Weekending: Boots and Ballgowns

Do you ever meet people and have the profound feeling of “these are my people”?

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This is Katie. She is my people. And her people are my people.

I was lucky enough to get a whole lot of this last weekend. My beautiful and amazing friend Katie is getting married at the end of May, and I was so excited to attend her bachelorette party. Now, Katie is not your typical lady, and this was not your typical bachelorette weekend. In fact, it was a huge but welcome contrast to mine last year in Vegas, which was chock full of the outfits, the decor, and of course, the shenanigans that we come to expect from this type of gathering. Katie knew from that start this wasn’t exactly what she would call her ideal, so last weekend was a little different. First of all, the events of the weekend took place in Placerville, CA. If you have never been to Placerville, picture a small California gold-mining town of about 10,000 people 45 miles northeast of Sacramento. Middle. Of. Nowhere. The buildings are charming and a river runs through it – the only other time I’ve been there was for an ex-boyfriend’s family reunion to white water raft. The second amazingly “Katie” logistical detail of the weekend was that our accommodations were in the form of a rented-out updated Victorian house, complete with parlor and sitting porch, staircases with landings, and original crown molding and wainscoting, among other interior details. Katie and I shared the master bed and bath, but there was plenty of room for the 10 other amazing women on the trip.

Upon arriving at our humble abode on Friday night after a 340-mile drive from San Luis Obispo, I quickly learned I was the first “non-family” person there. I write “non-family” in quotation marks because I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of that thought. I first met Katie when I was 3 years old, and after attending pre-school, kindergarten through 8th grade, high school, AND college with her, it would be an understatement to say we grew up together. We made it through heartbreaks and prom and finals together. She was my first solid memory of a best friend, and her family is my family. Her mom helped me through my first sleepover. I looked up to her older sisters Becky and Julie as if they were my sisters. Her brothers were always at my house. And on many occasion we stifled late night giggles while her dad snored in the next room. She stood next to me as Bill and I said our vows last summer, and I am so excited to be a bridesmaid in her upcoming nuptials. All of this goes to say that arriving at this unfamiliar Victorian and hugging Katie and her mom Annie felt so much like coming home.

I know they felt it too because I was IMMEDIATELY roped into the Pinterest-worthy projects of Becky’s incredible mind. I put my luggage down and got to work helping to pin, sew, and hot glue handmade hair pieces constructed of felt, feathers, buttons, and random bits of tulle. We had a big day the next day, and you simply cannot face such an affair without the proper headpiece. A few more fabulous ladies rolled in around midnight, and I worked until my allergies sent me to my big fluffy resting place and I said my goodnights.

The next morning I awoke to laughter on the floor below. Padding softly down the stairs, I entered the living room to find Becky surrounded by yarn and cheerfully crocheting wine slings at 8:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right. WINE SLINGS. Sheer genius. The woman was making everyone their own apparatus to wear around our necks that completely cradled a wine glass, either full or empty, freeing both hands for any and all mischief we may encounter for the day. Attached to each was a nametag bearing the title of a flower. The plan for the weekend was to travel around the county attending a wine festival, and since Becky was unsure of the guest list at the time she purchased the tickets, she registered everyone as flora. Katie designated me Gardenia, and a new persona was born. And so we spent the rest of the morning fueling up on breakfast and Propel, primping, and dressing ourselves in – you guessed it – boots and ballgowns.

The Tales from the Cellar Wine Passport Weekend was about to go down, and our short bus was waiting for us.

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The beautiful bride in her $26 thrift store wedding dress, so proud of her chariot for the day.

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Arriving at our first stop of Nello Olivo, we knew the day was going to be a good one. A winery housed in a huge Victorian, servers dressed in top hats, unlimited wine, and appetizers such as steamed clams and gourmet meatballs… What did we just walk into?! Heaven is the answer, my friends. Heaven.

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It wasn’t long before the wigs started coming out (thanks to Annie’s fabulously spirited friend Francie, in the red wig… for now), yet we still managed to look this classy by the second winery.

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At this point, by winery three or four, we were still focused enough to notice and appreciate the beauty of being out in the country. This is Jennie, modeling the gorgeousness that was the landscaping at a Don Quixote-themed winery. Not pictured: the choreographed dance we performed in the courtyard to the tune of Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber” just minutes after this was taken.

