Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Three

Habits of Mine That Annoy My Husband:

1) Only wanting his attention when he is trying to get something done. I argue that changing into his pajamas is not a pressing enough task to justify ignoring me and my need for enthusiastic kissing.

2) Refusing to clean out the refrigerator. Scott: Is this chicken still good? Me: No. Scott: [blank stare]

3) Leaving small bits of food on my plate after every meal. (Example: bread crust corners and grapes rejected based on size and lack of firmness) He says I am "pouring one out for my homies".

Drawbacks to Having the Cats Outside:

1) The garage floor is now covered in litter. Still, better than our bedroom floor, in my opinion. Scott still attests that it's worse on concrete. Whatever.

2) Chubba jumps over the fence into the neighbor's yard every day, then sits there and cries until one of us notices. They are never home, so Scott inevitably has to walk around the block, break some laws to get in there, only to find her now hiding under the deck and refusing to come out.

3) We find fight club rings on our lawn made out of cat hair. Scott thinks the other cats are trying to jump Chubba into their gang. I make Scott herd them into the garage at night so I can sleep easier.

Random Things My Husband Has Bought Online
&%$# woot. Pardon my use of unreadable symbols.

1) Knight Flight Batman. Batman figurine uses twin propellers to fly forward, sideways, up and down (not backwards). Uses infrared remote.
Me: "What are you going to use this for?"
Scott: "Um, to fly?"

2) BIOS Home Weather Station. With PC Link Interface... whatever that means. Includes: wind sensor, rain sensor, temperature sensor and transmitter, wireless LCD monitor with PC weather analyzer software, I am cracking up as I'm reading this...

Current use? Footrest. Not even kidding.

3) USB Missile Launcher. It also came with a software program. Scott proceeds to take it to work and plug it into his work computer and use it to shoot his coworkers. And he was promoted to management. Your tax dollars at work, people. Anyway, the IT department calls him and it goes something like this:

IT: We've detected innappropriate software on your computer.
Scott: Oh, which program?
IT: Um, "missile command software"?
Scott: Uhhh... I have no idea what you're talking about....
IT: We can send someone down there to help you uninstall it if necessary.
Scott: MMmmmm, nah I can take care of it.
IT: Thank you.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Big Family Easter

We are very blessed when it comes to family. I was surprised, when I reached my twenties, to find very few sibling bonds like the one that I have with my sister Stephanie. We are seven years apart and closer than best friends could be. We used to think that our similarities were what created such closeness, but I no longer think that's it. We have a lot in common... a lot. But we are different in just as many ways. I am more of an open book, she holds her cards to her chest. I am always trying to maintain a million friendships, and she has more of a small, but enduring inner circle. She takes her time deciding who makes it there, and those that do tend to stay close to her for a long long time. When a relationship falls apart it's extra hard. I have learned to let people go through lots of practice, and some of the mistakes I have made in the past created a lot of unnecessary drama (think Dawson's Creek, haha). Trial by fire. My sister has a smoother social history, and has made infinitely more mature decisions both personally and professionally than I ever could have at twenty-two. She has more self confidence and ambition than I do. As open and friendly and sweet as she is, she packs a ton of mystery and power in her presence when she enters a room. It is subtle, but genuine. My entrance into a room has more in common with a golden retriever puppy.

I think our bond originates from a few sources. Our mom put a lot of effort into fostering our relationship, and giving me shared responsibility for her. I got so used to watching out for her that I can even remember the telltale sign that I needed to take her to the potty. When she was a toddler and just freshly out of diapers, she would do that ants-in-the-pants dance and I would have to rush her away fast before things got dicey. That habit took years to shake. I still find myself noticing a tapping foot or something and wanting to ask her if we should find a bathroom. Steph finds this hilarious.

We have leaned on each other from the beginning, and understood each other easily. Mom and Dad also used to take us on isolated vacations with no televisions or phones, so we bonded a lot over toys like yo-yos, and trying to boogie board on a lake. (Which you really can't, by the way, you just have competitions to see who can balance on the board the longest). We had each other, and that was perfect.

She has no idea how many opportunities await her, nor how beautiful she really is. I am so lucky to have not only such a close adult relationship with her, but all of these memories of her childhood- teaching her to walk, write, ride a bike. Her importance to me is so immense it is impossible to fathom.

She is also a wonderful aunt to Ben. She walks into a room and is instantly one of the major players. No matter how long it has been since she last saw him, he melts into her and within moments she is jumping in to change diapers and make him laugh. Our nuclear family is truly the four of us- when she is gone we feel her absence. But I know she is out there building a vibrant life, and that makes me happy.

