Monday, March 23, 2009

oh, and also...

I should have mentioned this yesterday, but the oft-requested photo updates are available. I've got all the before-during-and-after shots of the house here, and finished up some fun stuff from 2008 here. I've also got a new gallery for 2009 here (including photographic proof of the Red Lobster adventure, and photos of the canister labels). Oh! And I also made an album just of food pictures. Look in there for some glamorous Cobb salad shots, and a not-very-appealing photo of the Much Vaunted Samoa Tart. Holy mother!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

recipe for an excellent birthday

1. Start by having a not-great week leading up to the Birthday. Have some kind of not-completely-sickness funk dragging you down. Take a sick day on Thursday to rest, and then don't feel any better the next morning. One good thing happens Thursday... presents arrive from Future MIL: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White special edition DVDs, plus some delicious snackies. Eat four lemon cake balls then take a nap.

2. Take your assigned birthday personal day on Friday. Sleep in and be lazy, eventually go to the new southern restaurant near your house (Southern Bred) with Jon Burr. Eat so much homemade cornbread and rolls that you can only take like four bites of (delicious) catfish. Run some shopping errands (the joys of antiquing with J.Burr!) and then go home and take another nap. Birthday week = naps galore!

3. When your fiance gets home and takes an envelope out of his pocket, snatch it away and open it. The contents: about a dozen individually designed blue and white labels for your dry goods canisters. Each is perfectly matched to the contents of the canister (Vanilla Sugar is lacy and feminine, All-Purpose Flour has a gingham backdrop and Bodoni Bold Italic typeface). Some labels have witty commentary: Wheat Noodles (What do we even use these for?), Dark Brown Sugar (Now with more molasses!). Try not to cry that you get to MARRY this incredibly talented man who thinks of the perfect thing that you didn't even know you wanted. (He also found you the first-ever issue of Martha Stewart Weddings on ebay, which apparently is missing from your collection).

4. Meet Suz and Bryan (coworker + husband who feel like old friends) at Watanabe for dinner. Sushi! Bibim bab for the boo! Witty conversation and a warm booth on an alarmingly cold and rainy night! Perfect. Climb in bed at 10:30 and only feel 40% guilty for bailing on the Bomb show (that guilty level will raise to 65% when you're told the next day that they had a special birthday dedication lined up for you. Hmm, maybe that's more like 85%).

5. Amble out of bed Saturday morning. Bake a German chocolate cake for Dad (setting aside one cake round for yourself) and a dozen deviled eggs for Patrick. Magically get it all together and still make it to Bombay Palace in time for lunch. Feast on vast amounts of yellow and orange sloppy foods and rices.

6. Head to Casey and Trent's for presents and cake. Unprecedented: you get EVERYTHING YOU ASKED FOR. A sewing machine (used, simple, still with manual, exactly as requested)! The Bride's Instructional Manual! A box of silly goodies from your mom, plus some much-needed cash monies. And the highlight: Grandma Jansen's recipe box. This part makes you cry. Pull it together then eat some cake (and yes, it's the best German chocolate cake you've ever made. A triumph. You'll get an email from your father a few days later with the subject line "HFSGCC," in which he suggests you are receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy for this cake, which he has eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days straight).

7. Hustle over to the fairgrounds for the Nashville Rollergirls vs. the Tampa Tantrums. Back story: Tampa humiliated the Nashville girls in Tampa last year. Additionally, the first home bout of this season (a double header against Jacksonville and then Austin) was a total bloodbath (Nashville lost each game by over 100 points). The point: the Nashville girls are gunning for a victory. The conclusion: probably the best bout you've ever witnessed. World-class skating and a relatively close game the entire time. Scream yourself nearly hoarse by the time Rambo Sambo scores 21 points in a single jam. Bounce around the gym for a while, ripping with adrenaline and greeting all your friends who came out. Then head to the Melrose Pub for some delayed sandwiches and crowded, noisy conversation with your nearest and dearest. Bedtime by midnight: perfect.

8. Wake up shockingly full of energy for the first time in a week. Must be residual adrenaline from the bout. Clean up the house a bit and then head to Red Lobster at noon to meet Casey and Trent at the bar to watch Tennessee (lose) at basketball. Everyone else trickles in, and you all finally sit down for a seafood feast around 2. You order a pound and a half of snow crab legs and eat for an hour. Finish it off with chocolate wave cake and ice cream, and smuggle home an entire box of cheesy biscuits to share with Emma the next day.

9. Limp home after four hours at Red Lobster. What else could you do but take a nap?

10. Finalize birthday festivities on Tuesday night at Badness and Redbeard's St. Patrick's Day soiree. Gifts from Badness: ice-cream flavored Jelly Bellys in a cone-shaped dispenser, a hilariously outdated wedding planning paperback, and FOOD TV HOST BARBIE. Complete with her own chef's knife and stand mixer (that really spins!). Disassemble the whole package to poke at all the details (cameras and lights! pot holders on a rack! an oven that ACTUALLY BAKES A PIE!). Spend the rest of the evening snickering to yourself with happiness.

