Sometimes Things Work Out

Gerry had investigated marriage licenses in Rutherford County, Tennessee, months before. The website is pretty clear:

The Groom (male) and Bride (female) must be at least eighteen (18) years of age to obtain a marriage license. The Groom (male) and the Bride (female) are required to apply for the marriage license together in person and submit one of the following forms of identification:

  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Valid State Identification Card
  • Military Identification Card
  • Passport
 And
  • Social Security Number

No problem.

And look at this:

A Civil Ceremony is available in the Clerk’s Office. There is no additional cost for this service and no appointment is required.

Score! It’s a one-stop shop.

We called my brother and his wife, told them our plans and asked them to come with. Done.

Then Gerry suggested to his mother—who would have loved to be here except for that arduous trip across the Pond—that he could Skype her in. She was all over it. We “practiced” for weeks. She learned how to sign on and wait for my call.

And then Gerry began to worry. What if they only do the weddings at certain times of the day? What if they only do them in the morning? What if they take off for lunch?

So I walked in to the court clerk’s office to ask a few questions. The week before my computer had died and I was still in a bit of a daze. I was behind on work, had a hundred things to do to prepare for Gerry’s arrival, and my stress level was through the roof.

The gentleman who spoke to me that day was Rick Spence. I asked him all the What If questions, and we had nothing to worry about. It would all be fine.

One more question though: Where, exactly, do they marry you? Is it private? I’d heard stories about folks who got married with inmates of the county jail as witnesses (because it all happened in the same room: arraignments, weddings, hey!), who got married next to people buying car tags (making smart-ass remarks), who got married with the county sheriff’s deputy looking on (who might or might not roll his eyes), and so on. They are funny stories but … I wasn’t so sure about it. So I asked. I started to ask. Where—?

“No, let me back up,” I said. “Would it be possible for us to walk down to the courthouse? Get married on the steps?” You can see the historic Rutherford County courthouse from the clerk’s office; it’s about a block away. I’ve lived in Murfreesboro for a long time and I love our downtown with the courthouse square and the antebellum courthouse. It’s beautiful.

Rutherford County (Tennessee) Courthouse on 23 October 2014.

Rutherford County (Tennessee) Courthouse on 23 October 2014.

Rick was leaning on the counter. When I asked that last question, he sighed audibly, lowered his head and closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Seconds ticked by. “We get asked that a lot,” he said, eyes still closed.

I knew immediately the answer was no. And that was OK. It never hurts to ask, right? That’s what I said: “I understand—you can’t leave this office. No problem. Just thought I’d ask.”

And then he did something extraordinary and unexpected. (I don’t know why. I am a chubby middle-aged woman, not a sweet-faced twentysomething who’d look good in white.) “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “Our office closes at four o’clock. I’m out of here around four-fifteen. If you’ll come buy your license at three-thirty, I’ll meet you at the courthouse when I’m off work.”

I teared up, thanked him profusely. We looked at my daybook calendar and I wrote his name on the day. “I won’t forget,” he said.

And he didn’t. :)

And he didn’t. 🙂

 

Because You’re Not Married If You Don’t Have Cake

A while back (May 2014) I read a book by journalist Gary Taubes called Why We Get Fat, and it’s changed the way I eat. The book was so convincing, I gave up sugar and bread cold turkey, and started eating according to the precepts presented by Taubes. And because I also want to lose weight—a long-term strategy—I got pretty serious about it.

Interestingly, I have lost some weight. More importantly, I feel fantastic. Taubes’s succinct suggestion is to eat meat and a lot of green, leafy vegetables—there’s much more to it than that, of course—and I’ve found that temptation isn’t a problem because I am never hungry (because I’m not cutting calories, just carbs).*

But every once in awhile, a girl’s thoughts turn to cake. Like when she’s planning to get married. Because, you know, the wedding’s not official if there isn’t cake. 🙂

So I googled “low-carb cake” and I found this. Hel-lo, Gorgeous. It stopped me in my tracks, and I looked no further. I printed off the recipe, bought the ingredients, and baked the cake.

It’s not as pretty as the author’s photo. But she bakes a lot more cakes that me.

It’s not as pretty as the author’s photo. But she bakes a lot more cakes than me.

However, the thing was DELICIOUS. Oh yeah. It was good.

However, the thing was DELICIOUS. Oh yeah. It was good.

But Gerry’s not a fan of chocolate, so I went back to the website, which is called All Day I Dream About Food. The woman who is blogging it is a diabetic; as soon as I read that, I knew her recipes would fit right in with my new way of eating. On the about page, she says:

I didn’t choose the low carb lifestyle, it chose me. After being diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my third pregnancy, I began watching my carb intake. And when the diabetes decided to stick around, I refused to give up my lifelong passion for baking and cooking. I just had to find new ways to do it. To my delight, I have discovered that with a little ingenuity and some perseverance, many high carb recipes can be made over into low carb treats without sacrificing flavor.

