Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: February Update!

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February has been busy as usual and I'm surprised at how quickly it's flown by! In terms of the wedding planning, a lot was completed last month but there was still a bit to work through and do this month. Since my last update, here's what we've completed recently!


My Wedding Dress
I picked up my dress early in the month and I'm so in love with it. I've only shown a picture of it to my sister and a few girlfriends, but only my maid of honor, Melissa, has seen it in person. To provide some more detail without giving away a picture, it's an Oleg Cassini dress in ivory, which has cap sleeves, an illusion neckline, beaded lace appliques.and is going to be altered to hit just at the knee or even slightly below. There is no train and it has a vintage sophistication about it. My dress is currently hanging in our closet inside a garment bag, tucked away in a back corner. Even though I have my dress, I have not yet tried it on since I brought it home. The next time I will be trying it on will be in June, when I have my first fitting/alteration session. So until then, I'm not going to even look at it.... out of sight, out of mind lol. What I can say is that it's perfect and captures my style to a tee. I cannot wait!


Pre-Wedding Picnic
We are making a whole weekend of our wedding celebration and to kick things off, we're throwing a casual picnic the day before our wedding. It's going to be a fun time where we will actually have a chance to really connect, catch up, mingle and really spend quality time with family and friends. One of the first trips we took all together with Patrick's family was to Savannah, GA and Hilton Head, NC last year. We had such a wonderful time and it was fun to experience the south for the first time with them. That said, our wedding picnic will be a Southern theme as a nod to our first family trip together.


Pre-Wedding Picnic Invitations
I had picnic invitations created through an Etsy shop, Simply Smitten Designs. They did a beautiful job designing and printing the invites, which I've already received in the mail. Once I get a small venue map printed and attached to the back, they'll be ready to be included with our wedding invitations and mailed out in a couple of months.


Southern Picnic Menu
For the picnic, we're planning on having a casual spread of fried chicken, bbq ribs and a slew of classic southern inspired side dishes. I plan on preparing some of the picnic side dishes but a majority of the feast will be catered by a few vendors. My parents, who are currently overseas, will be flying in for the wedding. Knowing them, I'm pretty sure they will insist on catering our picnic themselves, but I'd rather have them sit back and enjoy the festivities of the moment.


Picnic Pie Buffet
It's not unusual for Patrick's family to celebrate birthdays with a pie instead of a cake, so we're highlighting pie as our main dessert for the picnic too. For dessert, we're going to set up a pie buffet (something we are both super excited about!). We started thinking about where to get our pies since I'm definitely not going to be making them myself. There were a few places we considered getting the pies from, but ultimately decided to get a good variety from Baker's Square. Aside from it being close to home and our picnic venue, I especially have fond childhood memories going to Baker's Square with my dad and siblings as a special Friday night treat. Right now, I'm scoping out second hand stores for cake or pedestal stands of all sizes, colors and heights. I think a collection of the stands would be a perfect way to display the pies. {Not to mention, finding more stands would only add to own personal collection of cake stands at home lol.}


Karaoke DJ
So with a venue and menu decided upon for the picnic, I knew I had to incorporate some fun entertainment. Among my friends, karaoke is a favorite pastime and we had to incorporate karaoke somehow in our wedding festivities. The best opportunity is going to be at our picnic since it's casual, fun and a time for folks to really belt out their favorite song. We've hired a karaoke DJ to come out and liven up the mood with some songs and a few microphones for friends and family to sing their hearts out. I personally can't wait to hear my friends sing and liven up the party!

To capture all the wedding weekend festivities, we've hired a few photographers to catch the special moments that we may not see amidst everything going on. Our engagement and pre-wedding picnic photographer will be my cousin of BJ Aguado Photography. He's an amazingly talented photographer and I'm super excited he is building his business in photography. Sadly, he is not available on our wedding day, but he's recommended another great colleague, Roland Gozun Photography. Come to find out, Roland's extended family have been friends of my parents for decades! It's great that he is going to be part of our special day and from his impressive portfolio, I know he will do an amazing job. We've also asked Roland to provide a photo booth for our guests to take part in and get some fun pictures during our luau celebration. But of course, having one photographer limits us from seeing different perspectives of all the festivities. As a result, we also have our very good friend, John, as a second shooter for both the picnic and wedding. John is also growing his photography business and is already friends with my cousin, so pairing them together would be easy. I'm excited to bring all three of these talented photogs together and really capture various perspectives of the weekend.


Excellence Playa Mujeres Honeymoon
We also booked and paid our honeymoon in full... but in doing so, we ended up changing the resort we'll be staying at. Originally we wanted to stay at the Excellence Riviera Maya, but decided to stay at the newer resort of Excellence Playa Mujeres. We also upgraded our stay to an 'Excellence Club' level which gives us some additional perks on top of the usual all-inclusive experience provided. We are really excited to get away and get a taste of the tropics... even more so in this frigid Chicago cold weather we've been having lately!


