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Game Day with Farm Rich

November 22, 2016

Game Day with Farm RichToday’s a big day because we’re talking about one of my favorite food groups: cheese.

Specifically the cheese curd.

Many of you may be well-versed in this Wisconsin delicacy, but let’s just assume some of you have no effin’ clue what I’m talking about or what you’re looking at. Well, buckle up.

When Farm Rich reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in featuring their new Cheese Curds in a post, it felt like an obvious yes. Not only have I introduced many a Midwestern transplant to the cheese curd (*cough cough* Ryan), but you better believe they’ve also been a mainstay at parties, holidays and many-a game day growing up.

Game Day with Farm RichWhich gave me the brilliant idea to throw a Midwestern game day, reminiscent of my childhood.

And what do you need to do that? Why, I’m so happy you asked.

Here are my go-tos for creating the perfect, slightly stereotypical Midwestern game day:

  • Cheese curds (you saw that coming, I’m sure)
  • Organic ketchup to pair with the cheese curds
  • Bloody Marys or beer, both of which pair SO good with cheese curds (if you don’t believe me, Google: Cheese Curds & Bloody Marys).
  • Pizza or burgers #sorrynotsorry
  • Chips, or cheesy nachos (you’re sensing a theme here, I’m sure)
  • Salad, because you’re going to need some greens
  • Puppy chow or some other easily snackable dessert

Game days are also best when you have a fire going in the fireplace, but if you can’t make that happen – I highly recommend lighting a few candles to get that super cozy feel. We definitely had a pumpkin spice candle going during the entire game, I’ll be honest with you.

Game Day with Farm RichGame Day with Farm RichOh and please don’t judge that we are watching the Chargers and not the Packers! The Packers weren’t on TV when we had our little Game Day (for some blasphemous reason) and the Chargers are Ryan’s team, of course. So I made do with what I had.

Game Day with Farm RichSome true blue parting words on these breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds though? They’re the real deal. Not sure why, but lots of companies and people try to replicate these and fail TERRIBLY.

But these Farm Rich nuggets could easily be placed in any restaurant around here (or Wisco) and no one would be the wiser. I’m guessing it’s because they’re made with actual Wisconsin cheese from LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy and not that crap out-of-state stuff. #justsayingGame Day with Farm RichWorth adding that Ryan also really liked them, which is saying something since can be surprisingly picky (meanwhile I’ll eat anything with cheese in it). And, to me, they taste a little like home, ya know?

Game Day with Farm RichGame Day with Farm RichP.S. I highly recommend signing up for the Farm Rich newsletter to get some perfect-for-game-day recipes and snack ideas sent to you.

Alright now I shared, so it’s your turn: what’s your go-to game day treat?

And more importantly, have you ever tried a cheese curd? Basically, have you ever lived?

Game Day with Farm Rich

P.S. This post is sponsored, but only because it aligns with everything I’m about on this blog. Anndd it helps me continue to bringing content to you all. Thank you!

Educate Interview Local

midwesterner love: kim of knoed creative

September 14, 2016

kimknoll1Quick story: At my last job, I happened upon a rebranding proposal pitched to one of our clients by a Chicago-based branding agency named Knoed.

Hopefully you know this by now, but I’m kind of an art and design nerd. So here I am, at work, flipping through this gorgeous graphic design book created by this awesome company and I’m dumbstruck.

There’s just something in me that lights up when I see people doing incredible creative work. Whenever I run into someone that strikes me like that, I’m nearly compelled to reach out and introduce myself. And that’s exactly what I did–I reached out to Kim Knoll and said if they were ever looking for a copywriter, I’d love to help.

While she didn’t take me up on that specific offer, we did end up reconnecting later when I asked if she would be willing to be interviewed for this blog.

Now, full disclosure, this post is long. But it’s juicy. And inspirational. And I’d love to continue creating pieces like this because THESE are the people that give me life and fuel. They’re the incredible, creative people doing awesome things in the Midwest–something that I personally believe gets overlooked when people think of the heartland.

But enough of my babbling. Without further ado (as they say), please say hello to Kim of Knoed Design…

Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY TO THIS POINT.

I went to school for graphic design. I always knew I wanted to be a designer, even in high school. I was in a lot of art programs and my teacher told me to pursue graphic design based on my style and what I liked doing in class. Though, it really wasn’t a hot thing to do at the time.

I’m kind of a planner, so when I went to college, I started working part time as a receptionist at a design firm to try and get a feel for graphic design to make sure it’s what I wanted to be doing. Because you’re going to college for 4-6 years, and I thought to myself, ‘What if I get out and I don’t like any of this?’ Ultimately, I was able to see the behind the scenes, which I really enjoyed, so I pursued it.

I completed college in 6 years and left Chicago as soon as I graduated. I just picked up and moved to Arizona, where I lived and worked as a designer for the first 3 years of my career. I started out as an in-house marketer for a senior citizen fitness program, where I designed tape and CD cassette covers and posters for really bad senior citizen materials. It’s not glamorous whatsoever, though it makes a great story now and I gained a lot of the skills I needed to eventually get a better job.

From there I went to a graphic design studio for about 6 months, where I did quite a bit of boutique client work, which I really enjoyed.

However, I was homesick and wanted to come back to Chicago. So I came back and got a job as a designer at Tom, Dick and Harry Creative Company. Really great people. I would say David Yang completely turned my career around. They were producing really great work, and my book wasn’t the best at the time, but I was really eager to learn and just needed someone to give me a chance and take me under their wing, and he did. I was there for a little under 2 years and we worked our asses off, creating a ton of different things, and my portfolio did a complete 180. I feel like that was a pivotal point in my career; when I started to produce better work. I understood things better. I got more passionate about it.

Those guys were really great. The only reason I left was because advertising just wasn’t my thing and they did more of that then branding and print. And I really wanted to get into a design studio where there was a greater focus on identity work and things like that.

So I left Tom, Dick and Harry and went to a shop called BrainForest, that no longer exists. I was there for about a year, doing print and web for boutique companies. However, you could tell the company wasn’t doing so well. So I left and went to this place called Jones–a really small ad and boutique identity shop–and I worked there as a senior designer for a year. But I could tell they were ready to sell to someone bigger. And at that point, I had experience, felt ready to take on my own clients, and really wanted to work on projects from beginning to end. So that’s when I left to start freelancing.

I’d been working 6 years total when I became a freelancer. And I did that for a year. At the time I was freelancing, my husband Kyle was also freelancing. We were working back to back in the second bedroom of our house, but we each had our own clients. Our own agendas. We were competing for work. It was kind of silly. Then, we started helping each other out. If he was too busy, I would take some of his work and visa versa. We made a really great team, which led us to the realization that we should combine portfolios and start a company together, with one name and clients we both worked on. And that’s when we started Knoed, about 5 years ago.

Eventually we got enough money to rent desks at a co-working space, where we worked for about a year. It was a really great setup and nice baby steps leading up to renting a studio of our own, which we eventually did and are still here 3 years later.

Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

WHAT REALLY DREW YOU BACK TO THE MIDWEST?

Well, I met Kyle when I was in my second to last year of college. I went to school with his younger sister who was in the design program with me. He would come up to visit his sister, and since we were friends, we would all be hanging out with these big groups of people. At some point, he noticed me and that’s how we met—through his sister.

I immediately knew he was amazing. And we ended up having a fling for four months–every time he would visit his sister, we’d hang out. Then I’d drive down to Champaign and hang out with him. It got to the point—he didn’t have a car—and we were entering our last year in school and shit was just nuts with our projects and studio time. And we’re thinking, ‘What are we doing? Are we going to take this seriously or not?’ and ultimately we both decided to call it off. We graduated, I moved to Arizona and I didn’t talk to him for 3 or 4 years.

