Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gettin' Hitched - Gettin' Ready

We lucked out with an absolutely beautiful day for our wedding. That's always a worry when you decide to get married outside - but on our day the Northern Michigan weather cooperated (for the most part!).

The wedding and reception all took place that a historic inn right on Hubbard Lake called The Churchill Pointe Inn. We couldn't have asked for a better location, because not only was the wedding on the lawn and the reception in the restaurant, but we also stayed there in one of the rooms upstairs! It doesn't get more all-inclusive than that! My sister and I stayed in the suite the night before - and many of our family members stayed in the other rooms. There are only 8 rooms available - so the rest of the guests stayed in the nearby town of Alpena. But for those of us who got rooms - we were treated to an amazing breakfast the next morning (complete with gluten free french toast - omg! ridiculously delicious!) overlooking the water. 

From there it was just a matter of setting up the restaurant for the reception (which I'll cover in another post!) and then running upstairs to shower and start getting ready!

We all did our own hair and makeup - DIY to the end!

My fabulous book paper bouquet from Momichka on Etsy
 At some point J arrived from the other side of the lake where he had spent the night and started getting ready in a different room of the Inn. I sent him down a card while we were both prepping and in return got a handwritten "Ditto." The man has a way with words - what can I say?


Apparently it took the girls a little longer to get ready - so the boys went out and took some pictures while the lake was still calm.
Lacing me up took forever - but once we were done we knew it wasn't going anywhere!

The scrunchy nose smile is one of the few traits we share!
And a veil on top to complete the prep.
Mom approves.
And so does Dad.
There are pictures of her from when she was my age - we look SO much alike.

The fam before we became one larger.
Daddy's Girl
This pretty much sums up our relationship.
<3 her always

And then it was time!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Birthday Boy

Yesterday was J's birthday, and since I'm the amazing wife that I am, we celebrated in style.

And by "in style" I mean I made special scrambled eggs for dinner... and by "special" I mean - geezus, I made something, isn't that special enough? GET.OFF.ME.

Next we watched two pirated perfectly legal episodes of Breaking Bad while eating popcorn and trying to throw said popcorn to strategic locations so that the bagel would get the helloutta the way of the computer screen.

And then we followed that up with stale cupcakes I bought on my lunch break at the grocery store across the street.

Cupcake proof!

This had to be cropped out. It's not your birthday, bagel!

Pretty special, right?

Happy Birthday, Babe!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kitchen Renovation, Step #4

Step 4: Recruit Help. Demolish Kitchen and Install New Bathroom Floor

Miss Steps #1, #2, or #3?

a) Recruit help. Preferably help that can do electrical and plumbing.
NOTE: This step is probably best done right after your Dad retires and has lots of "free time" on his hands.
NOTE x2: This may take some bribery on your part - unless you're my parents, who think that spending two weeks gutting and rebuilding our kitchen sounds "fun" and your mom even describes it as sounding "spa-like" (I'm not even joking). 

b) Convince your parents help that they should come and visit for two weeks for an intensive kitchen remodel. When they agree have a minor panic attack and start sanding and painting kitchen cabinets like a maniac and tearing down paneling like it's your job.

c) When they arrive, panic again when your dad decides the best way to tap in the new drain line to the kitchen sink is to completely take out your old, iron, rusty, painted-over-8-times sewer line and replace it with shiny PVC...

I call this "The Thinkers"
... but perk up dramatically when you realize that the fact that your toilet has to come out during the sewer line replacement means you can replace you bathroom floor!

This is what I did while the boys broke iron sewer pipes downstairs, while swearing.
The before tile is more awful than this picture shows. Missing grout and loose tiles.
 d) Once the sewer line is back in place, commence kitchen demolition. Tear out kitchen cabinets and knock down walls to the studs.

Take no prisoners.
Look at all that yummy insulation that fell in my hair and down my shirt and in my shoes and...
So long weird wall.
e) Rest. Watch a football game. And ogle over your new bathroom floor since your kitchen is completely demolished and you can't envision it ever going back together. Ever.

Another opportunity for you to ooo and ahh with me. Don't judge my lack of white balance.

