Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dress Saga, Part 4 of 4

In parts 1, 2, & 3, I traipsed through Atlanta with a gaggle of willing shoppers hunting the perfect wedding dress.  By Sunday morning, I thought I had it, but there was still one shop left to go before mom and I headed back to Alabama.  

We left Suzanne our number and promised to call on Monday morning to place the order after sleeping on the decision, then the entourage of six traveled south to Buckhead for one last stop of bridal bliss.
We rolled in, laughing and joking and, I'm sure, scaring the daylights out of whomever was assigned to be our attendant that afternoon.  A few minutes early, we checked in then shopped in the bridesmaids section looking for the nonflammable gowns I was determined to find.  Well, at least most of us did.  I looked around and realized we were missing my aunt, who had already made her way to the designer collection across the way.  She can't help it; she's always been ahead of the curve.
While we waited, we again encountered another bride we'd shopped with before.  "You know that place in midtown?" she said in hushed tones, "Not all beading."  B's mom was sussing out the details when our, er, my attendant arrived on the scene.  Ellen, as her name turned out to be, welcomed me and I cautioned her that I had a large, but fabulous, following with me that day.  She looked around, counting the fellow shopper and her daughter and said, "Um, all of them?"  I waved her worries off, "Of course not!  Only five." Ha.
Ellen smiled and gave me a little tour of the boutique, which contained about five different sections.  Larger than store 3, smaller than 1 or 2, this was the "just right" Goldilocks of dress shops.  The entourage, bolstered by the narrowing and, indeed, selecting we'd already done (did you see the happiness on the faces in Part 3's photo?) moved strategically through the racks, eliminating options before I even had to look at them.
A lady in the store watched me pull a few gowns and smiled. "My daughter's on her way," she said, "And I know she's going to want that exact same dress!"  I laughed because, though the trying-on portion of the event might feel like competition, the selection did not.  Even if her daughter loved the dress and picked that dress as the dress, what would I care?  We could share a wedding date and a dress and still have our own events.  I told the lady her daughter was welcome to browse my dressing room after we finished.
Right before I went into the dressing room, B's mom pulled out a dress and her eyes grew wide.  It was dress one!  That durn collection of silk and stitching had followed us all the way through Atlanta.  I quickly added it to the pile.
When I'd gathered about six dresses, the moms & co. gathered in the dressing area, spreading out over the couch and armchairs that faced the large three-way mirror.  You thought shopping for jeans was hard--imagine trying to evaluate your posterior view when it's intentionally accented with a large satin bow or a lace bouf.
Ellen asked me where I'd been shopping and what I'd found that I liked, then helped me into the dress most closely resembling what I described.  Eh, it was ok.  After all, I was really just here to get pampered, then drive home, and call store 3 and order my dress in the morning.  I asked to try on dress 1 from the first store and, as I walked out, we all shook our heads, laughing that we could've thought this dress was the one.  What were we thinking?  So not me.
We cruised through a few other dresses before I tried on one that had caught my eye.  As Ellen zipped me into it, it just felt real.  I walked out and the whole entourage quieted down.  Whereas before they'd said, "Oh, pretty" or "That's beautiful," now they seemed at a loss for words.  "Well?" I asked, before turning to look in the mirrors, but their smiles said it all.  
I turned around and stepped onto the pedestal of the three-way mirror and, as the dress swirled around me, it clicked.  This was the dress I would be wearing in May when I said my vows to B.  This was the dress he'd give me my first married kiss in.  This was the dress I'd wear as we waved goodbye to our friends and family and jetted off to a honeymoon and, even more, a life of our own.
Mom and B's mom teared up and, before I could, we added a veil and some fun accessories, which just sealed the deal.  It was perfect.  Ellen hustled me back into the dressing room to try on the other dresses.  They were beautiful, regal, enchanting, and altogether not my dress.  At the end she said, "I've been listening, and you've only said that you love that second dress."  I started making excuses for the others as being "just not me" or "not feeling quite right" and she laughed, "You don't have to apologize--they don't have feelings!"
Ellen and I became close in the (eep!) two-and-a-half hours we shared in those close dressing room quarters.  Sure, we went through the whole topless conundrum again (hard to have small talk when you're crossing your arms over... well, nothing), but she warmed to our group, laughing with them and telling me each time we went into the dressing room, "Oh my gosh, your family is just wonderful."  Family--that's what it was.  Some since birth, others since college, and one since that morning, but family none the less. Ok, and there was also an awkward bonding moment when I'm pretty sure my bum graved her bun while trying to climb out of gorgeous gown, but Ellen assured me it's definitely not the worst she's experienced.  I mean, I did have some clothes on.
So... we bought it.  Right there.  No sleeping on it--there was no need to!  I began trying on bridesmaids dresses and my aunt called out to me, then pointed across the room.  There was the other lady's daughter wearing the dress I'd just purchased and looking downright beautiful in it.  Her mom caught my eye and smiled.  Ellen told me that she, too, was purchasing the dress that day.  The girl and I laughed together and, wonderfully, she let me literally try on bridesmaids dresses next to her as she stood in the wedding gown.  I'm telling you, these stores do something to women.  Bonding.  It's crazy.
We left the store 30 minutes after closing time with happy hearts and a promise that my dress would arrive by March 10.  I feel like I have a due date, only mine required a down payment.
So the dress, the wonderful dress. It's beautiful and I wish I could post a picture.  It's a mermaid style, white-white dress that fades to pink at the bottom with a plunging neckline and sequins that lead all the way up to the.... 
Come on.  You didn't really think I'd tell you, did you?  B reads this blog, even if he's not much of a commenter.  And I know for a fact that he has a very invested interest in not knowing about the dress, which I love.  Old-school charm.  It's not everywhere these days.
Mom and I drove back to Birmingham so happy and beyond content after exchanging nearly a dozen hugs in the parking lot with our Atlanta-based shopping crew.  We pulled away and I felt a twinge of sadness--such a great moment, over--but smiles instantly took over as I realized that one very large part of my planning was finished.  I had a dress I loved and a memory with the moms and co. that I would never forget.  And that's even better than finding the perfect dress.  Well, almost anyway...

Dress Saga, Part 3 of 4

In parts 1 & 2, I had found a dream dress to replace what I thought was the dress, but it was being held hostage at a neon pink bridal boutique in Atlanta's warehouse district. Could I trust them to get my dress in on time and do the alterations right, even though I'd been warned by friends to steer clear?

Sunday came early. Mom and I crashed on Saturday night with plans to attend Father Flanagan's Mass on Sunday morning. I'd seen and met him, but thought mom might like to as well. I didn't sleep well, waking up early, then falling back asleep until about 10. I made the call for us to skip church and instead get lunch before our 1pm appointment. The truth is, I was exhausted, but the church was also an hour-long drive, round trip, and we almost felt guilty driving so much with the gas crisis in Atlanta. Everywhere we went, we'd think there had to be a wreck on the road, thanks to the upwards of 40 cars waiting in a single line in front of us. Instead of a roadblock or accident, we'd always find a line inching toward the lone gas station with fuel in a five-mile radius. It was more than a little disconcerting.

So, with "going green" and going back to sleep in mind, we decided to take a slower approach to morning. Mom could read my signs--if I didn't get sleep, Sunday would be a tough day. You know when you're too tired and cranky to try on those jeans at the mall? Same with a wedding dress, only you have to be on even more in the mood because you're stripped down and sharing a small dressing room with a newly-made acquaintance that now knows everything about you, down to the mole of your shoulder and every inch of your measurements.

Mom and I spent the better part of an hour at my aunt and uncle's house clicking through the wedding dresses online, looking to find the dress from the hot pink store. Surely it had to be online. I wanted to see it again, see if it was worth the angst of ordering from a questionable store. As I clicked, I realized I wasn't sure about the dress, but I knew I liked it more than dress 1, so I called and cancelled our 4pm follow-up at the first dress shop, then mom and I got dressed and headed to lunch.

We found dress store #3 in the adorable town square of Roswell, a subsection of the greater Atlanta sprawl. We buzzed by, noticing the adorable storefront and both of us had a good feeling about the day. On the other corner of the square, we found a super cute bistro that served a mean Sunday brunch featuring everything from shrimp and grits to biscuit benedict, plus an omelet station, waffle bar, several salads, and all the traditional trimmings you'd expect to find at a breakfast stop.

We toasted our good fortune (a wonderful weekend, fun time together, and a fabulous breakfast spread) with peach iced tea at an outdoor patio table covered by a deep green umbrella. At the end of the meal, we headed across the lawn to the dress store, where we were greeted warmly by name.

Aside from the lack of church pews, we fell in love with the store. It was smaller, but definitely warm and cozy. One other bride was shopping, but other than that, mom and I had the run of the place. The other bride's mother noticed me and pulled me aside, Russian mafia style, saying, "We saw you yesterday at the boutique. We thought we found a dress there, but not a chance. This is where you'll find your dress."

