Friday, September 17, 2010

A room with a view

I love Florence! When I was in college in Idaho, and hating it, I planned to spend my junior year abroad. I found a program in London for the fall semester and studied there with Ms. H. Ms. HG found a program in Florence for the spring semester. I will be eternally grateful to my parents for giving me that opportunity. For part of our curriculum we took a Byzantine and Early Renaissance history class which gave us the opportunity to go on field trips all over Tuscany and Umbria to see frescoes and statues. One of the places we went was San Gimignano, the Manhattan of Tuscany, because of all the medieval towers. As we drove away at dusk I memorized the view in my mind. At 20 I hoped I'd return to Italy one day, but San Gimignano seem like such an obscure destination that I'd never be back. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the wedding to end all weddings would taking place a few miles away!
I was happy to return to Florence with Mr. W and be able to show him all my old haunts. I was disappointed Ms. HG wouldn't be able to be there with me though. Since we were sharing a villa in Volterra with Mr. & Mrs. K we wouldn't have too much time in Florence so I had to make the most out of it. They would be heading south to finish their trip, but our time in Florence would coincide with Mr. & Mrs. F.
We stayed at different hotels though. Ours was along the Arno and at the foot of the high end shopping street. While we didn't have a river view from our room, the view from the terrace was breathtaking. Breakfast was served with a view of il duomo. It was so awesome; I wished that we could have a few more days here.It was hard to pull ourselves away, but we did so that we could see a few sights. I found another passamenterie shop but unfortunately couldn't think of anything else I needed to purchase. I also wanted to get a Pinocchio as a souvenir for the littlest W. Since the author Carlo Collodi was from Florence, there are little wooden puppets for sale all over the place. On our way to Santa Croce, my favorite church in Florence, we came across this adorable little wood shop. This was the perfect place to find our Pinocchio!We never made it to the altri Arno to have a picnic at San Miniato after listening to the Gregorian chanting. So I also never had a chance to search the artists' shops and studios there for beveled drawer pulls. We also never made it to my school or dozens of other sights. We will just have to return to Florence!
It was a wonderful babymoon alone with Mr. W before we welcome our next son into the world. I'm happy we were able to make it here to celebrate with Mr. & Mrs. Z. There was definitely a lot of stress not knowing how our IF would effect this trip. I hated having to RSVP 'yes' qualifying it with it all depends upon whether I can get pregnant again or not. But it all worked out in the end. And I was only moderately embarrassed being introduced to guests at the wedding who would respond, "Oh, I met you at the bachelor party!" or "So this is the baby from the bachelor party!" I kept trying to explain to people that is not the way it worked out, but Mr. Z said to me, "We are all going to tell this baby he was conceived at HD: TBP. You just have to accept it." I'm so grateful that I am finally pregnant that I think I will do just that.

The wedding to end all weddings

One of Mr. W's college friends finally got engaged last year. I say finally because they are all in their late 30s so practically everyone else is already married, or has had children without the benefit of marriage. Mr. Z is an architect. He has very unique style. His wardrobe consists entirely of 1970s leisure suits. He is also extremely petite. And a vegan. But his diet is mostly alcohol.
He and another fraternity brother bought a house in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and have been painstakingly restoring it over the last decade. You think I obsess over the details? When the re-roofed the house, in cedar shakes because that is what would be period appropriate, pre-stained shakes just would not do. Instead he insisted the stain them themselves which required dipping each individual shake 3 times. I was living in New York at the time and hadn't met him yet, so I am repeating this story from Mr. & Ms. HG who got roped into helping. During the renovations they decided to remove all the plaster, but not the lathe, from the walls. There was a ton of debris as a result of the demolition, but Mr. Z likes to economize. He decided against renting a dumpster to save money. Instead he Shawshanked it out. Over a period of several months, he would bring a garbage bag filled with debris on the bus with him so he could put it in the dumpster at his office. I love Mr. Z stories!
So it was with much excitement that we learned that he was engaged. We could just imagine what the wedding would be like! I wanted to go just so that I could see what Mr. Z would be wearing. When my parents were married in 1975 my father wore a white tuxedo with a blue ruffled shirt; could we expect something like this from the man of leisure?
Because he is so particular the wedding preparations took a great deal of time for the couple. Mrs. Z to be is a trained interior designer. Usually the bride directs the theme and details of a wedding. And often times the groom will take the lead on certain projects. For us, Mr. W was the driving force behind the food, wine, and beer selections. His one quirky sticking point was that he hated the look of the chairs in my parish hall and insisted we rent better ones. Mr. Z was involved to this degree with his entire wedding. We kept hearing about all the work going into the invitations. To be sure they were the most beautiful, amazing wedding invitation I have ever received. They must have spent a fortune on them. My anticipation to see Mr. W's wedding attire was growing.
Once we arrived in Italy and met up with the wedding party at the Villa di Ulignano we learned the story of the wedding suit. Mr. Z had found the suit he loved. It was made by a Norwegian company that has a showroom in Los Angeles. The LA store did not carry the suit though and for some reason would not ship the suit to the US. Mr. Z would be able to purchase the suit if he sent it to the villa, which meant it would arrive only a few days before the wedding... a bit of a risk. After they arrived in Italy and learned the suit had not, Mr. Z contacted the company. He received a call back from the president who was in the factory tracking down the suit and would overnight it to Mr. Z. Because the won't send this particular suit to the US, there are only two Americans who own this suit. Mr. Z is the second. The first is RuPaul!This suit made all those months of waiting worth it! It is very beautifully made. There are fun little qoutes lining the waistline and the lining is equally fun. A lot of people said it looked like a grandma's sofa. But I thought the brocade was lovely and really brought out the colors of the Tuscan countryside. Mr. Z really is the best dressed groom ever!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Sienese tassels

