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Confessions of a Former Candy Addict: How I Beat Sugar

October is one of my favorite months of the year.  The leaves are turning, the air is getting just a bit crisp, sweaters and boots are back in a big way, and Halloween is coming. Three days ago, I poured out a bowl full of candy corn and put it on the file cabinet in front of my desk at work. And I didn’t touch it.  I haven’t had a single piece of candy corn this year. It’s October 18!  If this were a year ago, I would have gobbled up the entire bowl, or at least as much as I could possibly consume before feeling like the contents of my stomach were going to make a reappearance.

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I have a serious thing for candy corn. Honestly, I have a serious thing for sugar in general.  Bored? Sleepy? Eat some candy! Headache? Eat some candy! Stressful news? Eat some candy! Good news? Eat some candy! Just passing by the candy bowl? Eat some damn candy! Just eat it already! Although I don’t tend to gobble down multiple chocolate bars Augustus Gloop-style, I am a grazer. A piece here, a piece there. ALL. DAY. It’s just as bad.

In April of this year, I decided to cut sugar out of my diet. The fact is: sugar is not good for you.  You know it isn’t.  You don’t need it.  I had also gained about 5 pounds since moving from the city and I couldn’t take it off, no matter how much desperate wishing I did.  I didn’t want to do a crash diet and eat cottage cheese and grapefruit for 7 days. I wanted to make a life change and eat healthier for good – which was much scarier. I knew I needed break the sugar habit that had me running for the candy bowl after lunch, after dinner, and whenever else I felt like I needed a lil pick-me-up.

I read up on Whole 30, Paleo, Paleo Plus, blah blah blah. Since I’m a sometimes pescatarian who is a little bit lactose intolerant, a lot of the high protein diets I read about wouldn’t work long term without a bit of tweaking.  In the end, I decided on a few  things: no candy of any kind, no high fructose corn syrup, no added sugar, and sprouted grain bread only.  Sugar free replacements were out, too (I feel like this was huge in being successful). Those were really the only hard and fast rules. And one day, I just decided to go for it. I was going cold turkey. 

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The first few days were tough.  Really tough. Breaking a habit sucks. I got headaches in the afternoon and felt  exhausted by the time I got home from work. People reacted strangely to it,  like what I was eating was personally offensive. Instead of candy, I started eating almonds. So, so many almonds. When I felt like I couldn’t eat another friggin’ almond without gleefully burning down a farm in California, I moved to cashews.  Then to pistachios. Then back to almonds, since I’d forgotten how much I hated their guts. Repeat.

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But seriously, after the first week, it was much smoother sailing. I remembered wanting it, and I remembered how much I liked it, but I could say no. I could say no to candy, to desserts, to junk food in general. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’d ever done, but it was easier than I’d expected.  I also started gradually losing those few extra pounds, though I definitely wasn’t eating any fewer calories.  If anything, I was likely eating more.

I spent about two months completely avoiding any of the items in the rules. It got easier. By the end, it had normalized. I started occasionally indulging in some of the verboten foods. I had some failures. The weeks surrounding my wedding were pretty out of control. The night we babysat our nephew was a little heavy on  Reese’s Pieces.

6 months later, I’m not as strict with myself, but it’s definitely changed the way I eat. I’ve kept those 5 pounds off.  I’m no longer dying for dessert after dinner. I don’t make a beeline to the candy bowl after lunch.  I still don’t eat any sugar free replacement junk food, because that’s seriously just some chemical crap, guys.  And I didn’t eat any of the stupid candy corn. Sure, I’ll eat some candy on Halloween because it’s Halloween.  And I will love every second of it. But on November 1, it’s back to normal. Because although we might meet up occasionally for coffee, sugar and I are never, ever getting back together.

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Cook Stuff: Easy Slow Cooker Lentil Stew

Happy fall, y’all!  As soon as the weather starts turning nippy, I want nothing more than to cuddle up with a kitten and a warm bowl of soup. (Actually, I am into this pretty much any time). Lucky for me, I have a crock pot and a few minutes to spare.