What they don't tell you is that dress shopping is not only competitive (Does she look better in that than I did?), but it's also slightly like cheating (No baby, you're the only dress store for me). You want each store to think that it is "your store". You're not looking anywhere else. All your focus and attention is on them. That's hard to do when, in my case, you're three-timing any given store at any given moment, leaving your measurements and once-heartfelt promises about calling and ordering dresses. When your attendant asks where you've looked, you want to be honest, but let her down easy, but among brides (and their moms) hushed conversations of boutique pricing and selection is rampant. And it feels dirty.

I browsed the store and, disappointed, found most of their dresses to be (beautifully) bedazzled and sparkly. That heavy silver broach thing in the middle of the dress? Not so much me. I gathered a few of the plainer styles, plus a few by a designer I'd been wanting to try, and then continued to poke around. In the earlier stores, I had grabbed armfuls of dresses, but now that I knew my own tastes a little better, it was easier to be more selective. Bridal dresses aren't like normal dresses (Obvious 101, anyone?). Sure, they hang on racks and are well spaced out so as not to bunch, but they hang in protective bags with the trains hooked over the hangers. Any given bag looks like white marshmallow fluff, so it takes time to become more discerning, noticing the details like lace or jewels, low necklines, gathered waists. Eventually you begin to learn, which saves you a lot of trying on that's, well, all for not.

I warmed up to the task and soon, when the rest of my support team arrived, we really had the run of the place. For Sunday's shopping, mom, B's mom, and I were joined by B's mom's best friend, my aunt, and my aunt's best friend from church. What? you ask, Five people shopping with you? Are. You. Mad?

There's only one thing I can say: I would not have had Sunday any other way. These five women were amazing. They were encouraging and supportive and hilarious and we laughed all the way through the appointment. At points, there were tears, not over a dress I was trying on, but over the laughter than ensured. When I left them at the end of the day, they were considering going out for their own Champagne toast. Without me. Yeah, it was that good. I'm thinking of farming them out as a unit. I could've done calculus with these women and still had a great time.

The fab five settled around the couches in the boutique and waited for me to model the dresses. Dress one, all aglow with sparkles and sequins, was perfect for a Disney-themed wedding and actually quite beautiful on, but I'm sure B would've worried about denting me when we hugged or even tried to eat cake and it was nearing 90 degrees in that skirt, so it was out. Then came, and went, in quick succession super sparkly, the mermaid, satin chic, and, oh. This one. Wow.

I walked out wearing the final dress and the moms (and chorus) all smiled. The helper, Suzanne, added a sash and they smiled bigger. On came the veil, shoes, and sparkly hair things (which were quickly removed), and the moms cheered. It was, and felt, perfect. Not too heavy (or hot), but not too sweet and plain either. I felt like I should be wearing it to an old country church. It made me feel pretty and warm and I knew B would like it. It was me.

Mom and I fluttered over the material, saying how much it resembled the dress I had loved at the hot pink store, but it was somehow... more. I told her that, after seeing this dress, I realized that, while I loved the other dress, it made me feel like it should have something extra, more of a kick. Be a little more special. This dress, especially with the sash, was special.

The moms (and co.) cheered and smiled, even posing for a picture for me (see above) relishing our success at the store.

We had one more appointment to go, so we thanked Suzanne and told her we'd sleep on it and call her in the morning to "pull the trigger." (My words, not my moms.) I figured some of the posse (as B's mom labeled them) would peter off, but all insisted on coming to the next appointment. Now invested, they had to see how the story ended.

As we walked to the cars, I told mom I was happy and that the final store would "put the nail in the coffin" on the dress hunt. Again, my words, not hers, and not fond ones by the way. She confided that she was thrilled I wasn't choosing the dress from the hot pink store, we just had no way of knowing if I'd really get what I wanted when I needed it. We smiled and pulled onto I-75 and followed B's mom (and co.) on to the next appointment, located smack in the middle of downtown Atlanta.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Me: Do you want a fish on our Save the Date?

B: Depends.  If it's a trout, then yes, but if it's a salmon, then no.

Me: It's a goldfish.

B: Oh.  Definitely no.

*The real joy of an exchange like this with B is that he doesn't ask questions.  I ask if he likes fish on a Save the Date, and he doesn't even question it, just rolls with it, like my initial question was completely logical.  This is why I love him.  Not only does he endure and indulge me, he embraces me.  Sometimes even with his big arms...

B's Dream "Save the Date"

Not happening.*

*Ok, so B has never even seen this Save the Date example, or even the website.  He doesn't even know I'm looking at Save the Date cards, but I still know it would be his favorite.  If only he'd proposed via Jumbotron, then maybe we could talk...  I guess a girl can't have everything. 

This was intended to be a one-picture post, but holy gaudy save the dates, batman, check these bad boys out:

Dress Saga, Part 2 of 4

In part one, I fell in love with a beautiful dress and, confident that the rest of the weekend would just be fun, headed off to the remaining three appointments footloose and fancy free.

The moms and I left the boutique and headed for Houston's, where we toasted our good fortune of finding a beautiful dress so early in the day with a glass of wine. I'm pretty sure it was noon already.

Before we left the boutique, we booked a follow-up appointment for Sunday at 4pm. That way, we could look around at the other dresses, then bring it on home and order the dress before heading home to real life. I loved the dress. It was beautiful and elegant, but I wanted to make sure, so we finished our wine and headed for the second stop on the Great Dress Hunt of 2008.

B's mom had heard over-the-top crazy wonderful things about the next place. It wasn't a boutique experience; in fact, it was located in the warehouse district. Fine by me! Lower prices, same dresses, sign me up.

We pulled up to a hot pink building painted with a black and white portrait of a bridal party. Now, I don't mean to make this sound tasteful--it wasn't, but we shrugged off our snobbery in the cracking parking lot (which featured signs for "Designer Rings from $75! Next Door!") and headed inside.

The co-owner of the store, the male half of the couple that had been running this place since I was learning to letter my name, met us at the door and said I could pick five dresses. He asked what I was looking for, then barreled around the store picking up this and that. B's mom lit up when she saw dress one, from the boutique, on the rack and grabbed it as one of the bunch to comparison shop against the others. In minutes, and without really seeing a lot of the dresses, he had us set up and waiting in line for a dressing room.

The dressing rooms were their own stories... It looked like H&M. Tall curtains that pulled off to the sides only with higher hooks, so the dresses would stay above the floor. Outside the dressing rooms, a stage-like setup awaited with about 20 yards of mirror-lined walls that faced, dare I even say it, church pews. Rows upon rows of church pews.

Basically, you picked your dresses, then got in line. When an attendant was ready to help you, they called your name (Taffeta and Silk, Party of One) and took you back to get started. Moms and friends wait on the pews. You walk out and face not only your party, but everyone's parties. Think of it like a mix between the runway and The Gong Show.

Turns out, they only had three attendants working that day (because Saturday isn't a big shopping day, grr), so we had a little wait on our hands. While we waited, we browsed bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, looking at colors and examining fabrics. I have a thing about bridesmaids dresses--the fabric. It looks flammable. Ergo, you rarely (ok, usually never) wear them again. You can have the most gorgeous dress, but when the fabric has that super-starched look, you know it's a bridesmaid dress. Oy.

While we were debating silk verses faux-silk polyester, they called my name and back I went with an attendant who looked young, but was kind and helpful. Sarah zipped me into a boufy dress and out I went for review. The moms looked up from their rehearsal dinner conversation and cocked their heads, examining the dress. They came up, walked around me in the mirrored fun-house, then sent me back for another dress. Sarah and I got to know each other a little better and, through her clues, I slowly learned that, at most, she was 16. And I only give her that because she said she drove in from Stone Mountain. Later I realized that she only said she came from Stone Mountain. Big. Difference.

She zipped me into one after another, which I happily paraded out for the moms, and for anyone else in the pews. It became a community event--moms gave thumbs-downs and the girls behind them readily agreed, pointing out how #1 obviously topped #3 any day.

For #5, I tried on "my dress," the one from the first boutique. After all the other dresses, it suddenly felt heavy and stiff. It was definitely the same dress, but after seeing a wider selection, it was definitely no longer my dress.

Sarah saw the hesitation in my eyes and said, "I have a dress I'd love for you to try on if you don't mind." Now I really appreciated this--she works here (when not cheering for JV football, I'm sure) so she knows the inventory, and she's got a whole line of people waiting yet she still breaks the "limit of 5" rule. Ordinarily, if you wanted to try on more than five dresses, you could do so, you just had to get back at the end of the line. Eek!

She brings in a beautiful dress with movement and a little old school charm. She zips it on and, after what I thought was "my dress," I realized how much better this one felt. I reached around to see who it was by and realized that the label was missing from the dress.

