Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reflections and Resolutions

On the days between Christmas and New Year's, I find myself doing a lot of reflecting. On our first married Christmas. On this past year and all the huge leaps we took. And on some goals for the year 2010.

We hosted our families this year for Christmas, giving our bedroom to my parents, our guest bedroom to his Mom and sister, and taking the air mattress for ourselves. By all measures, I would classify this Christmas as a technical success: all the food I prepared turned out great, our tree stood tall and beautiful over a plethora of gifts, there was no public screaming or crying, and everyone traveled to and from our house safely. So that's good. Some lessons learned:

1) During a snowstorm, don't park your car where it will be buried for a whole week, because you never know when you're going to need to take your pet to the animal emergency room. Cab companies aren't fond of animals and are especially pissy during snowstorms.
2) When people are gnawing away at your last nerve, just keep yourself busy (because its not as if you can take a break anyways).
3) Shoveling wet, heavy snow is a great way to simultaneously burn calories and frustration.

2009 has been pretty remarkable. A few highlights:
1) Ringing in the New Year in Liberia, singing "Happy New Year, We No Die!" with great friends.
2) Being engaged and collaborating on our wedding.
3) Buying our first home.
4) Getting married to my best friend.
5) Not losing my mind with #3-4 whilst also starting a new job.

And finally some goals for 2010:
1) Nest, nest, nest. Read new books, plant a garden, drink lots of new wines with husband and take time to reflect and ruminate.
2) Get active. Take advantage of the pool, tennis courts and track in our backyard. Go camping with the new gear.
3) Pay off the wedding and then save, save, save.
4) Go on lots of fun dates with the husband.

And aside from all the reflecting and resolving, I'm really enjoying the leftovers, the quiet home and the quiet workplace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Random Acts of Honesty

In my hometown newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star, I have always loved reading this section, "Random Acts of Kindness". I love that people take the time to write into the paper about little (or big) things that strangers do for each other in Central Illinois. It is so Midwestern to me, like when my Dad visited me in my then-new home, DC, and was waving and greeting everyone we walked past in my neighborhood. I started to say, "Dad! People just don't do that here", but I caught myself and just smiled as I saw the surprise and confusion on my neighbors' faces.

I like to think that every now and then I have my own "Random Acts of Kindness", but more often than not I have "Random Acts of Honesty". I always thought that was a good thing - even if people didn't want to hear it - at the very least they always would know that I'm being honest with them. Because honesty is always the best policy, right? I can't stand it when people sugar-coat things or are anything less than direct with me. Its about respecting yourself and others. Treat others as you want to be treated - the Golden rule is on my side.

Then I saw this quiz on RealSimple.com (btw, I think that magazine/site was created especially for me - recipes, organization, decor, entertaining tips, semi-reasonable style tips. LOVE it) - "Are You the Most Difficult Person at the Holiday Table?" Huh, I thought to myself perhaps I should explore this line of thinking. So I went through and answered each of the questions. Here's a sampling:

"Do you often find that when you do something nice for people, they do a lot of grumbling? Do they seem ungrateful or uncooperative? For example, you offered to host Thanksgiving dinner, but no one appreciated it." Sure, it annoys me when I always do the hosting and some people don't offer to bring something or help clean up. But usually they're pretty cool and communicate some sort of "thank you".

"Do you find it hard to get your calls and emails returned?" No.

"Do you think it important to express your true feelings and views authentically, even if that means upsetting other people?" Yes, most definitely.

"If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it's right to tell them frankly what you think?" Of course, why else would they be asking right?

"Do you think it’s useful to point out people’s mistakes, areas of incompetence, or previous track records of failure?" If it is relevant, yes. An honest account of history is crucial to future success.

"When you join a group of people, does the mood often shift? Does a group tend to break apart after you join it?" Not that I know of...