Then, when I was working at that in-house marketing job, I got an email from an old roommate of mine. She said Kyle was trying to find me and forwarded me his email, so I wrote him back. We were both single and started talking over email, and then phone—just catching up and basically getting back together.

I flew home for Christmas, we met up and spent the whole day together. And I knew I really wanted to be with him, but I didn’t want to move back to Chicago just to be with a guy.

So I head back to Arizona, walk up to my apartment and see a big notice on my door saying they’re turning our apartments into condos and my lease, which would end in two months, would not be renewed. That same week, my best friend told me she was moving to Seattle in two weeks. And then the company I was working for—the boutique design firm—ended up going under. Essentially, within a month’s time I didn’t have a place to live, I got let go of my job and my best friend moved. Taking these things as signs I should not be there anymore, I packed up whatever I could fit in my car, drove back to Illinois and moved in with my mom to save some money. I got the job at Tom, Dick and Harry two days after I moved back, then Kyle and I started dating for real. Six months later, Kyle and I bought a house together and three years later we got married.

Knoed Creative

HAVE TO ASK, HOW’S WORKING WITH THE HUBBY?

In the beginning, it was a little harder because we were both working out of our house and it was tough having your work and home all in one place–we never got a visual separation from the two. And you know how you’re at work too long and you start getting agitated by it? We were feeling that a lot. So as soon as we got desks at the co-working space, it helped create a visual division between work and home. We would get out of our PJs, get dressed and go to place with normal working hours. And when it was time to leave work, we would physically leave it and come home and chill as a couple, which really helped.

Another thing that’s helped is to define very specific roles, so we don’t step on each other’s toes and we can create stuff that we can own. While we’re both designers and do all the work 50/50, Kyle does a lot of new business–he’ll do all the proposals, writing people back about inquiries, billing and bookkeeping. And I do a lot of the scheduling, client management, social media, entering our work into things, or writing students back about questions they have and stuff like that. And then when it comes to design, Kyle manages most of the web design projects and I manage most of the print design. It really helps that he does his thing and I do mine, but we come together for brainstorming or critiquing, things like that.

 

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED OWNING YOUR OWN COMPANY?

When we first started out we would take anything we could get. We would do anything. If someone wanted a logo, package, website, we would say yes. But we realized we were constantly creating new relationships and bringing some new designer on board just to do a logo, and then that designer would go away. Plus, it was a lot of work trying to get to know someone and their business. And we were getting really tired of constantly pitching new people. We also realized we would rather build a design identity from scratch, rather than being handed a pre-existing identity.

All of these things led us to focus more on branding because we could form one relationship and get 5-10 projects with that person and do everything; it’s all your vision. We only showed branding work in our portfolio in hopes it would start to attract more people interested in branding and 360 identity work, and it did.

Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

DO YOU LIKE BEING YOUR OWN BOSS? EVER DO YOU MISS THE 9-TO-5?

It’s love/hate. It gets lonely for sure. I’m the kind of person where I need to talk during the day. I can’t sit at my desk all day, but Kyle can. I also miss being able to bullshit with a coworker or go out to lunch, because it’s not something we do. But collaborating? Kyle’s one of the best people I’ve ever collaborated with, so I don’t feel like there’s anything lacking in that. It’s always fun to collaborate in a big group, but I feel like I still get that here—even if its just him and I. It gets a little lonely sometimes.

 

HAS IT TAUGHT YOU TO TRUST YOUR OWN OPINION MORE, THOUGH?

I got to the point of trusting my opinion right before I started Knoed.

Luckily, as far as design goes, both David (at Tom, Dick and Harry) and Scott Manee (my boss at JONES) taught me how to get out of my head, put it to the side and start over, and just keep doing that. I would get my work done pretty fast and we’d still have a couple days before the presentation. And they’d be like,”That’s great, but what else could it be?” So I’d start over or try to push the idea further. They just drilled that mentality into me.

Now, being on my own, I just automatically keep doing that and I almost feel like there’s a CD (creative director) over me saying, “That’s great, but lets see what else you have,” because I’m so used to hearing that. And I’ll tell Kyle the same thing: “That’s great, but what else do you have?” So we’re always pushing each other and then we’ll narrow it down to the best ideas from that pile.

In our position, we just have to trust what we’ve done. But, we’re also at a point in our careers where we can [trust what we’ve done] because we’ve been doing it for 12 years now and the more you do graphic design–practice graphic design–the better and faster you get and the more ideas you have. At least, that’s how it is for us.

Design is less of a struggle that it used to be. And it used to be a struggle, but then, if you keep doing it over and over, you get better and you get there.

Interview with Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING IN CHICAGO? HOW’S THE GRAPHIC DESIGN COMMUNITY?

There was nothing out in Arizona. There were no good [design] firms. No good work. It was just a ton of corporations who needed in-house designers. There was no community for artists or designers, which was one of the reasons I left. But I think here [in Chicago], there’s a huge community. I have a lot of friends who own their own studios or work at some of the big ones.

As far as getting work, I feel like there’s more than enough to go around. We get inquiries all the time that we say no to because it’s not a good fit for us, so that work goes to someone else. Luckily we don’t have a problem getting work, and I think it’s because we’ve been doing this long enough that we’ve made a lot of connections, our website is out there and our clients come back, which leads to a lot of repeat work.

One of the negatives I’ve noticed, however, is that you seem to hear about the same creatives over and over again. I don’t know why, but it seems as if there’s 20-30 people that I hear their name in a lot of exhibitions and things like that. There are so many great people doing great work and they’re not being recognized, and I wish there was more of an opportunity to uncover those people instead of recognizing the same people over and over again.

But that said, there is Creative Mornings

 

 

YES, SO YOU HOST CREATIVE MORNINGS FOR CHICAGO. HOW DID THAT START?

Swiss Miss launched Creative Mornings out in NY in about 2008. She was just doing it for Studiomates (her co-working space/office) to bring someone in and inspire the office and her team. Eventually more and more people wanted to attend, and she started getting venues to host these speakers so that more people could attend. Then someone from Studiomates moved—to Sweden or Stockholm—and wanted to bring it out there. So he requested a guidebook and that’s when she put the whole thing together. And that was the 2nd chapter, now there are over 130 chapters worldwide.

Chicago was #5 and started back in 2011, when Mig Reyes (a designer at Basecamp) applied to start the chapter. He ran it for a year and a half, but wanted to teach at Starter League and didn’t have the time to balance both. Kyle and I happened to be speaking at Creative Mornings in 2012 and he asked us at the end of 2012 if we wanted to take it over. And me, being the planner I am, was stoked about the opportunity. We officially took over Creative Mornings in February of 2013 and we’ve been doing it ever since–over 3 years now.

Because Knoed is just the two of us, Creative Mornings is a nice way to get out and just talk with people; get in the inboxes of some really great people and get a peek inside their minds. And I really love the vibe Creative Mornings gives off. I like that it’s free. I love seeing all the people there every month. I like that there’s no catch.  You just kind of go and get inspired. And I was a huge fan of it before we were speakers at it—we would just go and sit in the audience–so it was a no brainer to keep it going.

One of my favorite parts is in the morning, I say, “Okay everyone, we’re going to started in 5 minutes and in those 5 minutes I want you to turn to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself,” and you can hear the room go from this silent buzzing to this big boom, as everyone turns around and the chatter goes way up. And every month that makes my heart skip a beat.

In the beginning, when Mig hosted, there were a lot of designers that would attend and speak. It was almost strictly for designers. So, naturally, it drew that crowd. But about two years ago, Creative Mornings HQ came out with themes for every month to better unite all the chapters. And once we started getting those, it pushed us to start thinking ‘Who would be good for this theme?’ and look outside of the graphic design community.

