Bridal Brigade: Showering our Bride with Love

All the planning, crafting and 57 lb suitcase carrying paid off during my best friend’s bridal shower. The party turned out better than we could have ever expected.

We hosted the shower at a local restaurant. It was a private setting and the staff was super to attentive to us the entire time – through set-up, during the event, and after it was over.  The layout was ideal, too.

Decor

Instead of spending money on decorations that would simply be tossed out after the event, or buying a gift from the registry, I decided to work/shop with a dual purpose in mind: make or purchase items that Diana could use for the wedding or in her future home.  Luckily, their house colors will be the same as the wedding colors!  We were also able to reuse a good chunk of the decor we bought for the bachelorette party.

2015-07-25 12.49.27

2015-07-25 15.47.19

For the “What do you love most about our bride?” activity, we asked the groom to share five things he loves most about his bride-to-be (written on the black hearts).  Then each bridesmaid, along with the mother-of-the-bride and future mother-in-law, wrote one thing they love most about her.  Blank cards were available for guests to share their thoughts as well.
2015-07-25 12.49.20

Each guest was asked to share a bit of love advice for the soon-to-be newlywed couple.  Then, each week during the first year of their marriage, Matt and Di will be tasked with opening up one heart, reading the advice, and making it a point to abide by whatever that particular message guides them to do.

2015-07-25 12.49.04

 

2015-07-25 15.47.50

The bottom of the gift table was lined with pictures of Di’s early years (and boy were there some gems in the collection!).

2015-07-25 13.21.39One of the bridesmaid put together this incredible wedding dress cupcake compilation.  Looks like something a culinary professional designed (with a heavy price tag).  She did such an amazing job on it.

2015-07-25 15.34.15

Some of the bridesmaids put together these awesome centerpieces as well.  The faux flowers were laid on a bed of diamonds and illuminated by a changing color light.

2015-07-25 15.49.31We brought back props from the bachelorette and set-up a photo booth that was put to good use.  The frame was a fun addition, but also something the couple will be able to use in their new home.

2015-07-25 15.43.09

2015-07-25 13.59.30

 

photo booth

Games

We kicked the party off with an ice breaker. Each guest was handed a card with a name on it – 1/2 of a famous couple.  They were tasked with finding their soulmate.  Of course, Matt and Diana cards were included!

ice breakerWhile everyone was eating, we played a round of bridal trivia.  Tables were broken up into teams of five and everyone had to compete in the categories of wedding songs, wedding movies and general wedding knowledge.  Ironically enough, it came down to a tie between the Mother-of-the-Bride and the future Mother-in-Law.  They had to duke it out over tie breaker Q’s about their son and daughter.  In the end, the MIL team brought home the prize.

Next up was the “Nearly Wed” game.  In advance of the party, we asked Matt to answer a few questions and then Diana had to guess his responses.  For each one wrong, the poor girl with lock jaw had to put another stick of bubble gum in her mouth (I’m a horrible friend).  Luckily she knows him pretty well after 10+ years!  We gave guests a copy of the questions so that they could play along, too.

The ladies also played a bridal scratch off and two lucky winners got to bring home a prize.  While the bride-to-be opened up gifts, guests had to follow along and mark off items from the gift registry Diana received that matched up to their cards.  The first two winners scored a Bath & Body Works candle.  Gift bows were handled off to one of Di’s ridiculously talented friends, who created this masterpiece (the groom even got in on the action):

2015-07-25 15.23.19

 

2015-07-25 15.24.38

It was absolutely amazing day celebrating an even more amazing person. Can’t wait until we get to stand by this girl’s side!

Shower1

 

Advertisements

Another Notch on my Belk: Killer Deals on Jessica Simpson, Tahari, Cynthia Rowley and more

Over the past few months I’ve significantly cut back on shopping because I’m in the process of finding a home (stillll waiting for the right one to come along).  While I slip every now and then, I’ve been able to avoid any major splurges.  Until I entered the doors of Belk; I’ve got a serious love-hate relationship with that place.  Even though I spent a little more than I planned, I walked out with almost $700 is savings, so that’s a win-win in my book!

Here are some of the amazing deals I scored, all for under $200!

