Monday, August 15, 2011


On a happier note, I cannot express how absolutely THRILLED I am for our big Saturday shindig. Among many reasons, these are the ones that elate me:

1. The sheer diversity of people. I am overwhelmed with the purest of joy to realize how many, and how many different, people who have chosen to come together to be with us during this time. To share such an occasion and to feel the love and support of so many is a blessing. To know further that the party will be a barrage of every facet of our culture, coming together to have an awesome time...well, that's just awesome! We'll have mohawks and long denim skit types. Uber intellectual liberals. Uber intellectual conservatives. Office types, carny workers, artists, moms, mom artists, skinny people, big people,  little people, old folks....all hanging around, enjoying a hamburger, hitting a pinata. Yup. Awesome.

2. The gift of people. So, we're starving artists, and I fully understand wanting to contribute to this awesome thing but being broke. It's actually wonderful. So many people have sheepishly come up to us and said, "I wish I could give you something but I don't have any money. Can I help set up/clean up/do something?" To this we reply a hardy Heck Yes! Your gift will be one of sanity, of peace, of incredible party without incredible stress. Thank you sooo much, in advance, to the great number of people who have allowed us to draw on their talents and sheer helpfulness. The Alton Undead has even offered to do their freak show act that night! Which, I don't want to reveal too much of, but anything involving stilts and staples is just rad.

3. Potluck. You did realize that invite said "and a dish to share" didn't you? clever. You didn't know you'd have the perfect excuse to make your kick ass caramel brownie bars or your scrumptious potato salad, did you? Well, you do now. With ratio of food snobs to non-food snobs RSVPed to our Saturday party, how can I not be excited. Something tells me that this party will be  veritable cornucopia of  tasty.

4. Sunday Brunch. There is something about waking up to a Milton-sized houseful of partied out people that makes me smile. Orange juice and ibuprofen, anyone?

Friday, July 22, 2011

For the sake of sanity and time!

Just a quick little note here...

...I know it's an awful taboo to talk about gifts and such, but I thought ya'll might like to know that I am decent in the ways of the kicthen. I happen to be responsible for cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Milton- which really isn't too much of a problem- except that our kitchen happens to be missing a few things that could make life a heckuva lot easier.

For example, I have been using a single 1/4 cup measuring cup for all of my baking for the last seven months...because somewhere between college and here, all of the other matching cups have gone AWOL. Same with measuring spoons. My cobbler turned out swell yesterday, but having to measure everything in approximations of tablespoons or 1/8 tsp is a little bit of a pain in the rumpus.

So, if you are worried about gifting kitchen stuffs because you think we might already have it, please do not worry. I've been forbidden to remedy any of my kitchen woes until post wedding because Joel thinks it would be just horrible to have to return something I really needed, that you were generous enough to give, but that I was not patient enough to wait to receive.

Thus, unlike the poor sad bride above who doesn't need much more than a microwave, a gladware bowl, and a husband who is content to smile through endless meals of Chow Mein...I would love a meat thermometer, a real live cookie pan, or anything else from our registry at Target.

If you are on Joel's side, look at this as a selfless plea to better survive Joel's endless appetite for quiche and duck rather than a blatant wish list. Anyone from my side can look at it as a wish list, because I'm pretty sure you are just happy I got the link out there. :-)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fun Colors!

Among many other wedding things, the lanterns came today! Over 100 lovely, bright colored lanterns to bring color to the school during the big weekend.

I still need to procure sockets for the big lantern chandelier that we're building for Friday's dinner. In the meantime, I'm having a good time looking at all the lovely colors.

I'm thinking it'll be Uncle Ken's job to hang all these suckers. ::winks::

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Buff and Tuff

Within the first ten thoughts that enter a woman's head when she becomes engaged, whether you're a minga or a super model, is "OMG! I've got to do (______) to look good before the wedding!". Don't blames it all on superficial whateverness- a wedding is a day where even the most bland woman imagines herself to be a rock star. In a way, every bride is; even in a recession, my photographer friend tells me that families rich and poor spend as much as they can on wedding photography. There isn't many times in anyone's life where there will be dozens of photos take of them within the span of a few hours. The photographer you hire might be good at flattering your flaws- but lord forbid Aunt Jemima stick her camera phone in your face and enthusiastically post the FIRST photo of your wedding on Facebook, making you look something like a cow stuffed in a white sausage lining.

We were engaged in the winter, and everyone's a little less toned and tanned then. Yes, I may have been a little worried- but it turns out that those worries have become superfluous. If we in anyway get this building close to what we hope for this wedding, I'm more worried about falling on the freaky muscle-builder side than the flabby. Every other Facebook advert on my page has been something like "loose 20 lbs fast!" or "look good for the big day with this one simple tip!".

Yeah. I've got a tip for you:

Hand mix and pour 350 sq ft of concrete in the blistering sun.

Or, how about this one:

Tear down an entire rooms worth of 1930's drywall ceiling with nothing but a hoe and your will power.


walk up and down 40 flights of stairs everyday

work 14 hours a day

strip paint off of a 600 sq ft wood floor

...and then strip the paint off of another 600 sq ft room floor.

Or, all of the above!

If you don't sweat off that 20lbs, I'd be surprise. I've lost seven pounds since February, which isn't uncommon for winter to summer around here, and I wouldn't be surprised to loose some more- and gain it back in muscle before September.

Hiring security for Saturday is going to be a convenience thing at this point; I'm pretty sure by September I'll be able to kick any rowdy drunk's a$$.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Boxes everywhere!

Six of eight boxes arrived today with our place settings for the dinner. Instead of tearing them open and throwing the packaging everywhere, I'm waiting until Joel is finished working on his current project so we can open them together. How grown-up of me....

Still, as the pieces begin to come together, I become more and more excited about the festivities of the wedding. Yesterday I pulled the oil lamps we'll be using to accent the table Friday evening, washed them, and packed them away so nothing has the chance of damaging them before then. Today, there's plates. I made the first payment for the 150 succulents that will be nuzzled together with limes and roses in our planter boxes...we're on a roll!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heart Strings.

