Will you be my bridesmaid?

Now that summer is winding down, I’m returning from the unplanned ‘vacation’ that I took from blogging. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been willingly sucked into a wedding planning frenzy. Although our wedding isn’t until July, every wedding “to do” list I’ve consulted has quite a lengthy list of tasks for 10-12 months out. A side note – I’ve learned that the initial gathering of ideas is slightly (and by slightly I mean significantly) more fun that actually learning what those ideas cost…

One of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make so far is selecting the wedding party. Admittedly, my number of bridesmaids is pretty high at nine (yes, nine) but I wasn’t willing to compromise. Kyle and I finally agreed that even if we ended up with more bridesmaids than groomsmen, I could keep my nine. (And come on, what groomsman isn’t going to prefer walking down the aisle with two girls instead of one?)

I loved the idea of sending out cards to the girls I wanted on my side and found a cute paper chain idea on OnceWed a few months ago. I shared it with one of our designers at work, Jill, who does some freelance on the side, and she agreed to create something similar for me. I was absolutely blown away by the final product. (Although I’m pretty sure I nearly gave her an early onset of arthritis with all of the cutting that was required). I was thrilled to mail them out to the girls last week. Pictures below!

Also, be sure to check out Jill’s Etsy shop here. Her stuff is adorable!

bridesmaid card

Image: Jill Brewer

Michelle_BridalCards1

Image: Jill Brewer

Mother’s Day Gift Picks

As I was thinking about Mother’s Day last week, I couldn’t help by reflect on how being a mother probably never gets easier, even as a child grows up. Sure, the challenges of motherhood may change over the course of a child’s life but a mother’s job is never done. Take my own mother for example – when my sister and I were babies (at the same time!), I imagine there was always a diaper to change, a mouth to feed, or a cry to soothe.  As we grew up, there were new challenges – juggling schedules, dealing with hormonal teenagers, the stress of sending two daughters off to college. Now that my sister and I are adults, we may not rely on her to care for us physically, but emotionally we often need her more than ever. She’s the first person we call when life feels too difficult to handle, or when we’re bursting at the seams with happy news. She’s no longer just our mother, but truly our friend.

There isn’t a material gift in the world that could ever properly thank mothers for what they do, here are a few small tokens of appreciation that might at least make her Sunday.

Mother's Day Gifts

1. English rose personalized stationery, Minted |  2. Mother’s Day pendant, Kate Spade  |  3. Koi fish printed scarf, Orange & Pear  |  4. The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters: The Timelessness of Simple Truths by Alexandra Stoddard, Anthropologie  |  5. Eco Throw Blanket  – Cerulean Trellis, Design Darling

Snowed In

I flew into Chicago yesterday for work and no sooner had I stepped off the plane when my phone rang with an automated call from the airline to inform me that my returning flight for today was cancelled due to several inches of snow and ice that were expected to hit the city.

While my initial reaction was frustration, I have to admit it was nice heading back to the hotel today after several hours of meetings instead of rushing to get to the airport in time for my flight. If I were flying home tonight as planned, my evening would be spent unpacking, going to the gym (maybe…), and getting organized to head back to the office tomorrow. I can honestly say that sometimes it’s nice being forced into situations like this. It’s a chance to take a break and enjoy some down time for a night.  (It doesn’t hurt that the hotel just sent a complimentary cheese tray up to my room for programming my room keys incorrectly). The snow is really coming down and I’m looking forward to a cozy evening in my room with some TV, room service, and a glass of wine. Chicago SnowImage: Flickr, swanksalot

A New {Old} Valentine’s Tradition

When I was growing up, my dad put together a Valentine’s day scavenger hunt around our house every year for my sister and me. He would give us each a bag and a piece of paper containing our first of many clues and sent us on our way. The clues were always rhymes, which I loved, telling us something about the gift and then giving us a hint as to where we would find our next clue, leading us to places such as the lint trap in the dryer or the back seat of my mom’s minivan in the garage. This tradition made Valentine’s Day a favorite holiday in our house, one that we begged our dad to keep doing year after year (along with Easter egg hunts) until we were practically adults.

Because this tradition was so special to me, I decided to create my own scavenger hunt last year for my boyfriend, Kyle. I bought small gifts that I knew he liked (trail mix, Almond Joys, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, etc.) and then wrote short clues to accompany each gift. For his first gift, I hid the following clue with a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon Ale:

Enjoy a bottle of one of your favorite brews;  find your next clue in an old pair of shoes.          

I then tucked an Almond Joy and Mounds bar into a old pair of shoes in his closet with the following clue, leading him to his suitcase.

Coconut and chocolate is a delicious combination; your next clue is in something you take on  vacation.

And so forth. (I had 8 clues and gifts total.) His last clue led him to a dozen homemade (by me!) cream-cheese filled red velvet cupcakes and a card. The scavenger hunt marked Valentine’s Day a success – Kyle enjoyed the unique spin on gifts and I think I had just as much fun as he did recreating a tradition from my childhood.

Here are some ideas for creating your own scavenger hunt for someone special this Valentine’s Day –

Valentines Scavenger Hunt

1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts, candy stores  |  2. Ted, Amazon.com  |  Kate Spade ‘Two of a Kind’ glasses, Nordstrom.com  |  4. Modern House Wines, swansonvineyards.com  |  5. Kentucky Bourbon Ale, most supermarkets  |  6. Chipotle gift card, chipotle.com  |  7. Floating heart boxers, jcrew.com

A Lovely Evening

Thursday evening, Katie and I attended a benefit for the Literacy Network, an organization I became involved with shortly after moving to Cincinnati six years ago.  The event, Handbags for Hope, was absolutely lovely – a ladies night out featuring a live and silent auction of designer and casual handbags, raffles, cocktails, food and entertainment. The event was held at The Cincinnati Club, a historic building downtown, where the elegant European-style rooms and decor were the perfect setting for an evening of style and substance.

The live auction included several designer handbags. Katie and I each had our eye on a (different) Kate Spade bag but the bags both went for more than either of us wanted to pay. The less expensive handbags were featured in the silent auction, many replica pieces as well as a Coach corner.  Even though we didn’t win, the competitive streak in both of us enjoyed the bidding.

We’d hoped to fare better in the raffles, buying tickets for a chance to win a Caribbean cruise, a Coach purse, and weekend Jaguar rental. My favorite though was the raffle hosted by a popular local bakery, Abby Girl Sweets. Instead of raffle tickets, guests bought cupcakes. The cupcakes were brought to our tables later in the evening where everyone took their first bite in unison. The winner was identified by hot pink filling inside her cupcake and then given her pick of diamond baubles from a local jeweler. No hot pink filling for me but I couldn’t complain – the red velvet cupcake was delicious. Definitely the sweetest raffle I’ve ever participated in!

The event raised $30,000 for the organization, 50% higher than last year’s total. While the event itself was lovely, knowing how the proceeds would benefit the organization and those struggling with basic literacy skills made the night even more meaningful.

Some highlights from the evening –

hand painted martini glasses

Handbags for Hope hand-painted martini glass

cupcakes

A tower of sweets

coach bag

I had my eye on this one

Bidding

The bidding begins!

cupcake

Hoping for the winning cupcake…

New York City

My sister, Suzanne, and I had a truly amazing girls’ weekend in New York City! We went for the surprise birthday party of one of our friends from college, Monica. The party was Friday night and definitely the highlight of the weekend. The birthday girl was thrilled to see everyone; she even started crying when she realized that so many of her out-of-town friends had made the journey. The rest of the weekend was filled with sightseeing, shopping, new friends, and great food. Here are some of my favorites from the trip –

The Vault at Pfaff’s – The surprise party was at The Vault at Pfaff’s in Greenwich Village. Originally a 19th century beer cellar made famous by Mark Twain and Walt Whitman, the re-imagined speakeasy is dark and intimate, with beautiful vintage décor, corset-laced waitresses and menus printed on newspapers. The cocktail names even pay homage to the 1850’s artistic culture of the city – Leaves of Grass, Bohemian, Smoking Revolver. I was easily transported into history…that is, until my bill came.  Definitely worth it though!

The Park – We ventured over to Chelsea on Saturday night for a late dinner at The Park.  Described as ingredient-based Mediterranean, the cuisine seemed more American to me but delicious, nonetheless. (I ordered potato gnocchi with arugula, pancetta, and pecorino.) While the food was great, the ambiance of the restaurant was even better. We sat in the Garden Room, which was a patio (covered in the winter) full of Japanese maple tress decorated with tiny orange lights and bird feeders. It all felt very New York.

Magnolia Bakery – Suzanne and I went on a bit of a cupcake binge, going to three different cupcakes shops in three days.  And while my sister would argue that Sprinkles was the best (although not truly a New York bakery) I thought Magnolia Bakery took the cake (get it?) The classic buttercream frosting that made the bakery a tourist mecca is to die for. I’d skip the red velvet next time though – without any cream cheese frosting, it clearly lacked the calories I was looking for.

Bloomingdale’s – From the first time I ever set foot in a Bloomingdale’s, I was in love. (The absence of Bloomingdale stores in Ohio has only made my heart grow fonder.) And the flagship store on Third Avenue is certainly worth the trip. I could spend all day browsing the displays of brightly colored baubles, handbags, and designer pieces (that I can’t afford). In terms of what I can afford – I adore the Aqua line, exclusive to Bloomingdale’s. The pieces are well made and reasonably priced.  My sister and I spent a few glorious hours there shortly after we arrived in the city on Friday. I didn’t end up buying anything – I wasn’t quite ready to indulge myself in the spring pieces when it was below 20 degrees outside but Suzanne got a gorgeous lime-colored Yumi Kim top that I most definitely will be borrowing.

Despite all of the celebrating, fun, and food, what really made my weekend was experiencing it all with my sister. We only live two hours apart, but our schedules don’t allow many visits, and it’s rarely just the two of us. This weekend gave us a much needed opportunity to spend some quality time and catch up. And even though our bank accounts are suffering the effects of the weekend, the sisterly bonding time was priceless.

Vault at Pfaff's

Vintage newspaper menu at the Vault at Pfaff’s

Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

sisters

Suzanne (left) in her new shirt (!) and me at Pfaff’s

Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center

Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center

Girls’ Weekend

Short post today as I’m getting ready to head out for a girls’ weekend with my twin sister, Suzanne! She got married this summer (to a terrific guy) and still lives in Columbus so I don’t see her nearly as often as I’d like. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with her, as well as some of our other friends, this weekend. I’ll fill you in on the details, including our destination, when we return. Have a fabulous weekend!