Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our Wedding Part 2: Reception at SweetWater Brewery

Part 2 of our wedding day!  I love being able to go back and think about the day and all the details.  Hopefully by writing them down I'm not going to forget in years to come.  If you want to read about our Courthouse Ceremony, click here.  This post will be about our reception and all of the details and vendors of the party part of our day.  

After we took pictures with our photographer around Grant Park and Turner field, Stephen and I had about 90 minutes before we needed to head out to dinner so we went back to the house to feed the dogs and play with them a little bit.  It was nice to have some alone time at the house where we could relax before the big party began.  If you can fit some alone time in before the reception, without your photographer, I highly recommend it.  

Before I get into all of the details I wanted to say that the night was absolutely perfect.  It was so amazing to be in a room where every single person was someone you care about.  I had a hard time getting around to talk to everyone which in reality isn't a problem at all.  There was so much love in the room - I had to stop and look around every now and then.  We had people fly in from Ohio, Texas, New York and Florida.  It was such a special night for us, I wouldn't change a single thing.  

Our reception was held at SweetWater Brewery in Midtown Atlanta.  Stephen and I love the beer and we love the atmosphere at SweetWater, it was such an easy choice for us when choosing our venue.  We worked with their event coordinator, Nicole, to schedule the event.  I wish I could say she was very helpful, but there were multiple times I was pretty frustrated.  I'd have several questions for her and I'd only get one word emails back from her.  Email was definitely her preferred way of communication.  She did stay after work to meet with us twice at the venue so we could take some pictures and measure a few things which was super helpful.  However, we were still thrown a curve ball the day before the wedding with the A/V equipment.  On our last visit to the brewery to meet with her I specifically asked if she'd be there for the set up of the reception and she said, "I'll be here.  That's what we do."  She was NOT there for the reception.  I can't say how frustrating that was for our one hour set up time.  I expected her to be there to talk to the vendors, as she said she would be, and she wasn't.  

Once the set up was complete, the most stressful part of the entire day, everything went 100% perfectly.  I highly recommend SweetWater for any special event.  The staff (who was there) was so helpful and the venue has such a great vibe.  We only had 70 people at our reception but the building can definitely hold close to 10x that many people.  I was so thankful for the SweetWater bartenders, they were fantastic.  Because of the giant walls of windows in the main tasting room, we didn't have to do much decorating at all, it's that pretty.  We had problems with their DVD player and they actually went out and bought a brand new one for us to use during the event.  Amazing and well beyond what we expected from them.  

There is a giant bar in the tasting room and we wanted to add a few touches to make it our own.  These mugs are from Anthropologie and we put some fake flowers in them to spice them up a bit.  These live on one of the mantels in our house.  For our flowers, we didn't want to go nuts, we are in a brewery for goodness sake.  We kept it simple with 20 mason jars and vases filled with baby's breath and placed them around the venue on our high top tables and along the bar.  They were gorgeous against the dark colors of the brewery and the darkness of outside.

My favorite college roommate, Kristin.  She flew in from Ohio to be with us and I have her to thank for all of these pictures!  I'm so lucky to have her in my life!

I picked the top layer cake and design, Stephen picked the bottom layer.  We are very different people!
Do you love our wedding cake as much as we do?!?!  Our cake was made by Gabriel's Desserts in Marietta.  Good friends of ours used them for their wedding cake and we knew they had to do our cake, too, long before we were even engaged.  I could eat this cake every single day for the rest of my life.  It's so delicious.  My layer was a vanilla cake with strawberry filling and Stephen's layer was a carrot cake.  We each picked our icing design, I think they were great representations of who we are.  

We found the little blue bird cake topper on Etsy and we LOVE it.  The birds have a permanent place on our hutch now that their big reveal is past.  Bonnie put the birds on the cake and I thought she did a great job!  I know she was a little nervous :)

Cutting the cake
Here we go! 
Stephen is saying "Oh my gosh, it's so good"

Our first dance
We didn't do too many "traditional wedding" things at the reception but we did want to have a cake cutting and first dance.  Stephen gave a great, short speech thanking everyone for coming and then our friend, Richard, ran upstairs and started our song, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.  We went to a Christina Perri show when we first started dating and we love her.  This song bring so much happiness to my heart, I had to have it as our dance.  (I had NO idea that it was used in Twilight, I'm glad I didn't know before looking up the music video for this post!)  The lyrics are so perfect, I fall in love with the song each time I hear it and I automatically think of Stephen.  Just perfect.

In the above pictures you can see my dress!  I LOVE this dress and I can't wait to find ways to wear it again.  Maybe with a dark blazer or something... Not sure, but I love it too much to have it sit in a closet forever.  Is that wrong???  I found the dress online at Nordstrom and ordered it immediately.  I took it out of the box and it fit perfectly.  Not a single thing needed to be done to the dress, nothing.  I wasn't even wrinkled!!  I'm so happy I found it, at such a great price, too.  I had so many compliments on the dress, I'm so happy.  You can also, sort of, see my shoes in the dancing picture.  Here is a better picture:

Badgley Mischk's Salsa shoes in Teal Satin
I found them on after a pair of shoes that I loved from a different website didn't fit.  I'm so glad I picked these shoes!  They were so comfortable, and we did a LOT of walking, all day.  I'm normally not one to wear any sort of sparkle on my feet (or anywhere) but I had to go all out for my wedding day!  I will absolutely be wearing these shoes again.  We have a wedding next weekend and I have a feeling I'll be breaking out these babies for a second time.

