Running of the Brides

Monday, June 29, 2009

With the average price of a wedding dress ringing in at $1,200 without even considering the veil, shoes, jewelry or undergarments, I can't help but cringe at the thought of spending that much money on a dress I'll only wear once. No matter how special the occasion, I just can't fathom donning a dress that costs more than a several day vacation in London or for that matter a week-long cruise to the Caribbean. Did I mention that I'd only wear it for a period of about two hours?

While designer dresses such as this Priscilla of Boston
are beautiful, they don't come cheap. This gown
was originally purchased for $5,000.
Photo Source:

Fortunately I've slept a little better since beginning to read the Oprah-endorsed Bible of bridal saving -- Bridal Bargains by Denise & Alan Fields. It's a nearly 500-page guide packed full of secrets to help brides save instead of becoming a slave to the wedding industry. One of the favorite money-saving tips that I've stumbled across so far in my reading is the Filene's Basement Running of the Brides sale. At this epic event, almost-brides from across the country wait in line Black Friday-style to run into the store with friends and family to grab as many wedding dresses as possible before trying them on and swapping sizes and styles with other brides in a race to find that perfect dress.

The Running of the Brides is held about ten times a year in stores
located in major cities across the U.S. The first sale that
has inspired today's tradition was held in 1947 in Boston.
Photo Source:

What would make brides want to partake in such a frenzy? Filene's offers rock-bottom prices on designer dresses at the yearly event (except for in Boston where it's held twice a year) offering gowns originally priced at $2,000 to $3,000 or even $9,000 for only $249, $499 or $699. So let me rephrase my original question, why wouldn't you want to be a part of the so-called Running of the Brides?

Call me crazy, but I'm completely down with the idea of doing a dash-and-dress instead of the traditional appointment with the snooty salesperson who inevitably will make you fall in love with a dress just out of your already stretched budget range so that you'll obsess over it until your friends finally talk you into it. Thanks, but no thanks.

Hundreds of brides pull gowns of the racks in hopes of finding
a designer dress at a deeply discounted rate.
Photo Source: The Exchange

With some upcoming sales around the corner in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston, I'm entertaining the idea of hopping on a plane or arranging a road trip with some gal pals to hit up one of the sales. The adventures and stories from a trip like that would be worth more than any price tag.

One Wisconsin bride found her wedding dress at the
Running of the Brides sale.
Photo Source: Filene's Basement

Also, sadly in recent months Filene's Basement has been experiencing financial difficulties including recently filing for bankruptcy. While I hope this isn't the last year Filene's doors are open for such sales, I'd take advantage of the deals while they last!

So here are a few tips for success in dress-hunting if you decide you're up for the challenge:
  • Get a game plan: have an idea of what you're looking for before you go to the sale. This means trying on dresses in advance to see what styles best suite you and which ones you can rule out. Many brides will create posters displaying their size and preferred dress style for the event, and they'll have their entourage well-informed as to what they should be scouting for. Some groups go all out creating matching T-shirts and ensembles. Whether it's so they're easily able to find eachother in the crowd or just because, I'm not sure, but it makes for some memorable pictures!
  • Arrive early: while the doors open at 8 a.m., many brides will begin lining up as early as 5:30 or 6 a.m. Your chances of finding a dream dress will be much higher if someone else doesn't find it before you do! Don't forget to get coffee for your crew as a morale booster for standing in line so early.
  • Dress for success: many sale attendees wear tennis shoes along with sports bras or appropriate undergarments as many brides derobe in the aisles to try on dresses as quickly as possible. Some unabashed brides will wear the underwear they plan to wear under their dress, but others may not be so bold! Also be sure to give your purse to a friend so that you have both hands free.
  • Do the "swoop and swap": or the "grab and go". Whatever you want to call it, the name of the game is haggling, so the more dresses you have in hand the better position you're in to find the perfect dress.
  • One size fits all?: so you find a dress and fall in love with it, but there's one hitch -- it's too big. Since many brides already have their dress altered anyways, you may still be saving big since the lower dress price makes up for a couple hundred dollar alteration. Obviously this trick will only work if the dress is too big and not too small, but it's a viable option for brides who are willing to seek out a skilled seamstress.

