Gatsby Styled Wedding: Sneak Peek

A few months back, I got an email from a wedding planner I’d worked with over the summer. She was gathering vendors for a September styled wedding shoot, with a Great Gatsby theme, and wondered if I was interested in providing the food.

My first thought was, “1920’s Art Deco isn’t exactly the Bird is the Word look.” But then visions of Leo in his light linen suits flashed across my mind and Lana Del Rey’s haunting rendition of “Young and Beautiful,” started to play on my inner turntable. Champagne. Smoke. Lust. Betrayal. Decadence. Possible culinary combinations flooded in so fast, I could hardly think straight. It would be unlike anything I’d ever done before, but I knew I had to do it. That Gatsby is impossible to resist.

“I’m in.” I emailed back.

I’ll save the rest of the story for when I get the “real” photos- taken by our fearless photographer, and one of the brainchildren of this whole production, Meredith Bacon- but here’s a sneak peek at the shoot from what I snapped with my own camera.

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Waiting

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

Jaime and I, in front of our apartment.
Jaime and I, in front of our apartment.

So, wow. Um, I can’t say that I’m not really surprised by everything you said. But it’s a good surprised. I guess I’ll tell you my thoughts now. This is kinda scary!

I typed, as I attempted to pen a response to the email I’d received from Taylor earlier that day. The response that would dictate my relationship with this boy who I’d spent the last calendar year adoring, admiring and appreciating, from both near and afar.

Thinking, “I knew you were my future husband from the moment I saw you,” may not be the best route to take, I decided to play it cool.

I respect you so much, have loved getting to know you and enjoyed hanging out with you. You are hilarious, and crazy, and such an amazing example of a man of God. And you tend to be rather easy on the eyes. And I have totally felt like I could always be myself around you.

Don’t gush, don’t gush, don’t gush. Okay, so I gushed a little. But this was my chance! He’d opened the door, at least 70% of the way, and I didn’t want him thinking I wasn’t enthusiastic about it all.

So yeah, I guess what I’m getting at is that I have the same feelings for you. Even after we had that talk about how we should just be friends…I still did.

I’m afraid this was not news to anyone. Hah! I’m a bad liar.

But I wanted to respect that and I tried so hard to see you as a friend and nothing more. It was kind of hard when we hung out all the time at the end of the year, and though I asked God to take away my feelings if they weren’t supposed to be there, they don’t seem to be going anywhere. So I don’t know exactly what you want to do with that information, but there it is.

I continue on to say that there’s no rush, I had concerns too (maybe not 30% worth, but still some) and we had all the time in the world to figure things out. And then I bragged about finishing the latest Harry Potter book in under five hours because, priorities. I thanked him for sharing his feelings with me and said I would await his response.

And await his response I certainly did. For about three more months. The email I got back the next day, was about four lines, and basically said, “we’ll see what happens.” If only I could have known then that being in agonizing suspense would kind of become the trademark of our relationship.

Strangely enough, my journal for the rest of the summer is filled up with quotes and verses about waiting for things you really, really want. Pure coincidence, I’m sure.

I also spent the rest of the summer debating the pros and cons of starting up a relationship unlike one I’d ever encountered before. With a guy whose sweet face made me go weak in the knees. With a person who could be “the one,” when we were both still so young. With so many other things going on in my life- college, basketball, friendships, etc. I’d never been especially good at focusing on two things at once, and I worried over the effect a boyfriend would have on my life as I knew it.

As school drew near, I took a break from making lists and took the time to read a book that Taylor had recommended earlier in the summer. Wild at Heart, a widely popular book at the time, was all about sticks, rocks and other manly things, and was quite an eye opener for me. It made me see that all the guys I’d attracted in the past had been drawn to me because they needed something. And one of the reasons I’d grown tired of most of them so quickly, was that very fact. I wasn’t prepared to be the sole source of their confidence and affirmation. I felt like that was a lot to ask of a person.

The fact that Taylor didn’t give me the time of day for the first six months I knew him, was the most refreshing thing in the world. He embodied so much of what I read about in this book of “real, wild men.” Brave and wise, patient and discerning, deliberate and humble. Strong and yet, strangely in touch with his feelings. He wasn’t perfect, but he was exponentially ahead of the game compared to most other guys. And I knew, that despite his disclaimer of 70%, once he made up his mind that he wanted me, his pursuit of me would be the thrill of a lifetime.

