November & December Catch Up!

Can you believe it’s been MONTHS since I’ve posted a real post? I’m talking meat & potatoes, not just some cute link or something? I have been a busy gal and time has flown by! I apologize for neglecting you, but I promise that this project has been in my mind. So, let’s catch up, shall we?

November

Chicken Challenge Shepherds Pie. SOOO yummy!

So remember when I began my Chicken Challenge? It was a month of planned meals that would happen based on cooking big on one day, then minimal prep throughout the week. Well, I made it two weeks. It was not the brightest idea to get excited about something like this during a month where eating is a national holiday. However, it was an awesome experience for the two weeks I did it, and I had many more leftovers than I planned. I think perhaps doing something like this every other week would be more suitable for our lifestyle, given that we go to dinner with friends and when we do follow the cooking plan, we are more apt to have leftovers because I eat like a fricken’ bird. Oh, and I also need to incorporate supplemental proteins. I love chicken, but it gets to be too much. After my surgery, I ate so much of it that I reached a point where, like a baby eating something it didn’t like, I found myself unconsciously spitting it out when it was in a mouthful of Lean Cuisine pasta or something. It was like an unintentional aversion. The addition of other meats will probably help the chicken go down a little easier.

We’re kind of a big deal….

So speaking of poultry, let’s talk Thanksgiving. I had it planned to the T, and it was great. The night before, we began the drive to Grandmother’s house, knowing that we’d stop near Allentown for a gig with my new band, Fake MacKenzie. I was actually really excited to start playing with a new Irish group, and what’s great is that we actually get booked (read: paid) often. We have 5 gigs lined up for St. Pat’s weekend, so come check us out. 🙂 Anyway, the traffic was nuts, the gig was awesome, and I got the Gram’s at 2:30 in the morning. The next day I was up and cooking, and it didn’t stop until we ate. But it was wonderful. I got to spend time with my niece and nephews, and even took her and my young cousin to see The Muppet Movie with M. It was amazing!

My cousin, niece and M at the movies

December

Me, in the big box our sofa was delivered in.

As soon as we got home from Thanksgiving, it was right into Christmas mode. First up was planning our annual Ugly Sweater Party! This year, there was a lot of sprucing up of the house because I’m just in super nesty mode, so we bought some new furniture. As you can see, the couch box was pretty huge. The party went off without a hitch, and we had a lot of fun. There were insane amounts of food, but it wasn’t too hard to keep things in check because we had a nice balance of healthy and totally bad-for-you food.

Most people eat cookies at Christmas. My nephew prefers his hand.

Christmas was spent with my family. It was great to see the babies again, because they are adorable. My youngest nephew, Keimani, is just about 6 months old, and he is changing every day. He’s a little flirt, and I love him to bits! M is still a little apprehensive to hold him, but we’ll get there soon. I cooked a lot over Christmas, but we had lasagna on Christmas Eve which is not a tradition, just something my grandmother always threatens after the big hoopla of Thanksgiving. This year, it actually came to fruition and it was really great. We had a lot of time to prepare, so I had extra time to build a gingerbread house with my sister and niece. On Christmas day we had Jewish Christmas with M, who was raised Jewish, and we went to a Chinese buffet for lunch. I got great presents, I gave stuff that people loved, and it was a wonderful occasion.

Rudolph noses with my girls 🙂

New Years was spent with a few friends at a bar in Old City. No drinks for this girl, since a charming perk of having this surgery is that alcohol is absorbed like 20 times faster than before. So basically in the course of sips I am way tipsy, but then because it took so little to get me there I sober up super fast. All this equates to not being worth trying to get drunk. But I’m always a reliable DD, so that works out. 🙂 We rang in the new year, and now it’s the year that we’re getting married! I can’t wait, and neither can M, as illustrated below:

"I'm marrying you this year, so that makes you MINE!" ❤

So now we are 4 months away from the wedding. FOUR MONTHS! How does that happen so quickly? We are putting together the invitations this weekend since my MOH will be in town. They have been a true labor of love, but I’ve also ended up with an invitation that looks like it costs much more than it really did, thanks to imagination, and a lot of man hours in MS Word. We are still battling out what to do with our wedding cupcakes, as the first vendor we considered thought 8 weeks was a reasonable time frame to wait on getting a quote to us. Our second vendor is still a little lax on the response time, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since it was the holidays.

