Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lend Me a Pig's Ear

This is what happens when you let your dog make decisions.  Or treat him like a human.

Don't judge.  You know he's adorable.

And everyone went home happy.  
The End.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Smallest Detail

Excuse me while I rant for a moment... oh wait.  I don't have to apologize, because this is my blog, and if you're reading this you know that you are reading MY blog and that I can say whatever the heck I want.

In the last few weeks several different people on several different occasions have put forth negative opinions/commentary about detailed or themed party planning.  I would like to respond to those comments, not because I feel threatened, but because one of them finally hurt my feelings.

A couple years ago, I never would have told you that I liked to plan events or parties.  I'd never have imagined that I would suddenly find this fun, suited to my abilities, and in a weird way... satisfying.  I couldn't have predicted that I would plan my wedding, plan other people's weddings & parties & showers, and actually enjoy the process.  

Oh No.  I hated for anyone to think I CARED that much.  Really, I preferred to be aloof and apathetic.  I arrived late to parties, didn't think an RSVP was necessary, and didn't bother complimenting the host/ess on my way out the door.

In the course of one year, my thoughts on events and parties slowly changed.  I witnessed close friends get married, and noted the importance of "the coordinator."  I sent out wedding invitations and suddenly understood how crucial are RSVP numbers.  I was a hostess and recognized that it's nice when people compliment you on how hard you worked to make an event memorable and unique.  More importantly, I began to see that there is nothing wrong with celebrating any event to the Nth degree, if that's the way you roll.

Because life is short, and love is important.  If you like to throw parties and invite your friends to celebrate life's milestones, well, have at it.  If you enjoy planning things down to the last detail and going the extra mile to make things memorable and fun, well, all your guests will appreciate it!  If you have the time to spare, the money to make it happen, and gain pleasure from throwing a thoughtful celebration -- bless you.  (Even if it's a "bless you, 'cause this time you're planning it and not me!" situation -- well, bless you even more.)

Of course... if you watch a lot of shows like MTV's Sweet Sixteen or Bridezilla, we're not talking about the same thing.  But, I'm hoping you figured that out already.  I don't support THAT type of extravagance for anyone.  I've worked on a couple weddings where the budget exceeded $200k.  I definitely had a hard time wrapping my brain around that type of spending, even for your once-in-a-lifetime wedding.  Clearly, I'm not trying to justify everything all the way to Kim Kardashian's wedding.  There should be limits for all things, and in all things... moderation.

But -- on a more reasonable and personal level -- please don't ridicule me for "going all out" or creating intricate, time-consuming details in honor of someone I love.  Don't tell me it's too much and act embarrassed for me.  Despite my best efforts at resilience, it does make me feel small and it is demeaning.  This is my craft, it's a form of art.  Perhaps not museum worthy, but it's my creation just the same.  .Just because I love doing something doesn't mean you have to, but it does mean you should respect it.  Did my hand cramp up after cutting out 30 mustaches from black card stock?  Yep.  Did I mind?  Not a wee bit.  Why? Because I knew it would be hilarious at the party I was throwing and people would laugh and remember it after they went home. 

And really.... Let's really think about this here... you're honestly going to criticize me for throwing party?  Are you also a blood-sucker?  Have you forgotten how to smile?  Do you have an ounce of positivity, fun, or humor left in your body?  There are too many other things to gripe about, people.... don't even get me started.

I would never judge anyone for NOT throwing a huge party to celebrate something.  I wouldn't tell them they were missing out because there were no special, handcrafted details that were bound to get them published on a design blog.  I wouldn't say they were a bad friend or family member.  Growing up all our celebrations were pretty modest.  They involved food, friends, and fun.  Some of my fondest memories are our college house parties.  Food, check.  Friends, check.  Fun.... too much? check.  Who cared about decorations or mailed invitations?  NOBODY.  I'm telling you: Food, Friends, Fun.  The only things you need to get people's attention.  Sometimes, that's all you need.  Sometimes, that's all the guest of honor wants.  Sometimes, that's all you have time for.  Sometimes, that's perfect.

