The 5 Worst Things About Getting Married

A lot has happened since the last time I published a post – most notably, I got married two weeks ago. I have no regrets about the amazing man I married, our beyond incredible and supportive families, and the future we will build together. That said – and you don’t have to be planning a wedding to know this as a truth – planning a wedding can be a painful process. Things will go wrong, feelings will be hurt, and you’ll be struggling to stay focused on the end result, the ultimate ROI: you’ll soon be marrying your soulmate.

While I compiled a list of 5 things that I found to be the antithesis of wedding-planning bliss, I’m sure there are many more that could qualify.

1. More Money, More Problems: Weddings are expensive. Even if your parents are paying for some, most or all of your wedding, hidden expenses will sneak through. We came to a very fair agreement with our parents about expectations for our contribution, but budgets quickly crept up when Adam picked out an invitation that I fell in love with. I loved everything about it; it was so elegant and modern, and elegance and modernity come at a steep price. At the end of the day, I reasoned that if I wanted something, and I felt strongly about it, I should be the one to pay for it. That to me, and to Adam, was the ultimate test for necessity.

2. We Are Family: When people say that weddings bring out the worst in people, they’re not always talking about the immediate family. I think it’s the residual family who can often be pinpointed as the culprit for bad behavior. My advice to brides on this is to omit any people who won’t be able to focus on supporting you and your partner. I’m especially close with my parents and siblings – my immediate family – and my mother’s family. That said, there are deep-rooted feuds in my father’s family that have turned into immature grudges across parties, and have since trickled down to my generation. If I could go back again, I would have made a stronger argument with my parents that the room should only be filled with people who genuinely want to be there, not out of perceived protocol, but out of love and support. Thankfully, we had so many relatives and friends (who are basically family at this point) make the trek to Michigan – all the way from England, to Florida, New York, California, Indiana, Washington, Illinois, DC and beyond.

3. We Make Plans, And G-d Laughs: During our ceremony, the ketubah fell off of its easel, the lights were switched on by accident, the photo booth was unbearably warm, and our “first dance” song (In My Life by The Beatles) wouldn’t play for the DJ (he rigged it so that it would play from my phone through a microphone). There are mistakes you just can’t plan for, and it’s important to accept it, with no expectations beforehand. The only thing you can really realistically plan for is that you are getting married. My rabbi was so sweet; he could sense my type-A personality from my initial e-mail to him about his availability. He made sure to caution me about keeping focused on the love that we’re celebrating, and not the to-do lists and planning. I think he may have underestimated how a career in PR prepares you for poise in the face of even the most ultimate screw-ups and disasters.

4. You Can’t Always Get Your Way: I know that I’m neurotic, and that it’s in my nature to be controlling. But, as much as one’s eventual marriage is a partnership, so, too, is the planning process. I wasn’t one of those women who had her entire wedding planned before meeting the groom. In fact, navigating this with someone by my side was exactly what I needed for each of the minuscule details to be digestible and actionable. I chose so many of the elements, that I really was thrilled when Adam showed remote interest in things like the food, music, and invitations. I decided to forfeit control (with 5 vetoes), so that he could feel like his personal touch was also part of our big day.

5. If You Have Nothing Nice to Say, Don’t Say It At All: From the moment you get engaged, outside opinions will start to percolate. I sometimes think that all brides and grooms should go through media training to learn how to weather the naysayers and over-opinionated. Even now, two weeks post-marriage, my mother comments on how she doesn’t like the way I’ve chosen to stack my bands with my engagement ring. And, as I tell her without polish, I don’t really care.

You will almost definitely experience some sort of struggle in the wedding planning process, and it may not even creep up until the big day. It’s important to remember that while you could certainly sit here and whittle away a list of hundreds of crappy things/opinions/people/all of the above that you encountered along the way, none of that negativity is going to help usher you down the aisle. Turn off the noise around you, and focus on the fact that at some point soon, you’ll be saying “I do.”

 

That Thing About Birthdays

As of last Friday, I’m another year older. In two days, I’ll be one year and a week older. I feel older, but I don’t know that I feel wiser. Birthdays are funny in that way. As a kid, I treated my birthday as a social event. Naturally, back then I couldn’t flex my type-A planning talent, and my parents took the reins on planning. When I hit high school, I placed equal – albeit more controlled – importance on my day. My grandparents also contributed to my annual one-day sense of entitlement. They treated us, each of their 10 grandchildren, to “special days” – daylong shopping trips with lunch. I remember one year (4th grade, if I remember correctly) I opted for a Barbie (the FAO Schwarz Barbie) instead of a more mature option: pearl earrings.

This year, I did the 26-year-old equivalent of a Barbie trade. Adam offered to throw me a happy hour. He lives to surprise me. He even made a Facebook event (in my world – a world that’s dictated by social media engagement and activity – that’s a big deal). And, in classic Kirsch form, I decided that because it was out of my control, I didn’t want it. Even with a wedding on the way, the idea of being the center of attention is far less appealing in my personal life versus my professional life. We’ve had so many milestones in the past year, that I’m kind of celebrated out. So, instead of a happy hour, we did something that removed us far from the center. We attended a Knicks game, along with hundreds (maybe thousands, I’m not good at guessing these sorts of things) of other New Yorkers and the like. Hank Azaria was there, too. So that was something.

