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birthday all weekend long: part 2

February 19, 2015

And we’re back! On to part two of my long weekend (read part one here), as told through Twitter.

Last year, Sean made me a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy. But this year I asked for something a little more low-key.

Vanilla latte, poached egg, bacon, and an apple fritter the size of my face.


To walk it off, we went around Lake Merritt. It was beautiful, and still a little chilly, which was good because it’s always a longer walk than I expect it to be.

Jennifer and I have celebrated our birthdays together for the past two years, and this year was no exception. Rather than either of us host, we decided to have a Birthdays, Beer, and Boardgames party at a lovely beer garden in Berkeley. Plus they have great food, so double score! And beer. Really, really big glasses of beer.

We also made each other cupcakes (in previous years we made cakes but these were much easier to eat outside). Jennifer requested a recipe she’d found on my Pinterest page for chocolate red wine cake. I gotta admit though, this was not my best recipe. The one I worked off of called for a LOT of flour and eggs. I should have checked around because there’s lots of variations online. Something about them didn’t smell quite right to me, but everyone else said they were great. I would definitely make it again, but from a different recipe.

Jennifer made some delicious pistachio honey cupcakes for me. So good.

We also played some fun games, but eventually the heat and sun had tired us all out.

We chilled at Jennifer’s for a bit, then Sean and I left to change and go to Sunday Night Swing. On third Sundays they have a big band playing!

I got my birthday jam along with other February babies, in which we all danced in the center of a big circle and others cut in. Lots of fun, and I got to dance with some amazing partners.

Finally, home, to rest.

And have more donuts.

But that’s not all! Monday we had the day off work, so after a somewhat frustrating brunch (long wait despite there being empty tables, well-intentioned but forgetful service, and sold out of champagne), I ran a game of Monsterhearts for some friends.

And THAT was my birthday weekend.

the dress

February 19, 2015

Yes, I made my own wedding dress. Hard to say why I came to that decision oh wait it’s because I couldn’t afford a store-bought dress.

Also I’m picky and had a particular look in mind, and didn’t want to suffer through stores trying to up-sell me on things I didn’t want.

So. The dress.

I am very quick to downplay that by saying that it was from a simple pattern, and still didn’t fit quite right, and I had to take it in for alterations, and on the day of the wedding I had the top safety-pinned to my bra because otherwise things would have gotten scandalous.

But obviously I’m also very proud of it.

I was very inspired by this photo, which I’d seen on a blog I regularly read:

I loved the lace, and I particularly loved the ribbon on the top. At first I totally thought that I could make this, but I couldn’t find a good pattern to mod off of, and eventually became more enamored with another idea:

Wow. That lining. This won out over lacy layers. It also seemed easier for me to find a basic pattern to use for the top.

So I decided to do a bit of both — a simple dress, bright colored lining, and the ribbons from the first dress.

I used a simple pattern from Vogue. It had everything — simple shape, high waist, train, and could be modified for sleeves the way I wanted.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked during the process. However, here’s a few along the way.


First of all, you gotta buy a lot of fabric. Like, a LOT of fabric. I scored a great deal on some lovely satin at a fabric store going out of business. I specifically wanted something creamy but not too ivory, and not the “clear” white that shines a little blue/purple in the light. Then after sweeping my floor a dozen times, I laid it all out in the living room to cut.


So, so much cutting. The skirt had 7 pieces.


Then the pinning. So, so much pinning. I also put a lot of fray-block on the edges, particularly the smaller pieces.


Thank goodness our dining room table was just the right size!


Then the sewing. This was honestly the fastest part of the whole thing, but it really doesn’t feel like you’re getting results until you’ve run it through the machine.

Btw, my machine broke down right towards the end and started snagging everything. Fortunately I borrowed a vastly superior machine from my friend Mary. (Happy ending to that story — it was an extra she’d been given from a friend and didn’t need, so I kept it and sold my old one at a garage sale for $20! Goodbye, old baby-blue machine from Sears. You served me well for many years, and almost made it through a wedding dress.)

So that all happened early in the year, making the outer skirt. Then I spent a lot of time going to every fabric store in the Bay Area (and also Seattle, when we went there for Go Play Northwest in June), looking for the perfect fabric for the lining. I also looked online a lot and ordered a bunch of samples, but was never quite happy. I really liked the batik from the inspiration photo, but couldn’t find anything in a pattern that big. I looked at a lot of florals, but ultimately decided it was the magenta color I liked the best.

Finally, on one last-ditch trip into San Francisco to Discount Fabrics, I found many yards of a red cotton with a textured pattern.

Fire-engine red, of course. Not quite what I was going for.

BUT the color showed through the back of the fabric, just a little bit, and was a pale pink. So I grabbed a bottle of magenta dye and a giant plastic tub and dyed it, with the help of Jennifer. We took turns stirring 9 yards of fabric with a large wooden pole. Then I washed it, and ironed the whole thing.


You can see the pinkish backside of the fabric versus the brick-red top. Perfect!

So here we go again. More cutting.


Here’s a tip — I taped my pattern to the fabric so it would stay put. Much easier than pinning, especially since I was re-using the same pattern for all the layers.


