Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wedding Wednesdays: Wedding Week Insanity

As Carrie has already told you, we did all of our on-site planning in short bursts in the months leading up to the wedding. We tried to do as much as we could ahead of time, but there were still lots of projects that ended up needing to be done at the last minute. Looking through our to-do list now, I'm a bit overwhelmed by how much we (with the help of many family members!) were able to accomplish in that time.

Our wedding was on a Saturday. We flew in on Wednesday afternoon. (Note to future brides planning from afar: if you can spare the vacation time, give yourself more time than this.) Our first stop was to pick up the rental car, which led to semi-awkward interaction with the rental car guy while Carrie filled out the paperwork:

Rental Car Guy: So what brings you to town?
Carrie: Um, our wedding.
RCG: Oh....blah blah blah try to upsell rental car crap...would you like to add a second driver for $$$ per day?
Me: I thought your company's policy is that spouses and domestic partners are free? (Yes, I had a printout from company's website if needed.)
RCG: Wait, are you already married?
Me: Yes.
RCG: Oh, okay then. Well if she (looking at Carrie) trusts you...

We then went on our merry way to pile our stuff into the tiniest, cheapest rental car ever--I had no idea that factories are still making cars without power locks and windows. But fear not, we had Sirius satellite radio!
Seriously, the window has a crank? Seriously?
The airport timing worked out such that Carrie's grandmother was arriving around the same time, so we picked her up a few minutes later and were off. Carrie and I still had a bunch of errands to run, so we made a quick stop at her parents' house and then headed out to buy last-minute supplies. One of the projects still TBD was the card box. Our plan was to pick up something at Michaels that we could decorate, but that plan failed when Michaels didn't have a single box of an appropriate size. Fortunately, a helpful employee directed us to the nearby HomeGoods store, where we settled on a black leather box that needed some alterations but would do. I am terrified of hot glue guns, so this entire project became a bonding moment for Carrie and my mom (with a bit of help from Carrie's dad). Sadly, it appears that despite their painstaking efforts, we don't have any pictures of the process or the finished product. This is actually sort of a theme from those few days--apparently running around like crazy people does not inspire one to meticulously photodocument the experience. We did have a relaxing dinner that evening at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant that was one of Carrie's favorite restaurants back in the day. It's hard to go wrong with DIY stirfry assembly.

In those few days, we had lots of last-minute paper projects to tackle--table signs, other random signs, and what would quickly become my nemesis: place cards. We had everything all set up ahead of time. The formatting was done, the mail merge was done, so it was just a matter of feeding the sheets into the printer and then hand stamping them. It turned out that the stamping was the least frustrating part of this process. The first few sheets printed fine, and then suddenly we had all sorts of problems. There was weird gray fringing. There was smudged printing. There were parts missing of some letters. We played with the printer settings, we shook the toner cartridge, we put in a new toner cartridge, and the gray smudginess was still there. At this point we were out of blank place cards despite having bought twice as many as we needed, and I was Freaking. Out. My mom went off on a trip to Staples, which involved her talking to a couple managers and going to multiple locations around the Twin Cities metro area before she found the cards in stock. And while she did that, Sean took apart the printer a bit and cleaned some parts so that once my mom finally returned victorious from Staples, we were able to print the rest. Oh yeah, and all of this involved me running laps back and forth between the computer that had Publisher on it and the printer in a different room. I think that may have been the only exercise I got that week, so it was probably good for me.
Me at the printer. I think the expression on my face is "Carrie, why are you taking my picture? Can't you see that I am freaking out here?"
Fortunately, Thursday evening also involved a wonderful treat: dinner at Lindey's Steak House. It's a very old-school steak place that Carrie's family occasionally visits for special occasions, and apparently wedding preparation was a noteworthy occasion. Stuffing ourselves with steak and potatoes seemed like a good antidote to the earlier stresses.

Friday, of course, brought more stress. We had planned for mani/pedis for us, our moms, and whomever of our bridesmaids were around and interested. Despite the fact that we'd scheduled an appointment for all of us, the nail salon was rather understaffed, and we ended up being there for several hours.

All of us pretending to read magazines while I'm trying really hard to suppress a giggle.

Under the dryers
We all had fun, but it was time we hadn't really budgeted for, so the rest of the day got rather hectic. Basically, we got home from the nail salon at around the time that we were supposed to be dropping off favors, place cards, etc. at the reception venue. But not only were we not ready, there were still a few random signs that needed to be made and the kids' favor bags needed to be assembled. Oh yeah, and as of this point, we hadn't even started putting together our photo slideshow; the photos had been scanned but still needed to be sorted, put in order, and set to music. And we needed to be at the rehearsal in just a couple of hours, and not only did we all need to get ready for that, but I needed to pack for the next couple of days because I was spending that night at the hotel (yeah, we're traditional like that). Carrie started the slideshow, Jen worked on the kids' bags, and I ran around like a crazy person. I'm not even sure if I was doing anything useful--I may just have been flapping my arms and making scared noises.

