30 July, 2009

The Joy of a {Cup}Cake!

Wonderful article on Martha Stewart Weddings about cupcakes! I know they're becoming a bit over done, but I love them just the same. Read all about the wonderful designs, score a few new recipes and display tips here. I'm going to try the first ones this weekend. I'm pretty good with the meringue. The rosettes might be a bit of a challenge but I am sooo addicted to them right now.

Have fun!

2010 Preview Collection: La Sposa

Mercy! The new La Sposa collection. Stunningly beautiful. One of my all time fave designers! Check out the collection here.

Milwaukee Area Vendors:

Beratti Bridal

Kay Bridal Shop

Photo credit: 2009 LaSposa Bridal Collection. The Knot.

29 July, 2009

Love, love, LOVE these! Here they are at Paper Source (one of my FAVORITE paper stores on the planet!). Perfect for any party (including a Tiki BBQ). Check out the website or the blog for great ideas for a myriad of occasions!

28 July, 2009

Swoon! Check out the etsy shop here for full details!

photo credit: Joan Shum

A Little Bit of {Blog} Love:

Bring So-Cal wedding style to you with one of my new favorite blogs: Green Wedding Shoes

This blog is a fresh look at what's new and exciting in California. Beautifully designed and articulately written, Green Wedding Shoes is a tasteful triumph. Perfect for a crafty couple looking for something special. Again, the best weddings, regardless of budget are the ones in which the lovebirds' personalities permeate throughout the affair.

Give it a read! You won't be disappointed.

24 July, 2009

Top 10 Wedding Sites {That Aren't The Knot}

Information is everywhere. And it's easier to get than ever before. Part of the big 'ol interweb is jam packed with wedding information, ideas and advice. One of my biggest resources, besides my noggin was The Knot. I took full advantage of the notebook, budgeter and guest list features. It was helpful for sure, but there's so much more out there. The Knot, in my opinion, is really great if you and your SO have your hearts set on a more traditional affair. I found I really had to look around for sites with advice on more contemporary ides. I've compiled a list of some of my favorite wedding websites. The ones I have chosen deal with a range of genres. I've chosen them based solely on the type and quality of advice given, the overall atmosphere of the site and the satisfaction of the members. This list is in no way meant to say that the only ones worth using are listed here. This is just the very tippy tip of the wedding style iceberg. (I bold because I love....and because I want to be crystal clear here.)

Now, in no particular order:

1. Offbeat Bride. This site is amazing. Seriously. I have seen some of the most unique ideas and advice here. Stunning pictures and smart playful articles. Perfect for the couple who just may want to mix it up a little. Possibly one of the best for same sex couples, too.
2. Amorology Weddings. Stunning. Beautiful inspiration boards. A lot of pictures and stimulation. Great for a look at what's new and fresh.
3. DIY Bride. Love, love LOVE this blog! It demystifies the idea of a handmade wedding and gives well thought out ideas and great advice for adding personal touches to any wedding. Perfect for a variety of crafty brides.
4. The White Box of Weddings/Bespoke-A White Box Blog/The Milwaukee Wedding Blog. Milwaukee based. I love it. The whole thing. Monica Gill is the brains behind Milwaukee's premier wedding design team. They've really revolutionized the Milwaukee wedding scene. Look there for etiquette, ideas and insight into wedding and the hoopla that goes with it.
5. Emmaline Bride. A great one! I am a HUGE fan of handmade weddings and this blog is a great resource. One of their best features is the Featured Artist segments. Great way to keep up on what's out there.
6. 100 Layer Cake. Amazing! The color and inspiration boards are incredible. Some of the best I've seen. This blog, along with another really helped me to make my boards more striking and clearer in direction and vision. I really recommend this site.
7. Style Me Pretty/Little Black Book Blog. A modern classic. It's called the "Ultimate Wedding Blog" for a reason. A wealth of knowledge is available to you between SMP and its clever vendor annex LBB. I love this blog so much, I don't want to give away all of the exciting thisngs you'll find there! This was a big inspiration to me while I was busy planning our wedding.
8. Ritzy Bee Blog. Another hit! An amazing blog with a definite emphasis on the smaller details. This was one of the things I really loved about this blog. For me the beauty of an event is in its detail. This blog was really good for me.
9. Etsy Wedding. I am a HUGE etsy supporter and am currently building my very own esty site. I like that this blog centers on etsy and gives its readers a cross section of just what is out there. I made a lot of the things for our big day and I really respond to this brilliant showcase of esty's brightest stars.
10. Eco-Chic Weddings. Another of my favorite sites. Conceived by a former Martha Stewart employee, ECW really is one of the best out there. I love the fact that Ms. Anderson has taken the mystery out of eco-friendly wedding ideas and made them both more real and more accessible. I believe that the chic directive in the blog help to reinforce that idea that you can have an elegant, stylish wedding and not harm the environment. A grand slam in my opinion!