It is very upsetting to me that there has apparently been some discord over our invitation list for our private, intimate wedding on Saturday.

Very briefly, I would like to explain that Joel and I view this wedding as a time to not only commit ourselves to one another with the blessing of our closest loved ones- but as a time to joyfully express our thanks for the people who have influenced us, raised us, saved us, and aided us in becoming the awesome couple we are.

Translation: This is a very, very intimate ceremony where we will be spending time to personally address individuals throughout the evening.

We will not let this opportunity be open and appreciative of those attending our wedding be diluted by petty passive aggressiveness. We will not let this sacred and spiritual time be tainted by folks who have never been involved in our lives, and are making a fuss because they somehow feel they now have a say in what we do.

Friday is going to be a wedding that is probably more heartfelt and inclusive of those in attendance than weddings you may have attended in the past. This is why most of our friends- even the majority of our closest friends- are being invited on Saturday only.

Finally, if you would like to protest, please call Joel or myself (depending upon which side you are on) directly instead of torturing those on our invitation list behind our backs.

Honestly, what civilized person would truly think such behavior would endear themselves to anyone? I'm ashamed of you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Four wedding dresses.

Ah- the evolution of the wedding dress story, certainly an interesting one. One that needs to be told, since many people seems to be inquiring about "the dress", but how to tell without giving too much away?

I think this little blog is fairly safe. My intended isn't much of a web savvy fellow, and is more likely to go the way of coaxing surprises out of me through margarita than independent research.

Long story short, I have four wedding dresses.

It is amazing for me to think of, since I'm really not that much of a clothes hound. In fact, from the beginning, I think I felt more of a thrill seeking out the most awesome wedding boots and accessories- slightly terrified of the prospect of dress shopping.

The boots were indeed the first to arrive. I bought them here on (click to see a photo) and they are everything I could have dreamed of. Having a spinal cord injury and residual, um, clumsiness resulting thereof, I knew immediately that spending any amount of time in heels would be a nightmare- and trying to walk down steps fluttered by emotion in heels? Well, insert here some word that is a magnifying descriptor of "nightmare". Weak ankles, the inability to tell where one foot is at any given time, general inattention to details...I do very well to keep myself free of injury on any given day. What about a day where I have a photographer ready to capture every memorable millisecond? All I can imagine are comic flip-books of the impending disaster being sent out with our 'thank you' notes.

When it comes to dress shoes, I've always felt more comfortable in boots. They don't slip off my feet, they make it more difficult for my ankles to give out while running down stairs, and they cover one of two places on my body which can cause paralyzing self-consciousness. My calves. Yes, they are uneven because I have muscles that never learned to "work" properly after my injury.

So, I ordered these lovely boots and let me say the color is nothing less than "wow". Bold, rich, vibrant, I couldn't have dreamed of more. They are comfortable as marshmallows, made of suede, dressy with a little heel and cute little swirly designs on the toes and back. I don't think I've ever loved a shoe more- every time I zip them up I dance around the room. They are actually currently in the custody of my mother so that the temptation to wear them out before the wedding hoo-ha isn't pressing.

My happy blue boots. Yup.

But this post was supposed to be about wedding dresses, wasn't it?

All right, so here is how the story went.

I was told soon after our announcement that, having a "party" day and a dinner besides, one dress wouldn't cut it. For reasons of practicality rather than vanity- you simply can't celebrate for an entire weekend with the risk of spilling salad dressing on yourself in the first moments after the ceremony and not having anything fun to wear the next day. Besides, what if it's hot? Or I get rained on? Twelve hours between wedding and day-long party isn't enough time to count on drycleaning or sweat-stink removal.

Saturday is not a formal day- so dress shopping for that day just doesn't have as much pressure. Plus, up until a few weeks ago, it had been over a year since I bought any decent clothes. I'm one of those people that has really specific clothing requirements, and, when I find clothes I love, I wear them until they have holes in strange places, have underwires poking you uncomfortably in certain lady bits, are missing straps, pinned together, etc. etc. Hey! This all is a perfect excuse for a little clothing indulgence.

So, I found one party dress for Saturday that I loved- first, I believe was the black and red polka dot dress you may have seen in a previous post. My mother kindly assisted by making me a petticoat to go underneath, so it's nice and poofy and old timey and I just love to spin around in it like a silly girl...and then I have strange homemaking urges to craft delicious muffins or ask all the men-folk if they'd like a martini. Hmm....

Then, I found another dress from ModCloth for (gasp) $89 that was almost everything I was looking for in a wedding dress, and more than enough for that price. I ordered it, had it shipped to the parents, and tried it on a week or two later. The cut is cute, a ruffly knee-length base of creamy muslin and accents of some pleated gauzey fabric with a sweetheart top. It was nice, I didn't mind the more informal fabric (especially if its a blazin' hot end of September- we're all gonna need something with absorbency). Plus, with a cute veil and my a-maz-ing boots, it'll be dressy enough. Right? Yeah.

It was safe. And, even safer, I had a back up option. I own a vintage cream dress that I love to death and have worn on many, many occasions that I was willing to take the raised eyebrow "We've already seen you in that before" look because I feel comfortable and good looking in it. Plus, it'd also look good with the blue boots, so as a back up for dinner, no sweat.

There it is. I bought it at a thrift shop in a very hispanic district in Chicago. I bought it because it reminded me of my grandmother for some reason- even though I've never met her and have very little of anything of hers to remember her by. Sometimes I lie to people and tell them it was my grandmothers, because I've been told we have the same body type and look similar- and I wish it was hers.

I bought it on a hot summer day when I was walking back to my car to drive to my second loop of dogs (I was dog walking that summer). I stopped in this shop, but after finding it and taking it to the counter, the old hispanic lady told me they only took cash. I asked her where the nearest ATM was- three blocks away. I asked her if she'd hold it for me while I went there- no. So I ran as fast as I could down three city blocks and back, clinching this $20 bill in my hand. She sold it to me, and I wiggled it on in the back seat of my car because I couldn't wait to try it on (the shop had no dressing rooms).

