Eat Your Vegetables

I’ve been a vegetarian for all of 17 days now, which is, honestly, way longer than I’d thought I’d be. I mean, my husband is a meat eater. I was definitely a meat eater, too. I mean, this is the South. We eat meat.

Until I didn’t eat meat anymore, and it’s actually been way easier than I thought it’d be. Is it just me, or has there been an explosion lately of vegetarian cookbooks and resources? I’m not struggling for ideas for meals. And even in the dead of winter, and Oxford was caught between two snowstorms, our farmer’s market is loaded with fresh veg.

So here’s what I’m noticing:

  • Dustin is rocking out. I expected more of a fight from him, and the first few days were a little rough, but he’s been chowing down on these vegetarian meals with me like a pro. We even found a way he’ll eat broccoli and like it. Which is nothing short of a miracle.
  • I feel better. More energy, less general blues and down feelings (which were hitting me in a MAJOR way in the afternoons). Plus, my face looks skinnier and I’ve been told that I look like I’m losing weight. My scale doesn’t work, so I can’t tell for sure.
  • There are a thousand different definitions for vegetarian, and everyone has an opinion on the matter. My granny thinks chicken is not meat, and I’m reminded of this scene in Everything Is Illuminated, and if you’ve got 3.5 minutes, you should watch it. Hilarious. Apparently, Everyday Food thinks that vegetarian meals can have chicken broth and oyster sauce. I understand that confusion. There seems to be a hundred different types of vegetarians, and where’s the line between veganism and vegetarianism? What’s the difference between a can of beans and a can of vegetarian beans? A Hershey’s bar and a vegan chocolate bar? I can’t tell you. And these infinite degrees of separation make finding food to eat a little more difficult.
  • I’ve only been in one social situation where my sort-of vegetarianism has come up, and it was met with ambivalence. Or maybe she just didn’t know what to say.  I never want my friends to feel like I’m judging them, but if they ask why I don’t eat meat anymore, I’m telling them. I need to learn how to discuss this in concrete, non-confrontational terms.
  • Restaurants have been super easy. My vegetarian chimichanga at my favorite Mexican restaurant was DELICIOUS. Ajax is legendary in Oxford, and it’s a Southern/Soul food type place. Everything is cooked with butter, and even the veggies are cooked with slices of bacon or ham. But my waitress didn’t even blink when I asked her what wasn’t cooked with meat. And she rattled off a long list of things I could eat. And eat I did. Even Burger King has a veggie burger.
  • I have to relearn how to eat balanced meals. I think it was on one of my comments over in the Women, Food, Blog book club, where I asked, “How can someone be a vegetarian and not eat more vegetables?” But that’s my experience right now. I’m carbo-loading. Part of that is stress, and general cravings for sugar, but most of it is a total lack of planning. So I’ve got my meal planner and grocery lister made and in use, and my job now is to start working through the supplies in my pantry.
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The Accidental Vegetarian

It started, quite honestly, because we’re broke.

There’s a period that begins right before Christmas, and extends until the middle of January where I don’t get a paycheck, and there’s another 2-month-long stretch in the summer where I am, for all intents and purposes, unemployed. We live off what Dustin makes in those months, and it’s enough to pay the bills and to buy a few groceries to fill in what’s missing from our pantry.

And what’s missing from our pantry now is meat. Well, we’ve got one chicken breast (with bones), one log of God-knows-what. Pork loin, maybe? Though I don’t remember buying it. And we’ve got 5 links of mild smoked sausage bought from our farmer’s market, made from pigs that are pasture-raised and humanely slaughtered.

I’m saving the sausage for a special treat, or until I’ve got more money coming my way and I can afford a steak. The chicken and the God-knows-what will not be eaten by me.

