Pretty things of the day: fresh evergreen

The holiday tradition in my childhood home involved lots of fresh pine needles and arguing over whose turn it was to water the tree. The smell of pine evokes for me such powerful memories.

In our house this year, I was thankful for the faux tree and it's pre-lit wonder. Seemed there were fewer hours than in a normal December, or at least fewer of them to spend on holiday decor. I was also thankful for a thoughtful friend's birthday gift: a fresh balsam wreath. Bonus: it's in the shape of our new last-name monogram. How fun! Little did she know she was also giving me a breath in of memories each time I walk past it in our little entryway.

I love fresh holiday touches (and I'm sure you remember that I love fresh flowers ANY time of year!). Favorites: paperwhite bulbs, moss-adorned wreaths, mistletoe (with its adorable white berries), magnolia leaves, and of course evergreen and pine.

(classy wreath with tiny bells from newlywed diaries)

(paperwhites from young house love)

(charming, earthy entryway from Martha Stewart)

I've just kind of realized that I can DO some of these things. Eureka! Next year I'd love to incorporate touches like these at our home... and maybe I can convince myself and my hubby that it's time to try a fresh tree for ourselves.


DIY: Homegrown gift idea

We tended a large garden this summer. Patrick's hard work, green thumb, and the blessing of rain and mild temperatures made for more plenty than we could consume.

I learned so much about food. Did you know zucchini start as the stem of a gorgeous orange flower? Did you know that one corn stalk only bears a few ears? Or the work involved in picking green beans, one-by-one, from rows of full, low-to-the-ground plants? These are all lessons new to this city girl. Amazing.

So, as I enjoyed the novelty of our backyard bounty and canned many many jars of goodies (or watched the experts do the work), I knew sharing it with others would make it even more special ... and so our "homegrown holidays" gifts were born.

This holiday, I packaged up jars of salsa, green beans, banana peppers, and tomato juice in sweet little boxes or simple brown paper bags. Labels keep it lighthearted and personal. The fresh salsa, for example, is labeled: "not too spicy, not too sweet. made with love, onions, & homegrown banana peppers, green bell peppers, & tomatoes from the Anderson garden (plus a heap of manual labor & a pinch of patient wife)."

The boxes were a Hobby Lobby half-off find. The labels are old address labels I had laying around. Since I'm an admitted craft-challenged gal, I have to say it kind of turned out adorably. Now I only wish we'd made more salsa in August so I could gift more of it!

Happy homegrown holidays! What are you making this year?


Gentle snow & stress relief

A sweet little snow is falling outside our windows this Saturday morning. It's the wet kind that melts on your palm instantly, but looks fluffy as it tumbles from the overcast clouds. It's technically the first day of my holiday vacation, and it's a desperately needed relief.

It's hard for me to believe that even without a wedding to plan, I still find it hard to do nice things for myself like keeping this blog updated regularly. We had a whirlwind December so far, and I plan to spend some me-time over the next two weeks posting about some of our adventures: Patrick's 30th birthday, the merits of a dishwasher (!), and I may even bite the bullet and post the drafts I've written about married money management or work-life balance.

But, for today and for the rest of this weekend, I'm going to watch the snow fall, hum holiday tunes (thanks Shea and Jamie!), wrap gifts, and be a little more gentle with myself. Maybe suck down a few pots of coffee, read my new book (thanks LRE!) or take a few winter walks with Ozzie.

Happy holidays, readers! Thanks for sticking around this blog during the barren days of this December.


Monday Moment: Thankful

Driving to work today, I thought about where we were this time last year. I remembered the feelings that surrounded Thanksgiving week of 2008. I felt compelled to "re-post" this bit from the archives. It's fitting, I think, as we enter another holiday season, to remember how blessed and loved we are. And to say "thank you, thank you, thank you" to all who love us and bless us with their many gifts -- material and spiritual.

From 12.02.08:

I adore Thanksgiving as a holiday. It is a day and time void of pretenses and expectations, designed to remind each of us of the many blessings we enjoy every day. This year, my mom's side of the family descended on my parents' home from all parts of the country -- Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, California -- to celebrate. And this year, especially, I was touched by so many precious and wonderful moments. I felt so much love, warmth, and genuine gratitude.

Our first bridal shower, held on Saturday, moved me to tears. It is difficult to explain what it feels like to be showered with beautiful and generous gifts simply because you are happy and in love. My neighbors Marty and Sue prepared a gorgeous brunch. Anna and Emma dutifully made ribbon bouquets and recorded gifts. We all laughed and the group watched as I opened beautiful package after beautiful package. (Above, I am demonstrating the wonders of OXO pop containers... "oooh" ... "ahhh") It was overwhelming.

Unpacking everything on Sunday, the gifts seemed to "fill" up the house. Through this process of planning and showers and gift-giving, the people we love and who love us are building our home. The coffee pots and wine glasses and throw blankets and baskets are daily reminders of those who grew us into the family we are now and will support us in the family we become.

