Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: Our Invitations + DIY envelope liners

Happy Wednesday!  I head to Chicago today for a quick work trip.  This is a headquarter visit for meetings for a project I'm leading on my team. I'll be back tomorrow night in time for book club at 8:30 and will manage to squeeze in dinner with my brother and his family tonight so it's going to be quite the efficient trip!

Now that our invitations are out, I'm ready to share them with all of you! When I first started to look for wedding invitations, I fell in love with this invitation on minted.com - but not the dollar price! They would have cost us $680!  I could not stomach spending that much on invitations but luckily my friend Amanda, who used to work in graphic design, said she could make some invitations using the minted.com ones as inspiration. Here is how they turned out (apologies for the crappy photo quality - I'm too lazy to take new pictures!)



We opted to use postcards for the RSVPs to save a bit of money on postage. I was also pleased to learn that our invitations weighed less than an ounce so we just had to use one forever stamp.  Phil's love language is saving money (ha!) so he was happy about this as well!

Since the theme of our wedding is books and reading, I decided to make envelope liners out of pages of a dictionary to tie in our theme. I did some research and discovered that Paper Source had an envelop liner kit. You can also buy envelope liners at Paper Source, but they cost $5.95/10 liners so they get expensive fast if you have a lot of envelopes (we sent out 120). The kit made them very cost effective as I just paid $13.50 for the envelope liner kit and $2 for a used dictionary at good will.

I can't believe I'm including a DIY project in this post as I'm the last person people come to for crafting ideas or advice...  but this project was so easy so I thought I'd share it with you!

First step:  use the clear plastic template to trace the envelope liner on the paper you'd like to use with a pencil (tip, make sure the paper is big enough!  I had to stop at a couple different goodwills to find a dictionary that was large enough for the A7 template!).

 

After that, cut it out and insert it into the envelope.


I used a glue stick to glue the liner to the envelop. It worked best to old the liner down and apply glue to the liner (versus applying glue to the envelop and pressing the liner to the envelop).

And voila!  Beautifully lined envelopes!



We received several compliments on how cute our invitations and book page-lined envelopes are.  So those compliments made it worth the extra work.  And all in all, it wasn't that time consuming of a project.  I made the first 40 on my own and then enlisted the help of a good friend to help with the other 90 (we made 130 total).

I am very lucky that I have a friend who has been able to do all of our paper products for the wedding. If you are ever looking for someone to do invitations or other paper products, I can put you in touch with her!  She's using my wedding stuff to build an Etsy shop so I'll eventually have a store to share.

I looooove our invitations so much, especially that scripted font, which we are using on other things like our rehearsal dinner invitations, signage at the wedding, the program, etc. It's such a dreamy and sophisticated font!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shouldless Days: March

After a super hectic month, I really needed a shouldless day!  Luckily I was able to set aside Sunday as a commitment-free day!  It was wonderful!  Here's how I filled it!

I woke up without an alarm around 7 am and came downstairs for a breakfast of yogurt + banana and coffee.


Then I plugged in my electric blanket and settled in to start a new book!


Phil came downstairs when Face the Nation started at 9:30. This is our favorite Sunday morning news program.  

After that I threw together this crockpot chili.

Phil left for his mom's around noon, so I watched an episode of Suits while eating lunch.  I'm slowly working my way through this series and am really enjoying it!


After that I did something I rarely do - I laid down on the couch and took a nap. I have been so tired lately and haven't been sleeping great, so when my body was telling me it was tired, I decided to listen.

An hour later, I did some prep work for the sheet pan chicken and vegetable dinner I'm making tomorrow night.

Then I headed to barre with a friend. One of my favorite instructors was teaching it and it was an extra tough class. I love barre classes!

Then I headed home and had chili for dinner and portioned out leftovers for the week ahead.

