Location, location, location

Screen Shot 2013-07-13 at 9.16.26 AM 2

In the wise words of rap artist Nelly… “ay, where the party at?”

In my PR experience, it’s best to start with the 5 W’s… and you are already aware of the what. You’re planning your wedding. (Yay!)

WHAT   WHERE    WHEN    WHO   WHY   (HOW)

You can totally figure this out.

When

My first thought about when to have our wedding was NYE. I knew a few people who had a rockin’ NYE wedding and I thought what better time to host a bash?

Holidays, travel, and potentially inclement weather in Chicago brought us back to reality. We moved on and settled on looking at 2014 dates in Feb-March-April. Spring seemed like a fabulous time to celebrate our wedding next year and in years to come. Flowers could be blooming or snow could be falling, but the chances of a travel headaches were far less than NYE. It gave us ample time to plan without feeling rushed, so we started the process right away.

Where

If you’re planning to be married in a church or place of worship, go straight to the source. It’s best to determine the ceremony “where” and “when” first, and you can determine the reception location afterward.

Some churches allow only parishoners to celebrate a wedding there. Others will welcome you with open arms, no matter where you belong. It all depends, but you never know if you don’t ask. Wise words from my pops.

Go online, call the parish offices, ask to speak to the wedding coordinator, ask about the dates you’re interested in. Or ask them about available dates.

If you are providing a one-stop shop for ceremony and reception, good for you. Way to be efficient! The events point of contact at the reception location will be more than happy to help you plan your wedding. Be prepared for the astonishing food and bev minimums! Put on your poker face.

We are getting married in Chicago, but  live in South Carolina. It can take some creative finagling to plan an out of town wedding, but I haven’t heard of anyone who didn’t survive the process.

Tip: write down everything.

More to come as I navigate this wedding planning process!

Bubbles are best

holiday_manmade_vector_large

Life is best served with bubbly. It is.

Life decision: always have champagne on hand. Why the hell not?

Life is for celebrating. Things come up. Friends come down (to visit). A proper toast to good health and happiness is certainly uplifting on its own, but with something sparkly in hand? It’s even better.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but when great things are happening, toast to them!

What will you vow for yourself? What will you always have on hand? What will make your day bubbly?

The Ladies Who Brunch

tea-party-vintageBrunch Style

If I were to host a wedding planning brunch (complete with mimosas), I’d invite Kate Spade for her classic ways, Ina Garten for her delightful and calm demeanor, Nate Berkus for his fabulous style, my mom for her touch of tradition, and my sister for her creativity and always-fun mantra. Who’s style will you borrow?

Engaged!

il_fullxfull.378058483_3eu3

I’m engaged! So very pumped, and I’ve officially entered into the world of wedding planning. Yikes.

I love a good party, and I enjoy planning fun events, too, but this whole wedding thing is very different from anything I’ve experienced. It’s all about you, or at least it feels that way. For some, that may be a bit daunting (read: yes, I’m talking about me). And you know what? It’s all good.

After we got engaged, we were fortunate enough to be lovingly attacked by questions about dates, dresses and locations. All of which required answers we didn’t have.

Piece of advice No. 1: Enjoy your engagement. There is plenty to follow when it comes to details, but just take it all in. Wise words from my hubby-to-be: just remember, we only have to do this once. He was referring to the four hours of phone calls we made post-engagement.

Advice No. 2: Be a good communicator. MAF (my awesome fiancé) hired a photographer to capture our engagement moment (totally amazing and thoughtful, I concur). The photographer had told MAF that he would post some photos from this awesome surprise as soon as he got back to the studio. Where did he post, you ask? Facebook. Never would I have fathomed communicating this news via Facebook, but times are a changin! If you care to call your family, friends and college roommates before their newsfeed updates, do yourself a solid and micromanage your social media. Turn off your photos temporarily, or make your profile private until you called the people who can still communicate without the assistance of Mark Zuckerberg.

Advice No. 3: Be happy for yourself, the rest is gravy.  I have amazing friends. We are all in the same book, but we are on separate pages. That is okay. If you are happy, others will be, too. Some friends are in the midst of wedding season, and your engagement news = dollar signs. Others are sick of the annoyingly awful dates that OkayCupid has produced, and while your news is awesome, they are reminded of their lack of significant spooner. Whatever the case may be, whatever bad mood someone is in—don’t let it get you down. If you are happy, that’s all that matters. We all have moments of weakness, don’t let someone else rain on your parade.

photo 3

Wedding Takeover

You know the whole experiment I mentioned? Here we go. Andiamo.

The whole wedding process can be overwhelming, and I found myself part of that camp. I’m talking process. Not just planning your wedding, at times I feel fairly clueless about the whole shabang. I’m part of the earlier crew of engaged ladies in my group, which is cool and kind of terrifying.

