Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: The Guest List

This isn't the happiest Wedding Wednesday post I've ever written, but I'm hoping that some of what I put out there will make other Brides-to-Be feel more comfortable/normal/understood. Sometimes we have to tell the truth about wedding planning. The truth that it isn't all fun and flowers. Sometimes it sucks.

Like now. Making a guest list sucks.

Let's just be honest about it guys.

While it should be a happy event where you round up all of your favorite people and collect their addresses so you can send out invitations to come watch you get's actually a heart wrenching decision process where you're forced to rank people in to columns of "Must Invite," "Should Invite (but won't come)," "Should Invite (if there's room)," and "Wish We Could Invite (but can't afford to feed)."

Why do we have so many friends?!? I've already offered to go around poking people in the eye so they won't want to come anymore, but, then one of my Maids pointed out, "They'll just forgive you...and then you'll feel even worse for not inviting them."

Darn it.

When The Boy and I put together our initial list - which included everyone we'd want to come ever - we totaled out at around 330 guests.

Know how many our venue holds?


I almost cried.

We've managed to narrow the list down a bit by making those extra columns (with folks we can still invite who probably can't come, giving us a fake buffer) and slimming down the "plus ones" column, but we've also had to make cuts. It's been hard, y'all. I don't like it.

I know that those of you who've been there will understand, and I'm asking for forgiveness for any feelings I may accidentally hurt. Please understand that we'd love to have all of you (and your plus ones) there, but it's just not feasible.

We appreciate it.

I promise a happier post next week! It'll probably involve cake...check back and see.

Til then...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Red Carpet Cupcake Challenge: Final Four!

Hey y'all! Remember how I told you I had made it to Round 2 of that cupcake challenge I entered?

Well, I submitted my recipe yesterday, and just found out that I MADE IT TO THE FINAL FOUR! (Thanks for all your prayers and well wishes! I really appreciate the support!)

Next Steps: design a recipe that's inspired by the Red Carpet and bake it, live, in front of a panel of celebrity judges! This guy is one of 'em... (no pressure...yikes!)

So, while I go pace off the excitement and nerves, here's an updated version of the cake I submitted (as well as the recipe, if you're interested).

Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes


For the cupcakes:
  • ½ cup plus Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 cup plus hot water
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sour cream
For the ganache:
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. freshly pulled espresso, cooled
For the frosting:
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • Caramel Sauce (to taste)
For the caramel sauce:
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ tbsp. light corn syrup
  • ½ cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 1 tsp. sea salt, preferably fleur de sel


  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and hot coffee and whisk until smooth.  In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.
  3. Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes. 
  4. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks til creamy and add to the butter mixture. Whip whites til frothy and fold in to butter mixture. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. 
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  7. To make the ganache, heat chocolate in the top of a double boiler til smooth. Remove from heat and slowly add the cream in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Whisk in espresso til smooth.
  8. Using the cone method, cut divots out of each cupcake, reserving the tops. Fill the divot with a spoonful of ganache and replace top.
  9.  To make the caramel sauce, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted into a syrup.  Stop stirring and gently swirl the pan.  Continue to boil, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is a deep amber color (but not burned!) and it registers 340˚ F on the thermometer.  Very slowly pour in the cream in a slow, steady stream down the inside edge of the pan, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Let cool.
  10.  To make the caramel buttercream, beat butter on med-high til light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, alternating with cream until desired consistency is reached. Add in vanilla and cooled caramel sauce to taste.
  11. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip.  Pipe a swirl of frosting on each cupcake.  Top each cupcake with green sugar crystals and an additional drizzle of caramel sauce.  Finish with a signature Starbucks-green straw (if desired).


  • Since the cake is inspired by one of my favorite Starbucks drinks, I wanted to bring in the feel of the branding to mimic it
  • I used a Wilton paper cupcake liner to emulate the shape and feel of a Starbucks cup.
  • I added a faux-logo to the outer liners and wrapped each cake in an additional kraft paper brown liner to simulate the sleeves used on warm cups.
  • I also included green as an overall color, to bring in the branding, and used small pieces of Starbucks straws as toppers. 


Til next time, friends!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Save the Date Photos

I had trouble deciding what to do for our Save the Date cards. There are SO MANY OPTIONS out there. Especially in a world where Pinterest exists. It's kinda ridiculous. So, I did a quick poll on Facebook. The obvious preference was for a photo magnet - so that's what we're gonna do!

