31 January 2009

Recent discoveries, and a sneak peek...


Here is a sneak peek at the invitations we chose. Love the colo(u)rs!!! 
They are designed by  Viva La Violette, a wonderfully talented and imaginative artist/designer who specializes in "personal papers and pretties." 
I discovered her, and a host of other handmade artisan goodies at Esty.com. Esty is a remarkable website that I don't quite know how I have managed to live without. 

p.s. And, no, our names are not "Hannah" and "Simon". *SMILE*

Just a moment

Saturday morning. 
Still in bed, with a cup of tea, my laptop and my D.E.B. still asleep next to me.
Checking email, and just received proofs of our wedding invitations.
Gleeful, heart racing, I click on the attachment.
Suddenly struck and overwhelmed.
Crying. Happy tears. Tears of disbelief.
I turn and look at his little angel face. Asleep. 
I smile through more tears. As I look at him and see our names side by side on the beautiful perky cards.
My God, this is actually, really happening. 
I think I need to wake him...

It takes a village

Throughout this early and very intense stage of wedding planning, I have learned one clear and valuable lesson: “No bride is an island.”

No matter how smart you are, or how smart think you are, you can always benefit from the knowledge, wisdom and experience of others.

Obviously, a lot of the advice that one is given when one is a “Bride-to-be” is often a load of old rubbish and nonsense. Such as the email I received from a friend (and I use the term loosely) of mine, who wrote recently with advice about Bridesmaids. To illustrate her point, she included the following, a picture she found on a bridal blog she’s a fan of:

Her advice: “Choose your bridesmaids carefully, make sure they are all shorter and fatter than you. And, everyone knows the drill. Pick a ridiculous color and a god-awful design that no one looks good in.” 

It was only after reading this message that I began to contemplate just how and why the sender counts me amongst her friends…because I’m shorter and fatter than she is, perhaps?  Hmmm….

Well, I discarded that advice from my mind, as swiftly as I deleted her message from my inbox. From the ridiculous to the sublime, wedding advice runs the gamut.  As does, I’m proud to say, wedding support. Barford in a very small English village, in a small English county. Not much happens here, but there is always a lot going on. And a village wedding is big news.

As if I weren’t “novelty factor” enough, I now carry the mantle of “upcoming Bride-to-be.” This quite happily translates into one receiving sweet, little missives regularly through the door. Short, handwritten notes of advice with names and phone numbers of people I should contact, speak to, get to know, and etc. And, more importantly being a Barford bride-to-be means I am routinely invited round to bright, warm living rooms or cosy kitchens for countless cups of tea and girlie conversations about wedding invitations, music, flowers dresses and honeymoon plans.

There is something about weddings, isn’t there? We women love them. No, I mean we really love them! I remember, (was it last year?) when Elizabeth Hurley got married and had three different wedding ceremonies, with at least 5 different dresses! The press scowled and poo-pooed her, but not me. “Lucky cow!” I thought. I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to wear each one of the wedding dresses you like, and every pair of wedding shoes you want, but no, the rest us have to settle for one dress, one day. Well, phooey!

And, as it happens, I’ve lived part of my life as a professional Theatre director, so “putting on a show” is in my blood. It makes difference whether the “production” is Off-Off Broadway or a small village wedding, the principle is the same: It’s all about the details.

I’m very thankful I’ve got a team of people (dare I call them my Village People?) pushing me on the details.

Graham, Ron and Phil.  No, they are not a Beatles tribute band. These three chaps are my best mates at the gym. Between them, their average age is 70; and on one of my first days at the gym Ron beamed at me proudly, and said: “Bet you can’t tell which ones of us have had hip replacements.”

These fellas keep me motivated, and honest.  When I feel weary and fed-up, they cheer me on. When I’m late coming into the gym in the morning, a merry rebuke or two comes my way from the treadmills. I admire their chutzpah and their skills. These guys are no joke. They are there before I get there, and they are still working out long after I’ve thrown in the towel, and headed off for a cup of tea and wedding talk.