Well, there you have it. Ten of my favorite wedding sites. I suggest you give 'em a look-see and decide on some favorites of your own. Have some I missed? Leave them in the comments thread and I'll be happy to add them.

22 July, 2009

Poise Under Pressure

So you're getting married. Today. Everyone's there, all 125 of 'em. The ceremony is beautiful and everything you've dreamed of until.....

You find out the caterer didn't show. How would you handle it? Scream? Cry? Punch somebody? See what one wonderful Bride did in Charlotte. For the full story click here.

A big thanks to my friend for sending this my way.

From the Trenches:

A question from a friend:

Hey Erin!

I was just wondering, now that you’ve had time for reflection, what you learned from your wedding planning ordeal that you might be able to pass onto me in terms of advice. Anything happen unexpectedly? Would you do anything differently? Anything you wish you would’ve spent more time and money on or less time and money?


My Reply:

First of all, yes! Things happened unexpectedly. The morning of the wedding, my makeup artist called to confirm the time with me and all of my girls decided they wanted to have their makeup done too. I hadn't planned on that, so I ended up shelling out an extra $250! The banquet manager was giving me a hard time about the placement of our tables and she wouldn't move them to where I wanted them. After much coaxing, she acquiesced, but I really didn't need all that stress, which ended up making us late since I couldn't start my makeup until later. The groomsmen were a tad late and unruly, so wrangling them was difficult. There were a number of things that were a little wonky throughout the day. So, please, please please, have a contingency plan, because you can bank on the fact you'll hit a snag or two.


1. Well, I am so glad that I had a day-of coordinator. I think it's almost imperative for the bride to have someone to just take her phone and navigate the day. Even if it's just a friend who's good at events, I'd consider it. If I had been less controlling, I would have refused to take any calls that weren't from my Mom. It's just an incredibly emotional day. We're all good at drama that's scripted, but a wedding is challenging because it so emotionally charged for so many people.

2. I made a call sheet of everything that was in the wedding (linens, flowers, cake, favors, dress, people...etc.) complete with: Arrival Times, where it was coming from, contact information and who was in charge of it (i.e. Charise was in charge of placing our Waterford crystal champagne toasters. Jillian was in charge of the vows). My day-of was in charge of the list. He checked in with me periodically when things arrived, but I never knew if anything was late. Don't involve yourself unless the lateness is bordering on catastrophic.

3. I spent a little time in the room as it was being set up for the ceremony. I needed a little serenity before the craziness started. That, and, I was too controlling not to duck my head in and micro-manage here and there.

4. One of my 'maids was in charge of my health. She had granola bars, fruit, nuts and water handy (also my favorite candy in case I got fussy). She also made sure I ate some lunch. We went to Centraal. I barely ate anything. This one is important! Remember to eat a little something. Low in carbs, but high in protein and fiber. The chance you won't eat much dinner is high, so you want to watch your energy. Stay hydrated, but don't drink too much water....you don't want water to bog you down. I also suggest staying away from salty foods and alcohol for a few days. Stress and sodium will be hell on your system, not to mention the possible booze bloat.

5. Be sure to take some time for just you during the day. Seriously. Kick everyone out of the room, or wherever you are and just breathe. Relax. Take time to center yourself. Think about all the great places life has taken you and what that means for your future. Just positive things. You have to make some time for yourself. You may regret it if you don't.

6. Have a little time in the morning for you and Blake. Andy and I ordered room service and exchanged gifts. We just wanted to be alone for a little while. We knew we really wouldn't have that luxury later in the day. You and Blake are what the whole day is about anyway. Take some time to remember that.

7. When the reception venue is done being set up, have someone come and get you and Blake. You two should go in and see the room before the guests. It's a really great moment. Also, It's important to have a few minutes to re-acquaint yourself with the space.

My Regrets...

The cake cutting. No one saw it. We were rushed over to the table by the banquet staff and we had to do it really quickly, if we wanted to cut it for dessert. I did not like that. I don't think anyone but our photographer got a good picture of it. I would have taken more time with that for sure.

I didn't eat dinner. I was being pulled in so many directions, I lost my focus. Likewise, I had to get my makeup retouched, so I missed cocktail hour.

