Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Wedding Recap: The Reception April 16, 2014

Technically I probably could have included our reception in the vendor category, but since it is such a large part of the big day, I saved the best for last. When Matt and I first started looking at reception venues we knew we didn’t want a banquet hall. That helped to narrow down the list. The next requirement was that it be a reflection of us, something that involved the outdoors or rustic elements. So we looked at Cantigny, Brookfield Zoo, The Narnia Estate, Danada House and Two Brothers Roundhouse.

Going into the search I was very leary of Two Brothers Roundhouse because their website does not do due justice to the actual facility. I had to leave my judgement behind, which was a good thing because we were completely blown away by the Roundhouse. Their consistent, friendly staff held our hands through the entire process; from the initial meeting to follow up questions to setting up the tasting and then doing our final walk-through and drop off of everything for our reception. We trusted our vision of northwoods done classy with our colors of navy, yellow, white and silver to their banquet team and our big day, did not disappoint.

Greeting our guests was a ridiculously large image of Matt and I from our engagement shoot – our version of American Gothic, “Northwoods Style”.


Before entering the ballroom our guests were able to view our guest book (created by the very talented Christopher Cannon) and pick up their table card on birch tree branches from a tree cut down by Matt and I in the northwoods of Wisconsin. (Catching on to our theme?)

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Also in the room we had a spots for guests to complete the guest book, drop of cards/gifts and another table to honor family members who have passed on. Everything was arranged perfectly by the Roundhouse staff.

And for the most important table, the cake! Two Brothers partners with the Cakery in Aurora for all of their wedding cakes. We wanted a simple rustic looking cake that would easily be adorned with some of our flowers to tie in everything. Not only did the cake look beautiful but it tasted amazing! One fun surprise I had in store for Matt on our big day was a groomsmen cake. Working with the Cakery I ordered a lemon cake proudly displaying the University of Michigan.






Now on to the decor. I purchased tulle and lights from Restoration Hardware to dress up the four posts around the dance floor. Thankfully the Roundhouse staff put everything up for us! One splurge was to have silver chiavari chairs. I love how the chairs instantly classed up the room!


Matt made the centerpieces from that same tree we chopped down at my family’s lake house in Wisconsin. That tree also provided us with large branches for the head table which we interspersed with candle holders, provided by my matron of honor, to add some warmth and a different look.I picked up a few larger vases for the girls and myself to use at the head table to show off our flowers.

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At the tables for guests, we left a few notes. One was explaining that instead of favors, a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association as well as the American Cancer Society was made in their honor. Each table also had a note about no glass clinking. Instead, our guests had to perform certain tasks such as singing the National Anthem, start a conga line, share some marriage advice or have the table sing a love song. We wanted to make it a little more challenging/interactive for our guests to make us kiss – and it was worth it! Especially when the head table started singing the National Anthem and got the rest of all the tables to stand and sing along. Moments like those are priceless.


Matt and I had a vision of what the banquet room would look like, but Two Brothers Roundhouse took it to the moon and beyond. Everything turned out better than I had expected.



Lamb Cake for Easter April 15, 2014

Easter is just around the corner and you know what that means!  Well it could mean a couple things, but in this case it means Lamb Cake!  Sounds kind of gross if you don’t know what I am talking about, huh?  It is not a loaf of meat, it’s just cake baked into a mold that looks like a lamb.  When I was little, my Nana would come over to our house around Easter time and bring her lamb baking mold and my sister and I would help her bake the lamb and decorate it with white frosting and shredded coconut.  This was kind of a big deal because she did not traditionally bake {the women on my mom’s side cook, but baking is not a strong suit}.  We’d add black jelly beans {ew} for eyes and tie a little ribbon around its neck.  I remember always feeling sad when we cut the cake and then giggle about the fact that we were eating the lamb’s butt.

Last year when my dad was moving, I noticed the lamb cake mold in the ‘Donation’ pile.  I rescued it and decided to keep it so I could make a lamb cake myself.


