Thursday, July 30, 2009


Well, the Top Ten list is on hold until JB completes the entry for #5, as it is about adventures he had without me, so I cannot write about them. If he does not complete #5 by the weekend, I will pick up with #4, and you may never know what #5 is! Mu-ha-ha!

So this week I got 3 unexpected treasures. Well, one man's trash...

1.) Steamer Trunk
My mom stores all her sewing stuff in an old steamer trunk. I thought that was a pretty clever idea and wanted to do the same myself. For my birthday last year JB got me a steamer trunk for $20. After we got it home we realized how badly it smelled inside. We can't get the smell out. So my sewing stuff has remained in this clear plastic tote, which looks kind of tacky in our dining room.

But this weekend, Marian gave me her old steamer trunk! She had gotten different furniture for a guest bedroom and the trunk was kind of off in the corner, all lonely. It's in much better shape than the other one, and it doesn't stink badly. YAY! Thank you Marian!

2.) We hit up the Allegan Antiques fair on Sunday. There I got this vintage quilt top that the seller had picked up at an Estate Sale. I'm not sure where to put it on my list of quilts to do, but I'll find a place for it. This quilt must have taken someone HOURS to complete (it's a "trip around the world" pattern).

3.) I had admired this serving platter when it Williams Sonoma first advertised it. For $54! A little out of my price range. But on Tuesday when Lizzy and I were shopping the mall, there it was, marked down to $16.99! Agh! I decided to buy it, but before I could get the lady to ring it up, Lizzy bought it for me as a present for taking her shopping. Lizzy is Chris's wife (Top Ten #9) and as a Brit, she isn't used to driving on the right side of the road (well, and it's fun to have a shopping buddy). Thank you Lizzy!

Monday, July 27, 2009


As a police officer, JB’s brother gets out of a lot of traffic tickets. I guess there’s this “fellow police officer buddy buddy” code that they get to share with each other, letting each other off the hook in their jurisdictions.

Shortly after arriving in the U.P., Austin got pulled over for going 80 in a 55. He of course did not get a ticket, but had a nice chat with Officer Rambo (okay, that’s got to be one of the coolest names you could have if you’re a cop).

A few days later JB, Olivia and I head down M-134 enroute to #4 on our Top Ten list. We just get down the road when JB spots the cop car coming the opposite way. JB lets off the gas, unaware that he was going 70. Too late. The cop does the “hit the brakes and turn around” thing that I’ve seen too many times to count.

“He got me,” JB said. He was already annoyed that his brother, who was going 80, got out of a ticket, but that he himself would get one for going 70. Then he realized that he didn’t have his license with him. It was in his wallet sitting on his nightstand back at the cabin. When he told me that I knew it was over. It’s one thing to speed, but if you don’t have your license you’re toast.

(Though I do have to say that one time, when I didn’t have my proof of insurance in the car, I did get out of a speeding ticket in favor of a “no insurance card” ticket. It was $30 and no points. A bit easier to take than the $80 ticket and 2 points.)

As JB pulled to the side of the road, I started praying that God would have mercy. His Mom, who passed us on her way to our destination, was also praying that God would have mercy.

The officer walked up to the car. I braced myself for an insensitive interaction, as is what always happens to me when I get pulled over.

Instead, a friendly voice said, “Hello! How are you today? Can I have your license and registration?”

JB explained his missing license. So the man asked for his full name and date of birth. After hearing JB’s full name he asked him if he got teased in school about it. And things just got nicer after that.

It was so weird!

He informed us that we were going 71 in a 55 and asked if JB was aware of it, noting the baby in the car. After noticing the tinted windows in the back, he asked JB to roll up the front one, because it’s illegal to have your front windows tinted. I explained that they were not, because I knew better.

“You get those tinted for the baby?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I told him (back in 2003!).

(Hey, they are important for the baby! I am ever grateful that we don’t have to drive around with one of those cheesy “baby on board” sunblockers in our windows. Those things block the driver’s visibility anyway. Very dangerous, if you ask me.)

Then he bid us a good day.


1.) 16 miles over the speed limit; 2.) with a vulnerable baby in the car; 3.) no license; 4.) limo-black tinted windows. These are all things that annoy cops.

But Rambo isn’t just any cop.

