I’m a newlywed. In fact, our one year anniversary is coming up in the next couple of weeks. D and I dated for four years before we got married and he spent the majority of his time at school, work or at my apartment. There were definite adjustments when he moved in with me post-wedding, but he knew what he was getting himself into before we got hitched. 😉 For one, I don’t buy into traditional gender roles. I don’t believe in a subservient role in marriage; I believe in a partnership. And I am so lucky to be married to someone who is happy to support a marriage based on equality.
I did not know how to cook when we got married. Wait, let me explain. I physically understood how to cook. I can follow a recipe and I’ve been baking with my family my whole life. I guess I should say “I did not know how to meal plan when we got married”. And I didn’t. The idea of creating meals for seven days a week on a newlywed-still-in-school-while-working budget absolutely overwhelmed and terrified me. In fact, I wonder how all of my fellow married couples handle this. Do they all just know inherently how to meal plan? Do they take a class? Do they just compile delicious Pinterest recipes and make them each night? We need some married friends our age so I can sleuth their choices!
Anyway, meal planning. While perusing one of my favorite blogs, IHeart Organizing, I read a sponsor post that included a place to make five dinners in one hour per week. Let me be very clear, I HATE subscription activities like making my bed or doing laundry. It will just have to be done the next day and I struggle to find the motivation to do these things. I have to fight with myself to do things that other people consider normal, everyday behaviors. The idea of cooking for an hour every night of the week when I have a small business to run, two jobs and a hubby who works two jobs and goes to school full time? No thanks. There are only twenty-four hours every day and I spend at least six sleeping and at least eleven working at jobs or on my business. Then there are pets, cleaning, laundry, family time and especially D time. Spending an hour on something that will be gone in minutes? This also goes along the line of my wedding mindset. I did NOT want to spend every minute of every day for six months obsessing about an eight hour event. If you ask me, that has a ridiculous opportunity cost.
So I was really curious about this one hour to make your food for the week scenario. I clicked over to the site and signed up later that day. I think the cost is $5 a month, but trust me, it was completely worth it to me. We used to eat out a lot or buy a lot of mismatched groceries with no complete meals and then end up going back out to purchase more on different nights. Paying five bucks more than makes up for the feeling of overwhelmed overspending budget panic I was experiencing. The site is simple: you sign up, pay and you receive your menu for the month immediately. Every month you get an e-mail with your entire cooking plan.
Every week of the month has two pages, one with the menu and cooking directions and the other with the grocery list. The list is separated by grocery section so it’s simple to pick everything up. There are five meals per week and at least one of them is freezable so that you can use it another time if you decide not to eat it for some reason. Each week our average food cost is about $75 for two people and we always have a lot of leftover food.
On the menu/directions page, it will tell you what you’ll need to get out to cook for the week. I always just set up my laptop with a couple of episodes of the X-Files or Parks & Recreation and let it play while I prepped. You prep your meals, fridge them and then pull them out and crock-pot them or stick them in the oven each day. One meal, simply enough, was a casserole with chicken, broccoli, cheese, milk, water and cornstarch. It’s basically just mixing and layering said ingredients and it is so easy and yummy. This might all be second nature to most people, or it might seem like an overly specific explanation of cooking. Which I can accept. But just in case there are any other anxious newlywed people who don’t have a clue about meal planning or cooking, here. I’m with you. I was freaked.
The best part about all of this, the absolute best part, is that it gave me confidence to cook. I did this, pretty religiously for about two months. In the third month, I started noticing things that would create simple inexpensive meals on my own. After making twenty soups, I knew what spices I could add to make them taste a certain way. I don’t feel so lost or overwhelmed about making foods that actually constitute a meal instead of a conglomeration of random foods.
I love kids. I’ve been babysitting and working in church nurseries since I was in fourth grade. I’ve gotten to know hundred of families as a preschool teacher and I have such a passion for spending time with little ones. I even got my Bachelor’s in Family and Child Development. Their giggles, communications, watching them learn and process and develop. So when I get to shoot a family with adorable little girls, I’m excited. Add in princess tutu skirts and I’m ecstatic.
I love uniformity. Not to the point of boring tasteless consistency, but I love things that match or coordinate. Since I recently learned how to meal plan/what to cook, I’ve started utilizing my spices a lot. And the more I picked through dusty, peeling labeled plastic jars, the more I felt the need to find a clean and cute way to utilize my spices. I was inspired by Kit of DIY Diva. She recently created awesome spice jar labels complete with a little description/poem of what each spice does.
