One Year

“So, how’s married life?”

“Oh, you know. The same but with extra health insurance and tax breaks.”

I’m sure this is not the answer most people expect when asking this question, but I’m not one to romanticize every day life (well, maybe a little on Instagram). It becomes very apparent when I sit down to write; most of my musings get dragged to the trash bin for fear they are too ordinary, too boring.

Today is a different story. I am writing this as we fly from LAX to JFK, the first leg of our journey on the way to some of the most romantic cities in Italy. For the next 18 days, we will be shopping in Milan, relaxing at Lake Como, hiking through the Cinque Terra, sipping wine in Florence, getting lost in Venice, and laying on the beaches of Sardinia as we celebrate our first year together as husband and wife.
I don’t know what is more shocking- that we are finally embarking on this absolutely amazing journey or that it’s already been a year since this happened. . .

As the captain turns on the fasten seatbelt sign, I can’t help but feel this flight represents the many years to come. Traveling side by side to an exciting future, laughing through the light turbulence, holding onto each other during the rougher turbulence, and sharing all of the experiences that lie ahead. 

Xoxo,

Raven

Strength of Stone

Our Wedding – Highlights

I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law thought I was crazy- even in the days leading up to our wedding, if anything wasn’t ready yet, my answer was always, “but I’m not worried about that.” And truly, I wasn’t! David and I agreed, as long as we had someone special to marry us, great music, an abundance of tasty food and the best company to share it all with, we would be in love with our day. We wanted to keep it simple but full of personal touches.

The girls and I began the day getting ready in my parent’s house, while David and the boys were getting ready in the lodge next door (his best friend Russ’ family home).

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Strength of Stone | The LodgeTwo wonderful stories about next door- it is where David and I met, and more impressively, David helped build the lodge! We are blessed to have spent so much time there getting to know each other and falling in love, and so grateful to have taken our portraits in a spot that already holds so many amazing memories.

Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

Russ’ parents are two of the sweetest people we know, and we consider their family as part of our own, so it only seemed natural to ask his dad to become ordained in order to marry us. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Frank, you understand why we wouldn’t want it any other way.

It began to rain just as the ceremony was supposed to begin, so we had to move it indoors. This is the only part of the day I was a little disappointed in. We planned to marry in the gazebo in our venue’s beautiful gardens, and the one photo I was most looking forward to was a “reverse” photo of our first kiss, where we would get to see our family and friend’s faces, too, rather than just their backs. Unfortunately, there was no room for this inside. Still, [Reverend] Frank did an amazing job with the ceremony, David’s vows were nothing short of breathtaking (so, going after him, mine were alright. . . ), and we escaped the August heat. I may not have the photo I wanted, but I have the best husband a girl could ask for, and that’s really all I need!

Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

Since the invitations and RSVP cards were book themed, we tied that into a few small touches at the wedding.

Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

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I found a single card catalog drawer and we used that as our seating chart. I wanted to add some books, so we found The Best of Families, The Red Raven, and David the King (very fitting). Yes, I am a dork.

Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

We placed David’s grandfather’s typewriter next to the card catalog, with one of my favorite songs typed out. (Alright, I cheated a bit there- they were actually printed and placed in the typewriter. . .) I love that it was another piece of family history we were able to integrate into our wedding.

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We found a set of small encyclopedias at a thrift store, and I knew as soon as I saw them that they would make excellent table numbers. David spray-painted them pink, and we stamped the table numbers on the front. We also stamped “More Than Everything” along each spine. I wanted centerpieces people could take home and actually use, so I was very pleased when I found these ceramic planters that look like old wooden buckets. We filled them with baby’s breath to keep it simple. I loved the look of the burlap squares on the silky tablecloth. We finished it off with different blocks at each table, also for the guests to take home.

And of course, to honor David’s love of books (comic, that is), he found these awesome boutonnieres on Etsy and we had to have them!

Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

Our DJ was a family friend, and we were so glad to have him emcee the wedding and bring another personal touch to our wedding day. At first we didn’t want to ask – we wanted him to enjoy the night rather than spend the time working, but he was happy to help. It really put me at ease knowing our party was in great hands; we gave him a few must-plays, a few do-not-plays, but otherwise gave him free range knowing what we like. We also had him set up his photo booth which served as both a favor for the guests and our guestbook. My bridesmaids and I had a small production line going the night before the wedding to create little packets for the guests to keep their copies in, hoping it would make it easier for them to keep their strips from getting lost or wrinkled.

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We also had a candy buffet and a cigar bar as favors. David’s mom and her friends did an amazing job putting these together, and really captured the essence of the wedding. The candy buffet was filled with our favorites, including bourbon lollipops. The cigar bar featured old photos of David’s grandfather in Cuba and a vintage map of the island.

