earthy, boho berkeley wedding

My last wedding of 2018! Ah, what a way to round out the year with the beautiful wedding of Kelsey and Boone. This wedding couple was so special to me because I’ve had the opportunity to work with Kelsey’s mom, Eileen, for about two years nows. Eileen owns and runs the stunning Lost + Found Vintage Rentals out of her home in San Jose, so with the both of us being Bay Area natives it’s been so fun working together on events and photo shoots! Kelsey and I also went to the same high school, one year apart — so this wedding was full of so many little small world connections! Brian of Rustic Atlas took these gorgeous photos of their wedding at the Piedmont Community Center. Even though it was October, the weather was near-perfect!

I loved how tucked away their venue was. The ceremony made you feel like you were in a secluded enchanted forest and then transitioned into the perfect, intimate courtyard experience for dinner and cocktails. Kelsey’s family DIY’d the entire wedding, from start to finish; chalk-full of all of Eileen’s vintage inventory. I think my favorite moment was watching her dad put her shoes on for her before the ceremony started. That, and of course the surprise FLASH mob dance the bridal party had choreographed! This wedding was nothing but J O Y.

a modern princess wedding at the SF palace hotel

Nicki and Greg’s wedding took place on September 1st, 2018 at the glorious Palace Hotel in SF. This wedding was EVERYTHING. The perfect mix of utter elegance, class, and a pinch of modern sprinkled in. Huge shout out to Greg Petersen for capturing these epic photos.

My favorite part? The fact that Nicki and Greg decided to eat dinner on their own in private while guests attended cocktail hour. They got all their portraits taken care of prior to the ceremony (thanks for first look) and opted to take the time for an intimate moment between the two of them before the party started. So special!

destination wedding in white sands national monument

Back in September I met Tiago and Ines virtually. Them in the UK, me in the US. Since then, we had been planning their destination wedding remotely which took place last weekend of March in New Mexico at the GLORIOUS White Sand National Monumnent. 

This experience was unforgettable for me and to see all the planned pieces come together is something I will always cherish. What a milestone as Naseem Events creeps into season 3. From booking their accommodations (check out this casita, yo!), designing their tablescape post-wedding, booking vendors, and coordinating all the details in between -- this was such a valuable experience for me and I have now checked off remote wedding planning off the list! Huge thank you to Golden Days Photo for capturing these images. 

kathy & phil's wedding, conservatory of flowers SF

A month ago I got to watch Kathy and Phil tie the knot in front of their family and friends at the GORGEOUS Conservatory of Flowers in SF. This wedding was super special to me since Kathy hired me on as her planner back in the fall so we had naturally grown super close during the course of the months leading up to the wedding. 

One thing I loved was that Kathy did not care at ALL about taking creative control over the decor/ design of the wedding; that's why she hired me! (#plannergoals). So I took the liberty of helping shape the aesthetic of the wedding from A to Z. Kathy and Phil are not traditional in the slightest so we dreamed up ideas that were special to them as a couple. For instance, I suggested a message in a bottle idea for them instead of a regular guest book for guests to leave them. I also helped Kathy create little disposable utensil packets (we skipped traditional plateware altogether and saved a TON), for their guests to pick up at the food trucks as they licked their fingers clean of the gourmet goodness. The lovely Keegan of Petal Atelier adorned the long dinner tables with different sized floral arrangements for a simple and clean look. With the stunning backdrop of the conservatory at our fingertips, there was so much natural beauty to play with. 

A highlight for me was the ice cream taco cart we had for dessert. I can't suggest this idea more in lieu of a traditional cake.

Guests were able to wander the conservatory during cocktail hour, wine in hand. One fun project I took on was co-designing all of Kathy's signage for the wedding. She told me straight ahead that was not a fan of calligraphy (to each their own!) and so I worked with Nicole of Penny Lane Papery to make my modern, minimal signage vision come to life.

Best part was guests were able to enjoy the light show that takes place at night on the actual conservatory walls -- peep the photo below to see just how beautiful that was! 

Huge thank you to my friend and amazing photographer, Yasmin Roohi, for capturing these images.

forest fête amidst redwoods and succulents

This late spring wedding celebrating the union of Nadia and Eddie was so special to me. This was Nadia's second wedding so the highlight for me was seeing her joy with her two daughters and how close the family of four had become. Not to mention her DRESS. She got it from Anthropologie and totally redid everything herself. Even the color lining to make it more bridal. She had a vision in mind and brought it to life perfectly.

