Tag Archives: marriage

Toby’s Holiday Trifecta

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Every June, in the course of a matter of days, we have three major celebrations.

I call it “Toby’s Trifecta.”

During one week a year we celebrate Toby’s birthday, his Father’s Day, and our anniversary…all big events.

This can prove to be challenging for the wife who must come up with a way to celebrate him in a special way 3 times in a matter of days. And as tempting as it is… I refuse to lump them together into one big celebration. I know this would be easiest solution,  but as a person whose birthday falls within days of a major holiday (Christmas) I know how depressing it is to receive “lumped gifts.”

And Toby has always done such a fantastic job of making my birthday special despite the after Christmas crash that all are feeling on December 27th that I feel the need to really amp up my game every June.

But I’d totally be lying if I said it was easy.

Buying for boys is hard. It is especially hard buying for Toby because he sets the bar so high. He is my “grand gesture man,” and everything he does is  creative, thoughtful and well… grand. It is hard enough to come up with something absolutely perfect for a man who insists that he doesn’t need anything, and then when I finally do come up with that perfect gift I can’t sit back and rest on my laurels and enjoy the glory…

I have to come up with something equally special two days later and then two days after that!

Aaah! The pressure!

But we were determined to make Toby feel as loved as he makes all of us feel, so we pressed on, determined to make the magic happen. I must say that the older my children get the easier it is becoming because I now have a few extra brains creatively trying to come up with a plan rather than relying on my own creativity…

And the invention of Pinterest has also taken the edge off. 🙂

This year we celebrated:

41 years of Toby’s life.

19 years of marriage.

and 18 years of fatherhood.

Here is a look into our (read with a booming voice) :  Week… of…. Toby!

Father’s Day began with two extra kiddos as we had Q and Nevaeh for half the day. This is so reflective of Toby and how he lives his life. He opens his home and heart so willingly to children not his own and makes them feel welcomed and loved and cared for. I look at the father he has been to all our children, those sired by him and those born to other men, and I see a perfect example of selflessness and fatherly love.

The kids made his day special with Mickey waffles for breakfast before church, and homemade cards and gifts.

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Tyler even made Toby a tie in his primary class at church, and not just any tie: A candy tie!

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It perfectly complimented the other tie he was wearing that was a Father’s Day gift from a few years ago.

In the afternoon Toby received his favorite gift… the best gift he could ask for:

A Sunday nap! 🙂

On Tuesday we celebrated our 19th anniversary. I woke to this beautiful gift.

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My parents surprised us by sending us an anniversary card with a gift card to Applebee’s, so after work Toby and I enjoyed a date night with no children! We had a wonderful dinner and enjoyed uninterrupted conversation as we reflected on the last 19 years and discussed our hopes and dreams for the next 19.

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Then we enjoyed a movie…at a theatre…that wasn’t a cartoon!

We went to see, “Now You See Me 2.” We loved the first movie and were eager to see if the sequel would measure up. It was as good as the first! So exciting! Now that I understand all the plot twists and turns I’d love to see it again and watch for all the hidden clues.

It was a perfect night!

Then round three of Toby’s Trifecta continued on Thursday when we celebrated Toby’s 41st birthday.

In the morning we went shopping so the kids to buy the parts to the gift they had planned. They wanted to make Toby a basket that highlighted some of the big events from 1975: the year he was born. They did their research, made a list and then shopped for items that could represent those big events. They had a lot of fun working together on their 1975 basket for Daddy.

When they got home they added tags explaining each item and included a card that expressed the sentiment that of all the things that came out of 1975 he was the best!

In the evening we put off giving Daddy his gifts until bedtime since we had to drop Rusty off for a young men’s activity at church. While he was competing in the “Wacky Olympic Games” we took Toby to dinner. We ended up going to the Texas Roadhouse which was a fun choice. Toby and I hadn’t been there in 10 years and the kids had never eaten there.

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The boys loved the fact that they provided you with buckets of peanuts to munch on while you wait, especially since you are encouraged to throw your shells on the floor. I think they got a thrill out of doing something so naughty. 😉

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When we were finally seated at the table the first thing Tyler did was pick up the rolled silverware and unrolled his fork and knife from the napkin. Confused, he held up his black linen napkin, and asked, “What is this?”

