Friday, February 27, 2009

Advice for the Bride - & a little giveaway....

If you were to ask what my "career" was, before I made the switch to full time mommy, I would say I worked in Law - mostly Real Estate and Litigation. Right before Lydia was born I was focused on Corporate Relocation. (Paige - I was so close to posting that photo of our "team" all dressed in our black suits. You would have loved that.)

Of course, I didn't always work in my "field". There are those in between jobs, summer jobs, college jobs that make up so much of a career path. These jobs seemed to follow a path of their own. That path was weddings. Whether this was a subconscious choice, or just happenstance, I don't know, but I have worked on a lot of weddings.

My high school job- Florist. Worked at a flower shop making boutonnieres, wedding arrangments, garlands, bridesmaids and brides bouquets.

My summer job after freshman year of college - Photographer's Assistant at a Photography studio. Focused mainly on...weddings, bridals and engagement shoots. Attended weddings to situate people and to help the photographer.

My last college job - Bridal Consultant. Shane proposed a week into my senior year of college. The next week I went out to start scouting a wedding dress. It look months to find the dress, but the very first day I came home with a job as assistant manager at a wedding shop. I sold wedding dresses and accessories, bridesmaids dresses, invitations ... and basically helped and advised on any detail that the bride (or her mother) was concerned about. (That is my ring pictured below. It still makes me giggle I love it so much. Insure your engagement ring. Just do it. I can't tell you how many of my friends have lost their rings.)

So anyway. I have seen a lot of weddings. I've learned a few things about how to make a wedding successful. My little sister Molly is getting married in two weeks so I have been thinking a lot about the subject. (She and her fiancée Wayne are the beautiful couple above.) I have given her a little advice, but I thought I would throw some out to the masses. Here are a few of the things I have learned in my "secondary career":

  • Assess your budget and then get the best photographer you can afford. Whatever you do, do not scrimp on this wedding detail. A wedding lasts one day. Soon after that, the invitations are thrown away, the cake is gone, bridesmaid dresses are shoved in the back of closets and your wedding favors find themselves in your relatives and friends junk drawer. The only thing that lasts - besides the marriage hopefully- are the photos. If you just want few nice formal shots - go ahead and book a photographer from a large studio. Beware though. You may just have someone who tries to get your entire wedding party to do a big thumbs up. Most brides want a more modern approach with hundreds of candids along with stunning shots of the wedding party. Find someone who will be there for the duration. Someone who will not stop shooting for the entire event, yet won't be annoying at the same time. Study other weddings that they have done and see if they capture the couples emotion and the joy that was felt at the event. Don't let yourself fall for the mindset that now that everyone has a digital camera, you are sure to get some great shots. You may get a few- but the majority of brides who I have talked to that chose this budget plan were sorely disappointed. Remember. These are what your grandchildren will see. Find the money. You will not regret it. (A little secret. Most of the photographers who take photos in this manner are cheaper than the big studios....)

  • Find a dress that flatters your build. I know this sounds obvious, but I can't tell you how many brides I witnessed purchasing dresses that just didn't look good. They fell in love with the dress in a magazine and made up their mind. Try on dozens and dozens of dresses. You may love the first one that you put on, but file it away in your mind. Don't shopped rushed. Don't shop alone. Bring a friend who will be honest. Sometimes your mother is not the person to accompany you until you have already chosen the dress. I saw more brides brought to tears by "well meaning" mothers...... not my mother of course. :) The bride in the photo is my sister Emily. I LOVED her dress. When the dress shop told her that she would not be able to lift her arms in the dress, she told them to slit them up the side -as you can see-. They now call this design "The Emily sleeve".

  • Ask friends and relatives one question. "If you could change one thing about your wedding, what would it be?". Here is a strange truth about weddings. Every bride regrets at least one thing. Whether it was getting your hair colored at a beauty school right before the ceremony (I won't mention names) or forgetting to procure the wedding license - it is amazing how many tips you can glean this way. Also, it is fun to get to know those little details about people. For me - I wish I had done a dry run of my makeup before. My sister use to work for Christian Dior and is a fabulous makeup artist. She did a really pretty array of green on my eyes. Later, for my bridals, she did a smoky purple look and I admit - I was stunning :) I wished I had known to ask for the purple for the wedding day.

