On Planning a Wedding

I’ve always wanted to get married. I’ve never wanted to plan a wedding.

“If it were up to me,” Michael tells people, “we’d elope on a beach.”

“If it were up to me,” I say, “we’d have a party in the backyard. And it’d be potluck.”

But there’s a third party involved here: Dad. AKA The Man Footing The Bill.

Let me summarize: we’ve got a hermit, a frugal conversationalist, and a guy who’s been saving for years in order to throw his daughter a big party.

Michael has wondered when he will win out over my father. Well, not this time.

And so it is that our wedding will be held at a traditional venue. And our invite list includes 190 people. And we’re not only fine with that, we’re happy about it. Because ultimately, who cares? We just want to get married. Who complains about a dad who wants everyone to have a great time?

Thankfully, the planning hasn’t been difficult at all. We booked the second venue we looked at. The first officiant we talked to. The second photographer. The first DJ.

This doesn’t mean no research has gone into this. But lucky for me, Michael loves that part. Or just realizes if he doesn’t do it, it will never get done. I have zero desire to sort through sixty venues. Michael narrowed it down, showed me his favorites, I picked two, made the appointments, and voila.

But there are some things that take a Motherly Intervention. I hate shopping. Of all kinds. Clothes. Cars. Groceries. That whole minimalist thing? Probably stems from the fact that I’d rather live without than have to shop for something.  Mom came down in October to take me dress shopping. I booked one appointment. In 90 minutes, this place got me in and out of 35 dresses. We narrowed it down to three. A week later, I went back in and bought my dress. (Though not one of those top three, but that’s another story.)

Mom tried to get me to pick out shoes on her most recent visit, but, at the first store, we were told the summer shoes wouldn’t be out for two more weeks. I didn’t want do go to a second store, so I said, “Meg (my youngest sister) is coming down in a few weeks. Can we stop shopping if I promise I’ll buy shoes when she comes to visit?” Mom gave in.

My plan is this: The first day Meg is here, I’ll be working. So I’ll give her my car and the addresses of three shoe places so she can go do reconnaissance. So by the time I’m done with school, we can get this shoe thing finished up in no time.

Yesterday we booked our final vendor. And today I looked at the DJ’s questionnaire. “Write Yes, No, or IDK if you don’t know.” I had a lot of IDK’s.

  • Will you have a grand entrance? IDK
  • Music to enter by: IDK
  • Would you like to go into the first dance immediately after your entrance? IDK

These are the details I really don’t care about. Thankfully, there are wedding planners. One of the top “Careers I Never Want To Have.” My plan is just to say to her, “Tell me what people do.” Then, I say, “yes” or “no.”

There’s one thing I was sure of, however: I want to enjoy the time with my friends and family. So why on earth would I want to spend my cocktail hour away from them taking pictures? Let’s get those pictures done before the ceremony.

“So you’re going to do a First Look,” my sister Meg said.

“A what?”

“That’s what they call it. He has his back to you, you walk in, and as he turns around the photographer gets his expression.”

“Seriously? You’re kidding me. They have a name for this?!”

Meg laughs.

I relate this story to a few of my students, one of whom informs me where the “groom doesn’t see the bride before the wedding” thing comes from. “Arranged marriages. They didn’t want the groom to see her, because if he didn’t like what he saw, he might run.” Well, Michael has seen plenty of me. At my best and worst. If he was going to leave, he should have done it by now. So that tradition? Definitely not needed.

 

 

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On Giving Thanks

Somewhere I heard about the book, “Thank and Grow Rich” by Pam Grout. I know all about the gratitude journal craze that’s out there now. I figured it was probably more of the same, but I liked the play on words so decided to get the book from the library.