Pinterest has a ton of great ideas for creating your own spice jars as well. I loved the idea of Kit’s clamp top jars, but in my experience, labels peel and even if you replace them, there’s that sticky residue that takes several minutes of Goo Gone to dissipate. On my birthday, Mom and I went shopping and found these perfect little jars. They had white ceramic tops but we took them home and dipped the tops into Martha Stewart’s Chalkboard paint.
After a twenty-four hour drying period, I got out white paint markers and wrote down the name of each spice on each top. Using actual chalk on the top of these jars would not have been practical for me, because for one thing, I’m not the most careful person in the world. One sleeve brushing against the jar tops and I’m adding cumin to my ice cream instead of lavender. That just doesn’t sound good. So I used the white markers for a more permanent but still slightly sweet chalk look.
Sidenote: If you actually want to do this and use chalk, I would advise you to try a couple of different paints. I’ve used chalkboard spray paint and it is absolutely fab. Martha’s paint, bless her heart, wasn’t the best chalkboard paint I’ve used and if I were using actual chalk instead of the paint marker I would have been a little disappointed. Oh, and I only needed one paint marker but you can never have too many markers right?!
I love them. I love that I never have to shake them and I can add a pinch or literally stick my teaspoon into the jar. No more awkwardly shaking a giant hole-y spice jar over a tiny teaspoon and filling my lungs with mustard dust. I keep them all in a basket for now and love that I don’t have to dig each one out and read each label. They are all sitting in a row, clearly labeled. Anything that makes kitchen time more lovely is a good thing.
Tomorrow’s post features the Pangborn’s family session! On Monday, I’ll be posting about my experience as a clueless newlywed who had no idea how to meal plan or what to cook. It will also include an explanation of what I found that simplified the entire process and gave me confidence in the kitchen.
One thing that I knew for sure when I started planning for the wedding was that I did not want giant, conversation blocking centerpieces. I always find it odd to be sitting at a table, surrounded by eight people but only able to see three of them. After looking online for inspiration, Mom and I headed out on our aforementioned Ikea trip. I knew that I wanted non-blocking pieces and that I wanted to spend less than $5 per table. We went through every aisle of that candles and decor of Ikea multiple times because I stubbornly refused to leave until I found what I wanted. As we went through the aisles one last time, I spied these wooden candle holders on major clearance for $1.99. We grabbed those, as well as some candles and were planning to leave it at that.
We pre-filled the centerpieces and stacked them into some grey Rubbermaid boxes, to wait for March 5th to come.
A week before the wedding, my mom and I went looking for a little plant to put on the little bistro table that D and I would be sitting at during the wedding. As we walked through the foliage section of Home Depot’s gardening center, we stumbled upon the succulents. When we first started wedding planning, I had wanted succulents for the wedding but it was a non-essential so it had to wait. During our hunt for a bistro-table appropriate flower, we found an adorable little assortment of succulents. And since I had planned the budget with overflow in every area, we had plenty to afford these. This was one of the things about the wedding that I was really excited about because it looked so visually pleasing and really tied in every element of our day: Southwestern, all of our colors, the beautiful wood grain texture.
Katie and Jeff decided to surprise their mom with a sibling portrait session for Christmas. They were absolute naturals in front of the camera and I didn’t even see a hint of discomfort.
As a photographer, I’m thinking about a lot of different things all at once. I’m setting up your pose, considering the lighting, the angle, the exposure, reflection, composition, sharpness, bokeh and more. It’s easy to forget that my subjects don’t have a psychic connection with me, understanding the picture that I have in my mind. It wasn’t until D & I had our own engagement portrait session that I really understood how uncomfortable it is to be in front of the camera. Ever since, I’ve been able to empathize more completely with my clients, building in a little warm up time where we just do whatever comes naturally and work our way into some of the more “created” scenes. I say all of this to say that Katie and Jeff were born to be in front of a camera. You already know that I love families that love each other. I also love people that dazzle me with happy, soul warming smiles. The Watsons meet both requirements, so color me a happy photographer.
I’m in my early twenties. When I started wedding planning, I recognized that nothing at my wedding needed to be perfect. I’m young enough that no one really had any swanky expectations of glory for our big day. In a way, it was very relieving. Not only that, but I don’t have the luxury of time or money that perfection often requires. And even more than that, I don’t have that desire for a wedding. Putting that kind of pressure on myself for one simple day would have been ridiculous. But I recognize that I was relatively safe from the expectations that an older bride might have.
