Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wedding Mini-series Part III: Changing Your Name? Here's the Nitty Gritty on Name Changes

Whew! I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! I know I did. My shrunken pants tell me so. The holiday season is finally in full swing and retailers are going nuts with the post-Black Friday sales. With tomorrow being Cyber Monday and all, I'm fairly certain I'll be hunched over my Add To Cart button all day, so I wanted to pump out the final phase of my wedding mini-series before my brain is completely fried.

If you're planning on changing your name after getting hitched, hopefully this post can offer a bit of guidance since it's all still fresh in my mind. When I first sought help on name changes, I couldn't find a single resource that told me what to change first, next, etc. I think that was partly because it varies by state and by individual, but it still would have been nice to have a simple guide, even if it just gave me a place to start. That's what I hope you'll get out of this post.

Once the wedding bells stopped ringing, I thought all of that wedding stress was behind me. Man, I was so wrong. As I was sticking return addresses (with my shiny new last name!) on our thank you notes it dawned on me that even though I had legally changed my name, I hadn't really changed it. I started jotting down a list of things that I needed to do a name change on and then got overwhelmed when I filled up an entire sheet of paper and was only halfway done.
After uttering a few expletives, I got back to work on figuring out how I was going to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. It's not like changing your address; you can usually complete an address change from your own computer. Changing your name is a whole 'nother story, and it gets crazier the more accounts/property/etc you have. Once your Dept of Health processes your marriage license they'll issue a marriage certificate with your new name (or same if you chose to keep it). If you changed any part of your name, keep the original doc near you; it will be your best friend for a while. I'd also recommend requesting certified copies just in case you *gasp!* lose the original while toting it around with you all over the place. (But seriously, try not to lose the original; there's only one of those)

Once you have your list of things needing a name change, the next step is prioritizing. What needs to be changed immediately? The answer: the important things. Those include things like bank accounts, loans, and insurance plans. I decided that the not-as-important things such as club memberships, rewards cards, and subscriptions can wait until I need to renew them (or I might not even change them at all). I split my list into sections:
The important stuff
The not-as-important stuff
Keep in mind that your online accounts also have to be updated. Some websites might let you change it directly from your dashboard, but most of the important accounts (bank, insurance) will require verification of name change (more on this later). The Not-As-Important Stuff list was actually waaay longer than the Important Stuff so I just typed in a few items on there to give you an idea of what kind of things I felt could wait. In this post I'm going to focus on the Important Stuff because those are the ones that matter the most.

Driver's License/State ID/Social Security Card
These are the first things you should change after getting your marriage certificate. Head straight to your local social security office and DMV to apply for replacement ID cards (since you need to show up in person to these government offices you might have to take off of work if you have a regular M-F job). Make sure you bring along your original marriage certificate for them to scan into their system. You'll need your new ID for almost all the Important Stuff. Hold on to your old driver's license too; banks might require it to complete your name change on your accounts. Depending on your local offices, replacement cards can take 2-3 weeks to arrive.

Bank Accounts
After you get your new IDs, the order in which you change everything else isn't too important, but I did bank accounts and credit card accounts next. You'll need the original marriage certificate, a current government issued ID, and sometimes your old ID in order to change the name on your bank account. If you have a joint account, all parties must be present because the bank will verify all of your work and contact info. Some banks may be lenient and let each of you come in at your own convenience but all account holders have to show up at one time or another.

Insurance (Medical/Dental/Rx/Vision)
The process for a name change on your insurance policies may vary depending on your situation, but be prepared to send in a xerox copy (as opposed to a certified copy) of your marriage certificate as proof that you changed your name. For example, I'm covered by my employer. Medical/dental/Rx/vision insurance for my company's employees is handled by a middle-man company. I sent them a form via my employer and attached a copy of my marriage certificate and they automatically took care of changing my name with each of my insurance carriers. If anything, you might have to send in a copy of the certificate to each carrier, but you probably won't have to physically go to the insurance office. Good to know: not all carriers automatically send you an updated insurance card reflecting your new name (unless you're changing your policy as well), so you may have to specifically request a replacement if you want one.

Mortgage Loan/Homeowner's Insurance
If you own a home (okay, if the bank still owns it), you'll need to change the name on your mortgage loan. This one's surprisingly simple. All the bank required from me was a signed letter requesting a name change (mine was about two sentences long) along with a xerox copy of my marriage certificate. My loan and homeowner's insurance aren't under the same bank, so my insurance carrier told me that before I could change my name on my insurance policy, they needed to see proof from the lender (such as a letter) confirming a name change has been made to the loan. If you have renter's insurance, I'm not sure what's required for a name change, but I'm pretty sure it'll require a copy of your marriage certificate at the very least. If you know please post in the comments below!

