Friday, February 28, 2014


I am so glad he was born.


Once you are confident you aren't going to let your wedding steal your identity, you are ready to start planning! I personally think the challenge of being a hands-on, self-planning, DIY bride is really fun. I know my wedding intimately and as will all things in life, the more hard work you put into something the more rewarding it is.

But where do you begin?

I wish I could just tell you to follow the yellow brick road and you'll land at the wedding of your dreams. It may not be that simple, but the starting place is easy: the big three.

How to start planning your own wedding: Start with the The Big Three
  • Budget
  • Guest List
  • Venue

The elements of budget, guest list, and venue all go hand in hand at the beginning of the planning process. If one of them changes, the other two change as well. For example, if your budget gets cut in half, you may need to cut your guest list or change venues. Alternatively, if you find a venue you fall in love with but it only holds 50 people, you may need to cut your guest list. 

If you already know that one of these elements is set in stone, start there and allow the other two elements to flex around it. You will find that once these three items are determined, the rest of the planning will fall into place. I do not recommend choosing other vendors before locking these three items in - the guest list and venue will make up the largest portion of your budget (typically) and therefor must be prioritized if you plan to stay on track. 

If all three elements are up in the air, I recommend starting with the guest list. Why? If you determine how many people you want at your wedding it will inform the other decisions and prevent you from having to go back and forth multiple times. 

[Note: I set a budget that I was hoping for before laying out my guest list. When I realized that my family and closest friends alone is 200+ people, I had to reevaluate and expand my budget to accommodate feeding everyone. In the end, having my family there on my big day is more important to me then where I actually get married so I adjusted the venue list and created a more aggressive savings plan for myself.]
How to make an estimate Guest List:
  • Under each person's name, list the people (individually) that you think they will want to invite.
  • Categorize and color-code guests appropriately (e.g., green for immediate family, orange for second cousins, purple for friends, grey for spouses or engaged plus ones, etc.)
  • Review each column and add or remove as necessary.
  • Calculate the total guests in each column, and the total to be invited. 

Once you have the total number of guests you want at your wedding you can begin to research venues that hold that many people. For each venue you review, ask for the catering/bar options so that you can calculate not only venue costs for the space but also how much each guest will be to feed. That is what will give you the total price for your venue. 

Next week we'll talk more about the budget process and I'll provide some helpful hints for how to talk about money with your loved ones (fiance included!).

Thursday, February 27, 2014


As avid Bachelor fans, Josh and I both have our own opinions about the show. You can read his here. As for me, The Bachelor is my brain candy. It is the reality trash that I watch because I find it entertaining. For whatever reason I can't do The Real Housewives but The Bachelor, yes please. 

Usually a Bachelor night in my apartment involves me laying on the couch, in sweatpants, possibly having a glass of wine, and generally talking to the TV when I think they are being ridiculous. However, the episode that aired on Tuesday night completely pulled me out of my 'reality relaxation'.

You've probably seen articles all over the internet about the episode explaining how contestant Andi dropped off the show. 


I completely understand why she left, but the whole exit drama left me with an extremely bad taste in my mouth and completely pulled me out of my mindless TV watching. Suddenly the show was no longer fun and fantasy based, it was nasty and calculated yet still anything but real. For the first time as a reality TV fan, I found myself wishing for a little more reality. 

Let me explain. 

Let's put this in real life terms: You are an attractive, smart, single woman. (Get it girl!) You go on a blind date with a man and kinda hit it off. So you go on a few more dates. You make out, you talk about potentially having a family together one day, you introduce him to your family, and things are going well. Then, you have a less than stellar date with him and you realize he's kinda boring and asks you very little about yourself. Suddenly your dream boat is less dreamy and you find yourself wishing you could just leave the date. What do you do?

The normal answer: You break up with him.
Things fizzled. He didn't lie to you or hurt you in any way. He just isn't that great in your eyes and you realize you want someone who is more giving, attentive, intellectual, etc. You tell him, "Hey guy, thanks for the great dates. I'm sorry, but I'm just not feelin it anymore." And you go on your merry way and take your hot self out dancing with your girls. There are plenty of fish in the sea. 

