my band!

I know, I know. I've really been slacking on the wedding updates! When you're planning a wedding from thousands of miles away, sharing visual pieces is a tad tricky...but, now that we're back in California, we'll cross off a few more "to dos" and by next week we'll have met all of our vendors face to face!

But, I haven't been totally slacking. I swear. Before getting engaged, I dreamed of a vintage engagement ring...Gabe was a tad nervous about that, so he wisely had my ring custom made. But after seeing the price for a matching diamond eternity band, I knew it just wasn't in the budget. And I really didn't need more diamonds. (Wait. Did I just say that?)

Why not get my "vintage" kick in with the wedding band, though? A few days before Christmas I stopped at an antique store in Stillwater, Minnesota, and bumped into the most beautiful Art Nouveau vintage wedding band from 1930. It's a gorgeous thin yellow gold band with flower motif all around...the fit was perfect and it added a really great texture without looking too mismatched. I bought it on the spot. Gabe isn't always into vintage...he's every bit "modern" to my "nostalgic" tastes. But he loves it too...and I also think he loved that we saved several hundred dollars.

Two weeks later and I'm still in love. I may or may not be slipping it on every few days just to make sure it still looks great. :)

What kind of band do you have or dream of wearing someday?


the day after.

I like to believe that Christmas extends through New Years Day. Somehow, these five extra seasonal days help me feel a little less blue on December the 26th.

Even though our all-Christmas radio station has switched back to hum-drum usual tunes, it makes me a little cheery that my apartment is still decorated for Christmas. Sure, I won't be there for the next two weeks, today we leave for Sacramento..but I couldn't have parted with my Christmas lights + tree just yet! The mistletoe still hangs in the doorway to my kitchen, and perhaps we can snag one more smooch under it before it's got to come down. :)

Off subject topic: I recently received requests on my Facebook page for a photo-focused post! I'm ultra happy + flattered to put this together! An expert I am not, but I have done my fair share of trial and error...so perhaps I can share how to get started, which equipment is necessary + fabulous, easy editing and so forth. 

Sound okay? If you have a question, just drop it in the comments here so I can start working on that post! :)


a very special guest post.

Hello and hope you are all enjoying the holidays! I’m Gabriel, Bethany’s fiancé and the ineloquent writer filling in for her today.  I promise she will be back soon. It’s just that I rarely feel like writing, but the holidays are a subject about which I’ve recently gained some understanding. 
For the past 14 years I have either been in the military or serving with the military in some form or another. I can count on one hand the number of birthdays and Christmases I have actually been home to see. Over the years, when you are gone for more holidays than you’re home, you tend to let yourself think that a holiday is really just another day.  You tell yourself there’s nothing special about the day; nothing to really miss.  Over this last month though, I have realized that this is just a coping mechanism.  Once you admit that you are missing out on something so special, so often, it suddenly becomes a big deal. You realize you’re missing out on a lot. 

This Christmas will be my first at home in years.  And I say “at home” because since meeting Bethany, I think of my home as wherever my beautiful fiancé is. It is not really a place that makes my home, but a person.  Knowing that we’ll wake up on Christmas morning, see each other and open presents together makes me realize that I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. Being gone for so long, I kind of lost sight of that.  They say you never really know what you have until you lost it, but I had the reverse of that. I never really knew what I was missing until I found her. Spending Christmas with Bethany is the best gift I could possibly receive.
So, the best gift I can give to others is to remind them of the gift of experience.  No matter how stressful Christmas can be with friends and family, don’t let yourself miss it.  Stop and take it all in. After being away for so long, I know for sure that it’s the best thing in the world.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy every moment with family and friends.


a very retro christmas

This weekend was a blur.

But a few things I remember from it were...meeting a bunch of really lovely girls at Give Crafty in Minneapolis...staying at an ultra cute hotel so I could knock out some Christmas shopping at the Mall of America. And...finally finding something to wear to pick up Gabe at the airport tomorrow! Yes, I'm one of those girls who obsesses over that airport greeting outfit. But when it's been six months (and you've lost twenty pounds since then!), I think a little obsessing is earned, right?

After a drive to Anthropologie on Sunday, I made the mistake of telling a sales associate what I was shopping for. She squealed and starting pulling every item known to man, while I was sent off to the fitting room! Girls...she brought everything from purple skinny jeans to slinky black dresses. I am not exaggerating when I say I tried on at least thirty things and was overwhelmed.

But then...this dress entered the picture. It's a festive kelly green and a sweet retro shape...not my usual vibe. Yet when I slipped it on, I felt very Zooey Deschanel! (That's a good thing.) It was a out of my normal pricepoint, but my employer was super kind with the Christmas bonuses this year...so I happily bought this gorgeous frock.

