Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weekend in the Woods: Gifts for my Girls

My girls are incredibly special to me, and after all they had done for me leading up to the wedding, including an amazing book shower and a great bachelorette weekend away, I knew I wanted to give them something really special at the bridesmaid luncheon. But I also wanted their presents to be meaningful to them and to our friendship. So I decided the best way for me to do that was to make part of their present.

I made my girls make up bags (full disclosure - they were supposed to be clutches but I didn't make them sturdy enough so I called them makeup bags). I didn't do my own tutorial because I followed the lovely Mrs. Peep Toe's tutorial pretty much exactly. I loved the random fabrics that I found (both for the outside and the lining), and I think my girls really liked them.

Inside the makeup bags I included earrings and an initial necklace. Mrs. Cheeseburger pointed me in the direction to get the initial necklaces as I couldn't quite afford the ones from Tiffany's.

The third part of their present was a pair of earrings that I handmade out of beads I got (backed on a piece of the same cardstock that I used for our invitations that I printed with their name on it). I hadn't necessarily planned on the girls wearing the necklaces and earrings for the wedding, as I mainly wanted to get them something that they would like and wear after the wedding. But they all decided they wanted to wear them for the wedding which ended up tying their non-matching black dresses together really nicely.

The last part of their present was a blue pashmina shawl. This part of the present I was planning on having them wear for the wedding. All along I knew that I wanted to add a pop of color to the black dresses they would be wearing and thought the pashmina was the way to do it. I love the color that I picked and all of my girls looked so gorgeous on the day of the wedding!

Image via Persimmon Images.

The shawls also came in very handy for the photos before the ceremony as it was so cold that day.

Next up, it's the day before the wedding and the wedding weekend officially begins!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Weekend in the Woods: Lunching with my Bridesmaids

My family is from the South, and even though I technically haven't lived there since I was 6 weeks old, there are some Southern traditions that have stayed with us (including my propensity to say "y'all" whenever possible). One of those traditions is the bridesmaid luncheon. I believe this usually takes place the day before the wedding, but for logistical purposes we held it on Thursday. My grandmother has hosted this luncheon for most of my cousins, and she and my aunts hosted the luncheon for me. We invited my bridesmaids and Mr. EB's and my female relatives who were in town to lunch at my aunt's house. 

But first, my girls and I went to get our nails done.

Bridesmaid N and Bridesmaid K

I met my girls in the morning to get manicures and pedicures which was a great way to kick off the weekend festivities and spend some time together. Unfortunately, while my pedicure was great, my manicure was not and I ended up taking it off before the wedding and just putting on some clear polish and calling it a day.

After we were done at the salon, I changed and headed over to my aunt's house. My grandmother and aunts hosted this wonderful luncheon for me, and it was such a fantastic way to see so many of my family and friends before the wedding and get even more excited for the wedding weekend!

Mom EB, three of my aunts and Grandma EB

My aunts had planned a wonderful lunch - Ivar's clam chowder, minestrone soup, a huge fruit salad and some incredibly delicious bruschetta. It was so good and I ate a lot (which is significant as it was my last real meal until after the weekend... but more on that later!). Mostly though, I was really grateful for the chance to spend time with some of my favorite people.

Aunt EB, Grandma EB, Mr. EB's Grandma, MIL EB

Mr. EB's cousin, Mom EB, my second mom, Aunt EB

My aunt (who was my go-to design genius for this entire wedding) made me this beautiful crown to wear for the day - all in our wedding colors of blue and green!

My aunt also made sure to take a picture of me with each of my bridesmaids

Me and Sister EB

After lunch I gave my girls their presents. I'll do a more detailed post on what I gave them, but I included a silver initial necklace (Sister EB and I are wearing them in the picture above), earrings, a makeup bag/clutch, and a blue pashmina shawl that they wore for the wedding.

Even though Mr. EB's sister was a groomswoman, I wanted to include her in all of the bridesmaid activities so I made sure she got all the same things that the bridesmaids got.