This Tahari dress, originally $138, picked up for $27.60 (after getting an additional 20% off for opening a credit card which is also probably something I should not do while home searching!). Paired it with an adorable statement necklace from Wal-mart for just $5.

peach2

peach1

Found this Jessica Simpson dress, originally $128, for $25.60.  Paired it with a birthday gift jewelry set from my parents and a pair of shoes I haven’t wore in years but had to because the color matched so perfectly.

hotpink1hotpink2This lace CeCe by Cynthia Steffe dress, which I saw at Nordstrom earlier in the season, was the best deal by far.  Retailed at $148, I brought this gem home for just $14.80.

lace1lace2With football season right around the corner, it’s time to start stocking up on tailgating dress.  Garnet and black hues dominate my wardrobe during the fall.  Got this Kensie dress, retailed at $99, for just $9.59.  Here it is at Nordstrom “on sale” for $39.

gamecockI’ve been looking for a kimono that was flattering to my body type for a while and found the perfect one in this Jessica Simpson style.  At an MSRP rate of $69, I found this one for only $13.60 and matched it with a pair of Cynthia Rowley shorts for $11.60 (originally $59).  I found the Michael Kors bag a few months ago at Ross for just $89 and this outfit is the perfect reason to finally break it in.

kimo

Saving the best for last, I am absolutely obsessed with this Jessica Simpson maxi.  Originally priced at $148, I purchased the dress for just $29.60.  The picture does not do it justice.

long jess1

The sales clerk told me another major markdown is expected at the end of this month so while I’m be doing my best to keep my distance, I’d highly recommend stopping by if you have a Belk in your area!

My Best Friend’s Bachelorette Bash

As I prepare for my best friend’s bridal shower I realized that I still haven’t posted the rest of the deets from her amazing bachelorette party in Asheville, NC.

After arriving at the cabin in the woods, Catherine, the bride’s little sis and co-MOH, made a delicious steak and pirogi dinner – Diana’s favorite!  We quickly scarfed it down and headed to the first surprise adventure of the weekend.

DSCN1129cheersA childhood friend who now resides in Asheville recommended the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour.  The regular tours run throughout the day and at night, it switches over to haunted comedy ride.  Sounds a little abstract, I know, but this was the funnniest thing I have experienced in ages.  We could not stop laughing the entire time.  You can bring wine and beer on the bus and while that sounds like an awesome idea, it turns into a terrible one after all the laughing you’ll do!

LazoomBusAfter the LaZoom tour, we hit the down.  One of Asheville’s most notable attractions is the Friday night drum circle.  Upon arrival, we couldn’t tell if we were witnessing a scene from True Blood or one of the coolest things ever.  We jumped right in.  When in Rome, right?

drum2drumThe best word I can use to describe the city of Asheville is eclectic.  It was a mix of everything artsy, natural, hipster and southern.

The next morning started off with brunch at Posana; the place was on-point.  There was a whole lot of food envy going on at the table because each meal looked better than the next.

Lo and Di

brunchBrunchIt was time to burn off the calories after brunch, so we headed over to Di’s next surprise: Asheville’s Amazing Pub Cycle. And amazing is the best way to describe it.  We followed that up with a PYT serenade by street performers and more day drinking at Wicked Weed Brewing.

pub bus

PYT

brew

brew2To keep pace (and survive), we headed back to the cabin to relax for a bit before venturing back down town that night.  At the recommendation of our local friend, we ordered in via Gourmet Valet; you can choose between more than 60 restaurant options and they deliver it right to you.  We did a quick online search for a coupon and got 20% off.  After we were ready, the first stop was the Piano Bar where Diana got another serenade on stage.

piano

piano2

DSCN1078I made last fling ring/checklist for Di out of a wreath Styrofoam, spray paint, paper and glitter.  The front said “List of last acts before you become Matt’s” and with a little participation from the groom, the back said “Do these things one more time before you become mine.”  She had to carry it around all night and check off the actions like take a picture w/a stranger using the selfie stick, take a pic w/another bride and hand a guy a note that says, “Call me, maybe?”

Ring2

Dare

A night like Saturday called for a homemade brunch at the cabin.  Since most of the trip was a surprise, we wanted to give Diana a say in the festivities for Sunday so we gave her a few options in the form of an infographic (yes, I take planning too far).

info

She selected a lazy cruise down the river via Zen Tubing.  It was such a relaxing experience…until the thunderstorm came.

zen busDSCN1104

For our last dinner, we ate at Corner Kitchen.  It’s where President Obama ate on his trip to the city!

DSCN1120

di an iThe weekend wound down with an evening of games and wine.  We played one game where Di had to guess which sexy item came from whom, and I’m now questioning her friendship because she didn’t know the Jessica Simpson PJs came from me!  We also played a really fun ladies night card game where someone reads the descriptor (something like who would be most likely to survive in the wilderness) and then all the girls name the bridesmaid that fits best.  I’m also questioning my friendships after the cards I got! 😉

DSCN1122

DSCN1125Just two more months to go until the big day!

