Thursday, July 26, 2012

Denise & Zach's Jersey Fresh Wedding

All photos copywrite Lara Kimmerer 2009.
 Denise Chadwick and Zach Davis were married in October 2009 at Perona Farms in Sparta, located in the Skylands of New Jersey - not far from Drew University, where they first met. They chose the venue to showcase the gorgeous fall foliage - and instead got slapped with a freak snowstorm that morning. Luckily, Perona Farms had it all under control and moved their ceremony to the grand staircase. Arriving at the venue in a light snowfall made the day a little more magical - and it didn't slow down the party one bit.

Click here for Denise & Zach's tips for throwing a wedding that's personal, meaningful, and an incredible amount of fun. Click here for the details of their menu. Click here for an hour-long playlist of songs they loved dancing to at their reception. And finally, click here for a photo gallery - their wedding story in 20 pictures.

But first, let's get to know one of my all-time favorite couples and how they found each other.

Though they both went to Drew, they didn't really know each other in school. A few years out, Zach was living in Boston with Hugh and Kristen, two of his best friends from college. Kristen had recently gotten a job in the admissions department of a grad program in Social Work. One day she came home and said, "Hey, remember Densie Chadwick from Drew? She just applied to our program."

Zach didn't think much of it - until a few hours later he got his first text ever from Denise.

It was a moment of sheer coincidence. Omar, another mutual friend from Drew, was having a gallery opening in Philadelphia. Denise didn't know how she could get down there without a car, so Omar said, "Hey, why don't you ask Zach Davis for a ride? He lives in Boston now. I think he's going."

It turns out, Denise never even got around to asking him about Philadelphia. They started texting and soon realized that they had all the same friends, they had an awful lot to talk about, and before the text frenzy was through, Zach had asked her out. He says, "What are the odds that she would come up two times in six hours??" The universe was giving him a sign, and he took it.

They went out twice in two days, had some intense conversations, and just completely clicked. Denise had been casually dating another guy before she reconnected with Zach, and that weekend she hung out with her sister and tried to figure out what to do. While they were talking it dawned on her; the other guy was toast, and Zach was eggs benny. Zach laughs and says, "Yeah, I'm goopy on the inside." Denise broke things off with the other guy the next time she saw him.

Things were going great - until Denise got into Columbia grad school and had to break the news that she was moving to New York. But Zach said, "Oh! I'm looking to move. I'll move to New York." They got separate apartments down the street from each other in Astoria - but they were together every single day. Denise thought, "This makes sense! I could do this . . . forever!"

I ask Zach when he knew he wanted to marry Denise. He tells me that his father was a divorce attorney, so growing up he had plenty of examples of failed marriages. Before he met Denise he "saw no reason to ruin a perfectly good relationship with a big transaction like that." But, he says, Denise is great about laying it all out there - and she said she wouldn't agree to move in together unless there was a possibility that they'd get married. Zach said he came to realize he was skeptical of marriage in the abstract - but marrying Denise? Not skeptical at all.

I ask where Zach proposed. "In our living room!" he says. Zach had some romantic ideas about how to pop the question, but his attempts were foiled a couple of times. He wanted to propose the night Obama got elected - but Denise fell asleep at 10:30. So much for that.

The next night he planned to make her a romantic dinner - her favorite meal is duck. They went to the store and there was no duck to be had. Foiled again! Indignant at the lack of duck, Zach decided they'd make a pizza together, "since pizza is pretty much my favorite thing in the entire world." It may not be fancy, he thought, but it would require her to take her rings off. Then he planned to sneak the engagement ring into the pile with her other rings and take her by surprise.

The trouble was, he was so nervous that he started asking, and then creepily insisting, that she take her rings off, until Denise blew up and essentially said, "No! I'm not taking my rings off! Weirdo."

Zach gave up trying to orchestrate some grand, romantic gesture. A few nights later, while they were relaxing on the couch, he proposed. Denise was floored that this moment had finally come - and she was in her pajamas. Zach told her, "This is the you I'm proposing to - no makeup, comfy clothes, just you." And he told her, " I never thought that I would be doing something like this, but I am so glad that it's happening - this could only be happening with you."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Smokey Couscous with Herbed Cucumber Yogurt

By Cara Valla

image via

It's been beastly hot lately, so here is a quick and easy meal that's delicious and - more importantly - will not turn your kitchen into a sauna!

