How to make one kick ass cup cake tower.

I was disappointed with what I saw while shopping around for a cup cake tower. They were too small, too expensive, flimsy looking, and all-around unimpressive. So what does that mean? I made my own crappy, flimsy, and unimpressive cupcake tower. And now I will share with the internet comprehensive and specific directions how to make your own if ever you need to.

What you need:

  • adult supervision
  • 5 glass jars (emptied, and cleaned of labels)
  • seashells, marbles, rocks, sand, or whatever decorative material you choose to put in the jars
  • a lot of cardboard
  • ribbon, or lace
  • glue gun
  • a multi-tool for cutting cardboard
  • string & a push pin
  • ruler
  • material to cover the cardboard like card stock, paint, or fabric

Enlist a responsible adult.

super reliable

super reliabe

Ensure your safety by enlisting the watchful gaze of an adult you trust. Box cutters, glass, push pins, and glue guns (reaching 400 degrees!) are hazardous materials.

 Cutting cardboard into smaller cardboard

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Grab the giant piece of cardboard and draw your bottom most tier. My tiers are somewhat circular; the bottom most is 24″ in diameter. If you’re wondering how I drew such a huge (and naturally perfect) circle I’ll tell you my trick:

  • Choose a spot on the cardboard and stick a push pin in it and then tie some string around it. Note: don’t use string that is elastic-y like yarn it will not serve you well.
  • Cut a piece of fishing wire or other string to the length of the radius of your circle.
  • Using your writing hand grab the string at the end and use it to guide you as you draw a circle. Keep the string taut as you trace around.
  • or just wing it..

Once you trace your circle you can use the multi-tool to cut it out. I recommend cutting towards yourself.

Repeat this process for as many circles or tiers as you want. I did four tiers with diameters of 24″, 18″, 12″, 10″. I recommend putting the smallest on the bottom.

Note: Fortify your tiers and double up on the cardboard. Or not I don’t care.

 Envision a perfect finished project.

(Its a natural part of DIYing to envision a product you can’t create. Disappointment is key here).

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I’m about to call this puppy done.

Shitty to Pretty.

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Transform that cardboard from ugly girl on prom night to regular-looking girl on prom night.

Heat up that glue gun. If you’re like me you often wonder, is it hot yet? Squeeze the trigger and see if your skin starts boiling when hot glue drips on it. Not boiling? Not ready.

Just glue stuff over the cardboard. Like card stock on top of the circle and, say, ribbon around the edges.

Shoot you’re out of supplies!! Craft store closes in 20 minutes:

Choose your own ending!

You can always have it your way when you DIY. Who am I to assume what you will do? So choose how your story will finish.

1. Hasty trip to craft store.

2. Take a break and never finish.

1. Take a hasty, unplanned trip to the craft store.

My favorite part of DIYing is not buying enough of some damn supply and having to return to the craft store in a rage and then buy way more than is needed to finish the project.

2. Take a break and never finish.

My favorite part of DIYing is not buying enough of some damn supply and telling yourself you will get the supplies at some vague point in the future.

Stash that thing in the closet and go watch some Buffy! You’re done and will willfully forget you ever started this horrible project! Congratulations!


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******REMEMBER: While my safety tips are impeccable, only your adult supervision can ensure your safety.*******

some minutia

the minutia

As of today and according to our registry, 57 days remain before our wedding day. Planning is sort of at a standstill as we wait for the RSVPs. If we are within the range of guests we estimated for the caterer we will be sending out more invitations to others we wish to celebrate with. So if you are reading this and have yet to RSVP please do so as soon as you can.

At this time I have a couple of friends helping prepare playlists for the reception. We are in need of AV equipment (speakers, soundboard, and mic) so if you or somebody you know wouldn’t mind lending to us, our gratitude will abound. Amanda, one of my bridesmaids, works in commercial music and her knowledgeable hands will be caring for that equipment.

In April,

I will be experimenting with cupcake recipes and designs.

Picking up my dress from the seamstress.

