Cookbooks, Easter, and Fridays . . . Oh my!

This morning I woke up and decided to make a Pinterest cookbook. Why? Because. (Doesn't that provide you with lots of incite into my personal life?)

I have sooooo many things bookmarked on Pinterest that never get made, because Justin is the cook/chef/baker in this household. (I pretend to know what I'm doing, but I just don't.) The likelihood of me pulling up a recipe on my laptop for Justin to use while in the kitchen is just not that likely. (Plus, wouldn't it be fun if a lot of the recipes worked out and we could print some fun pinterest cookbooks for the family for Christmas?)

I'm trying out Blurb, in case you are wondering. Blurb allows you to be able to put together a book online, through a program you download, or, if you are super awesome, in InDesign. While I do consider myself super awesome and thought for about 10 seconds about using InDesign, I ultimately decided I wanted this cookbook to be quick and easy. I'm currently using the "cookbook" templates found in Blurb's downloadable program.

Aren't the page styles simply gorgeous?

Plus, they are sooo easy to make! I believe you can even make a book for your ipad, if you own one.

Anyway, Justin and I are in charge of bringing dessert to Easter lunch/dinner on Sunday, and we still don't know what we are bringing. Justin has mentioned making tiffany blue meringues in honor of me. (Awww!!) Other things we have talked about include a French dessert I had a German friend help me decipher and (assuming we have no time) a chocolate mousse cake from Costco. We also have to bring (homemade) French bread, field greens and spinach leaves for salad, and a homemade vinaigrette. (We have a hard time buying food from the store since Justin's homemade food is so much better!)

Perhaps over the weekend I will get Justin to write out his French bread recipe and photograph it. Justin has been working on it and modifying it from Julia Child's original recipe. Every time he makes it, it gets even more delicious!

Do you have any exciting plans for the Easter holiday? I'd love to hear them! :)

Top 5 Lessons Learned Whilst Getting Married

I have quite a few friends in the process of wedding planning, and I thought I would share a little bit of advice to help you get through this magnificent time in your life. (Apparently I still think I have advice to give over a year after my wedding!)

1. Trust your significant other. -- First of all, if you don't trust your significant other, why are you getting married?!? In the midst of wedding plans, people will throw tons of advice at you. They will have good reasoning behind their advice and the best of intentions, but their advice is not always something you need to hear. Sometimes others' advice causes more worry, panic, and stress. While I can't say this is for everyone, my rock during my engagement was my significant other. He kept me centered and focused. It didn't matter what anyone else did or said, Justin would set me straight. He would stay late at night sitting and talking with me calmly (usually) about how things would work themselves out. He would remind me that he loved me no matter what. He even made some pretty stupid decisions just to make sure I knew I was loved. (I won't say what.) So . . . no matter what anyone else tells you, trust your significant other whether the question be about marriage or your wedding day. They will (or should) always have your best intentions at heart.

2. Trust your gut. -- Before I say what I'm going to say, you need to know that I absolutely love my dad. The thing is when you get married, everybody seems to have a say or want a say in what happens. Quite frequently my dad and I would have our expectations clash. Justin wanted one florist and my dad said no. He said I needed a cheaper florist. No offense dad, but I have to side with my significant other on this one considering it is his wedding day too. A cheaper photographer? Ummm . . . do you know what you are looking for?!?! Then there were those stupid glass paint markers! I bought them for using on old window panes for decoration. I was going to return the unused ones, but my dad said he had a project he needed them for. I had already made him promise not to write on the getaway car. What did he do? He gave the markers that I paid for to my friends and family to do the exact thing I asked him not to do. I was irate! Furious! Angry! In the moment I did something entirely stupid. When he was laughing at my anger and saying he loved me, I told him that he didn't. I immediately felt regret and apologized. Rather than fighting and looking awful in front of family and friends, Justin and I just drove the 1960-something gorgeous camaro to my parent's house and switched it out for my car. Not quite the fancy getaway vehicle we were hoping to drive away in, but I was grateful to not be in a car that said "Honk for a smooch!" The point is . . . Don't give your father glass paint markers unless you really want your getaway car written on. Trust your gut.

By the way, I was told I would someday look back and laugh. That hasn't happened yet.

3. Don't expect everything to go right. -- I am a very forgetful person, so of course I forgot the wedding rings. (I remembered the dress!) But even beyond my own faults, some of the people I trusted the most, such as the vendors, didn't get everything right. Flowers falling out of the bouquet, hair and make-up artist sleeping on the job, the wedding planner forgetting to put things out . . . All you can really do is hire people, hope you are making the right decisions, and just go with it. Do you really want to be upset on your wedding day? No? I didn't think so. No matter what happens, you are getting to spend time with the people who are nearest and dearest to you. That is not something to be taken lightly.

4. DIY or Not? -- If you are a busy person or not very crafty, don't try to DIY everything. While my experience may not be the norm, you often spend more time and money on things that are not necessary then you do on saving money. TRUST ME. Pick your battles. (Or crafts.) Which is more important? DIY flowers or DIY food? If you try to do both, you might go crazy. (You should also pick helpful bridesmaids.)

4a. Speaking of helpful bridesmaids and family, unless you truly trust them, give them easy tasks to do that they can't/won't screw up. If you are anything like me, you are crazy picky. Things have to go in order: A, B, C rather that C, A, B. (We aren't spelling here.) When I asked a bridesmaid to help me put stamps on envelopes, she decided to do them the way she wanted rather than the way I asked her to. End result? I gave her the envelopes for the people I cared least about. (I wouldn't let her touch immediate family or close friends envelopes, because I wanted those PERFECT.) While the situation is not ideal, it helped me accomplish more and made her feel like she was helping me. Hopefully your bridesmaids will be more willing to listen to your desires, but, if not, just give them simplified tasks and let it go. Not everything can be perfect. Plus, they are helping you.

