Monday, December 7, 2009

Coupon QUEEN!

I had a DSW Rewards certificate for $10 that expired Monday. Not one to miss out, I headed over there on my lunch break to sneak a peek at the clearance racks. Sadly, there were oodles of cutesy new styles to choose from, but nothing to write home about in sale town. I had made a vow to not spend massive dolla dollas on new kicks ('tis the season to be buying for others, after all...), but I was determined to not let this coupon go to waste.

I suddenly remembered that I needed some good new socks for running, and spied a 3 pack of ankle length Adidas moisture wicking lovlies right near the register. They were marked down to 10.94, and then another 30% off, so I knew I had to pick up another pair to make the coupon work (something about your total not being able to be below ten dollars). Luckily, there was also a pair of grey knee socks that would fit perfectly under my new booties from Target (which, if you don't already own, I HIGHLY recommend). Add those on, and my grand total came to FOUR CENTS, after tax. That's literally a penny for each pair of socks! DEEEEE-AL!

I was super excited about my purchase -- then I got a huge surprise at work and landed a holiday bonus (first time in my adult working life)! I was a little sad that I hadn't splurged on some new footwear, but there's always the after Christmas sales...

Me Against the Pavement.

Last week was the first official week of half marathon* training according to both Hal Higdon and my carefully color-Sharpie'd DayTimer. If I had to describe week one in two words, they would be EPIC. FAIL. I had great intentions heading into the week, stretching for hours on Sunday in preparation of an easy 3 miler on Monday. As extra motivation, I had even ordered a new toy I had been coveting for months...

Say hello to my newest, and current favoritest, accessory -- Garmin's Forerunner 305. This little lover was on Super Sale on Black Friday, and that deal (coupled with a recently discovered Amazon gift card leftover balance) was too good to resist. It was
delivered to me at work last Monday, and I instantly waved it around in everyone's (jealous) faces. Instead of hitting the gym like I had planned for my 3 miles that day, I headed to historic downtown to knock out my 3 miles.

My first run with Garmin was so fun! I kept forgetting I was running because I was playing with my new toy. Instead of sticking to straight paths that I had previously measured with my car to assure proper distance, I kept ducking down side streets and around blocks, watching the mileage (and calories burned!) rack up. I was loving it! I knocked out 3 miles in just over 30 sporadically paced minutes, and I was happy.

I wish I could say the rest of the week was as successful, but the truth is... that was my ONLY run last week. Work got busy (post Black Friday fall-out coupled with a major Regional Manager visit) and I was tired, cranky, and working lots of extra hours. With extra work and the holiday season comes lots of sugary treats, which I LOVE, but my energy level HATES. By the time I got home at 6 or 7 at night, I was tired from being on my feet all day, but more importantly, I hadn't fueled (the closest I came to eating a leafy green was a Reese's tree...) or hydrated (apparently, a constant intake of venti caramel macchiatos and Diet Coke actually DE-hydrate you, but I'm still in denial) my body appropriately enough to be able to take on even the most manageable run.

This week, I am determined to do better. Even though February SEEMS far away, I know it will be here before I know it, and I had better be ready for 13.1. Today I was thrilled to see I had planned a 2 mile run (even though all day I was thinking it was 3) and could knock out two easy loops on my road, even after dark. I strapped on Garmin and hit the pavement, and didn't stop running until my 2 were in. I was happy to see that all this time I thought I was running a 1 mile loop, I was actually running 1 POINT OH NINE mile loops. Hah! Sadly, I am also averaging an 11 minute pace, when I thought I was closer to 10:10, which really makes NO sense mathematically, since I am running further than I thought I was... but math was never my strong suit.

Tonight's run was short (22:05) and I even did it with no music (!) as I have benevolently loaned my ipod shuffle to Deane and his no-CD-player truck (he deserves it -- after all, I have a regular ipod and a new fancy schmancy watch). I felt like 2 miles was super easy, and I fought the urge to keep going, telling myself to stick to Hal's plan. I don't think I'll have any problems working the plan this week, and I hope this means I am officially back on track. I'll keep you up to speed on my progress!

*Side note: Donna Deegan was toooootally in my store today. She was rocking the Vera Bradley 2007 "Hope" print tote, the one I use to carry my current knitting project, and the same one I gifted to my mom 2 years ago :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mash Ups.

Good golly, I am already the biggest disappointment on blogger. Last week I was supposed to post about "Favorites on Favorites", how my favorite celebrities (I use the term loosely) Tim Gunn and Lady Gaga were showing up on my favorite shows, Biggest Loser and Gossip Girl (I'll let you guess who was on what show). I never got around to it, and the post, along with a snapshot of Gaga (I usually call her "Gags", but when I type that, it reads as "gags", which may be true for several people, but I digress...) went off into bloggy abyss. Meanwhile, I wait by my mailbox for my copy of the new Gaga (thanks Linds!) with bated breath.

Gunn and Gaga weren't the only mash-ups to hit last week. "Glee" featured a ridiculously incredible mash-up of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police and "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap (I have 50% confidence in the accuracy of the band name, but am waaay too lazy to googs right now). But the most important mash up of all is the arrival of my favorite fall trend...


I first saw this look on the cover on an Anthropologie catalog (always the cutting edge of fashion, no?). I love, love, love the knee high sock sticking out above the boot, and I tried to wear some variation of this trend every day this past week.

I failed. Miserably. There were a lot of reasons, but the number one was ill-fitting socks. I have been blessed with water skis for feet, and I have never been a petite girl, and when you roll those two things together, I can't get a knee high sock on my leg without turning my calf into an encased sausage. Seriously disgusting looking. The other problem was, even with the "cold front" in Florida, it's still reeeeally warm, and the socks can get hot during the day. With this, an idea was born!

I am going to try to knit some "sock tops" -- some short, adorable, stretchy tubes (think the top third of a leg warmer) that I can wear with my boots as a total fake-out. The pattern will stick out over the top, giving the illusion of the cutesy trend, but they won't have horrible elastic that squeezes my legs, and they won't cover my entire foot, causing horrible foot heat during the day! I'm pretty excited about this idea. Has anyone out there actually been able to master this trend? I would love to see some examples!

