Friday, September 28, 2012

My Wedding Planning: Ceremony Music Part 1

Today I want to share some of our wedding ceremony music with you. We had a lot more music than is typical for a wedding, so I will share some now and more later. And I want to add that if you are a bride-to-be planning your wedding, feel free to use any of our ideas or email me to talk about it further.  My husband and I both viewed our ceremony as the most important 45 minutes of our wedding day, by far, and as a classical musician, I spent many hours choosing which music would bring the most beauty to our service. There really is so much to choose from--if you are interested in something other than standard wedding music, I would love to help.

If you're anything like me, the sound of an organ filling a cathedral brings goosebumps to your skin and tears to your eyes, so the organ played a big part in our ceremony. Our wonderful organist joked that I was really making him work, much more than most brides! I think he very much enjoyed it, though.

I chose to walk down the aisle with my dad to Handel's "Largo" from the opera, Xerxes. In this piece, the organist typically begins quietly and then gradually builds in sound all the way to the end. We had the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk out first as the piece was still quiet and mellow, and as the incredibly beautiful and powerful ending approached, the doors were closed, and then opened a moment later as my dad and I walked together down the aisle. It was magical. In fact, the gorgeous sounds filling my ears were so moving that it took a moment for my mind and eyes to focus on who was waiting for me at the end of the aisle! So I had two heart-stopping moments right after each other--when the doors opened on my dad and me as Handel ushered us down the aisle, and when I saw my husband-to-be for the first time that day.

I couldn't find a recording on YouTube that does justice to the piece, but the version found on this recording (track 2) is very much worth the 99 cents. 

In the middle of the ceremony, we had a beautiful voice and piano duet. We hired a gorgeous soprano to sing a piece called "Du Ring an Meinem Finger" ("The Ring Upon My Finger") which is from a set of songs by Robert Schumann. The set is called Frauenliebe und Leben (A Woman's Love and Life). She sang this right after we had said our vows and exchanged our blessed rings. Here is a translation of the poem, written by Adelbert von Chamisso, that Schumann set to music:

Thou ring upon my finger, my little golden ring,
I press thee piously upon my lips, piously upon my heart.

I had dreamt it, the tranquil, lovely dream of childhood,
I found myself alone and lost in barren, infinite space.

Thou ring upon my finger, thou hast taught me for the first time, 
hast opened my gaze unto the endless, deep value of life.

I want to serve him, live for him, belong to him entire,
Give myself and find myself transfigured in his radiance.

Thou ring upon my finger, my little golden ring,
I press thee piously upon my lips, piously upon my heart.

Lovely, isn't it? More to come on our ceremony music in future posts!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

DIY Kitchen Chalkboard

Last weekend, I spent a few hours working on a project for our kitchen. I'd been wanting to make my own chalkboard to write notes or grocery lists on for awhile, and I learned that (with the right supplies), it's a very easy project.

First, I went to the thrift shop and found a $5 atrocity that looked like this:

It was the perfect thing to turn into a chalkboard because it was so inexpensive, the frame had a nice detail to it which came out when I painted it, it was the right size, and I didn't feel at all bad defiling it.

First, I took out the glass and the picture and gave the frame a good cleaning and then a few coats of ivory spray paint. I think I sprayed on 4 very thin coats. I let it fully dry for a few hours before moving it.

Painting the glass with chalkboard paint turned out to be a little bit tricky. I had read online that chalkboard paint does work with glass, but I have a few tips to make it easier for you if you decide to tackle a project like this. At first I tried using chalkboard spray paint, and I sprayed on a few coats, waiting a few minutes between each coat like it said, but after letting it dry for an hour or two it began coming off the glass as a powdery residue. I don't know if I did something wrong or not, but I would not recommend using the spray paint. My husband wouldn't recommend it either, if you're anything like me (failed craft projects make me cranky!).

So I went back to the store, where they graciously took back the spray paint and I bought the regular chalkboard paint and a foam brush. Now, neither of these paints say that they work on glass but the paint version definitely does.

I flipped over the failed first side of the glass, sprayed on a primer on the new side for extra security, and painted on 3 thin coats of the chalkboard paint, waiting several hours between each one. After my last coat I let it dry for 24 hours before using chalk on it. I also alternated which direction I painted for each coat--up-down, then left-right, then up-down again. I think this helps to prevent it from looking streaky.

