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Archive for November, 2009

Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed. Now it is onto Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s Eve. Every year, I find it hard to imagine that time truly moves this quickly.

There are presents to buy, trips to schedule and meals to plan. Oy! It can make the cheeriest person feel like the Grinch. 

That said, with a little planning, it doesn’t need to be too difficult. My friend Shasta Grant, an amazing sewer and writer, blogs on The Lovely Nest about making lists and homemade holiday gifts. I hope you’ll spend a few moments on her blog to check out the coat she made for her toddler son and more. I can only imagine my fingers being nimble enough to make something like that!

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One of the new traditions that my husband and I would like to start is to truly remember the things that we are thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Here is a start… 

I am thankful for my husband and our love.

I am thankful for my parents.

I am thankful for my family, especially my 101 ½ year old aunt.

I am thankful for my friends, especially those Wonderful Women.

I am thankful for poetry, especially the words of Mark Strand who helped me to get started writing in high school.

I am thankful for art, especially Georgia O’Keefe, who I carry with me everywhere.

I am thankful that I am safe.

I am thankful that I am healthy.

I am thankful that I am warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer.

I am thankful that I have enough food.

I am thankful that I have a home.

I am thankful that I have jobs that stimulate my mind.

I am thankful for time to think.

I am thankful for Smith and Sarah Lawrence.

I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel to beautiful places.

I am thankful that I am challenged everyday by things I read, hear and discuss.

I am thankful for the future.

What are you thankful for?

(I am also thankful for the possibility to rest… see you next week!)

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My father is an amazing chef and Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. We usually cook a number of dishes together, from the father-daughter cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries cooked with fresh orange juice and secret flavoring) to the bread stuffing. I love sharing the kitchen with him and learning from each other.

I shy away from the turkey. As a former vegetarian, I still get the willies when I think about touching raw meat. Dad is the one who lifts it into the brine and stuffs it. Last year, I decided I should at least learn how to carve the turkey. (You can see Dad offering advice in the picture.) 

My mother usually makes the “primo” – either a pasta or a soup. This year we’ve decided on homemade pumpkin gnocchi that I made recently and froze. Mom is going to be responsible for a few sides, escarole and candied carrots.

Planning the menu this year, my husband and I are working on forming our own traditions. (While that will probably happen naturally, I am neurotic enough to try to plan them.) He loves ginger and we are integrating it into the yams and pumpkin pie. We aren’t straying too far from my family’s traditions, though. The cranberry sauce and bread stuffing are here to stay.

We have some family recipes and I’ve been reading about others in the Joy of Cooking, Epicurious, and the website hosted by the Ginger People company.

I’m excited to cook, but I’m really excited to eat! Let the feasting begin!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes?

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We are still a bit in love with our florist, Susie from Black Eyed Susie’s . When my mom and I first met her in her small storefront located in River Edge, I knew she was for us.

Filled with energy, creativity, good ideas and best of all, a sense of humor, she immediately understood our “less-weddingy approach to our wedding.” I didn’t want white flowers or roses. I did want colors that matched my currant-red dress, but I wasn’t sure which ones. I needed input from an expert. She pulled out books with flowers and swatches and walked us through the whole thing, all the while taking notes.

After one meeting, Susie crafted a vision that fit our space (very tall ceilings, art deco look) and the color of my gown.

It was important to me to include food, beyond berries, in the floral decorations. My mother grew artichokes over the summer, dried them and Susie used them in my bouquet. Then, Susie used other artichokes in glass bowls and potted herbs in the cocktail hour space. She even sent us a website with the herbs listed so we could choose ones that we liked. I loved that I could be so involved in the process and help to personalize each detail.

Since it was a fall wedding, I had the vague idea of branches and berries. She used curly willow in the ceremony room, and elsewhere, and included even branches in the table centerpieces. We couldn’t decide between the two beautiful samples she created and ended up doing half and half. That’s how good she is.

The Wonderful Women carried orchids that sprayed down against their black dresses. The men had matching boutonnieres and Susie was able to match my dress exactly for my groom’s flower.

Susie gave my mom instructions on how to dry my bouquet and from my mother’s account in distant NJ, it looks great. My mom was also able to return to the venue after the wedding and pick up the flowers that were left behind by the guests. She has been enjoying arranging them at home. I look forward to driving them to our new apartment on the East coast after we move next summer.

I highly recommend Susie to anyone looking to add a creative and natural touch to their setting. Unlike the other florists who gave me quotes very far outside of my budget, she fit our budget, asked questions and responded quickly when we had questions. Simply put, she is an artist who is fun to talk to.

Thank you, Susie.

Susie is a member of The Weddings By Artists Network as is photographer Tony Richards, who took these photographs.

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Isn’t there a saying that laughter is the best medicine? In a very unscientific way, I declare it the truth.

Sometimes we take ourselves entirely too seriously. My husband and I laugh often. We can already laugh about the wedding. Like how long it took us to plan the drinks list. We carefully named some drinks after friends in the wedding party. We discovered – after the wedding – that we’d misspelled the last name of the Chief Wonderful Woman (laughing, but still sorry!) We can laugh at the venue’s bad jokes about putting the “boys” in the bank vault before the wedding. We can laugh that the venue put a waitress in charge of me when the ceremony started. She actually said to me, “I’m in charge of making sure you actually walk down the aisle and don’t run away.” Earlier, we laughed about how our first date was on April Fool’s Day three and a half years ago.

We are even allowed to giggle at the seriousness of this union. Why not? Why not laugh at what is expected of us and what we decide to actually do?  Someone recently told me that when she first moved in with her husband, she couldn’t stand how messy he was. He left his dirty socks all over the apartment. After endless conversations and some fights, she decided to laugh about it. She took out her camera and photographed all the funny places the socks ended up – from the bathroom to the kitchen counter. She and her husband had a hearty laugh about it and then compromised about how to keep their home. 

Gregory Corso’s poem Marriage, which I briefly discuss in yesterday’s post  makes me laugh. You can read the poem here. His second stanza made me giggle in the library chair:

When she introduces me to her parents 
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie, 
should I sit knees together on their 3rd degree sofa 
and not ask Where’s the bathroom? 
How else to feel other than I am, 
often thinking Flash Gordon soap– 
O how terrible it must be for a young man 
seated before a family and the family thinking 
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou! 
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living? 
Should I tell them? Would they like me then? 
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter 
but we’re gaining a son– 
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

We take ourselves so damn seriously, from the courtship to the wedding vows. I think we all know, deep down, that we are in love when we find someone who can make us laugh.

In our vows, my husband and I named things that the other represents for us. It turns out I am his scotch and he is my zucchini flower. We smiled when we said it and some of the guests laughed with surprise. 

In all humor there is some seriousness. Scotch is my husband’s favorite drink and he takes it seriously. I have never turned down a fried zucchini flower, either made by distant relatives in Italy or my mother in New Jersey. We meant what we said.

A writer friend asked me recently why I haven’t written a blog post about what it means to be married. What it feels like on the other side. I think I don’t entirely know yet. We are happy to be married, relieved to no longer be wedding planning and generally just enjoying ourselves. 

This is the life!

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I recently took Bartlett’s Poems for Occasions out of the library. As a writer of occasion poetry, I enjoyed not only the poems, but how they were organized. The sections range from the seasons, to holidays to celebrating to family to life cycles to the human condition. There is even a “Public Moments and Ultimate Matters” section.  My favorite section was “The Unknown and the Unknowable.”

Back to wedding poetry… 

I particularly enjoyed being introduced to beat poet Gregory Corso’s poem “Marriage.” You can read it online here. His poem moves through various emotions: desire, rejection, humor, lost love. I laughed aloud and later read the poem to my husband. Now that we are married, we can more easily laugh at the more humorous aspects of weddings and even marriage itself. (More on that tomorrow.)

You can find a great collection of poems for every occasion at Poets.org. The list ranges from weddings to aliens to birds. You never know what you might need.

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poster for sweetwaters reading nov 09I will be reading at Sweetwaters as a part of the Writers Reading at Sweetwaters series tonight (Tuesday, November 17th) at 7 pm. The room is a bit small, so please arrive early for a seat. Don’t forget to bring work to share at the open mike.

The reading is hosted by the lovely Chris Lord and Esther Hurwitz. Thank you again for the invite!

You are welcome to RSVP on the Facebook Event page (or just check it out to see the other cool people who are coming.)

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