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BEST-EVER VEGGIE BURGER


This is honestly the best veggie burger I’ve ever had! So much so that I had two of them for dinner last night. It’s got great flavor, it doesn’t fall apart while cooking or while eating, the texture is wonderful, and it’s healthy. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a burger?

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Like most recipes, this one was originally inspired by someone else’s recipe. At the time it was one of the best veggie burgers I’d ever had but it was still lacking something. I kept making the burger and changing some things around each time and the burger kept getting better and better.

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I made these burgers this past weekend for a Memorial Day BBQ that Ross and I had at our place and I think I’ve finally got the recipe just right!

KICK-ASS VEGGIE BURGER – Makes 5 burgers

  • Flax egg: 2.5 tbsp ground flax + 1/2 cup warm water, mixed in a small bowl
  • 1/2 of a large sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of oats ground into flour with a food processor
  • 1.5 cups high-quality bread crumbs (I use 3 slices sprouted whole grain bread, ground with my food processor)
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran (found in the cereal aisle, or use more bread crumbs)
  • 2 large carrots, grated with food processor attachment
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and pulsed a few times with the food processor
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flax and water, stir well and set aside. I buy whole flax seeds and grind them in my coffee grinder.

2. In a pan over medium-high heat, saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, adding 1-2 tbsp of water if needed.

3. Use the grater attachment on your food processor to grate the carrots (should end up with about 1 cup total) and add to a large bowl with the onions and garlic. Remove the grater attachment and replace the normal S blade on the food processor.

4. One at a time, process the oats into flour, the bread slices into crumbs, and the beans into a rough mixture. Add these ingredients to the bowl with the carrots and onion as you go.

5. In a small skillet, toast the slivered almonds over high heat, shaking or stirring often, until they start to brown and become fragrant. Add to the bowl with the other ingredients.

6. Add the raw pumpkin seeds, wheat bran, flax egg, parsley, and all other spices and seasonings to the bowl. Make sure you’re hands are clean and you’ve removed your rings, then mix all the ingredients together by hand.

7. Taste your mixture. It’s all vegan so there’s absolutely no harm in eating this raw. Your mix should be nice and flavorful before you cook it. If it’s not, add a few more spices. I recommend sticking to what’s listed here and just add 1/2 tsp more of a few things, see how you like it. If you feel adventurous and want to add in some other spices, be my guest and tell me how it turns out!

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8. Use your hands to form into patties. Make sure you really squeeze and pat the mixture together, rotating the burger in your hands as you form it, so that it stays together nicely. I usually try and make my patties to be the width of a hamburger bun and no more than an inch thick.

9. Bake on a cookie sheet for 10-15 minute, then flip and bake 10 more minutes. This burger would also hold up nicely on a grill but I always bake mine simply for convenience purposes.

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Most of the hamburger buns found in the store are either not whole grain, they contain milk, or they contain high fructose corn syrup, so I avoid them. I had a lot of extra burgers left over from the BBQ this past weekend and I ate them for my lunches this week simply topped with a little ketchup (no HFCS) and mustard, no bun.

If I’m feeling like I really want a burger experience then I’ll eat it on a toasted English muffin (usually sprouted, but at least 100% whole wheat) or on some toasted bread (again, usually sprouted but at least 100% whole grain).

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I may have gone a little overboard with the ketchup and mustard here… : )

I am also submitting this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Tuned In Tuesdays!

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SIMPLE GREEN SMOOTHIE FORMULA


It’s no secret that I love green smoothies. I have one every weekday morning for breakfast because I think they’re a great way to pack some good nutrients into your diet while still tasting great and feeling like an indulgence. I’m not the only one who loves green smoothies though – there are tons of websites and books out there dedicated to nothing but green smoothies. My most viewed blog post to-date is my Green Smoothies and Juicing: Good or Bad? post, which has 1,714 views as of writing this. Green smoothies are definitely gaining in popularity!

