Celebrating Two Wonderful Years (and counting…)

Shane and I met at Valparaiso University in Indiana, four days before the end of my summer internship there in 2009, as we were about to begin our final year of college. He had just moved into an apartment with his friends, and I was getting ready to go back to University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. I never imagined, when my internship started, that I would meet my future husband and get married on that same campus. What a fateful summer!

397 copy

September 17, 2011 was the big day, and both our ceremony and reception were on campus. Despite some major wedding planning hiccups (that’s a conversation for another day over a bottle of wine), our wedding day couldn’t have been more perfect if we tried. Our goal was to only use traditions that really had meaning to us, and to be sustainable by creating as little waste as possible, which ended up helping us keep the costs down too. With many decisions, it came down to: if we can’t do it ourselves, it’s probably not necessary.

228 copy 306 copy

Rings: mine were Shane’s grandmothers and his ring was created by my metals professor from college. Both of these items are so special, not only because they are “tokens of love,” but because of who they came from.

562 copy

Dress & fascinator: the dress is another vintage item, my mom wore it on her wedding day. I found a local seamstress who fabulously transformed my dress into something a bit more modern, and a bit more “me.” I bought a pack of headbands from Target and threaded a white one through netting I found at Michael’s, then I secured them with some embroidery thread and a pretty barrette from a cruise my mom and I went on in 2007.

12 copy 430 copy71 copy

Wedding party: we asked our friends to choose items that they already owned, or would wear again, in our color scheme: purple, green, orange, or brown. Our flower girl wore a dress one of our cousins wore in a previous wedding. My cousins Sarah, Emily, and Alyssa bought sale dresses from David’s Bridal. Rachael found a purple dress in her sister’s closet and paired it with a cute, green shrug. Emily, my maid of honor, spent a whopping $12 on an adorable green/gold recycled dress from one of her favorite stores. We asked the guys to wear brown pants, a cream-colored shirt, and suspenders. The matching blue ties were a coincidence! And then we all bought TOMS, cream classics for the men, grosgrain wedges or flats for the ladies, sparkly purple for our flower girl, green for Shane, and something blue for me.

363 copy369 copy

Hair and Make-up: I asked two friends to help me with these tasks. I’ve known Carrie since middle school, she was an amazing mentor during my pre-teen and early teenage years. She styled my hair when I was a junior bridesmaid in my aunt’s wedding and a bridesmaid in my dad’s wedding, and I couldn’t think of anyone better suited for this task on my own wedding day. Kayla and I met in college, I was her R.A. and then we were roommates the summer I returned from studying abroad. I found out during wedding planning that she had recently become a Mary Kay beauty consultant and knew immediately that I wouldn’t need to look any further for make-up assistance. She took wonderful care of me that day and before hand, teaching me how to take care of my skin leading up to the big day.

24 copy41 copy

Jewelry: I wore a cross from my Oma, on a chain from my mom as well as a pair of her earrings. I “braided” matching chain bracelets with embroidery thread for each of the ladies.

5 copy 65 copy67 copy

Flowers: a family friend arranged some silk flowers into bouquets for myself and the bridesmaids, as well as wrist corsages for our very-important-ladies. My mother-in-law used leftover flowers for the flower girl pail (and the cake). The men wore tillandsia (or air plant) boutonnieres from Gethsemane Garden Center in Chicago, where we purchased the rest of our flowers too. We used the same potted orchids on the altar and on the head table at the reception. Our centerpieces were more tillandsia and African violets, which we invited our guests to take home. The centerpiece vases were re-used from my dad and step-mom’s wedding.

174 copy 213 copy
308 copy 532 copy

Ring pillow: this was made with leftovers from my dress. More specifically, from the big poofy shoulders we removed at my first fitting!

168 copy

Programs & Card Box: along with our invitations, and thank-yous, our programs were handmade by my talented mother. In the spirit of sustainability, she also found this awesome basket made of recycled magazines. She used an old sign and covered it in our engagement photos, with a slot in the middle to drop cards. It was a perfect surprise 🙂

166 copy
567 copy 566 copy

Salt ceremony: I searched for an alternative option during the “unity ceremony,” because we wanted something different from the unity candle or a sand jar. In my research, I found that in biblical times, men would exchange salt as a binding contract with one another. Unless each man could take identify and take back his exchanged salt crystals (which is impossible), the contract could not be broken. We liked this idea as a marriage covenant with one another. We also intend to use a pinch of this salt each year on our anniversary for a meal we make together.