Once I had the top and bottom layers, I became concerned that the red might show through. So I bought some lining fabric. and made a middle layer. Yes, I cut and pinned and sewed three skirts. I did not take photos of the lining.


So then I had three layers. This skirt was getting really heavy!


I had to sew the lining and red fabric together before pinning and sewing to the satin, just because the three layers were sliding around so much. The seams especially were getting thick.

Which means ironing. So, so much ironing.


Ironing every seam, at least twice.

Finally it was top time.


I made a few practice ones out of plain cotton just to test the fit, as I was modifying it from the original pattern. In addition to lowering the back significantly, I attached ribbon to the top instead of completing the straps. 15956727283_f04dc78b56_z

Not quite a perfect fit, but at that point I’d been working on this dress on and off for months, it was September, and I needed to bring it in for alterations as soon as possible. The top just didn’t lay right and I had no way of fitting it myself, and I also needed help putting in a bustle. I delivered it in two pieces, top and bottom, and after a couple of visits we got it looking okay.

Karen and Sean 150

Yay, it’s a dress!

birthday all weekend long: part 1

February 17, 2015

My birthday fell on a Sunday this year, and also on President’s Day weekend. Sean and I had quite a full weekend lined up, so it felt like one big celebration.

I didn’t end up taking any pics with my camera, just my phone (and Sean’s phone), so I present to you my weekend as told through Twitter posts. Enjoy!

We started on Friday by going to a tasting at St George’s Spirits.

I immediately fell in love with a new gin — Botanivore. But we ended up going home with a bottle of coffee liqueur that Sean couldn’t do without. We enjoyed it later that very evening.

The next day was Valentine’s Day, so we decided to treat ourselves. We first went to Bittersweet for a very sweet breakfast.

Then I went to get my haircut. I love my salon, they’re so fancy and offer you water, tea, coffee, or even wine. But this morning they had mimosas!

And Valentine’s Day cookies.

Now, we HAD planned to go to the DMV after this, because my license was going to expire Sunday and I’d never gotten around to renewing it. What better time to have a new license photo then when you’ve just got a new haircut?

Except Saturdays are by appointment only and we didn’t have one. So, back to the fun!

We went to Toast to kill a little bit of time. Still very full from chocolate and bread and not quite ready for lunch, we had some brunch cocktails and appetizers instead.

Then when I went to get up to wash my hands, I came back to find a present waiting for me!

Sean had sprinted back to the car to get it and surprise me before I got back. (I’d already given him his present at Bittersweet — a replacement t-shirt for one he bought during our trip to Cork, but had unfortunately torn. Searched all over for that shirt online, too, and couldn’t find the same pattern & quality so finally emailed Hazel in Cork and asked her to go to that same t-shirt shop and see if they’d make it, because they made custom shirts and probably still had the design on file. And they did! So they did!

The gift weighed like a ton of rocks because it actually HAD a bunch of rocks in it. This terrarium had been on my wishlist for a while so I was very happy to get it.

Plus Sean is the best.

Then we went to the same place where I got my nails done for my bachelorette party (and for the wedding) to get pedicures. So good. We both needed some time in a massage chair.

After chilling out at home for a while, we had an early dinner at Homeroom. So good, I didn’t even take pictures of the food.

And after THAT, we went into San Francisco to the Tonga Room. I’d never been, but I’d heard about it, and let me just say it is even more ridiculous than you could imagine.

Band. On a boat. In a pool. With rain.

Really good cocktails though.

And that was just Friday and Saturday! We’ll have to cover the actual birthday in a second post…

our first tree

December 30, 2014

This is the first time we’ve been in the apartment for Christmas Day. So while we’ve had holiday parties in our place, we’ve still never had a “proper Christmas” here.

So what better time to host Christmas for the girls and my parents then just a few weeks after your wedding?

Oh, wait, that’s probably not the best time. But that’s what we did anyways.

Last year Sean agreed to my tree idea, which was to get a white artificial tree. We are both lovers of natural trees, but I’ve been craving a white tree.

15956208353_55f661b48a_zIsn’t it amazing? I was so excited when Sean put it up that I decorated the whole thing myself.

16388740888_4028186fcd_z At some point in my life I started acquiring sparkly fruit ornaments, especially pears. I really liked sparkly fruit in my Christmas tree. And since I wanted this tree to look a little more monochromatic, sparkly pears made up about half the ornaments. 15953821544_b7ec70ee44_z

The rest were an assortment of gold geometric ornaments from Etsy, West Elm, IKEA, and other websites.


I also bought initial ornaments just in case anybody didn’t already know whose tree it was.


I also had some bird ornaments, so I put this little guy up there. So yes, I suppose I do have a partridge in my pear tree.

Not a lot of Christmas photos this year, but the rest are on flickr. I wish I had at least taken a photo of Christmas dinner, because I made a baked ham, crab mac & cheese from the Homeroom cookbook, Waldorf salad, and baked apples. And if I don’t have a photo of it, how do I know all that delicious food actually happened??

