Bridal shower – success!

Yesterday I had my bridal shower in Lawrence. We asked my Aunt Lark to take charge of the food preparation, as she is a phenomenal cook and hostess. She agreed to make Italian food (inspired by “Eat, Pray, Love”, which is about to come out in movie form).

On the menu:

•Antipasto tray
•Caprese salad, with my heirloom tomatoes

•Pasta primavera with roasted veggies and pesto
•Greens salad with walnuts and shaved parmesan cheese, fig vinaigrette

•And everyone’s favorite part, rustic nectarine galettes


My sister was the master pastry roller.

My mom did a fabulous job with decorations.

She found several vintage items, including the wedding bells,

and a headpiece for the ceramic dog.

Poor Charlotte, we made her wear a garter the whole time.

The only fail was the paper flowers.

Though they are adorable, they were waaay overly complicated to put together. And when I finally got four of them together, they kept coming apart because the double sided tape didn’t stick.

Next time, tissue paper poufs.

I realized that I didn’t take any photos of people! I must have been too busy eating and socializing.

We played one game (How well do you know Cara?), which my best friend Erin won.

Then I asked for marriage advice. I’m soaking it up lately.

Some pearls:

• The times when you least want to talk are the times you most need to.
• Don’t be obsessed with winning the argument. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
• You have to be responsible for your own happiness. Of course you want to make each other happy, but you can’t depend on someone else for your happiness.
• Make your family a priority

I hear over and over that laughter is so important, as is the friendship at the center of your relationship.

And very appropriately, a friend sent me this quote from Liz Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) from her latest book:

“Marriage survives, in other words, precisely because it evolves.”

Well said.

The sweetest card

Last night I received the most creative wedding card — it is made with part of our invitation!

How clever and eco-friendly.

Wedding memories from grandma

This is the cake topper from my grandparents’ wedding in August of 1949.

I was admiring it a couple of times at my grandma’s house, so she gave it to me. To borrow, of course.

We’re not using it on the cake, as it’s pretty delicate and I don’t want anything to happen to it. But we will display it at the wedding, for sure.

Last week I got a handwritten letter from my grandma and she included some memories from her wedding day. I had to share some of it with you:

Horace and I scheduled Aug. 14 for the day. One problem — the minister would be on vacation! So we had to scout that area of Tulsa for Methodist minister. (Horace always contended that Rev. looked more like jail escapee than ordained minister!)

All in all the wedding came off without disaster — and my parents avoided bankruptcy by having the rehearsal dinner at our home and reception at church.

About the honeymoon:

Wasn’t much of a cabin, but it was cool, and had a “kitchenette” of sorts. We were grateful for quiet, peaceful place to begin life together — a long one!

I have to tell you as the wedding gets closer I get teary reading this sort of thing. I’m hoping to hear more stories at my shower this weekend…

Jennie and Patrick’s wedding

I’m calling this the summer of love because it seems like every week I attend some wedding-related event for myself or a close friend. I’ve seen some of my most independent female friends tie the knot, and I feel incredibly good about their relationships and over the moon for the couples. Now we’re on deck, and I just hope our wedding is anywhere near as wonderful as theirs have been.

So, without further babbling, here’s how Jennie’s gorgeous, laid-back, Colorado microbrewery wedding went:

First we boarded the bus to head from Boulder to Lyons. Our chariot.

Our driver, also the mechanic.

The Oskar Blues bus is a little rough around the edges. It made some strange sounds, and the driver did have to leave the door open the entire time for ventilation, but we wouldn’t have gone any other way.

Some of the notes written on the ceiling were a little perplexing. We added some of our own, too.

Once we arrived at the park for the ceremony, we gathered around a little pathway lined with pinwheels. The ceremony took place next to the water, where tubers were going down the whole time.

The bride wore flip flops. And a huge smile.

It was beautiful. And despite rain the day before, not a drop fell.

Mike took these photos of the ceremony.

It was simple and sweet, and conducted by a friend of ours. We especially liked the part in their vows where they said something to the effect of, “I will be true to you, to myself and to us.” Well said.

After the ceremony we caught up with some friends. I can’t remember what this sign said, but it was clearly important.

The men of dirt, Brian, Pete, and Dave. We’re still trying to figure out where Pete got that jacket.

This is Kim and Brian, of Tee and Cakes.

I had one of their amazing Oreo cupcakes for dessert at the wedding. Then we talked a lot about how hard it is to run a business and how you just have to kind of jump in before you can talk yourself out of it. So true.

Anyway, the reception was held in a barn, decorated with lights and a hanging kayak.

They had a live band, the Whiskey Bottles, play. So much fun.

The best part, though, had to have been the pinball arcade that was right around the corner. We snuck in, got some quarters, and tried out a few different machines, including this dueling pinball machine. The bride won, of course.

No, actually, I think the best part was when someone delivered pipe cleaners to our table so that we could get creative for the photo booth. Who knew adults could have so much fun with a packet of pipe cleaners?

