Who gave us this nice gift?

May 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Yesterday we found a package on our doorstep: a spiffy outdoor trashcan thing that was on our Target registry. We’re pretty happy to have it and we really appreciate it, but the package had nobody listed as the purchaser. Did you order it? If so, we’d love to know so we can thank you!

A photo of the spiffy outdoor trash thing

Spiffy outdoor trash thing


April 28, 2010 at 11:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Blake and Sarah walking away after the ceremony

Tom’s mom took this nice photo, and it’s the first one we’ve received from the wedding! There’s Beth back there on the left and Sarah de la Fuente, our officiant, on the rear right behind Blake. Eventually we’re going to figure out some sort of ideal everybody-upload-your-photos-here solution, but we’ve had other things to do so far. =) Our photographer‘s stuff should take 1-2 weeks, so we may not see it until after the honeymoon. But this photo looks pretty good and it gives me high hopes for all the others. We wish we could see them right now!

The “short” list

April 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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There are only a few things left to do before the wedding! Despite my best efforts and nearly full-time wedding planning for weeks, there are still some items remaining. Compared to the huge list that I had originally (which just seemed to get longer all the time as I thought of more things to be done), this is refreshingly short for me. I can even see it on one whole computer screen without scrolling down! Yay! (Well, you have to scroll down here in this blog post, but in my grand list Word document it all fits on one page.)

  • Prepare some final decorations for the bathrooms at Buescher.
  • Arrange/reserve the wedding night hotel.
  • A pile of wedding stuff in the spare room

    This pile of wedding stuff doesn't really fully capture quite how much is in there. This is just what I could fit in the photo.

    Divide my room o’ wedding stuff into packages. (One of our spare rooms is just stacked up with decorations, mirrors, the guest book, lights, candles, duct tape, etc. — not to mention my dress and Tom’s suit (he’s our roommate) and my veil and shoes and everything. All this stuff needs to be packaged for easy transport to Buescher.)

  • Prepare that same room o’ wedding stuff for a guest — move all the wedding stuff into the front room.
  • Give the final guest count to our cake lady (Karin from A Wedding Cake Moment — she’s great!)
  • Give the final guest count to our caterer (Emily from Events by Emily — she’s also great!)
  • Get the at-which-table-do-I-sit? chart (for guests) laminated at Staples.
  • Update the take-down list to include items in the cabin. (we’ve reserved a cabin right near the hall so that the wedding party and family — who’ll be there with us all afternoon helping set up — can dress beforehand)
  • Entirely finalize the list of setup and take-down instructions.
  • Go to Buescher with the photographer (Chris Butler — he’s great!) and discuss the photography plans.
  • Blake needs to get a haircut. (He’s pretty shaggy at the moment.)
  • Call the restaurant and confirm the reservation for some plans with the wedding party before the wedding.
  • Call Spec’s and reserve some champagne and sparkling grape juice for the caterer to pick up.
  • Wash the car – it’s pretty pollen-y right now!
  • Worship the earth on Earth Day — just kidding, I’d never do that.
  • Plan rain contingencies for the whole weekend if rain is scheduled.
  • Clean the house

I think that’s it. (I sure hope that’s it!) It’s pretty amazing that after months of planning it’s all come down to these remaining tasks. I’m sure glad we didn’t plan this wedding six or eight or ten months in advance — it’s nice that we only had to be wedding-crazy for four. I think that if we’d spent a lot more time planning, the wedding day would have been far more anticipated (by us both) and a lot more tense for me.

cut ledge cloths for mirrors
figure out wedding night
Add cabin stuff to takedown list
Make to-go list for day of/before
Divide blue-room items into when-to-leave bundles
Confirm with Buescher that they’ll just keep a tally (mention vendors)
Update Emily when I give cupcake totals
Laminate table chart
Blake needs to begin writeup
Update setup/takedown with Emily’s info
Go out to the park with the photographer
Blake needs a haircut
Submit final guest count to cake lady
Call the restaurant to confirm some wedding-party plans on Saturday
Call Spec’s and reserve champagne
Caterer needs a final count
Florist needs a final count
Wash the car
Worship the earth on earth day – just kidding! I won’t be doing that at all!
Plan rain contingencies if rain is scheduled
Clean the house

When to plan a wedding (especially outdoors!)

