Tag Archives: wedding dress

backdrop by me, Clare Mullins Photography and Meg Burrell stationery

Back in the Wedding Business?

As many of you know, I used to run a wedding dress shop in Ann Arbor Michigan, which was completely staffed by volunteers, where the dresses were donated, and where the proceeds were used at the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.  It was a fun and fulfilling endeavor and sometimes I miss being around brides and their families in their happy moments.

Last weekend, I felt like I was back in that world, while collaborating on a styled wedding photography shoot with Clare Mullins Photography. Clare pulled together her vision for a Monet-inspired watercolor and gold theme and brought in her sister to model. I painted a 9.5 ft x 5 ft backdrop in shades of white, green, gold and pink, andMeg Burrell created a clean and modern stationery suite.

It was the first time I had created a work this large or created a backdrop of any kind (save for maybe those huge clothes we made for sorority skits haha) and it was a challenge but fun!

Quick: Google “how to make a backdrop!” That’s what I did! I ordered a few rolls of the biggest canvas and heavy duty paper I could find. But not wanting to buy poles and such, we decided to go with paper that could be hung directly onto the wall of the room Clare had rented for the shoot.

In my tiny apartment, I unfurled the longest length possible and painted, waited for it to dry, rolled it in from the end and unfurled another section, working to integrate all the parts seamlessly.

When I was finally able to unroll the whole thing across the room on the shoot day, I loved the way it all came together!! We chose to hang it vertically for the shoot, but I would love to see it framed hanging horizontally behind someone’s couch. It definitely has a watery/Monet-y quality to it.

From the 90s pop soundtrack to elegant beaded wedding dress Clare had chosen, the shoot was perfect and so much fun. I had never met Clare or Meg in person before but I was in awe of how well we worked together and got along. It was such a fantastic experience, and I cannot thank these ladies enough.

More photos coming soon, and the painting will be listed for sale here shortly.

New Job = No Blog

Not really too much else to say about that.

I’d been volunteering for a local not-for-profit here in Ann Arbor, The Brides Project, since January, after finding my wedding gown there last November.  The Brides Project sells gently loved wedding dresses; everyone’s a volunteer, the shop space is donated, and all the dresses have been donated; 100% of the proceeds benefit The Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor that provides free services to anyone touched by cancer.

The former shop coordinator (the only staff person) decided to stay home after having her second child, and because I had been in involved in so many aspects of the operations from a volunteer perspective, The Cancer Support Community Executive Director asked me if I wanted to step in as the new coordinator.

In loving this mission and the fun of helping brides find wedding dresses, how could I say no?!?

Well it’s been about a month, and it’s been crazy hectic trying to get up to speed on all the various aspects of the operations and meeting everyone – 99% of whom are fabulous volunteers.  But it’s been rewarding, and I finally feel like I’m starting to get into a routine with it.

But in juggling all the emails, events and volunteers, other things – like this blog – have slipped through the cracks.  I wasn’t writing much for Eater.com, but I finally was able to publish a few articles a few weeks ago…an interview with a master sommelier…and a list of October wine events in Metro Detroit.  Anyone have any good leads for other Eater articles I should write?  I’m currently lacking in inspiration…I need to get back to downtown Detroit one of these days, and I also have some errands to run in Royal Oak if anything needs to be covered there.

Hopefully more to come here!!

Come to Ann Arbor, Get a Wedding Dress

As I discussed in my wedding dress post, I purchased my previously-worn wedding dress from a not-for-profit, volunteer-run shop called The Brides Project in Ann Arbor.  Dresses are donated second-hand by brides or donated new by boutiques or designers that have overstock.  (To manage inventory and make sure that the dresses have some market value, they typically only accept styles from the past 5 years.)  All proceeds from the dress sales (which are priced at least 50% off the true retail price or more depending on the condition) benefit the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

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(Photo from thebridesproject.org)

A) I had so much fun working with my two bridal consultants at the shop (open by appointment only for now), B) I was impressed by the selection and range of sizes and styles available, C) I was touched that so many people had donated their dresses, and D) I loved the idea of benefiting a good cause in buying this dress, that I just had to sign up to become a bridal consultant myself!

