Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Update

It's seriously happening. The book! It's honestly coming together. I e-mailed the manuscript to my editor for my final deadline at the beginning of January. She just sent it back with tracked changes (mainly copy editing kinds of things). I also got to take a sneak peek at the photographs they took of the DIY projects that accompany the book. I mailed those to the publisher at the beginning of January, too.

It's such a surreal experience. I really don't even know what to say about it. My words and thoughts are getting transformed into something that will be sitting on bookstore shelves. That's completely weird to me.

I keep trying to write this post, but I am honestly at a loss for words. I guess I just want to say, "It's happening!" and "Gasp!"

Today on Feeding the Soil: My monthly reflection and goals for the upcoming month.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Party in Review

Oh, the party. I have much to tell you.

Do I start at the beginning when it was awful or start at the end when it was wonderful? I suppose I should tell the story chronologically.

If you've been following along, then you're aware that the planning process has been a lot of fun. I made invitations and a pinata and planned a low-key celebration in our backyard. We had a ton of people to invite, even though we just moved to Austin a month ago. Everything was on track for a fun party.

But then lots of folks couldn't come. And even worse, people who said they would come (like good, good friends from Houston) started canceling at the last minute. Even worse, we had to call some folks to find out they weren't coming. In all honesty, it was pretty crushing. It's one of those examples when my expectations are just too high for the world around me.

In all fairness to others, I think it's hard for people to realize just how important a first birthday party can be. Of course Henry won't remember it once he's older, but he will see it in pictures. Plus, it's the first birthday, so it sets a precedent. It helps us figure out what kind of family we aspire to be. And for us as parents, we're celebrating, too. We're celebrating making it through a whole year of transition. We're celebrating our new, expanded life. We're celebrating our ability to do that which--at times--felt downright impossible.

So you want your good friends to be there to celebrate with you. And when they change their minds at the last-minute or don't RSVP and wait for you to call them so they can tell you they aren't coming, it hurts. But rather than wallow in that place of hurt, I simply tried to hold on to how I felt and incorporate it into how I interact with other people. I will do my best to RSVP on time and to say yes to invitations as much as I can. I will make the effort and take the time.

But all of that made it hard to get motivated. I was also juggling trying to find Henry childcare. And I had ten meetings the week leading up to the party (as well as a migraine that included vomiting). It was a lot, and it meant that we didn't get started on the party until Saturday morning. We made our way to the grocery store as soon as it opened at 8 (well, we actually arrived at 7:30 and ate breakfast together as a family while waiting for the store to open). We got all the food we needed and headed home. I quickly realized (way too late) that three hours is not enough time to make chili, chop up onions/cheese/cilantro for a chili bar, make guacamole, slice pineapple and strawberries, bake cookies (at least I made the dough in advance), put cookies into wax paper bags and sew a cute note to them for favors, make a salad, fill up a glass decanter with water (and sliced oranges), blow up balloons, make a birthday cake and icing from scratch, move the stereo outside and set it up, clean off the back porch, hang a pinata, vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms, and take a shower (even when they're are two of you and the baby takes a 1.5-hour nap).

So there was stress involved. Matt was mad at me for not cleaning as I cooked. I was mad at him for not realizing that we needed to triage and cleaning was not as important as everything else on the list.

But we did our best to make it work. The cookies got thrown on a plate instead of put into cute bags (no one cared, honestly). We only blew up a few balloons and decorated with Henry's toys instead. We hung the pinata during the party.

Once the party started, I did my very best to immerse myself in the experience and to just enjoy it--imperfections and all. Instead of stressing about the fact that I had to frost the cake during the party, I simply asked my friend Claire to help me, so we were able to spend some quality time chatting in the kitchen.

In the end, it was a wonderful little party. There were nine of us total, which was a great number to feel festive without being overwhelmingly stimulating for Henry. He had a ball. He smiled and laughed the whole time (and thoroughly enjoyed licking cake off his fingers). It was fun writing a letter to him about the party over at Feeding the Soil.

Next time I'll remind myself to plan out our time a little better in the days and hours leading up to a party. It's silly to leave everything to the last minute and be stressed. But if I don't follow my own advice next time, I hope that I can be self-forgiving again and truly immerse myself in the experience. That's where we find joy--when we turn off all the should have and musts and live in the what is.