April 12, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This afternoon I discovered a great tool to help decide, climatically, on what day to have a wedding. I wish I had found this when choosing our date, but we didn’t have a lot of flexibility so it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

The tool is a little section of wunderground.com called “monthly history.” In case you’re not familiar with it, Wunderground is one of my favorite weather sites — it has a great interactive map that lets you get exactly the information you want.

The planning tool, however, is here and looks like this:

Wunderground Monthly History

Monthly history for April 2010

For each day it tells you the record and average values for high/low temp and precipitation. Then once the day arrives, it tells you the actual temperature. The best part is, you can look at a month (or more detailed info for a particular day) for any arbitrary time! I was pleased to see that the average amount of rain on our wedding day is only around 0.1 inches.

(Though really if it rains it’ll be okay. I love love love rain and we have contingencies for mud and almost-rain and full-fledged rain, and it’ll really be just fine no matter what. Weather, do your worst! I am not afraid!)

We’ve got a marriage license!

April 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The marriage license

License to wed.

This afternoon Blake and I drove down to the Travis County Clerk’s Office and got a marriage license! All it took was state-issued ID’s, knowing our social security numbers, and $71 in cash. (Yes, cash.)

The license itself is far fancier than I thought — especially considering that I’m pretty sure we just give it back to the state after the ceremony and then never see it again. (I could be wrong about that.) But I know we turn it in to our officiant who then signs it and files it on our behalf.

While we’re on the subject, our officiant is Sarah de La Fuente of Austin Weddings Unlimited, and so far we’ve been very happy with her. She’s been really nice and helpful and helped guide us towards the sort of ceremony we want.

Blake signing the form to get the marriage license

At the county clerk's office signing papers to get the license

Anyway, it’s pretty exciting to actually have the paper here in our hands. It also came with a little packet from the Attorney General (of Texas) that had lots of helpful marriage advice and little worksheets for each of us with questions like, “What makes a good wife?” and “What are some things we have in common?” Very helpful. I’m glad the AG’s office has time to help with important stuff like this.

In other news, the wedding planning is coming along nicely. We finally got my ring chosen and purchased, and we’re waiting for Blake’s to arrive in the mail. Also squared away are our centerpieces, decorations, and a variety of little incidentals like the guestbook, pens for the guestbook, emergency stuff (scotch tape, sewing kit, duct tape, bobby pins), bug spray (which shouldn’t be necessary, but we want to have some for guests just in case), and candles. The big tasks remaining are mostly lists: what to bring out the day before, what to bring out the day of, how the decorations should be set up, and then corresponding take-down lists for my parents and the wedding party to get after we leave the reception.

The lists are pretty daunting for obvious reasons, but I’ve been adding to them for weeks and hopefully nothing important will be forgotten. Despite this, Blake expects we’ll have to make a last-minute round trip back to Austin on the day of the wedding, but I’m slightly more optimistic: I bet the only emergency trip we’ll have to make is to the Bastrop Walmart. Or perhaps my planning will shine through and we’ll both be wrong. =)

Sarah signing papers to get the marriage license

Sarah signing papers to get the marriage license

Ask and ye shall receive… a cheap videographer!

April 5, 2010 at 1:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, the unthinkable has happened: we’re arranging a videographer for our wedding.

Okay, I guess it’s not that unthinkable, but until recently I thought that getting a videographer was the surest sign that someone was stupidly spending too much on their wedding. Really, a wedding is pretty damn special as it is. You have photos. Everybody is there. You plan it for months. Do you really need someone to make a custom documentary about it just for you?