Thank you. My cup runneth over.


Operation kitchen: Progress!

We're making progress. The goal is to have a finished kitchen for Thanksgiving! We just have a few things to finish (notice the one white drawer and the missing sink panels ... wink, wink). And once we're done, I'll post a complete before and after extravaganza. For now, I thought this sneak peek would suffice. TGIF!


Sesame Street: On Marriage

This is so sweet. It was posted by another blogger today. When you think about it, marriage is "a lot...hugging and kissing and helping each other." (Insert wide smile here.)

Since I've been on a little hiatus, I thought this might be a good segue into more deep discussions on marriage, maybe a return of the monday moment, and potentially more tales from the kitchen (which is where I've been these last two weeks...we're getting close!)



Today, Nov. 2, we've been married six months. I think that together we've experienced nearly every emotion possible over the course of those months -- elation, hilarity, fear, disappointment, contentment, frustration, and grief. What a ride, this marriage thing! Six months may not be a major milestone, but we celebrated with a candlelight picnic of yummy finger foods in our living room last night, leaning on each other with eyes closed as our reception dinner music played. And we made a pact: celebrate "us" often.


Another nice thing about a husband ...

Is that when you're buried under a mountain of covers, hair askew, clutching soiled Kleenex and sucking on menthol drops, he arrives home with a small pizza and breadsticks and brings you a glass of ice cold water.

Then, the next day when you're too blah to go to work, he's the one kissing your forehead and feeling your brow for fever while he thinks you're still sound asleep. And he's the reason you're grinning, eyes closed, under all those covers as he pulls the bedroom door closed and goes off to work.


Oh, baby!

Some of our closest friends were blessed with their first bambino on Oct. 22. She's a healthly, gorgeous little girl,"snug as a bug" in the photo above. Couldn't be more perfect. We are so happy for them! Welcome to the world, Devan Avery Fox!

It was moving to see the photos of two people we have known as a couple holding their own little one. They were in love with this little girl in every picture. I cannot wait to meet this gift and witness her mom and dad as parents.

Note: I have always been a baby person, a kid-lover. But, for now, my hubby and I are getting used to being a pair, taking care of a rambunctious dog, and enjoying young married life. No baby bug yet.


Monday Moment: No words needed.

It took me a long time after we returned from our honeymoon to find the words to write about that day and how it felt. It was just so much, so surreal, so deep inside of me. We're coming up on six months (this weekend!), and I still have no words to describe the moments captured in each of these images. What a gift to have had our living grandparents there to watch us take our vows, and what a blessing to feel those no longer with us smiling on us that day.


Operation kitchen: Part II

Last weekend we spent a few chilly hours outside with our paint sprayer, which is an absolute MUST, I think, for those considering undertaking cabinet-painting. I assisted Patrick (as is most prudent when dealing with a "mad-artist" DIY-er (see previous post)). We had fun making jokes and taking photos, even though there were some tense moments. As we made silly faces, Patrick made me promise not to blog with them. Ugh. Sorry! :)

You saw the kitchen of yore in my post a few weeks ago. Now, see below. This is the kitchen of now. Oy. A little bit of a disaster area.
Since the photo above, we've started demolition of the backsplash. (Goodbye, forever lemon yellow!) We're still contemplating the color, but I think we're pretty sure that we're going with a subway tile shape. Any ideas out there, creative people?

And here is the new counter, set atop the as-yet-incomplete revamped island. I love how the brown "granite" look complements the wall color. Lovely.

Pretty thing of the day: hydrangeas & sage

These pretty blooms are courtesy of Lynn, my mom. The green "filler" is actually sage. We've had these in our house now for a few weeks, and the hydrangea and the sage are drying up now. The sage is a surprise, the smell is sharp and yummy. Reminds me of fall. Happy Friday!


The STUFF of life

Real life Tuesday is all about the "stuff" of life. Stuff is a big part of getting married. You return home from the honeymoon to a house-full or car-full of mailbox-full of boxes, cards, packages -- all filled with stuff. As we waltzed through Crate & Barrel or Bed Bath & Beyond with our list and scanner wand, it seemed we needed all of these things.

Then, overwhelmed by styrofoam and wadded paper packing materials, we realize that oodles of glasses for every occasion are not really needs. They're things and expectations, like the mums and pumpkins I recently balked at.

It dawned on me, reading another blog's post about being a wife, that "stuff" and having it is another part of what changes when two people become partners. You see, until about a year ago (when cohabitation officially began), I was a young, 20-something nomad. I owned very few things. Those things were: hand-me-down dishes, worn pots and pans, discount sofa and chair, photos, and relics collected from college life, childhood, knick-nack gifts, and a few prints from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Impressive, yes. Worth? Only on a personal level.

