Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life Is Crazy, Wear a Scarf

Hello, again. I can't wait to have more interesting things to share with people that are actually pertinent to the point of this blog, which involve getting married and jumping into a new stage of life in the Mitten. There are a lot of things that are underway to make this reality, but at this moment in time, it feels like there's nothing meaty to talk about!

I am almost a month away from graduation, which is insane. I am almost three months away from my wedding, which is also insane. Where did all this time go!? Really though, I am not feeling all that reminiscent at the moment. There may come a time when I look back at my senior year and my engagement and think, Oh, that was a special time in my life that I let fly by so quickly. I am saying to future Lara: too bad! I am ready for some big and fantastic things on the horizon and there is no looking back!

This is all coming from a girl who needs to study for an African History test and pick out her wedding flower arrangements; there is a special perspective. I hate to wish away any time of my life, but I am just saying I'm excited for what the future holds and trying to enjoy this busy time as much as possible.

Well, instead of something really important to discuss, I am posting my outfit today. Oh well.

Minus the fact that the earrings and scarf I have were purchased in Sarajevo, this is pretty much exactly what I had on today! I love all the little bits of color (and nail polish, in my opinion, is an important part of that). Almost any day of the week, you can find me in a tank top with a cardigan. They are the coziest cute clothes on earth, and you can't have enough. And New York & Co. jeans are now the only ones I wear. Darin asks all the time when we are together, "Hey! Did you get new pants?" because he knows I wear, like, 2 pairs of jeans ever. Disgusting? Your call.

Sometimes, the smaller pleasures in life -- including making sweet outfits for yourself to wear to all the crazy places you have to go -- are worth finding. :)

Love, Lara

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Funday Crafts!

You know what I love about Sundays? That I am able to rest. No one expects you to be incredibly productive on Sundays, so you have the freedom to do so if you are all revved up to get something done, or you can lay back and relax until the next day. I usually like a balance between the two -- doing something that I enjoy energetically but not things that are stressful or unpleasant when possible.

Today I took on a project that I have held onto for quite a while that sounded so much fun. I saw these awesome sandals on Etsy where you can change out the colors of the straps and tie them up differently to create infinite look possibilities. Being curious more than stingy, I wanted to find out if there was a way to hack some ordinary sandals to make them more like the base model for these magical, customizable ones. Let me show you how they turned out!

I bought sandals that were essentially set up like this to begin with:

by Billabong

Mine at the toe had a strap that obviously looked like it was a loop, so that if you cut the strap that goes lengthwise down the longest part of the sandal, it could be pulled out and leave a little loop at the top of the sandal. Having loops on the sides, or a piece that could be glued down to make loops on the sides, is the other thing you need to make your own customizable sandals. Take a look at the real deal on the Etsy shop and see how you need at least one pair of loops on the sides of the sandal to put ribbons or cloth through to make it work. I'd also recommend getting ones of good quality that have comfortable soles so you aren't in pain walking around in them. Got it?

Mine ended up like this after cutting out the parts of the sandal that I will replace with ribbon and gluing down part of the sides to make my own loops:

Those pieces of leather on the sides are secured down with glue specifically designed for durability and able to be used with leather. It was about $6 at JoAnn fabrics. (Use a coupon, they have tons!)

This is what it looks like with ribbon pulled through the loops. Also purchased at JoAnn. I determined that you are best off getting about 3-4 feet of ribbon per sandal, depending on how much you want to be able to wrap it around wherever and however many times you want. You wanna keep them from falling off, you know?

And the end result... (drumroll!)

They are so cute!!! I think you'd have even more leeway to be creative if you had two sets of loops on the sides, one closer to the base of your toes and one back by the ball of your foot. (Again, the Etsy shop has the design down perfectly and is what you want to emulate. Or just buy. For the quality and versatility, those sandals are a pretty good deal!)

I can't wait to buy some lace and other, more colorful ribbons to use, or some thin cloth strips to try out, too! These will be so much fun to change around depending on your outfit. And even better, if you want to make it match something new, just pick up a little more ribbon on your way and slide it through, almost making a whole new pair of shoes for just a couple bucks!