Auto Insurance/Registration
Got a car? Changing the name on your auto insurance policy is also pretty simple. It can be as easy as faxing in a copy of your marriage certificate, but it's a good idea to call just to make sure. Changing your vehicle registration is a bit more difficult (especially if the bank is still the lien holder). First scenario: the vehicle is paid off. Simply take the title down to the DMV, change your name on it (there should be designated blanks on the title for this), pay the fee for a duplicate registration, and wait for the new one to arrive. Second scenario: the bank still owns the vehicle. Give your bank a heads up about changing your name on your auto registration; they'll have to find your title and get it prepared for you. Head over to the bank to sign the title and pay the fee for the new registration (this might be a bit more costly because the bank will most likely also charge a courier fee). The bank will take care of the rest for you and the next thing you know you'll have a new registration mailed to your home.

If you're a jet setter, updating your passport will probably be higher up on your list of things to change. After all, it is your legal form of ID while overseas. But if you don't plan on going outside of country borders for a while, this can wait -- unless you just purchased or renewed your passport within the past year. Name changes for passports issued within the last 12 months are free; otherwise it's $110 and you have until your current expiry date to renew before you have to pay the full first-time fee of $135.

Utilities are probably the easiest to change out of the "important" things. Many utility companies have an online form you can fill out and submit, no proof needed. Others may require a copy of your marriage certificate or new ID. It really varies here, and I'd suggest reading your utility's FAQs about account profile changes.

So there it is. Finally, something to help give you some guidance when deciding where to start on changing your name. Each state and/or company may have slightly different protocols, and the best way to figure out exactly what to do is to browse a site's FAQs or simply call to find out. Most times the customer service rep can help you, or at least transfer you to someone who can. Just be prepared to call in a second time to re-change your name because sometimes they won't get it right on the first crack, especially if you're changing your middle initial also. This has already happened several times for me; I even had three replacement cards from one company because they just couldn't get it right. It can get pretty frustrating but if it's for something important, their records need to show your correct info. Good luck in your name change adventures and congratulations on your new chapter!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

GrowJourney - November 2015 + Get Your First Month FREE!

What: GrowJourney sends 5 packets of organic seeds to help you grow your own edible garden!
When: Ships monthly on your sign-up date
Cost: $11.99-$14.99 per month depending on your subscription plan. Price includes shipping.
Fun Fact: Each packet of seeds contains 10-20% more seeds than you'd find in retail stores!

I had so much fun with GrowJourney last month that I decided to continue my sub this month. Since the weather's cooling down they're sending seeds that favor cooler climates. However, temperatures never seem to drop below 70 degrees in my neck of the woods, and we've been having ridiculously humid weather these past few months so a lot of the seeds GrowJourney sent won't be able to grow. 
Or so I thought. 
I decided to give it a shot and planted the seeds from last month's package anyway. To my surprise all of them sprouted - including Claytonia, which requires 50-55 degree temps to germinate. I can guarantee you that my backyard did not reach that; it maybe got down to 78 degrees at the lowest. I have a black thumb so the fact that everything grew made me pretty ecstatic. That can only mean these seeds were super hardy and/or fresh, I felt invincible. Yup, I was totally going to continue this sub.

November's package came with another five packets of seeds along with the usual two mini packets for gifting. 

ESCAROLE, GREAT BATAVIAN (Chicorium intybus) - Oooh, chicory. Last month we got a packet of radicchio, another chicory variety, and that's happily growing in a pot in my backyard despite the humid weather we've been having. Like radicchio, escarole prefers cooler weather and is entirely edible. I think warmer weather produces plants on the bitter side so I'll probably sautee it with garlic and oil or something instead of using it in a salad...if it grows. (Don't mind the "lettuce" info sheet in the back..that was actually supposed to say "chicory")

LEEK, BLEU SOLAISE (Allium porrum) - Would you believe me if I told you I've never had leek before? Here's my chance! To get the nice white stems you're supposed to blanche it by piling soil around the plant. Good to know. I'll plant this after I transplant last month's seedlings into the ground.

PEA SHOOTS, AUSTRIAN WINTER (Pisum Sativum subsp. arvense) - Not only do these pea pods taste like peas, but the shoots and flowers do, too. Although the pods are best eaten cooked, the rest of the plant can be eaten in salads as-is. The pea seeds came with a little baggie of inoculant containing the Rhizobium species specific for this variety. Rhizobia and legumes have a fantastic symbiotic relationship in which atmospheric nitrogen gets converted into a bioavailable form for the plants to use. I've never had problems growing peas, but I read that this variety is particularly sensitive to humidity. We have lots of humidity here. Bleh.

THYME, GERMAN WINTER (Thymus vulgaris) - Yay! Ever since we moved in to our house I've wanted to plant thyme but never got around to getting my hands on any seeds. Now that the seeds have come to me, I'm planting this ASAP :) I love the aroma it'll add to my backyard. According to German folklore, fairies like to frequent patches of thyme...I'm keeping an eye out for you, fairies!

