Archives for posts with tag: traditions

It is currently pouring outside my house. We’ve got severe thunderstorms forecast all day. And I’m supposed to go do laundry this afternoon… we’ll see what the weather has to say about that…I just saw a flash of lighting and heard a crash of thunder within 2 seconds of each other, so I’m staying inside for a bit.

Jarak and I have a deep commitment to local/sustainable food and businesses. We try to shop locally whenever possible, and to avoid big chain and box stores for most of our groceries. We’re part of a CSA from The Alleged Farm. If you ever hear me talk about “Grumpy Farmer” that’s who I’m referring to. He sends out grumpy and sometimes political missives about what’s happening on the farm, and is often quite funny. We also go to the Schenectady Greenmarket every week, which is open year-round, and get our milk, eggs, most of our meat,  and some veggies there when our CSA ends and before it begins in the spring.

Smith/Cyd Pottery made our goblets for the reception. We decided that we wanted something extra-fancy to drink out of, and since “His and her’s”  Champagne flutes are so not our style. (We aren’t even having champagne.) We decided to ask a local potter to make them for us. They’re entirely custom and they’re beautiful! My camera is currently dead, or I’d take photos.

I got an email just now from Buhrmaster Farm stating that, after talking to some other farmers and seeing what they’d have available, they will be able to provide flowers for the wedding! There was some question as to whether they’d be able to have cut flowers in time for June 22, but they will! Yay! This is the great thing about local: if you want something, ask, and they will really work hard to get you what you need. My aunt agreed to help with the flowers, and we’ll sit down the night before and make my wreath, the bouquets and the boutonnieres for the boys. Yay!

The honey for our mead, which we are using instead of champagne for toasts came from Lloyd Spear, Beekeeper, who’s based in Schenectady. We are friends with one of his workers and often go visit her at the Greenmarket on Sundays.

We’ve brewed (almost) all of the beer for the wedding, using mostly local grains from NY and Mass. Almost all of the grain came from ValleyMalt in Hadley MA. They are super amazing. Jarak’s uncle is providing another case. Our wines will come from LaBelle Winery in Amherst, NH, where I was born, and Altamont Winery  in Altamont, NY, which is about 30 min from here.

We are borrowing a bunch of beautiful, mismatched yardsale plates from a family friend, and then supplementing them with other plates found at estate and yard sales. We’re borrowing silverware used in my friend’s wedding, and linens used either by them, or by their friends for their wedding. Lots of borrowed/reused things. The only thing that is being bought new is the glassware, which will be sold after Logan and Mariana’s wedding in September. Pooling resources is a wonderful thing!

All of our food is being supplied by friends and family, which saved us thousands of dollars in catering fees, and means that every dish will have a connection to us in some way, being that it was made by people we love.

I’m so completely excited about this!

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Tomorrow will be my last Thanksgiving as a “single” woman. Next year at this time I will have been married for almost 6 months. It boggles my mind a bit. Our save-the-dates came in, correctly done this time. Hooray! And I picked up my cousin’s bridesmaid’s dress for her brother’s (my cousin’s) wedding. The dress is in NY, she’s living back in PA, but we’re going to Thanksgiving at my grandfathers/father’s place in CT. So it’ll all work out. Remember the “3 weddings in 6 months, one of them mine” thing from a few weeks back. One of the weddings is my cousin’s in March.
I’m making apple and pumpkin pie to bring for tomorrow, and oatmeal-raisin-chocolate-chip cookies for Friday’s fest.  I made pie crust on Monday night, and did my annual search through all of the recipe books to find the one that doesn’t use shortening/lard. ( The only time I’d ever use shortening is pie crusts, but once a year. It’s not worth if to keep in the house.) I always look through at least two before remembering it’s in Moosewood. My pumpkin pie recipe is from Horn of the Moon, and the photocopy that I have has “The Best” written on it. When I was younger, my mother and I would look through cookbooks trying to remember what recipe we liked the best. We finally remembered to just write it on the recipe. I unfortunately slightly scorched the top, but it’ll be yummy anyway.

I accidentally bought too many apples. I’m used to needing at least 10, but the apples I got are GINORMOUS. I have no idea what the farm adds to its soil, but both their apples and their sweet potatoes are huge. I’m guessing it’s just floodplain.

I’ve been hanging out in my house alone this evening. No siblings, no fiance, and hardest of all: no Mom. After my parents split up, making pies with my mother for Thanksgiving stopped. (We did thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family, and then immediate family only for Christmas. It’s a big family thing on my dad’s side, and it’s important to see them, so Jarak and I go to that, and then do Christmas with his family.) One of my favorite memories from growing up was having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from school and spending the day in the kitchen with my mother making pie. My share of responsibility has grown from simply peeling apples and mixing pumpkin pie filling to completing whole pies on my own, with minimal assistance from her, to now making them entirely on my own, including making my own pie crust. And it’s a social thing, hanging out in the kitchen working.  When my brothers were both on this coast, they’d come to my house on Wednesday and we’d make pies together.  So it just feels strange and wrong to be doing it all by myself today.

I appear to have taken the collective baked yumminess of my parents, and what they have traditionally brought to big family/community functions and adopted it. I bring pie on Thanksgiving now that my mother no longer comes to Thanksgiving, and I bring bread to Easter, now that my father no longer comes to Easter. It’s my mother’s pie, and my father’s bread, and in some ways doing it this way means that I maintain my family connections even when they’re not there.
Tomorrow we pack up the car and drive the 2.5 hours to just outside Hartford with pies, cookies, homebrew, local beer and local whiskey (Yay Coalyard!) This year the cousins seem to have scattered to the four corners of the earth. My two brothers in Colorado and LA, with girlfriend’s family and son, and girlfriend’s family respectively,  a cousin in Maryland with his fiance, and a cousin in Geneva Switzerland with her boyfriend. We will have one child from each family with the parents this year. Yup… we’re grownups.

It’s been a hell of a week. No, literally, hell. I’m on call at work, which means that I can’t ever relax completely on my “off” hours. I always have to have my damn work phone with me. Add that to the fact that I’m seriously overworked and underpaid, and my bosses don’t appear to care, and it’s been a very rough week. Like coming home, throwing my keys on the table and pronouncing “I hate everything” and then throwing myself on the bed. Apparently I turn into a four year old when I’m tired and stressed out. Fortunately, my on-call week ends at 8am tomorrow morning.

Jarak, fortunately, has been wonderful. I’ve been careful to let him know that I’m not mad a him, I’m mad about work. And he’s been taking care of me. I’m super lucky to have him, and he has made things better. He took yesterday off of work, and we spent the whole day together. It wasn’t some grand trip or event, it was just puttering around the house, running errands, lunch at the Indian grocery, and then making dinner and bottling the stout we brewed at the end of August. (It fermented for something like 73 days. It’s nuts) Having a full day with him was wonderful.

On a different note, we’ve been doing lots of wedding-y stuff. It’s going slowly…We’re working on our website (by we, I mean Jarak built the thing, and comes to me for design approval on things. He’s awesome and creative like that.) We ordered our save-the-date magnets from a local printer who neglected to proof them beforehand, and our 3.5×4″ magnets were rotated 90*, so our photos were squished. Jarak grumped at them mightily about that, and they’re reprinting them for free, but still… argh! It took UPS 3 tries to deliver our box of envelopes because the driver rings the doorbell and then leaves… We have purple envelopes! And they’re local and recycled paper! Yay!

I’m trying not to compare our wedding to anyone else’s. What I know is right for us, and fits our budget/style/personalities is in some ways totally different than what is expected by people for a wedding. My cousin is getting married in March, and our good friends have invited us to be in their wedding next September. There will be huge differences in style, budget and aesthetic among all 3 weddings.

