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Budget Bride VII: The Magic Words

The words of a marriage ceremony describe what is happening ("Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...") and how it's going to work (the vows). My husband and I, like most Europeans and an increasing number of Americans, had two marriage ceremonies, a legal process at the county courthouse and then a spiritual/social wedding celebration. We got the contractual issues buttoned up at our legal ceremony, so we felt free to be more creative on our big wedding day. Instead of repeating our courthouse vows or writing additional vows, we decided to express why we had already committed the rest of our lives to each other. We used English-translated passages by Spanish poet Pablo Neruda to illustrate the story of our relationship leading up to the celebration of our union in the springtime of the year and of our life together. The Magic Words Love is free. So is expressing it in words. All brides, regardless of budget , can bring beauty, personality, and meaning to a wedd

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

The Book List of Champions

I don't always read nonfiction by male authors. But when I do... I read self-help comedy by true champions. After a decade in which I enjoyed reading stacks of great fiction by mostly women and also gulped down a sickening load of nonfiction texts by authors of assorted genders for social justice education and historical research purposes, I made a fresh literary start in the 2020s with three comedic "self-help" books that are hilarious, yet legitimately inspiring. I've always said that a spoonful of humor helps the knowledge darts go down (or something to that effect), and these three quarantine reads helped me to sort out a lot of thoughts and feelings. They also caused me and my husband to choke a few times when we tried to read passages out loud to each other. I haven't had this much fun with words since Amy Sedaris taught me how to keep house. For whatever reason, the books that resonated most with me over the past year have all been written by men. I have gr

Budget Bride III: Location, Location, Location

Today's Budget Bride post affirms that a wedding isn't just about providing a cool photo backdrop for the star couple. The location and venue create the environment that shapes the whole experience. Location determines who can attend, how much and what kinds of fun everyone can have, and how everyone feels throughout the ceremony and reception. In addition to accessibility, aesthetics, and amenities offered at the site, there's also the general aura the place gives off. Is the site associated with historic events? Legendary romance? Is there anything ugly associated with it, like bigoted owners who refuse to support unions between people who are not of their preferred race or gender combinations? If your guests can possibly know the answers to those questions, your choice of venue will send a message that includes the values associated with it. A blank slate is just fine, but take care to avoid obvious stinkers like gay-hating orchards and slavery-stained plantations (that

The Incredible Lightness of Loss

We Americans are losing so much right now: loved ones to death, other relationships to political violence and conspiracy theories. Americans are losing touch with reality, losing beliefs, losing real freedom and trust and patience and hope. Some of that loss comes with searing pain, but every loss can also give us a new lightness, if we know how to sense it--the unburdening of worry, shame, failure, obligation, terror, naivety, delusion. Even when we lose what we desperately wanted to keep, we find our hands and eyes and hearts left open to new sources of light. I am reminded of the first time I traveled abroad without family or personal friends--when I went to study abroad in Rome, and upon landing was robbed of my baggage. (What a funny metaphor, right? But it wasn't funny to me at the time--it was terrifying.) I was, to put it nicely, not one of the rich kids on that trip. Not only could I not afford to replace the belongings I needed, I was already running up a deficit in the p

Budget Bride II: Dress for a Mess

Something marked down, something askew, something old, something like-new--anything but a pretentious designer outfit you'll only wear once, with a four-figure price tag! Since my own wedding at age 24, I've attended many weddings of friends and family and seen many different styles of wedding dress--formal, casual, homemade, upcycled, discounted, and haute couture. At all of those different weddings, I have only ever heard family and friends of the bride throw shade on one gown--a very expensive, custom-made, imported piece of couture with a whole fussy and dramatic backstory. There was nothing objectionable about the dress per se, but the rumors of how much money, time, and effort it required sort of elicited snark and disgust among the practical Midwestern guests. Ouch!  I don't recommend that anyone choose their wedding attire primarily to avoid criticism or to people-please the whole guest list. Your big-day drag should celebrate you and your partner, and it should ref

Living the House Cat Life

Please allow me to introduce my household familiar, Gretchen MurderMittens Miernik. She is a wonderful member of our family and generally easygoing, but she does make this face if you accidentally walk in on her human bed nap and turn on the light. Well, who wouldn't? At this point in the pandemic / insurrection / zombie apocalypse happening outside in the world, I seek to follow Gretchen's lead in gently setting boundaries around healthy amounts of rest--and playtime, and sharp sense, and ferocity. As coronavirus vaccinations roll out slowly, I am also rolling out my spine and sinews, all catlike, and feeling a new balance of relaxation and strength, well-rested chill and pilot-lit alertness. I am feeling more certain that the end of the pandemic is nigh, so I have let go of some anxiety over how long this will all drag out. And at the same time, I am comfortably certain that our civilization won't roar back to pre-Covid activity levels for another few months at least, so

2021 PLANS!

I am so grateful to have made it through 2020 with my life and my health, and I am so excited to fill in my good old-fashioned paper 2021 planner! It's great that my work and my daughter's schooling and our family holiday gatherings were all able to go virtual during the pandemic. And as much as I appreciate that, I am looking forward to getting back into the real world. I know that the pandemic's course is still uncertain and that I need to pencil everything in for now, but I am starting to let myself dream about everything I'll do after I get my vaccine: have dinner with extended family and friends, take walks and go shopping without anxiety about personal space and masks, get a haircut, go in to work, and gather with people in real, shared space for holidays and birthdays and other celebrations.  Like weddings! Oh, the weddings that will begin to flood our calendars starting in--I'll hazard a guess--late 2021! Can you imagine? If you've had to put off your we

TBT: How It Started vs. How It's Going... 2010s Resolutions

In hindsight, the year 2020 feels like a weird false start to me. The year that marks the beginning of a new decade isn't supposed to be so... end-timey. I've settled down into that long wait for this decade to truly begin, I hope after the pandemic fades out over the course of 2021. Forget about dramatic resolutions, I just want to make tentative plans again! One of the gifts of 2020 has been a gigantic time-out, a chance to reset priorities, and a lot of time to reflect upon the way things used to be in the Before Times and how much of that we'd like to leave in the Before Times. I like the idea of picking out only the best lessons and traveling light into a very new New Year--bringing forward more wisdom and skill, less stuff and baggage. Today's post is a look back at my weighty 2010 New Year's Resolutions (below, in text that is not italicized) with notes on how those went and how those lessons learned have affected my visions for the 2020s (in italics).   It&#