After my girls opened their presents we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting as people came and went (several more family members came in that afternoon so we got to see almost all of my mom's family before the weekend started). We had planned on having a wedding weekend so that we could spend as much time as possible with all of our guests who were traveling to celebrate with us, and the bridesmaid luncheon was the perfect kickoff event. 

Next up, Friday comes and my calmness dissolves into tears in a parking lot. Luckily, Mom EB knows how to save the day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Learning to Shop Again

Over the last several years I cut way back on personal shopping. The main reason for this was a lack of funds. The other reason is that I generally don't like to shop. But really, it was because I didn't have a lot of money. Other than one year in which I was earning a great salary, since 2005 I have either been in law school (and therefore trying to cut costs wherever I could to avoid taking out more in loans), supporting multiple people on one salary, or unemployed. 

Because of this, I have become extremely conservative in how I view money. Specifically, if it's not food or something for B and me together, I usually feel guilty spending money on it. This isn't to say it's stopped me completely from shopping, as I've certainly spent money on myself in the last 6 years, but I've really cut down on what I do buy for myself (maybe this is why I'm so willing to buy good food and wine? It's one of my few indulgence areas). This is good in that we were able to stretch out our savings when my unemployment stint stretched longer than either of us had anticipated. But it's also bad because it means that clothes-wise, just about everything I own is several years old (or way older. For example, during our last move when I was going through my clothes I found a shirt I'd worn in middle school. WTH, me? Of course then I found another shirt I'd worn in middle school that was super baggy and comfortable. I kept that one as a sleep shirt). Or my clothes don't fit properly. Or they are definitely wearing (or already worn) out. 

I was reading Nodakademic's post awhile back about ruthlessly cutting her wardrobe and I really need to do that too. I'm just afraid that I won't have anything to wear! Although, when Gretchen Rubin did the same thing in her Happiness Project (more on my thoughts about that book soon - I finished it last week and loved it!), she noted that she actually enjoyed picking out clothes more when there were fewer of them because she liked everything in her closet rather than feeling meh about much of her wardrobe.

Now that I'm employed again I've realized that there are certain items that I would like to update or purchase for my wardrobe, but I've also realized that I'm tired of buying cheap things that wear out in several months (or look crappy after just one washing). So I want to buy nicer pieces that will last (people generally use the word "invest" when talking about buying nicer clothes, but given that I do not anticipate making money off of clothes ever, I don't think the term "invest" is really appropriate. I can't remember where I read that, but I totally agree with that sentiment). 

I want a nice pair of flats and I'm looking really strongly at Tieks. As much as I love shoes, I've never bought a pair that cost more than $100, and I kind of can't believe that I'm thinking about it, but I have really sensitive feet and all of the flats that I've purchased tear them up. These are supposed to be super comfortable and should last me for awhile. And since my commute now includes at least 10 minutes of walking on either side of my bus ride, I really need shoes that are comfortable and won't rip my feet to shreds. Also since I'm likely to be doing more traveling with this job, I'd really like flats that are both professional looking (and cute!) and allow me to be on my feet for long periods at a time if necessary.

Other things that I'd like to get include a nice waterproof jacket with a hood (see, e.g. walk time as part of my commute now. I live in Seattle. It's about damn time I have a hood attached to my jacket so I'll stop complaining given that I refuse to carry an umbrella). And maybe I can score a deal since I'll be looking for a winter type jacket as we're heading into summer (if summer EVER comes to the NW). My job now also allows me to wear casual clothes every day, so I'd like to get a few more nice tops to wear with jeans (plus another pair of jeans, but I wait for Gap sales to buy them because as much as I like them, I refuse to pay full price for them).

Clearly I can't purchase all of these things at once (we do have a lot of other areas including building back our savings account and paying down debt that our money needs to go towards at the moment). Plus, given that the days are slowly but surely getting nicer around here, the jacket is probably lowest on my priority list, while the shoes are at the top.

