A Pear Cocktail for Spring

I think it may be just us, but maybe not. Sometime in late summer, you get your hands on a lot of pears from say, your Aunt Shirley’s farm up in Illinois, and you decide to can them all up in a light syrup, dreaming of them in cobblers and dribbled over pancakes all winter.

Only now it’s Spring. And you still have a number of jars of canned pears in your cabinet. Not enough cobblers and pancakes were consumed over the winter months.

Now, I won’t lie. Dave and I love making cocktails. In fact, we will be enjoying one tonight. A few months ago (because that is how fast we move around here) I thought maybe we should share some of the cocktail recipes we come up with.

There are LOTS of pear cocktails for Fall. But not for folks like us with a few canned pears in the spring. If you don’t have pears you canned yourself, don’t worry. You can use store pears too.

We played with this a few ways, but we decided this was our favorite:

Spring Pear Cocktail Recipe

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Prepare Pear Simple Syrup: for a pint jar of pears in light syrup, I first pureed the contents of the jar and poured the puree into a saucepot. I added 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to the pot, heated it to just boiling while stirring, then pulled it off the heat to cool.

In a shaker, first add 1 teaspoon honey with 1.5 oz of vodka and 1 oz pear simple syrup, to taste. Stir until honey is well mixed.

Fill the shaker half with ice and shake.

Pour into glass, and add 1.5 oz champagne or sparkling wine and 1/2 tsp. lemon

May the warm days of Spring be soon upon you — and may you now, if you have *just a few* canned pears left, have a new way to enjoy them.

Cheers!

Cris & Dave

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Why You Need a Day of Wedding Coordinator

Back in January, Dave and I had an idea that it would be nice to do more of an “introduction” to the vendors on our preferred vendor list so our engaged couples could get a better sense of who these folks are and why they are on our list.

For this initial Wedding Blog post, we’re talking to Jessica, of Jessica Ann Wedding Co.   Jessica is a Day of Wedding Coordinator (DOC) who moved to the Chattanooga area in 2015 and bravely but excitedly stepped out into this new world that is the South.


You started offering DOC services in California, where you used to live. Can you tell us what drew you into the wedding industry?

Let me just first say that you and Dave have done an absolutely beautiful job of transforming this little piece of earth into a place that feels like a kaleidoscope of magic and etherealness.

My husband and I had a four-month engagement and there was nothing I didn’t have planned out to a tee! Then I realized someone had to take my hard work and incredibly detailed timeline and make it happen. I sure couldn’t do it and neither did I want to! And I definitely didn’t want anyone involved in or at our wedding to take on the tedious job. Hiring a DOC was one of the BEST decision I made for our day. I worried about nothing and my day ran beautifully. Ever since then, I’ve found myself drawn into the wedding industry, specifically the role of a DOC. I first hand know how vitally important they are and I love the process.

What exactly does a DOC do?

I guess the real question is, what don’t they do? Haha. The interesting thing is, DOC are not just day of, we are a month-long BFF to our brides!  We coordinate the logistics of your wedding day to make sure that everything that you have spent months planning runs exactly how you envisioned. From the arrival times of the florist, limo pick up and drop offs to packing all your gifts and goodies at the end of the night, the day-of coordinator will have it all taken care of.

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Is a DOC generally for smaller weddings, or are they even more needed for big weddings and working side-by-side with an Event Planner?

A DOC is for any size wedding. I’ve worked weddings with a total of 45 people including the bridal party! The amount of people isn’t really what determines the necessity of a DOC or not, it’s how you want to remember your wedding! The value of having one is invaluable.

Some venues have an “event planner” whose role is to ensure the logistics of items the venue provides are in place. For instance, tables, chairs, benches, and other specialty items they may offer. They don’t necessarily run your day, they run the venue leaving the importance of a DOC even greater!

Being a small venue, we’ve had a lot of potential brides wanting to appoint a friend or relative to be in charge of coordinating details during the day. While I can see this may make sense for a really small wedding of 30 people, at what point do you think a DOC is needed?

I think that’s a really great question! While it seems like a great idea, the fact is that your friend or family member wants to enjoy the wedding just like everyone else. The reality on any wedding day, without a leader, someone who knows the ins-and-outs of your day, has the increased potential to be chaotic and stressful. A DOC has worked with you and beside you and your vendors and knows all the details of your day. They are with you from morning until vendor departure and you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re enjoying themselves because their job is to ensure you, your family, and guests are!

What is something that relates to your role as a DOC that you wish brides knew?

