Friday, March 31, 2017

Kelsey + Ian

On February 26, our good friend Ian married his lovely fiance, Kelsey, at The 1909 in Topanga Canyon, L.A.

I met Ian ten years ago while studying abroad in Bologna.  He taught me a lot of things that year, including how to drink gin and not to judge a book by its cover.  Ian is perhaps my most difficult-to-describe friend, in some ways a by-the-book traditionalist, in others shockingly unconventional.  He may at times seem indifferent or cool, yet he's also obsessed with Disney and show choir and will blast the Lion King soundtrack, singing along down the highway.  He's a wonderful enigma and I think he'd be flattered by that. 

So being unconventional yet pragmatic, a traditionalist without a sentimental bone in his body, we really couldn't imagine how his wedding ceremony would be. 

And it was just perfect for them.  Kelsey processed down the aisle to an instrumental version of Prince's "Raspberry Beret".  She looked lovely in her gown, Ian sharp in his bow-tie.  The officiant, a friend of Ian's, constructed the ceremony around written responses the bride and groom had each provided about their relationship, such as the moment each knew they wanted to spend their life with the other and how their lives are made better by their partner.  It was beautiful to see them each react to the other's comments, and to hear their story unfold from each of their perspectives.  And there were only minimal references to tax breaks!  Any welling of the eyes can be attributed to the occasional mist that was falling that afternoon.

We enjoyed cocktails in the formerly desert-like, now lush gardens, catching up among Bologna friends, including Charlotte, and Shawn out from New York, then moved inside.

Dinner was cozy and delicious.  The speeches were so sweet, and I especially enjoyed the one Ian's mom gave, about what a blessing having Ian has been for her.  I hadn't met Ian's family before, and loved getting to know them!

Our wedding crew

They simplified the wedding traditions (skipping over things like a bouquet toss, making the pace of the wedding more relaxed) and maintained things like first dance and cake!

Their adorable Porto's cake

We had the most fun on the dance floor, recreating old times.  I requested songs that were our soundtrack to the year in Bologna, like Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music", Madonna's "Like A Prayer" and the R. Kelly classic "I'm a Flirt" (Ian exclusively calls me R. Kells).

I had a completely overwhelming moment when I thought back to being 20, surrounded by new friends in Bologna, imagining the lifelong friendships we were creating and the important milestones we would share together.  Now here we were fastforwarded to Ian's wedding day, celebrating love in all its forms and creating new memories to old songs.  I always look forward to these big life moments unfolding, and it's incredible to realize when you're living one of them in the present.

Big thanks to Ian and Kelsey, as well as their families, for hosting such a lovely affair.  Wishing you two a long life of tax breaks and 80's tunes together.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (referred to by us as Harry Potter Land) was simply magical.  Brittany, Gio, and I went a couple weeks ago and felt like giddy 12-year-olds running about, casting spells, buying chocolate frogs, and generally being wowed by the thoughtful details creators put into this park.

Harry Potter Land is nestled into a corner of Universal Studios Hollywood, and while we did some other fun things at the park that day (like enjoying the new and improved studio tour, being able to walk around freely with beer in hand, and being attacked by dinosaurs on Jurassic Park), the bread and butterbeer of the day was Harry Potter Land.

The first thing we did was head straight for Hogwarts Castle.  The perspective on this thing is amazing.  The imposing structure grows out of a monstrous rock mountain and contains the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  I have to say I enjoyed waiting in line even more than the ride, with its fun details like the greenhouse, Dumbledore's office, and galleries of bewitched paintings.

We imagined how incredible it must be for J.K. Rowling to see the stuff of her imagination grow into such a tangible reality, enjoyed by millions.

The figures in the paintings actually move and talk to each other.
How do they do it?!

The ride itself was unlike anything we've been on before.  Think Haunted Mansion meets Indiana Jones meets Flying Over California, but with wizards.  It was thrilling, at times frightening, and incredibly nauseating (motion sickness friends, consider yourself warned!).  Afterwards, we enjoyed some frozen butterbeer (basically a butterscotch and cream soda slushie) while waiting in line for The Flight of the Hippogriff next door, which was pretty tame! 

Out and about in the wizarding town of Hogsmeade, we visited the station, several shops selling anything from wands to robes to sweets, and the restaurant/bar combo The Hog's Head and the Three Broomsticks.  One of the best things about the park is that everyone is just so into it.  Universal employees are dressed and act in character; children and adults alike are excitedly running around in robes; the entire language spoken comes from J.K. Rowling's mind.  It makes the whole thing really immersive, because you're surrounded by people who want to believe it's real. 

Exploring Honeyduke's sweets

With our booty, including Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.
My brother claims "dirt" is the worst bean of the bunch.

Gio had borrowed a friend's wand for the trip, so we were able to cast different spells around Hogsmeade, where we'd silence bubbling cauldrons, or unlock secret boxes, with a specific flick of the wrist and incantation.  It was so cool, and really fun to watch kids bouncing around making magic happen!  (As a rule, they were much better at it than us.)

Gio focused SO HARD on her spells
McGonagall would be proud!

The Three Broomsticks had specially brewed beer, including a delicious red Scottish ale.  They seriously thought of everything!  Also, the Hog's Head's food was delicious, offering typical British pub fare, like Shepherd's Pie, bangers and mash, and fish and chips.  We were impressed.

After spending the afternoon in other areas of Universal, we returned to HP Land at dusk to do the castle ride again and perfect our spell-casting. 

Perhaps my favorite memory of the day was when Brittany said, "Guys, we better hurry back to the castle before we get in trouble!" and I suggested we use our invisibility cloak.  I swooshed my arm over our heads, and we all ducked under the invisible cloak, huddling together toward the castle, giggling.  It was silly, unadulterated fun. 

Here are some tips and tricks we used to navigate the park efficiently.  If you love Harry Potter, are nostalgic for old fashioned British villages, or just want to feel like a kid again, this is the place for you!