Archive for May, 2008

the dress

My wedding dress was one of the first wedding things that I picked out. My mom and I went out one Saturday, and it didn’t take very long to pick the dress… maybe 2 hours? I knew that I wanted something simple, something a little different, something sans sparkle and beads. And the dress that I found was exactly that. Simple but elegant (our wedding theme!). While I am not revealing the exact design of my dress (because it’s TOP SECRET), I thought I’d let you feast your eyes on some dresses that I like, and that may or may not look like my dress.

This dress from Ann Taylor Celebrations certainly fits the simple yet elegant look… and it has similar lines to my bridesmaid’s dresses. I LOVE the lace overlay. Love it!

I think this dress by Vera Wang is really pretty. I especially love the ribbon detail. And the poofy skirt! I would feel like a princess in a poofy skirt!

But my favorite? Judd Waddell (Image from Martha Stewart). I love the simple lines he uses and the little details – like lace and bows!  Look at how cute that little bow above the train is!  And of course, I love his philosophy: Notice the woman first, the dress second.  (My dress was also designed by Judd… can you tell how excited I am about it!?!).

What do you think? How did you pick your wedding dress? Hours of shopping? Or no?


May 29, 2008 at 8:12 pm 1 comment

pavers! part 2

Did I mention that we RAN OUT OF SAND on Sunday? As in, didn’t even get halfway through the project before realizing that we were not going to make it? So we had to improvise. We woke up around 8am Monday, and headed to Home Depot, then Menards, to rent a truck. For those of you who have never actually been in Menards – it is fantastic, and I hope you get to visit sometime. Definitely make a point to notice the DOS-based computer system still in use. They’ve got computers that look like they’re straight out of the 1980s. So awesome. Menards is like Fleet Farm meets Home Depot meets Walmart. (only, not so much Wal-mart-y, because I hate Walmart, but love Menards). Jason thinks it is best described as “a flea market… of hardware”. He also tells me that there are no Fleet Farms or Menards on the East Coast?!? Oh, the East coasters are missing out. Fleet farm is also fantastic.

Anyways, we rented the Menards truck because the Home Depot truck was rented, and headed up to Bachman’s, which is a huge garden/landscape shop in these parts. Bachman’s might be my new favorite garden shop, but it’s more likely that I’m just amazed by the sheer size of the place. It is huge, despite it’s urban location. Bachman’s, I’ll be bach. or, back, actually. Anyways.

Jason in the Menards truck.

We picked up another yard and a half of sand, then emptied it into our driveway, returned the truck. Cousin Catherine showed up to help out, and thank goodness she did. (Dear Aunt Tami and Uncle Doug: thanks for not only being willing to put up with my shenanigans for several months on end, but also for having kids that are willing to drive 30 min each way to partake in my shenanigans! Dear Catherine: you’re my new favorite cousin.) Catherine is pretty darn good at bricklaying… she put down most of the patio, while I brought her bricks and Jason tacked down pave-edge with stakes that we had purchased at Bachman’s. It looks good. Really good.

Awesome cousin Catherine works her bricklaying magic!

Around 3, I left to go to work and Catherine left to head home to do her homework. I also ran errands in between doing work stuff – we ran out of pave edge and stakes – so I had to rush around town to find them. Tricky. But Menards and Bachman’s were still open, so I managed to score the necessary supplies, and a burrito for JT (from Chipotle, of course). While I was at work, Jason finished the rest of the patio and put more pave-edge in surrounding the bricks. Then, I came home, freaked out, and re-did the part of the path that Jason had finished. Why? Because it didn’t look right. (Because the section had only 4 rows of brick instead of the 5 rows the rest of the walk had).

Jason installs the pave-edge.

So then, I was annoyed with Jason for not having paid attention to what he was doing when he laid the path, he was annoyed with me for ripping up all of his hard work and redoing it, and we were both totally annoyed with the project and also with the dog, because he kept barking from inside the house. I suspect the dog may have been annoyed with us for ignoring him all weekend. Annoyance was rampant.

Yeah, I ripped it up and redid it. Can you say “control freak”? How about “perfectionist”?

Barley spies on us from inside the house.

Anyways, we kept working till about 8 Monday night, when we finally called it quits. I finished laying all of the brick. Jason tamped the front walkway and patio, then put sand over the front part of the walkway and tamped again. I had to return the brick saw this morning, but we kept the tamper to finish up some things this evening.

Last night, we swept sand across the bricks and tamp them down. Repeat x3. This morning, we returned the tamper. This evening we (Jason) finished the bricks outside the side door (we couldn’t use the tamper because we couldn’t get it close enough to the house and then the bricks would have been sunk into the sand at different angles). But now we’re all finished with the brick pavers! Yay! It was honestly not all that tough to do – the most frustrating part was not having all of the supplies that we needed to complete the project, especially since we had to rent a truck to get the sand. But! If you’ve read our past home adventures, you’ll discover that not having the proper supplies to do the job is a theme around these parts…

Look! The finished product:

The patio and back walkways.