I received an awesome slow cooker as a gift for Christmas a couple of years ago, and immediately wanted to start making amazing things in it.  Last spring, I made a blind attempt and mixing quinoa and lentils in my crockpot, and ended up with what I lovingly referred to as “the gruel”.  It didn’t taste terrible but had the texture of slightly dried paste.  My skills have gotten better since then, and one of my most frequent recipes is a quick, easy lentil stew that makes tasty, filling, and cheap lunches for a week.

DSC00396The best part about this recipe is that you can throw pretty much anything into it. On this occasion, I happened to have a couple of peppers, a parsnip that was past its prime, and half of an onion. I get my lentils from Trader Joe’s mostly, though I’ve also used the regular bagged bulk supply from our grocery store. I just like the TJ’s lentils better. Personal preference. I also use Better Than Bouillon for a bit of flavor. I don’t hate on bouillon cubes, but I can’t find the veggie variety at my local grocer.  However, if you already have a bunch of prepared broth, feel free to skip the bouillon step and just add the broth instead of water in the following steps.

DSC00397First step is the easiest, but the most important. I use a ratio of 4:1 for lentils, which keeps them from soaking up all of the water and turning into putty, but still allows for a thicker, stewy consistency in the end. You could use more water if you’d like, but I probably wouldn’t use much less.  For a big batch, I use 2 cups of lentils and 8-9 cups of water.  If you’re using broth, you’re all set. But if you’re using bouillon, take a moment before you add that last cup of water…

DSC00400Heat up your last cup of water in the microwave (or boil water on the stove, whatever your fancy). Then add your bouillon and stir, stir, stir. I don’t like my soups salty, so I only add about a tablespoon of bouillon for the whole shebang, but you might want a bit more. Check out the directions on your package and make the call.

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Go ahead and dice up your veggies. I cut them kind of tiny on this occasion, but I’m experimenting more with leaving big chunks to add texture to the stew.  I also typically add some crushed garlic to my crockpot at this point, but not everyone is as into garlic as I am. You can smell me cooking with garlic from a block away. No vampires here, folks.

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Toss everything in and give it a good stir. Your lentils will definitely hang out at the bottom while everything you just added will float, but it’s OK. They’re all in this together.  If your slow cooker has a timer, set it on low for 7 hours and 30 minutes. If it doesn’t, set it on low and set another time for 7 hours and 30 minutes (you probably could have figured that out). I know you can cook faster on the higher setting, but since I always cook this all day or overnight, I’ve never had to speed the process along. I’d estimate you could probably have this done in about 4 and a half hours on a higher setting.  At around 6 and a half hours, if you’re home, you can check on it.  It won’t hurt to leave it in longer, but if you’re in a time crunch and it’s done, you can take it out.

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Time to eat! As you can see, the lentils definitely soaked up a whole bunch of that water and met up with the veggies.  My usual recipe will make about 5 to 8 meals, depending on how large of a bowl you want. Perfect for a family meal or company. That’s a whole lot of good eating for $5 or less!

Enjoy!

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Beauty Win: I Canceled My Subscription Boxes

Subscription boxes are a pretty neat concept. You pay a small(ish, depending on the box) monthly fee and get a box of goodies. Back in the day, one of my friends used to receive her Birchbox at our shared workplace.  Each month, I was totes jelly of the cool stuff she got in her box. “I want to receive cute little samples of beauty products, too!” I cried, “I’m signing up!”

Birchbox has a waiting list to sign up, which only makes you feel like you need it more. When my turn finally came up, I eagerly paid my monthly fee, and felt like a total baller because I, too, would soon be receiving my own box of specially curated tiny product samples.  Surely they would all be things I was dying to try!

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I was stoked when I received my first box. So stoked, in fact, that  I quickly signed up for the waiting list on another box I heard was more exciting: Ipsy’s Glambag. I was on the waiting list for several weeks, and squee’d with glee when I got the email that I’d been accepted into membership of the Ipsy family.  Perfect hair, skin, and makeup, here I come!

