Friends, it has been a long time. But I’m back to report that on a sunny mid-September day just over a month ago, Sam and I made it official. We got married on a farm on Whidbey Island, just off the coast of Seattle with friends and family beside us from near and far. There are so many details I want to share with you, but the one thing I’m most proud of when I think back to that Saturday is that we both managed to stay present and really experience the day together. It was my one request of Sam, of each other: that we not let any concerns about family, friends, seating charts or how the dessert table would look come into our minds that afternoon. I wanted to trust that with all of the planning behind us, the rest would come together behind the scenes somehow. And magically it did (I will never forget watching out the upstairs window of the house as I was getting my hair done while our friend Molly was running up and down the farm road setting up signs and balloons with our friend and officiant, Ben. I believe Sam and Brandon were down the road a bit, too, doing the same. I was stuck inside at that point, smiling and thinking: Yes! Gooooo, Team)
I’d heard that the day itself goes by in a blur, and you’re lucky if you have a chance to truly talk with even a handful of your guests. I’d also been advised to elect someone to make sure that we had dinner and a drink because it’d be impossible to facilitate that (we had a family style dinner so that wasn’t a problem BUT we joke in looking back that we were more sober that night than on an average weekend and that we hardly remember about 50% of the food). But in the midst of all that blur — the hugs and tears and toasts — there was so much true, true clarity that I’ll be ever thankful for.
When I think about the moments that stand out for me from the day, it’s the time before all the guests arrived when I went out to meet Sam in the yard with no one else around: Just us and that late summer sunlight that felt practically amber all afternoon and evening. My mom and sisters using the hot shower in the tiny farmhouse bathroom to steam my very wrinkled veil. My Dad giving me bits of bread before the ceremony when I started to feel (very) faint. His epic toast. The gorgeous flowers on the table, overflowing in their white milk glass vases. Looking down the long, long dinner table at people from all parts of our lives — talking, laughing, meeting one another for the first time. My grandfather getting down on the dance floor with Sam’s friend from Southern California. Like, really getting down. Making it through my vows. Laughing and crying through Sam’s. Drinking beers at Toby’s later into the night and falling asleep with pins still in my hair. Eating cake for breakfast the next morning.
In addition to feeling a great sense of clarity, I’ll be forever grateful that everything about the day felt very much like “us.” And this is actually a bit of a feat if you know us as a couple because we’re both very different in many ways. In truth, this made pieces of the wedding planning pretty difficult (read: there were some tennnsssse moments. Also read: we won’t miss you, wedding planning!) But both Sam and I place importance on many of the same things: the meaning of place and home, friends and good company, family, and good food. The decision about the place — the wedding location– became easy when we saw the farm for the first time. Whereas most couples apparently really fall for the picturesque red barn, we fell in love with the old Southern-style farmhouse. There was a wrap-around porch and rocking chairs and lace curtains; there was a roomy backyard with a big, majestic tree. We decided that we wanted the day to really center around the house, so the ceremony was right in the backyard and the dinner was on one big, long table along the side yard. Cocktails were out by the barn — as was dancing.
And that dinner? We had our friends Matteo and Jessica at Ciao Thyme do the food and they truly outdid themselves. Because the house felt decidedly Southern to us (and because we both like Southern food), we decided to veer in that direction with the menu. So for appetizers we had fried okra chips, fried chicken sliders on homemade buttermilk biscuits, hush puppies and homemade ketchup, and three kinds of deviled eggs. For dinner, there was slow-roasted pork with cheesy grits and roasted padron peppers, a delightfully light late summer succotash, roasted yams and figs, and a fried green tomato salad topped with fresh crab and zucchini slaw. Oh, and the greens and cornbread, the sweet tea and rosemary lemonade, the strong (!) cocktails and ample wine. It was a feast that we’d thought long and hard about and chosen months before; everyone ate very, very well that night and that made us very, very happy.
As for cake and dancing, there is a little building off to the side of the big red barn called the Grainery and that’s where we all headed after dinner. I’m not sure if it’s because the Grainery was a bit on the small side or if people really brought their dancing shoes, but it sure felt like the floor was packed the whole night. Instead of a towering wedding cake-type cake, we ordered cakes from one of my favorite Southern spots in town, The Wandering Goose. The owner, Heather, does these (very) large, generous Southern layer cakes and we tasted all of them the months before the wedding (by far the best part of planning), ultimately deciding on the Coconut, Lemon, and Brownstone (much like a caramel cake but with a bit of cocoa, and a boiled brown sugar icing). We all ate cake outside the Grainery with the music still playing, many barefoot — some still dancing.
On our wedding program, we included a quote from one of my favorite novels by Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety: “There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters.” It’s safe to say that we stood in that very moment and that very place last month. The day after the wedding, I kept tearing up and crying on Sam’s shoulder and he became concerned, asking me what was wrong. I looked at him each time and told him I just wanted to go back to yesterday and see it all again. He turned to me and said the perfect thing, as he usually does: “We already are there. We carry that day with us now.”
Notes: Sam and I have just returned from our honeymoon in Morocco and Italy, and I can’t wait to share photos of the trip with you and some details on what we were up to for those of you who may be interested in visiting sometime. I found myself inspired by much of the food, too, so I’m hoping to get into the kitchen to play a bit and share a few of our discoveries in future posts. Also, our wonderful wedding photographers should have photos back to us closer to the holidays and I’ll be sure to share some here with you, too. And as for the photos included in this post: the very bottom panoramic of the ceremony was taken by Lenny Ferreira. And the photo above of the dinner table — as well as the lovely one of Sam and I — were both taken by our friend Molly Wizenberg. Thank you both for sharing them.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)