Monday, July 21, 2014

Bachelorette Weekend

My friend Sandy gets married in less than two weeks!! Ahhh!

I am SO excited. This is my first time really being in a wedding. The last time I was in one I was 14 so I didn't do a whole lot. It is an entirely different experience actually helping to plan things.

The other bridesmaids and I started planning for this weekend (which was actually a week ago...I'm a bit behind) about a month out. A million email threads later, we had a plan.

We decided to stay in Naperville, IL, at the Hotel Arista in this really fancy suite on the top floor. The views were amazing! There were a few other bachelorette parties there that weekend, and there was also a wedding going on at the hotel.

I got to Naperville early to have lunch with a couple friends, drop some things off at the hotel, and meet Sandy and some of the other girls at a nail salon. We didn't clue Sandy in to a single thing we were doing!

I always get yelled at when I get my nails done. The nail ladies scold me for having such frail, peeling nails. Trust me, I don't like it either, but it was a genetic gift from my mom (who frequently keeps them secured under acrylics,) so those beauties are mine to keep.

Anyway, after nails we went to an Irish pub for dinner! This was actually very appropriate, considering Sandy is marrying an Irish guy. And she's Indian. They are going to make really super cute, gorgeous babies someday.

For the rest of the evening, we played games at the hotel and had food and opened gifts and then took a shuttle out to Downtown Naperville to visit some bars and play a scavenger hunt. Sandy and I were paired together, which was hilarious because neither of us is very gutsy when it comes to that kind of thing. We definitely lost. But that's okay, because it was just as much fun watching what the other girls came up with!

I think my favorite was the group of middle-aged people at the hotel who were eager to help, and a couple of the men did the "get a picture of a random guy proposing to you" picture. 

It rained, but that was okay. It actually looked really cool from the hotel room. I think the bride-to-be had a wonderful time, and it was so much fun spoiling her for a night!

Now for the photos:

Tom helped decorate the cupcakes the night before :)

Strawberry cupcakes with lime frosting

View from the hotel!

Nighttime view

Take a picture with another bachelorette party. Check! Too bad their bride was sick and had to go home. 

The group! Those are bouquets of dum dums for people to buy for a buck per lollipop. People thought we were giving them away for free. One girl even asked me if we were selling them for a good cause. They say "Suck for a Buck" on them! What cause would that even be for?! I told her they were for the bride's honeymoon fund and she was clearly not interested.

And of course, the party favors. I'm still upset I forgot to take one before we left.

On that note...Happy Monday!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

House Hunting

Tom and I have been talking about the kind of house we want for two years now. We get into these spurts and watch a lot of HGTV and stalk our favorite neighborhoods online.

But up until now, it's been this arbitrary thing of "someday." WELL! We have a timeline, friends!

Our goal is and has been to move out of Tom's parents' basement before we're married. When I moved in with his family in May of 2013, I was nowhere ready mentally for home ownership, not to mention the obvious lack of funds we had available right out of college. I've loved living in our basement home, and his parents are truly amazing people for letting us live here while we save up.

But once we hit the year mark of living in the basement, we started to get antsy. So we started doing more work on what it takes to get a house.

Aaaaand we don't know what the hell we're doing. It's all so confusing! Pre-qualification, qualification, finding a realtor, the whole bidding process, home inspection, price range?! Thank you, Chase Bank home buying webinar, for reminding us that we are essentially clueless.

Luckily we are obsessive researchers (two INTJ's in a relationship makes for a lot of that) and we are preparing.

The past couple years haven't been a lot of "What color kitchen do you want?" and "open concept?" (It took me awhile to figure out exactly what 'open concept' actually was. I assumed it was just a thing they said on House Hunters.)

It's been more about the practical stuff. We need a basement because we live in Central Illinois (AKA tornadoes.) We need a fenced-in or fence-able yard. Ideally, we would like a two-stall garage. That's it. Those are our must-haves.

What makes it harder is we have one single neighborhood we want. Just one! Places are always up for sale in there, but still. Come March when we start looking (only seven months away!!) there will hopefully be a lot of options. We're really excited to have a place of our own!

So that's what we're up to right now. A lot of house talk.

See my house pinterest board here.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wedding planning weekend!

Whew, this summer is insane! But that's okay, I like it that way. I have taken yet another week and a half, two week break from blogging, but I'm not closing up shop. I feel like a lot of the blogs I read have been posting "This may be my last post..." posts, but I really do enjoy having a place to chronicle things in my life.