And then at the end they tell you that any "yes" is an indication that you are a source of unhappiness for others. Really? Am I supposed to justify telling white lies to friends and family to ensure smooth relationships and their ultimate happiness? I get that, in some situations, maybe I could hold my tongue and not express my honest opinion, and I usually know when I'm out of line and arguing at the wrong level. But there are some situations when I just cannot and will not hold my tongue or self-censor.

In my mind, I think of it like the question of journalism - are there always two sides to be told, or will truth-digging reveal that one side is clearly in the right? I believe the latter is true in many cases. It's a slippery slope - I think if someone gets in the habit of humoring people they will ultimately become inauthentic and insincere. My husband and I both share this sentiment, and I think it has allowed us to build our relationship on a clean honest slate (even if it leads to disagreements here and there). Perhaps I'm being self-righteous, but I believe in holding up the truth when it can be found. I'll just try to maintain a firm grasp on my Midwestern sensibilities too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post Wedding ... Post

October 10th, 2009 - a day that will surely reign in history as DC's most awesome and fun and positively delightful day, and, also, the day we got hitched.

I feel free. No longer am I hopelessly devoted to my bridal blogroll. No longer am I crunching numbers and playing out scenarios in my head. No longer am I keeping a Wedding To-Do list (in its many iterations). No longer am I freaking out about being treated like a bride (like you're teetering on the edge of sanity, so people are a little hesitant but they still squeal and call you "the bride"...and you feel pressure to act a certain squealy way too, and its too damn much for me).

We had our wedding. And it was fun. And all our friends and family are claiming that they had a blast (and from the photos, I believe them). I felt lots and lots of love that whole weekend. The ambience was on point. The food was delicious. There were Ugandan dancers. We danced til 2:45am on pure adrenaline and positive energy. And it was perfectly "us". It was something that we collaborated on, something that we both put effort into, and something, in the end, that we both felt ownership of. I think that's important.

We are married. Married life has been good to us. It was especially good to us whilst gallavanting in Napa Valley - sniffing, swirling and sipping wines, floating in the hotsprings, and eating luxurious and delicious food. The terminology is taking some getting used to - I giggle to myself when I've called him my "husband" (just when I was getting used to "fiance"!), and he's still getting the hang of it as well.

It's been a whirlwind. Started a new job in early July, we bought our first house in mid-July, and we just got married. I'm looking forward to just settling into all of it and nesting for awhile. I'm soaking up my favorite season, autumn, and looking forward to buying new flannel sheets, walking on crunchy leaves, hosting gatherings with friends and mulled cider, and hunkering down to watch seasonally appropriate movies. Yes. That is what I live for. That, my husband, wine, and my family. I live for all of that. And its all good.

I'm slightly surprised by some of the things I'm feeling though. Like the need for positive reinforcement. I feel like we poured blood, sweat, tears, and all of our savings into this wedding, and what we got out of it was invaluable and awesome. But I still want everyone to reiterate the fact that they had an amazing time. Even though I know they did. There's photographic evidence. But I still want to hear it, and I find myself asking people "how much fun" they had as if I want it on a scale from 1 to 10 (and the correct answer is 12). Like I alluva sudden got competitive, and I want to win the "Best Wedding" award so badly. So weird, I am.

Because I'm self indulgent and I want to document some of this awesomeness that happened on October 10th, I'm going to spread out the fun in a few wedding posts. Then I'll get back on track with stuff about food and other fun things.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Physical Manifestations of Stress

So, kids - buying a home, changing jobs and getting married within 4 months is no joke. Serious. But I'm learning a lot of adult things and a lot about myself, like the fact that my left eye twitches when I'm under severe stress. And I'm experiencing some serious stomach discomfort that I think is another physical manifestation of my stress. Or maybe it is lactose intolerance (yesterday's macaroni and cheese?).

But in this week before Father's Day, I'm really appreciating my Dad. He's been a voice of reason and of encouragement. And he has single-handedly turned my hellish morning around with this little gem that he included in his email to me a few minutes ago: "P.S. I'm taking the "Harrassment In The Workplace" CBT ... ann'l requirement by Thrivent. I've learned that I can't pro-long a hug."

