Rock N’ Roll Bride

Almost exactly eight months ago Ben & I were married! Today our October wedding is featured on one of my favorite wedding blogs, Rock N’ Roll Bride. The site is such a great source for unique and fun wedding inspiration, so it’s definitely exciting to be amongst such stellar company. Click here to read the feature, which includes lots of photos by This is a Love (and with pinning buttons built right into the layout — how clever of you, RNRB!)

Thanks to Lizz Kuehl for submitting and Rock N’ Roll Bride for the feature. I’m just pleased as punch over here!


October 15th in Photos

Well, our wedding photos arrived right on schedule and we made a lovely Valentine’s day of it, pouring over them while drinking the last of the Cherry Republic Cherry Spice Wine we bought while on our honeymoon. I have looked at each of them so many times I’ve about memorized all 763 shots, but I’m still having a dickens of a time trying to figure out which ones to show you, internet. Biased though I may be, THEY ARE ALL TOO GOOD. Alas, I’ve tried to narrow it down to give you the gist of all the day’s events, as photographed by Lizz Kuehl of This is a Love Photography

One of my favorite shots. I suggested to Ben that we have this printed poster-size. He made a face that suggested he didn’t feel the same. But he didn’t say no, SOOOOO… My friend Jenny helped me pick out fabric for the bunting then stitched it up really beautifully using the letters I cut from felt. It hangs over our bedroom window like a makeshift valance now.

Us! These are pre-ceremony happy faces (though the post-ceremony faces were happy as well). We wanted to get to partyin’, so we took some family and wedding party photos beforehand.

1) Lizz took really gorgeous photos of Michelle‘s butterfly domes and paired these photos together really nicely. Gets me excited to start organizing albums and see how different shots play off eachother. 2) Also pre-ceremony. I look a lot more zen than I felt at the time. It took me about 20 minutes and a lot of deep breathes just to put my eyeliner on.

My sisters Jessica and Michelle were my maids of honor, and my best friend Jenny was bridesmaid. Scarlett, my niece and Jessica’s daughter was our flower girl and her outfit and bloomers made her look like the world’s cutest blue fairy thanks to an awesome Etsy find.

A little help from my mom. I never could tie a bow. I wore the “Spinning Lace” dress from Anthropologie. After seeing it in a store catalog, I headed downtown to try it on. I’d had a pretty abysmal dress trying-on experience prior to that that resolidified my abhorence for David’s Bridal. One of the best things about the Spinning Lace dress, aside from the fact that I can actually wear it again and it didn’t cost a fortune, is that it gave me an excuse to buy petticoats! (which, btw, ladies, don’t pay a fortune for those either. I got mine for $40 from this seemingly questionable steampunk costume website and they’re really well made, fluffy, and wonderful. Plus I got some funny RPG/time traveling information in my package.

Prior to my wedding my make up bag didn’t exist. The only products I owned were foundation, powder, mascara, an eyelash curler and a Neutragena lipstick in practically the same shade as my natural lip color. This was partly because I never liked the idea of being overly made-up, but also because I was just beauty product ignorant. Honestly, I kind of feared the stuff. Having no makeup know-how you’d think a makeup appointment would have been on my wedding to-do list, but I wanted to do it myself. I figured I wouldn’t wear much so why bother? So, in leiu of a traditional bachelorette party I opted for a day out with Jessica and Jenny, lunch, a movie, and overcoming my fear of asking for help in Sephora. And it was GREAT. One notch below life-changing, really. I discovered some products I loved and had an excuse to splurge on this Dior lipstick in Ara Red. I felt like Snow White. In a good way.

My shoes! They’re Tea and Cakes by Irregular Choice and though I love them dearly I admit that when I purchased them I had no idea I’d be walking down a cobblestone aisle. We had previewed the ceremony grounds under snowy conditions and I didn’t realize what a safer choice wedges would have been. Alas, when one finds perfectly enormous black bows like these one is left with no choice but to risk one’s life. A family friend taped a 3 pence inside a card at my bridal shower explaining the symbolism. I taped it to the bottom of my shoe for luck and to fulfill the “something old” requirement.

I made these silly speech bubbles using foam core and black Copic marker on a whim and I’m so glad I did. They made some of my favorite photos.

