Friday, March 30, 2012

Have a wonderful weekend, loves!

Our boat is going in the water this afternoon - and I haven't seen Nate this excited in a longggg time!  (He says it feels like Christmas!)  I bet you can guess what we'll be doing this weekend...!

Happy Friday and hope you have a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

(Photo via Agadabout)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our New House: Update #1

Welp, we officially started construction on the new house this week!  And as promised, I'm here to catalog the progress!

This picture was taken on closing day (March 9th) and will serve as our "before" picture.

We just bought ourselves one big pile of dirt!

The past two weeks have been spent finalizing our construction documents with our architect (and making some last minute changes, of course), and waiting for our final permit approvals from the city of Ocean City.  I picked up our permit on Monday and we broke ground first thing Tuesday morning! 

Day 1 - Tuesday, March 27
The surveyor came out and put stakes in the ground to mark where the pilings need to be driven.

I rushed home after work to go
check out the new stakes!

Day 2 - Wednesday, March 28
Coastal Marine came out and drove the first piling into the ground to test the soil.

Picture taken by Nate as he watched
the first one go in!

Day 3 - Thursday, March 29
Today, they drove the rest of the pilings into the ground!

Photo taken around 8am this morning...

Nate just sent me this picture

Tomorrow, we're "digging the footings" for the foundation.  Next week, we're "pouring concrete" (for the foundation).  And we' ll be "framing" a week from Monday!  (please excuse my fancy new building terms in quotes!)

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DIY Birth Announcement

I'll admit, I was a little embarrassed showing up to the hospital to meet my new baby niece empty handed two weeks ago.  But who'd of thought she'd come a week early...and when we were 400 miles away in Washington, D.C.?!  Not me!  Or that she'd arrive at 5am and we'd be there only a few short hours later, still before sun came up?

Plus, it didn't help that my gift was a personalized gift (of course it was!).  And the baby actually needed to be born for me to complete said gift! :)

But hey, we're family!  They'll get over my minor slip in proper etiquette!!

So anyways, when I was back up in NYC this past weekend I got to spend 3 whole hours with Emma and was so super excited to finally reveal my gift to her (well, her parents). 

Drum roll, please!!

I made a handmade birth announcement to hang in Emma's nursery!

I actually got the idea off of Etsy.  At at Christmas party, a friend of mine was showing me some of her recent Etsy purchases, and one of them was a nursery birth announcement.  It looked something along the lines of this:

New Baby Nursery Decor Birth Adoption Announcement . 8x10  //  Shabby Chic Cottage Subway Art Poster Print Scroll Roll
I kid you not, this is $45 on Etsy

Or this:
Modern Birth Announcement Nursery Wall Art

Both very cute!  And so thoughtful!  But I took one look and knew immediately that I could make that on my own. 

And I could make it better!

I was very happy with the way it turned out - it's cute, sweet and a great way to remember a baby's birth stats.  (Am I the only one who knows their birth height/weight/time because they have an engraved picture frame in their room all their life?)  And Justin and Sara were thrilled to receive nursery decor, something they said they pretty much forgot about on their registry!

Unfortunately (for you, I'm sorry!) I will not be revelaing my exact DIY instructions...  But if you should be so lucky to be expecting a baby in the near future, you can bet that one of these lovelies will be coming your way.  And yes - I have a boy version, as well!

Doesn't it look so sweet sitting above Emma's changing table?

I promise more pictures when her nursery is all set up!

P.S. I'm taking orders, as well, if you're in need of a baby present!  Message me if you're interested!  :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NYC Bachelorette - a review!

As I mentioned on Friday, I went to NYC this past weekend for my best friend's bachelorette party! 

Planning a bachelorette can be, well, difficult, especially when you're not only coordinating activities, dinner, surprises and hotel accommodations for 20 people, but there's also just about a gazillion options of things to do in New York!!!  

Where do you even begin?! 

But, this bride's sister / matron of honor did such an incredible job planning the entire outing - the weekend was right out of a movie.  Ridiculously fun and crazy - and definitely not your typical night out (nice dinner plus clubbing? boring!).  And I can honestly say I haven't had this much fun in a long time!