So there's the story of that dress. It had this horribly 19-somethings beading granny thing on the bodice that I carefully cut off when I returned home that night. It's one of those dresses that always fits and always looks good- even on the "fat" days. Miracle vintage dress.

So there's three dresses. Three dresses for one wedding.

Briefly, I must mention, that in my research I found that it is a Chinese tradition for the bride to display her family's position to wear as many dresses as possible during the wedding celebration. Sounds pretty crazy, no?

And so for the big one.

My mom was sitting on the couch while I was twiddling around in the kitchen and, out of silence, she asks, "So...are you really decided against a wedding dress?" You know, a real one, she means- like a fancy one. Well, no, I said something to the affect of- no, but with all the other things that are important to me on the subject of wedding (like good photography and good music), I just couldn't justify taking a large sum of money to spend on myself for this dress thing. I was still against several wedding dress things: against sparkles, adornment, or big poofy-fluff Cinderella ballgowns. Against mortgaging the schoolhouse to pay for said dress. Against certain styles that I know would not flatter my short-and-not-busty body type or styles that I think look just plain ridiculous. No prom dress that just happen to be white.

But I guess, no, no- when all things were considered, I wasn't against having or wearing anything that would be considered or may have been created specifically for the purpose of getting married.

Hesitant for fear of risking being pushy and prefaced with a number of "if you don't like it just let me know no pressure no worries just wanted to show you"s, she showed me a dress that had caught her eye a while back but she didn't want to suggest for...whatever reason. She said if I thought I might like it, she would order it just to try on, and if it wasn't right, we'd send it right back in a jiffy. No problem.

It's hard to tell what things look like online. You have no sense of quality, only a vague comprehension of color, and what about cut and length? But, at first glance, there weren't any red flags. It wasn't some Disney princess dress, thank goodness, not that it was too much of a risk she'd suggest such a thing- fortunately her sense of what I like and what I actually do like have a good amount of alignment.

There wasn't any risk in ordering after all. If I liked it, she'd gift it to me. If not, we wouldn't mention anything to anyone and no one would be wiser. No worries. So, ten minutes later, it was ordered and we sat for a week in anticipation for said dress to arrive.

And oh, when it did. I took a trip to Springfield yesterday and two minutes after walking in the door I was throwing off clothes and borrowing my sister's strapless bra. The dress was made of gorgeous material- elegant, not snazzy; creamy, not white; just a hint of sheen, but not shiny; with flattering lines and simple gatherings. Oh, and an asymmetrical hem on the base to SHOW OFF MY BOOTS. It was- is- gorgeous. And the thing fit like a glove. We took it to a seamstress to have the hem shortened a wee bit (no tripping down the stairs, thank you very much) but no adjustments needed. It had all of this built-in support and extra hooks for perfect form fitting without mushing or inciting the need to stuff the boobage. Very nice. More than I had really thought of or expected. In fact, I stood there looking at myself and, holy crap, I looked like I was getting married.

I looked like I am getting married.

"I guess this means you're all grown up now." Mom said to me later.

Well, heck...I guess it at least looks like I am to everyone.

I've been walking around ever since trying to wrap my head around this realization that I AM GETTING MARRIED.

Really? Me? Me. I'm getting married. Really? Really.

I don't even have anything to end this post with. I'm sitting here looking at the quick snapshots (which you aren't going to see) of me in a wedding dress. Me in a wedding dress. Me...looking like I'm getting married, which I am, but looking like I actually getting married.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lawrence Welk

"Can I see it?"

"Hey, Lucky- I have a girl up here who wants to see the bubble machine."

I look around the ceiling of the shop while I lean on the counter, reading the text on the mylar balloons stapled to the wall. Out of the back, an old man name Lucky emerges with what is presumably the rentable bubble machine. I was hoping to see it in action, but I realize that would be a silly request as it appears to have just been cleaned.

I twirl the little wands and pretend to look it over- I don't have any idea what I'm looking at.

"Um..I see that it comes with a quart of fluid in the rental cost. Is there more available for purchase?"

Lucky looks at me. "A quart makes a helluva lot of bubbles."

"So...this machine puts out a lot of bubbles? Do you have a second case I need twice-a-helluva-lot of bubbles?"

Lucky raises a brow, "Do you know the Lawrence Welk show?"

"Can't say that I do."

"Hrumph. Well, look it up."

"Does Mr. Welk have a lot of bubbles?"

"Yes. (pause) Are you....finished looking at the machine?"

"Ah, yes. Thank you."

I had walked into Baxter's Party Shop on Broadway seeking out chair rental. When I realized the chairs I wanted were considerably less than what I expected, of course I wasn't thinking, "Well, look at all the money we'll save" but "What other awesome things could I rent?"

A bubble machine was already on the top of the list, but I'm thinking of going after the old fashion-y popcorn cart machine, too. I was also thrilled to see their large assortment of weird and wonderful party favors that will be just sweet to stuff the pinata with.

Did I mention the pinata? I think I've insisted on having a pinata since near the beginning of all of this. Only recently it's evolved into two pinatas- one for the kidlets running around filled with candy and weird plastic toys...

...and one for all of us older-ish kids filled with mini booze bottles and scratch offs. Yup.

So, now its just a matter of money. I've been glued to the computer every waking moment getting an enormous eBay listing together for this weekend. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping to be able to reserve chairs/bubble machine/popcorn machine next week- and make another payment on the photography. Little by little, its coming together.

I had a bit of a freak out yesterday, I'm the type of person that likes things to be done with plenty of time in advance. Joel was kind enough to calm me down and remind me that this was going to be the most awesome weekend in the world whether the chairs were rented now or a week prior.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My apologies for not having updating this in a while- there have been a lot of wedding related things going on around here, but with only 89 days to go, I've been so busy! So, here's to Lizzie and Uncle Ken, who both inquired when this all would be updated. I hope to post several exciting things within the next week.