Thanks to that silly little book, I decided the only “pro” I needed to outweigh all my cons, was that boy standing before me, offering me at least 3/4 of his heart. And suddenly, the unbearable ache of waiting turned into a subdued flutter. More akin to the pleasant sensation of butterflies in my stomach, rather than the pit I’d previously carried around. My mind was made up. That tall, dark, third generation, tractor-driving farm boy was worth waiting for. And so I would wait. As long as I had to. As long as it took to make him mine.

Though he managed to fit in a few more disclaimer emails before we went back to school, my resolve couldn’t be shaken. As I packed my boxes and loaded my car, I silently let my guard down and allowed the excitement of the impending year flow in. The thought of seeing my friends, the prospect of a new season of basketball, sharing an apartment with my best friend, taking classes that were a part of my newly selected major (English!) and finally seeing those deep brown eyes I’d been dreaming about all summer long. It all hit me at once. All the waiting was over. The adventure was about to begin!

My heart swelled about five times it’s normal size and stayed that way all the way down I-5; through the Columbia Gorge, across the trademark Portland bridges, through the sprawling suburbs and finally, into the sweet Yamhill Valley, where another year of my Oregon life awaited.

“Is it possible to die of happiness?” I asked Jaime, as she and I moved into a two person apartment on campus. We spent the first day settling in, upacking our stuff, shopping for decor (priorities) and eventually venturing further into campus for some dinner.

Jaime and Brady had broken up rather abruptly over the summer and we were both a bit unsure how we felt about the whole thing. I was pretty convinced he was just a jerk, but she thought there was more to it then that. Though I wanted to be supportive and avoid an awkward first encounter for her, I knew Taylor usually traveled in the same pack as Brady, and as I’d yet to run into him, I was secretly hoping they’d be nearby.

We went through the burger line, spotting a circle of familiar looking fellas congregated off in the distance. But we were too busy meeting up with our teammates and eventually finding a spot on the grass to catch up, to give them a second glance. Eventually the dudes passed us by, and polite greetings were exchanged. Jaime, relieved to have the first post-breakup encounter out of the way, and me, left hungry for more of that fresh-off-the-farm dreamboat that flashed me a goofy smile as he followed his friends off into the distance.

Little did I know, I wouldn’t have to wait long.

Later that night, as Jaime and I settled in to watch an episode (or five) of Gilmore Girls, we heard a loud knock on the door. Not thinking anything of it, I opened it quickly and was greeted by one of my very favorite sights in the world.

There they were, those familiar Reebok pumps. At MY front door. On the first day I’d arrived back in Oregon. I’d spent so much time last year staring longingly at the boy in those pumps, and here he was at my door. Anxious to see ME, to know how MY summer had been.

My face flushed red, hit by a wave of realization, and all I could think was, “Let the thrill of a lifetime, begin.”

To be continued…

Simple French Toast

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Hi!!!! How are you? I’ve missed you guys. We’re back from our 12 day journey across the state of Montana (with a little bit of Idaho thrown in), and I have lots of stories to tell! But, I also have 1,200-some-odd photos to sort through, so in the meantime, here’s one of my very favorite recipes to tide you over.

As soon as we returned from our epic roadtrip filled with junk food and eating out, all I wanted was home cookin’. Are you allowed to crave your own cooking? Because that’s all I wanted. The entire seven hour drive home from Boise on Friday was spent day dreaming about the huge batch of lentil soup I wanted to make that night. And the next morning, this gloriously simple french toast.

French toast can be made about eleventy-billion ways, but this is my very favorite way. In fact, this recipe has ruined me for all other french toasts out there. Think of the trouble that causes. I can’t eat it at restaurants or other people’s houses. I can’t try out any new recipes. I’ll never be able to eat another kind of french toast EVER AGAIN! Ruined, ruined I tell you!

All that to say, you should probably give this a try. And soon. So you too can experience the ruin this dish will inflict upon your life. And since it’s all fall-y and stuff now, I bet it would be absolutely divine with some pumpkin honey butter. Vive la French (Toast)!

Simple French Toast | Bird is the Word (4 of 5)

Simple French Toast
Author: 
Serves: Serves 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf artisan-style bread (brioche, challah, french bread)
  • 8 tbsp milk
  • 8 eggs
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter
  • Maple Syrup (for serving)
Instructions
  1. Slice bread and place on a sheet tray. Pour a splash of milk on each slice of bread.
  2. In a bowl, whisk eggs, ½ the milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
  3. Pour over bread, turning to coat thoroughly. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp butter on medium, in a cast iron skillet.
  5. Once heated, place a couple slices of the bread in the skillet and cook 1-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.
  6. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar, pumpkin butter, or whatever pleases you.

