Friday, March 20, 2015

How to Handle Hungry on a Honeymoon

Okay, let's face it: cruises = (lots of) good food.

Jacob planned a fantastic honeymoon experience for us, and we ate WELL. I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the fantastic meals we ate and list out our favorites for future...well...mouth-watering viewing pleasure.

(All collages described from left to right, top to bottom.)
Shrimp cocktail - we had so much of this!
Herb-roasted chicken on a cheesy polenta
Shrimp and scallops on a bed of risotto with veal jus
Lemon sherbet and mixed berries with an almond crisp

Shrimp cocktail (as I mentioned...)
Steak and onion rings
Grilled sea bass (it melted in my mouth)
Oreo cheesecake (Jacob is a cheesecake connoisseur, and while this was an "ok" cheesecake, it did not top the charts) 

Smoked salmon with brioche (I have avoided "smoked salmon" because it is usually thinly sliced and looks like sushi, which is a no-no for my palate, but this stuff was FANTASTIC! I think we both had it two days in a row.)
Salmon frittata (can you say yummy?!)
Egg whites with sauteed egg whites and potatoes
Shrimp cocktail (uh huh...)

Who doesn't like a hibachi grill? The menus had a top portion with origami instructions. I'd like to introduce you to our seahorse and whale. 
Jacob is the master of all things origami. I cheered him on.

Okay, so THIS was fun!
Mount Rice
Impaled Egg
Sizzling Meats
Fixing Fried Rice

Green tea ice cream and pastries
Steamed mahi mahi with mushrooms
Banana pancakes...for DESSERT

Okay, so this is kind of a summary of our favorite fish dishes.

And a summary of some favorite desserts 
(the new pictures include a pineapple crisp and ice cream with papaya goodness on top).

And you might as well try duck on a cruise, right? And those roasted apples were delicious!
Chocolate/caramel ooey-gooey goodness
Crab cakes

Quail? Why not?
More succulent, smoked salmon
Vanilla ice cream/berry/nut goodness. The crisp is actually like an ice cream cone but in a wafer shape.
Chocolate souffle (Unfortunately, it was not the best souffle ever. Jacob had never tried one, and I thought this would be a good time, but it was dry and not high quality chocolate. Guess we'll have to try again!)

First experience with dim sum!
The hot and sour soup was fantastic. I swapped my fried rice for a second bowl.

Maple glazed salmon and ratatouille (first time trying ratatouille and now cannot wait to try my hand at fixing it!)
Cedar plank halibut with shrimp...and butter yumminess on the side...
Raspberry cheesecake (This one got not only Jacob's stamp of approval but won the 
Best Cheesecake of the Honeymoon award.)
Mixed berries and sugar cookie wafers with powdered sugar snow

There you go, my friends. Oh, pardon've got a drop of drool on your chin...

(And just for fun, when checking spelling on this post, Google suggested "tadpole" for "polenta.")

Friday, March 6, 2015

Wedding Planning Tips & Fun Ideas

There is a TON of great information out there for newly-engaged couples when it comes to planning a wedding. Pinterest is STILL sending me tips...I wonder how long they'll continue to think I'm planning a wedding...Anyway, I just thought I'd share a few quick things that helped me and Jacob in the planning process and a few fun ideas if you're looking for a way to be creative and break the classic wedding mold.

Tip #1: Have an amazing Mom and Sister who know your style and selflessly give of their time and energy to help organize your special day. And did you know that my DAD actually found our venue?!

I mean it – they were irreplaceable when it came to planning and executing all of the fittings and meetings and brainstorming and shopping excursions. I could NOT have done it without them!  
That being said, below are a few ideas for how to stay organized when you’re planning your big day (and all the events leading up to it!):

Tip #1: Multi-purpose address list: Make all those hours you spend putting together the list of addresses for your guests go to work for you. I recommend using Excel so you can easily move/rearrange information. Use this list as a master list for:
  • RSVP’s: You'll need to keep track for catering, dessert, wedding favors, etc. I created a column for adults and a column for children in order to separate headcount for catering. Also, I requested guests send their favorite Bible verse (so Jacob and I could have those to treasure and meditate on in the days to come), so I created a column to track this information and hope to do something crafty with them when things settle down a bit.