I often get asked, “What do you put in your smoothie?” I don’t have a definitive answer for that because my smoothies vary from day to day. I do, however, have a basic smoothie formula that I use to create all my favorite smoothies and I would be more than happy to share it with you.

smoothie formula

Simple Smoothie Formula

1. Leafy Greens. When making a green smoothie the greens are definitely the most important ingredient. The green that I use the most often is spinach because I can get a huge 2.5 lb bag for $4 at Costco, but it’s important to change things up. Different greens have different nutrients in them and you want to make sure you’re getting a wide array of vitamins. Other great choices are kale, collard greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, or basically any leafy green you can get your hands one. Ice burg lettuce does not count!

2. Creamy Fruit. There are really just two options here: banana and avocado. I honestly love them both and don’t think that one is any better than the other. I always add either one whole banana or 1/2 an avocado. The banana is more traditional adds a little extra sweetness to the smoothie, which can be nice, but the avocado helps to cut down on the sugar and increase that fat, which is definitely not a bad thing. Try them each and see what you think.

3. Frozen Fruit. I always use frozen fruit so that I get a nice cold smoothie without having to add ice to the blender. This will also add sweetness to your smoothie. Most of the time I buy bags of frozen fruit from Costco because I can get a really good deal but sometimes I’ll buy fresh fruit and freeze it myself. I always have frozen bananas on hand (peel, slice, freeze) and sometimes I’ll cut and freeze watermelon, cantaloupe, or pineapple. Those certainly aren’t the only fruits you can freeze yourself – if it’s on sale then take advantage of it!

4. Other veggies. Leafy greens are essential to make a green smoothie but if you’re serious about making a kick-ass healthy drink then you shouldn’t limit yourself. I always add a few more veggies to my smoothie, most often carrots and broccoli. It doesn’t have to be a lot, you can be the judge of how much you add based on the size smoothie that you’re making. I’ve also added beets, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cucumber, frozen asparagus… whatever I have on hand.

5. Liquid. I almost always use water in my smoothies but occasionally I will use almond milk or homemade macadamia nut milk. Any non-dairy milk will do if you don’t want to use water.

6. Super-foods  You don’t have to put every single super-food you’ve ever heard of into every smoothie you make. I have a handful I keep on hand and I rotate through them, choosing 3-4 per smoothie. Here are the ones I have at home and how much of each one I add to my smoothies:

  • Flaxseed – 1 tbsp (I do actually use this one every single time)
  • Chlorella powder – 1 tsp
  • Spirulina powder – 1-2 tsp
  • Maca powder – 1-2 tsp
  • Ceylon cinnamon – 1/2 to 1 tsp
  • Acai powder – 2 tsp
  • Amla powder – 1 tsp
  • Chia seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Protein powder – 1 tbsp to 1/4 cup

7. Extra sweetener. Once I make my smoothie I always stick a straw in before I pour it to see how it tastes. If I think I want it a little sweeter then I’ll add something for additional sweetness. I usually add Stevia but sometimes I’ll use honey, agave, or dates.  You can use any sweetener that you’d like but the two I highly recommend are stevia (all natural, no calories, doesn’t affect your blood sugar) or dates (it’s a whole food). When buying stevia make sure you buy one that only lists stevia extract in the ingredients!

Smoothie

I always make a really big smoothie and pour some into a 24 oz to-go cup with a straw (like the one pictured above) and pour the rest into cleaned out spaghetti jar so it can sit in an air-tight container in the fridge until I’m ready to drink it. I’ll drink 24 oz on my way to work as breakfast and the rest for a snack later in the day. The final measurement of most of my smoothies tends to be 5-6 cups (based on the measurements on the side of my Vitamix).

Now that you know what to put in your smoothie I think it’s important to talk about how to put it all together. The order in which you add your ingredients is actually important.

How to Put it All Together

  1. Super-foods and other powders – putting them in first ensures that they don’t stick to the side of the blender later.
  2. Leafy greens – I fill my blender and then don’t have room for anything else.
  3. Liquids – essential to mix things up.
  4. BLEND – to make room for my other ingredients.
  5. Soft fruits – it’s best to add softer ingredients first and harder ingredients last.
  6. Other veggies – see above explanation.
  7. BLEND.
  8. Taste – add additional sweeteners if necessary and reblend.

How to make smoothie

I hope that gives you all a starting point for making your own smoothies. Next week I’m going to share a post with my favorite smoothie recipes that I make, complete with nutrition facts! I’ve also submitted this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays!