The “tea & talk” support team are super, too. Diane, my sassy Scots friend, is spear-heading the “wedding favor” crusade. I have decided to give jars of marmalade or jam as our wedding favor. As we are leaning toward lavender as the wedding theme colour, I thought, na├»ve, novice jam-maker that I am, that it might be clever to produce a lavender jam/marmalade as a gift to give our guests.

Di loves a challenge, and she was all over this project in no time. She’s planning to experiment next week with a “Lemon Lavender” recipe we found online last week.  Over coffee and chocolate biscuits – I resisted as best I could—we discussed wedding music. Di is a huge Lesley Garret fan, so we talked arias. It’s so nice to have people in my life with whom I can really discuss classical music.

(I’ve had some rather zany ideas about music lately. I’m toying with the idea of walking down the aisle to “O Mio Babbino Caro” better, and for me, more importantly, known as: “The Theme from the film ‘A Room with a View.’”)

On Tuesday, after the gym, I went round to Sally’s for tea. Sally’s another amazing woman. (We need to get her into Barford W.I.) Sally is an actor, who has performed and lived previously in the U.S. and Canada. There is something about theatre people, isn’t there? I mean the world over, we’re just part of one big global tribe.  She’s one of those people that you meet, and you swear you’ve known them before. And she makes a fantastic tea-cake. I could not resist. We spent the afternoon bouncing around wedding ideas, mainly about flowers. 

Thinking I may copy Liz Hurley and carry a lilies of the valley bouquet. Lily of the Valley is such a beautiful flower, and it has such an incredible smell. I like the idea of having flowers that carry a strong scent – okay, a no-no for allergy sufferers, like myself—but, at least theoretically, I like the idea of making this a very sensuous—as in feast for the senses—event.

Oh, it’s just fun, isn’t it? I hope in the midst of the chaos, and the inevitable onslaught of “To Do” lists and deadlines that all of this continues to be fun. 

28 January 2009

Tagged!

I have been a tagged on Facebook and by Victoria Plum. When you get "tagged" you are meant to respond by creating a list of "Random Things" about yourself. Facebook asked for 25 Random Things, and Victoria Plum has asked for 6 Random Things. So to split the difference, here are "11 Random Things about Me":

1.) I secretly love Country Music.
2.) Have always wished that I had learned to play the cello as a child, instead of violin.
3.) Would love to one day have twins -- how very Shakespearean.
4.) Not afraid of heights, but seriously afraid of falling.
5.) I "sound" tall, and people are often surprised when they meet me at how tall I am not.
6.) Would love to go on an archaeological dig with the "Time Team".
7.) Would love to be a contestant on "Mastermind" with specialist subject: "Shakespeare" OR  "Blackadder - Series 2: Elizabethan Era".
8.) Believe nothing in life is ever truly random.
9.) Would love to meet Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury.
10.) Would love to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, or at least "The Vicar of Dibley." 

11.) First met my D.E.B. in the checkout lane in Tesco in 1996.

I am passing the "Tagged Torch" on to: 

24 January 2009

Dream cake


Isn't this lovely?!
It's called a "Poetry Cake". Along the sides are the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet #43: "How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways." *SIGH*
Gorgeous. 

Sweet Dreams

In addition to having become a low-carb, low salt, high veg, non-beer drinking, running, swimming brideaholic, I’ve started to have ‘troubled sleep.’ Recently, I have been waking in the wee hours terrified that one or either of us won’t make it to the wedding. This is more than a little worrying as the “joyful day” is still months away.

The nightmare scenarios vary: run down by renegade buses; savaged by random, rogue bears; abducted by malevolent aliens, you name it. Sometimes, I’m not able to wake myself out of the dream, and the D.E.B. has to take hold of me, and comfort me back to reality, as I lay flailing about slaying dragons, sharks or Lord Voldemort.

I realize that the source of this angst is an anxiety driven by the fact that I am utterly afraid of being “too happy.” That somehow being “too happy” or too much in love, will inevitably trigger a negative and adverse response in the universe to redress the cosmic balance. (I really need more Vitamin B, or maybe even a beer.  Or two.)

