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June 30, 2011

Memories from a perfect French afternoon

I've been thinking a lot about my favorite memories of France. One afternoon that stands out is a Wednesday when the Dude and I accompanied our main meuf and mec Missy and Thomas to Cluny. We meandered along the streets in search of a good place for a nibble, but in true French fashion almost every place we tried was closed during that ambiguous time betwixt lunch and dinner.

Finally we found a charming hotel/restaurant that deigned to have us dine with them. Because it was between meal times we couldn't order from the menu, but the proprietor offered to whip up an hors d'oeuvres platter for us of charcuterie, cheese, and a puréed nomnom with some potato chips with which to scoop it up.  We sat in the courtyard, enjoying one of the first warm days we'd had that spring. Our departure from the little world we'd built for ourselves in the preceding months was inching close enough to make us appreciate our time together, but not so close as to make us too sad to enjoy each others' company.

This is what we drank:

This is what we ate:


And this is the Monsieur Fatty Fat Cat who was there:

 And this is what Monsieur Fatty Fat Cat ate:

Photos courtesy of Missy Rococo.

June 29, 2011

In defense of les bises

One of the things I was most nervous about before going to France was les bises, the custom of kissing a person on both cheeks by way of greeting. It seemed way too intimate for moi, someone who doesn't enjoy being hugged by anyone but sig oths and family members. Getting up in someone's grill and nuzzling their cheek, becoming intimate with whatever scent they'd dabbed behind their ears? Non merci; I'll take a handshake.

Everything I'd read before going over led me to believe I wouldn't really have to worry about les bises; they were reserved for close acquaintances-- not awkward American visitors such as myself. But I was soon proved wrong. Within my first week a new friend picking me up for a dinner date leaned over in the car to get up close and personal. Oh hey there.

I was never quite sure who was bises-appropriate, so I always let the Frenchies lead. My fellow teachers never went there, except if we were leaving or coming back from a vacation or if we were together outside of school. My students might bise me, but never in class (except for right before I left). When my adopted family took me to clan gatherings we would engage in what I called the bises parade--upon entering, you had to bise everyone else before sitting down. The process repeated upon leaving. I kind of liked it. It was a protocol that dictated you HAD to acknowledge everyone in the room.

Women would always kiss other women and men would kiss women, but men would only kiss other men if they were family or particularly close friends. One would never kiss a stranger, unless that stranger was a close friend of one of your close friends, and then it was OK. You got that?

There was apparently no wrong time to bise, as witnessed in the Digoin gym when a sweaty women paused her trek on the elliptical to bend down and give a friend some moist cheek love.

After awhile I grew accustomed to les bises, and began to prefer it to other forms of greeting. It's actually far less intimate than a hug, during which one must press one's body against another's, or, barring that, opt for the awkward Seventh Grade Slow Dance tent hug. There's way more going on-- you have to gauge body proximity and grip strength, make sure you aren't going to knock heads, and figure out how soon you can safely pull away.

None of that comes into play with les bises. You just grasp the person's right shoulder for balance, touch your left cheeks, touch the right cheeks, wham bam merci madame.

Small note: les bises always means kisses, but when you use bise as a verb it can also mean, "to have carnal relations." So if you want to use a verb that you're sure won't get misinterpreted, go for transitive s'embrasser.

June 27, 2011

The REAL reason to travel

Yesterday was my birthday. Not just any birthday-- my GOLDEN birthday, which I've been anticipating since I was present for a childhood friend's 9th birf on July 9 and she received a golden plastic 9, a golden dress, and cupcakes sprinkled with gold flakes.

I didn't end up doing any of the golden goose-eating, goldschlag-ing, golden body paint-ing things I had originally envisioned for this verra special day; I've got a rather large party coming up in a month, so I was quite content to spend a quiet day with the fam.

One thing that did elevate this birthday from all others, though, was watching my Facebook wall fill with birthday greetings that poured in from all over the world. Friends I met in Morocco, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Germany all sent well wishes, and I received a deluge of greetings from my beloved former students in France ("I hope you are very fine," "Hope you'll pass a nice day," "Happy birthday and good wedding miss," "You become old LOL,"). Ils me manquent trop!

