Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our Engagement Story

In Wabi Sabi: Finding Our Place, I introduced you to our most sacred place. A place that changed our lives.

On August 20th 2014, we returned to our place.

It was an ordinary Wednesday morning. And then it wasn't.

One week prior, we had taken possession of our first home. While I opted to work as a result of limited vacation time, Graham resolved to spend one week of holidays enjoying the process: moving heavy boxes, scoping out thrift stores and antique shops in pursuit of my *dream* couch (which we still aren't sure exists), unpacking the "boring" boxes, and playing a supportive role in minor (unforeseen) construction (see below).

Moving our washing machine down the stairs was tricky at best. We managed to make it work, at the expense of the drywall in our stairway. My dad repaired the damage.

A few days later, we purchased a couch for our basement (final sale). Graham was certain it would fit down the stairs. It did not fit down the stairs. We - my dad and Graham (while my mom and I, horrified, occasionally shrieked and shouted "be careful!") - were compelled to cut a large hole in one wall of the stairway, which would allow the couch to pass. My dad created a niche to facilitate its removal someday (I do not foresee it ever leaving). He repaired the damage once again. 

Note: While house hunting, proceed with caution if the basement belonging to your dream home is staged only with chairs. This is (potentially, or probably) because nothing else will fit into it... 
How to make your couch fit down the stairs... Apparently.
We feel hugely blessed that our family (Graham's side and mine) laboured arduously during this move. It is because of the help we received that we were able to promptly and gladly settle into our first home.

Returning to Away in the County 

It was a typical Wednesday morning in that I ignored my sounding alarm and clicked snooze four times, granting ample time to curl my hair and do nothing else (great.) or settle for looking mildly disheveled (but still presentable...) and grab a coffee. The latter. Always the latter. Top knots forever!

It was an unusual Wednesday morning in that Graham drove me to work. He had opted to act as my chauffeur for the week. This way, come 5 o'clock pm, he could pick me up from the office and we could venture to our favourite furniture shops (many of which are downtown) and continue our spending spree. (Buy all of the furniture!)

Who was I to complain? Free ride to work! I'll sleep in the car.

I slung my heavy gym bag over my shoulder:
I'll go to the gym on my lunch...
(I always say this. This never happens.)

And we were out the door.

I remember we drove in silence (Graham must have turned my music off) and I closed my eyes. Just a little nap until we arrive...

He pulled over into a vacant school parking lot. He parked the car.

I, visibly annoyed:
"What are you doing?"
He smiled.
"You aren't going to work today."
My heart stopped. Profound concern obscured my curiosity. My expression, shadowed. Graham must be sick, I thought to myself. I imagined him driving us to the hospital. He was smiling. Why is he smiling if he is sick? I am oblivious (and morbid when tired, apparently).

Finally, years (moments) later, he added:
"You won't be going back to work until Monday. We're going on vacation babe. We're going to Away!"
He had worked out all of the details. My Director was aware; my vacation time, approved.

In the beginning, I was almost (definitely) upset. Had he packed my bags? Am I prepared? Can we afford a little getaway? Are my colleagues comfortable with my departure? I haven't yet turned on my Out of Office! We have furniture to buy. We are mid-move... I would prefer this in a month.

A self-proclaimed control freak, I spent several moments in complete silence. I sought to grasp, and then accept, this grand romantic gesture.
Aren't you excited?
I looked up at Graham (I should have done this much sooner). He was smiling ear to ear. He appeared nervous, yet entirely contended.

I felt more excited than ever before.

In this moment, I should have known. 

We stopped for Starbucks and wine gums (road trip essentials), and began driving to Prince Edward County.

Nestled among the tranquil shores of East Lake, surrounded by natural gardens and magically overgrown fields, we revisited our place, the one we had found in the village of Cherry Valley.

I was the designated DJ for our drive. James Vincent McMorrow, the Arkells, and Van Morrison (on repeat).

When we arrived, we were greeted by Susan, Glen, and their Bassett Hound, Oscar. Their proven talents aside (impeccable carpentry, encaustic painting, delicious cuisine, and an attention-to-detail), Susan and Glen are authentic, generous, and kind. We were instantly reminded of their abiding generosity. They insisted on making us a dinner reservation (for later that evening) and helped us plan our (second) magical visit to Prince Edward County.