On, and in case you were wondering, my toes are painted with my FAVORITE polish: Kim-pletely In Love, Nicole by OPI. Yes, it is a Kardashian Kolor. (Yes, I spelled those right.) But it is so smooth and the perfect shade of pink, and has the best teeny-tiny blue glitter in it that makes it different. I'll be running out soon -- gotta go get more sometime! I live in a pitiful, girly world. But at least I have pretty toes! ;)

I hope you had a Sunday as relaxing and fun as mine, or some other day of the week to enjoy!

Love, Lara

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who Coulda Known

Looking at the calendar today, I realized that it has been three whole months since I got engaged! Wow. While the time has absolutely crawled at many points since then, I still am a little surprised that it's been a whole quarter of a year that I have been planning a wedding and getting used to the idea of actually getting married!

I really don't stop enough to think just how weird this really is for me. I have gotten used to it pretty quickly, but in reality, this is a huge, totally unexpected place for me to be in my life right now, compared to about a year ago. Before last spring break, I had never been in an official "relationship" with anyone. I did not get asked out a whole lot, and when I did, it was usually either that the timing was not very good for me or I just did not have an assured feeling about it. I spent a lot of time wondering if something was wrong with me, or what I was doing to keep men away. When I really started following Christ, I left behind my more cynical man-bashing ways but was still not seeing tons of results!

Then, completely out of nowhere, I found myself introduced to someone totally new, which I did not expect. I kind of had thought that I would likely one day end up dating someone who I had known for a while and had been warming up to for some time, and that we would be friends who decided to take it to the next level. Wrong! I walked into one week in Panama City Beach as a single girl attending a conference (which I highly recommend in every way), and walked out a not-so-single girl who was spoken for and was pretty much dating, even though it was not made official until about a month later -- at my self-guarding bequest. I probably spent time with this guy a couple times a day, with varying degrees of one-on-one communication and hanging out, for a max of about five days. How in the world does this happen?!

I am the last person to expect myself to be on the marriage path during my final semester of college. My prior plans were to graduate and probably find a way to go overseas long-term, especially having loved my time in Bosnia. I expected to be joining a dating website if I did not meet anyone by age 30, and just resigned myself for the most part to wait and wait. I literally bet one of my best friends $1,000 that I would not be the first one of our group of friends to date someone or get married, which was an assertion that she very boldly stuck to for no reason that I could see. Amanda, sorry... I am not paying you. We didn't shake on it.

Thinking about it all really goes to show how little you can predict about your life. Our stories are very different and creatively written by God, who loves us enough to give each of us a different adventure rather than blandly copying the same tale over and over in this epic. I mean, my senior year of high school, here is what I thought I would be doing:

1. Going to an ivy league university
2. Studying journalism
3. Hopefully getting a job in New York or something equally chic
4. Out-earning my male coworkers
5. Having an artsy and highly intellectual boyfriend who read poetry and played the piano

Here is what I did instead:

1. Went to a public university in my home state (go bulls!)
2. Studied International Studies and some in Ancient History & Business
3. Prepared a job wherever the freak someone will hire me
4. Went overseas to France for fun, and Bosnia for Christ
5. Met an all-American guy who both plays basketball and the guitar, and is a better balance between sensitive and more typical "masculine" qualities, and agreed to marry him

All in all, I came out of it with less debt, more experiences, a more open mind, a stronger faith, and a fella I couldn't have dreamed up being better for myself. :) I mean, when we first met, we discussed Flight of the Conchords, Freaks & Geeks, and Old Gregg. If that was not a divine match, then I really do not know what could be.

I am thankful for the twists and turns my plans have taken as God has held the reins. They are far better than I imagined. I hope I can hold onto that as I embark on a new stage of life as a college graduate and a wifey. Let's just say, I am not planning on having seven babies and moving to India, but apparently I can never tell what will happen...

I hope you see the exciting ways that your life has exceeded your expectations and that you await more adventures coming your way!

