Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good News / Bad News

So who wants to play a game of good news/bad news? :)

Here I sit, while at my internship trying to become a real-life rocket scientist, and I have some exciting news to share. I have had some mixed feelings about this up until a few days ago, but now I am actually pretty glad it is looking like it's going to work out :)

So I got this scholarship that pays for my school and gives me a fancy little stipend to live off of while I'm in grad school, and then I have a service commitment that I have to complete upon graduation where I work for them for the number of years that they paid for my school. They require you do an internship at your future job site during the summer, hence why I am in Ridgecrest, America. Sounds simple, right? Well...last summer, at orientation for said scholarship, they basically threatened our lives that if we didn't graduate exactly when we originally said we would, we could be held responsible for paying back every dime they've ever paid on our behalf (stipend, tuition, fees, internship money, etc.) with interest. YIKES. So I had been a little terrified of the idea of, "What if I don't get done one time?!"

They definitely do have good reasons for this policy. But turns out, it's really more of a scare tactic. It's really up to the facility that hired you (the place I am doing my internship and ultimately where I will be fulfilling my service commitment)...if they are able to hire you at a later date, it can get approved and you don't have to pay back a fortune.

So since I've been here on my internship, I have had the opportunity to really get a good feel for what this place hired me for, and exactly what they want me to do when I work here full time after I graduate. Turns out it's not exactly lined up with my current PhD research efforts, but it is definitely along similar lines of what my advisor back home specializes in. In other words...I don't quite have the full set of skills required to do said job, but with a little bit of time and practice, I am definitely capable of being taught.

Long story short...I can start preparing now for my future job by tweaking my PhD research a bit, and doing either the same or at least similar things. However, it might take me a little longer at school to fully develop this skill set I'm going for. So...after talking to the bosses on both ends, we have come to a great solution: One extra year in God's Country! :)

I was originally planning on graduating in May 2012, but now I am hoping to push it back a year, and spend two more years at the University of Arkansas instead of just one. I'd actually get to combine my research for my dissertation with the work that I'll be doing at my internships/big kid job when I really, it's a huge benefit to all involved. I get to stay in Arkansas another year - in case you missed it, this is the good news! - and I'm also getting a head start on the work that my facility is hiring me to do, so I'll pretty much be an expert at my job by the time they get me ;)

The bad news is...delaying my graduation a year, also means I have an extra year of service commitment. In other words...hello THREE years in California instead of just two.

Really though, it's not all that bad. Ridgecrest isn't my favorite place, but once my soldier is here with me, I can be content just about anywhere :) Plus, it means I have a guaranteed job for at least 3 years after I graduate. In this economy...that is huge. I truly believe God has blessed me immensely with this scholarship...both because of the funds, and because of the job!

Also, bigger picture...there is more good news. My hubby-to-be was planning on cramming in over 20 hours of class next spring in order to graduate on time so we could both finish school and move out here together. While I love him for that...this would give him the opportunity to spread those hours out over a few semesters and make his life a whole lot easier. It would also free up some time where he could work part time while in school, which would allow us to save up more money. We are really hoping to have all debt paid off, and a solid savings by the time we move out here for good, and preferably have enough to buy me a new(ish) car. While I love the Silver Bullet, I'm not sure it can handle 4 more cross-country road trips in the dead of summer.

All that to say...I think this is the best thing for everyone. Both for Walter and I, and where my future career is concerned. Plus I am looking forward to spending one more year in God's Country, and close to our families.

I filled out all the paperwork today to request the change...Now all I have to do is get the scholarhip company to actually approve the date change...cross your fingers! :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Running Fever

I can't help myself. I like to run. It's weird, because back when I played soccer (hello, a sport in which you run the entire time), I hated it. I always dreaded the days when we'd get to practice, and the coach would say, "Today you're running the Big Block," which happens to be about 1.8 miles in a giant square around the campus, and a neighborhood or two, around my high school. And even worse, I think I can only remember 1-2 times during my entire high school career that I actually JOGGED the entire thing, without stopping a single time to walk. That's pathetic.

I never really got the "freshman 15" when I went to college...actually, I think mine was more like the "senior 25" while I was still in high school. I blame this on the fact that, aside from sitting in class from 7:30am-3pm, I also worked 45 hours a week my senior year...most of which I spent sitting behind a desk greeting customers. It killed me. I got pretty overweight, and then when I went to college, I didn't gain a huge amount at once or anything, but the pounds slowly kept creeping up on me. By the time I started grad school, I was probably close to the 170-180 range. For a girl who's 5'3 3/4"...that's way too much.

