The photo booth

If you’re planning a wedding, I would definitely encourage you to have a photo booth at some point. One of the most fun parts after the wedding is looking at all those photos and seeing what you missed throughout the night.

I love how in any photo with Pete, he is always doing something completely different than anyone else.

It’s also amazing how creative people can get with a $3 chalkboard.

(Mike’s parents and their cabin are the reason we decided to get married up there).

Those are some gorgeous geeks!

Everyone seemed to want to carry each other (and then regret it later).

Our sartorialists.

So. much. fun.

My DIY North Shore wedding

I did my very best to condense the photos into a manageable amount, but there were so many good ones, I just couldn’t help myself!

So let’s start at the beginning. The morning of the wedding, my sister pulled out her hair and makeup artist skills and helped me roll my hair and apply makeup, which I’m terrible at. My cousin, Alana, and my maid of honor, Erin, were a huge help as well.

We decided I would head over to the lodge (closer to the ceremony site) to put on the actual dress. I wanted my mom to be the one to fasten all the tiny buttons before I made my debut.

I don’t regret my decision to DIY hair and makeup at all. It was one less thing to worry about and pay for, and I was completely happy with the way it turned out. My mom collected all the vintage jewelry I wore that day.

The dress was a different story. Though I loved it, I got frustrated with the process of going in over and over for fittings, plus all the added expenses of tailoring, and now cleaning. If I had it to do over I think I would really try to simplify that process.

The shoes were a DSW special. And I’m glad I kept it simple with those because during the ceremony my heels sank into about an inch of wet ground, ruining them.

Fortunately I had my bridal Chucks as a backup!

We skipped out on some traditions, like not seeing each other before the wedding. It was really important to us not to do things just because other people do them. We tried to make sure that if we held onto a tradition, it actually meant something to us.

We kept our bridal party small. It seemed like if we started adding people we’d have to add a lot of people just to avoid hurting people’s feelings.

Something we didn’t DIY? The flowers.

For the ceremony part, at least. I had always imagined myself holding real flowers. Even though I had to order the bouquets and pins sight unseen, the flower shop did an incredible job of executing my requests. They were absolutely beautiful.

For the ceremony site, my crafty friend Brianne decorated Lutsen’s wooden arch with an array of tissue paper poufs.

She and I, along with our friend Amy, had spent many nights folding little accordians for those poufs. The day of the wedding I didn’t have any time to actually put them up, so Brianne and her husband did it for me, and it was perfect.

We decided both to have a friend marry us and to write the whole ceremony ourselves. Brigid got ordained from the Universal Life Church and filed our paperwork for us. She also wore an adorable polka dot dress that was a huge hit.

It’s tough to write your own ceremony from scratch, even when you’re a writer by trade. We definitely saved it until the last minute. But after one teary evening spent in front of my computer writing my vows, and lots of time searching for readings we loved, we put everything together. Luckily a few friends agreed to read for us, and they did a fantastic job.

We also included a song, and asked the crowd if they would vow to support us in our marriage. We were both emotional at times, but neither one of us broke down. I just remember feeling so happy and excited.

We didn’t have a single crying baby. Just sweet little Quinn.

We designed the programs ourselves. For each person involved in the wedding we included a “fun fact.”

We saved a lot of money on our paper suite by using invitations from Target and our own (limited) design skills. We bought a laser printer on sale so we’d have better print quality, and it helped bigtime.

Having a Web designer for a husband was also a huge help when it came to building our wedding site. We used Traveler’s Joy for our honeymoon registry and found it super easy to use.

But back to the wedding!

For table decorations, my mom and I collected blue glass canning jars, which I filled with small tissue paper flowers. I probably spent less than $30 for all of the flowers and maybe $30 for all the jars. I put tealight candles inside old juice glasses, and filled little paper muffin liners with Jordan almonds. Each person also got a stripey straw for their water glass.

During the cocktail hour, which we basically missed due to taking more photos, the banquet manager informed me that we had already drank the entire batch of wine we’d ordered for the wedding. So we ordered 12 more bottles, and by the end of dinner that was gone too. Perhaps that accounts for what happened on the dance floor?