The finished product! This is one of my favorite chili recipes. I substitute browned ground turkey for chicken breasts as I think chicken can sometimes get dry in the crockpot
After dinner, I addressed rehearsal dinner invitations while watching 60 minutes. DON'T EVER BUY the shiny gold envelopes from Papersource.  They are awful to address since they have a bit of a sheen to them so you have to use a ball point pen as loose ink pens doesn't take to the envelope. Thank goodness we didn't use gold envelopes for our wedding invitations!

Addressed envelopes, ready to be stuffed with invites
Phil got home around 7:30 and we spent the rest of the night relaxing together and catching up on our days.

When was the last time you had a relaxing, laid back day?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Currently: March Edition

Hello, Friday!  This was a doozy of a week. My calendar was jam-packed. I know I've said this multiple times lately but I really need a quiet week soon!  Fingers crossed that April is quieter. The most time-consuming wedding to dos are done so that should help, I think!

Reading:  The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.  There's been a lot of buzz about this book as it was a finalist for the National Book award last year and it was the runner-up in last year's Tournament of Books (which is the book equivalent of March Madness). I am really enjoying it! It's about a large family of 13 kids that grew up in the Detroit area. Aside from delving into family dynamics and the different personalities, the book also addresses the decision about what to do with the parents' home which is way underwater (the book is set in 2008 during the housing crisis). I'm really impressed that this is a debut novel.  

Loving:  mangoes and cottage cheese (but not together). I haven't eaten mango much in the past, but 2 recipes I made this month (jerk pork with Caribbean salsa and blackened fish tacos with cabbage mango slaw) called for mango in the taco topping so I bought mangoes twice in one week. I snacked on some while making these recipes and was reminded how GOOD mangoes are. I need to buy them more often! I'm also loving cottage cheese as a snack.  It's so high in protein and a good way for me to get some calcium (I can't stand milk so get my dairy primarily through yogurt).


Feeling: overwhelmed. My calendar is out of control these days, as evidenced by the picture of my March calendar below. Some of the things on my calendar are workouts (e.g., barre and sessions with my personal trainer) but it's all stuff that requires me to be at a certain place at a certain time.  


Thinking: about the seating arrangements for our wedding. Figuring out how to divvy up the guests between tables is quite the puzzle! But I love a good puzzle, so I will figure it out.  RSVPs aren't due until 4/21 so I won't be able to finalize things for several weeks but I wanted to get a head start. 40 people have already RSVP'd and we sent out invitations last Friday!

Anticipating:  my wedding showers in April! My college friends are hosting one in Minneapolis on April 9th and then the following Saturday I'll have my family one at the lake over Easter weekend. My family and friends are putting a lot of thought and work into planning these special events so I am looking forward to seeing what all they have up their sleeve! I'm one of the biggest planners in my family so it's been weird to not be involved in the planning but also wonderful to just show up and enjoy it!

Watching:   the second season of Love on Netflix. This is a fun and quirky show about the relationship of 2 20-somethings in LA. As I've mentioned before, Phil and I have different tastes in shows but this is one that we both enjoy!


Working: on figuring out a strategy to prevent myself from over-scheduling. I sound like a broken record as I keep saying I need to plan less.  But obviously saying I'm going to 'plan less' isn't working. I think something more specific. More on this in a post coming next week.

Grateful:  that I get to marry my favorite person in less than 2 months.  Life feels pretty chaotic right now but I sure love coming home to Phil at the end of every day and look forward to doing that for as long as we both shall live!  I'm also grateful that so many of our friends and family, both near and far, are coming for the wedding. I'm so excited to have so many special and important people in one place!

Listening:
to the Chatty Sisters podcast that my friend Kelly and her sister Caroline launched this month.  I've been friends with Kelly for many years so it's fun to hear her voice on a regular basis!  And I got a shout-out in episode 3!

Wishing: that the weather would warm up.  March is typically not a great month in Minnesota as it can be quite cold. But I'm just ready for warm, springy weather.  I'm so over my winter wardrobe and winter jacket.



What are you loving, watching, and grateful for these days?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Wedding-Planning-Free Weekend!