5. Relax -- You only get one period of engagement and one wedding day, so try to relax and enjoy it. Simplify what needs to be done as much as possible before your wedding day, so that your vendors have the best possible chance of producing the wedding of your dreams. (We washed and tied silverware together prior to the day of so that the wedding planner just had to set the silverware out on the tables.) Make lists . . . not that you or your wedding vendors will follow them. It will help you worry just a bit less knowing that they know what you want them to know. Plan a chance to eat breakfast, and, if you are anything like me, plan to see your significant other prior to the ceremony. You know who you are marrying and there is absolutely no reason to worry about it. The deacon who married Justin and I said to not look at anyone else during the service. He said "Just look at me and Justin, and you'll be fine." I'm pretty sure I looked at the back wall most of the service when I wasn't laughing at the cute flower girls. (Flower girls and sucky flowers that fall out of your bouquet are one of the best options if you are worried about people staring at you. They won't be. They'll be laughing at the flower girls too. lol.)

Anyway, that is my best advice for you not-yet-married brides-to-be. I'm sure you've heard a lot of this before, but it is worth repeating. Get these things ingrained into you. After you are done with the whole wedding ordeal, you will be married to your best friend which is totally worth all of the aggravation and headache! I was recently told that being married is like having a slumber party with your best friend every night for the rest of your life. (I.e. No more sleeping in the middle of the bed for you!)

I hope all of my readers are having a fantastic week so far! Only one more day until the weekend! :)

Patterns I Love

After stumbling on Blog for Better Sewing on my pinterest page, I decided to share some of my favorite patterns with my readers. Apparently blogger Gertie currently comes up with patterns for Butterick and posts about them on her blog. I have one of her patterns posted below, so be sure to go to her blog or look for her patterns at your local pattern retailer (Hancock?). If you love vintage clothes as much as me, I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

Simplicity 2231

This is one of my favorite patterns. It's so vintage and feminine. Justin and I picked up a copy of this pattern about a year ago. I don't know how we will dress it down for daily wear, but I am very excited about the possibility of owning this dress in the future. :)

Simplicity 2404

I'm also a little bit in love with this one. I think it would be a fun summer dress. While the pattern shows the dress as poofy, I would love to wear it without a crinoline. (I <3 full circle skirts.)

Butterick 6837

I LOVE that I found an old designer coat pattern. I think the style is absolutely gorgeous. There is no way you could wear this coat out and about and not make a statement. Of course it's hard to imagine wearing Betsy Johnson without making a statement anyway since her pieces are always so bold, colorful, and in your face.

Butterick 5824

The coat above was the one I was talking about earlier by pattern designer Gertie. Isn't it absolutely splendid?

I think the following coat was styled off of Gertie's pattern and I can so perfectly imagine wearing it with the pair of Free People boots shown below.

1950's style coat

Free People boots

I have no idea how many of my blog readers are actually interested in patterns... vintage or the like, but there you go. You have now seen my favorite vintage patterns. Now I need to learn to sew so that I might actually get to wear them someday!

Guest Bedroom Update

Yesterday I gave you a full overview of everything we did over the weekend, but today I thought I might be a bit more specific and provide an update about our guest bedroom.

I'm not going to show you a before and after transformation, because (1) the transformation hasn't happened yet and (2) it is embarrassing showing the before. The before may make you say "Wow!" but I'm not exactly posting for shock factor.

So far we have the duvet which I showed you yesterday:

Raymond Waites Eden Park 6 Piece Duvet Set from Bloomingdales

blankets from Ralph Lauren for the bed in cream and green:

Lauren Ralph Lauren Blanket, Classic from Macy's

These blankets are currently on sale at Macy's! Justin and I also have the blue and white for the master bedroom. They are so soft and light!

pillow cases and fitted sheet from Bloomingdales during their going out of business sale last year. We haven't bought a sheet yet since, originally, the fitted sheet and pillow cases were going to be for the master bedroom.

pillows from Costco:

Pacific Coast Luxury White Goose Down Pillow Soft Support

We currently only have 2, but we will have at least 4 by the time our guests arrive.

a quilt for the end of the bed. We originally bought the quilt, from a thrift store, to exist as the comforter/duvet/top layer for the guest bed, but we decided we preferred having an actual duvet. Instead the plan, currently, is to place the quilt at the foot of the bed like they do in department stores. It will be great during the winter if our guests get cold. :)

a feather topper to go in the duvet. Originally we were given the feather topper for the master bedroom, but since Justin and I use a heavy quilt as our bedspread, the feather topper was much too heavy for me. I would always find myself sleeping on the bedspread with a blanket, because it was too much trouble to move at night. Until Justin and I get a duvet for the master bedroom, the feather topper will go on the guest bed!

a wicker headboard which we will use from my childhood room:

I dislike it, but I don't dislike the free use of it! Plus, we will grab the mattress, boxsprings, and bed frame as well. 

a wardrobe from Ikea (which is not really for guest use since it is filled with fabric for sewing!):

Ikea Birkeland Wardrobe

a dresser that is also from Ikea (that we haven't bought yet and that we plan to change the knobs for):

Ikea Hemnes 8 drawer dresser

some green bottle lamps that Justin made a long time ago:

I got on a recycling kick before getting married in which I wanted to turn old beer and wine bottles into drinking glasses. Since the glass cutter Justin used on the bottles made the glass too sharp to comfortably drink out of, he decided to make lamps instead with lamp kits found at Home Depot. While I would still like to make homemade glasses out of wine bottles, for now wine bottle lamps in the guest bedroom will suffice. (Imagine the lamps without the sticker. We will probably also give the lamps a brighter colored lampshade... white or cream.)

and wedding decorations:

image courtesy of Darwin Young

Specifically the cherry blossoms and maybe a candle holder.

We might also hang our cherry blossom fingerprint tree in the guest bedroom if we can find a spot.

image courtesy Darwin Young; cherry blossom tree courtesy of Gaylezoe on Etsy

Putting a mirror in the room on the dresser would be ideal but it depends on space. I, personally, cannot imagine staying with someone with one bathroom and no mirror in the guest bedroom.

Although we are still playing with ideas for curtains, I'm thinking we will use white or cream colored sheers with either the same color or a pink scarf over the top. (Is scarf what they call it?) If we go with white or cream over the top, we will probably use some pink flowers over the curtains to bring a little bit of color up.

I love using panels, because they are so versatile. After spending more than $70 on curtains for my childhood bedroom with 2 windows, we were able to move my panels to a bedroom with a single very large window. I call that saving money. Plus no one else wants my curtains when they move into the house. My curtains don't go with their furniture.