We also did a family-style dinner, which I loved. That way people don’t have to go through a buffet line, but they still get to decide what they want to put on their plates.

And then there were the cakes. Many, many people thought we were crazy to make our own cakes. But it truly wasn’t that hard. We baked them in advance, made the frosting at the resort, and frosted them the day before in the lodge bar. I painted the little cake toppers to look like us and we borrowed two cake stands from friends.

It was funny during the speeches — everyone kept saying something to the effect of “wow, it took you a long time to get married!”

Erin’s speech was much more emotional. And now I have to give one to her this weekend!

But my mom brought the house down with her wedding limerick. It was so funny.

For the dance, we had a friend of ours bring in his sound system and another friend manned the iTunes playlist on a computer. We also put together a slide show of photos that was a lot of fun.

This is one of my favorite photos from that day.

Danced with my dad to a Beatles song.

We set up a table with some old family wedding photos, and my grandma’s cake topper.

Instead of a guest book we had people hang bits of advice on a clothesline. Mike built the posts from some blocks of wood and 2 dowels. The cards are made from extra invites cut to size.

Our big surprise was having a few friends sneak up to the balcony and toss over a bunch of 36-inch balloons as a Flaming Lips song played. If you’ve ever been to a Flaming Lips concert, you know where we were coming from.

And then the dance just unfolded and I can’t say anything other than it was more fun than I’ve had in a long, long time.

I literally danced until my hair clip flew off and one of my straps broke.

But the best part, hands down, was when Mike’s parents decided to do the polka to Ke$ha’s “Take It Off.”

Suddenly all eyes were on them and Mike’s dad threw off his jacket. It was hysterical!

We had the photographers set up a photo booth in the balcony where people could write a message on a little chalkboard and pose for goofy photos. And oh my did they get into it. (More photo booth photos coming in a separate post).

When we were so tired we could barely stand, we had our DJ fast forward to the end of the playlist so we could head out to the bonfire. At first we hadn’t even planned to have a beach bonfire, but when we learned it was free and that we had to be out of the party room pretty early in the night anyway, we fell in love with the idea.

It was the perfect end to a perfect night.

Resources
Venue: Lutsen Resort in Lutsen, Minnesota
Photography: The dream team of Joe and Libby Crimmings
Dress: Blue by Enzoani from The Bridal Boutique
Bridesmaid dresses: The Sophia dress from J. Crew
Menswear: Heimie’s Haberdashery
Flowers: Anderson’s Greenhouse in Two Harbors
Invitations: Target
Rings: Joseph’s Jewelers. Mine is white gold, Mike’s is tungsten carbide.
Cake toppers: Goosegrease on Etsy
Stripey straws: Ephemera
Hair clip: Bean and the Sprout
Gifts for bridesmaids: E. Ria Designs
Giant balloons: Party America
Globe party lights: Target (I don’t see them online, but I bought them in the seasonal section of a store)

Wedding worries and why you don’t need them

During the almost two years I had to plan my wedding, I tried really, really hard to stay sane about the whole process. I had a vision of what I wanted the day to be like, and I certainly wanted to include a ton of DIY elements. But I didn’t want to set it up so it had to be the best day of my life. And I stayed very calm up until the very end.

The last week was tough. I started to feel panicky, running lists through my head and worrying about little things. The last couple of nights I stayed up late, unfolding tissue paper flowers in my hotel room, making more lists and fretting. The morning of the wedding was so hectic, and I just had this feeling like, “I’m running out of time!”

But after we took our family photos, pinned on our flowers and got ready to walk down the aisle, I just let it all go.

The rest of the wedding really was perfection. The more I think about it, the more I realize there will never be another night quite like that one. I still can’t believe how it unfolded, and I just want to pinch myself.

So if it helps any brides-to-be feel better about your big days, I just wanted to share some of the things that turned out to be no big deal at all.

A few days before the wedding I started checking the forecast for northern Minnesota. The good news was that it was supposed to be sunny. The bad news? The high was supposed to be around 50 degrees. Brrrr!