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RECIPE: SUMMER SQUASH AND KALE SOUP


Ross and I have a little garden growing in our front yard and we love it, but it’s certainly nothing to brag about.

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This picture was taken right after we planed everything so it’s all bigger now, but you get the idea. This weekend we visited our friends Alex and Daniel and their garden puts ours to shame. They’ve got rows upon rows of corn, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, lettuce, green beans, various peppers, summer squash, butternut squash, eggplant…

At the moment they’ve got more veggies than the two of them can eat/cook so they hooked me up with a goodie bag to take home! They gave me lots of kale, some summer squash, 2 full heads of lettuce, and some spinach. I knew immediately that I wanted to make a veggie soup with the squash and kale, as well as some black bean and summer squash enchiladas (recipe for that later this week).

I know that soup is always better the second day than it is the first day you make it so I didn’t eat any soup yesterday after I made it. When I was getting some ready for my lunch today I wasn’t very impressed looking at it and wasn’t really sure what I was going to think of it. Well, I’m eating it for lunch right now and it’s so good that I decided to start the recipe post before I even finished eating it! I know it doesn’t look like anything special but it does taste really good and it’s good for you! 

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Summer Squash and Kale Soup – Serves 3

  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 yellow summer squash or zucchini (about 10 ounces), diced
  • 1 full head of kale, washed and torn into post-it note sized pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 cubes Not-Chick’n flavored bouillon
  • 4 cups of hot water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. In a heavy bottomed soup pot (preferably a dutch oven, but any pot will do) sautee the onions over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the onions start to stick to the pot a little and turn brown, add a couple tablespoons of water and stir. Repeat this process two more times, or until the onion are tender.

2. Add the garlic and 2 more tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes. Add the diced squash, diced tomatoes with juices, hot water, spices, and bouillon cubes. Keep heat on medium-high and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add all of the kale and put the lid on the pot and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, stir, and allow to cook for 5 more minutes with the lid on until kale is completely wilted.

Once it finished cooking I allowed this soup to sit in the pot and cool for about an hour before putting it into containers and into the fridge.

Summer Squash and Kale Soup

This is the not-chick’n bouillon that I used in the soup. I’ve never seen it at HEB but they do have it at Sprouts and Whole Foods. I’m sure that you could use any vegetable broth if  you didn’t have this on hand but I loved the flavor of the soup with this!

not chickn

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VEGAN BUDGET PROJECT: THE SHAME OF WEEK 9


Y’all, I’m really ashamed. I went over budget this week and it’s completely my fault. Before I get to the details of that let me back up a bit.

Things had been going really well with the Vegan Budget Project. In the past 8 weeks I only went over budget once (again, my fault) but it was only by $5. I was under budget the two weeks before and the two weeks after so it more than balanced itself out. I had been doing weekly updates here on the blog the first few weeks but then I kept forgetting to take pictures of what I was buying so I figured I would just do periodic updates from that point forward. Y’all don’t really want to see exactly what I buy every week, do you? Especially not when it’s basically the same things over and over.

Breakdown of 9 Weeks on a Budget

(click chart to enlarge)

9 weeks

You can see that I had two weeks (highlighted in yellow) where our grocery budget was crazy low. Those are the two weeks right before and after our wedding and we went out to eat a lot in those two weeks. So, let’s take those two out of the running for a moment so our numbers are less skewed. I’m still averaging $99.02 per week, including this weeks awful number. So I’d say that this project is still successful!

Now, let me talk about what happened this week (I really have no excuse at all). I didn’t take pictures of what I bought but I did make a list of everything.

Groceries from COSTCO:

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Please note that the lunch meat is for my omnivore husband, not me. I know it’s not vegan but it was a part of our weekly grocery shopping this week so I had to include it. I am aware that honey isn’t considered vegan either, but I’ll admit that one is mine. Ross calls me a hegan which is short for a honey eating vegan.  I apologize if any of you take offense to me eating honey as a vegan…

Groceries from HEB:

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What happened is I had ideas for things that I wanted to make (ex: broccoli salad) and bought ingredients for them (broccoli and cashews) knowing it was unlikely that I’d make them this week. I also really wanted frozen strawberries so I bought them even though I still have lots of other frozen fruit in my freezer. For some reason I also really felt like I needed to buy more pasta and pasta sauce, even though we still have some at home! The last pasta I bought was gluten-free (just to try something different) and I don’t like it that much. It’s a lot mushier than the whole wheat pasta that I’m used to so I bought some whole wheat pasta at the store this week. I’m not going to eat it until the gluten-free stuff is gone so I’m not really sure why I bought it.

