Tuesday, July 30, 2013

plant, fish, dog, baby

Plant, fish, dog, baby.

Apparently that's the official order of family additions. At least that's what my doorman Eddie declared as I walked into our apartment building last week with a French Bulldog. A baby is next, he joked as the dog flopped over to let him scratch her belly.

Upstairs, I scanned our apartment. Two plants sunning on the windowsill. One goldfish swimming in a tank on the kitchen counter. One hyperactive French Bulldog rolling around on our living room rug. I hallucinated a crib in the bedroom. Then I hallucinated our goldfish jumping out of his tank to smack me out of it.

Eddie's plant-fish-dog-baby theory may be correct, but we're just dogsitting. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.We're still on step fish. Bruce Springsteen the goldfish to be precise.

Jon and I proudly welcomed the Boss into our lives on July 10th. While walking home from dinner we detoured through an Italian street festival hosted by our neighborhood's Catholic Church. The humid summer air was dense with the scent of fried zeppoles and smothered sausage. Vendors with thick Brooklyn accents advertised crusty stuffed animals at dunk tanks, beanbag tosses and squirt gun races. Jon and I set our sights on the goldfish game where you attempt to throw ping pong balls into rows of empty fish bowls. It took $12 and about 30 tries before I got one in. We celebrated dramatically. The kid behind the counter shoved a plastic bag of fish in my face, and just like that Jon and I become primary caregivers.

On our way home we bumped into the church's priest. We said hello and introduced him to our first pet, hoping for a drive-by baptism. He laughed at the un-named goldfish.

"Just don't name him. It will make it tougher to flush him,"  he advised.

Peace be with you too, Father.

Of course we would name him. A good name would help the poor little guy survive.

"Who's the coolest person we know?" I asked, searching for a proper namesake. I don't remember who suggested Bruce Springsteen, but the name won out instantly. Can you think of a better goldfish name, lyricist, performer or champion of blue-collar America? Didn't think so.

At home we emptied our cabinets searching for a proper bowl. Nothing was good enough. It was 10:30 p.m. and Bruce Springsteen was still in his bag. In a panic, we ran back to the street fair. Of course the goldfish game was selling fish tanks. We splurged on the biggest one with rainbow-colored pebbles. Back home we asked our doorman Eddie to be our goldfish godfather and begged Bruce to at least survive the first night.

A few weeks later, Bruce is alive and better than ever. We added plants to his tank and Eddie (doorman/godfather/life coach) found an awesome new-looking filtered tank in our building's trash room.

It feels good to take care of something that needs me. And watching Jon worry about how clean the water is or how long Bruce's poop strings are makes me excited for the other things we may take care of some day. Like my brother's smushed-face runt of the litter French Bulldog, Alaia.

My stint in dogsitting quickly taught me that living with a dog in New York City is nothing like the doggy days of my childhood in Florida.

New Yorkers don't have back yards or grassy lawns so city dogs aim for sidewalk gutters and sewer grates. Alaia likes to stand her two front paws against a wall before she squats to poop. It's exactly as hilarious as it sounds.

Walking a dog in New York is intensely social. Whether you're ready for them or not, at least one pedestrian per city block will ask to pet your dog. When you nod yes they won't hesitate to rub, scratch and baby talk your dog until it's uncomfortable for you. The creepiest dog petters will totally ignore you as they rub the dog behind her ears and grunt things like, "yeah you like that, don't you."

It's strange, but I allow it because the dog loves it and, honestly, when I'm not being a judgmental dogsitter, I'm totally that girl-- the suppressed can-I-please-pet-your-dog New Yorker who wishes she could have a full-time pup but simply can't. Our apartments are too small. We work too late. It just wouldn't be fair. A 30-second pet on the street or 10-day dog sit is the closest most of us get to to the doggy dream.

To recap, we're at plant, fish, occasional dog sit.

Don't worry Bruce, that's at least 15 dog years from step baby.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The lies my siblings told me.

A painting of us by my talented sis, Trici Garcia
I made out like five or six times at my 7th birthday party.