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Each month, I got 2 packages filled with mystery.  And each month I felt the excitement as I brought them in from the mailbox. But the excitement quickly faded when I discovered I’d gotten a pouch of lotion, fake eyelashes, blue shadow, another blush.  The reality of the situation was that I was actually trying just one (or two if I was lucky) of those items each month.  Sometimes that number fell to zero. For $20 per month. Two years later?

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I have samples all over my house. This box is only what I was able to find in about 5 minutes at my makeup table. Also? Every one of these samples are unused.  Nail polish colors I hated or lipstick that wasn’t my color.  Lots was just tossed in a drawer, forgotten and lost in the sample pile.  I’ll work through most of it, eventually (minus the blue shadow), but first I needed to cut off the supply. I needed to cancel my subscriptions.

I’m embarrassed to say that I struggled with this for MONTHS. I’d had a slew of lame Birchboxes, but I held onto the hope that things would get better.  I just needed to be faithful! I can be faithful.  I’ll keep waiting over here.  It was total FOMO. But then the day finally came. “NO MORE,” I said, “I will no longer be manipulated by your tiny samples!”

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Canceling was easy. Really easy.  Would you keep your Netflix subscription if all they wanted to stream was The Real Housewives of DC and The Cleveland Show? NO.  Like any other financial (dang, even life in general) decision: if you’re loving it, keep it! But if you’re not getting what you want or if you’re not actually using what you’re getting, end it.  And don’t look back! Move on, girl or boy. You can get tiny lotion samples anywhere.

 

Frugal Hack FAIL: Removing My Own Gel Manicure

I don’t get manicures often, because I’m cheap.  Well, actually, I don’t get manicures often because they wreck my nails and seem like a waste of money.  But since my wedding obviously required perfect nails, I went for the gold: gel manicure.

The point of a gel manicure is to last longer than your typical paint n’ run.  Your nails and cuticles are cleaned up the same as a regular manicure, but instead of simple polish your nails are coated in a thicker gel polish and base/top coat that that resists chipping.  It also costs more – usually twice the cost of a normal manicure (or more!).

Gel manicures are freaky and should be done on a limited basis for 2 reasons:

  1.  They have to be set with a UV light. You stick your hands into a little box and the polish ‘cures’ under a UV light for about 30 seconds at a time (about 3 times per hand).  If you do this regularly, that’s a whole lot of UV exposure to the delicate skin on your hands.
  2. The polish stays on for weeks at a time.  Yay. But the process to remove it is super harsh: soaking your nails in acetone. WOOF.  This causes weak, cracked, peeling nails. The alternative is picking it off like normal nail polish, which will peel off the top layer of your nails and damage them even worse. Sexy.

I got the loveliest gel manicure for my wedding. Lovely, y’all. I got so many compliments on my nails, even a week plus after the wedding.  But nearly 3 weeks post-wedding, it was time to come off.  Normally, you need to go to your salon and have them remove the polish for you. It usually costs a few bucks ($5-10) and about half an hour of your time.  In my infinite frugal genius, however, I decided that doing it myself would be a better idea.  Hey, if Lauren Conrad can do it, certainly I can!

OK, so here are my supplies, including my post-removal healing polish.  10 aluminum foil rectangles, polish remover, buffer, cotton balls, and wooden manicure sticks. So far, so good. Right?

DSC00373I started by buffing off the top coat of polish. I heard this would help the polish remover get all up in the gel and do its business.  Then I soaked the cotton balls in remover and affixed them to my fingers using the tin foil. This is easy!

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You know what’s a bad idea? Trying to do all 10 fingers at the same time. That first hand is easy peasy.  The second hand is nearly effing impossible.  It’s no small task to delicately wrap your fingertips in tin foil with bulbous, ungraceful ET fingers.

After about 20 minutes, I took off my tin tips to check on progress. My gel had begun to dissolve and I was able to scrape off some chunks with my wooden manicure stick, but I was still left with a decent amount of polish. I popped my fingers back into my foil balls for another 10 minutes or so in hopes that it would finish them off.  NO SUCH LUCK. All I got were pruney fingers.

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Well, I got most of the polish off, especially after I trimmed off most of the length.  But it wasn’t a perfect removal and today I went back to the salon with my tail between my legs and thrust my hands at my manicurist helplessly.  She filed off most of what was left, buffed my nails, and sent me on my way.

Mistakes:

  1. BIG ONE. I should have gotten pure acetone at the beauty supply store instead of using the normal polish remover I had at home.  I didn’t realize these were different things.
  2. I should not have tried to do both hands at one time. However, doing one hand at a time would have taken over an hour.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Final Summation:

Failure due to human error. The acetone thing.  I could have been a contender! It took me just as much time to try to remove them at home as it would have taken me to go back to the salon. Instead I was left with polish fossils and fingers that tasted like acetone for 3 days.  FAIL.

 

 

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Wedding Planning: Manage RSVPs Like a Boss

We are finally in the home stretch and just a few weeks ago, we sent out over 100 invitations to our shebang. That’s a lot of RSVPs. It’s also a large – and unexpected – opportunity for confusion.

Though the internet assured me that each one of my guests would be ready, willing, and able to send in their RSVP via our wedding website (doubtful, y’all), we decided to go traditional with mailed RSVP cards.  It’s a personal choice, and seeing how my friends can’t even respond to a regular ol’ email, I wasn’t letting my reception hinge on responsible use of the internet.

non-boyfriends-7Should you decide that the mailed RSVP option is for you, don’t forget: STAMPS. Stamps, stamps, stamps. Stamp your fracking RSVPs or you’ll be headed to the post office to pay some postage because someone’s not going to notice.  It’s just polite, guys.  I’m into being polite, especially when it only costs about 40 bucks.  And there are options here – like our Save the Dates, we chose postcard RSVPs instead of card-in-envelope to save on the aforementioned stamps.

Once you’ve made the decision to order (or design yourself!) cards, design is important. We ordered our invitations on minted.com, and the RSVP card that came with them did not include one very important element: number attending. We had to request the addition, which could have been easily overlooked. You can also add a line to distinguish between adults and children if you’re so inclined (we were not).  Additionally, your catering company (or other food option) might want a count of entrees to prepare so you don’t need to order way too much food.  You can add lines for that, too.  And don’t forget to give your guests a ‘deadline’ for returning their RSVPs.  Some will still return their cards after that date, but you’ll likely receive the majority before.  Folks respond to due dates.

Which brings us to the most important knowledge I’m going to drop in this post: NUMBER YOUR RSVP CARDS. You probably have your list in an Excel spreadsheet already because you live in 2014.  Take a few extra minutes and write the corresponding numbers on your RSVP cards. We’ve already received 2 “yes” cards without any trace of a name. I work with a girl who has received several “Mr. and Mrs. [Insert Name Here]” which would be fine, except they invited 10 Mr. and Mrs. [Insert Name Here]s because they are a family and families tend to have the same last name.  Now they are scrambling to figure out which couple actually responded.  This is a crisis that could have been easily averted had they numbered their cards. You might think you don’t need to do it – you do.  Just do it.

When you do get those cards back, head back to your trusty Excel spreadsheet and check them off, including the number of guests. Make a note of any dietary restrictions you know of as well, and the entrees chosen (if you asked).  It will be super easy to sort and decipher who will be getting a very polite phone call the week before the wedding.

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In the end, you’ll end up with people at the wedding who didn’t RSVP.  You’ll end up with people not at the wedding who did.  Another girl I work with was confronted by her venue rep when she needed an additional table set up at her recent wedding. Ask someone (a friend, a family member, whatever) to be the contact person for that sort of issue and hope that they can handle it without your input, because everyone will be wanting your input that day and there’s only so much in you can put.  Enjoy yourself, it’s your wedding.

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Big Questions: What Are You Making Time For?

The other night, we finished the second season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. While it was totally awesome, there are lots of things I could have been doing with those 13 hours.

