Thursday, September 30, 2010


We're getting married because we love each other, want to spend our lives together, blah blah blah.

But we're also in it for the presents.

Because honestly, we want desperately need certain things, like a rolling pin:

If you're having a hard time reading the caption on the picture, or identifying what in the world is happening, let me shed some light:
I recently used a can of aerosol hairspray (IN a gallon-sized ziploc bag) in place of a rolling pin to roll out pizza dough.

Oh yes, I totally did that.
And I'm proud of my resourceful skills.
But please, someone, buy us the rolling pin off our registry.
And while you're at it, feel free to provide us with anything for our kitchen.
I wonder how many times one can reuse the cottage cheese containers before the plastic seeps into your food...
Our substitutions are crafty, but might be legally deemed unsafe by the Board of Health.

(PS: a HUGE thanks to my sister and her family for gifting me a mandoline slicer so we can stop borrowing our neighbor's or mutilating veggies with our Ikea knives. woot.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Best Present

This past weekend my birthday celebrations kicked serious butt.  I enjoyed myself entirely and felt so loved.  However, a birthday wouldn't be a birthday without presents (let be honest, here).

Mike totally stresses about what to get me every year.  And I admit, I'm hard to buy for and to surprise.  Mike tried countless times to get "that reaction" of amazement and total awe, and has come very close. So this year he went the safe route of running a few ideas by me.  If he went with his gut-feeling without asking me, all would be well, because I loved everything.

However there is one thing I loved above all else.
And it only cost $2.99.

The card.

"Hopeless Romantic" & "Mike" will only ever be found together in this sentence.
(But I like him that way, because sappy stuff makes me uncomfortable)

His inner Romeo came out.

His card is the one in front, with the silly-cat-face and "Wife" on it!

Take a closer look:

He wrote "future" before "wife."

Alone, that card made my birthday.
I am so lucky to have him as my "future" husband!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Winner, Winner & My Chicken Dinner

Thanks to everyone who entered the Simple Green and Jammie Girl giveaways!  These were my largest and most successful giveaways, to date! Thanks also for all the birthday love!

Enough exclamation points. Onto the winners:

For the Simple Green giveaway, the winner of 7 bottles of their Simple Green Naturals line is:

Laurie Murley!

For the Jammie Girl Store Pajama giveaway, the winner of a pair of Malabar Bay Jammies in Flamingo White is: 

Joanna of Raising Madison!

Winners have been notified via email and have 48 hours to reply.
Congrats, ladies!

Now the chicken dinner part of the title.
My 29th birthday marked the end of a different era for me - my time as a vegetarian.  I failed as a veggie, but I'm ok with this.

I wanted to eat as a vegetarian because of how I felt during a 2 week detox, 2 years ago. I realized how great your body feels when you eat many vegetables and less meat.  However, my stint as a vegetarian was not quite like my 2 weeks of detox.  Either out of laziness or ease of planning, I ended up eating more cheeses, dairy products, and carbohydrates.  My doctor constantly worried about my sources of protein, iron levels and cholesterol. I constantly pushed him off, telling him I would manage it better, but never did. 

Now as I prepare for the wedding, having gone to a dermatologist to treat my red-blochy skin (lovely, I know), I hear something similar from that doctor and my allergist.  Three doctors are urging me to eat a more well-rounded diet, instead of my carb/cheese and a side of veggie fest.

In fact, my allergist thinks my skin issues are directly related to food intolerance.  I'm back on the meat train.  (Those of you who really know me and my love of chicken wings know I was never really 100% OFF the meat train). 

However my allergist wants to do a true blood test, and so for 2  weeks I am on a hypoallergenic diet.  It's honestly not going to be that bad (I say this on day one), but the lack of coffee might kill me.

Wish me luck on my rice-based, chicken infused, still complete with veggies and fruit, but lacking tea and coffee madness of a diet.  In two to three weeks I'll find out if allergies are just as silly as being a vegetarian!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today I celebrate my 29th birthday!  
This is truly exciting, because after this year I plan on celebrating the anniversary of turning 29, for years to come.  Without going on about how icky I could potentially feel about being almost done with my 20's, I give you a very special birthday treat: a post written by my parents.

