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Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Random New Year’s Questions

by SweetMidlife

Happy New Year’s Eve!! This has been a year. both really good and really bad at the same time Yes. Lots of both. Ans since this is the time of year where people do a lot of reflcting about the year past, and also because y’all seemed to like last week’s post where Lynne and Leslie asked each random Christmas-themed questions, and also because it is fun when we riff off of each other, here are random questions (and hopefully answers) about New Year’s, and years both old and new.

Yo, Leslie, you up next.

Leslie smiling with her awesome hair.

Leslie smiling with her awesome hair.

Lynne asks: “What did you think I would say at this moment? I totally watched a Hallmark-type movie with Candace Cameron-Bure and the guy who played the replacement Todd Manning on “One Life To Live”, and they were at a dance with a band who was trying to be Billy Vera and the Beaters. And that has nothing to do with the New Year, but that came to me. What is the best Hallmark movie you watched this year? And also, weren’t Billy Vera and the Beaters good?

Leslie responds: Yes, Billy Vera and them were amazing or at least that song was. That final chorus where he’s all “If I..I-ei-ei-ei-ei-ei-ei…if I could just ho-oh-oh-hold you…a-ga-yaaan” my hands are up like “Preach your truth, man! You PREACH YOUR TRUTH TO THE SKY!”

As for the Hallmark movie, I’m gonna go with “A Royal Christmas” with Jane Seymour because she’s a royal with a huge snob complex trying to thwart her son’s relationship with an American commoner, and she’s so initially evil that you kinda chuckle. Jane came to play, people.

Lynne asks: “Are you doing resolutions this year? If so, are they long-term or short-term? And how many involve seeing Lionel Richie sing in Vegas?

Leslie responds: All of them. Because everyone you meet is jamming in the street. Tell me they’re not.

Lynne asks: “If you could book any act you wanted to at your dream version of ‘Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve’, who would it be?” 

Leslie responds: 1986 Crowded House. Janelle Monae. Darlene Love singing about Christmas even though Christmas is over because she is Darlene Love and what are you gonna say to her?

Lynne asks: “What is your favorite New Year’s themed-movie? Is it ‘New Year’s Day’? I know what mine is but you didn’t ask me this question. And Jon Bon Jovi did look good in that movie. ‘New Year’s Day’. Not the other movie I was talking about because I haven’t told you what it is. 

Leslie responds: I hated that “New Year’s Day” left poor Halle Berry sad and scared for her husband over in the war, just like stupid “Love, Actually,” a thing I hate, lets the middle aged women be alone and cheated on while happiness is for 20-somethings. Screw you, movie. This is not what this question was about so I will answer that it’s “When Harry Met Sally,” the same thing you picked. For that reason.

Lynne asks: “Okay, I realize that I do need to tell you what the other movie I am thinking of was. It was “When Harry Met Sally”, and I decided to tell you because it is about old friends, as Sally says, and that is what you and your beloved Scott were. Sigh. And Scott was Jewish like Billy Crystal and you have big hair like Meg Ryan. So this isn’t a question, but yes, you used to be black Molly Ringwald because of how you dressed in high school, and now you are really black Meg Ryan. Feelings on this?

Leslie responds: I am both. I am also the eye in the sky, looking at you. I can read your mind. And you should be ashamed of yourself.

 OK Lynne…here you go. Cause I’m Les and there ain’t nobody like my body, yes I’m somebody…Oh, we aren’t doing Salt N Pepa lyrics? No? Here you go.

About to go on a date with my husband where I checked my phone maybe twice but really that was too much.

Lynne about to go on a date with her husband where she checked her phone maybe twice but really that was too much. 

Leslie asks: “Here comes the jackpot question in advance…what are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve? Which is tonight?”

Lynne answers: We are making fish subs and then finding a way to watch the early fireworks in our town without being all the way downtown. Because old and crowds and get off of my lawn. But it will be nice.

