Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ways to Stretch your Wedding Budget

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and my recent obsession with Pinterest, I’m dedicating this blog post to all my friends who are getting married in the future and for people I don’t know who might need a little help stretching a buck during that stressful wedding planning time. 

I was the unlucky one and didn’t have this amazing site during my wedding planning experience, nor did I have a thrifty fiancé spitting out color scheme ideas, cake flavors, or a savings account for that matter. With or without Pinterest, I think I did a great job stretching the little budget we had.  

Below are a few ways YOU can save money … and your sanity while planning the biggest day of your life. 

1. I have a VERY crafty and creative mother. She made the coolest, yet elegant, invites and put together a great program for our guests. She also made all the table tents with a little flower in the corner identifying what meal the guest ordered. 

 2. In addition to making your invites, give your guests an e-mail or phone number to respond to with their RSVP, that way you don’t have to spend money on an extra stamp. They are 45 cents now by the way!

3. I also have a crafty aunt. She made all the flower arrangements, bouquets, and boutonnieres. We used only three different flowers, which saved us a ton of money. She also married us. This was perfect, it didn’t cost us anything and the ceremony was extremely personal because she knows us and our relationship. I couldn’t have asked for a better person!

4. Use a picture frame as your guest book instead of an actual guest book; you’ll probably pack the book in a box to collect dust anyway. Our photo hangs in our dining room and when people come over they always read the comments and complement us on how creative that was to do. 


5. Another thing that will collect dust is a fancy wedding cake knife and server. I bought mine from Party City or Hobby Lobby for only 10 bucks or so. What do people really do with these after the big day anyway?

6. Talking about cake, my friend made ours as our wedding gift, it was amazing! We didn’t have enough for everyone so we bought two of those big sheet cakes at Costco. We saved more than half of what we would have buying from a bakery. Also, my other friend did my hair and makeup as my wedding gift.  She did an amazing job, I loved it and love her! 

7. At the reception serve only beer and wine, most people couldn’t care less as long as they are drinking! Oh and skip the champagne during the toasts, our wedding coordinator told us most don’t even drink it. What a waste! 

8. Be creative while thinking about gifts for the guests. I’ve been to so many weddings where the gifts suck! We know people like to eat so we had popcorn after dinner; we were married at a movie theater so it was the perfect touch!

9. When shopping for DJs, halls, photographer, etc. be sure to tell them exactly how much is in the budget for that portion of the wedding and how much other competitors you called would charge you. I received discounts on everything! These companies want your business, they will lower prices instantly.  

10. Lastly, you’ll receive a huge discount when you have your ceremony and reception on a Friday. People will complain, trust me. But who cares, it is YOUR day and you will save a ton of money!  

If you have any questions regarding this post or other wedding ideas please feel free to e-mail me at sandra.lynn.morello@gmail.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pasta with Pepper Vodka Sauce and Shrimp

Last week I blogged about how Andy and I try to eat a couple meatless meals a week. I’ve compiled our favorites and will start posting a few a couples times a month in addition to other recipes we’ve enjoyed. If you have any question regarding these recipes please feel free to contact me. Enjoy! 

Pasta with Pepper Vodka Sauce and Shrimp

1 pound pasta (your choice)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small jar store bought tomato based pasta sauce or diced tomatoes in a can
1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1/2  cup Pepper Vodka (Absolute has the best in my opinion)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Chopped parsley, garnish
Parmesan cheese, garnish 

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, return to the pot, and cover to keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.  One shrimp is cooked thoroughly add tomato sauce and pepper flakes and cook until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the vodka and cook until reduced, about 3 minutes then add cream and cook until thickened, 10 minutes. (Might need to add a couple teaspoons of flour) Remove from the heat and adjust seasoning to taste.

4. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat evenly and garnish with parsley and top with Parmesan cheese. 