I asked dear Mom and Dad if they would contribute and within 6 hours their post came, ready to go!  I wish I inherited their readiness and punctuality.  As a side note, before you read, I only had the privilege of knowing one of my grandparents - my Grandma Anna.  I cherished my time with her and am proud to read what is below.
And so, here's what Betty and Marty (don't you just adore their names?) had to say about the baby of their family, me:

Vicki - From the View of her Parents:

We named her after her two grandmas Victoria and Anna.  In  our mind we hoped that she would do credit to her heritage and memory of her grandmas, who worked hard and had the great respect as ones who helped others.  You never know what your child will do, but hope to instill some values that will serve to help your child as well as help others.  values of a work ethic and assistance to others, like her grandmas.

Growing up she captured the attention of many folks.  To illustrate, many wanted her to watch their little ones before she was even out of grade school!  What a good sitter for all those children in our neighborhood.  She gearned her "baby sitter's certificate" at age 11 or 12, who knows exactly the age because it seemed like everyone wanted to have Vicki babysit with her games and planned activities.  We wondered who this little business person and educator was.

In her senior year of high school she was president of chorus and showed great leadership abilities.  She could sing.  But more so, she was a leader and knew how to take care of others; like grandmas do.

Then she wanted to be a teacher.  How proud she made her mom, who is a teacher at a local community college.  Graduation from college and then on to a second grade teaching assignment.  Again taking care of children.  Like Grandma.

Now the wedding bells are on their way.  Hopefully God will shine upon you and give you children of your own.  Then a few children for Vicki's children.  Vicki then as a grandma.

Love you, and we are proud of you because you are you. 
HAPPY birthday!
Mom & Dad
 Baby Vicki and Mom

pppppp ssss: don't forget my two birthday giveaways end tonight!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Press Your Luck

 "Fate: It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you"
-Aldous Huxley

My life is in a golden spot right now.
I hate to brag.  I scold my students for boasting and going-on when others' spelling grade scores are below their's. 
But, ya'll?  There are some beautiful things coming my way that I must share with you.
Despite the car accidents, the brother-in-law's dog passing (RIP Luckster), the wedding planning stresses, and the silly-every-day frustrations, there is good to be found.

Take a look:

We went to yet another seemingly-boring-yet-dotted-with-interesting-vendors bridal showcase this weekend. (Watch/Susbscribe to for free tickets to such events)  We put our name/number in boxes for the "big" drawings.  I encouraged Mike to stay away from the cheesy photographers prize packages because if we won I don't know how to say "No I think your work looks like a Disney movie so thanks but no thanks."  We need a cheap videographer and a photographer, but not a cheap looking one.

The next day I received a phone call from a financial planning organization, saying we won their package from this weekend's showcase.  I ignored the message, thinking everyone who put their name in the box won.  Then an email came the next day - a REAL email from a real person: our new financial representative.  Because we won!
We won a $1500 financial planning package.

And wowsers do we need it:  Mike's in one of the most expensive grad schools in the nation, with government loans, for two years; I earn a public school teacher's salary without a masters' degree (my own doing, I admit); we need to join accounts; we own property and want to move to eventually start a family when Mike's done with school.

Oh and I forgot to fess up: I don't have a retirement plan.
Stop yelling at me now.  I will have one soon, thanks to this divine intervention.


And then there's this:

A couple weeks ago I heard of a destination photographer's wedding giveaway.  I will honestly enter any blog giveaway out there, so long as it makes sense for my lifestyle and doesn't ask too much of me.  So I entered Kristen Steele's Photography giveaway.  It required me to recount our engagement story.  And you all know that Mike's engagement will win him (almost) any fight for the next 10 years to come. (Sorry honey, only 10 years.  Everything has an expiration in life).

I entered the contest, hoping to win, because I do love Kristen's work.  I wanted this giveaway for more than the thrill of winning and wedding cutting costs.  I wanted it for the photographer.
Weeks went by and I heard from Kristen: we're the runner-up! 
This means we get her destination wedding package for half the price, but need to pay for her travel costs.   Unfortunately this still came out to the price of my favorite local photographer.  I told her we needed to think on it.
Then she emailed me again, saying she felt foolish, but the original winner declined.
We are now the winner of an estimated value $4000 photography package!  We still need to pay her travel expenses, but it comes out to less than anything we scoped out here in DC.

Kristen and I skyped last night, and she's a gem.  I heart her.  We still need to work out some logistics, but I feel like we are on to something good, here!

I'm a firm believer in taking chances.  If you don't try, you don't know.
And lookie lookie - it worked!