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As you can see, the wigs became much more of a “thing” as the day went on. That is a group of ladies who are ENJOYING themselves.

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And blonde became a new thing, too. You will notice, however, that my champagne bottle is unopened… My allergies were so terrible that I decided to ease off on the partaking throughout the day. The didn’t stop me, however, from fully embracing the blonde.

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Things, of course, got a little rowdier as the day wore on, but I just love this picture because you can just feel the vibe of the day. No pressure, no drama, just pure amazingness. It really was a celebration of Katie, and we were all so grateful to be involved.

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Look at that face. Just look at it. It is amazing to see someone you love so much THIS happy.

And so the day ended with pizza from a small local pizzeria that had only seven types of pizza on their menu. (If you’re wondering what the GFDF like me did, I ate a bowl of cold marinara sauce. No joke. They ONLY had pizza.) An older couple we didn’t know joined us on the street and bought the whole party several bottles of wine.We wandered into a dive bar with a few lonely patrons silently nursing their drinks, saw the sad small town Saturday night state the place was in, and immediately cranked the jukebox. Dance party ensued. Katie acquired a pink unicorn stick horse at some point, which we named Cornelius. We cut cake at the house. And then we all changed into our cozies and cuddled up to watch Katie open presents. One of those presents was Frozen, which we popped into the DVD player immediately until we all eventually headed off to bed.

So that was it. By the time we all packed up on Sunday after eating breakfast and watching Frozen – yes – again, the general consensus was that it will be hard to wait another 5 or 6 weeks until the wedding because that’s how long it will be until this family comes back together.

And until the wigs come back out. Francie pulled me aside as I said my fare-thee-wells, and let’s just say that Gardenia may be making another appearance in the near, near, possibly inappropriate future. But until then…

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What happens in Placerville, stays in Placerville.

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A Milestone Birthday

Last Tuesday, I had a birthday. A coworker held the door open for me upon arriving at my place of work. While walking together down the hall to our offices, she asked if it was a milestone birthday.

Without hesitation, I answered, “Yup! 27. The best year ever.”

She laughed, and I did too, because laughing is great. But it was the absolute truth. I do fully intend to make 27 the best one yet. So with that, I am kicking off a year of living simply, loving to the fullest, and being present. Also known as… The Best Year Ever. So here are the highlights from the day that’s the start of one for the books!

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I’m not one to post selfies, but when another fabulous coworker exclaimed, “You’re one of those people who dresses up for your birthday!” upon first seeing me at 8:30 a.m., I realized, why yes. I am. So here is the outfit I chose for the (professional) occasion, including my new favorite skirt from The Limited.

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My favorite accent piece of the day? The gift from my brother and sister-in-law – the Kate Spade Skinny Mini Bow Bracelet. (Similar here.)

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One of our new traditions at work: Bringing in treats on your birthday, just like back in elementary school. With not much of a sweet tooth and a massive savory one, I opted for bagels (gluten-full and gluten-free) and cream cheese (dairy-full and dairy-free) for my morning front-office celebration. In true high style, I even brought the toaster.

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Pink. Sprinkles. Office door surprise. They know me well.

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I don’t know which was better: the beautiful white calla lilies one of my colleagues brought me or the hilarious story of her traipsing through her garden before dawn to retrieve them (complete with enthusiastic reenactment).

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I stayed at work until exactly noon, then headed home to shed the office attire and slip into my laid-back uniform of my most comfortable of maxi dresses. I wasn’t the only one eager to begin the festivities – Indy wanted in too, as you can probably tell by the look on her face searching for any possibility for a W-A-L-K.

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The first stop was an escape to the gorgeous Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards for a picnic, peacocks, and their amazing apple wines. Danae and her husband Matt disappeared with us, guaranteeing great company in the 75 degree weather of the beautiful Central Coast.

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And what could possibly be my #1 most coveted birthday lunch? A salad from New Frontiers‘ salad bar, which fell from the salad bar gods in salad bar heaven to bless even the most blaspheming of salad-bar-non-believers with salvation from their evil ways. Converts you all will be, I swear on all that is green and holy.

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The big man himself was able to finagle his way out of work for the occasion, and we actually got to wine taste together! Small victories, everyone.

