Cruise-themed Anniversary Party Part 3: Choosing the Location

Depending on the type of event you’re planning, choosing the location can either be a big to do (like a wedding / reception) or a total no-brainer (where else would I have it but my house??). Nonetheless, like any event decision, it shouldn’t be a throwaway.

There are a few important considerations you should account for when selecting your venue:

  • Number of guests – you won’t know your final attendee count when you choose the location, but a good rule of thumb is to plan a space big enough to fit 75% of the guests you invite. Inevitably, some people won’t want to come, will have to work or will have other plans, so this will give you an idea of the space you need to comfortably fit everyone.
  • Activities – this is important for a few reasons. Firstly, if you’re serving food, you need a location that has any needed food prep / storage / warming or cooling accommodations. Secondly, it needs to be big enough to set out tables for guests to eat. I always like to have a minimum of one chair per person when I’m serving food, even if they aren’t all at a traditional table setting. Depending on the type of party, everyone may or may not sit down to eat at the same time, but it’s nice to have the option should that happen. Finally, if you have other things planned beyond eating, you will either need space to fit those activities too, or you’ll need to either move to a new location (a different room, another part of your yard, etc.) or “flip” your space. This might include breaking down tables or putting food away and should be planned into your event flow.
  • Weather – I talked about this a bit in Part 1, but does the geographical location and time of year dictate that you’re indoors? Does a likelihood of unpredictable weather mean you need a backup plan or do you have a covered outdoor location that’d work either way?
    • Funny story about covered outdoor locations… I went to a baby shower for my SIL toward the end of May. This was some years ago now, but I’ll never forgot her shower. It was outside under tents / in the garage, so definitely well covered from the beautiful sun. However, when it randomly started down-pouring with hail and huge gusts of wind, the tents weren’t a whole lot of help to the guests under them!
  • Safety – this is even more important for any events happening now with COVID social distancing measures, but also applies to general safety and well-being. Here are some things to think about:
    • Do I have adequate room to allow guests to safely move around the space and one another? (think 6 feet distancing and fire safety)
    • Are there any dangerous elements I need to protect my guests from? (think grills, fire pits, stairways without railings, sloped yards, uneven pavement, pools or hot tubs)
    • Will all guests be able to attend without restriction? (think wheelchair access, if required, safety for small children, pet allergies)

Sometimes, with all of these items considered, you may land on a location you never thought you would. Let yourself think outside the box and keep the happiness of yourself AND your guests top of mind.

For our party, we landed on the home of the couple we’re celebrating as our location. It’s the biggest, has two spacious areas where we can host the different parts of the evening and has everything we need for food prep. It will also mean the couple doesn’t have to drive, so they can imbibe freely.

At first this seemed like a bad idea because we have a lot of setup and prep to do and don’t want them to be there for that. But, after some creative thinking, we’ve come up with a way to get them out of the house for some added fun and “priming” for the event since it ties perfectly into our theme. More about that in future posts…

Speaking of, next week I’ll be walking you through my process for creating the invite, a critical part that sets the tone for your guests. Stay tuned.

Take A Trip: Moab, UT

You might be saying to yourself – hmmmm….never heard of such a place. Well, if you’re not into heat, outdoor activities and the wonders of nature, then this place is NOT for you. If you are, keep reading.

Moab is known for many things:

  1. Biking
  2. National & State Parks
  3. Canyoneering
  4. Hiking
  5. River rafting
  6. ATV riding / 4×4 driving

Basically, it’s the middle of the desert with not much around. It’s not particularly close to any major airports, although it does have a tiny regional airport (where you can pick up a skydiving adventure). It’s about a 4-hour drive from Salt Lake City and 6 hours from Denver (this drive is INCREDIBLE).

My husband and I are avid bikers, so we decided to head out and try our hand at some proper mountain biking. Here’s what we did.

Getting There

  • We were flying in from the midwest, so we had a choice – SLC or DEN. We opted for Denver (we’d previously gone mountain biking there and really liked the city) so we could spend a night there before making the drive out. Flight options were also better and cheaper going there, which was a pretty decent factor in our decision.
  • We rented a car in the city and hit the road; make sure wherever you rent from is okay with you taking the car across state lines – if not, you could get into hot water if something was to go wrong while you’re in UT.
  • The drive was ~6 hours, but super worth it. You go through incredible mountains, get to drive by Aspen and really just enjoy the scenic ride following the Colorado River for a decent portion of the trip. It’s almost a trip before your trip. Highly recommend renting an SUV for this, though. We went at the end of May and STILL encountered a pretty crazy whiteout snowstorm on our return back to Denver. We were thankful to have an AWD vehicle for this (and it’s nice for having in Moab as well).
  • Other tips to think about:
    • Download your driving directions / map before you hit the road, along with a decent playlist (or go old school with CDs). Going through the mountains, it’s highly likely you could lose cell service.
    • Be sure to bring snacks along for your trip. This is obvious for any road trip, but at various points along the way, it’s slim pickins for food.
    • Fill up at a stop OUTSIDE OF Moab before you get there. We made the mistake of not doing this and decided to get gas right before we got on the road to head back and we paid an arm and a leg at the only (and sketchiest) gas station available.
    • Bring all your essentials. There are obviously stores and everything you need in Moab, but prices are premium since it’s the middle of nowhere.

