Wedding Crawl, Revisited

Last weekend, RoanokeWeddingNetwork.com held their annual Wedding Crawl. Each year five downtown venues, working with local wedding professionals, pull out all the stops to create mock weddings in each space, featuring ceremony and/or reception set-ups complete with food, flowers, photographers and photo booths, music, lighting, and models dressed as brides, grooms, and wedding party. It’s rare opportunity to see the spaces fully decked out and filled with people, as they would be during an actual celebration. And it always benefits a good cause: this year, the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Hubby Steve and I decided to revisit the Crawl this year. We’d attended the 2015 Crawl as then-prospective bride and groom and had so much fun: dancing in the Corinthian Ballroom, tasting cake at the Taubman. I even caught the bouquet in a prize-giveaway toss at Center in the Square. Even though we already had most of our vendors sewn up by then, the Crawl gave us a chance to see examples of their fully realized visions, which made us look forward to their creations for our own wedding day all the more.

This time was not about looking forward, but looking back. At our first stop, Charter Hall, Steve and I picked up the most recent copy of bridebook, which features our wedding story. At the Taubman, our next venue, we lingered in the ethereal ceremony space (created by Lighting Ninja and Gloriosa) as an RSO harpist began to play. Steve smiled and took my hand: it was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” the music I’d walked in to at our ceremony.

At the Patrick Henry Hotel Ballroom, our photographer Noah Magnifico had some of our photos in his display, and we admired the lush elegance of the bouquets and centerpieces crafted by Mark Frye of Creative Occasions, who’d done such a beautiful job with our flowers.

We saved the Center in Square Rooftop, where we got married, for last. It was hopping. Creative Entertainment had fashioned a Vegas theme, complete with game tables, a bride who doubled as a mobile hors d’oeuvres table, showgirls, and Elvis. We picked up information on honeymoon travel–we still hope to take a romantic trip somewhere tropical–from Rose of the Winds Travels, and said hello to my stylist, the awesome Brandy Moorman of Bliss Studio. After tasting brunch menu samplings from Chanticleer Catering and delicious mini-cupcakes from For the Lsove of Sweets, we headed outside.

The view from the roof, as always, was breathtaking. It was sunny, if a little windy, with the clear, bright blue skies I’d hoped for on our big day. We attempted a selfie in the same spot on the upper deck where Noah had taken our wedding pictures, but we couldn’t stop squinting—maybe those dramatic rolling clouds had been a blessing in disguise? We walked down the staircase to the spot where we’d said our “I do’s.” We held hands and shared a happy kiss. Operation Newlywed Nostalgia was complete.

We missed the last featured venue, the White Room at Blue 5, where we’d been told a real wedding would take place as part of the crawl. Sadly, that meant we also missed the opportunity to taste delectations from our favorite baker, Evie’s Wildflour Wedding Cakes. Coconut cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache… mmmmm.

The Wedding Crawl felt different this year, minus the anticipation of our own nuptials and all the excitement (and anxiety!) that comes with waiting and wondering. But we were more than satisfied. It was a lovely day filled with beautiful sights and bountiful treats, and we’d already celebrated the real wedding that mattered most: ours.

My amazing vendors!

With two of our wonderful vendors, Noah Magnifico and Mark Frye, and our -bridebook- feature!

Nothing else, a lack of chocolate ganache notwithstanding, will ever compare.

Nesting: A Parable (of sorts)

imageOn hubby Steve’s and my first foray to what has since become our favorite local farm-to-table market, I was charmed by a set of three metal flower pots nested on a small oval tray. Enameled in graduated shades of dark-to-light, creating an ombré effect, the three pots’ Caribbean-sea hues recalled our wedding colors and provided a welcome contrast to the grim gray January sky. They were the also the perfect size for a small kitchen herb garden.

A large plastic pot in a similar turquoise caught my eye, too, along with a healthy aloe plant that reminded me of the one my mother had used to sooth our childhood sunburns. One small container each of thyme and oregano and a packet of basil seeds later, I was ready to warm up our winter kitchen with flora and flavor.

imageWe stashed the empty pots on the radiator by the front door as we unloaded groceries, where they stayed, as did the plants on the kitchen counter, for several weeks. One day I asked Steve to bring a bag of potting soil from the garage to the back porch for easy access, and he obliged. It rested there, undisturbed. Another week passed. I brought the pots into the kitchen. By then I’d realized we didn’t have a good spot for plants where they wouldn’t be knocked over or gnawed on by cats. We measured a window for a shelf and brackets, but another few weeks went by before we could get to the hardware store.

imageFinally, one afternoon during spring break, Steve gathered a level, screws, and drill and cut the shelf, while I re-potted the aloe and the herbs and rescued a rapidly wilting poinsettia and some ailing succulents. I painted the shelf ends, he installed it, and we arranged the plants on the shelf with an enormous sense of satisfaction.

After all, it had only taken us seven weeks from start to finish.

