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Easter at Patchwork Farm- Part 1

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Once again we find ourselves celebrating another holiday in unique ways under a unique set of circumstances. It was hard not getting together with extended family and enjoying our typical traditions, but our circumstances didn’t take away from the holiness of the day. Perhaps it even added to it.

In the stillness of being home and having a quieter, more reflective Easter, we were able to focus on the glory of Easter Sunday. There, in the midst of the sacrifices we have found thrust upon us during this unusual and trying time, we were all the more appreciative of that great sacrifice made on our behalf.

He died so that we may live.

All Glory and Praise to our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ!

Easter preparations began on Friday with egg dying,

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And on Saturday, as family recipes were pulled out and food preparation began.

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Our meal wasn’t completely traditional, as our side dishes were chosen based on what we had in the freezer and pantry. I did, however have all the necessities on hand for the key components of an Easter dinner, so we didn’t have to make a trip to the store. A ham was pulled from the freezer. The dough was mixed for Mom’s homemade rolls. Pineapple dressing, sour cream potatoes and ambrosia salad were all prepared the day before, so as to make Sunday dinner a breeze.

On Saturday we also added a new recipe to the mix, one that is a favorite family tradition in Zach’s family: resurrection rolls!

I was first introduced to resurrection rolls when I served in primary with Sherrie and she would bring them in for the children every Easter. I loved the concept and message behind them, and they were delicious as well!

Zach’s one wish for our Easter celebration, since he wasn’t able to be with his family for Easter, was that we incorporate this beloved Tame tradition into our holiday celebration. On Saturday we gathered the family together and Zach taught us how to make resurrection rolls. It was a project everyone enjoyed!

First we laid down our dough.

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Next we topped it with a little butter and cinnamon/sugar.

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Then we placed a marshmallow in the center of the dough.

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Finally the dough was wrapped around the marshmallow and placed in a pan to bake.

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It was a fun baking project and an effective object lesson.

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The marshmallow represents the body of the Savior that was placed in the tomb. As the rolls bake, the marshmallows within melt, so that when you bite into the baked resurrection rolls, you will find the inside hollow…

Representing the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

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It was a joy getting to share in one of Zach’s Easter traditions.

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On Saturday Grace and I also decorated the dinning room for Easter dinner. Since our dining room is also currently serving as our greenhouse, we decided to embrace the mess and make it all part of the look.

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We went with a “Mr. McGregor’s Garden” theme for our Easter table, using decorations we found around the house.

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A month ago, when we had our girls’ weekend at the Homestead, my mom gave me Peter Rabbit plates and napkins as part of my Easter surprise. These paper products served as the jumping off point for our décor.

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A center piece was added,

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And my cabbage serving dishes were set out.

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Grace and I made place cards for each family member. I wrote out the names and Grace added the artwork.

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We were quite pleased with the finished look!

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After a full day of Easter preparations, we were ready to welcome in the Sabbath day.

As a special Easter treat, my parents had sent us a check to order take out one evening and gift me with a night off from cooking. We decided to use our Easter gift on Saturday night. After a full day in the kitchen preparing our Easter dinner, I was thrilled at the prospect of not having to make supper. We decided to use our Easter gift to buy wings.

The kids were all very excited. This was the first take-out meal we have had since the stay-at-home order was issued.

We ordered from Big Shot Bob’s House of Wings in Ellwood City. We ordered a variety of flavors and then Grace and Zach picked up our order on their way back from getting the mail from their apartment.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner!

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It was such a fun treat, and such a generous Easter gift from my parents! Thank you Mom and Dad!!

When everyone was full, fat and sassy we headed to bed. Tomorrow was a big day!

Our Sabbath day began with Easter service, but rather than donning our Easter bonnets for Easter service at our local chapel, we got dolled up for church in the living room. Grace was in charge of our lesson this week and she spoke about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ with the following analogy:

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She laid out eight candy bars on the table. Each was tagged with a different price. She then handed each of us a bag of pennies. Each bag contained a different amount of change. We were then told the rules of the game.

  1. We could only use the coins she gave us to purchase the candy.
  2. We couldn’t pool our money or borrow coins from one another.
  3. We couldn’t share our candy with anyone else.

We were then set free to do our shopping. As we dug into our bags of pennies we soon discovered that none of us had enough money to purchase any of the candy bars on the table. We all found ourselves short of the price that needed paid.

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As we considered our options, we soon reached the conclusion that there was no way for us to pay the price needed to get our reward. It was then that Grace pointed out the fact that none of us had thought to ask her for the difference owed. She pulled out a bag of pennies and asked if anyone needed to borrow the difference, thus thrusting the reward within reach, despite our shortcomings.

She likened the lesson to the atonement of Jesus Christ. She drew the comparison between our own inability to gain eternal reward to our need for a Savior who can make up the difference between what we have to offer and the price that must be paid.

Like Gracie’s example, salvation can’t be bargained. The price is set and must be paid in full, and none on earth can pay the price by themselves. We all must call on Jesus Christ to make up the difference. He has paid the price for each of us, and because of His great sacrifice we all have the ability to enjoy a reward we don’t deserve.

She then shared the story of Handle’s Messiah to further illustrate her point, by sharing the following video:

It was a beautiful lesson and a perfect start to our Easter Sunday!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Easter at Patchwork Farm.