So, are you feeling lucky?  My two giveaways (Simple Green Naturals & Jammie Girl PJs) end tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Too Legit to Quit

A few weeks ago I realized that people not only read my blog, but take me seriously, too.
No really.  Stop laughing.
I have proof! 

It started with an email from D.I.Yva Designs {pronounced like "Diva", with a pun on the Do It Yourself}

Taken from their site, here's who they are: Designs"D.I.Yva Designs was founded by Artist Sugar Bailey and Professional Planner Narine Hovnanian with the hopes of delivering the type of originality to our clients that they can only begin to imagine.  We help you D.I.Y---- (minus the part where you are alone.)"

Also from their site:
We have decided to cut out most of the middle men often associated with hiring a traditional planner. With everything created in-house, or purchased privately through our extensive network, our events tend to look tremendously expensive although they are not. 
Their services include: 
Full Planning/Day of Services for:
           -Corporate Events
           -Special Events
Custom Design Plans
Hand-Made and Personalized Favors
Hand-Painted or customized Invitations and Stationary
Hand Crafted Floral Arrangements
Custom Headpieces for Weddings/Bridal Showers
Original Portrait Paintings

Awesome, right?!
So I open my email to find a personal invitation (not a 'bot) requesting my attendance at their launch party.  I'm still not too sure exactly how they found me, but I believe it has something to do with Weddzilla.  But I decide to go because launch parties are fun

I begged brought along Kathryn, bridesmaid, and we set off for who-knows-what and found an awesome evening.

The ladies behind DIYva Designs, Sugar and Nar, handled every single detail, down to the little flags in the pineapple mojitos.  I need to emphasize here that they made all the yummy treats!  The entire room carried out a beautiful yellow and lime green summery-feel, with amber uplighting to complement.

 fortune cookies! yum!

We picked up our swag bags, had a few goodies to eat, and saddled up to the bar.   I finally mustered up the courage to introduce myself to Sugar.  The convo went something like this:

Me:  Hi.  I'm Vicki of Crowning Victoria, the blog.  I, er, got your invitation.  I'm so glad I came!

Sugar:  Hi Vicki! Oh, we're so glad you're here! We have a special present for you! 

Sugar then walks behind the bar, reaches into the cabinet to grab my gift.

Me, thinking I already picked up my swag bag:  Seriously? Cool!

Sugar, pulling out three handmade clutches:  Which one do you like best? Your choice!

Me, not realizing she anticipated my attendance, and eyes full of wonder on the handmade, etsy-wonderful item: Oh I love the earth-toned one.

I then babbled on about how much I appreciated it, practically drooled when complementing her handiwork, and just about needed Kathryn to intervene before I dropped some awkward comment.
Thankfully Sugar specializes in working with people and made a socially-appropriate exit.

But ladies and gentlemen, it just gets better.
Sugar and Nar took the stage to welcome all their guests.  While explaining the purpose of the company, to allow Do It Yourself brides the chance to plan with much-welcomed assistance from these awesome ladies, they lead into something that went like this:  "...and we have one of those local Do It Yourself brides here tonight.  She blogs about it and documents every step of the way!"

And guys? That's when it happened.
They introduced me, in a room full of people, as "Vicki of Crowning Victoria." 
I was kicking myself for not having any business cards!
However the moment was awesome.  I was recognized.
I was recognized as a REAL blogger and Do It Yourself Bride.

So, feeling pretty shabby, I decided this was a night to celebrate.
And pay for it the next day, I did.
But it was sublime.

Thanks, Sugar and Nar of DIYva Designs, for the recognition and love!!!! 
 Sugar and Nar

 Crown'd Vic and Nar

 Kathryn and Vicki celebrating!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

9 Months Away!

In 9 months we will not be having a baby, but rather a wedding!

There's not too much new to report, so this will sound a lot like the 10 month update.

Old News: we've secured our date, location, officiant, and band.
We have a block of hotel rooms at two different places.

Old News: I know my Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue.
New News: Sadly, on the Something Blue front, the Louboutin's I covet for $157 are knock-offs.  They really cost over $500, so I'm sticking with the Nina's, which are just as beautiful!

Current News: The caterer is still TBD, as we finally found more companies willing to work with-in our price range.  We're trying to set up more tastings (at least 2 more) and hopefully my only bridesmaid (aside from my sister) to not attend a tasting, Kathryn, will be able to join us for one!

