Friday, July 17, 2009

I'm Married!!

Photo Credit: © Andrew Cross. All Rights Reserved.

It's over!

I'm a married woman!

And...everything went perfectly! Really.

Even my most critical friends and family had one thing to say: "I wouldn't change a single thing if I could."

I have so much to share and say, but it will have to wait until I return from my honeymoon...

I will share one thing I have learned, though: There is a difference between making the wedding personal and making the wedding all about you. The first lets people into your world, your life, your relationship in an honest way. The latter (in my humble opinion) is a way to show off and make yourself the center of attention (often) without any substance. Putting Jake and I's initials on every napkin, gift box, sign, etc. would not have provided guests with any insight about who we are (though it would be aesthetically pleasing perhaps). Spreading photographs on all the guest tables for them to sift through--on the other hand--does give people a chance to see what we have been up to for the last several years, and what kinds of activities we enjoy (and was one of the biggest hits at the wedding). I definitely feel we did what was comfortable for us, and what felt right. And guests really enjoyed themselves and kept telling us how special the details were. It was all SO worth it!

Much more to share...

See you in three weeks!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Photo Shoot: Wedding Food

That's my cutie, Jake, actually. Not exactly wedding food. Well...never mind. (:

Anyhoo, I know I said I was taking a break from blogging, but I wanted to share this with you before it disappeared off the New York Times website. Readers submitted cool photos of their wedding food. Good way to get ideas. Or just to get your mouth watering.

Besides, if you've always wondered what a hedgehog cake looked like, your prayers have been answered!

Ciao, til way later,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Stepping Away. For a Bit.

Photo Credit: Wedding Thrift. All Rights Reserved.

There are many things that you may not know about me. I'm Type A. I'm a photographer. I used to be a caterer. I'm in over my head (but in a good way)! And you may not know these things because I have not been here and I have not been blogging. Even though (eek) I promised to be better in my last post to you, which was (gulp) in May.

Ok, so here is what I decided. I have too much on my plate, and I need to take an official break from blogging. I am a great multi-tasker, I am. But I am already multi-tasking at my limit.

But but but...I promise to be back! In a few weeks, I get married. And then I go on my honeymoon. And then...then I will be back here. And boy do I have a lot to tell you. About me. About him. About us. About IT. So much has been happening. Crazy wonderful nutty things that I can't wait to tell you about! 

  • I got a new, time-consuming, but wonderful and challenging job that is keeping me super busy!
  • We made wedding programs--I love them!
  • My dress is made. 
  • The band is picked.
  • Our wedding favors are made, packed, and adorable, if I do say so myself.
  • Honeymoon booked.
  • Chuppah planned (needs to be built).
  • Vows written.
  • Appetizer planned (need to be made).
  • Kippahs bought.
  • Signs made.
  • Hotel block filled.
  • Table Escort cards made.
  • Budget reached. (:
  • tux bought
  • Shoes...ok, let's not talk about that right now.
  • Jewelry chosen.
  • Flowers chosen.
  • Runners chosen.
  • Decorations on their way.
  • Website complete.
  • Gifts coming in.
  • Registry (not your typical registry...) up, running, and working.
  • Love for each other intact as ever! (:
  • Invitations long mailed and adored by recipients.
  • RSVPs collected.
  • Final guest list complete.
  • Cake topper = adorable!
  • Cake chosen.
  • Kid's table planned.
  • Kid's coloring books, done.
  • Kid's coloring book poem, done. Ta da!
  • Family dinner prior to wedding planned. Mouth watering...
  • First dance song chosen.
  • Flower boy and girl chosen and excited.
  • Champagne toast planned.
  • I'm getting married, folks!
Ok, so you have to believe me that I am SO excited to share all the details with you. I am only praying that I have time to photograph all of it. All the beautiful details and minutia.

I'll do my best, and I'll be back. Check back mid-end of August!

And for all you July & August brides and grooms--GOOD LUCK! (:

Thanks to all of you who have been so generous with your links (Megan!). Don't give up on me. I'll be back with a vengeance. Woohoo!


Thursday, May 21, 2009


Photo Credit: Stephanie Carter

It has been shamefully long since I last posted. For shame, for shame.

In my defense, I have been busy. Really busy. Jake and I had a whirlwind wedding jolt of activities and projects. The invitations are out (photos forthcoming), RSVPs are arriving, the hotel for guests is chosen, rooms blocked off and reserved by guests, our honeymoon registry is live, caterer is booked, band is booked, website is done (and gorgeous, if I do say so myself), ketubah is in our possession and we have our grubby little hands on our specially ordered kippahs which are purple suede and freakin' awesome! Things are shaping up, my friends!

Oh, and I got this little thing called a new job. A promotion actually. And did I mention a nice raise to go along with it? Not withstanding my soon-to-be plump (er) bank account, we are still operating from a small small small small budget. That won't change. Money in, money out, as it goes. Funny part is, one month into the new gig, I take off for a month for the wedding and my honeymoon. And the New Job People were totally OK with this. Score!

So as soon as you forgive my lack of posting, I'll start posting again. Deal?