Since the start of those themes, we’ve had architects, tattooists, toymakers, obviously graphic designers, murals, street artists, photographer, filmmakers…all kinds of people.

Right now the audience seems very mixed–it’s designers, photographers, a lot of creative directors. And then we have people like knitters; people in the textile artists. We have people that are in college all the way up to age 55 who come. And then you have people who aren’t professionally creative at all, but have creativity in them and attend to get that part out. Really, it’s all different lives and ages now.

 

HOW DOES LIVING IN CHICAGO (OR THE MIDWEST) INSPIRE YOU? 

I think what I love about Chicago is that there’s such a utilitarian, hardworking, rugged work ethic here. And I think it shows in a lot of the visuals. Just going downtown you see a lot of the old, hand-painted brick walls from businesses that no longer exist. And it’s all weathered. That whole feeling is in a lot of design in our community, and in a lot of things that inspire us.

There’s this whole movement to go back to hand-painted signs, and every designer is having their logo or mural put up on a brick wall now and it’s kind of like the new Chicago; the new old.

We [at Knoed] have a very minimal, almost European aesthetic, but then we like texture. We always apply some sort of texture to whatever it is we’re working on. And I think those textures are inspired by being here–seeing things that aren’t pristine; are a little worn and have some authenticity to them. For me, when I look at a design book, I can tell–without even looking where the designer is from–what’s generally done in the Midwest versus the East versus the West. Because I think we totally have a style here, or at least a look.

Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

FAVORITE PLACES TO GET INSPIRED?

I just like going to a park and lying down on a blanket and staring at the sky. I know it sounds really cheesy, but it really helps me clear my head. I’m an outdoor person, so being outside is just a great feeling for me–not in the winter, because its freezing, but when it’s warmer. A lot of ideas come to me when I’m outside–when I’m at a park or walking my dog. When you’re on autopilot, it allows you to think about whatever you’re working on; it’s in the back of your head. A lot of my ideas come out that way.

I know for Kyle, his ideas come out in the shower. We even have a waterproof notepad in the shower for him to jot ideas down on.

There isn’t necessarily a specific place, but we try to do these things we call “Mental Health Days” and go to the MCA or gallery—somewhere with artwork or sign work—to get inspired.

 

WHAT DOES YOUR STANDARD-ISH DAY TO DAY LOOK LIKE?

We get into work around 10am. Usually on Mondays we’ll have a status meeting, where we’ll go over what each person is working on and the plan for the week. Then, I usually have to go through emails from 10 to noon–I have a lot of emails to go through. Same with Creative Mornings–I try to get that stuff done by noon.

From noon till about 6 or 7pm, I just do design work and client management kind of stuff.

I’m sure Kyle’s day probably looks different than that, but we’re pretty much at our desks all day, working. And if we’re not at our desks, we’re out at a meeting, learning about someone’s project or presenting our work. But for the most part we’re here.

Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

HOW DO YOU BREAK FROM THE SCREEN?

When I’m in brainstorming mode, I sketch in my sketchbook. Even if I’m brainstorming a website design, I like to sketch out ideas before I go to a computer. And there’s a couple things that we do that are hand-drawn, so I’m doing that too. But for the most part it’s sketches, or I’ll sit at the worktable just brainstorming.

 

HOW DO YOU BREAK AWAY FROM WORK WHEN YOU GO HOME?

Work never turns off. We’ll be out at dinner on a Saturday night, and it’s really romantic, and then the conversation will turn to improving our process. It doesn’t ever turn off and we’re okay with that, because we really love what we do. And when it’s your business, all you want to do is work on it and make it better. And its just him and I; it’s all up to us. When we leave the office, it feels good and we can go home and chill out, but there’s so many times where we have to talk about work even if we aren’t at work.

Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? DO YOU WANT A TEAM OF 5 SOMEDAY?

We’ve intentionally stayed small. We really like this niche that we’re in. We’re bigger than freelancers, but smaller than a Firebelly. We’re the ones who talk to and do the work for our clients, and there’s not too many places out there like that, so I think there’s something that makes us different in that way. And we still like doing the design work.

A year or two ago, we had one employee for about a year, but it turned us into managers, where we were trying to bring in work to keep that designer busy. And Kyle was starting to jump on more of the biz side of things than the design side, so then it was up to me and that other designer. And Kyle and I work so well together, but with that additional designer, things started changing, and not in a way that we wanted them to change. So we ended up having to let that person go because we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were doing a good job of what we were doing, but we weren’t happy. So we just had to make that call.

I think we would probably grow, but we’re just not ready for that. And whenever we do, we have to make that commitment that we’re going to step back from the design. Because as soon as we start hiring, we’re going to have to be the managers of everything.

But I do think at some point we’ll get there because we’ll be burned out.

 

WHAT KIND OF LEGACY DO YOU HOPE TO LEAVE?

I would hope my legacy would be inspiring people to be true to themselves, with what they want in their career or life, and having the courage to go get it. That’s why I love CreativeMornings so much, and why I put so much of myself into organizing these events. Sometimes all it takes is to hear someone speak to something you’re struggling with or be inspired by another person’s journey, to put a fork in your road and choose a different path…one that leads to changing you and your life forever. I believe staying true to who you are—no matter what anyone expects of you—is the only way to experience true happiness.

 

ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO BE A DESIGNER?

I talk to a lot of students through Creative Mornings and Knoed and I’ve noticed there’s almost this feeling of entitlement. Young designers think they can just graduate, get a job and be put in a vice president position at the age of 23. And I just want to say: be prepared to be at the bottom of the totem pole and stay there for a few years. Work on really shitty projects and work your way up the ladder. It takes a lot of work and a lot of patience, but you have to put in that time if you want to go somewhere.

A lot of people are eager to get the best title or the best job right away, but if you did that, what do you have to look forward to? You’re going to be working for 4o years, till your 60? 65? So if you get that title in your 20s, then what? I guess you could start a company and go that route too, but there’s nothing wrong starting out as an in-house designer working on senior citizen materials. It doesn’t mean that’s shaping or dictating who you are as a designer. You can always start over. I had a great portfolio coming out of college and a terrible portfolio after two years of this profession. But you can keep working on things on the side, get into a great job and then you can throw all that shitty work out and start over.

Keep going after what you want. You’ll get there, but you have to put that time and effort into it. And have patience.

Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A YOUNGER YOU?

For my younger self, I would tell myself…that’s hard. I think it’s very similar. Because I was one of those people who felt entitled. I would go to interviews and think I was the shit like, “Isn’t this work great?” and expect a job. I had a really hard time and my ego got bruised, but I think it was a really good thing.

It’s hard when you’re in school and your professors are telling you you’re good, then you win a scholarship and an award at this show–it’s really hard to keep your ego in check. But then you get out into the real world and it’s not like that at all. There are so many great people doing great things out there and you’re just one in a million. So you have be a little more humble.

I would say I should’ve been more humble then I was.

 

DO YOU THINK YOU’RE CREATIVELY SATISFIED?

I think so. I feel really fortunate. I’m really happy with the kind of work we [Kyle and I] get. And we put our heart into everything we do, but we work a lot of hours to get things to where they are.

I feel really fulfilled, and this is by far the best job I’ve ever had. And the longest. I also have things to look back on and compare it to. That older adult fitness program, I could be working on stuff like that. But when I stop and I think about being able to work on Tru Studio or Hannas Bretzel, it’s so great. And it’s people we love working with, work that we love doing and businesses we love supporting. I feel great about all of that. I only hope that we can keep working on that kind of stuff because there are always people out there who are better than you, and could take that client out from under you. So we just feel happy with where we are now and hope it keeps up.

Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative Interview With Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative

BUBBLER OR WATER FOUNTAIN?

Water fountain.

 

THIN CRUST OR DEEP DISH?

