Thursday, August 4, 2016

My Sister-in-Law and Brother's Wedding Weekend

Only about a 2 months behind on this one.... On a Thursday afternoon toward the end of May, S and I loaded our car up with a ton of wedding decorations, dog supplies, clothes, snack foods, and of course the pup, and drove 7 hours to Jackson, Mississippi for my brother D and sister-in-law B's wedding weekend!  We arrived fairly late on Thursday night at the lake house that my parents had rented for the weekend and promptly crashed after feeding and walking the pup and unloading the car.  The next morning Pandora woke us up uncommonly early (she's usually fairly good about letting us sleep in on weekends, but since she was in a new place and knew that "grandma" was also there she was raring to go sometime around 6 am...  Ugh.)  We were able to take it easy most of the day on Friday.  We ran a few errands (S needed beer and we had to get Pandora's nails trimmed because the clacking against the wood floors as she sprinted everywhere all the time was driving us nuts) and then drove into town to meet up with D and B for dinner at The Manship, one of their favorite restaurants.  It was delicious and I'm now committed to learning how to make rillette so I can eat it all the time.  After dinner we went to the hotel where a number of the wedding guests were staying so that we could grab a drink with some of D's friends.  That night my other brother J arrived with his wife J.
Pandora meets her first fish!
Saturday was really the beginning of the wedding prep work.  In the morning the guys went to go pick up their tuxes and grab some brunch while we made a Target trip for some toiletries that J had forgot to bring and food for the wedding day breakfast.  When we got back to the house I practiced wedding hairstyle options on my mom (I'm her official hair and makeup stylist...).  In the afternoon we drove out to Cathead Distillery for the pre-wedding festivities.  There were lot of yummy drinks using Cathead's three signature flavors of vodka, food trucks serving southern style bbq and friend chicken, gourmet popsicles (I had more than a few of these), live music, and games galore.  A number of the wedding guests showed up to party including friends of D and B, family, and family friends.  It was so much fun!! At the end of the evening D climbed into the dunk booth and due to all of his friends and family wanting to dunk him wound up raising a lot of money for a local cherity!  After the distillery we went to the hotel again to meet up with and say hi to a number of my parents' friends who had just arrived from Illinois and then back to the house to feed and walk our attention starved pups (my mom and dad brought their 2 dogs as well) and make the fruit salad for Sunday.

Sunday was a FRENZY of activity!  The guys took on dog duty while the gals loaded up the car with all of the decorations and food that we had as well as dresses, toiletries, makeup, etc.  My mom and I were tasked with providing breakfast foods for the bridal party while getting ready.  We had the fruit salad that we made the previous night, so we stopped off to pick up donut holes and kolaches and hit up the grocery store to get some orange juice and bottled water before making our way to the venue.  We got there at 9 and started unloading everything into the venue.  After setting up the breakfast food, I got to work decorating the chuppah with the fabric and lights that I'd brought and J and another bridesmaid helped me out.  The maid of honor was the florist and the flowers she added were the perfect finishing touch.  It was a gorgeous chuppah if I don't say so myself!  I also put out the place cards for the reception seating and did my mom's hair and makeup.  All the while, the bride was getting her hair and makeup done.  I finally got around to getting ready myself and then my mom, J, and I worked on "crocheting" B into her dress (we had to use crochet hooks to secure the zillion little buttons that snaked up the back of her dress).   Then it was upstairs for pictures!

J and I "crocheting" B into her dress

The rest of the afternoon/evening went by in a blur.  Trying to remember all of the family and bridal party pictures that we needed to take (we forgot to print out the list... doh!), helping the bride maneuver through tiny doorways onto balcony's for photos, doing a practice run of the ceremony so we all knew where to stand, witnessing the signing of the ketubah, last minute hair and makeup touch ups while we waited for the guests to get seated, and of course the wedding (which was perfect).  I tried really hard to do as much as I could to help B so that her wedding would be as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.  I think I may have stressed myself out a bit in the process but it was worth it as long as she enjoyed herself!  B had other helpers too, her friend M was such an amazing help as the day-of wedding ceremony coordinator and I think that she was a clincher in helping B have an enjoyable day as well!