I had my training a few weeks ago: half at the Cancer Support Community (CSC) itself and half at The Brides Project (TBP).  I went in initially interested in being a bridal consultant at The Brides Project wedding boutique, which would mean helping brides try on and pick out dresses (yesssss, so fun!!!), and I did sign up to do that.  But being the volunteering overachiever that I am (I just get really excited about projects, okay?) I may have checked the boxes for all sorts of other volunteer opportunities too: yoga teacher at the CSC, photographer/blogger/social media correspondent for The Brides Project, dress intake/inventory/processing assistant, special events volunteer (the CSC holds a number of annual events such as an Ann Arbor version of Amazing Race, so you know I had to sign up for that!!).

I hadn’t realized that the CSC is a national organization and this is the local chapter, which is great because it means they have national resources but local autonomy to create programming that meets their members’ needs.  They offer so much, all for free, to those in all stages of cancer/remission, as well as to loved ones and care givers who are either dealing currently with the effects of cancer or have lost someone from cancer.  Not only do they have support and grief groups, they also hold weekly yoga and meditation classes, kids karate, nutrition and cooking demonstrations, knitting circles and “walks with docs” where a different volunteer doctor will host a nature walk through one of Ann Arbor’s parks, where members can informally ask questions or chat with him or her.  Here is a seriously touching video on the Kids Kicking Cancer karate class, which was started at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; I was trying not to cry watching this during the training!  There are lots of other videos out there if you google “Kids Kicking Cancer youtube”.

At first, I will be a bridal consultant trainee, which means that I will shadow a more experienced consultant on appointments.  I will do this until I feel comfortable dropping the trainee designation to become a full-fledged bridal consultant able to run appointments myself.  Every bride is given a two-hour appointment, and they try to only schedule one bride at a time so that she can have the run of the store.  They also typically schedule two consultants for every appointment so that one can help with the trying on and one can run/return dresses to and from the racks.  They are very good about creating a true bridal boutique experience with great customer service and selection.  You don’t feel like you are shopping in a second-hand store by any means.

Since the shop is run out of donated space, The Brides Project has had to move locations a fair amount since its inception, as landlords tend to want to lease out space to a paying tenant if possible.  The current location isn’t quite large enough to house all the dress inventory that they’ve collected, so they decided to experiment with a weekend trunk show held at the main offices of CSC.

The trunk show was my first hands-on training experience, and it was fantastic.  They opened up the CSC (a larger space than TBP) from 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday.  Even given the crazy snowstorm going on all weekend, 42 brides came through the door.  We helped them pick dresses that suited their styles and try on the gowns, advised them on how they could be tailored, and closed the sales.  The mood was upbeat and fun, with music pumping and families swooning and clicking away with their cameras.  They raised $8400 for the CSC over a goal of $5000, and sold 21 dresses, which is typically what they sell in a month!  Most of the brides came to the show because they had heard about it through social media and word of mouth, and I hope that the event will have a ripple effect on TBP’s brand recognition in the community.

Already the show has created a demand for weekend appointments at the shop through February.  Two other consultants and I helped a bride, who had lost her mom to cancer when she was young, find a great dress last Saturday (you know someone loves the dress when she cries seeing herself in it! So touching!), and I’m scheduled to meet with brides both days this weekend and the following weekend.  I can’t say enough about how much fun it is combing through dresses, swooning at new arrivals and fancy designers, and seeing the look on brides faces when they know it’s the one (or definitely NOT the one).

I’m excited to continue helping brides and have even offered to staff some afternoon hours to keep the shop open for walk-ins…there goes that volunteer-overdrive again.  So come visit me in Ann Arbor and together we’ll find the perfect dress!

Austin Politics + San Antonio History + Houston Cuisine = Texas Vintage

Mimicking the shape of the ubiquitous five-pointed star of Texas, I recently returned from a five-town tour of Texas.  The Texas Star is everywhere (note the State flag for one): granted all three of the following photos were taken within the Capitol building in Austin, where of course you would expect to find the star.  It was a fun game trying to find them – like in Disney where the Mickey head is woven into the wallpaper, carpeting, railings, etc.

IMG_1026Looking up under the domed ceiling of Capitol.IMG_1025Close up of domed ceiling – clearly showing TEXAS written between the star points.

IMG_1034Light fixture in one of the Congress chambers, also spelling out TEXAS in the lit star points.

IMG_1040Stars on yet another light fixture, and if you look closely, you can see one letter of TEXAS inside each metal point sticking out from the center of the chandelier.