What changed after all the packing material cleared away? Well, for instance, we've been throwing bickers back and forth about coffee mugs. Thanks to generous loved ones, we have 12 ivory, ceramic mugs. They were hitchhikers -- piece 5 in our cream-colored, everyday, porcelain placesettings (pictured above).

I think there is an implication in marriage of readiness to be weighed down by things, readiness to settle down. That's something I didn't really consider while waving the wand through the aisles of Crate & Barrel like I used to circle toys in the JCPenney catalog.

The immensity of settling down into life has slowly been settling itself into the pores of our life together. We own a house. We own 12 pretty matching mugs and 16 wine goblets and Calphalon spatulas. We needed a lot of these items to fill up our home. We own wedding bands. We wanted these to show our commitment. We own a permanent relationship. That's more commitment than a 30-year mortgage. I think it must be normal to have an ah-ha moment about all this a few months into marriage.

Yet, there is more to this "stuff." If I were "scanning" items in the registry of our life together (at least for the next few years) I wouldn't need to add much: a few great vacations, a little less student loan debt. Oh, and about 1,000 extra sq. ft. to store all of our "stuff." (wink, wink!)


Domestic duties: harvest decor

As a married person with a house in the Midwest -- rather a wife with a house in the Midwest -- am I required to purchase mums and pumpkins and use dried cornstalks to create a shrine to the harvest season?

This thought dawned on me as I drove through town last week and noticed that even the most humble homes had such displays, sometimes including more than three bundles of straw. No display at 7787 this fall, save for the orange volunteer mum blooming in our flowerbed.Was I not paying tribute to the fall gods and doing my part as a wife and keeper of decor?

Growing up, our house always sported seasonal decor. And Mums, pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, and scarecrows always made home feel more homey. Habits of comfort.It's ironic, then, that now that I'm in charge of making my home homey, I kind of decided to opt out of the whole harvest decor movement as a domestic protest of sorts. Kind of like a few weeks ago when I opted out of diong my husband's laundry to see how long he'd notice. Who decided women needed to do these things anyway?

That was before my parents came for a visit. Mom brought with her an orange jack-o-lantern tin filled with candy and a potted purple mum. I remembered that sometimes rituals of comfort make things feel a little warmer. Touché, Lynn. And that was before Patrick noticed the underwear shortage and pitched in with the laundry. He chipped in. Touché, honey.

I even put a pumpkin on the porch. And, yes, it seems comfortable. No harm in a little harvest. No harm in a little protest.


DIY: "Spooning" shower gift

For a recent bride's Labor Day shower, Tricia and I dreamed up another fun gift for another recently wed lady. Every couple registers for a bevy of spoons -- serving spoons, teaspoons, mixing spoons, wooden spoons. You get the idea. These essential kitchen items that people really do need kind of make cruddy gifts. Enter our deluxe spooning kit.

All of these spoons ... were bundled up in the light blue pillowcases from the the bride and groom's registry to make for a double-gift. T fashioned an adorable personalized tag. It read: "You’ll be doing a lot of spooning as a newlywed, so I packaged up these gifts for good measure. Each scoop is sure to give you pleasure!"

Fun, right? Katie, the lucky bride who received this prize of a shower gift, was married Oct. 3. (See photos of her big day) Best wishes to the newlyweds!


Tuscan red & a hint of lime

Very chilly fall weather is settling in here in the Midwest, but for some reason these inspirations reminded me of early September, the last dregs of summer. I've always loved limes, and if I knew my husband wouldn't give me a hard time about it, I'd go fill a shopping bag with fake ones for our kitchen right this moment.

Tuscan red & hint of lime

{photos: Jose Villa (2), Hollye Schumacher Photography, Zoeica Images.com}

Close your eyes, and imagine your favorite folks at these long wooden picnic tables, enjoying some shiraz (to keep with the tuscan-red theme, of course). I can almost hear the plates clattering and the laughter from the tables, covered with crisp white linens and vessels of deep merlot-colored zinnias and ruby tulips. Tapas -- like tiny mozarella-stuffed cherry tomatoes and decadent chocolate pretzels -- are being passed around. Yummy.


Operation kitchen!

The project begins. Our quaint country kitchen is completely dismembered this week. We're painting our worn-out wood cabinetry and replacing our countertops to give our little kitchen a facelift. Last weekend, we removed the upper cabinets and primed them for painting. We've spent hours lately working on the doors and removing hardware, sanding, and cleaning. Hence, the slack in posts lately (sorry!).

Yes, we're back to DIY-land. It seems like there are 500 steps now before the kitchen/dining room (one big area) is completely finished, but we're taking things one step at a time. Or at least, I'm trying to wait patiently for my fresh, crisp kitchen.

If there is a true trial and test for a relationship, it's a home project. Think about it: "redecorating" or "renovating" is really just costly and complicated upheaval. We have an older house, so things aren't always square or plumb. And when it comes to tape measures and levels: I. Have. No. Patience.

