Search Results for: wedding

Happy Wedding!

Jared and Erika’s wedding was yesterday, and it was lovely! Here are a few highlights. Click on any photo to enlarge– and trust me– they are way better enlarged.  🙂

For the wedding

Whew! I made it (almost) through week two of orientation. Monday I actually got to do just a little patient care, which was really fun. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed helping women in labor. Then Tuesday and Wednesday was a fetal heart monitoring class, which turned out to be very doable. My first bubble test in a whole lotta years and I got a 90%. 🙂 Somewhere along the way I also finally (4th try) whipped that FEMA test, the silly thing. All that’s left for this work week is a 4 hour breastfeeding class tomorrow. Piece of cake. 🙂   The kids are hanging in there just fine–but it will be nice to have Friday through Monday off and then only 3 days next week.


But I’m actually writing here today because I need some clothing advice, or maybe some completely new ideas. You may remember that our oldest son Jared is getting married to his lovely Erika in July.  So exciting! I’m hunting for a mother-of-the-groom dress that blends with their wedding colors.  It is an outdoor evening wedding — not super formal–and is likely to be quite warm.  Above are a few of the dresses that have caught my eye.

This first one on the left isn’t available in my size, but I have included it because I’d love to find something similar.   Next up is one that might be a little short, comfort-wise, but I like the scoop neck, the simple elegance, and the pattern of the fabric. The one in the center is another that looks simple and elegant. The 4th one is very feminine and pretty, but I am afraid that on a not-teeny frame it might look too frumpy — something I do NOT want to be.  I like the final one a lot, but of course there’s always the question if it would be flattering to me.  Who knows?

Anyway, I’d love opinions on what you think might be pretty and elegant, as well as any hints about places to look, or dresses you’ve spotted that might also fit the occasion. I think maxi dresses are flattering on me, but if I went that route it would need to look like a maxi dress not a true formal. Figure-flattering, but not too showy or low cut. It is SO tricky to find something lovely, flattering, and age-appropriate.



Wedding in Chile: our last day

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

At risk of boring everyone to tears, I’m writing one last post about our time in Chile.  Our group was now down to John and me, his mom, and my folks.  After getting our bags mostly packed that last morning, we all gathered in our room for breakfast around 10AM.   Up for discussion: what to do with our luggage between our noon checkout and 7PM when we needed to be at the airport.

A long  very challenging conversation with the maid the day before (she speaking only Spanish, and my mom and me speaking mostly English) had determined that we could not rent one of the rooms today for the purpose of luggage storage– apparently all the rooms were booked.  Late checkout wasn’t possible either.   The maid offered to bring our luggage down to a storage room when she came to clean at 1:00.  But we were leery of leaving our things in our rooms for her to do the transporting, and uncertain that we would be able to find her to release our luggage when we needed to get to the airport.  (The hotel rooms themselves had been lovely– but the language barrier and lack of front desk staff had several times been an issue during our time there.)

Finally Ron decided to rent a room at a hotel right next to the airport, and use it for luggage storage that day while we did a last bit of sight-seeing.  We called two cabs, piled our things in, and soon were on our way to the airport.  The hotel was directly across from the terminal– it couldn’t be more convenient.  We all piled our bags into the room, and after a bit of instruction from a front desk person were able to take a bus to the nearest subway line, which was the cheapest way back into the downtown area.   Ron, Hazel, and Marcia were planning to take a bus tour of the city.   John and I wanted to walk around and do some shopping– always a favorite occupation of mine when touristing.

According to Ron’s subway map, we were supposed to get on the yellow line going north. John and I would get off at the next stop and transfer to the green line.   The rest of the group needed to ride a couple stops before they transferred to the blue line.  After one stop, as planned, John and I waved goodbye to our folks and hopped off the subway.  Up the stairs I looked around for the sign pointing to the green line.  Nothing.  We walked out beyond the turnstiles, which didn’t seem right.  Both in Korea and here earlier in the week, you’d been able to transfer without leaving the ‘we already paid’ area.  But within the area there was only the subway we’d just left.

Several minutes of confusion followed.  We wandered around in the subway station outside the turnstiles.  No sign of a green line anywhere.  John became very disgusted with subways in foreign countries. We finally went back IN through the turnstiles (which required another swipe of our subway cards!) and took a good look at the map.  Understanding dawned when I finally noticed the color of the subway markings on the walls.  Red.  We weren’t on the yellow line at all and we never had been.  We’d gotten on the red line, gone one stop, and then got off at a place where there was no intersecting line.  No wonder I couldn’t find the green line.  Now, how to get to it?