The Andi / Bachelor Producers answer: You dramatically confront him when he has no idea that you are otherwise unhappy and chastise him on national TV. 
Notice I am careful to say that Andi and the producers are both responsible for this TV mess that I didn't want to be watching. Honestly, I imagine that Andi had the normal reaction and then was spun up by the producers to make her more angry than she was. And they wanted good TV so a fight was in order. So Andi confronted Juan Pablo and basically fought with him while she told him she wasn't feelin it and wanted to leave. But I ask you, as educated, smart women, do you really think that segment was good?

What we were shown as viewers of the show was Juan Pablo and Andi kissing and going into the fantasy suite (arguably not that great to show on TV when his daughter is watching anyway). And then we see them the next day and he's really into her and she's really not. 

Yep. That is REAL LIFE. 

You go on dates. You date for a few months (not weeks like on this show and certainly not with other 'contestants' vying for his heart) and sometimes it fizzles. You see a different side of a man or woman and one party falls out of like. It happens. It's called dating. 

I am fully on board with Andi that if she found the conversation off-putting and he seemed selfish, then get off of the show. Good for you. But don't scream at the poor idiot, just leave gracefully. Just break up. 

The fact remains that Juan Pablo, love him or hate him, has been very consistent the entire show. He has always fixed people's eyebrows and pushed hair out of people's faces and brushed away tears. It's actually kind of his move. He has always been terrible at describing people's personalities and probably never asked the girls that much about themselves. He is who is he is. He is not a malicious, evil guy. He's just Juan Pablo and maybe a little selfish. But he didn't change overnight, so why should Andi get to yell at him about his behavior all of a sudden? 

My point is, let's be adults here ABC and instead of exploiting your contestants and throwing your  bachelor under the bus (after you told the bus to aim for him), maybe you could show that breakups happen and it's not the end of the world. Andi had every right to be put off by his conversation that night if it really was all about him. Heck, I would have been too. But in my opinion, she didn't need to attack him. A simple, "Juan I'm just not that into you," would have sufficed. 

I suppose that I should address the "he mentioned the other fantasy suite dates" accusation. 

Yes. He probably did. Because he's not the brightest. However, was that morally wrong of him? No, I don't think so. Andi, you knew he was going on other fantasy suite dates. 

I totally agree that I wouldn't want to hear about it either and yes it was not the smartest for him to remind her but it wasn't new information. He did not cheat on her. It's a show. That she signed up for.

Ah. The main point. 


I know that The Bachelor needs to keep ratings high and have some interest to keep their audiences hooked. But as one of their biggest fans, I would like to ask for a little more human decency on the show. That's what I want to see. I want to see fake falling in love where people still treat each other with respect and where producers don't villainize the women or the men on the show. 

Andi did the right thing by leaving. He wasn't someone she wanted to be with. You go sister. But maybe next time, don't kick the guy while he's down. Just handle your own business. He wasn't right for you. We get it. No need to make him seem like he's an axe murderer. He's not. Juan Pablo is just a pretty guy, who likes to talk about himself, and doesn't realize he shouldn't talk about other women he's dating on the show (even though everyone knows it's happening). No, I wouldn't want to date him either. But I certainly don't think he is a bad person for being self-centered. And as I said before, Andi, he was like that the whole time. It just took you a little longer to realize it. 

I still plan to watch the Girls Tell All next week, but I'm going to go on the record stating that I sincerely hope they don't bash Andi or bash Juan Pablo or accuse anyone of being a jerk. I don't enjoy hearing that from my friends about who they're dating so I'm not sure why I'd want to see that on TV. If we could all just get back to treating people with respect and talking about fake love, I think we'd all be a little better off. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


At my desk, above my computer, hangs this picture:

Now if that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will!!?!

In all seriousness though, I've started a few new beauty routines recently to take better care of my skin. This winter has been a particularly harsh one in DC and the combination of freezing temperatures + dry heat in my apartment has done a number on my skin. 

For Christmas, I asked for wrinkle cream. Yes, I'm serious. And my mom not only got me fancy Clinique eye cream but a whole line of new face wash products. I'm currently testing them out and will be providing a review early next month once I have my favorites. 

The other big thing that has changed my life for the better is a recommendation of my dear friend Kristin: The Clarisonic

When she first mentioned it, I was a complete skeptic. Honestly, I didn't want to consider paying $100 for a face washing machine. I have hands right?! But since she and her lovely boyfriend Mike were staying with us for the weekend, I got to really see her use it and hear her success stories. 

