A Very Purple Bridal Shower

“Here’s to the groom with bride so fair and here’s to the bride with groom so rare!”

My little sister is getting married. 38 days till the “I do’s” and a lifetime of marital bliss. As maid-of-honor, I’ve been there every step of the way for the planning, hand-holding and consoling a very excited, yet nervous, bride-to-be. Thankfully, my sister only has her bridezilla moments and isn’t a constant terror, however, this made it extremely difficult to plan her surprise bridal shower.

I’m going to be honest, I am definitely a maid-of-honor on a budget and tried to save money where ever I could for this shower. Plus, with the bridal party being comprised of me, one other bridesmaid, two junior bridesmaids and a flower girl, most of the burden of planning was placed on my shoulders. I consider myself a smart thrifty shopper, always finding deals and making bargains, so I knew if I was able to plan ahead, I’d be able to get the most bang for my buck. I cut costs on the invitations by designing them myself (with help from a co-worker) and having a friend print them for me on nice paper at her work (which she was allowed to use). I only had to buy envelopes ($5) and 3 books of stamps ($29). I was also able to use the same template from the invitation for the thank you cards by replacing the 5 W’s for the invitation with the words “Thank You” for the thank you cards. Another corner cut.

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The Mother-In-Law graciously opened her house for our use and insisted on cooking all of the food. We also asked guests to bring platters (if they wanted!), as well. This helped me save a ton of money considering we invited over 60 people and restaurants and caterers around the area were charging at least $17 per person.

One of my really good friends does cake baking on the side (as a stress reliever) so I had asked her to create a purple bridal shower cake. Honestly, my breath was taken away when she pulled up to the house on the day of the shower with the cake in hand. It turned out better than I could have ever imagined and it was definitely one of the focal points of the shower. It also tasted delicious – I think even better than a cake I would’ve ordered at a bakery. I will definitely be using her again… I get a great cake, she gets to relieve some stress, it’s a win-win!

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The favors were another place I was able to save money. My cousins and I made little poporn bags to take home. First of all, I love Pinterest for giving me this idea. My cousin bought the paper bags and kernels and in one afternoon we stuffed and folded the little popcorn bags and tied it together with twine. I was then able to create the label and little instructions and my boyfriend helped me cut them out and tape them to the bags. They turned out so cute, however, I made way too many. The saying on the label: “Thank you for popping in and celebrating Alyssa & Nick’s corny love! For Butter or For Worse”

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I am so thankful that my 2 cousins stepped up to help me pull off a beautiful bridal shower for my sister. Without their help, I don’t think this shower would’ve been pulled off as successfully as it had. They were the ones I was able to turn to when I had no idea what to do next or would become overwhelmed with planning.

Of course, no shower is complete without games, which I was able to create and print off myself. The other bridesmaid created the pieces for an awesomely hilarious game called “Who has the Groom” (another Pinterest find) and was a huge hit with shower guests. I wish I had taken a photo of the “grooms” but with all the commotion I forgot… but I will say that Ronnie from the Jersey Shore (complete with his gold chain) had to be the best one. We also played “How Well Do You Know The Bride” which was also hysterical. Just a note, my sister’s favorite color is not purple, as her wedding would suggest, it’s pink. My cousin created a mad-lib for “Marital Advice” – some answers were definitely not kid-appropriate! I had created 2 other games, Bridal Shower Bingo and the Purse Game, however, my sister’s fiancé got her to the shower 30 minutes later than planned so we had to cut things out in order to get all the guests fed and presents opened (the only thing that was wrong with the whole day, which wasn’t even that big of a deal).

All in all, the shower was a huge success. We were actually able to surprise my sister (something I was a little skeptical of being able to do) and Alyssa received a ton of gifts for her and Nick to start their new lives together. It was a day full of fun, laughter and most of all, love. Just being able to see my sister’s face light up was enough for me and I’m so thankful that my sister has such a loving family and is being welcomed into another loving family.

My little sister is getting married. We only have 38 days till she walks down that aisle. I better get my tissues ready.

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So Put On A Happy Face

“Bye Bye Birdie” is one of my all-time favorite musicals. I’m partial to the 1963 movie version though with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh and Ann-Margret since that’s what I used to watch, religiously, growing up. I know every word, every song and a few of the dance moves – it’s safe to say we got our monies worth with that VHS tape. It reminds me of happy childhood memories and also of my Pop-Pop, who passed in 2005. When he came to visit, this movie was in the rotation of ones to watch with him (along with any kung-fu movie and Mary Poppins).

I can’t find the movie clip of Dick Van Dyke singing this song on YouTube, however, here’s the link from TCM.com.

