Friday, September 30, 2011

Camping this weekend!

What are you up to this weekend, my friends? We are going camping for this first time in 2011! It will also be our first time staying at a KOA -- have you all ever been to one? (We usually pitch out tent farther out in the woods.) I can't say I'm disappointed that there will be easily accessible showers :)

Send us warm thoughts -- the temperature overnight in the mountains could be in the 20's! Brrr!! We are bringing sweatpants, s'more supplies, and lots of hot chocolate.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bacon + avocado grilled cheese

Guess what we had for dinner two nights ago? Yup, bacon grilled cheese. Also with mashed avocado, thin Granny Smith apple slices, and a little bit of onion. SO GOOD.

See the full "recipe" here!

Photo c/o Jana Laurene

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I have recently decided that it would be brilliant to embroider something for our wedding reception, mainly after seeing the above two images. Do I know yet what I want to embroider? No. Do I think anyone would actually notice at the wedding itself? Not really. But, I don't really care. Plus, I think it would make a beautiful keepsake framed after the event.

So! I don't know how to embroider. Do any of you know how? Have any tips for me, or can you point me in the direction or a great book or tutorial?

I'm thinking this will make a cozy winter project...

First image by Em the Gem, second via joettamaue

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kendra Scott earrings

Goodness, isn't Jenny Komenda just the most talented person you've ever felt like you kinda sorta could be friends with? :) She's hosting a giveaway on Babble featuring 25 of her favorite things, and though I adore MANY of them, I think these Kendra Scott stud earrings are my favorite. Check them out here, and then let me know what you'd pick!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wedding planning update: 11+ months to go

Whew! Wedding planning got a big kick this month! We traveled home to Connecticut one weekend for our engagement party, and knocked out an incredibly busy day of vendor appointments the Friday before the party. I'm not sure if I would recommend scheduling six meetings in one day, but as I'm sure those of you who are planning destination or semi-destination weddings understand, we didn't really have a choice. With that being said, what did we check off the list this month?

Photo c/o The Life You Love via Style Me Pretty

-- Found a calligrapher (for invitations only, not save the dates)
-- Asked the two final bridesmaids to be bridesmaids (bringing the total count to four on my side -- will introduce you to them soon!)
-- Officially reserved the chapel for our ceremony
-- Met with three caterers and received a proposal from one
-- Met our florist in person
-- Tried on another set of wedding dresses, this time at The White Dress by the Shore
-- Booked hotel rooms for vendors who will be flying in from out of state
-- Narrowed down save the date options
-- Started messing around with wedding websites
-- Inquired with and received info and/or CDs from four potential bands

In the next month, I'm hoping to try on more wedding dresses, and we'll also hopefully choose a caterer and band. Exciting!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall to do list

From Martha

Happy fall, my friends! John has been dreading today, because to him, fall simply means that winter is on the way (and he hates winter). I feel much more positively about fall than he does. Regardless, here's what we're hoping to pack into the next three months:

-- hang something seasonal on the front door
-- make one month's flower arrangement a chrysanthemum for the front step
-- complete at least one house project (can be anything, really!)
-- take a trip to a corn maze
-- make a delicious-sounding fall dish like homemade Twix bars or caramel pears
-- finally purchase the perfect pair of brown leather boots (John gave me the gift card for them last Christmas!!)
-- go on a weekend hiking + camping trip
-- make pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
-- catch the goat showmanship competition at the NC State Fair (yes, watching the goats and their child handlers is our very favorite activity at the fair)
-- finally take Martha up on all her pumpkin projects and do something crafty with a gourd
-- join in the sweet potato harvest at our church
-- drink hot apple cider (my favorite)

What's on your fall to do list?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Summer to do list: update!

Photo by La Tartine Gourmande

Today is the last day of summer. How are we feeling about that?

For us, as always, it went by too fast, but I'm satisfied with the amount of fun and good food we managed to squeeze out of the last three months. On that note, let's catch up with my summer to list.

