It is the 28th of December and Christmas is not officially over for us. Madison will fly back to Iowa from her balmy South Carolina home (she told us on FaceTime Christmas morning that it was 70 degrees and she was contemplating a trip to the beach). The four of us will celebrate Christmas together on or around New Year’s Day, so there are stuffed stockings and gifts yet under the tree.
Wendy and I were happy to have family visit us here in Pella this Christmas. Taylor arrived the afternoon of Christmas Eve day and the three of us attended the 6:00 Christmas Eve service at Third Church.
We returned home and watched a couple of Christmas movies. We got through all of While You Were Sleeping and most of the way through It’s a Wonderful Life before deciding it was time to settle down for a long winter’s nap.
Christmas morning dawned and Wendy made what has become our traditional Christmas breakfast. We stoke up the dining room fireplace (actually, we simply hit the button on the remote, but “stoking” the fire sounds so much more cozy) and settle in around the table. Homemade cinnamon rolls are the special Christmas treat along with our favorite breakfast fare.
The rest of the morning was spent relaxing, hanging out, and waiting for the family to begin arriving. Taylor and I had fun on the couch playing with Snapchat and making silly pictures and videos.
Both the Hall and Vander Well clans joined us on Christmas Day. Mom and Dad Vander Well were the first to arrive around mid-day. Jody, Emma, Sam and Lydia arrived soon afterwards (Scott was home sick) along with Tim (who also left Kumi sick back in Des Moines). Mom Hall arrived with Suzanna and Grandma Vander Hart. Dad Hall met Court, Becky and Lydia at the airport and drove them down in the early afternoon.
We had mixed up a crock pot full of French Dip, and the kitchen island was filled with snacks and treats that family brought with them. There was, of course, Wendy’s cheesecake and Uncle Tim’s figure 8 cookies. We enjoyed a meal together and the family spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying one another’s company.
We opened gifts in the late afternoon. By early evening most everyone had decided to head home. Court, Becky, and Lydia stayed with us until Tuesday. Luke and Brooke drove down from Ames on Monday and we had a chance to hang out with them. The afternoon was spent lounging around together. It was also Court’s birthday, so late in the afternoon Luke and I took him to the Cellar Peanut Pub in town for a birthday pint before retrieving George’s Pizza for dinner.
The Court, Becky and Lydia headed to Ankeny yesterday. Wendy and I did a little clean up and then got back to work. Looking forward to our anniversary, New Year’s celebrations, and time with Madison this weekend.
Wendy and I have been crazy busy with Union Street Players‘ holiday musical, The Christmas Post. It’s the third time Wendy has directed the show (2001, 2006, 2016) and for the second time I have suited up to play the comedic villain. Wendy, as anyone who knows her can imagine, is a very capable and organized director. She’s done great things with the show. This past weekend was the opening weekend and we saw increased attendance with each performance (225, 242, 289) which tells me that we’ve gotten good word-of-mouth in the community. There are three more performances: tonight, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon.
It was great to have family down to see the show this past weekend. My folks came on Saturday, along with my sister, and brought with them a small crowd of old friends from Des Moines. Taylor came down on Sunday afternoon, as did Wendy’s family who made the trek from Ankeny. We’re so appreciative of family’s love and support. The one down-side is that we are so busy with the show that we don’t really get a chance to socialize with our visitors. We’re looking forward to hosting family on Christmas Day when we can relax and enjoy their good company.
For the past couple of weeks I have been feeling really run down. This isn’t unusual during a large production, but I have been feeling unusually run down. It hasn’t been like cold or flu, just feeling like the energy tank is constantly on empty. I was really struggling over the weekend. I slept 10 hours on Saturday night and woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I told Wendy that I felt like I had pneumonia. There’s only two times in my life that I can remember feeling so utterly depleted: when I had Pneumonia and when I had Mono.
I felt like I was on the verge of passing out most all of Sunday’s performance, and was thankful for the prayers and thoughts of family and friends who were in the know. When we went out for the curtain call one of my fellow actors looked at me and said, “You look really pale.” And, that was with make-up on. I’m so thankful I made it through the show, but the energy I expended to gut it out really did a number on me. I was in bed nearly 12 hours on Sunday night and still had to drag myself out of bed. Ugh.