Anyways, I don't know about you, but I'm the type of person who appreciates a good recommendation before trying something out blind.  And since we all had so much fun, I thought I'd pass along two of the highlighted activities of the weekend in case you're faced with the exciting task of planning a bride-to-be's last fling! 

Pole Dancing Class @ Shockra
114 East 28th St. - btw Lexington and Park
Private Pole Party - $28pp

After taking this class, I can honestly say I have a whole new respect for strippers.  Not only is pole dancing physically challenging - talk about the need for both upper and lower body strength - but working the pole while also looking sexy?!  Now that is a fete all in its own! 

The private class is $28 pp and there are 10 poles in the room.  The instructor is friendly and funny and teaches you a number of different "moves" that you eventually build up into a sequence / routine.  The level of participation depends on you / your interest / your ability, but I can honestly say there wasn't a girl in the room who wasn't too shy to give the pole a try! 

Did I mention dressing up is encouraged?!  (Our bride, Kathryn, wore the most amazing sequined bra with a neon cut-out top - you go girl!)

Oh, and be prepared for some soreness the next day!  I wasn't kidding when I said it was a workout...!

Lucky Cheng's
24 First Ave. - btw 1st and 2nd St.

When you hear a name like Lucky Cheng's, you probably think its just another Asian restaurant in New York.  And you're right, they do serve Asian food for dinner (pre-fix menu, family style - food is just par).  But this is wayyyy more than a little Asian restaurant in the LES.  This is a drag show - a full on, no doubts about it, DRAG QUEEN CAPITAL OF THE WORLD type production.  And it is amazingly hysterical!  

this is honeslty the only blog appropriate picture I could post...
and of course this doesn't do the Queens any justice!

This spot is MADE for bachelorette and all-girl birthday parties!  Each table has their own "waitress" (read: queen) that literally works your table all night.  During dinner, you're entertained by the most energetic "dancer" who selects a few unsuspecting audience membesr to join her(him?) on stage. For a drag queen lap dance. In front of everyone.  And it includes the most vulgar of imitations that you'd never think you'd ever see in a restaurant.  And some mild groping. 

The show continues after dinner with a parade and introductions of all the Queens in the house.  (Which gave our group the opportunity to speculate which surgeries, hormone therapies, etc. these ladies had undergone..).  Regardless of the how or why, my hat is off to these performers!  They were so entertaining, personable, friendly and fun!  And most had better boobs and legs than the rest of us!!!  (not fair!)

The grand finale includes 6 audience members competing in a lap dance contest given to one of the very few gay men in attendance (because there were a few!).  I applaud all of these participants, including our bride, for their balls (no, that's not the right word...).  I have never laughed so hard in my entire life!

Did I mention there's a guy that also makes naughty balloon animals for your table?!  How's that for adult entertainment?

Anyways, let's just say Lucky Cheng's is an experience you both can't wait and don't ever want to forget.  Oh the things we saw...

Have you planned / attended a bachelorette in New York recently?  I'd love some of your recommendations, especially since we'll be throwing my sister one soon (and for some reason, don't think a drag show will be on her agenda!).


Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Hunger Games! I mean, weekend!

Sorry, I couldn't resist!  I am caught up in the Hunger Games hype just like the rest of 'em!  (I "read" all 3 books between Christmas and New Years!)  Who is going to see it tonight?  This weekend?  I'm hoping to go on Sunday because tonight I'm heading up to NYC straight after work!!!  I'm so excited to hang out with my sister Ashley - tomorrow we're going to go shopping and visit baby Emma (oh, and Justin and Sara!).  And tomorrow night is Kathryn's bachelorette extravaganza! Pretty awesome weekend if you ask me!

What are you up to?

May the odds ever be in your favor!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

BHLDN Wedding Shoes

Call it wedding fever with my best friend's wedding next month and my sister's recent engagement, but I can't get enough of the gorgeous wedding shoe assortment from BHLDN. 

Where were these beauties last year when I was in the market?!