Our route was actually more like two sides of an isosceles triangle: Austin to Gruene to San Antonio to Luling to Houston (and then to NYC for me, which just throws the whole star analogy out the window).

My dad recently celebrated a milestone birthday and wanted to take a family vacation to commemorate it.  Since my sister couldn’t take a whole week off, we came to her in Texas.  We all met in Austin (my first trip there) on Saturday and stayed until Tuesday, when we split up: my sister and her boyfriend going back to Houston to go to work, while my parents and I drove to San Antonio (also my inaugural trip there), by way of Gruene (I think it’s pronounced “Green”), and all meeting back up in Houston (by way of Luling for us) on Thursday afternoon.  It was quite the whirlwind trip, flying and driving to and fro.  I took five flights (Detroit-Chicago-Austin, Houston-NYC-Chicago-Detroit) and drove almost 300 miles (since the rental car was only in my name…another story there).

Between Austin, San Antonio and Houston, I was wowed by how dissimilar each place was. Austin seemed to be very new, with super-long blocks and expansive office and apartment buildings of glass and poured concrete that could be in any city from Atlanta to Charlotte to Baltimore.  I didn’t see many buildings I would consider historic, or even old looking, unless you count 1960s architecture to be old.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the city’s scale (everything’s bigger in Texas, right?) but I was expecting to be able to walk everywhere, when driving was clearly the better choice.

On our first day, we visited the Lydon B. Johnson museum and library on the University of Texas campus.  Massive:

IMG_0964This was the first Presidential library/museum I had ever been to, and besides just having read The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (which was a sometimes slow but captivating book about the behind-the-scenes relationships and interactions between the Presidents from Hoover on, which I highly recommend if you are a political history buff), I didn’t know too much about Johnson: became President when JFK was assassinated, failure to end the Vietnam War overshadowed the his progressive domestic policies, including civil rights, Medicare and environmental protections.  (FYI, the book has an eye-opening chapter on the Johnson-Nixon relationship that basically says Nixon is responsible for dismantling Vietnam peace talks such that Johnson would not be able to end the war before the elections of 1968, which Nixon won.)

The museum focused predominantly on Johnson’s Texas upbringing (the only President to be born, educated and pass away in Texas, and so they say the only “true” Texas President; ouch for George Bush), his assertive and sometimes pushy way of getting things done in government, his never-ending drive and work ethic, and of course on his domestic policies. Not having lived through his era in order to form a first-hand opinion, the museum did a good job of creating a positive image of Johnson in my mind: obviously the point.

IMG_0970 Johnson in his classic finger-pointing pose.  (Imagine he’s pressing that finger into your shoulder; you’d agree to do whatever he wanted.)

Another interesting note was that Johnson installed recording devices all over the White House, even in the bedroom, so that he would have thorough records when it came time to write his memoirs.  Hours of recorded phone calls between him, Jackie Kennedy, world and civil rights leaders, and many others are available for listening on wall-mounted phones set up within the exhibits.

My favorite part of the museum was the wall of portraits of every President and First Lady (or other female figure if there was no First Lady).  If there were TVs back in the day, some of these people definitely would not have been elected.

My second favorite part was Lady Bird’s office.  She and President Johnson worked from the library after his term in office.  I love these orange-pink love seats and the “Can Do” motto on her desk.  I think LBJ and Lady Bird were optimists, and they would have excited those around them to work hard and do better…or at least that’s what the museum would have you believe.  I’m sold.

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Next it was off to the Blanton Museum of Art, the UT art museum.  The main entryway had been painstakingly mosaicked with tiny blue and grey tiles creating this amazingly beautiful water effect: IMG_0989

While I found the contemporary exhibit by Brazilian artist Waltercio Caldas pretty cool (think suspended pieces of yarn and fish bowls filled precisely to the top with water), the museum shop was the highlight, filled with wonderful goodies (as museum shops are wont to be), from crafty accessories to architectural utilitarian pieces like salad tongs.  Mom bought me a motivational book, Steal Like an Artist, for creative inspiration.