The Lord had mercy!

Thank you, Lord, for Officer Rambo. Coolest cop I know (besides Austin).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

7.) Calendar Girl

Remember that one time, when I learned that my photo was picked to be in the Les Cheneaux 2010 calendar?

I saw said calendar at Safe Harbor Books in Cedarville last week. I got excited and flipped to the month of August, where I expected to see my photo. Instead I saw this lame photo of wooden boats. (I typically would like this photo, but since it was replacing mine, it was lame.)

Dismayed, I relayed this to JB.
He then pointed out that my photo wasn’t there because it was the COVER photo.

Der! No wonder the front of the calendar looked so familiar!

Friday, July 24, 2009

8.) Hearing Chris speak at SLT

My favorite kind of preaching is Bible Exposition. For those of you who aren’t hip to the Believer community, Bible Exposition is taking a specific text of the Bible and breaking it down. It is not topical preaching. It is not preaching that pulls verses from here and there, with the verses sometimes being taken out of context. It is what I consider a pretty pure look at the Bible.

However, a lot of churches these days don’t do Exposition. The mega-churches of today seem to draw crowds by speaking on topics. Some churches even thrive on the “prosperity” gospel. Which is just a man standing in front of a group of people each Sunday telling them that God wants to bless them, and that if they stick with Jesus, their lives will be happy and shiny. It seems as if these guys haven’t heard of this thing called the BIBLE. Jesus’ life was not happy shiny. People were mean to him. People constantly pestered him to heal them. He had no privacy. In the end, he was nailed to a tree and left to suffocate to death. If being a Christian meant that all your troubles would go away, everyone would be clammering to do it, even if Jesus meant nothing to them. That’s not how God rolls. He promises peace and rest and contentment. Not eternal sunshine and $$$.

Anyway, my life is deprived of good exposition, so I was thrilled to hear Chris speak at what was originally the School of Leadership Training (SLT) at Cedar Campus. InterVarsity apparently has changed the name to Leadership Institute. Lame. “Hey man, you going to LI this summer?” “Oh, yeah, LI is so awesome!” Sorry guys, but SLT sounds way cooler. Fail.

Chris spoke on Acts 19 and 20. Olivia let me listen to the Acts 19 part. That was nice of her. Grandma Marian had to miss that, though, while she walked her around outside. Then I had to take her. I sat with the Bird in a nice Adirondack chair on the backporch outside the meeting place and tried to listen to the Acts 20 part while I nursed the baby. While sitting there, two beautiful swans swam up to the shore that was about 30 feet away. Nice. (They paid us another visit in the Vacation Top Ten’s number 4.)

Fortunately, Chris had a handout for everyone, so I could piece together parts that I had missed.

Chris and his wife Liz are also good friends with the Hunt family, so we saw them more than on that Sunday morning. He is also the man who married Austin and Lauren. He is a lover of the water, and the Hunts have dubbed him “swims with loons” after he did just that. It seems that no water is too cold for Chris, who took a dip on our Narnia walk and enjoyed the canoe at the cabin. He also sat next to me for the Top Ten’s #2, which I was grateful for because of his swimming abilities.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

9.) Lucille and the Beach

One of my favorite parts of going to the cabin is watching Lucy run the beach. The first time she went up she wowed Grandma by running and running and running in circles on the beach at a breakneck pace, repetitively. Grandma was unaware of Lucy's dedication to aimless carefree running and was quite entertained by it.

This year proved no different, but with the added bonus of her bff Lexi accompanying her. Over the course of the week the dogs had several different people throw tennis balls for them. Most memorable were the Schreimer girls and their cousin. They marveled at how high Lucy can jump and how fast she can run. (A random couple who were walking the beach also marveled at Lucy's abilities--apparently it's legal to walk the beachfront along the lake, even on private property, and these people were not shy about walking through our yard. The man said that I should enter Lucy in races.)

