Tis the season for lots and lots of holiday parties. This weekend we had two back to back white elephant gift parties, and the weekend before that was tamale making and cookie exchanging. Throw in the obligatory ugly christmas sweater and it’s been quite a merry time. I love all the cooking and baking and rushing around though. It’s hectic, and we can’t always do everything, but it’s worth it to see old friends and eat tasty treats.

I’ve always been fascinated by Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Any book, or movie on the subject I’m instantly drawn too. That’s why a few years ago I picked up Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. It wasn’t until his passing that I finally got it off the shelf and started reading. It’s fascinating, and very long. I’m only half way though Book 1 (of 2) but I definitely recommend it to anyone else who’s interested in the history of South Africa and this amazing person.

Our wedding was featured on Green Wedding Shoes last week! It’s pretty cool since that was a blog I started following years and years ago… probably before I even met Matt. In the post there are some pieces I wrote about our design inspiration and some tips for other brides. And of course the brilliant photos by Jasmine of Let’s Frolic Together and the fun video by Stephanie Collins.

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Dec 13, 2013

Yep, another week has come and gone with nary a blog post from me… oh well. I’m determined to not feel guilty.

(taken by my parent’s lovely fire last weekend…)


Here are some things I found and loved this week:

– Our wedding was featured on Green Wedding Shoes yesterday! Check it out!

– The most talented dog band sings for a cure.

– Need a laugh this Friday? Watch this. All your problems will melt away…

8 Things A Playwright Can Teach You About Freelancing.

– The next time a sexist makes a derogatory comment, remember these awesome comebacks.

– I LOVE this West Jet Christmas Miracle video. OMG.

– My friend Emilee has a 12 Days of Christmas Crafts series! It’s AMAZING!! Go check it out and get crafty this weekend!

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A couple weeks ago I reviewed 5 Online Wedding Photo Book Apps and my favorite choice was Pinhole Press. I got some really great tips and feedback from some of you, and a couple of you mentioned Artifact Uprising. So before I created my book, I took some time to play with Artifact Uprising, and really liked their app. However, I still went with Pinhole Press, and I thought I’d share my findings and what ultimately swayed my opinion.

I set out to design my photo book on both systems at the same time. This way I would see exactly how the products differ and if one had more problems in one area over another. Practically right away I encountered a HUGE problem with Artifact Uprising. They would not allow me to upload any photos larger than 12MB. Yes, 12MB is a very large file size for upload, but Pinhole Press didn’t have this road block. They allowed me to upload as  many huge files as I wanted and the upload time was pretty fast. So I was forced to resize my photos if I wanted to use them on Artifact. Now, I know how to do this because I know photoshop really well, but I would wager to guess that the average user does not know how to downsize their pictures, and would give up at this step. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

Going through photoshop to downsize photos not only takes a long time, but also might compromise the quality of your pictures. For print, you always want to use the highest quality, largest files possible. So obviously it made me nervous to downsize my precious photos (saved as copies of course) not knowing how the print might turn out.

As far as features and general usability, the two systems are very similar. The Pinhole product is lovely white and minimal which I like, and the Artifact layout is a dark interface and has a lot more buttons, weird double click edit tools that I found slightly cumbersome. Overall, they’re pretty similar, and I did like the font choices Artifact gives you.

Major problem #2 was the ability to have a photo span a 2 page spread. This creates a visually stunning layout and was something I was adamant about having in my book. But alas, Artifact Uprising doesn’t allow you to do this. At Pinhole Press, you have to choose the “Panoramic Book“, which gives you a flat inseam on the binding. It’s a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it to me. We had so many beautiful, wide photos I wanted to show off. This is when I stopped using Artifact Uprising, and finished my project with Pinhole Press.

Now, if you don’t care about the 2 page photo spread, and you don’t have super large photos over 12MB, then I really think Artifact Uprising is a great tool—probably better because of the different color cloth bindings, the interesting book jackets, and the font choices. Also, they’re slighly cheaper.

An 8.75 x 8.75 inch photo book with 61 pictures at Pinhole Press is $84.99.

An 8.5 x 8.5 inch photo book with 50 pages at Artifact Uprising is $69 with the ability to add a pages for $1 each.