For the last two days, I've been visiting my family back in Springfield. I have to say, Joel and I are super lucky to have so many talented and helpful people in our lives- especially when it comes to trying to throw a wedding with our own cash! Joel has been working his magic trying to cater a wonderful meal for our small wedding party on Saturday, borrowing and trading and bartering with all of his might. We've been granted permission to borrow table cloths and silverware from a local restaurant, which is just awesome. We we allowed to borrow napkins, too...but I wasn't really into the white napkins on a white table cloth thing. There has to be some color!

I looked around for some time to find affordable, good quality napkins. My conclusion: inexpensive napkins means cheap napkins. You know, those annoying things that are made with polyester instead of linen and smear stuff around instead of soaking up...or napkins that have been cut industrially without care so that the first time you wash them they completely turn into a trapezoid that is impossible to fold again.

Well, since we intend on having a bar downstairs sometime, having other parties eventually, hosting other events at some point...napkins seemed like a good investment. So what do you do when you can possibly spend $200-$350 on decent napkins?

You do what any girl would. You call mom.

My sewing skills are limited at best- but my mom has had a bit of experience over the years. With me behind the ironing board, carefully folding in the salvage and ironing over the hem, and her whizzing them through the machine, we made 28 beautiful linen napkins that are not only cut right- but they are super pretty colors and larger than standard napkins (ooh! fancy!).

We still have a few left to go, we wanted to make enough napkins to allow for some clumsy drops on the floor (I have a habit of dropping napkins, yes)- and to decorate the dessert table.

For those of you asking about wedding colors, here's a little sneak peak. There are actually five (or six or seven) colors- but here is the fabric we are using for napkins:

Aren't those lovely? Did I mention these napkins came out looking totally professional? Yeah, take that CB2! Mom's awesome.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Family Sudoku

Joel, having a much larger percentage of the wedding party to please, was thereby appointed to come up with a table layout that would make the most people happy. Round tables seating six? eight? ten? One very long table? an "E" shaped table? As of yesterday, it was decided that a "U" might make things best for our intimate catered family dinner following the afternoon ceremony.

Of course, having only six people that I would be responsible to be concerned about in this process...and all of them fairly easy to please...I immediate dove into the world of table arrangements and napkin colors.

With brow furrowed, Joel stared out the window- wondering if it should really be a "U". Maybe it should be a capital "T". Or, maybe round tables indeed.

This was rather frustrating to me. In the eight hours he had been doubting his decision, I had already been making inquiries and tentative commitments to the quantities of succulents I would need for my master runner-of--contemporary-greenery concept. Nay! His table layout was wonderful, perfect- inspired, even!

So, to convince him, I created something of a Family Sudoku board. I placed it out as best as I could on the dinner table. Ta-da! He came over and said, "Hmm...that is a nice table layout." and began to rearrange the names. After a few, "Oh, hmm, maybe..."s and a couple of, "definitely not!"s, we came up with several possible seating arrangements.

In the meantime, I am very excited about table arrangements. Excited to make something worthy of on of my first business idols, Casey Cooper, the talent and entrepreneur (now retired) who began the incredible Chicago event floral company Botanicals- the company who I had the honor of being their very first ever intern after persuading her that having an intern to begin with, me in particular, was a fantastic idea.

Whether or not she recalls me, whether or not she believes that having me as an intern (or interns at all!) was a good idea, I had a fantastic time the summer I spent there. Watching Quentin create Manzanita chandeliers strewn with exotic orchids, seeing fruity Jesse running about in silk shirts and freaking out over "these napkins are pink! I specifically ordered rose!", that one designer whose name I can't remember who got really angry at me and almost got me thrown out. Most of all, the gorgeous arrangements. The floating pool arrangement for the yacht party of that one Chicago Bear's player. The photos from Oprah's 50th birthday. The wedding set up we did for some rich gal's wedding at the Planetarium right on the lake.


I suppose I still hold a place in my heart for the floral industry, even if I wasn't cut out for the drama it would take to be a successful business owner in it.

I have a brilliant idea for table centerpieces. Stunning. Modern. Covertly frugal and "green" without sacrificing any of the elegance and creative uniqueness. I didn't even steal it from anyone! (originally, I had intended to steal the concept for some arrangements I remember creating at Botanicals- but I came up with a better idea)

Flowers. Joel hardly knows that I've been planning my wedding flowers for the last five years.

Casey Cooper- you may never read this- but you're going to be proud.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Leaps and Bounds ahead!

My mom came down to visit this week to help me spend a day making a dent in the warehouse- and filling the gymnasium for our upcoming all-you-can-carry sale. But there were more unexpected surprises in store.

She arrived when I had stepped out to the post office, and I knew something was up the moment I walked in the door. Joel was grinning and before the "hellos!" were even made, someone announced that we were going shopping for our first wedding gift- electrical supplies!

With the financial support from gracious eBayers Donna Hathecoat and Pamala Hammond, I was already ecstatic to have been able to purchase the can lights. Joel and I bought them late last week- thinking that if I worked hard on the shops, perhaps, maybe, possibly, by the time he installed them we would have saved enough to by the wire to run between them. And then, maybe, after that, we'd have saved the money to by the wire to go to the breaker box. It seemed feasible.

But, my family just completely gave us the resources to work full speed on the rooms downstairs for the next three weeks- giving us a HUGE head start on the two gorgeous rooms that will be used for our reception/party....and then later in October for our first art show.

Not moments after I had walked in were we all skipping back out. Joel spent at least thirty minutes combing the aisles of Lowe's with the talented Dan Mustain's detailed parts list (Dan owns Midwest Electric, and is our resident go-to man for all things electrical). We even had enough in the budget for some new electrical tools (wire strippers, etc)- as the ones we were working with were leftovers from the school and just not really that fantastic.