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image created by jillian k smith

This song is always my favorite part of the movie. Besides Dick Van Dyke dancing around the yard, trying cheer up Janet Leigh’s character, I really love the lyrics and the positive message that they are enforcing. Cheer up, put on a smile, this feeling of sadness will not last forever. I try to live my life by positive affirmation; knowing that even though you’re going through hard times, there’s always something to smile about which can help turn your mood around.

I may not be the poster child for this method. I can dwell on the negatives instead of searching for the positives in some situations. Lately, however, I have been trying to really see the brighter side of things. Sure, bad things happen but they never really last forever. There’s always something that can get you to smile: a joke, a tv show, eating a piece of cake, a hug from your Mom. Personally, I like to go for a run or head to the gym. After a workout, I feel like my worries are smaller and I’m able to smile and look for the positive aspects in life. Once you find your stress-reliever, it really makes troubled times not seem so hard and remember, Just Put On A Happy Face (queue tap dancers…. now)!

Cheers to a happy, healthy and fun 2013

Happy New Year! 

I cannot believe that 2013 is actually here. I feel like I’ve been talking about the year 2013 for forever and still can’t get over that it’s actually the present – no longer the future. My sister got engaged in 2011. They set the date for May of 2013. Plenty of time to plan, save and enjoy being engaged. “2013? That’s so far away!” – what I said when I heard that news… But now, here it is, 2013 and the wedding is in 5 months. Holy cow, time flies.

I used to be in to making New Year’s resolutions but decided to forgo that “tradition” this year in hopes that I would actually stick to the script and continue my success with what I’m doing. I tend to make outlandish resolutions and then get discouraged when i don’t reach them. However, in 2012, I vowed to lose weight and get healthy. I never set a goal as to how much weight I would lose but I was focused and determined to feel comfortable in my own skin and hopefully drop a pant size. January 1, 2012 I joined Weight Watchers and I still say that was one of the best decisions I had made that year. It helped me realize that I needed to change my eating habits in order to succeed. My whole outlook on food has now changed. I needed to realize that in order to lose weight I had to change my eating habits and not just “diet” – it’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.

I will admit though, halfway through the year, I hit a wall with Weight Watchers and decided that I knew what I was doing and could continue the success on my own, so I quit WW. Once I did that, and focused on correctly eating, I lost even more weight. WW was a great starting point for me but I’m happy that I’m no longer following that plan and am relying on myself, calorie counts and other ways to ensure weight loss success.

I had also been a gym go-er but was only going maybe twice or three times a week…. when I felt like it. In 2012 I said I was going to up my gym time and go 5 or more times a week…. and I did. There’s a gym at work that’s free for employees so i took advantage of the equipment and jump-started my workout plans. I researched workouts to do on fitness blogs / websites and added them to my gym routines. A good friend, Frank (check out his blog!), sent me the Insanity workouts which increased my cardio and endurance and I really enjoyed that it was something fun to do instead of the treadmill or elliptical at the work gym. I ran in two 5Ks and walked one in 2012, too. In October, thanks to two of my best friends, Laura & Angela (check out her blog, too!), I joined Lucille Roberts and started taking classes (kickboxing, Zumba, tabata) which has really helped me get out of the “same old same” gym routines. I am now going to the gym at least 6 times a week for at least 45 to 60 minutes, sometimes longer. I really enjoy that time for myself. Besides getting in shape, I found that working out relieves my stress and anxiety and makes me feel better, happier.

So all in all, for the year of 2012, I lost 20 pounds, a pant size and 2 dress sizes. My success can only go up (or in my case, down in pounds!) from here. No one else can help me lose weight, this is a journey I have to take by myself for myself. If I want it, I got to work for it. I also have to remember that the number on the scale is just that – a number. It does not define me or my happiness, nor does it define how I feel about myself now.

In 2012, I also told myself I would have a better handle on my money and bills. I started in 2011, but had started too late to actually grasp what needed to be done. So in 2012, I got serious and organized my spending onto an Excel spreadsheet. I listed the month on the “x” axis and the bills/student loans/memberships on the “y” axis and made sure to fill in how much was going out of my bank account for each. I also started keeping track of how much I was receiving each month in my paychecks and how much “play” money I was able to have / save.

I also created a savings account through ING (I recommend ING to everyone I know. I love that I can transfer money from my bank account to this ING account at any time. I also like that it takes at least 2 business days to transfer the money back over from my ING account to my bank account so that eliminates frivolous spending). I try to transfer money to my ING account from every paycheck so that I have that set aside for weddings (my friends’ weddings, my sister’s wedding, showers, gifts, hotels, etc) and for my savings. After all my bills / student loans are paid, I don’t have that much money left but I like knowing that even transferring a little bit helps.

