fireflies and cottonwood

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Things to Do in St. Louis: Wineries! November 15, 2009

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I was thinking this morning about when I went to my friend Carlos’ wedding in Switzerland. The day before the wedding (or maybe two days before), we were casting about for something to do to get ourselves out from underneath all the people planning the logistics of the wedding. Carlos and the whole lot of young non-Swiss guests ended up taking a day trip out to Gruyere. It was fun. I was thinking what would be a similar trip for people hanging around St. Louis before our wedding, who might want to dash out for a day trip, and I thought of the wineries.

Most people don’t think of Missouri and wine together, but the state actually has a long, proud history of winemaking. Most of that history stopped at Prohibition, and it is only just starting up again, but surrounding St. Louis on all sides are some really nice wineries, and Stephanie and I have happily visited several of them. My family has also made a sort of tradition of going out to Hermann (one of the major wine towns), because it is so close to my grandmother’s house.

Hermann – Hermann is a town on the Missouri River, about an hour and a half west of St. Louis. It is a seasonal town, with a lot of stores that open only in the summer, for the traffic that the wineries bring. The wineries themselves, though, are open year-round. There are three good ones, which I have visited. Stone Hill is the most prestigious, and they have their building on top of a hill, surrounded by vineyards. They have an old cellar, a restaurant, and a big tasting room and store. They give regular tours, which are really cool (and quite cheap). Closer in to town is Hermannhof Vineyards, which seems a bit more homely. I have never taken their tour, and their tasting room is much smaller. They also feature sausages and cheese, which they sell. Their port, though, is excellent, and near and dear to my heart. Further out from town, in the countryside, is the Adam Puchta Winery, which may have the best wines, and definitely had the best tasting experience when I went there. Very personable and creative.

Ste-Genevieve – Down the Mississippi River, an hour’s drive south on I-55, is the town of Ste-Genevieve, which has some of the oldest buildings in the Midwest, and tries to maintain some of the old French frontier feel. I was not as impressed by the wineries in town as I was by Hermann (which may be German chauvinism on my part, I know), but outside of town is the Charleville Winery & Microbrewery, which is great. The beer is good, the wine is OK, but the atmosphere is fantastic. They have tables set out on the hillside facing their vineyards, and you can buy wine and beer from their shop, bring your own picnic, and sit out and enjoy the view. In May, 2007, just before moving out to New York City, Stephanie and I went out with some friends (most all of whom are in the wedding party) and had a lovely picnic here. In January, this may not be the best thing (and in inclement weather, I think that the dirt road out to the winery may be impassable anyway), but if we get one of those odd Missouri winter days when the sun is out and you could be tempted to wear short sleeves, it might be cool to go there.

I don’t know much about the Southern Illinois wineries, or the Augusta wineries, but I know they are out there. I think in all likelihood, everyone will stay in St. Louis, and enjoy the sights and company of the city, but I figured I’d throw this out there as a Thing to Do.

 

Stephanie’s Bridal Shower October 31, 2009

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Where to begin?!  I was overwhelmed with joy, happiness, surprise, and gratitude the entire day.  My girlfriends (with some behind the scenes management from Nick, I suspect) are amazing.  It is an incredible, light-filled experience to walk into a room surrounded by beautiful women of all ages, and to feel their love directed at you.

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The beautiful dining room, decorated and laid out with delicacies. And Jennifer, not sure if she wants to be in the photo or not.

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I obviously hadn’t expected a cake. And look a bit crazed with enthusiasm for it.

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shower 3

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shower 2

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Wish this wasn’t fuzzy– this is an old friend and teaching mentor, Jan.  We have in common Oxford, women of faith, hagiography, teaching…

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Okay, I kind of forgot that I had registered for things, and so many times I was completely delighted and surprised. I’d say, “We WANTED this coffee pot!”  And everyone would laugh, as in: “Um we know.”

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From Matt’s family in Price’s Branch, Great Aunt Dorothy and Great Aunt Imogene (Matt’s Grandfather’s sisters.)

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Janet and Nedra–Nedra is Amy’s mom, and a great woman I’ve been blessed to know for years.

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My Mom, Vickie, with Matt’s paternal Grandma.