Sarah caught my eye, "Oh.. we can't tell you whose dress it is until you buy it." What? This place has bargain-basement prices, so it's not like I'd be price-comparing around town, just wanting to send it to my sister or compare it online to other favorites, but no. No labels.

Mom went to talk to the store owner, who gave her the same run-around. No info on the dress until you buy it and, oh yes, you had to pay in full.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but remember that we're in a storeroom in the middle of the warehouse district. I know you've been open for 22 years, but I'm new to this and it scares me that, say my dress doesn't come in, I don't even have half of the amount that I can hold back as wedding dress ransom.

I left that day loving the style of what was now the dress, but concerned that I couldn't even bring it up online at my aunt's house to look at it again. Believe me, mom and I crawled through every dress on TheKnot in hopes of seeing it, but there was nothing. I knew I had doubts, but I figured anyone would. After all, you go try on about 28 white tshirts, then try to remember what the neck detail was on number 17.

No problem! you say. Just take a picture! Ha. Pictures are also not allowed until after you've put down a deposit, or in this case, the full payment for the dress. Apparently once you buy it, you get rights to photograph it and visit it. Until then, you're the deadbeat bride.

We left that day happy (love the dress!) but uneasy about buying it from a place that didn't seem too interested in selling it to us. Mom and I headed for Saks to take a peek at their bridal salon (ok, and grab a Starbucks from the mall) and then to B's parents' home for a delicious dinner with their next-door neighbor P. They humored us immensely and we watched the Alabama Georgia game all night, stopping to eat dinner during halftime, which was about 9:30pm.

Alabama trounced Georgia (at least in the first half) and ended up winning by double-digits, so we all took it as a great sign of a weekend that was surely going well.

I had a dress, but I wasn't sure yet. It looked pretty, it was pretty, but I felt unnerved. Was it the hot pink storeroom, or the fact that my dress was still out there. As one online reviewer said, "But you have to draw the line at some point and the line is around the [sic]builidng of [this] bridal shop." Only Sunday's appointments would tell.

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

What??? Up at 6:23 this morning, too excited to go back to sleep. Seriously? You know how you wake up sometimes, just for a minute, then snuggle back into the warm pillow and blankets and doze back off? I LOVE those moments. My moments are, for the time being, ruined, because I wake up, just slightly, and instantly something floods into my mind... My dress. The flower girls. Dancing with B.

These aren't stressful moments, mind you. They're happy. So happy that they wake me up completely, which is how I managed to fit in two episodes of Saved by the Bell and two episodes of Fresh Prince before work.
Oh, silly mind and body, you must sleep. A friend, J, just emailed me to go to an event in October with her, to which I responded: B's in town for that weekend in February, and we have an appointment that night with a cake guy.

She, logically, writes back: ...that weekend in February? it's for October!

I defiantly begin to respond, No, no he's in town in October, then I realize that I had written February. Whaa?? Not good, and not good for a Monday morning back in the office.

Bring on the Serta sheep... I've got to get some sleep!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dress Saga, Part 1 of 4

This weekend marked the Great Dress Hunt of 2008. Let me just start by saying that I'm now back safe and sound in Birmingham and that no dress vendors (naughty or nice) were harmed in the hunt for "the dress." That said, you saw the title of this post--part 1 of 4. I'll give you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story when I'm good and ready. So just sit back, hold tight, and enjoy what can only be described as a remarkable weekend. "Remarkable, Bah!" you say? Well have you ever been cut out of a couture dress? I thought not. So let's begin.
Mom and I headed out for Atlanta Friday after work, stopping briefly in Douglasville to grab a quick dinner before arriving at my aunt and uncle's home in Marietta, which would serve as our comfy and wonderful home base for the weekend. By the time we got there, it was already late--almost 10 Atlanta time. We kept my aunt and uncle up until almost midnight anyway, catching up on their amazing daughter J and chatting about family, life, and, yes, wedding. We all turned in around midnight--they were getting up early to head off to the Auburn game while mom and I had our first dress appointment at 10.

Morning came slowly. I didn't sleep much, which I blame on excitement (really? So not me. This marks time #3 so far post-engagement... The first after the proposal, and the second when B was talking to me about moving to Durham.). Up at 8, hair curled, makeup on, and ready to go. Honestly, I'm always amazed by the girls who shop in ponytails or gym-fresh hair--how do you know how you'll really look? I get distracted...

We arrived at a lovely and slightly trendy-looking bridal shop in... oh who am I kidding? Somewhere in Atlanta. Cindy, my fabulous consultant, whisked me away to the floor where I found seven delightfully large closet-type rooms filled with all kind of dresses organized by designer (and, therefore, style). "Pick 6 or 7 and we'll get started," she said.

I should mention that the only time I've ever tried on bridal gowns before was for a magazine story about an adorable boutique in Hartselle, Alabama, so I was pretty much clueless, and decidedly overwhelmed. My helpers for the day, my mom and B's mom, browsed, looking through beaded, lace, satin, silk, strapped, strapless, classic, and trendy styles, all the while remembering that any dress can be ordered in white, white white, off-white, ivory, or champagne. And it can be altered to add (or remove) straps, raise (or lower) a neckline, and tack on any number of extras like buttons, sashes, shawls, and so on. So basically, you're back to zero. We grabbed a handful, which somehow got re-racked, so we found them again and got started.

We began with larger dresses, ones with lots of gathering and fabric, beautiful detail work, then moved on to more slender silhouettes. I saw a dress I'd been dying to try on, so they zipped me right in (here's to being a floor-room size, and for floor-room sizes not being sizes 0-2). I pranced around (how do you not prance in floufy dresses?) and, when we'd all thumbs-downed the dress, waltzed back into my little dressing room to have Cindy unzip me.

Now here's what they don't tell you about dress shopping: You need a helper. I can't really get myself in a dress and dress shops would rather not have me try, so therefore Cindy is more than a consultant, she is a helper. And helpers get allll up in your business. So basically you end up standing topless in your newly-purchased conservative Victoria's Secret panties with a woman who's asking you about your fiance and your job as if we're having tea in crisp white suits. Sure, I won't laugh awkwardly. Especially when I'm stepping into dresses or diving up through them. Nothing odd about that.

So Cindy comes in to unzip me and errrk, the zipper jams. And I mean jams. It's not going up or down, and I know Cindy's trying because I'm inside the bodice she's desperately trying to wrestle into submission. Another consultant, also dressed in all black comes in, mutters something about this line of sample dresses coming in with a bad batch of zippers, then floats away to get L, the owner of the boutique, who comes in and, without pulling or yanking, says, "Yep, you'll have to cut it off."

So now I'm in a small room with three "black is back" ladies, one with a very sharp Xacto blade dangerously near my spine having the most expensive piece of clothing I've ever tried on cut from my body. I make a joke to the tune of "you break it you buy it" and thankfully they laugh because, as soon as the dress releases, I'm again topless, but this time in front of three very clothed ladies.

Bridal shops are smart--this one had a full-on runway in the middle of the store. It was elegant and molded to the shape of the room, but a runway nonetheless. You could add a veil and a tiara to anything and wear it on a catwalk and feel sexy. Believe me--I tried it in my little black courtesy robe and flip flops. Basically they narrow you down to a dress, then start accessorizing you and put you up there in the middle of the room ("church lighting" optional, I kid you not) and then you get to see yourself in three gorgeously framed massive mirrors artfully (and strategically) propped around the room. They show you a bustle (French and America) and you start seeing fireworks. Or at least I did--and it wasn't the church lighting.

The moms were amazing, if not discerning, lavishing praise about the dresses until I'd narrowed it down to one. I'd found my dress... at least the first one.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fun Fact

You know how the days get progressively longer as you move toward mid-summer, then progressively shorter as you move toward the dead of winter? Obviously, they do. But did you know by how much each day they're shortened or lengthened? Three minutes. Think about that. Each day is one song shorter (or one song longer, depending on the season). One sauteed chicken cutlet shorter (ok, honestly, can you guess what I do for a living?). How crazy is that?

You might be wondering how I know this fabulous factoid, so I'll tell you that it comes courtesy of the clubhouse manager of a golf course in Florence. Which is fitting, I think, that a man who measures his time in 15 minute tee-time increments would know how many green fees he's losing (or gaining) per day.

I always thought the days got shorter faster than anticipated, but now I get how I can leave work at the same time everyday and it somehow always feels much later. For now, I can still walk after work until about 6:30, but soon (in...20 days), the sun will be going down closer to quitting time. As sad as that may sound, I'm excited for fall... soup, boots, fuzzy socks, and holidays. Bring it on.

Go Greek

Last night was an amazing night, and not just because I got to watch three hours of TV commercial free (thank you, Tivo!). The Birmingham girls and I gathered at K's new house (it will remain "new" until someone else buys one, I'm sure) to watch the season premiers of Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy. They didn't disappoint, and neither did our dinner.
Most of us live/have lived in apartment complexes for the past, oh, about three years. Apartment complex=No yard=No grill. So when K got a house with a super-cute back porch, she immediately invested in a gas grill (named Gus, appropriately enough) and called us over to fire up the flames.

