Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas cards

Wow. I can't believe its been since Halloween since I last wrote. So much has happened. Duh! It's been two months! Before I get to today's post, I'll fill you in. We sold our house! Well, sort of. We are in contract and close on January 5. What a way to start off the new year. What a relief to know we've sold the house in time for us to move to San Francisco in June. The best part is, we are going to be renting back from the new owners so we don't have to move twice! Score!

Okay, back to today's post which is on our Christmas cards. This is the first year we've done one. I kind of always thought that only married people/people with kids sent out Christmas cards and I couldn't be more happy that we are finally married and able to send out our own. And just like all of the invitations for the wedding festivities, I decided to take these on myself.

Since we were a little behind the ball and didn't take any seasonal photos before the hubs started a really intense rotation for his residency program, I decided that a New Year's card might be more apropos, especially given the fact that we are going to have a very exciting 2015 due to our move across the country. Not to mention we had a very exciting 2014, you know, getting married and all. So a New Year's card it was!

As for the pinspiration, I have always admired the designs from Tiny Prints. I did a quick search on Pinterest using the terms "Tiny Prints" and "New Year's" and came up with a bunch of ideas. Does anyone else use Pinterest as if it was Google? I can't help myself! Here were my favorites:

Clockwise from top: here, here, here & here
I couldn't decide between the simple black and gold look or going the more colorful route and also using an individual photo versus multiple photos. In the end I settled on the old "the more the better" mantra: lots of color and lots of pictures. The winner was the bottom left. However, when I followed the pin to the Tiny Prints webpage, I saw that they offered it in different color variations. I ended up using their "bright green" option as my pinspiration.

Because I recreated their design in InDesign, I was able to make customizations that I wouldn't have been able to make in their program. I removed the "Enjoy 2014" box they used in order to fit more of our picture in. I was also able to squeeze more text and change the fonts a bit. I love the way they turned out. They tell the tale of our past year: graduation, wedding, honeymoon, selling the house and then give a glimpse of our future in San Francisco.

I ended up ordering them through Vistaprint, saving more than $60 that way. I even customized the back since Vistaprint offers free color printing on the backside.

I can't wait for them to arrive so I can get them addressed and mailed out! Happy holidays!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halloween Pinspiration

I don't know about you, but I love myself a little Halloween. Maybe its because my birthday is so close to the holiday (less than a week before) and growing up my parties always revolved around costumes, candy, hay rides and pumpkin picking. As an adult, my birthday celebration always just seemed to continue right on through Halloween. How fun is that?!

This year, we are headed up to Washington DC for the baptism of our niece. So, lucky for us we get to spend Halloween with my brother-in-law and his sassy wife and one of my other brother-in-laws (yes, I inherited four new brother-in-laws when we got married!), who are always super fun and love Halloween, too! So now, what to wear!

I have recently become obsessed with Rent the Runway. What is that you ask? Well, only the coolest concept ever for a girl on a budget who still wants to look fab for the bagillions of weddings she has to attend.  Seriously, obsessed is an understatement. So far I have only rented a handful of dresses (which all turned out amazing) but I spend a good chuck of time just browsing through all of the drool-worthy frocks and dreaming of when and where I could wear them.

One night as I mindlessly scrolled through hundreds of dresses on my phone while the hubby watched surf videos, a light went off and I thought that I could totally see some of these as Halloween costumes. So I did a search on Pinterest for "Rent the Runway" and "Halloween" and BAM!! All of the Halloween pinspiration you could ever want! With just a few accessories, these dresses are ready to transform into costumes!

Here are some of my favorites!

The Egyptian Prism Dress from RVN. Just a $30 rental!
Devil in a Blue Dress
The Blue Rose Bodice Sheath from Moschino Cheap and Chic. An $85 rental.
Caught Up In The Moment Dress from Herve Leger. An $80 rental. Get the leg warmers here.
Poison Ivy
Aqua Queen Gown by Badgley Mischka. Rent it for $80.

Orange is the New Black
Jump in Line Jumpsuit by MSGM. Rent it for $85.
A Work of Art
Derek Dress by Slate and Willow. Only $50.