I forgot to toss the bouquet. That is possibly my biggest regret. I completely forgot about it and so did my day-of. Boo.

These are the three things I would have done differently.

I don't regret anything we spent our money on. Not at all. Our photographer, the linens, and the flowers were the really big ticket items (after food and booze, of course) and they were the things I really wanted to stand out. Between the three of them we spent more than $10,000. Totally worth it. The cake and my dress were the big steals. My dress was a discontinued design from the Winter '08 line and therefore half price. The cake was from Eat Cake on Vliet and she's a small business with only one part timer. Her ingredients are top of the line, most are imported and both cakes combined cost us about $800. We spent a lot of money on the venue and the food, but we knew that would be a lot. All told, we definitely tripled our original budget (something I don't let my brides do, but...meh) but everything was exactly what we wanted.

Well, that was long winded, but there you go. If you have any questions on anything or need any clarification, just let me know. I'm happy to help.

The more I thought about her questions, the more I thought it would be apropos to post them here. I think these are questions most Brides have at some point during the planning process. If you don't have a planner to help you hash some of these things out, it can be quite tricky. It has been approximately 4 months since our big day, but my answers haven't changed. In the end, no one can make decide but you and your SO. I does help, however to having a friend to listen and offer advice can help considerably.

20 July, 2009

Summer Wedding Favor Idea {So Cute I Want to Scream Edition}

I just gained a new follower on Twitter: Tie That Binds Weddings. Mekala Tennin, the brains and lead designer behind this incredible little shop gives us exquisite designs at affordable prices. Which is, let's face it something we can all appreciate, regardless of budget. I just wanted to share this:

I love it! It's stylish, clever and unique. Three of my favorite things! The best part?! It is downloadable! For $10 Tie That Binds will customize and give you the .pdf. You can download with as may reprints as you need. Go here for full details. I love clever favor tags and I love unique favors even more. This season I'm especially fond of seed packets, seedlings and plantable paper notes.

I will find out where this brilliant business is located (and swiftly too, I hope she's close for those of you who support regional business) and post updates. But until then, go here for the smartly designed website, here for the etsy shop (complete with a full product line) and here to follow on Twitter. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

16 July, 2009

{Etsy Sweets}

I have found a brilliant new shop! I love to make cupcakes. I do. I can't help it. They're whimsical, fun and oh, so lovely! Let me tell you about Layer Cake Shop in Chicago! Their etsy shop is literally where I intend to spend the bulk of my next check..... The most exciting thing (I think) is that everything is so unbelievably affordable. It's really encouraging that these crafty ladies have created a place for amateur and expert bakers alike. Their shop is inviting, stylish and oh so much fun to look at. I feel so lucky that I've found them. I just wish it had been sooner. My kitchen {not to mention my wallet} would be much better off. But enough of my blathering. Hows about I let the product speak for itself, hmmm?....

1. The Happy Hula Cupcake Kit. Um, hello? This is about the cutest darn thing I have ever seen. Chock full o' surprises, this kit has 67 items, including 24 cupcake toppers (a mixture of hula dancers, palm trees, hula musicians and more), 24 cake liners, sugars, sprinkles and bakery labels. All this fun for only, get this $12.00! You're practically stealing this! Go here for full details. You can also check out this dynamic duo at their website.(here you can find the cutest freaking cookie cutters ever)

2. Plastic Rose Cupcake Toppers. For a paltry $3.50 you get a set of 12 1.75 x .75 inch cupcake picks. $3.50?! You heard right folks. I couldn't believe it either. You'll find them in yellow, red, pink and blue.
3. Blue Swirl Cupcake Liners. These might be my favorite thing in the shop. I am constantly in search of decorative cupcake liners. I think the right ones can put the finishing touch on any batch of cupcakes. I also tend to be all about the details. I love showing my guests I've gone the extra mile and put some of my self into what I'm creating. These liners are standard cupcake size and come in a variety of color combinations. A stack of 45 will cost you $5.50 (plus shipping, of course).
4. Pink Decorative Sanding Sugar. I love love LOVE this. Sanding Sugar doesn't melt in the heat so feel free to add a little sparkle before or after baking. This 4 ounce package will brighten multiple batches of cookies or cupcakes and will cost you a mere $2.00. Available in a wide variety of fabulous colors.
5. Vintage Car Cupcake Toppers. So cute! They come in a set of four and each car measures approximately 2.5" in length. Perfect for lots of events. I saw these and my gears started turning. Oh, my what I could do with these! $3.25 for the set.
Once again, this is just the tip of the iceberg from the brilliant Layer Cake Shop located in Chicago. Do yourself a favor and get to either their etsy shop or brand new website tout de suite!
Photo credit: All photos are property of Layer Cake Shop. Please, be a button and don't steal!