When we planned our TV-palooza night, J decided kabobs would be the perfect way to go, so K got the chicken and pita, J brought tomato and onion, and I picked up pineapple, bell pepper, and wine. But something was missing. Despite my hatred of white foods (which we'll get into later, I'm sure), I had a hankering to make some tzatziki sauce, a Greek yogurt-based sauce flavored with herbs, lemon juice, garlic, and shredded cucumber.

It was super-easy to make. The only trick is that you have to shred and salt the cucumber, then lay it out on paper towels to get the water out before mixing it with the yogurt. While simple, I'd say this is a crucial step. Otherwise, you'd end up with really runny tzatziki sauce, and nobody wants that.

The dip was a hit-- tangy, light, delicious, and totally fat-free. We spread it on the pita slices and topped it with grilled zucchini, chicken, bell pepper, and more. I think we invented Greek pizza. I love these girls. We skewered about 15 kabobs-full of fruit, veggies, and chicken, then just slid all the ingredients into a bowl after they'd been cooked. It was the easiest, healthiest dinner we've had in a while. And it made me pine for a grill of my own.

While the nights are still warm-ish, get outside and make some delicious kabobs, then top them with this super-easy sauce/dip/amazingness. You won't be sorry!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Just printed out the schedule for dress shopping in Atlanta this weekend with my mom and B's mom.

It's 12 pages.

Pray for them.

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Phone rings at work...

Dad: "A, don't get gas in your car today."

My inner monologue: "Aw, dad's worried about the gas prices. Maybe he's 'going green,' or just trying to help me save a few dollars because the prices are still up."

Me: "You're too late, Dad--I had to get gas on the way to work this morning."

Dad: "Noo! You know mom's coming down to go with you to Atlanta--that should be on the wedding budget."

Me: "Dad, I'm sure we'll have to get gas again sometime during the weekend. Mom can charge it then."

Dad: "Ok. You didn't fill up your tank all the way did you?"

Me: "Um, yes."

Dad: "Maybe you can drain it into the bathtub or something..."

One Serious Sandwich

In 2004, Glamour magazine published a recipe they called "Engagement Chicken," a dish so flavorful and Susie-Homemakery that it was guaranteed to send your man into commitment mode, especially when served with a slice of "Hook Him Apple Pie." According to them, girls began making the dish and, as Emeril would say, BAM! Engaged.
Now I didn't cook B a chicken, but we do have an Engagement Sandwich. The lawyers at his firm gave him a hard time for letting me cook the food for what would come to be known as our engagement dinner. He had an excellent rebuttal, though. According to B, "If I'd cooked the dinner, she would've known something was up." Touche.

So B and I had made this sandwich once before, to take to the park, and it's packed with all his favorite things... artichoke hearts, roasted red bell peppers, cheese I can't pronounce. It was a huge hit because it stayed together and stayed warm the whole time we a) unpacked the car, b) settled on the blanket, c) discovered the ground was soaked, and d) relocated to a park bench. I knew it'd be perfect for what I thought was our semi-planned voyage up to Vulcan.

You know how this story ends, but I have a feeling that my history with this sandwich is just beginning. I wrote about it, and about B's love of all things sandwich, on my work blog. Check it out, then go make one of your own. Maybe I'll revamp this whole "Engagement Chicken" idea, after all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Has anyone ever told you..."

It started about three years ago that people would stop me and say, "You look familiar." That progressed on to "You remind me of someone." Finally, it culminated in, "Oh my God you look just like Miley Cyrus." That's right, my current claim to fame is having a somewhat striking resemblance to Miley (Not Hannah, her blond alter ego). As Miley's fame (and stock) has risen, so has the number of times I've been cornered while people work through it in their minds and figure it out.

At first, I thought it was an isolated event, just a few people here and there, and then it grew. My boss (in a late night fit of sleeplessness) watched Miley host some award show and came in the next morning proclaiming, "You really do look like her!" A PR rep came to work and was beside herself saying she needed to call her daughter and tell her about me. When I responded, trying to steer the conversation back to the meeting we were suppose to be having, she said, "Oh my God, you even sound like her!" Apparently, it's not only the hair and skin tone, but the voice, way of speaking, and mannerisms. Lucky me! Personally, I think it's just that we both tend to chin-down in photos. By far my favorite comment has been from a long-list friend on my Facebook wall when he wrote, "I just realized you did Miley Cyrus WAYYY before Miley Cyrus did."

When a dear high school friend, H, sent her nieces pictures of the two of us, claiming that she'd met and hung out with Miley (and they believed her!), I knew I was onto something. I'm currently looking for a way to shop my Miley +9 years to Disney. I hear she's leaving the show this year, so we could end with a flash-forward to her life after being Hannah. If it's true that she's over the show, even better! I can do the whole damn thing. Pass me my part of the $3.5 million she makes for the show each season. Even divided by 12 or 24, that's a killing.

I do have to talk to Miley about not doing any more of those tasteless sheet poses. She's killing our syndication value.

I'm used to people stopping me and "working it out" in their minds of who I remind them of. Lately, though, I've started speeding up the process by just out-right telling them. That failed me this weekend, though, when, at the Ritz in Atlanta, the lady at the front desk asked, "Who do people tell you you look like?" She looked confused when I said, "Miley Cyrus," shook her head and said, "I'd say more Maggie Gyllenhaal." So you decide. Who is it, Miley or Maggie? Either way, I'm figuring that I'm underpaid...

We (May) Have a Priest!

B got a call from Holy Spirit (Church, not 1/3 of the Holy Trinity) during a meeting with a possible caterer for the rehearsal dinner and it was Father Flanagan saying that he'd love to meet with us. Father F's been kind of cagey as to whether he'll actually do the service, but it's looking good. We love him because he's personable and nice and really enthusiastic about, well, everything. He's the perfect balance between the priests B grew up with the the pastors that I had when I was younger.
We're meeting with him in October, but it's promising. Otherwise I think we'll either ask the abbot from Florence or a priest my mom grew up with in Birmingham.
Now B and I have moved on to wondering where you take a Father for lunch. B said a deli. I voted sit-down. I like priests, but am wary of having a long wait for a table or at the pick-up window to make smalltalk. What do you say?
Getting over myself and back to work...

12 Years Old

Who knew that, on my last birthday, instead of turning 25, I turned 12 instead? I just realized this last night when I fell asleep at 10 pm. Oh glorious sleep. I got ready for bed during the commercial breaks of Law & Order SVU (don't judge-- Luke Perry was on... Seriously. Stop judging.) and turned in immediately after Elliot and Olivia cracked the case. Great news for me, not so good news for B.
One of my great and wonderful talents is being able to fall directly into a pretty hard sleep. When B and I were living on opposite coasts during his baseball days, it was (pun intended) a nightmare. We'd talk before his games (around 5pm, my time) and he'd promise to call when the game was over. I'd wake up the next morning and immediately sour when I realized he hadn't called. I'd call and wake him up (at 6am his time after a 1am bedtime) and berate him for not calling. Lovingly, patiently he'd tell me to hang up, check my call log, and call him back.

I would grumble while I looked, only to find that there were 5 minutes and 46 seconds of my life unaccounted for. He had called and we had talked... for a while, actually, and I'd have no memory of it.

This went on for months. He swears I never said anything crazy, but I'm sure he could've gotten every last secret out of me in those phone calls. I guess that doesn't matter now--whatever he found out must not have been too terrible!

I thought that when B hung up his cleats, I could quit worrying about what strange things came out of my inner child during our middle-of-the-night conversations. After all, he's on the east coast now, an hour ahead, so certainly I could keep up.

Until last night. B's playing major catch-up after three weeks of interviewing and traveling around the southeast, so I told him to call when he went to sleep, which happened to be 20 minutes after I'd gone to sleep. I woke up this morning, but instead of feeling pissy and grumpy, I just checked my call log and there it was, 24 seconds with the love of my life that I'm clueless about.

When he called to say hi before class, I told him good morning and goodnight, then asked him what we'd talked about last night. "Not much," he said. "You answered and said, 'Hi. I'm tired.' and so I told you goodnight and we both went to sleep."

For some reason, it makes me love him more that he finds my inner child (that whiny voice that comes out in middle-of-the-night phone calls) endearing, and is actually quite kind to her, er, me. Can't put it into words, but it's there.

