Nine Years and Six Months

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“The future for me is already a thing of the past –
You were my first love and you will be my last” – Bob Dylan

We met when we were young. I was fifteen and she was seventeen turning eighteen. We hid our love, or so we thought, for years from others but reminded each other daily. I have never been so close to another person in my whole entire life and although many thought what we share was momentary and would fade with time has only grown stronger.

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While others gave up on their journeys and have grown accustomed to failing or giving up, we continue on. At first we were against the odds, people doubted, we fought more than we should have but it gave us perseverance. The beginning was tough.

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There were times when we both gave up. Distance drove us apart. But those times we weren’t together were only passing moments because we always found our way back to one another. There were times when I hated her and when she hated me. Times when either one of us wanted nothing more than to throw in the towel and wish it all way.

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A few times money got the best of us and drove us apart. We let little fights turn into full fledged wars and we wouldn’t talk to each other for days. But through it all we’ve managed and we communicate on another level. Many people believe that we are still young and don’t know any better. We both know they’re wrong.

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We have had our fair share of rough times. We’ve seen the good and the bad. We share more memories of pleasant times when we were both content with life. It’s those things that we cherish and remember best.

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In our nine and half years we’ve already accomplished so many milestones. Graduations,  God children, puppies, buying our first home and our engagement to list a few.

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When Justine kneeled down and proposed at Disneyland it only confirmed more, if that is possible, that I’m meant to be with her for the rest of my life. This picture, as horrible quality as it may be, doesn’t do justice to the amount of sheer joy and admiration I had at that very moment in time.

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Justine, I love you more than words can express, more than stars in the galaxy, more than life itself. Six more months until the rest of our lives.

Happy nine years and six months.

Love always and forever,
Erika Ashley

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Wedding Wednesday – Caterer Tasting #2

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I hope everyone had a fantastica Fourth of July. As I type this dozens of bangs and pops are going off all around our neighbor and surprisingly our little pups are lounging sans barking. This is probably because we have the Science Channel cranked up to drown out the sounds of the firecracker warfare going on outside.

Last Wednesday Justine and I headed out to our second caterer tasting. This time we ventured to South Sacramento to give All Seasons All Reasons a try. I was pleased to find that All Seasons All Reasons (ASAR) was a preferred caterer for our venue because since I’ve started my wedding vendor research they have been consistently the highest rated caterer in Sacramento. I mean really, go check out their 14 five star reviews on Yelp! Even the previous caterer we had a tasting with gave props to ASAR. Needless to say I was excited to get this show on the road.

When we arrived we were greeted by Vanessa, our main point of contact prior to the tasting and Monty, the co-owner and head of the company. Their office/tasting room was a little snug but comforting. Shortly after being seated we then met the head chef, Josh, who also co-owns the businesses and rocked a 49er hat (which scored him major points with Justine). Everyone was so friendly and genuinely wanted to be there impressing us. One thing that I noticed with the other caterer was our meeting seemed like just another tasting appointment and with ASAR they went above and beyond to customize the experience for us. They even drafted up a fancy menu for our tasting. 10 points Gryffindor.

After the introductions and pleasantries, Josh got to cookin’ and Monty got to pouring the wine and we continued gabbing on about what we want. We started with a cheese platter with fresh fruit and then a fresh garden salad. The dressings were made from scratch and the house italian was zesty and had a pleasant tang. Justine really enjoyed the homemade ranch dressing.

Next up were the side dishes- grilled veggies and fettucini Alfredo. The veggies were perfectly charred and Justine is uber picky about fettucini Alfredo and she admitted to me on the way home that it was the best pasta she has ever had. I was pretty blown away myself.