After all, everybody knows that weddings are an industry. After months of immersion in marketing specifically directed towards brides, I’ve come to the firm belief that manufacturers of wedding stuff, much like greeting card companies and DeBeers, try to manufacture wedding needs that they can then satisfy at high prices. I don’t say that pejoratively –go capitalism! — but I have taken pains to personally separate the wedding things that will improve the day from the ridiculous wedding things that I’m just “supposed” to want even if it doesn’t actually improve anything. Hence, I thought getting a videographer was dumb. In fact, when the wedding planning really got underway in January, I recall reading about videographers in a wedding planning book and then pointing it out to Blake, saying, “Jeez! People spend so much money on stuff that’s such a waste of time!”

So at first I didn’t want a video at all. Then I was talking to my dad and he mentioned how there have been so many times that he’s wished he could have a video of his wedding. Not just for the wedding itself, but also to have footage of the people who were there who are now dead. His parents, etc. This logic was good enough for me, and I decided to find someone to take a video of the ceremony.

…Which was harder than I thought it would be. Whom do you pick? Not a relative, surely — they want to pay attention to the ceremony. Not a close friend either for the same reason. And you can’t pick just anybody — you want someone who can hold a camera the right way and has some aesthetic sense and can judge lighting and act accordingly. Someone who knows what events are coming up and knows where to stand to get good shots. So you have to find a bright, technically-savvy, artistically savvy guest who is coming to the wedding but also doesn’t really care about watching the ceremony himself. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t have one of those.

So I started looking for wedding videographers and of course the prices were sixteen kinds of exorbitant. Most of the sites I saw were around $1000 for a few hours of filming. And then I’d watch their demo videos… slow motion footage of people walking, curly fonts saying, “Ashlynn and Chet,” Bittersweet Symphony playing in the background (yes, seriously — who wants that in their wedding video?!), and all in all they just seemed over-dramatized and kind of… dumb-looking. Like when you’re watching local television and then after a bunch of professional commercials you see some weird homemade commercial for a flea market or a play or a car dealership and although it has music and fonts and narration, you can tell the narrator is just some guy and the music was written by someone’s uncle and the text was all set up by someone’s neighbor’s nephew for $50. Maybe I’m jaded and if it were my wedding I was watching I would find all the kitsch endearing. But on site after site after site it was the same story.

(Except for Nil Buan, whose videos were beautiful and elegant and tasteful. We aren’t going with him, but I’ll come back to him in a minute.)

So after watching all the demo videos I knew that that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted someone to take a bunch of footage, not edit it, and give it to me in some digital form. I don’t need music and montages. (I don’t want them, either.) And I knew that some videographer somewhere with a rough season must want to do exactly what I wanted at a reduced price. They can post $1500 packages on their site all they want, but I bet the economy has cut back on the number of people willing to pay for something like that. So I emailed like seven different ones the following email:

Hello –

I’m getting married on [censored] in Buescher State Park (near the Bastrop/Smithville area). I’d like to get some sort of video of our wedding, but I want something very minimalist. I don’t need montages, multiple cameras, cross fades, background music, fancy DVD menus, or anything like that. I just want to pay somebody who’s smart enough to hold a camera the right way and can get some nice raw footage to me in a standard format playable on the average PC.

Obviously I am not your target market, but since my wedding is on a Monday (and therefore not in competition with other weddings in which people will pay more), I thought I’d check and see if this is something you guys would be willing to do at a correspondingly lower price (since there will be very little in the way of post-processing). I see that your single-camera 4-hr price is $[whatever]. I’d be interested in only 2 or 3 hours.

Is this something feasible?


And you know what happened? I got a whole bunch of replies from companies willing to do it at great rates! Well, not all of them were great. Some of them were reduced by like 5%. But I got multiple offers in the $275 – 400 range, which seemed pretty reasonable for someone’s professional grade time, expensive equipment, and drive time out to the park. The best offers I got were from Capital Wedding Video and American Video Productions. It was a pretty tough choice between them, but ultimately my decision came down to the quality of video at dim indoor receptions. Our reception will be in a building with dark walls, and although we’ll have lights, it was important to me that the video be able to capture that without looking awful. It seemed like Capital’s indoor footage was better, and so I went with them. (I haven’t signed a contract or anything, though — I just emailed him tonight and told him that he was our choice.) It was a difficult decision, though: the guy at American Video Productions made it clear that he wanted our business and was quite willing to negotiate to get it. I like those sorts of business people and it would have been nice to go with them, but the prices were very similar and so that indoor-video quality was the deciding factor. If things don’t work out with Capital, I will be very happy to use American Video Productions as a backup.