  • Be prepared for things to go wrong. - My wedding day was the best day of my life. It was just what Shane and I wanted. Some cute photos here. However, things didn't go perfectly. My photographer had a family emergency and couldn't make it. I had to settle for someone who was available at the last minute - who I had never met. She was fine, but I didn't have time to go over what I really wanted. The cake designer had a serious injury 3 days before the wedding - so no wedding cake. We had individual Creme Brulées served to the wedding guests instead. I could not find my wedding jewelry and had to grab earrings that I wore to my senior prom. - All of these things could have really freaked me out. They didn't though. Maybe it was seeing all those other weddings - I knew I only had this one day. You don't want to ruin it by crying over rain or wilting flowers. Stress before. Enjoy during. (I can't wait to see my little sister as a bride. You know I will have photos of that.)
    • So I have just one question for you...."If you could change one thing about your wedding, what would it be?".

      I will send a pair of sparkly Swarovski Crystal earrings from my Paisley Lane wedding collection to the person who's comment I like the best! - If you aren't married, you can tell me about someone elses wedding mishap. I will announce the winner on March 18th - after I get home from my sister's wedding.

      Wednesday, February 25, 2009

      Springtime Lovelies

      Oh Boden. Why do you do this to me? Just as I'm entering into the "Maternity Wear Only" third trimester, you come out with your adorable spring line.

      I may not be able to fit into this outfit for the next few months, but I think I will still walk around with some white hydrangeas in my arms.

      Maybe I could fit in this by summer. Just what I need with a newborn and toddler in tow. A white dress. Of course, I will still go to the pool sometimes right?

      Not getting this sunny yellow look is just about enough to make me cry. But wait. Something so sunny would cheer me right out of the baby blues... It really would be a solid investment when you look at it that way. :)

      Tuesday, February 24, 2009

      Happy Birthday Shane!

      Shane's birthday was last week and his only request was that I make him a Pineapple Upside-down cake. Preferably like his mom used to make. I have never made this cake (not my favorite sweet) but I am always up for a little retro cooking. I couldn't get a hold of my mother-in-law, so I had to search for a recipe that looked like something she would use. I made this recipe and Shane said it was almost exact. And the best part...almost the entire cake is made from pantry items. (If you read Friday's post, you will understand why that excites me.)

      This weekend Shane and I drove down to Atlanta for a birthday dinner at Fogo de Chão. It is one of those Brazilian Churrascarias where they cut you copious amounts of red meat right at your table. We used to go to one of these in Utah when we were newlyweds. It was fun and nostalgic, (and the lamb chops were divine) but we both agreed that for the money, we would rather hit up a 5 star restaurant than eat our weight in meat.
      Lydia was very excited to sing the "Happy Birthday" song and we practiced for days (many different variations) Lydia also thinks that her shoes make a fantastic practice cake. Check out the video if you want to see some of our rehearsal.

      The emmie cakes giveaway winner is: Taraka Pyper. Congrats! Email me your address and I will get you your prize. Check back next week for another great giveaway!

      Sunday, February 22, 2009

      The Oscars!

      I am taking a break from the "after-party" I am attending to let you know that the Academy Awards were amazing! I hope I looked alright on camera. I have my cell phone with me, so text me what you thought of my dress. Didn't Anne Hathaway look perfect? She says to say hello.

      Just kidding. I did put my hair into the cute updo I am sporting in the above photo while I was giving Lydia a bath tonight. Thought I would "attend" the Oscars with some glam, even if I was also wearing my pjs. Tomorrow you know I will be practicing my acceptance speech in the shower.

      Friday, February 20, 2009

      Recipe A.D.D. - Looking for a cure.

      This week I attended a "couponing" class held for our church enrichment activity. I have to say that I was pretty amazed at how cheaply you can stock pile food. It seems like a lot of work, but I can definitely see how it is a great investment of time. Unfortunately, couponing really would not help me personally. It is the same reason why it is a little difficult for me to be super enthusiastic about food storage.

      Now, don't get me wrong, I think having a ample food storage is critical, especially when you have a family. I have a pretty good food storage myself. It is a work in progress, but it is coming along nicely. The problem I have is we almost never actually eat from our food storage. It just sits there until it expires and I toss it. Here are the hiccups in my situation:

      • We hardly ever eat canned food.
      As a general rule, I cook fresh. I love fresh fruits and veggies, fresh meats, fish and breads. (All those things that you can't get coupons for.) After a year or so of marriage I had this crazy realization that I really love to cook. If I had my fantasy life, I would live walking distance from an amazing food market (think Paris). Every day I would walk down to see what incredible local fare was available. Then I would skip down to the local bakery and purchase a baguette straight from the oven. (My attempts at making bread have been sad indeed.) My personal style of cooking isn't "add a can of....". It is more about "dicing the leeks". Let me be honest- I'm not a fantastic cook. I just like to do it. I love exposing Lydia to different foods. Something about her gobbling up Mercer lemons on fresh pasta makes my heart skip a beat. I don't cook great meals all the time. I rely on Stoffers Lasagna and grilled cheese sandwiches just like everyone else. I just try not to rely on them too much.
      Now I could pop open a can of green beans and warm them up. Nothing wrong with that. Of course, it would be wasteful with my little family. An open can of green beans is basically a can of green beans in the garbage. We just don't like the taste of most canned food. Now give me a plate of fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil and we're talking. The gist? We are spoiled rotten in the dinner department.

      • What do I use in my food storage? Canned tomatoes, different sorts of beans, pasta, oats, cereal, honey and sometimes canned fruit, but only if there is no other fruit in the house. Sometimes Lydia gets mac & cheese or chicken noodle soup, but usually we have dinner leftovers for lunch. The rest of my supply - just sits. Sad little mashed potato pellets. I just can't bring myself to make you when I have the real thing.

      • I have "Recipe A.D.D".
      You know how people have a "meatloaf night"? I am the total opposite of that mind frame. I get bored so easily with what I make. Usually I remake a recipe every 4- 6 months. There are a few things I make a lot. Like Tuna Patties. I make them about once a month since Lydia loves them. Spaghetti - about every other month. Chocolate chip cookies....well, never mind about those :)
      The night before I grocery shop I grab a stack of cookbooks and start a list of things I want to make (based on the food that is already in the fridge and any great grocery deals advertised in the paper). This usually takes about an hour. Sometimes the meals are crazy easy like - Store bought rotisserie chicken with fresh veggies and bread. Sometimes they are a little more complex.
      The pros with this current cooking technique-
      1. I find it very soothing. Chopping, grating and sauteing are great decompression techniques. Something about picking fresh basil out of my herb Zen.
      2. I am learning a new skill. - I have never been the person who had "a thing". You know, some people are known for their sewing, some for their singing, some for their PowerPoint presentations...whatever. I don't really have "a thing". 15 years down the road I would love for people to say.."Oh Natalie. Yeah, she is a really great cook". - Of course I am still deciding on what "my thing" should be. I would also like to be great at a dozen other things. Developing my cooking just fits nicely in my full-time mom career at the moment.
      3. It is a very healthy way to eat. - Even when I get little else done besides coloring with Lydia on the floor, I feel successful when I am feeding my family and myself a healthy dinner.
      The cons with this current cooking technique-

      1. It is expensive. All food is expensive now, but constantly buying new spices and ingredients can really put a dent in the wallet. We can't even buy store brands for the most part because it is only the expensive brands that seem to be peanut allergy friendly. Store brands- don't bother. (Not even store brand fruit snacks. Nope. Only the crazy pricey ones.)
      2. It is time consuming. This part I don't mind so much. I save 30 minutes of Lydia's TV time for cooking dinner. When that is over, usually she comes and helps me. However, I am about to have baby number two. Things are going to change.
      3. Food storage is really hard to plan. - Our church recommends at least a three month supply of food and basic necessities. (A year is the ideal). How do you plan that when you hardly ever make the same meal twice? More so, how do you do that when you don't cook from a pantry?
      You can see the dilemma. My plan is to slowly start widdling down my recipe list so that I make the same meals on a month rotation. 30 different recipes repeated. I was thinking of trying a "food storage" meal a week until we can find some meals that we actually like. I bought several food storage cookbooks to test.

      I really want to move towards cooking more efficiently without sacrificing taste or nutrition. I will post some updates as I get good ideas. I would LOVE suggestions, recipes and thoughts on how I can make this a win-win situation. By the way, I do have about a years worth of chocolate chips stock piled, so that is something.

      Now I'm off to figure out what to make for dinner.....wish me luck!


      Becky said...
      Baby steps. Try a recipe that would contain maybe one food storage item, the whole dish doesn't have to be from storage. Dried beans are ideal, I know, "the bean", musical fruit, all that jazz, well some really yummy dishes can utilize beans and fresh ingredients. Give it a whirl. I have a similar predicament, except mine is the overwhelming amount of food we would have to store for a family with 7 children. How do you store a year supply of breakfast items when we go though at least 3 boxes of cereal a week! Nothing important ever comes easily. Good luck!
      Laurel @ Ducks in a Row said...
      Good luck. We, also, hardly eat anything canned. We use beans, tomatoes, pineapple, and my kids love mandarin oranges.
      Cynthia said...
      I just started a blog that offerers step by step recipes with pictures. My Husband and I are big on food storage so I am a part pantry cook part fresh food cook. Kinda like Sandra Lee on (yeah right not even close wish I could change the decor in my Kitchen every week!) I hope my recipes can at least give you a few extra things to make=)
      Natalie Jane said...
      Thanks! I can't wait to check that out.
      Gilbert Family said...
      I have a friend who LOVES her food storage plan. She uses the "brown bag" method and cooks a meal once a week from her food storage. She pre-bags each meal and then once a week, she heads to her food storage and just grabs a bag (the bag has everything from the spices to the toppings, already measured and the recipe is stapled on the bag) and she takes it upstairs and cooks it. Obviously some of the meals require meat which she gets from her extra freezer but everything else is in the bag. She loves this method because she actually uses the food and it gets rotated in a very organized manner. I don't think this will help you in your "fresh food" dilema but it's still a cool way to use your food storage. It definetly won't be the most delicious meal of the week but it helps to eliminate certain "food storage" meals that your family won't eat. Just thought I would pass it along because I thought it was a great idea.
      Nama said...
      My husband & I actually eat from canned food all the time. Since it's cheaper than buying fresh produce all the time that may go bad before it gets used, it really works well for us. And I, like you, totally have recipe ADD. I'm constantly looking for new recipes, and while we have a few yummy staples we cook often, I'm always changing it up. one thing I do, though, is look for recipes that involved a lot of canned items. I find that making yummy casserole dishes or hearty soups in the slow cooker or delicious sauted/fried/simmered meals on the stove top (Indian food is my fave) with canned food really cooks out any of that metallicy "flavor". Or maybe I'm just not as sensitive to it, who knows! But that's what I find works for us. I guess my struggle is trying to use fresh veggies when I cook. The problem is that I often plan for a few weeks ahead of time, so I'll buy the fresh greens or peppers or whatever to use, but I usually have little idea when I'm actually going to cook it, so there's a chance it might go bad before I make it. Sorry - This is long. But I wish you luck! I also found that I absolutely loved cooking once I got married. :)
      Misty said...
      Great post! I totally agree! I have been thinking about this "food storage' thing alot lately and how to get myself there with stuff that is actually beneficial to MY family. If I get any great ideas, I will drop you an email...and I will keep checking in to see if you have solved this great mystery!
      Monique said...
      Hi Natalie! I follow your blog and I just recently found this site A Year of CrockPotting. It's not really food storage, but this lady used her crock pot everyday for a year. She has some pretty interesting dishes and I thought this could help you out a lot with time since the new baby is coming soon. I hope this helps you. God Bless, Monique
      kristi lee said...
      No suggestions for me because this is NOT my area of expertise! I think you're already a fabulous chef, baker, pastry name can do it. Me! Ha! Not so much!
      ilikehearts said...
      I have to teach a similar class at our Enrichment - but not until June - maybe I should get in touch with the person who taught yours. In answer to your predicament though - if your income was to change drastically, you'd eat canned veggies and fruit. So stocking up on those when they're on sale is not a bad thing to do and can be very affordable. I don't know how in depth your class got about couponing (I get only 30 minutes to share everything I know - NOT) You can use couponing to make those expensive items that you don't have coupons for free or close to it. Case in point: a store I shop at frequently is running a ConAgra catalina promotion right now. ConAgra makes things like Hunts canned tomatoes, Healthy Choice soup, Act II popcorn etc. A catalina (those coupons that print at the end of your order) promotion is where you spend $X and get a coupon for $Y on your next order. The numbers for this promotion are spend $25 get $10 back. The promotion works off of the regular price of the products but the products are on sale. The Act II popcorn is normally $3.28 but on sale for $1. So buying 8 of them gets you over the $25 requirement (but you've only spent $8) and then you get $10 back - you can then use that $10 coupon to go buy another 8 boxes and $2 worth of ANYTHING else, like fresh lemons, zucchini, spices, etc. And on and on. It does take time, I won't deny that and what did I do with the over 100 boxes of popcorn I bought? Kept what I think we will use before the expiration date (5 kids at home), shared them with friends and then donated them to the food pantry. We also found a deal (the coupon stars were aligned magically for this one) where for the mere cost of $.03 for 3 boxes of Jello, you were able to get a $2 coupon. We took FULL advantage of that and purchased over 1000 boxes of Jell-O (yes most of it went to food pantries) but we had over $500 in coupons (for about $12.00 out of our pockets) to spend on whatever we wanted - the store even has a gas station and we filled our cars 3 times. Deals like this last one come around very infrequently but types like the popcorn one happen every few months - so take advantage of them if you can. Sorry this is so long . . . .
      Are You Serious! said...
      ♥ Luckily the cans last so long or we'd have a lot of waste too. I do better with frozen veggies and stuff during winter than the canned ones... I wished I "LOVED" to cook. I seriously hate it and only do it cause I have too. That's not to say that I want to cook nasty food though so it does have to be a good recipe or I won't even go there. If I didn't have to feel my kids and husband I'd have cereal every night! :)
      April said...
      I am a couponer. Last week I bought 4 bottles of olive oil for $9 with coupons. I got 6 bottles of Olay ribbons bath wash for $6 dollars- with coupons. I bought 6 packages of pampers diapers for $3.00 a package with coupons I agree with the whole canned food thing- I don't personally like green beans from a can- but I just learn to incoroporate them slowly into recipes and not every day- because I feel in the end it is more important to have a 3 month supply- canned green beans is better than no green you should ask Emily for her green bean recipe- with swiss, ranch and cream cheese- oh so good. plus last stake conference- the seventy who spoke said we should never store something we don't normally eat- so there you go. I have a produce budget separate from my food budget. I am super healthy and I eat fresh vegetables all the time- so I usually spend $60 bucks a month on Costco produce- Last night I went to the cannery and it was amazing- I really got the spirit of food storage last night- and the church is really really serious about it- so I figure I should too. It is a struggle though- I totally know what you mean. Do you make your speghetti sauce homemade too?
      bumblebeebags said...
      You would probably have a heart attack if you saw my pantry. Its stocked to the gills! I could probably go 6-9 months without major grocery shopping if I had to. I love it!!! We stock up on deals...when boneless skinless chicken breast is on sale we will buy 50 pounds of it. Crazy huh!But now when I go shopping I spend an average about 150-200 a month on a family of 5!
      stevelucky said...
      So, on the couponing tip, have you checked out We've seriously cut our grocery bill in half. I'm a fan.
      Kristin said...
      Instead of stocking the pantry with canned goods, can you make meals with fresh ingredients and then freeze them? You could stock your freezer (perfect if you have a deep freeze). Instead of buying canned fruit, buy extra fresh fruit when it's in season/on sale and then freeze it. When you make a meal, make double and freeze half for a future meal. Good luck!
      Brady and Berta said...
      Our family eats mostly fresh as well. The thing that I have found that works for me, is only getting the food storage I use. I buy organic wheat in bulk, honey, evaporated cane sugar, and beans. Other than that, I keep a 3 month supply of any boxed or canned items, so that if I need them I have them. I am following the counsel of the prophets, but making it work for my family.
      beth said...
      Great Post! I love everyone's idea's including yours. I cook with everything so I guess I don't have those problems but I love the idea of cooking a big meal and freezing half of it. We do that a lot with Spaghetti Sauce. I just think we would be in a lot of trouble if the electricity went out for a long period of time. Do you do any canning of your own? I know it is a lost art and one that I haven't attempted much, but just a thought.
      Natalie said...
      Wow! I just discovered your blog and I feel like I'm in heaven (with a long lost twin!)! Your sidebar with all the things you're "currently" doing is like a snapshot of my life! We also make the marshmallow pops (for nearly every holiay), LOVE 30 Rock and my KitchenAid mixer, and the list just goes on and on! Thanks for taking such time with your blog- I'll be back!
      Amy Fox said...
      Sounds like the counsel we get to have a garden is more suited to your family's eating style...My family won't eat canned veggies or fruits either. We need to get a generator to keep our freezer going without power. I use a lot of frozen foods. By the way, your blog is so fun and creative!
      Elaine said...
      Count me in as a fellow sufferer of Recipe ADD. I also can't seem to eat leftovers -- I think that just makes me a snob. Anyway, one thing I've found that helps is to make two batches and freeze one. This year, we're getting a share of community supported agriculture (CSA) so we can have our own basket of produce delivered each week. It'll bring a new challenge to my weekly recipe hunt as I have to figure out how to use the things in that week's basket!
      Momtothree said...
      so how's the couponing going? Have you tried out

