Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prego: Kelli & Garrett!

It's logical enough that if I maintain the blog long-term, it will eventually turn from wedding world to prego land. What I didn't expect was for it to happen so soon! This is my second pregnant friend blog in a row--madness.

A couple weeks ago, Kelli, a good friend from work, announced that she and her hubby, Garrett, are pregant! I'm so excited to watch her grow!

We all met up for pizza at Mountain Mike's in Danville tonight to support a Relay For Life fundraiser. I love that Kelli, Gina, and I (even Raf!) showed up matching. I guess the first day of rain brings out everyone's grey sweaters!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Unexpected Guest

I got the most wonderful, unexpected phone call yesterday morning. It was my friend, Val, calling from San Jose. Not too exciting, right? Except Val has lived in India for the past 6 years! She's doing the rounds visiting friends and family for a few weeks, and I was fortunate enough to make the list.

Val came over for a home cooked meal of Rigatoni with Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese (watch out, 2 slow food meals in a row!) and a long night of catching up on wedding planning and pregnancy. It's so much fun to have a prego friend--she's the first person close to me experiencing this wonderfulness!

It was SO great to see and catchup with you, Val! Enjoy the rest of your time in the States. I can't wait to start seeing some photos on your blog! :)

Happy Birthday Jules!

As usual, I'm a day late on my birthday wishes, but at least I was early too! We celebrated Julia's bday in Walnut Creek on Saturday and had a grand ole time. Happy Happy Birthday, Friend!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Picknik Photo Fun

You may have noticed a little something new decorating the blog since the weekend. Yes, I'm referring to my super awesome new header!

While doing my blog hopping this weekend, I randomly found this post on Maya*Made, which introduced me to Picknik, a rockin (free!) photo editing website. I do a bit of basic photo editing in Picasa regularly, so that part wasn't very exciting--what was exciting was seeing the super cool sample banners she made with graphic titles. I've been wanting a cool banner forever, long before I ever posted a word, but I just couldn't quite justify the investment in Adobe CS3 (now 4?!) software without enrolling myself in art school (which I have considered). Amazingly, I didn't have to invest a dime to create my kickass new header. I love the internet.

Go check out Picknik and let's see what you come up with!

Macaroni & Cheese

It was an exciting night in Apt 345--we made macaroni and cheese from scratch for the very first time! I'm sure this doesn't sound very impressive to most of the world, but I LOVE mac n cheese. I was raised on at least 2 boxes a week (what's a single dad to do?!) and always order it at upscale restaurants if it's on the menu. In other words, I do not discriminate when it comes to M&C! I love it all--quick and cheap or fancy schmancy. However, I've never attempted anything outside the box at home.

Lately I've been thinking I should try making something a little more grown up, and a little less processed and powdered, so when I got a Martha email with a whole list of mac and cheese recipes, I knew it was time. Here's the one we chose. It was looking pretty boring until we added the ham--then it smelled amazing! It turned out super yummy and had the perfect crunchy crust, just like at the fancy places!

So, the million dollar question: have I eaten my last box of orange mac n cheese? Not likely, but I'm stoked to have a go-to recipe for the good stuff!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Collections: Patron Bottles

While staying with Nena and Dana in SLO recently, I've been smitten by their everyday centerpiece idea: flowers displayed in Patron bottles! I'm totally planning to steal the idea for our table centerpieces at the wedding. So clean and simple, I just love it. And don't worry, Mother, we'll take off the labels so we don't look like complete alcoholics!

I took the pictures below our during our first planning trip to SLO; the last time we were there, the Patron bottle was full of Gerber daises--one of my faves! Pretty much anything you put in it looks adorable.

So, here's your assignment, friends: start drinking good tequila (Patron, please!) and, for the next 8-10 months, gift your empty bottle to us! Have a good friend who's a bartender, or frequent the local taqueria a little too regularly? Even better! If we're able to collect 20 or so bottles without having to drink them all ourselves, that would be ideal (for our wallets and livers!)

Thanks friends! (Who wants to throw the first Margarita night?!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So Excited!

