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The One Thing You Should Never Ask Newlyweds

The question started within days of returning from our honeymoon, and nearly 8 months later, we’re still getting the question. The dreaded post-wedding question. The question you should never, ever ask a married couple — no matter what their newlywed status may be. The question …

So, how’s married life?

Photo by May Gunsul Photography

Photo by May Gunsul Photography

For starters … what are you supposed to even say? “So far so good?” For a newlywed, “married life” has barely begun — and frankly, most couples are still soaking it in, basking in the glow from their big day, and looking forward to the year ahead. This question is so baffling, I’ve never really known what to say.

Secondly, most modern couples these days live together before marriage. My husband and I did. So when someone asks, “How’s married life?” it implies that there is this big change. But really, the only difference is that we’re no longer planning a wedding. So frankly, married life is a heck of a lot less stressful than engaged life. Otherwise, we still share a home, cook dinner, do laundry, vacuum, grocery shop, and all the other mundane activities of day-to-day life. It’s just that now we’re legally entitled to half of what the other person owns.

But most importantly, here is why you should never, ever, ever ask this question: it’s none of your damn business.

It’s basically like asking someone about the status of their relationship — something that is very personal and very private. If a couple chooses to share how their relationship is going with the world, that is their prerogative. But otherwise, mind your own business! You wouldn’t go around asking other casual acquaintances, “So, how’s your marriage?” Why do you think it’s okay to basically ask the same thing of newlyweds?

Appropriate alternative questions:

  • What was the best part of your wedding?
  • What was your favorite part of the wedding?
  • How was the honeymoon?
  • Any big plans coming up?

Or you know, maybe the old standby … “How ’bout the game?”

For the comments: What are some of the worst personal questions you’ve ever been asked?

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Top 5 Favorite Camping Recipes

With our 2014 camping trips now in the books, my husband and I have already started fantasizing about and planning trips for next summer. We’ve also been reflecting on what’s made this year’s trips some of our best yet.

One thing that has really been fun for me during our camping adventures, is finding new things to cook over the campfire. My husband brings his propane-powered griddle/camp stove sometimes — but honestly, I love the challenge of cooking over a campfire.

Here is a look at my favorite camping receipes we’ve tried so-far:

Campfire Spinach Dip

spinach dip

I love that this recipe doesn’t use mayonnaise (I have a mayo phobia) — but even more, I love how freaking delicious it is! I’ve started doubling the recipe anytime there’s more than two of us sharing this treat, because it’s that good. Unlike the recipe, I don’t consider the veggie soup mix optional – it’s a must-have, as far as I’m concerned. I like the dip served best with a French baguette, which I slice ahead of time at home and bring packed in a Ziploc bag.

Campfire Cones

campfire cone

My husband and I saw various versions of these on Pinterest, and decided to give them a try this summer. We LOVE them, even more then traditional s’mores. We start with a waffle cone, then mix up milk chocolate chips, finely chopped fresh strawberries, and mini-marshamallows. We fill the cone with these goodies, wrap in tin foil, then cook on the grates over our campfire until melty inside. Husband has also added mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, and swears by them. Next summer, we want to experiment with caramels and butterscotch chips.

Campfire Nachos

campfire nachos1

I’ve seen other campfire nacho recipes online, but the version I concocted a couple years ago remains my favorite — and my husband’s favorite. It’s easy to cook, with most of the prep work done ahead of time. The nachos get a nice smoky flavor from being cooked over the fire.

Doughy Balls

doughy balls

I received the “Doughy Ball Maker” for my birthday, and we tried out the classic doughy balls recipe on our last trip … and WOW, delish. They are like doughnut holes, but served still warm, after being cooked over the campfire. The cooking process is a little labor-intensive and cumbersome, but the results are definitely tasty. These are a great breakfast treat, especially if paired with sausage and/or eggs.

Campfire Oysters & Garlic Butter

camping oysters

My husband’s uncle came with on our most recent camping trip. He lives near a town called Oysterville along the southwest Washington coast — and on his way to the campsite, he picked up two dozen fresh oysters. Once we got the campfire roaring, he threw those bad boys down on the grates and started melting a combination of butter and seasoned garlic butter. (The garlic butter alone proved a little too strong). Once the oysters popped open, we pulled the oyster out of the shell, drenched it in the melted butter, and savored every delicate, delicious bite. I never want to go camping without oysters ever again. I could eat these for days!

(I also love cooking other shellfish on the campfire. For mussels or clams, I use a big metal pot on the campfire grates. I melt butter, add some white wine and assorted herbs (to taste), then steam the clams or mussels until they pop open.)