Another view of the patio and back walkways.

The back patio.

The back walkways.

View from the front. Not bad when you consider what it looked like 2 months ago…

The new patio and pathway are a huge change from before!

More pictures are here:

Pavers 5-2008

May 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm 5 comments

pavers! and more pavers!

Holy cow. I’m pretty sure that every muscle in my body aches. Ouch! This patio better be worth it. I better be able to get a pool boy to bring me some margaritas while I lounge on the patio all day. Hint, hint, JT. Better work on your margarita-making skills…

Anyways, the weekend. Things started off smashingly when the paver delivery guys showed up around 7:45am with all the supplies necessary for paver-patio-making. Joy! Unfortunately, our driveway is about 3 feet by 5 feet (okay, I’m exaggerating a little…) and we could barely fit everything along side the piles of concrete and dirt that currently take up about half the driveway. Fortunately, the delivery guys were experts in navigating city alleyways, and all was delivered with no problems… except, we were supposed to get landscaping spikes and they ran out. We decided it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Jason supervises the dumping of the base material.

Jason compacts the soil before the base is laid.

One thing that I am particularly proud of is that we thought to bury some low-voltage lines under the pathway so that later, when we have the money/inclination, we can add some low-voltage lights around the patio for a real outdoor oasis in the city.

Our low-voltage line, buried under our walkway.

The first 2″ layer of “base” (aka, small stone mixed in with sand) went down in about 2.5 hours. The second layer of base took a bit longer because we had to make sure that it was leveled so that water would be directed away from our house (note that we started this whole mess in an attempt to get the water OUT of the basement). I think our second layer was actually about 3-4″, but it was leveled and compacted by about 4pm on Saturday (took about 4 hours). By then, we were sick of the project. Oh, and it looked like it was going to rain.

Barley naps while Jason pours the base layer.

Jason compacts the base layer.

Necessary nourishment.

Leveling out the second base layer so that water will head away from the basement instead of into it.

Jason condenses the second base layer, while Barley follows him.

We laid down sand in small segments and “screed”-ed it. Which means that we lined up two 1″ pipes on either side of the path and pulled a wood board across them until the sand between them was flat. Jason was mostly in charge of that operation, while I started laying pavers. We managed to get about halfway down the path along our house before it got too dark to see what we were doing.

Jason “screeding”.

Finally! Ready to lay bricks!

On Sunday, Jason screeded more sand, and I laid more pavers. From about 9am-4pm. And it was so humid and the forecast was calling for some serious thunderstorms… so we were just waiting for the rain to come. Surprisingly, it didn’t rain at all. (As I was watching the news later that night, the radar showed storms all around us and a little line of calm over our house all afternoon. So amazing.)

More screeding and brick laying.

The plastic wrap over the pathway… it threatened to rain all day Sunday, but we were lucky that it did not.

We quit at 4 to fix the dryer. The old gas dryer that was left in the house quit working about 3 weeks ago. NOTHING IN MY HOUSE IS CLEAN. It was starting to smell like dirty dog up in here, so I am SO SO SO glad that JT fixed the dryer situation. In order to use the electric dryer that we moved from Kentucky (I am SO SO SO glad we moved that beast), JT had to install a new circuit, new breaker, and new plug for it. I also lent a hand by standing next to him with a wood board, prepared to smack him if he got electrocuted. But he didn’t, and I was nice and didn’t smack him anyways and say, “oh, it looked like you were getting electrocuted” which I thought about doing once or twice. Or even 3 times.

Jason and the service panel.

JT then disconnected the old gas dryer, and it smelled a little like gas. The gas has since dissipated, but if you stick your nose up by the end of the pipe, you can still smell a little gas. Is this normal? (Dad, Uncle Brian, anyone else out there who is handy? HELP. I DON’T WANT TO EXPLODE IN MY SLEEP.) We’ve got the basement windows open anyways, and Jason notes, “We haven’t died yet.” So that’s where we’re at.

Our dryer. So nice and shiney!

***Insert Tangent Involving My Underwear (you’ve been forewarned)***

Remember how I went to that massage on Friday? And also how our dryer has been out of commission for the last 3 weeks? Yes, I am totally scraping the bottom of the barrel for underwear. And the only “suitable” ones I could find were given to me for Christmas by my Grandma. They are super-cute! And I love them! They have a little monkey on them and say, “Paul Frank is your friend” across the butt. Which is SO FUN! Except, I’m twenty-seven and not fourteen, and sometimes I like to fake like I’m sophisticated, for example, WHEN I GO INTO A SALON FOR A MASSAGE. So basically, I am not that cool. Hey massuse! Paul Frank is your friend!

Anyways, I am still trying to figure out what was worse: my I-am-twenty-seven-going-on-fourteen underwear, or the fact that I made her rub my stinky, dirty, blistered feet.

***End Tangent (blog is safe to read again)***

Okay, so where was I? Oh yes. Sunday. Evening. Jeff and Andrea invited us to go to dinner with two of their friends who happen to live about a block away from us. We were tired, but decided we could use a break, and also thought it would be fun to meet other friends in our neighborhood. We hit up Pizza Biga and Pumphouse Creamery (both within walking distance from our house, and both were delicious!), then we headed over to Buster’s for some drinks. It was a fun night, and we were home by 11pm. Just my style.

And you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the rest of the saga!  Stay tuned!

May 27, 2008 at 9:26 pm 4 comments

our zany caterer

One of the first wedding decisions we made was the caterer. Why? Because my 3 main wedding must-haves are: 1. good food, 2. drinks, 3. dancing (in no particular order).

JT and I have been to what seems like a million weddings together, and, as guests, these 3 elements seemed crucial to our enjoyment and memories of said weddings. Truthfully (and I mean no offense to our married friends), I don’t remember what the table centerpieces looked like, or the bouquets, or even what the bride or groom wore. Since we have so many guests traveling (at least 50% of our guests are from out of town), it’s really important to me that they will all be able to enjoy themselves. And, I figure step #1 to enjoyment is good food.

Colleen (one of my bridesmaids) and I cutting a rug at her wedding.

With our venue, we could choose just about any caterer in Milwaukee (however, since the room has been purchased by Bartolottas, any future room bookings will be required to use Bartolotta Catering). We started off by just checking out the websites of a few big names – Chef Jack’s, Ellen Zilli’s, and Lee John’s. Honestly, it was nearly impossible to determine anything based on websites. There are just too many random costs; some companies have them, some do not. For example, some places charge per plate for dinner and then add $1.00/person for serving cake, $0.50/person for linens or candles. There’s usually (but not always) a standard type of linen or china or flatware included, but other choices are available – for a price. It’s very tricky… determining the actual per plate charge means you’ve got to read all of the fine print!

And, in the end, I’m not even sure how much trying to determine this charge actually mattered. For us, it seemed like these 3 caterers were pretty much in the same ballpark cost-wise. We ended up making appointments for tastings at Chef Jack’s and Ellen Zilli’s – because we only had a weekend in which to choose a caterer and it was important to us to be a part of this decision. In the end, we chose Chef Jack’s and here’s why:

Our visit was actually with Chef Jack himself. He is zany, wacky, funny, and super-nice. Immediately upon our arrival, we were served drinks and treated as if we were guests in his home. The food was delish! And after our dinner of chicken, steak, potatoes, and greens (peppers for mom and Jason, asparagus for me), we were served little tastes of Kahlua in chocolate cups! How fun! I was pretty much ready to sign the papers at that point, but, then, he brought out CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES! Yum! Sold!

What really impressed me about Chef Jack, though, was the way he runs his business. He only takes on 3-4 weddings per night, because he only has that much staff and doesn’t want to overextend himself at the expense of his customers. Many of his servers have been with him for years, which I think is a testament to his personality and the way the business is run – like a family. He mentioned that his staff is instructed to watch the entire party: they will check to make sure the bathroom is clean and they will pour coffee and extra time without charging you extra (seriously, some places were like, “we include 2 coffee pours, but if you want us to come around a third time, it will cost you!”). He also urged us to have drinks ready for people as they arrive – a signature Jen-and-Jason drink the moment guests arrive? Count me in!

And then he mentioned that he had served President Clinton at our venue several years ago, and he didn’t need to say much of anything else. I figure, if he can serve the President, he will probably be good enough for my wedding!

What are your “must-haves” for your wedding?  Was food at the top of the list?  And how did you pick your caterer?

May 23, 2008 at 11:35 pm 3 comments

Bill in my pocket (or on my shoulder)

Hi Everyone! I want to introduce you to my friend, Bill. (Everyone: Hi, Bill!) Bill is officially the most organized person I know. For example, we both have papers due July 1. Bill’s was written 2 months ago. And who has not even started writing her paper? Yes, yours truly. Also, Bill’s house, car, and desk are always clean. At least, I’ve only seen them when they’re clean. And dinner parties? Bill’s dinner parties are FANTASTIC. Why? Because he’s so organized about everything that when you get to Bill’s house, you have enough time for a taste of the appetizers, followed by a prompt dinner, and dessert! Bill always has dessert! This amazes me because I don’t think JT and I have ever thrown a dinner party where dinner was actually ready before 9:00pm. And travel with Bill? Unbelievable! Bill takes care of all the details well in advance, and you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. The bottom line? Bill is always so organized!

