Thursday, April 24, 2014

New York, New York.

I'm back! I mean I guess technically none of you really knew I was gone because like the good blogger I am usually not, I scheduled posts and made sure I didn't disappoint any of the tens of you that might have clicked on my blog link while I was gone.

So for those of you unaware, I was in NYC Sunday-Tuesday. I should probably recap since I took lots of pictures and what better than a weekend recap on a Thursday? Sounds pretty perfect to me.

I should first start off by saying that my Sunday started with a raging hangover. Me + Weddings + Barely Eating + Lots of Vodka (vomit) = a not so happy Samantha on Sunday morning. But let me tell you, I had SO.MUCH.FUN. at Katie's wedding. Insert Photo Dump #1.

Anyways. Back to the plan of attack. NYC.

Our trip to NYC started around noon with the GPS telling us it would take 5 hours to get to NYC. Welp, 7 hours later, we arrived. To say I was miserable would be an understatement. I finally got some Vitamin & Smart Water in me and I started to feel like a normal human being once we got into NYC.

I was pretty surprised when we got into the city. I was expecting it to be a mad house, cars everywhere, horns beeping, people every which direction. That's not what I found. There was barely anyone on the road, I didn't hear a single horn and people were few and far between. It was weird. I chalked it up to being in Downtown NYC instead of the usual Times Square and being 7:00 on Easter Sunday. I certainly wasn't complaining.

After checking in, we immediately headed out to find food and of course we got pizza. Then, my mom who was the birthday girl that day said she wanted some wine & chocolate, so we ventured to the hotel restaurant, so she could get just that. Your girl over here didn't get any of that wine nonsense, don't worry.

By that time it was almost 9:00 and I was ex-hau-sted. So we called it a night (so crazy).

Monday morning we had the plan to start the day in Central Park since we've all been to NYC 5 or 6 times and not once stepped foot in there (shame on us, I know). We asked the guy at the front desk how to get there and he said "well what part of Central Park?". Umm hi, we're from Virginia, just give us any part and we'll be happy. So he did.

It was beautiful. Insert Photo Dump #2

After a couple hours in the park, I was starving, so we decided to head to one of Steph's many recommendations - S'Mac. My phone said it was only 1.9 miles and we'd be there in 40 minutes.

Over an hour and what felt like 17 miles later, we made it. Thankfully, it was delicious! My eyes were a little bigger than my stomach though. I think I was about 5 bites in before I was STUFFED.

Next stop on the list was Macy's. My mom's been on the hunt for a dress for our wedding and we figured, what better place to look than the largest Macy's I've ever seen in all my life. Seriously, this place was like a mall in itself.

I'd say it only took about 10 minutes to find THE dress (you know, after it took us 30 minutes to find the right department). She's gonna look gorgeous!

Instead of heading back outside into the gorgeous weather, we spent the next couple of hours shopping in Macy's. Told you it was huge.

After we left Macy's, we were ready to make our way back downtown, but first I had to go to Grand Central Station to try something from Magnolia Bakery.

I can't remember if I've ever been there before, but goodness gracious it is gorgeous!

I kept thinking about all the movies I've seen with scenes filmed in this space.

Oh. Hi, Justin.


Once I got my vanilla cupcake, we were on our way back to the hotel. Thankfully, this time the Subway was relieving our precious feet.

After what felt like approximately 2 minutes of relaxation, we were back on the Subway and headed back uptown to have dinner at an Italian restaurant before we headed to a Broadway show.

We had dinner at Serafina. It was good, nothing to write home about, but good enough. 

After dinner, we had some time to kill, so we headed in the direction of the theater and made some pit stops into some stores. One of those being LOFT. I immediately fell in love with the cutest of dresses, tried it on, fell in love some more and then put it back because I told myself I wouldn't buy any clothes this month. 

Welp, lucky me, my dad isn't me and he can buy me anything he wants. And so he did :)

Perfect dress in hand, it was off to the theater for my first Broadway show. Another recommendation from Steph - Newsies. 

