Inside the Bubble Looking Out

okay. it’s california’s turn to get smeared. watch out, here i come. as you know, my fam is in utah so we go back there at least once or twice a year. there’s something comfy and cozy about happy valley despite its challenges.

california is dirty and polluted. when i first moved here i wondered who could ever breathe. smokers are everywhere and the freeways are always congested. it’s disgusting. even though it’s dry in utah, i love the mountains and the clear air. it’s lovely.

californians have fashion egos. okay, so it’s great to have fun stores and outlets here, but especially down in la/oc counties, people can get kind of high and mighty. they love to look important, driving their mercedes-benz and sporting coach bags. it’s true that in some parts of the state, people are down-to-earth and not so brand-conscious. perhaps it’s because families are so big in utah that kids are lucky if they can wear gap to school. parents can’t afford to spoil their seven children each with a mercedes-benz. and i kind of like that. which brings me to my next point:

kids in california can get really spoiled because they are their parents’ world (shared sometimes with one other sibling.) usually to afford to live in california, their parents both work and have high paying big-city jobs but only have an average of one and half kid ;). this results in major spoilage which i can imagine happens in new york and other rich cities. private tutors, private schools, private swimming pools combined ritzy backpacks and designer clothes (for kids!) make for some kids who display snotty, i-am-entitled-to-everything nastiness.  just check out this hello kitty sugar pile. this is a $100 birthday cake given to one of my former students for her 7th (yes, 7th) birthday. since she’s the only child, her mom goes all out, getting more and more extravagant each year. whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned cake mix, cream and sprinkles?

kids in utah need to share because they have siblings and big elementary schools. i love that. kids everywhere need to learn to share, no matter how rich their parents are. and yeah, kids can still be cruel to each other in utah, but i think the playing field is a lot more equal in utah, for better or worse.

california has serious political issues. we won’t get into them all today, but the result of lib policy is that the state needs money so the taxes are high which result in people moving away, all while there are still tons of illegals everywhere who burden the system. it’s really sad. it’s true that california is kind of crowded, but from an lds perspective, it’s sad to see so many people move away, when there is so much missionary work to be done here. having served a mission in california myself, i know there is great potential here.
utah is much more conservative, which i adore. it’s true that the gov’t doesn’t always do the best thing for the people, but overall, it’s a nice business-friendly place. unfortunately, it looks like a lot of lib groups are trying to infiltrate their agenda into the state. hopefully they don’t ruin the place like they did in ca.

california is becoming less and less family-friendly and church-friendly. i love utah because people have families and they are the center of everything we do. i love that we have church bookstores everywhere just because i like having access to church materials (though i have yet to see a really well-made mormon-directed film.). so yes, i bashed some of the fashions donned by girls in utah but i also love the increase in modest (cute) clothing companies from utah. it’s great to know there’s alternatives to the california skank-girl fashions. love, love, love.

so there you have it. i’ve captured what i feel is the essence of both places.

Outside the Bubble Looking In

i love california. tomorrow’s post is all the bad things about california and great things about utah. let’s just sing california’s praises this time around. let’s get rid of the liberals and their programs so we can take back california for ourselves. i’ve now spent two years in southern/central california. whenever i go back to “happy valley”, utah, i think it’s not my home anymore. while driving through the frozen tundra of utah, i get homesick for california even though my fam are all still in the beehive state.

i love california. let me count the ways.
california has great weather. SimpleGuy is a true californian and loves his weather and has converted me to sunshine. california weather is like a consistent true lover, always giving you warmth and love.
utah weather is kind of like a bipolar, emotional, unpredictable teenager. one day it could be raining, the next day snowing, the next day crazy hot. it’s weird, but that’s really how it is. you always need to wear layers and pack your boots and umbrella just in case.

california has great fashion. yeah, utah can now brag rights to many of the same mall stores as california, but the fashions in happy valley are just weird. you see girls trying to be modest by wearing t-shirts under spaghetti strap dresses and tops. umm…why not just wear your t-shirt since it’s already modest? so you see, ut girls try to copy so-cal girls and do not do a good job of it. they take skanky outfits and turn them into frumpy styles. it’s so weird. listen, y’all. if you want to be worldly and trendy, at least do it the right way. if you are all about covering your bodies (which i think every person should do) then buy the stuff with the right lengths in the first place or put on a sweater (or wear a camisole inside) because that’s what normal people do. downeast basics is a great modest alternative.