Today on Feeding the Soil: Henry's final letter of the year.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Contest: Enter to Win Invitation Template

Hooray! Another contest! This time, e.m.papers is offering an entire wedding set for one lucky winner to download. The set includes these designs:
  • 5" x 7" Wedding invite
  • 5" x 4" Save-the-date
  • 47/8" x 31/2" RSVP
  • 51/2" x 41/4" Thank you
  • 51/2" x 81/2" Program
  • 81/2" x 11" Seating list
  • 33/4" x 41/4" Table #s
  • 31/2" x 1" Place cards
  • 41/4" x 11" Menus

Eleanore's designs are created with the home printer in mind, so you can blend professional graphic design with a little DIY elbow grease. I worked with Eleanore during my book-writing process, and I can personally attest to the loveliness of her designs (I had a hard time choosing one!) and the simplicity of the process. You can easily customize all the text right on the design itself.

So what are you waiting for? Head to the comments section and leave your first name as well as the first two letters of your last name. The contest closes Sunday, March 4 at 11:59 ET.

Happy Entering! (and thank you to Eleanore for sponsoring this contest!)

Today on Feeding the Soil: A letter to Henry about his first birthday party.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finished DIY Pinata!

The pinata is done!

This is another one of those posts that could have gone a lot of different ways. At one point (or more like several points), I almost gave up on the whole idea. I was trying to follow Jordan's directions about making fringed crepe paper. It involved making a big stack of crepe paper, snipping fringe on both sides, opening up the crepe paper, and then folding it in half. The folding in half part made me want to poke my eyeballs out. It looked terribly time-consuming. As I tried to wrangle the crepe paper into submission, all I could think about was all the other things I should be doing (like designing a booklet for the school I'm starting, making business cards, revising the website, etc.). I thought: "Who am I doing this for? No one will even notice if we don't have a pinata."

I decided to abandon the "proper" technique and instead just start wrapping the thing Ace-bandage style. I had flashbacks to wrapping my ankles and wrists in middle school. Why did I have so many injuries that required the use of an Ace bandage? Bizarre.

Anyway, wrapping it with crepe paper was much more efficient (although not perfect by any means). In the end, I took a risk and decided to start cutting fringe into the wrapped layers. I was talking to my mom on the phone, so I didn't even notice that it was a time-consuming process.

Before I started the wrapping process, I made a little trap door and filled the pinata with plastic balls from Henry's ball pit. He loves those balls, and they are lightweight. I think he will be giddy when they fall from the air when he pulls on the right string. As for the string, I attached one to the trap door and several others to the pinata as decoys.

Henry was actually really excited to see the finished pinata when he woke up from his nap. He immediately started pulling on the strings, which was no surprise because pulling on fan cords is one of his top five hobbies....

In the end, I'm proud of myself for creating a pinata for scratch, using only materials we already had at our house. I definitely went through the Stages of a DIY Project (except I never, ever thought, "I'm going to start selling these on Etsy!"). When I start to get insecure about starting a school from scratch, I can give myself this little pep talk: "Hey, you made a pinata from moving boxes. You can do anything."

(It's a little bit delusional, but let's go with it for now, okay?).

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creamy Tomato Soup Recipe

As part of the Gourmet Grilled Cheese Bar for Henry's birthday party, I went looking for a creamy tomato soup to make. This one from Martha Stewart is surprising simple and tasty. We had it for dinner last night, and it's definitely Henry-approved!

Today on Feeding the Soil: An important tip for pregnant couples!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Bar

For Henry's birthday party on a budget, I'm most excited about the gourmet grilled cheese bar (with tomato soup in the crockpot--thanks, Ellie!).

The trick to keeping costs low is to offer enough options to make it interesting and fun but not too many that it becomes expensive and wasteful.

My search revealed that Martha Stewart--of course--already came up with the grilled cheese bar idea. Alas, I'm sure it will still be unique and interesting to our guests...