Since it was my mom's birthday the day before, my dad splurged a bit and got us front row seats. Once we arrived, we realized the theater was TINY and that sitting front row was extremely unnecessary. We were literally sitting on top of the orchestra and practically had our knees against the stage. 

The short girl in me was so very thankful I didn't have anyone in front of me to block my view, but we might have been a tad bit too close.

Nonetheless, the show was AWESOME. I highly recommend it to anyone in NYC. All those boys on stage were pretty easy on the eyes too (earmuffs, JC). I only have this one picture that I had to sneak because apparently pictures are severely frowned upon (#rude).

By the time the show was over, it was well past my bedtime, so we headed back to the hotel and put our sore feetsies into bed. 

Tuesday was the day we were to depart, but first we had to make a trip over to the 9/11 Memorial that we had been staring at from our hotel windows for the past 2 days. Such a completely surreal feeling being that close to something you remember so vividly. 

Sure, I've been to many historic places. Heck, I grew up in one of the most historic towns in the country. But to be in a place, where something so significant happened and you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing the day all of that went down - unreal.

The museum isn't open until next month, but we got to walk around the reflecting pools and just kind of take it all in. Note: if you want to do this, get tickets online in advance - you skip a HUGE line (thanks again, Steph!). Insert Photo Dump #3

Freedom Tower

Tree the survived the terrorist attack and was found under all of the rubble. #amazing

I took this picture, just thinking that someone who knew this person was there that day.

As we were leaving I saw a sign that said a rose is placed on the name of the deceased on their birthday. Oh hello, emotions. 

After we left the memorial, we headed back to the hotel to check out and head back home. Before we could officially depart, we headed to one last recommendation from Steph - Peanut Butter & Co. 

We were almost there when what do we find - a guy loading a truck in the middle of the road and there were cars parked on both sides of the road, so no getting around him.

I suggested my mom & I get out and walk, since we were only a block away. As we started walking, we heard lots of horns. My dad said when that happened the guy loading his truck walked out into the street, put his finger over his mouth and told everyone to be quiet. Then, he reached in his truck and grabbed a set of headphones and put them in his ears. Clever.

And after all that drama, we walked in the PB Shop only to find that their shipment of peanut butter cookies & brownies hadn't arrived yet. What the heck. So just like that we were on our way back to good 'ol Virginia.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

5 reasons to hire a wedding planner.

I'm sure a handful, or 73 different times, I've discussed my wedding planner and how great she is, but I'm not done yet. It seems, every single week, this gal gives me another reason to thank my lucky stars we went to the second caterer tasting and learned about Logan and Real Southern Accents.

It's no secret that I think wedding planners are an essential budgetary item for every wedding.

Had you asked me that 8 months ago, I probably would have said differently - mainly because I am a planner at heart and felt like I could do it all myself. In reality, that is true, but wedding planners offer so much more than just someone to go to with questions.

Our wedding venue required a Day of Coordinator which now I'm very thankful for because I wouldn't have spared the extra expense, had they not. I initially asked Logan for her Day Of pricing and along with that, she sent her next package up from that - Partial Planning & Event Supervision. Along with Day Of Coordination, this package included monthly to-do lists, timeline assistance, vendor referrals, rehearsal dinner walk through, day of coordination and last, but not least 20% off of lighting, tables, bars, and china along with all other decor items for FREE. It was $300 more than the Day Of package and I knew immediately that we would make up that $300 in rentals/table decor alone.

I've never been more thankful I decided to spend that extra $300 of our budget on her.

1) They keep you on track. This isn't one of those items that I was necessarily worried about. I knew from the very beginning, as much as I said I would take my time, I'd likely have all the big stuff done 6 months ahead of time. But it was so nice to actually know that I was on track and ahead of schedule. I don't have to second guess myself if I'm getting behind. Logan makes sure that I know exactly what needs to be done each and every month.