I found, in those odd 2 days where we didn’t have money for groceries that it was actually really easy to eat meatless. We’d been doing it for dinner for a few nights in a row, and the meat I was eating was consumed at breakfast in the form of bacon and at lunch in the form of Boar’s Head Ovengold Turkey Breast. Lest you think we’re starving, and you call my mother or mother-in-law to send in reinforcements, we are definitely NOT starving–our pantry, fridge, and freezer is extraordinarily well-stocked with beans, rice, canned tomatoes, veggies, peanut butter, jam, no less than 4 bags of flour, a frozen cake, a pie crust (and the stuff to fill it), popcorn, oatmeal, granola, cereal, bagels, milk, eggs, butter, cheese, sandwich meat, assorted herbs and spices, canned fruit, and who knows what else lurking in the dark recesses of that bottom shelf. And if all else fails and we find ourselves truly hungry, I’ll drive to my grandmother’s where she keeps stocked not only her normal fridge and pantry, but no fewer than TWO upright freezers, ANOTHER refrigerator, and no less than 12 utility shelves of canned vegetables and preserves. And should she run out, we’ll drive to my great aunts’ house, where Bert and Fant keep an entire utility room filled with foodstuffs. And should they run out, there is undoubtedly another sister waiting in the wings with her preserves and frozen loaves of bread. God bless those that grew up with nothing, and share it all.

Among all of our food, though, there is little meat, and it hit me, somewhere between looking up a soup recipe that call for meat and planning my food-themed composition class, that hey, I could maybe do this.

My mom does, after all. She’s been a vegetarian now for a year. (The only meat I know that she ate was a bite of my Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing that I served just a few days after our wedding. And to be honest? I don’t think she liked it. 11 months of meatless living will change your tastes.) And she is the most unlikely of vegetarians. She grew up in what I can only call the backwoods of Mississippi. The Country. They farmed their own meats and vegetables. Pictures exist of their slaughtering day. She took a few animal husbandry classes at Mississippi State, and she would hear the sounds of pigs being slaughtered over her lecturer. Worrisome noise, no doubt, but how things were done–are done, still, in some places. Her family, and my father’s family, too, are nothing if not meat-eaters. Meat was, when I was a child, the center of our family meals. We had it at every meal that was cooked (so all meals except cereal and oatmeal breakfasts, but even then we sometimes got a piece of ham or bacon).

So even though I knew she’d been reading books by Michael Pollan and his ilk, it came as kind of a shock, no, a big surprise, when Mom announced she was a vegetarian. “What about Dad?” I asked, “What about my favorite Persian chicken and rice?”  Dad would fend for himself if he didn’t like what Mom cooked–that’s been the rule as long as I can remember. You ate what Mom cooked, and if you didn’t, you had a sandwich. My Persian chicken and rice? Good thing I taught my husband how to cook it, because Mom was done with that particular favorite.

I’m not going to be so presumptuous to try to explain my mother’s motivations for her vegetarianism, but I know her increasing knowledge of what actually goes on in America’s “farms” terrified and disgusted her, both physically and morally. I’m sure, at some level, she looked back into her own childhood of farm-raised animals, quickly slaughtered, and understood that her family’s farming is entirely different than what Tyson or Smithfield calls farming. That what Tyson and Smithfield calls farming is not at all farming, but the mass torture and murder of millions of animals, who before their cruel death were treated perhaps even more cruelly in life, stacked on top of each other, sick, pumped with more antibiotics than is even fathomable, smothering and dying in filth beyond reckoning. And maybe there was the recognition that to refuse to consume these animals is nearly impossible for most people. Labels like “free-range,” “all-natural,” “cage-free,” and even “organic” mean next-to-nothing in today’s corporate-run “farmland.” And to buy these labels means to spend sometimes as much as 5x more for a chicken breast than you would otherwise. Worth the price? Probably, if you can’t live without meat, but not feasible for her, or for most. And maybe my mother got to the point in her thinking where eating animals–any animal–did not, could not sit well in her conscience. I can’t know for sure, you’ll have to ask her.

But I do know that what sparked her vegetarianism was the increasing attention to America’s farming. I know she’s read, at least dabbled in reading, Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food, Inc.), Jonathan Safran Foer (Eating Animals), Gail Eisnetz (Slaughterhouse), Deborah Koons (The Future of Food), Melanie Joy (Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows), and more. Hell, it was me, in some small part, who pointed her to some of these books and films, with my constant yammering about how important local and organic foodways were. I knew about slaughterhouses, about the environmental, economical, and frankly, personal impact these operations have on everyone, from the bottom up and back down again. I knew these things, and as Jonathan Safran Foer writes in Eating Animals, I was interested in changing my ways, “Until I wasn’t. At which point I had to change my life. Until I didn’t” (7).