Past that, we are now entering crunch time to get everything settled, so my stress is amped. So to alleviate that stress, I’m trying to put some new year’s resolutions in place. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. This year, I will run a 5k. I know I’ve said this before, but I regularly (read: pre-Fall) run 5 miles or so at a clip, so 3 shouldn’t be a problem. But I need to just sign up for one and do it. I’d really like to get this knocked off the list before the wedding, because I feel like the accomplishment would be a nice self esteem boost.
  2. I want to wear a size 8. I am currently a 10 that is getting a little loose. I can, most likely, wear some things in an 8 that would look just fine, but I’m talking size 8 boot cut jeans from the Gap. This is my goal, and should I begin working at #1, I believe this will be attainable.
  3. I will stop drinking soda at home. I am trying to phase soda out all together. I drink diet, so it’s non-caloric, but I just think it’s not good to have. Also, I’ve read studies that say the chemicals in diet drinks may be counterproductive to weight loss, so I’d like to nix it all together. By not allowing myself to drink it at home, I think I will hopefully wean myself from a 30-year habit.
  4. I will pay off my credit cards. This is a big one. I have been working pretty steadily toward paying off the balance I have on two of my cards. When I was unemployed in 2010, I relied on the cards a little more than I should have and I have been chipping away at that debt since. I’m pretty sure this will be paid of soon anyway, but I would love to have this done before the wedding.
  5. I will take care of myself more. I don’t make a lot of time for myself for stupid stuff, like painting my nails. I get a pedi like every other month, and that’s about it. And it’s not about the expense of having someone else do it, it’s just the time commitment of going and the upkeep. But I’ve decided, I will make time to do a face mask, or paint my nails, or do a hair conditioning treatment or teeth whitening – basically, non-essentials that I keep putting off. I will do these things not only for the outcome of having done them, but to just spend a little time with myself and to allow me to shut my mind off from work, wedding and stress, and just enjoy where I am.

    My attempt at festive nails for NYE. It's like champagne and fireworks had a baby.

I’ve thought a lot about where I am right now. I try not to mention it a lot, but the relationship I had before M was one that I wanted to go somewhere. When I realized it wouldn’t end where I’d wanted it to go I had to leave. In retrospect ending that relationship was sad, not so much because of the loss of the guy, but more because of the loss of the life I was so close to having: the house, the cars, the friends. Things vanished when it ended, and I just missed that life because it was one that I’d always wanted. But just the other day, I came home and sat on my new couch. I stared at my wood floors that we’ll refinish together after the wedding. I looked at the end table I’d rehabbed from Craigslist. And as my kitties jumped up next to me to snuggle, I realized that I had that life, the one that I mourned. The difference was that this time, it was all 100% real, complete with a man who wants the same things that I do. It was a really humbling experience to realize that, though the road didn’t look like I thought it might, it still got me to my destination.

We're getting married this year!

I’m really happy for everything that 2011 brought me. I got a new job. I planned an amazing wedding. I made a home with M. And now, in 2012, we will begin our life together. I couldn’t be more blessed, and I can’t wait to continue to share the blessings, both obvious and in disguise, with you this year.

Happy New Year! – A

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January 3, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

Six? Seis? Sechs? Sei?

I am getting married in six months. According to Real Simple Weddings, here’s what I should be doing:

  1. Select and purchase invitations. Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.
  2. Start planning a honeymoon. Make sure that your passports are up-to-date, and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.
  3. Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses. Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.
  4. Meet with the officiant. Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding (these vary by county and religion).
  5. Send save-the-date cards. 
  6. Reserve structural and electrical necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.
  7. Book a florist. Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, which is why you can wait a little longer to engage one. Plus, at this point, you’ll be firm on what your wedding palette will be.
  8. Arrange transportation. Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys, and town cars. (But know that low-to-the-ground limos can make entries and exists dicey if you’re wearing a fitted gown.)
  9. Start composing a day-of timeline. Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance).

I’m pretty tight on 1,3,6,7, & 8. # 4, meeting with the officiant, will probably happen in January after the hooplah of the holidays is over. Besides, now that band is almost done I will finally be able to peel myself out of bed on Sundays to attend church and I’d like to get that going again before I waltz in like a deadbeat and tell him how to marry us. #5, the Save the Dates, are in process. I, being a perfectionist, sent myself a test one just this morning. As soon as it arrives, unscathed, I think I’ll be shipping them off to my guests. #9, the day-of-timeline, has been on my mind for months. I have been thinking about the logistics of carefully orchestrating the moments of my big day. I still have nothing on paper, so I guess I should hit that up.