But the day before the wedding, after a brief morning rain, the clouds parted and it turned into one of those unbelievably gorgeous North Shore days that just blow you away. By Saturday it was just the same, only a little warmer. You couldn’t buy a more perfect day up there.

My other freakout came a few days before the wedding when neither of us could get a hold of our event coordinator. And by that point we had some pretty important questions. On our drive up there we finally got through to her boss, who told us that our coordinator had quit that day. Uh, WHAT?

Fortunately her boss took over the whole situation and helped us clear up every tiny detail. In the end, she was much easier to work with, and she saved me even more worrying.

At the last minute, several guests found out that they weren’t going to make it, and I started to feel kind of bummed that we had a smaller wedding than we intended. But again, I think it worked out for the best because I was able to genuinely interact with all of the guests. I don’t know how you can do that at a wedding with 150+ people.

And finally, I was concerned that with our schedule for that day (the resort requires you to be out of their restaurant by 5:30 p.m., so everything is a bit earlier than usual), people wouldn’t get into the dance part as much. I figured they’d hang out for an hour, then go back to their rooms, and by the time we got to the bonfire there’d be about 10 people left. I cannot tell you how wrong I was about that one! People danced from the first minute to the very last song.

Someone even told me we had the best wedding playlist she’d ever heard. Almost everyone came to the bonfire, and we kept our party going by moon and firelight.

The only thing I can think of that went wrong is that during the portion of the dance when we decided to toss around big balloons, some of them kept hitting our string lights until eventually one of the bulbs shattered onto the floor and the whole string of lights went out. I kept running around like a kindergarten teacher going, “Don’t throw the balloons at the lights!” But no one else cared at all, and a Lutsen staffer quickly swept up the broken glass, so everyone could keep dancing.

Lesson learned? The most important thing to do at your wedding is to be at your wedding and enjoy every minute of it.

More photos coming!

All photos by Joe and Libby Crimmings.

Honeymoon part 5: Sevilla

To get to our last city, Sevilla/Seville, we decided to take a bus because it was a much more direct route. It started out as a pretty nauseating ride through the hills while this old man next to me hacked up a lung. But eventually things smoothed out, and we got there really quickly.

We struggled a bit to find a place to stay, as there were very few listings online and they were really expensive. We finally found out it was because U2 was playing a massive concert there that weekend, so everyone had to pay festival rates for hotels.

(By the time we left, we were pretty sure Oprah was going to show up at the Minneapolis airport, as the president and Bono had already derailed our trip in parts).

We ended up in a pension that had a great location, but was definitely not worth the cost. Oh well. If that was the worst we did I’d say it was pretty good! At least the maid left us a tiny rose.

The first night we asked the guy at the front desk for a dinner recommendation and he suggested a place he said was populated by locals. So we tried it out and it was probably the best tapas experience we had the whole time.

The bartenders were racing around, telling jokes and laughing, and one guy in particular kept teasing all the patrons. Fortunately Mike knew enough Spanish to keep up with him, so we got two seats at the bar and ended up helping two French girls and a bunch of Dutch tourists order their stuff. The French girls were so funny. They were getting help from this older guy at the bar and before they left one of them gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then a minute later the other one came back and kissed him, too. Everybody cheered and he was so embarrassed.

I don’t have any photos of that but I do have photos of what we ate! We tried a tapa with a slice of chorizo covered with a quail egg.

Though I stayed away from most meats on the trip, I have to say the chorizo was pretty good. We also ordered Roquefort cheese with blackberry jam, and were pretty surprised to see them scoop this enormous hunk of cheese onto the plate. We didn’t begin to finish it, but it was really good.

Then we drank too many glasses of vino blanco and wandered back to our hotel for the night. You know, the usual.

The next morning I convinced Mike to take a carriage ride through the city, and it ended up being a great idea. It was still cool enough in the morning to be able to enjoy being out in the sun, and we spent a lot of time clopping through this huge garden in the middle of the city.

Our tour guide was very entertaining. He knew just when to pull over and take a photo of us.

The park was so serene and beautiful. A lot of people were taking their morning jog there.

Seville was a pretty cool city in general. They have a new tram that runs through the city, and a bike rental system that seemed pretty well used.