We then had an herb crusted chicken (top), garlic mashed potatoes, grilled tri-tip, and a grilled chicken. This shit was mouth-wateringly amazing. Oh my God. I kept eating the mashed potatoes and I had to literally pry the fork out of my hand to stop. The tri-tip was almost as good as my dad’s tri-tip… almost. 😉

At the end of the tasting Monty, Justine and I sat around the table talking about what we expect and what we want for about a half hour. We continued making plans and getting great feedback. Monty made us feel at home and comfortable enough to express our concerns but he reassured us that weddings are stressful but well worth it. He even mentioned that if we don’t choose their services he will still be more than happy to assist us in any way he can.

Overall this company seems amazing, the food was outstanding, and even though they are a little over our budget we made our decision seconds after leaving. We have decided to go with All Seasons All Reasons as our caterer and we couldn’t be happier.

On to the next task, picking a baker and dj.

Cheers,
EA

Wedding Wednesday – Caterer Tasting #1

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Since we have chosen our venue, The Center at 2300, they have a pre-selected group of caterers that we must choose from. Last Thursday Justine and I had our very first caterer tasting scheduled with Jackson Catering & Events, one of the pre-approved caterers.

At first when I received their initial price and menu quote they seemed lackluster and unoriginal. The menu they emailed was short and to the point, nothing fancy therefore I wasn’t looking forward to much. I figured we would go sit down and see what they would offer us, hoping they would go into further detail with their services and menu options.


The actual location is just a few streets away from our venue and in an unassuming strip-mall behind a Pizza Hut and next to a message parlor. The actual dining room was a little dingy and dark and I remember telling Justine, “Let’s just get this over with.” We were excited because it was yet another step closer to our special day but we have another caterer in mind that was far more attentive and communicative than Jackson.


When we were introduced to Richard and Evan, the caterer coordinators, our views started to change. Then the appetizers came out. Evan gave us 4 appetizers to taste: deep fried potstickers, brushetta, artichoke and cheese pinwheel pastry and a plum filled pastry bite. Everything was exceptionally tasty. Especially the brushetta and artichoke pinwheel.


After the appitizers came an outstanding fresh salad with bree and bleu cheese, orange & apple slices, and wine/vineger dressing. Delicious. Evan then brought out some side dishes including fresh grilled vegetable and roasted potatoes. The grilled vegetables were tangy yet earthy. Perfectly seasoned and slightly charred so you could taste the grilled goodness.


The main courses came out and were a slow cooked braised beef short rib in their homemade barbecue sauce. The ribs were so well cooked they fell apart on your fork and no knife was needed. They were juicy and mouth watering. The chicken caprese with an olive rague was a little over powering with the taste of the pickling vinegar. I enjoy sour flavors but this was over the top sour, the chicken was juicy and still had wonderful taste on it’s own.
After we finished our plates Evan returned to the table and sat down with us to go over their services and then gave us an updated and customized price quote. It was surprising to see how affordable they are for the quality of food they presented. I was so enveloped with the tasting experience and sheer astonishment by the flavorful food I forget to take pictures. I’ll do better next time!

We have another tasting today with a caterer that has received high praise from our venue and plenty of 5 star Yelp reviews. I’m excited for free delicous food but after this appointment Justine and I will be ready to weigh or options and decide on a caterer.
Cheers,
EA

Wedding Wednesday – Venue Edition

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We finally chose the venue where we are going to hold our ceremony and wedding reception. And to top things off we’ve already placed our deposit to hold our date on their event calendar. So it’s official- We’re getting hitched!

Last month we came across this venue after a long and tedious search and it was like a breath of fresh air. I emailed their wedding coordinator, Laurie, first to confirm that they are a gay friendly venue and to set up an initial meeting. Within hours I received a response back and Laurie was very pleasant and notified me that of course this venue is gay friendly. She continued to explain that she personally believes strongly in gay rights and supports same-sex marriage. Out of the box this place was leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. We set up our meeting time and later that week Justine and I arrived at the venue to take a look around.