So about a year and a half ago, I decided to pick up running. At that point, it really wasn't an attempt to lose weight. I honestly started doing it because I knew I was unhealthy and needed to be more active. I felt uncomfortable, to say the least, and perhaps even a little embarrassed. This may sound kinda mean, but I honestly think the thing that motivated me the most at that point in time, was that I had a roommate that was kinda a bigger girl. Not huge or anything, just kinda bigger. She started borrowing my clothes all the time. Not only did I not like sharing my clothes, I did not like the idea that MY clothes actually fit her. Sorry, I know that sounds horrible...but for me, it was that light bulb moment. I had to do something.

It all started in the dead of winter, when it was way to cold for me to even want to walk to my car in the cold, windy, crappy weather. Much less run a significant distance outside, breathing in cold air. So I started out doing a DVD workout series called INSANITY by BeachBody. I actually really like Insanity, and I actually stuck with it pretty well in the beginning, but I never actually completed the series. Back in April, I blogged about how completing the entire 60 program was on my list of hopes, dreams and plans for the next 365 days. This is still on my list, but at the moment, my living arrangement is not conducive to this goal...the living room isn't big enough. Sometime this winter, when I am back in my big ol' living room in Arkansas (which you can see here :), I will complete it.

Anyways, I digress...

On a chilly Monday in March, but one of those days that reminds you that Spring really is coming, I decided to go for a run. I couldn't run very fast, or very far, but I ended up jogging, with a few spurts of walking scattered in there to catch my breath, about 2 miles. I was so proud of myself. I got home and posted something on my Facebook about it, and my sister comments on it and says, "You should do a 5K with me sometime!" I immediately ask Google to tell me how far a 5K is...and I find out it's 3.1 miles. I ask her when the next one she's doing is, and she tells me Saturday. As in this is Monday, and Saturday is 5 days from now. I laugh. Then she tells me there is another one the following Saturday. I tell her I will do my best to run the one in 2 Saturdays from now with her...thinking I'll probably die if I even attempt to fun the full 2 miles that I walked a bit on earlier that day. I ran a few more times that week, in my attempt to train for my 5K two Saturdays away, and by the first Saturday, I figured, "What the heck? Why not? I'll just stop and walk if I get tired."

So it began. March 6, 2010 was my first time to ever run more than 3 miles at one time, which by the way, is still the 2nd most difficult 5K route I've ever run. Since then, I've done several 5Ks...probably more than I could remember to be able to count. The Hog Eye 5K in Fayetteville takes the cake on the most difficult. The easiest being the Riverfest Rock 'N Stroll 5K in Little Rock, which was my most recent MAY. Sad :( I don't run them fast...I probably average about a 10 minute mile, or a 31 minute 5K. My fastest 5K to date was 29:57, and it was even a hilly race, but I had a little help from Koda on that one. He thinks he's a sled dog...

Since I began INSANITY/5K running (have to give credit to both), I have lost approximately 50 lbs. I say approximately, because I honestly couldn't tell you exactly what my peak weight was...a) I didn't own a scale, b) I didn't like finding out how much I weighed...scary. But I actually just recently (a few weeks ago) reach my "goal weight" of 127 lbs. I know...127 is a random number. But hey, I like random. Plus, I feel like 127 is a good weight for me...I feel comfortable, and most importantly, I feel healthy.

A friend of my sister's is organizing a running event in Huntsville, Texas in February, called the Orphan Hope Marathon. While I have no desire at this point in my life to run a marathon, it is a goal of mine to run a Half Marathon, or roughly 13 miles, and this is such a great cause to do it for! However, the longest distance I have ever ran has probably been 5-6 I've got a ways to go before I'm ready for a half marathon!

So....For the past few hours, I have been doing not much of anything but looking at race calendars for upcoming 5K/10K/Half Marathon events. And then I've been looking up training schedules for all of the above. Now right now, at 110 degrees outside, it's a little too hot for running outdoors, which is what I prefer. I really don't like treadmills. But I have been taking advantage of the 3 hrs/week that the government gives me to workout, and the free facilities to do it in on base, and settling for the treadmill/elliptical. It always amazes me how much easier the elliptical is...

So after looking up all the events I could find to do around the Arkansas/Oklahoma area (not that I'm opposed to other places...but running these things gets expensive, so I'm trying to keep it close to home to avoid major travel expenses...for now at least...until that truck is paid off ;) I have a handful of 5Ks in mind, and a good training schedule planned out. I have never actually done a 10K, but I really want to, and feel like it's a good stepping stone in preparing for my first Half Marathon. So now I'm going to add 2 new items to my list of hopes, dreams and plans for the next 365 days:

1) Run the Chili Pepper 10K in Fayetteville on October 15, 2011
2) Complete the half marathon at the Orphan Hope International Trail Run on February 2, 2012.