I'm a bit nervous to wear it, though, since I don't usually dress so retro-inspired! While I love the look on others, sometimes I feel like a silly poser trying to pull of the Zooey look. But, here's hoping it will pair well with tights, gold glitter flats, and a sweet vintage gold brooch passed down to me by my Great Aunt Mill!

Gabe's flight arrives in twenty six hours. There aren't words to express my excitement...and also the length of my To Do list! But I won't wax poetic about that, because doesn't everyone in the world have an enormous list at this time of year? Yes. We all do.

Here's hoping you're enjoying this week before Christmas and crossing off every last thing on your list! :)


...and the winner is...

...Doris Johnson, who surprisingly grew up in Wisconsin, like me, and then moved to Calfornia...just like I will in a few months! We're life twins, or something like that. :) Anyway, shoot me an email at wwrinserepeat@gmail.com and I'll drop this baby in the mail to you on Monday...along with about twelve other packages that are overdue to get into the post.

Thank you all so very much for entering. I feel like tons of new girls dropped commens on the giveaway post and I'm having a blast taking study breaks to discover these new places in the blog world! I only wish I had a bajillion dollars so I could purchase a calendar for each of you.

In other news, I've officially conquered the art history paper that's been looming over me and can now say that 75% of all stress in my life is due to procrastination and just plain stressing about stress. Know what I mean?

But, the above photo is an accurate summary of the last 48 hours of life in my world. Lots of caffeinated beverages, scads of books and, embarassingly enough, many, many hours in the same pair of pajamas. Oh and that Cheetah print Snuggie. Don't knock it til you try it...it's forgivably comfortable.

Tonight I've got a little party for one of my classes, and then am meeting up with my incredibly good friend + bridesmaid, Andrea, for coffee. She lives all the way over in Washington...I haven't seen her since before I got engaged and I'm beyond excited to hug her!

What are you up to tonight? Christmas cookies? Finals? Shopping? Do tell!


short and sweet: last day extra entry!

As you read this, I'm likely highlighting, typing and rubbing a lucky rabbit's foot that somehow I'll finish a beastly medieval reliquaries paper by Thursday at 3pm. So, I'll keep it short and sweet today...save all my words in hopes of meeting a lofty page requirement which seems oh-so far away.

But quickly-quickly, I'm offering a last day extra entry on the Rifle Calendar Giveaway! This thing is whimsical as all get out. So those of you who are ultra in love with it, just on pop over to the original giveaway post and drop an additional comment!

I'll be back on Thursday with the winner! Have a lovely, lovely Wednesday. :)


we might need a miracle.

It's getting to that point. You know, that point in December where you're not exactly sure how everything is going to get completed. Papers, finals, Christmas parties, nooks and crannies to clean, presents to mail, items to order, gifts to wrap...a fiance returning home from overseas.

The list goes on and on.

I'm trying to stay focused, but it's hard when there's snow outside, glittery crafts I'd like to make and a paper I'd looove to shirk. It's gonna take a mircale, I think. And maybe little pixie dust to get everything done around here in time for the holidays.

Are you feeling the crunch?


choosing joy in sadness.

My heart feels silly writing about snowflakes or lipstick today...yesterday, a dear friend's mom passed away after years of battling cancer. There's peace that she no longer suffers, joy that she's gone home to Jesus...but it's tough not to cry or feel heavy-hearted.

I knew her best through her daughters, who live with so much joy, grace and laughter. Clearly she taught her girls:

...to laugh extra hard at the funny moments.
...to find the beauty in most any situation.
...to bless others in all that you do.
...and mostly, to trust God with everything. Big or little.

So for today, tomorrow, as long as I can remember...I will honor all those things in memory of their incredible mama who has really, truly gone home for Christmas.


rifle calendar giveaway!

I love a new calendar. Crisp, clean pages...free from crinkles, coffee rings and scribbles. Flipping through leaves me thinking about what the coming months will bring: meeting my best friend's baby boy, a little school, marrying the love of my life...and then a lot of unknowns. When I spotted this Rifle Botanical Wall Calendar, I knew I needed it. A little visual grace, if you will, for a year that I feel might not look so graceful from the outside.

To celebrate the coming year, and all the excitement of 2011...I'm giving away an identical Rifle Botanical Wall Calendar to one lucky reader! Its the most beautiful calendar and the pages will make fabulous wrapping paper or scrapbooking bits after each month passes.

To enter:
Leave a comment on this post letting me know what you're most looking forward to in 2012!

For additional entries (please leave one comment for each entry):
Subscribe to my blog, and leave a comment letting me know you're a follower.
Like my Facebook page, and double back to leave a comment letting me know you've done so.

This giveaway is open to all (US, Sweden, Brazil...wherever!) through Wednesday, December 14th. I'll announce the winner on Thursday, December 15th.