The sights were breathtaking and the food delish, but my very favorite part of all my travels this past year was meeting so many wonderfully unique and generous people. I made literally hundreds of friends with folks who I know would share a meal with me, house me, and help me out of a jam if I ever ended up in their vicinity again. And hopefully they know I'd do the same for them.

June 26, 2011

In which I invite people to hurl projectiles at my face

Yesterday was my aufruf (pronounced OOF-roof), a Jewish celebration of the bride and groom. It mostly involves the couple getting called to the Torah for a blessing, after which everyone sings a song of well wishes called Siman Tov u'Mazel Tov (or as my dad prefers, "Cinnamon toast and matzah balls").

And then people rise from their seats and whip pieces of candy at you with all their might. It's supposed to symbolically wish the couple a sweet beginning, but I think the real purpose is to disfigure the bride to make sure the groom will still love her. I got a piece of taffy in the nose, and a well-aimed peppermint patty hit me square in the boob. The Dude went all chivalrous and shielded me from the rest of the flying bonbons. Thanks Dude!

After the service we had a celebratory luncheon at Temple where we served all the delicious eats my ma, seest0r and I had been slaving over the day before: orzo with roasted vegetables, panzanella, chickpea couscous, tuna salad, meringues with lemon curd, thumbprint cookies and devil pretzels. My pops contributed a smoked salmon platter and deviled eggs. Deeee-lish!

In other Jew news, last weekend my mom and I chose the matting and frame for my ketubah. Here's a sneak peek of how it will look:


June 21, 2011


The other day I was at a gathering of old college buddies, some of whom I hadn't seen in four years. As each new person arrived, we went around the table and did the requisite, "My Current Life In Two Sentences or Less" speech. After a couple brewskis and some very potent communal drinks, I summed my life up thusly:

I glue paper to other pieces of paper and cut them into circles.

Man, my life is cool.

Let's review my goals for last week and see where I ended up:

  • Getting our marriage license: Check! We went to Scott County last week and signed our lives away. We'll be able to pick up the license tomorrow after the mandatory five-day waiting period.
  • Figuring out if a state shutdown would mean we couldn't do a courthouse marriage to make it legit: Oh boy, was this ever a doozy. Long story short, I never did get a straight answer, but that's OK because my Truth Pirate Anna called me up after reading that post and was all, "Dude. My beef can do it." Tom, holy of holies from the Internet-certified Church of Tom, has already nupped some of his friends and could slap his signature on our marriage certificate immediately following the ceremony. Now we don't have to have two anniversaries! Everybody dance! Check! (PS: find the hilarry musings of both Anna and Tom at
  • Forcing the Dude to get measured for his tux: Check! Only one groomsman and his fazhah and my P'pa left to get measured (hint, hint, Daddy dear).
  • Meet with the photographer: Check! I have her on the hunt for a castle in the south metro where we can take the bridal party shots. I need it to have a moat, seven butlers and tapestries depicting handsome chevaliers. I WILL ACCEPT NOTHING LESS.
  • Make a unity candle: Well, I didn't end up making one, but FMIL gifted us with a beautiful engraved number. Check!
  • Find a glass for us to break: Fail. Does anyone have a chipped wine glass they want to donate to the cause?
  • Make a hairpiece: Fail. I went to a yarn store and got some lovely fuchsia fiber I was going to attempt to knit into a flower. Then Ma got some crafty rosettes, pearls and a feather. We'll see if they turn into anything, but I'm still waiting for inspiration to strike. 
  • Figure out our guestbook situation: Check! I ordered a delightfully cheesy visual history of our relationship via Snapfish.
Not on the checklist but of note: I had some lovely brideslaves (or "wedding fairies" as they preferred to be called) over last Wednesday for a Favor Box Assembly Line. I did the box assembly, Manders did the tag punching, Anna did the ribbon cutting, Lo did the tag ribboning, and then we all pitched in on the godforsaken ribbon bow tying. We knocked out 123 of those suckers in one single night. Industriousness brought to you by wine, grilled cheese, and delicious ice cream treats.

