Friday, April 10, 2009

Lance's Dilemma

It happens to the best of us, that time in our lives where we simply must make a decision, and for us, we've put it off long enough. We were told we needed this decision 60 days before the actual wedding and we are mere days from that mark. The thing about it is, EVERYONE has a strong opinion about this one: whether they love it or hate it. There is no in-between.

Do we or do we not play the Electric Slide at our wedding?

For my sister, this is a no-brainer. She is the queen of the Electric Slide. She absolutely LOVES it and will, literally, come running from wherever she is, no matter what she's doing, to jump on the line (usually at the very front of it) and dance the Electric Slide. (I can already picture my beautiful, petite sister looking completely sophisticated in her gown bursting out of the dramatically lit ballroom that will be our reception, still chewing whatever she has managed to stuff into her mouth, drink in hand, to lead off the dance--I would take bets on this one.)

The last time we saw our groomsman Lance and his super awesome girlfriend Emily, the discussion of the Electric Slide came up to which Lance stunned and silenced us all by saying, "I don't know how to do that dance." Shock and fallen mouths filled the room. Crickets sounded. "What?" Dustin asked. "What? You guys act like everyone knows it." Lance replied.
"Everyone does know it." Someone said. Everyone, that is, but Lance.

This is shocking to us because Lance is really good at everything and by everything, I mean...well, everything. The boy is a natural athlete and there isn't one sport or physical activity you can throw at him that he won't excel at within moments...and by excel, I mean he'll be better than you even if you ARE an expert. Example given: Lance had never ice skated before we went to Kansas City in February for a day outing. When we got on the ice, Dustin had the most experience having grown up near a pond that froze over every winter while Emily and I had our fair share of experiences that didn't, by any means, add up to experts. In other words, we could all hold our own on the ice with D being able to skate backwards a little--the crowning achievement of the group. By the time we finished on the ice, Lance, who was carefully sliding his feet forward inch by inch at the beginning, was literally, I do not kid you dear readers, literally doing one footed circles by the end. It was outrageous.

So when Lance said he didn't know how to do the Electric Slide and we decided to teach him, we, of course, assumed he'd pick it up just as quickly as he did the ice skating thing. After finding a youtube instruction video and showing him how it was physically done, I hit the record button on the camera and captured this: 
video

I couldn't believe it. The boy who stops suddenly to watch is Lance and he really doesn't know how to do the Electric Slide and hasn't yet picked it up. 

Despite Lance's inability (we're going to continue with our dancing lessons on this one), we are going to have the band play the Electric Slide. Fi and I love to dance, though we're not having the Chicken Dance or the Macarena...and even if people there don't like to dance, we figure this is easy enough to pick up before the song ends, right? Even Lance will have it down by then!

Did you guys have any songs you debated being played at your wedding? 

xoxo
N
WE LOVE YOU, LANCE!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Great Shoe Dilemma and the Cake Taste Test

Hola readers!

As promised, today we're going to discuss the cake tasting, since it smashingly. But first...a word about the Great Shoe Dilemma.

I bought these fabulous Nina shoes for the wedding and have been wearing them around the house to "break them in." There's carpeting throughout most of the house so I don't have to worry about scuffing or anything like that and when I take them off, I immediately put them back in their bag and back into the box and back into the closet (Lord knows if the dogs would want at them and these are the WRONG shoes for me to experiment with). I was pretty proud of myself for prancing around in them while making pasta, doing dishes, making the bed...etc...and my feet were loving me for how nicely their relationship with the shoes was blossoming. Then disaster struck. Now, don't jump to conclusions! The shoes are ok...each and every stone is still in place...as a matter of fact, let me give you a visual on these three-inch-silver stunners:
(They're called "Urura" by Nina, if anyone is interested!) And they have this super cozy side and nothing about them is uncomfortable, which is a big relief because they day I had my first gown fitting, my left foot was literally growing numb in this shoe! I carried on wearing these babies and feeling so proud of my ingenuity and forethought when a friend of Dustin's commented that while it's great to break in the shoes so I can wear them all night, the "breaking in" definitely doesn't account for the weight of the dress that these little guys will be carrying.

