Thursday, May 29, 2008


I just have to write an express my interest and excitement at finding this fun website. Maybe I'm just behind the times, but I had never heard of this.

We're in the midst of trying to design our wedding invitation. It's been a bit of a struggle to find good ideas as we don't generally like any of the offerings we've looked through at various invitation websites (or we didn't want to pay a fortune).

I have spent countless hours scanning through images on Google to find idea close to what I want. I've looked at plum blossoms, peonies, gingko leaves, blossoms, etc. Honestly, since neither of us are real artists, we've been looking something we can either "borrow" or copy easily. If we had more time and more artistic talent we'd try and design something related to the outdoors or travel.

During one of my searches, I ran across an image located at Etsy. I was amazed at all the handcrafted items that people have posted for sale. I spent most of my time in the Art section but occasionally linked to other items like cute paper decorations, quirky jewelry, and hand-knit items. I just love looking at all the styles and ideas people have. For me, it reminds me there's a whole world out there that I don't run into in my daily life. I feel like just browsing helps me broaden my outlook and view of the world.

Etsy also has some cool search mechanisms. You can search by tags, colors, styles. Even Tim was very curious after I exposed him to the website. If we do find an image that works for our invitations, I'll buy a copy of the art to hang at home. That way we'll always have a fond memory of our wedding invitation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

To save a cent

Bless mothers for they always bring out the stress, frustration, and laughter. While much of the time I speak of my mother with frustration and disbelief, she can make for an entertaining story. The logic she uses to make requests of her children can only be described as bizarre.

My brother and sister-in-law went home for the three-day weekend. I had already given them a bag of lotions and other items I'd bought for her. Two days before they left, my mom called to ask me to have them bring something down for her. She had misplaced her box of cotton swabs (my parents moved six months ago). Apparently, she's been using them to apply lipstick because the stick level has fallen below the container line.

Her recollection told her that I keep an ample supply of swabs in my bathroom. (Just because I accidentally ordered a second box I have plentiful amounts. ;)) She reasoned that it made sense for me to give her a small number of swabs until she could find her missing box and left me a voicemail saying as much. Since I didn't have time to call her, I grabbed a handful of swabs and stuffed them into a snack bag. Ricer (sister-in-law) and I both were planning to go to the Nordstrom sale, so I knew I could had them off to her without going out of the way.

Both my brother and Ricer were perplexed by Mom's request. After all, why didn't she just ask them? They keep a box of cotton swabs as well. I guess Mom didn't know this. And buying a small, travel quantity from the local drugstore was not an option?

On Sunday, my mom calls to chat. During the conversation she asks me why I sent so many swabs home with my brother. She goes on to tell me that she only wanted a few and didn't want the rest. I'm getting scolded for giving her too much? Not wanting to argue with her, I quickly suggested she could send the swabs back with my brother since he was bringing back other stuff for me. Can you believe all this back and forth over a bag of maybe twenty cotton swabs?

So we pick up my brother when he returns. As we drive him home, he pulls a couple things out of his bag for me. First, he hands me the bag of swabs. Tim just laughs in disbelief as we recount the whole story. Yes, this is the family he's marrying into. We all laughed. For all the torture she can put us through about money, jobs, and just general attitude, her quirky logic makes for some odd situations that you can't help laugh about.

Next, to my surprise, my brother hands me a roll of sandwich bags. As I hold it in my hand deciding where to stuff the wad, my brother explains that Mom went to Costco and now has "enough sandwich bags to last forever." Based on the assumption, she figured we could use some. Thanks Mom.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Different but good so far

I'm on work week number five now. I can't believe the time has flown so fast.

While I'm doing day-to-day tasks that are similar to what I used to do, the environment is a bit different. We have a minimal team compared to the full-blown staff we had to support the sales team at my old job. Since we don't have a sales force we don't have to deal with all their demands and requests.

I miss the people at my old job. Since it was a bigger team, there was a nice variety of people to talk to. We had years to develop a good rapport. At the same time, I felt like few understood me well. The truth is I was probably the geek of the group. Most of the people were older, married, and with kids, or my age and drinker/partiers. I was the odd ball who liked to go swing dancing, play board and video games with friends, or watch sci-fi movies. It's not like anyone picked on me, but I could imagine them doing so if we were back in high school.