Before we go into details about the rest of the reception, I also wanted to mention my hair clip.  I got that on Etsy as well based on a recommendation from one of my good friends in Orlando who is getting married in October.  She is using the lady from the Etsy shop for all of her wedding flowers so they will last forever - what an amazing idea!  You can't tell in these pictures, but I was also wearing a beautiful diamond hair clip with the flower that was lent to me by my step-mom.  She wore it in her wedding to my dad and my step-sister wore it in her wedding last year.  It was such a special piece of jewelry to have on such a special day.  I was honored to wear it.

Hair clip made from recycled fabric and lace found on Etsy
Now onto the rest of the details.  As I mentioned before we chose to have a photo matte for our sign in "book".  You can see it below.  It's going to be such a fun addition to our house.  Our friends are pretty funny and there are some classics written in permanent marker.  Also, lots of mentions of babies...

We wanted something fun for cards from our guests and we found the adorable lantern below at Z Gallerie.  It was perfect.  When it was time to pack up we just closed the little door and put it in the car.  And we can definitely use it somewhere in the house after the wedding with a pillar candle.  Random note:  we've been watching The Bachelor Pad (roll of the eyes, I know) this season and these lanterns are all over the set's house.

Our guest sign in table with favors and card lantern

Below you can see our cute sign that a friend of ours made for us.  We had this sign with us at the courthouse so we could take some pictures with it right after we were married.  Little touches like that made the day so much more unique and special for us.  

You can also see our favors in the photo below, the mason jars.  We filled the mason jars with all of the dry ingredients needed for cookies.  They had flour, oats, white and brown sugar, m&m's and chocolate chips.  Silly us, we never made the cookies we were handing out to our loved ones, but we've heard they turned out great!  I got the idea from Pinterest and this website.  

While at a brewery, we expected most people to drink beer.  However, we knew that there would be some wine drinkers and even some non-drinkers who would want some non-alcoholic options so we hired a bartender through our caterer to serve wine and other drinks.  We had to provide the wine so we went to Trader Joe's and bought a case of white wine and a case of red wine.  We wanted to personalize them so we had some labels made to match our invitations and the sign above.  Our little Georgia icon was everywhere - I love it!  The labels were water proof so the white wine could be chilled without ruining the labels!  We have a case of wine left over and we aren't complaining!  We soaked the bottles in their original labels in a bucket of water with some dish washing detergent and the labels came right off and we were able to add our own.

Personalized wine labels

We didn't serve a dinner at the reception because it was so late at night, we didn't start until 9:00pm.  We didn't want people to go hungry, so we had a dessert bar set up.  We use Soiree for our catering and I'm so happy with how everything turned out.  I will admit that I didn't have a single bite to eat during the reception besides a slice of cake, but we had tons of leftovers and we got to snack on the food until we left for the honeymoon.  The staff from Soiree was fantastic and everything was set up just as we had discussed and pictured.

The final detail, and a last minute one, was the photo booth we had set up in the back of the brewery tasting room.  We found a deal on Living Social (again) and jumped on the chance to add something a little different, trendy, to the reception.  With our deal we got a CD of all of the photos that were taken - beyond hilarious.  Below is the strip of photos of me, our photographer and close friend, Jenn, and my good friend, Kristin.  The photo booth guys from Promo-Photo arrived early and were the first ones set up.  They were so easy to work with and really looked like they were enjoying the night as much as we were.  They brought props for us to use in our photos and everyone got their own printed copy of the pictures.  Such a great take away from the night.

Jenn, me, Kristin having fun in the photo booth
Our three hours at SweetWater flew by.  We danced, played with sparklers outside on the patio and spent time with friends visiting from far away places.  I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out.  Four months of planning was crazy stressful, but in the end I wouldn't change a single thing.  We got married our way.  We didn't do a huge ceremony and focused more on the party and spending time with friends.  We saved money on things that weren't important to us so we could have money to do the things we wanted - the photo booth and fun venue.  I'm so lucky to have found someone with the same priorities and ideas on what is important.  I'm so in love.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our Wedding Day Part 1: Courthouse Wedding Ceremony

Mr and Mrs!
Sorry it's been almost two weeks since our wedding day, but we've been busy.  Honeymoons and relaxing at the house for a few days took priority over this giant blog post, sorry!!  I want to go through all of the details of our very special and perfect day so I'm going to focus on our day through our Courthouse Ceremony in this post and the rest of the day in a following post.  There are far too many details to include in one post, I'd put everyone to sleep!  I can also include specifics for the courthouse ceremony that could be helpful to others out there - something I couldn't find when doing my own research.

Friday, August 17, 2012 began at our regular morning wake up time of 7:00am.  I jumped in the shower, not washing my hair because it needed to be "one-day-dirty" for my hair stylist to work with it.  Stephen got up with me and played with the dogs.  After a quick breakfast I headed off to Mariemarie Salon to get my hair done.  Yes, I saw my fiancee on the morning of our wedding.  I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

My stylist was the only at the salon so we had the place to ourselves most of the morning.  I didn't bring anyone with me so it was very peaceful and relaxing.  I found myself taking a lot of very deep breaths while I thought about the rest of the day.  I left the flower I was going to wear in my hair at the house and luckily Stephen was able to bring it to me.  I have the best husband in the world.  I loved the way my hair turned out.  I was a loose, low bun with a braid for some added detail.  I left the front pretty loose, like I normally do because it felt much more like me than my hair style did on my hair trial back in July.  

