I Went a Little Crazy

You’ve heard it time and time again: Wedding planning can make you crazy.

From frabz.com

Image via frabz.com

I thought that would never be me. I would remain cool and calm throughout the wedding process. I would keep my value systems intact and I would remain practical and rational.

Yeah…that didn’t happen. I am ashamed to say that I did get a teensy bit crazy when it came to purchasing my Save- the- Dates (STDs).

As I mentioned before, I went on Etsy and looked for save -the- date templates once we received our engagement photos. Mr. G and I chose two templates- one for the Japanese wedding and one for the American wedding.

Save the Date Template from Etsy Shop: Designs by AdJ

American Save the Date Template from Etsy Shop: Designs by AdJ

Save-the-Template from Etsy Shop: Paper Flowers Designs

Japanese Save-the-Template from Etsy Shop: Paper Flowers Designs

I equally loved both when I purchased them and received the digital proofs, but as time passed I started to dislike the American one for no apparent reason (it is a beautiful and fun design). I would hassle Mr. G every other night.

Me: Do you still like our American Save – the- Dates?
Mr. Gondola: Yes! Wow are you seriously still asking me?

Sigh, I was getting crazy.

I ordered the American STDs on Vistaprint and immediately regretted purchasing them. I sat on the couch and resigned myself to a life where I really didn’t care for the STD’s for my second out of two weddings.


Even Wonka knows I’m being silly. Image via quickmeme.com

The next day I was on Pinterest and I saw the cutest and free STD from Wedding Chicks.

On TV you see the childless couple who looks at a photo of a baby who is awaiting adoption. Tears well up in their eyes and they just know this is the one. They exclaim, “This is our baby!” I felt the same way about the save the dates. I know, I’m crazy.

I immediately went to see if I could cancel my Vistaprint order. Guess what? I could! I wouldn’t get my money back but I would get credit. This didn’t phase me at all as I would order the exact same thing, but with a different picture so the price would be exactly the same. I went on Wedding Chicks and downloaded the STD. I was just about to order it on Vistaprint when the rational side of my brain reminded me that I should probably ask my fiancé.
Later that night I explained to Mr, G that I wasn’t in love I with our STDs and that I found one for free so if we ordered the new ones it would still be the same price.

Mr. G liked the new ones and was on board! I ordered the new ones and felt great after I ordered. Great, but silly.


Our new American Save the Date

Has wedding planning made you a bit crazy? Have you started to care about things you never thought you would?


Happy Birthday to Me!

It has been a week since I last posted and it was because I was too busy celebrating my birthday! I am 31 years old and loving it! For some reason turning 30 was pretty difficult emotionally, but turning 31 was not a problem!

On the day of my birthday I drank champagne all day and enjoyed breakfast in bed. I got to watch whatever I wanted on TV and Masa did all of the chores. It was glorious.

Since we are saving money for the weddings this birthday was pretty low-key- no major gifts or fancy dinners. It was still a wonderful birthday!
My coworkers gifted me with a beautiful card. It was black velvet and had more than a dozen sparkly gold rings. The rings were actually message cards!

This cards was so fitting as this will be my only birthday as engaged woman.

This card was so fitting as this will be my only birthday as engaged woman.

The rings are actually message cards!

After I pulled out some of the rings.

I actually teared up a bit reading all of the messages. They even got a few of the older students to write messages for me. I have amazing co-workers!

When I got home my fiance gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers.

Sunflowers and lilies! My favorite!

Sunflowers and lilies! My favorite!


We finished the night with a little birthday cake.



I blew out the candles hoping I would have a happy and healthy life and of course I made a wish.


Being 31 is looking to be pretty good. If everything works out I will probably have a pretty awesome year- two weddings, a honeymoon, and finally finding out who Ted Mosby’s wife will be.


Happy birthday to me!



Combining Your Commuter Pass with a Ticket on JR West

My daily commute is an hour and half each morning and night. Truthfully, the commute is not that bad. I have a smartphone so I usually spend my time on Facebook, reddit, and Buzzfeed after I check my email. I also have a Kindle so I can read  in case there is nothing amusing on the Internet. For my commute I use my commuter pass( teiki/ 定期). I usually buy a three month pass and save quite a bit of money for my long commute. However, my job requires me to do a quite a bit of  travelling where I can”t use my commuter pass and I have to pay full price sometimes. This week I was fortunate to learn a trick that helps with my commute when I travel outside of my commuter pass zone.

