Let they who cried raise their hands

*raises hand*

Happy tears. So many happy tears.

Why, you might ask? Well, the fiance is now the husband. My husband, to be exact. There are many like him, but this sharply-dressed, ever-surprising, and very loving man is mine.

I was going to go over the day in a little more detail, but I think a list of my favorite moments is better.

First, three of our close (and mutual) friends helped us get our reception area set up, and the gentlemen did so wearing their formal wear! (Our female friend was sensible and brought her dress to change into.) One friend, who I will refer to as the True Scotsman for his Scottish formal wear (yes, including a kilt!), masterminded putting our initials in lights on the stage. He also drove the other two to Safeway for Chinese food (“Chickadoodle, what do you want?” “…An eggroll?”) and some salad for lunch.

In return, I braided the True Scotsman’s hair. Well, actually, I do that anyway. Everytime. (“True Scotsman, where’s your hair tie? I’m braiding your hair.” *hands it over*)

The True Scotsman and our other two friends (Mr. Fancypants and Ms. Marvel-ous for this post) also got in on some of our pictures, including a few Sopranos-esque pictures in our dimly lit waiting studio. (Our photographers were fabulous, by the way, and every once in a while, we got “LIKE YOU LIKE EACH OTHER, GUYS!” during our photos.)

The ceremony is a favorite chunk of moments. From the walking in, to everyone expressing their support, to my now sister-in-law doing the reading, to the saying of the vows (“I think you just made everyone cry” –our officiant), to the kiss… it was wonderful. Seeing so many happy faces as we walked in and out made my day. Friends and family had come from miles away–some across the country, some I hadn’t seen in years–and it was like we’d never been apart.

In the quiet time we stole after signing our certificate, some appetizers were brought in for us, and the husband applied bandages to some blisters I’d gotten at the rehearsal dinner. (Normally, I’d have done it myself, but 15 pounds/several yards of very puffy dress and petticoats did make that a little more difficult.)

I tried to talk to everyone before dinner. I didn’t get to, but there were plenty of precious moments then, too, including a male friend (Very Tall Guy) expressing his desire to have my dress. (Not entirely sure he was kidding…) Another friend (Exuberance Personified) proceeded to rather lovingly hug-strangle the husband while proclaiming his happiness. I got to reconnect with the friends I hadn’t seen in so long. There were family pictures. I got to see two lovely young ladies who I’d watched when we were all younger, as well as their parents, who are amazing and wonderful people in their own right. A cousin’s toddler daughter was fascinated by my dress.

Dinner kind of flew by, though we did get to eat, which was, y’know, good. Unfortunately, my headache had resurfaced by that point, but about ten different people offered medicine of various kinds, and my oldest brother and a family friend double-teamed me with a shoulder and scalp massage, and my mom took my hair out of its pins. (Thankfully, we’d done all the “official” stuff by that point.) Before that, a friend (Blue-Haired Beauty) exclaimed from her table about writing on so many of the little strips left to give advice to us, “Guys, I think I have a problem…”. My dad and Ms. Marvel-ous gave rousing speeches, and I cried. Again.

We had our first dance and cut the cake (which was amazing, let me tell you). Then, the party really got into full swing. By some miracle of luck and a bit of collaboration, after we figured out that dancing on the stage wasn’t great (there were no speakers on the stage, and it was HOT), we were able to pull the tables on the ground aside to create a dance floor, and a lot of great dancing happened. My dad, as expected, totally got into it. Some friends danced with my cousins’ kids, which was adorable. Very Tall Guy and Ms. Marvel-ous pulled off a show-stopping and un-rehearsed “Shut Up and Dance” routine. A bunch of people joined us for the Cupid Shuffle. (And our amazing informal MC/DJ did a great job of rearranging our playlist to make it work. Can’t thank that guy enough…)

For as much fun as we were having, though, we were exhausted (I woke up at 5:30 that morning… and never managed to get back to sleep!), and when the towncar showed up 45 minutes early, the husband and I decided that everyone could enjoy the rest of the party, but we needed corgi pictures and sleep, and I needed a while to brush my hair out and get the pound or so of (quite gorgeous) makeup off my face.

Naturally, we didn’t make our escape unscathed–there were many noisemakers. The loving chorus of dying goose noises filled the night as we sped away, blissfully gazing into each other’s eyes.

And now, we’re honeymooning in Victoria. (This time, we remembered not to bring apples across the border…) It’s been one hell of a journey, but, sitting next to the husband–my husband–I know it’s going to be one heaven of a marriage.

The Most Wond-elf-ful Time of the Year

When Christmastime rolls around, I get nostalgic. It’s not that my family doesn’t get together (oh boy, do we get together!) or that I miss the gifts I got as a child. I am quite happy with a stocking full of chocolate and various and sundry items, thanks very much.

What I miss is being an elf.

No, seriously.

I have been an elf (or more accurately “Santa’s Helper”) for the best—no the real Santa Claus and his excellent photographer. I didn’t have to wear the costumes, thank goodness—just a red and/or green top and jeans. And sometimes, a Santa hat.

You see, my uncle is Santa. Real beard and everything. He may be the reason I was never scared of Santa—I actually don’t know. But I’ve been to him as long as I can remember for my Santa pictures. (Sadly, I’ve missed the last couple years. I’m planning on changing that this year if I can.) Around 7th grade, I became an elf for service hours initially.

There’s really not much to it. I’d run rolls of film (yup, rolls of film. We were old school for a good long while) to the drug store, hand out slips with the number corresponding to the roll of film, hand out candy canes, and get small children and animals to look at the camera. That was more or less the official description of my duties, anyway.

