Thursday, August 22, 2013

What They Don't Tell You About Wedding Planning

Image Credit - The Free Wedding
1. It's like having a second job. 
You meet with each vendor at least twice. You do an initial meet-and-greet and interview, and then you do follow-up meetings to finalize the contract and payment, discuss details, show the vendor the site if you're using an atypical or private location, etc. Scheduling all this stuff around work is a huge pain in the ass. Because oh yeah, you still have to go to work and do all the stuff you did before you were engaged! Plus, you spend TONS of time assembling invitations, diy-ing decorations and favors, and shopping for crafty supplies. The time that used to be your free time is now your wedding planning time.

2. It kills your social life.
Before the engagement, you would've had cocktails after work with friends. Now you're spending that time meeting with the photographer, or registering at Bed Bath and Beyond, or Googling makeup artists and rehearsal dinner venues you can actually afford. You're afraid you might not see your friends again until the wedding.

3. It's a conversation killer.
When I actually do see my friends, I have nothing interesting to tell them except, "I did more wedding stuff." YAWN. I try not to go on and on about the wedding because a) I want them to be at least a little bit surprised by what they see on the big day, and b) They probably don't give a damn about the table runners we're using at the reception, and c) No one likes that chick who talks about nothing but her wedding.

4. It's weirdly, stupidly emotional.
Even if you're normally the type of woman who does her own thing, haters be damned, you CARE if people don't like your wedding plans. It UPSETS you. You suddenly want to please everyone, and it's exhausting. And also impossible. Worse, each detail suddenly seems to MATTER way more than it really does. Logically, you know that the font on your invitations doesn't "say" something about you as a couple. But this is a once in a lifetime event, and you don't get any do-overs, so you obsess. This is why women cry when they're planning weddings.

5. Family suddenly becomes much more important.
This the most surprising thing I've learned about wedding planning: You start spending more of your (almost nonexistent) free time with family, and you look forward to it. Building a relationship with your future in-laws becomes more important, and the sobering, joyful reality hits you: You and your fiance are becoming a family! You find yourself wanting to dote on him and take care of him more than you did before.

One of our most rock and roll friends told us he never imagined that he would marry, but he and his wife eventually tied the knot for legal reasons. He didn't expect it to change them as a couple, but it did--and he loves it. He says that the permanence of their relationship makes them even more supportive of each other, and it's strengthened their bonds with their families. I feel us moving in a similar direction, and I didn't expect it, either. But oh, I like it.

And that's why it's all worth it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 2013 Ipsy Bag: Beauty Academy

For those of you just tuning in, Ipsy is a beauty subscription service. For $10 a month, Ipsy sends 4 - 5 surprise beauty products to your door in a cute cosmetics bag. They even mail it in a shiny hot pink envelope! Seeing that envelope in my mailbox always makes me dance around like a little kid. If you don't want to get in a beauty rut, Ipsy is for you.

Michael Todd Jojoba Charcoal Scrub 1.0 oz. sample $5.29
City Color Cheek Stain, full size: $2.99
Noya Lip Balm, full size: $3.99
Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream .34 oz. sample, $5.44
Pixi Lash Booster Mascara in Blackest Black, 3 gram sample: $7.29

IPSY PRICE: $10.00

BONUS for referring two new subscribers: Lime Crime nail polish in Crema de Limon, $8.00

I have mixed feelings about this month's Ipsy bag. On one hand, I like the products they gave me. Now that they're using our personal reviews and quizzes to customize our bags, they really get me: I love cheek stains, BB creams, and natural-looking products. BUT. In an "either/or" situation, when a subscriber will either receive one product or another, I hardly think it's fair to either receive an Urban Decay lipstick sample or a lip balm. It's clearly better and more fun to try a big-name product that I couldn't otherwise afford! I'm going to wear and enjoy all of the things in this month's bag, but I hope their future either/or items have similar levels of value and prestige. But let's talk about the stuff in this month's bag!

I love Pacifica scents, but I've never used their makeup. Their BB cream is more sheer and much more shimmery than I usually like, but it smells wonderful. And even when I accidentally fell asleep wearing it, it didn't make me break out. I'm not sure I'll buy it again, but I'll happily wear it until it runs out.