For those of you who don’t know, I actually get hired to design these kinds of complex creation tools, so it was really interesting for me to dig deep into the usability of these 2 great products. And, I actually know what I’m talking about when I rate them!

I hope this helps you choose the right product for making your next book project. Photo products like the ones Pinhole and Artifact offer are amazing holiday gifts, and as you may have guessed from my timing, that’s exactly what I used them for! But no more, or else I’ll ruin the surprise…

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It’s been over 2 months since our wedding, and we still haven’t sent out one official thank you note. I feel horrible about it actually, but I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of the project. I want to make each one individual and special, and there are so many! So I worked on some over the weekend and I’m starting to get on a roll. I went back and re-read this post, and it really helped. Do you have any advice? (In case you were wondering, we got that crock-pot above for our wedding and I love it!)

The Holidays are coming! Ever since Matt and I have been together, I’ve spent Christmas at my parent’s and New Years in PA with Matt’s family (the photo above is from last year’s trip). But this year we’re married, and thing are changing. We’ll be spending Christmas in Pennsylvania this time, and that leaves the week after and New Years up in the air. Maybe we’ll come home and have a Los Angeles New Year, or maybe we’ll travel somewhere special just the two of us. Are you guys already planning for the Holidays?

I used to LOVE Halloween. It was my favorite holiday—candy, dressing up, raucous parties… Ever since college though, I feel like an old person. I just don’t really care anymore. I would rather stay home and open the door for trick-or-treaters than leave my house. Am I alone in this? A lot of my friends still go out and paint the town on Halloween, and I just don’t feel like I can keep up. To try and boost my spirits, I’m planning some Halloween posts this week! (Check out the pumpkin I carved over the weekend)

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If your year has been anything like mine, you’ve been to a lot of weddings recently. Now we’re wrapping up wedding season, and I’m having a hard time finding something to wear for the last one this weekend. The weather also isn’t helping things. Most of the dresses I have are summery, and I really would love to wear something with darker colors this time.

So I’ve been doing some shopping and thinking about what to wear to a wedding. Here are 5 of my top picks from the internet and 5 tips for shopping.

No. 1 Kate Spade New York jacket, top & skirt from Nordstrom   //   No. 2 Oasis Pleated Maxi Dress from Asos   //   No. 3 Maggy London Belted Lace Sheath Dress from Nordstrom Rack   //   No. 4  Green Pleated Dress with Belt from Chic Wish   //   No. 5 Ruched Dragonfly Dress from Anthropologie

5 Tips For What to Wear to a Wedding

1. No White // There are a lot of cute white dresses out there. Lots that are beige or silver and some that are only white on the top half. Weddings are just not the right place to wear them unless you’re the bride. Save them for a night out or any other party.

2. No Black // Unless you’re going to a really fancy black tie wedding, I would just choose something a bit more festive and colorful. There are LOTS of events where a LBD is perfect.

3. Walking & Dancing Shoes // This one is HARD. I love pretty shoes and I love showing them off. Weddings seem like the perfect place to do that. Unfortunately lots of times they’re out in grass and your heels get stuck and muddy, and then they’ll be killing you by the time dancing starts. My solution? Wedges and back up flip flops in your bag.

4. Tastefulness // You probably already know this, but weddings are not the time and place to flaunt what you got. So many reasons why… photos, family members, etc. When in doubt cover up.

5. Be Prepared // At a wedding a couple weekends ago it suddenly started raining! I was in a sundress and a cardigan… But I only brought one outfit, so I sat by the heater. For the wedding this weekend, I plan on checking the weather everyday, and bringing 2 outfits. Better safe than sorry!

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Food and drink are some of the most important parts of your wedding… at least from your guests perspective. They’re spending a lot of time—and these days a lot of money—to be with you on your wedding day. It’s just good manners to provide delicious eats and free flowing libations in return as a show of gratitude. The problem is that catering can put you over budget in no time. Not to mention the alcohol.

There are ways to cut these costs like having an afternoon tea or brunch, but for this post I’m going to share some things I learned when we planned a full sit down meal for 120 guests. Scroll down all the way for our vendors and menus.

