Friday Favorites:Rose Quartz & Serenity

Rose Quartz Wedding Dress

Rose Quartz Ring

Rose Quartz Tablescape

Rose Quartz Stilettos

Rose Quartz Signature Cocktail

Rose Quartz and Serenity Rustic Tablescape

Serenity French Macaroons

Serenity Succulent Bridal Bouquet

Serenity Wedding Cake

Serenity Martini

 

Happy Engagement Season Everyone!

-lmk

 

 

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Quick Tips: Understanding the Acronyms

So you FIL2B doesn’t like your BM’s GF who happens to be your MOH because she was rude to the MOG at the E-Party?

Eeep.  Navigating the new language spoken by the wedding world can be quite frustrating at first.  It seems like everyone – from your florist, recently married friends, online blog communities and pinterest are using acronyms and speaking their own dialect of “wedding-speak.”

Hopefully this list can help you navigate the waters!

Basic Prefixes:

S =Sister, B = Brother, M = Mother, F = Father

G = Groom, B = Bride, H = Husband, W = Wife

OOT = Out Of Town (Guests, Gift Bags, Reception, etc)

Basic Suffixes:

“IL” = in law suffix (SIL = sisterin law, BIL = brother in law, etc..)

OG, OB = Of the Bride, Of the Groom (FOB = Father of the Bride)

Other Prefixes:

D = Dear/Darling (as in DH = Darling Husband)

F is also used to mean “Future,” so FFIL = Future Father In Law

Misc Crazy Talk:

JP = Justice of the Peace

STDs = Save The Dates (I promise!)

MUA = makeup artist

WP/WV = Wedding Planer, Wedding Venue

RB = Ring Bearer

FG = Flower Girl

JB = Junior Bridesmaid

MOH = Maid or Matron of Honor

BM = Best Man

SIL, BIL, MIL, FIL – Sister, Brother, Mother, Father in law

FOB, FOG, MOB, MOG, SOB, SIG = Father of the Bride, Father of the Groom, Mother of the Bride, etc, etc, 

Hope this helps! Feel free to add your own in the comments!

-lmk

 

 

 

 

 

5 Steps to Finding YOUR Wedding Venue

Starting the search for your perfect wedding venue can be intimidating, tedious and frustrating.  Follow these 5 steps and you will be on the road to wedding venue bliss.

startonline (2)

Set a Target Budget, Guest Count and Date Frame

Without these, there is not much you can do – and not much your venue consultants can work with. I have toured so many couples who come in and have no idea of how many guests they plan on inviting… I don’t need to know an exact amount, but have a target, say +/- 15%.  So, 60-75 people or 90-110, or 180-220, 450-550, etc.

And so many couples don’t know what time of year they are considering (yes, it’s GREAT to have multiple dates, but to not even know the season? You might not be ready to start planning – and that’s OK, you do not have to plan your wedding the day after you become engaged!).  Talk with your fiance and set up your date parameters – Any Saturday in June or July. Or, sometime Labor Day weekend, with the following weekend being an alternative.

Get real about your budget.  And be comfortable talking about it.  Have a number.  A range. Something. Be wary of saying you want the least expensive option, and then plan to add upgrades – a venue might only here “I want something cheap” and prime dates might suddenly be “booked” or you might not meet their published minimum.

Here’s the deal.  Pretend you are shopping for a house and I am your realtor.  I have no idea what houses to show you if I do not know your budget.  If I show you a $200K house, when your budget is $750K – you will be disappointed and not think the housing market is high end enough for you and the luxuries that you want are not attainable. On the flip side, if I show you a million dollar house and your budget is $100K, you will think I am crazy and just trying to get you for your money. Truth is, I have plenty of $100K houses, I just didn’t know what to show you, so I guessed.  I tell my couples that it is not my goal to get you to spend over your budget and send you home broke. My goal is to maximize every penny that your budget allows (if not, just under) and get you everything we can cram into your (comfortable) spending cap.

Think your budget is embarrassingly low and unrealistic? I’ve dealt with less.  I promise.

startonline

Start Searching Online – And with an open mind

I recommend that you start your search on the major wedding websites – theknot.com, weddingwire.com, mywedding.com and other wedding websites.  Most of these sites feature reviews, unaltered by the business (I can tell you from experience that most sites do not permit altering or deleting a review, unless the company can prove it fraudulent or threatening). These sites also showcase pictures of venues, videos, packages and sometimes special pricing.  I recommend you decide the geographical location that you are looking for, and start your search.  At this point, I hope you are sourcing out about 15 places.

request info

Ask For Information – then wait

Nearly all venues have an online information request form, or something similar, to let the venue know you would like information emailed to you.  There is usually a spot for you to free-type specific questions – I recommend you put something there (ie. “looking for a gluten free wedding,” “do you allow sparklers?” something… you will see why later) Most will also ask for your phone number – which I recommend you submit.