Graham had reserved the Gardener's Room; he had wished to remind us of our first visit. He could not have made a better selection. We entered our suite - its handsome quarters, familiar - and it evoked the greatest sense of calm. I recognized the picture window; I revelled in its expansive view. I felt nostalgic for the sunsets of our first visit, but hopeful for the sunsets of our second. I relaxed for a moment in the sitting area, marvelling at the high ceilings and gentle light. The fresh breeze felt cool and invigorating on my skin. The essence of flora, ever-present.
Delighted to be 'Away' with my sweetheart again.
Suddenly, we realized... we were ravenous! With all of the anticipation and excitement, we had skipped lunch. We headed to Vicki's Veggies, a small, organic farmers' market stand. It employs honour system purchasing (leave what you owe in the red metallic box) and I love that. Its ambiance, serene; its product, undisturbed. I have never experienced anything like it before. The natural light lingered in through ornamental, antique windows and felt soft on my skin. It was magical.

We stopped at a local shop and purchased a few more snacks. Then we headed back to Away.
All smiles at Vicki's Veggies.
I so vividly remember one moment in particular upon our return. I had climbed up onto our bed (literally climbed) and turned my music on. We were listening to Gotta Have You. Graham was playing with my Polaroid camera. I was laughing (possibly at nothing in particular). I noticed him look at me in a way I have never been looked at before. I recall almost crying, then smiling. And laughing more.

I had never witnessed anyone look so happy or so in love. It stayed with me and it always will.

Little did I know, he was uncommonly nervous. There was a ring in his pocket. He was waiting for the perfect moment to ask. To ask his tiny girlfriend, sipping cream soda and giggling in bed, to be his forever.

I will never again be looked at in that way. And I never want to be. I don't believe in perfect, but that moment was perfect.

In this moment, I should have known. 
Heirloom tomatoes and golden peaches from Vicki's Veggies. Old cheddar from Black River Cheese.
I prepared a picnic for us (to tide us over until supper time). We chatted, snacked, laughed and snuggled. Our entire life in a nutshell.

Later, I got dolled up and we headed to supper at The Hubb Eatery. We ordered truffled cheese curds, fresh shucked oysters, and tuna tartare (among other things). I sipped on The County Whiskey Sour. Nerves set in: Graham barely ate a single thing. Oblivious: I ate everything...

We rested early.
Ready for dinner!
Whiskey love.
Then morning came. The comforting, heated floors of our en suite washroom; the velvety soft and pebbled tile of the walk-in shower (that for some reason, always remind me of the ocean); the delicate, cushioned white robes that seem to almost embrace...

Getting ready for our day was an absolute dream. Everything at Away is a dream.

Before breakfast, I craved adventure (already!). I wished to wander the gardens that we had been blessed to overlook from our window. We happened upon (Okay... I knew it was there, but had lost exactly where) a hidden patio overlooking the shore. The waters were tranquil. The air, crisp and warm. The gardens, quiet. The sun was glowing but not yet intense. It offered its light to the dew-laden leaves of roses and willows. Our hands joined - as they so naturally do - and the scent of strong coffee drifted towards us. The elegant simplicity of our bed and breakfast came into plain view.

Breakfast was served on the screened in porch, the menu typed on the residence typewriter. We enjoyed fresh orange juice, local coffee, scrumptious muffins (still warm, wrapped in cloth), and strata (french toast and candied peaches for Graham) no short of divine. Glen's culinary success is field-to-fork in the most literal sense. Gracing our plates each morning were fresh, heirloom tomatoes and just picked berries from the AWAY gardens. Heaven.
This tasted like lasagna. My heart (and belly) were so happy.
Our day began by visiting 66 Gilead Distillery. Established on an 80-acre farm, the tasting room is situated inside the historic Cooper-Norton House. A selection of vodkas, gins, and Shochu (sake) are offered for tasting. I could not resist purchasing cherry bitters, pine infused vodka (the sensory experience of Christmas in a glass!... a very boozy Christmas in a glass...), a wooden crate, and a vintage apron. Self-control is a concept unknown to me.

We visited an antique shop (where I somehow resisted a set of vintage luggage) and Waupoos Estates Winery, where we purchased two bottles of chardonnay, dark chocolate covered sour cherries,  and a brick (I'm sorry there are no other word to accurately describe this) of white chocolate (a perfect pairing!).

Later that morning, we visited Sandbanks Provincial Park (home to the world's largest fresh water sand bar!). We swam, skipped along the beach (I skipped, Graham did not), and explored the spectacular sand dunes (veering wildly beyond the walking trails... naturally) until we were desperate for water and/or popsicles.
Sandbanks Provincial Park!
We were having an incredible time. So when Graham took it upon himself to cancel our dinner reservation, I was puzzled.

