Thursday, December 30, 2010

This Is Harder Than I Thought

I signed on for this Reverb project thinking I'd easily be able to stay with it.  And come up with really deep, creative insights about my 2010.  Yeah, um...who was I kidding?  It's really hard to come up with answers to some of these things!  It's even harder to come up with answers and blog about them while the hustle of the holidays is happening around you.  Seriously.  You should try it.  Anyway, onward...

Day Twenty-Two - Travel - How did you travel in 2010?  How and/or where would you like to travel next year?  (Author: Tara Hunt)

Obviously, we went on our honeymoon.  Recaps coming after the holidays.  Promise.

Day Twenty-Six - Soul Food - What did you eat this year that you will never forget?  What went into your mouth and touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

Ok, technically, it's not 2010, but it was 10pm on New Year's Eve, and I was eating up to almost midnight, so I'm using it.  Our dinner at Del Frisco's on New Year's Eve last year.  Oh.  Em.  Gee.  Best meal I've ever had.  EVER.  We started off with a crab cake appetizer that was...well, it was the best crab cake I've ever eaten.  It was covered in some sort of lobster sauce  Then we got steaks - I had the filet mignon, medium rare.  It was perfect.  Seriously, absolutly perfect.  I've never had a steak cooked so perfectly.  And seasoned so perfectly.  We also ordered two sides - lobster macaroni and cheese and some sort of spinach dish.  Both were just incredible.  I still have fantasies about that lobster mac and cheese.  My sweet BM Nicole got us a gift card for Del Frisco as a wedding gift, so we can't wait to go back and indulge ourselves again. Oh, and also - they have a wine list that is about 30 pages long, and range in price from $30 to $4800 (yes, that's four thousand).

Day Thirty - Gift - What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

My suprise bridal shower was absolutely incredible.  My mom, MOH/sister, BMs, and BM Abriel's mom, Melinda, went sneaking around behind my back to plan a beautiful shower for me.  The funniest part was, at the same time, I was planning BM Abriel's baby shower!  Apparently, they had already started planning my shower, when I emailed my mom and told her I'd like to host Abriel's baby shower the same day.  My mom panicked but in speaking to Melinda, they decided they would continue to plan my shower, let me plan Abriel's, and pull off (what they hoped would be) the greatest switcharoo in the history of weddings.  And it worked.  My mom and I went ahead with planning Abriel's shower, and Melinda insisted on "hosting" it out at her house.  I thought it was strange, but I went along with it because, well, you don't argue with Melinda.  The morning of the shower, we stopped by the party supply store to get the baby-themed balloons and paper products we'd ordered, and headed out to Melinda's.  We were supposed to arrive about 30 minutes before the guests, but as we pulled up the driveway, I noticed a lot of people were already there, and thought we were somehow late.  Then I noticed people who shouldn't be at Abriel's baby shower, like my college roommates.  I looked at my mom, said, "Wait....those aren't Abriel's friends....those are MY friends!"  Mom stopped the car and told me that I should get out of the car.  I opened the car door to a chorus of almost all of my favorite people in the world yelling "Surprise!"

Yes, we got a lot of great gifts at the shower.  But the shower itself, and learning about all the trickery and hard work involved in planning and keeping it from me, was really the best gift I got.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Letter to Me

I sure have fallen behind, haven't I?  Well, it's tough to do daily blogging during the holidays!  Matt and I spend a LOT of time traveling for the holidays, so it's tough to get a few minutes to sit down and check my email, let alone write a blog post.  Seriously, I felt like we spent more time driving around than we did actually visiting with our families.  At one point, I looked at him and said, "Once we have kids, they can come to us.  I'm not doin this with car seats and diaper bags and pack-and-plays...this is nonsense!"  So, needless to say, I slacked on the blogging.  So, I'm just going to do a few of my favorites from Reverb10 and then move on.

Day Twenty-One - Future Self - Imagine yourself five years from now.  What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself ten years ago.  What would you tell your younger self?)  (Author: Jenny Blake)

Dear 31-year-old Erin, 

Don't let anyone tell you that squealing over the words "my husband" 2 months - or 10 months - after your wedding is silly.  It's not.  Revel in the newly-wedded bliss as long as you want to.  Speaking of, people are going to ask you about babies.  Don't get pissy.  Just tell them, "We've talked about it" and move on. 

Stop wasting so much money on stupid stuff.  You don't really need that pair of pants or that cute dress.  If you want to have babies, you will need to learn to save your money.  Babies are expensive. 

Along the same lines, get to the gym.  You're paying for a membership and complaining about gaining weight from the honeymoon - do something about it.  Quit bitching and start moving.

Enjoy your one-on-one time with Matt.  Take trips, go out on dates...keep doing what you've been doing, but step it up, if you can.  Once the babies start coming, those opportunities will be few and far between.  Take advantage now. 

Call your friends more.  Skype with people who are far away.  Stop crying over missing your girlfriends and get in some face time!

Your job is rough, but you have the job you set out to do - enjoy it and do it well.  Don't let stupid politics ruin what your heart knows is the right thing for you.

Most of all, enjoy yourself.  Treat yourself to an occasional indulgence.  You have 2 spa certificates that are over a year old - why haven't you used them?!  Get to the spa and get a massage.  Now.

36-year-old Erin


Dear 21-year-old Erin,

You are in for a rough couple of years.  But because we don't believe in regret, I won't tell you how to change or avoid them.  Just what to do better.

In September of this year, the world will change in the blink of an eye.  It's going to be scary and there will be lots of uncertainty.  Rely on your friends for support. 

Don't wait so long to ask for help.  You. Did. Nothing. Wrong.  Ask for the help you know you need.

Pittsburgh is good for your soul.  Stay longer and visit more often.

