Category Archives: Tom’s Photos

Dean Vander Well Turns 80!

We had a lot of fun yesterday as my siblings gathered to host an open house for our dad who celebrates his 80th birthday this coming Tuesday. Dad’s brother, Bud, traveled to Des Moines with his entire brood. Friends past and present joined us in the community room at the folk’s apartment to enjoy a bite of cake and share in celebrating our dad. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it a special day.

When the open house was over the family headed to Noah’s Ark Restaurant, an old family favorite, to share some time together. Happy Birthday, Deano.

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Photo Friday: Shoes on the Power Line

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While in Palms Springs a few weeks ago I spied a pair of shoes tossed over and dangling from a power line. My head was suddenly filled with nostalgic images of years gone by when such iconic pranks were the stuff that childhood was made of.

The shoes and the power lines made an interesting composition against the cloudless blue canvas of California’s desert sky.

Palm Springs & and Unintended Sabbatical

…but abide the change of time,
Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish
That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)

Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.

In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.”  We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.

Solving the world's problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).
Solving the world’s problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).

Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).

Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.

Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.

We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.

The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.
The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.

Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.

We fought the crowds at "One Dollar Wednesday" at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! ;-)
Kevin and I fought the crowds at “One Dollar Wednesday” at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! 😉

Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.

We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”

Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.

 

New Years 2016

New Years is always a whirlwind and a time of celebration for Wendy and me. This year was no different, and the holidays were stretched out more than normal for us.

New Year’s Eve was our 11th wedding anniversary. Wendy and I gathered here at VW Manor with a small group of friends. Last year was a bit of a blowout as we celebrated our 10th. This year was a low-key affair. We told everyone to wear sweats or pajamas if they wanted to do so. We snacked, we chatted, we played a few rounds of Head’s Up, and we laughed. It was a laid-back way to say good-bye to a very strange 2016 and welcome 2017 with all its possibilities.

Madison could not get home from South Carolina until late last week. So New Year’s Day was the first we got to see her since she joined us at the lake this past summer.  Wendy and I drove to Ankeny for a New Year’s Day gathering of the Hall clan. Taylor and Madison drove up from Des Moines to join us. It was a chance to see Becky, Court, and Lydia one more time before they flew back to Colorado and a chance for the girls to hang out with the family.

We returned to Pella in the afternoon and had our Christmas celebration with the four of us. It was fun to sit together in front of the fireplace ad enjoy opening gifts between the four of us. We then settled in for a relaxing evening together on the family room couch. Supper was a hodgepodge of leftovers on the counter to snack on. We watched the recorded Vikings/Bears game and then watched Cinderella together. It was really a lot of fun.

Yesterday was the only full day we had with Maddy Kate. Wendy made a fabulous breakfast for us. The entire morning was spent eating, drinking coffee, and great conversation around the dining room table. The afternoon was an equally laid-back affair. We opted for a Sherlock binge. We watched. Taylor knitted. Madison and I worked on editing a video for a little project she wanted to do together. Wendy scoured Pinterest and we discussed house ideas. And, in true family fashion, we baptized the living room rug with two spills that necessitated moving of the couch and cleaning up.

Wendy made a wonderful evening meal of tilapia, sweet potato wedges, and rice. We then capped our evening by planning our wardrobe for family pictures we’re taking this morning, and watching the newest episode of Sherlock which premiered on New Year’s Day.

It feels like a bit of a stretched out holiday this year. With Christmas and New Year’s on Sundays, it feels like we’ve stretched two two-day holidays into two four-day holidays. Today we take family pictures, say good-bye to Madison, and then settle back into routine.

Christmas 2016

It is the 28th of December and Christmas is not officially over for us. Madison will fly back to Iowa from her balmy South Carolina home (she told us on FaceTime Christmas morning that it was 70 degrees and she was contemplating a trip to the beach). The four of us will celebrate Christmas together on or around New Year’s Day, so there are stuffed stockings and gifts yet under the tree.

Wendy and I were happy to have family visit us here in Pella this Christmas. Taylor arrived the afternoon of Christmas Eve day and the three of us attended the 6:00 Christmas Eve service at Third Church.

Christmas Eve services at Third Church.
Christmas Eve services at Third Church.

We returned home and watched a couple of Christmas movies. We got through all of While You Were Sleeping and most of the way through It’s a Wonderful Life before deciding it was time to settle down for a long winter’s nap.

Christmas Day was really gloomy. Unseasonably warm (50s F) but very, very rainy.
Christmas Day was really gloomy. Unseasonably warm (50s F) but very, very rainy.

Christmas morning dawned and Wendy made what has become our traditional Christmas breakfast. We stoke up the dining room fireplace (actually, we simply hit the button on the remote, but “stoking” the fire sounds so much more cozy) and settle in around the table. Homemade cinnamon rolls are the special Christmas treat along with our favorite breakfast fare.

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Christmas breakfast.
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Mmmmm.

The rest of the morning was spent relaxing, hanging out, and waiting for the family to begin arriving. Taylor and I had fun on the couch playing with Snapchat and making silly pictures and videos.

