Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Co-Habitation taught me about Marriage

This post has nothing to do with cinnamon rolls, but we did make them because we were living together and both temporarily unemployed.

About a year ago when I was 22 and extremely wise, I told Aaron that there was no way we were going to live together before we got married.

While many people may like to think that was because I didn't think it was right for people in love to live together before tying the knot, it was actually for a different reason: I thought theonly thing that was special about marriage was that you get to move in together! I figured once you live together you're basically married, but without the party.

Anyway, I was afraid to lose that one special aspect and Aaron obliged. Of course, my life took many twists and turns right after we got engaged and I was faced with two options: 1) move in with my parents; or 2) I move in with Aaron.

As you would expect, all of my fears about losing "marriage specialness" were quickly overcome by fears of living with my parents, so Aaron and I picked out an apartment.

I was definitely worried about how this would effect our relationship, but it only took a few months for me to realize something important: getting married is way huger than moving in together.

Living together as fiance and fiancee is like having a fun roommate who is conveniently around for all wedding planning decisions, but it's pretty similar to when we were dating (except we have to save all of our money for favors and flowers). We are still legally single. I still have a fear that maybe we'll break up after every fight. Even though we know we are going to, we haven't made a lifetime commitment yet.

One positive aspect is we have had a chance to go through all of the little adjustments that living together brings. We have learned each others sleeping, eating, and farting habits (something I am happy to have out of the way before our wedding). It means we can spend the first year of our wedding adjusting to just being married, without all of the new roommate strangeness.

My vision of what makes getting and being married special has changed dramatically this year and I'm surprised to say I'm happy I didn't get my way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Olbrich Botanical Garden

On Sunday, the weather was perfect so Aaron and I set out to find a free/cheap activity, preferably outdoors. Since we are within a month of our wedding, we have a lot of payments due and not much money left for fun. We googled for parks and found the Olrich Botanical Gardens.

The gardens were beautiful and free to roam in, with lots of interesting plants and sweet fountains.

Olbrich is home to the only Thai temple in the U.S. It was made in Thailand and then constructed in Madison. Very pretty and relaxing place.

There is also an indoor tropical exhibit, which made me ready to go somewhere tropical. I love palm trees.

It was definitely a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Afterwards we crossed the street to a park and sat on a dock on Lake Monona. Nice, entertaining, and a total cost of $2 (suggested donation).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Creating Pizza without Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite foods has always been pizza. Pretty much from any place with as many toppings as possible. It was quite a trial to go without it for so long and then facing the realization that not being able to eat tomatoes means no traditional style pizza.

You can easily order pizza without the sauce at any restaurant or chain, but most topping are off limits too (bell peppers, banana peppers?) so its easier to make at home.

All of the dough ingredients making a mess.

Making your own pizza also makes it infinitely healthier. We still put cheese on, but probably 1/3 or less of what is used at chain pizza places. I used whole wheat flour in the crust. This pizza even has a surprise "sauce": mashed white beans, which are surprisingly delicious!

To make my dough, I broke out my bridal shower gift from Ruth:

It kept my black tank top and shorts flour free. Aaron insisted on the pictures which you may be able to tell from the look on my face.

The inspiration for this pizza came from: Local Kitchen Blog. The pizza turned out very filling and tasted great. You can just buy frozen pizza dough or the dough from Trader Joe's if you don't want to make your own (but it only takes about an hour!). I definitely recommend trying the white bean spread as a little something different for your pizza.

We don't use any fancy things to make our pizza and we cook it on a regular baking sheet. The crust still gets crunchy!