Here's a tip - when you're in Europe and the strap on your under-the-clothing passport wallet breaks, GET A NEW ONE.  No one likes spending 5 hours in the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and having to cut their trip short by a week.  Just spend the money, replace the wallet, and keep your passport and money close to you at all times.  Then enjoy that last week in Europe!

Don't waste so much time on Doug.  He's not going to change. 

Stick with Matt.  Give him the room he needs.  He'll be back.  The end result will please you.

31-year-old Erin

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 20

Day Twenty - Beyond Avoidance - What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy, or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

Ever since I was in grad school, I've been interested in genetics counseling.  We had a speaker come to one of our classes to tell us about it, and I was instantly intrigued.  Of course, at that point, I was in my last semester, about 2 months away from completing my MSW, and had absolutely no interest in continuing my education.  I had been in college for 4.5 years, plus 12 months of grad school.  I was dunzo.  I finished grad school, moved home, worked for a family friend for 2 years, moved to Philly, and have been at my current job for 4 years.  All that time, I've never forgotten about genetics counseling.  About a year ago, I found out that one of the 13 schools in the country that has a genetics counseling program is about 2 miles from our house.  I know, right?!?!  

So I went to an information session.  It's a full-time, 2-year program.  No option for part-time.  I was ridiculously disappointed.  For one thing, full time means I'd have to quit my job.  The job that pays 100% tuition - up front.  Which means I'd have to take out loans - about $50K.  On top of the $25K I still owe for grad school?  That's a lot of debt.  I don't want that much debt.  It also means that we'd be living on Matt's salary alone for 2 years.  We could do it, but it'd be uncomfortable.  And Matt's job is not exactly...stable.  Over the past 3 years, he's gotten no raises, and in fact got a pay cut, and off and on he's been reduced to 32-hour weeks.  It's been rough, to say the least.  So the idea that we'd be living on his salary, and he could (in theory) lose his job any day, is absolutely terrifying.  Plus, it's 2 years for the program alone.  Just to get accepted, I'd have to take several prerequisite classes.  All told, I'd be looking at about 4-5 years of school.  That's a long time.  That means we couldn't start a family for 4-5 years (cuz you know I'm not trying to have a baby while I'm in school!).  Oh, and also - it's a lot of science.  I mean, hello, genetics counseling.  Biology, chemistry, genetics...whoa. 

I found out through one of my coworkers that there are genetics counselors at our hospital.  I told myself (and Matt and my mom and my sister and...) that I would spend a day shadowing one of them.  You know, to find out if I actually like the job.  I even went as far as calling one of them to find out if I could do that.  But I never called back to schedule.  

Here's the deal.  The real sitch.  What it really boils down to is 2 things:

1 - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't actually like the job.  I mean, it'd be interesting.  But I'm pretty sure I'd be uncomfortable.  In my 5+ years of work, I've discovered that I don't really like interacting on a face-to-face basis.  I prefer to meet with the patient/family once, find out what they want, set it up, and send them off.  It's unbelievably difficult for me to admit that.  I cannot even tell you how much that hurts.  So, needless to say, face-to-face interaction with people facing major decisions?  Umm...yikes.

2 - Matt and I want to start a family.  Sooner than 4-5 years from now.  I'm not willing to wait that long.  Matt, ever the supportive husband, says, "We'll do what it takes, if you're happy."  But I wouldn't be.  I want babies.  More than I want a job that (see #1) I'm fairly certain still wouldn't make me happy.  

So that's that.  That's all there is to it.  That's why I didn't do it.  And why I probably won't.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Caught up

Today is the day I'm finally catching up with all the Reverb prompts.  I'm skipping quite a few, but...I think you'll live. 

Day 14 - Appreciation - What's the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year?  How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

I am grateful for the people in my life who give me the room to be who I am.  Who don't (and haven't ever) judge the decisions I make.  And who leave me alone to live the life I want to live.  This year, I was made severely aware of people who over-involve themselves in my life and in my day-to-day decisions.  While I know their intentions are good, I still find it frustrating.  So now I have a much greater appreciation for the people who know that I like to do things on my own and will ask for help if/when I need it.

Day 15 - 5 Minutes - Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in 5 minutes.  Set an alarm for 5 minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.  (Author: Patti Digh)

Ringing in the year with my new fiance (and newly-minted engagement ring).  Trying on MY wedding dress.  Being surprised by all my closest friends and family at my bridal shower.  Being surprised again by my co-workers at my work bridal shower.  Using our new KitchenAid stand mixer for the first time.  Visiting my best friend in the hospital after she gave birth to her 2nd son.  Watching my other best friend get married.  Sitting on the piano at Jolly's at my bachelorette party.  Trying escargot for the first time.  Saying our vows.  Riding the trolley with my new husband and our wedding party.  Our first dance.  Laying in bed, scared by the hurricane, but at the same time feeling safe because Matt was next to me.  Celebrating our "first" Christmas.  Making my first creme brulee...and finding that it was much easier than I thought it would be.   *DING!*

Day 18 - Try - What do you want to try next year?  Was there something you wanted to try in 2010?  What happened when you did/didn't go for it?  (Author: Kaileen Elise)

For next year, I want to try more seafood.  I've spent my whole life refusing to eat seafood.  I'm not really sure why.  I think some of it has to do with the fact that I don't like the smell of it.  Some of it has to do with the fact that my dad is allergic to it.  And some of it is just me being difficult, ha ha.  I've started branching out a bit.  I'm now a HUGE fan of scallops and lobster.  I'll eat crab, but I wouldn't choose it over other things.  I'm working my way into fish - I do really like Tilapia.  I'd like to try shark and sample a few other fish.  I'll never go for shrimp or clams or oysters.  It is what it is.  In my weird mind, if I get to salmon, I will have conquered my issues with seafood.