At one point I definitely started hyperventilating because the menu sign wasn't sized to fit right with a double matte in the frame we'd bought for it. Yes, the menu sign was where I finally lost it. The menu sign. People had already picked their meals ahead of time--this was just a courtesy at the entrance to tell them what the sides would be, etc. In other words, it was totally unnecessary, but I couldn't see that at the moment, nor could I think calmly enough to be able to handle fractions and recalculate the size. Fortunately, at this point Sean jumped in. It turns out that geeky guys are perfectly suited for measuring and aligning a beautifully double-matted menu sign. And while he did that, I finished off our list for the venue and started loading all of our paraphernalia into the car.

Carrie and I pretty much showed up at the venue in a whirlwind, dropped the bubbles, favors, place cards, signs, and whatever else happened to be in the car (I'm surprised we didn't leave them the spare tire). We were hyper-organized (and mildly paranoid about the idea of something not going perfectly as planned), so we had a list for them of everything we'd brought and where it should go, as well as a diagram of the venue with table names, high chair placement, and labels for where all our stuff should be. We talked through that list at about 90 miles a minute, then ran out the door and back to Carrie's parents' house to get ready for the rehearsal, which it was quite clear that we were going to be late for. I know that this is somewhat to be expected at weddings--lots of things don't start on time. But I really hate inconveniencing people, so I was having all kinds of stress thinking about our nearest and dearest sitting at the church waiting for us. Apparently though, these things don't start without the brides, so they were all mingling happily when we arrived.

This post has already gone on far too long, so you'll have to wait until next time to hear what happens next (I know, crazy suspense, right?) But what I couldn't really capture here was A. what a blur this whole time was, and B. how much of it we couldn't have done without our families. There were all sorts of other things happening that I haven't written about here, in part because I don't even remember who did them, but they got done. Dresses were taken to the cleaner to be steamed, lunches were made, the church was set up, and all sorts of other things that I wasn't involved in. Oh, and in case this wasn't enough insanity, there were two toddlers running around the whole time. It was certainly not a calm, quiet way to go into a wedding, but does that ever happen? I may not have reached a point of pre-wedding bliss, but we spent those days surrounded by family and friends who were willing to join us in the frantic frenzy that was necessary to make our wedding happen.
One of the little men, being as helpful as he could be. I think we all wanted to join him in that nap.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tornado Country

The vast majority of people I know who grew up in the Midwest have strong memories of a shared childhood fear: tornadoes.  It wasn't until I'd left Minnesota that I discovered that other children did not have tornado drills in their schools, where they were asked to duck and cover under the desks or beneath the coat racks in the hallways.  Several classrooms in my high school were in an area of the school that was intended to be temporary, but ended up sticking around for several decades.  An amusing memory from high school includes a teacher announcing that although the official recommendation upon a tornado warning was that we duck under the desks, if we happened to see her running for the [solid, concrete] bathrooms we should feel free to follow.  In Minnesota, every child learns that if you are out driving in a tornado warning (or in sight of a funnel cloud, though I have never actually experienced this) you should get out of the car and lie in a ditch. 

I can't find the post offhand, but I think we've written here previously about the strange New Jersey use of sirens to signify snow days rather than tornado warnings.  In Minnesota (and Wisconsin) a piercing outdoor siren undeniably signals that it is time to drop everything, grab your pets and a radio, and run for the basement.  You may be stuck there for an hour or more, and you will spend much of the time contemplating whether you should huddle under the most structurally sound portion of the house and whether it would be safe to sneak upstairs and try [fruitlessly] to catch a glimpse of a funnel cloud.  This was a several times per summer ritual.  I remember once when my friends and I were out for a walk in the rain and the sirens went off.  We were several blocks from home, and instead of running for it we knocked on the door of an almost-stranger and asked to cower in their basement.  This seemed semi-normal at the time.  Because we grew up with a shared fear of tornadoes, and so did those people, and so did their children.

Supposedly they do have tornadoes out here in the East.  One weekend last summer my sister and her family were visiting us.  We had just enjoyed dinner in a restaurant, and Becky volunteered to take our overtired nephews outside to burn off a little energy while Jen and Sean and I finished up.  A bit later I followed them outside, and noticed a vaguely familiar green tinge to the sky.  On a whim, I glanced at my smartphone and actually bothered to check the "severe weather alert."  It said "tornado warning."  Becky and Jen and I shared a moment of muted panic.  There were no sirens announcing it; New Jerseyians were carrying on as if nothing was happening.  But you can't take years of Midwestern training out of us.  We rushed to a nearby supermarket and waited out the warning.  Sean, the non-Midwesterner among us, was a bit bewildered about what all the fuss was about.  Because he did not grow up with the constant specter of tornadoes hanging over his head.