So, yesterday I went to see Doc. He tested my blood and immediately diagnosed me with a “Mono-like” virus. Great. Nothing to be done but fluids, vitamins, and rest. I’m praying that my immune system kicks it into high gear. There’s still a lot to get through this week.
We’re excited for Taylor. She recently landed a job with Think Digital in Des Moines. She’s moved out of the Catholic Worker Community (though she will continue to volunteer her time there) and rented a small apartment in the Drake neighborhood. Ironically, she’s living on the same street where my mom grew up. There’s something in the synergy of that which makes me smile.
Madison is staying very busy this time of year. Working sales in the retail environment makes life very hectic during the holiday season. She is continuing to build community in SC and doesn’t seem too sad about the more temperate weather she’s experiencing there. We’re looking forward to having her home for New Year’s.
Hard to believe that another year is drawing to a close. Our work continues to keep us busy, as well. We’re finishing up 2016 project work and I’m busy working on 2017 proposals and renewals. I’m grateful to have seen small, incremental growth this year, though it’s continued to be a tough slog since the 2008 recession. As I speak with clients I’m finding there’s a generally positive sentiment in the business community for the first time in many years. I’m praying it translates into good things this coming year.
So wonderful to welcome Josh’s wife, Ellie, into the crew!
He gets more like his father each year 😉
Grandma blowing Face Time kisses.
Breaking out the baby pics!
Newlyweds still looking pretty happy.
Anxiously awaiting the feast.
The eldest sibling with the two youngest.
Wendy’s first look at Lydia since Kauai.
Togetherness: the three of us occupied the “love seat” all afternoon 🙂
Love these two, and missing Maddy Kate.
The Thanksgiving meal supervisor.
Great to be with Josh for the first time in years.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with Wendy’s family in Ankeny this year. Wendy and I waited for Grandma VH to get back from her church’s Thanksgiving service so we could pick her up and take her with us. We arrived around noon and the meal was just about ready.
With a total of seven Hall siblings, it’s increasingly rare to have all the family together. This year there were four siblings home for the festivities. Josh was home for the first time in years and it was our first opportunity to meet his bride, Ellie. Brother Lucas and his wife Brooke were there as well as Wendy’s sister, Suzanna. Taylor drove up from Des Moines to join us as well. There were FaceTime calls with other family members during the afternoon.
It was a traditional Thanksgiving feast which was wonderful. All of us gathered around the table together. Lots of love, laughter, and a little teasing. Wendy’s Dutch Letter Cheesecake was, unquestionably, the hit of the afternoon – which was spent watching football and enjoying conversation in the family room together.
We wish Madison could have been with us, but when you’re a young salesperson working in retail your presence on Black Friday is pretty much mandatory. Maddy Kate enjoyed “Friendsgiving” with her growing community in South Carolina, and we’re thankful that she has a wonderful group of friends developing in her new home. Taylor left Ankeny in the late afternoon to join another Thanksgiving celebration with friends from the Catholic Worker community in Des Moines.
I got to spend Thanksgiving with my folks a week ago. Their retirement community has an annual feast on the weekend before Thanksgiving in which family are invited to share a special meal prepared by the Chef and staff there. My sister Jody and I were able to celebrate with them there. My folks were at Jody’s house on Thanksgiving yesterday.
There is so much for which I am thankful. When I stop to think about it all…well, it gets a little overwhelming.
Summer 2016 wound down with a beautiful 12 days at the lake with family and friends. A full autumn schedule has begun. Here’s the latest….
Enjoyed scoring a few Cubs games on the deck!
The Shootout included an “air show” which we watched from our dock.
Wendy and I spent relatively little time at the lake this summer in comparison to previous years. We were, therefore, ready for some sun and fun in August. We headed to the lake on August 25th. That weekend was the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, an annual speedboat race that is centered out Captain Ron’s, the resort in our cove. The timed runs take place on the main channel outside our cove. It’s a big deal at the lake and makes for a crazy weekend with a lot of activity around our place. Wendy and I usually avoid that particular weekend, but we’d planned all summer to try to get Madison there around that time.
