Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Insider

My bridesmaid bouquet, the day after

Sometimes, I think it’s easier to tell a story when one isn’t directly involved in the events that unfolded. Then again, sometimes it’s easier to tell a story when it’s specifically your story to tell. When it comes to Leah and Simon‘s wedding, I’m somewhere in between those two poles, as obviously I wasn’t one of the people getting married, but at the same time I was a big part of the process from start to finish.

We were getting ready to leave for California the day Meg at A Practical Wedding wrote this post. I was taking a break from packing to look at the internet, and as soon as I read that post I knew exactly who Meg was talking about. I knew Leah had been to the Mighty Summit, and I knew there could not possibly be another person there who fit the description. I sent Meg an email, and she confirmed it, and I got all excited about it. When we got to California, I wrote a long email to Meg as a potential submission to her site, all about Leah and Simon and everything they had done for us for our wedding (and my sister’s!) and why they deserved an awesome wedding themselves, but then she never posted it. 😦 She did post this, though, so when we saw Leah and Simon that week for an event in San Francisco we got all chatty about wedding stuff. I immediately offered to do the flowers for the wedding, in addition to anything else they might need help with, but at that point details were still pretty nebulous as they needed a date and a venue before they could do too much more planning.

Weeks went by, and turned into months. I started helping Leah and Simon look for a venue, as other connections didn’t seem to be panning out for them. After the date of the Royal wedding was announced, Simon’s UK family let him know they could only come out for a visit during that time, and so the general dates started to be set. They came up here to look at a potential venue in January, but ultimately decided to go with a place in Berkeley (the same choice I would have made, if it had been my event.) Their details started to come together, and I looked forward to hearing more specifics about what they wanted for flower types and colors, and any other details they wanted to share.

* * * * * * * *

After getting some idea of the direction L&S wanted to go with their flowers, I started brainstorming. Yellow, white, structured, lemons, chili peppers. Whiskey bottles, mason jars, baby food jars. Red and white baker’s twine. Daisies, dahlias, nothing fluffy or fussy. I’m going to write a big long post about it on my Green Snapdragon blog (with photos, of course!), so I won’t get too into it here. But I will say that my experiments involved fishing line and weights, and getting sawdust in my bra, and scrambling up a hillside covered in poison oak while wearing flip flops.

* * * * * * * *

In March, Leah asked me to stand up with her at the wedding. On her blog! I was super surprised! It felt like a birthday present, because she posted it the day after my birthday. I borrowed two dresses from my sister, found pretty red shoes, and decided on which dress to wear. Details started to come together more, and I planned a bachelorette party, and I spent time with Leah and Wombat at their house while Dan attended Simon’s bachelor party. We looked at photos of flowers and talked about all things wedding and it felt really nice to have a just us girls time once Wombat went to bed. (I read him two stories, and we laughed, and he gave me lots of hugs.) A few days later, I got a long email about flower specifics, and plans began to solidify. I did one last experiment (again, with the fishing line, but for a different project) and knew exactly what I’d be doing once I got all the various jars and vases and baskets and containers from Leah and Simon during flower prep time.

* * * * * * * *

On Thursday, we packed everything we’d need to be gone for several days, and I sent my friend Karen a note on FB reiterating details we’d talked about when she and her husband came for dinner on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the instructions were more specific than we were expecting, because (another blog post, another story) we’ve currently got a stray nursing mama cat in our garage that Feline Rescue asked if we’d feed until the babies are big enough to be weaned and mama can be caught and fixed. I went around the yard and picked flowers to leave for my sister’s roommate (my sister left for Ireland, and we were staying in their place until the roommate came home) and also picked a ton of little white flowers blooming on a weed, because I knew they’d fit in with everything else I was going to be doing for the wedding and hey, it was one less thing I’d have to buy. We drove south, leaving a bit later than we’d planned, and headed straight for West Oakland BART. Because oh yeah, we were going to a concert for Dan’s (early) birthday! (Also, another blog post.)

After the concert, we picked up the key to my sister’s house from my other sister and settled in at Laurel’s house.

