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Smashing the Ticky-Tacky

The demolition has begun! After more than a decade of living with an outdated and dysfunctional kitchen, we are slapping the tackiness out of this place and creating our own functional, beautiful, and family-and-friends-friendly space. My husband and I are thrifty, practical people--and because of that, we put off updates to our home until we got through the messy, silly, frantically busy, and expensive years of early parenthood and entertaining groups of rowdy children. But now our daughter is graduating from elementary school, my parents are newly retired and eager to help, and pandemic legislation put our student loans on hold, so IT IS TIME!  Until a couple of weeks ago, our late kitchen featured: a partially broken, scuffed-up, shabby, and weirdly tiny sink; a rusty, falling-apart vent hood; a poorly installed, ugly tile backsplash; broken cabinets with peeling doors; three lights and several outlets that don't work, due to horrifyingly wrong electrical wiring; countertops mad

Budget Bride Spring Wedding Roundup: How to Throw an Authentically Joyful Celebration and Launch a Happy Marriage

It's boom time for planning post-pandemic weddings! It looks like it will be possible to throw a biggish, in-person wedding celebration next year, when all people, including children of all ages, will be eligible for vaccination. Can you imagine? If you can't, let me help! Below are links to all ten posts in my Budget Bride series, a collection of throwback tips from my own wedding that took place in a simpler time, before Instagram filtered and squared off our dreams--before aesthetic perfectionism distracted us from the gorgeously multi-sensory experiences that can only be referenced in, not totally captured by, photographs--and way before Covid put our lives on hold. The Budget Bride series hints at how to recapture that all-consuming joy of the Before Times while avoiding many unnecessary wedding costs and logistical hassles. Even an aesthetically maximalist wedding can be done on a minimalist budget and with a minimum of negative drama. My wedding was a meaningful day to r

Pocket of Joy: Indian Food

I have adored Indian food since I first tasted it at a fine Indian restaurant as a young adult. And I loved it so much that I wasn't content only to keep coming back to that restaurant (though I certainly did that); I wanted to learn how to participate in the alchemical art of Indian cooking.  Indian food isn't just a full bouquet of sensory pleasures, it can also be exceptionally healthy . Like the Mediterranean diet, traditional Indian food packs in a variety of whole grains, fresh ingredients, vegetable proteins, and immune-boosting herbs and spices. It's also very labor-intensive and complex, requiring quite an arsenal of spices and herbs, some of which can be hard to find outside of specialty Asian markets--but, for me, the time and investment are so worth it! And shopping at Asian markets is a delight. Realistically, made-from-scratch Indian food is not something I can have every day. I can't afford Indian restaurant meals of the quality I prefer very often, and I

Breaking the Lawn! Breaking the Lawn!

This year, I'm back to work on healing the land, one square foot at a time. After I bought my house over a decade ago, and before I had a child, I created and maintained an ambitious food garden in my back yard. That practice was satisfying, productive, and educational. It fulfilled my desires to grow organic food, carry on beloved family traditions, and reduce the size of my suburban turf lawn. I'm one of those people who feel that domestic lawns (unless you are actually using them for activities like touch football or something) are obsolete relics of a time when most people weren't aware or didn't care about their impacts on the natural world, including whether they were poisoning their own air, water, and soil .  I have enthusiastically joined the movement toward replacing lawns with more beautiful, functional, and healthy landscaping that supports and enhances all of life (human health, floral abundance, native pollinators, birds, butterflies, etc.) without requir

When Life Gives You Key Limes: Pandemic Key Lime Pie Recipe

Unlock a priceless skilled trade! Honestly, I did not mean to learn a new skill in 2020, but fortunately, my new skill is unmarketable. The last thing I wanted to do is learn a new grind. Fortunately, the new trick I learned has proven a great way to unwind : making the perfect Midwestern pandemic-style Key lime pie! I already love to bake, and my favorite baked goods are those you could never buy in a store because nobody would pay for the time and fine ingredients they require. Like my husband's loaf of all-day, no-knead bread with $8 worth of cheese inside. Maybe that would fly in Italy, but not here. Americans are like, "OoH tHat'S sO expEnsIvE!" and then they go and spend $8 on one mixed drink that tastes like mouthwash and melted popsicles. Now, I know that there are some fancy Florida crackers who would mock my family’s poor taste because we make our pies the old-timey way, with canned milk instead of fresh cream. But I think our recipe is the perfect balance o

Pocket of Joy: Vintage Spring Jackets

Happy spring jacket season! I love rotating clothes in and out of storage with the changing seasons, and I also love "shopping" my collection of vintage outerwear from my own youth, from Before Times secondhand shopping trips, and from my mother-in-law when she moved to Florida. I have a vivid red wool bathrobe-style coat and a quirky beige trench that I bought in the 2000s, a worn-in classic denim jacket, an antique WWI-era dress jacket of green silk, and a few leather pieces from the '60s and '70s. I've taken many of these to the dry cleaner and the tailor over the years for repairs and maintenance, which I'd much rather do than replace whole garments with brand new ones. There's something exquisite about the combination of that fresh-new feeling of taking out new-season clothes and the comfy-old-friend feeling of a garment with lots of history. I feel good about the environmental impact of not buying new things, and I also really like well-constructed,