Other than the fact that we’re doing this on a (relative) shoestring, the main difference is how much we are doing ourselves, or are asking for help from friends and family. We have made our mead, will be brewing 2-3 batches of beer, and I will likely make some sort of yummy for the reception. Both of our families are full of amazing cooks who we are asking to help provide food. My college roommate who is a fantastic pastry chef is making the cake.  My mother is altering my dress. Our friend who used to be in a band is providing our PA system. We are focusing a lot on local businesses for things that we can’t make or do ourselves.  Our rings will likely be made locally (I have yet to find a pre-made ring that’s exactly to my liking.), our flowers will be from a local farm, the wine will be from a local winery, and perhaps best of all, Nick and Britin Foster of All Good Bakers have agreed to provide sticky buns for the morning of the wedding. These are all things that we believe strongly are important. And we are so blessed to have so many amazing people who are willing to help us out and make our day an awesome success.

Neither of us are particularly religious, and as such we are getting married outside with a friend doing the ceremony. Our siblings and my Bestest Friend Ever are standing up for us, and are standing up by family, instead of by gender. We will likely have an uneven number of attendants. Jarak and the boys will not be wearing suits. (Seriously, outdoors in late June? Shirts and ties are fine.)We will not be having champagne. All of these are things that we’ve been questioned/challenged on already. Fortunately, the questioners have graciously accepted our explanations.

Still, it’s hard to not slip into the mode of “oh, she’s getting/doing that? why can’t I do that?” Or “I wish I could afford that.” Even if it’s not something I want or need! Stupid wedding industrial complex and the cultural expectations that are wrapped up around weddings. Defending our choices is easy now, but I worry that I’m going to be sick of defending and explaining them come June when someone decides that I “have” to do something or we “must” buy this thing.

On a related note: in light of the “something old something new” rhyme, I’ve gotten it into my head that I’d like to borrow a sapphire/lapis necklace from someone. It feels rather silly and minor, but I think it would be a neat way to roll the last two parts of the poem into one. My engagement ring is my something old something new. The amethyst was in a necklace that my father gave me when I was 12.

I hate wedding planning. Or rather, I’d like it a whole lot more if I had more money. Weddings involve lots of Things and Things cost money. We’re broke. Not poor, but broke, as in “If we didn’t pay 1/3 of our incomes to student loans we’d be great.” I’d also like it a lot better if stupid Facebook didn’t bombard me with stupid ads down the side of the page about getting married and “the white dress diet” and shoes and ack!

I keep picking up wedding magazines, hoping that they’ll tell me something interesting or new or doable, and then I put them back. I don’t need to spend $5.99 on a magazine that is trying to sell me a vision of my wedding that is totally different from the one that I already have. This is what happens when you have two artist types designing a wedding. We already know what we like, and just because this season’s hottest color is pink, doesn’t mean we’re going to have anything to do with it. I bought one, a Martha Stewart one with neat hair ideas and some cool favor ideas. All of the others stay on the rack.

That being said, I’m a girl, and I’ve been envisioning my wedding since I was about 10. I clearly remember having a conversation with one of my 5th grade friends about what we wanted our weddings to look like and I said I wanted a purple dress. She informed me that I couldn’t have a purple dress unless it was an evening wedding. May I remind you, we were 10?

My parents got married outdoors at my grandparents’ house in rural coastal Maine. It was simple and beautiful. I’ve always kind of wanted to recreate that. However, my father has sold his house, and Jarak’s parents’ back yard is half swamp when it rains, so backyard wedding was right out. And this is where we ran headlong into the Wedding Industrial Complex. Searching for reception venues kept bringing up big banquet halls, plated dinners, and lots of fancy, expensive stuff. We didn’t want any of that.

My dreams for the wedding:

outside
lots of flowers
purple things (dresses, flowers, etc.)
good food and drink, maybe potluck
dance party!

Jarak’s requirements:

not too hot
open bar
as little money as possible

These did not connect very well at first. We agreed on open bar and outside, but otherwise? We were on two separate planets. I’ve been to a lot of weddings. Jarak has been to three or four, and two of them were with me. We had to be on the same page before we could even begin planning. We had a number of very grumpy conversations about money and not spending it frivolously, and whatnot. We started the budgeting process with the question of “What is reasonable/ what are we comfortable spending on this.”Getting on the same page in terms of the language that we were using was really important.