288 copy

Bubbles and Party Poppers: Party poppers are my absolute favorite thing during celebrations like 4th of July and New Year’s. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use anything that required cleanup outside of the church, so instead we used bubbles. But that didn’t stop us from finding a way to celebrate with a bang! My mom passed around the party poppers during the cocktail hour before we arrived. Then, when we were introduced at our reception (to the Chicago Bull’s theme song!), everyone welcomed us with mini streamers. It was awesomely adrenaline inducing!

341 copy531 copy

Place-cards: because college athletics were a big part of our lives growing up, it seemed fitting to theme our tables around the most meaningful teams: Notre Dame, Valparaiso, Northwestern, Illinois State, Wisconsin, Bradley, Whitewater, and Nevada. We made magnets with each guest’s name on the team logos to indicate which table they were assigned. My mom framed gorgeous vinyl lettering to organize the magnets, and displayed a logo on each table with a matching handmade paper flower.

564 copy

Guestbook: somewhere on the interwebz, I saw the idea to have guests sign a map, so I went out in search of an atlas. Emily helped me hunt for at a local used bookstore, where we found an atlas of southern Italy. She and I spent a semester studying abroad in Italy together, and our vacations to the south are still some of the best memories we have, so it seemed like the perfect joint effort find. We covered it with gorgeous wrapping paper with which Shane’s supervisor wrapped her gift to us.

568 copy

Wine & Beer: thankfully, Valpo altered their dry campus rules for special events since my time as an intern there. They didn’t serve any, but they had contracts with local venues. We chose Bistro 157 because they were willing to fulfill our request to offer local beer and wine at a very affordable price. They even snuck a beer to each of us before dinner (during which the bar was not serving) since we missed our cocktail hour. They served their house sparkling wine for the toast, as well as wine from Easley Winery, and beer from Upland Brewery and Bell’s Brewery. We were happy to hear how many of our guests enjoyed the craft brews.

552 copy

Cake & Donuts: Shane has a bit of a sweet tooth, and although we both love chocolate cake, our favorite weekend treat is to get donuts! We decided to share that treat with our guests, which was catered from Chuck’s Bakery. But we still wanted to cut a cake, so Shane’s mom made us a chocolate cake, with rainbow chip frosting per my request 🙂 Our cake toppers came from a little candy shop in our neighborhood. We cut our cake to the tune of Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life“. We cut the bottom layer and saved the top layer in our freezer to eat on our first anniversary.

556 copy 572 copy

First Dance: I used to travel for work, and during a particularly long drive one day, I played all of the songs from my Regina Spektor collection. I frequently swapped music with friends during college, so it was no surprise to me that I hadn’t already heard all of her songs in my collection. When her cover of John Lennon’s “Real Love” came on, I couldn’t think of a song that more perfectly summed up the way I felt about Shane. I sent him a text later that day and told him he just HAD to listen to the song. We agreed that it would be perfect for our first dance.

600 copy628 copy

We decided, rather last minute due to some venue snafus, to have Trans-Audio DJ at our reception. I’m so glad we did because Fabian took care of every single thing, and we celebrated worry-free. Aside from that, hiring a DJ led to one of my favorite planning memories of Shane, Emily, and I sitting on our living room floor browsing youtube for our “must play” list, giggling together the whole time.

708 copy755 copy716 copy657 copy674 copy

A big thanks to our fabulous photographers for capturing all of these wonderful moments from our wedding day!

And thanks to you for letting me share these special moments 🙂


A Golden Birthday Celebration

I absolutely love birthday parties. As an adult, I attend far less than I did as a kid, and I think that’s too bad! Birthdays are the perfect excuse to get your friends together and overindulge in all of the delicious things. So when I decided to plan a party for Shane’s golden birthday (you know, turning 26 on the 26th of the month) I wanted to go all out.