We stayed in a really quaint villa in Volterra with an absolutely awesome view. Whenever Mr. W and his friend Mr. K get together they love to cook together or go out to fine meals. (In fact they'd love to open a restaurant together one day if we ever all live in the same town.) The beauty of the villa was that they were able to cook for us nearly every night. We did have plans to have a nice dinner out the night before the rehearsal dinner since we share the same anniversary weekend.
Since I am 6 months pregnant we knew that we wouldn't want to be doing a lot of touring the countryside. A relaxing week lounging around the pool was just what we needed for this babymoon. Did I mention the guys bought speedos for the occasion? They decided when in Rome...We did a little trip into Volterra and a little trip into San Gimignano. We also had plans to go into Siena. However Mr. W came down with a case of what he called Mussolini's Revenge. He blamed it on the ice cubes not being made with bottled water. I think that it was more likely all the steak Florentine he was eating. I'm never fond of rare meat, but during pregnancy it is even more repellent to me. So bloody and yuck!I still was hoping to find some cute shoes to wear to the wedding, so Mrs. K and I decided to drive to Siena ourselves and let the boys hang around the pool at home. I had been to Siena before on a field trip and she wasn't that interested in sightseeing so we were free to wander the streets shopping. Siena is divided into different neighborhoods that all have their own colors and flag. I love the neighborhood spirit here. I did find some black heels with ribbon bows on the back that at 9€ I couldn't afford to NOT purchase.
As we were making our way back toward the car we went down a little alley thinking it might be a short cut. And I discovered the most amazing little passamenterie shop! I had actually put together a short Italian shopping list for myself: a hat, a tassel, and some mirrored, beveled glass drawer pulls. This shop, Tappezzerie Lippi, was just the place to look for a tassel for the dining room portiere! I love little shops like this and wish I had more furniture to reupholster or windows to cover. And money to afford it would help too!
I found a nice fat tassel in perfect colors for the dining room. I think this room is one step away from being complete!

My Florentine hat

One of the things I love most about weddings is that they are a great excuse to wear a fabulous hat. And if it is an outdoor wedding, all the more reason for this red head to protect herself from the sun's harmful rays. I decided to pack a simple black maternity dress for our friends' Tuscan wedding (why waste good money on something I'll wear once) and splurge on a hat once we arrive in Italy. When I studied in Florence I for some really great hats so I was confident that I'd fall in love with something for the wedding. I further rationalized the purchase as saving myself from carting a hat there and back as well as it would be my souvenir.
There was a little bit of confusion between Mr. W and me in regards to our itinerary. I thought we'd fly into Florence, stay there for a few nights before we headed out to the villa. However the way the booking worked for the villa we'd have to go directly there and then switch to a hotel the day of the wedding. Not ideal. We wouldn't be staying in Florence until the end of the trip. That put a lot of pressure on me to map out where I could buy a hat rather than leisurely shopping for a few days prior to the wedding.
I bought my original Florentine hat, which looks like a white cake, at the department store Coin. My flatmate and I walked by this store everyday on our way to and from studio. I also found several delightful pairs of summer gloves there. Coin is in the middle of il Centro near Piazza della Signoria. I searched hat shops and milliners in Florence and discovered Grevi. I got so excited just looking at the hats photographed on their website. Their showroom is located close to Santa Maria Novella. I remembered that there was a public parking lot at the Santa Maria Novella train station. Our friends Mr. & Mrs. K, with whom we would be sharing the villa, were going to pick us up from the airport. I figured we could park at SMN and then walk from there.
The day we arrived I got worried, it was a Monday and I imagined there was a possibility that shops could be closed. I had no back up plan if I couldn't get a hat that day! We found Grevi without much difficulty. It was closed, but only for lunch. Such a relief. We were all hungry too so we walked over to Piazza della Repubblica because I remembered being a poor college student looking longingly at the diners in the restaurants around the piazza. All my happy memories of living in Florence came rushing back to me as we had our lunch. I really wished that Ms. HG had been able to make the trip; Italy wouldn't be the same without her. But, I was able to enjoy my pesto pasta nonetheless!
The wind was whipping around quite a bit during lunch and as soon as we finished our meal it started pouring. I'd packed an umbrella, but it was back in the car. We all decided that we didn't want to slog around in the downpour. So Coin was out. We rushed back to Grevi. So many wonderful hats inside. My only concern was that they were all pillboxes or _; for practical reasons I was hoping to find something with a large brim to keep me well shaded. Apparently big brimmed hats are out this season! I tried on a lot of hats and Mr. W, and Mr. & Mrs. K helped me decide upon one. It has 3 grosgrain rosettes and one big, raw silkbow on top and spotted netting. I don't have anything like it so I am very, very happy. I figured the flowers made it wedding-y.