That’s a toss up. I’m going to say thin crust.

 

STOP LIGHT OR TRAFFIC LIGHT?

Stop light.

WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU?

Via our portfolio. Or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (@knoedcreative) LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Thank you so much for letting me interview you Kim! And side note, sorry it took me so long to get this published, but super happy I finally did. To all you readers: please comment with any further questions or anything this interview sparked. I’d love to know! // P.S. This interview has been edited for clarity & time. // P.P.S. All the beautiful images were pulled from Knoed.com.

Local Musings

ugh, stop with these midwest stereotypes

September 10, 2016

ugh, let's stop with this okay?Happy Friday everyone!

We’ve made it through another week. Luckily, this shorter week really made the days fly by and only today felt like I was watching the clock, waiting for the weekend.

Ry and I are headed to a party my agency is throwing in MKE (Milwaukee, WI for those of you who don’t know) tomorrow night. Staying at the Kimpton, probably watching the Notre Dame game at a bar in the 3rd Ward. The usual. Will report back sometime next week. Other than that, just hoping it’s another productive weekend filled with meal planning, laundry, reading, watching the first Packers game (#GoPackGo) and continuing to clean up that budget of ours. Fun stuff, I know guys. I go hard.

Anyway…

This post is going up a bit late, but it wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t just slightly late, right? Right.

I just felt like this post needed to be written. These things need to be said. One of the many reasons I started blogging and threw “Midwest” in the title of my blog was to try and be a voice of the modern heartland woman. Modern. Meaning, probably not the stereotypes that are passed around in the media or elsewhere. Of course, I’m just one small voice in millions in the Midwest, so if you feel anything needs to be added to this list – please let me know! I’m interested in what you guys think are the most annoying stereotypes we get too.

1. We’re all farmers.

My uncle is a farmer. I grew up across the street from a farm. Many kids I went to school with came from generations of farmers and some became farmers as adults. TBH, I love farms (makes sense – I love animals), but I dislike generalizing an entire population.

2. We have funny accents.

We definitely say things a bit differently, especially depending on where you live in the Midwest (a Chicagoan accent is very different than a Minnesotan accent, which is different from a Wisconsin accent). But guess who else has a funny accent? EVERYONE. I mean, we’ve all met someone from New Jersey or New York, or chatted with a Cali guy?

3. We’re backwards.

Ugh, I hate this stereotype. Just because I live between two coasts doesn’t mean I’m out of touch with what’s going on in the world, culturally, politically or otherwise.

4. We have outdated style.

Please. Have we seen some of the fashion bloggers who live around these parts? Oh, you haven’t? Well here are just a few:

  1. Sequins and Stripes
  2. The Chambray Bunny
  3. Regally Soled
  4. Sabby Style
  5. Charmingly Styled
  6. Wit & Delight (okay, they’re basically just lifestyle – but they’re so cool!)
  7. Blake Von D
5. We all enjoy the frozen tundra and refuse to leave it.

While I absolutely love a romantic snowfall around Christmas time, the frozen tundra that is January, February, March and occasionally April are THE WORST THING EVER.

“If everyone hates it so much, why don’t they just move?”

Have you seen the Midwest in the summertime? Or in the Fall? Or earlier Winter? This is such a beautiful place to live, it makes the winter season bearable.

6. No one interesting lives in the heartland.

Oh, puh-lease. Didn’t you just see all the bloggers I mentioned? No? Alright, well here are a few other “cool” peeps who call the Midwest home:

  1. The late Prince, who called Minnesota home.
  2. The billionnaire Warren Buffet lives humbly in Omaha, Nebraska.
  3. Meanwhile, Lebron lives in a $9.2 million mansion in Ohio.
  4. John Cusack prefer to hang out in Chicago (when he’s not working).
  5. Not to mention these 20 midwesterners who changed the world.
7. There’s nothing to do in Middle America.

Well where are you in the Midwest? My guess is no matter where you are, there’s more to do than you think. In a city? Well, you know there’s options. In a smaller area? Visit a local cafe or secondhand store, or take a walk around. You’re bound to find some beauty.

8. We discriminate.

Why does it seem like the weird, racist, terrible shit is the stuff the media likes to focus on when it features the Midwest? Like everywhere in the world, we have not-so-good-people living around here, just like we have incredible and way-too-nice people living here too. It’s a melting pot, much like the rest of America.

9. The Midwest is just farms and backwoods.

Have you seen the incredible architecture in Chicago? Or visited the biking paths in Twin Cities? Or walked the streets of Madison (especially during a Badger game)? No? Well, then please don’t talk.

10. Nothing of note happens in the Midwest.

Need I remind you of #6. No, okay how about this? Or this is currently happening. And this happened too. Then there’s always this.

Any other heartlanders have anything to add?

Educate Home Life Local

gone apartment hunting

March 6, 2015

let's go apartment hunting!Happy friggin Friday, all!

This week has been insane. So much busyness. So much drama. So many life decisions. I’ve never been happier it’s almost the weekend…

In case you’re wondering what all that vagueness is about (and if the title of this post didn’t give it away)…Ryan and I are apartment hunting! Woohoo!

This will be our second official apartment together. The one we are currently at is gorgeous with seriously insane views, but it’s not ours. It’s a family friend’s. So we pay rent, but a lot of their items are physically there. And sometimes they come and stay in the adjoining room, which we agreed to, but can feel…weird. It just doesn’t feel like our own home. Plus, we’ve been there for two years now. So, while we are extremely grateful for their generosity, it’s time to literally move on.

That said, we think we might have already landed a place here in Chicago! We’ve been apartment hunting for about a month, which (we’ve discovered) is quite different than apartment hunting in Southern California. But between both experiences, we’ve become pretty darn good at the whole process. So, I thought I’d share a few tips that have come in handy when making such a major life decision.

1. Make a list of your most important, can’t-live-without-it needs.

For Ryan and I, we can’t live without storage. When you combine our wardrobes, it’s pretty intense. That, along with our hobbies (DJing for him, painting for me) and our day-to-day needs (Ryan works from home and I love working at a desk), we’re talking some serious storage requirements. We also needed an apartment that was dog-friendly (just in case), had wood floors and was close to things (like a grocery store).

2. Know what you’re willing to give up.

Nothing is ever perfect. You’re going to have to know what you’re okay giving up. For us, that was layout. We can live with built-in cabinets above our bed, if it means more storage. We can live with a galley kitchen, if it’s updated and still open enough to move around in. So think, what are you okay with giving up? Do you need gas/electric included, but you’d be fine paying for internet? Know what you can do without.

3. Know what to ask.

It’s important to make sure your basics are covered. Like, if an appliance breaks, who do you call and how long does it take to fix it? Can you nail things into the wall or hang a TV? What’s included in rent? Do you have to pay extra on anything? Do you have to put a security deposit down and how do you get it back when you leave? How safe is the area? Do people buzz in or are there keys? A door man? What’s a rough age group of the people living in the building (sometimes they can’t say, so just ask for a rough range to get a good of how rowdy or quiet the place will be)?

4. Look beyond the apartment.

While touring, look around. What do the other tenants look like? Is it loud? Quiet? Are the hallways clean? Does anything look broken, rusted or old? Get a good idea of the area you’re dealing with and how well the place is managed.

5. Take pictures.

Pictures on Zillow, or wherever else you’re looking, usually use a wide-angle lens to make rooms and apartments appear bigger. It’s important to take your own phone or camera along for the ride, and take pictures of every single thing you feel is important–closets, kitchen, rooms, windows, views etc. It will help you remember the place once you’ve left, and give you a good idea of how big the space is in reality.

