MBFW: Rustic New Jersey Engagement Party

My Best Friend’s Wedding” – The 1997 hit featuring a young Julia Roberts pining for Cameron D’s man just moments before their wedding. It’s a whole thing.

My best friend’s wedding (MBFW): the upcoming 2016 production wedding featuring my boon companion Claire (you might remember Claire from a buncha times) and her fiancé, Theo, a strapping young Brit who’s taken a shining to my favorite Brooklyn babe.

Both, I am certain, will be classics. One, I imagine (**spoiler alert**) will feature slightly less heartbreak for Ms. Roberts.

BUT I DIGRESS. This is not a post about rom-coms. This is a post about the most beautiful engagement party thrown  to celebrate these two lovebirds. Set in the charming home of another one of Claire’s best pals, this party had it all, nestled in a quaint Jersey shore town on a brisk November afternoon.

Picturesque noshes.

IMG_2650

Biscuits for days, tarts for hours. Goat cheese and tomato and onion tarts featured.

Warm flannel blankets clustered around a fire pit….

IMG_2657

Oh, and a cornhole set

HAND-CARVED WOODEN LETTERS for the names of the couple-of-honor and simple, bright yet subtle flower arrangements (Pinterest, eat your heart out).

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.25.26 AM

Precious moments.

A rugged Englishman to tend to ALL THOSE FIRES!

IMG_2674

Theo does chimineas. Everyone benefits.

And a TON of frittatas.

IMG_2676

Hello, lover.

IMG_2677

I know….

IMG_2678

EGG-BASED CASSEROLES FOR THE WIN!

Apparently, Claire, the blushing-bride-to-be, agreed. She is (expertly) pictured below, in a stunning almond-colored, embroidered Free People frock, her face crammed with homemade Vietnamese spring rolls just dripping with fish sauce.

IMG_2685

She loves this photo and, because of it, has hired me to be her wedding photographer.

And while the food and the decor were divine, the part of this engagement party that made it so magical were the people. The couple’s friends and family from near and far (luckily, mostly near, England is a hike) gathered together over the most amazing, homemade eats (shoutout to Katherine and her family, the hosts for the day, who probably have more tart pans than I have fingers) to eat, drink, and be merry (ALMOST made the married pun, but I’m better than that).

IMG_2688

Grandmothers gabbing

IMG_2710

The firepit served as primo real estate on this chilly November day

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” And I’m pretty sure that it also takes a village to throw a quality engagement party. From a signature cocktail speaking to the couple’s favs (it was a Pimm’s Cup, British roots are strong!) to crowdsourcing main dishes and desserts, from understated decorations to perfect placement of seating areas, the flow of this soirée allowed everyone to mingle, munch, and merrymake in the most natural way possible. It takes a village to throw a party.

But, don’t worry, we didn’t forget about that child.

IMG_2718

This little man tried hard to make this photo NSFW by yanking on this dress.

As is tradition, the party couldn’t be called official until the Cermonial Crying of the Mom. Kathleen, Claire’s mama, delivered.

IMG_2729

No, I just have some smoke in my eye.

To Claire and Theo, I raise my (virtual) glass to you both. You have one of the most loving support systems I’ve ever witnessed. Your family and friends loves you more than you can ever know, and I’m elated at the opportunity to chronicle this whole process.

By Claire’s request.

 

 

IMG_2728

Papa Brandow toasts. Everyone tries not to cry.

Thank god for that smoke, made for the perfect excuse.

Could someone pass the tissues?

 

 

Thanksgiving DOs and DON’Ts

Good day to you all, and TGIT(before Thanksgiving!)  If you’re as excited about the holiday season as I am (but don’t want to unload all your bank accounts to fund it), check out my Guest Post over at Cynthia‘s blog titled: Rich Girl Living on a Poor Girl Budget!  Curious how I afford my LAVISH lifestyle?  Well ALL is revealed (almost. There’s nothing about the magic beans I got from that shifty salesman when I was a young lass.)