We thought about going out and walking a few blocks to the subway stop where the intersection point actually way.  But I knew from Korea how hard it can be to figure out which exit gets you to the correct street, and the map I had in my bag wasn’t detailed enough for me to feel confident navigating. Looking at the red line map on the wall, I noticed a familiar stop:  Santa Lucia, the place where Erika and Israel had gotten married.  It was only 5 stops away on the red line, and it was within a few blocks of where we wanted to be for our shopping.  Perfect.

We hopped on the next train, rode 5 minutes, and were suddenly in the part of the city that we knew.  Within minutes we were walking along eating ice cream bars, laughing over our minor mishap, and wondering how long it had taken our folks to also figure out what had happened.  Because they surely would be lost for a bit too.  We weren’t too worried though– the ladies had Ron, who is usually pretty good with directions. And they had a map.

John and I proceeded to spend the afternoon walking, taking pictures of cool buildings, shopping, eating more ice cream, and doing more shopping.  We bought some cool copper art from a guy in Plaza de Armes.  I bought a green purse and green sunglasses and an uber-cool chess set that had Mayan and Inca dudes as kings and queens.  John got me an owl necklace. I bought our little girls many new ponytail holders, and our older girls some stretchy headbands.  For the boys we found keychains, some of which were shaped like little guitars.

Oh, and there were strawberries!  And watermelon.  And canteloupe, all sold by vendors all cut and ready to go in clear plastic cups.  Yum.  Perfect to eat on this clear gorgeous day that by mid-afternoon was probably nearly 80 degrees.

A highlight of the afternoon– buying sushi at a little Korean grocery store, where I was delighted to be able to say hello and thank you to the proprieter in Korean.  I’m guessing by the look on her face – and her smile afterwards – that not too many blonde tourists speak Korean to her.  We then walked down the street eating sushi straight out of the package and feeling like the world was ours.  That afternoon was truly a highlight of our trip.

A little too soon for our liking, it was time to head back to the airport to meet the rest of our group, gather our things, and trundle across the roadway into the airport for our 20+ hour trip back to Idaho.  Our Chilean adventure had been a delight.  Who knows?  We may even go back to Chile again some day…   (Click on the pictures to see them full view.)



Wedding in Chile: a visit to the Andes and a delightful dinner

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four |

We’d been so impressed by Sunday’s tour to the coast that our group arranged for the same guide and driver to take us on Monday to see some of the Andes mountains. We packed a picnic lunch and took off after a little after 8. My dad saw a McDonald’s on the way out of Santiago, and was voting to stop, but at that point the driver was anxious to cover some ground.

Once out of town, we began steadily climbing, driving through little towns, with huge mountains getting ever closer up ahead. Except for the cactus and the larger scale of the mountains, it looked a lot like Idaho wilderness. It was beautiful, but in a familiar way that made me realize how lucky I am to live in Idaho, where such views are normal.

With many stops for photos and a side tour through a ‘haunted’ train tunnel (during which our driver turned off his headlights and drove for a few seconds in the dark, then laughed delightedly when I screamed protest), it took until noon to reach our destination. When we reached the hot springs, it was time for a picnic, more pictures, and a soak in the hot springs.
There were about 5 different pools at the hot springs, edged with sand bags and slick with mud on the bottom of each pool. Water in the highest pool felt hot enough to scald your skin if you stayed to long, while the lowest pool left you wishing for more heat.  (Click on pictures to enlarge – photos at the hot springs taken by Sandra Shirk.)

The Shirk family needed to be back at the hotel by 4:30 to get to the airport in time that evening, so our stay there was relatively short, and stops on the way back were few. When the bumpy winding roads started to get the best of my stomach, I went to an empty bench seat in the back to nap my way past the carsickness. It didn’t seem too long until we were back in Santiago, with tall buildings flying past the side window once again.

Once back at the hotel, Ann, David and Sandra finished their packing, and we said our goodbyes.  Though we who were remaining were looking forward to one more day of sightseeing, it was really sad to see part of our group leaving.  We’d had a lot of fun together, and the past few days had been a really nice time of getting to know each other better.

Once they were sent off in a cab to the airport, it was time to turn my thoughts toward our evening plans.  For years I’ve read the blog Casual Kitchen and in the processing of comments back and forth on each others’ blogs, Daniel Koontz and I have become friends.  He and his wife live near NYC, but this spring they are living in Santiago.  This surprising intersection of circumstances seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, so we decided to meet while we were all in Santiago.

Our initial plan was for John and me to meet Daniel and Laura at a restaurant someplace.  But by this point on the trip our group had eaten out quite a few times, and I also thought it might be fun to arrange some kind of gathering which would include our whole group and give everyone a relaxed chance to talk and visit.  After talking to John about the idea, I suggested that Daniel and Laura come over to our hotel for a spaghetti dinner, which invitation they happily accepted.

On impulse we also invited Gina, Erika’s host mom.  She had been so gracious when entertaining our whole group at her home on Friday that I wanted to return the favor in a small way.  She also accepted our invitation, and asked if she could bring her sister in law Leni, who was visiting her from Venezuela.  Fun.  It was shaping up to be a real party.