My ma and I also visited our friends at Security Jewelers in Duluth to peruse wedding bands and we chose matting for our super-hot ketubah. 

This week's plans include, er, gluing paper to other paper and then cutting it into circles for escort cards, wrangling our last RSVPs (don't even get me started... a topic for another post), having a dress fitting, preparing for my aufruf this Saturday in Duluth (you should come!) and finishing the last of those rapscallion favor boxes.

It shall be done. Mark my words... it shall be done.

June 19, 2011

Stories about my dad

My daddy is very silly and funny and cool. He started off my life by teaching me the wrong names for things.

"Whaddat, Dada?" I would ask, pointing to a couch.
"Elbow, sweetie," he would respond. "That's what we call an elbow."

"Whaddat, Dada? Whaddat?" I would ask, pointing to his nose.
"That's an alligator," he would respond.
"Yes, honey."


My dad's favorite game is called "Weird Way." It's when you're going home from a frequent destination, like the synagogue, and instead of taking the direct route that would get you there in five minutes, he weaves along the city streets for an extra 20 minutes or so. All the while he sings, "Weird way! Weird way!" in an eerie, high-pitched voice. 


Here are some of my dad's favorite jokes:
Whenever we leave Tobie's Bakery in Hinckley on the way to or from Duluth and Minneapolis, he'll ask if we know why there are fences around cemeteries. "Because people are DYING to get in!"

Whenever we pass a gymnasium, he'll say, "Gym (Jim)? That's my name!"

If you say, "I'm tired," or "I'm hungry," or  "I'm thirsty," he'll say, "Nice to meet you, Thirsty, my name's Jim!"

Every time a Victoria's Secret commercial comes on he shouts, "Bras! Half-off!"


When we were little, all four of us would crowd into my parents' bed on weekend mornings to hear the latest installation of the Big Butt Family Saga. The Big Butts were my dad's other family that lived across the bay in Superior, WI. His second wife was Deborah Uranus Big Butt and his other kids were named Fartus and Bobo. They got into a LOT of hijinks.


He started a tradition of writing a poem at each of our bar and bat mitzvahs. My dad is a HUGE softie and will weep through the life cycle ceremonies of kids he doesn't even like. When it's his own kids up there he can barely keep it together. So there I was, 12 years old, a bunch of my seventh-grade friends sitting in the audience. My dad climbs up to the bima and blubbers through his poem to me. 
"When y-y-your mother and I/ M-m-melted into each other/ Like water-c-c-colors," is all I hear.


I distinctly remember going with my dad to see Father of the Bride in the theaters when I was 6 years old. He, of course, wept like a little child, and wondered how he was possibly going to be able to walk me down the aisle when he was the father of the bride himself.

You'll be fine, Daddy. Just skip the vaguely sexual poetry at this one and you'll be juuuuuuuuust fine.

I love you. Happy Father's Day.

June 16, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

Unfortunately, none of the Dude's or my grandparents are going to be able to make it to the wedding. Three sets have passed away, and one isn't going to be able to make the trip from Iowa. In order to honor them in their absence, I decided I wanted wedding day photos from all four sets on display at the reception.

One of my favorite aunts had me over for breakfast this morning to look at pictures of my beloved Grandpa Everett and Grandma Grace, both of whom I miss terribly. They had a lavish wedding in Minneapolis on February 14, 1938, when Everett was 32 and Grace was a month shy of 21. A few years later my grandpa would be deployed to Europe as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Medical Corps during World War II. As the war ended he was a part of the mission that liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. My grandma said he was the never the same afterward. He didn't like to talk about it.

But in these photos of their wedding day my grandma looks beautiful in her designer satin gown and my grandpa is so dashingly debonair. Both look serenely happy.

My brother's baby book includes an article about their wedding entitled "Dr. Perlman And Bride Motor South":

A Valentine Day bride, Miss Grace Audrey Feinberg, chose to wear for her marriage a Schaperelli model of egg shell satin, shirred at the shoulders and at the knotted neckline. The bodice was on princess lines and the gown was fashioned with a long train. A roll of matching satin formed a halo from which fell the finger tip length veil. The bridal bouquet was of gardenias and lilies of the valley.