Let me at least offer you some eye candy from our recent walks through Central Park as a peace offering. Why not?

Photos: Wedding Thrift. All Rights Reserved.

See you soon. Right? RIGHT!

Monday, April 27, 2009

One Guest Less.

All Rights Reserved. © Wedding Thrift 2009

The strangest, saddest thing just happened. One of our guests died.

She was diagnosed with cancer and a brain tumor two months ago. While the prognosis was not great, it seemed like there was a solid medical plan and recovery was forthcoming. My mom was planning to visit her, but this friend, Dina, postponed the visit after unexpectedly going into the hospital. She told my mom to come in two weeks when she was feeling better. She was there for a week. Then she died.

She was a family friend who had an extra special place in both mine and my mom's heart. We met her at the same time, and both fell in love with her passion, her lust for life, and her talent as an artist. I have had two of her prints hanging on the walls of my apartment for the past 6 years. Through her art, I felt her presence in my home, and we stayed in touch through email. Most recently, I shared with her some of my latest favorite photographs, which she discussed with me at length and echoed my passion for capturing everyday moments in a unique light. She had no family to speak of, just a few artist friends, and my mom, whose companionship involved Proust readings and discussions, the exchanging of travel experiences and a shared love of art, literature and culture.

I looked forward to seeing her in July, and imagined her delight in reuniting with my mom and I. I couldn't wait to introduce her to Jake.

Wedding or no wedding, this is a tragedy. But something about knowing that she was going to be a part of my celebration makes me extra extra sad. It's as if she was a part of the wedding, and now that part is gone. As an artist, I knew she would appreciate the handmade invitations we planned to send, and would take special pleasure in their design and creativity. I imagined her reaction when she opened the envelope, and knew she would take time to examine each piece of paper and savor my writing on the front. I am certain that our Save the Date magnet with our names and a heart is located on her fridge in a barren apartment, as I type. Will it get thrown out? Will it make its way to a fridge of a close friend?

In Jewish--as well as other--traditions, a wedding is considered to be all about community and people coming together and uniting. The family, friends, and mentors of one partner come together spiritually with the family, friends, and mentors of the other. I embrace this perspective wholeheartedly and have found tremendous joy in connecting and reconnecting with friends during the wedding planning process. People had the most unexpected and wonderful reactions upon learning I was getting married, or receiving our Save the Dates. Their enthusiasm and genuine kindness made me even more excited about the wedding, and reminded me daily about the most important part of such a gathering: the people.

Dina was one of the people that encouraged me to value these things, and made me look forward to that day in July when Jake's world would come together with mine. And while she will be there with me in spirit, I can't help but feel that I will look around for her on that day, and be sad for her absence.

I know many brides and grooms have lost loved ones between the time they get engaged and the day they get married. Fathers, mothers, friends, and even partners have been lost before the union can take place, and yet life moves forward. It makes me so thankful for what I have; Jake, a loving family, supportive friends, and health. It makes all the thoughts about napkin rings and RSVP cards seem like an undeserved luxury; trivial matters. And it certainly provides perspective.

I will always honor Dina's passion, and make sure to include her in my celebration even though she can't be there physically. The saddest thing to me, is that I didn't get to tell her how much she meant to me, and how much I looked forward to having her with me on my wedding day, and beyond.

Dina, this is for you. You would have noticed the simple beauty of a single flower petal in the road and celebrated it. You would not have touched or moved it. You would have remembered and painted it later in your home studio. You would have smiled at the sight of it and, if I was there, we would have talked about it. Years later, you would have reminded me of its beauty, just as I am reminded of your beauty now.

All Rights Reserved. © Wedding Thrift 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

P.S. Happy Earth Day!

© Wedding Thrift 2009. All Right Reserved.

I'm not a big believer in special days or months designated to issues we should be concerned with year-round, but I made an exception for Earth Day. This is one day where people--especially kids in school--actually DO real things and engage in projects that promote a cleaner, healthier environment and lifestyle.

While snooping around Maya's pretty site, I found out about this cool blog that is dedicating the week to sharing neat and practical projects from ordinary items founds in the recycling bin.

This crayon holder from the Crafty Crow site above might be just perfect for the kids' activity table I plan to put together for our wedding. It's simple and easy, looks cool, and will hopefully entice my kiddie guests to draw their little hearts out:

Or I might get lazy and just take the pack of crayons we already bought (yes, it's a small detail to be focusing on this early, but if you look out for sales you can get this stuff when it's cheap and not when you desperately need it and will pay full price!) and toss them on the table for the grabbing pleasure of the children. Either way, it'll be a fun distraction for them from all the grown up yucky huggie-kissie-lovie stuff going on.

Photo Credit: Ximenacab

Money Talks, Not Emails.

Photo Credit: A Magill

Forget wedding websites, bridal resources, DIY tutorials and vendor reviews for a moment. There are so many funny and entertaining articles written on the subject of weddings. I should know--I seem to stumble upon them constantly: from nutty "Dear Abbys" to true stories of parental woes; hilarious wedding mishap recaps and reports on wedding fads are aplenty. How could I keep them all to myself? No way!

