Saturday, May 30, 2009

The post office finally comes through!

Econo Boy's parents called us last night to share some good news -- our invitation arrived in yesterday's mail! In fact, we've heard from family members as far away as LA that the invites are arriving.

Wow, this is really happening. People are getting our invitations. My mom will soon be receiving an avalanche of RSVP cards and logging them into our Google Docs spreadsheet. (I swear, I should have put a note on our invitations -- "this wedding is brought to you by Google Docs." Econo Boy and I are spreadsheet addicts.) People are buying plane tickets to come to our wedding!

When did it hit you that the wedding was for real?

Edited to add: I just saw this and couldn't resist!

Image from

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I need a drink, and possibly a hug

This week, I had a freak-out, and I think I need to write about it.

This year has been a very busy one for Econo Boy – he’s been job-hunting and teaching a fairly heavy course load. As a result, I’ve been taking on a larger share of the household chores every now and then. More of the meal planning, more of the shopping, more of the cleaning, and almost all of the cooking. I was happy to do it – he was busy and I wanted to support him, since the outcome of his job hunt was huge for us as a couple.

But this week, as Econo Boy buried himself in a giant pile of final exams to grade and I buried myself in a stack of dirty dishes, I started to wonder if this was a pattern, if I had inadvertently become the “little woman,” cooking and cleaning and being sweetly non-demanding because her man has big important work-type things to do. All of this built up to a panic attack, in which I saw myself in 20 years, earning $2000 a course in a crappy part-time adjunct position that I’d accepted in order to be the one responsible for doing all the cooking and shopping and chauffeuring the kids to and from school, piano lessons, and sports practice, while Econo Boy basked in his tenured glory, came home at 6:30 to dinner on the table, and never noticed that I was pulling the day-to-day weight of keeping the family fed and organized. In other words, the same pattern from my parents’ marriage (although my mom actually did like her job) – the pattern that led my father to idiotically declare that my mom "never did anything to help this family" because her job wasn't a major source of income. (I know. Don’t even get me started. That’s a whole other post.)

That scenario terrifies me, and not just because my parents' marriage ended in a very bitter divorce. I like my work and I think I’m good at it, and I want to be in a job where the work I do is valued and compensated appropriately (i.e. not adjunct teaching). I’m willing to make career sacrifices, or even change jobs for our relationship and for our family, but I’m not willing to give up working, or to take a job that makes me miserable just because that’s easier for everyone else in the family. Whatever my future career and future household responsibilities look like, I want my role to be a choice I made, a choice I was happy to make, rather than something I slowly slid into without even realizing it until I resented it.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one having a bit of a freak-out about marriage and the future at the two-month mark (Meg, thanks for another spot-on post!), which makes me feel much less crazy. And I’ve talked to Econo Boy about my frustrations and we’ve both talked about how to avoid falling into gender traps in our relationship. Unfortunately I think it’s really easy for even the most driven women in heterosexual relationships to accidentally find themselves taking the supporting role, because that was the model a lot of us grew up with, the model that Western society still sells us, ever so subtly, every day.

I don’t have any easy answers for how to avoid it, except this: avoid it. Every single day, avoid it. Pay attention to the choices we make, and make them deliberately and consciously, knowing the implications for our careers, our family, and our future happiness. Appreciate each others' contributions, no matter how day-to-day and mundane. And above all, avoid becoming my parents!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Ledson Legend Blend

Last week I blogged about several wines I tried while visiting Sonoma, and one of the reds I mentioned was the Ledson Legend blend, which I decided deserved its own entry.

Econo Boy and I almost didn't go to Ledson on our trip to Sonoma. It was within spitting distance of our B&B, but I have to admit that we were suffering from a bit of reverse snobbery as we looked at its gorgeous building. Surely, we reasoned, there would be no need to construct such an elaborate "castle" structure to lure in tourists if the wine was any good.

My photo of Ledson

But on the way back to our home base after a long day of tasting, Econo Boy and I decided to give it a try. We snuck in just 30 minutes before the tasting room closed, and were very pleasantly surprised! Castle or no castle, this is a serious winery, and we tried one wine that flat-out blew us away: the Legend red, an unusual blend of Zinfandel and Merlot.

Image from

According to the pourer, Legend originated in a fortuitous mistake -- they'd intended to make the more common Meritage blend of Cabernet and Merlot, but accidentally used Zin instead of Cab. Their mistake won a gold medal at an international wine competition, and they've been making it ever since. This wine was rich and complex, dark, but food-friendly, with slight hints of cocoa and pepper and zingy, acidic cranberries. We served it at Thanksgiving with our turkey and cranberry sauce, which turned out to be a great pairing.

Ledson doesn't distribute nationally, unfortunately, but should you ever be in Sonoma, I highly encourage you to stop by! Take some photos of the gorgeous building, but most of all, enjoy the wine.

Monday, May 25, 2009

This post is TOTALLY UNIQUE and SO "US"

One of the refrains I hear over and over again in the wedding planning world is this one: "Your wedding should be unique. It should be a reflection of you as a couple. You should fill it with thoughtful personal touches that are totally you."

Most of the time I think this is great advice. There are so many people who will insist that you HAVE to do yellow cake with white frosting or you HAVE to wear a veil or you HAVE to send out black-and-white engraved invitations issued by "Mr. and Mrs. Bride's Father." It helps to have a balancing influence, one that encourages you to serve fruit tarts, forget the veil, and self-print colorful cards with your quirky custom wording if that's what you want.

A dessert buffet -- not the traditional wedding cake, but aren't you drooling? I am! Image from

But the dark side to the "make it unique" dictum is that sometimes, it's not liberating at all. Sometimes it's just another source of emotional pressure, one that ratchets up the difficulty of every wedding-related decision you make. You can't just go with a dress, some flowers, and a set of invitations you like. You have to LOVE everything. It all has to be "special" and "different" and "so you." And that's kind of exhausting. You know what? Sometimes it's OK to just grab something and go with it, rather than stress about how to make it "your own."

Furthermore, because brides are encouraged to get so wrapped up in the "personal details" of their weddings, any dissent from the choices they've made can be seen as a personal attack. My post on wedding dislikes was a ton of fun to write, but I have to admit I was kind of scared to publish it for fear of incurring the internet wrath of brides wearing pickup skirts and designing Tiffany blue and brown table settings. There seems to be so little tolerance for differences of taste and style in the wedding world that almost any statement of preference has to be prefaced or followed up by "this is just my personal opinion, of course not everyone does it this way, you should do whatever you want, I'm sure YOUR pickup skirt is gorgeous, etc. etc." (I'm guilty of it too!)

As A. said so eloquently last week, aesthetics are not ethics -- you are not victimizing your guests or being a horrible person if you choose white instead of ivory for the tablecloths (or if you forgo the tablecloths entirely for a picnic wedding). My own addendum to that is that someone else's aesthetics are not an attack on your aesthetics, or on you personally. After all, how can your wedding be "personal" and "unique" if you expect that everyone else would make the same choices you made?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This week in wedding minutiae, Part 2

We delivered our first invitation this week!

While it's not strictly correct to hand-deliver wedding invitations, according to Miss Manners, in this case it really was our best option. See, our best man, T, is sort of a globe-trotting international man of mystery. We have 3 addresses for him on 3 different continents and it is impossible to keep track of where he is at any given time. Hence, when we met him for dinner in NYC, we decided that we needed to take advantage of the fact that we knew where T was for one whole evening and deliver his invite. He was appropriately complimentary about our design, and it was so much fun to see our first little invitation actually reach its recipient!

