Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Vegetarian Meals

Evan is on a month-long challenge to eat vegetarian Sundays through Thursdays, and I'm along for the ride. It's forcing us to be a little more experimental with our meals. Here are some of our recent dinners:
Bean and summer vegetable tacos with cilantro-lime dressing

Bean and summer vegetable tacos with cilantro-lime dressing
To make the filling: Sautee thinly sliced peppers and onions until browned and softened. Meanwhile, cook corn on the cob in boiling water for a few minutes. Let cool and cut the corn off the cob. Combine the vegetables with cooked pinto (or black) beans.
To make the dressing: blend together two cups of fresh cilantro, two garlic cloves, the juice of a lime, a cup of yogurt, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
To assemble: Warm corn tortillas on a hot pan for a minute on each side. Spread the dressing on the tortilla, then add the bean and vegetable mixture and top with radish slices and mixed greens and pour more cilantro dressing over top.

The next night, we fried up tempeh cubes and served them over salad greens with the cilantro-lime dressing.

Barley-scallion fritters
I made a ton of barley in my crockpot that was intended for grain salads, but overcooked it into mush, and needed to come up other uses for it. Here's one - fritters. They tasted like a scallion pancake just begging to be dipped in soy sauce, but the barley gives it more whole grain goodness. Some other ideas for my mushy barley that I stashed in tubs in the freezer: baking it into bread, adding them to veggie burgers. Do you have any other ideas?

Combine a couple cups of barley, one bunch of diced scallions, a half cup of flour, two eggs, salt and pepper. Heat a pan with a shallow coating of sunflower or peanut oil and let the oil heat up. Fry large spoonfuls of the batter in batches, scraping the dregs and adding more oil between batches. Cook fritter for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden browned. Remove to a napkin-lined plate to absorb excess oil.

Eggs poached in kale and tomato sauce.
This is a riff on shakshuka that I invented to use up leftovers, since I only had 1 1/2 tomatoes, but also had some ricotta that needed to be eaten.

Sautee 2 cloves garlic, diced small onion, a couple tomatoes and a few cups of chopped kale in olive oil. Let it simmer for a while to break down the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are more saucy, about 15-20 minutes, add a half cup of ricotta. Use an immersion blender to puree it into a sauce. Make indentations in the sauce and poach four eggs in it. Cover the pan and check every couple minutes until the whites are cooked. Serve with toast.

Evan's on an Indian kick and is determined to perfect dal. He's made this recipe for khatti dal from the New York Times twice in the past two weeks. Make sure to watch the video for technique - which strangely strays from the ingredients called for in the recipe.

A summery tomato salad of cubed fresh mozzerella and tomatoes, a handful of farro, and a handful of chickpeas over arugula with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Ceremony

We set out to create a personalized ceremony that would recognize the participation of our community and be filled with music. Whenever I read it over, I'm happy with how we captured the essence of our relationship and our intentions in life with each other. Others seemed to agree, since we received several compliments on how moving it was. At the bottom of this post is a list of all the resources I used to write the ceremony, as well as our whole ceremony script for others to steal in kind, which you can also download here

We were originally inspired by the idea of a Quaker wedding ceremony (as seen on A Backyard Wedding) where anyone is free to get up and speak, much like Quaker religious ceremonies. However, I came to realize that a) I was worried the ceremony would run on too long and cut into other wedding time and b) my controlling nature would not allow for that. Instead, we asked specific people to participate in the ceremony. We ended up with a friend officiating; a friend playing jazz keyboard for the processional and recessional; two musical performances; and words from grandparents on each side.

We knew that we wanted a friend or family member to officiate, rather than a stranger. We lucked out with Evan's friend Ian, who has great stage presence and composure. I dislike speaking my own emotions aloud, so I didn't want to read my own vows, and I was happy that Evan didn't want to either because he thought he would tear up too much. I am very grateful to Ian for being willing to read the words we wrote.

