A Look Back at 2011

2011 was a fantastic year with a lot of success, fun trips, and the ability to spend time with friends and family. Adam and I are so blessed with everything that has happened personally, financially and professionally this past year. Below are some of my favorites from 2011. It was fun to look back at my post from last year about 2010 and see how life evolves and changes. I’m excited to see what 2012 holds.

So, what better way to celebrate the new year than to dance? My friend Benji created this awesome playlist on Rdio. Click here to listen. ENJOY and Happy New Year! Check back tomorrow for a list of my top 11 posts of 2011!

*All photos taken by me (on my Canon DSLR or iPhone) with the exception of the photo of Adam and I (taken by my friend Jess)

A Holiday or Four

We were in Illinois visiting my family over the Thanksgiving holiday so we kicked off the “Christmas season” there. I love that shot of Desh and Veda (my family’s cockapoo) because they’re both looking in different directions–and not even at me! We were able to spend the Christmas weekend in Indiana with Adam’s family and this weekend we’re back to Illinois for Christmas #2!

Who decided to create all these holidays so close together? The photos were shot on my Minolta SRT-201 with Fuji film (400 ISO). Not a lot of shots turned out. There was weird creasing and a lot of grain. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I shot in a lot of low lit settings. Next week I’ll finally post my DSLR vs Analog vs iPhone post. I’m excited to share!

ONE DAY : Dave and Amy

Today’s ONE DAY feature is all about Dave (34) and Amy (29). They got married June 17th, 2011 at North Bank Park in Columbus, Ohio. Amy describes their wedding palette as “Natural meets Industrial: Green Apple, Lemon Yellow, Burlap Brown + Muted Gray and Black Steel.” Learn more about their wedding day below:

1. What do you remember most about your wedding day? I think the most memorable moment was the “send off.” Our friends lined up on either side of us with sparklers to send us off. We ran through the tunnel of sparklers to a pedicab that took us to the renaissance hotel. It was just such a beautiful sight. Followed by a relaxing & quiet ride with my husband up the city streets at night with champagne in hand. A friend of ours created a short video that captured the moment perfectly.

2. What was your vision for your wedding before you actually started planning? We wanted it to be intimate, happy, bright, modern, and warm. We wanted to show off the city we love to all of our friends and family and that guided a lot of our decisions. For example, we chose North Bank Park for the wedding day location because it has one of the best views in Columbus and we chose Via Vecchia, a local winery located close to our home in German Village, for the rehearsal dinner.

How did that vision change by the time you were finished? I like to think we kept it warm, modern, and intimate. In fact, I created a mood board when I was coming up with inspiration for the wedding and any time I went to meet with vendors, purchase supplies, or check out a location I brought the mood board. It may be a little nerdy but the wedding process can get out of control quickly – having that kept me focused on what we really wanted versus what our vendors wanted.

3. What was your favorite and least favorite part of wedding planning? I will say planning a wedding was not a lot of fun for me. I was surprised by how stressful it can be. That said, I did like working with my designer friend on the invitations, menu, and signage. I liked seeing my vision become reality every time I got a pdf in an email from her or opened a box from the printer. Most of all, seeing all the pieces and parts come together was my favorite part of the “planning” process. My least favorite part was having excruciatingly detailed conversations about things I consider unimportant. For example, I remember having a last minute email exchange with my caterer about napkins — specifically, the fold of the napkin. I am happy to never have a conversation about ways to fold a napkin again.

4. How did you go about finding your wedding photographer and videographer? I looked on The Knot for recommendations by other brides. That’s how I found our videographer who is actually a student just beginning his business. We also ended up having a friend give us a gift of captured shots from the wedding so we luckily received two videos that captured the day. We LOVED our photographers, A New Day Photography. I actually found them on a wedding blog called Once Wed and am so glad I did. They moved back to Ohio from Atlanta, Georgia and were trying to build their business in Ohio. In choosing a photographer, it was really important that we like them as people. You will be spending most of your wedding day with them, after all. Not only were they INCREDIBLY talented, they were very professional, responsive every time I sent an email, very organized, and so sweet. During our wedding day they were a joy to be around even while standing in a hail storm to get the perfect shot.

