It was the first time the three of us had been free to choose a place to live, all on our own, simply because it was the right house, in the right place to call home.
We chose to come back to the Heartland, back to Southern Illinois, back to my hometown and back to my family.
It was a really big deal, so we even chose a name for our special new home -- Prairie Wood.
|The view down the driveway after the wedding|
|Gail and Jeff making brick oven pizzas|
And, certainly, we never imagined that such a house would have a pond, and a pool, and gardens, and a jungle gym, and a playhouse, and a huge detached garage with room for a workshop, and a wine cellar and an unfinished apartment. But it does!
|Cocktails beside the pool, ceremony on the dock just beyond the reception tent|
And if we had ever allowed ourselves to think all of this existed in one property, we would have been absolutely certain that such a place would be beyond the farthest reaches of our budget and we would never be able to afford it. But we did!
|The Prairie Wood Guest House is just for little visitors who like to play house|
And never, in our wildest dreams, did we think we would find such a house, on 10.5 acres, in a heavily wooded setting with regular visitors like wild turkeys and chipmunks and deer and foxes and horses and possums and raccoons and coyotes -- in a real neighborhood. But we did!
|Wild turkeys were plentiful this year|
|The neighbors at Grant & Kristen's wedding|
Six years ago this month, people we did not know, welcomed us to their neighborhood with open arms, warm hospitality and enormous generosity.
|Gail and Megan canoeing on Prairie Wood Pond|
|Joey and Kristiana fish from the dock|
They showed up -- before we could ask, and at just the right moment -- with a chainsaw to cut limbs from our trees to allow the moving van to get all the way up the driveway to our house. Did I mention the 10.5 acres is heavily wooded?
|A group of friends, neighbors and family enjoy some brick oven pizza|
And that was just the beginning!
|The neighborhood visits a winery for a little music and local wine|
Since then they have always been there when we needed them and . . .
|Across the herb garden to the rose garden and the fountain|
- helped us prepare our lawn and gardens for Grant and Kristen's wedding on our dock and in a big tent on our lawn,
|Grant and Kristen - 5-24-08|
- invited us over to dinner and out to dinner,
|Alaska Salmon dinner at Dan & Dianna's|
- served late afternoon drinks and sunset views in the Martini Lounge, the new backyard open-air lodge, and the best bug-free-screened-in porch around,
|Jim and Becky, our hosts at the neighborhood Martini Lounge|
- shown us every out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere place to find the best fried chicken, fried fish and barbecue ribs,
|Dinner with the neighbors at Trail's End Lodge|
- looked out for my welfare when I was home alone,
|Derecho devastation 5-8-09 - I've seen coastal hurricanes cause less damage|
- shared honey from their backyard beehives,
|Dan, the neighborhood's first beekeeper|
- included me in a great group of women who meet monthly for dinner,
|Birthday Club gets a pizza making lesson - they passed with flying colors!|
- shared their homegrown bounty -- fresh asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, flowers and anything else that grows in their lovely gardens,
|Summertime supper under Jim & Becky's grape arbor|
- and introduced us to all the people and places who had just what we needed, when we needed them most.
|Snowplows, something we never saw in our neighborhoods in TX, CA, NC, LA or GA, even though we had snow in all those places!|
And now, these dear friends -- who all share our love of growing, preparing, seeking out and eating good food -- have turned into the most generous supporters of my food column and my blog, in a way that fills my tummy, inspires my writing and warms my heart with the countless ways they help me discover new things about food, family and friends in my own hometown.
|Kenny & Phyllis baked this blackberry pie for Fourth of July|
Like this blackberry pie that Kenny and Phyllis made today.
Actually, I think Kenny made it, but Phyllis is the one who called, in the middle of preparing for the first weekend of their big family reunion festivities -- the second half of the family comes next weekend.
She said the blackberry pie had turned out to be quite nice and offered to photograph it for me. They know that I'm always on the lookout for good food and good food photos. The pie recipe, if they even used one, will come later. Their family is big and this pie is not for me. Well, not to eat anyway.
But that didn't keep them from taking four different pictures of it this morning . . . with four different background set-ups . . . just for me! Not only are they great cooks, but now they are food stylists too!
|A corner of my kitchen|
|The pool house/brick oven baking house|
|A full house at the Martini Lounge|
So, to our neighbors . . . Phyllis and Kenny, who wield chainsaws and bake pies . . . and Becky and Jim, generous hosts of the neighborhood Martini Lounge on their gorgeous lawn . . . and Dianna and Dan, who will drop everything to go anywhere at anytime, just for a foodie adventure . . . thanks again for your warm welcome, your hospitality and your friendship!
|Dean on the deck|
Happy Sixth Anniversary to Prairie Wood
Happy Fourth of July to the USA!
Happy Fourth of July to the USA!
|Home again, home again ... it is so good to call this place home|