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Perfectly Peeled Garlic

We eat a lot of garlic for the taste and the health benefits,  but peeling whole heads of garlic by hand for a recipe can be a pain.  In the video we show one trick that makes peeling garlic a snap!  We experimented with lots of shaking containiners … like a dutch oven with a lid, two inverted salad bowls or a small pot.  And we like this plastic jar the best so far.  What seem to be key in your shaker is that it leaves plenty of room for the garlic to pick up speed for collision.  Bon appetite!

Semi-DIY wedding of my dreams!

As a young girl I planned my wedding in, what I called, the “Secret Garden” at the college my mom attended and then worked at for 20+ years, which I now also call my Alma Mater.  This enclosed hideaway features wisteria-covered trellises, bubbling fountains, beautiful arches, and a small chapel in the northeast corner.  I had planned my wedding here so thoughtfully that I knew how many chairs would fit for the reception.

When I was an angsty teenager, I had pretty much written off the idea of marriage for my future.  I stood on my platform preaching about how absurd it was to get married since it’s impossible to know if it will really last and you shouldn’t need a piece of paper to prove that you love someone.  Some may say this is because I was a child of divorce, others may say I just liked challenging the status quo.  Eventually, I realized how ridiculous this all sounded as the fight for marriage equality grew stronger and louder during my college years.  When other people are being denied the right to legally marry the person they love, who am I to devalue this rite (or rather, RIGHT) of passage? There is so much more to marriage than a legally binding document.  Like many, I cried when Prop 8 was passed in California.


A few months later, I met the first person I have ever fallen in love with (my now husband, Paul, if you didn’t guess!).  It wasn’t long before I realized I wanted to marry him – I wanted to share our love in front of friends and family, I wanted to be his wife, I wanted to start a family together (also something I had written off as an angsty teenager!).  He proposed in that “Secret Garden” in June 2012.  In June 2013, Prop 8 was officially overturned.  By then we had settled into our jobs and home in the Bay Area, so the addition of this landmark for marriage equality in California helped us decide it was time to set a date.


Paul and I looked into planning the Southern California garden wedding I had envisioned as a child.  However, colleges are not your typical wedding venue.  We would have had to contract with vendors for everything from napkins to lighting.  Since the vast majority of the wedding planning would take place from our home 400 miles north, we ultimately decided that this wasn’t a practical idea for our time span, budget, or sanity.  That’s when we discovered the Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center at the Upland Hills Country Club.  This place was wedding-central!  They have a beautiful outdoor ceremony space overlooking the golf-course and mountains, large reception areas with built-in dance floors, on-site catering, and arrangements with multiple outside vendors (cake, floral, photography, etc.).  I like to refer to this as a wedding-in-a-box, which is exactly what we needed when planning remotely. 

venueHowever, my mom and I had already been brainstorming how to cut costs and DIY the majority of the event details.  At one point, we had come up with a way to cook and prepare all the reception food!  This may have been a bit idealistic on our parts… Still, I wanted to add our own touch to day and avoid having a cookie-cutter wedding.  By that, I mean I wanted to try out all my ideas from Pinterest!

Here is a brief guide to some of the neat DIY projects from our dream-come-true June 22, 2014 wedding!

Please also take a moment to check out our amazing photographer, Ignacio Lopez, as some of his work is featured in these posts.


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I wanted to design our save-the-date cards, because we had a unique theme in mind: peacocks and sunflowers.  Don’t ask how the idea came to be, but t ended up being beautiful!

I liked the idea of a simple post-card, so I set out on Photoshop to design the front and the back.  I’m definitely not a graphic designer, but I have learned a few tricks over the years.  A couple years ago I wanted to make a photobook for my honey to celebrate our three year anniversary, or maybe it was for his birthday, or Christmas… I don’t remember!  Anyway, I discovered this fad called Digital Scrapbooking.  Since I can’t cut paper straight or glue anything without sticking my fingers together, this sounded awesome!  You can download these “kits” which include background images (i.e. papers) and embellishments (i.e. buttons, flowers, ribbons, frames, etc.).  These are all high-resolution PNG image files that you can import into a Photoshop or other image-editing program.  Often, people scan actual scrapbooking materials.  Here are some great websites for free “kits” (usually, you just can’t use the products for commercial purposes):

To add another bit of flare, I downloaded some custom fonts (which are also usually free if you aren’t using them commercially).  A few people know that I am slightly obsessed with fonts!  Paul actually bought me a proprietary font once for a Christmas present.  It was one of the most thoughtful gifts he has given me.  I love to use the website http://www.dafont.com/ to find unique and artistic fonts.  I would advise you not to ask Paul how many HOURS I spent asking his opinion on different fonts for these postcards.

