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Holy Peppers

We are getting to the very end of the garden season around here. With our week of vacation quickly approaching, I started picking the remaining peppers out of the garden. No chance I want to risk them getting a sheen of frost on them!


Our pepper crop grew really well last year but with almost twice as many plants this year – we’re experiencing a bumper crop! We’ve been picking a pepper here and there all summer as needed and I couldn’t believe how many were still out there.


Four trips later and all the peppers were collected!

…and the newlyweds were caught being newlyweds…



We changed out of our work clothes and decided to get started on the older crop of peppers we had picked last week. That way these new guys could sit and start coloring.

016I love the color!!! :-) Ben was the master chopper and chopped and diced all the peppers up. We’re about 1/3 of the way through now.


I’m hoping we have enough time to get the rest chopped and packaged before we leave. I am pretty excited about all the money we are saving having ample peppers now. Otherwise we’re paying over $2 a pepper in the store. Yay for homegrown!! We used our new Foodsaver machine to vacuum pack everything. They make re-sealable ziplock bags that you can vacuum pack. Those are incredible. I can see us getting more of those.


I’m *almost* wondering if we’ll actually eat this many before next year’s crop. That’s a lot of peppers for two people! :)

2014 Fox Cities Marathon

Happy Monday everyone! Did you survive the weekend? Ready for a shiny new week?

It was a fairly busy weekend for us. I kicked the weekend off by sitting outside and enjoying some much needed warmth and sunshine!


I don’t know… I’m pretty much thinking these types of afternoons will be fleeting. It was just warm and sunny and beautiful. How come I didn’t get married LAST Friday instead of the week before? <palmtoface>

I had an afternoon haircut appointment and decided since it was only 1+ mile away, I’d just leisurely walk there and enjoy the day. I gave myself a little over 20 minutes to get there and showed up a few minutes early. Perfect!


010and… after:

011It’s the post-wedding haircut. With all my hair loss, I haven’t been able to support long hair very well. The result is that it always feels like it’s being pulled out and my hair is SO limp and straight that everything just flops. My new ‘do looks light and fluffy but that’s a result of a curling iron and several liberal doses of hairspray!

Friday night we went out with a small group of friends to see “The Book of Mormon” in Appleton. Our friends had seen it before and said it was the funniest thing they had ever seen, so we were pretty excited – and I was looking forward to some much needed laughter and fun.

We started out with dinner at a nearby supper club. The happy newlyweds:


We were in high balcony seats so I brought my glasses with me. Everyone was snapping pictures everywhere so I took ONE. And the usher promptly came over and told me that while “selfies” (I hate that word) were allowed, pictures of JUST the stage were not. O-kay. Here is my highly illegal picture. If my head were in it somewhere, it would be fine…


Honestly… wouldn’t recommend the play. It definitely was raunchy and I went in fully expecting it (it was written by the guys who wrote South Park) but I realized that A: I wasn’t in the right mood to enjoy that kind of humor and B: when you aren’t in the right mindset, it becomes more on the offensive side than the funny side. I think I chuckled a few times but neither Ben nor I was all that impressed. Plus the acoustics in the building made it really hard to hear all the words and we felt like we missed a lot. Bummer

After the show we went for a quick drink at a local bar while we waited for all the people to exit the parking ramps. It’s a madhouse and often it’s better to just wait a bit than deal with the nonsense.

It’s always Christmas at Cleo’s!

013We spent Saturday running some errands and doing a first pass at re-organizing the house. It’s been chaos since the wedding. Saturday night, right after dinner, I started to feel kind of weird. There are a TON of nasty germs going around the area and I began to despair that I’d caught some icky bug that would take me out of commission the next few days. Argh! Sore throat and general fogginess.

Sunday morning we woke up early – to a bunch of rain. Normally that’s not a big deal except we were trekking back to Appleton to cheer Alex on at the marathon. I wasn’t feeling great but my throat wasn’t too bad, so we decided to swing by Walmart to get some zinc on our way over and just stay out as long as made sense. So there we were about 4 miles in just like a year ago!



