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TeaI know it was a bittersweet time…but that is part of the life process. Are these the times that try men’s souls? Well not really. They become interruptions of our daily routine. We adapt to the change and life goes on. Sometimes it opens up opportunities and challenges us to do something we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Like write lots of letters which we don’t do enough of due to the telephone or e-mail.

It’s good for us to get shaken up a bit. We begin to think in terms we wouldn’t have otherwise. Like the time we sent you a turkey in Norway, or the visit we arranged while you were there. Or the trip Noni & I took to visit Heather & Bonnie in England and Joe Martell in Italy. These are the times we stash in our memories and are all brought about because of changes we have no control over. So life is what you make of it. It can be good, bad, sad, or boring. But as Sarah quotes Mae West as saying: ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.’

~ Leonard Luigi Farina, Oct 3rd, 1927 – May 29th, 2013

Len Farina was my first best friend. If you had pulled me aside at the ripe old age of three and asked me who my best friends were, I would have responded without hesitation: Bapa and Barney. From a three-year old perspective, being lumped in with the family dog is high praise indeed.

Len had an uncanny ability to connect with people of all ages, from his young grandchildren to the Keene State graduates working in the local diner alongside his peers drinking coffees at the counter, to his beloved mother-in-law. Len was the epitome of an extrovert. People are what mattered most to him, what drove him, what excited him. He delighted children with a variety of string-figures, spoke earnestly with any adult who would listen about his impassioned views on business, computers and the insurance industry, and doled out Lindt chocolates to anyone with a sweet tooth. He was equipped at all times with an arsenal of jokes — usually of the bad-pun variety — always eager to coax a smile from even the most unwilling victims of his sense of humor.

A gregarious man, there was nothing more exciting for Len than the prospect of a gathering, from holidays and parties to baked bean suppers at the lake to a simple lunch at Timoleon’s. The anticipation of a rolicking good time was almost unbearable for him, leaving him in a state of restless preparedness, ready to take action. For months leading up to any major event, he would start circulating Excel files, faxes, and letters — creating charts, coming up with coded acronyms and block-lettered lists and menus. There was truly never too much of a good thing for Len when it came to meeting new friends and celebrating the old.

I was blessed to experience the unabashed love and fierce pride he had for all of his family. A sentimental man, he was always the first to tear up at any of our musical performances, and freely expressed his admiration in writing afterwards. He would often speak fondly of his own family from Italy — passing along life lessons he learned from his father Luigi and culinary traditions inherited from his mother Adelinda. His appetite also knew no bounds. A provider and teacher at heart, he could not have been more at ease than when showing an unsuspecting house guest how to make pasta, or displaying the fine art of pizzelle making before passing off the heavy iron to a more muscular young man in the room to complete the job.

Len Farina was my first music teacher. Inspired by his own example, I was a curious student of music and more from a young age. Like his children before me, I learned about music seated beside him on the piano bench, turning pages of sheet music and happily obliging his requests for vocal accompaniment. He could effortlessly switch between leading my sister and I in singing “You Are My Sunshine” on the piano and flawlessly executing the Widor Toccata on the organ. An avid lover of music, Len donated his talents behind the organ here at St. James, the piano at Lions Club drama productions, and most infamously of all, propped up underneath the weight of his accordion, abusing his tolerant wife’s ears with a rousing rendition of “Lady of Spain.”

Len Farina was also my first employer. As an eight year old girl, my sister and I were offered the chance to rid the lawn up in Harrisville of dandelions for a price of 5 cents a blossom. I’m not sure he expected us to pick 500, but he was proud of our hard work. Pride in a job well-done was apparent in everything he did. He was known throughout this community for the business he created in 1972: Business Systems Inc, a payroll firm now operated by his daughter here in Keene. He ran his business based on the desire to help others and on the principles of efficiency, accuracy and adherence to an old-school work ethic passed down to him by his father (a successful businessman in his own right). He was so proud of his father and strove to do him proud in return, working many late evenings under the watchful eye of his father’s oil portrait hanging above his desk.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Len not only did Luigi proud, he did all of us whom he encountered proud. His enduring legacy of love for family, service to those in need, and the ability to connect to everyone he met with music, laughter and merriment is testimony to a life well lived. His example encourages all of us to take the opportunity to challenge ourselves, to work with pride, to love with free abandon and always to explore, learn, and share.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few words of comfort from Len himself, written to me on the occasion of my paternal grandmother’s passing:

Life is for the living, and we must all carry on even though we may stumble or fall. What is important is that you stay the course. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

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When I first started this blog, it went (briefly) by the unwieldy name Carefully Edited Slices of Life. Dissatisfied, I struck upon the concept of The Hungry Crafter, changed my blog name, and repurposed the original blog name for the title of my launch post. Over the course of the two (soon to be three) years I’ve been writing here, I find myself coming back to that original post, struggling with how to stay true to the mission I set forth for myself there. I’ve always found it a shame that so many men and women in our society are made to feel inferior by others’ apparent success — the latent effect of Photoshop skewing our perceptions — and therefore find themselves discouraged and resigned when they compare their reality to some else’s fiction. Do I prove my theory — that anyone can have a picture-perfect life using visual and mental editing techniques — by way of example (the route I’ve tried to take to date), or would it be more powerful to also show the mess behind the scenes to drive home the fact that appearances are not what they seem to be?

