2017 - The Surznick Common Room

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Help Us Mend the Coastal Bend

Hi everyone - quick post today, but we wanted to tell you about a Hurricane Harvey benefit event that our friends have put together for this Friday, September 29th.

We mentioned in a recent Lately post that some of our best friends here in Pittsburgh are Texas natives, specifically from Aransas Pass, an area that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey last month. In an effort to help their friends and family back home, Jamie and Jessica have put together a benefit event at Lot 17 in Bloomfield to raise money for the United Way of the Coastal Bend.

There will be drink specials and appetizers, and all money donated will go towards disaster relief in South Texas. I know it would mean the world to Jamie and Jess if PGH locals can come out this weekend - we really hope to see you there!

The event is this Friday, September 29th at 7:30 PM at Lot 17, 2nd Floor in Bloomfield. Cash bar with drink specials and appetizers provided. Suggested donation of $20 to help in Hurricane Harvey relief. If you can't attend the event, but would still like to help, please consider making a donation directly to the United Way of the Coastal Bend.

Please visit the Facebook event for more details and to RSVP! Thank you all so much for reading and we really, really hope to see you on Friday.

Sarah & Nick

Monday, September 25, 2017

#MeetTheMeowburgs: My Bouquet

I've never really been interested in flowers. Nick knows better than to get me flowers for Valentine's Day or my birthday, and I certainly don't keep fresh flowers in our house on a weekly basis. When we first started wedding planning, I had limited knowledge about the costs that go into a wedding, but I did know that the floral costs can be pretty significant. To be honest, it also stressed me out a little bit. It's just one more thing that you have to plan and arrange before the wedding and have coordinated to arrive the day off. All that stress for something that I don't really care about.

To alleviate some of that worry, I decided early on in our planning that I would make a faux bouquet and that any other flowers we decide to have as decorations will also be faux. If you find the right faux flowers, you can definitely make a beautiful bouquet or floral arrangement that looks great. I purchased all of my flowers and greenery from Afloral, using this bouquet as inspiration. It was incredibly easy, and I'm still kind of surprised at just how beautiful it turned out.

Want to make your own? Here's what you need:
Note: In parentheses next to each item is the quantity I bought. Some require you to purchase a minimum quantity.
- Rain Tree Grass Bush (2)
- Lavender Mini Peony Bundle (1)
- Burgundy Protea Flower (1) (similar)
- Pink Open Roses (4)
- Mauve Roses (4)
- White Ranunculus (4)
- Forest Fern Bundles (3)
- Seeded Eucalyptus Spray (4)
- Green-Gray Lamb's Ear (3)
- Mauve-Pink Waxflower (4)
- Green floral tape
- Wirecutters

Here's what you do:
- Remove the tags from all flowers and cut extra leaves from flowers as you see fit.
- Begin to bundle together flowers and greenery, adding floral tape as you go to hold them together. If you've never used floral tape before, it's somewhat sticky, but you need to pull it taut when wrapping in order to get it to properly stick together.
- Continue adding flowers and greenery until bouquet is desired size.
- Cut stems to be even across the bottom of your bouquet.
- Add ribbon, lace, twine, etc. to cover floral tape, if you wish! (I did not do this yet, but will before our wedding.)

I've never made any sort of floral arrangement in my life, so honestly, pretty much all I did is bunch these together and call it a day. There was little to no effort involved and I am in love with how it turned out. My mom helped me make this (thanks, Mom!) and we finished it in about 30 minutes or so. I can't wait to walk down the aisle in a few months with this bouquet in hand. The best part is that I get to keep it! Or give it to another bride-to-be!

I ended up using all flowers and greenery listed above, with the exception of rain tree grass and forest ferns, which I had a few leftovers of. All in all, I spent about $100 on the flowers, so this wasn't exactly cheap, but I feel certain that it would be cheaper than purchasing a real bouquet. Not to mention, I don't have to throw this away because it will never die! Win-win.

xo, Sarah

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Alaska (Part 1)

Holy cow. We went to ALASKA! (It was over a month ago now but we're still pretty stoked about it.) It almost seems crazier to me than going to Europe, which is kind of weird, but the flight was longer than our trip to London and it's just somewhere that few people I know have been. Everyone and their mom and their mailman is going to Iceland right now (we did too), but ALASKA?! Nope.