Friday morning, we drove to San Francisco and I wandered the San Francisco Flower Mart, comparing prices and yelling random things to Dan while he struggled to understand and write everything down on a clipboard. Unlike my last sojourn to the Mart, when I just started buying randomly, this time I made myself look at all of my options before I began to buy. Leah had Very Specific ideas about flower types and colors and I wanted to make sure I could get enough of everything I needed while still fitting into her parameters. The problem with lacking a badge (which I can’t get until I get my business license) is that you have to go after 10 AM, when most of the sellers have closed up, and the longer you stay, the more of them begin to close. So I really was working under a time constraint. Luckily, I managed to find almost everything I needed. We left the city and drove to Berkeley, where I bought chili peppers (and we got a $43 parking ticket!!! because we didn’t see the parking kiosk half a block down the street), and we used the crappy $tarbucks internet to get directions to the Oakland Flower Mart. We went to Michaels where I found ribbon and got the glue gun and some other stuff I needed, and we went to Home Depot because I felt like Michaels was asking too much for Plaster of Paris. (More on that in my Green Snapdragon post.) I got the last few things I needed at the Oakland Flower Mart, and we drove, car full of flowers and craft supplies, to my sister’s house. I immediately started in on my first project, pomanders, and ran out of yellow button mums far sooner than I expected to. So we went to Trader Joe’s and I got more. After the pomanders were finished, I made garlands for the manzanita branch while we watched Fringe and then The Hangover (which wasn’t nearly as funny as people had led me to believe). Then we went to bed. I was really tired.

Saturday, I was awake before 8AM because I knew there was a lot to do. We repacked and cleaned and organized and I consolidated all the flowers down into two very full buckets and we managed to get everything (all our luggage, pillows, sleeping bags, flowers, huge manzanita branch, etc.) including the two of us into the car, and we drove to Brian’s house, who had generously offered to let me use his kitchen to work the rest of my flower magic. He and his roommates all did stuff around me while I made two identical bridal bouquets, a bridesmaid bouquet, a break-apart toss bouquet, and made boutonnieres for Simon and Wombat so they’d have them for the special photo shoot on Saturday afternoon. Then, piece by piece, I did everything else. I worked from about 11 to 6:30 with maybe around 15 minutes of break in there. I shooed away curious kittens and I drank some mead and I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Dan made me once he came back from buying shoes in San Francisco. I was particularly pleased with how the large arrangements turned out – one with wired lemons in the arrangement and floating chili peppers, the other with wired chili peppers and floating sliced lemons. I set aside flowers for decorating the cake and for the other personal flowers (boutonnieres and corsages for family and the officiant), hoping that someone would notice the theme I had decided to use. I tied bits of red and white twine along with basic brown twine around mason jars, added water to the bourbon bottles, and packaged everything up for transport. We changed and left for the rehearsal dinner, and spent a couple of hours visiting with Leah and Simon’s out-of-town friends and family, hugging Heather B., eating pizza, meeting Leah’s boss (also their officiant), and getting last minute instructions for Sunday’s events. When we got back to Brian’s, I finished everything but the last few corsages and bouts, cleaned up the majority of my mess, and went to bed.

Taken by Brian in his kitchen

Sunday I woke up at 7 AM, and went in the cold kitchen to finish the last bits of everything. I put the personal flowers in the refrigerator, ironed my dress, washed out a filthy old compost tub in which to transport the two large arrangements, and we packed the car. I wasn’t sure whether or not we’d need to borrow Brian’s car, but with all of our luggage in the house, we managed to fit everything in – with me in the back seat, holding a bucket of flowers, bouquets in pickle jars on the seat next to me, my leg over the manzanita branch. Luckily, it wasn’t a far drive to the venue. We got there a few minutes early and unloaded the car as soon as the doors were unlocked. Dan left to get ice and cat litter (again, more on that in the Green Snapdragon post) and food, since I hadn’t yet eaten anything. I stayed to help unload linens and glassware and living room furniture and pvc posts in concrete and cases of beer and everything else that people hauled in cars and trucks and a giant van. Sara and Ron came, Sara with her hair done up in curlers and bright red toes. It felt like an army of people had all come to help set up. We unstacked and moved chairs, unfolded tables, rearranged the room, covered everything in linens, and people began setting up the decorations while I got to to work on the flowers. I wasn’t sure until we got there where everything would go or how I’d arrange it all because I’d never seen the space, but I settled on something I liked that involved multiples of each thing in the center of the table, over a runner and a snar we’d brought, leftover from our wedding 3 years ago. Flowers went into bourbon bottles. Flowers and pomanders went on the kids’ table. Dan helped with my manzanita branch project, pouring the cat litter into the large heavy urn while I held the branch in place, and together we moved it to the drinks table. I set everything up with lemons, and I tied the mum garlands to the branches, and it all came together exactly the way I had it in my head. I ate a donut and an odwalla bar before I went beyond the Point of No Return Unfed MLE.

