Monthly Archives: December 2012

Wedding Wednesday: What I Learned from the Bachelorette Wedding

Like so many ladies (and gents), I watched the Bachelortette wedding Sunday night. Well, I watched most of it until the cable completely went out as they were about to say their vows. I took that as a sign it was probably time to dry my eyes and go to bed. But something earlier in the show, when Ashley and J.P. met with their wedding planner, really stuck with me. She seemed to ask them rapid-fire questions about what their visions were for style, colors, bridal party, flower girls, first dance, party favors, cake, food, bridal party gifts, and a million other things. Not once did she ask them whether they wanted any of these items in the first place and not once did Ashley and J.P. seem to stop and consider that question on their own.

That moment made it more clear to me than ever before that we need to be careful. Really, really careful. At times it can be easy to do things simply because you think you’re supposed to do them. From the start, we’ve tried to throw the rules out the window and make decisions about the day that are truly meaningful to us. The Bachelorette wedding was a great reminder to stick to that framework. I want to be really aware of framing the question, are we doing this? Before we ask how are we going to do it?

For instance, instead of “who’s going to sit at the head table?” we’ve asked,”are we having a head table?” (Probably not.) Instead of “what kind of flowers do we want for our centerpieces?” we’ve asked, “are we doing centerpieces and if so, what kind?” (TBD.) Instead of “what are our wedding colors?” we’ve asked, “are we having wedding colors?” (Nope.) Instead of “what kind of cake should we have?” we’ve asked “are we having a cake?” (Is the sky blue?)

I hope it doesn’t seem like wedding planning has been one long list of no’s for us–I promise it hasn’t (just see our big YES to a videographer, venue, and my yes to the dress). It’s just that unless we stop to consider these things it can quickly become a bunch of yeses without much purpose or meaning behind them. Heck, we even intentionally decided to have a traditional wedding in the first place. We discussed many other options like eloping to Europe or a having a much smaller family wedding before deciding it was truly important to us to be able to celebrate with our family and friends. Plus, I really, really, really want a big dance party–it’s my favorite part of any wedding. For our day, each yes we’ve made is an upper case YES with about 10 million exclamation points after it!

For the most part, many of our decisions are made with our priorities in mind. For me, decor is low on my list of priorities. Maybe I’m missing a gene, but I can’t get excited about overall design (one reason we chose a naturally beautiful and charming venue to begin with). I want to marry my guy and celebrate! I don’t want to worry about what colors our chair garlands (yeah, it’s a thing) should be. That’s why we’ve decided to put most of our budget and energy toward things that have to do with the overall experience (like a band, the venue, and some fun surprises for guests) vs. those that are about the details (though they will still get some attention). I already know the day and the space will be filled with so much love, joy, and romance. In my mind those are feelings no amount of flowers or candles could ever convey.

Just for fun I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite wedding inspiration that captures the simplicity I love so much.

What it's all about

What it’s all about. via 

Classic. Elegant. Perfection.

Classic. Elegant. Perfection. via

All you need is love. And an adorable groom. Done. via

If this doesn't look like two newlyweds having a blast at their wedding I don't know what does.

If this doesn’t look like two newlyweds having a blast at their wedding I don’t know what does. via

The moment I already can't wait for: Time to hit the floor and dance!

The moment I already can’t wait for: Hitting the dance floor with my new husband!! via

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Sweet Potato, Kale, and Quinoa Soup

I made you a bowl of health.

I made you a bowl of health.

We have a saying around here: Eco friendly and budget conscious. It’s our dorky way of reminding ourselves (fine, mostly me) to make choices that are good for the environment and good for our wallets. Of course, the kitchen is a great place to start and this soup represents a little victory for me.

It all started with a chicken…

One busy day last week I picked up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods. We ate about half of it with dinner. I cut the remaining meat into bite-size pieces and stuck them in a baggie in the freezer. I then used the carcass along with some extra veggies in the fridge and pantry (onion, shallot, garlic, carrots, celery, and scallions) to make homemade chicken stock in the slow cooker (so easy!) A few days later when I made this soup, I used the chicken stock and added the frozen chicken right into the pot. In other words, I used every last bit of that little chicken. Score!