Did I...
-- go swimming in the Eno River?
-- jump off the wharf at the Island? Argh, no. Too wimpy.
-- see a moonlight movie at Koka Booth Amphitheatre? Yep! We went to two, and they were awesome, as always.
-- go to a Backporch Music concert at the American Tobacco Campus? Yes! We went to three concerts, and they were all awesome. Better yet, we took my Dad to one, a friend from home to another, and Nancy + Will + Winston to a third.
-- complete a Backwoods OK race? No! Sadness.
-- shag at North Hills? Nope.
-- go on a road trip somewhere in the southeast? Not really...
-- take a walk on River Road in Mystic? Nope. Sadness again.
-- spend a day at the beach? Yes! Several, actually, in Charleston.
-- eat lots of cobb salad and chicken souvlaki? Yes!
-- camp? Nope.
-- have a staycation? Nope.
-- watch fireworks? No, they were fogged out in Maine over the Fourth!

Let's see... 5 out of 13. That doesn't sound like too good of a ratio, but I'm still chalking the summer up as a success! How about y'all? How were your summers?

Check back tomorrow for my fall to do list!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Venue reveal: our reception site!

When last we left off with our reception saga, we were getting pretty desperate. Nowhere we looked at fit all of our criteria, and we were beginning to think we would never find a spot to celebrate. Yes, friends, we finally got so desperate that John literally sat down and began scrolling along the Connecticut coastline in Google Maps, calling out "Here's a piece of lawn! Here's a piece of lawn!" And you know what? It actually worked! One of the pieces of lawn he stumbled upon was the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and that, my dears, is where we will be holding our reception. In their Sunken Garden, to be specific. I had never once considered this venue before John found it (I didn't really even remember it existed, actually!), but now I can't imagine celebrating anywhere else!

As we soon found out, the O'Neill hosts performances, conferences, and the National Theater Institute most of the year. But on days when they're not welcoming playwrights and actors, they host events. Happily, we were able to squeeze into their schedule!

A tour? Of course!

Here's the view from behind the Sunken Garden's stone wall, near the first steps onto the property from the back parking lot.

There are lovely stone walls all around the property. Stone walls are one of my favorite features of New England :)

We're considering holding cocktail hour here, on the Sea Porch of the Hammond Mansion. (We'd move those picnic tables, obviously, and there's a lovely green and white striped awning we'd ask to be put out.)

For dinner and dancing, we'll invite guests into the garden. They'll walk down the steps you can see at the bottom of the frame below into the walled space (just imagine a lovely tent in the middle!).

Here's the view from one corner.

Here's the view from roughly the middle of the garden.

If you walk out towards the water, you can turn back for a lovely wide view of the property.

We are so happy to have found the O'Neill and to invite our guests to celebrate there with us next year! One final word of caution to other couples who might like to book it for their big day: the staff at the O'Neill is extremely difficult to get ahold of and get prompt responses from. I typically wait at least two weeks for my calls and emails to be returned (yes, really!). My guess is it's because events are not their main business, and so they choose to prioritize theater activities. Not ideal for sure, but it's a tradeoff we're willing to make for a lovely spot, available date, and reasonable price.

What do you think? Those who are familiar with Connecticut weddings, are you surprised by our choice?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Venue reveal: our ceremony site!

Ladies, thank you so much for the kind words on Friday's post! We had the BEST time in Connecticut this past weekend. Our appointments on Friday were great (though exhausting, when taken together), and our engagement party was so, so, so wonderful. So much thought and care went into it, and I can't wait to share with you all! We are feeling very loved.

But, before I get into all that, I know I promised information about our venues! Today I want to share our ceremony spot, and then tomorrow, I'll conclude our location saga by telling you all about our reception venue.

From the beginning, it was very important to John and I to be married in a church. We believe our marriage is a covenant before our family and friends, but also before God. Though it is 100% possible to feel the Holy Spirit anywhere you can say vows, it was the right decision for us to be married in a church.