And since we're talking about great tastes that taste great together, I noticed a commercial this week for another favorite invading a favorite. Bravo is premiering a new show, "Launch My Line", where people in other professions (CEO, stylist event planner) get paired with a fashion designed and compete to launch their own clothing line. In one of the teasers, I saw a familiar face -- Dan Karaty, a choreographer who used to be ALL OVER "So You Think You Can Dance". He was one of my favorites, and he hasn't been on in several seasons (I know there's a lot of hate for him out there, so lay it on me in the comments if you feel so inclined). Although I don't think I've ever seen Dan rocking a look that didn't include a blazer and a screen-print tee, I will probably tune in to the premiere of this show to see what he's got.

Mash ups will continue this week as I celebrate the holiday and subsequently consume approximately 189,000 calories in one sitting. Bring on the taters!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ignoring October.

It's a sad, sad thing when you see you have landed at the bottom of a fellow blogger's blogroll. Sadder still when you see that you are nearing the "two months ago" mark on your "latest" post.

So join me, won't you?, in forgetting October, and the first half of November, because I have been busy GETTING MARRIED!

(I put a picture here just to prove it.)

Since I am quite certain anyone who cares was either a) there or b) has seen my barrage of photos on facebook, I am forgoing the wedding recap posts. It was a beautiful, glorious day that involved all of my favorite people, quite a bit of DIY love (from myself and my wonderful helper bees, who never *once* complained), and a ton of fun. Deane and I are already talking about a potential annual anniversary party. Married life is fabulous, and even though I thought nothing would change, my new husband and I are on cloud nine -- we're a little more courteous of each other, a little nicer to each other, and a lot in love. I learned a lot planning and executing this wedding, and I am sure it will come through in future writings -- just not all in one big wordy post.

That said, welcome back, readers! Join me as I embark on my next goal -- a half marathon in February! -- , get back into knitting, regale you with hilarious anecdotes of a career in retail during the holiday season, and, as always, candidly review television's latest and greatest offerings. See you back here real soon (and thanks again for hanging in there...!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Most Important Trip to the Post Office EVER.

The invitations are DONE. They have, in fact, been lovingly placed on my friends' and family's refrigerators for some time, but I just haven't gotten around to a blog post. Let me tell you, when I let these babies go at the Post Office, I suffered a minor bout of separation anxiety. I even sprung for the 61 cent stamps because I didn't believe the postal employee who assured me that a regular 44 center would do the trick (although, I may have been persuaded by the adorableness of the wedding cake on the 61 cent, and the sickness of the wedding rings on the plain 44's).

The invitations were something I wasn't always sure I was going to make on my own. I knew sort of what I wanted, so I went to a few stationary stores and websites to price them. I only needed about 50, but the price range of what I wanted (not including RSVP cards or any inserts) was anywhere from $2.75 a piece to $5 a piece! Not exactly in my budget. So, I did some prototyping and came up with an elegant looking invitation for super cheap.

First things first, I decided I did NOT want to make 50 RSVP cards, 50 RSVP envelopes, 50 maps to the venue, etc... so I created our wedding website to house all of the details and utilize a nifty RSVP tool that would help keep my guest list organized. With the website made, I just had to nail down the wording of the invite. I love my parents and future in-laws dearly, but since we are not having a huge luxurious bash being paid for by our parents, I wanted to avoid the stuffy "Mr. and Mrs. LastName invite you...". Instead, we wanted to address our close circle of family and friends and let them know that their attendance at our wedding was really important to us because they have played an important role in our lives. We went with:

"Because your love and friendship have helped us become who we are, we joyfully invite you to share in our celebration of love and commitment."

Under that, we had our names (obvs) and the date and time of the ceremony. To RSVP and get the rest of the deets, we referred our guests to the website.

Once I got the text formatted to the proper width and spacing, I was able to print it out on white cardstock (2 per page, score!) and cut them. Next, I rubber stamped a top border (the same stamp as I used on the Save the Dates). After that, I added a strip of black and white ribbon (again, the same as the Save the Date) using some serious double stick tape action. I mounted each piece onto green cardstock and cut around it to create a border. Here's a few pics of the invites in their assembly-line action:

Once they were all cut apart, I created little pseudo-envelopes for them, black with a green ribbon bow. I saw this look in a book of sample invitations and I LOVED it (but hated the fact that the outer envelope, with the adorable bow, was an extra 2 bucks per invite). I just used good old textured cardstock, a bone folder, and my new best friend, double-stick tape. Here's what the finished product looked like:

After they were all assembled, they got stuffed into their Staples clearance envelopes (I couldn't get the original green envelopes I wanted in the proper size, which resulted in what I'm embarrassed to say was a 2 day temper tantrum, but these envelopes worked just fine) and lovingly addressed by hand with my newest favorite writing utensil, the Sharpie PEN.

And then they were finished! I don't have the exact price breakdown, but I can assure you that these little lovers were finished for well under $50 (thanks in part to a 5/$1 cardstock sale at JoAnn's!) and I have plenty of materials left over to make the dessert description cards and other things we may need for the ceremony.

I have gotten some gret feedback from the invitations, and I LOVED making them. I am seriously considering an etsy shop for personalized invite or holiday cards. Think it would get any business...?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Target Demographic.

Let's face it -- I could never buy EVERY product endorsed by Peyton Manning, unless maybe I won the Powerball. But when I saw this commercial featuring two of my absolute all-time top five favorites, even I couldn't believe I didn't run out and buy a Sony HDTV immediately. I rewound and watched this no less than 8 times in a row.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dear Jillian.

Dear Jillian Michaels,

I wanted to apologize for slamming you in my facebook status yesterday. If you want to market your own diet pill, that's your prerogative! I should not pass judgment on the fact that you have plastered your face all over thousands of DVDs, wii games, water filtration systems, and cereal boxes. You are still my favorite Biggest Loser trainer, and if I were on the show, I would pick you over Bob in a heartbeat (though I love you too, Harper).

All day long, I worried that, because I am a fan of yours on facebook, you would somehow see my status. I stressed that you would manifest all of your ragey workout energy into my still shrink wrapped DVD copy of 30 Day Shred, which was waiting for me at home to take on at the end of the work day. I even hit the gym for 3 miles on the treadmill on my way home, partially because I was so intimidated by your 20 minute workout.