Now Wait.

and Wait.

and Wait.

How many of the 15 venues responded to you in a timely fashion? How many responded at all?  Here is where you can start to weed out the list.  If a venue didn’t get back to you, but you really wanted to learn about them, I recommend you try calling (once) and see what sort of response you get back. Otherwise, off the list they go.

This first point of contact is crucial.  Did the venue rep pick up the phone and call you, asking questions and sounding genuinely interested in what you have to say?  Did they respond to your email with a personal greeting and specific commentary on your date/guest count and/or an answer to the question you posed?

Or did you get a canned email with no personalization? Or did you get stood up, with no response at all?

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Tour. Tour. Tour. – go at it alone (or alone-ish)

Once you make the initial contact with a venue, (and like what they have to say) set an appointment to go out for a tour. Hopefully, you are narrowing down to 5-8 venues to tour.  By.  Your.  Self. (for the most part.  This is not the time to bring the whole fam-damn-arella, maaayyyybbeee bring your fiance – but only if they want to be super involved with planning)

Split this over two days (so it’s all done together, but not one exhausting day). Take notes, take pictures, ask questions,  and see how you like the venue person (ie event coordinator, sales person, etc).  And ask for a custom quote THAT INCLUDES ALL SERVICE CHARGES AND TAXES.  *I should note that I am working on a detailed post about the actual tour itself, and hope to publish it next week, so keep your eyes out for that!* The reason I recommend you go at it alone, is to narrow down your choices.

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Go Back with Your Entourage

Dad needs to see the venue before signing off? Bring him.  Fiance skipped the first round of visits? Bring fiance.  Future Mother In Law needs to feel like she is a part of things? Let’s go baby.

I recommend that you return to your top three wedding venues with the “decision makers and check writers” for another tour – for a couple of reasons. More details in the aforementioned follow up post, but basically a second viewing gives you a chance to control the number of options that the decision makers have, to see your venue (and venue staff) on another day of the week and/or time of day, and to make sure the venue is what you remember.

Then go home, spread the three quotes in front of you, drink a glass of wine, and make your decision. I promise you, it’s that easy.

More on your wedding venue tours to come!

-lmk

 

 

 

 

People I Crush On: Caroline Hirons

CH with product

As brides and grooms get ready for the big day, they realize the importance that is placed on looking amazing in your pictures. Many engaged couples focus on weight loss, but a few start looking at skin care.

I didn’t pay much attention to skin care until two years ago when my mom introduced me to Caroline Hirons. I knew how to zap zits, but otherwise was a sleep-in-her-makeup, I’m-too-young-for-a-nightcream, why-on-EARTH-would-you-spend-$250-on-some-face-serum kind of girl.

CH spendy stuff

I didn’t realize how awful my skin really was.  Little fines lines started creeping in, my pores were dark and noticeable and my face seemed, well, dull.  My mom had started experimenting with skincare and I started listening. She was horrified to find out that I didn’t wash my face before bed – told me that Caroline Hirons would be aghast. That’s when she told me to read Caroline’s post on that very topic.

Caroline is VERY British.  She’s funny, she’s blunt, and she gives honest reviews and advice for all things skin care.  I enjoy her candid speaking & writing tone and love to scour through the massive achieves on her blog.   CH headshot

One of her best “get to know me” posts is Things I say over and over again in the Clinic.”  One of my favorite lines is,

“You overuse the Clarisonic. A lot of you. A LOT of you. You can use it – you’re just not meant to use it every time you brush your frigging teeth. … Step away from the trendy facial tool and wash your bloody face properly.”

If you happen to find yourself on her blog, start with the “Cheat Sheets” on the right hand column.  More specifically, start with “Cleansing.”

She debunks beauty industry jargon, coming down harshly on those who make false promises, here is what she says about the marketing term, “shrinks pores”

  • Shrinks pores I’ll say it again: Pores are not doors – they do not open and close.Nothing opens and closes pores. NOTHING. Well, except glue and sellotape perhaps. There is a difference between saying ‘closes pores’ and ‘minimises the appearance of pores’. A big fat difference. One is rubbish and the other is a possibility.