The Save the Dates are about to be mailed out.
I stupidly decided to hand stamp decorations on the 125 inserts, and so the process is taking longer.
(Also, thankfully a stamp company AND an ink company both sent me products to review, meaning the materials to decorate the Save the Dates were free!  So expect a review and detailed "how to" post about that, coming up!)

My parents secured the Day After Breakfast location and contract.  I am so thankful they took this on, themselves!  One less thing for me to think about!

The famed wedding dress is finally out of our living room (I bought it off the rack in a sample sale) and out of Mike's range of vision, although it left a piece of itself behind!

Finally, We're working on:
-finishing the Save the Date inserts
-mailing out the STD's
-choosing a caterer
-picking a photographer (Oh, I need to blog about an interesting development here! Stay tuned!)

I'm sorta thinking about:
-flowers, still
-hair, still
-(hand painted) invites
-my 29th birthday, on Friday (24th -- email me for an address to send presents)
-work is taking over my life (what else is new?!)

What are YOU up to?!
{image source}

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I couldn't make this up...

I apologize for this being unrelated to my wedding, but I need to vent and I can't flippin' believe what just happened to me:

I decide to go spend half my pay check (not really half, maybe an eighth) at Whole Foods.  I wanted some specialty items and felt I deserved a treat.  I rarely go to Whole Foods (my heart belongs to Trader Joe's).

On the way home,at a red light, I need to dictate a text to my girl, Diana.  (Dictating is safer than texting-and-driving, don't tell me it's the same thing!). Oddly I see her walking her dog as I am dictating the text.  I  put my phone down because traffic is bad on this one-way, one-lane side street.  Not even a minute later I approach stop-and-go-traffic.  My phone is safely away, no distractions.

I'm driving.
I looked down.
I can't even remember why I looked down or what I looked at, but I did.
I looked up.
I slam on my breaks.
I rear-end the 2000 Carola in front of me, hard enough to make a loud noise.
Hard enough to make me shake with guilt.

The guy two cars in front of me gets out to check his car.
I'm cursing in my head.

The guy in front of me puts on his blinker to pull over.
I'm cursing out loud.

Luckily, both our cars are old and already look like 5 SUV's decided to have their way with them.  The man whose car I hit is older and has an pleasant accent.  He's really nice, as nice as one person can be whose car was just hit by yours truly.  He doesn't want to involve the police.  (I start wondering if he's a spy.  It's DC and there are spies everywhere.  It could happen.)
We exchange insurance information and move on.

It could be worse, I tell myself.
I am fine, safe, as is the other driver.
The cars seems fine too.

As I drive off OH-SO-CAREFULLY I even resist the urge to dictate a text to my fiancee. I resist the urge to call my insurance company to fess up, yet. I get near home, except I can't get near my house.
Gas leak.
A three block radius is closing off all streets near my house.
I have groceries to get inside.

I start cursing again.
This just frustrates me to no end.

Then I start beeping my horn because the car in front of me is backing up.
I honk louder and more urgently.  Then the lovely car in front of me backs up into my car, just as hard as I recently hit the guy prior.  I'm not kidding.
My car jolts.
The bicyclist that saw this happen asks me to roll down my window and tells me she'll stand as a witness if I want to report this.

I say no, just no, as I watch the car that backed-up into my bumper forcefully drive off without saying a word to me.  How would my insurance company like that if I call to report two accident claims within twenty minutes of each other?  We're leaving that one alone. 
I'm still cursing, here.

I finally find a parking spot, 2 blocks away, and walk home in the rain carrying my groceries.
I didn't make dinner, as planned.
I called my parents and cried, and they told me it was ok.

It's nice to hear "it's ok" when you feel like it's not.
Bad things happen in three's - so I'm safe for awhile.

(I bet my work-friends are going to make fun of me for blogging about this and tease me for keeping record of every little thing.  If they don't watch out, I might blog about them breathing.  Or my car might find the way to theirs.  just kidding. maybe.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ghost of my Wedding Dress

I purchased my wedding dress way ahead of schedule.  So far ahead, in fact, that it lived on the back of a door in our living room for about 3 months, teasing Mike.  He refrained from peeking through the double garment bag, but admits that urge to do so was killing him.

So, I finally moved the dress to my dear friend (and bridesmaid) Kathryn's closet.

When I looked at the door again, I noticed something odd:

The dress left behind an imprint, or ghost, of itself!

Remember, the dress was double bagged.  The bags were the size of the door and one was plastic, the other a fabric. They spanned the entire width of the door - not the size of the ghostly shadows left behind.