I can proudly say that I made it through Level 1 of Shred without cheating ONCE (partly because my fiance was drinking a beer on the couch watching me, critiquing my form the entire time). I have to tell you, it was a hell of a lot easier than Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism. I even got a little cocky towards the end, telling your mini-me on my tv screen that I could do jumping jacks all the live long day. I wanted to take the time to thank you for not making me do any high knees, burpees, or walking planks. It made me think you had forgiven my facebook comments.

Thirty minutes after completing your workout, I realized that you had gotten your revenge. I could hardly keep my arms up long enough to wash the shampoo out of my hair. Lifting my water glass to my mouth is becoming increasingly difficult as the night progresses. I'm not confident that this pain will lessen overnight, and although I am slightly terrified, I will face you again late tomorrow morning before work.

I can't wait for next week's premiere of "Biggest Loser: Second Chances". I hope you have a mouthful for Daniel.

Your fan forever,
Mary Ann*

Monday, September 7, 2009

2 Months/Shower Power!

We are already one full week into September, which means my wedding is exactly 2 months away! I celebrated the milestone this weekend at a lovely bridal shower hosted by my fiance's mom.

I was really excited for the shower on a multitude of levels. The most important one was that my own mom was coming in to town, and I haven't seen her since... well, only June, but it feels like forever! Having her here was so great -- I got to go over wedding details with her in person, show her the ceremony and reception space, and have her generally calm my nerves. As a slight off-note, I had a horrible week last week, experiencing all sorts of anxiety, financial issues, and general distress (more on that later, or if you're lucky, never), prompting me to actually call out of work one day (this is something I cannot remember doing in the past 3 years) to try to get myself under control. Long story short, I got my act together by the time Mom got here on Saturday afternoon. I showed off the changes we've made to the house, re-introduced her to the dogs, formerly introduced her to our 9 cats, and set off to see the wedding and reception site, as well as have some dinner and pick up the hostess gift for Deane's mom Debi (which I neglected to take a picture of, fail). We also picked up the ingredients for the dishes she was bringing to the shower (and I took advantage of Mom at the grocery, college-freshman style!). Saturday night we relaxed, made some yummy snacks for the next day, and watched some cake shows on tv (typical).

Sunday morning I woke up and it was the day of my shower! I was so excited; it felt like Christmas -- only it was like a personal Christmas that no one else got to have, this one was all mine! I was really nervous in the morning -- I kind of hate having people go out of their way for me, and I felt like everyone had to travel, etc. to be here. Once we got to Debi's, though, I felt totally relaxed and comfortable. She had done SO MUCH WORK! There were pictures of me EVERYWHERE that I hadn't seen in forever (Student of the Month February 1987, anyone?) as well as pictures of me and Deane over the years. So cute! Every table was filled with my favorite delicious foods, and I was instantly glad I had worn an empire waist dress so I could feed my second trimester food baby with no worries.

The cookie, coffee, and cake table! :)
Take home cookie flowers for all of the guests!

Mom and I went to work mixing up some mimosa punch and put a lot of delicious things into pretty bowls as we waited for the guests to arrive. With each person that came through the door, I felt more and more loved! All my favorites from work were there, as well as my to-be-sister-in-law and several close friends. Once everyone had arrived, we played a Mary Ann trivia game and everyone did pretty well (Andrea took top honors, but Ashley won for best answer to "In what state did Deane and Mary Ann meet?" Her answer: "A drunken state!" Obvs true.). Then we all scooped up a refill of delicious beverage and headed outside for more games and laughter.

With Mom before all the guests arrived!

We read a little book that was put together by one of Deane's family's close friends, and it was all rhymey and pass-around-y. Hard to explain, but really cute, and of course there was a prize at the end.

Rhyme time!

Then we all settled onto the porch so everyone could make "Dough Brides". I didn't get a lot of pictures of this, but basically I had asked Debi to have some sort of activity for people to do as I was opening gifts, because I 1) hate opening presents in front of people because I fear they are dying of boredom and I will never have the appropriate thing to say about them and 2) didn't want to seem like an ungrateful bitch and not open stuff til afterwards. Everyone got some various hunks of flesh and hair colored dough, flowers, and lace, and they made mini-MA* brides and I judged them for prizes (actually, it was pretty funny in retrospect). I opened what seemed like millions of gifts, all of them so generous and fabulous, and was even more overcome with emotion when I opened several gifts from people far away who couldn't make it to the shower (Linds, I think Donna almost starting crying at the poke cake). It was really interesting because Debi had chosen a "Stock the Pantry" theme, so everyone brought a recipe along with the non-perishable ingredients to make it with. I got a lot of utensils, serving pieces, Pyrex galore (love that stuff!) and foodstuffs for my bare, bare pantry, so it worked out great! She even made a nice huge binder with pages for all of my new instructions and lots of recipes already in it.

The "wishing well" was made of a trash can with a doggie-proof lid, which we needed desperately!

Ooooh, big pile o' prezzies for ME!

Mom was great and took explicit notes on everything so I wouldn't forget anything amidst the chaos (one of my friends recently attended a mutual friend's wedding, afterwhich they received a thank you card for a clock radio that they definitely did NOT give), and of course there are pictures of every gift being opened (I'll spare you the boredom here, but you can check them out on facebook!). Once I got done being the center of attention and was 100% covered in sweat head to toe, we all went inside for some yummy yummy treats.

Nom nom nom!

Triple layer strawberry cake, yummmmm.

We all ate a ton, winded down, got to visit some more, and then everyone started to disperse. I was completely exhausted when it was over and made Deane put all the gifts in the truck while I pushed carrots and dip around my plate (read: continued to eat my way through a one pound bag of M&M's). When we got home, it was time to say bye bye to Mom and relax... only, I was so excited about new kitchenware that I stayed up until 2 a.m. cleaning and organizing all of my cabinets, as well as making an inventory list of casserole size dishes, cake pans, cookie sheets, etc. Very exciting stuff :) Today Deane finally got to chill and he went fishing all afternoon while I hit up Target to continue my beginner's foray into fulfilling a wifely duty of cooking... by purchasing the limited edition green Nintendo DSLite bundle with Personal Trainer Chef included :)
I have spent most of the day NOT finishing invitations or learning how to cook, but instead playing innumerable games of MarioKart and Sudoku (LOVE BrainAge). After this weekend, I am feeling fully refueled and refreshed. I am ready for day one of Jillian's 30 Day Shred tomorrow, ready to be back on a running schedule, ready for continued success with my fabulous staff at work, and most of all, ready to keep moving on wedding planning! I am sure these two months are going to FLY, but right now I can't wait for November 7th!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Back in MARCH (really, 6 months ago?) I teased a post about a still-unfinished former doggie room turned office. This weekend, we *finally* put the finishing touches on this room.

