Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Preparing to Go See More Venues (396 Days to Go)

So this weekend Jeff and I are going back out to the Laurel Highlands/Westmoreland County area in order to view two more venues.  This time we're going to go look at Scenic View (which has a lake and a relatively nice looking lodge) and we're actually hoping to get inside of the Falling Water venue this time instead of just peeking in through the windows and cracks.

However this time we'll be going with my FMIL and 11-year-old niece in tow.  This worries me.  They sort of invited themselves along on Mother's Day and both Jeff and I didn't have the heart to refuse.  I mean there's really no fantastic reason as to why we should refuse.  Is there?  Now I'm slightly worried that the nearly constant poo-poohing that's been going on will taint Jeff and I's initial feelings about one or another venue.  The other problem is that my FMIL has not seen the winery/resort that Jeff and I did and even if I drive her up to the location she will not get the full tour.  Therefore she might start to tell us that we should pick one location over another without having as much information as we do.  This is a point of concern for me.  Especially now when I found out that she's been to see two venues without either Jeff or I going with her.  Luckily she came to the conclusion on her own that they will not be suitable.  Still, isn't this a decision for Jeff and I to make?

It also brings up another problem.  My mother was not invited to go.  And I have now spent the last two days trying to get a hold of her to take care of this possible situation.  If I don't invite her, it will eventually come to her attention that my FMIL did go along without my mother also being given the opportunity.  Of course this will result in all kinds of hurt feelings and awkwardness.  So, therefore I'm trying to avoid that.  There is the chance that she'll understand that I'm stuck with the extra carpool guests and not come, however, if I do invite her, she may come along and be yet one more unwanted opinion. 

Yes, I'm already preparing myself for the very real possibility that my FMIL's opinion after this weekend will be unwanted.  Not because she will necessarily be wrong or without good taste, but just not fully informed or concerned with the same aspects that Jeff and I are.  Her goals for the venue are merely the number of chairs, air conditioning and bathrooms.  Each are very important, yes, but they are not the sole goals that Jeff and I seek.  At least we both semi agree on the all important dollar.  Well almost, I'm the biggest cheapskate of the bunch which is why we're looking all the way out where we are. 

I hate to say that in some ways my mother might actually be closer to being on my side for once.  I think for the most part though lately she's trying to sit on the fence so as to not offend anyone, but if she's forced to choose, she has been picking my side.  This is kind of a first for her and I.  Mom has been better about listening to me and accepting that there are certain things that are important to me, such as the scenery, the vibe, etc. of a place.  These are things that account for naught with my FILs.  They are very much in favor of a very utilitarian wedding.  Boo.  This is my one and only wedding and I want it to be special and I'm determined not to make my wedding to Jeff feel like a dress rehearsal for something else.  This is what happens when you're the daughter of someone who's been remarried as often as my mother.

I must sound terrible.  I sound terrible to me just reading this.  It's just that I'm really getting my heart set on something and it's important to me that people stop poo-poohing everything.  It's my wedding, gosh darn it, and most importantly it's my money and future debt.  It doesn't thrill me that everyone else wants their opinion counted twice while mine gets ignored or worse yet, trampled on.  I understand that no one is expecting a fancy, frilly wedding.  But did anyone consider that it's what I want?  I want for my wedding to be memorable.  I don't want my wedding to blend in with everyone else's that we know.  So what if they all had their receptions in some white-walled reception hall?  I want mine to have a connection with nature.  So what if every other wedding you've gone to served crappy, tiny slices of cake.  I don't plan to.  Does that mean I shouldn't bother tasting cakes at all before I order it?  I'd like to make sure that when it's smashed into my face it won't chip a tooth.  And I definitely want to make sure that there isn't an image immortalizing the moment that I gag and spit up some nasty flavored cake.  And just because you lack imagination and deem my idea of holding the wedding reception in a barn to be equivalent to your brother-in-law's body shop garage, doesn't actually make that true.  Oh yes, we have been down that road in the venue discussion.  So, poo-poohing has been a popular issue for me.  Is it too much to ask that the poo-poohing wait until after I've formed my opinion?  I'd like to have a decent head start on being able to defend myself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First Day at the New Job (397 Days to Go)

I survived my first day at my new job.  I didn't even have trouble getting to be on friendly terms with my new coworkers.  It was a little dull, but most first days usually are because it's all training and reading.  The work itself though doesn't sound like it'll be too overwhelming, which is good.  One can only hope they don't bite off more than they can chew.  But it will be a slight challenge since I'm completely changing the field of science that I'll be working in (biochemistry to analytical chemistry).