The mascara is the second product Pixi product I've received from Ipsy, and I like the brand a lot. I curled my lashes before applying it, and it made my lashes hold the curl perfectly for 12 hours. I like the smooth, clump-free formula. It looks completely natural, but BETTER. The only drawback is that it's waterproof and difficult to remove.

I was skeptical of the Michael Todd scrub--it contains numerous oils, and I thought it might break me out--but no such problem. It's smoother and less gritty than what I expect from a scrub, and I'm not sure it did much exfoliating, but it made my skin feel soft, smooth, and moisturized without feeling greasy. It smells like lemongrass, too. Very nice!

The cheek stain from City Color wears like a cream blush, not a stain. It doesn't matter, because the color is beautiful. It applies smoothly and blends easily, too. It was a pleasant surprise: For a product that retails at just $2.99, it's pretty fantastic! The only drawback is that it's not very long-wearing.

The Noya lip balm is smooth, not thick or waxy. It tastes and smells like a sugar cookie, and it's made with just five natural ingredients that I can pronounce. I like that. The only problem is that I'm not really looking for lip balm from Ipsy.

The Lime Crime nail polish is so much fun. It looks like yellow highlighter! It applies so smoothly and has a super-rich, completely opaque and creamy finish. And the ultra-pastel yellow color looks amazing against my tan!! I love it.

What did you get? And what do you think we'll get next month? I'd be happy to see a deep conditioning hair treatment, shimmery gold eyeshadow, jewel-tone eyeliner pencil or mascara, rich hand cream, and a nice makeup brush.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ridiculously Rich Rococo Portrait Pillows

FANCY! I have a strange fondness for antique oil portraits of women in powdered wigs and farthingales. Isn't their formality funny? It's probably because I watched Amadeus too many times when I was a child. In college, I went so far as to cut out the French Revolution paper dolls in this book, frame them, and hang them on my walls. I think I removed the Marie Antoinette doll's head, too--how droll. Ten years later, the book is selling for more then $100, and I could kick myself! The paper dolls are long gone, but I'm seriously thinking of indulging my taste for Rococo ridiculousness with one of these pillows from Zara Home. Yea or nay?
Zara Home Family Pillow
Because the family that casually poses with flags, lutes, and maps is the family that cares.
Zara Home Lady and Fan Pillow Cover
Why do I feel like this is what Lady Gaga will be wearing next year?
Zara Home Multiple Portrait Pillow Cover
This looks like a yearbook of the French Revolution.
Voted "Best Wigs Less Than 3 Feet High": Pierre and Antoinette!
Voted "Most Likely to Keep Their Heads" in 1789: Jean-Luc and Genevieve!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

This is Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland, but can't you imagine Fezzik and Inigo running a cheerful scam together on the bridge?
The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, but until recently I'd never read The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman. Inconceivable! I figured that since I'd seen the movie, I already knew the story. I WAS SO WRONG. If you want to know about Buttercup's childhood and her ridiculous parents, the farcical drama surrounding her first declaration of love for Westley, how Fezzik joined the circus, the tragic story of how Inigo's sword was created, and the story of how Miracle Max met Valerie and lost his confidence, read the book.

And if you think The Princess Bride is a story that grandpa reads to Fred Savage, think again. The book has an incredibly elaborate frame story that convincingly weaves together a fictional author named S. Morgenstern, William Goldman's fictional favorite elementary school teacher, his fictional desire to connect with his fictional young son, and a fictional bathing beauty in Los Angeles. Goldman weaves such an elaborate yarn, you'll actually believe that his father read The Princess Bride to him when he was a boy--but only the good parts!

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I Googled it to see if the frame story was real.

And if you're like my neighbor, who saw me reading and teased, "Is it sooooo romantic? Is it even dreeeeeamier than the movie?" the answer is NO! It's biting and silly and lots of fun, but if you want to read the romantic reunion scene that takes place at the bottom of the hill, you're going to have to write to the publisher and ask for it nicely. No joke!

Edit: Now you can request the reunion scene online here. Thanks to my friend Bill for alerting me to this! Haha, it's not what you expect... :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thrift Store WIN: John Derian Tray!