A great many warm and astounded "thank yous!" to my Mom and Dad, to my Aunt Dj and Uncle Ken, and to Uncle Garrett, who pooled their resources to give us this most welcome gift. It's probably the strangest wedding gift you all will ever give- but I can tell you that it'll be the most appreciated, too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Less and More.

Too tired to work anymore, I sat propped in the south corner of the pigeon's nest- watching Joel and Terry throw up the last few pieces of drywall. I must have begun to fall asleep; you know, that stage of falling asleep where you become only half aware of the noises and movements around you- where your stream of conscious becomes louder than the squeal of the drywall jack as your mind sorts through itself, wrapping up loose ends, before it drifts off.

I began to think about what the room we were working in will be like when it's done. How it will feel to draw warm laundry out of a dryer in the sunshine, what the air would smell like as cool autumn rain intermingled with the scent of laundry soap. Winter will come...hmm...winter. Maybe we'd get to finally have a Christmas tree. Our first Christmas tree. Our first Christmas tree as a real, bonafide family!

But then I thought of my parent's Christmas tree and felt a wave of sadness. I've been so excited about being committed not just in my heart to Joel- but in the eyes of all of our family, friends, and community. So nervous about what it'll be like being a wife, biting my lips over the endless possibilities of things greater than ourselves we finally be able to achieve. It just hit me- that whole part where a woman and man leave their families to join as has more than just the joining bit.

Even though I'm not leaving- there is a shift.

I suppose I felt it a little last Christmas. Joel has a fractured family with several households- I've only ever spent Christmas with my own. My own little tight knit Elston four-person family. Even at that- times at home always seemed too short. But last Christmas, having to split the short day with some many people, cheapened the entire thing. It was a lot of running- and not much loving. Now, I'm really getting more family- does it mean less of my own? And what of the "new" family Joel and I will be? Does it mean my family will think of me less of an Elston because of a percentage of me is technically something else?

I just don't know what to say. I am so grateful for my family. If, for the rest of my life, nothing ever went right again- I would still count myself among the most blessed people in the history of the world because of the love they have shared and the things they have taught me. But now, I'm making a decision to branch off of the tree, so to speak, and grow into and around another.

I had pushed most of these thoughts to the back of my mind as I worked doing my usual shop upkeep today. But, as I settled in to create the invitations for the small group of loved ones invited to our ceremony, it all welled inside again.

What was meant to be a separate page simply detailing the comings and goings of Friday (not explained on the Saturday postcards for the BBQ)- turned into a note I had trouble putting into words and keeping brief. It's always hard to know when your heart pours over if it will be understood- so I hope my letter-ish invitation to my family reads with this message:

I love you.

You've done well loving and raising me.

The best way I can thank you is promising to do the same in this new family we're making.

I sealed the envelope, so even an hour later I can't go back and reread my thoughts. I'd probably find a misspelled word or something and get all irritated. I'm hand drawing/coloring the few Friday invitations, and it took me a billion years to make my immediate family's because I didn't know what I going back now.

My last name is going to change. I'm going to have a whole new title- a whole new responsibility. People are going to look at me differently, strangers will have a different set of expectations when they read my name with the prefix "Mrs.".

In my heart though, I know that I will always have a ferocious loyalty to the very few I call my family, I will always have an ingrained sense of what is right and just, and I will always feel like I'm late if I'm not twenty minutes early.

Whatever changes on September 23rd between 3 and 4 in the afternoon- whomever I become as this new person in this new role- it will be built solidly on being an Elston.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 cute.

Our brief little photo session with the talented Jennifer Ickes from JMI Photography yielded some lovely takes. And now, I'm off to design and print the postcards!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A little piece of earth, and a hella lot of marketing.

Last winter, Joel and I went "ring shopping" a few times at his request; he wanted to know what I had in mind so that when it came time to propose, he'd have an easier time making the decision. (You can read the actual proposal story in the first blog posted here.)

We went to every diamond shop in the St. Louis Galleria, as well as a few jewelry stores in the area...and even a couple in Springfield. Really, the first store was enough to convince me that what I was looking for wasn't there- but it took several weeks to convince Joel of the same. There were a lot of lovely little rings in those shops to be sure, but a jewelry store is much akin to a used car dealership- and not long into the process could I look at a single ring or semi-plausibly happy salesman without the feeling that the entire thing was a set-up. A set-up to totally screw anyone blinded by happiness out of every penny possible.

Perhaps it's my background in marketing; perhaps it was because I already knew that branded diamonds (like the "Hearts on Fire" diamonds) are a way to add perceived value to a rock that is inherently the same as any other. And, while their is credibility to the cut of the diamond- not too shallow or too deep- making the particular stone shine differently, I didn't run into a single damn shop that had these "lesser quality cut diamonds" they poo-pooed for any sort of comparison to back their claims of superior stones- so how is someone supposed to really be able to tell what they are getting?

Then they try to sell you insurance. And insurance for the insurance. And upgrades. And "lifetime service plans". Then, after they convince you that you need all of these things that really mean nothing if you are indeed getting a quality piece of jewelry, you've racked up a price tag Coco Chanel couldn't afford- but that's ok! Because they have 30 year financing available.

All for a ring. A ring that, yes, does serve a very important purpose but you begin to wonder how paying $6,000 will keep fewer dudes from hitting on you in the grocery or convince your grumpy father that your fellow is really indeed serious about caring for his first born daughter. Will it really? More than spending $5,000? Or $2,500? $1,000? Or borrowing a ring from your grandmother? Meaning no offense, but no rock itself is going to stop the most butter-brained jackass from making a pass. And there certainly isn't a rock on the planet that will assure any self-respecting father that his daughter is in good hands.

But it is so ingrained in us. All of us, who grew up watching those lurid television commercials of young couples walking in snowy forests, adorning Christmas trees, or finding something special and sparkly in a private romantic gesture- all ending in phrases that whisper "Because she's worth it" "Diamonds are forever." "Timeless Romance." What the hell is that supposed to mean? You give someone a diamond and life turns into a fairy tale? Tell me, how many diamonds that you know of that have ended in divorce?