For bread, she recommends:
  • Rye
  • White
  • Sourdough

For cheese, she recommends:

  • Cheddar
  • Gruyère
  • Fontina

Here are some of the combinations she suggests:

  1. Gruyère, Apple, and Sage on Rye
  2. Cheddar, Jalapeno and Cilantro on White
  3. Cheddar, Cherry Preserves, and Basil on White

It might make more sense to just set out some ingredients and let people mix and match in ways that make sense to them. Here are some ingredients that sound good to me:

  • Avocado
  • Strawberries
  • Pear
  • Arugula
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickles
  • Jalapeno jelly
  • Grilled peppers and onions

I need to keep thinking about this...

Today on Feeding the Soil: Thoughts on when and if to try for another child.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Contest: Enter to Win Invitation Template

I'm so excited to get an opportunity to help a new independent business and give away prizes to the first ten people who leave their e-mail addresses in the comments section. (That's right; don't even listen to the rest of what I have to say--just head straight to the comments!).

Molly's new endeavor--Sweet Potato Shop--sells DIY printables. I'm such a fan of the DIY printable concept. It's the perfect hybrid of DIY and professional. You get good graphic design for a fraction of the cost, and you get your hands dirty (if you want to, or you can just send them straight to the printer). Her site includes directions for customizing, downloading, and printing (either via home printer or uploading it to a professional printing site).

For today's giveaway, ten lucky winners will get to pick the download of their choice for free (wedding invitations? baby shower invitations? birth announcements? moving cards? save the dates? Check!).

To win:
  • Simply leave your e-mail address in the comments section, so Molly can e-mail you directly.
  • The first ten folks to leave their e-mail address will win.


Today on Feeding the Soil: Part two of how we sold our house without paying a realtor.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I apologize for not having any cute DIY projects to share on this day devoted to love. Matt and I prefer to invest our time and energy in our anniversary, birthdays, and Christmas (when it comes to presents and heartfelt cards), so around here, Valentine's looks like a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John's. Not very inspiring, I know!

But I do have an interesting article from the New York Times to share, courtesy of long-time kindred spirit, Anna. Here's an excerpt:

"The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care."
Today on Feeding the Soil: A glimpse into how Matt and I divide chores equitably.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Contest Winners--Squeel!

Thank you to everyone who entered our contest to win a copy of Meg's new book:

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration

I'm excited that Meg's fresh and grounded perspective can now be picked up, held in your hand, and read from cover to cover in one sitting.

So, without further ado, I'd like to announce the two lucky winners:
  1. Jocelyn Go.
  2. Dale Ma.

Please e-mail me within one week to claim your prize!

Stay tuned for more contests coming soon...there's one coming on Wednesday and a prize will go to the first ten people who leave a comment!

Today on Feeding the Soil: More thoughts on Henry's upcoming birthday.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pinata Update

Henry and I worked on the pinata for his first birthday party this weekend (er, I worked on it while he crawled all around the garage looking for interesting things to put in his mouth).

I followed Jordan's directions for making a number pinata over at Oh Happy Day. It really wasn't difficult at all. I simple used a box cutter to get two, flat pieces of cardboard, drew the number on one of the pieces (using a ruler), used the box cutter to cut out the first number (again, using my ruler for guidance), and then used the first number as a template for cutting out the second number (careful to put down extra cardboard so I didn't cut the floor). Next, I cut strips of cardboard to make the edges of the number. I taped the front number and the back number together using the additional strips of cardboard.

At first I thought I was smart for using packing tape since it is stronger than masking tape, but now I'm realizing that it's going to be difficult to glue on the crepe paper. We'll see what happens!

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration! Contest ends Sunday.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Update on Invitations

Right before our crazy move to Austin (we found out on a Tuesday that the scheduled closing date on our house was going to go through on Thursday after all), I managed to finish designing the invitations for Henry's birthday party. I had to take his 11-month picture and then PDF the document, so I could upload it to the copy shop. Sadly, Microsoft Word kept screwing up the alignment on the document. It wouldn't print the way it looked on the screen, which meant I had to blindly shift the alignment on the screen and print out test copies until it was just right.

Note to self: Stop using a word processing program to do graphic design!

At the very end of the design process, I decided to check the post office website, and I realized that my cards were too big to send as simple postcards, which meant I had to fork over almost twice as much for each stamp. I worked around the issue by personally delivering as many as possible (since there was still plenty of time before the party).

Note to self: Check the USPS website before designing something, not after.