A few weeks ago, I promised to share some amazing thrift store finds, and then promptly failed to do so. Bad blogger, bad! Don't we all read so we can hate-crush each other's amazing finds? As in, I love that thing and I hate that I didn't find it first! Right. So without further ado, here is the crown jewel in last month's thrift store haul: A handmade glass John Derian "Thank You" tray!! This is NOT from one of his Target lines--this is the real, signed deal. It retails for $66.00, and I paid $2.29. WIN!
John Derian Thank You glass tray
See more beautiful pieces from John Derian at his beautifully designed website.
All John Derian designs are vintage images reproduced and decoupaged by hand onto hand-blown glass. I love the muted colors, scientific themes, and vaguely somber landscapes. Here are some more examples of his work:
John Derian City by Sea switchplate
For some reason, it makes me think of Beirut.
John Derian Shells Platter - Sold Out
I know John Derian isn't brand-spankin' new--there was a huge craze for his work a few years ago--but I've never owned a Derian piece, and I'm even more thrilled that I found it for a pittance! What was your best recent thrift store score?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Setting the Table: Moonlit Garden by Lenox

A Classic Table

Scratch everything I said about not registering for nice dishes! After I wrote that, I took an honest inventory of our kitchen and found three--just three--dinner plates. I like to eat off salad plates because they make more sense for smaller portions, but Keith prefers bigger dishes. When Keith told me he wasn't exactly thrilled by my mismatched collection of white plates from Goodwill, I conceded: We needed new dinnerware.
Buy it on Amazon!
Right before we went on vacation, I found four perfect Lenox place settings in the Moonlit Garden pattern at T.J. Maxx for just $28 per place setting. They retail for $49 apiece! I'd been browsing dishes and china for weeks, and I'd seen the pattern online but the pictures didn't do it justice. When I saw it in person, WHAM! It was love at first sight. Look at those lush peonies! They remind me of hand-drawn antique botanical illustrations, but the palette is very modern. It's the best of both worlds.
These, too!
I went home and talked about the dishes all night. Keith wanted bigger plates now, so we went back the next day and bought all four place settings, plus a matching sugar bowl and creamer for $15 apiece. T.J. Max was fresh out of packing material that day, so I hugged the dishes on my lap all the way home and prayed that I wouldn't break anything. Luckily, no breakage... not even a chip! 
I wish they offered more serving pieces in the Moonlit Garden pattern.
You guys, eating off of real porcelain makes me feel like the Queen of England. I can actually feel the difference: The plates are lighter but stronger, and I love the crystalline clink they make when I stack them or place them on the table. This was the best T.J. Maxx find I've had in years! We're actually cooking more often, just so we have an excuse to use them. We added eight more settings to our registry, plus a few matching serving pieces. If you're currently eating off of junky old plates, and you find any deeply discounted fine china on your next shopping trip, my advice is to buy it. You won't regret it!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Our Wedding Invitations: Something Blue, Something New, Something DIY'd.

When Keith and I mailed our wedding invitations last month, the whole we're-getting-married thing suddenly felt even more official. Wanna see the invitations? Good! Invitations are the wedding detail I agonized over most. I've always been just a little obsessed with pretty paper: When I was a little kid, I'd even buy stationery as a vacation souvenir. Yeah, I was a weird child. Anyway, I drove myself a little crazy when I was looking for invitations. Why are there two envelopes? What's the point of an envelope liner? What's a belly band? Hint: it's not something used by pregnant women! After HOURS of online browsing, I chose this design from Invitations by Dawn.

I had very specific criteria I used to choose and write the invitations:

a) I wanted both sets of parents' names on the invitation. This is kind of a big deal for them, too. I was amazed by how many invitation templates didn't have room for both sets of parents' names.

b) I did NOT want to do the formal-but-creepy "Mr. and Mrs. Man's Name" thing. I hate that. I think it bothered my Mom that I didn't use super-formal wording, but it's just too weird to drop a woman's name simply because she's married.

c) I wanted guests to respond by e-mail instead of using response cards. I figured either I'd lose the response cards, or the postman would lose them. Either way, FAIL. Also, this saved us about $100 in postage.

d) WOW factor was important. I wanted our invitations printed on impossibly thick, luxurious paper and wrapped in such a way that they looked special. The moment people opened the envelopes, I wanted them to think Oooh, this is a big effing deal. I didn't want to spend a ridiculous amount  of money, though, so I was willing to DIY the bands and forego crazy-elaborate pocket invitations.