CH cruelty free

Caroline also gets into the world of responsible product development and marketing with her take on products sold in China and animal testing (absolutely fascinating article!).  I learned about the difference between truly cruelty free products, and product manufacturers that skirt the issue.  Read more here.

She posts pictures of herself, washing her face, no makeup, so you can see what she is doing.  I certainly wouldn’t do that, but she knows her readers need the tutorial – judgey-judgers be gone.

CH raw and honest

A couple of things to remember about Ms. Hirons’ Blog, and starting a skincare regimen:

– A “Flannel” (used to wash your face) is called a washcloth in the States (terrycloth)

– Great skin care is expensive, good skincare is spendy.  Read her thoughts on where to spend money and where to be thrifty.  Find what works for you and stick with it. However, keep your spending in perspective.

-Don’t fall in love with any product until you see if it’s distributed in the States.  Those sneaky companies… sometimes things in Europe aren’t out here, yet.

-Have thick skin.  Especially is you are a smoker.  She will tan your hide, then tell you how to fix all the damage you have done.

– She has frequent giveaways, but some are “UK-only”, don’t be bitter.  You can’t be bitter.  Yes, I wanted the $500 Kate Sommerville set as well….

kate-somerville

 

I hope you will enjoy this energetic, bubbly, yet knowledgeable and frank woman’s perspective on skin care.  In a couple weeks, months, years, you will thank your younger self when those wedding pictures come back.  Or when those fine lines start to disappear. Or when you don’t have to apply makeup by the trowel-full to cover an uneven skin tone (raises hand in the back of class, slowly…).

-lmk

 

Gym + Homecooked Dinner EVERY day

Author’s Note: Many of my brides (and grooms!!) talk about eating healthy and getting fit for their big day… While I don’t think you should crash diet just to fit in a dress, I do think that planning your wedding might be the perfect catalyst for a healthy body overhaul – and a lifestyle change. Here is a little insight into my meal plan, which affords me the time to stay healthy at the gym.

Yes, you can go to the gym and serve a healthy home cooked meal every day.  And you can do this while working outside the home, too. It’s the perfect mystery that challenges men and women every day – how do I maintain my professional life, while providing nourishment and quality time to/with my family and still have time to keep myself healthy and de-stressed?

As Super Why would say… “the answer to our SUPER big mystery is”… PLAN AHEAD!

This is mostly about the food.  I’m hungry.

Once a month my bestie and I spend an afternoon creating freezer-crockpot meals – this is our hybrid meal planning mastermind,  a bastardization of dream dinners, crock pot recipes, family secrets and willingness to throw whatever into a pot and see what happens.

A little context: My BFF and I both work full time during the day, and our husbands work swing / late shift.  So, generally speaking, we are responsible for cooking dinner for ourselves and the kids roughly 5 days out of the week.  For those of you taking notes, she cooks dinner 7 nights a week, 5 or so from our freezer meals.  I am home for dinner 5 nights a week, and cook maybe 3 new meals and re-create leftovers for the other two.  She has two almost elementary-aged kiddos and I have a pre-schooler. We combine families one or two nights a week, sometimes bringing extra food, other times stretching one crock pot meal to feed everyone. In other words – we adjust to life around this flexible meal planning system.

We started pre-kids, after attending a few dream dinners nights.  The concept is simple:

dream dinners infographic

And the results were AMAZING! Super quick dinners, happy husbands and no takeout.  But at $16-22 per meal, it was still a little spendy.  Yes, we were getting more variety (creating these meals from scratch, from the grocery store would run more like $25-40 a meal, since it would not be a bulk purchase), but the cost was still a little high.

This is what a dream dinners store looks like in action…

dream dinners in action

So we scratched our heads and started messing around with making our own freezer meals.  And you know what? It totally worked.

We bought our ingredients in bulk, created a massive assembly line in my kitchen, and armed ourselves with Ziploc bags and foil containers. I forget what we spent, and how many we made, but ten hours later, we both had freezers full of dinners and spent around $15 a meal.  Plus, we found our portions were larger then the ones we got at dream dinners.  We were getting a dinner, plus loads of leftovers.

The meals were thawed ahead of time, popped into the oven / cooked on the stove and voila! a home cooked meal (baked for an hour, or actively cooked on the stove for 15+/- minutes).  Gone were the days of slaving in the kitchen for an hour plus, after working all day.  Gone were the days of having a trashed kitchen to spend 30 minutes to cleanup after cooking dinner. Miracles really did happen. And we were saving money. We actually ate at decent times, and the grocery bill was lowered.