Forget planning your wedding...sit back and enjoy a little wedding entertainment. This "Ask Amy" taps right into something even the best of us have likely encountered: family tension. Whoa! Did I just hit a nerve? This daughter in-law actually emailed her father-in-law-to-be asking him if he would fund her wedding. Talk about bad social skills and being impersonal. Uh yeah, money talk is best done face-to face, if at all, people. Sometimes it seems like the questions with the most obvious answers are the ones that make it to print. What ever happened to Common Sense?

From the Chicago Tribune:
Dear Amy: 
My son and future daughter-in-law are both in the military and have recently become engaged. They plan to get married this summer.

My future daughter-in-law sent an e-mail to her parents, my wife and me, asking how much we plan to contribute to the wedding. This took me by surprise since I am of the old school and thought the girl's parents are supposed to help with the financial arrangements of the marrying couple.

I thought that we, as the parents of the groom, would be asked by the girl's parents to see how much we could help out.

Am I missing some new order here or am I just being old-fashioned?

We are not rich by any stretch of the imagination and would be happy to contribute something to the wedding, but I was just taken aback by her forthrightness. Should we pony up?
—Old School Dad

Dear Dad: 
Much has changed since you first absorbed the "rules" of wedding financing.

Many marrying couples choose to take responsibility for raising the money to fund their weddings—an idea I heartily support.

It sounds as if your future daughter-in-law has taken the bull very much by the horns; she may have been a tad too aggressive for your taste.

She (and your son) should approach you individually and respectfully and, using the parlance of fundraisers, "invite" you to "participate" in their wedding. Once you demonstrate your willingness to contribute, they should then delicately ask you how much you are willing and/or able to give.

You could respond by offering to pay for a specific element of the reception, i.e. the music, flowers and photographer, in an amount up to your maximum contribution, which you will state.

Your response will help them to develop the parameters of their wedding, along with a budget.

I think that was a nice way to put it, Amy...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heart To Heart

When I get busy, I tend to get stressed. And when I get stressed, I get cranky. And when I get cranky...well, let's just say that I try not to get cranky. But it happens sometimes, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed.

During the week it's go go go and do do do, and sometimes when the weekend comes, it's hard to wind down. Aside from Friday night vegging out sessions (sooooo nice) I often wake up on Saturdays and Sundays bouncing off the walls, determined to make practical use of each moment to get things accomplished. Unless someone grabs me by the shoulders and shakes some sense into me, I might forget to eat breakfast or remember that weekends are also a time to have fun and re-energize.

The weekend before last, Jake shook some sense into me (figuratively speaking, of course) and helped me relax by assembling a cute little breakfast that I could not resist. Since it was Passover, matzoh was the main course, and the sunny side egg yolk I often enjoy sopping up with my bread was out of the question (those of you who have tried to mop up anything with matzoh know what I am talking about. Picture cleaning a saucy plate with Melba Toast. Not happening.)

So Jake presented me with my next favorite breakfast item: cottage cheese with homemade strawberry jam. And he added a side of cherry tomatoes (my favorite) in the shape of a heart, surrounded by matzoh. And, of course, he brewed a nice big strong mug of coffee for me. He's no fool.

I think that was a pretty good reason to slow down and have breakfast with my sweetie. Sometimes it's just the little things that make you happy. And it's good to have a partner who balances out your personality and helps remind you what's important.

I think I wanna marry this guy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Homeward Bound.

All Rights Reserved. © Wedding Thrift 2009.

We’re on our way to Detroit to take care of some wedding business. Separate but together: Jake flew out a few days ahead of me, and now it’s my turn. I am so excited for Jake to spend some solid time with my parents; he has been looking forward to some quality time with them for weeks. Since he arrived, I am told that they already have had some nice conversations, cooked dinner together, laughed, and gardened. I’m jealous.

Since deciding to get married, Jake has become even closer with my parents and it’s obvious that he is enjoying his “new” family. “New” in quotes because he’s already known them for years. But something about openly committing to be a part of my life has only served to strengthen the bond between them, and I have so enjoyed watching that openness unexpectedly grow. Sometimes the best parts about getting married are the things you didn’t expect or consider.

I think it helps that my parents—contrary to the meddling stereotype—have been very hands-off with the wedding planning. They respected our decisions from the beginning and only ever (rarely) questioned things in a pragmatic way, such as asking whether we think it’s a good idea to have a late lunch instead of dinner (our wedding is on a Sunday) so that guests can catch flights home in the evening if they need to get back to work. The key is that they ask us what we want and think, and offer an opinion only when asked, but then defer to our choices without any pressure or guilt whatsoever. I know it’s unusual, but that’s my parents. They are awesome.

While I was busy at work and play in New York, Jake already accomplished some things in Detroit:
  • Jake insists on building the Chuppah for our ceremony, so he searched for materials to build the Chuppah. Quite fortuitously, there was recently a storm in my parent’s neighborhood, which left many large branches on the ground. Jake wanted to use only natural materials, and as my Dad pointed out, “you can’t get more natural than that!” We’ll see what they were able to scrounge up.
  • He went to two bakeries to taste cakes and get prices. Since I am not really that into the cake, this was a perfect thing for him to do. As long as the batter is chocolate, the decoration simple, not hideous or gaudy, and the price low, I’m good.
  • He went to take a look at the hotel from where we will likely get discount rooms for guests. My parents already generously visited the hotel previously at our request, but Jake is checking out the room that was not available to see when my parents visited the hotel.
  • Jake met with the band we are probably going to hire. He met them at our wedding venue (a public park), discussed the music and the potential set up in the pavilion area, and they gave Jake a contract for us to look over.
Plus, we have a busy few days ahead of us, once I arrive:
  • We have a menu tasting with our chosen (super great!) caterers. Yum, can’t wait!
  • We have a cake tasting preceding our menu tasting, from the same catering company, different department. Our caterer humorously exclaimed, “Who says you can’t have dessert first!”
  • We get to meet with our Rabbi face to face (our last meeting was on Skype!), and discuss some of the exciting details of the ceremony. Our Rabbi is such a nice and warm man, we really enjoy talking with him. He doesn’t put any pressure on us to do anything particular, and always says, “there is no typical [Thing X] or [Thing Y].” He really wants to get to know us and make the ceremony personal.
  • We are going to go by our park venue and take more measurements, discuss where everything will go, and just spend some quality time there together, fantasizing about what it will be like on July 19th, with our friends and family surrounding us.
  • And most importantly, Saturday night we have a date night in Detroit since my parents had preplanned a dinner party at a friend’s house before they knew we were coming. Greek Town, here we come! Mmmmmm.
One of the challenges in hosting your wedding out of town is that you can’t just pop in to take care of things or easily meet with vendors in person. But one of the benefits is that when you do visit there, you get a lot of stuff done in a short amount of time and get a lot accomplished! This trip really makes me feel like everything we had talked about is finally coming together. Ahhhh.

Detroit…here I come!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An International Headache

Photo Credit by DanieVDM

Just a quick follow up to my last post about postage and RSVPs:

Don't forget that your international response cards DO NOT use U.S. postage. I know it's obvious, but believe me, sometimes the logic escapes you when your focus is on getting the 89th invitation out the door...

In other words, you cannot pre-stamp your RSVP cards when sending to international guests. Leave the postage off the envelope, or offer your overseas guests the option of an email RSVP if you think it will help. Another tip: Make sure to send out the international invites first--before any others--to compensate for the longer delivery time, even if you are not done with all the invitations. I wouldn't wait. Your Great Aunt in Greece won't mind that she is not being dropped into the mailbox with your college friend in Maine, trust me.

That said, I sent out all the Save the Dates at the same time. My Aunt in Israel received her's before my buddy in Staten Island. Um, yeah. I don't know what that's about.

Oh--Don't forget to add the extra 4 digits for your zip code to speed up the return delivery. It's true: my postman swears by it! Get it here. If you live in an apartment building, the 4 digit zip code extension can be different than your neighbor's so check carefully.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Time & Other Federal Woes

Conratulations on getting your taxes done and mailed (or soon to be mailed...right? Right?)!

Here's a tax joke for you to lighten the load:

The latest income-tax form has been greatly simplified. It consists of only three parts:
1. How much did you make last year?
2. How much do you have left?
3. Send amount listed in part 2.
Calculating taxes sucks and I'm glad it's over. Until next year. Ugh.

Wondering what to do with all the money the government owes you? Trying to decide on what to spend your hundreds and thousands of returned tax dollars that happen to be lying around? Can't think of anything exciting to blow your savings on? Look no further! Another federal institution already has plans for your hard-earned dough.

Postage rates will go up on May 11, 2009. Instead of paying 42¢ to mail an innocent little letter, (or say, an invitation or Save The Date) you will soon need to pay 44¢ for one ounce. This rate hike is going to be a headache for the next couple of months for those of us brides who plan to mail out RSVP cards which include postage. Why? Because the new 44¢ stamps won't be available until May 1 at the earliest. So our soon-to-be-mailed invites need a little extra tender loving care and thought from us before being gingerly dropped in the magic blue box.

Jake and I plan to mail out our invitations within the next week, and I have no idea when the guests will be dropping the responses in the mail. I add the additional 2¢ worth of stamps on our RSVPs and rest at ease knowing the Mayer-Stein guests have it easy, postally-speaking. It's not worth the 2¢ x 65 RSVP cards = $1.30 to worry about it. I suppose I could wait a few extra weeks, but once I get an idea in my head, it's hard to get it out. I want to get these things out already.

Another option is to use the Forever Stamp which costs 42¢ now, and will always be valid as First–Class postage on standard envelopes weighing one ounce or less, regardless of any subsequent increases in the First–Class rate. But hurry! Forever stamps are not available forever, rather only until--you guessed it--May 11, 2009. [For the mathematically inclined, enjoy an obsessive analysis of whether Forever stamps are worth stocking up on here and a simpler analysis here. The short answer = yes. And no. Depends who you ask.]