When I pulled into my driveway our photographer, Jenn Hopkins, was pulling in at the same time.  I was so lucky to have her at the house while I finished getting ready, she definitely kept me relaxed.  She had us pose for some "getting ready" photos and taking that extra 10 or 15 seconds together was priceless.  These pictures are typically the ones you take with you mom and bridesmaids, but because I was home with Stephen, he helped me into my dress and we have some special moments captured together.  I can't wait to see them.  I've known Jenn for close to 12 years now and we were truly blessed to have her there with us capturing the pictures of our day.  I absolutely wouldn't have had it any other way.  We actually checked with her before we set our wedding date and she was the first to know Stephen was planning on proposing - we had to make sure we picked a weekend she wasn't already booked!

Once we were ready to go we said goodbye to the pups and headed out the door to the courthouse.  I have to say, driving yourself to get married to the man of your dreams with one of your favorite people in the backseat of the car was a pretty awesome way to start our day.  

This section, I'd like to call "What we learned about Courthouse Weddings"
We knew it was a first come first served situation at the DeKalb County Courthouse and we were ready.  We got there two hours early to sign in on sign in sheet, but there isn't one.  We met the judge who would be preforming the ceremonies and he said there was no where to sign in, he'd be taking care of it.  Note to others out there: get to the courthouse 45 minutes before they start taking couples, being there first didn't matter one bit.  

We had time to kill so we went outside to the old courthouse and took a bunch of pictures.  Taking these pictures really saved time AFTER the ceremony when we were tried.  We even had time to stop for some frozen yogurt before heading back into the waiting hallway.  

When we got back, around 12:30pm the hallway was PACKED with people.  Some were there for something else (a lot of people disappeared into a courtroom at once and we never saw them again) and there were about 10 couples there to get married.  Some had groups of people there with them, some were there on what could have been their lunch break.  It's a very small hallway, not much seating.  Our family really packed out the place.  The judge came out of his little room and asked all couples there to get married to bring him their marriage license.  Note to others: have this ready!  We got ours to the judge 4th, so we assumed we'd be 4th to get married.  You know what happens when you assume...

Before the judge started with the marriage ceremonies he asked if anyone there was there just to make it legal.  "No fuss, you have to get back to work, back to your kids, pay the parking meter."  Surprisingly, quite a few people raised their hands.  What happened next was something that I never thought in a million years actually happened.  I wish I had pictures of the faces of my family over the next 3 minutes.  It went like this:

Judge to couple #1 - Do you want to marry him?
Woman - Yes.
Judge - Do you want to marry her?
Man - Yes.
Judge - Great.  You're married. 

Then he signed the license and they were on their way.  THAT QUICK. I'm not joking.  You can't make that up.  He even preformed one of these quickie ceremonies in Spanish when he realized that they didn't speak English.  After each couple the rest of the crowd who was waiting in the hallway would cheer and then it was time for the next couple.  Amazing doesn't even come close to describing these hallway weddings.  Some of these people were a little dressed up while one couple was in shorts, flip-flops and he was wearing a baseball cap.  He didn't even take it off to get married!  There isn't a dress code for the courthouse - news to me.   I didn't want a lot of "ceremony" for our actual wedding, but getting married in the hallway of a courthouse is far from what I ever thought could actually happen.  I don't think my sister's jaw closed the entire time this was going on. 

Once the quickie weddings were over it was time to start calling the couples to the back room for their ceremonies.  I was thinking we'd be #4.  We were somewhere around #6 or #7, I don't remember, but getting there at 11:30am was pretty pointless except for the picture taking.  When we were finally called around 2:00 we headed back down a hallway to the tiniest room in the entire building.  No joke.  The picture below is when we were pronounced husband and wive.  I'm pretty sure this picture was taken in the opposite corner of the room from the judge.  It was small, I don't think all of our family was able to fit inside.  It will be fun to see the pictures from Jenn.  

The entire ceremony was about 3 minutes long.  I don't really remember a thing the judge said, Stephen doesn't either.  I was so caught up in the moment and was so happy to be standing there across from my best friend, the rest of the world sort of faded away.  We were ushered out of the room and the next couple was called.  That's it!  We took the family back to the old courthouse for pictures on the steps and then the two of us headed off with Jenn for pictures in a few other select locations around our neighborhood that mean something to us.  I don't have any pictures of this period, but I'm dying to see what Jenn captured.  We went to Grant Park to a gorgeous, stone amphitheater, to a Coca-Cola wall mural outside of our favorite Grant Park coffee shop and to Turner Field.

When Stephen and I agreed on a Courthouse Wedding I searched the web for a place where I could find information on how the day would go.  I didn't find anything helpful which is why we were soooo early for our wedding.  Here are some tips for a courthouse wedding in DeKalb County Georgia.


  1. Get your marriage license sometime before your wedding day.  We went to the DeKalb Co Courthouse so we would be able to see where we needed to go on our wedding day so we wouldn't get lost.  It was comforting knowing where to park, etc.  You can get a marriage license in any county if you are getting married in GA, it doesn't have to be from the county where you will be married.
  2. Arrive to the courthouse 45 min to an hour before 1:30pm when the weddings begin.  Getting there early doesn't mean you'll be first.  It may be different with other judges, but with our judge, he determined the order. 
  3. At 1:30pm, have your marriage license ready to go for the judge!  He started exactly at 1:30.  One part of our government that wasn't running behind.
  4. Dress how you are comfortable.  We weren't the only ones in a dress and suit, but we were the only ones with a photographer.  Do what makes you comfortable - anything goes.  Baseball caps included.  Ugh.  
  5. If you plan to take pictures after your ceremony, don't hang around the new courthouse, head over to the old county courthouse, the pretty stone one, around to the opposite side of the building from the gazebo for your pictures.  There is NO crowd and plenty of space for a photographer to back up to get the full building in the shot.  It's MUCH nicer than the current building.  
  6. Take MARTA if you don't want to deal with parking.  The parking garage is $6 and MARTA is just across the sidewalk from the courthouse.  
  7. Relax.  Be happy about your decision to get married in a courthouse where it is free!  We aren't going to have pictures in a giant, cathedral like church for our wedding pictures - but that wasn't important to us.  
There you have it - our wedding ceremony.  The rest of the day was a whirl wind and I have so much to detail, I'll do a full "Reception Only" blog post.  While I don't remember the exact vows that I said at that moment in the teeny courthouse room, I know that Stephen and I vow to be with each other everyday for the rest of our lives.  We will be with each other in good times and in bad when we can laugh and to cry together.  I will raise our future children with my best friend.  