2) They know people. I cannot tell you how long I spent on the internet searching for vendors like officiants, cake bakers, etc. Wedding planners have a Rolodex (hi, 1985) of vendors you'll never find online. Keep in mind, many brides find vendors through friends and family. Wedding planners attend these weddings, which means they are able to learn of people that do different things on the side, but don't necessarily have a website. This was the case for our officiant.

Charlottesville is an expensive area to get married. Every officiant I found wanted to charge at least $400, one wanted $650! Our ceremony will last no more than 15 minutes. Sure, there will be a rehearsal the night before, but I can't imagine that would be any longer than 45 minutes to an hour. That's a pretty hefty per hour rate.

Logan found me a friend of the family who is a retired Army Chaplain. He's only charging us $200. I spoke to him a couple months back and he was the nicest, funniest guy. I'm confident I wouldn't have found anyone with his personality, along with his price. Right there, Logan already made up for that $300 extra we spent on her.

3) They will do the leg work. I can't tell you how many times Logan has gone around calling people, making pit stops into the mall for makeup artists, etc. She's done all of this without even telling me and then she reaches out once she's found a viable solution. It saves me so much time and my bottle of Excedrin is still full.

4) They have great ideas. As I stated the obvious before, wedding planners go to weddings all the time. They see every Pinterest idea you could think of and then some. Need to trim the budget? I guarantee your wedding planner knows how to make your decor look just as good for $1000 less. Can't use sparklers for your grand exit (I feel your pain)? I'm positive your wedding planner has plenty of other ideas that will be just as awesome, if not better.

Your wedding planner will know your theme, they will know what you like. Therefore, they are going to be able to narrow down the options before they even come to you with ideas. Pinterest is great, but Pinterest is overwhelming. Your wedding planner is not (and if they are, find a new one).

5) They will take on the stress. Your wedding day is going to be 1000x less stressful with a wedding planner - even if it's just a day of coordinator. Picture your wedding day. What do you want to be doing at 10am that morning? Do you want to be running around, making sure the tables look right or worrying about the fact that the lighting didn't arrive on time? Or do you want to be hanging out with your very best girlfriends, drinking mimosas and relaxing? If you're like me, you chose the latter of the two options.

This is going to be the best day of your life. Allow yourself to enjoy every single moment leading up to that walk down the aisle.

And I get it, sometimes wedding planners just aren't in the budget. If that's the case, I'm sure you have a friend that loves to plan and would love being involved in your day. Include that person in every aspect of your planning - that way, on your wedding day, they know what should be going down and they can be the point person when vendors have questions or concerns. She can decide if/when the information needs to be escalated to you and that leaves you to relax and have the best darn day you dreamed of!

Wedding Wednesday
Love Always, Nancy J

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Q&A with my mom.

Quite some time ago, I stumbled across a blog of a DJ who used to be on the morning show on Hot 99.5 every morning - Sarah Fraser. She did a post where she interviewed her mom. Nothing crazy, nothing long and drawn out. It was short and sweet, but I immediately thought- what a fun idea!

So now, however many months/years later, this blog post has finally been born.

Right now, I'm lucky enough to spend quality time with my mom (and dad) in NYC. Just two days ago, we celebrated my mom's birthday. So I figured, what better time than now to highlight her on this pretty little blog (yes, I'm biased).

Prepare yourself for some wisdom. That Deb is a smarty pants ;)

What do you think is the biggest mistake people make in life? Living the life you are enjoying today and not planning for the one you want to enjoy in the future. Whether it's our finances, our careers or our relationships; too often we focus on making sure we have what we want today and not what we will need in the future.

If you got to live one year over again, which year would it be? This is a really tough one. It would be great to live them all over again, knowing what I know now. If that's not the case, it would certainly be easier to pick the ones I would not want to repeat--any of the years before I was married and all of the years between your ages of 12 and 18. Some of the most stressful years of my life would likely be in the running for the most enjoyable and worthy of repeating:

1) The year you were born. Wow, you cried a lot, I got virtually no sleep, and Dad was often gone for weeks at a time. But, you brought joy to our lives that I could not have imagined and that first year was an amazing time to watch you grow. Well any of those first several years would be worthy of a repeat for that same reason. But you said one, right?