Thankfully, I know that I am not alone in this. It is good to have others with whom I can share this experience and anxiety. A new and wonderful friend of mine, Elizabeth, a fellow Yankette in the UK, is getting married in less than two weeks. Dynamo that she is, she has planned a simple, elegant soiree in under two months. Diva or what?

It was such a comfort to be able to put in a tearful call to her recently with an irrational medical concern (brain tumor resulting from standing too close to the microwave?), and have her reduce my fears to giggles. Hypochondriacs of the world, unite! Yes, I am the girl to whom many an exasperated doctors has mused impatiently: “Sometimes, a cold is just a cold.”

So, thanks to Elizabeth’s good counsel and a chat with the D.E.B., who confided that he, too, was feeling a touch of the “Don’t Be Too Happy” anxiety (though he has not taken it into his dreams) I am feeling and sleeping much better. And my dreams have improved.

The other morning, the D.E.B. informed me that I called out in my sleep (again). Embarrassed, I apologized. “Oh, no, no, sweetheart,” he said. “This time was a good one. You were laughing. And then you shouted ‘I will!’”  Hmm…a sweet dream indeed.

(Note: The Church of England wedding ceremony has the couples declaring ‘I will’ when taking vows, not ‘I do.”)

20 January 2009

We few, we happy few

Yes, I am still here. Life is a dizzying whirlwind at the moment. Today, I am actually working my magazine feature assignment, that is weeks late, and awaiting the remarkable change that is about to happen in America in just under an hour. I am so behind on all that has been happening blog-wise, Barford-wise and wedding-wise. I am flying by the seat of my pants/trousers. The swiftness and magnitude of events (political, personal and otherwise) is staggering.

Change is only constant in our lives. As the long, troubled past fades into memory and the new dawn arises, I had to mark this moment in some way. I had planned--a few weeks ago--to write something grandiloquent and profound to mark this unimaginable day. But find that I am moved beyond words. I find myself crying already, with still 50 some minutes to go. I never dreamed that a moment such as this could happen in my lifetime. 

We should count ourselves among the very blessed and lucky that we are still here, that we are living in and seeing these remarkable days. Those of us, no matter who we are, or where we are, whether standing in the cold streets of DC, or watching in the warmth of our homes, tens of thousands of miles away, we can all say: I was there. I saw it that day. I dreamed, I believed.

14 January 2009

A mirror, or a friend

Two kilograms.

That’s roughly 4.4 pounds.  Or, as I prefer to see it: That is two, whole bags of caster sugar!! That is how much weight I have lost in precisely seven (7) days.  Yes, I have succumbed to the “I’m-a-bride-and-I-must-get-fit” mindset. But, thankfully, I’m not obsessing about it.  I have started a new fitness regime, and I love every minute of it! I’m actually having fun (so far).

Last week, I joined the Gym/Leisure Club at The Glebe Hotel. I’m not a huge fan of gyms and clubs, but this one is different. It is very small, and very friendly. With a lovely Hobbit-sized swimming pool that looks “crowded” with more than three people in it. There is a sauna (my favorite post-workout reward!) and a steam-room. The female trainer is a really sweet, Polish girl called Eva.  (Interesting point: There is a growing Polish population in the UK. Stratford-upon-Avon now has a Polish market on its high street. Fascinating, for a small market town in the Midlands.)

Eva is awesome. The first day I went in she asked me what my goals were, and I told her: “I’m getting married this summer, and I need to look less like the world’s shortest sumo wrestler.”

“No problem.” said Eva. “We work together. We make it happen. You believe in you, whatever it takes. Dreams are free.” I walked away from my first grueling weigh-in with high hopes. Eva’s words propelled me forward, so earnest, so simple, so inspired.

It was only later, after I’d showered, that I noticed the motivational posters on the women’s dressing walls. More tasteful and mature than the now legendary kitty-cat on a washing line-“Hang in there, baby” posters, these depict healthy, active people pursuing daring and challenging pursuits, complete with pithy catch phrases, such as: “Believe in yourself.” “Make it happen,” and, yes, even “Dreams are Free.”

