Party

The Well Organized Wedding

As of July 10, I will have been married for eight years. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! Quite a bit has changed in wedding trends since then, but the basics remain the same. In the spirit of wedding season, I wanted to share a few tips that I think will make your entire wedding experience run more smoothly.

1) Cut out unnecessary extras.

The wedding industrial complex is so real. Weddings are high stakes events: you only get one and you want it to be perfect. This makes you extra vulnerable to the marketing of products you don’t need. Companies know this, and they prey on your emotions.

I am here to tell you that there are three things you should not skimp on for your wedding. Get these three on point and yours will be a party everyone remembers for decades to come:

Food. Booze. Music.

And there’s no need to complicate it, all of those things just have to be high quality and plentiful. If you feed people delicious food, provide tasty options for drinkers, and have music that makes people jump out of their chairs to dance, no one will care about anything else.

Look, no favors! All photos by the incomparable  Timothy Teague .

Look, no favors! All photos by the incomparable Timothy Teague.

We cut unnecessary extras, and we had a gorgeous wedding with zero regrets. For example: favors. Think about the last wedding you went to. Do you remember the favors? Did you keep yours (or if it was edible, did you eat it)? If you skip favors, you’ll save hundreds of dollars and a couple giant trash bags going into a landfill somewhere - not to mention the time and effort of putting them together.

No monogram, no problem! (Cake by  Robyn Loves Cake , it appears she has moved to Orlando so check her out, Florida brides! The cake was SO good.)

No monogram, no problem! (Cake by Robyn Loves Cake, it appears she has moved to Orlando so check her out, Florida brides! The cake was SO good.)

We never even considered having specialty champagne flutes and cake cutting utensils. Cake cutting takes about five minutes, and the pictures are just as beautiful without an engraved monogram. Plus, if you do drink champagne at home, it’s far more practical to have a full set of glasses on hand that go in the dishwasher so that you can pour bubbly for all your guests and clean up easily after they leave!

This one's framed in my living room. Dress and veil by  Peter Langner  via  Marina Morrison , suit by  Ralph Lauren , tie by  Thomas Pink .

This one's framed in my living room. Dress and veil by Peter Langner via Marina Morrison, suit by Ralph Lauren, tie by Thomas Pink.

We also didn’t take engagement pictures. My sister snapped a few pics of us so that we had something to put on our website, but that was it. Our rationale was this: we knew we would get beautiful photos from our wedding, and exactly how many photos of yourself displayed in your own home do you really need? I think it’s lovelyto have one or two framed wedding photos, but I much prefer being surrounded by pictures of my family and friends than glamour shots of myself!

2) Hire a day-of coordinator, or, if you can swing it, a full-on wedding planner.

When I got engaged, I strongly suggested (well, more like insisted) that we hire a wedding planner. To say that my parents, who had very generously offered to foot the bill, were not wild about this idea was an understatement. They have thrown many parties before - what could possibly be so hard? Plus, why waste the money?

It did, in fact, rain on our wedding day! My planner had the staff (enthusiastically assisted by my dad) out there cleaning off the dance floor plus a backup plan in place, and it became a funny story to tell instead of a disaster.

It did, in fact, rain on our wedding day! My planner had the staff (enthusiastically assisted by my dad) out there cleaning off the dance floor plus a backup plan in place, and it became a funny story to tell instead of a disaster.

Fast forward to the day after my wedding, and my parents are the biggest evangelists of wedding planners that you will find. Weddings, even if they are small and simple, have a lot of moving parts, and if you want to truly be present and enjoy your day, you don’t want to be the one dealing with them. 

I talk a lot about organizing being a way to buy yourself quality time with the people you love. On no day is that more true than your wedding day! And this is also a place, much like organizing, where you want to look to your friends and family for referrals, and be aware that you get what you pay for!

3) Someone is gonna get weird. Be prepared.

