Monday, March 30, 2009

A surprise find

Every year for the past 4 years, Econo Boy and I have spent a couple nights at our favorite B&B. It's a great romantic getaway, with a delicious breakfast, and best of all it's only a 30-minute drive away -- less travel time means more walking-around-cute-towns time! Last year he proposed to me there, so it will always be a special place for us.

This year, our annual trip yielded an unexpected find. As we walked around a nearby town, we noticed a sign in the window of the jewelry store: Sale on Wedding Bands. Neither of us had one yet (my engagement ring belonged to Econo Boy's grandmother and did not have a matching band), so we stopped in to take a look ... and I ended up finding an amazing bargain on a ring that looks just perfect with my engagement ring!

This is the closest picture I could find.
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It's a 5-stone ring in platinum with very small diamonds (all 5 together make 1/4 ct), and the jewelry store has discontinued the design -- this was the only one they had left and they let me have it for half price. They are resizing it as we speak! I'm thrilled that we happened on such a great find, and it makes it even more special that it comes from a place that means so much to both of us.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Food. Drool.

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I've sometimes wondered whether it would be acceptable to serve an entire reception meal of just our caterer's hors d'oeuvres. They just released their spring/summer seasonal menu, and I'm drooling. Who can resist these yummy-sounding bites?
  • Argentinian corn empanada with chimichurri sauce
  • Zucchini beignet topped with a creamy tomato and walnut sauce
  • Housemade jalapeno poppers stuffed with goat cheese
  • Beef Wellington sliders
  • Organic shiitake tarts topped with leek frites
  • Chicken cordon bleu lollipop with white wine mustard sauce
  • Scallop and bacon bites with a sweet Thai chili
  • Crispy rice paper shrimp with miso ginger cream filling
  • Sundried tomato and chevre pouches in flaky phyllo
Awesome. But how do we choose only 4?! The scallop and bacon bites are a must (Econo Boy and I are scallop addicts), and I think the corn empanadas sound divine. What say you? Based on description alone, which ones would you like to see on an appetizer tray near you?

Alas, our entrees are not quite so exciting ... I caved to parental pressure and went with the basic "chicken or beef" options. But it will be good chicken or beef! (I myself may go with the vegetarian option: spring vegetable and goat cheese strudel. No, I'm not a vegetarian, what's your point? ;-) )

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Chilean Cabernets

My fondness for Cabernet is no secret, and the best Cabs I've had recently for under $12 all have one thing in common: they come from Chile. My preference in Cabs runs to the dry and tannic; Econo Boy prefers them fruitier. But we've both enjoyed these three Chilean Cabernets:

1) Andes Peak Reserva

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Yum! Rich, full-bodied, and a great color. Very fruity -- the color and taste reminded me of a mixture of blackberries and cherries. We opened this with the first grilled steaks of the spring, and were delighted at how approachable and elegant it was.

2) Xplorador, from Concha y Toro.

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I discovered Xplorador when I was buying wine for our department holiday party, and it's quickly become a staple of our inexpensive mixed cases. It's only $8 a bottle at the local liquor store, and it's a nice, rich, slightly dry cab that tastes much more expensive than it is.

3) brings us to my personal favorite: Casillero del Diablo, also from Concha y Toro.

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This is a bold wine, with serious tannins on the finish. I love wines that make me sit up a bit straighter as I sip them, and this one fit that bill!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Brancott Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been getting a lot of good press lately. Econo Boy and I already love Nobilo, and so when I saw the highly-rated Brancott 2007 Sauvignon Blanc at the local grocery store for $11 a bottle, I had to give it a try. The intriguing description on the back mentioned grapefruit, lime, peach, and bell pepper notes. "Right. Bell pepper. Whatever," I thought to myself as I paid for my find.

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A few nights later we uncorked this (actually, unscrewed the cap) with a chickpea curry. Wow. When they say "bell pepper," they're not kidding. The aroma and flavor of bell pepper wasn't overwhelming, but it was definitely there, adding some punch to a very delicate and citrusy white. It made me long for summer, when this would be just the right thing to drink on a miserably hot day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Update, and some great self-print invitations

An update on the invitations: on Monday morning I sent the designer an e-mail pointing out that it had been a month since I'd heard from her, mentioning the recent negative feedback on Etsy, and saying that I was becoming anxious that she would not finish my project. The result? Proofs, by the end of the day, of every single element of our invitation suite, and a promise to have the invites in my hands by mid-April!