So there you go. That is a snapshot of what we presume our spare bedroom will look like come May.

Now to get past the clutter! Wish us luck!

Weekend Recap & Guest Preparation

Justin and I had a very busy weekend! We were all over the place on Saturday and then, between cooking and sewing, Justin also worked on Sunday.

Before I talk about what we actually did this weekend, let me give you all a play-by-play of our plans for our rental house. In the list, there are some things we intend to have finished by the time our guests arrive in May while others may never get finished. It really all depends on how much better the project will make our lives and our financial status. Typically projects that will improve our quality of life and that we can take with us when we decide to upgrade to a home we actually own will always take priority over other projects/items on our list.

Over the weekend, we spent a good bit of time working on the list.

Justin needed new shoes. I expected the new shoes looking to take all day, but in fact we were able to complete the task within an hour and under the amount we anticipated paying! Yay! (Or at least it would have been yay if I hadn't found a pair of shoes that brought up the cost to that which we expected to pay.)

So then we took off to Marshalls and TJ Maxx just to look around. I've never really been a fan of these stores, but I thought it couldn't hurt to look. Surprisingly I emerged with a $50 Ralph Lauren blanket I've been watching at Macy's for $25! (We will be putting this blanket on our guest bed.) We also found a shower curtain rod and hooks for the shower curtain for approximately $15. I'm not sure how much shower curtain rods typically go for, but the ones I've seen at Bed, Bath and Beyond retail for far more!

Don't you just love the Anthropologie shower curtain?

Unfortunately, our trips to two cheap stores were followed up by a trip to one expensive store where we obtained the duvet cover for our guest bedroom and... Rag and Bone jeans. I had been watching the duvet cover for a while. Originally when I found it, it was on sale, but I didn't buy it then. When it went back up in price, I decided that perhaps it wasn't the duvet cover for us. Well, this weekend the duvet cover was back down in price with an extra 16% off for being a Bloomingdales loyalist member. Since Justin liked the duvet and the customer's associate was able to find one perfect size in the back of the store (rather than having to order it online), we went ahead and bought it. It's still packaged up nice and pretty until we get the spare bedroom cleaned out and a bed put up there. (So exciting!)

We are hoping this duvet will go well with our cherry blossom wedding decorations.

I don't know what to tell you about the Rag and Bone skinny jeans. Moment of weakness, I guess? We thought they were on sale for 15% off plus the loyalist discount, but it turns out they weren't. The jeans are so cute and make me feel skinny... especially with my new heeled black ankle boots. Plus, on Sunday, with Justin helping me get ready by putting my boots on me while I brushed my teeth, I felt like Cinderella.  Fancy jeans, cute boots, and a top I frequently get compliments on... who wouldn't feel like Cinderella?

Don't get me wrong though. Not all of our weekend was taken over with shopping. I also managed to scrub the vent over our stove fairly well and do every last bit of laundry while Justin cooked and sewed. We also ran into the little girl I watch while we were out and about on Saturday! 

But anyway, after this past Saturday's expenses, I'm afraid dear friends that this house is quickly becoming very feminine and not at all what I anticipated. Justin has agreed every step of the way though, so we'll see what we can do about masculining it up. Perhaps we'll throw some green in to the guest bedroom or some red into the living room. It will be fun.

What do you think? Are you worried for Justin yet? I know I am!

Wedding Traditions & Ceremonies

When Justin and I were getting married, we were shocked at all of the little ceremonial aspects that could be included in one's wedding ceremony. Let me share a few with you.

Ring Warming Ceremony

The ring warming ceremony is fairly new. Basically, you get a cute little holder for your wedding rings and you pass the holder around with the rings (and/or place the holder with the rings on a table near where your ceremony will take place) so that your guests can touch and "warm" your rings. Clearly, you need to trust the family and friends you have invited not to drop or lose the ring. Beyond that, when you actually put your ring on... Guess what? The ring won't actually be warm! Shocking, I know! I guess the point of this ceremony is to be inclusive of family and friends within your wedding, so that they can all feel like they had a special part in your wedding and marriage. :)

Sand Ceremony

This ceremony has been going on for quite a while. I love that it provides a little keepsake for you after the wedding day wherein you can keep the combined sand and say you created this masterpiece during your wedding ceremony. Other then that, I have no idea why you do this. It is basically the same as the unity candle ceremony wherein you symbolize that two families have "joined" together by pouring two different colors of sand into a jar or vase.

Unity Candle Ceremony

This ceremony is the only one I know of that the Catholic church allows during weddings. Usually, before the ceremony, the bride's mom and dad (and likewise the groom's mom and dad) together light a single candle. About a 1/3 of the way through the actual wedding ceremony, the bride takes the candle her parents lit and the groom takes the candle his parents lit, and together they light a candle that is usually placed between the two other candles. Like the sand ceremony, this symbolizes the union between the two families as formed by the newly married bride and groom.

I do have to say that if you aren't Catholic or getting married in a church or other building, you may not want to have this ceremony. Specifically if it is a windy day, candles have a bad habit of blowing out. :( If you are getting married in a Catholic ceremony, the unity candle may or may not be allowed in the church. With the church Justin and I married, this ceremony was allowed, as well as candles for our friends and family that were no longer with us, but no other candles or flowers were allowed. The church requested we not distract from the symbolism of the cross.

If you were at the wedding, you will note that Justin and I did not do the unity candle ceremony. The Catholic church will let you, but they definitely discourage it. They feel there is so much other symbolism within the ceremony that a unity candle ceremony is unnecessary. After talking about it, Justin and I decided that we agreed. (I'll talk a bit more about that in a minute.)

Tying of the Knot

I've seen this quite a bit, and I have to say I don't really understand it unless you like boats and/or grew up around ships. During the ceremony, the bride helps her groom tie a large knot signifying their union.  (I thought the wedding ceremony itself was suppose to signify their union?)

Exchanging of the Rings

Obviously the rings have symbolism in and of themselves. They are circular and symbolize eternity or the circle of life. You give your significant other a ring since you can't actually take your heart out of your chest. (I guess.) Plus, there is the outward representation of the ring after marriage when you are out and about, and someone is considering hitting on you. Everybody knows if you have a ring on your ring finger, you are married.

