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HALF-MARATHON TRAINING


Many months ago I promised my friend Lyndsey that I would run a half-marathon with her on May 5th, which is the one year anniversary of her dad’s death. Her dad died suddenly of a heart attack and they were very close so his death was incredibly hard for her. Lyndsey wants to do something to honor his memory that day and chose this race as a way to do so and to keep herself committed to the healthy lifestyle she’s been living the last couple of years. Lyndsey means the world to me so I didn’t even hesitate when she asked me if I’d run this race with her.

I always knew that this wasn’t going to be a race that I’d be running to set a personal record at so I honestly didn’t put a whole lot of thought into training for it. With everything I have going on with the wedding right now I just kept thinking, “Oh, I’ll come up with a plan later. I still have time.”

I now have exactly 6 weeks until the race (as of yesterday) and I am in the worst cardio shape I’ve been in a long, long time. I don’t remember the last time I ran more than 3 days in one week and I don’t remember the last time I ran more than 5 miles. Actually, that’s a lie. I remember both of those things and they were both back in December.     (hangs her head in shame)

That is not good. I distinctly remember all of the pain I was in when I finished my last half-marathon and I do NOT want to experience that again. I will be running this race at a slower place than I did the last but that does not mean I should take this race any less seriously. 13.1 miles is a long way to run and it’s going to seem even longer given the pitiful shape that I’m in.

I don’t want to let Lyndsey down and I don’t want to kill myself the day of the race so I’ve finally come up with a training plan for the next six weeks that I WILL STICK TO!

(click image to enlarge)

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One of the ways that runners get injured is to increase their weekly mileage too quickly. This is definitely something that I fear for the next six weeks since I’ll be taking my mileage from 9-10 miles a week to 20-30 miles a week. AAAHHHH!

My wedding also falls in the middle of all of this training, which is going to make things a little interesting (see the purple day on the schedule). I’m taking off work starting at noon on Thursday and won’t be returning to work until Wednesday the following week. Ross and I aren’t taking our honeymoon until September (more on that later) but we are going down to his family’s house in Rockport the day after the wedding and staying there until Tuesday evening. He has A LOT of family coming in from out of state for the wedding and we want to make sure we get plenty of quality time with them.

My challenge will be balancing spending time with family/not drinking too much with running enough so that I don’t kill myself in six weeks. It’s going to be tough and I promise to keep you updated. Wish me luck!

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VEGAN BUDGET PROJECT – WEEK 1 RECAP


In case you missed the first blog post about being Vegan on a Budget you can read it here. The gist of it is that Ross and I are currently spending an average of $600 per month on groceries and household items/toiletries for just the two of us (INSANE!) and I’d like to cut it down to $400. I think $400 is reasonable for us because we both take our lunches to work every day, we both eat a lot of food, and we only eat out once a week (Friday night date night!) and that’s usually some place pretty cheap. This past Friday we went out for Mexican food and spend only $24 including tax and tip!

Alright, let’s get down to business. I made three different trips last week that resulted in me spending money on groceries and I am happy to report that I stayed under budget! 

Total spending last week: $90.31

Instead of going to the store on Monday I decided to make lasagna with the ingredients I had on hand. I made tofu ricotta and used the vegan sausage I had bought the week before on a whim. It was delicious and Ross really enjoyed it! I’d share the recipe but I didn’t measure I single thing. It was a lot of “a handful of this, a squeeze of that, a pinch of those,” etc. That’s really the main reason I don’t share more recipes with you guys – I’m awful at remembering to measure things when I’m cooking!