Per usual, I turned to Pinterest right away and curated this “Golden Celebration” board. I gave it a broad name because as I was searching for decor ideas, I realized that there are many, MANY reasons to throw a party with a gold theme: Oscars, weddings, new years, golden anniversaries, etc. I asked Shane for his input on an accent color, and he picked blue (he’s been watching Notre Dame with his dad since he was a kid, so this should have been an obvious option for me).  We hosted the party in the evening at our church, during one of their “Thursdays are Fine with Wine” summer events. Each fine with wine is hosted by a member of the church, and this made finding a venue so easy! Between the color scheme and time of day, I had the perfect inspiration for invitations.

golden birthday invite

I really love designing sunbursts, and was pleased to see that Adobe Illustrator has some really great sunset color schemes to make my gradients. I simply inserted this image into an email and send them to our guest list a few weeks before the party. This was much simpler than creating an event on facebook and hoping everyone would find their invite, or creating a custom e-invitation with evite or pingg.

For the rest of the decor, my goal was not to buy anything that could easily be made (everything but the candles, really), and to use decor things we already owned or would use again. I loved the idea of painting some sort of banner, but I wasn’t sure I had the time (or space to let it dry). So instead I used a blue frame we had at home, and some leftover gold paper from a previous custom order, and hand lettered the simple sign below (sadly, I left my DSLR camera at home, so please bear with the 3 megapixel mobile photos). Instead of a cake, we made a pyramid of baked chocolate donuts dusted with powdered sugar and topped with gold sprinkles! I was inspired by this cake and this cake.

2013-07-25 19.01.48 2013-07-25 19.02.14

Before we decided on a venue, I was thinking of coming up with a beer pairing with picnic foods, but that didn’t quite fit the scope of fine with wine. Instead, we stopped by Half Acre Brewing and asked them to refill our growler with some of their Daisy Cutter golden ale (get it? golden ale for a golden birthday?!). We set out a few jars of gold-wrapped candy (rolo, mini reese’s cups, and hershey’s nuggets with almonds) as well as a salmon spread with sliced bread and homemade salsa with tortilla chips.

2013-07-25 19.03.55 2013-07-25 19.02.49

With Shane’s help (thank goodness!), I turned an ordinary string of lights into tassel garland with lights. We used this tutorial, and all of our patience. I recommend a couple good movies or a TV series to keep your mind pre-occupied during future tassel garland projects 🙂 Now that college football season is in full swing, this garland hangs in our living room and we turn it on during ND games!

2013-07-25 19.07.04 2013-07-25 19.10.22

I was super excited when it was time to light the candles and sing happy birthday. The gold candles came from party city, and I bought the star-shaped sparkler candle as an alternative to a “2” and “6”. They were sold out of one of the numbers when I went to place the order, but it was just as well since it matched the star garland and Shane is an amateur astronomer. Please note my gold sparkly nail polish too, I told you I wanted to go all out!

2013-07-25 20.25.08 2013-07-25 20.25.19

Below are a couple night shots, not the easiest to capture with the phone. On the left are a few vases with tea lights inside, which I decorated with gold curling ribbon (this was my favorite money saving project because we spent 85 cents on the ribbon, rather than buying five pre-curled ribbons for $2.95 a piece!) and some star garland, all of which we had lying around at home. On the right, you can see our tassel garland among the other decorations in the garden.

2013-07-25 21.03.36 2013-07-25 22.07.58

Oh, and the next day (his actual birthday) we met for dinner and I brought his gift. There were plenty of sheets and strips of tissue remaining from the tassel garland, so I used those for an extra festive gift wrapping (the couple sitting next to us even complimented how nice it looked). I gave him The Brewmaster’s Bible and tucked a hand made card inside, telling him that we would go shopping for a home brewing starter kit together (we ultimately bought this kit from Whole Foods and are loving it)!

2013-07-26 16.52.49 2013-07-26 16.55.03

Enjoy 26 Shane ❤

Color Palettes at Home

Since moving into my first apartment (circa October 2010), I’ve been dying to paint walls. But to this day, I have yet to paint any walls in my own home, and I’m in my third apartment already. We have plans to move again sometime within the next year, which will align with the start of Shane’s graduate program (currently TBD). Last week, we helped paint some walls in the Sunday School area at church, which prompted our daydreaming of painting the future apartment. We discussed the possibility of blues, greens, orange/yellows; plus, I require at least one purple wall.

