fireflies and cottonwood

our wedding blog

Colors: Lapis, lavender, and red November 21, 2008

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From pinks to purples.  After much discussion and examination of the David’s Bridal catalogue, it seems hopeful that a dark blue/purple will look lovely and not clash with the tartan Matt will be wearing.  I will be taking the kilt to David’s soon with some girlfriends to double-check, but meanwhile: I’ve been dreaming in deep plum and lavender.



(The dresses in the upper corner of the Board above are actually from the David’s catalogue.)




(How amazing are these roses!?)





My thoughts run–deep indigo and lavender. Lavender and champagne (with 10 bridespeople, some of them would wear the lapis, and some would wear a lovely champagne/ivory color).  Lavender with ivory, and some pink.  Lavender with shots of crimson red, even.  Unexpected, and still romantic.


One potential wrinkle–Matt’s younger brother and his fiancee have chosen purple as their main color.  I want to be sure that our weddings don’t “match,” or steal her thunder via color scheme.  They’re using purple, gold, and white.  Hopefully, if we use the lapis, we would have lapis, lavender, ivory, and red–a soft palette, with lots of muted colors…hopefully this would make the two looks feel very different.


I would love to be inspired by my gorgeous engagement ring and go with greens, but red and green feels too Christmasy.  And I’m just not a navy blue kind of person.  


Finally, check out this bit of literary whimsy from Wikipedia’s entry on “purple”:

“Robert Burns rhymes purple with ‘curple’ in his ‘Epistle to Mrs. Scott’. Burns is, as far as we can tell, the only writer to have used the word. A curple refers to 1) the small of the waist before the flare of the hips or 2) a derriere, rump or behind.”


(Last bouquet on Martha  Inspiration boards from Style Me Pretty.  Dragonfly print from via Style Me Pretty.  All other bouquets from Google.)


Illumination October 25, 2008

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One of our plans for our centerpieces (non-floral) is to make luminaries.  

Currently, the wonderful Jane Winter (at Wildflowers) had amazing ideas for a lush, romantic, old-fashioned floral arrangement for the table at the entry-way of the reception room (upon which might be, for example, the table numbers), and she and I are thinking that we might also use old, antique books in that tablescape.  Perhaps with old pewter containers for the flowers?  But I digress…

Books are a theme for our decorating as well.  I’m imagining tablescapes for each table, with old books, stacked at different levels, and our luminaries.  Plus hundreds of small candles, all over the room.  (My mom and her best girl friend have already begun snatching up unscented white candles at dollar stores and sales.)  

I think candlelight is so, so beautiful and memorable.  

Inspiration images of candle-lit weddings:

(Boards from Style Me Pretty)


And besides the tiny candles, here is our idea for making our own luminaries: 

We will use tin cans of various sizes, from soup cans, to large crushed tomato sized, to coffee can sized, and larger.  My idea is to punch holes into them in either random patterns, or in lace-like patterns.  Matt would like to paint each can with a simple landscape scene (sky, ground, a few quick trees), and then the lighted holes would be like fireflies.  

Lots of people have asked me how I’ll make the luminaries: you fill the clean, empty cans with water, and freeze them.  Then, when you tap a nail with a hammer into the can, you punch a small hole, but the solid ice keeps the can from denting.  Very, very simple.  You can use pre-printed patterns to create a lacy effect, or for a pattern.  And–at the end of the reception, if people would like to take one or two home, of course they may.  Otherwise, we just recycle the cans–they were free and plentiful, and we would have recycled them anyway.

Here are some images of tin can luminaries:

(I don’t like just one image, as opposed to many small pinpricks of light, but this shows the powerful effect one “cantern” can have.)


Finally, I don’t think this knitted candle-cover goes with our general aesthetic, but I just love this idea so much, and think it’s so simple and beautiful, I can’t help but include it:

I can’t wait to see the faces of all our loved ones surrounding our tables and lit by so many beautiful little lanterns.


Things to do in St. Louis: The Arch October 18, 2008

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“Of course. The Arch,” you think. How obvious. It’s practically the only thing, aside from that Judy Garland movie, that many people know about St. Louis.

But, oh, that catenary curve, that swoop of steel reflecting in the sun! It evokes all sorts of responses architecture seldom does in the modern city. I used to love wandering around the city, and thinking (sometimes aloud, with a pointing finger accompanying), “Hey, look, there’s the Arch!” It would playfully peek out from behind trees, around corners of buildings large and small, bound out into view at the end of a prospect on the highway… It is a joyful silver arc, and I love it. The closest building to it in New York, in the way it can appear in all different vantages, bringing a smile to my face, is the Chrysler Building, but even that isn’t nearly as exciting.

