7.29.2011

we're on the move.

(Me, last month...rowing our little rowboat at the Palace of Versailles. Place is HUGE.)

Did I mention that I'm planning a wedding? Oh...I did? Six bajillion times already? Well, just incase you missed it on the 5,999,999,999th time: I'm planning a wedding. A wedding in California, while living in Wisconsin, with the fiance in Iraq. Just a lil' tricky. ;)

So, I'm hittin' the road early tomorrow morning, packing my bags and jetting to California to do big things. Big things like...see the wedding location which we've already reserved + paid for, but haven't yet seen. (Eek!) Look over catering menus with my best bud. See the face of a florist. Perhaps I'll convince myself to try on some new wedding dresses...maybe even the dress I've been salivating over for months.

(Truth time: Gabe did most of the rowing. I rowed us in circles. A lot.)

Lest I make it sound like I'm doing all the work, it should be noted that Gabriel is more than pulling his fair share of the wedding weight. He's been totally involved...even bummed on nights we Skype but don't wind up discussing our nuptials. Just days before he left, he invested in a few "How To Be a Great Groom" books, which boiled groomery down to these two things:

1. Do whatever she wants.

2. Don't screw it up.

I'd say that's pretty solid advice. :)

Happy weekend!

P.S. My email inbox has seriously gone to the dogs since beginning this wedding planning ish. Seriously. It's wild and scary up in there...and sometimes I have nightmares about it. Planning from a distance is freakin' HARD...it's email overload. So, if you've emailed me and haven't heard back? I'm so, so sorry. I promise I'm not being a snob. Will work on amending this situation ASAP.

7.28.2011

thrifted thursday: wedding tablesettings.

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl. For example, when I give a gift, its outward appearance is one of two extremes: it's either wrapped in a plastic Walmart bag, delivered with an apologetic shrug and bevy of excuses...or it looks as if it were cranked out by one of Santa's gift-wrapping elves. A cracked out elf, who really feels the shabby chic vibe. Which is why, you see, I batted around the idea of eloping. Because:

Elope=Nothing
Put on something white. Pick a handful of flowers on the way there. Bingo. Bango. Hitched.

Legit wedding=All
Dive headlong into a murky pool of DIY ridiculousness which lasts an entire year. Destroy bridal stores in search for perfect dress. Convince yourself you can make the cake. Drag everyone + their grandmother into daily scavenging for obscure items at the local thrift stores.

But, as I shared a few weeks ago...we didn't elope. (Or did we? And we're just being tricky? Both of our families thought we did. Aha!) We dove into that pool. And it is deep. And it is murky. And it is overwhelming. And yet it is freakin' fun. While there have been a few uber stressed-out moments, taking on several pet projects early in the game has been a complete joy. Pet project number one was the bridesmaid boxes...a total success. (Which reminds me to thank everyone for the sweet comments. Thank you!)

Pet project number two? Dishes. Ever since I was old enough to grasp that a wedding was more than a woman in a dress and some Canon in D, I've dreamed of collecting mismatched vintage plates for my reception. Swear it. Even before I'd picked up Martha Stewart Weddings or peeked at Style Me Pretty, I had this silly little mismatched dream in my heart. It may be played out due to the past few years of vintage DIYness, but I don't care. We're doing it! We're. Doing. It.

Two weeks ago, I started looping past the thrift stores...carefully watching their 50% off colored tag days, refusing to pay more than $1.50 for a dinner plate and $0.75 for a cup + saucer. In the month of July I've driven handfuls of miles to local thrift sales, in search of the perfect vintage plates. And at 38 plates, 25 coffee cups, 35 dessert plates and a variety of serving ware, all those trips have paid off. We're sitting pretty! Given that we've opted to have a small, small wedding...I'll need only a few more plates to be completely stocked.

My living room, however...is not so pretty. Or functional.


While I'd hoped to collect a few more colorful pieces, I've stuck to white + cream patterns with a gold rim, just to keep things tied together. Linens, centerpieces and florals are yet to be chosen, so it's probably practical to keep these neutral until the other design biggies are nailed down.