There have been awful tornadoes in several parts of the country recently.  The worst hit places are far from either of our childhood homes.  But this weekend there was a tornado that touched down not far from my parents' home.  The pictures bring back strong childhood memories of that intense tornado fear.  I am thankful to live in a part of the world where this fear can be muted, and I am thinking of all the people in the South and Missouri and Minnesota who have lost loved ones or are dealing with damaged property.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Accidental Tourists

We spent this weekend at home without visitors, and without any major plans.  Friday night we went with Kara to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the city that was tasty but a bit more expensive than menupages lead us to believe.  We were intending to see the movie Bridesmaids together afterward, but when we arrived at the intended theater we discovered that it was sold out.  Who knew this movie was so popular?  Apparently everybody else did, but not us.  Instead we split up and went to our respective homes.  Becky and I watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy.  We took a long (years??) break from this show, but got sucked back in by the musical episode.  Marketing success I guess!

Saturday we did all the cleaning/errands/etc.  We also accomplished several of the little things that have been sitting on the to-do list forever.  I have no idea why we procrastinate on things that take two minutes, but somehow it always seems like there's a long list of them that we don't want to do.  You know, things like "e-mail the cat sitter about the honeymoon" and "tape the box shut on the swimsuit you need to return."  Are there classes we can take to learn how to stop procrastinating on this stuff? 

In the evening we had the stay-at-home version of date night.  We ate steak (a rarity around here!), worked on that deliciousness Becky already posted about, and watched The Tourist. 

On Sunday we went into the city to be at-home tourists.  But sadly we didn't get to meet Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp and we did not get to steal 744 billion euros.  Too bad too, because the dollar is doing very little to get me excited to spend euros in just a few short weeks.  Thankfully my excitement is strong enough to sustain itself!  While waiting for our friend Stephanie and her daughter to arrive at our meeting point in Bryant Park we happened upon free outdoor ping pong tables.  I have no idea who comes up with this stuff.  But, due to the drizzly overcast weather, we were able to entertain ourselves with no wait. 
We then enjoyed a leasurely lunch at an umbrella covered table, followed by a ride on the carousel.  Yep, three adults and one toddler.  Got a problem with it? 
There's a cute little outdoor kids "reading room" right next to it.  Which, apparently, you can spend several hundred dollars to rent for your child's birthday party.  New Yorkers are seriously a little bit weird.  Nonetheless, it was fun to enjoy for free.  There's also a cool little outdoor bar in the park that we want to go back to sometime.  I had no idea there was so much cool stuff in there. 

When we were tired of getting damp we headed inside to the 100th birthday celebration of the New York Public Library.  The main branch of the library is one of those famous buildings that I've admired from the outside but never quite gotten around to going inside.  It's gorgeous!  I love old buildings, and if I had a time machine I would definitely travel back to pre-internet days and see what the library was like then.  Of course it's a good thing that information is more readily accessible now, but there must have been something really special about going to a huge gorgeous library when it was the only way to possibly access certain pieces of information. 
They had a storytelling festival going on, with some really talented storytellers.  Several kids in the audience were really absorbed by it, but Stephanie's daughter was much more intrigued by the folding chairs in the auditorium.  They were obviously not designed for the weight of children, and kept trying to fold up with the children still sitting in them. 

We also explored the children's center and by chance happened upon something that has been on our to-see-in-NYC list since the beginning: the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals!  No flash photography was allowed, but you can see here Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, and of course....their friend the otter?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pan de Mallorca

I wandered into Starbucks the other morning in search of a pastry for breakfast. Normally they probably wouldn't be my first stop for breakfast (as a non-coffee drinker), but I remembered that I had a couple dollars left on a gift card and that therefore my pastry would be free! I was intrigued by a roll they called "Mallorca Sweet Bread" and decided to give it a go. It was soft and chewy and covered with powdered sugar. In short, it was delicious. Unfortunately, like most mass-produced baked goods, it had a hint of chemical aftertaste, so I set off to do better.

A quick search led me to this post from The Noshery (unrelated sidenote: the homepage currently includes a recipe for "Runny Egg on Creamy Bacon Polenta", which is now added to my must-try list.) What I learned from her post and my other internet research is that mallorcas (or pan de Mallorca) are a popular Puerto Rican sweet roll based on ensaïmada, a traditional bread from the island of Majorca.

I debated halving the recipe, but Carrie talked me into making the whole thing with the reasoning that we would likely eat more than one at a time (we both have an intense sweet tooth). I'm glad that we have plenty of leftovers, but if I'm making these just for the two of us again, I'll definitely go with a half batch--these rolls are big! We also may or may not have eaten quite a bit of the deliciously sweet dough in the process, but we still had plenty for twelve large rolls. The dough is definitely on the stickier side and was a little difficult to shape because of that. Carrie also wants to make sure that I give her full credit: she was quite helpful and skilled at shaping the rolls. (She was also quite helpful at eating the excess dough in the bowl. :))

Unfortunately, I didn't start on this project until close to 8:00 last night, which meant they weren't going in the oven until nearly midnight. I got a little impatient and put both pans in the oven at the same time. As a result, the ones in the pan near the bottom of the oven got a little overcooked on the bottom, but they're still tasty!

We sprinkled a couple with copious amounts of powdered sugar and ate them immediately.

This morning we filled two with cheese, heated them up in the oven, and powdered sugared them. Delicious! Unfortunately we didn't have any ham, so we couldn't try them with ham and cheese as is apparently traditional, but I have a feeling we'll be making these again. If nothing else, it gives Carrie a good reason to play with her beloved powdered sugar shaker!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Miss me?

Well, of course we had good intentions.  We were going to bring you a Wedding Wednesday.  And probably a Random Thursday.  And some random article/life commentary in the mean time.  I'm tempted to tell you that these things did not materialize because we were caught up in living our lives to the fullest (or perhaps repenting?) in anticipation of today's zombie apocalypse.  That would make for a pretty good story.  Maybe I could tell you about how we called in sick to work and spent the week checking things off of our bucket lists, like Becky's dream to skydive or my dream to ride a jetski.  These activities would be far less enjoyable with zombies wandering around.  Especially in New York City, because there's a hell of a lot of cemeteries in the outer boroughs.  

The truth, however, is far more mundane.  Neither of us arrived home much before 9pm any night this week, and by the time we drag ourselves through that long of a day and the commute, blogging feels unrealistic.  Somehow we can manage most of our other internet socializing from our phones and work computers, but not blogging.  Thankfully though, early reports from around the world indicate that (surprisingly enough) the zombie apocalypse is not coming to pass.  We had big plans to liveblog the rapture, but now it seems like that would be the world's boringest liveblog of us doing errands and cleaning the house.  Due to the postponement of the apocalypse we will have plenty of time to check off some of those bucket list items, and hopefully also to write for your bloggy entertainment.

I'll leave you with a plea for fashion advice.  My work dress code is relatively casual, but I fear I've been pushing it a bit lately on the casual side, so last weekend we did some shopping.  I found a shirt (for a good price) and decided to buy it, despite Becky's assertion that it was the ugliest shirt she's ever seen.  Or something drastic and negative like that.  But now I'm having second thoughts about buying this shirt despite my wife's strong objections.  So I'm opening it up to you, faithful internet friends.  Should I keep the shirt?  Let me know in the comments.  Please ignore the goofy pose, I wasn't fully intending to post these on the internet when we took them.
Close up of my chest.  What fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Summer Kick-off 2011

We spent a very lovely three day weekend kicking off summer at our favorite B&B in our favorite Jersey shore town.  Several years ago we were approaching our first summer living in New Jersey and, being beach lovers, figured we should take a trip to the shore.  We found a campground to use as a home base, and spent a weekend exploring various towns described in our guidebook. 

We fell in love with one town in particular, called Ocean Grove.  It's chock full of gorgeous Victorian homes and cute little shops, has a non-commercial boardwalk all along the ocean, and the whole town smells like beach.  Ocean Grove quickly became our getaway place, and we go down for daytrips several times each summer.  We found an adorable B&B that serves delicious hot breakfast (the specialty is cream cheese stuffed French toast casserole!) and has off-season rates and a 3-for-2 deal in May.  Last year we weren't able to go due to the cost and time of wedding planning trips (though we did haul a friend there to take our fake e-pics there last April and spent a week there with my family in July), but this year we continued what has become an annual May tradition.