We pulled up to the location and was stopped at the gate by a security guard. He asked who we were there to see and when we notified him that we had an appointment with Laurie he smiled and let us right in. (This place has a gate, how fancy, haha) Initially we were a little confused because the front sign posts in big letters, “SHALOM SCHOOL” and underneath in smaller letters, “The Center at 2300.” So if you are coming to our wedding, turn at the Shalom School sign. After entering the gates clearly on the left hand side of the parking lot is The Center at 2300.

We met with Laurie, explained what we want from a venue and she showed us around the grounds. We are using the courtyard (above) for our ceremony. It is completely covered by tree foliage so during the warm/hot day of our wedding at least we will have shade from the trees and no one will be in direct sunlight. That is one of my all time pet peeves for weddings is when the couple make you sit in the hot blazing sun sweating while they make promises to each other. Oye. I’m glad we thought ahead.

Now here’s the kicker. The inside of the event hall is amazingly beautiful! The neutral surroundings allow for any wedding to completely transform the room without the room taking away from the decorations. Not to mention they have an OUTSTANDING LED lighting system. We were able to take part in the package deal where we get this kick ass lighting customized to whatever we want. Take a look at some past events that were held at The Center at 2300.

Seriously stunning. There are several more photos on their website where you can check out here. I can’t wait to send out our save the dates now that we finally have our wedding date set in stone at a great venue. Wedding planning is exciting again!

Cheers,
EA

Wedding Saving Woes

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Weddings are supposed to happy, joyous, memorable moments in life when friends, family and love all combine for a weekend of bliss. Right?
WRONG.
Days if not hours after Justine popping the question, we began planning our wedding. Narrowing down seasons to picking an exact date. Whittling down our guest list on backs of napkins and envelopes. Everything was hunky-dory, everything was new and exciting. We were in our prime hammering out details and then it hit us. How are we supposed to pay for this shindig?!
Originally we came up with a more than modest budget, but as time progressed we stopped planning altogether because the financial aspect of wedding planning had us haulted. I attended wedding fair after bridal show absorbing information and trying to figure out a good budget for our swarray, but all signs pointed to a wedding cost we just can’t seem to afford. Even though we cannot legally get married in the grand ‘ole state of California they sure will charge you the same astronimcal prices for a commitment ceremony & reception as any other Joe & Jane getting hitched. Not to mention we are limited by our venue options as I am being rudely awakened that people are rather set in their ways and will not allow a same-sex commitment ceremony at their establishments. Sad but true.
Not to mention in the past five months since we began planning we have very slowly tried to build up a nest egg that will fund our wedding dreams. Unfortunately, it seems as though since we have started saving so many “little” issues have been arising that force us to dip into our wedding savings. We needed a second vehicle. We have to pay for a portion of a new fence. We have to save for a cruise that was booked prior to our engagement. It just seems like the “little” things are turning into larger issues and prolonging our savings.

I feel overwhelmed and disheartened by this entire process. I just want to be on the same page as Justine and somehow win the lottery. Hopefully one will be more attainable than the other.
Enough Debbie-Downer business.
Cheers,
EA

My Dream Disney Wedding

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Recently I’ve been thinking about our wedding and even though we initially planned on having a huge wedding I wouldn’t mind a much smaller more intimate event. Personally I would love to take advantage of the Disney Wedding Escape package and have our wedding ceremony and intimate reception at the Disneyland Resort.

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 I have always dreamed about getting married at Disneyland. It holds such a special place in my heart and feels like home. It meant the world to me when Justine proposed at the front gates while my family surrounded us. We originally planned on having Disney/Disneyland be the theme of our wedding but as time has progressed and my lovely mother found out about the Disneyland Wedding Escape package available @ the DLR in Anaheim, CA. Just look at the Wedding Garden (above) where we could have our ceremony!


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There is another wedding ceremony site (above) called the Adventure Lawn Gazebo that I nearly swooned over when I first seen this photo. I can just see Justine and I now standing in front of the gazebo, her looking handsome as ever while I cry uncontrollably.


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With the package you get a two tiered wedding cake which is baked the decorated by top of the line Disney Pastry Chefs. Absolutely adorable. I would smash that cake into Justine’s face in a heart beat.


