Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DIY hair fascinator

So my sister in law got married last week!  Yay! Since my in laws are English, they were all discussing their fascinators the day before the wedding and I remembered I'd forgotten to order one for myself. A quick trip to Michaels and ten minutes with a glue gun yielded me this:

It matched my dress perfectly, and I got, as my British in-laws would say, loads of compliments on it.

I looked for a hair fascinator tutorial, but only found a lot of wedding fascinator tutorials, and I wanted something less ostentatious and without a giant flower.  So for this you need:
-1 hair comb (it happens that I used to wear them, so I still had a bunch lying around, you can get a pack for like $2.99 at CVS)
-1 bag guinea feathers (I was looking for peacock feathers, but I found a big bag of multi-colored guinea feathers and picked those up instead.)  It was about $3 at Michaels.
-hot glue gun

Quick tip: turn the ceiling fan off for this.  Husband came in to find me covered in glue and feathers at one point because they were blowing everywhere.

1.) Lay out your guinea feathers in the order you want them.  I decided I wanted them alternating colors, from largest to smallest, and I needed them to all face the left.  Feathers that curved to the right were discarded.
2.) Heat up your hot glue gun.  If yours has settings, use the "low" setting.  If it does not have settings, be very careful not to burn your fingers.
3.) Add one drop of glue at a time, then add a feather.  I know it sounds dumb to point this out, but hot glue dries really quickly and if you spread glue all the way along the comb, it will be dry before the end.  So glue as you go.  Be sure to add enough glue towards the end, even if you are afraid it is becoming a big sticky mess.
4.) Allow to dry before sticking in your hair.  If any of the feathers are falling out of place, add a bit of hairspray.

And a couple shots of it (and me) in action.
You can't really see the fascinator, but I wanted to make it clear how well it matched my dress.  Yes, I took the lens cap off before I started filming.  

More to come from a fantastically fun wedding.  Big thanks to Mark's cousin Tom for playing paparazzi on this one.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Teamwork

Love is: agreeing when your crazy partner suggests a 70+ mile bike ride through Wales.

Marriage is: telling your partner, during the middle of a thunderstorm on a mountain in God-knows-where, Wales, that, "we will be okay."


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Exactly Do You Use A Stand Mixer For, Anyway?*

I was telling a friend over the weekend that we got our Kitchenaid as an off-registry gift, but that I really do love it and have been surprised.  I think a lot of people register for Kitchenaids because somebody talks them into it or, "I want to learn to cook" or "I want to learn to make holiday cookies".  (Don't get me started on the people that get the really expensive huge one because they think they will make holiday cookies but have never baked anything in their lives.  If you are one of those people, feel free to justify yourself in the comments.)  I used to have a Sunbeam stand mixer, which I liked because I could scrape the bowl as I used it.  But it wasn't as powerful as the Kitchenaid, and the bowl has to turn, which means that if there is something particularly thick or cold in the bowl, the mixer gets stuck and needs some hand assistance.  I have a hand mixer, and was planning to continue just using a hand mixer until we had a house, but you don't look a gift-mixer in the bowl, after all.  So we kept Darth Mixer, and he has proved very useful to us.  I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes.

Anyway, last week, for the first time, we used a stand mixer to make ice cream.  It was a friend's stand mixer, and it made amazing salted caramel ice cream.  We are now discussing whether we would actually use the ice cream maker attachment, or, if since we would have to go to the store to get the stuff to buy ice cream anyway, we wouldn't rather just go out and get ice cream.  Because it was good, and fun, but it wasn't that good, and it was a lot of work.  (So really and truly think about whether you want the ice cream maker attachment, because nobody I know that has one actually uses it on a regular basis. Feel free to disagree in the comments!)

I also recently made my first cake from scratch, which was incredibly delicious and easy.  I won't be buying cake mix anymore (unless it's funfetti).  I also tried out a pumpkin cheesecake.  Creaming three sticks of cream cheese is not something I could have done with a hand mixer, and I don't even think the sunbeam would have held up very well.  I have been having some trouble with cookies, to be honest, but our chef friend told me over the weekend that I need to be using the paddle attachment to be creaming butter and sugar, not the whisk attachment.

My favorite thing to do with the mixer is make bread. The food processor also works pretty well for making bread though, so never fear if you don't have a KitchenAid.  I have found great recipes in The New Best Recipe Cookbook and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but frankly, the white bread recipe that comes with the KitchenAid is a pretty good starter.

