Wednesday, October 28, 2015

11:11, Make a List

I don't know who gets credit for saying Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a race first, but I agree with him or her wholeheartedly.  Did you know I've run 25 marathons?  I hope you didn't even believe that for a second.  Anyway, Thanksgiving is a long haul.  No singular component is that hard, but almost any Thanksgiving dish has many involved steps.  I realized a few years ago that I was losing the most time with tasks I thought of as quick and easy--peeling carrots, boiling the potatoes, arranging the buffet, rolling out the pie crust.  15-20 minute things that are negligible for a normal dinner.  What I never used to account for were how many of these 15-20 minute tasks Thanksgiving has stacked on top of one another.  As we've all learned the hard way, getting behind 20 minutes quickly turns into an hour turns into passive aggressive comments about how I'll just fill up on this delicious bread and not be able to eat any turkey! said with a forced smile and cold stare.  
Last year's table
I've had some variation in my Thanksgiving menu, but have repeated several years in a row now.  I'm so happy with it and think it's a very well-matched, traditional menu. I tend to ignore recipes and never remember how I make things.  That's part of the fun for me though.  While the menu may read the same, the seasonings and preparation will vary.  
Since I know my menu, the next step is list making.  Surprise, surprise, I'm kind of a compulsive list maker.  In my atrocious handwriting, I quickly begin drafting lists.  I'll say that I'm not trying to teach anything here.  I trust that you're all familiar with the concept of a list, so I hope it's not coming across as though I think I've invented the wheel by writing them.   
I wasn't drunk, but my handwriting apparently was.
I grew up in the safest, luckiest suburban court.  Thanks in huge part to my (still) best friend and her big, insane, open, accepting family.  Sometime I will need to go into detail about the cast of characters on that court. Across the street was one of the greatest, Michelle.  Michelle was my good friend L's mom.  Michelle is batshit crazy.  She has a laugh that is like a hyena on cocaine and she would wear recycled fiber knit tunics with crystal necklaces to events at the school, where she'd pull up blaring some new age flute jams out the windows.  She didn't give a single fuck what the Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers-clad mothers thought of her.  Though my mom looked the part, she wasn't like those women either.  They didn't look anything alike, but Michelle and my mom were quite similar.  They each were fierce advocates for creativity and neither cared if their children fit into boxes.  This wasn't particularly well-received by the neighboring women.  They didn't interact with Michelle and my mom wasn't exactly their favorite.  Mainly because she'd let her son (me) run around in heels and tutus and have a rose garden instead of playing with a sphere or whatever normal boys did.  Michelle was a great teacher to me.  She was always there to remind me that the world was so much bigger than our little court, while still working to make our little court a safe shelter.  The entire family did.  Walking into their house, full of weird art is that a boob?!, was a feeling of comfort, happiness, and just the right amount of WTF.  Michelle is an expert in all things sixth sense and magical.  She taught me about Reiki, Feng Shui, energy, chakras, karma, marching to the beat of your own djembe, and the joy of not being shackled to normal.  She was the perfect resource for a voraciously curious kid.  I've never seen a person more excited about anything than when she was doing my numerology chart and I told her I was born at 11:11.  She had to put me on pause and call like ten psychics to tell them. 
The 1s and 2s denote first or second grocery trip.
My elementary school teachers have PTSD
Can you read those three items above 'SAJ Bread"?
Anyway, I think of Michelle when I write my lists.  She also taught me the concept of intuitive writing.  Where you let thoughts flow to paper without damming them in the process.  For me, everything comes together when I begin to write my squiggly, messy lists.  I begin to visualize my platters and setting up the buffet.  I write the menu and then write each ingredient for each dish.  Then organize the ingredients into a shopping list.  Which is soon divided into non-perishable, perishable food, floral, wine, and specialty. 

Last Year, above and below

Once the shopping lists are made, it's time to write the schedule--It's all fun and games until I write the schedule.  Having an actual, written schedule is helpful beyond words.  The schedule is obviously mostly for cooking, but it's also a great way to ensure other nice outings and moments aren't choked out by cooking.  For me, this is grabbing lunch with a friend (even if I walk in the restaurant with flour in my hair), taking Barbie to the park, or even watching the Macy's Parade (which I kind of hate but also have to see at least five minutes of).  Last year, thanks to my master schedule, I enjoyed the parade at like 9AM with an early sampling of mashed potatoes and prosecco.  Clearly, it's all elegance around here. My favorite element to any holiday is the anticipatory energy, and making time to enjoy that is an important part.  Do you schedule yourself for the holidays? Or let them unfold organically?

