Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tipping Etiquette: Special Occasions

Wedding Photographer Illustration by Inslee Haynes
Most of us are comfortable with everyday tipping etiquette, but did you know that vendors for special events get tips too? If your'e hosting a wedding, birthday bash, black tie gala, or some other fabulous event, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Photographer: Tip at least $100 at the end of the night. They worked hard!
  • Bartenders: Tip them at least 10% of the final bill. This is on top of any tips they may have received from your guests throughout the night. 
  • Catering Manager: Make sure to do something nice for the person who kept you full and happy all night. $200 is appropriate for this vendor.
  • Ceremony Musicians: As a general rule, 15% is appropriate. Alternatively, you could tip $15 to $25 per musician.
  • Chef: Similar to the catering manager, you'll need to give this guy/gal a little something extra. Try $100.
  • Hairstylist/Makeup Artist: The 15-20% rule of everyday tipping applies here.
  • Limo/Bus Driver: You'll want to tip at least 15%, although you may consider a bit more if the crowd was a handful!
  • Officiant: Unless your officiant is a close personal friend, a tip or a donation to their house of worship is appropriate. These tips/donations can range from $75 to $500.
  • Planner: If you used a wedding planner or event coordinator, a 15% tip is appropriate. 
  • Reception Musicians: Slip then each $50 and you're good to go!
  • Waiters: $20 each is an appropriate tip, unless your catering service included tips in the overall cost. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Vacation at Home

It's Monday morning, and I'm starting my day feeling energized and renewed after a fabulous weekend. Neal and I spent the weekend trying new things, exploring new places, and soaking up the sunshine, which felt like a vacation even though we didn't go anywhere.  For me, a day of fun activities is much more relaxing that sleeping in late or staying in. Here's what we did on Saturday:
  • Coffee @ Patika: We started our day with a cup of coffee and some pastries while we sat outside on the patio and planned our day.  It was a casual start that was reminiscent of the mornings we spent on a trip through France a couple years ago.
  • Kayaking the Colorado River: Before it got to hot, we rented some kayaks and spent a couple of hours cursing and enjoying the views.  The weather was blissfully warm, and the scent of sunscreen made me feel like we were somewhere tropical.
  • Afternoon stop at Hula Hut:  Continuing the tropical theme, we stopped into Hula Hut for a frozen drink or two. This lake-side retreat doesn't have the most stellar food, but the drinks are delicious and the scenery can't be beat. 
  • Playing at the Park: Brady deserves a little vacation too, so we got outside and played a little bit in the afternoon. He loves all the other dogs at the park!
  • Dinner at the Clay Pit: After hearing about it from a friend, we decided to check out the Clay Pit for dinner.  The tandoori chicken was phenomenal and the vibe was casual. I love trying new places around the city!
  • Dessert: This gets its own bullet because I always order dessert on vacation, but rarely at home. This weekend we made ice cream sundaes with buttery caramel sauce and whipped cream. They were the perfect treat to top off a perfect day.
  • Night Out with Friends: As the sun set, we headed to 6th Street in East Austin where we enjoyed a few craft cocktails and a bit of stargazing. It was low key and Neal and I enjoyed hanging with some of our new Austin friends. 

I find that it's easy to cram weekends full of mundane errands, laundry, and the things that just need to get done, but I'm hoping that we can make this "vacation at home" feeling a more regular thing in our house. 

How do you relax and unwind on the weekends?

Friday, March 27, 2015

House Hunting Apps

When you're house hunting, searching MLS listings and going to open houses can consume you. It's an exciting process, and a local realtor who really knows the area will help tremendously. Neal and I have been casually looking, trying to pinpoint the neighborhood that feels like "us" before we commit. Along the way we've become pretty familiar with some of the popular apps/websites that are available.
Here's the run-down:

  • Zillow: Although the listings on this site/app aren't always the most current, the "zestimates" are helpful guides. Zillow creates these home value estimates basted on data from public records, homeowners, tax assessors, etc. It's not a perfect valuation of a home, but it can be a good guide as you start searching.
  • Trulia: Similar to Zillow, the listings aren't always the most current. However, this site can give you a better view of the neighborhood. It's helpful to see crime statistics, school locations, and local amenities like grocery stores and banks as you select the perfect place to live.
  • Realtor.com: Of all the sites, this one seems to have the most current listings. It's frequently updated with new info, so you can get alerts about price changes, sales, etc.
  • Redfin: You may have seen he commercials, but this is a similar platform for listings, backed by a team of agents. The agents aren't paid on traditional commission, so if you use Redfin instead of a traditional realtor, note that you'll have to put in more of a search effort and schedule your own home tours. 
We're gearing up for another weekend of open houses, in between bike rides, kayaking, and other ways to get out and enjoy the Austin sunshine! What's on your weekend to-do list?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What to Wear: Weekend Events

