October 29, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - Photography

This week I'll be talking about our amazing photographers, Josh and Sara Thurber of Mirabel Photography

Photography was one of my biggest priorities when it came time to plan our wedding. Our wonderful planner recommended the husband and wife team of Josh and Sara Thurber to us based on the style of photography we wanted. I wanted our photographer to capture all of the important, posed moments, as well as the candid shots that would bring us back to that night year after year when we flip through our album. I wanted photos of the entire day, from getting dressed to walking down the aisle to dancing and partying to our grand exit. I wanted two photographers to capture moments from different angles. I wanted to own the rights to all of my photos and I wanted a CD of photos that I could make prints from in the future (I put together our wedding album myself...but that's a post for another day!) I also needed all of these requests to fall within our modest budget. Mirabel Photography hit every bullet point and then some! Not only were Josh and Sara a dream to work with (so sweet...so kind...love them!) but they blew us away with their talent and artistry. I will do a separate post next week about our engagement shoot, but today I want to focus on our wedding photos that I am in love with!

Most of my favorite shots from our wedding day are the un-posed, raw, us-being-us photos that were caught on film. The photos that happen when we didn't even know a photographer was there.

I couldn't possibly post every one of my favorites, but I will try to narrow down a dozen or so candid moments that I love looking back on:

A private moment after the ceremony  
A private moment after the ceremony

Possibly the best picture of our family in many, many years

A little ladybug found itself nesting in my dress...a good luck sign!

This happens a lot...

This is what happens when you tell us to look lovingly into each other's eyes

One of my favorites of the two of us

I missed a lot of moments like this in the flurry of the reception...I love being able to see them now

A much needed quiet moment 
We laughed a lot...

And cried a lot...

And danced a lot...

I mean A LOT. 

No really. The dancing never stopped. My poor mother in law just wanted a nice, normal family portrait. 

This laughter is the result of a naughty thing the pastor's wife said as she walked by. 

I don't think I even noticed the sparklers in this moment... 

Next week I'll share our engagement photos taken by Josh and Sara!

October 22, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - Our Florist

Up next on Wedding Wednesday is our fabulous floral designer, Chloe!

Chloe Lawry with Supposey Florals did the most amazing job. She was so creative and turned my inspiration pictures into our own personal reality. Just different enough to make them our own while still completely encompassing the inspiration we showed her. Chloe was patient with us through the many emails sent, phone calls made and meetings attended. I requested contract changes at least a dozen times during the planning process, and she obliged all of them.

Chloe created my beautiful bridal bouquet, six smaller bridesmaids bouquets, boutonnieres for the men, corsages for my mother and MIL, as well as all of the centerpieces and our cake topper. She also provided the gorgeous burlap and lace table runners at our reception.

I went with a full color palate as opposed to one or two signature colors -- we focused on soft, pretty shades of pink, peach, cream, yellow, with hints of turquoise as an accent (in the form of blue mason jars and dusty miller). The flowers we used include garden roses, ranunculus, poppies, anemones, hydrangeas and fever few. The vases for the centerpieces are all yard sale/thrift store/vintage finds that my mother and I collected over the course of  a year. We searched for a combination of milk glass, mercury glass, mason jars (blue and clear) as well as basic clear glass vases. Mom and I had such a fun time hunting for the pieces we needed to create the centerpieces! It was so special to have those moments with just the two of us amidst the craziness of wedding planning. A few days before the wedding, we delivered all of our found glass to Chloe and she worked her magic to create our beautiful centerpieces. We donated many of the pieces to Chloe to use for future weddings, I kept a few to have around the house, and we sold the rest on craigslist.

all photos by Mirabel Photography

I wish I had researched how to preserve my bouquet, but I had no idea I would love it as much as I do! I would love to one day have a painting of my bouquet to frame in our home. *Hint hint, Christopher*

What topic would you like to talk about next week?

October 20, 2014

Book Club

How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal

I will admit, I judged this book by it's cover. I did not pick October's book, nor was I that interested in actually reading it. I (wrongly) assumed it would be a self-help book that made me gag. The synopsis on the back of the book didn't do it any favors, either. Too many cliche's.

"Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But now Ramona's bakery threatens to crumble around her. Literally. She's one water-heater disaster away from losing her grandmother's rambling Victorian and everything she's worked so hard to build.
When Ramona's soldier son-in-law in wounded in Afghanistan, her daughter, Sophia, races overseas to be at his side, leaving Ramona as the only suitable guardian for Sophia's thirteen year old stepdaughter, Katie. Heartbroken, Katie feels that she's been dumped again -- and this time on the doorstep of a woman out of practice with mothering.
Ramona calls upon a special set of tools-- patience, persistence, and the reliability of a good recipe-- when rebellious Katie arrives. And as she relives her own history of difficult choices, Ramona shares her love of baking with the troubled girl. Slowly, Katie begins to find self-acceptance and a place to call home. And when a man from her past returns to offer a second chance at love, Ramona discovers that even the best recipe tastes better when you add time, care, and a few secret ingredients of your own."

Oh my...I literally laughed out loud at the cheesy synopsis and nearly left it at the library. Except that I was already in the car on the way home so I figured I might as well give it a shot. So glad I wasn't a book snob.  

While simple and fun to read, this book also had deeper moments that made me put it down and think. I felt like part of the Gallagher family, I felt like I was in Colorado with Ramona in the park listening to classical music. I could hear Jonah playing his guitar. I could feel the breeze blowing in from the open window upstairs. The author has such a way with her writing that I was truly immersed into the story. There are a few lines that had me equally as embarrassed as the back cover, but I was eager to see where the story would end up. Fairly predictable with the happily ever after, but not without its tumultuous plot twists. All in all, it was a refreshing book that we all thoroughly enjoyed. 

October 19, 2014


Crossed another goal off my 101 list today--- I changed my own oil.

And almost died in the process.

This is me looking at how far under the car I actually have to go

This is me having a mild panic attack and asking Chris how
many people die from faulty car jacks each year

This is me being a badass

This is me talking smack about how badass I am

One tarantula bite, two sand spurs and a third degree burn later, and I am officially a master mechanic.  

October 15, 2014

Wedding Wednesday

I will attempt to designate one post a week as Wedding Wednesday here on the blog. I will chronicle our wedding planning journey, tips, inspiration ideas, personal anecdotes and other things I simply enjoy! 

Up first: Our Wedding Planner!

Oh, Sara. How could I have gotten through eleven months of wedding planning without you?!

I never, ever thought in a million years I would hire a wedding planner. I always assumed mom and I were crafty and creative enough to do everything ourselves, and why should I pay someone else to do all the fun parts? We had a fairly small budget and I was willing to cut corners wherever I could. I fell in love with Sara Gillianne's work through lots of Facebook stalking, wedding blog admiring, and seeing the work she was doing with the Pensacola Block Party Wedding. I set up a meeting with her mostly because I was eager to do wedding-y things after getting engaged, and also because I figured it wouldn't hurt to meet with someone in the biz, even if I already knew I couldn't afford a planner in my measly little budget. Oh how wrong I was. 

I loved Sara immediately. She just got me. We met at a little coffee shop and chatted about themes and colors and settings and feelings I had for the wedding. I didn't know exactly what I wanted, but boy she did! After our initial consultation, Sara put together a proposal based on the few ideas I had and my mini budget and blew both Chris and I out of the water. 
Design by Sara Gillianne

This is the inspiration board she put together for us, and I love love love it!! Our vision for the wedding changed slightly over the course of the planning process, but the overall feel of what she came up with stayed the same -- cozy, comfortable, family friendly, southern charm -- and that is exactly what we got!

She was a dream to work with for the entire year...she always kept our budget in mind (even when I didn't...) and worked hard to set us up with vendors who matched our personality and style. She patiently put up with my dozens of weekly emails, texts and phone calls. She set up vendor appointments, cake tastings, and venue tours. She negotiated contracts for us to get prices reduced which enabled us to afford a wedding we previously could have only dreamed of!