Okay, a church, yes, but which one? The church we now consider our home church is in North Carolina, where we live, so that was out. We both have childhood churches in Connecticut, but we wanted somewhere that felt right to both of us, not necessarily for one more than the other. A neutral location, if you will. Plus, my childhood church doesn't have a center aisle, which is a major design flaw, if you ask me :)

After ruling out the childhood churches, we were left with one obvious choice: the Memorial Chapel at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London. Reasons we quickly fell in love with the idea of holding our ceremony there:

1. The Chapel welcomes visiting clergy, meaning there were very few obstacles to the pastor from our church in North Carolina performing the service (something that was also very important to us).
2. Center aisle!
3. Central location to many of the reception locations we were considering, and only about 15 minutes away from the location we finally landed on.
4. Momma is happy. She always dreamed of at least one daughter getting married there.
5. My Dad is retired Coast Guard and taught at the Academy for 25+ years, so I have very happy memories associated with the base.
6. The Chapel is GORGEOUS on the inside, and it just so happens to match perfectly with our chosen color scheme. Also, the film photographer documenting our wedding is going to be very happy, because the natural light inside is gorgeous, thanks to large banks of windows along both side walls!

Shall we take a little tour?

Here's the outside, lovely steeple included. There's no parking up on top of the hill where the Chapel is located, so guests will park below and walk up, but there is a circular driveway where my Dad and I can pull in and stage our grand entrance.

This is the narthex just inside the first set of double doors. I love that the doors to the sanctuary can be closed, my Dad and I can scoot in from outside, we can shut the front doors, and then open the sanctuary doors when it's time for our entrance.

Peeking into the sanctuary...

Ahhh!! Pretty blue walls! Side note: Dang, that aisle is slippery.

Beautiful light! I also love that the sanctuary is not tiny, but also not so big that it will feel empty once our guests sit down.

And now we've arrived at the front, where we'll say our vows. A lovely spot, I think.

And that concludes our tour! A few notes for those who might be interested in getting married at the CGA Chapel:

1. You may only reserve the Chapel if you fit into a few categories, including if one or both parties are a Coast Guard Academy graduate, active duty or retired Coast Guard personnel or their dependents (must have valid ID card), or active or retired Coast Guard Academy civilian faculty and staff members.
2. Wedding dates cannot be reserved more than a year in advance. Though I submitted paperwork and talked to the Chapel more than a year before our date, I still had to call at the 365-day mark to make our official reservation.
3. The Academy Chapel is a religious facility, so no civil ceremonies are allowed. Your preferred clergy member must be approved by the Command Chaplain, but can be a Chaplain, Priest, Minister, Rabbi, or other religious official.

More information is available on the CGA website for those who are eligible and interested!

What do you think? We are very, very excited!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wedding prep extravaganza!

Hi, friends! John and I are home in Connecticut today, and we are about to head out for a full day of wedding vendor meetings! Our schedule looks a little something like this:

9:45am Meet with florist
11am Meet with caterer possibility no. 1
1pm Meet with caterer possibility no. 2
2pm Walk-through at chapel
3pm Walk-through at reception venue
5pm Meet with caterer possibility no. 3

...all up and down the Connecticut shoreline :) AND we will be listening to bands' demo CDs in the car, so we are really multitasking!

After today's hard work, though, we get to relax tomorrow with an engagement party! I can't wait to share more, and hope you all have a lovely weekend, as well!

Image c/o Frenzel Photographers via Style Me Pretty

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The great venue search (part two)

Yesterday I told you about the more common Connecticut venues we considered for our reception (to recap: Harkness, the Branford House, Jonathan Edwards, Saltwater Farm, the Inn at Mystic, Florence Griswold, and Mystic Seaport).

Again, we were looking for three things in a venue:

1) Scenic, by the water, and able to be tented.
2) Freedom.
3) Not terribly expensive.

Oh yes, and an available date in September. Unfortunately, we weren't able to satisfy all of those requirements with any of the more traditional options. So, we quickly forged ahead into less-charted territories.

