DIYer, Urban Gardener, Astoria Resident, Vintage Collector, Intermittent Blogger

{This Astorian Life} Xmas Integration

Xmas is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. This year it was a bit rough. Japh’s mother died this past September a few weeks before our wedding so our holiday plans for 2011 were basically all over the place. Also, with this being our first big holiday married that meant that we would actually be spending the entirety of the Christmas holiday weekend bouncing between our respective family’s homes.

Friday, December 23rd, 2011:  Japh and I have a tradition of having what we call “Little Xmas” on the Eve of Xmas Eve. We exchange presents and enjoy a bottle of Anchor’s Christmas Ale. This year I got some seriously fantastic swag — A vintage mink stole, An ice cream maker attachment for my stand mixer, A handmade red applique apron, A working hairdryer w/ stand from the 1950’s and a hiking trip upstate.

Woooo Ice Cream!

Japh for years has been wanting to learn how to play the upright bass. Now these things are stupid expensive. Like buying a car expensive. Due to this I decided to go the safe route and rent him one for 6-months to see if he actually takes to it and I threw in a months worth of lessons to be held in our apartment.

My Husband Lookin' Seriously Debonair

Saturday, December 24th, 2011: My family celebrates on Xmas Eve. We have a tradition of eating pizza, then opening presents and then listening to some David Sedaris. It’s pretty much the most amazing family night ever. This is the first year that a non-blood family member was privy to these events. Japh has participated in two of our Thanksgivings so I briefed him that our Xmas Eve celebration would for the most part be the same — except that there are loads of prezzies and instead of a traditional dinner, we have pizza. The boozing and eating for hours remains the same, as does the playing video games with my Dad. I think Japh liked it. A lot. Also, my parents got Japh and I a telly!

Woooo Flat Screen Telly for us!

So, in review — Friday the 23rd we have an awesome “Little Xmas” together. Saturday the 24th was the Xmas Eve Extravaganza in which we drove 70 miles to my folks place. Late Xmas Eve we drove the 70 miles back to our home in Astoria so that we could sleep for four hours before we got up and hauled ourselves to Japh’s Dad’s home to make sure we are there for their Christmas morning celebration.

Sunday, December 25th, 2011: Japh’s Family Christmas — oh man was this rough. The house was quiet when we arrived. A feeling of anxiety and unease wafted through all of the rooms. I don’t mean to sound over dramatic but god damn the tension was thick. I cannot begin to understand how hard it is for them to push through and participate in a holiday in which their mother was the driving force. After a few hours we open prezzies and overall it went alright. Not nearly as cheerful as our previous two sessions of giving and receiving.  Japh had the idea of fixing up an old vintage frame that his sister Sarah had found in our neighborhood a few months back. He fitted it with a photo of him, his sisters and father from the wedding. While it was sad, it seemed to go over well.

Early that afternoon we drive about 100 miles to Japh’s uncles home for Christmas dinner. That was a little strange. Not bad, just odd because we don’t really know that part of the family all that well. After gorging ourselves on the amazing food we drive 75 miles back to our home. OMG – So much driving.

I’m not sure that I can handle this much integration of Christmas next year. While nothing incredibly drama filled happened, it was just a bit too much traveling. It’s hard because I’m so close with my family that adding a new addition of family members that come complete with their own ideas of Christmas and traditions is a weird notion. You know how women are supposed to take on their husband’s family as their new family? Yea, that’s not exactly how I was raised. The selfish part of me is like “My Family! My family! MY family!” but I know that’s not fair.

I’m working on understanding the nuances of gaining new family members. And understanding that now that I have sister in-laws as opposed to them just being my boyfriend’s sisters that more responsibility and communication is now required. Maybe it’s just me being selfish but I’m pretty sure that my family is not nearly as much work. My folks do their own thing and require very little from me or Japh. My kid brother lives in West Virginia, so actual interaction is pretty minimal. I’m not entirely sure how to be a good sister / daughter in-law but I’m trying to figure it out.

{This Astorian Life} Out of Circulation

To say that I haven’t posted in a while would be an understatement. Much has occurred since my last musing. The most exciting of which, I guess would be that I got married 😉 Yup, we finally did it and I have to say that it was fabulous. Not just the whole getting married to the most amazingly perfect man (for me) but rather, the wedding itself. I don’t care if this  makes me sound like a pretentious elitist snob — Our wedding was the shit.

We decided early on that the wedding would be very DIY. We did this for two reasons — 1) If you & your partner are crafty then this is a very inexpensive wedding path to choose. 2) Japh and I are down to the core DIY’ers and are kinda control freaks and didn’t really trust people (vendors) to be able to pull off exactly what we envisions. Ok, ok…truth be told it was more about saving money. Our total wedding budget was $15k and $12k basically went to our venue. If you are playing along at home, that only left us $3k to take care of all of the details.