I’m so thankful. This time in two days, I’ll be at home, with my family, maybe even helping out with some sort of recipe. Or maybe I’ll be on our annual Turkey trot (since my family of 7 is made up of a chunk of late sleepers). And, while I’ve had a fantastic past few Thanksgivings with family and friends, this year I’ve decided to make sure that I maximize my Turkey day without feeling awful and sluggish for the next few days. Or weeks. Because yes, that’s happened before.

DON’T get in an accident halfway through your 12 hour ride to Thanksgiving dinner and have to rent a car on Thanksgiving day. 

Uh Oh.

Last year, Ryan and I managed to burst a tire 20 miles outside of Sevierville, TN. 6 hours from our starting point. 6 hours from our destination. On Wednesday night, before Thanksgiving.

You know what aren’t open on Thanksgiving?

98% of rental car places.

A 50 minute cab ride to the airport later, and an all-out, temper tantrum (by me), we got a rental car and THANKSGIVING WAS SAVED!!

DO be able to laugh about it when things go wrong

Oh, Dolly.

In case you weren’t aware, Sevierville, TN is the home of Dolly Parton.

So yeah, if you get stuck, make a new friend! Even if she’s a cardboard cutout of Dolly Parton. Roll with the punches, life’s full of them.

DON’T feel obligated to buy butter in a seasonal shape

RIP Butter Turkey

There’s never any need for a giant thing of butter in the shape of a turkey. And you’ll feel like you have to finish it on Thanksgiving. It’s ridiculous (and hilarious), but spend that money on a sweet turkey shaped…. hat or something.  The hat is much lower in cholesterol.

DO deep fry, smoke, and roast turkeys

Turkey Smorgasbord!

If you can, try a smoked turkey. Try a deep fried turkey. Eat roasted turkey.

They’re all delicious. And all SO different!! Love those turkey options.

DON’T eat every casserole in sight

Six casseroles. Sure, why not?

I think sweet potato casserole is my downfall.

Wait. Scratch that. ALL casseroles. I can’t even control myself. Note to family: If you see me going back for thirds of casserole, grab a wooden spoon and THWACK!

Then, get me a beer. Because that wooden spoon hurt.

DO try a little bit of all your favorites, on a PLATE!

I LOVE variety. I love tapas and appetizer samplers and so Thanksgiving is just my dream holiday. Turkey’s great, but so are mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese and buttery rolls and green beans and I like to try a little of everything. But make sure you limit yourself to what you enjoy on a plate. I’ve found that if I pick and nibble at things without putting them on my plate, I eat MUCH more.

Plate your victuals, and don’t go pickin!!

DON’T forget about dessert!

Pie in the Sky

While I’m no Ed Levine (Read: Don’t fantasize about an all-pie Thanksgiving), I do love pie. In fact, when I was 10, I won a pie-eating contest with pumpkin pie! The prize?

More food (namely a GIANT tub of caramel corn.)  Delicious.

DO spend as much time with your family/loved ones as possible!!

Sisters, Aunts, Cousins, Nieces

That’s what I’m most thankful for, without question.

And even though Ryan will be celebrating his family in Key West (hard knock life, right?) I’ll be thinking about how thankful I am to have such a great beau in my life! (Especially one that will brave Dolly Parton-land with me.)

What are your favorite parts about Thanksgiving?

Any Thanksgiving DO or DON’T you live by?

The 61 Hour Wedding Whirlwind Weekend: The Reception

Happy Friday, friends and neighbors.  Today the weekend is starting a little early, though not for anything extremely fun.  When I got to work today, I was feeling decidedly normal, but that faded fast.  Slowly and surely, with tummy rumblings and general malaise, I realized it was bound to be a half day.  It’s likely some perfect storm of not eating a real dinner last night (but nibbling on calamari, shrimp and salsa, and making a peach crumble sundae…), my past two weeks of travel catching up on me, and my own, personal shark week (explanation may be TMI for regular readers, but feel free to click if you don’t understand.)  No matter the culprit, my body just needed some R&R (&S… for salad!)

