Thursday, December 14, 2017

Staycation with Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown

Between the holidays, our fast approaching wedding, house renovations, and just general life stuff, the past couple months have been pretty hectic. A season that is usually one of my favorite times of the year has been stress-filled and anxiety-inducing, for both Nick and myself. Unfortunately Nick's birthday also falls right in the middle of all of this, and seeing as I'm pretty big on birthdays, I didn't want it to get overshadowed by everything else going on.

When I started brainstorming ideas for his birthday, I kept coming back to the idea of a staycation here in Pittsburgh. It was a win-win: Nick LOVES staying in hotels, plus it would be a nice break from all of the chaos going on in our lives. I partnered with the Courtyard Downtown Pittsburgh to make it happen and we truly had the best time.

The Courtyard is in the heart of the cultural district in downtown Pittsburgh, perfect walking distance from many downtown attractions. Living in the east end of the city, Nick and I don't often spend time downtown. So while this was technically a staycation for us, it really felt like a vacation to a different city where we visited new-to-us bars and restaurants and saw Pittsburgh through a different lens.

I kept this birthday surprise a secret from Nick until the morning of our stay, so after taking care of some errands around the house, we headed towards the Strip District to get our staycation started. We grabbed lunch at our new favorite restaurant, Ironborn Pizza, located in Smallman Galley. (If you haven't been - you MUST go order the white pizza.) The Strip is situated at the entrance to downtown, so we walked off a bit of that pizza and headed straight down Penn Avenue until we reached the Courtyard for check-in.

The Courtyard is located in a historic downtown building, which used to be home to ATCO Trousers. When we arrived in our room we were so excited to find that it had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Penn Avenue. We got ourselves settled in and enjoyed a staycation beer or two before we were off to check out some other spots downtown. The Courtyard is directly across the street from Sienna Mercato, which houses two of our favorite spots in PGH: Emporio, A Meatball Joint and Il Tetto, a rooftop beer garden. But since we've frequented these places many times, we decided to check out some new places downtown.

We first went to Or, The Whale, which I'd been dying to visit since they opened a few months ago. While the menu there isn't suited for vegetarians, it was a great place for us to grab a cocktail, enjoy the decor, and plan the night ahead! Next we headed to Market Square, which is home to Pittsburgh's Holiday Market, annual Christmas tree, and ice skating rink. This year it was also home to the pop-up Christmas bar, Miracle, which we headed into next!

Miracle was so much fun - if you make it to downtown Pittsburgh at all this month, be sure to visit this bar! The space is covered floor-to-ceiling with holiday decorations and all of the cocktails are Christmas themed. It was a blast! For dinner we went to nearby NOLA on the Square to try their vegan/vegetarian menu (the food was okay, but we probably wouldn't go again.) After dinner we decided to head back to the Courtyard and just enjoy some time relaxing in the comfort of our room. The Courtyard is a just hop, skip, and a jump away from the Market Square action, so it was nice to make the short walk back to the hotel instead of needing to call for a ride.

It's amazing how great it felt just to be away from home for the night - away from the partially finished centerpieces for our wedding, a pile of dirty dishes from the previous night's dinner, a bedroom closet that needs to be patched and painted, and more that I don't even want to think about. Something as simple as laying in bed and watching HGTV with no distractions felt like a luxury to us. (A super cozy bed without any kitties waking us up at a the crack of dawn was an added bonus.) Taking this one night staycation was just what we needed to ease our minds of wedding stress and we are so thankful to the Courtyard for hosting us for the evening!

If you are looking for a place to stay in downtown Pittsburgh, whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, the Courtyard is your place to go! A big thank you to the Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown for partnering with us. We received a complimentary stay in exchange for this post - all opinions are our own!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

DIY Mid-Century Inspired Door

We are so excited to share today's post with you! We recently collaborated with The Home Depot to update our bedroom door as part of our overall bedroom makeover! You may remember wayyyy back when we shared our bedroom design inspiration and ideas. We haven't forgotten about that post, and in the past couple months some of these changes have finally come to life!

We ripped out the old trim in the bedroom, swapped out the light fixture, added new outlets, skim-coated the walls, added a fresh coat of paint, and installed wallpaper. Whew! It was a lot. But the one thing we couldn't get over was the awful, old door. All of the interior doors in our house are in rough shape from 65+ years of wear and tear. We knew we needed a completely new door and luckily Home Depot came to the rescue.

To add some dimension to a flat, slab door, I decided I wanted to mimic the three-window design on our original 1950s front door - carrying the mid-century theme throughout the rest of our house. We couldn't be happier with how it turned out and can't wait to complete this process on all of the doors in the house (... over time, ha. Nick is ready for a break right now.)