They’re officially ours, and he’s officially old – celebrating a birthday & adoption

Yesterday was a very special day for our family – we got to celebrate the adoption finalization of my brother’s two children and my dad’s 75th birthday (still convinced I was a mistake).

Though he’s got a knack for being the center of attention, my dad absolutely hates surprises.  But for a birthday as big as three quarters, we had to celebrate in style! My mom and I have been planning a surprise for months – one where we gather just immediate family and the closest of family friends – to celebrate the milestone occasion.  The secret was kept until I accidentally blurted it out over the Fourth of July holiday in front of him, quickly covering my tracks when I saw my mom jumping up and down, whaling her arms to get me to stop talking.  I recovered from “…dad’s party…” to “…”you know, the one he is throwing for the kids’ adoption!”

To give you some background here, my brother and sister-in-law, after trying for several years to have children of their own, recognized their calling to become foster parents with the goal of eventually adopting.  Early last year, they received word that their family would soon grow and in the summer, we welcomed two beautiful children into our family.  While a joyous year, the months have been filled with ups and downs for the new parents. But, the moment we have been waiting for for what seems like an eternity, finally came and now the kiddos officially share our name and have to put up with us for good!

So back to yesterday.  We were doing great – were able to keep my dad occupied outside while decorations chronologizing his life were set up.  The guy had no idea; or so we thought.  We get inside, tell him “You think everyone is here today to celebrate the children but actually, we’re here to celebrate YOU! Surprise!”  Just then, he hands my mom a folded up piece of paper: “Hey Carol, thanks for the surprise party” (only he types in ALL CAPS, ALWAYS).  He had known for the ENTIRE week!  When asked how, he quietly points to me.  Before my mom could say anything to me, he jumped in with “she could have played it off if I didn’t feel the wind of you jumping around and waving your arms behind me to get her to stop talking!” Team effort, momma!

Here’s a peek into the elements that made this celebration one to remember (unless you’re 75, then you have an excuse not to remember.mom
There he is, with proof that nothing slips by this old guy!

dad2My dad grew up in Minnesota, lived in California (among other places), settled down in New York, retired in Virginia and sends his heart to Columbia, SC each Saturday during football season.  That being said, he’s got friends in low, and high, and medium places.  My brother and I reached out to friends and family across the country – those he knows now and those that he hasn’t seen in years – and asked them to send in a happy birthday video message for the special day.  The end result? An amazing video compilation of so many that were a part of his life on this 75-year journey.

dad3

dad fireplace

video

We adorned the windows and fireplace with pictures of his past and even put together a video montage to capture his first year as “Grandpy.” Note: The video pic is intentionally cut off; we don’t share pictures of the kids for their safety.

dad5We lined the table with newspaper clippings touting some of my dad’s lifetime accomplishments.

75 signInspired by Pinterest, I created this chalkboard to highlight the differences between today and the day he was born, 75 years ago.  A lot has happened during the 27,375 days he’s been around but what will never change is how much we love that man.

dadkidI’m sure one of things that makes him more proud than anything is the ability to pass his family name down to these two amazing kids.

dad and iI cannot even begin to express how thankful I am to have this man in my life.  I thank my lucky stars every night that I have had him by my side during my 29 years on this earth and recognize how fortunate I am that I can say that.  I’ll never stop learning and laughing around him, and being the best woman I can be because of him.  I love you, Keithypoo!  Happy 75th!

P.S. because fashion is one of the primary purposes of this blog: I have been dying to wear this Taylor dress for weeks.  Retailing at $158, I picked up this gem at Ross for just $29.99!  Clearly, I did not get my fashion sense from my father;)

Like I said, we are like twins: reflection of a lifelong friendship from a 9-year-old’s perspective

Nearly 20 years ago I wrote a diary entry about how my best friend and I were “…like twins ‘seperated’ at birth.”  As we grew older, the differences between us became more evident (like the fact that she’s half a foot taller than me L), but the one thing that has never changed is the unbreakable bond we share.  Reflecting on the validations I put forth back on March 2, 1996, I realize how much is different but more importantly, how the underlying intention still remains the same.

We both have the same toothbrush.LO

While this one probably held a lot of clout back in the day, I can’t really relate to it today.  At all.  And I REALLY hope she’s still not using that same toothbrush 😉

We like the same exact same food.