POPPY, JIMI'S FLAG MIX (Papaver somniferum) - Ah, so pretty. Even tough I can't even look at poppies without thinking about the Wicked Witch of the West... Sleep, my pretties, sleeeeeep. It's amazing how my 5-year-old mind thought that they fell asleep because it was a bed of flowers. Ha! I'm trying to think of an ideal place to plant this where my dogs won't get to it. I can totally imagine them plucking off those glorious seed pods and getting addicted to them. We had this master plan to section off a chunk of yard for a dedicated garden that the dogs couldn't get to and even bought fencing and a gate. And that was it. Every time we looked at how much weeds and grass had to be pulled before we could even begin setting up the garden, we got discouraged and put it off until later, and of course later never happened. The fencing is still leaning against our tool shed and I don't even know where our edging went. So much for that idea.

Whoo, another fun month of new plants! Until the day comes when I grit my teeth and finally set up an actual garden, my plants will remain in pots and the raised planter C made for me when we moved in. It's not big, but at least it'll fit a few plants. I'm not sure if the leek or peas will grow in this climate but I'll try anyway. But the thyme should do just fine and I'm so excited to get that started right away.

If you have a green thumb (or want to), sign up for GrowJourney and get your first month free (just pay $3.99 for shipping). These seeds are certified organic, meaning they were grown with no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. When you get your seeds I encourage you to login to your account to read all about what you're getting - there's some really helpful info on germination, harvesting, susceptibility to pests, and basic background info. Unfortunately, there isn't much customization available yet, especially for the "extreme" zones (e.g. Alaska, Maine, Florida, Hawaii), but if you get something that absolutely won't grow in your Ag zone just shoot them an email and they might be able to send a replacement variety free of charge. If you're into sustainability I'd definitely recommend giving these guys a try. They're going to begin sending spring and early summer seeds pretty soon, so that means fruits and flowers! Yay!

Note: I pay for this subscription and all opinions are my own. Post doesn't contain any referral links.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

3b Box Unboxing - November 2015

What: The 3b Box (short for Beyond Beauty Borders) contains 4-5 deluxe or full-sized beauty samples that are new or popular in Asia
When: Ships during the first half of each month
Cost: $12 per month (free shipping!)

I can't believe this is my third month of 3b already. Time is flying by so faaast. I've been having so much fun trying new Asian beauty gems, and I'm nowhere near ready to stop anytime soon. :D This month gives us a nice variety of steps in your skincare routine. Check it out...

November 3b Box info card
These info cards have a short description and brief directions on how to use each item in the box. They're a lifesaver because almost everything on the product packaging except the name is in a foreign language. So if you don't know how to read the language and the title's not self-explanatory, this card saves you a lot of time searching for directions online.

Ra & Gowoori Whitening UV Sun Cream SPF 50+/PA+++ - Getting a sunscreen in a winter box might seem kind of strange, but sun protection is super important year-round. Its addition to this month's box reminds us that even if the sun's not beaming you still need to protect yourself from its rays; even though you don't feel 'em they're still there!

Hada Labo Tokyo Skin Plumping Gel Cream - I've grown to love gel creams because they tend to sink in quicker than other facial creams and don't leave my face feeling sticky. This one is from Japan and contains Hada Labo's trademark ingredient Super Hyaluronic Acid which has twice the moisture retention capacity as regular hyaluronic acid. And good news: if you love it, you don't have to pay outrageous shipping fees to get more because this cream is available at Ulta and Walgreens!

Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil - I'm so excited to see this in here. I've never used a cleansing oil before but hear lots of great things about it. It works to remove makeup and impurities by using "good" oils to remove the "bad" oils (like sebum) based on the basic chemistry principle that "like dissolves like." Cleansing oils are great for all skin types, even oily skin and those prone to acne since it doesn't actually stay on your skin for longer than a few minutes. Can't wait to try this!

Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence - This essence contains over 90% galactomyces extract to calm redness and restore hydration. I'm still working on a huge bottle of something similar to this and I like it. It soaks right in and leaves my skin feeling soft and supple :)

A'Pieu Nonco Tea Tree Spot Patch - This skinny foil has 12 patches of varying sizes (between 0.5-1 cm in diameter) to cover whatever blemish you have. Each patch contains tea tree oil which has antimicrobial properties and is effective against acne. Contrary to what I expected, there's no moisture in here - in fact it's like a clear sticker that you stick on your face overnight. In the morning I saw no blemish relief after the recommended 8 hours of wear but I'd be crazy to expect a change overnight, right? Maybe two days will do the trick?

