I am lying in a hotel bed now, about to crash after a weekend of wedding madness in Iowa. My feet are aching and my eyelids are heavy, but I still have a smile lingering at the corner of my lips. My dear friends Nikki and Jacob are officially married and probably half way to their postnuptial cabin in the woods, where they can finally exhale after those two years of engagement.
As predicted, their wedding was gorgeous beyond all belief, and the best surprise of the night was the organized square dancing! I did not know this was going down, but I busted out my total lack of coordination and gave it my all. Needless to say, I was doused with sweat, my armpits smelled vaguely like pizza, and I likely assaulted fifteen different people with my dance moves.
I am so overwhelmed by Nikki and Jacob’s love. It is beautiful and honest and pure. Even though I have been married for two years, I still learn a lot about love from watching Nikki and Jacob; they are truly an inspiring couple. I am a bit more pragmatic when it comes to love, so I hope I can teach them something as well. I dedicate this post to the newlyweds by offering a list of Ten Tips for a Happy Marriage.
1. Communicate on a lowest-common-denominator level. Sometimes, your spouse might not pick up on the subtleties of your speech patterns or body language. Take a step back, think of what you are trying to communicate on the most basic level, and say that. So, instead of complaining about how overwhelmed you are and then getting frustrated about your spouse not lending a hand, actually ask for help. It’s amazing how often this gets overlooked, but it can prevent a lot of arguments.
2. Go to bed at the same time at least once a week. If it were up to me, we would go to bed at the same time every night, because pre-sleepytime chats and snuggles are important for emotional bonding. But you should also respect that your spouse’s energy cycles won’t always sync up with yours, and one of you might want to stay up watching old episodes of 24 until 3 AM. Ahem.
3. Be considerate. When I say considerate, I mean to emphasize the consider part of that word. When you get married, there are precious few decisions that you make that don’t somehow affect your partner. You should always consider how his or her feelings might be influenced by your actions or words. If you’re going to go through with an action that you know your spouse disapproves of, you’d better be able to back it up.
4. Talk about your feelings. This one is hard for me, because I don’t like to be “sappy.” I tend toward using phrases like, “I feel like you are ignoring me.” Hint: if the word after “feel” is “like,” you’re doing it wrong. Really think about what your emotions are. Are you feeling lonely? Bored? If you can put the right word to your feeling, you might realize that it’s what’s going on inside of you that’s upsetting you, not the actions of your spouse.
5. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. My husband is an introvert and gets very overwhelmed in large groups of people. I, on the other hand, love to be around people! I would get mad that he didn’t want to do social activities with me. When I learned to see the world through his eyes, I found out there were things I could do to make social situations more bearable for him, and also to recognize the signals that he’s had enough.
6. Get fancy. My husband might disagree with me on this, but I am a believer in the importance of date nights. Sure, you see each other every day, but lots of times when my husband gets home I haven’t showered, I’m covered in flour or dust, and all I can muster is a few hours of TV watching. It’s nice to get dressed up and at least go somewhere nice for dinner, because you get to see each other lookin’ all snazzy, like you did when you were dating.
7. Treat yo selves (and each other). Take a vacation. Buy some nice wine and cheese. I guess get couples massages? That has always seemed weird to me, but some people like it! Or, send your spouse on a shopping spree, make an “off the budget” purchase, or just clean the whole house while he or she is out. (Seriously, coming home to a totally clean house is Heaven on Earth.) I’m not saying to put yourself in financial detriment, but do some random “just because” nice things for your spouse and for you as a couple.
8. Admit when you’re wrong. I hate this one. Hate. It. Clearly, my husband does, too. Maybe more than me! But there are so many arguments that just get prolonged because one or both of us isn’t willing to just go, “You know what? You’re right. I’m sorry. I see your point.” Sometimes you know you’re wrong, but just keep going because you don’t want to admit it. Suck it up and do it.
9. Write a letter. If you can’t talk about something without your emotions getting you in a tizzy, write a letter to your spouse. Set it aside. Go back to it when you’re calm. Edit it. Make sure you’re saying exactly what you mean. Take your time. If you get a letter from your spouse, take it seriously! Some things you read might make you mad at first, and that’s okay, but think about what was written before flying off the handle. Respond to it with your own carefully thought out letter. Slow communication is sometimes the most effective.
10. Kiss, hug, hold, pinch, tickle, and other touchy things. Physical affection is just as important as all the emotional and practical stuff. It is the butter that holds all the other layers of your marriage baklava together. (See how I tied that in there? I’m a MASTER of metaphor.) A hug a day keeps the divorce lawyer away! Seriously, though, zero (or close to zero) people want the deets of your gross married-people sex life, so keep them to yourselves. Unless something particularly hilarious happens.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (170 grams) honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 10 green cardamom pods, crushed (optional)
- 1½ teaspoons rosewater
- 2 cups (340 grams) whole raw almonds
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 pound frozen phyllo dough, thawed
- 1 cup ghee, or homemade clarified butter (see note, above)
- Combine water, sugar, honey, lemon juice, and cardamom pods in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and allow to cool. When cool, strain syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the cardmom pods and seeds. Add rosewater.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse almonds until finely chopped. Transfer to medium-sized bowl, reserving 1 tablespoon of nuts for garnish. Add ground cardamom, sugar, salt and stir well.
- Adjust oven rack to the lower-midde position and preheat oven to 300°F. Brush a 9x13-inch baking pan with ghee. Unroll phyllo dough onto a cutting board. If necessary, cut phyllo sheets to approximately the size of the pan. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap and a damp towel over the stack of phyllo dough sheets to prevent them from drying out as you work with them.
- Place one sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the pan and brsh with ghee. Repeat with 7 more sheets. Pour 1 cup of nuts over the dough and spread out evenly with your hands. Place a sheet of phyllo dough over this, and very carefully brush with ghee (it is a bit more difficult to work with when the dough is resting on the surface of the nuts). Repeat with 5 more sheets of dough, add another cup of nuts, another 6 layers of ghee-brushed phyllo dough, and the remaining nuts. Place 10 more sheets of phyllo dough over the last layer of nuts, brushing each sheet with ghee except the top one.
- When the final sheet is placed, press down with your hands to compress the layers. Then brush the top layer with ghee. Cut into diamonds by cutting an "X" from corner to corner of the pan, then making three more evenly-spaced diagonal cuts outwards towards all of the corners. Adjust any phyllo layers that might move in the cutting process.
- Bake until golden and crisp, about 90 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Immediately after removing baklava from oven, pour cooled syrup over the cut lines, then over the surface of the baklava. Dust each piece with the reserved chopped almonds.
- Cool baklava to room temperature on wire rack for about 3 hours before serving. It will get better the longer it stands, and will last up to ten days at room temperature, wrapped in foil.
- Ghee is a form of clarified butter. It can be found in the "Indian" food section of well-stocked grocery stores, or at Indian grocery stores. If you can't find it, or don't want to pony up the money, you can make your own clarified butter. Foodie with Family has a great tutorial.