5 Tips for Planning the Food & Drink for Your Wedding

1. Venue vs Non Venue // Some venues force you to use their catering staff. Some let you opt out of this, but still charge you a fee (like $3000) and that doesn’t usually end up saving you any money. If you want to go the venue provided route, that is totally fine. It will save you time for sure, but I’m not so sure it will save you much money. And for the price, the food might not be the best or very exciting. We specifically looked for venues that allowed us to hire anyone we wanted. This allowed us to find a caterer who fit our budget and prepared food we loved.

2. Insurance // Most venues that allow you to bring in outside vendors for food and drink will want those companies to purchase an insurance policy. This is especially true for bar tending services. So if you wanted your aunt and cousins to cook a feast for you, that’s probably not going to work unless they are an actual food service company. Bummer! Make sure you double check with your venue and any catering services before you hire anybody.

3. Custom Menu // As you are browsing catering companies you’ll probably come across lots of pre-made menus to choose from. These are helpful for sticking within your price range, but can feel limiting and boring. Stuffed pasta shells, poached salmon, and steamed veggies… oh boy. If their menus look interesting but not quite right, go ahead and see if they’ll make you a custom menu. Mention your budget (total, or by plate) and anything you would really love to have (prime rib? cornish game hens? veggie jambalaya?). If you don’t get a good response, move on. Side note: Remember to think about dietary needs such as vegetarians and gluten free guests. You want to make sure no one leaves hungry.

4. Type of Dining // When you’re thinking about the menu and talking to your caterer you’ll need to decide what type of dinner service you’re going provide: buffet, plated or family style. Buffet might save you some money, but make sure there’s enough time in your schedule and space in your venue to snake everyone around to get food. Plated is elegant but usually the most expensive option because it requires more wait staff to take care of all your guests. That’s why we chose family style. It was the same price as buffet, but our guests didn’t have to get up and wait in line. It also promotes conversations between guests seated next to each other. We and our guests loved it.

5. Dishes & Glassware // Our venue didn’t provide this, and neither did our caterers or bar tenders. Coordinate with your staff to see how many of each type of dish, utensil and glass you’ll need, then start calling around. Matt hates renting stuff, so we actually  bought a lot these things—silverware, wine glasses, champagne glasses, tongs and serving spoons. In retrospect, we would not do this again. We had to store it for 6 months, we had to clean it, and transport it. We have started to sell some of it, but the pay back wasn’t worth the trouble in my opinion. A rental service will likely deliver on the morning of your event, and pick up all the dirty stuff at the end. We ended up using a rental company for the platters, a few tables, coffee cups, water and beer glasses, plates and chargers and I was so happy to not have to deal with all that on top of everything else.

What We Did // Our Vendors & Our Menus

Our Food // I LOVE our amazing caterers Savour This Moment. They’re a “farm to table” catering and event company and buy their ingredients at local farmer’s markets. They sent us a questionnaire that asked us what kind of food we liked, what our favorite vegetable was, what our favorite restaurants are, etc. From those answers they crafted a bunch of options for appetizers and entrees that we were able to mix and match. The best part? They asked what our budget was up front and made the custom menu fit into it so no matter what we chose, we never went over budget. Their final numbers included tax and staff costs which eliminated any guess work or questions. On the big day Marlene, Michael and their staff were professional and prompt and we got so many compliments on our food from our guests. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend them. I can’t say enough good things.

Our Menu // Passed appetizers: cheesy artichoke crostini (pictured above), blistered cherry tomato bruschetta (pictured above), shortrib mac & cheese grilled cheese, turkey meatball sliders with pear, goat cheese & arugula (pictured above) and bourbon & brown sugar & thai chili chicken wings. Family style entrées: herb roasted chicken thighs, tamari glazed flank steak, sage & brown butter brussels sprouts, rosemary & garlic mashed potatoes, and a bib lettuce salad with roasted beets, goat cheese and walnuts.

Our Drinks // We hired Catered Cocktails to man our bar. They were great—easy to coordinate with, worked well with our catering staff, was prompt and even added in a last minute sangria and picked up 200 lbs of ice! One general note about bar tenders is they expect to be tipped. Catered Cocktails let us choose whether they put a tip jar out on the bar or not. We chose to pay the $200 fee to keep the tip jar off the bar. I didn’t want my guests to worry about not having cash, or feeling obligated to pay. This was a personal choice though, and I appreciate having the choice. And a general rule of thumb is 75 guests to 1 bar tender. We hired 2.