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Both the Hall and Vander Well clans joined us on Christmas Day. Mom and Dad Vander Well were the first to arrive around mid-day. Jody, Emma, Sam and Lydia arrived soon afterwards (Scott was home sick) along with Tim (who also left Kumi sick back in Des Moines). Mom Hall arrived with Suzanna and Grandma Vander Hart. Dad Hall met Court, Becky and Lydia at the airport and drove them down in the early afternoon.

Plenty of food. Dish up!
Plenty of food. Dish up!

We had mixed up a crock pot full of French Dip, and the kitchen island was filled with snacks and treats that family brought with them. There was, of course, Wendy’s cheesecake and Uncle Tim’s figure 8 cookies. We enjoyed a meal together and the family spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying one another’s company.

We opened gifts in the late afternoon. By early evening most everyone had decided to head home. Court, Becky, and Lydia stayed with us until Tuesday. Luke and Brooke drove down from Ames on Monday and we had a chance to hang out with them. The afternoon was spent lounging around together. It was also Court’s birthday, so late in the afternoon Luke and I took him to the Cellar Peanut Pub in town for a birthday pint before retrieving George’s Pizza for dinner.

The Court, Becky and Lydia headed to Ankeny yesterday. Wendy and I did a little clean up and then got back to work. Looking forward to our anniversary, New Year’s celebrations, and time with Madison this weekend.

 

 

The Courtyard Fountain

I was in Texas on business this week and took a few hours to visit my favorite haunt. The courtyard at the McNay in San Antonio is such a beautiful, peaceful place. I sat in the shade amidst the serene quiet. I listened to the cry of the doves on the roof and the trickle of the fountain. Monet did a wonder with water lillies on canvas (the McNay has a lovely example in their Impressionists gallery), but there’s nothing like the genuine article of creation. I didn’t have my fancy camera with me, but my iPhone does a pretty nice job. So, for photo Friday, here you go.

The Latest 06-05-2016

Talk about celebration! This week began with a holiday and ended with a family wedding. Here’s the latest.

On Memorial Day Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for our second Iowa Cubs game of the season. Some friends gifted us their tickets which were in the fourth row right behind the I-Cubs’ dugout. It was a hot, sunny day and we both became crispy critters as the afternoon wore on. Our boys of summer sent 14 batters to the plate in the 6th inning and scored 10 runs including a grand slam by top Cubs’ prospect, Wilson Contreras. It was a ball!

Upon our arrival back in Pella, we walked across the street to Kevin and Linda’s. They were having a Memorial Day cookout with friends from Central’s theatre department. We enjoyed a little food off the grill and a cold bevy or two. It was great to see Rob Kahn, who had returned to Iowa after his professional turn in two Shakespearean productions in Philadelphia this past spring. I ended the holiday by moving the lawn.

With the end of May and the  beginning of June, there was plenty of work on the plate in the shortened work week. Month end deadlines combined with beginning of the month tasks. The weather has been making the turn toward summer with warmer temperatures and occasional strong storms.

It was a lovely evening on Wednesday when we went to see our friend, Nathan VL, play baseball at Pella’s new sports park. The young boys of summer played a great game and it was fun to cheer them on.

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that one year after we moved in, both of our neighbors have sold their houses. Hopefully that’s just a coincidence! Just yesterday we met our new neighbors to the north, Greg and Chanelle, who moved in from Grimes. The gaggle of teenagers next door has given way to a flock of 3 (and one on the way) wee ones. No word yet on our new neighbors to the south. More to come.

On Friday we headed to Boone in the afternoon. Wendy’s brother, Lucas, got married to Brooke on Saturday. The Hall clan gathered for the festivities. The only members missing were brother Josh, who continues to serve as an Army dentist in Korea, and his fiance, Ellie. Friday evening was spent finishing up decorations at Seven Oaks Lodge, rehearsal, and a pizza dinner. It was great to see family, especially Wendy’s brother Jesse and his daughter, Sophia, whom we had not seen in a long time. We also loved meeting Abby, Jesse’s girlfriend, who hails from Camdenton – just down the road from our Playhouse in the Ozarks.

We drove back to Pella on Friday night and I spent Saturday morning on the lawn. Then it was time to clean up, pick up Grandma VH, and head back to Boone for the big wedding. We arrived about 2:30 and busied ourselves helping out. I got to chauffeur Brooke, and personal attendant Suzanna, up to a private spot where Lucas was to see his bride in her dress for the first time. I also helped out as usher for the ceremony.

Suzanna Mom Hall Dancing

It was a bright, sunny and windy day. It has been a long time since this many of the Hall clan were together. I enjoyed taking photos and watching Wendy’s joy as she got to hang with her siblings. The wedding was simple and beautiful. You gotta love a wedding reception catered by Hickory Park in Ames. It was after 10 p.m. before we left Boone. Grandma VH was a trooper. She slept a good part of the drive home.

Looking forward to heading back to the lake this week and working remotely from the deck. Hot, sunny weather in the forecast. Love it. Next weekend is our annual summer kick-off weekend with Kev and Beck.