Here is Aaron's pizza... he gets the tomato on top.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Subaru vs. Saturn

7 reason why my Subaru Outback was way better than the Saturn:

1. There was a windshield wiper on the back. Now when it rains I just have to deal with not being able to see out the back.
2. Heat that didn't take 15 minutes to get warm. 5 minutes and I was nice and toasty. That extra ten minutes is rough when its -2 degrees out.
3. All wheel drive. I don't think I need to explain this one.
4. It was heavier. The Saturn weighs about as much as me. When the wind blows I'm very afraid I will be picked up.
5. Anti-lock breaks? Silly me, I thought these were pretty standard in cars made after the Cold War.
6. It was easier to shift. My right arm is way bigger than my left one now from shifting in the Saturn.
7. Most importantly: The Subaru did not take over $500 of repair in the first year of ownership.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wedding Planning: Reception Music

We are nearing the end of our wedding planning, with exactly 1 month to go!

Its time to finish all of the details that get pushed aside while you focus on the big stuff. Right now the major concerns have been the ceremony and music. I have to admit, the only song we have thought about up until this week is what to play for our first dance.

Last night we listened to about 100 songs as possibilities for the bridal party entrance. Its a tough choice. We want it to be fun but not obnoxious and something our bridesmaids and groomsmen could get into. This one will take some thinking about.

But there are a lot of other songs to pick out. Father/daughter and mother/son, garter/bouquet toss, and do we really want to do the chicken dance?

We also want to come up with a list of some must plays and some songs that we think would be fun if there is time to play them. Luckily we have an awesome DJ and Ruth sent me what they used for their suggested play list, but we are a little different from Ruth and Sean and need your suggestions!

Since we have been pretty this year, neither of us have been following new music much (well, Aaron never does). You can help by throwing out some songs for our consideration that you would love to dance to. Having people dance is very important to us, so consider it your duty as a wedding guest. Your dancing will make us really happy.

So lets here your favorite dancing tunes, and don't forget to bring change for the dollar dance!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our perfect mojito

The perfect mojito, served in my birthday mug from The Nitty Gritty
Aaron and I love to drink mojitos (which is why we will be serving them at our wedding reception). However, its hard to find a bar or restaurant that makes a truly good mojito to suite our tastes.

We like them made with a LOT of mint, simple syrup (no grainy sugar), and very little club soda (the smaller the splash the better). While we have found a few bartenders who, with a little instruction, make them just right, we prefer to make them ourselves. Its cheaper and we know the drink will be perfect.

We also grow our own mint for this purpose. Unfortunately, it only produces enough for one of our extremely minty mojitos a week. Fortunately, the farmer's market has large bunches of mint for $1.

Here is our perfect recipe:

Muddle together in a cool glass:
1/2 a lime, cut into quarters
2 shots of rum (we normally use Bacardi Superior and it tastes just fine)
2 tablespoons of simple syrup
12 mint leaves (at least, we have been known to add up to 18)

Fill the glass with ice. Stir.
Add a tiny splash of club soda to top it off (from Whole Foods, made with real sugar!).


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Elimination Diet: Bread

This weeks addition of bread to my diet has been a success. I had one piece of bread every morning with an egg and it was perfect. Breaking a yolk with the corner of your toast is something I don't take for granted anymore!

In honor of the bread week, I decided to make some banana bread. I also got hit with a baking craze this week. I realized its been over 3 months since I've baked anything (besides salmon and kale chips of course, but I believe that is called cooking).

I've had my eye on a couple recipes for healthier version of cookies, banana breads and ice creams.
And then I had these to use.. the same color as the cutting board!

I thought this recipe looked like a good choice: Vegan Banana Bread. To be fair, I used milk instead of soy creamer. I actually changed it up some more. Here's the ingredients I used:

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

5 TBL 2% milk
2 cups 100% whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

This was my first time making 100% whole wheat banana bread, and I was a little nervous when I put it in the oven. It resembled rubber.

Thankfully, it turned out much better than I expected and although I don't think the addition of an egg would harm anyone who isn't vegan, this is probably a recipe I would make again because its so easy.

Plus its easier to eat for breakfast when you know its whole wheat.