The Bonds You Build

I am a big believer in Family, with a capital F, the one that you form and grow and breathe life into. We are very blessed with our family tree as well, but this weekend we spent time with our extended Family. Emily and Stephanie have been friends since early high school, and met Kirby in high school, too. Now that Steph has moved down to San Diego to join them, they have picked up like only family could. We love spending time with them, and Emily's parents, and they are so wonderful with Ben. Kirby was the first to make Ben laugh when he was just three months old, and he has fallen asleep blissfully in Emily's arms many times.

Scott Schmalbach, "Smalls", as we lovingly call him, met Scott in their fraternity during college. They became roommates and best friends. He and Heather got together early on (a fun and notable story for another time), and were married just months before I met Scott in 2003.

I met them even before I met his parents, and I think I was even more nervous! They were easy to be around and we had a wonderful time together. At the end of the weekend, I was just starting to relax, thinking I had made the best impression I could. We were all watching TV and I was on my way out the front door to grab something from the car when I snapped the doorknob clean off, effectively locking us all inside! I had one of those complete panicked moments where I was actually trying to figure out how to will it away with my mind. It seemed like the longest time before I finally had to turn to Heather and explain that I had literally torn the knob off of their front door! Classic.

In the years since, Heather has become another sister to me, and the four of us have created a tight family unit that fits together perfectly. Their daughter Sydney was the absolute center of the universe when she arrived three years ago. And then the most amazing miracle happened this past year- after two years of infertility and a miscarriage, Scott and I finally conceived. Heather was one of my very first calls (we had just gotten home from visiting them) and she told me she was also pregnant! We were due just a day apart and we didn't know if they would have a girl or a boy, but Dean surprised us all with his early arrival. I will never forget, at nearly nine months pregnant, running upstairs and jumping into Scott's arms to tell him about Dean's birth. A boy! Beyond our wildest, craziest dreams, we now have two little boys- miniature, chubby, carbon copies of their Dads, growing up side by side just three weeks apart. .

Here we are, our new group of seven.

So this is our home away from home, in San Diego, where we pretty much move in with our family and pretend that we live together all the time. You should see the guys, they are pretty stoic about it, but in their minds they may as well be running toward each other, arms outstretched, through a field of flowers, in slow motion. Sappy music playing. It's like that everytime. They grin for no reason for the first hour we are together. Heather and I never cease finding this hilarious and touching. Probably because we are the same. The guys have an ancient fantasy about buying a compound with two homes on it. Not one for the Schmalbachs and one for the Thomas', but actually one for the guys and one for the girls. Nice. Glad we know where we stand.

So Easter this year was extra special. It was the boy's first, and it was Sydney's third birthday! Heather and I were super nervous about trying to sleep three excitable young kids under one roof, but it worked out better than we thought! There was a little less sleep to go around, and we each had our rough night, but over the course of four nights, it actually went pretty smoothly. The Dads had no such fears of course.

On Friday morning I got up early to feed Ben and then rolled him under the covers with his Daddy and jetted off to State to sit in on two of Steph's classes. As a teaching assistant, she leads discussion sections for a massive Sociology 101 course. It was really fun, and great to see her doing her thing. I get so excited talking about Sociology, I was doing all I could not to completely jump off my chair with enthusiasm. She showed me around campus, and then we had lunch out together. It's so strange to have an entire meal without Ben, not to mention an entire morning. When we got back, we all just relaxed into a normal routine, playing with the kids and catching up.

On Saturday we all went out to an Easter fair, with huge egg hunts for every age group, bounce houses, and crafts. We put the kids in the wagon and wheeled them around to each of Sydney's activities. They were happy to just be together, although they did get to rifle through Easter grass for plastic eggs.

We were pretty exhausted after all that was said and done. The guys went off to spend some time together and Heather not only baked a cake, but we managed to wrap presents and grill up some burgers for dinner! We all crashed early in anticipation of the huge Easter extravaganza that was planned for Sunday.

First thing in the morning, when Syd came padding into the kitchen in her footie pajamas, her Mama caught her up in a big hug and was the first to wish her a very sweet happy birthday, like only a mom can. Syd looked surprised and it took us a few hours to convince her that this was the day she was really "three on Easter" like she had been chanting all week long. We piled into cars and went to church after a quick breakfast. It was a wonderful mass and the kids were so good. When we got back we took some family photos (like posted above) and then the grown-ups changed into some more comfy clothes. Kirby, Emily and Steph arrived and the kids got their Easter baskets. The boys seemed legitimately thrilled with the idea of toys arriving in baskets out of nowhere. Great tradition, they are for it. Heather managed to put that together during a very busy week, she is amazing.