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Forgive the fuzziness!  This is Mya, Matt’s cousin-in-law and the most glamourous pregnant lady I know, and her daughter Gaby, and her mother-in-law (Matt’s father’s sister) Aunt Diana.

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Another photo of me shocked and delighted by something I apparently registered for and then received.

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Mmm, plush new towels.

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My Mom, Vickie.

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Erin, in front of the cutest pumpkin welcome sign possible.

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Erin graced me with a vintage parasol.  LOVE.

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Me with Amy, cutting the cake.

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Janet, Erin, Amy, and me.

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Gaby, me, and my Mom.

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Jennifer, Janet, me, Erin, and Amy.

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A splash of color from St. Charles– it was a perfect, perfect day.

Later that evening, I went to another party at Amy’s home– it was for couples, and we were joined by her husband, Janet and her husband, Erin and her husband, and my cousin and groomfolk Larry and his wife.  We had wine and delicious food, and told stories that made my sides hurt from laughing.

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The day was so much more than I could have imagined, and I will never forget how happy and blessed I felt all day.

 

Bachelorette photos! October 20, 2009

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I’m not going to recap the entire night, because that would be quite the long, sprawling post, and the photos speak pretty well for themselves.  I’ll give a few notes:  Nick, my “maid” of honor planned the night, with input from Jodut and Macy, and help from his girlfriend and another of my Green World classmates, Jamie.  There were also p3nis cookies. But as Eric pointed out, they were multicultural p3nis cookies.

Participants: Nick and Jamie, Sex Ho former roommates Tom, Eric, and Jodut, wife of a former Union classmate Julie, and my Journal co-founding colleague, Josh.

Locations: the Frying Pan, a restaurant/bar on a really old boat near Chelsea Piers, a Harbor Lights Boat cruise up and around Manhattan, a limo, and the Slipper Room, the home of burlesque in NYC.

Surprise guests included another bachelorette party, where the bride gave me an origami crane like the ones that will be decorating her wedding, and a nun, who spent more than half an hour with our party, gave us encouragement and blessings, and gave me  a present.

sh tp jg ng boat

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jg basement boat

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sh crowned

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sh nun laughing

the other bridesmaids

origami limo

group limo

gyro turkish coffee

es jh listening

eric hand job

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tp with cookie

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slipper room stage

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Where should we stay? (hotel block for guests) September 12, 2009

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hyattriverfront

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We have reserved rooms for our guests at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront.  Rooms for our guests are $75 per night, available from 12/31/09 to 01/04/10– and these dates correspond with the time Matt and I will be at the hotel.  However, we will also be in St. Louis before Christmas, and the entire week before the wedding.

Please contact either of us by e-mail if you would like to make reservation– we have a special hyperlink loaded with the rates for the block, which we can give to you via e-mail.

 

Photography LOVE: Mirah Curzer Photography September 4, 2009

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Long before I met her in person, I had been a huge fan of Mirah Curzer Photography.  In my lucky small world, Mirah is the wife of Josh, with whom I co-founded the inter-religious journal last year.  I first saw her portfolio while they were still in Israel, and looked through it, looking then for images for our website and journal.

And THEN I started noticing her engagement pictures, her wedding shots, her bridal portraits.  She is one talented woman.  A force.  She takes reception shots like no other photographer I’ve yet seen (including the ones I hired for our wedding this winter.)  And I am over the moon that she’s offered to take portraits of me, and of me and Matt together.

Here are some of my recent favorites of hers– but do check out her blog and online portfolio. Every time I look at it, the beauty and immediacy of her photos inspires me and reminds me of how in love I am with Matt.

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(All images copyright Mirah Curzer Photography)

 

the Gift Registries August 1, 2009

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First of all, we want to proclaim that we love used, second-hand, and handmade.  I think of all of our furniture, only three of the pieces of furniture were purchased new, and definitely our most beloved things are things given us by others, or found off the beaten path, or picked up years ago for three dollars at a yard sale.