Sidenote: I used a pretty savory rosemary bread leftover from our soup the night before, and let me tell you, it was DIVINE. Something about the herb with maple syrup and cinnamon. YUM. Recommended.

Yamhill Valley Client Dinner

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We were back at it this week with another client appreciation dinner, hosted by the lovely Rogers duo. And though it’s only been a week, man it sure feels like fall all of a sudden. Everything I wanted to cook this week was warm and bubbly. Comfort food that mixed beautiful, fresh, late summer ingredients with deep spices and rich flavors.

As we drove up and over the hill on our way to Yamhill Valley Vineyards, the light was absolutely golden. Everything glowed, the air was crisp and I felt a little giddy, knowing my menu was going to go down real easy in this environment.

Up until this last week I’ve been dreading the onset of fall. I mean I really missed out on a whole month of summer, thanks to my dear friend mono. I needed more fun in the sun! But then the air got this perfectly ripe apple crisp to it, I had a little reunion with my tiny kitchen, I went “school shopping” and what do you know, I’m officially in the spirit. Fall has seduced me, yet again.

So I decided to welcome it with open arms and between Valerie and I, we put together a gorgeous autumn table scape and comfort-centric menu to enjoy on the rustic back porch of the vineyard’s tasting room. The evening was just as warm and glowy as the weather outside, and everyone went home satisfied and well fed. Hearts and bellies.

Special thank you to my sweet husband who filled in as my server at the last minute and totally knocked my socks off! What a pro! As you can see, I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of him. He’s cute. Sue me.

In other news, we’re headed off to Montana for a couple weeks to enjoy some fly fishing and family time! I’m not sure if I’ll pop in to say hello in the in-between, so if not, farewell until then. Go out and enjoy this beautiful fall we’re having!

Menu
Grilled Sweet Corn with Mint, Lime & Chili Butter
Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup with a Goat Cheese Crouton
West Coast Jambalaya with Wild Prawns
Late Summer Apple Crisp with Nutmeg Bay Ice Cream*

*gluten-free- I use the glutino flour from Whole Foods and almost everyone agrees they like this version better than regular flour. Something about it crystallizes and it’s just lovely.

70 Percent

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

That little trip to Oregon was all I needed to get my head right.

Bidding all my “distractions” adieu, I dove head first into my summer job at the engineering firm, getting in shape for basketball and spending time with my family at the lake. It was a bit lonely, but also kind of liberating. I spent some quality time with my little brothers and watched A LOT of movies.

In all honesty, I may have spent a few hours a week on AIM, just in case tfoxman15 happened to log on. And…a bit of time reading, rereading and over analyzing all the emails we had exchanged thus far. I just wanted to have a good handle on things when I went back to school. Totally normal. Heh.

Anyway, sometime in mid-July, just as I’d taken a break from clicking “refresh” on my inbox to read the new Harry Potter book, I received a surprising email from my favorite farm boy.

I’d just woken up and stumbled down the stairs, sleep in my eyes and crackling joints. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and, as had been my habit all summer, retreated to the office to check my email for new arrivals. Like the other 247 times I’d opened my browser, I wasn’t expecting to see anything, but as I logged in, right there at the top was my favorite name in bold. My heart lept. And then my stomach followed. I folded my legs into the narrow office chair, sat up straight and clicked on the ominous little white envelope in the corner.

Deep breath.

Hey dog,

So I already finished Harry Potter (on Tuesday actually), it was pretty sweet…great ending. Swathing is done, so no more working nights, which is nice. Well, the real reason I am writing this is to let you know about some of the things I have been thinking about.

Breathing became sort of a problem at this point.

This is a bit scary because I don’t know exactly what your feelings are, but I have an inkling that if I asked you to go out on a date with me, you would. So, to be honest, I have kind of been waiting for school to start up, to see if I could make you my girlfriend.

Must. Have. Oxygen. My lungs burned. My limbs burned. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn my whole body was on fire. Did he just say…GIRLFRIEND!? I forced my eyes to refocus so I could keep reading.

He goes on to describe how he’d had a self-imposed dating ban for his first year of college so he could ease into the transition, hang with his buddies and focus on school work. Ahem, smarter than the rest of us. And that since the spring, he’d been thinking that he’d be okay with lifting the ban if the right girl came along. Enter, me.