Once I had my “scrapbooking” embellishments and several font options to choose from, I set out to design the front (with some great engagement photos from our photographer!) and the back with our event details.  I also put our wedding website on the back – but realized after they were already sent that I sent the WRONG URL!

save the dateback

The easiest part was printing them. I used the mail-merge function on Microsoft Word to add our guests’ addresses to the back of the postcards. I bought some Avery 4×6 post-card paper for about $25 and popped it in our inkjet printer! Each 8.5×11 sheet prints two postcards that are micro-perforated.  It did take a while to punch them all out, but it was much cheaper than ordering pre-printed cards! We had about 70 cards to send, which would have been about $1 each on most websites we found.  We bought a roll of post-card stamps from the post office ($0.33 each!) and ended up using the extras for the response cards on our invitations.


  • I was able to design every little detail, which allowed for more customization than the templates online.
  • We saved money (even when you added up ink costs).


  • The paper was a bit flimsy, and a few were damaged in the mail.
  • We could have avoided this if we knew about hand-canceling!  Most post-offices do this, and it’s free!  Instead of putting your mail through the mechanical stamping/barcoding/whatever machine (which is what damaged our postcards), a USPS employee handstamps the mail.  We did this for our invitations, and I’m glad we did!  Since you’ll probably have a large stack, I suggest going at a slow time of day and asking the worker very nicely (not that you shouldn’t always do this!).  Make sure they know that the mailings are for your wedding, and they should be accommodating.
  • I didn’t love the perforation lines around the postcards, but no one else seemed to notice/mind.

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How we saved $2,000 on our wedding!


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The very first money-saving purchase I made was in regards to my wedding dress.  After trying on dozens of gowns, upwards of $1,000 each, I realized I wanted something much simpler.  One kind sales associate asked me if I wanted to try on some bridesmaid dresses.  The first one I tried on (even though it was purple at the time) was perfect.  Even better, it was $200!  I paid an extra $100 to order it in ivory, and the alterations were only $150!

14758773661_b18451c9bd_o  14782421553_f3963f3ae2_k

Here is a table of all our Money Saving techniques!


Typical Cost

Our Cost

$$$ Saved!

Wedding Dress and Alterations




Bridal: 1 necklace and earrings
Bridesmaids: 6 pairs of earrings




100 Paper Fan Wedding Programs (not including golf pencils for word games!)




100 Save-the-Date post cards (not including postage)




100 Seed Packet Escort Cards




9 Centerpieces (Ours also included 6 bridesmaid bouquets!)




Photo Booth




Total Saved: up to $2,007.12!

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Bridesmaid and Groomsmen Goodies

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I decided on 6 bridesmaids who lived in 5 different states.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to take them all dress shopping to find a single style they all agreed on.  Therefore, I opted for the mismatched trend that is taking the wedding world by storm!  My mom and I came up with the peacock-blue element of our theme the day we got engaged.  We were primarily thinking of a color that would stand out well in outdoor pictures.

I only gave my girls a couple guidelines: peacock blue and approximately knee-length.  I was worried that the mismatched concept would blow up in my face with 6 women shopping across the country in different stores and online.  Would the colors clash?  Would they match too much?  I decided to send them each a little goodie bag to help them pick a perfect color!

bridesmaidgoodies3 bridesmaidgoodies2

My MOH and I hit up the paint section of our local Home Depot and mulled over the shade of blue I was imagining.  We decided on a paint chip with three shades of blue that fit my vision.  I sent this paint chip, matching blue nail polish, a card, and a couple other blue goodies to each bridesmaid to help guide their shopping.

I don’t know if it was the paint chip of my girls’ intuition, but the dresses looked AMAZING all together!