I may end up doing the Marathon Relay instead of the Half Marathon at that race, which I'd be okay with...each leg would either be 4.6 or 8.5 miles. But if I do that relay at that one, my goal is still to do a half marathon before my 26th birthday. I suppose the Hogeye Half Marathon is an will be in April...I just have to train really hard for that is an extension of the Hogeye 5K that was the hardest 5K I've ever done...yikes!

I'm looking forward to the training adventure and completing the challenge! Who's with me? :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Online Shopping Spree of the most impressive things about Ridgecrest, this *beautiful* little place I currently call "home", is the extreme lack of places to shop.

Now honestly...big picture here...I really kinda have a hatred for shopping, so this works out in my favor...most of the time. The downside....when you really NEED to buy something, you have to drive a minimum of an hour and 45 minutes just to get somewhere that has anything remotely worthwhile. I mean really...I come from God's Country, a.k.a. Arkansas, where I can buy just about anything, anytime, at Wal-Mart. Here in Ridgecrest...the Wal-Mart is not only not a Supercenter, it also closes at 9:00pm most days. Not that I'm complaining...but it's really just a bit of culture shock.

There are times when you really do need to buy something...and well...I dislike shopping as it is. Add an hour and 45 minutes of driving in each direction, and I might pull my hair out. Not to mention...what if you complete the hour and 45 minute drive through the marvelous desert, get to the store, and STILL can't find what you're looking for? This in no way appeals to me.

All that to say, I have recently become a fan of online shopping. There are definitely pros and cons, but overall, I'd say the good outweighs the bad (in most cases). I thought I'd take a moment to share some recent purchases with you...all of which I made online from the comfort of my own desk at work, or bedroom at home :)

I already shared with you about my bridesmaids dresses and wedding shoes finds....both of which I felt were a steal! I also mentioned in that post that I had been on the hunt for a dress to wear to an upcoming bachelorette party...

Dress for jungle themed bachelorette party - $26.99

So if you know me at all, I know what you're thinking. "Lauren? Animal print? What?" I agree. I normally wouldn't pay money to wear something leopard or cheetah print, but my dear friend Jesse that is getting married in September, she really has a thing for leopard print! So I caved...and bought my first animal print dress. The only other animal printed things I have ever owned have been Zebra...and that is because it was my high school mascot. My soldier, who is also not a huge fan of animal print things, helped me pick this one out. I kept emailing him pictures while we were on Skype one evening, and almost every one of them, he crinkled his nose and shook his head on. This is the only one that he said, "You'd look good in that one." So I splurged a little (I normally wouldn't pay $27 for a dress I know I wouldn't wear much) and went for it :) Not that he will be joining the bachelorette festivities, but who knows when I might go to another jungle themed party later on in life that I'll fully intend on dragging him to? I at least want him to think I look good, even if he hates my dress. haha. I plan on wearing this with my red heels when we have the bachelorette party in a few weeks...stay tuned for pictures!

While on the animal print kick...
Zebra Print Swimsuit Top - $9.78
Zebra Print Swimsuit Bottoms - $9.79
 I actually don't mind zebra I said, it was kinda a requirement for the high school I graduated from. I found this swimsuit and thought it was a good buy, so I couldn't pass it up. Can't really go wrong with a good price on a swimsuit that's actually available in your size...even when your man doesn't like animal print. He's sure to like it if it involves you in a swimsuit. I actually sent him a picture via email when I got it in the mail...he approved ;)

Red Dress - $12.14
 This is something that looked like a great deal at the time...but turned out not so much. I got the dress, and it looks way cuter on the model that it did on me. Plus it was sized kinda was really big on the top, and the type of fabric (stretchy/spandexy material) combined with the fact that it was tighter on the bottom, just made it an awkward fit. I don't typically have that problem...I almost always have the opposite problem. But hey, you win some, you lose some. I've considered sending this back, but I figured the cost of shipping almost wouldn't be worth the refund. Who knows, maybe I'll make it work (have the top taken in and go commando because it shows every freaking detail...including panty-lines), or maybe I'll just throw it in the garage sale/Goodwill pile. Who knows? Might make someone really happy one day!