He told me he liked my personality, respected my faith and “physically…” he thought, “well, let’s just say I think you are cute.” He told me he was excited about the thought of me being the first girl he had dated in a while. And though he could have, and maybe should have stopped there, in true Taylor fashion, he went on to give me the first, and possibly most infamous disclaimer of our entire relationship. One that would become the stuff of legends and get thrown in his face at nearly every family gathering. Poor guy.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, I haven’t felt a peace about the whole situation. I am having a hard time with this, because honestly, I think about you, and everything makes sense. Yet, I am just not sure. This could just be some jitters and insecurities…it really could. As of right now, I still give us a 70% shot of dating, so again, don’t get me wrong, it could still totally happen. I just thought I should let you know all this.

Oh dear. Now you may be reading this and thinking, “what a jerk!” Or, “you still fell for this?” But let me tell you something about Taylor. The dude makes decisions CAREFULLY. He takes his time, he refuses to tell you “yay” or “nay” until he’s ready, and oftentimes, even when he’s “decided,” he warns you that he may change his mind. He’s a 70% kind of guy.

It’s driven me absolutely bonkers at times, but darn it all, if his tortoise-like choices aren’t exactly what I need in my life. I run almost 100% on instinct; I feel, I act. If I’m in, I’m all in. And then three months down the road, I’ve changed my mind and I’m all in on something else. Which is fine when it’s TV shows, an ice cream flavor, or a new band, but really bites you in the arse when it’s major life decision making time (see: ages 16-24). I’ve been humbled a time or two (maaaaybe three) and now I try to make my choices just as slow and deliberate as the sweet boy who sent me that awkward, earnest, heartfelt email nearly ten years ago.

As I finished reading his note, my face mere inches from the screen, half-chewed cereal falling out of my gaping mouth, I grew a little bit sad realizing that once I finished, I could never read it again for the first time. I could never feel, in quite the same way, what it felt like when I first read that the boy I loved, actually liked me back. Lost for a moment in the the melancholy romance of it all, I contemplated coming back to finish it later. But curiosity got the best of me, and so I read on.

I would like to end this by saying that if you don’t feel the same way, and friends is simply how you view us, then that is totally fine (I’ve had feelings like this for you before, and got over them fine, so I hope I could do it again). I would like it if you would write back to let me know what you are thinking…and don’t be shy, tell me whatever you are thinking.

Taylor

What was I thinking? My heart felt so full it could burst. My mind raced with possibilities. I was thinking a million different things. I like him so much! And he likes ME! He’s so cute! I can’t wait to see him. What does 70% mean? Should I be worried that he has hesitations? But he wants me to be his girlfriend! And he said I was cute! And he was thinking about me on a TRACTOR! Swoon.

I expected all these thoughts. I knew all these feelings. What I didn’t anticipate was also feeling a little bit scared. A little bit hesitant, too. I’d always figured, if and when he ever came around, I’d be all in. Ready to go. 100%.

But I was fresh off a tumultuous year of personal growth and change, and though I felt good about how far I’d come, I didn’t know if I was ready to jump into a relationship that could be THE relationship, you know? I mean, I was 19 years old for goodness sake.

These sober thoughts snapped me back to reality, I realized I’d been sitting at the screen for half an hour and was running late for work. I printed out the email, tucked it into my purse, and silently stored it away in the most precious place in my heart. And then I dashed around like a mad woman, throwing on clothes and getting myself out the door.

Once I made it to work, after spilling my guts to the office secretary, I floated dreamily through the day, re-reading my favorite lines from the email and opening my inbox every now and then, just to make sure it was really there. Lunch was spent wracking my brain to figure out what I’d say in response and where this would all go. I wanted to live in the unanswered in-between forever, savoring the fact that He. Liked. Me. Well, at least 70%.

But as my work day ended and any sort of distraction faded away, despite my apprehension, something in my gut told me to press on. So when I got home that night, I donned the same pajamas, wedged myself back into the same office chair and sat in front of the same computer, to draft the email that would open the door to the rest of my life.

To be continued…

Keeler Estate Client Dinner

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Last night we embarked on a six dinner series that will stretch throughout the fall and into the holiday season. Each dinner will be held at a different winery in the valley, will have a uniquely crafted menu and decor, and will remain limited to a small group of 10-15 people. The dinners are being hosted by my friends Michael and Valerie Rogers to say thank you to their clients for 17 years of support, and I’m lucky enough to get to cook for them. Reconsidering your insurance yet? Me too.