In other news, we wanted the groomsmen to rock something casual but coordinated.  We asked each of them to wear a white dress shirt, grey dockers (a specific style), a black belt, and black Converse sneakers.  Then, my stepbrother helped me pick our 6 ties that also matched the paint chip.  Therefore, the groomsmen were a bit mismatched.

ties 14739206786_6fd156b89b_o

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Wedding Day Jewelry

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When it came to bridal jewelry, I wanted something subtle but vibrant. I kept falling in love with jewelry sets on Etsy that used this Bermuda Blue Swarovski crystal. I fell so much in love that I wanted to buy matching earrings for my bridesmaids as well!  At this point, the jewelry was getting expensive!  I’ve dabbled with jewelry-making in the past, and decided to I could take on this project myself!  I bought all the materials at http://www.bestbuybeads.com/ and http://www.artbeads.com/.  I would have gone to my local bead store, but it was 11 PM when I came up with this idea and I was just too excited to wait until they opened to start shopping!

bridal jewlery14781829373_bf2e579f60_o


Bridal Set

As for my earrings I modified a design I found here (scroll down to #87).  It took a while to decide on the length, but I found a nice medium between classy and costumey.I kept my necklace very simple with just the crystal pendant and a sterling silver flower bail.  This brought together both the peacock and sunflower aspects of my theme.  I strung the pendant and bail on a silky silver chain, and the necklace was done!





Bridesmaid Earrings

Everyone had different necklines, so I decided to just make earrings for my gals.  My MOH came over one evening and we went to town with the needle-nose pliers! We used simple french-earring hooks with the bermuda blue pendant, a small pearl, and a simple bail.  To add some extra flare, I attached some mini-peacock feather eyelets (cruelty free, of course!) using crimp beads.


  • They were gorgeous!  Everyone at the wedding commented on my and the bridesmaids’ jewelry.
  • They were also cost-effective! For about $150 I bedazzled myself and 6 bridesmaids (and this includes many left-over pieces!  I can make at least 2 more pairs of earrings and I have silver fixings for many future jewelry projects). I easily could have spent $350 on pre-made jewelry!
  • I was able to try different styles and ideas before deciding on a finished product.


  • It takes A LOT of time and patience, especially when it came to attaching the peacock feathers.
  • The peacock feathers were very lightweight compared to the crystal, and it was a windy day.  They would have all blown in front of the crystal if one of my girls didn’t have the idea to stick a small piece of double-sided tape between the feather and crystal.

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Sunflower Seed Escort Cards


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I saw a few ideas on Pinterest, but discovered that sunflower seed packets cost upwards of $2 each!  Since these weren’t our official favors (the photobooth strips served that purpose!) I didn’t want to shell out too much money on this adorable escort card idea!  I also didn’t like the commercial designs on the packets, and I would have to put a label on them anyway.  I decided to make my own, and I think they turned out much classier!

Materials: (Prices may have changed)


  1. Use Microsoft Word or another word processing program to design the front of the seed packet.  I used a simple vintage sunflower image.  Of course, I also downloaded an antique-looking typewriter font for the guest names!
    When you print on label sheets, the word template is typically oriented portrait-style.  For these name badges, that means they are horizontal.  I had to make a new template, which was a bit tricky!  You can download it here.
  2. These could just be favors, and each one would just have your names and wedding date.  To make them escort cards use mail-merge to add each guest name and table number. (Hint: You’ll need an Excel spreadsheet with two columns: Guest Name and Table Number).seeds2
  3. Use small return labels to put brief planting instructions on the back.  Mine read:
    Plant in mostly sunny areas. 
    Sow seeds 1/4” deep. 
    Keep moist between waterings.
  4. Place the name badge on front and return label on the back.
  5. Figure out how many seeds you have.  Sometimes the website says how many are in a pound.  I had about 3,500 sunflower seeds, which meant I could put about 35 seeds in each of my 100 envelopes.
  6. These envelopes were self-adhesive, so you just fold over the flap and press together!
  7. We put them in alphabetical order and placed them neatly on a table at the reception entrance!



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Paper Fan Wedding Programs


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I was planning on just printing out our programs on some nice card stock and keeping it simple.  Then I saw this amazing idea for paper fans with word games on the back!  I literally threw these together a week before the wedding, and they turned out great!  I couldn’t have done it without two very helpful bridesmaids and one of their boyfriends!  We made an assembly line and cranked them out.

Here are the directions on how I made mine (thank you also to this site for instructions!):




  1. Design the programs on Microsoft Word or Illustrator.  I used Word and fonts that matched my escort cards.
  2. Create word games for the back of the programs.  This is a great way to keep guests entertained before the ceremony!  We decided on:
    Word scramble – We used this site to scramble wedding-related wordsprograms5
    Crossword – We used a site that only gives you a PDF if you pay for it, but we secretly took a screenshot to get the puzzle and it turned out great. Then we re-typed the clues.programs4
    Madlib – I created this myself in Word :)programs3
  3. Print out copies of each puzzle (I printed 33 of each version on the new Laser printer my honey got me for my birthday!).programs1
  4. Assemble the fans with double sided tape.  Tape the handle to the paper, then place tape around the edges.  Fold the program in half and firmly press all the edges together.programs2
  5. Use the corner punch to round all the corners.
  6. We didn’t end up tying the golf pencils to each fan.  We just put them in a small jar next to the fans at the ceremony site.