Leslie asks: “I’m stealing from Billy Crystal, like all good writers, but what the heck is Auld Lang Syne about? Feel free to make stuff up.”

Lynne answers: It means to forget those old people and stop bring them to mind because they were maybe suspect. But wait, maybe I am somebody’s old acquaintance they they are trying to forget. If I am, then sorry. I don’t know what it means. But whatever, sorry, old acquaintances.

Leslie asks: “Have you ever noticed that Father Time, in some pictures, looks like the Grim Reaper? And given the year we had, should we be concerned?”

Lynne answers: We should be concerned. Dang. But you know that time won’t give me time, right? Or a Filet O’ Fish without cheese. Because you have to wait extra for those.

Leslie asks: “What are your resolutions, dude?”

Lynne answers: Hmm. To have big goals, but to remember daily why I have them. And decide sometimes that it is okay to set them daily, but also remember that I have the power to do stuff or not. Sometimes goals change, and they should sometimes because maybe you weren’t thinking right when you set it. But I would love to have the theater I am starting up and running and performing for the children by the spring. And I resolve to have more dates with my kid and husband where I look at my phone not at all.

Leslie asks: “Tell me about a resolution that you broke and aren’t sorry for breaking?”

Well, I said that a few years back I was getting back to my wedding weight, and I got instead to the weight you are at when you eat a lot of wedding cake. No really, I am not where I resolved to be weight-wise, but I have lost some weight, and I am making steady, healthy progress. I was trying to be a weight that I thought I would be happy at because I was trying to get to the feeling I had when I was that weight. I don’t ever need to be that size again, but if I get there, I will by working hard, but not by setting a mindset that I can’t keep up with. I know me. I am getting to where I need to be by paying attention to what I eat and moving more and not killing myself. Healthy, hopefully, in all ways. But I will still eat cheese. That is happening. Because happy.

 

 


“How’d that get in my cart?”: The joy-ish of shopping with your partner

by SweetMidlife
Sometimes we have too much peanut butter. And sometimes, Husband buys excellent hot sauce.

Sometimes we have too much peanut butter. And sometimes, Husband buys excellent hot sauce.

Greetings. My name is Leslie, and I like grocery shopping. If you read this blog, you might notice that we post about food a lot, not only because we’re in the gym working on our fitness just like Fergie, but because we like food, which is why, unlike Fergie, we need to LIVE in the gym working on our fitness.

In my case I think that my weekly-ish visit to the supermarket and to the cool vegetable market down the street is also a function of my control freak-ism. As a single girl, it was about trying to control what I ate, which translated into what I weighed and, unfortunately, how I felt about myself. But now, I’m the primary meal planner for three people, one of whom likes meat and white pasta, two things I don’t eat, and the other of whom expresses his displeasure by wrinkling up his face or turning his head as the spoon’s headed for his lips, or just says “No” in a Hobbit voice and then runs away to play with blocks.

(It’s up to you to guess which one’s my husband and which one’s the Toddler.)

Anyway,  because we should all be healthy, doing the shopping means that I get to control at least the dinner options of the household (Husband gets lunch at work, and I do buy Toddler’s food for Baby School, but iF a cookie or something gets in there I’m not there to police it, and a cookie isn’t gonna kill him.) (Yeah, I said it. Come at me, bro.)

I also do most of the cooking, and I’m the only one who remembers what got shoved in all the little drawers in the refrigerator or that we ALREADY HAVE PEANUT BUTTER OH MY STARS THERE’S THREE JARS OF UNOPENED STUPID PEANUT BUTTER IN THERE BEHIND THE SALAD WE NEVER ATE AND I DON’T EVEN EAT JIF ONLY YOU DO PLEASE EAT IT OR STOP BUYING STUPID PEANUT BUTTER.