I'm the luckiest girl in the world.  

Lamb Chops with Dijon Mustard-Herb Crust

Before the days of Pinterest (and still today) I collected recipes.  I love getting magazines like Southern Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, etc and flipping through for home decor inspiration and recipes.  I have a giant 4" binder of recipes that I've torn out of magazines over the years.  I made a dinner the other night based on a recipe that I tore out of Cooking Light magazine in 2006.  Recipes never go bad.

With our wedding behind us our evenings are much more relaxed and we don't have the Big Event ahead of us.  Even on nights we didn't do any wedding planning or projects I was always thinking about things that needed to be done.  Not having something to plan is much more relaxing!  With all my new found free time I decided to try a few new recipes this week.  First on my list was Lamb Chops.

From Everyday Food magazine in 2009, I had a recipe torn out for Lamb Chops with Dijon Mustard-Herb Crust.  I found the recipe on Martha's website, click here for the link and directions.


Side note:  As much as I love having recipes online where I can find them in a recipe box or on Pinterest, having them on the counter in a page protector is so much easier than having to make sure the ipad screen stays lit.  I can spill on it, pick it up with dirty fingers and move it around the kitchen so much easier than an electronic device.

This was my first time cooking Lamb Chops, shopping for them too, so I was a little nervous.  Stephen was working on his NFL Fantasy Football Draft, so I was alone in the kitchen.  The Lamb Chops in the picture above are very different than the ones I found at Publix.  Ours were much larger and all the meat and fat were on the bones.  I made sure I bought 6-7 oz of meat for each of us to make sure we'd have enough.

The recipe is super simple and I had everything except the Lamb Chops on hand in the house.  I love meals that only require one extra item from the store.  I didn't measure the herbs, garlic or Parmesan cheese exactly, but I was close.  The more I cook and try new recipes the more comfortable I'm getting with estimating measurements.  And for this recipe I used Coconut Oil instead of Vegetable Oil in the pan.  Gotta keep it healthy!

Stephen looked up the final "done" temperature of lamb so I would know if it was cooked, I was aiming for 145 degrees.  Based on this website, Great Grub, 145 is cooked to Medium with a warm pink center.   Some of our meat got to that temp, others was still in the rare range, around 130 degrees.  The pink center made me a little nervous, but it was delicious!!  And now that it has been 12 hours, I can proudly say that the rare meat didn't make us sick.  Phew.  Because our meat was a little larger than what the recipes called for I had to cook for about 7 minutes each side until it was cooked to the right temperature.

The Lamb Chops were so good Stephen and I were talking about them this morning.  I'll definitely be adding them to a more normal rotation in the house.  Definitely something for us to look for when we hit up the Farmers Market next time.  If you've never cooked Lamb Chops this recipe is super easy, quick and delicious.  I served a side of Asparagus (cooked with salt & pepper, olive oil and baked at 350 for 10 minutes) with the chops for our complete meal.

I'm always so happy when I try something new and it works, especially when it was so easy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Honeymoon!! Coyaba Beach Resort & Club, Montego Bay Jamaica

I know I haven't posted about the wedding yet, believe me that's coming (it was perfect), and I'm doing things backwards but I wanted to talk about our Honeymoon first.  It was amazing and I want to share.

We had our Honeymoon location picked pretty early in our wedding planning process.  Once we were engaged, and to be totally honest, a little bit before, we were looking at online deal websites like Groupon and Living Social to find vacation deals.  It didn't take too long before a deal for Montego Bay, Jamaica came up on Living Social and we jumped on it.  For less than $1000 we had 5 nights at an all-inclusive resort, Coyaba Beach Resort & Club.

We knew going into the trip that it was a small resort with amazing staff and a quiet, private beach.  We upgraded to a Junior Suite so we would have a larger room with a sitting area.  We knew there were 3 restaurants, two for dinner and one for lunch, and that's about it.  The reviews on TripAdvisor are for the most part very positive and we were excited.  When we got there, the resort blew away our expectations.

Panoramic view of the beach at Coyaba
As soon as we walked into the resort we were met with smiles and friendly staff.  Check-in was a breeze and we were taken to our room by Richard who showed us around the property and explained how things worked.  We had paid for the trip up front, so we knew all we would have to pay at checkout would be tips and anything else we chose to add, taxes were even paid for.  It was a really nice feeling checking in that way!

We got to the hotel around 5:00pm so we had missed the good sun for laying out and we were a bit early for dinner so we explored the room and the beach before dinner started at 7:00.  Our room was on the third floor in the 200 building.  Each building has 17 or 18 rooms, I honestly can't remember if they went to 18, but we were in 217 so I know it went that high.  We had a giant king size bed, it was hard, but comfy, a sofa area, large TV and a great balcony looking out over the pool and then to the beach.

View of our room from the entry.  The fan and AC were great - we woke up freezing our first morning.  No worries about being hot!