At work, I primarily work alongside two people who are both a couple years younger than me. My boss, DNA, is a newly wed and seems pretty friendly. She's yuppie-ish and what I would label a little sorority-like. So far, I like her, but I definitely need more time to get to know her.

My other co-worker is Boston. He's very friendly with everyone, easy to talk to, and has this subtle geeky way of talking. It's a funny situation because I know some of his friends through a friend of mine. We're two degrees of separation from each other socially.

Other than that, I'm still trying to get a read on people. Our assistant, Kitty, is sweet and green. Her counterpart is a tougher-skinned woman who gives you the impression that she's a no nonsense type of person you don't want to mess with. She's helpful yet I find it a little annoying that she had to give input over the cubicle wall whenever I have a question for Kitty.

I was telling Tim over the weekend about how the job is going. I'm happy so far, just drowning in work already. It's hard to be productive when you feel like you'd be better off locking yourself in a library with a stack of books and periodicals. The amount of detail I need to understand in the coming weeks is overwhelming.

The one thing that I am happy about, as I describe to Tim, is that I finally feel like I'm in an environment where I can relate to people I work with. My boss and I grew up in the same town, just a couple miles down the road from each other (weird coincidence). Boston is someone I could totally see hanging out with. I told Tim that Boston's last three Fridays have been spent either playing Settlers of Catan or holding "Battlestar Galactica" marathons. Tim immediately exclaimed that Boston should come play sports with him on Saturday and join his group for movies and video games. And I thought the only place I'd run into these kinds of people are at the high-tech and dot-com companies.

Granted, we're co-workers so I don't know how weird it would be to hang out in social groups outside of work, but it's nice to know that we understand each other on some levels. I do hope that I continue to build good relationships with my colleagues so that I feel more part of the group rather than a spectator.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Unexpected beauty

It's definitely easy to get sucked into the messages thrown at you once you start the wedding planning process. Buying a dress can be very emotional because there are so many things that look good. At the same time, the better they look the more expensive they tend to be.

I took my girlfriends with me last month and found a dress that I preferred within the first day. I really did have the "this is the one" kind of feeling when the sales person zipped it up. It's strapless, chiffon over satin, and has a cascade of beads and embroidery that gradually fade away at the hip. Still, I fretted over it because it wasn't what I expected to like. But it was less than $800 which was good. I have given myself a very reasonable budget of $1,000 (including alterations). A dress I really liked is over $2,000 which I knew was totally crazy given the dress had a 12-hour life. I searched website after website to get an idea of what real prices are for dresses versus what the tags say at the stores.

Honestly, if you are the right size, there are deals to be had. Whether it be a used gown, a sample dress, or someone who just changed their minds, the prices can be great. The trick is either finding a way to try the dress before you buy the cheaper one or you trust that you will be able to alter it to fit.

Being someone who is particularly small and has lopsided measurements, I didn't want to try altering something that was 2-3 sizes bigger. Without a good seamstress, it's challenging to retain the shape and intended style.

In terms of auctions, I saw many dresses I liked and even tried to bid on a few, but I was never willing to go high enough to win. I don't have a good sense of what is a fair price to bid (that and my innate desire to get a deal). Also, it just seemed a little scary to not know if and when I'd find and win a dress that I want. Yeah, that'd be stupid to be dressless one month before the wedding and have to wear something I didn't like.

I hate indecision, so in the end, I found a store that had a better price on the $800 gown and ordered. Knowing that all my girlfriends AND my mother like it easy my worries. It will be here in July. In the meantime, I've been cruising the sites to see what kinds of deals pop up.

Since I already have a dress, I'm not too serious about bidding. However, if I could get something cheap, I thought it'd be a good backup or practice dress. There are a couple vendors that regularly post sample dresses for cheap. These dress typically have a "retail" tag between $600-$900. The bids usually end up going as high as $30-$60 plus shipping. It's a price I could stand to spend for entertainment.