As things turned out, we weren’t sure Maddy Kate was actually going to make it. She had a few issues with her car at the last-minute. She ended up driving but splitting up the trip, stopping in Nashville to stay with a Pella native who was happy to help her out. Madison arrived on Monday. The weather that week was a little rainy, but we still found time to get out on the boat, go out to eat, and enjoyed some family movie time in the evenings. With school back in session the lake is very quiet, which affords us the opportunity to spend more time on the water.
Our little 18′ runabout, Apollonia, doesn’t do well when things are choppy on the lake, but it was quiet enough that we were able to take Madison to Ha Ha Tonka State Park by water. Wendy hiked with us to the natural spring there, but opted to stay with the boat while Madison and I hike up to the top of the ridge to visit the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka Castle. It was a gorgeous day, and on the return trip we stopped at The Nautifish for an afternoon cocktail from Buff, our favorite bartender at the lake.
It was so fun to spend four days with Madison. She’s doing well with her budding career at new community in South Carolina. We’re proud of her adventurous and independent spirit. On Thursday night we all went to Captain Ron’s for dinner and she took off for home early on Friday morning.
A few hours later, on Friday afternoon, our friends the JPs and the VLs arrived for Labor Day weekend. Both families had been there earlier in the summer, but this was a weekend for the adults. The JPs brought their boat and we enjoyed a weekend full of the nicest weather Wendy and I experienced at the lake all summer, beginning with a late evening cruise on Friday evening after dinner.
On Saturday we took the boat all the way to Shady/Lazy Gators which was a long (over an hour) ride in very choppy water created by heavy lake traffic. Wendy and rode in the front on the way there which was a bit like riding a mechanical bull that occasionally sprays you with water.
We had lunch and hung out at the pool for a while before heading back. We made a brief stop at the Red Head before determining it was too busy, and then proceeded back to the Playhouse. The JPs have a water mat that we threw out off the dock and enjoyed floating and enjoying each other’s company. We grilled out and had an amazing steak dinner that night.
On Sunday we went back to the Red Head by boat, but made it there early enough to beat the crowd. We enjoyed hanging out in the pool, having lunch right there in the water. Sun, fun and conversation before heading back to the Playhouse for more fun and frolicking off the dock. We returned to find a number of large yachts tied together at the back of the cove, with everyone floating off the back enjoying the sun and water. We enjoyed a meal of appetizers and wine and settled in to watch Hail, Caesar! (though not everyone stayed awake). On Monday morning we went to Chances R for a local greasy spoon breakfast before packing up and heading back to Iowa.
Wendy and I started rehearsals for The Christmas Post immediately upon our return and I had to make a business trip to MN/WI. I also had my first meeting back at the helm of Union Street Players.
Taylor finished up her time in Scotland working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She had a ball and I so loved seeing the joy on her face in all of the Snapchat, Facebook and texted photos. Unfortunately, Wendy and I didn’t get to actually see Taylor before we headed out to Kauai on vacation. But, more about that later.
The week after my birthday and the first weekend of May is really all about Pella’s Tulip Time Festival. For several years Wendy and I were regularly a part of a production that our community theatre, Union Street Players, produced for the thousands of visitors to our town. USP stopped doing Tulip Time productions a few years back and Wendy and I admittedly took a respite from volunteering for a few years. Guilt would set in as we wandered up to the square from our house, just a block away. We vowed that we needed to get in costume and volunteer. It takes a not-so-small army of volunteers to make this thing work, and at some point it would be time to play our parts once again. Ironic that we’re more involved now that we moved far away from our prime property just off the square.
Last year was the year to dive in. We volunteered to portray our town’s founders for the annual three day event, roles that we’ve played on stage multiple times. Last year we were in costume for 12-13 hours straight all three days, but discovered that it was a little much. The 1860s fashion was a little overwhelming to don all day. So, this year we vowed to do things a little differently.
Weather for the festival this year was pretty stellar. Thursday was sunny and relatively cool. Friday was the hot day with temps reaching near 90. Saturday was cooler, much more humid, and hazy. There was a brief sprinkle during the afternoon parade and an intermittent light rain during the evening parade, but the sun made regular appearances in between..
Brush with greatness. Our friend, Shanae who was on the Tulip Court this year.
We’re just wild about Harry!
