Sunday, March 29, 2009

wedding flowers

Well, I know where I'm not getting flowers for the wedding. Today I hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law, and I went to Whole Foods to get her a nice big bouquet. I ended up getting white daisies and hot pink gerbera daisies and myrtle leaves, which did make a gorgeous centerpiece. At least some of them were "whole trade" but I was seriously shocked at the amount of plastic that came with those flowers. Also, the whole trade designation does include an element of environmental sustainability, but does not mean that the flowers are organic.

I still feel better about getting the flowers at Whole Foods than at the regular grocery store, but there certainly wasn't less plastic on them than there would have been if I got them somewhere else. Each bunch was wrapped in one of those cellophane floral bags, so three of those (plus the girl at the checkout offered me a floral bag to hold all three bunches together -- I said no, of course!) plus the gerberas had plastic tubes over the stems to keep them standing upright, plus each bunch was held together with a rubber band, plus each bunch had one of those little floral preservative packets. Now I'm wishing that I took pictures of all of the plastic before I threw it away AND the flowers before I gave them away. Oops!

I have a friend who wants to talk to me about wholesale flowers for the wedding, and I'll start checking farmer's markets as soon as they open in mid/late May (but I have a feeling that early June here is too early for great local flowers), and I'm going to look into the option of borrowing flowers, but in the back of my mind I had thought that I could always just get them at Whole Foods. Guess not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I have a feeling that pretty soon I'm gonna run out of answers.

A couple of days ago, Sebastian and I were reading a book about Mars. He kept stopping me to ask questions like, "How did they originally figure out that the earth was rotating around the sun?" In the course of that conversation, he also made his own mental leap to figure out that we have time zones because the earth spins on its axis.

Just now, Dante called me up to his bedroom so he could ask me this one: "You know how people are always talking about time as the fourth dimension? Does that mean fourth dimension in relation to the three dimensions of height, width and depth?" This was after a dinner conversation in which he pondered how gravity affects time, and tried to figure out if time is different on Jupiter, and if so, if it's enough of a difference to be perceptible.

I know that everyone thinks their kids are amazing, but my kids really are amazing!

Monday, March 23, 2009

when i was little...

...there was no pay-at-the-pump gasoline! We had to walk into the gas station to pay. And it was uphill both ways! And we liked it! My kids see this as proof of how old I am.

It's true that I am pretty old, and I know for sure that there was no internet when I was little, but I am having a hard time remembering what life was like before it existed. I mean, yeah, I remember playing Oregon Trail on the fuzzy, black and white, top-of-the line Macintosh IIE or whatever it was that my 5th grade teacher had installed in the back of our classroom because he was so with-it and tech-savvy. And learning how to make a little turtle move across the screen by writing a program in BASIC. But, really, how did we function back then? {Shudders at the thought of science fair project research in the pre-google era...}

The really, really amazing thing about the internet is that there are huge parts of it devoted to just about everything. Like those scary doll ladies (was gonna link, but I just can't, sorry). You don't even realize what's out there until you go looking...I've just discovered that there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of blogs about weddings and wedding planning. This is even more of a time suck than environmental blogs and parenting blogs. Trying to get me off the computer last night, Will said, "Baby, you need a hobby." I glanced at him, then looked pointedly at the screen and said, "I have a hobby!"

Maybe he's right, though. This crack pipe internet thing is really addictive. I vow that tomorrow I will use the computer only to:
a) add a wedding site blogroll to my blog (you knew it was coming, didn't you?)
b) check email

I'm itching to add a c) and d), but I really should be finishing report cards and training for the 10K I'm going to run on Memorial Day, and doing some yoga and laundry and hanging out with my kids and sweetie. So that's it! Just a) and b). Plus, if I actually do some stuff to get ready for the wedding, instead of just reading about what other people have done and drooling over their pictures, I'll have another strategy update later in the week...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Green budget wedding strategy #1

My first strategy involves the lack of paper invitations. We created a gorgeous wedding website with all of the information, as well as some interactive elements (a cheesy vow contest and a place for people to suggest music for the reception.)

This is not traditionally acceptable. Oh, well. All of our friends and most of our family are very comfortable online. I don't even know anyone's real address, let alone have time to address invitations. Since it's free and doesn't use unnecessary resources, I've got no regrets. I did phone both sets of grandparents to tell them we're engaged and to personally give them the wedding invite link. Other than that, we've sent the link via text, email, and Facebook.

According to stats I've seen, the average cost for 100 invitations is between $225 and $450, but some people spend as much as $2000! On invitations! People, do you realize how much good you could do in the world with $2000? I also read somewhere that invitations should be about 3% of the total budget, so for our budget, we should be spending $54-60 on them.

I'll take zero dollars instead, thank you. Web-based invitations also mean zero trees wasted, zero pieces of plastic stamp backing to throw away, and zero carbon emissions to deliver.