I don't claim to be a fashion expert, but I love dresses AND getting dressed up. Weekends in particular are full of fun dress-up-worthy activities, so here are my tips for choosing the perfect outfit based on the event:
  1. Family Get-Together or Birthday Party: For casual meet-ups, go for a pair of jeans or a comfy dress with ballet flats. You should look like you put in some effort (i.e. don't show up in your workout-wear), but don't go overboard. 
  2. Bridal or Baby Shower: These types of events call for something ladylike. A feminine dress paired with pearls or a skirt and a cardigan are perfect for celebrating a new little one or a bride-to-be. 
  3. Baptism, Bar Mitzva, or Religious Ceremony: If you're attending a special ceremony, skip the low cut top and instead opt for a demure dress that's not overly clingy. You may need a little something to cover your shoulders at the church, but you can remove it for any receptions/parties afterward.
  4. Wedding (or Cocktail Party): Go for a classic above-the-knee cocktail dress. Black is appropriate, but don't be afraid to venture out with a fun pattern and some awesome accessories. Note that if you're attending a wedding, you should definitely avoid a white or cream colored outfit-that's reserved for the bride!
  5. Black Tie Wedding or Charity Gala: Etiquette rules are changing, but to be safe, opt for a floor length (or tea length) dress. A column or A-line gown will be the most timeless and sophisticated, and you can add some sparkly accessories to make a simple gown more glam. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sweet Ritual

I love stumbling upon new places around town, and when I walked into Sweet Ritual I knew that I had to share it! This artisan ice cream shop is no secret to Hyde Park dwellers, but it was a fabulous find during our Sunday house-hunting adventures.

Sixteen delicious flavors of dairy-free ice cream will delight your senses, and if you're gluten free, you can even enjoy your confection atop a homemade waffle cone. Yum!

I opted for a strawberry sorbet, which was refreshing and equally as good as the Strawberry cashew-based ice cream I tasted. Next time, I think I'll go for a creamier flavor and load it up with toppings. Sweet Ritual sells their own Salted Caramel sauce, and if I had seen it before I ordered, I would have been tempted!

Next time you're in the neighborhood, stop in! You'll find Sweet Ritual sharing a space with Juiceland, but skip the healthy greens and go for the good stuff.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Flowers by Season

Photo from BlackBird Floral
Using in-season flowers for any wedding or special event will help to cut costs and to ensure that you have a beautiful bouquet (Tip: if it's in season, you won't have to ship it in from a far corner of the world!). Here's a quick run-down on what's in season and when:

  • Anemone
  • Peony
  • Boronia
  • Casablanca Lily
  • Daffodil
  • Sunflower
  • Hyacinth
  • Ranunculus
  • Tulip
  • Lilac
  • Rose
  • Stargazer Lily
  • Orchid
Photo from Blackbird Floral
  • Baby's Breath
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Carnation
  • Calla Lily
  • Gardenia
  • Lilac
  • Iris
  • Hydrangea
  • Lily
  • Daffodil
  • Alstroemeria
  • Lisianthus
  • English Lavender
  • Dahlia
  • Delphinium
Photo from Blackbird Floral
  • Rose
  • Dahlia
  • Anemone
  • Zinnia
  • Sunflower
  • Carnation
  • Freesia
  • Juniper
  • Marigold
  • Salvia
  • Aster
  • Zinnia
  • Hypernicum
  • Chrysanthemum
Photo by Blackbird Floral
  • Carnation
  • Evergreen
  • Holly
  • Narcissus
  • Pansy
  • Anemone
  • Rose
  • Alstroemeria
  • Amaryllis
  • Poinsettia
  • Orchid
I love peonies, but I'm excited to see what Lea at Blackbird Floral has in store for our fall nuptials. We're using LOTS of beautiful greens to give our ceremony and reception a natural vibe, but you can bet that there will be pops of jewel-toned flowers all over the place!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tools for Your Toolkit

We've been house-hunting in Austin, and it has been rare that we've seen something that we love as-is. Any place we move into is going to need some cosmetic tweaks, so I'm packing up our toolkit and making sure that we're ready!