John and I had gotten spaghetti fixings at the grocery store the previous evening.  That was a little adventure in itself.  Turns out produce and bakery items are weighed and stamped right in that department, similar to the way deli items are marked in the U.S. And tomato sauce is hard to spot–it turns out it comes in foil packaging just like CapriSun juice drinks, except bigger.

Once I got cooking Monday evening, I realized that I didn’t buy garlic.  Hopefully the addition of fresh tomatoes and fresh basil (I hope it was basil!) to the tomato sauce would make up for any lack of garlic.  Everything else came together beautifully.  My mom and Marcia loaned dishes, silverware, and chairs from their apartments.  We chopped apples, bananas and prickly pear and tossed the fruit with yogurt for a simple fruit salad.   We also had fresh tomato slices, bread bought piping hot the night before at the grocery store, and ice cream in the freezer for dessert.  Erika’s wedding bouquet, trimmed down and put into a pretty bowl, made a perfect centerpiece for the large glass coffee table that would serve as our dinner table.

Daniel and Laura came right on time at 8PM and were a delight:  interesting, friendly, and easy to talk to.  Gina and Leni showed up just before 8:30.  I was immediately grateful for Daniel and Laura’s good Spanish.  Neither Gina nor Leni speak much English, and none of our remaining travel group knew much Spanish.

Daniel and Laura graciously hopped between languages, making group conversation possible.  I was also grateful for my mom’s assistance with last-minute things in the kitchen, which freed me up to be a part of most conversations.

Conversation was lively and thought-provoking, ranging from Chile to the benefits of international travel to frugality to our adoption story. (I may have gotten a little long-winded there!)

There was barely a lull the whole evening, and when the whole thing finally wound down it was nearly midnight.   I ended the evening amazed and grateful for the people and opportunities God has brought into my life.  To be visiting Chile at all was amazing.  To witness the wedding of our precious girl there. To get to know Israel’s family better on this trip. To get to entertain Erika’s host mom who has taken such good care of Erika.  To get a chance to meet internet friends in Chile who normally live as far away from Chile as we do.   To take an international trip with John’s mom and my parents.  None of it was anything I ever expected to be able to do in my life, and yet here it all was in my lap.

We were missing our kids, and were ready to go home the next day.  But I was so glad for this trip.

Wedding in Chile: Time to explore

After the wedding, the lovebirds took off for a honeymoon in Patagonia, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. Israel’s mom and siblings still had two days in Chile, and John and I and our parents had three more days, and we weren’t about to waste the time.  Sunday morning our entire group of 8 arranged for a private tour led by a really awesome tour guide named Al Ramirez.  He arrived with a driver and 15-passenger Mercedes van, and a plan to keep us busy all day.

First stop:  the home-turned-museum showcasing the collections of a famous Chilean poet named Pablo Neruda.  (Nope, I’d never heard of him before either!)  He collected seaglass and figureheads and seashells and all sorts of other beautiful and strange things including a full sized wooden horse with 3 tails.  Umm.  Yeah.  I most loved the mosaic work– there was a mosaic stone wall around a fireplace in the house that was just stunning.  (No photos allowed, sadly.  Ah well.)






Next we visited a local winery called Casablanca. The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous, and we opted to sit out on the terrace visiting and sampling a bit of wine and nibbling cheese from the fanciest cheese tray I’ve ever seen. (I’m saving this photo in case I ever want to put together a really swanky cheese tray for a party– it was really fun.)

Photo by Sandra Shirk

Sitting there in the sun at this gorgeous winery in Chile-of-all-places, chatting with some exceedingly nice people, I just had to smile.  The experience was so far from my normal life that it seemed surreal. And, hey, I think I could get used to going on trips with a bunch of photographers.  The trip pictures rock, and some of them actually include John and me together!

Photo by David Shirk

Photo by David Shirk












Photo by David Shirk













Photo by David Shirk













Photo by Sandra Shirk

After Casablanca, we headed for Quintay, where we planned to eat lunch. Tiny Quintay was a whaling town at one point, and has sweet little houses going up steep hillsides, as well as several restaurants all in a row along a little wharf. Kids were kneeboarding in front of the restaurants, and there was a man selling polished-stone jewelry at a little stand nearby.




The restaurant where we ate lunch got mixed reviews.   Some people were delighted with their meal– others, not so much.  The crab soup that I had was wonderful, but so rich that I blame it for any weight I might have gained on the trip.  (Thankfully not much– we walked a lot!)