"Just do it!" I have been known to say.

On the other hand, my husband is precise and exact about his construction projects in the same way that I obsess over words and magazines. When Patrick goes into project mode, he's like a mad artist.

So, readers, bid farewell to that cozy kitchen in the photo above. Project tales and photos to come! For tips that helped us get started: Check out YHL's helpful cabinet-painting guide.


Happy birthday, EJD!

One of the absolute coolest things about growing up: realizing the worth of your siblings. I'm lucky to have three of them. They're friends that transcend trends and life stages. Emma (in the stunning bowl haircut and lovely mustard sweater, above, circa 1990.) turns 25 today. I'd be worried that she'll take offense to the photo above, but notice my double chin and 8-year-old front teeth. Happy birthday, sweet friend and sister, champion rower, wounded-bird healer, wonderful woman.


Monday Moment: Berry Nice

"What a Wonderful World" croons in the background, and I'm thinking sentimentally that I can't believe I'm dancing with my dad at my wedding. These are the moments that sometimes feel awkward at a wedding. And then Dad whispers to me, "I'll say a berry, then you say a berry. ... boysenberry." I smiled.

Me: "Blueberry?"
Dad: "Cranberry."
Me: "Strawberry."

By this time we are giggling, and the awkwardness melts away. We are laughing too hard.


How's married life?

Everyone: "So, how's married life?" 

Me/Patrick: How on earth do I articulate the answer to this question?! "It's good." 

"How is married life?" is a tough question to answer. You walk the line. You either really get into it like the person who gets into the particulars when you ask, "how are you?"expecting only a "fine." Or you feel lame when you smile and say, "It's good." 

Since we lived together before the wedding, not much has changed day-to-day. In this way, married life is a lot like unmarried life. But some things do change, or at least feel different. Fun things ... dates, talking about the future, painting walls and hanging photos. And not-so-fun-but-very-important things ... joint bank accounts, name changes, expectations. So, it's much less complicated to answer, "married life is fine." Or even make a joke, "So far, so good!" 

I wanted to share, though, some really great advice recently from a friend who is maybe more thoughtful and precise than anyone I've known. She said, "I just think about what that person is interested in and answer it from that angle." So, one person who is into budgets and investing says, "How's married life?" She talks about how they're figuring out where to spend and save. Another person who is interested in decorating asks. She answers that they're still putting things away and getting organized. 

I'm trying to put these suggestions into practice, but I think sometimes it's more important to ask this question of yourself/your spouse, "How is our married life? How are we making married life great today?"


Magazine lady

Some women have cats. Others wear leopard print. Others have 1,000 pairs of shoes. I hoard magazines. I love magazines. 

When a new cover arrives, I have been known to lose awareness of everything else and get lost in flipping through each page. Before reading, I mentally note the paper choices, the gloss varnishes, the design, the writing, the photo cropping -- all as though my opinion matters. It's a sick passion I have for magazines, writing, and design. It's my day job, actually. 

So, imagine my dismay this week when Conde Nast followed other major corporations and folded three titles, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, and Gourmet. Indeed, the world of magazines is changing. In the last year, it was bye bye to the budget decor niche -- Cottage Living (my favorite!), Blueprint, and Domino

We can now download Grapes of Wrath to our iPhones or read the New York Times online. We get e-newsletters, e-coupons, e-mail receipts. None of this is news to anyone reading this blog.

In light of all of the magazine doom and gloom, I recently disovered the answer to the loss of Cottage and its cohorts, a new Web "magazine," Lonny. Wonderful writing, creative design, cool content ... but you can't hold it in your hand? It's an online flip-through PDF. Is this the future of magazines? 


Monday Moment: Gifts

A sentiment I shared often during our engagement was that it was humbling to receive so many gifts from others just for being happy. Showers, cards, cash, wedding gifts, registries, and kind words. And there are monogrammed wedding party flasks or keychains (we skipped those) and “thank you” gifts (we gave those).

I gave Patrick a Magnolia seedling for our wedding, packaged in a simple burlap sack. No, it's not like Kate Hudson's "love fern" from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Patrick's a plant guy. Get him around a seed or sprout or any kind of living, growing thing and he is fascinated and wildly talented at making that thing thrive. If his green thumb applies to our life, metaphorically, I'm on solid ground. I received a necklace that, when clasped around my neck, made Patrick look proud. I wore it to the ceremony. I was kind of floored at the thought of giving my groom a gift. Isn’t your wedding your gift to one another, your heart? As with most things in life, I overanalyzed and considered and searched for the ideal card, the one item that would convey the journey we took together. FAIL. Impossible. Humbling. But the giving was worth it.