What do you use a stand mixer for?  And do you share my belief that everybody needs a hand mixer, a stand mixer is optional, but if you have a stand mixer, you should also have a hand mixer?


*Another post inspired by the fabulously funny Robin Hitchdied.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Beyond flowers: easy ways to say “I’m sorry I was such a jerk last night”

My husband has never brought me flowers because we had a fight.  I have never brought him flowers.  The thing we do for each other when we have a fight (or simply, one of us acts like a jerk) is pretty simple.  For starters, we say, "I'm sorry I was such a jerk last night."  Nothing helps like apologizing.  Flowers say, "I'm sorry you got upset."  Actually apologizing says, "I was a jerk, I know it, and I feel badly about the way in which I acted or the things I said." 

If I really want to show that I'm sorry, I try a little bit harder to alleviate the tension that caused the fight.  If we have a fight about general cleanliness, the day after a fight, I'll often find myself picking up around the house.  I look for organization solutions that are creative, inexpensive, and help stave off future arguments.  I speak up before a situation gets out of control and leads to a fight, so we can talk through the issue before talking turns into shouting.  Last Wednesday, we left for my sister-in-law's wedding, which was a stressful departure.  Once we had calmed down, we talked through coming up with a strategy for leaving tomorrow for our trip to England so that we don't have a stressful departure.  Will it work? Maybe, maybe not.  Only time will tell.

How do you say/show you are sorry?  Do you get your significant other flowers?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Travel Recommendations

It just now occurred to me to ask for help with our upcoming trip to Wales and England!  You all were so helpful with our honeymoon (and every reader recommended place was delicious!) that I'm hoping some folks might have good recommendations for places to eat or fun things to do.  We are going to Cardiff, cycling the Taff trail up to Talybont Reservoir, and then cycling the canal towpath over to Abergvenny and taking a train back to Cardiff, so any dining/sightseeing recommendations for Cardiff or Abergvenny would be super helpful. 

After Cardiff, we head over to Leeds, where Mark's grandparents live. We probably won't get out much, but I would love to see more of Leeds and maybe do something fun with some of his family, so recommendations for good places to walk, eat, drink, or do other things would be great! 


Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Who should move for whose career: The Armageddon of Newlywed Fights

Another title brought to you by the fabulously funny Robin.  We actually haven't had this fight, because rather than committing to jobs, we've committed to a place to live.  Or more specifically, I've committed.

Currently, I'm the one applying for jobs.  This has been the case for the last year.  And lawyers are a little bit lucky, in that we are limited to a particular state, so I know I'm not going to find my dream job in Oregon and pack up and move.  However, I've applied to jobs that would be an hour, or more, commute.  And I have applied to those jobs with the full knowledge that we will not move for my job.

This is for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we really really like living in Baltimore.  It's a great city, we have a fabulous apartment in a great location, and we are finding and building a community for ourselves.  And in the past couple of years, I've seen several friends make the decision to take great jobs in places that they don't like to live, and I think that geographic unhappiness can be almost as bad as career unhappiness.  This might seem silly, but plenty of people make the decision to move to a city like New York or LA to try to make their careers happen, so it seems to me like my family should be able to make the same choice. So I committed to only applying to jobs that are commutable.

The second reason is that my husband has a job already.  And if I were going to be getting a job that made more than twice what he does, we might consider moving wherever I have a job.  But it seems really unfair to make my husband leave the job where he has built up seniority and a reputation for himself, all because I found myself a job that pays the same and would require that both of us start over.

The third reason is that well, it's my turn.  When I started law school, even though I desperately wanted to live in the city, we moved in together at the halfway point (he had a 45 minute commute, mine was 30), and when my husband got laid off, two weeks after we signed our lease, I refused to even entertain the idea that he would take a job that wasn't as close to Baltimore as he could get.  I was kind of a jerk about it.  But he found a job that was outside of the city, and we moved into the city as soon as our lease was up, even though his commute actually got a little bit longer (his office was supposed to move into the city when we did, but they took another year.)

The fourth reason is that we only have one car.  So any job that I get would have to pay enough for us to buy a second car, if we were both going to have driving commutes.  The money we save by not needing another car almost makes up for the fact that I have yet to find full time, permanent employment.