Jason and Bill pose for the camera in Quebec City.

Which is why I decided that I need a Bill in my pocket… or on my shoulder, for that matter. I’ve found that the secret to success with wedding planning (and house selling, and house buying, and starting a new job) is undoubtedly STAYING ORGANIZED. Anyone who has called or emailed in the last few months surely knows how disorganized and flaky I’ve been through all of this (because they likely did not get a timely response from me, if they’ve gotten one at all). But all that is going to change! I am determined to get organized! And, I figure the easiest way to do this would be to clone Bill, and put him to work for me. Right?

Bill on my shoulder. It could work, right?

Okay, maybe not. But a girl can dream, can’t she? Actually, I’ve started keeping a to-do notebook. I found a stylish little notebook that will fit in my purse, bookbag, etc, and I bring it everywhere. I’ve got one page dedicated to my current “to do” list and other pages dedicated to “wedding ideas.” I think this will organize my life in ways it’s never been organized before. Having everything in one place will be great, since I have recently been seen frantically sorting through the 45 post-it notes that have accumulated in my bookbag, desperately searching for the one note with the information I need.

My new best friend.

I kind of also love these notebooks from roska at etsy:

Cute and fun, no? I like the bright colors.

Anyone have any other suggestions on staying organized? What keeps you on track?

May 22, 2008 at 9:39 pm 4 comments

loco for gocco

I have recently discovered a tool that will revolutionize my crafting.  THE GOCCO! It’s a “compact color printing system” that will print your designs on paper and fabric.  (I just knew subscribing to all sorts of wedding blogs was going to get me in trouble – this idea is from weddingbee.  Jason is rolling his eyes at my fascination with this new craft item).

(photo source)

Of course, there are a plethora of wedding items involving paper and ink that I could use this for:

Napkins (I love the idea of printing random facts about us on our wedding napkins…)

(photo source)


(photo source)

Enclosure Cards

(photo source)

Menu Cards

(photo source)

Name Cards

(photo source)


(photo source)

Thank You Cards

(photo source)

Not to mention… do you know the fun I could have with this thing for years and years and years to come?  Christmas Cards, Birthday Cards, Valentine’s Day Cards, May Day Cards, Party Invitations… ohh… the list goes on.

Methinks it may be worth the $200 investment.  What do you think?  Yay or nay?

May 22, 2008 at 9:17 pm 4 comments

simple, yet elegant

Jason and I decided (a long time ago) that our wedding vibe is going to be “simple, yet elegant”. Accordingly, we are going to tell guests that our event is “black tie invited” (invited because we would love it if all of our guests showed up in tuxes and beautiful dresses, but it realistically may not be feasible given that at least 50% of our guests will be coming from out of town).

One of my favorite simple yet elegant elements in our wedding is the bridesmaid dress. Honestly, I had been eyeing up these black, floor-length dresses from Ann Taylor Celebrations for almost a year before Jason even popped the question. And then! We got engaged and they went on sale! And I thought, it’s a sign! Always one to enjoy a bargain, I quickly called the ladies and had them order the dresses. At $70 each, it would be hard to go wrong.

My mom was a bit skeptical about having the bridesmaids wear black at first (“It will look like they’re going to a funeral” she commented), but I think she’s convinced now (or if she’s not, she’s at least being a good sport and keeping her mouth shut! Love you, mom!). Black was simply the most flattering choice for my ladies who have varying skin tones. I also love the a-line skirt and I think it’s a look that everyone will be beautiful in. I almost wish I had bought one for myself!

I also wanted elements of my dress to be echoed in the bridesmaid’s garb… although, at the time, I hadn’t purchased, or even looked at wedding dresses. I did know that I wanted a strapless dress, though, and with the simple lines of these, I couldn’t really go wrong. I also purchased ivory sashes to be worn with the dress, although I am beginning to reconsider them. The ivory doesn’t look quite right with my dress, which is sort of a white-ivory-champagne-silvery color, and the ladies will (presumably) be standing next to me, at least for the ceremony. I’ll be headed home in 2 weeks for a girls only wedding weekend, and I hope to have one/some of my maids try on the dress and sash so that I can see the full look in person. (I’ll also be buying shoes, a veil, and other fun girly stuff – stay tuned!!).

How did you choose your bridesmaid’s dresses?  Was it important that they match your gown?  Were you able to fit them into your wedding theme?

May 21, 2008 at 10:44 pm 3 comments

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