And making decorations. I am collecting glass jars (jelly, applesauce, salsa jars and wine bottles). I will use these as centerpieces and decorate them with lace, cloth, and maybe some gold or rose gold spray paint; and I will put candles in them.

Wedding Ceremony Explained by Daniel

Many of you who are reading this may have never been to an Orthodox wedding service.  The service is full of meaning and beauty, but there are some differences between an Eastern Christian ceremony, and the typical western ceremony.  Right from the start we see a divergence from your typical wedding ceremony.  You will not hear Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” at this service nor will you see, the giving away of the bride.  Rather than being passed from one man to another as a piece of property, Sarah will enter the sanctuary with the man she loves.  Fr. Michael, our wonderful priest and spiritual father, will meet us in the back of the church.  We will process towards the middle of the sanctuary, toward the altar.  Within this simple procession lies the intent of this ceremony, Sarah and I are heading towards the altar of God to become one flesh, one heart one mind, binding ourselves to each other and to Christ our God.  Listeners will hear the familiar phrase where Sarah and I say that we of our own volition take the other to be our wife/husband.  What may shock some is that no vows are said.  In addition, you will never hear “till death do you part.”  Although strange at first it makes sense in light of the belief that marriage in the Orthodox Church goes far beyond that of a legal contract.  Sarah and I are coming to Christ, so that he would unite and bless our love for each other, and our love for Him.  Death has been destroyed by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, death therefore, cannot separate us and our union will be eternal.

Next comes the exchanging of the rings.  We will then receive lit candles, symbolizing the light of Christ, who illumines our hearts, and guides our path through the darkness of this world.  After the priest finishes a set of prayers, we shall be crowned.  The meaning behind this can easily be overlooked.  These crowns represent our martyrdom.  Just as we crucify the flesh so that the Holy Spirit would dwell within us, we put aside our own selfishness and desires once more, living and serving the other.  In the stories of the martyrs they are describes as receiving crowns of glory.  These crowns are earned through hard work and struggle within the spiritual life, in much the same way that ancient athletes received a victors crown (1 Cor 9:24-25).

orthodox crowns

The meaning of the crowns are usually highlighted by the priest in his sermon (it could be very short or very long, it depends on the priest).  First St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 5:20-33 is read, then the Gospel of John 2:1-11 (the wedding feast of Cana).  I will refrain from writing on these passages since each deserves room for an entire post rather than a few lines of commentary.

It is quite natural that after reading of the wedding, were Christ turned the water into wine, that we would partake of a common cup.  The cup that we drink of represents the joys and sorrows which will share.  After drinking of the common cup, we have the Dance of Isaiah.  Sarah and I will clasp our hands upon the Gospel as Fr. Michael leads us around a table three times, each time singing this ancient hymn, which reflects the martyric act being done.

Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,

And shall bear a son Emmanuel,

Both God and Man,

And Orient is His Name,

Whom magnifying we call, the Virgin blessed.

O Holy Martyrs,

who fought the good fight and have received your crowns,

Entreat ye the Lord,

That He will have mercy on our souls.

Glory to Thee, O Christ our God,

The Apostles boast,

The Martyrs Joy,

whose preaching was the Consubstantial Trinity.

As Fr. Michael leads the dance, I can imagine that I will be clinging hard to Sarah and the Gospel, these are the two most precious things in my life, so during the dance, and for the rest of my life, I must work to keep these most precious blessings.

We then come to the final stages of the ceremony.  The crowns are removed and Sarah and I will stand before our family and friends as an icon of Christ and His Church.

no [wo]man is an island

I am stubbornly and gracelessly learning this lesson over and over: there is no shame in asking for help.

Allow me to explain:

Since many of my lady friends have left Tallahassee recently due to their graduation (or never lived here anyways, I’m talking about you, Irene), I feel a little isolated in this wedding-planning process. So I feel awkward branching out and asking for help and advice in different places.

This weekend I spent probably 14–or more, probably more–hours putting together the (damn) invitations. I say damn invitations because I’ll be damned before I ever do anything like that again. Everything that could go wrong, pretty much did.