california has diversity! some rich areas are still white-bred, but wow, the diversity here is incredible. there’s everything under the sun from white to espresso black. i also love that because of the diversity, you can find amazing ethnic food everywhere. there’s vietnamese sandwiches, good dim sum, taco trucks. the whole state is an absolute feast. in utah, we do have some good food, tucanos and there’s more and more mexican food, which is great, but the asian food is mediocre at best.

utah can be very unhealthy. okay, yeah, there’s lot of druggies, smokers and coffee-drinkers in california. but these guys are popping up in ut too. utahns love their fat and sugar and can’t say no. in the church we have a health code that should extend and enhance our good lives, and yet we clog our arteries with all the donuts and funeral potatoes at church activities, where it’s hard to say no when everyone else is doing it! (not saying funeral potatoes are bad…they are divine,  if you can limit yourself to one serving.) we send butter-chocolate-sugary delights to all of our neighbors for every holiday (that’s like all year-round if you count valentines, easter, pioneer day, thanksgiving, christmas) plus because of the weather, no one can go outside almost half the year. very unhealthy.
californians have their wine, coffee, and drugs, but all it takes is to say no. in california it’s easy to go out and be active almost all year because the sun’s out. plus we all know eating healthy is expensive but here in cali, you can eat the freshest, cheapest produce on earth.

utahns can be some of the most judgemental people on earth. they think cola drinkers are indulging in sin and that people who go to church all need to be the same, cookie-cutter style. there are serious problems that could arise in the church because we don’t have the vision to look past appearances.
californians are super tolerant but have egos too (more on that later). they are like politicians, they love everyone including illegals, homosexuals, and liberals. they want to break barriers and question the universe with their “relative truths”. they want to spread their technology, fashion and entertainment. they don’t want to be in your business, they just want to be your friends.
sometimes it’s kind of annoying that they love everyone, but there’s a true sense of freedom when you can walk around and not feel like people are criticizing your lifestyle.

Wedding Plans – The Registry

so, remember how my family are messy, clutter-addicts? well, a major problem still plaguing the household is that there is so much kitchen stuff everywhere. appliances, an assortment of non-matching cups and bowls and silverware.
you say, “oh SimpleGirl, that is not a big deal at all!” but it is, my friends. it is.

a kitchen is the domestic goddess’ training room, where she creates sumptuous feasts to the delight of her man. you want the space around you to be inviting so you will want to cook, wash dishes and other labors of love, day in and day out. so it is a big deal.

first of all, appliances take up counter space, creating an inefficient workspace. counter space is worth gold. protect it! only use appliances you really need – that means register and buy stuff you really need.

second of all, non-matching stuff inevitably means disorganization, because if things don’t nestle in each other, then you have to spread the mess around. this is not to say you can only have one set of mixing bowls. it is to say that you should have a purpose for having something in your domestic goddess training area. having so many different types of the same thing is utter redundancy.

when i open my kitchen cabinets, i take much delight in my kitchen goods, that they are simple and wonderful to look at (like a kitchen catalog). each tool was carefully selected to be a part of my goddess training room. it’s clean and organized and actually inspires me to be in the kitchen (which can be a pain in the butt after a long day of working) so it is a big deal.

if you are a recovering mess-addict like me, a marriage is a good time to start afresh. it means you can have a clean start if done right. use your registry as a way to practice your new beautifully simple life.

to ensure that the stuff you register for will last for a long time, you want to have vision. my philosophy is know what you love and find it. know what works for you and adopt it. register for things and in the back of your mind, know what you want to hold onto for your starter studio apartment or home.