Over the Falls

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Our jaunt north to visit Ozzie for his birthday was extended to include a trip abroad. Since Ozzie’s birthday falls on President’s Day weekend we had Monday off school. This allowed for an impromptu trip over the border. With Molly leaving in a month, and everyone itching to get a little more use out of their passports, we made plans to head to Canada, following our visit with Ozzie. Ozzie didn’t have permission for an overnight excursion and Braden didn’t feel capable of managing the emotions of the weekend, so that meant we were down to four family members for our impromptu adventure into Canada.

We had 24 hours free to explore this neighboring nation and planned to make the most of this mini vacation.

After dropping Ozzie back off at his residential facility (following his 16th birthday celebration in Erie) we drove two hours north to Niagara Falls, New York. We found a motel for the night with plans to cross the Rainbow Bridge in the morning.

The next day we headed across the border, ready for some fun on the Canadian side of the falls. I must admit that the trip across the border was met with some anxiety… anxiety that was justified given my last Canadian adventure with Toby three years ago. For those who’d like to relive that excitement see the link below:

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This wasn’t our first time visiting Niagara Falls, but it seems that no matter how often I visit, it takes my breath away. No picture or video does justice to the overwhelming sense of awe that you feel as you stand beside this magnificent wonder of the world.

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The roar of falling water, the spray of the mist, and the view of millions of gallons of water rushing over the edge of the rock face is powerful and it soon becomes evident why this view…this experience…draws 12 million visitors each year.

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We decided to start our day at the falls, enjoying it first from the front, and then from the back.

By signing up for “Journey Behind the Falls,” we were able to take an elevator down 125 feet to explore the 130 year old tunnels that run behind the falls.

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The lower observation deck was closed due to ice,

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But we were able to get a great view of “the backside of water” through the viewing portholes behind the falls.

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It was a wet excursion, and we were grateful for the complimentary ponchos we received.

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As we walked along the underground corridors we were able to learn more about the history of the falls thanks to the informative signs posted throughout the halls.

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Here are some fun facts about the falls:

  • Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls, from largest to smallest, the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Niagara Falls’ vertical height is over 176 feet in some sections.
  • The American and Bridal Veil Falls were turned off in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers to study the effects of erosion. There are plans to “turn off” the Falls again to rebuild two, 115-year-old bridges.
  • Niagara Falls’ current erosion rate is approximately 1 foot per year and could possibly be reduced to 1 foot per 10 years due to flow control and diversion for hydro-power generation.
  • The water that flows over Niagara Falls is at 25-50% capacity at any given time.
  • The first person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63-year-old school teacher Annie Edson Taylor. She is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls in an area called Stunters Rest, along with other Niagara Falls daredevils.
  • Cave of the Winds, located at Niagara Falls State Park is torn down and re-built every year.
  • The birth of Niagara Falls can be traced back more than 12,000 years to the end of the last glacial period.
  • Despite myths to the contrary, Niagara Falls does not freeze in the winter. However, the flow of water was reduced to a mere trickle for a few hours on March 29, 1848 because of an ice jam upstream in the Niagara River.
  • During periods of peak flow in the summer and fall, more than 700,000 gallons of water per second pour over Niagara Falls.
  • Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
  • Niagara Falls is not the tallest waterfall in the world; however, the beauty of the falls comes from the height and the incredible volume of water running over the falls at a given time.
  • Fish travel over Niagara Falls and most survive because of their ability to flow with the water

When we emerged back at the surface, we headed outside to get some pictures by the falls. The blowing mist made photography a challenge and our efforts resulted in some cold fingers and noses!

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But we were  blessed to catch a glimpse of a spectacular rainbow that had formed as a result of the sun shinning down on that blowing mist.

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From there we headed over to Clifton Hill to spend the remainder of our day, before our four hour drive home.

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We started with a stop at the Hershey Store…

Which we found to be a bit anti-climatic after our visits to Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but we were able to nab a picture with Kiss in front of the falls.

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Before we began exploring Clifton Hills, we stopped for lunch. In addition to Subway sandwiches, we order a bowl of poutine and a Mr.Big bar to share as part of our Canadian cultural experience.

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Then it was on to Clifton Hill!

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 Clifton Hill is one of the major tourist promenades of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Reminiscent of Las Vegas, this street contains a number of gift shops, wax museums, haunted houses, video arcades, restaurants, and themed attractions. Unlike the Vegas Strip this touristy street is completely G-rated and popular with families.

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Although this area of the falls is touristy and tacky, there was something fun about strolling among the neon lights and crazy buildings that made us feel like we were on vacation.

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What drew us to Clifton Hill was a coupon we received for a discounted Fun Pass. This Fun Pass offered admission to six different Clifton Hill attractions for $25.00, an incredible discount when compared to the cost of paying individual admission prices. 

One of the attractions that was included was the Movieland Wax Museum.

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The laughs we enjoyed at the expense of some very sad looking wax figures made the cost of the passes worth every penny.

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I don’t know when I have laughed so hard.

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While there were a few realistic representations of famous stars,

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Most of the wax figures were only recognizable because of the signage or the staging.

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Our next stop was The Great Canadian Midway where two more of the attractions included in our pass were located. The first was the Wild West Coaster, which was a fun 4D ride.