Last Friday we later calculated that we walked nearly eight miles, as we checked to make sure that all of our favorite places were still there.  The shore was abuzz with people getting ready for the summer.  Beach storage bins were freshly painted and lined up to be set out, lifeguard stands and playground equipment were piled and awaiting beach placement, and everyone seemed to be out and about getting their summer homes set up for the season.  I'm happy to report that no one pulled out the plug on the ocean in the last several months of our absence:
A wave surprises Becky.
Happy hour by the ocean!
The only disappointing change is that a bakery closed, but I do suppose time marches onwards.  Thankfully our favorite ice cream shop is still thriving.  Here's Becky with a peanut-butter-twirl filled waffle cone:
On Saturday we tried out a new activity: horse racing.  We had never been before, as I'm fairly certain that Midwesterners do not partake in this sport.  But we're almost always up for new wacky adventures in sporting so we decided to give it a shot.  I hope we weren't inadvertently supporting animal cruelty, although Wikipedia tells me that unfortunately we may have been.  I honestly had no idea that there would be so many people.  Apparently large groups of friends/families/co-workers/who knows who rent out whole areas of picnic tables and bring in picnics and barbecues and coolers of beer and settle in for the whole day.  We purchased a program to try to get our bearings, and ended up placing $14 worth of bets.  We won back $2.60. 
There was a bit of a marital snafu when Becky wanted to bet on a horse that would have won us a few dollars and I instead insisted on betting on a horse that won us nothing.  But overall, the horses were sleek and the hot dogs were familiar (at one funny point I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with not knowing what we were doing and I declared that we needed hot dogs because I had eaten a hot dog before).  Becky declared that her favorite moment was when, after we had been at the track for about an hour, we finally spotted a horse and I said a bit too loudly "look, there's a horse!" 
We also spent plenty of time relaxing in the B&B, including reading Harry Potter (yes, the treasured books fresh from the Harry Potter trunk!) on the porch:
Becky claims she's "having fun in my mind."
And plenty of time wandering on the beach, sticking our toes into the still frigid water:
Although we somewhat jokingly agreed to call this the start of summer, I am eagerly awaiting the warm summer weather and the warming of the ocean that will allow us to return to Ocean Grove to swim!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wedding Wednesdays: Dress Shopping Surprises

I wasn't feeling particularly inspired to write a regular recap post this week, but fortunately Carrie's mom suggested an idea for a post related to wedding dress shopping. For those of you who only had/have one bride in your wedding, be glad that you get to avoid this issue!

Carrie and I decided that we both wanted our dresses to be a surprise. Given that we normally do and choose just about everything together, keeping our opinions on dresses secret was no easy task. There were many evenings of both of us sitting on the couch with our computers angled away from each other so that we could look at dresses online without the other seeing. In addition to that, we both did much (in my case, all) of our dress shopping the weekend that we were in Minnesota in May. With the whirlwind of things happening that weekend, we also had to schedule appointments at some of the same stores in a way that we were sure to not run into each other in the process.

We had considered the possibility that we might fall in love with the same dress but figured it was unlikely since there are thousands of dresses out there and we are different people after all. But just in case, we agreed ahead of time that our moms could compare notes on dresses and at least warn us if we were picking the same one. I don't even want to think about what the negotiations would have looked like if that had happened...

Fortunately, we did not choose the same dress, but we did come rather dangerously close! In retrospect, our moms must have been cracking up when they were comparing pictures after our crazy day of dress shopping.

For your viewing pleasure:
This dress was my back-up plan in case Carrie happened to pick my first choice.

Carrie, sporting the same dress

Another dress I tried on

Carrie's actual dress (so pretty!!!)

This was in Carrie's top 3 (she actually had the consultant convinced enough that she was going to buy it that they let her take pictures despite a no-photo-unless-you're-buying policy.

My actual dress. Yes, the neckline is literally the only difference.

That last one was definitely our closest call. The store that I bought it from (Wedding Shoppe in St. Paul) was my last stop of the day but had been Carrie's first stop. I explained to the consultant that Carrie had been there earlier that day, so after I tried on this dress, tried on a few more, and then went back to this dress and declared it the one, she went and grabbed Carrie's paperwork from that morning. She then came back into the fitting room looking sort of stunned and dragged my mom out into the hallway. She tried to pretend like they were doing a good job of hiding it from me, but I'm not an idiot and knew that Carrie had either been interested in the same dress or something shockingly similar. But the advantage I had over the consultant was that Carrie had already sent me text messages at lunchtime saying that she'd liked a dress there but it wasn't her first choice. There were definitely a couple of tense days while Carrie figured out what her first choice was before I could actually order the dress, but obviously it worked out great in the end. To those of you who know us in real life, I'm sure our similar taste is no surprise, but I'm glad that we didn't both want exactly the same thing!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Auntie Blogging, or choo-choos and school buses

My sister Jen and her adorable sons Mathew and Thomas came to visit us this weekend!  They rode Amtrak in to the city and left Sean at home to work on the house.  This seemed like a great plan for Jen to have an independent adventure weekend with her vehicle-loving children (big truck!  choo-choo!) and for everyone to get to spend more time with the adoring aunties.  What is not to love about riding a choo-choo to New York City?  Well, apparently a lot, when you are an over tired and over stimulated two year old.  Jen had a rough go of it on the way in, and was quite relieved to have help wrangling her toddlers when they arrived.  Thankfully Matthew and Thomas had a much better time during the visit than they did on the trip to get here.