The main trick is that you are pooling your money for silly things like capers.  At $3-5 a jar, your Italian Chicken meal gets pricey (plus the $4 breadcrumbs, new $7 olive oil, $6.99/lb for the small pack of chicken, etc, etc.).  Then you throw out the rest of the capers in two months after only using a tablespoon and the breadcrumbs are worthless in six weeks.  And cardamom.  Ever bought that little jar of ground up gold? Good Lord.  At least now, when we found a recipe that called for it, we were splitting the cost! Chicken in bulk is more like $1.99-3.99 a pound. Breadcrumbs from Costco are less by the ounce – and by sharing, you CAN use up the 55 gallon drum they come in.

Things we learned from phase one of our meals:

  1. Don’t waste money on foil containers to freeze then bake your meal in.  Throw it in a Ziploc bag and call it good.  Then, use that casserole dish your Aunt got you for your wedding (trust me girls, you have one coming in the mail at some point before you tie the knot). The exception is a layered casserole. Foil containers are a must there.

  2. Don’t get overly creative with veggies on the front end.  Buy a bulk bag of green beans, split into little ziplocs and call it good.  Steam and season as you see fit when preparing your meal.  No one missed the gym because they had to season their green beans. We pepped all these fancy sides and at the end we realized we did way too much work.

  3. Do be willing to go outside your comfort zone and get away from chicken.  Pork, salmon, beef and ground turkey all freeze quite well, but the recipes take a little more searching. The other day I read a blog that mentioned kangaroo, I’m not sure if she was serious.. but the point is.. push your envelope! Lamb or goat maybe? (no joke, my neighbor is raising TWO goats for meat…)

  4. Do take chances.  The worst thing that can happen is you have to order pizza.  Not the end of the world.

  5. Do label your meals. You might think you will be able to remember / tell the bags apart… Guess what, you won’t!! I promise.  We have had several “I have something working in the crockpot. I couldn’t tell you what the hell it is to save my life, but it smells amazeballs” conversations.

A couple of years passed, we both relocated a couple times, both popped out kids and suddenly we were living a mile apart, having the same problem with dinner – now multiplied by the need to feed the kiddos something healthy and before 10pm. Here is where we entered phase two of our meals.

This time we spent about 6 hours, $400 and made a total of 28 meals, plus tons of “veggie sides.”  We both have pretty stocked pantries for things like brown rice, these healthy-ish boxed mashed potatoes (don’t laugh! they are chemical free and work for a weeknight meal!) other starchy sides.  How’s your math? $14.25 a meal.  And we had larger portions then our retail experience.  14 meals each, lasting about three weeks.

And then my bestie re-discovered the crock pot – in the form of this All-Clad slow cooker.

michmashs crockpot

 

I wrinkled my nose and we cooked independently for awhile.  Then she brought up our freezer meals. But this time there was a catch – she wanted them to be crock pot friendly.  Ugh. I hated crock pots.  Dry, tasteless mushy food.  No thanks! But she insisted.

And we all know, sometimes you just have to let your BFF win.

So we had another freezer meal session, this time, making recipes that were crockpot friendly.  Somewhere in the process, her mom heard about this, and sent me a new Cuisinart Crock Pot.  So, I gave it a try.

my crockpot

Ladies, I shit you not, I use this thing three to five times a week.  It has been a godsend.

Last month, we tipped the scales at about 30 meals for under $350.  $11.50ish for dinner, plus sides with leftovers? Sign me up. All in about three (yes, three) hours of prep.  We go back and forth the week before meal prep, hunting down recipes, debating old favorites to use or to cut,  creating a master grocery list and splitting up the shopping.

And get this – because you throw everything in the crockpot before leaving for work, all you do is toss some rice in the cooker and veggies in the microwave when you get home.  Tell me that isn’t the easiest thing you have ever heard of. Faster than delivery, healthier than takeout, cheaper than going to the store on the way home.

Here we are mid prep! Well, here the kitchen is, at least. Not pictured is my prep station on the kitchen counter(s).  We have settled into a Lizzy Mae dices, slices and browns (veggies and meat) and the BFF measures and assembles.  I’m a fast fox and she is meticulous at following rules.  Know each other’s strengths and capitalize on them.

meal prep.jpg

What do we do with this extra time? Hit the gym, of course! No, seriously. Now we both have time to go to the gym on the way home from work.  You see, if dinner only take 15 minutes from walking in the door to serving on the table, you can get off work at 5, gym from 530-630, home by 645, dinner by 7.  Adjust for your schedule, of course, but you get the message.  By planning ahead for the week, we know what to thaw, when to combine forces, and what nights to make a gourmet meal from scratch (aka, gym rest day).