It’s stuff like JifGate that make me kind of territorial about the shopping, and I usually do it by myself, during the day, when I don’t have to worry about Husband dropping duplicate items in the cart or Toddler having a random meltdown when he’s not allowed to reach out and shove everything off the olive oil shelf. (That’s never happened, but I don’t want to be the woman sheepishly asking the store manager about the oily pile of glass in Aisle 7.)

When Husband and I do wind up doing a joint trip, it’s usually during the weekend, when I’ve had time to clip coupons, make a list and check the store ad. I can’t organize my closet but I’m a staunch grocery lister. Go figure. So even if he runs off the rails in the meat or hot sauce aisle, I’ve got what I need and I’ve usually budgeted for the week, so a few odd sauces aren’t gonna kill me. It’s the random tandem midweek jaunts that can test my ability to zig and not zag, and that also test my ability to just shut up sometimes.

Husband and I both worked from home yesterday, and decided to hit the local grocery an hour or so before having to pick Toddler up from Baby School. This was supposed to just be a “shopping for tonight’s dinner” trip – I was making chili – so I had already Terminator-scanned the store from the door. I need ground beef for Husband’s portion, beans and tomatoes and such, a bottle of wine for me (not all to be drunk last night, of course) and yogurt for Toddler and me.

Husband was in line for Powerball tickets for last night’s huge jackpot, and you should not be shocked that we didn’t win, because if I had I would not be still sitting here writing this. (#truth) So I did a workman-like job of rounding the aisles and getting what I needed, and was mostly done when I heard my name and saw Husband making his way across the store with a full hand cart. And I swear the control freak in me started panicking, because he likes buying the same stuff over and over, even if we didn’t use half of it the last time he bought it and it’s still in the fridge hello Jif. But he is also a grown man who contributes to the groceries and it’s not fair to be the Food Cop unless it’s something really unhealthy that humans shouldn’t eat.

“Look what I got!” he said excitedly, offering two cartons of real actual juice without artificial things, which are excellent, fruit, the good burgers for the chili because he didn’t know that I already got meat, but which now form the basis of another meal, because why not buy a few days in advance? We’re here, right? And I felt my control freak shutting up. He did good.

(NOTE: I must also add that Husband’s real superpower is farmer’s markets. He finds the best cool little sauces and spreads, including the fish dip I ate all of, and this boss mango chutney he bought from his “hot sauce guy” at the South Florida Fair. Yes, he has a hot sauce guy he sees annually at the fair, to the point where when he didn’t answer his cell, I knew where to find him.)

There was absolutely nothing unhealthy in that cart, and besides the Soap Opera Digest “for me” that is totally for him and the fancy paper goods he gets, that I never do, because I am cheap, it was an excellent trip. He’s grown folk. Chill out Leslie.

So we get to the checkout, and I start seeing the numbers adding up. I had an arbitrary number in my head, and we were past that before I even put all the stuff on the belt. And I started panicking, not because I didn’t have the money to spend, but because IT WASN’T IN MY PLAN. And it wasn’t even a good plan, because we have to buy for the rest of the weekend sometime, so why not last night? I originally pegged it as a quick trip because of time constraints and because I didn’t have my coupons, but it actually took less time because I had an extra pair of adult hands and no tiny shelf-clearer in the cart. And if Husband is picking his own healthy food, he’s going to eat it. And that’s awesome.

I now have a full fridge, and some yummy, healthy things to eat, and I don’t fear badness in there. The multiple peanut butters? That’s another story.


Fabulous ’15! Five resolutions you can keep!

by SweetMidlife
It's a blank slate. You might as well fill it well.

It’s a blank slate. You might as well fill it well.

 

Leslie here! I greet you on this fine New Year’s Day from the Sweet Midlife’s southern headquarters, over a green smoothie and an episode from Season 4 of “The Wire.” My husband is sitting on the couch next to me under an afghan knitted by my Great-Aunt Martha. Many of those details figure into my New Year’s Resolutions…stop rolling your eyes. Yes, yes, I like you have been super stoked about all the stuff I was gonna do on Jan. 1, involving diet, exercise, job, you name it.