I used my husband as an excuse, my income, too. And those aren’t bad reasons, necessarily, but recently, in (re-reading) the books I’d read before, in reading new ones, in re-thinking about just what our food system does to our bodies, our environment, immigrants, American workers, the strength of our nation, and our souls and spirits, those excuses were no longer powerful enough to keep me eating meat.

Or more specifically, CAFO meat, which is to say, 99% of meat. I don’t know if I will ever stop being a meat eater. I love meat, and right now (this may change the more I read and think and talk), I don’t see anything wrong with eating animals that have been raised and killed humanely (and yes, I realize there seems to be an immediate controversy in the words “killed” and “humanely”). So I’ve decided, I was forced, even, by my shaken conscience, to stop eating CAFO meat. That if I would eat meat, I would eat only meat that was farm-raised, locally raised, and humanely slaughtered (humane both to the animal and the worker doing the killing for me).

This caveat limits me. A lot. I’m blessed to live in an area that has a farmer’s market that sells local meat, milk, butter, and cheese, and even further blessed that this meat is pasture-raised, fed the food it was meant to eat, and slaughtered right here in town (well, on the outskirts, as I imagine most slaughterhouses are). I’m unlucky in that they only raise beef and pigs. No chicken or fish. For health reasons, I didn’t eat much beef and pork before, perhaps only once a week. And unlucky because in order to eat that beef and pork, I would have to pay real wages for it (when you pay $6 for a CAFO chicken, I’d argue that you’re actually paying much, much more), which I don’t mind in principle, but I need electricity, too. I’m lucky that the sausage (andouille, smoked, chorizo!) are affordable, and I will be able to afford the ground beef and chuck, too. But steaks and roasts and those large, hearty cuts of meat will no longer be an option for us, most likely, save special events like birthdays.  I say this is unlucky, but rather than looking at this in terms of what I will no longer enjoy, I need to think of this in terms of what will be opened to me. Better health. A good conscience. Sense that I will be breathing better air. The knowledge that the meat I’m eating (and not eating) isn’t forcing a worker into harsh and life-threatening conditions. The power in taking just a little bit of power away from the bad guys.

I know there are a lot of people that look on vegetarians as a class of elitists out to proselytize the masses into feeling guilty and to make themselves feel good. Anthony Bourdain, whom I adore fiercely is top among those. And there are an equal number of people who will look at my partial and accidental vegetarianism as not good enough, as just another person participating in a hipster fad. I hesitate to call myself an organitarian, and I’m not a vegetarian, as meat-eating is in my future. I’m not a locavore, and I’m certainly not a revolutionary. There’s not a word for the person I am right now, the person I’m trying to be. And perhaps that’s a good thing. We let our labels get in the way of thought, sometimes, and hopefully, my actions will be enough.

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Try This Today

You need this soup in your life. Amen.

I’ve been in a soup mood lately, which is weird, ’cause I usually think soups are totally lackluster. Watery. Not good at all. But this one. This one is full of good, hearty veggies. It’s comforting, warm, and serving it over sourdough cheese toast like the recipe suggests just makes it…. home. This soup tastes way too good to only have 181 calories per serving.

I can’t wait to chow down on the leftovers for this one.

From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Ingredients:
For the Milk:

  • 2 cups milk, preferably whole (whole thickens the soup)
  • 3 large parsley branches (I used about 2 tbs dried)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 10 peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 5 juniper berries, lightly crushed

For the Soup:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large leeks, white parts plus an inch or so of the greens, chopped
  • 4 cups chopped winter vegetables–turnips, carrots, celery or celery root, rutabagas, a little parsnip
  • 3 boiling potatoes, about 12 ounces, diced
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper, freshly milled
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6-8 slices sourdough or country-style bread, toasted
  • Grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
  • chopped parsley, tarragon, or lovage (what the heck is lovage?)

The Method:

1. Put everything for the milk in a saucepan, bring it to be a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover and set aside while your prepare the vegetables.

2. Melt the butter in a soup pot over low heat. Add the vegetables, bay leaves, parsley, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and add 5 cups water; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Pour the milk through a strainer right into the soup. Taste for salt and season with pepper. To serve, lay a piece of toast in each bowl, cover it with grated cheese, ladle the soup on top, and sprinkle with parsley.

Nutrition: 8 servings, for each serving (not including the bread and cheese): 181 calories, 30 g. carbs, 5 g fat, 5 grams protein.

