I hitched my wagon to a star

Three years ago today, I sent the Southerner an email.  He was living in New Orleans and I lived in Atlanta.  I hadn’t seen him in eleven years but I knew I wanted to talk to him.  I never would have thought in a million years that my email would lead me to where I am today. Where we are.  Together.

In the past three years, we’ve lived in New Orleans, Montana, New Zealand, and now, Florida together.  We’ve had countless adventures in these places and created memories that I will never forget.  I’ve learned to fly-fish and play fantasy football.  I’m getting a Master’s degree. We’re getting married!

Last night while talking to my brother over the phone, I told him that I wake up happy every single day.  I am constantly happy.  Annoyingly, infectiously, happy.  The Southerner is directly responsible for this happiness. In one of his first emails to me, he wrote the words  “It is easier to be courageous on your own, but to have someone be courageous with you takes an immense amount of trust. ”

Thank you for the past three years of letting me be courageous with you, Love. Kisses.

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My life list is getting shorter and shorter

Thanks to a well-timed Groupon, I saw Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert speak at the David Straz Center in Tampa last night.  I’ve been obsessed with No Reservations for years now.  For the 6 months that I lived in New Zealand, I ate lunch almost every day with Bourdain’s show as my lunch-time companion.  Except the show always makes me feel really sad about whatever I’ve cooked compared to the culinary delights Bourdain gets to wolf down.

Thank god it was dark in the theater when Bourdain stepped on stage because I started crying like a baby.  I was completely unprepared for how emotional I was going to feel about being in the same room as him.  I was even less prepared for the fact that by the end of the talk, I was also really obsessed with Eric Ripert.  Ripert is a very good story-teller and it’s easy to tell how passionate he feels about cooking and about food.  Not to mention that he’s so nice compared to Tony that he’s like the Dali Lama of chefs.

Bourdain and Ripert spent the evening discussing a variety of food-related topics, like why Paula Dean is bad for American’s health, the French tradition of eating Ortolans, sustainable living, the fact that cheese whiz doesn’t actually have cheese in it, and pink slime (look it up right now).  At moments, the talk lagged a little, but I really didn’t care.  I was just happy that I got to see Tony’s cowboy boots in person.

Big sloppy kisses to the Southerner for taking one for the team last night.  He insisted on going with me to the show even though he had a fever and was coughing into a hankie all night.  After the show, he gave me his arm and led me to the book stand where he told me to pick out a signed copy of each chef’s book to take home.  I seriously almost started crying again.  Thanks, Love.  You will always be my top chef (look at me getting all hokey).

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Ringling Brothers Museum

I went back to Sarasota a few weekends ago and visited the Ringling Museum of Art.  I’ve been wanting to go there since we moved to St. Pete and it was well worth the wait.  If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it, especially the Howard Tibbals Learning Center.  The Learning Center has the world’s largest miniature circus and the exhibit is mind-blowing. And the best part… I got in for free since I’m a student!

The grounds of the museum.

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Finding a unique engagement ring, Part II

Just in case you’ve forgotten the main points of Part I: the Southerner decided on an uncut diamond and a mangrove-inspired setting for our engagement ring. Forgotten what a mangrove looks like? Let me refresh your memory…

Gratuitous shot of a ghost standing next to a mangrove.

Okay, glad we’re all on the same page.  Now, I’ll let the Southerner finish the story in his own words:

The first jeweler I went to in St. Pete was bright white and flashy.  The second I walked in I knew it was a mistake.  Three people started talking to me at once and the co-owner and wife of the other owner/jeweler never really stopped.  She had this pink streak in her hair that kept flopping around every time she said the words “Steven Kretchmer.”  Of course, they were having a Steven Kretchmer show that day.  I presented my idea and she said, “I can see you’re an earthy kind of guy and that’s a nice sentiment, but I don’t think you want to go with that.”  (I don’t think there is anything even remotely ‘earthy’ about my personality.)  She eventually came around to the idea of an uncut stone but insisted my setting design was “impossible.”  She kept pushing a tension setting by Kretchmer and telling me how famous he is and blah, blah, blah.  When discussing getting some stones to look at and telling her I’d seen some nice ones online in different colors she concluded, “I wouldn’t even make a ring with a stone that was highly colored or had internal impurities.”  She also recommended that using a stone from the internet is not safe.