We took our seats. This unique theater had seats that moved with the 3D cartoon, taking us on a rollercoaster ride with a cowboy and his horse on a cute and kitschy adventure through old abandoned mines.

Also located in the midway, on the opposite side of a room filled with hundreds of arcade games, was Ghost Blaster.

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This was an actual ride. We climbed into our cart and entered a world of black lights and glow in the dark ghosts that we had to shoot with our laser guns. Our ride kept track of the points earned by each target we successfully hit with our laser beam. 

Our next stop was the Niagara Skywheel.

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The Niagara Skywheel, which opened in 2006, stands 175 feet tall and offers visitors magnificent views of both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.

We got in line for one of the 42 enclosed passenger cars. I am terrified of heights and there is no amusement park ride I hate more than Ferris Wheels. I will ride the most thrilling of coasters and love them, but that slow crawl of a Ferris Wheel passenger car up to the heights of this one, terrifies me…

But the promise of amazing views and great photo opportunities, propelled me to set aside my anxiety and climb aboard. Molly and Tyler were excited by the prospect of the thrilling views and exciting ride, but Rusty was firmly seated in my camp, wondering if the views were worth the anxiety…they were!

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The views were even better than promised.

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And because my heart health hadn’t been tested enough on the Skywheel, we decided to elevate my heart rate even more with the final experience included in our Clifton Hill Fun Pass…

Zombie Attack!

This, like the Wild West 4D show, involved sitting in a moving seat that took visitors on a ride while immersed in a 3D movie. This experience differed a bit though, as we were also armed with laser guns that allowed us to interact with the 3D movie on another level as we battled zombies that were popping out of the screen at us.

I know it sounds horrid, but as a closet fan of zombie thrillers, I LOVED this attraction. It was like stepping into The Walking Dead.

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I can’t handle most horror movies. Zombie shows are the only horror films I can handle, and only because I believe that zombies are one threat I could actually outrun. 😉

It was a blast… by far the highlight of the day for me.

We competed against the other visitors that filled the theater. Rusty represented magnificently, earning 1st place in the tally of zombies killed.

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I spent more time screaming than shooting and came in second to last, earning a score only slightly better than an 4-year-old boy whose hands were pressed against his eyes the whole time. 😊

It was a magnificent day of fun in our neighboring nation’s backyard!

Exploring Key West

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We woke Thursday morning to find ourselves docked in Key West.

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With a day full of sightseeing ahead of us, we ate a quick breakfast and prepared to disembark. We walked off the ship, ready to explore the city of Key West, the first stop on our five day cruise.

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Key West is an island city in the Straits of Florida. The city lies at the southernmost end of U.S. Route 1, the longest north–south road in the United States.

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Key West is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States and the westernmost island connected by highway in the Florida Keys.

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The island is about 4 miles long and 1 mile wide, with a total land area of 4.2 square miles. Duval Street, its main street, is 1.1 miles in length in its 14-block-long crossing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Straits of Florida and the Atlantic Ocean. Key West is about 95 miles north of Cuba at their closest points.

The island is popular for its eccentric, wild and laid-back vibe that is highly inviting to most cruise passengers. So popular is the island that it has provided seasonal homes to notable figures such as the 33rd president and one of the world’s most prolific writers.

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With the exception of Toby, the rest of us had never visited this southernmost Floridian city. Toby had visited Key West as a teenager, and had fond memories of the area. We were excited to take in the sites and learn more about this unique city. We decided that the best excursion to accomplish this was a city-wide scavenger hunt. We thought it would be a great way to learn about the area in a fun and engaging way.

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We walked to the starting location of the scavenger hunt and logged onto the website that began our hunt.

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By using a cell phone, we were given clues to follow and puzzles to decode that led us on a three hour foot race around the island.

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We had to seek out monuments and places of interest by relying on general knowledge, problem solving, keen observation and by utilizing the knowledge of the locals.

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It was a blast, and we were a pretty great team.

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It helped that we had a myriad of strengths between our team members, with some serving as the navigators, some were especially good at the puzzles that had to be decoded, while other’s had a strong knowledge of US history that we could tap into.

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Then there were our extroverts who boldly approached anyone and everyone to help weigh in on the questions we were seeking answers to.

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As we moved around the island, seeking out the next clue at the next location we learned much about the island’s history and soaking in its unique culture.

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Combining 19th-century history with its vast tropical charms, Key West is a haven for adventurers and historians alike.

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Its unique beauty mashes together brightly colored picturesque colonial houses with lush tropical gardens.

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Its narrow streets are lined with vintage shops, eateries, and watering holes. The coastline as well is breathtaking and is graced by the azure waters of the Atlantic and Gulf stream that boards the island on either side.

And then there are the chickens…

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Can we talk about the chickens?! They wander the streets like they own the place, something I found charming but that Gracie found terrifying.

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They are her greatest phobia. But like them or not, they are definitely part of the Key West ambiance!

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As we walked around Key West, the scavenger hunt clues led us to the following fascinating locations:

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If mystery is your thrill, visit Key West Cemetery to learn the interesting part of the town’s former times. The gravestones of fallen soldiers and townsfolk go into depth about the life and death of the individual. Epitaphs like “I told you I was sick” among others can be traced in this location, making it a twisted but interesting fun thing to explore. Here we had to seek out certain tombstones then add up the combined years of life to unlock our next clue.