To start our series off at Keeler Estate was either the best idea we’ve ever had, or the worst. The worst, only because I’m not sure how the rest of our dinners are going to live up to this one! Valerie and I spent a day earlier this month, driving around wine country meeting with winemakers and touring venues. As we drove around brainstorming life-changing dinner locations, the platform at Keeler suddenly popped into my head and I knew we had to stop by. I’d spent the weekend with the Keelers over Memorial Day and had sugar plum dreams of a dinner party up there since the moment I’d laid eyes on it. With no advance notice, Gabriele welcomed us into her home and was instantly as excited about the idea as we were. As we hopped into the RTV to head up the hill to the platform, I couldn’t help but smile as we climbed, and I waited for the inevitable, “Oh my word!” from Valerie in the back seat.

Keeler isn’t your typical winery and tasting room. For one, it isn’t open to the public for regular tasting (Except on Labor Day! Go!!). But more than that, there’s something so very Secret Garden about the place. The vines that enclose the property scent the air so strongly with the sweet smell of grapes, you can almost taste them. The road into their property- through the front gate- winds around their beautiful home, near a pond filled with Gabi’s ducks, by herb gardens, vegetables patches and fruit trees, and that’s all before you end up at a sweet guest cottage/tasting room pulled straight from the pages of Country Living.

The “tasting room” is where we had our guests congregate before last night’s event. As they arrived, they were handed a glass of bubbles and told to make themselves at home around the pond, under the oak trees, in between the gardens and rows of vines. Once everyone had gathered, Taylor (our hero!) chauffeured them up the steep, windy road to the platform where the beautifully dressed table awaited.

It was so fun hearing everyone’s reactions as they came around the last bend in the road, first eying the table and then the 180 degree view of the valley. We greeted them with a super cold, light Yellow Tomato Gazpacho and a small plate of antipasti and Andrea poured the first of Craig and Gabi’s wines. That got the party going!

It’s so fun to get to observe dinner parties from the “kitchen.” So magical when they hit that groove where everybody just clicks, and tentative laughter turns into massive applause at the next good joke. So fun to bring out course after course to a crowd who is humming with anticipation and actively engaging with the food. Last night was no exception. Nobody wanted the sun to go down, and despite it being a Thursday night, nobody wanted to leave.

Eventually, we cleared the plates and blew out the candles and Taylor drove our guests back down the hill to their cars. Craig and Gabi graciously gifted everyone with a signed bottle on their way out, and I’m pretty sure they made some fans for life. As we cleaned and packed up our own stuff, Gabi and I recapped the evening and relived all our favorite moments. I know I say this all the time, but what a pleasure it is to live this life I’m living. Making beautiful meals for lovely people in some of the most stunning places on earth. Yeesh. How did I get so lucky?

Thank you Craig and Gabi for hosting us so graciously, sharing your home and your beautiful wines! Thank you to the fabulous Rogers, let’s do it again, eh? Huge thank you to my gorgeous friend Andrea who provides five-star service, every. single. time. And finally, thank you to my love who juggled his fantasty football draft in between trips to the top of the hill and hauling lots of my crap around. You were a life saver. Love you all!

Menu
Yellow Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho Shooters
Antipasti with Newberg Bakery Focaccia, Keeler Table Grapes and Fino & Fondo Salumi

Watermelon, Peach, Cherry Tomato Panzanella Salad

Sicilian Marinated Oregon Albacore Tuna
with Grilled Summer Veggies

Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu

Four Wheelin’

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

Four Wheeling

My first week home from college was spent on cloud nine after my night in the dorm lobby with Taylor. We’re talking Cinderella-type nonsense, singing birds helping me get dressed in the morning and all that.

And then, one week expired, and all my sugar sweet day dreams came crashing down right on my head. As my daze wore off and I faced four months at home alone, I was confronted with the reality that while I could be a whole new person 400 miles away in Oregon, it wasn’t so easy back home. The people I knew there hadn’t experienced the last year of growth and change with me. They couldn’t see the progress and they didn’t understand the power of those deep brown eyes that kept me motivated. I stumbled blindly through my first month or so at home, flirting with old habits and acquaintances and making enough of a mess to find myself discouraged and ready to throw in the towel on all my resolutions. Luckily, one of my teammates was getting married at the end of May and before I knew it I was headed back to Oregon, just in the nick of time.

I spent the first couple nights with a bunch of my teammates at my future sister-in-law’s house. We watched movies and “laughed our brains out,” as my journal entry states, and it was just so refreshing. All these girls knew the “new” me and I could relax and be myself again. My heart lifted. We all got gussied up and attended our teammates wedding on the third day and I remember sitting in the pew thinking that maybe, just maybe, someday it would be me standing at the front of a church. I knew I was still a long way from being everything I needed to be, but at least a small part of me was on my way there.