Holy honeymoon

This week has been a little hectic, so I'm missing the crystal waters and blue skies of Nassau. I needed a moment this morning to remember what exactly that looked like. So, I thought I'd post a little breathing space for you, too.

So sorry for slacking in posts. I promise to write again soon. On the upcoming blog roster: nesting, cake baking fiascos, how to answer the question, "how's married life?," and tales from a gift registry alumna.


Pretty thing of the day: French flowers

{Photos from Style Me Pretty}

Even though it's a pumpkin spice kind of day here in the Midwest, I have to share these gorgeous fresh flowers. I always say that if I had lots of disposable income (after paying off debt and helping others, of course) I would have a florist style fresh arrangements for my home. It is a girly, shameful love I have for flowers, greenery, weeds. Sigh. Aren't those leaves lovely?!


Monday Moment: "Hello, my name is ..."

Today's moment is a totally personal one, and it relates to my recent post about changing my name.

Though not all women agree (see the comments about aforementioned post), I'm so happy to have Patrick's name; it makes me feel proud and a little giddy. But I still feel a little odd when I sign a check or introduce myself in a meeting.

I've been saying, "Hello, I'm Sarah." Or "I'm Sarah A., I just got married and I'm not used to saying that yet."

It's as if I needed to make an excuse for my name or stick my maiden name in between for good measure (which I actually do on my business cards and e-mail signature just because it makes me feel more normal). I kind of shrugged off this uneasiness, thinking that it takes some time to grow into anything new.

This Monday Moment happened today, when I left a message for a coworker. I said it without hesitating. I just said it, and then I hung up. And then I thought, happily, "Huh. Yes, that's me."


Real life: Chewy McChewington

For a laugh: this is real life Saturday. We leave the dog with his pillow and blanket (yes, he has his own) for about 2 hours, and come home to this guilty guy. Busted! And he looks up with those eyes like, "What? Who did that?!" Love it.


Wedding graduate!

I'm guest blogging today about what made our wedding creative and sane on A Practical Wedding! We were so blessed to have such a beautiful day, and I feel honored to be highlighted. Now, go read! And be sure to leave comments for me or for Meg.

Oh happy day

You'll see a new link on the right to the New York Times Happy Days blog. To me, the blog's reason for being is so awesome: "Happy Days is a discussion about the search for contentment in its many forms — economic, emotional, physical, spiritual — and the stories of those striving to come to terms with the lives they lead."

So often, instead of being content, I spend lots of time thinking about other people's lives and analyzing my own. Too much. Most of us do.

The most recent Happy Days entry is by Tim Krieder. It's unmarried take on marriage and a reflection on the very human condition of comparing one's self to others -- "the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home." It is particularly poignant, equally hilarious, and scarily true.

Tomorrow's Friday. So here's to a "Happy Day," and here's hoping you find contentment in it.


Fighting & farting: the truth

Real people argue. Real people fart. Real people burn breakfast. I'm firmly resolved that these three items could populate a new chapter in the book of marriage preparation.

This Sunday, I woke up with a grumbly tummy and a hungry husband who was convinced that there was simply nothing to eat in our cabinets.

After an argument over the fact that "nothing to eat" is all relative (i.e. "We have plenty of food to make breakfast. Just because we don't have snack-y food doesn't mean we have NOTHING to eat!"), I set out to make waffles. We were short on pancake mix, so I tried to halve the recipe and came out with oily goo. Apparently 1/4 cup of oil is not half of 1/3 cup. I never said I was good at math. We had no milk. No homemade pancakes or waffles. Batter in the trash can.

No milk = no cereal. No bread = no toast. Damn.

So, with the only two eggs we had left, I decided to make a cheese omelet for the very hungry hubby. Um. Have you ever burned eggs? I did. I'll tell you that browned eggs stink. They smell like rotten stink. Omelet in the trash can. Oy vey.

I was distraught, mostly because there was some truth to the statement "we have nothing to eat" and partly because I absolutely destroyed breakfast. I failed at breakfast and felt like a failure of a wife. Hence, the defensive argument we then had about the frequency and cost of grocery shopping in our household. Hence, the inevitable tears and loud sighs that ensued. Hence the making up (well, at least there is an up side).

Here's the truth they might not tell you in marriage counseling: your partner is more than your best friend. If all you want is a best friend, do not say, "I do." A husband isn't the same as a girlfriend or good friend (you need those, too.) You don't get a bracelet or best friend pin for being a good wife. Marriage is not just about romance and fun (but it should try to be!)

Your partner sees the worst, the most vulnerable, the non-public "you." He knows that you burn eggs and ruin pancake batter and squeeze zits and leave shoes askew all over the house. He's the person who knows what your farts smell like, because people fart. You argue tooth-and-nail, you fight and bicker. This is what people who know these things about each other do, for goodness sakes. This is part of the honor of being in it for the long haul.