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Key West, Florida, has a wild nightlife. One of its most iconic bars includes Sloppy Joes. Sloppy Joe is an old vintage bar that brags of Ernest Hemmingway as a longtime patron. Here we had to figure out whose picture was on the wooden sign out front. (It was Earnest Hemmingway.)

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Then we headed over to the Hemmingway House, an 1851 Spanish colonial building that hosted one of the world’s greatest writers of all time. The most intriguing thing about this home is that the famous writer lived here for almost a decade.

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The house is located in a picturesque, lush, peaceful environment and is easy to see why Ernest Hemmingway was inspired to write some of his masterpieces here.

Another home that required our attention was the Little White House. This home was originally a naval station’s command headquarters during World War 1 and World War 2. Harry Truman, the 33rd US president, called this house, home for several winters. Truman visited Florida 11 times and used to reside in this little white house. Our mission at this location was to figure out what other U.S. presidents had visited the Little White House.

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Our hunt led us to another iconic location. This one however was not historical but rather culinary.

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Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shoppe is one of these popular restaurant destinations and has been for over 27 years. Being a signature dessert for Key West, Florida, Key Lime Pie is a taste visitors don’t want to miss!

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We entered Kermits with the mission of solving the riddle asking us to name the ingredients in a key lime pie, but ended up doing some shopping and spending time loving on Pirate, the shop dog.

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We continued our hunt, seeking out 20 different locations by answering 20 different clues, to win the hunt…Woo hoo!

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We ended up returning to Kermit’s at the end of our hunt to indulge in one of their famous Key Lime Pies.

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We just couldn’t leave the Keys without tasting their most iconic dishes. It was AMAZING! Best Key Lime Pie I have ever eaten!

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We were done at 2:00 and had until 4:00 before we had to be back on the cruise ship. We debated as to what to do with our remaining time. Tyler and Braden were eager to get back on the ship so they could get in the pool and cool off. That sounded good to Zach too, so he took the boys back to the ship.

Toby expressed a desire to revisit an attraction that left an impression on him as a teenage boy: Mel Fisher’s Treasures.

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There is a well-known treasure hunter called Mel Fisher, who made the discovery of “Atocha” the sunken vessels.

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Nuestra Señora de Atocha (Spanish: Our Lady of Atocha) was a Spanish treasure galleon and the most widely-known vessel of a fleet of ships that sank in a hurricane off the Florida Keys in 1622. At the time of her sinking, Nuestra Señora de Atocha was heavily laden with copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, and indigo from Spanish ports at Cartagena and Porto Bello in New Granada (present-day Colombia and Panama, respectively) and Havana, bound for Spain. 

Beginning in 1969, American treasure hunters Mel Fisher, Finley Ricard and a team of sub-contractors, funded by investors and others in a joint venture, searched the sea bed for Nuestra Señora de Atocha for sixteen and a half years. In 1980, Fisher had earlier recovered portions of the wrecked cargo of the sister ship Santa Margarita. He also proposed the idea to several other potential helpers, who were discouraged by the fact that this dangerous professional diving job would be paid at minimum wage unless the ship could be found. The Nuestra Señora de Atocha wreck and its mother lode of silver, gold and emeralds was finally discovered in July 1985. 

The treasure is on display at Mel Fisher’s Treasures, a place Toby was eager to visit again, so he and Grace headed to the treasure museum for a daddy/daughter date.

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One of my bucket list items was a visit to Southernmost Point Monument. It was a 25 minute walk from the port, but despite the hot and humid weather, we thought it was worth the hike!

After all, how else do you let the rest of the world know you have been to Key West? One must take a photo of onesself at the Southernmost Point Monument. This monument is a giant buoy built in the ’80s to represent the southernmost point of the United States.

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Molly and Rusty opted to join me. We enjoyed our stroll, then patiently waited in line for our chance to snap one of these iconic photos.

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We returned to the ship with 30 minutes to spare.

It was a beautiful day in a beautiful city. I fell in love with Key West and hope to return again for a visit someday!

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”

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A Christmas Story:

“Set during a snowy Christmas season in 1940’s Indiana, nine-year-old Ralphie longs for the ideal Christmas gift, a 200-Shot, Range-Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” But when gruff dad and doting mom, and even a stressed-out Santa quote the usual BB gun warning, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie mounts a full-scale, hint dropping campaign that is a sly combination of innocence and calculation. The movie is not only about Christmas and BB guns, but also about childhood and a semi-dysfunctional family life.

Ralphie endures endless kid-sized trials and classic moments: A bully with “yellow eyes” and a rancid coonskin cap terrorizes him. There is a sequence where a kid is not merely dared but Triple-Dog-Dared to stick his tongue onto a frozen lamp post, and the fire department has to be called to remove him from the pole. Ralphie’s Old Man winning the “Major Award” of a garish lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg. Ralphie blurts out the Queen Mother of swear words and gets his mouth washed out with Lifebuoy soap. His long-awaited Little Orphan Annie Secret Society Decoder Pin translates a radio program’s top-secret message that turns out to be a crummy commercial. Even Santa is a scary fraud. But Ralphie hangs tough and ends up getting his BB gun.”