The Birthday Present

Two weekends ago was the anniversary of my birth. On Friday after work, Aaron gave me a card with this inside of it:

After much deliberation, I chose a bike. Aaron wanted me to get a smart phone so we could use it as a GPS, but I told him if he wanted me to have a smart phone, he shouldn't have given me a choice. He also was smart enough to write "new bike" because I did try to talk him into just getting a used one.

On Saturday, we went to Erik's Bike Shop to look at a couple of bikes. Their store downtown is small and therefore not so overwhelming. I took a few test drives and we finally settled on a bike, but had them put it on hold so we could hurry to my birthday dinner.

We had a fabulous dinner at Sardine's (sauteed morels and mustard greens over chilled asparagus? best salad ever). Our waitress was great, understanding of my food situation, and let us take some time to relax between appetizers and dinner. We had a great night and woke up prepared to get my birthday present!

After working out (it was my birthday and I said so) we picked up this beautiful thing.

And of course all of the accessories to keep me (helmet) and it (lock) safe. It is super fast, comfortable, and fun to ride. Now I'm waiting for Aaron to get a bike so we can take long rides on the weekends!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our apartment, the dryer.

Pictures of my underwear to lighten the mood.

We are lucky enough to have basement laundry, which means we don't have to go to a laundromat and waste hours in those weird places. The machines are usually free and Aaron does most of the carrying, so it works out well for me.

After traveling so much this past month, we were left with a ton of laundry to get done. When we finally devoted time to it, we found signs on the dryers that said "Heat doesn't work, service call has been made."

Disappointed, we picked out the clothing we absolutely needed washed and left the rest in the basket.

A few days later, the signs were gone and someone was doing laundry, so we assumed it was fixed and loaded up the two washers.

Unfortunately, after the person ahead of us reloaded the dryer, we realized it wasn't actually fixed. Which is how we ended up with an apartment FULL of wet clothes.

On every door knob and every free hanger.

I'm short enough to walk under this, but Aaron had to duck.

We aren't sure if its fixed yet, but I think its worth a trial run and $1.25 before trying to hang up 2 full loads of clothes in our apartment.

And no, we do not own a clothes rack. But I think we registered for one, so feel free to purchase that.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A thank you note I can't send

June 10, 1957-June 5, 2011

Monica Susan Sullivan passed away peacefully in the care of her loving family on Sunday, June 5, 2011. She was 53 years old.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Monica was the middle of five children raised by Paul and Evelyn Clement in Garden City, Michigan. As the middle child, Monica was often the “peacemaker” of the family, looking after the well-being of her siblings. This fundamental caring for others led her to pursue a nursing degree from Michigan State University. After college, Monica married John Sullivan and the two lived in North Carolina and Wisconsin before settling in their native Michigan to raise a family.

Monica and John had two sons, Ryan and Sean, who together with their Dad were Monica’s “boys”. The family lived in Canton in their early years before moving to the Brighton area. As a family, they shared many great memories, especially trips to places such as the Canadian Rockies, Ireland and the American West. Monica became a mother-in-law twice over, welcoming Callie (Ryan) and Ruth (Sean) into her family. In her last year of life Monica was thrilled to become a Grandmother to John “Jack” Sullivan.

While family always came first for Monica, she also enjoyed a long career in the service of others as a nurse and later as an educational administrator at Schoolcraft College. Reflecting her tremendous work ethic, Monica received a Masters degree in Nursing Administration from the University of Michigan later in life and went on to hold various leadership positions at Schoolcraft. As a leader, Monica studied and practiced servant leadership, applying the same fundamental principles from her nursing days in her leadership roles.

She is survived by her beloved husband, John; loving sons, Ryan (Callie) and Sean (Ruth); father, Paul Clement; grandson, Jack; sisters, Mary Clement and Kathy (Kevin) Carroll; brother, Brian (Stacey) Clement; nephews, Aaron (Miriam), Zachary, Dylan, Wyatt, and Samuel; nieces, Lou (Tyler), and Amanda; many loving extended family members and dear friends.