I remember one shop where I had actually found a ring that I did like. I wasn't in love with it, but it was very nice and it was my favorite of all that we had seen that day.

"Are you sure you don't want something bigger?" Joel asked me, turning over the price tag in his fingers.

"I have small hands, I really like the way this one sits."

"It is a little small." Said the saleslady encouragingly.

"Try the bigger one on, honey." Joel said.

"I don't like the bigger one, I like this one." I said.

"I don't know...." he looked at my hand fretfully, "I'm just afraid if I don't buy something bigger, people will think I don't love you."

My jaw practically hit the floor. I just couldn't believe it. I sat both rings down on that counter, thanked the lady, grabbed Joel, and bolted.

I just couldn't believe it. Joel- of all people! The least materialistic person I know; the guy who is happy without any fancy cars or expensive colognes or posh dress shirts. The guy who expresses his love by coming up behind you and kissing you on the neck, who tells you he cares by loading the dishwasher or taking the basket from you when he sees you carrying laundry upstairs. My beautiful, honest, unassumedly romantic boy had been sucked into a world where money equals love- at least, when it comes to diamonds.

And secondly, wasn't this my ring? Why the hell did he want to buy a ring based on what he thought other people would or wouldn't think of it? Infuriating.

Well, you know how the whole proposal story turned out.

I love my engagement ring so much, I really am not quite sold on the tradition of giving it up for a wedding band at the wedding. Even more so, I have this happy little joy knowing that, after a few weeks of pleading, Joel was finally convinced to trade in the years of jewelry brainwashing to get it for me. One small step for mankind!

Monday, April 18, 2011


I love giving gifts.

I love giving gifts so much that I will go out of my way to give to the people I love at completely random and unexpected times. If I have $20 in my bank account (and my belly is full), I'd spend every penny on something I stumbled upon if it was seriously perfect for someone. If I am fortunate to earn a significant amount of money more than what I need, I gleefully spend it on other people. Giving is something that really fills me with am immense amount of inner joy.

I get it from my mom. There are dozens of examples I could use to illustrate, but I'll give you one: no matter how much she may not have liked any boyfriend who has come before- and even not really approved of Joel the first year we were together- she would always give them "family" worthy gifts at Christmas. Generous gifts. How many parent do you know who have given their daughter's lame teenage boyfriend classy and generous gifts? Especially when said parent is probably secretly and silently hoping the relationship will dissolve as quickly as possible? Yeah, obviously my mother just can't help herself and the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The flip side of that coin is how awful I am at receiving gifts- or even compliments. I do just fine at Christmas when there is mutually gift-giving going around. But on birthdays, oh I feel so awkward. Overwhelmed and feeling an immediate urge to reciprocate- even though the occasion is not one that demands it.

One of the first things that came into my mind when it came to the wedding was how awesome it would be- to have an occasion, an excuse, an event- to give other people gifts. Afterall, it is customary to give gifts to people who help you out, to bridesmaids, to groomsmen, and to even the groom. Who cares if I don't have a wedding party- I still have a lot of awesome people that I love who will be there to help....which means gifts all around! And, being raised partially in the native American community- where the person being celebrated gives gifts to everyone else rather than receiving anything- I need no further excuse to spread the love.

That other side of the coin is lurking in the background. It's a wedding. People are going to want to share their own gift-giving joy by gift-giving to us. But the idea of registries telling people exactly what we want and requesting Lowe's gift cards (which we would love and use like crazy) seems really..... ungracious. If it's possible that doing something socially accepted and anticipated can be so, it feels like it to me.

Joel assures me that these things only help other people feel the joy of gifting while knowing that what they are gifting is something we can actually use. "Not that I think that anyone who knows anything about the school would- but you really wouldn't want someone to show up with a full set of crystal wineglasses when we have a warehouse full of them, would you?"

Well, no. But...but..buuuuuut. It just feels weird. Like a little kid with an unraveling, selfish Christmas list that rolls on with every materialistic desire. I had hoped for a little more time to contemplate this issue; the invites haven't even been sent to the printer yet. But, already I've had three people very merrily ask me where we were registered and what we wanted.

I suppose this wedding thing is an opportunity to let go of my unnecessary and inappropriate feelings of unworthiness when it comes to gift receiving; to develop a more refined and graceful manner in those moments. I will be biting my tongue tipped with flustered and abashed "Oh, you shouldn't haves" and "Oh, I can't reallys" and practicing the heartfelt "thank you so muchs" that really reside inside.

Today was the first day Joel complimented me where I just said "thanks" without giving him a full list of why exactly I didn't really look nice at all- its a step in the right direction, he did look rather relieved.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Marriage and Taxes

Out of all the well-wishes and jubilant happiness showered upon us so far, I must share this.

It so happens that our announcement fell during the equally urgent, less significant holiday of Tax season. Whereby which I found myself frequently on the phone with my accountant, who happens to be a very good girlfriend. While our conversations were primarily communicative on cinching up deductions, clarifying business deposits, so on and so forth- they we peppered with the squealing excitement of two little girls in the way that only little girls can be excited about a wedding.

Enter to said conversation:

"Is that all you need?" I ask.

"I think so, I have the routing number and checking number to get those submitted and paid. Oh, did you follow that link I sent to get your Federal PIN number?"

"No I haven't, but I'm right here at the computer. Did you attach it to the email?"

"No...the link is actually the work that says 'link'."

"Oh geesh, I'm so blind. I swear, my mind is running a million miles an hour in a million different directions."

"I know, isn't it sooooo romantic? (absolutely no trace of sarcasm here- the tone could have been copied straight from any Disney princess movie)"

"What, taxes?" Obvious confusion on my end. I'm trying to multitask clicking through the form of the Federal website for that PIN before she gets off the phone.

"Yes, of course! This is the last year you'll be filing as a single. *sigh*"

You, my dear, just make my day with your completely geeky sense of romantics. I do think I will be laughing over that one for quite a while. <3

The Emotional Trampoline of Creative Process

Although it causes us to bicker, fume, and frown to no end- Joel and I really do work well together when it comes to designing dreams.