6. Make an immediate pros/cons list after visiting.

If you’re touring more than two apartments, you’re going to quickly forget what you liked and disliked about each one. Once you leave the potential apartment, immediately write down your takeaways: what you liked, what you didn’t like, how it looked, what it felt like, etc.

7. Get organized.

Between the pros/cons list, the photos, the general facts and price points of each, it’s important to stay organized. If you do take pictures, make sure you label them in your phone. Or upload them to your computer and keep each apartment unit in a separate folder. However you do it, make sure you don’t mix up listings or information (or you could end up loving the wrong space!).

8. Do some research.

A building may have all the bells and whistles you’ve ever wanted, but then you do a quick Google search and discover it’s managed by a company who’s under investigation or known for shady financial dealings. There’s so much information readily available, it’s important you don’t just fall for a place without taking a deeper look into the people you’re writing that check to every month.

9. Know the area.

With all this said, these tips will vary depending on where you’re hunting. In Southern California, Ryan and I toured over 15 apartments, never concerned about timeline because there wasn’t a huge demand. Here in Chicago, we fell in love with two different apartments online. Booked times to visit. And by the end of the day, both had already been rented out. Know the area and adjust your timeline/decision-making accordingly.

10. Really read the contract (or have someone run through it with you).

Before signing on the dotted line, take a second to read through what you’re agreeing to. If you have any questions, ask a realtor, the person who’s handing you the contract or even a close family member. We had a 30 day kick out clause with the place we’re going after right now, but once we told the agent we wouldn’t move in because of it, the owner got rid of it. There’s always room for a little negotiation (or room to back out), if you’re willing to discuss and look into the details.

BONUS tip: Trust your gut.

Ryan and I always discuss the vibe we get from the places we tour (I’m lucky that most times, Ryan and I both get a good vibe from the same places). “The feel” of a place means more to me than almost anything because I trust that intuition above all else. You can usually feel when you’re home.

Hope they tips helped, if you’re on the apartment prowl like us!

I’ll keep you updated on whether we get the place or not. And trust me, if we do, there will be plenty of photos and DIYs to follow.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Life Local

Winter Wardrobe Basics: what you need to survive a midwest winter

November 12, 2014

When I first started my Facebook fan page a few months ago, the first comment I received was from a young lady who had just moved to Ann Arbor (Michigan) from California and was wondering what to wear for winters in the Midwest.

Awesome question! And something us Midwesterners really don’t think about. I mean, we’ve been wearing snow boots and weird overall snow pants since we were old enough to wobble down a sled hill. But when you think about it, we actually do have a pretty distinct style. Or, at least, a few basics we know for sure we will need during a wicked winter.

And since this winter is shaping up to be worse than last year’s polar vortex (it’s already in the 20s today), I thought now would be a good time to share a few of my go-tos for warm winter wear.

all the basics you need to get through a second winter vortex (on midwestlovefest.com)

jackets

One: Light, fleece-like jacket to layer under jackets or when the temperatures randomly go up for a day.

Two: Down jacket to keep you warm during sledding or snow ball fights, or even skiing. I like Patagonia’s down since it’s sourced in a “kind” way.

Three: Long, professional jacket. Not only does this keep you warm (since it’s protecting more of your body/half your legs), but it looks nice and is perfect for your daily commute.

boots

Four: Small, stylish boot that can stand up to snow salt and still look good. Yes, that means no black suede.

Five: A hefty winter boot for all that snow. Sorels are a Midwest fave.

Six: A soft, warm boot that you can wear around the house to keep your feet warm, when socks aren’t cutting it.

Seven: A riding boot. Great to have for professional/stylish reasons, but also does a great job of keeping half your leg warm.

accessories

Eight: Pair with your riding boots to insulate heat, or just wear around your home as an added layer.

Nine: Wool socks are a must. They will keep your feet as warm as possible in boots, shoes or around your home.

Ten: Convertible mittens with a grip in the middle are great for every day. They allow you to pick up your purse or coffee, grip your frozen door handle, toss a snowball, or protect all your digits from the snow.

Eleven: Light, cute mittens are fun to have around, and keep your hands really warm. Obviously they are best for when you don’t come into contact with snow (which can sit on the yarn and melt into your hand) or when you don’t need an exact grip on anything.

Twelve: Whoever made these should get an award. These bad boys, while slightly thicker than your average mitten, have digital compatibility. Meaning, you can access your iPhone without freezing your fingers off.

Thirteen: Collect as many cute beanies and hats as you can. If they are stylish, you can get away with wearing them around the office. If they aren’t, at least your head will stay warm.

Fourteen: If you’re getting sick of the beanie hair, there is always the headband, which still does a good job of keeping your ears warm.

Fifteen: Again, collect as many scarves as possible. Small, big, long, short, thick, thin, they are all great to have. If you’re going to buy just one though, I’d buy a warm infinity scarf. Doubling up around your neck is like extra insulation.

Sixteen: Even if you live in a city, snow pants are nice to have. Either, because you are that cold and want to keep warm on your commute OR because most people will be around snow (there are a lot of activities centered around snow in the Midwest) at some point, and it’s nice to have a pair just in case.

Seventeen: A waffle-weave shirt, or undershirt, is nice to layer under your other clothes to keep warm. But it can also be a stylish, warm shirt by itself.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are you buying for ThePolarVortex.2 ?
Create DIY Life Local

DIY wedding favors (perfect gift for two writers)

November 7, 2014

Last wedding post this week, guys! I wish you could all sit on the couch, scrolling through photos and watching video with me. It’s weird how just looking at photos can transport you. Even though I didn’t expect it to be emotional, the day was so special…it’s hard to look back on it without feeling anything. In fact, I go out of my way to not look at the photos if I’m in an emotional state because I know I won’t be able to handle it.

That being said, before I share how I assembled our wedding favors, I thought I’d share our wedding video with you. Which makes me even more emotional than photos!

We were so lucky to get two young guys who usually do advertising/consumer-type work to take a break and come film Our Big Day, pretty last minute too, since we had trouble deciding whether to hire a videographer or not (I HIGHLY recommend you do). Not only do we love how the video turned out (side note: I serendipitously found that song! How amazing is it?), but they were a perfect fit for our wedding. After they were done recording, they just hung out with our friends and family (many of who thought they were both very cute). Win, win!

Blah. I love it.

I also REALLY loved our cake and wanted to show you a few photos, especially since it was baked and decorated by our family friends at Vandewalle Bakery. They’re based in my hometown of Appleton, but can drive around the area to drop off cakes. Lucky for us, they were also invited to our wedding, so they hand-delivered it to us (or The Pfister) in Milwaukee.

wedding cake inspo #midwestlovefest wedding cake inspo #midwestlovefest wedding cake inspo #midwestlovefestI used this photo for inspiration, which was minimal outside, but we did NOT go minimal with flavors.

The bottom flavor was red velvet with cheesecake, the middle layer was chocolate and the top layer was carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (which was a surprisingly huge hit). Our florist then came in and added those beautiful flowers. We brought the cake topper (purchased on Etsy, of course), which was originally supposed to say “love,” but we had custom-made to say “lahve” since it’s an inside joke between Ryan and I.

Well, unbeknownst to us, lahve is actually a word. One of our friends at the wedding was confused by our cake topper (which I definitely expected, but Ryan didn’t care if people were confused) and so she Googled it and found this definition on Urban Dictionary:

Unlike the root word love, lahve is a word that expresses a kind of adoration and closeness that most people do not possess. It describes the connection that certain friends have when they are so close that it is almost sexual but in a silly way. It is difficult to lahve someone you are in a relationship with but possible. Repeating the letter “h” in the word lahve enhances its meaning to show even more urgency of the need to express this emotion.

Is that serendipity at work again? Or am I just overusing that word because I love it so much?