10 Wedding Planning Mistakes

I've been thinking long and hard about what, if anything, I would've done differently during the planning of our wedding (and there were a lot of mistakes I could have made, considering my death grip on the "design reins" of our wedding). I felt kind of like a football coach watching a video of the latest game to identify the weaknesses of the offensive approach. Then I got to thinking about things on a broader scale. What mistakes do most couples make as they plan their way through the emotional roller coaster that is a wedding?

Below, I've identified the 10 biggest mistake to be made and hopefully given some insight on how to avoid them. Let's take a look, shall we?

1. A Lack of Personal Touches. I think the biggest, most egregious error I see happen when a wedding is completely devoid of the personalities of the betrothed couple. Trust me, I don't mean everyone out there should have a theme wedding (can you imagine, oy), but seriously, if I have to see one more wedding with the Sonnet 18 reading (not that I don't love the Bard) or hear "Amazing" by Lonestar one more time, I'm going to lose it! I want to see that the couple has had a hand in the decor, music selection, and menu. This day should reflect your life and give your guests a glimpse of the wonderful life you'll have together. Instead of traditional table cards, try naming the tables with places you've traveled as a couple, your favorite colors, veggies or fruits, or piece of trivia. Put the Jordan almonds away and give favors from the heart. We gave everyone one of our FAVORITE cookies from a local organic grocery store.

2. Not Knowing When to Save. Let's face it. The wedding biz is just that. A biz. There's a ton of great sources out there for no-nonsense advice, we all know that. But there are just as many sources looking to turn a profit. I hate to see couples spending money they don't have in all the wrong places. Get to know your budget inside and out. Set guidelines for you and your SO and stick to them. Decide on a list of splurges and steals. Creating a united front will help safeguard you from impulse buys.

3. Forgetting What the Wedding is Really All About. The wedding ceremony is the main event, people. It's easy to get caught up in all the hoopla, but failing to take the time to remember why you two got together in the first place can take the fun out of everything. Leave the w-word at home and go enjoy each others company.

4. Not Establishing Positive Working Relationships with Your Vendors. These people are going to be executing your ideas. They will be delivering the flowers. They will be touching the cake. You need to get to know them. I suggest you and your SO get out and talk with them. How else will you know what kind of an MC you've been saddled with unless you talk with them. Make sure all your personalities mesh well. You need to feel listened to and respected.

5. Thinking It Can't "Rain On Your Parade". Have a contingency plan. Nothing ruins a wedding like not having a plan B. This is especially true for outdoor weddings. Have an alternative location. The best thing you can do is give someone you trust a list of contact information and arrival times so you and your SO aren't caught off guard. Bring an emergency kit for any last minute catastrophes.

6. Ignoring the Budget. As you plan, it becomes so easy to say to yourself, "Oh, well it's just 50 dollars extra." So many couples start out so well...but then as time goes on and you grow weary of shopping around.....you look up and you've blown your entire apparel budget on a designer dress. Do not throw caution to the wind! Use your budget to figure out what you can cut, what you can save on and what you can splurge on. Budgeting will only become more important as you and you SO begin your new chapter. Consider your wedding a trial run.

7. Ingesting Too Many "Liquid Calories" the Night Before the Wedding. Never plan your bachelorette/bachelor parties the night before the wedding. Just don't do it. Try to keep the rehearsal dinner drinks to a minimum, as well. The last thing you'll need on your big day is to wake up puffy, bloated, sluggish, cranky and headachey. Or worse...hungover. Just try to do yourself a favor and skip the drinks the night before.

8. Forgetting the Supporting Players. Of course it your big day, but don't forget the people that helped the two of you get there. Be gracious and considerate. Do not bark orders or take tones with your vendors, family and friends. All of these rules apply to the attendants as well. They are your friends, not your slaves. Consider thanking them in your speeches and be sure to get them a thoughtful gift commensurate with the infinite amount of patience they have for you.

9. Leaving out your Leading Lady/Man. This isn't the 50's. There isn't any reason the two of you can't be equally involved in the plans. I suggest meeting to talk about your ideas together. You'll be amazed how excited you'll both get just knowing the other is interested in hearing your thoughts.