Finally, I prepped the chalkboard by rubbing chalk all over it and then erasing. Supposedly this prevents the first thing you write on the chalkboard from becoming burned in. And that was it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ode to the Subway

Old New York City Subway Car (Image Source)

I was thinking the other day about riding the subway, specifically riding a train in the New York City metro system. It was something I did every day, usually several times a day, for two years. When I finished my degree, I packed up my things, moved to a state very far South and very far from New York, and I haven't been on the subway since.

It was on my mind because I'm flying up to New York this weekend to visit my brother, my mom who is driving down from Upstate New York to meet us, and my sister-in-law who lives in my old neighborhood. I can't wait--it's a much-needed trip to my old city with people I love dearly.

For some reason, the thought of jumping on the subway, which we'll be doing a lot of this weekend, made me realize just how much my life has changed in a very short amount of time. And it's changed in some of the best ways possible--my husband and I are living in our first home together, I have both an undergraduate and a masters degree under my belt, I have wonderful training in something I love and a lot of excitement about the future. I'm very happy to be where I am.

But when I think about the subway I get nostalgic (and I am in all likelihood the only person ever to have written those words). I don't know what it is about the subway that makes me feel this way. Maybe it's the freedom it gave me to go anywhere in the city for just $2.25; maybe it's the confidence I acquired when it came to NYC subways and buses, knowing exactly how to use them to get around; maybe it is the pride I had in living without a car; maybe it's the (albeit dirty) miracle of going underground in one neighborhood and popping back into the world 50 or 100 blocks from where I started. I didn't always like the subway, but in the truest sense, I did love it.

It also reminds me of when my dad went from biking to work every day when my family lived outside of Washington, D.C., to driving ten minutes to work every day when we moved back to Upstate New York. Most people would pick the car ride, right? But I know my dad sorely missed the independence and the wholesomeness of using his heart and legs and lungs to bring him safely to and from work each day.

And that's sort of how I feel about the subway. No, of course I wasn't physically exerting myself when I trekked up or down or across town on the train. But it was satisfying for me nonetheless--inexpensive, communal, efficient, productive (if I remembered to bring a book), reliable (usually), and sort of miraculous, when you think about it.

Friday, September 21, 2012


                           Verily magazine

I discovered a wonderful brand-new women's magazine this week called Verily, thanks to my grandmother who came across a mention of it in The Weekly Standard and sent it to me (don't you love it when your grandma knows exactly what you're going to like?).

So far, Verily has only released a teaser issue (which you can flip through above, if I embedded it correctly!), but it impressed me so much that I've already subscribed to the bi-monthly print magazine. Verily is a huge step up from Cosmopolitan--in fact, I'm not sure I would put them in the same group. Verily's talented and intelligent team of women founders and editors, like many of us, didn't recognize themselves in the pages of today's typical fashion and lifestyle magazines, so they set out to produce an alternative.

In her Letter From The Editor, Kara Eschbach writes, "We are aiming to show style that respects our dignity, instead of compromising it; to explore our relationships, not just sex; and feature thought-provoking articles, not just rhetoric."

What I noticed most of all when reading through the teaser edition is that Verily is positive, wholesome, and unabashedly feminine. I got a feeling while reading it that the women who put it together and who were featured on its pages love being women. They love being beautiful, they love feeling girlish, they love being mothers, they love being wives, they care about becoming better women, they care about other women and setting a positive example for how women can be smart, successful, and grounded in the 21st century.

Verily combines fashion and style and a beautiful design, with serious, conscientious pieces, with lighthearted tips and recipes and pieces of sound advice. Doesn't this combination seem to be a reflection of what makes so many of us women who we are? We can be very serious and emotional and (sometimes overly) concerned with doing the right thing, while caring that we look beautiful and put together and stylish, but we can also be completely non-serious and take a lot of pleasure in sharing little tips and advice and silly stories with other women over drinks or coffee. I love that this magazine seems to mirror different aspects of femininity in its pages.