Okay, so Eva gets no points for originality, but she scores big in her training prowess. She’s incredible. No shouting, no bullying, no showing off. She’s calm and soft-spoken, and takes a “gently, gently” approach to training. She has managed to create a fitness plan that I can actually follow. She has kept everything simple and user-friendly for me. My workout is a mix of running, light strength training and swimming.  This works for me, as I’m the sort of person who gets bored with monotonous routines. And, I’m in and out of the gym in an hour and a half each day. Brilliant! And that includes a post-swim snooze in the sauna. As with monotony, I’m not a: “3 hours in the gym” kind o’ gal.  I just won’t go. I want to walk in, do it, get it done, and move on to the rest of my day. I think I may just manage to stick to this one.

There is method to this bridal madness, you see, as of yesterday, I have found (and purchased) The Dress. As with so much in my life, this major occurrence happened purely by chance.

I decided to treat myself to a day out in Warwick yesterday. Stratford-upon-Avon will have to forgive my infidelity, but I have fallen madly in love with Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire. Anyway, I have decided—as if I have time—to start a wedding quilt.  So, a trip to “The Quilter’s Den” in Warwick was a must. I have meant to start this quilt project for several days, but kept getting distracted by the dress saga.

Short note on dress saga: I had placed myself on another “thrift challenge” to see if I could find a gorgeous dress without breaking the bank, i.e., "Vera Wang on a Budget". So, as noted previously, I have been wasting hours upon hours of my life trolling the depths of eBay, preownedweddingdress.com, myrecycledwedding.com, among other sites to try and bargain hunt for the dress. 

This is frustrating process to say the least. Frustrating, and in my case, pointless. Until someone actually invents Hobbit-Brides.com, I’m wasting my time.  I’m petite and curvy, and so unlike an average slim-Jim Jane, ordering a dress online and expecting a perfect fit is a pipe dream.

But, I’m a clever girl, and I had a cunning plan. I would take myself a proper Bridal shop, have a gander at styles, figure out what works on me, and what doesn’t, then proceed with the quest armed with the requisite knowledge.

Then, the unexpected. And, perfection.

The shop I’d chosen was “Eternal Bride” in the Old Square in Warwick. I will confess I was completely overwhelmed and nervous as I walked in. Would they be nice? Would I feel trapped by “a hard sell”? Would I be conned into buying something I didn’t actually like, or want, just for the seek of freedom and escape?? And goodness, I was doing this all alone!

My expectations could not have been more far from the truth. The staff at Eternal Bride: Debbie, Morag and Peter were incredibly kind and friendly. They gave very good advice, but more importantly, they listened to me. After an initial chat with the wonderfully effervescent Debbie (she has a great job, and she knows/loves it), I was handed a pair of white archivist’s gloves (much to the glee of my librarian heart) and was let loose on my own in a beautiful sea of wedding gowns.

To some, this may sound like an incredibly lonely experience, but I truly enjoyed it.  It had a similar and warmly familiar feeling to me, like when I am doing historical research in an archive or special collection. Handling precious things with care, taking your time to peruse and access the details.

So, it was just my opinion, and the dresses. And without any sort of high-pressure “suggestions” from shop assistants pushing a particular line. I took my time and made about a dozen selections, which I indicated by putting a bright blue tag on the hanger.  I went back and reported my findings to Debbie, who then had her colleague, take the dresses down for me and placed in a dressing room.

Looking back on it, I have no doubt, given her keen eye; Debbie knew which dress was going to work for me from the beginning. But she let me come to that conclusion myself. Her instructions to me had been incredibly simple and helpful: “Pick out whichever dresses you like for whatever reasons: the color, the bodice, its personality, etc.”

Of course, the dress that I had chosen purely for an example of a color/shade I like, turned out to be the And all, I mean ALL the dresses I had assumed would be solid choices for reasons of style, cut and design never even made it out of the gates! I had envisioned billowy organza, with a deep v-neck, and off the shoulder straps. Each and every one of the dresses of that type made me look like a smurf drowning in a giant pavlova.

