Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Engagement Dinner Celebration (Friends #1)

Tonight I had my first ‘celebration’ dinner with a friend.
Midu is my adventurous dining partner in crime. We were friends in high school who reconnected a few years ago, thanks to social networking.  We both have husbands/fiances whose palettes aren’t as expansive as ours, so we meet every other month or so to try exotic or haute cuisine, or just the more interesting dishes at better restaurants, places that would be wasted on our partners.
Midu in front of Minetta Tavern's Black Label burger
(sorry for the crappy low light camera phone pic)

Tonight we finally made it to Marc Forgione in Tribeca, a place that we’ve been meaning to visit for a year now. Chef Forgione just won The Next Iron Chef competition, so we figured we better get in quick before the place explodes- we were almost too late, because the 5:45 reservation we got it was the only one available all night.
Holy Crap. It was possibly the best meal of my life! We started with a celebratory glass of champagne, then I moved on to the autumn sangria: Demi-Sec Rose, Quince Soup, Calvados, Citrus & Herb Essence, Bubbles, plus a candied slice of pear that I ate and some pomegranate. Appetizer: BBQ Baked Olde Salt & Hummock Island Oysters, Aromatic Sea Salt, Bacon Powder. Entrees: Duck Breast with Foie Gras Ravioli, Braised Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Nutmeg Emulsion; and a Ribeye with Dry Aged Potato, Maitake, Black Kale and Ginger Ketchup.
Oh my god. So damn good. In between bites, we talked about weddings- she’s a fairly newlywed (under two years) so she has a lot of advice to give. Still, we barely scratched the surface because we spent so much time eating!  Which means we have a great excude to go back soon... to talk, of course.
Now I have to go to bed and dream about those oysters…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My romantic historic waterfront Sandy Hook wedding


The third appointment we had on the Saturday before Thanksgiving was at The Fort at Sandy Hook. The venue is a former chapel, built in 1941 and renovated in 2006, in the Fort Hancock section of beautiful Sandy Hook. This is an option for Wedding Scenario #1. (WS#1 is basically the more expensive, larger guest list option, using an outside caterer at a non-all-inclusive spot.)



The building is on the bay side, right next to the water. You have several options to utilize the site, including the chapel itself and the grounds, with or without a tent. Some get married in the chapel and have the whole reception under a tent. Some get married next to the water and have the whole reception inside. We’re most interested in the third option- get married outside (or somewhere else), have the cocktail hour under a tent, and then the reception inside the building.

Mike is standing on the top of the slope, the beach is bigger than it looks- and of course Mikey the giant makes everything look small!


The chapel can seat up to 140 comfortably and still have a nice sized dance floor. Tents are expensive (yowza! I had no idea) but for just the cocktail hour, we could use a smaller tent, which is half the price.
There’s a small beach directly behind it, perfect for photos. You can also use many of the historic buildings for photo opps- the event coordinator told us about a bridal party who’d used the front porch of one to recreate a period scene.  An old canon is mounted directly across from the building.

I'm about to get blown away- by this beautiful venue!


The manager, Davina, was really great and helpful. She leases the building from Sandy Hook, so she’d take care of everything to do with permits and would be the only person we’d be dealing with. She is actually a perk to the site- I think she’d be great to work with. She had a book of photos from another wedding and let us take pictures of them for our own reference.


One of the best selling points- aside from the beauty of the water itself- the sun sets directly behind the building. Depending on our time of year, she can help us plan with our caterers to have the cocktail hour just as the sun is dropping into the hills of Atlantic Highlands.

What’s great about the interior is that it’s very low key, but with enough natural beauty (like the original wooden beams in the ceiling) to give it character. You can keep the decorations to a minimum and it’s perfect. In other words, you don’t have to go crazy with giant centerpieces or expensive, ornate chairs- simple is actually better, and of course, less expensive!




The fees give us a range of options, too. If we just have the whole thing indoors in the off-season, it’s quite affordable. But moving into the summer months, even on a Saturday, isn’t a whole lot more. Adding the tent is where the costs double, even with the smaller version- but it’s still within our range for Wedding Scenario #1. Also, they have a list of approved caterers, and Mumford’s is one of them! They’ve done several weddings there. Another great thing is that there’s only one wedding per day (no Saturday afternoon events if you’ve booked it for Saturday night) so your vendors have the entire day to set up. Plus, there’s no time restrictions- which means I could party til 1:00am if I want to (which I do!).
Right now this is probably our #1 contender. Michael really liked it. I love that it’s in Monmouth County, but in a secluded spot, not to mention a cool historical site, and it’s RIGHT on the water. There are a lot of fun AND romantic places for photos.
This is actually Sandy Hook, I didn't cheat with a stock Atlantic Ocean photo. And no, it's not the nude beach.


 I have a couple competing visions of our wedding in my head, one of which is more modern and goes with a certain ‘look’ I have in mind- this place doesn’t fit that image. BUT, it does fit another version, one that is more elegant, romantic, and warm, without being fussy, gaudy or overproduced.
It’s currently on the top of the list, but there is a lot more to come. I’m planning to jam a lot of appointments into the next several weeks- stay tuned!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving, Part 2

So, our first Thanksgiving as an engaged couple was a success!


             

 My sister and her dog stayed over for two days, and we calculated that we went through 76 beers and two bottles of wine. That was probably part of the success.


I’ve mentioned my wannabe culinary aspirations, but for this Thanksgiving, my first cooking, I wanted to keep it traditional- our traditions, the way my mom made it. (Except for the turkey. That was the only change.)
So I made mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, asparagus, rolls and my mom’s famous macaroni and cheese. She taught me the recipe a few years ago and I’ve been trying to perfect it ever since. She cooked like I cook- eyeballing it, not measuring, so replicating is all trial and error.
I’m proud to say that I think I finally got it right! My sister said it was fantastic and I have to say, it tasted pretty good. :) Thank you, Mom.