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My greatest wish for this day was to park it next to the ocean, surrounded by friends and margarita in hand. One of the best places to do this is happy hour at Marisol at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. In the background you see Robert, Jeff and Jessica, as well as the nose of my most loved one in the top right corner. In the back-background, you see open sky, open ocean, and palm trees. In the foreground you see the remains of a slowly sipped shot of reposado and a strawberry margarita, planted firmly on the table directly in front of me. Read: HAPPINESS.

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Genuine relaxation is my greatest wish for any of my friends, but especially for Danae and Matt who work so hard owning their own wedding styling/coordinating business and restaurant, respectively.

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Sunshine and salt water are the best medicine.

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And so the sun set on another wonderful first day of the rest of my life. However, the sun has not set – and will not if I have anything to do with it – on my intentions to live fully for the next 51 weeks.

“And she believed that she could so she did.”

Small Steps, Big Dreams!

Today is a big day.

Want to know why?

Of course you do.

I’m happy to announce that…

It’s official! I pulled the trigger, and my blog is now

http://www.dohotmessticated.com

Because I have often heard that…

Dream A Little Bigger Darling{Image from mycrazy-beautifulife.tumblr.com via Pinterest}

And I tend to listen to very good advice.

Celebrate with me, please!

xo

The New Tastes of Home

In this post a few weeks ago, I wrote about all the things I would miss after starting my new gluten-free dairy-free lifestyle. At the top of this list were the comforts of home: my dad’s waffles, my mom’s quiche, my step-mom’s french toast, and my family’s infamous Christmas butter cookies. With a trip to Redding planned the weekend right before my birthday, this was about to be put to the test.

Not only was I still trying to figure out what the heck to eat, I was nervous about my family trying to tackle the task, especially with the pressure of birthday dinners. Both my dad and my mom chose to cook for me instead of going out, which is exactly what I prefer when heading home to the parent’s houses. However, I felt a little helpless since I couldn’t send them recipes or tell them my new favorites simply because I didn’t have any yet. I anticipated some fumbling on their part and some sadness on mine at missing out on my staple requests.

Was I ever surprised.

I didn’t have the waffles, the quiche, or the french toast, but what I had was even better.

Saturday morning started off with shuffling to the car at my dad’s insistence that we head to the local health food store. Now, a Redding health food store is not exactly the shiny gorgeous sister to the likes of Whole Foods or San Luis Obispo’s local New Frontiers. It’s more like the stray dog wandering the back alley behind the Whole Foods beaming exterior. With that said, his enthusiasm was contagious as we wandered down the short aisles, and seeing my dad reading labels and asking questions was so endearing. We ended going home with a few basics, but a stronger connection.

Little did I know he was going to sneak back to the store while I was at a friend’s bridal shower that afternoon OR that I would come home to a spice cake with vanilla frosting, homemade and sans dairy and gluten.

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He made the whole thing from scratch himself. I love the Proud Papa look on his face in that picture.

Another conversation my dad and I had before I ventured home was how much I was going to miss his waffles. And of course he did everything in his power to make sure I had some while I was home. They looked similar yet tasted different, but that was alright with me.

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Next on the birthday agenda was my mom’s house for a Sunday dinner celebration. Mama had dropped hints that she had found a recipe she wanted to try, which was really exciting because she has always let it be known that she does NOT enjoy cooking. She wouldn’t tell me what it was though, so I was pleasantly surprised that she found a recipe for a Gluten-Free Tamale Bake from Cooking with Trader Joe’s. Mexican food is especially exciting these days, since I haven’t had anything like it since “That Day At The Nutritionist”. However, the fact that she went to four different stores to find the ingredients to make it dairy-free as well and that we got to cook it together made it all the more special. So special, in fact, that I cared not one single bit while my brother complained about Daiya Cheddar Flavored Shreds and Tofutti’s Better Than Sour Cream Sour Cream.

To top it all off, my amazing little mama gave me an arsenal of cookbooks with which to arm myself.

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I made her sign the page of the recipe she made for me, just for memories and safe-keeping.