We found some lingering signs of the strike while we were there.

By the way, how cool is it that they still paste up signs? I don’t know why I liked that, I just did.

Passing by this wedding was a lot of fun.

Our next stop was … wait for it … the cathedral!

Actually, that’s not true. We went to this cool museum that had tons and tons of maps from the early exploration of the Americas. For Mike, a certified map nerd, this was amazing, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, too. But I didn’t take any photos there.

Seville’s cathedral is absolutely massive. In fact, there was even a certificate from the Guinness book of world records certifying that it’s the biggest church in Spain, or something to that effect. And I believe it!

This might have been the biggest door yet.

This was certainly the biggest altarpiece. It was so intricate you couldn’t really focus on anything.

Inside there were parts that were more like a museum, with beautiful artwork and pieces that had belonged to royalty.

This Goya was just stunning.

Most of the cathedrals we saw had relics like these.

One of the main reasons people visit this cathedral is that Christopher Columbus’ tomb is there. Apparently there is some disagreement as to whether or not his remains are actually buried there.

We took another climb to the top of the bell tower there. This one was awesome – instead of steps it was more like a ramp to the top. This was so horses could go up and down.

Looong way down!

I couldn’t help but take more pictures of doors. They are just so grand.

After the cathedral, we wandered over to a park and watched two guys do tricks on rollerblades while some adorable kids played with their nannies. Then we decided to go down to the area by the river and check it out.

It was beautiful over there! And I don’t think the book even mentioned it. We took a seat at one of the cafes and just watched people pass by on rowboats.

Before we left, I was determined to get one more thing: chocolate and churros. If there’s anything in Spain that seems like it could be a state fair treat, this is it.

The churro is sort of like a funnel cake and you dip it into a cup of really rich chocolate. Definitely a good idea.

That night we went to bed early since we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. (!!)  in order to catch our first flight home. We ended up going from Madrid to Philadelphia with 15 Spanish middle schoolers and their supervisor who had absolutely no control over them. Needless to say, I was so glad when we finally got home.

Overall I think we had an amazing trip, and we covered as much as we possibly could in that amount of time. In retrospect we wished we could have changed the order so we went to Ronda first (for more relaxation) and Barcelona last. But I think we’ll take a more low-key trip when we get to California. We want to go back to Spain another time so we can see Madrid and the northwest region. A lot of the foods we loved were from the Galicia region, so we’d like to see that. And maybe Portugal as well. So much to see!

Next up, my big post about the wedding. We finally got our official photos back and they are so, so good.

Honeymoon part 4: Ronda

Can you believe this honeymoon is still going? I can’t, and I was there!

Ronda was the first part of the trip that really felt like a honeymoon. It’s a much smaller town with beautiful views and all kinds of romantic vibes. Everywhere you looked you saw PDA. So you figured, why not join in.

We chose Ronda because we read that Hemingway and Orson Welles had both spent time there, and we knew we’d need a break from the bigger cities at some point.

The train trip there was beautiful. We took good old Renfe again.

Spotted a corn field!

Not this time…

This is the view from our hotel room, which was right next to the bullfighting ring, one of the oldest in Spain, opened in 1785.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I noticed that all of the hotels we stayed in had original artwork in the rooms, not the cheesy prints you’re used to seeing. Sometimes they were a little racy!

Our first morning there, Mike woke up with the intestinal bug, but after a little rest he felt well enough to tour the bullring.

Neither one of us is interested in bullfighting, so we were there more for the history. Fortunately there was a great museum there, and even though it was national strike day, it was still open. It had a lot of great artwork and some original promotional prints.

There’s also an equestrian training center attached to the bullring, and we really enjoyed peeking at the horses and riders.

This horse was really enjoying his bath. (And I can understand why – it was HOT there!)

We explored some more during the afternoon, including a hike down a steep gravel path for some great views of the city. Ronda sits atop a massive gorge. So pretty much everywhere you look there’s a beautiful vista.

After we hiked back up the trail, we rested in this little plaza.

That night we had dinner at a very crowded tapas place that was worth squeezing into a tiny window seat for. I didn’t take any photos but I had a wonderful creamy vegetable soup with crusty bread and we shared a deconstructed goat cheese/walnut/pear salad.