Strength of Stone | Candy Buffet

Strength of Stone | Cigar Bar

Our rings are also full of family history. The center diamond on my engagement ring is from the ring my grandfather used to propose to my grandmother. It holds a special place in my heart because of this, but also because I can’t believe my grandmother was able to keep the secret that David had asked to take it! David brought the diamond to his family jeweler to create my beautiful ring. He is an old friend of David’s grandparents, and also provided David’s parents with their wedding rings. We were able to visit him in New York City to choose our wedding rings, too. I am reminded of family, love, and hope for what the future has in store for us every time the sparkles catch my eye.

Strength of Stone | Wedding Rings Strength of Stone | Our Wedding

We are blessed to have so much love in our life, and so many people to enjoy it with.

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Strength of Stone | Red Wine Sangria

From the Fruit Bowl- Moist Banana Muffins and Red Wine Sangria

Strength of Stone | Moist Banana Muffins and Sangria

More often than not, this bowl is flipped so the base becomes a dish, and there is some dessert calling out my name from under the lid; but every once in a while, I call it a fruit bowl and fill it with “nature’s fast food.”

Which is quickly turned into something decadent when the fruit inevitably goes uneaten. I don’t know why I fight it. . .  So I’m spreading the love and sharing two of my favorite recipes from the fruit bowl, Moist Banana Muffins and Red Wine Sangria.

Quick Tip- The riper your bananas are, the more flavor they give when baking. My bananas weren’t quite ready yet, but I didn’t want to wait another couple days (when you want banana muffins, you want them NOW). I found out that you can bake your bananas to ripen them quickly (thanks Google). The gas from the oven mimics the ethylene gas that ripens bananas. I can’t complain about the results! Just make sure you open the bananas over your mixing bowl, as they will be mushy and juicy from the oven! (This won’t work with the bananas that are still green and have not begun to ripen yet.)

trength of Stone | Quickly Ripen Bananas

This recipe comes from Pamela at Brooklyn Farm Girl (I just added some vanilla extract to the mix). I love how versatile banana muffins are; depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll add chocolate chips, nuts, jam, coconut. . . Pamela adds an amazing looking brown sugar/cinnamon crumble to the top of her muffins that I was very tempted to try, but I couldn’t resist my favorite combination- bananas and Nutella.  I decided to do a Nutella “swirl” (which I now know is near impossible to do on top of a mini muffin), got lazy and switched to a Nutella “plop” (hoping it would sink into the batter- it did not), and finally settled on just adding some dark chocolate chips to the batter.

Strength of Stone | Banana Muffin Add Ins

I will save the “swirl” for banana loaf, and try to make Nutella chips for my next batch. I’ll let you know how that goes…

Moist Banana Muffins
(Yields 48 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins)
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 ripe bananas
¾ cup sugar
5 Tbsp butter
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
(Optional – Chocolate Chips, Nuts, Jam, etc)


-Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray your pan with nonstick spray and set aside (I just use cupcakes holders).
-Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in bowl.
-In separate bowl mix bananas, sugar, butter, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Add in flour mixture until combined. Fold in any optional ingredients.
-Spoon into pan and cook until the sides begin to turn golden brown. (About 12 minutes for mini-muffins, 25 minutes for regular muffins, and I rarely make a loaf so I can’t give you a good estimate of time for that- I always just watch the sides and use the toothpick test when the sides begin to brown!)

Seriously, delicious. The only thing better than fruit and sugar is fruit and wine, which brings me to my Red Wine Sangria recipe. Like the banana muffins, sangria is incredibly versatile and there are infinite possibilities (just ask Pinterest). I enjoy a “fancy” sangria every now and then (like this Apple Cider Sangria for Thanksgiving, or this beautiful Cranberry & Rosemary White Sangria for Christmas), but for a night with my girls, this basic recipe always hits the spot.

Strength of Stone | Red Wine Sangria

I find myself singing Allman Brothers everytime I make this. . .
“In all his deepest dreams the Gypsy flies
with sweet Sangria. . . MMMmmm. . . “

Red Sangria
(Yields ½ gallon*)
1 Bottle Dry Red Wine
¾ cup Spiced Rum (or your liquor of choice)
½ cup Orange Juice (fresh or bottled)
1 Orange
1 Apple
1 Pear
1 Lemon
2 Tbsp Sugar
1½ cups Sparkling Water


-Cut the fruit into thin slices (or dice them into bite size pieces if you are like me and enjoy slurping up the fruit LOL) and place in pitcher.
-Add the sugar, orange juice wine and rum, stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
-Before serving, add sparkling water. Serve in glasses with ice (or with frozen grapes, if you are again like me and don’t appreciate the ice cube watering down your drink and getting in the way of those precious fruit slices. . .)
*This yields ½ gallon, which is perfect for our girls night (which consists of one wino, one moderate drinker, and one light drinker). For anything else, I at least double the recipe. Know your guests and plan accordingly, there’s nothing worse than running out of Sangria. 😉

(Can you tell who the wino of the group is?!)

Strength of Stone | Sangria Fruit

As I sprinkle the sugar over the fruit, I think fondly of the snow falling and being home for winter. Then the sugar reaches the fruit, the juice begins to turn it into an ugly slush, and the moment of missing the snow quickly fades as I think about the muddy slush you guys are dealing with now that the temperature is finally rising. Suckers.

Mmmmm. Now stop looking at my horrible photos and go make some of your own! 😉

Strength of Stone Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies I’ve Ever Made

Okay, I know that’s not saying much, since I rarely make a dessert that involves the oven (ice cream, anyone?). And to be fair, these aren’t the best tasting chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made (they are easy enough that I can always manage to make them taste good), but the best looking cookies. Normally, my cookies are incredibly flat and boring. Once they even crumbled apart just from picking them up. But feast your eyes on these babies. . .

Strength of Stone - Chocolate Chip Cookies

So not flat and boring!

I’m sure my sister, if she reads this, is rolling her eyes and making fun of me. I realize for those of you who can actually bake, this is normal and no big deal. For me though, it’s a miracle! Especially considering they started out looking like this. . .

Strength of Stone- Cookies

Even I knew there was something wrong with my dough. But what?!

I had no idea what I did wrong. That’s the thing I hate with baking, it’s an exact science- and I didn’t fare well in chemistry.

Did I leave the butter out too long and it softened too much? The dough didn’t taste as good as it normally does, is my baking soda old? I only used a bit though, would that even throw off the consistency? Did I measure something incorrectly? UGH- who knows. At this point, I figured I would toss them in the fridge while I cleaned up the mess, and hopefully my butter theory was correct and they would harden up a bit before I put them in the oven.

So, clean I did. And when I went to put the extra mixing bowl away, I realized what I had done wrong. Because it wasn’t an extra mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and the baking soda together. Set Aside.

Set aside. Set. Aside. Set. . . Aside. . .

Was this a blonde moment, or an Alzheimer moment? Both run in my family.

Either way, it turned into a beautiful thing. I scooped all the cookie piles into the bowl with the flour, and mixed my heart out. I was worried that the texture was too thick, or that the flour wouldn’t mix in completely and the cookies would end up tasting horribly, but they were perfect in regards to both!

I’ll be chilling my dough in the fridge before adding the flour in next time, hopefully they turn out the same and I’ve found a trick for myself!

UPDATE: I chilled the mixture and then added the flour, then folded in the chocolate chips, and they came out of the oven as the flat cookies I hoped I had left behind me! My new theory is that I added the chips before the flour, and that somehow made the difference, so I will try that again next time. That has to be it, right?! I can’t (I won’t) accept that these gorgeous cookies were a fluke.

Strength of Stone - Cookies and Wine

A perfect end to our weekly family dinner!

I’ve been using Martha Stewart’s recipe for soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies, only because I lost Aunt Fay’s recipe in the move. (Talk about the best chocolate chip cookie ever, hers would be it! But, when Aunt Fay makes them. They just aren’t the same when I make them. Don’t even get me started on her cream puffs.)

I truly thought my first story on the blog would be some funny thing David did, but I guess the joke is on me!

What is your favorite cookie recipe? Do you have any tips for making them look as good as they taste?

Balancing the endless love and laundry of marriage (and sometimes the checkbook)

Balancing the Endless Love and Laundry of Marriage (and Sometimes the Checkbook)

It’s been a while since I last dipped my toes into blogosphere water, but I feel that now is the perfect time for me to jump back in.

As a newlywed in a new home (with a kitchen I actually want to try new recipes in), with a new roommate (one of my new brother-in-laws), and a new penchant for keeping everything organized- I thought now is the perfect time to start a new blog. If for nothing else than to keep family and friends across the country updated on our crazy new life.

In the next week or so, I will begin sharing our stories, favorite recipes and tips for getting (and staying) organized. I will also start posting DIY and other decorating advice as I begin making this house a home.

Make sure you stay up to date with our latest posts by hitting the follow button (on the sidebar to the right) to receive new posts via email. Or, like us on our Facebook page- Strength of Stone Blog.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, see you next week!