Okay, I'm ditching the second person format to give you the second half of this update: wedding talk. When last we met, we were still riding on the engagement high (okay, that hasn't gone away, at ALL) and had vaguely picked a date: May 15, 2010. And my best intentions were to just cruise for the next several months and then start planning in earnest in the fall. Now, you and I both know, I wasn't going to be able to let this rest. Because truthfully, there are a few important details that, if they are locked down in advance, can help shape and curb all the wild brainstorming and idea-culling of the next year: 1. location 2. tentative guest count 3. color scheme.

The tentative guest count was both surprisingly easy and reassuringly not prohibitively high. I'd be lying to you if I said I hadn't already been thinking about this for a while, so it was pretty simple to cobble together a list of our extended families plus the (edited) guest list for our housewarming party, plus out-of-town important friends. I was bracing myself for a 300+ headcount by the time I'd finishing entering everyone I could possibly think of, but was pleasantly surprised when the excel document totaled up at 223. That includes plus ones for all the single folk, all children over age 12 or so, and my closest coworkers + spouses. Hmm, that sounds almost doable!

Up next: location. I'd had an idea in my head for a long time, one that I knew Austin also approved of (details momentarily). But there were some logistical aspects to this plan that I wasn't positive about, and I wanted to be certain that we'd explored other options before we made any decisions. I started brainstorming with my girlfriends at work, and ended up with a list of a dozen or so places that would probably work, places we could check out and get a feel for. But I knew as this list went on that I was getting further away from what we really wanted. I loved the pictures I found online of War Memorial Auditorium, but I've never actually been there. We don't want to get married somewhere we've never been! There were other spots that had pros (great view of downtown) that didn't quite outweigh the cons (we'd probably have to use their in-house catering), blah blah.

So I did some finagling, and the weekend before my birthday, Austin and I went to the Farmer's Market for lunch. We haven't been there in a few months, since it was still in the midst of a vast renovation, and I was nervous about what we might see. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The central part of the Market Building (where all the restaurants are located) was still filled with tables and chairs (instead of booths, like it used to be a few years ago). It's open to the skylights above, and has big wood beams across the top of the dining area. I got pulled pork and macaroni & cheese at B&C BBQ, which turns out to also be a catering company (Bacon and Caviar). Austin got his same mediocre Chinese food that he loves. I chatted a bit with one of the maintenance staff, and he confirmed that the Market Building was available for event rental.

Then we walked down the Bicentennial Mall (which runs alongside the farmer's mkt) to the Tennessee Amphitheater. This is a place I've loved since it was built when I was in college. I have a lovely memory of us all going there with my grandma, and finding dozens of four-leaf clovers. It has a gorgeous view of the capitol building, and I've always thought it would be a beautiful place for a wedding ceremony.

So a few days later, I went back with Casey and we walked around some more. She agreed with me about the vision for having a ceremony in the amphitheater, then everyone walking over to the Farmer's Market for a big dinner reception. We got a reasonable quote from the parks director on renting the amphitheater, and as of this Friday, got another amazingly inexpensive quote on the event rental for the Market Building. Barring some kind of contract-signing or deposit/reservation disaster, we've picked a location!

So that just leaves color scheme for the Big Three Advance Decisions, and I'm hung up. Mostly because Austin has (strong) opinions about these matters, and I don't want to push him around or rush him. I want our wedding to be a shared vision, celebrating who we are as a couple and surrounded by the people, foods and things that we love. I am not going to be one of those brides who plans the entire party with no input from her groom, and Austin's not interested in being one of those grooms who just shows up. He has an amazing sense of style, color and design, and I plan on incorporating his ideas and opinions equally with my own. The color scheme is an important jumping-off point for this. Initially he said he wanted to use Manchester City blue, which I fully support (I love baby blue too), but when I expressed my desire (nay, my requirement) to carry pink roses for a bouquet, he balked. He thinks blue and pink together look like a baby's nursery (and, if poorly executed, he's right). So we backed off a little bit, and I thought we could look at some other color schemes as well. He also suggested a palette range of greens, which I think could be really lovely, and conducive to the Farmer's Market, but I'm not giving up on the idea of some really bold and pretty blues. Portuguese blue! Tiffany blue! That aquamarine color from all of Hans Silvester's pictures of cats in Greece! So maybe we can cobble together a set of blues and greens that we both like, and I can still sneak my pink roses in there as a very seldom-used accent color for feminine details. I swear to not put any groomsmen in pink shirts (unless they WANT to wear them)!

So there you go, some birthday and wedding updates. Also, did you notice the new look of the blog? It's still a work in progress but I am at least pleased with the format of the text not only being two inches across. I think now I'm bound for one more birthday nap...