Unfortunately, this is not a viable or economic option for this blogger who ran out waaaaay early in the wedding planning process and snagged about a zillion (give or take) 42¢ love stamps while they were still available. I gasped when the Nice Post Office Lady calmly announced my total bill. Eek. Who knew you could spend so much on stamps? Alas, they sure are cute!My other option is to buy the 1¢ or 2¢ stamps to add to my 42¢ RSVP card, the combination of which can actually look pretty cool, unless you are a fanatic about matching colors/patterns etc., which I am not. So bring on either one Navajo Necklace:

Or two Tiffany lamps:
Or, if you really want to go hog wild, either one American Toleware or one Silver Coffeepot stamp will (more than) do the trick :

Especially, I suppose, if you have a retro-theme going...

Depending on your aesthetic sensibilities, rest assured, there lies a solution either here or at your nearest Post Office.
Luckily, I collect stamps, so whatever does not get used goes right into my super slick handy dandy stamp album.
So start spending those tax dollars, or go the technological route (evites, email, website RSVP) and stash your bills under the mattress for a rainy day. Which, hopefully, if you are planning an outdoor wedding like me, won't fall on your wedding day.
The good news? Some very cute, fun, and colorful 44¢ stamps on the horizon. Eat your heart out, post-May-1st-invite-sending brides:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Staying On Track

Photo credit: Saquan Stimpson

Some people like to stay hyper-organized, some don't, and some fall somewhere in between. But no matter which type of person you are, there are certain things that can make your life easier.

While planning for a wedding, it's hard to think about anything that will happen after the wedding (well except the honeymoon, if you are taking one!). Like thank you cards. Who wants to think about that now? Not me.

But I did find this one piece of advice helpful = it's a good idea to devise a system to keep track of your gifts. Because after the big shebang, the last thing you will want to do is spend hours figuring out which "congratulations!" card fell off of which gift.

Jake and I are not asking for traditional gifts like toasters and china. Like many practical (and money-challenged) couples before us, if guests insist on getting us something, we ask that they help fund our honeymoon. And while we have told several underfunded out-of-town friends & family to scrap our gift if they are already splurging on hotel and airfare, I'm sure there will be plenty of people who wish to express their love via purchasing a gift.

So we set up an honeymoon registry at honeyfund where people can pick and choose which amazing part of our honeymoon they wish to support. We are asking for "intangible" gifts like "dinner at a seaside restaurant in [name a City]," or "bus ride from [City X] to [City Y]," so it's not like at the end of the day we will have a physical stack of gifts piled up in the corner of our apartment to remind us of who bought what. While we may have a few uncashed checks (yeah, right), the giver of the spent checks is going to be quite difficult to recall unless we have a system in place to track it. This is especially important because one of our ideas (which may or may not come to fruition) is to mail postcards from our honeymoon destination as thank you cards, trying our best to match the postcards with the gift. For example, if someone contributes to the cost of a hotel in a specific city, we could send them a postcard thank you from that city. Our other idea is to print postcard photos of our honeymoon when we return (IF. IF we return.) and send those as thank you notes, matching the location with the gift. Either way, some method of noting the gift and gift giver would be crucial to the execution of either plan.

One of the more helpful books I checked out from the library gave me ideas for logical and simple methods to organize my wild mind and random thoughts, and also provided a nice tool for tracking gifts. Actually, it not only tracks gifts, but helps me keep track of which guests received save-the-dates, invites, as well as who responded and any necessary special needs.

And just to show you how simple said "system" can be, here it is for your downloading, editing, using, and sharing pleasure. You can add the categories that make sense for you, and start entering your information in the chart.

Happy tracking!

Photo Credit: Ayumi Photography

Monday, April 13, 2009

Muzzle Tov!

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry after stumbling upon this article in the New York Times. A seder for dogs? A full organic kosher feast for canines to devour? It's so self-indulgent on the one hand, yet so light and fun on the other. Excessive yet non-traditional. Unique but costly.

One might feel it makes a mockery of Judaism and a very important holiday celebrating freedom for the Jews. And yet, it involves the very freedom to choose, indulge, and to live without judgment for which our people have fought so hard.

So I try to take it in stride, let it provide an opportunity for reflection and an outlet for humor. It reminds me of the wedding planning process, where we often need to differentiate between what others have done and have chosen for their special celebration, and what feels right for us. We must constantly decide which things are worth fighting or working for and which parts we should just let roll right off our shoulders.

This weekend, Jake and I went to a local Judaica store to look at Ketubahs (a Jewish wedding "contract" which spells out what each partner promises to the other, similar to a vow, signed by witnesses and a Rabbi, and generally hand drawn/painted in a beautiful, artistic manner by a Ketubah artist).