In addition to the architecture, the Arch has a nice park around it, with views of the river, and underground it has a museum of national expansion that is pretty nice, and small enough to easily digest in an afternoon. Finally, you can take the cramped little tram up to the top of the Arch and look out over the city. The Arch is awesome, and is a must-see in St. Louis.



Things to Do in St. Louis: Places to Eat

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Stepanie and I have, since very early in our courtship, always cooked together a lot. Neither of us ever has too much money, so we don’t eat out terribly often, but still we have a number of places that we would clearly recommend, and from which we have many fond memories. For this list, I didn’t include any chains, though St. Louis Bread Company, Starbucks and Qdoba would have to rank highly in any honest accounting of where we actually spent our food budget.

Dewey’s Pizza – Right off the bat, I am breaking the “No Chain” rule, but Dewey’s doesn’t really feel like a chain. Stephanie and I had our first dinner date here. They have wonderful pizzas, with crusts that are just the right mix of thick and chewy and thin and crunchy.

Blackthorn Pizza & Pub – There is nothing balanced about Blackthorn’s pizza. It is Chicago-style deep-dish, bubbling over with cheese and chewy crust, spicy sauce and generous helpings of toppings. This place is clearly a pub that also serves delicious pizza – there is little space in the ovens, and the wait for a pizza (which you have to order at the bar) can be well over an hour. There are many pub games (shuffleboard, air hockey, darts, etc.) to keep you occupied while you wait. When they call out your name, and you grab your enormous pizza and paper plates, it is all worth it.

Schlafly Tap Room & Bottle Works – These are clear favorites. We have been to each a number of times. We went to the Tap Room after Tom Peteet’s speech at the Old Post Office, which was the first time we went together. Notably, we went there for Burn’s Night, and, of course, we will have our reception there. It is an old converted mill building, with an English Pub theme. The Bottle Works is in a converted grocery store. It is much more sleek and modern in decor, with a menu heavy on locally grown vegetables. My parents first met Stephanie at breakfast here.

Dressel’s Pub – This is just solid comfort food. We love the rarebit here, and the chips with malt vinegar, and they have some of the best fish and chips I have ever had. We have eaten here together several times. I fondly remember eating with Bob and Beth on the patio out front, and eating with Chris before Tom and Mya’s wedding. The downstairs is decorated on one side with poets and writers, and on the other with composers and musicians, and I have a favorite photo of Stephanie in front of their portrait of Herman Melville.

Mangia Italiano’s – This is a wonderful Italian place on Grand. I’ve only eaten there twice, both with Stephanie, Bob and Beth. The first was just a chance for us to meet up with them, and the second was downstairs at the reception for their wedding. Both times, the food and atmosphere were great.

Pho Grand – This was an old standby for me. I would sometimes get it from work, sometimes I’d get takeout to carry home. Stephanie and I ate here several times, once we met Bob and Beth here, and I fondly recall sitting on the floor of my apartment eating takeout and watching Horatio Hornblower in the wintertime. They are cheap and very tasty – Vietnamese food, specializing in soups and noodle bowls.

Fitz’s – This is a really cool place. Fitz’s is a popular root beer brand in the St. Louis area, and they have a diner-style restaurant with a glass wall to see their bottling process. They have great desserts and solid food.

McGurk’s Irish Pub & Garden – I’d been here once before Tom Peteet’s birthday, when I was called on a school night to come out and join a gathering where I was fortuitously (through intricate unspoken maneuverings) seated next to Stephanie. We talked well past my normal school night bedtime, and the next day we began to e-mail each other, quickly getting to a two- or three-a-day rate. McGurk’s is very close to my old apartment, so we went here often afterwards. I particularly remember meeting Larry and Crystal here a couple of times. The food is really good, and the outdoor seating in the garden is lovely.

MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse – This isn’t really a restaurant, and their coffeehouse food is all pretty basic, but it is right by Tower Grove Park, and we went here several times for a little nibble and some coffee after or before walking around the park.

Soulard Coffee Garden – This is a short walk from my old apartment, and they have a nice breakfast menu. The upstairs room is nice, with murals on the walls and mismatched furniture. Another place we would stop by when out walking.

Blueberry Hill – This is a St. Louis landmark. Chuck Berry plays here monthly, and the owner of Blueberry Hill is the driving force behind the U-City Loop. The restaurant is decorated with his collectibles and souvenirs, mostly from the history of rock and roll and pop culture. The food is good, but it’s not what I remember of the place. It is just a good place to sit and look around and soak it all in.

India’s Rasoi – Stephanie’s favorite Indian restaurant, we went here once or twice together. The food is good, even the buffet (which I am normally not a fan of). They recently moved, and Stephanie says the new place is fantastic looking.

Crown Candy Kitchen – I already wrote about Crown Candy, but it clearly belongs on this list.