I was SO excited to see this new post on my sister's blog today! As well as the ADORABLE card she made above. I can't wait for our Annual Cardmaking Weekend (just 2 short weekends away)! Unfortunately, rusty doesn't even begin to describe my current creative cardmaking status. Fortunately, I can copy (and/or just steal) Jordan's cards; the pace at which she whips out cards seriously peeves me.

OPW: Magda & Manny

Remember this post from last month, when I told you about our day of OPW madness? Well, I finally got pictures from Magda of their big day! I was so excited to look through them, since I didn't get to see any of the actual celebrations myself. Mags looked gorgeous and the church where they had their ceremony was huge and incredible. Here's a shot of our reception-prep supervisory handiwork!

I also had to share this awesome action shot--Magda's QUICK!

Congrats you guys! I'm so happy to have been part of your day, and hopefully to have provided at least a bit of last minute stress relief. And trust me Mags, I'm sure I'll be calling for some payback assistance in our own 11th hour!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seattle is Calling

I fell madly in love with Seattle during our first (and only) short visit 2 years ago. The city made such an impression on me in those 4 days that I go through withdrawal periods multiple times a year that include job and home searches. (I'm so not kidding.) I realized recently that Seattle is calling me back. Here's how it's sending it's message; within one week's time...
  1. Kate randomly found me. Kate lives in Seattle.
  2. My old buddy, Bradley, just moved to Seattle and made contact about connecting.
  3. In one day I heard from two totally unrelated (and often long lost) friends, Jeffrey from the Quijano Clan, and Miss Kaylie K, both who were visiting Seattle at the time. Kaylie even rubbed in that she had just eaten at Purple, our favorite accidental restaurant find (it's amazing, we highly recommend it to all Seattle travelers!!)
  4. Grey's Anatomy is back on, and we finally watched our first couple Tivo'd episodes. (Call me lame, I don't care. Every time there's a Seattle skyline shot on Grey's, I melt.)

If this doesn't prove that Seattle is calling me, I don't know what will! If nothing else, next month will mark the 2 year anniversary of our last visit. I seriously don't know how I've gone this long without visiting, but it's no longer acceptable. Considering the next year of wedding travel madness, I really shouldn't be spending the money or using the vacation time, but guess what...I DON'T CARE!

Raf: Consider this post to be my public way of peer pressuring you into booking a flight already! :) We're considering NYE, how fun would that be...

Campaigning Kids

It's been forever since I did my blog rounds, catching up on what friends are posting about, so I decided tonight was the night. While visiting Lindsey, I followed her link to the fun eye candy blog of Elizabeth Williams. (Btw, Lindsey mentions how she visits this blog often just to listen to the music--best tip ever! Loving it.) Elizabeth's most recent post is about "kid art" and she shared this picture from her neighbor's yard:

So awesome. I especially love the kid logic of clarifying "not McCain". It totally reminds me of this campaigning kid art, found in my uncle's driveway during the primaries:

The story behind this chalk campaign art is seriously adorable. Evidently my aunt came home one day to find their lawn signs gone--she vented her irritation aloud, thinking someone had stolen them. In retrospect, she thinks the campaign was just picking them up to use in the next city, but my 7 year old cousin took this offense seriously and went out and created her own Obama signs--ones no one could steal! (At least not without a hose!) Freaking adorable. I love my family.

Late addition: I just checked out Elizabeth's Etsy shop. (If you've never visited Etsy before, allow me to introduce you to your new best friend! Do the world a favor: Buy Handmade and support individual artisans!) She makes some very sweet jewelry. Here are my faves:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


These costumes make my heart happy. Especially the pea pod guy. I'm really going to need to work on my sewing skills before we start having babies! For those of you with appropriately sized kids, you can find instructions for making these from Martha here. Oh goodness, I think I just melted! Look at these (click on the photo for instructions):

Crossing Paths

It never ceases to amaze me what a small world we live in. Meet Kate and Paul (above). Kate randomly found my blog while searching for wedding venues in SLO. But this wasn't our first meeting. We actually worked together for a short time at Applebee's in Redding--then would bump into each other from time to time at Cal Poly. RANDOM! Or maybe not so random--gotta love this life, huh?!