  • Shower/Wedding Gift Thank-You's: Make columns for each shower you have and the wedding, and use the cells in each column to keep track of what gifts were given. Then, you can highlight the cell when you've written the thank-you card!

Tip #2: Shared Google Doc: I created a shared Google Excel sheet for Jacob and me to keep track of certain things along the way. This was helpful because we could both update the sheet and not have to send an email each time something happened. Here is a list of the different tabs we included in the sheet:
  • Timeline: Because of the short time frame (4 months between proposal and wedding), we listed out activities that needed to be done, when they needed to be done, and who was responsible for them (Jacob, me, or both of us). Some of the to-do's included:

§  registry
§  guest list
§  wedding party invitations
§  dress/tie shopping
§  meet with the DJ
§  settle on photographers and send picture list
§  address and mail out save-the-dates
§  engagement photos
§  request marriage license
§  gather pictures and videos for the wedding video my cousin put together for the reception (a special compilation video for the guests to watch at the beginning of the reception while we had pictures taken)
§  order invitations
§  address and mail out invitations, etc.

  • Registry: Both Jacob and I took an inventory of what we had in our kitchens that we knew we didn't need to replace or include on the registry. Then, I did some research (it's amazing how you think you know what you want as a woman in the kitchen, but Pinterest helps fill in a number of gaps) and listed in the spreadsheet what we wanted to be sure to scan when we went to register.

    We registered at Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. I discovered that while Bed Bath & Beyond has a more efficient registry process and more extensive options, the "scanner gun" is fairly archaic. (
    Be careful when you select a product to ensure that you indicate how many of each product you want or double-check to see if the store clerk put the amount you requested - we ended up with a registry that requested 16 salad serving bowls!) You can also log into your registry online and alter the number of items there if you would prefer not to worry about numbers while you're in the store registering.
    Target has a really modern "scanner gun" that is pretty easy to use, but the registry doesn't update well when people purchase gifts. We ended up with several duplicates (but these turned into gift cards when we made returns, so that was okay!).
  • Meeting with DJ: This sheet helped us brainstorm songs for the ceremony and reception. We were able to put down ideas, comment on them to each other, review timing, etc. Bouncing ideas off each other was helpful so we could get an idea of what the other person had in mind for different events.

Tip #3: We were so fortunate to come across DJ (Michael) Cone! My Sister heard a recommendation about him and passed along the information. He was fantastic! Very professional, very personable, very prepared. After exchanging an initial email, he met with me at Starbucks (and we conferenced in Jacob) and talked us through the services he could offer. He was super-flexible, and Jacob and I were able to create a playlist for the reception. He had his computer with him and confirmed he could get all the songs we requested. He also had suggestions for songs when we were unsure (what song do you play for the “(cup)cake” cutting??)

DJ Cone is not just a DJ but an emcee. He was the reason everything ran smoothly at the reception from encouraging guests through the receiving line to the garter/bouquet toss to the exit. I didn’t worry about a thing during the reception because I trusted the timing to him.

If you aren’t planning a wedding in the Dallas area and can’t utilize the services of DJ Cone, make sure the DJ you partner with truly understands the type of music you do (and don’t) want played. DJ Cone shares our faith and understood the type of music we wanted to use to celebrate our day, so we were very grateful.

Fun Idea #1 - (Cup)cakes: We wanted something simple and yummy, light and fun, and decorative as a dessert. We also didn’t want to overdo it, and so the idea of cupcakes came to mind. A few years ago, my Mom introduced me to cupcake tiers, and I thought they were so fun! We decided to kill two birds with one pretty little stone and have the cupcakes double as dessert and centerpieces. I ordered the cupcake tiers through Amazon and got a great deal, Mom had these lovely bows made to go on the top tier, and we filled the bottom two tiers with gorgeous little cupcakes.