A few years ago I discovered that the house used to film this iconic movie was in our own backyard…

Well, pretty close to our backyard…

And I’ve been itching to pay this classic Christmas location a visit.

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Monday provided us the opportunity. After a hard weekend I decided that a play day was in order. I was looking for a shot of Christmas cheer and just wanted a day of fun with my boys, so after a trip to Erie to drop Ozzie off we headed west to Cleveland to visit A Christmas Story House.

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We arrived and found parking between A Christmas Story House and the Bumpus House. Our hopes were dashed when no bloodhounds ran out to greet us.

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This Cleveland Street of 1940’s style houses is now largely dedicated to honoring the movie that was filmed here. On the street four separate homes have been set aside for this Christmas experience, including the Bumpus House which is now a bed and breakfast and can be rented out for the night, A Christmas Story House which is an interactive recreation of the actual movie set, A Christmas Story museum containing memorabilia from the movie and interesting background information about the making of the movie. The final building is a huge gift shop containing all sorts of fun Christmas Story souvenirs, like character hats, leg lamps, pink bunny pajamas and cans of Ovaltine.

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It was in the gift shop that we started our tour. We purchased tickets for the 12:15 tour and then perused the gift shop, killing time and enjoying some belly laughs!

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At 12:15 we joined two dozen other visitors and walked across the street to A Christmas Story House, our first stop on the tour.

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We gathered on the front steps to hear more about the history of the house and how it came to be the home used in the movie.

When production was in the beginning stages the production team began scouting out locations for filming. They were in search of a department store for filming the Santa scene. They sent out letters to department stores across the country hoping to find a store that offered a tall interior space that was capable of holding the two story Santa display with the exit slide, as well as a department store that would agree to keep their store decorated for Christmas, months past the Christmas season, so filming could take place.

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The call went out to hundreds of stores but only one responded. It was a department store in downtown Cleveland. The scouting crew made the trip to Cleveland and decided it was a perfect location for shooting that scene of the movie.

Knowing that Cleveland was a steel mill town, the production crew decided they wanted to get some long shots of the mills along the river. Rather than asking for directions they decided to follow the smoke pouring forth from the mills and in their search for the steel mills ended up in the neighborhood that would become the home base for the bulk of the movie. When they saw Ralphie’s house in particular, they knew they wanted to rent it for filming. It was as though the house was trapped in the 1940’s and held many of the elements they were looking for, including a porch large enough for the leg lamp delivery, a large picture window for displaying the major award, and a fenced-in backyard with a view of the mills.

They approached the owner while lunching at a pub across the street and offered him $20,000 to rent the house for three months. The owner quickly rehomed himself at a local hotel for the duration of filming. That pub is still there today and offers a “Randy Special” of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on their menu as well as a challenge to customers. If you can eat the entire dinner without using your hands or utensils you will win a free t-shirt.

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If we had more time it was a challenge Rusty would have eagerly taken on!

Then we entered the house and were set free to explore this interactive experience. We were allowed to touch decorations, sit on the furniture, and pose for pictures throughout the home that had been renovated to look like the original house that this 1983 classic was filmed in.

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I LOVED exploring and being able to actually step into a scene from a favorite childhood movie. The little details added to the suspension of disbelief, making us feel as though the Bumpus dogs would come running through the kitchen door any minute.

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The second floor consisted of Ralphie and Randy’s bedroom,

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And the bathroom where Ralphie decoded his Little Orphan Annie message and got his mouth washed out with soap.

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In the upstairs hall guests can lift the telephone receiver and listen to a familiar tirade.

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On the first floor we found the kitchen.

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While in the kitchen, Rusty climbed under the sink to reenact Randy hiding in fright, fearful Ralphie would be killed,

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We also checked out the dining room where the major reward was delivered.

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Many might recall that the printing on the crate cuts off, leaving it to say “His End Up.” We found out the reason for this. It turns out that a neighborhood carpenter was hired to build the crate. He failed to measure the front door, an oversite that wasn’t discovered until they were filming the scene. The quick fix was to saw off the edge, making it narrow enough to fit through the door and taking the “T” with it,

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The living room was where much of the movie was filmed, including:

Christmas morning under the tree,

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Ralphie listening to the Little Orphan Annie radio program,

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The Red Rider BB gun tucked behind the desk,

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And the leg lamp that holds a place of honor in the center window.

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We exited through the back door into the back yard that served as the scene for Ralphie’s broken glasses,

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Before walking across the street to the museum.

In the museum we were able to learn more behind the scene facts including the fact that at the last minute the director decided he wanted to pull an Alfred Hitchcock move and make a cameo appearance in his film. He appeared as a walk on during the scene when the Old Man was across the street admiring his major award from outside. The funny thing we learned about his impromptu appearance was that he didn’t think about a costume change, so in a scene of characters dressed in 1940’s clothes he is wearing a distinctly 1980’s outfit, complete with a Miami Dolphins knit hat.

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In the museum we were able to see many original costume pieces from A Christmas Story that are on display,

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As well as one of six of the original Red Rider BB guns that were manufactured for the film. Of the original six, only three are accounted for.

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The tour guide told us that when searching garage sales for these three missing pieces of movie memorabilia you can know they are authentic by three key traits: a compass on the stock of the gun, a sun dial on the stock, and the tassel on the left side of the gun. Once Tyler heard that the last one sold at auction sold for $200,000 he has been itching to hit a flea market or two!

