December 27, 2007

I give to thee...

The Favors.

Actually - they were suppose to be the favors -- my ingenious idea for incorporating a family recipe into a edible and delicious treat. However - one flaw in my plan.... accumulating enough supplies to make these wonderfully sweet pear preserves.

J's grandfather used to make pear preserves and we are still enjoying his last batch from 2001. Sadly when he passed...he didn't leave behind his secrets. Therefore - yours truly tried to replicated these pears and give them as favors. That is..until I realized that in order to make 200 4 oz jars ... will require some 60 lbs of pears. Where in the world will I get 60 lbs of pears in Georgia??

Surprisingly, a friend of ours grabbed appromately 40 lbs of country pears from her dad's farm in Mississippi just for this mission. Ladies and Gentleman...we are in business!

Until I made my first batch....and realized that it would not be enough for 200 favors. So instead - they are now going to be Christmas presents!

I want to first thank Mrs. R for all of her help in teaching the basics of canning and letting me borrow her equipment!

I used this recipe for the preserves:
4 lbs
pears (whole, halved or quartered)
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
2 lemons, (I didn't use the slices like they advised - simply the juice)
Canning Jars (I used 8oz and 4oz bought from both Big Lots and Ace's Hardware Store)

For Beginner Canners (like myself) - I will show a step by step. Directions courtesy of Mrs. R's tutorial :)

First an foremost - Take the lids off of the canning jars. Put the jars in the dishwasher and turn it on (you can or cannot put in detergent) and leave them in there until you are ready to pour in the preserves.

Place the lids in a saucepan and fill with water. When the preserves are close to being done - boil the water with the lid on and sterilize the lids.

Peel the pears, core, and cube them. (or have your wonderful fiance do it)
Using a scale - measure out 4 lbs of pears. Boil 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar for 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice to the pears (I remove the actual lemon before pouring into the pot) Pour the pears into the pot and cook for another 15 minutes then add the rest of the sugar (2c.) and water (2c.) This is the fun part. Waiting :) Stir and boil...but make sure the sugar doesn't burn. The sugar will carmelize and you will get a lovely auburn mixture.
When your pears look like the picture above and the syrup is thick - they are ready to pour in the jars. Carefully remove the jars from the dishwasher (using a mitt) and pour the mixture in the jar leaving a 1/4 inch from the top. Tap your jar on the counter in order to remove the bubbles and wipe the mouth extremely clean. Place first the seal and then the ring on the jar and twist shut (not too tight). I use a hot water method to seal my jars. Simply place the jars on the rack over boiling water (see below) and put the lid on top. When there is consistent steam coming from the lid - start your processing time (20 minutes). Remove jars from the steamer, place on the counter on a towel, and leave them be for 12-24 hours. You will hear a popping sound which signifies that the lid is sealed and your product is safe from spoilage! If it doesn't pop - remove the lid, clean the mouth really well, and try steaming again. *Let me warn you before you try and double this recipe that it will take longer than you can imagine. I started around 7 p.m. and they were not done until 3 a.m. Just a word of caution.

Last but not least -- decorate them and pass them out to all of your friends!
The tags were bought from Design des Troy and are super cute!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday!

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December 13, 2007

New Rules?

I am a messy person. Actually...messy is pretty harsh...I would like to think that it is more expressively disorganized. I usually keep the kitchen and living areas very clean - but tend to throw my clothes and shoes on a chair, bed, or whatever ledge can hold it. I sometimes step over my pile of mail before I actually decide to open it and sometimes I leave the empty roll on the holder and simply put a new roll of toilet tissue on the countertop. Oh...and can find extra shoes and jackets in the backseat of my car. All these things irk J.

J is one of the cleanest guys I know except for my father. Growing up with a military father - one always had to have their rooms clean and beds made. I however always tried to slide around that rule because my contention is -- you are simply going to lay in it again. Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with cleanliness or presenting a tidy home to guests - I just don't see the point if it is me and the dog.

My logic on this must change. Because althought we keep our own systematic households at this time - we will eventually move in together. I can easily predict that J and I will be at odds all the time. I don't want to have the argument "You're a slob" ... "Well you are a neat freak...freak!" but I see it heading that way.

Please tell did you do it? If there were did you compromise to prevent the high levels of annoyance that surely follow? Was it simply neat vs messy? Or are there other quirks I need to watch out for?

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December 10, 2007

Sweet Sentiments

Among all the hustle of this weekend (and me with my head in the books), we managed to discuss some of the wedding plans. All of the sudden J looked at me and said, "I am starting to get really excited!" Curious, I asked him about which part? He said so sweetly, "Just the thought of being married to you ... that makes me really excited." Thrown off...I simply snuggled back down on the couch with a smile on my face.
Ever had such simple words bring you down from the craziness of wedding planning and remind you the real reason for this celebration?