Before you can create a photo magnet, however, you need a photo. Now, Paul and I have tons of pictures, but an overwhelming majority of them are of the selfie variety...not really what I was looking for in a Save the Date. And, since our engagement portraits with our photographer are scheduled for October (when the leaves are all magical and what not), we needed a little help. 

We procured the help of our friend, Mike Terry, who takes lovely photos. He met us down on the Bentonville square for part of the shoot, then followed us to Paul's grandmother's house for the other half. We had so much fun and got some great photos out of it! You've prolly seen most of 'em on Facebook, but if not, here are a few of our favorites. 

Like 'em? We sure do. They make me so happy! Our friend Michael has designed the card using our favorite photo (not shown here, y'all will just have to wait). I just love it! Can't wait to send 'em out!

Be on the lookout for an awesome Save the Date magnet coming soon to a mailbox near you!

Til next time, friends!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: The Dress

Hands down, the question I get asked most often lately is, "Have you found a dress, yet?!?"

Unlike most questions where I have to say "Well...sorta, but we're still working out the details," this one I get to answer with a "Yes!"

And here's the story of how I found it.

About a month ago, Tutu and I drove down to Brinkley, Arkansas and met Momma and Kaitlin in the parking lot of Low's Bridal and Formal.

Now, if you've never been to Brinkley (or haven't even heard of it), you really aren't missing all that much. There's really not a whole lot there other than Low's. But trust me, that's enough.

This place is incredible. I mean, really, just look at it!

It's the largest bridal shop in the south, and one of the biggest in the nation. They've been in business for over 30 years and offer gowns from over 50 designers. They carry more gowns than Brinkley has people and keep about 3,000 in stock at the shop - which is itself amazing. It's an old railroad hotel that's been transformed into a treasure trove of all things white, fluffy, lacy, and sparkly. Their gowns range in price from well under $1,000 on the first floor up to $6,000 in the upper floor designer rooms.

Now, bein' from Memphis, you grow up hearing about girls shopping for their dresses at Low's. So, naturally, this was one of those things on my "Must Do for the Wedding" list. It's a bit of a drive from Fayetteville (4 or so hours), but totally worth it. Plus, Tutu drove down with me, so the commute was much more fun.

My appointment was on a Saturday, making it easier for Momma and Kait to come meet me, but cutting down on the amount of time we'd have with a consultant. Since they're so busy, Saturday appointments are only an hour and a half (v. the normal two hour slots). Knowing this made me a little nervous. I've never been good at on-the-spot decisions - I freeze up and can't think. I went to bed the night before terrified that it was going to be an awful experience. I wrote this in my journal:
"I'm supposed to be exited about this. I'm not. Not at all. I'm terrified. Kinda sick to my stomach. I'm just so worried they'll be mean to me or rude and that nothing will fit (or even look good). And I KNOW it's all going to be too expensive. Ugh. I don't want to do this after all. Can I just chicken out and not go...?"
But I did go. Mostly because I knew I'd get to see Momma and Kait, and partially because I've been looking forward to this for so long. Turns out, my worries could not have been more unfounded. We had a great time.

We arrived a little early, to get checked in and settled. I had time to hug my best friend, squeal a little, and walk around in absolute awe at the amount of tulle they'd packed into each room. I got a little overwhelmed wondering how on EARTH I was going to pick one.

Then, we met our lovely consultant, Ms. Juliette. She had the sweetest face and I calmed down almost immediately. I showed her some photos of dresses I liked, and she whisked me upstairs to find a fitting room. We stopped briefly in one of the rooms to check out a specific dress I'd mentioned. It was just as lovely as the photos I'd seen...but the price tag had a 4 followed by far too many zeros, so we kept walking.

We wandered several of the rooms, sifting through hundreds of surprisingly heavy dress bags, trying to find something I liked. If you know me, you know once I get an idea in my kinda stays there. I knew what kind of dress I wanted, and I wasn't seeing one like it. It took a while, but we finally found a few that looked promising.

I think I tried on about eight dresses. I really can't remember. We narrowed it down to two fairly quick, then took a tour of the downstairs rooms to see if there was anything there I liked better. In the middle of looking for the right size in one I'd seen on a mannequin, Momma pulled out a dress that looked nothing like the ones I'd been trying. Honestly, I was not immediately impressed. But, I told her I'd try it, so we swept it off to the room.

Next thing I knew, I was in that dress and everyone was all weepy and sigh-y. I was still pretty sure I liked another one better...but I'd gotten the best reactions from this one. The longer I stared in the mirror, the more I fell in love with it. I didn't really want to take it off.

