Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Destination Wedding Photographer, Vanja Melnik


I absolutely fell in love with Santorini. We came across several brides and groups and wedding ceremonies as we explored every corner of the island. I would love to be your Event Planner and Coordinator for your destination wedding, especially in Santorini! Scrolling through photos on Instagram of this gorgeous land, it took me back. In hopes of learning more through other wedding professionals who have done weddings in Santorini, I reached out to Wedding Photographer, Vanja Melnik. Her photos are beautiful and she was open to being interview for my blog. I picked her brain to share with you some information should you need a destination wedding photographer. As an Event Planner and Coordinator, I am always in search of talented and reliable vendors to work with. You will see by this interview that Vanja is incredibly experienced, takes pride in her work, is fun and we have some similarities! Perhaps that was also why I was drawn to her. I hope to be able to call on Vanja someday for a wedding here in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Santorini, Greece or wherever your heart desires.

*****************
Introduction: Hi, I am Vanja Melnik, destination wedding photographer based in Novi Sad, Serbia. I lived 10 years in London, then I moved back to start my wedding photography business with the aim to shoot worldwide. I shoot mainly in Santorini, but I was fortunate to travel to France, Montengro, Croatia for weddings.

My website is www.vanjamelnik.com, I am also very active on Instagram and Facebook.



BM: I came across across your photography in Santorini via Instagram. What are your top three destination wedding locations have you shot and why?


VM: The place where I discovered wedding photography, I like to call it 'shooting love around the globe' is Santorini, Greece. But, I have had the opportunity to shoot in St. Stefan, Aman Resort in Montenegro and at a secluded villa near Nantes, France. These three are my top destinations so far. And why? Because, Santorini has so many amazing spots wherever you look. St. Stefan is a very old and historical place with stunning spots with the sea in the background and Nantes gave me the opportunity  to change my usual summer light conditions and blue sky and sea, with something more green.


BM: What travel tip do you have to aspiring photographers interested in shooting destination weddings?


VM: I like to arrive two days prior ot the wedding date to the location. I have one day to meet the couple in person, even tough we get to know each other via Skype and have many spontaneous and informal chats via social media from the day we meet until the wedding date. Those days are used to check the location where the wedding wil be, the hotel where the couple is getting ready, church location and make the logistic to be best used time we have on the day. Then, the second step is to make a plan for the photo session, check the light at the time of the shooting and take some test shots. This is important for me to make myself feel at home at the new location. What I do prior this, is really to find on Google as many location ideas as i can for that particular place. But, nothing can compare that with being on the location and having a feel for the place.


BM: What inspired you to be a wedding photographer?

VM: I came from the hospitality industry where I spent 10 years working for some of the most prestigious hotels in London, UK. I learnt there what great customer service is and how much we should love what we do in order to give 100% and be happy. When I needed a break, I took a year off and starting asking myself what else I could do. Then, I concluded that I could use my hobby as a photographer's assistant. After four months I fell in love with it. I realized that I am not that bad in technical aspect of photography, but there are so many things I should learn. But, the most important I noticed that my passion for coordinating events from my previous career complement my passion for photography. Knowing that photographer plays such an important role on one of the most memorable days of the couple, inspires me to do my best, to be their best friend on the day and someone who will ensure that all those emotions are captured in the best possible way, without being too noticed. Even though, I get noticed as soon as the party starts, as I love to dance so I can't stay still :)


BM: What is the most challenging or unique request a bride and groom have requested of you?

VM: The most challenging was when the bride decided on the wedding day to bring all her bridal party to the photo session that was dedicated to just two of them. Despite all conversations we had prior where I highlighted pros and cons of it. Cinematographer and myself remain behind for half an hour because she put her friends in the car instead of us and we couldn't get the taxi in the busy city. I put lots of effort to tell myself that it has nothing to do with me, and it's their choice to prioritize.


BM: What location have you dreamt of traveling to to shoot a destination wedding?