The Essentials
  1. Putty Knife: As you redecorate, you'll find little nicks and dings. Make sure you're prepared to fill in little holes and repair your walls. This is definitely a tool that every renter needs, but it's helpful for homeowners too.
  2. Level: I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, so a level is a must-have in my toolkit. Uneven edges are a nightmare and you'd hate to stare at a crooked shelf all day!
  3. Small Drill: You could pack a handy screwdriver in your toolkit, but if you upgrade to a small drill you'll be able to accomplish so much more and with greater precision. 
  4. Hammer: This is a multi-purpose tool, but you don't want to get one that's too heavy or awkward to hold. Try out a few at your local hardware store before you commit. 
  5. Measuring Tape: I carry a tiny measuring tape in my tote, and it has come in handy more often than you'd think! A longer version is a must-have for any toolkit so that you can ensure that your DIY fixes will actually fit!
  • Paper Clips: You might have some in your home office, but stash a few in your toolkit. They'll be useful when you need to scrape something out of a tiny spot (like dried paint caught between the crevice of some tiles). 
  • Red Lipstick: A tip I read in Real Simple Magazine suggested putting a bit of red lipstick on the hardware of a painting or mirror. Then, when you press it up against the wall, you'll be able to see where the nails/screws need to go.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: This is one of my favorite inventions, so I always have a few on hand. It will get the red lipstick (see above) off of your walls, help you get scum and dirt off of bathroom tiles, and will erase the pesky marks that your movers left on your wall as they were hauling your dresser up the stairs. 
Don't forget a great tool bag for storing it all! I like this Custom LeatherCraft version, sold on Amazon.com, because it has plenty of pockets for keeping things organized. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Make it Personal

As I've been perusing some of my favorite blogs, I've noticed that delicate layered necklaces and monograms are totally in right now. I love the idea of mixing delicate layers with a personalized touch, combining monograms with the layered look! My go-to pieces are my Stella & Dot engraveable disc necklace styled with another delicate like the On the Mark necklace. Cosmopolitan France loves personalization too, and featured the Stella & Dot Memento Locket on two different looks in their recent issue:

If you're not sure how to personalize YOUR look, check out this video for a little inspiration:

Engraveable, personalized pieces make a great gift for yourself or another fabulous lady in your life, so tell your story and start shopping

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Friends with Kids

Brady loved this little guy!
This past weekend we had friends in town, and we had so much fun. They brought their adorable 11-month-old, and although I absolutely love children, I was nervous about the types of activities to plan with a baby in tow. We ended up with a perfect mix of relaxation and tourist-y fun (since they're not from Austin), so here are my tips for entertaining your grown-up friends with kids:
  • Be flexible. I'm not familiar with baby sleep/nap schedules, so we didn't pack the weekend with activities. We strolled around the park, stopped for food when we were hungry, and played games at home while the baby snoozed. 
  • Get messy. Baby's cry, pull things off of tables, make messes, and it's all OK. Nothing is too precious or irreplaceable (and if it is, please put it away!), and you'll have a lot more fun if you just enjoy the humorous situations that kids create instead of preventing every mess from happening. 
  • Choose kid-friendly locales. Skip Uchi in favor of a more casual dinner, stroll around Zilker park instead of trying to quiet a baby during a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, and use stroller naps as an oh-so-precious opportunity to duck into a cute shop or gallery. 
  • Relax. My friends left feeling like they had been on a two-day vacation, and that's exactly how it should be! We didn't rush to get out of the house in the morning, instead opting for coffee on the porch and breakfast tacos at home. In the afternoon we did whatever felt right in the moment (see "being flexible" above). This isn't my typical weekend pace, but it was delightfully chill.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yes to the Dress

Wedding dress shopping has been one of my favorite wedding-planning activities, but it can be overwhelming at first. There are so many dress styles to choose from! A great bridal consultant can help guide you, but I love this infographic from StoryMixMedia.com:

I started by trying on all different styles, but I was able to narrow it down pretty quickly. As you shop, don't forget to take your wedding location and season into account. If you're having a beach-side summer wedding, you probably don't want to be wearing a heavy satin ballgown!

After a long day of trying on dresses, I said "yes" to the second one I had put on. I didn't have that teary-eyed moment, but it's perfect for our September fête and I can't wait to show it off to Neal.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chicken "Not" Pie

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Green beer isn't quite my speed, so today I'm loading up on healthy greens instead. This recipe for chicken "not" pie is chock full of veggies and is quick to prepare since there's no crust.