After the wedding, we had all planned to part ways, but Melissa (future SIL) mentioned she was headed up to Silverton for a couple days to visit her boyfriend Andrew (Taylor’s twin). They had started dating around Valentine’s Day and though she and I weren’t super close at that point, I figured it wouldn’t suck too bad to have her as a sister someday. I casually offered to accompany her and we packed up the car and headed north.

It was on that drive that Melissa and I first became sisters. Though the men involved were far from realizing our roles in their lives, some part of me just knew. We hadn’t been especially friendly through the first year of school, but towards the end of the semester she had invited Jaime and I to be in a Bible study and I’d seen a new side of her. She was funny and sweet, but best of all she had this purity, this innocence that I hadn’t encountered before. She loved people arms wide open and wasn’t tainted by the cynicism or skeptical outlook I’d grown up with. She made me feel like I could be every bit the person I wanted to be, but that I was just fine the way I was, too.

As we drove up I5, we talked about basketball, our teammates, school and eventually got to the good stuff. As she opened up about the past year with Andrew, I drilled her with questions. What was his family like? What was the farm like? What was Silverton like? Eventually she turned the interrogation on me and asked what was going on with me and Taylor. She knew I had a crush on him, but didn’t know quite the depth of it all. I spilled my guts on the whole saga and she squealed and gasped at all the right parts. I remember getting nearer and nearer to Silverton and feeling the energy and excitement as thick as cotton in the cab of her car. It seemed she was just as okay with the idea of being in-laws as I was.

As we turned off the freeway and headed down the country roads, she had me call the Martin house to let them know we were on our way. I had butterflies the size of eagles as the phone rang and their dad eventually picked up the phone. I remember uttering something decently intelligible and him telling us they weren’t there, but were having a movie night at their old youth group leader’s house. Despite the pitch black of the country, we found our way there and pulled into a drive packed with cars covered in stickers of different colleges. As we walked in the door, my voice cracked in my throat as we said our hellos. The lights were out except for the glow of The Incredibles on the screen, so we took our places on the floor and joined the group. Melissa cozied up near Andrew and I tried to be inconspicuous as I scanned the room. As high as my heart soared to see Taylor tucked away in the corner of the couch, it almost immediately dropped as I also noticed his ex-girlfriend sitting nearby.

We made it through the movie and I think I remember suffering some introductions afterwards, before we all retreated back to the Martin’s house. We met Andrew and Taylor’s parents and little brothers before congregating in the living room to catch up. I’m not sure what everyone else did after that, but Taylor and I sat talking til nearly two a.m. He, swiveling nervously on a computer chair and me across from him, fidgeting with a piece of exercise equipment. He told me he’d been doing nearly nothing but farming since school let out and I noticed his gorgeous skin was already glowing bronze. Ignoring the fact that he’d been in the vicinity of his ex earlier, I reveled in his presence, and the resolve I’d lost over the last month was reignited in my heart.

And the next day only helped to fan the flame. We rose early and I realized that his family’s home was surrounded by acres of blossoming blueberry bushes as far as the eye could see. The sun shone brightly on us as we walked down the road, about half a mile, to the country church they’d grown up in. We listened to the preacher and sang some hymns and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first day of school, almost a year earlier, when I had sat behind his towering family in a similar worship service. And here I was now, in the middle of that row of giants, squeezed between Taylor and his younger brothers. It took all my strength not to squeal out loud.

After church we met a group of their high school friends at a nearby restaurant and I managed to enjoy my lunch despite the reappearance of Taylor’s ex. They didn’t seem to be particularly friendly and as I climbed into the front seat of his car to head back to their house, I felt the threat had passed. I was the one riding shot gun, anyway, and with my window down and Johnny Cash bellowing his melancholy tunes as we cruised down the highway, I didn’t have a care in the world. I was next to the boy I loved, listening intently as he pointed out all kinds of childhood landmarks, and soaking up every second of it.

Before my friends took me back to the airport, Taylor and Andrew took us over to the farm to show us around. We pulled into a circle drive under the draping branches of a giant oak tree, next to an adorable 1920’s bungalow, which I’d later learn was inhabited by his aunt and uncle. Parking in front of a group of giant green buildings, we walked the property, taking in the beauty of the fields and marveling at the impressive size of the biggest tractors I’d ever seen. Taylor glowed with pride as he gave me the tour and the dimples in his cheeks as he spoke almost did me in. Eventually he asked if I’d be interested in seeing the rest of the farm via 4-wheeler. My family had owned 4-wheelers and I knew it meant that I’d have a perfectly reasonable excuse to wrap my arms around his waist.