Smokey Couscous with Herbed Cucumber Yogurt
4 cups couscous (small-grained, not Israeli-style)
2 cups orange juice
2 cups water
2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup of your favorite olives
1 sprig mint
1 sprig basil
1 1/2 cup yogurt (preferably Greek style)
black pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Olive Oil

1. Place couscous in a large bowl.
2. Heat orange juice and water to boiling and lightly salt.
3. Pour over couscous and cover tightly with plastic wrap, letting it sit for 5 minutes.
4. While couscous is cooking, slice cucumbers, chop olives and chiffonade herbs.
5. Mix cukes, olives and herbs in with yogurt, and season with salt and pepper.
6. After 5 minutes, taste couscous. If it seems underdone and if there is a lot of liquid left in the bowl, allow it to sit for a few more minutes.
7. When couscous is cooked and has absorbed the liquid, add in smoked paprika and olive oil and season to taste.
8. Grab bowls, dish out the couscous and top with yogurt mixture. For maximum refreshment, slice up a lemon and throw it in your water glass with some more fresh mint and head to the porch or stoop to relax and enjoy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vanilla Marshmallows

I adore homemade marshmallows.  They're bouncy and fluffy and all-around charming, but HOLY PROFANITY when the things get toasted... more profanity.  

Set to roast over a flame, a homemade marshmallow does things that a rotund little Jiffy-Puff, while perfectly delicious and, yes, definitely nostalgic, just cannot do.  A homemade marshmallow caramelizes.  It brulĂ©es, even.  It browns and toasts and caramelizes, forming a thin and crispy shell of caramel around an otherwise warm and gooey marshmallow.  PROFANITY.  
Though a bit involved, fresh marshmallows are definitely do-able, in the home kitchen department.  Whip up a quick batch, let them sit overnight to harden, and then gather a bunch of friends and some firewood and make the best damn s'mores you've had, probably ever.  What good would summer be without them?

Vanilla Marshmallows
Lightly adapted from Joy of Baking
Please note: homemade marshmallows need to sit in their pan for 12 (count them, 12) hours before they're nice and firm and ready to cut/eat.  Please plan accordingly.
Full disclosure: you’ll definitely need a stand mixer to make these, so if you don’t have one, I’m afraid you’re pretty much out of luck, in the homemade marshmallow department.  Bummer city.  You’ll also need a candy thermometer.  If you don’t own one, no worries – you can get one for about six bucks at your local kitchen supply store.  Happy mallow making!
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 12 sheet gelatin (or 3 1/4-ounce packets unflavored powdered gelatin)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • a drop or two of food coloring (optional - I made mine orange)
  • powdered sugar, for dusting and rolling
Spray an 8×8 inch brownie pan with cooking spray, and then gently sift powdered sugar atop the cooking spray to evenly coat the bottom and sides of the pan.  Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup water and salt.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Do not stir.
While the sugar mixture is heating, place gelatin sheets into a bowl or glass and cover with cold water, to bloom.  Let gelatin sheets sit in the water for about 10 minutes, until no longer hard and brittle, but soft and squishy.  Squeeze the gelatin to release extra water, and set aside. (If using powdered gelatin, pour the gelatin packet into the bowl of your standing mixer and then pour 1/2 cup cold water on top – allow to sit for 10 minutes.)
Once the sugar mixture is boiling, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Boil the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees F (115 degrees C).  Once at 240, remove the pan from the heat and turn your mixer on low speed.  Slowly pour the hot syrup, in a thin stream, into the bowl of your standing mixture.  Once all of the syrup has been added, carefully throw in your bloomed gelatin (if using powdered gelatin you can skip this step – your gelatin should already be in the bowl of the mixer).  Gradually increase the speed of the mixer to high, and beat mixture until it has turned glossy white, tripled in volume and is thick and stiff, about 10 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and food coloring, if using, and beat well to combine.
Using a rubber spatula coated in cooking spray, pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar, and allow to sit, uncovered at room temperature, for 12 hours, until set.
To remove marshmallows from the pan, run a paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the mallows before inverting onto a cutting board dusted with confectioner’s sugar.  You may need to pry the mallow out a bit with your hands.  Use a sharp knife or clean kitchen shears to cut the marshmallows into squares, and roll each one in additional confectioner’s sugar, to coat.  Shake off excess sugar and store the marshmallows in an airtight container until ready to eat.  Mallows will keep, well wrapped, up to two weeks.
Makes 16-20 marshmallows.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

'90s Prom Photo Gallery

This is my actual senior prom dress, y'all! And my
amazing friend Bridget Stoyko couldn't make it,
so she had that corsage delivered to me day of.
 Here are some of my favorite costumes from my '90s Prom Birthday Party. We've got ladies looking gorgeous in evening gowns, guys looking sharp in tuxes, and then plenty of people who decked themselves out characters and cariacatures of the '90s. Here are some costume ideas for you to steal:

First, the ladies in their finery:


Now, the dapper gents:

Rob bought this tux for my party!! And two years later,
he got married in it.

Prom king, meet grunge queen.