Fairly demoralized, I left the store and almost went home to re-group.  I mean,  is ‘tension’ really what I want there to be in my symbolic engagement ring?  But I was dressed in my suit and had my excuse, and damn if I was going to let that lady put me off, so I went to the next store.

Bruce Watter’s jewelry store is quieter, calmer, and has more of an old-school Sinatra feel to it.  An older man walked up and asked if he could help.  I thought, “this guy is never going to go for my idea.”  When I told him what I was interested in he was just silent and stared at me for a few long seconds.  I was pretty sure he was going to blow me off.  But instead, he said, “That’s one of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard in a while, let’s sit down and talk about it.”

At the end of the day, he basically said that what I wanted was very doable, a bit risky, might cost a little more for the intricacy of the setting, and we had to use white gold instead of platinum due to all the bending, joining etc. needed to make the design.  But, he was excited about my project.  He told me, “I can get a half million dollars worth of (gesturing to his collections) this kind of stuff, but I have no idea how to get an uncut stone. You handle the stone, I’ll handle the ring.”

I found a few good online sites to look at uncut stones…

I ended up going with AAA diamonds Ebay store.  Going through Ebay/PayPal is a good choice because you have 30 days to cancel.  I liked the diamond I got, but it had a small chip at one apex and the jeweler said it could fracture. Avner, at AAA, was great and let me return the diamond for another one that I ended up liking even better.  I highly recommend them.

In the end, this is what we got.

It’s an uncut, black diamond.  The shape is an octahedron.  While not the dodec, it’s still one of the Platonic solids and it just looks cool.

The Venezuelan and the Southerner couldn’t be happier.

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Finding a unique engagement ring, Part I

Guest Post by the Southerner:

The Venezuelan asked me to write a post detailing the process of creating a cool engagement ring that is meaningful to your relationship.  I hope this helps:

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already Googled “Unique Engagement Ring” and seen all the interesting and bizarre options out there.  There are more and more of us that don’t want our engagement to be the clichéd “Every kiss begins with Kay,” “He went to Jared,” or “How better else to spend 2 months’ salary.”  We also don’t think the fullest extent of being an educated gemstone/diamond buyer (aka: poor cow walking the plank to the industrial, commercialized slaughter) means just knowing the (use sing-song voice in your head) 4 C’s—Color, Cut, Clarity, and Carat.

I knew that getting down on one knee and opening a box with a typical bright, sparkly diamond was not how my girlfriend wanted to be proposed to.  So, I started off by thinking about other stones.  I looked at lots of cool gem-stones, particularly of the red variety.  Along the way, I discovered that gemstones were very commonly used as engagement ring decorations up until the Debeers advertising campaign gave rise to the homogeneous enterprise of clear diamonds we have today.  The Brits, including the Royal family, haven’t fallen for it.  Lady Di got a Sapphire that was later given to Kate.  Prince Andrew went with a ruby to highlight his bride-to-be’s red hair.

One issue with gemstones is that many are soft and can easily be scratched or damaged.  One jeweler I talked with said, “You know when I think engagement ring, I think longevity, strong, and enduring”…good point!  He also pointed out the ring would be worn everyday and needed to be able to take a beating (especially with the Venezuelan).  He was a bit surprised when I told him I was looking for a non-diamond engagement ring but then said, “You know you are the second guy this week that has called and said he wanted something different.”

The ruby seemed a good choice.  But then I found out that most of the rubies on the market now are “enhanced.” The process involves infusing molten glass into the cracks of the stone.  The concern here is that nobody knows exactly how well this is going to hold up over time.  I also discovered that you have to pay more than diamond prices for a good natural ruby and it would probably be hard to find one that fit the shape I wanted.