Friday night we all headed to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.  Jen and I took the boys to the playground so they could run off some of their energy from being cooped up on the train, while Becky took one for the team and waited in the famous line.  You really do have to be a bit patient to be a New Yorker, which I seem to have grown accustomed to, but am often reminded of when people come to visit.  All five of us enjoyed our burgers, fries, and custard, and the weather was absolutely perfect for eating outdoors.  Unfortunately given the aforementioned circumstances on the train, none of us were with it enough to pull out a camera on Friday, so you just have to take my word for it.

Saturday we spent the morning and early afternoon hanging out at home and at another playground much nearer to our apartment.  For so-far childless adults we managed to come up with a pretty good showing of our toys (is it odd that Mr. PotatoHead is part of our normal knick knack selection?), plus of course a bunch of their toys from home.
Auntie Becky plays with toys
Matthew at the top of the slide...
Matthew at the bottom of the slide...
Thomas insisted on trying on Auntie Becky's rain boots.
This meant that we were able to let the boys nap at home, which I think may be key to avoiding two year old meltdown.  Jen also fell asleep in her efforts to get nap-resistant Matthew to sleep, and I decided that the end stages of my surgery recovery would be helped by joining them.  Becky apparently threatened to draw sharpie mustaches on all of us while we slept, but thankfully she thought better of it!

We then headed in to the city for the late afternoon and early evening.  Matthew and Thomas loved the "school bus" that we rode to get in, and also loved watching all of the different types of cars and trucks and buses going by.  They live in a sort of distant suburb/small town/semi-rural area, so the sheer amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in New York was extremely exciting but also a little bit overwhelming for them.  Even at our apartment, which is in a neighborhood we think of as very quiet, we can often hear police/ambulance/fire sirens.  Thomas was surprised to hear them and wanted to rush to the windows to watch the "fire truck!" go by.  Unfortunately for him this is often not something visible from our windows.  We also must have sounded like such silly tourists endlessly talking about the subway as "the choo-choo" for the boys, but we were trying to talk up trains for their return journey, and also....they are tourists, so why not enjoy it, right?
We rode the ferris wheel at the Times Square Toys R Us flagship store (no decent pictures, but Becky and Matthew and I were on the other side of the car):
And then we got sandwiches to-go from PB&Company and ate in the park.  Some random strangers actually came over and asked if they could take their picture with the boys because they were looking so cute.  Complimentary of course, but still, who does that?  Odd.  The boys were unbelievably sticky by the time they were done.
We went home and watched part of the first movie that Becky ever saw in a movie theater: Follow that Bird, the 1985 Sesame Street classic.  Still accessible today!  I was a bit dismayed by its less than complimentary portrayal of social workers and much to Becky's dismay playfully threatened that I won't let our kids watch it.  Mathew and Thomas went off to dream land after such a busy full day, and the adults stayed up to chat and drink Asti and eat dessert.

This morning we had an informal Mother's Day brunch (with mimosas!) for Jen, played of course, and then shepherded everyone back to the train station and wished them luck on the return journey.  We haven't gotten the whole report yet, but from a few quick text messages it seems that it was rough but not as bad as Friday.  Poor Jen.  But everyone made it, and we absolutely loved having our very favorite visitors this weekend!
Happy Mother's Day Jen!
We spent the afternoon relaxing, recovering, and of course wishing our own mothers (and my grandmother) Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Random Thursday: Surgery week edition

When I started this I wasn't fully intending it to be a weekly thing, but it seems to be turning out that way.  Apparently even in weeks where I do not go to work things are dragging a bit by Thursday, and it's easier to write thoughts out in random lists than in full blown posts.

1. We finally got moving again on honeymoon planning.  We stalled a bit a few weeks ago when the hotel we picked for Athens was booked for our dates.  But we have picked ourselves up again and are now debating the risks vs. rewards of seedy neighborhoods in Athens.  To be within walking distance of attractions, or to not be within walking distance of prostitutes and junkies... 

2. My ideas about good and bad neighborhoods have evolved a lot in the last three years of doing home visits for a living.  I've seen a lot of things that would probably not make my mother too happy (sorry Mom).  But no one on the internet seems to be able to tell me how sketchy Athens compares to my experience of sketchy New York.

3.  I watched a bunch of episodes of the show Parenthood on today.  It's like Modern Family, but less funny and more dramatic.  I like it.  I think I will put Season 1 on our Netflix queue.