During a delicious Easter brunch complete with mimosas, Sydney got into a hilarious game with Kirby. They took turns hiding this plastic egg (with optional "prize" inside) in the backyard for the other to find. Here are the highlights:
  • Sydney decided that rocks and leaves are excellent prizes to find inside an egg.
  • When she forgot Kirby's name she substituted the following: Charlie, Curly, and finally, Tommy.
  • Kirby's completely serious attitude when it came to following the rules. Whatever Syd decided that they were, of course.
  • Kirby asking, "So where did you hide it?" in the hopes that Syd would just give up the location.
  • Sydney replying dramatically, "I hid it where you'll never ever find it!"
After opening what seemed like a gazillion presents, we watched a video and relaxed while Heather and I attacked the evil packaging with scissors and our critical thinking skills. Later on in the day we had a delicious burrito buffet, as requested by the birthday girl, then pulled out the cake. Heather and I may have been a smidge more excited about it than Sydney was, but nevertheless. We all sang. She looked... intrigued, like she was studying our foreign culture or something. But she was definitely into the whole eating-of-chocolate-cake portion of the event, and was courteous enough to wear the hat and make a wish. Pretty sure this will get more exciting as the years pass. Kirby, for one, was delighted that we had strawberry ice cream, so fun was had by all.

The next day we had a nice long morning. The boys played together in their jammies. Check out the adorableness.
Eventually the guys went golfing, and the moms and kids took off for the Wild Animal Park, now known as some other name. Something about making it clear that it belongs to the San Diego Zoo. Its a thing. I prefer to just continue calling it the Wild Animal Park. They were having a butterfly exhibit that was going to be ending soon, and so we hauled the kids around and filed into this jungle of a place where humongous butterflies fluttered everywhere and were kind enough to land on Sydney and pretty much make her little three year old dreams come true. Thank you, butterflies. We spent the ride home talking about what colors they were and that they were called Blue Morphos butterflies. Ben and Dean just took it all in with huge wide eyes, which was also great. The mamas scored big.

When we got home, Steph and her friend Amy came by and we watched Tinkerbell (surprisingly entertaining). Poor Heather had seen it about twenty times, but Steph, Amy and I made excited comments on gender roles and the story arc through the entire movie while Dean napped in her arms. We also pulled out all of Syd's birthday gifts and played with them.

One of the favorites was the tea pot that came with a set from Emily and Kirby. It made the required boiling water noises, but also sang some songs, including "I'm a Little Tea Pot"... natch. Here is the cutie pie singing along happily with her new friend. Complete with hand motions. She is adorable. Oh yes, and she had to wear one of her butterfly shirts (pictured) to visit the butterflies. Of course.

When the guys came home, the Smalls kids flocked happily around their Dad, and before we left that night we got to see some high quality Dada time. Oh the love.
So, that was our better-than-best trip down south to see the Fam. On the way back things returned to normal. We both needed a snack, but while Scott is inside waiting for our order to be up, Ben wakes up and starts screaming, and won't quiet down until the car is finally going again. Only then we realize Scott forgot to get drinks, so we have to stop again, and Ben continues to wake up in intervals to cry, so I manage to score two pacifiers so that I will always be able to pop one in his mouth before I go hunting for the one he just spit out. Ya, not such a smooth return trip, but definitely a classic entry in the parenting book. The next morning we realize he is not only working on one top tooth, but two, and the second is just white and visible under a thin layer of red and puffy skin. Poor kid.

So, it's been a couple of days and I'm ready to go back to San Diego now, haha! Hope you all had the fun Easter that we did! Love to all!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

Or, actually, the huge jaggedy stone fireplace set at a completely frustrating angle! Lately I've been getting a little... restless. I am starting to get the itch to do something more with our house. I guess it's my new blog obsession, Young House Love. Suddenly, I want our house to reflect more of us. I have a million art projects churning in my brain, which is a wonderful change of pace. I want more than photos on our walls. I want words and traditions and tokens of our story to reflect back at us the fun we have together and the love we have for each other. However.... BUZZ KILL:

Ya. Well, that is also a buzzkill. But the real buzzkill is that we are going to have to sell our house in the next few years, for a variety of reasons (perhaps one of them is now this %$#^& fireplace)... and we are hoping and praying to break even (or run away really really fast and hope we blend in with all the other people up the creek without... a chance in heck of selling their houses). So... painting, buying accents and installing shelves and custom art? Not so exciting when we could be turning around and tearing it all down in a few months. So I guess I have to store all that inspiration in the back of my brain and address...

Mr. Buzzkill #2, alias... The Elephant Huge Rocky Fireplace in the Room.