VM: In Europe that is definitely Italy (Tuscany and Venice) and worldwide Iceland and New York.


BM: What would be the appeal in shooting in the San Francisco Bay Area?


VM: Wedding photography as an art started in America, way before it was on the same level in Europe. All of us in Europe are learning from American photographers. In general, opinion is that American weddings are more glamourous, more perfectly planned, with much high budgets for decoration and ensuring the whole day looks like a dream. For any European photographer is a dream to shoot there, especially in San Francisco area. Having the city in the background, stunning streets, beach or national parks is an ultimate goal.


BM: How do you improve your skills as photographer?

VM: By shooting almost every day. Following works of other photographers and playing with editing whenever I can.


Please consider booking Vanja and I for your next event! We are both willing to travel. Please be sure to mention you found her via this blog. Thank you and happy wedding planning!



Vanja Melnik
Website

My Third Influenster Box - Ole Henrikson

I do love the opportunities and events I get to experience for free. Experiencing and testing new products is also fun for me. I waited so long to get my first Influenster box. I have seen so many people post all the goodies they receive via social media and now I have received my third box. This time it was from Ole Henrikson. It was pink with flowers on it. This one was definitely not for Bevo like box #2.

This box was filled with a coffee mug, a headband and a tube of the Hydra Clay Detox Mask. My face needed some attention and I still use the Julep face oil I received in box #1 and my Oil of Olay moisturizer, but I felt like it needed a bit more love. I was happy to try this!

The instructions said to apply a thick layer of the product on a clean and dry face. Leave on for 10 minutes and remove with a warm wash cloth. I did so generously as my bathroom counter and underneath my sink also had products I was looking to use and get my money's worth. However, this tube was complimentary thanks to Influenster so there was no need to hold back. I followed the instructions and applied a nice, generous layer, set my timer for 10 minutes and did other things.

My face didn't feel like I couldn't make a facial expression or speak like an Enzyme Peel I have used before. When it came to taking it off, it was easy. My face felt soft. The tube said it was OK to use 2-3 times a week. I have now tried it twice and I didn't have to apply any moisturizer to my face all day.

I look forward to receiving more Influenster boxes.







Related Posts:
- My First Influenster Box
- My Second Influenster Box - But It's for Bevo
- Do you Shopkick?
- #BecauseGoals

My Second Influenster Box - But It's for Bevo

Without knowing I was going to receive it, I had a big box delivered from Influenster. My first box was valued at over $200 of beauty goods. See post HERE. I opened the box and it was a bag of dog food from Nutrish, Zero Grain, apparently made by Rachael Ray. I recently started ordering Bevo's dog food from Chewy.com because they offered a new customer discount, have free shipping and I don't have to carry the 30-pound bag from the store, load it into my car and up a flight of stairs. Now I have a free bag of dog food?

I was hesitant to try it as any changes in Bevo's diet causes changes in his belly and it's not a fun thing to clean up. You are supposed to gradually add the new food in with his current food and eventually phase out the old food. Not knowing he was going to like Nutrish and not really intending of changing his food entirely, I didn't phase the old food out. However, he gobbled the stuff up! Then again it's not like doesn't do that every night.

Thanks to Influenster for the goodies. If Bevo is anything like his owner, which dogs typically are, we like trying new things.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Plated

Who has time to go to look through recipes, make a list of things you need, go to the grocery store, dodge unattended children, stand in line to pay for items that just might go bad in your fridge? My neighbor uses Plated and sent me a free box to try the service.

I signed up, selected how many servings and how often I wanted to receive the shipment and also selected what dishes I wanted to cook and eat. It has been amazing! In the few months I have been using it, I have cooked 18 recipes and used 243 ingredients - some I've never used before. I've never cooked bok choy, chicken larb or flounder, or personally used ghee, sumac or gochujang before. In a Bon Appetit magazine, a Chef stated that recipes are more like guidelines. You can modify as necessary and to your preference. I definitely do.

