A Birthday Dedication

It's my little (but big) brother's birthday and to commemorate his day, I put together clips of his life to a song that he loved growing up.  He was born after three sisters which, as you can guess, put him into quite a predicament sometimes, including some dresses and lipstick (sorry about that Prez).  Nonetheless, he's one of three hunks in the family and I love him! 

Here's to you Preston! 


"Learn from my mistakes."  That's what my mom used to tell me and even though I think sometimes making your own mistakes and learning from them serves up a bigger life lesson, I'm gonna repeat her words to you and say "learn from my mistakes" this time.
Let me begin with a little background information.  A few weeks ago I noticed we were running low on laundry detergent, so naturally, I made my way over to the store to pick up some more.  Walking through the detergent aisle I laid my eyes on Era.  You see, until now, I've never seen Era sold down here in any store so I got really excited!  My mom used to use Era when I was growing up and I loved the smell it left in our laundry room and on my clothes.  Painting pictures in my head of my childhood days, I grabbed it and went on my merry way.  Here's the problem:  we have a high-efficiency washing machine and since I was in another world staring at the Era, I forgot to check to see if it was 'high-efficiency machine detergent'.  Oops!  Well, I noticed it wasn't today when I put in a load of laundry.

Usually you can actually SEE the laundry spinning around and around.

My clothes do smell really good though...after having to run through an extra cycle of just water to get all the suds out.

Lesson:  If you have a high-efficiency washing machine, make sure to use detergent made for he machines to minimize sudsing...either that or make sure you're not in la-la-land while picking out detergent like I was!


Whew!  The Bean Team has been through a whirlwind of fun this past week...a friend visiting, a cupcake-decorating birthday party, a beautiful wedding in South Carolina, and lots of other little things.  But, we're back now and hoping to get back on track with some D.I.O.s (Doing It Ourselves).  The canopy over our bed has become a when-we-have-a-few-minutes job and we're now focusing on changing up a cabinet to accommodate our new microwave!  It's not here quite yet but will be Thursday, along with all of our other appliances.  Read about our recent appliance woes here

Here's the future home of the soon-to-be-here microwave:
The only problem is that, once we remove the hood vent, the space between the bottom of the microwave and the top of the stove won't be large enough.  It's recommended you leave 18 inches so that you have room to use the back burners comfortably...and so you don't over-heat the bottom of your microwave.

We actually had this same problem in our first house.  We fixed it there by having a carpenter-friend shorten the cabinet.  We then went to the store where our cabinets were made/purchased, and had some new doors that fit our shortened cabinet made.  Our cabinets were a lot nicer and so we spent a little extra time and money into making our cooking niche look nice.

Well, in this house, since we'd like to replace the cabinets someday (and because the cabinets aren't made anymore), we're not going to go through all the trouble of having doors custom-made and then painting them to match the existing cabinets.  The plan we've devised then, is to remove the doors, hinges, and middle piece, shorten the cabinet, and make a decorative shelf above our microwave.  
We love having the doors to enclose our cookbook, coffeemaker, and blender storage, but the options are nill so those things will have to find another home.

Between educating ourselves on carpentry and Anthony's studies, we hope to have this finished next weekend but we'll see what time brings us.  Hopefully we'll be suffering from joyful success and not "cabinet fever" after this one! 

The Feast of the Assumption

Tomorrow, we as Catholics celebrate the Assumption of Mary, the mother of God.  That is, we celebrate the day she rose into heaven, body and soul.  And now, I'll turn it over to "the man of many words"...a.k.a. Anthony to explain:

"In Genesis 3:15, we see God say to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed…”  The serpent represents Satan and his seed is sin, evil, and all evil humans and angels.  The Woman represents Mary and Jesus her seed.  The Church defines this enmity as an absolute and complete opposition to sin and evil.  Thus, Mary was granted, as a gift from God, an immaculate (sinless) nature at the moment of her conception – the Immaculate Conception.  Naturally flowing from this truth, Mary then would not suffer the effects of original sin, one being death and corruption of the body.   Therefore, this absolute and complete opposition prophesized in Gen 3:15 is opposition to sin and the effects of sin, death (Rom 5-8). Also, proceeding from the Assumption is the Coronation, which is Mary being crowned Queen of heaven and of earth.  We see this in Rev 12:1, and this presumes Mary being assumed bodily into heaven.