Typical Chewba beach routine:
  • Run.
  • Run.
  • Run.
  • Watch tennis ball get launched into water.
  • Consider racing Lexi for it. (Only like going in cold water if there are enough rocks to hop in order to get to my destination.)
  • Let Lexi chase ball while I bark at the human's feet.
  • Jump up very high in attempt to steal human's other tennis ball.
  • While Lexi swims back with her ball, watch other tennis ball fly down the beach, not in water.
  • Tear up sand chasing ball and barking madly.
  • If Lexi is out of water by then and chasing new ball, will easily outrun her.
  • Bring ball back, shaking it in mouth in very fierce, vigorous fashion. I am to be feared!
  • Listen to human tell me to drop it.
  • Or, I mean, DON'T listen to human's command to drop it.
  • Prance around with ball in mouth, wanting it to be thrown again.
  • Realize it won't get thrown until I drop it.
  • Concede.
  • Watch tennis ball get launched into water...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

U.P. top ten: 10. Soo Trip

JB and I have decided to do an "Upper Peninsula" top ten, counting down the 10 most exciting/memorable parts of our vacation at the family cabin on Lake Huron.

So our number 10 memory was our trip to "the big city." Read: Sault Ste Marie. No, there isn't a mall here. There isn't Starbucks or Jimmy John's. You won't find a big museum or art gallery. Or a hot music scene.

But they've got a Wal-Mart and TSC, which I bet is big city enough, if you ask any Yooper.

JB, I, Austin, and Lauren first hit up Karl's Cuisine, our favorite Soo restaurant. While we are partial to this man who catered our wedding and made our wedding cheesecakes, Karl really is a great chef. We met friends and fellow Spartan alumni Mike and Cassie Panik there for lunch. The last time I ate at Karl's, I had this amazing chef salad. I wanted it so badly yet again, but also wanted to branch out and try something new. So I got something new. And a side chef salad. Which really was more like a regular-sized salad. Plus a large piece of our wedding cake: turtle cheesecake. I ate all of it. Then we got a massive stromboli and two pasties to go. A trip to the U.P. really isn't complete without pasties, ya know.

After lunch we went to the super awesome Soo movie theatre, where they take American Express, but they don't take Visa. Who doesn't take Visa??? Hicktown movie theater. Who doesn't have a Chase ATM within a 50 mile radius? Hicktown Soo. (AND Hicktown Nashville, I learned. Definitely can't move to Tennessee now!)

We saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I enjoyed it.

While there, we saw giant movie posters advertising Tim Burton's latest adaptation: Alice in Wonderland. Has anyone else seen the scary Johnny Depp rendition of the Mad Hatter? It's even freakier in bigger-than-life movie poster size and you're minding your own business at the theater when BAM! there it is. This happened to me at a Grand Rapids theater. Celebration Cinema is lucky I didn't have a full bladder because they might have had a mess to clean up.

I love Alice in Wonderland and also Johnny Depp, but seriously, I don't like his Mad Hatter. CREEPERS. He looks sort of like Madonna here, if you ask me. However, the colorfulness of the other posters won me over, so I want to see it. Just not the part with Johnny Depp. Then again, I was fearful about watching Transformers, and ended up loving it. We'll find out March 2010 if I pee my pants in the theater or not.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We're Baa-aack!

I couldn't resist. I just started to look through the 631 photos I took on vacation in the U.P. last week (yes, I may have a problem) and one of the first shots was this stellar catch of dogs at play. Yes, Lexi is completely in air, like Lucy. JB and I have talked about doing a vacation top 10, so I will post more photos as we post our list, but I just had to share one...

(the girl in the photo is JB's second cousin, Clara. Or first cousin once removed. Something like that. A nice girl.)

Oh my gosh. I just found more "dogs having fun." Agh. Will have to do "dogs having fun" post.

Oh, yeah, and we humans had fun, too. :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pretty Baby 2009

Last weekend I was in Mayberry for my parents' annual Fourth of July party.

Mom and I ran to the infamous Wingerts for groceries, and there I ran into my old friend Connie. She alerted me to the Pretty Baby contest that the Mayville Sunflower Festival is holding, as she thinks that O could be a contender.

So we're entering her. The rules do not state that you have to be a resident, and since O's grandma and grandpa still live there, I figure it's fair game.

The only problem is picking a photo! We did a baby photo shoot today, which turned out to be difficult because O kept looking off at Lucy, who was patrolling the yard. She is a little too obsessed with dogs, if you ask me.