Here is the annoying layout:
 Dress it up, you say? Buy some attractive looking fireplace tools and a couple of charming arm chairs in interesting patterns, perhaps? FAIL! I have a soon-to-be mobile, curious and quite sensitive boychild in the house. So the answer is not in the Embrace It category, but more in the Stack Things in Front of It category. So I did. I bought a huge, comfortable chair with ottoman, and moved Ben's toy box alongside, and now have this messy sort of "Oh! Gosh is that a huge fireplace back there?" type of arrangement now. Like when people tear up their carpet and realize that they have hardwood underneath. That kind of tone.
The chair is there in a light green, and the toybox in brown. And still you see the access point over there to the left of the chair. Ugh. Its really bothering me.

Anyway, we have been doing a ton of traveling and I have a lot of stuff to say on the subject of friends, teething and rude-things-people-say-to-moms in the blog cooker, but... this big, no corners in my living room problem was just weighing heavy on my mind. So glad its off my chest! Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mary's Narcissistic Craft Corner

Or... easy DIY wall art for your nest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... but should I just include a thousand words, anyway? Sure!
Okay, so here is my background knowledge on this super, no brainer method. Or in other words, this section should be titled "things you may not know about me". I have a degree in art and design from Cal Poly. Before that, I studied at Cuesta, Chico State, and the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Before that, I took every art class offered in high school and then did two years of independent study. Before that... well, my dad used to hand me paints and paper to keep me busy in my high chair. So there you go. I do actually know how to do this by hand, and I can draw from life and all that, but this is what I use to achieve a quicker, more accurate basic outline. If at any time during this post, you get all, "ya, but mine won't look like that", stop yourself and say: "self! I didn't study art for twenty years straight, now did I? I am probably trained in something that makes money!" and leave it at that. Yours will still look super awesome and will be all about you- your style, your thing, your mo-jo. It'll be great.

And ahem, if you did study art for twenty years straight... you so don't need to be reading this right now. Please.

Okay, so what you will need is a $25 projector, a really basic one, like this:

Seriously, this is what I use. Although, they have apparently redesigned it to be more...aerodynamic? I drag it upstairs in the falling-apart original cardboard box I bought it in twelve years ago, prop it on a stool or dining room chair and plug it in. I have an expanse of white wall in our bedroom, with an outlet right there. I slide the photo or whatever I have printed off the computer under it (being sure that it fits the little square you can see on the bottom there). Inside this thing there is literally a bulb, a mirror, and a little box to run the bulb. Super high-tech. Then I slide the chair back and forth (picture projected on wall is completely blurry) just to adjust the size I want. Then I use the, er, lens... I guess. Just using that word is making me laugh to myself... to focus the picture. Then I hang the canvas, or paper, or whatever I am using on the wall, and make more adjustments if necessary. Then, I trace away! If I am doing a portrait, I trace in pencil, and I include all the shadows so when I am finished it looks a lot like a paint by number. If, during the tracing, anyone or anything disturbs the projector and repositions the projection, I throw an enormous tantrum and storm up and down the stairs until I have collected myself enough to do the painful re-alignment work.

I regularly combine multiple photos, and when I do that, I make sure to do the photo in the foreground first, so that when I do the background, I know to stop that line when I run into my foreground drawing, and I don't have to do any erasing or trying to figure out later which is which. Here are some examples of what I am left with:

 For this piece, I actually received three photos. One of each of the dogs, and one of this place with the stacked rocks. So I did this outline in three separate 'drag-the-projector-and-chair-around, re-focus, and make-sure-its-straight' sessions. Perhaps one or two 'un-tape, move and re-tape the paper' sessions. Be sure to use painter's tape if you care about your walls. But there you have it.

Note: In situations like this one, if you are going to aim for realism (and not just graphic shapes and outlines, which I will talk about later) be sure to pay close attention to where the shadows are pointing. The drawing won't look right to the eye if shadows are going all different directions, or if your subjects are noticably different sizes from their surroundings.

I suggest, if you are going to do a simple line drawing (which is so easy with the projector) that you make the major subject's outlines thicker/darker around the outside, and the backgrounds and inner shadow outlines softer and lighter. Try it and I think you'll get my drift. You can kind of see that in the drawing above. I don't focus on that so much when I know I am going to put paint over it.

Here is another:
In the background photo, they were only about as big as those red parentheticals, but it still worked. I imagined them celebrating their engagement sipping champagne on a balcony somewhere,
overlooking the lake. Sigh... it helps me to make up stories
about these sorts of things while I'm painting.

I was super nervous about this job because I didn't know the people and had never seen them in person. It wasn't the first time I had done that, and it probably won't be the last, but it always puts me a little bit on the edge of my seat while I'm working. You won't have this issue, as you will probably be creating art of your friends and family for your own walls and theirs!