Again, a wedding is high stakes. Everything from the amount of money spent to the numbers of people involved to the fact that this is (ideally, anyway) a one-time only event conspires to spike everyone’s stress. So it makes sense that someone you’ve always been able to count on to behave a certain way suddenly veers off in a totally unexpected direction.

Classic suspects for this kind of behavior are brides themselves, moms, and wedding party members, but sometimes it’s a special guest star like a groom, dad, or random aunt. You won’t be able to predict who your weirdo is, but once they surface, you’ll realize this is happening to you!

It doesn’t matter who it is, or what they’re doing that’s so inexplicably off kilter - what matters is that you understand that this person’s unusual behavior is probably coming from a good place and will pass once the wedding is over. If you can, be patient, listen, and try to figure out compromises.

Engagement is a joyful time, but there’s also a lot of pressure involved. If you’re getting married soon, I wish you low stress, helpful friends and family, and the wedding of your dreams!

LMW

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of lithub.com

Photo courtesy of lithub.com

Anne of Green Gables: Patron Saint of Girls Who Ask Too Many Questions

The depth of my love the Anne of Green Gables and her world knows no bounds. I've read the entire series many times over and wholly identified with her from the start. As a kid, I read pretty much any historical fiction I could get my hands on, and there was lot of prim and proper behavior and bonding with horses and stuff,  but Anne was always real to me. To this day, I use the term "kindred spirits" and look for them everywhere.

Me as a debutante with my grandma in 2000.  We bought the dress in the bridal department of Saks, which was... bizarre.

Me as a debutante with my grandma in 2000.  We bought the dress in the bridal department of Saks, which was... bizarre.

The Curious Plight of the Modern Debutante

So, uh, fun fact: I was a debutante. Twice: in Ventura, where my dad's family has lived since the 1880's, and in LA, where my mom grew up. Even eighteen years ago I found it weird, dated, and irrelevant. I agreed to do both balls because they meant a lot to my mom and grandparents, and because I got to wear a poofy dress with lots of hair and makeup and force a boy I had a crush on to hang out with me for a night. I mean, I was 17!

13 Things You Should Know About HIV, But Probably Don't

As a teenager in the 90's, I was absolutely petrified of AIDS. It was finally publicly acknowledged but it was still basically a death sentence. I remember the AIDS quilt and Ryan White, and Pedro on The Real World, and scary sex ed. I'm glad we've come so far, but AIDS remains a global health threat and we should all be informed about how the disease is currently impacting our world.  Spoiler alert: it's not just for men who have sex with men anymore.

Image courtesy of thecut.com

Image courtesy of thecut.com

The Other Women's March on Washington

It's not enough to march, we need to run and vote, too.  I'm looking forward to participating  in the political process in 2018.  And I happen to love this author, Rebecca Traister - check out her book All The Single Ladies if you haven't already!

Weekly Peek 1/5/18

Happy New Year!

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In the grand tradition, friends of ours hosted the annual New Year's Eve dinner party.  There was champagne, there was caviar, there was a sous vide machine, there was a kale salad and a gluten free dessert (because after all, we live in San Francisco), and there were dear, dear friends I am so lucky to have in my life.  There has been both great joy and tremendous loss for people very close to me in 2017, and I'm just grateful to be there with them through it all.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

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About two and a half years ago, we bought our house.  A bit more than two years ago, we moved in.  Renovation plans were ready about a year and a half ago.  We broke ground a year ago.  And if you've ever done a home renovation before, you probably know what I'm going to say next: the project is still very much underway! I'm super pleased with how everything is going, but as they say, it just takes a long time.  "Twice as long and twice as much" is the saying, I believe.

...Make Lemonade!

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However, there's always a silver lining!  Or in this case, two.  First: we got our washer and dryer hooked up again, which means no more trips to the laundromat for me every Saturday.  I always try to be grateful for things like running water and appliances but man, I am dancing a jig while folding my towels these days.  And second: I decided to turn a piece of plywood blocking what will no longer be a doorway into a place to display our holiday cards.  There's no big secret: I just cut some ribbon and used push pins and clothespins, all of which I had lying around.  I don't keep holiday cards year to year, but I love sending, receiving, and displaying them during the festive season!