You Stay Jazzy South Carolina

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In spending a week on Hilton Head Island, SC, I encountered a variety of culinary delights, the best of which naturally included tasty treasures from the sea. But of all the restaurants and meals enjoyed, there's one that by far stands out as the "best of the best" -- The Jazz Corner.

The Jazz Corner, an upscale club and restaurant in Hilton Head, recently celebrated a decade of serving up a variety of divine gourmet dishes running the surf and turf gammet with a dash of Southern-inspired flavor. I knew we were in for a real treat when the colloquial wait staff seated us at a table for two right in front of the stage!

First we split a mouthwatering and beautifully presented garlic bruchetta, which had soft and creamy mozzarella along with a blend of roasted tomatoes, olives and eggplant caviar on toasted crusty bread.

I sipped on a complimentary Prelude to a Hershey's Kiss Martini while soaking in the soulful swing and Big Band tunes that beckoned listeners to return to a different time. Although the atmosphere of the restaurant was intimate and candlelit, the crowd seemed to be connected and even moved by the music turning strangers into friends and acquaintances.

The band of the hour, the Bobby Ryder Quartet, took the stage and launched into a reportoire of old favorites including "It Had to Be You" and "New York, New York." One of my favorite parts of the performance was when lead singer and saxophonist Bobby Ryder played two saxophones at the same time! You can watch the impressive performance for yourself here. Jazz Club owner, Bob Mastellar, also took the stage several times throughout the evening to play duets with Ryder's band on his coronet.

Bobby Ryder plays duel saxophones during a performance of
"Night Train" at the Jazz Corner.
Photo Source: Self

Our entrees along with the music made the meal simply unforgettable. I savored grilled sea scallops and shrimp with baby spinach cream and sweet corn served atop cheddar grits and shoestring sweet potatoes. Kris indulged in the crab cakes, which were large portions of lump crab meat served with sweet corn cream, lime creme fraiche, edamame succotash, applewood smoked bacon and sweet potato hash.

To top off the evening, our waiter brought us a complimentary slice of Tres Leches Cake in celebration of Kris' birthday. Words cannot begin to describe this unique dessert. Soaked in three different types of milk and topped with strawberries, the cake is of Latin origin although variations of it have been adopted all over the world. Now I'm on a quest to find a recipe to replicate this delicious dessert although I know I'll never perfect it as the Jazz Corner certainly has.

A newly discovered love, Tres Leches Cake is soaked
in three types of milk and often is served with fruit.
Photo Source: iFoodie

Overall, if you are a fan of jazz music or if you just enjoy a good meal and live entertainment, you'll have a night to remember if you dine at this delightful restaurant!

Pimp My Luggage

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Are you tired of not being able to find your luggage in a sea of black bags snaking through the baggage claim at the airport? Or are you just bored with today's selection of cookie-cutter cardboard and canvas options of suitcases? 

In yesteryears, purchasing luggage was considered a major investment with each piece costing hundreds of dollars. With bags designed to last a lifetime, they were constructed from high-quality materials like wood and leather, and they were embellished with silk lining and brass ornaments. While this may not be practical for today's jet-set traveler, you can still adopt inspiration from retro styles to add personality to your travel bags. 

Add a vintage touch to your luggage by using travel labels and stickers. 

I stumbled across a variety of decorative labels in my quest for baggage bling including A Charming Chest, which offers a wide selection of themed luggage labels including vintage hotel, exotic destinations, golden era, sunny destinations, road trips, cigar box, vintage perfume labels and more! For less than $20, you'll receive a set of 20 labels.

On the other hand, A Touch of Europe offers additional flare for your travel gear ranging from retro Americana-themed stickers to Parisian, vintage letters or even nature-inspired additions such as birds and nests, natural wonders and butterflies.

For true vintage labels from the 20s and beyond, you can expect that the premium may be higher, but so is the payoff for those looking for authenticity. Check out the Razso Collection, which offers a variety of hotel and destination labels from various decades from former collector and label lover, Gyorgy Razso. If you have a true interest in vintage labels, be sure to check out the site's blog and picture gallery. 

Pretty Parisian stickers boast famous attractions and hotels from 
the City of Lights to add personality to an otherwise drab bag.
Photo Source: Touch of Europe 

Fun Americana stickers will take you back to a simpler time. For those living 

in the states, they'll also give you a piece of home while you're on the road.