I was surprised, I’ll admit,  as I searched for blogs, books and wise wedded ladies online. I found really detailed info (helpful at times), or things that just didn’t suit my style (hello life on pinterest). Maybe I didn’t google long enough, but I just wanted a friendly voice full of cool ideas and mild mind-reading.

This is my answer to what I was searching for, I hope you’ll join me on my wedding adventure. I can guarantee highs and lows, and total Liz Lemon moments.

Everything’s better with friends.

View from my Southern home

Blog Science: Experimenting

Hi. It’s nice to meet you, again. Howdy from South Carolina!

I’m the worst. It’s been nearly a year, what kind of blogger do I think I am!? Clearly, I am one who is seeking forgiveness for blog neglect. Please, accept my apologies!

Friends, so many awesome things have been happening lately! I moved! I’m engaged!! I have a new job! I’m back! I’ve missed this, it’s a great outlet and it requires some discipline. I’ve tossed my laziness and excuses to the side, enough of that. I dug my discipline out of the back of my closet.

Blog science in progress.

I’m experimenting, bear with me. What should I put on here? Do I really need to document what’s going on in my life for you? Or for me? I mean, facebooktwitterinstagramgoogleplusemail may not be enough, and this seems to be a personal way to connect. I’ll admit, I’m not the best when it comes to documenting every meal I create. But we’ll see. Anyway, here’s to expressing yourself through writing and getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off and called a cab to get home.

Food rocks, and it’s a huge part of my life. But I’ve been thinking about what’s taking over my world (in the best way possible), so wedding/marriage planning may come up more often than I previously anticipated. I promise it won’t be annoying, but if it is, please let me know.

A dopo. Va bene.

These things for which I hope

It’s been quite some time! I didn’t mean to ditch you, my small but mighty crowd. I’ve been in the car a great deal, traveling on mildly long road trips for weekends spent with family and friends. I’ve been busy enjoying that time, but have been quite neglectful in this virtual space.

These recent commutes has provided me with some much needed time to reflect on some really nice things in my life. Please note: “things” is representative of quality time, fun events, great dinners rather than Ray-Ban sunglasses and Tiffany jewelry. See where I’m headed?

I have great, great people surrounding me. I have loving, genuine friends who care about what I do, what I’m interested in and why. I have family members who I don’t see nearly as often as I talk to them– for a 15 minute walk to grab lunch, in between errands and soccer games (theirs, not mine) and trips to and from hospitals to see more loved ones. Yet, I feel as close as ever. And for that I am grateful.

I truly hope you have these things too:

-Someone to call at 2 a.m. who will still want to talk to you at 7 p.m. the next day.

-Someone who questions what you say, preach or believe because they believe in you. Sometimes challenge is a great thing- it makes you think.

-Someone who knows that you couldn’t bear the idea of eating your mac and cheese with a spoon. And they don’t force you.

-Someone who shares the things that make them happy, like taking a weekend to write and reflect on your goals and dreams, because they think you would like it too.

-Someone, many someones, who express how important you are to them. And I sincerely hope they are important to you.

Surround yourself with great people. People who remind you that bad days are temporary, good days are momentous and life is really, truly fun because you’re a part of it.

Pesto Love

Well friends, sometimes all you need is a giant bowl of pasta to cure all that is wrong in the world. And even if it’s not truly a cure, it’s a personal favorite. Something about a few simple ingredients tossed in a dish that are just as savory as something that’s been roasting for hours.

I was craving pesto, but unless you’re growing a pine nut tree in your backyard, those suckers cost an arm and a leg. I was inspired by this recipe for arugula pesto, but made a few tweaks based on what I had in the fridge. Hope you enjoy.

Spinach-Pistachio Pesto

2 cups spinach (rinsed and dried)

1 garlic clove

1/2 c shelled pistachios

1/3 c olive oil (plus more for consistency)

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Lightly toast pistachios in a pan. In a food processor, blend spinach, garlic, pistachios and oil.  Add more oil to reach desired consistency. Transfer to dish, sprinkle with cracked pepper and grated cheese. Store in refrigerator or serve immediately. Great accompaniment to pasta or topped upon crostini.

Note: If you are not in possession of a food processor, fear not! Smash the garlic with the back of  your knife and chop the spinach. Place the pistachios in a sealed bag, crush with the back of a heavy pan and use a blender to combine ingredients.

Aesthetics aren't important, but the taste is scrumptious! Leave the beauty loaf to my mom.

Slainte!

Top of the mornin’ to you! In honor of my favorite green holiday, I am indulging you, sharing a very special recipe in honor of my heritage. My mom has won awards for this, so cherish it! And enjoy St. Patrick’s Day! Irish coffees all around!

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 c AP flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1- 1 1/2 c raisins (boil in water for 5 min., cool and dry with paper towels)
  • 2 large eggs/3 medium eggs
  • 16 oz sour cream (you’re curious, aren’t you?)
  • Butter, for greasing pan
Yields: 2 smaller loaves. It doesn’t matter how many calories are in this, it’s St. Patty’s Day for heaven’s sake!