For instance, yesterday evening we began to tackle how we want to run electrical in the two large, beautiful rooms downstairs- which further entailed tackling what those rooms might eventually morph into and how best to accommodate such things with said plans. How should the light fall? What kind of light should we use? How much electrical should we bring over? How do you differentiate different space with light? Where should the switches go? Every large project has a web of nuances that seems quite simple until you begin to put it on paper. Then, it becomes an all-out, certified, tasty creative mess.

I think we like it that way. One of us will draw something on paper. The other one will sit and think and say, "We'll this is nice but what about this?" and scribble all over the drawing. Then the other will say, "I like where you're going, but, I think the water hook ups are actually over here." "Are you sure?" Let's go check." And we'll run up and downstairs, scribbling and speaking in half sentences become more unintelligible to any onlookers as the process wears on. Sometimes, we'll begin to fight. I accusing him of being impractical and him accusing me of wanting to do something that will no longer suit our needs in x number of years. But, after a good meal or a couple of drinks, it all works out in the end.

No, it doesn't just work out. It works out to be something so much better than either of us could have done alone.

For this wedding, we two have so much more creative capacity than the barrage of websites and resources that have avalanched to my inbox in the last 48 hours. While I am overwhelmed by the amount of love that pours over such excited helpfulness. I wasn't expecting it at all! But being independent to a fault- and getting married to someone who is the same- I do hope you not think it rude when I say that it just isn't the best way to go about this.

I have done my fair share of reading about weddingness online and in-print to know what needs to be on an invitation, the top 47 places to buy a dress online, the top 16 ways to make your own party favors, the top 31 ways to save money on your wedding that you had never thought of before, etc.

I really, really love everyone's enthusiasm- but our best bet for making this truly an occasion that expresses what we're celebrating uniquely is not copying someone else brilliant tradition-bucking wedding ideas or picking out one of ten options on a particular website. Our absolute best resource for creative spark and awesome outcome is each other.

Joel and me- the "and" that falls between us when we work on a project we love. Not the witty authors of The Knot, Offbeatbride, or any other of those wonderfully creative, amusing, inspiring, fantastically designed, mind blowing blogs. Not anyone else's wedding- whether they be related or some gorgeous stranger in cyberland. And, possibly, maybe, not even what you may believe to be the best way for Joel and I to truly express our love and commitment for each other during said wedding- traditional or otherwise.

We will need your help.

I imagine I will be on the phone often with all of my close family, family-to-be, and friends seeking advice and support throughout this process. But, when I ask for your help, I'll be asking for you and your personal heart and mind creative ingenuity- not what you osmosed from your own wedding or blog reading- because if I love you enough to ask you to be involved in this, I'm going to want you. For real you. You truly.

Joel and I look forward to sharing the first phase of exciting, creative clash together. And I personally really look forward to working with Joel on a "project" that will bond the two of us into- among other things- creative partners forever.

Until then, the best thing you can give us is an open heart and a willing hand.

We love you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

They're here!

They came today- we love them! A big "thank you" to Jeremiah at Zoe&Doyle who painstakingly made these gorgeous rings just for us (the above is a photo of our pieces that he graciously took just before he sent them).

I would take a photo of mine actually on my hand, but I can't hold still long enough for the camera to focus.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ooo! I get to dress like a girl!

Said wedding is still a good ways off- but I'm just beginning the search for "the dress".

I don't know what I'm looking for yet. But, I've narrowed it down to a few specifications:

1. The dress has to be, must be, something that I would wear again.

There's no reason why a big occasion- especially one as big as a wedding- can't be an excuse to buy yourself something totally awesome that you've always wanted. After I fall in love with something, I wear it until it is a little scrap of a threadbare napkin held together by safety pins precariously clinging off my form. I really want to find a dress that I'm crazy about.

Besides, I can't think of anything more romantic than going out on a date with your husband years after you're married looking fantastic in your wedding dress. Of course he's going to be sitting across the table or dancing with your around the floor thinking, "Damn if I wasn't an extraordinarily lucky guy!" Perhaps that's it- I'm not looking for a Wedding Dress but The Amazing Dress I Wore On My Wedding.

2. The dress needs to be tea-length. 

Or shorter- not one of those full length, trails behind you for miles things. I do enjoy those sorts of dresses, but I'm getting married in the afternoon in the summer. This is just a practical specification.

3. The dress can't be black.

Or, primarily black. I love black, it can have black in it. Most of the pieces in my wardrobe that I love to death are black. And, while I don't think anyone's going to throw a fit about me not necessarily wearing something mainly white- I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get away with black. White, cream, blue, turquoise, red, purple, pink, and green are all in the running. Probably not orange or yellow.

That's about all I have for now. I've spent days searching online for cool dresses- and I've found a slew that  will not be The Amazing Dress I Wore On My Wedding....but that I someday would love to own. Here's a few for you:

By CuriouslyAlice. Duponi Silk....and sexy theatrical historical goodness. What else can you say?

By Ouma. I don't think I would ever take this off- I'd just run around the schoolhouse all day pretending to be a mysterious magician's assistant or some other form of a runaway carny. I'd probably be pulling coins out of peoples ears instead of getting any real work done. 

By Miss Brache. For my inner punk rocker. Look at those cute little ruffles on the behind! Ah!!!

By CheriseDesign. This is actually something very much like what I would like to get married in- girly, adorable, vintage inspired. I love petticoats, too. The problem is that the fabric just isn't quite right for the occasion- and even when I order fabric samples, I just can't envision what the dress would look like enough to make a good choice.

Perhaps, after going around to a few places and trying stuff on, I'll end up looking for a seamstress. It's all still up in the air.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Saga Continues

I could stand it no longer. In spite of Joel's urging that repeatedly contacting our jeweler of said rings would only make matters worse...I had to, I really did. I really, really, really could stand it no longer.