The next day we toured the State Capitol with all those stars pictured above.  What I found most interesting was learning about the recent 11-hour filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis in June against a proposed bill that would shutter most abortion clinics in the State.  She triumphantly made it until the close of session without water, food, sitting, leaning, speaking off topic, or a bathroom break.  And then they turned around, called two special sessions and passed it anyway.  Damn.  The whole tour got me kinda excited about making changes for the betterment of society.  Maybe I would be a good public servant?!?!  I have drive and good judgement.  Okay, Hannah, slow your roll….Here are some pics instead:

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IMG_1035Even the door hinges were Texas proud. IMG_1031 Look at those corded phones they have attached to the desk legs!  Apparently they are just chatting away the whole time anyone else is talking.  Wouldn’t they just use a cell phone?

IMG_1013 Probably the most architecturally interesting building I saw in Austin – the Capitol.

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What I found most creepy was that the Congressmen’s kids are Congress “mascots” and they have these sorority-like composites with each Congressman’s picture in a bubble.  All the kids are pictured too…I didn’t post the photo I took, as I thought it was already too much child exploitation hanging in the chambers.

That night we went to South Congress (SoCo) for dinner at a quaint Italian place with excellent thin-crust spicy arrabiata pizza.  SoCo is an awesome street for all kinds of food trucks (Thai crepes, everything bratwurst, anything else you can think of), flea markets and vintage shops.  I was seriously tempted by a ’70s sequined butterfly top but was brought back to the reality of having nowhere to actually wear it.

Then there were the bats.  Austin has a 1.5 million-bat colony that lives seasonally under the South Congress Bridge and flies out en masse at sunset to eat 20-30 thousand pounds of insects each night.  Walking under the bridge during the day, you can smell them and hear their chirps from the crevices.  I was amused by this “Bat Facts” sign that debunks bat myths like bats are blind (note picture of bats wearing sunglasses) and that bats get stuck in your hair.  Um, was this really a widely-held belief?  “Bats can catch tiny insects in total darkness.  They are certainly able to avoid blundering into people’s hair.”  This is an actual sign.  Probably paid for with taxpayer dollars.IMG_1048 IMG_1050 IMG_1049Hilarious.

IMG_1060 These dark clouds of what looks to be smoke are really clouds of bats. IMG_1063 IMG_1062

IMG_1061IMG_1065See if you can spot them over the tree line to the right in this last pic.

Of course you cannot go to Austin without seeing some live music.  Mom’s preference was bluegrass, so we headed out to the coffee shop by day, teeny tiny concert venue and bar by night, Flipnotics, to see The Bluegrass Outfit.  They were an awesome band made up of at least six guys of all ages, playing the guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, bass and singing.  I’m not familiar enough with bluegrass to know if all bands are like this, but they were excellent at harmonizing and improvising and taking turns showcasing their instruments individually.  Very cool.

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My sister, her boyfriend, and I headed out to Sixth Street after the concert.

IMG_1079It was a Monday night, so the typical lively bar/music scene was pretty dead, with a few happening bars full of businesspeople in suits and names badges attending some conference.  I don’t think this girl riding the mechanical bull was attending a conference (or at least I hope not for her sake):

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There was this random Saran-wrapped carrot however (no idea):

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Also this sign that suggested this bar was open, which it clearly was not:

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Another interesting placard:

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And with that, on to Gruene.

Dad and I got dropped off at Enterprise to pick up our prearranged car for the trek around the State.  We were all set to go when the guy at the counter realizes we want to drop it off in Houston, not back in Austin, and proceeds to inform us that they aren’t doing one-way rentals at this time, nor is any other Enterprise in town.  (Mind you, this is not a walk-in off the street rental, my dad had reserved it in advance.)  Wellllllll, we’re going to be in Houston, soooooo….yeaaahh.  We quick did some Googling and found a Hertz that would do a one-way rental, and the Enterprise guy was nice enough to drive us over there.  Sigh of relief.

About an hour southwest of Austin, Gruene is a quaint, touristy town, with a well-known restaurant, The Gristmill, where we ate juicy pulled pork sandwiches and super-fried super-sized peppery onion rings, washed down with cold Shiner Bocks.

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Gruene is also home to the oldest dance hall in Texas, antique stores, a general store (read: souvenir shop) and other gifty boutiques.  I found this strange but cool LOVE bracelet in a basket of $15 bangles in the antique shop (where everything was well-curated but not cheap).

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Gristmill overlooking the river:IMG_1094 IMG_1098

IMG_1102 IMG_1110 Huge wind chimesIMG_1113Coffee break IMG_1114 IMG_1115 Random rubber ducky with wings.

IMG_1116Cotton balls?