At least that's what I proudly announced to my preteen sisters and their side-pony tailed friends sitting beneath the weeping willow tree in our old backyard. I had overheard them talking about making out with boys. When I asked what that meant, they promptly lied and told me making out meant "making friends."

Face scrunched like the top of my tube socks, I insisted that I was telling the truth. I made out with at least four girls and one boy at my party, I pleaded. When they kept laughing, I went inside to cry and tattle.

As the youngest of four siblings, I got really good at the 'ol cry and tattle. I fit every baby of the family stereotype. I was gullible, hyper-sensitive, nosy and desperate to be included. Not a ton has changed.

Like any self-respecting youngest sibling, I was obsessed with ageism. Why do I always have to sit in the middle seat? Why can't I stay up to watch "Tales from the Crypt."? I remember tip-toeing out of bed to watch that gruesome HBO show through the crack of my brother's bedroom door. I would secretly watch from the hallway until the Crypt Keepers cackle would paralyze me with fear. Once I'd work up the courage to sprint back to bed, I'd hide under the covers and force happy thoughts. (I generally defaulted to dream sequences of walking through the mall with Taylor Hanson. We would hold hands while sitting on adjacent massage chairs at Sharper Image, or something like that.)

Growing up, my older siblings liked to tell me lies. Not big ugly lies, just silly little untruths. I was terribly gullible. I still am. So it was probably pretty good entertainment. Some fibs were motivational: "If you don't wipe after you use the bathroom your private parts will turn black." Some didn't make sense: "If you see more than two Star Trek characters on screen you'll have bad luck." Others were tried and true: "You're adopted."
Me, Trici & Celeste 

In their defense, I was often annoying, especially during my stint with kleptomania. When my sisters were at roller skate parties or Debbie Gibson concerts I was "too little" to attend, I would crack into their Caboodles to permanently borrow dangly earrings or (if we're really coming clean here) I would steal the most sophisticated teenager-approved underwear from their drawers so I could impress my friends at school while changing for P.E.

In my defense, my sister Trici regularly flipped over the computer chair I was sitting in if I dialed into America Online three minutes longer than she deemed fair. And my older brother Diego tortured me with "stop hitting yourself" slaps and hand caught farts in the face until he went to college.

Despite the teasing and the torment, I wouldn't change being the baby for anything. Siblings make life fun.

They introduced me to good music. They're the reason I had to see my school counselor the day Kurt Cobain died.

Diego & Me 
They made Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny very real for me. One Christmas Eve, my brother climbed on the balcony near my bedroom and stomped like reindeer hoofs. It convinced me for years.

They taught me how to look like a lady.  My sisters showed me how to tweeze, shave, pop pimples, blow dry bangs and apply a smokey eye. They styled me for every school dance, first date and job interview I can remember. Even today, they're just a photo text away from telling me that necklace really doesn't go with that dress.

They are absolutely the reason I held onto my virginity for so long. Catholic schooling, strict parents and an extended awkward phase were all contributing factors, but two chaste older sisters definitely kept my legs closed in college.

I love them and I'm grateful for them. I forgive all the lies.

Now, can I pretty please sit in the front seat.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Secrets of a New York City Event Planner

Thou shalt not serve asparagus at your wedding. 

Yes, those crisp green and white spears make refreshingly delicious salads. And I sure that shade of chilled soup would coordinate fabulously with your hydrangea centerpieces. But, trust me, asparagus is the wrong thing to serve to hundreds of people who will sharing the same facilities.  To put it as subtly as possible, by the time you cut the cake the restrooms will reek. Gross but true. 

I learned that little gem of event planning wisdom on the job. After five years managing about 1000 of New York's most dazzling events, I've acquired a few lesser known tricks of the trade. When I started planning my own wedding a few months ago I learned a few more. Orange to Apple proudly presents:

3 wedding planning tips you probably haven't heard before... 

1. Get married to him, not a specific flower. 

All brides prefers peonies. These lush, pouty blossoms are about as romantic as it gets. Unfortunately peonies aren't always so pretty on the budget. Their season is short, peaking at the end of May through mid-June so if you're getting married during the winter or fall your florist will likely charge double to import them. The same applies to several other lusted after flowers like like orchids and hydrangeas. 