The Google Map, showing these locations, together with pins for my old apartment and the infamous Essex House.


“Celebrate Good Times, Come On!” October 11, 2008

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Cliche alert: music has been a big part of our life together.

The night we went to the Old Courthouse to hear Tom Peteet give a speech to the Teach for America corps, when an acquaintance spilled the beans that our planned trip to the Botanical Gardens to see the Chihuly exhibit was an eagerly anticipated “date,” and that I was being referred to in Stephanie’s social circle as “that guy Stephanie likes,” I had on headphones when Stephanie first saw me. I had taken the bus from my house, and was listening to Doug Sahm. I offered the headphones, and she obligingly listened to a snippet of “(Is Anybody Going to) San Antone”.

In the weeks that followed, she listened to the highlights of a stack of CDs on the night of the last day of school, we sat in my car in Kirkwood and gushed about the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums when Margot and Richie sit and listen to the first side of the American version of Between the Buttons, and talked about the first times we had heard Sufjan Stevens’ Come on, Feel the Illinoise.

Living long distances from each other for our first year together, we listened to Otis Redding on the phone together, I sent her mix tapes, and she sent me mix CDs. She introduced me to iTunes and I fussed through and organized and (correctly) relabeled her songs. I went to hear her cant at Vespers at Emmanuel, and she discovered that she would, in fact, hear me sing at Evangelical. Music, to repeat the cliche, has been important to us.

Because we are choosing to have a traditional Episcopal wedding ceremony, we are limited in the role music will play in the ceremony itself, but we both want music to help tie together the community that will gather for our wedding. We may use piano arrangements of songs at the church, we will certainly have a spotlight dance, and we will try to be thoughtful about the music that plays at the reception and, possibly, at the rehearsal dinner. Some of the songs that we have discussed for different roles in our wedding are below. For the reception, we want to hear what suggestions people have, and I really want to have that be some part of the RSVP to the invitations. We’ll see. Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of these songs.


“I Believe (When I Fall in Love With You, It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder

This is such a beautiful song, but Stevie, bless his genius heart, saw fit to give the song a number of keys and tempos, and I am not sure we’ll be able to make this work as a spotlight dance. It will certainly be played at some point over the weekend. You can count on that.

Without despair, we will share,

and the joys of caring will not be replaced.

“Bernadette,” by the Four Tops

Oh, this song brings us such joy! Levi Stubbs is not playing, at all, when he is proclaiming his love for Bernadette. From the times we played this song, talked about this song, danced to this song, especially our first year together, this song has one of the clearest claims to be “Our Song.”

Some go on searchin’ their whole life through,

and never find the love I’ve found in you

“California Stars,” by Billy Bragg & Wilco

A leading candidate for our honeymoon destination is the Sonoma County wine country in California. We have loved this song together for a long while, and I have a vision of it being our last dance of the reception. How awesome would that be?

So I’d give the world

just to dream a dream with you

on our bed of California stars.

“Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens

I’ve written, often, about this song. I am not even really sure why I like it so much. But certainly part of it is that it brings so many memories of Stephanie to mind: the trip to Boulder, being almost home again from Canada, the surprise visit and Sufjan Stevens concert, the trip to visit Chicago that last winter in St. Louis… 

I fell in love again,

(all things ‘go,’ all things ‘go’)

drove to Chicago,

(all things know, all things know)

“Sons and Daughters,” by the Decembrists

I have a vision of Stephanie and our friend Ben singing this song at a coffeehouse at the Pub, leading the students of Union in a singalong of the coda: “Hear all the bombs fade away…” Stephanie is convinced that my temples naturally smell of cinnamon. No one else has ever noticed, but she swears to it.

We’ll make our homes on the water.

We’ll build our walls (aluminum),

we’ll fill our mouths with cinnamon.

“This Will Be Our Year,” by OK, Go

Wouldn’t this be a great recessional on piano? As we walk hand in hand out of the church?

The warmth of your love’s

like the warmth of the sun,

and this will be our year,

took a long time to come.

“Bright As Yellow,” by the Innocence Mission

If we didn’t go the R&B route, this may be my preference for a spotlight dance. It is just so gorgeous, and the statement of joy and vitality in the lyrics is very appropriate for us.

I do not wish to be a rose,

I do not wish to be pale pink,

but flower scarlet, flower gold

and have no thorns to distance me.

“This Magic Moment,” by the Drifters

This is not, particularly, a “Stephanie and Matt” song. I have loved it ever since I got the Atlantic Rhythm & Blues box. But it is indubitably one of the iconic romantic statements of American popular culture. So, so good.

Everything I want, I have

whenever I hold you tight.