Let me go back to the beginning and touch on the dangers of procrastination. We had big plans to remodel the third bedroom once the dogs had outgrown their rage sprees (in recent news, Roach was put on steroids to combat a constant itchiness problem, and he has reverted to puppylike behavior, with lots of eating, destroying, and general hysteria). We peeled the strips on the walls (trailer, ew) and mudded them to smooth them out, then painted the room a lovely shade of muted peach. Next, we painted all of the trim work (top and bottom, I couldn't put my arms down for 2 days) a bright white. The last part was the floor -- I loved doing the floor last because it meant I could slop paint everywhere and not worry about ruining anything. We decided to use a snap together Pergo flooring we has used in our master bathroom. It looks gorgeous, withstands puppy and people foot stomps, and is easy to install. We purchased the boxes we would need to complete the project.

And let them sit in the room for about 3 months. Maybe more. Either way, when we finally got it together to lay the flooring, we ran short by 5 boards. We went to Lowe's to pick up one final box, when we found out that the color had been discontinued. Long story short, 9 trips to various home improvement and flooring stores throughout Jacksonville yielded no results. We needed a solution! At first, I thought we could leave the middle of the floor empty, and cover it with a big area rug (for obvious reasons, this was not a long-term solution). Finally, we settled on creating a storage/seating bench to compensate for the area of the room that was missing flooring. Always the handyman, Deane fashioned a boxy structure out of plywood from the half pipe that used to live in my front yard (free AND eliminated a massive eyesore? win-win!), with a lid that would be on hinges. We planned to upholster the top with a cushy foam and pretty fabric, and either paint or do a wallpaper treatment on the sides.

Other projects (mostly wedding related) came along over the months, and this one floated in and out of the priority scale. Gripped by a sudden sense of urgency with the upcoming wedding, we are in all-out finish-the-house mode. I think it's something about us wanting to start our lives together as newlyweds in a lovely cozy home that doesn't look like a construction site. Today, we set forth to put the final nail in this project, and it came out really cute! It was the ultimate exercise in creativity -- not only did we have to come up with the idea for the missing flooring, but there was a HUGE section of drywall that had been cut out to access a bathroom leak a while ago. Rather than patching the drywall, I fashioned a built-in cushion that is attached to the wall. Here are the final results:

And a close-up of the built-in cushion...

I really love the finished product! I have been super motivated the past few weeks, and I hope it continues. The invitations are almost complete, my washer and dryer have been running steadily all day, and the kitchen has undergone a complete purge of old in preparation for new. I even organized my knitting space, even though I haven't picked up the needles in waaaaay too long...

Let's hope we keep on checking things off the to-do list, so I can get some knitting done soon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Of all of the countdowns I have going on (mostly wedding related), the most important event of the fall is a mere sixteen days away. On September 13th, a Colts crew much different than that of last year (Dungy, I miss you already!) will hit the field for 16 weeks of regular season action -- sixteen games that I will not only write my work schedule around, but also scream, jump, cry, and (hopefully) rejoice over.

Every season, I mark my excitement for the return of Colts regular season football with a mini shopping spree to bulk up my inventory of horseshoe gear. I usually hit the order a solid 10 days before the first preseason game, but the budget wasn't in my favor this year, and that tradition had to be skipped. As if they were on the same financial page as myself, this year, my catalog appeared a little bit later than usual (just 2 days ago). After combing through it with a Sharpie and highlighter (marking a firm "no" on anything by Alyssa Milano or with the words "flirt", "sequin", or "glitter"), I was delighted to see the retro logos well-represented throughout. This little lover has been on my list for three years running, but for some reason is a ridiculous $49.99, and I cannot commit...

Every year I also add a jersey to the collection, and even though I know in my heart of hearts I need some defensive representation, I am a lover of the double digit (having invested in #11 Gonzalez last year), and Dallas Clark (#44) away jersey is waiting in my shopping cart (so is Bob Sanders, I just can't make the final call!). I managed to resist the new addition of the Colts bikini (and tankini!) and added two retro-inspired pieces to my online cart:

Sadly, neither of them are scheduled to leave the warehouse for 3 TO 4 WEEKS. Last year, my favoritey fave shirt purchase was backordered, backordered, and ultimately canceled. I had given up hope until a late night post-Kenny Chesney concert Colts pro shop visit came through with a Hail Mary for the W. Let's hope I don't have to head back to Indy again this season to find what I need!

Then again, I may as well check the fall concert lineup...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Domino Effect.

This whole wedding planning thing has been SO. EASY. Seriously, this week, I was thinking, "I don't know what everyone gets so stressed about!" The only thing that was really pressing on my wedding to-do list was figure out the invitations. Since I am planning on making them myself, I was going to use my time off this weekend to prototype the invites and figure out the exact amounts of supplies I needed.

Simple, right? I thought so, too. Bear with me on this rollercoaster...

Ok, invites. First thing -- location address. Only... we hadn't quite finalized that. Hm. Certainly, things were a bit backwards here. I mean, I couldn't make invitations for something that had no venue. Where would I tell the guests to go?!

We had been tossing around a ton of ideas for venues, but the favorite (and most affordable) ended up being the last one we found, a suggestion from Deane's mom after a slightly sporadic stop in a bar downtown. We found out that the bar was renovating the old upstairs so that they could start renting it out for parties and "intimate gatherings". Deane and I made an appointment and looked at the space. Once I got over all the half-painted walls, piled up kitchen equipment, and stacks of extra furniture, I knew the space would work beautifully. There will be plenty of room for all of our guests to dance and mingle, a nice area for the dessert buffet, and a beautiful outdoor deck with a view of historic downtown. I took a deep breath and asked about price. We had to wait a day to get the exact quote, and then I had to suppress my screams of delight and excitement when I found out how dirt cheap it was. We were also thrilled that the bar has an outside courtyard which we can close off privately for the ceremony (no extra charge!). We dropped off the deposit Saturday, and I managed to snap a few pictures of the (still very unfinished) space...

