Our Wedding Morning

I’m thrilled to finally share our wedding with you! Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some details from throughout our day, along with my regular lifestyle posts. I’m so excited to relive the best day of my life with you!

The night before, I had set my alarm to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” for 7:30am, with the message “Get up, you’re getting married today!” I had read on another blogger’s wedding recap that she choose to set her alarm to a song to wake up to on her wedding day instead of the default buzzer and I thought that was a great idea! Since I have been a huge fan of Taylor Swift since she began her music career, it was an obvious song choice to wake up to. Of course, I woke up two hours before it was even set to go off to sunlight streaming into my room. Even though it was earlier than I planned, I was so giddy — it was finally my wedding day!

Before I started getting ready to head to the church, I had to take one final look at my vows. I had wanted to have them completed weeks before the wedding, but I could never find the exact words. I knew there was just something missing. However, as I sat there on that beautiful June morning, hours before I became a wife, I finally found the right words to promise to my soon-to-be husband as I envisioned him at the end of the aisle, and for all of the days that would follow.

Before I knew it, it was time to jump in the shower and head to the church. My wonderful hair and makeup team from Shabby Chic Salon were already there, so I slipped into my robe and welcomed the rest of my bridesmaids as they arrived. We sipped on coffee (and eventually mimosas) and listened to all of my favorite love songs as we had our hair and make up done. It was truly wonderful to spend those last few hours as a Miss in such a sweet environment!

Our videographer, Shore Films, arrived around 10:30am, which was wonderful since our photographer wasn’t arriving until later. He got some great footage of our details, and even funny clips, especially after I tried to open my eyes after get eyelashes put on! In the meantime, our flowers arrived — I was so excited to see what Emma Jean of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden had created for me! After I saw the bouquets, adorned with the beautiful monogram ribbons, I snuck down to the sanctuary to get a glimpse of what magic was happening there. I was breathless when I saw the altar; my vision had completely come to life, better than I ever imagined. That moment, standing barefoot in the sanctuary, surrounded by beautiful flowers, might have been my biggest “Oh my gosh, I’m getting married!” moments.

Around this time, Jody and his groomsmen arrived. We had them all gather in the libary on the second floor of the church to try to prevent our two parties from running into one another. The guys enjoyed some time to hang out together, so their getting ready process didn’t seem as rushed. Per Jody’s request, a tray of Chick-Fil-A nuggets was delivered for him and the guys to eat before they started getting ready.

It started to become tricky for us to move throughout the church, so by the time Laura of Laura’s Focus arrive to start capturing pictures, each of our respective parties were confined to our rooms. She greeted me with a hug and we began to start the process of getting ready!

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I had asked my mom and my sister to help me get into my dress and I’m so glad that I did. It was so special to have a few last moments as just the three of us. While we realized I never found anything borrowed (we decided the lipstick was borrowed because all of us girls ended up using it for touch-ups throughout the day), my something old was my diamond, which was from Jody’s mother’s engagement ring, my something new was my wedding dress, and my something blue was a piece of one of my dad’s shirts, with an embellishment that was on the tights that my mom wore to their wedding that we sewed inside the skirt of my dress. This was one of my favorite details from our day!Cox_0061Cox_0100Cox_0082Cox_0120Cox_0116

I had decided that I wanted to have a first look with my bridesmaids. While they had seen my dress once before when we picked out their bridesmaid dresses, I still wanted to share a sweet moment with them. The look on their faces when my sister opened the door is priceless. I love these girls so much!

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I also always knew I wanted a first look with my Dad. I knew the day would be emotional for us, and I wanted to give us a chance to have a special moment before he gave me away. It was also when I gave him his gift (an embroidered handkerchief). I had been nervous for this moment, because I knew that there was a chance we’d be emotional but I’d say we held it together pretty well. 🙂

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Once the first looks were over, it was time for Jody and I to have a quiet moment together before we started the ceremony. However, you’ll have to check back soon to get that story!

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Fall Decor Inspiration

Well, it seems that once I was on board with fall happening, mother nature seemed to have its own reservations. With the 80 degree temperatures that we have been having as of late, and the mild sunburn (what!?) I got last weekend, I have to look at the calendar to make sure that it is really October. So even if it doesn’t feel like fall just yet, I still want to make the inside of our home feel just as cozy as it would with the chill in the air.