  • You can add a personal touch and some humor to your wedding programs!
  • Your guests have something to do while they wait for the ceremony to begin.


  • They do take a while to put together.  Form an assembly line!

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Wedding Flowers

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This was a big project we wanted to take on, and it was spearheaded by my stepmom and stepbrother.  I had some very specific ideas in mind for the flowers, and we thought we could save some money by putting them together ourselves.  It was a BIG project, but it came together beautifully.  Here are all the flowers we ended up using at the event and which ones we left up to the florist.

  • Bridal bouquet – florist
  • Bridesmaid bouquets – DIY
  • Gazebo decorations for the ceremony – florist
  • Centerpieces – DIY
  • Aisle decorations – DIY

I did a bulk flower order with my florist for all the DIY flowers which you can also order easily through Costco.  However, I knew that ordering through the florist would ensure that I received fresher flowers, as they would not have been delivered in the mail.  Also, the florist ended up quoting me less than Costco!  Here is what I ordered:

  • 85 sunflowers
  • 200 white roses
  • baby’s breath
  • green filler (included some fern and leafy plants)
  • 10 blue orchids

flowers7 flowers5

Bridesmaid Bouquets

My step mom and aunts became floral pros during this project! My step mom had purchased all these floral arrangement tools and read multiple guides online for how to assemble bouquets.  They used some rustic ribbon, blue satin ribbon, floral pins, and a lot of patience to put these together!  The flowers were simple: 3 sunflowers and some baby’s breath. Oh!  And we threw in some peacock feathers, of course!



I daydreamed about these from day one!  I knew I wanted something intricate instead of a single display in the middle of each table.  Also, like many, I was on the mason jar bandwagon.  My step brother coordinated these masterpieces, making sure each flower was the exact right height!  Each table had the following:

  • clear half-gallon mason jar – filled with sunflowers, white roses, green leafy filler, 3 peacock feathers, and these sparkly blue twigs
  • clear quart mason jar – filled with white roses
  • blue pint mason jar – filled with baby’s breath and ferns
  • green glass bottle – with the single blue orchid stem
  • small real-wax LED votive candle
  • Some scattered fake blue rose petals

Material Costs:

I don’t have the exact materials and cost list for all the vases, jars, and buckets we used, since I collected these things throughout the year from various places.  Here is what went into the nine centerpieces (note that some materials came in packs that included more than what I needed):

  • 9 half-gallon jars: $36
  • 12 blue pint jars: $11
  • 10 green bottles: $20
  • 12 led candles: $24
  • 12 quart size jars: $20
  • Flowers: $291 (this includes sunflowers for the bridesmaid bouquets)
  • TOTAL: $402 or about $44 for each centerpiece

flowers6 flowers


For the table numbers my bridesmaids helped me make these cute booklets that say “Please write a message for the bride and groom to read on the [insert table number] year anniversary.”  All you need to do is pick out nice scrapbooking paper for the cover (we used a simple yellow paper with a designer rice paper overlay) and ivory card stock for the pages.  Make sure everything is 8½” x 11” and fold the stack in half.  Bind it with some lacy ribbon and voila!  We used a paint pen to write on the front and adhesive cut-out numbers for the table number (so they would stand out).

table numbers


I bought two large galvanized French flower market buckets to put at the beginning of the aisle (one on each side).  We filled these with roses, sunflowers, and some green filler.  Then, we bordered the aisle with yellow flower petals. Our venue only allows fresh petals, so I ordered them from 50flowers.com.  This website helps you determine how many you need for silk and freeze-dried petals, so I estimated that fresh petals were slightly smaller than silk and bigger than freeze-dried.  It worked out perfectly!



  • I got to have the exact flower arrangements I wanted!
  • We had A LOT of fun making them.
  • Guests were able to take home the various centerpiece components.


  • Again, this takes A LOT of time! Also, your time window is small because they are fresh flowers.  We had them about a day in advance, so we had to keep them in water and the A/C on in the house!  We made all the bouquets the night before, after the rehearsal dinner, and we cut all the flowers for the centerpieces.  Then we arranged the centerpieces at the venue the morning of the wedding.

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