After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour, although I barely got to enjoy the delicious cheese spread as I spent most of the time trying to help out.  I touched up B's eye makeup in their wedding suite while they noshed on appetizers, and then I proceeded to round up all of the extended family and organize them for the large family photos.  I'm not sure if the photographer found me annoying for being so bossy or if he appreciated it as trying to organize that many people for a photo was like trying to herd cats.  I'm hoping it was the latter.  I finally managed to get a small hunk of carmelized onion goat cheese dip (sans cracker as they had all been consumed already) and a glass of wine at the end and it was worth it.

The traditional tequila shot with grandma!
The reception was a lot of fun!  The food that the venue provided was really tasty.  I was tempted to go back for seconds but didn't want S to have to roll me around the dance floor.  There was a really fun photo booth set up with a box of fun props, great dance music, and of course the traditional tequila shots with grandma and all of her grandkids!  At the end of the night I worked with the DJ and a couple of the other bridesmaids to give D and B a sparkler "send off" (they were actually staying in the hotel that night, but it was a gorgeous photo op and a great way to officially end the event).  The venue did most of the cleanup, but I stuck around to take down the chuppah, bring all of the gifts and decorations to D and B's room, and load the car back up.
My parents had invited all of the family to come over to the lake house for brunch on Monday.  Thankfully I got to sleep in a bit (I had a slight migraine from all of the loud music and flashing lights) while my parents ran to the grocery store in the morning for the food.  When we woke up, S and I packed up all of our stuff and loaded the car then he played with the pup by the lake for a while (we felt bad for leaving her in her crate all day during the wedding) while I helped my mom get the food ready.  Family started arriving and we had a really fun morning mingling, catching up, and reliving the fun moments from the previous two day.  Around noon S and I piled into the car with Pandora and drove back home to Houston.  It was an exhausting but lovely weekend and we're so thrilled that B is officially a part of the family now!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wedding Recap: Our Mini-Moon!

After our wedding we took a week off to just de-stress and catch up on sleep.  We decided to do this in West Texas.  On the Monday after the wedding we took my parents to their very first rodeo, which was a lot of fun but I didn't get any pictures of it.  The next day they hit the road to head back to Florida and we hit the road to head West toward Marfa, which is about an 8 hour drive.
We got to our rental house pretty late and were exhausted from the drive, so we crashed shortly after a celebratory glass of wine and beer.  That night we both happened to wake up around 4 am and were so excited to be somewhere without light pollution, so we bundled up in blankets and ran out to the front of the house to take a gander at the star filled sky.  So nerdy of us, but it was so memorable!

 The next morning we slept in (felt SOOOO good) and then drove the 15 minutes down to Marfa to check out some art galleries.  We went to Ballroom Marfa and The Chinati Foundation in the morning.  Ballroom Marfa is a fairly standard art gallery with some interesting sculptures in the outdoor atrium.  The Chinati Foundation was founded by Donald Judd, the artist that basically revived Marfa as an art destination.  We saw two of the exhibits there, the outdoor concrete block exhibit (above) and the indoor metal box exhibit - no pictures were allowed inside, but the picture just below is from the window of the airplane hangar that housed the exhibit and the next picture is from the Chinati website.  The boxes weren't exceptional on their own, it was the groupings that gave them interest.  All of the concrete boxes were arranged in clusters in a huge field and each cluster was unique.  There were two airplane hangars filled with the metal boxes and while the dimensions and materials of all of the boxes were identical, the configuration and interior divisions of all of them was different.  No two boxes were the same.

After climbing around a field and a couple of airplane hangars we were hungry, but Marfa is a super small town and doesn't have a lot of widely available restaurants to eat at, and those they do have operate only during certain hours.  So we hit up what turned out to be our favorite food venue, the local gourmet grocery store called The Get Go where we stocked up on beer, cider, salami, cheese and crackers for a late lunch back at the rental.  My favorite was the local goat cheese that we managed to snag on our 2nd trip back into the store.