All of the above items (including the bridesmaids dresses for my wedding) were found at At the time I ordered the red dress, the swimsuit, and the animal print dress, I had just signed up for the Charlotte Russe BFF program. While I don't really think Charlotte Russe is my BFF, it was an opportunity for a free 10% off coupon...and I never say no to free discounts :) After I ordered that lot of items, a fancy little $10 coupon code showed up in my email inbox...all I had to do was spend $60 or more. So...I ordered my bridesmaids dresses, originally priced $32.99, two at a time, and used the coupon code for both orders. Awesome, right? :) Now if only I'd waited a couple days...because NOW Charlotte Russe is offering free shipping on orders over $60. I had to pay $6.99 per order on all three of my orders. Oh well...again, you win some, you lose some :)

Now for my perhaps most impressive online find...
Bridesmaids dress for Jesse's wedding - $9.50
This was such a good deal, that by the time I went back to look for a picture, it was sold out. So I posted a picture of actual me in the dress :)

I had been on the hunt for a dress to wear in Jesse's wedding in September. She is having 9 bridesmaids (yikes!) of all different shapes and sizes, so trying to find a dress that would look good on everyone was pretty much out of the question. So she decided to leave it up to us to pick out our own dress. These were the requirements: Black (preferably flat, not shiny), knee length-ish, any style on top, as long as there were no sparkly things (like sequins) and no other colors besides black. Easy enough right? I found this one that fit her description on, and could see it being something I could wear again in the future. Jesse approved. My favorite part...this dress was only $9.50! I had to pay $1.12 in sales tax, and $5.95 in I still ended up getting this dress for $16.57 total...without having to spend $30 on gas to get to the nearest shopping...I'll take it :)

So...after my recent online shopping spree, I'm now going to share with you a few of the pros and cons I have found when it comes to online shopping:

PRO: You don't have to drive to get what you want/need.
CON: You have to pay shipping...
PRO: I've spent less on shipping than I would have on gas. And sometimes your orders can even qualify for free shipping! :)

CON: You can't try things on.
PRO: You can always return/exchange things if they don't fit to your liking.
CON: You have to pay the shipping charges to send it back in order to get your refund/exchange :(
PRO: If you get a good enough deal, you could just sell it in mom's/sister's next garage sale and still not lose a whole lot :)

PRO: Most companies offer coupon codes and/or gift certificates that can save you some money. Some even give you incentives like reward points for every $1/$10 spent, which you can later exchange for discounts.
CON: You typically have to give them your email address.
PRO: You can always unsubscribe if they send you too many emails :)

PRO: You can get good deals on things online for lots a reasons, some mentioned above.
CON: If you're not smart, you'll end up buying something you don't really need and end up spending more money.
PRO: Being dumb is your choice :)

Happy shopping!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cross Country Road Trip Adventure!

One month ago today, I completed my cross country road trip to California. So, today I have decided to give you an overview of our little adventure! :) For those of you that don't know, I am doing a 12-week internship in California this summer...and not the "cool" part of California, by the beach or the giant redwood trees...smack in the middle of the desert. The town I'm living in is about an hour and a half from another town in any direction. It's a good time. The Wal-Mart, not even a Supercenter. And there are zero clothing stores. Lucky for me (and my pocketbook), I really don't enjoy that's not really a big loss. However, in the event that I need to buy something, like for a bachelorette party, or a bridesmaids dress for a friend's wedding...the nearest shopping is an hour and about 45 minutes away. I've become a fan of online shopping...but, I'll save that for another post :)

Anyways, I digress...

It all began Friday, June 17th. I packed up a huge, completely loaded suitcase, a small ice chest, a few personal items and my two Pitbulls in the Silver Bullet (my car...and little 5-speed 7-year-old Mitsubishi Eclipse) and left my cute little home and roommates in God's Country (Arkansas, in case you're not aware) to start my trek towards California. First stop: Oklahoma. The weekend started off with a bang, and we went to Grand Lake to celebrate my sister's birthday for the weekend. We had some good food, good drinks, and spent the entire day Saturday on the water, complete with a dance party on the back of the boat. Yes, please :)
My sisters, my brother-in-law and me riding on the boat :)
Sunday morning we got up, Cassie made breakfast, and I loaded up my stuff once again and drove to Lake Hudson to spend the day with my friend Audrey and a group of friends. Hudson Lake has a much different dynamic than is more "family oriented," while Grand is the party lake :) So we spent the day taking turns doing some wakeboarding and wakesurfing...neither of which am I very good at, but it's still fun to try :)
Please disregard the horrible look on my face. I promise I was having a good time :)
From there, I went back to my hometown and celebrated Father's Day with the whole fam - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, mom and sisters - complete with homemade ice cream, of course :) My aunt Kathy even made my favorite kind, strawberry, since I was going away for 3 sweet is she? :) After that, I went over to my sister's and stayed the night with her and the kiddos to get a good night's rest before my first big day of travel.