In the meantime...drop a comment (or three) and enter to win!!


filling in the empty spaces.

Gabe is on cloud nine about coming home for Christmas in two weeks, so I'm taking the holiday decor up a notch around here. Think even more glitter than usual, multiple stockings and seven extra strings of lights. Hello, enormous electric bill...I do not even care that you exist. I've informed Gabe that openly weeping with Christmas joy is the only thanks I'll need for the hours I've spent decorating. He'll try to oblige, he says.

Over the next two weeks, there are still a few awkward ledges + empty crannies in need of some holiday sprucing. So, when I spotted several pins + posts with plans to DIY these (ahem, overpriced) Anthropologie Mason Jar Snowglobes, I knew I had to hop on the band wagon and craft my own.

Here's the best part...it's totally a 4-3-2-1 craft format:

Four supplies needed (mason jar, mini tree, faux snow, hot glue gun).
Three minutes to create (or less, once you get crackin').
Two dollars a piece (if you've got extra glass jars around).
One heck of a cute craft (that you cannot screw up).

If you'd like a tutorial, it pretty much goes like this:

Hot glue bottom of adorably tiny tree to inside of mason jar lid.
Sprinkle a pinch of faux snow into jar. 
Twist jar closed.
Marvel over the $40 you just saved yourself. :)

But, it should be noted that I'm not the first one to do this. Check out this tutorial if you want more photos and an indepth set of instructions!


P.S. Big ol' thanks to everyone who popped over to my new Rinse. Repeat. Facebook page! I am loving the chance to share extra photos + chat with you in a new, more frequent way!


on facebook!

Here's something I've gone back and forth about: Facebook pages for blogsI've never found it strange that other bloggers had them--usually they're also selling products, services or they're just plain awesome enough to rock a Facebook page. But when I thought about creating one for this blog, I felt a little insecure and silly about it.

Recently I realized that while I love me some blog comments, often I'd love to have a casual dialogue with you, my readers! It's fun to know about your opinions,  hear about your day, your holiday plans. Blog comments aren't always conducive to that...while Facebook pages make it incredibly easy to have that relaxed, continual dialogue.

Also, I get reader mail from lots of fantastic girls who don't have blogs, some felt intimidated leaving a comment or had issues navigating the comment page. I'd love to connect with those girls, too! (Or guys. We're equal opportunity around here.)

So, yesterday afternoon I finally made a Rinse. Repeat. Facebook page.

If you want blog updates via Facebook, extra photos or the ability to chat about your love for cake and sweatpants...let's connect! Head on over to my Facebook page and give it a "Like"!


glitzy new years eve invites.

This weekend it snowed enough to keep me from leaving home most of Saturday. (I'm not complaining!) There were plenty of wise, mature things I could have done while snowed in...of course I did none of them.

Instead I made glittery New Years Eve Engagement Party invitations! Gabe and I are spending New Years Eve in California, at our very full home in Sacramento...with twenty five people. Both our families are getting together to meet for the first time--Gabe's enormous family is driving from around the state and my small fam is flying out from Wisconsin! Our best friends are joining us too...so the house will be full up.

Since we haven't done so yet, we thought New Years Eve might be a great time to celebrate our engagement: a festive little evening at home with lots of food, a pinch of glitter and some good tunes. Our families already know we're having a party, but I couldn't resist making an invite for the occasion.

The invite was pretty easy-peasy: The glitter boxes came straight from the Dollar Tree, and easily held the 3X5 gold embossed invite + a handful of festive hand punched confetti. Add a little paper doily, an embossed initial tag for each fam and a few inches of ribbon...and BAM. You've got yourself an invite.

Have you ever tried embossing? It's such a great way to make an invite a little fancier. Jacin over at Lovely Little Details just posted a fabulous DIY embossing video, which reminded me that I'd not used my supplies in over a year, so I set about building that into the invites. Take a peek at her video--it's a great intro to embossing.

Are you a big New Years Eve fan...do you already have plans? Or do you prefer to sit at home in your PJs, watching the countdown?


the countdown.

It first happened in a department store, while debating a purchase of new Tupperware. Faint strains of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" floated over the speaker system, and suddenly I realized just how close Gabe is to coming home...he hasn't been in the States for Christmas in years, but this Christmas he'll be home. My eyes got misty and I felt that I might lose it right there in the Tupperware aisle.

"Keep...your crap...together, girlfriend!"  I shouted in my head.

I gritted my teeth and narrowed my eyes, attempting to focus harder on plastic leftover containers than any woman in the history of Tupperware. But it was too late. I'd already started thinking about seeing Gabe for the first time in what feels like forever, decorating our tree, making cookies together and snuggling up to watch Rudolph. I lost it right there in the home section of Target...and I wasn't even ashamed.