As I’ve been in the process of adding more decor to our apartment, I’ve been gathering some ideas of ways to easily cozy up our home for the colder months. I already have some candles that add the fall spice scent to the house, but am in need of a few more statement pieces that will really bring it all together. I’ve gathered up a couple of images to inspire me as I’m out and about!

Cozy Chair // Natural Fall Living Room // Pumpkin Basket // Fall Throw Blankets // Pumpkins and Mums // Fall Patio Seat // Fall Mantle // Simple Fall Counter // Pumpkin Centerpiece

This year, I’m trying to gather a few key pieces that will help achieve the cozy, fall look that I desire, while also staying budget conscious. Throw blankets are my favorite — there is nothing I love more than to be curled up on the couch under a cozy blanket. So I definitely am hoping to find a new throw to add to my collection. I also love farmer’s markets, and they always seems to have plenty of mini pumpkins for sale, which makes cheap, easy decor that you can style just about anywhere in your house. To round it all out, I’m hoping to either find or DIY a sign to hang in our living room with some sort of fall quote or saying written on it. I love the idea of collecting just a few items to give the space an updated feel!

I’m hoping to find my new decor pieces in the next few days. Maybe that will be enough to make fall reappear again! I’d love to hear — what is your favorite way to decorate for fall? Tell me in the comments below!

 

MEP to MEC: Bridesmaids Gifts

Happy Wednesday, y’all! Jody and I have been married for 100 days, as of yesterday, and that has put me in a wedding sharing mood. For this week’s edition of Wedding Wednesday, I’m going to share what I gave my best gals for their pre-wedding bridesmaid gift, with the hope that it will serve as inspiration for your big day!

I started thinking about bridesmaid gifts around the same time I was gathering items to give my girls when originally asking them to be in the wedding (you can see what I did here). I wanted their gifts to be filled with things they would appreciate having during the weekend of the wedding, as well as being useful in their daily lives. I love using the various things that I received as gifts from being a bridesmaid — I think back to their happy day each time I use it!  Most importantly, however, I wanted the gifts to be heartfelt and meaningful. Holding the title of “bridesmaid” can be a lot at times: money, coordinating weekends for various celebrations, time off work, travel, etc. With that being said, I am so very grateful that each of my bridesmaids made room in their equally busy lives to celebrate our happily ever after.

Some of my favorite pictures from weddings are of the bride and her friends getting ready.  However, when they have coordinating outfits? Be still my heart!  I knew from the very start of my wedding process that I was going to get my bridesmaids their own robes to get ready in. In June, you never quite know how the weather will be, so, I was lucky to find some extremely light and breathable robes. After spending many hours searching every corner of Etsy, I order these beautiful robes. I was so impressed with the robes when they arrived that I rushed ordered one for myself!

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Monograms were also a given for these gifts. After seeing the idea in a magazine, I knew I wanted ribbons to be tied around all of our bouquets, so I decided to monogram the ribbons as a surprise for them to carry on my wedding day, and then keep after! I didn’t have these wrapped with their gifts because I had the florist tie them on, so it was a fun surprise when our bouquets arrived!

Jewelry has always been something that I’ve never been great at styling so I always appreciate it when the bride gives her bridesmaids something beautiful to wear. I found this adorable set and just knew that my girls would look stunning wearing sparkling gold bracelets with matching drop earrings. The shop I bought them from also personalizes the cards that come in the box with your wedding colors and bridesmaids names! How cute!

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While shopping for a few pieces for our honeymoon, I came across these peony candles. As I’ve mentioned before, my biggest request with our flowers was to have as many peonies as we could, because that is the scent I wanted to remind me of my wedding day. So when I realized T.J.Maxx had exactly five peony candles left, I just knew I had to get them. I hope when my girls burn them now, they remember how grateful I am for their friendship!

Lastly, I added a little something sweet to the bags. When I think of getting ready and celebrating with my best friends, I think of champagne to toast the occasion! Enter champagne gummy bears. I couldn’t resist buying a set of these adorable cubes, and even an extra box for myself! My bridesmaids loved snacking on them throughout the morning as we were getting ready.

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I also included a handwritten card for each of my bridesmaids. I knew the day of the wedding would be crazy, so I wanted to be sure I adequately expressed how extremely grateful I am for each of them in my life. They truly are the best gals!