My Lamb Cake Mold

I searched my favorite inspiration place {Pinterest} for specific lamb cake recipes and also cute ways to decorate.  In my searching I found this website called Mid Century Menu.  There is a whole section for lamb cake recipes in Ruth’s navigation bar.  When I embarked on this search I didn’t even realize there would be a collection of vintage cake recipes in store for me.  On top of it all, Ruth did all the work by testing all the different cakes on her husband Tom.  I plan on using her favorite: The Renalde Lamb Cake.  Wish me luck because as I referenced earlier, I’m not well known for my baking skills.  Next I searched for a few options for decorating the lamb.  Here were the one’s I liked best:

choc curl lamb

~Chocolate Curl Lamb by Martha Stewart~


brown lamb

~Chocolate Lamb with White Frosting by Birds Party~

naked lamb


~Naked Lamb by Amuses Bouche~

The Martha lamb is very nice, but I think the chocolate curls will be a little too time consuming for me.  I also love the naked lamb that Amuses Bouche has on their site, but I’d like it to be more than a plain cake.  That leaves the Birds Party lamb cake, which I like the best, but want to try the new white cake recipe I found on Ruth’s site.  I think I am going to do that cake recipe and add chocolate frosting so it will be a brown lamb!


Seuss-Themed Shower April 12, 2014

Last weekend, I co-hosted a baby shower for my friend and mom-to-be Krista.  She’s a fellow educator, and there were going to be a lot of friends from her school attending the shower, so I enlisted my talented and creative mom to help me come up with an appropriate theme.  She relayed some information from a friend who had just hosted a Dr. Seuss themed baby shower, and I thought this could not be a better fit!

The other co-hostess and I had an absolute blast running with this theme.  We tried to keep everything fresh, colorful, and whimsical.  Krista doesn’t know what the gender of the baby is going to be (they’re waiting it out for a big surprise!), so the colors of our theme lent themselves perfectly toward a gender-neutral feel at the event.

The Decor:

It’s good to know talented people.  My friend Brittany over at Perpetually Daydreaming has an Etsy shop where she sells stunning, high-quality printables for announcements and invitations.  She created a custom listing for me that included an incredible banner welcoming baby, cards to put by my themed book-signing stations, and more!  We bought some fun succulents (they felt Seuss-y) and put stakes with Dr. Seuss quotes in them (these were also used as favors for the winners of our games).  I created 4 “decor centers” that included books for guests to sign and write a message to mom and baby.  They included: Fox in Sox, The Lorax (I had a lot of fun making that tree out of a metal pot from Ikea, green and pink Easter basket shredding, pink tissue paper, a styrofoam craft ball, and a thick wooden stake), The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish, Two, Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  Then to fill in the holes and make the whole space feel themed, we got some balloons in traditional Dr. Seuss colors.

ImageImageThe Food:

We kept things simple and brunchy.  People were coming and going throughout the event, so we wanted things to be easy for people to eat as they pleased.  We did deviled eggs, chicken salad with croissants, marinated cheese and crackers, a veggie tray, and bruschetta toasts.

ImageFor dessert, I crafted some ‘green eggs and ham’ pretzel bites.  Think of them like a reworked version of those pretzel kisses everyone makes around the holidays.  I bought waffle pretzels, white chocolate Reese’s mini cups, and M&Ms (I had to sort through for all the green ones!).  I spread out my pretzels on a wax-paper lined plate, placed a Reese’s cup on top, microwaved them for 45 seconds, and stuck green M&Ms on the top of each one. I put a few into each polka-dotted dessert/nut cup from Hobby Lobby and set them out on a dessert tray.

The cake was my favorite part, though, I had so much fun making it!  I used a white cake recipe from I am Baker and Martha Stewart’s classic buttercream frosting recipe.  When I separated the batter for my 2 cake pans, I dyed half of it red and half blue so when the cake was cut open it would be a fun Seuss-y surprise.  Once the cake was frosted, I cut out different size colored fondant dots to give it a whimsical feel on the outside, too!  I got that adorable plate you see peeking out from under the cake on clearance at Hobby Lobby…I couldn’t pass up the chance to go polka-dot-crazy…there aren’t many chances an almost-30-year-old gets to do that anymore.