Some sample Ketubahs courtesy of

We quietly looked through a stack of Ketubahs in the store, and their accompanying texts. Next to us, another couple was also looking through the stack. Every few seconds the couple would hem and haw over a specific Ketubah, wondering if it was "nice" enough or "large" enough, or if the text was "appropriate." Then they discussed what others would think about it, what color it should be, should it be in Hebrew or English or both? They questioned whether it was worth spending the extra $100 to have their Ketubahs personalized (meaning the artist adds their names rather than leaving a blank line on which they fill in their names themselves). Then they debated the price, and next, whether they were going to frame the Ketubah after the wedding (a common practice, both to display the artwork and to remind the couple--especially in bad times--of their promises to each other).

While these are all valid concerns to discuss, this couple was, in a word, STRESSED. I could see that they were quickly losing perspective. They were focusing on the "shoulds" and not spending energy to decide what they liked and wanted. They were forgetting, that while the Ketubah is a beautiful tradition and an important consideration to many, it is only a one of the many details of a wedding. But it is not the end all-be all of the marriage. I wanted to say something, but despite having a pretty big mouth (for better and for worse), I kept it shut. None of my business.

Jake and I already knew we wanted an "alternative egalitarian" text, a colorful design, probably a tree pattern (we are having our wedding in a park and are very outdoorsy people, plus we love the symbolism of growth and nature in a tree), and we wanted to keep the cost to a minimum. We spent about 10 minutes going though the stack. I found a colorful tree with "conservative" text that I loved and showed it to Jake. He loved it too. We asked the salesman if he could do that design with the alternative egalitarian text we wanted? Yes, he could. We laughed out loud at the idea of shelling out $100 just to have our names on it (Not that it's wrong--just not worthwhile for us), and we figured we would decide later (as in after the wedding!) whether we wanted to frame it or not--that wasn't something we had to determine right now. We paid and we left. Done. The couple was still debating all the options (and making phone calls to family/friends for even more advice) as we walked out the door and spent the rest of the afternoon strolling and taking photographs through Central Park with our pup.

I certainly don't feel superior to that couple, because I've certainly been there myself. We all get caught up in certain aspects of the wedding planning and are susceptible to losing perspective. And after we left, I wondered aloud, "should we have looked around more?" Jake replied, "Why should we? We found what we like and we get to spend the day together. What could be better?"

I couldn't argue with that. You don't always need to search out every option and compare a million choices to one another. Sometimes the first choice is the right choice, as simple as it may seem. As long as you are happy with it, no need to search any further. And don't let anyone tell you any different. I think part of what made this process easy for Jake and I is that we really had no one to please but ourselves. We made it clear to family from the start that we were doing things the way we wanted. We weren't rude about it, but we were firm. At times, it has meant that we have had less help from others around us (sometimes help = opinions), but for the most part, we have enjoyed the confidence and simplicity of making decisions on our own. And our parents and family have really respected this, whether they agree or not. Both Jake and I think it's important to start our married life with our own traditions and selectively choose which family traditions and practices we wish to incorporate, rather than blindly adopt whatever our families have done in the past. This doesn't translate into an attitude of exclusion--quite the contrary--we really welcome whole-heartedly the advice that we seek out on our own, or the traditions we want to incorporate. Surprisingly, I think this has led to our families being more appreciative of the choices we make, and to treat us like adults (duh!).

Bottom line = lighten up! Don't take it all too seriously, and for goodness sake, have fun! Life is too short. Start out this week by resolving not to stress out about the small stuff. I know summer is approaching and for all of us summer brides, this is the time we tend to feel anxious and overwhelmed with fear that we aren't crossing enough off of our hundred-page-long list, or that we will forget something crucial and will spoil our special day. But while we sit and worry about ruining our future wedding, we might actually be spoiling our present day. Not good.

Hey--if the dogs can have their kosher organic unleavened cake and eat it too, no reason why we can't. It'll all work out.

Happy Passover to those of you who celebrate it!

BTW, this is the Ketubah we chose, from this artist (though we did not pay that much). I love it! I'll share the text with you soon...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Recipe: Maintaining Your Sanity

I don't claim to know how to always keep the peace with my partner or to reduce the stress in my life to a manageable nugget. But what I can claim pretty confidently, is that I am a kick-ass cook. So this post has to do with real recipes, of the finite and concrete variety. You know. For food.

It is a transgression from the usual wedding article, link or DIY idea, yes. Kinda. But since I added "plus other random thoughts and projects" in my blog description, I think I'm covered. But really, it is something we rarely talk about on wedding blogs, unfortunately: eating right. Eating well is always important, but it is often the first thing to fall by the wayside during stressful or busy periods in our lives.

Recently I practically force-fed a good friend a spoonful of cold red lentil soup just to prove to him that a) I really do cook; and b) Lentils rock! I was successful on both counts, and the next day he excitedly reported to me that he was headed to the market to see if he could dig up some red lentils for his own home concoction. Well, why reinvent the wheel! I just shared my recipe with him and then immediately thought, why not share it with you, Internet? Actually, it already has a life on the Internet, but I can at least point you in the right direction.

Because I do think it is important to nurture your body with good wholesome food. Especially when it is easy and cheap to do so! Did I mention pretty? Maybe the lovely red lentils in this recipe will inspire your wedding colors.

