Via bridebook: In Praise of Girlfriends

My second post as a Real Bride blogger for bridebook went up yesterday! It celebrates my awesome girlfriends, and you can read it by clicking on the title here:

In Praise of Girlfriends

(or, A Shower and Spice and Everything Nice)

A beautiful bridal shower is the icing on the (wedding-dress cup)cake. What really makes my heart sing is having my friends beside me, before, during, and after being a bride.

A few more pictures from the shower—to see the aforementioned cupcakes, check out the essay on bridebook!

Embracing the Unexpected: Three Fun Finds

This has been one of those weeks when almost nothing has gone according to plan. First, I unexpectedly lost access to my computer on Tuesday, precipitating a change in blog post as well as technology. I’d anticipated a one-hour finishing-touches session on the laptop and instead spent a good five hours fighting with a cranky iPad. (Apologies for the late post!) Then our Wednesday afternoon engagement photo shoot got interrupted by a massive thunderstorm. Thankfully we’d headed for cover after the first flash, because within a few minutes lightning struck several trees in the park where we’d just been playing on the slide, and within a few more, the bottom dropped out of the sky.

That's what it sounded like...

That’s what it sounded like…

On Thursday morning I was getting ready to head to an appointment at the gym. Before I could even get out the door, my neck spasmed and seized. When I told my trainer I was hurting, she asked–as I knew she would–what had happened. Had I lifted too much weight? Gone tubing or kayaking or something?

Nope. I was just sitting, reading a Facebook status on my phone.

Sometimes this forty-something thing is not-so-awesome.

Of course there are (I wish I didn’t have to write some version of this sentence again every few months) much greater griefs in the world. My neck is nothing compared to the heaviness in my heart for the devastating losses in Charleston. I ache with the senselessness of it all.

In my small corner of the universe, the challenges eventually sorted themselves out. I have a new laptop. The rain cleared, so we got some great photos downtown. And a visit to the chiropractor relieved some of my somatic pain. In keeping with this theme of the unexpected, I decided to share three unexpected sartorial resources I’ve discovered  in my bridal preparations: skirt extenders, design-your-own shoes, and print-to-order fabrics. All three are resources I think other women–not just brides–might find useful and fun.

1. Tall gals, you might especially like to know about the existence of the “skirt extender.”

These garments have a decidedly unglamorous name, but I use it here because (a) that’s what everyone seems to call them, so (b) that’s the term you’ll need to search on Etsy to find them quickly. Though I’m just guessing that their inspiration comes from those creative types among us (ahem) who do things like wear vintage slips or petticoats so the beautiful lace purposefully peeks out from under the skirt, in this age of tunics masquerading as dresses, I was thrilled to find another pretty solution to the too-short-but-otherwise-perfect dress.

A little backstory: I’d ordered a dress to wear at our rehearsal dinner, and I was excited when it arrived: the lace was soft, the cut was cute. Mind you, I like short skirts, within reason. But when I tried this dress on, it was laughably short. The average woman’s height is 5’3″, so I exceed the standard by a few inches, and those few inches can make the difference between flirty and flashing everyone. At first I’d thought I’d have to return the dress, but then it occurred to me I could wear a vintage slip underneath. In this case, the extra lace looks like part of the dress.

It was while searching Etsy for an appropriate vintage slip that I discovered I’m not the only one frustrated by the micro-length of so many dresses these days. Multiple Etsy vendors sell what they call “skirt extenders.” Some are half-slips, some full-slips, but they all have the same purpose: to extend your skirt (and thus its wearability) by several inches.  Skirt extenders come in lace, organza, tulle, and knit jersey; you can find them in black, white, ivory, turquoise, burgundy, brown, and other colors; they’re made straight and a-line, ruffly and full. In most cases, you can choose from several sizes as well as several lengths. A few vendors use vintage lace or materials, so you get a one-of-kind product, while others use all-new materials.

While I can’t vouch for any specific vendor at this point, some of the most promising ones with the greatest variety of inventory and highest ratings are as follows: A Slip Shop, Vezanie, Three Bird Nest, Alcora, or MyOlyGirl.

2. Gals with hard to fit feet–or women who want high style without a sky-high heel–try the made to order shoes at Shoes of Prey.

First, please don’t ask me why they call it “Shoes of Prey”—I have no idea. But as a woman with narrow feet who can never find fun, stylish shoes either in stores OR at most online outlets (even Zappos usually fails me), I don’t care what they named the company. Custom shoes, designed by me from a wide array of quality materials, and made to fit my narrow feet? I’m sold.

I wasn’t much of a shoe girl growing up, likely because shoe-shopping meant going to one of the only two shoe shops in our entire town that carried anything in “narrow.” The shoes were expensive, the choices limited. Shopping for shoes has remained an exercise in disappointment, and forget having fun with cheap, trendy finds–they never fit right, so even if I take the plunge, I don’t end up wearing them more than a handful of times.