But, all practicality aside, I'm still aching to pick up something really colorful and fun. I'm just not willing to part with the higher cost of $5 to $7 for a plate that no one will remember but me! Hmm. Maybe I'll drop my dollars for two really unique, colorful plates Gabe and my spots. Cause we're kind of special that day. :)

Did you collect anything this ridiculous for your wedding? Or, do you plan to do anything quite this senseless for your someday-wedding?

7.27.2011

a love letter.


I mentioned the other day that I'd not shared many Paris photos...I'm still slowly getting around to that. However, if you're hankering to see a few choice snapshots, I have a temporary solution! 

Today I'm guest posting over at Project Simple Life, while my pal Amanda is off galavanting across Europe...lucky girl...and I've written a little love letter to Paris, including a few photos from our trip. Hop over and check it out!

skin care makeover.


In the past month, I've been making an effort to establish a skin care routine. I noticed a few laugh lines, nothing to stress about...but it's time to be proactive. (But not like...Proactive, the skin care product.) I'm lucky that I've not struggled with acne, even in my teen years, but I do battle dryness and patchy coloring. And often, my skin isn't ultra soft + clean.

So, sis and I hit up the make up counters at Macy's in search of free makeovers and some new products. The end result? You could say it was varied. Sis looked great. But, I'm just gonna come out with it: I looked like a hooker. A really, really expensive hooker, but a hooker nonetheless. (Mom, I hope you're proud of this moment.) I threw some cash at the woman who'd given me frightening makeover, grabbed my bag of skin care products and shot out of that place like a bat out of hell. Sis shuttled me to the bathroom, on the lookout for anyone we might know.

After a significant sponging of my face, I reaffirmed that I did like what she'd done with my skin. The foundation coverage was mild, soft to the touch and felt clean as could be. And it didn't look powdery, as foundation usually does on my dry skin.


Now that I've rocked this routine for a solid three weeks, I'm comfortable saying that it's made a huge difference in my skin. It's more predictable. It's smooth. Products last longer into the day. And while I still dream of someday achieving that sexy, dewy glow ala J-Lo...pale girls like me will never obtain it. So for now: I'm totally satisfied with my lil' makeover.

Here's what I've recently added to my make-up bag:

one: : : Lancome Tonique Confort, available here.
two: : : Clinique Pore Refining Solutions, available here
three: : :Lancome Teint Miracle Foundation in Ivorie 4, available here
four : : :E.L.F. Foundation Brush, available here.
five : : :E. L. F. Essential Eye Shadow Brush, available here
six : : :Mary Kay Golden Cheek Brush, available when stolen from your mother's make up bag. Guess that's out, now.


What's your most treasured skin care product? Is it cool that I still nerd out over Biore Pore Strips? They were brand new when I was about 12, and therefore make me feel like I'm at an eighth grade sleepover with a contraband Cosmo magazine. (Gasp! "How to Please Him Tonight?" Giggle, giggle!)

7.26.2011

honeymooning: the plan.


(The colors of my home...little bits and baubles from my apartment.)

Last Friday, I squawked about selecting our honeymoon spot and challenged you to guess  where we'll shack up. (Classy, I know.) I fancied myself tricky enough to surprise you girls, but alas...you all know me too well. 

It's GREECEThe whites, blues and seafoams. Alli was right: it was my color palette that gave it away! And we're blocking off two weeks to take on this country.

Week one: The picturesque island of Santorini is our backdrop, chillin' in the city of Oai, which boasts itself as the most beautiful place to watch a sunset. (We plan to check that out every night.) Ever the planner, Gabe scoured the island to find the perfect, perfect place to stay, Ikies Traditional Houses. They're sweet little cave houses carved into the side of the city, overlooking the caldera...large, comfy balconies with hot tubs + cushy seating...and the photos already have my heart pounding. Perfect for holing up if we'd like, perfect for stepping out if we prefer.

Week two: Our best friends are joining us in Athens! Did you just raise your eyebrows? We know it sounds a lil' strange. But conveniently enough, our best friends happen to be married to each other...and this past December we uncovered that they, too, are longing to visit Greece. So, that's handy, right? Week two is morphing into a seven day dream-double-date of sorts. While honeymooning with your pals might sound odd, we're all so comfortable together that we're totally digging the idea. Why not? Our group of four hasn't exactly had a team meeting, but we're all on the same page: Sightseeing. Eating. Relaxing. Laughing.