The courtyard in which we will be married (still a ton of work to be done here, but will be v. cute).

The stairs leading up to the upstairs space/outside deck (vice versa, the stairs I will walk down to the ceremony, hopefully gracefully...)

More of the stairs, this time showing the lovely gate.

An outside view of the upstairs, from the courtyard.

The last step I will walk down into the courtyard! And the first step we will walk up together as a married couple!

I know it's really hard to envision by just these pics (and the massive amount of work still to be done), but I think it's going to be just perfect. Right in historic downtown, walking distance to choice after party locales, and close to hotels for out-of-town guests. I scooped up the address and came home to get to work on some invites.

I started the same way I start all projects -- by making a list. This list was all of the information I needed to include on the invite. Only, by the time I was done with my list, it looked more like I would be sending my guests the equivalent of a college freshman's orientation packet. When you're handmaking invites, that was not an option. I needed to streamline my info so that I would not be left with arthritic talons for hands on my wedding day.

Enter the wedding website. I hadn't made one, because I thought it was silly for the type of affair we were planning -- my guest list was so small, I figured I could answer everyone's questions personally by email or phone. But the more I thought about it, I wouldn't have time to be repeating the same info over and over, or finding hotels for everyone, or suggesting things for them to do during their stay. The website made a lot of sense. I can just list the address on the invitation, and everyone can hop on the web for our wedding deets.

A few hours and a lot of hissy fits about formatting restrictions later, I finished our wedding website! I was pretty pleased with the information I was able to get on there, and I think our guests will find it really helpful.

I was revelling in my two HUGE accomplishments when I noticed the top banner of the website and suffered a mild stroke: "83 DAYS". I thought for sure I had at least 3 months?! Now I have an actual countdown to wedding day, and it sent me into a slightly panicked tailspin. I gathered up my Lilly Pulitzer planning notebook, a fresh Sharpie pen, and an unopened Diet Coke, and hunkered down with Deane at the kitchen table to bullet point everything that needs to happen in the next (*GULP*) 83 days. He was calm, collected, and sweet, pointing out things that he would like to accomplish around the house, as well, since a lot of our family has never seen where we live.

We made it through list-making without a single tiff, and I am feeling really good about the timeline we have set forth for ourselves. Funny how my one fun task this weekend ("prototype invites") was not completed at all, but instead I cleared two major hurdles (venue, website) and tried on my dress, to boot!

It was quite the rollercoaster weekend as my emotions ran all over the spectrum of harried bride to calm and collected recently engaged girl, but I am finishing out my Sunday night feeling pretty in control. On to the next checkmark...!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Drop Top.

I couldn't resist this photo op today when Roachie woke up from his nap with a funky ear......because he looked *just* like the Drop Top neon sign we had seen at our wedding reception venue (more on that later) this past weekend.

The resemblance is uncanny!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Straight Up, Now Tell Me.

I'll believe this when I see it. Or, don't see it. Then I'll do a victory dance.

And then I'll wait for Kara DioGuardi to get hit by a bus.

I'm starting a petition to bring back Dunkleman.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

VitaMuffins: Take Two.

I am a slave to media in all forms. I love TV, books, magazines, podcasts, blogs, social networking sites, movies, newspapers, and commercials. I will try or buy pretty much anything. I have been known to watch an entire infomercial. The phrase "Oooh, I want that" has passed over my lips more than any other 4-word combination in the span of my life.

Mix this consumer-driven mentality with a love for food, and you've got me -- a hungry, hungry girl, always looking for the next best thing to gobble up while keeping away from the 200lb. side of the scale. Enter HungryGirl. I've been receiving Lisa Lillien's daily email newsletter for well over a year now, and she is always sharing the scoop on the latest and greatest products. (She's even clever and witty enough to have earned a link on my sidebar).

Now, I adore HG, and I love her morsels of food knowledge and tips. But there's a few things HG swears by that I haven't been able to hop on board with. The first was tofu shirataki noodles. Cook 'em, dry 'em, and enjoy 'em, HG says. I have spent half an hour and half a roll of paper towels on these bad boys, and I simply cannot get them to be dry enough to be anywhere near edible. Yech.

The other major disagreement I had with HG was her endorsement of VitaMuffins and VitaTops. As soon as I read about them, I was so excited to try them! Delicious chocolatey flavors! Tons of fiber (I was on a WeightWatchers kick at the time)! Your daily vitamins and minerals! Not to mention I love a good breakfast baked good. I hightailed it to Harris Teeter and snatched a box of these little lovers.

I didn't even make it through one. I thought they were dry and required too much chewing. Plus, they were required to remain frozen, and when I followed the defrost microwave directions, the middle was steaming hot and the muffin top was still cold and gross. EW.

This past weekend, I was picking up a few things at our newly remodeled WinnDixie when I spotted my favorite attraction of all grocery stores -- the clearance freezer. And what was in there? VitaMuffins! 4 in a box for $1.99!! Normally these puppies retail (4 in a box) for well over 5 bones, so even though I knew I kind of hated them, I couldn't resist the deal (see opening paragraph of this blog post). I added a box of Deep Chocolate to my shopping basket and hurried home. I threw the muffins in my freezer and never thought twice about them.

And then this morning, it was exactly one week since we had been all-out grocery shopping, which means most of the food staples were gone, and we were left with the dregs (this is also the point of the week where Deane kindly points out that all of his delicious food purchases -- chips, KitKats, sugary cereal, etc. -- have been consumed, and we are left with my healthy intentions -- yogurt, high fiber bread and wraps, and cottage cheese). I remembered my muffins and popped one in the micro before I hit the gym.

I was skeptical, but it turns out the muffin was pretty good! Not great, but good. I still had a problem with the de-thawing not being even, and I had to eat it with a fork because of the choco-chip meltiness factor, but it was satisfying -- although I can see it as more of a nighttime snack with a glass of milk. I don't know what changed my mind, but I am glad I gave the VMs another shot. Maybe I should try it with more foods I thought I hated with a fiery passion. I might be surprised what goodies I discover!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Duds!