March 11th marked seven months to the day since Steve and I took up full-time residence together in our new old house. We’d held our wedding one month after move-in, taking a week away from academia for our celebration and a brief honeymoon. Then it was back to full-time teaching and administrating. Since then we’ve amassed, between the two of us, a total of eight work trips plus four visits with family, and we’re looking ahead to a similar travel schedule between now and June.

It’s hardly surprising we still have boxes stacked down the hallway and in the living room, or that we’ve only managed to paint one room of the house. I’d be astonished if we had managed to settle in fully. I don’t feel surprise at our lack of progress. I feel…thwarted.

imageSeven weeks of combined efforts, sandwiched betwixt and amongst the myriad other demands and desires of our rich (and wonderful!) lives—for one simple shelf and a few sprouts. We’re in it, in more ways than one, for the long haul.

I’ve been a little quiet recently because I’ve been overwhelmed. By work. By the news. By losses I’ve witnessed, near and far. Even, forgive me, by the abundance of my blessings.

In other words, by life.

That’s not a complaint, merely an observation. I honestly believe if we don’t feel overwhelmed, at least on occasion, by this world we inhabit, we aren’t fully inhabiting our humanity. I’ve also found that when I feel that way, it’s helpful to step back and take time to notice the good. To squeeze someone’s hand and tell them they matter. To say “I love you,” and “Thank you.” To find beauty in the smallest flower, feel success in the smallest accomplishment.


imageI paint turquoise polka dots on the poinsettia pot’s nondescript brown rim. Add a little sparkle with a glittery bluebird pick in the pot of the heart-shaped cactus known as the “Sweetheart Cactus,” the “Lucky Heart.”

Each morning, I smile at our shelf of growing greens. Each evening, as Steve and I make dinner together, we watch the sun set through the window that frames the ocean-sky blues of the pots that hold the seeds we’ve planted, the seeds that slowly, resolutely sprout, grow, exceed.

For now, for this day: it is enough.

bird and heart

 

Home Sweet Home Show

In January, hubby Steve and I engaged in what I imagine is, for many, a newlywed rite of passage: we went to our first home show.

I’d seen the big winter home show advertised most every year since moving to Virginia, and once or twice I’d tinkered with the idea of going. I subscribe to several home decorating magazines, and I’m a sucker for HGTV (though I liked it better when it was more renovation, less real estate—already bought the house, thanks). But back then I rented my little purple cottage. I’d painted several rooms when I’d first moved in, but I wasn’t responsible (thankfully) for the likes of upgrading the bathroom fixtures, replacing leaky windows, or waterproofing the basement. My landlord made those decisions, and (thankfully, again) footed the bills. Given that, I wasn’t sure what a home show had to offer me.

brickhouseWhen Steve and I got married—a few months before, in fact—we became joint homeowners. We love our grand old house, vintage 1924, but she is in need of a little love. There are crumbly spots in the basement floor, mysterious puddles that appear after heavy rains. The downstairs bathroom (which I’m fairly certain used to be a fireplace, butler’s pantry, or some combination of both) was clearly fitted in the ‘50s, when someone thought colorful tubs and toilets were a good idea. I’m grateful the fixtures aren’t harvest gold or hospital green, but there’s definite room for improvement. We have some serious landscaping to do once the weather allows it, and the painting—oh my. I’m grateful the previous owners chose to neutralize every room with what’s at least a livable shortbread-yellow, but the sameness is going to kill my soul if we don’t get some richer color on at least a few walls soon.

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The show is held in a large arena-type hall in the local civic center. A craft show I love is held in the same space every October, so I’m familiar with its cavernous contours. Still, upon entrance, it’s a bit overwhelming. The first booth we stop at turns out to be marketing a home-use electrical stimulation unit that looks remarkably like an early-version iPod. It’s easy to use and the pulses feel wonderful on my always tight-neck. But I can’t quite relax. Why, exactly, is an individual stress-reducing device for sale at the home show? Homeownership is the American dream. I mean, okay, we’re still unpacking boxes after six months in residence, but just how high do they expect my stress levels to rise?

lavenderI pass up the TENS unit, tempting as it is, but I do succumb, later, to a lavender-infused satin eye-pillow that can be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer, sold by a booth whose aromatic inventory makes me want to lie down on the floor and imagine I’m napping in the English countryside. While most of the show offerings are geared toward home maintenance and large-scale renovation, there are some smaller-scale, homey home goods I hadn’t expected: fragrant handmade soaps, rich Vermont maple syrup, even local wines for tasting. We peruse the plant offerings at several nursery displays, chat with a couple of bath renovation businesses that promise to bring our turquoise mid-century tub into the twenty-first. We pick up cards from basement gurus and contemplate replacing our pillows with ergonomic bamboo versions that come with their own carrying cases.

And then we buy a mattress.

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In our defense, we’d been on our feet, standing and walking on cement, for several hours by the time we got to the Tempur-Pedic mattress display. I’d hazard those sneaky salesfolk put the booth at the back of the hall for that very reason. Buying a new mattress wasn’t exactly an impulse decision; we were in the market, though we hadn’t anticipated making the purchase that day. I’d chalk the fact of our taking the leap up to a good deal combined with a genuinely helpful salesman, but no discount or friendly disposition could match the persuasiveness of the decade-old mattress we both awakened on each morning with stiff backs and achy joints.