A romantic week alone with my new husband. A playful week together with our best friends. Dream. Honeymoon. 

I may or may not be more excited for my honeymoon than for my wedding. That's okay, right?

Have you been to Greece? If not, is it on your travel list? Will it be just like Mamma Mia? Oh, I hope so.

7.25.2011

i believe in mondays.



Are Mondays your most-likely-to-be-creatively-braindead day? Ooohhh, they are for me. I'm not working a Monday-Friday schedule, but I still find them discouraging. Infact, Mondays are often a creative forfeit for me. And I've learned that if I don't jump in right away...creatively embracing the week...days can pass before I pick up my camera. Or handcraft something. Or even write a little ditty.

But I believe that Monday can be just as inspired as any other day of the week. If I try. So, I'm starting a little series called I Believe In Mondays, where I'll rattle off a few things I genuinely support. From the serious to the silly. The frivolous to the ridiculous. Things that brighten my life and bolster my spirits. Mostly a stab at forcefed creativity, I'm hoping that that by taking my first creative breath early in the week, Mondays will become just the beginning of a week blooming with inspiration...rather than a day which slips by with nary an artistic effort made. Ready? Okay!

This week I believe...

 
...in buying shirts from the Selena Gomez little girl's collection at Kmart. (See above.) At $7, there ain't no shame!

...in falling more in love with my fiance every day. Seriously, it's happening. This is a BIG surprise to me, and has disproven my long-held theory that engagement + marriage would be a slow, downward slope into dwindling affection. And it's dispelled my lifelong fears that I might go Runaway Bride on my wedding day. (More on this Runaway Bride business later.)

...in spray paint as the single most effective tool in any DIY decorator's toolbox.

...in crossbody purses. Finally. I was torn for months, but now I've learned: It's the easy peasiest way to carry a whole lotta junk, hands free. Snatch up a similar style here.

...that PMS is always a valid one week excuse for hopping off a diet + exercise regimen. Can I get an amen?

...in posting photos, even when they're imperfect. Like the one above.


What do you believe in today...or every day? Do tell!

7.22.2011

nostalgia + honeymoonin'.


I miss Paris, and I'm not gonna try to cover it up! I miss it. I miss it. I miss it. Even though I laughed too loud, ate too much and wore heinously American flip-flops...Paris and I were one in spirit. A spirit that delights in romance and frills. Breathtaking vistas. Candlelight. Old world charm.

I've not shared many Paris photos...mostly because I'm overwhelmed by the number of them I have to sift through. But, this was one of my favorite moments...the engagement night lull, just moments after we finished calling family + friends. The sun had set, and we ordered room service on our terrace. In that moment, it was just us in Paris. Just us, a sparkling tower and my glittering ring finger. My heart will treasure that night until time ends.

And on the topic of travel...we decided where we'll honeymoon!  Our choice wasn't a difficult one...mere weeks after we met face-to-face last August, we'd already agreed on a honeymoon location. (Why follow the expected marriage discussion timeline? Boring.) The place was right at the top of both of our lists, and yet neither one of us has gotten to see it!

Can you guess where we're moonin'? And, just because it's Friday...I'll send a little gift to the first person to guess correctly**!


P.S: I'm guest posting today over at Pugh's News, while my dear, dear friend Erin takes her summer vacation! Stop by and check it out...then stick around forever. Erin is truly one of the sweetest girls in the blogosphere, always full of positive energy and a kind word. Her blog is a true delight! :)

**Rule: No fair if you saw me flappin' my gums about this the other day via Facebook. Honor system, peeps! :)

7.21.2011

and the two shall become one...wallet.


In my conservative circle, it's pretty nontraditional. Infact, it feels a little scandalous. But approximately eleven months before our wedding, Gabe and I have become one financial unit. Saucy. But for us, it makes sense. While we're trying to plan a wedding and prepare for our future, separated by miles and time zones, it's so much easier for us to keep our finances together as one. And, although I'd planned to find a part-time gig to juggle during the school year, we've decided that I'll remain jobless. Instead I'll hit the books hard, dedicating my extra time to more credits and obtaining my degree a little faster.