IMG_1117 IMG_1118 IMG_1120Oldest continually running dance hall in Texas

After that lunch-and-wander stop, Mom, Dad and I pressed on to San Antonio, 45 minutes to the southwest.  We checked into our Hilton Homewood Suites, noshed on the free dinner buffet (complete with frozen margaritas!) and then took an evening stroll along the Riverwalk.

IMG_1122Loved this punctured tin chandelier in the hotel lobby – reminded me of Santa Fe.

IMG_1125Free margaritas are the best margaritas.

IMG_1126 Also loved this ladies’ room nook for “supplies.”IMG_1128 Riverwalk by night.IMG_1130 Mariachi band along the Riverwalk.IMG_1132

San Antonio was not at all as I had imagined it would be.  I was thinking rustic, Southwest-style town.  It did have the most interesting architecture out of the Texas cities to which we traveled and certainly the oldest history, but it was overwhelmingly touristy.  Of course, we were tourists too, and mainly stuck to the downtown areas, but between the Riverwalk and the Alamo, it was kind of like a theme park.  All along the street across from the Alamo (which springs up on you in the middle of a city block) were those cheesy suck-you-in-with-how-bad-they-are establishments like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, t-shirt souvenir shops, ice cream stores and a wax museum.  I could have been on the Ocean City boardwalk….or Inner Harbor Baltimore…either way. Those really aren’t the types of things I expect next to a historic landmark and battle site.

During the day, we saw businesspeople bustling about, and I’m sure they were rolling their eyes are our incessant picture taking.  But actually I think they were a lot of out-of-towners too, as San Antonio is definitely a bit of a convention hub.  At night, the city seemed to shut down and turn off all the lights.  Besides the Riverwalk, it was kind of spooky dark, and the people loitering along the sidewalks crazily shouting out to passers-by didn’t make me want to explore farther afield.

We obviously spent the first day at the Alamo.  Frankly, I hadn’t known a damn thing about the Alamo or the history of Texas before going there.  As our family tends to do, we spent hours upon hours covering every inch and reading every sign, before finally calling it quits for lunch on the Riverwalk (some very yummy shrimp and grits for me) and taking a touristy boat ride through the canals.

I’m not going to try to recount the whole Alamo history here because you can just Wikipedia that yourself, so here are some photos from San Antonio:

IMG_1136 IMG_1137 We went to The Briscoe Western Art Museum, which is brand new and had just opened that weekend.  They had a replica of a Wells Fargo mail stagecoach, the real Pancho Villa’s saddle, Santa Anna’s sword, a model of the battle of the Alamo complete with tiny soldiers, and wonderfully dynamic bronze sculptures of cowboys wrangling steers that actually looked like they could leap off the plinth and charge away any moment.  I especially liked the early 20th century sepia photos of stoic Native American chiefs.

IMG_1139 You can just make out the strings of holiday lights hanging from the trees.  They won’t be lit at night until the holiday season but it takes them months to hang each strand from the upper branches.  That would be a scary job for those afraid of heights.

IMG_1140 Window washers on the Riverwalk – also a scary job. IMG_1147 IMG_1149

Sculpture in the square

IMG_1152Old hotel and trolly meet modern Bud Light truck. IMG_1154 IMG_1158 Guard at the Alamo wearing a cowboy hat natch.

IMG_1159 IMG_1163 IMG_1164 IMG_1165 Inside the AlamoIMG_1166  IMG_1168 IMG_1172

IMG_1175 IMG_1178Lunch at Boudro’s on the Riverwalk.  Look at those yummy shrimp and grits – spicy!

IMG_1184 Our riverboat guide.

IMG_1194Gargoyle rain spouts.

After two nights in San Antonio, we set out Thursday morning for Houston.  Some crazy storms had rolled through the area with the threat of flooding, so we were closely watching the weather to avoid it in Houston.  Luckily it had come through San Antonio during the night and cleared out of Houston by the time we arrived.

For lunch we stopped in Luling, a town of about 5,000, east and slightly north of San Antonio.  Here we went to the famous City Market (apparently there’s an outpost in Houston too), a sell-it-by-the-pound BBQ joint with tender smoky brisket and limited choices.  Not like, “pulled pork sammy please;” more like, “a pound of ribs please” (and let me unbuckle my pants while I’m at it).

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IMG_1233 Here’s the smoker room where you ordered your meat, pickles and slices of white bread from the hard-hatted men; also where you get perfumed with meat smoke for the rest of the day until you shower again.  I tried to stealthily take this no-flash photo as these guys seemed like the no-nonsense, just get your meat and go types.  However, my attempt at low-key-ness was completely voided by Dad taking multiple flash photos while the burly men in front of us were ordering.  OMG Embarrassing.

Dad, if you have those photos, please forward 😀  Hehe love ya!

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IMG_1235At the front counter is where you order sides (potato salad or chips) and drinks.  Besides some of the people working behind the counter, Mom and I may have been the only women in there.  There were guys in cowboy hats, guys with corporate polos and large belt buckles, farm hands and oil men, all coming in for a lunch composed of giant slabs of brisket or ribs.  Feeling completely stuffed and smoked out, we strolled down the main street that looked like something out of an old Western, with those high front walled shops and a portico running along the sidewalk.  The only difference being the parking spots for cars instead of horses.

IMG_1229 I liked this coffee mug/oil rig logo.  Who’s their marketing team?  Should they really be comparing their coffee to oil?

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IMG_1237 IMG_1236 I’m glad they clarified that this is an unofficial map.

The high school team mascot is the Eagle…unfortunately we weren’t there at night to see a football game.  That would have been a true-small-town-Texas awesome experience.

After lunch, we were on the road again, heading to Houston.

IMG_1245Lovely sunset.

We met up with my sister, her boyfriend and his parents for dinner at Goode Co. Seafood.

IMG_1247Goode Co. is a Houston-only chain of various restaurants, including a BBQ place (been there, it’s great, love the traditional stand-in-cafeteria-style-line, order, pick-up, eat at outdoor picnic tables, big barn ambiance), a taqueria, the seafood restaurant and the Armadillo Palace (BBQ, bar, music…I must go there (said in robotic hypnotized voice)).  Still feeling completely overwhelmed by lunch, I had a Caesar salad with shrimp for dinner, which was fresh and light.

Thennnnnn my sister and I proceeded to hit up a coffee shop that sells Fluff Bake Bar goodies (a bakery that sells its products through local food establishments).  On the recommendation of a friend, we sought out these treats and had a nice little sampling spread.  From the top down:

IMG_1249Moonpie, snickerdoodle, fluffernutter, homemade Oreo with orange frosting, another fluffernutter.  My fav was the Oreo with crumbly chocolate cookie bits.  My sister preferred the moonpie.

Thennnnnn we went to Underbelly (trendy, Food&Wine mag type place) for a second dinner and glass of wine at the bar.  (Remember how I said I was still stuffed from lunch?  Right.  That didn’t stop me.)

IMG_1252Korean braised goat and dumplings.  Super spicy and good.  The dumplings were a little bit crispy on the edges but chewy in the center, and the pulled goat ragu was melt-in-your-mouth tender.

The next morning, my sister and I woke up early to head over to the Harwin district to shop the wholesale jewelry stores.  My sister wasn’t sure she remembered exactly which store she and her friend had been to before, but it didn’t matter because within a few block radius were multiple strip malls and warehouses selling wholesale handbags, clothes, jewelry and whatever other consumer goods you might find at the mall.

While we were boutique-hopping in Austin, I kept pointing out costume jewelry that I liked – a sparkly necklace here, a beaded bracelet there – and she’d say, “Don’t buy it here for $20, that same thing will literally be $5 in Houston.”  And she was pretty much right.  It’s amazing how in a store full of cheap items you can end up spending a lot of money.  J. Crew bubble necklace for $10?  I’ll take two!  Enamel bangles for $5?  Yes please!  $90 later…..It’s like my theory on Target: no matter the stated reason you go to Target, you can never leave without spending at least $100.  Oh, you just came in for a roll of toilet paper?  Well don’t forget to add on that sweater, pair of faux-suede booties, mascara and a new teapot, et voila, $100.

Super psyched about our bountiful takedown at the wholesale shop, we proceeded to pick up my parents and head over to Nordstrom for some wedding dress shopping.  Since I already wrote all about that here, I will proceed with our other shopping finds of the day.

Between our bridal appointments at Nordstrom and BHLDN, we drove over to The Heights neighborhood of town where my dad wanted to check out some vintage stores.

IMG_1261Now you might think it odd that a man in his 60s wants to browse some vintage clothing stores, but here’s the back story:  His grandfather (my great-grandfather in case you didn’t make that connection), Papa Joe, made western style shirts for a living in the garment district of New York back during the first half of the last century.  The shirts were the special-occasion kind with pearl snaps and were quite popular and widespread.  The company no longer exists, so whenever we are out West or have the opportunity to vintage-store shop, my dad is always on the lookout for the multiple labels under which they were produced.  Not that he wants to buy any; it’s just a fun game to try to spot them.  It’s been harder and harder to locate them over the years, and one of the store proprietors told us that really old shirts like that don’t come along very often (mostly you find stuff from the 70s and 80s) and when they do, they are typically very expensive.

My sister did, however, find this super cute, quilted denim vest (much better than “Denim Vest” from “Seinfeld”)

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Lots of glasses and boots:

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A quirky neighborhood, this bejeweled Aqua Net trash can made me think of my grandmother:

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Funky car and a pink bench with matching flower pot:

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We went to Eddie V’s high-end steakhouse (actually it’s a high-end seafood place, but we all got steak on another friend’s recommendation) for my dad’s birthday dinner celebration that night.  The filet I had was perfectly cooked, as were the sides of mushrooms and asparagus.  Think nice steakhouse a la Ruth’s Chris, but less butter, and even better than Capital Grille.  I would equate it to The Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley, although that’s about my all-time favorite restaurant, so I would never say something comes 100% to that level.

The dessert was out of this world, however: a key lime ice cream baked alaska!!!!  I can’t upload the video here, but here’s a shot of the flaming concoction (post-fire):

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Way too early the next morning, I hit the airport for my flight to NYC for a friend’s birthday (same friend that wisely suggested Fluff Bake Bar).  It was so nice to see her, and singing post-dinner karaoke in Koreatown was the perfect ending to the fun-filled and hectic week.  As an added bonus, my cousin happened to be out in Murray Hill when we were done with karaoke and we met up for a drink to ring in the end of daylight savings time (extra hour was a double bonus)!

What a fantastic trip full of funny adventures, delicious (and way too much) food, exciting shopping treasures and excellent company all around.

xoxo

I Got A Wedding Dress!

Okay, obviously I’m not going to post a picture of the one I’m actually going to wear – it has to be a surprise!  But keep reading to see some of the options 🙂

Two weeks ago in Texas, my parents, sister and I went to the Nordstrom Bridal Suite (the Nordstroms with bridal departments are so few and far between we had to go to the one in Houston) and BHLDN, the bridal store associated with Anthropologie, of which there are only 3 stores in the country, and luckily one of them is in Houston also!

I tried on lots of pretty dresses, and I was contemplating one at BHLDN and one at Nordstrom.  However it is shocking and disheartening how different a dress can look in the mirror versus in a photo.  (Sorry dad for getting annoyed at all the photos – they were quite helpful in the end.)  For instance, the one that I liked at BHLDN was a V-neck, ivory colored, sheath style with art deco-patterned beading.  It was different than what you might consider a traditional wedding dress and looked great in the mirror.  It was definitely the best one I had tried on during the day and because BHLDN creates sizes that you purchase and then have tailored at your own seamstress (as opposed to many bridal collections where the designer makes a dress to fit your measurements and then has fittings to get it just right…a process that can take over 6 months), the size 4 pretty much fit me and probably only needed an inch off the hem and tightening of the straps.  I was so excited to maybe have found THE dress!  Later in the day, I asked my dad to show me the photos he had taken of the various dresses, and I was distraught when I saw the picture of this dress.  The golden color, the empire waist and the very delicate beading on the bodice made it look like I was wearing a huge, nude-colored maternity bra!  Ew! Not flattering!  I will spare you an embarrassing picture and let your imagination run wild with this.  How disappointing that #1 in the mirror actually looks like poo in the pictures.

At Nordstrom, I tried on all sorts of cuts, from sheath to A line to modified ball gown.  Surprisingly, I really liked the full organza skirting and sheer straps on this Anne Barge “Emmanuelle” gown (this link will only get you to the collections page, then you have to hit “Anne Barge” under “Fall 2013,” scroll over to the right 7 clicks, and then the Emmanuelle style will be the dress farthest to the right at that point…the model is wearing a flower and net fascinator), which isn’t the style I was anticipating liking going into the day.  I think the wide cummerbund-style waist was very flattering, but the $3000+ price tag was not as attractive.  Next.

Here are some of the others I tried on that day:

dress 2This was the first one I tried at Nordstrom, and I really liked it for the beading and interesting sheer cut out pleats at the bottom.  The straps were thin and delicate so as to show off the back.  Contemplating the dress later, however, I didn’t love it, and I wouldn’t want to face buyer’s remorse, seeing as I have more than a year until our wedding.  That’s a long time to change your mind/find something better.

dress 3This is the first one I tried at BHLDN.  Sort of a ’20s art deco style (as were most of their dresses this season) with the silver beading in triangle patterns, translucent buttons down the front leading to a high front slit and flouncy cap sleeves.  I liked this for the artsy styling, but I don’t think it flattered my body all that well, and I would have nixed the cap sleeves, although looking at this photo now, I kinda like them.

Not feeling 100% confident about any of the ones I tried on that day, I figured I would keep thinking and keep looking, probably back in Baltimore next time I was home.

My sister came to visit this past weekend, and she said she wouldn’t mind, and would even be happy, to keep looking for dresses in Ann Arbor if we could get appointments.  I knew there was a gown shop on Main Street, but after looking at their website, it seemed that most of their dresses would be out of my price range.  They even said on the website that there is a separate showroom for dresses under $1500 and that most of those are short dresses or samples.  Not wanting to spend thousands and thousands on a dress, I didn’t get the most promising feeling from this shop’s website.  And how icky to separate out those of us whose budgets might not be all the huge?  I still want to look at the crazy-expensive ones!

The weekend after our Texas trip, I went to NYC for a friend’s birthday party.  Her good friend went to grad school at UMich and suggested a shop called The Brides Project.  She said one of her friends found a dress there.  The Brides Project is a volunteer-run shop of “pre-loved” dresses that are donated by previous brides, as well as new dresses donated by boutiques and designers that have overstock.  All the proceeds from the sale of the dresses go to support “families touched by cancer through the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.”  I thought it sounded like a place I should check out – at the very least because I knew the dresses would be reasonably priced.

My sister and I made an appointment for Saturday morning and were met by two super cute and friendly girls about my age.  The volunteer wedding stylists run the shop out of donated space so it’s not the fanciest of bridal salons, but it clearly serves the purpose of warehousing many many many dresses.  After washing our hands (because the dresses on the racks are the ones you buy – there’s no making dresses to fit your specifications here – and they don’t want them to get dirty), we started combing through the racks and racks of dresses, sorted by size.  We pulled anything that caught our fancy, no matter the size, because The Brides Project works with a seamstress who discounts her rates and apparently can work miracles resizing, tailoring and changing the dresses.

dress 1I really liked this one – especially the neckline and straps, – and would go so far as to say it was my runner up.  But it was a bit heavy for a beach wedding and I would have had to make some semi-major changes to the waistline, ruching on the front skirt panel and taken out some of the extra skirt material.

Here is another one I liked for the lower waistline (after realizing that empire waist is not my jam and just makes me look preggers) and low V-neck.  Also the back was beautiful with a little bit of draping falling to the waist: see the second photo below.

dress 4                               dress 4I think the back was my favorite part of this dress.

The straps would have had to be taken in a bunch and there was some weird stiff puckering in the boob area.  It would’ve been too much of a risk to see how the tailor could have managed that since you have to buy it first before tailoring.

Then I tried on a dress that seemed to be perfect (or as close as I’d gotten to date)!  It had the details I was looking for:  V-neck, not too long, very tiny train.  That’s all I will divulge, except that I do need the tailor to do a bit of touching up and shortening of the straps.  There’s no label in the dress, so I have no idea if it was handmade or what its story is.  I do think it was worn though and not a new overstock designer dress.

I also tried on an Amsale gown and a Pronovias dress (two well-known wedding designers that would have been a lot more expensive in a traditional bridal boutique), and apparently a Vera Wang gown recently came through that was obviously bought quite quickly.

My dress was $300, and I couldn’t be more excited about it and the fact that I’m helping a great cause in the process!  Also, they said they are always looking for volunteers to be wedding stylists in the shop and that they only come in 1-2 times per month when there are appointments (they are open by appointment only), so that may be a super fun volunteer activity for me.  The only downside would be if I saw some other amazing dress come into the shop.  Although at these prices, I perhaps could afford to change my mind one time! 🙂