The next day, as we addressed a pile of invitations, I jokingly asked Econo Boy what the odds were on T actually sending in the RSVP card as he jets between international adventures.
Econo Boy: "Oh, I told him he didn't have to."
Me: "You WHAT?"
Econo Boy: "I told him he didn't need to RSVP, we know he's coming."
Me: "But ... but ... but ... MENU OPTIONS!"
Econo Boy: "Oh, I forgot about that. Well, I bet he wants beef."
Me: "So let me get this straight. You've been telling people not to RSVP to our wedding?!"
Econo Boy (now sensing danger): "No! Well, I mean, I told T that. But no one else. I promise."
Me: "OK." (Long pause) "Because you know, they need to RSVP, or we won't have a count for the caterer."
Econo Boy: "I know, I know, I promise everyone else will RSVP."
Me: "And it's not that hard to send in the card, that's why we're putting stamps on 'em."
Econo Boy: "Yes, sweetie. I completely agree. People need to RSVP. I swear I will not tell anyone else they can skip sending in the RSVP card."
Me: "Good."
(Long pause as we address more invitations)
Econo Boy: "T probably wouldn't have sent it in anyway, you know."
Me: "Yeah, I'll give you that."

Image from Sweet T at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flower Inspiration, Part II

Ok, so I decided to think a bit more about the flowers. Easier said than done. When it comes to flowers I'm pretty easy. I love 'em all. Wildflowers, carnations, daisies, dahlias, peonies, in red, yellow, white, purple, pink ... you get the picture. So how does a floral omnivore narrow down her choices?

Well, she doesn't. She looks at lots of photos, likes them all, then turns back to work on her dissertation having accomplished nothing wedding-related but happily riding the endorphin boost of looking at pretty bouquets. But then she realizes that there are only 70 days until the wedding and decides to really try and make some progress.

After a bit of thinking, I decided that I wanted to keep the dark pink, the purples, and the blue, but add some white and maybe a bit of yellow to lighten and brighten it up. Here's what my Google searching dug up:

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Now, the tricky part. My untrained eye looks at these bouquets and thinks they're all pretty similar. But my florist will notice all the differences and want to know which one of these pictures is closest to what I want. So what do I do? Stick with the gerbera daisies in #1, which I love? Switch to a softer, looser bouquet like #2, which I also love? Go for lots of white like #3, or mostly colored like #4?

Which is your favorite?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wine Wednesday turns 21: my personal "best of" list

This is my 21st Wine Wednesday post -- which means my wine blogging is now of legal drinking age! (1 week on the internet = 1 year in the real world.) To celebrate, I'm putting together my very own "best of" list.

I do not claim that any of these picks represent the world's very best red wine, white wine, or anything else out there. My experience in wine drinking is nowhere near broad enough for that. These are my favorites, the ones that have special memories for me. Notably, I tasted a lot of these while in Sonoma with Econo Boy. Was I influenced by my joy at being in California with my boyfriend? Probably. But I think it's still darn good wine!

Best Red Wine: Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
A delicious find from my first-ever wine tasting trip in Napa, and the only wine I've ever bought my wine-snob dad that he unreservedly loved.

Honorable Mention: Ledson Legends Blend 2003

Best White Wine: J Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2003
That's right, an oaked Chardonnay, the very type of wine I've sworn I hate, makes the top spot! This was the wine that convinced me that oak itself is not a bad thing, it's just been overused (especially in cheap wines). Econo Boy and I brought a bottle of this home from Sonoma and served it with cheese and crackers at Thanksgiving. Tasting notes from our family: "Oh, my God." "This is fabulous." "Mmmmm." Need I say more?

Honorable Mention: Alba Vineyards Dry Riesling 2005

Best bubbly: J Vineyards Brut Cuvee NV
What can I say? J Vineyards is awesome. This sparkling wine was absolutely mouth-watering.

Honorable Mention: Rigol Cava

Best dessert wine: Imagery Petit Syrah Port
Imagery is the quirky sister winery of Sonoma's well-known Benziger winery (an eco-friendly and excellent producer). Their tasting room specializes in wines you don't often see in California, like Sangiovese, Barbera, and Grenache. This fabulous port is rich and sweet, perfect with the little nibble of dark chocolate they gave us. I've tried other ports since, but nothing comes close to this one.

