Friday, December 30, 2011

YES to the dress!

well, THIS GIRL has got a wedding dress. very exciting stuff. but this also means that i won't be sewing my own bridal masterpiece. aww. but no worries, i still have plenty to work on: table runners, paper flowers, table decor and other bits and pieces.

polotek and i have been on a little east coast tour for the last several days and have found ourselves in dc, philadelphia, new york city and now atlanta.

christmas at my folks' house in philly

nyc happened so we could make a day of dress shopping. well, the boys went to hang out and drink somewhere while the ladies searched for a dress. we had a couple appointments lined up with lovely bridal shop and nicole miller, and we dropped into rk bridal and david's bridal as walk-ins.
we did not leave new york with a dress, but i learned a very important lesson about searching for your wedding dress: you cannot judge a dress by its hanger. or the size 2 model wearing it in a picture.

yeah, what i had drooled over for weeks when searching online, and was so confident was going to be pure hotness when i got to try it on, was not at all what i expected when i put it on my body.

conversely, some dresses that i didn't expect to look good when looking at it on the hanger looked awesome on me. so basically all the "prep" work i had done in searching for what would be my perfect dress match online went out the window very quickly. though it wasn't a complete waste, it did help as a starting point.

how about a few visuals to compare?

these two dresses were in my top choices, but when i put them on, all i heard was...womp womp.

oleg cassini
vera wang
      

here are a couple of dresses i thought would not work for me...but when i put them on, angels started singing!

nicole miller
(what's with the model's stank face?)
watters


fast forward to yesterday, now in atlanta. i did round two of shopping with three of my favorite atl ladies in buckhead, and we managed to walk through the selection at winnie couture and got some last minute appointments at brides by demetrios and le dress boutique.

when we went to le dress boutique, a "luxury dress consignment shop", we started by picking out several size 10 dresses but when i went to try them on, none of them fit except one! i'm not sure why gowns run so small...talk about killing a bride's spirit!

so my family was scrambling to find me gowns to try on in the next size up. my auntie and cousins picked out a few randoms, unsure about how they would look or if i would like them. ha! who knew one of those gowns would be the one....?

i had a feeling about the dress as it was being taken out of the plastic garment bag that it would be something special, and after i put it on my gut feeling was confirmed.

once i knew this one was a serious contender, i sent schniz a few pictures to get her thoughts. she sent me her buy in immediately, and my atl family agreed that i would be crazy to not walk out of the shop without the dress. i'm not gonna lie, there were a couple wet eyes in the parlor.

wanna see what i picked? check out this link. also look here and here for more photos. i'm not going to post the photo in this post -- that way polotek can choose to not look at it. i wouldn't be too worried about ruining the surprise for you though, because like i said before, you can't judge a dress by its model or hanger, and i'm also planning to make a few minor tweaks to add to the awesome. but still, if you can help yourself, try not to comment on the design of the dress on this post.


so i called my prince charming from the boutique and told him that i found the dress. he was a little surprised that i found it so soon. but the real shocker for me was that he didn't even ask me how much it cost! when i asked him about it, he said it didn't matter as long as it was the dress that made me happy. :::gush:::

reason #45873 why i am marrying this man.


my inital hope was to find a dress for less than $1,000. after shopping around i realized pretty quickly that the dresses i liked were not going to be in that price range. they seemed to all sit in the $2,000 area. however, the price i paid for dress and sash.....was....drumroll please....
$875 total! that includes the dress and a sash i bought to go with it. and i could take it with me since i bought it from a consignment shop!

to my other brides: as a newbie to all things wedding, it would have been helpful for me to know some things when considering my dress purchase.

  • making appointments is a must. some places will take walk-ins, but definitely plan ahead by scheduling a time with the shop. it's worth it to have the extra time with the consultants, who should be very knowledgeable and can find you more dresses you like with ease. note that a few places may require you to have a ring and a date already. 
  • give yourself 6-9 months before the wedding at the LEAST to start shopping. this was crazy to me when i first heard it, but it's true. most wedding shops have to order your gown and it can take 4 months or more to get it in. then you still have to have time for alterations.
  • know that pricing for the same dress can vary from shop to shop, and if you can, take the info of your favorite dress to the interwebs and see if you can find it on sale somewhere or buy it pre-owned if you are okay with that kind of thing. 
  • be ready to potentially pay tax and shipping on your dress. 
  • don't forget to budget in accessories such as a sash, fascinator or veil and jewelry and shoes -- i still don't have most of these items, but have it built into the budget.
  • alterations are what can take your dress from beautiful to jaw-dropping! get referrals from bridal shops you trust for a good seamstress. one that specializes in altering wedding gowns and not hemming pants. also, make sure you have the money set aside for the alterations, too.

i have more to share about a couple other events that happened in the last several days -- marriage counseling and seeing the venue....more on that later!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

cater 2 me.

see? i haven't forgotten about you. life has just been....life. busy and amazing all at once.

something that happened since my last post....WE BOOKED A CATERER!
woooohoooo!

a holiday miracle!

that was no easy feat. it's good that i was armed with a wedding goddess to help with what seemed like an endless re-tooling of the contract. but i think it ended up being something that is going to make our big day an awesome one.

i have to admit that it was tough choosing who we wanted to go with, even though we were only seriously looking at two caterers. and after much ado, we are going to have R&R Catering of Springfield, VA handle our catering needs!


one thing (of many) that assures us about having made this choice is that they have partnered with St. Francis Hall before, and seem to have a great working relationship with them.

whew. i'm so glad this part is taken care of.



a note to future brides reading this: please PLEASE be ready to put down mega money for the catering part of the wedding. and even more important, be ready to put down a large chunk of dollars for the deposit. we only had to pay a 25% deposit, which schniz tells me is conservative, but that was about $2,150..... now you can do the math of how much the entire catering bill will be.

so, if polotek or i ask, all one hundred and fifty of you bastards coming to the wedding better tell us the food was one of the best meals of your life.

truth be told, we haven't come to a final decision on what the actual menu will be, and luckily we have plenty of time to mull it over. all i know is that mac-n-cheese will be apart of it somehow. that's a definite. and we are doing something special for the dessert portion, so no wedding cake (or cutting fee) is in the catering number. that will be a separate line item of the budget entirely.