I also bought these forks to “feed each other” the first bite of cake, instead of shelling out for a cake cutting set we would never use again. I prefer the forks. They are cute. I’m even considering framing them…
wedding cake inspo #midwestlovefest wedding cake inspo #midwestlovefestI was in love with this cake. And so was everyone else because they ate all of it! Apparently we were the first wedding ever to have the entire cake consumed by the end of the night.

Okay, now on to the favors.

Keeping with the artsy-type theme, I wanted them to have a watercolor look (similar to the name tents). Because everything else was so white, I felt it would be nice to have them standout in some way. We went back and forth a lot on what exactly we would give as gifts, but ended up deciding to give them notebooks and pencils. It felt right since Ryan and I are both writers AND a notebook is actually something people would use!

centerpiecesSide note: Aren’t those centerpieces heaven? I used this photo for inspiration and LOVE what our florist did. It meshed so well with everything.

We went through a few snafus, but everything turned out fine in the end. And it wasn’t too hard to assemble either! If you want to do exactly what we did, but the right way, here’s how:

First, purchase Steno notebooks (or another notebook of your choice). The cheapest I found were on Amazon, but there prices have since gone up (from 99 cents to about $5). Look for wholesale pricing, if you have a guest list that is higher than 100 since it will be a way cheaper alternative.

Next, purchase a writing utensil. We purchased these eco-friendly pencils in a variety of blues and greens (to go with the color palette of our wedding). I believe she gave us a “wholesale” deal as well, but make sure to ask for them if you’re dealing directly with the maker/seller. You never know!

We sorted through various patterns, and purchased a custom listing for tiny notebooks to also go along with the larger ones as a fun bonus. You definitely don’t have to do this and, even though the mini notebooks were cute (and people ended up writing in them and leaving them for us to read, which was sweet), I’m not sure we would purchase them if we could do it all over. Kind of redundant.

Finally, go to an office supply store (or online) and look for Avery Printable Tags. Following the directions, print a pattern and “thank you” saying that matches with the vibe of your wedding. They have a few pre-made patterns, but I used a watercolor scan I had lying around. I then wrote a thank you that played off the fact Ryan and I were both writers (it read: “Thank you for helping us write our love story.”).

diyfavorOnce you have assembled all the parts–big notebook, small notebook, pencil, and thank you tag–take hemp (or your choice of string) and, starting on the back, tie one knot. Then, flip the notebook over and tie another tight knot. Make another knot to secure the pencil to the notebook. Then, thread the hemp through the hole in the thank you tag and tie one more time, adding a bow. If you have the mini-notebook, place it securely below the pencil, so it hangs on one of the strings.

And that’s it!

That’s all she wrote folks.

I mean, there were definitely more parts to the wedding–more gifts, more details and all that–but I don’t want to drag this out for months, ha. Of course, if you do have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via insta, facebook or in the comments! I’d love to help lessen the stress of any bride-to-be because…I’ve been there.

tons of great wedding DIYs and info for to-be bridesThanks for letting me share all of this with you guys!

Hope you all have a safe and cozy weekend. I’ll be busy cooking up some posts for next week (pun intended) and getting my hair did (FINALLY).

Till Monday…

Create DIY Local

DIY name tents

November 6, 2014

DIY wedding name tentsEven though a good portion of our wedding was taken care of by the The Pfister or other vendors, we still wanted a lot of elements to feel made with love. Hence why it was so important for us to buy local or from artisans or to do these little DIYs.

This name tent DIY is uber easy. I got the inspiration, as always, from Pinterest, but couldn’t find the exact type I wanted. So, I made them! And they were literally the easiest DIY I did for the wedding.

You’ll need:
+Pad of watercolor paper (make sure it’s not too thick since you’ll have to crease it later)
+Watercolor paints
+Micron pen or skinny-tipped Sharpie marker
+(optional) Boning tool

First, go to a copy/cut supply store with your watercolor paper. You can cut these cards yourself if you have a ton of patience and are a perfectionist with an X-acto knife, but it’s faster and less frustrating to just go to a store that can laser cut them for you.

Each card should be cut to 3.5 inches x 5 inches. The number of sheets you’ll need to give them depends on the dimensions of your watercolor paper and how many name tents you need. You can also talk to them about what your needs are and they should be able to help.

DIY wedding name tentsAfter you have your stack of name tents, the fun begins!

We had four different food options and color coordinated our name tents accordingly. I thought this was better than those weird stickers that are thrown on name tents. For example: pink was salmon, blue was beef, green was vegetarian and yellow was chicken nuggets (kids). Obviously the staff at The Pfister had this color code sheet, which was necessary since we had open seating.

Choose your colors, or one color if you don’t need to color code, and haphazardly paint in the middle of a card. It’s not supposed to look perfect, so use some water and let the paint flow how you want! You can also sprinkle on some salt for an added effect (would look something like this).

Next, write the name of your guest on one side of the card, using a Micron or Sharpie marker.

DIY wedding name tentsFold it over, and crease it using a boning tool, ruler or just your hands.

DIY wedding name tents DIY wedding name tentsSince the water from the watercoloring can cause a bit of a bend in the paper, I recommend placing a few at a time under a book/some sort of weight. Not too long though, or they will stand so straight you won’t be able to make them into tents!

card6card1DIY wedding name tentsI’m really happy with how they all turned out. Side-by-side, all the cards looked so gorgeous and artsy, which was the total vibe of our day.

What do you think?

Life Local Random

our august wedding in milwaukee, wisconsin

November 4, 2014

our milwaukee, wi weddingFirst off, thank you for letting me share my wedding shenanigans with you guys!

I was a weird bride. I never dreamed of my “Big Day.” Mostly, I thought (and still think) weddings are just overpriced celebrations. For awhile, I was even set on eloping! A little favor that usually costs $1, will no doubt cost you $10 a piece if it’s a “wedding favor.” Just, ridiculous.

I also felt totally in the dark when it came to weddings. None of my close friends are married and the last wedding my relatives planned was over a decade ago. Plus, my style is no where close to my family’s style. So there’s that.

While I’ll be sharing a few of the main details later in the week, I wanted to share the major decisions we made and places we chose to make our wedding so special. Hopefully, if you’re planning a wedding (especially in the Milwaukee area) this will help you too!

our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingFor our reception, we booked The Pfister–a historic hotel in downtown Milwaukee. More on this decision later because it was a doozy. Because we booked through The Pfister, I received a $200 gift card towards the Wellness Spa, located downstairs in The Pfister. I was also able to snag a special, where if 4 of my bridesmaids got their hair done at the Spa, I would get mine for free. So, after the trials and paying for my make-up, I only had to pay about $40. It’s still not cheap, but their prices were comparable to other boutiques in the area and I wouldn’t have to leave the building.

So on The Day, I woke up early and went downstairs to get my hair and make-up done.We had already gone through trials a few weeks back, where I brought in a ton of Pinterest photos (very necessary), so I wasn’t too nervous.

For my hair, I asked for a very lose, low up do. I didn’t want it pulled straight back. Yuck. I wanted waves and knots and a very elegant, but thrown-together look. For my makeup, I really wanted attention brought to my eyes and to have my face contoured. Fake eyelashes and blush worked a charm! Seriously though, I can’t recommend fake eye lashes enough. They give an effortless, put-together look throughout the whole day, even if the rest of your makeup has melted off your face.

The robes were part of a gift I gave my bridesmaids, though of course I had to have one too! They were beautiful and ideal for running around like a chicken with your head chopped off, trying to corral family and friends. Just Cottons (the Etsy shop I purchased the robes from) was also very sweet and accommodating to my timeline. Highly recommend her.