First off, the invitations arrived a week later than I expected. Exclusively Weddings did have good prices but they were misleading on the printing/shipping timeline. Before I placed my order the website claimed the invitations would arrive in 7-10 business days. Somehow after I placed my order I was notified they would arrive in 15-17 business days. When they arrived I had 3 days to get them together by the time-line I set up for myself. I wanted them out on or before March 1, but I didn’t put them in a post office drop box on March 3. I admit 2 days late is not the end of the world, but it still stings like a failure.

I got the invitations and them started making RSVP cards. I waited to make these for two reasons. I wanted to make sure the card stock matched. More importantly, I wanted to be sure I didn’t make the RSVP cards too big and thus too heavy and then have to pay extra postage.

I started the process of making RSVP cards on Wednesday, Feb 27. I bought two colors of card stock one a wine color and the other a lighter color pink. I already had the ecru card stock left over from the Save the Dates on which I printed the RSVP and accommodations, etc. information.

1) I cut out each individual RSV20130304-141156.jpgP and accommodations card.

2) Cut out a larger wine colored card and a smaller pink card.

3)Glue the RSVP card to the light pink.

4)Mount the light pink on the wine colored card.

5)And on the back of that mount the accommodations card.

On a good hour I could do about 8 of these. And I needed 56 or so. You do the math. So that was Wednesday, Thursday, and most of Friday night after I got home from work. I finished these by 11:30ish Friday night.

Saturday morning I got up early and went to get my hair cut. I was complaining to my stylist about this ridiculous, stupid, meaningless, degrading, time-consuming, idiotic, asinine process that I only have to go through because of fake etiquette and…you get the idea. She asks, “Why don’t you ask someone for help?”

Oh gee I don’t know. Weakness, vulnerability, failure. Plus I would, you know, have to actually accept help. For better or worse, I was one of those students who in group projects would try to have a hand in every detail to make sure my grade wasn’t being sabotaged by someone else’s sub-par labors.

After my cut I went home to melt-down at my printer for not accepting the unsuitably sized envelopes. They were obviously made that ridiculous size by some half-baked, or (more likely) malicious corporate gods of stationery to make me to rue the day I penny-pinched and didn’t give my arm and leg to have them arrive pre-printed.

Let me just say, wedding invitation etiquette is unequivocally idiotic: envelopes within envelopes within envelopes with names all over the dang place and oh my god never again. Who thought of this senseless paper wasting nonsense? And why didn’t I know this was what I was ordering?

Since the printer refused the dimensions of the envelopes, that left me hand-writing every single delivery and return address. And putting envelopes within envelopes and orienting things correctly so that if the receiver opened it with their right hand they wouldn’t have to turn it to read it and all sorts of BULL.

When I was at my wits end, I caved and asked Daniel to please lick the envelopes. (No, I did not invest in one of those nifty envelope wetter sponge things, thankyouverymuch).

I could have avoided all this drama if I had done one simple thing: call some friends in Tallahassee. Fed them and asked them to Please for the love of God HELP ME. But that would have meant I am not alone on my island of superiority far from the land of mediocrity, but that I am, in fact, a native of the land mediocrity. But since I’m learning, I want to re-name that to the land of “nobody’s-perfect-so-let’s-be-vulnerable-and-depend-on-one-another.”

P.S. I should probably at sometime reflect on why I feel the need to conform to these traditions when I do not want to be wanting to conform.

the name game

Changing my name.

I have not really found peace with the issue—somehow this is a controversy for me, because of that F-word: Feminism.

Because I’m a feminist I force myself to re-think what it means to be a bride. I squirm and fight against the commercial idea that the “big day” is somehow my day. I get this constant feeling from magazines that marriage is something I’ve earned somehow by being a good woman (think: as a dog earning a bone). Or that marriage is something I artfully tricked a man into doing.

So I cannot simply change my name. Nor can I simply not change my name.

