Mason Vacation Memory Jar

You may not have known it, but I just got back from a vacation. Dan and I spent our first anniversary in the great city of San Francisco.

On the way home, I was already trying to figure out how best to create a display of some of the cool stuff we did and saw. I remembered this post on YHL from a while ago, and I thought that a vacation jar would be a fun and fairly easy project to try. I’m really happy with the way it came out.


It looks different from every angle, each showing a different part of the trip.


Making it was like re-living the whole trip. I had saved a bunch of items from the trip like bus fare cards, maps/brochures of the city, and any odds and ends that I thought were interesting. I laid everything out on the table. Yep, I brought home a lot of stuff.


Dan and I talked about our favorite parts of the trip and made sure we picked out items from those memories.

So what ended up in the jar?

1. Part of a cup of coffee we had at the Blue Bottle, which is like San Francisco’s Intelligensia. We had some of their coffee during a Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building.

2. A receipt from our anniversary night dinner at 1300 on Fillmore. It was fancy soul food. My favorite was the ribs, the shrimp and grits, or the bread pudding. Yum.

3. A piece of our MUNI public transportation pass. We took public transit everywhere. We rode the cable cars for fun.

4. A straw from In ‘N Out Burger. First time I ever had an In ‘N Out burger. We ate at the one near Fishermen’s Wharf.

5. A Beach Blanket Babylon ticket. We saw this hilarious show one night. I highly recommend it.

6. A ticket to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). An added bonus: we went on the museum’s free day!

7. A boarding pass for our flight.

8. The seal from a box of tarts we bought from Tartine Bakery. Best fruit tart ever.

9. The logo of Alcatraz from an informational pamphlet we were given on the tour. The tour was definitely my favorite part of the trip. If you can, I highly recommend going on the night tour.

10. A fortune cookie fortune. We visited the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory. They supply most of the fortune cookies you get at Chinese restaurants around the world. We saw them being made.

11. A wrapper from a Ghiradelli chocolate square. We visited Ghiradelli Square and were given the chocolate as we walked into the store. We also got the best hot fudge sundae I’ve ever had.

12. Gelato spoons from Naia. After eating a delicious traditional Italian pizza, we headed to Naia for some gelato. I got the gelato made with Blue Bottle coffee.

13. 2 corks – 1 traditional one from a bottle of Pinot Noir we purchased at Whitehall Winery (yep, we went to Napa). The other was a special kind only Whitehall uses for their premium wine. They are the only one to use this kind of cork. It has a silicon ring to make sure the cork doesn’t break until you open it.

I finished off the project by adding some twine ribbon and a tag to the jar. I took a map from one of the brochures and glued it to a piece of white cardstock. Then I punched a hole and wrapped the twine to it, attaching the twine to the jar.

I circled the place where our hotel was, Nob Hill.


And I wrote “San Francisco, June 2011” on the tag.


It’s a sort of mason jar time capsule of our anniversary trip. So much cuter than just creating a photo collage.

Office Update: Rearranged and Re-painted

I owe you guys an office update. I have for a while now.

I wanted to have more than one or two things done to update on before I wrote a post. I did tell you that we finished up our frame gallery, and it still makes me smile everytime I pass by and see it from the hallway. We used a mish-mash of different images we liked, though my 2 favorites have to be the University of Illinois Quad (the big one on the bottom left) and the yellow bird drawn on a vintage Chicago map (on the top right).

But we’ve done more than just complete the frame gallery.

On to the big reveal – here’s how the room looks now.

We’re almost there!

I’ll breakdown all we’ve done.

Well, for starters, we did a total room rearrange. Here’s the before look:


The room feels a ton bigger after moving the desk to the far back wall. We’ll have to move our diplomas because now they just look weird and half covered by the TV. Then that will leave a new wall for me to decorate. Ooooooh.

Additionally, the rearrangement created a great space for some relaxing and TV watching in the front part of the room. We found that chair on craiglist a couple months back. I have big plans for it that involve some pretty green fabric and a throw pillow I have yet to make. I placed the old Ikea wooden table next to it, and under the window.

The table was elsewhere in the room before, but it was awkwardly hanging out near the closet and housed our wireless internet stuff. And it was stained pink. We gave it a coat of primer and a coat of white paint, and that’s what we got. I really like how it came out. It kinda looks a little beachy, and definitely vintage.

Oh, and the dresser. You probably thought it was new. Nope, and it’s not a craigslist find either. When we rearranged the room, we realized the tall boy dresser was just too tall to hold the TV because of how low the chair is. So, we swapped out the tall boy for the dresser Dan had in his closet. It’s been his since childhood. Now the TV is at a more manageable height, and I had an added bonus of storage drawers big enough to hold my scrapbooking supplies.