My poorly drawn map of JR stations

My poorly drawn map of JR stations. Click for a bigger image.

Let’s say my commuter pass is valid from from Kyoto to Osaka. That means that I can get on at any station between Kyoto and Osaka and get off at any station between Kyoto and Osaka by just using my commuter pass.

Let’s say I want to go from Kyoto (in my commuter pass zone) to Amagasaki (two station after Osaka and outside of my commuter pass zone). I can enter Kyoto station with my commuter pass, but once I get to Amagasaki I will have to use the fair adjustment machine to pay the fee of going from Osaka to Amagasaki.

Now what if wanted to go from Amagasaki to Kyoto? I can’t enter the station using my commuter pass(I can only use that for stations between Kyoto and Osaka), but I don’t want to pay for the trip between Osaka to Kyoto since I have my commuter pass.

I have three options:
1. Throw in the towel  and buy a ticket from Amagasaki to Kyoto
2. Buy a ticket (or use your ICOCOA card) to go into the station. Leave the station at Osaka and enter Osaka station again with your commuter pass.
3. The trick I learned: At Amagasaki station buy a ticket to Osaka and stay on the train until you get to Kyoto (or any stop in your commuter pass zone). When you exit the station don’t go through the ticket gate or to the fare adjustment machine. Go to a manned ticket window and show your ticket to Osaka and your commuter pass to the staff at the window. They will check to see if the price is right, take your ticket, hand you back your commuter pass, and let you through the gate.

For months I had been doing option 2- entering the station with my ICOCA card, leaving the station once I got to my commuter pass zone, and going back in with my commuter pass. This added about 15 minutes to my commute because I had to wait for the next train. Fortunately, I got lucky and one day while I was asking a station staff member a question I noticed two people show the station master at the ticket gate window their tickets and their commuter pass. A few days later I traveled outside of my commuter zone, bought a ticket, showed them both to the station master and was waved out of the station! It has been so much easier for me to travel and I get home much earlier after I’ve done a long trip.

The Dos and Don’ts of Picking an Outfit for Your Engagement Photos

I really like my engagement photos, but whenever I look at them I just get one pang of regret and that regret is my dress. I was very foolish and put off choosing my engagement photo outfit until the very last minute. Why you ask? One, I gained about 15 pounds in the past year and didn’t want to try on any of my clothes as I knew my favorite outfits would be too tight. Two, I can’t really buy clothes in Japan as most stores only sell size Medium (which is an American size Small). Three, I was in the midst of a very cold winter and it was not fun to try on summer clothes (the engagement shoot was in sunny South Florida) in my poorly insulated apartment. In the end, I settled on wearing an old but well fitting green dress.


My old, but well fitting, green dress

However, when I went to the states and told my mom and sister what I planned on wearing they were both underwhelmed. I started to get worried and foolishly ran to the mall and bought the first dress that fit me decently. I regret buying that dress to this day!

In order to not let my dress fail go to waste I am making a list of dos and don’ts so that no one will make the same mistakes as me.

Do put some time and effort into thinking about what you are going to wear in your engagement photos. These are your engagement photos and will capture a very special time between you and your fiance.  You will probably end up using them for your save the dates, invitations, or home decor.

Don’t run to mall and buy anything in haste.

Do find an outfit that fits your personality. If you are a outdoorsy person wear outdoorsy clothes. If you love your university,where your university T-shirt with pride! I often wear dresses, but the dress I wore for the engagement was not me at all. The sleeves are pointy and the dress is very structured while I am more of a flowy dress kind of girl. I so wish I had bought a long, flowing dress and put a flower clip in my hair. That would have been so much more me.

Don’t wear something fancy because someone else thinks your engagement photos should be fancy. I wish I had gone with my initial instinct of wearing my well fitting green dress rather than succumbing to pressure and getting something fancier.

Do wear something that suits your body. If you have an awesome part of your body that you love, show it off! If you have a part of your body that you are self-conscious about, cover it up. I am very self conscious about my arms but for some reason I thought that wearing a cardigan would accentuate them even more. I went with the blue dress that I wore because I thought the pointy sleeves would make my arms look skinny. They did not. I wish I had covered them up.