Of course, you don't have to buy an actual tux.
Check out these cute couples:

No one danced more than Luna in her little
flamenco prom dress!
Grunge was well represented:

I swear, this is exactly how Linda Lea looked when I met her in 1997:

Noah decided to come dressed as if it was prom night 1994 . . . he was 8 years old at the time. Here he is in pajamas and bedroom slippers:

Liz Zdunich came as Tracy Flick from Election. Brilliant!

Larry and Sheryl came as Tonya Harding and the thug who beat up Nancy Kerrigan!

And one of my hands down favorites is this picture of Kristen, who looks like she just stepped out of My So-Called Life.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Party Invitations for a Post-Modern World

Dear Bashionista,

photo via
I swear, I'm not on Evite's payroll.

In your opinion, what's the best way to invite people to your party? Is Facebook the way to go? Is it better to just use personal emails? Are paper invitations completely outdated? Help!

John E.

Dear John,

I actually get asked this question quite often. And now I'm about to get all late-'90s on you - I still swear by Evite. Here's why:

1) Personal invitations are great but . . .

One of the best things about Evite is that you can see who's coming. This means 1) you can easily avoid your evil exes and 2) you are less likely to mention the party to people who aren't invited. Because that can get really awkward for the host.

Also, personal emails tend to get lost in the shuffle. Even if you're psyched to go to an event, once it gets buried under other emails, you're likely to forget. Or, if you remember, you're going to have to dig through your inbox to find all the details about when/where/what to bring. That can get annoying.

What about emailing the group, you say? So that everyone can see who's invited? That brings the annoyance of "reply-all." Then even if you can't go, you're stuck hearing about logistical issues that don't affect you.

For a small, informal get-together? Sure, a personal email will do. Following up with people who didn't reply to the Evite? Yes, definitely, a personalized email is just the thing.

2) Facebook Is a Disaster

Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook for a lot of reasons. And Facebook invitations are useful for events - like band gigs, theatrical productions, gallery openings, etc. - where you're able to invite all 545 of your friends.

However, Facebook is problematic for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it feels like junk mail. When everyone is constantly inviting all 545 of their friends to every event, people have trouble paying attention. Even when there's an event you've agreed to go to, it gets buried under loads of other invites - so again, you're combing through your event inbox. On the other hand, the best thing about Evite is that all your events are right there, easily organized, with no clutter. It takes you two seconds to see what you've committed to.

Secondly, thanks to a new Facebook feature, as soon as you agree to go to an event, you are automatically a member of the "conversation" - meaning that you are potentially listening to 1,000 theater-goers discussing how they're going to get to the show, how sorry they are they can't make it, etc. Facebook basically provides disinsentives for ever saying yes to any event.

3) Paper Invitations Are Above and Beyond

If you are planning on using paper invitations, I salute you! They're fun to receive, and fun to stick on your fridge. And for a significant event - Bar Mitzvah, Bridal Shower, Wedding - they make a great keepsake, and are completely worth the effort.

However, paper invitations for an ordinary party are pretty daunting. For one thing, you'll have to track down everyone's physical addresses. You'll need to design your invitation and have it printed, or you'll need to buy blank invitations (Paper Source has some great ones) and figure out how to print them at home. Then you'll have to address envelopes, pay for postage, and mail them far enough in advance for people to get them in time. If you are the sort of person who is organized enough to get this process started six weeks in advance AND you happen to have mailing addresses for all your close friends, then don't let me stand in your way! But if you're like the majority of us disorganized and frantic people living in the digital age, spend 15 minutes putting together a nice Evite, and you will be just fine.

Having trouble figuring out how many of your guests will actually show up? Check out our article here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

'90s Prom Playlist

Planning a '90s prom? Here's a mix of music that will bring you back. Whether you're french twisting your hair and zipping up your formal wear, or bike riding to your best friend's pool party, the '90s are with you. Here's the link to download the playlist on iTunes.

There are songs for resting your head on a tuxedoed shoulder, songs bursting with teenage angst, songs for getting your feet moving and your head banging. Enjoy!

Here's the track list:

1. Crash into Me/Dave Matthews Band
2. Losing My Religion/REM
3. Sex and Candy/Marcy Playground
4. There She Goes/The Las
5. How Bizarre/OMC
6. I'm Too Sexy/Right Said Fred
7. Undone - The Sweater Song/Weezer
8. Creep/Radiohead
9. American Music/Violent Femmes
10. My Car/Gin Blossoms
11. Even Better than the Real Thing/U2
12. Drum Trip/Rusted Root
13. Just a Girl/No Doubt
14. Seether/Veruca Salt
15. Debaser/The Pixies
16. Smells Like Teen Spirit/Nirvana