Aurora Vapor Heels - $350

Feather Trimmed d'Orsays - $340

Cendrillion d'Orsays - $280

Elizabethan Heels - $260

Threshold Slingbacks - $320

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Recipe: Cucumber Salad

Nate and I are on a big cucumber salad kick right now.  (There could be worse things to binge eat, right?)

We make a batch once a week in a large pyrex bowl, usually on Sundays after our weekly trip to the grocery store, and its become my go-to snack or instant dinner side (if you're looking to add another veggie).  The longer the cucumber's "marinate", the better the salad - that is, if you don't eat it all the first few days like we seem to do!

Nate has been tormenting me that we're really just making homemade pickles.  But I refuse to admit that this delicious salad is anything but cucumbers with "dressing".  Pickles = gross!!  So yeah, my fellow pickle haters out there - this looks, smells and taste nothing like those sour smelly things, I promise! :)

Here's our recipe - I apologize for the less than accurate measurements as we just eyeball the ingredients.  I promise its more fun that way, and you really can't mess it up!

  • 4 large cucumbers
  • Red or yellow onions - your choice!
  • Water
  • White wine vinegar
  • Dill weed
  • Sugar
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Large bowl with lid

1. Peel your cucumbers completely or leaving a little strip of green in between each peel.

via ShockinglyDelicious

2. Cut the cucumber into thin slices and add to a large bowl (bigger than the one in the picture below)

via ShockinglyDelicious

3. Slice your onion into small rounded slices and add to your bowl.

4. Next add 3 parts white wine vinegar and 1 part water until all the cucumbers and onions are covered (sort of like a crock pot recipe).

5. Add about a little bit of sugar - maybe a teaspoon? (We don't like it too sweet) Stir.

6. Add a couple big shakes of dill weed.  (We love the dill flavor!)  Stir.

7. For a little zing, add a shake or two of red pepper flakes.

8. Cover your bowl and place in the're cucumber salad is ready to eat when you are!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Craft of the Week: Photo Coasters

A while back in my post on Bridesmaid Gift Ideas, I suggested making each one of your maids (or friends, or parents, or your brand new niece you can't get enough of...) these adorable photo coasters.  And today, I'm finally giving ya'll the tutorial I promised!  It's easy, cheap and makes a cute homemade present - I put these ones in Nate's stocking!

Supplies Needed:
  • Scissors / Paper Cutter
  • Mod podge
  • Foam brush
  • 6 square tiles (from Home Depot, $0.16 each)
  • 6 4x6 photos (works much better if printed on actual photo paper vs. printer paper)
  • 24 felt glides

1. Cut down your 4x6 photos into 4x4 squares.

2. Paint the back of the photo with mod podge and glue to the top of the tile. 

3. Once the glue has dried and the photos are firmly in place, paint a coat of mod podge on top of the pictures to give it a glossy finish.  Do not worry, it will dry clear!

4. Let your tiles completely dry....

5. Turn the tiles over and add the felt glides to the corners of each tile.

7. Eat, drink and be merry!  xoxo

P.S. Happy first day of spring!  Are you as excited as I am for free Rita's?!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Welcome to the world, Emma Grace!

I could not be happier or more excited to announce the arrival my new little niece, Emma Grace Rowley!  Emma was born yesterday, March 18th, at 5:15am after nearly 24 hours of labor (go Sara!).  Mommy, Daddy and baby are all doing exceptionally well!

Seeing and holding you for the first time yesterday truly took my breath away!  I love you dearly baby Emma <3 and I can't wait to see you you again on Saturday!!  


P.S. Doesn't she look just like her daddy?

baby Justin (12/7/1983)

P.P.S. Mom, she has your beautiful blue eyes!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Beginner's Photography Class

Last Thursday, I finished a 3 week beginner photography class that was offered at the Ocean City Arts Center.  Since I was the lone student, the class was rather informal...and the one-on-one attention gave me the opportunity to really "get to know" my camera through the filter of a professional (Bud)! 