The really bad part is I knew I was going over budget but I just kept adding things to the cart anyway. It was like when I’m sitting in front of the TV eating ice cream straight from the pint thinking, “I really shouldn’t be doing this…” but I just couldn’t stop myself.

Things I Shouldn’t Have Bought:

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If I had exercised a little self-restraint and not purchased the above items then my total for this week would have been $100.85. That’s a much nicer number when my budget is $100 per week.

Since it’s unlikely that I’m going to eat these foods (with the exception of the strawberries) until next week I’m going to subtract my overage from next week’s budget and pretend like I only have $78 to spend. I have full faith in myself that if I put forth a little effort I can easily stay within that budget.

I’m also submitting this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays. If you never checked it out you should – there’s a lot of great posts and awesome recipes!

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MY 5 GOALS FOR A HEALTHY SUMMER


On Monday of this week I stopped by Carrie On Vegan‘s blog and saw that she’s starting up a new Summer Healthy Vegan Challenge. After all of the celebrating I did the week before and the week after my wedding, and then again for my birthday, I am more than ready for a healthy challenge to help me get back on track!

I tried to be a part of Carrie’s last vegan challenge but I found all of the back-and-forth conversation between the Facebook group to be too overwhelming for me. Instead I thought I would take her idea and put my own spin on it. I came up with a few simply goals that I think will really help me to improve my overall wellbeing, scribbled them down on a post-it note and stuck it to my monitor at work so they’re right in front of my face every day!

My 5 Goals For a Healthy Summer

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1. Try to get 8 hours of sleep. This one is very important to me but also very hard for me. I’m one of those people who really needs 7 hours of sleep a night, but 8 is preferable. If I go too long with just getting 6-7 hours a night instead of 7-8 hours a night it really starts to take a toll on me. It’s hard for me, though, because my husband often doesn’t get home until 8:15 or 8:30 and I happen to like spending time with him. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to force myself to go to bed at 9:30 (so that I’m asleep by 10:00 so I can get up at 6:00) instead of hanging out with him. I know that getting 8 hours of sleep a night is really what’s best for my body so I’m going to make a concerted effort to make that happen. Ross and I did just get a brand new bedroom set on Wednesday so maybe that will motivate me to go to bed earlier!

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2. Choose health promoting foods. I was very specific with how I worded this goal. It’s really easy to think about the changes you want to make in terms of the bad things you want to stop doing, like, “I want to eat less junk food.” It’s also easy to make excuses when you find yourself in a situation where you’d like to indulge in said bad thing. “Well, I had 4 cookies last week so if I only have 3 this week then technically that’s still less than last week.” Um, that’s not really what I’m going for. Instead I’m trying to look at the foods I want to eat before I eat them and ask myself, “Is this a health promoting food?” Because no matter how happy/unhappy I am with the way my body looks, I always want to be healthy.

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My lunch on Tuesday: raw broccoli salad, that entire container of tomatoes, and some tasty kombucha.

3. Only eat when hungry/stop eating when satisfied. I’m going to be really honest with you – this one is definitely the hardest goal on my list. I am one of those people who eats when they’re bored and with my current job I am bored A LOT! I also have a hard time stopping when I’m satisfied, which is a bad habit i picked up a long time ago. When I was in middle school and high school my parents used to give me a hard time for not finishing my meal when we went out to restaurants. “We’re going to stop taking you out to eat if you’re going to waste food. You either need to eat it all or order something different.” So I got in the habit of forcing myself to clean my plate rather than ordering something less appealing simply because the portion was smaller. This habit has stuck with me and is how I approach any meal, whether it’s in a restaurant or at home. Now when it happens it’s not because I feel the need to clean my plate but rather it’s because the food on my plate taste so good and I want to keep enjoying it. I need to break away from that remind myself that the extra food I’m eating is not promoting health within my body.