I was super-excited to try ziplining on our honeymoon.  We had the excursion booked and paid for before we even left for St. Lucia.  The morning we had it scheduled, we got a phone call saying that the excursion was cancelled.  Hurricane Tomas hit the island, and that was the end to my ziplining dreams.  For now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reverb Party

Day Nine - Party - What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010?  Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

So, obviously, the party of the year was our wedding.  Which I'll be describing.  In full detail.  As soooon as we get our pictures.  Be patient, my friends.

Day Ten - Wisdom - What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?  (Author: Susannah Conway)

Forking over the extra dough to hire David Everett as our day-of coordinator for our wedding.  I know it sounds stupid and petty, but seriously...this saved me from going crazy, breaking down, and probably all-out killing someone.  I would have been annoyed at having to wrangle our wedding party for the important moments.  I would have definitely been running behind schedule.  I would have noticed little things that went wrong.  I would have not had the patience to deal with vendor issues (if there were any).  Because we hired David, I didn't have to worry about any of that.  David kept our wedding party in check.  He kept us on schedule.  He dealt with any issues that came up (and kept whatever they might have been a total secret from me!).  He kept things moving along smoothly.  He kept me sane.  Best of all - he actually cared about doing all of that.  He wasn't just doing it because we were paying him to do it.  He wanted us to have a perfect day.  He'd cleared his schedule for Friday night and Saturday before we even confirmed that we wanted to hire him, because he wanted to make sure he'd be there for us.  That's why we love him.  That's why it was the best decision we made this year.

Day Eleven - 11 Things - What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011?  How will you go about eliminating them?  How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?  (Author: Sam Davidson)

1) Jaded-ness.  I know, it's not a word.  But seriously, you guys, this job has majorly jaded me.  Or made me majorly jaded.  Whatever.  I've got to remember why I went into social work, and remember that - at their core - people are good.

2) Gossip.  I've started feeling like I can be a bit mean sometimes.  I have to stop that. 

3) Sarcasm.  Kind of goes along with #2.  Sarcasm is great.  But not at someone else's expense.

4) Frivolous spending.  Stop shopping just because I "think" I "need" something.  I don't.  Really.  Or, if it's something we really do need, then shop around for the best deal.  Don't just see something, like it, buy it, no matter the cost.  If we're thinking baby-time soon, we need to get smarter about money.

5) Carbs.  Not all together.  I'm not capable of going full carb-free.  But I do need to cut back.  Carbs are simple sugars.  They don't break down.  They stick around and form ugly lumps on my belly and butt. 

6) Laziness.  Going along with #5, it's really time to get my lumpy butt and belly back to the gym.  Not just for weight loss, but also just for overall health.  I have my own car now, so I have no excuse not to go after work, directly from the train station.

7) Celebrity gossip blogs.  Kind of goes along with #2.  I'm sure celebrities don't appreciate me gossiping about them, either.  And some of those blogs are so catty. 

8) Huffing.  I huff.  A lot.  At work.  It's gotta stop.

9) Rolling my eyes.  Same as #8.

10) Chewing my cuticles.  Um, cuz it's gross.  And I work at a hospital.  Infection lurks on every surface.  I'm surprise I haven't caught CHF or something.

11) This was going to say "alcohol," but I don't really believe that I need to stop drinking completely.  For a few rather personal reasons, though, I do feel like I need to cut back.  So, how about a few glasses of wine per week?  Is that fair?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Still Catching Up...

A few more Reverb10 prompts.  I guess this means I'll be blogging pretty much every day in December.  That sounds like a challenge!

Day Seven - Community - Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010?  What community would you like to join, create, or more deeply connect with in 2011?  (Author: Cali Harris)

This year, I discovered Weddingbee.  For anyone planning a wedding, Weddingbee is a necessity.  Seriously, it's that good.  Not only does it provide a wealth of ideas, inspiration, and tutorials, but it also provides a place to commiserate and congratulate.  Though I was not a Bee, I was a frequent contributor to conversations and commented on hundreds of the Bees' posts.  The hive (as the members of the site are affectionately known) has to be the most supportive group of women I've ever met...and I've never actually met a single one of them.  But as I read their stories, I felt like I knew many of them.  I began to feel like these women were my friends, in a weird way.  I looked forward to the pictures and recaps of their weddings like I do my own friends'.  

As for a community I'd like to connect with, that would have to be our neighborhood.  We moved here 3+ years ago.  Our second summer here, our house was broken into.  The neighbors rallied around us.  For a brief time, we were invited to backyard barbecues and July 4th blockparties.  But once the excitement of the break-in died down, so did the amount of invitations we received.  We kept waving and saying hi, but it didn't seem to get us back into their good graces.  We don't know what happened.  Maybe they just don't like us.  Who knows.  But these days, we consider ourselves lucky if we get an unprovoked wave (meaning, we didn't wave first).  Last year, we got some new neighbors who moved in across the street.  We invited them to our annual Oktoberfest party, and helped them out with snowblowing during the winter.  But we've barely spoken to them in months.  So that's what I'm hoping for.  I'm hoping to connect a bit more with some of our neighbors.  We'll see.

Day Eight - Beautifully Different - Think about what make syou different and what you do that makes people light up.  Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Wolrond)

I'm really good at laughing at myself. 

My nose is weirdly flexible.  It still freaks Matt out, and we've been together for 5 years.

My left ankle and right thumb can crack pretty much on-demand.

I have an uncanny ability to remember song lyrics.

Secretly, I'd rather watch Jeopardy! than pretty much anything.

Harry Potter makes my heart smile.

I really like my commute to work, and do not look forward to the day when I no longer take a train to work.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Reverb

Day Six - Make - What was the last thing you made?  What materials did you use?  Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

I made chili and butternut squash soup.  Matt and I were hosting the social workers from my department at our house Friday evening.  I chose to do chili because I had managed to find the recipe for Redstone Grill's chili online, and Redstone Grill makes the best chili I've ever had.  I was fully aware that I would not exactly replicate the recipe, but I hoped it would be close.  And I chose to do butternut squash soup because I love it, and I found a good vegan recipe for it (my supervisor and his wife eat vegan).  