And sometimes... it's fun to go the extra mile.  It's exciting to make an event into a bit of a extraordinary production.  Especially if, say, they're only going to have their first child ONCE.  It gives me pleasure to create and plan a celebration for someone else, knowing that by experiencing that event they will also experience the love I have for them.  Sometimes... the love is in the details, right down to the smallest.

Oh, and two more (not so small) things...

1.  Buy gifts off people's registries.  It's the kind thing to do.  You don't always know better.
2.  RSVP.  It takes a minute, or less, and it's just common courtesy.

Just don't RSVP Yes if all you're going to do is criticize me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Little Hootenanny!

In honor of my sister's pregnancy, we had a Little Hootenanny!

I am really glad I hosted Maggie's baby shower.  Otherwise I don't think I'd be expecting a real baby to pop out of her at the end of May.  Not entirely sure what I've been thinking has taken up residence under her clothes lately, but prior to the baby shower I was admittedly in denial that my first niece/nephew was coming to play.  Something about pulling all the details of the hootenanny together made her pregnancy so REAL, and now I can't help but be excited for him to arrive.

Knowing that planning and hosting would be too much for one person, I enlisted my cousin Karen to be my cohort.  Karen has many talents, but in this case she did what she does best: the food.  It was the most imaginative and tasty menu I've ever seen at any shower, baby or bridal!  That left me in charge of the invitation, decorations, and general organizing.  With the nursery colors and theme (woodland animals mostly, but owls primarily) in hand, I plunged into planning.

(Get ready for a long, detailed post -- with LOTS of pictures....)

I started, naturally, with the invitation.  This was by far the most time-consuming task related to the shower.  There is so much OWL paraphernalia these days, it was hard to find the right style that suited Maggie's nursery: nothing too realistic or too Disney.  After looking at many different design options and agonizing over what to do, I ended up drawing and water-coloring the whole thing so that it would be unique and (hopefully) appropriate to the event.  I had the graphic designer at my store format it and add the text, and voila!  I used a white wood grain textured paper, you can actually see and feel the wood grain, to add that extra rustic charm, and a brown paper envelope for a touch of "vintage."  I'm convinced the paper was the best thing about the invitation!

We decided on a three hour Come & Go format, which we thought would make people feel less obligated to stay the whole time, but most everybody did stay anyway.  We also didn't want Maggie to feel like she had to open up all her gifts in front of everyone, because that can be uncomfortable for some mommies-to-be, but she ended up opening them anyway!  One thing I've learned about event planning: you can have the best intentions, but you must always GO WITH THE FLOW.  Rarely, if ever, will everything go exactly the way you plan.

I didn't intend to have a strong theme, but in this case it happened organically while creating the invitation.  I've already mentioned that the general theme of the nursery is animals, specifically woodland creatures, and even more specifically: OWLS.  Maggie and her husband haven't decided on a baby name, yet, but we needed some way of referencing the unborn baby on the invitation.  I was inspired by an adorable book titled "Little Hoot."  We used this as the baby's "name" and inadvertently, ended up branding the shower with the "Little Hoot" title!  Even the guests were referring to the baby as "Little Hoot."  It was too cute!

We used the inspirational Little Hoot book as the baby's Guest Book.  Everyone signed inside the cover.

I wanted personal touches and playful elements to be apparent in the decorations.  I tried to keep it cohesive, but not too matchy-matchy.  Showers can be soooo stuffy and predictable some times, and we wanted this one to feel relaxed and fun!

I created a branch mobile to hang above the main table.  It was super cheap and pretty easy to put together.  The wooden letters I purchased at Hobby Lobby, spray painted, and attached with blue and green baker's twine.  The little cloth birdies were sewn by my sister Susanna, and attached with wire.  The branch was found on my parent's property.  I think this mobile was my favorite part of all the decorations, and since it was right in front of the door, had the biggest impact on people as they walked in.

Me and cousin Karen right before the shower begins!

The sign in table with sonogram pictures, animal note cards, and guest book.

Also on the sign in table, we had little animal shaped cards for people to write notes to the baby.  We pinned them up on a pin board for everyone to read.  I liked the idea of all these people who love Maggie writing love notes to her unborn baby.  He can read them years from now and know that so many people loved him and were excited to meet him before he was even born!