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We all say it: I’m just so busy! I meant to do it, but it slipped my busy mind with how busy I am because I’m a busy bee with lots of busy things to do. And y’all, I hear it. I work a full-time job, then work with my better half on the farm.  We run the market stand on Saturdays, plan a wedding, make soap and skincare products and occasionally sell some Tupperware.  It took us 4 weeks, but we finished Orange is the New Black. And I actually felt guilty. Should I have done something more productive with that time?

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I don’t update this blog nearly as much as I’d like. I don’t make soap as much as I should to be able to innovate new products. I don’t keep up with family and friends.  Sometimes I don’t return phone calls or text messages.  My laundry situation is atrocious. Most days I don’t even get in my 30 minute Jillian Michaels workout. 30 minutes! It took me several days to write this post about not having time to do things. 

So what am I making time for? Well, I’m caught up on Teen Mom.

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I make time to prepare healthy meals for us. To make lunches for work, saving money and our waistlines.  I make time to spend with my sister and I call my mother. I spend time with our poor neglected pets.  I make time to sleep so I’m productive and pleasant at work.

The other thing I make time for? My significant other. We don’t get a lot of hours together. And it’s hard for both of us not to feel like there’s something else, something better, something more important that we should be doing with that time. But in truth – that time is my favorite of the entire week because I can just enjoy being with the person I love. You can always be busy doing things, things, things, but being present is the best gift we can give each other.

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Time each day is finite, and you choose how to spend it. I wish I spent more time on physical fitness, but I make that choice every time I sit down on the couch instead of going for a run. What do you make time for?

Wedding Planning: The Agony of Planning the Happiest Day of Our Lives

Anyone who has planned a wedding can tell you that the devil is in the details.  On a very superficial level, I knew that. If anyone asked, I was ready to roll my eyes and bemoan the process of planning a lovely wedding for my lucky self and my wonderful partner.  What I wasn’t ready for were the the 15 minutes I spent face down on my bed yesterday, wracked with indecision about what time the ceremony would start. It was a difference of 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES, Y’ALL.

The truth is, when it comes to minor-that-seem-major choices:

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I make huge decisions pretty quickly, like moving to Chicago from my warm, sunny Florida home. Or uprooting my entire life and moving out to the suburbs to start a farm.  Taking jobs.  Deciding where we’d have our wedding. Choosing the spot for our honeymoon. But the little stuff? I just can’t.  I stand in the deodorant aisle for 20 minutes. I’m that person.

Unfortunately, wedding planning is full of little, stupid decisions that seem really, really important. Do we put a photo on the Save the Date? Is this invitation too shiny?  Should my bouquet have baby’s breath?  Should we use the gold rim or the silver rim plates? Holy bejeezus, are these linens too white?

indecisive-catWe spent 5 days deciding on what time the ceremony should start. 5 days! We began with 3:00 in the afternoon, knowing we’d probably start closer to 3:15, and sent our invitations to be created.  When we received the proof back, it was suggested that we might possibly want to move the ceremony to 3:30 (meaning 3:45).  “No way,” I said, “That’s not the timing I have written down in my folder. That will not work.” But I could be convinced and we sent the proof back to be corrected to 3:30. The proof came back, and I hated how it looked. The invitation we chose just doesn’t lend itself to half hour times. So do we move the ceremony back to 3 or push it out to 4? Or just say screw it, and keep it at 3:30 with the now-ugly-to-me invitations?  Should we check the sunset time again?

We finally emailed our photographer for her take on the situation, since a lot of the timing questions involved photos after the ceremony. Her simple answer? Have the ceremony at 4. The light is too harsh at 3:00 in September, plus we’ll get some sweet sunset photos.  Done.  We could have done this 4 days ago and saved ourselves a lot of stress, but we just didn’t think about it. Didn’t cross our minds because we were too busy trying to solve an impossible problem without the proper information.

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Sometimes you just need to ask the question. Seriously: ask someone who knows and make the best decision you can with that information.  In the next few months, I’ll need to make more of these decisions and attempt to not have any more face-down episodes. I’ll have to trust my info and/or my gut and just DECIDE.  Or it really won’t be fun anymore and I actually will be rolling my eyes and wishing it was all over while everyone around me pretends that I’m not being a huge brat.