My best friend, Bethany (the very same Bethany that took our engagement photos!), moved to Alaska a few years ago to be with her now-husband, Scott (it's a super cute story, by the way, and we are SO, SO happy for them!) Ever since she moved there, Nick and I have been dying to visit. Of course, life got in the way and year after year we didn't make it up there.

When Bethany and Scott announced their engagement and upcoming move back east, we knew we had to get there ASAP, while we had the chance. It was a short trip, but the entire 4 days were so jam packed with amazingness that it felt like much longer. Truly, the trip of a lifetime. It's not every day you get to visit Alaska and spend time with friends that LIVE there and travel, kayak, hike, etc. all the time. I know that if we had visited Alaska in an alternate universe on our own or on a cruise or something, we would never have done 90% of the things we did. We are so grateful to Bethany and Scott for hosting us on this trip and showing us their Alaska. THANK YOU GUYS.

So here's a little recap and a bunch of photos from the first couple days of our trip to the 49th state.

Day 1
We left Bethany and Scott's house in Anchorage early on Thursday morning and drove south for our long weekend. All 3 nights of our trip were spent away from their home, and the first night we tent camped near Portage Glacier. The glacier cruise was our first big plan of the trip, and it did not disappoint. So blue and beautiful!

After the cruise, we hiked back the Byron Glacier Trail. It's hard to describe how incredibly beautiful everything was, and these photos don't really do it justice. You'll just have to go sometime. After our hike back, we climbed up a huge rock and stopped to have a few Alaskan beers. You'll find that stopping to gaze at the beauty and drink a few beers is a recurring theme on this trip, ha.

Later in the afternoon we headed to Girdwood Brewing for some local beer flights. It was fun to chat with locals around the fire. Most said that they went to Alaska for a visit and never returned home (which seems to be a common theme.) Afterwards we grabbed incredible pizza for dinner from Chair 5 - no photos, I think we are it all too quickly. Speaking of pizza, Moose's Tooth pizza was very highly recommended to us, but we didn't get the chance to go there. The pizza at Chair 5 was killer though - highly recommend!

After dinner we headed to Alyeska Resort to take the tram up the mountain to watch the sunset. The resort itself reminded me of The Overlook Hotel from The Shining, mostly because it was so massive. I'd love to see it in the winter! We headed up the mountain on the tram around 8:30 PM and the sun didn't really start setting to close until 9:30-10 PM. SO COOL. It felt amazing to have this completely full day and not have to start winding down for the night at our usual 5:30-6 PM sunset. This first sunset we saw in Alaska was absolutely gorgeous and we couldn't have picked a better place to view it from.

Even though the tram takes you most of the way up the mountain, we had to hike a pretty steep trail to get to the very top, where we snapped most of our photos. It felt so incredible to get all the way to the top and be rewarded with that amazing sunset view. Finally, exhausted, we hopped on the tram to head back down the mountain, where we saw our first and only black bear of the trip! Then back to camp we went to recoup for day 2.

Day 2
We stared off our second morning with a home-cooked breakfast over the fire at our campsite. It rained pretty much all night and continued throughout the morning, but luckily the rain started to clear as we drove further south to Seward.

When we arrived in Seward, we stopped for lunch at Seward Brewing - both the food and the beers were great. Seward is a port city, so there were lots of cruise ships in the bay and people roaming around the town. We actually didn't explore the town and shops very much, but it was pretty cute from what we saw.

After lunch we went down to Miller's Landing to kill some time and check out the coast of Resurrection Bay. The Bay is HUGE - we'll share more about it in our second post. The color of the water is so blue-green and lovely. Naturally, we stopped to have another Alaskan Beer.

Later in the day, we headed to the cabin that we were calling home for the night. With a full kitchen and grill, we decided to cook a meal together and eat dinner by the fire. Day 3 was going to be an early one, so after a few more beers, we hit the hay. More to come soon!

Sarah & Nick