but some of the things included were:
* ceremony set-up and breakdown
* cocktail hour munchies
* beer & wine open bar
* buffet style meal for 150
* actual dishes, linens and service for a 5-hour 150 person wedding
* piece of mind

i know people have opinions. any feedback for me on caterers in general or what kind of food is good to eat?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

saving the date!

hey there! life has been busy in the bay area, but the save-the-dates have all gone out -- so it's time to share!

i guess i should probably spare you the story behind my late-night-evite-faux-pas that sent broken jpegs to more than 100 of my friends and family.... yeah. ok. i'll spare you.

yep. amazing.

you may remember me mentioning a design that i saw and liked back at the tilt wedding fair. well, that was my inspiration, and we decided to go with a similar look for our save-the-dates and invitations...

design by hello lucky

i'm so lucky to have schniz, my wedding goddess, because she hooked me up with a good friend of hers who is an amazing graphic designer that really nailed the idea i had in mind. having dara (designs) put it together saved us a LOT of money and we got to tweak it to be exactly how we wanted, like the colors, the formatting, and changing it into a postcard. check her out. she's fantastic!

polotek and i are fairly casual people, who want to have a fun and offbeat wedding, and we wanted to really set that tone through our STDs -- i know, "STDs" makes you think of the clap or crabs or something, but it's annoying to keep typing all those words -- with everyone, giving them that feeling. no pomp. no circumstance. just what promises to be a really awesome day. i wanted to stay as far away from script fonts and flourishes as possible. we are not trying to be extra fancy now or on our wedding day.

we are just trying to be us.

design by dara robin lustig


so, i hope we captured at least a little bit of that intention with our stationary. aaaand you can look for our actual invitation design to hit this blog in about 4 or 5 months. ha. we're not trying to be stuffy, but we do want to leave SOMETHING to the imagination!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

picture perfect.

last week was full of happy life gems, one of them being that polotek and i got to see our photos from our engagement session with ananda and bliss fotography. as i told you kids before, we hadn't planned on getting any engagement photos done at all, but then changed our minds after i won this free shoot from a wedding fair. and i'm really glad we decided to do it, because the photos are AWESOME.

awe. some.

i'm going to give you a little sneak preview, and you can go to the bliss fotography site to see more. we will also be sprucing up our currently-drab wedding site with some of the pictures, so you will see them there, too.
undefined
pure auss.
ananda was great to work with, she made us feel very comfortable and encouraged us to just be ourselves, and she captured some pretty fab moments between us. also, my day leading up to this shoot was completely batshit crazy, and i was totally flustered and all over the place when we showed up to the ferry building for the shoot.


the back story of that day:

i was tasked with trying to get polotek a nice shirt to wear (his wardrobe basically breaks down to 70% zombie and tech t-shirts, 20% lucky brand jeans, and 10% underwear). well, that morning i was farting around on pinterest and took my time to getting to the mall to get his shirt. i thought i could take my time because i already knew the specific shirt i was going to get, like others polotek has had, from express.

regardless of the fact that it was closer, i wanted to avoid the parking madness that is westfield mall in san francisco, and so i went to daly city in the 'burbs. i did this only to realize that there is no Express at that mall, and when i look up the store locator (ugh! why didn't i do this before i left the house?!) i see that the only one is in westfield mall. in sf. in the downtown yucky tourist cluster.

at this point, time is getting tight, but i'm determined and i think i can make it. so i run to westfield mall, making it in a record time of 15 minutes from daly city. i park the car and get to express in a snap to buy polotek's shirt and a shirt for me. in fact, i did this all in such record time that decide that i can make a pit stop in bloomie's to get a cover-up jacket for my ensemble, too.

well, that actually turned into me looking at a really cute dress that i HAD to try on. and i did. and i liked it. and i contemplated buying it despite it's WTF price tag because it looked really good on me. after a few minutes of twirling in the fitting room, i use my better judgement against it, and return it to the rack. i look at my watch and see i now have to be back at the house REALLY SOON.

i leave the mall, cross the street to pay parking...and realize that the parking ticket is no where to be found. i know i put it in my back pocket, so it must have fallen out in the dressing room. and i run all the way back into the store and into my fitting room to check for the ticket. no dice. so in addition to my waste of time, i end up having to pay $32 dollars for parking less than an hour at the mall i didn't even want to go to in the first place. i'm then annoyed, and running late.

so by the time i got back to the house, i just started throwing clothes, hair pins, makeup and other shit in boxes, and start scrambling to make myself look like a goddess in 15 minutes.

i manage to pick up polotek and my friend who volunteered to help out with the shoot, and make a b-line for the embarcadero.

by the time we show up (somehow only 10 minutes late), i'm a hot-ass-mess. polotek goes to change. then when he comes back, he is not even wearing the shirt i went through all that trouble to buy him because it turns out the shirt i got him didn't even fit.

muthafreakin' WOMP WOMP. after all of that mess i went through. and all the tags were already ripped off and everything. ugh.

luckily, in my box packing madness i threw in another shirt for him to sport. he put that on and it worked out just fine....buuut in the end, we could have saved ourselves a nice hundred plus dollars. oy.

the great thing that turned this exasperating day around was ananda and her overall amazingness.

despite my being totally flustered and polotek not knowing what was going on, she made the photo shoot one of our best experiences. by the time that shoot was over, we were floating on cloud nine. she was very easy to talk to, give my corny ideas to, and ask questions. i think she did a wonderful job of capturing the "essence" of us.

undefined
this was my corny idea, but i love it!
ananda is based in the bay area, and won't be traveling to DC to shoot our wedding (we have the wonderful abe landes for that!), but if you are a nor-cal local, and looking for a photographer for something special...i highly recommend her.

check out the photos, tell me what you think!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

flower me with love.

ummm, operaqueenie creative / wedding-related obsession #4573: handmade paper flowers...

love.
so schniz has been throwing ideas like this at me for the last few weeks about flower and centerpiece alternatives -- it saves money, and also lets me flex my DIY muscle -- but you know, sometimes it takes a catalyst or some a-ha! moment for these things to click. well, yesterday lil' ape pinned the picture above to our collective wedding board, and BING! yahtzeeeee!

well, first i clicked the link to the etsy shop listing it...and saw the price...and laughed. trust me, i am in no way trying to knock this lady's hustle. in fact, i was really, really impressed with her shop. but there is no way i'm paying that for flowers that aren't even real! then i thought, someone has got to have instructions on how to make these! and, of course, google swoops in for the win... i found this handy little post about kusudama flowers!

all of a sudden i got really excited about it, thinking about pretty paper flowers and using pretty papers. some of you may know that i am a recovering paper addict, i was flying high off of making cards for people for a good while. and i do still love it, but now that i have more time to get into my other crafts and sewing, cardmaking has taken a back seat.

so i went into my paper stash yesterday, and pulled out a couple sheets and my hot glue gun.

here is my first attempt at making one from last night...


not bad, for a rookie, right?!

aaaand, now i'm obsessed.

the etsy shop i mentioned is doing all sorts of cool things with the kusudama flowers. i think could work with this idea for bouquets and boutonnieres!

schniz also posted another cool idea....i think i'm gonna have to test this one out, too.

maybe for centerpieces?

and oh, the papers....sooooo many i can imagine playing around with. i love the lotka papers. LOVE them. and i have a few scraps of lotka at the house i'm going to test out first. then i think a trip to paper source is needed. expect more photos on this.

now, don't get me wrong, i love real flowers. i buy flowers for my house all the time, and they make me soooo happy. but as the wedding goes, i told y'all i want different. i want unique. i want offbeat.

so feel free to send me your opinions on paper vs. real flowers -- awesomesauce or tacktastic?

Monday, November 7, 2011

how low can you go...?

apparently, not low enough.

by the way, sorry it took this girl so long to post -- last week was a busy week. and this one looks like more of the same. i'll try to not leave y'all hangin', though.

now i'd like to shout out to my fellow non-kardashians who can't throw ten-million-dollar weddings. what the crap, man?! i was especially irritated to hear about this last week because i spent that day working through catering estimates, all of which are BEYOND the $5,000 number we had hoped for...

oh, frustration!!! i mean, one way to look at it is that we were able to cut out about $3,000 from some estimates -- thanks to some great cost-saving ideas suggested by schniz -- but really, we are looking at roughly $8,000 for our total catering line. and with our budget already being as low as it is for many of the other line items, we know that this wedding is not happening for $15K. it could be more like $20K.

oy.

here's some rough info about the breakdown of our leading estimate, for those of you wondering how it could possibly cost this much:
 - we are budgeting for 150 guests (our original budget number was based on 120 or less)
 - there are a number of incidentals that really add up, and makes up approximately $3K of the $8K total
 - the food and beverage price per person is actually $35 -- this really is a low number because that includes a dinner buffet (all you can eat!), four hours of beer and wine open bar (all you can drink!), and cocktail hour nosh and after-dinner coffee bar
 - some of the incidentals really are things we must have -- table cloths, dinnerware, and servers for 150 people
- the caterer is also responsible for the set up and breakdown of the ceremony in addition to the reception parts

we are still waiting for some revisions to other estimates that could come in a little bit lower, but at best my guess is that the number will still be in the range of $8,000.

to be honest, the more i look at the number, the less frustrated i am by it, because i know that this arguably the most important line item of the event. and we are working with great companies, so we are sure to get great quality and service for our money.

also, being able to rest assured that the caterer will take care of things is not something you can give a price value. unless it's eight thousand dollars.

in other news, the save-the-dates have started to go out! we are sending them in waves, but as soon as they are all en route to their destinations, i'll be sure to post the goods here.

oh, and i have a meeting with ananda from bliss fotography tomorrow! that means engagement shoot photos will be coming soon!!! yayayayaya!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

anything you can do, i can do better.

and by "you", i really don't mean you reading this blog. i mean the hypothetical "yous" of the weddingverse. and the statement is still a slight exaggeration.... okay, eff it, it was a catchy title.

moving on...

i've been feeling very inspired to sew things in the last couple months. and with each successful project, i get a little more ambitious. so ambitious, i will note, that as of the last couple days i'm asking myself why i can't sew my own wedding dress. eh? eh??

source
so i realize that this week i've been talking about wild things like paleo dieting -- which by the way, polotek and i have started the challenge and i will document parts of the journey on my former blog "le petite pane", now "le petit paleo" -- and now crazytime talk of me thinking i'm vera wang or justin alexander or maggie sottero or something.

well, shut your trap and bare with me. this is my blog and i can talk crazy if i want to!

i now have a new fixation, and until i become familiar with the actual ins-and-outs of what it would require, i'm seriously considering it. armed with a good pattern or tutorial, i can be pretty nifty with a needle and thread. plus, i've been making my way through my exhaustive list of inspired projects since june...

ha, that guitar case was a serious test.
so here is how i got to thinking DIY wedding dress...
i have been discussing the search for the perfect dress a lot in the last couple weeks. i'm slated to kick-off the dress-a-thon with my stepmommy and aunt at christmastime in new york city. i'm waaaaay excited to do this. appointments are being scheduled. we may even hit up klienfield's, the shop from "say yes to the dress"!

but as we know, "in a new york minute, ooOOOooo, everything can change..." ha, please excuse my random inside joke reference. i know it will make at least two people laugh.

too priceless not to post!

anyway, i'm on the mccall's site looking for some other dress pattern...by the way they are having an EPIC SALE until monday where you can get printed patterns for one and a half beans. dead cereal. aaaah, i got 7 patterns for $1.50 each!!!!

so i'm looking for a couple patterns i can mish-mash together to make a dress like this one or this one, and i saw this. and i'm like, pretty pretty princess, much? ick. but then as i looked a little closer at the take-your-pick of styling and imagined much prettier fabric than the ones used on the model, i kind of warmed up to the idea of trying to make a formal dress. maybe all the easy sew patterns i was looking at beforehand gassed me up a little, but i'm thinking...i could totally do this!

i then put it up on pinterest, half joking. hmmm, and also half serious. then while doing some web surfing, i came across this blog post by a bride who did the damn thing. then i'm thinking...well. she did it! amaze.

from a cost standpoint, i could probably make about 10 dresses for the price that it costs to buy one in the store. and while i am still technically an amateur seamstress, practice makes perfect, right? i have several months to create mock ups and iron out the kinks, but then again, do i have the patience for this?? i dunno. in any case, if this does happen, i would likely recruit a master seamstress to help advise me with the tough parts...grandma, are you reading?

well, i invested the dollar and fifty cents and ordered the pattern. once it arrives, if i give the pattern a good lookover and if i still think i can really pull it off, i legit may try to do it. though i definitely wouldn't start 'til 2012, and YES a dress form would be purchased :::cough, cough::: {christmas present}. then i could use all the dresses i see over the holidays as inspiration for fabric, colors, and embellishments...

or shit, i could just find my dream dress in new york and that would be the end of it. i'm also completely fine with that option, because who am i kidding? others have tried and given up, and i certainly have crafty-project-ADD.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

happy birthday to me!

how sweet it is...to get packages in the mail.

i LOVE getting packages in the mail!
and i especially love getting packages in the mail on my birthday.
especially wedding-related packages....

with save-the-dates inside!!

squeeeeeeeee!

happy birthday to meeeee!
i will share what they look like once they start coming to a mailbox near you. hell, maybe one will even come to your YOUR mailbox!