Monday, October 26, 2015

One More Moon

I love hearing about other people's Thanksgivings more than talking about my own.  I know you don't believe me, but it's true.  I have a few questions I ask anyone and everyone I can--What time do you eat?  When do you shop? How many trips? Do you cook everything or do you let some people bring things?  Do you tell them what to bring or trust them?  What's your attendance policy?  RSVPs or open door?  What's the biggest Thanksgiving you've ever made?  What's your biggest disaster?  Stuffing--bread or cornbread?  Oysters? Sausage? What wine/spirit do you serve? Do you go Black Friday shopping?  Tabletop--china? paper? One long table or many? Do you brine?  Cranberry sauce or relish? What was your favorite Thanksgiving (so far)?
To start my series of Thanksgiving posts, I hope you'll answer as many as you can bear.  I ask each of these questions with an open mind.  You might think that because I have firmly set ideas for my Thanksgiving, I would project a right or wrong attitude about others'.  But that's not me.  I love the personality of family holidays and see different as neither right nor wrong. 

I've been on Thanksgiving since June this year.  That's a record, even for me.  I was feeling some delayed doubt over severing a long-expired relationship; and was having trouble deciphering regret from boredom from disappointment. I think our cool, grey, rainy weather in June was telling my biological holiday clock that the time was rapidly approaching and I clicked into high gear.  You might wonder what the hell could he even do in June? Truthfully, not much.  So I bought a bunch of shit that made me feel Thanksgiving-y.  A few gravy boats and it was all better!

Not quite, but planning Thanksgiving (or any holiday)  early did for me what it always does.  Connects me to myself--and through tiny details, helps me focus on the big picture.  The big picture, apparently, is a stockpile of gravy boats. 


The next full moon will be the evening before Thanksgiving.  Allegedly
be (yet another) Super Moon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grand Theft Floral and Plumbing 911

Despite my personal faith in love and commitment having been torched, salted, run through a wood chipper, and used as mulch in a graveyard, I still love weddings.  It makes perfect sense, planning a wedding is like planning Christmas or Thanksgiving but on steroids with a hundred times the emotional volatility.  Basically a bride a week before her wedding is equal to a Stephen Andrew Jones every day.  So I get weddings.  Some people may not lose sleep over 10 vs 12 hour votive candles BUT I DO. 

I've often been asked why aren't I a wedding planner? Well, the short answer is that it would kill me.  Quickly.  My two speeds are 0 and 5000.  For instance, my garden.  My garden is a disaster of thistles and probably a hidden isolationist nation at this point.  I've given up like three years in a row now and I haven't even looked at it since June.  There's no baseline maintenance or even decency to be had.  So how, one might wonder, is it possible that I've given other domestic tasks full-blown obsessive attention? Tunnel vision.  When I'm hyped up on an event high, you would think I've done bath salts.  I can lift couches, sleep for three minutes and work for 23 hours, and drain the bar of wine and still make puns in rapid succession.  And then I need to sleep for a week and barely have the energy to load the dishwasher.  If you watched a commercial for an anti-depressant backwards, you'd get the idea. Luckily, I know myself well enough to know that I couldn't sustain my pace if I were a wedding planner.  I would probably plan ten exquisite weddings and then drop dead at Michael's grasping floral wire and shunning someone for buying fake flowers. 
But the good news is I am a good friend to have when you're getting married.  I'm happy to loan access to my tabletop library, arrange flowers, do hair, and manage everyone.  Weddings are chaos and you need someone unphased by the hurricane of silk and floral foam and drunk relatives. 
This story starts on June 25.  It was a Thursday night and I, with the help of my family, was hosting a dinner for 25 to celebrate my cousin's upcoming wedding and for everyone to meet her fiancĂ©.  A lot of the Ohioans would not be there for the wedding, so we wanted to make it a really nice dinner with a little more pomp than usual.  Long story short, I fucked up.  I didn't leave myself enough time for the actual cooking and was about two hours behind schedule. I still served dinner on time, but had lost my time for fluffing and details.  And was very stressed.  As anyone who hosts parties knows, this stuff will happen.  All in all, everything still went really well and I had a good time.  One thing I insist on is dropping the anxiety when the first guest arrives.  A panicked host is poisonous, so I just had to drop it. And have less garnished platters than I planned. 

Though the planning was thorough, I still veered off course.
Buuuuut the next morning I woke up feeling disappointed in myself.  I went out and got my coffee, got home and finished that week's episode of RHONY, and tried to focus on what went well. 
I happened to check BuzzFeed about five minutes after the Supreme Court decision had been read.  I was stunned and thrilled and giddy.  For something that seemed inevitable, I was shocked at just how deeply surprised I felt.  There were, of course, a lot of rainbow flags on display that day.  But my purest moment of joy was watching the American flag dance in the wind.  It was a great weekend.
So let me just clarify in advance that I'm not actually related to any of the people I'm going to write about.  They are my best friend's family.  But she and I have been friends our whole lives, and I really am just as intertwined with them as real family. 
On Sunday, I got a group text from my aunt C1 that she and her longtime partner, C2, were planning a wedding celebration here in Ohio.  They live out of state, but graciously knew it would be easier for friends and family to attend in Ohio.  Though the wonderful SCOTUS news had lifted me out of my dinner-gone-awry depression, I was still eager to throw myself into a new event.  This was just the thing.  I excitedly told C&C that I would be their gay on the ground and run errands and manage things here.  The wedding was to be at C1's brother and sister in law's house (my best friend's dad and sort of my dad too). 
I happily claimed floral duty, volunteered some food, and would help set everything up. The bulk of the food would be dropped off by a caterer, and another aunt knew and event planner to help run things on the wedding day, setting up buffet tables, manning the bar, etc. 
The floral budget was tight, so some flowers were bought, some were gathered
from friends' gardens, and some were straight-up stolen from a neighbor.
On Friday, the house was bustling with activity. My workspace was the quiet garage,
conveniently among the chilling wine.  
For impact upon entry, I placed small vases on each step. And in each lite above the front door.
You can see the way the tent attached to the house through the living room.