It's recently become a "thing" to not exchange rings. (Think Prince Henry & Duchess Kate.) So is it necessary to exchange rings? No. Does exchanging rings give you an extra chance to show your spouse love? Yes. Who else will forgive one's significant other for losing a very expensive piece of jewelry when they take it off to wash dishes or work on the car? ;)


Communion is an awesome way to include God/the Holy Spirit/Jesus in your ceremony. However, it is important to keep in mind your guests and their feelings regarding this matter. In general their opinions are not important, but if you are Catholic and they are not, you may have issues with who can take communion and who will be okay not taking communion. For example, I am not Catholic and do not like the exclusiveness of Catholic communion, so I tend to make Justin angry in wanting to take communion without being Catholic. (I never have.) If offering communion but not allowing everyone in the room to take part, you may make people upset which is typically not something you desire on your wedding day.

So, there you have it. Those are the most common ceremonies and events I have seen within weddings.

Now, let me take a moment to tell you why Justin and I picked a straight Catholic ceremony without many of the "extra" aspects.

First of all, if you've ever been to a Catholic mass, you are aware that there is a set reason to the crazy, insane hour of service. Well, the wedding ceremony isn't much different.

1. There is a bit of prayer to bring you into "God's presence" and greeting your friends, family, and neighbors with a hug.
2. The first reading is from the old testament before the birth of Christ.
3. Second reading is from the life of Christ.
4. Lastly, there is a reading from the new testament, after the death of Christ.
5. The priest talks about how you should lead your life like Christ and tells you a story or gives you a goal for the week. (Love others like Christ loves you, etc..., etc...)
6. There is prayer and asking God to forgive your sins.
7. Usually there is communion (but not always during weddings).
8. Then the completion of service with hugs, wishing your friends and family a good day with hugs and kisses, and singing to lead you out the door.

Obviously weddings involve other elements, but Justin and I truly liked the set up of the Catholic service with every aspect having a meaning and involving every person in the church. Frequently we have attended services where the wedding only lasted approximately 10 minutes with a prayer, song, address to the church, and a kiss.

Getting married in the Catholic church with a Catholic ceremony did mean we had to consider the Catholic views on certain things, however. As mentioned above, no extra flowers or candles were allowed on the altar. Also, we were not allowed to marry outside. The music minister had a say in the music we were allowed to play. Then there was the whole issue of the priest we used for marriage counseling (which you have to do) and how he went out of the country for our wedding leaving us to find a deacon to perform our ceremony instead.

What are your thoughts on ceremonies and traditions? I've shared my opinion and now I would love to hear yours! :)

Mind = Numb + Wizard of Oz Goodness!

All I have been thinking about all day is finances... Finances, finances, finances. ARGH!

1. My bank called to say that I qualify for an "upgrade". I'm not sure what exactly that means, but it definitely has me thinking about considering a new account.

2. Justin and I have spent way too much money this month on legitimate things (i.e. reading glasses for me, eyeglasses for him, a doctors appointment, curtains, bike), so I've been trying to find ways to combat the other expenses for this month to get us well on our way to being prepared for next months legitimate expenses. (With the purchases I've been making online, I've been trying to use point earning sites as well as extra giftcards I have laying around.)

3. Knowing that Justin and I have a list of expenses that will occur in the future, I have also been looking at the possibility of buying giftcards at a discounted price online to help reduce the overall cost of the item. I figure if I start now then maybe by the time we need to purchase, we will have a bit of help.

Because I've been doing this mind boggling task of thinking about money all day, my head hurts a bit. I've had a few successes and a few failures, but I'd like to think I am on my way to financial success.

Finances are not everyone's cup of tea, so if you are sick of hearing me ramble about finances and want to see a cute wedding go check out Every Last Detail. They are currently featuring a lovely Wizard of Oz themed wedding that is a must see!

Iphoneography & Five Awesome Camera Apps

So after doing such fun posts yesterday, I had no idea what to post today... except that I am IN LOVE with a picture I took and edited on my phone (BluxPhoto, Instagram, and Picstitch). Apparently this month I am obsessed with images. 

With this shot, I just had to keep repositioning myself in front of these roses, so that neither artwork nor doors nor kids were in the shot. I didn't think it was working... I didn't think I was getting the flowers saturated enough... and then I threw it into instagram and I think "Ok... This is working..." THEN I throw the image into picstitch thinking I'm going to create a combined image along the theme of "Roses are red, violets are blue..." (Why not purple? ... I had a picture of purple flowers as seen below that I was going to use in a 3 picture template.) but as I went to do that, this magic thing happened with the roses. I can't even explain it. (Filters in Picstitch.) All of a sudden my image was crazy saturated red... and white (or grey)... and... perfect in a completely imperfect I-can't-believe-it's-not-butter way. 

As mentioned above... I also shot and crazy saturated some purple flowers...

But then the rain came and I had to go inside. Instead of giving up for the day, after I left work, as I sat in my car waiting for the rain to stop, I saw flowers and ivy through my raindrop covered window which I had to shoot. Other than being dreamy and out of focus, this shot makes me happy. Rain should always make the world dreamy and out of focus. And yellow. (But yellow equates to happiness, right?)

So anyway, I thought I would take a moment to share my five favorite Iphone Camera apps.

1. BluxPhoto - This is currently one of my favorite apps for capturing images. There are SOOO many options for capturing photos that I can't even begin to tell you all of them. I usually shoot on auto or macro mode. I do love using the Delhi filter since it often seems more saturated than auto really allows. There are options to shoot with the camera facing out... or in... And my true love, behind having a focusing point that you touch when you are ready to take a photo, is that you can see a histogram of your image as you are shooting. Being a crazy Photoshop person and having studied histograms more than I care to mention, it is an awesome way to make sure you are getting the brightness/darkness you want as well as keeping your color in check. Like I said, there are so many options within Blux that I have no idea about, but I can say that, even with my limited Blux knowledge, it makes it hard to ever think about going back to the regular iphone camera.

2. ProHDR - As the next one on my list, this is my next go-to camera app. Don't even get me started about how much I dislike iphone HDR. ProHDR doesn't always get the image right, but more times than not I find it obtains two pictures with the right amount of light in each. (Obviously one image is dark and one is light.) I have taken so many images with this app that I love, I'd have a hard time not recommending it.