Once I chose an invitation, I had no idea what it should say. Of course everyone knows not to say "We don't want gifts. Bring us money!" on an invitation. But did you know you should only request "the honor of your presence" if the wedding is in a house of worship? Or that you don't ask people to attend the wedding of "Jane and Bobby." You ask them to witness the marriage of Jane TO Bobby, because brides are married TO grooms. Um, me, neither! I researched the hell out of invitation etiquette here.

Once the wording was squared away, I set up an e-mail account just for receiving RSVPs. Last, I had everything printed on super-thick, incredibly luxurious paper. It's SO SWANK. Seriously, Kate Middleton probably didn't have thicker wedding invitations! And she, of course, is the ruler against which I measure all things swanky.

Unlike the Duchess of Cambridge, I didn't have an army of servants to assemble the invitations, so I DIY'd the bands to make the invitations special. Keith, my mother, and I spent six hours assembling, addressing, and embellishing the invitations with a ribbon and hand-punched paper heart. Yeah, SIX HOURS. Luckily, Dad supported the process by bringing us delicious Mexican takeout. Yay, Dad! We set up an assembly line to make the process faster, and more than half the time was spent addressing the outer envelopes. I did learn calligraphy in time to address the invitations, but I wrote so slowly that I addressed one invitation in the time it took my mother to do five. My hands were cramping by the time we finished, but I love the way they turned out.

There's just one problem: Some older guests are trying to enter the RSVP e-mail address into their browser or search engine; they don't realize it's an e-mail address. My mom's friend said, "I tried to RSVP but the website [] isn't working for me. I'm sent to a Google search for Keith Urban." This is definitely something I didn't expect, so I figured that other brides-to-be considering e-mail RSVPs might want to know.

Do you know any good stories about wedding invitations or crazy RSVP-related fiascos? I want to know!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

House of Sea and Sun in St. Augustine

I've been remiss: We've been back from Saint Augustine for nearly a week, and I still haven't told you about our trip. We needed a respite from wedding planning. Did you know that wedding vendors practically stalk the betrothed? It's TRUE! If you ever get engaged, you should immediately buy fake mustaches and change your phone number so you can hide from them. Since we didn't do that, we escaped to Florida for a few days to hide out and celebrate our birthdays.

Keith treated me to the best welcome: Champagne, flowers, strawberries, and cheese!
Also, I have no idea who the girl in the framed photo is; I had fun imagining all kinds of crazy stories about her.
We spent four nights in the Plum Room at House of Sea and Sun, a romantic oceanside bed and breakfast that specializes in wedding packages. Love was in the air; they hosted two--yes, TWO!--weddings in the four days we were there. So much for escaping from wedding stuff!

From the moment we arrived and I saw the champagne bucket that Keith had arranged in advance, I felt so at home there. The innkeeper had three little dogs, and two of them were Pomeranians--it really was like being at home, minus the obligation to pick up dog poop. WIN! I wish I'd taken pictures of the dogs; they were much smaller than our poms and so cute.

This is a picture of me on a purple velvet fainting couch. Why?
Our very purple room was on the ground floor, with sliding glass doors that led straight to the ocean. I sunned, collected shells, and read Mistborn. Keith waded deep into the water and battled the waves. We both marveled over the tide pools full of live coquina clams. The Castillo de San Marcos and the (possibly haunted) St. Augustine Lighthouse were cool, but the best parts of our vacation were the simple, quiet moments spent on the beach. 

It was so, so easy to go from our room to the beach and back from our ground floor room. To anyone considering a stay at House of Sea and Sun, I recommend either the Plum Room or the Safari Room; both open directly onto the back porch, which is right on the beach path. Unlike the folks in the upstairs rooms, you won't have to traipse up stairs and through a living room full of fancy antiques while covered in sand and seawater and wondering if you have a bathing suit wedgie. Yeah, AWKWARD.