And now like clockwork, I've started crying at the silliest, mushiest things. This is how I know it's time for Gabe to come home...because without fail I become an absolute sentimental fool once our countdown reaches 30 days or less.

This year feels extremely special. After spending the past twenty-two weeks apart, we're now at two weeks, six days and a handful of hours...until Gabe returns home from Iraq, just in time for Christmas. And although there's a daunting amount of papers, finals and holiday commitments between now and Gabe's arrival, I don't even care. It will all get done. It will all breeze by, and soon I'll be picking him up at my tiny Wisconsin airport, where we've cried our goodbyes many, many times...but have never gotten to say an elated hello.

Not to get all Mariah Carey on you, but I'm going there. The only thing on my Christmas list is the person I'll be picking up at the airport on December 20th.

This year, it is truly the only, only thing I need in this world.


never trust bloggers...they're great liars.

A few days ago my Seattle blog friend Nellie, who I met at Always Bloggy in Philadelphia last month, emailed to say she'd be stuck in Minneapolis for a work weekend and "would you like to drive up on Friday night for dinner + drinks, and to crash at the hotel?" I replied (with many excited "!!!") that I would love to meet up Friday night...I couldn't believe my luck! Getting to see one of my AB girls just a month after meeting was blowing my ever-lovin' mind.

Fast forward to Friday: I'm frantically packing my bags, Facebooking Nellie with my phone number and tweeting my Always Bloggy girls about seeing Nellie. They tweet back with messages of jealousy.

A few hours later, I'm in downtown Minneapolis, rolling into the lobby of the Radisson, hugging Nellie and jetting up to her room to drop off my bags. We chit-chat on the elevator and down the hallway to the room. As Nellie slides her room key, she says,

"I have to apologize for something...because I kind of lied to you..."

My eyes hit the room and I see the far bed, which is covered with presents, treats and aqua garland. Then I come fully around the corner where I see...my blog friends Shannon, from Philly, and Karen, from Virgina, sitting on the other bed screaming, "SURPRISE!! HAPPY BACHELORETTE PARTY!"

Lest it ever be said that I'm not a spazz, I give you this video. I couldn't stop crying. And jumping. And flapping my hands like I was about to take off in flight.

For a full five minutes, I don't think I stopped spilling tears, even through our champagne toast. Every time I tried to say thank you, or to express how overwhelmed I was, those pesky tears just kept coming.

In part, I cried because I couldn't believe these girls who I'd just met a month ago...all of them with a husband and baby at home...dropped life to come to the freezing Midwest and see me. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness, almost humbled and embarrassed that anyone went to so much work for meBut, I also cried because I absolutely could believe it...I feel the same. Until that moment, I didn't realize how much I'd missed them! I cried because I'd absolutely fly across the country in a heartbeat to see any of them. Because although we just met face-to-face 30 days ago, we've somehow forged what we know are lifelong friendships.

Given that I thought I was just coming up for dinner, I left my camera behind. But we had an amazing weekend together. The girls took plenty of photos (albeit, some of them incriminating) which they're kindly sharing with me...and I shall share them with you later this week! Needless to say, I'm still on Cloud 9 about my early, unexpected Bachelorette Party...my heart still feels pretty freakin' full...

...and I've cried about seven times watching that video. :)


on your side.

Flowers from Gabe..I always rearrange them in 3-4 smaller mason jar arrangements. :)

Gabe and I have been talking a lot lately about being "on your side".  Sometimes it's tough to feel each other's support with miles and hours between us. It can be tricky to feel important when lost in a sea of regular life...especially as it's been five months since we've seen each other's faces. 

But, Gabe has a sixth sense for knowing when I'm feeling distant, stressed or less-connected. Lately, my favorite part about having a husband-to-be is that he is someone who I am always "for", and he is always "for me"...even when it's inconvenient. Even when he's worked a 13 hour day and can barely keep his eyes open. Even when I'm being a total pill, he makes the effort to ensure that I feel treasured and loved.

We're a team, and I've really started to feel that lately. When one of us feels like trying less, doesn't have the energy to deal with the details or deal with another day of long-distance love, the other picks it up without missing a beat. Perhaps that's the best part of being opposites. We both have different stressors and strengths, which means we each have a chance to shine in situations the other doesn't excel in.

Indeed, indeed...opposites attract...and sometimes that makes a fantastic team. :)



Oh my.

Last Tuesday I noticed weeks passed since I last picked up my camera, or shared anything truly personal in this space. Then, after receiving reader emails ensuring I was still alive, I realized how badly I needed to get back here!