Anyway, Kate is also recently engaged and planning to get married on the Central Coast--but she lives in Seattle! I can't even fathom how much harder that makes things. The awesome thing is that not only do our paths keep crossing, but we also appear to have the exact same taste! It's so much fun to have someone who's going through the same thing, at the same time, in the same place, with the same vision! Random communications with Kate are helping to keep me sane...or maybe making me crazier--she's researched too many great venues (one of the new additions to the list is 100% her fault)!

By the way, as you can tell from the photo above, Kate is an amazing photographer. You can check out her Flickr page here. Here are just a few of my faves...

JCrew Weddings

We all need a break from venue banter, so I thought I'd share a dress instead. JCrew's wedding line makes me happy. This dress makes me happy. And at $350, it makes me SUPER happy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Venues: Dana Powers House & Barn

Photo by Cameron Ingalls (check out a few more pics from this wedding here).

Beware friends, this will be a long one! Next on the list are the Dana Powers House & Barn in Nipomo. I'm pretty sure at least 18 people tried to tell me about this place, but early on in our search I read some really bad reviews about a Victorian house in this area, so whenever anyone would try to bring it up, I'd just disregard it immediately. That was until we met with Katie DiSimone (photographer) and she told us about the Barn attached to the Dana Powers House, and explained that there were 2 different Victorian houses. And bless her heart for clarifying, cuz this place is awesome!

So, first things first--there are actually 2 separate venues on this property--the Dana Powers House and the Dana Powers Barn. You can rent one, or you can rent both and have your ceremony on the lawn at the house and reception at the barn. We haven't been looking into Victorian houses much--most are smack dab in the middle of town, just off a busy street where everybody walking by can see you (no thanks). However, after seeing this one, I totally loved it, so I've included photos of the house portion here too. Side note: Nena was actually attending a wedding at the house the same day we visited, so we had a good idea of how everything looked with tables/chairs set. You can see all the DP House photos we took here.

Now, on to our true purpose for the visit: The Barn! Here are our thoughts:
  • Cost: Definitely at the high-end of our range, but there are a lot of things included here--everything from tables, chairs, and setup, to coffee, iced tea and lemonade. Judi seems happy to be highly involved in the planning and execution of the events held here--which is awesome, and makes sense since it's also her home.
  • The Look and Feeling: Oh-so-charming! It's a barn, but it's got just the right combination of fun with a touch of class. They still have horseshoes and a firepit, but they also have a grassy area on one side of the barn for the ceremony, and even a really nice bridal suite inside the barn for prepping.
  • Competitive Edge: I walked away feeling smitten! As far as the look and the amount of help you get here, we couldn't ask for more. Oh, and they also have this huge, beautiful, amazing Eucalyptus tree nearby (there are many, but one I loved in particular). This made me super happy because of all the time I spent out hiking at Montana de Oro while living in SLO (you drive through an awesome Eucalyptus grove to get out there).

Our overall impression: the Dana Powers Barn is currently holding the #1 spot. So, you ask, why in the heck haven't we booked it yet??!?! I know you're tired of reading about venues, but here are our reasons for hesitation (in no particular order):

  1. We realized this weekend that we're horrible decision makers. We also realized that we're not ashamed of this. The fact that it takes us so darn long to make a decision is because we're analyzers (hell, Raf gets paid to be an Analyst!) We want to identify and weigh the good, the bad and the ugly of our options. The good news: we never regret the decisions we make. Thus, I'm cool with moving at the pace of an ancient sea turtle. It also helps that I believe that everything happens for a reason--therefore, if something books up because we took too long, no worries, it wasn't meant to be our place.
  2. Time restrictions. Music has to be off by 9:30, and you need to be out by 10pm. This has been our biggest hesitation. While I don't think we have a huge party crowd, we're not keen on the idea of asking people that have traveled so far to celebrate with us to clear out by 10pm. And the ceremony here would start at 4pm, so it's not like they've all been sitting around since 1 or 2. On the other hand, Cayucos Creek is the only place we've found that will allow the party to continue into the late night hours. We've already thought of some ways to make up for the early end time--taking the after party to Mongo's (a big bar that has fun live bands) in Grover Beach, or planning a Sunday brunch or wine tour that everyone is invited to join. There are ways around it, but we're still not stoked.
  3. The barn is setup so that most of the reception activities take place inside--dinner, dancing, etc. I was really looking forward to an outdoor event, so the fact that only the ceremony and the cocktail hour (which we'll miss--and I'm very bitter about!) are outdoors kinda bums me out. I was also envisioning a family style dinner--ideally rectangle tables, close together, passed food, etc. The barn is setup with rounds surrounding the dance floor, so everyone is pretty spread out. End of the world, no--but also not what I was envisioning. On this point, I've started brainstorming ways to get people back outside to enjoy the evening outdoors--namely: dessert!