The chili had a lot going on, but it was really delicious.  It wasn't quite the same as the restaurant, but it was close.  Ground beef, celery, onion, garlic, chipotle pepper puree, cayenne pepper powder, chili powder, cumin, oregano, tomato puree, diced tomatoes, tomato juice, and kidney beans.  I made it a few days before the party, so the flavors had a chance to blend.  I heated it up the evening of, and - not to toot my own horn, but - it was pretty awesome.

The butternut squash soup was really good, too.  First time I ever cooked with fresh ginger, which smells amazing!  It also had onions, butternut squash (obviously), vegetable stock, and coconut milk.  Mine didn't quite get completely smooth, but it was still pretty good.  Not as sweet as I would've like - probably a bit more coconut milk would've helped. 

As far as what I'd like to make...there's all kinds of recipes I'd like to try, but I just don't have the time and/or patience for them.  I usually try to make a really special meal for us on Christmas and one for Valentine's Day.  I'm trying to come up with something for that.  I am thinking that maybe for Christmas I'll make some spinach and egg fritattas for breakfast.  And I have dessert figured out - creme brulee!  As for dinner, I'm really not sure.  Matt suggested lasagna.  I tried that once, but it didn't turn out that well.  So maybe I'll give it another go.  

And Matt and I are talking about making babies, but have decided that we'd like to wait until next in, 2012.  But, we'll see. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


While waiting for our wedding photos to become available to me (aka, our disc comes in the mail), I'm going to start transitioning this blog to a Real Life blog.  Sometimes, I'll have a lot to say.  Other times, I may have nothing to say.  So, just, you know - come along for the ride with me, won't you?

To start things off, I'm going to take a prompt from Reverb10.  I am a huge fan of reflecting on things (hi, social worker here - we're all about introspection), so I love the idea of wrapping up the year with these prompts.  Since I'm behind, I'm going to do a few at once for the first few days. 

Day One - One Word - Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word.  Explain why you're choosing that word.  Now, imagine it's one year from today.  What would you like to be the word that captures 2011 for you?  (Author: Gwen Bell)

2010 in one word, huh?  Love.  We kicked off 2010 by celebrating our love.  Matt proposed to me on New Year's Eve.  We celebrated the change from 2009 to 2010, from dating to engaged, from one decade to the next.  For the next few days, we got all kinds of love from our friends and family who congratulated us and celebrated with us.  Throughout the year, we felt love from our vendors, as they worked and toiled to make our wedding day everything we'd hoped for.  We were showered with love at my bridal shower.  We were surrounded with love at our bachelor/bachelorette parties.  And we couldn't escape the love on our wedding day.  It was all love, all the time - and we felt so unbelievably blessed.  And what word do I want to be able to look back at 2011 with?  Married.  We'll have officially spent one year as a married couple.  I want to spend the year reveling in that.  I want to squeal inside every single time I say "my husband."  I want to spend 2011 being married.  Being newlyweds. 

Day Three - Moment - Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year.  Describe it in vivid details (textures, smells, voices, noises, colors).  (Author: Ali Edwards)

I am standing at the front of the church.  Looking into the eyes of the man with whom I have been in love for 5 years.  Wow.  5 years.  To my left, our Pastor; to my right, all of our closest friends and family.  Pastor Cindy's voice is soothing, calming, and talking about love and marriage.  Matt is looking back at, and chewing on his lips.  His nervous habit.  Behind him, I can see his groomsmen - his best friends and his 2 brothers.  The church is dimly lit, the late afternoon light slowly fading, creating a soft, intimate glow around everything.  I smell my perfume and Matt's cologne.  I bought him that cologne 3 years ago, and it's my favorite.  I smile every time I smell it.  Matt's eyes are big and smiling, even though he's too busy chewing his lips to be able to actually smile at me.  My heart is swollen in my chest.  There is a lump in my throat that I'm trying to swallow, because if it keeps rising, I know that I will break down and cry.  Pastor Cindy starts saying our vows, and Matt starts repeating: "I, Matthew, take you Erin..."  His voice is deep - deeper than normal, and I know it's because he's nervous and emotional.  I smile, nay, beam at him.  I peek behind him and I see his brother, Mike, with a single tear streaming down his cheek.  I smile.  I look away, take a deep breath, and slowly let it out.  The breath shudders on it's way out.  Matt finishes his vows: "...for as long as we both shall live."  Matt takes a deep breath.  The breath shudders on it's way out.  Pastor Cindy starts saying the vows for me.  I repeat after her.  I make it halfway through: "...laugh with you and cry with you..."  I can hear my voice shake.  Matt smiles, and I can feel him squeeze my hand.  My chin starts to tremble.  That lump in my throat is on the rise.  I have to look away.  I look at his brother, Mike, who now has multiple tears streaming down his cheek.  I start to repeat a line: "...loving you faithfully.." and can't get it out.  I start to cry.  I start to laugh.  Matt laughs.  Pastor Cindy laughs.  I feel her hand on my shoulder, comforting me.  I take a deep breath.  It shudders.  I have tears streaming down my cheeks.  I hear my bridesmaids sniffling.  I start to speak the next line: "...through the good times..." and can't get it out.  I gasp for air.  It sounds absurd.  I see the groomsmen shuffling around, reaching in their pockets.  I reach into my cleavage and grab the tissues I had stored.  The entire congregation laughs.  Matt laughs - I love his laugh.  It calms me.  I dab the tears and take another deep breath.  I finally finish my vows: "...for as long as we both shall live."  I laugh again.  I dab the tears.  Matt and I take each other's hands, and I look at him - my husband.  For as long as we both shall live. 