You see, I wanted a dodecahedron.  (Note: Skip this paragraph if you truly hate math and geometry) I have always been fascinated with the platonic solids—the tetrahedron (pyramid), cube, tetrahedron, icosahedron, and the dodecahedron.  These are geometric solids defined by the simple equation Faces-Edges +Vertices=2.  These were thought by the ancients to represent the four elements and the fifth, the dodec, was divine.  For many years, I’ve imagined my engagement ring to be cut in the dodec.

How I ended up going with an uncut diamond—first of all it is apparently an extreme waste of money to buy a ruby or a diamond and cut it into a dodec.  The flat surfaces do not internally reflect light and will look pretty dull.  While researching dodec cut diamonds, I discovered that this is actually their natural shape when coming out of the mine…how cool is that?  I also like the symbolism here.  My girl is precious, a bit rough around the edges, and refuses to be molded/cut/polished into what commercial society wants her to be.  So that was it.  I decided on an uncut stone.

The next step was figuring out a setting.  While riding our bicycles one day we stopped at a little park by the bay that had a bunch of mangroves next to the water.

I’ve always loved their intricate root system and while looking at them I thought they would make a cool-looking setting.  On the way home, the Venezuelan asked me what I was thinking about.   Of course I couldn’t say, but it was that we were like the mangrove.  The mangrove seeds don’t just plop off the tree and grow right where they land. Instead, they float around in the ocean a while until they find a nice sandy spot that they like and puts their roots down there.  If you read this blog, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

So, now I knew what stone to get and drew the general idea of the mangrove-inspired setting I wanted.  Time to try to find a jeweler.   I found two in St. Pete that looked good.  I put on my suit, made up some story about going on a business meeting, and off I went.

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I might have to take that comment back about not wanting a wedding registry. I need one of these ASAP.  Click on the photo for more info.

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I can still use my middle finger

Well, my year of freak medical maladies continues.  Last night while attempting to shove a cardboard box into the outdoor trash bin, I sprained my left thumb.  My thumb! On my left hand! The one I write with.  I didn’t even know it was possible to sprain your thumb.  That is until it actually happened and I almost passed out by the trash bin after screaming loud enough to wake up the whole neighborhood.

The Southerner wrapped my hand in this make-shift bandage (ie. old pair of pantyhose) and tried to refrain from laughing at me.  Just a few days ago, he made the comment “if I were an insurance company and saw your name on the list of potential insurees, I would run like hell.” At which point I scoffed and reminded him that I only go to the doctor for two reasons: 1. I need birth control and they will not renew your prescription unless you go for an annual visit.  2.  I learn that there is a possibility that I might have crotch cancer (Which, by the way, I don’t. Yay!).

For all other medical emergencies, I have him.  Duh.  He didn’t go to medical school for nothing, right?

Not being able to use the thumb on my dominant hand is trying my patience at the moment.  It turns out that your thumb is a really important part of making your whole hand work.  Who would have known! It’s only what makes us human after all.

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Wedding planning

We  decided to get married in Montana.  We decided to only invite family and a very few handful of friends. More importantly, I decided to grow my bangs out.  These decisions took HOURS.  Hours of my life that I could’ve used to finish watching the 4th season of Sons of Anarchy.  Instead, I’ve only made it to episode 5.

The worst part is I’m the biggest culprit.  I eat, breathe, and sleep wedding with the intermittent thought thrown in there for good measure about the five graduate courses I’m currently taking. The Southerner can’t get a word in without me asking him what he would think if I handmade our invitations so they looked like airline tickets (FAIL).  Yeah, let’s send the guests an invitation that reminds them of how much it’s actually costing to attend the wedding.

