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)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Geeking out

I know I am late to post this, but I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by any longer. I was featured on another blog! For many of the other bloggers I follow, I know that being featured by a fellow blogger is no big deal. But for me, this was huge!

Stylish Patina is a blog I follow, and actually, the woman behind the blog Kelly, is somewhat of an inspiration to me. I stumbled onto to her blog after purchasing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. She has my dream set up. She runs her own shop selling Chalk Paint and Milk Paint, furniture and home decor. She dabbles in vintage rentals, which is huge for weddings right now. And she even teaches classes!  Sigh...hopefully one day that can be me, too!

But back to her blog post. Back in March she featured yours truly as a guest blogger and featured my post on one of my dresser redos, below. If you get a chance, please visit her site and check it out! And be sure to peruse through some of her older posts and even her Pinterest page. I know I often turn to both when I'm in need of a little pinspiration!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shell Wedding Bouquets

Now you know I have been dying to share all the details of our wedding. Yup. I am finally a Mrs! However, I so loved the way our photos came out by Ann Coen Photography, and am so proud of the hard DIY work we put in, that want to wait and see if I can get a wedding blog or magazine to feature our wedding. And they are kind of picky about those exclusivity clauses! Anyway, once I find out if we've been accepted or not, I will be sure to share all of the details.

But, that doesn't mean I can't start sharing some of the DIY projects we worked on for the wedding — and there are a lot. Between my mom, my sister and me, we pretty much DIY'd the entire shindig!  Starting with all of the invitations (engagement party, wedding, thank yous), we then tackled the table names, escort cards, signs, centerpieces, boutonnieres, flower girl basket, ring bearer sign, arbor and everything in between.

Today though I am going to show you the beautiful shell bouquets we made. These were so simple and very cheap. Much cheaper than going the flower route and perfect for our beachy wedding.

Aren't my bridesmaids gorgeous?

In the up close images of the bouquets above, you can see how mine differs a little from the bridesmaids. We used more pure white shells with mine and then added pops of color throughout. Theirs had more muted color shells. They also had turquoise ribbon wrapped around their driftwood handles to tie into the pops of turquoise from their necklaces and flower pins. Mine had cascading twine with shells on it that my mom had picked up on one of her many seashell shopping trips.

I originally found the idea on Pinterest, of course, and took pinspiration from several of the pins, but I mostly followed the tutorial for the one on top, below, which I found on Wedding Bee.

The top is me with my bridesmaids and our shell bouquets we made. The bottom row is pinspiration via here, here and here.
We used a Styrofoam ball purchased at Michael's, which come in a few sizes at varying prices. We figured styrofoam would help make the bouquets a bit lighter, but they were still definitely heavy. We joked we could club our hubbies with them!

We then started by gluing in the driftwood handles, which my mom had found while walking the beach on Long Beach Island. We used a lot of glue to make sure they were securely in place. I had nightmares about the shells balls falling off and rolling down the aisle! Thankfully, they held up well! The silly things us brides worry about!

Most of the shells were store bought, but a few on my bouquet were from some of the beach vacations me and the hubs had taken together. We mostly hot glued the shells of various shapes and sizes randomly around each ball. We did find though that starting with a few of the larger shells and then layering with smaller shells helped fill in the blank spaces the best.

For my bouquet, we also hot glued some shells to floral pins and stuck those in tiny crevices throughout to give it an even more layered look like the pinspiration images. We even tinkered around with adding some silk flowers like the Wedding Bee pinspiration (and pictured below on the right) but opted in the end to take those off for a more bridal (white) feel.

Here we are working away. It took the three of us a few hours to make four of them.
 I absolutely love the way they turned out. We received so many compliments on them. And the best part is, we each have a wonderful keepsake to remember the day since these can now easily be displayed in our homes, either on their own or perched in a vase.

Just a few more parting beauty shots...

Yes, that's my hubby. He's so handsome. I'm a very lucky girl!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Refinished and distressed dresser

So I just finished my first resale piece! My sister was kind enough to give me her childhood dresser that she no longer could fit in her guest room...for free. How cool is that?! This gave me an opportunity to remake this piece to sell instead of just refinishing pieces I already own or needed to use myself. I am so very excited! Here's the before and after:

It was a beautiful solid wood dresser but was just dated looking. The top was also scratched and one of the tracks for a drawer was disconnected, which I fixed using a new screw and wood glue before I got started.

I knew I wanted to go with the wood tone on top and use chalk paint on the bottom like I did with this dresser turned media stand. However, I thought that this dresser would look great distressed in a shabby chic look that is so easy to achieve with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and wax.

So the first step was sanding down the top with a hand sander since this part was being restained. The rest of the dresser did not need to be sanded since that is the magic of using chalk paint. Luckily, I had some leftover stain from another project.

It took about three coats to get it to the color I wanted and to cover up the scratches that I had sanded out. I usually like to give the coat a day to dry in between since I've been burned in the past with stain not drying completely. Always remember to wipe down about 15 minutes after applying the stain. Better to use more coats to achieve the right look than to have to start all over again if the stain won't dry.

I then put on a coat of polyurethane for protection and durability.

With the top complete, I then taped it off using painter's tape and got to work on the bottom. I removed all of the hardware and got rid of it. Some of the brass pieces were broken and I did not like the dated look so to me, they weren't worth saving and refinishing. I removed all the drawers and also taped them off around the edges so that it would have a nice, clean look when the drawers are opened.

I mixed a custom blend of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint using roughly 1/2 Aubusson Blue, 1/4 Old White and 1/4 Provence, all of which I already had on hand. I used Pinspiration from here and here. It took about 2.5 coats to get the coverage I was looking for.

Once the paint was dried (which can be in one day or less with chalk paint. It dries fast!), I started to distress the piece. Using a sanding block and regular sand paper, I worked my way around all of the edges of the dresser and drawers. You can see how this brings out both the stain that is below the paint and also the natural wood tone. This gives it a lot of character in my opinion. Like its been loved on for many years. See the details:

After distressing I sealed the entire dresser with Annie Sloan clear wax using a wax brush. Once the wax was dry, I buffed the dresser with a rag to give it a nice sheen.

I then added on some oil rubbed bronze handles that I purchased at Lowe's that bring out the darker top and darker distressed points.

I love the way the dresser came out. Now for the hard part...selling it! As you can see from the pictures, the dresser is sitting in my dining room. I don't have a garage or basement or anywhere that I can work on furniture. So for now, the dining room is it!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let's talk about wedding hair

With the wedding now under six months away, I guess it's okay to admit that I have kind of been agonizing over how I'll wear my hair for the wedding. Silly, I know, but I can't help it. There are so many options and pinspiration I am finding on Pinterest that I keep changing my mind.

Originally I thought all up. Having a beach wedding with the unpredictable weather and a likely chance of it being windy, I figured having all my hair up would ensure that my hair would look nice all day and all night long. I am thinking having it curled and then put up in a loose way, with lots of volume on top and definitely not structured. Sort of like these:

You see, I have very long, but very fine hair. It does not hold a curl for more than a few hours no matter how many tools I've tried and how much hair spray I use. I leave the house looking great, but in a few hours my hair is straight and ratty looking, kind of how it looked at the end of our engagement photo shoot. Notice the progression? No fun for wedding pictures. So that is why I've ruled out wearing my hair down, even though that's how I wear it most days.

But then there's my fiance. He's told me many times how much he likes my hair in a high ponytail with a little volume on the top. I wore it like that the first time we went out partying with each other and I wear it like that often when we go out. So that is definitely an option, too, so long as I can add some extensions to it for volume to dress it up for the big day. I don't want to end up looking like I have a rat tail by the end of the night! So now I am leaning toward something like these:

I've read all the bridal magazines and blogs that suggest that brides don't do anything too drastic from their everyday look for their big day, hair and makeup included. So that is why I am now leaning toward the ponytail look.

The other thing I'll need to decide on is if I want to where a veil, a flower in my hair, or both. When trying on dresses I definitely felt like more of a bride with the veil on but that might be hard to pull off with these bumped up and pumped up hair dos. Clearly, I like big hair.

So what do you think? Did you or are you agonizing over your wedding hair do, too? How did you ultimately decide? And were you happy with your decision?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Driftwood Christmas Tree

We plan to use a lot of driftwood when decorating for our wedding. My mom has so kindly volunteered to scour the beaches of Surf City, New Jersey this winter to find some large pieces we can use for part of the centerpieces, to decorate the gift and dessert tables and maybe even to adorn an arbor to be married under.

Pinspiration: driftwood centerpiece, driftwood garland, driftwood arbor
But unfortunately, the large pieces are few and far between. She has lucked out though and scored a ton of smaller pieces. She had the awesome idea to use some of those smaller driftwood pieces as the handles for the shell bouquets me and and my bridesmaids will be carrying. (More on those in a later post, I promise).

My mom is the kind of person that can't sit still. Like me, she always has to have a project to work on. So you can see her dilemma when she's sitting in front of a mini-mountain of driftwood. She just had to do something with it. With the holidays right around the corner, she came up with the perfect solution: a driftwood Christmas tree!

So cool, right? I asked her how she did it and it was really quite simple. She bought a wooden dowel. Then she drilled a hole through the center of each piece of driftwood equivalent to the size of the dowel. She also used a block of wood for the base, which she also drilled into, but not all the way through. She then slipped the driftwood of varying lengths onto the dowel, with the larger pieces mostly at the bottom leading up to the smaller ones toward the top. She then stuck the dowel into the wooden base, but not before adding a bit of wood glue for stability. She then fanned out the "branches" to give the tree some fullness. She then used a glue gun to add a shell at the top for a star (although she said she's waiting for the perfect starfish to really top her tree).

I love that she left hers very simple, as it fits in with the natural coastal vibe. But I can see adding some embellishment in the form of tiny, shiny ornament balls, or glitter to make it bling. The coolest part is, once the holidays are over, the "branches" can be moved around so that it lays flat for storage. Although, I think I would find a way to display it all year long.

Here are a few other crafty ideas I've found on Pinterest for decorating with driftwood.

Pinspiration: seahorse, driftwood orb, driftwood anchor, driftwood lantern, driftwood mirror, horse head