That was another thing that was very important to us–we stay as local and handmade as possible. Of course, that wasn’t always possible, but whenever we could, we wanted our day to feel made with love. And a big part of that was having things that were made by hand. Giving the money back to artisans and locals, rather than big corporations.

our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingNow, my dress. I ADORE it. Again, not a huge wedding or dress person (same as my parents who had literally NO reaction to any dress I tried on, ever), but I loved this one. In fact, it was the first dress I tried on. And I was thinking, “No way. Can’t go with the first dress!” so I indulged a few others from BHLDN, a cute little boutique in L.A. called Bride Boutique (which I HIGHLY recommend – the woman who owned the place was seriously awesome and I was this close to bringing home a beautiful handmade silk dress, but couldn’t because it felt too heavy for a summer wedding), and even looked into Grace Loves Lace (which was sold at Bride Boutique). I REALLY wanted all these dresses, but none of them fit quite right.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have the body of a 17 year old. And I don’t mean that’s in a good or bad way, other than I can drown in fabric. There’s just, not a lot to hold onto. So none of the beautiful, bohemian lace dresses I tried on really did the trick like that first one.

It took some convincing, since the dress wasn’t handmade. However, it was from a local bridal boutique called Elaine’s Bridal, so that made me feel better. My dad, being the salesman he is, managed to get the dress off the rack to save us a few bucks. The sales people were also all very sweet, and even helped me make a decision on my shoes. And the seamstress was insanely talented. It was a one stop shop for my dress, and that’s what I needed!

Aside from the lace, I loved my dress because it had an insanely gorgeous train. Which is also why I went with the cathedral veil. For such a large space, the train and veil made a huge statement, and could be taken off (or bustled) later for photos.

P.S. Don’t mind this weird face I’m making. Even though I was excited, I was so nervous to have everyone look at me while I walked down the extremely long aisle, I apparently found it difficult to look up and smile!

our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingRyan and I met at Marquette University, which has a beautiful church called Church of the Gesu. This, coupled with the fact both of our families are very traditional, we decided to get married in the church. Lucky for us, it’s a gorgeous church: open, with stained glass everywhere and lots of natural light. Not a bad deal. Plus, for what it’s worth, our priest was awesome. Like, a perfect hippie, chill guy who gave an inspiring sermon. Our guests literally asked for a copy of his sermon (the gist of which was true love is strongest when it’s born out of friendship).our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingAfter the ceremony, it was time for more pictures!

We chose Joe Hang as our photographer and LOVED him. We originally fell for his editing style, but after meeting with him, felt like we could be best friends. He was calm and helpful leading up to the wedding and on The Day Of, he was a huge bucketload of energy. Ryan and I were both taken aback by how much he could rally and get people excited to take another photo. On top of that, he got us our photos in a really fast (and cute) way. And he just gave them to us! No watermarks, nothing. 1500 photos for us and our families! It’s because of that, I’m able to share all of these photos with you today (thanks again Joe!).

We chose four different places to take our photos: Marquette’s campus/John of Arc chapel, in front of Milwaukee Art Museum‘s Calatrava/on the lake, in an abandoned warehouse close to UW-Milwaukee and in a park.

Luckily, we had time for all this because of the “Catholic Gap,” or, what happens when you have an 11AM ceremony and aren’t serving food till 5PM/dinnertime. The Catholic Gap was my biggest fear–I didn’t want people to be uncomfortable or unhappy while waiting for the reception, but it ended up working out well! Because many of our guests were from out of town, they took the time in between the ceremony and reception to catch up with family, get situated in their rooms or explore Milwaukee. I never heard any complains, which made me WAY too happy.

Anyway, the day of our wedding it was supposed to rain. And, it did rain, on and off. Midwest weather, I swear. But we really lucked out.

While traveling to the church – no rain. While the ceremony was going on, sunshine. Finally, at the end of the ceremony it started raining, but everyone was still inside. We ducked out during a break in the rain to take pictures outside, but didn’t make it quick enough before we all started getting pummeled. So what did we do? We dipped inside the Raynor (Marquette’s library) to take shelter from the rain, and ended up having an impromptu photo-shoot for a half hour. After that, the rain let up and it never rained again that day!

our milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingAfter the library, we took pictures in front of John of Arc Chapel and the surrounding area. Which was even more beautiful after the downpour.

Don’t the bridesmaids dresses look gorgeous? That was also a huge hassle. My parents definitely had a different, more traditional view of what my bridesmaids should wear, but I stood strong.

The dresses were purchased through BHLDN, and I helped chose a specific color for each bridesmaid and gave them free reign on what dress style they wanted. After a few…debacles…everyone chose their dress and altered it accordingly (I wanted knee length). I also let them buy whatever nude shoe they found, as long as it was matte. For their hair, I just asked they incorporate a braid and have it up a little (except for my maid of honor, who had short hair).

our milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingAfter a few hundred photos around campus, we hopped in the limo–driven by an odd Russian limo driver who smelled of smoke but made for an interesting travel companion–and headed to the Calatrava.

We originally weren’t going to take pictures around the area because it felt so over-done and cliche, but I do love art and the lake was beautiful. Plus–that storm guys! It didn’t touch us again, but damn, it made for some awesome photos.

We also (collectively) decided to pretend we were all running away from an imaginary sea monster in the lake, which made for a few hilarious shots.

our milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingMy mom thought we were flipping people off in this photo. She didn’t look close enough!

After this, we headed to an abandoned warehouse, which scared the shit out of our bridal party. Though, all the thanks goes to our videographers (I’ll share the video later in the week) who found this awesome spot. It was grungy, but it was beautiful. The area surrounding the building was overgrown with weeds, which also made for some gorgeous photos. And my bridesmaids and I took some one-on-one shots in front of graffiti. Meanwhile, everyone explored the area and Instagrammed. Oh, and a random guy passed through and told us to go take photos up on the roof. Um, yeah no thanks, guy. I’d like to live past my wedding day.

our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingFinal stop: the park. And we were all starving and exhausted by this time. But, I got my floral crown! Yes, I NEEDED this. Trade in the veil for the crown, right?

Basically, I’m a flower person. I was somewhat flippant about most things, but the flowers–nope. NEEDED lots of gorgeous, “wildflower-like” flowers. We interviewed a few different florists, but decided on Emily Watson of Stem Cut Flowers because she ONLY did seasonal. And she was local. A sort of one woman florist (which, of course, we loved). Plus, she mentioned we could donate our centerpieces to patients in hospice care through Petals for Patients, which is something very close to my heart.

We were sold.

Oh, and Emily was awesome. She was always on time, always thorough and always happy. I could’ve hugged the florals she put together! I was literally yelling at everyone to take pictures of the flowers to make sure I could always look back on them. So beautiful.

our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingour milwaukee, wi weddingWe made it back to The Pfister tired and disoriented. Everyone wanted food, and I’m pretty sure I strolled into the reception like a hungry bear, ignoring everyone and filling my plate high with good food. But, before that, Joe wanted to catch a shot of me in downtown Milwaukee. What can I say, the floral crown was popular!

our milwaukee, wi weddingNow, The Pfister. Okay.

So, originally, I didn’t want to have our reception at The Pfister. My parents loved it, which probably made me fight it more, but I wasn’t a fan of the “upscale” vibe of it all. I mean, there was an oil painting of a lion on the wall in our ballroom! The staff kept reassuring me I could make it into whatever I wanted to–that the ballrooms were just one big canvas–but I was hesitant. The carpet was gold and red paisley!

We toured a lot of other spaces around downtown Milwaukee, but all the ones we wanted weren’t giving us the natural light we so craved. On top of that, when you do the math on renting a space, bringing IN the food and decor and tables and all that, it can get really pricey. Plus, most of our family and friends were coming in from out of town.