3. DMD - If you need to capture panoramas, this is the best app I've found for that. Basically you hold your phone vertically and press the "start" button making sure the blue and white half circles meet as you work your way around the scene. When you are done, you press the "finish" button. Originally these pictures would save in your photos folder, but now you have to make a point of saving them to your photo folder. Yuck. (Please fix this DMD.) I've definitely gotten some fun panoramas with DMD. Just make sure to hold your phone as steady as possible when turning it otherwise you may end up with a few "bumps" and "hiccups" in your photos. 

4. Instagram - Please tell me you know about Instagram! :) Okay, so if you don't... Instagram is a fast photo editing program that uses filters to make your photos look... more saturated, old, less saturated, black and white, sepia toned, etc... It's not amazing on it's own, but it is fun when you don't have photoshop on your phone! Plus it's a quick and easy way to share photos with friends and family. You can easily post your pictures on twitter, facebook or e-mail them. 

5. PicStitch - Less a photo taking or editing app, Picstitch allows you to edit photo templates making it easy to fit multiple photos into a small square or rectangle for using in instagram, showing before/after, or even posting multiple images all at once rather than posting one image at a time (great for an event). It's fun, and it's free. What more could you ask for?

The Honorable Mention goes to Nightcap. If you have issues taking images in low light settings with your iphone, this may be the app for you. Because it uses longer exposure times, you need to hold the camera as still as you possibly can. The nice thing about this app is that it shows you the shutter speed and ISO. Unfortunately, this app confuses me. I never know if my image was taken or when I can move my phone again. Ack! The app seems to get stuck after taking a picture. As soon as you move the phone, it comes back to life, but, like I said, that doesn't really help me in determining if my shot was taken. (Nightcap, help?!)

So there you go... Five awesome iphone apps for shooting beautiful images, editing, and sharing with your friends. (You know you want to!)

** I have not been compensated for my opinions. My opinions are my own, and I love using these apps.
*** If you steal my photos, I will find you and murder you. I promise. However, if you want to repost my photos giving credit to me, you are free to do so.

Spring Cleaning

You know how in the last post I commented that you wouldn't want to see our living room because of all of the sewing stuff? Or what about when Justin and I got busy cleaning our spare bedroom?


How about we swap those?

Yesterday while Justin was at work he received an e-mail indicating our landlord was sending his sister by with an appraiser. Needless to say, we got busy cleaning... and moving things to our "junk room". Again. :(

The good news is that we got a head start on spring cleaning.

The bad news is that we have even more to go through before we can finish our guest room. (I can't wait until it is complete!) One step forward, two steps backward?

Luckily, I found a few suggestions for the yucky spring cleaning that is about to come upon us.

Has anyone ever used a squeegee to clean windows?

What about throwing the shower liner in with the laundry?

Then there is my go-to cleaner that seems to always work magic in the household: softscrub. :)

We also need to clean out the refrigerator, take the softscrub to the oven vent and *pray* some magic happens, go through the pile of papers on Justin's bedside table, spray bugspray, and finish those curtains!

Are you doing any spring cleaning? Do you have any tips or helpful advice for cleaning hard to clean spots?

Wedding Book + Other Shenanigans

image by Darwin Young, edited by me

Over the weekend, Justin and I stayed so busy. We were out thrifting, getting our hair cut, spending time with family, carpet looking, and curtain fabric buying. (Right now, you don't want to see our living room. It's a disaster with curtain fabric and sewing supplies everywhere!)

Excitingly, Justin found a bicycle that fit his criteria at a thrift shop. We also managed to get a nice white bedspread for our spare bedroom. (I would have a picture, but I took it immediately to the dry cleaners to make sure we weren't bringing any bugs or things into the house that we didn't necessarily want.)

Justin also agreed to get me a bike from Target.

Schwinn Women's Gateway Bike

Isn't it so lovely? We haven't bought it yet, because when we went to Target (after calling ahead and putting the bike on hold), the bike was disassembled and the manager said she couldn't sell it, tell us when the bike guy would be in to assemble it, or find a bike elsewhere for us. It makes me strongly consider never going to Target again. Unfortunately, I don't know anywhere else to find a pretty turquoise bike. (I could paint a bike turquoise, but Justin is opposed to diy paint projects. *shrugs*)

So, anyway, between bike buying and preparing our spare bedroom for guests, I will go ahead and admit to being over budget. I'd ask for advice regarding budgeting since we keep going over (third month in a row), but I know exactly why we are over budget. (We don't have an "everything else" budget to cover things like house furnishings, eye glasses, and bikes... How often do you purchase those things anyway?)

Meanwhile, my supervisor suggested that my wedding pictures should be used in an album. After all of my photoshop classes and time spent on creativelive, I've been editing like mad trying to get my photos up to par with my expectations. I have had the hardest time with handling color in the past, so I was pretty psyched when I found a way to correct color pretty successfully without ps filters and actions. Now, if only I can keep getting it...

Spring Is On the Way...

For some reason I am so exhausted today... I think it might be because of the rain.

I am actually really excited about spring and the beautiful weather that seems to be sneaking up on us. Over the weekend, I had a lot of fun photographing and spending time outside.

The little girl I watch decided to make a "fairy house". She used only things she could find in nature and refused to consider the use of glue, paper, or anything else. 

While she was building her fairy house, I was taking advantage of all of the beautiful flowers.

Justin and I also enjoyed eating a lot of delicious salad this weekend with a homemade dressing (olive oil, rice vinegar, balsamic glaze, mustard, pepper, and salt).

How is the upcoming spring and nicer weather affecting your life? Are you spending more time outside and eating lighter yet?

Friday Lists!

I absolutely love making lists and getting tasks accomplished. I have done it for as long as I can remember. In school I would make lists that included all of my homework tasks for striking through when accomplished. With Justin's and my wedding, I not only made lists of tasks, but also of things and overall cost spent on the wedding. I broke our spending up into months with the hope that good budgeting would occur. And now that Justin and I have guests coming in a few months plus trips to NYC and Germany to prepare for, we have even more reason to make lists!

As a first on our list of preparing for our May guests, we installed our roman shade in the kitchen.


Obviously, we still have to work on putting our curtain rods up and making our curtains, but that probably won't happen until we get back to Ocho (planned for this weekend) and buy some turquoise fabric for our living room/dining room curtains.