He explained:
We have spent hardly any time at our bed and breakfast. Let's stay back and have a picnic tonight instead. We can spend the rest of the afternoon shopping for local ingredients.
Sold. So sold!

We visited the Agrarian Cheese Market & Speakeasy, where we picked up fresh bread and charcuterie. We chose a roasted corn relish, pickled, curried yellow beans, and a selection of crostini. On our way back, we stopped at roadside farmers' market with rows of freshly cut flowers because, really... Who can resist all of the fresh and vibrant, colourful produce?!
Fun, crazy, silly LOVE! (Also dishevelled and sweaty from running around...)
And then... evening came.

I got dolled up again because... When in Rome! I took it slow (is there anything better than being on vacation?). I curled my hair. I wore my favourite dress.

Meanwhile, Graham prepared our picnic outside. Susan and Glen were out for the evening; we had the entire Away residence to ourselves! But Graham chose our private balcony, flawlessly positioned to overlook the sunset. He brought my laptop outside and turned our music on. (I cannot divulge the secret of the songs that were played... Wedding songs!)

He set up the tripod for my camera so that we could "take a picture together on the balcony" (aww!).

When I walked outside, he was pouring our wine. And boy, was it beautiful. It was the most dreamlike, romantic setting I had ever laid eyes on.

Being my cheesy self, I grabbed my glass of wine and began dancing around the balcony. Graham (strangely!) was fidgeting with the camera and did not join in. I continued being silly until I caught sight of the sunset.

I turned to face it.

The sun had fallen slowly below the horizon. The heat was (finally) giving way to the cooler evening air. I watched the sky above the shore embrace a blush coloured glow. I listened to Graham's voice:
Stay there. I want to take a picture of you watching the sunset.
I, a model (I'm kidding), complied. I patiently waited to hear the shutter of the camera.

But then the music changed. And a very special song came on.

And suddenly, I knew.

I turned (with tears in my eyes), to find him, down on one knee, reaching into his pocket to reveal a small white box.

I did not notice the flash of my camera as it captured this moment. I did not notice the melody of the piano coming to a calm. I did not notice the tears (and mascara) that were streaming down my cheeks.

I listened to his soft voice, certain and sure but somehow shaky. I thought to myself:
"Remember what he is saying! You need to remember what he is saying!" 
And I'm not even sure I feel worthy of the beautiful things that were said.

And when I heard: "I know that I am not the healthiest man," my heart stood still. I said yes before he was able to finish speaking. And I tried to take it all in.

And then we cried a whole lot more. We danced, laughed, and ate everything. Graham said he was still nervous. I laughed and said he was crazy.

And we enjoyed a few final, quiet moments of our engagement being "ours."

Saying yes to the man of my dreams.

On August 21, 2014, my best friend and soul mate got down on one knee and asked:
Be mine, forever?
And it was the happiest moment of my life. 
Pure joy.
I spent the next few hours looking at my ring, which was about a size too big (nice try babe!).

A devoted thrift shopper, I had always wondered if I would ultimately want a vintage ring. Graham and I had discussed it at length (years ago!) but I had asked him to follow his heart. "Choose a ring that reminds you of me," I had said.

Apparently this was easier said than done. He opted to have the ring of my dreams made for me. It will always and forever be mine. And I couldn't feel more special.

We returned to our suite, jumped in a mountain of blankets, and drank a bottle of wine. We laughed endlessly (Graham, less nervous now, and back to his hilarious self) and ate the entire brick of white chocolate I introduced earlier.

We began calling and texting friends and family. My best friend (and Maid of Honor) freaked out, cried, and sent me 100 texts (and pins).

We were completely overwhelmed by the love and support we received. We feel tremendously blessed.

And as we started to fall asleep, I told him that I was in awe of him. And he told me that he would love me forever.
The next morning, Susan and Glen played music on their phonograph and toasted us with champagne. We celebrated with Glen's renowned Eggs Benedict. (His hollandaise sauce may have changed my life...)

We planned our next visit (for winter 2015) and received a warm hug from each kind host.

We wistfully said our goodbyes.

And the rest... The rest is still to be written.

Cue the revolution of this blog! Welcome to... a spin-off of Style Me Pretty!

I'm kidding... I hope.