I promise, it is easy and delicious (even cold!). And if you don't have a food processor, no worries. I devised a little trick (I do have a food processor but was being lazy): Instead of putting some of the soup in the food processor and returning to the pot, simply add some bread crumbs (or even small ripped pieces of bread) until you get the thickness you desire. The bread crumbs soak up the liquid and make for a hearty, tasty stew-like delight. But this soup still makes for a light and satisfying meal. With a slice of good bread, or a salad, and a nice glass of wine or beer, you are all set. Just ask my meat-loving, protein demanding beau. He's been known to sneak into the fridge for a second helping when he thinks I'm not paying attention. Ah, I'm always paying attention, honey.  And by the way, it was actually your third helping, my sweet.

yummy red lentil soup!

Try to check out the New York Times online on Wednesdays for the Dining Out/In sections--there are always a few super easy and yummy recipes that will tempt you to squeeze a measly 20-40 minutes into your day to cook for yourself (and your honey, if he/she is lucky!). "The Minimalist" is probably one of my favorite columns. That guy sure knows how to keep things cheap, simple and enticing.

I will be posting some of my favorite recipes here for you, when they are a) Delicious; b) Easy; c) Quick; and d) Maybe even something you might be tempted to make for your wedding, if you are doing the cooking. A few already come to mind now for that last reason--the kind of recipes that make me wish I was making the food for my own wedding.

So, the lentils. The following is a recipe from "A Good Appetite," another wonderful column by Melissa Clark, but go read the full article here, as she always writes so well and includes a nice story or background about each dish:

A GOOD APPETITE; A Lentil Soup to Make You Stop, Taste and Savor

Time: 45 minutes

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup red lentils

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Save the Date, Mate!

Photo Credit: Hoa Dang

Finally. We finished a project from start to finish. Feels great!
We mailed out our Save the Date cards a few weeks ago. I wanted to do something simple yet fun. Something that would set the personal and somewhat whimsy tone for our wedding and entice people to look forward to that golden day in July. We all need something to look forward to over here on the East Coast and in the Mid-West, where the weather changes by the second but is mostly rainy, misty or grey, save a poke of the sun's head through the clouds every so often.

I got super lucky and snagged these ever-so-cool envelopes from a fellow freecycler (if you don't know what freecycle is = lots of incredible free local stuff = go now!). She worked for a company that designed video games (the ultimate gig in terms of employment fantasies, no?) and they used these padded beauties for a promotion. How great is it that they sought out takers to give these away to, rather than (more easily) dump them in the garbage?! I took as many as I could carry. And then some. Jake was a bit shocked when I arrived home with several huge bags, giddy with my pinky-silvery puffy finds. But he couldn't be more grateful when it came time to use them for something practical (is a wedding really practical?!) and it cost us $0.

They are translucent with a really elegant purple/pink sheen to them. Very cool.

But what to put in all these envelopes? After pondering various ideas and sifting through all the sites I bookmarked for inspiration, we decided to use Wordle. Not only is it great fun to sit and sift through all the results created by the words you feed into it, but it's easy, and has so many options for format/color, etc. If you have not yet tried it, do so immediately! You can use it for non-wedding things too: presentations, covers, cards, framable art; the choices are endless. Go here for a great and simple tutorial to get you started.

We chose to print the words primarily in black and white, to save $ on ink since colored ink is so much more expensive than B&W. But we wanted to add a little color splash to the card so we chose two shades of purple. Our cardstock (which I also got free from a fellow crafter on freecycle!) was a light gray with a linen finish and nicely textured. Easily feedable through our simple inexpensive home Epson printer.

After we decided on a Wordle picture:
we chose some very simple text for the back:

We left blank space on the back to add personal notes to each card. It was fun to write something specific to the recipient and led to guests calling us to respond to our hand-written notes. This added a personal and informal touch to the package. Even a few simple words helps people feel special and included (which they are!). If a friend recently returned from traveling, I asked about their trip. We had invited a few (limited) family friends, and I wrote something like, "After watching me grow up over the years, I would love to have you with me on this special day! Hope you are well, hi to [kids/pet/family]." For guests outside of the U.S., I let them know that I certainly did not expect them to fly all the way here--although I would be honored--but still wanted them to be a part of the process as much as possible. The comments were not just about the wedding. Some were jokes or fun little meaningful drawings. It was nice to have an excuse to write something to friends and family that I may not communicate with as often as I would like.
As you can see, we figured how many cards we could get out of one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of cardstock (4), and measured it out. This was more complicated than we thought and required several adjustments to both line it up properly and make it easiest to cut. Luckily, Jake figured it out after I had a mini brat-tantrum and walked out claiming the dog needed some fresh air. The dog as decoy, I love it.

Jake snuck home his paper cutter from work on the weekend so no one would be deprived of using it, and it worked perfectly! We left more space on the right and bottom margins rather than centering everything exactly on the page--this made it easier to trim since all we had to do after printing was snip off the bottom & right edges and then chop up the rest into four perfectly sized cards (make sure you wait until the ink has thoroughly dried--varies depending on the printer).