DSCN1897

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my resolution for 2013 might be and after my experience this week I think I may be zeroing in on it. For me, resolutions are about choosing something that can help me become a better person and it’s always something I know I can stick to. For 2012, my resolution was to write more thank you notes. Simple, sure, but pretty soon it was no longer a resolution. It became a habit and something I look forward to doing whenever someone gifts me something or does something nice for me. (Just ask Robert how many thank you notes he has :-))

For 2013, I think I may focus my attention on the choices I make in the kitchen. First, making sure they’re good for the environment. As much as possible, I already buy foods that are local, seasonal, and organic. Where I need more work: Over-buying. I tend to overestimate how much food we need for a week, which means sometimes I throw away food. Living with Robert has significantly cut down on my food waste because he loves leftovers so much (at least one of us does-though I’m getting better.) Still, I know I could make a greater difference by working toward finding the right amount of food I buy each week so we’ll have enough to eat and yet not too little that I’ll have to run to the store multiple times, which would defeat both the eco and the budget goals. Of course, buying just the right amount of food will also satisfy that budget conscious part of the equation. Sounds like a win to me!

As for the rest of this soup—sweet potato, kale and quinoa—what else is there to say? It’s awesome and healthy and it was lunch for five days straight.

One final note on that whole eco friendly and budget conscious thing: freezing extra food is a great way to accomplish both. Here’s my trick for freezing soup: When cool, place in a freezer-safe plastic bag. Lay flat on a baking sheet and place in freezer overnight. Remove the baking sheet and you’ve got this nice flat package that barely takes up any room in your freezer.

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Quinoa Soup

Makes about 8 servings 

Ingredients:

Olive oil

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 medium-sized leek, chopped

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

8 cups chicken broth (homemade or store bought) or use vegetable broth for vegetarian recipe

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 rotisserie chicken (optional), skin removed and cut into bite sized pieces (about 2 cups total)

Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, leek, onion, and garlic and saute until softened about 5-10 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and quinoa. Reduce heat to simmer. When sweet potatoes are fork-tender and quinoa is cooked, about 10 minutes, add kale and chicken and cooked until kale is wilted and chicken is heated through.

French Cooking School

Cooking together

Let the butter lovefest begin

Friday night was one of the most fun, special, and memorable experiences of my life. Exactly a year ago (for our one year) Robert gave me a gift certificate for a French cooking lesson and we were finally able to redeem it this weekend. I had no idea what to expect going into the evening and in the end it was absolutely perfect.

The instructor, G, was hilarious, helpful, and engaging.

Heyyyy G

Heyyyy G

We got to do a lot of the prep work, I learned about proper knife skills (turns out I’ve been using knives incorrectly forever), the group of six couples couldn’t have been a more perfect match, and the food was absolutely delicious.

The happy chefs

Overall it was an ideal combination of learning, cooking, and eating as well as meeting new people, and doing something completely new and exciting. I should’ve known we were in for a great night when the confirmation e-mail earlier in the day instructed us to bring two to three bottles of wine per couple. We brought one of the bottles of wine from a vineyard in the Loire Valley that we visited during our trip to France earlier this year.

Robert looks like he's leading the wine-tasting portion of the evening here, but he's just refilling our glasses (again)

Robert looks like he could be leading the wine tasting portion of the evening. Nope, just refilling our glasses (again).

The class lasted four or five hours (our sense of time got a little fuzzy) and in true European fashion we sat down to the most incredible French feast around 11pm. Here’s a look at our menu:

Starter: Scallop filled with Mornay sauce and julienned veggies in puff pastry

Entree: Sauteed chicken cooked in a mushroom, white wine, cognac, and tomato sauce (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of this)

Side: Seasonal vegetables (turnip and carrot) roasted with fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley

Side: Roasted seasonal vegetables (turnip and carrot) with fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley

Dessert: French lemon tart with fresh whipped cream

Dessert: French lemon tart with fresh whipped cream

If you like to cook, eat, or drink (or do any one of those three things) I highly recommend taking a cooking class like the one we did. I hope to do it again many times in the future. We went to a place called Cook Au Vin here in Chicago. You don’t even need to be a skilled chef to do it–they show you exactly how to do everything and the chef (and one of the eager students) took care of the most complicated parts of cooking the food.

It was truly such a special experience and I had the best time sharing it with my guy. When I walked into a restaurant for a blind date two years ago today I had no idea I was about to meet my future husband. These two years have been filled with so much laughter, love, and–of course–food. There’s no one in the world I’d rather share all of it with than you.