Love, Lara

Monday, March 19, 2012

Le Bling

I have mentioned before that I really did not do much planning in the way of what my dream wedding and all that would be like. Well, at least until some months into dating Darin and being pretty darn sure that I did not want to keep looking. :) Lacking this interest for a long time in my years spent as a girl -- 22 and a half! -- I also did not have a huge interest in jewelry. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was a junior in high school, and even then, got cheap fashion earrings that were no more than $8.00 a pair, and also some of those necklaces from Forever 21 that probably have something toxic in them.

Consequently, I did not have much to give Darin in the way of preferences when I knew he was in the market for an engagement ring. (I hadn't a single clue how soon I would be offered such a ring, which is a story to come, of course!) As long as it was not a heart-shaped diamond, I was really not too terribly picky. A man with good taste and three sisters will probably be fine!

I am glad that I left Darin to his own devices to pick which one, because knowing that he saw one that reminded him exactly of me is way more meaningful.

How little I knew about jewelry is made evident in the fact that I had NO CLUE what my ring size was. I just estimated about a 6 but was not sure, so Darin's secret transaction included sizers on a ring that was too big with the understanding that it would need to be made smaller. I think he knew that my tiny hands were smaller than I thought, haha. But three months later, it is all fitted right and looking sharp. I can be engaged with style!

Really loving showing off what my boo picked out just for me. Not sorry that he is off the market from everyone else. ;)

Love, Lara

Sweet Threads

One of my goals for my last year as a college student, approaching my first year as a real grown-up, is only buying clothes that I really like, and that mix and match with my other clothes, and that can be worn in settings more appropriate than walking around a college campus in Florida. That is a lot of goals for a huge aficionado of comfy tank tops and shorts. It is high time I only spend my money on pieces that can make an appearance in an office or in the mall.

I'm also really bad about buying things that look great but that I don't often feel like wearing. If a requirement for a shirt is feeling completely not bloated and thin and free, the odds are that it will only get worn once in a while, haha. I need to focus more on things that I am okay with being seen in no matter what kind of mood or physical state I am in.

Thus began the beginning of the purchase party of the century! For months now, I have been keeping my eye open for things going on sale that tend to be solid colors or tops that are fun and can be dressed up or down. I have many sweaters in neutral colors, tights that match the dresses I have, and shirts that go with the skirts I've had for a while, and jeans that I don't get tired of wearing. (Exclusively from New York & Company, as it turns out!)

Pinterest inspired me to want the color combination of navy blue and mustard yellow. And I now bring you... one of my favorite outfits!

I really do own all these clothes, although my mustard tights are originally from Target and the earrings were $1 at the Body Shop. But it's just so cozy! I've gotten a lot of compliments on the yellow tights -- they really are colorful without being too crazy and can go with a lot of things, if you dare. And I seriously can't figure out how I bought that nail polish, since apparently it isn't supposed to go on sale till April... I was at Ulta and there it was! Oh well. It is a great nude color for my olive skin tone, and I highly recommend it. :)

The act of putting together outfits on the computer really encourages me to dig through what I have and think of more ways I can get my money's worth with my current wardrobe, so you'll be seeing more of this soon!

Love, Lara

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Over The Moon

Wedding planning leads to a sea of uncertainties. Will people like the food that I pick out? Will they dance to the music I play? Will the deodorant I buy work? It's really very scary when you think about it.

Luckily, you get permission to go on vacation afterwards. And ours is now BOOKED!

We are heading to Captiva Island on the Gulf Coast in Florida at the South Seas Plantation. :) Nothing sounds better than napping on some sand after the psychotic 6 months leading up to that week. Many thanks to the wonderful Deb Baker for offering her travel agent skills and planning and arranging this sweet trip for us on a pretty amazing budget. We are sleeping at $250 a night with one for free, for a whole week! For how beautiful and fancy it is, it is a pretty fabulous deal!

That's one thing off the list! Thanks, Darin, for being in charge of that. You did pretty darn good!!

Love, Lara

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Get Your Nails Did

No, no one is paying me to write about this. But I need to share with the world some things that has changed my life. My girly, time-wasting life. Not nearly as much as Jesus or many other people/things that have changed my life, but regardless, I feel the need to share the discoveries that have made it fun to be creative again.