(PS - I cried as I wrote this)

Vendor Review - Cocoa Couture

As I'm writing these Vendor Review posts, I count myself among the really lucky brides.  Every single experience I had in planning our wedding was at the very least good, if not better.  Every one of our vendors did exactly as we asked/anticipated, were there for us, answered our questions, provided a good service, and did it all with a smile on their faces.  All of that = no meltdowns on wedding day = one very happy couple.  Yay!

Anyway, back to the review.  Cocoa Couture is a dress shop located right in Hershey (I know, shocking - a business with the word "cocoa" in it in Hershey).  It is relatively new; maybe 3 years old or so?  I just know that I didn't remember noticing it until my sister got engaged, which was 3 years ago.  It's right along the main street in Hershey.

It's a pretty little building.  When you first walk in, you're greeted with a big stone fireplace.  If you go to the right, you'll find the bridal party/prom and mother-of-the dresses.  To the left, is the bridal room.  Hundreds of dresses.  Since I was (oh, who I am kidding...AM) an avid watcher of Say Yes to the Dress, I handled the sight of hundreds of white dresses hanging along the walls of the enormous room just fine.  However, I could easily see how it could be overwhelming for some.  Cocoa Couture carries tons of designers - David Tutera, Nicole Miller, Pronovias - plus, they have an in-house designer, Daniel Thompson.

I went shopping with my mom, my sister/MOH Callie, and my MIL.  We walked in and immediately were greeted by our consultant, Amy.  Amy sent my entourage into the bridal room, while she and I sat down to talk about what I was looking for.  I told her a bit about the wedding and showed her the picture of the dress I had fallen in love with.  It was an Augusta Jones.  I knew Cocoa Couture carried Augusta Jones, so I was hoping against hope that they had it.  I showed Amy the picture and asked if they had it.  She knew they didn't.  She asked me what it was I liked about that dress so much, then looked at a few other pictures.  She knew they had something really similar to the Augusta Jones, so she sent me into the bridal room to start pulling dresses with my crew, while she went around the store and searched for the dress she had in mind.  About 20 minutes later, she showed up, triumphant.  My mom, sister, MIL, and I had, in the meantime, pulled about a dozen other dresses.  She was so excited that she had found the dress she was looking for, so she put me in that one first.  My heart kind of stopped.  She'd nailed it.  It was everything I'd been hoping for: flowy, comfortable, fun (bubble hem and swiss dot!), ethereal... It was me.  I walked out of the dressing room and by the look on my sister's face, I knew she thought it was perfect, too.  My mom and MIL both loved it.  As we stood there, admiring me in the mirror, Amy said, "You know what this dress reminds me of?  You know that Jane Austen novel, Emma?"  I just about died.  I told her that my nickname is Emma.  Also, Matt and I had already designed our cake, and it had swiss dots on it.  Hello?!?! 

And yet, despite all the signs screaming this this dress was the one and I should just stop shopping, I couldn't bring myself to stop yet.  I don't know if it was the fun of trying on pretty white dresses all day, or the knowledge that I had 2 more appointments scheduled that day, but I just couldn't bring myself to say, "This is it.  I'm done."  I tried on the rest of the dresses we had pulled.  Daniel Thompson (the in-house desinger) happened to be there and when I tried on one of his dresses, he helped "jack me up" (to steal a line from Monty on Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta) and I really liked it.  But it just wasn't "me."  So we walked out of Cocoa Couture, and away from the dress.  Oh, did I mention that it was a sample sale dress, so it was nearly 50% off?  Yup, I still walked away from it.  And we felt absolutely no pressure from Amy or from Cocoa Couture.  She basically said, "Look, if you leave here and decide later that you want it, just give us a call.  We'll take a deposit over the phone!"  No pressure.  No guilt trips.  Just a friendly reminder that they wouldn't hold it for me, but would happily sell it to me if I decided on it later in the day.  We went to my two other appointments, and I found one or two more dresses I liked.  I even put a deposit on one!  But after we got home, I couldn't stop thinking about the first one.  The "Emma" dress.  That night, at 9pm, I called Cocoa Couture and left a voicemail that I wanted the dress and to please call me ASAP so I could put down a deposit.  Amy called me back on Tuesday (they're closed Sunday and Monday), said "I told you so," then took my deposit over the phone, and the dress was mine.  Crisis averted!

In the coming months, I went back a few times for fittings.  My seamstress was GREAT.  Because of the bubble hem on the dress, she couldn't just hem it like a normal dress.  She basically had to take apart the entire bodice at the empire waist, cut it from there, and put it back together.  Yikes.  She also had to take it in slightly, and move the straps in.  And she added cups for me (yay, no bra!).  She did an awesome job, and the dress fit me like a dream on the wedding day. 

Cocoa Couture was a great shopping experience.  The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and wanted you to feel like a bride and look your best.  The prices are kind of high, but they carry higher-end designers, so based on who they carry, you should know what to expect walking in there.  They also have a great selection of bridal party gowns, partner with a tux shop, and do stationary there, too.  It could be a one-stop shop for the bride who hates to shop!  I would definitely recommend Cocoa Couture to any bride in the Central PA area.  Definitely.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting There...

We got the online proof of our album from our photographer, which means I am one step closer to starting recaps!  As soon as we approve the online proof, they will send it to the printer, and then send the finished product to us, along with the CD of all of our images.  Ugh, I'm just dying to get my hands on all of it!!!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vendor Review - Steele Salon

I might be a little biased, but Steele Salon is the best place in the Hershey/Palmyra/Hummelstown area for hair/makeup services.  Why might I be biased?  Well, I went to high school with 1/2 the staff.  One of the stylists was one of my best friends in high school.  One of the other stylists is my "fake" little sister.  I kind of love the staff there.  On a deep, personal level.  It feels like home when I walk into Steele.  So when I needed to decide where to get my hair/makeup done for the wedding, there wasn't even a consideration.