After Quintay we headed for a bigger town along with Pacific Ocean:  Valparaiso.  Here’s where our tour guide and driver really showed what patient people they are.   Valparaiso is built on hills, and has some of the most personality-filled architecture I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think we drove more than a few minutes at a time without someone asking to get out to take pictures.  I suspect that some of the less camera-happy people in the bunch might have been getting tired of it, but everyone was very good natured about it.


We had fun walking up and down hills and taking pictures of the town, and the weather — sunshine, blue sky and temps in the 60’s– just made you glad to be alive.  Although it is actually getting on towards fall in Chile, it felt like spring to me.


















There was a long sidewalk overlooking a port where big ships were coming in.  Here a lot of the people of the town seemed to be gathered, sitting on benches or walking around enjoying the beautiful day.  A bit further on there were some touristy stands that sucked me in.   I found a couple of scarves to bring home to remember the day by.

By this time the sun was starting to get lower, and we still had one more town to see.  Our tour guide and driver obligingly smiled as I turned the camera their way.  Then soon we were off to Vina del Mar, for a few minutes at the beach.  Some folks grabbed some ice cream.  John and I waded in the ocean and took just a few more pictures before the end of the day.


Then it was time for a long drive back to Santiago.  The driver  amused us with 1980’s music videos shown on a huge TV that hung from the ceiling of the van.  I’m not 100% sure how he made his video selection, given the diverse age range in the van. David amused us by singing along at times, and John and I alternately laughed and cringed at the discovery that we still remembered way too many words to many, many songs that we hadn’t heard for years.

When we finally made it back to our hotel, Marcia and Ann. headed off to bed.   John and I  and my folks headed for the grocery store to forage a bit of late dinner.   (I also did a bit of shopping for a dinner party I was planning for the next evening.)  David and Sandra hung out in our room for a little while, where we all ate grilled cream-cheese and tomato sandwiches and chatted.  Then Sandra wandered off to bed.   David, John and I proceeded to stay up insanely late rehashing the loveliness of the wedding, talking about kids and families, and just about everything else under the sun.  All in all, a crazy-good, crazy-full day.


Wedding in Chile: a few more favorite photos

Photos by David Shirk of Unplugged Photography and Israel Shirk of Avalanche Photography.  (Shirk family photo by moi)

Wedding in Chile: Celebration!

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five


Erika and Israel chose to be married at a really gorgeous park in Santiago called Cerro Santa Lucia.  There was some discussion about how to get there, all dressed up in our wedding finery.  But since it was only a few blocks from our hotel, the bride and groom decided it would be fun to walk.

Israel hadn’t seen Erika in her dress yet, so David took him just around the corner to wait for Erika.  The rest of us walked Erika down into the lobby and out of the hotel, with John escorting her in the lead.  As soon as Erika stepped onto the sidewalk, car horns began to honk, first one, then 3 or 4 at a time.

As Erika walked, glowing, sounds of celebration accompanied her.  People rolled down car windows to wave and shout congratulations and smile.  It was amazing.  We followed Erika, smiling and smiling.  As she neared the corner where Israel was, John let her go forward alone, and we hung back so that she and Israel could have a moment to themselves. Then we all walked on, with Erika and Israel in the lead.

Walking to the wedding

Wherever they walked, people smiled and cheered.  Took pictures.  Shouted congratulations. Everyone wanted to enter into the moment, and share the joy.  In the process they added to all of our joy, and gave us some of the best memories of our time in Chile.  We felt like we were seeing the heart of the people.

Santa Lucia is something straight out of a fairy tale.  I’d seen photos, and knew it was lovely.   But I was still amazed.  Everywhere you look, there’s another lovely vignette– basically it is a photographer’s dream.   When we got there, we didn’t immediately see the pastor, who was to meet us there.  Erika’s host-mom Gina was there, however, exclaiming over how beautiful she was, and clucking over the fact that the bottom edge of Erika’s dress was already getting dirty.  As we waited for the pastor, David got started on a few photos, and John took some as well.

Totally uncharacteristically, I’d chosen to leave my camera back at the hotel. I was so sure of David’s mad skillz that I knew anything I got wouldn’t be half as good.  Plus my big clunky camera bag would look horrid in photos. 😉  I felt a little odd without my camera, but as you can see, my confidence in David was well placed.

All around us were people enjoying their Saturday.  Everyone smiled at the sight of the bride and groom, and many got out cameras and got their own pictures of the happy couple.   But they also did their best not be be intrusive, ducking apologetically out of camera shots and staying a respectful distance whenever they could.

At one point a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, came shyly up to say hi to Erika.   While the little girl’s mom looked on from a few feet away, Erika knelt down and spoke to the little girl in Spanish, and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. The little girl glowed like she’d just been kissed by a princess.

After a little while we located the pastor.  Due to a little miscommunication, he’d been waiting one level above where we were.  He was a kind-faced man who spoke only Spanish. We gathered at the bottom of a sweeping staircase for the ceremony.  Then John walked Erika ‘in’ across a big stone courtyard, and presented her to Israel.

The ceremony was short and sweet and entirely in Spanish.  Erika and her host mom were probably the only ones who understood all of what that pastor said.   But Spanish has words similar to English here and there, and we’d all been to enough weddings that we could guess what he was saying at any given moment.  And of course we all knew what Erika and Israel were there to promise.

Then, of course, it was time for lots more photos.   (What else would you expect from the wedding of a photographer?)  Here are a few of my favorites. As you can see, it was a wonderful day in every way.

The last bit of official business for the day was to get on the computer and change their facebook status to ‘married’.  🙂  Big congratulations, you two!   We are so happy for you, and so blessed to have shared in such a wonderful day in your lives.  We are praying every good thing for your future together.


Photos by David Shirk, Unplugged Photography  (More pictures over here on John’s blog!)

Wedding in Chile: last minute shopping

Part One | Part Two

John started the morning by walking Erika to the subway stop so she could go pick up Israel from the airport.  I think we were all holding our breath that he (the last member of the wedding party) would get there without a problem.  When John got back, David, Ann, Sandra, Marcia, John and I gathered to check out La Vega, a huge open-air market that looked on the map to be fairly close to our hotel.

The morning was gorgeous, crisp, 60’s and sunny. We arrived at the market after an easy 15 minute walk.  Small stalls on blocks ringed the perimeter of the main market, which was a huge covered stadium-like area.  David, Sandra and I all had big cameras and we were using them.  A man immediately came speaking warningly in Spanish.  He gestured for us to keep our cameras close and in front of us.  Dangerous, he said.  Minutes later yet another man issued us the same warning, and I started wondering just how unsafe this destination was.  I pulled my camera bag around onto my chest so that no one would come up behind me to steal something, and tried to stay within a dozen feet of John.

Wandering through the meat section of the market, guys behind a counter mugged for the cameras, and others looked disappointed that we didn’t buy from them.  A picture with pig heads was essential in my book.

Just beyond that I walked past a flat of strawberries whose heavenly aroma reached my nose from 5 feet away.  The woman behind the counter offered me a taste, and I smiled a refusal.   But the man working the stall with her wouldn’t take no for an answer.   He scooped up a handful of berries and handed them out to all of us. I haven’t tasted a better strawberry ever.  Sweet perfection.   The man saw the smile on my face, went over to the flat, and scooped 3 pounds or so into a plastic bag.  He pressed the bag into my hands.   I tried to ask him what they cost, and he said, “No, no, no!   A gift of Chile!”

John asked about the cost and offered money and the man again refused, so we thanked him and walked on.  John said he got the feeling that the man would have been insulted if we’d further insisted on paying.   We walked on, exclaiming over how kind he was. Someone else offered us olives to try, and just a little further a man peeled and offered me ‘tuna’ (Chilean prickly pear).  He waited til I took a bite and looked pleased when I exclaimed over it. The fruit at Erika’s host-mom’s house the day before had been exceedingly good as well, including the best cantaloupe I’d ever eaten.

Sandra and Marcia and I had fun looking at dishes.  Sandra bought some pretty plates and I found a rolling pin for Erika and some kitchen towels for Erika and Amanda. John bought a cheap calculator, thinking it would help bridge the language barrier.  We did fine asking how much things cost, but if the answer was anything other than uno, dos, tres, or quatro ‘mil’ (thousand), we were lost.  An interesting note:  the exchange rate was about 480 pesos to the dollar.  To get a rough estimate of the value in USD, you take 3 zeros off the cost and doubled the remaining number.   For example, something that was labeled as $10,000 (pesos) actually cost roughly $20 (USD).

Around 10:30 we decided to head back to the hotel and see if Erika had returned.  Sure enough, there she was, glowing happily with Israel beside her.  I think we all gave a sigh of relief.  Erika had been planning on going to get flowers with us this morning, but Israel was tired from his flight, and she didn’t want to leave him.

So she sent us out to shop on our own with instructions to buy wedding flowers and a cake.  It was already after 11 AM.  We needed to get back in time to make a bouquet and flowers for everyone, and get dressed and help Erika dress all before meeting the pastor at Santa Lucia at 2:30. The biggest snag?  We didn’t know exactly where to look for either flowers or cake.

Erika suggested we go to another market, Mercado Central, not far from the one we’d visited that morning.  There were no flowers.  An English-speaking tour agency employee was handing out brochures outside the market, so we asked her where flowers could be found.  She gestured vaguely across the road, but didn’t look very sure of herself.

By my calculations, flower arranging was going to take an hour even with help from the grandmas, and getting myself ready and Erika’s hair curled would probably take another hour.  The very latest that I wanted to be back at the hotel was 12:30.  It was now almost noon.  I was ready to go into overdrive and get these flowers found.   But our group was moving slowly, and every time I looked back, people were strung out a little further apart.