Late one evening on my candlelit porch, Gabe and I had a lengthy heart-to-heart about this. Working hard in the workplace, being needed and appreciated are all good for my soul. I've spent the last six months just pursuing my degree, and there are days I miss the workplace. There's something fulfilling about working hard for the money and being able to plunk down your cash for day to day expenses. When it's only his income, guilt seeps in. Guilty feelings that I'm not contributing to our future. Guilt, because he works fourteen hour days in Iraq...while I pursue my education, my creativity, my dreams.

Me. Me. Me.

Gabe takes it all in stride, calling his income is "ours", just like he's taken to calling his big house in Sacramento our house. His car is now our car. And my dreams are now our dreams....my time spent pursuing our dreams is just as worthy as his time spent pursuing an income, he says.

But even when the guilt over this life-shift subsides, it's easy for me to feel worthless in society. When asked, "What do you do?" my answer used to feel rather exciting. "Sounds worthwhile," people would say in response. But now, I shrink back. I hold my breath, hoping no one asks what I do. And when asked, I simply say, "Oh, I'm just a student."

But I'm not just a student, Gabe says. I'm a writer. A photographer, he says. A wife-in-training. A novice globetrotter. An artist. An interior decorator. A crafter. A maid. A wedding planner. A blossoming art historian. A gift wrapper. Oh, and a straight A student on the side.

 
"Do you get paid for any of these things? No. But you do them. And that's all that matters."

And he's so right. I am many things. But not a single one of them should be feeling like a "just a...".

7.18.2011

askin' my maids.

It's fair to say that I've known who my bridesmaids would be since I was about ten. My bestest friend Becky...the free-spirited ying to my very awkward yang. My loving older sister Dana...the voice of practicality, and yet as understanding as can be. And friends-since-Kindergarten Roundup girl Andrea...a friendship over two decades in the making.

But here was my issue: two of the three girls lived seven states away. Given how very much they mean to me, I didn't want to lame out and send a text saying, "Will U B My B-maid????". 

So, I did this.


I fetched myself three unfinished Cigar boxes from JoAnn's...shelfprice of about $8 a piece. But, with three trips with weekly 40% off coupons, I saved myself a cool $10. Then, I busted out some paints: a sweet cream and blue bahama.


The outside of the box got two to three coats of light ivory to cover up the natural wood aura, and inside was treated to one layer of ivory, too. After that dried up, I attacked the inside lid with a pencil, attempting to freehand  this bracket shape. Turned out easier than I thought it would! (However, if you're frightened to freehand, you can easily find + print a tracing template online.) I slathered the inside lid with my favorite hue: a seafoamy aqua. One coat was enough.

In a perfect world, I would have painted "be my maid?" on the inside lid...but my hand isn't the steadiest with a paintbrush, and I knew I'd never achieve the look I was going for. So, I fell back on a few sets of playfully calligraphic adhesive letters.

To keep everything in place, I rocked two coats of satin varnish...even over the letters. It gave it a nice sheen, and I was significantly less stressed about my sending my maids a giant sliver waiting to happen.


Then it was time to tackle the contents. The bottoms got lined with vintage handkerchiefs, which were passed to me years ago by a family friend. I've been storing them...just waiting for my someday wedding. They were the perfect pop of color I was going for!

(Click to enlarge if you're interested in the details!)

I wanted to lay out all the details about our wedding, so the girls would know everything up front. Two packs of scalloped A6 postcards did the trick...I laid out my info in Word, making sure each postcard was progressively longer, allowing me to cut, then bundle them as seen in a prior photo. 

In these cards, was totally honest with the girls: more than anything in the world, I want them to feel beautiful on my big day. I explained that they'd be selecting their own gowns, something that they felt lovely + comfortable in. 

I also tackled the "role" of bridemaid, and what it meant to me: it doesn't mean someone who plans a shower, a bachelorette party, buys me some ridiculous gift or tags along to every wedding-related appointment for the next year. Truly, I don't want any of those things! Their role is to know that I love them, how much I've appreciated their presence in my life, and that I couldn't imagine the biggest day of my life without them next to me every step of the way. I'm honored to have their friendship and love. In short: wear a bangin' dress, wipe away my tears and have an amazing time.


