Thursday, May 4, 2017

Planning a Wedding in 6 Months

Planning a wedding in 6 months... is easy!

My engagement happened on Christmas Eve, 2016. I could not have been more excited! Not long after that, our wedding date was set for July 8, 2017. So many people looked at me like I was crazy - 6 months?! I kept hearing "Wow, you waste no time!" and "That soon?!" and "July 8th... of this year?!" 

All I could do was laugh. To me, 6 months is a great amount of time to plan a wedding. As you plan your big day, just remember this: you are planning a happy, fun day for you & the people you love. As long as you marry your fiance & get to have your supporters around you, all is well. No worries! Stress never looks good on anyone. Follow along as I show you how to plan an awesome, affordable wedding in 6 months! 

Our Facebook announcement photo :)

1. Pinterest: First things first, start getting to know what you want in a wedding. Whether you're engaged yet or not, start a Pinterest board & fill it with anything & everything that looks good to you, regarding weddings. Pin things like dresses, hairstyles, color themes, flowers, decor, food ideas, invite ideas, tux ideas, cakes, desserts, shoes, photo poses, veils, flower crowns, teeth-whitening tips, hair tips, nail ideas, beauty plans, lighting, center pieces, programs, wedding workout plans, RSVPs, venue ideas or tips, favors... anything that ignites your mind with ideas for your day. Check out my Pinterest Board for ideas on pins. 

*Tip: make sure to only pin things you really like. You don't want to have to sort through thousands of pins when it comes time to plan! 

2. Get Engaged: Too obvious? Well, you never know. But this part is kind of required. Soak up every moment & make sure to say YES! (I first said "What are you doing?!" then again "What are you doing?!" then I giggled a bunch... then he had to ask me again... and I finally said "Forever! Yes! I will marry you tomorrow!" Yup, I'm a dork - but I loved each moment!)

3.  Tell Those Close to You, First: I first told my mom, as she was practically chomping at the bit for this moment. Then I told my family. Then we told his family. Then we told our best friends. Then we put it on Facebook. I recommend telling loved ones in person, & waiting a day or two for social media. Soak up that intimate moment!

4. Get on The Knot! I cannot say enough about how helpful has been for me. You plug in your wedding date, and it automates a checklist of all the things you need to do each month to be on track. I use that checklist almost daily! 

Not only do they have that amazing checklist, but you can also plug in your budget & they will have suggested amounts you should spend on each thing to meet that budget. To be honest, I don't use the budget feature on the website. When it comes to spending money, I made my own Google Sheets page to keep track. 

You also can make your Wedding Website on here. Your wedding website is a site you can make & have your guests go to for all your wedding day information, like the venue, the times, the dates, the addresses, the blocked hotel, your registry, your engagement story, & so much more! On our invites, we put all the relevant information, but also put "find us on" at the bottom. 

 They even have a countdown to your wedding date! 

It's just a really helpful resource to keep you on track & stress-free! 

5.  Decide on Your Wedding Party: Chances are, you already have an idea of who you want next to you on your big day. When I called my bridesmaids to tell them I was engaged, I answered the phone with "Want to be a bridesmaid?" Haha, I thought it was a fun way to tell them I was engaged, but also let them know they were going to be my warriors for the next 6 months. I would have told them in person, but it was Christmas Day & the families were bursting at the seams to shout it from the rooftops. 
*Tip: Make it special. I asked my sister to be my Maid of Honor by writing her a cute, personal poem, framing a pic of us, & gifting her with some cute items: a mini bottle of wine, some nail polish to wear on the big day, & some 16-hour lipstick to wear on the big day. 

5. Go Dress Shopping: I got engaged on a Saturday and was in a wedding dress store on Monday. Yup, I was ready! I mean, it is a fun experience, so why not go wedding dress shopping right away? Plus, you have 6 months to find the dress, get it altered, find a matching veil, & try it on about 1000 times - get crackin'! I didn't find my dress that Monday, or that Wednesday, but I did find it on that following Saturday! Lucky for me, it fit well, available off the rack, & was 30% off! I tried on about 30 dresses in total until I found "the one," so don't fret if you don't find it right away. 

6. Make a Guest List: Start with immediate family, then spread out to aunts & uncles, then their kids, then out more, then over to friends, co-workers, etc. Go through your phone, through Facebook... get all your loved ones on a pretty Google Sheet like mine. This Google Sheet tallies up your guest totals for you - sweet! Meet with the parents and have them check the list. Then, decide on how many people you want at the wedding ceremony, the dinner, or at the dance.

Mailing out invites!

7. Talk About the Budget: Who is paying for what? How much are they willing to help? How much do we want to spend, as the couple? How many people can we afford to have eating dinner with us? Where are we willing to pull the budget strings, & where are we willing to splurge a little? Are we aiming for $2,000? $5,000? $8,000? $10,000? Don't be afraid to ask parents or talk to your soon-to-be partner!

8. Decide on the Venues: Originally, I wanted a wedding on our farm. After thinking about weather, & mud, & parking, & liability, & tables, & chairs, & the DJ set-up, & the dance floor, & lighting, & farm animals... we ultimately decided against it. I just want a fun, stress-free day and having my wedding at home brought way too many "what-ifs." Plus, the cost to rent tables & chairs & a dance floor & event insurance & portable bathrooms would have cost more than the hall we rented! We decided to rent a hall in town, similar to an American Legion. It was $300 and included tables, chairs, lighting, insurance... plus, the owner can cater the meal right in the building, have a stocked bar with bartenders hired... it just was too easy not to make that decision! I trust we can get the place really pretty & that the night will be great at our hall. 
As for the ceremony... Jim requested that we marry in a church. We're both religious, so that was a no-brainer. I originally wanted it outside, but I listened to my fiance's request & was fine with it! We are becoming members at the church we are getting married at.

9. Follow your checklist! After you've done the major things, like setting a date, asking your bridal party, buying a dress, & booking your venues, just follow your checklist on That's it! That is the big secret to staying on track. Get your caterer booked, get your bridesmaid dresses bought, get your alterations done, order your invites, mail your invites... just follow the checklist. 

And read ahead! For some reason, The Knot's checklist had me scheduled to mail out my invites in June - a month before the big day. Well I don't know how it is where you come from, but here in my neck of the woods, we mail those suckers out a good 2 months in advance. And, seeing as we didn't do save-the-dates, we actually sent ours out 3 months in advance. So I checked off a June item in April! 

Also, edit your checklist to fit you. You can actually remove things from the list if you don't plan on doing that item. For example, our checklist said to mail out save-the-dates in March. Well, we didn't do those, so I clicked the item & clicked "Remove item" so it took it off my checklist. It's very user-friendly! 

Well, it's now May & I can happily say I am on track for the wedding:


I'm ticking off items for May and even items in June & July, too! Wow, the wedding seems so close now! My current projects are: making the rehearsal invites, making day-of itinerary's for the wedding party, & ordering flowers. Things are going pretty smoothly! 

Again, just remember, at the end of your wedding day, if you & your fiance are now husband & wife, it was a success! 

Watch for a future post about how I budgeted my wedding!

I wish you a stress-free, fun, content wedding-planning experience! 


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Goulash: Classic, Simple, & One of the Easiest Recipes Ever

Is goulash a Minnesota thing? 

Probably not. 

Who cares? It's delicious. Actually, I'm very curious about where this recipe originated. Google said Hungary, but it's not the same. The world may never know.

It's literally one of the easiest recipes I have in my repertoire. 

I just Googled "repertoire" so many times, because I could not get the spelling right. And after reading the definition, it doesn't even make sense in the way I used the word. But I don't care, because that's the word that came to mind when I typed out that sentence. Granted, it was horribly misspelled.

I don't make it too often, as it was one of those things Jim's mom made for supper too often when he was a kid. He says he can only tolerate it about once a month at most. Not because it ain't delicious, but because he's ate enough to feed a whale for a lifetime. 

Did I just down-sell the recipe I'm about to share? Maybe. Hope not. Stick with me.

This recipe is perfect for the lass/lad who's looking for a super easy-to-make dish, with common ingredients, but great taste! 

1 pound ground beef (I used venison!)
16 ounces elbow macaroni
56 ounces crushed tomatoes
basil, garlic salt, parsley, & ground pepper

1. Cook your elbow noodles in a pot in boiling water until they are done. Set aside. 
2. Brown your ground beef (or venison or pork or turkey) in the same pot. 
3. Add in the cooked noodles and remaining ingredients. 
4. Stir well & let it simmer until it's heated through. ENJOY!
5. You could also add chopped onion, red pepper flakes... go crazy. Dress this little lady however you'd like. Jim likes to add a bit of shredded cheese to his bowl. I've topped mine with chopped green onion... the possibilities are endless, ya know. 

My parents did not cook much growing up. I mean, hardly ever! I guess that made for self-reliant kids ;) 
But when they did cook for the family, goulash was one of the most made meals in our house. And I've never grown tired of it! 
And I just ate 2 bowls before typing this out, and I am FULL. But I'm already excited to have some leftovers tomorrow - woohoo! 

Questions for you:
1. What was the most made meal in your home growing up?
2. Did you eat goulash growing up?


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Breakfast Lasagna {Low-Carb, Diabetic-Friendly!}

Do me a favor: make this Breakfast Lasagna!

Actually, it would be doing you a favor. I'm doing you a favor by sharing this recipe. 

Just trust me on this. It is AMAZING! My mouth can water at the mere thought of it. Just looking at that picture above, knowing what it tasted like when I made it... ugh. I would just love to make it every week. Too bad Jim likes variety. I could literally live on this stuff. 

As you may (or may not) know, Jim is a type 1 diabetic. He was diagnosed 1 month after we started dating. We like to joke that I brought too much sweetness into his life ;)

When he first came home to break the news to me, I took it well. My dad, grandpa, and numerous others had type 2 diabetes - how bad can it be?

Well, it's actually a very scary disease. It's a touchy thing to manage. Not a day goes by when I don't think about the effects it has or could have on Jim's body. 

He manages it as best he can. He is always trying to manage it better, though. And I want to help him by making low-carb dinners whenever I can. When he got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I got diagnosed with it, too, because whatever he faces, I will face with him. I tell him often that I wish I could just take half the burden off him, so he doesn't have to worry so much about his health. I even wish I could take the whole burden, just because I know I would be a bit more mindful with this disease. 

But, bright side, everything is okay. He's alive, I'm alive, he's healthy, and the doctor likes the way Jim is progressing. It's not the worse disease in the world, so we can do this. And I want to help in anyway I possibly can, so I've been steering our supper boat towards more "diabetic-friendly" meals. Thank the good Lord for Pinterest! So, I cannot help but share this AMAZING recipe! Yes, it's a breakfast dish, but I made it for supper. Who doesn't like breakfast for supper? 

It's truly one of the best recipes in my collection. The gravy soaked eggs... the tender ham slices... the creamy pork gravy... topped with a perfect amount of cheese... it's divine!

Breakfast Lasagna

For the eggs...
18 Eggs
a pinch of salt
a pinch of pepper

For the gravy...
1 pound ground pork
16 ounces neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese, whichever you prefer!)
1.5 cups beef broth
a pinch of pepper

For the lasagna...
24 slices deli ham
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat that oven to 325.
2. In a skillet, scramble your eggs with a bit of salt & pepper.
3. Remove eggs from pan & set aside.
4. In the skillet, brown your sausage. 
5. Once the sausage is cooked through, add the neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese) to the skillet. Add the beef broth & stir constantly until the mix comes together smoothly. Turn the heat down, still stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Top with some pepper.
6. Turn stove off. (Stove, not oven! hehe)
7. Grease a 9x13 glass pan.
8. Pour a thin layer of the pork gravy mix in the bottom. (You'll need 4 gravy layers.)
9. Add a layer of ham on top of the gravy. Use 8 slices.
10. On top of the ham, add a layer of scrambled eggs. (You'll need 2 layers of eggs.)
11. Add a gravy layer on top of the eggs.
12. Add a layer of the shredded mozzarella. (You'll need 3 layers of cheese.)
13. Repeat a layer: ham, eggs, gravy, cheese.
14. Add the final layer of ham and top with the remaining shredded cheese. 
15. Bake for 30-40 minutes & devour! It tastes great the day after, too!

Man, writing this post made me wish I had some of this in the oven right now... but I must practice restraint! Goulash is in the books for tonight, which is another great meal. But it won't be long until I'm savoring this dish once again. Wow your friends, your family, or just yourself with this recipe!

Questions for you:
1. Which do you prefer: neufchtel cheese or regular cream cheese?
2. While we're on the breakfast topic... pancakes or french toast?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Simplifying My House of STUFF!


It's everywhere.

It's filling every room in my home. 

It's all over my desk at work.

It's in drawers, in cabinets, on hooks, on the floor, on shelves... 

So many THINGS. 


Minimalism is a term going around a lot lately. I started paying attention to the word more last year. I'd do small things, like go through my closet & toss some shirts in a bag to donate. 

A few months ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism.  It was a good watch, and set a small flame in my soul to dive into this theory. The theory (at least, what I gathered) was to use only what you need, or what makes you happy. Seems like common sense, right? But I think most humans buy things, to simply buy things - even if they don't serve a high purpose. 

 Do I really need that closet full of clothes? Particularly, that section of my closet where I put clothes to wear "someday" or clothes I kept just because someone bought them for me? Do I really need to go to Hobby Lobby & buy a bunch of decor? Do I really need more food containers from the Dollar Tree? Do I really need all them picture frames, stored in a bin, down in the basement? 

So I began letting go of things I no longer needed. Or used. Or wanted.

I started small. I started with my living room closet. Why on earth did the people who built our home put a closet in the living room, I still wonder. It's in a very weird spot. It looks like it was meant to be a pantry, but you can't even access it from the kitchen. Trust me, it's in a weird spot. This closet is small, but we had it filled with kitchen appliances, cleaning equipment, plastic bags, & various other random items. Really, I just needed to go through the closet & clean it out. We had two baskets in there full of tools - just because we were too lazy to bring them all back to the garage. I kept a few screwdrivers, nails, & a hammer in the bin, but brought the rest to the garage so those tools could go back home, to the whole tool family, & be with their friends. 

Yes, I think this way about inanimate objects. I'm weird.

I had two mops in there. Why? I don't know. So I tossed the one that looked in worse shape. Sorry, Mr. Mop. I tossed cleaning sprays that I never used. I tossed the smoke detectors that we had already replaced. I tossed the box my roaster came in. And, I tossed a crap-ton of plastic bags away. We had over 100 plastic bags, all balled up, inside other plastic bags. So, I kept a few of the nicer bags (Menard's has great bags!) and brought the others to that box at Wal-Mart that takes plastic bags. Jim also took some to his parents house, as they use them for bagging turkey legs & carp. 

And, now that I cleared out our plastic bag stash, it makes me not want them at the store. I bring my own bags from home. I don't need to ever replenish our stash. Plus, plastic is terrible for the world. So, if I can bring re-usable bags from home, why not? I just keep a few bags in each vehicle for easy use. 

Now, our living room closet contains only the things we use. Our Pizzazz pizza maker, our toaster, paper towels, garbage bags, my casserole carrier, a mop, a broom, the vacuum cleaner, a few cleaning sprays, a few plastic bags, my roaster, my veggie spiralizer, and a few other things - all things we USE. The few tools got the boot to another closet. 

Next, I moved to the basement. It needed organization more than anything. So, I organized it, but kept in mind the things I didn't need. We had a bunch of coats down there that we never wore - donated. I had a bin of clothes down there to wear "someday" - donated. I had some decor pieces down there to use once I found a spot for them - donated. We have a box full of cords & junk (that I still need to go through) down there, that I haven't touched in ages. Old picture frames in a bin to use "someday" - donated. Old Christmas decor that I never used - donated. Old dog toys & collars that Jack never saw - tossed. 

I rearranged our mason jars (we garden & can a lot). I rearranged our bins. I rearranged our shelves. I put that over-the-door shoe organizer to use & actually put the shoes into it. I vacuumed up some dead lady bugs. I swept. I wiped down the shower & added a curtain to it, so we could actually use it. The basement looks so nice now.

And then I moved on to my clothes closet. A few months ago, I cleaned it out pretty well. I got a large garbage bag of clothes out of it & donated them. This time, I was really going to hammer down.

I ended up donating 4 LARGE garbage bags of clothes. These clothes were ones I didn't love wearing. They were ones that were too small, or too big. They were ones I avoided wearing because they didn't go with anything. They were shirts that I got on this vacation or that trip, and kept for sentimental reasons... why? Why take up space in my home with clothes I don't need, in order to have something from a certain place? I have photos for that. 

It was a little daunting to be getting rid of four garbage bags of clothes. Man, what if I regret this? What if I have trouble finding things to wear? But, I haven't missed any article of clothing since, and I did this weeks ago.

I feel great! I open my closet & find it easier to choose something, knowing I only have so many options. It doesn't take me near as long to decide. It's awesome to not see all the clutter. It's wonderful to be able to easily find this top, or those bottoms. It feels good to not have all those clothes, hanging, never being worn. And it's dandy to know someone else, maybe someone in need, might be wearing those, thanks to DONATING! 

Every nook & cranny on my property will be gone through. I say "property" because I am not just going to minimize the STUFF in my house, but I am also going to go through the shed and the barn. 

I've never been one to like STUFF anyways, so my collection of things may already seem small, but it still feels nice to detox my life from unwanted things. 

Try it out! 

Start small: You could start by just walking around your home with a grocery bag and bagging things you don't need or want. Once the bag is full, put it in your trunk so you have no excuse but to donate it. Would you really bother bringing that bag in the house, once its already out of the house? Likely not.  
A few days later or the following week, grab another grocery bag and do it again! Put that bag in the trunk. Keep going each day/week/month until you are ready to take that trunk-full of items to the local thrift store. 
If you're ready to tackle more, do a room at a time. Maybe each Saturday, you can spend a few hours going through an entire room or closet? That is the method I do. I started with closets, then moved to the basement, and am now working on the kitchen. I realized I don't like much of anything on my counters, so I put the appliances in the closet until we need to use them. Do we use the toaster enough to take up valuable food prep space all the time? No. 

We've learned to value our space more & need less. We'd much rather buy things we will use regularly, then buy things for convenience to use occasionally. I've noticed it a lot with clothes shopping. I have been in dressing rooms, and the item looks or feels decent, not great, and it's cheap. In the past, I would say to myself "Why not?! It's only $7." Now, I say "It's not something I'm 100% comfortable in, and I could use that $7 towards some fish tacos in the Islands." Plus, walking out of a store empty-handed gives a nice feeling! 
I've also noticed it when registering for wedding gifts. Our registry is pretty small, but we really don't need much. And what we do register for, I make sure it is something we will frequently use, not just have "in case."  

I encourage everyone to detox their home of stuff. Of things you haven't used in months. Of items you don't use at all! Not only will you feel better with less things, you will become more mindful of the things you bring into your home in the future. 

Let me know how you plan to minimize your stuff!