Tag Archives: Hall

The Latest… June 2019

It is a beautiful June evening at the lake as I sit to write this post. The forecast for the weekend called for rain, rain, and a little more rain. Instead, we were treated to plenty of sunshine and only a few minor episodes of precipitation. That’s a nice change of pace. This spring and early summer have been rainier than I can remember for some time. The lawn tractor has been getting a lot of work as I’ve been mowing 2-3 times a week to keep up.

The rain has been definitely good for growing things. Wendy and finished phase 3 of our landscaping plans. We had new beds put in around the back of the house and around the patio. We still have one section we need to finish on the north side of the house, but it feels great to have it done. I planted some more roses and they have really been going to town.

Speaking of flowers, Wendy has been planning for many years to have a tat reworked. She was never really happy with the original and fixing it has been a topic of discussion for a very long time. Molly at Creative Images in Des Moines did her masterful work, as usual, and the result was just what m’love wanted.

Before and after.

We got our first I-Cubs game of the year in these past few weeks, and we kicked off the summer with what’s become a traditional Memorial Day Weekend at the lake with the VLs. Our arrival at the lake was delayed as I officiated the wedding of Joel and Kara (Zondervan) Larson at the Scholte Gardens in Pella. It’s been a while since I’ve officiated a wedding. Ironically, I received a surprise message on Facebook from the couple who were my very first wedding over 30 years ago. How cool to know that they are still together and happily married. I take no credit, of course. Asking the questions is the easy part.

The rest of the weekend at the lake was fun, as always. It’s so much fun to watch the VL kids enjoying themselves and having watched them grow up right here at the Playhouse over the years. As the kids have gotten older and now entertain themselves quite nicely, it also affords the adults more time and space for conversation and that was wonderful.

Wendy and I stayed a few extra days and worked from the lake, but we had to buzz home as our friends Kevin and Linda were making a rare, brief appearance in Iowa. We met them, along with our friend Cyndi, for dinner at Cooper’s in Valley Junction and then for an after dinner drink at the Hall. Can’t tell you how much we miss having them living across the street.

The following weekend was another rare treat as all of Wendy’s siblings came home for a Hall family gathering. It was the first time that the entire Hall crew were in the same room since 2010. The agenda was very simple: be together, eat together. We got to meet our nephew, Asher, for the very first time and found out that we have another niece or nephew due to arrive by the end of the year as Wendy’s brother Luke and his wife, Brooke, announced that there was a bun in the oven. It was so much fun to be together as a family again.

It was back to the lake this past weekend for our annual early summer pilgrimage with our friends, Kev and Beck. Again, it was nice that we had better weather than was forecast. We enjoyed lunch and a leisurely few hours in the pool at the Redhead on Friday, along with some sun and relaxation on the dock on Saturday. As usual, the real focus of the weekend was sharing life, great food, great drinks, and endless conversations that move us all further up, and further in.

Hope you’re having a great summer wherever your journey finds you. Play ball!

Thanksgiving 2016

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.

Madison’s “Friendsgiving” in South Carolina.

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.

Christmas 2015

Wendy and I have been excited to celebrate Christmas for the first time here on Utrecht Laan. Wendy got to work early getting Christmas decorations up this year, which inspired a desire for changes and additions next year. Let the after-Christmas sale shopping begin!!

Having said that, Christmas itself was a reminder of the transitional phase of life we are in. Suzanna has been home working on Christmas break, but she headed to Ankeny on Christmas Eve day to spend the weekend with Mom and Dad Hall. So we opened gifts with her before she left.

Wendy is so cute to individually wrap all of the various knick-knacks in the girls’ stockings. She is right that it feels a little bit more like Christmas gifts when you have to unwrap the roll of Scotch tape, but the girls all seem to love it. Suzanna decided to identify each item before unwrapping it like the Carnac the Magnificent (here’s a video for those of you too young to know who that is). I think she batted a thousand.

That left the house relatively empty for Christmas Eve as Taylor was in Des Moines with family. So, Wendy and I attended the 4:30 pm. Christmas Eve service at Third. It was a really nice service. I don’t think I made it through a Christmas carol without tearing up. It is said that Jesus “takes away your heart of stone, and gives you a heart of flesh.” The older I get, the softer and softer I find my heart becoming. As I stood there during O Holy Night with tears streaming down my cheeks unable to get the words out, I thought to myself that if this keeps up, by 65 you’ll be able to find me simply by looking for the perpetually blubbering old guy in the corner of the room! We ran into Cyndi and Megan in Fellowship Hall after the service and got to chat with them for a bit.

Knowing that we were going to be home alone on Christmas Eve, Wendy and I planned a special meal just the two of us. We have a recipe for Filet Mignon in a red wine sauce that we pull out for special occasions. I took care of the steak and Wendy maee her sweet potatoes. We opened our very last bottle of 2009 Warburn Estates Barossa Shiraz, an Australian favorite of ours that is no longer available in the States. It was a wonderful meal.