Tuesday night Ross and I went to Costco and here’s what we came home with:

  • 6 lbs of pears – $6.99
  • 64 oz of kosher pickles – $5.59
  • 2 lbs of baby spinach – $4.29
  • Mixed kale salad – $4.99
  • Frozen tropical fruit – $9.89
  • Frozen antioxidant fruit – $9.69
  • Organic spring mix salad – $3.99
  • Pineapple – $2.99
  • 2.5 lbs of peanuts – $4.99
  • 1.5 lbs of mushrooms – $3.69
  • Kids Clif Bars – $10.45
  • 13 lbs of oranges – $8.99

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Total = $76.54 

My goal was to spend about $75 so I didn’t think this was too bad! I buy frozen fruit because Ross likes to snack on it in the evenings (it’s a better choice than popsicles) and I also use it for my smoothies (I have a smoothie for breakfast 4 or 5 mornings each week). The Kids Clif Bars are for Ross to take to work. There are several days a week where he has to train six or seven 1-hour sessions in a row and he needs something quick to eat in between to help keep his energy up. In an ideal world I would make homemade snack bars for him to take to work but we’re not quite there yet.

Note: as of this morning (Monday) we still have about half of the stuff from Costco left. We ate all the pickles, pears, spring mix, and kale salad mix and almost all of the spinach and Clif bars but we still have a lot of everything else. Buying at Costco can really be a time and money saver if you’re smart about it.  

On Wednesday I went to Wheatsville to get a couple more things. I don’t normally shop there because their prices can but pretty high but they’re the only store in town that I know sells soy curls. Here’s what I ended up getting there:

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  • Organic whole spelt tortillas – $4.34
  • Butler Soy Curls – $4.34
  • Gardein Crispy Tenders – $4.34

Total = $13.02 

No, all three of these items didn’t cost exactly $4.34 but my total was $13.02 and I didn’t keep my receipt. I knew they were all $4 and change so I just split the cost evenly for the sake of reporting it to you.

I buy these Gardein Crispy Tenders because Ross loves them and will happily eat these instead of real meat (I’m vegan, he’s not even vegetarian). He likes to cook them in the toaster oven so they’re nice and crispy and then puts them in a tortilla with lettuce and spicy wing sauce to make a buffalo tender wrap. He eats this 2-3 times a week and it keeps him happy. As much as I wish he’d eat real food instead of processed meat substitutes I still prefer this over him eating real meat!

The same goes for the soy curls. These soy curls cook up to have a very similar consistency and taste to chicken so we use them in jambalaya and a few other dishes. I prefer these over other meat substitutes because they’re much less processed. The only ingredient is soy beans and they’re actually less processed than tofu (which has been around for hundreds of years). I still don’t cook with them very often but I felt as if my poor omnivore fiance was being neglected in the food department lately so I bought them.

Note: as of this morning we still have 1/2 a bag of soy curls and 1/2 of the tortillas left. One bag of crispy tenders makes two and a half wraps for Ross (10 tenders per bag). 

We also went to Target on Friday night and bought 3 bananas for $0.75 total, which I did not take a picture of.

Note: as of this morning we still have 2 of the bananas. Ross didn’t ride his bike on Sunday like he thought he was going to so the bananas survived and will probably end up as part of his lunch today. 

To help keep grocery costs down this week I tried to focus on eating things out of my pantry. While this does skew this report of what you can survive on for under $100 per week as a healthy half-vegan/half-omnivore couple I don’t feel like it’s affects it that much. Dried rice and beans are really cheap and I could have bought more than enough of those for the week and still come in under $100.

Here’s what the weeks menu looked like:

  • Monday: Breakfast: frozen blueberries, granola, oats, pumpkin seeds, and almonds topped with soy milk. Lunch: leftover chili I found in the freezer. Dinner: We both had lasagna
  • Tuesday: Breakfast: frozen blueberries, granola, oats, pumpkin seeds, and almonds topped with soy milk. Lunch: Salad from Whole Foods (I was craving veggies and hadn’t gone to the store yet!). Dinner: We both had leftover lasagna
  • Wednesday: Breakfast: Green smoothie. Lunch: kale salad mix and brown rice and black beans with some salsa and a sprinkle of chili powder and nutritional yeast. Dinner: I had dinner with Lynn at her house while working on stuff for the wedding, Ross had a Gardein wrap and a salad.
  • Thursday: Breakfast: Green smoothie. Lunch: kale salad mix and an almond butter and jelly sandwich. Dinner: I had brown rice, black beans, and mushrooms sauted with nutritional yeast, chili powder, red wine vinegar, served taco-style in a tortilla and topped with hot sauce. Ross had a Gardein wrap and a salad.
  • Friday: Breakfast: Green smoothie. Lunch: kale salad mix and ?? something else, don’t remember what. Dinner: veggie fajitas at Baby A’s and way too many chips.
  • Saturday: Breakfast: frozen blueberries, granola, oats, pumpkin seeds, and almonds topped with soy milk. Lunch: I had a green smoothie, Ross had a mini Gardein wrap. Dinner: food from Julio and Amanda’s wedding reception.
  • Sunday: Breakfast: homemade banana bread. Lunch:  brown rice, black beans, and mushrooms sauted with nutritional yeast, chili powder, red wine vinegar, served taco-style in a tortilla and topped with hot sauce. Dinner: I made lentil dal and jasmine rice made with coconut milk. Ross doesn’t like lentils so he had some leftover fish from his bachelor party deep-sea fishing trip, plain rice, and a salad.

Even though I didn’t buy any last week to report the exact costs, dried beans, rice, quinoa, barley, lentils, etc. are all really cheap and a great way to eat healthy while keeping grocery costs down. Ross doesn’t like beans or lentils so I don’t make them as often as I would like but he does like rice so I’m gong to work on cooking different varieties of rice for him!

One tip that I received in the comments of the last blog was to track my grocery spending based on category so I have a better understanding of what we spend our money on. Here’s how it broke down last week:

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I consider week one of the Vegan Budget Project to be a great success and am really hopeful that I’ll be able to keep slashing our grocery bill for the rest of the year!

I also submitted this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays. If you want to find out how Week 2 went then head over there by clicking this link and scroll down until you find my post!

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WEDDING: MY BRIDAL SHOWER


My bridal shower actually took place on March 9th but I’m just now getting around to posting about it. What else is new?

It was such a perfect day! I got up around 7:00 that morning and started cleaning because my friend Emily was coming to town for the shower and would be staying with us. Wedding decorations and supplies had taken over the guest room so I figured I should make room for her before she arrived.

Hannah picked up me and Emily around 12:00 and we headed to the shower early (it had a 2:00 start time) so Hannah could start decorating and I could start juicing. I knew there was going to be plenty of wine and mimosas but I also wanted to make some fresh juice for people who don’t drink. I made two delicious juices that were gone before I knew it: one was broccoli and pear and the other juice was apple, orange, beet, carrot, cucumber, zucchini, and ginger. Oh, I also made fresh orange juice to go with the mimosas too!

Guests starting arriving at 2:00 and it was great to see so many people I love in one room, especially people I don’t see very often (Tess!).

Look at Hannah’s face in this one!

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The gift was a hand-painted serving bowl from my former boss at Cafe Monet!

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Again with Hannah’s awesome faces. The one below is for the Mrs. Dix hanger that I received for my wedding dress!

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My wonderful friend who got me the hanger brought along her (at the time) two-week old baby boy. Isn’t he precious?

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The shower started at 2:00 and we didn’t end up leaving until 6:00! I had such a great time and I didn’t want the day to end! A few friends come back to our place afterwards and we ordered pizza and chatted until the wee hours of the morning.

The next day some friends came over to my place and helped Ross’s mom and I put together the invitations, assemble the program fans, put together the menus for the tables, and cut out more flower for the pomanders!

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We got so much done that day! Thank you Debbie, Becca, Crystal, Emily, and Lisa for all of your help! Crystal was even a champ and took the program fans home with her to finish. I don’t know what I would have done without these ladies, and without my lovely bridesmaids. Thank you all so much for you help and for a wonderful shower! : )

The invitations have been sent and the RSVPs are starting to come in!! I’m so excited! Today leaves exactly one month until the wedding (EEK!) so I’ll be posting a one-month-to-go update soon!