That night was probably our favorite of the trip.  We drove further into the mountains and went to a Star Party at McDonald Observatory!    Obviously not a lot of pictures from this as it was too dark out, but we both really enjoyed our time here.  In addition to the three large permanent telescopes at the visitor center there were a number of other locals and observatory employees that set up their own personal telescopes around the perimeter.  We started out with a constellation overview in their amphitheater and then made the round of the telescopes, getting to see Jupiter and 4 of its moons, the Pleiades star cluster, Orion's belt, close ups of the moon, and a few others that I can't remember now.  It was only a 2 hour event and we easily could have stayed longer.  They practically had to kick us out!  We'd love to go back here and get a tour of the big telescopes that the facility runs another time!
The next morning we slept in again (so nice), had a quick breakfast at the house, and then went on a nice, leisurely mountain drive toward our morning destination.  S was totally digging all of the twisty turning roads.  I did ok too because the scenery was just gorgeous.

Our morning destination was the famous (for those in the know...) Prada Marfa!  It is an art installation of a Prada store on the side of a highway out in the middle of absolute nowhere and I had been dying to go!  There were already a number of other people there, so we waited our turn and snapped a few pictures.  There's not much else to do there as the store itself is just an art installation and not an actual place to shop.  The interior is filled with a few Prada purses and shoes from about 10 years ago (fun fact, they only used left shoes to deter people from breaking in/theft) as well as 10 years of dust and dead bugs.  So not so glamorous.  But the outside made for some amazing photos!

After S's morning mountain drive and my Prada Marfa excitement we were hungry and went to the locally famous Food Shark food truck for some lunch.  The wait for the food was a bit ridiculous, but the falafel was delicious.  After lunch we proceeded to walk around to some of the smaller galleries, checked out the landmark Hotel Paisano (built in the 30's and where the cast of Giant stayed in 1955 during filming, i.e. Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean), got some afternoon ice cream, and eventually wound up at a gallery where we purchased our first artwork as a married couple!  This last gallery was probably my favorite - it had some amazing sculptures and while not cheap most of the art was more affordable than any of the other galleries we went to.

That evening we had a pre-dinner drink at Lost Horse Saloon, a total dive bar that all of the locals frequent followed by a nice dinner out at Cochineal, which was quite tasty.  We ended our second day with a trip to go see the famed Marfa Lights!  Alas, we did not see the true Marfa lights, just headlights of cars winding through the mountains.  I kept complaining that that is all they were every time other people at the viewing site Oohed and Ahhed.  And S kept elbowing me in the ribs and admonishing me not to ruin the magic for everyone else.  The downside to being a logical engineer I guess.  We did get to see a gorgeous sunset, though. And snuggling together under a blanket under the amazing night sky chock full of stars was pretty wonderful too.

We headed back to the rental after the night chill started to get to us and packed up all of our stuff.  The next morning we hit the road toward New Braunfels in Texas hill country where S's parents now have a house.  On the way, we stopped off in Sonora, TX so that I could cross one Texas site off of my bucket list: The Caverns of Sonora which were just amazing.

The caverns were discovered in the 1920's, but weren't opened to the public until 1960.  The inside is a maze of paths, bridges, crystal formations, pools of water, and huge calcite stalactites and stalagmites, all formed on 100-million-year-old limestone.  The formation of the cave itself probably occurred between 1.5 to 5 million years ago, which is just crazy!  After we left the caves we arrived at S's parent's house where his mom met us.  We were pretty exhausted at that point from driving and hiking through caves, so we crashed early.  The next day was all about S.
I rented a sporty little red Mazda RX-8 off of (like airbnb for cars) and we spend the day driving the famous Twisted Sister route through hill country.  For most of it, the scenery kept me happy, but there was one particular stretch on a cliff-side road that had me white-knuckling the seat and informing S that I was terrified.  He, of course, just laughed and accelerated.  Ass.  But we made it out alive and he was totally digging it.

That night we went out for dinner with S's mom and the next day we headed back to Houston.  We picked up Pandora after we'd unloaded the car at the house and she was SO excited to see us.  Dog enthusiasm is the best!  Overall the trip was wonderful, and amazingly enough it was actually relaxing too.  We felt mostly recovered after the crazy weeks leading up to the wedding.  Of course it was short lived after we returned to work.  It's ok, we're currently planning our big honeymoon now and hopefully we'll get to reclaim some of that relaxation when we go to Italy this fall!