I still don’t have an answer to that question. Ultimately, however, the central belief that drives this blog is that nothing is impossible. This is a value that goes to my core — that anyone is capable of accomplishing their goals, be it with a few missteps and revisions along the way. You get to define success. If I can use this blog to encourage others to succeed, to try new things, to learn and grow…that would be the ultimate fulfillment of this endeavor.

This train of thought has led me to consider ways in which I might be able to offer more value to my readers. I’m not interested in showing off or intimidating people with my accomplishments…regardless of my ambivalence about sharing my failures. I want to encourage you to go out and MAKE. To that end, I started to look at things that I do already that contribute to my own successes — things I can’t help but do — and thought about how I can translate the results into something I can share on my blog that would be of use to you.

Which brings me to today’s post. I’m trying a little experiment here. More than ever over the past year since I’ve moved into my first proper house, I’ve found myself hosting events in addition to my usual cooking sprees. Each event comes with no little amount of time spent researching recipes, making shopping lists, and drafting multi-day to-do lists — not to mention learning lessons through trial and error. What I’d like to try is a new miniseries format on the blog to share these complete menus with you.

Previously I’ve shared these celebrations in a show-and-tell style format (see, for example, my sister’s baby shower), but I think the recipes get lost in this mega-post format, and it doesn’t particularly help to teach. I also hate to have all the time I’ve spent planning for each occasion not be of use after the event has come and gone. Maybe, if I post the resources here, one of you will use my menus and lists as a template to save yourself some time and try something new? I’ll include a complete menu, shopping list, and (gulp!) share some “lessons learned” along the way in the kickoff post to each miniseries. Then, on each weekday that follows, I’ll post a recipe a day with pics, instructions, tips and modifications, until the entire menu has been posted.

So with my own infamous last words…LET’S DO THIS!

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A Celebratory Goose Dinner

In a strange twist of fate that brought a goose to my door (more on that when I post the goose recipe), I found myself looking for occasion to cook a festive holiday meal. Christmas was out of the question due to sheer number of guests, so I was thrilled instead to have our good friends Marcy and Brian (and their adorable baby girl) over for an indulgent New Year’s Eve dinner. They brought fancy champagne and did the dishes. I think I’ll let them come back again.

The Menu

Hors D’Oeuvres
Bay Scallops & Applewood Bacon with a Port Wine Reduction
Phyllo-Wrapped Figs with Prosciutto & Stilton
Endives with Grape Tomatoes, Basil & Balsamic Vinegar
serve with Hendrick’s Gin & Q Tonic and a variety of seasonal microbrews

Main Course
Orange & Thyme Roasted Goose with Potatoes, Shallots and a Lingonberry-White Wine Sauce
Chestnut Stuffing
Roasted Winter Squash with Maple Syrup and Sage Cream
Parker House Rolls
serve with Erath Pinot Noir (alternate wines: Barolo or Gewürztraminer)

Dessert
Apple Crostata
Brown Butter Ice Cream
Assorted Cheeses and Honeycomb (Optional. Our stomachs were too full. I’ll be eating the cheese for dinner tonight, shucks.)
serve with Veuve Cliquot, or champagne of your choice. Harvey’s Bristol Cream on ice with a lime would be wonderful as well.

Shopping List

Download and print your Shopping List; be sure to review the bottom section for pantry items before you go!

Preparation Schedule

Three days prior (morning)
Remove goose from freezer. Place in large bowl in refrigerator.
Place ice cream maker bowl in freezer for min. 24 hours.

Two days prior
Go grocery shopping.
Make Brown Butter Ice Cream.
Make Crostata crust.

One day prior (expect to put in a good 8-9 hours)
Make Chestnut Stuffing.
Make Parker House Rolls.
Make Apple Crostata.
Make Port Wine Reduction.
Make Sage Cream.

D-Day (4 pm guest arrival; 6 pm dinner)
10 am: Prepare Phyllo-Wrapped Figs with Prosciutto & Stilton; refrigerate once assembled.

12 pm: Fry bacon, assemble scallops, refrigerate.

1 pm: Set table, prepare serving dishes. Select dinner wines and put on table.

1:30 pm: Peel and cut squash, mix with sugar and olive oil; set aside. Wash potatoes and peel shallots.