Think Snow

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Last January gave the Sierra Nevada mountains a month of snowfall so epic that Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows had t-shirts made for all the staff emblazoned with "Janu-buried!"  This year... not so much.  Snow is pretty thin on the ground as I get ready to start my patrolling season.  Here's hoping for some of those famous Sierra storms to start rolling through!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Louise Linton Said She "Sacrifices" More Than Other Taxpayers.  It's Not That Simple.

We could all use a refresher on the economics and political principles that underlay the latest scandal-of-the-week.  And if you, like me, post about fashion on Instagram, I hope you can join me in taking a renewed look at our content and remembering that the ability to wear a wide variety of things just for fun is an incredible privilege.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent

Even though It's been over seven years since I planned my own wedding, I still love reading and talking about weddings - especially when there's as much juicy insider detail as there is in this article!  But as with so many things, I finished it remembering the sociological research which tells us that, past a certain point, money doesn't actually buy any additional happiness.

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

I completely cut out sugar and processed grains for a solid three months about five years ago, and continue to minimize both of those things as much as my inherent tendency to being a sugar monster allows.  I've never really thought of this strategy as a health panacea though - it's really a weight maintenance tool for me.  I generally avoid extremes, and this article reassures me that that's a wise strategy.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Shopping For Boys Cloths Is So Boring

This article also brings up an excellent point to me: why does "gender-neutral" skew so masculine?  My sister and her wife dress my niece in all kinds of things, from frilly dresses to onesies that are clearly from the boys' department, and that just seems like a progressive strategy.  But I wonder if they or anyone else would put boys in pink and glitter sometimes in the name of gender neutrality.  I wish they would!

Weekly Peek

Photo courtesy of Boboquivari's

Photo courtesy of Boboquivari's

Brush With (a Few Degrees of) Celebrity

My husband and I were recently planning a double date with some good friends, and decided to finally try a San Francisco institution: Bobo's.  Yes, I've lived in SF for 10 years and have never been, I'm aware this is a travesty.  We had a great time, enhanced by the fact that we were squirreled away at a private alcove table that is reportedly the favorite hangout of one Mr. George Clooney when he's in town.  I have to admit that for me the experience was much more about the ambiance than the food - if you're looking for the best old-school steakhouse experience in San Francisco I'd direct you to Harris' - but I spent most of my evening elbow deep in Dungeness crab with garlic sauce and regretted not one bite!

Photo courtesy of jake.clothing

Photo courtesy of jake.clothing

Dangerous Liaisons

JAKE has just come out with their Dangerous Liaisons collection, and so of course we had to support our friends at one of their launch parties.  I am dying for the custom toile fabric used throughout the collection, featuring greyhounds (the official shop mascots are Echo and SCOTUS, that would be Supreme Canine of the United States to you) instead of dragons!  It's those kind of playful details that make JAKE clothes stand out in a sea of fashion.

Photo courtesy of hoodline.com (Carrie Sisto)

Photo courtesy of hoodline.com (Carrie Sisto)

Weird for Good

I've mentioned before that I sit on the board of CounterPulse, an amazing performing arts organization based out of a theater in SF's Tenderloin.  This year, for the first time, we're putting on a gala Family Feast & Fundraiser, and I'm chairing the host committee!  The past few months have been a whirlwind of brainstorming, planning meetings, and bonding time with the truly incomparable staff and board members of CounterPulse, and we're just under a month out from the event itself.  The dinner is already sold out, but the after party will be super fun, featuring live performances, bespoke cocktails, a drag show, DJ and dancing, and a silent auction, all to benefit the Springboard Fund For Artists so that CounterPulse can keep providing a home for groundbreaking art that shatters assumptions and promotes community.  All the hippest, artiest kids in town will be there, and you'll want to be there too!