(Really) long story short, we had pretty much decided on this place until I stumbled across 2 more sites this weekend (damn it!) We're interested enough in what those have to offer that we're hesitating once again...go figure! Oh well, such is the life of poor decision makers! :) More on the 2 new options to come...

You can checkout our Picasa album of the Dana Powers Barn here.

Venues: Zenaida Cellars

Hey friends! I'm back with more wedding venue coverage. We went to SLO for Nena's bday a couple weekends ago and checked out 2 more spots while we were there, including Zenaida Cellars in Paso Robles. Here are our thoughts:

  • Cost: Towards the top of our limit. (All front runners seem to be falling in the same range at this point, once you consider the site and equipment rental fees.) Zenaida has a site fee, you have to rent tables & chairs, and they also require you to rent both guest units upstairs. If you join their wine club though, you get one night free and I think 10% off the other room--so, it's another expense, but at least you get wine out of it! Of course, you also have to serve their wine at the event--the good news is they charge by bottles opened, rather than a per person fee.
  • The Look & Feeling: Very cute. You have the combo of the big tree under which the ceremony would take place, the vineyards, the lawn area, and the balcony where the rooms are upstairs. It's a nice little spot. The only issue is I have to emphasize "little". All your space is this one area, unless you're having a small enough event (70 guests) to use their barrel room for dinner.
  • Competitive Edge: It's just cute. Comfortable. Quiet. And the rooms upstairs are definitely a plus. Not only does it provide a place to get ready, but you're also able to move a small after-party upstairs, once the music is turned off at 10pm.

Our overall impression: it's too small for us. They can do an event for up to 150, but that means it's ALL on the lawn area--and that's just all a little too cramped for me (while the change-over from ceremony to reception happens, your guests still hang out in the same space). However, if we were having a small enough event that we'd be able to do dinner in the barrel room, I think this place would probably be topping the list.

Check out photos of a few Zenaida Cellars weddings by Katie DiSimone here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Engaged: Ashley & Leo!

I'm tellin you--it's POURING around here! Thankfully the barrage of engagements is full of great couples and excellent friends! Most recently engaged are Ashley and Leo. Ashley is one of my closest and dearest friends and I couldn't be more excited! (Seriously, I really couldn't be. It's so much more fun to think about other people's weddings!)

Leo planned a very sweet surprise weekend away and proposed to Ashley after feeding giraffes in a behind-the-scenes tour of Safari West in Santa Rosa. Too freaking cute! I mean, seriously, did you see that picture?!!? As expected, Leo was ridiculous--Ashley's ring is GINORMOUS (and gorgeous)!

After our Girls Night dinner with Julia tonight, I made the executive decision that they should get married in Vegas. The good news is it's an option that they're willing to consider, so I'm just going to go ahead and start planning it! :) My goal is to visit every fun getaway spot I can think of through weddings in 2009!

Photo from LorenzFoto, Las Vegas

Congrats you two! We're so thrilled to spend our lives sharing couple time with you!

Engaged: Gina & Eric!

I've been told that when it comes to engagements and weddings, when it rains, it pours. I never thought that year would come for me--boy was I wrong! It has been a year of wedding and engagement madness, and there are no signs of slacking off anytime soon.

One couple joining us on the engagement bandwagon are Gina (my friend from work) and Eric. Eric took Gina to Cabo for her birthday a couple weeks ago and orchestrated a super sweet proposal, including surprise visits by close friends, on her day.

There's never been another person whose life has mirrored mine more closely than Gina. Not only do people think we look alike (to the point where she's had total strangers hug her and spend time "catching up"), but we also have similar relationships, are on similar career paths, and now we get to plan our weddings at the same time! There's certainly no one that I'd have more fun sharing a parallel life path with.