Overall I'd say this was a great intro box to Asian skincare. Last month we got a toner, emulsion and serum; this month there's a cleansing oil, essence, and moisturizer. If you want to start building a complete skincare regimen, 3b is a great place to start. Click here to get on the wait list. It took several months for me to get off, but it's totally worth it!

Note: All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Post does not contain any referral links.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

BarkBox Unboxing - November 2015 + You Can Get A FREE Box!

What: BarkBox is a subscription box for dogs filled with 4-6 treat, toy, and hygiene items. Boxes are curated according to your dog's size. This review is for a medium-dog box.
When: Ships monthly on the 15th
Cost: $18-$29 per month depending on the length of your subscription (plus $5 shipping per box outside the contiguous 48 states)
Fun Fact: 10% of proceeds from each BarkBox goes to rescue groups! Check out their BarkGood program to get involved.

It's BarkBox time again, so that means I can finally replace the shredded and disemboweled toys littering my living room with clean-smelling intact ones. That's one stench I can't handle - dried up old dog slobber on plush toys. I rather smell dog poo. But as I was saying, my dogs' life mission is to destroy any toy whether it's plush, rubber or plastic. They don't discriminate. The plush ones usually end up losing quickly, as was the case last month. I gave the Fat Bob monster toy to Pebbles and it was gutted within minutes.
I contacted BarkBox customer service to inquire about a tough chewer box option and guess what - it exists! Not every toy under this option will be indestructible, but they'll try their hardest to send out toys that can withstand strong jaws. November's box is fall-themed and - yup - it also contained a toy made for crazy chewers! It also looks like Barkbox ditched the info card, at least for this month. Product info is now available online in your My Barkbox account. I think from there you can also take a sneak peak at your upcoming items before they ship out. Ooh, and this is fun: in the spirit of Thanksgiving it looks like every item in November's box is from a company who gives back to shelters and rescues! Kudos to Barkbox for supporting generous companies.

Caru Turkey Stew (Value: $6) - Thanks to Caru and Barkbox, your dog can partake in Thanksgiving festivities too. This is a pretty sizable carton, like an oversized juice box. Fun fact: "Caru" is Welsh for "to love." I think that automatically means it gets the Welsh corgi seal of approval. :) Plus it's wheat, corn and soy free with real turkey as the first ingredient! 

PetSafe Chewzie Dog Hive (Value: $10) - This month's tough toy is a simple rubber treat dispenser. I love these types because my dog will take longer to tear them apart (but she will eventually) and they're dishwasher safe. And it gets bonus points for holding treats ;) My furbutts are totally treat-driven and anything that keeps them occupied wins my vote. It also bounces erratically so it's great if your dog is like mine and thinks the best way to remove treats from toys is to drop it. Think again, buddy!

Barkmade Tug Me & Leaf Me Toy (Value: $14) - OMG this toy makes me so happy. It's a maple leaf with a squeaker in each lobe as well as a huge honking squeaker about the size of my palm in the middle. Macho and Pebbles love their squeaker toys and even though they'll probably tear through the nylon material within a day, there's still a rope passing through the toy that they can play tug of war with long after the squeakers are chewed up and destroyed. 

Butcher's Block Bully Chew (Value: $4) - Barkbox old timers know that no Barkbox is complete without a chew of some sort. A long time ago each box contained one 6" bully stick and in more recent months boxes contained a crunchy chew that would be demolished in under a minute. I'm glad to see bully sticks making their comeback - and it's a 10" one this time!

Barkmade Frank's Flank (Value: $4) - How awesome is this?! It's slow roasted Angus steak but for dogs. Since when do my dogs eat better than me? These flanks are slow roasted for 3 days and will make some well-behaved puppy really happy. 

Whoohooo! This is a super awesome box. I think it's the first time in about a year that I'm gonna give both toys to my dogs. I usually end up gifting one or keeping it for myself. (I can't help it if they're so cute, I know some of you pup parents out there do the same thing!) I'm not sure if other medium boxes had different stuff in it since I asked for one tailored toward strong jaws, but if this is an indication of what's to come I like it!

Become a pawsome Barkboxer right here! You'll get brand spanking new treats and toys for your dog every month until your he tells you he's had too much (in other words, never).  Use my referral code DOGSYAY to get a box for as low as $18/month -- plus get a free box tacked on to your subscription just for using the code! My dogs will send you a thousand puppy kisses if you use it :)

Note: Post contains referral links. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Wedding Mini-series Part II: How I Cut My Wedding Costs

Weddings are fun. They're fun to attend, fun to talk about, and fun to plan. Until you realize that they also cost money. But don't worry beef curry, hopefully this post can help you out a bit. As promised, here is Part 2 of my Wedding Mini Series - tips on cutting your wedding costs. (You can read Part 1 here)

About a year ago I wrote a post commenting on the outrageous cost of a Hawaii wedding. At that time, the local paper was calling Honolulu weddings among Hawaii's most affordable (based on household income) at $52,190. I don't know about you, but that's more than I bring home in a year. If you're lucky you might be able to convince your parents to help foot at least some of the bill, but mine insisted that you can make a wedding ceremony and reception happen for under $5K (hello, what decade are you in?) and my husband's folks said that if they help fund ours then they'd have to help finance his two younger brothers' weddings. In other words, we were on our own. That automatically meant that the pricey hotel ballrooms were out of the question. Instead we settled for a cozy restaurant with a koi pond. We thought that'd make for some pretty pics. The total cost per head? Thirty dollars. It fit right in with our price range. Score!!