Kristin and I have both suffered with acne and then dry skin when we wash our faces too much. So after hearing her rave about the Clarisonic, and her promising me that if I bought it at Sephora I could return it after using it for a week, I broke down and decided to try it. 

So far so good. This post is not sponsored. I paid the entire $120 for this little gadget. But as I've been using it, my skin definitely feels cleaner. Additionally, it's helped remove blackheads around my nose as well as clear up any blemishes on my chin. I still get them once a month, yes, but they are a lot better than they were. 

So what do you think? Have you used a Clarisonic? Do you like it? Would you recommend it to a friend?

Monday, February 24, 2014


I am willing spring to come faster. I think it's working because we had the most warm and wonderful weekend in DC. It was 60 degrees! So it was basically summer. Ah summer. Where are you? My pasty skin misses being burned by your rays. 

Also, I know it's winter because I had my annual check-up at the doctor last week and I have a vitamin D deficiency. Why? No sun! Thanks but no thanks. I'm over you snow.

So, I decided to clean out my toiletries for this month's Throw Away 13 Things. What? You don't have this many bottles of shampoo?

So I put everything on the table and went through it all. I felt glorious afterwards. Plus I had all of these toiletries that I didn't know I had. Teeth whitening strips here I come!

Below is everything I threw away. Didn't donate this month because, ew, who wants someone's old toiletries? The best part about it was that I was able to get organized and know what I have. Now, when I go into Target I will not need to buy body wash if it's on sale because I know I have two in my gorgeous closet. 

Spring Cleaning Tips: Toiletries
Throw it away if:
  • It has expired. (This is a big one. Check those dates!)
  • If you haven't used it in the last two months. (I'm being generous here.)
  • If you don't like the way it smells. (Sorry tanning lotion.)
  • If it is 90% empty.
  • If it looks old, discolored, etc. 
  • If you have a new one that is better. 

Once all that was gone, I was left with a clean, organized space. Spring Cleaning: Complete.


What are your spring cleaning tips?

Friday, February 21, 2014


If you are planning your own wedding, I applaud you. It's extremely fun and allows you to be intimately involved in your big day from the beginning. 

Plus, if you're Type A, you get to control a lot of things too which (if you're like me) will likely make you feel safe and happy.

I also have a few tips for you from my own experience...

Before we got engaged, I had no idea what color my bridesmaid dresses would be let alone who I would ask to stand by my side. In short, I had no idea what I wanted my wedding to be like beyond the fact that there must be a Catholic mass, a killer DJ, and an open bar. Duh.

I always hoped that one day I would get married, but I just wasn't one of the girls who had the whole thing planned out. 

After we got engaged, that changed completely. 

There is something to be said for enthusiasm and excitedly riding the wave of being engaged. It's a freakin blast! You have a new, sparkly ring on your finger. People are constantly asking you to talk about how in love and happy you are. You can look at wedding dresses without feeling like a creeper. Your family members are unusually nice to you because they are so elated. You have an excuse to cut your hair, do your nails, or otherwise spend money on your physical appearance. And best of all, you get to talk about your abundant love for your significant other without worrying that you're 'moving too fast.' You are on the train and it is moving forward and you like where it's going so you move. Full steam ahead.

And then a month passes. You find yourself at a happy hour with friends, and after you talk about the wedding planning for 5 minutes, you have nothing left to say. 

Wait, what?!

If you've ever been in this position, with a wedding or other life event, you are not alone. I have loved being engaged. I still love it. But I have come to realize that this period of my life is just that, a moment. At my core am not a fiancee. I am still Maureen. But what does that mean when suddenly all of my time is spent working or planning our wedding?

Well my dear, first let me tell you to take a deep breath. It's ok. You are normal. You got wrapped up in your wedding planning because it's exciting and wonderful and should be celebrated. 

Now, I would like to gently remind you that you are not your wedding. Let me repeat: You are not your wedding. 

The beauty of planning such a wonderful event is that you get to take your whole self and combine with another person's whole self. Just because you are engaged doesn't mean that you are not still a cook, soccer player, singer, activist, writer, etc. You are still the same person. Now you just have the added bonus of getting to plan a wedding. Amazing!

