Saturday, June 29, 2013

vow renewal

Hubby has put his minister's license to good use here in Ohio.  In addition to pastoring, he has performed seven weddings (with two on deck), two vow renewals, and a funeral.

Both of the vow renewals were a surprise to the brides.

The one that happened this week was for dear friends of ours.  Zach and Emily were pastors at Cornerstone Chapel when we arrived over three years ago.  We consider them an answer to our prayers in the Ohio friend department, and we were so honored to share this moment with them.

We met at the foot of one side of Medina Lake (a lake we didn't know existed until this week - true story!).  We walked with Zach to the opposite side of the bridge and waited for Emily to arrive.  When she did, each of their children handed her flowers at different portions of the path before the bridge.  She smiled her signature smile (think: sunshine on a spring day), and was just plain adorable, as she walked across the bridge and saw all of us.  I could imitate her, but it wouldn't translate well in print.  Emily is super cute, and has a sing-song quality to her voice.

Zach pledged his love and devotion, read scripture passages from the Bible, and re-proposed to her on bended knee.

She said yes (again).

We all cheered.

Then, we followed them up the hill to the side of the lake, where Chris had them restate their wedding vows (14 years and counting!) and take pictures.  Even though the weather was muggy and bug-y, the view was gorgeous.  I pinch myself on days like this, wondering how we got so lucky.  Sharing the biggest life moments with people we love is high on my list of perfect blessings.

Friday, June 28, 2013

sale pending

After only eight weeks on the market, we have a buyer!  

We received our official offer a week ago and are moving forward. The inspection and appraisal are now complete, without incident. The buyers are requesting a few minor fixes, but pretty much flying colors!  We sign more paperwork in an hour.  

Whew!  What a relief it is to be on this end of things.  I know it's not a done deal yet, but my prayers are hopeful.  

Honestly, every step has made me nervous.  I think it's more about the "first date" desire for approval than anything else.  We put our best foot forward with the attention and care we've put in to our home, and we hope that others (with money or really great credit) like it, too.  And then there's the whole letting go of control thing (not my strong suit) and.. oh.. our moving timeline.

Nerves nerves nerves.

I'm going to need a massage when escrow closes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

birthday surprises

Even though my husband isn't keen on surprise parties, I still like planning surprises.  I mean, I doubt anyone likes being caught off-guard (myself included), but when it's by friends and family who want to express love in that way, there is grace (right?).

Last December, my family threw my mom a surprise party for her 60th birthday.  Due to a broken home situation, I'm not sure how many birthday parties my mom had growing up, if any.  She tends to downplay her birthdays, not wanting to "trouble" anyone.  She loves Asian food, so we often spend her birthdays eating out.  Not that anyone complains, we all like Asian food.

But this time around, we wanted to go big.  My mom is one of the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet.  She has spent most of her life blessing others, some times at her own expense.  She is loved and adored by everyone, and it seemed the perfect way to give those blessings back to her.  My dad, sister, and I did some serious plotting and sneaking around for the two months prior.  We sent out handmade invitations like secret codes (we called our mission "Operation Gum Drop"), and talked behind her back. Thankfully, mom is partially deaf, so we didn't have to whisper.

The theme was "Cheryll: The Sweetest Thing."  Everyone was asked to bring something "sweet" that reminded them of the birthday girl.  And everyone did!  Each of us kids prepared something, as did each of the guests.  We decorated in pastels (mom's favorite colors), flowers and balloon bouquets.  We displayed her senior photo (bouffant hair present and accounted for) in a large oak frame, hired two family friends (who have an in-home tea party business) to make a lavish table of desserts, and we set up a coffee stand offering espresso beverages to our guests, including mom's signature drink (we called it "The Cheryll": breve white chocolate mint mocha with whip).

Chris and I started the event by singing mom's favorite hymn, "Surely the Presence of the Lord," followed by our version of the Herman's Hermits song called "I'm Into Something Good."  We changed it to "Something Tells Me 60 is Looking Good."  Mom loved the band as a teenager, so we thought the song would be fitting, in addition to two tickets for their concert at a local casino the following February.  My sister crafted a gorgeous memory book and photo slide presentation, my older brother emceed the event and had a throw blanket made for mom with the faces of all of her grandchildren.  My dad read a beautiful piece he wrote for her, and my younger brother ended the event with his own comedic prose.

Halfway through the night (the homemade goodies
did not last long).

My dad loves his bride well (he's always writing poems for her).

Barb was one of the many family friends who presented mom
with sweet things.

Mom's "bald buddies."

Me & my bestie with the birthday girl.

Family photo.