So click over to The Home Depot blog to see the finished product and be sure to let us know what you think! We still have some finishing touches to put on the bedroom, but we're definitely going to share a full before & after post in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Door Knob

Sarah & Nick

Monday, December 4, 2017

#MeetTheMeowburgs: Table Numbers, Place Cards, & Favor Tags

This post is in collaboration with Minted. Thank you for following along and supporting the sponsors that support our blog! All product choices and opinions are our own - we love our wedding paper goods and we hope you do too!

Hey friends - we're back with another #MeetTheMeowburgs update with Minted! We've been working with Minted throughout our wedding planning process and have LOVED incorporating their products into our big day. If you missed our save the dates or our invitations, be sure to check them out!

We're approximately one month away from the wedding (someone pinch me!), so we're starting to nail down day-of decor and table settings. We still have a lot of DIY decorations on our to-do list, so we wanted to simplify the process of adding table numbers, place cards, and favor tags as much as possible. As usual, we turned to Minted. They have so many offerings when it comes to day-of decor - even dinner menus, programs, and customized cocktail napkins!

We started off by looking for table numbers. We wanted something with green in it, which will match our centerpieces and the chairs in the reception room at our venue. There are hundreds of options to choose from, but you can filter by style, color, and printing type in order to find the design you're looking for. We filtered by classic printing and botanical style and quickly spotted the Simple Pine Branches design and knew it was perfect. The name pretty much says it all - it's simple, but incorporates the greenery we're looking for.

When customizing table numbers, you can change the font, add text, and move text around. While we simply added our names to the front, some of the examples on the Minted website show the wedding date or random facts about the couple (which is such a cute idea!) The back is also fully customizable - we added our wedding date, our wedding hashtag, and a little note thanking our guests for attending. If you wanted you could even add a photo to the back!

Now that we had our design selected, it was easy to add coordinating products. When you select a product on the Minted site, it shows you all of the other items you can create in the same suite (the Simple Pine Branches suite has 18 other options to pick from!) So next up, we created customized place cards so that our guests can find their table when they arrive. The cards come either flat or folded, with your choice of paper and color. When it came to customization, it was super easy to enter guest names and table numbers into the site (the hardest part is figuring out who gets seated together before you place your order, ha.) If you don't want to type all of the names into Minted's site, you can also use their template to upload them.

Finally, to round out our day-of decor, we ordered matching favor tags to attach to gifts for our guests! These tags are small and cute with our just our wedding date and initials on the front. The back of each tag is blank, so we may use this space to add handwritten notes to our guests. The tags are already hole-punched for easy tying, but for an easier option you can purchase favor stickers.

When any package from Minted arrives (only a few days after ordering) we are always so excited to open it up. We ordered both our place cards and favor tags in recycled paper, which is truly excellent in quality. We love that Minted offers recycled paper for most of their products - we seriously can't get over the look and feel of it, so we're always going to choose that when it's an option.

At first, deciding to go with the flat name cards instead of the folded name cards had us a little worried. We didn't want the cards to seem cheap, or like we were skimping to avoid paying the higher cost for folded name cards. (Our typical perception of name cards are folded, but something about the simple flat cards spoke to us!) In the end, cheapness isn't even in the equation. The thickness and high quality of these products make for such an impressive result. We will be so proud for people to see them at our wedding.

Ordering all of these items crossed a major to-do off our list and we couldn't be happier with how everything turned out. Every step of our wedding planning process with Minted has been insanely easy and every product has exceeded our expectations in both speed of arrival and quality - if you're in need of any paper goods for your wedding, be sure to check out Minted!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 13, 2017

Alaska (Part 2) + Video!

Okay, we've been back from Alaska for three months already and are just now getting around to sharing part 2 of our adventures. If you missed part 1, make sure to read it first! To catch you up, Nick and I visited Alaska to visit my best friend Bethany and her now-husband Scott for a long weekend. We're picking up right where we left off, so here we go!

Day 3

We woke up early on Saturday morning, excited for the biggest day of our trip thus far. Bethany and Scott had been dying to stay in the yurts in Shearwater Cove and we are beyond thrilled that we got to experience this with them!

Shearwater Cove is, well, a cove tucked into Resurrection Bay, about 10 miles from Seward. It literally looks like something out of a movie. It's only accessible by boat, so after waking up in our cabin we booked it down to the harbor to meet our hosts and hop in their water taxi to get us to the cove.

The boat ride itself was spectacular. In every direction you're surrounded by the most incredible tree-lined, rocky views. The water is the prettiest blue-green. We even saw an otter! In the trees off in the distance, our host pointed out the white heads of the bald eagle families that live there. Seriously - we could have stayed on that boat all day just absorbing the sheer beauty of it all.