And Jan. 27 I, like you, was like “Screw it. Ice cream and couches rule.”

My sister wrote recently about her resolution to be more loving, and that’s an amazing thing to promise. That’s certainly on my list, but here are five more things I think I can stick to. For real. Stop side-eyeing me. You haven’t read them yet!

1) Be specific about my health goals while being realistic and non-sadistic. That rhymes. Almost like a Johnnie Cochran situation. But there are no gloves to fit into this one, just a middle-aged woman trying to fit into the clothes she was trying to be too skinny to fit into last year (and ain’t that a pip?). Last year I had a very mapped-out goal, to dive into a clean eating program, to work out a specific amount of time, and lose a specific amount of weight. This worked out quite well until a kid came to live with us in March, and to paraphrase Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody have time for making tomato soup from scratch. I beat myself up for my failure to fit my previous resolve into our new life, and got fatter for it. This year, I have decided to be proactive about my eating and working out and not use my fatigue as an excuse, because either I’m gonna do it or I’m not. Won’t get done for me. But I also refuse to use a timeline, and to beat myself up if that arbitrary deadline doesn’t pan out. Instead it’s day by day – I’ve got this smoothie, already told the guys at the gym they’ll see me today, and am going to hit my ab work the minute I get finished typing this. If we get lunch I get a salad or something not fried. I keep that up. I feel good about it. I go to bed and don’t tie my self worth into the choices I made. And then start over tomorrow.

Let's do this! Sweaty and set on change!

Let’s do this! Sweaty and set on change!

2) Call my grandmother more: And my aunties and my uncles, and my goddaughter and cousins and all the people I wonder about but don’t always pick up a phone and talk to.

3) Write everything down – I am not the most organized person in the world (understatement understatement understatement) and making myself write stuff down – my grocery list, the errands I have to run, my blogging and work interview schedule my work out goals – keeps me honest and accountable and not slapping myself in the forehead and going “Acck! I was supposed to blah blah blah!”

4) Finish what I started – meaning the novel I’ve been hovering around for three years in various incarnations. This year. For real. Been too long.

5) Be better to my skin: My consistent skin care regimen for the last 43 years, between a Grand Canyon’s worth of products, has basically been “Black don’t crack.” (Ahem) But my family’s excellent genes don’t mean I shouldn’t wear sunscreen, or daily wash my face with….something, and drink lots of water. I need to not be the first woman in my family to look her age.

I think these are all do-able. Sometimes stuff is hard, the stuff we need to do to survive. But it doesn’t have to be awful, or unpleasant. Let’s do it! Who’s with me?


The weird, friendly adventures of a black Christian lady looking for a Hanukkah menorah

by SweetMidlife
And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall's.

And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall’s.

“Happy Hanukkah!”

Over my shoulder as I (being Leslie) rush out of a fancy chain home decor store here in West Palm Beach, I hear the very sweet and apologetic clerk, who has just explained that her establishment is the latest on my crossed-off list of places that do not carry menorahs. This is my fifth Hanukkah season with my husband, who is Jewish, and the beautiful candle holder that his late mom got us for our wedding seems to have vanished in our last move, or in the ether, or with a tiny Jewish group of Borrowers who also seem to have stolen the mate to every one of his socks.

Because we already had one – or used to – I have never had to go shopping for a menorah before, and foolishly believed that in an area whose populace that no less an expert than Jason Alexander described as “a preponderance of Jews” would be a hotbed of menorah-hood. That it would be the Menorahhood.

Oh, foolish silly Goy.

I am not Jewish, but I am a wife, so in the last five years or so I have become our household’s procurer of most holiday and special-occasion paraphernalia and accoutrements, including wandering into Judaica stores looking for seder plates, making Passover reservations, ordering matzo ball soup en masse, hunting for High Holiday tickets and, as today, driving around the greater West Palm Beach area looking for a menorah. When I first began these errands years ago, I braced for the weird looks – and boy, did I get them! – at the red Afro’d black woman wandering, confused, through the Kosher cookbooks, looking like the loser in a very specific scavenger hunt.