Mom walked away with armloads of treats and a heart full of gratitude.  She told me later that night that she had always wondered if she made a difference in peoples' lives, and now she was sure of it. I can't think of a greater gift to give someone.  And seeing the way my mom received that love (beaming the entire time) was a gift to me.  I can still see her in my mind throwing her head back in laughter and giving one short-armed hug after another.

On Saturday, I got to surprise our friend, Anna, with a birthday brunch for her 21st birthday.  She also downplays her birthdays, and is used to sharing the day with other things and people (due to growing up in a family with eight kids).  This year I wanted her to have her own moment of recognition, just for being Anna.  

Our friend, Summer, and I planned a morning of girlfriends, brunch food, and mimosas.  Anna is newly pregnant, so she wasn't able to drink on her birthday, but we wanted the option available as a nod to her 21st.  There were plenty of non-boozy drinks, too, which were all served in wine glasses.

Summer ("Sunny D") & the birthday girl.

Darling Anna with her "A Team."
(we're both named Amy - and we're awesome!)

Blue ombre mermaid cake.

Anna arrived in a seafoam green dress, but had to change in to one of Summer's dresses (the salmony red colored one) due to a cute toddler's ill-fitted diaper. 

I was in charge of getting Anna to Summer's house for the surprise. I'm a terrible liar, but somehow I pulled it off.  

Anna was surprised (and slightly confused) by the entrance, but soon realized the moment was for her and went about radiating joy. Delicious brunch food, a mermaid themed cake, large color pics of Anna displayed around the kitchen, birthday presents, and a group photo on a camera timer (you know, chaos and hilarity before the shutter click?) all made for special memories. 

"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved." - George Sand

Monday, June 24, 2013

open mic

Cups Cafe is a local non-profit coffeehouse, a "connecting place."

Owner, Tim Van Arsdale, has a heart for seeing people come to know hope, love and salvation.  He is also our neighbor and friend.  Cups leases the building they're in, but the building's owner has wanted to sell it for some time.  The building is now up for auction, so Tim and cafe supporters are raising funds to win the auction and own the building for good.  We truly believe in what they're doing, and were honored to be part of a fundraiser they had over the weekend.  

It was an open mic night at the cafe, where a dozen local musicians shared their talents.  We took a turn with sibling acts on guitar, young people in cowboy hats, a "Mumford & Sons" cover, and children singing the blues.  Even Amanda put her name on the list.

Go here to see "Rachel & The Holywaters" perform an original song. 

Good news!  The cafe met its initial goal (!), and continues to raise money for the auction and expansion efforts.  Tim shared at the music night about wanting to go beyond food and company to provide temporary housing and job opportunities, amongst other things.  His heart (and beard!) is a thing of beauty.

Serving hope - one cup at a time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


There is something magical about the afternoon light.  

The way it dips down, but not too low, and illuminates everything just so.  Afternoon light brushes up against faces in a way that makes us all look good, romantic even.  And that warm peachy glow casts the most interesting shadows.  Perhaps morning light is a playful skip.  While, afternoon light is a mosey.

Three of our afternoons this week involved a bounty of food, picnic tables, salt of the earth people, and fascinating stories about family, rental car crime, building houses, and Space Camp (apparently they have adult programs!  Time to make that bucket list.).

Sunday, we stuffed our bellies with fresh-caught crappie, homemade onion rings, and two kinds of pie.  Al and Marge go big with their fish fries.  Not sure how they always look so cool, though.  I'd be sweating buckets if left in charge of the fryer.

Bruce & Al.  Al was sporting a sweet 'stache, and those smiles!  You can see his handiwork off to the side.  This was only a portion of the fish he caught, cleaned, battered, fried and served.  Always with that smile.

Patty sent me this picture via text an hour before we left for their house.
It shortened our drive time by 15 minutes.

Patty's pies are dreamy.  This was the boysenberry that followed the peach (I had generous servings of both).  

Monday, we had Dan and Rachel over for dinner.  

It was one of our music nights, recording songs for our EP, and preparing for a fundraiser we're performing at on Saturday.  Even though it stormed something fierce earlier in the day (whipping wind, angry sky), the rain stopped long enough for hubby to barbecue chicken and sweet corn.  I made baked beans with maple syrup and brown sugar on the stove, red skin potato salad, and a medley of sliced pears, plums, and nectarines.

Then yesterday, we joined a dozen other couples for a potluck at The Old Mill.  It was mostly grey-haired folk with a splash of youth (youth = the two teenagers (grandchildren of our hosts) who told me about Space Camp - they've both been twice!).  I am fond of people that much older than me, especially when they have wisdom and life stories to share.  I'm a captive audience.  And their faces are really lovely to watch.  I am drawn to the way their brows express, and how the lines on their cheeks and around their eyes tell a narrative.  

