Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Packing Essentials

Summer is here! Well, not officially but it certainly does feel like it. As soon as the weather starts to break from frigid temperatures, I immediately switch to vacation/summer mode. John and I have done a little bit of frolicking so far this year - and we have a few more trips up our sleeves. Whenever we head out of town, I always have a packing list no matter where we're going or how long we'll be away; even if it's just for a night. Keeping a packing list keeps me somewhat sane and helps me not to forget anything. John has always scoffed at the idea but lately, I've been slowly leading him over to the dark side of list making.

As I was thinking about a few of our summer getaways, I started to think of a few of my packing essentials; things that I must have when heading out of town especially for a summer getaway. So if you're planning any summer getaways, here's my list of items that always make my traveling and my vacation much more enjoyable.

Summer packing essentials

Evian facial spray - helps to wake up your skin; great for when you're lounging on the beach.

Banana Boat Sun Comfort sunscreen - this particular type of sunscreen was a top choice from Consumer Reports

Swimsuit options - I always buy new swimsuits. This year, I went with ASOS as my swimwear choice but Target, J.Crew and Kate Spade has some super-cute ones too!

Cetaphil moisturizer - this is on every list I have; summer or winter...doesn't matter.

Neutrogena body oil - great moisturizing option especially if you've been a beach bunny all day.

Revlon Lip Butter - I just discovered this and I LOVE IT. It goes on so easy; adds a pop of color to your lips but also adds moisture. It's the best of both worlds!

Something to read - I always hoard magazines before vacation. This time, I still have the magazines but I've picked up a new book to read. Grab a copy for yourself at Amazon!

Shop my packing favorites!

What are your favorite items to pack for summer vacation?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Around the Web

Almost vacation time - nothing else matters at this point.

5 reasons to do a 'first look' at your wedding - via The Glitter Guide

The student who turned down ALL of the ivy league schools - via Today.com (VIDEO)

10 things this student learned in culinary school - via The Kitchn

33 of the best ice cream shops in America - via Thrillist

Is it true? Taco Bell could serve alcohol soon? - via Huffington Post Taste

Ikea wants to serve us breakfast in bed - via Brit & Co.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cherry Simple Syrup

I don't like when foods go to waste at home especially now that we have a juicer. Prior to the juicer, I hate to admit, I would probably just throw things out and not think twice about it. I go through these cleaning fits where I just start to throw out everything. Whether it's in the refrigerator or on a bookshelf, it's getting thrown out. Now, I'm more careful and aware of what's happening in the kitchen and John and I will try to juice on Sunday's. Occasionally, when I have some aging fruits and herbs in the fridge, I either make a juice or make a simple syrup because it's just such an easy to way to elevate cocktails and teas! I've said it a thousand times, homemade simple syrups are so much better than the store bought stuff and it's not time consuming at all.

I just love experimenting with random flavored simple syrups. It's one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. So with this one, it's mainly a cherry flavored syrup but I added a little lemon to amp it up a bit.

How to make:
1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of sugar
cherries (I used about 11 or 12 cherries), pitted & halved
lemon zest

Combine the water, sugar and cherries in a small pot and heat. Bring to a slight simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Once dissolved, remove from heat and gently 'smash' the cherries (just a little) to release a bit of cherry juice.

Then add in a little lemon zest, if you wish, and allow the cherries and zest to sit. I let mine sit for about 30-45 minutes because I forgot about it.

Add in to your favorite tea or cocktails like this gin & tonic that I made!

I just added one or two spoonfuls of the syrup to my gin and tonic just to give it another level of flavor.

So good!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Weekend

Seriously, this weekend wasn't full of lots of frolicking and crazy antics with friends. It was filled with running tons of errands and cleaning. John and I are prepping for vacation so the list person in this relationship (me), is trying to keep us on task and on schedule before leaving. I realized on Sunday afternoon that I hadn't taken any photos for my weekend post, which usually means I had a super busy weekend, I did absolutely nothing OR I did nothing exciting. This weekend was a mixture of all 3 I think.