                                                                                    
On Thanksgiving morning, Mike and I woke up early, watched some of the parade and then walked to the Food Bazaar to get some extra snacks (as well as the can of cranberry sauce my sister insisted on, if only for decoration).  

It was weird being out in New York for a holiday- so many stores were still open, but the energy was so different. It was a perfect fall day, and we enjoyed our walk. We also ducked into a party shop and loaded up on turkey day paraphernalia. I think waking up to the parade and taking a walk through the neighborhood might be part of our new tradition together.
I ‘made’ the appetizer table just like my mom did, with a few small additions- brie and goat cheese in addition to the cheddar, and shrimp for Mike.



Somehow I got everything made, correctly, in the right amount of time. I know it’s not really a big deal, since all the dishes are basic, but the 6 dishes going on the table all have to be made at the same time (by the same person), so I was definitely worried. I'd bought a chef's hat while we were visiting Mumford's, and was wearing my mom's old Christmas apron, so I really had a lot to live up to.


But we pulled it off!
                  'We' pulled it off- here are my helpers, contributing.


Today, we plan to just lamp out on the couch, each with our heads buried in electronic  devices- Mike’s on his phone now, I’m about to spend a few hours looking at OffBeat Bride Wedding Porn. I also found a bunch of locations to investigate thanks to their Bride Tribe. I will leave you with an abundance of our holiday pictures.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

                      Yum


The turkey was worth every minute in line- sooooo good!

 Paper table cloth and cardboard turkeys care of Party Glitter on Broadway


The man of the house, carving the turkey- Thanksgiving is a time for gender roles (jk)

                              Stephy always gets the drumstick!

                    The perfect plate

                     Sleeping it off

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brooklyn Thankful

This Thanksgiving is one of firsts. My first Thanksgiving in my own home- and my first as head (and only) cook.  My first Thanksgiving outside of New Jersey- first in my new home, New York City. My first Thanksgiving with Michael as an engaged couple. My first Thanksgiving without my mom.

Like most of this wedding planning process, it’s bittersweet. But I’m making an effort to be positive.  It is nice to be in my own living room with just Mike and my sister (and her crazy dog)- my family, version 2.0. And yesterday, waiting in line for our turkey, I got to feel like part of the family in my new home since 2007- Brooklyn.
Since I was cooking for the very first time (more on this later), and also making new traditions, I decided to both give myself a break and try something different- a fried turkey from Jive Turkey in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Yesterday, on line (for 4 hours, in 40 degree weather) freezing for fried fowl (thanks Amy!) there were people from every borough, upstate, New Jersey and New York. But mostly there were fellow Brooklynites.
Everyone knows the camaraderie that can grow in a slow-moving line with like minded people- or just those in the same boat as you. Whether you’re enthusing over the recent set lists of a favorite band while camping out for concert tickets, or ruing the consistently terrible service at the DMV, waiting in lines forges fleeting friendships, especially when uniting against a cause.
Yesterday, we railed against the cold, took issue with the reservation policy and eyed potential line jumpers warily. We also compared notes on Thanksgiving plans, and shared nips of brandy offered by a fellow freezing for fried fowl friend. A young man who ran out to get a turkey at his mom’s behest spent the 4 cold hours in line wearing just a sweat shirt and basketball shorts. Understandably, we held his place while he periodically slipped into his car to warm up. Later he let two similarly underdressed girls (one in flip flops) huddle in the back seat for awhile. The girls had entertained us with choreographed dance routines they performed while listening to a shared iPod, in the hope that movement would warm them up. We owed them.

Shorts guy talking to dancer girls while brandy man plays scrabble online.
The refrain of ‘this better be the best damn turkey in the world’ was muttered by everyone at least once. But any time a passerby would stop to ask what was going on, each person would proudly state their current wait time, defend their dedication and declare Jive Turkey’s vast superiority to anything you could make at home.  When my group finally got inside and prepared to leave with our orders, goodbyes were said, even some hugs. Outside, the groups behind us cheered when we walked by with our shopping bags full of dinner, finally victorious.



I made it home, toes frozen, and collapsed dramatically on the floor inside my apartment. Mike and my sister had driven by, about two hours in, to deliver me a hat and gloves, and knew what I’d just been through to secure the centerpiece of our dinner. They had a glass of champagne already poured and waiting for me, and a pizza on it’s way.
Which, I must say, is the very best way to show you’re thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My super hip arty downtown cool wedding

A girl can dream, anyway!

On Saturday we visited a site that would be my top choice for Wedding Scenario #2.

Wedding Scenario #2 would involve a smaller guest list but more ‘creative’ venue. It’s a balance of less cost/more party. In this scenario, we’d have to keep the guest list below 100, probably closer to 80. We wouldn’t have a space to do a separate cocktail hour or a grand dance floor- or even traditional seating and food. However, we’d be able to keep our costs way down, and have our wedding in a really cool space.

So, the best choice for WS#2 is the Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park. It’s a great space that features lesser known, ‘alternative’ artists. The space is fantastic- all white, high ceilings, great track lighting, colorful art and gleaming hardwood floors.



We could put the dance floor right by the entrance, in front of the floor to ceiling glass overlooking Cookman Avenue. I can easily picture a mixture of high and low top tables sprinkled through the rest of the space, with a few food stations and passed hors d’oeuvres all night. I could skip flowered centerpieces all together and go with something architectural made of glass and metal. I have an idea about my wedding attire (one of a couple things I’m going to try to keep secret) that would fit in perfectly.
 
