Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Fortnight


It's finally beginning to sink in now that the major issues are being ironed out, and my time is now spent mostly on trips to Hobby Lobby for decorations and going through checklist after checklist for important wedding things, just so I don't forget something monumental.

Today was the third and final bridal shower! It was an absolutely awesome time, spent with my best friends from church growing up in Orlando and their moms, who often were moms to me as well from giving me rides to school to housing me during summer school while my parents went on vacation. It was at the house of some of my favorite three ladies, Ms. Gina, Caitlin, and Elena, who I've known for a ridiculously long time and who are so hospitable and fun. We had some delicious chicken salad sandwiches and Texas sheet cake (yessss ma'am the South will rise again!), and made toilet paper dresses and reminisced about funny stories from times past.

Hotties!! Basically I had the best time catching up with some people that have meant a lot to me for a huge chunk of my life. I wish I could have about forty more showers if it means I can keep seeing everyone over and over.

Completely aside and off topic, I am in love with that dress I got from Forever 21 and the $4 necklace I wore today. Dang. Stylish.

I also feel really great about an awesome Pinterest-inspired idea for our guestbook! This website has some great suggestions for unique guestbooks, and I really liked the idea of using a photo book of our brand spankin' new engagement photos as ours! I didn't feel like spending the $40 for a regular book that I likely won't read often at all, so it made sense to make a book using Picaboo with our engagement photos -- which we were going to make anyways -- but leave space for signatures and messages from our wedding guests! I went with Picaboo because Livingsocial had a deal where I paid $20 for a $60 book! Cha-chiiiiiiing! It should be gorgeous!

Especially because our engagement photos look awesome.

My fabulous and talented friend Kristin did an amazing job and was so much fun to be with as she snapped some very genuine pictures of Darin and me. We really do look like that when we're laughing. We hiked all the heck over Detroit and you will see how fantastic those photos are if you leave us a sweet note at our wedding! :) Shameless plug: she is a great photographer and a great friend!

Well, back to shoulder exercise and mixing our wedding music. Won't be too long now!

Love, Lara

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shower #2

Can you say "coming up fast"!? Dang. 17 days until my love arrives in Florida, and 20 until we become Mr. & Mrs. It needs to feel as soon as it is -- there's a lot to do that I am twiddling my thumbs about! I always work best under pressure but school is probably a little different than my once-in-a-lifetime day of getting married. :|

I had an absolute blast at my second bridal shower in Tampa! This one was focused on the friends I made while I attended USF, whom I met through Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru, btw), dorms, classes, and all kinds of school-tastic things. My roomies/bridesmaids Lauren and Skylar, as well as one of my best friends Katie, all set up that delightful little apartment at the Pointe that I called home for a year to be a proper English tea party. Everything turned out SO FREAKING CUTE. Lauren borrowed a bunch of tea cups and saucers from her grandma and mom, which were gorgeous and legit china. We hung some cute colorful bunting on the wall over our table of foods:

  1. My FAVORITE kind of salad: spinach, romaine, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, almonds, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette. Mmmm. I got thirds of it during the shower, haha.
  2. Lemon cake with lemon curd filling and vanilla frosting
  3. A fabulous strawberry trifle (keeping with being all British and whatnot), which I didn't really use a recipe for. I just got a sweet $3 clear bowl from Ikea and layered cubed pound cake at the bottom, followed by vanilla pudding, then sliced strawberries, and then whipped cream, repeated a few times with a pretty pattern of sliced strawberries at the top. SOOO yummy.
  4. Absolutely not negotiable... tea sandwiches! One had sliced cucumber with cream cheese mixed with seasoned salt (just because it was all we had haha), and the other with my signature chicken salad recipe. I love mixing canned chicken with mayonnaise, spicy brown mustard, Craisins, chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Delicioso.
  5. Of course, the classic Girl Scout Punch, but with some cherry limeade soda we found at Walmart and lime sherbet! Talk about YAY!
  6. We also did up some homemade sugar cubes! Follow the directions at this tutorial.
The somewhat last minute favors we concocted were these adorable Ikea cookies with soft chocolate hearts in the middle... take a look here. We got some little Wilton-brand treat bags at Walmart and sealed them shut with yarn. Cute and easy!

It was so much fun catching up with friends, especially some I hadn't seen in a while! We had a memories jar where we got to reminisce about fun stories and such. And, without my knowledge, Skylar and Lauren played their own game where they wrote down what I said while opening presents and later presented it to me as what I will say on my wedding night. I haven't laughed so hard in a while -- watch out Darin! I am even weirder than you suspected all along!

It was the most fun and super fancy day. (I look so much taller than my mom! Yay!) I love my friends and am so glad to party with them before the big day arrives! Thank you guys for your love and good spirits!

Love, Lara

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Remember the Joy

Just as with everything in this world, there are hills and valleys. I've definitely been feeling that the past couple of days. I had a great time in Michigan getting our house all set up and spending time with my in-laws-to-be and my boo, and am just so tired of having to fly back home again after all that.

The light at the end of the tunnel is definitely near. If I really stop and think about it, it kind of freaks me out. Less than a month until I get married! I am so ready for this to happen already. We've been planning for months and dealing with long distance for many months more. It's taking its toll on me, and even though I never have to go away to visit Darin and then leave again, it gets harder every time to go back to "normal life" talking on the phone a few times a day and that being all that you have.

I think the hardest part is the somewhat helpful but painful tidbits of marriage advice I keep getting; "There will definitely be hard times." "Getting married doesn't mean you won't ever feel lonely again." "Adjusting to being married can be really frustrating." On top of the pain of being apart, it just brings a little discouragement to dwell on these thoughts, which are 100% true but just not well timed for me. My excitement about getting married is dampened a little when I think that some of the sad things I deal with in a long distance engagement won't forever disappear when Darin and I start living in the same house.

It's always good to be realistic, and know that nothing is perfect. When you get married, you are entering a covenant that isn't always easy to keep and is shared by a sinner, someone who makes mistakes and won't always gel with your ideas and feelings every second of every day. But sometimes, when you have had it with being a thousand miles away, you just need to focus on the joy of your wedding day. Then, you will at least be together -- not just in the same zip code but the same home! You will probably rub each other the wrong way sometimes, or even get into it a little deeper than that, but you'll have so many more of those special and fun moments that you remember fondly when you sit on another flight home from visiting your love. You're starting a new life with your favorite person and best friend, and can count on being with him when new hills and valleys approach.

That promise, founded on how God designed marriage and desires it to be, is what I'm clinging to in this awkward transition time of frantically finishing wedding preparations and growing weary of having to say goodnight and hang up until tomorrow. Marriage is a gift and a joy, and that is what merits mentioning the most!

Love, Lara

Monday, June 18, 2012

Moving to Michigan

So you can probably guess where I am right now! Well, at least partially. I am indeed back in Michigan... in my HOUSE!!!!!!!! GAGAGAGAGA!!!! :)

I mean, our house, but how weird that I can refer to something as my house. I usually called my apartment or dorm of the time my "house" in conversation and people would call me out on that weird habit, but a home is a house and a house is a home to me. But now there is no judgment, people! It is a legit house and it is fly!

Darin and I are in love with this house to the point that it's just silly. I mean, for the price we are paying to rent it, it's amazing. Three bedrooms. Hardwood floors. Huge basement. Pool. Basketball hoop. Yard. Big happy kitchen. Bunnies. (AHH I LOVE BUNNIES! No one else does but me. Typical Florida move.) It is just so nice. And our parents have been ridiculously generous giving us furniture and housewares and helping us set it all up. I am telling you -- this place is swank. I am not usually one to brag, but we are decorating it up nice. I can't wait to have people over for parties when I really live here for good!