I did have my friend Jennifer over to chat business and her birthday party but the planner/blogger in me thought, let's kill two birds with one stone: have Jennifer over but also make a cocktail that I needed to try out for the blog. I'm having cocktail week in June and the first cocktail, Jennifer and I tried yesterday. Looking forward to more taste-testing. Hope you had a great weekend!

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wedding Week: Tips for Planning a Wedding

Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post were captured by Krisandra Evans Photography.

Planning a wedding can be fun, maybe a little stressful at times but if you keep your eye on the important task at hand (marrying your awesome spouse-to-be), everything will be just fine. Trying to balance planning a wedding, a huge work event all while still writing my column and blog made for a very busy wedding planning time, for but luckily, we had  amazing friends who helped us pull off this day...I'm not quite sure what we would have done without them. Our guest list, which kept growing, eventually worked itself out to a comfortable number (what started out as an 80 person invite ended up being close to 150) but I don't think I would have had it any other way!

To conclude wedding week, I've included a PDF at the end of this post that has tips on how you can survive your wedding day; it also has a vendor list of all the peeps that provided an item and/or service for our wedding day. If you see something you like, reach out to them - we worked with some of the best and nicest people! And thank God for my matron of honor who kept me level-headed and laughing for the duration of our planning.

This day was just so much fun and I *almost* wish I could relive it.

To all of our friends, families and vendors who helped make our day the best day ever, thank you! If there are any soon-to-be brides reading this, I hope you'll learn something from this survival guide and remember: at the end of the day, relax...it's all going to be fine.

A Guide to Surviving Your Wedding - PDF

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wedding Week: The Reception

Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post were captured by Krisandra Evans Photography.

Our reception was pretty chill in the decor category. You see these weddings sometimes that have over top centerpieces and things hanging from the ceiling and even though that stuff is great if it's in your budget, it wasn't in ours so we got creative.

Etsy was our friend as were antique shops and thrift stores. I knew that I loved the the rustic look and I figured that out quickly; it saved me a lot of headaches and time during the planning process. Because I enlisted friends to help me (and I wanted them to remain my friends after the wedding), I had to be fairly organized going into this process.

Our ceremony and reception were held at the same venue...I'm thinking that's the norm now days, right?


Things I knew:

I knew I wanted a big window to display the seating arrangement, a variety of bottles for flowers and vintage books as part of our table design.

The original idea was to have a burlap runner going down each table but my friends who are super-smart encouraged me to do a butcher paper runner instead since it's less expensive and it still looks nice. Smart decision even though I still have a massive amount of butcher paper left over. Maybe I can use it for a crawfish boil?

The books. John works for a book store company so I thought it was cute to incorporate books AND he can get them for free or super cheap. So we paid NOTHING for our book centerpieces! I knew that I wanted some flowers but I didn't want them to be overwhelming. Just simple, mismatch flowers were fine with me. It's rustic, right? We also added a few pieces of dried lavender and yellow billy balls to our centerpieces because it's fun!


The drama of trying to figure out an appropriate and inexpensive wedding favor for your guests can definitely be difficult. We decided to pick something that fit in with our decor, was easy to put together and something that our friends and family could hold on to for a bit of time after the wedding. So we went with succulents! Succulents are so cute and went perfect with our rustic themed wedding. I had a few friends over (Jennifer, Hannah & Monica...I LOVE you) the week of the wedding to help me assemble the favors, which also doubled as our name cards. We ordered the succulents from California and they arrived shortly before the wedding to ensure they remained fresh.

Food + Drink

From the moment John and I got engaged we knew we didn't want the 'normal' wedding food. We both thought a food truck would be the perfect option for us...and it was. We went with a taco truck (Tex's Tacos) and it was amazing! There is nothing wrong with a traditional sit down dinner or buffet at a wedding. I went to tons of weddings last year and all had the most delicious foods. We just wanted to go with something that we loved and what we knew our guests would love. If you hire a food truck for your event, be sure to hire additional staff to help clean up afterwards. We did and it was the best thing ever. Since we didn't have a 'real' cocktail hour, we had chips and salsa on the tables for folks to snack on as they waited their turn for tacos.