The view from our balcony.  We didn't spend much time on the balcony because we were really only in our rooms at night and there were mosquitoes!  But look at what we saw every morning!!!
You can see from our view that the pool was pretty small.  No swim-up bar at this resort.  For a hot minute I wanted to pick a resort with a large pool and then I thought about it.  Did I really want a resort that was big enough for a swim up bar???  NO.  We wanted something small and intimate.  You can also see in the picture above the dock on property.  We spent a lot of time out there and loved every minute.

View of the room from the balcony.  The bathroom is behind the bed, with the light on.

Look how high our ceiling was!  There was definitely room for a second story or loft.  

When we arrived we had banana bread - it was delicious and we finished it almost immediately.  
After we checked out the room and hung up our nice clothes we took a walk out to the beach and the dock.

The beach from the dock.  Because it was almost dinner time, the beach was pretty empty - just the way we liked it!

The water was that calm every day until the afternoon breeze kicked in.
Dinner was served either in the main restaurant or upstairs at the bar.  You could get standard bar food at the bar or the menu from the dining room.  We ate 4 nights downstairs and one night upstairs with our favorite bartender on Stephen's birthday.

The Polo Lounge Bar. 
We were surprised that Jamaican TV is essentially American TV.  Every night we were able to watch American sports - NFL preseason games and MLB games.  The food was delicious.  It wasn't 5 star restaurant food, but it was delicious and the menu for dinner switched up every night so we weren't eating the same thing over and over again.

The rest of the trip was basically spent like this:
Wake up at 7am (I know it sounds early, but it never felt early and we never had trouble getting out of bed)
Eat breakfast
Head to the beach
Have lunch around noon
Back to the beach chairs until 3:00 or 4:00
Back to the room for a nap or a snack
Dinner at 7:00
Bar after dinner
Bed time

We had a lot of plans for excursions 3 or the 4 days of our trip and we decided that we enjoyed laying on the beach much, much more.  We did take a boat out to the reef that was about 200 yards off the beach for some snorkeling. We saw an eel, a few stingray a puffer fish and Stephen found his wedding band on the bottom of the ocean floor, too.  Yes, it had fallen off and he found it again.  God Bless America.

Sunsets were gorgeous from the dock

We decided to have a little fun with the sun as it was setting one evening

This is how I spent most of my time at the beach.  The other time I was in the shade or swimming in the ocean.  I love my Kindle!

Stephen took this picture from one of the paths that led out to the beach.
 Day one we spent some time in the hammock above, it was shaded and lovely.

Sleepy Stephen

Check out that sunset.  The island in the picture is owned by the Sandals Resort about a mile from our resort.

This basically sums up how I felt the entire trip.

The staff at the hotel was A.Maz.Ing.  Everyone knew our names by the second day, especially the bartenders, and they were all so happy to help us with anything we needed.  There wasn't a request that they denied us.  Shout out to Gladstone, the best bartender at the resort.

Something that we didn't expect to happen while we were on our honeymoon was to meet other couples.  Because the resort was so small and you ate every meal at the same time as the other guests by the third day we were friendly with a few couples around our age.  We learned that there was one other American couple and the rest of the resort was filled with couples and families from Europe.  And most of those couples were from either Holland or Belgium.  Getting to know the other couples was fascinating, we learned so much about other cultures, vacation schedules and languages - our time at the bars was like a learning experience, with alcohol.  Did you know that while we each have 10 vacation days total for the year, other countries have 30 days!!!??!?!  Most of the people we met were at the resort for 16 days.  I'm not sure I've EVER been on vacation for 16 days.  We're doing it wrong, America.

Stephen's birthday was the Thursday we were in Jamaica, our last full day on the island.  For his birthday I bought us a trip to go deep sea fishing for 2 hours and then an hour snorkeling out in the deeper waters.  Sadly, we didn't catch anything besides a GIANT log being used as a trap marker for another fisherman.  However, the snorkeling was more than I could have every imagined.
Heading out to sea to try to find some fishes!!  HEEEERRRREEEE Fishy fishy fishy
Some serious hooks
I don't have any pictures because we didn't bring any underwater gear, but it was far better than what we had seen around the hotel.  The water had to have been over 100 feet deep and it was coral and fish as far as you could see.

Leaving Jamaica was pretty sad.  We had 5 days of relaxation, no phones or computers and just each other. Coming back to the real world was awful.  While we aren't living on a Caribbean island in paradise, we have each other.  This is the happiest I've ever been in my entire life.  I'm married to the man of my dreams, we have an adorable home and the two sweetest dogs in the entire world.  

Just for fun - check out Goose the day after we got home.  I think he was happy to have Stephen back.

Goose fell asleep with Stephen.  He was snoring like a man, 100% content.  Look how big he is!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Greek Yogurt and Homemade Granola

Greek Yogurt and Homemade Granola is my favorite afternoon snack.  I eat a light breakfast, most likely some Special K cereal and by 11am I'm starving so I grab a piece of fruit.  Lunch is also small, a sandwich, salad or some soup, so by 3:30 I'm hungry again.  I love eating small meals throughout the day and really getting ready for dinner.

Stephen and I have been making our own granola for a while now based on a recipe we found on  It's basically a mix of old-fashioned oats, any chopped or sliced nuts we have on hand, some chia seed, a little bit of coconut oil and maybe some maple syrup.  It really depends on what we have on hand.  We bought flax seed last time we were at the farmer's market but I forgot to add it to the recent batch of granola.  BUT, this time I did add some Craisins to the mix and I'm loving it.

I don't have any pictures of my snack, basically because I can't stop eating it long enough to take a picture.  Three large tablespoons of Greek Yogurt topped with a large handful of granola will hold me over until dinner.  If we have fruit on hand at home, I'll throw that in as well.  Strawberries and blueberries are my favorite additions, but bananas and some mango work well, too.

Last time we were at the farmer's market we found a banana and chocolate jam.  We had to buy it based on those two things alone.  It's like candy in a jar.  We started eating it with pretzels and couldn't stop.  Once our pretzels were gone I had to find a new use for it - Greek Yogurt to the rescue!

Adding a small teaspoon into the Greek Yogurt and mixing it together before I add the granola has taken my snack to an entire new level.  Obsessed.  Totally.  Do it - don't be scared.  Add some chocolate to your Greek Yogurt.  Add some fruit.  Go to town.  A fellow blogger has blogged about chocolate cottage cheese and it scares me, but after my chocolate Greek Yogurt experiment, it might be worth a shot!  I usually only eat my cottage cheese with pineapple, the way my mamma use to give it to me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

That loud noise you heard was the branch falling in our yard

Yep, a giant pecan tree branch falling in our front yard was not on my Monday Before The Wedding To Do List.  I had a full list of things to get done around the house on Monday evening.  I was wearing my wedding day shoes around the house, vacuuming and cleaning the main rooms of the house.  Stephen was cooking an amazing dinner (he'll guest post about it later - would have last night, but life happens) and everything was going as planned.

We were sitting down watching the news (wow, we sound old) in our living room with the curtains open.  There had been a storm roll through about 30 minutes before, but the sun was fighting to come back out when it happened.  Looking back at that 15 seconds I think I froze.  I remember a loud noise, thinking someone had shot fireworks at the house, Stephen moving across my body then heading to the back of the house.  I sat on the couch looking in shock at what just happened in the front yard.

That will change all the plans you had for the evening

Power line and phone line below the tree branch.  The phone line tore off part of our house trim when it crashed down
The large pecan tree in our front yard lost a branch, a 20+ foot branch, right across our front yard.  It missed the corner of the house and Stephen's car by only a few feet.  It could have been so much worse.  A branch falling isn't too bad, but as it came down it took with it the power line running to our house.  You can see the line coming from the house, next to the bent American Flag (which we had just hung the day before.)

Look how big that baby is!  It just missed the house and the car!
As soon as we realized we were okay we ran into the front yard to see the damage.  We had a bunch of neighbors outside at the time and they saw it come down.  All we could see from inside the house was the firework show that the power line created.  Stephen thought the entire tree was coming down which is why he ran, I absolutely should have run with him!

Before we went to bed we had Old Glory back where she should be
One neighbor called the fire department because we had live wires down and some smoking.  The nicest truck of guys got to the house and checked it out for us.  They made sure nothing was going to cause or catch fire in the house and in the attic where the wire had pulled.  They also called Georgia Power from the truck to ensure that they got there quickly since we weren't the only house without power.

Once GA Power had cut our house loose from the power supply, the firemen chopped up the branch a bit for us so we could at least get out of our driveway.  By this point I'd say 30 minutes had gone by.  We were in shock.  Stephen went into what I want to call "Take Care of Shit Mode".  He knew exactly who to call, when to call and what to get done.  I was so impressed.  Maybe this was a test for our relationship the week of our wedding?  Well, if it was, he passed.

I headed out to Publix to get ice so we could save our freezer items because we didn't know how soon an electrician could be at the house.  GA Power could turn our power off, but they couldn't go into our attic to fix the damage inside the house.  But we did know that our meter looked undamaged, a good sign.

While I was gone a stray puppy found Stephen who was working in the front yard.  As if we needed one more thing to deal with.  It was now dark.  This was when I broke down.  I could handle a down branch, I could handle a night without power, I could handle the $1000 I assumed we'd have to pay to get everything fixed, but I couldn't handle having to take care of a puppy.  When we called Animal Control they said they couldn't come out until morning.  I started to cry.  Stephen stayed strong, got a little frustrated with me, but was dealing with the situation without crying.  The second miracle happened that night and someone from Animal Control came to get the dog about 10 minutes later.

That's a good shot of the power cord that ripped from our attic
By this time, around 10:00pm, three hours after the branch fell, we knew Mr Sparky would be at the house within the hour.  We went inside, hung out with the dogs who were terrified and lit a bunch of candles.  Then it was time to wait.  Luckily Mr Sparky showed up around 10:30.   Our electrician stood in the front yard for about a minute just looking at the house.  It was obvious he was not in the mood to deal with the giant problem in front of him.  He got into the attic to take a look.  Here is our third miracle of the night.  When the house was wired for electricity they were lazy and they left about 10 feet of slack in the power line wire.  That means that when the branch pulled it from the house it only pulled off the house and pulled the wire tight inside the attic.  Nothing was ruined, nothing was broken, we saved $2000+.  He only had to pull the wire back into the attic, make sure it wasn't broken anywhere and secure it to the house again.  We called GA Power and they were there quickly and they worked together getting us up and running again by 11:30.

The final bill for the damage was $500 and some change.  FAR better than the $3000 it could  have been if that power line inside the attic didn't have all the slack that it did.  That would have put a damper on our Honeymoon plans...

Once we were in bed looking back at the last five hours we realized how lucky we had beed.  The house and cars had been missed, we were okay, the dogs were okay and someones laziness years before had saved us thousands of dollars.  It could have been so much worse.  Now when I see the pictures of entire trees down across cars or houses I'll have a greater appreciation for what that family is feeling.