Because this is a gift granted to Mary by God, and therefore declared that by the Catholic Church in the form of dogma (the highest truth), acceptance of Mary can not be arbitrary nor extraordinary.  It is appropriate that we come to Jesus the same way he came to us, and that is through Mary the Mother of God.  We as Catholics do not worship Mary, we only worship and adore God.  We give Mary the highest honor and veneration over all creatures ever created, because God did first!  We see in 1 Kings 2:19 Bathsheba, the Queen Mother, and her role in the Davidic Kingdom.  She enjoyed a position superior to all other women, was crowned, and sat in a throne at the right hand of the king.  (see also 1 Kgs 15:13, 2 Chr 15:16, Jer 13:18, 29:2)
Therefore, it is essential that we find a place in our hearts for Mary.  We must honor her because God honored her and crowned her Queen of heaven and earth.  Because of Mary we have received the Word of God made flesh.  On this feast of the Assumption may we truly take Mary into our homes and hearts just as Christ, using His last few breaths on the cross, commanded us to do (Jn 19:26-27)."

Mary, Mother of God...Pray for us! 

From "Yes" To "I Do"...On A (Tight) Budget

Before I start I must acknowledge my friend, Genny, without whose conversation about planning a wedding with a little bit of money, this post would not have come about.  So, Genny, this one's for you!  :)

Weddings have become one of the most expensive affairs to put on in today's society.  It's only natural to want to make your wedding day "special" and to put out the cash needed to make it that way.  Unfortunately, not everyone has the means to simply sign a check and watch the fairytale day come true.  That was the case for Anthony and I.  Our situation made us the sole benefactor's of what went into planning our day.  It wasn't a bad thing though, we learned a lot and realized through it all that it wasn't what kind of cake we got, who the dress' designer was, or how big the engagement ring was.  It was that we were binding ourselves together for life through an incredible Sacrament (and that we could live under one roof...finally!)

So, with all of that being said, here are some of the many ways we saved our nickels and dimes.

We opted not to do mail-out save-the-dates but rather e-mail save-the-dates.  Most people these days have the internet so saving $150+ on paper, magnets, whatever have you, and postage was a huge plus.  We registered with http://www.theknot.com/ where you can create cute email save-the-dates and zip them out quick as lightning.  With Photoshop and other photo-editing software, it would also be easy to dress up a cute picture with some words and the date and send that via email to guests...and spend $0 and little bit of time.  (Speaking of, I LOVE fooling around in Photoshop so if anyone needs a little help, send me a line!  I can't promise you I have all the time in the world but I can tell you it will be FREE!)

You can read more about our invitation-making process here.  But basically we lucked out one day and found printable invitation making kits at Wal-Mart for $5 a pop.  Each kit had enough supplies for 50 invitations so we only ended up spending $25 on invitation paper (enough for 250 invited guests)!  We were blessed in that Anthony's boss let us use his printer (for free) to print them out and his parent's footed the bill for postage so when all was said and done, we only paid $40 - $25 for the kits, $10 for a corner-punch to dress them up, and $50 for tracing paper I cut out imitate a sheer sheet over the invitation.  I have pretty good handwriting so I addressed the invitations themselves (even though printing them with the same font as was on the invitations would have also looked great).  We felt really good about saving money with invitations, especially the trash pile would become home to 98% of them after the wedding.  :)

Bridesmaid Dresses
All I have to say is http://www.houseofbrides.com/.  Find a dress you like in any bridal store and they'll probably have it there for cheaper.  Read about ours here (same link as the one above).  The one thing I would recommend when using this website is to purchase all the dresses in one order (free shipping for 2+ dresses ordered) so that everyone gets the same dress.  This also helps to rack up credit card points to be used on honeymoon flights...more details later.