Speaking of storage, we created even more storage in the bookcase we already had. We sanded the bookcase. Then primed and painted it white.

It felt like we were done for the day once the paint dried, but I’m thinking about roughing it up some to make it look distressed. Maybe another day.

We bought the yellow and green storage bins from Target and I filled them with my crafting items. As an added bonus, I was forced to go through everything and organize all my supplies. Now I know where everything is! Let’s hope it stays that way.

I think we’ll be painting the dresser white too. And we’ve already bought some new silver toned hardware, which matches the room better. We’ll add it on after the dresser is painted.

I’m so glad that the office is almost done. I feel like the space has been completely transformed. I actually want to go in there now. I actually have space to do all my crafts now. We actually use this room now!

Honey Panna Cotta

This will likely be the first of many references made to Martha Stewart on this blog. I got this delicious recipe from her website. Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta. Mmmmmm.
Some people may be put off in trying to make panna cotta because it seems like it can be a fussy and time-cosuming dessert to make. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, making panna cotta isn’t much harder than making jello. Here’s how I made this easy dish.

I halved the original recipe so I would get 4 servings instead of 8.

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 envelope (1/8 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey, plus more for serving
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • Scrape out the inside of the vanilla bean with a kinfe.
    Put the cream, sugar, scraped vanilla beans, and vanilla bean pod together into a pan. Bring it to a boil on the stove. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

    In the mean time, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and alloiw it to sit for about 5 minutes.

    Mix together the yogurt, honey, and salt.

    After the 10 minutes of letting the cream mixture sit is up, bring it back to a boil. When boiling, remove from heat and add the water-gelatin mixture in until it is well mixed.

    Next, pour the cream mixture through a sieve and into the yogurt-honey mixture. Make sure the vanilla bean pods have been removed. Stir until both mixtures are combined.

    Finally, pour the mixture evenly into 4 ramekins. The recipe states to allow for at least 4 hours for the panna cotta to thicken in the fridge. I have always let the ramekins sit in the fridge overnight, and the result has always been perfect. 

    Just before you’re ready to serve them, take the ramekins out of the fridge. Run a butter knife along the edge, to loosen the panna cotta from the ramekin. Put the ramekin in hot water for 10 seconds, then invert it onto a plate.
    Drizzle more honey over the top and serve.

    Martha would be proud.

    Drinks on a Serving Tray

    With all the wedding posts over, I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog programming. Although, this post does touch on something wedding-related. The gifts.

    We received many gorgeous barware items last year at my bridal showers and as wedding gifts. My favorite is this vodka set from Crate & Barrel.


    Or these classic martini glasses (also from Crate).


    Or these elegant champagne flutes (you guessed it, from Crate).

    I can’t decide. Don’t make me choose.

    So where to we keep all our fancy glasses in our small apartment? Well, in the sideboard from craigslist, of course. I fell in love with those frosted glass sliding doors the second I saw them.

    The only downside? I hardly ever see my beautiful stemware. We’re not exactly champagne with dinner kind of people. More like drinking beer out of the bottle people, actually. So, the glassware stays in its little home, pulled out only for really special occasions.

    The other day, I was finally cleaning out my hope chest that has been acting as the home for our extra bedding, and I found a wooden serving tray my aunt had given me as a Christmas present a few years ago. I knew exactly what to do with it.

    I put it right on top of the sidebar. Without hesitation, I opened one of the sliding doors and pulled out my cherished vodka set. On the tray it went. I placed 2 decanters next to the vodka set and really liked the way it looked. 

    The best part of the tray? It has cut outs for pictures!



    Friends have commented to me that there are many, many photos of Dan and I all around our apartment. Too many to count and show you actually. I took that to heart and decided to figure out some other subject matter to display.

    Then the obvious hit me. I was using the serving tray to hold my barware. Why not adorn the tray with photos of yummy looking drinks?

    I began scanning magazines for pictures of drinks. The fancier, the better. Then, I went through old photos on my computer and found some pictures I had taken of drinks. I was surprised to see how many I had.

    The homemade green beer for St. Patty’s Day.


    The appletini Dan made me and made fancy by rimming the glass with sugar.


    The framboise I drank while friends from Michigan visited.


    I created a mix of magazine cut outs and personal photos and the tray now looks like this.


    I’m hoping to one day fill the tray only with photos taken by me, so each drink photo has its own kind of story. It’s a trip down drinking memory lane.

