most B&B fare.

Santa Barbara
By the time we got here, we were pretty exhausted so this was all about sitting around on the beach or pier, going to a few more wineries and just relaxing.

The Ring

It's Tim so of course, a plain old engagement ring with a big rock in the center wasn't going to do it so he had a ring custom made. It was about a month in the making and as if the process were not stressful enough, he had the unfortunate timing of trying to get the ring designed and finished while he and Chris were crunching to get theit short pitch completed.

Tim really wanted to find a way to incorporate our families into the ring somehow since the marriage is really more than just the two of us, but all of our families so he translated of all of our family names: Wong (my mom's maiden name), Holzhauer, Keenan, and Vogel (his mom's maiden name) from their native launguages into English -- Wong=King, Holzhauer=Wood Cutter, Keenan=Ancient, Vogel=Bird -- and then took those English translations and found the corresponding Chinese characters. To do that, he enlisted the unwitting participiation of my aunt and uncle by making up some story about how Tim wanted to give me a poem in chinese and needed those specfic characters. After getting all the characters together, he wanted to add something to the ring that was representative of him and his not-so-chinese background so he added the Celtic eternity knot in the center to balance it out and literally tie it all together.

Armed with his concept for the ring, he then had to find a jeweler that could actually make the thing which became more of issue than he had expected. To give some context, the ring is about 5.5mm from top to bottom and the characters are well under a millimeter in thickness. He went to several jewelers who claimed they would not be able to make it less than 8-13mm which would be a pretty manly sized ring esepcially for my Holly-sized fingers. He finally ended up going to one of those big megachains (thing Jared or Kay) which he was reluctant to do because quality is just not something you generally associate with big-box stores, but they had an old chinese master jeweler who claimed he could do it at half the size of the other jewelers so Tim went with them.

To make it even more nerve racking, they weren't going to be able to show him a wax model of the ring so he was going to have to just plunk down his money and wait for the real metal. The characters are too find in detail to be cast in wax, so the only option was to do it directly in platinum, also the only material they though that would be strong enough to pull it off, and sauter it to the ring.

A few days before out big trip, Tim went in to look at the characters for the first time and give his approval, but there was a problem with the Celtic symbol in the middle so at the last minute, they had to recreate that symbol. Luckily, the jeweler was chinese, so the other four charaacters looked great. In the end, round two looked great and the craftsmanship on the piece is amazing.

The Ring Itself
The ring is all platinum and will also be my wedding band. The back of the channel the characters sit in is sandblasted so it has a subtle glittering quality to it which also makes the characters really sparkle in the light. The sides are tapered and beveled to make it look more feminine and despite the weight, it's super comfy to wear.

Holy Cow We're Getting Hitched!

Tim and I just got back from an encredible vacation this past week! We dropped the top down on the Z4 and started our escape from LA up the east side of the Sierra Nevadas up to Mammoth Lakes with a quick detour to the "Bristlecone Pine Forest" which turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

The forest itself is quite a special place with 4,000 year old trees perched atop 10,000 foot mountains with views of the snowcapped Sierras in the background and rolling green valleys at their feet. But all the pretty stuff aside, the REALLY cool thing about this place is that it's where Tim asked me to marry him.

The Details
We were hiking along a nice easy trail through these ancient trees with breathtaking views of the valleys and mountains in the background so Tim suggested we take a moment and just sit and enjoy the view. I nestled myself on the step in front of him (here's a picture of Tim about 2 minutes before he popped the question!)

He remarked on what a good trip it had already been and said "I think I might know something that might make it better. I thought it was just him angling for a kiss, but when I turned around to look at him, he had a ring in his hand and asked if I'd marry him. Total surprise for me! The waterworks started and I of course said YES!