5. Did you have any favorite DIY wedding projects? 

  • My Dad surprised me by building the arch for the ceremony.
  • Since Dave and I share a love of music and music festivals, we created cds and made the cd cases as our friend’s escort cards and gifts.
  • My friend, Stephanie, made 200 cupcakes from scratch that received rave reviews.
  • We created the programs. My friend Jamie designed them. My family from Brazil brought ribbon bracelets from Brazil called fita’s that we used to tie the program pages together. Fita’s are to be tied around the wrist with three knots and the wearer is supposed to make 3 wishes. When the bracelet breaks naturally, it is said that the wishes are granted.
  • My friend Jamie also designed the invitations, save the dates, menus, and signage.
  • I created the centerpieces using pieces of wood from my family’s farm, moss, glass vases, green apples, and wooden numbers spray painted dark brown.
  • I also created a scrap book as a guest book with a page devoted to each of our guests and space for them to leave us a message.

6. What advice do you have for newly engaged couples that are starting to plan?

  • To everyone: Start with a budget and try your best to stick to it. Also, you can’t do it all. As the date approaches you will realize you can’t do everything, make a list of what you have left to do and mark which things are necessary and which would be nice to have. Then, forget the nice to haves and move on. Most of all do not stress – you will enjoy the day even without those chair covers.
  • To the procrastinators: Yes, the planning starts this early ;)
  • To the bridezilla: Make sure he can “own” certain aspects of the wedding. This is his day too. Dave’s thing was music. We made the decision to cut back in some areas to make sure we had a good live band.
  • To the budget conscious: (1) Get a great photographer. Those pictures out last everything. After going through this I now agree with those who said “Spend money on a good photographer.” That was the best decision we made. (2) Get some stuff on video. Through a videographer or friend’s iphone – You will watch it, get a little teary, and be glad you have the memories. (3) Hire a Day of Coordinator. I worked with Lourdes Barroso De Padilla from A Time to Toast  and it was another one of the best decisions we made. She made the day go on seamlessly, kept the vendors on track, set up, decorated and cleaned up after the wedding, and even brought the left over cupcakes to the after party! (4) Go with your gut. When everyone is telling you to spend the money on something but it doesn’t feel right – listen. For me it was makeup. Everyone told me to get my makeup professionally done “for the pictures.” I had two test sessions and I looked drastically made up– not horrible, but definitely not myself. I waited until the last minute to cancel thinking I had to have ALL of this make up on my face even if I felt unnatural (and was crazy expensive). I decided to do my makeup myself. I saved over $100 and felt more beautiful than I ever felt in a test makeup session. And, I look just fine in pictures. I look like myself!


Today’s CITY GUIDE post is brought to you by Steven Stevens of Bend, Oregon. Enjoy!

Bend, Oregon is very local. Everything about it screams small local community but with a population of around 80,000 people it is anything but small. Bend is so local and loves everything about small business they even coming up with the phrase “Make Local Habit.” It is a touristy city located east of the mountains in the high desert so there is a lot to do.

1. The first thing you must know is people from Bend (or Bendites) love their coffee. Every where you look there is a coffee connoisseur ready to answer any question you might have about your cup of joe. But even though you might not know much about coffee you better believe there are a plethora of places to go have some of the best tasting coffee you’ve ever had. One such place is Backporch Coffee Roasters. It is owned by Dave and Majell Beach and there are two locations (both in Bend). You are always greeted by smiling faces, good smelling coffee, and facial hair and sweet looking mustaches.

2. Bend is also the place for beer. One such places that should be on your Bend to-do list is take the Deschutes Brewery tour! It pretty much is one of the best free things to do that involves walking and drinking free beer samples. You get to sample their different types of beers on tap and see the factory in which they do the different processes to end up with the malty goodness. Just make sure you bring your DD with you.

3. After your stomach is full of beer and coffee it would be good to walk. Good thing you’re in Bend! There are literally hundreds of walking trails. Every where you look you will find a beautiful place to walk. The mountains and hillside rocks make a perfect scenery to take a nice stroll. Bend is also one of the most dog friendly places you can be! Most businesses and places even put a dish of water outside of their business for all your fury friends.

4. Finally, one of the things that makes Bend, Bend is the community. There is a very lively downtown area with lots of community events. There are events from the Wiener Dog race, Brewfest!, a ton of bike races, and a huge farmers market all throughout the year. For all of these events most people come out, eat, drink, and have a great time! There are also huge parades down the main street of downtown Bend.

For being such a tucked away city in central Oregon it is definitely a great place to visit, and one of the best places to live. Lots of beer, coffee, community, and facial hair.

*All photos taken by Steven and his Polaroid. Featured image by andrewghayes.