When you chat with your florist, instead of fixating on specific stems, explain the characteristics, colors and overall "feel" you're hoping to achieve with your centerpieces or bouquets. Do you want  tight, structured, modern arrangements or loose "fresh from the garden" bunches? Do you want large wide blooms or long, sleek and minimal? Shades of green? Shades of pink? A good florist can use that direction to recommend seasonal and budget-friendly options.

Instead of peonies, try cabbage roses. If you love hydrangeas, consider dahlias. If you're obsessed with anemones (like me), take a look at lisianthus.  Your party guests will never count the number of peonies in their table's centerpiece or even realize your bridesmaids are clutching $10-a-pop callalily stems. Design is important but don't get caught up in "brand name" blooms.

2. When it's planned, stop planning. 

Wedding dress shopping is like falling in love. When you know, you just know. 

At least that's the tale old (and young) wives told me before my first dress shopping appointment at Kleinfeld's in Manhattan. As much as I was looking forward to mocking that marital mumbo jumbo after the fact, I gotta admit, it did sorta work out that way. 

Not that it was all white doves and heart-shaped confetti. In fact, I was pretty terrified when my mom and sisters left me alone in the fitting room, fidgeting in my too-short silk robe as I waited for the consultant to return with options. It felt like a lot was on the line. Not just because I had sifted and searched through dresses for months, but because finally selecting what I would wear on my wedding day made this whole getting married thing real.

Still, despite the nerves, I found my "when you know, you just know" moment.

It was the first dress I tried on. I loved it right away but I didn't know it was the dress until I put the next one on. Nothing compared. I missed it as soon as I was out of it. Standing on a pedestal in the center of the store like a circus seal, pinned and potato chip clipped into my dress, trying not to trip over borrowed heels, I just knew.

So what's my tip? (Besides strongly encouraging you to wear a good strapless bra unless you want to go to second base with the lady who works at the store.)

Once you have that magical moment when the stars and sweetheart necklines align, you must force yourself to stop searching! Throw away the tabbed bridal magazines. Ban "Say Yes to the Dress" marathons. Avert your eyes as you walk past that flawless Monique Lhullier window at Saks. 

The same applies to all your other big day decisions. When planning a wedding options are endless, so don't drive yourself nuts laboring over decisions that have already been made. If you keep browsing, chances are  you'll find another dress, tablecloth, party favor or lace-wrapped votive candle that you like better. Be decisive. Commit and get excited. Isn't that what  marriage is all about.

3. Consider the dance floor. 

The napkins are folded. The champagne is chilled. The roses are bedazzled. 

Every single detail has been obsessed over, except for one-- a really big one. A  20' x 24' detail sitting in the smack dab center of your reception. The dance floor often gets stared at more than any other piece of real estate in the room. It's where you dance your first dance. It's where the bride's dad gives his speech. It sneaks into most of the photos. The dance floor is a big opportunity for decor.

These days, the sky's the limit when it comes to floors. There's the monogram, the mosaic and the neon squares that light up like Dance Dance Revolution. I've seen plexy glass over pools and floors so sleek and shiny they look like a pool. I've seen floors up-lit with starry lights that rival the planetarium at the Natural History Museum.

You don't have to go that custom. Just make sure you pay attention to it. Which color compliments your decor or theme? If your venue provides a dance floor, will they polish off the scuffs? Are you allowed to remove it or cover it? Should you add a wash of light?

I included a few inspiring ideas below. But, before you fall in love, you should know these floors are expensive ($4,000+). So is outfitting each guest with a pair of monogramed flip flops or renting a fleet of Rolls Royce. If there's any room for splurge at your wedding, I think a memorable dance floor pays off.

Classic Black and White is always cool. Photo from Southern Weddings
Project roses, falling snow or graphics to add whimsy and pull a theme together. Photo from weddingomania.
Mirror floors are oh so elegant! Photo from platinumpro.

Go graphic. Photo from David Tutera's Itsabrideslife.com.