End of the Season

In bittersweet news, my official ski season is over.  I spent my winter training three new candidates to join the Alpine Meadows National Ski Patrol, and I'm so pleased and proud that all three passed their final test and will be wearing red jackets from now on!  Fortunately for all of us who love the mountains, there's still snow to spare in the Sierras and many of the ski hills are planning to be open into May and June.  I'm thinking of snagging a few runs of spring corn on Memorial Day Weekend.  How many times in life is there the opportunity to do that??

Weekly Peek

Something's up when Grandma and Grandpa are on the march.

Rise Up

For those who follow my Instagram @lmwedits, you'll know I put on my "women's rights are human rights" t-shirt to join the San Francisco Women's March this past Saturday.  I was proud to participate alongside women, men, and children of every age, race, sexuality, country of origin, and gender expression; and prouder still that both of my parents marched in Santa Barbara along with my sister, sister in law, and niece.  If these two lifelong conservatives got upset enough about the threats to human rights in this country to hit their first protests at 60-something years old, you can bet that something big is going on.  The fight for equality for all human beings is far from over, but it feels good to be a member of the movement along with my whole family.

Photo courtesy of vertical-method.com

Flipping the Script

At a silent auction last year, I came across a monthly pass to a new studio called Vertical Method.  It's sort of a combo of Pilates, barre, and some other things, except for using a mat and a horizontal bar, everything is done off a vertical bar.  I'm a big fan of Pilates - I take a private lesson once a week and fit in group classes where I can - so I figured I had to try it out.  It's definitely a good workout, and it will really help your posture if that's something you struggle with.  The vertical bar also adds a sort of jungle gym element, which I enjoy!  I just wish the studio was a little closer to me with better transportation - but it's a good option to have when I'm looking for something to mix up my fitness routine.

That small cabin is usually 10 feet off the ground!  Photo courtesy of squawalpine.com

It's Dumping

In case you've been too bogged down in all this rain to notice, the Sierra Nevada mountains have been getting slammed with snow since the end of 2016 - 23 feet of it so far!  In fact, today, Highway 89 was closed due to an avalanche (if you ski at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows, you'll know this is as the road that connects Truckee to Tahoe City and Lake Tahoe) and people are still snowed in from the weekend.  While we're all excited about what this means for the slopes and the drought, don't forget about everyone working overtime to clear the roads, restore power, and make the environment safe for the rest of us!

Photo courtesy of cryptozoic.com

Game Night

Because of all this snow, my parents' condo at Tahoe didn't have power over the MLK long weekend, prompting us to cancel a planned ski weekend with friends.  We were definitely bummed out, but we still got everyone together for dinner and game night at our house.  Our standbys have been Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity, but one couple brought a new-to-us game that quickly became a hit: Spyfall.  It's a little bit like Mafia, but more complex and unintentionally hilarious!

 

Weekly Peek - Special Dinner Party Edition!

For a special edition of the weekly peek into my life this week, I'm going to revisit our New Year's Eve dinner party. I gave you a quick overview here, but I know I have some food and wine nerds reading who might be interested in the specifics!

Both my husband and I agree: when hosting a dinner party, what really matters is the friends you bring together and the food and wine you all enjoy. Where we differ is in approach. I like keeping stress low so I usually tackle the bookends of the evening: the hors d'oeuvres (which I keep simple and small so people don't fill up too soon) and dessert (my go-to is a layer cake since it can be made ahead). My husband, on the other hand, likes to maximize his use of esoteric kitchen gadgets and molecular gastronomy ingredients to make restaurant style cuisine.  He isn't doing it to impress anyone - it's literally for the love of the game.  He'd cook like this every day if he had the time!

We started with bubbly and bites.  Specifically, a recipe beloved by my family that we refer to as cheese puffs, but they're totally not - they're parmesan cheese toasts.  Whatever you call them, they're completely addictive.