Now we just need to decide when to cut the cake…

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Wedding Planning: The Top 3 Strategy

How time flies.

After getting engaged last fall, it seemed like the wedding was forever away. I mean, when is September, anyway? That’s still like a whole season away, right? Wrong. Well, right, but wrong. So wrong. It will be knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door in like five minutes.

Wedding whale.

In order to avoid Bridezilla-like meltdowns, we strategized.   Early on, we made a list of the 3 things each of thought were most important and worth spending a bit more of our budget on. The rest? Meh, we’d figure it out. Luckily, we found out we had some items in common. You’ll make yourself insane trying to have a Pinterest-perfect wedding. That crap is professionally styled, y’all.  I can’t even put together a half-flattering outfit for work most of the time.  Let some things go, and you’ll find a bit more room in the budget for the things you love.

Photographer

camera-camera-photos-cannon-inspiring-letters-Favim.com-362027The photos are really important to me.  They are pretty much the only thing that lasts from your wedding, after all. Good photographers book far in advance, especially on popular dates (which is basically any time in summer or early fall) and we ran into a few who were already booked in November of last year.  I started with asking for recommendations and checking a few vendors listed on theknot.com. You might think a photo is a photo, but make sure you check out their albums! I could quickly spot a style I didn’t like.  And although it’s usually more expensive, I’d recommend you go with an independent photographer. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting and not finding out who’s assigned from the company on the big day.  They’ll also often have a suggestion if they aren’t available. We were referred to ours through a wonderful photographer who did a friend’s wedding (already booked, boo!).  They share a studio space and have a similar style (and she was available, yay!).

Food

This was on his list, not mine. I have a strong opinion on wedding food: no one will have a strong opinion on wedding food unless it’s really bad or exceptionally good. I felt that we could go middle of the road and be fine.  My better half, however, wanted to make sure that the food was delicious.  So we went with a family-friend caterer who did his sister’s wedding a few years ago.  We went with a pretty basic package, but he liked the food and it was more than good enough for me. It was definitely reasonable but still a large expense since we’ll be inviting about 200 guests.  But… what’s on the list rides.

Music

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No.

I wanted a DJ.  I absolutely loathe wedding bands.  He didn’t really mind either way, but we both wanted a great dance party.  I’ve never been to a wedding that I said “Damn, that wedding band is so much better than a DJ,” but I did go to a wedding where the band played a 20 minute rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” because it was the only thing anyone seemed to enjoy.  And yes, we could have created our own wedding playlist, but I’ve yet to be at a wedding where the iPod-as-DJ thing actually worked smoothly.  I’m not gifted at picking sweet jams that will keep the party going – that’s what DJs are for. I found our DJ on theknot.com and the company offers several packages.  Our DJ is also providing the photobooth and music for the ceremony. Three birds with one stone.  We met with them to make sure they understood the kind of DJ we wanted (keep things on track and play great music, please don’t talk more than necessary) and they were great.

Venue/Decor

This was on both of our lists.  Because we are doing the wedding at the farm, we have a lot of control over exactly how we want the venue to look and feel (outside of the weather. We don’t control that, yet).  We knew we were doing the ceremony outside and a tent for the reception, but let me clarify here: it’s not necessarily less expensive than renting a venue.  You need to rent bathrooms.  You need to figure out your own food situation. You need to keep the lights on. You need to clean everything up the next day.  Decor has been a struggle since I’m not a great designer. Most important? Mindful use of mason jars and burlap. It’s not a potato sack race.

That’s too many.

Flowers sort of fall into this category, too. I could have created my own bouquets and centerpieces, but truthfully I don’t want to worry about it. I’ll have enough to worry about the day before the wedding without fretting about wilted daisies. We are keeping flowers to a minimum, though – just bouquets for me and the bridesmaids, corsages for moms, and possibly boutonnieres for the guys (if we don’t do them ourselves).  We are planning to do live potted flowers for the centerpieces. We visited a large florist recommended by a few friends and one very small florist around the corner from my hair-lady. We went with the tiny flower shop. I felt a definite connection with them, they were super excited about doing the wedding, and they will work within my budget.  As a small business co-owner, supporting other small businesses is really important to me and I like to put my money where my mouth is.  Feel it out and choose the right option for you and your budget.