In touring the museum we also learned that weather worked against the production crew that winter. There was no snow, and snow was need for the scenes they were filming. The solution? Soap suds! They hired the local fire department to coat the street in soap suds with their big hoses, creating the illusion of snow during a dry, unseasonably warm winter in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The illusion of falling snow through the picture window was created using boxed mashed potato flakes…genius!

Our final stop was at the two car garage attached to the museum. Parked within its walls were two of the original vehicles used in the filming of the movie…

The Old Man’s car whose flat tire led to Ralphie’s infamous, “Oh, Fudge!” moment:

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And the fire truck that came to Flick’s rescue when he took the triple-dog-dare and stuck his tongue to the frozen flag pole:

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If we didn’t have to hurry home for Tyler’s dyslexia tutoring we probably would have lingered longer at this fun Christmas location,

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But our day of Christmas festivities wasn’t done yet. We had another Christmas activity planned for that evening…

Stay tuned!

 

 

Zoo Adventures

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On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the boys’ school break began at noon. While they spent the morning wrapping up school work for the week, I spent the morning baking and prepping for our Thanksgiving feast. At noon we all hit pause on the tasks at hand and packed lunches for our afternoon adventure.

Ozzie had be approved for a 24 hour home pass for Thanksgiving Day and the transport van was scheduled to drop him off in Pittsburgh at 5:00pm. Knowing we needed to trek down to Pittsburgh anyway, and since school wrapped up early, we decided to take advantage of free zoo days at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

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For one week a year (usually during Thanksgiving week) the Pittsburgh Zoo opens their gates to the public for free as an expression of gratitude to the people of Pittsburgh. With the cost of admission being $16.95 per adult, this is a great deal to take advantage of, especially for large families made up of primarily adults!

We arrived and found the zoo to be far less crowded than we expected. We could only assume that most people were at home preparing Thanksgiving dishes for the following day.

The weather was beautiful. It was classic November weather. The sun warmed our faces while the chill in the air nipped at our noses. The winds were just strong enough to make the fallen leaves dance at our feet.

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 We had three hours to wander the zoo before needing to pick up Ozzie so we headed out exploring the zoo and enjoying the animals.

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One of our favorite exhibits was the gorilla enclosure where a baby stole the show with her toddler-like antics.

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I could have sat and watched her play all day!

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We also really enjoyed the beaver den where a family of kits kept their parents busy with their non-stop movement. There is a reason we use the expression, “Busy as a beaver.” One of the kits went about diligently collecting leaves and piling them in the corner of the pond. Unfortunately the little beaver hadn’t figured out the importance of placing your leaf collection on land if you want them to remain where you placed them. He continued to re-chase the same leaves that kept floating away from his pile into the center of the pond.

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The otters (both sea and river varieties) are always a family favorite. They truly are the “puppies of the sea.” They were so social and animated as they interacted with the visitors watching them through the glass.

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When we meandered by the sea lions we discovered a training session in progress. We stopped to watch as three trainers worked with the three sea lions, putting them through their paces as they showed off their collection of tricks.

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The aquarium is always Tyler’s favorite stop at the zoo.

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Pittsburgh boasts an impressive aquarium for a landlocked location, and for Tyler, our resident fish lover, this always proves to be his favorite part of the zoo.

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Personally, I am a fan of the larger mammals. I love the elephants and big cats that call Pittsburgh Zoo, “home.”

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Located in the area of the zoo called Pier Town guests will find the seals, otters, and of course the polar bear!

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The polar bear is another one of our favorite animals to watch!

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At 4:30pm we began moseying our way back to the front gate so we wouldn’t be late picking up Ozzie. We had a full Thanksgiving weekend ahead of us with many fun, family adventures planned,

But I can’t think of a better way to kick off our Thanksgiving holiday than a beautiful day at the zoo with three of my favorite guys!!

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Grace and Zach’s Wedding Reception

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It is hard to believe it has been two weeks since Grace and Zach’s wedding reception. Since that day they have enjoyed an amazing honeymoon abroad while the rest of us spent time recovering from one heck of a party!

Slowly, the house is returning to normal, as each piece of furniture and each decoration finds its way back to its original spot. and we ease back into the routine of everyday life.

Molly has returned to school in Idaho. Grace and Zach, now home from their honeymoon, are enjoying the adventure of married life as they establish their own routines and traditions in their darling little apartment.

The reception was beautiful. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Grace’s vision of the night came to life in a way that made it feel as though we had invited our closest friends and family over for a holiday dinner. There was comfort food, familiar faces, music, laughter, dancing and displays of love that left all our hearts overflowing with gratitude over the blessings of their union.

We made the decision ahead of time to hire our dear friend, Holly (who is an amazing photographer) to capture the magic of the evening so that I wasn’t having to watch the events of the evening unfold from behind a camera lens…

And yesterday she sent us the edited photos, allowing us to relive what was an amazing night.

She perfectly captured the feel of the evening and the love that overflowed as we celebrated the nuptials of Mr. and Mrs. Tame.

Here is a look into that blessed night:

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The whole event made us dance with joy!