Nadia and Eddie got married at Walden West in the hills of Saratoga. Total cabin in the woods vibes (not the horror movie lol). The couple absolutely loves the outdoors and hiking, so everything was centered around wood textures and greenery. You might know by now how much I love details, so it was a treat for me to work with Nadia on brainstorming how to make her venue pop -- from those gorgeous oak crossback chairs, to the table numbers named after trees, to the lawn games during cocktail hour. Her daughter is such an artist and created the corn hole and ring toss games all on her own. I loved how much the colors popped with the venue. Other notable mention are those centerpieces created entirely from scratch by Nadia's florist Marci Hayden of RockStone Gardens. Succulents galore! 

It was such a special evening. Something else that was a treat for me was getting to meet and work with Sunshine Shannon Photography  -- who is Nadia's coined "second daughter" :) How gorgeous are the photos she captured?! Enjoy. 

dana & jake's wedding 4/1/17

It's only the start of this wedding season and I already have a favorite that is so near to my heart. Dana and Jake are super special to me because they were my first official wedding where I had all the creative control from start to finish. I not only designed and styled this wedding but also helped them book a few of the vendors they were looking for. It's so awesome to have a team of creatives I am comfortable working with and believe in, so I was ecstatic to work with my friend Keegan of Petal Atelier on so much of the design elements of this wedding. It's not every day you'll find a florist who will deconstruct a MOH bouquet that isn't being used and create a breathtaking floral display on a naked cake (see below for more!). 

For this wedding, I started with really getting to know my clients and what they wanted. As Oakland natives, Dana works as a school teacher and Jake dabbles in graphic design. They decided to have their wedding at the Oakland Museum of CA. Perfect fit, right? Jake designed their invite suite too and with the usage of lines, I decided to go with a geometric theme for the wedding. I didn't want this to be too over the top so I just added subtle touches to the details here and there. My favorite piece was the hexagon ceremony backdrop I found on Instagram after hours of digging! (Courtesy of Petite Pomme Design). I also decided on doing cement hexagon tiles for each escort card (doubled as a favor for guests too!). The lovely Joy + Confetti  did all the calligraphy on those! 

The wedding was so special, especially because you could just see the couples' love for one another. High school sweethearts, Dana's class and simplicity exudes elegance, and Jake has such a genuine and down to earth spirit.  I loved working with these two and creating some magic!

All photos courtesy of Manali Anne Photography.  See full vendor list under the gallery.

Vendor Team:

Planning/Styling: Naseem Events

Floral Design: Petal Atelier

Photography: Manali Anne Photography

Calligraphy: Joy + Confetti

Hexagon Hoop Backdrop: Petite Pomme Design

Cake: JustBakeCause

 

muted baroque x classic romantic styled shoot

Crisp winter air. The perfect sunset. This shoot was an absolute dream. The vision was to create a modern baroque aesthetic with whimsical elements of a romantic wedding reception. Often times when we think "baroque," the words "gaudy" and "luxurious" come to mind. But I wanted to stay true to my personal style which is much more modern so I came up with a muted baroque aesthetic, if you will. You can see that present in the dessert options, created by the ever-talented La Vie Douce Designs, and the intricate wedding gown by Ju.Lee Collection. I absolutely loved how different the dress was from what we're used to seeing; the details are so beautiful.

I think the small details go a long way in setting yourself apart as a stylist / designer. I went with the vintage handkerchiefs instead of napkins to add some character & I loved that we were able to give so much life to the tabletop with something as simple as a blush pink. And those FLOWERS - Petal Atelier worked her magic as usual! 

One of my favorite elements that really inspired me from the beginning of the planning process was finding the vintage scale from the lovely Lost & Found Vintage's collection. We had this displayed on a side table during the reception as as symbol of the couple's love outweighing anything that life might throw at them. I chose to have the ring weighed down on the scale by rice, which has symbolized prosperity in weddings from the beginning of time.

It was so ethereal shooting at the SSS Ranch in Calistoga in the crisp winter air. The sun came out at the very end, making for some gorgeous candid moments for the couple on the Persian rug in the grass. Huge shout out to Michelle Chang for these amazing photos. See full vendor team below the gallery. 

Vendor Team

Planning/ Design: Naseem Events

Photography: Michelle Chang Photography

MUAH: Bun Bun Bridal Lab

Cake and desserts: La Vie Douce Design

Wedding dress: Ju.Lee Collection

Florals: Petal Atelier

Rentals: Lost and Found Vintage Rental

Calligraphy: Shasta Bell Calligraphy

Venue: Triple S Ranch

Ring: Susie Saltzman

Linens: The Linen Bar

Videography: Carisma Films

Ring box: Secret Keeper Box

botanical bliss // greenhouse styled shoot

There's something so calming about greenhouses. I always thought a wedding held within one would be so beautiful because the couple is coming together and growing into the next season of their lives, surrounded by botanical life which is constantly growing as well. It truly is love personified. And that's where this vision stemmed from - the venue! 

