stop the press: i’m gonna be a mama! before christmas, we found out that we were expecting a little one, and we felt excited and terrified all at once. our lives will never be the same. there will be more love, more messes, more giggles, and more adventure, and we can’t wait.
tomorrow i’ll enter my second trimester (14 weeks); so far, so good. i haven’t had morning sickness but i’ve been eating a lot more than usual. i felt super duper tired in january (hence my sporadic blogging). my energy is finally starting to come back and i’m cooking dinner, staying up past 8:30, and doodling again.
the little one is due in august, and we’re grateful for the well-wishes and prayers from our family and friends. i can’t lie: i’m personally thankful that i still fit into my madewell dresses. fingers crossed these a-lines will continue to agree with me. and i am totally going to thrift the best stuff for the baby, just you wait.
p.s. an extra special thanks and hugs to kelsey and eric (of words of williams) who sent the smallest and cutest moccasin boots ever.
in one of my favorite seinfeld episodes, jerry laments, ”what is this obsession people have with books? they put them in their houses like trophies. what do you need it for after you read it?”
michael and i have owned these bookcases forever (meaning at least six years). when we lived in an apartment, they stood against a wall in the bedroom. when we moved into our house, we lined them up at the end of our living room. we painted the walls dark just for the bookcases. but i never put a chair near them.
over thanksgiving, i began our book nook project by updating some of the decor on our bookcases and adding a comfortable place for reading. what a difference a chair makes— i actually sit by the window and read (or check instagram).
i prefer two styles of bookcases: the eclectically cluttered or the extremely sparse. our shelves are quite busy, and i don’t mind. i arrange the books in color families with matching objects. we also display drawings, a few photographs, and pugs, lots of pugs!
the green bins on the bottom hide my husband’s comic books and corral board games that we don’t break out enough. one day i’d love to replace the chair with a chaise so i can relax and read or relax and nap, whichever happens first.
we got married in october, and the day flew by like a whirling dervish of nerves, excitement, and affection. there are many things i remember: how i planned to paint my fingernails and completely forgot, how my best friend and brother-in-law climbed tables to help hang garlands, how my parents walked two blocks with me to the church, and more.
when we received our wedding photos from nathan russell and his wife amy, we were given a second chance to relive that beautiful day. michael and i poured over the photos like two young children going to the movies for the very first time. we wanted to sit down with candy and popcorn and watch the picture show again and again.
today i share some of our favorite snapshots. there is a dress hanging serenely in a hallway, a bouquet waiting to be held, and an unimpressed pug longing for a snack. there are our musicians: my brother who played guitar as i walked down the aisle, and our friends’ beautiful daughters who performed at the church. there is the clutch of a mother’s hand and a small wedding party, sitting on steps as onlookers wave and cheer. and there is a husband and wife.
a good photographer can capture a smile, a kiss, and a couple. but it takes a great photographer to capture joy. thank you nathan and amy for capturing all of our joy— you are great.
collage by me. photos by nathan and amy russell.
the wedding book (i.e. a small journal) will always hold our wedding vows. we worked with our friend (an ordained minister) on other aspects of our ceremony, but we wanted our vows to be our own.
if you search wedding vows or wedding ceremony you’ll find thousands of little snippets and thousands of full samples. if you’re not picky, you can copy and paste a wedding ceremony in less than two minutes. we used a traditional outline (processional, prayer, music, vows, and exchange of rings, recessional) but personalized it with the addition of a buddhist wedding prayer and a song performed by our close friends’ children.
weeks before the wedding, we began to piece together our vows to each other. i remember michael asked, “what are the guidelines?” we decided on “not too long”, “not too silly”, and “nothing embarrassing.” mainly we agreed on “the most important words”— kind and loving words to share about each other in the presence of the dearest people in our lives. on the morning of the wedding, michael copied his vow on the first few pages in the book, and then i skipped a couple and wrote mine.
at the church, michael spoke first, and then i did. though smiling, we fought back tears. our ceremony and the echo of the words sit unmoving in my memory. i am not sure if i will ever digest the beauty; it feels like time stood still.
if you’re thinking about writing your own wedding vows, i encourage you to simply try. find a quiet place on a weekend afternoon and jot or type what you feel in your heart. the words may not be perfect the first time (or fifth time) but the words you want will show themselves eventually. good luck! if all else fails, google.
when i told michael i planned to design our wedding invitations, he said, “of course you are. we wouldn’t have it any other way.” i didn’t have any previous experience making stationery, but as you know, i love to draw, and that seemed like a good enough reason.
magazines, planners, experts, and oprah will tell you that an invitation sets the tone for your wedding. metallics and scripts work well for black tie and rustic touches are perfect for outdoor parties. michael and i wanted something personal, pretty, and down-to-earth, so i settled on an illustrated, handmade combination.
i drew the artwork, placed the type, and printed the cards on eames canvas paper before carefully cutting them with an x-acto knife. i mounted the invitation on a kraft card and wrapped the entire set with baker’s twine, a paper shape (all the shapes were different; they ranged from vintage keys to little messages to birds), and a metal initial of the guest’s last name.
after we sealed the envelopes, i hand-lettered everyone’s mailing addresses. all i can say about that step is: ooowwwww my hand and thank goodness i bought a lot of white pens.
looking back, i probably should have worked with an online printer like vistaprint or a local copy shop. the process seems effortless in a photograph. there were many times i felt annoyed and overwhelmed with the computer, our printer, the paper, the dimensions, the decorating, etc. doing-it-yourself isn’t always easy, but the experience is worthwhile. i had a pep in my step as i carried them in a bushel basket to the post office!
we absolutely adored the final invitation and so did our family and friends. today i share our invitation with you as a small glimpse of our wedding day and my stubborn, creative brain.
this post is my first wedding reflection. stay tuned for a few more.
thank pinterest for gallery walls. before the pinning craze, i would have defined gallery walls as “walls in gallery” the same way a celebrity would refer to walmart as “a store for walls.” now i know a gallery wall refers to pictures arranged nicely in a group.
our gallery wall has been a work in progress since we moved into our house. we quickly decorated the living room in shades of green, grey, white, and black, but we left the largest wall blank. i wanted a wall with maps, but it took awhile to find the right maps and complimentary pictures. three years later, our art room is finally complete.
some gallery walls are symmetrical and others are arranged in a carefree manner. michael and i both liked the idea of having similarly sized frames with different images. we bought our large world map, map of paris, map of rome, and feather prints from home goods. the maps have blue and green color schemes and match our living room decor. the feathers are neutral but their dark frames add contrast to the rest of the wall.
i designed our compass print and paper dolls (both available from my studio) and displayed them in twin, metallic frames from tj maxx. i bought the little chickadee lithograph and embroidered map of virginia at the thrift store. if you’re an avid thrifter, you’ve had those magical days when you feel like you were supposed to find something. that’s how i feel about the virginia piece; it’s my home state and the place where we met. after our wedding, i plan on sewing one of our cake toppers (a crochet heart) onto the wooden embroidery hoop.
my favorite thing about gallery walls is that all of them look different and personal. you can use a template to help arrange the gallery, but the content of the frames— whether they are photographs, doodles, children’s art, objects, or posters— is entirely up to you. two of my favorite gallery wall artists are jen (of jen loves kev) and lauren kelp.
next month, michael and i will get married! i’m so excited about seeing our family and friends; many of them will travel across the country for the special occasion. we’ve got the major cities covered: los angeles, chicago, atlanta, philadelphia, and washington, d.c.
when we first met, we didn’t plan on falling in love, and we certainly didn’t plan on moving to big bad texas, far away from the states where we grew up. i mailed our invitations over the summer, feeling apprehensive about how many cards we would actually get back.
but they arrived in the mail, slowly but surely. there’s that old saying of your presence is a present. as cliché as it sounds, it’s true. as we approach our wedding day, we feel blessed and excited that the very most important people in the whole world will be there with us.
today i am reminded that being loved is enough. to our guests, you are loved, too.
photograph by me. printed flag by natural life.
michael and i both grew up in rural areas where someone’s driveway ranged from being a few hundred feet to almost a mile long. we went to college in cities and then lived in apartments in the suburbs. we never had a neighborhood until we moved into our house.
our next door neighbor is very outgoing; she can rattle off the names of everyone who lives on our street. she tells me which kids play what sports and which dogs belong to what house. in case you’re wondering, we’re an island of pug in the sea of shih tzus.
i try to be polite. i say hello to people i see on walks and drive slowly when the skateboarders are out. once i left a bag of big dog bones at our mail stoop for other dogs because they were too large for sophie (she didn’t think so).
this summer i left something different. i stuck some woven friendship bracelets in a baggie and scribbled HAPPY SUMMER! michael told me i was silly for leaving the bracelets.
but they disappeared one or two at a time. then i found an unexpected note for me!
i think it’s important to be kind to your neighbors even in small ways. so say hello, what’s up, how are you, i’m fine, too. you don’t have to be their best friend. just be friendly, and you might find someone who wants to be neighborly, too.
i’m proud to report that our wedding plans are in full swing— we finalized our venue, caterer, and menu. most of my crafty projects now revolve around a mix-and-match french picnic theme chosen for the reception.
i chose our wedding colors based on a late summer palette. although we’re getting married in october, autumn in texas is much warmer than fall on the east coast. the tan is for wood tones and the poppy is for punch. ivory is just a basic, versatile color that never goes wrong.
these colors aren’t our absolute favorite swatches nor do they signify anything important to our families. red is a wedding color in many asian cultures but brides also wear metallics. i picked them because they seemed friendly and looked nice together.
how did you choose your wedding or party colors?
during summer vacation, i stay home with sophie and stay busy with projects. everyday, i have a little project (or three or four). clean the bathtubs. sweep the porch. reorganize something or another. these tasks help me feel productive rather than docile and full of ice cream.
warm weather brings the wonderful opportunity to catch a hummingbird. well, we’re not catching one. we’re treating one to a sweet snack. make a simple syrup of one cup of boiling water to one cup of sugar. mix well, cool, and pour into a feeder. our vintage style feeder is proudly made in pennsylvania!
scratch another project off the list. watch and wait.
today i share with you where i work at home— work meaning drawing, writing, designing, drinking iced coffee, and eating gummy bears. michael and i split an office; it’s a small spare bedroom that gets too much sun. the warmth would make a guest or child uncomfortable so we took it over and added a ceiling fan which helps a bit.
one side of the room is mine. the grey walls resemble our living room, and i kept the furniture modern and white. i have an older mac that i use with a wacom tablet for drawing. my desk, shelves, and little storage boxes are from ikea. we bought the rolling chair, lamp, and rug from tj maxx.
we didn’t find everything in one trip; my little corner is a hodgepodge of random shopping weekends from the last three years. the pieces ended up complimenting each other through the wood, metallic, and burlap scheme. i use italian glass canning jars to corral art supplies and buttons and a regular bulletin board (covered in linen) to hold a calendar. the calendar is usually covered with notes; i use it as an editorial calendar for the blog.
i like my workspace because it’s peaceful and quirky. i try to keep my desk tidy; michael would tell you tidy is loosely defined. my favorite part of it all is the dreamcatcher. it once hung in michael’s childhood bedroom. it’s a daily reminder of the past and encouragement for the future.
do you have photos of your office or workspace? share your links in the comments.
over the past few years of being homeowners, michael and i have learned what kinds of plants thrive in our region and what kinds of plants die. many yards in south texas are dry, rocky, and fussy, and a typical garden includes just a few flowers among heartier plants like rosemary, sage, lantana, and cacti. i love hydrangeas but they would never survive the summer heat and water restrictions.
our top two flowers are impatiens and pansies. impatiens dislike the sun and pansies adore it. they’re both mounding plants; if you take care of them, they multiply. i started with one impatiens seedling and six pansies seedlings; look at ‘em now!
we keep the impatiens in an oversized stone vase on the front porch and the pansies hang out in a large wooden barrel. these containers effectively combat the soil problem; we fill them with good garden soil, and the roots have plenty of room to grow. pansies and impatiens can go several days without water. they’re perfect for texans and forgetful gardeners like me.
i keep bugging michael for more barrels but he’s worried the neighbors will think hobbits live here. no michael, you mean elves.
if you ask a variety of brides about their wedding plans, you would receive different responses. some might have prepared for the day by playing princess as a little girl. some might enjoy the process and gush about how fun it is. some might leave it to the professionals while others are happily DIT (doing it themselves). and then some— like me— took awhile to get started.
after we got engaged and dove into planning, michael was confused. he watched me browse magazines, thumb through books, and hesitantly create a pinterest board. i made him answer surveys, take quizzes, and shoot ideas back and forth. he said, “i thought you knew what you wanted.” in a quiet corner of my heart, i did. but in a modern world where everything is publicized and recorded, i didn’t.
in the beginning, i collected more what ifs than actual inspiration. what if it’s too expensive? what if it’s too cheap? what if guests don’t like those foods? what if no one feels the same magical way about our color scheme? what if i don’t order invitations? what if i’m crazy and make them? what if i use tons of ink and print them and they’re crooked? what if i listen to my mother-in-law? what if i don’t listen to her? what if my brother can’t play the songs? what if my buddhist parents think our ceremony is too western? what if we just eat hamburgers? the list went on and on and on.
we were engaged in july and by january i talked about the wedding only occasionally. it wasn’t that we didn’t love each other (we schmoopy love each other). all my worries snowballed together and became a big snow-STALL. i dreaded going out to dinner or walking the hallways at school and running into a friend who might ask, “how are your wedding plans coming along?” i ground my teeth at night. i gave the stink-eye to any couple with a full-spread glamorous wedding on a manicured estate or dreamy ceremony atop a middle-of-nowhere mountain. blame it on media, blame it on perfectionism, blame it on myself. i didn’t think i measured up to what others hoped i could be.
in april, i woke up and broke away from the blizzard. dwelling on doubts put me further inside someone else’s fantasy, and i longed to be back inside my own dream. our own dream. our adventure. our wedding. michael and i have accomplished more goals in the past six weeks than i thought possible. if you’re a bride-to-be, don’t forget who you are, and if need be, go back to the drawing board.
maybe you can relate to my story, or maybe you’re thinking, girl get your party together! either way, i’m okay with it now. and for the latter, we’re finally getting there.
screenshot of my pinterest board.
every sunday, michael allows me to treat myself (“treat yo-self”) to a bunch of blooms at the grocery store. the best parts about buying supermarket flowers are the low prices and unusual assortment. i always try to pick out something new though i favor matsumotos and ranunculus.
this week a bunch of gemini daisies caught my eye. never have i seen them in such a vibrant color. after i trimmed the stems, i arranged the flowers in fraternal twin vases in honor of gemini, the astrological sign. now they’re sitting together in our kitchen watching the sun.
i haven’t blogged too much lately, but there are good reasons. since we set our wedding date, other details are slowly falling into place. we found a tiny church for the ceremony and booked a photographer. i’m currently in the process of securing our reception venue. michael ordered a suit, and i haphazardly found a j.crew dress on ebay that ended up being simply beautiful and very “me”. come on y’all— it has pockets.
i don’t feel like the frazzled, stressed, frustrated woman from the last few months. i feel happy and calm and open to change because gosh darn it life is full of unexpected bumps.
it is also full of unexpected surprises. we learned that our wedding date is the birthday of michael’s late grandmother, a funny lady who unabashedly made chocolate cakes from boxed mixes and yelled occasionally at her husband (our pop). in other words, she’s someone i would have loved to meet.
guess what? michael and i set our wedding date. in october, we will get married and celebrate with the best bunch of our family and friends.
wedding planning hasn’t been a cake walk. several venues fell through or flaked out. i cried many times in frustration. i even pretended to write a book called love in the time of pinterest (inspired by an email to tania).
i’ve realized now that we don’t want a perfect wedding. we expect a day that is filled with love, joy, giggles, blushes, minor mishaps, and hopefully small moments of serenity. oh, i can’t forget— thrifted decorations.
p.s. if you like the cameo illustration, it’s available for you and your sweetheart here.