The bride is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Feinberg. Her marriage took place last evening at the home of her parents to Dr. Everett C. Perlman, who is the son of Dr. and Mrs. M. C. Perlman. Rabbi David Aronson officiated at the service. The rooms were decorated with ferns and palms, lighted tapers in candelabra and baskets of Easter Lilies. A program of nuptial music was played on the violin by Marion Bearnstein Bearman.

The bride was attended by Mrs. Arnold Feinberg and Mrs. Aleyn Perlman. Mrs. Feinberg wore dubonnet net fashioned over taffeta. Her flowers were talisman roses and orchid sweet peas. Mrs. Perlman wore a Vionnet model of turquoise blue net made over taffeta and carried a bouquet of pink roses and pink sweet peas. Aleyn Perlman and Arnold Feinberg acted as ushers.

The bride's mother wore black crepe and her flowers were gardenias. The mother of the bridegroom wore black lace and also had a corsage of gardenias.

Dr. and Mrs. Perlman have left on a motor trip to Mexico City. For travel the bride chose a suit of steel blue wool. Her accessories were of navy blue. After March 6 Dr. and Mrs. Perlman will be at home.

June 14, 2011

John Hancock Where You At?

There is so much that goes into a wedding. You spend hours perusing bridal magazines, hunting down venues, choosing music, tying tiny green bows onto favor boxes until you go blind... but there's actually only one thing you need in order to get married:

A signature.

Nothing else matters. Unless you get the signature of a clergy member or a judge or a justice of the peace on a sheet of paper with your old and new names on it (as well as those of two witnesses), you are not legally wed. And, of course, this teensy tiny little detail is one that is apparently impossible for us to check off our to-do list. Here's the scoop:

The Dude's Catholic. I'm Jewish. Interfaith weddings are totally NBD in this day and age, so one might think it wouldn't be a problem. But one would be wrong.

His uncle is a priest, and when Dude asked him to officiate last summer he kindly obliged to lead our ceremony, with a caveat: he couldn't legally marry us because I'm not Catholic. When I approached my new rabbi about co-officiating, he had the opposite issue. He had no problem legally marrying us even though Dude's not Jewish, but he couldn't co-officiate. Though I was disappointed, I pushed the problem to the back of my noggin and concentrated on more immediate concerns, like that whole being in France thing.

Fast-forward a few months to this May. I'm struggling to find ways to represent my faith traditions during the ceremony without having a rabbi present. My mom suggested that we ask him to do a small, private ceremony in his office after the aufruf (a calling to the Torah and celebration of a bride and groom), after which he could sign our marriage license. This would be the best of both worlds-- my guy would do the legal ceremony and Dude's would do the religious one. We called the rabbi with this proposition and learned that he would no longer be willing to marry us-- or anyone else-- until gay marriage is legal in Minnesota, a stance that other rabbis in the Twin Cities area have also adopted.

So back to square one. Aside from all the interfaith drama, we now have a looming state shutdown to worry about, and my fallback plan of having a judge marry us the Monday after the Big Day may or may not be a service that's deemed non-essential should the shutdown occur. I called three different counties to see if anyone could give me a definitive answer. Scott County transferred me around to about five different people, none of whom knew. Hennepin County had me on hold for more than 20 minutes before I hung up. The woman who answered the phone at St. Louis County was incredibly rude and told me they had no idea and she was not at all interested in helping me get an idea.

Then I turned to my buddy Pete, who works at the MN Legislature. He too confessed that he wasn't totally sure how court weddings would be affected (but was much nicer about it). He said that to be safe, though, we may want to get this taken care of pre-July 1. In addition, he reminded me that there was another incentive to get this all locked down ASAP: if the state shuts down, it will likely remain shut down for at least the remainder of the summer, thus making it impossible for me to get a drivers license with my new name on it until the fall, thus making it more difficult to speed along the name-change process at other places.

I got in touch with the good folks at Temple Israel here in Uptown and explained my situation. They said they'd be more than happy to sign our certificate, but one of their rabbis just left for Israel, and the other is moving to Portland, ME on Friday. If we can get a valid certificate to him before then we'd be set. Yay! Only Dude and I aren't getting our marriage license until tomorrow, and there's a five-day waiting period before it's valid, making us three days too late. 