As I mentioned, we wanted to add a bit of pizazz in the package, so we decided to include a magnet with each Save the Date card so guests could post it on the fridge and (hopefully) not forget us! I stupidly forgot to take photos of our magnets, but they are somewhat similar (different color scheme) to these that I made for my good friends David & Jess who loved the idea so much they begged me to make some for their 5 year wedding anniversary invitations:

Since these magnets are SUPER fun and cheap to make, this was a simple and creative way to make our Save the Dates stand out and provide something useful for the guests. The magnet making tutorial can be found here, and definitely check out Megan's NotMartha website for tons of additional unique ideas and links!

As a last thought, we decided to use scraps of colored paper we had lying around to cut out some hearts with a heart punch we already had, and dropped them into the envelopes at the end. When our guests pulled out our cards, they would get an added surprise of little colorful hearts flowing out from the envelope (not too many so they don't have a mess to clean up!).
The only bummer was that including the magnets--because of U.S. Postal Service rules--cost us extra to mail. Each envelope cost $1.17 to mail. We debated this extra splurge and decided to go ahead with it because a) We had so much fun making the magnets in the past and were looking forward to future cozy nights making them again, this time with a personal message (our names Maggie + Jake squished together); b) It made the cards special and we knew that our guests, most of whom are the type of people who appreciate the little things in life, would value them; c) The magnets are super strong and therefore actually very useful to have around the house; and d) Since the printing, cardstock and envelopes were all acquired by Resourceful Me for free, we allowed ourselves this luxury! Onwards and upwards! The good news was that even mailing them out of the country (we have a lot of outside of the U.S. guests) was only a few cents more for some strange reason.

I love writing and pens and anything related to writing and pens, so I was looking forward to hand-addressing our envelopes. I played around with a few of my styles, and decided on my faux "american typewriter" font. I LOVED taking the time to address them all (about 60) but I didn't love the hand cramps.

Here is a photo of the back of the package, with return address, the card (actually a reject practice one) peeking out, and the hearts that spill out when opened:

(fake addy, don't stalk us!)

A stack ready to be stamped and mailed:

(Identifying info removed)
Tips based on our mistakes/"aha" moments:
  • Use plain cheap paper for the first few runs to make sure everything fits properly and cuts to the right measurements for your envelope. Cut the practice sheets up and actually make sure they fit in the envelopes. You'd be surprised how many little things go wrong if you don't test them.
  • Mail one finished product to yourself! I know this seems over-the-top but it can really save you from making a mistake. It ensures that you are using a font that the postperson can read, or that the envelopes seal properly and make it intact to the destination. We discovered a problem in our test mailing: the self-adhesive seal to the envelope did not seal as tightly as we thought it would. Our envelope arrived at our doorstep partly open in the corner and risked further damage, had we mailed it international or a longer distance. As a result, we knew to use packaging tape to make certain the envelope would not open. We would not have thought/known to do this otherwise.
  • Make one card set fully, from beginning to end, i.e.; a prototype to make sure everything works before printing a whole batch and wasting paper and materials.
  • Unless you are on a roll, we found it best to complete the project over a few days (the weekend, for example) rather than try to get it all done at once. Which brings me to the next piece of advice:
  • If you are hand-addressing the invites, I highly recommend you do a few addresses per day and not try to get them done in a few sittings. Can you say HAND CRAMP! Not fun.
  • Take the time to draw very light pencil lines on the envelopes so that your addresses are straight. I know it is a pain, but the finished product looks SO much cleaner and professional then slanted lines and names. Or just make them crooked on purpose in a fun, quirky kind of way if you don' t want to draw the lines. (Don't forget to erase the pencil lines!)
  • If you own a pet, keep an eye on them! My pup somehow managed to drag a few of our cards onto his bed. He then proceeded to have a drooling fest on them.
  • Use a water-resistant, smudge-proof, permanent pen/marker to address the envelopes. I don't care how cool or wonderful a non-water-proof pen is--it won't be pretty when it arrives completely smeared, or worse, never makes it to the destination because the postperson could not read the address.
  • Keep beverages away from the workspace. Especially if you are having a little cocktail while crafting, for goodness sake, and have already lost a percentage of your dexterity! We lost some completed cards to my deliciously strong and stain-producing coffee (spill).
HAVE FUN! Don't stress! No one will remember these things, so the joy will likely come from your memories of designing and making them together. Or from all the stupid mistakes you made. Or from all the silly spats you had while making them. Or from all the sleep you lost staying up to finish them. Or from all the dumb ideas you suggested...etc. etc.

I was happily surprised to discover that Jake and I work amazingly well together on these crafty projects! He is more technical and handled the measuring, cutting, and lining up of the text, among other tasks. I spearheaded the design, colors, and magnet pattern among other tasks. I was happy to delegate the math/technical-related stuff to Jake and he was more than happy to let me choose the colors, font and text, though we both took part in all of the above.

One of the best parts was all the emails, phone calls and texts we received from family and friends telling us how "cute" the cards were and that "your card and magnet is sitting on my fridge as we speak!" Hooray! It really served to get us super excited about the wedding and all the awesome people who would be there to make it special.