But you know what always wound up happening, on those trips and today, on my menorah hunt? Everybody, pretty much to a number, was awesome. Welcoming. The guy in the Judaica store could not have been more helpful. The ladies in the various delis looked bemused but walked me through the rugelach and smoked fish dips with patience and kindness, because it was clear I was out of my depth.

And today, two separate clerks, the aforementioned lady at Restoration Hardware and the one at chi chi stationary store at Paper Goods, said “Happy Hanukkah” to me. And it made my heart grow a gazillion sizes. Understand that I am a Christian, and my celebration of Hanukkah is because of my husband, who in turn goes to Easter services with me. It’s also a nod to the Jewish roots of my own beliefs.

The ladies at those stores do not know this. I assume that I look different than the other people who have come in looking for menorahs and candles and stuff. But they listened to what I wanted and greeted me accordingly, and it was sublime.

Many of my Facebook friends of several religions have recently pondered the downright nasty response they have gotten from some strangers who have received their sincere “Happy Holidays” and spit it right back at the giver, to strike a blow for the War on Christmas. I can see standing up for your beliefs, but don’t be nasty about it. (Those people, no matter how fervent their Christian beliefs, are being bad citizens and, if you think about it, not exemplary Christians, because we all know the best way to interest people in your beliefs is to take their heads off when they say something nice to you and can’t tell if you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, Druid or otherwise. But go on being outraged. That’s such a good look on you. Said no one ever.)

So I loved that these women wished me the happiest version of the holiday that corresponds with the thing I was looking for, because that makes sense, regardless of my appearance, or of fear of insulting me – it wouldn’t make sense for me to be insulted, but you’ve met humans, so you know they sometimes take operatic-level offense to the stupidest thing.

I wind up finding not one but three different menorahs in the most random of places – the stockroom at a nearby Marshall’s, where a nice clerk was about to discount them and put them on display. She, too, doesn’t blink an eye when I happily swoop in and grab one, because a sold menorah is a sold menorah. When I light the candles tonight, I’ll be grateful for my family, and the joining of two cultures, and for the resilience that the holiday celebrates, as well as for people who understand that what these holidays have in common is Divine love and the love we’re supposed to show to each other.

And that’s something to be happy about.


The perfect-ish day, or the happy accidents of an awesome wedding

by SweetMidlife
See? This didn’t happen!

Leslie here!

When my sister and I first started this blog, back in the dark ages, or, like, three years ago, it was called “Bride At 35,” and was about the experience of being married in your later 30s and beyond, like we were. Eventually, we expanded the concept to be about the whole of being this age, whether it’s marriage, friendship, children, weight, hair, whether to wear nail polish, or just delicious cheesy carbs, filtered to our crone-ism wisdom that comes with age.

But we still love a wedding, maybe because they’re pretty or because we’ve been in so many of them – I’ve been a  bridesmaid 9 times, including several stints as Matron of Honor. That experience brought me to the most excellent of days this past Saturday, where I acted as my friends Kim and Matt’s day-of-wedding coordinator. I’m not the wedding planner because I didn’t plan anything – I’m much better at telling people what to do. And the first thing I told her when I accepted the challenge was this:

Something is going to go wrong.

This is not easy to hear, but I’ve learned it in my 20 year career as a bridesmaid, from the time in 1995 when all our shoes were dyes the exact same wrong color, or in 2010 when my husband, the groom-to-be and my sister raced around town looking for lemon curd for the wedding tea, or in 2008 when the track for “At Last,” which I was about to sing for the cake cutting, wouldn’t work, and somebody distracted the bride while I ran across the street to find my laptop. The more weddings I was in, the more I learned to take a breath and not freak out. Nobody got eaten by a shark. The pastor never got caught at customs. A sinkhole didn’t swallow the cake. My experience taught me to chill.