10. Taking Your Eyes Off the Prize. Ever been to a wedding where the napkins match the chair ties and the chair ties match the details on the Bride's shoes. Ugh. There can be such a thing as too much. Don't get weighted down in details. Remember what's really important to you. Spend time thinking about what makes your SO special to you. If you hit a snag, take it in stride and think of the big picture. Laugh! Remember to laugh.

photo credit: Hay Adams hotel, Washington DC

10 July, 2009

The Naughty Kitty Who Could!

Look at this face. See how adorable? How sweet?

Well. Don't be fooled. This is the face of a destruction hurricane. A naughty tornado, if you will.

This is the face of a four legged paper shredder. And a camera moistener. This tiny creature single-handedly created a lake on my antique coffee table (ice cubes in glasses are her Kryptonite). Of course this must have been after she got a hold of my invitations and reduced them to confetti.

I will rebuild the how-to for your enjoyment tomorrow....or maybe this afternoon, if I get the chance!

The camera is fine...

This is the face of a kitty who's grounded.

07 July, 2009

Grilling Me Softly Part Three: Broquets of Wisdom

Hello Everyone! Welcome to the final installment of Grilling Me Softly.

Summer to me means one thing. Cookouts. But, the perfect cookout can be elusive. From marinade to plate, grilling can be tough. So I decided to talk to the best darn griller I know this side of the Mason-Dixon line. My Dad. I asked him to share his top ten grilling secrets with us in hopes that we all can enjoy the perfect cookout.

Here's what he had to say:

1. Coat racks with Pam or vegetable oil if you are using a gas grill. Make sure the racks are clean. If you have a gas grill, put foil under the burners to catch most of the grease and grime. Get beer.
2. If cooking vegetables and meats, plan the cooking so that everything is done together. Let meat warm up to room temperature for about 30-45 minutes before cooking. Marinade your meat ahead of time. Using cedar planks, or mesquite, hickory or fruitwood chips adds a unique flavor.
3. Preheat the grill appropriately for whatever you are cooking. If you are using charcoal, make sure that the coals are all evenly heated. Barbecuing is slower (200 - 250 degrees) than grilling. Cooking slow works best in both situations. Different types of meat and different thicknesses require different cooking times. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. Use the center of the meat for the most accurate reading. Leaner cuts of meat have more flavor, but get tough if cooked past medium.The sirloin, New York, round and flank fit this description. The most marbled cut is a rib eye, which comes from the same piece of meat as prime rib. it remains a good steak even when well done. Tenderloin is the most tender, but not necessarily the most flavorful. Always use tongs; don't stab the meat. (We Nebraskans know our beef. Go Big Red!)
4. Be patient. Pay attention to the food without being overly fussy. Do not keep turning the meat over and over again. Get more beer.
5. Skewers work great for grilling vegetables such as zucchini or squash. Kabobs are usually cut into chunks a little over an inch thick and need about 12 minutes while turning often
6. Asparagus, corn on the cob or potato chunks do really well in foil. (Throw in a little rosemary, pepper and sea salt. Sprinkle with a little EVOO and you've got yourself some flavor!)
7. When cooking peppers, cook them slowly and watch that they don't burn.
8. Make sure fish is fresh. Always thaw frozen fish overnight in the refrigerator. Small whole fish will need about 7 minutes on each side. Large whole fish need about 15 minutes on each side. Salmon fillets will need about 6-8 minutes per side. Trout fillets may only need 4 minutes per side. Cook fish on an oiled grill skin side down for the first part of the cooking time, to keep it from burning and drying out. (As you know, fresh fish should not smell "fishy" at all. If it does, walk away. I try to purchase and grill my fresh fish in the same day. This will ensure freshness and flavor.)
9. Turn off the grill.
10. Get more beer and enjoy! (This one is The Hubbs' favorite! For me, a white wine spritzer will do perfectly.)

Well, there you have it. Straight from the Husker's mouth. Now get out there and enjoy this beautiful weather! Thanks Dad!

Pearls of {Marriage} Wisdom From A Mom

After the sordid topic of coin, I thought some lighter fare might be in order. My Mom is a smart lady (as are most Moms, I'm sure) and she gave me some great advice before Andy and I got married. She was always tasteful, articulate and careful not to give me so much advice as to cram it down my throat (for this I am most appreciative). I thought I'd ask her if she had anything to add, as general advice fit for any newlywed couples as they stumble through their first year (or decade) of marriage.

Here's what she has to say......and If you ask me, she sounds right on the money.