2:15 pm: Take goose out of fridge, rinse, dry. Make marinade. Score goose and baste.

3:15 pm: Goose in oven.

3:30 pm: Assemble endives; put out on serving platter with cocktail napkins. Run around the house hiding messes in the closet.

4 pm: Guests arrive. Serve cocktails and endive. Warm Port Wine Reduction, cook scallops and serve.

4:30 pm: Put Phyllo-Wrapped Figs in oven for 17 minutes, make accompanying cream sauce.

5:00 pm: Serve Phyllo-Wrapped Figs.

5:15 pm: Squash in oven.

5:30 pm, or when goose temp reaches 160°F: Remove goose from oven, transfer to platter and tent with foil. Transfer potatoes and shallots from roasting pan to a new baking dish and return to oven to continue cooking, if needed. Put stuffing in oven. Make Lingonberry White Wine Sauce in roasting pan.

5:50 pm: Check squash and potatoes, continuing to cook as needed. Put rolls in oven to warm. Warm Sage Cream sauce.

6:00 pm: All food to serving dishes and brought to table; carve goose and serve sliced on platter with thyme sprigs and orange slices for garnish. Enjoy!

When stomachs have fully recovered and can fit dessert, heat crostata in oven for 15 minutes and remove ice cream from freezer to soften for easy scooping. Serve with a small cheese platter and champagne.

Lessons learned

  • For God’s sake, do NOT OVERCOOK THE GOOSE. Pretty much ignore this recipe, and follow the one I’ll post later on in the week instead.
  • Don’t over-butter the phyllo. There actually is such a thing as too much butter, and it’s called “greasy.”
  • Remember to put the maple syrup on the squash. Also, reference this version of the recipe, not this one (first is much clearer).
  • If bay scallops can’t be found and you end up using sea scallops, cut them into halves or thirds. Or make your bacon strips much longer.
  • If you’re weight-conscious, please do not even attempt to make the brown butter ice cream. It will be your downfall. Your delicious, sinful downfall.

Join me again tomorrow for the start of the recipes! If you have any thoughts or recommendations on the miniseries format, I’d love to hear them — leave a comment below.  Happy New Year to all!

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One of the blogs I’ve been following for quite some time now is the Sew Mama, Sew! blog, affiliated with the online fabric store of the same name. In fact, it was through their semi-annual Giveaway Day that I first got drawn into the world of blogging, as I wrote about here. Currently they’re running a contest on handmade tablescapes, and I figured it was just the incentive I needed to get off my duff and write a little more about some of the DIY details of my wedding. For those of you new to my blog, you can read more about my September wedding here, here and here. Without further ado — a look at our wedding tables:

Cabbage roses, herbs, and light shades of brown (burlap, kraft paper, linen) were the name of the game.
The wedding table

Some of the elements that we wove throughout our wedding decor were herbs, chocolate, art deco vintage, DIY, typewriters, and local food.Place settings

DIY item #1: Embroidered table numbers. We had three long tables, with two to three embroidered table numbers on each, set on a stack of art deco style vintage books for height. The flowers on the embroidery were motifs that I copied from the Liberty of London fabric I used as backing for our ring pillow (as well as scanned in and printed for envelope liners). I also used Liberty fabrics to cover clothespins for our photobooth display.
Embroidered table numbers

Another embroidery example below. I originally intended to cover the entire number with a satin stitch so it was opaque, but I ran out of time! (I finished embroidering an hour before the rehearsal dinner — lucky for me, I find embroidering a great way to sooth jitters…)
Embroidered table numbers

DIY item #2: Paper bees. Quick and easy DIY! I simply bought a bee punch and stamped a bunch of paper bees out of a local food magazine (Edible Boston), in keeping with our local-food themed dinner. We nestled a bee into a sprig of rosemary on each napkin (we got married at an herb farm).

Napkin Accents

We then bought a bunch of bulk herbs and potted them in terra cotta pots for table decorations — a different herb for each table. The symbolic meaning of each type of herb used was written out on the back of the ceremony programs along with a list of guests and corresponding tables.
Potted herbs

DIY #3: Stationery items. My amazing stationer, Helen at Papier Lapin, designed our invitations using kraft paper and typewriter fonts. How thrilled was I when I found a supplier of the EXACT same kraft paper she used, and was able to download the same fonts for free online? Using her invitations as a style reference, I made hang tags for place cards with kraft cardstock, kraft reinforcements, and green butcher’s twine. We tied each one to a cookie and used them as combo place card/favors.
Place card/favors

Again, using the invitations as a style guide, I designed and printed up menus to be placed underneath the favor/hang tags.
Menu

And bless my best friend, who not only got her fiance to brew beer for our entire wedding, but who also downloaded the same fonts and designed labels for the beer using kraft sticky labels.
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I was shocked when I learned how much vintage blue mason jars cost… Luckily I found a tutorial online to do a faux blue finish using a thinned glass paint. The jar pictured here is actually a Classico spaghetti sauce jar! My then-fiance and I ate a lot of spaghetti and pickles leading up to the wedding to amass enough jars for centerpieces 🙂
DIY faux mason jars

And a final look at the whole table — pickle jar front and center!