One more example of this paint-by-number look:

 This one is done from a friend's wedding photo. I did the background paint first and then laid down the foreground outline and the background outline...I don't know why I forget to do that sometimes.

So, this is how they all turned out in the end:

 I tried a more modern approach with the second one (you can pick up those graphic stamps at a craft store and work them into your piece, or use them as a background pattern). I have to say, this last one is my all-time favorite. By the time they are at this stage, my outline is long gone and I am flying through the air with no safety net. I usually have at least one or two major freakouts (see the knuckle area on her hand in that last one? Huge freakout). But this was more to satisfy your curiosity than to suggest that from step #1 to step # 457 is a short hop. Just try step #1 and see where your imagination leads you.

Here's a fun one: you can blow up a profile photograph and trace the outline, for a look that is similar to an old Victorian silhouette portrait. Instead of making it black, use it as a template and cut that shape out of fabric, or patterned craft paper, and frame it. Or adhere it onto a background of colored cardstock. Here's an example that I did up in Photoshop:
digital paper by designer mItsybelle. See more products here.
You can use a template like that for anything. I mean, you could stitch a cut out piece of fabric onto a pillow, or turn it into a stencil. The ideas are endless.

I will leave you with a little progression of one of my portraits from start to finish:

One with glare, and one without. Can't wait for that awesome camera.
Hope you have fun with it! Comment if you have made something beautiful, I would love to hear about it!

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Do. I Really, Really Do.

This and all professional photography by Brittany Apps @ Apps Photography.
Well, this summer it will be five long (not that long) blissful years of happily ever after. I have a wedding album at home that sits on our entertainment center and when I flip through it with people I get asked some common questions. I thought I would take a small crazyhuge post to answer some for a few special people that I have in mind. For the rest of you who really could care less about silly teeny details, ignore the text and give in to gratuitous pretty wedding photo bliss!

Dress shopping!

We had struck a compromise, because one of Scott's few requests was that my gown be super traditional, and one of my many requests was that the ceremony be outside (I didn't want flash photography wedding photos). So, per his specifications, I was to absolutely wear a veil, and a full skirt. Yes sir. Gone were my dreams of a lacy sheath number, but you know. I didn't have to worry about my figure as much, either, what with the strapped super tight corset I could wear under a full Disney princess get up. I mean, if this was a lifetime dream of his, I felt compelled to grant it. I didn't look half bad in the end, so it turned out to be win-win. Although I couldn't feel the dress at all due to the hoop skirt... and just felt a soft breeze on my legs all day. Had to keep looking down to be sure I was still fully clothed.
So I went and tried on some really stunning gowns at a bridal warehouse (thanks to Men's Wearhouse I totally forgot how to spell that. Advertising, its dumbing me down I tell you). I was with my bridesmaids, and it was a really great time. We tried on different shapes and styles. My favorite details were sweetheart necklines and square pleating. Thanks to a tips book on wedding planning, I did not bring my wallet or checkbook so that I would be forced to sleep on any decisions and not get caught up in the romance of it all, which was easy to do. When I returned home, I scoured the internet, armed with all this new information. I knew my size and the style that I thought looked best on me. I ran across an ebay store that was selling brand new dresses in a variety of different styles, and found this one for $250.

I know.

I read and re-read that item description, the return policy, every bit of fine print for two days. Then I figured: our budget for the dress was much bigger. If for some reason it was all a scam (their return policy was excellent by the way) then we would only be out $250. A good chunk of money, but from a wedding perspective, not a lot. The gamble was worth it. I dove in. And it arrived only a few weeks later, and it was beautiful. I sacrificed in areas- the neckline was more sloped than sweetheart, and it was gathered, not pleated. But the beading really was beautiful. And it was well made. I borrowed my jewelry, and bought my blue shoes at Ross for around ten, fifteen dollars? I bought my veil used on ebay, too. The only splurge were some Victoria Secret details, like a nice bustier. I still can't believe it. I scored so big.

DIY time, baby.

Okay, please forgive the abrupt rewind in pictures here. We are back to the planning stages. I wanted a basement bargain wedding, but I didn't want it to feel like that to our guests. I wanted to work hard in the days leading up to the event, but I did not want to be stressed, running around or coordinating on that day. I wanted to be able to kick back and have fun. I wanted our friends to feel comfortable, relaxed and loved. I have a lot of friends with talents that would have made for a great event staff, but I didn't want them to work, I wanted them to have fun.

I met florists and got multiple quotes, both for exactly what I wanted and the least that they could possibly do- like, just boutonnieres and bouqets. It was too much. The lowest price I could find was to the tune of a thousand dollars. In my opinion, flowers are a must, but they always look pretty, and they only last the one day. After that, you're on a plane to Mexico and all of your friends have gone home.