I started posting links to her cake recipes on Facebook, and Gerry picked out one.

It’s always good to read the entire recipe before you start. That’s how I learned that this one only makes one eight-inch layer, which you slice in half horizontally. I wanted a more substantial cake than that. And I wanted it to be entirely iced. So some adjustment was necessary. My variation was to double the batter recipe and split it between three nine-inch pans, so the layers would be naturally thin (each is about ¾ of an inch). I doubled-plus-a-third the icing recipe.

It was, I don’t mind saying, delicious.

It was, I don’t mind saying, delicious.

A last tip for either of the recipes I’ve linked here: the cake tends to be a little dry if you just try it by itself. So bake and frost the cake the day before you want to serve it; the icing moistens the cake and the flavors meld nicely in that twenty-four hours.

*If you’re interested, here is one of the websites I refer to. This is another one.

Our Immigration Attorney Laughed at Us

(Or, Because Why Shouldn’t We Make Three Different Plans and Change Them?)

I’ve been planning a wedding. Gerry and I got engaged in 2008, six years after we met, and then endured years of questions about when we were going to get married. Well, we were waiting for Gerry to retire, because, you know, we’d actually like to live together when we’re married. (And because, interestingly, Uncle Sam frowns on married couples living apart when one of them is a foreign national. We might be up to no good, you see.)

But the time got close, and we started talking about how we wanted to do this thing. I can show you the exact spot in the backyard where we were standing when Gerry said, “I want to get married in our backyard,” and I, like a fool, said, “OK, honey!” (Because who wouldn’t want to be a bride and hostess of a party in her own home? Doesn’t that sound like just. So. Much. Fun?)

It is a nice yard.

It is a nice yard.

So this was the plan: in 2015, we’d throw a little wedding-slash-backyard barbeque for a hundred or so of our closest friends, then get on a plane and fly to Dublin, where, one week later, we’d throw a second reception at a nice hotel for Gerry’s friends and family and any Yanks who cared to follow us across the Pond.

Then I started working on the wedding planning. And OMG. It was a lot of work. (Not to mention a lot of expense.) So after much discussion, we decided to have, instead, a courthouse wedding. We’d let people know, if anyone wanted to come, and we’d go out to dinner afterwards. The rest of the plan would remain the same: we’d fly to Ireland for the reception. Gerry and I would have a little honeymoon in Ireland, and then we’d come home, Gerry on a one-way flight, because he’d be staying.

This past spring (2014), we visited with our immigration attorney, the wonderful and lovely Katja Hedding. And … well, she laughed at us. 🙂 He wouldn’t be able to come home with me at all, she said. That one-way ticket was part of the problem, and he’d have to have a different visa. All his immigration paperwork would have to be completed and processed in order for him to enter and stay.

After much discussion (there was more than one way to approach the issue, none of them inexpensive) we learned the best way for us to have our party in Dublin—because of the way the marriage industry works in Ireland, wedding venues get booked a couple years in advance, so six months earlier we’d booked a location I’d fallen in love with—would be to get married about a year out. Once married, we’d petition the government to get permanent status for Gerry on the basis of his having married an American. This would give us plenty of time for the paperwork and approvals to come through, with no nail-biting and worrying up to the last minute about whether he’s be admitted to the country on that one-way ticket.

The plan was for us to “elope” on Gerry’s fall 2014 visit. In the meantime, I created the “immigration scrapbook,” documenting twelve years of our relationship with photos of us together, emails exchanged, travel itineraries documenting visits, and so on … while keeping the elopement plan on the down-low.

This has been a difficult proposition for a woman who has two blogs and loves Facebook. (As you can imagine, this is killing me.) But I have some good stories to tell, so stick around. 🙂

They Say It’s Your Birthday … We’re Gonna Have a Good Time

I started my day with strawberries and it would end with strawberries. (I can’t think of many things better than that, can you?) I haven’t celebrated my birthday, really, in some time. I’m an empty-nest mom, my fiancé lives far from here. But this one just sort of happened. It started about ten days earlier, when a friend and I were trying to set up a lunch date. And then another friend of mine … oh let me just tell you about it.

Breakfast was thick Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries from the farmers’ market to sweeten it. (Popped the rest of them into the freezer—they were overripe—to make smoothies later.) And then I drove to Nashville to meet my friend Susan. We like to eat at the Sunflower Café, in the Berry Hill district of Nashville. It’s all locally sourced food, made fresh every day. Vegetarian, with vegan options too.

In a converted home on Azalea Place, you enter through the back. I’ve spent some nice minutes on this deck, reading and waiting.