Monica was preceded in death by her mother, Evelyn Clement and brother, Paul Clement.

A loving wife, devoted mother, doting grandmother, sweet daughter, caring sister and dear friend, Monica will be missed by all.


As I get ready to mail my bridal shower thank you notes, there is only one gift without a "check, thank you written" next to it. Although I was able to thank Monica in person, I didn't have a chance to send anything in the mail. So this is just a thank you and to say that we will think of Monica every day when we use the dishes she gave us!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jello Shots and Grandmas

I have to say I never thought I would type "jello shots" and "grandmas" in such close proximity to one another, but life is full of surprises! Ruth and Callie made cherry jello shots for my bridal shower, as a little after lunch game where if I drew someone's name they had to take one. Luckily, there were enough for everyone to have at least one.

Including Aaron's grandmothers.

They were good sports and took them like champs.

After this, Grandma Palmer promptly made a face and said "this taste awful!"

Grandma Sullivan looks pleased.

And then my mom wanted to go for this photo op.

I wonder if its the first jello shot she has ever had?

I'm guessing it was... she got about 1/4 in her mouth and said "gross." For future reference, the key is to take it all at once!

Elimination Diet: Eggs

This past week I added eggs back to my diet and it was fabulous. I don't have a favorite food but eggs are definitely at the top of the list, especially for weekend breakfasts. Luckily I haven't had any issues with digesting eggs.

Eating eggs means we could finally buy the beautiful eggs from the farmer's market. We got some big ones this week!

We used the eggs to make a delicious asparagus frittata.

If you've never made a frittata before, you should try it. Its a quiche without a crust and an omelette without so much fuss. You pop it in the oven and leave it for a while, without having to stand over it like an omelette. I use a cast iron skillet, so I can cook the ingredients and the eggs in the same pan, but you could use any oven-safe dish.

Here is a good basic recipe, although I usually cook it for 18 minutes at 375F.

We also got this great egg poaching pan at my bridal shower, so we can finally poach eggs without the mess it makes in a pot. I will put a fried or poached egg on top of almost anything to make a meal (spaghetti is especially good), so having the option not to fry is nice.

Besides the occasional fish, I've been eating vegan since March! Guess what, its actually not that difficult. Being vegan is probably not for me, although I do limit my animal product consumption as much as possible. But I love eggs and enjoy cheese and ice cream at least sometimes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wedding Prep: Bridal Shower

The main reason Aaron and I went home last weekend was for my bridal shower, although we managed to fit in a lot of other wedding related business as well. Aaron's aunts Jennifer and Monica hosted my party at Jennifer's house in the middle of no-where Michigan. They got a tent in case it rained, but luckily the weather held off until everyone had left and it was a beautiful afternoon.

Ruth and Aaron's cousin in law, Callie, also helped a lot (along with Sean, who made the margaritas) and my bridesmaids did a lot to get things organized and set up right before the party. Thanks to everyone's hard work, I had a great time and I'm pretty sure everyone else did too (the margaritas helped).

Looking at baby pictures of Aaron.

I also got a lot of wonderful gifts that Aaron and I will put to use as soon as we move into our new apartment... although we did take a few small things with us. We really needed that ice cream scoop and the apron was too cute to leave behind. Oh, and also the moonshine!

Would have been a great picture if mom opened her eyes!

This one is a great picture!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Belated Memorial Day

Its a few days late, but happy Memorial Day! Aaron and I had a great but busy long weekend in Michigan. Memorial Day was spent by the pool for Jacqi, Ruth and I, and doing yard work for Aaron and his parents. But its my pre-bride year so I told Aaron he has to treat me special. After all, he gets a whole birthday month every single year.

Ruth, Jacqi, and me.

I have some posts coming detailing my bridal shower and some other wedding planning fun stuff, but right now we have a lot to catch up on. Between thank you notes, a lost credit card, and friends who just had a baby, we are busy!