The highlight of this engagement (for me)? They're leaning towards tying the knot in Cabo! Woo hoo! Destination weddings=VACATION!

Happy Birthday, Sis!

My birthday wishes are a week late, but at least I was there to celebrate the actual day! Added bonus: our totally selfish contribution to the evening of delicious enchiladas, salsa (both made by Nena), and margaritas, was a bottle of Patron. 1 down, 19 or so to go! If these comments make no sense to you...just wait, I haven't gotten around to blogging our flower/centerpiece vision yet! :)

Happy Happy Birthday, Sister!

Match Party!

Oh yes, friends, you read that right--Match Party, as in! I finally hounded Raf's boys about extending their dating circles so much that they actually suggested gathering to create their profiles! (Remember my note from this post?! 5 years of being the only girl attending gatherings on a regular basis is getting old!) Of course, first they had to cleverly disguise the gathering as "Poker Night":

But, have no fear, by the end of the evening they were no longer gathered around cards and chips, but rather my desktop and profiles of Bay Area ladies aged 21-27! (It's HILARIOUS to me that not one of them was willing to look at girls older than them, but barely legal was totally fine!)

Hey guys, you should send me links to your profiles so I can post them here for perusal by all my single blog followers (all 3 of them!) HA! I can't wait for the dating stories to come! On a serious note though, Raf really does have an amazing group of friends. These guys are fun, big hearted, and genuinely good people. Ladies, if you have any interest, you know where to find them (just spend any weekend with me!)

Congrats on Retirement, Miss Edy!

My friend, mentor, and the Director of our office, Edy, retired at the end of August. Edy worked here for over 14 years and was nothing short of incredible. I miss her dearly already and it's only been a couple months! (Btw, it's Edy's position that I recently inherited--thank goodness she left things in impeccable condition. Now if only I didn't have such impossibly big shoes to fill!)

We finally hosted a small retirement party with staff and a few volunteers at Barone's in Pleasanton last night (a BIG thank you to my colleague, Louisette, for organizing everything!) It was a great time and a really cool environment. Barone's gave us this cute little outdoor patio, and thanks to our Indian summer, the weather was perfect.

And for the interest of my mom and sister, here are a few shots of some notecards that I made for the party. I was going for a guestbook concept, but didn't want to bring an actual book. Instead, I made these little postcard style cards for people to write their well wishes. I sized them to fit in the small purple box you see in the photo below. The box is from a pair of earrings Santa once gave me, and it says "Million Wishes" on the front (the name of the accessory company). I had planned to cover it with matching designer paper until Louisette looked at me like I was nuts--I hadn't realized the poetic coincidence of the "million wishes" sentiment!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pops Gets a Buck

I got an awesome call from Pops today. On the last day of hunting season, he got a buck! I'm super excited for him, it's probably been 10-15 years since dad harvested his last buck. He took an extensive hiatus from hard core hunting when I got really into volleyball and traveled to play year round. He's only begun hunting more regularly since retiring these last few years, but even that has been more about learning Oregon's systems and new country. This is the first season where he's actually sounded serious about getting out there--camping and hunting on foot...and go figure, the old ways still work!

A lot of the newer friends in my life may not know that I come from a hunting family. I started hunting with my dad while still in a car seat, but have never been interested in yielding the rifle myself. I spent a few years struggling with the cruelty aspect, but in the last year, as I've educated myself more about our food systems, I couldn't be more proud to come from a family that hunts. I come from people who hunted to feed their families in winter, when work was slow. I come from a father who respects the animals he's hunting, wastes nothing, and cherishes Mother Nature above all else. I realize now that, done respectfully, there's no more humane, sustainable, or healthy way to be a meat eater.

I'm looking forward to learning delectable ways to prepare the venison that will be coming our way this winter--Dad's typical pan-fried technique is not happening in our house! Congrats Pops!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Comeback

Ok, ok, people, I'm back! I realize that many of you are having withdrawls (and many more are probably breathing a sigh of relief at having a week's break from me!) I assure you that I miss my blog more than you do. For those of you who haven't heard, I changed jobs (same employer & office, different position) a few weeks ago, so things have been crazy--I have a lot to learn, so I'm not making it home with much energy left over for blogging these days. I'll make a comeback tho, promise!

