Thursday, April 28, 2011

Our Story

So, I realize that I talk about the fiance all the time, but you guys don't really know a lot about him or how we met. I mean, I understand that there is no way to truly get to know someone unless you spend some time in their lives, so some things will have simply be revealed on the blog over time. But I figured a simple introduction would be nice.

The fiance, Dan, and I met back in 2004 during our junior year of high school. We shared a single class together: American History. For the most part, I was pretty quiet in high school - mainly because I didn't know a lot of the students who I shared classes with. All of my friends were in a different magnet (sort of like declaring a major in college, we signed up for magnets), so they were in different classes. Dan ended up being one of the few people that I talked to in that class while we waited outside for our teacher to return from his daily potty break.
The last week of school, with the help of a mutual friend, I invited Dan to come to a concert at my church. I think he was a little surprised when we asked him to go - he wasn't exactly the church-going type. But, to my surprise, he actually showed up! We both had a good time that night even though we were both dreading finals the next day.
After our history final, Dan was hanging back to help out the teacher (also his swim coach) with end-of-school stuff. I wasn't really planning on hanging around, so I started making my way to the parking lot. Next thing I know I heard him calling out my name, so I turned around and saw him literally running towards me. He asked me for my number, wrote it down, stuck it in his pocket, then gave me a hug and went back to the classroom.
Let me tell you, was I excited! I had never had a guy interested in me. But, it was a short-lived happiness. Dan never called. At the end of the summer he finally reached me through our mutual friend and apologized for not calling. He had forgotten to take the phone number out his pocket before his mom threw the jeans in the wash, and the last 2 numbers had faded away. I was glad to know the reasoning behind the silence, but wasn't ready to just give in. I was going to make him work.
We had seen each other a couple of times before the start of our senior year, and were happy to see that we were going to share yet another class: Economics. We decided on day one to be business partners for our class project. The next day, in the parking lot, Dan officially asked me out. And we lived happily ever after... Well, not really. We hit a few rough patches over the years, but we've managed to work past them and get to the point we are at today.

This is the oldest pic that I can find of the two of us from high school. We're in our favorite picnic spot under this really old tree in College Park.

And this is our picture from senior prom.

So, now that you know how we met, let me tell you a little bit about the fiance. He's the youngest of 3 boys. Some days you'd think he was the oldest brother, but others you can definitely tell he's the baby of the family. He's a boy scout and was raised around cars. He went to school to be a mechanic, but realized it wasn't his passion. Instead, he went back to school to be a firefighter/EMT. While he's on the job hunt, he's working at a doctor's office. He favorite new pastime is playing hockey, and he's getting better at it everyday. Usually you can find him fiddling with some techie toy, whether its a computer, phone, or something else electronic.

He is more than I could have ever imagined in a life partner. He puts up with all of my crap and still loves me despite it all. He has an amazing sense of humor, even if I don't always understand it. He has the ability to calm me down by simply wrapping his arms around me. I have never before felt so safe in someone's arms. He makes me smile, even on the days when all I want to do is break down in tears. He was my rock when I needed him the most after my granny's passing. He's basically the perfect guy for me, and I couldn't feel more blessed!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I know it's getting late, but I wanted to stop and take a moment to wish everyone out there a Happy Easter! I hope everyone has had an amazing weekend and took time to relax and enjoy their families & friendships.
Saturday the fiance and I went to our favorite beach with some friends. It was very relaxing and it was nice to catch up with them. Although I forgot to snap a pic of the beach this weekend, here's one from another trip that we took:

It's the same beach where the fiance proposed. I told you it was our favorite spot! :)

And, today, we chose to sleep in instead of going to a local church (we still haven't managed to find one we're happy with). Then, we made up some french toast for breakfast, watched a movie, hung around the apartment being lazy, then made up a homemade dinner. Even the cats enjoyed a lazy Easter afternoon:

So, from our little family to yours, we hope you had an amazing Easter weekend!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Save The Dates

         There are so many options when it comes to save-the-dates: magnets, online videos, e-mails, or the traditional card in the mail. The wedding magazines all say that your save-the-dates should be the first *hint* to your guests about your wedding's theme. Well, what if we really don't have a "theme" for our wedding?? We know the colors of our wedding, and when we describe the wedding, we say we want it to be "simple and relaxed." So, we went with something simple for our save-the-dates: postcards!