First and foremost.......under NO circumstances go to bed angry or let either of you leave the house angry....for obvious reasons.

Communication is MOST important - - you don't have to agree - you can agree to disagree - just talk to each other!

Never wear each others underwear!
(I thought this was hilarious! I'd be suspicious if I caught Andy in my frillies)

For every considerate or unexpected niceness your spouse commits - - always repay double.
Also, be not afraid to commit a niceness even if you don't feel your spouse deserves it - you'll feel good about yourself and that goes a long way to bettering difficult times (as long as you don't brag incessantly about it)

Hold hands!

Never go into marriage thinking that you can change your spouse - - - gently 'train' possibly but trying to change only results in obstinacy. Besides, you fell in love with him (her) the way they are.

Tired of doing the same old chores? trade responsibilities for a week - it's amazing how nice it is to get back to normal.

Never, never berate in public - - that means close friends also - - whatever the problem is, it belongs to the two of you only

Hold hands!
(Listed twice, because it's so important)

Thanks Mom, for the awesome advice. What advice did you get from friends or family? List it below. Good, bad and hilarious, all advice is welcome!

03 July, 2009

Grilling Me Softly: Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of Grilling Me Softly. If you'll remember, I'm giving up some of my favorite recipes in the name of the upcoming holiday. So lets get started....

Side Dishes

Corn on the Cob Ala My Mom in Nebraska

You'll Need:
1-2 Fresh Corn Cob per person
Cracked Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Aluminum Foil

1. Grease grill grates and start grill and set to medium high heat.

2. Divide aluminum foil into rectangles slightly larger in size than the corn. Place corn in foil. Season with olive oil, rosemary, black pepper, sea salt and rosemary to taste.

3. Wrap foil around corn cobs, twist ends and place on grill. Turn occasionally to avoid overcooking. Grill about 10 minutes. Unwrap, arrange on platter and serve.

Summer Tomato Salad

You'll Need

1/4c white wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped, chile pepper (serrano, thai, or jalapeno)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
4-6 large tomatoes of varying colors
1c thinly sliced yellow onion

1. In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, salt and green chile. Toss with with onion and set aside for 5 minutes in order for the flavors to blend. Add tomatoes and combine thoroughly. Set aside 15 minutes before serving.


Drunken Angel Fruit Salad

You'll Need:

1c diced: pineapple, mango, papaya
1c sliced: strawberries, mandarin oranges, banana
1c. whole: raspberries, blueberries
1c. sugar (or 1/2c Splenda)
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Spiced Rum to taste (for me, 3 tbsp.)

1. Combine fruit in large serving bowl. Add sugar and rum to fruit and combine thoroughly. Set aside in fridge 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Chocolate Honey-Pies

You'll Need

3/4c all purpose flour
1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (sadly, I never use butter, only margarine for me...)
2/3c sugar
1 large egg (I substitute 2 egg whites)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 pint strawberry ice cream, slightly softened

1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a electric mixer, mix sugar and butter until light. Add egg and vanilla until evenly mixed. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Mix in chocolate chips by hand.

3. Spoon dough onto baking sheets, be sure to space them far apart. Spread dough out into rounds. Bake, switching sheets from bottom to top halfway through. Edges of the rounds should be firm, not hard (about 15-20 minutes). Transfer to racks to cool completely.

4. Assemble sandwiches: Spoon some ice cream onto the flat side of half the rounds. Cover with the remaining rounds. Press gently to form the sandwich. Freeze until firm, approximately 1-2 hours.

Drinks....(everyone's favorite course, I think)

Rum Punch

You'll Need:

1 1/2c light rum
3c orange juice
3c pineapple juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tbsp cranberry juice
2 tbsp grenadine
ice cubes
lime, sliced for garnish

1. In a large pitcher combine rum with the juices and grenadine. Stir until well thoroughly blended. Divide mixture between ice filled glasses. Garnish lime and serve.

Classic Limeade

You'll Need:

3 cups freshly squeezed lime juiced (about 25 limes)
2 cups superfine sugar
4 cups cold water
4 cups ice cubes
2 limes sliced for garnish

1. Into large pitcher, strain citrus juice, mix with the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the water and stir again until combined (I suggest testing a spoonful, you may need more sweetener). Add ice to fill and a few lime slices.

Well, there you have it! My favorite summer menu! I hope you can enjoy the recipes I shared with you all.

Have a festive and SAFE holiday weekend!