Taco Salad + a special guest!

I sprinkled some sexy chia seeds on top for a little crunch (and because… you know… all the cool kids do it.) It reminded me of sesame seeds, and the salad was delicious.  Probably very good for me to get some greens into my body after the lousy food and drink I put in my belly last night.

I thank you all for sticking it out and following this wedding journey to the end, and in case you haven’t (but want to) here’s the recap so far:

We all know, to quote a great man, that “After the show, it’s the after parrrrrrrrrtyyyyyy” (R. Kelly, 2003).  The wedding party was danced onto the boat where the reception was held, one of Pittsburgh’s infamous Gateway Clipper Fleet ships.  Unfortunately, one of the groomsmen didn’t quite have his “land legs” yet, and promptly spilled an entire glass of red wine on the table.

Smooth, bro.

Luckily, the crew had it cleaned up in a jiffy, and in a few minutes, after the rest of us got our drinks, the table was again ready for sitting.

Groom, bride, and Bre, the other MOH

Up next was the part of the night I was the most anxious about… the SPEECHES!  First up was Miles, brother of the groom, and best man.

Dapper dude

His speech was top notch.  Clever, touching, and to the point. It touched on the loyalty of the groom, the generosity of the bride, and how right they were for each other.

The other MOH, Breanna, discussed the meeting of Caitlin and Eamonn as a fairytale, starting with dorm rooms and shot glasses.  I’ll admit, I had very little knowledge of this inside joke, but I know it meant a lot to the happy couple, and was happy that someone who actually knew them well as a couple could speak to their love story.

I don’t have any pictures of my own speech, since I was giving it and all, but all of my anxiety flew away the moment someone handed me a microphone. I looked back at Caitlin and tried to speak from the heart, and I did it all without crying at all (though there were some seriously intense cracks in my voice, made me feel like a pubertal boy… one who was about to weep openly in front of his friends.)  It went over well, though, and then the fun could begin!!

Ryan and I cutting a rug (Source: Chrissy K Photography)

Adorable cake topper

Woops, how'd that one slip in there?

Love on the top deck!

And the night was capped off with beautiful fireworks (that were meant for the Pittsburgh Pirates… but we felt like they were all for us!)

Boom boom boom

All in all, I’d say a successful wedding.  Romantic, inspiring, and on a boat.  All the best parts of a night out, right?

Bahahaha now that I have a blog I can post pictures like this ALL THE TIME!

PS my sincere apologies to Ryan, my beau, for being such a camera ham…. and for posting pictures like this.  Thanks for tolerating dating me.

Ok, now I’m off to try and feel better…. maybe with the help of this week’s US Weekly.  Apparently Denise Richards is gonna “tell all.”

I’m riveted.

Do you like celebrity gossip?

Do you take ridiculous pictures of you and your significant other in hopes that one day, you can show them off for all the world to see?

Yeah. Me too.

The 61 Hour Wedding Whirlwind Weekend: Pictures and the Ceremony!

Hey y’all and TGIT!!  Truly, though, I’m feeling FANTASTIC on this Thursday.  It may have something to do with the unplanned extra hour and a half I got this morning when I decided that the great dreams I was having were more important than the 7 am BodyAttack class….  No matter what is causing it, I hope this feeling doesn’t fade anytime soon!!

Lunch today also may have something to do with my great mood, because it was a perfect one.  One of my coworkers brought a little treat for everyone in the office and put it on the “community microwave” which is usually where we put snacks that we made or leftover goodies to “share with the rest of the class.”  Today’s was MUCH better than cupcakes.

Tiny tomatoes, perfect for lunchtime!

They completed the salad for the ages:

Even better than last night!!

This little taco salad was very similar to last night’s taco salad but tasted much more delicious.  I think it had something to do with the freshest little tomatoes and the fact that there wasn’t 1/4 lb of SUPER STRONG spicy turkey (which I replaced with a 1/3 can of Bush’s reduced sodium blackbeans) overpowering everything.  I really tasted the avocado, and it gave the salad a creamy counterpart to the crisp peppers.

Anyway, here’s the fourth installment of the wedding weekend (sorry if you’re getting sick of this, but not too sorry because it’s been a blast to write and great for my mom to get a play by play of the wedding!!)

In case you missed it, here are the other parts:

After we finished getting all dolled up, we rushed Cait’s room to observe her (much more laborious) preparation.

THE DRESS!

Cait’s dress was a total looker, fitting for such a flawless bride!

The bow on the back was difficult, apparently, but we had a bridesmaid for that! Juli, one of Cait’s old roomies, was ready to step up.

Bow-i-gami!

There were many many pictures snapped of the bridesmaids, of Cait, of the moms, of the photographer:

This is so meta.

Then, we hopped onto a trolley to head up to Mt. Washington for THE BIG REVEAL!! In case you’re unaware, the big reveal is the first look that the groom gets at his bride.  Especially important when you’re taking pictures before the ceremony!

Trolley beers

 

Love at first sight.

Clearly, the tallest of the bridesmaids.

It was incredibly hot and sweaty during the picture taking, but we had a good time in the trolley thanks to our dear friend: beer.

Cheers to the happy couple!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get many pictures from the ceremony considering how annoying it would’ve been having a Maid of Honor snapping shots inside the chapel.  But thankfully, my handsome date snapped a few.

So excited!

MWA!! It's official!!

Oh, hey boyf! I FOUND YOU! and you found... my crazy eyes!

The ceremony was beautiful, the vows… inspiring.  And we all hooted and hollered as they walked off into a sea of bubbles!

Note my "I scream louder than anyone else!" face.

Join us tomorrow for our final installment: the afterparrrrrrrtyyyyyy! (also known as the reception).

Nothing’s Right, I’m TORN!

(***WARNING: The following post is going to make me sound like a spoiled brat.  I promise that [most of the time] I am not, and I’m just being melodramatic because it’s Wednesday and I’m sleepy.  Take it with a grain of salt, as a fair percent of it is in jest.***)

Here’s the thing.  When you offhandedly tell your friends you’d be okay with playing one night for them in volleyball if they needed, you never really think that volleyball game is going to come.

Here’s the other thing: You’re wrong.

That game will come and it will, undoubtedly, be the night that you really wanted to/planned with folks to go to Woody’s City Market in Raleigh with all your friends from that Tri-Beer Meetup you talk about incessantly.

Not only that, but one game will really mean two games, scheduled at the least convenient times ever known to mankind.  6:30. 8:30.

Don’t worry, the games will “be conveniently” (those quotation marks imply the dripping sarcasm that’s coming out of my every pore) located about 30 minutes from your house, 3o minutes from the bar, and 30 minutes from any likelihood of you being able to participate in the Dogfish Head Tap Takeover you’ve waited for your whole beer life (which may only be a mere 2 years in the making, but it still means a lot because this never happens and Dogfish is NEVER on tap anywhere near you).  You know, in case you were worrying.

You will undoubtedly feel like a brat for wanting to play one game then dash, and you will also feel like a jerk for ditching your beer friends.  This is natural.  Be prepared to feel this way all day.

Here’s the thing: whatever happens, it’s going to make you feel lousy.

How is it only Wednesday?

To make up for this downer of a post, here are a few things that make me incredibly happy:

  • This one time, I went to a Lady Gaga concert.  This was my outfit:

    That's right. Those are birds in my hair.

    This was my inspiration:

    Yup, birds on his back.

  • Although mon frere, Hunter, thought it’d be patriotic of him to go to France during the Fourth of July and take pictures like this:

    Il est degoutante, non?

    … he’s back, stateside!  Which means that I will be showering him with all the American love I have to give in just a few days!!

    He's my twin, 7 years removed.

    Can’t wait.

  • Today is the Changing of the Sales.  Come on, Harris Teeter…. Mommy needs some new cheese!