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