If the above inspiration wasn't enough, check out this post from the folks at Rent the Runway for so much more. I so hope they do a 2014 version, too! So now I guess you're wondering which one I chose. Well, I did not use one of Rent the Runway's suggestions and instead came up with one of my own. My husband and I love Mad Men, so it was easier to convince him to dress up with me. And it is such an easy couple's themed costume and even a group themed costume. I think everyone is on board with dressing for the show. I am going as Joan Holloway and he is going as Don Draper. Here's our mood boards (Is it weird I made Halloween costume mood boards?)

Joan Holloway
Don Draper

For my costume, I rented the Found Guilty dress by Moschino. I found the wig on Amazon and I plan to make my own pen necklace, but you can find one online here. The hubby will just wear the same gray suit he is wearing to the christening, but swap out his tie for a black skinny one. I ordered him a hat from Amazon and he plans to sip on some old fashioned's a la Don Draper.

Of course I will post updates after Halloween to show you how everything turned out! What are you all planning to dress up as? Anyone love Halloween as much as me? Share your costumes. I'd love to see what you went as!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall wreath

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for fall. I am so over the humid, 90+ degree days and am looking forward to that crisp, cool fall weather and all of the awesomeness that comes along with it: sweatshirts, football, boots, pumpkin-spice flavored everything and my birthday!

So, despite protests from my summer-loving husband and mother, I jumped headfirst — and maybe a little prematurely — into the new season with a brand new front door wreath. What better way to welcome in fall!

There is a lot of wreath inspiration on Pinterest. It was super hard to narrow down my ideas and finally choose one to try and execute myself.

Burlap wreath, Moss wreath, Pink spring wreath, yellow spring wreath, Paper bag wreath, Dried berry wreath

In the end, I decided to go the most frugal route and use what I had on hand to create our new wreath. I decided to take a little pinspiration from a pretty spring wreath I came across (pictured above, bottom left). I already had the grapevine base from an old Christmas wreath I created and ditched last year in favor of a new ornament wreath. I also had the ribbon lying around, the floral wire and the chalk paint for the letter. Next step was heading to the dollar store for some faux plant/leaf decor and to Michael's to pick up a new "H" since my old "B" would no longer do!

Our new fall wreath!
The assembly was very easy. I bought two sets of each plant/leaf bundle at the dollar store. I made sure to get them in fall-y colors and picked out plants/leaves of varying lengths to add some interest once assembled. To keep each bundle together, I used floral wire, then to create the double-sided look, I then bundled the two bundles together like this:

Knowing that stems and wire are not very attractive, I took some of the ribbon and wound it around the middle, like this:

I then attached the bundles to the grapevine wreath base using more floral wire that I wound through the ribbon and stems to hide it from sight, like this:

You'll notice I also added a matching ribbon loop to the top of the wreath to hang it from the over-the-door wreath hanger I already owned. I attached the loop by weaving the floral wire through the ribbon and into the wreath.

Meanwhile, I had purchased the "H" from Michael's, which comes in either black or white, for about $3.99. I bought the white one knowing that I wanted to paint it a more fall-y color. I chose orange for several reasons. 1) it is obviosuly one of the most identifiable fall colors 2) we already have some orange accents on the porch in the form of a table that we picked up from the stripes in the indoor/outdoor rug there 3) I already had Barcelona chalk paint from Annie Sloan on hand.

The "H" took about three coats of paint because I wanted it completely, and evenly covered and it was kind of awkward to paint a complete coat each time without making a mess and smudging everything. I secured that to the wreath by hammering two tiny nails in the back and then wrapping the floral wire around those two nails and in through the grapevine wreath. This ensured a seamless look, both from and back, which is something I needed to be cognizant of since my front door is actually a window and the wreath can be seen from both outside and in.

Once the letter was attached I layered on some more ribbon. The maroon ribbon was very thick and hard to manipulate, so I decided to keep that as a trailing ribbon and added a burlap bow for more texture and depth. I love how it turned out!