What You'll Need:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks (including part of the green part), washed, dried, and chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine (or water)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 pinch of dried thyme
2 boneless chicken breasts (4 oz each), chopped
3 all-purpose potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
2 carrots, cut into coins
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Chopped parsley for garnish

  1. Pour half of the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When it's heated, add the leeks, salt, pepper, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened. 
  2. Add the wine, water, broth, and herbs. Bring to a boil and let it cook for about 1-2 minutes. 
  3. Add the chicken and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and allow the food to simmer for about 5-6 minutes, or until the meat is barely cooked through.
  4. Remove the chicken and add the potatoes to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly so it's still bubbling. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender. 
  5. Stir in the carrots and cook for another few minutes. By now, the liquid should be thickening. If not, raise the heat and cook for another few minutes. 
  6. Add the remaining oil gradually, stirring vigorously with the back of a spoon. 
  7. Add the peas and asparagus to the skillet. 
  8. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. The veggies should all be brightly colored and tender. 
  9. Return the chicken to the pan and add the lemon juice. 
  10. Warm the chicken all the way through, and taste/adjust seasoning. 

This recipe is another winner from my Runner's World Cookbook. I highly recommend it as a great way to get your veggies!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Five Things

We're only a few months into 2015, but I've already acquired a few new things that have made day-to-day living so much more delightful. Some were generous gifts, and others were things that I purchased on a whim, but I highly recommend them all!

  1. Zyliss Paring Knives: These come in a serrated and non-serrated form, and both are amazing! They're small but mighty, and they come with blade covers to help protect your fingers from getting cut when you store it in your drawer or pack it in your lunch bag. 
  2. Garment Steamer: I hate ironing, but this steamer is fun to use and gets great results. Our clothes are wrinkle-free, but this handy tool is also great for cleaning drapes and fabric furniture. I don't know how I ever lived without this thing.
  3. Thunderleash: Brady is still a puppy, and he gets easily distracted on walks. This leash gently keeps him from pulling and has allowed us to start running together. I highly recommend it to other dog parents who love going on long walks!
  4. Threshold Bar Cart: I was itching to curate a stylish bar cart, and this beauty did the trick! Our living space is party-ready with all the fixings necessary for an old-fashioned, a negroni, or a Kir Royale, displayed on this inexpensive Target find. 
  5. Michele Urban Diamond Watch: I wasn't a regular watch-wearer, but this watch has me converted. I love that Michele watches have interchangeable straps, and the diamonds give it just the perfect amount of sparkle. Mine get stacked with my favorite Stella & Dot bracelets, but it looks great on it's own too!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Don't Get Pinched!

St. Patrick's Day is next Tuesday, but celebrations will be in full swing all weekend. Even if green beer isn't your thing, make sure you've got something green to wear so you don't get pinched! I've rounded up a bit of inspiration for the occasion:

From elleapparelblog.com, via Pinterest
Stella & Dot
From VannillaExtract.me, via Pinterest
From ThisSillyGirlsLife.com, via Pinterest
Stella & Dot

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Glamorous Getaway

Planning an EPIC vacation is high on my to-do list for 2015. Although my travel wish-list is long (so many places to go, so little time!), Amangiri caught my eye.  The resort is situated in Canyon Point, Utah, near the Arizona border. With colorful views of the stratified rock and modern amenities tucked into natural surroundings, this hotel is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.

When you book a stay at this stateside getaway, you'll enjoy yoga/pilates, luxurious spa treatments, and relaxing soaks int he pool. However, there's plenty to do if you're looking for a little adventure! After reading up on the experience, I'd make sure my trip included:

  • A boat ride on the turquoise waters of Lake Powell
  • A scenic helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
  • Fly fishing (I've always wanted to try!)
  • A hike along the Hoodoo trail
If you've read my post on glamping, you know that Amangiri is definitely more my speed than a tent and a sleeping bag. We're adding it to our short list as a honeymoon-worthy getaway!

Check out this short video clip to see more:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blog Love

I love blogging, but I often turn to others for a little inspiration when the juices just aren't flowing. Here are a few blogs that I absolutely love- maybe you'll like them too!

The Everygirl is a blog that every girl should check out.  With topics ranging from starting your own business to tips for finding the best face cleanser, there's a little something for everyone. This week, check out the Everygirl's Weekend Guide to Austin

My dear friend started this adorable blog, Trina Eats Plants, as a new hobby. She inspires me to eat just a few more veggies each day, and I love hearing about her adventures in eating vegan.

Must Bring Buns is a great source for etiquette and entertaining checklists/advice. The blog itself has changed over the past couple of years, but Bren has incredible style and great tips!