My husband is obsessed with oysters.  Actually obsessed.  I will not tell you the number he has put down in one sitting because it will gross you out, but let's just say it's WELL north of two dozen.  So not a dinner party goes by that he doesn't serve oysters: this version was with lemon vodka granita and jalapenos.

We had requested that no one bring wine because we are trying to reduce our inventory, so people got creative.  One couple very generously and luxuriously brought us Russian caviar with creme fraiche and artisan bread, which we slotted in as the second course.

My husband loves to emulate famous chefs, so the next course was Pok Pok style fried shrimp in lettuce cups - spicy salty goodness!

Next, it was pasta time.  My husband made really simple cacio e pepe pasta... and then he gilded the lily completely and served each person one small portion with shaved truffle and one with shaved foie gras torchon.  I am not making this up.  It was even more delicious than it sounds, and just as ridiculous.

The main course was something my husband has been talking about for a long time: turducken a la molecular gastronomy.  Instead of stuffing and roasting, he used meat glue to bind the proteins together and then served it with canned cranberry sauce for a funny wink at high/low.  (I love canned cranberry sauce to the extent that I have been known to eat it plain as a fully grown adult, so I was delighted.)

For dessert, I made the tiramisu cake from Smitten Kitchen, my go to for absolutely delicious but never overwrought layer cakes.  It was indulgent without being too sweet - would definitely make again!

All photos in this post were taken by my good friend, food blogger/wine writer/food and wine educator extraordinaire Nicole Ruiz Hudson.  Her Instagram account, @nibblinggypsy, will make you hungry, and if you head over there she has a lot more to say than I ever could about how the wines we picked for this epic dinner worked out.  I also like to think that Nikki's approach to food and wine is similar to my take on organizing: consume what you love, whether high or low brow, and don't get stuck in what you think you should be doing.

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you (somewhat belatedly, thanks to a temporary technological snafu)!  I hope you and your loved ones enjoyed your holidays.

We ended 2016 with a bang: hosting a NYE dinner party for some of our closest friends.  it's a tradition among my girlfriends that dates back to approximately 2007, when we couldn't really afford to go out on NYE and decided to make our own fun via potluck and cheap wine instead!  We've added friends (and courses, and pairings) over the years, but what stays the same is a relaxed good time with people we love, someone(s) staying over on an air mattress, and a bunch of hungover people in sweatpants eating whatever my husband can find in the fridge to fry the next day.

I'm starting 2017 on a great note both personally and professionally with some wonderful clients coming on board, interior design for our upstairs rooms really coming together, and major construction for our basement well underway.  Plus, the ski season is off to a great start (quoth the avalanche report: "snowfall now being measured in feet across the forecast area") and we have a couple of fun trips planned.  

At the same time, outside my bubble 2017 threatens to upset current stability where it exists and intensify problems that already plague our world.  The human rights of each person on this planet - regardless of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, religion, or any other identity that can divide us - are extremely important to me and I intend to use that principle to guide me in thoughtful action this year.  

I hope 2017 is getting off to a great start for you, and would love to hear about your dreams and goals for this year!

LMW

What I'm Organizing

Every year we host a holiday open house.  We had so much fun the first year that we kept going, and now it's turned into a major occasion for all of our friend groups.  At this point, people now have Holiday Party Friends: the people they didn't know before they started coming to our parties but now look forward to seeing every year.  

From Holiday Party 2012: picture taken in the kitchen of our old condo because let's be honest, that's where the party is.

It's never exactly easy to host a party for 60+ people over 6 hours, but it doesn't have to be a struggle either.  Here's how we do it:

1) We want a casual, comfortable vibe.  This means we go pretty minimal on the non-essentials.  Decor is limited to our usual Christmas decorations, glasses and utensils are disposable and ordered in bulk on Amazon, everything is served buffet style, and the soundtrack is jazzy Christmas carols from my husband's Spotify channel.

