Be a Bridezilla

11227042_10103026074978308_1185687063457009172_nFrom the time I got engaged last Christmas I got tons of advice from friends, family, even strangers, and read lots of wedding planning advice on websites and books. Since doing the deed myself a few weeks ago I now feel equipped to share my own wedding planning advice for those of you who may be newly engaged.

1. Be a Bridezilla. My favorite piece of advice I got was from my matron of honor who told me to be a bridezilla. That’s right BE a bridezilla. She said no matter how polite and accommodating you are, at some point during the process someone will probably call you a bridezilla anyway so you might as well go ahead and embrace it. Obviously you don’t want to be so bossy and overbearing you alienate friends, family or your new spouse-to-be, but the bottom line is, it’s your wedding and you should do it your way!

2. Do it your way. There are many traditions and lots of etiquette associated with a wedding. You may feel pressured to do a certain thing because “it’s tradition.” The most important thing though is that at the end of the day you are married to the love of your life. I spent a lot of time worrying (cause it’s one of the things I do best) about what people were going to think about our wedding. Would they be offended that we didn’t hand address the invitations or send formal invitations with the fancy little onion skin paper thingy. Again, the bottom line is, that’s not what is important about your wedding. If formal invitations are important to you, go for it. If not, find a unique, creative and less expensive way to let friends and family know. We chose to do a single sheet simple invitation style without all the frou frou extra envelopes and such. We also opted to do a dessert-style reception instead of a full meal. The most important thing is to include special things that make the ceremony and reception feel unique and personal to you and represents your relationship.

3. Ask for help. Wedding planning, even if you are opting for a smaller event, is still a lot to do. If you have an extensive budget you may decide to hire a wedding planner to help. If you, like me, are on a tighter budget, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help. They are undoubtedly thrilled for you and will be happy to assist in any way they can. You never know what secret creative talents your friends may have. We got married in a wooden band shelter at a winery that was pretty plain, but my godmother turned it into a lovely wedding wonderland with white paper lanterns, beautiful ferns, some candles and flowers from the farmers market. It was unbelievably beautiful.
On a side note, one of the things I was told over and over when starting to plan for my wedding was that everyone would likely not send back their RSVP cards. We opted to include a stamp on our RSVP cards, but still did not receive them all back. Again, don’t be afraid to ask. If it’s getting close to your deadline and you haven’t heard back from folks, go ahead and give them a call and ask if they plan to attend.

4. Shop around. Again, if like me, you are on a tight budget, be sure to shop around for your wedding and decor items. The veil I had my heart set on at the bridal shop was $250, way out of my price range. I ended up finding an identical veil online for only $26. If you are crafty there are lots of neat do-it-yourself ideas for wedding decor. I also found a lot of beautiful things well within my budget on the site Etsy.com, which features individual sellers of handmade items. Another piece of advice I got early on was not to stress too much over centerpieces, people likely won’t remember them anyway. As our wedding was at a winery and our theme was peacock feathers, we had the simplest centerpieces of wine bottles with peacock feathers in them. Find something unique and simple that celebrates you as a couple or ties in with your venue for a neat, no-stress centerpiece.

5. As time goes by. Another thing I was told many times is that time at your wedding will fly by. You spend months and months planning and it all seems like a blur the day of the wedding. This was probably the most true thing I was told about a wedding. I was worried about feeling like we were having to wait forever once we got the venue, but that was not the case at all. Once I arrived, got into my dress, walked down the aisle, said “I do,” danced with my husband and my dad, ate a bite of cake and tossed my bouquet in the air — it felt like the blink of an eye.

You will undoubtedly have a wedding photographer and possibly a videographer and you will be so happy about those images and videos because it will give more time to relive the event in slow motion. Another great thing about getting married this day and age are smart phones. Most likely you will have friends taking pictures and videos on their phones and this is a great way to get a quick look back at the day before your official photographs are ready. Looking back at the pictures has been my favorite pastime since returning from my honeymoon.

To sum up my wedding advice, it is this: read all the articles you want, pin all the things on Pinterest, listen to what everyone has to say about weddings and at the end of the day, do what feels right for you and your future spouse and you will surely have a special day to remember for years to come.


Mimosas are a girl’s best friend

I’m not really a morning person so I’m a huge fan of the meal known as brunch. You don’t have to be up early to eat it, in fact anytime between 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. is a good time to serve brunch.

A few weekends ago I enjoyed the most spectacular brunch. My wonderful Godmother Connie prepared an absolutely fantastic brunch which served as my bridal shower.

My very favorite part of my bridal brunch, aside from being showered with love by friends and family, of course, was the mimosa bar. Yes, you read that right, a mimosa bar. Mimosas are pretty much the best part of any brunch. Drinking alcohol in the morning is typically frowned upon, but not when it’s brunch and it’s a mimosa.