Monday, October 24, 2011

my big, fat....self.

we had an awesome shoot on saturday. i'll share more about the experience after we get to see the photos in a few weeks. i know that the shots ananda took will probably be amazing because i did get a glimpse of a couple on her camera screen. she's fab. marco and i loved the shoot.

however, the more important issue of today is when i was looking at a few behind-the-scenes photos taken by a friend of mine who helped out, something i saw was pretty saddening. i noticed how big i've gotten. ugh.

i actually look pretty cute in this one -- did you think i would post a "whale" photo of myself on here?!?!

as i was flipping through my friend's pictures i couldn't help but ask, "oh dear god, why am i so HUGE?!"

well, i actually DO know the answer to this. and it seems to be a recurring theme in recent conversations polotek and i have had. we know that the way we have been treating our bodies is not good. and i don't want to turn into one of the klumps! my knees are already bad enough, i doubt they could stand eddie murphy weight!

i know it's definitely a "thing" that brides-to-be (and bridesmaids) get all self-conscious about their scale digits and do all kinds of crazy stuff. diet pills, starving themselves, liposuction, ordering a dress in their "dream" size. ummm, no thank you. not for me. that sounds dreadful!

what i'm planning on doing is changing over to more paleo-focused eating. maybe this is my crazy thing. well, i mean, it's not really all that crazy. but it is a little unconventional. and i'm ready to take things in a new direction.

i specifically want to follow the guidelines of the bulletproof diet, as outlined by dave asprey. but i'm not planning on going cold turkey. i know doing that won't work for me. you should really read about it, but in a nutshell the diet is not based on moderating caloric intake at all -- what it requires is for a person to eat things that will keep their blood sugar levels low and insulin levels low, thereby allowing less storage and more burning of fat. the things you eat in a paleo diet are mostly comprised of natural fats (50-60% of your calories in a day, whaaaa?!) and protein, and lots of vegetables.

now, i know to some of you reading this, this new way of eating may sound completely cuckoo-pants. at first it did to me, too. but i know people who have been living the lifestyle for quite some time, and have seen the results firsthand. right now i am reading and trying to absorb as much about it as possible. SO MUCH is different from how i think about eating.

here are some initial things that i know will be challenges:
(1) eliminating (even a little bit of) grains / starches / sugars - the top culprits of high blood sugar.
(2) cutting back on the booze because of the sugars produced by alcohol = massive frowny face -- womp, womp -- i should probably walk away right now...
(3) lots of veggies....blah
(4) all that fat???
(5) my birthday is this week / i have people coming to visit in early november / the holidays AKA food-binge-o-rama is right around the corner.

some positives:
(1) all that fat!!!
(2) the diet seems to require very little, if any, exercise for most people. (hellmuthaf*ckinyeah!) :D

to that last point -- let's be real. people who know me know that i can avoid exercise like the plague. i'm quite good at it, actually. i'm so over trying to convince myself that i love to exercise. because i don't. i think if i did then i'd be doing it right now, instead of researching paleo dieting.

whenever i psych myself up to exercise, the time rolls around and i suddenly have too many other important things to do. like clean the house. or sew something. or upload pictures of fabric samples to pinterest. ha, molto importante!

my plan is to try to EASE into it. 
what does that mean? good question. for now it entails a two-week challenge of no grains and starches EXCEPT for up to one cup of rice each week. then, after that, i'll pick up one new small change every week or so afterward.

interested in chronicling my possible success or utter failure with me? i thought you might be. look for me to hijack my friends' group fitness blog, or revive my dormant blog, le petit pane. i guess i may have to consider changing my blog name, being that the title is a mish-mash of french and italian that means "the little bread".

either way, i'll keep you all posted on which channel i will share my frustrations. because, trust me, there WILL be frustrations.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

smiling for the camera.

i'll be turning 26 on the 26th this year! you only get one of those ___ on the ___ birthdays, so i better live it up! i'm trying to decide what big extravaganza we'll have for my 2011 born day....

oh wait, we are about to spend $15,000 (plus) dollars on a wedding.

well, in that case, i guess i'll just order take out and watch hbo with polotek.

on the upside, i got an awesome birthday gift from a friend this past weekend. it is being used, and will continue to be used!

so purrrrty.
this gorgeous little gem is a ceramic ring holder -- aka operaqueenie-ass-saver. because jean pockets are evil crevices that no one should give into the temptation of putting valuable things inside. ok, that was a tad melodramatic. but i could go the rest of my life without experiencing the insanity of losing my ring again. insurance coverage is underway.

in other news, remember that wedding fair i went to a while ago? well, THIS GIRL put her name in a basket for a free engagement photo shoot and won!!! SNAP! now, i would have much preferred to put my name in for something and won myself a free wedding, but, 'tis the luck of the draw. besides, i never win anything in raffles and the like, so i will rejoice in this victory.

i will also rejoice in the fact that ananda shorey (yes, with an N, and not an M), the face behind the photos of bliss fotography, is very talented and also very awesome for shooting our ugly mugs gratis. now i'm prepping things for the shoot which is this saturday at the ferry building (my east coast peeps, check out the hyperlink if you are unfamiliar with SF landmarks).

that means it's time to tame the mane, press the clothes, veet the legs, paint the nails, wax the furry... brows. i can't wait to dish about the experience and the photos! squeeeeeeeee!

my wedding goddess, the one-and-only schniz, already sent me some inspiration for the shoot...lots of pretty pictures i love to look at. there is this one...i'm so in love with her tulle skirt. there is actually a fantastic etsy shop that she appears to have gotten hers from. i must have one...putting it in the sewing projects queue!