As 2014 rolled in, I started to feel that my wedding had stolen my identity. Who was I when I wasn't wedding planning? The good news is that the answer is that I am still the same person. I'm still me - Whatever that means. ;) And I'm sharing my tips for remembering that as you plan your wedding so you can avoid letting your wedding turn into Melissa McCarthy in Identity Thief

Five Ways to Prevent your Wedding from Stealing your Identity

1. Actively decide to nurture one of your existing hobbies
You may not realize it now, but when you decide to plan your own wedding you will want to stop everything else you are doing and just live on Pinterest. That will be great for a while and then you will weep at your lack of enthusiasm for life and wish you had kept doing some of the other things you love. 

Please note: This is not an excuse to make yourself do something terrible. Don't say, "I'm going to go to the gym three times each day so that I don't just do wedding planning." No. This hobby should be something you already do consistently and enjoy. Do you like to cook, run, or sing? Perfect. Just keep doing it. And if you notice you're stopping, just gently start again. For me this was blogging. I stopped because I became so wrapped up in wedding planning. And then I missed it. So I started again. Identity preserved!

2. Select one day of the week (at least) that will not allow wedding planning
You may be thinking, "Saturday woooo day of rest!" but don't get too aggressive here. In the first three months, you will likely be visiting venues and meeting with vendors on weekends. Instead, take a random Tuesday as your day of sanity. Go to work, go to lunch with your colleagues, go to the gym after work, watch New Girl, just don't do any wedding planning. It will still be there on Wednesday. I promise.

3. Journal out your stress rather than emotionally vomitting on your fiance / family / MOH
This sounds silly, I know. But for those of you laughing at me right now... it works! When you plan your own wedding you are intimately aware of every detail and every dollar you are spending. It creates stress. Don't fight that. (I tried, it doesn't work.) Instead, let it out in a journal where you can vent or whine or cry on the pages without hurting the pages' feelings. Your loved once don't deserve to bear the brunt of your stress. Certainly feel free to use them as sounding boards, but be kind to them in return. 

4. Have a non-wedding date night at least once a month
As you've noticed, what was once a fun, laid-back relationship is now a wedding-centric battleship careening into forever. But don't let this make you forget that you love each other and you want to get married because - wait for it - you enjoy being together! Plan at least one date night (or at least a marathon Game of Thrones sesh in your PJs on the couch) for just the two of you each month. It will remind you why you are getting married in the first place. 

5. Hang out with single people.
I promise you, your single friends will stop you from talking about your wedding non-stop. Why? Well, because they are awesome and want you to remain sane. But mostly also because they aren't engaged and don't have insane wedding brain like you and certainly don't want to listen to you talk about it for more than ten minutes. Your single friends will make you laugh and keep you talking about the real world. Win!

Above all my lovely DIY wedding planners, I just want you to know that I am proud of you for accepting this challenge, I am excited for your big day, and I promise that it will be wonderful. 

Check back here each Bride Day Friday as I share tips and tricks for planning your own wedding. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014


 Pretty much any trip that starts off with a tiny baby in a polar bear snowsuit is going to be a good one.

On a very snowy Valentine's Day, Josh and I headed in a cab (bad decision) to the airport to fly to Denver to visit his very best friends from college. Of the four couples, I'm the only one who didn't attend William & Mary, but they have adopted me into their group and I was so excited to see everyone!

Destination Denver worked out well as Josh's Godson Daniel is a bit tricky to fly with and that's where he lives. Plus - we got to go skiing in Breckenridge!

Honestly, the trip was a comedy of errors: our flight was delayed on the way out by 3 hours, we couldn't check in to our ski house until after a full day of skiing, Daniel wasn't the happiest baby while traveling, 7 out of the 8 of us got a violent stomach virus for the last two days of the trip, the United servers were down on our way home, and Maggie and Elijah had their flight cancelled completely. Woof. 

But despite all of this insane and unexpected drama, the weekend was still a hit. Josh killed it on the slopes after not skiing for close to 20 years. I was so proud watching him face his fears and get better and more confident with each run. Casey and I ventured to the tippy top of Peak 6 and I felt like I was skiing out of the Grinch's cave dwelling. We cooked together, lounged together, and heck, we even vommed together. I think Kelly put it best as we were walking back from the Breckenridge Brewery to avoid getting sick in the car: "If we weren't friends before, we are now."

I am so grateful that my fiance has such wonderful friends, and even more excited that I get to call them my own now. :)

Too bad I didn't get to drink any of this deliciousness - I'll have to add the Breck Brewery back on my list of things to do when I'm not sick!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Josh and I heading out of town this weekend, so we celebrated Valentine's day last night. So So good was our meal that I just have to share it with you. 