Thanks Dad. You are truly the best!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Raise the Roof Friday

Though I've got my fair share of things to be stressed about right about now, I'm going to focus on a few things that are definitely worth raising the roof for:

1. Our offer on the house was ACCEPTED!? Wow. Still trying to wrap my head around that one, but how amazing is that? We are out of our minds with excitement, anticipation, stress and paperwork, and we're just hoping that all goes smoothly. Sparkly, kickass DC rowhouse! (Raising the roof)

2. Its Friday and this weekend is going to be quite remarkable: future sister-in-law in town, SOFT ROCK party at Asylum (yes, there will be REO Speedwagon, Journey, Hall & Oates, Amy Grant, and much much more), my star-of-a-sister Alison's 24th birthday (!!! holy crap I can't believe she's turning 24!), and hopefully a break from the daily thunderstorm madness that has been terrorizing DC!!

3. We got a very special, belated engagement gift in the mail yesterday. It's a book from some awesome family friends of ours back in Illinois, and the book is entitled, "His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage"! Now that's something I can get behind, and I am quite sure there are some gems to be found in that book that I can pass along to friends - "Congrats on getting married; now its time to affair-proof that shit!".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our DIY Save the Dates

When Daniel and I decided to send Save the Dates, we knew we wanted to send something fun that would set the tone for our wedding.  Inspired by the DIY projects seen on wedding blogs*, we decided to go the photo strip/gocco route.  Here's the play by play of our craftiness:

1. Buy paper/envelopes at Paper Source.  We went with the "cement", as it was on sale and crafty-looking.

2. Take fun photos with your Macbook and then spend hours in photoshop trying to put them into strip-form and balance lighting so that Daniel's face is visible and mine isn't glowing white. We may be crafty, but tech-savvy we are not.

3. Print photo strips on your home printer on photo paper. Cut em out.

4. Cut paper-source paper into whatever size backing you want (we wanted them big enough so that we could gocco our wedding info onto the bottom).

5. Get your gocco on!  We chose red ink because it would pop against the neutral paper and the black/white photo.  

6. Trim the paper so that it fits nicely into the cute envelopes you bought.

7. Put the photo strips into the little black photo corners, adhere to the paper, and admire your crafty product.

To finish it all off, we typed up all the names/addresses and printed em out on clear labels. We took 'em to the post office, dropped 'em in the mail, and just waited for the compliments to roll in. And they did. :)

*many wedding bloggers refer to Save the Dates as STDs but not even my devoted love of efficiency will get me to refer to our wedding stationery as an STD. no way, jose. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They may be right, We may be crazy

(name that reference!)

SO. With so much of our wedding planning done, I've found the perfect way to occupy our time and (my) obsessive-compulsive energy: buy a house! Yep, putting most of the money we've saved up to pay for our wedding (with cash) into a downpayment for a house does seem slightly insane, but so does not putting an offer on a totally renovated rowhouse with brand-spankin-new everything that is in our price range (because, you see, DC rowhouses that are beautiful and move-in ready are quickly scooped up, leaving only the serious fixer-uppers with fatal flaws). We'll be fine if we get rejected, but we'd hate to look back at this sparkling rowhouse and think "what if...". So thats why we decided to write up an offer at 11pm last night. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Mexican Holiday

It all started with this place called La Santanera. Daniel excitedly mentioned one day in November that he may have a DJ gig at this bar La Santanera owned by someone he knows here in DC, and this bar happened to be located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. He said they'd pay for two tickets and could set us up at someone's condo, and he asked if I'd be down to go ("um, yes please"). His gig would be on Friday December 12th, and he made all the arrangements with the people down there.

This was strange for me, as I'm always the travel planner and arranger...but it was delightful not to worry about it. The only thing I semi-worried about was all the travel I was doing that December: a wedding in Chicago the first weekend, Mexico the next weekend, Philly for Christmas, then departing for Liberia (!) December 28th. It was a bit overwhelming but completely awesome.