At this point I was ready to just give up and spend a little while King Tut-ing on the floor like my fellow unbride Kat did when she found out her new wedding dishes didn't fit in her dishwasher.

But then FMIL called. She had just talked to her neighbor, whose father is a judge. We need someone to sign the certificate? He'd totally do it. And in the Dude's backyard, if we wanted.

OK. Deep breath. Unlock arms. Get off floor. Repeat my wedding mantra: It will be OK.  You love the Dude. He loves you. Your dress is hot. Your bouquets are sparkly.  It will be OK.

So now the new conundrum: how soon before I get married do I actually want to be married?

June 12, 2011

Even more crafting

Programming announcement: I had a little blogging hiatus earlier this month because I had nothing to talk about but my wedding, and I didn't want to be one of those annoying people who only talked about their wedding. But who knows? Maybe you like France AND nups. And if you don't, just ignore me for the next 40-some days.


I've been heading down the the future-in-laws' about once a week for marathon GED (Git 'Er Done) sessions with the FMIL. Friday was our most epic one yet, and we did everything from getting a photo of the Dude's grandparents' wedding enlarged for display, to buying floofy hairpieces for the flower girls, to investigating gifts for the bridal party. 

Oh, and we tested some of the graham cracker toffee we're giving away as favors. I'm storing several portions of it in my freezer, and it's my duty as an American to test them every few days to ensure they still taste fresh and delicious. I'm really good at that part of wedding planning.

One of our GED tasks was to get paper for the escort cards.  This blog had an awesome idea: get paint chips in the wedding colors for the low low price of FREE. I convinced the FMIL to go to an unsuspecting Home Depot and help me pilfer approximately 160 paint chips in the above colors. Don't worry; next time will hit up another store to get our remaining 90 so we spread the love around. FYI: "shoplifting" free paint chips is a really good way to bond with your future mother in law.

We decided to make the favor boxes as complicated as possible. I wrote a little poem so people get the fact that they're getting graham crackers from the Grahams (hyuk!), and we printed them out on cardstock. We like pain, so we decided circles would be cuter than squares and spent a million years trying to manipulate the text to fit perfectly. Then comes the worst part: tying a tiny, slippery ribbon into a tiny adorable bow.

If you want to come over and help me do this I'll let you test some graham cracker toffee.

Lastly, it was time to finish my brooch bouquet. I just want to point out that I had the idea for mine before Miranda Lambert was even BORN. She totally copied me. Totally. 

The stems of the rest of my maids' bouquets are wrapped in ivory fabric and brocade trim, so we did mine in gold ribbon with pearl trim. FMIL coated the ribbon in fabric adhesive and then carefully wrapped that sucker up.Ain't she a beaut? 

Other tasks I accomplished this week include: writing a first draft of our charmingly complicated interfaith ceremony, writing a first draft of my vows, getting slimming undergarments for the dress so I don't have to worry about working out, getting a makeup consult (see my FB pic for results), and doing my first dress fitting. I had thought that my shoes would be tall enough that I would be able to avoid getting it hemmed, but I was dead wrong. Goodbye $50.

Goals for next week include: getting our marriage license, figuring out if a state shutdown would mean we couldn't do a courthouse marriage to make it legit, forcing the Dude to get measured for his tux if I have to move heaven and earth to make it happen, meet with the photographer, make a unity candle, find a glass for us to break, make a hairpiece and figure out our guestbook situation. Totally doable thanks to a little gift I call gainful unemployment.

June 10, 2011


This morning as I extricated myself from the Dude's cuddle grip I whispered, "P-P has to go peepee" by way of explanation. Then it hit me: I only have 43 days left of making stupid jokes about my last two initials and I kinda sorta got the sads.

My ma decided to hyphenate her last name when she and my pa got married, and when my big bro popped out not quite seven months later (WINK!) the rents decided he'd have both their names as well. As hyphenated names go, it's not too shabby; both names start with P so it has the benefit of being flowingly alliterative. But I think my parents failed to realize what saddling us chickadees with this 21-character surname would mean.