Since each girl will be selecting her own dress, I threw in a few paint chips. My color palette is wide: anything in a light blue, aqua or seafoam hue is grand with me. I also threw in a few inspiration photos so they'd really get where I was going with the mismatched dress thing...and not think I've taken up cocaine. Because my biggest wedding fear is financially stressing out someone we love, we included that lil' polka dot envelope with a Visa gift card. I want my girls to be emotionally and financially stress-free. :)

All told, I gotta be honest: This project was a little time consuming...from shopping to painting to printing to mailing, it was an investment of about two hours a box. But since I'm being honest, it was worth every second. The girls loved them, and I feel like I really gave them a sense of what our wedding's about, as well as how much they're appreciated.

Plus, it was a good baby step into the absolute mound of DIY wedding projects I have planned. :)

7.17.2011

thank you.

(Me, celebrating some curvature.)

My mother asked me to make something clear, as she currently fears for her life: she had nothing to do with these tasteless comments about my weight + my wedding. Lest the angry mob come searching for someone to pay for my emotional stress, she needs it known that her hands are clean!! 

I couldn't stop laughing when she pointed this out. While rabble rousing wasn't what I aimed to do, I had to smile over all the comments...both those that offered emotional support and those that offered a more physical approach to dealing with the unsavory comments. It was like having one pissed off older brother, ready to tackle whomever had hurt his little sis.

Or, I imagine that's what it was like. I'm brotherless. Regardless, thank you. To everyone who dropped encouraging words + funny solutions: your time and thoughts were so appreciated. A handful of them made me cry. Many of them made me giggle. And some of them made me think. A few of them did all three. I treasured each word. Truly, I did.

After reading my post, a few girlfriends pulled me aside to reason with me to not lose weight before the wedding. They each made the same positive point: When I look back at my wedding photos, I want to see me...not some sad, shell of a girl who whittled away months trying to fit into a size 2 gown...and still isn't happy with herself. Rock those healthy curves,  they said, rather than show up to the big day looking not like me.

They're right. Currently, I'm the smallest I've been in my adult life. I should embrace and celebrate it! And so for now, I'm making healthy efforts to take care of my bod, little things to help me feel beautiful: At 25, I've finally established a skin-care regiment. I've stopped dying my hair. I've incorporated exercise into my routine at least four times a week. I've almost completely cut out soda, and have welcomed drinking 10 glasses of water a day. I even have an electric toothbrush, cause you've gotta take care of that smile.

And most importantly, tending to my emotional health: I'm learning to believe I can be beautiful, just as I am. No matter what size.

Whew. That's a big one.

7.13.2011

the wedding diaries: on handling unwanted advice.

You know what I've loved most about planning a wedding? How much other people care. Even people that you haven't seen in years, those you've just met or friends you wouldn't claim to be especially close with...they're endlessly supportive and interested in your day. They want to know everything...the date, the location, your dress, your color scheme and so forth. I find it enchanting. 

It's so sweet that others care about one day in my life.

Also on my list of things I love? Advice. Smart ways to save a dollar here...a tip on where to hunt for bargains. Words of wisdom on how to keep your guest list trim. Passing along a favorite website for tracking details. The best place to buy your cake. Who knows how to do weddings better than former brides, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride? No one.  I've found their advice endlessly encouraging and inspiring.

But, I have to get this off my chest, in this community of people who always understand my heart. There is one type of advice that I'm simply through with: weight and body advice.

For as long as I've dreamed about my wedding day...I've also cried about my weight. About not feeling beautiful enough. Even after dropping fifty pounds and five dress sizes, there's a residual feeling of not quite loving my body. I've cried after trying on dresses, because I didn't feel beautiful...or because the size 10 sample dresses didn't zip. And these comments certainly aren't helping the situation. Although I've only been engaged for a month, it would take two hands to count the number of times people have made a passing comment about losing weight for the wedding, what I should not eat and fitting in a dress. After every comment...I just feel defeated. I've worked so hard on my body for the last three years, but when I hear these words...I feel like it wasn't enough. Like I'm not enough. Like I won't be beautiful enough.