With your nail polish!

I never used to paint my nails. It took forever, they got dinged up and chipped, and then the polishes got all gloopy and became useless anyways. As for today, comments are made about my giant basket of polishes gleaming on my bedside table. I have quite a few now that all get used regularly. Why the change? Because of three magic potions I picked up at Sally Beauty Supply for pretty cheap, which will save you the money you thought you wasted on nail polishes that never get used or are too thick.

This junk is seriously amazing, and I paid about $3.99 for the bottle. Just a couple of drops into a nail polish that is too gloppy and thick, shake up the bottle, and it turns into the smooth, thin magical color you would actually use. This saved my white nail polishes -- for some reason, those have always given me trouble by going on in blobs from the brush and not spread out all nice and cute. This made them work! It also saved some polishes I've had for a while that were aging a bit, giving them extra life. Do it.

My other biggest issue was hitting a nail on something while it was still wet, ruining all my hard work. Nail polish on its own takes forever to dry. I wanted to give up. But my sweet friend Amanda introduced me to this topcoat, which is insane at speeding up drying and making your nail polish stay good for days and days. I can't go without it anymore. Again, I bought a bottle of this last semester and it got super thick, and the previously mentioned thinner restored it. Good to go. Definitely worth about $4.50.

This is the final touch on my nail drying process. It's an aerosol spray that does not smell chemical; it sort of smells like dry shampoo or something similar. It has nourishing vitamins and conditions your cuticles, so it doesn't just do your polish and dry the rest of you out. It only takes a little per hand, for about $3.50. Why not?

All in all, a way to have good-looking hands on a budget; your nails will come out looking about as nice as a professional manicure for a lot cheaper. If you get a rewards card at Sally Beauty Supply, you'll be rolling in even more dough. (I am a rewards FIEND.) Stay beautiful on the cheap!

Love, Lara

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Maison des Clintons Project

No kidding, folks! It's the real deal! Long story made short: Darin and I visited a place last Friday in the evening, saw things that were nice, but just weren't sure since we hadn't looked much elsewhere. Throughout the next few days, we saw more houses and flats around that price range, which all had their pros and cons. We got an idea of what usually goes for the rate we thought we could pay. After much deliberation, we made another trip to the first house during the day time, with the landlady present. We liked everything even more. She was also very nice and flexible, which is priceless when it comes to renting a house. We nodded many times, and said "Mmhmm" to everything we inspected in the house.

We love it. We told her that we're not searching anymore.

I'll wait to say much more than this, but there are some things about it that are just amazing for our wee little budget:

  1. The backyard is a great size and has a little patio AND two car garage!
  2. 3 whole bedrooms!
  3. A super well-done basement room for much big screen TV watching!
  4. A lovely kitchen!
  5. Freaking landscaping in the front, people!
Watch out, Lincoln Park... you have two new neighbors joining in soon. :)

Love, Lara

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Okay, I have a really interesting update that feels like a huge deal to Darin and I more than other people, probably. I feel like the discussions we've been having and the issues we've been trying to address have really taken over a lot of our conversations since I've been visiting this past week, and yet I wouldn't be surprised if spectators answered back, "What's the big deal?"

The big question has been this: to live in the actual city of Detroit, or not.

It seemed kind of like a given at first. Darin has lived in the city for some years and enjoys the atmosphere, and is very involved in an awesome church on the east side that is very missionally focused towards their community. It requires a strong heart of compassion for a city that not many people feel compassionate about. Detroit does get a worse rap than it deserves, with many people fearing driving downtown to eat somewhere, even. (I've heard similar things about downtown Orlando and the area of Tampa where I live right now. Wimps! Hahaha.)