“Lay Lady Lay,” by Bob Dylan

Stephanie said that she was embarrassed at her lack of knowledge of Dylan when she met me. I can’t hold that against anyone, since my embarrassing lack of knowledge of Dylan extended well into my 20s. This, though, and the whole Nashville Skyline album, brings to my mind memories of our first year apart. I think I put this on the first mix tape I made for Stephanie.

Why wait any longer for the one you love

when he’s standing in front of you?

“Sweet Jane,” by the Cowboy Junkies

More of a dark horse candidate for spotlight song. Another gorgeous song that wouldn’t show up my manifold deficiencies as a dancer.

Anyone who’s ever had a heart

wouldn’t turn around and break it.

“Happy Song,” by Otis Redding

One of several Otis Redding songs that we like to listen to together. Sometimes, if I am feeling relaxed enough, I even sing along.

When I sing this song,

singing it for my baby.

She’s the only one, can bring me joy.

“Sha-la-la (Make Me Happy)” by Al Green

You really can’t go wrong with Al Green, much like Otis Redding–he’s a slam dunk. The problem is, he’s almost expected. “Let’s Stay Together” is wonderful, but while we are not trying to be too hip, we don’t think we have enough of a personal Al Green connection to pull off using it prominently. Maybe we could use “Make Me Happy,” though

It’s something that just gets down in your bones,

and once I see you I can’t leave your love alone.

“Such Great Heights” by Iron & Wine

We really like both the Iron & Wine and the Postal Service versions of this song, but for me at least, I think this would be my preferred version. I also feel like this would be good in a piano arrangement.

I am thinking it’s a sign

that the freckles in our eyes

are mirror images

and when we kiss, they’re perfectly aligned.

Obviously, there are a whole slew of other songs we might want to use. Just off the top of my head, I can think of “She Smiled Sweetly,” “No Lonesome Tune,” “Let Me Touch You for Awhile,” and “Girl.” Any thoughts?


Look familiar? October 9, 2008

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I’ve never thought much about Matt’s dishes, other than that they aren’t exactly my style (“my style” being, in this case, floral, colorful, heavily decorated.)  But he said he thought they were his parents’ dishes that they got for their wedding, and family dishes are my style.  So I did a little research…

Yes, this pattern: Village, by Pfaltzgraff.  Turns out, Pfaltzgraff started making it in the 1970s; says that it went out of production in 1976, but the Pfaltzgraff website carries tons of it, in every imaginable plate, serving piece, teapot, or snowglobe.  Yes, snowglobe.

I’ve always wanted to be able to say, “Oh these?  These have been in the family for years.”  So, it looks like we’ll be keeping Matt’s dishes.  It won’t match all of our Bodanna china (that we’ll register for), but I think it will look great with the brown pieces.


Ooooh: I can’t wait to do a brown and cream theme for Thanksgiving, or for an autumnal dinner party…  Yay, china patterns!


Twill, Fireflies and Cottonwood October 5, 2008

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I have been thinking about what I will wear for the wedding. So far, my published thoughts on the matter have gone little farther than knowing I wouldn’t wear a flame shirt, guayabera or Hawaiian shirt. Stephanie posted some reflections on what I and my groom’s men might wear, but there hasn’t been nearly as much movement on this front as she might like. So, waking up on a grey and rainy morning in New York, I started thinking of wool and cotton, and here is some of what I have come up with:

I am really leaning towards wearing my kilt. I first got a kilt in my junior year of high school. My grandparents gave it to me for Christmas, and I believe I even wore it to school once. Anyway, my great grandfather had bought this kilt to have as a special thing to wear on a cruise when they were going to cross the equator. As I understand it, he had thought he was buying the Dunbar plaid, but the kilt he bought had the Bruce plaid, one of the most popular tartans. So the family significance isn’t in the tartan, but in the story, and the fact that it has been in the family for quite a while. My brother Andrew got married wearing this kilt — we had an exchange where he got the more family-significant kilt, and I got a brand-new kilt with the Dunbar tartan. He had his groom’s men wearing kilts (Chris and I wore matching Dunbar kilts, while his best man and brother-in-law wore rented kilts), and he wore a formal Prince Charlie Jacket (like the two bottom ones). I am not sure if what the rest of us were wearing were less fancy Prince Charlies (which I think) or were wearing Argyll (or Crail? I can’t figure out if there is any difference) jackets, like the two top ones. For me, I think I would prefer to wear an Argyll jacket and waistcoat, with a necktie. For colors, I would think a grey jacket would be best, with a green tie (maybe my Burns tie). I would think my groom’s men could wear kilts (my brothers may take that option) or grey pants with matching jackets and green neckties. That’s where I am right now. Any thoughts?

In my perigrinations around the web this morning, I also came across these pictures, which don’t exactly match my thoughts about fireflies and cottonwood, but are as close as I can find on Google images: