Monday, December 21, 2009

A Very Long Engagement

All right, I think the time has come to tell my absolute FAVORITE story. You see, The Mister and I didn't just have a "meet cute." What we had is more akin to an epic poem. I love to talk about it, because I'm an old school romantic, and this is the kind of story that makes one clutch one's chest and start to believe in fairies again. It's just my kind of story, and I actually lived it.

It started with a hat. This hat, to be exact:
Photo by me. Sorry for the poor quality. I'm just really excited about sending photos instantly from my phone, and thus not as concerned about attractive composition and such-like.

At the Time of the Hat, I was in graduate school, living by myself in a shoebox of an apartment. I was teaching myself to cook, and trying to regain my Fabulous after a tough breakup. One of my very best grad school friends had decided to host a Valentine's Day party, in honor of the visit of a friend, and as an extra bit of whimsy, decided that the dress code for said party should include hats.

I'd met the mysterious, party-worthy, visiting friend the night before. The three of us had gone to The Weary Traveler, one of Madison, Wisconsin's finer bar-like establishments, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was their vast supply of board games. We chose to play The Game of Life (prophetic?), and huddled around our pitcher or three of local brews. I watched as my friend's friend did worse at this game than I even thought possible. He had to borrow more money than there were promissory notes supplied with the game, and we had to keep track on a napkin. It was hilarious, to say the least, and he was exceedingly good-natured about the whole thing.

Over a meat and cheese platter (and another pitcher), I started to examine this amiable stranger. He was adorable. His light-brown hair curled charmingly across his forehead, and his truly bizarre sense of humor kept me grinning throughout the game, and encouraged me to agree to one last ill-advised pitcher of beer. It was February in Wisconsin, however, and any excuse not to brave the snowy walk home was eagerly accepted, especially when urged by such sparklingly handsome eyes.

Whether it was the hair, or the eyes, or the jokes, I don't know, but I immediately ruled this fellow out as a possible romantic interest. Guys like that weren't interested in me. Guys like that wound up with the tiny girls, the brilliant girls, and the edgy girls. I considered myself to be none of these things, but didn't let it get me down, since I achieved a suprising level of comfort with this man, because I knew he was absolutely out of my league. I decided we should be friends, so I just acted like myself, and never even considered seeking anything more.

That is . . .until the next night. The Night of the Hat. We'd gotten along great, and I arrived at the Valentine's Day Party hoping to continue our conversations (but not to drink any more beer, as that third pitcher had pushed me over the edge the night before, from Woo! Good Times! into Whoa . . . not so good times). I donned my blue had, and climbed the stairs to my friend's apartment, ready to partake of some sober, platonic fun . . .

To Be Continued!

Friday, December 18, 2009

How about a nice Leg of Beast?

Sound appetizing? That's what I had for dinner last night. Kinda makes me think about this:

The look on Cindy Lou Who's face conveys perfectly the emotions I was feeling when the enormous hank of meat arrived and settled itself in the center of our table at Incanto Italian Restaurant. Incanto specializes in meat, as would be readily apparent to anyone examining the restaurant's decor, which I might describe as minimalist, with a side of dismembered pig. Pig heads on the walls, wooden pigs holding up mounds of impossibly large fruit, and an eerie painting over the bar featuring people with pig heads or beaks or riding large fish across the sky. I was not disturbed by this emphasis on flesh, though I arrived absurdly early, and had ample time to examine this painting while downing two glasses of excellent wine and nibbling on house-cured olives. You see, I knew what I was getting into. I was there for the meat, and I was not disappointed.

Leg of Beast requires a week's advance notice, and at least six of your closest friends to come along for the ride. We were a group of ten meat-lovers, ready to consume every part of the animal. In addition to the entire beef shank that was the centerpiece of the meal, we were treated to our choice of an array of appetizers (Mine had snails, The Man's featured cod milt -look it up; you'll be disturbed.), and half a marrow bone apiece. I've had marrow twice now, and it's absolutely my new favorite thing, ever. Check this out:

Seriously, scoop a little of that goodness out, spread it on one of those toasts, sprinkle a little sea salt on top, pop it in your mouth, and then . . . .don't talk for awhile. Don't think. Close your eyes if you like. Just appreciate your senses being flooded with the intense pleasure of the moment. If you're not too busy enjoying, try to remember to chew with your mouth closed. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Now, I know marrow is not for everyone. Nor are large shanks of meat, served with tendons and skin, preceded by polenta snails. The Man, for example, can't really handle marrow, but that is definitely a "more for me" kind of situation, so I'm cool with us having our differences.

