Afar ~ Love from Los Angeles, USA to Sydney, Australia

Although my dad lives in Sydney and won’t be toasting American Father’s Day tomorrow, June 16, it is still a day of celebration as it happens to be his birthday.

Across the miles in Los Angeles, we treated ourselves with a couple of sweets in dad’s honour from Georgetown Cupcakes on Robertson Blvd* – a chi chi street that rivals Melrose but is less dangerous on the wallet than Rodeo. Think: Lululemon versus Louis Vuitton. It’s also the location of Aussie boutique, Zimmermann and the paparazzi magnet, The Ivy.

Anyway, I am getting sidetracked…

Happy Birthday to the most generous father, and one of the greatest men I know. You are missed daily, and thankfully only a phone call away.

*Technically, we celebrated in the afternoon of June 15 US time, which made it the morning of June 16 Australia time.

Coconut and Orange Blossom cupcakes, accompanied by an Americano coffee

Coconut and Orange Blossom cupcakes, accompanied by an Americano coffee

The sweetest cupcakes... ever

The sweetest cupcakes… ever

Jacarandas remind me of Sydney. Right now, they are in full bloom across LA.

Jacarandas remind me of Sydney. Right now, they are in full bloom across LA.

Cupcakes gone... bellies full of sweetness. Happy Birthday!

Cupcakes gone… bellies full of sweetness. Happy Birthday!

National Wine Day ~ Brooklyn, and beyond…

May 25th is marked on my calendar as National Wine Day; something I heard about through the grape vine.

A carport entwined, on a street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I have yet to understand how the day came into being; for now, I am passing on the memo. Here’s to supporting your local bars, wineries, restaurants, wine stores, and lounges ~ May 25th falls on a Friday, after all.

*Clink* and cheers to you. Enjoy the vino wherever you are in the world. I am pretty sure the initiative isn’t country-specific (!) so let’s all round off the global workweek well.

A friend of mine, Amy Karavlan, noted, “Everyday should be Wine Day.” I pass on these wise words as you see in the weekend.

In days past: Ray’s and Stark Bar, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California

A Centennial Celebration: Thank You!

WordPress keeps a tally of how many posts I’ve published and shows that I have written 99 already…. which means this is my 100th. Wow ~ 100 posts!? It sounds like such a large number though when I put it in perspective – a post every 2 days – it does make sense.

In celebration, I would like to publish #100 as a thank you post to those lovely bloggers who have nominated me for awards. (I am a little overdue on a couple). Thank you to In Search of Perfect and Random Sights and Diversions for nominating me for the Versatile Bloggers Award, Red Pants And a Mustache for the 7×7 Link Award, and Third Eye as well as Vidal’s NYC for bringing rays of sunshine to NY today: they both nominated me for the Sunshine Award.

The blogosphere is such a supportive community and we are shown this time and time again,  whether it be by pressing ‘like’, leaving a comment at the end of a post, or being so kind in offering feedback in response to a request for advice. All of these connections means someone has taken the time to stop, look, and leave something behind. On behalf of my blog, I am so appreciative of that.

I’d like to share some posts that have inspired me recently and award them respectively. Thank you again.

Versatile Blogger Award

Ms Sydney Life’s love for Sydney, NZ… well, the world really.. is woven into the fabric of this artful blog. This post was a lovely reminder to pause, to pay our respects, and be thankful: An Introduction to ANZAC Day from a Kiwi Living in Australia « This Sydney Life.

A wonderful blog full of architecture and design, this was my first glimpse of the new MCA in Sydney, Australia. I like it! Museum of Contemporary Arts | Sydney « +.

I had a moment last week when I just needed a laugh so I was reminded of this blogger’s motto, and I did just that – laugh. It is true: life is easier with laughter! Traveling with Laughter on a Sunday Morning | TravelWithLaughter.

This passionate photographer, who I have been following ever since I started a blog, gets published. No wonder – his nature shots are excellent! Yikes, I’m Published! « scottseyephotos.

A reminder of my Russian heritage; it was the word ‘bubliki’ that got me as I haven’t heard that word in ages. Russian Friday – Bubliki « While Chasing Kids.

Scenes from a market in Nice during the springtime. Ahhhh. Marché de printemps « Eric Benoist.

7×7 Link Award

This great post inspired alot of thought, opinion, and good conversation via comments: The World Doesn’t Need Another Ansel Adams | Münchow’s Creative Photo Blog.

I’m so enjoying going through all the archived posts of this blog. Exceptional photography and a quick wit; it’s a treat to catch a glimpse of life in the French countryside. White magic | Camerahols / Food, Photography & France.

This is what happens as a result of motivation and dedication, combined with a love for travel and writing. Go East! | Cosy Travels of the Viking and his Kitten.

Need a gift idea or some inspiration? Scroll through this blog of lovely things. Design: Alessi « White Cabana.