All of this to say, did I want a creative and beautiful wedding? Absolutely. I’ve been reading blogs for years, seeing the delicate calligraphy or hand painted invitations that people choose to commision for their wedding. When Jessica Claire sent out her invitations a couple of years ago, I had dreams of doing something so elaborate and creative. But as the day drew nearer, I knew I needed to be realistic. So off to Michael’s my mom and I went. We figured we’d look through the wedding aisles just to get a taste of what was out there. We looked through the invite packages. I wanted something that had one of our colors, and at least one printable insert that I could use as well. I wasn’t really jazzed about anything that I found, so Mom and I gave up on that hunt and went to drool over the Martha Stewart aisle.
We always head down the clearance aisle as well, just in case. As we did, we found the exact invites I was looking for. Yellow bordered, with cheerful yellow and grey flowers. It came with ribbons, a printable insert and it was $20 for 40 invites.
Most of the other invites we found were between $40 – $50. Since we were planning to invite around 300 people, it would have cost at least $300 just for the invites, not to mention the cost of postage and ink to print them. I did not feel fantastic about spending almost 1/20 of our budget on something that wasn’t even going to be at our wedding day. So when I figured out that I could spend half of that, I was excited. After scooping up plenty of invites, I headed home and printed them out. I looked online to see how other people had worded their invites. After deciding what I wanted to print, I designed the layout and printed it in blue ink. The little printable was used for some of the information that we needed to send out, but didn’t want on our official invite. We included the link to our wedding website, our registry info and a couple of other details.
Lastly, I made our RSVP postcards. I Googled RSVP images until I found one that I liked. I printed it on one side of 4×6 white card stock that I cut out and printed the RSVP information and addresses on the other.
Megan, Kyndall and Hailey are an absolutely beautiful family. I’ve known them for years, even before Kyndall was born. As Hailey has grown from a tiny first grader into a graceful and intelligent pre-teen, as Megan has become the mother of two wonderful daughters, as I watch Kyndall grow into an independent little love. I always love my sessions with the Browns, watching them interact with crackers and hugs. I love this little family so so much.
The candy table is becoming a regular staple of weddings today. Bubbles and sparklers have replaced rice and sleeveless dresses and cupcakes have replaced puffy sleeves and tiered cakes. Many weddings have become an artistic endeavor, a form of personalized branding and self expression. The candy table has become a staple of many creative weddings, especially since the table can be an entire encapsulation of the tones and textures of your day in one singular spot.
When I first started looking into creating my own candy table, I considered using personalized M&M’s and purchasing all my candy at once, all matching. But since I was on a budget (and even if I wasn’t on a budget actually) I couldn’t justify spending $57.99 on a five pound bag of candy. So I had to look elsewhere. I was lucky enough that Halloween and Christmas both happened during right before my wedding, so after holiday candy clearance was perfect for some of my options. I ended up choosing to include giant white and green swirled lollipops, butterscotch discs, green, blue and white chocolate discs, blue candy sticks, blue and white Jordan almonds, green licorice, green boxed Mike & Ikes and blue wrapped Almond Joys. I tried to find a good ratio of blue, green and yellow candy.
Yellow candy is surprisingly hard to find. So D and I went off to Fry’s to find some more. We actually found a Jelly Belly station inside and created a bag of popcorn and marshmallow flavored jelly beans. I thought it sounded terrible but D loved them so we got a couple of pounds. We bought some yellow and blue Chinese-takeout style boxes to hold each individuals candy and placed them in a white metal basket next to the candy. When my mom and I went to Ikea looking for inspiration, we grabbed a few vases to use. We also bought a couple of crystal bowls from TJ Maxx and some lidded jars from Target. I knew that we would be able to find plenty of dishes to use, but I was a bit worried about the scoops. After checking a couple of places, I finally found three metal scoops for a buck at the 99 Cent Store. Depending on the style of your wedding, you could also go to Goodwill and find some vintage spoons to use as your scoops.
The last piece of the table was the decor. I knew that I wouldn’t be using a tablecloth for this table so I wanted to make sure that the color scheme would be cohesive. I purchased a couple of beaded decorations and hot glued some ribbon to milk bottles that I found at Goodwill. And as I explained before, we used an engagement photo in which D and I were showered with candy as a way to personalize the set up.
And voila: a candy table that encapsulated the feeling of us as a couple as well as the concept for our day.