Category Archives: make me smile

Reader, I married him

Just as I was beginning to plan our wedding a few weeks ago, this post came out from Clothilde about her simple Paris wedding.  What she said about planning her event in two months was similar to the timeline that we set for ourselves, and I felt empowered by her thoughts about keeping things simple and “100% you.” Our version of this was a bit different, because of being in SoCal, so here are the choices that we made:

-we’ve worn “wedding” rings for 5+ years (since he first proposed as we watched the sun set one evening at Griffith Park), so that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about for the marriage.  My ring is a vintage eternity band, from the ’20s.  Stijn’s ring is a simple silver band.

-for a few weeks I struggled with what to wear. I’d thought a cocktail dress would be more befitting our stage of life than a traditional white dress, but after looking and looking, I couldn’t settle on anything that felt right. I wore myself out dress shopping (note: I tire of shopping pretty easily).  One afternoon I was thinking about my favorite short story, Isak Dinesen’s “The Blank Page,” and it occurred to me that a simple white dress was what I wanted as I was about to begin the next chapter of my life (something that hinted at so many as-yet-untold stories):

It is in front of this piece of pure white linen that the old princesses of Portugal — worldly wise, dutiful, long-suffering queens, wives and mothers — and their noble old playmates, bridesmaids and maids-of-honour have most often stood still… 

The dress I settled on was a silk a-line floor length gown from J.Crew.  It was light and easy-to-wear for those two very long days of wedding happenings.

-we held our wedding celebrations at our 1921 bungalow-style home in Old Town Orange.  While hard in some ways (parking? food prep? one guest bathroom?), our home is so much a part of who we are, that nothing else would have felt right. We were fortunate to have perfect 75-degree weather and the wisteria and bougainvillea brought tons of color to the pergola in our backyard. Also, we used All-American Party Rental to augment our supply of party goods, and they were wonderful to work with.



-we scheduled a civil ceremony at the historic Santa Ana courthouse.  It’s a gorgeous space and we both love history and this reinforces our local ties.  Plus, it was a no-hassle way to do the business of marrying.  I was surprised by how beautiful it felt to take Stijn’s hands and recite vows as I looked into his eyes.  Our family sat on rows of pews around us.
flowers and bracelets

-for our reception we served drinks (sparkling water, juice, champagne, beer, wine) and cake.  The cakes were from Blackmarket Bakery: Total Eclipse, Citrus Tang and Straight Up Vanilla.  Were I to do it over again I would double the order of the Citrus and cancel the Vanilla (which was tasty but not ohmigawd tasty like the other two).  Several guests mentioned that the Total Eclipse chocolate cake was one of the most decadent that they had ever tried, and others complimented the fact that the cakes were rich but not too sweet.

-for the wedding dinner chefStijn and chefCharlie cooked a traditional Belgian dish, vol-au-vent.vol-au-ventThey also served a variety of cold salad starters and a cheese course accompanied by loaves of Stijn’s own handmade rustic sourdough bread.  While I don’t necessarily recommend cooking your own wedding dinner(!), anyone who knows Stijn can understand why this was what he wanted to do. That Charlie was there to lend a hand (and also his partner and honorary bridesmaid Bonny) is why we were able to pull this off…

dinner time

-both our engagement and wedding photos were taken by longtime friends, who understood me and my style.  D’Arcy‘s colorful shots captured our home well (and were perfect for our event invitation) and Brenda’s classical eye matched the look of the old-timey courthouse venue.


-for my something borrowed, I wore vintage gold bracelets (handed down from grandmothers and great-aunts) on loan from some women that I’ve known for many years.  I loved wearing something so old and precious for the occasion.

-because we have just about everything we could possibly need or want, we asked guests to consider two nontraditional options in lieu of gifts.  The first was to bring books for our Little Free Library, the second was to consider a donation to RIF (Reading is Fundamental) or to First Book (see Although I don’t yet have a definitive tally, my rough estimate is that about $500 was donated to these organizations as the result of our wedding.  Of course we also received many sweet cards and gifts (especially plants, wine, kitchen goods and gift cards), and we have enjoyed each one of them.

-we married on a Friday (the exact 6 year anniversary of our first date) and that night we escaped to The Ranch in Laguna Beach, where we had dinner and sat in front of the fire sipping wine and hardly believing that we were actually married.  It was a perfect relaxed but not-too-far-away setting for that first night together as a couple.

fire and wine

-most importantly, our wedding included so many beloved friends and family members and this is what made it truly memorable.  I marveled at how far many had traveled and how enthusiastic they were about supporting our union.  These past 6 years, since meeting Stijn, have held so many highs and lows, and it’s those people who’ve been ‘there’ for us (both in-person and virtually) who have made this all come together.

the crowd

As for what it feels like to be married to Stijn…I’ll undoubtedly write more about that in the future.  It is not a small thing to combine families and traditions that span the breadth of the globe. Yet for now it has hardly sunk in and I am eager to see what’s next for the two of us as we chart the rest of our lives together.


Some of the off-season crew on a Saturday morning paddle.

Steering some of the off-season crew on a Saturday morning paddle.

Winter is “off-season” for outrigger canoeing, so my team doesn’t practice regularly.  It is a  much less-desirable time of year for being on the water–it’s cold, stormy, and the days are short.