Justin and I "hung" the pink fabric and white leaf fabric he had bought initially on the curtain rod we already have in our spare bedroom, but we have no idea how we will handle the curtains for that room yet. We do know the curtain rod will be moved down to the master bedroom though, since we have black furniture that matches the black curtain rod in the master bedroom. We feel a silver curtain rod would suit the white furniture and look of the spare bedroom much better which means another trip out to find a suitable curtain rod for the spare bedroom.

Other things we anticipate doing this weekend include going to a carpet outlet to find cheap (in price) carpet for our rug as well as borrowing a weed eater to start cleaning up the ivy in the yard.

I'm also pretty excited, because I'm sending a few images that I have edited to Costco to make sure I've got my color correction process down in my photo editing.

While I mentioned preparing for our future trips, we do not anticipate doing anything in preparation for them (other than saving money) until after our visitors come in May. Mint suggests that up until this month, while not actually sticking to budget, we have been doing pretty well at saving money. However, with furniture purchases (rug, dresser), curtains, and glasses, the next two months of spending will not be quite as easy as the last two.

Luckily, we anticipate staying with some of Justin's family while we are in NYC which will significantly lessen the cost of the trip. YAY! We were also able to save money by purchasing Justin's glasses through Costco. Obviously, we spent less on curtains that originally expected by purchasing the fabric at discount prices which is what we hope to do with our rug as well.

After living for a year in a house without much furniture, any curtains or rugs, we are so excited that our future company gives us an excuse to spend money we otherwise would use towards paying down debt or saving for future expenses. We look forward to finally "feeling at home".

If you are recently married or currently living in your first apartment or house or even if you are a long time home owner, how have you filled in the crooks and crannies of your house without going over budget? When did you finally feel at home?

Today's Task

I'm not big into celebrating romantic holidays. I don't get the point of buying Valentine's Day gifts... I have no idea which anniversaries are the most important. Is it really a big deal to make it through one year together when many other couples I know have been together years and years longer than Justin and I have? Besides, what is the big deal about being together for so long? Do we anticipate a break up/divorce in our future?


So why would we celebrate one year married? Or 8 1/2 years together?

We haven't made it... We aren't to the end of this fight yet. We still have at least 50 more years to go! + a house, a dog, the possibility of children, roaming the world, and far more to get through first! (Hopefully, Justin won't read this, get scared, run off, and leave me! I know I would!)

Nevertheless, I was thinking this morning about how far we have come in the past few years. Seeing as it was our anniversary this past weekend, I thought I might blog about it.

I'm just going to be straight up honest. (I struggle to be anything but honest.) I wasn't sure about dating Justin... let alone marrying him! (Was I crazy?) All I know is that nothing but positive has come from the experience. (Ok, so maybe there was a little bit of negative.)

One of the greatest lessons I have learned and experienced since beginning to date Justin and eventually marrying him is that of unconditional love. Did you hear that? Unconditional.

Do you know what that means?


That means that no matter what I do... join the marines, start doing drugs, go to jail, move across the country, do the most stupid thing you can imagine, Justin will still love me. He may not want to be married to me, but he will still love me. That gives you a crazy amount of freedom once you realize that your spouse has chosen to love you unconditionally. You expect it from your parents and your family, but, in the world we currently live in, unconditional love in marriage is hard to find.

Obviously Justin's choice of loving me unconditionally has transformed my life immensely. Not only do I feel free to pursue my own desires and communicate my deepest struggles with my husband, but it has taught me how to love unconditionally as well. Neither of us gets it right all of the time, but we try. That's the important part, right?

So while I don't necessarily believe in celebrating romantic holidays, I definitely encourage you to seek unconditional love** in your life... both in giving and receiving.

**See 1 Corinthians as a strong example of how to best love another.

Legoland Atlanta

Because I am really lame and broke, Justin and I spent our one year anniversary at Legoland with the kids I watch. It was actually really nice since we got a free visit to a place we can't go without kids as well as a free lunch out of the deal. :) I know it's not everyone's idea of fun, but I had a blast running around with my cell phone taking pictures of "mini" Atlanta built out of legos.

When you walk into Legoland, you walk into a room where they show how they build legos. (It's not that exciting and most kids are content just to skip right over it.) 

Immediately following, there is a ride where you kill lego enemies and rescue the princess. This isn't really appropriate for young children, but the older children had a blast. (I guess I should have taken pictures of these areas.)

Next we came upon my favorite section of Legoland -- mini Atlanta. YAY! Check out my instagram shots below. It's unbelievable how intricate these structures are! I could spend hours in there photographing!

the "pencil building" (I don't know the actual name.)

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Centennial Olympic Park

The last area before you get to the "gift shop" is an area with lots of legos (big legos & small legos), a car building and ramp racing station, a station for girls to sing (why??), a café, a 3D theatre, another ride, and a lego "ball pit"/fire station. At first we couldn't get the youngest child to do much with his brother and sister there, but by the end we had a hard time leaving! He had so much fun! (I think the older children were sick of it after 3 hours.)

A caution to parents: The gift shop area is EXPENSIVE! Obviously, this shouldn't surprise many of you, because legos (in general) are expensive. But of course, they have you exit through the gift shop so you are encouraged to buy everything from lego sets to keychains and lego people. (A set of 3 lego people for $12?!)

If you have children (and live in the Atl. area), I definitely recommend going. During the week and in the evening there is a discount for getting in which I encourage you to use. If you are an adult, I recommend finding a child to go, if you have that desire. They have lego nights for adults, but it is nearly double the price of a regular adult price. There isn't really much to do there for adults other than admiring the awesome sculpture, but the sculpture is awesome! :)

So yeah... this was definitely an unforgettable anniversary. :)

Curtains & Housewares

I think I had mentioned last week that Justin was going to go back up to Ocho during their 42nd Anniversary sale to buy fabric for curtains. At $1.99 per pound, I assumed we would be getting the most fabric for our money. Justin came back with lots of fabric (approximately 4 bolts) for approximately the price I was expecting to pay for two curtain panels at Wal Mart (which I assume is the cheapest place to buy panels). Considering we were going to need enough panels to cover at least 4 windows (that needed to match) in our living room/dining room area and 2 windows (that did not need to match) in our master and spare bedrooms, we were looking at a lot of money being spend on curtains! Obviously when I received the e-mail from Ocho saying they were having a sale, I jumped at it!