That’s it! I wanted to spoil my friends, just as they had spoiled me over the previous months, but yet keep the gifts practical and thoughtful. I had so much fun finding these items and gifting them to my bridesmaids. I hope this helps all of you brides if you are needing some inspiration, and if not, I hope you enjoyed a taste of the morning of my wedding. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to come. 🙂

Robes: silkandmore // Monogram Ribbons: GoldandGlamour // Earrings and Bracelet Set: AllureWeddingJewelry // Candles: T.J.Maxx // Champagne Gummy Bears: Nordstrom //

October Goals

October always seems to be about the time of year where I pause and think “Where did this year go?!”. It’s the point in college where I would start listening to Christmas music, where I would throw my bathing suit into the back of the closet and pull out every hearty meal that I could ever desire, and really start planning the following year, with three months left of the current year. However this month, I’m going to fully invest myself into whatever this season may bring. Even though I am still embarrassingly excited for the holidays (I started my Christmas shopping list this morning!), I am thrilled to really soak in everything this month has to offer.

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Image from Looking Joli Good

This month, I’ll be focusing a lot on making my life more cozy.  For those of you who don’t know, Jody and I haven’t been able to spend as much time together as we would have like in the past few months. He was working two jobs, plus graduate school and an internship, while I was working the late shift at my job. Our schedules never seemed to match up, which was definitely hard on us as a newlywed couple. However, Jody made a change to his work schedule and I recently accepted a new job that I will be starting next week, so we will be able to spend more time together than we have in the past few months — definitely an answered prayer! Admittedly, we still have not hung many picture in our apartment yet, and after building our new TV stand this past weekend, I am inspired to make the rest of our house look like a home. Between home decorating and tackling our fall fun list together, I’m hoping for a month of memories, with picture proof, of how we are embracing cool temperatures, new schedules and our newlywed home as this month continues!

September Goals

  • Finish our porch project I’m crossing this off because the furniture is built, now we just have a few more odds and ends to collect!
  • Complete two craft projects
  • Send someone happy mail
  • Be present in out-of-town adventures this month
  • Get into a better, more consistent workout routine
  • Begin the search for a new church
  • Begin Marriage Devotional CD series

October Goals

  • Be more consistent with Writing the Word
  • Find something new to take a picture of every day
  • Complete this 30 day marriage challenge
  • Explore a near to us place that we’ve never been
  • Participate in two workout classes
  • Settle into my new job gracefully
  • Get outside more (before it is too cold!)
  • Hang pictures in our home

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday y'all! After a long, but exciting week, I am ready to enjoy the cooler weather outside this weekend! I'm heading to the Wine and Cider Festival at Harvest Ridge Winery (Our wedding reception venue!) for an afternoon of fall fun. I'm hoping we will be able to have a fire at my parents' fire pit, and maybe take a stroll through one of the parks near our home. At the very least, I'm looking forward to wearing sweaters and jeans (not sure I can give up my Jacks quite yet;) ).

I've been taking some time recently to invest in some self-care before continuing on with any other projects in our home. There is something about a little R&R that helps you recharge, which I think is a great way to kick off a little bit of a slower season than the last. I'm anxious to share our home and our wedding with you, but while we have to wait a little bit longer for that, I thought I'd share some of my favorite "me-time" go to's for Friday Favorites this week!

Favorite Nail Polish: This is my new favorite nail polish! For those that know me, they know Essie is my favorite nail polish brand so I've been wanting to try the new Treat Love and Color line that they released earlier this year. After a year of getting my nails done for various wedding events, my nails currently aren't in the best condition. I picked up the "In a Blush" color and couldn't love it more! Plus, I've notice my nails aren't breaking nearly as much as they were. I plan to pick up some of the other colors soon!

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Favorite TV Series: Y'all, NBC has done it again playing with my heartstrings. I finally got around to watching Season One of This Is Us right before Season Two premiered. And now I'm hooked. While I won't share any spoilers, I will say this is a fantastic show to become invested in if you're looking to laugh and cry all in the same 60 minutes. Any Parenthood fans? This show ranks up there on the same kind of emotional level.

Favorite Face Mask: I love a good face mask just as much as the next girl, but I struggle to find time to do them regularly. I've been using these Miss Spa Facial Sheet Masks, in addition to some of my other masks I have from Mary Kay. What I love about these are that they are mess-free, inexpensive, effortless to use, and come in a number of different treatments for your skin. I typically use the Detox in between the masks from Mary Kay, but I just picked up this 24k Gold Radiance Mask and I'm excited to try it out this weekend! You can find them at Target and Walmart.