We were told that the army of people helping would only have an hour to completely transform the space, but they let us work for an hour and a half. When we finished, it looked amazing. I gave myself a mental high-five, and we left to meet Brian for lunch at an Ethiopian place in Oakland (my treat) as a thanks for letting me take over his kitchen for a day and a half. We were both still pretty stressed; neither of us had showered in the morning because Brian was asleep and we didn’t know if there were clean towels, and Dan had to sew some buttons on his pants to be able to wear suspenders, and I still had to do hair and makeup and at the very least look presentable because I was standing up in the wedding. Lunch finished, we rushed back to the house, took showers, got ready, and were back at the venue at 3:30 PM exactly, me to assemble and decorate the cake, Dan to take photos of the flowers that he hadn’t managed to get during setup because both of our cameras were having battery issues.

When we got to the venue, Kristin and Scott were there with the cake, and we set it up. Serendipitously, I had exactly enough ribbon leftover from bouquets to decorate the layers, and I used the last of the flowers to make it look pretty. People began to arrive right away, and everyone looked so pretty. Amber was in green, and Holly was in yellow, and Heather B was wearing this awesome corsage. Will and Nina came in and I squee’d a little in my head and we introduced ourselves and I gave them hugs, and Will and Dan bonded over their bow ties. I met Meg and David, and Carla, and hugged our friend Dan (the Irish German! for those who have been reading this blog forever) and Jackie when they came in. Sara was the prettiest girl in the room (until Leah walked in in her dress, of course) because she MADE HER DRESS AND IT WAS TOTALLY FABULOUS AND AMAZING. Like, I desperately wish I’d gotten a photo of it because I cannot even describe how awesome it was.

* * * * * *
I had my baggie of personal flowers and I sought out the grandmothers and the moms, the dad and the groom and the best man and the officiant. And the wombat. And I pinned a posy to each breast, my own little stamp of approval on the festivities. One of the things I like best about doing flowers for a wedding is the opportunity to make personal flowers. Everyone in Leah’s family got daisies, her mom with white and yellow like Leah’s bouquet, with a butter-colored freesia, her dad’s boutonniere tied with red and white string. The groom and groomsman got craspedia (and wire fiddleheads, and brown twine). Simon’s mom got yellow mums and freesias. And Wombat got craspedia, a white/yellow button mum, two tiny daisy-like feverfew, and a red and white twine wrapping – a perfect blending of both the families.

* * * * * *

This is when I discuss the thing about worlds colliding. At this wedding of Leah and Simon were two of my friends from high school who knew Leah and Simon through us, having become friends because of everyone attending parties or events we’ve had (Sara and the Irish German and their respective partners). At this wedding was my college boyfriend’s ex girlfriend (the one he dated for nearly 10 years after he dated me), who is now in a band with Simon because they met at a party we had at the Irish German’s house a year ago last Christmas (my ex was the Irish German’s roommate for a while) and talked music. At this wedding were bloggers I’ve read (stalked) for years, and it was pretty much blowing my mind how so many of my worlds were all coming together at the same time. I wasn’t even this mindblown at our own wedding, because I knew exactly who was coming and how they all related to me. But to be in a room and talking to Will and Nina and then 10 feet away was Sara who I’ve known since 10th grade and on the other side of the room was my college boyfriend’s ex, and at the next table was a super high profile wedding blogger – there’s just no way to explain the way I felt. Mostly it made me feel like I wanted the cocktail hour to go on forever and ever, just to get a chance to talk to everyone for longer than a few minutes. So here’s where I thank Leah and Simon for having a wedding and inviting these people because never again in my life will so many of my worlds be colliding at once. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

* * * * * * *

During the ceremony, I stood in my red dress and watched while Leah’s boss said exactly the right words. I held Leah’s bouquet of yellow and white daisies while she said her vows to Simon. I laughed and I cheered and I may have even cried a teeny-tiny bit. The beautiful words everyone said made me feel all squishy and reminiscing about my own wedding, and I looked at Dan standing in the back of the room. Everyone’s faces were full of joy, which is the best part of getting to stand up in a wedding – seeing the faces of the bride and groom’s communities, everyone so happy to be able to witness such a deeply personal and meaningful event. We raised our voices to signify our approval of the union of Leah and Simon, Wombat cheering along with the rest of the guests in the front row.