We were lucky.  I also learned that how Stephen reacts under pressure.  He is my rock, no doubt about it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gone With the Wind: Book Review

On my list of things to accomplish for 2011 I had listed: "Read Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind."  Obviously, I missed my deadline by a few months but the good news is that I got it done!

Not getting the book until Christmas 2011 probably had something to do with my not finishing the book in 2011, but that's not really the point of this post.

I don't need to write an actual review, I have a feeling the story is pretty well known by now.  I want to discuss the main characters and how I feel about each of them.

Scarlett O'Hara:  Before I read the book, I only knew Scarlett from the movie posters I've seen and what I remembered from the movie that I watched as a kid.  I wanted to like her, but I got more and more angry with her as each chapter went by.  She found a way to hurt every person she loved.  And when it came to love, I'm not sure she even knew what love was.  The only thing she really loved was Tara and herself.  While I was angry with her, I also respect her.  In a time when women were better off being dumb and pretty, she wasn't ashamed of her business sense.  She knew how to make money.  At Tara after she fled Atlanta she was able to keep herself, her child, a newborn and several adults alive.  Nobody on the plantation died of starvation while she was there.  She did what she had to do and wasn't afraid of what people thought about her.  She ran two lumber yards better than most men ran their businesses at that time, what her husband thought of her didn't matter.  I think her main flaw was that she didn't understand what love looked like and she thought that what she and Ashley had for each other was love, but how could it be?

Rhett Butler:  He was the best thing to happen to Scarlett, but probably the worst thing, too.  He was the only man who really saw her for who she was and he was the only one who could really love her because of that.  He challenged her and gave her everything she wanted and he was the one with the broken heart.  He, like Scarlett, did what he had to do during the war to stay alive.  I don't agree with all of his business choices, but he survived.  Where he probably hurt Scarlett more than helped her was by giving her everything he wanted, but also by not being open about his feelings for her.  I hate that he hid his love for her.  I'm not sure that it could have pulled her mind away from Ashley, but I think she would have loved knowing that she was indeed loved by someone.  I almost feel sorry for him, but he wasn't crying about his marriage, he was getting is somewhere else.

Ashley Wilkes:  I may like him the least of all of the characters.  He was a brave man, joining the war when he didn't believe in it, but he was weak.  He had an amazing wife, all of Atlanta knew how great she was, yet he was secretly in love with Scarlett.  If he really did love Scarlett and Melanie at the same time, I have no idea, but I don't think he did either.  I think he loved Scarlett because she was what he wasn't - smart and strong.  In Melanie he had kindness and love.  If he had just been a man and not put himself in situations with Scarlett to make her think he loved her, everyone would have been better off.  Scarlett is partly to blame there as well, but he was the married man.  He was lucky to have been wealthy and handsome enough to have women like Scarlett and Melanie in his life.  Without them, he wouldn't have survived the time after the war.  I believe he would have given up.

Melanie Wilkes:  She represented what was pure and right.  She loved unconditionally and with her whole self.  She was kind to others and looked for the good in people.  Where she faulted was that gave too much of herself to other people and ultimately that she wanted another child.  Scarlett thought she was weak until she was dying and she realized that Melanie was just as strong as she was.  Melanie never hid from a fight, with soldiers during the war or from the other women in town.  She stood up for what she believed in and I have the most respect for her because of it.  I believe she knew all along that there was something unspoken between Ashley and Scarlett but because of the love she had for both of them, she was willing to look past it.  I wish Scarlett had seen the good in Melanie before it was too late.

I'm so glad that I finally tackled the 1037 pages of the novel.  Living in Atlanta I was moved by the falling of the city and watching it rebuild through the eyes of Scarlett.  When they would drive down Peachtree Street, I know I'll do the same thing sometime this week.  I know the distance from Atlanta to Jonesboro and while it doesn't seem long to me today, I know that back in days of horses and carriages, it was a much longer journey.  The story was very relevant to me, more than what I imagine it would be to someone who has never been to Atlanta and is living in Portland.  Now I can move on to easy, beach reading for the honeymoon!

When Stephen and I started dating we took the Margaret Mitchell tour of the Oakland Cemetery.  I'm so glad we did and I can't wait to visit the Margaret Mitchell house in midtown.  I pass it nearly every single week and when I lived in Midtown I passed it at least once a day.  She was a brilliant story teller and author and had a way with words.  It's sad that she was taken from us so tragically.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wedding Planning - Post #18 - Guest Book

If you have read any of the other 17 posts about planning our wedding you'll have noticed that we're doing things a little nontraditional.  Because we were only engaged for four months before our big day we didn't see the need to do any engagement pictures.  They would have been nice to have, but with a 6-8 week turn around on getting any edited and back to us, we would have had to take pictures right after we were engaged if we wanted to use any of them in the ceremony.

One of the places I wish we had an engagement photo is for our guest book.  One of my best friends used her engagement photos and turned them into a book with a lot of white space to be used as her guest book/sign in book.  Check out this page from Jenn Hopkins Photography so you can see what I mean.  How awesome right?

Well, we don't have a full set of professional pictures so we decided we wanted to have a large mat around an 8x10 picture.  During the reception at SweetWater Brewery we'll have a fun picture of the two of us in the frame and then when we have the wedding pictures back we'll replace with a wedding photo for the house.

I found a frame and mat similar to the above at Michael's for about $25 on sale and we were set!  I'm not sure how many times we'd flip though a book to see what our friends and family wrote to us, especially years down the line when we have kids and life gets crazy, but with a frame on the wall we'll get to see the names of our friends everyday.