Sunshine Blogger Award

I love the sun, but did anyone see the Super Moon last night? Unfortunately, it was a little cloudy and foggy in NYC so I was treated to some spectacular views by exceptional photographers from all around the world. Check these images out:

Japan: 149 « mozuqu noir.

Serbia: full moon over belgradestreets | belgradestreets.

Australia: Day 199 – Super Moon | cindymccauley.

Always inspiring, this is a blog full of happiness and reminders to enjoy life’s moments. The quotes are always uplifting and there’s great dedication to an inspiring cause spurring this blog on! Not So Fast | in pursuit of more.

Fit for Royalty ~ Planning Across the Miles

No, I am not talking about the lovely Royal couple, Will and Kate, though it is nice to ride on their coattails.

Last year on May 1, my husband, Ali, and I got married in a little Russian Orthodox Church in my hometown, Sydney. It was one of the loveliest days we will ever remember; also a time when we got a little taste of the high life.

St. Peter Paul Russian Orthodox Diocesan Cathedral, Sydney ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Rolls Royce Silver Wraith and Silver Cloud by http://www.varietyweddingcars.com.au

Planning a wedding from across the miles isn’t the easiest thing, but it sure feels like one of the most rewarding undertakings once the day rolls around. Experiencing the day as it unfolds and creating memories with families and friends makes all the upfront work – research, coordinating, last minute stressors – well worth the effort.

Add to that a generous dose of good luck (thank you, sunny days), a positive attitude, and the wedding day is destined to be unforgettable. Slight hitches are bound to happen but opt to take them in your stride; you have to laugh about something years later, right? True story:  my mum lost the shoes to her outfit in the house prior to us leaving for church. A little bit of tension put any wedding jitters aside for a while. Luckily, my glam mama is a fashionista and pulled something off in the last minute.

Whilst it would be easier to leave some of the wedding planning to fate, the evidence is in the details. Aside from the rudimentary travel arrangements and specific paperwork that goes hand in hand with local marriage legalities, I’ve listed 7 tips that will help any couple in their planning of a long distance wedding.

If you have any comments or feedback, please don’t hesitate to share.

Enjoy!

1. Choose a photographer based on a gut feeling.

Sharing images with relatives and friends located all over the world is a simple joy, especially in this digital age. It’s a lot of fun being able to relive the day through well-photographed visual reminders.

Under the Harbour Bridge ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Working with a locally based wedding photographer is probably the best way to go, budget-wise at least. They have a good grasp of the area, know which locations photograph well, and should be able to advise on details such as the correct time for capturing best natural light based on season. A google search is a good start in determining well-established pros – a professionally set up website is a positive sign.

Read reviews, view client wedding albums, and shortlist only those who have a style that you’re instantly drawn to. As my husband was unable to accompany me to Sydney for a pre-wedding planning trip 9 months prior to the date, we settled on 3 photographers for me to meet with based on two things: their online portfolios and ease of communication – mainly, email.

For Ali, there was one standout photographer based on online portfolio alone; mum, dad, and I were drawn to this same photographer when we met him face to face: Antony Schuster has a larger-than-life personality and being able to flip through his wedding albums in his studio put us at ease.

At one point, he said, “I shoot from the hip.” I said, “You’re booked.” Schuster photographs candid moments, which Ali and I appreciate.

TIP: Payments (deposits) may need to be made upfront, so explore options such as PayPal to ensure safe transfer of monies. A videographer is a great add on for a long distance wedding. If you can ask a family friend to video the day, it will help stretch the budget. A dear family friend of ours documented the whole day, and we are indebted to him.

Meeting fellow Brooklynites under Sydney's Harbour Bridge ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Sharing moments along Pier One, Sydney ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

2. Location, location, location.

The venue eats up a lion’s share of the wedding budget so it is fair to say that this is one of the more difficult choices to make, especially if you are unfamiliar with the location and have a budget to stick to.

Narrowing your prerequisites to three key elements will make the decision easier. If it’s the quintessential view you are after, such as of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, explore every possible venue in the vicinity. Think beyond the obvious; your options could include museums, cafes, galleries, or even vacant apartment spaces.

The internet is a wealth of information, and I stumbled upon Deckhouse Woolwich through a search, within a search, within a search. As my family and I are familiar with Sydney, we had a good sense of its geographical location already. Ultimately, we chose this venue as it met our big 3: waterfront views, excellent restaurant style food, and modern understated interior design.

Deckhouse interior - day ~ Photograph by The Styling Company

A buffet assortment of mains per guest table ~Photograph Antony Schuster

It was a pleasure to work with their dedicated management team too; Con Dedes, the MD of the Dedes Group that runs a number of other reputable restaurants including Flying Fish, helped create a package that met both our limits.