I would love to know what you think. This is in no way a sponsored post--just my own reactions to a brand-new publication. But if you do like the teaser, I would encourage you to subscribe. This is the kind of magazine we women should support!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Polka-Dotted Breakfast

I made some healthy treats for my husband on Sunday--homemade granola and bran muffins--to make our breakfasts this week a little more fun and interesting. And I wanted to show off the adorable, vintage-looking muffin holders I found (for a dollar at Michael's) to bake them in. I've never seen such cute muffin (or cupcake) holders! I normally just bake muffins right in a greased muffin pan, but this way definitely beats that. It brings me a lot of joy to make something that not only tastes good but is cute as a button.

Wouldn't these be ideal for a birthday party for a child (or even a grown-up)? Or a baby shower or bridal shower? I can tell you that they have made me smile each morning I've had a bran muffin for breakfast--which is a great start to the day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Beautiful Song and Reminder

Do you know the singer/pianist/songwriter Regina Spektor? I've liked her songs for awhile now, and I liked her even more when I discovered that she went to the school where I got my Master of Music degree (she studied classical piano too, and then later went in the songwriter direction). She's quirky, and I'd like to share one of her songs today. It's called "Laughing With" and you can listen to it here.

I obviously don't know what Regina Spektor was trying to get across when she wrote this, or what her faith is, but to me, there is a message within this song. Here's a segment of the lyrics:

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God
When they've lost all they've got
And they don't know what for

Too often, we take our lives for granted. When things are easy, and life is going our way, it's all too common to forget God, to forget that we need Him. In more extreme cases, there may even be those who scoff at God, "laughing" at the idea of Him, thinking they are just fine on their own.

But Regina Spektor is right--no one laughs at God in a hospital. No one laughs at God in a war. Too often, it's when we're vulnerable, when our lives take a turn, when we're desperate, that we can finally look beyond ourselves and have the humility to recognize our frailty against God's grace. When we realize that life without faith isn't sustaining.

And this doesn't just apply to life-altering, twists-of-fate experiences, like the examples in the song. When I think about how often I ask for something in prayer when I need help or am feeling down, versus how often I simply offer thanks in prayer for what I've already been given, I realize that I'm succumbing to a version of what she sings about in this song. This song is a reminder to me to never take God for granted, to remember that I need Him always.

The only line in the song that confuses me a little bit is the last line: "We're all laughing with God." It doesn't really fit the rest of the song, or at least my interpretation of it. When I did some digging online to see if other people had an explanation, I discovered that this line has sparked a lot of conversation. I'm still not sure what to make of it, but I came across one explanation that I thought was the most hopeful. Maybe, it means that God is the only one who can take away our tears and sadness and turn it into joy, giving us the chance to laugh along with Him.

What do you think? Of the last line, or the song as a whole?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Old and New

Because photos of my engagement and wedding rings were left out of this post, I took matters in my own hands and decided to take a few myself. These are no NZ shots, but they will do, thanks to the camera my Dad recently gave me.

Can you guess which one is old and which one is new? (The answer is in the post mentioned above.) One is practically brand new, handmade in New York City last fall. The other is decades old, also handmade, and belonged to my husband's great-grandmother. She was married in 1933, which makes the ring roughly 80 years old.

The reason I ask if you can guess is because, to me, they are both timeless. I really think that neither one has a particularly antique or a particularly modern feel, and this is something I love about them. I don't think they will ever look dated. It still amazes me when I remember that these two rings were hand-crafted many dozens of years apart.

As a girl who adores old things, but also loves creating new things from scratch, I would say that the duo on my left hand suits me perfectly.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Everyday Beauty

The Bath

Do you have a favorite artist? I have a few, but my most favorite (or at least my favorite American artist) is Mary Cassatt. I was introduced to her in my freshman year of college, as part of my American Studies major, in a class called Visual America. We studied American history and culture and society through artwork, sculpture, photography, and film. It was a fantastic class.

I don't specifically remember what we learned about Mary Cassatt, but I remember being moved by her subject matter. She specialized in painting women and children, and especially had a love for depicting motherhood in her paintings. And I just find them to be so lovely. Women and children are shown together in the most everyday settings, but Cassatt had the ability to draw their closeness and their bond right out of the canvas. The love, to me, is palpable. And perhaps this is partly because they are shown doing normal, everyday things together. Cassatt's choice to paint women and children in the midst of routine tasks brings beauty to the sometimes mundane aspects of caring for children (like giving a bath). She delighted in the everyday, and seemed to believe that this is what motherhood is all about--constancy, and closeness, and continuous, un-changing love.