Favorite Scent: A couple of weeks back, Jody and I had a conversation about switching out the candles for more season-appropriate scents (Apparently, Island Breeze isn't very September-y? Who knew!). Soon thereafter, I picked up a Blackberry Cider scented candle from Target. Y'all this is the perfect "almost pumpkin season" scent. It is rich in small, as most fall candles tend to be, but still just a little sweet, like the end of a long summer. I'm going to definitely be keeping my eyes open for any similar scents from here on out!

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Favorite Ice Cream: I joke that ice cream is my favorite food group, but I always feel so guilty eating it after I learned that it is not healthy to solely eat ice cream as your diet (ahem, freshman fifteen… or twenty! Yikes). So when I discovered Halo Top — let's be real, the cute packaging is enough to make anyone try it — I was pleasantly surprised how delicious it is for having lower calories. So far, Jody and I have tried the vanilla and birthday cake, which is definitely my favorite so far. There are so many fun flavors that I want to try, they've become a weekly staple on my grocery list!

 

What are some of your favorite "me-time" indulgences? I'd love to hear– share in the comments below!

 

Fall Bucket List

While the temperatures may still be in the 80’s here (at least for the next few days), fall officially started last week! While I was hesitant about being ready for this new season (summer always will be my favorite), getting a taste of it a few weeks ago has me completely ready to experience this season with my new husband. 🙂

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Our view a few falls ago from Carter’s Mountain — our favorite place to go apple picking!

A few years ago, I made a list of fall activities that I wanted to try and accomplish that year. While I didn’t get to everything on my list, I love how it gave me a purpose, especially to take advantage of the beautiful weather that Fall typically provides. This is also Jody’s favorite season, so I’m excited to take part in these festive activities with him.  I thought I’d share that list with you as well!

  • Tailgate at our favorite football team’s home game
  • Cuddle up in front of a campfire — s’mores included!
  • Go apple picking
  • Visit a wine and cider festival
  • Watch our favorite scary movies together
  • Go for a walk on a crisp, foggy morning
  • Visit a pumpkin patch
  • Host a fall gathering
  • Drink apple cider on our porch
  • Go hiking
  • Cook Thanksgiving dishes together
  • Bake homemade apple pie (this has been on my list for three years– determined to try it!)
  • Arrange a fall-inspired centerpiece and add fall decor to our home
  • Bake my favorite pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies

I’d love to hear — what is on your fall list this year?

MEP to MEC: Saying Yes to the Dress

I can hardly believe this past Sunday marked one year since I said yes to the dress that I married my best friend in! After a long day of shopping I found my gown and couldn’t have found a better dress to wear as I said “I do”. I haven’t shared many details from that day, mostly because I wanted to keep the details of my dress and bridal style a secret for my husband and our guests. Now that the wedding has passed, I thought it would be fun to share my experience in honor of the one year anniversary of buying my dress!

I’m pretty sure that I have been a devoted follower of the “Say Yes to the Dress” TV series since it first aired on TLC. I have watched countless brides go through the process of picking their dress and have mentally noted every tip ever shared about trying on wedding dresses. With all of this knowledge, I felt over prepared when it came to shopping for my own gown. I knew what style, color and look that I was going for and was confident I would be able to find the dress with little to no stress or heartache. Even still, I knew I was open to trying on each style and silhouette just to be sure.

I decided a number of years ago that I only wanted my mom and sister at my bridal appointment. I tend to be very indecisive and while I’m sure my bridesmaids’ advice and suggestions would be so heartfelt, I knew having more opinions would make the process even harder for me. Because my sister was still in college and had a busy fall due to her tennis schedule, and I had almost every weekend booked with weddings and bachelorette parties, I knew we had a limited window for all of us to experience this together. I scheduled three appointments (yes, all on the same day) at three different bridal salons, mostly just in case I didn’t find what I was looking for at the first two stores. I even brought along my bridal style inspiration board I made to help the consultants understand what I was looking for.

My first appointment was at a little bridal shop in Delmar, DE called Stained Glass Bridal. It was the same shop that my aunt got her wedding gown from, as well as where my sister got her senior prom dress a few years prior. We arrived for the appointment and the very nice employee invited us to help ourselves to any dresses on the rack. While this store didn’t give the one on one attention I was anticipating, it was nice to just try on the dresses to get over the “wedding dress shopping” nerves. I tried on some beautiful A-Line gowns including what I call the “Wendy Dress” (pictured below). I knew after going through the dresses that I had pulled that my dress wasn’t at this store. However, I was a little surprised how much I liked this fit and flare with a gorgeous long train!