The original recipe says it will make 4-6 servings, but I think I used about 6 cups of veggies instead of 4, and the nutrition info is calculated for what I used, which made 8 servings.

Disclosure: Dustin didn’t love this one. He said it was too sweet. I didn’t think it was sweet, but I think he doesn’t like turnips. Hard to tell; we’d never eaten them before.

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Target Inspired Schemin’ and Dreamin’

…of a spruced up bedroom.

About 8 months ago, I guess, I traded in my faux-suede, chocolate brown bedset for a livelier, natural-fiber green floral set. I had hopes of revamping the entire bedroom with bright colors, natural fibers and chic accessories to achieve some kind of Morocco and/or India by the seaside feel.

That sort of worked. The wedding and school and my graduate school stipend kicked in and my decor dreams were stamped out. Sort of.

I did spring for a new-to-me white wooden chair with great lines, and a can of navy blue paint to spruce up the desk I used as an elementary school kid, and a mirror to hang over that desk to turn it into a vanity area. But that’s where it ended. Until I went to Target today, and they replaced Christmas decor with pretty things that are just the style I’ve been cooking up in that brain of mine.

Let’s look, shall we?

Here’s our bedroom from the entry door. That door on the left goes into the bathroom, and the door on the right is our closet. This is our bedroom from the other side. That’s the desk-turned vanity and chair with great lines in the corner, and our huge-but-off-centered-and-it-drives-me-crazy window with fabulous sheers/panels I got on super-sale at JC Penney. Those panels are a warm orange, not red. And this is what our bed looks like from it’s foot. That iron thing actually hung on the side of my grandmother’s house years and years and years ago. Okay, but not great. And I’m stuck with the wall color and carpet–oh how I long for wide-planked hardwood floors! Thank God the trim is white, though! My first apartment had beige walls, beige carpet, AND beige trim. At least now the walls are warm, the carpet is a different color from the wall, and the (wide!) trim is a cool, clean white. So all I’ve got to work with is wall decor and accessories for pops of color and happiness.

So this is what I want to do:

  • a new, clean, semi-modern sleigh bed, much like this one from Pottery Barn:A new bed isn’t going to happen any time soon. At all. But a girl’s gotta dream.
  • Since we can’t afford a new bed for many, many years to come, I at least want to get us some nightstands. Target had some pretty fabulous ones today, but they were too far out of our price range (that’s not hard to do these days), I didn’t take a picture. Dang.
  • On those nightstands, I want to put: 1) some great lamps. I’m thinking a ceramic (warm, beachy orange! or deep jewel blue!) base with linen shades; 2) a pretty Indian-inspired bowl. Jo-Ann’s has one right now, but I couldn’t find it on their sight. Trust me on this one–I need it in my life. 3) a hammered metallic frame.
  • One of the problems I’m having with our room right now is that it feels empty. All of my previous bedrooms have been smaller, and more square, so the space filled (and cluttered) more quickly. Our bed faces a very long, very empty wall, and we can’t afford a giant hanging piece to fill it. At Target today, I ran across a 24×36 collage frame that I actually liked. It’s very nice–brown wood, with a pretty thick mat, and best of all, only $40 (they have a matching mirror for the same price). Here’s my idea–fill most of the frames with our wedding photos (since the colors are pretty constant and collage frames can feel busy if the images aren’t cohesive), and fill a few random slots with batik and/or henna-inspired prints/fabrics. We’d frame the …frame with these vertical prints from Target that I am completely smitten with. The blues here work perfectly with the blue of my vanity, and I like that this adds color without being totally overwhelming.
  • I want to ditch the dorm-room hanging mirror off the back of my door and trade it in for a beautifully modern standing easel mirror. I like this one from Target, but I want it in a brown to match my frames and eventual bed.
  • Next to it, I’d love an ottoman of some kind, maybe brown leather? Rattan? It’d be a great place for us to slip on our shoes, for the cats to perch, to lay out our my outfits at night. If not an ottoman, perhaps a lidded rattan laundry basket. Something like this, maybe?
  • My vanity chair right now hasn’t changed since I brought it home from the antique store. I love that it’s already white, but the fabric is pretty blah. I’ve been on the lookout for something kind of like this from Jo-Ann’s but I wish it were more lemony or perhaps even a warm orange:
  • And lastly, I’m bad about skimping on cohesive details. It’s been my practice thus far to pick up something I like, hoping it will work. Sometimes that works, but as my tastes have evolved, I’m left with a lot of decor I don’t like as much and doesn’t really “go” in my space. And that’s when I buy “the details” at all–I’m a tightwad, and it’s hard for me to spend money on something that, while gorgeous, basically has no function. So I snapped these pictures today (again, at Target) to remind me that functionality sometimes can’t compare that happy that comes from looking at some pretty.

love the mix of metal, ceramic, and plant fiber here. And the colors. Silver and blue are beautiful together.

