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The Meaningful Details

Thanks to my wee business, I’ve been involved with a significant number of weddings to date. And luckily for me, I never seem to get tired of them – as a cultural construct, as a significant event, as something people spend months or years planning to get just right when it all comes down to a single day, a few hours. Many people don’t put much stock in my specific trade (flowers) because “flowers die,” they “only last one day.” Well, I can’t deny that. But I will say that EVERYTHING you do for a wedding is for one day – under most circumstances, that food won’t be eaten again for another meal. That music was only played once. Your ceremony lasted five minutes or 45 minutes or 90 minutes if you did it up with full mass in a Catholic church. The invitations got stuck on a fridge or tossed in the garbage, the cake was consumed (or not, depending on how much fondant was involved), the beverages metabolized. They say after a wedding all you have left are memories and photos. So I will agree that flowers are just another frivolous aspect of a traditional (or nontraditional, if you swing that way) wedding.

BUT. Flowers are something I find fascinating when it comes to weddings and traditions. It’s true that they only last a day, intended for a fleeting moment. But the history of using flowers in a wedding celebration, worn or carried, used as decoration, is probably as old as weddings themselves. It’s an art form using perishable materials, much like gourmet food. We use flowers to mark significant events – the birth of a baby, to note a performance well done, a graduation, a wedding, an anniversary, an illness, a death. Flowers are at once ephemeral and timeless. And for some people, flowers can tell a story.

For our wedding, many of the flowers were grown by my mom. I used a piece of the tree that was planted the day I was born and picked wildflowers that were personally significant to me and my life to use in my bouquet. When I work with a bridal couple, if I’ve never met them I like to hear the story of their relationship and find out whether there are any meaningful details that I might be able to capture in their personal or decor flowers, whether it be something that grew in grandma’s garden, or a favorite herb, or something grown by friends or family. Recently, my cousin Scarlett and her long-term significant other decided to get married, and after being engaged a month or so they decided to get married soon and then have a big party later.

I’ve written before about Scarlett and why she is so important to my life, but let’s simplify by calling her my not-biologically-related to me sister. Technically she’s my half step cousin, but she’s also a very close friend and has known me since I was born. And so when she called me up this summer to tell me she and Jason were going to have a mini almost-elopement in San Francisco in October, I was both thrilled and terrified – thrilled, of course, that they’d decided on a wedding that would work best for them, and terrified I wouldn’t do her bouquet (or the other small personal flowers used for their tiny wedding) justice. I asked her whether she had any special flowers she might want, and she gave me free reign to do whatever I liked. After brainstorming a ton of ideas I sent a message to my sisters asking them for a bit of feedback, and what I received went along with the major ideas I’d had.

Since the ceremony was tiny and immediate-family-and-closest-friends-only, I wanted Scarlett’s bouquet to have a piece of me and of my mom and my sisters and the place where she grew up. My friend Brian’s roommate grows amazing dahlias, among other flowers, and he offered me full use of his yard’s bounty. I sourced a few additional things at a local market, and here’s the final bouquet.

Scarlett’s bouquet included homegrown dahlias in many colors, veronica (which I used in my sister Laurel’s bouquet), lisianthus (which I used in my sister Lissa’s bouquet), snapdragons and larkspur (which I used in my bouquet), three succulents (one of which grew in my mom’s yard), and passion flower vine. I used a collar of cuttings from my birth tree (a douglass fir) and from a redwood tree, because of the redwoods where Scarlett grew up. Interspersed were cuttings from my sister Laurel’s tree, and the whole thing was wrapped with a pale green silk, some of which I used 4.5 years ago to make a purse for Lissa’s wedding.

Because Jason is a lifelong cycling enthusiast, I wanted to do something to reflect that in his boutonniere. After doing some digging, I found a local community bicycle shop that gave me a small bike sprocket for free, which I spray painted silver to make it stand out more. I used a homegrown calendula, larkspur, a bit of Laurel’s tree, and broom corn in Jason’s bout along with the sprocket. I had no idea what Jason was wearing but the boutonniere ended up matching his outfit exactly.

Scarlett and Jason were married at sunset on October 20, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge at Land’s End in San Francisco. I could not be happier for them, and was so glad to be able to play a part in their celebration.


Friday Faff: gelato edition

Faff time!

* Last night, I made chocolate pomegranate cluster thingies. Basically, I took the arils out of a pomegranate, rinsed and let dry. Then, I melted some chocolate chips and dumped the arils in. I stirred it a bit, then used a teaspoon measurement to drop spoonfuls onto a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. I froze them until they were solid, then rolled about half of them in a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

* This morning, I had to buy a 9 volt battery from the hardware store at 7:45 AM so the automatic cat feeder would function. I was surprisingly more functional at that hour than I would have expected considering I probably didn’t fall asleep until after 1:30 AM.