Rainbow flags aren't my style, but the altar arrangement had ROYGBIV
all represented.  I didn't mention this to anyone, and am not sure anyone noticed;
which was my intent. Also, my blue and white bowl served as
something blue
The event planner certainly has an eye for cute details and was great with keeping the dirty glasses from piling up.  I don't think she was properly briefed and understood the scope of what was expected of her, so it was a little bumpy.  But my read on the situation was that was more on us than it was on her.  I tried to jump in and help her without taking over, which is very hard for me.  Looking back, I wish I had been a little more aggressive in setting up the buffet tables myself, because the flow was wrong.  My first priorities were the things for which I was responsible.  So I left the event planner alone, and disappeared into the bedroom for hair and makeup.  I was excited because I knew my friend, Anna, would be the perfect fit for this family.  Anna excels in doing beautiful makeup that still looks like her client.  You know how some (many)  makeup artists transform everyone into a drag queen, regardless of their personality? That is not Anna.  She can do high drama, but she can also do subtle and simple--which is so much harder. Hair and makeup on a wedding day is one of the best moments in the day.  It's fun, relaxing, and the brides must stop moving.  This round of hair and makeup was even better than usual.  Family had started to arrive, so there were about eleven of us squeezed into the bathroom laughing, gossiping, and probably getting stoned from all the hairspray in tight quarters.  Our photographer for the day was our host's ex wife (and my #2 mother).  Finished with my work, I went out to the kitchen to get a glass of wine. I returned with a bottle and some news.  Water started leaking from the ceiling in the kitchen.    

C2 has the most beautiful truly silver hair. I wanted it to be soft, swept,
and bulletproof.
She told me the next morning, not a hair was out of place. 
This family was in the wedding business for generations, but C1 is in the medical field.  So while most of us are totally at ease with all the crazy shit that goes wrong before a wedding, our brides were not.  They took it in stride, but were certainly a little stressed. We were cracking up and trying to remind them that this is the kind of stuff that makes a wedding.  They shook it off and we made a plan.  And then we sent the ex-wife photographer out to get a photo of her ex-husband on a ladder in his suit with a bucket catching water from the ceiling.  He was probably not terribly amused, but I think he'll be okay when he hears how much the thought of that situation lifted the brides' spirits.  We got the water stopped and thought we were ready to start the ceremony.
And then the water started coming out of every light fixture in the kitchen and random spots.  By this time, the house is full of guests and some of us had to circulate and pretend nothing was wrong while still mentioning don't use the toilets please.  I couldn't stop giggling and probably looked like a maniac running between the bridal bedroom and the flooding kitchen, pouring wine that people were drinking too fast considering they might need to pee in the street.  I hope someone got a photo of me holding a wine glass to the hostess's lips as she had buckets in each hand, dressed to the nines. 
I know an emergency plumber, so I dialed his number, handed the hostess's buckets to a cousin, ushered her outside to chat with the plumber, and went into the bedroom to let the brides know we'd be ready to start soon.  Thankfully, the ceremony was to be in a tent.  So I thought we could handle whatever plumbing problem we had during the ceremony and be back on schedule for the reception.
Well, the plumber said there was nothing he could do--just turn off the plumbing above the kitchen, turn the water main back on, and cross our fingers.  Mercifully, that worked and was the last of our leaks.  The ceremony started, and we sailed from there.  It was momentous to feel this partnership become a marriage after so many years. 

My favorite part of the day was after the reception had calmed down, and the OSU game was put on, I went back out in the tent to cool off.  A small herd followed me, including the brides, and there was hysterical laughter and dancing, rapid refills, and a collective sigh of relief.  I was pestered about when I would get married, Aunt B and I argued about the attractiveness of the Property Brothers (I don't see it), and I noticed C&C were dancing.  C1 had changed out of her beautiful ivory and sand colored wedding ensemble, and C2 was still loving wearing her dress that she said she'd never want.  It was so sweet and pure.  So obviously I whipped out my iPhone obnoxiously and took a photo. 
I'm glad I did.