Dustin’s favorite color is orange, and I like to work in small pops of it to make him feel at home in the space, too.I just like these. Simple.

 

Whew. Tired yet? This definitely can’t happen at once, though it feels like I’ve been dreaming of this bedroom for ages, and suddenly Target just happens to be selling stuff that just works perfectly… But slowly, I’ll get there! What’s going on in your bedroom? (heh.)

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Women Who Read

I’ve been on a book-reading fiasco lately. It’s so ridiculously wonderful. I’ve been reading and writing for my thesis, which is about Toni Morrison (and food, what else?). I love Toni Morrison, but her work is certainly not light reading. And the critical work that surrounds her? My brain needs a break.

Here’s what I’ve been reading that I think you’ll like, too:

After the wedding, I got into The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I’d seen it in the bookstore for months, but finally stopped and looked at it. When the blurbs praised it for being reminiscent of Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, and Harry Potter, I knew I had to have it.

The second and third Benedict Society books are really good, too. 4 orphaned genius-kids brought together by a kind, eccentric braniac to save the world from an evil twin. It’s mystery, it’s puzzles and clues, it’s adventure, and good old fashioned friendship stories.

Then, I found a whole huge stack of the American Girls books at Goodwill. I still have my Felicity books that I got when I was, oh, I don’t know, 9? 10? I’ve treasured them, and always wanted the other sets. I may be 25, but I’ve finally got a large part of the other sets. I went through Kirsten’s books on a rainy, cozy, Sunday afternoon.

Dustin and I went to the library just a few days ago, and I left with nothing but YA books and cookbooks. I think it’s all the academic reading I’ve done for the past 7 years–I want to read nothing but books that bring pleasure. Among the books I checked out, 3 of them were by Laurie Halse Anderson. I’ve heard really good things about her lately, so I started with Fever 1793. So good. I mean, there’s a lot of death by yellow fever (and the vomit that comes with it), but still. This is the kind of book I would have devoured with a kid (and definitely devoured as an ‘adult.’ I read it in a total of maybe 3 hours). It’s historically accurate, from the broad strokes of 1790s Philadelphia, the events surrounding the yellow fever epidemic, and right down to the narrow details, like what a 14-year old girl’s role would’ve been in a fatherless household, to what freed-slave families’ would’ve probably looked like. Love this book. It’s got a feminist-inspired message to it and lots of good history and science without beating kids over the head with a didactic ruler.

While at the library, Dustin and I read It’s a Book by Lane Smith together. It’s a picturebook, but it’s not the kind of picture book my mother would’ve bought me–the last line is (spoiler!) “It’s a book, jackass,” spoken by a book-loving bear to a technology-addled, well, jackass. It’s a pun, it’s whimsical and fun, but my mother drove me out to a dam the first time I said “damn,” so this book isn’t for everyone, I guess. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding it–teachers who have brought it into the classroom only later to actually read the thing and get in trouble. Seems like reading it first would’ve been obvious, but apparently not.

I’m currently halfway into Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes and I’m totally digging it. It’s about a smart-as-a-whip 10-year old girl, her grandmother Mama Ya-Ya, and their 9th Ward New Orleans community right before and during Hurricana Katrena. It’s got mysticism, love, and a whole lot of heart. Haven’t finished it yet, but I know it’s going to be good.

What have you been reading?

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Wedding Recaps: The Reception

After our ceremony wrapped up, the fun got started. We headed outside for photos just as the sun was beginning to set, but it quickly led to what was for me, the most fun part of the day.

Earlier in the week, Dustin and I picked up some cigars from The Carolina Cigar Company. The Asheville store is awesome. Super helpful, really fun, and didn’t try to push us into buying more expensive stogeys than we needed. They even cut them for us (because let’s face it, we had no idea what we were doing).