I took the class using our compact SLR camera made by Sony called the Sony Alpha Nex-5.  The camera was an (amazing!) engagement present from my siblings and I love the fact that it is small and light (just like a regular point-and-shoot digital camera) but you have the added benefits of an SLR with the interchangeable lenses!  Even without knowing exactly how to use all the functions, just setting this baby on automatic has procured some of the best pictures I've ever taken in my life (during some of the biggest events of my life).  And now that I'm not afraid to turn the dial and play around with the settings, I can't wait to see all that I'm able to do...

Sony Alpha Nex-5

Anyways, here are a few of the basic tips I learned that I thought some of you other beginners out there may find useful!  Of course, this all means nothing if you don't get out there and practice!!

(For all the professionals out there, I apologize if my terminology is still a little rough - I'm still learning...but you get the picture!)

Pixel is short of "picture element" and the more your camera has, the higher resolution photographs you can produce.  More pixels also allow for larger prints. Since most people do not "blow up" every photo, ~10-14 mega pixel should suffice.  Most electronics stores (i.e. Best Buy, etc.) will use mega pixels as a major selling feature, and you'll see the price go up as the number of mega pixels go up.  But remember there are other important functions to consider!  Like zoom, aperture and shutter speed to name a few!

An ideal zoom lens capability is ~200mm.  300-400mm is great.  We currently only have the standard zoom lens for our camera (18-55mm) and I just learned that that is comparable to what the human eye sees.  Aka, we need a better zoom lens!  Unfortunately, that baby retails for a whopping $800 so it looks like I'll be waiting for a Black Friday special...

18-200mm E-mount lens - $799

On the other hand, Bud told me the wide-angle lens for my camera wasn't really necessary to buy.  15mm is really good for wide angle, but 18mm is good too. 
Sony 16mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle Lens for NEX
16mm wide angle lens - $249

Aperture is the round opening in the lens which allows light into the camera.  The larger the number the smaller the opening.  The openings are called F stops with F1.2 being VERY LARGE and F-22 being very small

When you want to shoot close ups (or people, a building, etc.) and want the background soft (it's called soft not blurry), you want a LARGE aperture (or low number F-stop).

When you want to shoot with both the landscape and focal point (person, building, etc.) all in focus, you want to use a small aperture (or high number F-stop).

You can adjust your camera's aperture in the Aperture Priority setting on your camera.  Note: My camera has a range from F-3.5 to 5.6 at the MAX and F-22 to 24 at the min.   Bud said this is a very respectable range...

Shutter Speed:
The shutter speed opens and closes to allow the light to expose the film and the faster it opens and closes the better the action will be frozen. 

The slower the shutter speed, from 1/60 second to 1 second , you should use a tripod.

You can adjust your camera's shutter speed in the Shutter Priority setting on your camera.

General Tips:
1. Read your camera's instruction manual.  Duh! 

2. When reading your instruction manual, learn how to set your camera to the highest resolution and picture quality.  Often, the camera is pre-set with only the standard quality setting.

3. The golden hours for shooting are: one hour before sunrise and one hour before sunset.  These are the two best times of day for outdoor photos.  The skies are aglow and shadows melt into the background.  Noon on a sunny day is the worst time.

4. Do not cut people in half!  Go for a "bust" shot or a head to toe. 
5. When shooting children and animals, get down on their level.

6. Shoot outdoors!

7. To prevent shados on the face when shooting on a sunny day with the sun behind the subject, have the subject hold a white foam board at the waist angled towards his/her face.  The sun will reflect light from the board onto the face.

8. For really bright and vivid photos, set your camera on the Vivid setting!  (That one is my personal fave!)

Anyways, I hope you found this post as helpful as I found my class to be!  And if you're interested in taking your own class, I've seen a ton of great deals popping up on Groupon so keep your eyes peeled! 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lucky Brew St. Patrick's Day Beer Labels

St. Patrick's day is literally right around the corner.  And how lucky we are that it falls on a Saturday this year!  I have a funny feeling people will be celebrating a little bit harder than usual...!!

Anyways, if you're having a party...or attending a party...I think these free printable labels from Benign Objects might be a cute addition to the festivities!  Just print on full-size shipping labels, cut out with scissors and you'll transform your American made beer (that you know you'll switch to after your obligatory 1-2 pints of Guinness) into an at least Irish looking brew! 