So, my first tip:

#1. Set a budget (and account for tips!)
The first thing we agreed upon before starting any wedding planning was our budget. We knew we couldn't afford the national average of ~$30K without any help so we cut that number in half. We had a year to plan and $15K sounded doable enough without us worrying about incurring debt. That number would include tips (roughly 20%) so that meant we had to aim to keep our costs below $12K. I had also heard tons of stories about how it's virtually impossible to stay within budget so to ensure we didn't go over, I further cut that number to account for unplanned expenditures. Our new budget was $11,000 before tips. Once you get that stuff out of the way, you can move on to Tip #2.

#2. Get organized
You'll need to stay on top of your game in order to stay under budget. To help keep track of our planning progress I made a ton of Excel spreadsheets. One for everything - budget, guest list, decor, checklists, wedding party responsibilities - you name it, there was a file. To help streamline access, I capitalized the names of files that I updated the most. My most-updated file was Budget, which was a record of all of our wedding-related expenditures. The more aware I was of where we stood on our budget, the less I felt the urge to splurge on fancy frills.

#3. Nix what you can live without
Let's face it - every bride wants their dream wedding reception but most of us can't afford one. To me that meant getting rid of all the accents that make a wedding, well, pretty. In other words we had a plain and simple reception setup and made up for the lack of elegant decor with a kickass fun program. What did we cut out? First, we cut out the evening reception. Dinner is generally more expensive so we settled on a lunchtime celebration instead. 

Next we wanted to cut out the cake. Based on our past experience attending weddings, everyone's so full by the time cake is served that 3/4 of it gets wasted. Our buffet already included a dessert spread anyway. Besides, wedding cakes are freakin' expensive. We had our minds set on no cake, but my mom-in-law loathed the idea of a cakeless wedding so much that two months before the wedding she offered to buy one for us. (Okay, so I guess we didn't pay for the wedding TOTALLY on our own) And when I say cakes can be expensive, I mean it. This two-tier cake was almost $500.
We also cut out the limo service. We each drove ourselves to and from the wedding in our own cars. 
In addition, we had a no-host bar and substituted sparkling cider for champagne. We also relied on our families to shoot video instead of hiring videographers (but they forgot their camcorders 

Oh, and by the way, this is also where you'd trim your guest list if you can. Fewer mouths to feed will save a heck of a lot of moolah.

#4. Look for sales
Part of the reason why you want to start your planning as early as possible is to give yourself ample time to wait for sales because they WILL happen. I ordered my invitations early - six months before my wedding - to take advantage of a huge Vistaprint sale. Each one was under a dollar! It did look kind of plain so I just picked up some rhinestones and ribbon from the craft store to dress it up a bit.
Then came the dress. The price tag can vary here depending on how elegant you want it to look. I wasn't too picky because the way I saw it, I would only wear it once so why go nuts? (Of course, some may look at it as you're only going to wear it once, so you should make it count) David's Bridal had a $99 sale and I ended up getting a simple split-front satin dress for a hundred bucks.
If you get the chance, I also highly recommend attending a wedding expo. Vendors are eager to get your business and will often have huge promos where they drop their prices as much as 50%. This will help big time when picking a DJ or photographer which can run upwards of $3000. Many vendors will also have giveaways and random drawings. We entered to win an engagement photo shoot (and won!) and loved working with the vendor so much that we ended up going with them for our wedding day. 
My favorite engagement pic ala Old West. Seriously, a photographer with ideas like could we resist?
Just make sure to do your research on any vendor who tells you that you won something. Some of them are scams. First of all, be sure that you actually entered to win something from them. Also make sure that the "free boudoir shoot with $100 off your photo album" doesn't mean that the album was actually $1000 to begin with (yup, I got one of these in the mail). 

#5. Get Pinspired
Seriously. When you have a relatively small budget, you'll be doing a lot of DIY projects. Pinterest is chock full of creative ideas for making your own decor without spending a ton on materials. Here are a few Pinterest finds side-by-side with my homemade versions (some of them fails) that I incorporated into my wedding:
Seating cards
Mad Libs favors. Cheap AND fun!
Gerber daisy centerpiece (with blue paint fail)
Bonus: These rope words now adorn my bookshelf at home!