At the end of the night, everyone took home a souvenir beer glass.

Congrats to Jennie and Patrick. They are off to their honeymoon in Scotland!

Checking in on the checklist

It’s now less than two months until the wedding, and we’ve accomplished a lot of planning in the last week or so.

Remember the old checklist?

pick out menswear
-make our food decisions
-pick out rings
-order flowers
-write our ceremony and vows
buy plane tickets and make reservations for our honeymoon in Spain
test cake recipes and proportions for the pans we have
-Make the decorations, table numbers, goodie bags, etc.
Send the invitations and collect RSVPs
Find a dog/house sitter
-Make a photo montage

I also got my second rosette pin made, got the cake toppers in the mail, figured out some travel logistics, and Mike assigned some people to bring speakers and run the music.

I had my dress fitting, which was lovely up until the point where they told me that the alterations were going to cost $291. WTF?! I could buy a whole other dress for that. I also have to come in for a second fitting, and then another time after they press it. Which would be a lot better if this place wasn’t a 45-minute drive away.

I’ll be honest – we had a little financial freakout after that and buying the plane tickets to Spain. But we are just trying to take it one step at a time. Many things still can’t be done until about a month before the wedding. And we will get there.

The weekend in photos

Kind of ironic after my last post about freelancing, but last week was one of those where it was like everything happened at once work-wise. That’s another thing I’ve noticed is work seems to happen all at once or not at all. And you have to use those down times for something productive because they suddenly disappear.

Anyway, I finally got a break over the weekend to do some yard work, and Mike and I had a fun time riding our bikes around the neighborhood. Ragbrai training plan: ride to Snookies, eat ice cream cone, ride back.

Anyway, I decided to go on a weed-killing cleanup mission in the backyard because it was starting to look like a jungle. I cleared out the space behind our garage, which had been so overgrown you couldn’t walk back there, and our neighbor offered to weed whack the edges so that it was completely clear.

(Unfortunately it revealed just how badly our garage needs to be painted!)

This means I can finally tackle the “secret garden” spot in between our house and garage. I dug out all the weeds and baby trees and discovered all the rocks underneath that we had put in two years ago. I’m starting to scrape them back so we can put down a cover, then replace the rocks on top.

The rest of the yard is always going to get weedy unless we put down some more mulch, but I just don’t know how much more money I want to invest in our yard, since we’re renters.

One fun thing: After the first coneflower in our side garden died and we bought a second one, I noticed that a lone coneflower was growing out of the brush pile in our backyard.

So we’d had one all along. The little guy got a bit trampled by the dogs, but it still looks pretty good.

I weeded the garden some more and found that the yellow hot peppers are ready to pick, and that some of the beets are crowning.

I’m very excited to have these with dinner.

The other day I made stuffed shells, and I just had to take a picture because they looked so yummy. I just used a bit of ricotta mixed with parmesan cheese and black pepper for the filling.

Mike went up to Minneapolis over the weekend and found a suit for the wedding. We also sent out our invites and got several other items checked off our list, so we’re feeling a lot better about things. I’m dying to go ring shopping now.

This is the hair pin I’m going to wear. Isn’t it gorgeous?

And if you want one for yourself, go here.

Get inspired: Brianne and Joe’s wedding

We spent a lovely weekend in the Chicago suburbs attending our friends Brianne and Joe’s wedding. They couldn’t have asked for better weather — it was sunny and warm, but not too warm, with barely a cloud in the sky the whole time.

Here we are with our ‘bees knees’ cocktails – yum!

Prior to the wedding, we did what any self-respecting Chicagoan would do, and had a picnic along the Fox River with a box of Lou Malnati’s pizza.

I think we made a lot of passersby jealous. (But if I’m being completely honest, I have to say it was my least favorite of all the Chicago deep dish pizzas I’ve had). Still pretty darn good, though.

Brianne and Joe had their ceremony in a bright, airy chapel.

(Complete with a unity candle set I had made for them – with an extra candle for Brianne’s dad, who passed away a few years ago).

Afterwards, we headed out to a picturesque farm for the reception. Beautiful!

We walked through the greenhouses and along all the different rows of veggies, and swooned.

Imagine being able to plant everything you wanted to eat. They even had apricot trees!

We petted the goats and visited the chickens.

I can’t get over how much goats’ ears remind me of my Sadie. Their little tails wag like crazy, too.

We met up with some characters from DeMo.

My friend Karen, co-owner of the best paper store ever, Ephemera. (And no she didn’t drink both of those drinks…)

Plus Sophia and Kimberly, my former coworkers at Juice.

The groom looked happy as can be.

Sadly, this is the only photo I got of the bride in her cute dress. My camera died shortly after.

I did get this shot of the tent while they were dancing.

Everything was so cute, from the paper lanterns, to the glass jars of flowers, to the heart-shaped sparklers we lit in a long line. Loved it all. The dance was pretty rockin’, too.