By getting myself organized financially, in August, I was able to move out of my parents’ house in New Jersey and into an apartment in Pennsylvania, which was closer to work. It’s a liberating feeling knowing that I can finally stand on my own two feet and live on my own and pay for my own stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I really miss my family but it was time for me to experience these things on my own.

2012 was a great year for me. Besides losing weight, becoming financially organized and moving out, I witnessed 4 of my closest friends get married (and was a bridesmaid for one), was asked to be the Maid of Honor in my sister’s wedding and have been helping her plan her big day, I took risks on applying for supervisor positions at my job (none of which I got but I was still proud of myself for taking the chance), I challenged myself by running in 2 Color Run 5Ks (the happiest 5k on the planet!), I went to Ocean City, Maryland for the first time and had a blast with my boyfriend and friends from high school, I voted in the Presidential election (I mean, c’mon, that’s pretty cool, haha) and strengthened relationships with friends and family who truly matter.

2013 is looking to be a great year and I’m ready for it.

¿Tu habla español?

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”
‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In the late 1950’s, my grandmother, Juana Maria, emigrated from Cuba to the United States. She was leaving behind a tough life in Cuba, growing up poor as the youngest of 8 children, with only her mother and the older siblings to support them as her father had passed away before she was born. She started working at a very young age in Cuba and finally, after years of trying and applying, was granted a Visa to visit the United States of America, just before the reign of Fidel Castro.

Once here in America, she found a job as a seamstress and met my grandfather through his sister, a friend she was working with. She spoke very little English, he spoke very little Spanish (he was of Spanish descent), but, as their story goes, it was love at first sight and they only needed to speak the language of love. (Later, when we were older, we found out that my grandmother had a very short Visa and had decided she was not going back to Cuba; They met on a Saturday and were married 2 Saturdays later). They were married a very long and happy 50 years, with my grandfather actually passing on their 50th wedding anniversary. Out of their love story came 3 children and then 11 grandchildren (myself included!).

Growing up, we spent a lot of time around my Ta-Ta (we couldn’t say abuelita – “little grandmother” – when we were little so it came out as Ta-Ta) and Pop-Pop. Pop-Pop had learned to speak Spanish and Ta-Ta spoke very broken English, but tended to stick to Spanish. Their children grew up in a bilingual household, being able to fluidly move from English to Spanish to Spanglish conversations… but that’s where the bilingual traits stopped. Spanish was not taught to us, the grandchildren, at an early age as it was for my Mom and her siblings. In fact, we grew up hearing the Spanish language all the time but never learned it ourselves and to be honest, I’m not sure why. This is something that has always questioned me, my siblings and my cousins. Why were we not taught Spanish so that we could communicate better with our grandmother? So, instead of learning Spanish, we became really good at understanding broken English.

Over the years, I’ve learned some Spanish, enough to get me through a small conversation. Spanish classes in middle school and high school helped a little but words were different in “school” Spanish than in “real life” Spanish. I would come home and tell my Mom what I had learned and she would always say, “Yes, they say that in Spain but it should be said this way…” However, those classes were not a total waste; I comprehend more Spanish than I can speak. I am able to understand and answer Ta-Ta back in English when she starts talking to me in English and then suddenly finishes the conversation in Spanish.

Ta-Ta is now 87 years old and currently isn’t in the best of health. She’s been in and out of the hospital and rehab facilities since June and is now living with my aunt. She can’t do much on her own and only wants to sleep all day. She can only speak Spanish now, the English language has escaped her. It’s become extremely difficult for me, or any of the 7 grandchildren living up here, to hold a conversation with her without searching for my aunt or mom to translate. It makes me sad that we’ve lost that connection, that ability to speak without a translator. Mom says it’s ok, that most of the time her Spanish is just gibberish so I wouldn’t be able to understand her anyway even if I could speak Spanish. But it’s still a helpless feeling when Ta-Ta’s speaking directly to you and you can only do one of three things: nod and smile; try and answer with the words you do know how to say; or just blatantly change the subject.

I’ve been trying to brush up on my Spanish speaking skills. Every now and then I’ll pop on to some Spanish learning websites to help me with the basics and form sentences. My sister and I have even talked about taking classes – maybe looking for a Groupon or LivingSocial deal. I guess it’s never to late to start learning something new.

So, ¿Puedo hablar español?  ¡Un poco, estoy intentando!
(Do I speak Spanish? A little, I’m trying!)