In a converted home on Azalea Place, you enter through the back. I’ve spent some nice minutes on this deck, reading and waiting.

There’s always something interesting growing outside.

There’s always something interesting growing outside.

At the Sunflower Café, Nashville, 2014.

At the Sunflower Café, Nashville, 2014.

It was such a nice day that we decided to eat on their shaded patio. I had the veggie burger (love it!) and steamed vegetables.

Seats on the patio actually look out on Azalea Place.

Seats on the patio actually look out on Azalea Place.

My friend Susan, a talented graphic designer and crafter of handmade books.

My friend Susan, a talented graphic designer and crafter of handmade books.

We’re working on a project together, so we spent some time talking work, coming up with ideas and next steps. Then she had a press check and I … well, I was taking the day off. And I had more to look forward to. 🙂

Ten days earlier, my friend Heather had posted this photo to Facebook, with a message along the lines of I wish my husband didn’t have to work on Friday nights. Heather’s a cookbook editor, an accomplished cook, a farmers’ market/locavore enthusiast (as am I), and I’m thrilled to count her among my circle of smart women friends.

The Bateys are well-known and -loved in our community. And this was all the inspiration I needed.

The Bateys are well-known and -loved in our community. And this was all the inspiration I needed.

I’ve been reading about this phenomenon of farm dinners—you see them in vineyards, orchards, on working farms. This is the sort of thing I’d really enjoy. So naturally my response was Hello, you don’t need a husband to go out to dinner. Would I do? Heather promptly RSVP’d to Batey Farms.

So this was my second birthday meal. And as it turns out, another couple—Susan and Brian (she went to high school with my son)—were also going, so we made arrangements to sit together.

It’s a good thing I set out for the event in plenty of time, though, because I got confused and went to the farm store, not the berry patch. (Gerry laughed at me later when I told him I put twenty extra miles on the car, driving around in the countryside.) Over the course of a couple frantic phone calls with Heather—who’d never met Susan and Brian—she was able to locate them and everything turned out swell.

It was a beautiful evening on the farm.

It was a beautiful evening on the farm.

Gosh it was a nice night! I’d brought a bottle of sparkling pinot noir—I’d seen the menu, which included pork tenderloin, and my research indicated either white or a light red would be suitable—and while Brian dealt with the cork, I took some photos.

It really was a lovely setting.

It really was a lovely setting.

This was our roof …

This was our roof …

This was our roof …

And then they began serving.

First on the menu was a baby kale and spinach salad with bleu cheese and champagne honey vinaigrette, sprinkled with strawberries and iced pecans.

Yeah, yum!

Yeah, yum!

This was my view. (Sorry, Susan, I should’ve inched to the left a little.)

This was my view. (Sorry, Susan, I should’ve inched to the left a little.)

Heather and me.

Heather and me.

Then the sun started to go down as the second course came: smoked pork tenderloin with a potato-kale gratin, and asparagus.

It was a beautiful sunset and this photo doesn’t do it justice.

It was a beautiful sunset and this photo doesn’t do it justice.

It was dark enough that I had to use my flash for this plate.

It was dark enough that I had to use my flash for this plate.

I should say that there was live music and members of the family were circulating, visiting with folks and welcoming us to the farm. It was a nice, relaxed atmosphere. (Some folks had dressed up but most of us were dressed casually. We’d had a high of 86°F earlier in the day but the humidity was very dense. Too hot to be clothes-fussy!)

One of the elements included in the price of the meal was a basket of strawberries … if we wanted to pick them! Small flashlights and buckets were provided. So after the second course, we all got up and went out to the rows of strawberries. Heather and I picked back to back, and filled (well, almost) our basket, which we then split between us. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything like this (especially in the dark!) but it was more enjoyable than I’d imagined it would be. It’s possible a few berries found their way right into my mouth. 🙂

Susan and Brian got a basket-full.

Susan and Brian got a basket-full.

These berries are luscious!

These berries are luscious!

When we returned to our table, dessert had been served: vanilla panna cotta with strawberries, cardamom syrup, and macadamia nut whipped cream. OMG.

Yes, it had melted a little in the heat by the time we got back but it was delish all the same.

Yes, it had melted a little in the heat by the time we got back but it was delish all the same.

By this time it was well and truly dark—about nine o’clock—and we lingered over the last sips of wine and then wandered back out to our cars. When I turned the corner on my street, my cat Spot bounded across the street two houses up, as if he’d just been waiting for me (I swear, they know the sound of the engine). Laddie and Bean were inside, just as impatient as Spot for a late-night snack. So they had kibble and I had strawberries. 🙂

real menu

Don’t forget you can click on this photo to enlarge … and then zoom in to see all the details.