A look at the finished table

I loved the way everything turned out…especially the part where we said “I do.”

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…bring July babies? Or June. We’ll see.

Last weekend brought me up to Haverhill for my friend Marcy’s baby shower, which was a lovely affair hosted by our friend Monica, replete with tasty food, apple blossoms and dahlias, gorgeous table linens, 50 or so charming guests, and a prolific amount of pink onesies. I’m embarrassed to say that, despite the beautiful decorations and lovely guests, I came home solely with pictures of food on my camera. I have issues. I should forewarn you that while I did finally find my camera (yay!), I’ve been a little obsessed with Hipstamatic, so the photos are all from my iPhone. I’ll get over it, I’m sure, but you’ll have to indulge me for a while.

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Marcy is my partner-in-crime for all things catering-related. Together over the years, we’ve manned several lobster bakes, bartended a celebrity wedding of sorts, thrown birthday bashes for crowds, put together dessert bars, Christmas parties, anniversary celebrations, humble dinner parties…large scale affairs and quiet picnics. The list goes on and on. As a pair, we’ve always just clicked in the kitchen, seamlessly moving back and forth without ever getting in the other’s way, speaking in half sentences that don’t need finishing, dividing labor intuitively and efficiently. It’s always mildly unsettling to me when I have to prepare for an event without her puttering alongside me in the kitchen. Over the years, we’ve picked up on each other’s trade secrets: she can now put together my grandmother’s Pepper Clam Dip more quickly than I, and I’ve become well-versed in pinwheel sandwiches, Kahlua dipping sauce, and the ever-present cheese board, which is put together just so.

For her shower, then, I insisted on taking cheese board duties, because there had to be a cheese board, and it had to be put together just so, and had to be displayed on the Italian tile serving tray with white handles (that I made her poor aunt dig out from the very bottom of a teetering pile of heavy serving platters, because clearly no other platter would do.) While I do love my local cheese shops (Bacco’s and Formaggio Kitchen), I found myself at Whole Foods this time, where I’ve always been happily pleased with the cheese selection.

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I’m afraid I didn’t stop and get a picture until after the cheese board had been picked at a bit. You get the gist, though. I had a bit of a curveball thrown at me for this particular platter, being for a baby shower and all: I needed to pick only pasteurized cheeses for our expectant guest of honor. In the end, I opted for the following:

  • Wensleydale with Blueberries (I’ll never, ever, be able to eat Wensleydale without thinking of Wallace and Gromit. Anyone else?)
  • Young Fontina Fontal
  • UnieKaas Reserve Gouda, aged 18+ mos.
  • Ford Farm Coastal British Cheddar with Sea Salt
  • Cordobes (a Manchego-like Whole Foods exclusive)

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Other highlights of the shower included Vichyssoise shooters, a pair of cool spring salads, chicken salad sandwiches, pinwheels, and a serve-yourself cocktail bar with champagne, black cherry juice and apricot juice. I may have had one too many glasses of the champagne/cherry juice combo — absolutely irresistible.

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The pièce de résistance, however, was the cookie bar. Marcy has never had much of a taste for things like chocolate, or cake, or any other sweets, really…except for cookies. In particular, Aunt Josie’s Cookies, which are traditionally made by Aunt Mary (Makes sense, right? I love family traditions. And aunts. And being an aunt. But I digress.) This culminated in the tempting array below, with Aunt Josie’s Cookies reigning supreme over the cookie kingdom from up high on their multi-tiered pedestal.

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The cookies, clockwise from top, are: Aunt Josie’s cookies, Marsha’s chocolate frosted cookies, chocolate pistachio brittle, molasses whoopie pies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, lemon-lime basil shortbread cookies, potato chip cookies, a second container of pistachio brittle, and blackberry jambles.

My contributions were the potato chip cookies and blackberry jambles. The potato chip cookie is a prized and guarded recipe in my files, handwritten by Marcy’s mom (I believe it came attached to a chicken-head cookie jar, but that’s another story). If I may be picky for a moment, I will say that I didn’t do them justice this time around, though — the texture wasn’t quite right. They really do need cheap-o store-brand grease-bomb chips as an ingredient — the Whole Foods sea-salted organic chips just didn’t work, probably because they didn’t have enough bad-for-you oils. I’ll bypass the full rant about how loving good, quality natural foods and loving Diet Coke and Lays are not mutually exclusive. My kingdom for a Whole Foods with a soda machine out front.

The blackberry jambles, on the other hand… oh. my. God. Marcy, take note: this is now officially part of our ongoing repertoire, and I already have plans to make an apricot version for the next shower we bake for.