My vision with this styled shoot was creating an absolutely ethereal moment for the couple. I wanted to go with more neutral, earthy colors (deep reds, grey, lavender) that were more on the muted side so the true beauty of the venue itself (all that plant life!) could speak for itself. I didn't want to limit the scope of the concept by categorizing it under a specific season, but the colors and dress are definitely geared more towards the winter aesthetic. 

 I wanted to include some unique details, and one of my favorites was serving coffee in these vintage Turkish coffee cups and saucers that belonged to my great grandmother. That, paired with the romantic calligraphy decor incorporated really brought the entire look together. The entire day was simply magical. 

These stunning photos, both film and digital, are courtesy of my talented friend Yasmin Roohi Photography -- See our full vendor list under the gallery! 

Full vendor team: 
Styling/ Design/ Planning: Naseem Events
Photography: Yasmin Roohi Photography
Venue: Shelldance Orchid Gardens
Florals & Wreath: Petal Atelier
Rentals & linens: Chairs & Cups
Calligraphy: Danika.Ink
Makeup: Neda Abootorabi
Cake: JustBakeCause
Wedding dress, veil, accessories: Dean & Willow
Models: Sohrab Fatemi and Jessica Johnson 
Men's Suit and Shoes: Tuxedo Wearhouse
Hair: Nicole Jamora (One of a Kind Beauty)
Turkish Coffee Cups and Saucers: Naseem Events (personal collection) 

 

dessert table styling // winter mini shoot

December has been so busy for me in the best way possible. I managed to pack in planning 3 shoots simultaneously, and this one I'm sharing here is super special to me. It's always a treat to collaborate with friends in the creative sphere and I was stoked to work on this mini shoot with two of my favorites, Yasmin Roohi Photo and JustBakeCause to showcase Amanda's winter offerings. In styling the dessert table for her, I thought I'd share a few of my tips and tricks that helped me envision what I wanted the final product to look like:

1) Always start with a staple piece: When I go shopping to scout out pieces for shoots I always look until I find that one piece that I fall in love with. For this shoot, it was the antler-shaped gold tray. I absolutely loved this and thought it was the perfect embodiment of the holiday season. I based the rest of my decor off that piece and what would mesh well with it. 

2) Build upon textures: I knew I wanted most of my aesthetic to be gold (obvi), but I also didn't want it to look super regal or old-fashioned. I purposely mixed in more modern, earthy textures like the marble cake stand you see -- as well as the subtle pops of red in the holly and candles to balance everything out.

3) Less is more: I knew Amanda's desserts speak for themselves (no I don't just mean the taste); she is a true artist as you can see in the photos below. Because of that, I wanted to let the desserts speak for themselves which is why I went the more minimal approach with the colors and table decor. I wanted the focus to be on her work, with the decor as unique accents to highlight (i.e. acorns with the bells). 

Ok enjoy these beautiful photos and let me know what you think! What's your go-to for designing your holiday tablescape?

(Special shout out to my girl Neda for being on glam squad patrol for this shoot <3). 

styled shoot basics // my top 3 tips

Hello lovely readers! I'm so pleased to share part 2 of a recent styled shoot I put together with an amazing team of vendors who all came together to make my vision a reality last month. (See below the photos for the full list of creatives!). For this shoot, the vision was more girly/classic and romantic; more focus on pinks and gold, + tulle as you can see in the bride's gorgeous two-piece skirt & crop top. We had such a fun time shooting this; so much laughter and also so many things to learn.

That being said, I wanted to share the wealth! One of the biggest takeaways for me from planning this shoot was not to underestimate the amount of work that goes into one of these. From start to finish as a planner your role is Indian Chief/ Ringleader. I'd love to share the three tips I think are the most beneficial when planning a shoot (good for those who might not even know where to start!) --

1) Build your vendor team: this is one of my favorite parts of being in the creative world because there is such a big network of talented folks to collaborate with. I absolutely love building relationships and getting to know new people so this kind of came as second nature. If you're having trouble nailing down lets say a florist or something, one thing I found that helped (might just be my creeper social media stalking abilities, but hey who's labeling it) -- is that I would search via hashtags for the right vendor. I.e. "#bayareaflorist" or something along those lines and then see who had an aesthetic that really resonated with me and my personal brand.

2) Nail down the venue: this is HUGE. I honestly think this is the hardest part of planning a styled shoot. Big lesson for me was to do my research ahead of time. For example, we had scoped out a certain park in the North Bay and come to find two weeks before the shoot it's strictly open to residents of that city. Always do your homework about the permits needed and whatnot.

3) Finally, the biggest piece of wisdom - be prepared for rejection and take it with a grain of salt. Whether it's a vendor who can't work with you on this shoot or a blog who declined you from publishing the shoot, I think it's super important to remember that we're all hustling; and that will often times include rejection or maybe things not always turning out your way. What grows your character is how you respond to that sudden left turn. I never really understood the weight that the world "hustle" really carries but I can confidently say as a business owner who is only six months in, I am dailyyy pushing myself above and beyond what I'm used to in order to make my business successful. And sometimes that might even mean you don't have the support you expected but a wise friend once told me that it's not others' support that will matter in the long run or bring in the big bucks ;) You have to hustle because YOU believe in your craft and you visualize that long term goal coming to fruition. 

Ok that's all from me! Enjoy xx

beatrice & mike's wedding

The photos from Bea and Mike's June wedding are here! I'm so stoked to share these photos (how perfect is Lucille Lawrence's work?!) because this wedding was so memorable for me and truly a day I will never forget. I had the privilege of working with Bea to coordinate all the logistics for her wedding about two months out. I love thinking back to our text sesh's debating about the final details and to finally see everything come together the day-of. It was so special to me to be able to spend the morning with her & the bridal party. I delivered them some much needed grub before the festivities began; her favorite, In N Out. Being a part of the whole getting ready process (that's me steaming her veil below, hehe) was unforgettable. The wedding itself was a dream. Rancho Yerba Buena is off the beaten path and boasts such stunning views, not only lush greens but a very whimsical back drop. We were treated to seeing all the horses come out right at sunset, which made for some perfect golden hour photos. The little things really added to the wedding too; from their band playing some bomb covers with a live saxophonist and all, to the homemade cake baked by Bea's close friend -- you could really feel the love. Not to mention that posh poolside cocktail hour, am I right?!

 Bea and Mike had been together for almost a decade so this was really a celebration in the making. What I love most about them is their swag; how cute are their matching Lover Jackets that they put on when it got chilly? Smiling so hard as I relive that day with these gorgeous photos! #bealikemike

Photography: Lucille Lawrence

Florals: Wild North Flowers

Venue: Rancho Yerba Buena

Catering: Karen Bevels

 

 

black & gold // maz's graduation party

Wedding planning for my other brides took a pause this last weekend as I shifted gears to plan one of my good friend's graduation parties from SCU Law :) It was so fun planning this because not only did I get to put my amateur design skills to use by making the menus, but I also pulled together some fun DIY projects with the candy bar, the favors, and the vases. One huge tip I shared on my Instagram the other day that I suggest for those planning events is to always look into the budget-friendly ways to make your party run smoother. For instance for this party, I bought some vases from my local dollar store and then spray painted them gold (easy Michael's run). Definitely helped to save a TON on all the vases by only getting them for $1 each. I used to look at dollar stores from the outside with such distain, but it's been such a pleasant surprise for me to see how they legitimately have everything you could ever want for such good prices. 

Best of all, I got to tag team with two dear friends in the creative sphere on this event. My bestie, Amanda Azarpour took all the photos and my other Amanda (Just Bakecause) baked the gorgeous cake and cupcakes. Check them out! Enjoy these photos and once again, I'm so proud of you Maz! Thank you for letting me create this event for you <3 

#vienna 

Last stop on the Euro adventure was Vienna. After our one day in Salzburg we took the night train to Vienna (only an hour!) and arrived just in time for dinner. Our stay in Vienna was super special because we stayed with my mom's best friend from junior high/ high school whom she hadn't seen in 26 YEARS! How crazy is that? I'm 26 right now so I can't imagine not having seen a friend for pretty much my entire lifespan. That's a long time. They had kept in touch of course, but this was such a special reunion for the both of them. Best of all, her friend had a daughter exactly my age so the four of us had the best time together. Highlights in Vienna included the amazing castles (and the stories behind them), the cheap hot dogs which were to die for, trying an original Sacher Torte, more tasty beer, and going to the opera together on our last night.

Fun travel tip if you're planning to go to Vienna: you can purchase standing-room only tickets to the opera, day-of, for only 4 euros. This was perfect for us since we weren't down to spend a whole 3 hours at the opera and we didn't want to pay an arm and a leg. I wish SF had something like this! It's so convenient for tourists. We got a good taste of the opera for 20-30 minutes and then spent the rest of the night exploring the enormous opera house.