A Shoes of Prey design by me

A Shoes of Prey design by me

I can’t remember where I first read about Shoes of Prey; at the time, they were purely an online enterprise (based out of Australia). Now they have several brick-and-mortar outlets, but you don’t need to live near one to design or order shoes. They make flats, sandals, booties, pumps…you name it. You can choose from leather in something like 20 colors and three finishes; satin; vegan material; silk; snakeskin. You can choose your heel style and height, which for me was huge in terms of wedding shoes—why everyone who designs special occasion shoes thinks I want to totter around in 4 or 5 inch heels for an equal number of hours, I can’t imagine. There are colors and patterns galore–solids of every shade, animal prints, florals, lace overlays. The hardest part of the process is choosing!

The price tag, for the service, is reasonable: the baseline is $129, with different styles and materials potentially adding to the cost (shipping is free). Good running and hiking shoes cost about the same, plus it’s helpful to think in terms of price-per-wear. If I pay $40 for shoes I only wear once because they hurt my feet, that’s far more expensive than paying $200 for work shoes I wear a minimum of 20 times in the first year alone. The company offers a full refund/remake for unworn shoes, up to 365 days. I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my wedding shoes, and I have a feeling I’ll be ordering from them again.

3. For the gal who likes to create with fabric, or a mom who wants to preserve her child’s artwork: fabric you design yourself.

We’re making pillows for the venue benches, and I wanted to incorporate map fabric into some of the designs, in honor of Steve’s GIS work.  I wasn’t crazy about the map fabric we found (it’s color scheme was a bit off). So I decided to try having a piece of a vintage, out-of-copyright map printed on fabric to incorporate into a pillow or two.

World map fabric by Jade Gordon at Spoonflower

World map fabric by Jade Gordon at Spoonflower

The two primary companies that do this kind of work, based on my research, are Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower. Spoonflower also has a whole host of fabrics designed by other people you can purchase, so it’s a good place to browse for unique fabrics (they also print wallpaper and gift wrap) even if you aren’t inclined to design something yourself. Both of the websites are quick and easy to use; you just have to pay attention to the resolution of the image you send. Both offer color calibration tools, if you need a specific hue. You have a choice of different fabrics, and on, the prices range from $28 a yard for fleece to $40 a yard for cotton-silk voile.

If I were a parent, I’d be all over this.  You could collect several of your child’s drawings or paintings, have them printed on fabric, and make a quilt for your child to keep or give to a grandparent as a gift. And though I’ve never been a wallpaper aficionado, I’m intrigued at the possibilities of creating something of my own design.

Sometimes, letting go and welcoming the unexpected results in surprisingly good discoveries. Wishing you a week filled with peace and unexpected wonders.

Funny Story About My Dress…

Not long after Steve and I got engaged, people started asking about my wedding dress: had I looked for a dress yet? Did I know what kind of dress I wanted? When was I going to go shopping for my dress? Those who knew me well knew, enthusiastic fashionista that I am, that finding The Dress would likely be at the top of my bridal to-do’s.

I hemmed and hawed in response to their questions. Of course, I’d thought about it. Yes, I had a pretty good idea of what I liked. Then as fast as I could, I’d change the subject.

Because the truth was that buying a dress wasn’t just at the top of the list. It was already checked off.

Temptation strikes

True confessions: I bought my dress before we got engaged. Continue reading


Invitation: Traditional-Fairy-Tale-Takedown Challenge

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s almost impossible to escape the standard romantic narrative that presumes we all aspire to march two-by-two into happy (and usually heterosexual) committed couple-dom. But so many of us whose feet don’t fit the standard glass slipper are living amazing lives we love, and those stories need to be told, too!

Your challenge: write your own alternative fairy tale, one that describes your current awesome life or hints at the fairy tale life to which you aspire.


  • Your fairy tale should open with (what else?) “Once upon a time” and be 6 to 7 lines long, loosely following the models of the “world’s shortest fairy tale” and other examples, below. Unconventional tales most welcome, but more conventional ones are too, if that’s your happy place. No need to include a proposal, unless it’s part of your story.
  • The challenge remains open from February 10th-20th; post and link or submit within that window.
  • To participate, post your fairy tale on your own blog and link it back to this post, post it in a comment below, or send it directly to me at
  •  All entries PG, please. 🙂
  • Tag #fairytaletakedown if you wish (I’m still kinda figuring the hashtag thing out.)

In early March, I’ll feature some of my and my readers’ favorite fairy tales in a follow-up post. Please visit the blogs of those who submit, and like and comment on your faves! Any non-bloggers, indicate how you’d like to be identified in the post should your fairy tale be included in the March feature.

The inspiration for the challenge

Back in October, I questioned the privileging of a single model for happily ever after, and its counterpart as featured in the following meme:


You can read the original full post here, but here’s what I had to say (with a few updates) that’s relevant to this challenge:

“The meme made me laugh—and think. It works specifically because we’re familiar with its counterpart, the fairy tale wherein the girl says “yes,” they marry, and presumably live happily ever after. In the male version, the “happily ever after” is spelled out in detail, though in traditional fairy tales it’s not. The conventional version, if it were spelled out, might look like this:

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, YES! And they lived happily ever after
and settled into a lovely house with a big yard
and had one boy and one girl and a well-trained dog
and the man made lots of money while she cooked perfect dinners
and they held hands every day until the day they died.