 

If I can’t have downtown Brooklyn, downtown Asbury Park is a great runner up. The town itself means something to all of our parents. It also has a ton of great places for taking photos. And we could simply walk across the street for a fun after party, plus spend our wedding night at a hotel overlooking the ocean.

I really LOVE the space. I can picture the whole thing. Here’s what’s going on in my head:

Pro’s- very visually appealing. Extremely cost effective. Desirable geographic location for both proximity to the church (if we go the church route) and the hometowns of our families and some guests (and it’s our home county) as well as for photo opps. Fulfills my alterna-girl vision of my wedding.

Con’s- limits the guest list by as much as 1/3. Lacks romantic and dramatic characteristics- first dance, mother/son dance and other emotional moments may not feel as heightened. Might ruffle a few feathers that traditional seating and dinner would not be available.

The guest list is the #1 conflict. One of the major appeals is the ‘party party party’ vibe, but how many friends would we be partying without?

It was a great visit on the heels of the caterers, realizing we could have a pretty awesome, budget-friendly wedding if we can live with a minimal amount of sacrifices.

And if it doesn’t work out for the wedding, I am definitely keeping this in mind for future parties!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Caterer

This weekend we went on more wedding appointments! I’m going to break the posts up, because I’ve noticed my posts are a little too long. So here’s the first:

Refresher: we decided to get married in NJ because it’s the most convenient for the majority of our families and a good portion of our friends as well. Being a burgeoning foodie, my snobbish fear was that we wouldn’t be able to find any of the top notch food we’ve been spoiled by access to in Brooklyn- at least not at our price point. I mentioned before that, like many others, I wanted to have a wedding that reflected our style- which is a little offbeat. Therefore, we were looking for a reception site a little off the beaten path- which usually translates to hiring your own caterer. I’ve been cautioned about the hidden costs of using outside caterers- not necessarily their hidden costs, but the many different rentals you might not realize you need until you’re already in too deep. So while I’ve been researching and finding a number of awesome venues, in the back of my mind I’ve been aware that we may not be able to afford them at all. (Hence our initial visit to an all inclusive venue.)

So the good news is- we might be able to pull this off!

On Saturday we met with Mumford’s Culinary Center, my absolute first choice of caterer. Located in our hometown of Tinton Falls, I first tried their food when they catered an event for a bank I worked for in Rumson 8 years ago. I can still remember biting into one of their petite crab cakes and subsequently hounding the waiters to bring each new tray directly to me for the rest of the evening. Later I worked right around the corner from the restaurant and ordered Mumford’s Caribbean Club sandwich for lunch more times than I can count. When I first started thinking about constructing our wedding from scratch (well, choosing something other than an all inclusive, anyway) I immediately thought of Mumford’s and hoped they’d work out for us.

And it looks like they will! It sounds like everything will fall within our budget, and there are options to make adjustments if we need to. And costs aside, the meeting was great. Their catering manager, Kristin, as well as the owner himself, Chris Mumford, met us for the initial consultation. Their menu is expansive (and sounds delicious). They were able to give us some ballpark figures for rentals, and they will handle all of it for us without an upcharge (common in the industry). They can recommend liquor stores who work on consignment, send orders to rental companies with our choices for everything from chairs to linens to glassware, and, most importantly, they’ll orchestrate it all for us the day of. Which is AWESOME. Because as much as I want this, I do NOT want to be worrying about anything more taxing than not crying my mascara off on the day of my wedding.

So, I’m excited. I’ve practically memorized the menu already and I'm really looking forward to picking out every last bite. The decision as to whether we’re having a cocktail party, standard dinner, or buffet will be made after we decide on a location (and finalize the guest list- oy) but it looks like, regardless of those decisions, Mumford’s is going to work for us!

Friday, November 19, 2010

First Wedding Purchase(s)

Yes, you can expect the ‘wedding firsts’ theme to continue. I just get excited over everything!

Somehow I made it almost a month since our engagement without buying anything. Mike’s mom came up a week after he proposed with a wedding planner and a huge stack of magazines, so I haven’t bought any of those myself yet. But this week I bought not one, not two, but THREE books! (Of course I’m going to geek out over the books instead of dresses or something.)

The first two were DIY Bride booksDIY Bride and DIY Bride- Crafty Countdown. I don’t consider myself to be especially crafty but I would LIKE to be, and these books contain not just ideas but step by step instructions. I don’t know how many things I’ll be able to pull off- a lot of projects really can save you a bundle, but they’re geared more towards people who are already crafty, i.e., already own the tools needed- but I’ve already gotten several great ideas. One in particular I’m especially excited about, but I’ll share that later… (Her website is great too.)

The other is Offbeat Bride. I’ve been reading the website for years, and now I’m finally reading the book! I know my wedding probably isn’t going to be as extremely offbeat as many featured on her site, but it’s definitely going to be geared towards Mike and I as individuals and also as a couple, and our tastes, which is all the book really advocates.

I imagine my wedding looking like a toss up between something that would be featured on Offbeat Bride and something from Brooklyn Bride (um, only in NJ). We shall see… stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frustrated, Incorporated

Remember how I said I loved dieting? Confession: I was being insincere. (Gasp!)

It’s not the dieting part. It’s the lack of results. (Duh.) With a few exceptions, I’ve kept to 1200 – 1500 calories a day, and have probably doubled my activity rate. I was easily eating twice as many calories before, if not three times as much, when you add in the alcohol I was consuming on a daily basis. And I didn’t do any exercise beyond walking to and from the subway.

At the end of the first week, I was down 4 pounds. But within a few days, 3 were back! (Mysteriously- I didn’t go over 1500 calories any of those days.) Now I’ve lost one of the prodigal pounds, but I’m currently only down 2.5 lbs.

To put it eloquently, WTF?!?