* * * * * *

We did formal photos, after the ceremony, and I helped wrangle Wombat who wanted nothing more than to be chased halfway down the street and back, over and over again. There were family photos, and Original Wedding Party (ie, their book club) photos, and some with me in them. I hugged my friend and smiled for the camera and wished there was some way I could convey in the photos how happy I was for her and for her husband and for their child, that they’d finally done it, all the years of everything they’d been through culminating in this day of community and family and love. The taco truck pulled up, and after that everything was tacos and burritos and drinking and cheese and dancing and chatting and laughing and flowers everywhere, flowers I made to help transform the space to be THEIR space, if only for a few hours. Little kids were squawking and chasing and bunny ears and tossing the pomanders I’d made. The best man and I gave speeches and toasted the happy couple. I tried my best to be present, to be involved in everything all at once, to talk to everyone I knew and some people I didn’t, while my feet grew more sore (brand new shoes and months without wearing heels). I danced with the groom. I got a couple of tacos and had champagne. I was trying to open a bottle when Leah and Simon cut their cake. I missed the age-old tradition of them feeding one another, but the pop of the cork came at exactly the right time, and people cheered. I managed to only pee once, because wrangling with the spanx and a strapless dress was not the most fun thing I’d ever done.

Slowly, people left. I hugged everyone I knew goodbye, promised to exchange information with some. I held the baby and she chewed on my hand. I danced with my husband one last time, slow, with my head on his chest. And then, Simon put on an apron and the rest of us got to work breaking everything down, taking down decorations, giving away flowers, clearing everything away, stacking chairs, folding tables. Vehicles got loaded. We put all the gifts in our car, and the leftover food that needed refrigeration. We cleaned and we organized and we packed and in such a short time, so fleeting, the room was as it had been when we’d arrived at 11 AM. Simon mopped the floor in his apron, and we left, hugging Sara and Ron goodbye, car full of presents and supplies and leftover cake, and we drove it over to Leah and Simon’s house and unloaded everything and went to bed.

* * * * * *

I felt the same way after Leah and Simon’s wedding that I did after ours and after Lissa and Curtis’s wedding. Maybe it’s just something that comes with being in a wedding (as minimal as my role as stand-up girl really was, which solely consisted of literally standing up for a few minutes, holding a bouquet, posing for photos, and giving a 3 minute speech) AND doing flowers for the wedding. Or maybe it’s that those are the three weddings at which I’ve known the most people and felt pulled in so many different directions. Yesterday, my aching feet just added to the bone-weary fatigue I already felt, the feeling of having had all of my energy drained the day before – my vendor energy and my friend energy and my extrovert energy and my set-up and clean-up energy. I felt like an empty shell, with the added letdown like you get when you’re a kid and it’s the day after Christmas. I’ve been looking forward to Leah and Simon’s wedding day for years, and while I had no idea the role(s) I’d play in it, it was still like Christmas.

So there you have it, for anyone reading this who wasn’t at Leah and Simon’s wedding. It was like Christmas and a birthday and a giant party all rolled up into one. Thank you again, my friends, for letting me be a part of something so personal and special and fun. I hope it was everything the two of you wanted it to be.

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This is what I said yesterday into a microphone at the wedding.

Hi everyone. I’m Emily, Leah’s* best lady today.

Many of you have known Leah or Simon their entire lives. You knew them as children, as teenagers, and as young adults just starting their lives. You’ve known them on their own, before they were a couple. I have ONLY known Leah and Simon as a couple, and I have a hard time imagining them without each other.

I met Leah the same way I met my husband – on the internet. I highly recommend it, by the way, as a good way to meet people. In 2006, when Dan and I were planning a trip to the Bay Area, I sent Leah an email asking if she and Simon might be interested in meeting up during our visit. The four of us had sushi and spent hours chatting and laughing at an English pub. We all hit it off and got along great, which you never know about when meeting people from the internet in real life.

