Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wedding leftovers: Part II

The truth is we pitched up at the Farm with a rented MPV stacked to the ROOF (literally, we should have taken a picture really) with twigs, leaves, jam jars and booze. I was a passenger for the duration of the trip, slightly overheating under the pile of Dan's kilt, emergency jacket (in case his wasn't delivered) and my dress.

And I am a little (a lot) embarrassed about how much work our nearest and dearest put in on Friday night and Saturday morning to pull it together. Half our guests were there on Friday night (about 30 people all together) and everyone pitched in - that's a lot of people. Jars were filled with stuff, fairy lights were hung, leaf bunting was tied and hung, DINNER was COOKED for everyone (that was planned, but I still can't believe my cousin did that), flower arrangements were made, name tags were tied to jars... the list is endless. Everyone sort of enjoyed pitching in I think, but even so I get red faced thinking about it.

In the wedding world, and (most of) the wedding blog world, everything looks perfect. I was scared of somehow 'missing out' on ideas that would make the day even more special (ridiculous), so I massively over indulged in wedding blogs before the wedding, and I've no idea why because most of the time I didn't enjoy it. In the end I cut back massively just because I couldn't stand reading any more of the same lines. And in the end, pretty much all the stuff that went into our wedding was our ideas anyway - which is exactly how it should be*.

Our wedding wasn't perfect and I don't think it's right that everything looks perfect in blog/magazine land, because it's not the real world. It creates unreal aspirations and desperation. Even when I was writing our Rock n Roll bride entry I was uncomfortable about the unbalanced perception I was giving the world. I want to redress the balance. In the interests of full disclosure, here's some more of our wedding disasters**:
  • We did actually hand make chocolate leaves to go on top of the cake - and they looked awesome! - but in the rush to get out of the door we left them in the fridge. Our cake topper, which was two love birds Dan bought me years ago, went missing completely (I thought we'd lost them, but thankfully they turned up the morning after). Our cake had no decorations.
  • Half the Ocado order we'd carefully planned for delivery to the farm wasn't delivered, and in the chaos no one noticed till it was too late. Thanks to some last minute supermarket dashes by, yes, our guests (guests? no! slaves!) disaster was averted.
  • The laptop/speaker combo happened by the skin of it's teeth and only because of the perseverance of a dear friend.
  • I started out wanting to make buttonholes for all our guests, this dropped to just the family (half the guests) and then on the morning of our wedding I found half an hour to tie seven for the absolute closest of close.
  • I'd wanted to make a proper feathery head piece to wear, but never had time - in the end I stuck a few in at an odd angle. I had feathers to tie round the cuffs of my boots and sew onto the the neckline of my cape (wouldn't have got the damned thing upside down then, would I) - didn't have time for those either. Didn't have time to do my nails either.
  • I practiced my hair once before the wedding and had no real clue if it would work at all, and no real finesse on the day. It stayed up, that's about all I can say!
  • I adjusted the straps on my dress myself (which took hours) and then when I'd done it I didn't have time to put my dress on again until I got dressed half an hour before the ceremony - I was lucky, it was not a disaster, but god knows it could have been. I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't seem to do anything about it.
  • I printed out owl masks (blow ups of my illustration) for the party later on, but never had time to cut them out or tie the ribbons on.
  • I never made menus for the tables, or door signs for people rooms or any number of bits of paper I'd at some point planned.
  • We ran out of prosecco for the toasts
  • Shame of shames - we didn't have time to think or buy anybody proper thank you presents. This needs to be rectified soon before the guilt consumes me.
But even that doesn't really reflect the feeling of impending catastrophe I went to bed with on the Friday night. Dan and I spent the night before the wedding together. We're useless when we're separated and didn't contemplate the traditional wedding-eve separation for more than about 10 seconds. We both went to bed late and beyond anxious, though. It's crossed my mind since that maybe it isn't a great idea to put the two most anxious people in room together for an event like this. Our anxiety had enormous positive feedback as it passed between us and we kept each other awake. Every time I got close to sleep, my heart started racing and I'd snap wide awake on the verge of a panic attack. I wasn't anxious about the marriage bit, I was anxious about the whole thing turning into a total fiasco and wasting everybody's time and money forcing them to travel so far for this thing. I had so much to get done in the morning still - putting together table decorations into something the caterers could deploy, setting out the cake, button holes, never mind getting ready! - and all I could think was that the whole thing was just going to be awful for everybody. 