For weeks, I've bid on some, but always lost out to someone who wanted it more. That's fine. But one weekend, I forgot that I'd thrown in a maximum bid of $15 on a gown. At the last minute, someone raised the current bid from $11.49 to $13. Because I had bidder earlier, the price increased to $13.49.

Let me tell you how surprised I was to see my e-mail the next day saying I won the auction! I had been expecting to lose the auction so really didn't know what I was even buying except that it might be a little tight at the waist. (It's probably also why there were so few people bidding on that particular gown.) I remember looking at the pictures again and thinking that the sweetheart neckline wasn't appealing.

The package showed up a week later at my door. I have to say the gown was in great condition. It only has two faint streaks of dirt, no doubt from someone trying it on. But otherwise it's clean and brand new! It's definitely tight at the waist. I don't feel like I can bend over without exploding. It also weighs a ton. (That's why more expensive silk dress are nicer than satin polyester.) Ignoring that, I think it's quite lovely for it's simple design. The lace and beading at the high waist is elegant and helps make the bottom half of me look longer and taller.

I'm not one of those bridezilla types that has to have everything exactly perfect. Yes it's nice to have a dress that you feel beautiful in and want to see in pictures. I've learned from talking to many people that few people beyond the bride, groom, and family will remember the dress in any great detail. Many dresses will look good. I probably could be happy with this sample dress.

Now, I'm thinking why didn't I just take the risk and buy a couple different dresses for cheap? If I bought three for $50-$70 each, I'd still save an amazing amount of money. How fun it would be to run around the house in three different dresses. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


About one month ago, Tim and I attended a bridal fair. It was held at a local hotel and featured a couple rooms full of wedding vendors for cakes, locations, photographers, formal wear, flowers, etc.

The minute we entered the area, I knew this was all about collecting names. That's how these folks make their money. It's like those cars you see parked at shopping malls. Nearby is a box with some poster touting how you can "win this car!" Of course, who knows if anyone actually wins it. The whole point is that they want you to fill out that little slip so they can sell your name to other parties.

As we stood in line, I joked to Tim about how our name is going to end up everywhere. He agreed. So we devised a plan on how to fill out the forms. Since there is that one in a million chance of winning something, we didn't want to give totally fake names and addresses. First, we wanted to track all the mail we would receive so we each changed one letter in our last names. Since Tim will be moving out of his apartment in the summer, I claimed his address as mine. When it's time for him to forward his mail, he'll do for "name only" and all the junk will stay at the apartment (and some poor person will get all my crap).

It's taken about three weeks for the wedding junk mail and spam to trickle into our mailboxes. At first it was a bunch of e-mails congratulating us and speaking as if we'd inquired about using their services. I get almost daily e-mails from vendors trying to sell me invitations and favors. I make sure to unsubscribe myself the minute I get each of these e-mails. Long-term, it won't matter with the e-mails because I purposely created a separate e-mail account for all our wedding communications. If the spam gets out of hand, we simply cancel the account the year after we get married. Ha!

In terms of snail mail, man, these vendors spend some big money trying to get your attention. Tim brought over a large, cardboard package the other day. Inside was three, full-size, color brochures about Sandals resort. One was about their standard vacation packages, another talked about getting married at the resort, and the smallest had inviting pictures of their exclusive wedding packages. Just the postage alone was $4. We've gotten interactive CDs from a couple other venues. I also get various catalogs for invitations, gifts, and favors. The catalogs are great for ideas, but I doubt I'll be buying anything.

Bridal fairs are fun in terms of the freebies but watch out for the blitz of unwanted attention. At least, it makes for entertaining experiments to trace what happens to the information you hand out.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cheap and creative don't always go together

Based on my postings of late, you might think all I do is think about wedding stuff. It's really not all that's going on, but certainly it tends to be the most interesting things going on in my life. I apologize for anyone who doesn't want to hear it.

Tim and I have been thinking about the wedding favors here and there. It's not something that needs to be done right away, but it's definitely one of the more fun tasks on our list. Since our theme is adventure given all the vacations and camping trips we've taken, I had been racking my brain for something relevant, affordable, and somewhat practical (because that's how I work).

I've been to plenty of parties where I've received something that just ends up collecting dust on a bookshelf or in a drawer. Food treats such as chocolate and moon cakes are always an option, but I wanted something more unique.