Best tasting: J Vineyards, Russian River Valley
No, I swear, J Vineyards isn't paying me! (But if anyone from J Vineyards is reading this, I would totally accept a mixed case of your awesome wines.) Their tasting gets my top spot because of a simple yet brilliant concept: a food and wine pairing flight. The friendly woman who poured for us suggested we sip the wine, then nibble the food, then sip the wine again and notice the difference. I learned more from this tasting than from any other I've ever done.

The food and wine pairing flight at J Vineyards.

Honorable mention: Imagery, Sonoma

What are your favorite wines, the ones associated with special memories and occasions?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Flower Inspiration, Part I

Lately, whenever I find myself in need of a dissertation break, I've been surfing flower photos online and rethinking my initial flower inspiration. Recall that this is the bridesmaids' dress:
Image from

The J. Crew navy is extremely dark, and my initial impulse was to counter the darkness of the dresses by going ultra-bright with the flowers -- fuschia gerbera daisies, bright yellow, lots of purple, and touches of blue and lime green.

Images from,, and

But I'm having trouble convincing myself that these striking, modern shades are right for our wedding. To start, I can see these flowers looking stunning in an art gallery, on a beach, or in a really chic hotel, but our ceremony and reception venue is a historic mansion, and somehow these flowers feel like a mismatch with the more vintage-y stuff we've chosen for the rest of the wedding (in particular, my pearl-embroidered lace dress). Furthermore, Econo Boy has been politely noncommittal on the subject of the flowers, but I could see a bit of a nervous "lime green? really?" expression on his face when I showed him that first bouquet.

I'm not about to chuck my fuschias and dark purples in favor of baby pink and white, but I do think our flowers need to be tweaked a bit. So can I find flower inspiration that feels more like our venue and more like us, without sacrificing my love for bright colors? On Thursday, I'll show you what else I've dug up!

Monday, May 18, 2009

As promised!

Our invitations!

Click on the photo to enlarge it and get a better look.

A couple of observations:

1. I think I may be a contender for Worst Photographer Ever -- I apologize to any real photographers who may be reading this for butchering their art, and for my lame attempt at photo-editing out our last names and wedding location. In real life, the blue is much more vivid than it looks here, but I think this gives a nice hint of the simplicity of the design and the crispness of the letterpress printing.

2. I love them. I really, really do. I couldn't be more pleased with what we're going to send out to our guests. So if you happen to spot any misspellings, please don't tell me! :-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Broke-Ass Bride: Giveaway: Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac!

Attention fellow Mac users: The Broke-Ass Bride is giving away 5 suites of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac!

I've got to admit, I'm kind of dying to win this -- my current Office suite is 10 years out of date, and I would love the software upgrades so I can snazz up my menu cards and wine lists (not to mention read the Vista "docx" format that my students keep inflicting on me). So if you're like me, a Mac addict in need of an upgrade, go forth and enter the contest!!

The Broke-Ass Bride: Giveaway: Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac!

Culture, family, and us

Lately, Sweet T has been musing on culture, inheritance, and the ways those concepts can come into play when planning a wedding. Like many white Americans, I have only vague notions of any cultural identity. The names in my family tree are mysteriously generic, giving little hint as to whether my forebearers were Swiss, Irish, German, French, or something else entirely, and I've been able to trace only one ancestor back to his country of origin (England).

So if I had to name my family's racial and cultural background, I'd say WASP, in the literal sense of the acronym (white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant -- although the Anglo-Saxon is just my best guess). Same for Econo Boy's family. In most ways, our background and upbringing was very, very similar. We grew up 20 minutes from each other, in friendly neighborhoods where block parties were a regular occurrence. We each have one younger sibling. Our parents were big believers in academic excellence and playing outside, and we both wound up as PhD students at the same university. I'm happy to say that we really love each others' families, and the feeling seems to be mutual all 'round.

But wedding planning has brought some very subtle differences between our families to the surface -- not in a bad way, just in a "gee, that's really interesting" way.