At this point, the color bug bit me and, with the help of the interwebs, I began to turn daydreaming into planning. I got my color geek on while playing with the color gallery at Benjamin Moore. I messed around with the options, including color collections. I fell in love with the Color Preview collection described as “bold, saturated color that bring spaces to life with pure, extraordinary color.” Seemed to fit our criteria to a T! Shane loves rich, warm hues like deep reds and oranges, but I had to tone down the fun by thinking practically. (We didn’t throw the warm, rich color dreams away though, we’re saving those for the hypothetical home we’ll buy someday.) As much as I would love to invite those colors into our next apartment, I think a vibrant color one or two shades away from white might be easier to re-paint.

Enter our color palette!

The walls of my daydreamed apartment are mostly neutral with one accent wall in each room. Lately, I’m imagining darker wood furniture, industrial metals (ie plumbing pipe and stainless steel), and pops of color to break up neutrals and enliven accent walls. Check out a Pinterest board of my long-term to-do list of DIY furniture and decor ideas.

What kinds of interior decorating do you daydream about? I can’t be the only one who dreams of ways to cozy up my future home(s). Tell me what inspires you.

Two Ways to Dress Up a Gift Card

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of gift cards. I’d rather buy (or even better: make) a meaningful gift. But there are those occasions where a gift card just makes sense. So to add a little personality and flair, why not make a gift card holder? I followed this tutorial (the step-by-step instructions, not the video) to jazz up this card for a college grad.



DSC_0007 resized

DSC_0008 resized


This isn’t the first time I used a tutorial from this same page, but last time I followed the instructions in the video. I didn’t have anything to fasten the card, except for a ribbon, which is why I opted for the other version this time.

Photo 2013-02-20 09.07.04 AM 2013-02-19 21.32.38 2013-02-19 21.33.29

There you have it, two ways to dress up a gift card!

What are your thoughts on gift cards? Do you love to give them or would you rather a hand-picked item?

Budget Friendly Invitations

This week, I posted a photo on Facebook of a new sample set I’d just finished assembling and mentioned that they are budget friendly. I am so excited to share my inspiration for these invitations today:

Recently, a friend asked me about no-frills, affordable wedding invitations. Immediately, I thought of this wonderful wedding website (which I sadly didn’t discover until after my own wedding,) A Practical Wedding. Her first blog post resonates with me even though I’m almost two years removed from wedding planning. I remember reading a post of hers about not being a fan of the phrase “budget wedding” because of some potentially negative connotations (cheap, boring, etc.) and I 110% agree with that too. But I decided to title this post “Budget Friendly Invitations” anyway because “Practical Invitations” seemed like it would be too bold and a bit like stealing Meg’s blog title.

Regardless of which adjective you prefer (budget, practical, affordable…), these invitations fit the description. Beyond being affordable, my criteria included vintage/rustic, kraft paper (because I’m obsessed), and a color scheme inspired by this outfit:

square outfit

You’ll never hear me claim to have fashion sense, beyond knowing how to create a nice color palette.

On that day, I remember looking in the mirror while washing my hands thinking, “this would be a great color scheme for my new invitations!” (Please allow me to take a moment and apologize to my mom for the time I laughed about her need to match paper colors to my outfit.) Of course, I also did a brief Pinterest search for “vintage invitations” and wasn’t surprised to find doilies, lace, and fancy flourishes; however, I was surprised to see one with an adorable blue sunburst background. It reminded me of a 1st Birthday invitation I made for some awesome friends of mine. Then I let the creative inspiration do it’s thing and came up with 6 varieties of invitations, each with just two pieces (the invitation and an RSVP postcard) in two themes: sunburst and lace-esque. Take a look!

Basic #1 (left): This is the most affordable of the 6 varieties because it only features color on the front of the invitation, which cuts down on printing costs.

DSC_0051 square DSC_0041 square

Basic #2 (right): One step up from Basic #1, this version is in full color.