Oven: 325 degrees F.

Mix together all dry ingredients, sift into large bowl. Add dry, plump raisins to dry mix. In separate bowl, mix eggs and sour cream together until smooth. Add wet mix to dry, mix until combined (3-5 min with hand mixer). Pour mixture into well-greased large cast-iron pan to form round loaf shape. You may also wrap two smaller  skillets/pans with greased foil to form shape of loaf. Place loaves in oven for 50-55 min, testing with toothpick around 45 min. Allow bread to cool, lightly brush top of loaves with butter (optional).

Serve in slices, along with coffee, tea and milk. Double the recipe and share with lucky neighbors and friends.

Thanks Mom!

Ruth Reichl- The real cookbook connoisseur. Gourmet Magazine Editor-in-Chief through 2010. Foodie idol.

How to Succeed in the Kitchen (With just a bit of trying)

On my most recent roundtrip drive from Cincinnati to Chicago and back, I decided to indulge in a book on tape/CD this time around. I was supposed to read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell while studying in Florence, but I hope you agree there were far more valuable ways to spend my time in Italy. I’m glad I gave Gladwell another shot, because I like what he’s on to. The book applies a good deal of real life, pop culture-induced situations and uses them as case studies, explaining social catalysts in our world today. What makes something “tip”? Within the book, Gladwell refers to connectors, mavens and salespeople– influential people have different skill sets and qualities, which he categorizes into these three buckets. Personally, I pegged myself as a connector. I cannot help but introduce people who have so much in common (not in a Yenta kind of way) and one of my favorite things in life is when my “worlds collide.” I successfully accomplished introducing my different groups of friends one New Years Eve and it turned out to be fabulous. Unfortunately, George Costanza did not have the same experience.

However, I’m prefacing this post for two reasons: a) read/listen at leisure to the book if you haven’t already and b) I am switching from my connector role to a kitchen maven. In honor of a certain friend who recently packed her bags, headed Northeast for the Big Apple and defaults to sandwiches for dinner– this goes out to you. Acting as your trusted foodie expert for the time being, allow me to share some simple and serious insight from a dabbling cook.

The Book of Ruth All good things begin when you get yourself a cookbook. Any cookbook will do the trick, though I  prefer one with tips and notes and colorful pictures. My guilty pleasure was buying Ruth Reichl’s Gourmet Cookbook, solely out of desire. It is classic and glorious and has an in-depth index that makes life easy. Mark Bittman is another great recommendation; How To Cook Everything lives up to its title. You can find recipes online, but there’s something nostalgic about using a cookbook to guide you. It will also serve as a great reference for your cooking future.

Contextual Segregation Simple: wash your veggies. When it comes to meat, chicken, fish and beans, separate but equal applies. Keep those proteins separate and you and your body will thank you. There is a reason everything comes packaged separately at the grocery store, so until everything is thoroughly prepared and the bacteria has been cooked off, err on the side of caution and clean the area well.

Two Spoon Rule 1. You will need to taste your food throughout the process of cooking. 2. Just because you’re not in a restaurant does not give you the right to use the same utensil to taste. You must have more than one- use them all if necessary. They’re easy to wash! Double dipping is not allowed.Your hungry friends who randomly stop by because they can smell your culinary creations down the block will thank you.

The freezer is your friend Lots of recipes yield multiple servings, so you might be deterred to make something that would feed a small army. However, freezing meals is so easy and completely worth it. You can also pat yourself on the back when you use or save fresh produce, instead of letting it turn into a fuzz ball in the back corner of your fridge. We’ve all been there. Don’t O.D. on the same meal for a week straight- mix it up, freeze a few different meals and thank yourself later.

Size matters I am the worst when it comes to estimating. I have trained myself to go for the larger option when it comes to cutting boards, skillets, pots and pans in order to avoid mass chaos. Life is much more enjoyable when your water is not boiling over, your pasta is not on fire and onions are not scattered across the counter. When faced with the choice, go big or go home.

Ninja Knife Skills You don’t need them. You do, however, need a great knife. One that requires sharpening or at least did not come alongside a spoon and fork. The knife should be bigger than whatever you’re cutting, for the most part. When dicing, chopping, mincing or cutting anything, make sure you’re consistent. When slicing an onion, make sure you’re slicing evenly. When you use the ingredient in a dish, it will cook evenly.

Crack is whack I adore the built-in grinders attached to salt and pepper shakers. However, the steam from the stove will clog your grinder and create lots of issues down the road. Unless you’re into mushy or uneven cracked salt and pepper, grind away from the stove before you season the dish.

Don’t be a vino victim One of the most important lessons I learned in Italy is the wine you cook with should be just as good as the wine you drink. From stove to table, you should use wine that you would enjoy by the glass. Luckily, we are inundated with great wine at reasonable prices. Don’t skimp on the alcohol- you’ve only got one body. Put the best in it. My grandpa always said that; words to live by.

Ci vediamo a dopo!