Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Take Your Photographer to the Zoo Day

Some of you might remember that I fired our original photographer one month before our wedding. In hindsight, it was probably one of the best things I could have done to make our event less stressful, mostly because we ended up hiring a wonderful photographer, Mike Purvis. Instead of fighting us about how/when/what of our pictures, Mike listened and did his best to give us exactly what we wanted. While his services and those of his partner, Summer, are more expensive than our original guy, I feel like it was money well spent on two photographers who really clicked with us.

Plus, as a bonus, Mike did a walk-through with me for both of our venues. Both were new to him and there was a good possibility that the Pittsburgh Zoo's Aquarium, our reception location, would be a challenge to photograph. So, I met him one day last August and we spent an afternoon at the zoo.

More than anything, it was good practice for me. I am not used to being photographed and it was nice to have a chance to get used to being in front of the camera.

I'll admit that I had fun trying to act casual while Mike snapped dozens of pictures.

He managed to get some good location photos and we might use a few of these to round out the album. I especially liked this shot of the underwater tunnel,

and this shot of the aquarium's indoor jungle.

Mike also caught some great shots of the animals. For instance, this peacock peaking in the window on the aquarium roof,

or this curious fish,

or one of the impassive bears in the exhibit just a stone's throw from the aquarium.

Mike also had a chance to visit our ceremony venue and talk to our officiant, Rector Bruce Robison. It was a huge relief to me for them to work out the photography rules ahead of time. I wanted great photographs, but ones that wouldn't annoy or distract our pastor, a man we greatly respect. I am pleased to report that I didn't notice either photographer during the ceremony. Good job with the ninja skills, guys!

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posted by Alison 10/31/2007 07:06:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What is the deal with Wedding Gown Preservation?

I didn't save many things from my wedding, but my dress is one of the things I wanted to preserve for the long term. I was a little sad that my mother didn't have her own wedding dress, she borrowed her sister's, so I wanted to preserve mine in order to give future offspring the option of using it for their own.

However, I was unprepared to deal with the complications of the wedding gown preservation industry. It turns out that cleaning a gown is nothing like cleaning a coat or a blouse, the beading and embroidery require extra care...and extra money. This Martha Stewart Weddings guide is particularly helpful in providing information for selecting the right cleaner.

Among other things, one should look for a preservation service that will not...

  • ...use one-size pricing policies. Pricing should differ according to the amount of damage and details that will make cleaning more complicated, like lace, beads or thread work. Quoting a single price is an indication that all gowns will be treated the same.
  • ...void any guarantees if the box is opened. This policy prevents brides from inspecting their dresses to see that they were cleaned properly. Furthermore, dresses should be taken out of their box and re-folded yearly to prevent permanent crease lines.
  •, not stand by their warranty for years, even against invisible stains. Some stains take years to discolor a dress, and are a sign that it wasn't thoroughly cleaned.
I took my dress to a dry cleaner that I thought specialized in gown preservation. I was a little bit wary when the person behind the counter couldn't answer any of my questions. Instead of cleaning gowns in-house they are sent away for six weeks to a month to a service called Keepsafe. I couldn't even point out the specific stains to them. My dress is pristine except for a few wax stains near the hem. I managed to remove most of the wax using the ol' paper bag technique, but there are still imprints of the stain left, enough so that I'm worried about them ruining the dress permanently. I've called several cleaners in the area and no one has been able to give me a straight answer about whether this can be fixed. Worse yet, Keepsafe has no contact information in its pamphlet so I can call and see if they have any experience with this kind of stain. Plus, they have no website. Arg.

Readers, if you have any recommendations for gown preservationists in Pennsylvania, Ohio, DC or Atlanta I am all ears. Mrs. Bee, I know you looked into J. Scheer & Co. Were you happy with the service? Or did you decide to shoot your dress out of a cannon?


posted by Alison 10/23/2007 07:25:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Baaaali Haaaai!

Fruit stands line the road in the center of the island.

The interior is filled with valleys of emerald green rice fields.

Our driver, Agung, is a member of the Balinese royal family.

Agung introduced us to a school chum, Wayan, who owns his own educational plantation.

We caught a cremation ceremony in Ubud. These participants are working on decorations for the float.

Our room in the Alam Indah:

Mr. Lollipop stepping into the Indian Ocean at the beach at Legian.

Offerings of sticky rice and other bits of food can be found all over the island.

We took Balinese language lessons while in Ubud.

Mr. Lollipop gave an impromptu speech about America to a crowd of students from Jakarta on the Beach at Sanur.

Monkies rule the monkey forest in Ubud.

