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the renegade bride

the wild, wacky adventures of a bridal industry insider +newlywed + new homeowner and (in practice)renovation-maven. Whee!

One of my favorite places in the world is Las Vegas. It’s up there in my top five, which follows:

1. Kona, Hawaii (clearly)

2. Las Vegas, NV

3. Cancun, Mexico

4. Yosemite National Park

5. Manassas, VA

Those are the top 5.  Las Vegas is also special since it’s where Don + I spent our first vacation, and where I asked him (albeit a bit drunkenly) if he planned to marry me one day (he said yes, and look, he clearly did! Thanks, Las Vegas). We have lots of happy memories there.

The last time we went, we stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton. Home of Elvis. Pluses: cheap, a little off the street, directly in route to our favorite place on the strip (more about that soon) and pretty cheap resort rates.

The Hilton also has the Star Trek: the Experience exhibit/thing at the Hilton. We were too poor (thanks, Grad school!) to go to that then, but we had fun looking at people who were going there:

The biggest splurge of our trip was that Don took me to The Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio for the best meal of my life. We had pate, a crazy expensive bottle of wine, and some amazing food. Imagine dining in a spot surrounded by priceless pieces of art, getting amazing service, drinking delicious wine…ahh, heaven. That’s my idea of heaven, people. Beautiful surroundings + amazing food + man I love = perfect, heavenly day

I still have the rose from our dinner table tucked away in my keepsake memories box. Aww, right? So sweet! I know, I know!

ANYWAY, so this upcoming March, my husband is turning 30!! I am really excited for him, and I want to make it a big deal. Now, let me give you a little backstory here– Don does not like making things a big deal. Especially birthdays. I am the kind of person that thinks a party with fanfare and confetti is appropriate for all of life’s amazing moments, ESPECIALLY birthdays. On my 3oth birthday, it was the first year my studio was open and consequently my first mother’s day, and I was slammed crazy busy. I worked something like a million hours, and I was exhausted. Some friends had us over to dinner, and I brought chocolate covered strawberries and about passed out from drinking a glass of wine. TOTALLY LAME. Worst birthday ever. Well, not the worst, but one of the worst. I didn’t care for it. I have a few rules about my birthday– 1. Don’t work (i’ve broken that rule three times and regret it more every time I do), 2. Do whatever you want, 3. Make a big deal out of it, because it is a big deal, 4. Eat cake the next morning for breakfast. Pretty simple rules. If I can manage it, I find a way to sneak in drinking a margarita and having Mexican food.

But for Don’s birthday, he never wants me to make a big deal. Now that I’m his wife and can do whatever I want (evil laughter), I feel like the only way I can get him to make a big deal out of his thirtieth birthday is to get him outta dodge. And by getting him outta dodge, I mean Las Vegas.

It’s a pretty brilliant plan if you ask me. The last time we went, we made all sad poor people decisions about where to go and what to do. We did very little gambling (even though I love, love, love roulette) and mostly at Circus, Circus, where they have penny slots (woo!) and $1 chips, and you could get a coupon for a $2 subway sandwich. We spent a lot of time there. Like, a lot of time, a shameful amount of time:

I have no doubt that for nostalgic purposes (and cheap Subway sandwiches) we will go back there.

It looks really nice from the street, but believe me, it’s not that nice.

Sooo….Las Vegas. Right. I was looking at places to stay, and I have come up with a few picks that I am debating over. One is the new place on the strip, the Aria. They are running some really great rates  and the place looks really cool– kinda like a crazy futuristic  spaceship hotel:

Hello, fancy hotel!

But at $200 a night with the stupid resort fees + taxes, I think that maybe breaks my bank some. So I went onto my pal, travelocity, to snoop around at some other options:

The Signature at MGM grand is running a great special– stay 4 nights, get 1 free, and it seems pretty swankity: “The Signature at MGM Grand lets you revel in the luxury of Signature Deluxe Suites and One-Bedroom Balcony Suites in three 40-story towers. Located next to MGM Grand, The Signature’s separate entrance brings you into this secluded enclave near the heart of all the action. Many suites boast a private balcony with view. All suites offer pillow-top beds, lavish bathrooms featuring Jacuzzi tubs, upscale linens, kitchens or kitchenettes with refrigerators, sinks, and microwaves, and HDTV flat-screen TVs with DVD/CD players. Additional amenities: 24-hour in-suite dining, an exclusive heated pool complex, personal check-in/checkout, 24-hour concierge, fitness center, business center, and more.”

Look, this picture of this random lady says “I am having fun here, it is really nice!”