I think I’m making smart food choices. I’m not just eating Lean Cuisines or simply modifying my old diet plans (it’s low-fat mayo! On turkey bacon!). I’m eating lean proteins, tons of vegetables, and some fruit. I’m even making the bulk of my vegetable choices ones that are lower in carbs: spinach and zucchini as opposed to any type of potato, for example. But still a variety- this week we’ve had carrots, 4 different types of peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, sugar snap peas, and string beans plus the spinach and zucchini.


The lack of results is making me all around cranky. I tried to run in Manhattan after work yesterday but the combination of wet sidewalks and leaves made it too slippery, which set me off. Then the idea of cooking yet another meal of chicken and vegetables so irritated me that I went to the grocery store and bought $25 worth of Lean Pockets. (Don’t worry, I didn’t eat them. I regained my sanity once I got home. I’ll try to fob them off on Mike.)
I am aware that the healthiest weight loss is supposed to a pound a week. But let’s get real, people. There’s no way I’m going to be able to keep this up for…. Um… the necessary amount of weeks. (Too embarrassed to post my exact goal right now. Not until I’ve at least made some headway.)

I think the only option is to increase the exercise. To be fair, even though I feel like it should be making more of a difference because I was starting at zero, my activity level is still fairly low. I’m doing the Couch to 5k program, but that’s only 30 minutes of exercise three days a week. On my off days, I’m walking an additional 2 miles. But I’m not actually ‘working out’.

Here I ask for help- I can’t join a gym right now, but I’d like to ramp up my cardio. I need routines I can do solely in my living room. Seriously, even jumping rope isn’t an option. If I went to the postage stamp-sized park across the street and jumped rope, I might as well chant a double dutch rhyme specifically inviting my neighbors to beat me with the jump rope while they empty my pockets and take my shoes. I do have some small weights to work with, but that’s it.

So, can anyone recommend an exercise video I can buy or download? (Yes, I’m calling it a video even though I also said I could download it. Yes, you all know I’m 30 now. Shut up.) I’d love a personal recommendation before I run out and buy Buns of Steel or something. I’d like something with all over cardio, that preferably doesn’t require any additional stuff to buy. Mike does have a Wii and a PS3, so it can be a program of theirs as well. (I’ve already put one of those dancing games on my Christmas list!)

A few years ago I did some sort of ‘walking’ tape that I really liked, specifically because it didn’t require any extra equipment. I am willing to consider buying a step or something though.

So- suggestions please! Does anyone have a program/tape they like?

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Wedding Appointment!

On Saturday November 13th we had our first wedding appointment!
To preface- figuring out a location (in connection with out budget) is a challenge. For a long time I've been adamant that I wanted something a little different than the traditional wedding venues. To be clear, I love weddings. I love weddings in reception halls, I love weddings in backyards, I love weddings in VFWs. I really enjoy getting dressed up, watching a couple get married (I always cry), then enjoying an open bar and dancing my butt off all night. Plus food & cake- what’s not to love? (Unless your wedding does not include the open bar part. Then I love it less.)

But of all the places I’ve been, none of them ever felt like me. Trying to imagine myself having a similar event, I feel like I would look totally out of place.

So I’ve been on the hunt for a less traditional venue. (I loathe saying ‘unique’. Every single reception center, whether a hotel or banquet hall or restaurant, bills itself as ‘unique’.) And I’ve found what many, many brides before me have surely discovered in the hunt for originality- you most certainly CAN do something a little different than the norm. And all you have to do- is pay for it. So we decided to start with a pretty traditional venue as a base for future comparisons.

I’ll get into both the budget and the hunt for alternative sites in another post. But for now, I’m going to tell you about the site. I wavered between talking about it here and trying to keep it a surprise, but if I don’t post about the venue hunt, this blog will end up consisting entirely of me yapping about how fat my ass is and cooing over the adorable things Michael says. For some reason, that’s not what most people consider ‘informative and interesting’. Or ‘bearable’.

So! On Saturday we checked out Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty in Point Pleasant.

The Lobster Shanty actually has a lot of pluses for us. At first I responded a little negatively to the word ‘Shanty’. Doesn’t exactly bring to the mind glamour and elegance, right? But after thinking for a minute, I started to like it. I like the connotations of a New England seafood shack. Fancy food in a low-key environment- that’s pretty much my ideal restaurant! And I spent lots of time when I was younger near the water- we had a little motor boat when I was younger and used to spend time at the docks of the Shrewsbury Yacht Club, or fishing off the pier in Red Bank and along the shore. Pt Pleasant boardwalk is home to many happy memories. We all loved spending time at the beach and by the water- my mom especially loved the beach and practically lived there every summer. Michael grew up near the ocean and loving it too, and we both LOVE seafood.

The Lobster Shanty has a pretty expansive menu for a decent price, too- there are discounts for Friday nights and off-season nights, with multiple plans to choose from. The package we looked at included a LOT of food- 15 different passed appetizers, carving AND pasta stations, plus four different platters, and that’s before the three course dinner and multiple dessert options.

We were limited to the most expensive package because it was the only one that was 5 hours long. I think 4 hours is just not enough- once you subtract the cocktail hour and close to an hour for dinner, I feel like I wouldn’t have enough time to really relax and enjoy myself. The more expensive package was still a good value compared to what the average price range is in central Jersey.

The view was the main selling point and the first thing that drew me to it- if I couldn’t have something ‘different’, I at least wanted it to incorporate something we loved, i.e. water and the beach. Also, for no additional fee you could choose between having your cocktail hour in the main room or in a separate room with it’s own bar, both of which have beautiful water views, plus access to an open porch.

There’s a spacious bridal suite for us to use, and food would be brought up. I liked the look of the bar, too.

