Monday, October 20

The Funnest Ever

What do you get when you stack 11 people in 1 small house with a fridge full of beer and a box of Guesstures? The funnest weekend ever.

A whole slew of lovely, fun friends gathered at Ashley's parent's house up north this past weekend. The weather was lackluster but it hardly mattered. We had a family-style pancake breakfast, watched the MSU football game, went shopping downtown and played a beer and vodka gummie bear infused marathon of Guesstures. Ari's slightly confusing impression of crutches and Ben's adorable acting of “balloon” were crowd favorites.

Weekends like these—and plans for more in the future—fill my tank with fuel for another work week.

Two mini scoops of vanilla ice cream in my coffee
Breakfast with part of the gang
Some of the boys. Not pictured: Brian, Ben2 and football.
A quick break in the clouds

Wednesday, October 15

The Extended Party

"How many people will be coming with you?”

It’s a frequently asked question from wedding vendors when setting up meetings, and I’ve frequently answered “just two, thanks”. With our out-of-town wedding, we don’t always have a family or bridal party member we can easily grab to come with us.

But as planning goes on, I’m recognizing the silver lining to that.

When I couldn’t have my maids with me for dress shopping, I invited two girlfriends whose friendship—and style opinions—mean the world to me. The four of us, with my mom included, had a blast sifting through hangers of what seemed like big white sleeping bags and snapping photos for the girls who couldn’t be with us in person. It was special to share the first try on of the dress with them.

When Ben and I found ourselves faced with a midweek cake tasting appointment this past week, we invited our good friends Andy (the best man) and Ashley. How horrible to burden friends with free cake on a random Tuesday night, right?

All this tag-along stuff is fun, but very intentional too. We’re uniquely lucky to have supportive family, a fantastic wedding party and the opportunity to celebrate even more great people in our lives by including them in small but meaningful wedding related ways.

Ashley P., Chelsea, Andy and Ashley T. are such big parts of our life. I hope come May when they see me in my dress again and taste the cake they helped pick out, they feel even more a part of our story. And if they’re really good friends they’ll make sure the bride and groom get extra slice—with extra frosting, please.

Thursday, October 9

Ode to Home

It’s been over two years since Ben and I moved to Grand Rapids together. With the huge exception of missing friends who grew to feel like family in Pennsylvania, it really has been lovely.

I love being back in Michigan. We're two hours away from family which means more weekends and holidays together. We're 3-4 hours away from some of the state’s best scenery and character like the Sleeping Bear Dunes that cut so deeply into Lake Michigan it shocks me every time. I love that there’s so much more to explore, too, like the wilderness of the upper peninsula.

I’m so happy to call Grand Rapids home. Downtown is constantly challenging itself to be more sustainable, more charitable and more of a place to besomething is new every year. The surrounding neighborhoods and farmland feel oh so Midwestern with their friendliness, too. And yes, even in the winter I’m constantly amazed at how beautiful Lake Michigan is covered in fingerlings of ice and frozen waves.

Our town—while not a permanent home—is a great place to be. My local grocery store has enough foreign food, grind your own nut butters and stinky cheese to keep my wannabe chef self busy. And the trails! There are five I can jump on right outside our apartment door. Five! The library, gym and my favorite frozen yogurt place are all easily (and often) accessible via tree-lined trail. All those trees extend to our little neighborhood, too, which make for beautiful snowy days.


And for all the quirks apartment living brings, this one has largely been good to us. We have a massive back deck overlooking a sometimes scummy pond covered by a big colorful tree. We get wildlife visitors by the masses like gaggles of quacking duck, gymnast squirrels and newly sighted this year—blue herons. Inside we have just enough room for us and our stuff, plus a fireplace that amps up the cozy factor on winter nights quickly.

Three years later, we’re still exploring and bike riding and packing up the car for random adventures. It’s a pretty dang good place to call home.

Tuesday, October 7

Work Stuff: Selling Through Staples

It’s live!

What’s live? A project I’ve been working on for months and months. A project I took a secret trip to Boston for. A project that’s going to make Steelcase product widely accessible in a way its never been before.

We’re selling office furniture through Staples!

My portion of the project was to work as the Steelcase marketing liaison to the Staples marketing team. Together we determined what our marketing plan would look like, how we’d measure it for success and how we’ll be agile as needed when reviewing performance.

I also helped coworkers review designs of the online shopping experience of our product on the Staples site. Will people really use this functionality or that? Do we like how these options are displayed or would we prefer they be displayed that way?

It’s fun, projects like these. I really like imagining the customer’s perspective and designing for it. It’s also a lot of work. It’s taken a lot of time and energy to get to launch confidently. And now it’s here! Hurray! Let all people across the country rejoice in their non-obstructed purchases of comfy and ergonomically correct office chairs.

Friday, October 3

Cheap Save the Dates

At the end of the summer Ben and I held a congressional apartment hearing on the state of the wedding budget. We’re just under a year away from the big day, but rapidly approaching a fiscal cliff. There’s no real need to panic—the majority of the budget has been spent on the majority of the big planning stuff. Still, this congress is in budget scrutiny.

This is why I’m on a bridal high from my this “craft” project: our $20—card and envelope included—save the date project. Yes $20, minus postage of course because at $.49 cents a pop we’re gonna have to forego a Friday pizza night or two to send these suckers. Did you hear that, Ben? DROP THAT HOT AND READY.

All it takes is a middle schooler's worth of knowledge in Microsoft Paint and access to a good drug store photo printing kiosk. You can print anything from a Kodak kiosk—you know as long as it's 4x6. Here are my tips for making this DIY invite/announcement/mini poster project happen:

1. Create your canvas
I made a 1200x1800 pixel canvas in Microsoft Paint. It's much larger than 4x6, but scales down to the same dimensions without distorting anything. Working large helped me make sure everything was aligned and colored correctly. Previewing small gave me the confidence my design would print legible and clear.  

2. Use good ingredients
Standard Microsoft Paint fonts felt flat to me, so I used a free font downloading site to spice up my text. I also auto-edited and resized my photos in Microsoft Photo Editor. Keep in mind not all photos print in true color.

3. Treat it like a photo
I saved my final design as a JPEG—the same format most images from my camera save as. You can save your designed card as an image on your camera SD card or upload it right to a drug store photo site for printing. I found both worked just fine.

4. Test before you go bulk
Walgreens glossy and matte for that matter printed like a dream while Target's in-store kiosk gave me discolored and streaky photos. If you have the time, test a few kiosks and photo finishes to see what you prefer.

5. Hunt for coupon codes
When I ordered, Walgreens was running a $.15/each sale on 4x6 glossy photos (down from their normal $.20 price). I preferred the matte finish just slightly, which I could order online only for $.12/each. My total order was around $10.

6. Consider the whole package
I was hoping to find a store that would print on photo paper with no text/images on the back so I could send my cards as postcards. While Walgreens had a super small serial number/date on the back, I opted for envelopes. I bought a box of 100 at 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 off Amazon for an additional $12.

I’m not only thrilled with the cost of this project, but these really did turn out lovely. They're fun, casual and feel most like us—all the things I hope our wedding day will be. Now if I could only figure out how to score postage stamps on the cheap...