Time has just slipped by. Granted, I've been busy, but in the past I always made time for blogging...it happened organically, like remembering to eat lunch or hugging an old friend hello. Yet over the past two months, my urge to share just dried up. It was strange. I've gone over and over it: Have I changed creatively? Am I just being lazy...or have I gotten boring? Am I no longer a creative girl?

But, then it hit me. For the past two months, my emotional energy was thrown into attacking what had bankrupted my joy. Time I once spent blogging was given over to journaling personal thoughts, facing memories, attending twice-weekly counseling sessions. Some days, I want to share that experience--my breakdown, seeking help and the recovery. It's now a part of who I am. But, a piece of me quietly says no. Some things are too personal...and I don't possess the creative ability to express it.

The latter is likely true.

Regardless, I'm returning to this space...close to girl I always was, but a bit stronger and more self aware. Kindly bear with me if I read a like a newborn fawn on his wobbly first walk...

...I'm just learning to trust my own creative legs once again. :)



(I'm recycling this photo...something I swore I'd never do. But, why reinvent the wheel?!)

Over the past few months I've gotten lots of very specific questions about my bridesmaid boxes and this week I've seen a big ol' flow of traffic (hello, new friends!!) popping over from Pinterest. So, I thought I'd share the FAQ of those sweet little boxes. 

Sidenote: I'm one of those girls who likes to know the person behind a project! So, hello, I'm Bethany...and if you want to know a little about me, start here. If you want to know about my wedding...begin here! Also, the internet is crazy, and I heart it. I never thought those lil' boxes would be on my fav wedding blog + a few others, pinned thousands of times, and inspire a handful of other brides to ask their maids in a similar fashion! Whoa. High-five, internet!

Onward to the FAQ!

Where can I get a traceable template for the interior lid?
You can get that right here, just click on "template" in the body of the text. I freehanded mine, I wouldn't recommend it! But when the lovely Wedding Chicks featured my project they were kind enough to create a little downloadable template for you!

What kind of letters were used for the text?
They're just your basic 1.5" adhesive letters from the craftstore! Specifically, I opted for the Thickers brand in "Rainboots". Cause really, does a font name get any cuter than "Rainboots"? No, my friends, no it does not.

What font did you use for the information cards you included?
The font for the body of the text is Traveling Typewriter, and you can download it here. The header font is Learning Curve, available here. Both fonts are free...and fabulous for your font arsenal!

What paint colors, specifically, were used on the box?
I mixed my own blue, using DeltaCreative in Light Ivory and DecoArt Patio Paint in Blue Bahama (available at Michaels). My advice: Get 8 oz. of ivory and 2 oz. of teal, purple, green, aqua or whatever you like and make your own custom color! Test on a popsicle stick...just to see if you like the color on a wood tone before you commit to painting multiple boxes with it. Also, if you're working on this project across the course of a couple days, keep your color consistent by writing down your little paint recipe (ie: 4 drops of green and 10 drops of ivory). Super easy way to stay sane. :)

Where did you find your hankies?
Years ago I was gifted 80+ vintage hankies from a family friend. (I wish I had a better answer!!) But, if you're in the market, I've seen plenty at flea markets, thrift and antique stores (give 'em a wash!), Etsy often has a few and if all else fails you can buy really inexpensive reproductions of vintage hankies on Ebay.

Is there anything else I can include?
Yes, so many other things! Photos of yourself + your girls, sweet treats like macaroons or chocolates, inexpensive jewelry for them to wear on the big day, a special little tube of lipstick, a yummy smelling sachet. Pretty much anything charming and girlie will tickle their fancy.

Really...be honest...how long does this take?
It's not a ten minute project, but it's certainly not a week long project! If you have 5 or less bridesmaids and can gather all your supplies in advance, you can knock it out in one rainy Saturday. I believe in you! Just like every DIY wedding project, if you want to do it...you'll make the time.


If you have questions I didn't answer...do drop a comment and I'll respond! Thanks for stopping by! :)


always bloggy: how we entertained ourselves.

After Shannon and I got the girls all doped up on s'mores, got the rustic creative whims out of our system and we all knew each other a tad, Saturday made for a fabulous sight-seeing day.

Now here's where I level with you: If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll notice I'm usually a one photo per post kinda girl. I like things to be just so, and my patience runs out if I'm editing 10-20 photos. (This is why I'll never be a real photographer.) I just don't have the patience to dreamifiy/edit all our touristy shots. Also, most of the shots are ridiculous, and I'm embracing it.

This train is headed straight towards Gritty, Untouched Reality. All aboard!

Our first stop in Philly was the US Post Office...official Numero Uno. We didn't pop in, but we ogled the gorgeous shutters and exterior...and I spent a little time wishing my Post Office looked like this one. It's beyond cute.