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Our usual eateries only offer paper napkins with their logo printed on them.  😉

These napkins left him flustered and confused, uncertain if they were there to wipe your face on or to curl up in if you got chilly. His confusion continued up until it was time to leave when he lifted his napkin and asked, “So do I get to take this home?”

This confirms the fact we need to expand our dining horizons beyond the golden arches!

Dinner itself was delicious. The atmosphere was fun and festive and everyone had a wonderful time. I only wish Rusty could have been there. He would have loved the ribs!

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After dinner and picking up Rusty we headed back home for gifts and cake. The kids gave him their 1975 gift basket and I surprised him with tickets to Cirque du Soleil. He has talked about wanting to see this show live for years so I decided to surprise him. He deserves it!

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This week was all about Toby.

We celebrated him as a father.

We celebrated him as a husband.

Today we celebrated his life and the extraordinary way his life has touched countless others. We are blessed to call him ours.

Happy birthday, dear Toby. Happy birthday to you!

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What Language do you Speak?

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This was the topic of discussion at our Family Night activity this week. Not being a bilingual family the languages we were speaking of were not languages of verbal expression but rather ones of emotional expression.

We were talking about Love Languages.

Many years ago I discovered a book entitled, The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. The concept was enlightening and the content was live changing for our marriage. The entire idea of each one of us having a certain love language we use to express our love to others was insightful. As soon as I began reading I had a “Ah-ha” light bulb appear above my head, and as a young wife I felt like I was receiving marriage-changing…marriage-blessing council.

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By taking the quiz in the book I soon discovered my love language was Acts of Service. This meant I showed my love for others not through words, or hugs, or gifts, but by serving them. My love is shown through meals cooked, babysitting, volunteering to plan parties or coming to the aid of others. My family often jokes that I don’t know the word “No” when it comes to being asked to do things (and while that might be a little true) my primary motivation in saying “Yes” comes from love, and my desire to make others feel loved by lightening their burden,

because that is how I feel most loved.

Through this quiz we learned that Toby’s primary love language was Physical Touch. He felt most loved when his shoulders were rubbed, or when I held his hand while we were out shopping, or when I sat next to him on the couch while watching TV.

There lay our issue. Both of us were trying so hard to make the other feel loved but we were speaking two different languages. I was trying to make Toby feel loved and cared for by making sure there were no dishes in the sink or baby toys on the floor. While I spent the evenings showing my love by making our house a home for him all he wanted was for me to sit with him and watch a game on TV. He, on the other hand, was trying to show love to me in the way he likes to receive it by telling me to sit down so he could rub my shoulders,

when I wanted to say, “If you really loved me you’d quit telling me to sit down and you’d help me get these dishes done so I can relax.”

Both of us we trying so hard to show our love but since we were speaking two different love languages we both felt more frustrated than loved. 🙂

This book was such a blessing to our marriage.

Recently I was talking with girlfriends about this book and thought to myself, “We really out to have the kids take the quiz (They have one geared toward kids and teens on the website) and see what love languages our children speak so that we can better express our love to them in a language they will understand.

On Monday night we told the kids what we were doing. They were fascinated by the idea that we each speak different love languages. Each of them took the quiz online, revealing their scores and their love language.

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The results were enlightening, although not completely surprising. I can look at the way my children show love to others and gain insight into how they feel most loved.

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Here were the results of our 5 Love Languages quiz:

Physical Touch: Toby

Acts of Service: Katie

Gifts: nobody

Quality Time: Grace, Rusty, and Tyler

Words of Affirmation: Molly and Ozzie

After discovering what love language we each speak, we talked about the importance of showing love in the language of the person you are expressing love to and then went over what each of those love languages looks like, in a practical sense.

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This led to a great discussion as we shared how we feel the most loved and what acts and kindnesses touch us the most, as well as what acts of love we need more of.

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As the kids shared their hearts with Toby and I (as well as with their siblings) we realized that it is sometimes easiest to show love to those who share your love language and as a result there is often a special bond between those family members or friends, but regardless of how challenging it can be we must make an effort to learn and speak each others’ love languages…

Because that it what family is all about.

What language do you speak?

An Escape to Amish Country

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This past weekend we ran away to Amish country…aka Holmes County, Ohio. The children were shipped off to be cared for by loving (and Oh So generous!) friends and family so that Toby and I could get away.

Grace, Rusty and Tyler spent the weekend at the Hudak’s home and Molly and Ozzie spent the weekend with my parents at the Homestead. Both sets of kids were excited about their mini vacations but none were more excited than Toby and I!