Hopefully, at every wedding (or party or funeral or Bat Mitzvah) the snafus are minor, like somebody left the extra programs at home, or the bride’s shoes need a polish…something easily fixable. And sometimes, it’s a little more pressing, like a member of the wedding party can’t get there, or a car carrying the bride breaks down, or stuff is just whack. My job was just to make sure that the fires that erupted were put out, with as little fuss or actual burns as possible.

So even though my wedding bossiness has previously been on a personally procured basis, this couple of kind people put me in charge of calling their caterer to confirm times, of hiring a bartender (I write about drinking, so I know a few), of observing the set-up of the DJ booth and the sweetheart table, and of grabbing the bride’s hand when a frog, whose kind she is not fond of, jumped on her dress as she and her new husband walked from the parking lot of the reception spot to make her entrance.

And it was amazing. The thing is, as many weddings as I’ve been involved in, stuff still didn’t go perfectly. And I didn’t do it alone – the bride’s cousin was my family point person and co-stuff-getter. Her brother was amazing, as was her mom. And her bridesmaids, led by her resourceful sister, sat on the floor of the reception space in their beautiful dresses, as guests milled around outside for the cocktail hour and cut their beautiful bouquets into flower arrangements, because that’s what the bride said she wanted and someone (me) hadn’t remembered. That was beautiful.

Did everything go right? Uh, no. Besides the frog and the thing with the flowers, it was overcast the whole day and when it started to spit rain on the outdoor ceremony, the string musicians almost had to leave for fear of damaging their beautiful instruments. There was some confusion over pins for the boutonnieres. Some dude from another rental company arrived at the hall as I was taping the place cards to the wall with non-sticky art tape (the bride’s sister’s genius idea) and insisted that some of the tables already set for the cocktail hour might be the ones he was there to retrieve. (They were not). And I missed a few things, like making sure that both bartenders were clear on what time they were expected.
But it all worked out, in some cases because of powers beyond me like the rain holding off (Thanks, God!), in others because of all the loving family Kim and Matt have, or because I was calm and just handled it, like when the restaurant they’d talked to about having a casual brunch with family the morning after the wedding didn’t remember, and I just walked to the place across the street that the groom had called as a replacement and said “Hey, my friend just called, can we make this work?”

And it did.

There are things that apparently zigged when they were to zag, even before I got there – Kim’s family figured it out – and the band played on (Well, the string duo played on). The day was saved. The vows were sealed. The dinner was delicious and “Jump Around” and “Easy” by the Commodores both happened.

It wasn’t flawless. But it was perfect.

 

 


Wedding week: Be a cheerful giver…and getter

by SweetMidlife
There is no ticket price on a wedding invitation. 

Leslie here!

I remember being blown away as a young adult when I found out how a bridal gift registry worked.

“So you’re saying that I go into a store, look up things I want, write them down and then people buy me what I asked for?”

“Yep.”

“What sweet madness is this?”

By the time I got to fill out my own gift registry, it was almost two decades later, and I’d been on the other side of that sweet madness many, many times. I thought that having experience buying gifts for people made me pretty judicious in what I asked from other people, as in: I felt that my job as a wedding guest was to buy you a gift, preferably one you had asked for, that did not make me look cheap without putting my rent in jeopardy. I learned, especially when I was younger, that you had to jump on the registry and buy the less-expensive nice gifts first or someone was going to beat you to it. And if a bride ONLY had high dollar items on the registry, I either bought a $50 gift certificate or went in with friends.

So as a bride, I was very careful to have a range of things I registered for, in price and in fanciness. I was almost 39 when I got married, so while I already had towels and plates, I registered for some that could establish us as a new household. However, I didn’t go crazy and say “Y’all better buy me $50 a piece towels,” because it is not anyone else’s responsibility to buy my fancy towels. Of course, the registry is just a suggestion, as far as I was concerned. While there were a couple of things we got where we were like “Uh, OK!” we accepted everything cheerfully and gratefully.