We spent our mornings outside the Scholte House Museum greeting visitors and talking a few confused passers-by into giving the museum a try. And, we got our pictures taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,344,682 times. The most fun were the wandering gaggles of foreign visitors who would, as a group, whip out roughly a dozen or six cameras at the same time. Then, various members of the group would take turns running up to stand with us while cameras, cell phones, and iPads were hoisted like paparazzi next to the red carpet. Wendy said her face hurt from all the smiling! 😉
We took a brief break for lunch around noon and continued our duty outside the Scholte House until around 2:00 in the afternoon. We would then wander back across town in the early afternoon, stopping every 5.34 feet for another picture. I’m not sure how many international dialects I heard saying “One…Two…Three!”
Waiting for our horse.
Courtesy of Designer Images
Courtesy of Designer Images
Our friends Shane and Olivia Burch.
Courtesy of Designer Images
By 2:30 we were in our places to be picked up for the afternoon parade. Our horse drawn carriage (refurbished this year and sporting a beautiful sign) was actually pulled by the Tulip Queen’s horse. So we would sit behind the Historical Village and wait for the Queen to make her pilgrimage through the parade. The horse would quickly be switched from the Queen’s luxurious ride to our humble little four seater. It was rather comical getting Wendy in her HUGE hooped skirt to squeeze into the back seat of a carriage that had been designed for much smaller people. I joked that there wasn’t enough room for Wendy, her dress, and me. We would then take back streets to the beginning of the parade route and pray that we made it on time. We actually made it five out of the six parades this year.
It was fascinating to watch the crowds at each parade. They shift and change. The Thursday afternoon crowd is filled with seasoned citizens who arrived on one of an army of buses from around the Midwest. Thursday is always the lightest day from the sheer number of humans, and the Thursday evening parade feels like mostly locals with their families and visitors. Friday is the hybrid crowd. There are still a number of bus tour visitors, but there’s a growing number of diverse visitors from all over. By Friday evening, the after-work, weekend crowd had fully descended for a picture perfect Iowa night. The parade route on Friday evening was packed. Saturday is the crowd crazy day. The sea of humanity is varied, colorful, and a ton of fun. The Saturday afternoon parade had people packed deep the entire length of the parade route.
Our treat after a hot afternoon parade… a rest in the Heineken Loft.
With Madison and Matt at the Heineken Loft in the Pella Opera House.
Hanging with Mom Hall at Gma VH’s apartment.
The Roose crew visited on Friday.
After the afternoon parade it was time to get out of costume and enjoy being Tom and Wendy for a while. The difference between Tom & Wendy as Henry & Mareah Scholte and Tom & Wendy as Tom & Wendy Vander Well is quite a contrast, to be sure. On Thursday afternoon I had forgotten something in the Historical Society’s Curatorial Office where we’d changed back into our mild-mannered civilian selves. I returned to the office where a number of workers from the Historical Society were gathered in any number of official duties. One young woman who works for the Society thought I was a tourist and said to me, “I’m sorry sir, this house is not part of the tour!”
She was a big confused and taken aback when I simply smiled and said, “I know,” and walked right past her into the back room where we’d stored our belongings. When I returned she was still standing there looking confused and bit frustrated. As I passed by her I smiled and said, “You don’t recognize me out of my Dominie costume, do you?” It was then that it dawned on her who I was. I wish I had a picture of the shocked look on her face, before she began laughing and apologizing.
Our afternoons incognito began at the Heineken Loft in the Pella Opera House visiting with friends and relaxing in the air conditioned loft while we watched the festival pass by on the streets below. Then it was off to the food stands to try one of the many tempting options afforded by the food vendors at Tulip Time.
This year’s culinary surprises were the “Double Dutch” which Wendy had on Thursday night, and the Romanian Sausage sandwich I had on Saturday. The Double Dutch is a quarter pound hamburger topped with Gouda cheese, which then gets topped with a large slice of Pella bologna. Sounds a bit strange, I know. Wendy loved it. I only had a bit, but had to admit it was pretty delicious. Our friends from Pella’s Greek Orthodox Church sell a Romanian sausage sandwich. The recipe came from the the grandmother of one of the people in the parish and it had been highly recommended by our trustworthy City Council representative, Larry Peterson. Again, I was surprised at how good it was. Not something I would have ordered otherwise.