The cost is around $55 per box for a total of four servings. Not bad when this girl usually spends $50 in one decent meal. Plated exposes me to new recipes, ingredients, helps me improve my cooking and it's fun. My roommate gets to taste everything so he's lucky to be in the house. If I don't like what I make, he's usually down to finish it off.

I highly recommend Plated. I have never used any other meal prep subscription box however I would be open to it to write a comparative blog post. Which do you recommend?

With the more Plated boxes I receive, the more free boxes I can gift. If you'd like to receive a box, please comment below and I will reach out.

Side note - I browsed their careers page and it appears they have job openings in Union City, California, the next down over. Interesting. Way to go, East Bay!

Happy cooking!

Tomato & Brie Tart

Zucchini Tomato Pizza

Steak Gyro

Butter Chicken

Chicken Bulgogi

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Evening in Palo Alto, California

In the Silicon Valley of California, come down to Palo Alto, the home of Stanford University. Friends who want to switch it up on the weekend from going to 'the city' aka San Francisco or staying local such as the country bar called The Saddlerack or the fun downtown Livermore, downtown Palo Alto is a nice option. It has shopping, restaurants and is mainly safe.

Shop the high-end stores at the outdoor mall or by walking down University Avenue. Feel all the 'like butter' things at Restoration Hardware. Don't mind the show-like ready dogs accompanying their owners placing custom orders of leather couches and matching plush robes. Not going to lie, that $3,500 headboard was on sale and a bit tempting. The other store I was ventured in was Letter Perfect, a stationary store with cute cards, notebooks, books, paper gifts and an area for custom invites. I checked in alerting my followers they do wedding invitations.

I had plans to have dinner with my lawyer-friend, Ivan, after a brief appearance at a gathering for Stella & Dot. I didn't want to eat anything heavy. I almost went to the French bakery and purchased a coffee as I have just come from Paris, France. I also almost grabbed at beer at The Taproom. I love cute A-frame signs like the one below. However, in an attempt to not overspend, I found a spot that was offering happy hour. There were many options however I decided to stop into Local Union 271. When dining alone, I prefer to sit at the bar, unless I will have my laptop with me and I need more room, I would then grab a table.


I was greeted by Katie, the Bartender, with a beautiful smile and she asks, 'Your name starts with S, right?' Apparently, I look familiar. I have been getting that quite a bit lately. There's an imposter out there! Don't be fooled! She apologized but there was no need. She highlighted the happy hour offerings including where to find particular items on the menu. Sticking to my 'budget' for this dining experience, I went with the $7 sangria and two chicken tacos, stacked high with cabbage, jalapenos and sides of guacamole and salsa for also $7.


The bar had decor on its shelves, spaced out placement of liquor bottles, a wine dispensing section and I overheard that they replaced Bud Light with Coors Light. No big deal to me! I don't drink that stuff. They also had two large televisions playing the basketball game and the US soccer game. On our last day in Santorini recently, Papichulo was explaining soccer to me. I have never watched an entire game and I was completely ignorant. I sent him a Snap ('bappletree') asking him if he was proud because I was watching soccer. Apparently, he was also watching the same game in his hotel room in Tampa, Florida. I asked my several questions and the game had my complete attention. I did not need my phone to keep me entertained. Papichulo explained the current rankings and what would need to happen for the US to make it to the World Cup. My face and complete devotion to this game must have communicated that I knew more than what I actually did about this sport because a gentleman left his table and asked me how the US was doing. I relayed Papichulo's knowledge to him and I think it made me appear pretty smart. I think I also impressed the doctor that was sitting next to me too because we started talking about sports. In summary, thanks for the televisions and entertainment, Local Union 271.

