Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A wedding planning rant

I almost hate to blog about wedding planning, because I hate that it's such a big ordeal. Before getting engaged, it was easy to laugh at people who spent 25k on a wedding. And while, ok, I can still laugh (that is seriously a LOT of money), I can see now how truly crazy the wedding industry is. Well-meaning, even thrifty people constantly ask me questions about my colors, my decorations, my traditions, my veil, my dress, my favors, my guest list. It's not about the groom, or the marriage. Or at least, it's easy to make it not be about the groom or the marriage. It's about me! And my special day! And my dress!

I don't really go in for all that, but it's easy to fall down the slippery slope. "We want a small ceremony with just our immediate family and best friends" turns into "well, we should have a party, too" which turns into 100+ guests who have dietary restrictions, and expectations, and who wonder why so-and-so wasn't invited. We want to skip Save the Dates, but damn it, we're throwing a party and I DO want people to save the date! I don't want to do invitations with multiple little envelopes and eighteen little pieces of paper, but somehow we have to tell people about hotels and directions, and how to RSVP. We don't want to bother with seating assignments and escort cards, but what about the guests who don't know anyone? How will the caterer serve people with dietary restrictions?

It's really easy to get wrapped up in all these dumb little details, which really shouldn't even matter but somehow have to be addressed. It doesn't help that for every website about modern, nontraditional brides, there are eighteen Weddingbee blogs and hundreds of forums pushing a materialistic wedding industry (if you want to be really horrified, check out the Weddingbee forums). And yes, I'm supposed to enjoy the planning and it's supposed to be fun, but I also work full time and have other non-wedding life events in my life that also take up a lot of brainspace. The wedding just can't be our number one priority most of the time.

We have the big stuff done (thank goodness, because August is getting closer and closer) but we still have to work on the finishing touches: dessert, decorations, music (just an iPod playlist), lawn games, and alcohol. We had a bit of an issue with our venue canceling on us, but they offered a similar property that's even better in some ways. I've got a vague outline for the ceremony in mind, but Geoff and I have to sit down and finalize what we really want to include. I'm really the most excited about the ceremony. Since we decided not to do a church ceremony, we have a lot of freedom to make every part of the service meaningful to us. We can literally have control over every word that is spoken- and as a person brought up Catholic, that idea is totally new to me.

I don't think wedding planning would be my thing even in the best of times, but it's even harder without my mom to help me stay excited and keep me sane.That's a whole separate, emotional post for another day. Luckily my bridesmaids (two college friends and my cousin) and other family members (big thanks to special aunties, my dad's wife, and Geoff's mom) have been really helpful and excited on my/our  behalf. There's been shared Pinterest boards, lots of emails back and forth, and a really fun shopping weekend where all the girls found a dress- including me! And the more it comes together, the more I'm excited about having an awesome celebration for the start of our marriage.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

Is it weird that I really like meal planning? This might be a boring topic to some, but I am always very interested in people's grocery habits. I go through phases where everything is organized and well prepared. But if I don't plan ahead, well then we end up eating rice and beans and scraps.

I know there are scores of apps that make meal planning and recipe building and grocery shopping easy one-click affair, or something, but I'm not there yet. During my most organized weeks, I use this graph paper notebook to outline days and meals before I go grocery shopping. I tend to plan for two weeks: a detailed plan for week one, and something more sparse for week two.

It's more of a guideline for grocery shopping than anything else- after all, I never know how much leftovers we'll actually have, or if my coworkers will want to go out for lunch or if I'll forget my lunch and end up eating soup from the café at work. I tend to do a rough sketch of what I'd like to eat during the week. Then I use the Out of Milk app on my phone to make a grocery list.

Geoff has the same app, which is great because we can sync our lists, including what's been checked off already when we're at the store. We always go grocery shopping together, because we both dislike it too much.  If I make him go alone one week, I'll have to go alone the next week. Safer to go together. Mutually assured destruction, a perfectly sound foundation for a marriage. Right?

Anyway, with this plan we usually do one big grocery shop every two weeks, and I might do a small trip on my lunch break in the middle if we need something else. Lately I've been trying recipes from some cooking classes I've been attending (I've been trying different French sauces, and made a vegan mushroom risotto last week), and I also really like the Forks Over Knives cookbook, which I got for Christmas.

Do you plan meals in advance? Are there any apps or tips that make it easier? Let me know!

Note: This is not a sponsored post for Out of Milk- I just think it's a helpful app, especially when you've got a grocery buddy and want to sync up! It has other features too, and I encourage anyone to give it a try.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Understated Ring Bling (Engagement Ring!)

As you may have read in an earlier post, Geoff and I are engaged! It feels like it JUST happened, but it's actually been a few months already. Since we planned the engagement together, I had the opportunity to think about what kind of ring I wanted- if I even wanted one at all.  There's something off putting about people shouting "LET ME SEE YOUR RING!" the second you tell them you're engaged. I'm not with this guy for the potential jewelry-getting.