The rooms are pretty awesome:

But I’m not totally sure. We could save $100 a night staying at Bill’s Gamblin Hall + Saloon (yes, that is the real name)

Or for the epitome of luxury, we could sell everything we own and use all our credit cards and rob a bank to stay at the Four Seasons Las Vegas– for 72,000:


Crazy fancy bathroom!

That is still the hotel room!

That’s the pool. Kinda meh for 72K for a week.

Well, that’s the extent of my research for now. I welcome your thoughts, Vegas fans– tell me where you’d stay if you could.

EDIT: I found out that was some kind of glitch on the Travelocity website saying the Four Seasons was a bazill. Well, I am sure that was for a suite or a special floor or the rooms with a luxury panic room and a butler. We could actually stay in a Standard Room (still really nice) for $247 a night– a little spendy, but there’s nothing like the Four Seasons….


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A few years back, I stumbled upon the premise of the Sunday Supper  and fell in love. While I don’t have a big get together (yet) I hope to in the future once our house is done and we can have actual, er, guests over. As a brief update: still no countertops (but they are being installed as I TYPE!! Wooohoo!!); farmhouse table is in production (yay) and pretty much nothing else has been accomplished, because we fail at accomplishments.

But anyway, this weekend we had a house guest– my husband’s dad enroute from Minnesota to Florida, who is helping us with all sorts of fun projects like completing the lighting and whatnot, and for dinner last night I planned to cook something lovely. The recipe: my “famous” manicotti. I do a stuffed shells type of Manicotti, and here’s the recipe, and pictures to boot.


Disclaimer: the sauce is a labor of love. It’s a five hour endeavor, but I promise, it’s worth every moment. This is a double recipe, it’s enough to make sauce for both the manicotti and have leftovers for the next time you need sauce. Which really, could be anytime…

In a large pot, combine:
3 tbs olive oil
5 large cloves of garlic
5 large fresh herloom tomatoes, cut in chunks (now these are the big boys you can get from your garden or whole foods, where each weighs about a pound. If you don’t have that size, then go with 10 lbs of fresh tomatoes)
4 cans of whole  canned & peeled tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1/2 cup white onion, diced
3 Handfuls fresh basil, pulled from stem

Big Giant Tomatoes

Rough chop on the fresh tomatoes

Oodles of fresh basil– tip: if you choose to use dried basil, you will need to use less (it’s more concentrated) and add halfway through the cooking time. I’d use 1 tablespoon dry

After you add all those delicious components into your pot, lower the temperature to a low simmer for 4 hours. Yes, four hours. Stir occasionally. Taste occasionally. Then at hour three:

add 2 tablespoons white sugar and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Stir. Then mash up all your tomatoes with a potato masher. It’ll look like this:

Transfer to 2 qt saucepan on low/simmer (note: you will have about 16-18 cups of sauce at this point. You want to cook it down a bit for the next thirty minutes or so, and stir it frequently. Add salt to taste– I add about 1 tablespoon, but add the salt slowly. You can add more oregano at this time if you’d like.

Now, bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil & add olive oil and salt; cook your shells. I cook about 20 to get 16 as my total number to fit in a large pyrex baking dish

While your shells are cooking, make your ricotta filling & preheat your oven to 400(375 for convection baking)


1 container 15 oz whole ricotta cheese ( organic tastes great)
1 small egg
1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
Mix in a bowl then add 1 cup shredded part skim mozarella cheese
1/4 cup peccorino Romano cheese

Egg, parsley, pepper and salt

Mix those ingredients in a bowl and extract your shells. Don’t rinse them, just pour them into a colander and gently dry them with a towel. They need to be dry to cook the best in my opinion.

Layer bottom of a glass Pyrex baking dish with 1 1/2 cup of sauce
Fill shells with 1 1/2 tsp of filling
Add sprinkle of part skim shredded mozzarella
Cover with sauce as liberally as you like
Cover sauce with 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup pecorrino Romano cheese

Cover with tinfoil
Bake 35 min covered and then remove foil
Remove foil
Cook 10 more minutes
Serve with bread to soak up excess sauce
Prep: sauce 5 hours
Shells and assembly 30 min
Baking 1 hr

I think it’s the finest manicotti in the land, perfect with a glass of Chianti. Enjoy!

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I confess, once the wedding hit I kind of went on a food eating explosion of fun. At first, it was just eating a few more bites than I’d have normally eaten. Then it was opting to cook with a little more butter than before, or indulging in 2 percent milk over 1 percent. Before I knew it, I was loading in a few hundred calories a day, which has resulted in a few more pounds around my midsection. When I visited my dear friend the scale yesterday morning, she stared back at me with a number that made me realize that if I didn’t get back on the diet train, I’d be regretting it. Big time.