Got up early Monday morning, loaded my things and my pups in my car, and got on the road. About 10 minutes down the turnpike, I remembered I forgot a really important thing before I I had to turn around and go back! I had taken a concealed carry class about a month before I left home, and I had to apply for my Concealed Carry License while I was in my hometown. Fingerprints, a couple of passport photos and a small fortune later, and soon I will be licensed to carry my very own firearm :) So after my little detour, I loaded up the dogs one more time and got on the road a little after 2pm :)

After Pikepass deducted a decent chunk of money from my bank account, we (me and the puppies) made it 6 hours on our first day of driving to Amarillo, where we stayed the night in a hotel. The dogs were troopers and did great in the when I got into town, I met up with an old friend that lives in Amarillo and we went to a dog park a few miles from the hotel. I was a little nervous about the overwhelming number of canines inside the fence at the dog park, so we ended up just walking the dogs all around the sports complex that the park was in on leashes the dogs nice and worn out, which was awesome, because I went back to the hotel and was able to pretty much crash :)

Tuesday morning, we got up pretty early and hit the road again. I am a fan of making a trip out of a road trip, and trying to do something unique or fun along the way :) So on our way out of Amarillo, we stopped at the Cadillac Ranch. It amazes me that people can shove a few cars in the ground in the middle of a giant dirt pasture, and with a little bit of spray paint, it turns into a big tourist attraction. Only in Texas :)

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, TX
By the time I got back to my car, Koda decided he wanted to drive :)
I didn't let him :) We hit the road and headed west, and drove until we got to Albuquerque, which I think was about 5-6 hours...really, I lost count. haha. I managed to find a huge park right off the freeway and stopped for a bit. I had packed up some lunch meat and tortilla wraps in my ice chest, so I made lunch in the parking lot of a the way, BEST idea for road trips I think I've ever had: packing your own lunch so you don't have to eat fast food for every meal! Then I realized this giant park had a dog park in it...and it was completely empty! I let the dogs out of the car and let them run around for at least half an hour...they were loving life :)

We finally got back on the road after taking about an hour break in Albuquerque, and headed to Flagstaff, where we stayed the night at a hotel again. We got up Wednesday morning and, again, headed out pretty early. We finally got to the point that there was no longer ANY grassy patches when we stopped, and my little prince and princess were a bit confused as to where they were supposed to go to the bathroom. They didn't exactly make good desert dogs...haha :) We had plenty of time to kill on the last leg of our trip, because I didn't want to get to my new town too early before my roommate could get off work to let us in the house. So we took a little detour, and I was sure glad we did :)

When I was planning my trip to California a few months back, I picked Flagstaff for a stop because I really wanted to go see the Grand Canyon. But once I was there, and the Grand Canyon was only about an hour and a half away, I really just decided that it was something I would rather wait to do until my soldier could join me. Instead, we decided to stop at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest! It's something I'd also like to take future hubby to next year when we come back to California, but it was a good choice for me and the dogs too :) If you've never been, it is a National Park in Arizona, and it is super neat! On top of that, it was FREE to go, AND very dog friendly :) Me and the pups spent about an hour going through the entire park and stopping once in a while to take walks on the paths and take pictures of the pretty scenery.
Painted Desert
More Painted Desert :)
Puppies getting tired and worn out on all the scenic paths :)
Some petrified wood :)

We had a good time, and then got back on the road. My favorite part after that:
Sleepy puppies :)
How precious are they? They slept for pretty much the entire approximately 24 hours of driving total. I may be a little biased, but I'm pretty sure I have the best dogs ever :)

Over 1500 miles, with no cruise control I might add, we made it safe and sound to our new little desert town. So far, it's been a pretty decent experience. I don't really mind the whole "small town" thing, being that I grew up in one, and I'm not really much of a city girl anyhow. It is definitely a learning experience and bit of adjusting. It's only 12 weeks for now, but once I finish my PhD, I get to come back for 2-3 years. I think it is a place I can grow to call home...especially when my soldier is here with me...anything can qualify as home, so long as we are together :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Frugal Wedding Planning - Part 2 and Bridesmaids Dilemma...