Home Sweet Home

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On the Monday following Grace and Zach’s reception they arrived at our house at noon to catch a ride to the airport. They were headed off on their honeymoon and Molly and I were acting as their chauffeurs to the airport. They were on their way to Florida where they would board a cruise ship for a five day cruise to Mexico.

At the airport we bid the honeymooners goodbye. It was an emotional farewell for Molly who would be back in Idaho when they returned from their vacation. The week had spoiled us with an abundance of family time, and for these two sisters, who are also best friends, the time together was a gift.

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After tearing Molly off Gracie, we bid the happy couple farewell and happy travels before heading back home where we made the most out of our last 24 hours with Miss Molly.

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The following morning we returned to the airport at 4:00 am to send Molly on her way.

Once all my kids were safely launched, I indulged in some much needed rest and recovery from the month previous. Life had been a non-stop, emotionally draining, physically taxing whirlwind since mid August and all I wanted was to sit and do nothing for a day or two…

And so that’s what I did. Aside from the most pressing tasks, like schooling and meals, I took a break from all other responsibilities so that I could recover.

By the end of the week I had rallied enough to focus on a project I planned to take on while the honeymooners were away. Zach and Grace had both been so busy working full time, attending school, and preparing for the wedding that they hadn’t found a spare minute to do anything at their apartment. It was filled with boxes brought over from their rooms at home, and stacks of gifts generously given by friends and family, making it look more like a storage unit than a home. Knowing Grace was filling overwhelmed at the idea of returning home from her honeymoon and jumping straight back into school and work the following day, with no idea when they would find time to set up house, I decided to surprise them.

My love language tends to be acts of service and I couldn’t think of a better wedding gift for my daughter and new son in law then to transform their apartment into a home. I spent Saturday working at their apartment and had a wonderful time organizing and decorating. It was like playing with a full size doll house!

When I was done I surveyed the home that would be the birthplace of their future together as a married couple and couldn’t help but smile. As I locked up I whispered a prayer for their marriage and their future as a couple…

That this little apartment might be a place of much growth, much love, much prayer, and much happiness for my oldest daughter and the man she has chosen to spend eternity with.

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Love is in the Details

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Once the wedding day came a close, and we bid the bride and groom goodbye for the night, it was time to turn my focus to the reception. There was much to do in preparation for the celebration that followed the wedding two days later. In an effort to plan an event that was both beautiful and affordable, we opted to make Grace and Zach’s reception a home-grown affair. Luckily this homey theme tied beautifully into Gracie’s vision for the day.

As we began making plans months ago, Grace shared her vision for her reception. She wanted a vintage feel that made guests feel as though they were coming over for a family dinner. Since we don’t have the space in our dining room for 200 guests, we opted instead to turn the church’s cultural hall into home through the use of decorations from our house and heirloom photos. The theme was “home is where the heart is,” and that theme was a joy to bring to life. I am a firm believer that love is in the details and it is our hope that through the details in the décor our guests felt loved and felt the love Grace and Zach share. Here is a sneak peek at the reception hall prior to the celebration.

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Using Toby’s trailer we loaded up furniture from home to transform the gym into a reception hall.

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Continuing with this “family dinner for 200” theme, we opted to serve different homemade soups, along with salad and bread.

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We used pumpkins to serve as signs to identify the various soup choices.

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In the lobby we set up the “guest book.” Using the beautiful antique desk given to Grace and Zach as their wedding gift from my parents, we created a homey little vignette to greet guests.

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The bride and groom opted to pass on a traditional guest book, choosing instead to purchase a family bible with note taking margins for their guests to mark their favorite scripture and pen a message of love.

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For our younger guests we prepared activity boards as gifts to entertain them during the ring ceremony. Each clipboard came with colored pencils and wedding themed activity/coloring sheets.

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Pittsburgh Cookie Table Sign

For those readers not from the Pittsburgh area, you might not be familiar with the traditional cookie table. This sign was displayed to explain why cookies are served in addition to wedding cake at most Pittsburgh wedding receptions.

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The cookie table as it slowly filled up with cookies donated by family and friends.

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“To go” bags were provided so guests could take cookies home to enjoy later.

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Grace and Zach wanted to make their reception as much about celebrating family as they did celebrating their own love. They accomplished this through a lot of thoughtful and personal touches, including incorporating loved ones’ wedding songs as part of the DJ’s playlist for the evening, and in doing so allowed couples the chance to enjoy a slow dance to their own wedding song.

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Apple cider was the drink of the night at their October reception.

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Their beautiful cake was made by our talented friend, Kelly. Gracie’s request was a “naked cake,” one that was thinly frosted and decorated with fresh berries. It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

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The couple opted to have a ring ceremony at their reception so that family and friends could witness the exchanging of rings. In creating a space in the reception hall for that to take place, we opted against a traditional arch and chose instead to create a “arch” using old ladders and vintage details to create a more unique “arch” for the ceremony.

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The head table where the bridal party would sit.

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The tables themselves were decorated with mismatched vintage tablecloths, framed family photos, decoupaged houses (lit from within to glow when the lights were lowered), and mismatched glassware with fresh cut flowers.

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In family-style serving, each table had a cutting board with a loaf of bread in addition to salt sticks to accompany the soup for the meal.

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Our “party favor” was an individual apple pie at each place setting, tagged with the pun, “Appley Ever After!”