I would love it if someone went into a junk store and found four disparate tea cups, and gave them to us as a set. Or dug out an afghan they haven’t used in years.  Or made us a painting, basket, table runner, or gave us a stack of second-hand cookbooks.  If you know me in real life, you know I love cake stands, serving pieces, and dishes– and the more (mismatched) pattern the better. If you know me or Matt, you know that we can’t get enough old books.  So if you’re feeling creative, thrifty, or nostalgic, please share found things, used things, or dear things from your heart– and thrill us.

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To that end, here are a few things we love, from around our house:

basket coasters

This basket was made by Matt’s Aunt Diana– she is gifted, gifted, gifted when it comes to basket-making. I’m certain her larger baskets would sell for several hundred dollars a piece here in NYC.  It’s unbelievable the details and flourishes she can put in them.  She made these little ones as gifts for some of the out-of-town guests to her son Tom’s wedding last summer.  I could search far and wide, and never find a basket as nice as hers, that I could afford.

Matt’s not sure where the coasters came from, but the are hand-made by someone, and were a gift to him from someone.  We use them daily, and I like them so much more than the ones I’ve seen at stores.

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old rose plate

I got this old plate more than ten years ago, when my friend Holly had a yard sale– she had a whole box of little trinket-type things, which I bought. It included this plate.  I usually keep it on top of my dresser or vanity, with a doll’s plate on it and odd pieces of jewelry, but I’ve occasionally used it as a serving piece, when I have something very special that would look just right on it.

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knit pot holder

This pot-holder/washcloth is one of my favorite things that Matt brought with him from his kitchen.  He doesn’t know where it came from, but thinks maybe one of his grandmothers, or maybe his Mom knitted it. I love the colors, and it _feels_ better than any other pot holder, and it’s also slightly bigger than most. And I just love how homey it looks–another thing we couldn’t get from any store.  It makes our kitchen look so cheerful.

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As we wrote before, we are keeping Matt’s parents’ old dishes: the Village Pattern by Pfaltzgraff.  We’re not registering for it formally, but if someone would like to get us some to add to our collection, we’d welcome it.

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As for our *wedding china*, we’ve chosen Chirp by Lenox.  I was surprised that Matt liked it, as I think it’s very “Stephanie”: colorful, whimsical, and sweet.  But it’s the pattern we most agreed upon, and so happily added it to our registry.

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full set table chirp

Matt took these two photos last weekend at the big, historical Macy’s downtown.  We rode up, up, up the old wooden escalators to get to the fine china section, and found entire tables set with patterns.

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We’ve registered at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and Crate & Barrel for most of our wishes, and also Amazon.com for a few extras.  While Macy’s does carry Chirp, Bed, Bath, and Beyond does as well, and we think their prices and customer service are a bit more friendly and accessible.  But don’t be tied down to our registries– we love our guests, and are delighted that you are coming to our wedding, and will be excited by any material things you bless us with, in addition to your presence.

 

Introducing the Groomsmen July 27, 2009

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I will have seven groomsmen, including my best man. I am really excited to have all of them be part of our wedding. I wrote (too brief) introductions to each of them, in order of when they entered my life:

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Andrew is my older brother, and some of my earliest memories are of looking up to him. I remember once he told me that “only babies” swing on a tire swing lying on their bellies, and I spent what felt like fruitless hours swinging on my belly, trying to reclaim my lost baby-hood. He also taught me how to read, much to my mother’s astonishment. Growing up, he did all of the usual “cool older brother” jobs, especially making tapes of cool music when he went off to college. He’s a poet and a journalist and a college instructor, and a father to little Aisla Rose, who will be just shy of two years old at the wedding. His wife, Lynette, also a poet and a teacher, joined our family already six years ago now. The three of them live up in Greenfield, MA, with their dog, Sprout.

Pulling Wagon An early photo of Andy pulling me in the wagon.

IMG_0015 I don’t really know how I got this photo, but it makes me think of the “swank” tape he made for me.

fathers-day Andrew and little Aisla.

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Jerod, who will be my best man, is my cousin on my Dad’s side. He was between Chris and me in age, but he was always bigger than me, and more athletic. He played baseball in college and now works in something terribly complicated with computers. He helped me to move from Gainesville to Missouri in 2003, and then was my closest friend while I got my bearings. He and his brother Tom accompanied me on a crazed cross-country drive to Andrew and Lynette’s wedding in Massachusetts, including an infamous late-night drive through New York City. He was the first member of my family to meet Stephanie, and I will be proud to have him beside me when we are married.