Our final full day in Europe we drove out to Slovakia (only an hour drive) to explore another country. Why not?! We went to Bratislava which has so much character. The town is teeny, tiny! The restaurants are so hipster, it reminded me a lot of being in SF. We shopped, ate some bomb food, discovered some cute bakeries, and walked all day long. I loved it. I loved our whole trip and what was the best part was not only being able to do all this with my mom but to be able to mix that up with meeting some close family members who I personally had never had the opportunity to meet until now. It was such a blessing. These are people I can't imagine not knowing and I am SO excited for them to come here and tour CA with me guiding them ;)

Top 3 realizations culture shocks:

  • You can only get your ice cream in a cone if you get it to go. We tried sitting down after the opera in this ice cream parlor and I really was craving a cone but they wouldn't let me since apparently a cone is more prone to messes so they only give you cups when you're seated. Um... ok.
  • On the same note, no ice cream sampling allowed in Vienna. I told our friends about Salt & Straw in the US and how they pretty much beg you to sample everything and they were mind blown!
  • There isn't much variety when it comes to food. We stayed in Vienna the longest during our whole trip (about 5 days) and towards the end both my mom and I were really in the mood for some ethnic food. Back home, we both get Japanese or Chinese food at least once a week so going three weeks with nothing was killing us. I finally was able to locate a high rated ramen spot so we went. It was average at best which made us realize how lucky we are in the US for the diversity in food options. Not to mention some of the TOP ethnic cuisine in SF (burritos, ramen, sushi, the works).

                 

   

 

#salzburg

Hello Austria. On this next leg of the trip we took a short, two hour night train from Munich to Salzburg. We arrived close to midnight and the best part was that the hotel I found us for the night is pretty much connected to the train station. You walk out, turn the corner and right there in front is the beautiful Ramada Hotel. This hotel was one of the most beautiful and most modern of our stay. Best of all, the glass walls are built noise-proof so you don't have to worry about the sound of the incoming and outgoing trains all night. We were only at this hotel for ~12 hours but we loved it. Blame it on our exhaustion maybe, but nothing felt better than climbing into freshly washed sheets and taking part in an amazing Austrian breakfast buffet first thing in the morning. After breakfast, we checked out and headed to yet another Hop On, Hop Off double decker tour bus ride. These bus rides are seriously the best way to see a city in Europe. Especially if you only have a day or two in each city these buses take you all over the major landmarks of the city, as well as provide an in depth explanation of everything under the sun as you're driving around. We spent the first half of the day seeing the landmarks -- highlight for me and my mom was seeing Mozart's house and walking where he walked. It's crazy to think about. For those looking for which tour to use, I highly suggest Panorama Tours . Being the review nerd that I am, I researched a ton via TripAdvisor for the best tour. Panorama is the way to go! For more resources and offerings, check out their website. 

Around 1pm we got off that bus that walked around their Old Town for a bit. It was perfect timing since our next tour started right at 2pm. Ok, I can't hold it in any longer -- our next tour was the SOUND OF MUSIC tour!! If you know me and my family well, you'd know that this is our absolute favorite movie (right up there with Father of the Bride and Home Alone), I think we've seen it over 70 times at least. I think that's what made Salzburg so special for both of us was going on this tour -- private, may I add! Blame it on the low tourist season; it was just me and her on a private tour with our amazing tour guide, Rosemary. She was so sweet and knowledgable. Our entire 4 hour tour she was spitting out fire facts about the film and behind the set. Leave it to me and my competitive nature to try and one up her the entire time. Let it be known that even I was schooled when it comes to Sound of Music trivia! Rosemary's lived in Salzburg for 40 years and has met over half the actual Von Trapp family in person so ok, I guess she wins. Haha. We went everywhere. The church that Maria gets married in, the terrace and backyard of the home where the kids fall out of the boat when their dad comes home, the yellow wall Maria runs by while singing "Confidence" in the very beginning (see video below for us trying to reenact it), and even the fountain and gardens where they sing Do Re Mi. It was magic. Oh and of course, the iconic gazebo! Thanks so much to Bob's Special Tours for making this so memorable for us.

Finally, we had an hour of downtime before the end of the tour where Rosemary drove us an hour outside the town to the outskirts. We devoured some delicious toasted ham and cheese sandwiches (only 4 euros - what?!) and a few (ok, 4) pastries between the two of us. #treatyoself.

This day is really one that stands out to me because of how special it was to act like true groupies from one of our favorite films, but also because of how short and sweet it was! We took the 7pm train that night to head to Vienna so we really only had one full day. And to be honest I think that's all you need! We both love walking and being on the go so we were able to get a ton done. I highly suggest both tours if you ever go! Enjoy the photos :)

        

#germany 

And the train keeps going. Next stop for us was Germany, where we spent the most time during this adventure -- and made some of the best memories. We took the train from Paris to Frankfurt, where my mom's uncle and his German wife picked us up and hosted us for 5 days at their home in Hochheim (super tiny town!). My great aunt was born and raised in this home so it's over three generations old and has been their home for almost 70 years. It was so awesome to transition from the busy city life to being immersed in a true, European small town. This is one of those towns that everyone knows each other. When you call the nail salon, you greet the person by saying your last name and you're immediately recognized. My great uncle and his wife know almost all the restaurant owners and who's who. The town is completely walkable; no metro, only a few bus lines. 