Of course, we also had to get our annual taste of the Tulip Time staples. Stroopwaffels, Poffertjes, Dutch Letters, corn dog, tenderloin…. You get the picture. Regular diet resumes sometime today (after we finish up a few of the leftovers!).
The Iowa Craft Beer team set up to serve in the Cellar’s converted garage.
Dinner in the courtyard of The Cellar Peanut Pub.
Courtyard entrance to The Cellar.
On Thursday night we took our supper from the food stands to the Cellar Peanut Pub’s courtyard. The Iowa Craft Beer truck was set up at the back of the Cellar’s garage and was serving a special wheat ale from Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville that is made with wheat milled by Pella’s Vermeer Windmill. Everything the Cellar served on their 50+ taps during Tulip Time was from local Iowa breweries. It was a great addition to the Tulip Time offerings.
About 8:00 we were back at the Historical Village getting back into costume for the 8:30 parade. When the parade was over we would quick get to our car and try to navigate the back streets home before the parade was completely over.
It was good to see family and friends, as always. Taylor came to town late on Thursday and was supposed to join us again on Saturday until some kind of intestinal crud struck her. Madison and her boyfriend, Matt, arrived on Saturday morning for a cup of coffee together before Wendy and I headed into town. Madison had fun introducing Matt to everything Pella and we joined for some enjoyable conversation at the Heineken Loft in the late afternoon, then debriefed at home late into the night. Today was supposed to be kind of a 50th birthday celebration with the girls, but with Taylor down those plans got theoretically rained out just as my Cubs-centric birthday bash got rained out in both Chicago and Des Moines last weekend. I guess, once again, “there is no joy in Mudville.” C’est la vie.
Today is rest, recuperation, and reentry into routine. It’s been a fun week. Once again I shake my head in amazement at the unique community we’re blessed to call home.
It’s been a busy week. I’ve been working on a couple of big client projects on top of on-going rehearsals for Almost, Maine. Earlier this week I did, however, get a chance for a coffee date with my mom in Des Moines. Dad VW has a nasty case of bronchitis, so we left him to rest and mom joined me on a few errands for work. We then took a leisurely drive through the old neighborhood and reminisced before ending up at Grounds for Celebration in Beaverdale. Mom had a chocolate shake and I had coffee and a cinnamon roll. When we got back to their apartment dad was sound asleep on the couch getting much needed rest.
We are two and a half weeks away from opening night for Almost, Maine. YOU MUST SEE THIS PLAY! It is really a fun production that is all about LOVE in all of its hilarity, poignancy, tragedy, and mystery. Show dates are April 14-17. Tickets are available on-line by clicking here. For all my friends in Des Moines, this is a wonderful date night opportunity, or a unique night out for a small group. Plan to come to Pella. Have dinner at Monarch’s or Kaldera. Enjoy the show. Have a local craft beer at the Cellar Peanut Pub after the show. I guarantee you’ll have a wonderful night!
On Thursday night after rehearsal the cast (& Lighting Director, Arvin) went out for drinks and bites at Kaldera thanks to Director Kevin and his lovely Costumer wife, Linda. It was a wonderful evening!
Our offices were closed on Good Friday. Wendy diligently cleaned in preparation for Easter guests. I took the opportunity to aerate and over-seed our fledgling yard. We were both tuckered out and enjoyed a quiet night at home.
On Saturday morning we worked with the Almost, Maine cast and crew to clean-up the back stage areas, green room, and dressing rooms in preparation for our upcoming Tech and Production weeks. Wendy and I headed to Des Moines in the afternoon. We spent a few hours with mom and dad hanging out and enjoying some conversation before heading to Kev and Beck’s for dinner.
This morning we went to worship then picked grandma VH up on our way home. Wendy’s folks and Suzanna arrived shortly thereafter. It was a quiet, laid-back Easter feast of sandwiches and some goodies Wendy prepared. It was an enjoyable afternoon of conversation. When our guests left we relaxed to watch the Cubs lose a spring training game to the Mariners while chatting with Madison in South Carolina and leaving Easter greetings with Taylor (she was working today).