But it’s precisely all of those undesirable reasons that make off-season paddling so fun to me.  There’s a small hardy band of half-a-dozen paddlers that comes together every Wednesday for a nighttime jaunt–an easy 8 miles or so of canoeing from the Back Bay to the Harbor mouth (and when we’re lucky, all the way out to the bell buoy).  There’s an irreverence to the off-season that is potty humor and in-jokes, plenty of near-misses with docks and channel markers and whatever mysterious dark detritus floating alongside our boat (a dead sea lion? a dead bird? a bag of beach trash?).  But it is also the beauty of bioluminescent plankton and a sky full of stars.  It is a Jerry moonlight serenade after we cross the PCH bridge and it is Lynn’s unmistakable and infectious laugh. It is pirates at Halloween and twinkling lights for the holiday parade.  It is cold toes and noses and ears and fingers, and that occasional balmy Santa Ana breeze that greets us as we round the bend of the Back Bay. It is paddling for the for the sheer joy of being on the water and in the water, with friends.

But tonight regular Team Imua season practice begins.  It is time to prepare for races, to polish our form and build our strength.  Of course that’s all good (especially the strengthening part), but I’ll still be missing the off-season, more than a bit.

Sunday Reading

In lieu of reading the Sunday newspaper, I’m reading a variety of interesting web articles this morning. They’re all so good, it seemed well-worth sharing a few of the links:

A comparative review essay from LARB about Istanbul and Shanghai, which prompted me to add Midnight at the Pera Palace to my reading list.

A Boom article about camping (note: the vintage photos are almost as good as the writing).

This NYTimes article about why doctors still use stories (or case studies) in addition to data. (H/t to Holly for the link on FB)

at this table

this tableA long time ago, I encountered this table while staying at the Friends’ House in Beacon Hill (in Boston).  Way back then I remarked how much I’d like to have such a table for entertaining someday.

Our current kitchen table isn’t quite that large, but it does handily seat at least eight people once the leaf is inserted.  And lately we’ve had a houseful of visitors from overseas, stretching that capacity to the maximum.

As I pondered that this afternoon (while hearing the happy noises of friends coming from downstairs) I realized just how much I enjoy entertaining and how I had imagined this future for myself many times: to break bread with good and generous people, who are at ease and hopeful about their lives.  People who know how to laugh and relax…and then wash the dishes together afterwards…

getting things done…

This past weekend was my first one home in SoCal since the holidays.  It felt so good to be able to attack the long list of “to-do”s that were waiting for me, that I kept at it all weekend.  Among those was tidying my closet (and making rainbows of my scarves & sweaters):

12201268716_f070d8872b_n 12201264526_377d457143

I planted a few seeds in the garden, enjoyed a long outrigger paddle out on the ocean with my team, spent quality time with Catgirl, ran errands, and had plenty of sleep and homecooked meals.  Not to mention the several loads of dirty laundry that are now clean and put away.

And…I got caught up on all of my snailmail and paperwork, including the many (many) financial forms for the kids’ college funds.  Then, at lunchtime today I filed both my federal and state taxes(!)–the earliest ever.

Whew.  What a great feeling, to have accomplished so much.

any way you say it…

Reading Boone’s post about the pronunciation of his name made me think about how people say my name….

I was raised as Jana with a hard J.  When I got to high school my friends played a joke on our chem teacher and told him that I was a foreign exchange student from Czechoslovakia and that my name was pronounced “Yawna” (apparently I did not then know enough English to speak for myself).  That nickname stuck and I was Yawna or “Yawna Banana” to my high school friends.  I loved that name and how playful and foreign it sounded to my ears.

When I went to college I became Jana, hard J, again.  Though I was rarely Jana to my ex (only in the most serious of conversations), I was not Yawna again until a few years ago, when my social circle expanded to include many European friends and colleagues.

I love being Yawna.  Again.

short shameful confession #28

I have an IRL fetish.  I have a few of them, actually, but the one that’s on my mind right now is my IRL fetish for paper.

We have boxes full of creamy think white paper leftover from wrapping dishes in our recent move, and I love the texture of it, the color, and its soft wrinkles.  This weekend Catgirl and I used the paper to create a skirt pattern for sewing, and it was an utter delight to use a thick artist pencil on that paper, too.  So much so that I was dreaming about all kinds of ways I might use paper again (digital schmigital).

That, and I’m also thinking about the book that sits on the edge of my bathtub to entertain me during my evening soaks.  Wet fingers on paper (and the wrinkles that those wet fingers leave on book pages after they dry) are a texture that feels so much more bone-deep satisfying than a swipe of a finger across a screen.


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Note: featured image is of the old-timey letterbox (and nearby elevator) in the lobby of  the Hotel Allegro in Chicago.  It made me want to mail a few snail-mail letters to friends…

Twelve on Twelve

12 Simple Things that are Making me Smile…(on 12/12/12 at 12:12)

1) Catgirl
2) Gameboy
3) my Belgian
4) Belgian frites and ales
5) Belgian nights (and mornings)
6) home-cooked meals
7) porch swinging
8) snuggly winter evenings in front of the fireplace
9) friends who listen
10) long walks, in the rain
11) soaking in a warm bath, before bedtime
12) and most of all…the promise of the holidays, with all of us together again.

Photo above taken in the Flemish countryside, about two weeks ago.

short shameful confession #25

We’re not 20 anymore…

He said, as we jumped into the car before 7am to take Catgirl to school.  We’d had a long evening in Los Angeles with new-to-me Belgian friends Hans and Lien.  Dinner was at a popup restaurant, The Hart + the Hunter (by our favorite chefs from Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing) with drinks afterwards at The Dresden Room.

There’s something to be said for an evening filled with vigorous conversation, simple southern-style foods, and the hours flying by.

The next morning, however, one does have to get up and get the girl to school and get to work and…one does realize that it just isn’t as easy to roll into bed in the middle of the night and out of bed in the early morning as it used to be…

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