Christmas Cheer

I love Christmas. I love the traditions, the memories it brings about, all the great food, giving gifts, and seeing family. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a wonderful time this weekend and I’ll be back to blogging next Tuesday with a new One Day series feature, a film/iPhone/digital comparison, and another city guide! Merry Christmas!

Introductory Julep Maven Review

Earlier this month, my friend Jess sent me a link about how you could sign up for Julep Maven for $0.01! The Julep Maven box, which is normally $20 per month, is an assortment of nail polish and nail care products delivered to your door! The boxes are valued at $40 and contains full sized polishes and products. Since I signed up in December, I received an introductory box and still have the option to continue before my January box arrives. My initial thoughts of this service (before even receiving the box) were fantastic. Their website is put together well and explains the subscription thoroughly. I’m even able to shop directly on their website for bottles of polish (which cost $14 each). Some of the fun perks of this service is that each month you can preview what’s coming and then have a choice to skip the month, send the box to your friend, try a new style or upgrade. I also get a free month if two people sign up through my link. (Hint, Hint!) Enough about all that…let’s move onto what’s inside:

  1. Two polishes: One called “Demi” which is a burgundy shade and “Leighton” which is a silver shade. The polish goes on thick, smoothly, AND dries fast. I used both and you can see how it looks on my nails below (photos taken on my iPhone). The burgundy shade wasn’t anything extraordinary but the silver shade was really opaque and I liked that.
  2. Glitter pot: Amazing name. I used this on top of the Leighton polish and it was really fun! If you’re not neat, glitter can definitely get everywhere. I must say, the glitter doesn’t get as flat or smooth as a glitter polish but it’s still fun.
  3. Julep “Facial for Hands” Glycolic Hand Scrub: This smells great and made my hands SO soft. Something really fun that I would normally think to buy.
  4. Two samples (Hand Cream and Age Defying Hand Brightener): I only tried the hand cream and it was so smooth. I don’t like really strong smelling lotion and this was so mild (slightly like yogurt? weird, I know). I actually see myself buying a bottle of this lotion. I keep feeling how soft my hands are while I’m writing this. Creepy? Maybe.

Overall, I really love this subscription. I kind of geek out over nail polish so ultimately I would love to get each month’s box. I will probably skip occasionally or maybe even send to a friend unless I really love the shades offered. Again, if you want to sign up, click here and you can take a test about your style. My next beauty reviews will be about some of the fun products that I recently bought with my Birchbox points (Zoya and Deborah Lippman polishes) and my first MyGlam box (next month’s box is valued at $50 worth of makeup!) so keep your eye out!

CITY GUIDE: Rotterdam

Today’s CITY GUIDE post is brought to you by Tom Summerfield of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Enjoy!

Rotterdam in The Netherlands often gets overlooked by travelers who tend to frequent Amsterdam instead and then move straight on to another country. I would just like to say that although Amsterdam is wonderful, Rotterdam is more than worth your time as well.

I’ve been living here for the last few months with my girlfriend and have come up with a mini city guide so you can get a feel for what Rotterdam is all about. These are some of our favorite things to do and some of the places that we love to frequent.

1. Start the day with a walk through the Oude Haven (which means Old Port in Dutch) – there are some neat little shops here and some great photo opportunities. It’s also surrounded by lots of fantastic bars and restaurants where during spring and summer when the weather is nice, are overflowing with locals eating and drinking.

2. Head towards the close by and famous ‘Cube Houses’ – Rotterdam is renowned worldwide for its amazing Architecture which came about due to the fact it was almost completely bombed in World War II. Instead of rebuilding the city the way it was, Rotterdam decided to get funky and creative and build lots of architecturally quirky and stunning buildings. The Cube Houses are a great example of this attitude, and believe it or not – real people live inside them! They are fun to see and one of them is even open as a museum, so you can go in and see what it’s like on the inside for yourself!

3. From the Cube Houses, you can head straight down into the Rotterdam Markets. They run on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and the markets are truly something that we just love about this city. They are vibrant, buzzing and alive with vendors selling everything from flowers to cheese to bicycle locks to clothes to antiques to old video games.

When you’re at the Markets, make sure you try a ‘Turkse Pizza’ (thin warmed Turkish bread with meat on top rolled up with fresh salad and garlic and hot sauce) and ‘Kibberling’ (snack bite pieces of deep fried fish served with garlic sauce). I also love getting my cheese here from the smaller cheese producers that come in especially for the Markets. They tend to sell much nicer cheese then what you can get from the local supermarkets.