The beach at Kuta:

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posted by Alison 10/23/2007 11:20:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Day Before: Brunch

Mr. Lollipop's family is less centralized than mine, so I had met only a few in the first 7.5 years of our relationship. We wanted to organize some time so that I could meet all of them before I married into their clan. While both Mr. Lollipop and I had wanted to throw a welcome barbecue, a quick calculation of the guest list lead us to conclude that we couldn't afford the time or money to throw what would essentially be a second reception.

Rowr! No barbecue for us...

So, we went with a second option: brunch at the Carnegie Museums, dutch. This allowed us to open the guest list to everyone invited to the wedding, an option much more fair to all of our family and friends. Plus, we were able to put the small amount of money designated for the barbecue towards better beer for the reception. (Hoegaarden and Yuengling! Yay!) Our families were game despite having to pay their own way and we had a lovely time eating the Museum Cafe's excellent food and mingling.

The Museum Cafe is my favorite place to eat in the Oakland neighborhood. The menu changes often, so there is always something new to try, and the desserts are fantastic. As a result, the seating area can get crowded, so we used record covers as place mats to reserve tables. Luckily, it was a slow morning and there were plenty of extra tables, thus we didn't intrude on other patrons.

The album covers came from a local record store, Jerry's Records, that gives away boxes of damaged records once a year. A few friends and I sifted through our box and pulled out the ones with funniest, ugliest, tackiest covers. My place mat was a little different and featured a bride and groom and 'MAZELTOV' (all one word) in big red letters. I still have a big stack of album covers; if there is enough interest I'll post the cream of the crop after my camera comes back from repairs.

Photos courtesy of my Cousin Aileen via our wedding photo pool.


posted by Alison 10/22/2007 08:49:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stretching our Floral Dollar with Wheatgrass

Previously: Our Favors Require a Degree in Botany

If I had all of the money in the world I would have sprinkled our reception venue with dozens and dozens of dense, exotic flower arrangements. But as someone interested in having a wedding without going into debt we had to think of something else that would have a similar impact, but with less cost. There is a quality to fresh flowers, the glow of living, breathing things, that I love. So, in lieu of silk flowers we decided to go with live plants, namely wheatgrass. I've been growing the stuff for years and I love how each plant breathes and perspires, furthermore, the bright green fit right into our color scheme.

Plus, the our third try at finding the right variety of wheatgrass did the trick! It grew up thick and the blades were new-leaf green. I wanted to give the impression of a lawn so I added random yellow chrysanthemums to some of the containers. We used our little containers of wheatgrass to add a little to our table settings and as companions to our guest table centerpieces.
It might not be clear from this photo, but I sank small plastic test tubes into the soil of the beflowered grass containers to serve as mini water tanks. We filled the tubes with water using a turkey baster before inserting the flowers. They still looked fresh almost two days later when they were deployed for the wedding.

These larger containers were used to decorate our peripheral tables, like the cake table and the guest book table.

I'll have more pictures of our grass and flowers in action when our photos are released.

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posted by Alison 10/17/2007 09:43:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Issac Does So Much For So Little

I love Isaac Mizrahi and admire his skills both as someone who makes and wears clothes. I own both copies of his Stylebook; PDFs of both issues are available ifor for free on his website if you are in the mood for some fashion inspiration. I have been a fan of his discount line at Target from the beginning. I have largely been impressed with the quality of the designs (so many with pockets!) and fabric used for his dresses, and now the summer clearance has brought deep discounts on already inexpensive dresses. For brides marrying next spring and summer this might be the perfect opportunity to find bridesmaid dresses, rehearsal dinner dresses and honeymoon outfits on the cheap. If we need to choose dresses months in advance, why not shop off-season?

Bridesmaid Dresses for under $30:

Dresses for honeymoon wear and more casual occasions:
  • This seersucker dress is comfy and travels well. I was able to stuff mine into a hat box and then unroll it wrinkle-free for my last weekend trip. The fabric might be a bit casual for some weddings, but it could work as a bridesmaid dress for a garden wedding.
  • This dress has a sweet, faux-wrap neckline, a flouncy skirt and pockets. The pink is not overly feminine and more antique in color. It would be perfect for a bridesmaid's tea or a wedding shower. Also available in black and white.
There are a few rules that I follow to get good online shopping results from the website. First, read the reviews and pay attention to the ones where the buyer has a similar body type to yourself. The unfortunate problem with a lot of the Isaac dresses is that the designs that fit well on a size 2 won't always be scaled properly to a size 14 and vice versa. I loved this dress on the website, but it was sized for someone with a DD chest. However, for $20 you might have some extra cash to pay a tailor to put in bust darts. Next, and I consider this a general rule in life, avoid polyester. It doesn't breathe and allow your sweat to evaporate. I once stupidly made a dress out of polyester fabric and then decided to walk home on a warm day and I felt like I was wrapped in moist saran wrap after only a few minutes. Natural fibers are a superior alternative for wear and comfort and some, like seersucker, won't wrinkle.