We passed them out to the fellas after the ceremony, and it was my favorite moment of the day (other than marrying my man, obviously). The guys had such a good time, and the ladies really enjoyed laughing at them.

My Granddaddy, new hubby, and Dad. Dustin and his brother, Chris (sorry ladies, he’s taken).

Anything you can do, I can do better.

Not gonna lie. My husband is a hottie.

The Farm also has a few horses that like to hang around for treats.

Did I say hang around? I meant maul. But these are gorgeous horses.

My grandparents, being adorable.

The girls and I got together for some necessary shoe shots (no offense ladies, but mine were the cutest. :D ).

Once we quit misbehaving, we headed over to Limones for our reception dinner. This is, hands down, our FAVORITE restaurant in Asheville. Great service, AMAAAAAAAZING food, and a cozy little Spanish-inspired atmosphere. You need Limones in your life.

There, we ate, we drank, we had a grand ole time.

Dustin’s family. Love them. Also, see that delicious red drink in the lower left corner? That, my friends, is a pomegranate margarita, fresh made without mixes, and you need it in your life. It’s rimmed with lime sugar, and that’s the end of that.

And then, there was cake. I would love to show you our cake, but somehow, NOBODY took a picture of it. Except Regina, but I haven’t gotten those back yet, so you’ve got to wait until I do. But I’ll say this: it was the best wedding cake EVER. Because it wasn’t actually a cake. It was a chocolate. A giant chocolate filled with truffles. And we got to smash it with a hammer. A hammer, people. How smash-tastic is that? Mom surprised us with the Smash Cake from The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville, which is probably the best chocolatier ever. Our waiters were jealous.

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Wedding Week Recaps: The Ceremony

Y’all. Our ceremony was simply amazing. I hate that I didn’t delegate properly and leave plenty of time to prepare for the ceremony, because I think it would have alleviated SOME of the pre-ceremony stress I was feeling. We also didn’t have a rehearsal, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best idea. We should have at least held a “family meeting” and ran through the ceremony.

Actually, the ceremony itself was PERFECT. It was the before-the-ceremony part that was a little awkward. My fault–I didn’t make it clear to the photographer, the officiant, my parents, OR my liason at the Farm where I wanted to be before the ceremony, or how I wanted to walk in, so there was a lot of shuffling. That being said, all those people–Regina, Erin, Mom, and Jean saved my ass. And I am grateful.

So where were we? My Dad came back into the changing room just before the ceremony started, and I nearly lost it. It does something to a girl when her Dad tells her she looks beautiful.

Then things just got funny. Since it was just our family, and Dustin was holed up in the mens’ changing room, I was fully prepared to just strut out in front of the “guests” to get the front doors (which is where I’d walk in). Apparently, that was a no-no, so Regina and Jean tried to get me out the back way, but the door wouldn’t open. There was kicking involved, people. The whole scene did a lot to calm me the hell down. Again, laughter is key. Keep your nerdy dad by your side.

I did eventually make my way around the Farm, and to the front doors, where Dad and I stood awkwardly, realizing we had no idea how they would signal us when they were ready for us. See? Details, people. I thought I had them all.

We heard my processional start, and I clinked (heel caps are must on hardwood floors) down the makeshift aisle to the Beatles, “Here, There, and Everywhere.” I cried the whole way, and Dad made me laugh (insert nerdy engineer/math jokes about Mathematica on the iPhone).

Our ceremony opened with a prayer, Dad lit a candle for the grandparents that couldn’t be there. Dustin’s mom read “I Carry Your Heart” by e.e. cummings, and Dustin’s dad read an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Our readings were amazing, and it was so great getting our parents involved. We love our folks.

Then, Erin led our ceremony by reading the story of how we met, how he proposed, what we love about each other, and then we said our vows. We wrote them ourselves, and they are pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. We wanted to have an “I Do” in there somewhere, so Erin lead our ring exchange. Before we knew it, Erin pronounced us married! My mom read the last stanza of “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman,, and then we got to kiss, and we practically skipped out of the room to the Beatles “Good Day, Sunshine.”

Then we got to do my favorite thing ever: be alone. We put a note in our ceremony that we were observing Yichud, which is a tradition in Jewish weddings. It’s basically just a time and a space where Dustin and I got to take a breath together. We spent a lot of time laughing and kissing. Just the way we like it.

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