TIP: if you’re unfamiliar with a destination, it may be wise to hire a wedding consultant for a few hours to discuss your plans, or over the entire wedding planning process. They can assist with paperwork and make you aware of the finer details. Wedding planners will also work around any awkward language barriers and cultural etiquette.

The off-season may offer significant discounts though be sure to check for weather fluctuations and any deterrents.

Deckhouse, exterior, night ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Entering by candlelight ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Celebrations continue indoors ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

3. Be a little bit of a tourist.

Inviting out of towners means factoring certain details into the wedding plans.

Save the Dates

Send out save the date invites as soon as possible to alert our guests of your wedding date (between 9-12 months prior). This is also an opportunity to be creative and inject your personality into the correspondence: you might want to DIY your own postcards to save on postage and paper costs.

Ali created our Save the Dates when we were West Coast based

Or, opt for something custom-made for you: Jet Set :: Save the Dates CECI New York.

Photo Locations

Think ahead and alert the photographer if you’d like to incorporate iconic city details in your photo backdrops on the day. There’s a reason why NY’s Empire State Building, LA’s Hollywood sign, and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge are known for what they are.

Bonbonniere

Details that border on the kitschy-souvenir are even worth a thought. To me, Hersheys is all American chocolate that has a novelty appeal in Australia. Our giant Hersheys kisses bonbonniere doubled up as place cards and added a bit of fun.

Giant Hersheys Kisses ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Accommodation

Open up your home for guests to stay during the wedding week if you’re returning to your hometown. There will likely be people flying in and out a few days prior and after the wedding, so spare every couch and bed. If the location is remote from any family or friends, request a bulk discount on hotel rooms. Coordinate some side trips for city excursions and arrange a wedding lunch the day before.

Location as a theme

If you fall in love with a venue that just so happens to look over a renowned skyline, and it meets your budget – book it. Your friends and family will love you in turn, as it adds to their ‘getaway’ experience.

My friends Stephanie and Andrew got married in New York at the end of May, 2011. Though they are based in Andrew’s hometown of Toronto, they decided on a New York based ceremony – Stephanie’s hometown.

Stephanie told me:

Make your wedding be a true testament to the both of you but also include your destination. We got married across the water from New York City and our guests had a view of the infamous skyline the entire wedding. We also had touches of the skyline in our invitations, wedding menus, and song choices.

Andrew and Stephanie, May 22, 2011 in Long Island City ~ Photograph Alex Fedorov

4. Don’t skimp on quantity.

For some brides, getting married in a distant location is code for minimalism. But if elaborate is your style, don’t compromise. Knowing you’ll be spending hours upon hours in the wedding dress, allow yourself to buy what you feel great in, even if that happens to be a gown with layers of tulle, intricate Swarovski detailing, and volumes of silk taffeta.

Don’t let distance, luggage restrictions, and travel time put you off. Call the airline ahead of time and explain the situation. People are happy for you when they learn you are getting married, and willing to help (or they assume this to be the case, for the giant garment bag you are carrying).

As a consequence of arriving earlier at the airport, my marshmallow of a dress was given a spare seat on the NY-LA leg (QANTAS insisted on a seat belt), and then hung in first class all the way from LA-SYD. Not bad for traveling in style.

TIP: Be sure to alert the wedding store of your travels so they can factor that in to their sewing time and provide you with extra padding and boxes for the journey. Also, it may not be worthwhile to press your dress at the final destination, even if it is just steamed; too much pressing isn’t good for the material.

Ali lending a helping hand ~Photograph Antony Schuster

5. Inspiration is in the details.

Bringing in cultural details symbolic to your backgrounds and home bases is what will make your wedding day, yours.

These details can be woven into the invitations, your choice of arrival car, a dessert table.  Ali’s Persian culture was represented on our sweets table, where baklava was featured alongside traditional Russian tortes such as Mikado*, from my background.

*Think butter, cream, and layers of pastry sheets. You get the picture.

Stephanie and her father arrived in an iconic yellow NY cab ~ Photograph Alex Federov

A big shout out to http://www.etsy.com; this site wins hands down for all-round inspiration. An online storefront that allows artisans to display their wares in categories spanning accessories through wedding, it is a source not only for one-of-a-kind purchases, but also for ideas.

Custom cake toppers by dandelionland via etsy.com ~ Photo supplied by Pamela Jaegar

Save the Date created by Irene Suchocki, Montreal via etsy.com

Planning our wedding alongside Stephanie and Andrew encouraged an exchange of ideas via etsy. Stephanie summed it up like this:

The accommodating, creative, and talented vendors literally pulled off my out of town wedding. Everything from the save-the-dates to the wedding day accessories, confetti, to the menus and the hotel welcome bags- my wedding consisted of beautiful, unique, cost efficient touches that made our wedding day exactly what we dreamed. All the vendors worked with me on timelines, budget and shipped either to me in Canada or to my family in New York -where our wedding was held. If you have never been on etsy.com before, you are welcome in advance.