Just before I turned on my rocket boosters 😉  I tersely warned everyone to stick with someone who had either a phone (David or me), or who knew their way back to the hotel (David, Ron, and me) because I wasn’t waiting.  Everyone huddled up nicely after that, and at the time I was too concerned about deadlines at that point to worry about sounding rude.  (Sorry, folks!)  We got across the divided quad-lane road in good time, and sure enough, straight ahead were about 10 little flower shops all in a row. Hooray!

We walked from one to the next, trying to find daylilies the shade of orange-red that Erika had requested and that were already open enough to use that very day –(actually, in a mere 2.5 hours, not that I was counting).  Victory!  Next we found babies breath and roses in a complimentary color for everyone else.  David, Mom and I had a discussion about whether Erika’s bouquet needed filler flowers.  No, we decided.  We bought half a dozen stems of daylilies, ten roses, and a little clump of babies breath for about $15.  I hoped that would be enough.

We decided to head back the direction of the hotel down some different streets, in hopes of coming across a bakery that sold cakes.  David, Sandra, John, Marcia and I were in the lead, walking fast.  Most of the rest of the group was clumped with Ron, who was walking at a more leisurely pace.  David and Sandra scanned their Spanish-English dictionary for the right word as they walked, and John, Marcia and I scanned the sides of buildings.  Then the sky opened up and the favor of heaven shone down upon us.  Across the street in foot-high letters across the top of a big building were the words Panaderia Pasteleria.  And there was cake in the window.

After a quick glance for traffic, I darted across the street right in the middle of the block (probably not the smartest move in crazy-driving Santiago) and went into the building smiling.  Cake, blessed cake.  Lots of it.  John soon caught up, and we looked at options together.  Something white and round, I decided, which narrowed the options down to cake embellished with pineapple.

John then had a brainstorm.   He suggested we buy two round cakes, one large and one small, so we could stack the small cake on top of the large one.  Perfect!  In very broken Spanish we tried to explain about the wedding to the lady behind the counter.  When Marcia started to hum the Wedding March, understanding broke across the lady’s face, and she smiled and congratulated us.  Within minutes she had two white cakes boxed and ready to go.  $12,000 pesos.  Sweet.

We were now three blocks from the hotel, and it was just 12:30.  There was hope for us.  I’d packed florist tape and wire, so we had most of what we needed for our flower arranging, but walking down the next block, I remembered one item I didn’t have: corsage pins.  Yikes.  What were the chances of finding those in the short time we had?  I scanned the block and saw a little shop that looked possible, something like a cross between a dollar store and a drug store.

I ran in and got the attention of a worker, but then realized I had no idea how to say ‘pin’ in Spanish.  I made a motion like I was poking my finger with something sharp and then said ‘ouch!’  She laughed, shook her head no, but then– glory be– gestured toward the store next door.  Next door, believe it or not, was a yarn and knitting shop, and they had pins in the perfect size.  Was God watching out for us or what? It seemed to take a ridiculously long time to get someone to get pins from the locked cupboard  (who locks up pins?!)  and then take our money.  But finally, finally we were on our way back to the hotel with everything we needed.

Now, time to finish the preparations.  As we walked, me suddenly all relaxed, we laughed over the craziness of finishing wedding shopping less than two hours before the wedding.  Marcia agreed to come help Erika and me do flowers.   Then she would go get dressed.  My mom said she’d get dressed first, and then come help me curl Erika’s hair.   It was coming together.

Back at our room Erika exclaimed happily over her flowers, and we got to work. On the list:  1 bride’s bouquet, 4 boutonnieres, and 5 corsages.  It was 1 PM.  We decided that the rosebuds were a little large for the men’s boutonnieres, so we peeled some of the outer petals off to bring them down to size.  Then we backed each rose with a few rose leaves, trimmed it to the right length and wrapped the stems with florist tape.

We did corsages the same way, except we left those roses full size and put in babies breath instead of rose leaves.  With the three of us working together, it went amazingly fast. By 1:30 we had all the flowers in the fridge, and were scooping scraps into the garbage.

When John saw the heap of rose petals on the counter, he told us not to toss them.  He suggested we use them to decorate the cake.  I thought that was a brilliant idea, and promptly gave him the job of building and decorating the cake.  This wedding truly was a group effort.

Now that the flowers were together I started to really feel how neat this thing was.  Sure, some moments would have been more relaxed if it had been possible to do more ahead of time.  And yet there was a real beauty in involving everyone, and just pulling it together at the end like this.

John had changed while we did flowers, so I then went to change quickly so that Erika could have the bathroom and start getting ready herself.  At this point with multiple people coming in and out of our apartment, it was really wonderful to have a true apartment with a separate living room, not just a dinky hotel room.  In fact, many times over the week we were glad for the space in that apartment.  It was a comfortable gathering place for the whole group.