Without further ado, a recipe for you all. As you might deduce from the obscene amount of butter involved, these are ridiculously and sinfully good.

Blackberry Jambles
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth, by Jill O’Connor, Chronicle Books 2007

  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 3/4c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/2c. blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl at medium-low speed until creamy. Add vanilla and salt; beat until combined. Add flours one cup at a time, beating on low speed, just until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Spray a 9″x13″ baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.

Bake the bottom crust until it is firm and just beginning to turn pale brown around the edges, about 20 min. Remove the pan from the oven, and spread the preserves over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the jam to form a pebbly, crumbled topping. Sprinkle with almonds. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until topping is firm and crisp, about 30 mins. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Use a sharp knife to cut bars evenly (or not evenly, in my case), into 15 large squares, then cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Remove bars from pan with metal spatula, dust with confectioners sugar (using a sifter or mini-strainer), and serve.

Bars will keep, covered tightly, for about a week at room temperature, or up to one month in the freezer.

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The Wedding Ceremony

Apparently I need a “wedding miniseries” button to tag these posts… What follows is a complete transcript of our wedding ceremony. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that little to none of this is original content. Many, many heartfelt thanks to the good folks in blogland for sharing their own vows, and in particular the contributors to this post on A Practical Wedding. I figured I’d give back to the ‘net by sharing mine and hopefully help some other poor bride trying to scrape together a ceremony a week and a half before D-day. Not that I have any experience in that. Future brides, please feel free to steal wholesale.

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Prelude

Welcome
OFFICIANT: Welcome everyone. The ceremony is about to begin, so please be seated. We ask at this time that you please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices.

Groom takes his place next to officiant.

Processional
Music starts. (Bach’s “Sleepers Awake” on recorder)

Groom’s parents walk down the center aisle and take their seats.
Bride’s parents walk down the center aisle and take their seats.
Best Man and Maid of Honor walk in and stand on the either side of officiant.

Music stops.

Groom walks to barn door, music starts (“Ni ar cnoc ná ar isleacht” on Irish bagpipes) as groom opens the door and bride walks out. Bride and groom walk in together, then go stand in front of officiant.

Opening Words
OFFICIANT: Throughout the memory of humanity the founding of a new family has been noted as an act of high and holy order. It has been celebrated with a service of marriage in sacred groves, in humble meetinghouses, under vaulted arches, in temples with ancient rites, and in makeshift spaces with hurried words. We all gather here today at The Herb Lyceum because of what we share: a desire to affirm and support the relationship of Mr. Manly and The Hungry Crafter.*

Marriage requires a commitment to care for another person, to show concern for the life and growth of those whom we love. Marriage requires a commitment to respond to another person, to help meet their needs. Marriage requires a commitment to respect the unique individuality of that person, to help them grow and unfold for their own sake. Marriage requires a commitment to transcend our own egos, to use reason and humility to understand another person; and by doing this, we discover ourselves.

All these commitments require that we give ourselves to another person; by this giving, we experience our own strength and our own vitality. We experience ourselves as overflowing and alive. Today we affirm and celebrate this commitment being made between Mr. Manly and The Hungry Crafter.

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Reading
Bride’s mother approaches and stands to the side of the wedding party for the reading.

MOTHER OF THE BRIDE: A reading from Fra Giovanni Giocondo, 1513

“I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you that you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.”

Returns to her seat.

Declaration of Intent

OFFICIANT: At this time, will the parents and siblings of the bride and groom please stand?

(to Bride & Groom) Mr. Manly, Hungry Crafter – marriage is a voluntary and full commitment, entered into with the desire, hope and firm intention that it will last for a lifetime. The vows you speak, the rings you exchange, will take but a moment. The promises you make are lasting. And so, do you come here together of your own free will, to take one another as life-long partners, to love, respect, and honor one another, through whatever may come? If so, please answer by saying, “We do”

BRIDE AND GROOM: We do.

OFFICIANT: (to bride’s immediate family)
Mom, Dad and Sister: as Hungry Crafter’s family, do you welcome Mr. Manly as a member of your family, and grant your blessings, love and acceptance? If so, please say “we do.”

BRIDE’S FAMILY: We do.

OFFICIANT: (to groom’s immediate family)
Mom, Dad and siblings: as Mr. Manly’s family, do you welcome The Hungry Crafter as a member of your family, and grant your blessings, love and acceptance? If so, please say “we do.”

GROOM’S FAMILY: We do.

OFFICIANT: (to all guests) Do all of you here today promise to offer love and support to The Hungry Crafter and Mr. Manly, upholding them in their marriage? If so, please answer by saying “We do.”

GUESTS: We do!

OFFICIANT: At this time, Mr. Manly and The Hungry Crafter would like to read a few words to each other.