As a writer, it was important to me to carefully craft the exact words that would be spoken during the ceremony. It was a process that I really took my time to enjoy. True to my thorough nature, I pored over as many wedding vows and readings as possible–on several blogs, as well as the book The Wedding Ceremony Planner–when Evan was away for a weekend. I compiled all of the lines that spoke to me and then edited them down. It's fascinating how a line that sounds like generic love language to one person can be meaningful to another. I also felt the need to edit, edit, edit because so much suggested wedding language repeats the sentiment of the vows in other parts of the ceremony. The next weekend, Evan and I spent an afternoon going over it together and chose what to include. During the ceremony itself, I realized that the act of deciding on the vows with Evan was actually just as meaningful to me as when they were spoken aloud.

We chose to say "I will" and "We will" rather than "I do," because I read somewhere that this acknowledges continuing to act on your vows in the future, not just making a promise in the present. A couple other unique touches: We added a line to commit not only to how we will treat each other, but also to how we will treat the world, which was inspired by Sara's ceremony from 2000 Dollar Wedding. At the end, it was Ian's idea to have our wedding guests pronounce us married, since he wasn't actually ordained and didn't have any special authority, and since we were already legally married the week before. It was a nice way for our community to acknowledge their role in our wedding ceremony.

Our immediate family and best men/ladies all chose to give toasts rather than speak in the ceremony. Evan's grandfather agreed to give some marriage advice during the ceremony, and is it turns out, he wanted Evan's grandmother up there too. Then, when they were done, my grandfather was moved to get up and speak, which was not planned, but did turn out to be a sweet moment.

Evan was part of a choir that sang "Set Me as a Seal" during his cousin's wedding at the farm three years ago. Sadly, I wasn't at that wedding, but I have sung and appreciate that piece, so we were inspired to have family and friends sing it at our wedding too.

Afterward, a few people wanted to hug us immediately, but then we made our escape before it turned into a receiving line. We headed off into the fields to sneak a moment alone together, with our photographer trailing us.

A Practical Wedding: Sample Vow Roundup
A Practical Wedding: Tookkit for Writing Wedding Ceremonies
Wedding Bee: Hand-Writing Our Wedding Ceremony
2000 Dollar Wedding: Write Your Own Ceremony Script
Another Damn Wedding: Our Ceremony
Kiss My Tulle: Our Wedding Ceremony and Vows
A Backyard Wedding: A Quaker Ceremony

Our Ceremony Script
download here

[Tim plays "Kiss on my list" by Hall & Oates for bridesmaids
Followed by "Julia" by the Beatles for the bridal procession]

Welcome! Please take a seat.
[Ian introduces himself]

On behalf of Evan and Julia, thank you for coming to their wedding at
this beautiful place, Deer Hollow Farm, which is familiar to many of you 
as the site of annual parties and a favorite retreat for
Evan and his family for almost 20 years.

Today, we recognize their decision to join their lives in marriage.
We celebrate the love they have found in each other and
the beginning of their journey together as life partners.

The photographers’ photos will be available online after the wedding,
so we ask that you put away your cellphones and cameras
to be present in this moment.

Community Statement
You were invited here because you are the
people who mean the most to Evan and Julia.
Today represents not only the joining of Julia and Evan,
but also the joining of their families and friends.
A marriage needs the help of a community who will be there
to stand by the couple during hard times and to share in happy times.
May we always do everything in our power to support the
union that will be made here today.

Choir Performance
[Choir performs “Set Me as a Seal”]

Marriage Advice
[Evan's grandparents speak]

Second Musical Performance
[Aaron and Carrie perform “All the Right Reasons” by the Jayhawks

Reflection on Our Relationship
Marriage is a bond to be entered into only after
considerable thought and reflection.
We are all always growing, and when you marry, you commit to
witnessing and caring for the ongoing growth of your partner.
In marriage, you promise to love not only as you feel now,
but also as you intend to feel.
In marriage, you must keep your love alive through the choices you make 
moment by moment, day after day, and year after year.

Julia and Evan have asked me to express why they are choosing each other.
From the beginning, they fit naturally into each other’s lives.
As most of you know, they share many common interests—
a love of music, good food and cooking.
They work together at the food coop, bike together around the city,
and have fun with each other’s friends.

They have found the rhythms of living together to be
healthy, relaxing and creatively engaging.
They trust and respect each other and appreciate each other’s intelligence.
Their affection makes them both feel loved every day, and
they will feel proud and lucky to call each other husband and wife.

Julia appreciates Evan’s focus on enjoying life’s simple pleasures,
his easygoing, genuine and open nature, and that he understands 
the value of this one life, and the value of health, family and friends.