And, get this, I mixed up our address on the invitation! I reversed two of the numbers and didn't realize it until they were printed and cut.


But since this is a birthday party and not a wedding, I'm in a much saner planning space. When folks RSVP yes, I'll simply reply with the corrected address (although we did already confuse some new friends who tried to come over to our new house for dinner, using the invitation's guidance).

Although I had a lot of fun designing the invitations (and my new hobby is rounding corners with a punch), I didn't think about how much work it would be to follow-up with people and get them to RSVP. When I send electronic invitations (through Evite or Paperless Post), all the tracking and reminding is done for me. Since I opted to go the DIY route for the design part, I also have to go to DIY route for the rest of it.

I'm also realizing that I should have had a better system for tracking who received an invitation. I had an original list, but then I handed a few out to folks who weren't on the original list.

Note to self: When sending out invitations, keep an organized Excel spreadsheet that includes names and addresses. All the addresses are scattered in e-mail messages, and it's going to be difficult to send out thank-you cards.

What a major lesson when it comes to planning our 5-Year Anniversary Party and Family/Friends Reunion!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Contest: Enter to Win a Practical Wedding Planning Book

Hooray! It's free giveaway time!

I'm happy to be offering not one but two copies of Meg Keene's new book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration. Have you seen it sweeping the nation? It's about time that more sane, grounded ideas about wedding planning hit the shelves.

Here's a little sampling of the gems in the book:
"A whole industry is set up to sell you a beautiful wedding; it's set up to sell you how things will look. But what matters on your wedding day, what you will remember until you are old and gray, is how it felt."

You can read an excerpt here, and then you can enter to win the whole book for yourself (or a friend, since it's often a good idea to dispense sane wedding advice to the people around us who are planning weddings).

To enter to win a free copy of A Practical Wedding:
  • Leave a comment with your first name and the first two letters of your last name (only one entry per person please, but definitely send your significant other over to enter, too!)
  • Enter by Sunday, February 12, 11:59pm ET
  • Cross your fingers and stay tuned to see who wins the following Monday!

My apologies, but the publisher has asked that we limit entries to US and Canadian addresses.

Here's the reclaiming the real purpose of weddings! Happy Entering!

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

DIY Invitations

Wow. I've written this post in so many different ways in my head.

First, this post was going to be about DIYing invitations in order to save money. We only have $10 allocated to invitations for Henry's birthday party. I started working from the Tiny Prints design for inspiration, but then I found myself trying to replicate the design, which felt wrong for so many reasons. I felt bad for plagiarizing someone else's design (although I might have gotten over it, since I'll just be sending them out to our friends). Honestly, my real problem was that my design paled in comparison to the original (I'm pretty inexperienced with graphic design and don't have any good programs installed on my computer). I tried various strategies, like the collage function in picnik, but then I started getting really frustrated and felt like I was wasting a lot of time.

That's when I was going to write a post about "Sometimes you pay more than you've budgeted in order to save yourself time and stress." So I went back to Tiny Prints. I clicked through all the pages to see how much the total was going to be (including shipping): $21. I reasoned, "That's not bad at all! I can fork over $21 to save myself from this annoying stress. My time is worth more than that."

But then I went back to our budget. Twenty-one dollars would have been 100% more than we budgeted. If we spent extra money on invitations, then we would either need to spend less on something like food (which matters way more to the guests than invitations!) or we would have exceeded our budget (which means we would have been taking money away from our dream home fund). Womp. Womp.

And why are we even having invitations? Why not use something like Evite (which is free, has good design options, is better for the environment, shows you who has looked at the invitation, and tracks your RSVPs?). Because I want something for Henry's scrapbook.

Spending $2 per invitation just so I can put something in his scrapbook doesn't feel right to me. And honestly, I think our friends would rather be invited via Evite and receive a $2 check in the mail instead of a $2 invitation.

So I persevered with the DIY route. I went back to Microsoft Word (which is a terrible design program, but I'm comfortable using it). I tried to move away from the Tiny Prints design that I loved and instead come up with something more original. I decided I needed a dominant font, so I searched on dafont.com for a new, free font to download.
My plan is to print these in color on white cardstock at a local copy shop, cut them with our paper cutter at home, and round the corners with a corner rounder I borrowed from a friend.

I'm excited to see how they turn out!

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