Finally, we arrived in Shearwater Cove and checked out the yurt were calling home for a night. Nick and I have never stayed in a yurt before, but it was an awesome experience. It's like camping, but elevated. Our yurt had the comfiest bed ever, a futon, table and chairs, a stove, sink, etc. Outside of the yurt was our bathroom, which had a composting toilet and shower. It's cooler than it sounds. I give a little 'Cribs'-style tour of the yurt in our video below, so check that out if you want to see more.

After settling into the yurt and getting the lay of the land (and water) from our hosts, we hiked up the mountain trail for some incredible views. This was the toughest hike of the trip, so Nick and I held back about halfway up while Bethany and Scott went all the way to the very top. Regardless, the views in every direction were amazing.

It started to rain throughout the afternoon so we spent a few hours in the yurt cooking grilled cheese, playing Boggle, and skimming through the design books that were stocked for guests. In case you didn't know, Bethany and I both love Boggle and are both pretty great, so there was some stiff competition.

Once the rain cleared, we decided to hop in the kayaks and paddle our way around the bay to see the cove where a TON (I mean, a TON) of salmon go to lay their eggs at the base of this huge waterfall. This was insane and kind of disgusting, but awesome at the same time. I've never seen so many fish in my lifetime, or that closely. We were kayaking right through thousands of salmon, and practically stepping on them as we docked for photos. Salmon are pretty nasty up close - they have gross toothy mouths and so many of them were fighting to get upstream to breed, so they were biting chunks out of each other. It was crazy. In addition to the salmon, we also saw river otters walking up the mountains, lots of jellyfish, starfish along the rocks, and the goodest doggo named Annie.

We kayaked back to Shearwater Cove in the early evening and when we arrived at the dock, Nick and Scott decided they were going to jump in. The water was about 50 degrees and I'm not an insane person, so I happily stayed on the dock. It was a pretty epic way to end the day though. We cooked dinner together and hit the hay pretty early, ending what was our best day in Alaska yet. I'll let Nick take over for our final day...

Day 4
After an incredible, cozy night's sleep in our yurt, and some quick early morning coffee, we were back onto the boat headed toward Seward. The boat ride back was a lot more difficult than the boat ride out. We were headed straight into the north winds, and it made for a bit of a precarious (and extremely cold) journey. Nonetheless, we returned safe and sound (and hungry.) Time for breakfast.

We stopped by a little place right in Seward called Zudy's for a delicious hot breakfast and coffee before hitting the road out of town. Our next stop would be one of our last hikes/scenic experiences of the trip: Exit Glacier.

Of all the things we had experienced thus far on the trip, Exit Glacier was probably the most crowded and most touristy. The hike up to the glacier itself was fun, though pretty full of people, all doing what we were doing. Of course, the glacier itself was spectacular. It's so hard to get good photos of things that are so massive, capturing the scale of the scene is next to impossible, so a photo never does it justice. My favorite part of this place though was being able to walk out to the glacial river bed below the glacier itself. Here, we were able to hold glacier ice in our hands. Millions of years of history, melting away in our fingers. It was pretty wild.

Finally, we started the long ride back into Anchorage, with unforgettable views in every direction for the entire ride. If you ever find yourself in Anchorage, take the time to drive the scenic Seward Highway, it's so worth it.

Once back in Anchorage, we got it in our heads that we wanted to see a moose, so Scott dutifully sets off to the most likely stops and we spend a good hour or more driving around looking for some, but we come up short. With our last night in Alaska coming to an end, we didn't want to spend too much time in the car. We had a last meal to take care of, and one final view to take in.

After a quick stop back at Bethany and Scott's to freshen up and change for dinner, it was back into the city to hunt for a few gifts for family and friends at the Anchorage Market, and some incredible beer and food at 49th State Brewing. Unfortunately, now that 3 months have passed since this meal, I can't remember exactly what I had, but I do remember sharing this mac n' cheese with Sarah, and that it was fantastic, as was the beer.

Next, one last mountain was calling our name: Flat Top Mountain. This place affords the best views of the city and the bay. It was sort of our unspoken mission the entire trip to enjoy the best beers at the tops of the best mountains, so we stopped off to grab a couple of big beers to take with us up the mountain for a final toast to Alaska.

Flat Top Mountain was so gorgeous. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Alaska. Again, scale is impossible to capture in a photo. There were mountains in the distance, identified by a plaque as volcanoes more than 130 miles away (::Gasp:: emoji). The beers on Flat Top Mountain were definitely the sweetest of trip, enjoyed in the most beautiful setting. We didn't take any photos on Flat Top, it was just for us to soak in and enjoy in the moment.