Breakfast in Bed

Children in the Garden

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Simple Curried Chicken Salad

I know that everyone has their own special recipes reserved for the delicious meat left on the bones after roasting a whole chicken. Some like to make chicken soup, some make chicken sandwiches, some might make chicken fricassée. All scrumptious choices. But my favorite thing to make is this curried chicken salad. There are only a few ingredients in it, most of which you probably have on hand. I serve it over a bed of lettuce or arugula, which gives it extra crunch and freshness and makes it a whole meal in itself. Another fun thing about this recipe is that I don't measure anything. I'll give the "recipe" below in approximations. Don't let that stress you out! Just add ingredients until it looks well-balanced. As far as the curry/mayonnaise/yogurt mixture goes, start with just a teaspoon or two of curry powder, taste it, and add more if you're inclined toward a more pungent curry flavor.

Leftover roasted chicken, pulled off the bone (or any other kind of chunked, or shredded chicken)
Several stalk of celery, diced
A handful or two of raisins
A handful or two of slivered almonds, roasted or not (I love the smoky flavor of the roasted)
One can of mandarin oranges, drained (add at the end so they don't get crushed when you stir)
Salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

Combination of mayonnaise and plain yogurt (I use about a 2 to 1 ratio)
Curry powder, to taste (start with one or two teaspoons and add more if you wish)

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Make the dressing separately until you think it's perfect, then fold it into the chicken salad. Serve over a bed of lettuce, spinach, or arugula.

You can make all kinds of substitutions or additions with this chicken salad--walnuts, slivered grapes, diced tart apples, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries or cherries. There are endless possibilities!

p.s. This is a tiny sneak preview, if you will, of a cookbook I co-authored with my father and brother (who took the photos). It's publishing in November! I was a little more specific with measurements in the book's version of the recipe, but I admit that I always have the most fun with this chicken salad when I wing it. If you want the "professional" version with measurements, you will have to go buy our book!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DIY Drawer Organization

I was inspired last weekend to do some major organizing of my hair and makeup drawers. And I'm so glad I did! I've always disliked messiness but for some reason, until now, I couldn't come up with a good way to organize these drawers.

All I had to do was buy some inexpensive but attractive bamboo utensil organizers (you can find these anywhere--Target, TJ Maxx, etc). I bought two different types, because I had originally only intended to organize my hair drawer, and I was going to see which one worked the best and return the other. 

But then I decided to tackle my makeup, too. It was fairly organized before, in a makeup bag with different compartments. But I thought it might be time for a change, and I do prefer the ease of this kind of organization. It's all right there! And when I travel, I can pack just the makeup I need for the trip in my makeup bag instead of bringing all of it.

That's it--everything is tidy, looking much more attractive than before, and my annoyance with the mess is gone! How do you stay organized? If you're not, give this method a try!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Powerful Verse

My husband and I are making our way through a Daily Bible together. I will admit that we haven't been reading it every single day, but we've been trying to fork out time in the evenings to read as often as possible. We both realized that we haven't read nearly enough of the Bible and decided that we might as well tackle the whole thing together, bit by bit.

Last night we read about Moses parting the Red Sea and came across this verse, which I don't remember hearing or reading ever before:

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."
-Exodus 14:14

I love this. I think it's so powerful, and so comforting. These words speak to me in a very personal and uncomplicated sort of way. I tend to be a very big worrier, about things large and small, about things I can and cannot control. I feel most comfortable when I have a plan, and when things in my life are up in the air I don't always respond gracefully. And too often I forget that over-thinking and dwelling on life's inevitable obstacles (which I'm pretty good at) cannot provide a solution.

This verse reminds me to relinquish myself to God, to trust His plan for my life over my own, to let Him fight for me. It reminds me to aim for a still heart and a still mind--so difficult for an over-thinker like myself!--and to let God take away those worries.

How do these 12 words speak to you? I'd love to hear.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Wedding Planning: First Dance

I will be posting more on our wedding music later (specifically the ceremony music) but I thought that sharing our first dance song would be a fun Friday post. Here it is!

Our best man did a wonderful job announcing our first dance after his beautiful speech. After a minute or two of us dancing, our bridal party, and then our guests, joined us on the dance floor. It was a great way to start the dancing part of our reception!