Our Bar Menu // Beer: Stella Artois and Downtown Brown Ale. Wine: Fetzer Cabernet & Fetzer Chardonnay, and Sangria. Champagne: Freixenet Cava Gold. Other: assorted soft drinks, sparkling cider and iced tea.

All photos in this post are from our wedding in August by the wonderful Jasmine of Let’s Frolic Together. Check out her post and more photos here. And read my 5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Wedding Photographer here.

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I’m having my second coaching session with Kathleen Shannon from Braid Creative today about my business and where I’m heading with it. I’ve been freelancing full time for 1 year! And although it’s been wonderful, I do feel a bit stuck. I’m at a fork in the road and it’s scary to choose a single path, so I’ve been sitting in the middle of the street. Well, it’s time to make a move, and Kathleen is helping me find my journey. I’m excited to share new insights and developments here with you along the way, so stay tuned. (graphic is from Kathleen’s blog)

I started and finished House of Cards in about a week. What an amazing show. I’m  a sucker for smart political dramas (remember my West Wing binge?) and this takes it to a new (twisted) level. I loved how it was produced by Netflix. That company is getting a lot of things right and really evolving storytelling. I can’t wait for the next season. Do you guys watch the show?

This was our big wedding year… so far. Besides our own wedding, we had a family member and 3 friends get married. We’re going to a wedding in Santa Cruz (about 4 hours north of Los Angeles) this weekend. I’m so excited to just be a guest… sit back, drink some wine and be under no pressure to talk to every person in the room. I also helped this friend design some the paper goods for her wedding and I’m excited to see how everything comes together. (photo from this hilarious video)

You guys! Our amazing photographer Jasmine of Let’s Frolic Together posted some of our wedding photos on her blog yesterday. All work stopped for a few minutes as I devoured every single picture and shared the link around the internet. I am so incredibly happy with all the photos and so thankful to Jasmine for her vision and hard work.

So in light of this, I put together some tips that helped us find our photographer soul mate and will hopefully help you too.

(one of my favorites!)

5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Wedding Photographer

1. Style // M isn’t very comfortable in front of the camera… he would rather be behind it. So it was VERY important that we found a photographer who had a more photo journalistic, candid style. We didn’t want to get super “posey”—it’s just not us. We wanted someone who would capture us how we really are, not tell us how to be and look. However, that might be a more comfortable setting for you! You might want to capture specific photos and poses. Think about this ahead of time and as you look through photographer portfolios, notice how the subjects are arranged.

2. Editing // This is another part of style. With Lightroom and Photoshop, photographers have A LOT of control over how they edit their photos. They can create really stylized effects, or a vintage look. This is totally fine if that’s what you want. I don’t mind some of this, but M was really cautious about having our photos look super dated in a few years if the editing style used was too “trendy”. Just another thing to keep in mind as you sort through portfolios.

3. Price // At the beginning of your planning you’ll be putting together a budget and that will help you figure out how much you want to spend on photography. For most people, this is a high priority. This is one of the only things you’ll have forever to remember your special day. It’s important, and therefore, you should be prepared to spend more for it. Take the 2 points above into consideration first, and then find a photographer you love who also matches your price range. And be prepared to put about 50% down as a deposit to secure your photographer for your date.

4. Extras // We choose Jasmine who was based in San Diego (about 2 hours south of Los Angeles). We anticipated paying a bit more because she would have to travel. We also asked that she shoot some film as well as digital because we love film photography (she even shot medium format!). This was another extra cost. A lot of photographers include an engagement shoot with their wedding photography package too. So explore these options and see how they effect your bottom line. We had some other friends shoot our engagement photos, so Jasmine deducted this cost from our total.

5. Trust // This is a big one, and might be over looked. You need to have 100% confidence in whoever you hire. They will be documenting one of the most important events of your life. If they loose their SD card, or get distracted and miss your “kiss the bride” moment, just think of how devastating that would be! Some things you can’t control, but I would advise you to talk face to face (or skype) with your photographer (not their agency), and really analyze their personal portfolio and blog. Most likely you’ll be fine, but I have a friend who went through an agency, and never spoke to her photographer before the wedding and she was really disappointed in her photos. So sad!