Like much of the East Coast, DC is in the midst of snow storm right now. Safety first, we decided to change our dinner plans last night and walk into Clarendon for some local eats. My roommate Katie recommended the Green Pig Bistro and it was delicious. 

The night started out well... I was wearing make-up. Big win. I actually got some new stuff that I'm really liking so I'll have to post on that later. 

After trudging through the snow, which was kind of nice actually to be outside in the fresh and quiet air, we sat down and immediately settled on a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and the pork ribs for an appetizer. Those ribs were tasty! For those of you who like a little kick, they were just perfect. I don't like too much spice at these were at the top of my tolerance but still delish. The shredded celery also cut the spice a bit when dipped in the blue cheese drizzle on the plate. Pretty and yummy!

Green Pig took the dinner to the next level. I thought the apps were good but the main course was sooooo good! I had the rock fish, and it was very good, however it was the veggies underneath that were the real treat. The entire meal was served over creamed cippolini onions. I've never had them prepared this way and it was out of this world! On top of that was brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes cooked with pork belly. THE FLAVORS WERE UNREAL!

Josh loved his burger and dessert was a chocolate lava cake that we were so obsessed with that we forgot to photograph before we devoured it. Sorry I'm not sorry. 

We will definitely be coming back to this little piggy and I recommend that you do too!

The walk home was slower than the way there as we were so full but Thor (my coat from undergrad in Chicago) kept me warm.

We even walked our initials in the fresh snow. Valentine's date success!

Note: This post wasn't sponsored in any way. I just really liked the food. :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Valentine's day is on Friday. Do you have a gift for your loved one yet? Josh and I have been doing budget challenges for holidays where we each give and receive a gift. Since our anniversary gifts were such a hit, we did it for Christmas too. I made Josh an antique map to hang on his wall and track where he's been. This would be a great V-day gift too. You could even personalize it to be a map specifically of where you two met, got married, etc. <3

DIY: Antique Map
Step 1: Assemble your supplies.

For this project you will need:
A wooden board
A map
Wood stain
A candle and matches or a lighter
Modge Podge
A paint brush (or two if you're lazy like me)
Sand paper
Spray sealant to coat everything
Note: All supplies were less than $35

Step 2: Sand the wood.

This was the most annoying step to me. But do it anyway, it will allow the stain to actually get on the wood. Also, this makes a mess. I didn't believe my mom, Kevin or Kathy but when I did it in the garage I proved them right... dust everwhere. Even on my pig slippers. 

Step 3: Stain the wood.

Follow the instructions on the wood stain. But basically you just paint it on and then rub it in / rub the excess off with an old rag. I threw the rag out after and the brush too because they were pretty coated. Make sure they are cheap and disposable.

Step 4: Trim the map.

If you map is larger than the wood like mine was, measure it and trim it to fit. I used string because I was ghetto and didn't have a ruler. It worked just fine to get straight lines. 
Note: If you plan to burn the edges for a distressed look, make sure to leave about an inch or two on each side to have something to burn. 

Step 5: "Antique" the edges by burning.

This is pretty much as scary as it sounds. Just kidding!
But seriously, test a scrap piece of the map / paper that you cut off and don't need to see how fast it burns. Then just light the edges on fire briefly and blow them out when you reach the desired edge. This is not a science so leave yourself extra room and have water near by just in case. I also did this step outside. While it was 25 degrees. And I froze!

Step 6: Modge Podge the map to the stained wood.

The wood needs to dry overnight. 
Once that has happened and the stain is set and you can touch it without getting it on your hands, you're ready to go. 
Lay out the map in the desired location to make sure it fits. 
Liberally paint a coat of Modge Podge on the back of the map.
Slap it on the wood and smooth out as you paint Modge Podge over top.
This was the hardest part and the map bubbled / puckered in places for me. 
Just go slowly and keep adding Modge Podge and smoothing until it sticks. The Modge Podge will be all over your fingers but it comes off with soap and water. 

I also did this in the garage. :)

It should be totally coated at the end. Don't worry, it will dry clear.

Step 7: Let it dry over night.

Wrap that baby up. It's gorgeous!

And then give it to your loved one. :)

Let me know if you try this project and how it turns out!
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