After I changed, I helped Erika with a few dabs of makeup.  She didn’t need much — she positively glowed!  Then we started in on hair. My mom, already dressed, came in to help, and we curled away.  It was 1:45.  David (official photographer for this shindig) came in to get some pictures of our preparations.

He also helped John stack the wedding cake in the kitchen, a momentarily precarious operation that I wish I’d gotten a photo of.  But I was too busy curling.  When asked if Israel looked nervous, David said he didn’t think so– he was too busy rassling his tie.

After John and David got the cake stacked (on our hotel-room breakfast tray!) John arranged rose petals around the edges of both layers of the cake, and laid the last rosebud across the top of the cake.  It ended up looking like a truly professional effort.  I always knew I married a great guy, but I didn’t know til then that cake decorating was a skill he possessed.

Soon after that, Marcia came back, dressed and ready to help some more. (Bless her!)  I assigned her the job of pinning on corsages and boutonnieres.  I also remembered that no one had eaten lunch.  We grabbed some food out of the fridge to set out on the counter:  those wonderful strawberries, bread, juice, and cheese.  That would have to be enough.


2:15 – Erika’s hair was finally done.  I had a moment of concern when she looked in the mirror and said it wasn’t quite right.  But she wet it a bit and sprayed it a bit, and got it more to her liking and all was well.  Time to put on the dress.  When it came time to zip it up, I think she and I both held our breath.  The last time she’d tried it on was 9 month earlier when she bought it, and it was very form-fitting. But it zipped easily and she looked just stunning.  Hooray!  It was 2:30.  Time to go get married!

Go to Part Four


Wedding in Chile: Go out with joy

Part One

Friday evening we gathered in front of the hotel to get cabs to the restaurant. With 9 of us, we figured we’d only need two. But when five of us tried to cram into the first cab, the driver shook his head disapprovingly and pointed to a sign on the front windshield stating that no more than 4 passengers ride in a cab. OK, 3 cabs then.

Erika had bought us two pay-as-you-go telephones so that we could communicate. So into the first cab went one phone and 3 people. Same for the second cab. John and I went alone in the last cab, but I figured that since I had the address written out, it would be OK.

The cab driver squinted at my paper to read the address to the restaurant, (Como Agua Para Chocolate) nodded his understanding and zoomed off. We headed in the general direction that I’d expected from my map-studying, so I settled back for the ride.  He stopped on a poorly-lit block and pointed to an alley blockaded by a tall metal-rail gate.  Um?

He repeated the house number and gestured as if to say, ‘this is it’.  We were dubious and not inclined to get out and let him leave us there.  He gestured for me to hand him the paper and turned on the dome light to read it again. ‘Oh!’ he said, and repeated the number with a different street name.  Apparently he’d driven us to a street with a similar name, not the right name.  He punched a button to start the cab-fare from zero again, zipped off, and soon had us to our destination, where the rest of the party was waiting for us to arrive.

We were exceedingly glad to see everyone, and were soon ushered to a long table in a huge rustic-looking room: blue plaster walls and rustic wood beams and rough shutters set alongside old windows.  We’d arrived a little after 8 pm, and the restaurant was fairly quiet then.  (People in Chile typically eat dinner quite late, and it is not at all uncommon for them to just be leaving restaurants around midnight.)

By the time we’d been there an hour or so, business had picked up and by 10PM when we left, the huge place was full of noisy diners. Food was gorgeously presented, and pictures were necessary as each new dish came out.

To the right is filet mignon with bacon and sweet peppers.  It was garnished with a chard leaf attached with an uncooked spaghetti noodle.   To the left is a huge platter of shrimp fajitas shared by a couple of the ladies.  All the dishes were beautifully presented, and most were extremely generous portion-wise.  Several of us came home with leftovers in boxes– the kitchens in our hotel rooms made taking home extras an easy choice.

Back at our hotel we were pleased to discover that the living room couch folded down into a bed and there was extra bedding in the closet– convenient since Erika was staying in our apartment that night.  It was her last night with us….I felt a little nostalgic thinking of all the years Erika has spent with us.  But her joy and anticipation over the next day made it hard for me to feel too unhappy.  She was ready for this step in her life.

Now all we needed was for the groom to arrive.  Tomorrow.

Go to Part Three

Wedding in Chile: Gathering the guests

(Prologue to this story)

The location:  Santiago, Chile, 10-15 hours flying time for most of the guests

The wedding party:

  • John and me, parents of Erika
  • Ann, mother of Israel
  • Hazel and Ron, my parents
  • Marcia, John’s mom
  • David and Sandra, Israel’s brother and sister
  • Gina, Erika’s Chilean host mom

Random things we learned:

  • It takes three cabs to transport ten people anywhere
  • Parking garages in Santiago are not open on Sunday
  • Eggplant lasagna can be amazingly wonderful
  • Tours consisting primarily of photographers take a long time to get anywhere


More on that soon.  But now, on to the story.