021Hmm – Ben’s lost weight and I’ve gained weight. No fair! :)

The nice part was that the rain was mostly drizzly and never a true downpour. I couldn’t imagine cheering in the pouring rain (or watching the poor runners slog through that!). We knew a lot of good places to sit and watch – a benefit from having cheered at this face before. Alex completed the marathon last year but cramped up at mile 22 which slowed him down considerably. He wobbled across and we immediately needed to get him some medical attention for his hamstrings. I won’t lie, we were a little worried this time around too.

Early on Alex always looks great. He positioned himself with the 3:40 pace group and away he went!

039He’s so fast though that my camera can never get many good shots!

033Slow down Alex, ha ha! Alex can pretty much do a half marathon in his sleep and he mentioned that it was a really easy 13 miles despite the rain.

041I felt bad for the walkers. If you are a 7+ HOUR walker, they let you start an hour early. I would think it has got to be weird when all the runners start flying past you. I made sure to cheer extra loud for them!

030One of the fun things about driving to different points in the race is you get to see all the different cheering groups. There was a group of people all decked out in Harry Potter costumes and lots of cheerleaders with awesome signs!

034About mile 18 Alex was starting to waver just a little bit. Instead of the normal thumbs up, we were getting the floppy so-so sideways thumb.

040Ben was the official race route expert and magnificently navigated our way to 7 different cheering locations throughout the course!

026Mile 22 – just like last year – was a rough mile for Alex. He started slowing down and the pacers were running ahead of him. We tried to stage some last cheers at the very end where he’d need it most and then we sprinted to the finish line just in time to hear his name announced as he crossed!

044Two-time marathon finisher and a new PR to boot! Alex was over 4 hours last year and this time, in the rain, he finished in 3:51 and change. CONGRATS Alex!!! We collected our sweaty congratulatory hugs and he was already thinking about next year. :)

The rest of Sunday was spent watching the Packers lose after a miserable showing and then vegging around, taking more zinc, and drinking lots of water. This morning I’m definitely not feeling worse, but generally I always feel the best first-thing. So we’ll see. Fingers are crossed because we’re off to our honeymoon soon and I don’t want to be sick!!

Day 6 of Happily Ever After

Yesterday was a long day filled with frustrating meetings and cranky co-workers. By the time I got home, I was totally wiped out. Luckily Ben stepped in and decided we’d just tackle a few easy tasks and grab some Qdoba for dinner. A couple friends gave us some very generous wedding gifts off our Bed, Bath, and Beyond registry, but didn’t use the 20% off coupons. So we ended up returning those items, getting the store credit, and then we’ll re-purchase over the weekend. A bit of a hassle, but in the end we get more store credit to go towards some of the remaining stuff we didn’t get. Bonus!

Anyway, each time you log into your registry, they list a countdown of how many days until the wedding. I logged in last night and saw that because it’s now post-wedding, the message has been changed:

Untitledday 6I don’t know why, but I think that’s really cute. “Happily Ever After” – I’ll take that!

I’m feeling majorly photo-starved as I wait for people to send some to me. How weird is it, being a blogger, that I always have photos of meaningless daily stuff (like my dinner) but my wedding I have no pictures!!

My bridesmaid Mel did send me one that she took on her phone. We had just finished getting our hair and makeup done and were waiting in the parking lot of the hotel for the guys to get into their rooms so Ben wouldn’t see me. :)

photo 1

When you’re not used to wearing makeup ever, seeing yourself with a face full of gloss and shine is really crazy. My ladies assured me it all looked ok and not too crazy. I was actually pretty relaxed and laid-back at this point. Just anxious to get into the room and start settling in.

Tonight I’m planning on actually cooking something for dinner and then settling in and cranking out more thank-yous.  My goal was to have them all done before our honeymoon but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. We’ll see, I’m trying!!!