One of my good friends was kind enough to take a picture of Stephen and I so we would have a nice, new one to display for the first time at the wedding.  You know, something that hasn't been seen on Facebook yet.  I'd add it here, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having an unseen picture doesn't it!

We ordered our picture from Costco which was the easiest process ever!  They have a one hour photo center at the location by Stephen's office so he can pick it up on his way home from work.  That's quick service!

We are officially at one week from our wedding day.  Right now, it is 1:40pm as I type this sentence.  We'll either be getting married right now or will be next in line next Friday.  I hope the next 6 days fly by.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why I LOVE Pinterest and How Pinterest Works

I'm not sure I can ever go back to life without Pinterest.  I don't want to go back to the days of buying magazines and tearing out pages for inspiration.  (But I still love magazines, especially food magazines.)  For example, I didn't buy a single wedding magazine while planning my wedding.  I remember friends planning weddings 5 or 6 years ago and going to their house to see the stacks of wedding magazines with dog eared pages and binders of torn out pages with ideas.

Not only is wedding planning SO much easier with Pinterest, but finding new recipes is easy too.  Form healthy to unique to gluttonous and wonderful baking recipes - the list is almost endless.  There are so many blogs out there with recipes that will never make it into a cookbook or website.  I love that I can find them now.  Let's not also forget cleaning and home organizational tips.  Pinterest is full of ways to make your live simpler around the house.  I had no idea white vinegar was so useful until I saw pin after pin of uses, several that I have tried.

Lastly, crafting.  OMG, the craft ideas are overflowing on Pinterest.  I have close to 100 pins on my Craft Ideas board.  Before Pinterest I had a few craft projects in my head, but with Pinterest I've been exposed to so many new things I never once considered to try on my own.  But with links to tutorials on basically everything I could ever want to try, the world has opened new doors to me.  I even registered for a sewing machine on our wedding registry so I can learn to sew to make items for around the house!

Pinterest works like this.  You set up an account and once approved you can search through other people's pins and add them to boards that you have created so you can come back to them later.  When you log in to the site this is what your main page will look like, below.  The pins update constantly and you can see what pins that you have added that have been pinned by others down the left hand side of the page.  Every time I go to this page it is different based on how active the people I'm following are that day.

Think of the boards as the folders you used to keep when you tore out pictures from a magazine.  You did that, right, just like me?  Each board is a different topic and you can have unlimited boards.  At least I think you can, I've seen people with more boards then I could even try to keep track of.  They must be professional pinners.  (Is that a job?  I want it.)  I have boards for Craft Ideas, Wedding Inspiration, Food and Drinks, Holidays, Books I want to read, and several more.  Here is a screen shot of what your account page on Pinterest will look like with your boards.  I have a few more that don't fit on the screen until you scroll down.

My Pinterest page
Into each board you add your pins.  You can see in the image above how many pins I have in each board.  Obviously this changes daily as I add pins.  Each board has a "cover photo" which is the large picture and you can set this to something or it is your most recent pin.  To get inside a board you click on one of the images in that board and it brings you into that section.  Below is my Holidays board.

My Holiday Board
Using my Holiday board above you can see that each pin is linked from another website, shown in the grey below the picture caption.  Each picture gets a caption which you can create.  This caption is seen by all of your followers and anyone searching for a key word that is in your caption.  When you click on one of these pins (photos) it makes it larger so you can see it in more detail and from there you can double click on it and it will open the original website with that content in a new window.  I have a few of my projects posted on one of Pinterest boards and it's fun to see web traffic to the blog from Pinterest.

You can add to your boards in two ways.  First, and the most fun in my opinion, is just browsing through Pinterest.  You can see pins from people that you are following or everything that is being pinned at that moment.  You can even search Pinterest for ideas.  When I put in the search box "red truck" below are the pins that show up for me.  Of course, if you go and search for the same thing it may look different depending on what has been pinned since my search.

When I was planning a baby shower I had a board dedicated to just Baby Shower ideas and I searched through tons of key words for inspiration.  Same for when I was trying to find ideas for how I would wear my hair for the wedding.  I'm pretty sure I pinned close to 10 different photos to my board and I showed them to my hair stylist when I went in for my trial.  Much easier than flipping through several wedding magazines and tearing out pictures or printing pictures off a web page.  It's great when you find a pin that you like and you go to the board where that pin lives and you find other photos that were inspiration to that pinner.

The second way to pin to your board is with a button that is loaded to the Toolbar.  It's so simple to use!  For example, I'm on a blog and the blogger has posed a new recipe that I want to try later.  I go to the "Pin It" button now on my toolbar and it pulls up all of the photos on that current page that I can pin to my board.  I select the picture that I want to pin (make sure it's representative of what the content is) then I add a caption and select which of my boards I want that pin to land on.  Easy as that.

Feel free to search for me and browse around all of my pins.  There is so much out there to see and do! A few of my favorite pins from the past few days:

What a fun trick for holiday decor from Dandelions and Dust Bunnies

A project I can't wait to try!  Using Mod Podge to create a giant "canvas" for the wall from Life as a Thrifter

A tutorial for no-sew bunting that I used recently from Corner Blog.  More on the project to come later.
 If you haven't given Pinterest a shot, don't be afraid.  All you have to lose is a few hours of free time!  Stephen said something that was pretty true yesterday during one of the MANY commercials during the Olympics last night.  He said, "Should I assume that if you have your ipad in your hand I should assume everything you say relates to Pinterest?"  Yes, he's right.

Pinterest does have an App for the iphone and ipad, but I'd rather use the website on my ipad instead of the app. The app never seems to work right for me.  I'm sure they're working on it.