This one was not in the photo shoot, but she's just so cute when she has her "reading time." Every day she pulls all the board books off of her bottom shelf and reads all by herself. It's quite entertaining to watch/listen to:

This is actually my current favorite photo, but I doubt it would garner a win. I call it "Highway Patrol Baby":

And this one just made me laugh, so I'm sharing it. Who are you yelling at, Bird?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Austin and Lauren's Wedding

I wish I had some entertaining things to relay about Austin and Lauren's wedding, but we were so busy at that time that I didn't have a chance to reflect or write down thoughts. Sorry, guys!

Basically, the wedding consisted of four days of wedding festivities, and I gathered that this was typical Southern fashion. And this was only wedding stuff, and did not include Bier family fun-times, which JB and I were not able to participate in as much as we had wanted. Cry, cry.

JB and I enjoyed the celebrations, but I still craved a day of rest. At one point I broke down crying in front of JB because I realized I wouldn't have time to return to the mega quilting store, Stitcher's Garden, in Franklin, to finish shopping. The store is so huge that Marian and I only got through about half of the building on our first trip. We squeezed it in while the guys were off getting their tuxedos. Fortunately, Lauren's Dad lost his car in the mall parking lot, so it gave us extra time to shop before we had to meet up with the guys again. Okay, so it wasn't any fun for Mr. Brown, who thought that his car was stolen (it wasn't--he just couldn't remember where it was parked), but it helped Marian and I out. :) Yes, I am weird for crying about not getting to go to a quilt store, but that's me.

The rehearsal was your typical rehearsal, but the dinner was something else! We ate at Mere Bulles, and it was very good food, and JB and I had a lot of fun visiting with people and also relaxing. I had 2.5 glasses of wine. That was about 1 glass too many. Ooops--haha! Here is Austin working hard on rehearsing, with Aaron Zull in the background:

The ceremony was very nice, if you ask me. The Reverends did a nice job. Aaron Zull (longtime family friend of the Browns, and incidentally I went to SLT with his son, who played the cello at the wedding, and his wife was Marian's IV staffer at UofM--small world!) did the message, and Chris Wright (longtime family friend of Hunts) did the marrying part. I enjoyed myself. Though perhaps a bit of the enjoying was due to the fact that Olivia was in the nursery with a sitter. I love being a free woman! Oh, and I had a front row seat:

The reception took place in downtown Nashville, at the Avenue, an old warehouse just south of Broadway. I had never been down Broadway, which is full of honky tonks and cheesy neon lights. It looked so fun! I secretly wanted to go there instead of the reception. I wanted to drop Olivia off at the reception and go have fun without her. No, I am not a bad mother. I am a woman. A woman who has for years loved Big & Rich's song that has the line, "Ridin' up and down Broadway, on my old stud Leroy," and now I knew what they were talking about.

But I was a good sister-in-law and attended my brother-in-law's reception instead. Where we got to hang with JB's family, who are lots of fun:

There was a live band, which I learned was Lauren's Dad's band. The dinner was dee-lish, though I didn't get enough of it, due to time and Olivia. JB did his best-man speech, which I think was head and shoulders above the girls' speeches (sorry, ladies, but victory for Jib!). And, no, I don't just like it better because I helped him write it (the gun show reference was all me)! Then they cut the cake. Wedding cake is IDK. I just don't like cake, unless it's homemade with the frosting that you get in a plastic tub. Any other frosting is too sugary to me. So I never get excited about desserts at weddings. Fortunately, Austin had requested cheesecakes as a special side thing. MMMmmm. Good move, BIL.

I attended the reception with Olivia in tow. I had wanted to get her a sitter, but Marian reminded me that there would be plenty of people to play with her (and who would want to see her), so she came along. And Marian was right, that plenty of people wanted to play with her, but in an odd twist for Olivia, she only wanted to play with me. She was a very, very good little girl, but I couldn't just do whatever I wanted because I felt responsible and that I should be checking on her regularly, since she kept wanting me. She stayed up until 10:30, and then her little baby body gave out on her. The next morning I realized that she was cutting a tooth that night. So really, she probably would have been a party animal like usual, if it wasn't for that tooth.

So, a good time was had by all.