Luckily the black dusty stuff cleans right up, but it's still really weird.

Does silk organza give off an oddly, fierce residue?

How weird is that?!

{photo by Yours Truly, Me}
Don't forget to enter my Jammie Girl PJ Giveaway or the Simple Green Naturals Giveaway!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Birthday Giveaway: Jammie Girl jammies!

I love my jammies (bold, italics, underline).

It might have something to do with loving sleep, but nothing beats coming home from a long day at work to your favorite pair of jammies.  (Well, maybe wine, dinner on the table, and your man - but being IN your jammers is the icing on the cake!)

A few weeks ago I received and reviewed a pair of Jammie Girl jammies.  Jammie Girl's site is the mecca for cute PJs. I love the Munki Munki line, which has the uber cute nightgown "June Bug" tribute to brides:

The PJ Salvage Purple Pursuasion  cropped pant looks oh-so-comfy and stylish, too:

Jammie Girl sent me the Malabar Bay Sea Stars Blue Pajama Set in medium.  Check out my review for full details, but here's the skinny: LOVE THEM!

In honor of my birthday, you too can own a set of Malabar Bay PJs!
They are offering one lucky winner a pair of Malabar Bay jammies in Flamingo White!

Here's how to enter the giveaway:

Mandatory Entry:  Go to Jammie Girl's Site and comment below, telling me your favorite pair!
(**You must do the first entry first to qualify for bonus entries. Please leave a comment for each entry! If it says 3 entries then leave 3 entries! Valid for USA only. No PO Box addresses will be accepted. Please make sure you leave an e-mail address or have it in your profile! If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask!** )

Bonus Entries
1. Follow my blog publicly with Google Friend Connect (1 entry)
2. Like me on Facebook (1 entry)
3. Subscribe by reader or email located on left sidebar to my blog (1 entry each)
4. Add my button to your blog or add me to your blogroll (2 entries each)
5. Blog about this giveaway. Leave me link. (3 entries)
6. Follow @CrowndVic* on Twitter and tweet** this giveaway (1 entry/tweet)
*Tweets protected.  I will approve you as long as you're not a bot.
**Anything appropriate or something like:  I wanna win the PJ #Giveaway with @CrowndVic and @jammiegirlstore
7. Follow @JammieGirlStore on Twitter (1 entry)
8. Like Jammie Girl on Facebook (1 entry)
9.  Vote for this blog*** (Crowning Victoria) for Weddzilla's Blog Guru award! (1 entry)
***Must be a new vote if voted previously.  Scroll through the pages to find my button (most likely on page 3 or 4). Click the arrow next to my blog logo to vote.

Giveaway will end on 9/24/10 (my birthday!) at 11 PM EST.

Winner will be chosen by and will be e-mailed. The winner has 48 hrs. to respond to my e-mail or another winner will be chosen. I will announce the winner on my blog.

{personal photos by Yours Truly, Me}
{Photos of June Bug and Purple Persuasion PJs from Jammie Girl}

Disclaimer: All opinions are 100% honest and my own.  Jammie Girl provided me with the pictured pair of PJs for the purpose of this review.  I purchased an additional pair on my own because I love their selection.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oh Honey(cake)

Happy New Year!

Tonight at sundown Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New year, begins.  And for me this is a very special Rosh Hashanah.  It's my first as a Jew.  There's a huge story I need to tell about how I came to my decision to convert, but that's not for today.  Although this is a day to celebrate as the anniversary of the day G-d created Adam and Eve, as we look hopefully towards a sweet new year, and we hear the shofar sounding - it is also a solemn holiday.  Rosh Hashanah marks a day of judgment, "On this day man is judged for all of his actions, and all that will transpire and occur during the coming year is recorded." {from}

Alas, it is a holiday, so we gather with family, attend services, and feast!  (Also because it is a day of rest, I will not be found here on Crowning Victoria until the holiday ends, Friday at sundown.)

It is a tradition to eat sweet things to beckon a pleasant year.  I made a fantastic honey cake that I must share with you:

"Majestic and Moist Honey Cake"
Adapted from Marcy Goldman's Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup honey*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs (at room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup rye or whiskey
1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional) 

Fits in three loaf pans, two 9-inch square pans or round cake pans, one 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt cake pan, or one 9 x 13 inch sheet cake (pictured at bottom).
Preheat oven to 350F.  Generously grease your pan(s).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.  Make a well in the center.