I also think that no matter what I do need to severely clear out my closet. I did this when we moved from Portland to Seattle and got rid of at least 3 garbage bags full of clothes, but my closet still feels stuffed with things that I NEVER wear. I've hung on to them for far too long as it is. If there's still a price tag on something and I haven't worn it yet, it's gotta go. If it doesn't fit anymore, it's gotta go. I need to remember that nothing is a good deal if I'm not going to wear it, and I cannot buy clothes thinking that I will lose weight and they will fit. If I lose weight, then I can buy a new pair of pants! In fact, I think that will be a nice reward for actually losing the 15 pounds I'd like to shed - pants purchased in 2011 rather than the ones I've been hanging onto for the last several years.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend in the Woods: One Week Out

After we we bottled, sealed and labeled our wedding wine, we were officially one week out! That last week before the wedding I was remarkably calm. Our adventure to get our marriage license had been accomplished, and I had given myself a deadline of the Sunday before the wedding to finish all of my outstanding projects, like the Facebook, our seating chart poster, our programs and the gifts that I was making for my girls (which I'll show you soon). 

A sneak peak of the clutches I made for my bridesmaids.

Once all those things were done, the week stretched before me - not quite empty, but also not stretched thin with too many details to worry about! Prior to the one week mark I'd been making lists (and lists of lists, and then some more lists!) of everything that would be happening on the days leading up to the wedding, including where I was going to be and what I needed to get done. My mom had been doing the same thing and had even figured out where all of the family would be at various points.

A few of the mason jars and other votive candle holders we collected for decor spread out on my mom's table before we packed them up!

See, while it was a local wedding for us, probably 85% of the guest list was from out of town. That meant that not only did we want to figure out when they were arriving before the wedding and what they were doing, but that we also wanted to see them! I figured the best way to be able to accomplish that was if all of the other details were finished.

Pile o' wedding crap that had to get moved to IslandWood.

The day that marked the real beginning of wedding festivities for me was Wednesday. My sister flew in that day and we headed to the island to get everything organized. Luckily we were able to move almost everything to IslandWood that day - all the candles and mason jars, all of the paper products, everything that we were going to want for the wedding was in place at the venue by Wednesday. I am so happy that we were able to store all of that stuff on site for a couple of days, because there just wasn't going to be time on Friday to schlep everything over there.

After getting everything organized on the island, I headed back to Seattle for a night of relaxing with Mr. EB after he got done with class (oh yeah, did I mention he had finals just a few weeks after the wedding? And because he was taking several days off after the wedding he was trying to cram some major studying in before the wedding. Poor guy). The next day was the bridesmaid luncheon, and then the wedding weekend would truly begin!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Weekend in the Woods: Sealing it Up

When we brought the wine home after bottling it there were two more steps that we had to do before our wedding wine was complete: labeling and sealing the bottles. We planned to label all of the bottles, but we only wanted to seal the bottles that we were giving as favors and the ones that we would keep after the wedding. And all of the wine that we planned to serve at the wedding didn't need a seal since we would be opening it soon.

Dad set up an assembly line as he labeled the wine while the wax melted and Mr. EB, Mom EB and I got ready to help him seal the bottles.

This was another part of the process that went much quicker than I expected it to go. We purchased wax that was specifically for sealing wine bottles and got an old pan from Goodwill to melt it in.

After the wax melted, we all dipped the bottles into the wax, sealing the bottles.

There were lots of drips of wax everywhere as we twisted the bottles to let the wax drip down the sides of the bottleneck, so newspapers were a must to protect the counters!

After the wine was labeled and sealed, we boxed it all up and left it in the hallway before taking it over to IslandWood on the Wednesday before the wedding.

(Don't worry - we didn't drink all this wine at the wedding! A lot of the wine was labeled with my Dad's own label to use for business purposes and the rest of the wine we've had to enjoy after the wedding.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Weekend in the Woods: Bottling Our Wedding Wine

Before the wedding I talked about how we had the opportunity to blend our own wedding wine. After we blended the wine and it spent some time in the barrel it was time to bottle it! We had such a fantastic experience blending and bottling our wine, and I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to have such a hands on experience. I learned a lot about how wine is bottled, and discovered that 1 barrel of wine equals approximately 24 cases of wine. Which surprisingly actually does fit stacked into the back of a Ford Escape. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, Mom helped to set up the barrel so that we could get the wine out of the barrel and into a stainless steel tank (on the right of the above picture). I helped by taking pictures of the process.