Details and time. I am very, very detailed. My timeline begins when your feet hit the ground come wedding morning until they’re tucked into your getaway for send off. Nothing is left unknown or untimed. I’m involved with not just you but your vendors. Everyone is on the same page, with the same info, and the same timeline.

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What is a misconception you find brides often have on their wedding day?

A major misconception that happens more often then not is brides and bridal party thinking the photographer is the coordinator. I’ve seen it before as a guest at weddings and it can lead to confusion, frustration, and delays. Be warned, they aren’t and it’s best to have that knowledge before going into your day.

What’s your favorite thing about being a DOC?

My favorite thing about being a DOC is seeing the bride first thing on her wedding day. No dress, no makeup, usually in comfy’s and she’s beyond giddy her big day has finally arrived! She’s not stressed about anything because she knows I’m there. So I’m giddy right along with her, I end up jumping up and down.

What was the most innovative thing you saw at a wedding that really impressed you?

One of the sweetest things I thought to be unique and special was a couple who did a ‘warming of the rings.’ Basically, the couple had their guests pass their wedding bands around during the ceremony asking them to silently give a special blessing or wish for their marriage. It was quite a special moment!

I also had a Jewish/Christian wedding that very much impressed me. Not only were the Jewish wedding traditions very involved and interactive, but the details implemented around them were really beautiful. I’m also proud to say I’ve learned the correct names and pronunciations of four major Jewish wedding traditions!

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you?

I have several ways in which you can reach me!

By email: jessicaann.weddingco@gmail.com

Phone 707.849.4654

Instagram: @jessicaann.weddingco

Facebook: Jessica Ann Day of Wedding Coordinator

You can also check out my website at www.jessicaannwedding.com to see my list of services, weddings I’ve done, and more about who I am!

Our next wedding post will be about our favorite caterers: Foodworks! Photo credit for the above images goes to Austin & Rose Photography

 

 

Shinrin-Yoku – Learning to Take in the Forest

I hadn’t heard of Shinrin-yoku until last winter, when I came across an article explaining the restorative, calming, benefits of the practice. There are full studies on the effects of forest bathing being held in Japan, noting reduced blood pressure, improved mood, increased energy levels, improved sleep, an increased ability to focus and even accelerated recovery from surgery or illness.

Having purchased this property while working in a fairly stressful job, I can attest to how just taking ten minutes to breathe outdoors here, staring up at the tree canopy or sitting on the ground did far more to calm my racing mind than a glass of wine.

The concept of Shinrin Yoku is simple: visit a natural area and walk in a relaxed manner. I would argue, one does not even need to walk — simply choose a spot, and sit still. Oh, and leave your electronic leash (cell phone) in the car.

The science behind it is fascinating, for example, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “natural killer” cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer.

Over the last few months, Dave and I have done more digging into elements of the practice of Shinrin-yoku. We have found it’s best if you can take in nature through all five senses, and we have noted that many of us busy Americans need to be coached in what “walking slowly” is. No fitbit. No hiking. No goal except to simply relax.

To that end, Dave and I have decided to host a Shinrin-yoku workshop here at Oakleaf on Oct 22nd. We will practice breathing, take a guided, slow walk through the forest, enjoy site-made tea and refreshments and learn how to fully engage with the beauty of the wild — and meet some like-minded folks interested in the benefits of the forest.

We decided on a Sunday, so you can start your week off right.

It’s better than a hike, I promise. Get tickets here.

Cris (and Dave)

 

 

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Summer’s Last Hurrah Dinner

Confession time: I, Cris, am a tableware hoarder.

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I’ve wanted an excuse to create an “ocean” themed table for ages, ever since I first found this vase some years ago. As time went on, I found more pieces that related to it — flower holders, salt and pepper shakers…

And then it just happens that my family has three birthdays in September. And that one of those persons is usually not in town.

And it also just so happens that Mom and Dad come back from the Bahamas with yummy things like lobster and crab that Dad found while snorkeling. And suddenly a table concept was born. With only a day left before the last day of summer, it was to be Summer’s Last Hurrah — a nod to all the fun and joys of summer, with a menu to match.

Bonus: I had to play with dye to make the linens I needed for an “ocean” theme. Gosh, how terrible.

Friends, I give you Summer’s Last Hurrah.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos of the meal itself. We had crab, rockfish, lobster, roasted vegetables, the best rice pilaf ever…. and then for dessert we had Key Lime pie, blueberry cheesecake and a strawberry cake. It was fabulous.