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December 07, 2007

Meeting LaRaine

I want apologize for the lack in posting lately - with school, work, and holiday activities ... things have been busy! But that is no sorry! (on with the show...I dress hunt) When I decided I needed to hit up more bridal shops - it was prime football season in the south. And Saturday games leave little time for Saturday fun (outside of a tailgating party). So I decided to continue this hunt by myself. I didn't want to bother my girlfriends (who are all avid UGA fans), so this bee (GA TECH) tried to buzz off by herself!

LaRaine's Boutique was the only shop that Alisa from Kelly's Closet starred. She explained that I would absolutely need to go there.

I made a Saturday morning appointment and then wondered what would happen if I found the dress and didn't have a second opinion! I had left all my girlfriends out of planning because I knew they were going out of town for the UGA game in Athens. After getting yelled at by J (for not including the ladies and not having enough fun) and J telling his Best Man that he had to go with me (boy you should have seen the wide-eyed shock on his face), and calling my brother to find out that he would love to go - but he was already in Peachtree City, I called my MOH's Sister-In-Law. She has been helpful, informative, and very enthusiastic about all things wedding - so I was elated when she agreed. Little did I know - my Maid of Honor decided to delay her trip to Athens just so she could go with me too!! She rocks...

We met the infamous LaRaine and she helped us with all of our dresses. After she explained the layout of the store - we selected about 5 dresses that we wanted to try on. She lets you change by yourself in the dressing room and simply zips you up when you come out. It was quite nice! She was very helpful and it is funny because she also said that Kelly's Closet was the ONLY other salon that they recommended to their brides as well.

The three of us at LaRaine's Boutique in the Virginia Highlands. MOH on right.

Paloma Blanca above and below

This was pretty -- but walking would have been difficult!

And then I found this. Alfred Sung - Paradise. It was so different from anything I had seen - I loved the chiffon - you could swirl around and around and it felt so romantic! The downside was that could have also been a very beautiful maternity dress :( But...once I showed it to everyone else -- the majority of them were slightly amused rather than excited. Have you ever gotten that kind of reaction? Had your sights set on a dress (or something else) and everyone else simply disagree? Maybe it means a better dress is on the horizon?

....stay tuned for the second visit to La Raine's Boutique with both Maids of Honor and the Mother.

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November 27, 2007

Finding magic in Kelly's Closet

So...unlike most women, I had completely put off finding my dress. I am not sure if this is because I don't think I will find something I like, I don't want to spend more money than budgeted, or I don't want to waste the weekends running around Atlanta. I simply decided to find a dress online, send it to my friend's Aunt's dress shop in the Philippines and call it a day.

But...I felt like I was neglecting my mother. Here is her chance to go shopping with her daughter to find that one special dress and I simply thumbed my nose at the idea. She didn't make any noises about it, just sat patiently by while her middle child quickly became consumed with guilt and started to make some appointments. The first one isn't worth mentioning - we practically snuck out of there. But the second one...I am so happy to sing their praises because it was the experience I needed.

Kelly's Closet, near Little Five Points, was an incredible experience. Since I made the last minute decision to go dress shopping, I emailed them that Sunday morning. They quickly responded with times they had available and we picked a 3:00 p.m. slot. It is the cutest boutique which has both street clothes and Bridal dresses. FYI: you must make an appointment for the Bridal side.

Alisa helped us and I couldn't have imagined a better person to steer us through their unique designers. She was funny, helpful, and took the time to figure out what I was looking for (because I didn't quite know myself). She introduced us to some fun dresses and the only qualm is that I wish I could have taken pictures there! It was great because we didn't feel rushed and felt like we could have spent the whole afternoon there, just laughing and gabbing away!

Out of all of them, here are my top picks!

Australian designer Mariana Hardwick designed this simple number. I didn't think I would love the strapless A-line - but it was quite flattering on!
This "Kitten" Amy Michelson dress was a little too sexy for my mother! But the front is rather simply and pretty - it would just give everyone in the pews something to gasp at ;) It's called Flash... go figure! The one I tried one had a cross made of silk, not the bedazzled version in the pictures below.
Our favorite though...the one we call our Lottery dress - was by Justina McCaffrey! If only we won the lottery...then I would be walking down the aisle in this number! Simply beautiful and classic!

As you can see -- I am quite all over the place in trying to select my nuptial attire!

Overall, we spent a wonderful afternoon with Alisa going over so many options. She was so sweet to us, even when she realized that we didn't find the dress we wanted, simply saying that I shouldn't settle! I couldn't have been more in love with Kelly's Closet. All the dresses gave me a romantic and whimsical feeling!