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My lunch today. I ate almost all of the tofu, almost all of the salad, and left some of the mushrooms and quinoa once I was full.

4. Drink lots of water. This one is really only a problem for me because I’m lazy. I have a water bottle that I carry with me everywhere I go and I used to be really good about drinking water throughout the day. Lately, though, I’ve been too lazy to go down the hall to the sink (at work) and fill it up so once it’s empty I pretty much don’t drink anything else. Not good. The walk to the sink is good for me, as is the water, so I need to just get off my ass and do it.

5. Stick to my regular exercise plan. Luckily, I work out with my good friend Lynn twice a week so she holds me accountable there. If I’m ever not in the mood to work out she (usually) tells me to stop being a pussy and get my ass to the gym anyway, and I do. I (usually) tell her the same thing when she tries to weasel her way out of working out. With the exception of the week after my wedding we’ve worked twice a week consistently for the last 8 months! I’m really proud of us for that but going to the gym and lifting weights isn’t the only part of my exercise plan though. Running is also really important to me and I want to get back to doing it on a regular basis. I started my new training plan on April 28th for an upcoming triathlon and so far it’s going well. I need the training to go well if I want to accomplish goal number 4 from my list of goals I made for 2013. I’ll write another post soon telling you more about that.

In addition to sticking to my regular exercise plan I’ve also been making sure that Ross and I get out and about in the evenings and on weekends. We’re both doing well at training for the upcoming race but we need to do more than just train. I want us to live active lives and get out and enjoy the sunshine! The last few weeks we’ve gone on two or three walks/hikes  each week that are 2-3 miles each. The weather is so nice, how could we just sit inside and watch TV?

So there are my 5 goals that I’ve set for the summer. I can’t wait to come back and update you on my progress!

I’m also submitting this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays. If you never checked it out you should – there’s a lot of great posts and awesome recipes!

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WHAT NOT TO PUT IN YOUR SMOOTHIE


All over the internet and blogosphere you’ll find posts for smoothie recipes – vegan smoothies, green smoothies, green thickies, etc. You’ll even find posts about whether or not smoothies are even good for you at all (like my post Green Smoothies and Juicing: Good or Bad?, which is actually my most popular blog post to date). So you’ve got nothing to worry about when trying to figure out what you can put into a smoothie.

But what about the things you should NOT put into a smoothie? 

Anyone who has ever cooked with me knows that I’m terrible at following recipes. I like to tweak things, throw in some extra ingredients that sound good, and get creative with my cooking. I’m the same way with my smoothies. I have a green smoothie for breakfast everyday and I’m constantly changing it up so I don’t get bored. Over the last few months I have discovered some things that you should definitely NOT add to a smoothie.

What NOT to put in your smoothie:

1. Too much cinnamon. This one can be tricky. I love cinnamon and I always add way more than the recipe calls for and it usually turns out okay. I did have some incredibly spicy oatmeal one morning because I went a bit overboard with my shakes and dashes. The same thing can happen when making a smoothie! It’s recommended that you consume 1 tsp of cinnamon everyday because it’s such an awesome food. However, you need to be careful and make sure that your smoothie is big enough to tastefully accommodate the entire tsp of cinnamon.

2. Too many Brussels sprouts or too much broccoli. Okay, you can see from these last two that “too much” and “too many” can be a bad thing. That should be pretty obvious. When I make my normal morning smoothies I generally use dark leafy greens – spinach  kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, etc. When using these leafy vegetables I put in all of my other ingredients and then fill all the remaining space in my blender with the greens. Result: delicious smoothie. Occasionally I run out of leafy veggies but still want to have a nice, healthy smoothie for breakfast. There is nothing wrong with adding other vegetables to your smoothies so long as you remember that they are denser and you shouldn’t use as many of them if you still want it to taste good. I learned the hard way that if I fill the remaining space in my blender with Brussels sprouts it is not nearly as appetizing. The following day the I made the same mistake with broccoli.