ImageThe Activities:

In her amazing set of custom-created printables, Brittany also made me a BINGO card for people to fill out before gifts were opened.  Guests had to fill out gifts they thought the mom-to-be would receive, and as they were opened they would get marked on the card until someone got BINGO.  Everyone had a LOT of fun with this one, and it took a little pressure off Krista because people weren’t just staring at her while she opened gifts.  Brittany also created a Dr. Seuss book fill in the blank game that really stumped our guests (I’m bummed that I forgot to take a picture of this one, but you can always go to her shop to ask her to see it!).  We set up a onesie decorating station in another room with fabric paints and cute stamps and stencils, and when guests had created their onesies we displayed them on a clothesline around the room for all to see.  Now Krista has some fun onesies in all sizes for baby!  Finally, by the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish book signing setup, there was a fishbowl of Swedish Fish that guests had to take their best guess at.  The winner got to take the bowl of goodies home.

ImageThe Drinks:

Since the mom-to-be couldn’t partake in cocktails, I did a non-alcoholic drink and a champagne punch.

Mango Pineapple Champagne Cocktail (punch serves 20-30 guests):

  • 3 bottles of your favorite prosecco
  • 1 bottle of mango juice
  • Pineapple slices and raspberries as garnish

Non-Alcoholic Peach Sparkling Punch (punch serves 10-20 guests):

  • 1 carton of peach juice
  • 1 bottle of sparkling apple cider
  • 4 oz. grenadine

ImageI found those fun striped straws in perfect colors at Hobby Lobby, so even our drink station could be themed!

The Favors:

My co-hostess took this one on, and made take-home baggies of “Hop on Popcorn.” They turned out adorable, and the best thing is people can devour it and not have another ‘thing’ to take home as a favor.  Brittany created that adorable framed farewell sign for us to tie it all together.




Wedding Recap: Vendors April 9, 2014

Time to talk wedding vendors. Close friends and the world wide web helped to not only find our wedding vendors, but ensure they were awesome like rock star awesome. Let’s start with close friends, one of which who happens to be a talented photographer.

My engagement photos AND wedding photos are amazing because of Tasha from Redwall Photography. It’s nice to be able to brag that she and her wonderful husband are also close friends. As soon as we got engaged there was no question in our mind who would do our photos, and come to think of it, she was the first vendor we booked. They were an immense help and recommended additional vendors who they had worked with in the past. The hardest part was making sure they were guests at some point and time during our wedding reception! Oh, and did I mention our pictures are breathtaking? Narrowing down to selecting only a few images for our wedding album was not an easy task. Check out a few images in the slideshow below and you’ll see what I mean.

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We found our florist, Livvy’s Lilies, on The Knot.After reading reviews there and on Yelp, we set up a meeting. We immediately fell in love with the shop owner, Sheila. She brought so many unique ideas about our flowers spawning from our vision that we had never even entertained. One example was each bridesmade would carry one flower and their groomsmen boutonniere would match. Plus my bouquet would then be a combination of everyones flowers.  Our immediate good rapport set the tone for an amazing vendor relationship. Since we were making our centerpiecesourselves, we had a very specific look we wanted to achieve and Sheila was more than accommodating. We worked on sending her different prototypes and went back and forth on flowers. Everything came together so perfectly, especially in our venue, that I was almost overwhelmed.

Matt was in charge of finding the limo service and DJ. Our good friends Deanna and Ross got married about five months before us and were another great resource for us. They recommended using Absolute Dream Limo Service. With a wedding party of 14 we wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable and would still be in budget. Absolute Dream fit the bill. They were prompt all day and ensured our safe travel around the western suburbs.

Once again going off of Tasha and Aaron’s recommendation we met with Thomas from Essence Entertainment for our DJ. We had a great first meeting and quickly thereafter decided to book with them. Their package was definitely within our budget and they did a great job keeping people moving and grooving all night. Their online music manager was easy to use to select our do not play list and our must have list. Essence also helped us organize our day by calling out special attention to the flow of our reception, when we wanted to do the cake cutting, who was giving speeches and what not. It was great to have their expertise and ear to bend when planning our reception.

Thanks to close friends and the internet we were able to select wonderful vendors that made our day extra special thanks to their close attention to detail and their passion for doing a job they truly love.