In the time he was still stateside, Gabe had already grown tired of it, too. While I get weepy over them...he gets angry. Angry that someone would think it appropriate to comment on a bride-to-be's body. Or what she's eating. Heaven knows...every bride has enough stress and pressure inside her own mind over her body, Gabe says, and how she'll look that day...she certainly doesn't need it hurled at her from the outside, too. And he's right.

My usual approach would be grin-and-bear it...but I simply cannot anymore. In the minds of those saying these things, I'm sure they think they're being helpful. But in reality, for a girl who continuously battles with weight and self worth? It's hurtful.

So, my always-ready-with-great-advice sisters of the blogosphere....how does one tactfully respond to these words...without being pegged a bridezilla? 

7.06.2011

trending.


My fam hopped in the car on Saturday for a semi-impromptu trip to Chicago...my aunt and her family live just outside of the Windy City, and we staged the closest thing to a reunion my paternal side of the family has seen in years. Only two members were missing: my cousin Chad and my fiance, Gabe.

Pretty. Durn. Close. :)

We opted to stay at a hotel in order to keep things sane for my aunt who was hosting...and this meant one thing: hitting the pool. Although I'd found a one-piece suit months ago at Old Navy, it was left behind in my frantic packing. So, my dad honored the a need to shop and drove us to the nearest mall, where I snagged this suit on sale. On my way to the checkout, a crocheted swim cover up** found its way into my arms. Don't you hate when that happens?

And while I doubted it for a second, I surprisingly...LOVE it. It lends an appropriate amount of modest coverage...especially if, like me, you're not a skinny-minnie and have a few body image issues. But, the playful crochet is enough fun to still feel young and retro.

Later that day, my trusty $20 sunglasses bit the dust. So, it was off to Target where I picked up these ridiculous olive + gold shades**. I made my sister swear they weren't totally unattractive on me. Truth is: I didn't care. They were too fun to follow rules about face shapes and lens size.

When this outfit came together the next day, poolside...I may have looked like I stepped out of a 70's time capsule.

Oh, well. It was groovy to me.

**These items are no longer available on the Target and JCPenney website. Bummer, right? What gives? Check out a photo of the crocheted cover up here.

7.01.2011

the grieving process.


My Paris clothes might still be in the suitcase and I haven't yet removed all the boarding passes from my purse, but things around here are getting back to normal...emotionally. But that didn't happen before I mourned a little. Whenever Gabe leaves, I go through my own grieving process of ridiculousness. It's like a post-breakup montage from a bad rom-com. The process begins the moment I leave the airport and lasts about two days. It all goes a lil' something like this:

Eat piece of cake the size of a dinner plate.
Doze off for fitful two-hour nap.
Awaken to listen to Andrea Bocelli's emotional Con te Partirò. Sign along loudly and off key...and in English.
Fall to sleep due to emotionally exhausting duet with Bocelli.
Refuse to change out of favorite sweats. (This continues for at least 36 hours.)
Give in to at least ten solid crying jags, mix with staring at the TV for long periods of time with a frighteningly blank expression.
Demolish container of mac and cheese...followed by two cups of mashed potatoes.
Decide that I'm not that smelly, and can wait to shower tomorrow.
Nap instead.
Youtube "babies laughing" and "baby goats" in an attempt to feel joy. Discover this plan works brilliantly.
Emerge from cave of sadness to make some irrational craft store purchases. (Remain unshowered and in sweatpants.)

Upon leaving my cave of pity, I discover that life without Gabe is, yes, considerably more lonely, but completely livable. The pity party continues in small ways...like shedding a few tears or treating myself to an iced chai...but for the most part I rejoin society.

And this time, in all that pity-partying I  did something of worth: I pumped out my very first wedding project which I'll be sharing with you next week! I'm jazzed at the results, but crossing my heart that this place will not turn into Wedding Central. Yet in truth, my wedding is an excellent excuse to get a lil' crafty. And I'm loving it.

If you're a fellow sister in The States or Canada, I wish you a happy holiday weekend. If you're from elsewhere...I'm giving you permission to eat frighteningly sketchy meat a hot dog, wear your tackiest red, white + blue outfit and blow up crap in the middle of your lawn.

Happy weekend, wherever you are...and whatever you do.

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