4. The pain from surgery has definitely gone down a lot, but my patience for any pain/discomfort has also gone down a lot.  I'm ready to be fully back to normal now please!

5. Getting new passports in our new name is going to cost us $110 each.  How annoying.  Technically this is just the renewal fee, but we renewed in summer 2009 so it's annoying!  I suppose I should just be grateful that they will recognize our name change (because Massachusetts considers the marriage a legal name change the feds apparently have decided there's no way around honoring that) and not require us to jump through any additional hoops.  But I can think of better uses for our $220!  Like, oh, a semi-private Santorini sailboat tour?

6. Jen and the boys are coming to visit for the weekend, so you can expect Auntie blogging on Sunday or Monday!

7. The cats are really unamused that I have been home all week but not really letting them jump on me and generally maul me the way I usually allow them to do.

8. Today was the first day since surgery I was able to stay awake all day.  I know napping during the day sounds luxurious and/or lazy, but earlier this week I was so freaking exhausted that I couldn't possibly stay awake so it was absolutely a necessity!

9. Somehow our commute seems a lot longer when I'm sitting at home and Becky is doing it by feels like forever between when she tells me she's coming home and when she actually gets here.  I sincerely hope that we can someday live and work much closer together than we do now.

10. I'll leave you with pictures of the cinnamon rolls that Becky made for me a few weeks back, but then I forgot to include in the weekend recap:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wedding Wednesdays: Planning from Afar

The first decision we made about the wedding was where to hold it.  It was always a given that we would have a legal ceremony in a state where it would be called marriage.  But whether that ceremony would be the ceremony was initially up for debate.

When we got engaged in November 2009 there was buzz around New Jersey that New Jersey would pull it together before Corzine left office, and we dreamed briefly of asking our friends and family to travel to our home state to hold a single celebration of a newly legal marriage.  We also pondered acting politically with our financial investment of a wedding celebration and holding our party in Massachusetts or Connecticut, where same-sex marriage was already legal.  But in the end we decided that the best answer for us was to hold the wedding we would want to have if it were legal, and not let haters dictate where or when we should celebrate our relationship.  Sadly, the Minnesota government is currently seeking to reaffirm their disdain for our relationship by amending the state constitution to ensure that our marriage could not be recognized.

In an acquiesence to political reality, we did conduct a tiny legal ceremony in Massachusetts, which you can read about here and look at pictures of here.   But for the most part, we consider the Minnesota ceremony and party to be "the wedding" and "our anniversary."  (And it was certainly the bulk of the wedding spending!)  I grew up in Minnesota and Becky grew up in Wisconsin, we both have family and friends and family friends centered in these two neighboring states, and we were able to get married in my childhood church.  Initially the decision felt like we were selling out the idea of putting our money where our politics are.  But ultimately I have no shame in financially supporting all of the wonderful, supportive vendors we worked with.

So, planning a wedding in a state you don't live in is a lot like planning a destination wedding.  Except my impression is that when you plan a Jamaica wedding or a Mexico wedding, most of the vendors are geared towards destination wedding go-ers.  Apparently Minneapolis isn't high on the destination wedding list.  So we had to sort it out ourselves.  To be fair, we had a bit of a blue print in my sister's wedding planning from five years ago, but she was primarily willing to allow my mom to be her wedding planner.  In our case we had not one but two brides who wanted to control every little detail, and also not one but two mothers-of-the- brides who also had opinions and needs. 

Our overall strategy was to do big chunks of planning in marathon wedding weekends, during which Becky and I, Becky's mom, on a few occasions other relatives, and my mom had wedding retreats in my parents' house.  This involved some quick bonding for our mothers who had only met for the first time in December 2009! 
Our first trip to Minnesota was in January 2010.  We toured four potential reception sites, were stood up at one arranged site tour, and drove by two other potential sites.  We met with six photographers and were canceled on by one additional photographer.  And even just reading that right now I feel like we were crazy.  But part of the stress of planning from afar was that we had to have lots of options lined up, because we didn't have the luxury of loving one vendor on the internet and then going in person and hating it/him/her and then trying again the next weekend.  This whirlwind approach forced us to do our internet homework and then jump in and do.  I think it was an advantage that we saw everything/met everyone all at once so we could easily compare and choose.  But it certainly felt stressful at the time!  When I got the e-mail from the photographer who canceled (she had a family emergency) I almost broke down crying, because somehow her cancellation solidified for me that she was the one photographer we were destined to love.  Crazy much?  Never fear, we picked ourselves up and loved another.