My next appointment was at Downtown Bridal in Salisbury, MD. I immediately felt more relaxed as this appointment began, solely based on the face that this store had more gowns than the previous one and my wonderful consultant was truly interested in helping me find my dream dress. After I told her our theme, and that I was looking for an A-Line gown with a tulle skirt, she pulled so many beautiful dresses for me to try on. I also mentioned that I was surprised that I liked the fit and flare at the previous store, so she found a few of those for me to try on as well.

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I absolutely loved this dress. Even though it didn’t seem bridal enough for me, I will be returning for this dress if Jody and I ever renew our vows! It even has a bow on the back. Be still my heart.
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This has “Steel Magnolias” written all over it.
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This dress is just gorgeous. I honestly don’t remember why I didn’t like this one, but if you don’t have the feeling then it must have not been the one!
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I just loved this full skirt (with pockets!) but I’m not the biggest fan of taffeta. Still beautiful though!

Just like the process to find a husband, you may fall in love, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the one for you. 30 some odd dresses later, I still didn’t have the feeling. I had fallen in love with a dress with lace detail at the top, and a beautiful tulle skirt, but even after getting “jacked up” and trying it on twice, I still wasn’t sure it that dress was the one. Between each dress, I had thirty seconds to myself to have my own silent options. I vividly remember standing in the dressing room, completely torn as to why I wasn’t excited or sure that this dress was it. It was pretty, it felt comfortable, and I loved the lace applique across the bodice. But, in my thirty seconds to myself, I looked at my dress and thought “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to get as your wedding dress?”. I knew something wasn’t right. Something was missing, although I wasn’t exactly sure what.

We left that appointment and I was becoming frustrated and disappointed. I knew we didn’t have many other weekends for me to do this with both my mom and sister in tow, and I really didn’t want to drag out the process. I was confused as to what I wanted, after being so sure that the A-Line style was for me. Disheartened, we headed to the last appointment at Louis Marie Bridal.

Even with an hour drive to the next shop, I still felt a little flustered upon arrival. Because we had spent so long at the last appointment, we were late to this one and only had a little over an hour until they closed for the day. Once we met with my consultant, I told her everything that has transpired that day from what dresses I liked, which ones I didn’t and handed over my inspiration board yet again to see if we could find anything. She pulled three dresses, two A-Lines, and one fit and flare. I tried on the first A-Line and liked how unique the top was before it descended into the fuller skirt. I thought it could be a possibility, but still headed back into the changing room to try on the others.

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As I pulled the next dress out of the bag, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is really pretty”. I slipped it on and walked out to see it in the mirror and thought again “Wow, this is really pretty!”. It hugged me in all of the right places, and had a hint of sparkle that was subtle enough to only be noticeable when the light hit it the right way. It showed off my curves, had beautiful lace detail, and had buttons going down the back. It was then that I realized I might be more in love with the fit and flare after all.

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I honestly don’t even remember the other dress I tried on after that one. But I did, and apparently didn’t impress me because before I knew it, I was back in this Serenity Bridal gown, this time to get jacked up. At this point, my mom and sister hadn’t said much in regards to what they thought about the dresses, mostly to not confuse me any more than I already was. But when I put that dress on the second time, I was desperately hoping that they liked it as much as I did. I pulled my hair back and we added the veil, and I turned to my entourage again for an option. As soon as they said they loved it, and could see me wearing this down the aisle, I burst into tears. I had found the dress that I was going to marry my best friend in.

After three different bridal stores in two different states, and over 50 dresses in one day, my road to finding my dress wasn’t what I imagined, but I wouldn’t have had in any other way. I’m eternally grateful to my consultants, Louis Marie Bridal for all they have done for me during my engagement, and my mom and sister for their unwavering support through this experience.

I do want to mention too, it is completely normal to have dress regret. For weeks after I bought my dress, I wondered if I made the right choice, or made a decision solely to get a dress that day, and would I regret my choice on my wedding day. Buying a wedding gown is a huge investment, emotionally and financially, so it is normal to second guess whether you made the right decision or not. I know I struggled with this and I don’t think it is talked about enough. For me, trying on wedding dresses made everything feel real; this was actually happening, you are getting married. Those emotions mixed in with “this is the dress that I’ll remember forever” is a lot of pressure for someone to deal with! But, looking back now, each time I tried on my dress after I bought it, I fell in love with it more and more each time, just like I do each day I spend with Jody. If anyone else is experiencing this remember that you chose it for a reason. Stick with your gut and everything will turn out beautifully. After all, you could get married in your pajamas, while I don’t suggest this, you’ll still be just as married at the end of the day and that is all that matters.