But let me tell you where the magic really happened: the day of the wedding. I think she hides a tiny wedding fairy in her emergency day of kit because by the time we arrived at the venue Saturday afternoon, it had been completely transformed! I remember walking into the building and losing my ability to speak...the beauty of it all quite literally took my breath away. I never once on the day of my wedding had to worry about whether the cake had been delivered, or if the flowers were set up correctly, or where my wedding rings were or if Chris and the boys had arrived on time. She took over responsibility of everything and coordinated with everyone so that I could enjoy our wedding day. 

I can say with absolute certainty that hiring Sara was the right decision for us. She is professional, kind, knowledgeable, and an overall joy to work with. If you are planning a wedding, I highly recommend you find room in your budget for a planner. And if you are in the Pensacola/Gulf Coast area, that planner should be Sara Gillianne. 

October 13, 2014

Vegetable Soup From My Past

When I was in high school, my friend's grandma would always make vegetable soup as soon as the weather cooled off. She didn't have a specific recipe. It always tasted slightly different each time she made it, but somehow always the same too. I wish I would have taken the opportunity back then to learn from her first hand how to make it, but alas, my sixteen year old brain had other things to worry about. I've been searching the mighty interwebs and Pinterest for a while, looking for recipes that sound similar. None were perfect so I improvised and combined a few different recipes until I came up with one I like. Oooohh and I hit the nail on the head. It was like I time traveled back to 2004. Delightful and warm and cozy and scrumptious. Here's my take on a pot of vegetable soup.

1 lb beef stew meat
2 tbsp olive oil
flour, for dredging 
2-3 Celery ribs, chopped
1/2 of a small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
32 oz chicken broth 
1/2 c. frozen lima beans
1/2 c. frozen corn kernels 
1/2 c. chopped carrots
3 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
1/2 c. frozen green beans 
1/2 c. frozen whole okra
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1-2 tbsp. tomato paste 
Garlic Powder

I started out by cutting beef stew meat into much smaller pieces than it comes in at the store. The cubes of meat are so huge that they take forever to get tender in the soup and I just don't have time to wait seven hours to eat my food. I cut each cube into 3-4 smaller pieces. Season the meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and then dredge in flour. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the meat to the pan and cook until browned on all sides (don't worry about cooking the meat through, it'll have time to finish cooking later). Remove beef to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Add chopped celery and onion to the hot pan and cook 3-5 minutes until tender. Add minced garlic to the pan and saute one minute, stirring continuously so garlic does not burn. Add chicken broth to deglaze pan, scraping up all the browned bits from the beef and vegetables. Return beef to the pan and simmer for 30-45 minutes to start tenderizing the beef. 

Once the soup has simmered for awhile, start adding whatever other types of vegetables you want in your soup! To the celery and onions already in, I added lima beans, corn, green beans, whole okra, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes (let me be clear for a second and admit that I didn't actually measure out these vegetables. I just dumped some in the pot until it looked like enough of each. The 1/2 c. directions are just an estimate...) The key for me though is tomato paste...that's what gives the soup its signature flavor and consistency. I added a tablespoon or two until the broth thickened up to where I wanted it. Cover the pot and simmer all your vegetables until they are tender and you're ready to eat. I let mine cook for an additional hour once the vegetables went in. If you like your veggies al dente, just cook it for 30 minutes instead. 

I served my soup with a side of piping hot cornbread. We ate this soup all week long and it got better each day! Enjoy! 

October 11, 2014

Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

I have a confession to make: today is my due date. 

Today should have been the day that our second child was born. Yes, I said second. 

October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. This is a topic very dear to my heart, as I have suffered through four pregnancy losses. 

Each of my losses occurred during the first trimester, prior to our first ultrasound appointment. We were never able to visualize our babies' heartbeats on the screen. We don't have any pictures of our babies. I never felt them kick. Very few people knew of their short lives.

Does that make them any less "real"?

Pregnancy loss is such a terrible term. Yes, a pregnancy was lost. More than that though, a child died. Four children died. 

It has been a very rough year for us. A flurry of emotions, doctors appointments, blood work, injections, ultrasounds, x-rays, chromosomal testing, vitamins, supplements, medications. All of my testing has come back normal thus far. I haven't decided yet if that is good news or bad news. I'm grateful to be healthy. I'm grateful I don't need surgery. I'm grateful I can get pregnant in the first place (quite easily might I add). But none of this good news makes me feel any better, because good news or bad, we still lost four babies. And no one knows why. 