Yesterday, I gave you Part 1 of my frugal wedding now I give you Part 2. You can probably plan on a part 3, 4 and maybe even 5 later on down the road...just depends on what else I can save money on ;) For now...We'll start with my dress. I went to David's Bridal for the Memorial Day weekend sale. I can't post a picture of it on here, just in case my future hubby happens to stumble across my blog and get a sneak peak ;) But I can tell you that it is simple, elegant, and almost exactly what I had in mind (which is saying mind is a complex place...). I got my dress for $249.99 + was regularly priced $550. Yes, please :)

Future Hubby found a foreign guy to custom make his suit. He got to pick the fabric he wanted, and get it sized perfectly for him. He is really excited about it :) I got to see it last night, finally, via the webcam and's pretty fancy ;) That was only $200, and it is something that he can wear again! :) His Best Man also had one custom made to match, but he wanted to buy it for it himself :)

I got my shoes on ebay for $19.99 plus shipping. I had originally planned on just going barefoot on the beach, but then I remembered that my groom is an entire foot taller than me, and decided that would probably make things a little bit difficult for our photographer ;) So I decided to go ahead and get shoes. I knew that regular heels would probably be a bad know, sinking into the sand and I decided to get some wedge shoes. Normally, not my style at all, but I thought they'd be perfect for the wedding :) Plus they are just the right shade of turquoise to go along with our colors (turquoise and orange)! And...I've already got my "something blue" ;)

Now that the bride and groom are dressed...on to the rest of the bridal party!

I am planning on having my beautiful niece and nephew as the flower girl and ring bearer. I haven't gotten very far on clothes for Jaxon yet, but I am thinking some khaki linen pants, a turquoise button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and some brown flip flops. Now if only I could find linen pants for little boys...I'll keep you posted :) For Brooklynn, I have found the PERFECT little ensemble :)

Now tell me that's not precious! I found these at, and they are a bit pricey. So I asked my mom if she could make it for me, and she said she would! All I will have to buy are the materials :) I've looked around a little bit for plain white leotards, and have found some promising avenues, so we should be in good shape :)

Now for my most recent find! :) I had been on the hunt for some bridesmaids dresses...and was kinda going back and forth between having orange or having turquoise. I kinda thought turquoise would be better, because turquoise flowers are a little difficult to come by, so the flowers will for sure be orange. But then I had SUCH a hard time finding the right shade of turquoise that I was looking for! So I decided to start looking at orange dresses. I had originally found an Alfred Angelo dress that I really liked, but the cheapest I could find it was for $139 before taxes and shipping. YIKES! I really was hoping to spend absolutely no more than $100/dress on the bridesmaids dresses. Chances are, it's a dress they are going to wear one time, and they may or may not even like it! So as I was on the hunt for a dress to wear for a friend's upcoming bachelorette party, I found a great alternative!

I found these on for $32.99 + tax and shipping...BUT, I had a $10 off promo code from ordering the dress for the bachelorette party, so it ended up coming to about $31/dress after taxes and shipping. That's a price I like! (Disclaimer: I swear the dress is not as short as it looks in the picture...keep in mind models for these types of clothing stores are generally between 5'10" and 6'1" bridesmaids are not that tall :)

Now for my dilemma...future hubby is only having ONE groomsman, his Best Man, and he really doesn't want to add anyone else. I have done the best I can, but I really can't narrow it down anymore...I have FOUR people I REALLY want as bridesmaids. Two of the girls are two very dear friends of mine, and two of them are my older sisters.

Missy is my best friend from college. I can truly say that she is the very first "Best Friend" I ever had where the best friendship actually went both ways. Even though we live far apart now, I know I can trust her with anything, and she would not hesitate to drop everything for me if I really needed her. She will be my Matron of Honor, just like I was her Maid of Honor when she got married :) Jesse is one of my closest friends now. She has been there from the beginning of Walter and I's relationship, and has been such a blessing to me through all of it. Her and I have always had a special bond and have had the opportunity to help each other through some difficult times, with both of us dating, and now marrying, military men (she's getting married in September to her love, and I get to be there to stand up for her! :). She is someone that has already been such a great friend, and I know for the future, I can really count on to help support me and my husband in our marriage because she will understand exactly what it takes to make a military marriage successful.
I have also always wanted to have my sisters in my wedding. Sarah is my oldest sister - the one with the beautiful flower girl and ring bearer :) - and in a lot of ways, she has been my rock. I'm not sure that there is anybody that understands me the way she does. For most of our adult lives, we have lived hundreds of miles apart...but even still, she's almost always the first person I call when I need to vent, or when I have some excited news and just want someone to be happy with me :) Cassie is my other older sister. She has probably had one of the more profound impacts on me than just about anyone else in my life. She's been the person I've almost always looked up to...I even wrote a paper for my Comp class in college about her (our teacher made us write about someone who we looked up to)...haha...I don't think I ever told her that. She can be very sassy, but she's got a huge heart and will do just about anything for someone she cares about. In fact, in the 3 months I've been engaged, she has been the most willing to help me with wedding stuff, and was the very first wedding guest (and only member of my family or friends to this day) to book her stay for my wedding. AND she's even been after all her friends, trying to get them to come to Cozumel, just so we can get our wedding for free! haha :)