Engagement Photos

Good morning! Holy buckets, is anyone else registering the weather change over the past week? It went from the 70s and warm to 50s and chilly. Plus, it’s officially DARK out when the alarm goes off in the morning. Fall has arrived.

I FINALLY slept all the way through the night! It’s been rough going the past week+ and I had thought that after the wedding was over I’d be sleeping like a baby… not so much. For over a week now I’ve been averaging less than 4 hours of sleep (one night was just an hour). After literally passing out in my pillow last night, I woke up cringing at the alarm and wishing it would grant me a bit more time since I was finally sleeping soundly. Hopefully I’ve broken this awful sleepless stint!

I’ve been anxiously stalking my photographers web site waiting for my wedding pictures to show up. I don’t have high hopes – we were crunched for time and didn’t get creative. Plus, family shots always take longer than you think they will. Anyways, I still promised pictures this week and I am delivering: engagement pictures!

We were definitely behind getting ours done but I put it off during school and then time became a factor and we squeezed it in a few months ago. It wasn’t a particularly fun time, I’ll be honest, but of the 75 shots he took, I do have a few I thought you all might enjoy.

Eng 7

Eng 6

Eng 3

Eng 5

Eng 4

Eng 2

Eng 1

I don’t know, I think we are pretty adorable. Sure, we didn’t get as many good shots as I had wanted, but I love any picture with Ben in it. Yeah, yeah, I know – totally biased newlywed here!!! :)

The “Rejects” – Part 2

Happy Tuesday all my blog besties! Where have the days gone? Where has my mind gone? What a whirlwind! I have so many thoughts, so much to still sort out and process in my mind and as happy and loved as I feel, I’m emotionally and mentally overwhelmed. It’s the proverbial calm after the storm and I’m busy picking up pieces and making sense of the past few days.

I’m DYING for some wedding pictures to share with everyone and it’s totally bizarre not having pictures at the ready. Normally I am snapping away all the time so it’s odd to not have photos of such a special and important event. Patience, Ali. :)

So I owe you wedding recaps and I STILL owe you engagement pictures. Terrible, I know! Thanks for your patience as well guys. I left off last week showing you the first half of wedding dresses I considered and rejected and I thought I’d finish that off today. It’s totally amazing looking back now at all these options and some I think are down-right terrible, but it’s the process you go through…

<3 <3

We left off with the dress I ordered – a lovely and simple gown that fit all the criteria.

reject #1It wasn’t necessarily a wow dress on me, but considering everything I’d tried on up to that point, it was definitely the winner (and I was SO done trying on dresses). So I waited for my dress to arrive and kept glancing back at the picture of my beautiful strapless dress. This is where I got really mentally down on myself – hating that I was overweight and uncomfortable in the gown and wishing I’d taken better pains to lose weight earlier so I could wear it…

reject #3

Most of you know the rest by now – the months ticked by and various stress elements got to me. I gained back half of the weight that I’d lost before trying on dresses and when my dress arrived, it didn’t fit. Not even close.

Back to the drawing board and now with just 4 months before the wedding and not enough time to order anything. We were left with off-the-rack options.

I took a deep breath and after many conversations with friends, we realized my heart was on my pretty strapless dress. All of this drama was a sign; that was the dress I was in love with and needed to get. I spent two days calling every single bridal store in the state of Wisconsin to find the dress in the size I needed. No dice. After scouring the web, we found a place that could order it and have it arrive in time. Eureka!!! We decided to try it on in the store one final time before placing the order…

This is where I probably hit an all-time wedding dress low. I had gained just enough weight back where the dress didn’t look cute an adorable anymore. My hair loss made my hair look limp and lifeless and overall, I looked tired and NOT cute. I won’t lie, it was a devastating moment and I had no idea if I’d even find anything at that point. So I resigned to loosen my criteria and try stuff outside my comfort zone to give myself more options.