(On the practical side, doing cupcakes as your centerpiece also helps guests avoid having to stand in line twice if you have a buffet or even three times if you have a buffet AND a separate receiving line. Also, it helped us save money on flowers since we did not bring any flowers into the reception.)

Fun Idea #2 – ‘Everyone’ Bouquet Toss: My Sister and I have never enjoyed the bouquet toss at weddings. It can be awkward and seeing as how we’re both introverts…well, you get the point. So, I thought it would be fun if the bouquet toss was for everyone! This would also make for a better picture if there aren’t a lot of single ladies at the wedding, and it worked well for us because the toss was at the top of the stairs we used for the Exit immediately afterwards. We attached four $5.00 gift cards to the bouquet, and one lucky winner walked away with a fun prize!

Those are just a few organization tips and fun ideas that I think made our special day unique. The important thing is to not feel confined to anyone’s expectations but your own. No one (important) is going to judge you by your flowers/cake/dancing, etc. Enjoy the planning and enjoy the people you plan with!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

There is no "I" in "T.E.A.M."

As I think back on our engagement, I reflect on how much I appreciated Jacob's support and partnership. We learned as we went along and made a really good team! During your engagement, it is important that you become a T.E.A.M.:

Talk / Trust:

  • Engagement is a good and important time to get comfortable talking about a wide range of topics from the guest list to vendors, to your vision for the ceremony to your expectations for your first night together. Be sure to talk through the questions you have for each other as well as your expectations.
  • This is a season for growing your trust in each other. As tasks get delegated and hearts are unveiled, you cross into a new level of practical and relational trust.

Evaluate / Empathize

  • There are so many decisions to evaluate and it is good to do this together for the big ones. Sure, there are plenty of small decisions that are more efficiently dealt with by one of you, but for the big decisions, evaluate the options/pros/cons together and it will lay some more bricks on the foundation of your relationship.
  • This is an important time to really learn to empathize with each other. It might be slightly more relevant for the guys to work on this area as it is a very emotional and busy time for your lady, but both of you will experience new things, challenging things, and demanding things in this season. The more you can put yourself in the other person's shoes, the more you will appreciate the other person and feel like you are heard and understood in the midst of a whirlwind of activity.

Advisors / Accept

  • For many decisions during your engagement, it is important to seek out advisors. It's important to have wise biblical counsel during this time period. Jacob and I sought out guidance from our parents (married 34 & 42 years!) and a few mentor couples. We prayed together and read books together to spur conversation about God's design for marriage and our expectations. On the practical side, a lot of research went into our decisions. We determined a few options for wedding dates but then consulted with our families. We sought out a number of options for DJ's. I wasn't willing to accept that the only way to get elegant flowers was to pay $3,000 so I did a lot of searching and asking around at work, with friends, etc. There is a lot of good information out there if you just ask!
  • During this season, you have the opportunity to display acceptance for each other in a number of ways, including personal preferences, decisions, and mistakes. There is so much happening, and this is a great time to learn to express and accept grace from each other!

Make a Decision / Marvel

  • Yes, you must finally make a decision! After searching out a ton of vendors, choose one. After looking through a book of colors, choose one. After going cross-eyed by reading long, hard-to-pronounce flower names, pick one (or two, or...). After reviewing the menu options and ten types of grilled chicken, choose one. One of the things I enjoyed most about our engagement was making decisions with Jacob. We talked through things, shared our perspectives, and then made decisions together. This was also a good time for me to practice letting Jacob lead (he's a great leader, by the way). 
  • Take a step back and marvel. The time period preparing for a wedding is pretty incredible. Shining through the decisions to be made and tasks to be completed was such a bright light of community. It was truly a blessing to see how our community came alongside us to make this day happen. Family and friends hosted showers, purchased gifts from our registries, offered advice when asked, made themselves available to help, etc. Be sure to take time to marvel at these gifts of time and service. 

This partnership will be the foundation of your marriage. A month into our marriage, I see this in so many ways already and know it will continue as we go through different seasons of life.