Lodging

  • We opted for a tiny house (this one); there are actually a few of these in the little trailer park we stayed in. It was the perfect size for the hubs and me. It had a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room. This was great because we didn’t want to eat out for every meal being there for almost a week, so we hit the grocery store on day 1 to stock up for house snacks, lunches, etc.
    • TIP: Bring a box of ziploc bags and a lunchbox or small cooler with you. This was AWESOME for packing lunches to take on the trail with us and have mid-ride. It meant we could spend more time in the parks while we were there without having to trek back off the trail to hit the snack shop or head out of the park to find food.
  • It’s also worth noting that our AirBNB host, Richard, was great. We had a totally dumb situation happen – the key to the house fell between the slats of the porch and we got locked out around 9pm. We called Richard and he had someone over within about 15 minutes to let us in and give us a new key.
  • There are tons of other options for lodging (a few hotels, hostels, other AirBNB rentals, etc.) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even bring gear to pitch a tent for your trip or rent an RV. I think you may even be able to rent a yurt.

Things to Do

  • One of the first things we did was to rent hybrid bikes for our trip. There are a number of bike shops in Moab (due to the aforementioned claims to fame of the town), but we opted for Chile Pepper bike shop. They were super friendly and helpful. We even ended up setting up a trip transport with them for the end of our trip to get to the top of the epic Porcupine Rim trail and ride it down. Their prices were also reasonable AND we were even able to rent a bike rack from them to put on our rental. It was a great experience.
  • Moab also has some really cute shopping in the “downtown” area – there are lots of art galleries and handicraft shops you can check out. You don’t need a ton of time because it’s pretty small (maybe 10-15 shops, tops), but if you have an afternoon where you want to get out of the sun, it’s a great option.
  • Parks & trails – there are tons of options for all sorts of activities, but our focus was biking. Here’s where we went:
    • Dead Horse – this was probably my favorite park. They had a fantastic trail system that was clearly marked and easy to follow. It also had some really great rides and incredible views. Even on the drive into the park getting to the main parking and trailheads, there were tons of scenic stopping points to get a good look at the wonders of nature. The Colorado River runs through Dead Horse (it’s what caused the uniquely shaped cliffs) and it’s worth the trip to see it. It’s about a 40 minute drive to get there from Moab, but well worth it. However, definitely recommend you pack a lunch and make a day of it. Also, I’m pretty sure we had to pay $10-15 to get into Dead Horse for the day.
    • Klonzo Mountain Bike Area – this is about 35 minutes from Moab and a cool little trail system. There isn’t much else here (maybe some camping), but there are quite a few trails you can check out. What’s great about all the trail systems out there is that they’re labeled with skill level markers. If you aren’t up for expert level work (big drops, massive rocks to climb, uphill for miles), then you can choose an intermediate or easy path. One TIP for Klonzo – we couldn’t find a bathroom once we got there, so make sure to stop before you arrive…
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    • Moab Brands – this is the trail system that we returned to over and over again. I’m not sure it was our favorite, but it was really good and also super close to Moab. You actually pass it on your way in if you’re coming from the east. It’s only about a 10 minute drive on the main road/highway that leads into / out of the town. Unfortunately, this is also where I had a massive crash on our 2nd to last day that took me out of commission, but I wouldn’t not ride here. Just maybe would have been more careful crossing the cattle bridges 🙂
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    • Arches National Park – we didn’t spend a ton of time here. You can park and walk around and make a whole day of it. We chose to just drive around and see everything from the car, for the most part. The drive getting into the park is really cool – you go up and around a winding road. It’s also worth noting that you have to pay to get into Arches (I think $20) UNLESS you arrive after 4pm. Beware that it gets super busy during the day too, so you may sit in line to get into and around the park. We did park at one point to get out and see the famous Utah license plate arch, which was cool, but since we went here after my accident, my knee wasn’t feeling super great, so I wasn’t up to walking a ton.
    • Sky diving – this was a really cool experience that we decided to try for the first time while in Moab. There is a very small airport where you can tandem dive with an instructor. Since we were celebrating the hubs’ birthday, we went for it and had a great experience. I even still have the certificates hanging on my office wall. We jumped with Skydive Moab and the whole experience was easy and fun from start to finish. I jumped with Nick and he jumped with Adam and both guys were great. It really is breathtaking (quite literally) to see all the beautiful mountains and desert from that high up with absolutely no obstructions – just you and the air (oh, and a person on your back…)!
    • Eat – Moab has a number of cute cafes and small restaurants you can try. Our trip was a few years ago now, but I’ve done my best to remember where we went and what we thought of each place:
      • The Blu Pig – pretty sure we went here and got takeout. I remember it being pretty good if you are into BBQ.
      • Sunset Grill – this was a super neat spot we went to on our ‘fancy’ night. It’s definitely a little finer dining than some of the other spots in town. It sits up in a mountain in what used to be the home of the “founder” of Moab. It’s a really neat story that you can learn about the place and it has really amazing views of the mountains. Definitely a nice place to go if you’re celebrating something or want a nice evening out.
      • Eklectica Coffee & Collectibles – we had breakfast here one day and stopped for coffee another day. It’s a tiny place, but the food is good and organic and they also have cute stuff for sale in the cafe.
      • Quesadilla Mobilla – this is a food truck that has a semi-permanent location set up with some outdoor tables and chairs. We had delicious burritos here on the day we did some walking and shopping around town.
      • Moab Coffee Roasters – we got delicious iced coffee here one day when we were walking about town. It was a great treat on a VERY hot day.

