Friendsgiving 2011.

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Sunday, November 27, 2011. Filed under: , , ,
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This year was the first time I prepared Thanksgiving dinner. I was blessed to be surrounded by my soon-to-be husband, dear friends, and even a new friend! Here are some images, forgive how messy I look. It was a long day of traveling from Michigan, and cooking for several hours.

the beautiful Meredith preparing to carve the turkey.

about to serve mashed "purdurdurs" 

mmm crescent rolls

the lovely Sam

the mister

coffee time with keef

i served 3 pies: pumpkin, pecan and miniature apple.

the photog, nick, with my mug. :)

the mini apple pies with pumpkin. mmmm.

this is what all of the goods looked like together!
{all images courtesy of Nick Biscardi}

I can't tell you how happy I was to be in the kitchen all day, preparing dish after dish, so we could all enjoy a happy holiday together. It was a wonderful beginning to new traditions.  

We were stuffed with crescent rolls, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes (mashed purdurdurs!), roasted carrots, and the frans all ate turkey. There was fancy wine and fancy beer. We followed it up with coffee, eggnog and pumpkin, pecan and mini apple pies. Absolutely, 100% blessed.

The time was filled with friendship, laughter, and happiness.

At the end of the evening, the Mister and I made a deal with our friends to shop for the silliest things at the beginning of midnight on Black Friday. They picked up bath towels for us, and we picked up flash drives for them. Silly, right??

Our friend Nick sent me this, as we all stood in our respective lines: "We should still be full of pie and turkey and nog. These people in line with us should be at home with the families whose love they're trying to buy. We're all better than this."

But to tell you the truth, as much as I love my still-new Black Friday tradition, I have to say I was completely pleased with the fullness of pie, nog, and thanksgiving noms.

So, what traditions did you celebrate this year? Did you find any good deals on Black Friday? Did you celebrate a friendsgiving, or did you celebrate with family? Tell me all about your holiday this year. :)

happy holidays!

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Saturday, November 26, 2011. Filed under:
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We have a lot to be thankful for.
On behalf of both of us, we're thankful for all of you.
God bless!


where i've been.

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. Filed under: , , , , , ,
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Happy post-Thanksgiving, my friends! We haven't spoken in a bit, I know. The past couple of weeks I learned that things get very hectic when you're planning your first vacation with your fiancĂ©. It feels so grown up to say that! We both have worked full time for the past 5 months, and since we knew we wouldn't be back to the Mitten and our friends for Christmas, we decided to spend the week prior to Thanksgiving with our friends and family. 

It was fantastic. 

There were stressful moments, to be sure, but the moment we arrived on our good friend Rhett's doorstep, we felt at home. The following 4 days were filled with good food, lots of laughter, delicious well made coffee, brewery 'tours' and best friend adventures. Coming home was sad for the both of us, but we were filled with joy and love! We truly couldn't have asked for more.

a collection of images from the orchard, the wine tasting,
 the brewery and the grand rapids adventure. we love our friends so much.

pure michigan.

mr. burkhart at our wedding venue. (via joe photography)

bromance at bell's brewery.

delicious soy cappuccino with rare elaffante espresso at madcap coffee, grand rapids, MI. 

if you asked me what i'm thankful for this season, i'd tell you that it's more than i could ever have time to say. but if you really want to know, take a look at these pictures.

up next: Chicago friendsgiving recap.

a pinteresting monday.

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Monday, November 14, 2011. Filed under: , , , , ,
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Mondays, mondays, mondays.

They almost always start off crazy. Today in higher ed, everything seemed off kilter. My suspicion is that I'm not the only one who woke up dreaming of just one more day off.

I'll be honest with you guys: the key word of my weekend was lazy. Sure, I met with our wedding photographer, purchased some goodies for the wedding from a strange foreign man in a garage, and even had a movie night with friends. But goodness, I spent so much time soaking up time spent doing nothing. I'll tell you guys, when it comes in small doses, it's the best.

A lot of my free time I spend focusing on what little details I like from other weddings I find, and planning how to make details my own. Thank God for Pinterest!

 Here are some things I love.

1. Chalkboards

2. Word bunting :)

3. Do it yourself photobooth props

4. Rustic wooden signs
{use your imagination here}

There are many more details to come! My mind is always swirling with the fun ideas. What are your favorite wedding details? What's inspiring you to create lately? 

Are you following me on Pinterest yet? I'd love to see you!

A lovely {and practical} how to..

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Thursday, November 10, 2011. Filed under: , , , ,
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When I'm reading my favorite blogs, I look for three things:

1. Crafty tutorials
2. Recipes + step by step instructions on how to cook {because let's face it, my famous cheese quesadillas are only going to get me so far when I become a wife..}
3. Useful how to's.

One of my favorite useful how to's that I recently stumbled upon this inspirational how to via Leigh-Ann at Freckled Nest, aptly called "Pay Off Debt."

Leigh-Ann's tips:

1. My first step for me was to stop spending so the debt quit growing! No more instinct shopping, only planned & needed purchases. 
Quit depending on others to bail you out.  
In January, I got obsessed with paying off my debt like it was a game... all I wanted to do was see those numbers go down!
4. Set yourself a reward.5. Make a list and prioritize! I wrote down all my debts and the priority of each. I paid off my debt to my Dad first, then the priority of all others was based on highest interest first (not highest or lowest amounts). Breaking the total down into steps/portions makes it feel so much less daunting and totally attainable.
Pay all your regular bills monthly.  
7. Once you've paid it off, close the credit card accounts except for one major credit card and always use cash that you actually have... Close them 3-5 months apart, but cut the cards up in the mean time.

Having been in a very similar situation to LA in the past, I have to agree! Once you stop spending, you simply have to stop allowing others to help you out. LA put it best when she said "it is like enabling an addiction," a very dangerous addiction in today's economic climate. When I was facing scary very high interest (24%, gulp!) credit card debt, I became afraid to open the bills when they arrived. Even though I wasn't spending, my debt accumulated monthly at an astronomical rate. 

So here's what I'd like to add to LA's tips:

1. Because I was a full-time student with a very limited income at the time, I called my credit card company and asked them to work with me. I explained that the monthly amount they wanted from me was more than half of my income, and inquired if they could shut down the account and lower my interest if I agreed to make automatic monthly payments. This apparently was the key word, because my interest was lowered to 12%, and I was put on a one year pay off plan. I can't tell you how excited I became those last three months, and I paid extra each time just to get rid of the debt! So my biggest piece of advice is, be humble, and just ask. If you really seek to pay your debt, often the companies will work with you!

2. Stop making impulse purchases! Put the bag down and back OUT of the store. I know it feels good to purchase something that will make you feel better about yourself. After all, you've been working so hard .. you deserve it right? If you are barely making ends meet, or facing a mounting pile of debt, that temporary feelgood moment is just that... temporary. It will go away, sometimes as soon as you look at the numbers. For me {and many of my friends!} it was quickly replaced by a big knot in my stomach. I love this thought from a Yahoo! article: "Commercials exist to convince you that material possessions are somehow related to happiness. This is a lie. Material possessions won't boost your ego — they'll steal your ability to become financially free."

Since I learned to stop making impulse purchases {believe me, it takes a lot of prayer and willpower not to hop off the bus and into a Forever 21 every week!}, I have found much more value in the very few purchases I do make. The $15 dress I bought a few weeks ago has since become my favorite.

 photo courtesy of moonpie photography !

3. Find somebody who will be REAL with you, and hold you accountable. the Bear is a master penny-pincher for me, and I am a strong penny-pincher for him. We call, text or ask each other before making any purchases over $10. Crazy, right? But by holding each other accountable to our life goals, which includes paying for our wedding, paying my student loans, and moving to Texas, we can be very strict with each other. Which brings me to my next tip...

4. Set a goal {and some rules} for yourself! I never understood this concept for the first three years I lived in Chicago. I tried, and tried, and tried again. For some reason, I couldn't keep any money in my savings account. Until the day the Mr. put a ring on my finger. All of a sudden, my favorite thing to do is hoard money from my check and put it into my savings. You will be surprised how quickly the savings add up when you are working towards a goal. So what kind of rules should you set? Stop eating out multiple times a week {pack yourself a lunch! eat before your friends want to meet you at a restaurant!}, don't make impulse buys, and set aside x-amount of dollars from every paycheck. Even $10-20 can go a long way. What would happen if you saved for a few months to go on a shopping spree, instead of going when you have "extra money" next check?

What are your tips for saving? Have you gotten yourself out of debt- if so, how? Or are you currently struggling in debt? Try out these tips and stop back - let me know how it works for you!

DIY "Upcycle" ~ how to prepare your everyday jars for crafting.

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. Filed under: , , , ,
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Happy Thursday everybody!

I am really excited to share this little tutorial with you. Mostly because if you do this upcycle, you'll save yourself tons of time scouring thrift shops for overpriced old jars. Don't get me wrong, there's an unmatchable charm to those old thrifted jars. But when you have perfectly good ones sitting in your refrigerator or recycling bin waiting to be used, there's no reason not to make the best of them!

Here's a little bit of background: not only do I hope to use mason jars for our centerpieces, but I want each and every guest at our wedding to have one to enjoy their beverages. I just love the aesthetic of it, and it really suits our laid-back barn theme!

It didn't take me long to realize that we were using a lot of jars every week: for salsa, pasta sauce, jam.. even pickles! With decent thrifted jars often priced between $1-6 a piece, and our really small wedding budget, I knew I had to get creative. So I started soaking and peeling labels off of each and every jar when we were finished with it. As a chips and salsa fiend, they have certainly added up quickly. Along with using these jars came an irritating consequence: I couldn't always get the adhesive off of them! Then I figured it out. A simple method our grade school science teachers have always taught us: enter a little oil (to lift the adhesive), add some hot, hot soapy water, and scrub.

Ready to see what happens?

 Here's what you'll need:
1. Two bowls
2. Oil (I chose vegetable oil)
3. Dish soap and hot water
4. Something rough to scrub with (I used Scotch Bright Scrubbers)
5. Jars stuck with adhesive!

Step 1: Fill the first bowl with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup oil. Fill the second bowl almost full with hot, hot water and sudsy dishsoap. It will help to soak your jars in hot water first, or run them under a very hot water faucet. This will loosen the adhesive to begin.

Step 2: Dip your scrubber in the oil  (If this DIY isn't the easiest ever.. I don't know what is!)

Step 3: Scrub every bit of the adhesive as hard as you can with the scrubber.

Step 4: Once your adhesive is completely covered in oil and you've scrubbed as much as you can, place it in the bowl of hot soapy water. Now rinse your scrubber out, and scrub as hard as you can- again! Make sure you are running your fingers over the areas you're scrubbing to see if the adhesive is off.

When you're done, rinse each of them under the faucet with very hot water, and place them in the dishwasher. (Or, if you don't have one.. wash by hand.. I'm sorry!)

The result will be several jars without any adhesive on them. And you'll be one happy crafter, ready to make a jar-lamp, a snowglobe, or a mantle piece. Aren't you excited to see what you can do with your new, clean, upcycled jar? The DIY you will see next week is going to feature a couple of fun projects with jars.

What's your idea of a fun jar craft project? Or-  what's another easy upcycle you like to do? Leave me a comment here to share your ideas! Also-  be sure to check back in a couple of hours when I reveal a very useful tutorial - "how to pay off your debt"!

Autumn Instagram Round Up #BestThingISawToday

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Filed under: , ,
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I read recently that the key to happiness is true gratefulness. Expressing gratitude, even in the little things, really makes a difference in your happiness. Have you ever noticed how if you comment on all the little annoyances of your day, your outlook is a lot more negative? Suddenly your day is bad, your friends are bad, your life is bad. 

But, man.. the joy that comes from my heart when I express thankfulness. It doesn't come just from anywhere, but an eternal joy within. Once I get started, I get overwhelmed with happiness as I realize all of the great things around me. 

With that, let me introduce "Best Thing I Saw Today" - an upcoming project from a dear friend, Frances. She shares the sentiments I do. If we just focus a little more on the "best thing" we see each day, we'll start to see our lives uplifted. 
 Clockwise, from top left: 1. Spiced brandy cider! 2. My favorite place to be every week.
3. A super gorgeous man bowling at Chicago's only old-fashioned alley.
4. Me, giving up on shopping in favor of trail mix. 
1. The lovely view from the neighbors. 2. Beautiful autumn.
3. A day off together to explore. 4. Halloween festive food with friends.

What are the best things you saw today? Tweet your pictures to @francesblank, hashtag #bestthingisawtoday, or leave them in a comment here! Don't forget to share with me!

Inspired Monday: the Etsy version

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Monday, November 7, 2011. Filed under: , , , ,
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Yesterday the Mr. and I walked around the city after church, relishing in our first day off together in months. Man, I can't put words to how much we both enjoyed the day together. One of our favorite things to do together is wander the city and show each other what inspires us, what desires we have, and what we hope to be doing in the coming months.

and, because it's November, I've got Holidays on the brain. My heart is so warm at autumn and early winter traditions! Since this is our first year "on our own" and away from the traditions of home, we've got to create new ones. Today we wandered through shops, discussing gifts we'd like to get for each other {even though we've got two very big Christmas gifts for each other coming in the mail next week, but shhh! that's a secret!}. 

In the spirit of gift giving and wishlist making {the former being my personal favorite!}, here are some Etsy finds I'd love to share with you. Hopefully they will inspire you to create a giving list that outweighs your wishlist. ;)

{hint: #2 has something to do with my surprise coming in the mail this week! ;) }

What sorts of gifts do you hope to give/receive this year? Will you shop the Black Friday deals? Or do you have lots of handmade gifts in mind? I'll share my do-it-yourself handmade gift ideas later this week.

A Thursday How To ~ Fabric Flowers

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Thursday, November 3, 2011. Filed under: , , , ,
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As promised, I want to bring you with me on the DIY adventure to the Burkhart Wedding. On a DIY wedding budget, there isn't much room for extras like florists and caterers. So, you have to get creative. Considering I know next to nothing about flowers, but absolutely adore the feeling created by sunshine yellow, I have been collecting fabrics lately to make flowers. When I took the plunge and began creating these flowers, I truly found the vision of our wedding. These will play a big part of showing our friends and family our creative, laid-back personalities.

Today I'm showing you a fun tutorial to make fabric rosettes. It's rainy and dark here in Chicago, and these fabric flowers are sure to bring some sunshine to your day.

Here's what you'll need:
-a cutting mat
-a rotary cutter (or start with some sharp scissors - I'll explain a fun method)
-hot glue gun and glue (or fabric glue)

Step 1: Cut your fabric into 2" strips
I use a ruler, mat and a rotary cutter, because I'm really clumsy and can't cut fabric in straight lines like a normal person might. ;) But if you don't have these materials, you can easily make the strips using a sharp pair of scissors (for a precise cut). Just cut a little bit in, and then tear a straight line down the fabric. This will create a 'shabby chic' look later on.

Step 2: Fold fabric in half
Step 3:
Fold in half once again. For flimsier fabrics, it may help to place a dot of glue here, to hold the fabric together. Your fabric should now be about 1/2" wide.

Step 4: Roll the edge up until it is about 1/4"-1/2" wide. Place a dot of glue to hold this - it is the center of your rosette.
Step 5: 
Begin folding the fabric around the center.

  As you are folding it around the center roll, twist it. Place a dot of glue every couple of twists.
The more you twist these, the more you will begin to see your flower form! You can alter the process any way you want to. With less twists you'll have a flatter flower, but with more you will see your flower get fluffier. 

Here's how mine look!

And if you make enough of them, you will have your own bouquet!

Are you curious to see all the ways we'll be incorporating these into our wedding?? I'll give you a hint, they're not just for the centerpieces. I'll be taking custom orders for these soon, in the form of headbands, necklaces, and more. Christmas is on its way. 

What did you think of this tutorial? Would you like to see more? What kinds of crafts are you making lately?

a holiday in the city ~ cooking inspiration

Posted by Casey // dreams and bones. on Tuesday, November 1, 2011. Filed under: , , ,

As I mentioned yesterday, the Bear and I will be enjoying our holidays in Chicago this year. This post is dedicated to the delicious Thanksgiving feast inspirations floating around the internet. 

{isn't this a great idea? via Pinterest}
Though I have to admit, as I looked through recipes and pictures, the thought occurred to me "Um wait, I'm going to have to.. make.. a turkey? How do I even do that? Doesn't it take all day?"

.. and then I thought..

Whoa, this is like wife practice. MAKING THANKSGIVING. Starting our own traditions.

Here are the recipes we're hoping to enjoy this holiday.
Step 1: The Stuffing.
Stuffing, everybody's favorite. Stuffing in apples?! Take me there. Immediately.

Step 2: The Sides.

This step is tricky. There are only two of us. Which sides to do?

via Pinterest
Mashed potatoes, check.

Green bean casserole. Phew, check.
Roasted vegetables. Mmmmm, check.
"Tastes like Thanksgiving Casserole"... what! Yes, please.

Step 3. The Turkey

If any of you are out there reading this, do you have suggestions for alternatives to Thanksgiving turkey? Do they have small turkeys? Do I make a whole turkey for just one man? What's Thanksgiving without turkey?

Step 4. The dessert.
via Yours Truly :)
Sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Will you be trying anything new this year?