point & smile

 

It’s great, right? I don’t know if this counts as a random act of kindness, necessarily… but in my book, it definitely counts for something. Kudos to the people in this video for making others smile (myself included).

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Normally, I don’t go through the process of getting a costume for Halloween. When we were little (after a few years of trick-or-treating under our belts), my parents bribed us out of the typical shenanigans with something along the lines of “If you’ll agree to not dressing up and dragging us around the neighborhood, we’ll buy you each a huge bag of candy of your choice.” It worked out well for both parties, and I have lovely memories of those times. But this year, I made a costume for work,  mostly in an attempt to avoid being the only one who didn’t dress up.

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Can you guess what I chose, yet?

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That’s right, I was a piñata! Yay! Thanks to this lovely blogger for the inspiration & tutorial, and my coworker Rae for doing my makeup (as you can see in the second photo). It was lots of fun, and I couldn’t have done it alone.

Happy first-day-of-November, everyone. I hope your yesterday was full of tricks and treats and lots of candy.

to sleep, to dream

I recently stumbled upon this incredible project, and now I can’t stop smiling.

Queenie Liao, a Californian freelance artist and photographer, began taking photos of her sleeping son when he was only 3 months old. Using household objects and stuffed animals, she created magical adventures and fantastical worlds for him to explore, imagining that she was giving voice to his dreams. She says,

“My vision was to create a series of photos portraying him exploring his imaginary, enchanting fairytale-like world.“

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I would say she did a pretty incredible job. What do you think?

a garden, a hot pan, & a little balsamic vinegar

As you all know, October is now almost over… Halloween costumes are all over the place, the weather is finally cooling down, and the pumpkin spice latte is back behind Starbucks counters everywhere. Fall is here! So, of course, it’s the perfect time to share a perfectly summer recipe. Sweet onions are in season from roughly mid-June to mid-August, and at my parents’ house in South Carolina, we harvested them right after our wedding. This post, therefore, is a late farewell to summer. It’s both sweet and savory and fresh. And there’s a recipe, too.

Will and I had such a wonderful time rummaging through the garden. We tugged and pulled and took all sorts of pictures and laughed quite a bit. It was lovely.

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Once you have the onions, the hardest part is over. Wash them off and toss them in a bowl.
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All you need to do is add a little balsamic vinegar, some salt & pepper, and a bit of brown sugar. Basil never hurt anybody, either. Put them in a pan with butter. Heat it up.
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And then enjoy! This is about as yummy as it can get.

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Balsamic Sweet Onions

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb sweet onions
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsps brown sugar
dash of salt
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp butter
dash of pepper
DIRECTIONS:
1. Wash and peel sweet onions, cutting off tips. Cover in 1/2 cup vinegar and dash with salt & pepper, and let sit for at least half an hour.
2. Heat butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions.
3. Once vinegar begins to sizzle, mix in brown sugar and basil. Allow onions to simmer, stirring often. Add additional 1/2 cup vinegar as necessary.
4. Once vinegar has thickened and onions have browned, remove from heat. Enjoy!

apartment love: quilting

Over the last four months, bit by bit, our little apartment has become more and more like a home. Decorating is a slow process, and a long one, but I am still loving every moment of it. It is so satisfying, I’m discovering, to find just the right thing for a space, whether it be a piece of furniture or a lampshade or a framed arrowhead that your husband found way back when. And throughout that process, I am still gleaning bits of inspiration from all over the place (read: Anthropologie’s website). Remember when I shared my love for book pages as decor, in an effort to identify what is distinctively us? Well, here’s another piece of apartment love:

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I struggled, actually, to think of the right word to use when describing this bit of inspiration: quilting? stitching? patchwork? anything that places colored pieces of fabric and/or thread together in a cohesive manner? I’m not sure… but I know that something about it simply appeals to me. It’s homey and bright and just lovely.

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Bohemian, rustic, and cozy.

I love it.

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our wedding: the reception & goodbye

Here it is: the last wedding post! Finally, after the getting ready and the formals and the ceremony and all that came with it, we come to the part that everybody knows, since we’re all being honest, is the most important: the reception. Oh, how fun.