Up close and personal (Basic #1)

Layered Front #1 (left) & #2 (right): The front of these invitations have more dimension with a lighter layer, while the reverse side of the invitation remains similar to the Basic. Once again, there are partial and full color versions.

DSC_0057 square DSC_0044 square


Up close and personal (Intermediate #1)

Two-sided Layers #1 (left) & #2 (right): These are the most detailed and feature a lighter layer on both the front and reverse sides of the invitation.

Two-sided Layers #1 is a full color invitation front, while the reverse side is gray scale.

DSC_0048 square DSC_0059 square

Two-sided Layers #2 is full in color, making this option the “high end” of the varieties.


Up close and Personal (Two-sided Layer #1)

As with many things, the cost of each option will vary based on the total number of invitations needed, and due to many fixed costs, the cost per invitation decreases as the number of invitations needed increases. For comparison purposes, I calculated the cost of the design fee, supplies, printing, and estimated assembly time based on 120 invitations, here is the breakdown:

To give budget conscious shoppers the option to compare rates, packages of 40 kraft, vanilla, and white envelopes are available additional $8 (120 envelopes for $24).  The design fee for existing designs is $35 (which covers three rounds of edits), and for custom designs the design fee is $50; simply add $15 to the rates above if you’re considering the custom route. Because I am most inspired when working on custom projects, I highly recommend that route if you’re not in love with the vintage designs above

So back to the budget vs. affordable vs. practical debate, which phrase do you prefer? Do you dislike calling something “budget” because it can sound negative?

Mother’s Day

The story behind my Etsy shop stems from the creativity that my mom fostered throughout my childhood (and even today; she’s hands down my biggest fan.) So when Shane and I decided to make the trek to Wisconsin for Mother’s Day, I started making a list of projects I wanted to tackle:

  • print new invitation samples and cut them with framelits
  • start a new wedding invitation order
  • check out Stampin’ Up!’s new photopolymer stamps
  • take a sneek peek at the new Stampin’ Up! catalog, especially the new colors coming out in June (as a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, my mom can preview new products before they’re available)
  • (re)learn how to use a sewing machine

Our weekends together always seem to be jam packed. Not because we plan them that way, but we always think of tons of things to do. Most of this list was pushed back to Sunday afternoon, which made for a very meaningful way for Mom and I to celebrate her day!

I hope to get some new samples posted on Etsy very, very soon. I was busy printing and cutting away while Mom spent some time organizing her crafting space.

I actually started working on the new custom order on Friday, then we finished the sample together on Sunday. I love collaborative projects! I don’t generally use a lot of stamps and accessories, and Mom prefers leaving the graphic design work to me, but together our projects are better than anything either of us would create on our own. I hope to share a preview sometime this summer!

The photopolymer stamps look awesome. I didn’t do much with them, I was just anxious to see them in person. I will probably order some in the future, the set seems very versatile. They do seem very easy to lose (some teeny tiny pieces), so I may need to keep a spray bottle handy to ensure cats don’t steal them. Never underestimate the sneakiness of cats.

I was even more anxious to see the new colors in the 2013-2014 Stampin’ Up! catalog. I already created a paper colors image to include with Etsy listings. I’m easily mesmerized by colors… Check it out, aren’t they just so pretty?

etsy paper colors

And last, but definitely NOT least, we finally opened Mom’s “Sew Petite” machine! I looked at her and said, “I think the last time I sewed anything was in 7th grade home economics,” to which she simply replied, “yeah, that sounds about right.” So we knew we were on the same page. Thankfully, the instructions were straightforward. We agreed that a memory refresher is always better in company. Trying to re-discover sewing on my own wouldn’t have been half as fun. I probably would have whined to Shane and given up before the bobbin was even wound (ooh, look at me using fancy lingo. Sorry, just have to show off my new skills!) We each did a some straight stitching, and then I did a zig-zag.

sewing practice

There you have it, our first sewing projects since middle school! What do you think? I want to hear about your sewing projects: are you an avid sewer, or just starting out? Do you prefer paper or fabric? (what am I, a grocery store bagger?!)

Sew long for now! (haha, I can’t resist a pun.)