 I was soooo scared of the idea of doing them myself, but seriously, I could get all the flowers I needed for corsages and the like for only $300 straight from a grower. I used 2G Roses. They were so helpful, so informative and so friendly. I felt like if anything went wrong, they were on my side. So I took the leap and did it. So happy that I did! I borrowed as many vases as I could and cleared out the fridge (we were leaving for over a week anyway) and they arrived in a box with cold packs a couple of days before the wedding. I had some wonderful, dedicated friends come early to help me figure out what the heck I was doing. I bought all the pins, ribbon, wire and all that at a craft store.

 Wow, my friends are incredible. Kelly immediately got struck by creative lightning and became the ring leader. She was a professional florist for a day, and they turned out beautifully because of her. It was pretty fast (a couple of hours) and we had boutonnieres and corsages (for the groomsmen, parents and grandparents) and four bouqets. I had gotten some vases for the head table to drop them into after the ceremony. Extra decoration! Special mention goes to Kerry, who is somehow not pictured above but was definitely there and a total help.

Okay, a side note on bridal party.

I do think bridal party is important, and I know it brings up a lot of "feelings" for people. I chose my girls (amongst lots of old and dear friends) based on these factors:
  • availability to help with stuff.
  • likelihood to still be around fifty years from now.
  • in order to afford more, and do things like go shopping together, we had to keep the number small.
There are all these crazy rules floating around! Check it out:
  • supposedly you can't have only one-half of a couple in your bridal party
  • if you were in their wedding, they have to be in yours (can you imagine if you're the last to get married? You would have like a million bridesmaids!)
  • you have to include all family around your age group

Although tension runs high surrounding these things, I say- do what you want to do and hope that your true friends will accept your decision, and the no good ones will go quietly. Its one of the very few things in wedding planning that is about you and for you. I have lots of dear friends that I did not stand up for as part of the bridal party, and it bothers me zero. I was happy to be there to see them get hitched, and with less to do! More time to have another glass of wine and catch up with my friends. It's all going to be okay.
Bridal party gifts! We went with personalization as a theme. I wanted to give them something commemorative, but that they might really use. I left the guys gift up to Scott, who got them personalized plaques that read "[your last name here]'s Pub", est. 2006, and their full name over the top. Scott and his guys love beer, he loves Guinness, and Ireland, its a thing.

We got one for us and its still above our stove in the kitchen. I love it.
For the ladies, I found these amazing tote bags, in a combo of canvas and lime green leather, or pleather, I forget. The color matched our theme, and was just nice. The lining is cute and modern, the straps attach with hardware so they move easily and they are well made. Their names are engraved on those little silver metal tabs. My sister still uses hers heavily five years later and I'm so jealous. I should have gotten myself one but they were pricey. All told they cost almost as much as the flowers! But I told you, I cut corners where I needed to, and other things, like girls who put their hearts and souls into helping with the wedding, I didn't. I did go back and try to find them again. No luck.

Rehearsal... food...

I reserved blocks of rooms in hotels at two different price points, but they were across the street from each other so everyone was going to and from the same place. One was really overboard country cuteness, and I knew a lot of the older ladies would really enjoy it. We had our rehearsal lunch there at the Inn in a back room. It was more affordable than a dinner would have been, and it just fit into our day better. We took the evening to do some last minute assembling and errands. Looking back, I might have just done the dinner instead, I don't know. Rehearsal dinners make everything feel like its really heating up! But I liked the way we did it, too. Take it or leave it.

Due to not having a florist, we left the archway bare. I would have done more if we wanted to spend more, but I liked the classic look of it, and really, the beauty of Edna Valley Vineyard was enough. They did everything, from the rehearsal, the beverages, the set up and clean up, to the linens, flatware, etc. They even coordinated details like the archway, the cake delivery and helped our vendors get set up and situated. Tina Hoppe, their event coordinator, is a star. She knows her stuff. Plus they had great wine.

Bridesmaid Dresses

We went shopping for them in the city, together. I knew I wanted them to be champagne, or some kind of workable neutral color. But other than that, I wanted everyone to find something they wanted, in a price point that they felt comfortable with. We went all over the place, and finally, in the eleventh hour, after being told that champagne was, ahem, "so last year", we found four of these simple, beautiful dresses, in different sizes, on a clearance rack for around a hundred bucks. Miracle of all miracles, they each found one that fit. Unbelievable.

Photographer... also known as Your Royal Highness.

Oh, our amazing photographer, Brittany. Visit her portfolio here. She came recommended by our best man and his wife, and I went up to her place in Morro Bay and looked at some of her work, and just really liked her. She was also a mid-point price. I didn't want to hire a beginner, because I needed these photos to last a lifetime, in other words, be everything I could ever want. However, there were some photographers who were doing stunning work, but charging way more than we could afford. I wanted a nice camera (two, if possible, and it was). I wanted to keep all the digital images, to use and print as I wished. Crediting her, of course, because who wouldn't want to? She deserves to be swamped with business, at all times. I wanted a lot of candids, and detail shots, and I got that. I didn't know that I wanted her to bring a huge gold reflector thingy, and make everybody look sun-kissed and golden! But I did! I did want that! And she knew that without asking, bless her amazing talented heart. Right after our wedding, she won the Best in SLO Award, and now I'm sure it would be much harder to afford her services. She's brilliant, and deserves to be compensated as such, I am just so glad we discovered that hidden gem when we did.

Details, Details

That apple centerpiece in the photo above looks wrong. Some people stole some apples to munch, which was encouraged, and made for some really fun pictures. My mom brought baby apples from her yard for the place cards, which were laminated so they didn't get stained by apple. Our tables were named after places that were important to us, and I designed little photo/text details to explain why. I tried to sit people according to place, for the most part. It worked out because that usually grouped people who knew each other together. We had big dreams of a homemade guest book. Kerry took photos of arriving guests (which turned out great) and they wrote a little something. Looking back, I would have done a photobook with blanks for people to sign. So much easier. I might make a photobook from it someday, who knows.

Let Them Eat Cake He Said
I replaced what would have been floral centerpieces with apples. I bought the stainless steel cake stands from a wholesale restaurant provider online. My cake person, Christine from Morning Star Creations, completely "got" my whole idea for the cake and executed it flawlessly. She made the smoothest sides without using fondant, which was my whole goal. I actually wanted to have a placeholder cake, and just bring out cut sheet cake to feed the masses, but Scott was squarely against it. In the end, I had this gorgeous, light, delicious cake for about five bucks a slice. Awesome!
We had plenty to go around and even saved the top tier, like Scott had insisted on doing. Proving me completely wrong, it was still delicious a whole year later. My experience with Phil's Catering was similar, although we did not freeze their food and eat it a year later. Now that would just be crazy, right?...............
They had one of the lowest prices per plate (I can't remember well now, maybe $25?) and they served delicious takes on very simple, quintessentially Central Coast fare. Barbequed tri-tip, salad, oversized stuffed pasta shells, bread rolls, that kind of thing. It was to die for. I actually ate.

Wedding Flow

I wanted as much time with my people as possible, but I didn't want to see Scott before the ceremony. I also wanted the wedding to be about guest comfort. I mean, I was gonna have a blast regardless. So we took turns taking photos with our bridal party before the wedding for about an hour. After the ceremony (which was on-site, another must for our guests) people just walked over to the patio and had a cocktail hour, where they mingled and ordered drinks while we took photos. We got back as soon as we could, and had a blast for the rest of the night. We provided all the drinks, but not hard alcohol. We wanted to provide a free bar, but we couldn't afford the high price of cocktails, so it was a compromise, and I couldn't be happier. As it was, Scott still almost fainted signing the check, and the wine was amazing, so it was the right choice.

Things I was so glad I did:

  • A list of candid shots I wanted for the photographer
  • Laughing during the ceremony
  • Eating first and worrying about mingling later
  • Taking the time to find almost all the songs I wanted for the DJ, and arranging them to fit the schedule
  • Doing my own make-up
  • Making up little bags with toys for the kids
Things I wish I did:
  • Get my hair done (what was I thinking? Too much stress)
  • Had sparklers for the night photos
  • Had even more personalized, DIY touches. Just can't have enough, ever
  • Had a photobooth. Those are just fun. I don't know... maybe only if the price was right.
I know, these aren't even. Drives me crazy but I was a little tired, so I moved on. Go on, let it go.

Video Killed the Radio Star

We weren't going to do it. It seemed like a lot of money, we didn't have a video camera, it slipped through the cracks. And then... two angels, old family friends Dick and Patty Thomas, descended from the heavens and said, "Oh no, allow us." They proceeded to not only have Dick film the whole thing, edit it, and give us multiple copies on DVD that we I watch obsessively, but Patty stepped in and helped with anything that needed doing. They are the sweetest people and we were so, so, blessed to have them there. 


An absolute must-have. Now, I have seen this go both ways at a wedding. Too few (cue crickets, chirping) and too many (cue drunk Uncle Lou deciding that after six beautiful hilarious speeches, his should be the last. No one has the heart to tell him no and he goes on for twenty minutes). So I limited it to parents and bridal party only, and they were a mix of thrilled and terrified at the prospect. My father opened with a really warm, wonderful thank you to everyone for coming, and his love and congratulations to us, the rest of the parents happily declined to make a speech and that was fine. Then each of the bridal party got up, in walking order, and delivered the six most phenomenal speeches ever. They were both witty and sweet, thoughtful and hilarious. Punch lines were paused for, the audience laughed and awwed in perfect harmony with each speaker. I got them all on video and I love to watch them again and again. Kelly wins for most memorable, with metaphors to fit each of our different life perspectives, me from an artistic take, and Scott from a programming take. People still tell me how much they enjoyed it.

So Glad You Came

I forgot to talk about invitations, so I will awkwardly stick them here, next to their photo cameo. How awesome is that golden sunset lighting by the way? Oh and I am commonly asked, so up front I will just say, that black and white is of Scott and I using the same napkin to wipe cake off our faces. Buuuuut I digress.

So, I shopped around online for the simplest wedding invites. They cost us something ridiculously cheap, and I had them done twice! Even after reading it over a thousand times, I managed to get the date wrong. It was late, I was tired, okay? But they sweetly offered to send just the invites again at cost and since I bought them so far in advance, there was no stressing for time. I printed off some stuff on cardstock using a clip art artsy apple outline, and a map to the winery off the internet. No easy task as it turns out, due to a printer ink issue, but it turned out okay. I also got save the date magnets online, too, but just put the date on them, including the rest of the info on a card included inside. That way they could stay on fridges everywhere (aka your fridge and mine) forever and be referring either to our wedding coming up, or that awesome day long long ago. Fun times. Odd Thomas Wedding Trivia: Scott actually has two rings. His first one was too loose for awhile, so first we tried sizing balls (ouch, don't do it) and then bought him another basic shiny band online (I had it engraved so as to soften the blow of buying a cheap replacement). Soon enough, that became too small on him, we knocked off the sizing balls on the original and he is back to that one. I wish I could have two, just for fun.

One more of my favorite things: we took huge, group, family photos. They are on every mantel, everywhere. It didn't take a lot of time out for us, either. The photographer arranged everyone and then they called us over once they were ready. I can't explain how wonderful it is to have those, especially when some near and dear to us have passed away.


We had a money dance, and while I was a little bit hesitant about the hand-over-your-cash rudeness factor, it was actually really fun! I definitely recommend not having a convenient money purse, and waiting until later when your guests have had a fair share to drink so that they can get creative. Some of my favorite photos were from the money dance.

And listen, people. We spent all that money and time and energy- I danced like it was my job.


Some of my friends went on adventure honeymoons. I get that. If you are all excitement, curiosity and go, go, go... you do that. Scott wanted to go to a surf camp. But after all that craziness, I was wiped. Looking back, I probably would go back and take a few days to recover before we left, but I planned the honeymoon for recovery. I have friends that went to the same resort we did, and went ziplining, and all that. I wanted a spoil-yourself, lay-around, bask-in-the-sun-of-a-whole-week-with-nothing-planned type of vacation. Mission accomplished. Welcome to the Dreams Resort in Puerto Vallarta.
I wanted to go to Hawaii, but we couldn't afford to really do what we wanted there, we would have dropped all the cash on the flight, not to mention places to stay. We were working within my parent's budget, and we wanted it to go as far as possible. This place was all-inclusive, and it was recommended by my friend Kristine who got me with one thing: jacuzzi on the balcony. Cha-ching! Sold!
So, I laid in the endless pool and read novels all day, we slept in every morning, laying around our air-conditioned room in our gigantic bed. We went out to our favorite restaurant every night at the other end of the resort, the Seaside Grill, an open air seafood place. We ordered course after course and drink after drink of whatever we wanted, as we watched the sun set, and the stars come out. I will tell you the funny story of the big shiny black beetle that snuck in through our vent another time. Poor Scott. But since we went, at least two other couples that I know have gone and loved it as much as we did. Ten year anniversary, here we come!
1. Jacuzzi, check. 2. Hot husband, check. 3. Champagne, check.
My entire to-do list, done within the first hour!
So that is the story of our wedding, which ended up around $15,000 (not including the honeymoon, which I think was around three). We had a grand ol' time, and we hope you did, too! If you weren't there, now you not only feel like you were a guest, but that you were one of the long suffering friends that had to endure months of listening to me debate the benefits of parking and seating arrangements! Isn't that great? Thank you for indulging me in my bit of nostalgia. I sure do love my husband, and will never forget the honor of standing up next to him in front of family and friends. Although we have passionately agreed that it was a one time thing.