2) The year we moved to Kansas. That was the worst place we ever lived (I apologize to anyone who reads this and is from Kansas) and Dad was gone even more. But, friends and family were always coming and going and we established a life-long friendship with an amazing family.

3) The year we made our final move to Virginia. Finding jobs, buying a house and getting you in school was extremely stressful and money wasn't always plentiful. But we were finally close to our families again, Dad no longer had to spend time away from home, and you were at an age where you welcomed a hug and a kiss and you actually thought we knew everything. So, I guess if I had to pick just one; it would be that one.

How would you react if JC & I eloped and didn't tell you (prior to spending all this cash already)?  I would have been hurt, I would have cried, and I would have blamed it on JC (regardless of who's idea it was) and I would have quietly seethed about it for a very long time. Missing the big ceremony, no big deal. Missing the moment, VIRTUALLY unforgiveable. At a minimum, it would have probably been brought up at opportune times for the rest of your lives.

If you could only give me one piece of advice for the rest of my life, what would it be? See question 1. There are things that happen in life that we have no control over, but life doesn't just happen. It is a result of our reactions to those things that just happen and the plan that we (consciously or not) execute. Think about where you want to be later in life and how you want people to remember you and strive to make it happen. In 5, 10, 20 years, where do you want to be in your career? Your personal life? Set goals, make a plan to achieve them, and periodically assess how you are doing.

What do you want people to say about you at the end of your life? Strive to be that person every day. You'll slip up now and then; but make amends and keep striving for perfection.

Lastly, and most importantly to me, think long and often about what happens after your physical life is over and prepare accordingly. I was asked once how I would measure to what degree I had achieved success at the end of my life. For me, it simply comes down to one thing. How well did I do preparing my beautiful daughter to be a joy both to yourself and the thousands of other people that will cross your path during your lifetime and will that joy continue when her physical life is over. Don't worry - I asked her how she was doing, she said FANTASTIC ;)

Seriously. That lady. I'm such a lucky girl. I don't know that there will ever be enough ways I can repay her (and of course my dad too) for what she/they have done for me over the years. It's weird to look back on those years she mentioned above (although I don't believe they lasted that long - 16 max) and remember how different our relationship was. My mom is the calmest/nicest person you'll ever meet. She's never met an argument she wanted to have. Well, that was until I turned 13 and thought I knew it all. We would have all out screaming matches in the car until my dad would tell us to stop.

But nowadays? She's the first person I call when something exciting happens and most definitely the first person I call when I need to vent, cry, get the point. Honestly, she's the only person you'll ever catch me on the phone with for longer than 5 minutes. She's my best friend and I'm so thankful to have her in my life.

And don't worry mom, JC & I aren't going to elope. But know that if we did, it would OBVIOUSLY be all his fault. Duh.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What I've learned from running.

I can't really say I've ever had a "bad" race or training experience. That's not because I'm the most amazing athlete of all time - that could not be farther from the truth. It's due to the fact that in my 29 years on this earth, I've only ran one race (a 5k in 2013) and because I rarely stick with running long enough for something to go wrong. My current workout span has lasted longer than any of them has every lasted, so I'm hoping things are changing around here.

I have been running on and off for the latter half of my life, so I can definitely say I've learned a lot over the years.

1. Rest days are just as important as workout days. The other day I heard someone talking about a guy who lost weight super fast and they said "he works out 7 days a week". Sorry, that doesn't impress me. That's not healthy!

Just a couple weeks ago, I finished week 6 of my 10k training app and I thought I was going to die. 2 miles has never felt longer. I even had to slow down for a good portion of the run. I then took a full day off from working out, followed by just a walk in gorgeous weather the next day. So two days later when I went to start week 7 and run 2.5 miles, I was pretty shocked when it was easy. I got to 2 miles and felt like I could run forever. I even ended up speeding up for the last 1/4 mile. I'm confident that wouldn't have been the case had I not given my body a break.