So...since I can't narrow it down anymore, how do I make four bridesmaids and one groomsman work? I am open to suggestions! Walter really doesn't want to add anybody, and I feel like asking him to add someone is just as lame as asking me to give up someone. I just don't want it to look weird or be overkill at a small wedding. I thought about having Walter, his Best Man, and Kyle (our minister, who also happens to be Missy's hubby) just walk out to the front together at the beginning of the ceremony...then having Cassie, Sarah, Jesse and Missy walk down the aisle individually during the processional, maybe having my sisters sit in the front row with my family (really, who likes standing for the ceremony anyways?...haha) once they get to the front, and Missy and Jesse stand next to me. Then for the recessional, having Sarah walk out with her two kiddos, Marlon (best man) escorting both Cassie and Jesse out, and then Kyle escorting Missy out. Is that dumb? Or does anyone else have a better idea?

I guess the good news is, this has really been the only "stressful" thing about planning this wedding so far...

Do you have any frugal wedding tips? And do you have any ideas for making uneven numbers of bridesmaids vs. groomsmen flow? I'm always open to new ideas :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Frugal Wedding Planning - Part 1 :)

So...a long time ago, I told you all about my dream wedding. And then back in April, before I took my temporary leave of absense, I told you about the proposal. Now, I am officially getting to actually plan the wedding! Some of it is complicated, some of it is just frustrating...but overall, I am having a good time and trying to enjoy every minute of it :)

Now if you've followed my blog in the past, or really even know me at probably know I am a bit of a penny pincher. I hate wasting money, and LOVE finding a good deal. I posted a blog a while back about my goals for the next 365 days. Some of them, I have not gotten very far on, and two of them I have thrown out completely. But the wedding planning part...well it's coming together...and I'm getting there :) But one of the main ones for me was getting completely out of debt. We are well on our way to this soldier and I have been sticking to a strict budget lately, and just in the past 2-3 months, we have paid off three credit cards. Two of which, I actually called a couple of days ago to close the accounts completely. I hate the idea of being in debt and owing someone else money. I would much rather be having opportunities to save and invest our money, and plan for our future, rather than getting sucked into a hole by having to pay debts from our past. Now we are focusing on getting his truck paid off. All that to say, I am trying to be as frugal as possible with the wedding planning. I want it to be as perfect for us, but I am a firm believer that it doesn't have to cost us a fortune for that to happen!

I have been to so many weddings that have been so extravagant that I think, "Gee, I bet this wedding is costing more money than I make in a year." And I've even been to some that I didn't think were all that fancy, just to find out they still cost over $20,000. No, thank you! As of right now, I am planning our wedding on a budget of about $8500 total, and that's including our honeymoon! Depending on how our debt snowball goes, we may end up having more to spend, but I really want to stick to this budget. So I thought I would start sharing little "tips" I am learning along the way on how to plan a wedding on a small budget :)

First of all...we are doing a destination wedding...and let me just say, that is a HUGE way to save a bunch of money up front. I have gotten some flack from a few people, and some of them have been downright rude. But honestly, I don't care. This is one of the best decisions I could've possibly made about our wedding, and while I understand that it is going to be impossible for some people to come due to the cost, it is OUR wedding, it is what WE want, and it is saving us a BUNDLE of money! For the most part, I have actually gotten really positive responses regarding the destination wedding...I mean really, who doesn't want a reasonably priced vacation to the Caribbean?! A lot of our family and friends are really excited about it, because the wedding is still 10 months away, everyone still has plenty of time to save up :)

As I told you in a previous post, we have chosen the Iberostar Cozumel for our wedding-moon. This is an all-inclusive resort, which means all of our (and our guests') food and drinks (including cocktails!) will be free. Now, their prices are already pretty reasonable, but because we are booking so far in advance, we saved another $500 because they have an early booking special going on right now! On top of that...our guests that have kids under 12 will get to bring their kids for free...they have to pay for a plane ticket, but kids stay free at the resort :) The wedding itself is going to cost a base price of $1750, which includes a wedding coordinator, flowers, decoration and set-up for the wedding, dinner for us and all of our wedding guests, a wedding cake, sparkling wine for everyone to toast with at the cermony, and they even decorate our room and give hubby and I chocolate covered strawberries and champagne on our wedding night! Really can't be that! Now...we do have to pay an extra $20/person for every guest we have over 10 people, but even that won't end up being too bad. PLUS, if we get enough people that 20+ rooms are booked for 3+ nights, our entire wedding is FREE and still includes all that stuff! So I've got my sister and a friend trying to recruit random people to come to my wedding just so we can get it for free...HA! :) It would not hurt my feelings to get a free wedding...not one bit.