    Until then, I’m happy with the way it looks. And I’m super happy about the way my glassware looks when displayed.

    Exactly One Year Ago

    Exactly one year ago, I married my best friend and embarked on the crazy life journey called marriage.

    Over the last 2 weeks, you saw a behind the scenes view of the months leading up to the wedding. Today, I thought I’d do a quick overview of the wedding itself, mostly in picture form. Note: Most of these photos were taken by the very talented Rob Barcroft of RHB Photography.

    My June 5, 2010.

    I woke up and dashed to the salon to get ready. I got my hair did. And my make up done.

    Dan got ready too.


    We arrived at the church. And did a final check in the brides room.


    Dan was in seclusion.


    I walked down the aisle.


    And Dan looked at me lovingly.


    Then the good stuff. Dan gave me my ring and promised to be true to me. I did the same for him.


    The priest forgot to pronounce us man and wife, and he didn’t give us a kiss. Here we are walking down the aisle…confused. Are we married?


    We posed for some more photos at church.


    Then hopped on the trolley and headed to a park for, you guessed it, more photos. We drank his and hers champagne, how sweet.


    We arrived at our photo site, and finally let our hair down for some fun.


    My flower girls made sure my veil stayed in place.


    Once we took about a zillion pictures, we hurried to get to the reception hall, where we walked in as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time.


    We danced our first dance.


    We cut some cake.


    I cried during the best man and maid of honor speeches.


    Dan made a speech, thanking family, friends, and everyone for helping us throughout our lives and on this special day.


    We danced.


    And danced.


    And danced some more.


    Dan drank to a toast made in his honor by his fraternity brothers.


    While I did the traditional Loving Cup with my AOII sorority sisters.


    We stole a minute to eat the White Castle we had brought in. It was my only meal of the night.


    I took a few moments to dance to boy band songs with my friends. Just like old times.


    Soon,  it was time for the last dance,

    And our wedding day was over.

    Thank you to everyone who made all my wedding dreams come true.

    And thank you to Dan, who I’m lucky enough to have by my side each and every day.

    Love you.

    It’s the Little Things

    For my final wedding preparations post, I thought I’d include all the little DIY items I did that, put together, created a big impact.

    I’ll start with the things related to the kids in the wedding party. Look at those cuties.
    Flower girls need flower baskets. I bought plain white flower girl baskets and pink ribbon from Michael’s (don’t forget the 40% off coupon, which applies throughout this post). I had some black ribbon laying around from my first pomander try, and I even had pearl flower-shaped buttons from a craft kit I’ve had for ages. I hot glued the black ribbon down the middle of the basket first, starting the inside. It wrapped around the whole basket, including underneath. Once it dried, I did the same thing with the pink ribbon. I cut a small pink ribbon square and glued that to the inside bottom of the basket, so you didn’t see the edges of the long ribbons. Finally, I glued 3 pearl flowers onto the ribbon. Coincidentally, the flower girl dresses had pearl flowers on the skirt, so it matched perfectly. 
    I was recently told at least one of the baskets is still kicking and has been re-purposed as a container to store Barbie clothes. Nice. Total per basket: around $6.

    Another quick money-saving tip related to the flower girls – buy your own roses and pull them apart yourself. I can’t remember the exact amount the florist wanted to share us for the rose petals to fill 2 flower girl baskets, but it was a bunch cheaper to run to Costco the day before the wedding and buy a dozen roses there. My mom pulled them apart the morning of the wedding. And she had enough left over to decorate the food table when she hosted some family at her house in between the wedding and the reception. Total for the flowers: about $15 for flowers for the aisle and a couple small table arrangements.

    Though I don’t have a photo of the ring bearer pillows, I kept the cost down for those by buying the pillow that matched the flower girl basket (it had small pearls on it) from Michael’s, and using the thin pink ribbon leftover from the bubbles to tie a bow where the rings would have been. No, my ring bearers weren’t trusted with the actual rings. Total per pillow: about $6.

    Also related to the kids was the cute hot pink and lime green beach buckets that I filled with toys, games, and coloring supplies for them – all from the dollar store. The pink bucket held stuff for the girls, the green bucket was for the boys. 
    I knew the kids wouldn’t sit still throughout dinner, and kids running around during a meal drives me crazy. With the stuff I gave them, I didn’t hear one peep out of them all through dinner and their little butts stayed put in their chairs. I consider that to be well worth the $20 or so I spent.