The bonus of having all that leftover food though is that we had some pretty amazing “leftovers” breakfasts. When Sean’s mother came over on the 27th, we were prepared.

Also check out my post on our tradition of writing clues!

christmas clues

December 28, 2014

We have a Twelves holiday tradition of writing clues for Christmas gifts. My grandmother started it for her own children, in an effort to prevent four kids from ripping open all their presents at the same time and make Christmas morning last a little longer.

The clues can be as esoteric as possible, but usually end up rather punny.

I should note that it’s poor form to correctly guess what the gift is. That would be considered an insult to the giver’s clue-writing abilities.

Also it’s more fun to make up silly guesses instead.

The greatest clue to date was for a gift Dad gave to Mom years ago — a new Fanny Farmer cookbook. Her old one was well-loved and worn through, and she’d been wanting a new one.

He boxed it up with a couple of cinder blocks and wrote on the tag, “Now you can get rid of your old fanny.”

My mother, thinking she was being given a set of weights and a not-so-subtle hint to drop some pounds, was not as amused as the rest of us.

Here are some of the clues from 2014. Can you guess the gift?

Clue #1:


Clue #2:clue-02

Clue #3:


Clue #4:


Clue #5:clue-05

Clue #6clue-06

Clue #7clue-07

Clue #8:clue-08


  1. Scrapple! My dad’s favorite. Scrapple’s made when you’ve absolutely put everything else in the sausages but still have some random meat bits, so you mix them up with cornmeal and make a loaf, to be cut and fried. It’s an East Coast thing. But I found some “West Coast scrapple” at The Local Butcher Shop. Tasting notes: each slice was a little different, and needed a HOT pan to quickly sear it, otherwise all the fat started to melt and the cornmeal would just fall apart.
  2. Wood-burning tools for my mom. Looking forward to getting random custom-etched stuff in the future!
  3. An electric corkscrew. My dad bought himself a fancy old-school corkscrew but Mom says it hurts her hands. So now they’re both happy.
  4. Legendary, a deck-building game Sean’s been lusting after ever since playing it with friends earlier this year.
  5. Coup! We introduced this to our parents over Thanksgiving. So excited that my parents are getting into board and card games.
  6. A dish-drying rack. Mom has so far refused to get one and instead piles the dishes up in a toppling mess, which Dad then has to disassemble like dish Jenga to put away. I finally found one that she approves of. So now they’re both happy.
  7. A new cutting board! Something that we’d put on the registry, and are happy to have now.
  8. Blemish extraction toolkit. Because I can’t help picking at my face and may as well be doing it with the proper tools. Yes, I asked for this specifically, and Sean bought it for me because he loves me and also honors wishlists.

Of course sometimes there’s just not enough room on the card…


twelves day 2014

December 14, 2014

I barely took any photos of Twelves Day 2014. Since we started celebrating in 2012, we would just have people over for a happy hour but always shooed everyone out the door by 9pm — it was a weeknight, and we live like septuagenarians and are normally in bed by 10pm. But this year, Twelves Day fell on a Friday, so we had a full-blown holiday party.

Twelves Day 2014So much food! Not having time to cook really, I picked up a mess of dim sum from Chinatown. I don’t know why I don’t do this for more pot lucks, it’s cheap and delicious.

First I was too busy getting ready to take photos, then I was too busy running around being the host to take photos, then I was too busy sitting on the couch enjoying mulled wine. Fortunately, Sean snapped a few good shots.


Why, yes, I do own an apron with little deer on it that I wear exclusively before holiday parties. WHAT OF IT.

IMG_3909The highlight for me was our silent auction. Since we often host shindigs, by the end of the year Sean and I always have some bottles of red wine that were brought over as gifts. Since we’re not huge red wine drinkers, we wanted to give them away to guests. People wrote down what they would offer in trade, and then Sean and I picked the 5 we liked the most. Jennifer was so excited she bid twice! She also knew what we were doing beforehand, which is why her husband Avi just happened to have his new banjo in the car.

The winners were Avi, Vanessa, Todd, Erin Sara, and Eric! But then everyone wanted to hear the other bids so we went through the rest, ending on Alissa introducing everyone to laughing yoga. In truth Todd signed her up for it as a prank, but she did it anyways.

Can’t wait til 2015! It will be on a Saturday, so you know it will be crazy. We may even stay up past 11pm!

high tea with chick flick

November 25, 2014

To say a proper farewell to Mia before going to Los Angeles, the girls from Chick Flick went to Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco. So much tea! Seriously, they gave each of us an unlimited pot of tea. There was way too much tea.

High Tea-04And tea paraphernalia. And doilies. And random British stuff.

High Tea-05And hats! They in fact have a whole shop across the street with even more fancy tea stuff and hats. (By the end of the meal though there was one less teapot; one fell off a wobbly side table!)

I think that we all skipped meals that morning in order to ready ourselves for the feast that is high tea. Scones and crumpets and sandwiches and sausage rolls and petit fours!

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You can only get a glimpse from the photos of how fancy we all looked.

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Great meal, great friends. We’ll miss Mia but wish her all the best in LA!

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