It is widely accepted that as many as 1 out of every 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Odds are, you know someone personally who has gone through the pain of pregnancy loss. Most losses occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, during the first trimester. Many women chose to wait these 12 weeks out before announcing the happy news, for fear of having to tell anyone if something terrible happens. I didn't. 

Chris and I found out about my first pregnancy on October 11, 2013, at 5:30 in the morning. We had only just decided to start a family, and were delighted at how quickly our dreams seemed to be coming true. I immediately called my best friend. I accidentally told a colleague at work later that same day. We announced it to our parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins the following weekend on a trip home to Pensacola. Chris called a meeting at work for no other reason than to announce that he was going to be a dad. I slowly started telling work friends. We each sent texts to friends and acquaintances, some of whom we hadn't seen or spoken to in months. We couldn't help it! Once we started spreading the news, we couldn't stop. The more people we told, the more real it became. We dreamed of baby names, of nursery colors, of boys versus girls and whether or not we would find out the sex. We were happy. 

On Sunday, October 27, our lives changed again. Chris was across town at baseball practice. I was at home, tasked with finishing some laundry and cleaning the kitchen from dinner the night before. A relatively normal day, until I started bleeding. The moment it happen, I knew. Deep down, I already knew the pregnancy was over. I could feel the loss in my bones. I collapsed onto the bathroom floor and cried harder than I ever have in my life. There are no words to describe the soul-crushing pain I felt. Unless you have been through a miscarriage yourself, you will never really know. I am sure I terrified Chris on the phone that day, begging him to come home to me. My words may have been inaudible but he knew something was wrong. By the time he made the drive home, I had reached a state of calm. I was numb. I was no longer able to cry. I had convinced myself that it was all a mistake, and I was obviously being very dramatic. But that afternoon, in the emergency room, my nightmare was confirmed. Though my blood work still showed a pregnancy, the ultrasound did not. I was 6 weeks and 5 days along. 

My second pregnancy began in January of 2014, but was lost on Valentine's day at 6 weeks 4 days. 

My third pregnancy came as a lovely surprise in May, but lasted a mere 6 weeks and 1 day. 

My fourth pregnancy ended just last week, technically termed a chemical pregnancy, ending at 4 weeks 5 days. 

I'm telling you all of this not for pity, but to bring to light a topic that for so long has been brushed aside. First trimester miscarriage is a silent suffering. Many women have no one to turn to for support. Few may have told anyone about the pregnancy yet when it is lost. Friends and family members often don't know what to say, or may unintentionally (or purposefully!) say something hurtful. Some women may even believe they aren't allowed to grieve their loss publicly for fear of making others uncomfortable. While some women may indeed choose to stay silent for their own reasons, it is my belief that anyone who wants to grieve out loud should be able to! During my losses, I found it very therapeutic to discuss what was happening. I wanted to relive the experience, not for the pain, but to ensure the memories remained. My babies and I were one for such a short time, and I will relive those few happy moments often, and for the rest of my life. 

Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition is a local organization dedicated to helping local at-risk mothers receive the care they need for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Each year in October, they host the annual Walk to Remember to observe National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day. This years walk will be held on Thursday, October 16 beginning at 5:30PM. The event is held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church and is free to attend. All grieving families and friends are invited to participate. The event will include a remembrance quilt, a memorial service, and a candlelight walk around Lake Ella as a tribute to all the lost little angels. Grief counselors will be available as needed. 

If you are suffering quietly (or blubbering loudly) and need someone to talk to, I am happy to be here for you. I can lend a shoulder, an ear, or simply a smile if need be. 

October 9, 2014

Book Club

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Our August book club choice was another hit all around. Granted, we only had two members at the "meeting" since August was such a hectic month with school starting (one of our members is a teacher and two others have school aged children). We did learn, via text, that everyone was in agreement again. Another 5 star book for us! 