Then, I had to pick. Juliette let me try on my two favorites, back to back, and my brain went to that place it does when I have to make a decision. All logical reasoning ceased. I had absolutely no idea which one I liked better. I felt paralyzed.

Brides, if no one else has told you, picking out a dress isn't all princess twirls and lace. It's stressful. And scary. And emotional. And, honestly, kinda sucks. There, I said it. Don't let anyone fool you.

Shopping for the dress: SUPER FUN. Choosing a dress: SUPREMELY AWFUL.

I must have gone back and forth between those two at least three times (which, with all those layers, was no easy task). And poor Juliette, my 1.5 hour appointment quickly became a 2 hour ordeal. I just couldn't decide. Finally, I had Momma send Daddy a photo of each dress. After she sent him the first photo - of the dress she'd found that I hadn't expected to love so much - he called, crying, saying he didn't need to see any others. That, coupled with the look on Kait's face when she saw it, and the way it made Momma tear up and hide in the other room...kinda sealed the deal. I loved the other one, too, but this was clearly the right choice.

So, we made the decision, changed clothes, paid for our treasure, and headed over to the local antique store + cafe for lunch.

It was such a fun time - and I'm so glad I got to share it with some of my favorite people. I ADORE my dress - it's perfect. It'll go so well with the venue, and the even has beadwork that looks a little like snowflakes! Everyone that's seen it has absolutely loved it. Plus, I feel amazing in it...and that's what really counts, right? Can't wait for y'all to see it in January!

Til then, here's a sneak peek.

Til next time, friends!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Manly Cupcake Challenge!

...and a not so subtle plea for votes...

So the other day I told y'all about the cupcake competition I'm participating in. Remember?

Well, there are multiple parts of this competition, and I need your help for one of them. 


You have to go do that annoying "voting on Facebook" thing (sorry...I know...gah).

Anyway, if you wouldn't mind, I'd love the votes. 

I submitted one of my cakes for the Manly Cupcake Challenge. The goal was to create a cupcake that embodied a manly attitude. 

I modeled mine after Daddy, 'cause, well, he's a man. Makes sense, right?

Here it is:

Buttery Bourbon Bacon
Butter cake infused with Woodford Reserve (yes, the good stuff) bourbon, iced with brown sugar bourbon buttercream (woot, alliteration), and topped with strips of candied bacon!

Sound awesome? Take a look:

So, here's how it'll work. You're gonna go vote here:

Look for my cupcake, "Butter Bourbon Bacon" (NOT the maple bacon...find the one with MY name), vote for it, and give yourself a big 'ol hug from me!

Thanks, guys! Owe you one!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Red Carpet Cupcake Challenge

As part of its 50th Year Anniversary Celebration, Youth Bridge (a local non-profit) is hosting a special multi-tiered competition called "Cupcake a-Palooza." Events over the summer months will lead up to the grand finale: the Red Carpet Cupcake Challenge (to be held on Sunday September 8, 2013.) In this challenge, 4 contestants from two divisions - professional and amateur - will compete in a live baking contest before a panel of celebrity judges. Winners take home cash, prizes, a trophy, and bragging rights.

To enter, contestants submit a photo and description of a previously baked cupcake as well as a brief personal statement about their history with baking and why they're right for the competition. 

A selection of those contestants are then chosen to participate in Round Two, where they bake their submitted cake for a new panel of judges. 

Then, the top four in each division are eligible to advance to the live competition on September 8th where they will bake a "Red Carpet" inspired cupcake.

Sounds cool, right?

I might have entered.

A little...

And I might have made it to Round Two. 

A little...

And I might be a little bit nervous.

A little...

But it's gonna be fine, right?


So, my next task is to make these bad boys for a panel of judges. Fingers crossed they like them as much as I do!

Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes
  • Description: Mocha cake with a chocolate-espresso ganache filling, frosted with salted carmel buttercream and topped with caramel drizzle and a few green sugar crystals. 
  • Design: I modeled these after one of my favorite Starbucks drinks, and I wanted to include (and highlight) all the fun flavors in the drink.
    • I used coffee to make the chocolate cake and included espresso in the ganache filling, giving it a lovely mocha flavor.
    • For the buttercream, I used my standard recipe and flavored it with a homemade salted caramel sauce - I wanted to control the sweet-to-salty ratio, so making the caramel myself allowed me to decide where the perfect balance was. 
    • I used a little of the remaining sauce to drizzle over the cakes and finished them off with a few green sugar crystals (to bring in the Starbucks green) and their characteristic green straw
    • For presentation, I wrapped the cakes in white ribbon and a green sticker to simulate the branding on the cup. 