I'm not exaggerating - I was the most stressed and anxious I've ever been, it was horrible. Finals? easy. PhD viva? hah! I laugh in the face of such trifles. All those moments in my life I was only ever going to let down myself - screw this up and I was going to let down everyone I loved - everyone. As well as wasting more money than we could afford for a fiasco. Apart from our mortgage, it was the most money either of us had spent on anything ever, and more than we could have conceived possible just a year or two before. And on - lets face it - a party. Pretty frivolous if it all went down the pan.

I was freaking out most of the morning trying to do stuff and eventually was pretty much manhandled into getting ready by friends. Even then I have this perception of dozens of people coming in and out of our room while we were trying to get ready finally - it's all a bit of blur. I don't know whether it was because Dan and I were getting ready together, or just because we were both there on site. I just remember being overwhelmed with all these people and our room looking like a bomb had hit it. God knows what the registrars thought when they interviewed me before the ceremony. It was all very surreal and not at all how I'd imagined it was going to be.

Photo by Laura Babb
But suddenly it was fine. Eventually everyone else had to get ready too. I was alone for a few much needed minutes. Dan had the task of welcoming everyone and chatting to people in the hall. All I had to do was wait. I got a few moments with my family whilst we were waiting for 'the nod' to go through. Then we walked into the hall and I was sort of nervous. I remember looking at Dan as we walked in. It was only an hour since I'd last seen him, but it seemed so much longer. He had a big grin on his face and looked so visibly happy that I finally began to relax.

Photo by Laura Babb
All the anxiety has a very happy ending. It was the most amazingly beautiful day. I was too cynical to believe it would feel like the happiest day of my life, but it really was. When I think about how happy I was it makes me feel a bit dizzy.

Photo by Laura Babb
* There's no point making anything part of such an incredibly intimate moment if it doesn't reflect who you are. If a modern day wedding is anything - for a couple who've been together for seven years already, own a house together and, by logical analysis, don't need a marriage to stay together - it's a moment to celebrate who your are as couple, thank everyone who's supported you through life to get you to this privileged point and establish how your going to live the rest of your lives together.

** On the scale of disasters I know these don't rank highly, the key elements were all there and it was only a wedding after all. But even a logical bride (and groom) loose track of what's important when it gets to crunch time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wedding leftovers: Part I

I had one last wedding craft post in me for these pages, which is about everything else we did. It was too long though, so I split it in half - so now it's two posts.... The second part includes some stuff we didn't do for balance.

My main goal for the decorations was that they would all be put together at home in the weeks before the event, and then deployed in an effortless sweep when we got there, so we could enjoy spending time with people the night before. It was a good plan and for a couple not undergoing major house renovations or moving continents during the pre-wedding build up, it could have worked (yes, we decided to complete all the most stressful things you can do in your life AT THE SAME TIME). The strength of this plan was based on the fact that it was an Autumn wedding so all the seasonal decorations would be dead - dried leaves, seed heads, sticks and pine cones. 

We did a BRILLIANT job collecting all the stuff in the months before the wedding - mainly because it was fun - and I wish I'd taken more pictures of our excursions and bounty. We brought down amazing lichen covered twigs (I really like lichen) and driftwood from Scotland when we visited around easter last year - although that return car trip is a story too traumatic to be retold involving flat tires, cat wee and 13 hours on the road. We picked fresh green leaves to dry in the spring. We carried home bags and bags of pine cones from a Summer wedding. When the Autumn came we spent scant happy hours in the parks of London picking up leaves as they fell from the trees - spurred on by a paranoia that all the leaves would vanish overnight somehow. Dan used to come home from work with them pressed into his laptop bag, unable to resist the giant dinosaur's feet in South Kensington.