That being said, here are some two week old photos for you!

A couple weekends ago, my mom and grandma (actually my dad's mom...yes, they still talk even though my parents are divorced, and my mom does her hair!) came out to visit so they could see my wedding dress, help me choose some accessories, see our venue, etc.

We'd been planning the weekend for a couple months so I was thrilled when it finally arrived. I remember feeling like work just dragged on that day, especially once they arrived in town in the mid-afternoon!

On Friday evening we went to the dress shop to pick up my dress and hopefully choose a veil. What actually happened is my mom and grandma, (both wearing something bedazzled,) convinced me to add some bling to my dress. I am not a blingy sort of individual, but it did look good. (It's so hard not to share photos of that dress!) So we ended up choosing a belt, but I am still on the market for a veil.

If you know of any good places to find one, let me know!

After that, we ate dinner and headed back to their hotel for the evening.

The next morning, we got breakfast and met Tom and his mom back at their house. We looked through baby pictures for awhile (Tom was a REALLY cute baby, blonde curls and dimples and all that) and then headed out to take a tour of our wedding/reception venue and the hotel next door where we will be blocking rooms.

I liked that when we took the reception venue tour, there was a wedding set up for later in the day. We didn't get to see that last time we were out there, so that was helpful. Although that particular setup was smothered in pink. Like, baby pink. And glitter. I often wonder with weddings like that if the guy had any say in it, or if that is the exact vision the bride had since she was five. OR maybe they both like pink a lot! But still, I wonder about these things.

Then we got lunch, and my mom and grandma headed home to Chicagoland, and Tom and I took naps and went to a concert riverfront with some friends.

I love that dress shop.

Taking home the dress!

Dinner on the riverfront. (Sorry for the grainy photos. I've been out a digital camera since I dropped mine in the snow in January.)

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pumpkin Palooza

You know how Aug. 1 rolls around and suddenly almost every blogger is all "FALL FASHION! PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE! RIDING BOOTS!"

Well. I am sort of one of them, but probably worse. 

Last year, I spent the last week of May and most of June watching Halloweentown. (Proof here.) I was obsessed, probably because I had an inkling we'd be getting engaged in the fall. And I was right!

This year, I have held off. Typically by now I am going crazy pinning fall fashion and Halloween decor, but I can't get into it as much this year. After the insane, ice age of a winter that had my car sliding all over and me praying for my life every commute, I am actually grateful for the summer weather.

Normally, I can handle summer for about two weeks. This year, however, I am enjoying every sweltering minute (and those non-icy roads!) I do not want to just rush through summer like I usually do.

That being said, there is still a tiny part of me that can't wait for fall flavors. Yesterday, I indulged that. I went for the pumpkin.

I made pumpkin scones, recipe here. Wow, those are good. I added a pumpkin spice glaze. These are so amazing warmed up. 

And the thing I am REALLY excited about is this Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Shake. (Recipe here.) Whooaaa that is delicious. And it's slightly more acceptable for July because it's cold! 

Here is the photo from the recipe. I keep drinking it too fast to take a picture:

Yeah. Delicious.

Speaking of pumpkins....

Check out how our pumpkins are coming along! This is just one of four areas. It's the fastest-growing of the bunch so far. I can't wait until the tiny pumpkins start forming!

Today is going to be a high of 66 degrees. Which is very strange, but I LOVE it. It goes well with all this pumpkin. It'll be 90 again in a couple days, but until then, I am going to enjoy this gorgeous weather. Sorry I wrote about pumpkins two days before Fourth of July.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bridal Shows: A War Story

Back in January and February, this town was inundated with bridal shows. Of course, I was interested. I remembered attending one when was I was 13 and my aunt was getting married. Some people thought I was the bride. That made me particularly upset because I couldn't even drive, and in my mind at the time, no one should get married without a driver's license. Obviously that was the real issue. Not the fact that I was 13. But I was still looking forward to the day when I actually was the bride and could take home all those cool pamphlets. Also, cake. I heard rumors of cake samples, so that was truly my (and Tom's) ultimate goal!

Anyway, fast forward 10 years and there Tom and I stood, preparing to enter our first wedding expo (bridal show? bridal expo? What do you even call these things?)

We attended two. Both of them were pretty much the same, have blended together in my mind, and went something like this:

Enter bridal show. Sign in. Receive coveted bag of pamphlets I have been looking forward to for the past ten years.