We used mason jars (I know....Mason Jars!  But we had a lot of them already...) for drinking glasses and, using a stencil, I cut out mustaches for each straw in honor of the Little Man.  It was really funny to look around the room and see everyone drinking with a mustache on!  Some of us had more fun with them than others....

TL: My mom (aka GiGi), TR: Maggie & Karen, Bottom: GiGi with all her daughters and first grandchild.
Think I gave Maggie the "photo ops" the photographer-in-her really wanted?

I liked the tradition of having baby pictures of the parents-to-be out for people to look at, and they were so cute, how could we not?  We also put out Maggie's baby book for guests to look through, and it was enjoyed by many.

We had our old crib assembled and made up, not only for when Little Hoot comes to stay, but also as a gift drop.  Some of Maggie's well-loved stuffed animals were on display, too.  I bought two dowel rods, strung twine between them to make a mini-clothesline, and hung up some adorable onesies up for a little extra cute factor.

I am still dreaming about the deliciousness of Karen's menu!  I contributed only TWO items to her line up, and they weren't even original ideas -- I have to credit Pinterest for the cheesecake-stuffed strawberries and the chocolate kiwi lollipops.  In addition to conceptualizing the menu, Karen prepped and executed about 95% of all the food, with help from my Aunt Deni and Grandma O.  My mother, savior that she is, did all our grocery shopping ahead of time and saved us a whole day in doing so.  We were really, really lucky to have some helping hands around!  I helped mostly by eating....

Karen and me tasting the cake.

Cheesecake Strawberries
Fresh Fruit with Creamy Dip
Open-Faced Cucumber Fennel Sandwiches
Bacon & Cheddar Deviled Eggs
Veggies & Dip
Spinach Artichoke Pinwheels
Cheeses (cut in the shapes of forest animals!) & Crackers
Creme Puffs
Deconstructed Caprese Salad 
Sweet BBQ Meatballs
& Green Tea Lemonade

There wasn't a whole lot left over... and I'm not a bit surprised.  After all that, there was still cake!  Maggie's close friend, Roxy, made her a white cake with buttercream frosting & pineapple whip cream filling ....

 ... complete with a little owl on top!

Little Hoot, we know you're warm and cozy in there, but we're eager to meet you!  
The Hootenanny was a lot of fun... thanks to everyone who came.
Hoot Hoot!

Thanks also to the Grandmothers for financing, Aunt Deni for creating the flower arrangements, 
Roxy Cakes for baking a tasty and beautiful cake, my parents for allowing us to use their home, 
and Susanna for taking all these amazing pictures! 

Congrats, Margaret!
Hi5 Karen!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March Madness

My personal version of March Madness included two different sets of company breaking in our new guest room, starting up with a personal trainer, co-hosting my sister's baby shower, and celebrating one year of marriage.  Needless to say, I have a lot to write about, so I'll be breaking it up into multiple posts.

Overall, we've been living a very full and definitely not dull life, lately.  And speaking of fullness of life, the outdoors has come completely alive in a matter of weeks.  It's SO GREEN outside thanks to all the rain we've had, it's unbelievable.  In Texas, however, it's hard not to have a sense of foreboding at what summer will bring.  Even the recent heavy rains haven't made a dent in the damage last summer's drought did to nearby lakes and rivers.  And since 2012 is supposed to be as dry or drier than 2011, I suppose we should enjoy the plant life as long as possible.

There is something about this time of year that makes you want to feel as healthy and happy as the outdoors looks.  Perhaps it's the always frightening thought that in a few, VERY short months you might be forced into a swimsuit, or maybe it's knowing that in the summer heat you can't function in anything more than cutoffs and tank tops.  I'm sure both these things influenced my decision to start putting my money where my fears where, and start getting fit with a personal trainer.  But despite what many will think, this isn't some radical plan to get skinny.  No.  I was tired of feeling weak.  