This statement could not be further from the truth.  Lauren lives an extremely healthy lifestyle and that’s reflective in her diet.  Where she opts for protein and veggies, I opt for ice cream and Mac & Cheese.  But the one thing we do have in common is that we be both detest cooking, so, that counts for something!

We both like playing store we both like playing “detictive.”

Playing store turned into both becoming shopaholics (a reason I’m sure her husband does not want me to live in the same cityJ) and playing detective became figuring things out together.  Throughout our 20+ years of friendship, Lauren has been and will always be one of the first people I turn to when I’m struggling or in need of sound advice.  She’s always there to listen and to talk through the hurdles that arise in life.  She helps me analyze the situation and find the best solution, even if it’s not what I want to hear.  While her brutal honesty can be painful, it’s often what I need to know.

We both hate Michael O’Dell (a lot).

I feel bad for this one; I really do.  Mike O’Dell, wherever you are in this world, I apologize for making you the subject of my 9-year-old self’s diary entry!  Now that maturity has set in, this statement obviously no longer holds any truth, but the deeper meaning does.  Part of what has held our friendship together for so long is the fact that we share the same values.

We both like dogs (Cody).

This will never change.  Though Cody has long since left us, our hearts have been filled with dogs of our own and one day, the space will widen to make room for the children we plan raise together.  I’m confident that my future children will adore their Auntie Lo the way that I do and that she will be a person they can always turn to in life, just as I always have.  Unless they want to eat, then they’re out of luck.

Like I said we are like twins.

The twin part may have been a stretch, but the sister part?  That is a fact.  I will be forever grateful for the loyal, genuine, hilarious, brutally honest, forever friend I have in you, Lo.  Let’s enjoy our last year of our twenties, my friend, and get ready for a lifetime more of memories.  Love you!

2013-05-26 01.23.232013-01-21 19.00.12IMG_09502014-02-23 17.58.522013-09-17 21.35.04

Red, white and ooh lala

One of the genes I inherited from my mom is a love of Navy blue.  No matter how hard she tries to add new colors to her wardrobe, anytime you open up her closet you’re still bound to drown in a sea of Navy.  Luckily, the family default color comes in handy two weekends a year – Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

Naturally, everything I’ve packed for the long weekend boasts a blend of three colors: red, white & blue.

workTaking a professional approach to Patriotism for the last day of work, I chose a classic Anne Klein dress that I purchased at Ross two years ago.  While I’m embarrassed to admit it probably bears resemblance to something in my mom’s closet, it is SO comfortable.  I can’t remember the exact price but know it was under $20.

prepThe focus of Friday’s outfit is a sweet red dress I found on the clearance rack at Charming Charlie.  Originally $30, it was marked down to $14.99 and then slashed in half – $7.50 for a dress that mimics expensive southern brand Mud Pie (who did actually make the big hat – gotta splurge every now and then).  The Navy shoes, retailed at $40, were only $19.99 at Ross.

redwhiteblueFourth of July means it’s time to go all out in our country’s colors.  This comfy Enfocus Studio dress was found at Ross for $9.99.  It’s not an expensive brand to begin with, but still, at that price, you can’t go wrong with something you’ll only wear once a year.

causalIt’s rare to catch me in something other than a dress during the summer months. For this weekend’s anomaly, I paired crown & ivy (Belk’s signature brand) shorts with a simple tank, a Charming Charlie fedora and Sperry Top-siders I found at Ross for under $40.  For a day on the go, something to carry items is a must.  I’ll admit I was hesitant to give into the backpack style because I hated them as a kid but man do I love this thing.  Retailed at $120, I picked up the bag at Ross for just $19.99.

Black, Blue and Gas Station Accessories(?!)

Money can’t buy love, but it can buy cute clothes and accessories that we adore.  But, just because you have the money to buy the perfect outfit doesn’t mean you should spend it all.  My motto is more is more: I’d rather buy three outfits, and the accessories to go along with them, than one expensive dress for the same price.

A perfect example of deal searching is today’s OOTD.  Spice up a classic black and white look with a little color.

I found this simple striped dress at Maurice’s marked down to FIVE dollars (originally $30).  It’s nothing fancy on its own, but can be easily enhanced with some simple color popping.  My mom found the cobalt blue purse and watch at a GAS STATION, both for under $15.  Goes to show cute style can be found anywhere.  I paired the dress with Jessica Simpson wedges for $24 (retailed at $49) from Ross.  The final touch was a necklace and earring set from my go-to accessory spot, Charming Charlie.  An entire outfit for just a tad over $50.IMG_2992