The biggest challenge is going to be restructuring my schedule.  I'll be working 6:30 am to 3 pm now instead of roughly 9 to 5 (which was nothing like I actually worked anyway).  I have a feeling it'll be tough for the first few weeks, but I'll end up really liking it because I'll have some free time to get stuff done in the afternoons after I get off work.  Which in the long run will be helpful when it comes to the wedding.  The worst part is that Jeff will keep working late and therefore I'll barely be up much longer after he gets done for the night.

What's funny is that Jeff tried to send me flowers for my last day of work.  Of course, the florist screwed up.  I found out from one of my old coworkers that apparently they did deliver them on my last day--to the first empty desk they could find on the wrong floor.  This happened to be an administrator's desk (and they typically take most of Friday off) and so on Monday morning she found them and delivered them to the address given on the flowers which led right to my old desk.   So, my old coworkers contacted me by phone and Facebook to let me know that I had a gorgeous flower arrangement waiting for me.  Luckily because my new job gets done at 3 pm so I was able to drive back up to the hospital and get let back in.  So I was also able to pick up the items that I'd forgotten on Friday.

So despite the fact that I went back to visit after not even being gone a full day, I don't miss it.  Not a bit.  I was in fact reminded how much I don't miss it when my old supervisor appeared out of thin air and started asking me a bunch of questions about this, that, and the other thing as if I still worked for him.  No, they weren't conversational things at all.  It was, what happened to this order you placed? And I didn't realize you were coming back (not at all joking).  I couldn't get back out of there fast enough.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Last Day at Work (399 Days to Go)

Yesterday seemed like a pretty big milestone in my life.  Not only was it the rollover point of 400 days left before the wedding, but it was also my last day at my old job.  It had a surreal feeling to it all day.  I went in and worked on the same things that I've been working on for the past two weeks--catching up on paperwork.  I took inventory and transferred files and put in a full day's work despite putting in overtime all week long.

So despite the fact that everyone was teasing me about working too hard on my last day and that they took me out to lunch, it never hit me, not even when I was exchanging hugs goodbye for the last two hours.  Even after I went to pick up my car so I could come back and collect my things, I didn't seem to come to a realization that I wouldn't be coming back.  Which really stinks because I was halfway home and locked out  of the hospital's research building when I realized that left behind two pairs of shoes.

I have to admit I'm going to seriously miss the girls I work with.  They are absolutely fantastic.  No one could ever ask for a more supportive group of people to spend five days a week with.  That's why I know it's going to feel weird on Monday morning when I go to my new job for the first time.  I can only hope for that my future coworkers are half as great.  If they are, then I'll be doing pretty good for myself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Christian W. Klay Winery (401 Days to Go)

First off, I could totally kick myself for forgetting my camera in the car.  I mean seriously, all I had to do was say, "Oops, I'll be right back."  Less than two minutes.  But no, the camera remained in my bag, in the Mini, sitting in the parking lot.

I think it's partially because Jeff and I got to the winery a little early this past weekend and decided to get out of the car and stretch our legs after the early morning drive for nearly two hours.  Driving back into the Laurel Highlands from Pittsburgh involves some patience, the turnpike, and some back country highways that twist and wide up and down the mountains.  At first we weren't sure what to make of the place.  It had just finished raining, was gray and bleak, and we were situated at the bottom of a valley.  All we could really see was the barn from the outside, looking up at the ridges where the vineyards were, and a man-made pond with a fountain.

Christian W. Klay Winery is set into a valley in the Laurel Highlands less than ten minutes away from Ohiopyle  State Park and and about 20 minutes away from Falling Water.  When we finally got up with the vineyard's groundskeeper/manager, he gave us a driving tour of the property (since it was muddy and since it was a relatively large piece of property).  We got to see the main vineyard, the apple orchards, and a beautiful hill top grass field that feels as if the entire world is just dropping away from it.  There was even a valley field set further back on the property too.  Our favorite two spots on the property were the first two that we saw (probably lucky since we wouldn't want to be towing people back and forth much further than that).

The vineyard is at it's peak after the start of June.  Before that it's in the middle of needing pruned and the grass is about two feet high between all of the grapevines.  But by June, the grass is turned over and the vines are budding and turning green.  So for our wedding date, it would be in peak condition.  Essentially, we saw it at it's worse, and I think I could still work with it.  Except for maybe the two foot tall grass.  The vineyard itself is set on top of a ridge and the view looking out is exceptional.  The mountains are covered in trees and there's only a few houses and farms spotting the valley view below.

The field that was situated at the top of a ridge was a little more clean looking.  There were no orchards, grapevines, or any other agriculture.  Nothing but open air and a few trees on nearby ridges.  In all directions, it looked down into valleys much like the view from the vineyard.  And of course the mountains were gorgeous.  It was a perfect 360 panorama of Pennsylvania's nature at its finest.

