Are You Ready?

“Are You Ready?”

That question has been asked so much of me in the last few weeks. The context, for those who might not know, is that I am getting married in a few weeks. Everyone is thoughtfully asking about my wedding preparations and if I’m “ready.”

The truth about it is that I flip flop between being shockingly calm with the wedding details (95% of the time) and other times spontaneously bursting into tears because there is so much to do in so little time.

I have to admit that I have been wrong. I apologize to every bridezilla that I have bashed behind her back that she turned a bit (or a lot) crazy while she planned her wedding. I have planned large-scale events before – both in college and at my job. What’s the difference between a big event and a wedding? Those girls just must be disorganized or overly emotional. Wedding planning would be a breeze for me.

Was planning those events challenging? Absolutely. But it turns out it pales in comparison to planning your own wedding.

Planning your wedding is different. It’s different because it’s extremely personal. And it’s my own.

Maybe I should rephrase. It’s not my own – it’s mine, my fiancé’s, and our event to share with our closest friends and family.

With planning an event for work or a group, I had a budget and a team to support me. Other than that, I was given the task, the desired outcome, and the instruction, “Just make it happen.” I worked through decisions by weighing cost-benefit and asking if it helped me achieve the goal/purpose of the event. It was a very objective process, even bordering sterile. I was passionate to be successful, as the outcome reflected on me professionally, but it was not something that “defined” me.

With the wedding, every decision, and even the details, is worked out as a team. My fiancé and I discuss. Sometimes we disagree. Disagreeing takes time to resolve and puts us behind. Sometimes I look at the to do list and think, “Why is this taking so long? I should be making more progress, but I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.”

Photo Credit: Katherine Salvatori Photography

There are reasons for that. First, is the good old dollar. Things really change when you’re dealing with your own money. Not that I was ever irresponsible with funds for events I’ve planned in the past, but you think about your spending very differently when the money is your own.

Second, every decision is emotionally charged. Instead of being objective and weighing cost-benefit like I’ve done before, I let my emotions steer me. It’s never efficient and almost always ends up clouding my thinking from seeing the clear, obvious solution to an issue.

So now I understand where the tears, anger, and frustration can emerge with bridezillas. It’s hard, and it’s an emotional time.

“But are you ready?”

I have a lot of the details planned. Is there more that has to be done? You bet. But that’s what the next few weeks are for. I’ll definitely take up all my incredible bridesmaids, friends, and family on their offers to help however they can. There is no sense in being a martyr and trying to do it all on my own.

I feel bad that it’s taken me this long to get to the actual point of this post, but I’ve reflected on the question “Are you ready?” a lot lately. I think it means a lot more than asking if I have the seating chart completed and my floral arrangements selected.

Am I ready to have this wedding?
Am I ready to move in with *gasp* a guy?
Am I ready to unconditionally commit myself to someone for the rest of my life?
Am I ready to marry this man?

It’s a lot to think about.

Photo credit: Katherine Salvatori Photography

I’ve been ready for a very long time. But the full truth is that some of it scares me. It’s a big commitment, and I certainly don’t take it lightly. The fear isn’t a fear of commitment. It’s a fear that I love this man so deeply, so truly, that I sometimes fear the unknowns and the what ifs that I don’t know I can handle. What if things go wrong?

Then it hits me. If things go wrong, which they definitely WILL, that’s why we have each other. That’s why we are committing to this union – because we are stronger as a team than we are as individuals. There is no one I’d rather fight the future with, for better or for worse, than my best friend, my partner, my soulmate, my husband.

I once heard a saying (repeated often by my mom) that “Worry is faith in reverse.” I am wasting my energy by worrying about unknowns and things out of my control. I have to have faith in those around me and trust in God that there is a plan.

Whatever life throws at us, we have each other. And I really have a strong feeling that we’ve “got this.”

“So, are you ready?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Photo credit: Katherine Salvatori Photography
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Dining Room Chandelier Update

Sorry I have been a bit MIA lately. I know you’re all busy and still manage to get amazing posts out, so I really have no excuse.

House updates have been put on a huge slow down – or a full pause – as we quickly approach the wedding. There are a lot of details to finalize the last few months of wedding planning. I want to enjoy the last months, weeks, days (!) of being engaged while it lasts.

That being said, the house will still be here after the dust from the wedding settles. Just wait until the dust from all the upcoming remodeling! (Sorry for the bad pun)

In between all the planning, we did manage to replace our dining room light fixture.

Before

We replaced the old ’90s brass chandelier with this beauty. <3

After!!

There is just something about it. I love the understated elegance. The black iron finish seems reminiscent of streetlamps in downtown Charleston, a place that my fiancé and I both adore. It’s great to have nods to places we both like in our home.