Could you hear my heart drop to the pit of my stomach?

So what's a girl to do with a dress that weighs, like, twenty pounds and shoes that balance on a heel the size of a pushpin's head? I can't gain the twenty pounds of the dress...nor do I want to...just so the shoes will be more accurate...nor do I want to get other shoes since I measured the whole "hollow to hem" with these shoes and the dress is just PERFECT in length. I don't have the ankle weights that were super cool back in the eighties and I'm kind of stumped! Any suggestions would be warmly welcomed.

The Cake Taste Test, however, was a different carefree experience.

(Rewind back to Hilton Head-Spring Break, Friday night)
My brother Kiran joined us in Hilton Head at my parents house for the weekend late Friday night. Dustin and I had kept our two little test cakes in tact from our testing the day before and figured we'd taste them with as much family as we could get! We really wanted their input and were bound and determined to get as much feedback as possible from the fam!

Once Kier arrived, we opened up the cake holders and pulled out a bunch of forks, called the rest of the family over and went to town on the two little cakes. I should backtrack a second and explain that the cake we have chosen is a four-tier cake with a rectangular bottom layer, square second layer, pentagonal third layer and a small circle top tier for us to keep. We decided on four different flavors to keep things interesting. First layer: chocolate cake with white mousse. Second layer: white cake with chocolate mousse. Third layer: white cake with pastry filling and fresh mangos and, our layer, a chocolate ganache. Now because we wanted one of the layers to have a cool white monogram on it, that decision dictated the icing: fondant.

I have heard a great deal of complaints about fondant, but I was determined not to be one of those brides that "hated it." It seemed harmless enough when I saw it on the cake making shows we watched endlessly over Christmas break. I was pretty floored by how fondant could be used to make realistic flower petals and various other designs, how it smoothened out the surface of the cake so it looked flawless...and how it was made out of sugar! I couldn't imagine how something that could do so many wonderful things could possibly be bad! So we went into the cake-tasting feeling pretty confident in the fondant's ability to be functional and tasty. Boy, were we wrong. Sure, it served its function, but we basically needed a hacksaw to cut through the layer of fondant to get to the cake-goodness it kept contained. We literally sawed at it with our forks, (which, of course, was rather startling since we went at it with such glee, only to have our first taste of it postponed due to an unbreakable icing). Once we got through it to the cake portion, it was incredibly tasty. Pop pointed out that the white cake had a slight almond taste to it, which worried us just a tad. Not everyone loves almond and we don't want people leaving their cake, so I think we're going to switch that to a smaller layer. We also tried the ganache, which everyone loved, so we might make two of the layers ganache instead of just one. We didn't taste the mango or the chocolate with white mousse, but we might now that we know better about the almond.

At any rate, I should also mention that while I'm writing about this situation like it was scene-free, it wasn't. Kier insisted we shove cake on each other's faces since we don't want to do that at the wedding...and that boy really can talk a dog into walking on its hind legs if he felt like it. I don't know anyone as persuasive/taunting as my brother :)

Anyway, we had a blast and felt really good about having waited to taste it with my family. Here are some fun photos of us digging (literally) in. Oh...and incase you wondered--I found a solution to the fondant problem. The whole cake will be buttercream iced except the layer with the monogram (third one from the bottom which is less likely to be eaten...we think). The monogram layer: fondant! Whatever we have left over of the cake will be put into some pretty boxes and left on a table for our guests to take with them when they leave. We don't want to waste it!




That's my brother Kiran on the right. Doesn't he look great? He's been running and going to the gym and getting healthy. I'm so proud of him! Note how he has to hold down the paper plate while he cuts through the fondant! Ha!

On a non-wedding related note...we bought the movie Slumdog Millionaire this weekend and LOVE it even more now than before. D had never see it, but is now a fan. We've always been learning the Jai Ho dance at the end. Who wouldn't want to know it? You never know when an occasion to dance to that song will present itself!

xoxo



Friday, April 3, 2009

OH NO!

Oh no! There has been a massive assault and massacre on my tulips. Just the other day, I was thinking "Wow! My tulips are really coming up out there!" I was so proud. A few weeks ago, I'd gone out and dug holes for all my tulips to reside in just beneath the tree we have in the front yard. Since then, I'd been battling with the deer over the tulip bulbs and lush green leaves coming up from them. Just yesterday, I was pleased to see that they'd survived the assaults the deer had been launching on them and were actually thriving. Today. They are gone. All of them and every remnant of them. There is no evidence, save for the twelve empty holes, of where the tulips had once been.

A moment of silence please.

Now...suggestions on how to keep those deer bastards off my tulips when I go out, buy more and replant?

xoxo
N

Last Week's Taste Test

As you're all well aware by now, D and I spent all of last week wedding planning in Hilton Head. When we got back, we honestly felt like we needed a spring break from our spring break. Most mornings, we were up at 8 and at our first wedding vendor meet-up by around 9 or 10 at the latest. Some days we didn't even stop with our meet-ups until around 9pm. Crazy, right?

But I didn't quite share the details of our week just yet (shame on me! I KNOW!) so today, since it's my day off from school, I'm going to try and recap bit by bit what we did last week without summarizing. What better or tastier place to begin than with our taste test?

Back in February my mom and dad came to visit and mom came bearing gifts of Wedding Reception Menu options! What a task that was! Between reading, writing and studying for comps, we whipped out the bulk of menus and began sorting our options. It was important to us to incorporate Indian food into our menu options since many of my dad's relatives are going to be attending the wedding which means many of them really need to have vegetarian options to suit their religious convictions, but the menu lacked things like "saag paneer" and "samosas." Yes, there were plenty of mouth-watering dish descriptions, but we needed Indian! So we interspersed some options we hoped they might recreate, despite the fact that they weren't on the menu, and chose options from their menu that the rest of our guests would be familiar with. We needed to choose about 8 pass-around Cocktail food options, one sit-down appetizer and salad, three or four dinner selection options and cake flavors! Once Mom, D and I had a rough draft of what we wanted to taste, we presented it to the Westin's "Wedding Coordinator" we've been working with (Anissia Shalton) and she rushed off to the chef's to see what they could whip up. Luckily for us, they have a Indian chef intern at this very moment in time who was familiar with our Indian options and was happy to recreate them for our tasting.

Skip to Thursday afternoon, last week:
We entered the hotel and were guided to their restaurant, The Carolina Cafe, where Linda introduced herself and told us she'd be serving us and if there was anything at all that we needed or wanted throughout our testing we should feel free to let her know. Anissia, my mom, Dustin and I sat around a small four-person table (complete with our journals on our laps) and were presented with a menu of the items we would be tasting. We couldn't taste all of our options since-seriously, who needs to try 8 hand-passed hors 'deouvres? -but I was anxious to taste anything since I hadn't eaten and was starting to feel a bit hangry (hungry/angry-I just learned this from a food blog I follow!). 

Our first course? Indian samosas! 
Samosas are a mixture of potatoes and peas that are then covered in a dough or stuffed into some dough, then fried. The small ones on the left were the hotel's experiment. They added some corn in there, which I thought was really tasty, and the giant ones on the right are what samosas almost always look like. They were more traditional and came from an Indian restaurant in Savannah. We tasted them all and couldn't believe how amazing they were (of course, I could've just been starving), but decided that the small ones were more practical for pass-arounds since the bigger ones needed to be sliced in half and shared. 

Verdict: keepers!

Next, they brought out bhajis or pakoras, another Indian dish.
These guys are essentially vegetables dipped in chickpea flour then fried, as well (lots of fried food in India). The potato bhajis are on the left and the onion, pepper and spinach bhajis are on the right. The potatoes were awesome, but the others were a bit off. We forgot to mention that the bhajis with spinach and pepper in them should be mashed into a sort of ball before going into the chickpea flour and being fried.

Verdict: potatoes are a go, others-back to the drawing board.