Happy Monday and Happy First Day of Spring!  I hope everyone had a fun weekend.  Did you celebrate St. Patty's Day?  I can't say that we did, but neither of us has any Irish blood in us so we don't feel compelled to celebrate.  After 2 weekends full of wedding-related to dos, we were due for a wedding-planning-free weekend!  Here is how we filled it.

On Friday night we had Phil's mom over for dinner. I made these fish tacos along with guacamole. The archdiocese gave a dispensation on Friday that allowed Catholics in my diocese to eat meat in celebration of St. Patrick's Day, but it felt like 'cheating' to eat meat since I wasn't celebrating the holiday. Plus fish tacos are so good! I used tilapia and they were so tasty (sorry, no photo!).  I think the best part was the mango slaw, though.  I'll definitely be making that again! After dinner we played a couple of games of Yahtzee.

On Saturday morning I drove out to the west metro area to go to a barre class with a good college friend. It was nice to start off the day with a good workout! After the class, we grabbed breakfast at a cute diner in the area and then we stopped by a new French restaurant that opened up called Bellecour. The restaurant has a cute bakery so we stopped by for a macaron (which was delicious!). It was great to catch up and spend some time with my friend's daughter.

Heidi, her daughter Elle, and me enjoying a macaron!
Saturday afternoon we cleaned the house which is one of my least favorite chores.  It helps that we divide and conquer, though!  In the late afternoon we went to Phil's college friend's couples baby shower. It was fun to see some of Phil's college friends!

After the shower, we headed over to hang out with one of Phil's best men and his wife. We hadn't hung out with them for awhile so it was fun to spend Saturday evening with them! They have an adorable little guy, Leo, who is 16 months. My friend snapped this photo of Phil and I reading a book to Leo.


On Sunday morning I was up early so I could go to mass at 8:45 before heading to my personal training session at 10. The training session was soooo hard!  We did a bunch of different strength training circuits and he had me run some intervals for 10 minutes in the 2nd half of the workout.

Phil went to his mom's for the day and he took Oscar out there for the week (his mom loves having Oscar's company so we bring her there every other month or so). I missed having Oscar around but still enjoyed having day to myself at home. I haven't had a plan-free day in so long so I relished being able to stay home all day. I spent a good chunk of Sunday afternoon working on meal prep for the week.

Sauteing veggies for the egg bake

Sauteing peppers for my salads
Chopped fruit and veggies for snacks
It feels good to have breakfast (veggie and chicken sausage egg bake), lunches (salad with jerk pork and veggies) and snacks taken care of for the week.

The evening was spent relaxing and reading. And I course watched 60 minutes. I love that show and Face the Nation! I also watched a little bit of March Madness basketball but both mine and Phil's brackets were busted yesterday as the teams we picked to win the tournament lost (Louisville and Duke).  Womp womp.

This is another jam-packed week as we have a tasting tonight for our dessert table (!!!) followed by barre class (if we get out of the tasting in time), then tomorrow I fly to NYC for a day full of meetings in New Jersey on Wednesday. I'm squeezing in a dinner with my friend Alli and her husband on Tuesday night which I'm excited about!  Thursday night I have a kick-off meeting for the 2017 community garden season and Friday I have a personal training session right after work.  I reeeeeally need a plan-free week night badly but don't see that happening soon since I travel again next week (this time to Chicago).

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

What were you up to this weekend? Did you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Activism Through Reading: Strangers in Their Own Land

I'm back with my next selection for my Advocacy Through Reading project. My 2nd book will be 'Strangers in Their own Land' by Arlie Russell Hochschild which was recommended by the NYT as a book that would help people understand Trump's victory. Hochschild is a renowned sociologist. In this book, she travels to the bayou country of Louisiana, which is a stronghold of the conservative right movement. Here is a synopsis from goodreads:

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream - and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels  like to live in "red" America. Along the way, she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from "liberal" government intervention abhor the very idea?