Back to Bethany and Scott's to pack up for the airport then BAM! A MOOSE. Got it. Saw one, (saw two actually) so now we can call the trip: complete.

We compiled Sarah's Instagram stories and other videos to put together this little video diary of our trip. It's a little long (10 ish minutes), but we hope you enjoy. Scott - The Lumineers accompaniment is for you.

Thank you again one million times to Bethany and Scott for being our gracious hosts and guides on this trip. We said it in our last post but we'll say it again - it was truly once in a lifetime and it wouldn't have been the same without them. Love you guys!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 6, 2017

#MeetTheMeowburgs: Getting Healthy

Photo by Bethany Barton
I was debating on whether or not to write this post. It's a little more personal than we usually go around here, so you may even think it's TMI. We've been sharing bits and pieces of preparing for our upcoming wedding, and our health has become a huge part of that, so ultimately I'm deciding to share. (It's pretty word heavy too, so buckle up.)

As of today, we are two months out from #MeetTheMeowburgs, which is practically no time at all, but enough to improve our overall health at least a little bit. I'm not talking just working out/losing weight, but other things that have been on the back-burner for far too long. Raise your hand if you're in your late 20s and struggle to make your health a priority... Nick and I both have hands raised, so maybe you do too.

But the thing is... getting married is a huge life event. Even if you take out the love and commitment part of it, it's likely the one time in our lives where we are going to be the center of attention for a full 24 hours. It's only going to happen once. The significance of it has made me stop and think, "Hey, you should really focus on taking care of yourself" more than anything else has in five years or longer.

So for starters, we're going to the dentist. I will shamefully admit that we haven't been in at least five years. We never found a dentist since moving to Pittsburgh. I KNOW that is stupid and irresponsible, but like I said... I'm a person in my late 20s that has struggled to make my health a priority. And I'm getting MARRIED like a real adult, so this is the time to go. I actually went recently and found out that I have two cavities and am going back today to have them filled. These are my first cavities EVER, so it sucks, but at the same time I can feel the teensiest bit of weight being lifted off my shoulders knowing that I'm getting this taken care of. Plus, now that I have a dentist, I will start going regularly.

We're also going to the eye doctor. We actually haven't been as bad about this (we both wear contacts/glasses) but we're overdue for new prescriptions and I actually want to see Nick clearly (and his sparkly clean teeth!) on our wedding day. So we're getting our eyes checked too, and likely new glasses/contacts to boot. And all it's taken is this one little major event to make me schedule some appointments!

So besides our eyes and teeth, I am talking about the other kind of getting healthy too: the losing weight, eating a clean diet, working out part. You'll hear people use the phrase "shredding for the wedding" when talking about getting in shape for their wedding day. I honestly hate that phrase, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't compelled to lose weight, tone up, get healthy, etc. Like I said, this day is only happening once and there are going to be photos on photos on photos to remember it by. I want to feel happy and confident with the way I look, and I don't want to feel any shame knowing that I could have tried harder to make changes.

Now, as we mentioned above, we realize that 8 weeks is not a lot of time to make such significant changes to ourselves, but it's not nothing. Earlier in the year we set some health goals, but as the year went on they faded. Now we just want to buckle down and be more consistent. These next 8 weeks aren't JUST about the wedding day, but also to hopefully establish some healthy routines and habits with which to start off our new married lives together. That is to say, the wedding is not the end goal, our continued health is.

I personally have never been very active or enjoyed working out. After college I got into a pretty steady gym routine and lost about 20 pounds of college weight, but when we moved to Pittsburgh, working out became nonexistent and the majority of the weight came back and has fluctuated over the past five years. Long story short, we bought a treadmill last year after I assured Nick that I would use one if we had it (isn't that what they all say?) but SURPRISE - I DO USE IT! Or at least I did, nearly every single morning for the first 7 months of 2017. Then we went to Alaska and I think that's where I left my motivation.

I actually really enjoy the treadmill (it's where I binge watch shows, read, or watch Insta stories), so I need to get back into it. I have a Fitbit that I monitor pretty religiously, but I work a sedentary job, so unless I make an effort to get an hour on the treadmill every day, I'll never hit my step goal. Nick, on the other hand, moves a lot while teaching and can generally hit his step goal during the work day. While hitting a step goal alone isn't exactly what most people would describe as "working out" it's a relatively small thing that makes a huge impact in my life when I'm sticking to it (more on that below.)