Our very first thing that Will and I did as a couple was celebrate with our families. We had about three seconds after walking out of sight of our guests before all of our bridal party and family streamed in, and everything exploded into hugging and kissing and laughing all at once. And so we spent a little bit of time together as a new big family (and took a few pictures) while our guests wandered over to the other part of the castle.

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Our reception was set up in the courtyard opposite the ceremony, which was about three feet away and mirrored the first (palm trees and all). We rented long farmhouse tables and set dinner up family-style, so that everybody could get as little or as much food as their heart desired without having to get up and stand in line. On the other side of the courtyard, we had a little dance floor and a lounge area for those who wanted to get off their feet. The wonderful Charleston-based Event Works did our rentals, and my incredible friends set up all the decor beforehand.

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Now, a note about dinner. We loved our food, which was expertly prepared by Carefree Catering and was, really, one of the most talked-about aspects of our wedding. I’ve heard before that it is impossible to have wedding food that tastes anything other than mediocre, at the best. That, my friends, is a lie. Ours ranged from a selection of cornbread style muffins to pulled pork to the best crabcakes in the whole wide world. And thanks to the folks at Carefree, it was truly great in every way.

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I really could not say enough wonderful things about our speeches and toasts. My dad made me laugh, Will’s best man left me inspired, and my maid of honor made me cry big happy tears, to say the least. I felt, and still do, so grateful to have these people in our lives.

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Will’s and my first dance was to “Lucky” by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz. As I’ve said before, we spent a great deal of our relationship long-distance, and so the song meant quite a bit to us. All I could think about was that we’d never have to say goodbye again. It was sweet and great and just what it should be.

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My dad and I danced to “My Girl” by the Temptations. Ever since I remember, he has been singing that song to me, and so it was chosen without a second thought. The two of us took dance lessons before the wedding (it turns out that my dad is quite the dancer) and so we swirled around the dance floor happily.

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Will and his mom, on the other hand, danced to “How I Love You” by Rob Laufer. Their dance, actually, lasted for only about a minute and a half before Will’s sister ran onto the dance floor to be with the two of them. His brother was waved over and then I, after being reminded that I was now a part of their family, joined them. The whole affair caused a great mixture of laughter and tears.

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And then things went the way that receptions normally go. The dance floor was opened, the cake was served, and we simply celebrated.

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I do want to take a moment, being a sweets-sort-of-girl, to celebrate our desserts. Our cake was wonderfully done by Myra at Incredible Edibles, and was a brown sugar cake with salted caramel + chocolate ganache with toffee bits. We also served a buttermilk cake with fresh peach conserve filling, so that guests could choose between something a little more heavy and something on the lighter side. Both, in my humble opinion, were delicious.

At some point in the wedding planning process, I had also had an idea for a custom-done sammy cart, where guests could choose from a variety of ice creams and cookies, and then have somebody make a ice cream cookie sandwich right in front of them. To my dismay, I couldn’t find anybody in the area who offered the service, or would even consider it. That is, until I found Bruster’s Ice Cream. These incredible people listened to my ideas and responded simply with, “We’ll make it work”. And they did. Our cookie options were Triple Chocolate, White Chocolate Macadamia, Peanut Butter, and Almond Butter, plus Brownies. And our ice cream flavors were Butter Pecan, Mango Ginger, Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, and Black Raspberry. It was so delightful to see my thoughts bloom into real life, and of course, we loved our sammies at the wedding.
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And then we danced. And danced. And talked to our family and friends. And danced.

The whole reception felt carefree and alive, with lights twinkling above and the sea breeze sweeping through every few minutes. Our grandparents sat on lounge chairs and sipped sweet tea, while my young cousins swirled around the dance floor. People ate lots and laughed lots and, of course, did the Cha Cha Slide and Gangnam Style and whatever else they thought of. I hope that our guests felt appreciated and honored and joyful, and that it was a night worth remembering for them, each in their own way. I, for one, was deliriously happy.