Oh. My. Goodness. So many details. There’s my dress, his suit, the bouquets, the centerpieces, the guest gifts, the escort cards, the save the dates, the invitations, the music, the officiant, the photographers, the venue, the food, the bridesmaids dresses, the boutineers, the first dance song, etc. It just goes on and on and on. Most of these things come with a price tag, and a hefty one at that if you aren’t careful. With approximately $3k we pulled off the following:

Centerpieces were a combo of tree branches, inexpensive copper(esque) French flower buckets, book page flowers, twine, ribbon, old books picked up at garage sales, already owned vintage mason jars, candles and Japh’s mother’s lace doilies that she had collected. Total approximate cost $105.00 (about $13.00 each).

Materials are inexpensive, but this bouquet was incredibly time consuming.

Holy mother of Christ are flowers expensive. Outside of the price (which, of course was a huge factor), we decided early on that the bouquets would be paper. After making countless book page flowers and attempting to put them together as a bouquet, we noticed that something was definitely missing. W e had a fair amount of burlap ribbon left over from the centerpieces and after a peruse on the internet I came across a moderately simple tutorial for burlap roses. Total approximate cost for the materials used in my bouquet $14.00.

UPDATE 9.04.13:  Though, I must admit that while the raw cost is relatively low – this bouquet takes quite a bit of time to put together. Which my husband and I have learned now that we have decided to make and sell custom bouquets similar to the ones pictured here.

I had three bridesmaids, and we created a toned down version of my bouquet for them (because as Japh pointed out — mine should be the most awesome). Total approximate cost for each bridesmaids bouquet $6.00.

This seems to be the best shot of the boutonnieres. I have to credit Japh on this one. I came home one day from work and he had designed and made all of them. Total approximate cost for six boutonnieres $4.00 .

I waited for what some would say was a long time before I purchased my wedding dress. I bought it EIGHT months prior to the wedding but most people that I encountered were appalled shortly after we announced that I hadn’t even put much thought into my dress. Those people are dum dums. It’s a god damn dress. Yes, sure it’s important but there was no way that I was going to let that rule my world until I found one. I knew that I didn’t want to look like a layer cake. No judgement if that’s what you want — ok, that’s a lie. I just knew that for me, as a 30 year old grown ass woman that I wasn’t going to squeeze this size 12 body into a mess of ruffles, tulle and beads. Enter Kimera Designs. I discovered this gem of a dress shop on Yelp and am eternally grateful because of it. Yvvone, the shop owner and designer custom made me the most affordable yet elegantly simple dress. Total cost of th edress $ 620.00. Crystal hair comb, Free (already owned). Shoes (not pictured) $35.00 gold Chinese Laundry ballet flats. Earrings, Free (a gift from my Aunt who owns an accessories shop in Midtown Manhattan). Under garments, technically $80.00 but I never ended up wearing them because that stuff makes it hard to breathe. Total approximate cost of outfit (including undergarments even though they weren’t worn) $735.00.

For our guestbook we used a typewriter from the 1930’s (borrowed from the Best Man because we didn’t have time to get ours oiled and serviced). Total cost $8.00 (for new ink ribbon).

Japh & I hadn’t really even considered escort cards until a week before the wedding. I feel as if these are the kind of things that only kinda matter. We didn’t want to spend much on something that would for the most part be thrown away, so we utilized our library card RSVP template and put together some make shift escort cards. Total approximate cost $2.00 (paper was leftover from our invites)

Japh’s suit was a bit of a stresser. We purchased a gorgeous one pretty early on in the planning stages for about $150.00. As we got dramatically closer to the wedding the suit didn’t fit all that well. We had bought it about a size too small off Ebay thinking that Japh would most likely loose a bit of weight. Never, ever, ever do that. So two weeks before the wedding we scrambled but luckily found this amazing 3-piece corduroy vintage dead stock suit on Ebay for $170.00. Shoes, Free (already owned). Tie, Free (was a lovely extra from the seller of the second suit). Shirt, $25.00. Total cost of outfit (including previously purchased suit) $345.00.

Hair and make-up. This is something that I hadn’t even considered until my mother gave me a heart attack about it when she found out that I hadn’t hired someone. It was two weeks before the wedding and there I am scrambling across Yelp when I find Margie. After some negotiations we find common ground and overall I was pretty pleased with the results. Total cost $325.00 (including trial dry run in which I’m quite certain she thought I was a crazy person because I kept asking her to stop putting so much god damn make-up on me).