As far as food... I would describe our diet as "moderately healthy" on the weekdays and "eats like a monster" on the weekends. I really do think we eat more pizza than anyone I know. The cheese addiction is real (look it up) and we have next to no willpower. We usually plan and prepare healthy, plant-based meals every weeknight, but when Friday night rolls around, it's like our entire week's healthy eating has been demolished with a single order on GrubHub. We are certainly capable of giving up dairy (we did it once for a year) but haven't mustered the willpower to do it again, as much as we'd like to.

So while we're not setting goals of losing x amount of pounds, inches, etc. we are instituting the following health goals from now til wedding day:

1. No dairy (don't even LOOK at us, Pizza Fiesta!)
2. Hit our step goal every weekday
3. Try one new plant-based recipe every weekend (and cook it together!)
4. Stretch for ten minutes every day
6. Journal every day (in the past we've found that this helps us stay on track)

So now I want to hear from you! Was this post interesting to you? Do you want us to keep you updated on our goals? Do you want to be accountability partners? Are you interested in seeing the new recipes we try? I know this isn't a traditional Common Room post, but it's pretty much where our life is at right now so we wanted to keep you in the loop. We'd love your feedback, so let us know!

xo, Sarah (& Nick)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

#MeetTheMeowburgs: Our Invitations

The Surznick wedding is coming up in a little over two months - eek! Still lots to do, but we recently crossed one big item off out list - our invitations! We were so thrilled to team up with our friends at Minted again to design our wedding invitations. The process couldn't have been easier and we are so thrilled with how they turned out! (By the way, if you missed our save the dates, check them out here!)

There are MANY different ways you can go with wedding invitations - some are super ornate with several different pieces, some are super simple with just a single card. We decided to do the latter option which is great for us because it's a) cheaper, and b) less wasteful. Our wedding RSVPs are being managed online and our meal is being served family-style so there is no need for guests to send back a RSVP or meal card. Minted, of course, has both of these options and many more, which is great because you can find the style that is perfect for you.

When you visit Minted's website, you'll find over 1,000 beautiful wedding invitation designs to choose from, but you can filter down your options by size, color, orientation, price, etc. I first narrowed down our options to about 36 and we quickly picked a favorite.

Are you thinking, "But those aren't the invitations you got...?" You're right! While we loved these (and still do!) we later found a save the date design with the Pittsburgh skyline on it and knew it was perfect, especially with the majority of our guests traveling to Pittsburgh for our wedding. Luckily for us, Minted is so customizable that it didn't really matter that our design only came in save the dates - we simply changed the text on the front to turn this into the perfect #MeetTheMeowburgs invitation.

Before you even get into personalizing the text of the invitations, you get to do choose the silhouette, the color, the format, and the paper (we picked recycled paper!) So let's talk color. Our invitation had a few different color options available so we chose pink to go with our save the dates. If you don't love any of the colors available on the site, not to worry, you can select a Pantone or CMYK color and Minted's designers will send you unlimited proofs until your invitations are perfect.

Next we moved into the personalization. On the front of the invitation, we moved and changed all of the text to match our wedding details. You can change fonts and font sizes in order to get the best look. When we moved to the back of the invitation, we added RSVP details (don't mind our 'shopped out URL), and one of my favorite Avett Brothers lyrics (it was the one thing I've envisioned incorporating into our wedding ever since the first time I heard the song!)

Okay, so the invitations are done. That's it, right? Nope. This process gets even better when you enter the envelope stage. When you have a large guest list, addressing wedding invitations can be insanely tiring and time intensive. To alleviate that problem, Minted offers free(!) recipient addressing. We used their Excel template to upload our guest's addresses and ta da! - our envelopes arrived already addressed for sending. It's amazing.

The cherry on top of this whole process was the option to have custom stamps printed. Because why would you send a beautiful, custom wedding invitation with a boring post office stamp?! We chose pink stamps with our initials written in a pretty script. The pink wasn't quite the same shade as the wedding invitations, but we didn't mind. After we placed our order, we received an email the next day to take one last look at our final design. We were so pleasantly surprised when the designer who proofed our invitations offered to match the pink stamps to the shade of pink on the invitation.

All in all, working with Minted on these invitations has been a dream come true. Not only is their site incredibly easy to use, their customer service is fantastic, and the whole process is so quick. We placed our order on a Tuesday night, approved our proofs on Wednesday, and the invitations arrived on our doorstep Saturday morning.

If you're in need of invitations for your wedding, holiday party, birthday party, etc. Minted is your place. Now onto the rest of our wedding to-do list...

Sarah & Nick

This post is in collaboration with Minted, but all opinions and design choices are our own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support the Common Room! We hope you love our wedding invitations as much as we do <3