Proximity was another plus- it would be great to stay in Monmouth County. I’m not sure where we’re having our ceremony yet, but if we go the church route, it will be the church I grew up attending, where my mom worked and volunteered for 20 years: 1st Presbyterian Church of Red Bank, Tower Hill. As far as churches go, it’s gorgeous- my mom always called it a ‘Christmas card church’. I spent a ton of time there growing up, and always imagined it’s where I’d get married. I don’t really care about getting married in a church, but I like the idea of getting married there as a tribute to my mom. So, anyway, it’s a definite possibility, and finding a reception venue that’s within the same county would be ideal.

So the first appointment went well! Michael really liked it. I’m still not sold on the whole ‘wedding warehouse’ idea (no judgement! See earlier comments about not fitting in at my own wedding) but that could just be me, being stubborn. I’m definitely open to it as a possibility. I have to say, it was really exciting to be in the room and imagining it was our own wedding night! Every time I start to panic about the budget, I think about how much fun we’re going to have. And how excited I am to marry Michael!

This weekend we only did one appointment, because Mike was a little under the weather, plus my dad is REALLY under the weather- he fell off a ladder last week and shattered his left arm and elbow, plus fractured 4 vertebrae and his pelvis in two places. We spent the rest of our time in NJ visiting him in the hospital. It’s going to be a long haul for him, but he is expected to make a full recovery.

Next week we have two appointments on Saturday; one with a favorite caterer of mine and the next at a cool venue that would require said outside caterer (and also features a whole different water view). I’m going to keep it a surprise- more later!

Couch to 5k

Thanks to a great tip from a friend (and bridesmaid!) I'm starting the Couch to 5k program. For those unfamiliar, it's a series of escalating walk/jog routines designed to have you running 3 miles (5k) in about two months. I've been walking a lot lately and trying to incorporate jogging into it, but frankly I'm just not disciplined enough to make my own routine as I go along and stick with it. So last week I did the first session.

Turns out I suffer from the same delusional arrogance that probably afflicts many people who've been practicing the 'couch' portion for the better part of the last decade. Until I moved to New York, I was playing tennis with some regularity and occasionally getting into the gym (free at my old job) but I can't claim that exertion, or any effort lasting beyond a few seconds at a time, was ever my strong suit. And for the last 4 years I have increased my daily walking thanks to NYC commuting, but otherwise, I've just been honing my couch/channel surfing/snacking skills. Still, I stupidly thought that not only would the first week be a breeze, but I imagined myself flying through it and getting to the goal weeks ahead of schedule.

Negative.

The first week is three sessions of running (jogging) for 60 seconds followed by 90 seconds of walking, for 20 minutes total. (You can measure by distance or time.) This sounds like child's play, right? So I walked a few blocks away (brisk 5 minute warm up and cool down are part of the plan, too) to a fenced empty lot in a quiet part of the neighborhood circled by sidewalk I could use as my track. It's just an overgrown patch of gravel and dirt but it’s in a quiet area. Wouldn't want any pesky scenery distracting me from my goal!

I did the 1st Run for 60 seconds, using my BlackBerry's stopwatch feature, without any problems, although the last few breaths felt a little wheezy. Still, I felt fully recovered by the end of the walking portion.

2nd Run- a little tougher. Starting to find this ugly loop monotonous already. I'm in the Hasidic part of South Williamsburg now and the only people sharing this stretch of sidewalk with me are a few men in shtreimels and the occasional kid, so it's a good spot to run despite it's lack of visual appeal- they don't raise any eyebrows at my ugly sweats. Unlike my last walk/run over the Williamsburg Bridge, during which at least 3 B-burg girls gave me full up-and-downs while I huffed and puffed down Broadway. Yes, I exercise in H&M leggings and baggy sweatshirts (or the equally fetching combo of Michael’s sweat pants and a Lady Gaga t-shirt). If I, like you, skinny hipster chicks, were on a leisurely stroll to brunch at Egg I would indeed be dressed differently. Sheesh.

3rd Run- yikes. I've been counting in my head just to distract myself, first to 50, then to 30, but now I'm down to 1 through twelve. On this run I have to dodge a hideous part roach, part cricket, part bumblebee thing that crawled onto the sidewalk. Yuck. This time I'm panting before I'm halfway through. The 90 second walk isn't enough for me to catch my breath either and stretches to 2 minutes.

4th Run is torture. My counting is down to 1-2-3. I guess physical exhaustion has become mental as well. I encounter the creepy pinky finger-sized roach/bee again. He hasn't moved since I last saw him but scuttles a few inches when I approach, then rests. Perhaps he's on a Nest to 5k program?

Nevermind him. I'm dying. I make it the full minute, panting the whole time, and realize I might not make it the whole 20 minutes. The program said not to push yourself too hard in the beginning but I hate to be a quitter. I give myself an extra 45 seconds of walking before I start Run 5, but I still don’t make it to the end. The only plus side of quitting is that I won’t have to see the insect beast again, but otherwise I feel pretty defeated. I check my watch and realize that I still somehow made it almost 15 minutes, so I shouldn’t beat myself up, but wow. I don’t live in the best part of town, but the walk from the subway to my apartment is short and I always figured that if I was close to my house, I’d at least have a shot at outrunning an attacker. Now it’s clear that a toddler with a butter knife could take me down in less than half a block. This is not a comforting realization.

I stumble home and lay down for half an hour, fighting nausea. At least Day 1 is over. It’s a 9 week program, at three days a week, so- 26 to go!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Proposal

I posted the proposal story as a Page so it would stay at the top of the blog, since that's what I've been asked about the most. But I forgot it didn't appear in the feed of the blog, so I'm going to repost it here. Redundant, perhaps, but it's a pretty good story :)

Mike had a plan. A relatively simple, well-thought out plan. The only thing he couldn’t account for was me ( and the perpetually orbiting black cloud of chaos that often follows me). Here’s the story of how Mike’s Plan (or as he calls our relationship, ‘How I Tamed the Wild Beast’, that brat) miraculously came to fruition.