Definitely a great trip all around. There is a TON to do depending on what you want. We didn’t even really explore options for canyoneering, rafting or anything like that, but there are plenty of choices if that’s what your looking for. If I can offer you any final tip – plan ahead. In the spring / summer months, tours, rentals and lodging book up, so you need to reserve your spot early. Otherwise, you may get there and find yourself with nothing planned and no way to get in on the action.

 

A Makeover Story: Planter Beds

I love to DIY – anything from basic crafting to parties to home improvement and I’m game. But, plants are my kryptonite. Despite my best efforts, I have yet to keep any plants healthy (and/or alive). I even had a situation at an office I managed where we had little bugs from over-watering; they were a real problem.

Anyhow, my front flower/planter beds were a mess and I decided it was adulting time, so me and the hubs came up with an ambitious makeover plan:

  • Edge the beds in stone – my husband has a thing about how his grass looks, so having a clean edge is important to him. To contain the mulch we’d be adding, we needed a border, so we landed on a perpendicular pattern of paver bricks to create a ledge for the mower wheel, as well as a wall to keep the mulch in. We bought 7″ x 3″ stone pavers in two colors (210 in total) and used all-purpose sand to level the bricks and keep them in place. To set a straight edge, we used a piece of string tied between two stakes that spanned the length of the bed. We measured the distance of the string from the house at both ends to ensure it would create a straight edge relative to the house facade. Then, we dug out a canal for the bricks using an edging shovel (but really any straight or regular shovel will work) as well as a standard shovel.
    • *Tip, to calculate how many bricks you need, measure the length of your beds, convert to inches and divide by the length of your block.

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  • Incorporate a weed barrier – we have only lived in the house for about 3 years, but we’ve had to weed a number of times. We decided to do something about it and my m-i-l had given us some weed block bed liner that she had left over from a project, so that worked out. We still had to get some (we bought this kind), but every savings counts!
  • Refresh the foliage – there were a few plants when we first moved in, but between the deer and lack of care (my bad), they were looking pretty damn pathetic. So, we went all in and bought a bunch of new plants to liven up the front. Everything we chose is deer resistant and okay to grow in the northern ‘Midwest.’
    • Boxwoods (6) – these are our anchor; they are a nice, deep green neutral for the rest of the colors; they can grow up to 4′ x 4′ and be shaped.
    • Barberry (2) – these are the reddish ones; they are a good accent to the green, low maintenance and pretty easy to grow. Be careful not to overdo it with these as they can grow out of control.
    • Spirea (2) – these are the two green/yellow/red ones at the left side; they need more sun than some of the others, so we put the in the sunniest spot of the house
    • Catmint – these are the light green and purple wide plants; we have 3 cats who roam free outside during the day, so we thought this would be fun for them. I’m not sure how long the plants will last, but they love them. Bonus – they’re pretty.
    • Bee balm – these are the two small plants toward the middle (one isn’t planted yet); we chose them for as a pop of color and because they attract bees, which are very important to the environment, and we love honey!
  • Add fresh mulch – for this go around, we decided to try the sweet peet mulch, which is all organic and supposedly the best mulch out there. It’s also good to use in lieu of topsoil for planting. We got a yard and a half, which seems to be about the right amount (our beds are about 40’x6′ and 35’x6′).

All in all, we spent the following on this project for our materials list:

  • Pavers and sand = $150
  • Plants, plant food, planting soil = $419 (by far, the most expensive part)
  • Sweet Peet mulch = $80
  • Weed block = $40
    • If you don’t mind a little extra, weed block stakes are a great choice as they keep the liner in place in the bed

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You’ll also want to have the following tools on hand: wheelbarrow, shovel, trowel, rake, stakes, string, mini mallet, work gloves, garden hose (be sure to water your new plants!!)

We actioned in the following order: set edge line, dig out, move existing mulch, put down weed blocker, put in sand and bricks, dig holes for plants, plant plants and finally top with mulch. We got halfway done in about a day and a half. Hopefully we’ll tackle the other side this weekend!

**As an aside, directly before this project, we lime washed our house with Romabio Lime Wash in nube gray. Check out A Makeover Story: Exterior Brick blog to see before and after pictures and hear about how easy it was!