The actual work was all that, sure, but there was more. I was the Starbucks runner, being the most mobile of the group (and usually the most senior). Not sure I ever got the amount of cream in the photographer’s coffee right, but y’know…

I also had to find wherever the extra candy canes were hidden, as well as the cd player. I bought a little stuffed animal every year to help distract kids. (A few years, I had to buy two, as little kids aren’t always so great about remembering to give them back after being distracted by them.) I’ve held coats and children, and have had my fair share of near-accidents, including one of a pair of three-month-old twins projectile vomiting inside our little hut. I’ve had to figure out how to display letters so that they didn’t get blown away with the door opening and closing. I took pictures with whatever device I was offered, usually not terribly well. My first year, I actually had to get security to go after a family who walked off with all the salvation army gifts from under the tree. (Yes, I said they were “for the less fortunate”, and this family probably belonged in that category… but there was a sign right there saying where the gifts were going!) I carted barrels of donated food between wherever Santa was and the security office.

On the slow days (usually the first weekend), I’d sit on the floor, close to the heater when there was one, talking with Santa and the photographer. I’d steal Santa’s chair when he got up to walk around, usually resulting in a goofy picture or two. I also got to take a couple pictures of the photographer and Santa. Professional equipment is heavy!

More than that, though, there was just this air of festivity, of joy and love. It was (for the most part) the holiday spirit personified. It’s not that I don’t get that now, but there was always something different about being in the middle of it. It’s amazing to see kids in their late teens and early twenties walk in without their parents to take a photo to surprise them with. It’s fun to see families who dress up. It’s wonderful to see familiar faces, whether they’re friends from school or long-time visitors of Santa. (Remember the twins I mentioned earlier? I saw them for the next six years.)

The one thing sure to ruin that, though?

Without fail, nearly every day I was there, someone would scold their child (usually one between a year and four years) for crying. You are putting your child in the lap of a very odd-looking stranger. It does not matter that you’ve described Santa Claus ad nauseum and read Christmas books every night for the last month—your child might freak out. It’s one thing if it’s a pouty face for the camera, but a screaming, wriggling toddler does not make for a good picture, especially when you add your own yelling into the mix. Instead, see if your child will sit in your lap, or in Santa’s chair, and have Santa sneak in while an elf distracts them.

Trust me; it works.

The whole point was to have fun, to spend time with loved ones, and to indulge in wishes.

My wish would be to live it again.

Chickadoodle’s Dinner for Two… err, the Family #4

So, the boyfriend and I staged a meeting of the parents recently. No, we’re not getting married anytime soon, but people get curious after two and a half years. The boyfriend’s mom had met my parents after a series of unfortunate events last summer (though the meeting was not one of them)—long story short, the boyfriend’s car broke down in a really scary part of town at midnight, so my mom came to rescue us, only to deliver the news that my dad had been in a nasty bike/car (he was on the bike) accident earlier that day and had suffered what turned out to be a type V or VI AC separation. He was otherwise relatively unscathed, and his helmet undoubtedly saved his life (See, kids? Wear a freakin’ helmet!), but he was bruised for months afterward and recovery was not pretty. The boyfriend’s mom picked him up the next morning, and we bribed her to stay and sit a spell with Betty Crocker’s French breakfast muffins. It worked. Nobody can resist French breakfast muffins!

ANYWAY, neither of my boyfriend’s parents had encountered my parents when my parents weren’t a) preoccupied with a husband with an AC separation and b) hopped up (well, just really mellowed out, actually) on painkillers for said AC separation. My parents mostly knew the boyfriend’s parents by reputation. (True story: the boyfriend’s dad was part of a segment on the radio program “Marketplace” about a year ago. My dad, upon hearing the boyfriend’s dad’s name, popped around the corner from making dinner and grinned at me. My mom walked in the door 10 minutes later with a “So guess who I heard on the radio?” Marketplace is kind of a big deal in our house. So sue us.) I’m not entirely sure what the boyfriend’s parents knew of mine other than what I’d told them.

BUT REALLY, I wanted to cook to impress. Having just come across a pretty awesome recipe in our local blood center’s “Give Twice” cookbook (give twice between June and the beginning of October; get a free cook book!), I thought, “you know, this is a really good idea!” The boyfriend, who’d already had the fortune of sampling the dish, rather agreed.

So, I present to you, Chicken Vesuvio à la Chickadoodle.

The original recipe calls for 4 halves of boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into bitesize pieces. To feed 6 people somewhat heartily, it took about 6. (There was a little left over, but not much, I tell ya!) You also need:

*~2 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bitesize chunks as well.
*3-4 tbsp dried parsley
*1 tsp garlic powder
*3-4 tsp oregano
½ – 1 tsp crushed rosemary
~2 tsp dried basil
a pinch of dried bay leaves
~1 tsp lemon juice
*3-4 tsp table salt
*½ – 2/3 c. olive oil

(*original ingredient, except that the garlic powder was garlic cloves)

In a skillet, brown the chicken. If you are cutting still semi-frozen chicken while browning one batch as I did, a boyfriend is rather helpful in making sure the chicken doesn’t burn, catch fire, or otherwise explode. The original recipe says to toss that and the potato pieces into a bag with the other ingredients to coat them, but I just stuck them in the dish I baked them in and coated them there (making sure to put the coating on top, as opposed to creating it beforehand, which you can do with the bag method).

Cover and bake at 325 F (or maybe a little higher…) for 1 hour, or until potato pieces are soft (read: edible).

Serve with crusty French bread and salad, paired wine optional. (A nice cab sauv will do.) Follow it up later with some two-topping peach crisp, the recipe for which I may or may not post later. The boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out which topping we wanted to use (mine was shortbread-like, his more of a brown sugar-y, oatmeal-y masterpiece), so we halved each of our recipes and had a contest. They both won.

Hell, the whole dinner was a win, both in terms of food and company, and I’m glad of it!