i'm also a fan of this shoot. i dig her style, it feels somewhat reminiscent of my own...

and i like the use of props in photos. i much prefer fun prop shots to a bunch of canoodly kissy pictures. polotek and i are thinking of incorporating a couple things or elements that people identify with us as a couple -- our little whiteboard, our iphones / laptops / miscellaneous apple devices, movies, music (my guitar?). i think it's really neat how this couple incorporated the banner and scrabble pieces!

alright, so let me know if you have any cool ideas for our shoot -- and let me know quick, because we only have 1 day!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the natural bride.

i read a blog post this morning that got me thinking. it's from "a curl's best friend", a blog co-written by a high school friend of mine, which really is a must-stop-shop for natural hair -- it gives great tips and inspiration, style ideas, hair recipes (!!!), and talks in-depth about the real issues and struggles of maintaining naturally curly hair of ALL types. the writers, antoinette and shanti, also interview an assortment of ladies and gentlemen about their thoughts on natural hair, how they care for their own hair, etc.

anywho, today i saw an interview post that brought a recurring thought i've had in the last several weeks to the forefront of my mind....how the crap will i wear my hair for the BIG DAY?

i've been natural for about 4 years and have never looked back. well, except maybe when i try to pull off a pressed 'do on really humid days. but i definitely don't miss the insanely torturous burn of creamy crack. or having to pray before every perm that my hair doesn't fall out.

i'd say my mane is about type 4b, and there are lots of things i can do to style it. i love the versatility of my hair. however, most of the "diverse" things i can do with it defy the normal conventions of beauty as it is represented in what we see everyday. while i'm fine rocking my twist out to work or out for drinks, i feel i have to think twice when i'm considering my hair for a fancy occasion or a formal event. let's take it to the styleboard...check out a series of various styles i have worn over the years...

i've always loved to keep people guessing about what style i'd have the next time they saw me...
in short:
the battle for black women everywhere = euro look vs. natural look

clearly, this is/has been an issue for other brides-to-be than myself. now i will say that i tend to air on the side of a more european, tamed and straightened style for special occasions, and it is worth heavily noting that i make, wear and sell handmade wigs and other hair pieces. and the reason why i like to make wigs for myself is because i like the fun of it, and i like to change things up once in a while. but i feel i now have to ask myself if my desire to go euro for the big day is driven by years of fashion media brainwashing that make me think i should look a certain way?

i think the bride featured in the post i mentioned earlier is so beautiful. 


seeing her pictures definitely inspires me to wear a natural style. i also found some other lovely styles on the interwebs, but when i see 99% of them, i'm like....but would that look good on ME?? let's take look at some of those...

click the photo and it will get bigger ;)

luckily, i have 341 days to figure this out and get it right. but right now i'm planning to rock a simply-styled wig for the wedding (see: carla). but what does it say about me that i am inclined to wig it up?

i'm also am contemplating this same dilemma for my engagement shoot {more to come on that -- it's this week!}, but it seems like less of an issue right now -- namely because those photos don't cost thousands of dollars!

cast your votes, people. tell me what YOUR thoughts are on this matter....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

diamonds and 'girls'.


D to the I to the A to the M...

oh. my. ring. 
i just experienced the most intense 12 hours of my life. 
i lost my ring. and found it. and now i need a drink.

this is the bottle of wine that i will have consumed entirely by the time i finish this post.

8:40 AM: i'm getting ready to leave for work, go over to my jewelry tree and pick out earrings while calmly commenting, "babe, i can't find my ring. have you seen my ring?"

8:43 AM: after searching frantically around the area i always put my jewelry and not finding my ring, i start to panic. and cry. and freak out, "babe, where's my ring?!?!"

8:50 AM: i quickly re-trace my steps, which has to go back two days -- because i didn't wear it at all the day before due to cleaning the apartment. polotek and i look around all the 'practical' places. no ring. i have also missed my bus for work. i start to cry again.

9:07 AM: polotek has driven me to work and is pulling up to my office. during the ride i recapped all the things i did in the last two days, and the last time i definitively remember having the ring on my finger. still no clue where it could be. polotek is level-headed and tries to console me, but i cry again before getting out of the car. the people walking by on their way to work probably think he is breaking up with me.

12:45 PM: after an excruciatingly long morning at work because of my obsessive worrying, i call polotek to see if he found the ring when he went back home to look. nothing. i make a list on my phone of places to search when i get to the house.

3:16 PM: i text with apey about her trip to hawaii and tell her i can't find my ring (which she warned me the week before that i should insure ASAP). she is equally freaked that i have no idea where it is, and my eyes start watering at the thought that it may not be in my house as i thought all along. i start thinking that maybe what i remember doing in re-tracing my steps is not what actually happened. i can't recall seeing the ring when i cleaned the apartment the day before, and start to wonder (a) if i left it at the grocery store or (b) if it fell into some random thing that got taken out of the house and thrown away or (c) if someone somehow snuck into our place while i was there, without me knowing, and took the ring and left. no kidding.

3:30 PM: i walk into my place and greet polotek's visiting brother. he tells me that he and polotek looked thoroughly for the ring earlier that morning all over the apartment to no avail. he asks what i was wearing when i last remember having it, and if i have checked my jeans pockets. he helps me move furniture and volunteers to search the stinky, nasty trash that should have gone out before he arrived. i decline his offer but continue looking around the apartment.

5:30 PM: i arrive at my voice lesson and my teacher can see that i am not myself. i tell her about my lost diamond ring and try to sing the crazy thoughts out of my mind. it works for the most part until i go home, and drive home with preoccupied thoughts of where the ring might be. i begin to dream up patents for a lo-jack for fine jewelry.

6:45 PM: i'm making dinner and polotek's brother asks me if i'm okay. he says i don't seem to be myself. i agree that i am not myself.

8:00 PM: we finish dinner and start re-hashing the places searched for the ring. polotek and i split up looking in various places for the ring. i start in the closet, sifting through the laundry and pockets of clothes i may have touched in the last couple days. polotek goes for the trash. the stinky, smelly, gross trash that has all the old and moldy food from the fridge that i threw out. the trash with a ripened stink that has been shielded from us thanks to a solid, snapping plastic lid. the trash that i was too embarrassed to have a guest see, and planned to get rid of before he arrived, but never tossed due to thinking that my ring may be in there.