This can be done without shrimp, simply do not add shrimp. Taste great either way!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meatless Mondays

During my last year of college I took a research class, I had to do so in order to graduate with a Bachelor of Science.  I was actually really excited to take this class, because I heard the professor was great and I really enjoyed other research classes I took during college.  However, before the semester started the professor had been changed.  I think he was the worst professor/teacher I have ever had during my entire education. He would come to class in flip flops and shorts (sometimes hung-over) and would consistently use YouTube videos, documentaries, and movies to try educate us. (I do have to say sometimes those mediums aren’t bad, but in this case it was a huge waste of my time and money.) With that said, there was one documentary that actually got my attention. 

Food, Inc. is an amazing outlook that renders America's industrialized food system and the outcome it has on our surroundings, well-being, country, etc ... I won’t go into too many details, because I don’t want to pressure or persuade others to follow my footsteps. This documentary will change your eating habits if you decide to watch it, I promise. (Our professor told us the same thing and allowed students to leave his class if they didn’t want to watch.) 

After class I went straight home (I was still living at home with my parents) and told my mom and dad all about the movie we watched. They shook their heads and rolled their eyes, basically blowing off all my ideas to change our family’s eating habits. There wasn’t much I could do, I guess I could have bought my own groceries, but hey I was in college, I didn’t have the money for that! 

Once I moved out I explained the premise to Andy and we started watching what we ate and purchased. For the past year in a half we do not consume certain company products and try to eat less meat. When we do eat meat we buy free range and grass fed products and try to purchase everything local, fresh, and/or organic. I have noticed a huge difference in the way the food cooks and in our health. For example, when buying beef I never have to drain the grease … there isn’t any. It is so lean, tender, and yummy. We also buy our fruits and vegetables fresh; they really do taste that much better! 

In addition to the documentary I read an article in Food Network Magazine that suggested having Meatless Mondays. We do this every week now; it is fun because I have the ability to try to new recipes. I also, try to throw in one or two meatless meals in addition to Mondays. We consume a lot of shrimp, fish, and pasta. 

I know people think that this might be an expensive way to shop, but honestly if it were Andy and I couldn’t do it. Before we need to buy groceries, we make a menu by looking to see what is on sale at the local grocers. (We might have to go to a few different stores, but we think it is worth it.)  Then we create a grocery list from our menu, this is actually something my mom taught me when I was very young. We also do a little shopping at the local farmers market, which is a great way to keep it local! 

There is no way I could become a vegetarian, but I can control how much meat I purchase and consume for my own well-being and for the environment. 

*I can post Meatless Monday Meals Andy and I have made and enjoyed if requested. Thank you for reading and please consider watching Food, Inc.*

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe another year has passed, 2011 was such an amazing year for me. Moving half way across the country was a struggle at first, but as time went on I found my way. I started the beginning of the year exploring Santa Fe and landed a job at an Ameriprise Financial franchise. After only six months I found out about an amazing opportunity in which I would use my degree almost every day. It was a hard decision, but I knew I was making the right choice. On September 6th I started what could be the beginning of my career as the marketing coordinator at the Inn and Spa at Loretto.

In addition to my new job I’ve made a great core group of friends. It was really hard making/finding friends, luckily the few friends I made in the beginning introduced me to more people and the list keeps getting longer. Andy and I even hosted our first house party, a Halloween Bash at the end of October, it was a hit!!

Through all these changes I never really had a chance to sit down and think about all I’ve gone through. (That is what my blog is for!) I have so much to be thankful for, a wonder family, great old and new friends, and an amazing husband who is always there for me. Oh and one fantastic Labrador who makes me smile every day!

I also want to take a moment to sit and reflect on the New Year. I’m looking forward to many things, family and friends visits, hiking new trails with Andy and Kimber, and my job, which is now a full time position! 

With that said, I have a few New Year resolutions I hope to stay true. I normally don’t make resolutions, but feel like I need a little push in my life right now since everything seems to be going my way. This year I am going to blog and read more, find healthier recipes so Andy and I can start eating better, and to keep up with working out. 

I can’t wait to see what is in store for me in 2012!!