To complicate matters, I set my hopes on finding something that would not only serve as a favor gift, but an object that could serve as the name card for the reception. Pku used these cute sliver fortune cookies that held our name cards, but obviously we didn't want to copy that.

Next, I thought it would be fun to find miniature gift boxes in the shape of suitcases. The paper boxes are 50 cents each and a little candy goes a long way. That way I could label the name on the outside and put a treat on the inside. For a little more, I actually found these great aluminum cases that have wheels and a handle so as to look like roll-on luggage. Tim thought they were nice but wasn't thrilled with the candy idea. I'm sure he'd go with it if it was the best choice we could find.

My next idea was giving luggage tags. First, they could be laid out as the place cards easily (or hang from a tree branch for a great effect). And then, people could take them home and use them. We wouldn't engrave them with anything silly like our wedding date. Unfortunately, finding tags that won't crack or fall apart after a few uses is pretty difficult. We've budgeted for about $3 per favor and that doesn't buy you much other than cheap plastic tags. The nice leather ones (other than black) run $8 and up which is way too much for a favor.

I came across some cute silver dolphins that function that same way as Pku's favor. Tim liked them right away. We both fret about the fact that no one but us would understand why we chose dolphin favors (we saw Hector's dolphins in southern New Zealand). They are pretty and can be reused as a paper weight or picture holder. It's not perfect, but they're $2 each and nice.

Then I happened to be at Crate & Barrel the other day. On a desk display, they had a bowl full of colorful, faux leather tags that would be perfect. Each tag is $3.95. That go me wondering whether I could find these same tags for less online. Alas, I've only found them one other place for $6 each.

What do you suppose the chance are I can pick them up for less come August when the stores are stuck with dozens unsold and move them to the outlet store? ;)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

When being too nice makes for no plans

I *really* *really* should be working right now, but I need to get this off my mind for a little while.

Despite the fact that the main wedding planning is going well, I seem to be sprouting bits of bad luck when it comes to bridesmaids and bridal showers. First, there was the uncomfortable situation of my childhood best friend wanting to be a bridesmaid despite learning that she'd be 8.5 months pregnant by the time of the wedding. Without outright telling her I changed my mind, I had to give her strong reasons to consider not attending the wedding 400 miles away from her doctor and hospital. The logic of not coming to my wedding only started to sink in after discussing it with her husband and local friends. In the end, it worked out because her due date was moved up and she's staying put.

Now, I've got another sticky wicket. Nvy was the first to offer to throw me a shower. This was back in March when I first told her the good news. The following week, Childhood BF also offered. When I found out there was a risk CBF could not attend, I asked my other close friend to be in the wedding. She also offered to host. I really can't complain about having three wonderful friends offer to host a shower for me except for one fact, none of them live within four hours of me.

I thought I had it all worked out. CBF and alternate bridesmaid would host near my home town and I'd ask Nvy to come up and host here with the help of a local friend. It seemed the like the best arrangement seeing as how I want to avoid making CBF travel during pregnancy and AltBM is traveling from the East Coast so I want her to be able to see her family during here trip to the West Coast. That would create a small 5-7 person away shower and a 14-18 person local shower.

Now, now that's not quite what's going to happen. Nvy and her husband were in a business with another person. This other person, RzrBurn, has gone a little psycho over the years. We all know each other from grad school. Suffice to say, RzrBurn married psycho wife who married him for his money, realized he wasn't really rich, and drove him nuts. Now that the divorce is not going his way, he's doing all he can to bankrupt himself so that she gets nothing. (He's also going to be defaulting on his child support.)

Unfortunately, that means he dragged down his business partners with him. Nvy and hubby are now struggling to run the business themselves without stretching themselves thin (did I mention they have two small kids). So, she obviously can't help plan a bridal shower with all that's going on. She feels awful about it, but it's no one's fault. How could anyone possibly predict such a crappy outcome from a man who was once considered a friend?