But the whole point of this post is that with wedding stuff — and probably in the world in general — you can often get what you want at a better rate if you just ask. Our caterer usually does more expensive meals, but when I told her our price range she was able to come up with menus that would work at our price. Ask and ye shall receive.

The End

Still here? Oh, you’re waiting to hear the end of the story about Nil Buan? Well, Nil responded to my email with an offer that, though not unreasonable and cheaper than many packages I’ve seen, was still a little out of our price range. However, his rationale was artistic integrity, which I can totally understand. His work was gorgeous and if I were he I wouldn’t want to send raw footage out into the world with my name on it either. But his email was very gracious. Here’s an excerpt:

I will treat your wedding like any normal wedding that I shoot, with the utmost sensitivity in creativity.  That said I cannot justify giving you nothing but raw footage.  It is not how I work.  And it is not how I want my work to be viewed.   I will edit the footage for you with the same transitions you’ve seen on some of my work, with music and titles, and present a final product to you that you can be proud of and enjoy for many many years.

So I sent him a reply explaining that his offer was indeed out of our price range but that I understand his position entirely, and he sent back a friendly reply. It’s rare that I feel such a sense of kinship and admiration with a business and yet still go with one of its competitors, but I suppose that’s also capitalism. I hope Nil makes a bunch of money from people who have a lot of money to spend. To that end, here, once again, is a link to his site: Nil Buan Videography

March 29th is approaching!

March 19, 2010 at 1:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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11 more days for RSVP cards! If you can get them to us by the 29th, it would be most appreciated! Or if you’re waiting on some other information before you can commit to that date, it would be helpful to know that too. No pressure. =)

A quick little rant about florists

March 18, 2010 at 1:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It turns out that finding a florist for your wedding can also be a frustrating experience. At the time of this writing, I have actually already settled on a florist with whom I am very happy, but before I found them it was quite frustrating indeed.

A carnation


I’m not too picky about flowers. I like ’em all. (Except carnations. They’re awful!) Pinks, blues, purples, yellows… They’re all just fine and would work fine with the wedding colors. Well, as I’ve been looking around at various wedding stuff, I’ve kept my eye out for photos of bouquets that I like.  When I’d find one I’d save the image into my wedding directory so that I could show it to some hypothetical florist in the future after I got all the more-important wedding plans taken care of. Well, after doing this for a while, a trend emerged: it turns out I did have a certain type of bouquet in mind! The images I saved all had bouquets of a particular shape and a particular color scheme even though I thought I didn’t care that much.

So I called a few florists to ask for prices. And I learned what is apparently the first rule of, um, wedding floristry:

Don’t tell any brides ANYTHING over the phone. Make them drive to your store for a consultation.

You want prices? Tough. You can only have prices if you make an appointment and then devote a few hours of your day to finding the place and then going in for the actual appointment. (This was unacceptable to me and so I did not visit any florists unwilling to give me prices over the phone.) After encountering this at all but one of the florists I called that day, I decided to try another mode of communication: email.

If you know me at all, you know I’m a big fan of email and not such a big fan of talking on the phone. So emailing florists seemed like the perfect way to go. Even better, I had a bunch of photos saved on my computer of exactly what I wanted, so I could convey that to the florists with zero ambiguity. And so that’s what I did. And then I learned the second rule of wedding floristry:

You can charge a million billion dollars for a bouquet and somebody will probably pay it.

I know, I know, it’s capitalism. And if florists can find people willing to pay a million billion dollars, I salute them and wish them all the prosperity they can produce. Still, though, it just seems ridiculous sometimes. Here is an image I sent to about seven florists asking for a quote on bouquets only:


This has been cropped, of course.