When I was little, I never dreamed of being a bride.  I didn’t play with frilly dolls or envision white-picket fences. I was busy kicking Hordak’s ass in my She-ra Princess of Power castle.  And let’s just get this out there since my mother takes every opportunity to remind me of it: Hello, my name is Queen Savage and I’ve been married before.  I already have a very decent set of silverware and plates, or at least half a set of plates and silverware.  Wouldn’t that be funny? If instead of registering (which I DO NOT want to do despite massive pressure on all fronts), I just asked people if they could perhaps replace the half of the silverware I lost in my first marriage?  I think that would be a fucking riot. But airline ticket invitations once seemed like a great idea too.

This is the disclaimer part of this post where I explain how happy and full of very loving feelings I am about marrying the Southerner. That sometimes on my way to school I get this weird wet feeling in my left eye because I’ve been daydreaming about walking down an aisle toward the Southerner.That the Southerner has been AMAZING throughout this whole process and I am quite pleased about becoming his old lady.  It’s just the planning I’m bitching about.

It feels like wedding planning is a test that you have to pass in order to get married.  Are you really good at offending people and/or making fake happy noises as you open the hundredth set of champagne flutes you’ve received over the course of the last two hours? You pass!  Do you know how to fit 30 guests into a ranch that only houses 20? DOUBLE-PASS! You are a wedding dominatrix! Your name will live on in the annals of Martha Stewart history from this day forward! WAY-TO-GO!

For right now, I’m focusing on the fun stuff: researching huckleberry cupcake recipes, making Brother J my man of honor, thinking of all the people the Southerner and I love being in one place for one weekend, and that weird wet substance in my left eye.

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I think this picture about sums up last weekend’s Gasparilla festival in Tampa.

The Southerner and I woke up at 7am last Saturday, put on our best pirate costumes, and boarded the Starlight cruise in St. Pete.  The Starlight is a riverboat cruise from St. Pete to Tampa that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, while giving you an awesome view of all the Gasparilla festivities.  Mainly, you get to be a part of the amazing flotilla into Channelside, Tampa.

We quickly learned that we were the youngest members of the Starlight crew by about 30 years, but that didn’t mean that we weren’t ready to play a mean game of Bingo on our way into Tampa!  Actually, we sucked at Bingo.  Who the hell knew there were so many variations? And it’s a little hard to keeps tabs on your numbers when you’re seeing double from those three mimosas you had at 8am.  Not to mention that given the mean age of your boat members, breakfast was a bran muffin that’s already sent you to the bathroom several times.  Hello, Starlight, I ALREADY go to the bathroom several times a day.  I didn’t really need any extra incentive.

Speaking of our elderly population and their interesting proclivities.  The closer we got to Tampa, the more some of the women in surrounding boats began to take their tops off.  And the more excited some of my elderly male shipmates began to get.  One skeezer in particular began to shout “Take it off!” “Show me your titties!” “Take it all off!”  IN FRONT OF HIS WIFE.  Over and over again.  And over again.  I actually took video but I feel that it would be unfair to post it.  Unfair to his wife, who honestly didn’t seem to mind.  Maybe, she thought she might get laid that night.  I hear pirate sex can get kind of kinky.  I, for one, could not stop asking the Southerner to show me his booty.

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A few of my favorite things

I received several gifts for Christmas that I absolutely loved.  These gifts comprised items that I would put in the “I’ve never seen this before but it’s been missing my entire life” category.  Here are a few of them:

1.  Pole dancer alarm clock.  Now, when my alarm goes off in the mornings it happens to sexy stripper music, flashing lights, and a rotating disco ball.  If you don’t have one of these, you don’t know what you’re missing.  Thank you, Southerner.

2.  Nike neon/gray trainers. Before Brother J gave me these shoes, I would not have been caught dead wearing sneakers outside of the gym.  Now, I hope I’m buried in them.

3.  Praying Mantis Kit.  Another item I can cross of my life list.

2011-12-23 14.51.45.jpg

4.  My engagement ring.  It’s a black diamond set in a band that the Southerner designed himself.  I absolutely love it. I especially love when someone notices it, yanks my hand forward with an “Oh my God, where did you get that!” and I get to tell them our story.

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