Worth Getting Out of Bed Early! The Last Saturday Market of 2013

It was 24° when I got up this morning at 6am. That’s darn cold, considering it was in the seventies well into November last year (and we may still have some of those nice days coming). But I hustled into clothes and out the door, because the Saturday Market ends in October … and this is the last Saturday in October.

Actually, I love this time of day—the market opens at 8am—although the light isn’t good for photos. So I did my shopping first. When I got back to the car I looked up at the courthouse—one of my absolute favorite sights in my little town—and realized I had a camera with me. Well, well.

Not your typical view of the courthouse.

Not your typical view of the courthouse.

(Here’s something a little more typical of the views you see of our Greek Revival-style courthouse. It’s a beauty.)

Too chilly for anyone to be sitting in the shade today.

Too chilly for anyone to be sitting in the shade today.

So I walked back around the courthouse park and took a few photos. I love this town.

A yard sale sign does double duty. On the other side it says MUMS.

A yard sale sign does double duty. On the other side it says MUMS.

I don’t know this man’s name, but he is definitely one of my preferred vendors, here at the Saturday Market and at the Rutherford County Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Fridays too.

I don’t know this man’s name, but he is definitely one of my preferred vendors, here at the Saturday Market and at the Rutherford County Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Fridays too.

Lots of pumpkins and apples at the market today.

Lots of pumpkins and apples at the market today.

This is THE Marcy of Marcy Jams (small batch jams and jellies). I am a sucker for fruity things to spread on toast, and have tried a lot of vendors. Marcy is preferred. :)

This is THE Marcy of Marcy Jams (small batch jams and jellies). I am a sucker for fruity things to spread on toast, and have tried a lot of vendors. Marcy is preferred. 🙂

By the way, Marcy has a website; you should check it out.

You’ll see a lot of the Pick Tennessee Products signs. And I do.

You’ll see a lot of the Pick Tennessee Products signs. And I do.

Did you know October is National Pork Month? I didn’t until I went to the Pick Tennessee Products website. My brother and his wife are farmers—Purple Tree Farm, Shelbyville—so that’s another good reason I care passionately about supporting local vendors. It’s my community, y’all.

I come to the square most Saturdays to buy eggs from Rock Hill Road Farm. “The Girls thank you,” they say. :)

I come to the square most Saturdays to buy eggs from Rock Hill Road Farm. “The Girls thank you,” they say. 🙂

Rock Hill Road Farm participates in the Stones River Market, which means I can buy eggs year ’round. So if you’re from the area, you can go here, create an account (which costs nothing) so that you get an email on Sundays, telling you what’s available. Unlike other co-ops, buying clubs, or CSAs where everyone gets the same box of stuff (and you don’t know what you’re getting until you get it), with the Stones River Market you order what you want, in the quantities you want, from the farms you want. The weekly email lists the produce, milled products, fresh flowers, and artisan goods available that week. Then you pick up the products on Wednesdays in downtown Murfreesboro.

Cortney is in the October spirit. I also love love love her jams and sauces.

Cortney is in the October spirit. I also love love love her jams and sauces.

I particularly enjoy the interesting combinations, like peach-brandy jam, and interesting sauces like jalapeño honey mustard and habañero ketchup. Check them out here.

I always wondered …! I think this is brilliant marketing.

I always wondered …! I think this is brilliant marketing.

I buy up fresh blackberries and blueberries in season and pop them right into the freezer. Then I dole them out a handful at a time in breakfast oatmeal and fruit salads. My latest experiment is to roll six berries in individual dough squares (i.e. readymade) with a little raw sugar and bake for twelve minutes at 350°. You could glaze them, I guess, but they never last that long. 🙂

So that was it. There were only about half as many vendors today as there are, say, in July and August. And there were a little fewer than last week. Already I can’t wait for next year! The carillon played the quarter hour (in this case, 8:45am) as I took the last photo.

Another of my favorite views. I can see the tower from the old First United Methodist Church as I approach the square. And that’s a Civil War monument, of course.

Another of my favorite views. I can see the tower from the old First United Methodist Church as I approach the square. And that’s a Civil War monument, of course.

What’d I buy? Oh, good stuff. Some fresh garlic, yellow squash, and bell peppers (I’m in the mood for some stuffed peppers). I just finished my small jar of Marcy’s cherry jam last week, so I bought a big jar to see me through the winter … though Marcy assures me if I run out I should call her. A scone to have with tea when I get home. A dozen of the Girls’ best. And some pumpkin “jam”—though you and I might call it pumpkin butter. I found a recipe in Southern Living for bread pudding that calls for pumpkin, and I think I’m going to make it for Thanksgiving. Maybe for dessert. Maybe for Thanksgiving Day breakfast, to get us in the spirit. We shall see.

My treasure on the last day of the Saturday Market.

My treasure on the last day of the Saturday Market.

Don’t forget, you can zoom in on any photo by clicking, then clicking again. You’ll see.