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August’s New Recipe Finds

As some of you may recall, one of my personal goals I set for the month of August was to try a new recipe each week (you can find the list here). Part of my inspiration for setting this goal was wanting to find new some new recipes, apart from the ones I have made hundreds of times and also trying to utilize my cookbooks more often. While I never actually tried a recipe from any of my cookbooks during this experience, I did find several recipes that I’m confident will be added to circulation in our household!

Growing up, I noticed my mom had to go to the grocery store multiple times a week to get food for dinner each night. As I got older, it used to drive me crazy that we couldn’t just get all of the things we needed in one trip. Once I hit adulthood, I decided to set aside some time each week to meal plan so I know exactly what I’m eating which night and can do my best to only make one trip to the store each week. Typically, I spend each Sunday morning surrounded by cookbooks and on Pinterest to figure out what we are going to eat that week. Sometimes it creates more frustration than it is meant to, but usually, it helps me feel prepared to take on the week!

This process was no different while searching for recipes to try in August. I knew that I wanted to dishes to remain relatively healthy and to utilize fresh summer veggies since they in such supply this time of year. There were some dishes I already had my eye on to try but I also had to find dishes that I could make in under an hour since I don’t get home from work until 7:30pm. Overall, I would say this was pretty successful even though I did have to do two new foods in one week because there was one week where life just happened and trying new recipes just wasn’t going to happen.

The first recipe I found I had been dying to try for a while. Mexican is my absolute favorite type of food to eat during the summer so these Skinny Enchilada Zucchini Boats were the perfect meal to kick off this meal plan! Admittedly, it was a bit of a challenge to keep the meat (I used ground turkey) in the zucchini boats while cutting to eat, it was still tasty!

Is it obvious that I love zucchini?! We love chicken just as much so I was excited to find a recipe that incorporated both! This Herbed Chicken, Orzo Pasta, and Zucchini dish was super easy to make if multitasking in the kitchen is something you can handle. Even with my limited counter space, I still felt like this was simple for looking so involved! The best part was how light this meal is — perfect for hot August days!

I tried to follow Tone It Up’s workout plan prior to our wedding to get in shape, which is how I stumbled upon these TIU approved Blueberry Lemon Zest Muffins! I honestly was a little skeptical about these (how can something good for you actually taste good?) but tried them nonetheless. While it took me a few days to find Almond flour like the recipe calls for, I whipped these up real quick during a late night baking session. They weren’t as lemony as I expected but the blueberries were enough to make them the perfect mid-morning snack!

While zucchini may be my favorite summertime veggie, corn is my hubby’s! He also is a huge fan of soups and chilis so I found this with him in mind! This Summer Corn Chowder was more like a fresh summer soup, as this recipe is gluten and dairy free. We don’t necessarily fall into either of those categories, but I can’t eat a ton of dairy so any recipe with Coconut Milk (yum) instead of cream is a win in my book. This chowder was a little more time intensive with all of the chopping and watching it on the stove, but we are still eating its leftovers! And yes, those Red Lobster biscuits you see in the background were a delicious side.

I was definitely pleased with all of the recipes that I tried, and genuinely had fun trying something new! They were all delicious, but I would have to say my favorite was the Herb Chicken. So fresh, light and still full of flavor! I had a lot of fun doing this meal plan, so stay tuned — I may try this again later this fall!

I want to know — have you tried any new recipes lately or have a favorite process to find new recipes? Tell me in the comments below, I would love to hear more ideas!

MEP to MEC: Rehearsal + Dinner

Honestly, the day before the wedding is kind of a blur, but in the best way possible. The morning started off bright and early with my mom, maid of honor/ sister, Madison, and bridesmaid, EmilyAnn, to the nail salon for a little pampering. We chatted and enjoyed a few moments of not worrying about last-minute preparations or what few things still needed to be done. We were even offered complimentary prosecco in celebration of what the next 36 hours would hold. While it was not my first time getting my nails done for a formal event this year, it was beyond surreal to believe that, this time, I was the bride!