Send all your happy/good luck/you'll be fine vibes my way, k? I'll let you know how it goes. 

Happy Thursday! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: Who's Who (Men's Edition)

Hey there Internet! It's me, The Boy. Recently, Alana shared with you the ladies who will be standing with her at the wedding. Well, I think it's time we gave this blog a shot of testosterone, so I'm here to talk about the dudes in the ceremony. So get ready, because you're about to have a manly matrimony moment.

Weddings can be tough work. One minute you're standing up front, getting ready to watch your bride walk down the aisle and then - bam - you're getting attacked by ninjas, or ghost pirates, or Twihards. And I think we all know what kind of danger can rear its head during the reception (krakens, of course). I needed to make sure that when the going got tough, I'd have some of my own tough to get going. And, outside of all the fighting that will have to be done, I'll also need men capable of supplying me with bacon or whiskey whenever its appropriate, which means always and together because duh.

There was only one qualifying criteria that each of the guys needed to meet, but I think it covered all the bases of what makes a good groomsman/usher:

Each one of these men were selected because they have the skills and qualities to make sure this wedding goes off without a hitch. To quote Will Smith "WELCOME TO EARTH!" More relevantly, to quote someone talking to Will Smith "we're looking for the best of the best of the best." Well, I think we've found them.


May The Best Man Win Best Man - Cameron Garcia and Michael Carlson

Iron sharpens iron, so, in order to ensure that I've got the greatest best other-adjectives-meaning-good man possible, I've decided to have two men fight to the death over the position. Unfortunately, despite what I've seen on American Gladiator and The Bachelor, gladiatorial combat is illegal in America (thanks, Obama) so instead, I'll just have them compete for the job (you can follow the results on here!). Either way I'll end up with a battle tested and weary Best Man and Best Man Runner Up, and their grizzled veteran status will bring a lot to the party.

Officer Mark Bradley
There is really no situation where it's a bad thing to have the law on your side, unless you live in an anarchical state in which case having the law on your side is basically just having an imaginary friend. Luckily, I've known Mark for a long time and if I can tell you one thing about him, it's that he's not imaginary. I know I can count on him to help out with even the most time consuming of tasks because he was once the campaign manager for my write-in candidacy for ASG at the University of Arkansas, an election bid that failed because we never once campaigned or told anyone to vote for me. But he was still a pretty good campaign manager.

Starting Shooting Guard Patrick Murphy
Were you aware that the number one cause* of divorce in America stems from wives being embarrassed when their spouses are destroyed in surprise pickup basketball games at their wedding? I'm not going to let that happen to me. So, to ensure my dominance of both long-term marital bliss and the hardwood, I've recruited one of the greatest shooters the NBA has ever seen. Nobody else better try and take a shot, though, or there might be trouble. Plus Patrick was my roommate for three years, so we've had time to develop some chemistry on the court.

Brother-in-Law-to-Be Jake Hale
You know what runs thicker than water? Lots of stuff, like molasses, or slushy, or dishwashing detergent, or vegetables that you've left in the back of the car for a month. But also blood, which is why the saying "blood runs thicker than water" is a colloquial phrase for talking about family bonds. I don't have a brother for now, but I'm about to get one, and I'm just going to go ahead and bank on already having his loyalty. I mean, have you seen the other guys on the roster? There's a good chance I'm going to need some loyal help to bury bodies in the desert when this all blows up in my fa... uh, I mean, to help me... dispose of... crap, this isn't getting any better. Quick, look over there, a velociraptor playing Scott Joplin on a harpsichord!

And Then There Were Four

So that's the starting five for the groomsmen, but of course you can't have a wedding without some guys ready to crack skulls and keep everyone in line (and also show people to their seats or whatever). That's where my ushers will come in.

No, not that one. These ones.

Andrew English
Andrew and I have been learning how to publicly administrate things together at the U of A, and although I am now the master of publicly administrating, perhaps one day the student will become the master. For now, he's an usher, which does not relate at all to public administration. 

Stuart Power
One time in high school I played Stuart's father in a film about Vietnam that we made for history class. We would have been shoe-ins for Oscar nominations, except we didn't show the film in a theater so it wasn't eligible. To make up for it, I've made Stuart an usher. 

Ben Ellis
One of two cousins on the list, I've known Ben for his entire life. He's also the youngest dude on the roster, giving him a bright future of ushering if he can hone his talents in this wedding. 