I had these custom bows made by Pixel & Hank and they were the first purchase I made for the wedding. It was a good thing we weren’t too set on a color scheme because the lovely but impossible-to-match grayish cornflower blue I selected for the bows was… well… impossible to match. In my more relaxed moments of planning I had faith that following my instincts would lead to a look that was “us”, without needing a set “theme” or a ton of stuff in the same shade of blue. Anyway, the girls were pretty stoked on them and they looked adorable, even if I do say so myself.

My poor mother. In the middle of a random October heatwave, in an unshaded parking lot, she exercised great patience (and upperbody strength) while I attempted to pick out about a dozen perfect pumpkins. I cleaned, carved, and painted them with acrylics a few days before the wedding.

It would be hard to say enough good things about working with our florist, Holly Rutt of Sweet Pea Floral Design in Ann Arbor. She’s sweet, she’s professional, she’s extremely good at what she does, and we clicked immediately. Jessica and I were giddy after meeting with her. The guy’s boutonnières and bridesmaid bouquets all contained small paper flowers Holly made from book pages, which Ben was a fan of.

YOU MAY FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE, but there’s actually much much more!

2011: Year in Review

2011 deserves a slap on the back. It was a banner year, a year we’ll celebrate for the rest of our lives… hopefully with cake. In the heart of fall, arguably the loveliest time of year, I married my best friend, danced like a fool with far away friends whom I love, and had the pleasure of seeing months of wedding preparation and worry pay off in the most satisfying way. I was overwhelmed by the support of so many good and generous people all coming together to celebrate our marriage and future. Hands down, it was the best day I’ve ever known.

People ask if it’s weird to suddenly start referring to someone as “my husband” or note how “crazy” it is that I’m married now, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. To me it just feels right. For one, after a year and a half of referring to someone as your fiancé you can’t wait to get the words “husband and wife” out of your mouth, and for two… well, when I think back to the 9th grade version of myself and remember my achingly huge crush on Ben, the same one I silently harbored all through college, it does seem a bit crazy. Like marrying a rat-tailed New Kid on the Block after kissing the poster image of them hung over your bed every night… if I may make a horribly gross analogy. It’s the definition of a dream come true.

Photos by This is a Love

2011 was also the year I moved back to my home state of Michigan. It was about a decade ago that I moved to New York City for college and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be back. I don’t always love it — the strip malls still get me down and I’m seriously mourning the lack of independent book stores and art centers — but getting to see our families, especially for holidays and our nieces birthdays, is something I don’t take for granted. Living here, we also have a much bigger and better apartment than in Chicago, which made having a second kitty finally reasonable, and Ben adopted one for me for my birthday. Hedwig. She is serious trouble, destroying plants and ornaments and shoelaces, but she is also THE GREATEST THING EVER. Speaking of my birthday, as of this year, I now share it with my beautiful niece Heidi, born September 14 at 10 am. She is a pink dream and seeing Ben & his brother Andy, and really the whole family, interact with her is pretty heart-melting stuff. In December, our niece Scarlett turned 2, learned to say “Ben” and had an inflatable bounce house birthday party that was easily as much fun for the adults as it was the kids. And in other exciting family news, my sister Michelle became engaged to Kevin, which I think was an incredibly good idea. I revisited Manhattan and Jersey City for the first time since moving in 2009, ate cake with some of my best girlfriends in front of St. Marks Cathedral while dodging a hurricane, visited my old stomping grounds, and was majorly relieved to eat a decent bagel for the first time in years.

In terms of “achievements”, I learned how to use liquid eyeliner, drove a car (in a parking lot), had oysters for the first time, cooked and baked more than ever before, revitalized my blog (!), am learning how to take decent photos, overcame my fear of asking for help in Sephora, and won an award for doing something dumb and terrifying — fake dying in front of a large group of strangers. Oh, and I finally saw the end (and alternate end) of Felicity. Oh, Ben! Oh, Noel!

In years past, I’ve made a list of favorite releases from the year — books, albums, that sort of thing — but I guess my media intake just wasn’t very hip this year because I’m struggling to pick real standouts. So instead, here’s a most memorable list…

  • Kitty Photo: There were many, but this one both horrifies and delights Ben & I the most.
  • Meals: Aside from our wedding dinner (we will never forget your pecan-encrusted salmon, Wendy Weller), my birthday dinner with Ben and his parents at Tom’s Oyster Bar in Royal Oak stands out. The food was fantastic (especially clam chowder), the atmosphere was nice, our server was top notch, and I felt tremendously loved. Of course, Friendsgiving 2011 at our pals Anthony & Ariels was fantastic as well…. Okay, we ate a lot of good things with a lot of good people. Next topic.
  • Bit of Cleverness: The Legend of Alexandra & Rose, a one page illustrated story by Jon Klassen, who was certainly one of my favorite artist discoveries this year.
  • Use of the Internet: 1) Comics. I’ve come across several artists using webpages for comics that scroll and take full advantage of your monitor. They’re great because, as with a book, the timing of visuals is key, and you don’t see everything at once. I was super impressed by Emily Carroll‘s work. This page from her comic The Prince & the Sea is a great example. 2) Printables. Designer and printer Amanda Jane Jones has great style and the fact that she’s a Michigan resident gives me a bit of artistic hope. She’s also a great example of how sharing some of your work by making it internet-accessible and printable is, basically, making the internet a more creative and better place to be. Her printable advent calendar is one such example and these Design*Sponge bookplates are another.
  • Music: I feel like all I’ve listened to this year is Hank Williams Senior, Best Coast and Time to Pretend by MGMT on repeat, though I know that can’t be true. I guess it’s just that my most memorable music listening this year revolved a lot around wedding planning, and there was virtually no new stuff to be heard there (except for when the DJ went off list and played us some Adele. Worse wedding music blunders have happened, though.) Our wedding party walked down the aisle to Sweet Jane by the Velvet Underground and I walked to the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, our pre-ceremony music was all boppy girl group and doo wop — Lollipop, Be My Baby, Chapel of Love — dinner was classic country — mostly Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank — and our party jams included The Monster Mash, Ramones, Otis Redding, and Supremes. I put together an Rdio playlist of some of our weddin’ tunes should that sound appealing to you.
  • Movie Moments: 1) In Hugo, during the opening credits, the moment 3D snow started falling over Paris I was awed. 2) Anytime Ellen Page laughed her embarrassingly unattractive evil cackle in Super, especially after smashing a man into a brick wall and then, only half dressed, got out of her car to scream “AND NOW YOUR LEGS ARE GONE“. Every so often, for no particular reason, I will think of this and smile. But if my mom is reading this, you definitely don’t want to click that link… 3) More appropriately, though still mean-spiritedly, in The Help, when Allison Janney’s character shouts “Get your raggedy ass off my porch! Go on! Get off my property now! Before we all get one of those disgusting things on our lips!” at a bitchy-assed coldsore-lipped Hilly Hollbrook. My pal Jenny and I struggled to stopped laughing/crying over the unexpected lip line in the theater and were still holding our sides as we walked through the parking lot.
  • Addition to our Regular Homecooking Repertoire : Homemade pizza. I just chop the vegetables and put the toppings on, but it’s always tasty and fun to make them together and try different concoctions. Ben’s perfected his dough making with a baking stone and peel.
  • Kitchen Discoveries: 1) The pleasure of fresh herbs. My mother and sister-in-law have much greener thumbs than me, and bestowed several plants upon on this year (basil, rosemary, mint, lemon thyme). Sadly they have all died as of this week… but we kept ’em going for a long time! And they really do elevate simple meals. 2) A garlic press. How and WHY did I live without one?
  • Favorite Purchase: My Kate Spade double bow black stud earrings. I bought them in Soho (which is a lot more fun than buying them in Sterling Heights), and wore them on our wedding, so I have fond memories every time I wear them. Simple. Cute. I love them.
  • Sweetest Moment: During our wedding reception, when our niece Scarlett took to the dance floor in her footie pajamas, dragging along her blanket with her.
  • Dangerous but Funny Moment: While moving from Chicago to Ferndale I was feeling sorry for our cat Emilio, who was moaning in his carrier, so I decided to hold him. He hates to be held though, so he decided to hide on the UHaul breaks, which made Ben, our driver, shout quite a bit.
  • Worst Excuse: Clyde Christopher Wellons for having “trapped gas” to get out of work. Which he didn’t have. As far as I know. The best part was that he didn’t even need an excuse because as he was telling me his genius sick day scheme I could barely understand him for the awful head cold he was already suffering.
  • Adjustment: New names. For me and my website. I changed my middle name from Ann to my maiden name of Johnston and took Ben’s last name. Nicole J. Wroblewski, that’s-a-me! is being phased out in favor of the more triumphant :)
  • Taste: Cherry wine. I hope it always reminds me of our honeymoon in Traverse City, MI.

And then there are books. A subject unto themselves…

I figured the number of books I’d be able to read in a year would plummet dramatically after leaving my bookstore job, where the only real perk was that I was able to borrow books (and nooks), and leaving our Chicago apartment and it’s proximity to the public library. Fortunately, our new apartment is still within walking distance to the local library and my Kindle makes the adult new release titles I want to read affordable (and lightweight), so my reading habit hasn’t suffered much at all. I set a 50 book goal for myself, finished 54, and am currently working my way through 2 others. See everything I read and reviewed in 2011 on my goodreads page.

And now it’s on to 2012, “The Year of Ben”, as Ben calls it. He’s supposed to perfect his mojito-making and I’m hoping Illy espresso is going to be the key to me finally making the perfect at-home latté. Here’s to new recipes, new experiences, and new pals; to more art, more photos, and more making! Happy New Year!

Our Wedding Invitations

It’s time for part three in the ongoing internet saga that is my wedding documentation! Today I’m sharing some of our printed matter, including our save-the-dates, bridal shower invites, and wedding invitations and response cards. A healthy dose of DIY character was really important to us in planning our wedding, and I knew right away that I’d be taking on all invitation design myself. Initially I had my heart set on letterpress stationary, but in the end, I didn’t want to simplify my four-color palette, nor did I want to pay a small fortune to have that many colors printed by press. So, with the help of a friend and former print shop worker, we had them printed locally in full color on white linen, at a fraction of the price. I was thrilled with the results. They’re crisp and textured with only the slightest bit of sheen, and all of my details, down to the thinnest lines, came out exactly as intended. So, brides, heed these words: letterpress is beautiful, but if you can’t afford it, don’t try to. (pictured: leftover twine from our candy favor bags and some paper flowers, which I made into a bouquet for tossin’)

I liked the old school formality of glassine tissue, even if I didn’t actually need it for protection purposes. Using tracing paper, I cut out two sizes of hearts to insert into the envelopes over the invitations.

The invitations measured 5″x7″. The butterflies are a nod to the insect bell jar centerpieces at our reception, the ghosts were echoed in our cook book favors, pumpkins are not only a fall staple, but one of my favorite things, and reading side-by-side is often how we can be found :)

I made the numbers using fabric, cereal box cardboard, and spray adhesive for our tables (but more on that later). I keep a couple of them propped up around the house, on bookshelves and atop picture frames.

Response cards were 4"x6" postcards. (also pictured: I kept the ribbon from my bridal bouquet. Now it's tied around a vase in our living room)

Lettering digitally was probably the most time consuming design aspect, for me. Achieving a neat and readable yet imperfectly perfect handmade look isn’t quick work for me, especially on a tablet. I actually worked out a new upper and lowercase alpabet in cursive specifically for our response cards, and I’m really glad I put as much thought into as I did because I utilize it in typography elements, and just in addressing my snail mail now, all the time and it’s really satisfying to enjoy your own handwriting the way you do a favorite font.

In retrospect, if I were to change anything, I would have opted for v-shaped envelop flaps (not the lack of proper address, which has only been stamped out). I’m not losin’ sleep over it or anythang though.

I shared a glimpse at our save-the-date postcards way back when, but here they are again along with an example of other ways I used the silhouette to fancy up some of the printed materials at my bridal shower. It was perfect atop print outs of a quiz game we played at my bridal shower, and had it printed on the menus as well. I found a little personalization goes a long way in making an event look special, and all I had to do was e-mail a jpeg to the restaurant owner. The save-the-dates were glossy postcards with rounded corners and measured 5″x7″.

My bridal shower invites were also postcards, 4″x6″ with spot gloss on the front, so that the noodles and fork appeared glossy while the pink background was matte. It was at Ben’s cousin’s Italian restaurant, Pepperoni Grille, in Saint Clair Shores, MI, which, by the way, serves the greatest cheese ravioli IN THE WORLD.

And a few sketches :) And that about covers it! For more of our wedding details check out these posts:

Centerpieces by Alfred & Alma’s Insect Shoppe

Get ready, it’s time for PART II in the NICOLE BLOGS ABOUT HER WEDDING TOO SLOWLY series. Today I’m sharing one of my favorite wedding details: our centerpieces. Before I even knew what season or state I wanted to be married in, I knew one thing: there would be bugs on our tables. And my sister, Michelle Johnston, would be responsible for getting ’em there.

While working as a photographer and assistant in the entomology department of Soho’s destination natural history store, Evolution, Michelle (who also takes beautiful landscape and documentary photographs, founded the Uganda-based non-profit Focus on Change, helps find homes for rescue dogs, AND finds time to be a sweet lil’ baker) was falling oddly and deeply in love with creepy crawlies, namely beetles. In addition to bringing them home as pets, her entomological interest and artistic eye led her into creating insect displays, which she makes by commission and sells at Kanibal Home in Jersey City under the name of Alfred & Alma’s Insect Shoppe. Available in a variety of arrangments (frames, pails, terrariums, etc), her insect displays are perfect for home decor, weddings (clearly), and other special occasions too.

For our wedding, Michelle created 17 original pieces using glass domes of various sizes (everything from about 3″ for side tables, to 14″ for guests tables), which were perfect for 360-viewing on the round dinner tables. Not wanting to put any bug-haters off their meal, we mostly stuck to butterflies, with a few beetles (who could hate a rhino beetle? and scarabs are like little jewels) on select tables. The greater the variety of species and colors, the greater the interest was the way my husband Ben & I saw it, so we told Michelle not to limit herself to a specific color palate. Giving her that freedom really paid off. We loved the fall-inspired (our wedding was in October, after all) monochromatic and dried leaf dome she made just as much as the colorful mossy domes with purple flora. After the wedding, they made great gifts for our families and wedding party. And of course, Ben & I didn’t mind keeping our favorites for ourselves. Now they’re beautiful and interesting art pieces in our home as well as happy reminders of our wedding day.

I’m aching to see how our wedding photographer, Lizz Kuehl of This is a Love, captured all of our day-of decor and details, but for now, here are some images of our wedding domes sitting solo, as well as a few of Michelle’s commissioned works.

All photos by Michelle Johnston. An Alfred & Alma’s Insect Shoppe website is in the works. For now, follow the shop on Facebook and Twitter.

How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me-heeee

Slowly but surely, internet, I plan on sharing some of our wedding details with you. Consider this part one of a series.

We had two favors at our wedding. The way I see it, two of the best things you can receive in life are as follows: 1) something to eat and 2) something handmade. Thing 1 was a small sack of candy corn three ways (Brach’s original, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon apple). The portions were small because… well, because I HAD TO HAVE THESE chevron paper Bitty Bags from Whisker Graphics, and they happened to be puny. Plus we were realistic enough to recognize that not everybody enjoys candy corn as much as we do and NOBODY likes it as much as Ben does. Thing 2 is what I want to share with you!

It’s a zine-style cookbook full of some of our most made, best loved, and fondest memory-inducing recipes, including my super-duper-excellent baker husband’s tried and true scone recipe, our most memorable Christmas dinner, and a friend’s pumpkin bread recipe I’ve been desperate for since college. Knowing it was going to be printed in black and white, and knowing that few foods look appetizing in grey scale, I made foodie ghost illustrations for the inside, inspired by the ghouls on our wedding invitations (more on those later). I’ve uploaded the booklet as a PDF for both digital reading as well as double-sided printing, should you feel so inclined. My best gal and bride’s maid Jenny stitched them up the middle with a light blue thread. With guests names written on the covers, they also served as our escort cards and something for our friends and family to peruse at their tables. I’m pretty sure the Bottoms Up! Guide to Mixed Drinks spiked Malibu + Coke action at the bar. So, while we didn’t intend to serve any signature drinks, “Bride’s Choice” ending up being a favorite that evening.

While a lot more time consuming than I’d estimated (edit, edit, edit, layout, layout, layout), I really enjoyed working on it, and it felt really rewarding to share something so inherently us with our friends and family. Peronsal, economical and, we hope, appetite inspiring. If you have any sense at all you’ll want to make a batch of my mom’s rice krispy treats. Page 14.

Oct. 15, 2011

Back from our very cozy and relaxing albeit BRISK honeymoon in Traverse City, and I have lots of photos and thoughts (and fudge and cherry wine) to share. There’s tidying and work to be done first, though, so for now, I leave you with this photo (by the everybody-agrees-she’s-awesome Lizz Kuehl of This is a Love Photography) and sentiment:


Pssttttt: see more of This is a Love’s shots on facebook or visit!