But even knowing those intimacies, you share deep mutual appreciation. I mean, I appreciate and, well, love the little drool spot on Patrick's pillow when I make the bed. That is HIM. I love this person, not the idea of him or the fairytale of our "perfect" life together.

Hello, people. The truth is that fighting and farting and burnt eggs happen. These things do not make us failures at marriage, because that's what marriage is (better or worse). My husband may be pretty close to a best friend, but he's actually my Ultimate Extreme Friend.

There's another bonus to this truth: botched breakfasts sure make for a good laugh.


DIY: Wedding Wishes

Shortly after the wedding, I wrote about the wonderfully poignant and funny words of wisdom and well wishes we received in this jar. So, I thought I'd share actual photos of the DIY set-up of our "guest book" table, where our loved ones wrote notes and drew pictures to us on little green cards.
The table welcomed guests and the wish station was set up right next to the seating cards. A framed a sign, explaining what do do, said "Welcome! Please share a wish, memory, or bit of wisdom with the bride and groom."A fun jar of colored pencils and pens and hand-cut pieces of chartreuse card stock helped make the task fun for guests of all ages.

This idea certainly isn't something brand new. Couples are making the traditional guest book into all kinds of fancy things: trees with tags hanging from the branches, clotheslines, photo booths, etc. You get the idea. So, this is just one of those many options. And it was fun; I love that we now have these little tokens in an album to remind us of the emotions our guests felt that day (drunk and sober, wink, wink).


Another N.C. bride: Madly in love

Some eye candy for today: borrowed this sneak peek from Lauren & Adam's vineyard wedding reception, shot by Winston-Salem, N.C. photographer Sally Gupton and her second shooter Grant Blair. Sometimes wedding and engagement photos capture emotion, too. I think this one is a stunning illustration of the magical feeling inside a bride and groom on the wedding day. A constant, cliche feeling that my heart would simply burst with all the happiness is what I remember from our day.
{photo by Grant Blair }
Admittedly, I was emotional during Lauren's wedding because I was a bridesmaid. I love this girl. But it was also the first wedding after our own when, as a guest, I really understood the joy, happy disbelief, and elation of moments like this one, stolen for two people to share exclusively with one another even as hundreds of their closest ones witness it too.


Monday Moment: The best thing

So, like Will Farrel and his new bride in "Old School," the hubby and I had an oh-so-exciting Saturday at the Home Depot this weekend! Yes, new countertops are actually considered a date now. This can seem a bit depressing if one dwells on it.

Well, here's the "the best thing" about our trip. There we are, flanked by orange metal shelving and home-improvement gear, and our first-dance song comes pumping over the loudspeaker: "You Are the Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ3xTjvj9tw).

We stop. We look at each other. We smile, and we kind of transport back to the romantic dance floor of Laurel Hall. Giddy giggles and a kiss. Home Depot dates are awesome!


Sunny, sophisticated shower

On weekends, it's fun to day daydream, so I thought I'd share something cool that Style Me Pretty (a popular wedding blog) is doing for brides-to-be. StyleCircle is the blog's social network, and the inspiration board builder is so fun to play with. Using the blog's gallery and my own photos, I can dream up collages like this one, modeled after a black-and-yellow shower I threw a few years ago for a friend. Have fun daydreaming about brunch with girlfriends, mimosas, lollipops, and lemon drops! Happy weekend!


Bragging: North Carolina wedding by Shea

I’m partial to Miss Halliburton of Tennessee-based photography by shea because she is a dear friend of mine (and our own wedding photographer!). So, I can’t help but brag about the real wedding she shot that was posted on the N.C. wedding blog White Thread. Brooke & Cleve’s beautiful Southport, N.C., wedding is breathtaking and chic. I love the tiny “cobbler” jelly bean recipe favors and the whimsical balloons. And if I remember right … the bride is wearing Vera Wang. Lucky! Go see!

(A-maz-ing photo above, of course, by Shea Halliburton.)


DIY results: Flowergirl basket and pomander

Wanted to share the day-of outcome of the basket and pomander I made for our flower attendants. They carried them around all day, and the end result was beautiful!

We saved money by decorating these items by hand. The ingredients are simple: a glue gun, foam ball, basket, 2- or 3-inch wide navy silk ribbon, craft moss (in sheets), one package of pearl-stud floral pins and one package floral clips (two-prong pins), and natural-looking silk floral accents. The total cost for all of this was only around $20, which is what the florists quoted me per item had they created them.

I am pretty sure that the small berry twigs really made these two items. They added the sweet, whimsical feel I was seeking. And the wreath and hairpiece my mom made for the girls really tied everything together.


The big name change: Miss to Mrs.

Who is that girl? That's the question that comes to mind every time I'm introduced or introduce myself with my new last name. I don't think this is denial. It's just hard to go through 26 years of life with a name and suddenly "be" a new name. 