Ryan’s from California, and I have family and friends who live all over the U.S. now. Basically, a hotel made sense. And I did really love all the beautiful windows in the Imperial Ballroom (our ballroom), which overlooked all of Milwaukee.

our milwaukee, wi weddingI’ll share more photos from the reception later in the week, but basically, we made the right choice.

We were given a coordinator named Sarah to work with (we found out later, we were her last wedding before she left for another job…sad) and she was amazing. It paid off double because we didn’t have to hire a day-of coordinator, which we would’ve needed to coordinate all the vendors. But, nope! She coordinated the chair vendor (we went with ARENA), the dj (a friend), the florist, all the food, the cake (VandeWalle Bakery, a family friend)–everything. She even set out photos, name cards and other little decor in the cocktail room.

Even before The Big Day, Sarah was checking in with us, keeping us on track–giving us recommendations, coordinating our menu, and being patient with our ever-changing guest list.

Basically, choosing The Pfister was a godsend. Lord knows, there was no way I could’ve coordinated all of those things while still enjoying my day.

our milwaukee, wi wedding our milwaukee, wi weddingLike I said, I’ll share more photos from the reception later in the week, but just wanted to give you a few general recommendations and tips from The Day.

A few other takeaways:

  • Price is always negotiable. Between my dad and myself, we were a negotiating machine. I managed to cut costs on The Pfister, my hair/makeup, our chairs, and my dress (to name a few) just by asking for a lower price, cashing in on a deal or saying it didn’t fit within our budget (which, in all honesty, most of the time it didn’t).
  • You will probably disagree with your family on many things, but try to hold strong in what you want. My parents disagreed with me on so things–from bridesmaids dresses to decor–but when they experienced the day, all together, they could not stop telling us how beautiful everything was.
  • When you get married, you will definitely find out who your true friends and family are. It’s weird, but there’s always some sort of drama. But you just have to look at that as a lesson learned on where you rate in peoples’ lives.

We also made sure our guests all had a ton of fun during our reception. That was really our main goal. We did that a few different ways:

  • We had a cocktail hour, with wine served throughout dinner and four hours of open bar after dinner.
  • We brought in board games and cards for kids or grandparents to play with in the corner of the ballroom, away from the loud noise of the music.
  • We hired a DJ we loved and trusted (a friend) who would play the type of music we liked.
  • What stole the night: A photobooth. We purchased a package through The Traveling Photobooth and have them set up after dinner for about 3 hours. It was a HUGE hit. Not only did we get one copy of every photo our guests took (all compiled in one book), but our guests got to take home a photo from the night. Many of which were drunk and hilarious. Our only regret would probably be adding more hours to the thing. It was anarchy when the attendant had to shut it down and take it away!

All in all, we couldn’t have dreamt up a better day. It went off without a hitch and we felt so loved and lucky.

our milwaukee, wi wedding

What do you guys think? Anything else you want to know or see later in the week? Let me know, I’d be happy to help or share!

Life Local Relax

50 ways you know you’re from the midwest

October 23, 2014

midwest is best

Hey guys! So you know that recipe I was talking about yesterday? Yeah. It turned out, but not 100% as I had planned. And if I’m going to share something you with you guys, it needs to be the best. So I’m shelving that idea for now and replacing it with a little Midwest lovin’.

Basically, when you live in the Midwest, you know a few things to be true. I mean of course we are all different, but there are definitely some things that will stick with you when you’re raised in the Midwest. Thus, this list was born. And please, if you have any more to add – I would love it! Throw them in the comments below. I want to add as many as possible to create the best, most Midwest-y post.

50 ways you know you’re from the midwest

  1. It’s hailing and snowing, but you’re driving like it’s 75 and sunny.
  2. You were DIYing before it was a thing.
  3. You’ve been told you have an accent.
  4. You’re 25 and everyones wondering why you’re not married yet.
  5. Weather affects 99% of your day-to-day choices.
  6. Also, weather isn’t real. Nature does what it wants and the Weather Channel is full of lies.
  7. You know what beerbutt chicken is.
  8. Vacation is a direction: Up North.
  9. Most of your town knows your last name.
  10. Your neighbor has a cough? Bird flu? Her dog’s brother died? You know to bring a dish over.
  11. You’ve been drinking since you were practically a fetus.
  12. Cream puffs can end wars.
  13. ”Bonfires” are the only place to be on Fall weekends.
  14. Lakes > oceans.
  15. You aren’t afraid of a little dirt.
  16. Cheese curds only count if they’re squeaky.
  17. Seasons are the best thing, ever. Except for the last 4 months of winter.
  18. 4H.
  19. You know Lowes has nothing on Fleet Farm/Farm & Fleet.
  20. It’s always better to be nice.
  21. Tracker races are a thing. You don’t necessarily get why, but they are.
  22. You’ve seen some type of animal either give birth or die before you’ve turned 10.
  23. No one appreciates summer or sunshine like you do.
  24. Pre-winter 55º and post-winter 55º are two completely different temperatures.
  25. 10 inches of snow? A blizzard you can barely see through? Pack up, you’re still going to school.
  26. You may not know where the hell you are, but if someone asks for directions, you’re damn well going to try to help.
  27. You’re an adult, but you met most of your current BFFS in kindergarten or high school.
  28. You know how to wrangle children, get a stain out of the carpet, sew some drapes, stuff a turkey and housetrain a dog.
  29. You have two fears in life: ticks and your football team losing the Super Bowl.
  30. Your parents party just as hard as you do, and they aren’t even retired.
  31. Also, you know that no one really ever retires in the Midwest.
  32. If you could live in yoga pants and your Northface jacket, you would.
  33. Most of your friends parents’ were doing barn weddings before it was in vogue.
  34. Autumn means colorful trees, scarves and hayrides.
  35. Family will always come first.
  36. You know how to keep warm in the most extreme circumstances.
  37. You could relate to That 70s Show.
  38. Manners are real, and you will never stop writing thank you notes.
  39. Your football team’s biggest rival is the team in the next state.
  40. You’ve considered moving West, but then Spring arrives.
  41. You know brown bears aren’t just roaming around your woods. They’re a delicious campfire dessert.
  42. At some point in your life, The Buckle was the pinnacle of high fashion.
  43. Red Hot Chili Peppers or Dave Matthews Band. There is nothing else.
  44. Most of your extended family can drink you under the table.
  45. Marriage is for life.
  46. Basements are one of the only acceptable places for teenagers to hang out.
  47. You’ve had a job longer than you’ve been legally driving.
  48. Farm to table was a reality for you, not a movement.
  49. The only other place you want to be is somewhere warmer.
  50. Deep down, you know the Midwest really is best.
Local Travel

farmers market love: green city market

June 20, 2014

Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest I am obsessed with farmers markets. Whenever I go to one, I always leave with lots of fresh bread and fruit and flowers. And what is it about farmers markets that make you feel like a better, healthier person? Or is that just me? Seriously if I could have a day of yoga, reading and farmers markets, I’d be on top of the world.

Our favorite market here in Chicago is the Green City Market. Though, this city is great because there are farmers markets in every neighborhood. I literally ran into one the other day, walking out of my hair appointment in Logan Square (we live in Lakeview, another neighborhood). I love it. They are everywhere, and go on throughout the year. It’s ah-mazing.

Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Ryan and I woke up early a few weekends ago to go visit the Green City Market in the morning, before the crowds really got bad. We shopped around, I bought a mint plant and we dined on crepes (me) and a sausage breakfast sandwich (him).

Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest Chicago's green city market visited by midwestlovefest I’m going to miss this Saturday’s market because I’ll be at home with my family, seeing some of my best friends who I haven’t seen forever and…having my bridal shower! However, I did get lucky because Appleton is having their first farmers market of the year! Woohoo! Fresh eggs and fruits! So excited.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I definitely recommend heading to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. They take place in the morning/early afternoon on Wednesday and Saturday. Love it.