8:05 PM: polotek fashions himself a face mask out of a dish towel because the stench of the garbage is THAT BAD

and we are searching.
....searching.
..........search. ing.

no ring.

8:35 PM: we switch up where we are looking, polotek goes into the closet. i tell him i already looked there. especially in the laundry basket and the pockets of all my jeans.

8:40 PM: polotek comes out with my jeans in one hand and a diamond ring on the tip of his finger. "where did you say you put the ring, again?"

my savior!! oh, how i LOVE this man! the first thing i feel after PURE elation is sorry for my poor baby searching through the funktastic trash. that yucky stinky ass trash that had all the old crap from the fridge. and sorry that i didn't get a picture of his garbage odyssey.

IN MY JEANS POCKET. good golly, miss molly.

so after all of that (!!!), let me tell you about {in my best Smeagol voice} the precious.

we were less than two months shy of the three year mark when i went with polotek to mervis diamond in tyson's corner, and tried on what must have been dozens of rings. after an hour or so, i whittled it down to about 5 or 6 rings, each with something i liked about it.

but what i got was even greater than i could have ever imagined. 

what was in the wooden box presented to me at the beach in carmel was custom designed by polotek. 

the only one like it in the world, it was 2 carats of the shiniest diamonds i've ever seen.
and it was drop dead gorgeous.

::: gush :::

he took all the things i loved about the rings i tried on: round diamond in the middle, small round diamonds on either side that wrap only halfway around {because srsly, who needs diamonds on the inside of their hands?}, bar settings to separate the complementary stones, the primary stone set as low a possible {he remembered how i didn't want too much elevation off my hand}, platinum {ahem, need i say more?}.


jeebus. i thought i loved this beauty before! now i've been seriously been scared straight about losing this baby. insurance, anyone? yes, please! 

my baby loooves me. he thinks i'm speeeecial. he wants to kiiiisss me. and be my huuuuusband....

Saturday, October 8, 2011

feed me, seymour.

now, on to the next challenge. schniz, polotek and i are looking at our options for the biggest line item of this whole shebang.

foooooood. and booze.
actually there is far more that caterers handle, too. including (but not limited to): linens, china, silverware, servers, set-up, breakdown, decor, yada yada...
all that schtuff costs money.



i can't say how lucky i am to have a dear friend with a catering company in her family!!! this is awesome because we get to talk to and possibly work with a company who we can trust, is bound to be more understanding, will work with us, and we know will aim to please. this is a very good thing. we have already chatted with the company about possible options, and i can't wait to see what they come back with.

there is also another caterer with potential. we've got some personal testimonies about their good quality, and they seem to be willing to work with us and our rinky-dink catering budget.

the line that we currently have for the caterer is $5,000, but that was (1) before we realized we were going to invite up to 200 people, and (2) before we had any flipping idea how much food and drinks cost for a wedding. we want quality AND affordability, but we would definitely be willing to pay a little extra if it guarantees a good time had by all.

the last thing we want people to think is "boy, did they cheap out of the food..." i embrace my food snobbiness, and i feel the food should reflect our tastes. but we have to find that happy balance of also being able to afford it all.

really, this is the one major thing that threatens to break the budget, and it seems to be this way because of all the mouths we will have to feed. but like i have previously said, polotek and i want to include our peeps without exclusion. it's so hard to do the: "i REALLY want so-and-so to cooooome, but we can only have xx people." especially when you have a ton of family, like me.

the good thing is we have lots of ideas on how we can put this together and save on some of the costs. like ditching the expensive traditional flower centerpieces and getting more creative with the table aesthetic. i'm also planning on making some table runners with a lovely fabric that schniz picked out, and that will lower the cost of linen rentals. maybe we will even go with faux chinaware. and yes, some people will be asked to come as singles. sorry if this makes you sad, but everyone will certainly still have an awesome time. and eat awesome food. and drink to their hearts' delight.

not to reveal too much, but a couple noms we are considering include a mac-n-cheese bar (a bride fave!), cookies (a groom fave!) aaaand...yes, i know what you really want to hear: haribo gummi bears! contain yourself, i know it's very exciting. did you know you can buy them in 5 lb bags on amazon? five pounds of heaven is what it is.

so, we'll see over the next several days how things shake out with estimates. i'm sure my pie-in-the-sky ideas of what we can have at the reception will be brought back down to earth. so stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

making it "officiant".

tick another day off the calendar! only 352 more to go.

no, i didn't count it. it's just that every time i log in on the knot, i see this countdown calendar blaring at me. it has no real effect on me now while it's almost a year out from the wedding, but something tells me i'm going to log in one day in early september next year and have a panic attack.

anywho, we now have someone to administer our vows. hence my lame and punny title to this post. and i'm not sure how this reads, but i'm actually really excited about this. exclamation point!

so i don't want to offend anyone reading, but polotek and i are more secular-minded in the way that we lead our lives. to those who know me, i'm sure that my beliefs can seem somewhat agnostic, but i am actually roman catholic (polotek is baptist), and i'm not sure if many of my friends know that. i'd say we're pretty casual christians.

therefore, the fact of the matter is that my church-going in the years since school has pretty much been for going to funerals. and messiah sing-a-longs. gotta love handel.

does that make me a bad person? man, this conversation is getting heavy. so long story short, the reverend who will administer our vows has a special connection to me. he is the reverend of a church in the small town of haymarket, va (the real virginia, for those reading in the dc area), which is the family church of my stepmother. i first heard him speak at my nana's memorial service, and was so extraordinarily touched by him. i had the privilege of hearing him speak two more times since then. and each time i felt that the things he said weren't "preachy", but poetic. beautiful. poignant.

i remembered afterward making the joke that "if i went to church, i'd go to THAT church to hear him speak." ha.

so you get the point. i think he is perfect for our wedding. now i really can't wait for showtime!