Of course, even for women who desire marriage or partnership, not everyone’s happily ever after includes 2.5 kids and a mortgage. The assumption that marriage per se is every woman’s dream—the assumption the original meme’s humor depends upon—is, if not sexist, at least shortsighted. A good marriage built on true companionship is something I want (even though it scares me in some ways). But I resist the easy equation of single male = happy and married female = happy as a default setting; it seems especially problematic in a world where not everyone has the legal right to marry even when they wish to. There are alternatives to both of the above tales. My  own life, prior to Steve’s presence in it, looked a bit like this (yes, I was proposed to once before, but that’s a story for another day):

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, NO!  And she lived happily ever after
and moved to Virginia and traveled at every opportunity
read incredible books and drank good wine and tea
and spent money on journals, artwork, and clothes
had a raspberry-pink sofa and loved her four cats
and farted whenever she wanted.

The last line is not a typo. You think women who live alone don’t enjoy the freedom to fart with abandon (or put off shaving, or let the dishes pile up in the sink…)? Now, there’s a fairy tale.

Here’s another, a composite fairy tale based on some awesome women I know:

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, NO! And she lived happily ever after
and traveled to Africa and met fascinating people
took up running and drank cosmos and craft beer
and spent money on marathons and beautiful shoes
bought a sewing machine and fostered rescue dogs
and (just guessing here, friends) farted whenever she wanted.

The upshot? One person’s sweetened-up Disney fairy tale is another person’s gloomy Brothers Grimm version. And (this is not news): there is no “happily ever after,” at least none that applies universally—nor, I would hazard, only one that is possible in any one person’s life. I wrote about the “infinite variety of paths” we might travel as we wind our way through the world, and, for each of us, I believe, there is more than one route to happiness. Mine is starting to look a little something like this:

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, YES! And they lived happily ever after
and traveled together to oceans and mountains
and talked and read books and gave each other plenty of space
and spent money on wedding stuff and shopped for a house
and wondered when to introduce her cats to his dog
who farted whenever he wanted.”

Submit your alternative fairy tales!


On Cats and Weddings

A day or two ago, a post about CatCon LA showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. Sporting the tagline “It’s like Comic-Con…but for cat people,” CatCon LA is “part expo, part symposium,” and will, according to its website, feature “the world’s top cat-centric merchandise including furniture, art, toys and clothing for those of us who possess a great love of the feline.” There will also be speakers, including Simon Tofield, the creator of the brilliant Simon’s Cat animated cartoons. I’ve never really understood the appeal of Comic-Con, but CatCon kinda makes me wish Los Angeles weren’t so far away.

Go ahead, roll your eyes.

One of the unexpected benefits of being engaged: I can embrace my love of felines without fear of being labeled and dismissed as a stereotype: the single middle-aged crazy cat lady.

Charlie in the window

Charlie in the window

I’ll just be a married middle-aged crazy cat lady.

For the record, there is nothing wrong with being a cat lady, or a cat person, single or married, crazy or crazier. Though I confess: I cringe whenever I find myself at the grocery checkout, buying a stash of microwaveable meals, a couple bottles of wine, and 20 cans of cat food. Add chocolate, I’m a walking cliché.

And yet: my cats are really the only creatures who’ve been my constant companions, day in and day out, greeting me every morning, welcoming me at the door every night. I have wonderful friends and human family I love dearly, but none of them wakes me up purring with a chin resting on my pillow, or perches in the front window, anxiously awaiting my arrival home. Continue reading

Not-So-True-Love Tuesday: The Non-date Date

 Broken heartWelcome to the first installment of Not-so-True-Love Tuesdays, featuring silly and scary and “Seriously?” stories from my dating days, now also known as the “BS” years: Before Steve. (Since Steve refers to his midlife dating period in the five years before he met me as “BS,” Before Sandee, I’m following suit.)

Maybe it’s the gloomy weather or renewed pressures at work.  Or maybe it’s the fact that even now when I have a sweetheart, my anxiety still ratchets up a notch when I see store aisles packed full of Valentine’s Day gifts—no doubt a holdover from too many misspent years wondering if lack of boyfriend = unlovable Sandee. In any case, it seemed a good time to remind myself, and maybe a dear friend or two, that I wasn’t always so lucky, and that you do, indeed, have to kiss a few frogs (or at least meet them for sushi) if you have any hope of finding a prince.

In the meantime? Buy the chocolates and roses for yourself!

The Non-date Date

I’d met “Sam,” a hospital pharmacist, at an event sponsored by a group. I’d joined the group a few months after a break-up with a man I’d met through left me reeling. I wasn’t ready to go back to the online dating scene, but sitting at home moping wasn’t a healthy option either. So I found a couple local Meetups, one focused on outdoor activities, and another on wine-tasting, took a deep breath, and headed to my first social. Continue reading