I immediately liked the author’s style and at one point said to myself, “Her name sounds so familiar. . . ” So I looked at what other books she had written and there it was: The 20 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life. I bought that book in 2008. The first place listed? The John C. Campbell Folk School. I’d never heard of it. I googled it. Was fascinated. Sent away for their catalog, and signed up for my first-ever writing class. Yep. If it wasn’t for Pam Grout, you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

Pam has zero interest in 30-day plans. She says it’s quite simple really. To see amazing things happen in your life, just do two things: When your eyes first open each morning, say to yourself, “Something amazingly awesome is going to happen today.” Then, publicly communicate three things you’re grateful for. Text them to a friend. Write them on Facebook. Email them. Whatever. Oh–and they have to be different things every single day.

So I decided not to overload Facebook. Or my blog readers. Instead, I’d overload my dear friend and maid-of-honor-to-be, Dawn. I called and asked if I could text her each morning. “You don’t have to write back, or even acknowledge them,” I told her. “I think it would also be a fun way for you to know what’s going on in my life down here,” I said. (Dawn lives in NY, I live in NC.) In no time, Dawn wanted in on the fun. So every morning we text each other at least three things we’re thankful for.

“Interesting you didn’t choose to text me,” Michael said. I explained that I wanted to connect with Dawn a little. “But if you want to, I can send them to you.”

“So tell me again, how does this work? Three things I’m thankful for? And they have to be different?  No repeats?”

“You got it.”

“How can you do it without repeats?” he asked. “Don’t you run out of things?”

“Not at all! Here. I’ll read to you what I’ve sent Dawn the last few days.”

  1. I’m grateful for pasta cacio e pepe. I’m grateful for Read/Write (reads my students papers back to them). I’m grateful for Standards Based Grading. I’m grateful for Khan Academy’s online SAT program.
  2. I’m grateful for the 5 Walnut Wine Bar, the John Henry’s (the band there last night). I’m grateful for arriving at school in the daylight. I’m grateful for the down jacket that Michael bought me a couple years ago. (“Oh, nice,” said Michael) I’m grateful for my super warm mittens that Carly made.
  3. I’m grateful for the two snow days we had a couple weeks ago that gave me lots of time to work on my reports. I’m grateful for my co-teacher in Social Studies who always says things that make me feel like I’m a great teacher! I’m grateful for the ice pack my parents left here once that I use every day in my lunchbox. I’m grateful for Dad leaving cash hidden somewhere ever time he comes to visit.

“Okay, okay. I get it,” Michael said.

So this week I haven’t felt very stressed at all. And have felt genuinely happy and in a good mood. Not that I don’t usually, but this is more than my usual.

And then came yesterday.

Starbucks added $6 to my gift card after I wrote in to them to say I was having some trouble on their web site. When I went to use the card yesterday, there was a station behind the counter set up for what looked like making cake pops. And there were a few ruined ones sitting there. “I guess that means you get to eat them!” I said to the guy behind the counter. “Here,” he said, “Do you want a not-so-perfect cake pop?”  I gladly held out my hand.

Then, last night, on my way to meet a tutoring student, I stopped in to Whit’s Custard. Michael and I swore off Whit’s Custard for January. But yesterday was February 1st. So I eagerly waited behind a couple while they ordered their custard. Then the cashier said to them, “Anything else?” and the guy said, “Whatever she wants,” and pointed to me!

“Really?!’ I asked.

“Sure. Why not. Life is short,” he replied. I usually order a baby scoop, but I quickly decided tonight was a one scoop kind of night. I made some small talk with them, thanked them, and was on my way.

Now, would I have gotten all these free sugary treats had I not been starting every morning saying, “Today is going to be an amazingly awesome day”? Maybe. But I’m not taking any chances.

The January Eat-From-Your-Pantry challenge

A blog I was reading issued a challenge for January: try to eat things you already have in your house. AKA: the pantry challenge. We all have plenty of things in our pantries and freezers we haven’t seen, let alone used, in quite some time. So the challenge says to get that stuff out and use it! I’m pretty frugally minded, so I loved this idea as it meant I’d spend less on groceries and eating out.