Monday, October 3, 2011

a very important date!

what could be a better start to my monday, than to hear that we are officially booked for our wedding venue?!?! ten pages of contract, four days, and one $2000 deposit later -- we are in business!

looks like the BIG DAY will be friday, september 21, 2012 -- also known as polotek's last chance to make a run for the hills.

at this point, the race is well underway. schniz and i have been joking that at the pace we've been planning this thing, it may be ready by december.

aside from the venue, caterer, and invite list, the wedding decisions and discussions are fun and easypeasey -- so excited to share it with y'all. speaking of sharing, this seems like a nice point to introduce the story of polotek and operaqueenie's first date.

first off, i'll have you know that we were fixed up by a mutual friend, and went on a sort of blind date. i say "sort of" because we did see each other's facebook pages first. in fact, that was the first contact...

so, i'm over a friend's house -- who i lovingly call my "jewish aunt" or "tante" -- and we are watching american idol {not that i'm a fan of that show, i just like to make fun of the contestants}. i start going on and on about how one of the singers, a white boy with dreadlocks, on the show is such a product, and how they were manufacturing some "unique" cookie-cutter template of a singer blah blah blah, and she jumps in blurting out that i had to meet this guy from her job who has dreadlocks. she works as a recruiter for a software company, and after being thrown off by her interruption, the first thing that i say is:

  "so he's a nerd?"
  "well, he's kind of nerdy, but he's a nice guy."
  "he's a nice guy...so...he's ugly?"
  "he's not ugly, but he's probably shorter than you."
  "well, almost everyone is shorter than me."
  "he's on facebook -- we can look him up!"

...she pulls up his facebook page...

malcolm-jamal warner, anyone??
  "ok, he's not bad looking..."
  "at the very least, you could make a new friend." {i had just moved to the dc area}

...my jewish aunt matchmaker then proceeded to send polotek a message on facebook, saying that he should meet her niece who is new to the area {he was definitely surprised to find that she had a black "niece"}, and that we should get together sometime. then she made me change my profile picture to one she approved.

from this...
she wasn't a fan of the open mouth photo.



to this.
yay! mouth closed.


then i went home.

when i got back to my craptastic apartment {i'll save that story for another time}, i had a facebook message from polotek titled "the definition of awkward is...", and in the body it said, "this." but then he went on to say that my jewish aunt is pretty cool, and since she has vouched for me like she did, i must be worth meeting.

so we set up a date.

we met at my fave sushi place of the moment and had dinner. hit it off right from the start. decided to catch a movie with a couple of his friends afterward. they didn't hate me. when i got back home and dished to my roomie, i was all googly.

aaaand the rest is history {in the making}.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the dreaded invitation list.

with this post, i do believe i have surpassed the number of all posts i have ever posted on my previous blogs....combined. ha! so let this be a testament to my tireless devotion to bringing my peeps one hell of a party next fall. "hold on to your butts!" {i love saying that. can you name that movie??}

ok, my sentiments about the invitation list = shoot me. right now. please? yeah.

i am told that this is hands down THE HARDEST THING a couple has to do for their wedding.

we don't want to exclude anyone, but there is a finite number of invitations we can afford to send for a number of reasons.

when we break it down to the cost per person for food and bevies at the reception, it's easy to say we will have X number of people. but then when looking back at the list at names and thinking about how great it would be to have so-and-so come, or how happy this or that person would be to get an invite, it's not so easy. maybe we'll just go to costco and buy a crap ton of hot pockets and capri sun.

luckily the space issue is now resolved by booking st. francis hall, but finding a venue that can fit 100+ people for a ceremony and reception in the dc area for less than $2500 was crazy frustrating.

{with no particular persons in mind} what do you do about a relative whom you haven't seen or spoken with since you were 10, but is within a close circle of your family? or what about the friend whom you used to be ace-boon-coons with, and you may have even talked extensively with about going to each others weddings one day, but life happened, and you haven't really been in touch for a while? what about friends who aren't BFFs but might feel excluded if you invite everyone else in the circle? or what about really new, fun and fresh friends who you just met and feel close with, but can't confirm what your relationship will be in a year? the questions go on.... see? this part is not always fun.

i also want to be sensitive to the bride-groom invite ratio. where polotek is much more selective about his circle of friends, i feel that i have so many that would love to be apart of our special day. so the ratio currently stands at 2:1, but i don't want to dominate the event with all of my people! what to do?

right now the number is fluctuating between 150-200 people, and that is a very large group of people. huge, in fact.

a few people have mentioned that i should consider implementing "the single rule", where my friends that are not married, engaged, or in a serious long-term relationship should be asked to come alone. a few other people have told me they are less crazy about the idea. at this point, i have no clue what is the best thing to do.

because of these overwhelming factors, and my huge desire to make sure everyone is happy, i thank the heavens for schniz. my wedding goddess. we can rest assured that in the end, things will come together with her on our side.

i know, somewhat unrelated to this post, but so cute!


so yeah, it's a balancing act. some of you may be thinking that we should not worry about any of this, and that we should just let the cards fall where they will. but to me, it's not that easy. polotek and i are all about "the more, the merrier" and we want to be as inclusive as possible. we are having this wedding for all our friends and family because it IS a momentous occasion in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. so i say, go big or go home! that is, within the reasonable confines of our budget, of course. ;)

please feel free to share your thoughts and/or invitation list woes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

color me pretty.

today was a good day. we got the contract from st. francis hall (the venue piece is almost officiaaaaal!), and schniz and i put together a color palette for the wedding. the perfect palette blog is awesome, by the way.

figchartreuse. light coral. and ivory and black, of course.


yaaaayayaya! fun girly stuffs!

gone are the days where you pick two colors and everything must be one or the other and matching exactly. i much prefer to paint a picture of varied hues, pleasing to the eye and the soul.

below is a special treat for you. ;)

it took me a really long time to put this together for some reason --  i may be giving myself more credit than i deserve as "tech savvy" -- but i did it! here's a little photo board made from various photos i stole off the interwebs, inspired by my wedding palette. booyah.


i heart pretty pictures.

stay tuned for the official wedding date! i know you are on the edge of your seat. and the next stop on the crazy train: the invitation list. oh, what a MONSTER. more to come on that...in the meantime, feel free to shower me with gushy love and insights about wedding colors!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

my fair lady.


i'm gonna take a moment to hit pause on the venue "woes and wows" and talk about a wedding fair i went to with a friend today. we checked out tilt wedding fair in oakland this afternoon, which was a nice venture into wedding concepts that were alternative, creative, offbeat, vintage, and contemporary.

i got some ideas for cool save-the-dates and invitations -- my favorite design was from hello lucky, from their "big day" collection. love. i especially heart the rsvp cards.