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VEGAN ON A BUDGET – THE GOAL


One question that I get asked pretty often when people find out that I’m vegan (or just that I eat healthy) is whether or not it’s more expensive. Honestly, it’s not really more expensive. Sure it can be, but that’s really only if you’re cooking with a lot of expensive ingredients or buying a lot of junk food, which is something that you can easily do as a meat-eater as well. The most expensive items are things like vegan cheese, vegan mayo, non-dairy ice cream, fake meats, tahini and maple syrup.

I recently took a look at our past grocery spending and I was disappointed at what I saw. For those of you who don’t know, I am a super planner and crazy lover-of-spreadsheets. When Ross and I opened our joint checking account back in March of 2011 I starting tracking all of our expenses in an excel spreadsheet (yes I know there are other programs I can use but this works well for me). I can know exactly how much we’ve spent on groceries, bills, and “other” expenses each month since then.

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A couple of things to note about this little chart…

1. I started following a plant-based (vegan) diet on November 1, 2011.

2. Yes, I realize that the average for 2012 is actually higher than that for 2011, which might make you believe that being vegan is slightly more expensive. However, I honestly think it’s coincidence and has nothing to do with me following a vegan diet. It probably has more to do with the fact that I started My Healthy Chef and was crazy excited about cooking all the time! 

3. These numbers are not just for our groceries but also for any items that get purchased at the grocery store. Some months are significantly higher because I tend to buy our toiletries and cleaning products in batches rather than all spread out. Once you’re in that area of the store you remember all kinds of things you need that are not on your list. Happens every single time.

4. In 2012 I also started buying environmentally friendly cleaning products instead of the cheapo stuff I used to buy, so that affected the appearance of our grocery bill as well. Icky chemicals are cheaper – that holds true in cleaning products and food as well.

Let me remind you that it’s just Ross and I eating these groceries. An average of $550-$600 a month for just two people is ridiculous in my opinion. But, like I said, I don’t know the true cost of our groceries because these number reflect non-food items as well. I did a little bit of Googling to see what the average monthly grocery bill is for a family of two and I was not surprised to see that ours is definitely on the high side. I saw a lot of responses that reported couples spending around $400 a month on groceries. I am not sure that we could just do $400 a month but I would really like us to get more of a handle on our grocery spending and I’m going to use this blog to help me do it!

So here’s my budget plan.

1. Spend no more than $100 on food items at the grocery store per week. Each new week will run from Monday to Sunday and today(March 18, 2013) is Day 1!

2. Separate out our non-food items and pay for them separately, so I can see the difference in cost and better track our spending in both areas.

3. Make a rough plan of what I’m going to cook each week so I can use more of the ingredients I already have on hand. This will (hopefully) make for less special trips to the store and thereby help to reduce the spending. I am also hoping this will encourage me to make more real meals to be posted on here and eat fewer veggie/hummus wraps like I’ve been doing lately.

4. Document and share our spending every week. I’ll photograph what we purchased and tell you how much it cost at what store. This will help others who are new to eating healthy/vegan to have a better understanding of what to buy and where to get it, and this will help me to know exactly where our grocery money is going each week.

Eating healthy and/or vegan can definitely be more expensive if you let it. I want to prove that it doesn’t have to be! Today is day 1 of this Vegan Budget Project but I am not going to go to the store today. Instead I am going to go home and see what is in my pantry that needs to be eaten and make a plan for the rest of the week. It might be easier to stick to the budget this week because I know of a lot of things at home that need to be eaten, but that’s okay. I’ll stick with it and keep posting next and we’ll see how difficult (or surprisingly easy) it is for me to lower our grocery budget!