But the big whammy, #2, the honeymoon, is breaking my heart. We had such grand dreams. We thought it was possible. I’m pretty sure it is not. 😦 I want so much for our big day and the more I think about it, I would rather spend my money on that moment instead of a vacation. Plus, M is busting his buns to pitch in and I don’t want to over-tax him. I think we’ll probably end up finding a last-minute 4-night tropical thing a few weeks after the wedding, and will maybe plan a big trip for our 6 month or 1 year anniversary. But I’m not going to lie, there’s a little bit of sting knowing that I won’t be jetting off immediately following my ceremony to lands afar. But then again, who can do that anymore if they’re paying for their wedding themselves?

Either way, I am happy that I only have 6 months left. Yes, it’s stressful, but I’m ready for it to happen. I’m ready for my planning to end and just let the chips fall where they may. A constant worrier, I know I will be in knots up until the moment I walk down the aisle, but I’m still psyched for its end. Correction: I’m excited for our real life to begin. In the interim, if you know of any cheap last-minute travel sites or you’re willing to lend us your awesome cabana/timeshare/ grandma’s house in a cool location, hook a sister up! We’re not picky, we just require wifi and a big tub. 🙂

Thanks for reading! – A

November 7, 2011. Tags: , , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

Incredibly Engaging – How I Saved on Engagement Photos

It may come as no shock to anyone who has read at least one post on this blog that I am a busy girl. It may also not be absurd to say that this is because I am working several jobs to pay for my wedding. Why, you may ask, would someone run themselves ragged for one day? Because it’s supposed to be the best day of your life! That being said, I am also a bargain hunter and have often considered the financial repercussions of what I’m doing. Some things I consider “must-haves” while others are “nice-to-haves”.  Admittedly, the line between the two is noticably blurry anymore.

Anyway, one of our original “must-haves” of save the date cards that included photos of us was running into the “nice-to-have” category when I realized that our amazing wedding photographer charged so much for engagement photography. The services for the big day are mainly covered by Mama M’s generosity, but the remainder, including engagement pics, are on us. When I sat down to look at the dollars and cents, I really started to assign value to these photos. Yes, it would be amazing to have these pictures but are they necessary?

Though they weren’t necessary, I had done a lot of hoop jumping to try to get prepared for them, particularly with my braces coming off. I had appointments scheduled back to back in an attempt to get my chompers ready for their close up. I felt committed, but I really couldn’t mentally justify the big expense on something unnecessary when I still hadn’t paid for my gown alterations. So what’s a gal to do?

Que Craigslist. I posted the following ad:

Build Your Photography Portfolio –
Free Dinner/Modest Honorarium Barter (Philadelphia)

We are looking to help you build your artistic portfolio and serve as models for a fun engagement photo shoot. Our idea is that we’ll shoot at two locations. One is a beautiful old stone church with rolling grounds and beautiful landscaping that will serve as a great backdrop to capture that wonderful Fall afternoon lighting. The other is a classic chrome diner where the waitresses are 100 years old and the milkshakes come in tall glasses with whipped cream and a cherry. We’re looking for an artistic eye that can see the beauty in something as simple as a piece of pie with ice cream melting on top.

We are moderately attractive people who photograph fairly well and we think our ideas can certainly serve as promo material for your budding photography business. We’d like a DVD of the raw digital images in an agreed upon format. In exchange, we’re willing to offer you the finest in diner cuisine after the shoot and also a small honorarium that we can negotiate. Obviously we understand that you are not working for peanuts, but you have to understand that we are also on a crazy strict budget. But don’t worry, we’ll let you get pie. 🙂 Also, we have a wedding blog in the Philadelphia area that we would mention you on/ post a few example pics, so it wouldn’t be too shabby of a plug. Our florist has actually booked 3 clients from the kind words we’ve said about her! 

Would you believe this ad in the “Creative Gigs” section got me 20+ emails from photographers? It was like Christmas! I emailed them and asked for sample photos and info about themselves. Ultimately, we settled on a really talented and ambitious duo from Benjamin Lackey Multimedia.   Please feel free to check out their growing portfolio, or ‘like’ them on Facebook. As college students at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia these guys are building a business from the ground up. They were SO great to work with, super personable, and they have also helped us out in getting what we’re looking for in terms of affordable video coverage for the big day. I can’t say enough about Ben and his partner Mike, but they REALLY saved the day. Our shoot with them was so comfortable and honestly as close to ideal as possible. We were all on the same page and the pictures came out wonderfully, don’t you think? Huge thanks to them for their help!

 

 

So please feel free to utilize Benjamin Lackey Multimedia. Good guys, affordable prices, and fantastic results. They may not always work for pie, but they are worth the $, I promise. 🙂 And if worse comes to worst and you can’t afford engagement photography, feel free to use my idea and see what photographers you can round-up in your area. By the way, I ordered my post cards from Vistaprint for free, so the savings just keep coming! Keep an eye out for those deals and you can save a ton on your save the dates too.