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So after all that, it turns out that I will in fact miss out on the comforts of home and some of my best-tasting childhood memories. But what has taken and will take their place in the future is most likely even better. Because while I didn’t get the breakfasts and dinners of the old days, we (non-dairy cheeseball alert) created new memories, and I got the feeling of being more loved and supported than I can ever remember being in my Eat-Whatever-The-Hell-I-Want Glory Days.

And that, of course, tastes better going down than any cheesy, carb-y forbidden monstrosity you could put in front of me.

Playlisting: The Wedding Soundtrack

Every year on Valentine’s Day, I reach back into my late ’80s/early ’90s roots and put together Bill’s present: a mix CD. Now, I know you may be rolling your eyes at my reference, because if I were TRULY throwing it back I would have said “mix tape”. Let’s be honest, that’s just not realistic anymore. Unfortunately.

I mean, how amazing would it be to go back to the days of sitting by the stereo in your bedroom, waiting on edge for the next song to play? If it was a good one and you had lightning-fast reflexes, you could pound the button with the little red dot and keep that baby (minus a few introductory seconds, am I right?) for the rest of your life. Well, until tape players are no longer standard I suppose.

The first year I made Bill a CD was 2012, and I left it on his doorstep and ran away like a giddy teenager. The next year, I gave it to him in person when I showed up at his apartment after a grad school night class, as ordered, to find a candle-lit home-prepared (don’t care that it all came frozen… he put a lot of thought into that) meal, complete with the most adorable surprise for dessert. Let me tell you, that man sure knows how to steal a girl’s heart, toasting Chocolate Chip Eggo’s and filling them with vanilla ice cream like that. Romance is a frozen waffle ice cream sandwich, if you ask me.

Those CDs consisted of songs meeting one criteria: they had reminded me of him.

This year, the playlist was a lot easier to put together, but a thousand times more meaningful. This year, I got to relive our wedding by creating our soundtrack, something I had been eager to do since July 20th.

Music is such a part of my idea of a wedding, and I spent months and months researching for the right tracks. If it didn’t feel right, it didn’t make the cut. Plain and simple. Although I preferred to have a wedding with unique details, and, what with Pinterest, now ideas are stolen with the click if a “Pin” button, when it came to the music I didn’t care how many times that sucker had been played. It just had to feel like us. Music evokes such a feeling in me, and it can either set the vibe for the night or it can ruin the party. Don’t believe me yet? I bet the top two complaints you’ve had at any wedding, in no particular order, were: food and deejay. Correct?

So I wasn’t so obsessed that I dictated every song throughout the night, but Bill and I did make sure our deejay came with incredible testimonies, a reputation of trustworthiness, and the inspiration of our confidence. Kramer Events was such a great pick, and we signed pretty quickly. But a wedding has a lot of important moments, and those were the ones I wanted to get just right. No one else could pick those, since the most important thing a wedding can reflect is the uniqueness and personalities of the each of the lucky souls pledging undying love to one another.

So for anyone interested in one of the sources of greatest pride in our wedding, and one of the things that went very very right, here is the soundtrack of our wedding day, in order:

1. The Processional: “Marry Me” by Train

I know, I know, this song has gained a lot of popularity recently. The processional song was actually the last song we picked, but once I made the choice to stop resisting it, “Marry Me” made our list.

Processional

2. The Walk Down the Aisle: “I Saw A Light” by The Band Perry

I agonized over which song should play as I entered. AGONIZED. But then I downloaded The Band Perry’s new album the day it dropped – April 2nd, just three months before the big day – and one measure into the song, I already knew this was the one I would walk down the aisle to. It hit me immediately that the music to this song embodied the very essence I wanted our day to have, and as I listened, the words spoke directly to our own story of how we met. Such an important moment needed an equally important accompaniment, and to this day, this is my favorite song I have EVER heard.

Walking Down the Aisle

3. Mid-Ceremony Performance: “The Light” by Sara Barrielles

Our officiant Jessie and her father Kevin are both considered family to Bill (and me!) after living across the street from the Halters for years during childhood. Both are talented musicians and frequently sing at weddings, so it was only natural that we cross our fingers in hopes that they would sing for us during our ceremony. “The Light” has always been one of the most romantic songs in my eyes, and we had to include it in the most romantic moments of our lives together.