And gone are the $50 trips to the grocery store and hour of prep for a home cooked meal.

A few notes and things we have learned in phase two:

  1. Thaw. Your. Meal. Proper thawing prevents mushiness.

  2. You don’t need a fancy programmable machine.  I thought I wanted a delay start, but since the meal I put in the pot is cold (thawed, but cold), it can simmer for 10 hours and be OK.  Or, I have hubby start it for me.

  3. Washing the crock pot itself is a pain in the ass.  But less of a pain if you do it while the pot is still hot/warm.  Not slimy and cold, sitting in the sink overnight.

  4. Double up  / triple up on meals you really like.  After all, this is a month +/- of dinners, so you CAN have sweet & spicy meatballs twice.  And no one has ever said no to balsamic chicken for the third time in a month.  Activate your bulk-buying power!

  5. Alternate the master grocery list creation! BFF uses a spreadsheet and I use a list.  Either way, no one’s feelings get hurt.

  6. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, I can break down 15 onions in five minutes, but I struggle to follow recipes exactly, and get bored easily.  Enter my bestie, who keeps us in line by actually taking the time to measure the salt, instead of just throwing in “whatever.”

And it’s fun! We let the kids run around the house, laugh and tell stories, agree to disagree about certain cooking techniques, and look forward to providing reasonable healthy nourishment for our families.

I think this spring, we will transition into Phase Three – we are looking at buying a pig or half pig (locally raised and slaughtered) and possibly a side of beef.  I really want to do chickens (some for eggs, some for meat), and have my dad help me put in raised beds for an extensive herb & veggie garden. We also have a neighbor that raises goats, and I would like to talk to him about that… Now that we have the science and mechanics down, I hope we can focus on being local, sustainable and organic.  After all, it is the PNW and that is how we roll!

Does that give you some insight as to how we make time to hit the gym and spend time out of the kitchen?  Do you meal prep? Have you tried it with a friend? Have any great recipes to share?

-lmk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Favorites: Printed Things

This week’s round up includes save the date, invitation and menu card ideas and resources. Enjoy!

From the top left, spiraling clockwise, ending with flirty pink in the middle.

Not an invitation, per se, but the fonts, styling, layout, colors… aggggggg, I love this poster.  Someone do this please!!

Perfect for a whimsical bridal shower – this Alice in Wonderland invitation has a vintage feel to it. It’s from Etsy and I like the colors on my pin better than what is featured in the shop.  Nice to know it is customizable, however.

This Save The Date for a Bronx Wedding.  I like the “please” and location fonts.  This is by Wedding Paper Divas – affordable, trustworthy and surprisingly chic.

Alluding to your wedding theme via your paper invites is nice.  This rustic invite features a mason jar, but is kept fresh with the color choice (greige) and the pen style drawing. I would only change the secondary font to sans serif, but that’s just me.  minted.com

Lovely brown paper bag menu cards. See the entire wedding write up here on Blue Farm Wedding’s blog.

Techy/Geeky meets Metro/Slick – this flowchart save-the-date will be put on the fridge in minutes flat. It’s another treat from minted.com

This Rose Garden Menu Card by minted.com.  Surprisingly affordable… however the Triple Thick paper makes it a little spendy, but why not, your guests will appreciate it.

YAAAS! Love this flirty pink invite – would work extremely well for a shower, too. Guess who… minted.com

Happy Planning!

-lmk

DIY: Crepe Paper Flowers

My Aunt, Andrea, is fricking amazing. I adore her decorating style, and am always envious of how crafty she is.  Growing up, I always thought her to be so cool and fashion forward – seriously, for a while I think I wanted to be her when I grew up. Not a Wedding Planner, or a Teacher, I wanted to be Andrea.

A few years ago, when she was actively publishing her “Under a Blue Moon” blog (where I get a ton of my inspiration), she posted a well written, clear and concise essay on these gorgeous crepe paper flowers.

Then she made a simple tutorial and the damn thing practically went viral (again, I swoon with adoration). Click the link above for the complete post and instructions. Then get lost in her blog because it is a goldmine for great crafty things.

crepep paper tutorial

Need more for your paper flower fix? Check out this post from sheknows.com. 101 different paper flower tutorials – my aunt’s three year old (at the time) post made the list at number 9!

So here it is – perfect for your DIY wedding flowers, or to decorate packages this Holiday Season.  Thank you to Andrea for letting me borrow her content!!

-lmk