Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In Our Backyard: Natural Wonders in the USA

When we were living in Germany I was always so excited to head to a new European city and explore. Steven, in contrast, seemed a bit jaded in regards to our frequent trips. These European cities that we Americans so often marvel at were just normal to him, nothing special. I always sort of scoffed at that idea, thinking something along the lines of are you crazy? Look how much awesome stuff there is around here!

Now we're back in the good old US of A and Steven's ready to get out and explore, but I'd never been all that interested in traveling through America. Sure, I'd like to see some cool places in the U.S. eventually but it's never been high on my priority list. The tables have totally turned: I'm the one feeling jaded and Steven's the one thinking that I am crazy.

Well, I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to see my country through his eyes. Suddenly I'm noticing things I would simply have overlooked before and passed off as normal. I live in a pretty cool place, and the U.S. is full to the brim of treasures worth exploring.

Here are some amazing natural wonders that Steven and I would really like to check off our list soon!





1. Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Honestly, this canyon seems like a photographer's dream come true. Looking at all of the pictures of this place around the internet, all I can think is how does something like this actually exist?




2. Hamilton Pool, Texas

How cool is this? This pool is naturally half-covered by a rock ceiling. From the photos I never would have guessed this was in Texas - I would have put it in Hawaii or somewhere in the Caribbean.

 



3. Crater Lake, Oregon

In the middle of this lake (the deepest lake in the US!) sits a partially sunken volcano. I'm sure this lake provides 365 degree views of pure awesome.




4. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

I have always wanted to explore a cave! I can find over 117 of them to explore at the Carlsbad Caverns. There are a variety of different tours you can take: self guided tours in the more easily accessible caverns all the way to guided cave exploration that involve crawling and climbing!


5. Yosemite National Park 

This is so close to me, and yet I've never been! Talk about natural wonders. I would love to spend a week here in the summer or late spring, spending days swimming in lakes, horseback riding, enjoying campfires and of course hiking the world famous half-dome. 

Have you seen many natural sights in the US? What are your favorites? Where do you really want to go?




Monday, January 28, 2013

Steven's First Time at Disneyland




My husband had never been to Dinseyland until Monday. He turned 25 on Sunday, and I surprised him after church by asking him to hop in the car for a "little drive." He had no idea what was going on  (especially because I didn't have him pack anything or wear anything special) during the 1.5 hour drive south towards Anaheim. It wasn't until I pulled into the hotel parking lot and pulled a packed suitcase out of the trunk that I explained we'd be spending the next day at Disneyland.

Guys. He was so excited.

At his insistence, we were there right when the park opened at 8 AM. For the first half of the day it was completely empty - the longest we waited in line was 10 minutes, if that! We were getting through the rides so quickly that we had time to stop and take pictures with princesses, ride around on the pirate ship Columbia and explore Pirate Island (though I still feel a hint of sadness every time it's called Pirate Island and not Tom Sawyer's Island.)

By the end of the day we were exhausted, our feet hurt and we were a little sunburned from hours spent outside in 80 degree weather - but it was so worth it. Seeing a place I've been to dozens of times through the eyes of a first-timer made it so fun and exciting!

The Indiana Jones ride will forever be my favorite.

Have you been to Disneyland? Disney World? What's your favorite ride? 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sponsor Unlost!


Hi there friends! Now that things with the blog relaunch have calmed down a bit, I am ready to begin accepting sponsors on Unlost! Exciting, right? After taking a break through the end of  December into January, I've created a system to handle blog sponsors, features, giveaways & funds in an organized and functional way! Hurrah!

So bring it on. If you're ready to promote your blog or business and want to get the most bang for your buck, click here to view the different sponsorship options!
 
Current Stats: 

23,500+ page views per month
2346+ Followers via Google Friend Connect/Bloglovin’
3790+ Followers via Combined Social Media Platforms

Blog updated at least three times per week (though five posts per week is not uncommon,) with significant increases in traffic after a post goes live.





Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter Warmth








| Skirt: H&M (old) | Belt: J.Crew (similar here.) | Top: Thrifted via Buffalo Exchange | Necklace: J.Crew Factory (old, but love this one.) | Bracelet: Oia Jules | Shoes: H&M (old.) |

80 degree weather and sunshine here in California leaves me wanting to abandon all of my newly purchased winter clothing in the closet and skip immediately to ratty cutoff shorts and comfy tees.
January? What January? It's late May where we are and we're loving it!

I wore this little number to my mom's birthday dinner this past week, and if this weather keeps up it my just be my last "winter" ensemble. I'm ditching the black and bringing out the mint and coral, folks. 

After a very (VERY) crazy couple of days celebrating my husband's birthday and then doing all of the catchup work that comes along with taking a few days off, I am about ready to pass out. Here's to hoping I get everything under control soon! 




Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How I Planned My Wedding in 5 Months with $5,000



I've talked about my wedding before on the blog, perhaps a bit too much. Only now, 1.5 years after the fact did I realize I never talked about how much the wedding cost! Gee Daryl, that could be really helpful and useful information to someone, especially since wedding planning on a budget is t-o-u-g-h.

Our wedding was planned in just under five months (CRAZY) with just under $5000. (CRAZIER.) And, I may add, this was before pinterest! Oh, and did I mention we had 200 guests?

BUDGET BREAKDOWN:



Total Ceremony Costs: $97

Steven and I were married in the Los Angeles LDS temple - wedding ceremonies there are, of course, free of charge. This helped a lot with our teeny tiny budget. We paid $97 for our marriage licence in Ventura, California.


Total Reception Costs: $2843.40


Venue: free of charge (thanks grandma and grandpa!)

 This was the #1 reason our wedding was so cheap. My grandparent's backyard is beyond beautiful and they were gracious enough to host the event there for free. If you are planning a wedding on a budget, think about everyone you know who may have a space you could use for free or almost free. If that doesn't work, look into city or county owned properties that charge very very cheap rates!

Rentals: $470 

We rented tables, chairs & ivory tablecloths from a local rental company. I had my heart set on wooden chairs for a long time, but in the end choosing the white bistro chair saved us several hundred dollars (When you have 200 chairs, even small price differences are critical) and I'm glad we went that route!



Flowers: $400

It pays to know people! My longtime friend and seminary teacher, Ruth of Petals Floral Design helped make the flowers for our day very affordable. Included in that price were all of the bouquets, miscellaneous flowers for each table (an eclectic mix of flowers in teapots, bottles and jars.) I loved my flowers and still daydream about them!

Burlap Tablecloths: $100

My mom and I went to the LA fabric district to pick up large rolls of burlap for a steal. We steamed them using a hand steamer to soften up the fabric a bit and then my mother sewed each and every tablecloth!

Additional centerpiece decor: $60 

I collected scraps of lace from thrift stores and antique shops for each centerpiece. I used a bunch of old books I already owned as well as picking up a whole bunch of them at thrift stores for very, very cheap.  I designed a stamp that read "Daryl and Steven Schmidt, EST. July 2011" which I stamped onto little tags that my mom and I cut ourselves, and tied to each centerpiece jar with pink twine I found in my garage.

Plates & Silverware: $75

We picked up ivory plates and simple but pretty silverware in Las Vegas a few months before the wedding, at a bulk restaurant supply warehouse. It was cheaper than renting!




Food and Drink: $565

The theme of our wedding was very light, summery with a "backyard" feel, so we went with the VERY economical option of having a local BBQ restaurant (Red's BBQ in Simi Valley - very, very, very delicious) deliver their amazing salads using their "self-serve catering" option. Some people may wrinkle their nose at this idea, but in my town Reds is actually kind of legendary, so guests were very excited. With this option the restaurant dropped off the salads (California Tri-Tip and BBQ Chicken were crowd favorites) in large metal trays a few hours before the reception. We ordered 8 trays of salad that supposedly feed 20 people but we knew they'd feed way more (WE WERE RIGHT - we had 2 trays of salad left over at the end of the event, and people had been eating like crazy!) This cost us $480

My mom, with help from some amazing women from church, put those salads in beautiful serving bowls which they stacked up on different levels, interspersed with appetizers, fruits and veggies and of course the awesome flower arrangement Ruth made for the buffet table. Steven's mother also made traditional German potato salad which was a huge hit.