Needless to say, we were beyond impressed with Jasmine. She is sweet and calm under pressure (“the sun is setting in 5 minutes… so let’s just do a few more”) and I’m blown away by our photos. Check them out on her blog, and read about our big day!

I’ve written before about why we decided to go on a road trip to Portland right after our wedding and delay our big honeymoon until next year. So I won’t get into all that again. Suffice it to say, it was a great idea and we loved our week long trip up and down the west coast. I wanted to share how we did it and a few of our highlights.

Map It Out // The little pink dots on the map above are a pretty accurate portrayal of our route. I made a custom map in Google Maps with our starting point and all our stops along the way. If you’ve never done this before it’s really easy. Go to maps.google.com and click “My Places” then hit “Create Map”. You insert your addresses and move your route as you wish. You can also share the map with others and if you have the Google Maps app on your phone, you can access all that info anywhere. Pretty nifty.

Big Sur // M had never been to Big Sur. He had never actually been past San Francisco, and when he went there he either flew or took “the 5″ the whole way up. Well, if you’re like him, you are missing some amazing views. Sure, head up the highway most of the way, but cut over to Big Sur so you won’t miss one of the country’s most beautiful sights. We were so glad we did. While you’re at it, make a dinner reservation for the Restaurant at Ventana. Their $70 per person seasonal menu was one of our favorite meals.

Mount Shasta // A charming mountain community, Mount Shasta is right at the border of California and Oregon which makes it a perfect stop. I loved that our drive that day took us from the ocean, through the heartland and up into the mountains. Fun fact: Mount Shasta is an active volcano!

Portland // We loved our 3 days in this vibrant city. I’ll post a full PDX recap later, but some of our highlights were a rooftop movie night showing of Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure, a Soap Box Derby down a mountain, and M getting “inked” with my initial on his wedding ring finger. When in Portland… get a tattoo? I guess so!

Photos taken from my very active Instagram

I got a lot of sexy stuff at my bridal shower, and I loved it! I tend to buy my friends lingerie (or at least some cute undies and a nightgown) for their bridal showers, and I was so happy to receive the same from my family and friends. I’ve found it’s a tricky thing to try and buy for yourself.

Now that I’ve been married for a whole 2 weeks, I have a couple pointers I thought I’d share today. Below is my “Bridal Lingerie Wardrobe Must Have List”.

1) Sexy Wow Factor // Boom. Bam. In your face. Make his jaw drop. Enough said. (Stella McCartney Gisele Charming Underwire Bra)

2) Something to Sleep In // This is a commonly overlooked item! Sexy lingerie isn’t the most comfortable thing to wear all night. And if everything goes as planned, you don’t actually wear it for long in the first place… *cough*… so you need something comfortable and cool to change into for the night. I personally love silky shorts. (Stella McCartney Camille Cooling Shorts)

3 & 4) Girly, Flirty, Lacy & Pink! // I have a thing for hot pink undies… the frillier and girlier the better. I don’t really express that part of myself on the outside of my wardrobe, so I make up for it underneath. If pink and lacy isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Just make sure you have some pretty under things to wear. It makes all the difference. (Stella McCartney Gisele Charming BoylegEberjey Jade Lace Bikini)

5) Comfy Go-To Nightie // These are lifesavers. I am so grateful to my friend who supplied me with some of these light, comfy, throw-on nighties. They’re still pretty sexy too! (Princess Tam Tam Jewel Chemise)

6) An Elegant Wrap // For when you’re getting ready for bed and night, or ready for work in the morning. Of if you’re like me, for covering yourself up when the UPS guy knocks at 9am. (La Perla Studio Balletto Robe)

7) Soft, Light & Demure // We can’t be the glam-pot, sex kitten all the time. Sometimes we just want to feel light and pretty. These kinds of bras are actually much more comfortable than they look, and still offer great support and coverage. (Lonely Grace Soft Cup Bra)

I hope this list helps you shop for yourself or for a friend or family member. All the products listed above are from one of my favorite online lingerie resources Journelle. A bit on the pricey side, but you only get married once!

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