#6. Remember: It's just one day
A huge unforgettable milestone kind of day, but nonetheless, it's just one day and it's gonna be over in the blink of an eye. Every time you find yourself wanting the biggest and best of celebrations, ask yourself if you'll remember giving everyone those mini aquarium favors ten years from now. Or if people will remember the personalized aisle runner. The last thing you want is to start your new chapter in debt. C and I agreed early on that we would not take out a loan for the wedding because we didn't feel it'd be worth it to spend the next five years paying it off. But of course, if a loan is the most sensible route for you, go ahead and do it; just be sure you'll be able to make the monthly payments. 
Be practical, but don't get hellbent on being frugal about everything. As Meg Keene suggested in her book A Practical Wedding, choose one thing to splurge on and try to save on the rest. For us it was the emcee. Since our wedding didn't have all the bells and whistles, we wanted a fun emcee who could keep the crowd entertained the entire time. Sure, we had a fun program planned out, but it takes a special kind of person to pull it off without boring anybody. And that he did. At least a dozen guests came up to us after the wedding raving about how great he was.

So there you have it. These are some of the guidelines I used to help me plan my own wedding for under $15K. We didn't use a wedding planner, but if you have one she might have some other ways to help you save on costs (plus many of them have sweet hookups with vendors). Bottom line, whenever we made a sizable purchase we made sure to ask ourselves, "Is this really going to be worth it?" If the answer was yes then we went ahead with it. If not, we kept looking around. In the end we came in just under budget and celebrated our wedding knowing that we didn't have to break the bank in order to have the time of our lives. Ultimately, how you plan your wedding is totally up to you. You definitely don't have to follow all of these tips, but I hope at least one of them will help you save a bit along the way!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fortune Cookie Soap Winter 2015 Box "Welcome Santa!" Review

What: Fortune Cookie Soap Company specializes in bath and body products in unique exclusive scents. The Soap box contains 8 pre-release FCS bath product samples
When: Ships quarterly (Feb/May/Aug/Nov)
Cost: $19.99 (US), $28.00 (CAN), $34.00 (Int'l)
Fun fact: Each box comes with a $10 code to use in the FCS shop!

Ooh look! The Soap Box now has a logo on it! I've been looking forward to the Winter box for a while because I love everything about the holidays. The joy, the smells, and especially being able to take a few days away from work! Oh, and singing the heck out of those Christmas carols in my car. I hear winter soap box and I think peppermint filling my nostrils while sipping on some hot chocolate and munching on gingerbread cookies next to my Christmas tree. Mmmm! Winter's box is inspired by the movie "Elf." This is C's favorite Christmas movie (he's a huge Will Ferrell fan).
Winter FCS info card
Buddy Fortune Cookie Soap - notes of holiday fruits, candy, crushed vanilla, and a hint of mint. I've never cared for a fortune cookie soap enough to want to keep it, but I think I might keep this one. It's not very practical for the shower ("your fortune cookie refuses to stay put on your soap dish!") especially with its little red pompom nose, but it's fun to have and it smells like fruitcake. 

Shower Duet Shave Oil - spruce and vanilla, fir and fruits, hyacinth and mint. I'm not huge on the shower oil thing because I prefer not having to clean out my razor after every stroke. Shave oils tend to clog your razor superfast and leave an oily film on the blades so you have to clean it often and clean it well. But you do get a really nice shave and soft skin afterwards. I guess it just depends on how lazy you are. I'm a 10 on the laziness scale.

Christmas Gram Face Plant - warm steamy air, fresh with lavender and sea salt spray, mingle with the woody earthiness of sage and dark vanilla. I giggled when I saw this. What's a face plant? Images of walking fails flooded my brain. A face plant is a steam treatment for your face. Fill a bowl with super hot water, drop in a few tablets, and lower your face into the steamy goodness. The idea is that the steam will open up your pores so that the lavender can calm deep within your skin. These tablets smell sooooo good. I might use it as a foot soak.

Yellow Snow Bath Bomb - a juicy blend of ripe plums, whipped caramel, vanilla jasmine, and exotic woods, with just a squeeze of zesty Mandarin oranges. Teehee. I'm recalling all the yellow snow jokes I heard as a kid. Wait, what am I talking about? - I'm still a big kid! This smells lovely. Like candy. Now I'm really sad that our tub stopper broke and I couldn't find a replacement. I guess I'm going out and finding a plug or a rubber cover or something - anything - so that I can use this because I just haaave to.

Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins Dry Shampoo - lilies, freesia, jasmine, and bayberry, muddled with fresh blackberries and plums, garnished with a sprig of peppermint. You've got to be Buddy the elf in order to come up with these names. I saw Ninny Muggins and instantly thought of niggly wigglies. You know, that paper ribbon on Hershey kisses. I must be craving chocolate. This dry shampoo smells clean. And it should. But it's kind of too clean, like laundry detergent. 