For more photos of the fun, check out my flickr set.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Laurel Falls, Tennessee

Last week JB, Olivia, and I took a much anticipated vacation to Tennessee. We spent the first half in Johnson City with the Biers (Marian's brother Tommy and his family) and then drove 4.5 hours to Nashville for five days of festivities surrounding JB's brother Austin's wedding. (Yes, apparently weddings are more than a one-day event in the proper South.)

We did many things, so there will probably be several posts about Tennessee.

Today's post is about our hike to Laurel Falls, a 55' waterfall along the Appalachian Trail near Elizabethton, TN. We set out with Uncle Tommy, Aunt Rhonda, Lydia, Nathan, and their cousin Kyle. Apparently there are two ways to get to the falls. The first way is a more circuitous way, and the Biers took cousin Sarah and Dave on. We spiced things up and took the other trail, which is shorter, but more arduous. Much of the trail was pleasant and easy, and very picturesque, like this:

I liked this because JB was carrying Olivia in a pack on his back and this seemed a safe, reliable route. At one point we walked across this narrow bridge. The mom in me was nervous about JB and the babe, though JB seemed to have no fear. Even though his feet were this close to the edge of the bridge:

Horrible scenarios kept running through my mind of him tumbling off some edge like this, or off into some ravine, with little Olivia getting crushed by JB (who would get beat to pieces himself) and impaled with branches and brush. I trusted that this would not happen, but I had to be prepared mentally.

As we neared the falls we could hear their loud rushing waters. It was very neat. As we hiked closer and closer, the falls got louder and louder. But the trail still had us walking way above the falls. Then came the hike down to the falls. According to an online brochure, it is a 1/4 mile going straight down. There are stone steps along the way, some seemingly placed there, others seemed carved out of the mountain. I am kicking myself for not getting a photo as evidence. Uncle Tommy counted the steps on the way back, and there are around 277. And these are not evenly-spaced ones that you'd find in a building. They're mountain steps.

It was a crazy hike down, and my legs felt like Jell-O at the end. But it was cool. Especially seeing the falls at the bottom. So we had a packed lunch, and then JB and the kids decided to hike to the top of the falls (look for then at the top right of the falls):

Aunt Rhonda, Tommy, O, and I enjoyed the view from the bottom, until Olivia decided to drop a deuce. Try changing a baby when there are nothing but jagged rocks to lay her on! Aunt Rhonda was nice enough to offer her lap. Shortly after this slight fiaso, the kids returned from the top of the falls.

"Where is JB?" we asked them.

"He's not here?" asked Lydia. "He left before us a while ago."

I thought that she was joking.

She wasn't.

JB had left about five minutes before them, but there was no sign of him, or their dog Greta, who went with him. We tried calling him, but the falls were too loud for our voices to travel. I had prepared myself for my husband and daughter to get broken to pieces in a ravine, but not for solo JB. I began to wonder if this was a serious situation, but my heart of hearts knew that he was okay, but we just didn't know WHERE he was okay.

Then he appeared.

Apparently the trail back to the bottom of the falls was not clearly marked, and JB got on some hairbrained path that went up some other part of the mountain, then down this very steep hillside/ravine, etc. And on and on until he somehow found his way back. His legs to got bruised and cut, and at one point he had to carry the dog, because she wasn't making up the mountainside herself.

By the time he returned to us, it was time to hike back. Back up the 277 steep mountain steps. I had been quite sick with headaches on our trip, so JB decided to haul Olivia himself again.

Only crazy people choose to rehike this after their first adventure! Biers, you are crazy!

Remember my post about JB outwalking my sister and I on our trip to East Grand Rapids? Well, you add my headache and Jell-O legs to the mix and I was walking really slowly on the way back from Laurel Falls. JB walked right with me on the way back. He did not race ahead. He did not lead the pack. He even had to stop a few times to rest. But in the end he made it to the top, with his bruised and bloody legs, and an extra 22+ lbs on his back, which included a crying, then sleeping, baby. Olivia is not one to sleep when in a social setting, so she hadn't taken a nap yet that day and hadn't slept well the night before. At some point coming up the stairs her little baby body gave out on her and she passed out in the pack. And if you didn't know this, a sleeping baby is much heavier than an awake baby.

I love going on hikes and I loved this one, but I think that once is enough for me. Those stairs are not for the faint of heart! Though perhaps I should return to photograph the steps, if anything.