I’ve been told that when you build a house you should always plan on going over budget. That was certainly our experience when Wendy and I built our house a couple of years ago. And so, you put some things off for a while. Things like landscaping.
We’re now a couple of years down the road and we worked some landscaping into the budget this year. We’d been working with Country Landscapes over the winter on a site plan. The overall plan is pretty comprehensive, so it’s going to be implemented in phases over a long period of time. We got started with phase one this past week.
Country Landscapes did a lot of the heavy initial work, but Wendy and I decided to put a little of our own sweat equity into the project, as well. There’s a part of us (the sore muscles part) that is regretting that. This past Saturday Wendy’s mom came to help, and our good friend Anna and Aubrey pitched in. We had a bunch of small plants to get into the ground, and then came the big job of moving tons of landscape rock to various beds around the front of the house. Fortunately, we thought to rent a Dingo to help with the heavy lifting. Still it was a lot of hard work. We were both extremely tired and extremely sore, but it looks great.
We celebrated in the evening with burgers and dogs on the grill. It was a gorgeous Iowa evening so we sat on the back patio and enjoyed a little down time after a long day of work.
This past weekend was the annual Tulip Time festival in our little hometown of Pella, Iowa. On the first weekend of May we celebrate our Dutch heritage with three days of Tulips, Dutch pastries, Dutch costumes, parades and lots of tradition. I can’t remember three more perfect days for Tulip Time. We had sun and temps in the 60s and 70s. This translated into record setting crowds and a wonderful time.
During Tulip Time most residents of Pella dress in traditional Dutch costumes and volunteer in a myriad of ways. For the past three years Wendy and I have dressed as our town’s founding couple, Dominie (that’s Dutch for “Pastor”) Hendrik P. Scholte and his wife Maria, who led hundreds of followers from the Netherlands to the Iowa Prairie in 1847.
As always, Wendy and I had a ball hanging out at the Scholte House Museum welcoming visitors to “our” home. And, we enjoyed riding in the parades, greeting friends who came home for the fun, and meeting people from all over the world who came to join in the festivities. While we celebrate our Dutch heritage, Tulip Time is a slice of Americana that feels like it popped right off a Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
Last year I turned 50, which was a big deal because the number had a zero at the end. Admittedly, 50 does feel a bit monumental. It’s half of a century. It’s the golden anniversary of life. It’s the U.S. Grant of birthdays. So, Wendy went all out and we had a great party with good friends and enjoyed celebrating to the max.
When Wendy asked me what I wanted to do this year, I told her that I wanted it to be low-key. I honestly didn’t even think about receiving presents. 51 is anticlimactic, and I’m zen with that. Let’s keep it small and push through.
God seemed to bless my wishes with weather to match my mood. It was cloudy, cold, rainy and dreary. All the better to keep the damper on things.
On Friday night Wendy and I were invited to the DMCS musical Charlotte’s Web to see our friends Harry and Kennedy perform. They did a spectacular job and we were proud of them. We went out with their folks after the show for a night cap.
Saturday was a work day around the house. I worked most of the day in the home office and Wendy busied herself cleaning. We then had dinner with friends Matthew and Sarah at Kaldera. It was great to see them as life has conspired to keep us from connecting over the last couple of months. They came back to V-Dub Pub for a night cap after dinner, but we kept it an early evening because…
On Sunday morning I gave the message in both the auditorium services among our local gathering of Jesus followers. I woke up early to go over my notes and prepare and was overjoyed to connect with Maddy Kate by phone. We talked and caught up for about 45 minutes (now that’s what I call a good birthday present). My folks came down from Des Moines with Taylor in tow. It was awesome to have them come down to celebrate with me.
Dad has been working on a project for me for the last couple of years. I’ve been wanting a bar shelf for our pub, and pops delivered on Sunday. He did a fantastic job with the shelf. It fit like a glove in the space and it’s even lit from underneath. The Vander Well Pub feels even more official now! Thanks, dad!
We ordered George’s pizza for lunch and then hung out together in the afternoon. I opened gifts (yes, I even received gifts!). Wendy got me DVD set of the Cub’s World Series games and some World Champion cuff links. Taylor ordered some books I’ve been wanting. Maddy Kate gave me another in the set of St. John’s Illuminated Bible. Everyone was really tired and feeling the naps coming on, so they left mid-afternoon. In the evening our friends Kevin and Linda swung by to watch the Cubs lose to the Red Sox (dangit!).
My birthday weekend officially ended on Monday. Wendy sent me and Kevin to Principal Park for an I-Cubs game. The weather continued to be rainy and cold, so Kevin and I lasted through almost four innings before we snuck down to The Bottom of the 5th, a small pub on the concourse behind home plate, where we sat at a high-top and watched the rest of the game on the monitors. It’s my birthday. I deserve to stay warm 😉
Another year in the books. The weather’s changed just in time for Tulip Time, which starts today. Wendy and I are doing our bit again this year. Stay tuned for the requisite pics.