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GROOM: Hungry Crafter, I believe that the key to a successful relationship is a kind of selflessness. Not the unhealthy stifling of one personality in favor of another, but the fusion of two individuals into a new union far beyond the achievements of simple addition.

I do not vow to create this union today. It’s not possible to create something that has existed for so many years already. I vow instead to sustain our union, fighting for it when the need arises, and all the while developing it far beyond what was initially thought possible.

To this end, I promise to forever be your anchor when you are lost in the storm—holding you steady—until we can find our way home. Should you feel weak, I will be your strength. At all times you will know my mind because you are always in my thoughts. You are my best friend, my shelter in hard times, the voice of reason in the middle of the night and, starting today, my wife. You are the better angel of my nature.

Throughout history there have been many great men with accomplishments both good and far-reaching. Though I’ve often envied and admired them, I’ve come to realize that I would count myself as their equal, or even their better, if my only achievement in this life was to make you happy. I love you more than you will ever know.

BRIDE: Mr. Manly, you know I don’t believe in soul mates. I never have, and probably never will. Instead I believe in making choices, and continuously dedicating yourself to those choices. Today I choose you. I choose you to be my partner, my husband, and my family. I chose you yesterday, I choose you today, and will continue to choose you every day.

I make this choice, because I love what I know of you, and have the faith to trust what I don’t yet know.

I know you fill my heart with hope and joy. You make me laugh, laugh with me (and…at me!), you encourage my dreams and you help me grow. You offer me a kindness and security that I didn’t know existed. Your confidence in me is humbling. For these, and a hundred other reasons—I love you.

Today, surrounded by our friends and family, I take you for my husband. I promise to stand by you, encourage you, dream, laugh and cry with you. I promise to love you not only when it is easy, but also when it is difficult. I vow to remember that we are two different people who deal with problems in different ways. I vow to respect you and your opinions and ideas. I promise to remember that we are a team, and that we are always in it together, and that we are stronger together than we are apart. I promise to try every day to be a wife who is worthy of your love.

And finally, I promise that you will always be my family. You are part of who I am, and that can’t ever be undone. I love you more than you will ever know.

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Blessing of Hands
OFFICIANT: Mr. Manly & The Hungry Crafter, please hold hands. Mr. Manly’s mother will now join us for the blessing of hands.
Officiant steps to the side, mother of the groom comes up and stands where officiant was standing.

MOTHER OF THE GROOM:
Mr. Manly and Hungry Crafter, as you hold each other’s hands, look down and notice:
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of life, that are holding yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you, and with the slightest touch will comfort you like no others can.
These are the hands that will hold you tight when you encounter fear or grief.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will give you support and encouragement to go after your dreams.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you struggle through difficult times.
These are the hands that will lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into eyes that are filled with overwhelming love for you.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

Takes her seat; officiant returns to her place.

The Marriage Vows
OFFICIANT: Mr. Manly, repeat after me:
I, Mister Manly, take you, The Hungry Crafter,
to be my lawfully wedded wife,
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or worse,
for richer or poorer,
in sickness and health,
to love and to cherish,
until we are parted by death.
This is my solemn vow.

OFFICIANT: Hungry Crafter, repeat after me:
I, The Hungry Crafter, take you, Mister Manly,
to be my lawfully wedded husband,
to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse,
for richer or poorer,
in sickness and health,
to love and to cherish,
until we are parted by death.
This is my solemn vow.

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Exchange of Rings
OFFICIANT: Who presents the rings?
FRIEND: I do.
Friend brings ring pillow up to officiant. While friend holds pillow, officiant unlaces and removes the rings; friend takes empty pillow back to her seat. Officiant hands bride’s ring to groom, keeping groom’s ring in her hand.

OFFICIANT: Mr. Manly, please repeat after me:
Hungry Crafter, I give you this ring,
that you may wear it as a symbol of the vows we have made this day,
and as a constant reminder that you are dearly loved.

Officiant hands Mr. Manly’s ring to the bride
OFFICIANT: (to bride) Please repeat after me:
Mr. Manly, I give you this ring,
that you may wear it as a symbol of the vows we have made this day,
and as a constant reminder that you are dearly loved.

Pronouncement of Marriage
OFFICIANT: May all who love The Hungry Crafter & Mr. Manly continue to rejoice in the commitments they have made to one another. May their home be a place of peace for them and all who enter into it.

Inasmuch as The Hungry Crafter and Mr. Manly have consented together in this ceremony to live in marriage and have witnessed their vows in the presence of this company and have given and received rings as a token of their vows, I now pronouce, by the authority vested in me, and in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that The Hungry Crafter and Mr. Manly are husband and wife.

Mr. Manly, you may now kiss the bride.

Kiss!

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Officiant cues bagpiper to start playing; joyous recessional music begins, bride & groom exit through center aisle – yay confetti toss!