I want the D.E.B. to recognize me when I walk down the aisle. I want to look like myself, I want to be comfortable. I also want to be elegant, sexy and fun. That’s a tall order for one dress. But, I think I found it. Made of scrumptious ivory, Thai silk, the dress --fitted strapless bodice, sheath skirt, with detachable train--was designed by award-winning, British designer Helen Marina, and part of her “Vintage Collection”: Helen Marina Bridal Wear UK

As for “sticker shock” – there was sticker shock, indeed! This couture creation was actually ON SALE, so I came in UNDER, yes UNDER, my target budget. Yea, Team! Now, if only everything else could work out so beautifully and economically.

Back to Eternal Bride…it was an incredible, incredible experience. And sure, there are loads of people in my life whom I would have loved to have been there to share that moment with me, but there was also a real sense of accomplishment in my doing this very major thing on my own. I felt very, very grown-up.

But, that is not to suggest that I didn’t misbehave. Debbie is a real sweetie, she put me at ease and we giggled and howled all afternoon as we waded through the virtual mountain of dresses. Ah, what fun it is to be a girl! And the staff at “Eternal Bride” made me feel just like a princess…

I will admit that I did get a little teary when I saw myself in “the dress.” It finally, finally dawned on me that I’m going to be a bride. That I’m actually going to marry my D.E.B. at last.

So, the quest now is to tone up—and turn my “hams” back into “arms”—as much as I can before my first fitting in March. It’s good to have a firm deadline. And it’s even better to have a team of helpful and gregarious supporters in my corner, to be the mirrors and friends I need.

p.s. The DEB and I have a catering/reception meeting tonight, with one of our top choice venues!!

12 January 2009

Good Karma

My prayers to the “Beauty Gods” have been answered!

Just discovered a wonderful, wonderful beauty salon in Warwick.  The salon called Karma Beauty, is run by Claire who is a waxing wizardess! Not only were her services cheaper than what I used to pay in NYC, she is super fast! The other day I walked in at 6:25 PM, and I was back on the street by 6:40 PM! I’m not kidding! And that was eyebrows, lip, and “Hollywood”. She’s fab! And a real sweetie, to boot!

http://www.karmaskincentre.co.uk/

p.s. Tell Claire I sent you!

Back down to earth, slowly but surely

The New Year has begun, and my life is off and running. The D.E.B. and I have decided on an early summer wedding, here in England. A “destination wedding” for my friends and family travelling from abroad. And finally, an excuse for a number of my relatives to bite the bullet, and actually obtain and use a passport! (Oy vey!)

I am recovering gradually from my eBay hangover, and am slowly getting my life in order. I’ve been invited to write a feature/article for an English regional magazine, and I really, really need to get my head out of the clouds and get on that. Truth be told, I’m petrified, and it’s much easier to sit and swoon over wedding dresses and flowers on www.theknot.com

The early stages of wedding planning have yielding more than just a chronic on-lie habit, it has underscored some surprising US-UK cultural differences – differences that I will have to resolve on my own and strive mightily not to drag into the relationship. I think the mantra I need to develop is this: “Wedding is just one day, wedding is just one day…” just to keep sense of perspective and balance.

Here are a few points I have noticed so far:

1.)         Americans have a much more lavish of a sense of weddings and a more “theatrical” approach to the proceedings – in the sense of a wedding being a production, an event – then Brits do.

Example: Bridesmaids.  I read recently on one of the countless Bridal websites, that on average the typical American bride has six (6) bridesmaids. The typical British bride only has one (1).

2.)         When an American is told something “isn’t done” or “can’t be done,” her internal (and possibly external) response is: “Try me.”

3.)        The British are typically much more concerned with “decorum,” and there seems to be an innate desire amongst the British to avoid “raising eyebrows,” and “what the neighbours might think.” Americans differ significantly on this point (see: #2 above)

There are also some very interesting logistical differences, too.  I was amazed to discover recently that during the wedding procession, an English bride would enter first, followed by her bridesmaid(s), whereas in America, the bride enters last, proceeded by her flower girls, bridesmaids and any other attendants.  Interesting.