3. Agave Nectar. I keep agave nectar on hand at home to use in specific recipes. I try not to eat it too often because I’ve heard that it has the same effect on your body as high fructose corn syrup. I’m not actually sure if that’s true but it’s always in the back of my mind when I grab my bottle now. Even with that aside, I don’t usually add it to my smoothies. I always do a taste test to see how it tastes before I pour it in my glass and sometimes it’s not quite sweet enough for me. For a while I would just grab my Agave and give it a quick squeeze, hoping that would fix the problem. It did the trick of making my smoothie sweeter but somehow it never made it taste better. It’s a weird kind of sweetness that I’m not particularly fond of. I recommend adding a few dates, some honey, some more frozen fruit, or a package of Stevia instead.

4. Frozen Papaya. It’s a pretty flavorless fruit and really does nothing for your smoothie.

5. Sweetened non-dairy milk. I like to use almond milk in smoothies because I think it gives a better texture/consistency than water. I steer away from the sweetened (or “original”) varieties though because I prefer to sweeten the smoothie naturally with fruit. I saw a cartoon once that said, “Fruit is nature’s candy” and I believe it!

Does anyone else have any ingredients they feel should be avoided (or used with caution) when making a smoothie? Please share them with me! I’m also sharing this post with Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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WEDDING: THE DETAILS


My Favorite Thing About the Wedding – the ceremony. Honestly, I don’t even remember what was said for most of the ceremony. I remember standing up there with Ross and feeling completely giddy and calm at the same time knowing that I was about to marry him. I loved standing up there with him, surrounded by so many people that love us, and for parts of it being completely unaware of anything or anyone else but him. I like how relaxed it all was. There were times when everyone laughed (one of ring bearers kept dropping his sign and we cracked a few jokes during the ceremony), there were times when everyone cried (during Ross’s amazing vows and when Milly was singing), and through all of it I was just so damn happy to be standing up there, so proud that we had crafted (with John and Elaine) a ceremony that people commented on later as being totally awesome, and so overcome with emotion that my life is as great as it is. In my eyes the wedding was absolutely perfect.

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Planned Budget – $15,000

Actual Budget – Somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000, not including the rehearsal dinner or the day-of-wedding brunch. This number includes what we spent, what our parents’ spent, and an estimate of things that Ross’s mom/friends did or made for the wedding that I don’t know how much they cost. Example: his mom made our wedding invitations. I estimated how much it would have cost if we’d ordered those same invitations from a website and used that number in my calculations. She also made our wedding favors (customized wine glasses and beer steins) and I have no idea how much those cost, so I just guessed.

As we were planning the wedding there were times when I felt like we were spending too much money, so I would sit down with Ross to talk about what cuts we could make. In the end I’m completely okay with how much money we spent because the day was absolutely perfect. I’m sure we could have spent less and I still would have been just as happy at the end of the day but I still don’t regret a thing.

Number of Guests – I didn’t do a head count the day of but the last RSVP count was around 136.

Where we allocated the most funds – The venue, which was $3,000. We had the venue (Texas Old Town – Red Bud Hall) for 16 hours the day of the wedding so we did our rehearsal that morning, decorated all day, and then partied late into the night! It was SO BEAUTIFUL! It was the perfect setting for our wedding and I couldn’t have been happier with our choice. The people who work there are incredibly helpful and friendly, too. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about the venue. Our criteria when selecting a venue: we didn’t want to pay more than $3,000, we wanted to get married outside, we didn’t want to drive somewhere else for the reception, we didn’t want to have to provide our own chairs, and we did want to be able to use whatever catering company we wanted.

Where we allocated the least funds – Some things were free because we borrowed them (like jars for the snack table) or much cheaper because we made them (invitations, programs, decorations, etc.). One noticeable thing was that my mom made my veil so it cost her like $25 and was an exact replica of the one I tried on at the salon with a price tag of $225. I also did my own makeup and bartered with my hair dresser – I cooked her a week’s worth of vegan food and she did my hair for free!

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What was totally worth it – the photographer and the DJ, which were from the same company. We went with The Wedding Shoppe for our photographer and it was a really great deal. If you use an individual for your wedding pictures you’re going to pay a couple thousand dollars for their services alone. Any prints, albums, etc. that you want are going to be extra. We really wanted to use a friend of a friend who has her own business but we just couldn’t justify the cost. We looked for a couple of months before we finally settled on a photographer. We went with package #3, which was $2,000 and covered my bridal portraits (or engagement photos if we had preferred), two photographers for 8 hours the day of the wedding, plus we get an 11×14, an 8×10, four 5x7s, our wedding album, two smaller albums for parents, CDs of all of the pictures in color and black and white, and a release so we can print them anywhere.