So B, if you ever call and get a not-so-sweet A, just come back and read this and know how much I love those phone calls, even if I mostly mumble and whine. Love you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Worn Out

It never ceases to amaze me that things that are so fun can also be so tiring. I'm exhausted! This weekend was wonderful, but I'm still slowly catching up from all the driving, getting up "early," and being nice to people over and over again. Come on, be honest--it takes work to be nice to people you've never met, ie vendors. It's like the first-date dance. You want them to like you enough to want to work with you, even though you know deep down that, whether they like you or not, if you cut them a check, you're in.
B's tuckered out, too. He's finishing one final Atlanta interview (this go-round) and then flying back to Durham late tonight where he'll spend the next two weeks in his own apartment. I know that sounds crazy, but he's been traveling for the past three weeks. It'll be hard not seeing him for just shy of three weeks, but I know we're both looking forward to sleeping and getting regular-life things done. I'd love to go to an interview dinner every night, especially if I can always have crab cakes, but let's be honest... I'm be tired and would never fit into my (currently nonexistent) wedding dress.

No rest for the weary in Alabama, though. this weekend mom and I join B's mom in Atlanta for two days of dress shopping, then I'm in a high school friend's wedding the weekend after. So many good things! If only I could find someone to clean my apartment while I was gone...

I'm looking forward to this week though, what's left of it (where is September going? And what's its hurry??) anyway.

Tonight a high school friend, L, and I are taking dinner to another high school friend whose husband is sick. She lives a little bit outside of town, so I'm looking forward to catching up with L on the way, then I think we'll grab dinner after. Wednesday is Grandma Dinner at the church, as per usual, then Thursday the Birmingham girls are gathering for a cookout and the two-hour premier of Grey's Anatomy. Yea!

This week I'm focusing on the little things, namely the little things I need to get done in my life, like trying on a bridesmaid dress, finding shoes for said dress, and crossing off about a dozen things on my work to-do list.

So the plan for today? Call Holy Spirit to get Mass times for this weekend, write about mac & cheese, food from the broiler, and meal planning, and write my cousin, E, who is going through Navy boot camp. I think I need an assistant, or maybe just a Blackberry...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Catering Lady: The river is a real divide in the Florence area.

B's Mom: Why is that?

Catering Lady: Well, because the other side is union sympathizers.

I'd like to point out that I live on the sympathizers side, and I had no idea this is why the area feels so darn sectioned.

Invitations Almost Done!

...and yet not even started, but I do have basically all the information for the wording! Names? Check. Location? Check. Time? CHECK!

On Saturday, B and I, flanked with our dedicated moms, got the local parish in Florence to nail down a time. I know this sounds simple, but you have to understand, this is no quick phone call. We've made those. We've made follow-up calls. We've sent monetary gifts. Ok, so we haven't done that, but more than one of those four people listed about were willing to do so!

The day after we got engaged, B called the church (because they only deal with the Catholic party, which I was not invited to) and asked to reserve the church and what we should do from here. The response was pretty close to a dial-tone. I'm guessing that lots of grooms and brides-to-be have already researched this stuff by the time they get engaged, but B and I were clueless.

So finally he found out that he had to deal with his home parish, which called and booked the church. Then we started talking with the church secretary about times. Seems that 2pm was the norm. But I'm not Norm and I wanted a late afternoon/evening reception, so I was willing to go to bat on this one. B's mom did some recon work and found out that it's better to meet in person than it is to simply call and ask. Easier to say "no" to a voice than it is to four pairs of pleading eyes, in my opinion.

Ok, before you start, I know that the time doesn't matter, but to me it did. And I'm the bride. So deal. (Your honor, I'd like to enter this statement into evidence as "Bridezilla Moment #1".)

So there we sat in the Abbot's living room of the parish house. Test number one.... five people (me, B, moms, and Abbot... the dads stayed home to make sure the football teams would still play if no one watched), four chairs and one couch. We lined up on the couch, B, his mom, and I, and my mom took a chair. Abbot took the wooden, hard, uncomfortable chair that was situated just so in front of the printer so that he had to hunch slightly despite the fact that there were two other pillowed, recliner-type chairs available. Abbot: 1; Us: 0.

We small talked about the weather and B's home parish for a few minutes before he cut us off and said, "I think there's a matter you're here to discuss... the time of the wedding Mass." Eep! B's mom and I had rehearsed in the hotel before hand, so I dove into our request to have an afternoon Mass at 3pm and what could we do to make that possible. Abbot paused and said, "Well, the standard time for wedding ceremonies here is 1pm, so why don't we compromise at 1:30."

Double eep! 1pm? What would we serve at the reception, snacks? Would I start getting ready the night before? (Again, I know this isn't the important stuff, but it's my stuff, so leave it.)

Clever Abbot, he'd scored himself half a point just by the looks on our faces as we all sat back a bit. Cautiously I pressed on, asking when Mass that evening was, when confession was, when we could be out of the church, if we could hire someone from his parish to ensure the church was back to "normal" by a certain time, etc. I talked until I was blue, and he, amazingly, relented. And happily so, like he was fine with it all along, but just wanted to see us ask. Maybe it's about respect for the church, and I don't blame him for that.

Either way, we damn near skipped out of that parish house before hustling into the car. After all, I can just imagine him leaning out the screen door and saying, "So we agreed on 2 then, right?"

By the way, for you naysayers out there, I think I do get some credit in this... when we first asked for 3pm, he asked if the invitations had already been printed. Now, I have no idea what he would've said if we'd replied "yes," but the point is that I didn't. I did not lie to an Abbot, which is good, because B's mom was sitting next to me and she had specifically told me she didn't want to get hit by a lightening bolt that day. I wonder if that counts as my wedding gift to her...

Tour de Florence

B's parents came to visit Florence this weekend and browse possible rehearsal dinner sites. For years, he's been telling them how "cute" Florence is, and how much it reminds him of his lake house town (Blue Ridge, Georgia), so I know they were picturing a smaller, more Main Street-type location. That's putting it nicely. I really think they were expecting to find maybe one option that would work (all others being too small, etc), so it was great news that we found not one, not two, but three locations that will work and are available. Only fitting since we already have two churches, two bands, two... you get the picture. We have options!
It was so great having them in town. They picked me up in Birmingham on Thursday night and we grabbed dinner, then drove on to Florence. We checked them into the Marriott and showed them the view of the river from their balcony before B and I headed to mom and dad's for the night. It was wonderful being back home--I had no idea I hadn't been back since June. That feels like forever. The weather took a cold turn, so we had all the windows open and it was just, well, perfect.

Friday morning, I got a quick haircut (thank you, Andy!), then picked up his parents for a quick tour of town. They saw the hotels where guests will stay, the riverfront, the reception site, our house, and my old school, Mars Hill, then we hustled back to meet the Marriott lady for lunch and a tour.

Now, slight disclaimer, B's mom knows about my blog, so I'm sure that eventually she will read this, likely when she is full torn and has no idea which place to pick, and hope that I have stated a solid preference. Ha. Will not do it. Or will try very hard not to!

We saw the Marriott and it was fabulous. Centrally located, wonderful food, new facility. All great things. The lady treated us to lunch and stuffed us silly with crab soup, salads, lunches, and a to-die-for dessert sampler with four full-sized desserts. You could've rolled us out of there.

From the Marriott, we headed to Cyprus Lakes, a public used-to-be country club in town. They've got a great room that looks out over a golf course, plus a cute patio area to boot. The caterer was beyond sweet and walked us through everything before sending us on our way.

We headed back to the hotel and dropped his parents off so they could rest for a few minutes ('interviewing" people is exhausting!), then B and I headed home to grab a nap ourselves. Mom and dad were champs and went to pick up his parents at the hotel so we could rest a few minutes longer before dinner at the Country Club, where the reception will be.

We had such a nice dinner, just sitting around talking about details and football and nothing at all for a few hours before we started hammering out a gameplan for when we met the abbot the next day. The abbot of St. Michael's, where we'll marry is named Victor Clark, and he is a wonderfully nice man who lives in the parish house behind the church. We met him a few years ago when my sister got married in that church and, unfortunately, the title 'abbot' didn't mean much to any of us, having not been raised in the Catholic church, so we kept getting it confused and flipped around. Instead of calling him Abbot Victor, we called him Victor Abbot, and it stuck. So, over dinner, we worked on NOT calling him Victor Abbot, then called it a night.

Saturday morning B and I picked up his parents and headed for our final two locations-- The Shoals, a golf course club house with a dynamite view, and Dales, a local restaurant. As we drove, I kept thinking that we should be praying... praying for the meeting with Abbot Victor. Praying that we wouldn't encounter the bikers. Praying that B wouldn't figure out how many good football games were on.

The meetings went great and we actually caught most of the Alabama game over lunch at the golf clubhouse, then we went to meet the abbot and, surprise!, he let us move the wedding back from 1pm to 3pm. Much better! Catholic churches have Saturday Mass, so you have to work around them, or pray they work with you. I owe that man some serious cookies.

We toasted that night over dinner at my parents' house before flipping on the Auburn/LSU game and totally relaxing on Saturday night. What a weekend-- a wedding time set, 3 possible rehearsal sites, and some very fun memories with my soon-to-be in-laws. I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry. B and I have been planning for this weekend for about a month now. We're taking his parents to see Florence for the first time so that they can a) see the area and b) visit a few rehearsal dinner sites. We made schedules, appointments, and dinner plans. We're visiting the hotels and having dinner at the location of the wedding reception, but I hadn't anticipated the extra dose of culture they'll get. You see, this weekend is the Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride.
What is that, you ask? Why, I'll tell you. It's a day when 90,000+ Harley riders (that's roughly three times the population of Florence) gather to remember the Trail of Tears, riding on their hogs from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Florence, Alabama, where they gather to, um, toast the conclusion of the ride. In a park. Right across from one of the rehearsal dinner sites.

Before you brush this one off, let me remind you that Florence is a small town with limited roadways, so to help the bikers move more smoothly through town (and, thereby, out of town), Florence shuts down the entire right-hand lane of the highway, meaning that you can basically only make right hand turns going east-bound. If you need to go west, you better be sporting some leather chaps.

I know this is confusing. You must be wondering why the trail ends in Florence, if the Native Americas actually ended up in Oklahoma, well never fear-- there's a website that can give you all the information, including a warning for those who have a hotel reservation at the Airport Inn across from the Thunder Creek Harley location--"that hotel burned and will not be open at the time of the ride."

I got wind of this scheduling overlap a few days ago when my dad called to warn me, but decided that we'd already made the appointments and there was no sense in changing weekends. That said, I had to hide it (even from the blog) until today for fear that B's mom would hear about it and panic, which, to be honest, would be a reasonable reaction. Did I mention that a friend melted her engine block one particularly sweltering Trail day when she got stuck at a traffic light for four hours waiting for the bikers to pass?

Needing to vent to someone, I called K, my sister, and asked her what the most unreasonable thing was that might also be going on in Florence this weekend.

"Ohhh," she said. "Trail of Tears."

"It'll be ok, though," I said. "They're suppose to ride through between 12 and 1:30, and our appointment isn't until 2."

"Right," she said. "Because bikers are always known for their punctuality and attention to schedule."

She's been down-graded from Matron of Honor to Flower Girl.

So pray for us, dear readers, that we don't totally ensnared in the mayhem that is Trail of Tears 2008. And for those poor girls who have a wedding planned for Saturday. Eeek!


Wow, made these delicious 5-ingredient peanut butter treats last night and they are delicious! I just stumbled over a new favorite blog, Bakerella, who seems to make a ton of cupcakes, cookies, frostings, etc...and makes them all look simple!

If you love grandma's peanut butter cookies, but have misplaced your recipe, give these a try:

Combine 1 cup peanut butter with 1/2 cup sugar and one egg. Stir together and chill for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 325. Roll batter into 18 teaspoon-sized serving balls and drop on a cookie sheet (cover with tin foil for easy cleanup). Press fork in once, then rotate 90 degrees and press the tines in again. Bake for 18 minutes and let cool, then dip each end into melted semi-sweet chocolate and dredge in finely chopped peanuts.

YUM. Seriously. Super easy, super peanut buttery. And cute enough to gift, which I plan to do so I can get these little trouble makers out of my house.
The blog also has some reall fun ideas about cake lollipops (for lack of a better term). I'm dying to try them. Maybe Christmas presents? As for her discovery of slice-and-bake cupcakes? That's just scary...

"Just Dinner"

N, a good friend from Birmingham, and I had been trying to set up a dinner or lunch to hang out, catch up, and just chat, but our schedules have been crazy, so it wasn't a surprise to me that, a week ago, she asked me to have dinner this past Tuesday night at the restaurants below her loft apartment. "Come up when you get here," she said. "I got some new things for the apartment I want to show you."
Yesterday was a long day, so I was really looking forward to a nice glass of wine and a good dinner. I left work at 6:30 and almost called N to see if we could move dinner up, then thought better of it and ran a few errands before it was time to meet.

I got to the complex at about 7:20, my inner monologue running nuts...You're early, go walk around for a few minutes, then call her. She's back in school so she may be coming from the library. Who are we kidding? N's always ready early, just call now!

I shrugged off my inner dialogue (both sides) and went straight to the call box in the underground parking lot. To call N, I had to either know her apartment number (which I didn't) or the name on her lease (she sublets, so I definitely didn't know that). Sent a text, but I had zero reception, so I started hiking up the concrete ramp so I could get my cell to pick up. On the way, I looked to the right and saw J's car, another friend of ours with a big orange "P" sticker on the back of her Jeep. Hard to miss!

Peering under the safety rails, I looked and noticed J sitting in her car. Should I go knock on her window? See what she's doing here? That would scare the hell out of me. Maybe I'll just go before I'm late. So I call Nina to ask her the apartment number and tell her that I'd seen J. "Oh yeah," she replied, "I think she had Bible study tonight for her teens." She told me to keep walking up the ramp and go around to the side entrance and dial the numbers.

I typed in the numbers for a Ms. Mason and called once, but the call box hung up on me. N called my cell and said, "I'm so sorry--I think I hung up on you! Do it again." So I did, and I got in. I took the elevator to the fourth floor and wandered through the hotel-like hallways to find her room.

N was waiting outside the door (it is a little wind-ey in there) and ushered me in to her loft, which smelled amazing. I rounded the corner and there were our other three friends, K, L, and J, all holding wine glasses or Champagne flutes and smiling. There were presents on the table, a potpie in the oven, and fresh-baked brownies waiting on the counter. Surprise! Engagement party! I was shocked. They were really shocked that I was so shocked. Surely I'd known, but I promise I had no clue.

We spent the next three or four hours sharing a cheese plate, eating L's famous chicken potpie, drinking Champagne and wine, and laughing our tails off about what's been going on in the past few weeks. I love these girls, and I love them even more for helping me celebrate with such a memorable night.

After dinner, I opened up the sweetest card and then two presents--J gave me a sweet, delicate china cup and saucer set, a family tradition in her crowd for newly engaged brides-to-be, and, as if that wasn't enough, they all purchased gorgeous toasting flutes for B and I to use at the reception, and for many more happy occasions in the future. If I hadn't been so surprised, I would've cried. A lot.

We spent the next hour or so munching on brownies and ice cream, polishing off another bottle or so of red wine, and just catching up. What a perfect night. What perfect friends! I'm very lucky to have such wonderful girlfriends in my life, this I know for sure...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Talk

Those of you that know me know I tend toward the anxious side. I try (really try) not to show it, but when I have a big decision, talk, or even recipe choice, I start to stress. It starts in my running shoes, which I've worn to walk about, on average, six miles a day for the past three weeks. Then it moves to my mouth, and I start to grind my teeth, leaving me tired and a little cranky the next day. Then it settles in my tongue, which I senselessly wag every night on the phone to talk to B about what's going on.

Lately, my touch-stone of anxiety has been the job conversation I had to have with my boss. Would they let me work long-distance for a year? Would they be amenable to a flexible schedule? Would they dramatically wipe the sweat from their brow, say they'd been waiting for this moment, and then fire my sorry tail right then? The answer is somewhere in between.

Even though I shouldn't, I put big stock into dreams. This morning my boss walked in and said she had one about me and my co-worker E. In her dream, E was working really hard and trying to get all of us to leave her alone so she could finish her work. Me? I'd moved to an office all the way across the building that was huge, but too big to actually get my computer to plug into the wall, so she was watching me drag my computer by the cord to get it to connect.

Knowing this had been the day I'd planned to talk to her, I was flabbergasted. In her dream, I'd moved to an office across the building where I couldn't connect. Ok, so it's basically the stuff fortune tellers are made of, but still. What are the odds?

It ended up being a great day at work. Our photoshoot went amazingly well. She and I grabbed lunch and talked wedding stuff (hers in relation to mine) for a little bit. I'd prayed about today and asked God to give me an easy time and a clear opening, so after we'd had all these nice chats that made me calm down, I went into her office and spilled the beans. Everywhere.

I told her that B had another year left, that we'd be in Atlanta for 7-8 weeks, then in Birmingham for 4-5, then in Durham from August to May, and that I could come home once a month and I'd like to take my job and we'd know our plans more...

You get the picture.

Once I got it all out, we started at the beginning, calendars open, and walked through it. Long story short? Who knows. She was super understanding (and excited!) about the wedding, but also realistic that she can't tell me today, or even in the next few months, what will happen because, realistically, that would be ensuring job security, which no one can do these days. She said she's talk to HR and that she'd like to table it until the New Year, which was exactly what I had hoped for.

So whew. That's my big talk down. I'm not worried about finding a dress or booking the right rehearsal dinner spot, but I have been worried about my job. I love it. Simple as that. So, we'll see, and now I feel better that I've been upfront with her about it, so now I can be totally honest about our upcoming plans. When people ask what will happen, I'll just smile and say, "We're working on it." Regardless, I can put my backup plan to become an after-hours telemarketer on hold (pun intended), at least for a little while.

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

B: "I don't like being away from you."
Me: "I know! It feels like a part of me is missing."
B: "It feels like a whole city is missing."

Love him.

Monday, September 15, 2008


The people who write the SATs for high school kids have to be careful about words they use in the vocabulary sections because different words have different meanings around the country. To some, a toboggan is a hat, and to some it is a sled. To some, dilated means a portion of an eye exam, and to some it means make way for baby.
Let me be clear. I just came back from the eye doctor. My eyes have been bothering me for about a year now... feeling dirty, harder to get my contacts out, etc. I realized that the last thing I wanted to be doing while trying on dresses in a few weeks was putting more drops in my eyes, so I bit the bullet and called the doctor this morning.

As I suspected, my contacts aren't fitting right. I've had them for at least seven years, probably more, so it's perfectly fine that my eyes have changed shape at least slightly since high school. I mean, my taste in fashion, the books I like, my dress size, and my hair color have all certainly changed since then, so why shouldn't my eyes get a turn?

The doctor asked if I had "time to dilate" my eyes. Um, hello? Why do you think I booked the appointment? But now I see what she means. I got to the car, started driving, and could read everything (signs, gauges, street lights) just fine. Then my phone rang and I looked down at the little screen and had no idea who was calling. It could've been mom or B, but it could've said "We Heart White Foods" and I would've answered. Is this how far-sighted people live?

Basically, I can see anything that's at arm's length or beyond. My screen? Yes. My keyboard? Small aneurysm. My white board to-do list? Yes. My planner? Swirly black and blue squiggles. The intern at work says my eyes look funny... darker somehow. I told her to disregard any squinty, mean looks I shoot her. Simply my poor eyes trying to focus.

So I think it's only for about four hours, but this is going to be a sympathy-inducing four ours (dilate.. induce.. sure, it's my eyes). Already I'm holding copy at arm's length and moving away from my screen. It can't be long before I start adjusting imaginary reading glasses and uttering about how I'd go blind if I tried to read something in such small print. Maybe I should turn on more lights and don a few carelessly knitted sweaters, but I think I'll dream about taking a sick day instead.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home from Atlanta

Weekends seem so short!  Granted, my apartment is a wreck, piled high with opened mail, bridal magazines, and unfolded clean clothes, so there's plenty of stuff I could be doing, and yet I sit here watching the end of Castaway (ironic, since we just debated if Wilson was a volleyball or basketball this afternoon) and thinking about life.
Well, "life" might make it sound a bit grand.  I'm really just thinking about next weekend (when we go check out rehearsal dinner sites with B's parents) and how much I do. not. want. to get up and get ready for bed.  Yes, bed.  I know it's 9:20.  Don't judge.  
This weekend was great.  These days I so cherish the non-planning moments with B, so this weekend we just indulged.  We had a great double birthday dinner (his mom's and mine) on Saturday night and an awesome back-porch sit with his high school buddies until about 3 a.m. on Friday night.  Today was just football on the couch.  That and Mass.
Oh!  Mass!  We may have a priest!  It's unclear from the email, but a very nice Father, Fr. Flanagan.  He's a "parochial vicar," whatever that means, but we went to hear him this morning and he was great--nary a mention of STDs or Prenups (another story, another time).  He just recently joined the priesthood (in May, ironically enough), but before that he lived about a hundred lives.  He was in the military and traveled the world, and maybe that's why we're drawn to him.  We spoke to him after the services and he just seemed so... interested. So we emailed and asked to set up an appointment.  Here's hoping!
Hmm.. rereading the website, which says he finished his priesthood prep "this past May," so, depending on how often they update the site, could have been anywhere from 2004 up until now.  Not that it matters.  He asked us out for coffee.  I'm feeling a spark... :)
Other than that, not much else to report.  Spent an hour on the treadmill next to B's mom and his most favorite neighbor looking at bridal mags.  That has to be a highlight to remember.  
I'm talking to work this week, maybe even tomorrow, about B's job situation next year and what that might mean for my job. Prayers are always appreciated!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Off to Atlanta

Seems like every week I'm posting about heading off to here or there... oh wait, I am. B's in Atlanta today doing some interviews for next summer, so we're going to spend the weekend hanging out with his parents, seeing his high school buddies, and just relaxing. Can't wait! Next weekend starts the mayhem... Anyone interested in the minute details of my life can keep reading (um, and then volunteer to find me a dress or something):
Sept 12-14: Atlanta with B
Sept 19-21: Florence with B and B's parents for rehearsal dinner prep
Sept 26-28: Dress shopping in Atlanta. No B allowed!
Oct 3-5: L & R's wedding in Florence
Oct 10-12: Atlanta with B
Oct 17-18: B in Birmingham for engagement photos, golf, and football
Oct 24-26: Chicago to see former roommate C!
Oct 31-Nov 1: Dress shopping with/for mom in Birmingham
Nov 7-9: Pre-Cana classes in Atlanta

Whew! Then it's two weeks until Thanksgiving, then three until Christmas. Then it's 2009, and five months until the wedding. Where did I put that paper bag? Breathe, breathe.

I'm super excited, can you tell?

But, for now, I'm focusing on this weekend, which is suppose to simply be enjoying seeing everyone in Atlanta. B's mom's birthday is later this week, so I made her a new version of Carb-- Asiago Rosemary Sourdough. We'll discover together if it's any good. I hope it is--I had to drive back to the supermarket last night when I figured out that I'd forgotten to buy bread flour after work. Grr.

Last night was kind of a wash anyway. Usually I only watch maybe five of my 78 cable channels, but recently Charter decided to shuffle all my stations, so those little "favorite" hearts B so wonderfully assigned my channels are now meaningless. I've found the Law & Order station (TBS? TNT? Should be L&O.), but for everything else, I must surf.

Anyway, I stumbled across the History Channel where they were replaying a compilation of civilian video footage from 9/11 in a kind of countdown to the event. It was amazing, profoundly so in its basic nature. You were in people's apartments, on the street, in stairwells, and across the river watching the story unfold. Interesting, because, while the cameras were always on the towers, you got to experience the filmers' lives for a few minutes... the group of twenty-somethings having to figure out, on their own, whether to stay in their apartment (one block from Ground Zero) or evacuate...the parents who couldn't look away from the windows but kept sending their young child in the other room to lay down...the TV reporters desperate to get past the blockade, then thankful that they hadn't been allowed through.

They say tragedies are great equalizers. Money couldn't buy a seat in a lifeboat on the Titanic, and status, rank, and reputation held little clout on 9/11. Not in a bad, belittling way, just in a way that everyone around the towers was sharing in the same experience at the same time on the same day. It was amazing to watch. So amazing that I spaced out for two hours while watching, forgetting all about my need to pack, make bread, and clean. I think that, maybe, it was suppose to be that way.

Off to Atlanta in an hour. Can't wait.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I, A, being of (relatively) sound mind and (full-grown, adult) body, just squashed the hell out of a centipede in my sink with a wet washcloth while angrily muttering "die, die, die" over and over again.
I feel grown up and five years old all at the same time. Come on! He had ninety-eight more legs than I do!
Repeat after me. A. Hates. Bugs.

Date with a Dress

I knew I had some work to do to find "the wedding dress of my dreams," as I keep getting emails about (thank you, David's Bridal), but I had no idea it would be so hard. Say there are about 30 bridal stores in a given (albeit large) city. That's conservative for Atlanta, but probably a stretch for Birmingham, and a joke for NYC. But it's not as easy as getting all 30, reading reviews, checking designers, and picking a few. They have specialties. Some do beading. Some specialize in lace. And their tiered. It's like a caste system of silk, tulle, and polyester. My dress selection is predetermined by the price range I'd like to examine. I guess I should've expected, and even appreciated, that, but it's a little overwhelming!
I'm looking at gowns (cluelessly, I might add) and having to pick what I think I want before I even go. And then I might end up at the totally wrong place? Oy.

So I've booked one appointment, so far, and am waiting for confirmation on two others. I'm limiting myself to one appointment a day, even though the consultations only last about 90 minutes. I figure the worst thing you can do is go in grumpy, tired, hungry, or stressed, so I'm taking the easy road.

The truth is, I'm really excited about getting a dress. Beside picking out wedding bands (finger, not percussion), it's probably at the top of my list. Don't ask me why--I'm not not a big shopper, but I'm excited. Losing sleep excited. Not that this should surprise anyone. After all, I've already lost sleep over being engaged, looking at honeymoon spots, and planning the reception. Not in a stressful way, but in a "I'mSoExcitedICan'tStandIt." I even had to make B stop talking about stuff a few nights ago because I knew I'd be up for hours if we got going.