We finally realized that we needed to ask for help. We suck at asking for help. We don’t like to impose on anyone. But once we started to ask, it became clear that people would love to be part of our wedding and to help us out. One of my aunts was overjoyed when I asked her to help with the flowers. We’re bartering for things, we’re making things, and we’re learning to ask for help.

A big issue of contention was my dress. It seems like madness, when you have very little money, to spend upwards of $200 on a dress that you will wear once, for 10 hours at most. We had our biggest fight over the damn dress. At first my mother was going to make it, and it was going to be silk, and all handmade and beautiful. I wanted a princess dress, with a corset bodice, full skirt, sweetheart neckline and straps. All white, mostly plain, not a whole lot of sparkle and certainly no ruching. My mother and I went out to go try on dresses so that she could see what looks good on me, and what I like. We went to a big boutique and I was feeling fat and yucky and grumpy about shopping. I tried on about 20 dresses, and decided none of them were good enough,(bling! ruching! pickups! Lace! Ivory! ugh!) which annoyed the heck out of the consultant. After an hour, we gave up and went home. We stopped to get coffee for me, tea for mom, and to split a really good raspberry chocolate cheesecake. It was the perfect palate cleanser.

And then we found my dress. We went to a little secondhand store in Milford NH called I Do, Again. It’s this tiny boutique with used, bought-and-never-worn, and store samples of wedding, prom and other formal dresses. The woman who ran the store was in the middle of packing it up to move into a bigger space. I tried on a few dresses, which headed in the right direction, and then pulled on an Ivory (!) strapless (!) dress with a lace(!) and beaded(!) overlay on the bodice. It laces up the back corset style, and it fits absolutely beautifully. It’s polyester, not silk, and has a hideous pink waistband. I almost said no. However, when the shop owner found a purple scarf from one of the other dresses in the shop, tied it around my waist and stepped back, I started to cry. Seriously, me, the “I hate shopping, and most girly stuff annoys me” girl, cried when the purple sash went around my waist. It was perfect. And it was under $120. I totally had one of those “Say yes to the dress” moments, and I wanted to smack myself, because I don’t do stuff like this! So my mom and I are going to alter the dress to make it perfect. We’re removing the pink waistband and will add a purple one, we’re taking in the top of the bodice and making the straight neckline a sweetheart and adding a halter strap because I hate strapless dresses, but it will be beautiful. And now I can worry about other things, like finding compostable wine glasses, designing our save the dates and invites, sewing Jarak’s vest, and… and.. and…

I’m realizing that the reason I don’t like any of the wedding magazines is because they’re for people who don’t have their dresses, who don’t know what they want their flowers to look like, who don’t know what the invites and save the dates should be etc. Wedding magazines are not designed for artists. I’m marrying and artist, I am an artist, and it is awesome. And we’re going to look spiffy!

Before I launch into my thoughts on traditions new and old, I’ve finally figured out a replacement nickname for “The Boy” (rejected because it made me sound kind of creepy apparently) He is henceforth “Jarak” after a character from the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Stephen Erikson. If he’s any character ever, he’s Jarak. In the same vein, I’ve found a suitable pseudonym: “Seren“, another character in the series.

One of the things that I’ve noticed a lot while reading A Practical Wedding is the importance of creating new traditions while holding on to the ones that are important to you.

In my family I’m kind of the tradition-keeper, the one who gets grumpy if we don’t do certain things for special occasions. The biggest traditions are around Christmas: the angel in the tree, the silver and gold wire garlands, marking off the days on the felt advent calendar that my aunt made for us, etc.  Between the ages of 3 and 25, we did Christmas at home, just the 5 of us. There are traditions and orders of events around stockings, and food and all sorts of things, that even after my parents split up, I tried to keep going. I hosted Christmas two years running at my apartment in Boston. It was central to everyone, with my middle brother in NYC and my youngest brother home for break at my dad’s house in NH, and my mom in a constant state of flux and moving every 6 months.

The first year was the hardest. I was trying to make everyone happy and trying to accommodate everyone that I ended up snapping at my brothers and being awful. I also had a major breakdown and spent the next 2 weeks recovering emotionally from it.  The second year was slightly less hard, but I vowed never to do it again. My mom said at one point during dinner “maybe this is the last time we do this” and she was right. Too much emotional baggage. I had to accept that my Christmases and by extension my family were never going to be the same and move on. It was after that second Christmas at my apartment that Jarak invited me to come to his family’s Christmas the next year. We had been together for all of 6 months at that point, but I said yes.

So last year I had Christmas without any of my immediate family, only my “adopted” family. (I think I’ve said that I’ve been part of this family for 10 years, because anyone who spends enough time around Collegiate Best Friend or any of the other siblings in this family, and you get adopted by Mom. So she’s been my second mom for 10 years, I’m practically family anyway.) They do family Christmas the day before driving down to York,PA to spend time with her family of origin. It was interesting to watch what another family has in terms of traditions. Theirs are calendars and ornaments for everyone, at least one toy, and at least one gag gift. I got a matchbox car Crown Vic taxi that said “Jarak’s Taxi Service” on it, because I didn’t have my car at that point.  I felt so welcomed and so loved it was amazing. And then we piled into the cars the next morning and drove 6 hours down to York to do Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas there with their big family. It was lovely. Overwhelming, but lovely. I discovered the joy of Red Beet Eggs.  We went to midnight service at the Lutheran Church that much of the family attends for Christmas Eve service with candles and carols. I was not prepared for Big Lutheran Service, coming from a combination New England Congregational and godless heathen background. Much more pomp and glitter than I’m used to in a Christmas eve service, but I got to hear Jarak sing for the first time and couldn’t stop giggling because his voice is so low it vibrates the church pews. The next morning,  I called my brothers and my parents and talked to them, which was a bit surreal, to not see them on Christmas. There was only one thing missing from my Christmas last year: Stockings.

Stockings are a big deal in my family. I don’t know if it’s the New England in us, or the British heritage, or what, but they’re a Big Deal. There are things that are always in stockings in my family: an orange or clementine, a chocolate orange (Whack and unwrap!) pens/pencils/art supplies, smoked fish or oysters in a can, some sort of toy and fantastically useful socks. A mix of useful and goofy usually. I realized last year that I really missed having a stocking. So I decided that this year I would make sure I got my stocking. I procured chocolate oranges before I moved because I didn’t know if I could get them out here. Three days before Christmas I spent far too much money on stocking stuffers for myself and Jarak, but I had so much fun getting them. The notable, very “us” addition to this year’s stockings? Punching pens. The pens with the little character that has two levers on the back to make the arms work. He got Santa, I got a Snowman. (Me bopping Jarak in the nose with a Gorilla punching pen after getting it with Skee-Ball tickets was the first big flirty thing I did that let him know I liked him.) I even bought him a stocking. It’s black. 😀 My hope is that we can continue this and have our own little Christmas tradition before going and re-joining the craziness that is his grandmother’s house on Christmas.

The other family tradition that I’ve pulled him into is going to Sheepdog Hill for Easter and then jumping in the ocean. When you can convince someone to jump into the North Atlantic in April, you know it’s love.

I got to be part of his family’s New Year’s day dinner of pork roast and sauerkraut. His dad does Big Meals and is an excellent cook. I certainly can’t complain.

We’ve also created our own traditions around gifts and birthdays. For Christmas we seem to have gotten into a pattern of giving each other something that the other really wants, but won’t spend the money on themselves. He got me a car adapter for my iPod, and I gave  him a book on Sacred and Healing Beers, which he has been tearing through since he got it.  We’d rather go somewhere together and eat a fantastic meal or have delicious beer or have an adventure for our birthdays and anniversary than give a gift that we then have to store. Two years ago we went to Burlington VT for a brewery tour for my birthday/valentine’s day. We’re talking Lake Placid this year.

What new traditions have you adopted/created?