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I spent my birthday exactly how I wanted. I feel like that’s how it should be. I should be able to control my day, after all. I took the day off of work (which is hard when you love your job as much as I love mine), ate a solo lunch at Il Bambino (their crostini are delectable – get the olive spread, and you’ll have no regrets), hopped over for a mani/pedi at Kiki’s (it turns out that a spa pedicure is totally worth the up-charge), and perused the newly opened Lockwood Style, sister shop to Lockwood on 33rd Street in Astoria.

Maybe I’ll feel different in 2015. I don’t know. Until then, I’m grateful for the well-wishes, the macarons from my colleagues, the perfume from a dear friend, the cards and all other tchotchkes. Would I be deemed ungrateful if I said I could have done without the cold?

The Hundred Foot Journey [A Review]

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie. I’ve been very much tempted by the small theater I pass each workday on my short walk to the train, but have resisted, mostly in an attempt to conserve my energy and attention for The Hundred Foot Journey’s opening weekend. 

When you work the hours that I do, you want to do right by the things you love. 

Food and film are my two loves, and if I’m going to indulge in either, it’s only going to be when I can give each my full attention.

Juliet Blake, one of the film’s producers, is a family friend. I met her four years ago through my cousin Esther when I moved to New York, and she was – and still is – incredibly real. I got a glimpse of the movie from photos she shared via Facebook while on location, which only built up my anticipation even more.

From start to finish, the film was filled with warmth, from family to food, inviting the audience in as part of the experience. 

While you can’t deny that Manish Dayal was the star of the film, so too was Om Puri – my favorite. His character reminded me of Omar Sharif from Monsieur Ibrahim. And for that reason, I was drawn in. His rugged charm made him so lovable; we’ve all had the type of relative – most likely a parent – who has been meddlesome and persistent, in only the most protective and loving way.

While the food itself wasn’t as much a star in this movie as it was in a picture like Julie & Julia, the passion for cooking actively propelled the movie and bridged two cultures.

If you do nothing else between now and Monday, go see this movie. Not only will you leave without regret, you’ll have a renewed sense of inspiration to get you through the coming week.

 

New Tastes

I don’t do much after work. On Tuesdays, I go to the gym for a session with my trainer. On Wednesdays, we’ve started playing trivia at The Sandwich Bar — and we won our first go at it last week! On all other days, you’ll probably find me at Whole Foods.

Since Whole Foods opened up by my office a couple years ago, I over-frequent it. I’ve started buying groceries once per week, but I still find myself stopping by Whole Foods to stock up on the things I plow through — tomatoes, spinach, and berries.

On my way home from work on Friday, I popped in to buy the essentials – my fridge was barren – and happened upon a find that I can’t seem to get enough of: valbreso feta.

This isn’t at all like greek feta – not even in its texture. Valbreso feta is french and is super tangy – almost lemony in its brine – and incredibly creamy versus crumbly. It’s more like a goat cheese in texture than anything else. I’m a big fan of using goat-like cheese with lentils, and so I decided to make just that. I think in the past three days I’ve had lentils for almost every meal.

I’ve had a pantry full of lentils for a while – I once bought a giant bag of black (or beluga) lentils at Whole Foods, and it’s been sitting there, unopened ever since.

These little guys seem to cook a bit faster than their brown and green counterparts (one quarter cup lentils to one cup of water for about 15-17 minutes over medium heat).

Once the lentils were cooked through (tender, but not mushy), I transferred them to a pan that was heating up with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and finely minced garlic. I added baby spinach, chopped heirloom tomatoes, and a little lemon juice to the pan. The lemon juice adds great flavor, but also deglazes the pan.

Once the lentils were combined with the vegetables and nicely sautéed, I transferred them to a bowl and sprinkled some valbreso feta over the top.

The creaminess of the feta added a really nice rich flavor and smooth texture to the earthiness and bite of the lentils and the acidity of the tomatoes.

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A Guide to Greek Eats in Astoria

I’ve lived in Astoria for 4 years now, and have grown to love the Greek fare that fills this not-so-little Queens neighborhood.

I’ve broken my favorites down by avenue, to show that you really can access good eats, no matter where you are in Astoria.

