Friday, November 30, 2012

Giving Thanks

So our photographer got delayed editing our wedding photos and we didn't receive them last week after all. Womp womp! I think my mom is more upset than Justin or me. I've gotten a few emoticon embellished texts from her expressing her dissatisfaction with how long the photos are taking. While I would have liked to see the photos by now, I love our photographer and I know that he's just making sure he edits everything to its fullest potential so that we have beautiful mementos to last us a lifetime.

Meanwhile, last week I celebrated my first married Thanksgiving with my new brother and sister in-law and it was phenomenal, if I do say so myself. Justin's brother Mike and wife Jessica live in Chicago and graciously came out to LA to join Justin and me for the holiday. Jessica and I both love to cook and the boys love to watch football and play guitar together so it's really the perfect holiday for everyone.


We started Thanksgiving day at 9:30 am watching the Detroit Lions game while drinking mimosas and eating a breakfast casserole I made in the crock pot overnight. I sort of combined my mom's sausage, egg and cheese casserole recipe with this crock pot one so it'd be ready when we woke up. All we had to do in the morning was brew some coffee and pop some champagne!

Sadly the Lions lost, so the ladies got started on the Thanksgiving meal. Since there were only four of us I was just planning to roast a turkey breast, which is more on my comfort level. But my sister-in-law went to culinary school and has no fear of large birds so she offered to roast up a whole turkey for us. It was inspiring to watch her confidently tackle the 16 pounder, stuffing it with leftover orange peels, onions, carrots, celery and coating it with a mixture of butter, poultry seasoning and a few other spices.


Jessica also made a yummy pomegranate salad, garlic mashed potatoes, the gravy and glazed carrots.


I contributed my favorite dijon-braised brussels sprouts, cornbread stuffing, bourbon vanilla cranberry sauce and a caramel pecan tart that I never got a picture of :(




Justin said it was his favorite Thanksgiving meal EVER and we all commented on how thankful we were for our families and starting new traditions together. As you know, Mike and Jessica also got married this year, so it's really great to have another couple to figure out the married life and family changes with. It's a huge bonus that I just adore the girl Mike chose to marry. My mom and my dad's sister have been close for as long as I can remember, and I always hoped to have a sister in-law I could call a friend too. I'm so thankful to have added another amazing sister and friend to my life, and especially one who promises to give me some kitchen tutorials in the near future!

Jessica is already great in my book because she has good taste in men, likes to cook, likes to eat and likes to travel. But then she suggested we make tamales out of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and I was officially in love. I LOVE tamales! They remind me of home and specifically home during the holidays, since my mom makes up a big batch of them for Christmas every now and again.


Justin and I both got a tamale tutorial so we can make them again in the future. Our 'males contained turkey cooked with onions and garlic and mixed with tomatillo salsa, re-fried beans, cilantro and cheese.



They turned out awesome and Justin has been eating them like candy. I put about 12 in the freezer so we don't demolish them all at once. We go almost the entire year without eating tamales for some crazy reason, and then the holidays remind us how awesome they can be.

I have to also give a shout out to TCU for making a great Thanksgiving even better by beating UT! As always, I'm thankful I'm a Frog :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DIY Wedding Flowers

Good news! My photographer says I should receive our wedding photos this week! I'm so anxious to see them but also nervous at the same time. There are portions of the wedding festivities that I missed entirely while hiding out at the venue so Justin wouldn't see me and while taking photos before and after the ceremony. I haven't seen any pictures of the guys getting ready and Justin and I missed the whole cocktail reception since it took place while we were getting our photos taken together. Seeing those photos will be like experiencing some of the wedding moments for the first time. I was so heavily involved in the planning of the wedding that it was hard to relinquish control and not know exactly what was going on every second of the event. I am fully aware of how much I sound like a freak. I won't make matters any better by telling you I thought it'd be fun to control do my own flowers too.


To save money, my month-of coordinator advised me to do as much of the wedding flowers as possible on my own. She did not recommend that I attempt my own bouquet (apparently they are quite tricky) so I hired a florist to do my bouquet, the boutonnieres for the men, and some minimal ceremony decor. I took on the bridesmaids' bouquets and the centerpieces for the reception with the help of my family, my mom's best friend Jane and my sister's boyfriend Cody.


I had this fantasy of strolling the Santa Barbara farmer's market with a steaming latte in hand, completely relaxed and happy at the thought of saving thousands of dollars on flowers by doing them myself. While the farmer's market itself was pretty breezy, putting together centerpieces the day before your wedding is a bit of a logistical stresser. Since I had a Saturday wedding, we purchased the flowers Friday morning and needed to have them done by the time we left for the rehearsal that evening. We were dropping off all of the wedding decor, wine, printed materials, etc. the night of the rehearsal and luckily the winery agreed to store the flowers in a cool room away from the sun. I was going for a wildflower winery feel with the florals, so this photo I found on Pinterest inspired me to spend the months before the wedding collecting and cleaning wine bottles to use as vases.

(Source: Pinterest.com)

After filling the wine bottles with fresh water we started arranging the centerpieces. I purchased all of my flowers for this project at the Farmer's Market for around $100. I was limited in the quantity of each type of flower available so every centerpiece was a little different, which was part of the fun.




We completed the wine bottle centerpieces with custom wine labels, which served as the menus for dinner.


The wine label menu was actually something my caterer suggested to save space on the tables since we were having a family style dinner service. There were two wine bottles placed at each table, and each were labeled front and back. I found Nancy Nikko Design on Etsy and she incorporated my oak tree theme and menu on self adhesive wine labels. She was excellent to work with and made sure I received my items in time.


I must admit to having a minor melt down when I realized that the labels weren't working quite as well on the rounder bottles that usually hold white wine. Their circumference must not be consistent from top to bottom because minor bubbling occurred. With only a few hours until I was supposed to leave for the rehearsal I was in a panic thinking I wouldn't be able to use the labels that had bubbled. I had stupidly only ordered as many labels as I needed so I had to make it work. My family calmed me down and we decided to use them anyway rather than have missing elements.


In addition to the wine bottle centerpieces, I had also drawn more inspiration from Pinterest for a lavender-lined hurricane candle to adorn the center of each table with the wine bottles on either side.

(Source: Pinterest.com)

When I mentioned this idea to my florist, she was hesitant to use fresh lavender since the flowers would be set outside hours before the wedding and they wouldn't be in water in this case. I purchased dried lavender from her instead and rented her hurricanes. My sister and her boyfriend Cody assembled our version of the lavender candles. If Cody doesn't make it through law school, I think he has a future in floral arrangement ;)


Assembling these items ourselves saved me around $12 per candle compared to having the florist do it. We had around 15 hurricanes so that was a savings of nearly $200.


In keeping with the lavender theme, I ordered dried lavender bunches online from KoyalWholesale.com for the bridesmaids' bouquets. I kept it simple and tied them with lace ribbon and twine that I had leftover from other projects. All six of them took under thirty minutes and cost less than $100.


Unless flowers are one of your biggest priorities for your wedding, I would recommend going the DIY route to save some cash. Although stressful at times, everything came together as I had envisioned it in the end and I saved thousands of dollars to put towards other elements of the wedding. To be honest, I liked the simple lavender bouquets I made on my own more than my own bouquet that I paid way too much to have done. Le sigh.


UPDATE: Now that I have my professional wedding photos I wanted to add a few to give you a better idea of how the centerpieces looked all together.