So basically…

cute-bride-groom-wedding-cake-topper.originalThe key items in my planning are right here: don’t give yourself a million options and stop shopping when you’ve made a decision.  Sticking to these main must-haves has helped us keep some stress at bay thus far.  Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’re not going to have everything you’ve ever dreamed of, and that has to be OK!  Keep your eye on the prize: you are marrying your best friend. You still get to be married even if your glitter-burlap banner is hanging all crooked-like and the DJ manages to sneak “Celebration” onto the play list. It’s cool, guys. We’re still going to be married.  That’s actually the point of this whole thing.

And I may as well mention: The Dress – (That’s all anyone cares about.)

This wasn’t on either of our lists but it was the first thing I took care of. I actually went dress shopping for the first time only a week after we got engaged. I went to a total of 3 locations: a large department store, David’s Bridal, and a small boutique out here in the suburbs.  Three cheers for small boutiques! And now? It’s here! I put it on my body this weekend.  One thing to keep in mind: budget for alterations. That ish is expensive and unavoidable unless you buy off the rack and are perfect. If so, I hate you.

 

Big Questions: What Can’t You Do?

Last weekend, my sister ran 10 miles in a huge race in the city.  She’d been training for a whopping… 2 months.

My sister is not a runner. She has run a couple of 5k’s (most recently with me in my very first) over the years, but she doesn’t run every day, or even every week.  She doesn’t own any witty Nike shirts about running and neither of us knew what those bands above people’s knees were for (according to Amazon,  they are “designed to improve patellar tracking and elevation by applying mild pressure on the tendon below the kneecap [and] provide pain relief from Chondromalacia, Patellar Tendonitis and Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.”) When she told us in early April that she was planning to run a 10 mile race, we were basically like:

wait what

But my sister doesn’t generally mess around. When she says she’s going to do something, more often than not you can count on her getting it done.  She’d recently joined a new gym and was attending classes regularly.  She signed up for the race as a way to keep herself motivated and goal-oriented, which is pretty awesome.  And in the end, she did exactly what she’d set out to do. She obviously didn’t win the race, but she finished, and she finished in the time she’d hoped and planned to complete the race.  She met her goal and had a legit reason to be super proud of herself.

My sister has also been on a pretty strict diet for the last 6 months. It’s one of those diets where they send you a big box of food and tell you exactly what you’re supposed to eat every day.  You get a meal option, dessert option, snacks – the whole shebang. She’s lost 30 pounds, which is amazing (my sister is cool for a lot of reasons).  But when I suggested that cutting sugar might help her bust through her recent weight loss plateau, the answer was a resounding:

Confused_Anya

The girl who just completed a 10 mile race on 8 weeks of training  didn’t think she could cut sugar from her diet. It’s not that she necessarily thought I was wrong.  It’s just not part of the prescribed diet program.  Sugar’s a tough nut to crack.  It would be too hard. And it made me think.

We all have something like this: something we don’t think we can do.  Even the most posi-core among us have at least one thing we don’t think we’re capable of doing.  But outside of actual physical limitations, there’s little we can’t accomplish if we’re willing to commit ourselves to a goal fully and try.

Trying sucks sometimes.  Our language shows that in the very word itself.  It’s no surprise that the definition of ‘try’ includes ‘attempt to achieve or attain’ and ‘make severe demands on’.  It takes our time, effort, concentration, and sometimes our money.  When we try something, we open ourselves up to the disappointment of failure, and failure sometimes sucks even worse than trying.  But (unfortunately), there is seldom success without actually trying.  Sure, some of us might inherit a huge amount of money, or end up in a cushy job we didn’t really earn, or have an innate ability to run 10 miles without breaking a sweat – there are always exceptions.  But even faced with that kind of ‘luck’, it’s still up to you to make something positive happen with it.