And then there was silly photo-taking. Had there been an Always Bloggy Opening Ceremony, I would have demanded Shannon burst through a history doorway...much like this...singing and jazz-handsing her way through a lengthy welcome song. Unfortunately that didn't happen. But she did pose for this photo.

(From left to right: Kate, KP, Shannon, Nellie, Lainey, Ashley and me. Not pictured: Lauren.)

Next we hit up Elfreth's Alley, the oldest street in Philly. The street is dreamylicious and we pondered pitching in to buy one of the pads that was for sale. It would be perfect for the couple** who doesn't mind gaggles of tourists traipsing across the front stoop, wondering loudly why there are so many darn brass pineapples on every door. If you're wondering...pineapples are apparently a sign of welcome. Or wealth. But really...aren't they the same thing? ;)

We stopped for a group photo opp, and feeling especially camera-hammy, I decided to assume the "1999 Volleyball Team Photo Pose". No one loved this more than a pack of Japanese tourists, seen on the right. Shortly after this photo was snapped, they all turned around, started laughing + pointing and then began taking photos of us. We were confused and simultaneously humored by their delight. Shannon made sure to holler, "TAG ME ON FACEBOOK!" as they walked away.

Something tells me she's going to have to tag herself.

**Hint: Gabe, again, Christmas is coming. It's a pad on Elfreth's or a unicorn. Your choice.

Then we hiked our lil' fannies over to the Betsy Ross House, which is the tiniest, sweetest little place I ever did see. Usually I'm a very respectful tourist...but I'm really not sure what happened in Philly. I bought a pan flute in the BR gift shop, and from there on out, I couldn't keep my crap together. I kept giggling at inappropriate times...like when we discovered that BR was thrice a widow, and Kate pitched CSI: Colonial to dig into the mystery. I lost it. I also couldn't keep my hot little hands off that pan flute. I just needed to play a colonial tune. At. All. Times.

I am a tad uncomfortable with historical actors. Faux Betsy Ross was very sweet. But, I always feel foolish if I play along. We all know you're not Betsy Ross. But I respect your creative whims and your wicked old English. Style points.

And then this happened. Right in the middle of a shopping district. It was weird and disturbing.

Next KP sunned herself, and we all peeked through the glass building surrounding the Liberty Bell just long enough to fulfill that item on the checklist. The line to get into the building was obnoxiously lengthy...and as Shannon said, "It's a bell. There's a crack. Done." A through-glass-glimpse was totally enough for me. I'd recommend the same, unless you're a complete history geek.

And then we started accosting helpless statues and sculptures. I've left the saucier photos out, simply so you'll still think me an acceptable member of our society. Also, my mother and grandmother read this blog.

Next it was off to Love Park...and I must be honest: I was a little underwhelmed there. For all the hype that sculpture got in various Art History courses, I thought it would be larger. But it was still charming, and we patiently waited for our chance at the photo-opp spot. Please note that I resisted throwing myself across the ground for this photo, but not because I'd grown too mature. Mainly because we just came from this:

The smelliest parking garage in all of Philly. If I can impart any Philly-travel advice to you, it is this: DO NOT PARK BELOW LOVE PARK. I am certain that all sorts of unsavory, uncouth deeds occur in this garage and its stairwells, as evidenced by the literal cesspool of filth that had built up in the entrance/exit doorways. KP was brave enough to head into the trenches and check for an unlocked door back into the garage. I love her for that.

After this we headed out for a Philly Cheesesteak...and I'd tired of my camera so I left it in the car. But that was a fun experience and I'd be game to high-five another PC sometime soon.

By that point, we were all touristed out and headed back to our hotels or homes for a little afternoon downtime.  KP and Nellie weren't tired, so they followed us back to Shannon's house where we all sat around on our computers, looking at blogs. Talking about blogs. Staring silently at our screens from time to time...without feeling the least bit weird.

Now that's a blogger's meet up.

Later in the evening, we met up for a late dinner and drinks at Limoncello Ristorante...which was delicious. Most of us enjoyed a bottle of wine, save sweet Lainey who is still a youngster and gorg Ashley who is preggo (!!)...but they were champs while the rest of us tossed back a few glasses of vino.

Mmkay. If I'm to be honest...it was more than just wine. Limoncello brings a round of, you guessed it...Limoncello to every table at the end of the meal. And then I needed a dessert mixed drink.

At some point during the weekend, I revealed to the girls that I'd never had the true bar experience---just letting yourself get a little wild. This always surprises people, given that I'm from a smaller Wisconsin town where drinking is prevalent. But it's true! I rarely, rarely drink, and have never "gone out drinking". 

The girls hopped on fixing that right away.

(KP, Shannon and me.)

On the walk from Limoncello to our bar destination, the four of us got a little ridiculous. Yes! Let's crawl on top of a dumpster and take a photo. That's a fabulous idea.