The last possible location, and the furthest back, was a field set down into a valley.  We were informed it has lost its popularity over the years because it is no longer a field of wildflowers.  Both Jeff and I were a little disappointed that we are apparently getting married five years to late to enjoy this splendor.

Back at the barn, there was a fenced in field for event parking.  I'd imagine that there would be no trouble finding space for parking even with the large numbers that Jeff (not I) is expecting.  On the other side of the barn from the parking is the entrance with giant sliding doors.  Inside, the columns are wrapped in dried grapevines and twinklie lights and spot lights have been hung from some of the cross beams for the dance floor and additional lighting.  With only half of those lights on during the day, it was relatively well lit and provided the beginnings of a romantic setting.  The man who gave us the tour did not know all of the specifics (as he's not the actual event manager) about how many people could be seated in there, but he knew that there had been about 200 people in a banquet before.  In one corner of the barn was a walled off section for the catering prep which included stainless steel tables and a refrigerator--no oven/stove.  Also, a pair of wheeled bars were there as well and the floor was concrete.  The walls on two sides were newer than the other side.  This created a slightly discordant appearance, but Jeff and I talked about it and decided that with a little decorating, it wouldn't be noticed.

Back outside again, there was the pond that I mentioned earlier that even came with two geese.  Actually they were trying to give away this pair of lovebirds.  So if your interested, go pick them up.  But near the pond was a newly built pavilion.  Not a very large one, but after some chatter between Jeff and myself, we decided worst case scenario (that being rain of course) it would serve as an appropriate and still beautiful choice for a ceremony site.

And to sum up our tour of the winery, we got to do a wine tasting.  Jeff and I are anything but wine critics so our comments were pretty much limited to "amazing", "eh" and a scoring based on the 1-10 scale.  We're classy all the way.  This was important to us though that the let us taste the wine.  Especially since if we decide to go with the venue, we're required to buy at minimum two cases of wine.  We decided that only two wines weren't that good and that we would have no trouble selecting at least one white and one red wine to serve.  And we'd probably have to buy bottles of every desert wine to serve instead of a champagne toast.  As we drove away we were even talking about buying an entire case of their wine in order to open one bottle a year for our anniversary should we get married there.

Now, as we had been approaching the winery, we passed over the tippy top of a mountain and right past the Summit Inn Resort.  This place looked like it had dropped down on top of the mountain straight out of the 1940s (or even earlier).  No, I don't mean in a shabby run down way.  I mean in the elegance of the place.  It had character.  You could just tell by driving by.  On our way back, we decided to stop there and have lunch.  It seemed like a logical place to stay for the weekend if our wedding was at the winery so it would also be a logical place to have our rehearsal dinner too.

Before we could even get to the restaurant, we accidentally walked into a side door and right into their reception hall that was being set up for somebody else's wedding.  Oops.  I told you, we're all class.  So we glanced around, giggled a little at our mistake and ducked back out again.  But already, we were falling in love with the place.  The hall had been enormous.  The seating that was there for 100 barely even began to fill  a third of the space.  We finally found the main entrance which made me practically swoon at the huge patio deck.  It was gorgeous, absolutely picturesque.  I wanted to see me and my bridesmaids lined up against the rail looking radiant.  I wanted to get dressed for my wedding in this hotel.  

Once inside, I felt like I'd stepped back in time.  The lobby was enormous, a staircase leading up and to both sides like something out of the Sound of Music.  Actually, both of our first impressions was that of the Shining, but without the creepy girls in white dresses asking us to come play with them.  We got our lunch and Jeff went bonkers as his taste buds sang and danced.  He asked if we could instead have our wedding reception here.

After we ate, we talked to the women at the reception desk and found out that our date was already booked for another reception but that there were still plenty of rooms available for the weekend and that it wouldn't be a problem to have our rehearsal dinner the night before and our after party there the night of.  They even gave us the keys to a couple of different rooms and allowed us to give ourselves our own tour of the hotel.  The rooms were a tiny bit dated, but very clean looking.  And by dated, I simply mean the TVs were old.  But seriously, who's going to be watching TV that weekend?  There's going to be booze!

Everywhere we looked from the hotel, the view was gorgeous.  It was all valley views from the front.  And the back looked onto a slope of trees.  And in case our guests really are bummed by the old TVs, they could go play golf or jump into the enormous pool they had.  Or perhaps the heated out door hot tub?