We're having so much fun setting up the house and also doing wedding things. Darin's mom and sisters threw a bridal shower that will go down in history as one of the craziest but still fun events of my life. They planned this fabulous afternoon at Mosaic, a really great restaurant in Greektown that Darin's brother-in-law manages, only for the power to go out. For the first time in restaurant memory for them. Who could have planned for that?! Everyone kept remarking on how we were getting a true Detroit experience with things just getting ruined by construction and such, haha. It still worked out totally fine, though. We had a great dinner across the street at Pegasus, where I had my first saganaki and some really ridiculously tasty Greek food, and then cocktails and dessert at Mosaic in the dark. The absence of power worked out fine for me, since it was the perfect temperature for me to be comfy while everyone else thought they were sweating to death -- another typical Florida move. Anyway, it was great re-meeting and spending time with some of Darin's extended family and close friends, as well as some of mine. Even though Darin's aunt forgot the cake that she volunteered to bring -- the never ending joke of the evening that was just too funny -- it was such a fun time that no one will forget, especially me! I had a blast!

And we now have insane numbers of Target gift cards that Darin and I are so pumped to use! :) How do people know us so well??

It's just so crazy how everything is finally coming together. Moments that you've waited for for seemingly forever are happening in a row like BOOM! I have a comfy house at which to arrive when the honeymoon is over, which will be in like... a month. It's so hard to believe. I know there's a lot in this new chapter of life that I am not ready for, whether I realize it yet or not, but God brought this part of my story to pass and has more in store than I can see yet! He knows where my job will be, and how I will fare during my first northern winter (praying for grace now, haha). We will be good stewards of what we have today!

Well, it's time to get ready to go out when Darin comes home from work! My parents have yet to get a tour of the D, so that and dinner at a bar restaurant that Darin got me hooked on at Christmas. Yay! It's a great day in the 313!

Love, Lara

P.S. DISCOVERY: Meijer may just fit the bill for replacing Publix in my life. Now, nothing truly can, because I love their delicious ice cream selections and delightful cooking school samples, and my BOGO sprees. But Meijer has EVERYTHING! And their deals aren't bad -- I got some legit name brand spices on a 10 for $10 deal, and other stuff is randomly half off sometimes. And it's huge, and I got a very cozy Detroit Tigers shirt that I will sleep in and wear out of bed many times. One reassuring part of this move to the mitten is that I can shop with the same joy I had at Club Pub. Sweet. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Good Morning, Sarajevo

Today I am having withdrawals that a select few people in this world would ever have, and which sound pretty weird to everyone else: Bosnia withdrawals.

It is a special, special country in my heart. I went there on Summer Project with Cru on what can almost be considered a whim, but not really; it was totally prompted on my heart by God. The first summer I spent there in 2010 was wonderful, and, again on almost a whim, I returned in 2011. $10,000 fundraised, tons of new friends, and two years later, a little chunk of my heart became converted to Balkan, and it can never go back.

While I'm sure everyone who has been to a somewhat obscure country for an extended period of time says this, I am sad that most people will never know what a gem Sarajevo is in this world. Reactions to my announcement that I would spend the summer in this city said it all -- many haven't heard that name since the 1990's, and will always associate it with war and ethnic conflict, or communism in the very least. The legacy of Sarajevo is mostly confined to the location where WWI started, the Winter Olympics in 1984, and then the horror of the war as Yugoslavia broke down in the 90's. But what has it been by the year 2010, when I first stepped off the plane at Butmir Airport?

It was beautiful mountains, dotted with red-roofed houses, surrounding the whole city.
It was the bustle of trams full of people rolling down the wide European avenues.
It was the smell of ćevapčići in Baščaršija. (That is a lot of accent marks!)
It was the call to prayer ringing through the valley 5 times a day.
It was the thumping beat of techno at coffee shops and bars in the Austrian part of the city.
It was the children biking and running on Vilsonovo.

Today, I am missing the food -- which I was so afraid I wouldn't like -- with the most delicious bread in the history of the world. I miss sitting "on coffee" with my friends from the University of Sarajevo and getting their help shopping at Mercator (which is a little like Target). I wish I knew the next time I would get to take a walk by the river and just be there again! It would be so awesome to get to visit with Darin one day and show him around, if all my favorite places are still there. They probably will. The mixed reaction to McDonald's opening in Sarajevo is a good marker of how much Bosnia likes to stay Bosnian.

Yes, the man in the photo above is a brief fling I had in Sarajevo. Darin is aware of it. Everything is okay.