After a high stress December Toby and I made the decision that rather than exchanging Christmas gifts, as we traditionally do, we would instead use the money we would have spent on each other to run away together. We decided to rent a Bed and Breakfast cottage in Amish country. We were looking for a quiet place… a place of rest and renewal… to reconnect as a couple and just be husband and wife (instead of mom and dad) once again.

I was eagerly anticipating this time away. I was looking forward to sleeping in and not cooking, cleaning, or caring for others. I was looking forward to the quiet and solitude found in the sleepy hills of Ohio.

I was looking forward to focusing on my husband…

On uninterrupted conversations and the chance to hold his hand rather than a child’s hand. I was looking forward to reconnecting and sharing our dreams for the upcoming year as well as our future beyond this year.

I had big dreams for our time away and our little escape didn’t disappoint. It was delightful!

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After dropping off all our kiddos we drove out to our “home away from home” for the weekend. Toby booked our trip and didn’t tell me where we were staying. He wanted to surprise me, and boy did he. It was a magical little cottage tucked between the snow covered hills of the Ohio country side.

Where we stayed:

“Premier Cottages welcomes you to the heart of beautiful Amish country, with seven individual cottages. Our cottages are located less than four miles from the center of Berlin, just far enough from town to enjoy a spectacular starlit sky and a quiet stroll in the country.

Our cottages are filled with delightful genuine cottage decor – featuring local, primitive, and country-style furnishings with luxurious bedding. Each cottage has a two person jacuzzi, over-stuffed chairs and at least one large stone fireplace to make your stay more romantic and comfortable. Rolling country scenery and farmlands surround the property, creating a haven of quiet seclusion that feels far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So, whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or a retreat with family and friends…

Come and have your breath taken away at a slower pace!”

It did just that.

Our charming little cottage boasted complimentary treats and sparkling cider, a Jacuzzi tub for two, the most comfortable/ luxurious bed I’ve ever slept in, and breakfast dropped off on our front porch in the morning.

(It was hard to come home to reality!)  🙂

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The upstairs bedroom.

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The master bedroom with in-floor Jacuzzi.

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We spent a lot of time snuggling in front of the fireplace after returning home from sightseeing in the bitter cold.

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Toby loved having satellite TV and being able to actually watch a Steeler game on Sunday afternoon.

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Breakfast on Sunday morning.

As guests at Premier Lodging we received a coupon for a free Wendell August Forge Christmas ornament… a memento of our weekend in Holmes county. We drove over to the store in Berlin to window shop and pick up our souvenir.

 

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Wendell August Forge:

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“As you enjoy the breathtaking beauty and simplicity of Ohio’s Amish Country, a visit to our largest store on the outskirts of Berlin, OH is sure to be a trip highlight. Berlin is nestled in the rolling hills of Holmes County, home to the largest Amish and Mennonite community in the world. The Amish are quiet people who hold fast to their traditions and way of life. They are renowned for their crafts, and the quality of their work is exceptional.

This combination of tradition and quality craftsmanship unite at our store the minute you see the store driving down Route 62. The 13,000 square foot timber frame facility, located beneath the blue and yellow water tower is the largest of its kind in the State of Ohio. It houses many exciting attractions, including a 5,000 square foot showroom filled with our unique, one-of-a-kind handcrafted metal giftware that Wendell August is famous for. As you enter our front door, you are immediately captured by our beautiful product and the vastness of the space. The timber frame construction is awe inspiring in and of itself. You can’t help noticing the World’s Largest Amish Buggy, made especially for us by an Amish buggy maker just down the road from us. Gather your family and friends for a picture right in front of the massive buggy on a genuine buggy seat! Another guest favorite is the old time Nickelodeon, certain to entertain with its multiple instruments playing memorable songs.

For history buffs and those wanting to get a better feel for our story dating back to our company founding in 1923, be sure to stroll through our museum area and take in the short video in our guest theater. Here you’ll walk through and be inspired by the collectible Wendell August giftware from the 1920s – 1950s. The movie tells both the company history and teaches you more about how each one of our gift items is made one-at-a-time by hand in our American workshops.

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You will then enjoy the chance to walk through our workshop space where we have set up all of the tools of our trade from the die engraving through the creation of our product. You will get a great sense of how our craftsmen in Pennsylvania make our wonderful giftware.