So now what? I already suggested to AltBM that I'd make it convenient by having a shower near home for her. But that means that I don't have anyone to give me a shower where I live now, where most of my friends live. I feel awkward at the thought of asking her to change her plans and come here for the shower. Yet, I feel like I should have a litte leeway as the bride to do what works best for me.

The alternative is to ask a friend here to help out. But the whole point of a shower is for someone to offer. I can't ask, that's not proper etiquette. I feel completely awkward doing that. ARGH. I have had a couple people offer to help me with the "anything" for wedding in general, but I don't know if that amounts to permission to ask them to organize the shower versus simply stuffing invitation envelopes.

I'm kind of kicking myself for trying so hard to accommodate everyone else since now I feel like I've left myself in a pathetic position. So what's the politically correct, Emily Post way to make things work?

Not worth their brain cells

I heard about this theft the other day on the news and felt incredibly frustrated at the selfish and stupid people out there who are going to bring this world down. Where does someone get the idiotic idea to steal valves off of tanks filled with hazardous chemicals?

Okay, sure I probably can't understand their desparate situation be it poverty or drug-dependency. Still, why not steal something a little more obvious and not risk exposing yourself to chemicals that could make your sick or worse.

I can't help wonder if this is a worldwide problem or an issue for certain types of countries. The problem here is that there's no good way to enforce the scrap yards to not accept random piles of metal. You'd think it be obviously suspicious if a guy came in with a truckload of bronze statues and plaques that look like they came from a cemetary. How about asking for some paperwork? Clearly, the scrap yards don't care either because they're going to make money. What incentive do they have to keeping people honest? So long as crooks can get paid, the crime is going to continue. There's fault to be found all along the system.

It just breaks my heart that people have no respect for public safety and for personal property. I'm sure there are countless historical examples of how selfish acts have resulted in tragic consequences for innocent people and wildlife. I just hate to think of how big a disaster could occur with all the chemicals and technology we rely on today. So many things would be better if people had some sense of the chain reaction their actions create.

$10 theft cost a $250,000 spill cleanup
Phillip Matier,Andrew Ross

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The 3,500-gallon spill of a toxic chemical into San Pablo Bay over the weekend cost an estimated $250,000 to clean up - and it was all for a lousy $10 worth of brass.

The thieves who caused the spill of the chemical toluene at Reaction Products in Richmond were after the valves on holding tanks - the latest example of a crime wave involving barely precious metals that yield a few dollars at the recycling yard but can cost taxpayers big bucks.

In the past year, thieves have stolen everything from copper wiring along the Richmond Parkway to the little aluminum shades that go over the city's red, green and yellow street signals.

"You won't believe the lengths that thieves will go to these days for a couple of bucks worth of metal," said Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan.

It's happening in San Francisco as well, where someone stole two nearly century-old bronze plaques from the Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park a couple of weeks back.

"And that was just a week after the cops busted a dude who was dragging a 300-pound bronze tablet from Dolores Park," said Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Dennis.

The damage can run into the thousands - as evidenced by metal bandits in Richmond who pulled an air conditioning unit out of the Nevin Community Center, and in the process ruptured a water pipe.

The building flooded, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. "All for a few feet of copper wire and plumbing worth about $2.50," Gagan said.

Replacing the stripped wiring on the Richmond Parkway cost an estimated $250,000 and prompted the city to install wire alarms.

And its not just public property that's getting hit.

Some homeowners have come back from extended absences to find that metal thieves have torn out their interior walls and carted off wiring and piping.

Even the dead are targets.

Last year, Gagan said, metal thieves made off with more than 200 little graveside bronze flower vases from Rolling Hills Memorial Park cemetery in Richmond.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Smile fatigue

This weekend will probably be the closest we'll come to knowing what it will feel like on the wedding day.

Every Saturday seems to start with me struggling to wake up in the morning. Shifting to a "real" work schedule after more than a year of easy commuting. Friday night is my boring and simple chance to get some rest.

The first thing on the Saturday agenda was my makeup trial. I had to be at the mall by 10am to meet with Painter. I also had to be ready to meet for lunch at noon and then take off to the city for engagement photos. Getting out of bed at 9am gave me about 40 minutes to wash up and curl my hair. While I was out, Tim had to iron his shirts.