Inside Iron Hill Brewery, we had premium seats to the street show. And by that I mean we witnessed no less than three street fights, the kind where girls attempt to "hold back" their beau. Oh, and we saw the entire Jersey Shore entourage walk past our window. Okay, not really. But one girl was wearing something so miniscule, I thought perhaps an air-bound tissue happened to be clinging to her body. Not so. It was a dress.

Being the baby of the group and a total bar novice, the girls assumed "older sis" roles by ordering drinks for me and keeping watch over my crazy antics. We jammed to some old school tunes and my mouth didn't stop moving the entire night. I'm pretty sure I shared some incriminating, sordid secrets. They've been kind enough to keep them....so far. ;) Then we returned to Shannon's house, where four of us found ourselves cuddled up in her guest bed, drinking champagne from plastic tumblers.

Unclassy night of drinking with the girls: Check off life list.

On Sunday morning, half of us were feeling a little...slow. But Nellie and KP made up for our sluggishness by jetting over to the grocery store and whipping up some seriously tasty breakfast that got our lazy rears moving. (Have I mentioned I love these girls?)

After that we headed over to Terrain.

(Photo stolen from Shannon. Lauren and me.) 

There are not enough words to describe Terrain. Imagine Anthropologie...but no clothing. Wait-no clothing to purchase. You're wearing clothing. This is getting weird. Just luscious home goods, jewelry and outdoor decor. And half of it you can make yourself for $5. Being there with a group of girls who were just stellar made me never wanted to leave. 

Sidenote: If I lived in Philly, I'd make Lauren hang out with me all the time. Even if she didn't want to. I loved meeting her.

(Photo also stolen from Shannon! Lainey, Ashley, me, Lauren and KP.)

Shannon instructed us to all grab thick woolen blankets and "snuggle up" 'round the fire. It was 80 degrees. I'm a pretty temp sensitive girl. I've rarely sweat that much in my life. But anything for a good photo opp, right? Shannon says jump and I say, "How high?".

And then it was done. Most of the girls peeled off to catch flights, drive back to Philly or their hometown. I was so sad to see the girls go, and found it hard to believe that the weekend we'd dreamed and planned for months was over. Nellie and I didn't have flights until Monday...so we lingered about Shannon's house and I even packed in a visit to Lizzie Beth, who just welcomed little Baby Hunter days before my arrival! But eventually my Monday flight time rolled around, and Shannon had to take me back to the airport. Both she and I are awkward airport-goodbyers...so we discussed in advance all the uncomfortable things we could say to each other, the tears we could cry and so forth. But we kept it together...and I watched her and adorable baby Gabe drive away without a tear.

Saying goodbye to all the girls was so strange, because I truly knew I'd miss them. But I also knew that I would make the effort to see them again next fall...if not sooner. 

For once in my blog history, I will not wax poetic. Mostly because if I start waxing, I'll probably cry. But, I will simply say that I felt like I uncovered some friendship soulmates...something I've only found a few times in life. And you don't throw that away.

Always Bloggy 2012 cannot come soon enough. :)


always bloggy: swag.

Shannon and I wanted to greet our Always Bloggy girls with a nice lil' bag of Philly swag**...plenty of snacks and a few little keepsakes. Because Shan and John had already snagged these rustic wire baskets while trash-picking to hold our swag bags with snazz, we decided to keep the cute-factor simple by using our nametags as bag decor, then dressing them up with a little glitzy ribbon around the handle.

For those who emailed or asked about the nametags, per Shannon's suggestion I simply used my little award ribbon tutorial, added some gold ribbon and a pin! I was relieved I only had to make 10 of these...they're a little time consuming, but I was blown away by how much the girls loved them. Worth the effort!

On my final day in Philly I realized I'd not snapped a photo of my swag-bag's contents. But, I had this fabulous idea: I could carefully pack my bag in my suitcase, then photograph its contents when I got home. It would greet me at my final destination perfectly intact, I was certain! Ah, how optimistic I can be. All my treats were crushed, and the delicious contents were pouring out of their packages.

So of course, in my devastation...I ate it all. Every crumbled bit.

But, regardless here's a snapshot of the contents. I saved the empty packages...like a good blogger who can't pack a bag or resist treats after returning home at midnight. Just imagine they're full of tasty Philly delicacies, like Hers Chips and Tastycakes.

So, lets all forget that photo or consider it my humbling penance for not photographing when I had the chance. Regardless, Shan and I were pretty pleased with how our bags came out. 