Love, Lara

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beauty School

Anyone who knows me really well knows this: in the past couple of years or so, I've finally taken to makeup. Really taken to it. It's weird imagining my sophomore year at USF just not bothering to put on anything but maybe a swipe of eyeliner and then heading out the door. Now I am guilty of spending at least 15 minutes crafting my look for the day with something for every part of my face. I can thank some friends who were good at makeup artistry and who knew a lot about good products for getting me into this habit. YES, FRIENDS, THANKS A WHOLE LOT.

I don't positively need it. I will survive stepping out to the grocery store or the gym without a speck of anything on my face and be fine. But it is now a necessity for social events and work, and things of that nature. I am now at that point where I really appreciate a good makeup routine for myself and a good set of products that make it happen.

I think makeup sort of gets a bad rap for "churchy" women. It is seen by many as pretty vain in some way, shape, or form; even though many wear it, there are some who really detest it and inwardly judge how much people wear or how much people spend on it. I know, I have thought those things before! And there is that fine line you have to respect where your personal boundaries go from simply looking nice and getting the best for your dollar, and going overboard and idolizing it. (Again, I have this issue, haha.) But I don't think any woman should look at makeup as a purely selfish, worldly thing! It really puts a polish on the natural beauty you already have and makes you look clean and prepared for the world, especially in a professional environment -- just like you'd wear the right clothes. If you aren't a fan, that's great! I just wish some people would get out of their comfort zone a little bit in this area.

Wow, who knew I had this big sermon ready to defend the goodness of cosmetics?

There are definitely some things that have made it so much easier to look like a well-groomed and confident person that I would recommend highly to anyone else:

1. Benefit Erase Paste: Miracle in a little pot, this is. It is the thickest, creamiest concealer in the history of the world. It does wonders for my genetic dark circles under my eyes, and some reddish scar spots on my face. It doesn't exactly set with powder the way you might expect, but I definitely put up with that and just avoid touching those spots for how much better Erase Paste works than others I have tried. Just use the little spatula and dab some on the back of your hand to warm it up, and I use my finger to pat it on to blend! IT IS THAT GREAT, I TELL YOU. :)

2. L'Oreal True Match Foundation: I grabbed this because my Target was being renovated and they marked it down to $4 to get rid of it, and then I had a coupon for $2 off. Can I get a HOLY COW!? That was one of my few bargain beast mode moments I've had, and I about swung off the hanging signs like a gorilla with joy and prowess. Anywho, it ended up being super great. It mixes well with moisturizer if you like to make a tinted version, and also just ends up so smooth with a sponge. This face looks pretty darn good with a nice dewy finish.

3. Urban Decay Naked Palette: Yeah, I apologize in advance for this. It is not a cheap piece of heavenly eyeshadow. It'll set you back $50, and it will probably be a decade before Urban Decay chooses to put it on sale. But there is a reason why. These colors are fabulous. They all look good with one another and make for millions of combos of everyday eye looks. Did I mention also that the formula is amazing? It is silky and delivers so much color for a tiny swipe, especially compared to a dookie Wet 'n Wild eyeshadow or something like that. So this stuff will also last you an awfully long time. I am a testament. I bought this last summer and haven't gotten close to the bottom of the pan on any color, and I use Toasted almost every day. (SO GORGEOUS.) That makes it a bit more worth it, right?? Ugh, I am too well trained by Sephora now.

4. Revlon Lip Butter: This is a little more budget friendly for all types. Revlon is your go-to lip brand, period, in my opinion. I like L'Oreal, too, but these are cheaper and honestly smell and taste better, which matters to me just a little. Their Lip Butter line is amazing! The colors are sheer-ish, so you can decide how dramatic you want to look, but they go on so smoothly and smell wonderful. I am a fan of Peach Parfait, personally. No matter what else you do with yourself, some nice smooth pretty lips make you look pretty spiffy to begin with!

You're well on your way to looking like a naturally beautiful chica if you go ahead and plunk down a few bucks for some nice products that last a very long time, as long as you take care of them. (Wash your makeup brushes regularly, close lights tightly, try repairing broken lipstick or eyeshadow, etc.) You'll look more effortless and buy less cheap makeup that you run through quickly!

I'll add the millions of other things I like another time... ;)

Love, Lara