Add to the well: oil, applesauce, honey, white sugar, brown shugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, and rye/whiskey.  *If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be much easier to get all of the honey out!

Using an electric mixer (can't wait to get married so I can get my Kitchenaid!)  on slow speed stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter.  Take caution to ensure all ingredients are mixed and none are stuck to the bottom of your bowl.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).  Sprinkle top of cake(s) evenly with almonds, if using.  Place cake pan(s) on a baking sheet to ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking at the same speed as the interior and top.

 Bake until center tests done (spring back to the touch and toothpick comes out clean).  
Angel and tube cake pans take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes 45-55 min, and sheet cakes bake for 40-45 minutes.

Allow to cool 15 minutes before removing.

Shana Tova! 
(Happy New Year!)

{All Crown'd Vic photos: Yours Truly, Me}

Tuesday, September 7, 2010



{Ailuropoda melanoleuca}  Giant Pandas.

Growing up I liked these black and white bears.  They're cute, cuddly-looking, fierce creatures.  Also, who doesn't love a bambo-a-tarian?  It totally helps the environment.

So when Thai Shan the panda was born the day Mike and I visited the National Zoo for the first time ever since moving to DC, I was ecstatic.  I knew baby pandas are the size of a butter stick, so it made sense that the cub's nickname was such.

Mike and I continued to visit Thai Shan when we found ourselves at the zoo.  I swear that bear hardly made it outside.  Still, we saw it, waved at it, and pretended to talk to it (or maybe we really talked to it, but we're totally sane).

Then the fateful day came to send Thai Shan back to China.  Did you know ALL pandas are on loan from China?  That's a strange deal if you really stop to think about it.  New York City's not asking for any rats back.  I guess rats aren't as adorable.
Maybe it's an adorable-factor.
The fact that they are endangered doesn't help extend their stay.

Back on topic...
So Fed-Ex gets the box ready for Thai Shan, China gets excited to up their panda numbers, and DC prepares the farewell.
Simultaneously Mike prepared his proposal to ask me to spend our lives together!
What ensued after Mike popped The Question, I call PandAmonium.
Panda'monium because the amount of panda stuff that found it's way into our home was astounding.

Don't get me wrong, I like the bears.
And my youngest niece will be dressed as a baby panda at our wedding (cute, cute, cute!).

But here's a fraction of our collection:

1.  Personalized panda mugs, a gift from the National Zoo in celebration of our engagement. (They also gave us a bottle of champagne!  Not too shabby, eh?)

2.  Pandora Panda charm! My mom bought this for me for my bracelet.  I love this one.  It's sweet and cute and carries such special meaning.

3.  Matching panda shirts, a gift from Mike's dad and stepmom.

4.  A stuffed panda, also from the National Zoo.  Penny Lane tried to get in the shot.  I love that my cat is black and white like a panda.

Do you have any collections that sprung themselves on you?

{All photos by: Yours Truly, Me}

Friday, September 3, 2010

Save the Dates: They're HERE!

They came!  They're here! My Our Save the Dates arrived!

It took me forever to decide.  Mike left it completely up to me, which allowed me creative freedom but at the same time I was left with my own indecisiveness.  We purchased them through my sister's friend, Julye, who has her own printing company.  This printing company gains her great connections, like to Carlson Crafts (where we ordered the Save The Dates).

To keep a bit of suspense for those who will receive these lovely STD's soon, here's the bloggy-reveal:

 Sorry for the tease!  After the recipients receive theirs in the mail, I'll post a "real" photo!

I chose a simple business-card-sized magnet (within our budget, finally) displaying a photo from our engagement photo shoot, our names, and the event date.  The magnet will be sent with an insert containing our "wedsite" info, hotel details, and other important facts.
I'm still working on that part, but soon we will be ready to send them out!

Um, also:
Why are stamps so expensive?
And why is it now that we are ready to send out the Save the Dates our guest list is suddenly in flux?

{contact me if you're interested in working with Julye too!}

{All photos by: Yours Truly, Me}

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rings, a second time around - Part 2

Please sign up for my Simple Green Giveaway: 7 Bottles of Cleaner! (easy to enter!)
{For Part 1}

Over the weekend, Mike and I visited our favorite jewelers, commissioning him to create our wedding bands.  He drafted my magnificent creation, but we were over budget.