02 July, 2009

The Business of Marriage: Top 6 Newlywed Money Mistakes

Disclaimer: The Business of Marriage series is just meant to be a collection of my observations and conclusions of how people spend. Most of the information will of course be based on The Hubbs and I. After all, we're still learning how to be married, not to mention identifying our financial mistakes. I thought it might be nice to chronicle them here. Maybe it will save some of you the crazy-making money fuelled arguments The Hubbs and I stomped through.

I know, Holy Matrimony is supposed to be a light, fun place to go for all things wedding. However, part of a planner's job (the most important part, if you ask me) is to help two different people, nay, two different SPENDERS come together and create something beautiful. During the wedding process you have a lot of time to observe how two people spend and how different their money habits are. It can be a big eye opener. Hence, this series.

We all know that the finances of the newlywed span everything under the sun, but from what I've seen, I think there are six major pitfalls that every couple can avoid. So, sit back and enjoy....if "enjoy" is really even the word.

1. Keeping Money Issues Hush-Hush. A HUGE no-no. "Mo money, mo problems", as they say. Finance starts nearly all major arguments between newlyweds. Ugly, but true. So some couple decide that avoid the arguments, the solution is to avoid the topic completely. Au contraire, mon ami. Communication is the key to any successful long-term relationship so it stands to reason that airing your dirty financial laundry is no exception.

In a perfect world, all couples would have this conversation before swishing down the aisle. I mean, there are awesome surprises that await you ("By the way doll, I happen to be fluent in Mandarin") and there are not-so-awesome surprises ( Hey babe, I forgot to tell you- I just bought an H2, fully loaded. It rocks, but now I'm $100,000 in debt"). Full disclosure is the name of the game.

2. Being Budget Shy. Okay, this is a big one, too. Let's face it, you're forcing two spending and saving habits into one household. If you don't know what you're doing this can be a lot like trying to shove 50 lbs of manure into a 10 lb bag. A hot, wet mess.

The solution? Simple, well, "simple-esque". If you had a budget before the "I do's" (5 points for you, by the way) you have to throw it out and make a new one with your spouse. Include both of your income, debts and monthly expenses. This will help ensure that neither you or your savings account will suffer.

You need to write down fixed expenses (rent, car payments, insurance premiums etc.). I also suggest adding a monthly payment to your savings account (treat it like a fixed expense). Then write down all of your flexible expenses ( groceries, miscellaneous expenses, ATM withdrawals etc). Track your spending for a few months and see where your money goes. It will help you find the places for financial improvement.

3. Letting One Person Wear the Financial Crown. So, after the dress is cleaned and the linens returned, the real work starts. Who does the taxes? Who pays the bills? What account should the automatic payments come from? Ugh. So many decisions. What to do? One of you may emerge as the financial leader, you may share the responsibility or you may trade off each month. None of these are bad choices as long as both of you are OK with the decision.

You both should know exactly what's going on with your money and you should both understand the day to day dealings of your new household. Neither of you should feel excluded. Likewise, you should know each others account information in case something should happen. Each month, get together for a little financial romp. Talk about the state of things, go over your budget, go over expenses, and review your savings.

Please make sure, if you choose to combine your assets, major purchases and savings accounts are in both of your names. This will help the both of you have access to them and maintain a credit rating. You don't want to learn during a divorce that the car and savings account weren't really in your name.

4. Letting Debt Follow You Down the Aisle. If one of you brings debt into the marriage; it will belong to both of you. Just develop a plan to pay it off. Keep in mind, should you decide to combine your finances, debt will hurt the credit score of the other person. This may make it difficult for one or both of you to get credit later. Keep existing debt in one name only. Also, don't go into debt just to pull off the wedding of your dreams. Not a good idea.

5. Making Mountains Of Molehills. Compromise, Compromise, Compromise. Try not to turn every financial hiccup into a verbal boxing match. Little things do add up and they will get in the way of financial growth, but pick your battles. Try to work a little "mad money" into your budget. This is money the two of you can spend however you wish. On the big stuff, always consult one another. It will go a long way in the long run.

6. Living Without a Contingency Plan. No one likes to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of life, but unfortunately these things can sneak up on you like a bad tan line. Assess your emergency money stash. The rule is (according to Oprah), every couple should try to have enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses. If this figure seems excessive, then you need to make sure you have plenty of insurance coverage. Life, auto, renters or homeowners. Married without a pre-nup?? Draft a post-nup with your lawyers....it's never a bad idea to protect the financial interests each of you brought to the marriage. (Sounds harsh, I know, but that's life. If you can't talk about finances with your SO, what can you talk about?) Likewise, get together and draft a living will to properly express division of property in the event of passing.