Lots of wedding sites offer free websites for couples -- if you are interested, take a look at,, or If you are goth or want something not quite, check out -- but that one is $49, not free. Might be worth it, though, if the templates are your style.

planning a budget green wedding

I've given up on reading wedding books, because mostly they don't seem relevant. They have advice about duties of the bridesmaids and groomsmen, proper etiquette for seating people, how to address the invitations, and how to have a budget wedding for $5000-$10,000. We're not having bridesmaids or groomsmen, or a "bride's side" and "groom's side," or paper invitations, and we definitely don't have $5000. Oh, yeah, and we're not 20 years old, and we've got four kids. So I took all the books back to the library.

That said, I'm also not taking the advice of people who have told us we should just have a potluck wedding. What we're trying to pull off is something in between the traditional formal church wedding and the casual backyard hippie wedding. I guess we'll find out in a couple of months if it's possible. So far, my best resource has been the offbeat bride tribe, even though I'm not wearing a red dress (sorry, Dante) and don't have any tatoos.

I initially wanted to do our wedding for under $1000. Will told me that was impossible. I still maintain that we could do it, except we're not. I got the brilliant idea to have a scavenger hunt the morning of the wedding, and that plus photographs already put us over $1000. If I had more than 2 1/2 months, I could put together the hunt myself, but we decided that in this case it is worth outsourcing. So our revised budget is somewhere in the $1800-$2000 range, which will allow us to rent space, pay for the officiant, have beautiful photographs and the scavenger hunt, plus all the incidentals and food for the reception. I think that's still pretty good, considering that we're figuring on around 100 people for the ceremony, and that the festivities will start on Friday evening and end on Sunday afternoon.

Obviously, our other big concern is environmental. We're going to attempt to have a waste-free, no-new-plastic wedding. I'm not entirely sure this is possible, but we're going to try. As we go, I'll post a series of strategies and updates to dazzle and inspire you all! Or, um, something like that...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

plastic-free kids?

I've written before about how much I struggle to balance my values with raising kids who fit in with their peers enough that I'm not scarring them for life. Sometimes the values win out, and sometimes the cultural pressure does, and sometimes, just sometimes, I manage to pull off a win-win.

Dante hangs out with a bunch of boys who love, love, love nerf gun fights. He hasn't been to a single birthday party this year that hasn't involved all of the kids bringing their nerf guns for a huge battle. Weirdly enough, it's not the battling that bothers me as much as the plastic and the fact that the guns and bullets are made in China. I'm sure that some people would disagree, but nerf gun fights don't seem any more violent or disturbing to me than an old-fashioned snowball fight. However, there is an unbelievable amount of plastic involved, and I don't even want to think about the factory conditions in which they are made. Despite my discomfort, we've got a veritable arsenal of nerf guns upstairs, and they get hours and hours of use.

When I was a kid, I was the freaky hippie girl who brought nori in her lunchbox and hid her whole wheat-natural peanut butter-homemade jam sandwich under the table because all the other kids had white bread with bologna and american cheese. See what I mean about that whole scarred for life thing? Fast forward 25 years and my kids are the freaky hippie boys who bring hummus and tabouleh and broccoli and kale in their laptop lunchboxes. (Yes, I know they're plastic, but I have searched high and low and haven't found a good stainless steel alternative. Wah.)

Side note: I always hated that natural peanut butter when I was a kid, because the oil would rise to the top and then I would try to stir it in with a knife and it would slop all over the side of the jar and still wouldn't be mixed in right, so the peanut butter was either really dry or really oily. As soon as I grew up, I switched to Jif, and loooooooved it. But Jif only comes in plastic, and it's full of sugar, and guess what? Now I make my kids eat the natural stuff. I solve the whole oil mixing problem by grinding my own (in the bulk section at Whole Foods) into an old glass pickle jar, leaving half the jar empty so that I have plenty of room to mix it up every single time I use it. Works great!

As for the boyz are involved in way too many after-school activities. Those of you who don't have kids may not realize that virtually every after school activity involves some kind of snack commitment on the part of the parents. And virtually every snack involves tons of packaging and trash. However, I have solved the problem without turning my boys into outcasts. On our snack day, I send a big tub of buttered, air-popped popcorn, a stack of reusable plates, and a stack of reusable cups for water. The plates and cups are plastic, but I got them years ago at the dollar store for parties, and over that time they have replaced many, many disposables so I don't feel bad. They are unbreakable, and I don't care if a couple get lost along the way, so it's no big deal to send them to school. It doesn't hurt that this is also way cheaper than buying a big package of goldfish crackers wrapped in individual serving portions and a 12-pack of gatorade...