I'm not really a gourmand, or a gastronome, or even really a foodie, if it comes to that. I love food, especially good food, and I love to cook, but what I would really honestly call myself is a food adventurer. I'm like Indiana Jones, except I would have totally dug into those monkey brains.

When I go out to eat, I look for the weirdest thing on the menu. I like cooking crazy things that require days of work, and lighting things on fire (ask my mom about the Crepes Suzette Incident of '99). I get all aquiver at the thought of octopus. The Man is the same way, and for that reason, we not only get along great, whenever we eat out, it's an EVENT.

Our wedding, therefore, if it is to be true to us, will be an extravaganza of exotic foodstuffs. We've chosen to hold our reception in a Scandinavian restaurant in my native Madison, WI called Restaurant Magnus, and from the daily specials it tells me about on Facebook, it will not disappoint. The menu changes seasonally, so I can't be sure what exactly they'll be offering once it comes time to set our menu, but the current private dining menu features such delectables as "Caraway Seared Venison and Venison Carpaccio" and "Cinnamon Smoked Lamp Chops" (served with pickled lamb tongue.)

For The Man and I, this is heaven. It couldn't possibly be better. However, our guest list contains a whole slew of folks whom we love dearly, and to whom pickled lamb tongue might just be grounds for a full-on freakout, or at least making it an early night with a fast food stop on the way home.

Case in point: one of my best friends from high school traveled Europe with me the year we were both going abroad for school. We had one huge fight, in Venice, because she wanted to go to Burger King for lunch, and I flat out refused. I was in Italy, and I wanted to eat the most Italian thing possible. She was tired, and just wanted to be able to identify her meal for once. We split up. I ate at a little cafeteria where the busboy sang to me every time he walked past. It was a good decision, and we met up later to feed pigeons and see some opera. Everyone was happy.

This marvelous friend will be a guest at my wedding, along with my grandmother, my parents' friends, The Man's boss, and a small delegation of vegetarians. Much as I would love to spread the gospel of Exotic Meats, I also really want these people to enjoy themselves at my reception, which I imagine they will not if they are faced with "Smoked Gouda-Egg Flan."

So, okay, no problem, you say. Just pick one entree for the veggies, throw in the one relatively innocuous chicken dish for the conservative eaters, and go nuts with the rest of the menu. With three entree slots on our RSVP cards, however, that only leaves us with one opportunity to go for a culinary explosion, and how on earth am I supposed to choose between "Cocoa Nib Cured Pork Tenderloin" and "Herb-Salt Roasted Beef Striploin with Bone Marrow Butter Pate?"

Our wedding should be an expression of us, I feel, but also a gesture of appreciation to the community of people we love and want to share in our happiness. How does one balance one's passions with respect for one's guests?

It's a difficult question, and one I'll be pondering quite a bit in the next few months.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Regrets . . . .?

One of the first things I wanted to do once The Man and I became engaged was create a wedding website. I'm not sure why, since our various wedding checklists (I had to buy several wedding planners purely for the joy of additional checklists) say we don't have to officially tell the internet about our engagement until next month, and I RARELY deviate from a checklist. Man, do I love checklists. My passion for checklists nearly led me into a career as a theatrical stage manager, until I figured out that checklists were the only part of that line of work that I liked.

Perhaps what led me to push the wedsite right away was my desire to do something. The heady bliss of just being engaged gave way after, oh, five minutes to the heady terror of "Holy smoke! When? How? Where? With what?" Concrete progress was necessary to ward off the insanity, and the wedsite was a natural choice to begin the planning process in that I already knew exactly what option I wanted to host our virtual wedded bliss: Offbeat Bride. That's right, I may not be cool enough to have an Offbeat (you bet that's capitalized!) wedding, but I can still hang with the cool girls virtually, and OBB's newly-forged parnership with Nearlyweds afforded me the perfect opportunity to get my e-pose on. (Yes, that's also right, I knew where I wanted to host our wedding website before we were engaged. I also had my shoes picked out. It's how I roll.)