Photo Source: A Touch of Europe

Stamps and "money" can be colorful additions to any leather bag.

80 stamps from around the world adorn this chic bag. While this Etsy 
offering has sold out, it's still an inspiration for your traveling tote.
Photo Source: Etsy

One Etsy artist used Spanish Monopoly money to create this retro 
one-of-a-kind suitcase! Talk about thinking out of the box.
Photo Source: Etsy

Postcards, maps and paper can also pretty up a duldrum piece.

I think I've fallen for this beautiful luggage set, which is covered 

in vintage Parisian postcard-style paper. The back of one of the pieces 

even includes a map of the whole city of Paris! 

Photo Source: Etsy

These Cavallini map stickers may not help you find where you're 

going to, but you'll sure look savvy en route!

Photo Source: A Touch of Europe

And don't forget about travel tags too!

In keeping with the vintage theme, I included one fun tag collection I found, but there are many more out there! Check out the Temper Jackson Collection for a loud and colorful selection, or visit World Traveler for more witty choices including "His" and "Hers", as well as one leopard print tag that says, "I've Got Baggage."

These sassy tags are not only cute accessories, but they'll also 

serve as bag identifiers, too.

Photo Source: En-Day

So you've read this all, and you're ready to kick your Samsonite to the curb. Where can you find a vintage bag?

Check out this great Go NOMAD article, which recommends garage sales, estate sales, consignment shops, thrift stores, EBay and flea markets as just a few of the places where you may spot your next suitcase. The article also details helpful cleaning and repair tips that make these finds better than new! 

Mori Luggage also has some fun high-end vintage pieces including a beautiful pink and black D'Aosta Veranda set. 

 Worn and well-traveled, following wherever you may go,

a vintage suitcase may well be a traveler's best friend.

Photo Source: Apartment Therapy 

Summertime Sweets

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now that summer is here, cookouts, picnics and other outdoor food-themed gatherings may be a mainstay in your world. So what culinary concoction should you bring to your next potluck event? Well, let me share my top five summer dessert dishes with you. 

Whether you're new to the neighborhood or you're spending time with childhood friends you've known forever, they'll be sure to thank you and be impressed if you prepare one of these memorable delights.

A marriage of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, makes this dessert a delicious and cool summertime treat that will disappear before your eyes! I always have at least one request for this recipe, so be prepared to give it out after you've baked it for friends and family! Note: this recipe can also be created with strawberries instead of raspberries.

With a raspberry Jello top layer, a cream cheese and 
confectioner's sugar center and a crust of pretzels, pecans, 
butter and sugar, this treat is a triple threat!
Photo Source: Recipe Tips

Calling all chocoholics, this sweet-tooth satisfier is a twist on tradition pudding and fruit trifles. Layer chewy chocolately brownies soaked in chocolate pudding with layers of Cool Whip and chocolate bar pieces! A sure crowd pleaser.

Chocolate trifle is best served layered in a clear trifle dish with a 
serving utensil fit for scooping.
Photo Source: Allrecipes

What could be more satisfying than warm homemade cobbler made with fresh fruit and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? Use any type of fruit of your choosing whether fresh or frozen. I made this recipe using the tips provided under the first comment made by Adrienne C. It turned out well with frozen blueberries and fresh blackberries, so pick whatever fruit that you wish. My fiance asked me to make a second time the next night!

Pick up a quart of fresh berries from the farmer's market 
to make this savory homemade dessert.
Photo Source: Betty Crocker

This easy, kid-friendly concotion can be created with fruit of your choosing, just like cobbler. Blueberries, strawberries and kiwi are just a few of my favorite toppings to add to the cream cheese sauce and sugar cookie crust! Note: I do not use apple jelly as this recipe calls for, so it's an optional ingredient that can be left out. 

A colorful addition to any table, fruit pizza is a fun creation that 
rivals it's pepperoni and cheese counterpart.
Photo Source: Self

This treat is moist and sweet but not overpowering. The fresh citrus flavor and creamy icing makes it a comparitively lighter option to share. 

This recipe can also make for a great birthday treat!
Photo Source: Allrecipes

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