* Today, after hitching a ride to the bus depot in Santa Rosa, I took a bus to San Rafael and then transferred to a different bus to get to the east bay. While I was waiting for the second bus, who should appear but my awesome cousin!!!! I hadn’t seen her since before she left on her big four-month adventure in Africa (she just got back a week ago) and it was totally off-the-wall random that we’d run into one another. I love small world things like that; plus we got to have a nice little catch up visit during the bus ride and the BART ride.

* The reason I came down is because tomorrow at 7 AM Dan and I are flying to San Diego. We’ll be attending my cousin’s wedding in a small town in the eastern foothills, for which I’ll be doing the flowers. Dan will be exploring Julian and eating apples and pie. On Sunday night, we get to spend some time with Oldest Friend in San Diego before flying back up to SFO on Monday morning.

* Today, once I dropped my stuff off at the house where we’re staying the night, and caught up on my internets, I walked to downtown Berkeley through my old stomping grounds just north of University. I basically walked most of the route I used to run when I lived above the Body Time shop at Shattuck and Berkeley Way. It’s fun walking through that area, because I always play the “which stores/restaurants are the same and which ones are different?” game, and I always have flashbacks to specific memories from specific spots. I got to try about 8 different flavors of gelato from my favorite gelateria (Gelateria Naia) and settled on small scoops of cassia cinnamon and pumpkin. Yum.

* Tonight, Dan and I got to have a date night for the first time in I don’t even know how long. We literally could not remember the last time just the two of us went out for dinner. We had really great Indian food at a place in Albany, and it was quite inexpensive for the amount of food we got. Two thumbs up.

* Holy crap, a 7 AM flight is going to SUCK.

The week of stuff

Big stuff and little stuff happened this week.

Big stuff:

Scarlett moved to town! She and her boyfriend arrived with the u-haul on Tuesday, just in time for a seriously spectacular smoky sunset, courtesy the fires in LA and Utah and western Colorado. Her new apartment is wicked awesome and only a half block away from us.

We went on a hike on Saturday and reached the summit, though it was only 11,700 feet and not 14K+. I keep forgetting to upload the photos.

Little stuff:

We got amazing pears and peaches at the farmer’s market, and I baked some peach cupcakes (adapted from this recipe). I frosted them with browned butter icing, which is super-tasty but also very, very rich. I gave half the cupcakes to Scarlett.

Our contribution to dinner with friends on Wednesday (game night!) was chocolate chip cookies, which means I baked twice in one week.

I gave blood yesterday and got my 1-gallon pin! I know I’ve donated more than that over the years but have officially given blood 8 times with this particular blood bank.

We watched Milk last night on DVD and it was fantastically good. It made me wonder: had it been released in October last year instead of December, would it have had any effect on the passage of prop H8 in California?

I finished a baby blanket for the person who teaches my classes at the gym, who is now 8 months along. I’ll take some photos before I give it to her next week.

Where I was

Last week, we had some friends over for dinner on Wednesday night who are moving from Colorado to California, and they brought their 2.5 year-old son who spent most of the evening chasing the kitties around, declaring “Kitty!” as the kitties ran away, confused about this small monster who smelled like and resembled a human but was surely way too small to be one. He liked the magnetic letters on our fridge and insisted on having a drink that looked just like the mojitos the adults were drinking, which I served him in the only plastic cup we have, which is covered in horse holograms from Churchill Downs in Louisville.

We enjoyed dinner, especially spending time with our friends, and bemused at their reactions to and apologies for their son’s behavior; he was actually very well-behaved and acted like I would expect a two-year-old to act, but I think since they knew we aren’t around little kids very much that it might be kind of weird for us. Luckily we like them and we like him and all went very well.