4. Once you’ve had your fill of the busy markets, go to the ‘Meent’ – which is a street full of wonderful cafes, bars and restaurants (and it runs through the end of the Markets). Here I recommend stopping for a coffee and a bakery treat at ‘Vlamsch Broodhuys’. If you didn’t find the Turkse Pizza or Kibberling appealing, then Vlamsch Broodhuys also has a selection of divine sandwiches on offer – I’ve found all of the ingredients they use to be of the highest quality, and tasty too!

5. When you’re ready for dinner, a favorite of ours on the Meent is the Italian restaurant Napoli (the Dutch love Italian food). They serve extremely delicious and authentic Italian in a lively atmosphere. The house red wine is an excellent drop, and the food is top notch. If you’re going on a Saturday night – you will want to book ahead to secure a table.

6. Once you’ve enjoyed your dinner, then no doubt you’re ready for a few drinks. In Holland, most drinking spots are called cafes rather than pubs – so don’t be fooled into thinking a café is not a fantastic spot to enjoy a drink! One of the best cafes on the Meent is definitely Café Van Zanten. The atmosphere is trendy yet unpresuming and there is a nice selection of various drinks to keep everyone happy. Whenever we go there we find the staff are always friendly and a treat to deal with.

Thus ends the little tour of some of our favorite places in Rotterdam city, so if you do find yourself traveling through The Netherlands – give Rotterdam a chance to win you over.

Featured image by F.d.W.

2011 Holiday Wine Guide

Thanks to Janine Aquino, proprietor of Camelot Cellars, I’m able to share this amazing holiday wine guide! Here are some other tips and wine advice from Janine:

  • If you like a Cabernet Sauvignon, try an Italian Amarone instead. Lots of flavor with a slight sweetness, almost raisin like. If you like the oaky buttery, vanilla quality of a Chardonnay, try an unoaked Chardonnay instead. It’s much lighter and refreshing.
  • Her #1 suggestion for this season is to go to wine tastings that are informational rather than ones where they simply pour wines and you taste. When you see a wine tasting you might be interested in, call them and ask what style the tasting is going to be.
  • When you are in a grocery store buying wine, look for bottles laying on their side. This is telling you the cork is wet and won’t dry out causing wine to turn into vinegar. Also look for wines by geographic region. Typically if you like a lighter bodied, easy drinking wine, you’ll want to try a French, Chilean or Washington state wine. If you prefer medium to heavier bodied wines, try ones from California, Italy or Australia.
  • Drink what you like. There is no right or wrong answer. Don’t force yourself to drink something because it’s “in.” At the end of the day, wine is simply a beverage.

December Birchbox Review

I got my December Birchbox last week and over the weekend, I finally got a chance to use the products and compile my review! First of all, I was really excited to see that they are donating 100% of all full-size sales to Baby Buggy (with a guaranteed contribution of $25,000). Okay, onto what’s inside:

  1. AHAVA | Mineral Body Lotion : Not going to lie, I absolutely cannot stand the scent of this lotion. I used a pea-sized amount and washed my hands afterwards. I will not be using or buying any more of this.
  2. amika | Obliphica Hair Treatment : I also did not enjoy the scent of this oil so I didn’t use it on my hair. Also, it had leaked in my box before it was delivered so my entire box smelled like this oil.
  3. Incoco | Nail Polish Applique : Ehh…nail polish strips? I guess I just enjoy using regular polish.
  4. Jouer | Moisturizing Lip Glass in Birchbox Pink : I actually really love this shade (it’s not as bright as it looks) and am considering buying some Jouer products with my Birchbox points.
  5. Prep ShowStoppers | Designer Fashion Tape : I have never had the need to use tape to keep my clothes in the right place but I’ll keep this around in case I ever need to!
  6. Recharge Eboost | Orange Natural Energy Booster : I actually liked the taste and could see myself ordering a few packets for those times at work that I don’t want to drink a Diet Coke or a coffee!

Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with December’s Birchbox. I actually think I’ll be canceling my subscription for the month of January and signing up/giving MyGlam a try! I love that they’re solely focued on makeup but their website is definitely lacking. I love that Birchbox allows you to gain credits and even buy the products through their website. Have any of you tried MyGlam? If you’re a Birchbox subscriber, what did you get? Anything different that you love?

If you want to sign up for Birchbox, you can use this invite link (yes I get credits) or you can read my November review here!