So I did a preliminary assessment and found a few things:

  1. 12 pounds of dried black beans. Yes. TWELVE pounds. Because Michael was eating a simple meal of black beans, rice, and chicken every day for lunch — but he was buying it from Chipotle. So he decided we could easily make that dish ourselves. And so it was that instead of getting a couple one-pound bags of black beans to try out the idea, he went all in and bought 12 pounds. At the time of my assessment, the bag was unopened.
  2. Miso soup mix. I wasn’t sure if it was still good. But it was worth a try.
  3. Mushroom Risotto mix. I’m not one for mixes. This was another Michael purchase. I gifted him a survival course for his 49th birthday, and he bought a few of these “just add water” meals at REI for the occasion. This is the last one. He said he had no plans to eat it, so I added it to my list of possibilities.
  4. I had some linguine, a half-eaten bag of noodles, and some brown rice pasta. My goal is to switch to all brown rice pastas, mainly so I don’t have to hear Michael complain about how much pasta I eat. So I have to get rid of the linguine and the noodles.
  5. Luckily, I had also just bought a hunk of fresh parmesan. (If you’re still eating the Kraft kind in the green cylinder, you don’t know what you’re missing.) This meant I had all the ingredients for one of my favorite pasta dishes: cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper).
  6. Our freezer provided some more goodies. Two bags of turkey soup I made after Thanksgiving. A couple bags of turkey meat, which didn’t get closed properly so are probably not good, but I’ll try them. Frozen corn. Green beans. Tilapia (a large bag from Sam’s club — another Michael purchase that I think moved to our new house with us two months ago). And some frozen things our Christmas house sitter left in our freezer. I’ll pay her back next time she’s in town.

I started with the black beans. A woman once showed me how to make the real ones (the ones you make with dried beans, not canned), but I didn’t have the ingredients, and honestly I hadn’t made them once since I diligently copied down everything she told me. But Michael and I got an InstantPot for Christmas, so I googled a few recipes and then did a combo of what I found. I sautéed some onions and garlic (in case you don’t know, this is how to get any house to smell like you’re cooking something good), then added a pound of beans (after I sorted out the damaged ones), six cups of water, and a bunch of spices I had. Dried cilantro, coriander, cumin, fresh ground pepper, and a couple other things. I set the pot to cook on high for 20 minutes, then let the steam release for 10, then opened up the pot to find the soupy beans I’d imagined. I cooked off some of the water, and we tried them. Oh how good they were! I’ve made two more pounds since then, but then got a little bored, so didn’t make a batch this week.

I’d had the real cacio e pepe in Italy, but I’d never managed to make mine quite like theirs. I knew you were supposed to add pasta water to the sauce, but I always just cooked some pasta then tossed the drained stuff with some cheese and freshly ground pepper.  Good, but not quite it. So this time, I decided to follow a recipe. While the pasta was cooking, I melted a little butter and toasted the pepper, then added some pasta water and simmered it. Then, a couple minutes before the pasta was done, I added it to the pan along with some freshly grated parmesan. As instructed, I tossed it all with tongs until the cheese melted and some of the water burned off. MUCH better than previous attempts. I’ve had it a few times since.

And then it was the day before the neighborhood book club. This would be my first time at this event, and we were instructed to bring a salad or appetizer. So I opened the pantry and found a couple cans of cannellini beans and a small bottle of sun-dried tomatoes in oil. I googled, “recipes with cannellini beans and sun-dried tomatoes” and voila. I found a simple one that only required I add a little oil, red wine vinegar, onion, and a few spices. This was the “find” I was most proud of:)

In case you can’t tell, I actually LIKE to cook. And I had three snow days in January, so have had plenty of time. The challenge notes that you’ll probably need to buy produce, so I’ve added some onions, potatoes, carrots, bananas, and pineapple to my supplies. And bought some hummus as that’s my mid-morning snack at school. (We didn’t have any tahini, otherwise I’d make my own.)

I still have plenty of black beans. And haven’t had the risotto or miso soup yet. The turkey and tilapia haven’t been touched. So I think I’m going to continue the challenge into February!