Thanks for reading! – A

November 2, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . 2011. 1 comment.

Wish Upon a Wedding

I think I once told you about my friend Laura. She’s a beautiful young woman who, despite being super funny, sweet, talented and smart hit a bit of bad luck when she found out she had cancer in her early 20’s. Oh yeah, and she was less than a year away from her wedding. Knowing how stressful it is to plan a wedding is one thing and paying for it is another. But having those worries on top of dealing with a life-threatening  illness is just beyond my comprehension.

I was on Facebook yesterday and found out from my florist’s page about a great organization called Wish Upon a Wedding that could have been a huge help to Laura. Think of it like Make-a-Wish for terminally ill engaged individuals. They offer weddings to those who are in need but are dealing with illness. It’s one less stress and one more life milestone that these patients can have. Because I’m a classically trained musician I’ve signed up for the Philadelphia chapter to donate my services, should they be asked for. If you have a service that you can donate to such a great organization – and really, ANYTHING wedding related is great – I would urge you to sign up. Everyone deserves to experience the magic of their big day.

Thanks for reading. – A

August 26, 2011. Tags: , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

Where is the Line?

Sorry for the little hiatus. I’ve been really busy burning the candle at both ends lately between work, supplemental wedding $ work, wedding planning work, working on my weight loss and having a life. Ok, to be fair I haven’t had too much of a life lately either. Irregardless (Mean Girls, anyone?) I have been thinking about what to write about.

We recently showed Mama M the reception venue. This was, we thought, a necessity because although we would love to have tons of M’s Brazilian family come to the wedding, we are only able to accommodate 90 people in our space, a concept that just didn’t seem to sit well with her. As is, I am already terrified that it will be crowded and would feel much better if we could eliminate a table of 6 and keep it to 84. We thought if she saw it she would understand where we’re coming from and leave the guest list to us. What happened was a little less idyllic. Though her words were carefully selected and a transcript of the conversation would have read positively, her demeanor and tone of voice told a very different story. Instead of focusing on the guest list, she had views of the restaurant. As she was speaking to us about the space, I quickly recalled noticing the same mismatch in language and overtone when we went to her suggested flower vendor. The bottom line was that she didn’t like it.

I went to a wedding a few days after the venue incident. It was held at an event center, one of those places where they give you food on top of food with a side of food. My calorie count from that weekend was insane. Anyway, it was the first wedding I’ve attended since I have been engaged and I felt like I looked at everything with a really different view. Though there is NOTHING WRONG with that style of wedding, it just wasn’t the vibe that M and I have been working toward.

It occurred to me that I think this event center wedding was more of what Mama M wanted for us. I was really sad when I considered that she may not like our wedding at all. Her comments about the venue, about the atmosphere, about the very things we loved about our space hurt my feelings a lot.  I know we are not getting married for her, and pleasing her is not my responsibility, especially since she is not holding our purse strings. But I am still left with this feeling that our wedding, which I’ve spent countless hours putting blood, sweat and tears into so that it would be a beautiful reflection of our tastes and most importantly our relationship, is nothing more than a party that she will attend out of duty and when asked about will respond politely, but will not actually enjoy.

I’m not going to say I’m crushed, but I think I’m disappointed because I have been working so hard to foster a good relationship with Mama M. My family is not close by and I genuinely hoped that she would have a relationship with me where we could do things like go to lunch or bake cakes together and not have a weird air of politeness between us. She certainly doesn’t have to love everything I do, but I can’t see us going very far if she doesn’t want to be close enough to be comfortable with telling me when she thinks a decision I may be making isn’t the right one. And for that matter, I would hope that after defending my choices she would appreciate and respect the decision. I wanted to have a genuine relationship with her, and now I fear that it may just an exercise in polite appearances.

I’m not sure how to proceed, but my experiences with M and his mom have thus far told me that they would prefer the “sweep it under the rug” approach, which is a bit contrary to what I’m used to. My family operates on a “let’s get this out in the open and clear the air” frequency, and I tend to gravitate more toward this resolution. Help me understand: where can I draw a line and let her know that I’m affected by her obvious disapproval on something I’ve dedicated so much to? Or should I at all? For now, I’m still trying to play by the rules instead of making them my own, but I remain leery of telling her about anything else as I fear that she won’t like it. Here’s hoping we can mend this tear in our family quilt.

Thanks for reading. – A

August 10, 2011. Tags: , , , , . 2011. 2 comments.

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