I pulled the guitar out after dinner. I haven’t played in a long time, and serenaded Wendy as we relaxed. Taylor arrived home later in the evening and we received a visit from her friend, Andrew, who is home from California. The four of us enjoyed a drink in the pub downstairs before the two of them headed off to midnight mass.

Madison is flying over the holidays. She had to arrange her schedule as a flight attendant so that she could be off most of the first half of December to study for, and finish, her finals. That left her putting in a lot of hours over the holidays.

Thus, it was just Wendy, Taylor, and me on Christmas morning. Wendy made her traditional Christmas breakfast. We had French Toast this year made with her homemade bread along with eggs, bacon, sausage and the typical fare. Delicious and delightful as always. There had been just a dusting of snow on Christmas Eve so as to make the landscape outside the dining room windows frosty. We stoked the fireplace and enjoyed ourselves.

We opened gifts after breakfast. Madison joined us by FaceTime and we got to watch her unwrap the AA batteries in her stocking before she headed out to take care of passengers in the friendly skies.

While the girls cleaned up I took one of Wendy’s Dutch Letter Cheesecakes over to the church. Our church does a big community meal for anyone and everyone every Christmas and Wendy donated one of her cheesecakes. When I took it in and revealed it to the volunteers in the kitchen you should have heard the “oooohs” and “aaahs.” It was really sweet.

We cleaned up and headed to Des Moines around noon. My parents moved into a retirement community earlier this year. They live independently, but the facility provides them with great community, a meal day, and proximity to the help they need when they need it. Dad’s chemo has done its job, keeping Multiple Myeloma at bay. The treatment is on-going, however, and takes its toll on dad’s body in other ways. We’re still very thankful that he’s doing so well. Mom’s Alzheimer’s is still in the early stages and continues to progress (she hadn’t forgotten how to beat us all at cards!).

Dad reserved the community room in their building for the afternoon on Christmas Day. Everyone brought goodies to share, though it was a rather small gathering this year. My brother Tim and his girlfriend, Kumi, were up from Texas. Jody and Emma joined us from the Keithley clan along with Wendy, Taylor and me. It was a quiet afternoon. We ate, chatted, and exchanged gifts before settling in for playing a few card games together. The three of us headed back to Pella around 6:00.

Christmas with the Vander Hart clan was at our house this year. It took place on Sunday afternoon. Wendy, Taylor and I went to the 11:00 service at church. Wendy was mobbed by multiple people telling her that her Dutch Letter Cheesecake had been a huge hit at Christmas dinner. She was thrilled. After church we high-tailed it back to the house in time for the VH brood to arrive. They were, as usual, almost all early.  More and more goodies (ugh! Sugar overdose!) and conversation flowed. We were so excited to see Becky, Court, and our darling little niece, Lydia. It had been way too long.

Christmas 2015 - 36 Christmas 2015 - 37

On Wednesday night we headed to Ankeny to celebrate Christmas with the Hall clan. Luke’s fiancé, Brooke, joined us for Christmas for the first time. It was a fairly small gathering, however. Beck, Court, and Lydia were there with us and Lydia was the center of attention (though I’m not sure she was thrilled with all the attention!). We had lasagna and soup along with the requisite spritz cookies for dessert. We opened gifts after supper and then enjoyed spirited conversation about the presidential race along with the family enjoying reminiscing about their memories of living in Albia and Norwalk.

Christmas 2013 (Part 2)

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This weekend was the culmination of our 2013 Christmas celebrations. On Saturday, the Halls came down from Boone for the Vander Hart gathering at Grandma Vander Hart’s. It was a small crew this year as many family couldn’t make it. There didn’t seem to be a lack of food, however, and we enjoyed lunch together and a game of cards. Brant and Amy’s newborn, Clayton, enjoyed his first Christmas with the clan and was a big hit.

On Saturday afternoon our friends, Kevin and Becky, arrived and we spent a quiet evening together here at Vander Well Manor. We made homemade pizza, opened a couple of bottles of wine, and enjoyed good conversation late into the night. Kev and Beck spent the night with us and attended church with us on Sunday morning.

After church on Sunday, Wendy and I ran to Des Moines to pick up Becky and Courtney from the airport, though their flight was delayed from Denver by about an hour. We then drove up to Boone with Taylor in caravan behind us. We feasted with Wendy’s family and opened gifts. Luke’s fiancé, Polley, was able to join us. It was, however, a relatively small crew as many of the family are scattered across the globe. We were able to enjoy Skype conversation with Nathan’s crew in Arizona and Josh in Korea. We watched football and enjoyed one another’s company into the evening. Wendy and I then headed back home to Pella. We watched our Vikings win their final game at the Metrodome against the Lions on the DVR before calling it a night.