Two years ago, I was six months into my first desk job, ironically as a receptionist for a Physical Therapy office, when I started experiencing back pain.  Correction: I started experiencing the worst back pain of my life.  From a dangerously young age I complained about back pain to my parents.  Finally, I was complaining about it so much my mom took me to our family doctor.  He ruled out scoliosis, the primary concern, and told me to do abdominal exercises.  Instead I popped Motrin like skittles.  I'm sure that getting sat on by heavy centers in high school basketball games didn't help much either.  So I was pretty used to chronic discomfort... but nothing like what I started feeling two years ago.  Eventually the pain was so bad I asked one of the therapists I worked for to take a look at me.  The diagnosis was an acute bulging disc in the L3-L5 range, which was causing severe sciatica (shooting nerve pain) down both legs and tingling in my feet.  In addition, I was experiencing piriformis disorder, tight hamstrings and IT band.  It was utterly debilitating.  I was warned not to do any high impact exercise or activity, and that I should probably never run again.  It hurt just to walk my dog around the block.  I remember on our first and only trip to NYC we were walking near Central Park and I was suddenly frozen on a busy sidewalk because of stinging shooting pain down my right leg.  I felt ugly and awful all the time.  And suddenly, I understood the burden people who deal with chronic pain of any kind carry with them everywhere.

Then I decided to do something about it.  I bought a membership for unlimited monthly yoga for stretching.  I started doing Pilates to strengthen my core.  I let the most amazing sports massage therapist push and prod my muscles back into something that resembled "functional."  And I felt better!  I was still in pain, but it was manageable!  Then we moved to Texas.  I got lazy.  I stopped all rehabilitative methods.  And I got afraid.  Afraid of re-injuring myself, of having to live with more pain.  

I think this fear permeated my being.  I didn't feel strong, I felt restricted and timid.  I didn't believe in myself and I started to accept this as a way of life: I was never going to feel youthfully and healthy.  ever.  again.  I was convinced I was weak, and the same fear that told my body this, also told my mind.  Some of you might remember my post titled Fear Zone from about a month ago.  Writing that post was sort of a turning point for me.  I realized I didn't want to be weak anymore.  I wanted to be able to participate in activities again, lift heavy items, defend myself if necessary.  I wanted muscles, strength, and confidence!

And then fate happened, as it often will: in the form of a tablecloth.  I was selling a lace tablecloth on Craigslist and the nice lady who responded that she wanted to buy it from me had this link at the bottom of her email: femmepowerfitness.com.  I followed it out of curiosity and on the other end I found Diana, a personal trainer here in Austin who specializes in rehabilitative strength and core training for women.

Imagine that.  I just might be brave enough to take my shirt off this summer.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Perfect Dress

My sister of Greenleaf Images received the following inquiry through her business website:

MESSAGE: Hi! My name is Emily,and I would like to ask a question....It's an odd question,but a question none the less!!....Let me quickly explan!...I got Engaged in Nov. 2011, we haven't set a date,but I have been looking at wedding dresses and I am not at all pleased with what I have seen!....So here's the good part. I was looking through magazine's at HEB and saw your ad in "San Antonio Weddings". So this is my question, could you tell me were the Lady in the ad got her dress,so I could get one just like it? I REALLY love everything about it ,and it would be perfect with how I want to decorat! I hope that's not to much to ask,but so many dresses today are not at all modest and I think that dress would be perfect for me...So,could you PLEASE let me know!?....I'd REALLY appriciate it!!!!! THANKS A BUNCH!!!! 

Yep.  Emily, this Lady happens to agree.  Although I did not select this dress because it was "modest," I did wear it because it it was "perfect."  Just like it was perfect for my mom in 1980 and my grandmother in 1951, exactly 60 years later it was perfect for me.  It's one of my favorite things to look back on in pictures and I don't regret not going with a big poofy white one, because this one reeked of personality, personal history, and love.

Emily, I hope you find your own perfect dress, that makes you feel truly beautiful and completes your wedding day dreams.

I hope you love your wedding dress as much as my grandmother, mother, and I do ours.