Because they were gifts.

And not legal obligations.

Or compensation or reimbursement for the money we spent on the wedding.

I’ve read some horror stories online on sites like HellsBells, where people submit hideous stories of bad wedding etiquette, about wedded ingrates who start email battles with guests whose gifts they consider unworthy of the money they spent on their meal, or of one idiot who tried to return a beautifully presented “wedding cake” made of the towels HE AND HIS FIANCEE HAD REGISTERED FOR to the co-worker who had painstakingly assembled it, because they didn’t want “artsy crafty” gifts.

And expected her to buy them something else.

What?

Nobody had to buy me crap. But they did. And when they did, we thanked them and moved on, particularly because we got enough cash to buy our own towels if we decided to. A wedding invitation should not have a dollar sign on it. All you need to do is RSVP in time to ensure that I don’t pay for your dinner if you’re not gonna show, and then just show up and not start a fist fight in the buffet line or cuss out my grandmother. That’s it. Gifts are usually expected, but if you don’t give me one, the wedding’s already been paid for so while it’s not the custom, it’s not like I need your check. And unless your gift is a rotting bag of oranges, illegal substances or something I gave you with the price tag scratched off, it’s cool.

Feeling this way does not make me perfect or a martyr. It just makes me a grown-up, I hope, because my wedding didn’t roll out the way I’d planned, requiring me to adjust my definition of gift. After my husband and I had paid the deposit on the hotel where we’d be married and started telling people the date, we found that he had a tumor in his ear for which his insurance would not cover the surgery to remove, as it was a pre-exisiting condition. After about a week of worry, we decided to get married in the same place we’d planned, with the dress I’d purchased and as many people as we could get from the original guest list…just several months earlier.

Immediately, we called our loved ones, most of whom lived several states and a couple of hundred dollars of plane tickets away, and said “We love you and want you here, but we understand that you now have four weeks rather than five months to buy plane tickets or bridesmaids dresses or gifts. You now have to decide what to do with your kids who were invited for what was supposed to be a summer wedding, when they were out of school, but who will now still be in school. You have to rearrange possible vacation days, or check your calendar. We know we are asking a lot of you, so understand that we mean it when we say…if you cannot make it we will never be mad about that. And if you come, particularly if it’s going to cost you more to come now than it would during the summer…consider that your gift.”

And we meant it. But you would not believe the gifts that we got – the gift of the friend who called Costco and personally ordered my flowers, and then yelled at them for a refund when they screwed it up. The gift of a song that a friend learned to play for our recessional. The gift of free photography from friends who usually charge thousands, or of wedding planning from a friend who had charged that much professionally to do the same. The gift of various wedding party members running out to buy last-minute candles, to pick up out of town guests I’d forgotten to update on changed plans. The gift of my grandma, who didn’t think she could travel after surgery but who, on a fixed income, got clearance and bought a last minute ticket anyway which wasn’t cheap, even at senior prices.

These are gifts that are given out of love, that cost money and time and effort and organization. They are not sold at Pottery Barn. There is no gift certificate for “fill out place cards the morning of the wedding at the bride gets stuffed into her dress.” That’s a gift, nonetheless.

And I wouldn’t exchange them. They are priceless.


Indian destination weddings: Upscale twists on tradition

by SweetMidlife

To me, a small wedding means less than 50 guests; a large wedding is north of 150. But the other day, over drinks with my friend, upscale Indian wedding planner Amen Pawar-Larosa, she mentioned her “very small” Indian wedding in her native England, one of three nuptial celebrations she and husband Derek had.

“So how many people did you have at that one?” I asked.

“120,” Amen said casually, as if she was saying “Well, just me and Derek and my cousin Jerome.”