While Justin didn't find a lot of fabric that would be very useful to us, he did return with a bolt of organza which we will be cutting into panels for all of the windows in our house. I like the prospect of doing two layers for the windows. (I never claimed to have cheap taste!) We are looking at doing a top layer of some sort of thick(er) fabric and a bottom layer of organza.

Slate Blue Curtains

Something like this awesome set of turquoise curtains found at World Market except with our white organza covering the little bit of window you still see. Speaking of turquoise, we are actually going to be using turquoise in our living/dining area! Justin wasn't able to find any awesome fabric at Ocho on sale, but they have had some in the past. We may have to go back this weekend to get the fabric at a per yard price rather than the cheaper per pound price (or we may just purchase these awesome panels from World Market that, in my opinion, are reasonably priced!). Justin did find a pink fabric and a cream fabric with leaves that we might could use for the curtains in our spare bedroom. We aren't quite sure which yet, since we haven't bought a bedspread for the room. For the master bedroom, we may just stick with the organza, because I'm not in love with our royal blue Anthropologie bedspread. I can't see us keeping it forever, and I don't intend on spending a lot of money on curtains that won't match our bedspread or look good in the bedroom years down the road.

Even though Justin and I were babysitting most of the weekend, we did find some time to go check out a few home improvement stores for ideas and to make a few purchases. We ended up returning home with some Martha Stewart curtain rods to encourage Justin to complete the curtain-making process prior to the arrival of our May guests.

Martha Stewart Living Egg Telescoping Curtain Rod Set

Justin and I disagreed on whether to use these oval shaped rods or to use more circular shaped rods. We ended up going with the ovular, because that's what I liked. We decided to bring them home and test them out. Justin was afraid with the small space between two of the living room windows that the rods would look too wide. When we brought them home, he quickly changed his mind. However, we have not yet put the curtain rods up to determine if they are in fact our ideal curtain rods for that space.

DesignView Maple Providence Bamboo Roman Shade

We also got a roman shade for our kitchen window. Right now the kitchen has some white shutters that always get splattered with food. (I think that is one of the downsides to marrying a cook.) Anyway, I thought it would be awesome to have a shade we could pull down when we wanted privacy and lift up when cooking. Justin isn't sure if he can secure the shade the way the window was made, but we bought it anyway, so that he could try.

Hemnes Dresser

A trip to Ikea showed us that we were both interested in getting a Hemnes dresser for our spare bedroom. The roof slants and considering we already have a wardrobe in there, neither of us thought a tall dresser would be ideal for the space.  Considering our wardrobe is the Birkeland, we considered the Birkeland dresser for a moment (so that the handles would match), but inevitably Justin and I both liked the structure of the Hemnes better. We've decided that while this month would be a bad month for making another purchase, when we buy it next month to finish the spare bedroom, we will buy the Birkeland spare knobs and dresser handles to complete the dresser's look and make both the Birkeland and Hemnes go together more seamlessly.

Our final stop this weekend was at a thrift shop in town called Last Chance. They donate their proceeds to the care and protection of animals, so you don't feel too badly about the money you spend there (or the donations you give). While we were initially just browsing for anything cheap that interested us, we found a full set of China. I began the process of buying this particular set before getting married when I ran across it at an estate sale. It was missing a bunch of pieces, but it was such a good deal that, despite not having the cash on me, I convinced my parents to pay for it (with me paying them back after a visit to the bank). Then they decided to finish purchasing the set for Justin and I for our wedding by paying astronomical prices for pieces at antique stores when really the china wasn't worth that much to me (or in general). After finally convincing them to save their money and quit buying crazy expensive dishes that weren't worth it, two years later... I found a complete set of that same china for a crazy price that I wasn't willing to pay. The caveat was that the store was having a sale this weekend where anything that had come to the store prior to February 1st was half off. At half off, Justin and I were willing to pay for a complete set of china.

We're actually pretty excited about this china. We currently have approximately 20 place settings, so our intention is to use it as normal day-to-day china. (Is there such a thing?) Knowing that we have so many place settings, we aren't very worried about it breaking. Plus, it will be fun to serve friends and family on fancy matching plates! :)

With new silverware, China, and placemats, I will have to set up a display to show you how our diningware is looking! :) Dinner party in our near future, yes?

One Year Later

This weekend Justin and I celebrate one year together! My how the year has flown by!

Image by Darwin Young

Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil

As a member of BzzAgent, I was sent a new product by Garnier Fructis called Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil. It's a product for the hair, skin, and face to correct dry skin and frizzy hair problems.

Considering I have enough problems controlling my hair and I didn't feel like screwing up my face, I can only really remark on the healing properties of the "miracle" oil on dry skin.

While I love the concept of this product, if I were to give it a rating, I would probably only give it maybe 3 out of 5 stars. The product is definitely oil based, but I'm not so certain about the "miracle" properties of it.

Let's start with what I liked:

1. It's not lotion! I love the smell of certain lotions, but I hate how greasy my skin feels after applying it. Furthermore, lotion application is often cold. Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil soaks into your skin quickly which means you aren't left with the greasy feeling for very long. Yay! It's also easy to apply - a spritz on all of the dry areas of your skin and you are done! It takes maybe 2 seconds. The instructions suggest massaging it into the skin, but I was too lazy to follow the directions.

2. It has a wide variety of oils in a 5 oz. bottle that costs only $5.50/bottle. If you've ever tried to price out oils, you know how expensive they can get.

3. Immediately after spritzing on the skin, your skin feels soft and looks better. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily last for very long. It looks like prolonged use might be beneficial though.

And for what I didn't like:

1. The smell! I thought it would be fragrant when I got it... like a perfume, hair spray, or lotion. This product smells like... oil. Big surprise, I know.

2. I've been trying to go SLS free on my hair and pay closer attention to what I consume/use. I'm still figuring it out, but... the point is that I don't know what some of the ingredients are. When I googled one of the ingredients, the internet claimed one of the ingredients is likely to clog pores on your face resulting in acne. Do you really want to risk it? I'll have to get my husband to look at the ingredients with me since he is more familiar with the names used for ingredients then I am.