The next day, Scarlett came back to town in order to look for an apartment and get some last-minute things settled for her upcoming move to Denver for grad school. Her boyfriend joined her this time, and we spent the weekend showing them around and cheering when Scarlett found just the right place and signed the lease (only half a block from our place!) and eating pub food and ice cream. In the middle of their visit, I had to fly to Durango for work (flew down Sunday night, flew back Monday after a day-long training). The trip to Durango was short and relatively uneventful: I had breakfast at(and bought coffee beans for Dan from) Carver’s; I had dinner at a fantastic Himalayan (Indian/Nepali/Tibetan) restaurant. I stayed in the Strater Hotel though my room didn’t resemble a brothel but rather perhaps the vomit of a wedding cake. Our training was over in plenty of time for our afternoon flight, but something kept our plane overly long in Denver and it was really hot, so despite the plane being not even close to full there were some sort of weight restriction issues that I didn’t fully understand and we were told that five adults had to volunteer to take a bump to the next flight or the plane couldn’t take off. Since I live in Denver, I volunteered. I got a $200 flight voucher and got to sit in the airport for an extra few hours, which was OK once I got the free wireless to work. I got home a lot later than expected and didn’t get to spend as much time with Scar and Jason as I would have liked, but that evening we played a game Dan got for graduation called Zauber Cocktail which was super fun, and we all went to bed late, and I called in late for work on Tuesday.

Tuesday evening Dan drove up to Glenwood Springs with me for my Wednesday training, and we had more pub food and stayed at the Hotel Colorado, which (as I’ve mentioned before) is supposed to be haunted, but the only unusual thing we noticed was the lack of cool air in our room. Man, was it hot. We got up early so we could have breakfast at the place we like and on the way back up to our fourth floor room my neck suddenly took a giant crap, right before I had to start my training. After that was over, we drove back and got home at a reasonable hour, but my neck was still killing me and remains so.

I have one more training to do, which is tomorrow in Denver. The upside is that no travel is required. The downside is that there will be more than 60 people there. I’m used to training groups of 15-30, so 60+ is going to be a challenge. Wish me luck, internet.

Mountains, museum, no emergency room

My cousin Scarlett was visiting for this past week, ostensibly in town to attend an event at the school where she’ll be starting a graduate program in the fall, but also to spend some time hanging out with us (I love it that she visits us!) We were able to have some adventures on Saturday and Sunday, and yesterday I took the day off to enjoy one last adventure before she left.

Saturday, we drove up to Estes Park to show her a mountain town, because when she visited last year while headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park Dan ended up in the emergency room for several hours having a rusty roofing nail removed from his foot. Luckily, this year there was no need for a visit to a local hospital, so we drove on up to Estes and wandered around the touristy bit. I was able to check Jive Turkey’s twitter updates (knowing her water had broken) through Scarlett’s crackberry, so that was helpful. We watched the taffy pulling machine and admired the rocks in the rock shop and bought some fudge, and I was very disappointed to find that the glass shop was no longer there.


Water wheel
After determining that Scarlett’s wallet was in the car (and therefore her ID), we drove down the canyon to Fort Collins and had some lunch in Lucky Eddie’s (it’s kind of like old-west saloon meets Irish pub, and they have a big barrel o’ peanuts at the front and you can grab as many as you like and throw the shells on the floor. So we did. I was bummed that I’d left the camera in the car, because there were some seriously impressive peanut shell piles on that floor.

The line on the back said, “Their old flames.” My knee, she has been slapped.

Our last stop of the day was at the O’Dells brewing company, where Scarlett wanted to do some beer tasting. Dan sipped a bit of each, but he was driving, and I tasted one or two of them but only found one (I think it was a light-colored wheat beer) that I didn’t find thoroughly disgusting. I took a shot of Dan with the beer for his brother, who loves O’Dells, checked the crackberry again to determine that JT had, in fact, had a bouncing baby Spats (hooray!), and we headed back down to Denver.

I drank some of the one on the far left.

He’s a beer man.
Sunday we all slept in really late and didn’t get going on our adventure until the afternoon. It was also steadily drizzling rain all day long. Even so, we walked to City Park and went to the Nature and Science Museum. I found some cool things to take photos of and really enjoyed the wet air, such a rarity in Colorado. On the way back, we stopped in at the Tattered Cover on Colfax and spent some time browsing. We tried to get ice cream at Lik’s but it was closed for Easter.

Rainy flower

This makes a roaring sound when you put a coin in it. Dan said every time he hears it he flashes back to being five years old.

Mined in Colorado

Hee. Nugget.

Aquamarines, also from Colorado.


I love so many of the things in the Prehistoric Journey exhibit.

Spine and shadows.


This thing is enormous. How did they manage to hold their heads up?

Monday was gorgeous and warm, and Scarlett and I walked down to the commercial strip around first and Broadway. I’d heard a lot about the stores in the area (particularly Fancy Tiger) but had never been there other than to go to a movie at the Mayan. I also thought that Scarlett might be interested in some of the stores, and I was right. We ended up seeing all kinds of cool stuff in a shop called Decade (complete with a male cat named Stella, or Stella the Fella as the cashier called him) and having a fascinating conversation with a shop owner. On the way home, we stopped for lunch at the Spicy Pickle at 9th and Lincoln. When we got back to our house, Dan was home from class and eventually we returned to Lik’s and got ice cream, then popped into the pub next door for some beer (and girl beer for me; I call hard cider girl beer for those who might be interested).