I had to head over to my next meeting at Gravity Bistro & Wine Bar around the corner to meet with my Stella & Dot upline and I wanted to check out the new holiday collection. Sandy had a long high table on the second floor and the new collection was absolutely gorgeous. I'm glad I waited until that event before placing another order to add to my collection. I loved the Constantine Feather Necklace ($149) the best. Of course I do! I naturally have expensive tastes. 'Fancy' is what Papichulo calls me. It's accurate. Other items include pieces from Designer Rebecca Minkoff and they now have a beanie with detachable poufs and inside it says 'Hello Gorgeous.'

 


 

 
 

I do have to mention that every time I see Sandy, she does a little gasp. I have been a Stylist for six years and am One Busy Bee, as my readers know. To show up at one of these events and being able to put some energy into this business, I think she's always shocked when I do and definitely when I do well. She has been a wonderful mentor, trainer and motivator and someone I call whenever I need inspiration, assistance and guidance. I am thankful for that. I also love the Stella & Dot business. It's fun, flexible and I get to work in fashion and get compliments. I like words of affirmation.

We got into discussions about the business, the pieces, what the trends are but I had to go. She sweetly but firmly asked me "Where are you going?!?" I had to meet with Ivan, a former Law Clerk of mine turned Lawyer and Entrepreneur needing help with his start-up. We were going to catch up and talk business. She understood and said goodbye after a selfie.

 

I walked over to Zola and waited for Ivan to arrive. Guests were seated at the couple of tables outside and the tall, smart blonde walked in and gave me a hug. He was greeted by the staff and I realized he was 'that' guy, the regular restaurants love to have. He even brought over a bottle of wine for them to decanter before dinner so it was ready to drink. This is a guy that has Tiffany martini glasses! The man is smart, classy and damn, did he used to irritate me. He was that UC Berkeley kid that just wanted to argue with me as the Office Manager and then send me borderline sexual harassment email responses to new guidelines and procedures. It's great to now call him a friend. I was honored to have sworn him in as a lawyer. As a bonus, I am honored to have shared this special bottle of Bordeaux wine with him. I was EIGHT during this vintage. Holy!

 

As Zola was his regular spot, I told Ivan I wasn't that hungry and allowed him to order dinner. It really is nice when a man can do that. He ordered the delicious ricotta gnocchi with brown butter and summer truffles, an endive and pear salad, the flounder and pork chop. This was a dinner I did not break out my camera and take photos of EXCEPT that bottle of wine. If I have another opportunity, photos will be taken, I promise! The salad was light and for this salad lover, gone in 60 seconds. The flounder was also light with capers and a burre blanc sauce, a classic French sauce of butter, wine and cream and the pork chop was absolutely delicious. I was so full but I continued to eat. I think I could have rolled to my car if I was allowed to.

It was a great night in Palo Alto with old friends and making new ones, and exploring what this city has to offer.

Cheers!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Finding Fundraising Events in Alameda

The girls and I had brunch at Habanas Cuban Cuisine (blog post coming!) At the hostess desk, I saw this flyer for a fundraising event on Friday, October 13th, in Oakland. I have been wanting to do more than just my donation to JetBlue's #100x35jetblue campaign. I thought the event would be interesting and fun.

 

 

Sunshine, Court Court and I explored Park Avenue of Alameda, California. We walked by new restaurants, old diners like Ollie's, thrift-like stores and more. We stopped into Sumbody & Sumtime Spa and smelled and tested their products, as well as took a mini tour of their spa space for the free gift they were advertising on their window. The gift was a discounted massage. I just might take advantage. I am being charged $70 a month for MassageEnvy. I might as well save $5 and get a new experience. Daisy's is also an adorable store with home goods and cute stationary. I hope Papichulo likes his card.

 

One Busy Bee appropriate
We found our way down an indoor and well-lit walkway that led us to Aphrodite's Closet, a well-organized consignment shop. Amy, the Owner, was very pleasant and a former Stella & Dot Stylist. I saw the Bamboleo Necklace on display. I can't part with mine. It really helps to start conversations. While chatting, I noticed the flyer for a Susan G. Komen and breast cancer fundraiser with Zumba and live entertainment taking place on Saturday, October 21st in Alameda. It was definitely Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

 


Next door at the lingerie / flower shop location, a flyer for a Latin Night with professional dancers and drinks benefiting Progressive Transition Oakland, helping victims of sexual violence. This event will be taking place on October 20th.

 
Though I cannot personally attend these events above, and I am not sure if my spontaneous arrival in Puerto Rico to lend a hand would actually help, Papichulo says that I should be 'vigilant and spread the word.' All causes are worthwhile and there are so many people needing assistance. I am doing what I can. Though I think I can do more, let's start here.

I hope non-profits receive plenty of donations, that they are put to good use and these events get some foot traffic. Kudos to shops in Alameda spreading the word! I'm impressed!

Travel Log

I have the travel bug.  I am now in search of a job I love in the travel / hospitality / event planning world. If I could blog for a living while traveling the world, that would be the dream. Any collaborations, comped travel expenses, accommodations, gas cards, etc would be appreciated. Please see Blog Stats HERE.  To compliment  my resume found on LinkedIn, a list of where I have been would help communicate a summary of where I have been. Search my blog for posts on the below locations and I welcome any questions you may have. Please comment below or email me. I hope to be able to answer them for you. Happy traveling!

3 continents, 14 countries

THE BAHAMAS
- Freeport
- Nassau

CANADA
 - Vancouver

CROATIA
- Dubrovnik

FRANCE
- Epernay
- Provence
- Reims
GREECE
- Athens
- Fira, Santorini
- Ia, Santorini
 
- Thira, Santorini
- Oia, Santorini
- Perissa, Santorini

IRELAND
- Dublin (Airport only)
ITALY
- Florence
- Livorno
- Milan
 
- Positano
- Rome
 
- Venice

 MALTA

- Valletta

MEXICO
- Cozumel
- Playa Del Carmen
- Tulum

PHILIPPINES
- Manila
SPAIN
- Barcelona (returning February 2018)

TURKEY
- Kusadasi
- Istanbul (Airport only)
 UNITED KINGDOM
- London (Airport only)

UNITED STATES

CALIFORNIA
- Alameda
- Alamo
- Anaheim 
 
- Benicia
- Berkeley
- Bodega Bay
- Brentwood (NorCal)
- Compton
- Concord
- Cotati
- Daly City
- Davis
- Danville
- Eureka
- Hayward
- Hollywood
- Lafayette
- Lancaster
- Livermore
- Lodi
- Los Gatos
- Los Angeles
- Malibu
- Martinez
- Menlo Park
- Monterey
- Orinda 
- Napa
- Pacifica
- Palmdale
- Palo Alto
- Pasadena
- Pleasant Hill
- Pleasanton
- Rohnert Park
- Roseville
- Sacramento
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- San Leandro
- San Luis Obispo
- San Mateo
- San Ramon
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Monica
- Saratoga
- Sebastopol
- South San Francisco
- Sunnyvale
- Tracy
- Truckee
- Tustin
- Vallejo
- Venice
- Walnut Creek
- Watsonville
- West Hollywood
- Yuba City

FLORIDA
- Fort Lauderdale
- Miami

HAWAII
BIG ISLAND
- Kona
KAUAI
- Hanalei
- Koloa
MAUI
- Kapalua
- Kihei
- Lahaina

LOUISIANA
- New Orleans
 

MASSACHUSETTS
- Boston

NEVADA
- Carson City
- Las Vegas
 
- Reno

NEW JERSEY
- Hoboken
- Jackson
NEW YORK
- Brooklyn
- New York City

OREGON
- Portland

TEXAS
- Austin

UTAH
- Salt Lake City

WASHINGTON
- Leavenworth
- Seattle
- Vancouver

COMING UP!
October 2017
Maui for the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

February 2018
Barcelona
Possibly Ibiza

May 2018
Jamaica
The Cayman Islands
Cozumel, Mexico

June 2018
Tent: Oaxaca, Mexico