         We are very proud of our save-the-dates. The day that we went and toured our venue, Dan’s mom came along with her camera and we shot some amateur photos of the two of us. We got some great shots of us in front of the fountain and one the railroad tracks. Thanks to one of the fiance's coworkers, we were introduced to this site Zazzle that allows you to put your pictures on practically anything you can think of. So we created our own postcards using 3 of our favorite pictures from our shoot. So here's the final product:
         We felt like postcards would be a cheap alternative to traditional save-the-dates. Originally we played around with the idea of fridge magnets, but those cost more money than we budgeted for to create. Plus, then you have to buy the envelopes to mail them in, as well as traditional postage. With postcards, there are no envelopes required. Plus, postage is nearly ½ the price of a standard letter ($0.28 per stamp). We definitely recommend the postcard route for any couple planning their wedding.

Side Note / Word of advice: We were looking at square invitations for our formal invites. But, when we went to do our registry, the person who was walking us through the process told us that for her invites, she chose square invitations. Little did she know that it cost extra postage to mail out square invites because of their unconventional size. She told us that it was nearly $1 a pop to mail out those invites! So, if you’re a bride with a small budget, be sure to check into the postage before you chose your invites. If the envelope isn’t a standard size, or if the letter weighs more than an ounce, it’ll cost you more to mail them.

         Before we ordered all of the save-the-dates, we ordered one "tester" postcard to make sure that everything looked the way we wanted it to. I definately recommend doing this unless you are familiar and comfortable with the website you are ordering the products from. The tester cost us $2.94, but let me tell you, it was worth it! If we had not ordered the tester, I would not have known that I had placed text outside of the "save zone" of printing. See, the URL to our wedding website was practically chopped off. So, I went back on Zazzle, moved the URL up a little hire, and we were ready to order.
Side Note / Word of Advice #2: I was at my parents' house this weekend and wanted to see how well they made it through the mail. I was worried that they would get all banged up. Fortunately, there was only one or two tiny spots that looked like they'd bumped up against something else. However, do you know how at the bottom of all of your mail, there's this little barcode that the post office stamps onto your envelope? Yeah, well, that was stamped onto our postcards....right over our website address... So, just something else to take into mind. :)

         We ordered about 85 postcards in total. We didn't need that many, but we wanted to make sure we had extras in case I accidently wrote the wrong address or spelled someone's name wrong. Thanks to the same coworker who gave us the website tip, we managed to get a $10 off coupon. Plus, Zazzle had sent us an e-mail offering free shipping. So, all in all, we got all of our save-the-dates for under $50! Plus, we saved $0.16 per stamp on each postcard we mailed out (we handed some out in person to those people who we see all the time).

         Again, we are so proud of our save-the-date postcards! We're looking forward to creating our formal invites as well, though we'll probably go the more traditional card-in-an-envelope route for that one. And, we're hoping to have professional engagement pictures to incorporate into our formal invites!

         Have any of you created your own invitations or announcements? Did they turn out the way you anticipated? Or would you much rather order something from a store or catalog?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

So, this post is all about money, finances, and budgeting. Why the title? Well, that's the history teacher coming out in me - we're currently studying the Great Depression in 3 out of my 4 classes. :) But onto the wedding budget...

Almost 2 years ago now, Dan & I both participated in a finance class at my church. At the time, Dan & I were separated (no, we’re not a perfect couple, and yes, we’ve had our share of rough patches), but we were still friendly enough that I had invited him to come to my college & career group for a few weeks to participate in the class. I knew that Dan was just as interested in how to budget and save money as I was.
The course we took was called Financial Peace University, which was created by Dave Ramsey. The course we took was aimed a little more at high school students rather than college students, but it was still definitely insightful, and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone! Because of that course, Dan & I are both on the same page when it comes to finances – something that we both believe couples should talk about before they take the plunge into marriage. At the time we got engaged, Dan and I both had debt. Dan had student loans & a car payment. I had a car payment and a single credit card that I owed a small balance on. Also, at that point, I was living on my own while Dan was still living at home with his parents (which is still the current living arrangements). So we both agreed that we were going to do our best to pay for everything for the wedding up front – no loans, no credit cards, no debt. The last thing we needed to do was start off our life together even further in the hole.
We also knew that the likelihood of either of our parents contributing much money was out of the question. Both of our parents had recently dealt with unemployment and struggling to pay bills. The last thing we wanted to be was an additional financial burden on them. So, it was going to be 100% us. If our parents offered, then that would be more than welcomed. But we’re both of the mentality to plan for the worse and hope for the best.
Between the two of us, we feel as though we can save enough to have the wedding that we want without really having to sacrifice much. We decided that our big-ticket items would be the venue,  photography, & honeymoon. Everything else we felt as though we could find cheaper alternatives: shopping at thrift stores & yard sales, borrowing items from friends & coworkers who had recently gotten married, or DIYing what we could. Realistically, we both know that our overall costs may come out to be more than we anticipated, and we also know that they could come out way less. Even though we have a number in mind, we are still trying to aim lower than that and cut back on whatever we can. I'll try and share as much of our wedding planning process as we go along and divulge all the details of how we saved and where we splurged.
Some people think it's unrealistic for us to not use credit cards. Some people think that we need to go ahead and get them so that we can start building our credit. And other people think it's great that we are so adament about getting out of the debt we're in and staying out of it. At this point in our lives, we're happy with our financial plans. We'd much rather work hard, save up for something, and appreciate it more rather than buying it on credit and paying even more for it in the long run with interest. It might not work for everyone, but it works for us. We promise to share the budget breakdown after the wedding when we've finished crunching the numbers.
Did any of you pay for your wedding up front? Or did you chose to go the credit card route? Maybe you are blessed with generous friends & family? Any advice you'd like to share?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Me vs. Flea (part two)

So here is the much belated update post on my battle with fleas. When I last updated, I was trying to come up with ways to keep myself & the cats occupied for 4 hours while we waited for the chemicals to do their thing. Well, the bug guy got to the apartment 2 hours later than anticipated. Needless to say I was really stressed out - I needed to be in Orlando that night by a certain time in order to watch the Fiance play a hockey game (something I haven't been able to do as often as I like since we live over an hour away from each other). I asked the bug guy if I absolutely had to be in the apartment 4 hours after the treatment was done to vacuum everything up. I seriously could have kissed the man! He said it isn't recommended, but that I could go to Orlando and come back later in the weekend to vacuum. He also warned that it might not be as effective waiting so long to vacuum. But, hey, I had to be at that hockey game, right?

          Side note: I don't recommend telling a complete stranger that you're going to
          be out of your home & out of town for any length of time. I didn't realize what
          I had done until I was already at my parents' house in Orlando. My
          recommendation: come up with some crazy lie as to why you can't be back
          to vacuum. Or, if you absolutely aren't creative and must tell the stranger you
          won't be home, make sure that you have a trusted neighbor checking in on
          your home/apartment to make sure that everything is okay.

So, I went to Orlando for the weekend and got to watch the Fiance play hockey (they won by the way!). The cats stayed cooped up in the spare bedroom all weekend due to my step dad's allergies [mentioned here], but did get plenty of love & attention from my niece & nephew. Before I returned to the apartment, the cats took a trip to the Fiance's parents' house and got another flea bath using the same shampoo as before. This time, I made the Fiance hold them while I scrubbed, which made things soooo much easier! I also put the flea collars back on them after their bath (which I forgot to mention as one of my methods in the previous post). When I got home, I locked the cats into the master bath while I vacuumed every inch of carpet in the place.

So...the results?

Well... let's just say that I'm still finding fleas on both cats. Granted, there are far less bites on my body. But it's still really irritating that after all that effort, they still aren't gone. And to top it off, Periwinkle is shedding like crazy in our warm Florida weather, so her fur & the accompanying flea dirt are all over the place. My vacuum cleaner is definitely getting a workout!

What's the plan for this point on? Well, right now I'm in crunch mode with school - Advanced Placement testing is in a month, and our state standardized tests are next week. So, pretty much it's all about maintenance until the summer when I can try another full-force assault on the little buggers. So, the flea collars remain, I'm going to upgrade their flea medication from the vet, and brush, brush, brush.

Anyone have any other suggestions for fighting fleas? I'm pretty much open to anything that won't harm the animals. I'm not someone who will only use "green" or "organic" techniques, but I also don't want to do anything that will harm them.


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