For the comments: What are your favorite camping recipes?

 

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Best Camping Tips & Tricks from a (Previously) Non-Camper

Now that summer is (mostly) over & the camping season is coming to an end, I’m both reflecting on the highlights from this year’s camping trips and already starting to fantasize about next year’s trips.

This was the summer that I really started enjoying camping. Growing up, we didn’t camp and I’ve never been a big fan. But my husband did grow up camping, and it’s one of his favorite things in the world. I started camping with him back when we were dating, and after our wedding this January, we used some of our tax return money to upgrade our camping gear. We splurged on a bigger tent and a double-high air mattress — both of which have made a huge difference in how much I enjoy camping. (We also made the not-so-romantic decision that separate air mattresses are also much more comfortable for us while camping!)

This was also the year I found I could be happy camping more than two nights in a row, bumping up our trips to three nights — and next year we might even do four! These may seem like silly milestones to veteran campers, but for me, it marks a big change in perspective. I’m still pretty particular about the campsites where we go (I require indoor plumbing, flush toilets & real showers), but I really do love our camping trips now.

But having started out as a non-camper, I’ve learned what sort of creature comforts I need to be comfortable sleeping in a tent. Here are my top tips and tricks that have made our camping trips so much more enjoyable:

tent1. Bigger is (Usually) Better

This year, my husband and I invested in two major upgrades to our camping gear: a new, bigger tent and a double-high air mattress. Best decision ever.

The bigger tent allows both of us to stand up inside (I’m 5’9″ and hubby is 6’3″), leaves PLENTY of room for our air mattress and all our gear, plus room to move around.

The double-high air mattress is also far more comfortable than the regular kind, and is a lot easier to get in and out of for those of us with lousy knees.

2. Leave the Romance at Home

One thing the bigger tent allowed us to do … is to bring two air mattresses. Yes, my husband and I have started sleeping in separate air mattresses when we camp.

No, our marriage is not in any trouble. We still sleep perfectly soundly together when we’re at home. But in a tent and on an air mattress — where every little movement is magnified — sharing just wasn’t working for us. With the larger tent, we’ve started sleeping on our own air mattresses and BOTH of us have been so much happier as a result.

3. Cozy Comforts

One of my complaints when camping previously had been the struggle to stay warm at night. I could pile lots of blankets around me, but for some reason, the night air made my pillow cases SO cold. I started wrapping them in my camping Snuggie* and that’s what lead to this light bulb moment: fleece pillowcases.

I sewed custom fleece pillowcases, and my husband and I have been thrilled with the results. Not only are they super soft and cozy, but they stay warm all night long during our camping trips — no matter how low the temperature dips.

* Yes, I also have a camping Snuggie. Laugh all you want, but the “blanket with sleeves” is great for cozying up around the campfire when it gets chilly out — and acts as another extra blanket at night when it’s time for bed.

4. Camping Carpet

My husband thought I was crazy when I came home with a small microfiber bath mat and said it was for camping. But I’m having the last laugh, as it is SO much nicer to stand on when getting dressed inside the tent than the bare tent floor — which often gets gritty from tracked in dirt and sand. It’s a small creature comfort that (for me) makes a big impact on my enjoyment of camping.

camping oysters5. Bedside Tables

One small purchase we invested in earlier this year were collapsible camping stools — which I actually use as makeshift bedside tables for our air mattresses. Both my husband and I wear glasses, so for one, it’s nice to have a place off the ground to place our glasses at night when we go to sleep. I also like having my hand lotion, chapstick, and flashlight handy and within reach, off the ground.

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Overall, we’ve slowly been adding to, subtracting from, and adjusting our camping supplies — since originally, my husband had gear for camping solo. Since we now usually camp together, we’ve been adjusting — things he no longer uses, things I’ve requested, or just general changes to what we bring with us. (For example, I LOVE cooking over the campfire and have enjoyed experimenting with new campfire recipes. As a result, I’ve been expanding our camping kitchen supplies to meet my cooking needs.) It’s been a lot of trial and error, to figure out what works best for us as a camping couple — but this year, in particular, we’ve really found our stride and every camping trip has been getting better and better.

We’ve already started looking at new campsites to explore next year, planning a return trip to our favorite campground next summer (Devil’s Lake State Campground in Lincoln City, OR), and thinking about more changes and additions to our camping gear. But for now, it’s time to pack things up for winter storage.

For the comments: What makes YOUR camping trips more comfortable and enjoyable?

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Fleece Camping Pillowcases

Over the last few months, my husband and I have been really refining our camping gear and our camping routine — and finding what works best for the two of us. When we started camping together, we were using all of his gear — since he’d been camping all his life, and I (at the time) hated camping and never went at all.

I’ve got another post coming up soon about the new gear and changes we’ve made to our camping routine that have made things so much more comfortable for us — but today, I want to tell you about the Best Idea I Ever Had For Camping – so dubbed by my husband.

Fleece Pillowcases.

tentThe idea came to me during our first camping trip of the year, back in June, when I was trying to stay warm at night — and the cold air made my pillowcases positively freezing. I took to wrapping the pillows in my Snuggie (yes, I have a camping Snuggie – more on that later) to keep them warm.

The only problem with this solution is that the Snuggie kept coming off while I slept. But then I had a “light bulb” moment … why not sew pillowcases out of fleece!

The fleece keeps the pillows warm despite the cold night air, and are the perfect way to help you maintain your body heat during the chilly nights in your tent.

For each pillowcase, you’ll need approximately 1 yard of fleece (1-1/2 yards for bigger pillows).

I used my existing pillowcases as a pattern, and traced around them — adding about a 1/2″ allowance for my seams. Then I stitched up the fleece on three sides, and left the fourth side open for slipping in my pillow. Since fleece doesn’t unravel, I didn’t even bother to hem the open edge (though you certainly can, if you so choose).

You can usually find fleece at the fabric store for pretty cheap, and you can even have fun with novelty prints if you want, since the pillowcases are just for camping. (I used pirate fabric, Avengers print, and Mickey Mouse fabric for our pillowcases!)

* Now, about that Snuggie. Yes, I have a camping Snuggie. Laugh all you want, but the “blanket with sleeves” is great for cozying up around the campfire when it gets chilly out — and acts as another extra blanket at night when it’s time for bed. It’s seriously one of the best accidental camping supplies I ever discovered!

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DIY Wedding Makeup Tips

Photo by May Gunsul Photography

Photo by May Gunsul Photography

When my husband and I started planning our wedding, one thing I decided early on was to do my own hair and makeup. While this did save us some money, the decision was based less on budget and more on my dislike of other people doing my hair and makeup. I’m uncomfortable with other people touching me, and not knowing if they’re going to do things exactly how I want it stresses me out. I’m very particular, and I know what I like — and in general, I know how to do it myself to my own liking.

I’ve since said I wished I had hired someone else to do my hair. I had not been 100% happy with all of my trial hair run-throughs, and my nerves kicked in BIG TIME on the morning of the wedding. As a result, my hair looked okay for most of the initial photos, but started to go limp even during the ceremony, and especially by the time the reception was just getting started.

However, I’m still really happy with how my DIY makeup turned out. I invested in good-quality products, tested them all out (luckily, I had three weddings before my own to really put these products to the test!), and have been doing my own makeup for my entire life, and was 100% confident in my skills.

If you’re thinking of doing your own wedding makeup, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Practice makes perfect
  2. Test products for endurance during stressful and sweat-inducing conditions
  3. Take photos of your trial runs – remember, your look needs to look good on camera!
  4. Prepare to apply makeup while NERVOUS and excited on your big day (think: shaking hands)
  5. You’ll probably be using more products than you usually do for your everyday makeup (my normal routine is a fraction of the products you’ll find listed below)

Meanwhile, here are the products that I found worked best for me on my wedding day:

FACE

tarte foundation

Neutrogena Shine Control Primer

The foundation for my foundation helped keep everything in place, despite getting very hot and sweaty during the reception.

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation

This foundation was light enough to match my pale skin, and withstood a LOT of sweating.

Make-Up Forever Full Cover Concealer

I used this to cover up any small red spots leftover from acne, or other blemishes.

Sephora Smoothing & Brightening Concealer

This was all about covering up dark circles under my eyes, and for any highlighting I wanted to do during contouring.

Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder

I swear by this stuff. I’ve been using Coty’s translucent powder forever – probably since I started wearing makeup in middle school. My mom used it, and my grandma used it — and it’s still the best face powder I’ve ever used. It can be hard to find in drug stores, but whenever I see it, I stock up.

CHEEKS

tarte blush

Benefit Posietint

I blended this onto the apples of my cheeks before applying translucent powder. It provided a good base, and as a stain, helped make sure I always had some color on my cheeks, even if/when my regular blush wore off.

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush

After dusting my whole face in translucent powder, I brushed this over my cheeks – doubling up where I’d already applied the Benetint stain, for a more dramatic look. (Remember, the camera washes you out!)

Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil Bronzer

The fact that this bronzer smells like chocolate is just a bonus. I loved that this was a matte bronzer (no shimmer, which can look weird in photos) — and was the perfect shade to compliment my very fair complexion. I used it for contouring along my cheekbones, the side of my nose, around my hairline, and along the jawline. It gave just enough tint, without making me look weirdly tan for my winter wedding.

Benefit’s Watt’s Up!

I lightly blended some of this along the tops of my cheekbones, just to catch the light but not give too much shimmer.

EYES

cinderella compact

Sephora Perfecting Eye Primer

There are lots of great eye primers out there, but I’ve always been happy with Sephora’s in-house brand. It’s great for getting eye makeup to stay put during the day, and hold-up longer.

Estee Lauder Pure Color Gelee Powder Eye Shadow

I used the Estee Lauder shadow in silver and black to create a dramatic smoky eye. I also blended in a coppery-brown shadow into the crease of my eye, and a shimmery white shadow into the corners of my eyes. These were from a limited edition Sephora-Disney Cinderella eye palette, which is no longer available.

Sephora Waterproof Gel Eyeliner

With a fine angled makeup brush, I used this gel eyeliner to paint on the perfect winged eye. This is something I often do as part of my usual makeup routine, so I’ve had lots of practice with a steady hand to get the winged eye just so.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

I used this creamy pencil for lining my waterline.

Ardell Lash Accents 315

I was a newbie to false eyelashes when I started planning my wedding makeup, but after some trial and error, I found that these accent lashes were perfect for me. They added length and drama, without feeling clunky or unnatural. I did have to practice applying them a few times before the wedding, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly and was happy with how they looked. I applied them after all of my other eye makeup — and before applying mascara, I went over the line of the eyelashes with a little more eye liner just to camouflage where they were applied. I then curled the falsies along with my real lashes, and applied lash primer and mascara.

Tarte MultiplEYE Natural Lash-Enhancing Primer

Beyond the false lash accents, this primer helped extend the length of my natural lashes for drama and length.

Tarte Gifted Amazonian Clay Mascara

The finishing touch! I was brave and did NOT use waterproof mascara (because, let’s be honest, waterproof mascara just never looks as good) — but if you’re worried about tears, look for a good quality mascara with a waterproof formula.

LIPS

posie tint

Benefit Posietint

The same Benefit stain I’d used on my cheeks also became my lip color. I loved that this color was bright, without being unnatural and gave me a nice bridal pink tint to my lips. Plus, as a stain, it lasted longer than a regular lip color.

Mac Clear LipGlass

I like a little shine without the stickiness. I used Mac’s clear lipgloss to pump up the shine and color on my lips. I like that this gloss is not sticky. My maid of honor kept this in her dress pocket for me, so I could reapply during photos and right before the ceremony.

Photo by May Gunsul Photography

Photo by May Gunsul Photography

For the comments: What was in your wedding makeup bag?

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Recipe: Sara’s Campfire Nachos

Last year, I told my husband (then-fiance) I was planning to make nachos during our camping trip, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Fast-forward several months to my bridal shower, and the “can she guess his answers” game my bridesmaids planned, and I learn he has dubbed the campfire nachos the best thing I ever made him.

Campfire nachos are now a regular on our camping trips.

Other recipes abound on the interwebs, but here’s my tried-and-true take, which is designed for convenient cooking on the go.

Sara’s Campfire Nachos

campfire nachos1Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 2 packages of Foster Farms Southwestern Chicken Strips
  • 1 bag of shredded Mexican-style cheese
  • 1 bundle of green onions
  • 1 can of Rotelle diced tomatoes with chiles (or your choice of salsa)
  • Sour cream

You’ll also want to bring a throw-away metal baking pan & heavy-duty tin foil.

Directions:

Before leaving the house, dice the green onions and finely chop the chicken. Bag each ingredient separately.

At your campsite: Assemble the nachos in layers in the metal baking pan. Start with an even layer of chips, sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese, then add chicken, onions, and salsa. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.

Cover with tin foil and place on the rack of your campfire, over hot embers. (You do not want flames licking the tin.) Cook until cheese is melty and nachos are warmed through.

Serve with sour cream.

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The 5 Things I’d Do Differently on My Wedding Day

082When you get engaged and start planning a wedding, everyone (and I do mean everyone) will tell you to be prepared for things to go wrong. For all your well-laid plans to fall apart. For disaster to strike. My mother even went so far as to question why I was even making such specific plans for every little detail, since things were going to go So! Horribly! Wrong!

As a former TV news producer, though, I was prepared to take it all in stride. I treated planning my wedding much as I would have treated producing a newscast. You make your plans, down to every last detail. Get everything in place well ahead of time. Then when “breaking news happens” (ie, things go wrong), all you have to do is simply address the new problem because everything else is already done.

But as fully prepared as I was for things to go wrong on our wedding day, when that day finally rolled around … well, it was all kind of perfect. I mean, the only “problem” is that there was a small smudge on the front of the cake, which had occurred in transport. But guess what? The cake was still delicious. I really didn’t care about a smudge.

There isn’t much I would change about our wedding day, but now that a few months have passed, my husband and I did discuss the tiny things we’d do differently, if given the chance. Perhaps take these into consideration when planning your own nuptials:

1. Eat more.

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I was pretty proud of myself for managing to sample all of the hors d’oeuvres served at our cocktail hour. They were delicious, and as it happened, I was able to squeeze a few minutes by myself, even while I was in the middle of all my guests. Sure, I was the bride snarfing down steak bite skewers and brie en croute, but so what? I ate at my own wedding!

For the lunch, we had a buffet — and my husband and I were the first ones to go through. So unlike some horror stories you hear, where the bride and groom never eat, we did eat. I just wish I’d taken the time to go back for seconds. I think a lot of my hesitation was having to navigate getting up and down from my seat in my ginormously poofy wedding dress – but our food was really good, and I wish I’d had just a little bit more. Also, I would have gone back for a second piece of wedding cake.

2. Drink more.

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Following up the first thing – DRINK! We had an open bar for three hours during our reception, and a catering manager from our venue who offered multiple times to fetch us drinks. But I was just so dang dehydrated, all I wanted was water. I did manage one glass of wine, and some champagne with our toast. But by the time I was finally ready to grab another drink, the bar had closed.

Similarly, we offered up a hot chocolate station for our guests – one that my husband and I never actually saw until we got the photos back from our photographer. It looked amazing, and we both wished we’d taken the time to partake.

3. Hair Pro

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I made the decision early on in the wedding planning process to do my own hair and makeup for the wedding. This was less about budget (though it did save us a good chunk of money), and more about my own personal comfort. I hate having other people do my hair and makeup. I’m very particular and I know what I like and how I like it.

On the makeup side, I’m still 100% pleased with how everything turned out. I used the perfect combination of products, and love how I looked. Plus, it lasted the entire day. From 7am until the after-party that went past 9pm — my makeup held up. (Here’s a look at what I used!)

My hair, on the other hand … not so much. I’d done plenty of trial run-throughs of my hair style ahead of time, and was relatively pleased with the results. But I’m less confident in my hair-styling skills than I am in my makeup skills — and my nerves took over BIG TIME on the day of the wedding, as I was trying to do my hair. It looked okay for our pre-ceremony photos, but even as I walked down the aisle, some of the curls had started to come undone, and by the time the reception started, it was a limp, frizzy mess.

I wish I’d had someone more skilled and less nervous to do my hair that day, so it might have held up better.

4. Pause

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Everyone warned me this would happen — and unlike the “unavoidable disasters” advice, this one did hold true. And that is your wedding day will go by so fast. I wish my husband and I had taken just a little more time to be together away from the crowds during the day. There was one particular moment, where we snuck away with our photographer to take some more photos. And I just wish we’d taken more time then. I wish I’d bothered to go back to my room, fix up my hair and powder my nose. And then have a more leisurely time with our photographer taking some photos away from the reception crowd.

Likewise, I wish we’d spent more time immediately following the ceremony alone, just the two of us. Of course, we were followed by our coordinator, our photographer, our videographer, and our entire bridal party — to take off mics, sign our marriage license, and head down to cocktail hour for the formal introductions. If I could do it over again, we’d have kicked them all away and made them wait somewhere else, so the two of us could have had just a few minutes alone together to bask in our new marriage.

5. Forgotten Photos

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It’s hard to get every photo you want on your wedding day, no matter how meticulous you are. And believe me, I was meticulous. But even with the detailed list I’d given my photographer, we all got swept up in the big day and a few photos never happened: our rings, my something old/new/borrowed/blue together, a photo of my husband and I with BOTH sets of parents, a snapshot with my aunt and uncle. Nothing major, but just a few images we wished we’d remember to have taken.

As for my desire to have a few more photos of the two of us? I’m thinking perhaps we’ll get dressed up in our wedding clothes again for an anniversary photo shoot.

For the comments: What are some things you’d do differently at your wedding?

All photos in this post by May Gunsul Photography