Happy two years <3

Happy two, my love

Wedding Wednesday

How To Know When You’ve Found The One
il_570xN.339444587Sketch (not of my dress) via 

You hear it, see it, and read about it all the time: The bride tries on a dress and the mother and bridesmaids immediately dissolve into a pool of tears. They know she’s found The One. Or the couple walk into a venue and immediately feel at home. It’s so “them.” They know they’ve found The One.

For me, the only part of the wedding planning process that’s given me tears in my eyes, butterflies in my tummy, and a knowing sense in my gut has been my guy. The rest? Not so much. This wedding planning jazz has actually caused me to be way more rational than I normally tend to be, which is hilarious in a way. The one time in life you’re given a free pass to be somewhat non-sensical, to make decisions from an irrational/emotional place, and to let your crazy flag fly is when my head has never been screwed on tighter. But I’m okay with that because it means our decisions have been deliberate and intentional every step of the way. Here are two recent examples.

The Venue

I truly thought we’d get that knowing feeling people talk about the moment we found the right place. We were on the same page with this all along: We wanted someplace warm and inviting that could host both the ceremony and reception and we knew a ballroom or loft (common options in Chicago) weren’t for us. We also wanted a place that offered plenty of character so we wouldn’t have to do too much in the way of decor. I knew for sure that moment would happen when we looked at a place in Vermont. After searching throughout Chicago (online and in person) I’d decided that a city wedding wasn’t for me. I’m no city slicker. I’m a take a hike with my dogs, fly down a ski hill, curl up by the fire kind of girl. Vermont had to be IT and my parents found a beautiful venue, an Inn, less than a mile from the vacation home we’ve had there for nearly 20 years. The location was both beautiful and meaningful and, in a way, a kind of hometown to me. It had to be The One. But when Robert and I toured the venue in October–the absolutely perfect venue–I felt nothing. In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think about how much I’d fixate on the weather leading up to the wedding and if it rained the choice of having a destination wedding (where much of the day would be outdoors) would (quite literally) be awash.

The day before our trip to VT after some hardcore Googling I stumbled upon a venue, The Racquet Club of Chicago, less than 2 miles from our home. Just how hardcore was my Googling? They don’t even have a website. Robert and I were able to tour it that night and we liked it. A lot. Did I get any certain, knowing feeling that it was The One? Absolutely not. It wasn’t until after seeing the Vermont option that I started thinking about this place more and more. As we talked about it I began envisioning exactly how the day would unfold and flow from one area of the venue to the next. The place is nothing if not warm and inviting with chunky wood ceilings, giant floor to ceiling windows, old school chandeliers, a library, and fireplaces in every room. What’s more, the evening we saw the venue it was pouring rain outside and inside felt safe and cozy. While I’ll pray for sunshine on our big day, I can also rest assured that rain wouldn’t detract from our choice of location one bit.

Check out the nerdy/swoon-worthy library/bar via

emmatom_2115$!210xSo, for me, there wasn’t a moment or a feeling that it was The One.  The decision happened gradually, over time, and with lots of thought and discussion. Once we were able to really see and imagine what the day would look and feel like in that space it became The One.

(Side note: I may or may not drive past The Racquet Club in a slightly stalkerish manner every chance I get…)

The Dress

In an effort to prevent this post from going on for days (believe me it could) let me just say this about the dress: I found it during an appointment, which I attended alone, sandwiched between interviews at the oh so unromantic hour of 1 p.m. last Thursday. There was no champagne. There were no tears. (This coming from the girl whose eyes well up during a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial.) I didn’t even know the dress was The One. By the time I put this dress on I’d already tried on hundreds since August. Not one spoke to me. But after staring at an iPhone photo of myself in this dress  for well over 48 hours like an obsessive egomaniac I was pretty sure I was in love. I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but I even woke up in the middle of the night one night to look at the picture. Still, after finding that dress I went to three more appointments last week and found nothing that even remotely held a candle to how I looked or felt in the dress that would become The One. Ever since deciding it was The One (and getting measured and ordering it yesterday afternoon!!!!) I’ve never been more ecstatic/in love with a piece of clothing in my entire life. It’s perfect. Just like the venue, there was no distinct moment of clarity, but rather a gradual knowing that I’d found The One. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that the designer’s first name isn’t Monique, Vera, Jenny, Jim, Alexander, or Oscar.

It’s Robert.