But sometimes, it seems like all of these reasons aren't enough.  It seems like considering that I worked really hard for my degree, I shouldn't be holding myself back based on geography.  It seems like if we would be making similar money, it maybe makes sense for his career to take a backseat to mine for a little while.  It seems like if I want to really consider myself a feminist and a strong independent woman, I shouldn't be taking my husband's needs and wants and his desire to keep riding his bicycle to work into account quite so much.  But I think that if my husband is willing to get up and go to work every day and support me and generally keep quiet about how many pairs of shoes I buy and not pressure me to get a high-paying job, or take any job I'm offered, then I'm very very lucky and all I can offer him back is not asking him to quit his job and move somewhere else.

If we were both on the market right now though, man, this would be a constant fight.  I think if I really did want to take a job that wasn't commutable, we would end up with a commuter marriage (living in two separate places), which doesn't seem terribly cost efficient unless new job pays a lot more.

Have you had this fight?  How did you resolve it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hand exercises to alleviate Thank You Note cramps.

Robin had a great post yesterday, and in classic How I Met Your Mother style, I took it as a challenge, which I accepted.  So welcome to the first of 10 posts about being a newlywed.  Some of these will be part of Monday Marriage Matters posts, some will not.  So here's today's - Hand Exercises to Alleviate Thank You Note Cramps.  Also applicable for writing addresses on invites or escort cards (but only if you are really stubborn.  Please just type those.)

The biggest recommendation I can make for avoiding cramps is to choose your tools carefully - you want a gelly pen, or a fountain pen - something that writes easily and smoothly.  You also want to set yourself up at a desk or table, and don't slouch.  You must also take frequent breaks, and not try to write all of your thank-you notes at once.

Write your thank-yous with your spouse, and take breaks to massage each others hands.  Hand massage is much more effective when done by another person.  You want to take your thumbs and trace along the tendons from the knuckles towards the wrist.  Rub each finger individually and tug on it a little - you don't have to crack the knuckle, but do give it some relief.

Other exercises that work pretty well are just pressing the fingers against the other hand, and shaking them out.  If you would like, you can get a stressball, or make a loaf of bread - kneading helps relieve some of the cramps.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Health Insurance

I was complaining over the weekend about jobs that don't offer benefits, and my friend said, "but doesn't Mark's job just cover you?"  He, being unmarried, with mostly unmarried friends, stated that he thought that covering a spouse for free was standard for a company.  I believe I laughed in his face.

When we got married, I had GradMed coverage in case I got hit by a car.  Immediately after we got back from our honeymoon, we filled out the paperwork to be put on Mark's insurance.  I knew the insurance wasn't great, but I was glad to have it, even though it meant we were paying more than $200 a month.  Until I went to get a prescription filled and the co-pay made my jaw drop.  But the real jaw-dropping moment happened a couple months later, when the company changed insurance, and the amount we were paying for me was going to go up to more like $350.  I was still unemployed at this time.

So I started shopping for an individual plan.  I turned to eHealthInsurance.com, which could cover me right away (they are not paying me to write this) and I had to pick between several plans.  But as we tried to navigate the question of how high a deductible we wanted and what kind of benefits I needed (I get injured a lot), it was pretty difficult.  Eventually I settled on a plan that seemed to get me the most for my money, and I went with it.  I actually haven't used it yet, other than logging into the website, but I feel good to have it.  We got lucky on one thing - I could stay on Mark's dental and optical insurance, without paying for the rest of it, so I don't have to pay out of pocket on that.

I know talking to a lot of other married couples that they face similar issues.  Their spouse's insurance doesn't cover them, it's lousy, it's non-existent.  There's also the issue that Lauren is facing, which is that she hasn't gotten on her husband's insurance yet, but she's been sick since their honeymoon.  Fewer and fewer jobs are offering health insurance benefits now, and more and more people are in one or more of these situations.

We never for a second considered that I could go without insurance.  Firstly, I'm accident prone, and I'm downright unlucky.  Secondly, I go to the doctor pretty regularly, or if something is wrong.  Thirdly, hospital bills are one of the leading causes of financial troubles and bankruptcy, and I didn't want a stupid risk we took early on in our marriage to destroy our life savings.  Illness or bankruptcy could still destroy us, but with insurance, I feel a little bit better.