More than a Dabble of Wine

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 12:23 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sorry, that title is super cheesy, but I promise it will make sense soon.  This past weekend my sister and I attended a Wine Tasting class in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago held at the Tiamat House Bed & Breakfast.  The class is run by a lovely lady named TC and we found and signed up for the class through a website called Dabble.  I’ve actually been eyeing the Dabble site for some time.  I do not remember how I found it, but it’s basically a collection of classes for all the fun hobbies or knowledge you wish you had all contained in a one-time class.  They have classes on wine and other alcoholic beverages, cooking, exercise, makeup, art- the sky is the limit!  Honestly, if you have an idea for a class and a place to hold it you can apply to hold your own class.  The classes are run by the community.  Here is the description of how Dabble came about from their website:

Dabble started with a simple insight: It’s difficult to keep learning, trying and doing. Although we might consider ourselves curious, adventurous sorts, we find lots of excuses that prevent us from committing to a class (I want to brush up on my Spanish, but it’s too expensive), cultivating hobbies (I want to brew beer … where do I start?) or finding a substitute for our typical night-out routines (drinks or dinner … again).  

That’s where Dabble comes in. We make it easy to try something new or share your passion through one-time affordable classes. Explore the city around you, meet cool people and expand your horizons – because doing something today is so much better than putting life on the back burner.

When we arrived to TC’s wine class, there were two tables set up with a spread of food, a pitcher of water, an empty tub in the middle, and 2 empty wine glasses at each seat.


We tasted eight wines total and all of them were covered up while poured so we couldn’t see what wines we were drinking.  TC told us to start off by smelling the wine.  She asked us: What fruits does it smell like?  What non-food things do you smell? {sounds strange but some of the wines smelled like minerals}.  Besides smell we also went through viscosity, color, and then finally taste.  All of these things help you to decide what grapes the wine is made with, where they were grown, and even what year it was bottled!  I struggled to decide what I could smell in each wine.  Every time TC would call out an item and ask us if we smelled it, I felt like I could smell that thing! I’m guessing over time you become more confident in your taste and it would become more clear.

wine sniff

Obviously we would need more practice than one night and eight wines!  After the first round, we were poured a second glass of the same wine and then we would try the foods on the table to see how they tasted with the wine.  Bread, cheese, olives, salami, chocolate, and wasabi peas of all things.  It is interesting how these different flavors could bring out different flavors in the wine.

We had a good time socializing with other people at the class too.  There were many couples and at our table, a few ladies that have a wine club.  Some people knew a lot about wine and took notes on the class.  I think others were more like us where we were just looking to learn a little more about wine.  Overall the class did open my eyes to some new things about wine.  I will tell on myself and say that I didn’t realize that the general names for wine: Malbec, Cabernet, Shiraz {just to name a few} are the types of grapes that are used to make that wine.  It seems pretty obvious now, but I never realized it.  One thing TC said at the very beginning and it what made me feel comfortable is that people can be snobby about wine, but there is really no reason to be.  I think this is why I didn’t know this simple fact about the grapes.



I’m really glad we tried out Dabble and attended TC’s class.  I plan on checking out some other classes on there too.  Check it out when you have a minute!





Wedding Recap: Paper Projects! April 2, 2014

Our print materials for our wedding definitely evolved from the save the date to our invitations and programs. Our first print project together was our save the date cards. Getting engaged in the fall, we thought about waiting until Christmas to send out our save the date announcement. That way we could say Merry Christmas and save the date with one stamp!  We found a template on Shutterfly, plugged in our favorite engagement photos and lingo for a relatively inexpensive option. Especially due to all the coupons Shutterfly sends out.

The next print project was the invitations. Thankfully my matron of honor was a great resource. She had made all of her wedding invitations by hand and was a great inspiration to me and a creative soundboard. She sent me links to a few places to begin my paper hunt. First stop was PaperandMore, where I ordered countless samples of inserts, envelopes and invitations in a variety of colors including cream, white, gray, silver, and navy. My biggest recommendation is to order the samples because you can’t tell texture or true color on a monitor. After rounds of debating here is what we ordered:

For fun finishing touches on the invitations we utilized Cards and Pockets and Etsy. We had seen some cute uses of bellybands and stickers for closing the pocketfold invitation. But Matt and I wanted something different. Low and behold we found our favorite option at Cards and Pockets a monogram wax seal. I was extremely happy with what we purchased and I plan on using in the future. Who doesn’t like a wax seal?