aaaaaand my favorite part of the fair was the magbooth. WANT. it was dangerously good fun. but i don't have the $2,000 built into the budget for something like this, so i would have to find an alternate way to make a photo booth happen for the wedding. like if i did a jerry-rigged slr with a remote shutter and props from the dollar store! um yes, people. the ghetto version. here's my little sess below:

those sunglasses are ballin'.
while there, i also got to gush over linens and jewelry i can't afford. however that was made up for by the caterers with free samples and neat-o swag bags. all in all it was definitely worth the trip. i mean, come on, who doesn't love free shit?! last but not least, i got to finish it all off with a lychee tea snowball. yummm.

why yes, that IS a delicious piece of almond shortbread in it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

gotta get down on friday!

yesterday i talked about st. francis hall as the top venue contender. afterward i ogled the photos some more, went drinking with some co-workers, came home, looked at everything again with polotek, and went to sleep. how do i feel now?

i still feel like it's fabulous. dare i say perfect? polotek likes the place, too. the catch is that we can only afford to book a friday at this venue. with a rental fee of $2500, that fits exactly within our budget with no wiggle room. the good thing is that the price does include everything in the rental, including taxes and fees (yippeeee!!), but i can't just gloss over the fact that booking a friday wedding clearly requires that most people take a day off from work if they want to attend. is it selfish to book a friday wedding?

let's think about this...

PROS
  • it would save us $700 (vs. sunday) or $1500 (vs. saturday)! i could do a lot of other awesome things with that money. like buy a wedding dress.
  • fridays are easier to book since most couples get married on saturday
  • we could use the rest of the weekend to hang out with our peeps, without the pressure of the upcoming wedding
  • people can get significantly inebriated at the reception and sleep it off on a saturday ;)
  • we could take pictures that look like this (!!!!):
this is an actual picture taken on their grounds. amaze.

CONS
  • people would more than likely have to take a day off from work to attend
  • some people may not be able to make it because of work....?
  • people possibly driving in dc traffic to our wedding in the city on a friday afternoon...?

i would now like to open up this discussion to the public. please PLEASE let me know your thoughts on this!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

more about the venue.

i have to give a shout out to the amazing people who are bored enough to read my whiny ramblings on this blog and give me feedback. thank you.

boy, what a difference a day makes. things have changed dramatically since yesterday -- in a good way! i gotta give props to my lovely stepmom and schniz, because thanks to them we have two new contenders, and one that has made it from purgatory into the promised land.

3. arlington arts center (arlington, va)
i'm bringing this place back into the fold. schniz went to see it for us yesterday, and reported back with great things to say. if we went with this place we would have to go all out on the non-traditional track because there are a lot of compartmentalized spaces that make up the whole, but overall its a fabulous venue that is within budget! i could even see us doing something fun with the catering here...with food trucks!

2. artisphere (arlington, va)
ummm...fabulous in every way i can think of. and centrally located in rosslyn. we'd try to rent the terrace gallery and the outdoor terrace. the (unconfirmed) drawback is that we would have to rent furniture (also an issue with arlington arts center). and that is an expense that we can't afford unless we get extra crafty with the setup. which is a possibility. so this place is a possibility.

1. st. francis hall (washington, dc)
oh yeah, people. check this one out. i just found out about this place this morning and i'm so amped. it's within budget, if we book a friday. tables/chairs/audio equipment is included. it's in the city, and drop dead gorge. look at a couple photos i nabbed from the website...



yayayayaya! can you smell the juicy bacon?

now what i'm going to do is sleep on it. and by sleep on it, i mean i am going out drinking to try to keep myself from obsessing about it, and then i'm going to look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow. if by then the haze of gloriousness hasn't worn off, we may just move to booking!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

this venue mess...

sooo as of today we have officially changed all of our crap over from being virginians to californians. awwww! and with it went any chance of us getting resident discounts at various venues in fairfax county. damn. that can make a $200-800 difference in costs!

(look at him. my babe is so cute <3)

you see, finding a venue in a major metropolitan area, especially when you live 3,000 miles away, is no easy feat. there are some really REALLY beautiful wedding sites in the dc area, but they know they are beautiful. and you will have to pay for beautiful. it also doesn't help that i'm trying for the ever-popular fall wedding. we're shooting for the stars with a late september - early october timeframe. at least it's not june, right? but ah, if money grew on trees....

i wish i had a friend with a huge house and a huge yard...but, i don't. and as a former wealth researcher, i can tell you that anyone with that kind of crib in greater washington is too rich to be my friend. shame.

so far, the venue search has been an emotional rollercoaster. thank jeebus for schniz. she finds all the diamonds in the rough, gives me lots of options to consider, and pursues our leads with gusto. my girl is on top of sh*t. she's even going to visit a couple places on our behalf this weekend. hands down, awesomest wedding goddess there is.

i'm sure something will bubble to the top soon, but i suffer from chronic impatience. and acute indecision. apparently these are two less than great qualities to have when it comes to planning a wedding. but by now, i think schniz has learned that her sharing places with me before contacting them to make sure it's a fit is like dangling a warm, juicy piece of bacon in front of a starving puppy.

speaking of juicy, let's talk about the good stuff. where the hell is it that we are looking?! i'm sure you are dying to know! i can share some of the places i know of, though schniz has some things out there that she's keeping guarded for now. remember, operaqueenie = starving puppy.

in order of how badly i wanted them...the rejects / ones that broke my heart (and why):

the barns at wolf trap (vienna, va) - out of budget
the katzen arts center (washington, dc) - only available mid-may to mid-august and can't book until february
birkby house (leesburg, va) - out of budget
sheraton reston (reston, va) - waaaay out of budget

in purgatory...:
arlington arts center (arlington, va) - no red beverages allowed (including wine!), though i am wavering on this as days pass....; has to be an evening wedding (how do i feel about that?); must rent tables and chairs from caterer (significant hidden cost?)

in order of how much i am currently excited about them...current contenders:

prince george's ballroom (landover, md)
seneca creek (boyd, md)
harbour view (woodbridge, va)
great falls grange (great falls, va)
darnall's chance (upper marlboro, md)

keep in mind that my venue budget line is $2,500. so, for anyone on the interwebs who is looking to get married in the dc area with 100+ guests, and on a tight budget, and is somehow reading this lame blog, there you go. i hope this helps!