Now we are at $1,562.00 with $1,438.00 left in our budget. Here is a breakdown of some of the remaining items:

  • Photographers: $600.00 (including tip)
  • Rings: $43.00 (mine was free, it was my mother’s, Japh purchased a titanium band on Etsy)
  • Save the Dates: $12.00 (for postage. Japh designed them & I printed them at work)
  • Invites: $47.00 (for stationary & postage)
  • Officiant: FREE (we paid him with veggies and herbs from our roof garden)

At this point we were left with $766.00 for misc emergency stuff, taxis, bridal party gifts, etc. Suffice to say, we stayed under budget.

I’m seriously a lucky gal. We had the most wonderful wedding and our guests were amazing. While I am a married lady now I don’t feel all that different. Perhaps time will change that but I kinda hope that it doesn’t. In any case — Cheers to not breaking the bank and still getting exactly what you want!

{This Astorian Life} Moving Forward

On September 24th, 2011, my to-be mother in-law died. I had only known her for just under 2-years. Her name was Helen. She was wonderful, caring, sharp as a tac, nosy, tall, full of light, opinionated and sweet. She loved her family above all else. I had already taken to calling her “mom”. She would have been an awesome mother in-law. Sure there would have been times of aggravation but I would have loved her so very much. She was slender and had a long nose and when I first met her she had the most gorgeous long grey hair. She died of breast cancer.

I got the opportunity to become close to her because of the cancer. She was diagnosed shortly after Japheth and I started dating. Japheth moved home and in the beginning I would visit monthly. Staying entire weekends in their home in Northern New Jersey. At first it was a little strange for me but as time grew on I started to fall in love with not only Japheth but his family. His silent brooding father who is one of the softest, kindest men that I have ever met. His middle sister who in so many ways reminds me of myself, but in a lot of ways is oh so different and more hopeful than I am. His youngest sister, who is full of wonder and has an oddly appealing adult view of the world at the age of eighteen. And lastly, Helen — she was the glue that held the family together.

The last month of her life was the hardest, which I guess is not exactly a shock. I remember our last conversation — it was two weeks before she died. I have a cheap black knit Old Navy dress that she told me looked lovely on me and then we spoke about our garden and what Japh and I plan to plant in the fall. Helen was so full of knowledge. It was almost unsettling how much she knew about such a broad range of topics.

I miss her so much. About 2-months before she died she told me that she was happy that Japheth and I were getting married and that she knew that she would never have to worry about him. At the time I was touched, but dismissed it — eagerly thinking that she would get stronger and that she would still have plenty of time to worry about him. Now, it makes me really proud to know that she thought that about us and our relationship.

Slightly off topic but still important — I received an email from an old friend a few days ago. She had found out about Helen’s death and sent her sympathies. This person was my best friend for over a decade. We had a terrible falling out 3-years ago. At first I was thrown off when I saw her email address in my inbox, and then after reading her message I was unequal parts sad about the ending of our friendship and comforted by her words. I had sent a similar note to another old friend earlier this year when I had learned that her father had died.  That was email was not received well. This other friend, perhaps in her grief or her straight up anger towards me decided to blog about her distaste for my message as opposed to realize that what I was trying to do was be a human being. As Vonnegut would say “So it goes…” — I had no intention of attempting a rekindling of that friendship and had actually started typing such in that email but then deleted because I found it to sound harsh and unnecessary. After she had snubbed me the bitch in me wanted to wish her the worst, but honestly it’s just not in me anymore to feel that way. I’ve grown older, more forgiving — though outside of anything really terrible happening in her life, I cannot say that I give a damn.

Moving along, this old friend that had messaged me; we are meeting for a drink this afternoon. It’s weird because I’m a little nervous. Helen and I had spoken of her a few times and she had advised me to reach out to this friend. To mend fences. That if we were such excellent friends then we should be again. Helen was definitely more thoughtful and forgiving than I am. I’m also incredibly stubborn. This is something that will probably never change but Helen’s lasting impression on me is to be a better person and to follow what I think is right. Maybe this old friend and I will not be able to have a friendship after what happened but I am going to at the very least try.


{Life} It’s Supposed to Move on…

So my last few posts have been pretty depressing. To the 5 of you that actually read this blog — my bad for being such a downer. It’s been a rough few months. Planning a wedding with a terminally ill to be mother in law is really not very fun. Because this is supposed to be a happy time and I just feel so damn selfish. Last weekend Japh and I went together for a visit to his family’s home. It was the first time that I had been there in a few weeks. The time between my visit previous to this and last weekend is when shit really started to go downhill for her.

For months (since May) I’ve been consumed with anger, guilt, spite, sadness. It vacillates day to day. Sometimes I don’t think of it at all. This is usually when I’m working and too busy to think about anything else. Sometimes it’s all I think about. This is usually worst when I’m driving to  or from work. When I’m on autopilot and my mind can wander. I keep thinking that this is so fucking unfair. Why now? Why ever? Why before her first child gets married? Why before I get married? I waited so long to do this and now…this? What the fuck?