Life has been pretty quiet around here, and we all know my knitting had been neglected for quite some time, so I haven't had much material for new posts. A couple of mildly interesting things have happened in the past few weeks, though, so I thought I should drop in for a quick update.

On the heels of gaining Emily's commitment to co-run the 26.2 with Donna half-marathon in February, I finally made the decision to invest in some new running shoes. I had asked for new shoes for my birthday, and had gathered enough cash to be able to visit a proper running store and buy whatever footwear they prescribed without worrying about the price. On Thursday, I headed to 1st Place Sports at Jacksonville Beach with my old Nikes in hand, ready for a change. I was greeted by the very friendly Charlie, who looked at my old shoes and then asked me to walk around the store with no shoes on. He measured my foot and determined that I have a very high arch and looked at the places where my old shoes were worn down. Resisting the urge for him to search the stockroom for something green and black, I waited for Charlie to return. He came back with several shoes which I got to try on and then run on the treadmill to see what fit best. Charlie explained that feet swell when we run, so I needed a (gulp) size bigger in a running shoe than my normal size 10. He also told me I was tying my shoes too tight, resulting in blisters. I settled into a lovely pair of Sauconys, which felt one million times lighter than my old shoes.

Now, let me tell you, nothing motivates me more for a run than new gear. I have dropped many a dollar on Under Armor tees, new Nike Tempo shorts, or even new socks just to get me revved up for that day's workout. Thursday Hal only had me scheduled for 45 minutes of cross training, but I was feeling good and really excited about trying out my new footwear. I hit the treadmill and was ecstatic to bust out 2 easy miles in under 20 minutes. Saturday's "long" run of 5 miles proved just as easy, requiring only one 2-minutes walk break, and an overall finish time around 51 minutes (I do realize I am hopelessly slow). It may have been all in my head, but I am 100% obsessed with my new Sauconys, and am clearly convinced that they have unlocked the key to my running success.

As I look to train for 13.1 miles in February, I know I have to sign up for a few road races along the way to (pardon the pun) get my feet wet before the big day. I am looking at running the Turtle Trot 10K on Labor Day weekend. It will be nice to start with a race here instead of having to drive 40+ minutes into Jacksonville. Plus, my future mother-in-law is planning a bridal shower (eep!) for that weekend, so I will be able to indulge in all of the fabulous goodies without feeling guilty.

Speaking of wedding stuff, I also made a big checkmark last week and got my co-MOH dresses! I had almost thrown in the towel and hit up Old Navy for tanks and JoAnn's for green fabric, determined to go to a seamstress and demand the simple tank dress that I wanted, when a miraculous dress came into my store and answered my prayers. Black, green, casual but gorgeous, and oh-so-affordable with a generous employee discount... enter the Jacqueline dress!

Natch, we are losing that icky green ribbon belt and adding a wide black (sure to be stretchy, my fave belt feature) belt instead, but overall the dress is perfect, and there are 2 snuggled safely in the back of my closet next to my wedding dress for the big day (there's also a 3rd in my closet, sure to make its debut this week, as I could not pass up the opportunity to also purchase this little lover for myself). Em and Linds immediately went to work researching shoe options, so I'm sure a decision will be made shortly on those, as well.

I'm nearing the 90 day countdown to my wedding, and we still haven't finalized a venue, but at least some of the details are getting worked out. I'm sure insanity will ensue, but right now I'm happy to have 3 dresses and still holding on to my groom-to-be :)

On a conversational note, my ipod shuffle is really getting stale. My only recent additions have been Jordin Sparks' "Battlefield" and Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling". Anyone have any suggestions for must-have running songs?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Save the Date!

I sent out our Save the Dates at the end of June, and now that I have been assured by the majority of my guests that they have arrived, I can share with you the process by which they were made!

Even though our wedding is pretty much "no frills, no fuss", I still wanted to send a Save the Date: 1) so people knew when we were planning our nuptials (obvs, that is the purpose) and 2) because I was so excited about the upcoming wedding, I wanted to make *something*, but wasn't sure what. Thus, the Save the Date was born! I was super-inspired by Emily's wedding invitations that had recently hit my mailbox, but I wasn't sure about the Save the Date. I wanted it to be simple enough that it would not upstage the actual invitation, and I didn't want to go the route of magnet or photo of the two of us (ew). I really loved the idea of having it serve a purpose, and I almost went with a bookmark idea -- the Save the Date would read "You're booked!" (or something equally cheesy) and have the info on it. Logistically, I couldn't get it to quite work out, so I went with this idea instead.

I originally saw the wording/folding idea on the Martha Stewart Weddings website (the inspiration, sadly, did not come from MAD magazine, as one of my friends suggested after receiving his card). So, I set out to make a Save the Date that would incorporate our colors, some cool paper stamping, and my love of ribbon, while keeping the cost low. I went to the stationary store next to where I work to pick up a few paper samples, and quickly fashioned a prototype. It was pretty easy and not too time consuming! I finalized the guest list with Deane and figured out what I would need. Here's the cost breakdown (because I am a huge nerd and think people will actually care?):
  • Cardstock, pack of 25 (2 cards made from one sheet): $3.99
  • 3 spools of ribbon, $2.99 each, used coupons to make them $2.19 each
  • One large rubber stamp, used over and over for the paper and the envelopes, $9.99, fancy coupon price adjustment made it $5.99
  • One ink pad, $6.99, coupon made it $4.99
  • Martha Stewart bone folder (I caved): $3.99
  • Brush tip pen for lettering, $2.24
  • Green envelopes, 30 cents each, $12.00 for 40

...for a grand total of $39.77, not including postage. Considering I made 40, that's less than a dollar per Save the Date. Normally, I would break that down into an average savings, but even as I perused wedding invite websites, I couldn't find anything like the Save the Date I wanted and ultimately sent. Plus, I think my guests are happy to have a handcrafted souvenir of our upcoming wedding. (I would also like to interject that JoAnn's has AWESOME coupons, and you should never buy anything there without one!)

I set up the process in an assembly line style. First I stamped all of the cardstock on front and back along two sides, since I would be cutting it down the middle to make two cards:

I used a Sharpie to mark the rubber stamp -- it was a large square, and I only needed to use part of it, as well as needing to make sure the pattern would line up. This stamp was clear, so it was easy to see through to what I was stamping.

