Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adventures In Anything But Wedding:

©2009 Wedding Thrift

While there is no excuse for not posting for so long, I did have a good reason.

Living in New York City, sometimes you just come across these incredible opportunities that are hard to pass up. Jake and I stumbled upon some great furniture deals at a closing import store, and decided to seize the moment. For better or for worse (no pun intended), the "moment" turned into a week of rearranging the apartment. A week turned into two...and well...I think you get the point. What did I discover (besides lots of dust)? That sometimes taking time out from your big project (err, wedding) and spending quality time together doing things that don't involve the words "caterer," "venue," or "guest list" can be good. Call it a mental health break.

Our mental health break took the form of physical exertion, late night design sessions and a slightly unhealthy obsession with color schemes.

We bought three items of furniture: one of which was an antique; two of which were made of top quality teak wood and (truly) hand-made in India; and all of which were artsy, unique, and quite cheap. That was the exciting part. The less than exciting part came a few days after purchasing our great finds, when the delivery people hauled our stuff into the apartment. Have I mentioned that our apartment is about 500 square feet small? The furniture just looked so much smaller in the store! Yikes. And so we began the process of moving, shifting, rearranging, donating, and the inevitable experiencing of backaches. Our whole apartment essentially looked like Picture 4 (above) for a good two weeks. Cds in the bathroom, shoes in the kitchen, martini glasses in the short: a mess.

We sold our old dining table and chairs to make room for the gorgeous new table, which came chair-less. So the search for "the" perfect and inexpensive chair began. Who knew how expensive chairs could be! Even resorting to Target and Ikea still uncovered chair sets which were out of our price range, especially after having made a pact not to settle on plastic seating, no matter how hip it looked in the catalogs. Through sheer luck, I discovered a closing restaurant on, with a corresponding owner desperate to dispose of his restaurant furniture. Bingo! We landed a full set of fancy schmancy designer chairs (which retail at $200+ each) on the cheap, and finally had a place to sit down and rest our tired feet.

Next we had to transform an old rusty (but incredibly beautiful) 1930s cabinet into a usable and practical piece of furniture, that didn't look like it came from a dumpster. Neither Jake nor I had much experience on exactly how to go about it, but we learned the process together, which was actually quite fun! In a nutshell, it required several layers of rustoleum (followed by a few nights in sleeping bags on our neighbor's floor due to the unbearable odor); a few coats of paint; a whole lot of newspaper; a great deal of patience; many ruined pieces of clothing; and one panicky and intensive bath session for our nearly permanently stained dog (who I mistakenly petted with paint in hand, dumb idea); and voila! We now have a pretty cool piece of furniture, fully and colorfully revived after some tender loving care. It was well worth it (the dog disagrees).

The Before & After:

Not bad for beginners, eh? It's harder than it looks! Needless to say, there was much silliness and laughing mixed in with bewilderment and exhaustion. Project completed!

It was actually kind of fun to put the wedding planning on the back burner; not to mention strangely satisfying to flippantly shrug off our family's concerns: "How do you have time for this?" We made time. "Your wedding is only six months away!" We know. "Did you find a Rabbi? A band? Did you even pick a date yet?" Nope. And my personal favorite: "Any updates on the wedding planning (insert anxious tone)?" Nothin' new. Quite the slacking prenuptial couple are we.

Stepping away from it all was therapeutic, I highly recommend it. And the bonus? Family members--especially of the naggy, anxious, controlling variety--were so taken aback by our nonchalant dismissal of the whole affair, they stopped asking us about it and left us alone! How's that for an engagement gift!

Speaking of engagement gifts, despite insisting that people refrain from buying us pre-wedding presents, there were some die hard family members and friends who failed to comply. And since we refused to register anywhere, they had little choice but to give us cash (!). We promptly cashed in on their generosity by using it to pay for our little home renovations. You know--our home. The one we will live in, and sleep in, and exist in, after the wedding has long passed? When you think about it, isn't that exactly the right place to invest? Better to nurture our long-term home than to spend dough on an expensive cake that will last only hours, or over-the-top invitations that will get tossed soon after we are wed. We may be lacking in the short-term-event-planning-department, but we certainly know how to invest in our future.

You might even consider us slightly more prepared to deal with the wedding and all its challenges. After all, we just embarked on a tedious, time-consuming, money-costing project which was ultimately satisfying because we did it our way at our own pace. Though we were patient overall, there were moments of frustration and anxiety. Despite being overwhelmed at times, we broke the job down into small, manageable parts, which were carefully delegated between us, and we kept our eye on the prize. We maintained perspective and humor, and took it in stride when things went wrong. Sound familiar?

And now, back to wedding planning and blogging after a satisfying, fun and productive hiatus; all to take place from our newly stylish, clean, organized and downright funky wedding headquarters.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Year's Day In Pictures:

It was a good first day of 2009 at the Mayer-Stein residence!

1) We leisurely looked through one of my absolute favorite design books, D.I.Y. Design It Yourself, by Ellen Lupton. It provides a wide variety of design ideas and projects and is incredibly inspirational, whether you want to design your own wedding invitations or a poster for your agency. Don't expect to get detailed tutorials or how-to's; that's not what this book is about. Written in part by graduate students, its down to earth and pragmatic approach is intended to get your creative juices flowing, and it certainly works for me. I take a look at it whenever I've hit a dry craft spell.

2) A good day around here is one which involves homemade food and tempting, savory smells wafting through the apartment from our kitchen. While I rested, Jake whipped up a yummy batch of Egg Drop Soup (super easy to make, we also add Bok Choy), grilled tofu with green onions, steamed sticky rice and cold Vietnamese Spring Rolls. The spring rolls are so delicious and refreshing, try making them using this beautifully illustrated recipe (I omit the pork and add imitation crab, chicken or just stick with the shrimp).

Coincidentally, this is a recipe that would be perfect for someone self-catering their wedding: they are fun and easy to make, and keep well in the fridge in a tight Tupperware. It would be a fun pre-wedding task to share with friends and a glass of wine!

Last year, for her birthday, I made a batch of the spring rolls for an overworked co-worker with three kids. I presented the rolls in a simple (hand decorated) Chinese take-out container, and included one package of rice paper and a hand-written copy of my favorite cold spring roll recipe on decorative paper. She later reported that she and her children had a blast assembling the rolls together, each person experimenting with different fillings and sauces, to taste. Sometimes food can be the best gift of all. Especially in New York City where space is at a premium, a consumable present is often a welcome change from receiving more "stuff" for which there is no room.

3) Feeling a cold coming on, I decided to take it easy for most of the day. So I put on the fuzzy slippers and snuggled up with Jake to watch one of our favorite movies; perfect for the contemplative, reflective mood of the New Year.

4) Taking time out to hang with my buddy, Maxwell.

We're taking it easy the next couple days. This is our reward for (nearly) finalizing our guest list, making a bunch of calls to caterers (and getting discouraged by the prices...eek!), initiating contact with a promising (and cool!) Rabbi, and--most importantly--narrowing down our location (more to follow on that one). Done, done and done.

Pass the spring roll, please!