I had a question or two about the dress I wore in this entry, which sent me off to the Target website in the first place, but unfortunately, it is sold out. However, brown and black versions are still available. I love this dress. It's light, but tough, breathes while keeping me at a comfortable temperature and it doesn't stain easily. Best of all, there are pockets! The skirt is a little poofy so it conceals whatever you are carrying without the appearance of saddlebags. I wore it on the 24 hour+ series of flights back from my honeymoon and felt totally comfortable.

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posted by Alison 10/16/2007 06:26:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Three Tiers for Penguins!


Cake Test
The Backup Cake

I survived making my own wedding cake and ended up with some pleasing results. The fondant didn't work as perfectly as I would have liked, but we managed to hide most of the flaws by rotating them to the back.

Most of the cake was made late at night the Friday before our Sunday wedding. Our Maid of Honor, Maid of Awesomeness (a title earned through months of selfless service toward our wedding), and our Magic Wedding Elf, Frances, stirred big cauldrons of Rice Krispies and molten marshmallow. All involved did an expert job of measuring out huge quantities of ingredients and getting the proportions just right.

My job was to pour, level and ice each layer. Each tier has two layers glued together with Wilton icing purchased in gallon buckets purchased from the craft store. Despite being mostly shortening it had ideal qualities that made it a good choice. First, it didn't discolor or make the cake soggy even after two days of waiting to be consumed. Next, it worked well when we needed it as a glue. All of our layers and tiers stayed firmly in place, it kept the fondant exactly where it needed to be, and it managed to keep the penguins and flowers attached despite being moved three times.

Most importantly, the Groom really liked the taste of the icing, which is the most important thing. The Rice Krispy cake was really for him, as he doesn't care for regular cake. The icing taste was very similar to Twinkie filling. To me, it is better in small quantities, but Mr. Lollipop couldn't get enough.

The outer layer of the cake was made of plain pre-made Wilton fondant purchased in five-pound boxes from the same craft store at the icing. The fondant tasted like it was made of fresh Lucky Charms marshmallows, but it could easily be peeled off for those who couldn't stand the sweetness. The fondant was one of the harder parts to get right, especially for our 14 inch bottom layer. I discovered a too late that the ideal thickness is a little less than 1/4 inch. It is the best thickness to remain pliable, yet hide flaws.

As I said before, we glued the penguins and flowers on the cake using frosting that we dispensed from a pastry bag. For those who missed my earlier entries, the penguins were made of Fimo clay and are inedible, although that didn't stop guests from trying.

Our cake didn't taste all that bad considering that it was made of two-day-old Rice Krispy Treats. We also served two sheet cakes purchased through a local restaurant with delivery service, a Middle Eastern restaurant called Aladdin's Eatery. We managed to get two awesome cakes, an Oreo flavored one and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup one, for less than $2 a slice, including delivery costs. Both supplementary cakes were a big hit and saved me worry about serving stale, be-fondanted non-cake to guests.

The cake itself is sitting on an overturned piece of wooden butcher-block counter top left over from a remodeling project. Mr. Lollipop fashioned it into a an ideal cake board by adding some snazzy handles. The cake board was absolutely indispensable for moving the cake from place to place without damaging it. Keep that is mind if you plan on making your own DIY cake.

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posted by Alison 10/09/2007 07:14:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Monday, October 08, 2007

Photos from Friends and Family

I admit it, we totally stole Ms. Lemon's idea to collect photos from friends and family using flickr. We printed our account information on the back of our seating cards, and while they weren't as pretty as Madame Lemon's, they did the trick. Well, it helped to have a bridesmaid willing to cajole people by email. (Go Aileen!)

We ended up with some wonderful photos that have a slightly different perspective than our professional ones. My favorite is the shot below of us immediately after the ceremony.

Some photos captured memorable moments even before our photographers arrived. We made the boys wait in the basement after I ran home to get my dress. I didn't want Mr. Lollipop to see me after I'd had my hair and makeup done.

Other pictures revealed the point of view of our friends and family. Along side our professional pictures they provided a more complete record of the day.

I needed lots of help getting my shoes on.

My ladies looked fabulous as they waited for pre-ceremony pictures.

We took a long ride up the zoo escalator to get to the aquarium shuttle.

The best man served as guardian over our plastic Blessed Virgin Mary as we moved her from the ceremony to the reception.