We climbed aboard and I turned around to make an “OMG!” face at my friends before I wrapped my arms around his toned torso. We drove out to the middle of the fields between the farm and his parent’s house, weaving in and out of rows and accelerating through straight stretches. He explained their different crops and the machinery used to maintain and harvest them. Thanks to the noisy motor, I had to lean in over his left shoulder to hear him. About four inches from his gorgeous, stubble covered jaw I had to resist the urge to pinch myself. At one point, as my hair blew in the wind and we accelerated into another straight stretch, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. And that same quiet voice that had whispered to me the first time I’d seen him, spoke up again. “This is it. He is it.” And I prayed with every fiber of my being that this farm boy would pick me to ride on the back of his 4-wheeler til the end of time.

To be continued…

Backyard Birthday

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Last weekend I helped my Aunt-in-law throw herself a 50th birthday party. It was kind of a surreal experience. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much my life has changed in the last 10 years, and I feel like one of the biggest changes has been really settling into my role in Taylor’s family. Sometime in the last couple years, a transition has taken place and now all his family really seems like mine. Since I’ve been around, we’ve seen some things, you know? Weddings, funerals, bar mitzavahs and lots and lots of birthdays. But none quite as fun and classy as this one.

We set the menu early in the week and planned to meet up Sunday morning to get started in the kitchen. My Mother-in-law joined us and we set to work on the array of salads and appetizers we had picked out. Not only did we pump out food for the 30 ladies who would be in attendance, we also decked out a big, long table in Auntie Sue’s beautiful backyard with my vintage dishes and flowers from her garden. Her husband had strung bistro lights and mason jars off the back deck earlier in the week. Picture perfect.

There was a moment early in the afternoon, as the three of us stood at our respective chopping stations, in a rare bit of silence, when I felt a grin start to creep across my face. A day spent surrounded by two women I admire so deeply, making delicious food and setting a beautiful table. It was pretty magical.

And then the guests arrived. I knew my Aunt was pretty wonderful already, but the fact that she has 30 friends who showed up absolutely thrilled to celebrate her, blew this introvert’s mind a little. Though I bounced back and forth from the kitchen a little to help her kids (our waiters) with the flow of the dinner, a good portion of my evening was spent at the table as well, listening to stories and conversations between ladies from different walks of her life. Not surprisingly, there was a common theme. Turns out Sue has blessed more people’s life than just mine.

There were a lot of highlights from the evening, but I think my favorite part was just watching everyone eat and smile, talk and laugh and go home looking happy with their hearts full. And man oh man, if I’m as wise, vibrant and beautiful at 50 as Auntie Sue, I’ll be a lucky lucky lady.

Happiest 50th Birthday Auntie Sue! Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

50th Birthday Party | Bird is the Word (1 of 1)

Menu
Cherry Tomato & Corn Bruschetta
Peaches with Prosciutto, Mint & Blackberries
Grilled Shrimp with Mango Salsa

Panzanella Salad
Grilled Marinated Flank Steak with Mango Salsa
Kale Pasta Salad
Stone Fruit Salad with Honey Mint Dressing

Flower Cupcakes
Peach & Raspberry Shortcakes with Mint Whip Cream
Sparkling Lavender Lemonade

Coming Home

Tractor | Bird is the Word
Photo by Ashley Courter.

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

I knew when I began this journey, there would be times when it got a little tricker than others. Putting yourself out there is always slightly terrifying, but then when people begin to tell you they’re paying attention, it goes from simply terrifying to a crushing pressure to create something great. Sometimes that pressure gets the best of me, but I’m trying to remember that while I want you all to enjoy this series, ultimately, I’m sharing this story for me. So I can remember, relive and record the best thing that ever happened to me and have a little fun in the process.

Speaking of fun, today, due to various circumstances like a defunct iPhone and forgotten laptop, I made an unexpected trip down to the farm. The closer I got, the more this familiar, glowy feeling started to rise up in me. I turned off the air and rolled down the windows, turned the music up full blast and took a deep breath of country air. The smell of fresh air, sunbaked grass and the dust of nearby combines hit me like a brick wall of familiarity and a singular thought came to my mind. “Home.”

That little moment is why I’m writing this story, our story. Because if you’ve known me for the last ten years, you’ve been witness to the stunning multitude of ways that a person can change. And our story, my story is a beautiful testament to the ways that life can bend and break you until you end up right where you need to be. And it all began one night in the lobby of a college dorm on the campus of George Fox University.

So my first year of college is over. Man, do I feel young; way too young for this to be happening. It was so weird to pack up, clean and leave the last eight months of my life completely behind. I don’t think I could have ended this year any better though.