Lucky for us, we were able to bring in our own liquor to our venue. That gave us lots of flexibility to buy liquor from a local store (where we were also able to get a discount) and hire a couple of bartenders. Since we weren't charging for drinks, this process was very easy. If you're buying liquor on your own, check with the liquor store to see if they will buy back any unopened bottles. Some stores will do that.

A wedding with no cake? Blasphemy.

We didn't have a cake. Don't get me wrong, I love cake...it's delicious but we didn't need or want to do the whole cake cutting thing nor did we want to pay hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars for a cake. So, we opted for a cookie bar! It's easy and we provided small, kraft treat bags that guests could fill with cookies to take home.  We also (last minute decision) had M&M's. Most may not have gotten the reference but we had M&M's because our last names both start with an M. It was that simple.


Like I mentioned yesterday, music was very important to us. Our DJ was great to work with and we were able to work with him to get just the right songs for our guests. We pretty much tailored our reception music to our liking as well as our guests. We knew everyone in that room (for the most part) and what they would want to hear. Sure, there were a few songs that the DJ played that weren't on our list but he's the DJ and knew what he was doing and we trusted his judgement. We wanted people to dance. I kept having nightmares before the wedding that no one would dance but lucky for us, our crew likes to party.

At the last minute of planning (literally the week of the wedding) an opportunity came about to have a photo booth at the ceremony. We couldn't say no! I'm so glad we decided to have a photo booth, it was a ton of fun! Here's our photo booth video:

Seriously the best. day. ever.

Tomorrow's post: Tips for planning + vendor list

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wedding Week: The Ceremony

      Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post were captured by Krisandra Evans Photography.

Short  & sweet.

That's how we wanted our ceremony. That didn't mean we didn't agree with some of the important parts of a traditional ceremony, it just meant that for us, having a long, drawn out and dramatic wedding wasn't anything we were interested in.

We wrote our own vows.

I think there's something really special and personal about writing your own vows. It's not for everyone but for us...it was just right.

John and I decided to see each other before the ceremony. We wanted to share that moment between the two of us and not all of our guests. It also saves some time after the ceremony. No one likes waiting hours for the guests of honor to arrive to the reception so we did photos before and a handful after the ceremony. Not everyone wants to see their groom/bride before their wedding but I wouldn't have had it any other way!

Another very important factor for was that our guests really enjoy the moment with us. We invited close family and our closest friends to celebrate this day and we really wanted everyone to be present. We did that by requesting that our ceremony be "unplugged".

It's not that we didn't want folks to have fun and take pictures it's that we didn't want guests to get in the way of our awesome photographer. There's nothing more that I hate than someone getting in the way of a couple's "first kiss" picture because they want the first snap. I'd highly suggest doing this. Here's a great article written by Corey Ann on why you should consider an unplugged ceremony. The photo below is an example of how inconsiderate some people can be:

photo via Huffington Post
Luckily, at our wedding we didn't have any guests who just stood in front of the photographer like the photo; our friends and family were engaged like we hoped!

Order of Service

We didn't have a lot of pomp and circumstance at our ceremony. Meaning, there was no one singing songs or dancing, there was no candle lighting or jumping of the broom...it was simplicity at its best. The only thing we did "extra", besides normal ceremony stuff was to have two of my closest friends read the poem, The Art of Marriage.

I love these ladies and I'm so happy they agreed to be a part of our special day! Tisa (on the left) has an awesome blog too - check it: The Gold Curve.


John and I both love music so it was really important for us to set the tone for our wedding with the right music. We handpicked/crafted the music that would be playing as guests arrived and carefully picked the songs for the processional and recessional. The songs weren't anything obscure but they were songs that were meaningful to us. All of the songs used as guests were arriving had the word "love" in the title and they were, in fact, songs that we loved and songs about love. Here's the Spotify playlist of those songs plus our processional and recessional songs.