I walked out slightly disappointed simply because I wanted to buy my dress from such wonderful people - but a majority of their dresses were more than I was willing to spend. Alisa gave me a list of other shops that she recommended and starred La Raine's Boutique as the first shop I should visit next. I really appreciated her honesty!

I also received a sweet postcard in the mail from Alisa the next week, just checking up on me! I highly recommend them to ANYONE shopping in the Atlanta area for their dress! Do you have any hidden dress finds in Atlanta? My shopping wasn't as where else would you recommend a bride to shop (and find great customer service)?

Next stop...La Raine's Boutique.

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November 25, 2007

Sliding in Some Color...

Another check off the list! Over this holiday week - I had a couple of goals set for myself and succeeded! :) Easiest one off the list was to create the liners for the envelopes! For those that would like a step by step - I have included one below! All I ask is that you please ignore the bright yellow and red chili cloth over the table!! My mom uses that to protect her work table and it is thoroughly distracting!!! My apologies!

This is a simple process to complete if you are organized and ready to simply get it done! I have to make approximately 250 therefore I tried to use the 12x12 paper that I bought efficiently. See the supplies below :)

84 12x12 Daisy D's Paper
250 Envelopes from Paper Source
Paper Source Envelope Liner Template
Roll On Permanent Runner

1. Take the 12x12 and cut it down to make the stencil easier. I line the paper three dashes after the 6 inches and cut the paper.
2. Take the wider piece and copy the template for a 5.75" square. You can fit two on this piece of paper. I modified the height of the template (see below) in order to conserve more paper.
3. Use your trimmer to cut the other piece down as well (Three dashes before the 6). If you rotate the paper vertically, you can fit one more stencil. Save your scraps for future projects.4. Using scissors - cut out the liner - saving scraps for future projects. I put the boys to work on this! Simply hand them scissors and a beer and they will cut until the football games are over!
5. Flip over the liner and put tape on the top part that fits into the flap.
6. Slide it into the envelope, design up, and once secure - fold over the flap to "close" the envelope. This is how I make my crease.
Voila! Beatiful envelope liners (minus the utterly tacky red hot chili peppers!) A simple and easy way to add some color to your invitations.

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Thoughts from California!

I am so excited. I have been out of town for Thanksgiving and just received my package from Janie for the International City Swap and she is absolutely amazing!!!Man...what an amazing person! She sent me awesome things from California! I love that I get to try some yummy Zinfandel - the flavours of Chocolate and Vanilla sound fantastic! And since I cook (and love Italian food) the olive Oil is so cool! It is from Willow Creek Olive Ranch and has flavors of citrus crushed with olives! Sounds quite delicious! She also snuck in there some California pistachios (love Trader Joes!!), Golden Raisins, and Scharffen Berger chocolate (one can never go wrong with chocolate!). She also sent an awesome magazine from Southern California Sunset and a really cool picture frame! The magazine is perfect as I love to cook and what girl can go wrong with a frame?
What an amazing selection of goodies from California! Thank you so much Janie! Even my fiance was excited -- trying to snag my wine! :)

Hope everyone was as blessed over this holiday as I was!

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Those Crazy Friday Shoppers!

Usually we spend our Thanksgiving down in Destin at our beach house - but unfortunately - Peyton Manning shifted our tradition! Since the Colts were playing the Falcons (and my father has season seats) - he declared it Falcon's Day! So in Atlanta is where we are to stay. We did not allow this to affect our traditional Friday shopping however!

After some research, Mom booked rooms by the Mall of Georgia. We decided we could start our 4 am bonanza at this high extensive mall and hope for the best. However, a couple of days before, we caught wind of the North Georgia Premium Outlets opening up at Midnight! Imagine that -- we can hit two completely different stores in one night! We had two cars...J was driving ours and Nino was driving my sister later (they were coming from the Falcon's game).
We all got really excited until we hit Exit 17 around 11:45 p.m.
Look past my mother! The line goes a long way back!!
We decided to continue and stick it out - we are Troopers! It took us about 15 minutes in a long line to find a parking spot. A lady and her daughter were running back to their car without any bags! Hmm...not a good sign! We snagged her empty place and jumped out after high fiving! I need to remind you that it was freezing cold - and when we walked up to our favorited stores - there were lines wrapped around the corners JUST TO GET IN! We went to a couple and found them all the same way! Boo!! Being the sensible and tired people we were....we quickly escaped and phoned my brother to do the same. Below is the picture of us jammin down 400 South while there is still a line many miles outside of the Outlets.
Thirty minutes later (1:30 a.m.), we were tucked in bed with our alarm clocks set to 4:00 a.m. to do a better job at the Mall of Georgia. And better we did...arriving back home at the Brazeale compound around 2 p.m. ready for a long long nap before some football!! Hope everyone had a fulfilling Thanksgiving surrounded by those who love you!!!

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