So, I’m returning to diet land. For me, that means starting with logging everything I put in my mouth. That’s a huge component of weight loss, because you kind of get…well, unmindful…of what you are eating. I found a great app to download (Lose It!) and had a pretty good day so far. It starts with one good day, right?

My entire life I’ve struggled with my weight. I’m pretty sure I was in the womb wanting peanut butter before I even came out into this bright, beautiful world.  I have a natural love for food, for cooking, and for entertaining, which makes me want to make fancy dinners even when something simple will do.  I would much rather go to a great restaurant than go shopping. Add to it that I have a strong passion for wine and cocktails as well as dessert, and you can see why I have an eating problem.

Over the past three years, I’ve lost a lot of weight– and I’m super proud of that accomplishment. I’m sure that some people out there would be like “don’t worry, it’s just five pounds,” but those five pounds are like a gateway drug of diet disaster. As much as I wish i could be one of those people that can naturally maintain and exercise for hours on end to aid in that maintaining, the older I get the more I realize that the only diet plan that works for me is holding myself accountable, logging everything I eat, and knowing that I have a “budget” of calories that I have to adhere to if I want to stay the size I am. And when you go from a size 18-20 to an 8-10, you really DON’T want to go back.

I have to admit– I really thought getting back on the logging/accountability train was going to suck; I was dreading it like a person dreads jumping into a pool that MIGHT have cold water. The main thing putting me off was thinking, “oh, it’s going to suck having to think like that again,” but in all honesty, even when not consciously dieting, I was thinking of how many calories each thing I put in my mouth contained. I just wasn’t logging it. And now on my second day of logging, I’m already feeling more focused and more in-control of my life, and that in itself is producing a lot of optimism and good mojo.

So, back on board of the diet train I go. I think I may start posting some of the food & recipes I use on here if people are interested. If you are not interested I guess you can just skip those entries 🙂



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DISCLAIMER: this post has really nothing to do with my wedding or my reno, and mostly is me squeeing about my iphone. Read on with the knowledge that this post might not really enrich or help your life in any way, unless you seek some proof that you need an iphone (you do) or that buying one was a good idea in the first place (it was)

So, randomly, last night at dinner, I am attempting to do something on my phone (update the social networks with a pic of the new hair, which you can see below) and my phone won’t work. I have a hate-hate relationship with my phone, a beleagred and sad HTC Hero from the archaeic dark ages of the Android. HTC stopped having updates for my phone and it subsequently all went downhill from there.  My contract with Sprint is up in just a few months and I was going to hold out until it was over to switch carriers and get the iphone of my dreams. But then, husband says “well, why don’t we just go over and get you an i-phone”. I think it was the hair:

(aren’t thehot rug behind me and my unpainted walls just the epitome of sexy? yes, yes  i know). And i need to learn how to take a camera phone pic without it looking like a camera phone pic. Learning challenges.

Anyway. So…yeah, I got the iphone. Don is going to hold out for the I phone 5 but who knows when that is going to get here so I gladly got the 4. I’m sure the five will change his life and world, but for now the 4 is currently doing a pretty ok job at that for me, as I am queen of the world with happiness. I spent pretty much all night in my world of app downloads and wireless internet-ing and sending emails and geeking out over all the awesomeness that is the iphone. It’s way better than my HTC. Way, way better. Sorry, HTC, and sorry Android, but the iphone kind of just blew my mind and proved, once and for all, that the android isn’t even close in terms of a viable platform for smart phone butt-kicking. But I digress.

I got the white one. I love you, i-phone.  I know it’s crazy to love something that is a piece of technology, but seriously. I have been wanting/lusting after one of these babies for a really long time, and with the husband’s awesome discount through work and their $100 off with smartphone trade in, I got it for like nothing compared to what I thought it was going to be, so that was pretty much icing on the little cake. My i-phone cake.

And as a sidebar: I love our i-Pad (1, we don’t have the 2 yet) and I love the i-phone and now I wonder, dude, are we missing out by not having i-everything. Like would our lives be that much happier and easier and great? Because this phone works like a phone is supposed to. And our ipad has never glitched out on us. My husband will beat me for saying this (figuratively, not literally) but it does beg the question…is Apple just BETTER?