Since then, I’ve watched Leah and Simon grow as a couple, and heard about their grand adventures. I was thrilled when they found a house to buy together. In early 2008, my husband Dan asked Simon to be a groomsman in our wedding, and only a few weeks later they found out they would be having Wombat in December. (It was planned, by the way.) I was so happy to be able to see and hear about Leah and Simon’s adventures in pregnancy and cheered when Simon called to let us know Wombat had been born. We celebrated that night by drinking Leah and Simon’s favorite pink champagne.

Over the years, when Dan and I visited the Bay Area, Leah and Simon have put themselves out to host us, make us feel welcome, and to have adventures with us. Watching them navigate their lives as parents has made it very clear how well they work together as a team, and how happy they are together. I was so honored when Leah asked me to stand up with her today, to be a part of their somewhat unconventional timeline. But knowing Leah and Simon as well as I do, they did things exactly the right way for them. So here’s to the next chapter in this family’s adventure. To Leah and Simon and Wombat!

*When I said this into a microphone at the wedding, I used their real names.

All the colors

On Sunday, Dan was off playing nerd games and I had the day to myself. One of the things I did was to take photos of all the flowers in the yard. I noticed that we had flowers blooming in pretty much every color of the rainbow. So here is my rainbow for April 2011.



Trivial pursuits

Yep, put my toes right there.

Way back in, oh, sometime earlier this year (February?), Dan and I both signed up to take the online Jeopardy test. Several people I follow on twitter signed up to take it as well, and as the day and the hour grew closer, I started to get a little bit nervous about it. I thought that was pretty funny, since it’s not like taking a 50-question online quiz would make any difference in my life (it wasn’t for a grade, or to pass a class, or anything else one normally gets as a result of taking a test). Finally, the appointed time arrived, and we both sat in the same places we always do (me on the couch with the laptop, he on the desktop across the room) and we took the test simultaneously.

* * * * * * *

When I was in 6th grade, my middle school had a geography bee (sponsored by National Geographic). It was set up like a spelling bee, except that instead of spelling words, you had to answer geography questions. Despite competing against 7th and 8th graders, I did pretty well (I think I was in the top 10 finishers) and had a lot of fun. In seventh grade, my school did the geography bee again. And I won. My prize was a globe and a subscription to one of the magazines National Geographic published for non-adults, and I had the opportunity to compete in a regional bee if I did well enough on a written exam. Sadly, I must not have done that well, or maybe there was some sort of scheduling conflict, because I never went any further than that school-wide contest. Still, my photo was in the paper, which is what passes for news around these parts.

We won’t talk about what happened in my 8th grade year (I came in second. To a sixth grader. Yeah.), but I got more interested in the National Geography Bee because it was hosted by Alex Trebek. Trebek, as anyone who has watched television in the last 25 years knows, is also the host of Jeopardy, a show I’ve been watching since childhood. I had all these fantasies, once upon a time, of auditioning for the teen tournament or the college tournament but it never got any further than that. My brain is the sort of brain that holds all sorts of useless trivia, and the only thing it’s really gotten me is the ability to beat most people at games like Trivial Pursuit. I can watch Jeopardy and know most of the answers, most of the time. Yay?

* * * * * * *

When I met Dan, I knew I’d met my match in brain sponge/regurgitation abilities. We played Trivial Pursuit once, and he beat me handily because he knew the answers to the sports questions in addition the all the other kinds of questions (sports are my weakness in that game). Dan’s brain for trivia is like 8 times the size of mine, which is saying something. He took the online Jeopardy test in early 2008, and actually did well enough to go in for an audition. Sadly, he was unable to go because they wanted him to audition the same week we got married, so obviously that wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t even know about it until years later, because I was in such a wedding-focused brain fog at the time that even if he told me about his feat (they wanted him to audition for Jeopardy!), it went in one ear and out the other.

So this test that we both took in February was sort of like a do-over for him, and for me it was kind of my chance to feel like maybe I was still a little bit smart. Happily for Dan, he got an email a couple of weeks ago telling him Congratulations! He passed the Jeopardy online test, and would he be able to go to LA to audition for the show?