The cakes different! British wedding cake is Fruit Cake! Fruit cake?!? Are they nuts?! American wedding cake is, well…heavenly. 

08 January 2009

My latest obsession...

And they're called "Ophelia"...*SIGH*


(on eBay for $50.00, but the wrong size...)

Lunatics, lovers and mad women

“May one so easily catch the plague?” – The Countess Olivia, Twelfth Night

The “plague” that the Countess Olivia refers to is not the legendary disease that wiped out much of Europe in the Middle Ages; she is, of course, speaking of the “plague” of Amour: the infectious, ridiculous, delicious malady we call Love.

And one of the resulting, and long-lasting conditions of this ‘ailment’ is lunacy. And I feel myself falling steadily into its grip. In other words: Give a girl a ring, and she’ll lose her mind!

“Bridal Lunacy.”  The frenzied, slightly breathless feeling that leaves you dreaming of ivory tulle, tossing and turning in the night, murmuring: “Vera Wang, Vera Wang must have dress by Vera Wang…”

What have I become??

Since we returned home from our wonderful New Year holiday in the Lake District, I have become a Bridal Zombie! Life has become very simple: eat, sleep, eBay!

I shouldn’t complain really, I am very happy indeed. And what a joy to finally, finally, finally to be doing this! The this of dreaming, planning, hoping, making a wedding with my darling D.E.B.! (Thank you, dear God for second chances! For giving a mad woman like me another go at love!)

Here is an honest, public apology to all of my married friends, particularly those for whom I’ve served as a bridesmaid, usher, flower girl, wrangler or witness:  God, how I have envied you all! More than I even realized. 

Important clarification: I don’t mean “envy” in a dark, snarky, nasty, bitter or spiteful way. My smiles, hugs and tears for you were very real and sincerely heart-felt. What I mean, if it is possible, and perhaps I should just find another world, I mean “envy” in a silent, deeply solitary and utterly unknowing way.

I had no idea I wanted such things, I had no idea I was so “girlie” after all. (Maybe the tiara I wanted and wore for New Year’s Eve should have been a clue…)

Here’s the thing. I like to think of myself as quite a practical, sensible person. I did confess recently that I have never bought a pair of $700 shoes. Although I admire my friends who have, and who keep such shoes as pets, I do honestly find it hard to get my head completely round such a purchase.  So, I have no serious doubts that this coming year of wedding planning and purchasing will become a saga of: “When a Sensible Girl Goes Wrong.” I am strong enough--and broke enough--to keep my wits and credit cards about me. 

However, I am fascinated by the way this whole “Bride” thing works, and the dizzying culture (and countless sub-cultures) that have been created and developed around it. And, I am all the more fascinated as I watch myself slip into this bridal vortex. The temptations are great, let me tell you!

I believe/hope the challenge lies in balance. Developing a balanced sense of “romance” and “realism”. These are uncertain and difficult economic times, yet, we are told, lead to believe that this (ones wedding day) is the highlight of your life. A woman’s “Oscar moment.” Yes, those are ideas that are promoted by a very commercial world, yet, I feel that there is some grain truth in it.

It is a very important day. Marriage is not something that should be entered into lightly. We should bring to it the best that we have, the best that we are. And as such, the wedding day should be marked precisely as the couple jointly see fit. An excuse for excess? Or, an event that is a couple’s crowning glory?

I think these factors are heightened and have even more meaning the second time around. Added to the standard frenzy, there is also a heart-felt sense of “I’m going to get it right this time.” (The wedding and the relationship.)

When I married previously, I was younger, greener, more headstrong and rebellious. There was no church, no family, no sense of occasion or celebration. That wedding lacked all the things that are—I see now—truly fundamental and important to me. Everything about it was matter of fact, happenstance, on a whim, thrown together, piecemeal, living on the edge. And, if I’m honest, it spoke volumes about a relationship that was very much the same. I own and regret my share of the blame.

So, this time. Older, wiser, better.  In every possible way. With or without Vera Wang.