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Disney has you covered with a few floral arrangements for the bride/groom (other bride in our case), maid of honor & best man. Seriously, I can’t get enough of this stuff. Disney has me on a string wrapped around Mickey’s fat gloved finger.

Here are the details that absolutely had me sold:

  • Weddings are planned no more than 6 months in advance.
  • Ceremony locations available: Wedding Garden, Brisa Courtyard, and the Adventure Lawn Gazebo.
  • Ceremony & Reception Times Available: 9am, 10am, 11:30am, 5pm, 7:30p
  • Guest Allowance: 20 people maximum including bride & groom (other bride in our case)
  • Extras included: Bride bouquet, Groom boutonniere, two-tiered wedding cake, champagne or sparkling cider, music (cd), personal wedding website,  Limousine service for 4 hours, a violinist for ceremony and isle walk, 2 hours of professional photography and a Jasmine wedding album, a wedding planner, and a three course plated meal.
  • Music: A CD player is provided by Disney to play your own music or you can use the Disney-themed music provided. Otherwise for an additional cost you can enhance your wedding package with a DJ, vocalist, guitarist, harpist, etc.
  • Beverages/Bar: Additional beverages, including a hosted or cash bar require an extra fee.
  • Cost: $5,000 for ceremony & reception (plus whatever enhancements added)
  • What you can’t have with an Escape Disneyland Wedding: the Crystal Coach, the Rose Court Garden, your own cake, or 21+ guests.

I’m trying to convince Justine that we need to get in on this outstanding package and have a larger “reception/party” for the rest of our friends and family the following weekend. That way we can have our cake and eat it too.

Cheers,
EA

It All Started With a Text Message

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Let’s start at the beginning shall we? The last Friday in March I received a call from a strange long distance phone number. Immediately I dismissed it as a wrong number or telemarketer and went on my merry way.

Two days later the same number text me. This time I decided to read what this person had to say. To my surprise I had won something from filling out the endless amounts of entry forms from wedding/bridal shows I had recently frequented. The texter had informed me that I had won a DIY facial for me and my bridal party at a local Mary Kay studio.

I love all things that are free so I quickly informed my bridesmaids and only my Maid of Honor could attend. I RSVPed and that following Sunday I was in a Mary Kay studio with Lisa by my side ready to get our facial scrub on.

To be completely honest I thought that I would attend this free event, listen to the spiel and go about my day. I even joked with Lisa about how I didn’t want to be suckered into joining/paying for anything because we need every penny we earn for our wedding. But something happened, as we washed chatted about makeup, washed our faces and learned a little about the Mary Kay back story I become more and more interested.

As a young child my mother was a Mary Kay consultant and I remember attending late night meetings with her and playing with all of her left over samples. I remember the pink mirrors and using the tiny capsule like perfume samples as my Barbie’s accessories. I also remember the frustration my mom went through and the negativity that also stems from knowing the overly needy/down right annoying Mary Kay pusher that seems to be at every workplace.

By the end of our facials I decided I would take up the consultant’s offer of getting to know the program a little better. We met up for coffee a couple nights later and after many hours of debating and researching I made up my mind and took the plunge.

The main reason I have become a consultant is to make a little extra money for our wedding. I plan on putting 80-90% of what I make towards funding our wedding/honeymoon. I have been in the program now for about a little over three weeks and the amount of hours in a day seems to be dwindling into seconds. I have made a couple hundred dollars and have put a portion into savings but also used some for play money and mostly reinvesting into my business.

I would love to make Mary Kay a solid fixture in my life but until I go part time at my “real” job it will just have to be a part time thing. Just coming from a multi-unit meeting my motivation is high and already I have sent out a few calls/texts to keep the momentum going. Succeeding will  take time and dedication and mostly planning. Time management is going to become a priority because if I want to make enough for our wedding this will have to work.

Cheers,
EA