Guess how much the large one costs? All the florists who responded with prices (for which I applaud them!) gave me quotes between $175 and $200. How many roses can that thing have? 24? And then maybe seven sprigs of baby’s breath? I realize that florists are skilled labor, but even so that seems extreme. I bet the markup on this over the raw-materials cost is at least 500%. For the little bouquet containing (I’m guessing) a dozen roses, they told me $80. Needless to say, I did not order flowers from those people.

I also did not order flowers from these people:

Thank you for contacting us.  We do bridal consultations by appointment.  The cost for that is $35.00.  When you book with us (pay your deposit) we credit that fee back to you.
You will need to speak with [name omitted].  Consultations are done Tuesday-Thursday between 9am and 4pm.  Please call [phone number] to book one.
Kindest regards,
A florist with a ridiculous policy

Now if these crazies — I’m not going to give them publicity by saying their name — were working up a giant proposal for me, I could understand the need to charge a fee. If I needed to arrange flowers for every centerpiece, every aisle of seats, the cake, boutonnieres, corsages for the mothers, a church, and other reception decorations, I would totally understand the need for a consultation fee. Setting up a proposal for something like that would undoubtedly require a good bit of time from someone trained in flower stuff, and I can see the need to recoup those costs. That would be perfectly fine. If they need to tease my preferences out from some nebulous idea of what I want, that would take time.

But there’s no ambiguity here.

I sent them the photo. They know the kind of flowers, they know the color, they know the size, they know the accent flowers, and they know the date. How can a $35 fee be required before they’ll even give me a price? How absurd. I kind of wanted to reply to that email with all my thoughts on how preposterous a policy that was, but I knew it wasn’t worth my time and I didn’t. And really, if I had, what would they care? Somebody on the internet is mad about something? Scandalous!

So a few days later I called the fantastic folks at Smithville Florist and they couldn’t have been nicer. They gave me a quote over the phone and after some further discussion I agreed to come into the store to make the rest of the arrangements. I ended up with something a little bit different from the photo above — more beautiful, I think — and it has the roses I want and only came to $125. (Still a lot of money, but c’est la weddings.) I spoke with the owner (I think) and his daughter, and they were extremely flexible and friendly and were happy to discuss options til we had something I liked. Of course, I haven’t actually gotten married yet, but I certainly feel inclined to recommend them very highly based on my experiences so far. So if you’re getting married in Smithville or Bastrop and need a florist, be sure to check them out! Here’s the link once again: Smithville Florist.

Catering: A new hope

March 4, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In the last week I’ve spent some time talking on the phone to caterers. Quite a lot of time, actually; selecting a caterer has been far more difficult than I expected. Here are some of the various pitfalls I’ve encountered:

  • Finding prices. 80% of the time, caterers’ websites are suspiciously devoid of pricing. I’m sure they’re flexible, everybody’s wedding needs are different, and they try to cater (no pun intended) their menus to individual needs. However, when you can’t find prices on the page it’s extremely frustrating. If you try, sometimes you can infer it from the website, though — Pink Avocado Catering, for example, mentions in passing that one of their clients was the government of Spain. Spain! They only mention it in the answer to some FAQ way down at the bottom of the page, but it did enable me to knock them off my list. Anybody who caters for Spain is probably not going to  be able to handle my little wedding at the sort of price I want to pay. Now Latvia or Kazakhstan’s caterer would be fine, I’m sure. But Spain? I don’t think so.