I'd love to hear what you and your husband danced to at your wedding! 

p.s. My little brother got up and sang this song later in the evening, which our band had learned just for him! It was incredible, and our guests loved it!

p.s.s. Also, one of my best friends from college (who was a vocal performance major) sang this for us. We had quite the talented guest list! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chic Hydration

When I drink the recommended 64 ounces of water each day, I feel great. I have more energy, my skin is crystal clear, I don't get sick--it's such a simple way to stay healthy! But it's surprisingly difficult to remember to drink this much water each day. It was easy when I was still in school--I had a 32-ounce Nalgene water bottle that I would fill up twice each day, and I would drink the 64 ounces easily before the day was over. 

But these days, when I'm not running errands or at Zumba classes or out doing something else, I'm mostly at home practicing, teaching, reading, writing. And for some reason I don't like drinking from a water bottle at home. Water bottles, like travel mugs, are for when you're not at home, and glasses are for when you are. I feel strongly about this! Does anyone else have this weird neurosis?

Anyway, I've found a way to make sure that I'm getting the 64 ounces of water I need. I found this glass bottle (which reminds me of a vintage milk bottle) at Ikea as a way to keep me on track. I fill it up with water and put it in the fridge, and do my best to drink two of these throughout the course of the day. I can pour the water into a glass, which I like, and I don't have to keep returning to the sink to fill up my water glass (8 times--if I'm drinking 64 ounces!). And--it's not a water bottle. It's much more sophisticated and stylish which, for some reason, matters to me even when it comes to water-drinking.

Maybe it makes me feel chic because it looks like something you might find in a French cafe and it's fun to pretend. It wouldn't be the first time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lesson in Kindness

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one 
of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"
-Matthew 25:40

Yesterday, my husband came home smelling of gasoline, and I asked him if he'd filled up our tank and accidentally spilled some on himself. He said that he hadn't, and that the reason he smelled like gasoline was because he had helped out an older woman on the side of the road who had run out of gas. He gave her a ride to the gas station, where she bought a few gallons of gasoline, and then drove her back to her car on the side of the road.

I wasn't too surprised--this is the sort of kind thing my husband does all the time--but a smile of gladness crept on my face nonetheless. He doesn't think twice about helping another human being in need, and this is one of the things I love about him.

I would like to think that if I had been in his position I would have stopped, taken 20 minutes out of my day, and helped her out. But I'm just not sure I would have. As a woman, I wouldn't have felt as comfortable as my husband letting a stranger in the car, but I could have helped her in other ways. Let her borrow my cell phone if she didn't have one on her, or driven to the gas station myself to buy some gas for her. Still, I'm embarrassed to admit, I'm not sure it would have even crossed my mind to stop to help. I probably would have assumed that she had someone on the way, or that someone else driving by would pull over and help her.

I'm quite sure that not stopping to help did not cross my husband's mind. He is much kinder than me, and he inspires me all the time to become a more generous person, a more giving person, a better person.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Love of Cheese

Image Source (the cheese we bought is already half-eaten, otherwise I'd take my own photo!)

One of our stops on our trip to Atlanta this weekend was Star Provisions, a little gourmet food shop. The reason for our visit? Cheese. My husband and I have not been able to find any really good cheeses where we live and we thought a trip to the city would be a good place to find some. We are both serious cheese lovers!

In addition to a yummy blue cheese and a feta, which we will mostly use for salads, we discovered two scrumptious hard cheeses: Rupert and Cumberland. The "cheesemonger" who helped us was very knowledgable, and I believe he said that the Rupert was a Vermont cheese made from cow's milk. It is similar to Gruyere, but is also highly unique and has a great pungency to it. The Cumberland is a Tennessee cheese and is also deliciously sharp and flavorful. The man behind the counter gave us a taste of each and he shaved the Cumberland very thinly, which I thought enhanced the flavor somehow.

When cheese is this tasty, we like to eat it very simply, with a baguette and maybe some olives or pickles or fruit on the side. These kind of "smorgasbord" late summer meals are some of my favorites!

Because we bought the cheese in the morning, and had a few more things on our list before leaving Atlanta around two in the afternoon, I carried my precious bag of paper-wrapped cheeses around with me--into a coffee shop, into Ikea, to brunch--rather than leave it in the steaming hot car. My husband joked that there never was such a prized bundle of cheese!

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