Cards and Pockets

My matron of honor said the best time saver was the personalized address stamp. This way you don’t have to pay for a calligrapher or have your hand cramp doing all of the writing. Simply stamp away!


For the inserts, we bought white card stock from Staples and cut everything to size with a handy paper cutter. And yes, we printed everything at home. In college I took a few graphic design classes and thankfully have InDesign, so Matt and I were able to customize our look and create consistent elements (fonts, colors) that we used in various elements throughout the wedding. (More examples to come in the post about the reception!)

Here’s the final product!


Our wedding programs were another successful homemade print project. One of my friends did a similar layered program that I fell in love with. So I borrowed her idea :). To get the project started, I found yellow cardstock and thin navy ribbon at JoAnn Fabric. We used regular white printing paper for the inserts. We wrote the content and created the design with InDesign, all similar to our invitations. (Can you tell I work in Marketing – unified fonts, colors and elements please, it’s all about branding!)


If you’re down for a few paper cuts and have the time, consider make a few things for your wedding. Not only will you save a buck or two, but you’ll also appreciate what you make even more on your special day.

All in all, we spent just a little over $260 for everything for our invitations, including stamps. For the programs, thanks to gift cards, I think I ended up spending $5 out of pocket.  I’m so glad we decided to make a lot of our own items for the wedding. And the bulk of it got done thanks to our friends and family. We’re blessed with some crafty folks in our lives and if you didn’t like pizza, I think our fingers would have been in a lot worse shape!




My New Love: Terrariums April 1, 2014

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This past weekend I finally got to visit a little store in the Ravenswood neighborhood called Alapash.  I’ve wanted to make it out there since this past summer when I saw their booth at the Renegade Craft Fair.  The owner, Marco, sells terrariums, succulents, air plants, and other lovely home items.  I found this quote from him on Yelp for why he named his store Alapash.  I just think this idea is beautiful:

Some time ago, back home in Peru, a friend and I used to go through wonderful magazines filled with amazing pictures of places all around the world. These pictures were like little windows, escapes from the everyday routine, which would transport us to places of pure tranquility, and luxury. We called these places and moments “alapash”


I started following Alapash on Instagram (@alapash) and every time a pretty terrarium was posted, I would think, ‘I need to get to that store and buy one for myself!’  I want plants in my apartment, but it is difficult with the kitties around.  They usually sniff them out and take them down {unfortunately I mean that literally}!  I figured a terrarium might be safer since it’s mostly encased in the glass sphere.  Hopefully I haven’t jinxed myself and Harlo & Stella won’t discover my favorite new purchase.

alapash 2

Anyway, on Saturday I lured Karla and Lei there after we had brunch at the Birchwood Kitchen in Wicker Park.  Birchwood is super mini inside, but it was obviously popular because it was packed!  We gave them a phone number and skipped across the street to the little bakery there, Oak Wood.  We shared some coffee cake which was delightful and by the time we were done we got the call to go back to Birchwood.  We enjoyed fresh juice, teas, mochas, steak & eggs, and breakfast sandwiches.  We all agreed the food was great and the people there were super nice even though it was crazy in there, which I appreciated.


After we were finished we drove 3 miles North to Alapash.  Lei was with me at Renagade so when I mentioned going she was all over it and Karla was happy to oblige us.  I got both a small succulent planter and a terrarium and Lei picked out a terrarium for herself too (I think Karla was behaving herself that day).  Marco was very accommodating and switched out a rock I didn’t quite like and made sure I was happy before packaging everything up.   I couldn’t wait to get home and find the perfect spot for my terrarium.  It was actually the push I needed to restyle all my shelves in my living room.  There were still some winter items out and this was the perfect opportunity to change over to spring décor.  It took me forever, but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.


Marco explained to me that the terrarium only needs to be watered once per month and gave me a little dropper to help out.  I marked my calendar on the 15th of every month so as not to forget.  {PS- If you wait until March to buy a calendar from Paper Source, you’ll get 75% off.  I love their calendars and besides this chalkboard one pictured, I also have the big craft paper one in my office.  I refuse to pay the original price of $30 for a calendar! However, $7.50 is much more manageable.}  I’m already wanting to go back and get another terrarium.  I guess there are worse things I could go crazy over…right?





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