Budget Bride X: The Honeymoon

Ah, travel! I am starting to feel like it will truly become safe and enjoyable again soon. Not yet, though—even though some borders are reopening to tourists, many of those places are immediately regretting it. A lot of Americans who are already jetting around the world have promptly ruined things for everyone with vile, reckless, aggressive, and disrespectful behavior that not only raises disease risk but creates a hostile and possibly even unsafe environment for other American tourists who follow. Trust me, I’ve been to places where Americans were despised by the locals, and it is scary to the point of becoming traumatic. So before you embark upon an journey to someone else’s homeland, be sure to check your attitude and do your research to find a quiet, unspoiled location or one that is definitely accepting of the kind of partying you expect to do. Go in peace! Go in love! One of the pandemic's gifts has been making people aware of all the overlooked and hidden "getaways&quo

Budget Bride IX: Dance Floor Management

Budget brides , if you don't have a DJ in your family willing to work the dance party for free, you can automate the flow by carefully setting up the two dimensions of dance floor management: physical space and musical time. For ideas on how to set up a space with optimal traffic flow, see these four tips by Rescue Flats . For tips on timing the beats, read on! Dance Floor Management Automate your dancing-and-shenanigans playlist if you find yourself without professional DJ services. We used my laptop computer, hooked up to a cheap rented set of gigantic speakers and a funky light show. Our playlist began with sentimental first dances and then moved through progressive stages that we set up in advance--but were still able to modify on the spot as needed. Our silly garter toss happened in the middle, after most of the older folks and all the little kids had gone home, and it marked a transition to the louder, drunker phase of the night. We found that it's good to put some o

Budget Bride VIII: Let the Good Times All Roll Out

My favorite kind of wedding is a joyful wedding. Who cares how pretty the pictures are if the day wasn't any fun? Perfectionism is a big old party pooper. Don't invite it. Instead, minimize fuss and maximize fun. Design your day so that the tasks requiring order and focus (such as formal portraits) come first and aren't too complicated, and build lots of flex time into the schedule so that the unexpected can be handled gracefully and everyone has time to actually enjoy being there, in each other's company. Put some laughs and silly surprises into the reception to signal to your guests when it's time to loosen belts and ties, kick off high heels, and hike up those bustles. You want to create a mood transition between the reverent ceremony and the raging celebration. My wedding day began with elegant, well-rehearsed precision accompanied by live cello and ended with unexpected combinations of people making out in an elevator to gay dance music. That's #goals! If y

International and Time "Traveling" on the Silver Screen

As the pandemic marches on, one of my favorite ways to escape the feeling of cabin fever safely (and without spending any money!) is to "travel" to different countries and time periods through the magic of historical and international films. I use my library card to access the Hoopla streaming service, which is similar to the Kanopy service offered by some other library branches. Check with your local library about free film streaming services you can access, and then sign in on your laptop, smart TV, Roku, Fire stick, or outdoor projector if you live someplace warm!  If you find that your appetite for international films surpasses what these free services can satiate, here is a list of the 10 best streaming services for international content .  I live in Michigan, which is currently in a beautiful polar vortex, so I fit my movie watching time into the early morning hours before dawn (seriously, one of my favorite ways to wake up, with a hot cup of coffee) and after dusk. Ado

Budget Bride VI: Party Like an Immigrant

One thing I'm loving about the 2020s is that all of a sudden, Black Lives Matter has gone mainstream, our government representation suddenly has become more diverse, and there has been a seismic cultural shift toward celebrating racial and cultural diversity rather than suppressing it. We are a proud, colorful people! Look around you at those you plan to invite to your wedding. What family traditions would you like to uphold, revive, or remix to celebrate the union of you and your beloved and all the people who made each of you who you are? For a wedding that is rich in tradition yet affordable, both meaningful and joyful, look for the immigrants ! Party Like an Immigrant Budget bride s, now is the time to look deep into your cultural heritage for wedding inspiration and soul. America is a great big progressive potluck, and so are most of our families. Search through your own ingredients to find spice and flavor for your ceremony and reception. Got any Jews in the family? Big Fa

Budget Bride V: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Potlucks are a classic loaves-and-fishes trick to feeding lots of people on a budget, though buffet-style meals are, for sad reasons, quickly going out of fashion in the 2020s. Cue the food trucks! Food trucks can be a great alternative to a buffet because they're mobile, they can serve personally customized meals on-demand, and they come at a variety of price points. "Healthy" food doesn't just mean fiber and vegetables or avoiding fat and sugar. (What fun is that at a wedding anyway?) "Healthy" can also refer to safety from contamination. Plagues and food poisoning can really poop on a party, so I'd err on the side of hot, made-fresh, even fried foods. It's a special occasion, after all!  Heavily spiced foods also lend safety in feeding large numbers of people due to the antimicrobial properties of many herbs and spices. Complex, bold dishes can offer a balance of special-night flair, comfort, safety, nutrition, and price. Check out your local Lati