I can't wait to deck out the rest of the front porch. I have something like this below in mind, but I think I'll wait until the calendar actually says its fall! Stay tuned for an update on that!

Photo credit

Creating my own wedding invitations

If you've been following along with my blog, you know that I tackled a lot of the wedding projects myself, or with the help of my mom and sister. One of those projects I decided to take on all by myself was the invitations. I already told you about the engagement party invites and the save the date postcards I created, but today I am going to tell you all about our invitation suite for the wedding itself and the thank you cards.

Our invitation suite all assembled and shot by our photographer Ann Coen

A close up of the invitation side of the suite

Our wedding invites, engagement party invites and save the date postcard in one shot.

Deciding what we wanted

Since our wedding required most guests to have to travel at least a few hours if not by plane to get to, and the hotels required a two-night minimum stay, we treated our wedding the same as most would a destination wedding. Not only did we have 150 guests at the actual wedding itself, we invited everyone to an after party directly after, a post wedding celebration dinner the next night and a brunch on Sunday. With so many wedding activities going on, we decided that an invitation suite would be the easiest way to capture all of the important information guests would need. Knowing the more pieces to an invitation, the higher the cost, I set about finding a source that I could order all of the paper and pieces and not have it blow our budget.

While browsing through Pinterest, I found an invitation suite I liked. It was clearly DIYed but still was high quality stuff. I followed the pin to a post on Wedding Bee, which then led me to the source: Cards & Pockets. There I found pretty much every option I could ever need. Pocket folders? Check! Inserts? Check! Belly bands? Check! Embellishments? Check! But the most important thing was the color selection. Our wedding colors? Check!

Creating the invitation and inserts

Now it was time for the hard part. Using the size templates provided by Cards & Pockets, I set about creating each piece that would need to be printed — an invitation and four inserts (a map and directions insert, a wedding festivities insert, an RSVP insert and an accommodations insert).

First, I had to settle on an overall look for the invitation suite. After a lot of trial and error, I figured out what I wanted in which colors, what fonts (Sofia and Minion Pro) I wanted to use and an overall theme. Then I just carried those elements through on each part of the suite.

The hardest part was figuring out where to place everything so that it all fit together when the inserts were stacked in the pocket folder. I wanted to ensure that each header for the insert was shown, especially because that design element of the sea plane and banner became such a big part of our wedding theme. As I mentioned in a previous post, I made the sea plane and banner come to life in the form of 3D flying table names.

The sea plane and banner from the invitation comes to life in the form of our table names

Here are some close-ups of the invitation pieces:

 I was most proud of the map I created to go on the directions insert:

A close up of our directions insert with a map I created


Once I was satisfied with the design and I had gone over the proofing process with my now hubby, mom and sister, I was able to send all of the pieces straight to Cards & Pockets through their website. I had a proof sent to me to be sure that I did in fact format everything correctly and nothing was cut off or just plain ugly. Then I pulled the trigger and ordered them. A few weeks later they arrived looking just as beautiful as I had hoped and ready for my mom and I to assemble and mail.

To put everything together, we did an assembly line. One of us put the inserts in a stack while the other stuffed them into the pocket on the right side of the pocket folder. One of us then put the belly band around the pocket folder while the other secured the starfish on the seam with a glue dot. Then we both stuffed the now completed pocket folder into the inner and outer envelopes.

I choose to not hire a calligrapher and instead used the same combination of fonts (Sofia and Minion Pro) from the invitations to address the envelopes. I purchased the envelopes through Cards & Pockets but had them printed up at a local print shop so I again did not have to wrestle with my printer. Does any one else hate trying to get things to align up perfectly with their printer, too?

The style I used to address the envelopes and the color of the outer envelopes called Straw Kraft, which tied into the color of the starfish embellishment glued onto the belly band, which was in a color called Lagoon.
The style I used to address the RSVPs and the color of the RSVP envelopes called Lagoon.