Wedding Bands
We also went to the jeweler together to check out some wedding bands. Both of us want simple bands and we're considering getting them engraved with the title of our wedding song and wedding date. We haven't purchased them yet but will probably do so in the next couple of months as we get closer. At least we've decided on which ones we wanted!


Wedding Song
Even though it's a second wedding for both of us, our first weddings were not that big nor did we really experience the wedding planning excitement with our significant other at the time. This time it's completely different. We often joke that our first marriages were really practice marriages because without them, we may not have truly realized who we are, our wants, our needs, our strengths and our weaknesses. We've both gone through our own set of challenges and despite everything, one thing is certain - we have chosen each other to spend the rest of our lives with because we've fallen in love with the person who grew from past experiences. Those experiences essentially made us better people - to ourselves and to each other. Sara Bareilles's song and lyrics of "I Choose You", really touched me... and Patrick could relate to it as well. That said, it was only fitting that this be our wedding song. Every time I hear this song on the radio, I can't help but tear up... so I'm going to have to find a way to hold back the tears for the wedding lol...

"I Choose You"

Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can't say I'd even notice it was absent
Cause I could live by the light in your eyes

I'll unfold before you
What I've strung together
The very first words
Of a lifelong love letter

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
(Yeah)

There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me you could not come true
Just love's illusion
But then you found me and everything changed
And I believe in something again

My whole heart
Will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you

We are not perfect
We'll learn from our mistakes
And as long as it takes
I will prove my love to you

I am not scared of the elements
I am under-prepared, but I am willing
And even better
I get to be the other half of you

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
Yeah
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
I choose you

That's all the updates for this month... stay tuned for next month's update on how our wedding planning and preparations are coming along!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter's Best Comfort Food with Peapod.com!

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While we're getting through the winter months, make it fun and delicious by joining in and sharing your favorite comfort food recipe via Pinterest and Peapod.com!

My friends at Peapod.com is giving away some amazing prices to folks that share their favorite winter comfort foods on their Pinterest board! If you like to pin, then join in - Follow @PeapodDelivers on Pinterest and pin a recipe from their board with hashtag #PeapodComfortFood for a chance to win up to $500 in Peapod.com gift cards! Just imagine all the tasty meals you can create from Peapod.com's amazing grocery items that are delivered to your door!

Three Grand Price winners will each receive $500 in Peapod Gift Cards
Five winners will each receive $100 in Peapod Gift Cards
Ten winners will each receive $50 in Peapod Gift Cards
Total value of all prices is $2,500

This sweepstates contest runs now through March 9th and you can even enter daily! So as you surf the web and look for amazing dishes to make for your family and friends, pin those dishes to Peapod's Pinterest page and use the hashtag #PeapodComfortFood for a chance to win up to $500 in Peapod Gift Cards!

Then pin from this board:
Good luck!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet & Sour Shrimp

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Happy {Chinese} New Year! It's the year of the Goat/Sheep and this year, Patrick and I celebrated with delicious Chinese food of course! Come to think of it, I felt this past week was all about celebrating - Valentine's Day (last Saturday), Mardi Gras (this past Tuesday), Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) and most recently, Chinese New Year (Thursday) - all in the same week. Thankfully, lots of good food can be had and this particular dish captures the Chinese flavors and is perfect for those abstaining from red meat for Lent too. This Sweet & Sour Shrimp is tossed with a flavorful sauce and served over crispy noodles with broccoli...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sausage Eggs Benedict over Garlic & Onion Flatbread Rounds

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One of my favorite meals is brunch and this year, I started my own little brunch group with girlfriends. It's a great opportunity for us gals to get together without any kids, significant others, family members, and any of the "stuff" that usually keeps us so busy. We've had our first brunch last month and now we're planning on getting together every other month to catch up with familiar faces, meet new faces and in the end, really connect with other women. Given my love of brunch, I've also am on a personal quest for interesting and unique eggs benedict dishes. Eggs Benedict is my ultimate favorite brunch dish and I usually order it whenever I get the chance! So with eggs benedict on the brain, I was inspired to make a version at home. This Sausage Eggs Benedict over Garlic & Onion Flatbread Rounds is a mash up of a couple egg benedict variations using a unique base - flatbread! Savory garlic and onion flatbreads are topped with a sausage patty, spinach, gently poached egg and a spicy hollandaise sauce...

Monday, February 16, 2015

February Finds!

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Here's another list of items I've come across and have loved using lately! Hope you find some of these things useful or consider picking some of these up for yourself...