In case you are not familiar with this delightful beverage, it is so very simple to make. A basic mimosa is comprised of orange juice and champagne. My Godmother really went all out for my special celebration and these were not your typical mimosas.

Set up in a most delightful tablescape were crystal champagne flutes with colorful swizzle sticks, three different kinds of sparkling adult beverages including Champagne, Prosecco and Moscato, seven different juices, plus multiple kinds of fruit for garnish.

When I’m rich and famous, I want to have brunch with a mimosa bar every single day! My Godmother had all sorts of beautiful flowers and tropical decorations in honor of my upcoming honeymoon in Key West, but she really outdid herself with the mimosa bar. If you plan to host a special brunch event anytime in the near future, I highly recommend making it extra special with fresh fruit, juices and champagne!

The dishes served for this brunch were also superb. Connie made delicious mini-frittatas as well as some out-of-this-world french toast casseroles. To top off the brunch menu we had mini crab and shrimp quiches as well as tropical desserts like key lime tarts and piña colada cupcakes.
Aside from the mimosas, of course, my favorite was the frittata. A frittata is basically a crustless quiche. Connie used a muffin pan to make the mini frittatas so they were a perfect serving size for each guest. This is another great tip if you are serving brunch for a crowd.

You could really take your favorite frittata recipe and make it in the muffin pan to create individual serving sizes. Connie used Food Network chef Ina Garten’s recipe which included proscuitto.

Below is a recipe I found for frittata that also sounds delicious from The Girl Who Ate Everything.Com.

Muffin Pan Brunch Frittata (Recipe from TheGirlWhoAteEverything.com)
• Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
• 8 large eggs
• 1/3 cup whole milk
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 4 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled (you could use diced ham or cooked sausage here too)
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 1/4 cup chopped spinach leaves (you could use 2 Tablespoons of chopped basil or parsley here instead too)
• 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 mini muffin tins (each with 12 cups) with nonstick spray. Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the bacon, cheese, and spinach. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture. Sprinkle tops with cheddar cheese. Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes. The frittatas will be really puffy right out of the oven and will settle once removed from the oven.
Using a knife, run the edge of the knife around the edge and loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide the frittatas onto a platter. Serve immediately.

Canning, Cooking

Cheerful sweet pickles

If we get snowed in this winter, one thing we will not have a shortage of is pickles. I’ve made so many pickles this summer I feel like I might turn into a pickle. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have canned grape leaf pickles, spicy garlic dill pickles, fermented pickles and hot sriracha pickles. I’ve also done a few experimental pickling projects this summer.

A few weeks ago my friend Josh asked if I’d ever made pickled okra. I hadn’t and he gave me some to try. I recently read a really great article on okra from Our State magazine, the article mentioned eating okra raw. Now, I know okra is one of those love or hate foods for most. I like it fried and in gumbo, but eating it raw, I’m just not sure I’m that brave.

I’m actually not even sure I’m brave enough to eat it pickled, but Josh was so I gave it a shot. Josh so enjoyed my spicy sriracha pickles that I thought I would try pickling the okra with the same recipe. He said it is delicious and he’s already eaten almost an entire jar of them. I have to agree with his wife, however, who refers to whole okra as “alien fingers.” They did look rather intimidating and alien in the jar with the red sriracha brine.

Another pickling experiment I have been wanting to try for a while is a recipe called cheerful sweet pickles which I found in an old canning cookbook. Part of what intrigued me about the recipe is that you make it using those cucumbers which ripen under the vines before you see them and end up getting as large as footballs. I had several of these the other week and really didn’t want to waste them. The other intriguing part of this recipe is that it calls for Maraschino cherries.

The process for the pickles takes three days. On the first day, the large cucumbers are seeded, chopped into cubes, covered in salt and left to sit overnight. The next day, the cucumbers are covered in a brine of sugar, vinegar with cinnamon sticks and cloves. On the third day, Maraschino cherries and some red food coloring are added.

Sweet pickles are not usually my favorite, but these look so lovely I just couldn’t resist making some. The cookbook I used said they are great served with pork or roast or chopped and added to cream cheese to make a spread for sandwiches.

Here is the recipe:

Cheerful Sweet Pickles
• 9 cucumbers, yellow
• 1⁄2 cup salt
• 3 1⁄2 quarts water
• 1 pint vinegar
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves
•4 ounces maraschino cherries and juice
•2 teaspoons red food coloring

Directions: Peel, seed and cut cucumbers into cubes. Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and cover with water. Let stand overnight. In the morning heat to boiling and then drain. Loosely tie spices in cheesecloth and combine with sugar and vinegar. Heat to boiling. Pour over drained cucumbers and let stand overnight. The next morning heat to boiling and then simmer until cucumbers are tender – being careful not to overcook. Add cherries with juice and red food coloring. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal at once. Process in boiling water bath (212 degrees) for five minutes.