Here’s Plan A, as I understood it, anyway. To start: everyone who knows Mike is aware that he’s a bit of football nut. He and his dad are Giants season ticket holders, so if it’s a home game, he’s there, rain or shine; and if it’s an away game, he’s home in front of the TV whooping and hollering and generally scaring the wits out of our roommates. (We’re very rarely allowed to watch the game anywhere else but at home, to ensure there will be no interruptions! You do not speak during an Eli Manning drive!)

So when I saw that there were two consecutive Giants-free weekends in October (first, the weekend they didn’t play until Monday night, then their Bye week) I tried to arrange a football-free vacation. We were going to go upstate to a friend’s cabin for the weekend, but it ended up not being available and Michael said he wanted to bring my dog up from NJ for a visit anyway. So that was Plan B.

A week before the fated day (October 23rd!) our car started leaking coolant. Mike noticed while leaving the Giants game and drove it down to our mechanic in Monmouth County. He told us he could try a patch job to avoid a much larger and more expensive repair, and by Thursday he’d finished. So we enacted Plan C- take the train down to Jersey Friday evening, meet up with his parents for dinner and drive back with my dog for the weekend.

Plan C was going great- his parents picked us up, we picked up our car, we all went to dinner at Kelly’s; Mike and I picked up my dog, bought some beer and wine for the weekend, and headed back towards the parkway. About a mile from it, we stopped at a light and saw white smoke pouring out from under the hood. Turns out the patch job couldn’t hold it after all. By this point it was past 10pm. I was ready to throw in the towel- take my dog back, leave the car at the garage again, spend the night at his parents and take the train home in the morning, and try the whole thing again next weekend.

I should’ve gotten suspicious when Mike ignored my practical suggestion and instead came up with Plan C- borrow his parents’ car for the weekend. It seemed like a really big favor to ask late on a Friday night when we could’ve easily rescheduled, but he insisted. I thought he just wanted to make sure I got some time with my dog, so I went along. I should’ve been even more suspicious when his mom not only readily agreed to loan us her car, but actually offered it before Mike even asked! She met us at the garage in her pajamas and didn’t show any hint of alarm as my 130 pound sweetheart mongrel, Ruby, launched herself into the backseat of her pristine Accord. I tried apologizing for the inconvenience but was rebuffed. I vaguely remember thinking, “Boy, Mike and his mother are just so agreeable!” We finally made it home close to 1:00am and all crashed (me, Mike and Ruby too) on the bed.

The next day, Mike suggested we take Ruby to our favorite park, Fort Greene Park. We’ve taken Ruby there every time she’s been up for a visit. In fact, the first time we ever visited the park was with Ruby. During that first walk, we came across the steps leading up to the war memorial and mused on what a cool spot it would be for a wedding. Ruby and I even posed for some fake wedding/engagement photos (in which I’m taking her paw in holy matrimony, har har har).

One last near-disaster had to be attended to- as we were walking around the park (Mike steering us in one direction, which still didn’t set off any bells in my head) my phone rang. It was Pete, our mechanic, letting us know that he would have to replace our entire something or other, which would cost about $800. When Mike realized who I was talking to and what he was saying, his heart sank, as he told me later. “I was so worried that you were going to freak out or be upset about the cost and here I was planning on proposing to you in about 3 minutes.” However, I’d known that if the patch job wouldn’t work we’d be looking at something in this neighborhood, so in our one stroke of good luck, I didn’t freak out. (I don’t think this is true at all but Mike INSISTS that I am prone to freak out. I don’t know what he’s talking about. ;) I am the epitome of cool, calm and collected.)

We started talking about how happy we are together. (Which, folks, I have to interrupt and say that WE ARE. It kind of amazes both of us how well we fit together. But I’ll save the gooey stuff for another post…) Then Mike suggested we go off the path in the direction of the steps. The foliage that day was gorgeous, and I, being the picture of elegance, made Mike take pictures of me with my head poking through some leafy branches just moments before he proposed. After that silly photo, we walked a few feet and Mike put his arm around me and kept telling me how much he loved me. Then I looked down and his hand was moving around in his pocket. He pulled out a box and opened it and asked me to marry him. Apparently he got down on one knee too, but I was so stunned I really have no memory of it happening! I just stared at him and said “What? Stop. Seriously? Seriously? Shut up! Are you kidding?? Seriously? For real? Are you kidding? Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god!!!” until finally Mike said “So are you going to answer me? Will you marry me?” And I said yes and I cried and we kissed and hugged and I jumped up and down and finally looked at the ring, which was gorgeous. Platinum, completely surrounded by pave diamonds with a brilliant round diamond in the center.

I was kind of in shock. But finally, after about ten or fifteen minutes of watching us blubber and jump around (okay, watching ME blubber and jump around) Ruby finally got impatient. Amazingly, she had stood perfectly still and waited during this whole exchange. I think I must have been holding her leash in my hand the whole time, but I don’t remember. So we started walking again, through the park, while Mike told me all he’d done to pull this off. After another 45 minutes or so, we decided to go grab lunch to go at one of our favorite Sunday lunch spots, Pillow in Clinton Hill, and then we started the phone calls. Mike called his mother from the car and I called my sister. Of course Mike had given almost everyone the heads up already so they were already laughing and excited for us. We brought home our wraps and did the rest of the phone calls slowly through out the rest of the day. I think my favorite call was to my friend Jessica, the only person I spoke to that day who didn‘t know it was coming. It was fun to be the one surprising someone else that day!