Once all the cardstock was stamped and dried (and my kitchen table half covered in green ink), I measure and cut each piece in two. Then I measured, measured, measured again and folded the creases (bone folder is highly recommended!) to line up with the wording:

Next, I folded them together, penciled in lines to keep my wording straight, and hand lettered each Save the Date. It was time consuming, but I really liked doing it, and I only suffered one minor breakdown (when the green ink seemed to be smearing all over evvvvveeeeerrrrrything). The only part I didn't enjoy was erasing all the pencil lines at the end, and I actually had a hard time getting them all to go away. I hope that, in some way, the remaining lines added to the handmade charm :)

After that, I hole punched along the bottom (with a fancy schmancy small rectangle hole punch that I already owned) so I could thread the ribbon through. I laced and tied up each one and put them in an envelope, which I had stamped with the same design as the inside card. I hand addressed each one with a fine point Sharpie, and I was done! Here it is (complete with smeared out last names and addresses due to internet paranoia)...

And once you untied the ribbon and unfolded...

Overall, I think they came out super cute. I really loved making them and was so excited when I got to send them out -- now everyone better be saving the date!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fancy Footwear.

I love, love, love footwear by Coach -- partially because their stuff is always adorable, but mostly because their shoes are always a perfect match my ridiculously large, blister-prone, might as well be water skis "feet" (not to mention availability in size 11, which is sometimes needed).

Their new "Poppy" collection is completely fun and 100% fabulous. Normally when I celebrate a promotion (yay, me!), I reward myself with a new handbag, but since I've recently purchase a leather hobo gem by Joe's, I'm not really in the market. Besides, with all the money we need for the wedding, etc., I probably shouldn't be splurging on non-necessities.

I'll let you know how they fit.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Confident Craftster.

Do you ever walk around craft fairs, or art shows, or see something adorable and ridiculously overpriced, and think, "Well, that's SO cute, but I mean, I could make that." I think this all the time, but the more important follow-up question ("Will I actually ever make that?") is rarely asked. I have been better about this in the past few years, and I will gladly dish out some loot for something that I may have the ability to make, but know that I do not have the time or (more often) the patience. I know that I am capable of craftiness, but I always doubt whether or not I will see the project through until the end, or my meticulous perfectionism sidelines it in the early stages.

Fueled my a surge in self-confidence that came from finally mailing my Save-the-Dates this past week, on Friday I bucked this mentality, and decided to take on a project that I'd really been hoping would work out for my wedding. I had been thoroughly inspired by a cute as pie cupcake stand I had seen at work (not availble online, so no image to show here. Boo). It was a multi-tiered stand, all one piece of white ceramic, that looked as though it had been fashioned from tea cups and saucers. Price? $148. Otherwise known as the price of my wedding dress. Considering we need several stands in several heights for my dream dessert bar, there was no way this was going to fit into my budget. So, naturally, I started thinking that I could easily make this myself.

I took it as a sign that I saw a link on Emily's blog the next day: "DIY: Vintage Wedding Cake Stands". I clicked through a few links and found some instructions on how to make these darling little creations. I skimmed through them quickly, assured myself that this could be done, and got down to it. A quick conversation with Mother-in-Law-to-be (dying to get her hands on to some part of this wedding) secured a barrage of teacups, crystal glassware, plates, and saucers, as well as the 5 Minute Epoxy I needed, which means this project has cost me ZERO dollars (although, to be fair, she did shell out 4 bucks at the consignment store). And so, I present... my first (cup)cake stand!


It's really not crooked, I am just a horrible photographer.

It was super-easy to make -- the hardest parts were 1) getting everything centered so it wouldn't lean or break, 2) not getting my fingers stuck together for the rest of eternity, and 3) keeping the dogs away from the project area (when they hear glasses or dishes clinking, they think there is food to be had). Now that I've had a practice run, I have some really great ideas for single and multi-tiered stands for the wedding, not to mention using bowls, vases, or candlesticks to make them as well as cups, glasses, dishes, and saucers.

As with any new hobby/project, I am certain that I will quit my job in the near future as my handmade cake stands business takes off (even though there are several available on etsy already, I am convinced that mine will somehow be better). Better place your orders now...!

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Actually, I live here."

This month we are celebrating 4 glorious years of home ownership. Despite the countless trips to Lowe's, innumerable nights of eating Ramen (never thought I'd go there again) to counteract new-home-needs costs, rage over doggie accidents, and general new-place-move-in breakdowns, I still love love love the home we have made here.

One of my favorite things about where I live is just that - where I live! I am gloriously lucky to be able to claim a mailing address with the word "Beach" in it, a fact of which I am also extraordinarily proud. I grew up in the midwest, and while I loved it (Go Colts), it didn't take much longer than a 48 hour visit to my relocated parents during college to thin my blood. I knew that, post-graduation, I simply could not deal with the depths of winter (unless that pain was assuaged by 50 yard line season tickets to the aforementioned sports team of choice). But south Florida was a little *too* all sun and fun for me, so when I met Deane we decided to head to a northern part of the state where we could still experience seasons (and I would be able to pick up a knitting hobby without being forced to only make tank tops and home accessories).

When we moved here, I was so thrilled to live within minutes of the beach. I was there on every single one of my days off (when the temperature was over 65 degrees) and sported an even year-round tan. I even moved beyond my "laying and reading books only" policy at the beach and started letting Deane teach me how to surf. This experience has probably been the most trying one on our relationship -- he is an excellent surfer and a patient teacher, but I throw a lot of bullshit toward him because I know he has to put up with it (he loves me, after all). I've done a lot of whining, complaining about sore arms, and complete refusal to go in the water, but he always pushes me to get in and get to work. I had been doing pretty ok, too, until an injury sidelined me early last year. I kept going to the beach, but since my first summer here, my frequency has really tapered off.