A big purchase hadn’t been part of the plan; we’d gone with the goal of gathering information and amassing a file of possible vendors. But there we were, engaging in a second newlywed rite of passage: our first major joint furniture purchase.

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relaxAll in all, the home show was a success. After we saw the fellow there who did our built-in closet, he finally ordered the extra shelf we’d been asking for so we could put the final touches on organizing. We watched a great demonstration by “The Wall Wizard” Brian Santos, whose book of tips will make all the painting we need to do go much more smoothly. We found an electrician to replace some faulty outlets, and a plumber who located the gas line to our fireplace, which has since provided several cozy evenings in the parlor. And our new mattress is AHHHmazing.

Five months married, I still wake up some days surprised to find, when I roll over, that someone else is there beside me. (This is definitively aided by the Tempur-Pedic—those commercials that show a wine glass remaining upright on one side while someone sits on the other don’t lie.) This big old house is a work in progress and will be for a while, so I welcome the odd reminder I’m not in it alone. On those days I reach my hand across the bed to grasp Steve’s, resting in the quiet joy that we’ll make this house a home, together.

loveyourhome3

 

Domestic Bliss

Back when Steve and I made the offer to purchase the house we now live in, our contract negotiations included the requisite home inspection. On a sunny spring day we met our realtor and the inspector at the house for a walk-through. I was taking measurements in the living room when Steve followed the inspector outside to look at the gutters, leaving the front door open behind him. Within moments a pretty calico who we’d seen lounging on the porch a few times pranced up the steps and marched right through the door into the foyer as if she owned the place.

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Our realtor shooed the cat before she could get very far, but the incident made me wonder if the calico had belonged to the people who’d lived in the home before us. There was a cat door in the kitchen, and anytime we’d been by to look at the house, she was camped out in a sunny spot somewhere on the property. The last two times I’d moved into a new home, it had come with a cat. It was looking like this one would, too.

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Sweet Dreams

Valentine pillowcaseFor Valentine’s Day this year, my mother sent hubby Steve and me a set of handmade holiday pillowcases. She’d instructed us to open the package the first of February so we could enjoy them all month. As I pulled them from the wrapping paper, Steve raised his eyebrows.

“They’re very, um. . .pink,” he said.

“Yes, they are,” I replied. “They’re for Valentine’s Day.”

I wondered for a moment myself how well the pastel palette would blend with the red, white, and turquoise wedding ring quilt we keep on the chest at the foot of the bed. But it would be a stretch to say we have anything approaching a “color scheme” in the bedroom at the moment, and the cases are cheery and cute. The primary (pink) fabric, trimmed in a wide band of green, features candy conversation hearts proclaiming sweet nothings: “Love me.” “Be mine.” “Say yes.” All quite fitting for our first married Valentine’s Day.

When I called my mom to thank her, I asked if she’d pre-washed the material as she usually did, or if I needed to run them through the laundry before putting them on the bed.

“Well, I think so, but I’ve had those put away for a while, so I don’t really remember,” she replied. “I made them years ago.” She told me she’d made a set for my brother and sister-and-law, too, and she’d sent those out right away. “But I held on to yours. I just knew you’d find the love of your life eventually. And see, I was right—you did!” Continue reading

Snow Day Like Today

“Work is good. No one seriously doubts this truth…. But work is not the only good thing in the world; it is not a fetish to be adored; neither is it to be judged, like a sum in addition, by its outward and immediate results. The god of labor does not abide exclusively in the rolling-mill, the law courts, or the corn field. He has a twin sister whose name is leisure, and in her society he lingers now and then to the lasting gain of both.”

–Agnes Repplier, “Leisure”

Snowy park laneIt probably goes without saying that we folk in Southwest Virginia are snowed in. The white stuff rolled in early yesterday morning, a good inch already on the ground when Steve and I got up around eight. Friday’s classes had been called off for both of us by late Thursday afternoon, so we could enjoy a leisurely morning, lingering over a shared breakfast, sipping our respective cups of tea and coffee, watching the white flakes outside pile higher and higher while we remained snug inside, cats and dog cuddled close, the day stretching out before us. What to do with this unexpected gift of unscheduled time?

Both of us soon agreed—admitted to?—our morning plans: catching up on emails and work.

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One of the benefits of being an academic: when an epic blizzard comes through, you usually get (unlike, say, nurses, or police officers, or those who work for the power company) a snow day. One of the drawbacks: like your students, you perpetually have homework. There’s always something you could be doing–planning for upcoming classes, reading up on research, grading papers. A “day off” is a relative concept, as are “free” evenings and weekends (not to mention those famously “free” summers). You have to choose to be “free.” You have to claim your time, decide you will, on this day, for this hour, prioritize family or fun, love or leisure.

As a rule, I’d say we’re pretty bad at it. Continue reading