This is a book I am reading to try to understand the views of a group of people that I have a hard time relating to.  By reading this book I'm hoping to gain more of a personal understanding of the views of groups of people who have been left behind by the economic recovery and how and why they saw Trump as the candidate that would save them.

There is such a divide in our nation right now.  I know I am just one person, but by trying to learn more about a group with views different than mine, I'm hoping it will metaphorically help me step across a divide that feels so insurmountable right now.

I'll be back in late April/early May with my thoughts on the book!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Activism Through Reading: The Faith Club Review

As I mentioned early last month, I've decided to embark on an Activism Through Reading project. My goal is two-fold. I want to expand my knowledge about topics that tend to be debated, with varying levels of knowledge. Secondly, I want to understand the thoughts and feelings of people with opinions that different from mine.

My first selection was "The Faith Club" which is a book written by three women who came together with the goal to write a book for children that would explain the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Early on in the project, the women realized that they needed to address a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about each of their faiths, and so this book was born.  

My goal of reading this book was to learn more about the Muslim faith. And boy did I learn a lot by reading this book! As I have mentioned before, I was raised Catholic and continue to practice my faith as an adult. My focus has been entirely on my faith and I know very little about other faiths, mostly because there is always more to learn about my own faith. That said, I recognize that learning more about other faiths helps me build understanding of others. My goal was to learn more about about the Muslim faith but I ended up learning quite a bit about the Jewish faith as well. 

Here are some of the things I learned by reading this book:

1. Similar to the Jewish and Christian faiths, the Muslim faith descended from Abraham. Muslims  believe Muhammad was the last of a series of 25 messengers and prophets, starting with Adam and including Moses and Jesus, who were sent by God to guide people to the right path. Muslims believe that Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which means peaceful surrender to the will of God, are three forms of one religion, which was the religion of the prophet Abraham.  Thus, Muslims are required to believe in the Gospels and the Torah. 

2. The word "jihad" means a struggle or effort. It is mostly meant to resolve an internal struggle to overcome sin. Unfortunately, this word has been corrupted by extremists/terrorists who are using it in ways that are not in line with the Muslim faith. This BBC explanation of jihad addresses the concept of holy war. I think many of us associate jihad or holy war with something that is actually not in line with what the Qur'an teaches. If you look at the Qur'an's teaching on what can necessitate holy war, it is clear that the campaign of ISIS/ISIL is not in line with the teachings of the Muslim faith. So it is wrong to associate their terrible actions with what it means to be a Muslim. 

3. The Muslim faith can be split into Shia and Sunni Muslims. They are divided based on who they think should have been the Islamic leader after Muhammad died. Within the Sunni sect, there is a movement called "Wahhabism." It is an extremist group that is thought to be the source of global terrorism. It's an extreme minority within the Muslim faith and it's an extremely wealthy group as they tend to inhabit the oil-rich areas of the Middle East. Both Shia and Sunni Muslims denounce this group.

4.  I also learned a lot about the battle between the Jewish and Muslim faiths over Israel. I vaguely knew about the conflict in this region, but Ranya, the Muslim author and Priscilla, the Jewish author, had many debates about this territory.

5. Lastly, the book addressed some of the roots of antisemitism. I did not think that antisemitism was something that was alive and well in the U.S., but the events of the past several months have opened my eyes to the fact that it is still a problem.

Main takeaway:

I'm walking away from this book reminded that groups of people can corrupt the teachings of a religious faith. I think we can all agree that groups like the Westboro Church have corrupted the teachings of Christianity. As a Christian, I denounce the acts of the members of Westboro Church. Their message of hate is not in line with the teachings of Christianity. It does not reflect the fact that we have a loving and forgiving God. Similarly, Muslims denounce the actions of terrorists who have corrupted the teachings of the Qur'an. I am not trying to compare the Westboro Church to ISIL because clearly ISIL has carried out their corrupted beliefs in extremely horrible ways. I am merely trying to show that various faiths have groups whose actions are not in line with the teachings of their faith. And just as I do not want anyone to see the actions of the Westboro Church and associate their practices, words and beliefs with what I believe, other Muslims do not want to be associated with the horrific actions of ISIS/ISIL. Especially since many of them have been victims of ISIS/ISIL.

My hope is that our country's leadership will stop associating being a Muslim with being evil or prone to terrorist acts. The group that has corrupted the Muslim beliefs and used those corrupted beliefs to justify their horrific actions has resulted in what I believe is a great misunderstanding in the Western world about what it means to be a Muslim.

And that is why I read this book. Obviously I only read one book so my knowledge of the Muslim faith is still very limited. But I know more than I did before I read this book. My hope is that I can help to disspell misconceptions about the Muslim faith when they arise in conversations with friends and family.

If you want to start to learn more about other monotheistic faiths, I highly recommend this book. It's a very accessible and engaging way to learn about the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. I also think it is useful to find ways to engage with others that have different beliefs and faiths than you do. Because of where I live, most of my friends are Christians. But thanks to blogging, I've made a couple of friends who are Jewish and we've had several conversations about our beliefs. I've also had the opportunity to meet others from the Muslim community by volunteering in an adult ESL classroom. Obviously that is not the place to engage in conversations about their faith, but it's allowed me to get to know them as a fellow citizen of Minneapolis. The benefit is that it humanizes a group of people that I did not have contact with before volunteering.

Have you learned much about other faiths? Do you have a curiosity about other faiths? Would you consider reading this book?

I'll be back later this week with my next selection!

Friday, March 10, 2017

TGIF!

Hello, Friday!  I'm so happy to see you!  This was another whirlwind week with several evening commitments and we have a busy weekend ahead of us...  I'm in dire need of a shouldless day but am hoping to squeeze one in at the end of the month!  Here's a TGIF-style recap of my week!

The high of my week was going to my first dress-fitting appointment last night. I looooove my dress so much so love any opportunity to put it on.  My dress fits me really well so I won't need a lot of alterations (just hemming and the bustle) which is good as those add up fast.  

The low of my week was feeling like crud at the start of the week. I came down with a cold late last week and felt pretty crappy over the weekend and then it dragged on into the week. I'm feeling better but now Phil is starting to get sick.  :(  I hope my mom and Sisters-in-law didn't catch it while they were at our house last weekend. 

A book I am reading is The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. It's a  YA novel that I got from my Book of the Month Club Subscription in December. I find that YA tends to be a great 'palette cleanser.' I just finished a dark book (Beauty and Sadness) which I did not care for at all, so I needed to read something engaging! This book is about a family from Jamaica that is being deported so it's a timely book to read. There's also a sweet love story so I think it's going to be a great book!

For my workouts I had personal training sessions on Monday and Wednesday and went to barre class on Tuesday. Yesterday was a rest day and today I'm hoping to squeeze a quick workout in before heading to our marriage retreat. Saturday will be another rest day since we have our marriage retreat ALL DAY. On Sunday I'm planning to go to a barre class and will also do a 21 day fix total body cardio workout. 

The best money I spent was on some frozen yogurt on Monday. I have been so good about avoiding desserts but was craving ice cream so I decided to treat myself to a small cup of froyo at a self-serve place during my lunch break. I went with fruit for toppings (plus like 6 m&ms) to keep it somewhat healthy. It tasted soooo good, especially on my sore throat. 


My plans this weekend include going to an engagement retreat tonight (7-9:30) and all day tomorrow (9-7). This is a retreat that is required by the Catholic Church in order to get married in the church. It's going to be a long couple of days but I know we'll get a lot out of it as they cover topics like communication, finances, family planning, etc. I have no plans on Sunday besides going to barre class. I'm going to try to relax as much as I can on Sunday as I'm feeling rather worn out right now!

What was the high of your week? What was the best thing you spent money on this week?