We talked about it, the pros and cons of driving versus flying. Where he would stay, or we would stay if I went along. The cost of gas and the wear/tear on the car versus two plane tickets plus car rental. Since we both have far more time than money these days, we decided to drive (and heck yes, I wanted to go along. That’s a long, long drive for him to do alone, two days in a row). Oldest Friend, who was in NYC for work, said we could stay at her place (the second time we’ve stayed with her in LA when she wasn’t actually there). We picked out an audiobook at the library to keep us company on our many-hours drive through the most boring part of California, and I put some baby carrots and hummus and apples and oranges in a cooler bag, and Dan put on his “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” t-shirt, and on Wednesday we got in the car and drove to LA. He was fighting a nasty cold that had appeared suddenly on Monday evening, which obviously wasn’t an ideal scenario, but he felt better after sleeping most of Tuesday. We spent the drive listening to a science fiction novel that to our surprise had been written in the early 80s, so the plot included the Cold War and Soviet brainwashing techniques, and we got to hear multiple descriptions of the female characters’ legs and boobs (which, after a while, we had to laugh at the absurdity of every male age 18-80 falling in instant lust with the Town Bicycle). Despite one stop for Subway and one stop for gas, we made it to West LA in just over seven hours.

* * * * * *

After a morning fraught with ridiculousness (no hot water, so Dan had to take a cold shower and I heated water in the electric kettle to enable him to shave; the car had to be moved by 8AM to avoid a street sweeping ticket), Dan headed out to his Jeopardy audition. I plotted a walking route via Google maps that would take me to the Santa Monica pier and back. That’s right, I *WALKED* someplace in LA. I might have been the only person to do so that day, but I wanted to get some miles in after the previous day’s drive and the one to come after Dan finished his audition. I filled up a water bottle, grabbed an energy bar, and pocketed my pedometer, and I walked more than four miles to the beach. After exploring the pier a bit, I took off my shoes and socks and I dipped my toes in the Pacific ocean, the first time I’ve done that since moving back to California.

Here’s what I saw during my trek.

I saw this sign and all I could think of was that they were using electricity to shock bad kids, underground

Crustaceans at the Santa Monica Pier

Nothing's running yet at 9:30 AM

I got so excited when I saw Zoltar, and he looks nothing like the one in Big.

Bouquet on the beach. Well, IN the beach.

One of the clementines had been stolen by some seagulls that were fighting over it.

I was about halfway back to Oldest Friend’s house when Dan called to tell me his audition was over. I could tell it went well by the tone of his voice*, and, despite having already walked approximately seven miles at that point, I got a little spring in my step. He really did it, I thought. He auditioned for Jeopardy and crossed something off his life goal list.

I arrived at Oldest Friend’s house to find I’d walked 9 miles total. We packed our few belongings and got in the car and drove just over seven hours north, only stopping once, for gas/bathroom break, at the station right by Leah and Simon’s house. (We knew gas there wasn’t too expensive, and it’s just off the freeway.) Our kitties were happy to see us when we got home, and we were happy to be out of the car. It felt surreal, for sure: in the morning, I was in Los Angeles, walking through Santa Monica, touching the cold ocean water. In the evening, I was in Cloverdale again. The hours through the Central Valley, listening to the story about the Evil Commies and the Good Americans having to work together to study an alien spacecraft felt like a time warp. All I’ve got to show for that 36 hours are the photos.

*The story of the audition itself isn’t mine to tell (since I wasn’t there) but he’s in the contestant pool for the next 18 months and might get called to be on the show as early as July. If he actually does make it on the show, obviously I’ll write about it then!

Arts and crafts

Here are some of the projects I’ve been working on recently.

Plum and white, cotton/poly blend

I made a blanket for the baby of some friends through whom we found our wedding photographer. Elspeth was born on her daddy’s (and great-grandma’s) birthday, which is also our anniversary. I was touched when, in writing her birth story, Elspeth’s mom chose to include a photo of the little on on the blanket I made.

Guess which one isn't mine?

This one is mine.

I had to lightly pencil in the vines in order to figure out where to put the white flowers

If you guessed this one, you were right! Ain't it a beaut.

On Wednesday, I biked over to Karen’s house and I made two more pysanky. I really like how both of them turned out, but neither holds a candle to Karen’s amazing handiwork. Gorgeous.

Waste not, want not. Or some shit like that.

We tore out two of the three palm trees in one of the side yards, and I didn’t want to waste all those palm fronds. I did some googling and learned how to make palm frond flowers. After an evening of stripping, fiddling, weaving, and fending off curious kitties, I ended up with a wee bouquet’s worth of flowers, which I brought to Leah at her bachelorette party. Traditionally, I guess, the stand-up girl makes a bouquet from the ribbons gleaned from wedding shower packaging and gives it to the bride to be used at the rehearsal. For this wedding, there’s no shower (that I know of) and probably not going to be a rehearsal, but I thought Leah might like a little bouquet anyhow.

A girl and her giant crotch mojito

And oh yeah. I planned a bachelorette party. True to Leah’s wishes, we had a zillion colors of nail polish and girly magazines, tasty food and beverages, with brownies made by Moose and this super-cute banner by Sara and cupcakes from Holly and champagne from Kristin. I made simple syrup and brought mint from the garden for mojitos. We wore comfy clothing, and my wild idea of changing up the movies we might watch at the party from BBC-style costume dramas to traditional sleepover 80s movies turned out to be the least surprising thing about the night. (No, the stripper was NOT my idea. But I haven’t laughed that hard since maybe my own bachelorette party, during which I got a lap dance from a large African-American man named Simone dressed as a French maid.) Alas, neither 80s movies nor popcorn were consumed, but I think a good time was had by all.

I stuck my dollars in her shoelaces, but he didn't remove them with his teeth.

Pysanka!

Pretty eggs

One of the benefits of living in the ‘dale for the past six months has been reconnecting with old friends, people with whom I went to high school and maybe kept in touch with via social media but hadn’t actually seen or spent time with in years before we got here last fall. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of my old friends as adults, and found at least a few kindred spirits. Two of those folks are Karen and Andriy, who live in the house where Karen grew up along with Karen’s sister Amy and her son. We’ve had them over for tasty meals and games, and they’ve had us over for tasty meals and games, but hadn’t seen them in several weeks due to bad weather and general busyness until last weekend. Karen had messaged me on Facebook, asking if I or we would be interested in participating in a traditional Ukrainian Easter craft that she had started doing since not long after she and Andriy, whom she met when he was an exchange student from Ukraine at our high school, began dating.

The craft is called Pysanka, a style of decorating eggs for Easter. The technique involves several layers of dyeing and wax resist/batik to create amazing multicolored designs on the shells of eggs. Traditionally, pysanka is done on raw eggs, but Karen and her family blow the middles to only dye the shells, as they last much longer that way. Karen has been creating pysanky for more than a decade, and she’s saved many of the eggs she and her family have created to display in the spring.

Traditional Ukranian bee motif

I was super excited to try my hand at the pysanka method, as I’ve seen photos of the gorgeous Eastern European eggs since I was a kid and always wondered how they were made. I even went so far as to try to make one when I was a teenager. I got as far as blowing out an egg and painting half of it with watercolor paints before getting bored. So in preparation for our afternoon at Karen’s house, I looked them and the process up on Wikipedia and drooled over the photos I saw.

Image from one of Karen's books

This is how you make a pysanka. First, you blow the raw egg out of the shell, either the two-hole method or a one-hole method that involves some sort of a tool that Karen has. Then, you soak the egg shells in vinegar to make them more susceptible to dye. You acquire the special dyes you need and prepare them according to directions. You also acquire the various tools you need, like wax and special styluses in a variety of line widths. You light a tea light candle, and you put down some paper towels or newspaper, and you’re ready to begin.

All the colors

The important thing to know about pysanky is that you have to plan your design out in advance if you want it to look cool. You have to think about the colors you want to use, and the designs you want to use, and you have to figure out the order in which to make your designs in order to have the colors show up in the right way. First, you fill the stylus with wax and heat it in the candle flame, and you fill in the hole in the shell to seal it. Second, you use the stylus to draw on the egg any part of your design you wish to remain white, refilling and melting as you go.

You can tell it's Dan's hand because he's a lefty

When that is finished, you decide which is the lightest dye you intend to use (yellow, orange, light green) and dip the shell in the dye, turning it and holding it down long enough to create the color you want, and then you pull it out of the dye and wipe it off with a paper towel. Next, you use the stylus and wax to draw any part of your design on the egg you wish to remain that first light color. Repeat as necessary, dying your egg progressively darker colors, adding wax to preserve each color according to your design, and finishing with the darkest color dye (black, dark purple, dark blue, red) depending on which color is the darkest in your design. You can use q-tips to spot-dye areas along the way if you don’t wish to dye the entire egg that color, and there’s always one dye that isn’t made with vinegar (in this case, it was orange) in order to have a neutral dip between colors to help preserve color integrity.