******

I must confess that I barely remember a word the officiant said because I couldn’t take my eyes off Mr. M. I’m not sure I was aware that anyone was there but the two of us.

*All names changed to protect the not-so-innocent…

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I have a confession to make. I’m a bit embarassed about this. As you may remember, I’ve just moved. And SOMEHOW during the move, I have managed to lose track of three things (four, if you count my sanity):

1. my mint green enamel colander

2. my stick blender, and…

3. my camera. As in, my nice camera. My Canon Rebel XT. The one I use to take pictures of food for this blog. The one with the pictures of the Austin to Boston food swap still on the memory card. Sigh. I spent all day Saturday reorganizing and scouring the basement in search of said camera, to no avail. It will turn up. It HAS to.

All of which is to say, with no new photos for you, I thought this was a good time to give my wedding its due here on the old blog!

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Mr. M and I were married at 4pm on 9.10.11 at The Herb Lyceum in Groton, MA. Our previous “dating anniversary” was 9.11.04, so I liked the idea of keeping it close to that date, while changing it to something more socially acceptable for celebration. I also knew I wanted to get married in September, as it’s the least risky month for weather here in New England — if such a thing truly exists.

As you may have gathered from the intro to my pictoral overview, planning the wedding was not without stress. There’s just so much to it. I needed the wedding to fit with our values, so I tried to define a set of guiding principles early on that would help shape the wedding — the important things to keep in mind as we prioritized the many decisions that come along with wedding planning. (I should note that there was only one thing that was important to Mr. M, and that was marrying me. God bless him.) In the end, we agreed on the following top priorities:

1). Good food. This is a big surprise to you all, I know. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of mediocre catering, and this priority was instrumental in our choice to get married at the Herb Lyceum. Having eaten there on two previous occasions, I knew the food was spectacular, and would incorporate fresh herbs and seasonal, local ingredients. The icing on the wedding cake? No set catering menu — we got to work with the chef to customize the meal 100%.

In addition to the quality of the food itself, I was equally concerned with the quality of the dining experience. I know, I know…I’m a little obsessed. I can’t help it; I just adore a good meal, including all the intangibles that bring it together: the ambiance, the pace, the company, the conversations… The goal was a European-style sit-down meal with multiple courses that lingers into the evening and encourages relaxed conversation. (To that end, the seating chart was well thought out. What’s the point of being a Type A personality if you can’t enjoy seating charts and Excel spreadsheets?) Last but not least, the dessert course would not be an afterthought. The cake. would. rule.

2). Supporting local. This phrase can mean many things to many people; for us, it meant being thoughtful about where our money was spent, giving preference to local vendors and ingredients, and selecting small, independent businesses whenever we could. We placed high value on vendors whose skills we admired and wanted to support, and chose people we enjoyed working with and wanted to support. We used Etsy a lot. This translated further into supporting handmade in general, be it by talented artisans, talented friends, or, well, li’l ole me.

3). Not breaking the bank. I don’t think it’s news to anyone that weddings can be ridiculously expensive. It simply is not in either my or Mr. M’s value system to spend outrageous amounts of money on, well, much of anything. (Fabric doesn’t count. Ahem.) On the other hand, we were getting MARRIED!!! We had officially found the love(s) of our life! This was a BIG DEAL! I wanted to give ourselves enough rope to have a celebration befitting the enormity of this milestone, without putting a damper on the yelling-from-the-rooftops joy I felt. 

So we settled on a budget that was certainly below the average cost of a wedding in the US, but still large enough to allow us to splurge on the things we valued most. We splurged on food. We splurged on our photographer, bagpiper, and stationer. In exchange, I got my dress on eBay for a small fraction of the price some folks pay. I did my own makeup. We bypassed many of the traditional elements that weren’t meaningful to us, such as engagement shoots/parties/announcements; dancing (and consequently DJs and floor rentals); boutennieres, garter and veil; and videography. We kept the guest list as small as possible, in keeping not only with our budget, but the intimate, familial vibe we hoped for. We did our own flowers. Our rings are simple, but classic. We used an iPod for the bulk of the music. The bar, while open, was limited to homebrew, wine, vodka and gin. Non, je ne regrette rien.

******

Having those priorities set, I then dove into defining themes to help further direct the more minute decisions. There were actually several themes to our wedding — if one is good, why not many? To wit:

1). Chocolate. I mean really. Does this need any explanation? Why WOULDN’T you have a chocolate wedding?

It started with the food. Doesn’t it always? Mr. M and I are both chocolate fanatics who, our whole lives, have always insisted on chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for our birthdays. So it was decided early on that the cake (yes, THE cake. The one that rules, remember?) would be all chocolate, with two layers of mocha frosting and a center layer of chocolate mousse…all covered with chocolate buttercream and finished with a chocolate cookie crumb coating. The favors were the ever-fabulous Chocolate Salty Oats cookies from Kayak Cookies on Cape Cod.