The next day we toured the Cathedral, and found it a little disappointing. By this point our standards were sky-high!

We toured a city museum and learned about some of the caves in the area. It was so fascinating how far back each city could trace it’s culture. Underneath the Christian remains were the Muslim remains. And underneath that were the Roman ruins. And they were all so well preserved. Great stuff for geeks like us.

Also loved how the museums had these beautiful porches and courtyards.

Next we made our way down to the Arab baths, some of the best preserved ones in the world. They had a very sophisticated aqueduct system that would scoop water out of the river, send it down to the baths, and then pour it over heated stone to produce steam.

Then we made the long hike back to the rest of town. We definitely earned our tapas that day.

We had a couple hours to kill before our bus ride to Sevilla, so we found another park next to an overlook and just sat there listening to some musicians play.

Not a bad gig, eh?

Honeymoon part 3: Granada

Granada is such a cool city. Because of its proximity to north Africa and its Muslim history (it was a Muslim stronghold from the 700s to the 1400s), it has a really different look and feel than the other cities we visited. Even the hotel room had a sort of Moroccan feel.

(It’s funny how we kept getting doubles with two beds we had to push together. So romantic!)

When we arrived at the train station we got a cab to our hotel in the Albayzin, the old Muslim quarter. Our driver took us on the ride of our lives through these tiny, twisting streets. At one point he had to fold in the side mirrors so they wouldn’t scrape the walls.

We had to laugh over the fact that this little walkway was an actual street.

After our harrowing ride we got into our beautiful hotel, which used to be someone’s mansion. Then we headed out to a cool restaurant, with all kinds of funky objects and hanging hams for decor.

So I might have had a little too much to drink. Spanish wine is definitely stronger!

The next day my stomach wasn’t too happy with me, but we headed out anyway so we could stand in line to get tickets to the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a HUGE tourist attraction there. It’s a massive fortress and palace that belonged to Muslim sultans then Christian rulers before being abandoned and then restored.

Here’s the view during the day,

and at night.

Our book told us that we should buy advanced tickets, but we were so rushed the day before that we just didn’t. So after standing in line for a good half an hour we heard that there were no more tickets left for that entire day. Gah!

You also couldn’t buy tickets there for the next day. So we tried buying them from a cash machine – no tickets. Then we went to an internet cafe to get them online – no tickets. In desperation (because we definitely wanted to see the Alhambra), we ended up buying pricier tickets from a tour company.

We had also bought our train tickets to Ronda in advance, thinking we were finally getting smart with that, only to realize that the tour would make us miss the train. But oh well. We had to see the Alhambra!

Since we had a whole day to kill, we went to Granada’s cathedral. This is another photo that will always make me think of our trip.

Once again, the cathedral was spectacular in size and decor.

If you looked closely you could see the pomegranate details.

Granada is the pomegranate city. That’s where the word “grenade” comes from, because some grenades are shaped like pomegranates.

Sometimes you even saw them growing fresh.

Oranges, too.

And everywhere you looked you saw animals.

These dogs sunning themselves looked so happy.

This man was painting the cathedral.

I kept thinking as we saw all of these great works of art and architecture how cool it would be to attend art school here when you can actually go and see these things in the flesh. Amazing.

We had a really nice lunch that day at an outdoor cafe. I had gazpacho,

and a really good pizza. I hate to say it but some of my favorite meals were pizza and pasta!

Mike had what they call a Russian salad. To me it was a salade Nicoise, but who’s counting?

On a side note, I would have enjoyed many of these pleasant lunches more if there weren’t so many smokers in Spain. It was bad! Someone even smoked on our plane to Barcelona. I admire Europeans for a lot of things they do, but they seriously need cut back on the blowing smoke in beautiful public places.

OK, back to focus.

The next morning, we finally got to visit the Alhambra. One of my favorite parts was walking up the long hill to the entrance. It’s very woodsy back there. It would be a great place to sit with a book all afternoon.

I’m not sure what was happening with this fountain, though.

Inside, the Generalife gardens are also beautiful, in a more manicured way. And the views of the city are spectacular.

I wish we could have seen it all sans crowd, but it was the crowd that helped us figure out why we had so much trouble getting tickets. There was a national strike the following day! Yes, in addition to Obamas’ Philadelphia visit holding up our plane and a U2 concert making it hard to get a hotel in Seville, there was a national labor strike during our vacation. Crazy!

So everyone wanted to visit the touristy places the day before, when they were sure they would be open. In the end, we didn’t experience any troubles, as most of the hospitality industry didn’t participate in the strike. But we heard some others say their plane and bus trips had been canceled.

Anyway, once we got inside to the palace, we saw the most beautiful parts of the Alhambra. We were even inside the room where Queen Isabella signed off on Christopher Columbus’ fateful trip.

I will just let the photos do the talking.

At the end of our tour, this man explained how artisans make beautiful inlaid wood boxes.

Apparently for some of the more intricate parts, they roll up bars of different materials a la a sushi roll and cut them into slices, revealing the geometric patterns.

This is the one I got for myself.

We also toured the remains of an Arab bath. Some of the original tile work was still there.

All in all, Granada was just a feast for the senses. And like Valencia, even if it’s not the most famous city in Spain, it’s a must-do if you travel there.

Honeymoon part 2: Valencia

When we were planning our trip to Spain, a couple people told us that Valencia was way underrated, so we made sure to include it in our trip. And after going there, I agree completely. Even though it doesn’t have the big touristy sites that Barcelona and Granada have, it’s just a beautiful city. If there was anywhere we thought we could live, it was Valencia. It seemed like every time we turned a corner we came upon a quiet little plaza with flowers and a trickling fountain, or a gorgeous building with unique architecture. Even the train station was covered with murals and beautiful tiles. It’s right next to the bullring, both of which were close to our hotel.

This is the ceiling inside the post office. We didn’t have any letters to mail, but we went inside just to gawk.

The plaza outside was just as beautiful.

This little girl was having such a great time chasing the pigeons.

I should say, though, that the first morning in Valencia I woke up not feeling so great. So while I spent the morning in the bathroom or napping, Mike rented a bike from the city and explored a bit. We loved how easy it was in pretty much every city to grab a bike for the day. In the bigger cities it seemed like locals were using them to commute rather than having their own bikes and worrying about storing them or them getting stolen.

This photo cracks me up because it reminds me of what a poor decision it was to have a blue tote bag as our carryall for the trip.

Poor Mike ended up carrying it when I couldn’t anymore. Next time, we buy a neutral looking backpack or messenger bag!

Anyway, while he was out, Mike ended up scoring tickets to a soccer game, where Valencia’s smaller team happened to be playing one of the best in the world, Real Madrid. More on that later…

By the afternoon, I was feeling a lot better and ready to see Valencia. The main site to see, as in pretty much everywhere else we went, was the cathedral. It was closed when we first stopped by, so we walked around the outside a bit. This is just the side door.

As we got around to the other side we noticed these two statues that were missing their heads.

I wandered around taking more pictures and then I noticed that this old man in a beret had approached Mike and was talking to him. I thought he was trying to ask for directions in Spanish, but it turned out he was explaining the headless statues. It kills me that I didn’t get a photo of him, but I didn’t want to be intrusive. Anyway, Mike thinks he was trying to say that no one wants to talk about it, but some people were killed at that exact spot. Either the statue heads were removed because of that or they were shot off in the process. He wasn’t quite clear on what he meant. But it was chilling nonetheless.

When we finally got inside, the church was having a service. The people looked so tiny compared to the massive altarpiece.

We paid a couple of euros to climb up to the top of the bell tower and get a better view of the city. I wouldn’t say I’m terrified of heights, but every time we did one of these climbs we got squeezed into a crazy tall spiral staircase with a bunch of other people and a rickety railing to hold onto. It freaked me out a little bit. The view from the top was amazing, though.

After that we explored some more. I’m not even sure what this building was, but it was beautiful inside.

It had a courtyard inside, filled with what we first thought were lime trees. But then we realized, duh, they were orange trees and the fruit just wasn’t ripe yet.

If you pay attention, you notice orange-themed details all over town, like these door knockers holding oranges.

I thought this sign summed up Spain better than any other photo I have.

For lunch, we decided to revisit a restaurant we had passed the night before. It was right in one of those little plazas I was talking about with the trickling fountains.

It even came complete with a musician.

There was some version of this guy pretty much every time we ate out. It was cheesy, but I loved it.

In the evening we took a cab to the soccer game. We felt like we were finally out of the tourist realm. It was a little uncomfortable at first (especially since the ratio of men to women was like 80/20). But after a while it felt like any other sporting event. We were right behind a group of superfans who had the most coordinated cheers I’ve ever seen.

The funny thing was that this little Valencia team ended up tying Real Madrid 0-0, which we considered to be a victory. There were all the usual faux injuries and arguments. If you look closely you can see #7, the rockstar Rinaldo.

Valencia at night is just as beautiful as it is during the day.

We were sad to leave, but excited to see Granada, so we took a train there the next day. As I was looking out the window I noticed that there were fields and fields of orange and olive tree groves.

Just like you see corn in Iowa, you see olive trees everywhere in Spain. Honestly, I was a little disappointed by the sameness of it, like I expected European agriculture to be vastly different than ours or something. But it was funny when you did see a random cornfield here and there. It seemed like something special in comparison.

Next stop, Granada. And it’s a good one!

Honeymoon part 1: Barcelona

Though my camera broke pretty early in our honeymoon, we still managed to take more than 1400 photos while we were in Spain (!!). Mike took most of them, and his camera is much better than mine anyway, so I have to give him a lot of credit for the documentation.

I’m dividing up our trip into several posts, so it’s not too overwhelming. We spent the first three nights in Barcelona, adding one more day than we planned so we could be there for a local festival. So I’ll start with that part.

Sunrise out the airplane window as we flew in.

The best decision we made in Barcelona was to stay at the Hotel Constanza. It was very cool and modern, and had a great breakfast every morning that went until 10:30, sometimes 11:30 a.m. Also, the shower alone was worth the price (which wasn’t bad).

Just in case you are going to Europe at some point, I can highly recommend the site we used to book all of our rooms, booking.com. Mike used it when he went to Denmark, so we tried it again, and it proved a lifesaver throughout our trip.

The other lifesaver? My Chaco sandals. I’ve had a pair for probably 6 years, that is the only pair of shoes I can walk in all day and not have sore feet. But enough recommendations – back to the trip!

We took the obligatory walk down La Rambla, which is this bustling, touristy ped mall so we could check out the Mercat de la Boqueria, a huge market.

It was just about to close down, but we got a peek at some of the goods.

Everywhere you go you see these shops with cured hams hanging up.

From what we could tell, Spaniards eat ham pretty much all the time. It was on menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tapas, everything. I know its a beloved part of the culture, and I did try some, but by the end of the trip I was seriously over all the jamon. Maybe I was just squeamish over the fact that all those ham legs still have a hoof on them.

For our first sampling of tapas, we tried a place recommended by our Lonely Planet book (pretty much our Bible for the whole trip), and it definitely seemed like the real deal.

Mike tried the pulpo (octopus), and then we ordered some pimientos, little green peppers from the Galicia region that they deep fry and sprinkle with salt.

That was probably our favorite tapa anywhere. We also accidentally ordered a whole bottle of white wine. That was fun!

The next morning we did our unofficial Gaudi tour. We walked by the apartments he designed, before heading to Park Guell.

(And by the way, the metro subway in Barcelona is amazing. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a train the whole time we were there).

The park is huge, much bigger than we were expecting. It’s like something out of a dream, very surreal.

From the top of the hill there we could see the Sagrada Familia in the distance.

It’s a constant work in progress. The tour guide said it’s still only 60 percent finished. But a lot of work has been done in the last couple of months because the pope is coming to consecrate the church in November. We were lucky to go when we did, I suspect.

Since Gaudi died in 1926, he only got to see part of it finished. That side is a little more traditional in terms of the statues on the outside.

But we loved the other side, which was designed by another artist. The figures reminded me of a Picasso painting.

And the blocky text on the doors reminded me of Des Moines’ Nomade sculpture downtown.

Photos could never capture what it’s like inside, and I couldn’t even really describe it.

The scale of the church (and all the cathedrals we saw) is just overwhelming. And I love how Gaudi designed the interior with the intent to bring nature inside. The columns branch out like trees. The stained glass circles on the ceiling reflect light onto the floor, just like the dappled light in the woods. It was truly extraordinary.

We paid the extra money to go up into one of the towers and see a view of the city from the top.

But to get back down you have to descend this windy windy dark staircase. At one point I was the only one in there and it was kind of creepy!

The next day we visited Barcelona’s Cathedral, which is also massive and beautiful.

I loved the little courtyard, complete with goldfish and birds.

I was also smitten with the grand entrances you see all over Spain. It’s incredible how much effort they put into just the doors.

The second day we tried paella at a place we just stumbled on, and it was really good. I tried the traditional seafood variety and Mike had the black rice, made with squid ink.

It took a long time to get used to the way they eat there. Small breakfast, huge lunch at around 2-4 p.m., then dinner at around 9:30 or 10.

I don’t have any pictures of these, but we had cafe con leche in tiny cups just about everywhere we went. It’s funny — portion sizes seemed pretty huge compared to what I was expecting, but when it came to drinks they were all like miniature versions of what I’m used to. In Barcelona, I especially loved the way they serve toasted bread slices with a swipe of crushed tomatoes and olive oil. I am definitely stealing that trick!

Randomly, we also found this place that was kind of like Spain’s version of Starbucks and every afternoon we’d buy coconut bars they called “flapjacks”. They were like our energy bars for all the walking we did.

Our last night we went to a parade that kicks off the Festes de la Merce. The first part of the parade featured giant paper mache monsters with sparklers coming out of their mouths and drummers playing a different beat for each statue.

The second part featured people figures, including the king and queen. It was probably the most energetic parade I’ve ever been to, so I’m glad we stayed for it.

I loved the festival posters, and if I could have torn one off and taken it home, I probably would have.

Notice the headlining band, Belle and Sebastian. Not exactly who I would expect for such a party crowd!

The last morning there, we went to the beach. Strangely it was the only time we spent on the actual Mediterranean, so I’m glad we squeezed it in.

Mike tried baby octopus at a restaurant there.

Unfortunately we underestimated the time it would take to get back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and we ended up racing through the subway with our super heavy suitcases only to miss our train by 5 minutes.

Luckily though, there was another train in 3 hours, and the customer service agent took pity on us and gave us new tickets for just a few euros more.

Would you believe that this is the extremely condensed version of the very beginning of our trip? We are incapable of relaxed travel, I think. But I did tell Mike I want honeymoon 2.0 when we get to California, involving wine tastings, massages, and sleep.

More to come soon…

Look what I found

While I was going through my iPhoto library to pick out photos for our wedding slide show, I found these pictures.

They’re from a campaign stop that Obama did in a park just a few blocks from my house.

This was before Obama was even in the lead amongst the Democrats. I think Hilary was expected to win the caucus at the time.

I remember that it was really hot and everyone was pouring sweat, but Michelle still looked as put together as she ever does.

Just wanted to share!

The week in photos

We grabbed the last jar of strawberry jam from a berry farm stand at the farmers market. They only sell it for a couple weeks a year, so you have to get it while you can.

The paper has many uses.

Shortcakes. Recipe here.

Our first wedding gift. It’s a handmade cutting board – absolutely beautiful.

Sadie snoozin’. From my photos it probably seems like this is all she does. Which is pretty much true. Sometimes she barks in the backyard.

Fingerless gloves I have been making. I ended up with a lot of partial skeins (two of each color) from knitting poufs with double strands. I figured I better start knitting for fall now while I have the time.

Experimenting with foam cubes as pouf filling. Five orders this week is keeping me busy!

Actually, we got so busy, Mike and I forgot to celebrate our anniversary. Our first date was June 3, 2004. So, believe it or not, it has been six years! Can’t wait to marry that guy.