World's Best Cup of Coffee Whipped Cream - Vermont maple syrup, with just the right amount of fresh brewed coffee. Mmm, this smells like a creme brulee frappuccino. I wish there was a such thing. Unless it's already on the secret menu? (Speaking of Starbucks' secret menu, I tried the banana split frappuccino a couple of weeks ago and it's my new favorite!) I almost feel like if I put this on my skin then the insects will be more attracted to me and mistaken me for a 5' tall piece of candy.

Swirly Twirly Gum Drops OCD Hand Sanitizer - cotton candy, lemon drops, and fresh pear nectar, dancing with tart cranberries and black currants. I think this is the first FCS hand sanitizer I got that doesn't have glitter in it. This one smells sweet - black cherry kind of sweet, not so much the cotton candy. I like it but I think it would drive C nuts. Darn his sensitive nose. I guess this one is coming with me to work :)

FCS Cheer Perfume Oil - rich, buttery vanilla pound cake, over dark frankincense, patchouli, and cedar. I never thought frankincense and pound cake could be smashed together in one scent. Looks like I was wrong. I'm glad they finally decided to nix the drams for the perfume oil samples. Every time I use one I feel like I'm going to knock it over and make a huge mess. Surprisingly this smells exactly like how it sounds. After several minutes all you smell is the buttery pound cake so it's pretty awesome in my book.

Yippee, I think this is my favorite box from FCS. I didn't despise any one scent so I'm pretty satisfied with their concoctions. Plus they introduced a few new products and that's always exciting. I didn't see the minty, piney, chocolatey, spicy goodness that I was expecting but that's okay; these fragrances are way more fun and inventive. I was planning to unsubscribe after this box because $20 is a bit pricey for what you get but I'm so impressed right now that it's hard to do it. Plus it's so much fun seeing what's new for the season! Ok fine. Twist my arm. I guess I'm keeping it. ;-)

Note: I paid for this subscription and all opinions expressed in this post are mine (and my nose's).

Friday, November 6, 2015

Wedding Mini-series Part I: From Ms to Mrs - I'm Married!!

Okay, I know this post is more than a month overdue but better late than never, right? If you've been following my blog then you're probably aware that I've been engaged for a while. C proposed back in March 2014 and for a long time we were just too dang lazy to plan a huge shindig. After months had passed we finally agreed to tie the knot on September 19.

And at last the planning began. Since we didn't hire a planner or coordinator I found out firsthand how hard it is to plan your own wedding, and now I have this urge to share what I learned with the entire world - especially with you daring readers who are looking to plan your own wedding as well. That's why I decided to make a little wedding mini-series to document the big day (because what credibility would I have without proof that I actually got married?), the planning that went into the big day, and the process of changing your name after your wedding if you choose to do so. Personally, I feel like nobody focuses enough on that last happy headache so I'm more than happy to share my experience! So. Part One: THE BIG DAY!

C and I are laid back kids who like to have fun. Our wedding wasn't extravagant but it was still fun - we had fun, the guests had fun, even our photographers had fun shooting the photos. Since we're casual people we wanted our venue and the ambiance to reflect that so we chose to celebrate at a restaurant instead of a ritzy hotel (also because we haven't won the Megabucks yet).

As every bride will tell you, not everything turned out exactly the way I pictured it to be. I woke up with a pounding headache that didn't go away, the check-in table decor wasn't set up correctly, the centerpieces were something worthy of a Nailed It! meme, and I got makeup all over my white dress before the reception even started, to name a few.
BUT I just told myself that no matter what happens, I can't do anything about it so why stress? Besides, all of my married friends told me that years down the line the only thing people will remember is the food and whether they had fun. The venue we chose is known for their scrumptious buffet so we knew the food would be yummy. We just needed to make it fun. Piece of cake (pun intended).

We had a tight budget so I didn't really have what you'd call a bridal was more like a bridal buddy. Brides here traditionally pay for their bridal party's dresses, makeup, mani/pedis, etc, so I only had a Matron of Honor and that was it. And that saved me a lot of $$$. We stayed at a modest 2-star hotel in the middle of town so that even if we were running late we'd still be able to book it to the wedding venue a couple of miles away. We got ready at the hotel, and because I didn't want to spend money on a limo and couldn't find someone to take us, I drove to my own wedding, dolled up and all.
At least it was air conditioned
As luck would have it, we were running late and by the time I parked the car about half the guests were already there. There was no back entrance so we ran right past the crowd and into the waiting room until the ceremony started.

The ceremony itself was short and sweet. C and I had originally planned to write our own vows but conveniently "forgot" to so we ended up going with the traditional version.
Yes it was emotional, but not as much as I had expected. We like to laugh and we did a lot of that, especially when C put the wrong ring on my finger. Yup, for a few seconds I was the man in the relationship.