Part One: Gathering the Guests

The first guests to arrive in Chile were my parents, on Thursday morning.  About the time that they were arriving in Chile, John, his mom, and I were leaving for Chile. Thursday flights went smoothly, except for a brief snafu over seating on the 9 hour flight from Dallas to Santiago. That ended up with us getting bulkhead seats all in a row, much better seats than we initially were supposed to have.  Leg room– hooray!!

Off the plane in Santiago we changed money and went through immigration. Going through customs were were a bit slowed by my dried fruit  (it had to be inspected, of all things).  At one point people in line near us gestured for us to look upward, and there in an upstairs glass-walled hallway looking down and waving wildly were Erika, David, Ann and Sandra.  David, Ann, and Sandra had arrived in Chile only half an hour or so ahead of us, and Erika had come to meet us all. By the time we got through our immigration line, they had arranged for a minivan with a driver to shuttle us to our hotel in downtown Santiago.

Check-in was not the speediest thing.  We were glad for Erika’s Spanish since people there did not speak English, and our little hotel (actually a tiny apartment complex) is one of many businesses in a huge building.  But once the apartment manager/housekeeper showed up, Erika was able to help us through.  Once in our various rooms (5 total) we discovered that they were well-equipped and clean and looked exactly like the internet pictures.

We checked out the cute little pool on the roof, and took a few pictures of the view around us.  Then we had just a little time to unpack before it was time to leave to visit Gina (Erika’s host mom) for lunch.  We were tired enough that it felt difficult to think of leaving so soon after our all-night flights.  But we felt honored to have been invited.

We began with a short walk to the subway, then 15 minutes or so riding the subway, including a line change.  Then it was time for a 15 minute walk to the house.  It was a perfect, sunny 70 degree day with little breeze.  You could not have picked a nicer day for walking. Her host mom lives in a charming little house in a lovely neighborhood.  We saw an aloe vera plant that — no joke– was big enough that it would overflow the bed of a pickup truck.  The houses are gated, with charming doors and shutters, and pretty wrought-iron bars on windows–security like we saw in Ethiopia, but with more character and nicer materials.

David is a professional photographer, and Sandra and John and I all enjoy taking pictures, so at any given moment during the trip, chances were good that someone was taking pictures.The dinner party was no exception. On arriving at Gina’s, we were embraced and kissed and set into the living room with drinks to talk.  Gina doesn’t speak much English, and Erika and one other guest were the only ones who spoke both languages.  So conversation was halting, but we did ok.

Gina had several relatives and friends there to visit with us and help cook and serve us a lovely dinner out on the covered patio.  The patio is amazing, with grapes and lemons and olives growing all around, along with white and yellow trumpet flowers.  Just lovely.

Lunch was 3 courses:  first sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and bread and fritatta-like lettuce/egg ‘pancakes’.  Next came eggplant/sausage lasagna, seasoned very mildly, and absolutely delicious, served with a different bread. Gina promised me the recipe and I seriously think we need to try growing eggplant again this year.  Finally there was a lovely fruit platter — actually one for each end of our big table.  There were 14 people counting her friends and relatives, though one young lady devoted herself strictly to serving.

Erika sat at one end of the table– boy, she is learning lots of Spanish!!– and the translator/friend served to help conversation along at the other end.  It was really fun.  Topics ranged from Venezualan coffee to eggplant to politics.  Gina, her host mom, is just gold,  the sweetest lady you can imagine, and I felt so blessed to know she has been watching over Erika.

Despite the language barriers, conversation continued long after lunch, and we were all having such fun visiting and sitting around in the hammock that it was hard to leave.  But there was still the walk and the subway ride back. Eventually around 5 PM we had to tear ourselves away.

People were getting tired, I think, and the group had stragglers on the walk back. Six of our group had only slept on the airplane.  John had felt extremely exhausted during our little time in the hotel room before lunch, but he rallied admirably when we were out and about and joked and laughed and enjoyed the afternoon.  Sandra was most tired by the end of the walk/subway home, though she was gamely hanging in there.

At one point the subway was so full that only half of us could get on before doors shut– we were smashed in like utter sardines– and so we had to regroup at the next subway stop.  Luckily we had time to communicate before the doors shut, and we did a good job of keeping our partial groups together, and reconnecting at the next stop.   The subways, though crowded at rush hour, feel safe and very clean, much like in Korea.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed short naps and a bit of rest/downtime.  Then it was time to get ready for our 8PM dinner reservations in Patio Bella Vista, at a place called ‘Como Agua para Chocolate’.

Part two of the story here!