Clearly, we’re working with a different ruler when it comes to Indian weddings. This was particularly interesting to us at Bride At 35, because there’s an even greater expectation of marrying young in this culture than in the mainstream American one –  “It’s between 25 and 30, nothing older,” Amen says of the brides she helps with her wedding planning company, Pawar Inc.

So we like Amen’s concept because Pawar, Inc., like this blog, is about making tradition beautifully, uniquely your own – “To marry tradition and modern style,” she says. She got her start working for another planner who happened to book an Indian destination wedding – the bride met Amen and saw a kindred spirit, “which helped seal the deal.” After helping several similar brides, Amen decided to hang her own stylish shingle. She’s even seeing non-Indian brides, like singer Katy Perry, having Indian weddings, which she sees as not an appropriation of a culture but a celebration.

Here’s what you need to know:

— Amen wasn’t technically a Bride at 35, but given cultural equivalency, she might as well be – “To be married and have children by (the age of 28) is so expected,” she says. “My mum would get invited to so many weddings and wonder why I wasn’t getting married. She tried – ‘I have a nice guy coming to meet you!’ It was not happening.” Amen eventually married an Italian-Catholic New Yorker named Derek Larosa (They had three ceremonies: One with the Justice of the Peace, the Indian wedding in England and a blessing by Derek’s pastor in New York).

“We wanted it to be about us, but we saw how things were affecting our parents,” she says. “So we had these awesome parties and said ‘Do whatever you want to do.'”

— Why Indian destination weddings?: Well, why destination weddings, period? Brides want something beachy and probably warmer than their home town, both improving the scenery and cutting the guest list. Where the average guest list is somewhere around 300 for Indian weddings, Amen says, the destination weddings she’s seen host around 150. Although Miami has become a haven for these, Palm Beach, with its swanky hotels like the Breakers and the Four Seasons, “is a hidden gem that no one knows about,” she says. “The beauty of it is that is that you can cut down the guest list. The thing is, that these are well-to-do families, and they hear ‘The Breakers’ and bring the whole family. You think people aren’t going to come, but it’s a good assumption that more will than you think.” (Ain’t that the truth?)

— Many upscale hotels on Palm Beach have Indian chefs already in-house, “but nobody knows this,” Amen says. Well, they do now!

— Traditionally, if the wedding is held in the bride’s home town, it’s a several-day affair that includes an entire community, where the bride’s parents pay for everything. She says that the biggest adjustment has been trying to convince fathers that since “it’s not in their hometown, they don’t have to feed everyone for every meal the whole weekend.”

— Amen says  more and more of the weddings are keeping some traditions but bringing some new twists, like having one partner of a different religion or race,  decreasing the guest list and more – “A lot of these brides grew up in America. They love Louis Vuiton.The ceremony keeps the family element and blends those element with the latest, hipper styles.”

— I have never met an ethnic person who didn’t believe that their ethnicity is traditionally…tardy. Seriously, black people, Cubans, and apparently Indians have a self-recognized reputation for not starting things on time. Amen says that timeliness is the number one obstacle at the weddings that she’s planned – “Indian Standard Time!” she says, laughing. “Keeping everything on time is the priority. With hair and make-up being done I need everyone to be on time. I run a tight ship.”


A Bride35 Quiz: Favors or Flowers?

by SweetMidlife

During the “Platinum Wedding” era, which I think we’re beginning to edge out of because a lot of us brides are now more hundredaires than millionaires, the prevailing wisdom in some circles was that you should spend a major part of your budget on flowers. Also, you had to have crazy inventive personalized favors for your guests, even if they were gonna go “Oh look! A personalized plate!” and then chuck it in the backseat.

Since we’re all about the truth here at Bride35, we want to know – If you have only a certain amount of cash, would you rather skimp on flowers or favors? (Of course, you don’t have to splurge on either – Leslie spent a total of $200 on flowers, including her bouquet from a local farmer’s market and Costco centerpieces). Which would you choose?


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