Walk in, instantly overwhelmed. I did not realize there were like 63 florists, 85 DJ's and an endless supply of tanning places in Central Illinois. Also, why is techno and flashing lights happening at noon on a Saturday?

Oh, and all of these people want to talk to us? We don't want to talk. Let's just smile, wave, pretend we don't hear them, and zero in on that table with the cake and gourmet cookie samples.

And then eat two of every sample.

We soon realize that Tom is outnumbered. Very outnumbered. It seems for every bride, there is an army entourage of ladies.

And there we were, Tom and I, just trying to find more cake and vacation giveaways to enter. And the people were everywhere.

Brides. Everywhere. I have no idea why, but it made me panicky. At one point Tom and I hid in a corner eating a pasta sample. We just looked around, mildly terrified.

So after taking some boxed cake samples for the road,

We ran away. And did not return. The world of wedding planning is a strange, tulle-covered, sparkly chevron place of mystery and peonies. Since most of my friends are far away, Tom and I hang in there together.

(In case it wasn't obvious by this post, I am practically counting down the months until we go sample wedding cakes! )

Did you attend bridal expos? What was your experience like?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Masters of DIY + weekend

You may not know this, but Tom and I are true masters of DIY-ing. Particularly when it comes to movie nights. Every few months, we come up with a theme and create a fort over our bed, and decorate it with the finest Dollar Tree items we can find.

Seriously, Pinterest has nothing on our craftsmanship. 

A couple months ago we created this piece of gloriousness for our under-the-sea movie night. Note the octopi bows:

For this weekend's movie night, we decided to do a "Summer Night" theme.


Light-up frog thing, $1. Lily pad and pond, crafted by Tom.

 This lamppost night light, $1

Assorted pillows tossed on ground, Merlin the owl and winter owl blanket

Stars and moon, cut out by Tom

He said it looked like the stars on either end were wearing pants.

Movie of the night was "Girl Most Likely" with Kristen Wiig. It was...odd. Not totally unenjoyable, just strange. But we always enjoy theme movie night! (Side note...when I was googling "Kristen Wiig" to make sure I was spelling her name correctly, "Kristen Wiig feet" was one of the top search terms that came up. What?!)

Other weekend things:

Bags tournament at a bar. We rarely go out, but Tom's friend was back from the Marines. There were lots of amaretto stone sours going on.

Love my morning Matcha!

Me at a coffee shop. See the giant bear behind me?

Ah well, that's all for now. Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is "happy"?

Riley makes me happy.

And just like that, we're nearing mid-June. 

This past weekend I got to go home, visit my family, and meet up with friends at a friend's bridal shower. I love where I live now, but going home to the Chicago suburbs always feels like getting back to my roots. 

Then I got back to work, and things were crazy. It's all calmed down now, but it was just one of those days that took a long walk, working out, and meditation to relax in the evening.

I was thinking about "happy" in the midst of all that. There is so much out there telling us to be happy. "Do what makes you happy, go where you feel happiest, life is too short to be anything but happy," etc.

And I thought about this excerpt I read on A Cup of Jo the other day: 

"I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don't mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It's a really odd thing that we're now seeing people saying "write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep" and "cheer up" and "happiness is our birthright" and so on. We're kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It's rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don't teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, "Quick! Move on! Cheer up!" I'd like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word "happiness" and to replace it with the word "wholeness." Ask yourself, "Is this contributing to my wholeness?" and if you're having a bad day, it is."

Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

There is so much truth in that. It's confusing to be told to strive to be happy, because to me, that's more a surface mood than anything else. It comes and goes depending on the day. We know it means something deeper, like contentment at a soul level, but I think we more often associate "happy" with smiling, playing, and being free from pain or stress.

Being told to "do what makes you happy" confuses people into doing what they think is easy. Because the real feeling they're looking for is appreciation, or wholeness, as Hugh MacKay pointed out. But what is truly meaningful to them might take work, sweat, tears and sacrifices, and certainly isn't going to make them feel happy all of the time. 

Something doesn't have to make you eternally happy to be completely worth your time and dedication. I try to replace "happy" with "grateful." If I am having an awful day, I am not going to be happy about it. But I still feel grateful for it, because I think everything I have right now belongs in my life. Some things I am even astounded I get to claim as my own. 

The only part I don't agree with out of that passage is the line about writing down things that make you happy. I think doing that is great. Why not? It's always just reminded me of the things that make me smile, and the things I am grateful for.

What do you think? Is all this "happy" pushing us to strive for a mood rather than a purpose?

Happy Wednesday!