Tuxedo Rentals
Renting tuxes seems the biggest waste but one of those things that has to happen. Since it has to be done though, one way to save is to go with a rental company that gives the groom a free rental if he gets all of his groomsmen's tuxes there. I'm not sure if most stores do this or not, I just know that it helped us out a lot. :)

The Veil
A veil is amazingly easy and cheap to make.  If you don't think you can do it, a seamstress can, and for tons less than the one you've eyed in the store.  The veil I found in-store for my wedding cost $120...I had it made by a generous seamstress-friend for free.  I bought the toile for $5 and away she went.  My sister is getting married in October and is craving a gorgeous, $700 veil with alencon lace...she's making it herself for far less.  It's so worth the savings!

Flower Bouquets
When it came to planning for flowers, we had no clue.  Our way of saving money was to just find the cheapest flowers in the cheapest arrangement.  We just cared that they matched.  All in all we spent $450 on flowers.  Well, a year later two of our good friends got married and saved a bundle on flowers by ordering them from http://www.growersbox.com/ and making their own bouquets and boutonnieres.  It was actually fun too.  One night the bridesmaids all sat down together and had some girl-time while putting together a few roses and tying their stems together with ribbon.  They looked professionally made and so elegant for less than what a florist would have charged.

We couldn't afford the prices of any professional photographers in our area so we relied solely on friends and family to take pictures.  Well, we've realized since that this wasn't the most thought out plan (even thought we do have some awesome shots...thank you to those of you who took them).  If you can afford a photographer, hire one.  We wish we had more pictures to remember our day with.  There are so many talented people out there who may even be amateurs that it's worth paying them a small fee to hang out and snap away all day.  Either way, our advice and lesson learned is to get a photographer, professional, amateur, or whatever.  Relying on friends and family who are there to celebrate and relax isn't the best idea and taking constant pictures isn't something you want to burden them with.  :)   

Reception Centerpieces
We used the centerpieces our reception hall had available to use...they were free!  So they weren't exactly what I wanted but I couldn't argue the price.  Another idea comes from my sister.  A friend of a co-worker of hers is getting married the weekend before her and has offered to give her all of her centerpieces!  I don't know how to find out how you can get this kind of a deal but I would imagine that if you asked around you might be able to score some free centerpieces just like my sis did.  Weddings are happening all the time so even asking a reception hall coordinator to ask any wedding parties that are going on if the folks putting them on would be willing to let you come pick up their centerpieces, it would be awesome!  If they're not your style, ribbon, flowers, candles, Christmas light strings, and tree branches (yes, tree branches) do amazing things when you use a little creativity.

Guest Favors
We used CDs we already had, bought 200 black cases, made labels showing us and our wedding date on them, and gave each family at our wedding something to take home for less than $40.  We have great friends who printed out a picture labeled with their names and the date of their wedding, laminated it, stuck a magnet to it, and gave each guest something they could showcase in their homes and smile at, remembering the memory.

Reception Music
Not usually something to skimp on if you want your guests to have a good time.  Most of your reception (if you plan on having a dance) will be spent on the dance floor so music is pretty important.  We would've loved to have a band but, because of our budget, created our own DJ.  We borrowed a big speaker set from a friend, cued the previously created playlist we had made a few months before on our computer, and let the music play...slow and sentimental Italian music (Anthony's style) during dinner and our favorite hit-the-dance-floor songs for the dance.  We didn't have a talking DJ, which we would've liked but it was okay and the dance was still a great time.  The great thing about doing it this way was not only the money saved, but the fact that we didn't have to worry about what songs would be played since we individually picked them.    If you have a friend that is a good MC, you could also try and recruit their talking skills for your dance to save moolah but still get the DJ feel.  :)

