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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: Who's Who (Ladies' Edition)

Welcome to another edition of Wedding Wednesday!

We've done When & Where.

We've done Colors & Theme.

Today we're gonna talk Bridal Party! Well, my side at least. We're still workin on the boys.

I don't know about you, but I've had a running list of bridesmaids since I was little. Sure it's changed over the years as friends have come and gone, but I've always known who my girls would be were I to need to have an impromptu wedding at any given time.

So, when it came time to put together my list, it took less time to choose my girls than it did to ask them (since I made custom invites for each one...I'll cover that in another post). I ended up with five bridesmaids, three house party ladies, four junior maids, and a flowergirl. That's a total of THIRTEEN girls, and, while I'd never imagined I'd have a bridal party that large, I wouldn't change it for anything.

(By the way, wondering what a "house party" is? In short, it’s an old Southern tradition that honors special guests on the Bride’s side. While members of the house party don’t participate in the ceremony, they are still considered a part of the bridal party and they sit with the Bride’s family in the front rows. While the term isn't widely used outside of the South, the practice is. Ever been to a wedding where certain guests were given special jobs like being the guest book attendant or slicing the cake? THOSE are house party type jobs. Now you're caught up!)

I adore the group of ladies that has agreed to love on me through this time. They're such a sweet, smart, amazing group - I couldn't ask for better friends.

Here's the line-up:

Bridesmaids


Kaitlin Bell: Maid of Honor and best friend.
Confidant, partner in crime, and the other half of the most ridiculously awesome friendship I could have imagined. 
Most likely to stop any tears with a joke and a hug.


Vicky Henderson: College buddy.
Secret keeper, midnight advice giver, and the big sister I never had. 
Most likely to calm panic mode with tequila shots.


Heather Sparkman: College roommate.
Counselor, prayer warrior, and the logical counterpart to my dreamer tendencies. 
Most likely to remind me what marriage is really about when I get too caught up in the details.


Brittany Hale: Sister-in-law.
Helper, problem solver, and the sweetest little sister I could have hoped for. 
Most likely to keep everyone calm and on task.


Emma Ellis: Paul’s cousin.

Dreamer, encourager, and one of the happiest people you’ll meet. 
Most likely to entertain us with stories of adorable high-school Paul.
(Please enjoy the vintage photo of Paul...Emma, forgive me?)

House Party

Holly Moore: High school & College friend. 
She's one of my oldest friends (13 years!) and we keep ending up in the same city. To be honest, I'm perfectly fine if that just keeps happening. 

Lauren Esler: Grad School & Work friend.
I made her be my friend during the MBA program when I was desparate for female companionship. Then, we ended up sitting next to each other at Saatchi. She may have left me for the big city, but I still love her to bits. 

Allison Liles: Cousin
Growing up across the street from someone makes you a little fond of them. Momma has always called her her "first daughter," which I'm pretty sure makes her my big sister. True or not, I'll keep her. 

Junior Maids

Adriana Pate: Cousin
Allie Ellis: Paul's cousin
Becca Ellis: Paul's cousin
Addi Beth Johnson: Cousin

Flower Girl

Mollie Ellis: Paul's cousin

Can't wait to share my day with these ladies! We're gonna have so much fun!

Til next time, friends. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Adventures in Registering!

I’ve changed my mind. Not blogging about the wedding is silly. If I don’t blog about it, I don’t blog. ‘Cause, y’all, it’s the most exciting thing going on in my life and, well, I wanna talk about it!

We met with our photographers last week (the fabulous Benfields), and Dale said something that made me change my mind. He said, “Blog about the wedding! That’s the fun stuff! That’s what people wanna read about anyway.” Apparently Cece posts on his blog get more hits than any of the photo posts – because she’s the exciting part of his life now. And it’s what people want to know about.

So, I’m blogging about what I wanna blog about.

But keep reading, k? 

Thanks.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand – we registered last weekend!


Now, if y’all are na├»ve like me, you see registering as an awesome excuse to make a big list of all the stuff you want so everyone else can go buy it for you. Fun, right?

Well…yes and no. I quickly learned several things while registering:

First, 


WHY ARE THERE THAT MANY SIZES OF CONTAINERS?!?

Second, 


Do YOU know what makes a knife a good knife? Is it something special? 'Cause I picked based on "which block is prettier?"...

Finally,


Which is better? I don't know! Stop thinking. JUST SCAN ALL THE THINGS AND GO!!!

Guys, registering is...well...hard. You're probably thinking, “Oh, poor you. You got tired asking for presents.” I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but I mean this more as friendly advice for y’all about to go do it – it’s not as easy as it looks!

I mean, going in, this is how we felt:


But then: 


And by the end of it:


So, in hopes of making the process even more fun for y'all getting ready to do it, here are 

A few things I wish I’d known going in:


1. It takes a lot longer than you think it will
We started at…11am? We finished our last store at 8pm. Now, that’s with a lunch break, but still. It’s a long day and you’re on your feet most of the time. So, wear comfortable shoes, plan to take the whole day so that you don’t have to rush, and pace yourself.

2. You’ll have to take breaks
If you’re trying to accomplish three stores on the same day like we were, plan to take breaks in between. You’ll need them both mentally and physically. You see A LOT of stuff while you’re registering, and you’ll need time to process between stops. You’ll also want water Sonic (and food) breaks, so strategically place your stops.

3. Scan more, think less
Paul was much better at this than I was. I have a tendency to overthink things – Where will we put it? Do we really need it? When will we ever use that? Don’t we have something like that? Does the color work? – you get the picture. The thing is, this is the only time you can reasonably ask for some of these things, might as well go for it. You never know, you may need the watering can with flowers on it someday. Paul’s philosophy of “just scan it, we can delete it later if we want,” made the process a lot less stressful. Go with his method.

In addition, here are some things I’m glad I did:


1. Take a notebook
There were several things we thought of while we were registering that the store didn’t have in stock and there were a couple times that we found stuff cheaper at the next place. I made notes as we went from store to store so that we could make changes later that night. I also took notes at each of the store on how the system worked so that I could keep everything sorted in my head.

2. Shop before, not during, the process
I made Paul go pre-shop several places so that we knew where we wanted to register (I’m picky about towels,  y’all…I probably made him feel 20 different ones before I picked one out). Since we’d seen what most of the places had to offer, I kinda knew where to register for what we “needed,” which gave us more freedom to explore each store for stuff we just “wanted.” Remember, scan more, think less. 
Don’t shop while you’re registering. Just scan what you like.

3. Go early
We have a relatively short engagement, so it makes sense for us to go ahead and get stuff done (especially since someone is moving to Oklahoma this weekend). Even if you have a longer engagement, however, it’ll take some stress off to just go ahead and do it. There’s really no point in waiting since you can edit everything online if you change your mind. And, this way, if someone wants to throw you a shower earlier than you’d planned, you don’t have to rush it.

4. Check for incentives & policies
Almost all of the stores have some sort of incentive system – free gifts, a certain percentage off left over items, etc. Check the wedding boards and store sites to figure out which ones will get you the best stuff – for instance, we registered for china at Dillard’s (rather than Bed, Bath and Beyond) because their incentive program gets us something free with our set. Look around and see what you can get. While you’re at it, go ahead and check the return policies to make sure you’re happy with ‘em. Most are “store credit,” so just be aware.

Other tips:


The guy at Bed, Bath and Beyond told us we needed to register for three times as many items as planned invites.  That’s a LOT of stuff, y’all. We did NOT register for that much (I didn’t want to add stuff just to add it…seems silly), but we did try to get into the one and a half to two times as many range by picking out things we might not normally buy ourselves.  

The Target guns are persnickety. We didn’t check the screen each time we scanned something – just assuming, you know, that the bar code for a lamp would register us for a lamp (silly us). Most of the time it was right, but we also got home and were accidentally registered for a mystery blender I’ve never seen before and this:


Check your list after you’re done.

If you register at a department store, call and make an appointment with the head consultant. They’ll know the system better than anyone else, will be able to advise on those incentives I talked about, and you’ll need them to be able to include everything on your list (e.g. we could not add the 5-place setting of our china without her adding it manually…there’s no code to scan.)

All in all, we had a good time. Paul looked ready to pass out at the end of it (he’s a shopping rookie compared to my skills…I almost wore him out), but he didn’t complain once. It was fun to plan out OUR house and decide what OUR guest room will look like and all that warm-fuzzy togetherness stuff.


Another big thing down, still many more to go. So glad I get to do it all with this crazy kid. He makes absolutely everything better.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: Colors & Theme

Yes, I know I said I was going to limit the wedding posts to one day a week.

Yes, I'm aware that I have only blogged once in the last week.

Yes, I realize that means that I've done nothing but talk about the wedding which is what I was trying to avoid.

Oops...forgive me.

I do have a new post for y'all, though - and this time it's about the wedding theme and color scheme! Wanna see what I'm going for?


I'm keeping a neutral color pallete - browns with a pop of green - to keep the feel warm and wintery. And, of course, I'll be incorporating some of my favorite elements: mason jars, keys, lace, and twinkle lights. We'll be decorating with old windows and doors throughout the rooms and using burlap as the main fabric feature. My goal was to make the atmosphere casual and cozy - that way the wedding feels more like a big, family gathering instead of a stiff, formal affair. 

What do y'all think?

Thanks for reading! Til next time, friends.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: When and Where?

Hey guys! Guess what I've noticed? When you're engaged, it's super easy to spend all your time talking about the upcoming wedding. Who knew? (...just kidding...we all knew...)

And, although I don't mind listening to myself fret over all the little details, I really don't want to bore y'all with 'em.

So, I've decided I'm going to try and keep the wedding posts to once a week. That way, if you're interested, you still get updates. And, if you aren't, you don't stop reading. 'Cause, well, that would make me sad...

Sound good? Yay!

Now, without further ado, welcome to the first edition of Wedding Wednesday!

Today, I'm going to cover the question I've been getting non-stop since I got this pretty little ring:

"Sooooo, when's the wedding?!?!"

The answer? January 4th, 2014


We picked it for several reasons:

  1. Since Paul will be teaching/researching/learnin stuff, we needed to work around prescheduled University breaks. That left us Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. Spring Break isn't really a break, they just call it that to make you feel better while you spend the whole week trying to catch up on all the work you didn't have the brainspace to finish during the previous months...so we nixed that one. Summer is, well, hot as hades, and we don't like that so much (and I didn't want to be engaged that long, honestly), so Christmas Break it was.
  2. We wanted to get past Christmas - since it felt super selfish to steal everyone's family time with our wedding. So, that led us to January.
  3. We noticed that the first Saturday in January was the 4th. Making the day 1.4.14. Fun, right? We thought so! And that sealed the deal.

So, January 4th it is!

Next thing y'all will want to know is, "WHERE'S the wedding?"

Well, we have that figured out, too!

We're getting married here:


It's called Avondale Chapel and Gardens and it's in Bentonville off Central. It's this sweet, old, manor-style house that's functioned as several things over the years (most recently, Paul's grandfather's favorite restaurant...*cue collective "awwww" moment*), and is now a wedding venue.

The best part about it is that it comes with a coordinator - who will not only set up everything exactly the way I want it (he even said I could bring diagrams!!!), but will also tear down after the reception. That means that Mom and I don't have to do ANYTHING but enjoy the wedding. Sold.

We're thinking we're going to have a couple hundred folks (even keeping it to close friends and family...), so it should fill up the venue perfectly.

So, now y'all have a little more info (and I've gotten to brag some). Everybody's happy!

I'm sure I'll have more to share soon - stay tuned!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bomb Pop Cupcakes

I love the Fourth of July. I love fireworks and cookouts and watermelon and beer and picnics and friends and, well, just about everything that goes with the Fourth of July.

This year, the Fourth was even better than before – I got to spend it with this guy!


Cute, huh? Love him.

Another thing I love about the fourth, are these guys:


Who wouldn’t love something that combines cherry, lime, and blue raspberry? If you haven’t had one, you’re missing out.  Trust me.


See? Everyone loves ‘em.

This year, I decided to try and turn these babies into cupcakes. I’d seen a photo on Pinterest and figured I could make it happen. So, I took one of my favorite cake recipes, added the key flavors, layered the colors, and voila! Bomb Pop Cupcakes!


And they were fantastic! The flavors blended well and the light cake wasn’t too sweet as to be overpowering. Plus, they’re dang cute! I’ll definitely be making these again.

Bomb Pop Cupcakes 

INGREDIENTS
Cupcake base
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Flavoring
  • Juice of two medium lemons and one medium lime
  • 1 teaspoon cherry extract
  • Red gel food coloring
  • 1 small box blue raspberry jello
  • Boiling water

Frosting
  • 4 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon cherry extract
  • Blue gel food coloring
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Wooden popsicle sticks for garnish


DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar til light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk to butter and sugar mixture, starting and finishing with dry ingredients, and mixing until just combined.
  4. Separate out 1 cup batter into a small bowl. Add cherry extract and red food coloring until desired color is reached. Spoon a heaping tablespoon into each liner.
  5. Add lemon and lime juice to remaining batter. Using a cupcake pen, fill liners 2/3 full with lemon-lime batter.
  6. Bake about 18 minutes or until tops of cakes spring back when touched. Remove from oven and let pans cool on wire racks.
  7. Once cupcakes have cooled, remove from pans and poke holes in the tops with a wooden skewer.
  8. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup boiling water and blue raspberry Jell-O until completely dissolved. Carefully spoon Jell-O mixture over cupcakes, allowing it to soak into the holes.
  9. To make the frosting, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
  10. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  11. Split the frosting in half and separate into two bowls, then separate out an additional one cup frosting from one of the bowls.
  12. Add raspberry extract and blue food coloring to the full bowl. Using a large pastry bag, pipe the blue raspberry frosting onto the cupcakes.
  13. Add lime juice to the remaining large portion of frosting and pipe on top of the blue raspberry layer.
  14. Add cherry extract and red food coloring to the small bowl, and top the other two layers with the red layer.
  15. Insert a popsicle stick in the middle of the cupcakes and serve. 
'Til next time, friends!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Flowers For Dinner! Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Anyone else out there a Gilmore fan? It's pretty much one of the best shows ever created, so if you aren't yet a fan, please go rent/Netflix/borrow one of the first few seasons and re-consider. It's brilliant. Anyway, Sookie (the chef at the inn) throws a fit in one of the episodes because her produce guy doesn't bring her the squash blossoms she's requested. Her fit includes multiple iterations of the phrase "stuffed, fried squash blossoms" and kinda sticks with you.

So, a couple years ago, when I was wandering the Farmer's Market on a Saturday and saw an entire basket of squash blossoms, the phrase popped into my head and I had to bring some home. Once home, however, I realized that I had NO idea how to prepare/stuff/cook/eat squash blossoms...at all. A little internet research gave me some ideas, but nothing that looked quite right. So, I decided to wing it. I mean, what could go wrong, right?

Whatever I did worked - they turned out beautifully. Since then, I've looked forward to finding these little beauties at the market. They're only around for a few short weeks every summer, so you have to keep an eye out and grab 'em if you see 'em (unless I'm behind you, in which case, don't you dare buy the last bunch).

The taste is a bit hard to describe - it's very light, and has obvious floral undertones, but other than that...just trust me and try 'em for yourself.

Now, as for how to cook 'em:  


Step one: rinse your blossoms and remove the pistils. 
The first time I made them...I had no idea where to even start. Ever tried to cook flowers? It's NOT intuitive. The ends are all scrunched up and stuck together. I ended up going the "slice open one side and pull the pistil out" route, and it seemed to work much better than tediously attempting to pry open the bloom and pull out the insides without tearing anything. Also, if you twist the bloom just right after you fill it, nothing will squish out the cut side. 

I have discovered how to unfold the blossoms over the years, but if you're a rookie, the "slice and twist" method will work fine.


Step two: stuff the blossoms.
I fill them with varying mixtures of ricotta, Italian seasoning, garlic, minced onion, parmesan or mozzarella cheese, and lemon juice (depending on what's in the fridge or what I feel like that night). Just mix the stuff up in a bowl and fill the blossoms using a Ziploc or pastry bag. 


Step three: bake.
Then, twist the ends, dip them in buttermilk and bread crumbs, and place them on a baking sheet in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or so. 

That's it! Pretty simple once you've done it a few times. Don't get discouraged by the tedious process the first time you make 'em - it gets easier. Let me know what y'all think if you try 'em!

Stuffed, Baked Squash Blossoms

Ingredients
  • 12-18 squash blossoms
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • A good amount of Italian seasoning
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A squirt of lemon juice
  • A few good shakes of minced onion
  • A handfull of mozzerella or parmesan cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Italian breadcrumbs
Directions
  1. Prepare the squash blossoms - rinse and remove the pistil (gently, they will tear)
  2. Mix together the ricotta, seasoning, garlic, and lemon juice, onion, and cheese. Fill a pastry or Ziploc bag with the mixture.
  3. Fill each blossom 2/3 full with the mixture and twist the petal ends to seal
  4. Dip each blossom first into the buttermilk then into the bread crumbs, coating the entire blossom
  5. Place the blossoms on a baking sheet and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes