Sunday, August 21, 2011

Planning Our Honeymoon

Now that the wedding festivities are officially over (the last event was the Half Moon Brewery party with Greg's extended family in Kokomo, IN on 06AUG), we can finally focus on figuring out where to go for our honeymoon. And since I know everyone reading this would be disappointed if we just went to a beach resort for one week, we are keeping the adventure going with a sort of continuation of our RTW trip!

As you might expect, based on where we DIDN'T travel in the previous nine months, Central & South America are at the top of our list. However, because we know that in order to do justice to all the wonderful places to visit in that part of the world we would need at least 6 months plus a lot more time to plan and acquire the necessary visas, we've decided to reserve that trip for a future RTW-style adventure which will hopefully take place within the next 5 years (but my goal is the year that we're both 40).

Greg & I both agree that, right now, we don't want to go anywhere that would require significant research or advance planning. We also want to keep the style of travel relatively easy (no 12 hour long death-defying bus rides through rural Laos, but hostels & couchsurfing are still okay). And, because of the time of year, we have to consider the possibility of inclement weather. Despite the immense number of places in the world we have yet to visit, it was actually pretty easy to narrow down our options and return to Europe.

Wanting to slow down a bit compared to the fast pace we were keeping for most of our RTW trip, we have chosen to start our honeymoon in Ireland. From Dublin, we will rent a car and spend the entire month of September making a circular loop of the whole island (including Northern Ireland). Once we return to Dublin we will fly to Vilnius, Lithuania and make our way by bus north through The Baltics (also visiting Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia). From Tallinn we will ferry to Helsinki, Finland then travel by bus, boat and train through Northern Europe (including Sweden, Norway & Denmark) for one month. Once we reach Copenhagen, Denmark in early November we must decide if we will continue on to the Balkans (Croatia, Slovenia, etc.) or fly back through the U.S. to swap our rain/cool weather gear for shorts & swimsuits then go live on a beach until early December.

We will return to Nashville so we can attend the Patterson Family Holiday Party on December 10th, then will spend the remaining couple of weeks before Christmas packing and preparing for our move to Portland, OR. We'll enjoy the holidays with our family & friends in Tennessee and Indiana then fly to the West Coast in January, 2012.

Of course, you can count on both of us to continue to share our journey with you via our blogs, photos, Facebook updates and Twitter!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Things We Do For Love (I mean Vanity!)

Yes, I wanted to look my best for our wedding (and photos)! Here are a few of the cosmetic things I treated myself to prior to the wedding:

Zoom! Whitening
I had my teeth cleaned and then Zoom whitened one week later at Embassy Dental in Donelson. I had called many other dentist offices in the area but all were charging around $85 minimum for a cleaning. Embassy said they would only charge $45 if I also wanted to get my teeth whitened ($199). Despite the total cost being more, I had never tried whitening and thought it would be a good one-time-only experiment.

All in all I had a great experience. The hygienist did a good job with the cleaning although it felt a bit rushed (in & out in 30 minutes). I've been going to private practices for many years and they seem to spend more time with you, although that's probably just because they also do x-rays and the dentist actually comes in to chat for a few minutes.
For the whitening, my total time spent at the office was almost two hours. I had four consecutive 15 minute sessions. Other than the discomfort of having your mouth stretched open and lying in a chair for a long time, I only experienced a minor burning sensation on my top lip during the first session. It wasn't until the end of the final session that I felt the first "zingers." This is an intense pain that shoots through the tooth. They told me the best way to counteract it was by taking ibuprofen, using Sensodyne toothpaste, ACT fluoride mouthwash, and the custom-fitted trays they gave me to take home and fill with fluoride gel. I did all of these things but the pain was pretty intense for the first 24 hours. This is not the aching like after you've had orthodontic work; this is like being struck by lightning or getting an electrical shock -- an intense jolt of pain that had me seeing stars and physically reacting, like jerking my hand or arm and thus not making it very safe to drive! However I can report that my teeth are multiple shades whiter than they were before so it was probably worth it!
before whitening
after whitening
Haircut & Color
On a more budget-friendly note, when I'm in Nashville I usually get my hair cut at Great Clips in Hermitage. For a while I just accepted the first available person, but more recently I've learned to wait for Debbie, who has short hair herself and knows how to texture it just right. As a regular customer, I receive coupons in the mail, so my haircut only cost $8.99 (including a $2 tip).

After over a year of spending hundreds of dollars to have my hair cut and bleached platinum blond at Antonio Prieto Salon in New York City, I am quite happy to spend only $3 for Revlon ColorSilk home hair color (or something comparable). Depending on the season, I prefer dark browns and burgundies. I thought the contrast of dark hair would look nice with my white wedding dress plus the purplish color is a favorite!
resting my back before the ceremony
VersaSpa® Sunless Tanning System
This was only the second time that I can recall getting a sunless tan; the first was in New York City for an event a few years ago. I decided to go to Sun Tan City in Hermitage because it is close to my residence and their pricing is competitive ($50 for two applications). I tried the medium tint first and liked the results. I think the key is to follow the instructions of the staff/machine; make them explain it to you in detail and demonstrate the standing positions if it's your first time. You have to wait at least 4-6 hours before you take a shower, get sweaty, etc. so plan accordingly as it takes that long for the color to set in and then just don't scrub too hard in the shower!

The following week (three days before the wedding), I had the second application. It takes a few days to achieve maximum color but this time I was less satisfied with the results. I noticed some splotchiness around my hands, elbows, knees, etc. but luckily it's not too obvious in our wedding photos!
with this ring... but if you look closely at my hands you can see where the fake tan ends!
Spa Manicure & Pedicure
Greg & I made an appointment the day before the wedding at Holiday Nails in Hermitage where $38 gets you a spa manicure and pedicure. While we were supposed to have simultaneous treatments, one of the guys showed up late so it was more like one after the other. Otherwise we enjoyed the morning and had a nice time chatting with the owners who are from Vietnam. I chose OPI "A Grape Fit" nail polish for my toes and OPI "Altar Ego" for my hands. Greg decided to just have buffing, no polish.
Greg gets a manicure
Taking advantage of a recent Sharing Spree deal, I got a Signature Facial by Krystal Anderson at Serenity Skin in Brentwood the day before the wedding. It only cost $39.90 for a one hour treatment (a $75 value) plus I left a $20 tip. Getting a facial is one of my favorite indulgences, although it can be quite painful when they're extracting pores! However Krystal did a great job AND she gave me a complimentary microdermabrasion when she found out I was getting married the next day.

All in all, I think these special expenditures were well worth the cost and effort to make me look my best on my wedding day!

Monday, August 1, 2011

At Last

Friday, July 29, 2011 started on a worrisome note. I woke up at 7am and worked on a few last minute things on my computer. My mom called around 8am and said her doctor had just advised her to go to the emergency room because the pain in her ribs had intensified over the past few days (she was injured on July 18th by a ride at Kings Island Amusement Park). My best friend and matron of honor Amy called around 9am and we chatted for about 30 minutes while she drove home from the chiropractor; thankfully she was feeling okay. Finally, I heard from Greg, who was not feeling well due to nerves and a few too many beers & wings at his impromptu bachelor party at Buffalo Wild Wings the previous night.
Doug LaRowe rides with us to our hotel a few hours before the wedding
Greg and his brother Doug picked me up from my grandmother's house around 12:30pm. We drove to Holiday Inn Vanderbilt where Greg & I would be staying for the night. We had about an hour to kill before we needed to go to the chapel, so we transferred some music to Greg's iPod to play during the post-ceremony photo shoot and Greg ate some Kashi granola bars and pretzel snacks I had brought. I decided to go ahead and apply my makeup, hoping that I would not get too hot decorating the chapel and have to re-do it.
Skinner Chapel undecorated
Skinner Chapel decorated for our wedding
 We arrived at the chapel around 3:00pm and immediately started decorating. Doug placed the slipcovers over the chairs, Greg set up the music and I worked on the altar arrangement and garlands (I made the altar arrangement, my bouquet & Greg's boutonnier using silk flowers from Hobby Lobby and ribbon from Michaels). Amy & Eric Johnston arrived by 3:30 and she did a wonderful job tying all of the eggplant organza sashes over the chairs. Greg's best man Eric Speich and his girlfriend Jennifer arrived by 4:00pm as did my dad and his wife Debbie who was also our wedding photographer. By that point we were pretty much finished with the decorating and could relax for a few minutes before getting dressed. This was made easier by the Jameson Irish Whiskey and wine that was provided by the Johnston's!
Eric Johnston instructs Doug LaRowe as to how to serve the pre-wedding whiskey
All of our guests had been instructed to wait in a nearby building upon their arrival at Scarritt-Bennett Center. Skinner Chapel only seats 20 people (we had 17 guests excluding our officiant Ralph Griggs, Greg & myself). Amy & I got dressed in the auditorium adjacent to the chapel while Greg got dressed in the bathroom. Other than having a little difficulty getting Greg's boutonnier pinned on as well as tying a bow on my gown's sash (the satin was so heavy it made the bow droop so Amy & Debbie had to pin it together), the whole getting ready process went smoothly.
Amy Johnston helps me get dressed
The pre-ceremony music started at 4:40pm and Eric Speich & Doug LaRowe seated our guests two by two. I hid in the auditorium so that the only people who saw me in my dress prior to the ceremony were Amy and Debbie. The ceremony started at 5:00pm as our officiant, Greg, Eric and Amy walked in one by one to "The Best Is Yet To Come" (Frank Sinatra). Finally it was my turn and I walked in to "At Last" (Etta James).
my Matron of Honor Amy Johnston and Greg's Best Man Eric Speich are with us as we begin the ceremony
The ceremony lasted approximately 12 minutes. Everything was perfect although our officiant did mispronounce my name a couple of times in the very beginning. Luckily he corrected it for all the critical parts of the ceremony! Once we were presented as Mr. & Mrs. Greg LaRowe, we walked out to "I Feel Good" (James Brown). Greg's brothers Doug & Brian served everyone glasses of celebratory Barefoot Bubbly champagne immediately following the ceremony.
Greg & I enjoying a glass of champagne after the ceremony
After a short break we started posing for photos, first with our officiant, then with our family and friends (I had asked Debbie not to take any during the ceremony due to the small size of the chapel). Greg & I then moved outside for a few shots on the beautiful grounds of Scarritt-Bennett while our friends dismantled the chapel decorations and our family proceeded to the reception.
L-R: my sister Emily Corbin, my step-dad Ronnie Campbell, my mom Diane Patterson Campbell, the bride & groom, my paternal grandmother Betty Smartt, my dad Jerry Smartt, my step-mom (and our wedding photographer) Debbie Smartt
Greg's youngest brother Brian LaRowe, his dad Dave LaRowe, the bride & groom, Greg's mom Linda LaRowe, Greg's brother Doug LaRowe
We arrived at Nero's Grill just a few minutes past our scheduled 7:00pm dinner time. Once we were all comfortably seated in the Cactus Room and everyone had something to drink, we started to eat. Our first course was a mixed greens salad, followed by a choice of steak, chicken or salmon. For dessert we had red velvet cake with lavender-colored icing made by Anne's Bakery.
Greg & I cut the cake
Our private dining room was connected to XM satellite radio which we had tuned to Station 66 (Smooth Jazz) for background music. Greg & I had prepared a slideshow featuring over 800 photos of us from the past 2 1/2 years as well as highlights from our around-the-world trip which ran continuously throughout our dinner (you can see many of these photos by clicking on the slideshow on the right side of this blog's home page).
Best Man Eric Speich opens his gift from us - a custom-engraved beer mug
After all the toasting and feasting, most of the group moved into the bar area where Teri Reid & Jenny Hoeft were playing live music. No party would be complete without a rendition of Rocky Top and a little dancing (Teri's selection for us was I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher)!
our first dance as Mr & Mrs Greg LaRowe
Thanks to all our family and friends who were part of this special evening. We had a wonderful time!!!
The link to some of my favorite pictures from our wedding is embedded in this post's title.