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When it was time to go, I changed into a little dress from Anthropologie’s BHLDN collection, and our guests all gathered with sparklers. Will and I walked along the pathway as they all smiled and waved and said goodbye, and then he surprised me by spinning me around, to finish it all up. And then we drove off into the dark. It was a gorgeous end to it all, and we felt loved beyond measure as we set off into our new life together.

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Well, friends, this is the end. Thank you, a thousand times, for reading. Our wedding was incredible and I know that for me, it has been great fun reliving it with you… but now I must admit that in the end, it was just one day. And so I’m off to write about every other crazy, thought-provoking, sweet thing that life has to offer. Adieu, for now. I’ll hope I’ll see you next time.

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p.s. Thanks, once again, to Nancy Ray Photography. You’re the best.

our wedding: my vows

William David Middlebrook, today, on our wedding day, I promise to honor you, cherish you, and hold you in my heart
. For now and for always, I will accept you for all that you are, encouraging your individuality and embracing you in all your complexity. I promise to listen to you, to seek your opinions and trust your judgments
, and to honor your desires as I would my own. I will savor our time together and, to the best of my ability, choose patience over nagging, gratitude over complaining, and forgiveness over bitterness each day. I vow to be open and honest with you, to always seek to learn more about you, to be your best friend. I promise to smile at you, to encourage you, to surprise you, and to seek new ways to bless you. In every way that I can, I will lift you up. I will be generous in my laughter, effusive in my affection, and unyielding in my fidelity. No matter what comes our way- in times of delight, in the fullness of dreams, in moments of sorrow, conflict, or loss- I promise to stand by you as we together seek to honor God with this life. Today, in the presence of the Lord and of our family and friends, I vow to do all this and more, to be your wife and only yours.

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our wedding: the ceremony

I want to begin this post by saying “thank you” to all of you who have taken the time to look through our wedding photos. It really has been so much fun to share them with you, and your sweet words and encouragement are very much appreciated. So thank you. And welcome to part III: the ceremony! All in all, Will and I had a small wedding, with just under 80 people. Our ceremony was intimate and sweet, with our closest friends and family gathered together amid the palm trees, each ready to love and support us from the beginning of our marriage onwards. To be honest, most of what I remember from this time is simply feelings- waves of wonder and awe and rightness at finally getting married, a sense of gratitude for the presence of those around me, excitement and happiness and pride… all blended together in such a way that it is hard to define it even now, over four months later.

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Before the ceremony began, our guests gathered in the same little courtyard where we would read our vows. They signed our guestbook- a gorgeous thumbprint tree handpainted by PaperTwig on Etsy- and spoke soft words and peeked around corners to wave to me as I waited in an adjacent room. We had asked one of my dearest friends, also, to facilitate a ring-warming during this time. As our friends and family entered the area, she offered them a chance to silently “warm” our rings with their blessing, prayers, and wishes for our marriage. In between guests, she prayed over them with her own prayers, and so blessed us beyond measure. When I look back, this is another one of those decisions that I am oh-so-thankful we made… it made our ceremony feel even more intimate and sweet and consecrated.

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We began the ceremony, as most people do, with a song. The processional was lead by our grandmothers and mothers, who walked down the aisle to “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop” by Landon Pigg. Aren’t they lovely?

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They were followed by our bridal party…. when it was time for them to walk down the aisle, the song “Let the Words Escape” by Chris Rice began. In my opinion, this song is one of the most beautiful ones out there (and is the inspiration behind the name of the blog, too). It opens, “Love, how did I find you?/ Was I even breathing before I knew your name?/ Who could ever have planned this?/ Arranged the whole planet to all turn out this way?“, and just gets even more gorgeous from there. My dad walked me down the aisle, and we came around the corner as the music crescendoed (“I love you/ How can I say/ I love you?/ Let the words escape”).

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I mentioned in another post that we had decided upon an unplugged wedding, and that we loved the difference it made in our day. Before the ceremony, we asked our guests to avoid using cameras and cell phones throughout the wedding. This way, they could be fully present and fully focused during both the ceremony and reception, and we would be able to see our loved ones faces’ rather than a bunch of cameras and phones pointed our way. It was wonderful. Truly, truly, truly wonderful.