I'm not one who wears much makeup on a daily basis. A typical morning for me includes brushing my teeth, washing my face, brushing my hair, and moisturizing my face. My makeup regimen involves brushing a little color over my brows and adding eye shadow to the corners of my eye lids. (Okay, when I'm feeling particularly bare, I use some liquid eye liner to compensate for my miniature eyelashes.) In other words, I know virtually nothing about hair and makeup. This part of the wedding process makes me feel absolutely helpless.

Painter is a referal from my former co-worker, Hen. Her sister and Painter once worked together. My concern is that she's rather expensive, $300 for the wedding day. At least I didn't have to pay for the consultation. Since she works at a cosmetics counter I simply get a from makeover. It's a great way to test things out.

She seemed like a nice, friendly person. I was a little worried about the amount of eyeliner Painter wore under her eyes. It's definitely too dramatic for me.

It's amazing how many layers of cleansers, moisturizer and base a face must have before putting on foundation and powder. How did someone come up with all this stuff? This is how Painter assured me that the makeup would last throughout the day. (There's also the option of paying more to have her come back midway through the wedding for a touch-up.)

Overall, she did a pretty good job. I loved the lip color she chose. The eye shadow was a bit stronger than I wanted. She was very easy going about softening the color a little. The one noticeable issue for both me and Tim was that the makeup seemed to enhance the fine wrinkles around my eyes. The last thing I want is for close ups of my wrinkles during the wedding. I have this problem when I try to apply makeup to myself. Shouldn't a makeup expert do better?

As soon as I returned from the mall, I picked up Tim and we went to sample our wedding dinner. The salad was tasty but I was a little disappointed with the small and tightly packed leaves. I guess I'm used to going to restaurants where one gets medium to big sized whole leaves. It just looks more appetizing. The salad did taste good.

The next part was interesting. The waiter brought out three large plates. The fish, New York tip, and chicken breast were quite generous in size. While I was looking forward to tasting the fish, the presentation wasn't appealing. The filet sat upon a bed of colored greens and small white beans in a ragu sauce. Honestly, I thought I was eating BBQ baked beans. It looked totally casual and not wedding-like. I don't need to pay $10,000 if I just want to serve my guests BBQ beans. Tim thought the food was good. I told him I felt it was okay but nothing fancy. In the grand scheme of things, I figure no one will remember the meal unless it's really bad. This will probably be fine (but I'm sad we won't get to have the Chinese banquet dinner.)

With that done, I headed home for a quick touch up of my fading curls and just enough time to iron one shirt. We each packed five outfits for the photo shoot not knowing what kind of weather or backgrounds to expect.

It turned out to be quite a tiring afternoon. Our photographer is a family friend who is just getting into wedding photography. We get a good deal on the photos, but I have to say it was probably much more time consuming and required some patience as she's still learning. I'm sure a seasoned photographer would have had us done in a couple hours. We went from 3pm to almost 8pm.

We tried to take pictures in front of city hall and in the major shopping and tourist area. It's funny how many people will stop and stare to try and figure out what you're doing with a photographer who's carrying two fancy cameras. We also found a few colorful buidling facades against which we did some poses and jumps.

Our last stop was at the beach. The location is a VERY popular one for engagement photos. We couldn't help but laugh when we arrived because it was so easy to spot the four other couples walking about with their photographers. Still, it's a beautiful location so what else can one expect.

Since it was already 7pm, it's was getting rather cold. It's challenging faking being happy and in love when you're body is telling you to put on a jacket and run back to the car. The incoming high tide also made it challenging to shoot shots along the shore because someone always needed to keep an eye on the waves and signal if it was time to run away from the fast waters. It made for some close calls and good laughs.

Naturally, we were all hungry and cold once the sun disappeared. I quickly suggested we find the nearest hot pot restaurant. It wasn't the greatest food, but it was reasonable, plentiful, and WARM.

Tim and got home around 11pm. Needless to say, we quickly showered and immediately went to sleep. I can't believe how solidly I slept considering I did get any exercise. I was so deeply asleep that I accidentally elbowed Tim early in the morning because I forgot he was there.

[Yawn...] Okay, now I'm tired from reliving that. Time for bed. :)