Stuff is finally starting to put out leaves again.

It’s a candy store! and an appliance store? Floor wax and dessert topping?

It was a great long weekend and a great visit. Today I am still quite tired, and somehow with all the walking we did I appear to have hurt my leg again (same leg, different spot), but I’m glad we were able to have so much time to spend with my cousin. She rules.


Taken on Monday, 3 days after I took this photo.
Things I have been looking forward to that are nearly here:

The arrival of spring (it’s here! or nearly so)

The arrival of Spats Turkey (April 1, baby, come out then!)

A weekend at home to do around-the-house stuff and be lazy (I’ve been away every weekend in March so far!)

Getting started with practices for my work softball team (!)

Our first wedding anniversary (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!)

My cousin coming for another visit (this time, to check out the city and the graduate school she’ll be attending this fall!)

Also, an update on Project Hott:

I have, thus far, successfully avoided eating any chocolate or other candy at work for over two weeks now. Perhaps a bit of my caloric deficit was offset by the consumption of chips and cookies this past weekend, but then again the FitLinxx machine at the gym said I burned over 2000 calories snowshoeing on Saturday, so it’s at least a wash there. I don’t know that I can really feel any difference in my clothes yet, but I’ve been making an effort to change up my gym activity, pushing myself harder on machines than I have in a while, and I think my stupid leg is finally better enough that I can start running outside more regularly. It’s only been ELEVEN MONTHS, geesh.

Things I learned on (or around) my Thanksgiving vacation

* Loki gets carsick (both ends), at least in the dark. Ugh. This is a recent development. But he doesn’t make a peep. (Petra peeps. Very loudly. The entire drive.)

* Sometimes when you are shopping for something in particular and having a difficult time finding it, if you make the decision to leave the store and then just decide to go back once around, just in case, you will find exactly the right thing. In my case, a coat at H&M.

* Shopping when I feel like I actually have enough money to buy something is far more fun than not, even if I don’t buy much.

* One’s perceptions about prices can change drastically depending on the setting. In a regular store, while buying yarn, I frequently decide a skein that costs over 5 bucks is too expensive. In ArtFibers, especially because everything in there was 10-30% off AND everything feels like it got shat out of an angel’s butt, $65 for enough to make one scarf suddently doesn’t seem so bad. (I didn’t actually buy anything, but I did spend an hour touching EVERYTHING).

* For some reason, airport security employees do their best to make life more difficult for people. There was almost nobody in the airport when we were there Saturday afternoon, no line at security – but the lady made me put my purse in an already overstuffed bag. Which I promptly removed on the other side of security. WTF?

* My mom’s boyfriend is the epitome of “Doesn’t understand the concept” when it comes to the game Taboo. Somehow, he just didn’t get that you CAN’T say any of the words on the card…or any derivation or root thereof.

* Some recipes I make in Denver take far more time in California. Is it my mom’s oven? Is it the frozen whole wheat flour? Is it the altitude difference, the additional humidity, or something else altogether? No matter, it turned out OK.

* You really can fit 11 adult-sized people around my mom’s table, but only if one of them actually doesn’t sit with everyone else because she has her annual Thanksgiving migraine (Sorry Lis.)

* Spending time with relatives who are also friends is highly underrated. 2 meals spent with awesome cousins plus their husband/boyfriend (respectively) = highlight of the trip for me.

* This was the first trip to the Bay Area in 2 years during which time we didn’t have to do anything for anyone’s wedding. It was awesome.

* Flying to CA for Thanksgiving (especially on off days, like we did) is infinitely preferable to taking the train for 2 days in each direction.

* My mom’s dog is weird. She has taken to obsessing over floor shadows, and entertains herself with them for hours on end.

* A Specialty’s cookie tastes even better when you have to wait months or years to eat one (and their sandwiches are just as good as I remembered).

* Wombat’s name is a highly guarded secret, and one which I don’t know despite subjecting his parents to Chinese water torture. OK, not really with the torture thing.

* Leah does late-term pregnancy with style and panache, and she looks like her pre-pregnant self with a basketball under her shirt. And she kindly let me maul her belly while Wombat did his limited gymnastics given the small amount of space he has to maneuver.

* Everyone in CA that we talked to about it wants us to move there after Dan graduates. We’ll see what happens.

All in all, a great trip. And I have photos, but the memory card is in Dan’s camera so they’ll have to wait for another day.