Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Steven Says I Forgot To Show You The Dining Room Table

So here it is!


We bought it from Klaussner Homes (who, by the way, promised to come out and fix a scratch in the table -- I really ought to call them about that). The entire set was only $900, which is beyond fabulous for a table and six chairs (in my humble opinion).


We've owned it for about a month and have already hosted two dinners. This was what I dreamed of during all those years in a one-bedroom-no-space-for-a-table-much-less-a-dinner-party apartments. (Although, come to think of it, my friend Tracy manages to host dinner parties in her one-bedroom-apartment, so clearly it can be done. Just not by me.) ;)


Happy dining, and if you're nearby, stop by for dinner sometime!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Spoiled Rotten.

Steven is a gift-giver. He is absolutely excellent at selecting the perfect gift. Sometimes this is an infuriating skill for him to have, because he always manages to outdo anything I give him. I just don't have the knack for it the way he does. He's very observant, so when I go into a store and slowly peruse my favorite items, he notices. And he logs it somewhere in his mind. And then, when the next birthday/anniversary/Christmas comes around, he goes out and gets that item. And he manages to stun me. Every. Single. Time.

So, of course, our anniversary was no exception. I hadn't expected anything (and, correspondingly, I hadn't GOTTEN him anything). So when I walked in the door from work on Friday, I gasped when I saw this:


I opened the top box, and in it was a beautiful oven mitt and potholder set. Steven had said before I opened the first box that the two items were "related," so I instantly thought there might be an apron or something in the second box. "Yay!" I thought to myself, "I can always use another apron."

And then. Then I tore open the wrapping to find something truly, truly awesome.


That's right, ladies and gents. Five-and-a-half quarts of absolute (enameled cast iron) perfection.


I stood there in total and complete awe for a few seconds, and then lifted it reverently out of its orange box and placed it solemnly on the stove (and it has remained in that prominent place since that very moment). And then I hugged Steven real tight and had a happy little weepy moment right there in my kitchen, still in my work clothes. (I think it is secretly his goal to pick presents that will make me break out in happy tears. In his defense, its not all that hard to do -- I'm sort of crazy for kitchen appliances like that. I all-out sobbed at the KitchenAid mixer he got me for Christmas a few years ago...)


Le Creuset. Can you believe it? That boy spoils me so. I couldn't wait to use it, so I made chicken scallopine on Sunday night for some friends who visited. And I have big plans for this week, including some No Knead Bread, but first this Summer Soup, for which I bought ingredients tonight!

Much delicious (slow braised and totally awesome) cooking will commence around these here parts soon!

PS - Everyone send good wishes to Jaimy as she takes the Virginia Bar Exam tomorrow and Wednesday. I remember it like it was yesterday. Go Jaimy Go! You can do it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Letters from Half-A-Decade Ago

Today is our five-year wedding anniversary. Five years. Whew. Doesn't feel like its been that long. (Although we are watching Independence Day on TV right now -- you know, the one where Will Smith punches the alien and says, endearingly, "Welcome to ERF!"), and I feel like it was in theaters pretty recently.

Wasn't it?

Time is relative, I suppose. :)


At our rehearsal dinner on June 23, 2004, after everyone had finished their meal, Steven's mom handed out stationery and pens, and instructed everyone to write a letter to us that we would open on our five-year anniversary.


It was 2004. I'd just been accepted to law school. It was the day before our wedding. We didn't have an apartment rented in Arlington yet. I'd never stepped foot inside the law school. The whole world was ahead of us, and we were equal parts thrilled and terrified.


And now, five years have passed. We've done more than I could have imagined -- we found an apartment, then another and another. I made it through my first law school class, then the second one, then the first year, the second year, the third year. Then graduation. I took a bar exam. For all the flashcards he dealt with, Steven practically took it, too. Then I took another one.

Steven landed a great job, then an even better one, then an even better one. We bought cars, traded them in, bought different ones.

And then we bought a house.


I could not, in my wildest dreams, have imagined on July 23, 2004, that we'd be right here, right now. I told Steven tonight at dinner that I wish the 2009 me had been able to talk to the 2004 me. I would have told her to quit worrying so much about the future. I would have told her that things will usually work out for the best.

And then I realized that my 2014 self would probably say the same things to me, now.

Funny how we don't really change that much over time. Same concerns, different backdrop. So I suppose I'll try to spend the next five years trying to worry less about "how will [insert Heather's Worry-O-the-Day] possibly work out?" Because it always does work out somehow. It always does.

We opened the rehearsal dinner letters the moment they came in the mail. We couldn't wait to see what people had written to us five years ago. And just seeing all of that familar handwriting was enough to bring us both to tears. It was precious, wonderful stuff. We read each letter, laughed, cried, and spent a goodly little while just pondering how much these last five years have encompassed.

After we finished reading all the letters, we folded them up carefully and stowed them in a special place. We might get them out and read them again from time to time, just to remember what it felt like to be ourselves in 2004, with the big scary world stretching before us. It felt great to remember all the love and support of all our family and friends, then and now.

And just so you can be a part of our little happy moment, here are a few of the letters, written to us five years ago yesterday:

Winner of the "Most Accurate Prediction": Josh Mulvihill (Steven's sister's husband)

"I predict 0 children by 2009, not by infertility but by choice." How did he KNOW?

Winner of the Making-Social-Plans-Five-Years-In-Advance: Jenny Mulvihill
"When you read this, give me a call and we'll make plans!" Always making plans- that's our Jenny!

Winner(s) of the "made us teary-eyed" prize: All of the letters from our parents. Something about opening a letter and seeing your parent's handwriting is just so very touching.

June Huff:
The bit about "when I found out I was expecting" brought the waterworks right on. :)

Debbie Steele:
I love this one because I can "hear" her saying these things to us. :)

David Huff:
Nice one with the AARP joke, Pops!

Daniel Steele:
We especially appreciate that Steven's dad identified himself by his ham radio operator call sign. :)

Most Excited Letter-Writer: A thirteen-year-old Chris Huff, dreaming of being voting age.

The front of the letter said, "Don't open this till I'm 18!!!" Haha.

There is something really precious about a letter from your sibling. It makes me want to go sit down and write a million letters to all my loved ones.

Jon Huff:

Matt Huff:

Thank you again, Mom Steele, for such a fantastically thoughtful idea. We were really blessed and encouraged by the letters, and I might go read them again, right now, they were that fun.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in our wedding and wrote us letters -- I've posted most of them on Facebook for posterity, so you can go see the rest there. We love you all and appreciate having you in our lives.

Now! Onward to the next five years! (Hurry, everyone got get a pen and paper and write me something to open in 2014. This is too fun to stop doing now!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer at its Best

We had originally planned to have a couple of folks over this evening for dinner, but given the amount of house-related tasks we had to get done today, we decided to reschedule for next weekend. I was slightly bummed, because it would have been fun to have folks over -- I enjoy entertaining more than I thought I would -- but our house was in no shape for company.

These pictures are from a few weeks ago, when I tried my hand at a recipe for barbeque chicken grilled in a foil packet. It was nothing spectacular, but it was documented on film, so by golly, we're sharing it with you.

After getting some much-needed laundry started, we went to Lowe's to buy some chicken wire to put around our fence, so that Pringles will quit sticking his nose through the fence slats. He did that last week and got bitten by another dog. After a trip to the emergency vet, a shaved snout, and some antibiotics, he's fine. But he hasn't learned his lesson and is still sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. So we're going to try some chicken wire to keep him in. (Bonus -- the chicken wire should also keep the bunnies out, which will help with their unyielding appetite for my bean plants.)


But Lowes didn't really have what we needed, so we bought me a watering can and some pumpkin seeds and headed back home, where we tackled the weeds in our front hedges for a couple of hours.