To download your free printable, click here!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Baby Shower Gift Ideas

Did I mention I am going to be an aunt in two weeks? 

That's right, if you haven't yet heard, my brother (Justin) and his wife (Sara) are expecting their first little bundle of joy on or around March 23!  I am so unbelievable excited for them, for my dad (the first grandchild!) and for this beautiful little girl who is going to have 6 doting aunts (!!!) and 4 uncles!

Two weekends ago, we threw Sara and baby Emma a baby shower at the Water Works restaurant (and wedding venue) in Philadelphia.  If you've never been, I'd highly recommend!  Gorgeous views, great food and dangerously close to the Art Museum and boathouse row, two of the most iconic "attractions" in all of Philly.

Philadelphia Water Works

Now, I'm not typically a huge fan of gift opening at showers - it's dreadfully boring for guests and I literally break out in hives watching the honoree oooh and ahh over items she picked out on her registry in front of a room fill of people - but I think I have 100% changed my opinion for baby showers after this one.  The stuff is just so damn cute I honestly didn't want the presents portion of the party to end!! 

So much so, that I left with a list of great gift ideas for the upcoming (3) baby showers I have this spring that I wanted to share with ya'll!  (And don't worry - this list is the fun non-registry stuff only - I don't know the first thing about strollers or cribs or rectal thermometers!)

Designer baby clothes. I know some of you are probably scoffing right now thinking, why would I spend $100 on designer baby shoes when you could buy 5 at that price?  But the point is, you are going to spend a certain amount on a gift, right?  Well the shower is really the one time to give that person, not only the practical items, but also something they likely would not buy for themselves (or their baby).  Sure, they'll likely be saved for special occasions only...but I personally would be happier knowing my gift didn't go straight to the "play clothes" only file...  And trust me when I say these items will go in their "save forever" box!

Now if this is not the cutest thing you've ever seen...

(By the way, I have never seen so many designer baby duds than at Sara's shower - Emma got her first pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes, baby TOMS, a Juicy Couture track suit, Polo dresses and shirt, baby Uggs!  Emma is going to be the best dressed baby!)

Baby Clothes Line: A number of guests made these adorable baby clothes lines with an assortment of different outfits and sizes.  I thought this was a very fun way for Sara to "open" the outfits (vs. opening one outfit at a time) and display afterwards for everyone to see!

obviously not a picture from Sara's shower, but you get the idea...

Receiving / Stroller Blanket: Of the handmade kind, like this one made by my cousin's very talent fiance, Meggan!!

Or perhaps splurge this cashmere one from J. Crew...

J. Crew cashmere baby blanket

A gorgeous blanket will be forever treasured.  (And you never know which one will turn out to be the child's one true lovey!)

Designer Baby Bag: Sara's sister and mom gave her a beautiful Marc Jacobs diaper bag, and I immediately thought what a great group gift this would make from a bunch of your girl friends. Just because you need to retire your favorite purses doesn't mean you have to start carrying ugly printed Vera Bradley (don't get me wrong, love the weekenders...but wouldn't be caught dead carrying a purse/diaper bag...sorryimnotsorry)!

Marc Jacobs

Finally, here is what my sisters and I gave our sister-in-law and niece-to-be: At the last Lilly Warehouse sale in November, we each bought baby Emma a Lilly outfit - 2 shift dresses and 1 bathing suit - because if she's gonna be a Rowley girl, she's gotta love Lilly! 
Lilly printed bathing suit

baby Lilly shift with lace

Emily made (like actually sewed!) these adorable burp cloths and then we got them monogrammed!

And this is perhaps my favorite gift of all.  We gave Sara a gift certificate for a professional photography session by a photographer that will come to her home and shoot in the baby's actual nursery!  We chose Tina Jay Photography because she recently took pictures for Emily's boyfriend's sister's baby, Stella, (that was a mouthful!) and they were seriously the cutest photos I have ever seen.

case and point.

need i say more
Would love to hear if you have any great non-registry gift ideas!!