TIP: Etsy.com features designers from all over the world, so scroll through different countries to add another dimension to your options.

Confetti for Stephanie and Andrew's wedding was sourced on etsy.com ~ Photograph Alex Federov

6. Itineraries and quotes

Not being the most organized person on the planet, I do know the value of a well planned itinerary. Treat this document like an important contract; once you’ve laboriously poured over the timeline, filled in the gaps – address details, phone numbers, and specific requests – and triple checked everything twice, send it to family and suppliers within two weeks of the big day.

Suppliers are so helpful in helping you coordinate the wedding day, especially if you aren’t a local. Their experience speaks volumes; they will notice when something doesn’t flow and help you iron out the details. It helps if you were able to meet them on a pre-planning wedding trip too.

Make sure you keep copies of all quotes and email correspondence in one place. Carry these as hard copies and on a USB stick when you travel. Save your emails!

TIP: Supply maps and detailed directions of wedding venue locations to out of town guests. This helps when smartphones and WIFI aren’t accessible. Or, provide mini buses to transfer from church to reception.

Be precise on the timings especially, and hire a translator if you think it will help during any part of your planning process, or throughout the wedding day.

Candles and Baubles ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

Menu and table decorations ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

7. Spontaneity.

Embrace the unexpected. When you have everything planned, there’s room enough to let the unexpected happen with minimal mess. Above all, know the vision for your day inside out and be decisive when put on the spot.

One of my favourite memories of our wedding day was when we made an unplanned stop at a hotel bar during our photoshoot on the Pier; it was a great way to toast in the evening’s events with a glass, or two, of champagne.

Champagne at dusk ~ Photograph Antony Schuster

FINAL NOTE, a personal one: as a consequence of negotiating costs with our venue, the groom – my husband, a keen baker –made our wedding cake. What a scene stealer! It helped that we had access to a kitchen though it may be something to consider if you are wary of your destination not being able to produce the cake that you have in mind.

NB: this took a few baking attempts at home, in Brooklyn, beforehand; I was eating sponge, lemon curd, and meringue topping for days.

Inspired: Black and White Photography

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt

Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon, Venice, Italy, 1953 ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Every day inspiration can be sparked by so many things: a Warholian piece of art; a quote by Paulo Coelho; the dramatic lines of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Today, I was inspired by monochromatic images. I love when a photograph evokes a feeling, and black+whites have a knack of doing that.

Recently I have been paying attention to other elements too; composition, depth of field, lines, expressions, and angles. Reading images in this way encourages me to notice details that I may have otherwise overlooked.

I like this new change. It’s a reminder to look at the world with new eyes. Enjoy the inspiration!

A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.  ~ Ansel Adams

Flooded Piazza San Marco with St Marks Church Venice, 1952 ~ Dimitri Kessel

Picasso Behind a Window, 1952 ~ Robert Doisneau

New York, 1955 ~ Elliott Erwitt

Antonio Gaudi's Churchy Of The Holy Family Barcelona, Spain, 1951 ~ N R Farbman

Check out how much the Sagrada Familia has progressed since then, click here (then scroll to bottom of that post)

People buying out of town newspapers in Times Square during newspaper strike, NY, 1953 ~ Ralph Morse

View of Ministry of Justice and Government Building from Senate Building, Brasília, Brazil, 1977 ~ Julius Shulman

Wedding in London, 1950's ~ Photographer Unknown

Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good. ~ Garry Winogrand

Russian Metro, Moscow, 1941 ~ Margaret Bourke-White

Rome Railroad Station,1951 ~ Jack Birns

Rome Railroad Station,1951 ~ Jack Birns

Moscow Street Scene ~ Carl Mydans

Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph. ~ Andre Kertesz

Kennedy at the L.A.1960 Democratic National Convention ~ Garry Winogrand

Delegates looking at Taj Mahal, 1961 ~ James Burke

Los Angeles Airport, 1978-83 ~ Garry Winogrand

Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Swan Lake", Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cyclades Island of Siphnos, Greece ~ 1961

Hyères, France, 1932 ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work. ~ William Klein

French couple at cafe Tango du Chat in the Latin Quarter, Paris, 1949 ~ Gjon Mili

Academy Awards, 1962 ~ Allan Grant

Newspaper boy selling newspapers amidst the traffic on Olive Street in downtown area nr. 6th Street, LA,1949 ~ Loomis Dean

Palm Springs ~ Julius Shulman

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.  ~ Eudora Welty

Hermes Store, Paris, 1952 ~ N R Farbman

New York ~ Vivian Maier

Flooded Piazza San Marco with St Marks Church, Venice, 1952 ~ Dimitri Kessel