Jessie Singing

4. The First Kiss and Recessional: “Brighter Than The Sun” by Colbie Caillat

We got married! That’s super exciting! So the first thing we wanted to hear after that was an upbeat but meaningful song to both celebrate what we just did AND set the tone for the party to come. With our California affair and wish for pure uninhibited happiness, this was another agony-inducing choice that became clear upon hearing the words to this amazing song.

First Kiss

Recessional

5. Wedding Party’s Reception Entrance: “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project

Bill had one request for our wedding. Ever the sports enthusiast, he wanted our wedding party to enter like the starting lineup, and he wanted to do the announcing. So “Sirius” was a must, and he paced inside barn out of sight with a microphone and an NBA-worthy script as each of our bridesmaid and groomsmen pairs danced their ways into the reception.

Wedding Party Entrance

6. The Presentation of Mr. and Mrs. William Halter: “Love on Top” by Beyoncé

Yoncé herself is a must at any wedding, and “Love on Top” was the perfect upbeat-yet-romantic song to come out to for the first time as husband and wife. Plus, I just love me some Queen Bey.

Presentation of Mr and Mrs

Tunnel

7. Our First Dance: “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

This song had long been “our song”. So not only was it a great one for our first dance, but it is forever a reminder of the promise we made to each other on that day, whether the current one is going great or not so well.

First Dance

8. Father-Daughter Dance: “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift

My dad has often been a rock for me during difficult times, whether those were breakups, rejections, or just plain bad days. He is the solid voice on the other end of the phone and the drop-everything-and-drive-seven-hours presence on my doorstep. For years, this song made me cry when I thought of him, and now even more so with such an irreplaceable memory attached to it.

Father Daughter Dance

9. How We Got The Party Started: “Wobble” by V.I.C.

Disclaimer: Transitioning from the Father-Daughter Dance straight into “Wobble” was risky. The deejay even responded with an “Are you sure?” But how incredibly worth it was it to see my dad leading the Wedding Wobble?!? SO worth it. We started the show, soon to be joined by Bill, our previously trained bridesmaids, and finally, with much coercion (physical dragging, embarrassment, and otherwise), our guests, who were game to learn the moves as we went. Best part? Everyone was already on the dance floor as we got the rest of the night underway.

Wobble

Wobble Recruitment

10. The Cake-Cutting: “Tie It Up” by Kelly Clarkson

This song was new, it was (and still is) so fun, and we didn’t want to make a spectacle out of the cake-cutting and ruin the good vibes that were flowing already. Keep dancing everybody, and here’s some sugar to fuel the next two hours.

Cake Cutting

11. The Bouquet Toss: “Show Me How You Burlesque” by Christina Aguilera

After getting sexier than all get out to this song in one of my first Zumba classes, the idea for a ladies-only flashmob was born. My friend Ashleigh choreographed a dance for all my bridesmaids to learn, and a plan was hatched for them to strategically plant themselves around the venue. Bill was kept unaware of the plan, as this was as much a surprise for him as it was entertainment for our guests. As the song began, I made my way to the center of the floor, and my girls came out of the woodwork at a pre-determined time to the surprise of our unsuspecting audience. We did our routine incredibly well considering they had all learned it the night before, and after the first chorus, they took their charge of homing in on the single women in the crowd and dragging them out. Execution = spotless.

Bouquet Toss

Bouquet Toss 2

12. The Garter Toss: “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys

While I was busy planning my surprise for Bill, he was busy planning one for me as well. Having told me that the garter toss was going to happen to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”, I relinquished control over this detail although I was unimpressed by his choice. But my jaw hit the floor when Bill grabbed the mic and karaoked his way farther into my heart with a rendition of “Everybody”, knowing my weakness for the aforementioned boy band would knock my socks off. True story. This happened. It was spectacular. (Especially when he proceeded to give play-by-play through the same microphone of what was going on under my dress while removing the garter.)

Garter

13. A Must Play: “I Love It” by Icona Pop

We sang this song constantly. We went crazy on the dance floor. So did everyone else.

I Love It

14. The Last Song: “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding

The last song of the night was of incredible importance to me. I wanted something upbeat, unable to resist, and too good to be true. I essentially wanted the audio version of the stuff memories are made of. The last moments of the night were surreal, surrounded by our closest friends and family members and their most loved ones.