So, I asked a question that will forever change how I look at jewelry.

No, it's not "Can we do Cubic Zirconium instead?"

Nor is it "Can I trade my first born for a good rate?"


It was a rather simple question:

 "Is there anyway we could reduce the cost?"

Keith said he would never make this suggestion, but when someone asks he knows that it's OK to put this on the table.
Normally this kind of thing scares people away, he cautioned.

He asked if I cared if the stones were new.
I didn't get it.
New as in fresh out of the mine?
New as in just born? Do diamonds/jewels do that?

He pulled out massive trays, one at a time.  Each held about 50 previously worn rings.  Either people's marriages failed, passed away, or needed the extra cash.  One way or another these wedding bands all had a history and now spent their days in a safe.

First we looked at the bands to see if there was anything exactly like I wanted.  Of course their wasn't, which made me loosen up to the idea a bit.  While I like the idea of the cost being cheaper, I was a little wary of wearing someone's old wedding ring.  I wanted my own.

Then Keith explained he was still going to create my own, unique ring.  He would melt down gold for me, to create the brand new band.  Then he would take stones from other sources and put them in my band.  These stones were from rings that we were looking at now - or random single pairs of earrings, broken bracelets, and forgotten treasures.  Keith said he needed to look into what he had in the back and would let us know the next day.

On Monday, we got the great call I was waiting for: Keith had all the necessary stones, of great quality, natural and not laboratory made, for my band.  Not only could he do it, but he could do it for half the cost of a brand new ring from the catalog.  All because I'm OK with previously worn stones.

See, the truth behind it is this:  these stones still retain their value, even for being sold a second time around.   They still have their same worth, even though they might not be "new." I'm giving these stones a second chance at love.
They are being used to create something special and new for me.  To me, their past doesn't matter - it's my new ring that will stand as a symbol of my unity with Mike.
If it means giving these old stones a new chance, to cut costs, then why not?
It's not like anyone's going to come looking for them.  It's not like anyone will know they are "gently used" either.  When you look at my ring all you will see is my love for Mike.

Old and new, somewhat-borrowed with a touch of blue: it's my ring, my love.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rings, a second time around - Part 1

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Mike and I both know which wedding bands/rings we want.  We also know our budget.  The major retailers shockingly manage to fall way beyond our means, but gave us good ideas and sent us in the right direction (away from their scary prices).

We headed out to the jeweler where Mike bought my engagement ring. If you had pointed out this little store, located in the corner of a strip mall on a busy highway and told me, "That's where your engagement and wedding rings will come from" I would probably run straight back to the scary major retailers.  The Diamond Exchange USA not only has a generic name but the hole-in-the-wall of a store surely screams "scam."  Except they are everything BUT that.  Why waste money on a flashy website, catchy store name, or ritzy store?  It's obvious this small, family owned store values their quality of work and staff more than all those other things.  And because of that, they were not only able to meet our budget, but create our one of a kind rings for us!
(Or at least we hope.... read on..)

In fact, Mike did exactly that with my engagement ring. First chose the stone: a diamond based on color, clarity, cut and carat.  Then Keith, the jeweler, set it in a band of Mike's choosing.  Essentially Mike designed my ring.

The best part about this store is their honesty.  Mike went into the store knowing he wanted to buy my engagement ring and did his online research first.  Keith directed him through the whole process and the good customer service and good people resulted in a great price and a very happy fiance.

But I digress: wedding bands.
We went back to The Diamond Exchange USA (the whole name is fun to say) and saw their variety of bands.  Keith is able to replicate almost anything on display, at a lower cost.  He's talented like that.  Mike chose a simple band, with no brushing (as he previously liked) but instead with etched rims on it.  It's hard to explain, you'll have to wait until June to see it! We ordered it in palladium, which is actually less expensive than gold now and better quality than tungsten and titanium.

For my ring, Keith will create my white gold, channel set diamond and sapphire beauty.  First we looked at the options in the store, none of which had sapphires in them.  The .5 total carat weight (TCW) seemed to overpower my size 4.5 ring finger.  The .25 TCW left me wanting more.  We decided on 7 stones (4 diamonds, 3 sapphires) of .4 TCW.  When Keith totaled both rings, we were shocked to find out we were over budget.

I was so sad.  I thought for sure everything would work out with Keith on our side.
Then I asked the question that will forever change how I look at jewelry.


{Because this post is epic, please see Part 2 tomorrow for the conclusion}
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