Our stay with them was so memorable because we got a change from the hotel feel/ living out of a suitcase to a much more home-y and cozy experience. I think what I'll miss most are the breakfast spreads my great aunt would have laid out for us in the mornings. All different kinds of cheeses, fresh bread, soft boiled eggs in the cutest little holders, and a German delicacy: poppyseed cake. We stayed there for four days and explored more of Hochheim as well as Mainz, where we went to the Gutenburg Museum.

That was one of my favorite places we went this whole trip because of how cool it was to learn the history behind print. Obviously being a writing lover, I was captivated from the start. Even cooler, we entered this vault that holds the world's oldest copy of the Bible. Sadly no cameras were allowed but it was even better in a way to soak it all in even more. That's actually been a trending nugget for this whole trip. Not to go off on a tangent but -- we only have wifi in our hotels/ the houses we stay in so during the day we're completely phone less which at first was really unknown, new, and outside my comfort zone. A few days later, and I've gotten so used to it and it's proved to make the trip that much more memorable. Instead I've been journaling during the day when we're out and have down time, and really taking the time to soak in every moment. 

A few days later, we left small town life for Munich! Munich was amazing. I'm so glad we made the stop here as well. The city is so alive and filled with so much history. We did a full day tour on a double decker bus which was perfect. The city is filled with castles, $2 sausages, BEER,  and such intricate architecture. Fun fact too is that there are no skyscrapers allowed to be built in the city because under the Catholic law, no building can be higher than their oldest church. So all of the skyscrapers are actually right outside the city lines. 

Other than that, Germany definitely lives up to its stereotype about having mean people. Sadly. The people have been so rude!! :( it's crazy but it just opens your eyes so much to the level of care and customer service we get in America. The grass isn't always greener! 

Finally to end things off, the absolute best part of Germany was hands down meeting 4 of my second cousins that I had never met before. It's so amazing the connection that family brings that is unlike any other. Within one hour of meeting all of them on different occasions, it was like we had been friends for a lifetime. I'm so blessed to finally have met more of my family-- they're truly people I want to do life with on a consistent basis. And hopefully have them visit us here in the Bay! 

Alright, let's get to the photos now. Next stop: Salzburg, Austria.       

                                

#paris

Ah Paris. Just writing the name gets me giddy. I want to start off this post by saying that the phrase, "Paris is always a good idea" now has new meaning to me because I was able to actually put that into practice on our trip. We didn't really have plans to hit up Paris on our trip since the journey has been so packed with train trips and city stops, BUT, the day before our flight my mom and I had this moment of smiling and looking to one another and saying, "Should we fit in Paris too?" And oh, am I SO glad we did. The first time I went to Paris I left feeling like this was one of my favorite cities in the world. I loved being able to go back a second time and seeing if this remained true. Did it? Big, fat yes!  Paris is magic. Paris is romantic. It's mysterious, illuminating, and simply draws you in. Every time we got off the metro and walked up the steps we were surrounded with an entirely different landscape. All of course included busy streets, colorful buildings, and most of all - people chillaxing. I know I mentioned this in my last post but it continues to ring true the more of Europe I see and explore. People value their time and well being so much. They close up shop when they feel like it, they sit down for an hour- long coffee break if they're in the mood. Anything goes. The sense of consumerism we have in America is completely blown to pieces in Europe, and it is so refreshing to be a part of. 

What I loved most? The eating of course, come on! Every morning my mom and I were on the hunt for better pastries from the day before. Because it just kept getting better and better. Huge shout out to my friend and fellow food blogger, Shikhalamode for all the amazing suggestions -- we tried almost everything! [i do have to note though that I thought Angelina was way over priced and not amazing food.. That being said, go for the experience! Oh and Strasbourg had better drinking chocolate ;)]. End rant. The food was all amazing. I'm iust glad we did so much walking every day so I'm not going home a fattie. 

The other part of the trip I loved was taking a boat ride tour across the Seine one of the afternoons. The sun finally came out while we were on the water and it was so relaxing after 5 hours of walking to simply bask in the sunlight and admire all the beautiful landmarks across the river.

I cannot wait to come back to Paris. Especially in better weather. That being said, the city was so good to us and I'm left smiling from ear to ear when I think about our time there. 

                        

#strasbourg

And we're back. Next stop on the EuroTour was Strasbourg. I can't even begin to describe how much I love this town. Strasbourg is in Alcace, a region of France that has a lot of German influence so you get a totally different feel here -- worlds apart from Paris. I feel so lucky to have seen such different parts of France, from Paris to Strasbourg to Nice and Cannes... this country never ceases to amaze me with its vibrant character and the "joie de vivre" that is so evident in the inhabitants. When my mom and I arrived in the train station, she turned to me and said, "I feel like I'm at home." This resonated so much with me because I felt the exact same way. We both fell in love with France on our last Europe trip and to feel the same way our second time here was so comforting. Even though it was still freezing, we both got this second wind and had a little night on the town and went exploring after dark. It was so magical. There were swans swimming in the river, moonlight reflecting off the cobble stones, and every café was booming. Truly out of a storybook. I told a friend the first comparison that came to mind to describe Strasbourg was: "Man in the Iron Mask" meets Disneyland. Haha! But truly no better way to explain it. The town is so tiny too that you can get around by foot almost anywhere. One of those places where you want to get lost and just soak in each quarter. I don't think I've ever walked so much in my life! We spent 2.5 days here and just left to take the train off to Paris. Can't wait to come back here. Thank you Strasbourg, you have a piece of my heart.

     

#zurich 

First stop on our European adventure. We were here for only 2.5 days and I'm up fighting my jet lag so I thought why not get a head start on my first post from the trip. Best way to fill you guys in on each city we head to is a little blurb in addition to my photos. So here goes: Zurich: industrial, extremely hipster restaurants and bars, FREEZING this time of year, waterfront, amazing public transportation, grocery stores have everything you could ever ask for, reminds my mom of Tehran, reminiscent of UES meets Venice Italy for me. 

                                           Next stop, Strasbourg! 

#unwritten

2016's been exciting so far to say the least. As I'm writing this I'm waiting to board my plane en route to Switzerland. My mom and I are about to embark on a little European adventure, just us girls. I feel so blessed to have the time and the means to travel like this right now and take three weeks to literally get away and get soaked in an entirely different world. I've been wanting to immerse myself in Europe for such a long time now and to be able to do so for an extended period of time gets me so pumped. We'll be making a loop starting in Switzerland, passing through France, then to Germany, then closing out the trip in Austria and hopefully doing a few day trips to neighboring countries in between.

I'll be blogging photos and memories from each city we stop in so feel free to follow along on my journey with me. As the year unfolds (can you believe it's mid February already?), I've been thinking a lot about this blog and what my hopes are for it personally as well as for you the reader. I'm currently working on a revamp, hence the new domain (officially all mine!) as well as the new look and feel. My main goal is to inspire you and myself. I think that term is thrown around so loosely that we tend to roll our eyes and often forget what inspiration even really means.

That brings me back to why my blog is called "undefined & unrestrained." I want to inspire myself and you who might have happened to stumble on my blog to BE you and DO you. Every. Day. One thing that really makes me tick when it comes to social media and this new phase of technology advancement that we're in is the amount of comparison that brings along with it. Most notably for women but definitely for men too. For myself personally, seeing others' coming and goings, endeavors, and various life milestones has been a wonderful thing thanks to social media. However, let's not to ourselves. I think we can all recall a time where it's made you stop and think. "Should I be doing this too?" "Am I not on the right timeline?" "Am I supposed to be going down this career path to fit in with the rest of my demographic?". These questions can be suffocating. They can cause anxiety and ultimately steal your joy. One thing I yearn to encourage you with (and myself since this is much easier said than done on a daily basis) is to embrace the undefined. To live a life that's beautifully unrestrained. To allow the adventures and fleeting moments of passion that you are seeking to fully engulf you. Not what you see on Instagram that makes you get down on yourself for not having X amount of likes or followers.

In this next chapter of my life which is one that is TRULY undefined since I have no clue what's next I am doing just that in embracing the unknown. I have this newfound excitement for what is to come and a new patience, if you will, for taking each day as it comes and finding the small pleasures that each day brings; instead of trying to skip steps and follow this established timeline that the media or our peers have set before us.

I encourage you to tear up that timeline you have written down, physically or in your mind. Find the joy in being yourself and doing what makes you happy. You might be the only one doing X but that's what you're passionate about, do it. For instance, there were times when I thought at my age it's too late to think about taking an extended trip. What about my timeline? Job? What about what my life is "supposed" to look like right now? And then it just hit me. Throw those questions out the window. Take a deep breath and look outside. We're so surrounded by a beautfiul world that is begging to be discovered. Whether that looks like taking time off to travel or quitting your job to pursue a hobby that's become a passion... if that's what drives you, do it. Because at the end of the day, all of us simply want contentment. I've realized even the richest people in the world can be the most depressed. Yeah, we've all heard this but really let it sink in.

And maybe you haven't figured it out yet. Those passions, that calling. Trust me, I haven't. But instead of stressing out (my usual M.O.) I'm finally learning to roll with it and embrace the undefined. Not to end on the cheesiest of all notes but as Natasha Bedingfield so perfectly puts it, "The rest is still unwritten..." -- I'm finally grasping the beauty in that lyric. As someone who has thrived on living a life where my next step/ direction was always sort of laid out before me, I'm starting to slowly get it now and accept the beauty in the unknown. 

With that, I hope some sort of spark has been lit for you. Thanks for following along my journey as I chase what's next. 

#BeYourself

beyou

Be You. One of the shortest sentences one can form. Yet one of the most powerful assertions. So what does it mean to be you? What if you don't know who YOU are? Today at work we had a mini offsite for our team that was meant for some team bonding and brainstorming. With only 10 of us, we all went through the book Strengths Finder 2.0 to see what our top five strengths are (or "themes" as they call them). It was so beneficial to go through this with them because when you're working so closely with a team, often times you're left disappointed, confused, or just plain annoyed because you don't know how to deal with them. Maybe you're wondering why they react certain ways to specific situations -- or why they don't react at all. It was so eye-opening to share our results with one another because now I know exactly why they operate the way they do. And most of all, where their top strengths lie. This way we now know how each member of the team can best utilize these strengths to contribute to the team. 

I highly suggest reading this book and taking the assessment (within a team at work, with your significant other, or just for fun between your family or group of friends). As soon as I finished I wanted to share my results with those around me and curious to hear the results of my good friends. 

Just for my own reference so I never forget these (and because I'm sure you readers are dying to know all about me!) ... lol, I'll be sharing my top 5, as well as the tidbits from each that stood out most to me. It's interesting because we actually had to read this book for a course I took in high school and I still have it at home. I was comparing my results to the ones I got today (almost 7 years later) and 3 of my 5 strengths have remained the same. The other two are completely new! And in a new order too. Here it goes: 

1) Empathy

People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.

What stood out most: Chances are good that you are attuned to the full gamut of human feelings. Whenever your own or someone else’s life becomes emotionally barren, you search for people and activities to fill the void. You bring people together. Because of your strengths, you frequently detect impending conflict sooner than most people do. Your keen awareness allows you to sense what others are thinking and feeling. Simply put: You have a gift for helping people find common ground. By nature, you pay attention to what others think. You make them feel valued. Typically people sense that you appreciate what they say. This probably explains why many people enjoy spending time with you.

2) Harmony

People who are especially talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

What stood out the most: You realize everyone sees opportunities, problems, solutions, and events differently. While you have opinions, you refrain from imposing them on others. You are good-natured — that is,you have a pleasant, cheerful, and cooperative disposition. Chances are good that you accomplish everything that others are counting on you to do. This is one reason why people admire you. 

3) Connectedness

People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

What stood out the most: Driven by your talents, you sense that everything in life is somehow interrelated and interdependent. This idea fortifies you to calmly face most of life’s challenges and difficulties. ... By nature, you naturally build bonds that unite different types of people who have separate and often clashing agendas. You naturally identify with someone’s situation. You have a gift for helping people discover what they have in common. 

4) Consistency

People who are especially talented in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They try to treat everyone in the world with consistency by setting up clear rules and adhering to them.

What stood out the most: You might worry that chaos will reign when regulations or standard operating procedures are not uniformly enforced. Because of your strengths, you may have a reputation for straightening up certain types of things such as your desk, home, and personal items. Perhaps you have a detailed plan or schedule for cleaning, organizing, and maintaining your physical environment. By nature, you like creating familiar patterns of behavior. (dead on!) 

5) Communication 

People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

What stood out the most: Instinctively, you very much enjoy the animated give-and-take of a lively discussion. You yearn to spend time with your friends. Their absence saddens you. It’s very likely that you are sometimes open and honest about who you are, what you have done, what you can do, and what you cannot do. Maybe your straightforward explanations and stories help listeners see you as you see yourself.

Perhaps your words and examples move them to action. Because of your strengths, you like to
amuse people with your stories. Your stories probably provide people with pleasant distractions from their daily routines and worries. Chances are good that you select the right combination
of words to convey your ideas or feelings. You probably express yourself with ease and grace.

----

That's me! Reading these strengths and diving deep into discovering them is one step closer into figuring out who I am and now the challenge is to BE me with no hesitation, fear, or care about who will accept and and who wont. It's liberating.