We spent the rest of the day just hanging out. (We drove down to NJ the next day to drop off the car and so I could tell the rest of my family in person, but it turned out they were all scattered  in different places so I ended up telling them by phone.) That night I opened a bottle of Moet and we spent the night hanging out together and playing with Ruby.

I was completely, utterly shocked and surprised. It is VERY hard to get anything past me, mainly because I’m terribly paranoid and a major over-thinker. I read something into everything and am therefore hardly ever surprised. Also, poor Michael didn’t even know how to propose to someone when we first started talking about it. He actually asked me, “So, like, how do you do it? Do you just, like, ask, or… ? And when? Where?” I gave him a list of scenarios and expected him to do it at a dinner out. I thought he’d want to get some champagne in me first to help guarantee a Yes. JK. I’m amazed Mike pulled it off. AMAZED. And so, so happy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More observations from the mouth of Michael

The other night Michael came and looked over my shoulder while I was putting up my first blog post. He saw the title ‘Suzanne and Michael Are Getting Married’ in big bold letters and said, “Whoa, I’ve never seen it spelled out like that before! Huh. We are really getting married aren’t we?” (Don’t worry, he said this with a smile, not a look of panic.)

Later on, we were watching a commercial for ‘Love and Other Drugs’ and Jake Gyllenhaal’s character said something along the lines of, ‘You’re just going along, then you meet this one person, and everything changes.’ And Mike hugged me and said, “That’s like us. 3 ½ years ago, I was all whatever, and now look at us- we have a blog!”

Yes, folks. Now we have a blog.  : )

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I love dieting!!!!

Who doesn’t?

So, I began my own personal ‘bridal boot camp’ a week after we got engaged. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve put on, um, a not insignificant amount of weight since I met Michael. (In a later post I will explain to you how this is entirely his fault.) We want to do an engagement shoot in the spring (one of the presents we got at the engagement dinner (see previous post)plus I have something else planned… more on that later) and I want to feel better about myself by then. And I especially want to get back to a healthy weight by my wedding. Even though we probably aren’t getting married for a good 18 months or so, I don’t want the added pressure/impossibility of trying to lose 40 pounds in a matter of months, months that will also be the busiest/most stressful as far as planning goes. Not to mention having time to get a dress and have it altered, etc.

Anyway, I finally feel ready so I’m going for it. The biggest thing I’m doing is cutting back on alcohol. Confession time, and this will come as a huge shock to those who know me: I’m a bit of drinker. And nothing in the world makes me happier than a glass (bottle) of cold champagne. Um, except the love of my intended, of course. But I have to admit, one of the perks of being engaged is all the excuses to drink bubbly! And I’ve found there’s always an excuse to celebrate. I celebrate cooking dinner, I celebrate the NBC Thursday night lineup, I celebrate coming home from work.

I incorporate drinking into all our outings. (Let’s pick pumpkins- and have Oktoberfest beer! Let’s go to the Tribeca film festival- and then go to DeNiro’s bar! Let’s go look at Christmas lights with spiked hot chocolate! Let’s volunteer at the animal shelter right next to the brewery!) I seek out recipes that use alcohol so I can make it a theme night. I always cook ribs by boiling them in beer first, while I drink a better version of what I’m cooking with; not only  does my penne vodka sauce contain actual vodka but so does the chef; and I’ve long since learned the joy of sauteing anything edible in wine.

Don’t judge me. It’s not my fault liquor makes everything better.

Anyway, so my absolute favorite part of this diet is cutting way back on drinking. I’m limiting myself to the weekends (um, which start on Thursdays- but hey, they don’t include Sunday!) and this first week will probably only be Friday and Saturday. Yeah, it’s so fun.

Since I’m going so far as to strip the majority of the joy from my life (♫ ♪ There’s a tear, in my beer, cause I’m crying for you… ♪♫  …wait, this is Pelegrino) I’m pulling out all the  stops and doing a real diet, cutting back calories, fat and carbs, counting my caloric intake and incorporating exercise. It’s a dramatic departure from my past ‘diets’ in which I slathered mayonnaise on bacon and insisted, “Dr. Atkins said NOT to work out the first few weeks! And there’s only three carbs in this Miller Lite!” I have some little free weights at home I’m using in bursts of exercise- I’m a fan of those ‘100 calories in 10 minutes!” workouts where you piss off your downstairs neighbors by alternating marching in place, jumping jacks, running around your coffee table and executing some truly sexy lunges for a minute at a time.

Also, walking. I’ve started getting off the subway several stops early and briskly walking/jogging home. Well, more walking than jogging because I usually forget to leave my bag at home, so when I run I have to clutch it to my chest and look like I’m being chased by an especially slow mugger. Eventually I’ll get it together enough to bring sweats to change into and a backpack for my book. Mike and I had wanted to join this amazing gym in our neighborhood, Green Fitness Studios- it’s a green gym (um, duh), with self-powering machines and a living roof; it offers yoga and Pilate's classes and even has a spa- but we just can’t afford it now until we get a handle on our budget and how much money we have to save. So I’m trying to be creative. Today I’m getting off the subway in lower Manhattan and walking across the Williamsburg Bridge to get home. Wave hello if you pass me on the J train!

Honestly, dieting isn’t feeling too terrible right now. Michael and I are both feeling really good eating meals that are not only better for us but prepared much better too- props to me and my light touch with the oil, thank you, thank you. And props to Fairway of Red Hook for their bangin’ produce section, ample parking and convenient-to-me location.

I’ll share my weight loss triumphs (and failures, if you’re more into schadenfreude) as they happen. Hopefully soon.