Tomorrow's post: The reception

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wedding Week: What We Wore

Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post were captured by Krisandra Evans Photography.

For a bride, picking a dress can be a daunting task. For someone like myself, I tend to enjoy the art of "getting stuff done" so the dress shopping task simply could not be stressful. If you're planning a wedding or helping someone plan a wedding, the most important part to making this a non-stressful task is knowing what you want. Before you frolic out to start your search, know what you like and what looks flattering on your body. Otherwise, you're in for a very long and drawn out wedding dress search.

I knew going in I didn't want a "traditional" dress. I rarely wear white - though I do enjoy a good white v-neck tee or cute white jeans for the summer - white isn't a color I wear a lot. I did try on white dresses just to be sure but ultimately, the dress I ended up purchasing, was blush in color AND originally discovered on Pinterest.

Note: I never once opened a bridal or wedding magazine throughout this process - too overwhelming.

My BFF/Matron of Honor and I went to two stores for dress shopping and that was it. It just so happened that one of the stores we went into carried the designer (Maggie Sottero) that I loved AND they had the Pinterest dress. I tried the dress on twice before making the purchase and I never looked back! When budgeting for a dress, make sure to budget money for alterations. Alterations aren't cheap!

Shoes were easy. I went with Badgley Mischka. Shop some of my favorite Badgley Mischka shoes:

Reception dress

I made the decision to have an outfit change. Not completely necessary but my wedding dress was very heavy. I love the dress and would have loved to wear it all night but that just wasn't practical AND when would I ever be able to do a wardrobe change in the middle of an event and be not judged? Only at my wedding, right? So I did. I used the photo below (found on Pinterest) as inspiration when I started looking for a reception dress:

image via Green Wedding Shoes

And ultimately, I wore this; purchased at H&M for $70:

photo on the left is a silly Instagram pic.

Shop a few of my reception dress lookalikes here:

The Groom:

Luckily for John, he already owned a tuxedo. Neither one of us felt like there was any need to go out and purchase another one - the one he has is nice and hadn't been worn a lot. We did buy him a new, oversized Calvin Klein bow tie that I loved!

Our wedding party:

John's brother served as our groomsman and he too, already owned a tux - his bow tie was from a personal collection.

My matron of honor, wore a black satin dress found at David's Bridal.

We decided to have the wedding party wear black - simple but elegant...also one of my favorite colors.  Others may scoff at the idea of wearing black for a spring wedding but we loved it and our wedding was in the evening - so it was perfect!

Tomorrow's post: Ceremony details!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Weekend

I had a long weekend and it was fantastic! Friday both John and I had the day off and it was amazing! The weather was gorgeous and we really got a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather and get some stuff done. We started with breakfast at a local gelato shop/restaurant (Milk & Honey) then posted up at a coffee shop for a few hours and drank coffee, ate and marked off some things on our to do list. We saw friends Friday night and had a couple of friends over Saturday night. I spent most of my Saturday cleaning and pretending to get organized, which worked to some extent. Sunday was Mother's Day and as you know, my family does not live here so we spent the morning and afternoon with John's parents! Overall it was a beautiful weekend! The perfection of this past weekend is making it very hard for me to live by my new philosophy of being just as happy for Monday as I am for Friday. Not really sure how today will top that...here's to hoping!

The rest of this week on the blog is dedicated to our wedding and I'm so excited! We got our pictures back not too long ago and I'm excited to share a little insight into the most perfect day ever! On Friday, I'll share some tips that I learned and an updated vendor list in case you're planning a wedding or an event!

Oh! How could I forget! We had dinner (again) at Two Ten Jack and met one of our favorite couples who was visiting from Huntsville. The cocktails at Two Ten Jack don't disappoint and the playlist was even better. It was icing on the cake to get to enjoy it with friends.

Happy Monday!

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