Me and Jerod Jerod and me next to some old train in St. Charles, around 1980.

IMG_0074 Jerod and our cousin Clayton in Kansas City to watch the Royals play.

DSCN1980 Jerod at the “kiddies’ table” at Easter, with his girlfriend Kelly and her sons.

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Chris is my younger brother. We spent our childhoods bickering, as close siblings are wont to do, but Mom was right (as she often is) when she said that we would be the best of friends once we grew up. Chris went off to engineering school in New York, which was the beginning of our family’s dispersion around the country, making our never frequent-enough family gatherings into red-letter days of the year. I drove cross-country with Chris in 2000 to help him move to Austin, TX for graduate school, then made several memorable visits out there, including the 2002 South by Southwest Festival, with a detour to the Guadalupe Mountains (Jerod came along for that one). Chris lives in Houston now, with his fiancee Amanda (they will be married in October), where he is an environmental engineer.

Me and Chris Awwww…

IMG_0013 The two of us, I believe at Jill’s wedding.

IMG_0005 The two of us, as members of “Team Don.”

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Carlos was one of my dearest friends at New College. We lived next door to each other our first year, then were room-mates our second year. Through all of the usual undergraduate stuff, we were there for each other. Then, Carlos went on to Medical School in Gainesville, and I ended up there to get my Master’s in Education, so the good times continued. I was there in 2005, when Carlos married Nancy in Switzerland, in the small church where her parents were married. Carlos and Nancy lived in New York City for a few years, and I try not to hold it against them that they moved to Texas the summer I moved to NYC. They have a two-year-old son, Tristan. He now lives near Austin under the alias, “Dr. Victorica.”

IMG_0017 One of an entertaining series of photos of the big graduation party our first year at New College.

IMG_0014 Carlos at the reception of his wedding to Nancy.

04500003 Carlos, with Tristan, at the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park. Nancy is in the background.

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Tom was my coworker for three years at L’Ouverture Middle School in St. Louis. It was part of the dysfunction of that school that it was only sometime in the spring of our first year working together that we knew each other as anything other than “Mr. Peteet” and “Mr. Varnon.” Tom was, of course, the bridge between Stephanie and me, as he introduced us just minutes after confirming his own first name to me, that first evening we hung out together socially. Tom lived with Stephanie, along with Eric and Jodut, at the infamous (Es)Sex Ho(use), and moved to the east coast at the same time I did, in his case going to Medical School in Worcester, MA.

00120007 Tom at Stephanie’s birthday party at Union.

DSCN0780 Tom and Stephanie at the Museum of Modern Art.

DSCN2093 Tom, with his beloved coconut drink, at Crotona Park, Queens.

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Eric Shieh is a brilliant polymath: a poet, a violinist, a teacher, and a legend in his own time. He is also the most likely to make off-color observations if he is allowed to make any toasts during the wedding events. He and Tom lived together for three years in St. Louis, two of those at the Sex Ho, though Eric spent an extra year in St. Louis before joining us on the East Coast. Eric then moved practically across the street from Stephanie and me, as he attends graduate school at the Teachers College of Columbia University.

IMG_0007 Eric, after playing violin for Stephanie’s dad’s wedding.

IMG_0010 Eric and Stephanie, still at Bob’s wedding.

DSCN1706 Eric, along with Tom, at our apartment for a Sex Ho Christmas Reunion.

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Larry is Stephanie’s cousin. He started dating his (now) wife Crystal at about the same time Stephanie and I started dating, so we had several dinners out together. He does something fiendishly complicated in network security, and lives in South St. Louis with Crystal and their chocolate labrador retriever, Galt. Their house is our most-frequent home-base in our visits to St. Louis since we moved to New York City. Larry has introduced me to some of the Wiggins family legends with his customary dry wit and deadpan delivery, and I shudder a bit to contemplate what would happen if at any point in the wedding festivities he were given a microphone to toast/roast us.

65120002 Larry, with Crystal and Stephanie.

DSCN2596 Larry and Stephanie at his wedding reception.