I booked 8 appointments (me, my 6 girls, and my mom) with 3 stylists, plus a makeup artists for me.  Easy-peasy.  We were given Rachel (my stylist/close high school friend), Staci (my "sister"), and Mindi; Sara did my makeup.  Rachel has been styling and/or playing with my hair for at least 10 years, so she knows the texture of my hair and what works and doesn't work for me.  There was no doubt in my mind that she would do an awesome job on my wedding day look.

Me and Rachel.  I look 10.  And thrilled.

Done.  With the feather.
We arrived at Steele at 9am.  And we basically took over.  My dad dropped off bagels from Panera, we brought champagne, and the salon also had champagne and coffee and water for us.  There were 8 of us, plus BM Abriel's baby boy and her mom.  We were easily more than half of the people in the salon all morning.  They had on a fun mix of music, and we basically spent the morning talking, laughing, eating, and sipping mimosas.  Kind of a perfect morning with my best girls. 

 "Sister" Staci and BM Stephy

My sister/MOH Callie, making a mimosa

BM Abriel with her son and her mom

Unfortunately, no one got a picture of our spread, but we had tons of stuff there!  We were there till about 1.  During the time at the salon, I was calm and relaxed.  It didn't feel real yet.  And time was moving at a normal pace.  In fact, it kind of seemed like it might have been crawling.  I just wanted it to be 4:30.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a vendor review, not storytime.  Steele Salon was great - accomodating, friendly, quick, and - best of all - talented!  Each of my girls looked absolutely beautiful.  The stylists really listened to what each girl wanted, and everyone ended up looking like a perfect version of herself.  Definitely, definitely, definitely - if you're looking for a salon in Central PA, go to Steele. 

*all photos courtesy of BM Mel or BM Tina

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vendor Review - Linda's Cakery

Our cake was not something we'd planned on.  During our first meeting with David (coordinator extraordinaire from JDK), he asked us about the cake.  We weren't sold on having a cake-cake.  I always thought the tradition of cutting the cake was so weird - nobody really wants to stand around and watch people cut cake.  We considered cupcakes, but I felt like cupcakes were so trendy (not just in wedding world, but in the real world, in general).  So David suggested doing a display of petits-fours on sticks.  Like Cake Pops (which I've totally made and are absolutely freaking awesome)!  We loved the idea.  So began our search for a bakery who would be willing/able to do this.  I must have contacted about 10 bakeries, and each time I was told they couldn't do it, or it was out of our budget.  Finally, I got in touch with Linda at Linda's Cakery.  She said she could do it for about $1.50 per petit-four.  Banking on about 150 people, 2 pops each, we were looking at $450.  Well within our budget!  We made an appointment to meet with her to see what she could do. 

When we got to her bakery (the basement of her home), we were less-than-pleased with what we saw.  The petits-fours were enormous (about 3x3x3", not 1x1x1" like we'd been picturing, and they were covered in a messy chocolate ganache rather than a nice smooth fondant.  They looked majorly W.T. and we were hugely disappointed.  Luckily, Linda herself admitted they looked terrible and said that she realized she couldn't do what we asked.  Again, hugely disappointed, but really glad for her honesty.  She asked if wanted to look through samples of her previous work.  At this point, I was just anxious to make a decision about the cake, so we said sure.  We ended up really liking with this one design, and after discussing our colors and such with her, we came up with a good plan for a cake. 

Based on our estimated guest list, we ordered a 3-tier cake plus a 1/2 sheet cake.  We tasted several different flavors, and ultimately ended up choosing 3: chocolate with peanut butter filling, french vanilla with raspberry ganache, and pink champagne with strawberry whip filling.  Each would be covered in white chocolate buttercream.  After telling Linda our colors (navy blue, peacock teal, apple green, and brown), she suggested marbling the colors together in order to make it more interesting.  OK, so if you remember, this was our inspiration picture:


Here is what we ended up with:

(photo from my mom)
LOVE!  Not only did Linda make a beautiful cake, but it tasted amazing, as well.  And JDK did a great job with adding the flowers/feathers.  We ended up with just the 3 tiers - 2 pink champagne and 1 french vanilla.  We cancelled the 1/2 sheet cake because our guest list ended up being smaller than we'd anticipated.  Initially Linda gave us a hard time about cancelling it - she thought that we would run out of cake.  I spoke to David, though, and he assured me that it would be enough.  

Looking back, I wish I would've taken Linda's advice so that we could have saved the top tier.  We really didn't want to save the top tier, because it sounds just gross, but my sister and her husband also had JDK and she said they wrapped it so well that it still tasted fresh on their year anniversary.  Oh well.  We still plan to go out and have a wonderful dinner with a beautiful dessert.  And I'm actually considering ordering a tiny cake from Linda to surprise Matt for our one-year anniversary.  

In the end, I would definitely recommend Linda's Cakery.  She wasn't overtly friendly; in fact, I found her a bit brash.  But she made a beautiful, delicious cake, and we were really happy with the final product.  And the cost was perfect - well within our budget!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vendor Review - MixedUp Productions

Book them.  Book them right now.

Ok, seriously.  Initially we booked with Top Hat DJs.  They were the Bride's Choice winner on Wedding Wire for 2009.  They're prices were pretty in line with what we planned to spend.  And the communication I had with the DJ was pleasant.  Unfortunately, a few weeks after booking with them, I got an email stating that they had accidentally double-booked for our date, and wouldn't be able to DJ our wedding.  D'oh!