My sister introduced me to I Breathe, I'm Hungry, and it's full of delicious recipes. When i want to whip up something healthy or mix up our weekly menu, this is a go-to spot. I also love Skinnytaste. Both options have plenty of veggie-heavy, gluten-free recipes to choose from.

Cupcakes and Cashmere is a popular blog, and I love it too! Emily and her team keep the content fresh with a variety of topics, regular series, and a casual writing style that makes you feel like you're talking to your best friend. 

This might be another one you've heard of, but Apartment Therapy has great inspiration for decorating small spaces. As a Boston apartment-dweller, I loved it, but it has provided plenty of additional inspiration as we set up our home down south.

Kristen over at Pursuing Vintage has been a guest blogger at Delight & Decorum a couple of times, and I love reading about her vintage finds. What's old is new again, and she does a great job of incorporating unique items into everyday style. 

What blogs are on the top of your list? Do you have a go-to morning read?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Fête for the Bride-to-Be

My cousin is getting married this year, and on Saturday I had the pleasure of toasting the bride-to-be at a bridal shower in her honor. Hosted at a restaurant, the venue was perfect for a ladies luncheon with a few games and great wine. 

If you're looking to host a similar event, here are a few tips:
  • DO consider having your event at a restaurant. It makes the party feel extra-special, and you'd be surprised at how affordable it can be! Make a phone call to some of your favorite local spots to see if they have a private room that will accommodate your crowd. The bonus of having your party at a restaurant? YOU don't have to do the cooking and cleaning!
  • DON'T invite guests who haven't been invited to the wedding (Exception: if the bride and groom are having a very small destination wedding, you may want to invite some people who were not on the guest list).
  • DO plan a few games. They don't have to be overly cheesy, but it will allow your guests to interact and mingle. Plus, a game like Registry Bingo can help the gift-unwrapping go a little faster. 
  • DON'T be afraid to combine the bridal shower with the bachelorette weekend. Out-of-town guests will appreciate the opportunity to participate without having to make multiple trips. 
  • DO plan ahead. Invitations need to go out 4-6 weeks in advance, the menu will need to be set prior to the date, and you'll want to prep any games and decor the week-of so that you're not stressing on the day of the event.
  • DON'T feel the need to go over the top with your decor. If you have a budget, keep it simple. Candles are great for providing ambiance, and you can pick up fresh flowers the day of to create some beautiful DIY centerpieces. For my cousin's shower, we borrowed gold trees from a friend and used them to create the centerpieces in an already-beautiful space.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Salmon Curry for Dinner

I spent time with family this past weekend, and after a few days of indulgence I'm ready to hit the gym and get back to achieving my fitness goals. This week, we're working to include more fish and veggies into our weeknight routine. Dinner tonight is this salmon coconut curry from The Runner's World Cookbook.

What You'll Need:
2 tsp canola oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
2 sweet potatoes, cubed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb skinless salmon, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Juice of 1 lime
Cilantro for garnish

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and allow them to cook until fragrant. 
  2. Add the broth, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, tomato paste, ginger, curry, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil. 
  3. Once boiling, reduce heat the simmer for 20 minutes before adding the salmon. Then simmer for an additional 4 minutes. 
  4. Add the peas and lime juice, simmering for about 3 more minutes so that the fish is heated all the way through. 
  5. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
A friend and coworker of mine gave me the Runner's Wold Cookbook after I completed my first half marathon a few weeks ago, and I've been eager to try all of the recipes. Grouped into categories like "recovery", "pre-run", "fast", and "gluten free", this cookbook makes good nutrition easy to navigate. Check it out!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cold Weekend Fun

If the weather's getting you down, fill your weekend with productive indoor activities. Come Monday you'll feel like you accomplished something more than binge-watching Netflix, and when spring finally arrives you'll be ready to get out of the house!