The book is written in the form of letter correspondence between the book's characters. I will admit it was a slow start for me learning who was who and keeping each character straight. The authors did a wonderful job of giving each character a unique voice and style of letter writing. I was interested to realize that towards the end of the book, I was able to recognize who's letter is was without looking at the name. The book is very historical in nature, set in 1940s, war struck England. The language was beautiful and I wished the book had not ended (although it had a lovely ending!). I've heard whispers of a possible movie adaptation which I would be very interested in seeing! 

Any recommendations for next month?

October 8, 2014


Chris and I were sitting on the couch Friday night watching TV, whining and complaining about wanting to get out of the house and do something fun. Well, I was whining, Chris was playing Candy Crush and trying his hardest to ignore me. We are currently in super-savings mode in an attempt to buy a house sometime before our fiftieth wedding anniversary, so typical date nights are a no go right now. Cue Pinterest! Chris had zero faith in my ability to find something free to do that would actually be fun for both of us, could be done at 7PM on a Friday night, with little to no preparation. There were a lot of great ideas, like stargazing on a blanket (not dark enough yet! -Chris), frisbee golf at Tom Brown Park (too dark already! -Chris), and YouTube self-taught dance lessons (uh, no. -Chris). Then I ran across an idea that I KNEW he would love, and one that I've actually done a few times before with my family in Pensacola--Geocaching! 

Chris was skeptical, of course (I think he was finally on a roll in Candy Crush...he hasn't gotten the memo that no one plays it anymore...) but he ended up loving it! Just like I knew he would ;)

If you've never Geocached before, you must download the app right now! There is a $9.99 paid app if you want ad-free and all the bells and whistles, but we have the free intro app and it works perfectly for us! From the official website:

"Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

Once you download the app and create your account, simply find a geocache near you, click start, and go treasure hunting! Green dots are geochaches near you, gray dots are a bit farther away, and smiley faces are caches you've marked as found. 

We quickly discovered there were two geocaches within walking distance from our apartment, on a route we take all the time! I coaxed Christopher off the couch and outside for a leisurely stroll and treasure hunt :)

love this view

Chris was way better at finding the hidden goodie boxes than I was, mostly because I didn't think to put tennis shoes on and no way was I walking into the underbrush in flip flops and shorts just to be attacked by snakes or spiders or squirrels or whatever else was waiting in the woods. The first geocache we found was full of prizes! Stickers, magnets, a golf ball, ribbons. The rule of thumb is to "take one, leave one". We didn't bring any trinkets along with us, so we just signed the log book and put everything back. The second geocache was full of dirt. No thanks, got plenty of that already.

There are a few others hidden just out of walking distance, so we will be going on a driving date to find those gems! After we got home, Chris talking all night about places we could search and where we might hide our own geocache one day. 

Have you ever gone geocaching before? What types of fun/free/cheap things do you like to do (alone or with your significant other)? We are always looking for more date night ideas!

October 1, 2014

Capital City Bike Fest 2014

I love when we are able to find free, fun things to do in town. So often we resort to spending money we don't have just to get out of the house and do something different. Last weekend, Chris discovered the third annual Capital City Bike Fest held at the Tallahassee Airport. We had such a great time! Chris rides a 2007 Yamaha R1 and loves any excuse to show it off. We arrived after lunch time to a pretty small crowd, but had a great time walking around to look at all the vendors and show bikes that were there. There were local restaurants set up selling food, drinks and various snacks. The animal shelter had an adoption booth showcasing one of my favorite pups, Scooter (who has a new home now! yay!). Local bands took the open air stage to perform some great 80s classics. Our favorite part of the day, however, was the mechanic's challenge. 

It took some convincing by me and Jim, the owner of the 1986 Honda Shadow 700, but Chris eventually tried his hand at the challenge and had a blast!

 He finished with a time of 9 minutes 10 seconds, which was the fastest of the day!

He came home with a prize package including a T-handle tool set, chain cleaner and lube kit, an Icon brand baseball cap, and a ton of stickers which he would never dream of actually putting on his bike/car :)

It was so cool to see him at work doing what he enjoys. We made some new friends in town, and Chris even got a job offer from the mechanic shop if he ever feels like quitting his day job!

Do you know of any fun, free activities coming up around town? I'd love to hear about them!