Dan adds wax to preserve the yellow parts of the design

When you’re finished with all of the dying and all of the layers of wax, you have two options. When the egg has dried or rested a bit, you gently scrape or pull the wax plug out of the hole in the egg that you made at the beginning of the process so it doesn’t blow up in the next step. Then, you get to decide: oven or open flame? If you have a board with very small nails sticking out of it, you can prop the egg up on a nail and put it in the oven until the wax melts off. If you don’t, you can use a gas stovetop or a fireplace and slowly turn the egg, wiping it on a rag or a paper towel, until the wax is all melted and you’re left with your pretty design.

Dan's blue/orange, Andriy's Pepsi egg, my two in the back

During our pysanka adventure, Dan and I each made two eggs. I was much happier with my second egg than my first (I looked at the first egg as a practice run, just to learn the techniques), but I still like both of them. For my second egg, I tried to really plan out what I wanted to do, and modified my design because of the few times the stylus dripped wax in an unintended place.

Paper towels used to wipe dyed eggs

Karen tends to follow a pattern in a traditional Pysanky book with traditional motifs like bees, oak leaves, and flowers, while Andriy does similar things but he freehands them out of his own imagination.

Perfection!


Amy made the prettiest egg of all, in my opinion, and she spent hours working on it. Amazing!

Making pysanky is definitely both interesting and challenging, and I’m already looking forward to my next pysanka adventure on Wednesday. I can’t wait to put the designs in my head onto eggs!

Cage death match: The Bridesmaid Dress

For anyone who reads Leah of A Girl and a Boy, you may have seen that she asked me (via blog) to be her Best Lady a couple of weeks ago. I was equally surprised and thrilled, and my first thought was, “What in the world am I going to wear?”

Because while their wedding may not be the most traditional in the world, Leah and Simon are going to have a fantastic shindig, with some amazing photographs taken. If I’m standing up for Leah, I have to at least look halfway decent, right? Leah told me I could wear anything I wanted (other than the same dress she’s wearing, which, DUH.) Since I’m doing their flowers, I know the general sort of look and feel they’re going for, and I knew I wanted to try to find a dress that had red, yellow, or both so I’d fit in with their lemons and chili peppers.

My first impulse was to ask a friend who loves vintage clothing to help me find a suitable dress. I think retro styles are more attractive on my body shape than more modern dresses, and I thought she might be able to uncover a treasure that I’d never see. I looked at the retro/vintage dress sites I knew about. Jive Turkey sent me links to dresses on Modcloth and Ruche. I poked around all the sites, but the dresses seemed overpriced for what I’d get, and nothing really struck me as just the right thing.

(In measuring myself for dress sizing, I realized I’ve been wearing the wrong bra size for months or maybe years. Somehow, I’m a D-cup. I don’t know how that’s possible, but there you have it.)

Then I remembered that I have no income, so I probably shouldn’t be buying a dress anyhow. And I remembered that I have a sister who wears the same dress size I do. So I sent her an email and asked if she had any dresses that might fit the bill that I could borrow. Laurel has a TON of dresses, so I thought something she owned might be just the right thing for me to wear.

On one of our errand/grocery shopping trips to Santa Rosa, we stopped at a few stores so I could try on new bras (Leah and Simon gave me a gift card to Kohl’s for my birthday that I used to buy a swanky new 36D (!) bra), and I found a super cute pair of red print fabric shoes at TJMaxx. I’ve always wanted red shoes, yet never found any I liked well enough to buy. I decided I had to get them, and they’d be the shoes I’d wear in the wedding.

Luckily, the shoes match the dresses I borrowed from Laurel. Both fit me. And now I need your assistance. Here are the two dresses Laurel has loaned me. Help me, internet. Which dress should I wear in Leah & Simon’s wedding?

Option A

Option A

Dress is cotton, red with very subtle white dots. Pros: Dan thinks I look super hot. Cons: I have to wear shapewear because the dress is form-fitting and doesn’t have a liner.

Option B

Option B

Dress is cotton, white with red/pink/green/gold pattern. Pros: I don’t have to wear shapewear, and I think it’s a fun style. Cons: It’s partially white, and I think less formal than Option A.

(Oh yeah, and I got my hair cut. It’s wet in these photos, so not as much body as when it’s dry.)

Option C, of course, is if any of you have a better idea: a dress I should consider buying, or a dress I can borrow that will go with the shoes. I can’t afford more than about $50 including shipping for a dress, so. What do y’all think?