2) The most important things are food and booze.  In order to not kill ourselves, we purchase pre-prepared where we can and stick to cold/room temperature fare.  We also condense the list of drink offerings to make it easy for everyone to serve themselves: we offer one signature cocktail (with the nonalcoholic non-fizzy ingredients mixed ahead of time so non drinkers can still mix up something fun), champagne, and beer.

3) I get obsessed about one thing: homemade desserts.  I learned to make and frost a layer cake before I knew how to boil water, so as weird and over the top as it sounds, I have a hard time being able to serve a dessert I didn't make myself.  Again, I don't want to go nuts, so I keep it simple and do things like cookies and brownies (Cook's Illustrated's molasses spice cookies have been a HUGE hit) that I can make in big batches.

4) We keep the party adults only.  The older we get, the more of our friends have children, and of course we love them!  But kids (especially the under-three set that dominate in our social circles) at this party would be a logistical nightmare: our house is so very not childproofed, it gets really crowded, and people are having a lot of fun.  I know I wouldn't want to be trying to keep track of a little one in that environment!

4) We keep traditions alive.  There's always some kind of clandestine liquor consumption going on, from a tequila shot bar to cherry cordial from Croatia mysteriously passed around in our bedroom to half the party trooping into our scary rats and bats basement area to sample my husband's whiskey collection.  My husband and I always wear plaid pants (can be spotted in photo above).  We always eat burritos before everyone arrives because we always forget to actually eat during the party. And it's always loud and warm and a bit of a mess and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Hope you're enjoying your holiday season!

LMW

Weekly Peek

Friends pictured - the family was too busy exploring!

A Family Affair

This year, I served again on the event committee for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs gala, and as a dutiful committee member, I purchased a table of ten.  But who to invite to share the night of food and wine tastings?  We decided to make it a family affair!  My husband's mom flew in from the east coast, my sister in law and brother in law came into town from the Peninsula, and a few other friends were able to join us for a great night.  As usual, my husband made me promise not to bid at the live auction, and as usual, we came home with something from the live auction.  Hey, it was all for the babies!

Social Media Diet

As of about 8pm on November 8, I have not visited news sites or my personal social media accounts (other than my Instagram feed, an oasis of babies, travel, and food).  I was sick of the partisan back and forth, and wanted to take some time to regroup without the endless noise of memes, comment sections, and dire predictions.  And I have to admit: I am truly ashamed about how much time that has freed up!  In place of the bright blue screen, I've been reading more actual books, getting more work done, and generally feeling less like a human waste of space.  I don't know how long it's going to last, but I hope to be able to moderate my social media consumption more effectively in the future! 

Photo courtesy of soul-cycle.com

Soul What?

My best friend came into town for a weekend to attend our friend's baby shower, and she had one request while she was here: to take a SoulCycle class.  I don't generally go in for super fad workouts, plus I was absolutely terrified that I'd keel over and die, but she's my best friend and I couldn't let her go in there alone!  And you know what, it was fine.  It was a good workout and the time passed quickly because of the great music and the enthusiastic instructor.  I'm really not a fan of the extra hot and humid room (I produce enough sweat on my own thankyouverymuch), and I could do without all that intensity... the staff were pretty unimpressed with us as newbies and we could tell.  Still, I can totally see myself going to the odd class, especially when traveling, since it's super easy to sign up online and show up.

Photo courtesy of sf.eater.com (we got one of these cool booths!)

New Openings

I have a friend who's always on the pulse of the latest restaurant openings.  If you have a friend like that in a city like San Francisco, you know how great it is!  So it was that my three best girlfriends and I found ourselves sitting down to dinner on the very second night of service at August 1 Five, a modern Indian restaurant.  There was a little comedy to do with working out the kinks - my friend accidentally got a wine menu with someone's notes on it - but everyone was friendly and the food was so delicious.  We loved everything, even ordering more after we'd cleaned our first round of plates, but it must be said that the chicken biryani was stellar.  And the cocktails are excellent, but also note that it's just a couple of blocks from Whitechapel, a truly excellent gin bar, should you want to extend your night on either end!