Briderella

The other night Mike and I were watching a 'Where Are They Now' episode of Bridezillas, featuring some of the worst human beings on the planet (oops! Sorry!) and I asked him, "You don't think I'm going to be like this, right? Just cause I want to talk about it a lot lately?" And he said, "Are you kidding? You're the total opposite of Bridezilla. You're like Bride, uh, cinderella! Briderella! Yeah!"

Oh, Michael. What's not to love?


Engagement Dinner


Mike’s parents drove up to the city a week after we got engaged to take us out for a celebratory dinner. The evening went much the way our whole proposal did, which is pretty much how I expect this entire wedding process to go: flirting with disaster right up to the last moment- then everything falls into place.

First, Mike knew right away where he wanted to go- Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Park Slope (Brooklyn). Blue Ribbon is a great, low key place with fantastic food. They got an honorable mention in this year’s Michelin guide. They have other restaurants in Manhattan, as well as providing the food at Brooklyn Bowl. We’ve been there for birthdays, anniversaries, even New Year’s Eve dinner one year. It’s where I first discovered that I LOVE caviar. (On toast, with a little crème fraiche. Yummmm….) The atmosphere is elegant but casual and also family friendly.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, long story short, Mike and I each thought the other was making the reservation. So naturally when I called in a panic an hour and a half before his family was due to arrive, the waiter at least had the manners not to laugh at me when I asked if they had a table for 6 on a Saturday night. Because of course they didn’t, not until 10:30. I quickly called my back-up- Dressler in south Williamsburg, another favorite. From the owners of Diner, Dressler just received a Michelin star (for, I believe, the third year in a row) and has amazing food and ambiance- and is right down the road. (A quality I didn’t fully appreciate until later.) Again, booked until 10:00 pm.

I was frantically scanning my brain for appropriate restaurants for not just his parents and younger brother but also his 80 year old grandmother (who is perfectly healthy and able but still, the trip to Brooklyn is enough, I wasn’t about to subject her to the rickety piano benches for chairs and high decibel Grizzly Bear that constitutes atmosphere at so many of our W-burg haunts) when I finally thought of Jolie. It’s French, and has a great Wednesday Happy Hour ($1 oysters all night, PLUS 2 for 1 drinks for women at the bar). It’s at the top of Boerum Hill on Atlantic Avenue, a part of town that doesn’t get a ton of night life so I thought we had a shot. And, eureka! They could take us at 7:30.

The total distance from my house to the restaurant is barely 3 miles. We’ve driven there tons of times- in fact, we’d had lunch at the Soul Spot, less than a block away, just 3 days before. So we decided it we could certainly afford a short detour past Ft Greene Park to show his mother where we’d gotten engaged. Everything should’ve been fine, except there was some construction on Flatbush, we couldn’t get on Atlantic, I got confused and long story short, we finally turned around outside the projects in Gowanus. We worked our way back easily enough, but it was not exactly the scenic route and friendly road trip I’d imagined. Eventually we made out way to the restaurant and a nearby parking garage.

We were seated overlooking the little garden underneath a huge photo of Hendrix, across from another of Jagger. (Later the bartender told us the story of Frank Sinatra’s mug shot, taken in the 40s when he was arrested for adultery.) Mike’s parents went above and beyond as usual- they’d already helped us out considerably (see the Proposal story for one example) but they still showed up bearing gifts to the dinner they were paying for. They’d recently been to a charity auction and had allocated a good portion of their raffle tickets to successfully winning us a session with a photographer for our engagement photos, as well as some custom framing from another company! It’s very sweet and fits in perfectly with my tentative engagement shoot plans- I’d like to do some ‘traditional’ portraits, maybe in Ft. Greene Park or in the Conservatory Gardens in Central Park, and then I’d like to do a shoot outside in Brooklyn, more casual and fun. Mike’s mother and brother also got me a huge stack of bridal magazine and a wedding planning guide. His grandmother and step-grandmother each gave us cards with other types of gifts- equally appreciated!

We had a fun French waiter/drummer, great cocktails and everyone enjoyed their food. At the end of the night, while we were waiting for our dessert, Mike’s step-father disappeared for a minute and reappeared with our waiter, bearing a delicious bottle of rose champagne. I need to stop here and mention that I LOVE champagne. LOVE. Love love love. Caviar can’t hold a candle to the flame that burns in me for real, French bubbly. Usually I have to make due with Korbel at home, or the much more moderately priced cavas and proseccos when eating out. (I celebrated the night of our engagement with a bottle of Moet, and there’s a bottle of Clicquot on top of the refrigerator awaiting my next excuse.) So this was quite a treat for me.

At the end of the night, while Mike and his step-dad were getting the cars, his mother and I snuck another quick glass of wine (a lovely sparkling wine, of course!) at the bar and I let slip some location ideas I’d been bouncing around. It was a wonderful evening. Mike and I went home, where I drank even more champagne (every celebration is an excuse/a reason to drink champagne!) and we watched Saturday Night Live. All in all a lovely night!

Welcome!

Welcome to Mike and Suzanne’s Wedding Website/Suzanne’s Wedding Blog!

This site will serve as a hub for information on our wedding (and wedding related activities) as well as a blog for me to expand on that information- and vent, ramble, muse, and generally over think the whole wedding/marriage situation, just like I over think everything else in life ;).

I invited Michael to blog with me- I love joint wedding blogs! - but alas, he declined. I will try to pull him in for at least a guest post or two, though!

Mike and I got engaged on October 23, 2010. We live together in Brooklyn, NY and started dating on May 12, 2007. We’ve been living in Brooklyn for several years now but both grew up in New Jersey, where our families still are. Consequently, we’re about 90% sure our wedding will be held in New Jersey, and while no date has been set as of yet, our rough estimation is spring 2012. But more on that to come! As information is confirmed I will put it in easily accessible permanent links on this page. In the meantime, I’m just going to blog my face off! Thanks for reading!