ANYWHO…I am seeking great (free or less than $3) apps that are “musts” for my phone. I am not a game player (so I will not be buying “Angry Birds”-) but I do like Words with Friends and am seeking friends who want to play some of those words with friends kind of games with me. I downloaded twitter/facebook, tweedeck, pandora, yelp, and pinterest (of course!) but I don’t really know what else to download. Anyone have some great reccs? Since half the people I know have i-phones, I’m hoping for some awesome suggestions.

Oh, and I am extending the DIY magazine giveaway announcement to August 5— so please, if you want to win, leave a comment! I think the first issue in the subscription will probably be DIY holiday crafts, and WHO doesn’t LOVE holiday crafts (no one. NO ONE)



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Well, plumbing is all fixed, ya’ll, and it ended up being a cracked pipe caused by pressure + tree roots from the neighbor’s massive bastard tree. Refinished hardwoods in the kitchen budget later (Jen, what is up with the refinished floors = plumbing budget) we are the proud owners of …working toilets. Whee.

To celebrate (or mourn) the loss of this money, I feel like there’s nothing better to do than spend more money. Not really, but considering that I make hair appointments 10 weeks apart it makes sense that I should NOT cancel the one I have for tomorrow.  Haircuts make you feel happier, and I am in dire need of some happy. I started a Pinterest Board on hairstyle  with some ideas. Apparently, I want to cut it off. I have had it long(ish) for too long, and now I need the diversion of something different. Does anyone else get this urge?

Here’s some of the “big contenders”

I like that haircut a lot, and i like this one, too (which is super similar but also cute)

But then I get the anxieties about what if it’s too short? Too bold? too “young looking.”

I could always fall back on a “Jennifer Anniston” haircut, or let my stylist do whatever she wants:

But it seems like if i were to pick something, I’d suddenly have all this greater control and thus feel happier and better and like I mastered the universe. I dunno. Stupid Hair.



We knew that when we bought an old home that we would encounter issues in our renovation project. Especially since our house is 80 years old. This weekend, we spent tireless hours working on our varied around the house projects, finishing the living room painting job with its million coats of paint on plaster, putting the finishing touches on the bathroom ( cue the “Neverending Story”) theme music. It felt like we just kept getting crappy news all weekend. On Friday, my special order tiles for the fireplace came and the entire two boxes were broken and chipped. Postoned project number seven million. We got a call from the countertop people and learned it would be another two to three weeks without countertops…a constant struggle for me. I cooked dinner in the defunct kitchen with half working implements last night and felt entirely defeated and frustrated…it’s like this irrational feeling that if we did have countertops then somehow life would be better. I still can’t find anything in our in renovation home with piles of boxes, and when I sleep I either can’t breathe from my random I’m allergic to something but what allergies or the nightmares I have about weird things, like cabinets and the basement.
Anyway, I woke up angry. I was feeling mad and defeated and like nothing was going right. And then I spent an hour scrubbing the shower and tub because damnit, I was determined to take a bath today. And I did, and it was awesome. I felt so proud and happy and like yay, we have done something and this room is complete. Hurrah.
And then I get out of the bath and my husband tells me the tub is leaking or something because our basement is flooding. And I go down to help and after a few hours of digging in the mud and dirt we realize that the clay sewage pipe is cracked. And broken. And that if we use the bathroom, it’s going to come into the basement. Yeah.
My husband is beyond upset. He seems to think that we have bought a house that refuses to let us get ahead. I just think we are encountering the entire fun murphys law good times of home ownership. I don’t really know what we are going to do, because it appears to be an pricy thing to fix. But its one of those things you can’t just wait around on. And I guess it’s nice the terra-cotta pipes lasted bit longer than the 50 years they are supposed to, but we were kind of hoping on waiting on doing any more piping and plumber stuff after we already had to replace all the cast iron pipes inside the house. Sigh. And thus begets a new category on the blog entitled “the joys of home ownership” where “joys” really means “painful and expensive realities of owning your own home and making signing that mortgage check all the more enjoyable each month.” sorry for vent, dear readers, I just needed to get this off my chest

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I recently picked up a copy of DIY (Do it Yourself) Magazine and fell in love, and decided I wanted to subscribe

There’s tons of fun, useful ideas in the mag, like how to organize with scrap and how to make pillows (a must-need skill to know in my world) and part of their subscription offer (the mag comes out quarterly) is that I can sign up a friend for free. So, if you’d like to win a subscription, it’s pretty easy. Just:

1. Leave me a comment telling me about how you love/hate or want to love DIY goodness

2. I’ll randomly pick someone on August 5 to win.

It’s pretty easy, right. And you get a free magazine subscription, which is pretty cool!

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