3. The name. I know it's silly, but what the heck is a "dry oil"? Is there such a thing as a "wet oil"? Why didn't they just skip the "dry" part and say it's a "miracle oil" which would make more sense to me except for the fact that I did not experience any true miracles while using it. Don't expect the product to work in a day or a week... It definitely helps with dry, itchy skin, but it doesn't solve the problem. (The problem is probably that I need to drink more water. No oil can fix that.)

So, while I'm grateful to BzzAgent and Garnier Fructis for sending me the Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil to try, I'm not entirely certain I would purchase the product on my own. I definitely like the simplicity of the squirt and go method, but, in the end, I probably need to find a solution to my dry skin that is more permanent than a skin oil can provide on it's own.

JShoppers Review

Last week, I ordered this Ryu Ryu Collar Decoration Tunic from JShoppers. After the trouble I had with BuyTrends, I decided to wait to post a review until I received the item. Well, guess what? Within a week, I received my product! It was a completely different shopping experience, and I definitely prefer receiving my orders within seven days to never receiving my orders!

So anyway, when you visit JShoppers, they have a language menu at the very top of the page. From there you can click on a category and look at a wide variety of goods. I promise it took me approximately 10 minutes or more to look through all of the tops. (I can't remember the exact time, but I know it took a while.) The items I picked were actually items from the front page as part of their new spring collection. When you decide on an item and you click on it, they provide the Japanese price as well as their estimate for the American equivalent. (When you go to check out, paypal, if you use it, will decide on the actual equivalent depending on what is going on with the American dollar and the Japanese yen.) The other thing to notice is that Japanese sizes are in centimeters rather than inches, so definitely keep this in mind when ordering.

I don't really have a whole lot to say regarding the prices of items at JShoppers. I have read that you can get the items cheaper when buying from the actual Japanese companies, but my inability to read Japanese and my lack of a Japanese address make that a tad difficult. I know there are ways to use a Japanese company that will receive your purchase for you and re-ship them to your American address, but I've been a little nervous in dealing with that just yet. Maybe in the future I will attempt, so that I can order an item or two from Liz Lisa. :)

As to the clothing from JShoppers, I think the quality for what I bought was pretty good. The top was actually silky and very light and comfortable. It was nice to wear on a spring day. I thought it would be a bit short, but actually the top was almost like wearing a dress. It hit me right between my waist and knees. I ordered the medium, because they didn't have a size small, so I can't really say if Japanese sizes, on this site, are equivalent to American sizes. The medium seemed to be a tad big on me, but since I have such wide shoulders, I'm not sure I would have been able to get a smaller size on. I am worried about washing the top due to the many sequins that look to be glued on. Perhaps hand washing will work best for the top. (Care instructions are listed on the product pages for items from JShoppers.)

I also bought a pair of leggings to wear with my top. I think they were listed as "free size". They were a bit long for me and just a little bit too big, but they were still wearable and looked cute with the top.

Anyway, I think the clothes from JShoppers are unique, fun, and the style is rarely seen in the US. In fact, because the style is rarely seen in the US, I received a compliment on my top from nearly every woman I ran into yesterday! It definitely made the whole shopping experience seem worthwhile. (Especially since clothes in the US often seem cheaply made, and they aren't unique at all.) I will probably be ordering from JShoppers again in the near future. I have a pair of jeans I want to order from them and a sweater.

Busy, Busy Weekend (Cleaning & Organizing)

First of all, let me talk to you all about Justin's and my budget for February. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to stay on budget in all areas. (Unfortunately, one cannot control variances in utility bills for broken appliances.) We did handle our food budget better though despite still being over. We were able to put more money toward our credit card payments than originally expected, so YAY!!! (I consider that a success, even in the smallest sense of the word!)

And while it seems counterproductive, Justin and I went to Ocho, a fabric store in Atlanta to take advantage of their 42nd anniversary sale. We looked at rugs that were being sold for a quarter of their usual price. We also looked at fabric that we were considering for homemade curtains. We're going to have aqua curtains with liners! (Justin is going to get the fabric today. We were a few days early for the sale this weekend.) Yay! I'm so excited Justin agreed to let me decorate the house with my favorite color!

Don't you love our new rug? ;) Actually, I read about designing a paper rug (typically done with newspaper) to determine exactly how big you want/need your rug to be. Justin and I have decided on purchasing carpet and getting it sized to 7 x 11.3 feet. Justin decided our rug, when we get it, should be the golden ratio. It sounded awesome to me. :)

While we were too early to buy the designer fabric, we weren't too early to get some placemats on sale for $.50 a piece. (Forgive the awful phone photography.) I thought these placemats would be nice when I eventually get the beautiful aqua china I want and decorate. In the meantime, these will be stored away. (Despite not needing them, we couldn't refuse $.50 placemats. That just seems unheard of!)

Justin's parents gave us a straw holder with the most ugly green top. I immediately pulled out my paints and got busy altering it to my taste. What you are looking at is the straw top with a fresh coat of turquoise (plus white) paint on it. I'm hoping a coat of a gloss paint will bring it around and make it look better, but we will see. For now, it is a work in progress. It is definitely a step up from what we were using to hold straws.

We also started working in our spare bedroom to get ready for our May guests. Justin put a peg board on the back of the spare bedroom door to hang sewing stuff. It makes it easier for him to get to and use. While he was doing that, I was sorting through sewing stuff (and some craft supplies) to organize one of our drawers. Considering what a mess it was, I thought I did a pretty good job. In this picture, it is currently missing a tupperware that I will use to store more things. (The tupperware needed to be cleaned.) Plus, I'm certain more sewing supplies will find their way on to the peg board. We will need more room in the drawer for craft supplies I'm sure. Most of my arts and craft supplies are still at my parents house, so it was really a big deal to get the sewing stuff organized.

Next up we will get to go through Justin's electronics and decide which pictures to hang. We're getting through it though! I can't wait to show you all the end results of our efforts before our friends come to visit. I'm certain it will look amazing! :)

By the way, anybody have any awesome ideas for storing cds and/or patterns? I'm looking for a way to store them on a bookshelf or the like without leaving it looking like a mess. Something that is easy to do (cheap) and easy to keep up. Ideas?