      Wednesday, February 18, 2009

      Emmie Cakes Giveaway

      You may or may not have noticed the sad plastic princess banner showcased in my post about Lydia's birthday. Sad because only after the party did I notice the banner spelled party "aprty". Guess that's what you get when you buy "Made in China". What I will be doing for next years party is ordering an emmie cakes banner. Have you seen this little store? The coolest handmade banners ever. I am all about celebrating every holiday, and emmie cakes has a banner for almost every one. I am seriously jonesn' the Easter one...but the baby boy banner is calling my name too.
      Want to win one?
      emmie cakes is offering one reader a banner of their choice. All you have to do is click the emmie cakes icon and let me know in a comment which banner you want.

      For a second entry, let me know in a separate comment that you are a Natalie's Sentiments subscriber/follower.
      I will announce the winner Tuesday, Feb 24th. Good luck!

      Only US residents eligible.

      Monday, February 16, 2009

      Our "Day of Love"

      We decided to have a low key Valentine's day this year since we have a big date planned for Shane's birthday next week. Still we had a wonderful day......

      The only thing better than seeing your husband walk through the door with flowers and a white Godiva bag, is seeing him walk through the door with flowers and this little blue bag. Of course, in this economy I would have killed him if he brought home one of those. Unless the bag had this inside of it. That I would have let slide :) Yum...I am savoring some Godiva even as I type.

      Shane and Lydia made their Saturday shaped pancakes - this time Shane added pink food coloring and made hearts.

      I contributed by making chocolate fondue.

      Soon after breakfast the doorbell rang. The Valentine Lady has struck again!

      "Daddy, the Valentine lady is sneaky!"

      We had a babysitter for 3 hours, so we decided to head up to this incredible park overlooking downtown Chattanooga.

      We then took a long walk through this beautiful neighborhood of historical homes. Our house looks a lot like the one in the top left. I am seriously considering painting our door red too.

      This may sound a little odd, but I decided that we had to go to our favorite cheap Chinese restaurant for v-day. I never get Chinese food because of Lydia's peanut allergy. And as a bonus, this place was totally dead. (Go figure) No two hour wait for us. We really like that this restaurant is called "Mister Wok 2", like it is a sequel.

      My fortune said "You will soon be singled out for a promotion". When you are a full time mom, what does that mean? Maybe that I am having another baby? Can it be a promotion when it is still no pay but more hours?

      That night, after Lydia was asleep, I fired up my kitchen blowtorch and made Creme Brulée. While Shane was waiting for me to finish the preparations I asked him "Why is Creme Brulée particularly romantic for us?" He stared at me like a deer in the headlights. (I rarely ever ask him these kind of loaded questions, so I could tell he was a bit terrified of the implications of not remembering.) Slowly his terror turned into smugness. "Well, obviously it is because this is the dessert they served at our wedding dinner". Bonus points to you Shane. I used this recipe and it was divine. Sometimes the simplest dates are the most romantic, don't you agree? -
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