Archive for July, 2009

Melabee photographing in Puerto Rico, January 2009We probably won’t do formal introductions at the wedding (no one is invited who doesn’t know us…) I would like to take this opportunity introduce you to my mother, Melabee M. Miller.  An artist, she’s inspired me since I used to borrow her Sharpie pens and draw under her desk in a NYC industrial design firm as a child.

A few quick facts…

She is an architectural photographer who was recently the principal photographer for the book, Can’t Fail Window Treatments. Some of you in New Jersey might have attended her book signing at Barnes & Noble in Springfield.

Her botanical images have found their way onto art cubes and floorcloths. We have an art cube of every color and three floorcloths in our house. I love standing on the one by the sink.  

I bet you are wondering if Melabee is involved in the wedding industry. She recently joined Weddings by Artists,  a group I founded for like-minded artists involved in the wedding industry. Her white cubes would make perfect favors.

She recently started blogging and you can see monthly pictures (replacing her once-bi-monthly calendars). My favorite is the artichoke she is growing in her backyard in a Manhattan suburb – from a seed packet I brought back from Italia!

Keeping with the art theme, my mom and I have collaborated on a number of projects. We created a manuscript of paired photographs and poems that narrate our family’s emigration from the small town of Sala Consilina in southern Italy to New Jersey in the 1800’s. We have published a number of poems and been invited to present the project at a number of academic conferences, but we are still looking for a publisher for the manuscript as a whole. 

She is also the photographer for the personalized wedding poem roses, if you choose to have your poem printed with flowers. Look up to the top of the page to see one of her roses (again, grown in her garden.)

If that isn’t enough, she is also the most helpful MOB (Mother of the Bride) ever. Considering how far away I live, she has had many things to do locally. Tomorrow, she is off to visit with the florist.

Our next adventure? A mother-daughter trip to Santa Fe next week before I start a weeklong residency at the Ghost Ranch through the wonderful organization for women writers, A Room of Her Own. Stay tuned.

Mom and I having drinks before the Sex in the City Premiere in NYC

Thank you for everything, Mamma Mia!

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Truffle making @ Sweetgems (final product)If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know how much I love to cook and search out food-related events. At a recent (free) wine pairing discussion at the gourmet grocery store Morgan and York , I saw a sign announcing that Sweet Gem Confections has truffle making classes. I knew immediately that a class would be in my future.  

Sweet Gem Confections is a chocolate store run by Nancy Biehn, the chief executive chocolatier. She makes the most perfectly paired flavors, from Pear with Pink Peppercorns to Balsamic Vinegar in Milk Chocolate to Deep Dark Ginger with Vanilla. The list goes on and on. I don’t tend to like “fussy” food, but these combinations are delightful. (You don’t have to be in Ann Arbor to try them. You can order online, too.)

Nancy offers classes to groups of four to six. For $70.00, your group will be provided with the finest quality chocolate, learn how to temper chocolate, create ganache centers and decorate your truffles. Wouldn’t that be a fun bridal party gathering? (If I were a bridesmaid, I think that would be a fine thank you instead of the traditional piece of jewelry.) The final chocolates could be great gifts or wedding favors, too.

I quickly emailed everyone I’ve met in Ann Arbor and gathered together a group of people. For two and half hours, we worked together in Nancy’s space inside of Morgan and York and made truffles.

Nancy prepared the ganache fillings the night before (dark chocolate and Grand Marnier) and was melting the untempered dipping chocolate when we entered. The smell was what I imagined when I used to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The class started with a quick lecture on the history of chocolate. Then we turned to working on tempering the chocolate by mixing in a seed – tempered chocolate.

Stirring the chocolate, I wanted to become a tiny fairy and swim in the bowl of warm chocolate.

Nancy patiently showed us how to shape the filling, dip our creative shapes in dark, milk or white chocolate and then decorate them with the various options she spread out before us. There were large grains of blue sugar, little chocolate balls, heart shapes and then a box of transfers. Transfers are mini-sugar tattoos for you chocolates. You press them into your wet truffles, wait for the chocolate to cool and then peel them back. Voila! Your truffle has a beautiful design on top. (I always thought those designs were hand painted. Silly me.) She also had fine colored sugar that we could use to paint onto our truffles to give them a slight iridescent glow (red, silver or gold.) 

When I grow up, I want to be a chocolatier.

Thanks, Nancy!


Truffle making @ Sweetgems (pre-dipped chocolates)Truffle making @ Sweetgems (dipping chocolates)Truffle making @ Sweetgems (decorations)

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Most couples give their groomsmen a small gift of thanks, but buying the gifts is one of those jobs that can slip down and down the wedding planning priority list and then get rushed at the last minute.  It’s also a job that often falls to the groom and let’s face it, a lot of men are not naturally endowed with gift-buying talent.  So here’s a few ideas for groomsmen gifts that won’t break the bank:

1.  Maglite.  Starting at $10, and available in a range of sizes and colours, these anodised aluminium flashlights are waterproof and virtually indestructible.  You can even have them laser engraved – perhaps with your groomsmen’s names and the date of your wedding.  