I really hate being pushy or demanding, but in this case, my sweet little "how is the project going? An update would be great! When do you think I will get them?" attempts to find out what was going on were totally ineffective. It looks like I'm just going to have to be pushy on this one if I want to get what I paid for in time to send them out. We'll see what the situation looks like in a few weeks, but I feel much more hopeful now than I did this weekend. This is probably a good lesson for me in the importance of being assertive.

But I do have some cool finds to share in the print-your-own-invites department (since I spent a good chunk of Sunday trying to figure out a viable replacement if my custom invites didn't come through).

1. The Sonoma invitation from The White Aisle.
Unfortunately all of the pictures are on Flash and I can't post them here, but these DIY kits are gorgeous and totally unique. The vintage/vineyard vibe of the Sonoma is my favorite but there are other great options at The White Aisle too!

2. Ivory Letterpress Look kit from Target
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Conservative but classic. I've heard mixed things about Target's software for the actual printing, unfortunately, but I still really like this kit, or at least the picture of it online. And you can't beat the price -- $30 for 50 invitations, RSVP cards, *and* envelopes!

3. Celeste Wedding Invitations from
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A commenter on my last post pointed me to this site, and I really liked the Celeste portfolio invitations. I haven't strongly considered pocketfold invites because I was afraid the extra postage would be super-pricey, but I think folders and pocketfolds are a fun, modern touch -- a great way to make flat-print invitations shine.

Lastly, for anyone who finds themselves in need of invitations ASAP but doesn't want to print them at home, Wedding Paper Divas has an incredibly fast turnaround -- about 10 days -- and very reasonable 2-day and next-day shipping costs. They've also made vast improvements to their online editing software, and they've got some great designs. It's more expensive than doing it yourself, for sure, but I will definitely consider this option if I need last-minute invites and just can't deal with another project.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lessons learned the hard way

It appears I may have spoken too soon about our wedding invitations.

In the past two months, I have sent our invitations designer 5 e-mails requesting further information on the project. In return, I have received exactly 1 e-mail from the designer, explaining that they are "backed up" but promising she would send me the proofs and have my design on press the next week. That, by the way, was 4 weeks ago; I haven't heard anything from her since. I also noticed that last week, a buyer on Etsy left her negative feedback reporting non-delivery of a custom item. At this point, I am almost certain that I will not receive the invitations that I ordered and paid for, and I am wondering when I should panic and order something else instead.

I feel utterly, utterly foolish. I am *way* past the date when I can dispute the initial transaction on PayPal; at this point I don't think there is any way I can get my money back, unless Etsy is able to assist me or unless my credit card company can do something. I'm going to push the designer to send me proofs and get me the invitations, but I don't really see it happening, at least not in time to actually send them out. (The way things are going, I half expect them to show up on my doorstep on July 26, the day after the wedding, thus enabling the designer to justify keeping my money because hey, she sent them.)

I'm normally very cautious about online transactions, but I really screwed this one up. My advice from this episode?

1. DO NOT pay for a project in full up-front. Yes, I know, "Duh." But it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of seeing a cool custom design, trust that 100% positive feedback rating, and decide that you don't want to be difficult by asking to split the price into a down payment and a payment-upon-delivery. Be a bit difficult. It's OK. A quality professional will understand the preference for a split payment.

2. When faced with an unacceptable situation, be demanding. I have been way too nice about this whole thing, waiting weeks for a response and telling myself "just be patient, it will all be OK, don't be a Bridezilla." But the only response I got from the designer was when I was semi-demanding and expressed "concern" at the "poor communication." Of course, when I read her sob story, I immediately reverted back to Nice Mode and told her how sorry I was to hear about her troubles. The result: being ignored for another 4 weeks.

I'm not advocating bitchiness in all online transactions, but when someone's not measuring up, don't be afraid to let them know it, and don't back down when they come up with excuses. Politely but firmly insist that they do what you have paid them to do, and if they don't follow through in the agreed-upon amount of time, start pestering them again, and continue being a pest until you get what you want.

3. Create a paper trail via e-mail and/or Etsy Conversations, in which you are highly specific about what you expect and when you expect it. This may end up being your only recourse if your seller flakes on you.

Ugh. I'll keep you updated on this whole situation, but right now I am so disappointed, both in the designer and in myself for being so gullible and losing a fairly large chunk of money. In the grand scheme of things, I know it won't matter if we send out self-printed invitations from a Target kit or high-end letterpress from a designer featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, but I was excited about this and I can't help feeling bummed, and also pretty stupid.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Belated/early Wine Wednesday 2: update on wedding wines!

I have a confession to make: I haven't been drinking much wine lately.

One of the semi-irritating things about wine is the size it's bottled in -- too much for two lightweights like myself and Econo Boy to consume in a single evening, unless we're committed to vegging in front of the TV for the rest of the night. Given the amount of work we've both had to do lately, sacrificing entire evenings isn't something we can do regularly. Sometimes we like to have a glass apiece and cork the rest of the bottle for the next night, but the mileage on that varies wildly. Tannic red wines usually taste good the next day, but fruitier ones rarely survive the evening without turning vinegary.

Our saviors when I'm thirsting for some wine? Inexpensive whites. Since we chill them in the fridge, they seem to be more reliable the second day. We've recently been enjoying Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand. This was a wine someone brought to our engagement party, and I found it both surprising and delicious -- richer than I normally expect from Sauvignon Blanc, with a lovely caramel hint around the edges.

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The price is a bit variable, but you should be able to find this widely-sold wine for around $11 or $12 a bottle.

Thus far, here are the front-runners for our wedding wines. We decided it was best to go in with 4 or 5 choices apiece for red and white, so that if prices have changed or there is a special sale, we can be flexible. The nominees are:

Hogue Cellars Pinot Grigio, Oregon (light, playful, charming)
Gimenez Riili Torrontes, Argentina (crisp, bright, yummy)
Las Brisas White, Spain (rich, floral)
Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (slight caramel overtones, rich)

A Montepulcianno d'Abruzzo from Italy (dry, light, a great food wine)
Domaine des Rozets Coteaux du Tricastin, France (light, fruity, charming)
Xplorador Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (spicy, tannic)
A Malbec from Argentina (usually full-bodied and fruity)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Weddingtainment: Marshall and Lily, "How I Met Your Mother"

I'm not really one for wedding shows. That's partly because I don't get cable, but also partly because the wedding shows I have seen, like "Bulging Brides" or "Bridezillas," seem designed to humiliate the couples they portray. That doesn't exactly fill me with the warm fuzzies. I also stood fast and refused to see "Bride Wars," despite my girl-crush on the gorgeous Anne Hathaway, because the "brides are totally crazy and irrational and really, barely even human" thing annoys me to no end.

But that doesn't mean I don't love seeing weddings on TV! One of my favorites is the wedding of Marshall and Lily on Season 2 of "How I Met Your Mother."

Image from Yes, the creators actually created a wedding website for their characters, because they're just that cool.

This clever, sweet-natured sitcom is one of my favorite TV "comfort foods," and I especially enjoy the relationship between Lily and Marshall. Instead of bickering incessantly like most TV couples, they're madly in love and see each other through everything from Marshall losing his job to Lily coming clean about her credit card debt to both of them nearly losing their new apartment after they've taken on a mortgage they can barely afford.

But back to the wedding epsiode. Since it's a sitcom, you won't be surprised to learn that everything possible goes wrong prior to Lily and Marshall tying the knot. (The story of why Marshall is wearing that hat is particularly entertaining.) But underneath the sitcom hilarity is a reassuring message -- if things go horribly wrong, at the end of the day, what matters is that you love each other and you're married. Cheesy, but true, and it's always nice to have a reminder!

(Another good lesson from Lily and Marshall's wedding: drinking 5 glasses of champagne because you're starving and you want the strawberries in the glasses = very drunk bride.)

Also, I noticed something funny the last time I re-watched the wedding episodes. The bridesmaids, including mega-babe and regular cast member Robin, are wearing the dreaded Amsale bubble dress! It does look better in lavender than it did in screaming pinky-orange, but I'm still not a big fan -- butt bows just aren't my thing I guess.

What are your favorite fictional weddings?