Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Finds - Silk

I received an email yesterday from Mr. Palindrome.

Subject: I just learned where silk comes from . . .

Message: And I don't know if I can ever wear it again!
I don't often think about where silk comes from, but I do know that the luxurious feeling will always keep me coming back for more.  So this week, for Mr. Palindrome, Friday Finds features heavenly silk, straight from the silk worm's tush.


Clockwise from the Top L:
Hair Bows Wonderworld - Versaille
Hydra Heart - Custom Bridal Flats
Rosebud Lips - Wedding Garter Set
Eclu - Ivory Sash

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mine at Last: Getting with the Program

Mr. Palindrome's sweet cousin handed out programs on the day of our wedding.  She was so excited to be part of the festivities and took her duties quite seriously.

I was really proud of how they turned out, but of course, there's a whole, long back story.

One day, I was at Michael's.  (Aside: Michael's probably wonders where the looney scavenging for black and white goods on discount went - or maybe they just think I morphed into the the lavender and sage hunting crazy getting married in June?)  Since I had previously left some very good, cheap paper in our wedding colors on the shelf to never be found again, I jumped at the chance to buy them out of 3 stacks of 8x8 crafting paper.  I had no earthly idea what I was going to use them for, but gosh darn it, I would have them laying around when the time was right.

The time was right when I conceived of the idea to make programs.  I quickly cut out a few pieces of scrap paper to ensure the measurements would work out.  Lo and behold, if I cut the 8x8 sheets exactly in half and then created a tri-fold program on 8.5x11, I could get two programs from each larger piece of paper and tuck them neatly into their little jackets.

It took a few hours and several printing tests, but I finally was able to squeeze all of the information we wanted into the allotted space, using Publisher.

I used Abigail font for the titles and Californian FB for the rest of the text (with some italicized).  Both of these fonts were standard in my version of Office.  I set the margins so that they would all be equal when I cut down the middle of the paper.  In execution, I sent a PDF to Kinko's and had them print and cut.  For $24 dollars, it was definitely a sanity saver not having to print double-sided on my home printer and cut each by hand.

The day after Christmas, I set my family to work.  I had previously cut and folded all of the jackets while burning through my Netflix queue, but tri-folding the freshly printed insides was taking a bit of time.   I also had a 1/16" hole punch that was the needle eye to my 1/8" ribbon camel.  I also had quite a bit of pre-cut ribbon; however, I overestimate how many we would get from each roll.  Since we needed more ribbon, I decided to break down and buy the 1/8" hole punch while at Michael's.  To top it all off, I had a ribbon length sample from a previous project, so Motherdrome inadvertently cut all of the new ribbon into ties about 2 inches short, making them harder, but not impossible to tie.  There was some rough going, but nothing says holiday cheer like everyone gathered around the table, carols on the radio, and teaching your Dad how to handle the bone folder.  He's a regular Martha Stewart now!

Did you con your family into wedding craft projects during a holiday gathering?

*First two photographs by our wonderful photographer Sam Hughes, and the rest by me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Finds - Chartreuse Botanicals

The flowing, romantic robe inspired this week's finds - the perfect start to the morning of your wedding day, and a little luxury for the honeymoon!


Clockwise from the R:
Plum Pretty Sugar - Kimono Style Robe
Cultivar - Romantic Whimsy Vines
By Invitation Only - Chic Wedding Invitation Suite
Vivid Colors - Walk in the Park

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wedding Shower Food Ideas via Tasty Kitchen

Me gusta Pioneer Woman.  Me gusta food.  Me gusta weddings.

Ergo, me gusta this blog post on Wedding Shower Food.  Check out this collage of scrumptious treats:

If you're wondering what to make for an upcoming shower, go be inspired and report back with your creations!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why I Love Weddings, Remembered

Mr. Palindrome and I attended our first wedding as a married couple the other week.  We had been looking forward to its as we had grown with our friends from college dating, through Navy long distance relationships, and into engagement land. 

Not only were we able to rejoice with them as they joined us on the married side of life, but I found my wedding joy again.  I wasn't sure if weddings would ever be the same to me as when I was a wishful singleton dreamer.  Planning our own wedding exposed me to the stressful, head ache inducing side of things and though I'll never forget the experience, I'm so glad that I can enjoy weddings again since they're not my own!

I held my husband's hand while they repeated their vows, and I rubbed his wedding ring.  I appreciated the natural beauty of the outdoor ceremony space, the fragrance of the flowers, the taste of the wine, and the laughter at the toasts.  I ate Pennsylvania and Ohio shaped cookies from the cookie buffet (representing the bride and groom's home states).  All simple joys. 

Sure, I noticed the little touches that the bride worked so hard on (like the calligraphy place cards), but what I really remember was the feeling of love.  We felt so comfortable with their welcoming families.  We chatted, laughed, and toasted with our table mates.  We danced cheek to cheek to Oldies.  That's why I love weddings - the experience of the fullness of love that radiates from the beginning of a marriage.

Have you lost that loving feeling towards weddings?  Were you able to get it back?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Finds - So it is Written

These delightful bird cake toppers showcase lovely aged paper, which I imagined to be book pages from a favorite, classic novel (upon closer inspection, perhaps these are sewing patterns, but no matter, the rest of the board was inspired by the novel). I then imagined the seersucker boy's suit to clothe Oliver Twist, the delicate yet bold lace necklace to have been inspired by Shakespeare's Portia, and the cameo push pins to be reborn Lady of Shallot portraits. So romantic!

 Clockwise from Top L:
Tuck & Bonte - Love Bird Cake Toppers
White Owl - Portia Lace Necklace
Fine Handmade Clothing - Seersucker Summer Suit
Regan's Brain - Vintage Cameo Thumbtacks

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Luna di Miele in Italia - Parte Tre

I realize that many of you are planning honeymoons with more than 12 hours notice.  These tips and book reviews are for you.  I've broken down the advice into 3 sections: Guide Book Reviews, General Tips, and Budget.  If you are going on a surprise honeymoon like we ended up doing, then my advice is much simpler: 1. Anything you don't have, you can buy (warmer clothes, guide books, disposable camera, etc.). 2. Enjoy yourselves!

Guide Books/Maps/Dictionaries we used:

Mona Winks, by Rick Steves

I bought my copy when I studied abroad in 2003.  In a panicked search as we packed the morning of take off, I found it buried in one of my moving boxes.  It was a honeymoon day miracle.  While some of the exhibits were traveling when we were there, we still got a lot out of the book.  The walking tours were all still the same (nobody moved the coliseum) and I enjoy Rick Steves' humor (although it's an acquired taste, Mr. Palindrome didn't appreciate it as much as me).  If you're looking for a quick and dirty guide to some of the best European museum with a hint of funny, I think this book would really fit your needs.  Sometimes, Mr. Palindrome and I wanted something a bit more academic and if I had to do it over again, I probably would have researched and bought some more art history focused books to supplement this.  On my trips, I have ripped out whichever section it is that we needed.  Rick actually advocates this and offers a new book to anyone who sends in $5 along with their ripped up book (although I just clarified with customer service that it only pertains to books that are still in print, which my version is not).  Here's my poor little book:

Fodor's Italy 2010
Another last minute Hail Mary find, we loaded Fodor's Italy 2002 into my back pack.  It's deceptively heavy.  That said, we relied on it for cross referencing other guide books and restaurant recommendations.  I don't know that I would buy Fodor's again, although the new ones claim they have color photos now . . .

Street Smart Roma
We picked up this map in the airport at JFK because The New York Times called it "The Map to Rome."  I guess the writer has never been to Rome and really never needed to know their location when walking routes that happen to fall along the crevice of the map.  Otherwise, it was useful for figuring out general, cardinal directions and had a handy Subway map.

Eye Witness Travel: Florence and Tuscany
We bought this guide while we were at the train station in Rome.  It was more expensive than a lot of the other books, but the color photographs and illustrations on each page really helped to guide us through the city.  It breaks Tuscany into geographical areas, so it was easy to concentrate on one area at a time.  My only complaint is that they lump the restaurant reviews in the back and I wish they were organized so that you knew what restaurants were near the particular site you were near. 

Frommer's Milan and the Lakes: Day by Day
We also bought this at the train station in Rome.  It's a smaller pocket guide style book and included several full day tours based on different interests (historical, shopping, etc.).  For our purposes and since we were only in Milan for one day, we were generally well served by this book.  However, if you were planning on more extensively touring the lakes, you might want something more comprehensive.  Also, the maps included weren't as detailed as we needed them to be, so we found ourselves wandering around a bit looking for a particular deli recommendation.

Frommer's Italian Phrase Finder and Dictionary
Mr. Palindrome purchased this phrasebook at JFK.  It was occasionally helpful (and sometimes funny - especially the intimate encounters section), but Mr. Palindrome ultimately found it inadequate in all but the simplest conversations.  He was considering buying a suit and many words like "alterations" and "hem" weren't included. 

Berlitz Italian Pocket Dictionary
After the suit shopping debacle, Mr. Palindrome bought the Berlitz Dictionary.  He loved referencing it, especially at restaurants, much to my dismay.  In fact, Mr. Palindrome reveled in looking at maps and pulling out the dictionary, marking himself as a tourist and being the source of my shame.  Even though I wanted to blend in, I was fairly glad we had the dictionary to reference.

General Tips:

Advanced Booking for Museums - For the Uffizi and the Santa Maria delle Grazie, you can book tickets in advance.  In the case of the Uffizi, ordering online ahead of time in March was unnecessary as our concierge was able to arrange ticket vouchers for us.  The lines also weren't as long in the afternoon, so if you're unable to book ahead of time, it could work out in low season.  If you want to see the Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie, you absolutely must book tickets ahead of time (3-4 months).  We were also informed that we could have taken a day tour with a group for around 55 euros a piece; however, that tour left at 8:00 am and we didn't arrive in Milan until 9:30.  So we were out of luck.  That's the one thing that I wish we could have seen, but didn't get to.

Accommodations - Hotel rooms in Europe are generally more modest than American hotels.  We stayed in two luxurious hotels and one more modest hotel.  Even in the more expensive rooms, the king size beds were actually two twins pushed together.  We were surprised at first, but then got used to it after checking into the third hotel and finding the same arrangement.

Shopping - We thought the best shopping was in Florence because of the multitude of leather, gold, and paper shops.  In fact, we wish we had done more shopping there, but we kept waiting for good deals and the right items to knock our socks off - so we ended up missing out.  In Milan and Rome, most of the shopping seemed to be very upscale designer stuff, very cheap souvenir stuff, or knock-offs.  Wine was a lovely souvenir, as well as other food stuffs, just remember that meats and cheeses cannot be brought into the States per customs regulations. 

Beggars - I had forgotten since I studied abroad how common begging was in the streets of major cities.  It can definitely catch you off guard, especially if you're used to the suburbs.  It's completely up to you how you handle the situations, but be prepared for some beggars to be quite pushy and insistent.  My personal policy is to support organizations that help the homeless and not to give money on the street.  It's very difficult when someone flat out asks you for money and tells you a story about their hungry child though.  We did give food, but some of them asked us for money right after we had given them food.  We also encountered several people at the train and subway who would help book your tickets, but then demand tips.  By the end of our trip, we were much more comfortable saying no because we had seen the scams before.  Since the culture is a bit different, it's just something to be aware of.

Dining - My greatest piece of advice is to be adventurous when ordering.  We loved trying local delicacies and ate quite a bit of seafood that we don't eat on a regular basis (squid and octopus).  When we saw food coming out of the kitchen bound for other tables that we though looked good, we asked the waiter to order us the same thing.  We tried to find menus that offered prix fixe selections so that we could sample as many foods as possible. 


Euro vs. Dollar - The exchange rate might be the best it's been in several years, but at $1.40 to 1 euro, it still hurts after a while.  For me, I find it useful to set a budget in euros and keep track from there.  Mr. Palindrome prefers to translate the prices into dollars before deciding to buy something.

Restaurant Charges - Most restaurants charge a cover charge of 2-3 euros a person.  They also charge 2-3 euros for a half liter of water.  Oh and they charge you for the bread they automatically put on the table.  So, just remember that when you sit down at a restaurant, it's almost 10 euros right off the bat.

Caffe Bars - Drink your coffee and eat your brioche standing at the bar.  If you sit in the bar, you will be charged double to triple the prices of standing at the bar.  I mean, you can sit if you're tired and just want to sit and pay more - but after we caught on to the upcharging, we just stood and drank our coffee at the bar.

Renting a Car - For about 100 euros we rented a car from Avis in Florence with a GPS and all the insurance.  It was a manual as the automatic was a mid-size and would have been much more.  Also, don't be afraid to ask locals for help - a kind gentlemen helped us pump petrol because we couldn't figure the machine out. 

Cash - I rarely carry cash with me in the States.  However, in Italy, cash is definitely needed.  The subway ticket machines only took coins or bills under 5 euros.  A surprising number of museums (including the L'Academia which houses the original David) only accept cash.  Street vendors selling paninis and bottles of water only accept cash.  We used our AMEX as often as we could for the rewards, but we had to use cash about 1/3 of the time.

Total Budget - We were very blessed by the lamb-in-laws with their gift of airfare and hotel accommodations.   We set aside some wedding gift money to cover our other expenses.  We were still interested in keeping a budget, but we had some flexibility.  At first, Mr. Palindrome was certain that we could keep our other costs to $1000.  My guess was $2000.  We splurged on a few meals and renting the car to tour Tuscany.  When we tallied it all at the end of the trip, we came in around $2700 which is roughly 2000 euros.  For 2 people, on a 10 day trip, that breaks down to 100 euro per person per day.   Outside of train transfers and the splurges I mentioned, I think we spent the most money on coffee and water!  We each had several coffees throughout the day and constantly found ourselves buying water as drinking fountains were few and far between.

For those going on Italian honeymoons - Bon viaggio!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Weddingbee/Southern Weddings Meetup!

I had a ton of fun here in Durham at Foster's Market, meeting some fellow brides and bloggers last month!  Fun ladies/gents + delicious food + a sunny brilliant day = good times had by all. 
Southern Weddings publishes out of Chapel Hill and Emily, one of the editors, suggested a meet-up.  It was perfect timing with the turn of spring weather and even more exciting, Mrs. Bunny and Mrs. Pineapple made the trip too!
We chatted dresses (NCGirl sewed both of her sister's dresses!), honeymoons (Mr. Palindrome and I had just returned from ours), registries (one couple was heading out to have their turn with the price gun that afternoon!), last minute preparations (one Emily -out of three there!- was getting married two weeks from that day - Congratulations!), and the latest trends (modern and clean!). 
Best wishes to the brides-to-be and Mrs. Pineapple with her delivery!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lune di Miele in Italia - Parte Due

In part 1, we did as the Romans and then headed to Florence.  After perusing the must-sees (David, the Uffizzi, the Duomo), we wanted to take in the country side.  We armed ourselves with a rental car, GPS, Google map printouts, and an adventuresome spirit, then took to the road.  Mr. Palindrome had been looking forward to renting a car in Greece in order to learn how to drive a stick shift, so he was especially excited that we ended up renting a car after all. I drove first and we were pretty psyched with the upgrade we got to a Fiat 500.  Thankfully, it was just like riding a bike and I worked my way through heavy traffic in the city without incident.

Later, in a parking lot, Mr. Palindrome took to the wheel to try his luck.  After a few false starts . . . he declared himself a "naturale" and pulled out of the parking lot. 
Our first stop was Montepulciano.  After the crowded streets and long lines in Rome and Florence, we were so glad to find respite in quiet streets of the small countryside town.
We walked into the Contucci tasting room, enticed by the free tasting sign outside.  Not only was the Vino Nobile worth the drive, but we met characters to match.  The sommelier graciously answered all of our questions and humored us when we were shocked the winery had been in his family for almost 4 times the amount of time that America has been a country.  We also met the friendly wine master who told us he had been on the "Ricardo Steves" show and wanted to give me a photo op!
If we had more room in our suitcases, we would have bought more than the three bottles we carted off.  We arrived at the next town, Monticchiello, ready to eat.  In March, the options were more limited, but luckily the one restaurant open for lunch had some of the best views in the town. 

We lunched then walked and clicked our way through the rest of the town.  I had been considering buying a digital SLR, but didn't make it a priority when we thought we were going to laying on a beach in the Greek Isles.  Due to the short notice of our reroute, I was really disappointed that I didn't have time to research and buy one.  Instead, we dusted off our film SLR and packed our point and shoot for snapshots.
Our other stops included Pienza, Poppi (my favorite town, complete with a castle!), and a quick drive through Arrezo.  We didn't realize that Arrezo was more of a city and that it was rush hour until it was too late.  My newbie, "naturale" found himself navigating difficult one way hills while also trying to follow the GPS back to the highway and read the Italian street signs.  By the end of the night, which included many more hills, my nerves were shot.  We didn't have much time to recover before we hopped a train for Pisa the next day.
My delicate nerves explain why I was hugging the wall as we climbed our way to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa.   My husband on the other hand, had nerves to spare.

I overcame my risk aversion to heights several times during the trip and was always dually rewarded by tremendous views.

We climbed back down and found ourselves in the middle of a wedding day photo shoot!  I wouldn't be a good wedding blogger if I didn't crash the shoot a little to share with you all.

I loved her bustle and capelet!
Move over bride and groom!  The honeymooners are here!
As the sun started to set, we rushed back to Florence for one last dinner before packing and planning our day in Milan.  The next morning we were tired, but we gathered enough energy for one more day of sightseeing.  We stayed at Le Meridien, right across from the train station (a relief when toting luggage through the city) and while it wasn't the St. Regis or the Excelsior, I still loved the art deco charm.
Our view of the train station from the balcony.
The best part of the room, in my opinion was the stained glass in the bathroom!
With only one day left on our trip, we decided to see the famous, Gothic duomo.  As the 3rd largest cathedral in the world, Mr. Palindrome was able to claim that he had visited all three (St. Peter's on our trip and the cathedral in Seville during his time in the Navy).
Since we didn't have a very thorough tour book for Milan, we conceded to buying the audio guides for 2 euros a piece.  I got every cent out of my audio book by listening to all 57 entries.  The craftsmanship was remarkable, as seen in this beautiful stained glass window.
While I wouldn't have been interested in climbing yet another tower, the climb to the top of the duomo was a unique experience where you actually could walk around the terraced roofs and see the gargoyles up close.
By the end of the tour, we knew we were "churched out," so we ran over to La Rinascente to do some last minute souvenir shopping. We wound our way up escalators past Armani suits, Dolce & Gabbana hand bags, and Ferragamo pumps, to the 8th floor which housed a gourmet grocery and several eateries.  We bought some fun and affordable edibles for family gifts (not everything was affordable . . . 500 euro truffle oil anyone?).  We meandered through quaint and historic residential streets on the long walk back to the hotel, soaking up the last bits of Italian romance.

10 days, 4 cities, one country side tour, 30+ glasses of wine, 18+ gelatos, 2 umbrellas, and 1 more manual driver in the world - and that's the story about how our Greek honeymoon serendipitously became our Italian honeymoon.

Lessons learned, travel book reviews, and budget tips are forthcoming in a third installment!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lune di Miele in Italia - Parte Una

After months of searching, debating and prioritizing, we finally settled on a honeymoon to Greece.  We postponed the trip until Mr. Palindrome's spring break which afforded us extra time on the trip and to plan. We were going to spend a few days in Athens before heading to a relaxing resort on Crete.  We bought a few guide books, a myth refresher, and a phonetic pronunciation guide.  I went on a shopping spree for cute sun dresses to wear in the coastal towns.  Judging by the title of this post, you can guess that we didn't make it to Greece after all.  When we tried to check in to our flight the night before, we were informed that our flight had been canceled and that Greek airport workers were striking. 

The 12 hours following that realization was a whirlwind.  I remember my in-laws calling a few times as they tried to figure out if they could get their airline miles back to use on another trip for us.  I remember looking at last minute travel deals and cruises, considering a weekend at a B&B in North Carolina, and wondering if we should just have a stay-cation.  Simultaneously, Mr. Palindrome's parents heroically researched, talked with airline agents, and pulled in favors for lodging.  Sometime around midnight it was decided that the honeymoon could be salvaged in our given time frame if we rerouted to Italy.  A quick "Ciao bella!" and we had packed our bags bound for gelato, art, and the other great pillar of western civilization.

At JFK, I drank my last American coffee (heretofore referred to as crap coffee).  Neither of us could sleep on the plane for very long so we arrived in Rome exhausted, hungry, and needing a hot shower.  We hobbled our way to the hotel with mismatched luggage, crazy bed hair, and wild caffeine withdrawal eyes.  We walked into the St. Regis Grand Hotel and I immediately regretted wearing yoga pants to travel, instead wishing I was in my sassy  black pants and patent high heels.  We slinked into the hotel restaurant to wash down some croissants with cappuccinos then hightailed it to our room before embarrassing ourselves any further with our backpacks and camera bags.  The room was beyond our expectations in every way.  It was a splurge we would probably never take ourselves and thus, a perfect gift from our in-laws.

We knew we should make the most of our first full day, but the siren song of a nap was too much and we only ventured out in the afternoon to a nearby museum.  Consulting the guidebooks that we bought in the airport, we planned a full day to take in the ancient ruins.  We snapped this picture at the coliseum before the rain started and we bought overpriced street umbrellas.

We were careful to check when museums and sights were closed and arranged our sightseeing accordingly.  Even though it would have been a good experience to attend mass at St. Peter's, we also really wanted to see the Vatican Museum (housing the Sistine Chapel), so we spent most of the day Saturday waiting in lines.  We got a pretty big kick out of the immodestly dressed stick figures warning visitors outside of the basilica.
We took cues from an old version of Mona Winks (a guide to famous art in Europe by Rick Steves) and stopped for a cappuccino  at the top of the museum for a great view of St. Peters.  However, by this time, we had figured out that sitting at the tables tripled our beverage prices, so we drank at the bar and then ventured outside with only our camera.

On the 4th day of our trip, we took the train to Florence and learned a few lessons at the train station (i.e., generally people offering to help you buy your tickets aren't being altruistic, but rather expect money for a "cafe" . . . riiiiight).  Other than missing our original train, "tipping" another person to help us reissue the tickets, and being fined on the train for not validating our tickets on the platform (we had read about this in the guidebook but didn't see the machines), we arrived in Florence relatively unscathed.  Again, we were in for a treat with our suite at the Excelsior Hotel.

Even the elevator foyers were nicely appointed with paintings and chandeliers
We also were greeted by a lovely bottle of champagne - a treat we got used to at each hotel we stayed.
We love to eat and the food in Florence did not disappoint us.  In Rome, we felt like we spent a lot of money on food that was ok (we let a waiter order for us one night and ended up with a 200 euro bill - yikes!).  In Florence, we still spent a lot of money, but the food was delicious.  I can't remember the name of this restaurant for the life of me . . . maybe it had something to do with the wine pitcher that was refilled by some friendly Greeks we met.

In addition to the food and wine, the atmosphere was just charming.  This picture was taken after the place had mostly cleared out.
We walked everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  So I think my number one recommendation for an European vacation is to bring comfortable walking shoes.  Walking also has rewards other than working off the bloating from gastronomic delights, such as beautiful views of the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

We stayed in Florence for 5 nights, but used it as a home base for a few day trips as well.  In Parte Due, we'll explore Tuscany, Pisa and Milan!