2. It absolutely does not matter how fast you run. This one has been tough for me to remember. I tend to talk myself down when I talk about my running because I don't run fast. Back in high school, running a 10 minute mile was a piece of cake. These days, no way, jose.

Before I started my 10k training app, I generally ran at 4.5mph on the treadmill. Sure I'd speed it up here and there, but that's always where I started and usually where I ended. When I started my 10k app, I decided to try and speed up because running at 4.5 just wasn't good enough (it is, I promise).

Nowadays I run at 5.0, unless I'm having an off day and need to slow it down a bit. But I don't run at 5.0 to impress anyone. I run at 5.0 because that's a comfortable pace for me. That's a pace that allows me to keep going for as long as I need to. That's all that matters. Not who's lapping you on the non-existent track.

3. Cute outfits are good motivation. For the past few years, I haven't really bought much workout gear. I had the necessities which meant I had 2 pair of workout pants, 2 sports bras and I just wore random t-shirts I had laying around. Sure, nothing wrong with that - except washing laundry often was frustrating.

But these past 3 months, I've started to buy cute workout gear here and there. Whether it's a fun top like the one below from Ashley Brooke Designs (holy love)....

...or some bright blue running pants from Under Armour. If they are fun and cute, the chances of me working out on the days I plan to wear them go up exponentially.

4. Heart Rate Monitors are also motivating. I got my Polar ft4 last summer and I've never once had buyer's remorse. I use it every single time I work out. Sure, the band you have to wear around your torso is annoying at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly and I don't even notice it when I'm moving. And sure, I know the point of working out isn't just to burn calories...blah blah blah. But seeing those calories tick away on that watch makes continuing my workout all that much easier.

5. Don't be afraid to post on social media about it. I get so annoyed when people say "gosh, if you don't post on social media, did the workout even happen?". Yes, it absolutely did. But I'm the type of person who needs encouragement or a pat on the back when I do something I'm proud of (blame that on my parents who patted me on the back for a job well done whenever possible). Honestly, getting my butt off the couch most evenings and burning some calories makes me pretty darn proud. Whenever I post a picture of my calories burned or my cute running shoes on Instagram, it's practically guaranteed I'll get more likes on that picture than any other one. And who doesn't like a lot of Instagram likes? If you say you don't care, then I say "why are you posting on Instagram then?".

6. Having a workout partner is essential. Now I'm not saying if you don't have a workout partner, you shouldn't work out. Obviously that's not the case at all. But I've personally found that if I have someone else to keep me accountable or someone I know is depending on my finish my run or meet them at the gym, it's a lot harder to skip a work out.

Steph is most definitely the best long distance workout partner a girl could have. We didn't start this journey together intentionally, but we both happened to start the 10k training app almost at the exact same time. We exchanged phone numbers pretty quickly and we've been workout besties ever since! I know on days when I really don't feel like running, I can text Steph and she will do her best to get me in that gym. But I also know, on days when I feel like resting, I can always count on her to tell me that I deserve it....along with a glass of wine and a cookie ;)

Steph, if we were neighbors, we'd do this, right?
7. My last point is kind of random, but I'm positive, as a runner you've encountered this issue and if you haven't, I need your body.

On many occasions I've bought new running pants, only to get to the gym and they continuously fall down while I'm running. I've got enough to worry about with the whole running gig, I do not need to worry about pulling my pants up every 5 seconds. Each time I bought new pants, I was disappointed and ended up back where I started - with only 2 pairs of work out pants and wasted money, since I can't really return pants I already sweat in.

Well when I recently splurged on a pair of Under Armour workout pants, I said I might actually cry if these ones fell down. Sure enough, as soon as I started running, they started sliding. Then, I got this bright idea - I wonder what would happen if I pulled the bottoms of them up higher, then pulled them up in the thighs too? Guess what?! It worked! I guess when you have the bottoms down too low, it causes the tops to pull and in turn they fall. I'm now the proud owner of four pairs of workout pants.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's still me.

