Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009: Lesson, Gift, Aha!, and Social Web Moment

Best Learning Experience

A combination of things taught me this lesson: do what makes you happy, even if it means taking some risks (actual or perceived risks).

I've always been a people pleaser. I like harmony in my relationships and have always tried to make everyone around me happy. This is exhausting and sometimes (often) meant forgetting about my own needs or wants to make sure everyone else was taken care of. When it's little things that can make someone else's day, then it's just a good feeling. But when it meant forgetting my own goals, I realized it wasn't a good feeling.

Wedding planning really helped me figure out the difference between the important things and the things that could just make others happy too. My mom (love you Mom) was absolutely convinced that I NEEDED an aisle runner for the church. I didn't care or want one because they usually just get caught underneath the dress and pulled along down the aisle. But when the limo company offered to roll one out, we opted to do it and make my mom happy. A little thing that made someone's day.

But, the big discussion that we really struggled with was whether or not to get married in a church, and if we did, what denomination. Without going into details, we ended up in a church, in a denomination that Dane and I identify with, but not necessarily my family. This was important to us and we found what felt like our niche. Countless times I heard (especially from older more traditional relatives) why we shouldn't get married there. My first reaction was to make different plans and go to the church that they wanted. With Dane's help on this one, I held my ground and we ended up with exactly what we wanted. No compromise on that one and it made us happy. Everyone else had to keep their opinions to themselves. And the best part was that it worked out beautifully.

This summer (and I know I've only mentioned this a million times), when Sam and I opened our Etsy shop was another learning experience for me. When I found Etsy I was in awe of all the gorgeous creations that others were selling. I didn't think I could ever find my place among them. What if it wasn't good enough? What if we never got a sale? But we took a chance, and we're loving every second of it. Who would have thought I could sew for the first time in April and have a shop by July?

The point is, risks can be personal relationships, finances, self confidence, or beliefs. But that doesn't mean you should let them keep you from doing something that will make you happy.

Best Gift

Easy one. My sewing machine was a gift to myself and it's become something that I can no longer be without. I don't know how I went so long without it! I love being able to look through fabrics and find ones that suit different people perfectly, then be able to take them home and create beautiful items. Sewing has also given me a different perspectives on buying things, which has been good and bad. When I see a bag I like, instead of looking at the price tag, I now look at how it was constructed to try and figure out how I can do it myself. It's a good feeling to know what you can be capable of if you just try.

Aha! Moment

Though I'm not sure when this actually happened, it may have been one moment in time or a culmination of different things, my aha! moment came when I realized I have options in my career. And that just maybe, I would want to make some changes.

I guess between the wedding and working with the SnowBall, my interest in event planning really blossomed. At my current job I've planned all kinds of events and it's always the most rewarding feeling to see everything come together. These two big events this year let me focus just on the event planning process and made me think about making some changes.

Right now, I'm happy with what I'm doing, but I've realized there are options. And I can always make some changes.

Social Web Moment

This year I discovered Twitter. I never understood what the big deal was. I couldn't figure out what the draw was in following people's thoughts in 140 characters or less.

Now? Can't live without checking it at least a few times a day. I get my news and updates from Twitter, find out what friends are up to, get notified of new blog posts, and can waste hours of time. Twitter is what informed me of the death of Michael Jackson, the passing of Thornton's, and allowed me to be in contact with my KS when she moved. Thanks Twitter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best of 2009: Person, Project, Startup, Web Tool

New Person of 2009

The best new people for me this year are my relatives in Ireland. On our honeymoon we finally had the chance to meet these people I'm related to and it was wonderful. They welcomed up with open arms. Going to another country and staying with people you've never met before may sound a little scary, but I knew from the first time I talked with my cousin that it was going to be great. We got to see what life is like for them in their little village and they showed us what it means to be family (no matter how distant or far apart).

Next up, seeking out my relatives in Italy.

Best Project of 2009

By far the project I'm most proud of is We Are Kindred Spirits. I know I talk about it all the time, but going from never having used a sewing machine to opening a shop on Etsy in a matter of a few months was really incredible for both me and Sam. I love every piece I make and find meaning in creating custom items for people. I hope our little project continues to grow so I can keep enjoying it!

Best Startup of 2009

This is just getting started, but I have to say my favorite startup goes to the photographer we used for the wedding, Jessi. She is incredible and had never done a wedding before, but is talented and was eager to try. After Dane and I met her back in July, we knew she had the perfect personality to work with us and had an amazing eye for finding moments that might pass other people by. We ended up with the most beautiful memories of our wedding day, and I truly hope that working with us will open doors for her.

Best Web Tool

The best tool is my iCal on my iPhone which can sync with my Google Calendar. I can't remember things to save my life, so having my schedule in the palm of my hand at any given time is great. Anything worth remembering goes straight into my iPhone, along with all the details, and if needed, a reminder (which is needed more often that not). With everything that I juggle in my life this simple way of keeping it all together is a life saver. Thank you Apple and Google. I love you both more than you know.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best of 2009: Tea, Word, Shop, Car Ride

Tea of the Year

I'm a huge fan of tea. My mom has always been a tea drinker. As long as I can remember my grandparents have usually preferred tea over coffee. My grandma always yells at my mom for leaving her tea bag in for too long.

My favorite tea of this year is Rooibos from Ula Cafe in JP. I've enjoyed many conversations with friends over a cup of this tea and it's always delicious. The tea is actually very pretty dark reddish color and slightly sweet on it's own. Between the color, flavor, and aroma, rooibos is absolutely my favorite.

Word of the Year

At the beginning of the year I chose my "One Little Word" for 2009. Breathe. I don't know that I've paid enough attention to it this year, at least not consciously. My year was filled with so many changes and exciting things that I wanted a word to remind me to take a step back and appreciate it all, to let things happen, and to not sweat the small stuff.

Now looking back on the year, although I wasn't constantly thinking of my word, my word has great meaning to me. I've never been great with change and this year came with tons of change. I feel like I've been able to handle the unexpected with more grace than I can usually muster, and learned to roll with the punches. Having Dane in my life has helped me immeasurably. He has a calming effect on me and makes embracing my word much easier.

Shop of the Year

This goes to The Vintage Pearl. I discovered this amazing crafter through several other blogs and fell in love with her customized jewelry. My first purchase from her shop was for my Mom. It was the circle pendant with the names of my sisters, me, and my parents. I gave it to her for Mother's Day and she absolutely loved it.

Knowing how much I loved it, Dane bought me a pendant with our names on it later in the year. And a few months later, I entered and won a giveaway on her blog which got me another necklace! I love seeing the new things this talented woman comes up with and I'm sure I'll continue to spend money there next year.

Best Car Ride

There's actually a few that I can think of. First one that popped into my head was the car ride back to my parents' house after our rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. My newest favorite song came on and my sisters and I blasted it and sang the whole way home. It was just one of those fun moments together that we could be silly and let loose before the craziness.

Next comes the trip to Penn State in October. It was a really long drive, but for me it was filled with so much anticipation. Besides going to a Penn State game, which would be my first college football game, I was going to get a chance to experience what Dane so often talks about. Penn State will always be a huge part of his life. All his closest friends are those he met in college. I wanted to see what it was all about. The drive down was really beautiful and filled with fall foliage to look at. At the end of the drive was an amazing trip.

Last, I have to add the recent drive to Vermont to visit my best friend. Dane and I went on a very impromptu trip to see them where they grew up despite the blizzard that was threatening and last minute planning. Driving through the snow covered mountains up to the northern kingdom of Vermont was gorgeous. It was almost hard to pay attention to the road when there was this amazing landscape in front of you the whole time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best of 2009: New Food, Change to where I live, Rush and Packaging

Best New Food

Pomegranates. I was always intrigued by this fruit, but not quite sure how to eat it. At the beginning of the year one of my roommates brought one home and I was hooked. Now having a pomegranate is huge treat for me. I don't eat them often and when I do it's heaven. Plus, it's kind of fun to eat and beautiful at the same time. The color of a pomegranate makes it feel decadent to me. I've also developed a love for anything with pomegranate in it (include pomegranate margaritas).

Best Change to the Place I Live

The biggest and best change to the place where I live came from moving out of an apartment with two roommates and into an apartment with my fiance. I absolutely loved my old apartments. My roommates were awesome, we were always entertaining people, and the neighborhood was constantly full of surprises. After being there for almost 2 years, plans began to change for all three of us and somehow at the same time we were all ready to move out and onto something new. This definitely came with some sadness when we said goodbye but also excitement for our new plans.

Dane and I moved into an apartment only about a 5 minute walk from my old place. It took us almost 2 months of apartment hunting to find the perfect place. We love it there and have done our best to make it our own. The apartment is still a work in progress even though we've been there since April. There's always new pictures to hang and rearranging to be done. (I definitely get this from my mom. She's a constant re-arranger. When I come home I often find couches in different places, new curtains hung, or a painting that wasn't there before.) It's our first place together, and it was the best change of the year for me.

Best Rush

This is probably not a typical answer. First I thought of when I got my tattoo, but that was in 2008. Then I thought of when I walked up 100 stairs to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland (only a rush because I thought I was going to have a panic attack). Then I thought of my wedding, which was a rush, but in a different way.

My best rush of this year came from talking with my Kindred Spirit, Sam, in the conversation where we decided to open our Etsy Shop. We've both always been crafty. We learned to sew together (still a work in progress, there's always something new to learn!). We finish each other's thoughts. I told her I was thinking about it and asked if she'd want to do it. She was ecstatic and our conversation was something like this:

Me: So I was thinking about opening an Etsy shop. And I think we should open one together.




We got a little rowdy. Pretty sure no one around us knew what on earth we were talking about because we went into crazy girl mode. Seeing it come together and getting our first few sales have been a huge rush for both of us. I can't wait to see it continue to grow!

Best Packaging

Again, this one goes out to Sam. For our engagement party, Sam and Jason bought us a bunch of fun things made even better by how it was wrapped. They found a bag with Darth Vader that talked when you pushed a button and it was incredible. Being the huge geeks that we are, they could probably have given us just the bag and we would have been very happy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best of 2009: Challenge, Album, and Place

I really love this best of challenge. I'm slacking a little bit, but here's the latest installment.

Best Challenge

I honestly can't pinpoint a specific challenge that I faced this year, but thinking back I feel like I've made a concerted effort to be much more conscious of my need to please everyone. The need to please is so natural to me that it's incredibly hard to control, but always ends up making me crazy in the end.

You hear all the time that "you just can't please everyone." For some reason, that's never stopped me from trying. What can I say? I like harmony in all my endeavors. However, I really felt this taking a toll on me. Why did I have to end up in tears because I felt like I wasn't making other people happy? And I'm not talking big things here like being there for family and friends or staying at work late to help out. I'm talking "Ohmygosh I'm out of candy for my desk. Need to get more for anyone who comes in to make sure they have access to sugar." Why do these things matter? I like to think it's because I'm a good person, but honestly it's exhausting to feel a need to cater to everyone else's whims.

Planning a huge event (wedding!) this past year helped me be able to say 'no'. When others told me I simply "had to have" a certain color or a blusher veil or my hair done a certain way I figured out how to assert myself and my own wants. This included me saying no to members of my family (ahem, mom and sisters, cough cough) which is incredibly hard to do for those people that I love. I won't say I'm cured of my insatiable need to please, but I can say I really feel like I can more easily figure out what is a priority and what is reasonable to worry about.

Album of the Year

Coldplay immediately pops into my head for this one. I realize Viva La Vida came out in 2008, and I got it immediately, but I still feel like it was my album of the year. That album took me through most of the year and no matter how many times I listen to it, I still love every song.

Best Place

The Sam Adams Brewery. I can't count how many times we've brought friends and family here when they come to visit. No matter how many times I go, it doesn't get boring. I could give the tour myself at this point but who can turn down a free tour with three free samples of Sam Adams at the end? This is by far the most requested place to go when we have guests. We've become a fan of the monthly open houses as well. We've been to a few and all feature free beer and a different theme. Being so close to where we live, Dane and I take full advantage of it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best of 2009: Night Out, Workshop, Blog, Zen Moment

To continue the Best of 2009 posts. I was thinking maybe I'd keep up with one a day, but that's not going to happen, so they're going in bunches!

Best Night Out

The night that pops into my mind immediately is my birthday outing, complete with snails. I went out with Dane, my dearest Sam and Jason, and several other friends joined us along the way. The most memorable part of this evening? The snails we found on the way to the subway station. Why were there snails crawling around the city? This question got all the more fascinating after a few rounds with a few good friends.

Best Workshop of Conference

I'm going to go ahead and amend this one because I only attended one conference this past year, and I was presenting at it. Instead, my favorite professional development opportunity came in the form of becoming a member of the planning committee for a regional conference that will take place in March. This is my first time on a planning committee and I'm so thrilled that I've been able to start work on something like this!

Best Blog Find of the Year

2009 was a year of amazing blog finds. This year I got to meet some amazing blogettes, attend some fabulous gatherings, and enjoy new connections. My best blog find of the year has to go to We Are Not Martha. I started reading this blog early in the year, and in July got to meet the ladies behind all the recipes and fun. It was my moment to be a groupie, and I lived it up. After meeting them, they were kind enough to work with me and my Kindred Spirit to put together a giveaway for our Etsy shop. It was an amazing opportunity and they continue to be one of my go to blogs for yummy food and new ideas.

Moment of Peace

Get ready for me to be totally mushy. If you can't handle total lovey doveyness, then stop reading.

My moment of peace happened on my wedding day. The weeks and months leading up to it were filled with errands, get togethers, to-do lists, and decisions. I was sure I was going to be nervous the day of the wedding. After all, there was so much lead up to this day isn't that what's supposed to happen?

After getting my hair done, getting dressed with my maids of honor, taking pictures at the house, and eating lunch I still wasn't nervous. But then, the limo pulled up. And there were those nerves. Not bad, but the butterflies were definitely fluttering in my stomach. It was a short ride from the house where I grew up to the church. I sat in the limo as everyone else got out and got ready to walk inside. I had to be the last one in and hidden so no one could see me before the doors opened for the big entrance. I watched my new sister in law walk down the aisle with her son, our ring bearer, my sisters and maids of honor make their way to the front of the church, and then it was my turn. I took my dad's arm and when those doors opened and I saw my Dane those nerves were gone. Everyone was there to see us, and my wonderful husband was tearing up and all I could feel was happy.

Cheesy right? But true.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best of 09: First Four Days

I love ideas like this. Take the time to reflect on a year. For me, a really great year. First read about this Best of project here, and then found where it originated here. I'll combine some of these topics, but anything that gives me a chance to look back on some memories (i.e. my Project 365) I will sign up for!

So without further ado..

Best Trip of 2009

This one is too easy for me. Hands down the best trip this year was our honeymoon in Ireland. We left the day after our wedding and stayed for a week. We experienced Dublin, more Guinness than a person should consume, and met family who were so welcoming and kind.

The country is beautiful, everyone we met was friendly and talkative, and the food was fantastic. Don't let anyone tell you the Irish don't know how to eat. Beef stew, fish and chips, potatoes, bacon. Really, what else do you need?

Besides the wonderful country, it was a chance to spend plenty of quality time with my new husband. I loved getting to experience a new place with him. Having each other to enjoy this trip with made it perfect.

Best Restaurant Moment of 2009

The first thing that comes to mind for me is my Bachelorette dinner at The Melting Pot. I didn't want to do anything special for a Bachelorette party, it just wasn't that important to me. But my sisters, being the wonderful Maids of Honor that they were, made me pick something to do and I came up with a day at the spa for facials and dinner at The Melting Pot for fondue.

We ended up going out a few nights before the wedding with myself, my two sisters, and my mom. I was the only one who had been to the Melting Pot before and the concept of sharing and dipping food in cheese seemed to be beyond comprehension for my sisters. That was until the cheese came out. Then they were in heaven. Not to mention that it was Tini-Tuesday and all martinis were $5. I had the Blood Orange martini, and my sister the Yin-Yang martini.

I felt like this was one of the first times I sat and relaxed at a girls night out with just my mom and sisters. It was hysterical watching each other rescue lost pieces of food that fell into the cheese and trying each others cocktails. I can't think of a better way to have spent the time. And of course the food was fabulous, but for me it was all about the company.

Best Article of 2009

I don't know if I have one particular article in mind, but instead more of a news story. For me, the best stories came around the inauguration of Barack Obama. From watching his speech to seeing what Michelle would wear to the ball, the inauguration of our 44th president was historic and beautiful. Throughout all the coverage I can just remember thinking how amazing it was. It was the start to a new chapter of our history.

Best Book of 2009

This year actually marked a return to reading for pleasure for me. After graduate school, it took a while to get back into the habit of reading for myself. Those hours and hours spent pouring over textbooks and taking notes took their toll on me, and I wasn't very excited to spend my free time reading when I could be doing other things.

A huge perk in my current position is having the summer off, and I used that time to catch up on my reading. It was something I realized I had truly missed. In about two months I read The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Lovely Bones, My Sister's Keeper, Road to Perdition (a graphic novel, first one I've ever read) and re-read Angels and Demons.

I also listened to two books on tape, the first time I've done this. Both were Harry Potter books and my favorite book of 2009 would have to go to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, I read this book back when it originally came out, but I loved listening to it again. Dane and I would listen to it in pieces on our long drives from NY to PA to MA when we went to visit our families. It was the perfect thing to get absorbed in while on the road. It was fun for me too because Dane had never read any of the books, only seen the movies, and his reactions to the story line were so great. We are huge nerds, and this is right up our alley. Every one needs a little magic now and then.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

DIY's of the Big Day: Part 2

Promise there will be more wedding updates and pictures to come!

I'm just so happy with the way things came together and had the best time with all the little details for the wedding, I have to share some more of the DIY projects we did for our finishing touches.

I made my own hair combs from silk flowers and crystals. I took apart the white silk flowers, sewed some layers together, sewed a crystal in the middle, put it on some felt and attached it to a metal comb. My sisters saw these and decided they wanted them too. They were actually pretty easy to make, so I got what I needed and whipped up 4 combs for them in an evening while watching TV. They wanted orange flowers and crystals in the middle like mine. This was before I attached the flowers to the combs.

I also made the ring bearer pillow. I found this fabric that I love (which I also used to make my sisters' wedding day emergency kits) and bought a ton of it. Still have some left over actually. I made the buttons with one of those little kits you can get at Joann's for about $3. I just attached the ribbon around the button so we could tie the rings on. There was no way those were going to stay on there with Dane's 1 year old nephew holding it!

Then I had to make Abby's flower girl basket fancier. I bought the basket for $3 at a craft store, then decorated it with ribbon and some rhinestones. My little goddaughter had to have some sparkle when she walked down the aisle! She caught on pretty quick that she had to take the petals out and put them on the floor. In fact, she walked all over the house putting the fake flower petals in a trail.

We bought our unity candles at IKEA. Best prices for a pillar candle and two tapered candles that we found. But they were plain, so I jazzed it up. I used orange satin ribbon and the same rhinestones just to make it a little different.

And last, but not least, our cupcake tiers. We bought cardboard tiers online and they were perfect but they were plain white and made of corrugated cardboard. So I bought some pretty orange printed scrapbook paper and blue ribbon. I cut and attached the paper on the tiers and glued the blue ribbon around each tier to hide the cardboard. More pictures of the finished tiers to come!

All these little details may be something only we really noticed, but it was these little things that helped pull our day together. Each thing was fun to do and we worked on it together.

If anyone needs any help with wedding accessories let me know!

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