We tried to get a mix of leaves, but we discovered that the London Plane is fairly unsurpassed in the breadth of the colour, size, texture and resplendent shape of its leaves. The leaves have a waxy coating which means they dry very well without losing their colour - this waxy coating is the result of the London Plane's unnatural heritage and helps them survive in the Big Smoke (they are so successful as a city-air purifying tree they can be found all over the world, even here in Philly). It also makes them the bane of the Natural History Museam's wildlife garden, because the leaves don't rot as easily as those of native trees - suffocating what gets smothered beneath them.

We gathered fruit boxes from the veg stalls at the bottom of the road and stacked them up in the house to dry our bounty. As we approached W-day (when someone started panicking about not having enough leaves - naming no names) they just ended up in piles on the floor. The house was penetrated with the smell of woodland and Autumn - which I liked a lot, it was a tiny bit like living in a forest, if that forest was also a building site. I'd planned to make giant wreathes to decorate the venue, mounted on spare bicycle wheels of Dans - this didn't happen. I'd also wanted to pre-fill all the glassware we bought to decorate the tables. This also didn't happen. I wanted to pre-essemble all the leaf bunting at home - this 50% did happen (thank god), but we probably ended up with about 50% of the amount I'd been hoping for the day even after everyone, very supportively, pitched in.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don Ken Gallery

Our wedding 'got blogged' again, this time from the male perspective - believe it or not I did make a point of trying to make the Rock n Roll bride entry about both of us (we wrote it together) with all the details from Dan's side too. This effect is probably best demonstrated by our guest book. All the women signed their entries from the group unit they'd arrived with - boyfriends, husbands, children etc - probably assuming they wouldn't bother to write themselves. Quite a few of the men folk were then sufficiently amused by the book to leave their own entry, typically only signed from themselves. This is quite noticeable when you flick through...

Photo by Laura Babb
Photo by Laura Babb
We almost didn't have a guest book at all. It was getting to the point of the final countdown (literally hours before leaving the house) and we hadn't thought of anything. The best I could come up with was the fingerprint tree I'd seen on some wedding blogs, but although it's a nice idea it was a bit twee for our taste. But then inspiration flopped through the letterbox, literally.

I'd been following John Kenn's blog for awhile - I think I probably came across it on Drawn! - as it's kind of impossible not to fall in love his monsters. They are scary, but there also very humorous and somehow loveable. The expressions on their faces are just so literal. You can kind of tell he produces stuff for kids, his pictures have that inexpressible Roald Dahl element that children love. Children like being scared and when you look at the monsters you involuntarily make up your own stories to match. I included one of his pictures in the mood board I made for Laura, which also caught Dan's attention. Simultaneously, in response to popular demand, Kenn's drawings were made into a book - which at the time was only available through a Danish website. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, harnessing the power of a babel fish I managed to order that book. Sneakily, whilst Dan was in the shower one weekend morning - apparently all my best sneaking is done in that twenty minutes when Dan is in the bathroom. I also made sure it was addressed to Dan to enjoy that ultimate moment of confusion - "I don't remember ordering anything from Denmark??".

It took about ten minutes after opening before we decided to use it as our guest book. Dan cycled out and bought post-it notes and pens whilst he was collecting the bread to take down to the Farm. I love our guestbook - not only is it full of cool monster pictures, people were really inspired by it. They made up stories and poems about the pictures, drew monsters of their own.

John Kenn Mortensen's Post-it Monstre is now available with world-wide shipping. Buy it, be inspired, or at least subscribe to his blog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Post-it Valentine

Since moving to Philadelphia, Dan and I have acquired a small acreage of free time. We spend most of that time together. This, combined with the complete lack of any decent card shops in the near vicinity of work, makes it very difficult to buy cards on the sly. So I has to be a bit creative with this years Valentine.

First of all I had to convince Dan to go to CVS without getting suspicious... He was mildly curious about the Post-it notes I wanted, but my response of "I just like Post-its" went unquestioned. Lets face it, almost 8 years in to this relationship he'd heard plenty weirder than a sudden desire for sticky notes.

All I had to do was wait for Dan to go in the shower this morning and...

Ta Da! The trap was sprung. An antler/heart Post-it valentine, tee hee hee. All the better for being unanticipated by the recipient. Dan's response - "I thought you were being extra sneaky this morning". Anyway, whilst I was taking my turn in our shower, he got sneaky too:

Shoddy pictures courtesy of my shiny new iPhone... more of which later. LOVE me x 

Friday, February 10, 2012


I added a subscription button on the right ---------->

....because *someone* demanded it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wedding: Knitting IV

Just one last piece of wedding knitting to blog - my cape/shrug/thing. So, having decided to knit everything in one yarn type for some sort of visual and artistic integrity, I then knit this in Noro Kogarashi. Let's be clear, Kogarashi is a lush bulky (12 wpi) 51% silk/49% wool yarn. It's gorgeous and smooshy and, as it's Noro, has just awesome colour variegation. It has to be said that it's relationship to the Scottish landscape is minimal though. There goes my artistic integrity.

Photo by Laura Babb
Our wedding was in November, I was anticipating icy winds and chilly drafts - as it was there was neither and the weather more closely resembled the last day of summer. What I'm trying to do is paint a picture of my state of mind. The only thing close to a knitter's pre wedding panic, is that feeling you get about two weeks before Christmas when your Christmas knitting list is barely half done and you have two pairs of socks and a scarf still to get through. I needed a warm layer, I had to knit it myself and I had a week to go. Bulky and drapey cuts the mustard in that situation. I planned a little better than that - I put the Ravelry research hours in, but I still gave myself knitting RSI in the process.

Photo by Laura Babb
I did it though! I finished ahead of time. I even got to wear it when the chill drifted into the air after dark. It wasn't obvious to me until I looked at our lovely photos though, that I managed to wear the frigging thing upside down the entire time. I was wearing it and thinking "this really doesn't feel as nice on as I remember, why is there all this fabric under my arms?".... I hope you can't especially tell, unless you know the pattern. The sad thing is that I had very, very carefully matched the variegation in the yarn in both halves of the cape so it mirrored properly. When it was the right way up, with a little (lot) of imagination I thought it looked like feathers. Maybe even owl feathers? The wrong way up doesn't do it for me....

...you see, this is the dirty underbelly of all those wedding blogs with their shiny perfect weddings! It's all lies!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wedding: Knitting III

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find nice kilt socks? Impossible, that's how difficult. You can buy generic synthetic-y pseudo cabled jobbies and that's it. Nothing like good enough for my love on our wedding day. There are a few kilt sock patterns floating around the internet (rav link). They're pretty much exclusively overwrought with "celtic" cables and not Dan's taste at all. I wanted modern and colourful. Toirneach kilt hose by Aislinn L. Charlton-Dennis featured a nice plain wide rib on the leg and a rather elegant series of decreases to create a seam along the back - I thought that feature in particular would show off Dan's legs. The pattern is for worsted weight wool though, of which a) Dan would melt in and b) Starmore's 3 ply equivalent doesn't come in such an array of colours as the Hebridean 2 ply. I got in few colour choices and when Dan's kilt arrived we picked the one that went best. Then I measured, swatched, made a few calculations and came up with these:

You can just about see the detailing on the back of the socks in this shot. Photo by Laura Babb
Photo by Laura Babb
Photo by Laura Babb
This bit of knitwear is still around too, so I got to take a few detail shots just because:




And when your love dances the night away in his wedding boots, you can expect to find that his socks have felted a little around the ankle come morning.