 We decided to go buffet style because 1) we wanted the party to reflect a more casual vibe and 2) we saved tons on not needing to hire a waitstaff.

For drinks, we made gourmet lemonade ourselves using lemons we got from my grandparents garden and various friends' backyard, so that virtually cost us nothing. The flavors we offered were: Good ol' fashioned, lavender hibiscus, pineapple ginger, strawberry lemon-lime and rosemary peach. We also served iced cucumber water for those who didn't like lemonade. I borrowed the beautiful glass containers from friends and family members - so drinks essentially cost us nothing.

Not having alcohol at our wedding (hooray, Mormonism!) saved us buttloads of cash.

The Salads, Appetizers + Drinks together cost $565.



Cake + Other Sweets:

Cake Stand: $20 
We bought the materials to build our own cake stand with 4 tiers at home depot, which Steven built and painted himself. Our "cutting" cake sat at the top of this stand and we loaded the lower tiers with mini cupcakes.

Mini Cupcakes: $150

Remember Ruth, who did my flowers? She also made those amazing mini cupcakes for $0.50 a piece! Naturally, I ordered 300. She made an incredible variety of flavors: Fresh Raspberry, Lemon, Toasted Coconut, Chocholate Hazelnut and Peanut Butter!



Top Layer Cake: $0

Steven's amazing older sister Theresa made the top layer cake - she is an expert baker and it was delicious and SO cute!

Cake Toppers: $3.40

I bought two letters from Michaels for $1.20 a piece. I ripped a few pages out of a book about Marie Antoinette I'd bought for $1. (Get it? Let them eat cake? Ha!) and dyed the pages a light pink using water and red food coloring. Then I modpodged the pink paper onto the letters, and used wooden shish-kabob sticks I found in a drawer to prop them up!



Ice Cream Stand: $98

We wanted our wedding to be fun for the guests, so we made this ice cream stand! It was perfect for the hot July day. We bought the wood materials at Home Depot and Steven and I built and painted it. My friend Kimmi came and did the lovely lettering.

Ice Cream + Toppings: $62 

We bought a bunch of ice cream in huge tubs from Smart & Final in a variety of different flavors. We also bought all of the toppings there beforehand.
 

Candy Table: $40 

For the guest favors, we filled a bunch of jars (most of which we already owned and a few extra we bought at T.J. Maxx) with vintage candies we bought at Rocket Fizz. I bought small white paper bags from Oriental Trading for a couple of bucks, and we stamped each of them with a stamp that I designed.



Miscellaneous Decor: $400

I allowed myself $400 for all of the extra decorating details. This included the guest book area which was almost completely free (everything was pretty much found around the house or borrowed from friends - yes, even the sheet music wall!) the photobooth which I fashioned out of a cheap old frame, a camera with a tripod and a bunch of props we made ourselves and rummaged to find from around the house. We bought rolls of muslin online and hung it in strips over the side yard/entry way.

It also included all of the mason jars (I used over 300!) which were filled with candles and lined the walkways, planters and hung from the overhangs, gazebo and trees. I borrowed christmas lights from anyone who would lend them to me, and made the seat cushions that lined the center planter myself using fabric I'd found for free and a bag of batting. Anything that could be DIYed WAS DIYed!

 

DJ: $400

Again, it pays to know people. A close friend of mine is a DJ  and offered us a discounted rate. He did an EXCELLENT job - people danced like crazy for at least two hours, which is pretty much unheard of for a Mormon wedding.


Clothing: $1595 

Hers:

$1205 for Dress, Shoes, Flower Headpiece & Veil. The dress was a custom order from Casablanca. The shoes are Irregular Choice, and the Veil/Headpiece were DIYed. My friend (and bridesmaid) Bethany did my hair and makeup!

His:

$390 for Suit, Shirt, Tie & Shoes. The suit is Tommy Hilfiger, bought on sale at Macy's. The shirt and tie were both Kohls purchases, and the shoes were bought at ALDO.



Additional Costs: $360

Bridesmaid's Gifts: $150 for six girls.

Wedding Suite - $100 room (4-star) booked on Hotwire (CLASSY) near the airport, for convenient relocation to our honeymoon the following day.

Limo Service - $110 (including tip) for an "airport transfer" in a stretch limo. This trick will save you so much money! Instead of renting a limo by the hour, we arranged for an airport transfer because our hotel was near the airport. Limo companies offer these for much cheaper than their "wedding" rates. The limo picked us up at the end of our reception.

Photographer - $100. My good friends Heather & Matt did our wedding photos. Matt did a lot of our wedding portraits early in the day, and Heather did ALL of the reception photos! They did this both out of the kindness of their hearts, but in the end I gave Heather $100 as a thank you.

TOTAL MONEY SPENT:  $4,895.40
 
I did round some of the numbers up and down for easy adding and subtracting. (I.E. The bridesmaid's gifts were probably something like $150.28, but I rounded down) so it is save to assume that we actually spent all $5000. 

DARYL'S TIPS FOR WEDDING PLANNING ON A BUDGET:
Do it all yourself: Anytime I saw something online or in a store that I liked, I immediately started thinking up ways to make it myself for cheaper. I am positive we saved THOUSANDS with this method of thinking. 
 
Think beyond traditional catering: If you aren't set on having a three to five course, full service meal with a wait staff, there are many options you can explore to save a lot of money. In a way, we "DIYed" our catering, too! 
 
Use those connections: Is your cousin a florist? Your mom's hairdresser's son is a baker? Use those connections to get as many discounts as you can. 

I hope that this mercilessly detailed post was helpful to some of you.

Happy wedding planning!

(congratulations to Bobbi Garcia on winning to $500 Travel Giveaway! SO exciting. I will be contacting you via Email today, so look out for it. We all can't wait to hear how you'll be using these new funds! )

Friday, January 18, 2013

Back to School



Monday was my first day back to school in over 18 months. By "back to school" I mean on-campus classes, as I've been taking online classes here and there while living in Germany.

Long story short, I took a lot of time off of school but realized that one semester back at my southern California community college would get me my associates degree. (Since I'm only 20, that means I'm not so behind after all!)

It is kind of strange to be back, I'll be perfectly honest.

It's odd running into friends from high school. We're the same age but somehow ended up in completely different places in life - they're living out their early twenties the way "normal" college students do and I seemed to have bypassed that major life step all together.
Regardless of the awkward looks some eighteen-year-olds have given me when they found out I was married, I am enjoying being back at school. My classes are interesting and will DEFINITELY keep me busy! (I may or may not have signed on for an 18 unit semester. #crazy)

My schedule:

Introduction to Television Studio (3 Units) - I signed up for this on a whim, simply because it sounded interesting. We will be learning hands-on all semester what it takes to run a television studio, from filming to lighting to set building to managing the audio. I'm pretty excited about this!

Health & Society (2 Units) - This class was required for my associates degree. I wasn't expecting it to be very interesting, but my teacher seems enthusiastic and knowledgeable so I will keep an open mind. 

German 2 (4 units) - Very easy. However, I'm looking forward to learning all of the grammar that I missed out on by learning to speak German outside of a classroom.

Introduction to Photography (3 units) - I'm a self-taught photographer, so this will be my first official  photo class. I'm excited to learn everything I can, especially when it comes to film photography and studio photography, both of which will be covered topics. 

History of American Women (3 units) - I'm excited about this class. My teacher is this super beautiful historian who seems very passionate about what she does. We've only met for class twice but I've already learned a lot. 

Creative Writing (3 units) - This class seems like it will be very challenging, especially since I have virtually no experience in fiction writing. I'm hoping that it will be challenging in a good way and help me develop my writing skills

I'm optimistic so far, and even though six classes is a lot, this schedule seems manageable. Here's to a great and busy semester!

Are you in school right now? What are you taking? What classes do you love or hate? 




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pacific Coast Highway



It was warm and blindingly bright out, despite the fact that it's the middle of January, when Steven and I drove along the back, country roads near Camarillo, California. I use the term "country road" lightly, because I know we weren't driving through English countryside.  No, the roads we drove one weaving between strawberry fields and citrus orchards, farm stands at intersections offering deals like "15 Avocados - $5!" It was nearly 70 degrees outside and there was no denying that we were most certainly in California.

We were on our way to look at a prospective future car in Port Hueneme. The GPS on my phone said we had eight minutes to go, and the clock read exactly eight minutes before we were supposed to meet. Then the car seller called and told us he couldn't make it.

As you can imagine, we were a little frustrated. We'd been cancelled on eight minutes before our appointment and we were already thirty minutes from home. About to turn around and write the afternoon off as a complete waste, we approached a sign for Highway 1 and I had an idea.

"Turn onto the PCH," I instructed Steven. "It'll take us out to the coast - it'll be a nice drive."



As we drove along the coast I couldn't have laid out a better scene if I tried. It was downright surreal. Windows down, music up...it was as if I'd stepped out of real life and into the stereotyped, romanticized version of California everyone hopes to see when they come here. I loved every minute of it. 




We stopped to eat at Neptune's Net, a famous seafood restaurant/biker hangout that sort of aims to be a dive but really isn't. Their seafood is pretty incredible, the atmosphere is awesome, the views obviously unbeatable. Can you tell I love this place?

Tip: I recommend visiting on weekdays. It gets very crowded on weekends, particularly with nice weather. Even on weekdays it can be hard to find an outdoor table when 12PM rolls around (our 11:45 AM Thursday arrival had been pretty perfect.) Their fish n' chips are also much better earlier in the day during the week, and I think that's probably because the oil is newer and used less. I highly recommend their fish tacos - cilantro, pineapple slaw and real ginger on a fish taco is a recipe for success.



After lunch, we climbed down to the beach and walked around. The wind had picked up a little but I didn't mind. We skipped stones, looked for shells and watched the surfers catch waves and wipe out.

As a girl who likes to keep herself as busy and as possible, this spontaneous, completely care-free trip to the beach was a blessing like no other. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Make Believe: Morocco

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca. Photo by 401k Limits

Morocco is a place that has been on my mind A LOT.  When I was living in Germany, it was a place that was close enough that a trip there seemed feasible (resulting in a lot of researching and planning) but just far away enough that it wasn't practical for a quick trip. The more I read about this country, the more in love I fall. I CAN'T WAIT to get there and, if things go according to plan I may be able to go in 2013, 2014 at the latest. Until then I can only dream: 

1. Comfortable maxi skirt that provides the necessary modesty while still offering relief from the heat. Lightweight and easy to wash/dry a must.
2. Panama hat to offer protection from the sun (and keep that hair under control.)
3. Lightweight Pashmina Shawl to keep the shoulders covered.
4. Sunglasses - because it's Morocco.
5. Special walking clogs - to look cute and stay comfortable when browsing the market stalls in the souk.
I would eat:


Moroccan Meatballs & Egg Tajine (Photo by Dinners & Dreams)

Traditional Moroccan foods. I would try everything I could get my little hands on, even the stuff I could never hope to pronounce. Moroccan foods I've already eaten and love are Tajine and Pastilla. I'd love to try Harira soup, Moroccan meatballs with couscous, and of course wash it all down with delicious mint tea. 


Dar Rafti Riad in Fex, Morocco. Photo by The Travel Files

In a traditional Moroccan Riad. Riads are built around a center courtyard which helps ventilate the rooms and keep them cool. They are often build in the gorgeous traditional north African style and range from simple to out of this world luxurious. I would love to spend a few days with my husband in one of these fabulous places.


1. I would take awesome Camel Trek through the Sahara Desert, sleeping overnight in Berber tents right on the sand. (Photo here)
2. I would barter for beautiful goods to bring home in the souks of Marrakech. (Photo here)
3. I would take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise to check out the sights from above. (Photo here)


I am SO excited to go, and the trip isn't even really planned yet! Have you ever been to Morocco? Where did you go? What did you do? What did you love and what did you hate? Share your stories here to help out the rest of us who (for now) can only make-believe.





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