From there, it was only logical to go with my natural affinity towards the color brown, and make chocolate brown one of the main wedding colors. The color extended to the wedding party, my pashmina and handbag, and invitation envelopes. Parallel to this theme was a light brown/naturals color scheme. The mens’ suits were subdued shades of brown, the paper goods were all printed on kraft cardstock, while burlap and twine (both cotton and jute) were used throughout. And in a nice local touch, the kind folks over at Taza Chocolate donated one of their burlap cacoa sacks to me to be used as a table runner for the photo booth table.

2). Herbs. Getting married at The Herb Lyceum, this was a no-brainer. In addition to the herbs incorporated in the meal, each of the three tables used a different potted herb for centerpieces, and a sprig of rosemary was placed on each napkin. (Hubby was going to have a rosemary boutenniere, but…apparently the line of “whatever you want, dear” gets drawn where shrubbery gets attached to his person.)

Our photographer also snagged some gorgeous photos of us in the lavender garden, in the greenhouse behind several flats of basil, and in a growing field of potted herbs. Ivy encircled and adorned the cake. Out of this theme, green naturally became a secondary color, further incorporated through the use of green bakers twine and moss.

3). Liberty of London. Liberty, sweet Liberty. The crafter in me couldn’t help it. I’ve always loved these fabrics, and once the idea crossed my mind, I desperately wanted a Liberty-themed wedding. Can you imagine a farm table with a melange of brightly-colored Liberty napkins? Liberty hankies for all the ladies? Liberty bunting adorning the sides of the tents? Well yes, so could I, but that doesn’t mean I could justify the expense. If you’re familiar with Liberty of London designs, you’ll know that these gorgeous William Morris-era inspired tana lawns are generally priced around $40/yd. Sigh. So, I did a couple things instead:

I found a particular print that I loved and used that as my main inspiration piece for both color scheme and design. I purchased a small swatch from Etsy, due in part to the aforementioned cost, but primarily due to the fact that this particular print was only produced for a limited time in Japan, and honestly CANNOT BE FOUND anywhere. Trust me, I tried. And I’m good at that sort of thing. The 8″x8″ square I bought may be the last piece in existence.

With the precious swatch in my possession, I scanned it into my computer and printed copies out onto a thick glossy paper, and used the printouts to make custom envelope liners for the invitations. I then used the same scan to add color to the enclosed accommodations card and the address labels for the RSVP envelopes. Next, I enlarged the print and outlined several of the motifs to incorporate the designs into the hand-embroidered table numbers. With that done, I finally used the fabric itself as the underside of the ring pillow I sewed (the top side being knit by my Mom).

While the bulk of my colors remained muted (chocolate, herbal green and pink), I indulged my playful side at the photobooth where I covered ~60 clothespins with a variety of bright Liberty fabrics. A great way to stretch that fabric, for sure!

4). “DIY-Faux vintage.” This is the loose term I coined to capture the style of the day. As an outdoor, artsy DIY wedding, it’s easy to fall into a very rustic, camp-style feel. A fun and well-loved theme, for sure, but I wanted my outdoor artsy wedding to fall more on the elegant side than the whimsical side (due in no small part to Mr. M’s wariness of all things “hipster.” How I managed to get the photobooth past him is still a mystery to me). So, with the desire for elegance, the love of the vintage Liberty designs, and an awesome stationary design from Papier Lapin featuring an old vintage typewriter, I began trolling the wedding boards for more old-timey inspiration. Add in a lace wedding dress, jewelry from La Vie Parisienne, faux vintage glass vases, antique books and hand embroidery, and you have yourself a theme, ladies and gents.

******

Armed with these principles, themes, and a 21-tabbed Excel workbook, somewhere, somehow, we did in fact pull off the wedding of our dreams. Our wonderful wedding photographer, Maureen Cotton, put together the following slideshow for us, which seemed a fitting way to close. Listen closely — the music is by none other than Dan Meyers, the bagpiper who played at our ceremony!

I’ve got a few more wedding posts up my sleeve to keep us occupied until the camera turns up…details on the ceremony, the music and some DIY projects. If there’s anything in particular you want to hear about, leave a comment and let me know!

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Happy Halloween, all! Pattern by The Green Hedgehog, sewn with love for Baby W by her Auntie, The Hungry Crafter.

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While I was sewing for Baby W, I took the time to make a couple of paci clips that match her Mom’s diaper bag. Knowing nothing about babies (and therefore nothing about pacifiers), I was grateful to be forewarned that Baby W is partial to the “soothie” style pacifier and therefore needed a special loop to attach to it. A quick internet search turned up this tutorial, which did the job quite nicely. Super quick and easy — I see making plenty more of these in my future!

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