This week, I realized I hadn't been to the beach ONCE since the summer began, and it was almost July! I made a pact to hit the sand on my first day off this week, an attempt to re-discover my love for where we live and remind myself why life is so great. We have a million beach access roads, so parking and sort-of privacy is never a problem. The other great thing is, since it's only a ten minute drive, it's easy for me to keep the sunburn in check (meaning, I don't feel obligated to spend dawn to dusk parked in full sunlight, since I can always come back the next day!). This picture is where I spent this week's beach day -- one of my favorite beach access roads by Elizabeth Pointe Lodge (who lovingly provides chairs and umbrellas for their guests, which I take to mean any city residents).

Every time I talk to someone at the beach, they ask me where I'm from, and I get to say that I LIVE here. Almost everyone else there is usually on vacation or a weekend getaway, and it makes me feel guilty for not taking full advantage of the beautiful surroundings within miles of my home. I spent a few hours at the beach this week, and I tried to soak it all in. I laid, I read, I went in the water. I gazed at all of the other Elizabeth Pointe guests in their provided chairs and thought about how they chose to come here for vacation. I looked in front of me and saw sand and waves, and I looked behind me and saw the vacation rental at which we are hoping/planning to get married. I felt so much better -- calmed down about wedding prep, ok about being broke (I mean, look what we're paying for, a great place to live!), and blessed for good health (did I mention I am re-reading "My Sister's Keeper"?).

The beach definitely has healing qualities, and I am hereby making a pact to embrace its fabulousness for the remainder of the summer -- starting with a full beach day tomorrow in celebration of the 4th (and countdown to the best day of the year in one week!) Enjoy your holiday :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One Man's Trash/Ups to Ashley!

My co-worker and friend Ashley has been pretty instrumental on helping work out a lot of DIY wedding deets, as she had her own nuptials just over a year ago. Although her wedding was GORGEOUS, it was also way out of my budget range, and I appreciate having a sounding board who understands I am working with little to zero dollars.

She came through this week by providing all of the place settings I need for the reception! She had 250 guests, and at the time she was planning her wedding, had the lucky connection of working at a restaurant, so she was able to secure a lot of supplies at cost. Ashley used the flatware pictured above -- the best part, it's PLASTIC! It is really pretty and great, and even better because she had a ton left over and just supplied me with all of it (including the black dessert plates and cups for a champagne toast). I am planning on rolling each set in a green napkin and tying them with ribbon and a little card reading something along the lines of "Bon Appetit!". Mom has graciously offered to help with any crafty projects along the way, so I might be delegating this one to her :)

I am also happy to report I am making a very important trip to the post office this afternoon before work -- Save the Dates are finally finished and addressed! The final cost for all of them (39) was under $25, and I think they are really cute and (maybe too obviously) hand crafted. Keep an eye for the mailman this week!
I'll leave you with a picture of Ashley's wedding -- I love this one because it shows a few of her bridesmaid's bouquets -- she made them all individually to suit that person's personality/favorite flowers. So pretty!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Must-Haves

I simply cannot end this month with a measly 5 posts. I've known for a while that I need to get back in bloggy action, but nothing blog-worthy has really happened (I mean, some really great and fun things have happened, but they would be boring to read about). I've been melting away in temperatures averaging well over 100 degrees daily, and it's all I can do to muster up the energy to function as a normal human being. Anyway, I figured Ed, Farrah, or MJ news would be enough to get me going -- but all I can say is that it's a sad week for pop culture icons. So I'm going to go with something completely unrelated...

Presenting... Mary Ann*s Can't-Live-Without-Them-This-Summer Items!

Lots of mag articles and news features are telling you what you need to survive the heat this summer, so I thought it only fitting that I narrow down my needs for the next few months. Here's a few of the things that are totally on my radar for the high temps in the sunshine state...

1. Knit Dresses. It is waaaaay to warm to be dealing with full length pants, and I've made a personal vow to never don a capri again in this lifetime. With the exception of my beloved Nike Tempos (not exactly work approp), that doesn't leave a lot of options. Enter the knit dress (pictured left is my most recently purchased gem). You can wear it by itself with flip flops, or accessorize the hell out of it with a belt, gaudy jewelry, and a cardigan (if your workplace is kept as icy as an arctic tundra). Bonus points for dresses with pockets (almost all of them these days). I also love to rock my favoritey fave footwear of all time, my authentic Justin cowboy boots, with a knit dress for a super easy and adorable outfit.

2. Frosty treats. I am probably the world's biggest ice cream fan, and there's not an excuse I won't use to down a Love It of cake batter with whipped cream, yellow cake, and rainbow sprinkles mixed in. But when it's hot as hell, all that sugar can really weigh you down (literally). My best pick for an icy treat fix is these new popsicles made my Crystal Light. At only 15 calories a piece, they taste just like a frozen lemonade and are super refreshing. They have only recently been released, and they started out at a super affordable 2 bucks and change for a box of 12. Sadly, I have noticed the price creeping up over the past few times I've bought them. I hope they stay within my grocery budget for the remainder of the summer.

3. To-Go's. Whether you're hitting the trails for a run or headed to the beach for some fun, chances are you'll be needing a beverage of some sort. Since glass is illegal at pretty much every beach here, my go-to Miller Lite 6 pack is a social no-no. Instead, we'll pack cans and huggies, or Solo cups. An old favorite for beach boozing is the boxed wine. When you're done drinking the wine (actually housed within a plastic liner inside the box), you can blow up the empty plastic and make yourself a little pillow for a boozy afternoon nap (mind the potential sunburn). But my ultimate hydration tool is the Brita Filter For Good bottle. I fill this little lover up in the morning at home, and then I take full advantage of the Zephyrhills water cooler at work.

4. Seasonal Fruit and Veggies. I am a lucky ducky to have about a bazillion blackberry and blueberry bushes on our property (as well as a dedicated fiance to pick them all!), but even if you're not so fortunate, summer is a great time to hit up a Farmer's Market for some fresh deliciousness. You can always find something new!

5. Jams. A country music girl at heart, there is no better time to drop the windows and blare Chesney than during the blazing summer months. Other favorites include my OTG listed on the right column of this blog. Whether you're headed to a day of sunning, home to relax after work, or road tripping on vacation, the soundtrack is crucial.

That's my (very succinct) list of what I need to make it through this season. While we're at it, there are several other items that I've been living without, but shouldn't be... Did I mention that my birthday (obvs the best thing about summer) is only 16 days away? Click here to get started shopping.

What's your go-to must have for summer?