There you have it! I know finances are serious, but they are important. Not to mention most arguments between couples are started by them. I just wanted to give you a little leg up on all of that. My next post, will be fun. I promise.

01 July, 2009

Grilling Me Softly

Well, the holiday weekend is nearly upon us and what better way to celebrate than with a BBQ? I love throwing summertime parties but unfortunately, this year time is working against us. With our honeymoon rapidly approaching, The Hubbs and I just don't have a ton of extra money to spend on a big, Independence Day party. Boo.

Instead, to quench my insatiable thirst for grilling and all its trappings, I've decided to include some of my favorite cookout recipes. If I can't use them, I might as well share. Enjoy!

Starters....or Appi-teasers if you like cutesy a play on words like I do!


You'll Need:

1/4c. chopped scallions (if the scallions in your area are questionable, you can substitute green onions)
2 tsp. sodium-free soy sauce (the hard stuff is fine, I just usually err on the side of health)
2 1/2 tsp. grated, peeled ginger (you can use the packaged ginger if you wish...)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c teriyaki marinade (the thicker the better)
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (feel free to omit this if you like, I really don't like the added oil)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1 1/2 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey (my favorite!)
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
one egg white

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine egg white, scallions, ginger, oil, garlic, and pepper. Whisk until properly blended. Add meat and mix with your hands until combined. Shape into approx 30 1 1/2" balls (I use a large melon baller to guarantee uniform size)

3. Spray a large skillet, wok or, meatball grill basket. Add half the meatballs and saute approx 5 minutes, or until evenly browned on all sides. Brown remaining meatballs.

4. Arrange meatballs evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the teriyaki sauce. Bake 20 minutes or until cooked through and evenly glazed.

5. Insert toothpicks, garnish with sesame seeds and arrange artfully on the platter of your choice.

Spinach Artichoke Dip (perhaps my signature starter)
Disclaimer: I have enormous issues with food and calories, but mostly fats. Namely, saturated fats. If you know me, you know that. I like, nay LOVE being the hostess with a variety of diet conscious food options at her parties. I can't help it, I'm down with the sickness, so they say. That said, this recipe is printed the way I make it, substitutions and all. If you don't go in for this sort of thing, feel free to substitute my substitutions! "Viva la resistance!"

You'll need:
2 8oz blocks of fat free or 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
1 pint fat free sour cream
2 6 oz. jars artichoke hearts, drained and chopped ( or 1 14oz. can, but jars taste better to me)
1 cup reduced fat Mozzarella cheese
1 cup reduced fat Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP fat-free plain yogurt (most recipes call for mayo, but I cannot STAND it; feel free to omit this entirely)
1 box frozen spinach, chopped, thawed and drained (make sure you don't buy the kind with the stems in it-a disaster will surely ensue)
1 large onion, finely chopped and sauteed
3 TBSP minced, roasted garlic (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
pita wedges, crudites or crostini for serving
paprika for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream. Fold cheese mixture until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and fold. Once mixed, fold in artichokes, spinach and onions until blended.

3. Add garlic, salt and pepper (to taste). Spread mixture into a lightly greased 9" glass pie plate. Spread mozzarella cheese on top and sprinkle with paprika for some color. Place into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until heated evenly. Serve with pita wedges or crudites.

Grilled Scallop Kabobs and Seasoned Potato Wedges
You'll Need
2 lbs large sea scallops
cayenne pepper
sweet potatoes, boiled (I usually figure 1 potato per person)
1 cup of your favorite glaze (my fave? Chile lime glaze, usually a crowd favorite. I make my own, but you can find it in any grocery store)
10" bamboo skewers
aluminum foil

1. Prepare your grill for direct grilling on high heat. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 10 minutes. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and slide onto skewers. Slice boiled sweet potatoes into 1 1/2" wedges.

2. Place potatoes on half of grill brush with oil. Place scallops on the other half and brush with glaze. Turn potatoes occasionally until grill marks form and knife pierces with a little resistance (about 8 minutes). Cook scallops until grill marks form (about 3-4 minutes per side). Remove potatoes from heat, season with salt and pepper (use cayenne sparingly for extra kick) and serve. Remove scallops from heat, brush again with glaze and serve.

That's a lot of information! Tune in tomorrow for part two: Sides, Desserts, and Drinks. Yum!
You're probably wondering, "What, What?! No meat recipes?". Well, maybe tomorrow. I wanted you all to have something a bit different.

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma