My Forever & Always

All the relationship advice in the world could not have made a difference in my past experiences of choosing the wrong men. As the saying goes, I was trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. I would try to find happiness in the wrong relationships, changing myself or attempting to change my SO. I’d try to convince myself I felt a certain way or convince myself that the SO felt a certain way for me. Only to end in tears, heartache, and questioning what I did wrong, why I couldn’t seem to find the right fit, and why I couldn’t get the love I desired.

I spent so much time chasing after guys who wouldn’t or couldn’t give me what I wanted, and then wondered what was wrong with me. The problem was simple: I was choosing the wrong men. I fell for guys who felt right due to commonalities or adventure or chemistry or familiarity or even loneliness sometimes.

That was why my beginning with G was so unexpected. I was accustomed to either temporary relationships that would slip easily away or comfortable relationships where priorities were skewed. However, meeting G was a life-changing experience that has only gotten better with time.

G gave me all the right feelings from Day One.

He has made every effort to put me as his priority and has supported me in every trial, endeavor, and achievement along the way. He loves the person I am even as our personalities differ. He’s proud of me and proud to be with me. He is my calming voice during rages and my comforting home during sorrow. He is the reason I smile throughout the day. He fights for me even while we’re the ones fighting. He loves me deeply now and talks of materializing dreams with me in the future.

And I believe every single word he says with no reason of a doubt.

He is, in the simplest of terms, my Forever & Always.

Now, don’t roll your eyes. I am not saying I found the One. (I don’t believe anyone in this world has a “One.”) But I did find someone I liked and cared for and have a high degree of compatibility with in my little corner of the universe. I found someone who increases my happiness and makes me a better person. I found someone I want to do life with forever.

That doesn’t mean our relationship is flawless though. Neither G nor I found the One to make our futures perfect.

Bottom line: every relationship is a lot of work. G and I recognize this and are willing to commit to working on ourselves and our relationship for the remainder of our lives.

We know we will always be a work in progress.

And THAT is what makes all the difference!

G and I will continuously learn from one another, grow together, attempt to give the other our best, and forgive constantly when we falter. We’ve actively chosen to embrace every raw part of one another  — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And that is how we move forward with the last 50 days of our engagement and the entirety of our marriage.

Thank you for choosing me to be your Forever & Always, G. I cannot wait to become your wife in only 50 days (HOW IS THIS A THING?!) and begin growing together as a married couple. I love you.

-A

Real Wedding: Rachel + James

When I think of my childhood, there is one smiling face that shows up in more than half of my memories and that is the face of my friend Rachel. Our friendship has been nothing short of adventurous: from riding ATVs up north with no helmets and watching her cousin bite worms in half in order to “fish better” to staying up ungodly hours of the night to watch trash TV to cruising the Caribbean twice to witnessing drug busts in the nation’s capital to acting as one another’s wedding Plus One’s to surviving puberty, high school, and a number of break ups, we have done so much together!

Needless to say, when Rach texted me one January morning to tell me she was now engaged to her high school sweetheart, my heart was bursting! Not only because IT WAS ABOUT TIME, but also because our conversation turned to wedding plans and logistics. As an event coordinator at the Winery still, I started to cry when she took me up on my offer to host her intimate nuptials at my venue AND allow me to help coordinate the Big Day.


Rachel and Jimmy began dating our senior year of high school. Like most early relationships, they did wander from one another after graduation, but it didn’t take long for their hearts to call them  back together. What is meant to be will always find a way! They both have adventurous, wanderlust hearts (traveling the world is one of their shared passions) and have enough differences to balance one another in a strong partnership.

Jimmy proposed to Rachel on Christmas Day.  As his family watched, a beautiful solitaire gold ring was found by Rachel tied with a ribbon around the collar of their new puppy, Hopper. Jimmy fell to his knee and the rest is history…

Having discussed their wedding ideals prior to the engagement, both Jimmy and Rachel knew exactly the kind of celebration they wanted: an intimate affair surrounded with their closest loved ones. Both fearing the crowds of a large to-do, they opted to spend their expenses on a month-long honeymoon to explore the world together rather than a lavish party. Perhaps a reception sometime in the future, but for now they were seeking somewhere small, cozy, and preferably rustic.

Cue me!

When Rachel told me what sort of venue she was seeking and her budget, I knew exactly where (and who) should “run this show.” My Winery’s special event space boasted an adorable fireplace ideal for a ceremony’s backdrop, wood beams for a rustic feel, and all the wine imaginable. Plus the rental fee was exactly within the bride’s margins! Without much persuading, Rachel came, saw, and placed a deposit on the space for a date only two weeks in the future for her wedding. And so the preparations began…

The wedding would host both the groom’s and bride’s immediate family. This meant grandparents, parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews only. The group planned to go out for dinner following the ceremony, so only light hors d’voures were needed. As for decor, Rachel’s mom and I worked with the most simplistic of tools to bring a light, airy feel to the venue: tulle, organza, Mason jars, and baby’s breath were all it took.

With less than two weeks to prepare, Rachel’s savviness was impressive! She found her wedding dress (a gorgeous ivory lace gown) at a local bridal shoppe. The gown was a floor sample and just happened to fit this bride like a glove! Seriously! Look at this stunning bride!

Rachel dressed and prepped in my office upstairs as Jimmy took residence in the office across the hall. Skipping tradition, the two met before the ceremony to capture the “first look” and share a bottle of wine. When time, Jimmy took Rachel arm-in-arm and they entered the ceremony together down the staircase; the guests were silent as the beautiful couple cascaded down to say their vows.

The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s friend and tattoo artist. What felt like eternity for the couple was actually only about five minutes worth of stating vows, exchanging rings, and making the announcement of husband and wife.

Then it was time for the festivities! The couple toasted the beginning of their future with a bottle of 2016 Dablon Sparkling Chardonnay  and a beautiful naked cake created by an amazing pastry chef (and high school friend) to provide a sweet treat for guests and couple alike. The vanilla cake with raspberry filling paired well beside other bottles of wine being sampled by the family as all present celebrated the growth of their families.

The after-ceremony celebration involved a lot of mingling, hugging, and well-wishes for the newlyweds.

It was so amazing to witness this intimate affair and see the happiness in my friend’s life. There were many laughs throughout the afternoon as we all mingled and shared stories of the past and dreams of the future.

And though I loved every moment of the ceremony, one of the most memorable moments of the day for me was when the photographer, the newlyweds, and I ventured around the Winery for a photo shoot. Anji, the photographer, and her assistant Andrew were an awesome team to witness.

First we went to the Winery’s barrel room. Anji had me cut the overhead lights and highlighted the couple using a lighting rod. Then we took to the vineyards and patio. Thankfully there was limited snow for a Michigan January! The weather was actually misting, but temperatures were not below freezing. The gray sky assisted in accentuating the colors of the photographer’s subjects. After a bit of fun outdoors, we moved into the tasting room for the finale — and a little wine.

The process Anji went through to capture these images was incredible — that woman is ridiculously talented — and her final products speak for themselves:

For a dreary Michigan Sunday in January, the love and warmth of this ceremony melted all coldness from the world. Ending their celebration with a wine tasting, the couple quickly and easily packed up their belongings and headed to a great dinner with their families…

And off into the rest of their happily married lives together.

I am so thankful to have been able to be a part of this momentous day for my long-time friend. I am even more thankful she was so gracious in granting me permission to her wedding photographs and freedom to write a little piece on this intimate affair. I love ya, Rach!

Venue: Dablon Vineyards
Photographer: Anji Monique Photography
Cake: Mandy Krause of Love and Macarons
Event Coordinator: Ashley Wall

3-Ingredient Crock Pot Roast

With future MIL laid up due to surgery, G and I took on an active role in the kitchen today making dinner to enjoy some family time. The weather finally turned to Spring, so we were able to celebrate the warmth with open doors and bird songs accompanying our supper as well. It was a great Sunday!

This roast recipe is super easy and always pleases the taste buds of all who try it! Paired with the right sides, it makes for a simple and tasty dinner for all your family members and friends to enjoy. It is definitely not the healthiest meal I make, but we all need to splurge every now and then…

3-Ingredient Crock Pot Roast

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Only 3 ingredients for the best flavored roast ever!

I am all about simple crock pot entrees when I plan to make some time-extensive side dishes. So this roast recipe is one of my favorites handed down from my mother. I’ve used it for Friendsgivings in the past and family get-togethers, plus meal prepping for the week! Depending on the size of your roast, it can go a long way. Its rich and flavorful gravy only accentuates the moist meat and makes for a crowd-pleaser for sure!

Ingredients

  • 1 5-6 pound chuck roast
  • 1 package dry onion soup
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup

Directions

  1. Place chuck roast in crockpot
  2. Sprinkle package of dry onion soup
  3. Pour cream of mushroom soups over top
  4. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water (the more water, the thinner the gravy)
  5. Cook on low for 8 hours
  6. Once finished cooking, shred to desired texture and serve immediately.


Serve with your favorite veggies and side item. The gravy is especially good with mashed cauliflower or jasmine rice.


1 Serving: kcal = 320, protein = 47g, carbs = 6g, fat = 11g

Our dinner tonight included crack potatoes and zucchini fries on the side, with a bit of blueberry pie and ice cream for dessert. Not the most healthy, but what’s a cheat Sunday from time to time?! Delish!

Enjoy, friends!

I Was Taught Strength

I’ve always known what strength a woman can have. I have a strong mother and I have strong grandmothers. I grew up learning from strong female teachers and have been blessed with strong female friends. They have all been role models to me, showing me the different forms strength can take, giving me a goal to set since I was only a toddler.

I had been a good little student with notebook and pen in hand, jotting notes on what strength looked like, yet with all the strong women I watched I did not possess genuine strength myself. I was a caterpillar in a cocoon, waiting for that all-consuming metamorphosis which would truly teach what strength was to me.

It was not until April 19, 2016 that I was taught what strength I carried myself.

Before 2016 I thought I was strong. I had been through relationship heartbreak and survived. I had suffered a bruised ego, a bruised body, and bruised self-esteem countless times and lived to tell the tales. Each is a terrible pain in its own right, yes?

Hardly.

In April 2016 I was taught what real pain feels like. Not just the pain of being scraped or dumped or cheated on or isolated.

In April 2016, I experienced extreme heartache. The type of heartache that can’t be repaired with a drunken text, a girls’ night out, a Band-aid, or months of vacation and/or self-care. I experienced the type of heartache where the person you lose is never coming back.

That person was beautiful. She was breathtaking. Someone that deserved to live a long, happy life free of hurt. But that person was ripped away from this world. She didn’t get enough time with her family, her friends, her community. She didn’t get to say everything she should have. Didn’t do everything she was meant to have done.

My strength stirred the day I found out the news — and every day since. I questioned myself. I questioned the meaning of Life and the purpose people play in it. I questioned God.

Because the entire situation was so incredibly unfair.

But God doesn’t play favorites.

My strength rippled deep in my heart and became a crashing wave. And before long the crash shifted to a roar as my eyes opened to how the world turns. It wasn’t the shadowed world where pain is felt then decreases with time. Instead, the world could be dark and dreary, slamming grief on a daily basis.

Yet here I am. I’m still breathing.

Death made me strong. Death gave my strength life.

I had never been forced to face Death before. So abrupt, so impacting. And it was either survive or drown.

So I decided to swim and I grew stronger with every stroke.

A strength that pushed me to persevere for a cause so dear to my friend. A strength that urged me to grow relationships with others close to her — women I now consider some of my closest friends. A strength that has grown into an adaptable hurricane and made me capable of weathering an unpredictable and uncontrollable Life. A strength that reminds me daily that Life is so worth the ride. A strength that carries me through all of the ups and downs cast my way.

Of course, I’m not done crying. Sometimes the tears arrive when I run across her picture or hear Uptown Funk play on the radio. Sometimes I cry when I feel overwhelmed planning an event or I see a flash of the color pink. Sometimes I cry when I catch a glimpse of blonde hair while on the elliptical or drink a sweet white wine. And the tears show up at this time of year in heavy force.

But those tears don’t make me weak. They make me strong. They make me a survivor.

I’m strong because I handled the biggest loss imaginable and I know what it feels like to miss someone that I can’t reach out to. I’m strong because I didn’t let Death turn me into a cynic. I understand Life’s insecurities and Life’s unfairness better now. I understand what it takes to get through pain and grief, along with a bit of prayer and the love and support of my friends and family.

Nothing can break me now.

Yes, my strength can ebb and flow, but like the mighty ocean it is ever-present. My strength refreshes my life, my dreams, and my goals. There is no pain greater than losing someone you love, but I now know I can overcome even that pain.

Thank you for being a mentor, role model, friend, and one of my biggest fans, Denise. I miss you every day…

But I miss you a little extra today.

Expectations of Your Bridal Shower

If you’re totally new to the whole bridal shower thing, you are not alone! Last weekend my future MIL graciously threw me a bridal shower with G’s side of the family in his hometown, but going into the celebration I really didn’t know what to expect. I have only been to one shower prior so I was completely unaware of what the event would entail.

In short, at your bridal shower you are the guest of honor as your closest friends and relatives gather to eat, chatter, and lavish you with a truckload of amazing gifts. This is one party you do not need to worry about planning on your own, but it may help to know what to expect so to best be prepared. So read on to discover a few more details on this traditional pre-wedding party used to celebrate and shower the bride-to-be with many well-wishes.

First off, let’s cover the basic question of What is a bridal shower? A bridal shower is a pre-wedding celebration in honor of the bride that traditionally is an opportunity for guests to give her gifts to help set up her new home. The general format is daytime women-only event, but tradition has begun to shift in this regard in modern times. Many couples go with a coed shower nowadays in the form of a cocktail party, barbecue, or drinks out in the evening. No matter if the honoree is just the bride or the couple, a shower mainly consists of eating, drinking, and mingling with guests.

The bridesmaids will most likely host the bridal shower, though the mother of the bride and/or mother of the groom may also play a part in the planning process. The total cost is often split among the bridal party. No matter who is hosting, be sure to communicate clearly to make sure the plans come together and the shower isn’t two separate affairs!

The bridal shower typically happens within two or three months of the wedding, and are usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The exact time of the day will be up to the hosts, but expect a brunch, luncheon, or afternoon tea (the most traditional time scheme.) Be sure to have your registry completed by this time as guests will use it/them to purchase gifts. And yes, gift opening is one of the main events of the shower so expect to open the presents in front of your guests! Expect the party to last past three hours and do not rush this time spent with the best ladies in your life.

Hosts will take care of invitations to the shower. Ideally, invites will be mailed out about six weeks in advance and include the bride’s name, date, time, location, registry information, and the host(s)’ names in order to RSVP. As with any other pre-wedding event, the guest list for the shower should be limited to people also invited the wedding. Usually for the shower, this includes the bridal party, the mothers, and close family relatives. Other female friends may be included as well, but the number invited depends on how large the shower is intended to be. This is typically a group of 20-50 guests. Some showers may be a surprise, but others may require the bride to assist with the guest list — and then keep out of the rest of the planning.

The invitations may also give a little idea of the theme of the shower. Though the shower doesn’t have to have a theme, most usually do. A bridal tea party, Disney-themed, or a crafting event (floral-arranging or jewelry making) are a few ideas.

A themed shower may also give an idea of the dress for the shower. The bride can wear white, but that’s not necessary. Just choose something that will make you stand out as the bride — you are the honoree after all and should be the best dressed in the group. Whether there is a dress code or not, expect most women to dress up for the shower. Cocktail dresses, heels, and statement accessories are the norm.

As far as the actual happenings at a bridal shower, the general outline is usually the same: food, a few games, and an opportunity for the bride to open gifts. Drinks may also be included, even being a mid-day party. Mimosa or bloody Mary bars are becoming more and more popular as they create a feminine atmosphere to the celebration. Depending on your venue, champagne or craft beer tastings may also be a fun activity.

Speaking of the venue, the specific location depends on the type of shower and the host’s budget. A friend or family member’s home, backyard, a local restaurant, wine tasting room, day spa, or a place revolving around an activity (pottery shop or design studio) are all places a shower may take place.

No matter the location, the host will probably put together a fun game or two. There are the classics of bridal bingo and toilet paper dresses, but some showers are focusing more on activities like a calligraphy lesson or cupcake decorating. No matter the activities, remember to be a good sport. Your wedding party and/or family members worked hard to plan this shower, so be gracious and take part in the activities with a positive attitude and smile. This is your special day, so enjoy it!

Following the food and fun will be the time to open gifts. Don’t love the idea of opening gifts in front of everyone? You’re not alone — I was shaking from nerves of being in front of everyone. However, it’s important to remember that the host(s) and guests came to the shower to celebrate you! Again, be gracious and bite the bullet knowing all those surrounding you love and support you in this next big step of Life!

Typically, the bride will take a seat in front of her guests and your host will hand you gifts to open. Make sure to ask one trusted friend (a bridesmaid would be an ideal candidate) to sit alongside you and jot down each gift and its giver. You’ll need to write thank you notes following the party, and this list will make it easy to write a special and personalized thank you to each person who made your shower amazing.

One thing to note is you’ll probably receive many gifts you’re genuinely excited about (because many will come from your registry), but you may also receive gifts that are a bit random. Be sure to hide your confusion and/or disappointment behind a smile and act appreciative for each and every gift you open. No matter the gift, look directly at each gift-giver and thank them with a genuine heart. “Thank you” will become your most used phrase throughout the event as you thank everyone for showering you with love frequently.

Finally, there is no rule stating you can only have one bridal shower. For me, my future MIL hosted my first shower in G’s hometown with his aunts, cousins, grandmother, and family friends. This was a beautiful celebration where I was able to meet a lot of women I did not know but who will be my family in less than two months. However, my bridesmaids and mother are throwing me another shower this coming weekend with my side of the family and some of my closest girlfriends.

No matter who hosts your shower, where the party is located, what activities are planned, or what gifts are brought, continue to thank your guests for their attendance, love, and support during this pre-wedding celebration. Plus remember to enjoy the party! You can finally start to enjoy the wedding festivities now that most of your planning is out of the way. And in only a few months you’ll be saying your vows and dancing the night away… alongside these friends and family members showering you today!

Have fun, my friends!