The Wedding Cake
Once again, we were blessed.  My aunt's sister is an excellent cake-maker and has made it her hobby.  She created for us a beautiful and scrumptious cake for $1 a slice!  We know it tasted awesome because, even though we were too busy talking to guests at our wedding to eat the slices set before us, when we took it out of our freezer on our one-year anniversary it was moist and yummy goodness! 
So, to save like we did on our cake, look around for someone who has made cake-making a hobby...it's a growing hobby in today's world.  Look at pictures of cakes they've made and give details on what you want.  Chances are, you'll get a cake for much less per slice than the average $4/slice bakeries charge.

Reception Food
Let's just be honest, your guests don't need a thousand things to choose from.  Even thought it's nice to have a huge selection, when you're on a budget, just a few will work.  We served two main courses - Chicken Cordon Bleu and Lemon-Herb Salmon along with green beans, mashed potatoes, and salad and it was excellent!  The best thing about it was that to "stuff" around 130 people, we only paid about $14 a person!  Just make sure you sample your dinner-to-be beforehand to make sure it's tasty.  :)

Reception Drink
This may be one of the most important savings of all that we pat ourselves on the back for.  Because our caterer was flexible and just plain awesome, we weren't obligated to purchase their drink plan (which was, if I remember correctly, about $10/person just for the regular 'ole stuff - soda, beer, wine...either way, we didn't have it).  So what we did was toodle ourselves over to Sam's Club where we bought enough soda, beer, and wine for 130 people, and then toodled ourselves back home to admire the savings.  The best thing about it was that we could return any unused bottles.  We did have to hire a bartender for 5 hours (at $20/hour) but with the money that we had already saved by buying our own drinks and letting our guests drink for free, it was worth it.

We flew to Italy where we rented a car, drove from Rome to the Tuscany region, ate to our hearts content, traveled the countryside, and stayed in a cute, little villa where we had our own kitchen and living room off of which was a balcony complete with a cute table and chairs that overlooked rolling hills lined with grape vineyards.  Considering airfare was $350 each (with the help of accumulated credit card points), the villa cost about $350 for the week (it was off-season...peak season it cost around $2000 a week), and the rental car cost about $325 (including gas), our romantic, Italian honeymoon was a steal (and so amazing)!  We did splurge on food thanks to the generous donors at our "Dollar Dance" and ate authentic Italian cuisine almost every night at little restaurants nestled in the Italian countryside...mm mm, so good!  The point is, honeymoon's don't have to break the bank to be romantic and relaxing.  Deals are all over!

Credit Card Points
I've mentioned our credit card points a few times.  This was absolutely one of the best, money-saving things we used.  We signed up for a credit card with which we earned points to be used to our honeymoon flights and used it for EVERYTHING, paid it off at the end of each month, and watched the points balance grow.  We even had our families use our card for big purchases they had to make and then cut us a check.  We started about 6 months before the wedding and racked up enough points to get our flights for half price.  These days credit card companies will almost give you an arm and a leg to just sign up for their credit card so you, as the consumer, have tons of options and lots of rewards! 

.           .           .

I tried to rack my brain thinking of all the ways we saved money or ways friends have saved in setting the scene for their wedding day.  If there's anything I've missed or anything you'd like to have some ideas on, shoot us an email.  We're really good brain-stormers and might have a few wedding tips and tricks up our sleeves.  :)  Also, if there are other ways you've saved the green stuff in preparing for wedded bliss, let me know so that we can get those great ideas out there!

The greatest piece of advice we learned during engagement and the whole wedding process:
Remember that you as the bride and groom are the hostess and host of your wedding event.  Knowing this, your planning will be towards making your guests comfortable and relaxed, taking the emphasis off of you.  We found that in focusing on the needs of others and the fact that we wanted all of these people we were inviting to partake of our day in celebration, we were much less stressed out and minute details floated into oblivion.  It's the Sacrament that's most important and what every other detail comes after.  :)