I catch myself staring all the time.  

My apologies.

The main house.

Sarah's Long Arm quilting machines.

Country potluckin'.

Read more about The Old Mill's history here.

Part of the pond, as seen through a mill window.

Beauty found in a rusted door.

An invitation.

Norm and Sarah Bistline own The Old Mill, where they make their famous buckwheat flour for the pancake feed every year.  The mill and main property date back as far as the mid-1800s.  It's a legacy that almost died, until the Bistlines stepped in and did a major restoration.  Norm's latest (on-going) project is building a water wheel next to the mill.  Sarah has a huge quilting studio on the top floor of the main house, and has won awards for her craft.  I'm learning about Long Arm quilting machines.  She has two!

Afternoon delights. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

my hero

© photo credit: Stephanie Hjorten

We have the same nose, same smile, same love of food and writing and humor and culture and story.  He is my example of unending love and devotion, strength and courage.  
My dad.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

together apart

For breakfast, I'm starting with a bottle of Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer.  I bought a loaf of Dutch Country whole wheat bread for my man yesterday, and had a conversation with a client about Amish buggies.  Last night, our county was under a tornado watch until midnight, and we got to witness a fantastic thunder and lightning storm.  And by fantastic, I mean light up the house, blow the trees sideways exciting.  The fireflies made an appearance in our front yard before the rain came, and hubby and I took a drive along some of our favorite back roads.

I'm beginning to feel the weight of our future plans.  

As much as I long for a mountain view, there are things I'm going to miss about the country: wide open spaces, cornfields, weathered barns, wild animals randomly showing up in our front yard, bonfires (they make 'em big out here!), community-driven events, the crickets' nighttime serenade, farm equipment sharing the highway, Amish World, winding roads, homemade everything, walking to the townsquare, small town parades, fireflies, thunderstorms, etc.  

Typical gift from friends: organic farm-fresh eggs.
Big and gorgeous.

Backyard clematis.

Moving seems to be a popular option for people we know.  The Hickersons are leaving North Carolina for Southern California.  The Pardys left California for Nashville.  We have friends in Medina moving to Cleveland, and other friends who just bought their first home in Strongsville.  And slowly, each piece is falling in to place for our relocation, with the emotional part weighing heavily on my heart.  I'll be closing my business in a month, selling my stuff, and applying for jobs. We have house showing #17 today (to go with two previous open houses + one failed offer), and someone in the church is going to buy BattleKat.  We're making plans for a yard sale in July and a farewell concert in August.

And on it goes.

I hugged my youth girls tightly last night and told them I loved them. Next week is our final youth gathering of the school year, then the summer is a free for all.  I have movie and frozen yogurt dates already lined up with students.  

They won't let me get away very easily.

I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

and many more

Dear friends of ours from Kansas are in the area celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.  They have family in Columbus, so they're taking a driving tour across Ohio.  They called us up last minute and asked if we'd join them for dinner in Cleveland.

My duty was to the youth kids tonight (my last cell group with the girls), but hubby was free so he joined our friends on E. 4th Street for a tasty bite.  They had reservations at The Greenhouse Tavern, which is drool-worthy at just a mention.  A green, farm-to-table, seasonal menu featured establishment, with a downtown vibe, makes for one feel-good evening.  I was really happy my husband could join them for the catching up part, the we-always-have-the-best-time-with-them-part, and the part where he got to see our friend Steve eat his way through a roasted pig head.

Priscilla sent me a picture of her and Chris, so I could smile along with them.  The pig photo is on her Facebook page.  

Did I mention?  We spent their 8th wedding anniversary with them in Cambria, CA in 2001.  Eating and drinking our way through wine country, sleeping in neighboring rooms at a local Bed & Breakfast (located on an avocado farm), and drinking coffee each morning on a wrap-around porch.  It was in Cambria that I discovered handmade soap, and tasted the best guacamole made from avocados and lemons (picked that same morning!).  Ah, the life.  When we stayed with Steve and Priscilla in 2011, they dusted off their last bottle of ruby red port (procured at a boutique wine shop in Cambria) they had saved all those years, and shared it with us.  

It was fitting that at least one of us could toast their 20th with them.

Hubby came home raving about his visit and the meal they shared. I've only had small plate dishes at The Greenhouse Tavern, to my delight.  But, hubby dove right in with the grilled Ohio lamb burger (dressed in cheese fondue and champagne shallot).

Cheers to you, Steve and Priscilla.. here's to 20 more!