Saturday, February 28, 2009

I've hit a planning wall

The good news first: thanks to my dad's awesome musician-booking skillz, we have now booked almost all of our wedding vendors!

Now the bad news: I'm kind of bored with wedding planning. My married friends tell me this is actually a good sign, that it means I've taken care of things and I'm ready to go. But I'm not sure that's true. Here are the things I haven't done yet.
* Signed a rental contract for plates/glasses/etc. so the caterers actually have, you know, something to serve their food on.
* Figured out where we're ordering the alcohol.
* Chosen a first dance song, or thought at all about what we're going to ask the DJ to play.
* Booked a block of hotel rooms for our guests.
* Figured out what to do about bridesmaids' gifts.
* Picked the actual music we want the musicians to play at the ceremony.
* Chosen ceremony readings.
* Found wedding shoes.
* Figured out where I'm going to get my hair and makeup done.

With just under 5 months left to go, I know there's plenty of time to get all that stuff done. What worries me is that I have no desire to do any of it. I'm sure at some point I'll be more motivated, but ... I'm sort of over the wedding right now, in part because there's so much else going on in our lives. Econo Boy got an academic job starting next fall, and we're trying to figure out how to maintain 2 apartments affordably so I can finish my own grad degree ASAP and join him permanently next summer. We're also switching phone plans, we just had our piano tuned, and I'm on this weird seafood cooking spree. Suddenly, looking up yet another recipe for shrimp scampi on seems like way more fun than doing yet another search for "colorful pink bridal bouquet" on Google images.

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Have any of the rest of you ever hit a planning wall? Did it come back to bite you, or did you get past it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our Valentine's Wine: Mark West Pinot Noir

OK, I know I said last week that Pinot Noirs are not my favorite. The thing is, they *are* Econo Boy's favorite. Also, I had grand plans to try out the rack of lamb recipe from Ted Allen's wonderful cookbook The Food You Want to Eat, and Dorothy and John from the WSJ Tastings column always suggest Pinot with lamb.

So that's how we ended up opening a bottle of Mark West 2007 Pinot Noir on Valentine's night.

Image from

As I sipped it before dinner, it was almost aggressively fruity, but it didn't have the overpowering oak, vanilla, or sugar that ruins a fruity wine for me. It was a fun, interesting wine to drink on its own. But when combined with the rack of lamb (which, by the way, was amazing -- possibly my greatest-ever culinary success), it rose to new heights. The strong fruit of the Pinot complimented the lamb beautifully, and the lamb brought out the earthiness of the Pinot that got lost amidst the fruit when it was sipped alone.

When I Googled "Mark West Pinot Noir" to find the label, by the way, I discovered that the company's slogan is "Pinot for the People," and their aim is to make good Pinot Noirs that sell for affordable prices. (In fact, it appears that they only bottle 2 varietals, Pinot and Chardonnay.) At $10 a bottle, I will definitely be buying this wine again. Perhaps it's not too late to turn me into a Pinot Noir fan after all.

Friday, February 13, 2009

On favors

My feelings about wedding favors have gone through several stages.

Stage 1. What's a wedding favor?
Stage 2. You mean that smelly sandalwood fan I got at C's wedding was a "favor"?
Stage 3. Oh, these coasters/personalized glasses/CD favors from my friends' weddings are fun!
Stage 4. Crap, I can't think of anything good to give as a favor. I guess we'll skip it.
Stage 5. What do you mean, favors are required to "thank your guests for coming to your wedding?"
Stage 6. What do you mean, these crummy plastic thingys are $2 apiece?
Stage 7. Grrr ....

A tiny silver bell with a hugging couple on top! Just what I've always wanted!
Image from, and apologies to anyone who gave these out as their favors.

I think what has me so grumpy about favors these days is the emotional blackmail that goes along with them. The rationale behind giving favors is that it's a way to "thank your guests for attending." That's a nice sentiment, I guess, but the implied flip side is, "if you don't give favors, you are a bad hostess, you're not properly appreciating the presence of your friends and family, and your guests will feel unwelcome and unloved."

And that really rubs me the wrong way. I've been to weddings with favors and weddings without, and at the ones that didn't have favors, I never ONCE left the reception thinking, "gee, they must not be glad I came, they didn't give me a present." If you throw a great party and visit with all of your guests, they will feel welcome and appreciated even if they don't go home with a bag of color-coordinated M&Ms. Plus, the majority of wedding favors are just going to gather dust or go in the trash -- don't let the dreaded Wedding Industrial Complex guilt you into sending a pile of ugly plastic swans to the local landfill under the mistaken notion that said swans are the only way you can possibly let Great-Aunt Phyllis know how happy you were that she came.

That said, I've gotten some pretty cool favors that I've kept and still use (the aforementioned coasters, CD, and pilsner glasses), and if you run across something you love and can't resist giving to your guests, favors can definitely be a cute and festive addition to the celebration. But if inspiration fails to strike and your budget is stretched to the max, I don't think it's necessary to tear your hair out looking for the perfect geegaw to say "thank you" to your guests. Instead, why not just hug all of them and say "thank you" in person? That will never end up gathering dust in someone's drawer!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Merlot and Pinot Noir

It may shock you to learn that there are some wines I don't like. For starters, I've never been able to get excited about Merlot -- I think they're too sweet, too thick, and generally kind of undistinguished. From what I understand, Merlot used to be an undiscovered gem, but then it got popular and wineries started making tons of Merlots that weren't very good and by 2000 or so the quality had become so diluted that it was no longer a good bet. I understand that the more expensive ones can still be very good indeed, but I'm not about to drop $50 on a Merlot when I could have a Cab or Zinfandel instead.

Whenever I say that I don't like Merlot, the person I say it to usually nods knowingly and asks if I've seen "Sideways." For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, "Sideways" is a funny little independent comedy released in 2004 that chronicles the wine-tasting adventures of Miles, a wine snob who hates, hates, HATES Merlot. Apparently Miles's passionate ranting against Merlot sent Merlot sales plummeting; I recently read a book by a former service captain at the New York 4-star restaurant Per Se, and she mentioned that after "Sideways" they had to exile Merlot from their wine list entirely because the clientele wouldn't order it any more!

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I feel safe in denying that my dislike for Merlot is Miles-influenced. For one thing, I like the movie, but I hate Miles. Even though he's imaginary, if I liked Merlots even a little bit I think I'd drink them just to spite this whiny, lying, schlumpy man-child.

Also, while I may agree with Miles about Merlot, I've failed to develop a taste for Miles's favorite varietal: Pinot Noir. Pinots are usually described as "light reds," and they are supposed to be delicate, slightly fruity, and earthy. But almost every Pinot I've had can be described in one word: boring. Not enough fruit to be fun, not enough spice to make me sit up and take notice, they seem for the most part to be oddly timid wines. I don't hate them, but neither do I get why they're Econo Boy's favorite varietal.

Nonetheless, I do have a bargain Pinot recommendation: the 2006 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir, which usually costs around $10. Now, true Pinot devotees should take this with a grain of salt, since Pinots aren't my thing, but this Pinot has nice fruity flavors (think cherries and strawberries), it's smooth and elegant, and really lovely to drink. If more Pinots tasted like this, I'd be more excited about drinking them!

Note: I recently tried the 2007 vintage and I like the 2006 *much* better. Seldom is my palate sophisticated enough to really tell the difference between vintages, but the 2007 is too oaky and too heavy, not nearly as charming as its predecessor. You have been warned.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

This week in wedding minutiae

I just remembered a funny conversation Econo Boy and I had with my brother (a groomsman) over Christmas, and felt compelled to post it here.

A yellow freesia boutonniere, similar to what we picked out for our groomsmen.
Image from

Bro: So which bridesmaid will I walk with?
Me: Hmm, I'm not sure. It's kind of tricky, since we have four bridesmaids and three groomsmen. I think one groomsman will end up walking two women but I don't know who will walk with who.
Econo Boy: Bro's the tallest groomsman, he should walk with B, since she's the tallest bridesmaid.
Me: No, B's the maid of honor, she should walk with the best man.
Econo Boy: No, that won't work. B is like 6 inches taller than T [the best man].
Me: So?
Econo Boy: T's sensitive about being short, he won't like that.
Me: Oh, OK. Well, since it's 4 bridesmaids and 3 groomsmen, maybe B can walk alone and everyone else can pair off?
Econo Boy: I thought we were going to have one groomsman escort two bridesmaids so no one would have to walk alone.
Bro: Yeesh, I had no idea this was such an issue. I'm sorry I asked.

Ah, poor naive little Bro. Little did you know how the smallest wedding issues can become the subject of lengthy discussions, guaranteed to bore anyone who won't be getting married that day!

For the record, it looks like B will walk alone, T will walk with M (our shortest bridesmaid) and Bro will be paired with Sis (Econo Boy's awesome younger sister). :-)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Meme time!

Sweet T tagged me for this meme -- how could I resist?

The Rules

Step 1: respond and rework—answer the questions on your own blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention, add one more question of your own.
Step 2: tag other un-tagged people.

Make a list of things you can see without getting up:
A lamp from Target (missing a few beads from the shade), a couple of library books, a stack of journal articles, my piano, my bookshelf, Econo Boy's desk, and the sad little Kyocera cell phone I had to return to using after my beloved Krazr crapped out on me. (Only 3 more months before it's time for a new contract!)

Favorite Etsy Shop:
Oh man, what a challenge! I adore Damselle's vintage jewelry.

What are you wearing right now?
A warm fleece, a t-shirt, and gray slacks. It's the "I'm working from home and it's cold" look.

What color are the eyes of the person you love most in the world?
Blue (the Cary Brothers' "Blue Eyes" always makes me think of him!)

What’s the last thing you read/are currently reading?
Ignoring work-related books, I'm in the middle of A Play of Isaac by Margaret Frazer.

What is the last thing you cooked?
I made pulled chicken BBQ sandwiches -- they turned out OK, although the sauce was not nearly thick enough.

What is your favorite restaurant of all time?
I'll name three: Rioja and Bistro Vendome in Denver (they are sister restaurants, both phenomenal), and 44 & X in New York City. I've eaten at each one only once, but they were three of the best meals I've ever eaten.

What’s your current obsession/addiction?

I'm going to out myself as a major geek with this one: beating Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS.

What was the last gift you gave?
A bottle of wine, for my Dad.

What are you listening to right now?

The soft humming of the computer ... OK, now I've put on some music. "Buzzer" by Dar Williams.

What movie do you know every word to?

"LA Confidential." Also, "Beauty and the Beast" (and yes, that includes the songs).

If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I'm with Sweet T, I'd go for teleportation in a minute. I would give anything to be able to blink myself to Colorado or France or Italy whenever I wanted, without having to plop down hundreds of dollars for the privilege of spending hours in an airport.

What is your most challenging goal right now?

Remaining calm and serene while Econo Boy is on the job market and I'm juggling my own work.

If you could have a house–totally paid for, fully furnished–anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
Anywhere Econo Boy and I could both have jobs! Sure, having no mortgage makes living costs less expensive, but we still need to eat.

Where is your ideal vacation?

Prague. Or maybe a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Or Tuscany.

Name one thing you just can’t resist no matter how bad it is for you

The salsa-cheese dip I made for the Super Bowl. I'm eating the last of it as I speak.

If you could meet anyone famous - dead or alive - who would it be?
Michelle Obama. She's a successful woman with what appears to be a very strong marriage, and I'd love to talk to her about her experiences and how she and Barack make it all work with two high-powered careers and two gorgeous little girls.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
A television writer on a wry, clever dramedy -- think "Freaks and Geeks" or "Gilmore Girls" in the early seasons.

You see a cute baby, what is your reaction?
"Awww, little baby!"

Your favorite day spent in another country?
I took a bus from Florence to Siena, through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. I toured the cathedral and then sat on the Piazza del Campo in the sunlight. Later that night I met my college roommate and we had dinner at an adorable restaurant back in Florence.

If your life could have a soundtrack? Name a song on it–
"It's Alright" by Dar Williams.

Which literary character most resembles yourself?
At times I feel like Anne Elliot from Persuasion, trying to balance the multiple insanities of various family members.

If you were an animal, you'd be:
A cat -- independent and resourceful and playful.

And I shall tag Ruthie and Apricot!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Econo Boy and I will, in all likelihood, not be taking an immediate honeymoon. Much as we'd love to jet off to some exotic locale right after the wedding, scheduling-wise it just doesn't make sense for us. Instead, we've promised ourselves some sort of six-month or one-year anniversary trip.

If we were planning a honeymoon, I would push hard for a week of wine tasting in Italy, home of some of my favorite wines. Recently, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brechter of the Wall Street Journal wrote a column on great bargain-priced wines, and mentioned Italy's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo reds as a good bet:
"Dollar for dollar, we had few wines in 2008 that were as consistently charming as Italy's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Whenever you are looking for a pleasant red that will be easy to drink over food and conversation, keep this name in mind."
Of course, Econo Boy and I had to try one, and our first, the Gianni Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2005, was lovely! It was fruity without being heavy, subtle and light without being boring, and a definite contender for the wedding's "light red" slot.

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I cannot claim expertise on Montepulciano d'Abruzzo based on one bottle, but I will definitely be trying more!