As the wine flowed into the metal container, Dad added some things to help make the wine more drinkable right away (since we were bottling the wine just a couple of weeks before the wedding). 

Now, we were ready to really start bottling! We had to get the empty bottles out of the cases, set them up on the conveyor belt where they would get washed, filled, corked and then sent on their way to the end of the belt where we packed them back into the cases. We skipped the labeling and sealing steps because we were going to do that by hand at home later on.

Our empty wine bottles.

We sent through a test run of bottles to make sure that everything was working correctly with the bottling machinery (much better to figure out if something is wrong after 6 bottles than after you've bottled the whole barrel!). 

We poured the wine back into buckets (don't worry, everything was incredibly clean, so we could pour this back with the rest of the wine and bottle it again).

Then we tried the wine, proclaimed it excellent and the machinery ready to go! I continued to help by taking pictures. And trying the wine! Of course we still had to wash the bottles that we sent through on the test run, and then run them through again in order to make sure that the height of the filled bottles was the correct height for corking the bottles. But THEN it was really time to bottle all of the wine.

Mom and Dad EB put the empty bottles onto the conveyor belt.

The bottles went through the machine where they were filled and corked,

and then they came out the other side where we packed them back into their boxes.

And look - I helped by doing more than just taking pictures here!

This is a good overview of the whole process in action. Dad EB is putting the empty wine bottles onto the conveyor belt on the left, and our friends at the winery were collecting the filled bottles at the end of the line and packing them into the cases (that's where I was helping when I wasn't taking pictures).

We added labels to several of the finished bottles so that we could give them to everyone at the winery who had helped us so much through the whole process. I came up with the original design for this label, but another of my Dad's friends finalized it and made it look much more professional than anything I could have come up with!

Finally we loaded up 24 cases of wine in the Escape!

I was pretty amazed at how quickly the process ended up going. We were in and out in just a couple of hours, and then on our way back home with our wedding wine, ready to seal and label our wedding wine!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful mom, who has always been there for me whenever I've needed her. 

And to my new mother in law, I love that I now have a second mom and another family that I've been welcomed into with open arms.

Happy Mother's Day to you both - love you!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Secrets of Adulthood

I just recently started reading the Happiness Project, and while I'm only a couple of chapters in, I'm really liking it so far. I'll definitely be writing more posts about this book, especially as it relates to marriage and work life, two things which I already recognize as being significant contributors to my happiness. The author, Gretchen Rubin (also a former attorney), has some excellent insights into what factors affect a person's happiness and I'm really excited about applying them to my own life. I'm also pretty sure this was intentional on my husband's part as he was the one who encouraged me to read the book after he finished it - I'm thinking my months of unhappiness while at past jobs and then being unemployed affected him as much as they affected me!

Among my first impressions of the book, one of the biggest things that jumped out at me is Gretchen's "Secrets of Adulthood." She dubs these secrets because they're things that you really only learn as you become an adult. But oh, how I wish I had learned the truth of several of these secrets earlier in my life! I guess I'll have to be content with recognizing them now, and living my life by these from here on out. You can find her full list here, but some of my favorites are:

  • The best reading is re-reading (I think this is one of the few that I have known since childhood, as for as long as I can remember, my favorite reading has always been to curl up with a story I've already read. It's like reconnecting with old friends.)

  • People don't notice your mistakes and flaws as much as you think.

  • Most decisions don't require extensive research.

  • Try not to let yourself get too hungry.

  • If you can't find something, clean up.

  • The days are long, but the years are short (this is similar to what my great-grandmother always said - she didn't worry when the years started flying by, it was only when the decades were whizzing past that she wondered where time had gone!)

  • What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN AWHILE.

  • You know as much as most people (I always think I'm the dumbest person in the room. I need to remind myself that that is very rarely the true situation).

  • If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.

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