Island Farm at Elihu Island, off Stonington

Our first stop was Elihu Island, which I had extremely high hopes for. From photos and descriptions I had read, it looked fabulous -- a blank, extremely scenic slate, and less-well-known (and therefore more likely to have September dates available). Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed pretty quickly when I heard the cost to get in the door. I can't put my hands on the brochure they sent over, but I believe it was about $14,000. That buys you a full planning package with their wedding planner, the use of the site (which still needs to be tented, not included in the cost), and the use of the house for three days (the house sleeps 22). They are also very strict about required vendors. Sadly, we had to let this one go.

The Inn at Lower Farm in Ledyard

The Inn at Lower Farm is a lovely venue which doesn't actually advertise that they host weddings, since the owners only want to host couples who "love the property as much as they do." I love that sentiment! Unfortunately, the price was a bit too much for us ($3,500, which includes two nights in the four rooms of the Inn), and we probably wouldn't have been able to squeeze under the guest limit of 100 people.

Ayer Mountain Farm in Franklin

Ayer Mountain Farm is actually my family's farm, which means it would have been free for us to use! Besides that obvious plus, it also has sentimental value. The drawbacks? It would have taken some serious sweat equity to get the wedding spot in guest-ready shape, and it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which means it would have been a hike between it and our church.

Private residence in Mystic

This option was more of a fantasy than anything else, but indulge me. For years, I told anyone who would listen that I was going to get married on the lawn of a particular waterfront house in Mystic. It's been my favorite house in all the world for many years, and I always figured I would just write the owners a letter explaining the situation, and that miraculously they would immediately sense my earnestness and good intentions, and would agree to let me borrow their house for the weekend. I even had a plan worked out for parking!

As brilliant of a plan as that was (ha!), in the end, we decided to go with something a little more traditional. But before we landed on our ultimate location, we began to get very worried we would never find a spot to celebrate...

To be continued on Monday!

Photo of Elihu by Corinna Raznikov, other three personal photos

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The great venue search (part one)

Friends! Would you like to hear about how we chose our reception venue? It was quite the adventure, and we looked at many different spots, so I think you might find it interesting. (And, if you're planning a wedding in Connecticut, potentially helpful!)

A little back story:

The only thing I ever really knew I wanted for my someday future wedding was that I wanted it to take place in Connecticut (where both John and I grew up), and I wanted it to take place in September. September is my absolute favorite month in New England. Since we got engaged in June, I figured we would have our pick of dates and venues. Fourteen months out? No problem.

WELL. That didn't exactly turn out to be true.

But let's back up again. When we began our venue search, we had three priorities. We wanted it to be:

1) Scenic, by the water, and able to be tented.
2) Hands off. I wanted freedom, and I didn't want a lot of regulations holding us back, or required vendors to constrain us.
3) Not terribly expensive. Since we were tenting, I didn't want to pay a ton just to get a pretty piece of land when I knew the costs would add up to build the infrastructure around the site.

I know, I know, it was kind of a lot to ask. But we had high hopes! The venues we considered can generally be broken into those that are on the beaten path (ones with which most Connecticut residents would be familiar) and those that are not. Today, I'll walk you through the more common venues we considered.

The Eolia Mansion at Harkness State Park in Waterford

We never actually seriously considered Harkness, since John's sister Marget will be getting married there two months before us (exciting!!). Even if we had wanted to consider Harkness, we would have had to opt for a Friday or Sunday weekend -- yes, with 14 months to go, every Saturday in September was booked, plus all the Saturdays in the summer and all but one in October. Wow! I still love Harkness, though -- I think it's an incredibly beautiful spot, and I am very glad I will get to celebrate there next summer!

The Branford House at Avery Point in Groton

The Branford House is pretty similar to Harkness, except without the formal gardens and with better water views. I always preferred Harkness; John always preferred the Branford House, so it was no surprise that we checked it out next. Unfortunately, they also had NO remaining Saturdays in September, though they did have two in October (not interested). The fee they quoted us was $4,000 for the ballroom + $1,000 extra for the privilege of tenting on the lawn. (Meaning, that didn't buy you anything except the right to tent. I know, it confused me, too.)

