We Didn’t Know How to Register for Our Suburban Queer Future


A little convention ain't so bad

by Aly Windsor, Contributor

apw x crate and barrel

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Sarah Gormley Photography

Nine years ago when my partner and I were planning our wedding, same-sex marriage was legal in exactly one state and it wasn’t even close to the one we lived in. That was a drag, but we were used to it. Here’s the beautiful thing about being queer, though, especially in the South: If we can survive, we bloom into (often very glittery) steel magnolias (and whatever the genderqueer and masculine versions of that are).

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Our Labor of Love Photography

Here’s the second beautiful thing: We question everything, and our families of origin, if they accept us, generally let go of any of their expectations, because we’re already so off their track that they give up trying to impose their conventions on us. This is liberating, but can also be befuddling when it comes to wedding planning. We knew right away we would not be doing any kind of garter belt performance. No, thank you. And we would both be walking ourselves down the aisle, and it wouldn’t be in a church. (Quirky antique store? Yes!)

But when it came to creating a registry, I found that for me, it was a lot like house hunting and baby making—fun to daydream about, but the reality is much more stressful. Making a list of stuff we wanted guests to give us just felt so awkward, and—I admit it—conventional. I wondered what friends and family would think of our choices. We already lived together, so we had the basics, even if our basics were generally grad school crappy. What we came up with was a nervous mishmash of stuff, most of which we either didn’t get or didn’t use.

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Our Labor of Love Photography

Luckily many of our friends gave us amazing off-registry things (Dolly Parton thread art, for example). But since then, my partner became a doctor (of philosophy), and we had two kids, moved to the suburbs, and bought the minivan, people. Hello, convention, you’re… not so bad. We’ve also celebrated friends’ weddings and babies, and it turns out I love registries! Giving people the stuff they want and need feels amazing. No more guessing or worrying or searching.

So, without further ado, here’s a roundup of my favorite things that I would happily throw on a registry today if I could find another life event to justify it.

siphon coffee pot from crate and barrel

Siphon Coffee Pot

1. coffee from science: Our little family of four, plus a dog and two cats, primarily spend our time in our kitchen and our backyard. The most important item in our kitchen is our siphon coffee pot. It’s the main reason my partner and I have survived parenting for seven years. What’s a siphon pot, you may ask? It’s magic. And/or science.

When our kids were tiny, I went on an anti-BPA rampage. I purged our kitchen of nearly all plastics, which was pretty easy until I remembered that while our coffee carafe was stainless steel, the insides of our cherished automatic coffeemaker were plastic. This was a very dark day indeed. My partner loved that thing. I don’t know how I pried the two of them apart. When I ordered the complicated-looking glass siphon pot, skeptical partner was skeptical, but skeptical partner was wrong.

We’ve been using it ever since. Siphon pot coffee is so delicious and easy. Water goes in the bottom and your grounds go up top. When the water gets hot, it’s siphoned up the tube to the top chamber where the most important magic/science happens. When you move the pot off the burner, your coffee drips back down into the lower carafe while the grounds stay up top. You pop off that top portion and pour yourself a cup of pure joy. The only downside is that because the siphon pot is all glass, it must be handled with care. The good news is you can get replacement parts (instead of having to buy a whole new one if you just break one part), but having a second siphon pot set on hand is never a bad idea.

vitamix 300 from crate and barrel

Vitamix 300 Professional Blender

2. A blender with superpowers: The next most important thing in our kitchen is that from which all smoothies and sauces flow. I’m talking about our Vitamix, y’all. If you don’t have one, you’ve probably watched a demo somewhere and wondered if it was really, really worth all that money. I was you once, and courtesy of my mom’s generous nature, I can tell you the answer is yes, yes it is. If you have kids, Vitamixes are perfect for sneaking vegetables and flax seeds into smoothies completely undetectably. But my favorite thing that my Vitamix can do is make this incredibly silken, almost mousse-ish avocado pesto of my dreams. (It can do a lot more, but I haven’t explored all of those superpowers yet.)

cast iron skillet

Cast Iron 12-inch Skillet

3. our vegetarian-friendly cast iron skillet: Next up is our cast iron skillet. We’re vegetarian, so I sometimes worry that we don’t get enough iron. It turns out cast iron pans leach iron into your food while you cook with them. So not only are they long-lasting and classic, what they leach is actually good for you! We use one main large skillet, but you might want to think about a cast iron grill pan too. Don’t worry—cast iron cookware is not as complicated to maintain as you may have heard, and it’s basically the original nonstick option (without all those nasty chemical fumes and flakes).

striped doormat from crate and barrel

Chilewich Multi Thick Striped Doormat

4. Doormats for dirty kids: Our kitchen leads out to our screened porch, which leads out to our backyard, which leads me to a discussion of mud. It’s everywhere in my life. My kids are very dirty people, as they should be, but I really do not want that dirt in the house. The best defense I’ve found for this problem is sturdy, thirsty mats. I have one just inside the porch people door, and one just inside the porch dog door, both of which make up my first line of defense. But my secret weapon is the five-foot-long mat I laid out from the kitchen door like a landing strip. There’s literally no way for our kids or our dog to avoid these mats, and thus the mud-tracking rate has been greatly reduced. I’m really proud of myself about this.

crate and barrel woven hammock

Woven Green Hammock with Pillow and Stand

5. Hammocks are for snuggling: Moving out of doors, the yard centerpiece of family life is our hammock. Our younger son actually put it on his Christmas list a few years ago, and I’m so glad he did, because it’s become a regular snuggle place for all of us, including our dog. All it takes is one parent to climb in and at least one kid comes running to join in. If you have the space, I recommend getting one with a stand instead of installing the hammock in a stationary spot. We move ours around the yard to chase the shade as needed.

globe string lights from crate and barrel

Globe String Lights

6. string lights (and more string lights): Let’s talk about string lights. There might be no single better way of making an outdoor space more cheerful and homey than by adding cute string lights. Add more string lights, people. You will thank me.

wall planter hooks from crate and barrel

Wall Planter Hooks

7. backyard = happy place: For even more cheer outside, you can never have enough plant pots and maybe even the bliss that is an elevated garden bed. It’s easier on your back (which will matter to you sooner than you think, if it doesn’t already), and the height makes it harder for bunnies, bugs, and kids to meddle with your food creation dreams. If you’re less anxious than me, you can get a firepit too… or just take your s’mores baskets to the neighbor’s firepit to be your kid’s hero.

steel cooler from crate and barrel

Coleman 54-qt Steel Cooler

8. A cooler, because you’ll need one: Lastly, everyone needs a solid cooler. Even if you aren’t the camping or picnicking or tailgating type, one day you’ll lose power or your fridge will break down and you’ll have to live out of coolers for a few days or weeks (it happened to us). This one even comes with a built-in light for all of your emergencies and adventures and emergency adventures. Be still, my practical heart.

Pink Line

If you told me nine years ago that I would one day have a doormat strategy and feel particularly pleased about it, I’d have probably backed away from you slowly and run to the closest gay bar. Turns out I love my suburban, weirdly conventional life. Who knows where you’re going to be or what appliance crushes you’ll have a decade from now. All I can tell you is it’s probably going to be really great—especially if you add more string lights.

CB New Logo

This post was sponsored by Crate and Barrel Wedding Registry. Crate and Barrel understands that a registry isn’t just a shopping list; it’s an opportunity to define what home means with your partner. Whether you’ve been together for years and already have most of the basics, or you’re just getting started, Crate and Barrel has registry options for every relationship. Plus, get like-price guarantee, free shipping, and exclusive pieces from Crate and Barrel’s artists and designers when you sign up for a Crate and Barrel Wedding Registry today. Click here to learn more or sign up for a live Crate and Barrel registry event near you.

Aly Windsor

Aly Windsor is a news editor, mom to two rascal kids, partner to a sociologist, and wayward animal magnet.

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  • Ashlah

    “But my favorite thing that my Vitamix can do is make this incredibly silken, almost mousse-ish avocado pesto of my dreams.”

    Um, recipe please?

    • aly windsor

      I don’t think I’m allowed to post links so just google “15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta”. By the way, I add more garlic and sub lime juice for lemon. Enjoy!

      • Ashlah

        Thank you!

        • aly windsor

          My pleasure!

      • Jess

        We make this recipe all the time, with the same substitutions, but using cilantro instead of basil! We usually grill up a chipotle rub flank steak, cut up some thick chunks of tomato, and have at it. Super decadent.

  • anon

    Our biggest struggle hasn’t been not knowing where we have gaps in our lives (real napkins and non-chipped place settings, ahoy) but avoiding guilt at the expense of some of the items when we’re much better off financially than, like, 90% of our family. The ability to allow people to contribute what they wish helps, but at the end of the day, it’s tough to feel totally at peace ‘asking’ for a $500 vacuum cleaner. On the one hand, we’re not EXPECTING anything, but on the other, if you don’t have a registry, they’ll ask for one… so do you put stuff you don’t want so they can feel good about buying things? Blah.

    • Jessica

      We had a really good person helping us at Macy’s, who said that you should have 1-5 “high ticket” items (like a vacuum), about 20-30 things in the $100-200 range, and the majority of things in the $100 and under range.

      She encouraged us to register for single items that could also be purchased as a set, so people can get us something in their price range– but if we end up getting 3 knives we can return and get the whole set for the price of those 3 knives it will make more sense for both us and the people buying us the knives. It’s not like they wouldn’t love to get us the whole set, it’s just not practical to expect them to.

      For a wedding coming up this fall, there are 7 of us chipping in for one big-ticket item, making it much more economical and fun than each of us buying a bunch of smaller things.

      • Meg Keene

        That’s always my advice. SOMEONE is going to want to get you something pricey, but it’s never who you think. Sometimes it’s like, your Grandma’s BFF who’s not even invited, she just loves your Grandma a lot and has extra money to spend.

        Same idea, you should also have $5 items, for the people that LOVE you but are flat broke.

        That said, I wanted this stupid expensive toaster, and I didn’t register for it because it just felt embarrassing. We ended up using all the random cash or double things we had to return to buy it. I’m really glad we did though…. it cost a fortune, but it will legit last the rest of our lives. So, way worth it over time.

        • laddibugg

          “SOMEONE is going to want to get you something pricey, but it’s never who you think. Sometimes it’s like, your Grandma’s BFF who’s not even invited, she just loves your Grandma a lot and has extra money to spend.”

          That happened to us with our baby shower. I was trying to not go over a certain amount, but my fiance was over there scanning expensive ‘unnecessary’ stuff. We ended up actually receiving a few of those high priced things from the most unlikely places.

    • aly windsor

      Yes, that was part of our issue too. I’ve been on the other side of things though, looking at registries for loved ones who are better off than us and I can honestly say I didn’t begrudge them for big ticket items. I just looked for our price range and went from there. Something I’ve only just recently learned is that probably 90% of the time you think people are having feelings about your choices, they’re actually not at all. (I like Jessica’s advice by way of Macy’s about price distribution.)

    • Jess

      The big-ticket items were one that we really really struggle with too. We put on a pot-and-pan set, which was almost $300, intending to change over and do individual pots, but somebody ended up already purchasing it for us!

      We didn’t put anything we didn’t want on our list, but we did put on smaller stuff – like board games, cook books I’ve been eyeing, and upgraded spatulas and slotted spoons (some of ours are melted and damaged).

      I was surprised at what people bought for us even just at my shower – people are incredibly generous.

  • Edie

    I wish there was a metal version of the Siphon Coffee Pot. I worry about glass breakage with hot liquid inside. I know someone who suffered serious burns just from pouring hot tea into a glass pitcher that exploded. Let me know if you know of anything out there.

    • Edie

      Cause I’m on a BPA busting mission too.

    • aly windsor

      Edie, we’ve been using these for many years now and it’s never broken from hot liquids. I think that’s because the glass heats slowly along with the liquid. The danger comes from pouring hot liquid into cool glass.

      • Edie

        Thanks, Aly.

        Next question: What is a reasonable cleaning routine? I can’t imagine taking it completely apart and washing the whole thing every day.

        Sorry, but I only know about regular drip coffee makers, but as you say, they are full of plastic.

        • aly windsor

          We do clean it every day but it’s really not hard (and this is coming from someone who loathes dishwashing). For me that mainly just looks like rinsing it out but my partner likes to apply soap. By the way, I just googled about your glass breaking worry and found a good article. Since I think the comment system won’t let me link out, just google “Why Does Glass Break Or Shatter When Pouring Boiling Water Into It? On Thermal Shock”.

          • Edie

            You can link if you do a return after the link.

            “My partner likes to apply soap.” Ha ha ha. That made me laugh. I hate washing dishes too.

            Thanks.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Weird that Disqus won’t let you link! Here it is for the #lazyfolks in the room: http://cazort.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-does-glass-break-or-shatter-when.html

          • aly windsor

            Tbh, I didn’t even try. I’ve gotten comments blocked before on other sites for including links so I assumed the same rule applied her. Thanks for clearing that up!

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Oh good, I was afraid something might be broken! (You never know.)

        • Ashlah

          My husband makes pour over coffee with one of those plastic funnels, but I’ve seen ceramic ones around as well. And given how trendy pour over coffee is lately, I would bet you could find them in a variety of materials, including metal. Just another coffee making option to consider.

          • aly windsor

            Yes — that’s another option. I tried a ceramic dripper before the siphon pot and couldn’t get the flow/grind right so my coffee always ended up filtering slow and it was cold by the time it was done. That, as you can imagine, did not please skeptical partner. :)

          • Edie

            Thank you.

    • Elizabeth

      Another good non-plastic coffee making alternative is the french press. It’s easy and less precarious.

  • Elizabeth

    Nobody got us anything we registered for but my mom did get us a Vitamix. I had NO IDEA it was such a thing until my friend saw it and gasped. When I looked it up, I almost died. The version we have cost more than our (very shitty) bed! It’s worth more than our (extremely old) laptop! It is literally the most valuable thing we own! A blender!

    But you guys, it makes my morning smoothies, piping hot enchilada sauce, and can handle six cups of ice no-sweat for fresh fruit margaritas. I will use it for the rest of my life.

    • aly windsor

      I actually left mine in the box for a year because I was so intimidated by it (and the book that came with it). But yeah, I’m a lifer now too.

  • tr

    “What we came up with was a nervous mishmash of stuff, most of which we either didn’t get or didn’t use.”

    This is what scares me so much about registering! I swear, I’ve spent 100 hours pouring over my registry, but I still have no idea whether it’ll actually be stuff I use ten years from now! (Like, I *think* it will be, but crap, I do not know what I’ll be doing ten weeks from now, much less ten or twenty years from now!) Does anyone else feel an unhealthy pressure to create The Greatest Registry Ever, in which every single item (including the $10 ones) will be used regularly and like, passed down to the great great great grandkids?

    • aly windsor

      Yeah. You just have to breathe. Your registry won’t be perfect. It won’t make all your domestic dreams come true. You’ll receive stuff from it you’ll never use and end up selling on craigslist 10 years from now AND THAT’S OKAY. That’s common, even. My advice is to go do some yoga or whatever your favorite mind-quieting activity is and then revisit your registry list. We also added a note to our registry that we were happy to receive non-registry gift cards and local art, too. That’s how I scored my Dolly Parton thread-art. :)

  • anony

    I really just wanna put ‘financial advisor services’ on the registry, without being made to feel guilty about [essentially] asking for cash. Blerg.

    • aly windsor

      I get that asking for cash feels weird. It shouldn’t though. My partner’s family gives cash at weddings as a rule. I think it’s a Polish thing. FWIW, financial advisor services are a totally acceptable (and wise) ask in my opinion.

      • nm

        Interesting. My Polish cousins gave cash — as did my partner’s Asian family. The cash /no cash thing is definitely cultural

  • Lexipedia

    Can someone explain the Vitamix to me? How is it not just a highly expensive blender?

    • aly windsor

      Here’s the thing: when I used to try to chop up things finely in my old blender, there were still lots of bits. I had to stop and start and unclog it multiple times just to get to that place. But my 7-year-old son hates “bits”. He can’t tolerate any kind of pulpy or grainy texture. The vitamix pulverizes stuff — and fast. I still have to intervene sometimes, especially if I don’t layer ingredients right, but the overall experience is so much easier and the outcome is creamy smoothies and sauces with no bits in sight. I can even put flax seeds in there and it grinds them so finely in the process of blending that my kid does not detect them. That’s worth the price alone to me b/c he’s a super PICKY eater.