    Some delicious food

    We're not having this

  • Useless emails. So there I am looking at some pretty catering site and not finding prices. So what’s the natural thing to do next? Send them an email. So I type it up and tell them every relevant fact I can think of. Estimated number of guests, time of day, the sort of meal I have in mind, location, the sort of service (buffet or table), etc. And then I wait, of course, and after a day or so here’s what I get back: “Hi Sarah. I received your request for information, and I do think it would be great if we could chat a little over the phone first.   Please feel free to give me a call at your convenience.  Thanks!” (This quote is an actual example.) So I call. And guess what happens?
  • Looong phone calls. All of them are nice and friendly and congratulate me on my engagement (which still makes me really happy!), but they all have many, many questions. The initial phone call is often more than a half an hour, and at the end of it I still don’t know if their meals are $12 or $19 or $60 per person. “I’ll email you,” they say. (More on their emails in a moment.) Again, I understand that they need to know a great deal of information to know exactly what’s needed, and I would be perfectly happy to spend a very long time on the phone with my top three choices to help narrow it down and make a decision. But spending 30+ minutes with every Austin caterer Google shows me? It’s time consuming and frustrating and makes it very difficult to comparison shop. (Hmm, perhaps I’ve found a motive in all this…) So anyway, after I tell them all the details they say that they’ll process all the info and send me an email with some sample menus and prices. Sounds reasonable, no? It certainly would be. Except…

    Some sushi

    Also not having sushi

  • They don’t send me the email with the menus. They say they will and it took me several different caterers before I stopped getting my hopes up. But with each new caterer I’d say to myself, “Okay, this girl sounds sharp and nice and organized and on top of things. She said she was busy and would send it tomorrow night instead of tonight, and I believe her.” But then she wouldn’t send it. The first time this happened I called the girl back and she said she must have gotten my email address wrong and would send it a couple of days later. So I waited several more days to no avail. At one point I expressed my frustration to Blake and said I’d call her tomorrow, but he made an excellent point: “Don’t call her. It’s your wedding and you need a caterer that you can reach. And who will get back in touch with you. You don’t want a caterer like this.” And he was absolutely right. So I called a second caterer who had a slightly different problem:
  • Too flexible. She can make anything… what would we like? She was very nice and seemed pretty sharp, but she wouldn’t give me any meal choices! I asked for specialties or recommendations for side dishes, and she’d tell me how flexible they were and not give me a single suggestion besides one-word “dishes” like “broccoli” or “green beans.” Try though I might, I just couldn’t get a menu/meal/sugggestion out of her! After we got off the phone, I spent some time searching online for sample wedding menus, but all of them were for the really expensive caterers — “tuna tartare with a maple-caviar demi-glace and crab bisque.” So then I got all comfortable on my bed with a stack of cookbooks and looked for recipes that I guessed might not be too expensive but would be appropriate for a wedding reception… and I couldn’t find much. I have the Betty Crocker Cookbook and Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her? (which is a great book), but I just don’t buy cookbooks that have recipes suitable for fancy wedding food, I guess. A couple days later I told Dad with mild frustration how I was looking for more recipes, and he said, “You shouldn’t have to be doing that! That’s the caterer’s job!” And he, too, was right.

So the next day I sent about ten emails to different caterers around Austin and asked for info. Most of them responded with emails inviting me to call, but a very small number did something really great: they sent me menus! One in particular, An Affair to Remember Catering, sent me the following perfect email:

Hi Sarah,
I received a request from you for your event at Buescher State Park in Smithville, Texas. I just tried to reach you by phone to get a few questions answered but for now, I’ve taken the liberty to guess at a few things (see attached proposal). I would be happy to make suggestions to address  your budget concerns when we talk. Feel free to shoot me an email or use any of the numbers listed below. Thank you so much for your consideration and I look forward to working with you on your event.

Warmest regards,
Matthew Atchison
Event Planner
An Affair To Remember Catering
512-443-3422 ext. 226

A bunch of plates of food

Not this either, whatever it is

Bravo, Matthew Atchison and An Affair to Remember Catering! (Normally I wouldn’t post someone’s email and contact info up here, but I’d like to give them good PR. And I did remove the cell number which was originally included in the email.) The proposal included about twenty menus in assorted price ranges — and an itemized total cost which allowed me to see what was included and determine for myself whether this price range was acceptable. How wonderfully refreshing that Matthew was able to say, “I don’t have all the information, but I have some. Let’s see what I can provide based on that.” Furthermore, I looked over the proposal and had several questions which I sent via email, and Matthew answered them all thoroughly and promptly. I haven’t signed anything with Matthew (or decided on a menu yet, even), but I have been impressed with his professionalism so far and I plan to set up a meeting with him. I’m optimistic. :-)

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