Next up was our sit-down appetizer. We chose an Americanized slightly Indian dish for this and hoped that the "curry" flavor would either taste authentic or not be so strong that it bothered anyone who would know real curry when they tasted it. Without further adieu, I present the puff pastry stuffed with chicken curry and porcini mushrooms in a red wine reduction sauce:
Now, I should mention that ordinarily this beautiful rich sauce would sit beneath the puff pastry, but because this girl right here is allergic to wine (I know!), they kindly thought to put it on the side so I could indulge in this oh-so-tasty dish, as well. And let me tell you, I could've eaten about ten of these suckers alone. They were a-maz-ing! Really. Of course, trying to be lady-like and all, we each split one with each other so I ended up craving more, but eating half. Sigh...those are the breaks.

Verdict: definite keeper! Possible favorite!

On to the salad!

Bibb Salad with Endives and...other stuff I can't remember the name of right now...
Can you see why we chose this over the spinach or caesar or any other salad? Yes, I suppose this is a bit hazy of a photo, but, I'm not going to lie. I was starving, still, and nearly forgot to snap a picture of this at all. If it weren't for Linda reminding me of my photo-documenting, I would've dug in and not bothered to photograph it at all...so a special shout out thanks to Linda for stopping my fork and reminding me of my camera! We chose this salad because, well, because it had hearts of palm in it. But that's not all! It also had corn, tomatoes, olives, avocados, red onion, peppers and lettuce topped off with a roasted sundried tomato dressing. Oh, wow, right? Unfortunately, my allergy to wine extends to balsamic, as well, and since the original dressing had some balsamic in it, I had to make due with my go-to dressing: lemons and olive oil. As a side note-you have NO IDEA how many dressings have balsamic vinegar in their ingredient list! Ugh! Needless to say, this baby was tast-y! And we all enjoyed it.

Verdict: another keeper, but with the dressing on the side, of course!

Finally, we moved onto the main courses.
Above is our fish course. We couldn't get married on an island and not have a fish course, right? Fi immediately latched onto this one when we looked at the menu. It's a citrus encrusted mahi-mahi resting in a lemon sauce. I had high hopes for this, since I love fish, but when I dug into it, the mahi-mahi was a bit on the tough side and the "encrustment" came right off and only had a hint of citrus to it. The sauce was nearly flavorless. I expressed my concerns to Anissia who jotted everything down and said we'd try it again later down the line with more flavor. I don't know about you, but when I hear "citrus, lemon and fish" I immediately think like, fresh and spritz. I know that last adjective is totally strange in that context...but "spritz" is clean and refreshing and light, right? And that's what I thought this fish dish would be. Hmmm.

Verdict: back to the drawing board.

Next up was the roasted quail.
As you can see, the quail is in tact. I love poultry, friends. I think it's really lovely as a dish usually, but this poultry looked as though it had just been hunted down and plucked for our tasting pleasure. Unfortunately, do you see that pretty plum colored sauce it's resting in? That's wine...none for me! But Connie and Fi weren't fans. The quail wasn't supposed to have bones and it wasn't supposed to be too dry.

Verdict: this quail has seen it's final hours. For real. Time to pick a new poultry dish!

Lastly, the Indian fare!

The top picture is a vegetable biryani: rice with lots of veggies and some almonds! The picture just above is vegetable korma and raita. The korma is a mixture of veggies in a coconut/tomato sauce sprinkled with cilantro. The raita is an Indian salad. In other words: cool and refreshing (spritz!) cucumbers in yogurt with some paprika sprinkled over top. These dishes were IN-effing-CREDILE! I wanted to empty the entire bowl into my plate and eat it all and not share with anyone. Of course, I didn't...but I easily could have. 

Verdict: I know what I'm eating the night of the wedding!

We're also having a prime rib dish which we opted not to taste. It didn't seem necessary considering prime rib is sort of standard, right?

By the time we got through all of these courses, I felt like I was a judge on Iron Chef and we were running low on time since we had to dash off to meet the Lutheran pastor who we asked to do a reading at our wedding. Linda brought out the two mini-test cakes, let me take a picture, then promptly packed them for us in to-go containers.

Aren't they cute? We chose a cake design from a magazine, brought it to Anissia earlier in the week and these little guys are knock-offs, but without the intricate detail. They just thought they'd give us an 'idea.' Nonetheless, we loved them and wanted to eat them up at that very moment, but we refrained and let Linda box 'em. More on the taste-testing of the cakes later.