LIZARD PARKING. There were so many lizards in St. Augustine, I bought a silver lizard charm to commemorate this trip.
The dining room overlooked the ocean, and every morning we enjoyed coffee served in pretty china cups and a delicious home-cooked breakfast with some of the best secret-recipe hot sauce I've ever had. It was fun talking to the other guests at breakfast and getting advice on where to eat dinner, too. Hint: Go to The Gourmet Hut for lunch (it was the cheapest meal we had, but my favorite!), the Barley Republic Irish Public House for lunch or dinner, and visit Gypsy Cab Company at dinnertime. Skip Purple Olive--it tasted good, but we both left with stomachaches.

One of my favorite women once told me, "If I'd vacationed with my first two husbands before we were married, I never would've agreed to marry them." Ouch! While we were in St. Augustine, Keith and I learned that we can vacation together, just the two of us, quite well. Break out the cake--we're ready to get married!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

July 2013 Ipsy Bag: Beach Beauty

For those of you just tuning in, Ipsy is a beauty subscription service. For $10 a month, Ipsy sends 4 - 5 surprise beauty products to your door in a cute cosmetics bag. They even mail it in a shiny hot pink envelope! Seeing that envelope in my mailbox always makes me dance around like a little kid. If you don't want to get in a beauty rut, Ipsy is for you.

Big Sexy Hair Weather Proof Hairspray, 1.7 oz: $9.48
POP Beauty Pouty Pop Lip Crayon in Fuschia Flirt, full size: $4.17
Demeter Salt Air perfume oil roll on, .29 oz: $10.00
COOLA Mineral Face SPF 20 unscented moisturizer .23 oz: $4.87
BH Cosmetics California Collection eyeshadow samples: $2.50 (estimate?)

IPSY PRICE: $10.00

I'm late posting this Ipsy review, but there's a good reason for that: I was waiting to go to the beach to test the sunscreen and compare the scent of the perfume to the smell of the ocean. I didn't want to review them without really putting them to the test!

The POP Beauty Pouty Pop Lip Crayon goes on smoothly and doesn't require a sharpener, but the color is unwearable on its own. It's exactly the same color as Pepto Bismol. It's alright when it's been blotted down to nearly nothing, but why bother? And the formula is a chalky mess that settles into the cracks in your lips--not pretty. It wears so poorly, I honestly think it was manufactured to be a cheap novelty product for children, then repackaged for adults. The one good thing about it is that it somehow heals dry, chapped lips. I wish it wasn't ugly, so I could wear it!

I was so excited about the Demeter Salt Air perfume oil. I've never actually used Demeter products but I've wanted to try them for YEARS. They make a book scent!!! I normally wear spicy gourmand scents, not fresh scents, but this smells fantastic straight out of the bottle. Very fresh, with a sharp salt tang and a hint of soap. On me, the salt smell wears off quickly, leaving the smell of sunscreen behind. It's not my favorite, but I keep reapplying it because it smells like vacation, and the smell evokes good feelings.

I wore the COOLA sunscreen on my face at the beach. I didn't get burned, and I didn't get zits, so WIN. But it's not for every day: It's a thick, white titanium dioxide-based formula, so made me look 3 shades paler than I really am. I had a 19th century chic pallor on the beach! But it's perfect for the beach, pool, and outdoor activities because it does prevent burns.

The BH Cosmetics eyeshadows are nice, but not extraordinary. The brown and metallic gold shadows are moderately pigmented, so they give a nice, natural look that is very work-appropriate. The purple shadow is lightly pigmented, so it's more wearable than I imagined. It gives a sheer hint of purple, not a POW! IN YOUR FACE purple.

The Big Sexy Hair weather proof hairspray was not what I expected. It's NOT a spray that holds your style in place. If you want that, look elsewhere. Instead, it coats hair with something that prevents it from absorbing humidity and frizzing. Nashville is nasty-humid, so I love this. If you walk through drizzle without an umbrella, this can't help you, but it does keep your hair from pouffing all over the place on a humid summer day. I'll buy this again.

What did you get in your July Ipsy bag?