Anything Could Happen

So there you have it: the soundtrack to our wedding. Please feel free to snag ideas if they fit your idea of perfection, because we had ours, and you should too.

A Toast to Extraordinary Simplicity

New Year’s Eve is always an interesting holiday for me. There’s the excitement for a brand new year. Then there’s the nostalgia of looking back on everything in the past one. There’s usually a little sadness involved, what with Christmas being over and the anticipation dying down. And don’t forget the electricity in the air when everyone begins to feel like reinventing themselves.

I’m usually a pretty big supporter of ringing in the New Year in overly fabulous ways. But not this year.

My New Years’ plans started out in the vein of throwing a huge cocktail party with a close friend, Danae. But when Christmas travel plans prevented us from planning early and then Danae and her husband both got sick, we decided to nix the endeavor two days before. So now I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Bill had to work until 11:30 p.m., which meant he would just make it for a midnight kiss on our first married turn-of-the-year. I had been invited downtown, but that makes it especially difficult for him to drive from work, park, and get passed the line, in the bar, through the crowds, and next to me in the 30 precious minutes after he clocked out. We tried that two years ago, and it wasn’t the best experience for either of us.

So I had a few options. I could go downtown with a large group of some of the most fun people I know, but risk missing Bill at midnight. Plus, no matter how hard I tried, I would probably end up hungover on New Years’ Day. (No thanks.) The other option at this point would be to stay home with the dog, in my cozies, watching movies, and drinking champagne. Alone. I found myself excruciatingly torn, and I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t want to be alone,  but I also didn’t want to fight a sea of drunk people all night long. I didn’t want a dead house, but I could not wrap my head around deafening bass thumping and party screaming either. I felt like my former party girl self was at war with my new wife persona, and I didn’t like it. I don’t want to be lame. I really don’t. So I didn’t say anything, and I wrestled with my decision and spent the last few days of 2013 stressing about it.

But then I realized that one of the things that I wished I could change about 2013 was how anxious I felt, the composed show I put on, and the feelings I hid. I spent a lot of time struggling internally with how others would view me and what they would think, and the shoulds and the coulds and the have-tos took over. It made for some unnecessary unhappiness, and I didn’t want to do that again. 2014 is going to be different.

So I put on my big girls pants, and I owned up to my true feelings in a text to Danae.

“So I’m feeling really weird about tonight… I’m almost feeling like this year was so crazy that I want something more mellow and less crowded with college students than downtown.”

I held my breath. I had officially entered the zone of marriage decreptitude I had been violently denying and fighting tooth and nail since July. I’m only 26. That’s too young to die on the inside, right? But to my surprise, Danae’s response echoed mine.

“Oh I totally feel the same way! I’ve been going non-stop and then this cold kinda killed it for me. Honestly, I’m happy watching a movie and drinking champagne. I know I’m a party pooper, but I really don’t want to go out.”

If she’s a party pooper then I’m a party pooper, because that sounds like exactly what I had been hoping for over the last few days. I just wasn’t brave enough to say it out loud… until now. And guess what? I said it, and I felt SO MUCH BETTER. We explicitly decided to spend this New Years’ Eve in a way that would set the tone for the year to come, and the result was beyond spectacular. A simple night celebrating good friends manifested in Danae and I in sequined dresses and drinking peach champagne… while watching comedies and putting together a good old-fashioned puzzle in the company of her husband, her siblings, and – at the end of the night – Bill.

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Not only were the activities of the night a perfect mix of simple and glam, but the company was just as fantastic. Danae was such a wonderful addition to my life last year as our wedding stylist/coordinator with her company Danae Grace Events, but more importantly as a friend once the nuptial craziness died down. As you can see, she has an uncanny ability to make simple things beautiful, without second thought. I am constantly inspired around her.

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Simple does not have to mean ordinary!

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A snapshot of the season. (I often say my favorite food is champagne, but even more so when it’s enjoyed from gold-rimmed flutes in front of a Christmas tree.)

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The husband and I just after midnight, looking forward to what’s to come!

So in the end, we wore our sequins, drank our champagne, and shared a glamorous night in. Our night was quiet. It was cozy. It was comforting. Oh, and it was marvelous, of course.

Just like I hope the next year is – in every way, shape, and form.