They have several photographers and I was sent three or four portfolios to choose from. Our photographer was AWESOME! He was a lot of fun and really easy to work with. He was flexible with my timeline and helpful when I had no idea what I was supposed to do next (he has a lot more wedding experience than I do). A few days after the wedding I found out that he and his wife also own their own photography business on the side and in addition to weddings they do family and newborn portraits. His name is Travis Tank and his business is Tank Goodness Photography. I’m definitely going to use him for my future photography needs! 

The DJ was also great because I didn’t have to worry about putting music on an iPod, finding someone to run it during the ceremony, and trusting them not to screw up. He took care of all of that and also took requests during the reception. He even let my cousin take the mic and carry it around with him at the end of the night for some Jesse Karaoke! It was $650 for ceremony coverage and 4 hours of reception coverage.

What was totally not worth it – spending the time designing/putting together the program fans or ceremony coloring books that hardly anyone took. I loved them and was so excited about them but apparently not many people took them.

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What I wish we would have spent more on – food! We ran out of dinner food! I am pretty sure everyone except maybe a few bridesmaids/other wedding helpers got a plate of food but I wish there would have been enough for people to go back for more. I barely got a plate myself! After the food was already starting to dwindle down Lyndsey thought to make plates for me and Ross (we weren’t even at the reception yet!) so some of the delicious vegan food that I selected was already gone! That made me happy but also sad. We had lots of cheese (brought to us by his brother from Wisconsin) and crackers, the snack bar, lots of wedding cake and rice crispy treat cake, and then s’mores and hot dogs later in the night. The amount of food in general that was left over after the wedding tells me that no one went home hungry! Still, I wish we’d had more of the dinner type food.

What I wish we would have spent less on – the cake. I don’t wish that we’d gone with a different company or anything, I just wish we’d gotten a slightly smaller cake. Green Island Catering is an all vegan catering company here in Austin and they provided all the vegan appetizers as well as our delicious raspberry-lemonade flavored wedding cake. I loved it but there was SO MUCH cake left over at the end of the night, not counting the entire top layer which we whisked away to be stored and eaten on our one year anniversary.

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My best practical advice to anyone planning a wedding – you must read A Practical Wedding by Meg Keene. It is seriously amazing and the advice from that book helped to keep me sane through the wedding planning process. I also follow her blog which has great posts about weddings as well as married life. Seriously LOVE it. Also, you really need a Dropbox account to keep everything organized and to be able to access it anywhere. Mine had sub-folders for the ceremony, food, decorations, surprises, spreadsheets, wardrobe, etc. If you need spreadsheets let me know and I will happily email you everything I have to give you a starting point.

Random Tid Bits – The Knot and other wedding websites like that were of no use to me. I got most of my ideas from Pinterest and other wedding blogs. I also spent a lot of time creating our wedding website and I don’t even know if anyone looked at it. ONE person RSVP’d online, but other than I’m not sure if it was worth all the time I put into it.

Try and throw the kind of wedding that you would want to go to or be in. It will help to keep you grounded and make it an enjoyable experience for most everyone else. Remember that you can’t please everyone and (contrary to what lots of people will tell you) it’s not all about you.

Things are going to go wrong that day and you will notice but you probably won’t care. Our bouquets weren’t exactly what I wanted, the ribbon on our wedding cake was the wrong color, the cake topper was on backwards for half of the reception before I noticed, the menu card holders got used on the snack table instead of the appetizer table, I don’t think I ever gave my photographer my shoes or earrings for pictures before putting them on, Ross’s vows were better than mine, and I forgot to stand up straight during the ceremony. Yes, those are all things that I did notice that day but I didn’t care about any of them! Well, sort of. I did make Ross fix our cake topper while someone was giving a toast and then made sure the photographer got pictures of it facing the right direction!

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I still have a few more wedding related posts to come, including the professional pictures when I get them! Check out the Wedding Page of the blog if you want to see all the past wedding posts.