After a rainy start to our summer, we've finally had a good solid two weeks of sunshine. Which, of course, has practically murdered my hydrangeas, and the crabgrass has taken over everything else. (You never can have it just how you want it, can you?)

While I pulled weeds, Steven watered the hydrangeas, the azaleas, and pretty much anything he could reach with the hose on the "jet" setting. When he started washing off the sides of the house and an old matchbox car that he'd found buried in our garden, I took the hose away from him. :) Playtime's over.


We were about to put the hose away when I realized that my car was so filthy, I couldn't see out the back window. I nearly ran over a little old lady in the grocery parking lot the other day for that very reason.

So I hauled out the mop bucket and a sponge, and set forth to wash my car in our driveway. It was the most suburban-ish thing I think I've done since we bought the house.

Our little Carlie's gotten herself a limp lately. We took her to the vet, and they didn't have great news for us. At best, its arthritis. At worst, its cancer. We're going to dope her up on some good painkillers and really love on her a lot. I'm trying not to focus on the inevitable, but just take each day at a time. We love our little old girl a whole lot.

Boy, oh boy, was my car grimy. I think it had been at least 4 or 5 months since I'd washed it last. It desperately needed a wash, and normally we'd just drive it up to Suds Car Wash, but something about the sunshine and having the hose out and ready, it just felt so summery and right to be washing the car in the driveway.

With my arms covered in dishsoap bubbles, I scrubbed that little car till she shone. Steven came around and rinsed after my scrubbing, but it still took two full revolutions around the car to get it clean.


We must have been quite a sight to behold, because as we finished the last round of scrub/rinse, I heard our neighbor in the house behind ours, Ed, calling to us from across his backyard.

"Hey! Nice job there!"

We waved and smiled, and Ed kept going.

"We've got hot dogs over here if you want 'em -- come on over! Looks like you've been working pretty hard and could use something to eat!"

I looked at Steven, and he shrugged. We'd been politely avoiding their petitions to have us over, on the pretense that we had too much going on. But they'd caught us. We'd just spent nearly an hour washing my car in plain view. Clearly we had nothing better to do. Busted.


So we trekked through the next-door neighbor's yard and down to Ed's house, feeling like trespassers even though the next-door folks were already there, chowing down on hot dogs with Ed. We sat down on a bench in their covered porch, Ed handed each of us a plate, and the whole group of them peppered us with questions.

"And you came from where?" "But you don't have an accent?" "Oh, you're a lawyer?" "Oh! You work for Five Guys?" "You don't have any kids?" "Well, are you trying?"

Wow. (And no. But thanks for asking.)


Despite my initial skepticism (and despite the inquisition regarding our personal life), we actually had a good time finally accepting the invite to come over and "hang out with the neighbors." I now have a better understanding for why they spend so much time shouting to each other on the covered porch -- its nice out there, and with all the kids running around everywhere, you kind of have to shout to be heard.

And something about all the sunshine and the trip to Lowes and the sudsy water washing down our driveway -- it just felt right to conclude the afternoon with hot dogs in a neighbor's backyard.

Suburbia, we have officially arrived.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The travel bug hit us last weekend.

We didn't really plan ahead enough to fly anywhere. But we still wanted to get out of town.

Steven and I first met each other in a tiny little college town about three hours south of here. And this past weekend, for the first time in nearly 3 years, we decided to take a trip back.


Back to Lynchburg. Its like some sort of strange vortex that, once you've lived there for any amount of time and then move away, it starts itching at you to go back. You know, just to "see what its like." To see what's changed.

In some ways, it changed drastically. Like a younger sibling that suddenly grew up while you were away. You hardly recognize it.

Like this giant "LU" that they've carved onto what used to be lovingly referred to as "the Bald Spot". (Cue the collective gasp of horror from alumni...)

And that spot in the way back of the parking lot where you used to leave your junker car all summer, coming back in the fall to flat tires and a mouse in the exhaust? Yeah. Its a Barnes and Noble now. Ah, progress.


A Barnes and Noble with an unbelievable school-related merchandise section, I might add.