My given name is something I inherited from my family, from my father’s side (of course). Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with the notion that women are named and re-named after some male figure. Don’t get me wrong I do like my name and I love my fiancé.

My resistance to change my name could be pure familiarity. My name is like a favorite dress—In fact, I have a dress that my friends call “The Sarah Merrell dress” because I wear it so often. That I’ve made so many appearances in this one dress probably—definitely—reflects poorly on my fashion sense. But who cares?  It feels right to wear it, and everybody recognizes me and accepts me in that dress. It’s like a brand. Although, admittedly I am still too young in my career to make a convincing argument that “Sarah Merrell” the person has arrived on scene as a brand.

And my sense of familiarity with my name is not strong enough to cause me to not take Daniel’s name.

So why not hyphenate?

Pure aesthetics.

I simply dislike hyphenated names. I don’t think they look right. And I think it forces your children to make the choice you failed to make. If we hyphenated our names and then pass that down to our daughter (for example, Janie Merrell-Brenner) what happens when she gets married? Does she follow in her parents’ path and hyphenate? (A triple hyphenated name just sounds ridiculous). So then she is left making the decision I failed to make.

And then I wonder “what’s in a name?” Am I truly any different either way?

Somehow yes your name does matter. I believe identity is fluid to some degree. That is not to say that I believe changing my name via marriage will make me a completely different person, but it will certainly alter who I become. Perhaps my trouble with choosing a name is really grieving for whom I’m leaving behind: the individual me. The “I” that lived without him. And this is the only time I begin to understand what Paul means when he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God..”

So I rethink my resistance to this transition. I should be overjoyed that this is a decision I get to make. This is my choice, which is the point of feminism.

Choice also happens to be a very crucial part of love.

I don’t believe that we somehow become “smitten” with love. As if someone on high sent a thunderbolt and now we’re meant for each other. Or that we’re soul mates. Or love at first sight.

Love is the conscious choice to commit to one another. To grow together. To share and multiply joy. And divide sorrow and suffering.

I choose Daniel. And so I’ll choose his name. The church teaches that in a great mystery the Orthodox marriage ceremony unites the couple as one spirit and one flesh. But even as we begin to leave behind our former lives to forge a new one, we carry within and between us our past selves & our memories and we never let these go.

Small update

Since visiting Fr. Michael and the church a last week, I have been working on small projects:

I chosen some options for bridesmaids dresses at David’s Bridal and am waiting for my beautiful bridesmaids to send me pictures of how they fit. I chose David’s for the bridesmaids (after rejecting them for my wedding dress) because my girls are located in different cities sprawled across the US. New York. Tampa. Pensacola. And myself in Tallahassee. So thanks to technology I can see what they look like as they try them on in each of their locations via Facetime, photo texts, etc. Yes!

I have also ordered the wedding invitations from Exclusively Weddings  & postage and am eagerly waiting for those to arrive. In the meantime, I have designed my own RSVP cards and Misc. Info cards (using Microsoft Word again) to include in the invitation–I will upload the templates for these later I promise! (How will I put it together…I have no idea, we’ll see when the invites get here!). It was such a pain to make…lots of measuring lines, and cutting, and then erasing lines. I’ll remind myself to put up a picture of them along with the template. For the sake of saving money (postage) and time (snail mail vs. email) I decided to request RSVP by email. Hopefully this isn’t tacky to my guests. Honestly the modern world has made wedding planning SO much easier. I have a world of tips and ideas at my little finger tips.

I also picked out a veil pattern which my lovely and industrious (and awesome) mommy will be making for me. Not only is it the sweetest, most tickle-my-soul heart-warming thing ever, it will also save a ton of money. For brides who are lucky enough to have charitable and talented mothers DIY veil is the way to go. I know mine will be a a cherished wedding artifact that I will keep forever.

And finally, I have been working on some future posts. One is about my battle with and thoughts about name changing. The other will be on the Orthodox wedding ceremony, as promised (it’s just taking me a while because cutting and drawing lines eats up a lot of time).

P.S. I also worked on our registry.

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