My parents (who are now divorced, but that's a whole 'nother post) are middle-class Midwestern WASPs. My dad is from a farming town where his middle school teacher's idea of a great field trip was a tour of the local slaughterhouse. (My dad, who has fainted at the sight of blood, attributes his determination to pursue higher education to this field trip.) Both of my grandfathers worked in factories. Both of my parents attended the local state university. When they tied the knot, my mom wore a knee-length pink dress, and they followed their ceremony with cake and punch for 25 in the church's Fellowship Hall.

Econo Boy's parents, on the other hand, are High WASPs. His dad is an Ivy League grad; his mom attended an elite East Coast women's college. When they were married, the bride wore a Priscilla of Boston gown and the wedding was announced in the New York Times.

The place where the difference in our family backgrounds has become most evident is the registry. In my family (3/4 Iowa farmers' descendents, with one High WASP grandmother who ran away with a WWII vet she met in Boston thrown in the mix), registries should be practical. You do not ask for more than you need; that would be crass. Also, the best gift is almost always cash.

After Econo Boy and I compiled our small registry, I told my mom that if her family wanted to give us anything and inquired about what we really wanted, she should tell them that money for moving and setting up our new apartment would be much appreciated. My mom's response: "Perfect. They usually give cash anyway."

When I suggested this to Econo Boy's mother, however, she turned completely white and quietly said that she didn't feel comfortable telling people that we wanted money. I quickly learned that in their social and family circle, money is absolutely not an acceptable topic of conversation, no matter the circumstance. She pushed for us to expand the registry to include the kinds of higher-end items that her family and friends would want to give us, and we eventually registered for some solid, durable stoneware dishes and nice pewter serving pieces.

Now, a difference of opinion on the appropriate size for a wedding registry barely registers on the scale of wedding culture clashes. But when you're bringing two families together, as you do when planning a wedding, it's almost impossible not to run across some differences of taste or style or etiquette. Finding out about your partner's family background and family traditions can be one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of planning, but it can also be one of the most stressful. I have tremendous respect for couples who are dealing with much wider cultural divides, like Mrs. Hot Cocoa and accordionsandlace.

This is a rather odd and rambly post, please forgive me for that. But it's all been jumbled up in my head for a while and I thought I'd better get it out of there somehow!

What kinds of family differences have come into play in your wedding? How do you compromise between different ideas and different priorities?

Friday, May 15, 2009

I know I said I wouldn't post about this anymore ...

... but today's happy occurrence requires an exception. They're here!! Our invitations actually arrived!!

And how are they, you ask? They're great. Exactly what we wanted. Not the most expensive letterpress in the world (I've seen other sets with much thicker and more luxurious paper), but it's letterpress nonetheless, with our custom design.

Now, an ethical question: the seller sent me a PayPal refund for a bit of my money for the inconvenience. Should I accept the refund? This whole process has been super-stressful, and there's no reason I should have had to wait 4 months (!) between payment and delivery, but I do feel a little bad about taking her money. The shipping date on this box is the date she said she sent it, so it looks like a lot of this was a Post Office screwup. (Then again, the shipping date on the box is still almost 3 weeks after the promised April 15 deadline.) Any advice?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Unoaked Chardonnay & Chablis

In my last post I mentioned that I generally avoid Chardonnay because I don't like oak in my white wines. American Chardonnay in particular tends to be lousy with the taste and smell of wood chips. But let's not blame the innocent Chardonnay grape! Properly handled, Chardonnay makes some incredibly special wines that even I can appreciate.

French Chablis, which is unoaked Chardonnay, is one of our favorite white wines (Econo Boy in particular is a huge fan). Chablis is pretty rare; our local French wine store only carries two, including the lovely Domaine d'Elise Chablis.