I know that two people can easily eat on smaller budget than Ross and I do and it’s our choice to spend as much on food as we do. However, it’s not necessary and I can think of a lot of other things we should be spending our money on at the moment (hello student loan debt!). My goal is for us to take the bill from $600 per month to around $400. I know that’s not a very small budget for some people but you have to remember a couple of things:

1. Ross and I both take our lunch to work every day and Ross is very active at work (he’s a personal trainer).

2. We only go out to eat on Friday nights (date night!).

3. Ross and I are athletes (really him more so than me right now) so we eat a  lot because we need to eat a lot!

I’d love to hear what your monthly or weekly grocery bill is! 

*I’m also submitting this blog post to Healthy Vegan Fridays. If you haven’t checked it out yet then you should!

Update: You can read about my budget progress here!

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WEDDING GUILT


I’m not the only bride who struggles with wedding guilt, right? Please tell me I’m not. Please tell me that someone else out there feels at least a small amount of guilt for asking their bridesmaids to get together twice a month for DIT (do-it-together) craft sessions. Or you feel guilty when you think about your bridesmaids spending money on food and decorations for your bridal shower. And of course you feel guilty for having a bridal shower at all, with all those people there giving you gifts, right?

Surely you feel a little bit guilty over the fact that so many people are going to have to spend money on new clothes for your wedding – the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, the flower girl’s parents, the ring bearers’  parents, etc. And you feel especially guilty because the ring bearers are brothers so their parents have to buy two little grey suits that their kids will surely never wear again, and the flower girl’s dad is also a groomsman (again, two outfits) and their whole family is flying here (Texas) from Wisconsin and taking several days off of work and you can’t even imagine how much your silly wedding is costing them.

(my head is starting to spin)

At the very least please tell me that you feel guilty for all of the money that your fiancé is spending to give you the wedding of your dreams, when he’s also knowingly marring you and the $75,000 of student loan debt that you have. How about the fact that people will be paying money to get their hair and nails done with you the day before and the day of the wedding? Surely you wonder if they’re doing it because they really want to spend that money on themselves or if they’re doing it just because that’s what’s done for weddings and they want to make you happy.

What about the fact that your wedding is taking place 20 minutes south of the city you live in? You know of at least 10 people who will have a 45 minute or more drive to get to the venue for the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, and then again the next morning for the actual ceremony rehearsal, not to mention for the ceremony itself. And that’s only the guilt for the in-town people – what about those coming from different cities, or different states? And of course that brings on the guilt over the fact that your wedding is at 6:30 in the evening and the night’s festivities will most definitely cut into kids’ bed times and the long commute home will limit how late people will want to stay, how much they can drink, etc.

Please, please tell me that I am not the only bride who thinks about these things. Even though I have been IN and TO many, many weddings and I’m always happy to go to the showers, buy a dress, get my hair done, buy a gift, show up early to help decorate, stay and drink… even though it doesn’t bother me to do these things for other people’s weddings I can’t help but feel bad for asking others to do the same for mine.

I am aware that it’s a bit ridiculous. I have talked to some friends about it and asked for their honest opinions – “Am I asking too much of people for my wedding?” Each time I ask I’m greeted with ardent “Of course not! You’re crazy for thinking that! We love you and we’re so happy to be a part of your day,” etc. Still, I can’t help but worry. I don’t think there’s much I can do to make the guilt go away so now I’m just desperately hoping that I am not the only crazy bride out there who is plagued with these guilty thoughts.

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LET’S CATCH UP


It’s be a long time since I’ve posted anything and that’s because I have so much to say that I don’t know where to start. So instead of telling you all about it, I’m going to show you.

Here’s what I’ve been cooking and eating lately!

I finally ran out of veggie burgers after committing to make veggie burgers for Vegan MoFo so I decided it was time to make more.

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I found an awesome recipe for these great, quick, yummy whole wheat biscuits.

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I cannot stop making hummus. I feel like each batch I make tastes better than the one before it, so why would I stop?

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Mashed potatoes are one of the ultimate comfort foods.