I have been viewing my transition to moving up here as a lose-all for winning one guy. Not that I was bitter about this, but that the fact of the matter was that I was giving up my familiarity, my weather, my family, my friends, my Publix and Chick-Fil-A (gentle sobbing), and some other things that would be a challenge to say good-bye to. Of course, not permanently, as I am sure I will be visiting my favorite subtropical peninsula sometimes and that some Floridians I love would perhaps pay me a visit in the Mitten, too. Yet I was faced with a huge sacrifice to make the wisest decision -- marrying my best man friend who has a stable job and a super family -- and tried my best to accept it and be at peace.

There was an itching feeling of uncertainty, though, about the caveat of living in Detroit. Now, let me make this quite clear: I have heard gunshots in my lifetime. Some kind of rivalry blew up in the parking lot of where I now live about a year ago and someone ended up with a big bullethole in his butt. (This kind of cracks me up, still, hahaha.) I grew up around and interact with all kinds of different people, not just typical suburban white people. I don't think I'm that sheltered! I guess I just felt like every last bit of comfort I could possibly have was going to be stripped away if I was living in Detroit. I didn't know where to get groceries or gas by myself without being afraid, or parking on the street and hauling patooty back to my house or apartment like I already do now in Tampa.

Darin knew about my discomfort. I wasn't very good at expressing it, either at all or in the right way, but he knew that I was a little less than thrilled at the prospect of setting up camp somewhere that was really unfamiliar to me. He correctly assessed, too, that being a girl, it's just different for me to imagine settling down in the so-called "ghetto" than a guy. He had a bit of a hard time trying to understand how I wouldn't feel safe somewhere if he was going to be there doing his best to protect me.

We had a bit of difficulty trying to figure out the right reasons to live where we would end up living. There are logical and personal reasons from both our points of view that made it hard to be sure. The biggest hurdle was Darin's involvement with his church, because he loves the solid biblical teaching and the community setup, with lots of opportunities to serve and be involved. While I really do like his church and always enjoyed visiting, I just did not have that same personal connection that made me completely devoted to the cause of Detroit and living there to be a good neighbor.

This whole week, we have been at dinner several times talking through our pieces, trying to understand each other while gently pointing out flaws in each other's thought processes. We really had a textbook-worthy series of peaceful, thoughtful, respectful, and loving chats about what to do and why. We both had stubborn little things that we stuck to and couldn't really see past, in some respects. But on Sunday, after Darin discussed these things through with his fellow childcare volunteers, he told me, "Lara, I am deciding that we will wait to live in Detroit."

I was a little relieved, but also nervous that Darin was just giving up things that he cared about and doing something that would make me happy but leave him a little resentful and discontent. I said so. He was still working through convincing his emotional self that he thought it was the right thing to do, but had made the logical decision to stay closer to where he works. He didn't ultimately think we needed to dive into Detroit right away, and that we would in a way be milking all the benefits from his church without fully participating and sacrificing for it, as many other families do by planning to settle down in the city for years, not months.

We are in agreement, and trying our best to comfort each other through our fears and frustrations. Darin keeps saying, "I have never had to make such a hard decision in my life! I'm used to making decisions for just myself." I can totally agree with that, and know that there will be other things we will have to work through to be at peace. And I do want to respect him as a leader, not trying to have two presidents running our family -- I willingly say that Darin is the man of the house and that I trust him to be wise. I know he cares very much about my feelings and opinions, and takes them into account. I want to be able to live this out for our kids one day so that they can rest assured that there are no power battles in our house; Mom and Dad respect one another and make decisions that stick.

In short, I'm thankful for this opportunity to work through something really hard with Darin, and see what it's really like having to live with someone else in marriage, eventually. We both feel stronger for it. So the name of this blog can still be "Living with the D," because we sure will be hanging around in Detroit. I really do love and enjoy it. It's just not where we'll be resting our heads at night for now. And of course, the person "D" is not going anywhere, either. ;)

I hope this encourages people in some way! Especially people who aren't sure that twenty-somethings can make a relationship really work, because they can and they will. Even when it's a little sticky.