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In truth, one of the things that stands out most about our ceremony was, well, how hot it was. Throughout most of the sermon, I was actually very close to fainting… between the sun and the standing and the gown and the heels, I was mostly preoccupied with trying to stay conscious. As soon as we began to say our vows, though, my mind cleared. We were able to complete the ceremony without any major incident, and I was kept very well hydrated throughout the rest of the night. But honestly and truly, the fact that our wedding was flawed did not put even the smallest dent in all of those sweet feelings I mentioned earlier- the excitement and gratitude and joy. In fact, it perhaps served to strengthen them even more. Our wedding was not some sort of show, where everything just had to go off without a hitch. Instead, it was hot. It was very hot. And that made it all the better.

Plus, at the end of it all, we become husband and wife.

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our wedding: the formals

As promised, it’s time for part II of our wedding photos… yay!

There are certain things, when I look back at our wedding day, that I am 100% grateful that we decided to do. Getting comfy sandals to change into during the reception, for example, or having an unplugged wedding (more on that later). Doing a “first look” was one of those decisions. Will and I were both so incredibly thankful that we went this route! It was such a blessed, quiet, joyful time, where the two of us could really connect before the craziness of the day. We hugged and kissed and told each other “I love you” a thousand times, and I could not be more grateful for those moments.

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Aren’t our friends just wonderful? I could never tell you how lovely, how supportive, and how encouraging they are all. Here’s a little post celebrating the bridal party, if you want to know more. Needless to say, I felt so blessed to have them all by my side.

After the ceremony, we took formal family photos… where Will and I spent lots of time hugging all of the people we love.

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And then the two of us had some “oh my goodness, we’re married!” time together. Hence, the looking-at-the-ring, smiling-like-crazy, on-the-verge-of-tears photos below. Oh, and that sign behind us? That’s custom-made by a lovely Etsy seller, Teressa. It’s a verse from Song of Solomon (4:3), and reads “I have found the one whom my soul loves”.

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And that’s us! I feel so grateful that our day included sweet time with both my husband and our dearest friends, where we could smile all we wanted… and especially that Nancy was there to catch it all! It was a gorgeous time.

My next post will move a little backwards- there, I’ll share all about the ceremony. For that, though, you have to wait. At least, for a little while.

p.s. As for credits, I should mention that the fabulous Flowers on Broadway did our boutonnieres and bouquets. They did, in my opinion, an incredible job.

our wedding: getting ready

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How could I ever begin to describe our wedding? It was, in each and every way, perfect. I could have never hoped for a more beautiful day, for more laughter, for more love and support from our incredible friends and family. Thanks to the lovely Nancy Ray of Nancy Ray Photography and her husband, we have absolutely gorgeous photos of every moment.

Both the ceremony and reception took place at Atalaya Castle, in Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC. This beautiful beachside structure was originally the winter home of the philanthropist Archer Huntington and his wife, sculpter Anna Huntington. It’s a gorgeous of square of corridors and rooms, with two palm-lined courtyards in the middle, close enough to the beach to hear the waves.

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Our programs (pictured at top) were designed by Kacey from the Etsy shop HooplaLova. The invitation suite (directly above) was designed jointly by myself and my mother-in-law. Needless to say, she’s quite incredible.

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Will and I were so lucky to have wonderful friends, who flew across the country- from California and Texas and Illinois- to love on us for this day. Ami, of Ami Bridal Creations took care of both my hair and airbrush makeup, and was kind and attentive and incredibly talented. She did an excellent job and made me feel more beautiful than I have ever felt.

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And such was our “getting ready” process. It was a lovely time, full of anticipation and smiles and hope and “are you excited?”s; of me checking to make sure, for the twentieth time, that I had my vows; of peeking out into the courtyard to see guests arriving. And as for what comes next… well, you’ll have to wait for the next post for that.

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p.s. For those of you who might be wondering, my dress was Wtoo’s Camilla, my hairpiece was from Etsy’s Silver Pencils, and my shoes were by rsvp from Zappos. The groomsmen, on the other hand, were wearing Perry Ellis Suit Separates.

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