So yea, I’ve been a shit about the situation. Spending far too much time thinking about how this is affecting a stupid party. I’ve considered hard about cancelling but Japh’s family is insistent that we move forward. So we are. I’m not 100% sure I’m happy about this decision. Not because I don’t want to marry Japh but because I’m just waiting for it all to come crashing down. And there is nothing I can do about it.

I think that I’m most sad that I will never really get the chance to know my mother in law. Never get to hear all the great stories and words of wisdom that she is filled with. Never get to ask her advice on how to deal with a child going through their terrible twos. Never get to learn what it is about her that makes her light up a room. Never get to be angry with her. Never get to love her like I know that I would.

I hear from people all of the time how they don’t have good relationships with their in-laws. but I’m so very lucky. Japh’s family is wonderful, and welcoming, and warm, and kind. And they’re all so sad right now. And there is nothing I can do to make it better.

{Life} It Has A Funny Way of Sneaking Up On You

I’ve always carried a lot of anger. I honestly don’t know what to do with it, nor do I know how to handle it. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. The funny thing is that lately it has decided that instead of just being pent-up anger it wants to attack my body. I’ve been privy to a lot of illnesses as of late. Both of my wrists decided to swell up last week making me almost incapable of doing anything. Japh had to prop me up in bed so I could get out of it (instead of rolling out like an invalid). Of course I really didn’t do anything to make it actually better (though, I did go to a walk in clinic which proved to be not helpful at all). For the past few days I’ve had a terrible toothache (no, I haven’t gone to the dentist for two reasons — 1) It’s expensy and all monies have been allocated to wedding efforts. 2) I wore braces for 6 years, have had 8 teeth pulled and had to wear head gear as a kid. Obviously for me, the dentist is the devil).  Sometimes my knees hurt for no reason as all and I get headaches daily (which is a new thing).

Everything makes me angry — Planning a wedding, having a terminally ill to be mother in law, having a mother who is necrotic as I am, not hitting sales quotas at work, our third roommate, the electric bill, dealing with my to be husband’s internal grief about his mother that he doesn’t actually deal with, giving a damn about what everyone thinks, trying to look like I have it all under control because god forbid anyone knows that I’m quickly losing my mind, the garden and making sure the plants don’t die, to be sister in laws that may or may not hate me,  driving to work — the list goes on. They all make me so god damn angry and I just don’t know how to make any of these things easier or better.

{Doin It Ourselves Wedding} Parents Meeting Parents

It’s 230 in the morning and I can’t sleep. This probably has something to do with the fact that at 8p my body told me that it could take no more stress and forced slumber upon me. Now I’m no stranger to stress but today was a particularly rough one. Now, not rough in the sense that it was a bad day, because by no means was it bad — just very long and pretty damn draining. Unless this is your first time visiting my small space that I have carved out here on the interwebs (if so — ‘Hello’) you know that this November Grant* and I are getting hitched. During the past year and a half of our courtship we have hit most of the family milestones — meeting his parents, him meeting my parents, Thanksgiving at my folks, Christmas dinner with his family, taking his younger sisters out for an evening, etc. — and yesterday (Sunday) we engaged in the parents meeting parents tradition.

I’ve been stressing about this all week. Not because I was actually worried about how these two sets of wonderful people would interact (well maybe a little worried), but because everything is oppressively draining at the moment. Workload has doubled, funding the wedding is mildly frightening, our car needs some major maintenance, temporarily living with an extra person, my kid brother is having a crisis but he’s in West Virginia and not being able to be there for him makes me feel helpless. Crap, I sound like a pathetic ninny who is using this post to throw herself a pity party. Alright, enough, moving along — Life, while overall good is a little rocky and throwing parents into the mix just didn’t help. Continue reading

{Doin’ It Ourselves Wedding} Engagement Dinner Recipe Roundup and Recap

About 2 weeks back I posted about our engagement dinner party plans. At that point I had hammered out the menu and at the end promised recipes and photos of the shenanigans. I’m a lady of my word, let’s start with the main course. Now, I love most everything that is pork — it’s salty, it’s delicious and when cooked properly it’s tender, moist and pairs well with many different sides. Unfortunately, not all people share my love for this tasty meat. Due to this we had two entrees:

Whiskey Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

A simple Google or Bing search will prompt many options for this simple glaze, but after a few years of testing/tasting I find that the following ingredients make for a nice combination:

  • Butter
  • Whiskey
  • Brown Sugar
  • Pineapple
  • Cloves

Don’t ask me what quantity I used for each because frankly, I have no idea. I’m not a chef or a recipe developer. I just add as I go and taste. It’s been working out pretty swell for me thus far. In any case, I rubbed the above concoction onto the ham and baked that thing to perfection.


My second main course option was: Continue reading

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