Oh hi, remember me? I know I look a little bit different, but I promise I'm still the same blog.

Ok, now that I'm done pretending like I am literally my blog, let's get to the important stuff - HAPPY FRIGGEN FRIDAY!

one. As I mentioned (because you can't see for yourself), things look a bit different around here. I got this grand idea to have Erin redesign my blog a few weeks ago because a) I love her and b) I was getting sick of the current design and even though I can do it myself, I know the BARE minimum and she knows it all. Duh.

I sent her these two pins and she went to pretty design town.

I'd say she did a pretty amazing job with bringing my ideas to life. And really, is there anything better than gold glitter? I believe it's gonna be awhile before I argue otherwise. Call me in 10 years.

If you're in the market for any sort of design assistance, make sure to contact Erin. She's as sweet as can be, will change up your design 1872 times if necessary (she put up with me!) and just make it the easiest process all around. Love that girl.

two. Today, at 3:30 (let's be serious, 3:15), starts my 4 day weekend. Tomorrow we have a wedding down in Fredericksburg for my dear friend and former roommate, Katie. We get to day drink, eat chicken & waffles and dance outside all before 2pm, so I can't say anything other than I CAN'T WAIT.

Sunday, my mom, dad & I (JC has to work :( ) are headed up to New York City for a mini vacation! I may have a mentioned a time or two before, but one of the perks of my jobs includes free hotel rooms at a handful of properties around the country. The Millenium Hilton in the Financial District of NYC is one of them, but it's extremely hard to get rooms at my employee rate. I managed to find 2 rooms for this coming Sunday-Tuesday like 6 months ago and Sunday happens to be my mom's birthday, so it worked out pretty perfectly. Not to mention, the weather is supposed to be pretty decent, so another I CAN'T WAIT.

And I've already scheduled posts for Monday AND Tuesday, so don't think I'll be absent next week :) Come on back now, ya hear?

three. Last month, when I made my March goals and decided that I was going to make it to week 6 of my 10k training app (yes, she's talking about this again), Steph decided that if I made it there, she would send me a present. Obviously I decided the same for Steph.

March came and went and we were successful! I got my present yesterday (a couple day's late because we never check our mail or walk through the front door where packages are left). Steph is THE best. All the packaging was mint, on top of including our wedding theme. I foresee this bag holding lots of wedding goodies in the coming months.

four. Almonds. Can we talk about them for a second? I've loved almonds for quite some time now. I love salted almonds, cinnamon sugar almonds, vanilla roast almonds...I love 'em all.

Except. Except I don't love natural almonds. I learned that fact earlier this week.

You see, I was trying to be all clean and healthy, so I grabbed some raw almonds from the store the other day. Holy grossness. I'm still eating 10/day because my friend Michelle says that's good for you, but it's most definitely one snack I look forward to finishing.

five. As I've mentioned a billion and one times over the last 8+ months, I have thoroughly enjoyed planning our wedding. I legit get a little sad when there comes a lull in planning. I will most definitely never be the girl who's happy when the wedding is over because that means no more planning. I never want it to end.

Well, just yesterday my cousin texted me to tell me that she has until the end of the day today to decide if she wants to officially be a wedding planner for a Black Tie Baltimore wedding on New Year's Eve with a $40k budget. I immediately told her to do it and I'd help her, free of charge.

NYE is probably my least favorite holiday - one of those that just gets built up so much that it's impossible to live up to the hype (I was in bed by 10 last year). So why not do something incredibly awesome with the potential to do even more awesome stuff like that in the future?!

I would absolutely LOVE to be a wedding planner, so I think this is the perfect first step and I obviously told Katie to say yes without any hesitation. Stay tuned.

Now you guys go have yourselves amazing weekends. I'll see you all back here on Monday, right?