I was also terrible about taking photos of the crowd — but it’s family and sometimes that feels awkward, no? We had a great time. And, I can say the front porch can easily dine 16.

I had so much fun making the linens I’m not at all opposed to making some for anyone who wants some. I’m still working out specific color abilities with dye, but I’d do my best to get colors you like 😉

Setting tables is a serious passion of mine — I’m so grateful to have Oakleaf, with all its various places to set up to my heart’s content virtually anything I can dream up, and so many family and friends who put up with my madness.

Happy first day of Fall!

Cris.

 

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Revealing the Barn

Well, kinda revealing. It’s not finished — but considering where we started a few months back, the transformation is coming along well.

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oakleaf cottage barn exterior

We had a deadline that we never expected would be tight, but with all the rain this spring it took for-ev-ah to get dirt and rock up here. Also, due to our location, a lot of work has to be done by hand. Mostly by two people. Myself, and Dave. I’ve got some pretty cool muscles going after slinging a pickaxe so often. Who needs a gym, when you are remodeling a barn on the side of a mountain?

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Our deck is complete, save we will be changing out the farm-fence look to tension wire in the very near future. It’s 16×50, and feels outright amazing – like you are in the treetops. After we stain it in a couple of months we can add pots and some minor furnishings out here for our Cottage guests to relax on while watching the sunset. We’ll be leaving lots of room for morning yoga, which some recent guests found the deck to be perfect for.

barn interior daytime

Inside, we are still working as well. The floor will get poured SOON, and we have some really cool details that will go into that. After that, we can install the lighting on the posts (and down the center), and we will be using reclaimed brick on the posts to give the barn a different, but solid, look.

first event

Our first event, a rehearsal dinner, went super well. Everyone loved it, and we loved watching how guests spilled out to explore the property and trails, some assisting newly walking kiddos who held on to their parent’s fingers — both for balance and to pull Mommy and Daddy everywhere. We were completely exhausted, but even through that were thrilled to see how people interacted in the space. It’s just as we dreamed.

bar area

We literally pulled our temporary bar together using the original lower stall doors about 2 hours before the event started. We were sooooo down to the wire. We’re happy it looks halfway decent, but looking forward to installing the original design with bar sinks and an undercabinet fridge. It will have a floating/locking island that can be used too, for greater versatility of space. But it dresses up nice.

barn at oakleaf cottage

Early this week, we had a small group of people come through to have a look at our little construction project, so we set out a little wine and cheese. I loooove pulling greenery straight from the outdoors in decorating a space.

tired dog barn party

Our tripod dog, Cookie, was completely worn out from playing host/official greeter and spent the majority of two hours right about here.

Work continues out here — this week, Dave has been installing the beams and details on the ceilings on the sides of the barn. It has a steel structure, which is nice and sturdy but not terribly pretty. From here, it’s all cosmetics.

new beams

We can’t wait to see what neat events will be in store for this place over the years, and have a number of great seminars and nature-related events in the works. Watch our events page or follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss out!

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xoxo-

Cris & Dave

 

 

Deck and Barn Progress

The passage of time is a strange thing when you are working on a big project, because every day you see one more small thing finished or changed and it seems like progress takes forever, until you look at your photos from a week or two ago and realize how far you’ve come.

This was the MOAD less than two weeks ago (Mother of All Decks, which is what we are jokingly calling the massive deck we are building off the barn’s stall doors). Dave and I now have added the beginnings of stairs, considerably more posts, cross bracing and more cross bracing, and the board aprons.

When the Cottage isn’t rented, we like to take advantage of the kitchen and create a picnic lunch somewhere on the property. We have a slight tendency toward workaholicism, and it’s good for us to occasionally stop and enjoy this place we love so much, but work so hard on. The grapes left by the last guest made a welcome addition to our Eggplant Parmigiana.

  We don’t stop long, but it’s fun to swing our feet under us like little kids and talk about next steps or things we are looking forward to. How we will string lights in the trees, the view from the deck in winter, what kind of furniture we should have out here most of the time, the workshops we’d love to host. Before long, guests will be able to lunch (or dinner, or breakfast, or coffee) out here — and they won’t have to balance on a 2×12 to do it, either.

Last week, I laid new gravel in front of the barn. With so many loads of dirt being brought in, plus all the rain, the drive in front of the barn was terribly rough. I spent a day in the mud, trying to shovel the ruts out and get it level again, and the next two days spreading gravel — but it looks much improved and was the first step toward something looking better, rather than worse, as construction often does.