After the ceremony, rather than do a Wedding March recessional we followed in the footsteps of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Literally. Have you ever seen the movie 500 Days of Summer? Remember that dance he did to the Hall & Oates song "You Make My Dreams Come True"? We did a segment of that but with a few tweaks:
I think people liked it. I hope they did. I have yet to see the video footage. Our family forgot to bring their camcorders and it turns out all of our friends were too busy laughing to bring out their phones. We didn't have video in our photo package either so we'll just have to assume the choreography wasn't too terrible. Oh, we also knuckle bumped instead of kissed. Unpredictability ftw, yo.
Next up, the reception. In Hawaii, especially at Japanese weddings, you'll often see a 1000-crane piece of artwork on display. This tradition became popular after Sadako Sasaki's story and it's believed that the recipients will receive 1,000 years of happiness. A thousand happy years sounds pretty awesome to me so this was my one must-have for the wedding. The catch? You have to fold a thousand origami cranes. C doesn't know how to fold cranes; he took five tries to make that one blue groom's crane in the bottom corner. Better than nothing at least. We went with a swan design and had it professionally mounted. I love it!
Even the cherry blossoms are made from cranes!
Close up of the mounted cranes
If you've read some of my previous posts then you know that I'm kind of obsessed with my dogs. Since they couldn't be at our wedding we had to find ways to incorporate them into it. So we made frosted glass centerpieces with dog designs, a corgi-themed guestbook, and a Pebbles-themed cardbox.
C made a Pebbles cardbox topper :)
We even custom designed a Macho- and Pebbles-themed wedding cake through my friend's cake business.
I don't splurge, but if I do I make sure it's because of dogs
But what you may not know about me is that I'm also kind of obsessed with Legos. I've long since run out of space to store the ones I already built, but I keep buying and building new ones. We even received three new Lego sets from our wedding alone. Whooooo! Anyway, I'm sharing this tidbit because it has everything to do with our reception entrance:
Everything is awesome!!
The food was yummy as always and the company was even better. Everything flowed so smoothly (or if it didn't, everyone did a great job covering it up). My cousin even prepared a wonderful slideshow of C's and my childhood years leading up to the wedding. 

Sooner or later we knew people were going to tap their glasses to get us to kiss. Being the unpredictable people we are (*snickerrr*) we decided to turn the tables. The first time, we chose an unsuspecting couple to demonstrate a kiss and we copied them:
Hmm, clever...
The next time, we upped the ante. In order for us to kiss, the entire table had to get up and do a dance with us. That's right, if you're going to interrupt our meal, we're going to interrupt yours. The best ones were the tables drinking the booze.
We put the PSY in tipsy
You get the idea. Then we had our first dance followed by a money dance (it's not like we had a choice; the aunties started lining up before we even got through our song!). We cut the cake and I'm pretty sure everyone thought that was that. But not so fast...

We love games. Every time we throw a party we try to incorporate at least one fun game or activity and our wedding was no exception. This time we chose three couples to play "Man, I Feel Like A Woman." Never heard of it? It's simple. Each girl has 3 minutes to collect whatever she needs from the guests in order to make her man look like a woman. After time is up, each guy has to come up with a stage name and strut his stuff on the catwalk. It doesn't have anything to do with getting married, but it sounded like a crazy good time. And it was. Lipstick and accessories came flying out from all corners of the room and the girls got right to work.
The crowd chose a winner and the guys went back to their seats feeling a bit emasculated (but they got manly gift cards so hopefully that helped some). The girls sat back down wearing the pants so really in the end it was totally okay ;)

And what fun is a wedding reception with the bouquet and garter toss? Well actually, based on the weddings that I've attended, people tend to roll their eyes and just tolerate the tradition. The single ladies never want to go up to catch the bouquet and the guys find it a bit awkward to catch a garter that just came off of his buddy's wife's thigh five seconds ago. That's why we decided to put a spin on it. Instead of tossing the bouquet, I presented it to the longest married woman (52 years!!) and we added money to the garter. Oh yeah, and it wasn't a garter at all:
That's right, C did a switcheroo and tossed a pair of underwear. With Papi printed across it. Bahahhaa! If you look through the racks at Ross hard enough you'll always find something great. It was perfect. We got the entire room rolling with laughter :D
The day flew by so quickly and before I knew it we were doing our thank you speech. Nine months of planning and 50MB of spreadsheets, and it was over in the blink of an eye. After all was said and done we went home feeling confident that everybody had a blast. Yup. Home. No honeymoon, we definitely couldn't afford that. We even got texts from friends saying that it was the most fun they've had at a wedding. Plus we saved on wedding planner costs. Mission accomplished. :)
Wedding dress and slippers? #onlyinhawaii