Don’t wear clothes that wrinkle easily. See the photo I used for my save the date? When I look at it my eyes go straight to the wrinkle in the middle of my dress.


So many wrinkles!

Do take some time to debate style over substance. I knew that we were going to do lots of waking and I decided to wear my very comfortable heels from Easy Spirit shoes. My feet and I are very glad I did, but when I look at some photos I wish I had worn a cute pair of shoes. Perhaps I could have bought a pair of sexy shoes to change into for full body shots.

My boring black shoes

My boring black shoes

I hope that this dos and don’ts list helps those who are planning engagement photos. Don’t let my hasty dress decision be in vain!

I must admit that that I may be over- critical of myself. The first thing that everyone comments on when they see our engagement photos is how much they like my dress and the color. I think my bridal brain is skewing my perspective!

For those who have already taken engagement photos: Did you love or hate what you wore to your engagement photo shoot.

Engagement Photos

During spring break in March, Mr. Gondola and I got out engagement photos taken in Florida. I was so excited to get my engagement photos done and I got a bit obsessed looking at inspiration in Pinterest a few months before we got the engagement photos taken. I thought of getting big yellow helium balloons for props and and even thought about making Mr. G practice poses in our living room if we decided to do something more casual.

My balloon inspiration frm stylemepretty.com

My balloon inspiration Image via stylemepretty.com Photography by Hong Photography Studios

Casual Engagement Photo Inspiration Image via Brook Bakken /Photography Photography by Brook Bakken

Casual Engagement Photo Inspiration
Image via Brooke Bakken Photography

In the end, I nixed the balloon idea and Mr. G refused to practice posing in the living room as he said he wanted natural photos (He should really watch about America’s Next Top Model- its all about practicing in the mirror). Mr. G snd I decided to take pictures in the ArtsPark at Young Circle in Hollywood, FL. This park is absolutely gorgeous and it has many features such as green lawns, fountains, a bamboo forest, a huge Japanese tree with ceremonial rope, and even a water park. We also decided to get a few pictures of us at an outdoor café near the Arts Park as we love to go out to eat.

ArtsPark at Young Circle

ArtsPark at Young Circle Image via broward.org

We met up with our photographer, Courtney Ortiz, whom I met through one of my mother’s many connections. As I said before, I love her style. All of her pictures are incredibly vibrant and she really makes colors pop. We had a great time walking around town taking pictures near her studio and Young Circle Arts Park. It was pretty cloudy that day but I get a very sunny feeling when I look at the photos.

cici-60 cici-69 cici-80 cici-89 cici-99 cici-105

All photos are courtesy of Courtney Ortiz Photography

During the shoot she often had us hold are foreheads together or have Mr. G whisper something in my ear. Mr. G knew I was pretty nervous so he spent most of his time whispering jokes in my ear which made both of us giggle.

Courtney was very fast and efficient and we finished out session in about an hour. Three weeks later she sent me the online album. For some reason I expected that all of our shots would be amazing, but as I learned that in photography ¾ of 100 shots are keepers. Out of the 120 shots that we took we got about 15 awesome ones, and about 50 pretty great ones. I get a smile on my face whenever I see my photos and I’m very excited to use them. We used two for our save the dates, one for my custom mobile phone case from Vistaprint, and we plan on getting a wall canvas from Shutterfly for the living room.

I cannot wait to get our wedding photos done and decorate our apartment with those as well.

How many good shots did you get out of your engagement photos? Were all of them amazing or did you get 10-20 really good ones?

Mail Call!

I love getting packages in the mail and this week Thursday I got three packages in one day! For someone who rarely gets mail besides bills this was an absolute event.

First, we got our Japanese save the dates in the mail from Vistaprint. I was very nervous when Mr.G opened the box. I usually get a proof or a very small order to make sure everything is alright before I order a larger order, but I didn’t have time to do that for the Japanese STDs. Right before he  opened the package I got an awful feeling in my stomach and said “They’re going to be awful, aren’t they?” but fortunately they  turned out wonderfully.

The print version and the digital version... and my hand.