For reference, this is where we left it:


Friday, October 4, 2013

Kitchen Renovation, Step #3

Step 3: Sand and Paint Cabinets

Miss Step #1, or #2?

NOTE: this step sucks. And it's boring and kind of lame - so I put sanding and painting together as one step because I can't deny they happened. And I don't have any good pictures because sanding it dirty and painting is messy (at least the way I do it is...). So feel free to skip this one, folks.

a) After letting your preowned kitchen cabinets sit in your garage for 4 months untouched, pick one of the hottest days of the year to start working on them.
NOTE: This has nothing to do with your dad asking you how much you've accomplished since they helped you buy them and haul them back to your garage 4 months ago.

b) Put on pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a hat and then use half a can of bugspray to try to ward off the mosquitoes that accost you as soon as you open the door. Start sweating immediately.

c) Remove all hardware and doors and drawer fronts. Tap into your inner OCD and use a half a box of ziploc bags and permanent marker to sort and label everything since you know your dad will make fun of you mercilessly if you can't remember where everything went like being organized.

d) When removing doors and drawer fronts, if you happen to find a door that has been damaged (e.g. missing an inside corner with a cracked panel) set it aside and ignore it for another month. After your dad gives you a tutorial over the phone, go out and buy a new toy tool to help fix the crack, and skeptically start building up the broken corner with a paste made out of sawdust and wood glue. Don't admit that it works.

e) Using a quarter-sheet orbital sander, start sanding the doors and drawer fronts with 100-grit sandpaper followed by 220-grit. After 4 or 5 days and about 12 doors, get lazy and start on a door with 220-grit first - swear into your dirty dust mask when it works better and then use just 220-grit for the rest.
FUN NOTE: Pretend you're Pig-Pen while running around your driveway slapping at your jeans and shirt trying to get the majority of the dust off before you go inside.
If only the mosquito part were true. via

f) Remember that gorgeous detail on the doors that you fell in love with? You have to sand it all by hand now. You hate it now.
NOTE: Hand sanding results in the sanding of your nails. 

g) After a few weeks of sanding, declare it "done" "good enough" and start vacuuming up the dust and junk that has accumulated on every.surface.of.your.garage. Wipe down the cabinets with a damp rag, and then with deglosser, and then with a tack cloth because you've got some lingering OCD going on.

h) 2 coats of primer plus 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Advance in China White (which requires 16 hours between coats!) is time consuming - but the plus side is that it gives you tons of time to catch up on your podcasts.

Assembly line painting

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How To: Take a 12 Day Alaskan Adventure for Two for Under $5,000

Alternate title: Cheapskates can have fun too!

We just got back from our incredible delayed honeymoon to Alaska!! We planned to spend 12 days exploring four different areas - Homer, Seward, Denali National Park, and Anchorage, and we managed to do it all without completely breaking the bank and coming home with vacation regret. It takes some planning, but it really wasn't that hard to do!


1 - Purchase your airline tickets and car rental together. I watched airline trends for a few weeks before purchasing our package to Anchorage from Washington, DC through Orbitz for $1,535.

This is probably Canada. I'm not sure because I wasn't going to pay United $8 just so I could look at the flight map.
2 - Ditch the hotels and hit the hostels. We probably saved around $100/night or more by booking our lodging at hostels instead of hotels - only spending around $80/night for 9 nights of our vacation. And we even "splurged" on private cabins at each one!

Cabin #1: Our cabin in Homer overlooking a horse pasture and a view of Kachemak Bay
Cabin #1: The view from the front porch
Cabin #2: Our cute Sourdough Cabin in Seward - it had cable TV and wireless internet!
Cabin #3: Just outside of Denali National Park
Cabin #3: The view from Highwater Cabin
Downsides: no private bathrooms. But we did have a private outhouse with the first cabin... it's all about being flexible, folks. And there were flushing toilets and showers at each hostel - they were just shared with other hostel-users.