Once you have experienced all of this, be sure to try your hand at being a craftsperson yourself in our interactive hand hammering room and take home a treasure made by you!”

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For $2.00 we were able to try pounding out our own aluminum scene on a patterned plate. We chose an Amish barn raising scene.

 

Heini’s Cheese Chalet:

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“Our Grandfather, John (Hans) Dauwalder, trained as a master cheesemaker in Switzerland, and came to the United States in the 1920’s to display his artisan talents in a growing cheese market. After several successful years at the Bunker Hill Cheese Co-op, John decided to return to his hometown in Switzerland to further his romance with Lili Mueller. The two fell in love and were married in 1933.

In 1948, John and Lili, together with their two children, Peter, our Father and Marguerite, our Aunt, sold the family farm in Switzerland to join John’s Brother Crist in the United States. Crist had purchased Bunker Hill Cheese in 1935 and asked John to join him in building the family cheese business.

In 1962, our parents Peter and Nancy, who were married in 1955, acquired Bunker Hill Cheese. Today it is one of the premier cheese retailers east of the Mississippi River, and one of the most successful wholesale manufacturers serving clients throughout North America.

Our family business continues to be the primary outlet for the Amish farms in the region. The Amish farmers still provide their milk to our factory in traditional milk cans, the same manner as their forefathers did. The relationship between the farmers and the Dauwalder family is personal, and together we are committed to continuing on into the 21st century.”

Our next stop was Heini’s Cheese Chalet where we had fun sampling many of their 50 different types of cheese. They were all delicious but my favorite was the smoked horseradish cheddar and the Vidalia onion crème cheese.

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Here we also purchased the kids’ souvenirs. We decided it would be fun to buy them each their own jams that they could use on toast. We decided to buy them untraditional flavors, thus adding to the novelty of the gifts.

Here are the flavors we purchased:

Tyler: Loganberry Jam

Rusty: Sassafras Jelly

Ozzie: Corn Cob Jelly

Molly: Kiwi Jam

Gracie: Dandelion Jelly

Speaking of jam…

Our next stop was:

Smucker’s Company Store:

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For more than 115 years, The J.M. Smucker Company, with its trusted brands and quality products, has helped to make family meals memorable. Today, The J.M. Smucker Company Store and Café continues this proud tradition by showcasing products and merchandise from the Company’s family of brands.

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I was blown away by all the products and name brands owned by Smuckers. I had no idea. It was fun to try samples and gather recipes that use many of these products.

 

In addition to the fruit spreads, coffee, peanut butter, ice cream toppings, pancake mix, syrup, and baking products you’d expect, you’ll also find our signature branded gifts and merchandise — from kitchen accessories to apparel and more

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It was very interesting reading about the history of this family brand.

 

Then it was on to…Lehman’s Hardware Store:

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“We’re a destination. What started as a small hardware store serving the local Amish in Kidron, Ohio, grew into something much bigger than founder Jay Lehman ever dreamed. Gathering four pre-Civil War era buildings under one soaring roof, today our store is a place to embrace the past: from old-fashioned treats and sodas to practical, non-electric goods that help you live a simpler life. Shop and reminisce your way through thousands of products while browsing Jay’s antique collection located throughout the store. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time—the full shopping experience is nearly a quarter mile long!

We LOVE Lehman’s. This is a favorite stop in Holmes county. We love checking out all the cool antiques and the unusual and practical products sold here that can’t be found anywhere else.

And while here we can’t leave without purchasing a bottle of soda. We played it safe this time and avoided the bacon soda and the peanut butter and jelly soda and instead bought a crème soda and a butter beer.

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Another stop on Toby’s wish list was:

Keim Lumber:

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“Our 4th generation family owned business began in 1911 as a rough lumber mill with just 4 employees.  Today, we’ve grown to a 50 acre complex with over 700,000 square feet of retail, office, warehouse, and millwork production space, with over 400 dedicated employees.  Our goal is to build relationships, provide outstanding products and services, and ensure our customers always have a great experience working with us, all the while retaining the qualities of hard work, dedication and honesty from the legacies left behind from our father Bill, grandfather Roman, and great-grandfather Mose. 

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With over 60 exotic & specialty wood species in stock coming from as far as the West Indies, Africa and the Pacific Rim, our “Wood Shed” is a must see for everyone. 