Although I consider myself rather liberal and progressive on many counts, taking my husband's name seemed like the thing I should do. I was so thrilled to see my new name on my business cards at work. 

So, why did I feel like I was betraying the progress of women in the U.S. as I signed my name away at the Social Security Office? Why did I actually, for real, cry a few tears in the SS office's parking lot that spring day. Why did I feel a little resentment as I typed up those "Due to my recent marriage, please change the name on this account" letters? 

I remember Googling for the topic, trying to find other women juggling the same dilemma: to hypenate or not to hyphenate, to make my maiden name my middle name or not, to go by my new name at work or not, etc. 

While there were no forums talking about the difficult decision, I did find several name-change service sites. Now, some of these  I think are kind of silly. The process of writing letters and calling banks and such is, definitely, annoying, but I didn't need to pay a service to tell me to send a letter. If you do, go for it. The one that was most helpful for me was newlastname.org.

I think the name-change thing is an example of how it can be a little confusing to be entering womanhood these days. I've really debated with my brain on being a woman and what that means. I won't blame the "media" or "society" for this confusion and I won't whine that the plethora of choices feel like a burden. Women before us worked hard to make these choices available. 

Name changing has been happening for ages. It's the nature of a family tree. It's a symbolic change that makes it hard to be isolated from your spouse and makes life easier for your kids. But I think women should talk more about how this change makes us feel and how we coped with it. And maybe instead of presenting 25 versions of colored fondant-covered cakes, wedding magazines and blogs should be more candid about this complicated decision, too? 

What do you think?  


9/11: A reflection on wedding vows

We've all seen wedding vows exchanged: letters of commitment read aloud, the traditional, repeat-after-me "I take you ..." Still, vows are really abstract promises until you're hearing your own voice say the words. 

Adam and Lauren (whose wedding I just witnessed) committed their vows to memory instead of repeating after a clergyman or justice. I loved the wording they chose ... "to be your loving and faithful (wife/husband) in plenty and want ..." The idea of these two extremes, which can both happen in the span of a week or even over the course of one day, is the blessing and great risk of a marriage. 

Sept. 11 is a day when we all spend at least a little time considering those that we love and those who lost loved ones in 2001 and in the years since. 

Today, I am also considering the realities of my vows. You see, when entering a lifelong union sealed "until we are parted by death," there is no person who assumes that a lifetime will be shortened by disaster or disease. 

Leading up to our wedding, I remember a heightened sense of fear that something could happen to Patrick. The reality is that this is something of which we can all be afraid. 

Something horrible, indeed, may happen. All of the spouses of 9/11 victims know this fact. And even if that "something" is a natural decline, as was the case for Patrick's grandmother this summer, watching a husband grieve for a wife is sad and painful. In those eyes, there is a question of how to ever go on. It is impossible to fathom that kind of loss. 

But there is another reality, and in that reality is the fact that living fuels the deepest relationships. Sharing life -- in plenty and want -- sustains the vows we take. When something happens, we can cling to each moment we vowed to live together. 


Snoring, snuggling, recovering

I had to take just a minute to write this post. Ozzie, our 75 lb. lab, is sprawled on the carpet next to me, snoozing and snoring up a storm. That makes me a happy lady. 

This pup spent this summer (8+ weeks of it) surviving a broken leg, and just a few days ago, the pin that slowed him down to help him heal was removed.  

Even though the accident served as the last in a series of traumatic events in our newly married life, and even though we cringe at each vet bill, coaching a helpless dog through a traumatic and fragile injury was almost a gift to Patrick and me. 

Focusing on Ozzie helped us get outside of our own grief, worry, wedding letdown, etc. Even when tensions or exhaustion were high, we could talk about how he was doing. We would have to focus on helping him down stairs or be patient covering his cast with socks or plastic bags to protect it. No, it wasn't very fun. But as he came out of his pain, so did we. 

I'm pretty sure this cycle of care resurfaces in many forms as couples grow old together. Just when you think you can't stand one another -- there is a jolt awakening you to love and accountability to another being. 

Just like Oz, we're playing again. We're laughing and singing and planning again. And we, too, snore more peacefully now that we know healing happens a little more slowly than people imagine it might. 


The nice thing about a husband ...

The nice thing about a husband is knowing that when you've had one of those days and you're mad and frustrated (both so unladylike!) and you're breaking out in an ugly cry, he's the person just listening and watching you with concern. He's the person who will still climb into bed with you after a few hours of ranting and raving about silly work stuff or silly girl stuff or just plain silly stuff. 

There are lots of nice things about a husband. But this week, so far, this is the nice thing for which I am very grateful. 


Monday Moment: Maids of honor

We're back from North Carolina today, recovering after the new Mr. & Mrs. Eberle's beautiful wedding. (Definitely a post coming up this week about the event!). Like me, Lauren had her two little sisters stand as maids of honor. 

