Monday, May 31, 2010

Rachel's wedding old friends and border crossings

Weather has been perfect here in the eastern half (really third) of the United States, making the conditions just right for a road trip back to the heartland of America. The catalyst? Our niece Rachel was getting married in Grand Rapids and family started gathering earlier in the week, with Susie heading the pack last Tuesday so she could get a jump on baking the desserts for the wedding reception.

I packed the car late Thursday evening, set the alarm for 3:30am Friday, and was on the road headed north of Route 146 toward the Mass Pike (I-90) by a little after 4:00.

Traffic was smooth, weather was great and I zipped across the border in Canada with ease. Getting back into the US proved more troublesome, however. After an hour crawling 2kms to pay Canada 3 bucks to get out of their country, and crawling 1km an hour to get the opportunity to be grilled by Conrad Veidt in order to get back into my own country were the low points of the trip. (photo below: nieces Christina and Melissa, sisters of the bride.)

Perhaps it was the bazooka on the roof or the backseat filled with Osama Bin laden lookalikes, but the surly young man from Homeland Absurdity carrying a gun sitting in the booth at the Blue Water Bridge crossing grilled me about my personal life (sorry Rachel and Steve) that struck me as oddly unnecessary. “Where was I going,” “What was I going to do there,” “Who was getting married,” and a few others. After confiscating the bazooka I eventually passed through into the US (motto: “The only thing we have to fear is we won’t have enough fear to be afraid of.”)

I zoomed across the state of Michigan, through St. Clair, Lapeer, Genesee, Shiawassee, Ingham, Clinton and Ionia Counties before slipping quietly across the border of Kent County and minutes from Grand Rapids.

The evening was a blur of mostly familiar faces, with a few new thrown in for good measure. After being handed a glass of wine by my loving wife, and grabbing some food from the buffet spread out on my mother-in-law’s table I chatted here and there, making little sense I’m sure, after 14 hours on the road my brain certainly a bit addled.

Although it was graduation day for the bride and groom, Saturday saw family members deep into prepping the food for Sunday’s post-wedding reception. For her part Susie worked toward finishing her desserts at a friend’s house. I took a break from helping my pastry queen to meet up with Chuck, another old friend at Shuler’s, a local bookstore. It’s always good to visit old friends, to recall good times, helping us realize and remember that good times still lay ahead as well.

Saturday evening a few of us gathered for a peaceful evening of leftovers and wine at the focal point for Susie’s family: her mother’s home.

Sunday provided us with another beautiful day in Western Michigan. Dick and Dorothy took the opportunity to catch their breath from all the food preparation on Saturday to head out to Grand Haven and catch a glimpse of Lake Michigan. (It’s a genetic thing for folks from Michigan in general and Fremont in particular – they have to go and see the Big Lake.)

Sunday was a day of finalization, climax, finishing and beginning.

I took the opportunity to snap some photos of the bridesmaids getting their hair done and finishing their makeup.

I then buzzed back to pick up Susie. We packed up the boxed pastries, Dick dropped by to pick up the cold sparkling grape juice and we all headed over to the banquet hall.

After a short but oh so sweet ceremony, just after the bride and groom strode down the aisle, husband and wife, and while they hugged, kissed and cried holding each other tight, a handful of family and friends hauled the food – sandwiches, salads, fruit and cheese and other apps out to the banquet hall. here's a short slideshow of images from that memorable weekend:

The afternoon and evening flowed quickly, as did the trays of food – empty exchanged with full ones, until the guests were full and the food nearly gone. The desserts (including a Norwegian specialty cake) seemed to be a big hit -- no surprise to some of us. My personal favorite were the little choux puffs with sliced strawberries and caramel mascarpone filling:

The evening slipped away from us and before long we found ourselves wide awake at 4:30am, packed and ready to shower, dress and hit the road eastward, back to the Island of Rhode.

And so we did, crossing the border at Fort Erie with nary a problem, and enjoying wonderful driving weather, light traffic and Sirius satellite radio.

It was a heckuva short stay in the winter wonderland (now officially known as "Pure Michigan"), but we did have an incredible time. You should have been there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

To Michigan and a Wedding

It was in June of last year that Susie and I headed back to the Midwest, Michigan in fact, to attend Jane and Dave's wedding. If you know these two, you know the story, if you don't it's been recounted elsewhere on this blog. This time, it's another wedding, in late May instead of June, in Grand Rapids instead of Holland and family instead of friends. Specifically, it's the wedding of our niece Rachel, third and youngest daughter of Susie's younger sister Joyce and her husband Carl.

Rachel at Christina's wedding, nearly a decade ago:

Susie flew out of Boston this afternoon, having been escorted to Logan Airport by Peter Pan (of the bus line and not of Neverneverland fame). She will stay with her mom for the next three days and spend most of that time baking delicious treats for the wedding -- I'm bringing three cookies and slabs of cut brownies; Susie will be working on various almond-base cakes and a choux puff delicacy that I can't wait to taste and photograph.

Rachel at her sister Melissa's wedding, almost seven years ago:

Anyway, she's there and I'm here (old story, eh?) until Friday early AM when I pack the car with my gear, point the nose of the A4 toward I-90 and head toward the "Winter Wonderland" or whatever the motto is today for the Peninsula State. I'll be posting photos and details of the Michigan trip and the wedding, right here next week.

The weekend before Susie fly out of Boston we drove north to Cambridge, MA, and spent a beautiful afternoon strolling the grounds of Mt. Auburn Cemetery in preparation for a lovely concert late in the afternoon in Story Chapel at the cemetery. (Photo above: "Willy, Mary and Charlie.") Two clarinetists and a pianist played works by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann, a fitting end to a gorgeous day of appreciating life -- as others were doing as well. As we walked back toward the chapel following out tour we came across a photo shoot with several women dressed as brides. Not surprising since the cemetery now makes it incredible gardens and two chapels available for weddings. One has to appreciate a certain symmetry if not harmony in all of this.

Work keeps me both engaged and busy -- commencement ceremonies this weekend at Johnson & Wales, after that summer kicks in. Susie continues to work on growing her future in the wacky world of pastry and desserts -- God only knows what's in store for her in that regard, but if the past is any indication of the future the coming weeks and months will be interesting indeed.