So, early that Friday morning we boarded a flight to Cancun, and I listened to a few Spanish lessons I'd downloaded to my iPod (sadly, my knowledge of Spanish is limited to the names of my favorite Mexican foods, beers and tequilas and what little Spanish I picked up while nannying for a little girl who loved Dora the Explorer). Arriving in Cancun, we boarded the bus to Playa where our condo contact, Jay (this blonde Minnesotan who relocated to Playa to take advantage of the growing real estate market), showed us our place which coincidentally had been upgraded due to their mistake in doublebooking our original spot. Stepping into this penthouse condo, my jaw literally dropped to the gorgeous tile floor. It was a lofted penthouse with three bedrooms, three baths, a spacious kitchen and dining room, a jacuzzi, and a freaking ROOFTOP POOL and patio. Whaat???

Dumbfounded as we were, we were also starving, so we walked down the street to find something to eat. We happened upon this cute Argentinian place and got a table for two:

So, here we are, margaritas (con sal) in hand, hanging out in Playa del Carmen, staying at an immaculate condo...I'm slightly suspicious. It went like this: "So, Daniel - 'fess up. How much is your DJ gig actually covering?" Daniel replies, "Um...there is no gig...(yadda yadda yadda)...I brought you down here to ask you to marry me. Should I get down on one knee?" I laugh; I cry; people look at us like we're crazy; and we're engaged! Wahoo!!! We ask our confused server to take our photo and eventually he obliges. Check. It. Out.

As it turns out, Daniel worked with a Brooklyn jewelry designer to design the ring (which is perfect, if you ask me), and he called my Dad the night before we left for Mexico to ask for permission. Apparently, my Dad didn't say anything right away because he was jumping up and down and overcome with emotion...I love my Dad.

So, Daniel didn't have to DJ at all that weekend, so we celebrated, relaxed, hung out on the beach, and celebrated some more. It was an AMAZING weekend, and Daniel was the mastermind behind it all. I am one lucky girl. A few more photos:

Fusion Cafe and Hotel where we spent lots of time:

Makin it official in T minus four months, y'all.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Delicious Lemon Risotto

Yesterday, I dug up one of my favorite springtime/summer recipes to cook for my sister and fiancé: Lemon Risotto. It is light, fresh and delicious...and pretty simple to make. I'm not sure where I found my recipe which I've altered, but there are similar recipes on epicurious.com. I'm partial to mine. Sorry I forgot to take a pretty photo of it! Here 'tis:

5 c. vegetable broth or bouillon

1-1/2 T. EVOO (I'm not a huge Rachel Ray fan, I just really like acronyms)

2 shallots or half of an onion, finely chopped

2-2/3 c. risotto or arborio rice

1/4 c. vermouth or dry white wine

1/2 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)

2 T. parsley, chopped

zest of 2 (washed) lemons

1/2 c. plain nonfat yogurt

salt/pepper to taste

optional: grated parmesan and/or avocado slices to garnish

In a sauté pan, bring broth to simmer. In large pot (or fancy risotto pan thing), sauté shallot/onion in EVOO until softened. Add risotto and stir until grains are coated. Add vermouth/wine and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add lemon juice and ladlefuls of broth, stirring until it is absorbed, so on and so forth until all liquid is added and absorbed. At this point, the grains should be tender, but sometimes I find another splash of wine/vermouth doesn't hurt! Turn off heat, stir in parsley, lemon zest and 1/2 c. yogurt. Garnish with parmesan and/or avocado slices (mmmm), and serve! This should feed 4-6 people.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Good Friend, Etsy



It's no secret that http://www.etsy.com/ is rock-your-socks-off amazing. Since discovering this fantastic online marketplace, etsy has become my go-to place to shop for cool, handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts for the people I love, and it is invaluable when it comes to wedding planning. Even our dog sports some chic collars from an etsy seller in Chicago (shout out to Lucky Fiona!). In the realm of wedding planning, etsy has got you covered. My husband-elect worked with a fantastic Brooklyn designer Nina Dinoff to design my engagement ring. We had our invites designed and printed by an adorable and talented duo Eva Paul in Idaho (they were so great to work with, btw). On the Big Day, I will be rocking a cool hair accoutrement made by the lovely Chelsea at Oh My Deer. I could go on and on, but I will not. Bottom line, definitely check out http://www.etsy.com/; not only will you be showing support for handmade art, you will likely find a unique something-special for you or someone else. And they now have gift guides to help you sift through the awesomeness. Now, go! Check it out!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yup. Love love.