You could tell the job meant a lot to Erin and Haley -- they were so worried the whole weekend about doing things just right. Their joy for Lauren was palpable. Yet, you could sense an undertone of loss at knowing a new chapter of life was beginning for their family. This is one emotion you don't necessarily expect on a wedding day. 

On the nine-hour ride home, I thought about my sisters. Especially Emma, who is closest to me in age. On my wedding morning, after the dress was zipped, I stood to study my figure in a long mirror. Mom, Emma, and Anna watched and smiled. Then Emma erupted into tears. 

"I don't want you to get married!" she said. We hugged and I told her: nothing about how much we care for each other will change because I am a wife. 

Later in the evening, in her toast, she made us laugh and then surprised me with something so poignant. She read from a letter I wrote to her when she left for college. The letter was about taking risks and making hard choices, about really living life but remaining authentic to your true person. And, the letter reminded its reader of the safety net of family that will always be around. 

Aside from the fact that she saved that letter for so many years (she's now 25), I was moved. I was so touched that along with the greatest joy a person can feel she, too, felt a hint of fear for me at the unknown of married life. That kind of empathy is something that, perhaps, only a sibling can experience. 

Thanks, Emma, for your honesty and your empathy. 


Happy wedding Lauren & Adam!

This weekend, I'm in Winston-Salem, N.C., to stand up for one of my favorite people at her wedding. Adam and Lauren are two amazing individuals who make up an airtight couple. Saturday night we'll be toasting them at a gorgeous winery. Congratulations on the beginning of this amazing adventure!


The week before

This week, I've been reflecting on how I felt the week before our wedding. It's something no one can convice you of when you're planning, and you don't read about it in wedding magazines or blogs. 

The final week of April, my body and brain seemed to just slide into the checklist of last-minute stuff. I was walking in this euphoric state for five days. You feel centered, like you could hug every person you see, and like you're holding this awesome secret from the general public. I remember checking out at CVS or something and thinking to myself, "should I tell this checkout lady that I'm getting married in two days!?" 

The feeling is one that I heard best described by Lauren (she should know -- she's getting married this Saturday!). She called it "wedding Zen." Looking back, I think it's very much like the week after getting engaged, when I-can't-believe-this pretty much permeates your life. What an amazing time! 

So, happy wedding-Zen, Miss Lauren. Enjoy your last two days of engagement. I'll see you tomorrow morning! 


Monday Moment: Happy eyes

The hard copies of our photos arrived on Saturday, and we spent Sunday evening sifting through a few packages (there are many!). We got to this picture, taken of us after we were showered with rose petals and literally JUST married. Patrick said:

"This one might be my favorite. I love your eyes in this one."

Yes, those are some happy eyes.

P.S. Forgive this Tuesday-morning "Monday Moment." :)


something blue: friends

{Originally posted to Love, Lillian as a guest blog post}

This idea came to me as I sat in the passenger seat of Tricia’s car pondering HOW on earth to choose a wedding party from my most incredible group of good friends. So I guess, it’s fitting that she asked me to guest blog on this topic.

Instead of embroidering my wedding gown with blue thread or donning blue shoes, I asked 13 amazing women to be my "something blue.” Blue is, perfectly, a bride's symbol of loyalty and fidelity.

I sent invitations, each with a handwritten note of thanks for our sincere friendship, asking each woman to “stand up with me in spirit” by wearing a “token of blue.” 

My mom and I hosted a Something Blue Brunch in their honor, at which the ladies received embroidered handkerchiefs and spent the morning laughing, telling stories, and shedding sentimental tears. Then we packed up mimosas to go, and headed to pottery-painting. I now have a treasured set of mugs, bowls, and a creamer and sugar painted by my dearest friends.

Our programs featured a small passage about true friendships and listed each woman’s name. Some wore brooches, some wore beads or wraps, others bought dresses. They all looked beautiful in their blue!

Most importantly, for me, each person was able to give of herself in an individual way, whether that meant visiting the hair salon on the day-of, meeting for lunch on Friday, toasting with an “Ode to Sarah” at the rehearsal, or sending heartfelt cards or books in the weeks leading up to May 2 … the list goes on. I was blown away.

As the invitations said, I carried them with me in the months leading up to the wedding and most definitely on the day of. And, thanks to my sisters’ thoughtfulness, I now carry their love with me in the form of perfectly unique mugs filled with warm coffee.

Non-traditional Wedding Party: Something blue

Be sure to visit the love, lillian blog today to see a guest post by me about my something blue (in the photo above!). I sent invitations, each with a handwritten note of thanks for our sincere friendship, asking 13 women to “stand up with me in spirit” by wearing a “token of blue.”which turned out to be one of the proudest and best decisions I made about the wedding party. I wrote about what they mean to me the week of the wedding. Sneak peeks of the photos featured with the guest post below. Check it out!

something blue brunch

something blue hand-painted pottery