Jonathan Edwards Winery in Stonington, CT

Jonathan Edwards was really too expensive for us from the start, but when I began to get desperate, I tried to consider them. It's a very scenic property, but alas, it comes with a not-so-scenic price tag: $8,000 for a ceremony and reception for up to 200 people. That price includes a Sperry tent, catering tent and tent lighting. I also didn't like that they required you to choose from just two caterers.

Saltwater Farm Vineyards in Stonington

This is a lovely property, but it was not super-high on our list because it's not really meant to be tented. They mostly host parties in the renovated airplane hanger, which is very cool but not quite what we were going for. Alas, Saltwater also had NO Saturday dates available until November 10! Again, wow!! Saltwater can accommodate up to 250 guests and it was quoted to us at $8,500 for a Saturday event in the peak season (May-October).

The Inn at Mystic in Mystic

I had high hopes for the Inn at Mystic, because I love the town and always thought that the Inn and its property were beautiful. However, we were quickly turned off by their very strange email communication, and their all-in-one package pricing. They also require you to use their on-site restaurant as your caterer (a no no in our book). The Inn can accommodate 250 guests and was quoted to us at $135 per person (included in that price is a ton of stuff, including the space, food, three floral arrangements, wedding cake, linens, etc., etc... which of course we wanted the freedom to choose for ourselves).

Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme

The Flo Gris has lovely gardens and is able to be tented, both of which earned it points in our book. It's also situated on a river (one more point). The Florence Griswold can accommodate up to 150 people under a tent on the Moore Garden Terrace and was quoted to us at $5,000 for six hours. In the end it was both too expensive and too far of a drive from the chapel where our ceremony will be held.

North Lawn at the Mystic Seaport in Mystic

The North Lawn is a beautiful spot at the Seaport just begging to be tented. It's right on the river, and can accommodate up to 500 guests. The North Lawn was quoted to us at $2,500, which I thought was reasonable. However, I was not pleased that they require you to use one caterer and their list of vendors for several other things, including linens. I also was not thrilled that events had to end at 10pm. Despite all this, however, we were seriously considering the North Lawn until we stumbled upon our ultimate venue...

To be continued!

Harkness photo from Wikipedia, Branford House photo by Jonathan Canlas, Jonathan Edwards photo by Robin Dini, Saltwater Farm photo by Charlotte Jenks Lewis, Florence Griswold photo by Justin & Mary Marantz, Seaport and Inn at Mystic photos from their sites

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Berry wedding ideas

I am a big fan of fruit elements in wedding florals. BIG fan. I like all sorts -- lady and crab apples, cherry tomatoes, figs -- but am especially partial to blackberries and raspberries. I'm hoping to incorporate blackberries into our wedding day style, and here's some of the inspiration I'm using!

Mini raspberry arrangement by Chelsea Fuss (photo also by Chelsea)

White peach and blackberry sangria from Martha Stewart Weddings (photo by Jason Walz)

Photo by Corbin Gurkin, styling by Duet Weddings

Blackberry boutonnieres from Martha Stewart Weddings

Blackberry, peach and garden rose arrangement by Ariella Chezar

Florals by Amy Merrick

Blackberry and raspberry arrangement from Napa Valley Celebrations (photo by Meg Smith)

Raspberry and billy ball boutonniere by JL Designs, photo by Robert Evans, via Green Wedding Shoes

Blackberry gin fizz from Martha Stewart Weddings

From Martha Stewart Living

Blackberry prosecco (photos by Charlotte Jenks Lewis via 100 Layer Cake)

Ranunculus and raspberry arrangement by Ariella Chezar

Fresh berry appetizer from Martha Stewart Weddings

Berry votives (photo by Sarah Yates via Once Wed)

Raspberry and blackberry mini centerpieces (florals by JM Flora, photo by Jodi Miller Photography, via Snippet & Ink)