1980, my mother escorted by her brother down the aisle.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Small Things

This morning we slept in, and then stayed in bed listening to the thunder and rain outside.  Mr. Dog was literally buried under the covers.  Every time we tried to drag him up to cuddle he would retreat back down to our feet.  He's such a little live heater, I can't complain.  My feet are always toasty.

Too much laziness starts to make me feel sick to my stomach, but every so often it's really wonderful to have a morning like this one where we don't feel any pressure to be responsible or any obligation to see anyone or accomplish anything.  It feels a bit like freedom from adulthood.  These are the small things that I appreciate more and more as they happen less and less.

People talk a lot about "carpe diem" and living every day as if it were your last.  If you were told that today was your last, would you clean your house, get all your grocery shopping done, bathe the dog, and finish paying bills?  Not me.  I would lie in bed with the most important beings in the world to me, listening to the beautiful sound of rain, not giving a crap that it was almost noon. 

Give yourself a day where you don't feel any pressure to accomplish anything.  It will reduce your stress level, and probably make you more productive when you get back to your regular schedule.  But most importantly, it will help you appreciate the small things you might not always have, and that you most likely take for granted the other six days of the week.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anne comes to Austin

Have you ever noticed when someone comes to visit you, you either realize all the things you love about where you live, or all the things you wish you could change?  It's almost like having a new set of eyes to show everything really reawakens you to every little detail.  The fresh perspective reminds you of all the things you take for granted, and forces you to be honest about all the things that irritate you.

My bestie from college, Anne, came to see Austin and have a 4 day friend weekend last week, and it was an amazing time!

Despite spending much of the time retailing it up, we managed to see a lot of the (in)famous parts of the city, eat at several different restaurants - including one in an Airstream trailer, enjoy the GORGEOUS weather at the lake, and give her a taste of the Austinite life.  I know I was influenced by how stunning the temperatures were, but it made me excited to be living here again, in a city with throngs of environmentally-conscious, "outdoorsy" people, who thrive on active lifestyles.  There were moments when I found myself bragging about what a great place it was to live, and how relaxed and casual, yet cultured, are the people.  We made more spontaneous conversation with complete strangers than I had in months of living here.  I love living in a friendly city.  Even if a lot of the women don't wear bras and a large majority shower less often than most Europeans.  I mean, the city slogan is "Keep Austin Weird."  If you come prepared, don't act surprised when they deliver.

I was also reminded at how many things I take for granted.  Living in a large(r) city means I have access to things a lot of other people don't: the Arts, specialty retail stores like Anthropologie, local grocers (who haven't been driven out of business by monopolizing Wal-Marts) and natural/whole foods, scenic downtown areas, designated dog parks, bike and running trails, festivals and organized city-wide activities.  There are some things about city living I would never want to give up.  As much as people drive me crazy, I like the sense of community that a city like Austin cultivates.  Not every large city inspires that individual sense of pride and ownership, but living in Austin is like being a business partner.  People put effort and care into Austin, but expect a lot back, too: from other residents, from the city officials, and from the location.  There are so many checks and balances, people making sure you're honest and do what you say you're going to do.  People take responsibility, and they are protective of their homes and neighborhoods, and supportive of their friends and neighbors.  And for the most part I find these things to be true about MOST residents.  I like that I'm not made fun of for sorting our trash and recycling, or bringing my reusable bags to the store.  Austin just seems to have a lot of good people wanting to do good things: for others and for the planet.

I'm down with that.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's noticed.  Austin was named #1 Hottest Spot to Start a Small Business by The Fiscal Times, #1 Next Big Boom Town by Forbes, and #1 Place to Live 2011 by RelocateAmerica.  That's a lot of number ones.  It's also one of the youngest, fittest, and cleanest cities.  One of the best places to find jobs, best places for college grads, and (I would know nothing about this) best places to "find love."  For both practical and impractical reasons, Austin is an "it" location.  To be perfectly honest, I'm only here for the food.

After all, we're a big-time "foodie" city now, and even Anthony Bourdain has noted our existence!

I had a really tremendously fun time in my own city, and I loved every bit of it.
So I have Anne to thank for reminding me what Austin has to offer. 

Now, if only she would move here and then it would have an Anne, as well.

Peace, weirdos.