And before I even get any further into wedding schmedding talk, let me just say that I love love. I think everyone in love should have the option of getting married. On that note, I found out about some cool free stickers you can get here: http://act.credoaction.com/stickers/?rc=fb8. Go get one!

Wedding Talk

Because I don't want to bore anyone with minute details of my wedding planning and because there are only T minus 4 months til the wedding date, I will try to not overwhelm this blog with wedding talk. However, our experience so far with planning our wedding has been really fun for us, so I thought I'd share a few things that might be of interest to those who are planning their own weddings. In coming posts, I'll share our engagement story, our wedding philosophy/vision which has guided all of the decisions (some of them difficult) we've made throughout the process, and how we've managed to get through it all (so far) without fighting! That last part might be hard to fathom for those who know us. :)

A general overview though - we're planning an intimate and (hopefully) fun October wedding in D.C., where we live and work. The wedding will actually fall one day before the four-year mark of the day we met in a Dupont Circle lounge, the same lounge where we will also be throwing our Cupcakes and Champagne reception post-wedding! We're excited. Our families are excited. Our friends are excited. Can't go wrong, right? ... Well, let me just say, it's not all fun and games in wedding-planning-land when you're trying to keep the affair small, eco-friendly and affordable, when all sorts of people have opinions about how things are "supposed" to be, and when the Wedding Industrial Complex is tugging you every which way to get you to fuss about matching napkins, favors, stationery, aisle runners, etc. This is where having a shared, clear wedding vision helps you snap out of it, dust your shoulders off, and move forward planning a wedding that reflects who you are as a couple. Stay tuned...

BBQ Season Begins

This past Memorial Day weekend was just as it should be - comprised of late night cocktails on a lush patio, sunny afternoon games of "tennis" (I use that term loosely as we haven't played in years and did not actually keep score so much as simply try our best to return the volley without send the ball flying over the fence and onto 18th street), strolling around Georgetown with no particular shopping objective in mind, an evening BBQ with wine and white lights strung across the deck, and a couple delicious daytime BBQ's with lots of food, little kids, dogs and backyard recreational activities. And to top it all off, the dish I breathlessly threw together before running out the door got rave reviews! Its a perfect summer cookout recipe - delicious, nutritious, easy to make and will feed lots of people, so I thought I'd share. Straight from my Mom's recipe box...

Chinese Noodle Salad

2 small heads of Napa cabbage, chopped
1 bunch of green onions, chopped green parts
1 stick margarine
1/2 c. sliced almonds
3 T sesame seeds
2 pkg ramen noodles, crushed

1 c. sugar
2 T soy sauce
1/4 c. vinegar
3/4 c. oil

Boil sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and oil for 1 min. Remove from stove and let cool. Pour into container w/ tight lid so it can be shaken until well mixed. 

Brown almonds and noodles in margarine, add sesame seeds towards end. Stir while browning. Let cool. 

While sauce and noodle mix are cooling, chop cabbage and onions. Add noodle mix to cabbage and add sauce. Mix well.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oh, Hi

This blog will be a smorgasbord of some of my favorite things which, as of today, are as follows:

- wedding planning (target: October 2009)
- cooking (of the vegetarian variety)
- nesting (with my fiance and our awesome dog)
- living life (under the influence of wine, music, travel adventures, books and friends)

As I have benefited greatly from the musings and stories (and recipes!) of so many cool, crafty and intelligent bloggers, I thought it'd be nice to put a little something out there as well.