1. register for stuff you really need. make sure that especially for major things, like dishes and a comforter, that you really love the items and are committed to them. if you don’t need something, don’t register for it. this rule especially applies to stuff that you will use every day.
2. send thank you cards to people after the wedding. it’s a card in a stamped envelope but it is the right thing to do and scores you major considerateness points!
3. return anything that you don’t need or want. be ruthless. some people say, “oh, but my aunt dinah gave me that platter and she will want me to use it when she comes over.” most likely, that is actually not the case. if you have relatives who are dictator-like, who will come over to make sure you using their stuff, then i guess keep that stuff in your closet. but most people will not check up on you to see if you’re still using the mixing bowls they gave you. you will likely get several sets of mixing bowls and reasonable people know this happens. don’t feel obligated to keep stuff no matter who gave the gift. they would rather have you buy a useful gift with store credit than have a gift you never use.
on the other hand, people give great gifts you may not have thought of that you should probably keep.

example: we got a cooler for our wedding gift. SimpleGuy said keep it and i didn’t really want to. but we’ve now moved four (almost five) times in the past two years and have used the cooler to store fridged goods while on the road. sheer brilliance. it was a gift that keeps on giving!

tip 1: plan out color schemes. this may seem a little insane, but i have planned out my color schemes for my kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. though i will not be a homeowner for another five years i know that the stuff i registered and got will be used for another good ten years. choose classic styles and colors you like to decorate in.

tip 2: don’t worry too much about the color of your towels and sheets. those things are easily worn and easily replaced. they are wear-items. for everything else, plan for it to last. so, unless you have rich daddy warbucks as part of your family, you will likely not get silver and all-clad pans from the wedding. but that doesn’t mean that you should register for crap. get things that really work and are meant to last. brands like oxo are great because even though some stuff might wear out, they have a satisfaction guarantee for all products. brands like that score an a plus in my gradebook. seek out good brands using customer reviews online.

for the towel problem, it worked out that we got plenty of them as gifts and couldn’t return any of them. (in fact, if you don’t care about the color scheme of your bathroom, i’d say, don’t register for towels. wait to see if you get some and then buy the cheapest, best deals if you are not gifted any.) i saved those random towels just for guests so that when family come to visit, they get towels that are less worn.

use the store credit you receive from your returns. we had one year’s worth of gift cards to walmart and bbb. it was simply awesome.

p.s. do some research about target registry before going that route. last i checked, you must have gift receipts for returns and people don’t always give you the gift receipts with gifts!

so, tell me, what was the most useful thing, registered or not, that you got from your wedding?

Wedding Plans – Something Borrowed

yeah, yeah, yeah. we know about the whole tradition of something old. new. borrowed. blue. whatever people. SimpleGuy and i made our own traditions – no cake, no garter, no bouquet toss, no send off. i hear your gasps. i say, don’t do a wedding that isn’t your style and doesn’t represent you. it’s your day so why not?

so, no blue. but borrowing? yes. borrowing and delegating are two key parts to a simpler wedding.

delegate. use friends’ and family members’ sweet skills to help you, but make sure they know what they are doing and are not going to cause you more stress than a professional would. otherwise instead of making your life simpler, they are making it more complicated. make sure they have a good price and can meet deadlines too.
flowers, announcements, hair/makeup were all done by my lifelong friends. making the whole event really memorable to share with people i love.

borrow. try to borrow anything you can from wonderful good and nice relatives and friends. i borrowed a glamorous veil (perfect style to match my dress) from one of my lifelong bestest friends ever. i also borrowed not one but two slips to make my dress look fuller. those things can cost a fortune. i promise, i did my research. instead of buying one you will wear once, just borrow! borrow music for the party. borrow decorations. just make sure to guard their precious things with your life.

using your resources is the simplest way to save $$$.

what did you borrow for your wedding? what traditions did you borrow or create?

Wedding Plans – The Dress

if you find yourself strapped for cash and you’re getting married in happy valley (utah) like i did, look to craigslist. i kid you not. especially in ut, where modest dresses abound, there are plenty of girls who “just got married and have no money.”

you can get your dress 50% off like i did. be selective about the dress. look at the quality and cleanliness. yeah, it might be a half a fashion-season old, but who cares, if it’s the dress you want?

my dress was the incredibly wonderful maggie sottero grace kelly dress. it retailed in 2008 for $900. i got mine for $550. i resold it to another bride for $400 again using craigslist. my dress costs came out to $150 plus a dry cleaning bill.

a lot of brides of 2008-9 wore that dress but i really don’t care. it’s really unique and was made out of high quality materials. and when you wear a dress that fits well, you own it.

i guess i got lucky. i got engaged at the end of the wedding season in ut (august) so there was plenty to choose from. and i was not getting married until the following june. but i really didn’t do a lot of dress shopping despite having a long engagement (relatively long in mormon standards). i went to two small shop sellers to try on dresses. i didn’t buy anything, i just looked and found the grace kelly dress. then found it on craigslist and it happened to be in my size.

people say you need to have the dress for your wedding. i say that i did. it made me feel special and like a princess for our day. it doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars to create the happy day effect you need.

Wedding Plans – Flowers and Colors

UPDATE: I’ve seen many wedding pictures after our wedding and I still think our wedding was the BEST. But if I could have one redo, I’d change my flowers to something more classic. I still love my pink bouquet, but I really love the look of the white wedding bouquet, using white flowers like peonies, hydrangea, ranunculus and cabbage roses. If you really can’t decide what to pick, I’d suggest going for white/ivory! Absolutely stunning flowers will ensure your photos will never go out of style.

white_wedding_bouquet

as previously mentioned, we had an auntie do our flowers. the key here, is to have a vision. yes, there are plenty of flowers and colors that fill the entire spectrum of the rainbow. but you have to make a decision. how?

ignore all the bridal magazines first. you can get great ideas from magazines, but just like fashion, they tell you things that are at times irrelevant for you and your life and you can easily get swamped with an overload of stimuli

my advice: think of theme, flower and color symbolism and personal meaning. sounds like an english teacher’s assignment. šŸ˜‰
first, if you have a theme, use that as a source of inspiration. our flowers were somewhat inspired by tropics, like what you would find at a hawaii wedding. (we did honeymoon in maui.) our luncheon was a brazilian grill buffet. again, sort of exotic. if you are inspired by the tropics, you are likely not going to use english country garden flowers. all flowers are beauties. choose carefully.

second, symbolism. there are a few websites out there. Teleflora is one such resource. if you want to infuse your ethnic background/culture, then you will want to do some research on that. chinese weddings use red, i chose pink as a lighter version.

third, personal likes – which always trump everything else. SimpleGuy gave me pink roses on my birthday so they have always had personal meaning for me.

if that doesn’t solve your problem, then go the way of practicality and choose good seasonal flowers that last (so they don’t wilt during your photos). if money is tight, simple is the answer (actually, in my world, simple is always the answer.) a bouquet of good quality pink or white roses always looks awesome! just add some greens and you can stop reading here because you’re good to go.

but if flowers are important to you and you want to have a little fun (as i did) you will want to find a good combination. you may like this and that, but they look hideous together. that’s where google images comes in. you can browse some magazine too if you want. go searching for your basic flowers and stay somewhat flexible. my inspiration came from Huckleberry Karen. she did a san francisco, chinese couple wedding, in which she used pink roses, green orchids, dark pink callas, and voila!

our auntie (family friend) did the floral arrangements, and did a fantastic job. she told me at my bro’s wedding this year, that she studied the photos i gave her of the flowers. that’s what pros do. did ours turn out exactly the same as the initial inspiration? no, but pretty darn close.

Wedding Plans – The Food

$4024.88 – that was what our wedding photographer, luncheon, makeup/hair styling, clothing (rentals and dress), announcements, flowers, thank you cards totaled. we even got a few hotel rooms for family and aunties helping out with the wedding to be close to everything the night before the big day!

a big part of the small price tag was the scope of the wedding. we were married in the salt lake temple and had a luncheon after pictures…that’s it! the whole wide world was not invited, just family and a few close friends. people are shocked, appalled, and baffled by this.

if you’ve been to any of those cultural hall receptions, you will likely not notice the hoards of women-relatives in the kitchen cutting fruits, vegetables and other refreshments for the trays, unless you are family to the bride or groom. usually the splendor of the bride and groom and their decor outshines any of the hard work going on in the background.

my tip: let someone else handle the food and prep work of setting up a facility for you. focus on the family, taking really good care of those who traveled all that way.
if you search hard, you do not have to use those expensive reception halls if they don’t complement your vision for the wedding. a lot of nice restaurants have banquet facilities with linens and staff to help serve food.

for our wedding, we went to tucanos in salt lake for lunch. this was an elegantly-done buffet at a fraction of the dinner price. there’s fancier out there, but not at the price i was willing to pay. they totally took care of us and the wedding guests.
we had our florist (a close family friend) set up flowers with her fabulous daughter and some siblings had a laptop/desk monitor set up for our slideshow, but no one prepared any of the food the day before, no one had to fold napkins, arrange for tables to be set up, cultural halls to be cleaned or anything. simple right? i love it.

i don’t want to diminish the hard work of our family friends who helped on our special day, but their workload was not comparable at all to the two recent weddings of brothers on both sides of the fam. our relatives and friends worked their butts off and spent part of their summers being slaves to the newlyweds. why not give them a break, since your family, like ours, will likely travel to be with you on that day? give them a treat, not a service project.

so, a few people may say something about not having the traditional cultural hall reception. my mom was kind of against the idea at first. but i’m sure she knows now, after experiencing both types of weddings. for me, the most important part of getting married is ceremony, in the temple and the promises you make. temple marriage is a really big deal in the church. we should not diminish the importance of it just because the world says that brides need $10,000 weddings, fancy cakes and matching this and that. those types of traditions can be broken!

i would never ever take back the alternative wedding that we had. in fact, if i had a younger sister, whose wedding i could persuade, i’d do it exactly the same, for the great reasons of saving money and allowing relatives to relax with minimal prep work.
a budget-friendly wedding is possible. go spread the beautifully simple movement into the great world!

I’m With-it

have you unsubscribed from all the unnecessary e-newsletters yet? i did mine last week; it is tedious work for sure but it’s totally worth it. (click here if you missed out.) i am no longer bothered by daily or weekly emails that are unimportant and when i do want to do some online shopping, i know that the deals i really want are going to a secondary “shopper” account which i can browse in my free time.
oh yeah. make sure to unlike things on facebook that you don’t need to like anymore too. some companies do free samples, coupons for those who sign up to like their page. a lot of them have access to your personal information on facebook. keep it simple.

Take Note Part 1

simple life principle #1: find an exact (household keeping) system that works for your life.

i have the coolest household binder ever. it’s organized by month. it is a  receipt book and calendar/reminder book all in one.

for years and years, i experimented with expandable files with 12 compartments or plain envelopes. i’ve seen household binders for sale (like Target has Real Simple) but they are far too flimsy and weak to use. i also discovered i was forgetting things like, when your favorite restaurant has a frequent diner card but you moved out of state, but plan to go dine there every christmas when you visit family. you want to make sure the card comes with you on your annual trip. what’s a girl to do?

this system works for me.
it uses 1 MeadĀ® Five Star TruLockā„¢ 1″ Binder and 12 Five StarĀ® Flex NotePockets and 12 sheet protectors. (side note: if i had kids who climbed into my personal stuff, i might make the binder into a zipper binder to keep everything together.) i like these products because they are plastic, not paper/cardstock so there’s no ripping or bending! they have lasted for two years and are still going strong.

the binder needs to be super durable and expand to four or five inches, plus take the weight of your plastic inserts. so choose carefully.

each month has a flex notepocket. even though there are other types of plastic folders out there, i like these for their compartments. i keep an index card in the clear plastic pocket which has family members’ birthdays for that month. this is also the place for those frequent diner cards and gift cards you want to gift to people for their birthdays. before i make my trip, i take all needed cards with me.
the folder is good for full-page receipts, like when you get your car fixed or buy something online.

each month has a corresponding sheet protector which holds a monthly calendar page. i cut up a free calendar I was sent after an online purchase from orientaltrading.com. you could also print yours from microsoft publisher. keep it simple. at the end of the year, transfer important dates to the next years’ monthly calendar. slide them in and you’re set for the year.

the sheet protector also holds all receipts for purchases made that month and paystubs or whatever needs safekeeping. you could clip them together but i’m not that picky. every three months or so, i go back to old receipts keeping only the receipts where i might need to make a return or keep for warranty. at the end of the year, i clean out all important documents and file them away for the year and they are already sorted by month. awesome.