Has anyone else been surprised to find that getting health insurance by getting married isn't as easy as we were led to believe? Did anyone get married specifically to get health insurance coverage?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Door Hangers

Last weekend was a crafting extravaganza with my SIL and my MIL for my SIL's upcoming wedding.  We made favor tags, table numbers, and escort cards, but I threw in a last minute project that my SIL loved.
I was perusing a craft site the week before I went up and saw these door hangers. I realized they were absolutely perfect for my SIL's late-night-dance-party wedding, and decided, WIC style, that she HAD to have them.  Also, since we're all at one hotel, they will help everybody know who else is with the wedding, which I always think is fun.  So I sent her an email, she concurred, and after twenty minutes of Microsoft Word and a printer, we had door hangers.  

The part that made ours really really easy was that we didn't do them double sided.  We did single sided hangers that said "Please do not disturb" on one side, and then just did a stamped pattern on the other side.  To make your own single-sided door hangers, just open MS word, make the paper landscape, add a text box, format your text, and then copy-paste two more times so that you have three doorhangers on the page.  Print them, cut them out, and then cut a circle using either a circle cutter, a 2-inch-punch, or scissors and a steady hand.  

You can find plenty of tutorials or templates for double sided doorhangers over at Weddingbee in the DIY section, and it was a really easy and fun project that I think people will enjoy.

Joy

I read the article from Salon about engagement pictures this week.  And it was funny, at least the parts I agree with, about how sometimes, props are a bit silly.  But what really stuck out to me was this quote:
"Planning a wedding is a void of joy for the couple. It involves awful conversations in which you must select who not to invite to your wedding and decide what important thing not to spend money on and compromise between people you love. "  

It's true, in a lot of ways.  The guest list conversations are awful, the what-song-shall-we-dance-to hunt seemed like an endless chore.  The "you spend too much time thinking/blogging about the wedding" talking-tos I got were annoying.  The planning-the-crafts and the adding-to-the-to-do list was awful.  But there was a lot more fun than the writer of the article alludes to.  Our engagement pictures were fun.  Our food tastings were fun.  Going to the organic grocery store to buy the same amazing cheese and crackers we had at our food tasting was fun.  Going to practice our first dance was fun.

When I look back on wedding planning though, the things that really stand out as fun are all of those things we talked about and dreamed and didn't happen.  The travel themed wedding we planned while we hiked through Castleton in England.  The card box made to look like a map container at a national park.  The tree planting ceremony.  All these ideas got scrapped, but the conversations in which we dreamed big and saw where our future could take us have set the stage for the conversations we have now about homes, families, and adventure.

So as much as wedding planning was sometimes a chore, I don't think it was "devoid of joy" any more than marriage is devoid of joy because on the weekends, we do laundry and clean the kitchen and run errands.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Lucky

This spring, my husband's job changed a little bit, in that he now travels a lot more than he used to.  Which gives me a little bit of freedom, and a whole lot of lessons in how lousy I am being a grown-up.  When I am on my own, I eat popcorn for dinner, don't take out the garbage, and leave dishes in the sink for days on end.  I remember this kind of behavior from college, when I had roommates who would make a giant pile of my dirty dishes and put a note on it reminding me that I was not raised in a barn. 

I came home from a long weekend at a bachelorette party to find the kitchen clean, the fridge cleared out of gross leftovers, and the laundry done.  My husband is an extremely patient man, and I'm very, very lucky.

Anyone else a disaster when it comes to being a grownup?

In the News

At my in-laws house, we caught a bit on the news about a bridal shop that closed it's doors and left the brides and bridesmaids without their dresses.  We've discussed before that if a wedding vendor goes out of business, it's unlikely you'll get your deposit back (even if you have a legal right to it) and they may leave you high and dry before the wedding.

I don't have much advice on this subject except that the whole "having to order a dress" thing was one of the things I disliked the most about the bridal industry, and a big part of why I bought my dress at Running of the Brides.  There was something comforting about walking out of the store with my dress that day, and knowing it was in the closet at home, and nobody was going to run off with my deposit.

One thing that the news did point out was that if you buy your dress on a credit card, the credit card company may insure the purchase and give you back your money, but if you pay cash or by check, that is less likely.  So that is at least something to consider when you put down your deposit.  Also I was surprised that the store required payment in full for bridesmaids dresses - and I'm not sure if this is standard.  Did anyone else find this to be required?