After grabbing Chick-Fil-A for lunch (shocking, I know 😉 ) we met another bridesmaid, Olivia, at my parents’ house. Because our reception venue didn’t have a day-of wedding coordinator or in-house decor, we were responsible for getting most of the decor set up the day before. This included all of our linens I purchased, table numbers, seating chart, our details and signs, the sweetheart table — pretty much everything that was stacked in my parents front room for months! Admittedly, I did have mixed feelings about setting up. After 12 months of planning and designing, I was anxious to finally see it in person, but also nervous that my vision wouldn’t come to life, and at that point, there wouldn’t be anything I would be able to do about it. Thankfully, it seemed to come together and I was excited to see the room filled with florals, candles, and people the next day! With the help of bridesmaids and family, we were able to get the reception room all set up in under an hour.

We met the rest of our wedding party, officiant, and ceremony participants at the church exactly 24 hours before the real deal. I was so overwhelmed with joy to finally be standing in the church where I was baptized, and where I spent most Sundays for the first fifteen years of my life, preparing to marry my soul mate. I was a bit nervous when it was my turn to practice walking down the aisle with my dad, especially because our pianist (my middle band teacher and former Praise Team keyboardist!) was able to attend so we were able to practice with music. It made the rehearsal feel more realistic than I anticipated it to, but I also think it helped me hold it together the following day. Our rehearsal was otherwise went seamlessly smooth, and I’m extra thankful for our patient bridesmaids and groomsmen who made it so easy!

A few months prior, my father-in-law so graciously offered to host the rehearsal dinner, but allowed Jody and I pick the location and menu. The dinner was held at Harry’s on the Green, which is a local restaurant just three blocks from the church, that specializes in American cuisine, with a french flair. As Harry’s has such a unique style to begin with, we didn’t even worry about decor and just let the natural aesthetics take over. Since we were already having an intimate wedding of just under 100 people, we made the decision to keep our rehearsal dinner just as intimate with only our immediate family, wedding party, ceremony participant and their dates.

After a rainy morning, we were surprised we were able to still be seated on their patio for dinner. While the humidity was high, there was an occasional breeze off of the river, which only added to our relaxed dinner atmosphere that we were hoping for! Although, my poor groom unfortunately completely sweat through his dress pants and had to run up the street to our new apartment and change right before they served dinner!

After carefully weighing our options earlier in the year for our selective menu, we chose to have baked brie, a fresh spring salad and cream of crab soup as appetizers, a choice of lump Crab Cakes, Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin or Caprese Flatbread for the main entrée and ended the night on a sweet note with Apple Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake or Hot Fudge Ice Cream Puff. The restaurant even had printed out personalized menus for our affair!

During the dinner, we also presented our gifts to our wedding party and family. I have always loved giving presents, but watching these people who have done so much for us open the gifts that we got for them to attempt to express how eternally grateful we are for their friendship, was surprisingly one of my favorite parts of the evening.

The whole evening was so special and joyful. It reminded me of the feeling that you have on Christmas Eve — it is one of the best days, but the anticipation for the day that follows fills you with such happiness; just pure bliss. I will never forget how it felt to kiss Jody for the last time as my fiance. Part of me didn’t want to let him go because 4:30pm seemed like awfully far from that moment, but the other part of me knew how fast the hours ahead would pass and definitely did not want to rush through any of it. After one last kiss goodbye, I watched Jody drive off into the night, as I went home to spend one last night as a Parks. I’m so grateful to have had such a wonderful celebration as our wedding weekend was fully underway!

 

New York City Weekend Recap

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About a month ago, I decided I was going to take Labor Day weekend to go to New York City to visit my sister. She moved to Manhattan in early July and was begging me to come visit once she had her little apartment together and a long weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity. Having an extra day off gave me the luxury of flexible times to travel, as well as a day at home to rest after what I knew would be a whirlwind of a weekend.

I have visited New York several times prior to her move to the city, including last summer when my parents, Jody and I took a day trip to see her while she was interning for the summer (This was also the day I asked her to be my maid of honor, which is a whole story that I could dedicate an entire blog post to). Nonetheless, I was excited for a little girl time and to see the city from my sister’s point of view.

I booked a train ticket and left for the train station straight from work on Friday of Labor Day weekend. With Chick-Fil-A in hand, I drove 90 minutes to Wilmington to catch the train into the city. The train ride was relaxing, which was much-needed after a long day at work. I filled my time by playing games and watching Netflix on my kindle and before I knew it, I looked out of the window and saw the New York skyline. Suddenly, all of my exhaustion disappear and I was filled with excitement and eagerness to explore the city once again.