  1. Restock the freezer. Prepping soups, cookie dough, and freezer-friendly meals in advance will allow you to get out and enjoy more sunshine when it finally arrives. Plus, a pot of soup or pasta sauce simmering on the stove will make your house smell divine!
  2. Get your spring cleaning done early. Tackle those tedious tasks like dusting fan blades and blinds while you're house-bound. After you've knocked out a few cleaning tasks, feel free to reward yourself with some of that Netflix binge-watching that we were trying to avoid. You earned it!
  3. Get organized. If you've cleaned the house from top to bottom, it's time to get organized. Sort through your closet and drawers and purge anything that you haven't worn/used in the past year. Need some more organizing tips? Click here.
  4. Prep for the months ahead. Now is a great time to queue up the birthday cards, anniversary cards, and wedding gifts that you'll need to send in the coming months. While you're at it, make plans to head to your friend's wedding in June, and book your airfare for that family picnic over 4th of July weekend. 
  5. Go screen-free. Pour yourself a glass of wine and have your friends over for a game of scrabble or a fun game night. If it's too cold to rouse your neighbors, curl up on the couch and read a great book. Cold, dreary winter nights beg for a little relaxation!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Patika Coffee

Image from Patika Coffee, via Yelp
I love coffee, and Patika Coffee on South Lamar is my new go-to spot. They make a mean cappuccino, and their menu offers a variety of gluten-free breakfast treats. If you're still thinking Starbucks can top it, you'll be pleasantly surprised to swing by Patika in the evening. The lights are dimmed and they offer a well-curated section of beers and wines, often paired with a little bit of live music. What could be more "Austin" than that?

If you can't make it to Patika, check out this fun video on how to make your own "latte art" at home:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wine on Wednesday

It can be overwhelming to peruse the wine selection at your local grocer, which is why I love this article from the Wall Street Journal: 10 Ways to Find a Supermarket's Best Wine. If you're ready for a mid-week toast, check out some of my favorite picks:

Chateau La Coste Grand Vin Rose
Chanson Vire-Clesse Chardonnay
Marietta Old Vine Zinfandel
Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Guest List Etiquette

Party Guest Image by Inslee Haynes, via Pinterest
Finalizing your guest list for a wedding or any big event can be tricky. There are always lots of opinions on the topic, and it may not be 100% up to you. Here are a few guest-list questions that have come up as friends of mine have planned their big days:

Q: My fiancé and I want to keep the wedding small, but he comes from a huge family. How can we limit our guest list without offending cousins, aunts, and uncles?
A: This is a tricky situation, but one that can definitely be overcome. If your groom is close to his family, it's worth having some in-person conversations about your wedding. Have dinner with his aunt and uncle and explain that you'll be thinking of them, but you're really trying to keep the wedding very small. Handling the situation in person and being up front will save some hurt feelings later down the line. As an alternative, if you're keeping your nuptials very intimate, consider allowing your parents or someone close to you to host a "Introducing the new Mr. & Mrs." cocktail party or small picnic. This will allow more distant relatives and family friends to be involved in some way.

Q: My coworkers talk as if they're invited to my wedding. How do I break it to them that they didn't make the cut?
A: We spend 8-10 hours with our coworkers each day, and in some cases our coworkers become great friends. It makes sense that they'd want to play a role in your special day if they do consider you a close friend, but don't feel obligated to invite everyone you work with. It's absolutely appropriate to subtly drop hints that you're keeping things small, or diplomatically let them know that you can't wait to show them pictures (because you've obviously booked the most amazing photographer!) and it will be so fun to relive the special moments with them.

Q: A dear friend has offered to throw a bridal shower in my hometown, but my new in-laws live far away. Should I add them to the invite list? I don't want them to feel obligated to attend. 
A: Bridal showers are typically a girly occasion, and you'd hate for your future mother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc. to feel left out. In this case, it's the thought that counts.  It's a nice gesture to give them a call and let them know that although you'd love for them to be there, they do not need to feel obligated to fly cross-country or send a gift.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday Musings

After a relaxing weekend, I'm ready for a whirlwind week. Here are five things on my mind right now:

  1. We have a cake tasting this week and I am so excited to start sampling some sweets! To prep, I've been reading up on tips for choosing the perfect wedding cake and pinning some inspirational photos on Pinterest. 
  2. Neal's traveling for work, so I've got a few nights all to myself. Cooking for one isn't always easy, but I'm excited to try out this single-serve microwave mac and cheese (substituting GF noodles, of course). Keeping dinner simple will give me a little bit more time to cross off the other things on my to-do list!
  3. Although a trip to the salon is not in the cards this week, my nails could use a little touch up before I head to Chicago to see friends and family.  I'm going to take a note from Emily at Cupcakes & Cashmere and try this 10 Minute Manicure at home
  4. The house hunt in Austin is officially on. I find myself spending every spare moment trolling property listing to see if anything new has come available, and I've read this Austin Neighborhood Guide more than once. 
  5. I'm headed to a bachelorette party next weekend, but it's still winter in the Windy City and I have no idea what to wear! I love this article from HerCampus: What to Wear When Going Out in Winter