Tips for a smoother invitation process

First off, I want to say if you have the time and the skills, I highly recommend doing your own invitations. We saved a lot of money by me doing all of the design work myself. In fact, the wedding invitations cost us just $500 plus stamps when all was said and done. That is for a guest list of 170, and ordering about 100 of each piece of the invitation. What I will say is if you are easily frustrated by things and tend to be a perfectionist like myself, I would suggest not printing them yourself. There are a few services out there, like Cards & Pockets that I used, that will gladly handle all of the printing for a fraction of the cost of a professional and for a lot less hair pulling out.

Thank you cards

The front of our thank you cards on the left, and the inside of the cards on the right

The thank you cards were probably the easiest invitations to create. Instead of using Cards & Pockets, I went with Vistaprint, which I has used for the engagement invites and save the dates postcards. I used their dimensions for a 4 x 6 folded notecard. I designed both the front and inside of the card using InDesign.

The cool thing about Vistaprint is that they offer free color or black and white printing on the inside or back sides of their cards, too. Taking pinspiration from a few sources, I went with a simple look for the front side to share some of our favorite wedding photos. On the inside, I used a single image with the opacity turned down to 50% so that we could easily write a message over top of it. I loved the way they turned out and we received many compliments.

I know there was a lot of information crammed into this post and it all can be a little confusing, so if you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kentucky Derby Themed Bridal Shower

I know I am way late posting about this, considering my bridal shower was way back on April 26. Oh well. Better late than never, right? What I wanted to share with you all today is the incredible Kentucky Derby themed bridal shower my sister, my bridesmaids and my mother put together for me.

Why Kentucky Derby themed?

I'll start with some background. As you probably know by now, I ride horses. Way back when the hubs and I got engaged, I came up with the idea to have my bachelorette party at the actual Kentucky Derby! It has always been a dream of mine to go, still is, and here's why.

Because I was late to the whole getting married party, most of my good friends are already married and already have kids. Four of those friends had babies just a few months before we would have gone to the Derby. There was no way I could ask my friends to take the time away from their new babies/kids and pay all that money to travel to Louisville for a weekend.

So to make it easier for everyone, we decided to keep it local (or as close to local as you can with friends spread all around the mid-Atlantic) and went to the Virginia Gold Cup Races on the first Saturday in May instead of the Derby.

My sister decided to stick with the Derby theme for my shower, which was the week before the actual race. She kept the theme a surprise from me, which I thought was so sweet! I knew the shower was taking place when it did since I had to travel home to Jersey for it.

The Kentucky Derby themed invite my sister  had made for my bridal shower from Darby Cards on Etsy

Some of the Derby themed touches

My sister painstakingly glued moss onto horse moldings to create the most precious horse topiaries for the table centerpieces and as accents around the room. I know how ridiculously difficult and messy that is as I tried to make one eons ago, let alone make a dozen or so! They came out beautiful though and I still have one displayed in my living room.

Moss topiary horses as centerpieces and accents

My mom had an incredible-looking and quite delicious derby themed horse cake custom made for my special day. There were even little "mint julep" dessert cups to go along with it. Mint juleps are the official drink of the Kentucky Derby (see recipe below)

A derby themed cake and mint julep dessert cups filled the dessert table.

Throughout the room my mom and sister used old pictures of me riding, some of my old ponies nameplates from off of their stalls, old trophies of mine and even my horsey themed license plate from my first Jeep!

Everyone learned a little Kentucky Derby history to show-off at their Derby parties the following week thanks to some horsey-themed games that my bridesmaids thought up.  

One of the coolest aspects of the day, was that my sister requested on the invitations that everyone wear their favorite derby hat. As I am sure you know, fancy hats have become quite the Kentucky Derby staple. I thought it was such a great idea to get all the guests in on the Derby excitement as they planned their outfits for the day.

My sister even had special hats made for the bridal party and me with our monograms. Mine had my soon-to-be new initials! We all ended up wearing our hats the next weekend at the Virginia Gold Cup.

Photos of some of the guests and their Derby hats!
As a parting gift, each guest received their own pot of a mint plant. Attached to the pot was a recipe for creating your own mint julep at home! So clever!

My sister with the mint plants she potted up and cared for before the party.
Here is a little mint julep recipe from the Kentucky Derby itself for your next Kentucky Derby soiree.