This latern has been such a great item to have at home. I think all homes should have a good emergency light and this is definitely a good choice. Super high-efficiency LED light generates little to no heat and can be used continuously for up to six days, making it a must have for any type of emergency and safer and longer lasting than any type of emergency candles! This lantern has sturdy rubber and ABS plastic construction for maximum durability and water resistance. It also has a removable top for focused forward lighting or for use as a hanging area light. I especially like that the LED lights are guaranteed for up to 100,000 hours of use and never need replacing. So whether you are camping out in the wilderness, waiting out a storm, or simply telling stories to your children under the blankets, you can rest assured that the AYL StarLight 330 will be there to light the way. They've designed their lantern to be the most rugged and durable available, while utilizing the latest advances in LED technology.


I can't have too many pot holders at home, but what I've found is that they can be pretty bulky and sometimes, not that efficient. It would be much easier if potholders were like gloves that could withstand the hot temps of dishes, baking sheets, etc coming out of the oven. When I came across these gloves, I was thrilled! These gloves are made out of the same material that fire fighter's flame resistant clothing is made from. That said, these gloves can withstand temperatures of up to 662 degrees. I don't have to worry about oversized oven mits or pads falling off or being too cumbersome to hold while reaching for hot items. Another bonus is that they can be used when grilling too, so it's definitely something for both the kitchen and outdoor cooking as well.  



I love having fresh fruit out for my boys so there's no excuse for them to enjoy a healthy snack. I was looking for a fruit bowl to use and came across this two tier one that was perfect for my kitchen. The two tiers didn't take up much counter space, allows to hold more fruit and the overall style is beautiful. If you don't want to store fruit, you can also store onions, potatoes or pretty much anything else you want handy in the kitchen!

Another fruit basket I love in my kitchen is this one with a banana holder. It's sturdy and the banana holder allows me to ave 2 levels to ripen and store fruit. The bottom bowl is about 11.5 inches in diameter and the hanging hook is perfect for bananas or even grapes. It pairs nicely with the 2 tier hammock fruit bowl too and looks really sleek on the countertop!

Now that our kitchen got new fruit bowls, I decided our guest bath gets a new shiny addition as well. We previously placed bath toiletries on a molded shelf in our bathtub unit of our guest bath. I always thought a stainless steel shower wall caddy would be more fitting. I found a perfect one to hang from our shower head and it now holds toiletries neatly and conveniently. Each level gives enough room to store standard size shampoo and body wash bottles. The hook is wrapped in a rubber coating which will allow it to keep a firm grip around your shower head or shower door and will not cause any scratching. It also includes a suction cup at the bottom which will hold the caddy in place and not slide from side to side. There are 2 hooks which are good for hanging sponges and loofahs and also 2 spots to hold your favorite shaving razor. Because it's stainless steel, I don't have to worry about it rusting which is always a plus! 

This year I've made more effort in doing around the house is to organize a bit more. Laundry is one of those household chores that I loathe, but lately I've been learning to enjoy it. Organizing my laundry has definitely made it easier. One way I've organized my laundry chore is by using laundry wash bags. If you've tried any ordinary laundry wash bags, you'll notice the InsideSmarts difference in no time. These #1 Rated Wash Bags are made of premium-grade mesh that makes them as strong & durable as they are luxurious & smooth. The set includes 4 Luxury Wash Bags (2 medium, 2 large) which helps keep like-colors separated using the 3 white wash bags for light-colored loads, and the 1 large black bag for dark-colored items. I especially like the way the zippers are even thought about. Usually zippered mesh laundry bags can be noisy as they tumble in the dryer. However these bags allow you to slip the rustproof zipper under the smart zipper guard to protect & ensure a quiet, snag-free wash.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

GF Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake

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Valentine's day is around the corner and this time of year, I'm all about getting in a whole lot of chocolate desserts. This year is no exception and I opted to make a gluten free dessert full of chocolate. This Gluten Free Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake will win over the heart of any chocoholic for Valentine's Day...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Southwestern Inspired Super Bowl!

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This year we're hosting a Superbowl Party and when it came to figuring out what to serve, I was inspired by the Southwest since this year's game is being hosted in Arizona.  I'm still working out the final details of my menu but if you're thinking of doing a Southwestern Inspired Super Bowl Party too, here are some menu ideas I've made in the past!

Homemade [GF] Flour Tortillas



5 Layer Taco Dip



Southwestern Chicken Stuffed Shells



Salsa Verde Pork Carnitas



Pork Carnitas Flautas



Tinga Ground Beef Tacos



Tex Mex Tater Skins



Chicken Enchilada Casserole



BBQ Beef & Chorizo Tacos



KahlĂșa Flan Cake

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