But speaking of gatorade, here's one that has me stumped: what can I send on game days when I am the "drink" parent? If it's soccer, I could bring a cooler with lemonade and those same reusable plastic cups, but that doesn't work for basketball. Drinks for basketball need to have lids and the kids always take them home after the game. I've thought about making up reusable water bottles (ideally stainless steel) with lemonade or something, but I can't afford to give those away. Any ideas?

buzzing lash? not sure I like the name, but

my superhero alter-ego is pretty groovy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

gotta love this kid

Tonight was the first night I had a chance for a quiet minute with Dante (age 11, the oldest of the four kids) since the engagement was official. Sebastian is still (!) sick and Will was upstairs taking a shower. Here is a transcript of the conversation Dante and I had while loading the dishwasher:

Me: So, how are you feeling about this whole wedding thing?
D: A little weird.
Me: Why?
D: You. In a white dress. Doesn't compute. Why don't you wear red velvet or something? I think you will look cuckoo in a white dress!
Me: So it's the wedding that weirds you out, not the idea of me and Will getting married?
D: Yeah. I always knew you guys would get married eventually.
Me: And really, your life isn't going to change once we're married. For you, nothing will really be different than it is now.
D: Yeah, except I'll have healthcare.

OMG, I love him so much! I didn't know whether to laugh because he was so matter of fact and grown-up about it, or cry, because he's obviously been listening to way too many adult conversations!

Monday, March 9, 2009

nice day for a green diamond

I've had "White Wedding" by Billy Idol running through my head for a couple of days -- maybe 'cuz I'm officially engaged as of Saturday night?!

But as my dad reminded me last week, I'm used goods. Mostly he was trying to talk my dowry down to two goats instead of a camel. The fact that he doesn't have either goats or a camel to give, and the fact that Will isn't really expecting a dowry didn't figure into this conversation at any point, but the fact that I've been around the block was apparently relevant.

At any rate, "white wedding" didn't seem like an appropriate title for this blog entry, especially since our plan is to have a green wedding. We're still figuring out exactly what that entails, but it all started last fall when we first talked about getting married...

We went to the jewelry store to look at rings and it was soooo fun and they were soooo pretty. Then I did some research, and realized that those beautiful, sparkly stones hide a really brutal reality. Apparently, things have gotten better in the diamond industry than they used to be, but there still isn't any guarantee that a diamond that is purported to be conflict-free really is. So I decided that maybe the best idea was to get a Canadian diamond. No blood involved, right? Well, sort of. Plus, even Canadian diamonds have to be mined.

I can tell you from experience that it's a bummer to get excited about celebrating your love for someone only to find out that you'll be leaving a trail of blood and tears and ravaged earth behind. But I wasn't willing to give up on the whole diamond thing. Maybe this is one of the few ways that I'm a typical "I've dreamed of this since I was a little girl" shallow, materialistic traditionalist. I know that there are other gems, and that deBeers is like the mafia, and that synthetic diamonds are pretty good these days. But {insert whiny voice here} I didn't WAAAANT another gem, and I didn't WAAAAANT a synthetic diamond.

Then we moved into our new house and life got so hectic that we didn't even have time to think about rings, let alone figure out a solution to the dilemma. In the last month or so, things calmed down a bit, and we started talking about getting engaged again. I decided that the only way I could have the diamond ring I wanted was to get a used diamond (just like the only way I can buy sweatshop clothes is from the ARC).

On a whim, I checked the jewelry section of craigslist, and found what turned out to be the perfect diamond for us. The lady wanted much much more than we had planned to spend, and it had appraised even higher than that, but she liked us and our story and accepted our offer. Because we don't know enough about diamonds to take her word for anything, we shopped around a bit and found a custom jeweler who was willing to meet with us and check out the diamond. He confirmed that everything was on the up-and-up, facilitated the transaction, and set the stone in the ring I wanted (he's also designing my wedding band, using estate diamonds and recycled gold).

Oh, and in case you were worried, it's not a bad karma diamond either -- no acrimonious divorce or dead husband or someone selling her jewels to avoid the poorhouse -- just a simple story of an engagement that didn't work out. He's happily married now, and she's happily single. They are still friends, but she decided it was time to let go of the jewelry from that relationship.

Will was worried that getting engaged would be anti-climactic, since we've talked so much about it and it wasn't a surprise. He's been married before, but I never have, and he wanted to make the proposal special for me. He also knew that I really wanted to be wearing the ring for our housewarming party last weekend.

Far from being anti-climactic, the proposal turned out to be like our lives -- hectic and thrown in with everything else we had to do, but totally perfect and full of love. He did get down on his knees, and we both got tears in our eyes while he talked about how he feels about me, and then he asked me and I said yes and we kissed and hugged, and then we rushed off to separate rooms to finish getting ready for our party (this was at 6:40, the party started at 7:00, we were still not done cleaning the house, and neither one of us had showered yet!)

For more info (probably the most unbiased summary I found) on diamonds and alternatives, click here.