Mint Julep Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Kentucky bourbon
  • Silver Julep Cups
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Hope you enjoy! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Our wedding day

As you may know, my now husband and I met in Surf City on Long Beach Island, New Jersey eight years ago. Our parents own beach houses across the street from one another, so I guess you can say I was the girl next door. A year and half ago, just after Hurricane Sandy had ravaged our beloved island, he proposed to me on our beach while on a visit from our home in Virginia to help our families assess the damage and clear out my house to be gutted. Just minutes after becoming engaged, we knew there was nowhere else we could marry except on Long Beach Island — where our love story began.

The timing of our wedding was very important to us. He was graduating from medical school in Virginia and we wanted our wedding soon after so we could take our honeymoon to the Maldives and Dubai before starting his residency in dermatology.  With a very busy wedding season already heating up a year and half out, we were very fortunate to secure the Brant Beach Yacht Club to hold both our ceremony and reception overlooking the beautiful bay in late spring.

We wanted to give our friends — many who had never been to Long Beach Island and were traveling from far away — a little taste of what the Jersey Shore is really like and not what they’ve seen on TV.  My mother and I set off to DIY nearly every aspect of our wedding to make it a true reflection of our love of Long Beach Island.

Since I have a background in marketing and public relations, I have dabbled a bit in graphic design and thought I'd put what I'd learn to good use and set about creating all of our invitations, signs, menus, programs, table name banners and escort cards. 

The invitation suite I created in addition to the engagement party invitation and Save the Date

I created double-sided thank you/menus and programs
I started with a seaplane and banner, which is a common sight when you’re laying on the beach in New Jersey, and used it throughout the invitation suite. For the reception, I constructed actual toy planes and banners with the name of each town on the island. These were strung up above each table to look as though they were actually flying. 

Guests found their tables using personalized beach badges — another detail unique to the Jersey Shore — with the name of the town/table on them. 

Beach badges were used as escort cards

Our sweetheart table was named after Ocean Beach in San Francisco where we will be moving to for Brian to complete his residency. 

Our sweetheart table with the special Ocean Beach banner for our upcoming move to San Francisco
We started with a muted color palette with gray and beige tones that you find in nature like in the driftwood and shells we used and then added some pops of color with coral and turquoise throughout. The centerpieces we put together using galvanized and rope lanterns surrounded by handmade nautical rope wrapped mason jars filled with hydrangeas and baby’s breath. Votive candles and shells were also added. 

The tables at our reception
The entire yacht club — both inside and out— was transformed through the use of tulle, burlap, driftwood, oyster shells, baby’s breath, starfish and shells. 

Just a sampling of the shell accents from our wedding
Other DIY elements included: the shell and driftwood bouquets for the bridesmaids and me; the boutonnieres for Brian, the groomsmen, our fathers and ring bearer; the ring bearer’s sign; the flower girl’s bucket; the “B & B” shell letters; driftwood frames; oyster shell garland; and more.  

A few of the DIY elements we tackled for the wedding
We did a “first look” on the beach before the ceremony. I am so happy we did this since we were able to knock out all of the wedding party and family photos and truly enjoy the extended cocktail hour with our guests. 

Our "first look" on the beach
The party got started early with a bellini bar set up prior to the ceremony for guests to have drinks and be able to toast us once we were married. Surely this helped turn our wedding into one of the most epic dance parties I’ve ever been to — and that was before anyone sat down to eat their salads!  

A bellini bar for guests to quench their thirst before and during the ceremony

May 30 will be a day we will never forget. Having all of our different groups of friends and family all together in one place for an entire weekend was the most cherished part. We could never thank everyone enough for all of their love and support throughout the wedding process and our lives, but we’d expressly like to thank both our families — especially my mom and my sister — for all of their help, our caterer Joe Dringus of Touch of Elegance Catering for making food that people are still raving about and our photographer Ann Coen for giving us beautiful images we will cherish for a lifetime.

Just a few of my favorite shots from the beach beforehand (above) and the ceremony/reception (below)