It was a bit more than we were originally willing to spend. However, it’s important to have a nice light in the dining room because it’s visible from the kitchen, family room, and obviously the dining room. We eat nearly all meals at home, so it’s something we will use every day. Looking at something every day that we didn’t absolutely love wasn’t worth it. We dropped the extra few bucks to get something we liked and agreed on (bonus!). That’s how we justified it.

Classic chandelier update for dining room
How much do you love this beauty?? Because I ultra love it!

Tip: Take advantage of online “new customer” discounts. We purchased the chandelier from Pottery Barn. I was a first time customer to PotteryBarn.com, so I signed up for their email list and got 10% off. I looked in their website today and saw that signing up in the latest promotion gets you 15% off!

I have to commend the makers of this light fixture – the instruction guide was very easy to follow which made installation a breeze! We have installed a few light fixtures recently, so we’re not exactly newbies at it, but taking down the old and installing the new chandelier only took 60 minutes. I’d highly recommend it.

The entire sight line from the kitchen to the dining room is much more appealing. Definitely a well-needed and good change.

Where do you have good luck with buying light fixtures or other home improvement hardware? Do you feel like you have to see it in person? Or are you brave enough to take the chance with ordering online?

Until next time!
xoxo,
Maggie

(Note: This is not a sponsored post — Just sharing a happy ending of our weekend project)

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Crispy Curry Eggplant Fries

Recently, I tried to surprise my fiancé by making gluten free eggplant parmesan for dinner after he returned from a business trip. For my first time making it, it turned out great.

Unfortunately, he really doesn’t care for eggplant (which I did not know). He was grateful for the dinner and was a good sport about the whole thing.

But…. I really didn’t want his dislike of eggplant to eliminate it completely from our food repertoire. I had purchased one-too-many eggplants when making the parmesan and needed to use the extra. If I could find an awesome recipe, eggplant wouldn’t become a forbidden veggie (well, technically “fruit”).

I was at my parents’ house and browsing through their spice cabinet trying to get inspired. As soon as I saw the spice, the idea hit me like a beautiful, spicy wave: Crispy Curry Eggplant Fries!

Crispy Curry Eggplant Fries

Spices have scared me in the past. But I am so done with bland food. Gluten free food can be tough, but you should never sacrifice good, rich flavor. Spice is a perfect way to bring pizzazz and life into your food.

Spices for Crispy Curry Eggplant Fries

I used my parents as my taste testers. They agree that the crispier fries (the smaller pieces were crispier) were their favorite, they are FULL of flavor, and there’s a nice slightly spicy “kick” in the aftertaste. It makes a great healthy alternative to fries as a side or an appetizer.

Enjoy this “spicy” (the spices, not the heat) but healthy treat!

Happy cooking,
Maggie

Note: I have this recipe listed as gluten free. As always, if you have a severe allergy to gluten or wheat, please check the labels of spices to ensure they contain no (or little) gluten according to your sensitivity. Spices are notorious for containing hidden gluten as they are often processed on equipment that also handles wheat. Read the labels and use caution.

Print Recipe
Crispy Curry Eggplant Fries
A spicy, healthier twist on potato-based fries
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 19 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Produce
Spices
Other items
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 19 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Produce
Spices
Other items
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash eggplant and pat dry. Do not remove the skin. Cut eggplant into slices approximately 1/2 inch wide, 1/4 inch thick, and 3-4 inch long. Slightly varying sizes are okay.
  3. Finely chop cilantro. Set aside.
  4. Place cut eggplant in a bowl. Sprinkle extra virgin olive oil over the eggplant slices. Toss or stir to evenly coat. Note: eggplant is very absorbent, so the EVOO may not distribute evenly.
  5. Place EVOO covered eggplant into a gallon sized bag. Add the cornstarch to the bag and shake the contents to coat the eggplant with cornstarch.
  6. Mix spices in a separate bowl
  7. Add spice mixture to the bag with the cornstarch covered eggplant. Again, shake to coat the fries with spices.
  8. Place slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over pieces.
  9. Bake for 14 minutes. Remove from oven and flip fries. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until fries reach desired crispiness.
  10. Remove from oven and enjoy fries on their own or in your favorite savory dip.
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Hardwood Floor Renovation, Part 2

The house is on its way to becoming our cozy little home.

To get there, we’ve had to overcome some nasty 90s colored floors, what-were-they-thinking (?!) old [smelly] carpet, and a bucket full of setbacks. Despite the depleted bank accounts and major (may I re-emphasize major?) headaches because of the floors, I am proud to reveal the before and afters of our hardwood floor project!