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Once I found Madison, we took the subway to the Upper East Side to her apartment that she shares with two friends from college. After a quick apartment tour, we changed and met a few of her friends at a nearby bar. Not too longer after that, we found ourselves roaming around Times Square, which I’ve seen before, but never seen at night. I finally understood why it is called the city that never sleeps — even though it was nearing 3 a.m., I was still wide awake being surrounded by all of the bright lights. After grabbing a slice of authentic New York pizza (yes, it was delicious) we headed back to her apartment and to bed.

The next morning had a slow start, which is my favorite kind of Saturday. We had coffee and pancakes and eventually pulled ourselves together to go explore her neighborhood. Our first stop was at Warby Parker, which was just around the block! I wanted to try on some new frames, and had never actually been in a Warby Parker store. These were my favorites!

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After trying on some stylish frames, we continued on towards where my sister works. I was impressed that she tries to walk to work each day, as we had been walking at city pace (just short of running) for at least 20 minutes! She pointed out different cafes that she spent a good bit of time in last summer, and I commented on how many fresh flowers were on each block. I wouldn’t mind a mile walk to work if it meant I got to pass such pretty flowers every day!

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Shortly after we walked around the Upper East Side, we made our way to Central Park for a wine and cheese picnic. Even though the weather was much cooler than it was forecast to be, we still had a wonderful time arranging our cheese board, people watching and just catching up. We could even hear Shakespeare in the Park from where we were sitting, even though we weren’t able to see it. It always blows my mind that even though we were in one of the largest cities in the world, it felt like we were in an entirely different area sitting in the grass, surrounded by trees. If I lived in New York, I would walk to Central Park every day — you’re all but guaranteed to see something new each visit!

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Later in the afternoon it started to rain, so we headed back towards her apartment to warm up a bit before continuing on. Once the rain had subsided for the most part, we went window shopping, until we stumbled upon a cute little restaurant, Thais, that was advertising $5 happy hour, which are incredibly good prices for NYC. I tried the Strawberry Mojito (delicious) and Madison had a Lychee Martini. We ended the afternoon with pizza at Pizza Beach, which again, was delicious.

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Later that night, we went out again with some more of her girlfriends. While the weather was not as nice as the night before, it was still interesting to try different bars and see the city different from how I’ve seen it before. We went to one bar, which I wasn’t particularly a fan of, but it was definitely a memorable experience to hear the entire room singing “New York” when the DJ turned it on. It reminded me of college, except it was “Wagon Wheel” that joined us all together in song. We even managed to find a rooftop bar, which was absolutely breathtaking with the low-lying cloud weaving their way around the buildings. The pictures don’t do justice for how beautiful the lights shined off of the wet streets.

On Sunday morning, I packed up my bag and headed to brunch, where we were going to meet a couple more friends before my final stroll around the city. We had reservations at The Spotted Dog, which was a quaint little restaurant, with the prettiest vintage wallpaper. I decide to try the Egg Skillet, which turned out to be more like tomato soup, but the apple sausage I shared with Madison was tasty! Plus, at this particular restaurant, all brunch items come with your choice of a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa – you can’t go wrong starting your morning off that way. 😊

Before I headed back to Penn Station to catch my train, we went to Midtown so I could see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NBC Studios and Rockefeller Plaza again. I had been to all of these sites 10 years prior, but I was excited to see these attractions again, with a more appreciative mind for what I was seeing. I hope to attend Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral one day I’m back in the city!

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As we walked through Midtown, we stumbled upon a Street market. While we didn’t have time to peruse, there were tons of vendors, with even more people. There were sandwich vendors, crepe station, and hand-woven baskets and candles to name just a few. Apparently, there is an even bigger Christmas Market in December, so I’m hoping to make it up to the city during the holiday season soon!

Even though I was in New York for less than 48 hours, I felt like I took advantage of a lot of what the city has to offer! It was neat to visit not just your typical tourist destinations, but to get a glimpse at my sister’s life as a New Yorker. I have to admit, I’ve said in the past that I could never imagine living in New York City, but after this weekend, I’m currently trying to convince my husband (and our bank account) that it is totally realistic and we should make it an option. I’m not sure that will happen, but I know that we will be back to visit again soon!