The print version and the digital version… and my hand. Etsy Shop: Paper Flowers Design

To make our STDs I went on Etsy to find a digital template that would go well with one of our engagement photos. Some sellers on Etsy offer printing services, but I preferred to have a digital file that I could print on Vistaprint cheaply as Vistaprint always has coupons  for printing services.

I have always had great success with Etsy and digital files. The prices are reasonable and everyone on Etsy is so gosh-darn friendly.  The first time I purchased a digital card template was for our holiday cards last year.


Etsy Shop: Southern Petite

I just typed “digital photo save the date” into the Etsy search bar and browsed through the options. I chose my top threeand presented them to Mr. G. He chose his favorite (which was my favorite!). We ordered the template and sent in our photo.  The seller was very friendly and did a great job coordinating the color of the font with my dress.  We got out digital proof 2 days after the purchase and printed them out on Vistaprint.

The second package I received was our Shutterfly Photo Guestbook.


Mr. Gondola showing off our book

I bought my wedding dress at David’s Bridal and one of the sales consultants gave me coupon book full of deals after we finished paying.  One was for 40% off a photo guest book on Shutterfly which I decided to use. I was looking forward to getting a photo guest book, but I wasn’t looking forward to having another time consuming activity on my wedding to do list.  I sat down in front of the computer with Mr. G to start the whole process and Mr.G shockingly took over the entire project and seemed to have a really good time choosing the pictures, the photo pages, and designs. All I did was sip a glass of wine and watch.  Mr. G did an amazing job, and I am always so happy when he lets his creative side shine.

IMG_1458 IMG_1457 IMG_1456

The guestbook looks amazing, and I cannot wait to have people sign it- if they do sign it. I hear so many people say that their guest books hardly ever get signed. Signed or unsigned, whenever I look at it I will not only see the wonderful pictures, but also all of the wonderful work that Mr.G did.

The last package we received was from my friend Yohca, the artist. She sent us handmade paper puppets of me and Mr.G  We will use them for a video we plan to show at the American wedding.

Masa and me in puppet form. Do you think they look like us?

Mr. G and me in puppet form. Do you think they look like us?

I loved all the packages that we got that day. We have a honeymoon registry so unlike other engaged couples we won’t be getting lots of packages in the mail so I am very glad that we had a day like that day to make us feel that we are really in the midst of our own personal wedding season.

Anyone getting great packages in the mail?

Has anyone gotten a Shutterfly guest book? Did you love it?

Bedside Manner in Japan

Japan’s healthcare has its pros and cons, but in general it is pretty well run and affordable. Rather than seeing a doctor you either visit a clinic or a hospital which are a bit like factories as they try to get people in and out as fast as they can.  You sign your name on list and wait… and wait… and wait (most places don’t take appointments). When your name gets called you go in to see a doctor and he or she diagnoses you as quickly possible as there are about 20 other people behind you.  As a result  I have never, in my experience, met a doctor with any sort of bedside manner.  Most of the time the doctor seems a bit annoyed when you walk in since you are probably their 30th patient of the day. They diagnosis your problem as quickly as they can and rarely offer any options. Some doctors don’t even bother to explain what medicine they are giving you.

When I am being rushed through a clinic or doctor’s office it makes me miss the states. Most of the doctors there are friendly, ask about how you are doing, talk about themselves for a bit, and offer you options about your problems.

However, though there is no bedside manner, Japanese healthcare is cheap.  I have a very bad knee-  It hurts when I walk down the stairs, when I bend my knee for too long, and when I crawl on the floor (I’m a preschool teacher and there is surprisingly a lot of crawling).  I went in to get it treated and I received a hyaluronic acid shot in my knee (an extremely painful shot that takes about 60 seconds to administer), 10 days worth of three different types of painkillers, and muscle pads for the price of 2300 yen ($23). If I didn’t have insurance it would have probably been 9000 yen ($88).

All of this was just $22!

All of this was just $23!

I once went to a very friendly doctor in the states for a general check -up and it cost over 500 dollars since I didn’t have insurance. Lately, I have been playing around with the idea of moving back to the states and the question I have been asking myself lately is: Cheap health care and no bedside manner, or expensive health care with doctors with great bedside manner. What would you choose?