Image from

But Chablis is usually a bit of a splurge for us, around $20 a bottle. Another delightful unoaked wine made from Chardonnay grapes that falls into our usual price range is the Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay.
Image from

Yalumba is one of my favorite Australian labels. In addition to this Chardonnay, they make a great Viognier and a Shiraz-Viognier blend that's seriously yummy. I highly recommend this screwtop white wine -- it's crisp, clean and lively, with pineapple and grapefruit notes, and just enough heft to carry those flavors off smoothly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You're not going to believe this

I still don't have my invites in hand. And today, when I contacted the seller to ask her to follow up and warned her that I would have to report this as a non-delivery if I didn't hear from her ... she changed my Etsy purchase status to "Declined"!!

OK, you can't finish the order. Annoying, but OK. But you ignore my communications and passive-aggressively cancel my order 4 months after accepting my money, and don't offer to refund any of it?! Aargh!!!

Let me re-iterate the major lesson from my mishap, friends. Never, EVER pay in full for a custom order up-front. NEVER. No matter how nice the seller seems or how glowing her feedback is. NEVER. An honest, experienced professional will not object to a half down, half upon delivery payment plan.

The good news: Econo Boy and I spent some time playing around with some blank A7 cards and we think we've come up with a nice, cost-effective way to print our invitations ourselves. I've asked the seller to refund enough money for us to rush-order invites from Wedding Paper Divas, but if that doesn't look likely, we'll probably go with the lower-cost option.

I'm kind of venting right now, but to be honest, I've spent so long being upset over this that I'm pretty much over it. The weaselly move she made in canceling my order confirmed for me that this woman is profoundly unprofessional, and while it was foolish to pay up-front, this is her fault, not mine. And most couples I know had at least one awful vendor, whether it was a photographer or a florist or a caterer. Hopefully this means I got my mandatory wedding disaster out of the way, and the actual party will be nothing but fun!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Alba Vineyards

Delicious wine can come from just about anywhere -- including the much-maligned state of New Jersey. Econo Boy and I recently hit up a couple of Delaware Valley wineries, and one in particular stood out: Alba Vineyards in Milford, New Jersey.

After a delightful tasting, we walked away with three bottles: Old Mill Red, Mainsail White, and the 2005 Dry Riesling.

Old Mill Red is a blend of Marechal Foch and Chambourcin, with a bit of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in to round it off. It tastes a bit like dried blackberries -- fruity but smoky, dry and rich. Mainsail White is also a blend, of Vidal Blanc, Cayuga White, and Riesling, and it's delicate, with floral notes and a wonderful nose. Both of these wines are under $10, and the woman at the tasting room described them as "weekday wines" -- wines you can break out just because you feel like it. That's a sentiment I can definitely get behind!

Our favorite, however, was the 2005 Dry Riesling.

I've made snotty comments about Riesling in the past, fueled mostly by my brother's adoration for the sweetest Rieslings he can get his hands on, which taste a lot like flat Sprite in my opinion. But dry Rieslings are another story -- those I like. I also love whites that, like this Riesling, are fermented in steel tanks. There's a clarity and purity to them that I find really appealing. (I'm not a big fan of oak in white wines, which is why I rarely go for Chardonnay unless it says "unoaked" in big letters on the label.)

The Alba 2005 dry Riesling has serious presence -- it's a perfect balance of acidity and richness. It's crisp and smooth and would be glorious with grilled salmon or gourmet cheese. If we weren't moving, we might have picked up an entire case! It's also quite reasonably priced -- $14 a bottle.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

You've got to be kidding me

Received a box from my invites designer today. It contains ... the envelopes. And only the envelopes. No invitations, no RSVP cards, no inserts.

AND the return address on the invitation envelopes has a mistake (she included my mom's name when I asked for just the address -- nothing major, I'm just annoyed she didn't listen to me).

Now, when the designer sent me the tracking number, she said the invites were being shipped in 2 boxes. But I don't have a tracking # for this mythical second box. Is it wrong of me to be suspicious that there is no second box, and to wonder if this was her way of buying more time to finish the printing?

Ugh. I am so sick of dealing with this woman and of worrying about these stupid invitations. I just want them in hand so I know it's over!!