I looked into vintage rings and conflict free gems but we didn't find anything that seemed right. But in the end, I have to give props to Aran of Aide-Mémoire. When I saw her shop on Etsy, I was suddenly excited about wearing a ring. Geoff and I picked it out together; it's an ethically sourced white sapphire with a recycled gold band (and no, it's not grass fed, or free range, as my cousin asked. Ha.).  It came in a really adorable paper-based box- no plastic at all in the packaging, which is great. I absolutely love it, and I do want to show it off and tell people about it after all. We're going to order our bands from Aran as well.

It does have just a little sparkle which hasn't shown up in these photos. I like how understated and simple it is, and I'm really looking forward to adding the band.

What are your thoughts on traditional proposals and rings? I'm torn between understanding and wanting some form of the tradition, and wanting to break from it entirely. I'm glad we found an option that really works for us.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Monkey Buddy in an Altoid tin

I've only got phone pics of this little guy, since I gave him away for Christmas, but I think he's adorable and I had to share.
I'm sure we've all seen the hack-an-Altoid-tin ideas. I love them all and finally decided to make a little bed and monkey for a little girl I know.
The bed was easy; I just sewed a tiny pillow, and the blankets are fleece on one side and cotton on the other. The monkey is actually cut out of a monkey-printed piece of fabric. I sewed around the edges and put a tiny bit of stuffing inside.
I didn't want him to fray, so I used clear nail polish on the outer edges. I tested it first a scrap piece of fabric and found that it didn't dry stiff and crusty but still seemed to secure the edges at least a bit. Probably not the best idea for say, a toddler who might chew on the little guy, but my gift-ee is 9, so I felt safe with the nail polish. I made a little drawstring pouch to drop his tin in, and also gave an empty tin in case she wants to get creative, too.
What's your favorite Altoid hack?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Engagement Weekend!

Yep, we're engaged! Geoff and I got engaged over Thanksgiving weekend at a wonderful bed and breakfast in Bloomington, IL.

We planned the engagement together. We've been together for four years, and when Geoff got his new job in the fall, the timing seemed perfect. So we booked the Vrooman Mansion in Bloomington, IL for two nights and decided we'd come back engaged!

The mansion belonged to the Vrooman's, a politically prominent family from 1873 until 1981, and they entertained such guests as the Roosevelts. The mansion is historically restored, and although my favorite book/move, Little Women,  took place earlier, I couldn't stop thinking about Orchard House and Aunt March's mansion, especially because the Vrooman Mansion was decorated for the holidays. Best of all, we had the run of the place, so we could enjoy wine in the parlor, play the piano, or take pictures of anything we liked.

Geoff and I had fancy dinner reservations at Station Two Twenty (seriously, go there. best food of our lives), and we had planned to "get engaged" there. But after breakfast that morning at the mansion, we went back to our suite and Geoff said he didn't want to spend another second not engaged to me (what a guy :) )He slipped the ring (more on that in a later post) on my finger, and after some moments of celebration, we called our families and headed out to enjoy the day. It couldn't have been more perfect.
My family was not surprised. Apparently when we told them we were going away for Thanksgiving instead of going up to Wisconsin to see my family or visiting Geoff's family in town, they started gossiping about the possibility. Ah, well. I think everyone knew that once we were both done with grad school and employed, it was only a matter of time.

Naturally, we took barely any photos with us in them.


We spent the rest of the day bumming around Bloomington, visiting an aviation museum and a winery, and eating at the amazing Station Two Twenty, where they added on a ton of extras in honor of our engagement, and made us feel very welcome and very, very full.

We've set a date (August 30, 2014) and slowly begun the wedding preparations. I'll try to keep you posted! We're thinking classy pizza party in the forest preserve- semi-small and casual. Most of all, I'm just excited to finally be marrying this guy who's already been with me through the best and worst of times. He's the best, and I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Apartment Tour: Living & Dining

I mentioned the other day that Geoff and I just moved to a new loft-style apartment. I just love it. It feels like an apartment out of a sitcom- something the cast of New Girl or Friends might live in. We had to act fast to get it, and I'm super glad we did!

Tough to do one of those "room-by-room" tours since the downstairs is essentially one big room for kitchen, living, and dining. Upstairs there are two bedrooms, a bathroom, and best of all, in-unit washer and drier. Imagine the luxury! We also have a rooftop deck.

Our furniture is a mixture of Target, Ikea, and secondhand items donated by our parents, excepting the couch, which is from Ashley Furniture.


I'm no interior decorator, but I love spending time in here, looking out the big windows, and cooking in my new kitchen. And I'm glad that my fourth apartment in four years is finally one I love!


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