3 - Go grocery shopping! I don't know about you - but I don't actually like eating out for every meal because at the end of the day I end up feeling gross. Our solution to avoiding that and saving tons of money was to go grocery shopping. After we got off the plane in Anchorage and picked up our rental car, our first stop was at Carr's (same as Safeway). We had planned out meals ahead of time - making sure to use as much non-perishable food as possible. At the grocery store we picked up a small styrofoam cooler for the perishables (milk, cheese, lunch meat, etc) along with a lot of canned and dry goods to get us through our 3 days in Homer and 3 days in Seward - and then we stopped for groceries again before heading for Denali. In our carry-on bag we packed a saucepan and pot, two plates, two bowls, two pairs of silverware, etc as well as a one-burner Coleman stove that just needed a small propane tank that we picked up at REI in Anchorage for $5. With all of that we were pretty food self-sufficient. Turns out that each hostel actually had kitchens that we could use (that wasn't always clear on the websites), so if I had to do it again I would probably leave the stove and pots and pans behind. The bowls and plates and silverware still came in handy though for when we were having lunch in a parking lot!

4 - Take the shuttles, not the tour buses in Denali. 

Now we didn't take the tour buses, so I can't actually directly compare the two - but price-wise there literally was no comparison! We bought two tickets for two days - both to the furthest point on the road, and still paid one-third less than the cost of two, one-day tour bus tickets. We really didn't feel like we missed out on anything because the shuttle bus drivers narrated the whole time and provided us with a lot of information. And we did stop every time there was a wildlife sighting and spent time watching and taking pictures - which was something I had been worried about missing out on.

We had an amazing wildlife viewing opportunities from the shuttle!
The best part about the shuttle buses is that you can get off and on wherever and whenever you want. We rode the shuttle bus all the way to the end of the road the first day, and then on the second day we got off and hiked all by ourselves through the Denali wilderness for a few hours. And when we got tired, we just flagged down a passing shuttle and hopped aboard!

Get out and hike - you don't shots like these views from the bus!

5 - Go hiking! 
This was a bit much for the deathly-afraid-of-heights, I-may-get-vertigo girl
following him up the side of this cliff.
This doesn't apply just to Denali. Hiking is free! And you get to see amazing views like this one from the top of Mt. Marathon in Seward:

Worth the view!
It doesn't have to be a strenuous hike - Alaska is a stunning place with plenty of very easy hikes. Get out there and see it, just make sure you take your bear bells!

6 - Make your own souvenirs. We bought plenty of trinkets - quite a few books plus a mug here and some jerky there, but for the most part we planned to make our own souvenirs from our photos. I've already created and ordered a photo book from Shutterfly, and I'm planning on creating other photo gifts for us and family - like mugs, magnets, blankets, etc! Sites like Shutterfly and Snapfish have really great options for creating your own, unique souvenirs.

7 - With all the money you've saved - splurge a few times! We definitely didn't feel like we were skimping on this trip. We ate out a few times for dinner, splurged on an incredible wildlife and glacier viewing tour with a prime rib and salmon dinner out of Seward, and stayed in a nice hotel (which I found a 20% off coupon for online) our last few nights in Anchorage!
Ailiak Glacier
A Sea Otter just chilling... get it? Chilling?
Humpback whale waving hello

Budget Breakdown

Airfare and Car Rental$1,537.00Booked the package through Orbitz
$255.00Homer Hostel - 3 nights
$247.20Seward Hostel - 3 nights
$253.59Denali Hostel - 3 nights
$331.52Hotel in Anchorage - 2 nights
$185.25Eating out (it adds up FAST!)
Gas$203.464 fill-ups and one top-off
$381.50Wildlife and Glacier viewing tour, Seward, AK
$240.00Shuttle buses to Kantishna in Denali
$14.00Carl Wynn Nature Center, Homer, AK
$14.00Pratt Museum, Homer, AK
$42.00Alaska Sealife Center, Seward, AK
Gifts/Souvenirs$164.30Books, mugs, jerky, and a few gifts for family
Miscellaneous$395.43Dogsitter, checked bag (1 each way), other misc

You can see we were actually under $4,500 - that's because at the last minute the airline changed our tickets and we had to leave a day earlier than we had initially planned. Had we stayed another night in Anchorage and probably ate out one more meal, we would have still been under $5,000.

I hope that helps you get over the fear of an Alaska vacation being too expensive! We're excited to save up and go back in a few years!