Evan appreciates Julia’s view of the world as a place that we must work to improve, 
and the fact that she does more than just talk about it. 
He is blown away by the way she loves him and is inspired by her love 
to be a strong, supportive partner and a force for good in the world.
Ian: Julia and Evan have written their own vows, but I’m going to read them.
Please join hands to make your vows [to Evan and Julia].

Ian: Will you, Evan, take Julia, as your wife and faithful partner for life?
Evan: I will.

Ian: Will you, Julia, take Evan as your husband and faithful partner for life?
Julia: I will

Ian: Will you choose each other every day and love each other in word and deed?
Will you create a life of mutual respect, compassion, generosity and patience?
Will you be open and honest, trusting in each other and inspiring trust?
Will you cherish each other as individuals, partners, and equals,
knowing that you do not complete, but complement each other?
Will you accept each other for who you are now and who you may become?
Julia & Evan: We will

Ian: Will you support and challenge each other as you grow together
and do meaningful, productive work at home and in the world?
Will you maintain in yourself and inspire in others environmental consciousness and an active commitment to make the world more just for all?
Julia & Evan: We will

Ian: Evan, will you take care of Julia, delight with her in happiness and
comfort her in sorrow, through all your years and all that life may bring you?
Evan: I will

Ian: Julia, will you take care of Evan, delight with him in happiness and
comfort him in sorrow, through all your years and all that life may bring you?
Julia: I will

Ring Exchange
Ian: Now Evan and Julia will exchange rings.
Evan: I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise
Julia: I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise

Closing, Pronouncement and Kiss
Evan and Julia, we wish you wisdom and devotion in the ordering of your common life, 
that you may each be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, 
a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.
May you always need one another,
not to fill your emptiness but to know your fullness.
May you provide for each other,
not out of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
May you form a circle of love that gathers your whole community.
May you work together to construct a life rich with
health, happiness and deep satisfaction.
May you have many long years to enjoy each other’s company.

Friends and family of Evan and Julia, please rise and repeat after me:
Evan and Julia (Evan and Julia)
As your loving friends and family (as your…)
We now pronounce you married (we now pronounce you…)

You may now kiss!
[Tim plays “This Will Be Your Year” by the Zombies]

All photos by Jenna Salvagin Photography

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summing up the Wedding Magic

The day after our wedding, I couldn't believe that it all went so well, as if it were too good to be true. After years of imagining my wedding and months obsessively planning it, everything had gone how I wanted it to. As I lay in bed quietly reflecting on things while I drifted off into a post-hangover nap, I realized that I really did get to have my dream wedding, which Evan later agreed with - and we are grateful to everyone who helped make that possible. 

We shared the beauty of Evan's family's farm with a wedding for 130 of our family and friends under a tent next to the barns and soybean fields. We really lucked out with the weather, which was perfect, with no chance of rain, removing stress from setup and allowing everyone to enjoy being outside. There weren't even mosquitos, which was a worry since they can be bad at the farm sometimes. Our wedding party was invited for the whole weekend, which meant I got to cook and host and spend extra time with our closest people, There were 10-30 people staying at the farm on any given night, including several people who took us up on our offer to camp. 

We consciously made ethical and sustainable choices, like serving locally sourced food and organic wine. Instead of cake, several guests contributed delicious homemade pies and cookies - Evan's and my favorite desserts, respectively. My mom showed off her florist skills by making beautiful wildflower-esque centerpieces and my bouquet, using flowers grown on a farm nearby and picked from her own gardens. The table numbers featured botanicals pressed by my sister, and my dad made directional signposts. Because it was a wedding at home, Evan's parents did a lot of work landscaping and mowing to prepare, and there was a lot to do that weekend, from from setting up secondary tents to putting out decor to hauling trash cans and coolers. I'm so grateful for how everyone pitched in to help set up - not just our wedding party, but also their significant others.

I felt beautiful in my great-aunt's wedding gown, and Evan was dashing in his custom-made suit. We tried to keep the wedding party outfits low-key - the bridesmaids wore whatever dress they wanted in blue, and the groomsmen all wore grayish suits. A friend did my hair, but other than that, everyone handled their own makeup and hair.

We had a pre-ceremony cocktail hour, which was important to us, and gave us the chance to mingle and say hi to everyone before the ceremony even began, instead of hiding out. Our ceremony was officiated by Evan's friend, who excellently read the personalized words and vows that Evan and I had carefully written.

As musicians, of course we had to have lots of music performed by friends and family, including jazz keyboard for our ceremony processional and recessional, a choir piece and an acoustic guitar duo during the ceremony, an acoustic indie rock trio during cocktail hour, and Evan and I performed an original song of mine. We also impressed with our best attempt at the foxtrot yet for our first dance to a live jazz duo.

From an event planning standpoint, nothing much went wrong. The day-of-set-up was done quickly and efficiently in the morning. Everything happened relatively on time. The DJ and caterer did their jobs well and executed the event according to my plans, so I was relieved that even though I didn't have a day-of-coordinator, I still didn't worry about details during the wedding.

All of the toasts were touching and unexpectedly funny. When nighttime fell, there was an impromptu sparkler party, as people twirled and danced with wands of light. I loved seeing our guests milling around and connecting against the beautiful backdrop of the fields during the day, and seeing the a pathway of magical lights leading from the house to the tent where people danced away at night. As we hoped, our awesome DJs had the dance floor packed. The dancing continued seamlessly into the after party, which then shifted to singing and chatting around a fire until 3 am. The next morning, my hangover held off so that I was able to make it to my own brunch, even though I have missed so many other wedding brunches.

More than one person told us it was one of the best weddings they had ever been to. When we left the farm on Monday, I felt sad to be leaving it all behind. Thanks to everyone who was there and shared it with us!

More details to come. Until then, you can see more photos on our photographer's blog (all photos above by Jenna Salvagin).

Caterer: Fig Tree Market & Catering, based in Riegelsville, PA
DJ: All Nighter Sounds (allnightersounds@gmail.com), based in Red Bank, NJ
Photographer: Jenna Salvagin, based in Brooklyn, NY
Rentals: Grand Rental Station based in Hackettstown, NJ
Alcohol: Total Wine in Union, NJ
Dessert: We supplemented guest desserts with pies from Mackey's Orchard, Belvidere, NJ
Flowers: By my mom and Little Big Flower Farm in Blairstown, NJ
Gown: My great aunt's gown from 1965, altered by Sandra Usherov in Brooklyn, NY
Groom's suit: Brooklyn Tailors, Brooklyn, NY
Rings: Marian Maurer via the Clay Pot in Brooklyn, NY and Leigh Jay Nacht Antique Rings in the diamond district in New York, NY
Wedding weekend coordination: Me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Engagement Photos

I really, really wanted to document the wedding planning process throughout our engagement, but I was too busy planning to write about it. I felt like I needed to be accomplishing some wedding-related thing on most free nights, and if not, then I just wanted to relax with my beloved. Well, the wedding has come and gone, we have been back from the honeymoon for a week, and we are now happily married. When people ask me what I will do with my extra free time instead of planning, my answer is, "I have to change my name and blog about the wedding." So regarding the latter, let the recapping commence, starting with our engagement session.

In general, I find engagement photos cheesy, but I knew we should do them as a way to get comfortable with having our pictures taken by our photographer. And I like the idea of trying to capture some pieces of our typical life. We found our photographer Jenna Salvagin through a friend of a friend - in fact, she was a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my bridesmaids who got married a week after me. She has a great personality for a wedding photographer - I was in a terrible mood on the morning of our session, but Jenna's outgoing and positive vibe quickly put us at ease and turned my mood around. Most of my grumpiness was over the rainy forecast and my wardrobe - it's difficult to figure out what to wear that will look cute yet protect from rain.

However, the rain held off until late in the day, and it ended up being one of the nicest spring mornings in May, so we were able to capture a long stroll through our neighborhood of Park Slope (where we have been living for a year) and Prospect Heights (where we used to live). We started out at Cafe Grumpy, where we often take weekend walks for Evan's favorite coffee, followed by Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (where the proposal happened). 

Here we are sitting on the fallen petals of the cherry trees above us, on the same lawn where Evan proposed six months earlier.

Finally, I loved this portrait she took of just me. Jenna has a few more photos from our session up on her blog.