Love, Lara

Friday, March 9, 2012

When a Cheapskate Plans a Wedding

Before even having a clue about who I was getting married to, I knew for a fact that I would have issues planning a wedding. While a pretty big chunk of the girl population has been deciding the colors and ideas for a long, long time, this area is just not something I am all that particular about. I've gotten girlier over the past few years, at an all-time high right now, but I still don't have tons of wedding fantasies to fulfill. The place, the flowers, the food, and the dress were all completely new ventures to me when I found myself looking down at Darin on his knee holding a ring this past December!

Over these past two months of starting the planning business, I've found that I have a reallystingy perspective on wedding spending. A big part of it is that my parents are the big benefactors, and I don't like the thought of trying to waste all their money, but I also see the average cost for something in a wedding and it just freaks me out! I begin comparing the cost to buying things like gas, furniture, rent, and the like. I am my dad's daughter -- usually, practicality wins.

This far along in the process, though, I've found that there are definitely ways to cut back on what you have to pay to throw a good party. I'm excited to share some of the ways I've been pleasantly surprised in what we have saved!

  • The dress: I don't want to give too much away, to minimize the chances of Darin accidentally seeing what it looks like somehow. But I looked in two places that I didn't expect -- thrift shops and department stores -- and came away with a dress that I really, really love for only $65. I liked it even more than more expensive ones I was eyeing at regular bridal salons. (I'm looking at YOU, David's!) It needs slight altering, but even with that cost eventually added in, it's a steal for a pretty dress that gets only one day to shine. I also got a veil on sale at Hobby Lobby for $6 and shoes for $25. During the reception, I'm changing into TOMs that Darin bought me for my birthday last year. I think it'll all look great!
  • The venue: This was a pure blessing for us. My parents asked the church that I belong to in Orlando about renting the building for the wedding. They are in the process of building a new church location in Baldwin Park, and don't have a sanctuary completed yet, but the core building is done and has a big lobby with windows and other space for a reception. I am lucky to belong to a church that doesn't have some ancient cathedral and a more intimate community, or else it would be way less likely that we would be able to use the facility for $0. Period. Insane. I am so very grateful for this blessing that we have!
  • The stationery: Of all the DIY opportunities a wedding provides, the save-the-dates and invitations were the part I was most excited about. I love design, and the idea of being completely in control of what everything looks like. No one can mess it up but me, and I am paying nothing for my own services! Haha. I ran my idea past a few trustworthy friends who have some graphic design experience, and went ahead and printed them out. I used JoAnn cardstock that was $4.99 for 50 sheets, which printed 2 cards each, and printed them on my little HP in my apartment with ink I already had. Using super cute Dollar Tree envelopes that were $1 for 50 and a stamp I got on sale to decorate, I paid about $15 for all the supplies, minus postage. I need to repent of some pride issues about this, as you can see... I am a little too pleased with myself.
Instagram quality, but you get the picture!

Not much else is set in stone yet, although I have all kinds of crazy decoration ideas on Pinterest that may make an appearance. :) I'm excited to keep adding to this list though!

I just want to encourage people out there that there is hope not to go into debt for a wedding. It should be more about the lifetime that comes after that one day, while still having a good time getting married nonetheless!



Post #1

Awkward first sentence of a blog... hi!

I don't know if I should introduce myself or anything, since I am really trying just to start a place to write about what's going on for people that I know already. There are a lot of things happening in these next few months, and at some point, it'll be hard to really keep up with my friends & family personally when I start "living with the D."

I feel like SUCH a genius coming up with that title. Here is the clever wordplay: the D is not only a good nickname for my fiancé, Darin, but also a reference to the city of Detroit, where I will be moving when I get married to him this summer. (The letter D in that medieval font at the top of the blog is kind of like the logo for the Detroit Tigers, but not the same, so I'm clear on this trademark stuff, haha!)

In essence, I want a place where I can share what is going on with wedding planning, graduation planning, life, what I'm learning with God, what I'm learning with Darin, and occasional food and craft-related adventures. I am a female, after all. And I really love making good food. I hope that an outlet for all these things will be a fun way to give people the chance to be a part of my life from far away, and hopefully keep in touch a little more easily! :)

Anyways, I will end this post so I can start another one that has a particular topic, haha. Writing addiction is very real, people! I love y'all!