Second grade. Junior Great Books awards. My envelope says "Nina P-P," and that's how my teacher calls it out. Everyone laughs at me. Unfortunately, this same year I thought I could hold it and I couldn't, and I really earned all that ridicule.

Middle school. The start of standardized testing. It takes me forever to fill in all the letter bubbles that correspond to my last name and thus start my exams much later than my Smith, Jones and Johnson classmates. Plus there are never quite as many bubbles as I need, so "Perlman" becomes Perl, Perlma, or, my favorite, Perlm.

High school. I decry the cruelties of hyphenation in my student newspaper column, "Nina Petersen-'Perls' of Wisdom." I begin to take ownership of my PP-ness, aided by my older brother's forming of the J-Triple-P-- the Jake P-P Posse. People call out to me in the halls, "NPP!" I respond, "Yeah, you know me!"

Working life. It's impractical for me to have a company email address that incorporates my first initial and entire last name. Must choose one, feels like I'm choosing the parent. Spelling my name out over the phone feels like it takes days. People never get PetersEn right. Perlman becomes PeArlman, PeArlmOn, or, oddly, Broman. People assume I'm already married since my name is hyphenated.

Affianced. One of the main arguments I made against hyphenation in my column is that it delays the decision-making for another generation. I can't very well hyphenate a third name onto mine, and I want to have the same last name as my babylehs so I couldn't keep it. Thankfully, I like the Dude's last name, so the decision to change mine was somewhat easy. But what about my broskis? Are their intendeds supposed to take both of our parents' last names and neither of their own?

So though I feel like being a PP is part of my identity and I'm feeling a bit nostalgic about its loss, holy man am I excited about having a one-syllable, six-letter new name. And when people over the phone want to know how it's spelled all I have to say is, "Graham. Like the cracker." Bliss.

June 9, 2011

Craft Night

During my search for accessories for my Flower Children and Defender of the Rings I've been plagued by the same nagging thought I often have as I wander through artisan craft fairs and fancy bakeries (no matter how far from the truth it is): "Pshh... I could MAKE that."

Since I actually have made a pillow before-- seventh grade home ec, whut whut-- I thought this time I could put my crafting where my mouth was. My buddy Kristin has her very own sewing machine and was kind enough to let me experiment on it. I went to Jo Ann Fabrics and got a yard of ivory satin fabric, two yards of lace trim, a roll of ivory ribbon, a cool pearl button and some cotton batting.

Now that I'm an expert, I will teach you how to make a Slightly Wonky Defender of the Rings Pillow:

Step 1: Make a Pattern

I used a ruler to cut an 8-inch square from a piece of notebook paper. Then I doubled my fabric and cut around it. As you can see, I wasn't as precise as I could have been, and that led to some problems later. I've never been good at straight lines...

Step 2: Attach Lace Trim

I wanted the lace to poke out the sides of the pillow, so Kristin helped me figure out he best way to pin it. We decided to sew the lace to one piece of the satin, and then put the other piece on top and sew it all together.

Step  3: Don't Swallow the Pins in Your Mouth

Satin is a tricksy little fabric for a novice to work with. It didn't help that I'd done a poor job cutting it out-- my seam was anything but even. At one point the needle lost the thread and I decided to be a big girl and re-thread it myself-- incorrectly, as it turns out. The machine started making terrible noises and threatening to kill us all. Thank G Kristin was there to troubleshoot and soothe Madame Bernina.

Step 4: Stuff It with Stuff

We made sure to leave a 3-inch gap in one of the seams to allow for stuffing. I packed in tuft after tuft of batting, and still only used a fraction of the $2.99 bag I bought. It was looking kind of lumpy so I punched it a few times until it obeyed.

Step 5: Finish and Make Pretty-Like

I took the pillow home with me to hand sew that last little seam we'd used for stuffing. Then I threaded a few feet of ribbon through the pearl button, and using a small button on the back of the pillow to anchor it, I sewed that baby on.

Voilà! My very own handmade Slightly Wonky Defender of the Rings Pillow!