Blessing in disguise.  I swear.  I mean, I'm sure Top Hat would've done a great job, but we're so glad we found MixedUp Productions.  I don't even remember how I found them; probably Martha Stewart Weddings.  My first communication with Mike Miller was great, and I felt really good about booking them.  When we finally got the chance to meet Mike, it felt like we'd been friends for years.  We bantered back and forth, and he totally got what we wanted.  We met him at the radio station where he's a DJ, and so when we mentioned that we wanted to have him edit down our song ("Chasing Cars," by Snow Patrol), he took us right into the studio and remixed it, right in front of us. 

He was totally on board with us not wanting to do any of the traditions - the bouquet/garter toss, dollar dance, etc.  And he suggested the Kissing Game for during dinner.  We gave him a list of couples that he could call one whenever people clinked glasses, and the couple he called on had to get up and kiss (creatively) and then Matt and I had to copy it.  It was SO much fun and I'm really glad he suggested it.

The day of the wedding, he came out to say hi when we got the reception and make sure things were moving smoothly.  He went over everyone's name again.  During dinner, he came over to me and Matt to make sure we were happy and see if we needed anything; he did that throughout the night, as well.  He played what we asked him to play, avoided what we asked him to not play, and checked with us before playing something that he considered "questionable."  The next day, as I perused facebook, I found that Mike had already put up a slideshow of pictures he'd taken throughout the night set to our song. 

Really, we could not be more impressed with Mike and MixedUp Productions.  We had so much fun at the wedding, and our dance floor was absolutely packed all night long.  Definitely look into them if you're looking for a DJ in the Harrisburg area.  You will not be disappointed!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ooh la la!

Remember when I told you I did some boudoir pictures for Matt?  I wanted to wait until after Matt saw them before they were released to the general internet-viewing public.  But now that Matt has the book, I'm gonna put up some photos!  Eeek! 

I won this guitar for Matt at the Bloomsburg Fair one year.

A few of them are pictures of the pictures in the book, but a few are directly from Megan's blog.  I am so totally thrilled with the way the book turned out.  

I gave it to Matt the morning after the wedding.  I was not about to give it to him the morning of, in front of all his groomsmen - awkward!!  Especially when 2 of them were his brothers - creepy!!  Anyway, I gave them to him the morning after the wedding, when we were alone in our hotel room.  He. loved. them.  He told me I look like a model.  Then he told me I should be a model.  Silly boy.  

Anyway, I know I said it before, but I cannot say it enough - if you are thinking at all about doing boudoirs, DO IT!!!!  I felt so confident and sexy during the shoot, and even more so watching Matt look at the photos.  His face was absolutely priceless, and I'd do it a hundred times over just for that.  

If you're in the Central PA area, Megan is offering a special on boudoirs right now.  And she's considering doing bachelorette parties, so if you've got a group of girlfriends who might be interested, it would make for a really fun afternoon!  Give Megan a call if you're interested - you won't regret it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vendor Review - Weddings by JDK

Since it looks like it'll be a while until we have full rights to all of our professional photos, I thought I'd take some time to review our vendors.  I have no idea how many (if any) Central PA brides are reading this, but in case you are, hopefully this will help you.  So, to kick things off, I'm starting with our biggest vendor - Weddings by JDK.

JDK was our caterer, our florist, our event designer, and our equipment rental company.  Our day-of coordinator, David, is one of their lead designers.  This was the easiest decision we made, and hands-down the best decision we made (after, you know, agreeing to get married and stuff).  To be honest, we didn't even consider another company.  My sister had hired JDK for her wedding 2 years ago, and I was really impressed with everything they did for her.  Even then, I knew there was no question that we would use JDK when our day arrived.

We called and booked our first appointment with David just a week or so after we got engaged.  When we met with him, it instantly confirmed what we already knew - that this was going to be the day of our dreams.  We told David our vision - using peacock feathers, casual yet elegant, fun, reflective of who we are - David took it and ran with it.  He told us he was going to have fun with our wedding, and boy did he! 

Throughout the planning process, David listened to us and reflected our ideas back to us.  I showed him inspiration pictures and he pushed the creative envelope on them.  We told him ideas and he took them one step further.  He made suggestions and offered advice.  He created our entire menu based on our likes, dislikes, and things we're "known" for serving at our own parties.  Every single time we walked out of his office, we could not stop talking abou thow excited we were to see the whole picture come together.  David was so excited about the design he was creating, it made us even more excited. 

The days leading up to the wedding were, of course, stressful.  But knowing that David would be there, handling any crises that came up, made me feel loads better.  David came to our rehearsal and went over the timeline with the entire wedding party.  He handed out itineraries to everyone, and provided a timeline and important phone numbers.  He stressed to everyone: "If there is a problem, call me.  Don't call Erin or Matt.  Call me.  I will handle it."

The day of the wedding, he was right there.  He held my hand and helped me breathe.  He made an extra trip to the museum and back to get some arrangements for the church because he didn't like the way the bouquets on the altar looked.  He helped to organize the family for family photos.  He made sure everyone kept moving and did their job.  He kept me and Matt fed, hydrated, and happy.  He assigned a waitress just for me and Matt.  He corraled the wedding party when we needed them, and sent people on their way when they were crowding us. 

The bouquets that JDK created were absolutely breathtaking.  They were everything I'd wanted and more.  They wired my grandmother's ring right into the flowers, and it looked awesome.

The centerpieces at the reception were just incredible.  The tall ones completely blew my expectations out of the water, and the shorter ones were just as elegant.

And the bars.  Oh, my God, the bars.  I know what you're thinking.  "What could possibly be so great about a bar?"  Um, this.

JDK also did the flowers for our cake.  Hello, lover.

The table layouts looked fantastic.  With the navy pintucks and the white dishes and the wine bottles and...and everything.  They set up everything.  All we had to do was deliver boxes to the museum and they took care of everything - the gift table, the escort card table, the guest book, the group photo sign. 