reject #7

Dress #8: The Underwear Dress

When you’re pressed for time and completely stressed out, you start pulling anything and everything off the rack that’s in your size and try and make it work. You close one eye, you tell yourself it’s not AS BAD as you think, and you grimace and try to keep a smile plastered on your face when you realize there is absolutely nothing that looks very good…

The dress I affectionately call the underwear dress had BOTH the corset back and was strapless. We added a belt but still, I thought it looked like some poofy lingerie-type thing. Ugh, ugh.

reject #6

Dress #9: The Bunchy Form-Fitting Dress

I’m not sure what made the sales lady think this was a good pick for an obviously self-conscious, demoralized shopper. This dress hugged everywhere (and not in a good way) and had this weird bunch of material below the tummy that we couldn’t smooth out no matter how we tried. Triple yuck!

reject #5
Dress #10: The New Front-Runner

Finally we pulled a dress that (again) on paper had all the stuff I was looking for. Ironically, it was also a few sizes too big. You can see the sales lady in the back of the photo trying to tug the dress around my waist so it actually looks better. I wasn’t nuts about the large bands of rouching or the fact that the skirt didn’t flare out like a true “A” line, but it was the best options we had and I left the store to muddle it over. The previous dress I had purchased was also too big and I was a bit concerned about how it would lay and fit after all the alterations…

reject #4
Dress 11: The Loaner

My dear friend and matron of honor also offered up her first wedding dress as another possible option. Oddly enough, the hemline looked pretty good and aside from a few minor alterations at the bust line, it looked like it would do in a pinch. Not my favorite, not the most flattering around my shoulders, but part of the mental concession I was battling with in my head.

new 013
That night I went back onto the bridal store’s website to look for some more images of the new front-runner dress. They don’t tell you the designer so I was left scouring through page after page of dresses trying to find it. Suddenly, I saw MY dress – the style that somehow I’d always envisioned but never saw in a store or was able to articulate. It was “perfect”. I called the store first thing the next morning with my heart in my throat – and was told they didn’t carry it but they could order it and it would arrive 2 months after my wedding. Whomp whomp.

Feeling a bit discouraged, I printed out the picture and tried a new bridal store the following morning. I didn’t tell her I was in a time crunch, I didn’t tell her I needed it off the rack AND in my size, I just showed her a picture of my dress and asked her to show me the closest thing she had to it in stock. She smiled at me, walked down a row of dresses, pulled a dress down, flipped it around, and it was THE SAME DRESS. IN MY EXACT SIZE.

I figured I tried almost 70 dresses since I started looking in August of last year. It was one of the most miserable experiences I’ve ever gone through. A lot of people told me it was “meant to be” to find that dress but honestly, I could have done without all of the mental warring and drama. The second I put it on, I knew it was what I wanted. I didn’t have to compromise. I just stood in the changing room of the store all by myself and felt good. :-)

And I can’t wait to show it to all of you!!!

Here We Go…

I’m getting married in the morning!
Ding dong, the bells are gonna chime.
Pull out the stopper!
Let’s have a whopper!
But get me to the church on time!


The “Rejects”

Ahhh I’ve come up for air and am able to get everyone up to speed on my wedding prep. It’s been crazy, certainly overwhelming and I am trying to calm down and enjoy it. I’ll be honest though; it’s hard.

My original plan months ago was to do a week-long countdown to the wedding and each day feature one of my many rejected wedding dresses. I thought that might be rather humorous. What’s shocking to me was how easy it was to find flaws with yourself and with dresses during the process. Obviously I had been doing so well on the weight-loss front when I began trying stuff on… only to lead to gaining back half of what I lost and now feeling more frumpy and disheveled – especially when I look back at the pictures of me in dresses last Fall. Water under the bridge now.

So without further ado – I’ll give you a SMALL sample of the dozens of dresses that were tried on enroute to finding the “perfect” dress.