This past Sunday I was given the honor of pitching in relief for our pastor at our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. The text I was asked to address was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
In case anyone is interested:
I thought I did a relatively okay job of unpacking the theme of Life and Death in the passage. Then, in a moment of synchronicity on Monday I stumbled on the blog post entitled “The Stench” by my fellow blogger at Beauty Beyond Bones. She happened to hear a different message on the same passage this past Sunday. She wrote a powerful post that articulated it all so incredibly well:
When I was “dead” in my anorexia, my stench could be smelled a mile away. Aside from the obvious skeletal body and having my hair fall out, there were also things like, isolating myself. Being angry with a micro-short fuse. Lying. Manipulating. Outbursts of venomous speech. You name it.
It was ugly. It “smelled bad.” It was the stench of death.
But the thing about the story is that Jesus worked through the stench…
I encourage you to read her entire post (and follow her blog). She nailed in a short blog post exactly what I was desperately trying hard to get at in a 30 minute message.
We had a lot of fun yesterday as my siblings gathered to host an open house for our dad who celebrates his 80th birthday this coming Tuesday. Dad’s brother, Bud, traveled to Des Moines with his entire brood. Friends past and present joined us in the community room at the folk’s apartment to enjoy a bite of cake and share in celebrating our dad. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it a special day.
Birthday cake from Jaarsma Bakery in Pella!
Love this lady
Wendy and Cousin Vicki
My folks. Dean and Jeanne Vander Well
The Vander Well clan
Bud and his brood.
Those of our crew who could make it.
This party’s this way.
Me and my siblings (Terry, me, Jody, Tim)
My family (L-R) me, Tim, Dad, Mom, Terry, Jody
Bud in his element, regaling people with his jokes and stories.
Dad showing mom Madison’s text message with birthday wishes.
When these two get together there is always laughter.
The Sibs (L-R) Tim, Terry, Jody, Tom
Mom was excited to get Madison’s text wishes to Dad.
Wendy and I enjoyed an extended Valentine’s Day celebration this year. This past Saturday our friends Matthew and Sarah invited us to join them and two other couples for a Valentine’s dinner of special magnificence. I don’t want to know how much time, effort, and resources went into the five-course meal they prepared for us.
The table was beautifully set and there were four different wine glasses at each table setting. Even before we sat down we enjoyed drinks with an appetizer of various kinds of cheese. The first course was a cream of leek soup paired with a Cabernet. Next came a luscious salad that blended a host of flavors and was accompanied by a wonderful white Riesling. We finished the white wine with a baked salmon filet. As if we weren’t already stuffed, the main course of Beef Wellington was served with an exquisite French red. We enjoyed conversation and let things settle while the chocolate soufflé was baking. Dessert was paired with a sweet dessert red. After dinner the men excused themselves to the deck for Cuban cigars and a sip of single-malt Scotch while the ladies continued to chat around the dinner table. It was a six-hour, five-course love feast.
Of course, while the food and drink were excellent it was the love, laughter, and conversation among good company that made the meal.
Valentines Day itself was a low-key affair for Wendy and me, as it usually is. We decided to stay in to make and enjoy one of our favorite meals together. Wendy made homemade bread during the day which we used for garlic bread. I made Filet Mignon in a dark chocolate balsamic and red Zinfandel glaze and Wendy made some of her amazing sweet potato medallions. A little sea salt caramel gelato was our after dinner treat. A romantic meal for two right here at home.
“…but abide the change of time, Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)
Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.
In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.” We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.
Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).
Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.
We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.
Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.
Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.
We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”
Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.
Here we go! Hangin’ in the United Club on our layover in Denver.
You have to respect a town with TWO good hat shops!
We stopped here…twice.
Palm Springs Mayor, Sonny Bono. My brush with greatness.
Strolling the Thursday evening market.
Love. Love. Love.
A British pub is always a good idea.
Spartan street cellists. Who knew?
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
Fear not. I escaped.
Drinks at Melvyn’s, where Frank hung out back in the day.
Mountains loom over Palm Springs like a giant wall.
Palm Springs Tram… taking us to a mountain top experience.
Palm trees. Palm Springs.
Lunch in the sun!
Drinks on the mountain top.
Some people are less impressed with nature than others.
“My, what a big lens you have,” she said to me.
Cocktails at the Tropicale!
This private skywalk is part of a nudist colony that spans both sides of the street. We don’t have one of these in Iowa.
Dinner on the patio. In FEBRUARY!
Bob Ross socks. Awesome.
Cheers to Mother England from Palm Springs!
Even as I watch her standing and staring at some random street art, she makes my heart skip a beat.
The chorizo queso was so good at Maracas, that we had to go back for more.
Baseball, sculpture, sunshine, and a gorgeous mountain landscape.
We fought the crowds at the Palm Springs Winter League.