This is me diligently studying the reception contract, ever cautious to not sign away the rights to parent our first born (I'm fairly certain we avoided this, but I won't be entirely shocked if one of our vendors shows up at the hospital someday expecting that!):
I think the whirlwind version may have been good for our indecisive selves also, because at the end of the weekend....we obviously weren't going to pick a photographer we didn't interview or a venue we didn't view, and thus we had to just freaking make a decision.  And ultimately, those big decisions from weekend one were the easiest.  We loved in person the same venue we loved online.  We both easily agreed that the photographer we thought we loved online was unnecessarily expensive and not a personality click, and that the photographer we did pick was an easy personality match.  Of all your vendors, your photographer is the one whose personality you should like.  Ours felt like she could have been one of our college friends.  Win.

Our second trip to Minnesota was in May 2010.  We managed to connect it to a Wisconsin trip we were planning to take anyways.  We got a private food and wine tasting at our reception venue (special perk of long distance planning!), met with four florists, met with four bakers, took engagement pictures, scoped rehearsal dinner venues, met with the minister, shopped for invitation supplies, and shopped for wedding dresses.  Once again our selection of vendors was probably overkill, but I don't regret meeting with any of them.  I like to make informed choices!  The one thing we really could have done at home was wedding dress shopping, but we wanted to have our moms in on part of it at least.  I ended up buying mine off the rack at a boutique in Minnesota and then conning my mom into shipping it to New Jersey for me to have altered.  Becky ordered hers through a shop in Minnesota and they mailed it to her to have altered here.  Alterations was one of the most stressful parts of the wedding planning, and I would highly recommend buying your dress from a shop where you plan to get it altered.  While in Wisconsin we also went bridesmaid dress shopping with Becky's sisters and made a tentative decision.  Like the colors??
We didn't go back to Minnesota until three weeks before the wedding.  Pretty much all of the detail finalizing with all of the vendors we did over phone and e-mail, we hired DJ and limo companies over the internet, we instructed our wedding party to order outfits over the internet, and we worked on all of the paper goods and favors and all the little details from home.  We ordered box after box of stuff to be sent to my mom, who would open boxes on Skype and show us our unity candle or our boxes of dozens of bubbles.  We also asked each of our mothers to take care of buying or doing certain things for us, like sorting out only red and purple Hershey's kisses from dozens of bags, or tying personalized ribbons. Not everyone was equally enthused about ordering their outfits:
 In October the whole gang descended on Minnesota again, and we did hair trials, had a shower, re-tasted our cake (to be sure of the flavors!!), and worked on finishing and folding and organizing all of that stuff that our moms collected for us!
People on the wedding internetz talk a lot about wedding planning taking over your whole lives....  we definitely had lots of days where we didn't really have any wedding related tasks we had to complete, but that freedom was obviously created by these intense whirlwind planning weekends.  I might be a little crazy, but I liked the intensity of being forced to get so much done at once, and of having our families with us in our intense focus for just those weekends.  When my mom first warned us of how many planning trips we would need to take to Minnesota I was a doubter.  Now that we've done it I think it's a miracle that we didn't need more.

ETA: ARGH, I did it again!!!  :(  This post was written by Carrie, despite Blogger's claims that it was written by Becky.

Monday, May 2, 2011

In Sickness and in Health

Well, "in sickness and in health" wasn't actually explicitly in our vows... but trust me, it was there in spirit!
On Friday morning I had my gallbladder removed, and I honestly don't think I could have made it through the last four days without Becky.  She has cooked and cleaned, waited on me, set an alarm to give me pain medication in the middle of the night, and helped me in/out/on/off the couch/chairs/bed/toilet/car/pretty much every surface in our home.  I have no idea how single people have surgery. 

Overall, the hospital staff was really great about not missing a beat when we answered "she's your friend?" with "no, wife."  I didn't really expect anything less from a hospital in Manhattan, but you never know for sure.  Before surgery they took my blood pressure and it had spiked; I attribute this partially to the fact that they made me leave Becky.  (Thankfully they let me have her back again before the surgery, and before she left that time the anesthesiologist gave me some Valium in my IV...haha.)  Before surgery they also made me take a pregnancy test, despite my best assurances that I was 110% definitely not pregnant.  Apparently their results concurred because the surgery went forward. 

As they were starting to think about letting me go home, the volunteer lady (aka meanie head visitor gatekeeper) told me that she was sending "my friend" up.  Usually I am not one to get annoyed about these things, and given that standing up was taking all of my mental attention, it was certainly not my moment to complain out loud.  But in that moment of being seperated from her and really wanting/needing her to come back and take care of me, I was definitely reminded of the profound difference between her being my friend and being my wife. 

My brain is still a little fuzzy, probably from a combination  of surgery fuzz and pain medication, so this post isn't the most coherant.  But I hope the underlying message of how much I love and appreciate my wife is coming through!  Thank you Becky!