I seriously cannot sing the praises for JDK enough.  If any bride is planning a wedding in Central PA, call them.  I promise you, you won't regret it.  Oh, and look for my sister's picture in the office.  And on their website.  I'm determined to bump her out, but for now, it's still pretty awesome that she and her husband are featured.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Photo Teaser

So, our wedding day?  Best. Day. Ever. We had so much fun.  It was absolutely perfect.  It's true, you know.  What they say.  That it goes by so fast.  It really does.  In the moment, that day, it didn't seem like it was.  But the next morning, when I woke up, I was like..."Wait.  No.  That can't be it!"  I just wanted to do it all over again.

We literally had the perfect day.  The weather was gorgeous.  There were no major issues (at least none that we knew of).  Our coordinator, David, from Weddings by JDK, handled everything.  Our bridal party stepped in when we needed them.  Our friends and family laughed and smiled and cried with us.  Best of all?  We glowed.  We both just glowed.  All day long.  I've never felt so happy, and Matt's never looked so happy.  I plan to hold onto that forever.

The day after the wedding, we went over to my parents' house.  My stepdad had recorded several things throughout the day, and we watched the videos.  We got to watch our ceremony.  And it was perfect, just as we remembered it.  Jeff (my stepdad) ran out to pick up a flash drive so he could copy them for us to take along.  I'll admit, I've already watched it a few times.  Friends were posting pictures to facebook (everyone waited, just as we'd asked).  On Tuesday, we left for our honeymoon.  Just a few days after we arrived in St. Lucia for our honeymoon, we checked our emails and facebook.  Everlasting Images had put some pictures up on facebook... 

Aren't they gorgeous?!  We also got an email the day before we got home that all of our pictures were up on their website.  I don't have full access to them, yet, so I can't post them.  But as soon as we pick the photos for our album, we'll get a disc with all of the images.  And I'll start some recaps.  But it'll be a while.  There are a lot of pictures, and I have no idea how we'll choose among all of them!

*all photos courtesy of the fab-tastic Everlasting Images

Saturday, October 23, 2010


This is it.  The day I've been waiting for for 10 long months.  It feels like it's been ages.  It also feels like just yesterday we were basking in the glow of a brand-new engagement.  I cannot believe it's actually here.

I cannot believe I'm up at 5:30am.  Unable and/or unwilling to continue to sleep.  My mind is racing, my heart is pounding, and I am just a big ball of jitters. 

It's supposed to be a gorgeous fall day here in Central PA.  Sunny and 70 degrees.  Almost unheard of for this late in October.  A full moon.  The leaves are at their peak of change.  Absolutely beautiful.  My favorite kind of fall day.

I looked around last night at the rehearsal dinner and realized that I am one lucky lady.  I have a fiance (husband in 11 short hours!) who loves me.  I have friends who would do anything and are so happy to see this happening for me.  I have family who are...well, they're just the best people on the planet.  I'm marrying into a family and set of friends who are absolutely wonderful.  Matt and I have been supported and rallied around in ways that I never would have expected. 

I can't wait.  I'm so ready to do this. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Officially Stressed

Ok.  I'm there now.  The Stress Zone.  Little things are built up in my head to be big things.  Sleep is a distant memory.  And here's a funny one: I usually under-eat when I'm stressed, but it seems that wedding stress is causing me to put anything I can find in my mouth (mind out of the gutter, you!).  So when I got on the scale this morning and had GAINED weight, I lost it.  I cried the whole way to the gym, and then proceeded to run for 25 minutes straight - a personal record.  [Yes, I am completely aware at how pathetic 25 minutes is to many of you, but for me, that's freaking awesome.  Remember?  Exercise is against my religion.]  That was kind of cathartic, though.  I plan to do it again tomorrow, hopefully Thursday I'll be able to squeeze something in (not likely, but hopefully), and I plan to bring some workout clothes home in case I'm really not sleeping and think a run would help ease the tension.

My phone rings and my heart starts to beat furiously.  What went wrong?  Who's not coming?  Which vendor isn't showing up?  Why can't people leave me alone?! 

I am off work starting Thursday.  Here is what Thursday looks like for me:  I have to get up early to drive Matt to work so that I'll have the car (I sold mine 2 years ago to save money).  Then I have to drive back home (Matt works 45 minutes from home), pick up the pretzels and TastyCakes for the OOTs, finish packing, double-and-triple check the packing, set timers for the lights in the house, complete/print the day-of timelines, complete/print the contact lists, go pick Matt up at work, drive to Hershey, drop off stuff at my mom's, go for final fitting, pick up my boudoir album from Megan, go back home, enjoy dinner/socializing with various members of the family, put together the OOTs, wrap the bridesmaids gifts, and wrap Matt's gift.

Friday: Get up at 7:30, eat breakfast, drive out to Camp Hill (45 minutes) to drop my Grandma's ring off at JDK because like a dummy I forgot to give it to David at our last meeting, drive back to Hershey, drop off the OOTs at the hotel, go home, eat, go to the Spa, relax and get pampered for 3 hours (ahhhh....), go home, shower and get ready for rehearsal dinner, rehearse, eat, shmooze with our friends/family who join us for drinks, get to bed at a somewhat-normal hour and try to sleep!

Yup...busy couple of days.  I am running a constant loop in my head of timelines, project deadlines, errands to run, people to see, food to eat (and not eat), and packing lists.  You know how on DVR you can press the "skip" button and jump ahead a few minutes in whatever program you're watching?  I want to do that.  I want to just skip straight to Saturday at 4:30pm. 

Not to mention that work is crazy right now, and I have a feeling that I am going to leave my floor looking like a total nightmare for whoever is going to have to cover for me the next 2 1/2 weeks.  I don't like that feeling.  I usually try to clean up all the loose ends before I go away on vacation, but things have been absolutely nightmarish with a bazillion placements and difficult cases and nasty families, and I hate the idea of dumping all of that on whatever poor soul will have to deal with it for me.