    I really enjoyed the wedding bubbles we handed out to our guests with the programs. Actually, our flower girls handed them out. We bought the bubbles in bulk from Wal-Mart (100 for $15) and headed to Michael’s for some super thin ribbon in black, pink and green. I think each roll was under $1 and we got 6 rolls, 2 in each color. I found the basket at my parents’ house and my crafty aunt made the fancy bow. Grand total: about $20.


    As you can see from this awesome photo taken outside church, the $20 bubble expense was well worth it.
    One of my favorite little DIY projects was the wedding ceremony programs. Unfortunately, I have no picture of it, but what made it super special was the little little stories we included about each wedding attendant. Each bridesmaid and groomsman had a small paragraph about them in the program that shared something about them and the history they had with Dan and I. So many times I had been to weddings where you see the attendants and wonder who they are. I wanted our guests to know them since they are pretty fabulous people.

    Speaking of stationery, the programs, guest book, invitations, and place cards all matched. So should the unity candle! I didn’t DIY for this project though. The thought of matching the candle to our stationery didn’t occur to me until a few weeks before the wedding. By that time, I had so many other things on my mind that I knew I wouldn’t have the time to make the candles. I looked on etsy to see if anyone could make the candles for me, and I found wreathartist’s shop. We sent her a copy of our invitation, and she worked with Dan to create a design. I love the way she put the “c” and “d” on the separate candles we used to light the middle one. 
    I think the cake toppers were my favorite little wedding thing. I found a woman on etsy (fanciefanniesbridal) who created little wooden versions of the bride and groom. She asked about every detail – the color of Dan’s vest and tie, what kind of flowers were in my bouquet, how I would be wearing my hair, the style of my dress (she requested a photo of it), and even our eye colors. The little me looked so spot on, I wouldn’t even show it to Dan before the wedding since I was keeping my dress a secret from him. This woman is seriously a wood painting genius.  
    Though this last tip isn’t really cost cutting, it is a way to do good and give back on your big day. We decided not to give out favors, and instead gave the money we would have spent to charity. We chose PAWS Chicago. I had always wanted a dog, and we knew that before long, we’d be adding a canine addition to our family. Dan’s work matched our donation, so we were able to double our gift. Ironically, we didn’t find our Phoebe girl at PAWS. She came from another amazing no-kill shelter, Orphans of the Storm. I highly recommend going the donation route. To let everyone know why they wouldn’t be receiving a favor, we made a small sign telling of our donation that we set next to the guest book.

    So there you have it. I’ve shared all my wedding prep tips and money-saving tricks with you. I hope they helped you, and saved you some serious dough.

    Be sure to check back on Sunday, June 5 for my last wedding-related post on the wedding itself!

    I’m Sitting at the Morrow Plots

    As you already know, Dan and I are both proud University of Illinois graduates.


    We hoped to share our school spirit with our wedding guests by adding U of I touches where we could, and where it wouldn’t be too much. I like orange and blue as much as the next Illini, but not enough to make those our wedding colors.

    I did use Illini blue as my something blue though. Check out the cute garter my maid of honor gave me. Love it.


    But I digress.
    We decided a fun way to showcase U of I would be to name tables after University of Illinois buildings/landmarks/nearby places we frequented during our 4 years in college. No boring numbers for us.
    I made a list of possible table names and we whittled the list down to 22 (1 for each table):
    The Union
    Alpha Omicron Pi
    Psi Upsilon
    Alma Mater
    Morrow Plots
    The Quad
    Eternal Flame
    Assembly Hall
    Memorial Stadium
    Our Tree
    Undergrad Library
    Farm Lake
    The Arch
    Greg Hall
    Frat Park
    The Armory
    Espresso Royale

    Once we figured out our list, I pulled out my photo archives. I looked for photos of Dan and I at each of these spots back when we were in college. I found a good number of photos, but I was missing some.
    Luckily, I realized this before Homecoming 2009, which was 8 months before our wedding. While we were in Champaign to cheer on our team, some of Dan’s fraternity brothers were nice enough to play photographers and get some shots of us around campus so we would have a photo of us at every location.
    Once I picked out all my favorite photos, Dan got to work on the table name cards. Our designer freind Lauren made the names in a similar style to the invitations (and the place cards, guest book, programs, and thank you notes). We included a little story on each table card which explained why the building was significant to us. Here’s an example:


    The guests seemed to really like it. We saw a number of people going from table to table to read each story. Some guests later commented to me that it was fun getting to know a little bit more about us on our wedding day.
    As for Dan and I, we opted for a sweethearts’ table, which only sat the two of us. We figured it would be better for our wedding party to sit with their friends/family since we’d be up talking to guests the whole time anyways. Even though it was cheesy, we named our table…the Union.