It makes me wonder how other girls picked out their dresses. I know there must've been some system. I keep hearing that "you'll know," which is what everyone tells you about any kind of bid decision (homes, husbands, colleges, drastic hair cuts...), and I wonder if you really do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Last night I dreamed that I cut work to spend the morning hanging out with my grandma at her house. I think it was something important and legitimate, but certainly nothing that couldn't wait until our regular Wednesday night church supper date. So dream-me rolls into work around noon and my boss is livid, telling me I can't just come and go as I please, wandering in and out of work. I don't remember why I didn't tell her my legitimate reason for being gone, or at least tell her I was with my grandma, and not out at Starz lighting up the local karaoke scene. But I think I had my first anxiety dream, ladies and gentlemen. Let me explain.

The reason I don't post this blog on facebook or tell anyone at work about is that I'm in somewhat of a predicament. I love my job. I really do. I worked beyond hard to get it and I want to keep it. However, I love B and have no desire to spend my first year of marriage burning up the phone lines between Durham and Birmingham. So where does that leave me? Somewhere between a rock and the unemployment line.

Basically, from the day I got engaged until now, people at work have assumed that B is done with school in May. I don't know if they think law school is a two-year tour or if they've lost track that he started last year (what? your life doesn't revolve around the important details of mine?), but they have assumed he'll be done in May and I have let them assume, not because I want to, but because I felt it was better to wait until we knew B's schedule for next summer. Plus, I'd just gotten engaged! I didn't want to be all killjoy with "I'm engaged! ...And we need to talk long-distance work possibilities." Afterall, if he'd somehow decided not to split the summer between Birmingham and Atlanta, then I'd be negotiating for eight more weeks that I didn't need to.

Last night, he got the offer to come to Atlanta for the summer, so the ship is officially sailing. He (we) will be in Atlanta for eight weeks, then back in Birmingham for four, then in Durham from August until May.

So here's my pipe dream... My job is digital, all online, and in a small department. I'd like to keep it and take it with me, working from home in Durham while we're gone. That way, I'd be happy and someone would be pulling in a paycheck while B finishes school. :) I could come back once a month to Birmingham to attend planning meetings with the New York part of our company.

Sound perfect? I think so. Now I just have to convince my boss (Remember the dream? Alllll coming together now.) and see if we can work out the details. I'm worried that she'll say we're too small to lose someone, that she doesn't seem it working out long-distance, that I'm not worth keeping, that she's always hated my work shoes and now she can finally finally do something about it... come on, if you can't post all irrational fears in the open for someone to read on a blog, where can you?

It's tricky, because, while the could possibly "pause" my job for a year, I wouldn't be able to freelance during that time (company policy to wait six months to one year before full-timers can freelance), so if I get a big fat no and a boot to the door, I'll probably be at square one in Durham. Not the worst thing in the world, just not the most ideal. It's even more complicated because I know the HR lady knows my situation. How? She's married to a partner in one of the firms B worked at. Who threw us an impromptu engagement dinner. I know she knows he has another year to go.

So I worry and stew, but B and I are getting a gameplan this weekend, now that we know about his summer offers, and it looks like I'll be having a big talk at the office next week. Prayers, thoughts, and advice are totally appreciated!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Birthday Remix

So far, I've had four birthdays. One fabulous dinner with B in Durham over Labor Day weekend, one fabulous dinner thrown by B for my college girlfriends (minus one!) in Durham, one fabulous dinner out with my Birmingham girls last night, and one more fabulous dinner to come tomorrow when I go to Grandma dinner at the church. And yes, they sing. You haven't lived until you've had 150 blue-hairs singing to you the sweet birthday song. Makes my heart happy.
Last night, on my actual birthday, my Birmingham girlfriends took me out for a surprise dinner. Granted, I knew we were going to dinner, just not where, which might've been the best gift of all.

The past few weeks have gotten super busy. Beside trying to line up appointments for hair cuts, dress shopping, and SOS (Save Our Sanity) video chats with B, I've also been working to help throw a co-worker's baby shower (super fun) and a high school girlfriend's lingerie shower/bachelorette weekend. I've been in planning overdrive, so, seriously, half their gift was not making me pick the restaurant!

J picked me up at 6:30 ("Wear a dress!" was all I'd gotten up to that point) and we drove to... Gian Marco's! Gian Marco's is a super-cute Italian bistro that's "casual white tablecloth" at its best. It's loud and boisterous, but only so because all the diners are regulars and they're genuinely happy to see each other, and their favorite waiter, again.

So I spent a few hours seated at the perfect round table with four of my best friends in the world hearing about their lives, opening presents, and eating quite possibly the best spaghetti and meatballs in the world. Simple order, you say? This sauce, the Sunday Sauce, has a its own name. You can't tell me that doesn't guarantee it to be good, and it was. Oh it was.

It was the perfect night--toasts, stories, and fun presents that I'd really wanted... fun earrings, purses, and a photo of our five-some, ironically enough, at another birthday event a few months ago. Plus a season of Sex & The City, wine glasses, more earrings, and fun cocktail napkins.

As I looked around the table at these girls, I just felt really blessed. When I moved to Birmingham, I never really saw it as becoming "home," but rather more of a stop-over en route to wherever else I was suppose to be. Then I made friends, got a job, got a roommate, and found myself happily settled into this stage of life. I love these girls, especially, because they are new friends and I'm still learning about them. It's a totally different experience than when I'm with my high school girls (LOVE THEM!) who have known me for at least 20 years each, or my college girls, who went through those crazy four years with me.

Birthdays can be letdowns... you feel like you've got a big day coming to you, but then it's over and you're still you, and somehow that suddenly seems lacking. But this year was different--I went home, got into my bed, and felt totally happy, loved, and blessed. Good birthday, great friends, fantastic year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today, (September 8th, even though my blogger clock says 9/7 10:46 and it's really 9/8 at 12:53am) I turn 25 and I'm excited.  Not because of gifts I'm getting or parties I'm having, but because it's a fun day to look back.  I think birthdays are so neat.  You're given a certain day to celebrate your life, and have your life celebrated, and so it only seems natural that you would reflect on your year, or if you're ambitious, your years.
It's kind of birthday tradition that when B calls me to say happy birthday and ask how I'm feeling, I moan and complain, saying I feel old and rickety and, goodness, is this how he wakes up feeling every day?  It never gets old, at least not to me.
I've had some great birthdays, like when I turned 16 and my parents threw me a big party for the high school to attend (we were a super small school).  They set up a band in the front yard and we went to town.  Loved it.  Ironically enough, that same band might play the wedding.  We'll just see!
There have been good birthdays and bad birthdays.  Sixteen was double-sided, as I also failed my driver's test that day (I bumped a curb on a turn.  Come on!  It's not like I mowed a boy scout down in a cross walk).  I remember turning 12 and asking my mom for CDs and getting... all CDs.  Still not sure what I expected to happen there!  
I remember as the years fell away and you stopped asking for toys and movies and started asking for clothes and purses.  Birthdays seemed less fun, more functional, but still celebrations all the same.
My favorites growing up were the skate center parties where all the girls loaded in the back of the van and headed home for sleepovers where all we did was eat ice cream, play dress up, and make weird home videos.  Pool parties were awesome, especially the ones where mom set up the brownie sundae bar and made, I kid you not, six double batches of brownies.  Chocolate+Coke+Pool=Hopped up middle schoolers.
Birthdays in college were always great.  My birthday falls the first week of school, during move-in, so my parents would take my roommates and B out for dinner at Macaroni Grill or someplace else that would make you stand on a chair while they sang to you.  For my 21st, they left me a bottle of champagne, which B used to make mimosas for my roommate C and me.
I've spent birthdays at the beach and in class, having pool parties, slumber parties, dinners out, and time with my parents.  I don't remember having a bad birthday, though I do remember the distinct feeling, at 17, I believe, that birthdays meant more than presents and parties, but they literally meant growing up.
So I'm 25 today, and I'm happy.  My life has included some real break-neck speed bumps and some wonderful images for the highlight reel, but I can truly say I'm happy because I have everything I could want or need: friends that love me, a man who will promise to love me forever, family that only wants the best for me, a job that leaves me fulfilled and excited for the coming day, and a sense of peace that, even though I don't know where this year will take me, I'm excited to get there.  I'm so thankful for each and every piece of that list, as well as the year to come.
Highlights from the past year: My new niece S, seeing B on one knee, going out "on my own," pulling off Thanksgiving at home, making it through the first year at my first job, living with a great roommate, seeing B move so happily from his life playing professional baseball to the life of a law student, getting one last holiday with my sweet grandma, meeting a best friend's (H's) new baby, and buying myself a really pretty dress that I really wanted (seriously).
Highlights to come during this year: Marrying B, gathering all loved friends and family for the wedding, extra time with my parents and B's parents during planning, the birth of a new niece or nephew in December, sharing holidays with B for the first time, spending one last year "on my own" soaking up as much friend time and experience as I can, honeymoon!, and seeing B every day for the first time in years.
It's going to be a great year.  I can't wait to get started.  But first, I'll go to sleep...