And we owe a huge thank you to two companies that kindly donated gifts and treats to our meet-up:

Woozie: Shannon spied these wine glass koozies and knew we needed them for our meet-up. Woozie was ultra generous, donating a monogrammed Woozie for each of our girls. We had so much fun around the campfire breaking in our Woozie's, which not only kept our booze temp juuuust right, but kept all our glasses in the right hands! I can rattle off about seven people I know who need these as Christmas gifts...

(Photo by Shannon. She shared, as my pretzels didn't survive my flight for photographing.)

Pennsylvania General Store: Penn Gen was so kind as to donate a package of five chocolate dipped pretzels for each of our girls. And oh my heavens, ladies. I consider myself a chocolate and sweet treats connoisseur...and you have not had chocolate pretzels until you've eaten these. You can purchase gift baskets right from their online shop...just sayin'. I'll send you my address, friends. ;)

On a sidenote, I've realized I'm the worst on-the-road, on-the-fly amateur photographer. In regular life, I can futz with details, swap out ribbon colors and so forth. Wait for the sun to get just right. But when I'm traveling, I never bring the right lens, I'm tired of carrying my camera, I don't have the right this or that. Or I feel embarrassed that others are watching me fiddle with settings, or that I'm slowing people up.

Is anyone else like me? A little creatively intimidated on the road?

**For the weeks leading up to our Always Bloggy Meet Up, neither Shannon nor I could mention the word "swag" without me saying in my Michael-Scottiest The Office voice, "SWAG. Stuff We All Geeeet..." (A quick video snippet. Not the whole quote. But you get it.)


s'more bar: all the deets.

Shannon and I decided early that bonfire, s'mores bar and endless wine could squelch any potentially awkward moments that might occur among a group of strangers. If worse came to worse we had at least three fallback topics of conversation:

1. Fire. The ability to avoid eye contact and fill in convo gaps with important updates like, "We better stoke this thing." and group discussions of "Should we throw another log on?" Obviously...very important conversation.
2. Wine and s'mores. Endless conversation. What's good, what's bad. Levels of tipsiness. Tipsy stories. S'mores stories. Tipsy s'mores stories. (Does anyone have those? I do...now.)
3. Weather. I mean, really...we were hoping it wouldn't get to that. But at least gums would be flappin'.

Well, good news! We didn't much discuss any of the above...except when absolutely necessary, like when my wine glass was empty. Which happened precisely four times.

Anyway,  I sacrificed a cute pair of heels so I could pack in ribbons, a garland, glitzy signs and other needed craft supplies...and I didn't regret it. Shannon and John had done some trash pickin', as well as hunting for blankets and picking their own house for containers and fabric. We made sure to pat ourselves on the back no less than seventeen times once we pooled everything together and drank in the rustic gorgeousness of it all.

In other words: No one was more impressed than us that we'd actually pulled it off.

We'd done our s'mores bars homework...and our research showed that a s'mores bar could get out of hand with toppings like strawberries, caramel and such . We decided to keep it pretty simple with the basic chocolate and cracker formula, adding a few marshmallow options:

Graham Crackers
Regular Honey Grahams
Chocolate Grahams

Traditional Jet-Puffed
Jumbo Jet-Puffed
Pina Colada
German Chocolate

Hershey's Milk Chocolate
Raspberry Dark Chocolate
After8 Mint Chocolate
Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

Even with all that, the traditional s'more seemed to be the most popular option among the girls. And who can blame them? If it ain't broke....you know the rest. And this meant there was plenty of chocolate to munch on throughout the evening and into the weekend.

One of our last minute crafts consisted of a lil' car crafting session, as Shannon steered us toward the airport to pick up one of the girls, and I battled car sickness, attempting not to toss my cookies while making teeny tiny goodie labels for the s'mores bar. Shan had a few sheets of sticker letters, which combined with some glitter paper all the way from Wisconsin worked perfectly to mark each of the snacks.

Also, I talked myself using my own dough to purchase two packages of globe lights from Target for $9.00 a piece. Somehow in my mind I was going to fly them back to Wisconsin...and then to California for our wedding. What?! How did that make sense? Whatevs. It wound up adding the perfect touch, and I left them for Shannon to use at future bonfires.

Throw in a couple of hay bales, a mashed potato bar courtesy of Shannon's hubby...and all told, it was a very fabulous first night at the meet up.


s'more bar sneak peak.

I've had the toughest time getting my ish together since getting back to Wisconsin. After missing two days of classes while in Philadelphia, I've fallen asleep at 9pm with my nose in a texbook two nights in a row...just trying to catch up. How fabulous.

So, Shan is totally kicking my fannie at sharing details about our meet up, and all I've got is this little sneak peek of the S'mores Bar we threw together for the first night of our blogger's meet up. But come on...it's a pretty cute sneak peek, right?

Eh? Eh? You can forgive me when it's that cute, right?

I'll be back tomorrow with the rest of the S'mores Bar fabulousness.


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