We're still going to look at one other place in another week or so, but I have a feeling we're very quickly going to try and get everything booked and reserved to have our wedding between this resort and the winery.  All I know is that I'm definitely going to jump on the fact that Jeff is actually excited about planning our wedding.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mother's Day Gifts (403 Days to Go)

So Jeff and I went shopping for a mother's day gift for his mother this weekend.  I had already gotten and given my mother her gift at Easter: a gift card for the Pirates so that she and her boyfriend could go to a game of their choice sometime this month.

Jeff had in his mind a charm bracelet that could have all the birthstones for everyone in the family.  Since the family is grown exponentially fast recently and hardly anyone's birth months overlapped, it seemed excessive to try to buy a ring at this time.  When we got to the jewelry store we found out that there weren't any linked chains that could be used for charm bracelets.  Jeff was a little frustrated that the only options they had in that style cost a couple hundred dollars.  Apparently Pandora has quite literally knocked down the demand of the traditional charm bracelet such that you can't even find them anymore. 

So, there we were look at Pandora bracelets.The first step was picking out chain which Jeff went with a silver lobster claw.  We also decided to get at least one clip in order to make sure that the beads stay in place the way they're supposed to without the risk of them falling off.  We went with this one:
We next checked out the different options for birth stones.  Jeff wanted to start with just his own and his brother's and for the following holidays we would start to fill in the rest.  It sounded like a great idea until we started adding up the cost of the different charms and the add-ons that we hadn't expected, such as the clip.  The birthstone charms that the lady first showed us were definitely a) out of our price range and b) completely inappropriate to represent her two sons.
Our second option was a dangling charm for the birthstones but I told Jeff that on my "knock-off" bracelet that the dangling charms tended to press into my wrist awkwardly or get caught on things.  So we quickly decided against that particular style of charms.  Especially since we were informed that they were discontinued and we'd never have a chance to get a matched set by the time Christmas rolled around.
The third option was a more recent design that wasn't necessarily meant to be birthstones but just came in a wide variety of stone colors.  We liked these, but it was still out of our budget to afford both Jeff and his brother's stones and didn't seem right to buy only one of theirs.

So we started contemplating what single charm we could buy that would be appropriate for Mother's Day.  Of course considering the occasion we looked at the newest "MOM" charm but decided to not go quite that obvious or cheesy. 
We instead got her this:
Can't go wrong with something tropical for this scuba diving family.  So now we've got to make sure she knows that we'll fill it in over time and to not rush out and buy all the charms herself.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ex's (404 Days to Go)

The other day I was on Facebook and I realized that someone I went to college with was planning her wedding--for the second time.  When I had known her, she had dated a common acquaintance and right after graduation they were engaged.  Now, I had known there was some rough spots in their relationship and thus was not entirely surprised to find out a few months later (again through Facebook) that the engagement had been broken off.  But before the engagement had been broken, she had published a ton of professional engagement photos on the social networking site.

Out of curiosity, I went to see if I knew who her new fiance was.  I didn't.  But what really surprised me was that pictures of her ex-fiance were still shown in the top banner as being some of her most recently tagged photos.  When I clicked to see all the photos of her I saw that nearly all of them were from her engagement photo session with her ex (or from sorority life during college) and there wasn't even a single shot of her with her new husband-to-be.  Now, this was the exact opposite on his page (oops, his security settings weren't up to speed and I can be a stalker when curiosity gets the better of me), for his profile picture was a couples shot of them.

Both members of the couple have their entire walls covered in statuses and comments having to do with their upcoming nuptials but it really surprised me that she had never edited her Facebook to diminish her ex-fiance's presence especially with her wedding coming up in the fall.  So my question isn't really about whether or not she's wrong or right, but what is the proper etiquette in the situation?  Do you erase your past life and pretend it never happened?  Or do you at least more thoroughly establish that you have a new life that doesn't include that other guy you had a professional shoot with?

I'll admit, I never went through my account and deleted everything that went between my ex and myself.   The pictures, comments, even the connection as "friends" remains.  In fact, I hadn't even realized we were still FB friends until I saw his comment a week after I announced my engagement to Jeff about how he'd dodged two bullets in one month in reference to myself and another of his exes (and one of my bridesmaids).  I contemplated removing him, but didn't.  I have an attitude about removing FB friends that essentially dictates that I have to wish them dead before I remove them, thus no one ever has been.  

However, I feel as though I had been active enough on FB while I was single and while I was dating Jeff to establish very thoroughly which guy I plan to spend the rest of my life with.  It wasn't as if I was completely inactive during the two year span between wedding planning periods as this girl I once knew had been.  It was just slightly jarring to me.

I'm curious to know how others have handled their exes on social networking sites like Facebook.  Did you erase your pictures of your ex?  Did you remove them as a friend?  Or did you let the past be just as it was no matter how prominently it was displayed?