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It is a carpenter’s dream store! While here we bought some supplies for our bus renovations and explored different cabinet options for the bus’s kitchen.

Housing an exotic wood selection ranging from a 513 year old Bubinga slab to poison ivy, the display in our showroom is one of amazing variety. Be sure to stop by and choose a unique exotic lumber piece for your next project.”

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On my wish list was a stop at Just Enough Antiques:

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“If you love the patina of history, you’ll find it at Just Enough Antiques. Shopkeeper Daphne Ross features a cozy collection of primitive, farmhouse and vintage treasures along with American Arts from local artisans and craftsmen. Six rooms, two porches and outdoor spaces are filled with many one-of-a-kind pieces.  If you don’t know what you’re looking for until it speaks to you, get ready for a long chat at Just Enough Antiques. Visit out historical 1850 house just west of the village square in Smithville.”

For Christmas I received a gift certificate to Just Enough Antiques, my favorite store in Amish Country. I had so much fun shopping and picking out some new things for the house. Among my purchases were a old wagon side that will become my new key holder by the front door and an old red cooler that I am going to use to file paperwork. I love this place!

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My four purchases.

 

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We even ate lunch at a Amish restaurant that boasted an Amish buggy/table you could eat at. The Reuben sandwiches here were delicious!

 

It was a perfect weekend away. Thank you to everyone that helped make it a reality. I returned home feeling rested, refocused, and even more in love with my eternal companion.

I am incredibly blessed!

Abiding in “Hope”

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This past weekend I packed my bags and ran away,

with a very handsome man.

(A scandalous start to a story, isn’t it?)   😉

Toby and I had a recharge, reconnect, recommit weekend of Hope.

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We were in the “Hope” room.

The current job that Toby is working on required him to drive to the far side of Ohio to purchase old barn beams. Toby had the lovely idea of turning it into a weekend getaway. Both of our parents generously agreed to take the children off our hands to make it feasible. We employed the old “divide and conquer” technique in hopes that the burden on either set of grandparents would be minimal. (Much thought and prayer went into the strategy of division) Thursday was spent washing clothes and packing bags.

On Thursday night the first group of kids (Grace, Rusty, and Tyler) were dropped off at Toby’s Mom’s home.

The following morning we left with Molly and Ozzie in tow. When we left, the snow was coming down hard. The drive was beautiful but a bit nerve-wracking as Toby towed his trailer over untreated roads. Within an hour, however, the conditions improved.

Packed and ready to go...

Packed and ready to go…

The drive to Delta, Ohio took about four hours. Those four hours were spent doing school with Molly and Ozzie, while Toby drove. When we arrived in Delta we made a quick stop to pick up the barn beams that Toby had ordered and then we were back on the road.

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We had another three hours to drive to get to my parent’s home, back in the opposite direction of Ohio. When we arrived, we carried in Molly and Ozzie’s suitcase and said our goodbyes. I could tell Oz was a bit nervous but I knew once I left he would have a ball. My parents had all sorts of fun activities planned for the kids.

Since this was Ozzie’s first time away from us, since he moved in with us, we decided to play it safe and lodge nearby in case we were needed. (We weren’t needed. Ozzie did great.)

Toby booked a room in Holmes County, the heart of Amish country, at Blessings Lodge.

What a perfect name!

What a perfect name!

We decided to check in before we went for dinner. We were assigned the “Hope” suite. I smile at how perfect the choice was. That became the theme of the weekend as we found ourselves surrounded by thoughts of hope. That is what this weekend away blessed us with…renewed hope in ourselves, our relationship, our family, and our future.

After a challenging year we were renewed and strengthen by “Hope.”

Our retreat was beautiful…

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There was even a plate of homemade cookies waiting for us on the kitchen table.

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After checking in we drove over to Der Dutchman for dinner. We had a delicious homestyle meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing, veggies and homemade rolls. The food was tasty and filling for both body and spirit.

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The weekend was spent doing a little sight-seeing and a little antiquing. It was so nice to hold Toby’s hand with out a gaggle of little people between us. Holmes County was quiet. In the snowy cold of January many of the shops were closed down and the tourists were all gone. We felt like we had many of the places to ourselves. 🙂

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The quiet stillness was just what we needed. The lack of activity drove us back to our retreat early and we were able to spend hours talking,catching up, and realigning our lives, our dreams, and our hopes for the future.

It truly was a ” Blessing” and a place of “Hope.”

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