Congrats to Brianne and Joe. Have a blast on your Austrian honeymoon, you two!

Wedding cake test: success

I meant to check “test cake” off my list a little earlier last week, but I didn’t get time to do it until about 10 p.m. the night before we were about to leave for Chicago. Crazy, I know, but it was one of those times when you just decide you need to do something, and you don’t stress about it, you just do it.

I started with Deb’s recipe for vanilla buttermilk cake (found here, scroll down). I decided to test one 3-layer cake, the same size as the middle layer would be, a 10-inch circle.

I had to run out and buy eggs (another reason for the delay) because you need 7 just for this part. Yikes! But the recipe came together flawlessly in the end. It makes 9 cups of batter, a lot more than I’m used to working with at once, but the perfect amount for 3 layers. The batter is soft and smooth and easy to work with. I decided that I wanted to make it just a little more special, so I added in the goop from one vanilla bean pod that I had.

You can see the little flecks in the batter and in the finished cake. Nice!

It took a little longer to bake than the 26-28 minutes it called for, maybe 32 minutes or so? Once I took it out of the oven, the domed top immediately sank, giving the top a perfectly flat appearance, which makes it easier to stack and frost.

I did notice, though, that the rack in the oven is a little bit on an angle, so with smaller cakes there will be some adjusting to do.

The thing I notice with from-scratch cakes (especially buttery ones) is that they end up a lot crumblier and more finicky than cakes from boxed mixes. But in the end they make a dense, rich cake that is worth the extra effort.

This cake tasted great with a little buttercream frosting I whipped up, and after a day in the fridge it tasted even better. Since the cakes will be frozen and thawed during transport, I feel good about how they are going to taste after a couple of days.

I think just to be on the safe side I am going to have to quadruple this recipe to have enough batter for all nine layers. That equals 10 sticks of butter and 28 eggs, if you’re counting. That will be a fun trip to the store.

My biggest concern is the frosting, which we decided we are going to make there. Keeping it at the right temperature could be a little tricky. But strangely I don’t feel that stressed about the whole process. I’m actually really excited for it!

I also ordered the cake topper kit from Etsy, so that’s two more things I can cross off my list. Whew.

The wedding to-do list

Engagement photo by Joe Crimmings

We are now less than three months away from the wedding, and after a very long engagement in which I haven’t done much at all, it’s time to get serious about the rest of the planning. I made a list of everything left to do, and it is looooong. But I’m not panicking yet. Yet.

We still need to:

-pick out menswear
-make our food decisions
-pick out rings
-order flowers
-write our ceremony and vows (this might be the hardest part)
-buy plane tickets and make reservations for our honeymoon in Spain
-test cake recipes and proportions for the pans we have
-Make the decorations, table numbers, goodie bags, etc.
-Send the invitations and collect RSVPs
-Find a dog/house sitter
-Make a photo montage

And a few other things…

So yeah, it’s a lot. Somehow making a list makes it feel more manageable.

If I have time next week I’m going to start working on the cake recipes. Thank goodness the bloggers at Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker have tackled this project already and offered their tips/recipes.

I am thinking of getting this DIY cake topper set from Etsy. It even comes with an extra bride and groom, in case of a mess-up (or if Mike wants a set for the chocolate cake he’s making).

I have been keeping an inspiration file of photos on my computer to help me wade through the sea of ideas out there. Honestly, the biggest challenge is deciding what to do out of all the possibilities. Having a tight budget has made it a lot easier to make decisions, and to feel like we are truly creating this wedding from our own hands.

These are some of the ideas I really want to incorporate into the wedding:

*Starting at the top, blue glass Mason jars with ribbon around the tops (for holding candles or flowers)

*A clothesline where guests can hang bits of marriage advice

*Goodie jars with cute patterned lids

*A brown cardigan with a cute flower. With the weather being cooler up there, I’ll need something to go with my sleeveless dress. I actually have a cute brown cardigan, and I’m sure I could make a flower pin.

*Hanging lights and colorful paper poufs for the reception area. Have you ever seen those light bulb string lights in a store?

*A simple cake with white frosting and a cute topper

*A table set up with old family wedding photos

*Big balloons!

Wedding details

In reading way too many wedding blogs, I’ve come to the conclusion that all modern weddings must contain these elements:

-Flowers in bottles, jars, or other found objects
-Cruiser bikes
-Mustaches on sticks
-Cupcakes or macarons
-Letterpress paper goods
-Dresses from Anthropologie
-Fabric flags
-Chuck Taylors

There are definitely these moments as bride-to-be when you have to take a deep breath and remind yourself that nobody will care if you don’t have lollipops and paper umbrellas. But it is hard, with all those adorable inspirations out there, to ask yourself what you really want your wedding to look like. What is our style? What is important to us and our friends and family? For me, DIY elements are very important. That’s just who I am. But there will be no letterpress, and probably no macarons. And that’s okay.

There will be Chucks, though. And they are so freakin’ cute.