We spent our last weekend all together at Brady’s family’s house in Oregon City (after they went to Spring Formal, and Taylor and I went to a movie). Then, this week, we all made it a point to go out almost every night; to the 24-hour Starbucks, 711, McDonald’s and Taco Bell for lunch on the last day.

I spent my last night- all night- in the University Hall lobby with the person I had wanted to be around every moment this year. As we exchanged songs, goals and booklists I couldn’t believe the gift of this boy in my life. He challenges and inspires me in so many ways. I know you have a plan for him in my life, God, whether or not it’s the same as mine. :)

So reads the fifth entry from my journal on April 30, 2005. Aside from my poor culinary taste at that point, a great deal of transformation had already taken place in my life. I’d gone from admiring from afar to a legitimate friendship with the boy I loved. I’d managed to foster a friendship with him and a few other guys without feeling the need to make them fall in love with me. I’d survived my first season of college basketball and somehow passed all of my classes. And I’d made some lifelong friends along the way. Moving home was bittersweet and my journal reveals plenty of anxiety about doing so.

But as I sat on the couch across from Taylor the night before we all left for the summer, downloading country songs I’d never heard of and adding his favorite books to my reading list, I knew that things would never really be the same. Sure, I’d stumble with some of my resolutions here and there. But there was something about just knowing this boy that had already profoundly changed me.

Deep into the merits of Johnny Cash v.s. Waylon Jennings (later I had to look up both), we stayed up so late trading music and stories, that it was well into the wee hours before we discovered I was locked out of my floor. He chivalrously volunteered to keep me company in the lobby and so our all-night vigil began. We passed the time telling stories about our nutty families, talking about books that changed our lives, movies we loved and our favorite sports memories.

Any time we spent time together, I couldn’t help but notice that his calm, easy confidence was contagious. His quiet spirit and unfamiliar kindness instantly calmed me down out of the high-anxiety world I tended to live in. I’d never been around men that were particularly gentle, but somehow he managed to be both strong and sensitive. And he listened to me, really listened.

The way his face looked was just priceless as he told me stories about working long hours on his family’s farm, lonely nights spent in a swather (I had to look that one up, too), skinny dipping in the swimming hole and stuffing his face with his mama’s home cooking. The mental image of him covered in dust, driving a tractor almost made my heart stop. My last boyfriend had spent more time in front of the mirror than I did.

He waxed poetic about the magic of growing up in a small town, playing basketball in front of a sold out crowd and the time he almost decapitated himself backing into an irrigation pipe. All I wanted in the whole world was to sit in that lobby forever, listening to him talk until the end of time.

But as he spoke, we noticed the orange-golden sun start to stream through the windows in our dorm lobby. And as I looked at him, this strange, glowy feeling was born in my heart. A feeling I couldn’t quite describe at the time. Being with him was just so perfect, my heart felt so full it could burst. And later that day as we ate our Taco Bell, posed for a group picture in front of Brady’s truck, and gave our good bye hugs, that glowy feeling turned into a dull ache. We were off for the summer, back to our respective homes, but some part of me knew that I wouldn’t truly be “home” until I saw that sweet face again come September.

To be continued…

Silver Linings

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Silver Linings post, and after yesterday, I’m feeling like it’s absolutely necessary. Yesterday was one of those days where I just felt blue from head to toe. The weather was drab, I was tired and embarrassingly sore from my first class at the gym, and everything just felt terribly, overwhelmingly sad. And that’s exactly what this Silver Linings series is about, you know? Picking out the good even when it’s hard to see.

One of my best friends told me yesterday, “life can be hard, even when it’s good.” So even in the midst of those days when all I want to do is curl up in bed and listen to sad music, I want to cultivate a grateful heart. A positive outlook. I want to be a person who looks around and sees the silver linings on a regular basis. Here’s a few from my life lately…

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Friends who make me feel known and support my dreams, even when they include sparkly green hot pants.

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A best bud willing to share giant huckleberry milkshakes and bucket lists.

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Opening birthday gifts at the lake while eating two heaping bowls of this stuff.

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Upper Priest Lake sunsets and feeling like all is right with the world.

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Exploring two new rivers with my fishing buddy.

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Celebrating the end of wedding season with a magical night on the farm.

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The most beautiful, thoughtful, unexpected gift from my beloved.

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A baby brother who made event prep 10 times more hilarious than normal.

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And bruised knees that made me feel like a legit fisherman.

Gratefulness is a gamechanger. What kind of silver linings are you finding in your life lately?