Aside from the fact that we are saving tons of money just by doing a beach wedding, I have come across some other great finds to save us some money.

First off, since we are going through a travel agent to book everything for the wedding, the travel agency sent out trifold brochures for free that had information about the resort, our wedding date, and contact information for our travel we didn't have to bother with paying for Save the Dates or the postage!

Then I was looking online the other day, trying to decide what to do for invitations, and came across these fun little guys:

I found these and several other examples on, and got really excited. I also found some RSVP cards that look like mini boarding passes.

I think they are perfect! A.) Not only are they cute for a destination wedding, but B.) They will also have plenty of room to include all the information we need about the resort, and itenerary for the weekend of the wedding, and we are still considering the possibility of doing either a pre-wedding party before we go or a reception when we return, so that we can still celebrate with our family and friends that can't make it to Cozumel, so we could just add another page and include that information, rather than sending out completely separate invitations. I got really excited about these...then I looked at the prices...they ranged from $3.75 to $6.75 PER invitation. EEK!
Fortunately, I have a really talented, creative sister with lots of fancy computer software that was more than happy to help me out...she's going to design them for me! :) I'm planning on paying for all the supplies she needs to make them (paper, ink, etc.), and then maybe exchanging some work on her house when I get back to the midwest for her design services ;)

Another idea I got from etsy, was doing these program fans :) Most of them are going for $2-3 per fan, but I figure this is simple enough that I can just type it up myself, print it on some card stock, glue it to a paint stick and tie a ribbon around it. Can't be that hard right?! :)

These are just some of my ideas so far...I have a whole other post coming up about our wedding attire along with more frugal finds :)

Do you have any good beach wedding ideas? Or just simple ways to save some money when it comes to wedding planning? I am always open to new ideas!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm Baaaaack.... :)

So...after a nearly three month long absence, I have returned! I had a good reason for taking a step back for a while and getting some perspective on some things (if you're curious as to what those are, I'd be happy to share/explain personally, so feel free to message me. It's just one of those things I don't think broadcasting over the internet is appropriate :)

Anyways! I am glad to be back, and hope to have to good, fun, things to share in the future. But I have to send out a little disclaimer...I make no promises. In all likelihood, the majority of my posts will just be my random enjoy! :) For starters...I'd like to update you on a few things since I've been gone :)

  1. I got two new roommates, for a very short time. I love them :)
  2. Then I moved to California (temporarily), so I lost my two new roommates and gained another one...and a couple of new doggie roommates :)
  3. Please, do not give me the, "Oh cool! You're in California!" remark. While I appreciate your enthusiasm, not everywhere in California is the beach. haha.
  4. I've been introduced to swamp coolers for the first time in my life. So far, not so much a fan, by the way.
  5. I've started my new internship (which is where the whole "Rocket Science" thing comes in :)
  6. My two Pit Bulls, Aspen and Koda, have made friends with their new doggie roommates!
  7. My dogs do not make good desert dogs. They are confused regarding the lack of grass to poop on...
  8. The best thing I've found so far about California, is that groceries are tax free. I've learned to get excited about the little things...there really are only a few. haha. I've also had my first experience shopping at the commissary! 
  9. The nearest shopping (not groceries, but clothes and stuff like that) is at least an hour and a half away from where I live, so I've become a fan of online shopping, since I needed to buy a new dress for both a bachelorette party and to wear as a bridesmaid's dress in my dear friend Jesse's wedding. The Wal-Mart here is also not a supercenter, and not open 24 hours. Dorothy...we are NOT in ARkansas anymore! :(
  10. I think I have more weekend plans to LEAVE California that I do to actually stay here in the coming weeks. I have booked four separate plane tickets in the past 2 weeks. haha.
  11. Another good quality California has is my grandpa. He's only about 3 hours away, and I have driven down to see him two of the three weekends I've been here :) 
  12. In case you missed it, Casey Anthony got off for killing her 2 year old daughter. If any of you actually pay money to watch this movie that they are supposedly making about her "story"...I will probably no longer be your friend. That woman does not deserve one cent for murdering her baby.
  13. And last but certainly not least...we have officially set a date and booked our rooms for our beach wedding in Cozumel! We also already have 4 guests booked!  :)
Well that's a good start for now...I'm going to have to recap a few things in that list and provide some more look forward to that in future posts :)

Looking forward to being back!