(I should note that, while I say "I" and "me" an awful lot, The Man is really very heavily involved in all things wedding. I've got another post percolating on the issue of "MY" day vs. "OUR" day, but I'm trying to stay on task here, so it'll have to wait.)

We even had some charming engagement-like photos to personalize the site, left over from a photo shoot with a generous friend (I needed headshots for my other abandoned theater career as an actress), so once we located the hippest (but still grandmother-approved) template in our wedding colors, my $50 for two years was extracted from the wedding fund faster than you can say, "Wait, we have a wedding fund?"

Here it is, with added raindrops for that classy taste of anonymity:

Neat-O, yes? And yes, it does say, "Oh, man! We're getting married!" If you look closely, below that it says "Flibbity Floo!" I was excited that day.

$50 for two years seemed more than reasonable for one as technologically dense as myself, and it seemed, at first glance to have everything we could possibly need: A registry page, RSVPs, a page for the wedding party, even things I'd never thought about, like a map of the places we'd traveled together. Fun!

Getting down to the nitty gritty of wedding planning, however, has led me to have some doubts about our beautiful wedsite. To be brief, it is not respecting my perfectly healthy desire for TOTAL CONTROL. I'll illuminate next time, and for now will just leave you with the hip silhouettes of our achingly vintage-style wedsite flowers. So cool.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Testing the Waters . . .

So, I wasn't sure I wanted to do this. I love wedding blogs. LOVE them. Ever since the day I brought home a stack of wedding magazines from Borders, only to find them bland, stale, and monochromatic, I knew that the plethora of blogs being produced by hundreds (thousands?) of tapping, be-ringed fingers were about to collectively become my best friend.

I started with Offbeat Bride, and it's still one of my favorites. However, its one or two posts per day were not enough to assuage my growing hunger for all things wedding. Plus, much as I would love to burst into my wedding ceremony riding a pony made of legos, wearing the gigantic purple dress of my youthful princess dreams . . . .I'm just not that cool. I needed to strike a balance between bland magazine weddings and Offbeat pyrotechnics in order to find practical inspiration for my own big day, so I searched onward.

I located Green Wedding Shoes. Ah, such loveliness. Beautiful people having a beautiful time at their astonishingly beautiful weddings, which were classic with just the right amount of quirk. GWS led me to Style Me Pretty, whose gushing exuberance won me over immediately (although one does begin to wonder how EVERY SINGLE BRIDE can possibly be the most beautiful bride this blog has ever seen). These blogs offered some serious inspiration and eye candy, but made me look with increasing despair at my own meager working-girl wedding budget, when faced with all that lavish Vera Wang-y, Christian Louboutin-ish style.

A Practical Wedding came to the rescue, snapping me back to reality, and reassuring me that my wedding would be perfectly awesome without going into outrageous debt, and my Google Reader started to fill up to a level of satisfying, balanced, coziness.

That is, until the planning began in earnest. I wrote long e-mails to my bridesmaids, and talked my poor mother's ear off, forcing her to stay on the phone for longer and longer, even when I could actually hear her eyes rolling back into her head, and her tongue grow heavy with sleepiness.

You know when you're boring your own mother that it's time to get some help.

That help came in the form of Wedding Bee. This lovely site provides around 20 posts per day of real-life, practical experiences of brides who blog their wedding planning experiences from start to finish, and even a bit beyond. I quickly became addicted, and started to follow the threads of individual bees' stories, and appreciating each one's unique style and voice.

The weaving together of all these threads in the quilt of my trusty Google Reader led me, one day, to consider whether or not there might be a place in this glorious wedding fabric for a thread of my own. My story, perhaps, could be one worth telling, my voice might be one worth hearing, and my process one worth recording. Plus, the Wedding Bee icons are just too adorable for words, and the desire to make one of them my own is completely irresistable.

Becoming a Bee, though, required 4 posts or so per week, which sounded like an arduous blogging pace at first, until I set about listing all of the blog post topics I had bouncing around in my head . . . and came up with 30, just off the top of my head.

Clearly, I have some things to get off my chest.

So here we go! It's a record of my journey from Miss (or, I guess Ms., since that's what I tend to use) to Mrs.. Here's hoping it provides some inspiration for others, as well as a much-needed outlet for myself. Huzzah!