Will Aitken
Cousin number two, giving me a nice, even number of blood relatives in the wedding party. Will has experience in improv comedy, so I know I can count on him to adjust to any situations that come up. Plus he has a beard and the wedding party really needed some facial hair.

Ring Bearer

Luke Bradley
And what wedding party isn't complete without a Wild Card? Well our Wild Card comes in the form of young Mr. Luke Bradley. What will Luke do in the wedding? Nobody knows! That's the joys of a Wild Card. But whatever it is, we can guarantee that you'll want to see it.

- The Boy

* Wait, you came down here to check my source? You don't trust me? I... Look, I just want to be alone right now, OK?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Battle for Best Man: Round One

Remember how I said I've always kinda known who would be in my bridal party? Yeah, you know who hasn't?

The Boy.

I mean, he had no problem choosing a group guys (post on that coming up later), but he hasn't kept a constant roster in his head since he was twelve.

After narrowing down his group, however, he did have trouble picking a Best Man. It came down to his two best friends...but wasn't sure which to choose. So he gave them an option:

  1. He makes a random choice between the two
  2. They compete for it

They're boys, so, ...wanna guess what they chose? Duh. Competition.

And so began

The Battle for Best Man

The Boy decided he would design seven different challenges to assess their skills and worthiness at being his Best Man. These challenges would be based on mutual interests, talents, and knowledge, and would occur over the months leading up to the wedding. First contender to four wins gets the title.

The guys competed in their first challenge last week.

For any of you that know the Boy and his buddies, they're self-proclaimed movie buffs. They've even co-authored a book called The Official Compendium of Movie Ratings which details their opinions on movies, some dating all the way back to the 1940s.

So, for the first challenge, the boys were given a list of movies they'd all reviewed. Their job was to guess how Paul had ranked each movie - getting points depending on how close they were to his official rating. Man with the highest score won.

The winner of this challenge:


Official Score now stands at

Challenge 2 is already in the works - update to come soon.

Happy Monday, all!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Our Little Ring Security Officer

The Boy and I have a sweet set of friends that we’ve known since our college RUF days. The local group has shrunk since college (with folks moving away and what not), but we’ve stayed close with one particular couple – the Bradleys. (BTW, Jenny has a blog, too. Go check her out.)

They were our first friends to have a baby, and we’ve been in love with "Lukey Bear" since we knew he existed. I mean really, who couldn’t love this kid?

We’ve had the chance to spend tons of time with him over the years (dinners with Mark & Jenny, evenings babysitting, etc.) We’ve also been to both of his birthday parties (and had the chance to make his cakes!).

Matter of fact, he associates me with two things:
  1. “Pau” – the cutest way to say Paul ever
  2. “Happy Cakes!” – his name for birthday cake
He hasn’t yet mastered my name, but whenever he sees me, he proves that he can say those two things REALLY WELL. I’m okay with it.

When we started thinking about who we’d ask to be our ring bearer, he was the obvious choice. Sure he may only be two and a half by the time the wedding gets here, but we trust our little Bear. (And yes, it may be asking for trouble, but at least it will be adorable trouble!) Plus, his daddy's a groomsman, so that'll help. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.

Luke’s dad is a police officer (aka “bad guy catcher”), and we wanted to somehow tie that into Luke’s “job.” I’d seen a cute little “Official Ring Bearer” badge on Pinterest, but couldn’t find it to buy ANYWHERE. So, naturally, instead of giving up on the idea, we decided to just make him one.

We found a couple little wood pieces at Michael’s – a small plaque shape and a little sheriff-badge style star. I painted them gold and silver, added text with sharpie, and stuck a pin back to it (so he can wear it on his shirts). 

We then found a little black t-shirt and white iron-on letters and made  him a “uniform” – SECURITY on the front, OFFICIAL RING BEARER on the back. Turned out SUPER cute (in my humble opinion).

My favorite part, though, is the box. Michael’s had pre-finished black boxes (similar to my bridesmaid boxes) that were the perfect size for a t-shirt. I embellished the front with sicker letters and a second badge piece, then stuck a note to Luke from us on the inside lid. I also added a ring pop (to keep in the ring bearer theme), to give him a fun little treat.

Everything fit inside perfectly.

We asked Mark & Jenny first - I used the same note design I had for the girls' boxes - then gave Lukey Bear his box.

He loved getting a present and was really excited about the badge.

His favorite part was, of course, the candy. Gah, isn’t he just the cutest?

Can’t wait to see what kind of fun antics this little monkey adds to our day. It might be crazy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.