everything burns

We’re paying for a wedding this fall.  We are planning on expanding our business and allowing my future husband to work on that full time.  We are looking at kids in the next few years. All of that requires a lot of saving and planning. And while I’ve been trying to be good about cutting out unnecessary expenses, I could try harder.  I could be better about what we absolutely need right now and what is just a comfort.  I might not really need that 3-wick scented candle from Bath & Body Works more than I’ll wish I had that money in 5 years, but in the moment that’s a tough call to make.  Trying is trying.  But I do believe that I can do it.  And as for the 10 mile race? I’m totally signing up next year.

So what do you think? What can’t you do?

veggies

Cook Stuff: Fall Fest Roasted Vegetables

When we met with our caterer last month, one of the stand out awesome dishes was a fabulous mix of roasted fall veggies, sea salt, and a lot of olive oil.  My sister was inspired to try out a lower fat version herself and her success sent me to the kitchen!  These roasted vegetables have quickly become one of my favorite side dishes for several reasons: they are quick, easy, healthy, versatile, beautiful and delicious. It may be spring, but these roasted veggies will make you yearn for carved pumpkins and crunchy leaves. Let’s hop to it!

Ingredients (you can easily increase or decrease the quantity here):

  • 2 parsnips
  • 3-4 (my sister uses a bag of baby carrots)
  • three-quarters of a pound of brussels sprouts
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • about half of a head of cauliflower, depending on the size (you could also add some broccoli)

First: wash everything well, especially if you’re using conventional produce rather than organic.  These ingredients may not part of the Dirty Dozen, but you’ll be glad you did. I peel my carrots and the parsnips but not the sweet potato (this is pure preference, peel whatever you’d like).  I’ve lived it lots of crappy apartments with lots of crappy ovens, and I know not all ovens are created equal. Start preheating your oven to 375-400 degrees, depending on how much you trust the temperature control in your personal food kiln.

20140515_182047Chop it all up. I cut my brussels sprouts in half regardless of size.  I typically try to cut everything else to about the size of a nickel or quarter.  You can cut them up larger or smaller, but keep in mind that it will take the larger pieces a longer time to roast in the oven, putting your sprouts and cauliflower at risk of burning.  On the other hand, cut them too small and your tiny nubbins might shrivel and burn in the oven. But don’t make yourself crazy about chopping them all the same size – variety is the spice of life.

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Dump everything in a large bowl and add about 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil.  I’ve seen recipes using a lot more, and it’s really up to you. I usually just eyeball it and it’s turned out OK. As long as you can get a nice even coating on the veggies when you stir them up, it’s probably enough. If you’re watching calories, it’s OK to go light on the oil without ill-effect.

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Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste. I’m not a super salt user, so I only add a few cranks of my grinder. I use McCormick “Perfect Pinch” Italian Seasoning because I’m lazy, but you can do your own mix of thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and/or basil however you’d like. Honestly I don’t measure this either. Cooking is all about experimenting, guys. Save the measuring cups for baking, I say! I give everything a nice coating, then mix it all together.

Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray (or use oil or butter, whatever you’d like). Carefully pour the contents of your bowl onto the sheet and spread it all out as evenly as possible. I’ll usually have a bit extra, so I throw them into a glass baking dish. Your oven should be ready by now, right? Throw everything in there (uncovered) and set your timer for 35 minutes. Walk away and do something else.

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My baking sheet could use a deep clean.

After 35 minutes, have a look. Your veggies should look golden brown and the edges of your brussels sprouts and cauliflower may start getting a bit crispy. Don’t be scared – that’s OK. Poke a fork into one of your potato wedges and make sure they aren’t still completely uncooked. They may still have a little bite to them, but that’s fine – you aren’t making mashed potatoes here. Not done yet? Turn down the heat if your greens and cauliflower are getting too crispy and let them cook another 5-10 minutes. Done? Take them out and enjoy! These veggies reheat well and will live happily in the fridge for a few days, though I doubt they’ll last that long. Bon appétit, y’all!

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