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I’ve been eating salad like it’s my job!

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Here is proof that not everything I cook turns out tasty. Popped these eggplants in the oven, tried to multitask and ruined my snack.

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I’ve been Instagraming my dinners lately. Not sure why. In the first picture we have mushrooms with my miso/ginger/tahini sauce, awesome salad with honey mustard dressing, and half a veggie burger on sprouted whole grain bread with hummus. Down below we have more mushrooms, raw broccoli salad, and creamy butternut squash soup.

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This one didn’t photograph well but it tasted SO good! Brown rice, kale, mushrooms, and butternut squash topped with my favorite vegan cheeze sauce.

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This isn’t something I ate but something that I found at Sprouts! I was so happy to see all those vegan sauces but then realized I’ll never try them when I saw the price. They must use gold as their secret ingredient.

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I got a new juicer! Actually I got an old juicer but it’s new to me. I went to an estate sale in Dallas and found this old school professional Juiceman juicer for $5! How could I not buy it? I finally tried it out this weekend and was really pleased! It works just as well (if not better) than the juicer I got for Christmas and it’s soooooo much quieter! I haven’t been juicing much lately because it wakes Ross up in the morning but now that I have this uber quiet one I should be back to juicing on a regular basis. Also, oranges are 5 pounds for $1 at Sprouts through Wednesday of this week. That is about 15 oranges for ONE DOLLAR! Go buy oranges.

The juice below is 1 apple, 1 orange, 3 carrots, 1/2 cucumber, 1/2 zucchini, 1 large beet. So refreshing!

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Ross was out of town this weekend for his bachelor party so Hannah came over for a sleepover on Saturday night. We made homemade pizza, drank champagne, and watched about a bazillion episodes of Say Yes to the Dress!

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Now let me tell about what’s been going on with wedding related stuff!

Hannah has been helping me get all these wine bottles ready to be the centerpieces for my wedding reception.

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When Ross and I were in Dallas weekend before last we went to Sam’s Club and bought all of the red wine for the wedding…

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…as well as all of the plastic plates, cups, silverware, napkins, etc. and almost all of the snacks we’ll need for our snack table. I may or may not have had a small panic attack at the store over how much we were spending, even though it was spot-on with how much I estimated when I made our budget.

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That’s just so much!

I also went to Ulta when I was in Dallas and got a lesson in how to do my own make-up for the wedding. I had a male make-up instructor which I absolutely loved! He was so great. What was not great was how much I ended up spending on make-up that day…

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That small pile of make-up cost more than my rehearsal dinner dress and shoes combined (as well as the dress I’m wearing out for drinks the Thursday before the wedding). Make-up is crazy expensive and I was really naive about it because I don’t really wear it. Before this trip to Ulta I only owned mascara, eyeliner and blush. I added to my collection a 3-in-1 foundation, concealer for under my eyes (which makes a HUGE difference by the way), new blush, eye shadow, and lipstick.

My teacher guy really did an awesome job teaching my how to do my make-up. I’ve gotten my makeup done for events in the past and Ross hates it every time. I was really nervous to show him my make-up after my trip to Ulta but luckily he loved it! I got my make-up done for the Margarita Ball two years in a row and finally decided the third year to just do my own make-up. Ross told me I looked the best that year.

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It’s a good thing I learned how to do my own make-up because I had my bridal portraits scheduled for last week! I got my hair done in a practice run and then got to face 40 mile an hour wind while the photographer attempted to get pretty pictures of me. He says he got some good ones but we’ll see. I can’t wait to show them to you (after the wedding).

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This is the jewelry I wore for the portraits but it is not the jewelry I’m going to be wearing for the wedding.

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After the pictures were done I changed out of my dress and we did some walking around the venue to test out our decorations, measure some things, etc.

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And this is what my hair looked like after undoing all the pretty work my hairdresser did.

11That’s all for now. I have more things to share but this will have to do for today!