  • Zenon Taverna (31st Avenue): Zenon was the first Greek restaurant I ever dined at in Astoria, and it’s by far my absolute favorite. It’s hard not to love this family-owned and operated taverna. Their menu can be overwhelming – in a good way – with so many vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. My favorite? The chargrilled vegetables with skordalia, and their spanikopita. I also love, and have a hard time resisting, their trahana soup. Trahana is a cypriot soup that’s a bit like a porridge. It’s thick and tart from its yogurt base, and gets its texture from halloumi and bulgur. Make sure to treat yourself to dessert, too. The galatekboureko is delicious, but so are their homemade ice creams. If they have the rose-flavored one, try it. We had it for Valentine’s Day, and I’ve had dreams about it since. One note: Zenon is cash only, but I’d empty my savings to eat here if I had to.
  • Ovelia (30th Avenue): When I lived on 31st Avenue, and was in the mood for something a little hip, Ovelia was my go-to spot. It’s trendy without being pretentious, and serves up some of the best Greek-style brunch, lunch, and dinner fare on 30th Avenue. Not as old school as others nearby, Ovelia puts a modern spin on some of the Greek classics. My favorite dish on their menu is their eggs florentine. They serve two plump poached eggs over pita, sitting on top of spinach and feta. They also serve Lavazza coffee, which is a major plus.
  • Kopiaste (23rd Avenue): Kopiaste is a very warm, cozy taverna, located between Ditmars and 23rd Avenue on 31st street. It’s nestled to the side, but you don’t want to miss it. Their food is as lovely as their owner, George, who will make sure you’re happy with your food. He truly values quality and service, and it shows in every detail of the restaurant. This used to be our go-to place, but as we get busier, we haven’t been in a while. An added bonus here is that they offer complimentary dessert, and it’s always changing, and always delicious.
  • Taverna Kyclades (Ditmars Boulevard): Here’s the thing, I used to not be on the Kyclades bandwagon. The restaurant is teeny tiny, and unless you arrive promptly at noon, there’s always at least a 30 minute wait. That said, Kyclades has quickly grown to be one of my favorite Astoria spots (see, I’m capable of change!). If you’re a vegetarian like me, I suggest any of their salads, their beets, or their gigantes. The spinach pie is a bit too rich for my palate. Their dolma are also delectable. What really keeps me coming back though, are the dips. The skordalia and the tzatziki pack a fantastic garlicky punch that makes my mouth water just at the thought. Like many Astoria tavernas, Kyclades offers complimentary galaktoboureko or house wine if they’re out of the sweets. My one gripe? I wish they had the melitzanosalata that they serve at their East Village location. If you know me, you know I cannot get enough of eggplant.
  • MP Taverna (Ditmars Boulevard): It certainly took chutzpah for Michael Psilakis to open MP Taverna just a few storefronts away from Kyclades, the neighborhood favorite. MP Taverna has reached fame in its other locations, and it seems that Astoria is much the same. I find its fare to be slightly overpriced and lacking in properly portioned vegetarian fare. The meat dishes are huge, but most of the meat-free options are sides or smaller salads. That said, the one delicious vegetarian option that I love is their fusilli. It’s such a fun version of the corkscrew-shaped pasta, and it’s drenched in a super deep, rich, spicy tomato sauce. The texture is playful, with cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth, bread crumbs, and feta to boot. But with an appetizer, two drinks, and two main courses, your bill will easily tip over $100 before tax and gratuity. For Astoria, that’s kind of silly.

Pictured: Vegetarian Fare from Taverna Kyclades

  • Top, left to right: Spanikopita, Peasant Salad.
  • Middle, left to right: Skordalia, Gigantes
  • Bottom, left to right: Tzatziki, Pita Bread

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Engagement Gifts

When we announced our engagement, we received so many thoughtful gifts. Most were picture frames, a few were books. But today, I received my absolute favorite gift of all. I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but in this case, I’m ignoring the etiquette and naming names.

The other day, I asked my friend Janet to do a reading at my wedding. I love her, and our friendship really has grown stronger and stronger as the years have gone by. She suggested a Pablo Neruda poem, and I felt like she was reading my mind. I never bookmark things anymore; most of what I wish to revisit, I simply pin on Pinterest. That said, my Chrome bookmarks have been full of Neruda poems for years.

Some of his work is a bit too graphic, but I found a poem in the book she sent me this week called “Your Laughter” and it hit me instantly that this is what Janet must absolutely read at my wedding.

The thoughtfulness of this gift, which came with an adorable “I Love You to the Moon and Back” wooden chalkboard-style sign, really made my day.

Passover Perspective

Pesach is approaching, and in just a few weeks, I’ll begin rationalizing how long I anticipate that I’ll actually be able to keep kosher for Passover. We have seders to attend in the city, Westchester, and New Jersey, and yet I’m beginning to separate my connection with the holiday from the story and meaning from the Haggadah.

I don’t much like matzah, and the first seder always seems a big sluggish, but that said, I’ve always considered Passover a time for reflection — for walking a modernized day in the shoes of our ancient ancestors.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand where I fit in with my religion, and defining how I choose to connect to it.

As a kid, keeping kosher and being forced to attend Hebrew school were enough for me.

Now, though, I’m determined to derive greater meaning from the upcoming holiday. Each generation of Jews has known struggle and adversity — and instead of thinking of their struggle, and how they survived, I’d rather use their strength to overcome hard times to find a way to give back.

I’ve been toying with the idea of volunteering for B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), or some other such cause/organization. At this point, I’d like to use Passover as an opportunity to pay it forward.