#1: The “First” Dress

My older readers will remember this picture. It was the very first dress I tried on and it was “the one” in my head. I half-heartedly picked out several dresses to try on but I was 99% sure this was the one I would walk out with. It had everything I wanted: NO corset back, NOT strapless, some sparkle, zero pick-ups and a bonus of a completely covered back. I loved the lacy detail on the bottom too.  What I ended up with was an itchy mess that made my shoulders look broad, my neck look short and did nothing for my waist…


#2: The Breezy Halter Dress

My first solid contender was a flowy white halter dress with a little sparkly bling on the side. I loved the feel of the material. My entourage were decidedly not fans though – claiming the halter style devoured my shoulders and made my chest look flat and squashed (??!!). There wouldn’t be a good place for much of a necklace and I have to admit, I was feeling some pain where the neck strap was. reject #8

#3: The Organza Dress

The 2nd place we went to didn’t allow pictures, but I didn’t have any wow dresses there anyway. So that brought us to wedding store #3 where, on a quiet Friday afternoon, I tried on every single dress they had that was either my size, a size smaller, or two sizes larger. We narrowed it down to three potential options – all on clearance and all uber-cheap.

The organza dress was two sizes to big but really pretty. I loved how it shimmered when the light caught it. The seamstress insisted she could add straps that would look as if they were supposed to be there. Please ignore my beautiful bra straps! I thought this dress made my waist look nice and tiny… but I really didn’t like the straight across neckline. Still, for $400, it was a definite contender.

Organza Dress

#4: The Silk Dress

For whatever reason, I really loved the color of this dress. It looked rich and creamy and I preferred the slight sweetheart neckline over something more boxy. The only issue was, in certain light, the rouching around the waist ended up looking pretty awful and kind of cheap. The material was soft and pretty and another bargain dress at $525.

Silk Dress

#5: The Dress with the Detachable Train

Call me crazy but I LOVED this dress when I first put it on. It was TWO sizes to small but had this amazing scalloped beadwork on the bottom and was a light and simple dress… with a train that you could detach for after the ceremony! It was also just $300 and I started thinking about how many months I had before the wedding, how much more weight I thought I could lose, and whether or not I thought I could make it fit. Looking back, I would never fit into it today and even then I decided the risk was too high to buy.

reject #7

#6: The Rule-Breaker

This was the dress that made me giggle every single time I tried it on. In fact, the first time I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off. I loved the lace, I loved the neckline, I loved everything about it… except it broke a cardinal rule: it was strapless. I’ll admit, I spent lots of time swirling in the mirror thinking how beautiful it was and how I wished I had a thinner body and a not-so-chunk set of arms. It probably also didn’t help that I tried this on at my lowest weight and it was a size too small – pulling everything in extra tight and making me look so skinny and cute. Check out my waist!! Even after I picked out my wedding dress, I would come back to pictures of this dress – probably too much – and should have known even back then that the dress I picked out wasn’t really “the one”
 reject #3

#7: THE Dress – Part One

As I was prancing around in my lace masterpiece, I found a mannequin with another lace dress by the same designer. It was a whopping 4 sizes bigger but I put it on, clamped myself in, and declared it my wedding dress. It had nice, wide straps, no corset, no pickups, and seemed simple and elegant. Don’t get me wrong, I think the dress is pretty – but looking back I realize it only served to check off my requirements. It didn’t feel really special and didn’t have much of a “wow” factor (to me at least). My mom adored it (it was the first dress we both agreed on) and I put the deposit down right on the spot. As you all know now, the dress arrived and I had gained too much weight – so it no longer fit and either required some binge dieting or the addition of a corseted back. Ech.

reject #1

So that brings us through the first wave of dress shopping and my original wedding dress selection. I’m surprised it’s taking me longer to recap this than I thought, so I think I’ll finish up tomorrow. What a lot of dresses! It was definitely a crazy experience. I NEVER EVER want to try on another wedding dress again!!! :) I need to scoot off to work or I’ll be late. Have a great day everyone!






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