The husband-to-be and I are on a smoothie binge. Banana strawberry. Mixed berry. Cherry. And this morning: pineapple strawberry.

Made with fat-free Greek yogurt, frozen fruit and whey protein, all of them make a surprisingly filling, carb-free breakfast. I have Steven, armed with the Ninja blender I gave him for our "askiversary," to thank for it.
Askiversary, you might ask? April 16 marked a year since my best friend asked me to marry him, and we celebrated. Given how much Steven enjoys the smoothies from Liquid Planet, but also given how frugal he likes to be, I had a suspicion that he'd enjoy his very own blender with which he can make smoothies at a fraction of the retail price.

If the frequency with which he's used said blender to make smoothies and hummus is any indication, I do believe I've scored. :]

The before:
And the [yummy] after:
It was sweet to take some time -- in the midst of everything we have going on, not the least of which is wedding planning -- to enjoy each other and to celebrate the question that started it all.

Both of us ended up using anniversary cards as "askiversary" cards for the day -- something I suspect will become a tradition unless greeting card companies wise up to the need for "askiversary" cards, ha. Great minds, as they say, think alike!
I've been quite busy on the wedding planning front. After writing probably a half dozen hairdressers and bugging out when most of them said they were booked for our date, I've hired an incredible hairdresser and soon will share pictures from my first hair and makeup trial. We also have chosen our florist (more on her later) and ordered and received our invitations and RSVP cards (wait until you see them; we did mad lib!), and I am working out the menu with our caterer and have found a jeweler who's creating commissioned pieces for my big-day look (lucky me).

All the while, of course, The Bartering Bride continues to work for her amazing vendors. I'll leave you with this, the e-magazine I wrote and my giving sister designed for Steven's and my photographer. I made sure that it's chock-full of advice for brides, so please read up!
Suffice it to say, Cavanaugh's one to call -- now -- if you need a photographer.
Enticed there by a Groupon deal I couldn't resist, I didn't know what to expect. Now, I do.

The first thing Mona Lisa Salon + Spa will ask you to do is change into a robe top of theirs, to be safe that hair dye doesn't stain the shirt you walked in wearing. Next, your hairdresser (Reagan was my hairdresser this day, and she's INCREDIBLE -- super down-to-earth and talented) asks lots of questions about what you want. (I brought pictures to help illustrate.) And then, as the professionals here execute the look you've requested, you're offered tea, red wine and other selections, and all the while, you're not subjected to the strong fumes you would be nearly anywhere else.


Opened in July 2010, Mona Lisa Salon + Spa in Mayfield Heights puts into play a concept that co-owner Mona Hirst says exists in other cities. To keep the salon "fume-free," they limit their offerings to certain services and they use a hair product line imported from Italy that changes your hair color without knocking you out with ammonia and other chemicals.

Mona and co-owner, Cristian Necsuleu, make a scary point right on the wall of the salon: "Our skin can absorb up to 60 percent of the product applied to it."

I won't lie; I worried a little about trying an alternative salon. Having grown up with a mom who bought almost exclusively natural products, I'd learned along the way that some simply don't do the job that the chemical-laden ones do. 

I am SO glad I chose Mona Lisa Salon + Spa, and I'll show you why. 

This is the *before*. My curly hair is combed out -- embarrassing, yes -- but you can see the color. I hadn't had my hair done in nearly a year, but with engagement pictures approaching, I decided to do what I normally do this time of year and go dark. (Besides, the Husband-to-Be loves me brunette.)
See my tea?

Now, here's the *after* following a cut, coloring, eyebrow wax and a form of styling I'd never seen before. (Twist your hair into twirls and blow them dry with a diffuser. Then, take the twirls apart to create these spirals.)
I likely have found my hairdressers for the wedding. In fact, Mona offered to come on location, which is huge!

Up first, though? Engagement pictures at Mapleside Farms this week! Where in Northeast Ohio would you want to be photographed?
Meet Bill.
He's been tending bar off and on since he was 21, and now, he'll be tending ours. What cinched this deal was a combination of Bill the Bartender's experience and his overt desire to please and work within our budget. (Never, ever hesitate to ask for a discount; more vendors are willing to do it than you might expect.)

We found Bill's business card at the venue the first time we toured it. The venue has a bar, and the ability to bring in our own alcohol was attractive (it helps keep costs down). But we definitely wanted someone behind the bar, keeping things sane, clean and, well, did I mention sane?

When Bill offered to stay within our budget and emailed us information about how much alcohol he'd suggest we buy for the number of guests we expect, he established himself not only as flexible but as a resource, too.

"I never truly liked the corporate world of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Bill wrote to me. "Bill the Bartender was officially created during a shift at a restaurant. A regular asked me for recipes to ‘umbrella drinks.'  I told her she needed a bartender. And as they say, the rest is history."
That was October 2004. Today, those who hire Bill can expect him to show up with his portable bar, garnishes and mixers and a canopy, in case an outdoor bar is desired. He also has a staff of part-timers upon whom he calls when second and third bartenders are needed.

"Your guests should not have to wait for drink service," he said. "Understand that the first ‘slam’ at the bar is always stressful, but leave it up to me to keep the line moving."
Will do, Bill. If you, too, desire a bartender who comes across as incredibly eager to please and helpful, click here.

And now, an unrelated story:

I received my first "gifted" glass jar from a coworker last week. Then, I went and bought pasta sauce, a different brand than ever before because I liked the jar.
Then, using whole wheat pasta (see previous blog), I whipped up a turkey sausage pasta dish for me and Handsome.
And then, there were two!
If you are what you eat, I am a carb. I love me some pasta. Bagels. Risotto. Pizza. Craft beer. Stuffing. The list, really, is never-ending.

I've been working out consistently since November. (Word to the wise, if you want to keep yourself accountable, buy a dry-erase calendar and write down every time you work out. Then, at the end of each month, record the ratio of days out of the month that you worked out. Keep track of those ratios.)

The husband-to-be and I have been doing that for eight months now, and this month, we amped it up. I've worked out (minimum, hour-long walk) 20 of the 23 days that August has afforded me.

Yet, I step on the scale on Tuesday, and the same number I've seen since JANUARY proves relentless. Clearly, something has to give.

For the next month, I'm going to severely limit my bad carbs in an experiment of sorts to see if that leads to progress. It's not that I think I'm terribly overweight. But, I wasn't 100% happy with how I looked in those 20+ wedding dresses I tried on, and I know I can't blame my displeasure entirely on the dresses.

But, before I take the plunge, I decided a carb-errific trip to the one and only Melt Bar and Grilled was in order. See why?
For those of you who haven't been lucky enough to wrap your mouth around one of these beauties, I'll explain. Melt is a Northeast Ohio treat; its menu features a decadent variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. The one I chose for my carb send-off? The Purple Parma, which featured no shortage of cheese, no shortage of thick, grilled bread and an abundance, too, of breaded eggplant. Here, take a closer look:
If I find that the severe limitation of the most delicious things on earth slims me down, I'll stick to it. Or try. I'm not saying I would ever give up carbs completely. One, I'm told that's not healthy, and two, that's flat out unrealistic.

But the great thing about weight, like so many things in life, is if you don't like it, you can change it. Nothing would tickle me more (yes, I said, tickle) than to go in for my dress fitting a few months before I marry the man of my dreams and hear them say, "Oh geez, girl. We need to take this in a size."

Back to that Purple Parma: Few sacrifices say love like bringing home half your Melt for your better half:
Oh, and Melt? In case you didn't know, yes, we totally do still need a caterer.