I promise you this is the same house. No gimmicks. Just a lot of hard work, investment, seeing the potential, and faith that it will all work out.

In case you missed it in Part I, we had moved into the house with hardwood floors throughout the main floor. They are oak and were stained the standard 1990s blonde color but were significantly scratched in some places. The previous owners had even drilled holes in other spots (WHY on earth, I do not know).

Four-inch black scratch mark on hardwood floor
No, that’s not a scuff mark. That’s a huge black scratch in the floors. Even the hardwood floor guys said they’d never seen a scratch like that.

Even if we liked the color, the scratches and holes still needed to be repaired, so we needed to sand, restain, and seal the floors. It worked out well as an opportunity to update the house with a more modern stain color.

But then there was the upstairs flooring. Ohhhhhhh, the upstairs. I cannot wrap my head around the thought process (maybe none?) behind some of these decorating decisions.

I won’t say more; I’ll just let these pictures speak their “1,000 words” for themselves:

Master Bedroom - electric blue walls and casino carpet
Everyone, meet the master bedroom

Yes, that’s real life.

extremely outdated stairs carpet before hardwood renovation

I’m crying all of the tears on behalf of every decorator in the world.

Needless to say, it all needed to GO. We would have loved hardwood floors upstairs but assumed carpet would be a more cost effective option. Amazingly, after a lot of work to find multiple contractors and collect bids, we found that the cost of installing hardwood floors wasn’t much more than putting in carpet. It was an easy decision for us: install hardwood floors upstairs too!

Downstairs, the floors are oak. We chose stain in Red Mahogany by Dura Seal.

Upstairs, the contractors installed a slightly wider plank of Red Oak. The stain is the same as downstairs, and there is no noticeable difference in the final product between upstairs and downstairs.

Master Bedroom

I am so sooooooooo happy with how this turned out. The floors are so rich. I love the calming color of the blue. The white trim breaks up the wall and floor colors perfectly.

   

Sorry if I ruined your moment of enjoying the after photos, but I HAD to remind you what this looked like before.
Staircase

What. Is. This Carpet???

No, that’s not a runner carpet on hardwood. It’s a runner carpet on hardwood-colored carpet. Our theory is that the previous owners were trying to give the appearance of a carpet runner on wood stairs. Instead of real wood underneath, brown “wood colored” carpet on the edge would obviously give the same effect, right?

extremely outdated stairs carpet before hardwood renovation

hardwood stairs renovation with white riser - before stain

hardwood stairs renovation with white riser - after stain

Do you feel relief when you look at the last photo? Yeah, me too.

Living Room

I adored the beautiful, high ceilings in our living room and the open layout to the dining room, which then flows in to the kitchen. Because there are no good breaks in the walls to change color, the ENTIRE main floor and upstairs hallway are all the same color.

The previous owners chose yellow.

They must have liked it because they put it in a bathroom as well.

Besides doing the floors, we obviously freshened the paint on the walls, trim, doors, and fireplace. We picked Revere Pewter (by Benjamin Moore but color matched through Sherwin Williams) as a nice light, bright neutral that we were comfortable running through 80% of the house.

hardwood floors refinish before and after

Finished floors, still buttercup yellow paint.. so this is an “in progress” or “during” picture

Another “before”:

TA DAAAAA!

What do you think?

We still have to start decorating. The walls are quite bare, but the big furniture is in. So it’s a lovely, livable space.

We absolutely adore it. It’s an amazing feeling to walk in and see how your hard work has paid off.

Ugly House, you haven’t defeated us yet.

I am so glad I finally got this out to you all. I hope it was worth the wait.

Do you have any questions about any part of our project? If so, I’ll answer in the comments or, for more involved answers, I’ll write a brutally honest response post about the experience. 🙂

How are your latest projects going? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy renovating, lovelies.
xoxo,
Maggie

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7 Easy Super Bowl Party Recipes and Ideas

7 Super Bowl party recipes and ideas

It’s official! We hosted our first party, a Super Bowl viewing party, in the new house.

It was a huge success*! Our guests enjoyed themselves, were well fed, and had enough beverages to go around. We invited a few different friend groups, family, and coworkers, so it was great to see all those worlds blend together.

In addition to the food (see info below), we did the classic Super Bowl squares for $1 a square. It was a fantastic way to keep everyone engaged, even those who aren’t big football fans and are just there for the commercials. I loved seeing the nearest person to the poster run and look up the name in the square each time the score changed. 🙂 A few people walked away with some cash in their pocket, which adds extra fun.

I’m sharing my food and recipes from our Super Bowl party with you all! There was a good balance of food that I prepared from scratch, recipes from online, recipes from friends, and a few pre-prepared items.

Making the chili before Super Bowl Party

The food below was perfect for a 12 person get together (note: medium appetites. I think everyone had dinner first).

7 Easy Super Bowl Party Recipes and Ideas

  1. Chips, salsa, & guac – This is a classic and never fails. The salsa had a little twist by being of the mango variety. We purchased both the guac and mango salsa from Jewel Osco. The Jewel Oscos in the Chicagoland area have excellent guacamole. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to put together an appetizer on the fly. Lesson learned: Buy a second guac. It goes fast.
  2. Veggies and dip – easy and a safety for guests who are on New Year’s Resolution health kicks. I did celery, broccoli, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and baby carrots. It was both colorful and healthy! For dip, I made life simple and used ranch dressing and red-pepper hummus. (Can we take note of the cute football shaped servers I found at Aldi?)
  3. Crispy Baked Potato Skins– This was the hands-down favorite and the first item gone! The recipe is from my friend Marissa Allen at First & Full. Check out the recipe here. I could gush forever about what a talented and amazing Super Woman Mom she is, so definitely check out her site for delicious eats. What I learned: There was a lot of extra potato when you scoop out the centers. Next time I do this, I’ll come up with something to do with all the extras (mashed potatoes maybe?)…  That, and the resounding obvious request from everyone at the party, “Can you make more next time?”
  4. Wingsssss– Another football and tailgate classic. A friend of ours made chicken wings from scratch and brought them to the party. No, really. He made the barbecue sauce from scratch. The wings were awesome, and I’ll have to get the recipe from him to share with you.
  5. Jalapeño poppers– Okay, I got lazy on this one. I’ve made bacon-wrapped, cheddar and cream cheese stuffed jalapeños from scratch before and ended up scarred for life. I made the mistake of accidentally touching my face near my eye after handling the peppers. It burned so badly. I couldn’t believe that relatively mild jalepeños could do that. Needless to say, when I saw a package of 8 pre-made poppers at Aldi for $6.88, it was worth. every. penny.
  6. Maggie’s Award Winning Chili – Full recipe coming soon! This was also a hit with our guests. I served the chili with toppings on the side — shredded cheddar cheese, fresh chopped bacon, sour cream, and green onion. I recommend keeping the chili in a slow cooker to keep it warm for your whole party. Lesson learned: The chili is very dense so it took a long time to heat up. It wasn’t warm enough in time for party. Heat it on stove first or allow enough time (2+ hours) to heat up slowly.

  7. Cornbread muffins – I used 2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix, which made 13 muffins. Tip: listen to instructions on the box that say to let the batter sit for 3-4 minutes before placing it into the muffin tin. It makes the tops taste way yummier.

All of the recipes were gluten free except the cornbread muffins.

*I promised you all on this blog that I would be honest and let you know my successes and failures. How you define “huge success” is clearly subjective. I define it as my guests enjoying themselves, leaving with full bellies, and making it home safely. If I get to enjoy the party while hosting it’s a bonus. All of that was accomplished.

Here’s the kicker: we did have the smoke alarm go off twice (very strange because we didn’t see any smoke) and the toilet overflowed.

Yes, the toilet overflowed at our party. (Don’t worry, it was clean water… but still not entirely fun.)

So, how can I possibly define the party as a success with an overflowed toilet?

What makes the party a success despite those bumps is:

  1. Our guests were cool about it and so were we. It was a judgement free zone.
  2. We fixed the problems. The smoke alarm was off in a matter of seconds each time by me waving a kitchen towel under it to dispel the smoke it sensed (thanks a lot, bacon grease from jalapeno poppers). The toilet we managed to catch as it was happening. Minimal water got on the floor because Doug was standing there and turned off the water right away. We cleaned it and directed our friends to use our upstairs bathroom instead.Honestly, most of our friends didn’t notice it had happened until we shared the information. They were all busy enjoying themselves.
  3. Mistakes don’t define your event. They also don’t detract from the sentiment of your hospitality. When your guests are people who know you and care about you, they’re grateful to be there and spend time with you.I hope that my honesty didn’t scare you off. It’s my goal that sharing this with you will let you know what happened beyond the pretty, staged pictures of the food. They’re called a still life for a reason, guys. Life moves. And that’s what makes it fun.

    It’s my goal that sharing this with you will let you know what happened beyond the pretty, staged pictures of the food. They’re called a still life for a reason, guys. Life moves. And that’s what makes it fun.

What do you like to serve at parties or tailgates? Do you have any hosting disasters? (I know I can’t be alone on this!)

Happy hosting, friends.
xoxo,
Maggie

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