In other news, I was super stoked to check my Tivo today and see that the Oprah show was focused on animal farming techniques, spurred by California's Prop 2. Basically Prop 2 provides more cage space for a few types of farm animals: chickens, veal calves & pregnant pigs. (Btw, I tear up every time I see the Yes on Prop 2 commercial--while it's irrelevant to caging, I can't handle the shot of the live cow being pushed by the forklift.) While it's a step in the right direction, I'd prefer that we all take a much bigger step and vote with our forks by purchasing cage free/free range/grass farmed know: raised as Mother Nature intended. It's awesome to see a few of America's responsible, free range farms receiving some well-deserved, prime time exposure.

Side note: I learned from the Oprah show today that Chipotle serves only free range pork--guess I'll have to reconsider eating at Chipotle afterall (I've had issues with the white rice in the burritos!)

I'll be back with our latest venue options (and new woes) soon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Venues: Fleur de Lis, Atascadero

Fleur de Lis is a private residence/rental property on a backroad in Atascadero.
  • Cost: Mid-range for us. The cool part is for our very top-end venue limit, we could include rental of the house (sleeps 12) for the weekend.

  • The Look & Feeling: Very clean cut. Basically it's the yard of this big ole house, including small barn for bar and dance floor.

  • Competitive Edge: The option to rent the house, for sure.

They've done a great job with this place, but I think it's maybe a little too well groomed for us. What can I say, I guess I'm a dirt and trailers kind of girl!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Farmer's Market & Local Dairy

One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is the abundance of Farmer's Markets. They're everywhere. In Fremont we have them on Saturday & Sunday, year round--gotta love California living! The loot this morning included green beans, red potatoes (both currently cooking...the smell of garlic is intoxicating!), okra, big and baby tomatoes, carrots, dahlias and a loaf from Beckmann's Bakery in Santa Cruz.

If you live in the Bay, the Buy Fresh, Buy Local Guide is a great resource for finding your local farmer's market, as well as sustainable farms and restaurants. There's also a great list of in-season produce on page 50. Outside the Bay, cool resources include the Eat Well Guide and Local Harvest.

We made one more stop on our way home from Farmer's--the Ralph's in Fremont is the only place in town that carries dairy products from Straus Family Creamery, a dairy farm in Marin County. It's the only local dairy listed in these guides using sustainable practices--namely, grass grazing their cows, rather than feeding them corn in cages. We finally tracked down our first bottle (yes, glass bottle!) of their milk in the natural foods section (not dairy section) of Ralph's today. We also picked up a tub of their yogurt, and were excited to find some organic whole grain flour and active dry yeast nearby (so Raf can finally try to make his first loaf of homemade bread--woo hoo!)

I love Sundays--they often lead to good progress on the food front for us. Now to carry it through the rest of the week...

Venues: Dallidet Adobe & Gardens

We found Dallidet Adobe & Gardens on recommendation from Jin Ho. He DJ'd a wedding here recently and insisted we check it out. Raf also thought it sounded familiar from his college catering days. Turns out, it's amazing.
  • Cost: Super reasonable. It's owned by the SLO Historical Society, so the prices are great.
  • The Look & Feeling: It's gorgeous--a little garden haven, quiet and serene. It even has a couple random redwood trees growing out of the middle of the grounds (which Raf noted as symbolic for us, due to the Big Basin engagement, etc. How cute is he?!)
  • Competitive Edge: It's in downtown SLO! It's at the end of two dead-end roads on either side, so even though it's right downtown, I never even knew it existed. It's not obnoxious like most places in the middle of town where people driving by can see you in the backyard.

Unfortunately, Dallidet has one (very significant) downfall--your event has to be over and cleaned up by 6:30pm. BOO! We're so bummed about this place. Obviously a daytime wedding is totally doable, but we're looking forward to enjoying a long party with our friends and family. The last thing we want to do is ask our families to travel 12 hours (by car from Oregon for my family, by plane from Poland for his), then call it a day at 6pm! This is yet another place where I want an excuse to throw a different party though. Visions of baby showers...(no time soon, of course!)