And so, I wrote:

Being in love with an artist who has a broad stroke of perfectionism in his being, I know that pestering you is probably the worst possible thing to do. So please don't feel as if I'm being pestersome- but, we are leaving next week to go to a family reunion of sorts...and I would really, really love to be legitimately engaged by then.
For the sake of there not being another family photo where I am left out- or forced to stand on the very edge "just in case anything happens" so they can clip me out...
For the sake of God and country and all things we may mutually hold dear....
Please tell me these have shipped. Or something. 
I deeply respect the space and time you need as an artist to complete your work with the highest of standards.
Thank you,
12 April 2011 8:29pm EDT

To my surprise, he replied within the hour! And this is what he said:

I sincerely apologize for the delay. Your rings are going to ship via overnight Express Mail tomorrow. When I arrive back tomorrow morning, I will post a picture of the rings so you know I am not blowing smoke :)
You will have them in time. I promise.
12 April 2011 8:52pm EDT

Oh joy of joys! I could hardly contain myself:

Oh, my dear, I could kiss you!
Except, I'm very soon to be engaged, so I'm afraid it would be terribly inappropriate. 
12 April 2011 8:53pm EDT

And his response:

12 April 2011 8:55pm EDT

For the sake of accuracy, the family reunion is actually Joel's Aunt's wedding- which I am so very excited to go to. His mom, her offspring, and his mom's sister are truly incredible, wonderful people that are just a blast to hang around. I don't think I could be around them for ten whole minutes without completely spilling the beans on our upcoming bash, so I'm glad that I won't be spilling the beans and everyone will know fair-and-square prior to our journey up north.

And, furthermore, I have never been left out of any family photo or encouraged to stand along the side of any family photo. Both sides of his family have been most gracious and inclusive in such things.

But, it makes for a better read than:

Holy S***birds! Where the heck are those rings you promised, you bum!?!?!?!

I am so tense with condense anticipation that even my earlobes are beginning to ache with excitement. I am so bad at keeping secrets.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spacial Musings.

I really have been trying not to post so much until those rings arrive- but they're late and I'm a little shaken bottle of gingerale ready to explode in bubbly excitement. (Hmm....tasty.)

I would like to use some of the wedding budget* to jump start our building projects downstairs- specifically in areas we are going to use for the wedding. I don't think it's a bad idea, I've been doing a little research on what people spend renting venues for weddings and receptions. While the "average" is a rather wide range (anywhere from $75 for a back room at a quirky local ethnic restaurant to $2,500+ for the rental of a hotel ballroom), it seems reasonable to "invest" the same in areas that we will later be able to rent out at the schoolhouse. Plus, with my previous "dream wedding reception" taking place at Symphony Hall in Chicago, there's no way I could be accused of being uneconomical by wanting to spend a bit in making Milton pretty.

The difficult part of our master plan for the two downstairs rooms will be deciding where to stop in the construction process, clean up, and prepare for the party. The rooms are progressing quite nicely, but its going to take a darn lot of sweat and time to get them to a bare-bones finish.

In lieu of thinking about refinishing 14,000 sq ft of hardwood floor, I've been merrily musing over the courtyard instead. And why not? Two weeks of wearing a dust mask and laboring on your hands and knees just isn't as pleasant to think about as whether you should get potted ferns or build a cool firepit in the courtyard.

The main ceremony on Friday will be taking place in the courtyard- but we'll also use that space for the fun bar-b-que party hangout on Saturday.

I'm convinced, even with the wedding being placed on the fringe of autumn, a couple of these suckers are going to be a must. We'd like to have our wedding in the early afternoon on Friday so we can all go to dinner and get a good night's rest before the long Saturday party. West sun on concrete? I've always wanted a couple of sunsails anyway- and anything I can do to enjoy an outdoor wedding and decrease the possibility of a sweatstache in our ceremony photos is fantastico.

And a billion bright and colorful paper lanterns would be nice.

Lots of potted plants- perhaps a new fire pit built out of those bricks we have in the warehouse. Should we rent chairs? Or just invest in a good collection of folding chairs that will undoubtedly come in handy around the place otherwise? Maybe we can just paint the steel folding chairs we do have lurking about bright colors.

In a way, this is probably the most exciting part of the whole wedding planning. We have a date, it's going to happen- but we haven't spent any money yet, so everything is a possibility.

By the way, we're looking for fun things to do on Saturday before/after the band so that people aren't hanging around staring at each other or starting awkward conversations. I'm thinking I would very much like a pinata. Joel wants a waterballoon launcher on top of the gymnasium and to spray paint a giant target on the back lot. Any suggestions?

*a currently fictitious amount of money that I am willing to spend on said wedding.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Invitation Banner!

While waiting for those rings to come, Joel and I have been working on our invites.

Instead of spending $6 for a formal invitation that you all will probably throw in the trash anyway, we decided to do something a little different. Using the wonderful printing of our favorite print source- we'll be sending out postcards with use two goofing off and holding a giant red banner designating the date of said weddingfest.

Joel has been a gracious help in the whole process; anyone who knows me knows my artistic direction can be a bit vague. It was nice to have all of the materials on hand though. I told him I wanted a "large, tattoo-like banner with something on it". The results have been pretty awesome so far.

 It was really swell that the whole thing didn't cost us a dime. We harvested a large piece of plywood from the warehouse that the former owner had used as a very poorly supported makeshift door.

 Here's Joel puzzling over how exactly to make such a vague suggestion come to life.

 Ta-da! Banner! All cut out with the jigsaw. The thing is pretty heavy, so we've decided that after the photo session, we'll also use it out front of the building as a sign designating the location on the big day.
Not quite finished with the painting yet- but I'm really excited!

Friday, April 1, 2011


Ahhh! I can hardly stand the wait. I just got this message from Jeremiah at Zoe&Doyle, the shop that is making our rings:


I just realized that I missed getting back to your previous message. Your rings will be completed and shipped next week. Tracking information will be sent in an email from paypal at that time as well.

Thank you again for your business!

31 March 2011 11:04pm EDT