In short, we had an awesome experience. The Indian intern came out and talked to us for a while and was super sweet and accommodating. Everyone was, really. We all felt so warm and cuddly by the end of it (and accomplished) that I had everyone get together for a love-in aka-photo. Below you will see the result...
From left to right: Anissia, chef, Linda, Fi and Mama.

Thanks to all the wonderful help from the Westin and these fabulous members of what we lovingly call our "wedding team," we are now at least ten steps closer to perfecting our wedding menu!

Next post: Cake Taste Test...trust me, you don't want to miss it!

xoxo
N

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Censorship Bust, Dogs and Pre-Canaa

Pre-Canaa is over, my friends, and we made it out alive.

I should note that it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it might be, but not quite as helpful, either. Maybe it was all that parochial school training I had that ruined me for what I would 'learn' in pre-canaa. Dustin, however, had never had parochial school training and didn't find it quite so helpful as he found it 'entertaining.' During our six week Tuesday night class he drew numerous pictures, wrote down dozens of quotes and made a stunning amount of faces.

In truth, I can't sum it up well but I think I'll try to get him to post a blog when he's done with his incessant run-around. Poor boy can barely breathe let alone consider writing a blog.

In other news, last night some of Columbia's fine restaurants co-sponsored an event called "Dining out for Dogs" in which a variety of restaurants donated part of the money they made during a certain spell of time to the Central Missouri Humane Society. I went at six-ish, donated what money I could, ordered breadsticks that never showed up and had two beers prior to pre-canaa. Unfortunately, I couldn't stick around to wait on the breadsticks since they took a super long time (I think they're a delicacy, so I remained patient despite my usual harsh judgment of restaurants and servers due to my own ten-year stint in the service industry) and hope that Beth, Matt, Eli, Amanda and co. enjoyed them for me!

Dining out for Dogs did give me the opportunity to discuss with other animal lovers or supporters just how much I'd like to volunteer at the Humane Society, but can't due to space and sanity restrictions. If I volunteered, I'd end up wanting to foster then adopt the adorable dogs they house and care for and this would be no bueno for all of us!

So after our final pre-canaa class, D slipped home immediately and I stopped off to grab us dinner from Bangkok Gardens. For whatever reason, I was exhausted last night and passed out so hardcore I didn't actually get out of bed and become functional until around 11 today. Not normal. Perhaps it's because we were both up at 5am yesterday and ran around all day getting used to being back from break and catching up on all that needed to be done...oh, and I suppose I forgot, for a moment, that I had to head back to teaching classes, too.

And what fun that was.

My students were as blank-faced as I felt while we discussed 'censorship' in the U.S. I am a firm believer that the way my students respond to a subject or topic is, in part, a direct response to how I, as the teacher, am dishing it out. In other words, I was beat yesterday after teaching my first class at 12:30 so it's no surprise that I lacked all eloquent speaking skills by the time I hit my 2 o'clock class. I could hear my voice-barely audible, scratchy, stumbling for basic words. It was sad. They responded just as poorly to the topic of 'censorship' as I approached it. It was disappointing, to say the least. I feel disappointed because I put this topic into my syllabus with the idea of it being pretty fun, controversial and, perhaps, inciting to my class. They should get riled up about being censored, damnit! This is the country of 'freedom of speech and expression.' But without my excitement, they failed, too. It was a sad funeral for the topic.

With that launching ground, I have been debating all day how to resurrect the theme of the last few weeks of class. I want to take black tape and put it over the mouths of a few students...like when nudity is censored in movies and shows. I want to give them a list of words they are no longer allowed to say and topics they are no longer allowed to discuss, but in order for that to work, they must first talk, right? This is where the problem presents itself. How do I get them to a place by tomorrow where censoring them will work? What topic can I use that will excite them enough to feel as though they want their voice heard so they can feel the hardships and rage that being censored would cause?

Hmmm.

If you have any ideas...speak up! I'm open to just about anything at the moment.

xoxo
N