Some of our friends clowned around in the tunnels around the stingray tank.

There are many more photos still to come once our professional shots are ready for release. Stay tuned!

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posted by Alison 10/08/2007 12:18:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tryin' to Get the Pretty

The one bad thing about getting married on a Sunday is that all of the independent, super-fancy-pants salons are closed. (Rats! No temple massages!) I wanted to give all of my ladies a chance to get their hair done, but that would be impractical time-wise if we hired someone to come to us for hair and make-up. Despite being a DIY bride, I knew that I was too incompetent to even do my own eye-liner, so we turned to a local chain for our prettification needs.

Here are the final results. Photo credit goes to my Maid of Honor and her fashion photography skills.

We used Philip Pelusi on the South Side of Pittsburgh. I did a hair trial there and was happy with the results. For both my trial and the wedding day my beautician was Christina, and I would recommend her to anyone looking for a hair and makeup artist. She got married the month before me and had plenty of war stories to share, including a summer storm that caused so many downed trees that her rehearsal almost had to be canceled.

The back also turned out wonderfully. However, my stubborn hair only lasted this way for an hour and a half, but I wanted to do something out of the ordinar because our wedding guests would be staring at the back of us for most of the ceremony.

Mr. Lollipop was obsessed with my hair even after it de-curled itself. It stayed poofy (but not in a bad way) for the rest of the evening and he liked touching it.

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posted by Alison 10/04/2007 10:46:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Improv Bachelorette Party!

Getting married on a Sunday on a holiday weekend has its benefits. One of the biggest was that Mr. Lollipop and I had a chance to have our bachelor/bachelorette parties the Friday before the ceremony while most of our friends and family were in town. Perfect.

My party was planned by my Maid of Awesomeness, Saralinda. She borrowed a giant SUV and stocked it with water and snacks and drove us all on one car. I requested two things from her: to go to Friday Night Improv, and a total ban on all penis-related novelty items. Both of my wishes were granted.

Friday Night Improv is a weekly show held at the Studio Theatre in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning. The format is similar to the show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but audience members are invited to participate in sketches. August 31st happened to be opening night for the season, so the show was extra packed and we ended up sitting on the floor in front of the bleachers. It was extra convenient for those times where we held each other and laughed so hard that we rolled on the ground.

A shot of us with our amazing host, Ben Mayer.

Plus, we were their first bachelorette party, ever! That somehow gave the Maid of Honor license to yell "Take it off!" at most of the male performers. Still, we mostly behaved ourselves and I got to be the bachelorette in a Dating Game sketch. I left the theater as the bachelors and their quirks were chosen. My job after I came back in was to ask three questions and guess what was wrong with each. An example:

ME: If we went on a date, what would you write in your blog afterwards?
BACHELOR #1: (In a falsetto) Well, we would ride horses and then we would almost kiss, and then we would siiing and then siiing some more...

Then bachelors #2 and #3 would answer, and so on. Below is a picture of me with my potential "dates": a Disney princess, a man obsessed with English literature, and some one who was molting. Guess which one was Bachelor #1.

The MOH also did a sketch of her own. It was a Shakespeare themed sketch where one of the other performers was stabbed and died on top of her. That was the most action any of us got that night with a stranger.

FNI ended at 1 am so we ran over to my favorite bar, the Library on Pittsburgh's South Side. I managed to get myself tipsy rather quickly, but there were few boys to flirt with. Well, there were a few on the second floor patio, but they were related to one of my 'maid's ex-boyfriends. Hmm. Awkward.

Then, at 2am tragedy struck. Noo! Not closing time! I hadn't made out with random boys or at least had a chance to talk about it before chickening out! While we stood outside trying to decide what to do next I saw my brother in law come out of the bar across the street, and then another brother in law and then Mr. Lollipop and the rest of his bachelor party. The South Side flats has over 80 bars in an area a little less than one square mile and we coincidentally picked two across the street from one another. Yay! So, instead of awkwardly, drunkenly hitting on strangers I made out with Mr. Lollipop in the middle of the street. There is a distinct possibility that I traumatized my younger brother, but it was a happy ending to the nightlife portion of the party.

We separated from the boys again and went to Saralinda's house where we drank my favorite kind of liquor, which is anything packaged in a tiny bottle. I fell asleep almost immediately while everyone else stayed up late and watched the BBC Series Footballers' Wives, which is for the best because I have a hard enough time following that show while sober.

So, I had a great night on the town with my ladies. Three cheers to Saralinda for organizing it all!


posted by Alison 10/02/2007 03:00:00 PM : (2) comments : splink

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