Around the same time, Dave poured the last section of footer and sill in the barn — we had to leave the back doors open while shuttling in all the dirt for the Barn Lawn (raising the ground level back up by about 5 feet from where it had been dug out during the barn’s build some years ago). This end of the barn was 32″ lower than the other, which also necessitated a lot of dirt/fill being needed in the barn.

The interior of the barn now has the start of the electrical rough-in, we spread gravel throughout, and I spent Saturday removing the original oak boards and the thin insulation behind them (seen in the sill photo above). The oak will go back up after the new insulation is installed next week, and we are saving the old insulation for the goat shed we will build this winter. None of this is particularly picture-worthy and we both hate showing something that isn’t perfect — so note, you don’t see much of the walls in the below picture (if you follow us on Instagram, you may notice I don’t post pictures of the barn or construction, but I do show it in the Stories.)

Also — oh HAPPY DAY! — I finally found reclaimed windows to replace the existing vinyl windows (and in two places, we are adding windows). We were beginning to think we might have to cobble several windows together, as the opening size is rather unusual and generally custom order — but this guy had the precise size we needed, and the exact number! We will be cutting the window openings taller to make room for them, and we are both excited to see more natural light coming in to the barn interior.

We will have more natural light coming in from the other side as well, as we are taking the original stall doors that led to the outside (and now lead to the deck!) and changing them to look a little like this:

It feels so good to be finished with the “deconstruction” phase and start seeing progress toward the place looking better. Hope you are having an amazing summer so far!

Cris & Dave

 

 

 

 

Year One

We cannot believe a year has passed since we purchased Oakleaf Cottage. A year ago today, we left the title office, packed a tiny overnight bag, an air mattress, a bottle of wine and our favorite celebratory glasses: a pair of gold-decked champagne flutes Dave’s mom found at auction. We treated ourselves to dinner at Canyon Grill, still trying to absorb what we had done, and what we needed to do.

We dozed off with the full solstice moon shining blue through the uncovered windows, lulled by the sound of a pair of owls talking to each other across the night, and a soft breeze in the treetops. Dawn arrived clear and cool, and we sat on the steps of the front porch, sipping coffee, drawing sketches, discussing details and plans, dreaming and getting distracted by the beauty around us.

oakleaf cottage exterior

A number of changes took place in the first few months – starting with remodeling the Cottage. It has fabulous bones, a classic “four over four” farmhouse layout that feels like home, or your grandparent’s home. There is no want for windows and natural light, and the living spaces have the perfect balance between openness and privacy.

We wanted to draw out more of that sense of an older home, every change we made was with consideration of what an older farmhouse would have. We settled on tongue and groove for the ceilings rather than beadboard, as we knew it would be very difficult to make the home seem 100 years old — but we could make it feel 80, with built-ins and simple trim.

Our first year saw a couple moderate-sized events, a few insanely fun photoshoots, and even a commercial was filmed here!

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Photo courtesy of Riverworks Marketing

We are still undergoing more changes, and this year’s focus has been on the barn. We’ve never seen a barn smack dab in the woods before, and certainly not snuggled up alongside such an impressive rocky mountainside. We’ve been bringing in loads of dirt, first to level the floor of the barn (it had a 28″ difference in floor height from one end to the other) and then to fill in the area behind the barn where a lot of dirt had been dug out by the original owners to create a level enough space for the barn – we are on the side of a mountain, after all.

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behind the barn original

Behind the Barn – Last Year

Standing on all that dirt, four feet higher than we had ever seen it before, felt surreal to Dave and I (and not just for the fact that we spent a lot of money on dirt we could stand on). We see the area behind the barn as being such a fun place, like a back lawn. We can’t wait to have dinners and Celidihs (Kay-lees) here.

We were first exposed to a celidih while in Nova Scotia, taking in Celtic music during the yearly festival known as Celtic Colors, which brings in musicians from all over the world to play Gaelic-inspired music. In its traditional Scottish or Irish sense, it’s simply a social gathering, involving music and dancing. It’s so much fun, we want to have a place to hold such music here — and what better place than next to a mossy rock wall that looks like it came straight out of Darby O’Gill and the Little People?

This past year has been extremely exciting for us. We’ve done most all the work ourselves, and so it’s been a lot of long days and late nights and early mornings (which explains some of my sloppy blogging history). We can’t wait to move forward and share more of this gorgeous place. We are, every day, grateful and in awe of this place we come to, a place that offers new surprises all the time, like our little friend Casper:

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Here’s to our first year!

  • Cris & Dave