Also, a Barnes and Noble that sells my brother's band's CD.

Its on sale, too, apparently. :)

And, as if all of this grand improvement weren't enough, they are building a ski slope on the top of Candlers' Mountain. Wow.


Despite all this seeming change, in other ways, Lynchburg is still comforting and familiar. Like a favorite t-shirt. You know just how its going to feel, even before you put it on.


For example, Steven will forever be enshrined on the wall of his former workplace, O'Charley's.


See what I mean?


The Waffle House is still there, too. And its still trashy. We had either forgotten how bad it used to be, or we've gotten more demanding in our hygeine level requirements for dining establishments. (Steven sent his fork back and requested a clean one. Twice. And then he said he didn't want to finish the last half of his cup of coffee, because he "wasn't sure what was at the bottom of the cup." And he didn't want to find out.)

Mmm. E.Coli.

And our dorms are still right next to each other.


Steven used to walk me "home" to the front door of my dorm when I'd get back to campus after working late at the TV station. Come to think of it, I bet he was breaking curfew to do that. Ooh, I'm telling....


And the stairs that my roommate, Kera, fell down and broke her right arm the first week we lived together, requiring us to get REALLY comfortable with each other, REALLY fast, since I basically had to dress her every morning? Yep, the stairs are still there. I remember her big green cast like it was yesterday.


All in all, its looking a good bit more collegiate these days.


Although there was still randomness to be found. A giant paperclip made from PVC pipe. Why, LU? Why?


I told Steven they must've hired some good marketing/PR people. The branding has greatly improved.


As we meandered around the campus, I had visions of bringing my kids here someday, dragging grumpy pre-teens down the sidewalk by my old dorm room, and them being more interested in when they would be able to get back to their iPods in the family car than my next landmark sighting.

"Oh look, kids! This is the road where Dr. Falwell used to try to run over students in his giant black SUV! Isn't that great! Kids? Kids? Hello?"

The air was thick with memories as we walked around, and part of me felt like I could jump right back into classes as if it were yesterday. (That is, until I saw a couple of collegiate-aged kids sitting at the new campus bookstore. Oh dear Lord, I am practically ancient. Vintage, even. I was around when DeMoss was only one story tall. I know. Its shocking.)

There are still a few untouched corners that haven't been subjected to "improvements" yet. Here's the library, wherein I spent many an hour trying to make EBESCOhost work in my favor. (It was futile. EBESCOhost was doomed.)


We also took a little tour of all our old apartments. Little did I realize, but we must have lived in some sketchy places. I was afraid to unlock the door on a couple of stops.


In this lovely one-bedroom apartment, you can experience early AM ambulance visits, as a neighboring resident is carried out of his apartment on a stretcher. Presumably from some sort of chemical dependency issue. Delightful.


Similarly, in this beautiful old two-bedroom with wood floors and a cozy breakfast nook, make sure not to let your roommate lock you out, or you'll have to sit on the stairs and watch all the crazies walk by. And boy are they crazy.

Or perhaps you'd like a room in the suburbs, where the rednecks party until the wee hours and your roommates accidentally burn holes in the deck.

We visited downtown Lynchburg and our favorite restaurant. Yep, the one right next to the pawn shop. Jewelry, music, guns. Classy.


At the pawn shop, Steven showed me what he wants the basement to look like someday. (Keep dreaming, sweetheart.)


We checked out a couple of antique stores. Steven found a new friend.


Yeah, we spent some great years in this town. I started school in the Fall of 1999, and finally left town a week after we got married in 2004 (only to start law school a week after that! Oy vey...)


Here's where Steven bought my engagement ring.


And here it is, cleaned for the first time in five years.

We visited the church where we got married. I still think its the prettiest place in town.


And I struck a pose, just for old times' sake.


Hard to believe its been five whole years already.


A little older, a little wiser.


And just as much in love. Happy 5th Anniversary, dear!

(Aww, that was so sweet I nearly choked on all the cheesiness.) :)