2.  Bottle of whiskey.   It costs surprisingly little to buy a really good bottle of whiskey.  A decent Scottish single malt can be had for $30, and for $40 you could buy a bottle of Glenfiddich Solera Reserve, widely perceived to be one of the finest whiskeys in the world.  If your groomsmen are no more than 30-35 years old then you should be able to pick up a bottle of whiskey that was made in the same year they were – but you might need to scale down to a miniature if your budget is tight!   

 3.  Cufflinks.  These are a popular choice for groomsmen gifts, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring.  Steampunk make a range of handcrafted cufflinks that start at $40 and will appeal to the inner boy in every man.  Some couples like to give cufflinks to their groomsmen before the ceremony, so they can wear them on the big day.

Mech cufflinks

Author Benjamin Parker is the editor of GroomPower.com, a wedding advice site for grooms.  It offers tips and advice on planning a honeymoon, writing the groom’s speech, and more.

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Heather and her lovely cakeCake artist Heather Anne Leavitt is trained in sculpture at the University of Michigan and her cakes show it. She adds gesture to cakes where most bakers simply add more decoration.

For one wedding, Heather made table centerpieces that looked like the bridesmaid dresses. These centerpieces each had their own individual gesture and personality. Better yet, the guests thought they were delicious! 






Wedding cake centerpieceWedding cake centerpiece 2

Wedding cake centerpiece 3











The insides of Heather’s cakes are just as beautiful as the outside. She works with local vendors. In fact, she even has a relationship with most of her vendors (Calder milk, John Harnois, etc.) In fact, she even made a number of cakes to honor the vendors she loves so much, such as Zingermans, Anatolian Bakery, Roos Coffee Roast. See images of them here.

She became particularly attentive to food when she studied in Florence, Italy at the Lorenzo di Medicii program. There, dinner is an event. You eat what is in season. When she went to the Central Market, she discovered how little she ever knew about taste. She writes on her website: I learned that food was not a subject to be taken lightly, and unless it was fresh, in season, and from a reliable source, it wasn’t worth my while.  When I struggled to maneuver my two overstuffed suitcases through the cobblestones to catch my train to the airport, I took one last fleeting glance at the market and thought, “I’ll always have Florence.” 

She personalizes each cake to the individual customer. She sketches designs, like she did in art school. She believes that you should decorate your cake with as much attention as you would decorate your own home. 

Heather has even been on TV. Recently, she assisted pastry chef Courtney Clark of Cake Nouveau on the Food Network’s Last Cake Standing. They made it through an entire month of challenges (phew!)

Look for Heather at Eve, where she works.

Heather only graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007. I can’t wait to see what she continues to do.


In Michigan and interested in reading more about local Ann Arbor food? Check out this blog (with a fabulous list of related blogs on the left)

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Family reading personal cardsTable settings with individual cardsHillary Dorwart and her groom handwrote a card to every single guest at their wedding. Each individual card addressed something about their individual relationship. Wow! I asked Hillary to share her experiences with us. I think you’ll be as touched as I was to read this story.


A minute to say hello, a card to last forever. How to address everyone at your wedding.

My husband, Jon, and I knew we’d at least be able to say hi to everyone who attended our wedding and anything beyond “Hi, thank you so much for coming. It’s wonderful to see you,” would be icing on the (wedding) cake. But we knew that at some point during our rotation around tables, some guests would be up for another drink or headed for the dance floor. How were we going to tell our guests exactly how much it meant that they traveled in for our special day? We also wanted to convey the message of love, appreciation and perhaps impart a memory or two. 

The writer in me, who appreciates writing and receiving hand-written letters, thought of the perfect way to relay messages to everyone. Why don’t we write all of our guests hand-written cards? Jon and I wrote cards individually or as a couple – depending upon who we were addressing. Friends or family of mine that Jon had never met or did not know as well, were written by me and vice versa. Family or friends we knew equally as well were written together. 

These cards were placed at the tables before the guests entered for the reception. The envelopes addressed the person or couple and in this way they acted as the table’s place cards. The cards also acted as our wedding favor. Many guests said they would keep our note forever. Everyone was just stunned by this gesture!

No one could believe we took that kind of time to write them a personalized message. All in all we had 130 guests attend. It took a few late nights, and a lot of focus – but it was easier than people think. We had a wonderful time reflecting upon memories with our family and friends. Nostalgia, excitement, appreciation and love were felt with each note we started and finished. What a wonderful way to celebrate the people in our lives who supported us and our marriage.

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