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The table numbers were recreations of old library cards to tie into the antique books that were displayed as part of the centerpiece at each table.

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The finished effect made me smile.

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But it wasn’t until the overhead lights were turned off and the room was lit only with strings of mercury glass lights that the place really began to feel magical.

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Photos of the actual reception will follow soon.

We opted to hire our talented friend, Holly, to capture the evening through photos, thus freeing me up to simply enjoy being mother of the bride and enjoy the magic of the evening. As soon as we get those photos back I will share with all of you, but I couldn’t resist giving you a preview of our magical evening with Zach and Grace.

The Big Day!

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We awoke Thursday morning, our hearts all aflutter…

It was Gracie’s wedding day!!

On Wednesday we headed out to Philadelphia where we would be setting up camp at a Home2 Suites. We booked two rooms for two nights and slept like babies upon arriving Wednesday night.

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On Thursday morning, after a tasty complimentary breakfast, we set to work, preparing for the day. While the boys enjoyed the hotel pool, the girls and I began pressing wrinkles out of wedding outfits and preparing for the day.

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At 11:00 we began getting dolled up for the big event.

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With the Mama Mia soundtrack serving as the background music to our day, we curled, pinned, and glossed our way into bridal beauty.

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Gracie’s heirloom engagement ring was beautifully complimented by the Color Street French tip manicure she gave herself the night before. A beautiful $14.00 manicure that looked like a million bucks!

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Final touches…

My already lovely daughters became show stoppers with the addition of bridal dresses and high heels.

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The beautiful bride and her maid of honor.

Then it was time for the boys to get gussied up. They all looked dapper in their matching ties, sewn by the bride and groom prior to the wedding.

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The fathers’ ties were gifted with a personalized iron-in tag printed with a message of love to the dads from the bride and groom.

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The male relatives also all received a beautiful metal tie tacks in the shape of the Philadelphia temple to wear to the wedding, while the girls all received beautiful scarfs to warm them against the October chill of the day.

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The mothers of the bride and groom also received personal gifts. Gracie gave me mine at the hotel before leaving for the wedding and I’m so glad she did.

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As I read her note of love the tears began to fall…

I was a mess as I read the inscription on my wedding day hankie and the loving message she penned in my copy of “Love you Forever.”

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Zach’s mother, Sherrie, received her wedding day hankie from Grace and a matching book from Zach at the luncheon they hosted prior to the big event.

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After many tears and lots of loving embraces, it was time to go. We were meeting the groom at the temple at 2:00 for photos. We opted to do wedding photos prior to the ceremony, as their 7:30 pm wedding ceremony would mean it would be dark afterwards and make wedding photos more of a challenge.

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Grace asked me to take their wedding photos rather than hire someone else to do it, so with Molly’s help we spent the next hour capturing the love Gracie and Zach share.

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The biggest challenge was the wind. With 30-40 mile an hour gusts, we found ourselves battling the elements.

It was a good thing I used an entire packet of bobby pins in Gracie’s hair! Despite the winds, her hair didn’t move.

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Molly and I didn’t fare so well!

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At 3:30 we strolled across the street to enjoy the luncheon  so lovingly put on by the groom’s family for the guests that traveled in for the wedding.

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The spread was amazing,

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And everyone enjoyed the time we had to celebrate the blessings of the day over good food and in the company of good friends.

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Following the meal, we took advantage of the beautiful courtyard that stands in the center of the church to take family photos with the bride and groom…

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Two families joined together in love.

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So much love in one place!

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Then it was time to stroll across the street to the temple and begin getting ready for the marriage ceremony. While the parents helped the bride and groom get ready, the siblings headed to the parking garage to decorate the “getaway car,” as Tyler called it.

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The boys each made posters ahead of time,

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And packed balloons and window markers to decorate Zach’s car.

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They did a stellar job with the help of Zach’s niece and some of his sisters.

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Then it was time for the big event, and it was beautiful! With tears of joy streaming down their cheeks, the bridcommitted themselves before family, friends, and Heavenly Father to love and honor each other from this day forward with a love that is never-ending and will endure into the eternities. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

They exited the Philadelphia temple to cheers of delight,

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As family and friends embraced them in love…

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Then it was time to say goodnight to the new Mr. and Mrs. Tame!

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Next big event: The reception!

 

Grace and Zach’s Wedding Pictorial

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Until I can steal the needed moments to record the abundance of blessings over the last few days, a pictorial preview will have to do.

Grace was a stunning bride in her $100 clearance dress so lovingly and artistically altered for Grace as a gift from the talented Miss Wendy.  She took a beautiful dress and turned it into a walking work of art that was so very Gracie!

Her bouquet was one of our homemade wedding projects, with roses Grace dried from bouquets given to her by Zach over the course of their courtship.

They were married Thursday evening, October 17th. The day was filled with festivities and joyful celebration as we celebrated the union of two beautiful souls deeply committed and in love. Their joy was infectious.

Prior to their wedding ceremony, at the Philadelphia Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we met to capture photos of the happy couple. I took 800 photos that day, finding myself enamored with the beauty of the bride, the adoration of the groom, and the sweet spirit that permeated the temple grounds. Here is a small sampling of the day.

I promise a more wordy recollection when I recover from the week enough to pen something coherent.

It really was a perfect day!

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