Review: Huffman Park – Fairfield, OH

A couple of weekends ago, my mom and I went to a new park in Fairfield to make some rain barrels. I’ve been wanting a rain barrel for a while. We have well water at The House, so water isn’t a challenge here, but I really want to be a better steward of the resources God has given us. Rainwater is one great resource.

But before I get going on how great rain barrels are and how we made ours, I want to share about the park!

Huffman Park

2100 John Gray Road
Fairfield, OH 45014
513.867.5345 (Fairfield Parks & Recreation)
Website

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left: rock at the entrance with benefactors of the park. right: windmill used to aerate the pond through an underground tube.

This park has a very cool back story. I remember hearing about it a year or so ago, and now, having seen the finished product, I’m very impressed.

The Huffmans owned the property, 22 acres, and maintained the property as natural open space for their kids to play in. When the couple died, the family donated the property, land and buildings, to the city to be turned into a public park. The two conditions were that it had to be a learning park for families and all the materials in the house had to be repurposed (whether in the park or through the Habitat for Humanity Restore facility). I believe the park staff said that 92% of the house was salvageable and repurposed in some form or another. Even if that’s not the right number, the percentage was very high. Some of the trees on the property were repurposed into playground equipment.

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clockwise from top left: tunnel with an overhead viewing spot in the center; wood balance beam and a rock circle; bumble bee monkey bars (there is some metal on this but even in the hot sun it was cool to the touch); pond with native aquatic plants to attract waterfowl.

Not only is there play equipment for recreation, there are quite a few places for learning more about nature. The property includes several learning spots like a butterfly garden and a fruit and nut orchard. We even saw a persimmon growing on one of the tiny trees growing there.

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clockwise from top left: orchard learning station; tiny persimmon tree with fruit; more playground equipment and tree steppers; beautiful flowers to attract butterflies.

Last year, I took a community garden class down in Cincinnati. At one point I stopped attending (I’m not sure if we were done, or I pooped out), but I learned so much about natural gardening techniques. I would love to take more classes like that (especially for the free price) in the future, but I was so excited to hear that they would have community garden plots at Huffman Park. I had to check them out while I was there. They are completely self-service, so if you don’t maintain them yourself, they will die. But it’s a great idea and there was some good stuff to see.

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This was late in the summer and the plants were already getting brown and scorched in that heavy heat, but I bet it looked great during the growing season!

Baby corn and some peppers. Yum!

Baby corn and some peppers. Yum!

Ok, back to the rain barrel class. Sara was our teacher and there were 6 of us there making 5 barrels. My mom wanted to make one and I have wanted one for a while, so we both made our own. She ended up giving hers away, but ours is proudly out front in its bright, bright blue (that will soon be remedied with some spray paint…it is kind of an eyesore right now). We quickly went through the process and started at it. The hardest part was the hole saw. We had it figured for either not enough torque or too much. One of the men came over and helped stabilize the saw for me while I guided it because it was just too strong for me. I have two little snags in my t-shirt from where it shot off the top of the barrel towards my stomach. I was not harmed. I felt like wonder woman!

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clockwise from top: two of the “students” and our teacher Sara on the right; mom snapped a pic of me in action!; cutting the big hole to sit under the downspout.

We had a great time and learned a lot more about the park and made a couple of friends. Sara is the first naturalist on staff with Fairfield Parks and she is very enthusiastic about her job. She is looking for more ideas of things to teach Fairfield/Butler County residents. The classes are open to anybody, but they are a little more expensive if you live out of the area. Costs seem to be primarily for supplies. They have concerts, painting and photography classes, yoga, bird watching/learning, stargazing, etc. There are tons of activities for kids. Call or visit the city website (above) for more information. http://gettotheBC.com has a lot of great information about other activities throughout all of Butler County. It’s a definite must-visit for the local tourist.

In the meantime, I’m going brainstorm how to paint my new rain barrel and get it ready for next year’s growing season!

Yes, I realize that the spout is too close to the ground. We're working on that as well. :)

From start to finish!  Yes, I realize that the spout is too close to the ground. We’re working on that as well. 🙂

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Getting Married: 10 Weeks – Fitting in Lithuanian

70 Days and 10 Weeks. Wow! The time is getting so close!

This past Sunday, Matt and I met with and booked an awesome DJ! I’ll have some more info up for you after the wedding about DJ B. We are pretty pleased with our pick. He was very organized, detailed, and personable. And he could laugh. That’s always a good sign.

Tuesday night, Mom and I lugged my wedding dress and accessory clothing to David’s Bridal for my first fitting! It was pretty fun and informative. My dress is so gorgeous and detailed…that means alterations are going to be a bear. We actually have to go back at the end of April for a Part Two because she could only focus on the top part and not the hem. That’s right. I might be long-waisted, but I’m still short and the back was way too loose. The dress looked so pretty when I first tried it on, but it felt wonderful after she clipped it up to the right dimensions on the top.

Who is this she? Her name is Grazina. From Lithuania and bearing a thick Eastern European accent – she was just what I wanted in a seamstress.  When we bought the dress, we also bought a slip to go under it. It had tulle and a couple layers to make the dress poof out a bit more. When I tried it on for the fitting, Grazina decided that it was too much and found one with tulle only towards the bottom. It fit so much better. Alas, that one was also too long, so she will probably have to alter that as well. But, at least we didn’t have to pay for the second one; she let us swap out the first one.

I have been putting the finishing touches on the design for some of the favors. We are having a couple different favor choices and I love the variety of the reception so far. We have several cake flavors, different favors, and the decorations are going to be cockamamie – just my style. The music too, will exactly suit our taste, spanning a few decades. I absolutely can’t wait!

I got a text from both my bridesmatrons. My MOH, Lanna, found her dress and it is so lovely! Amy sent me a picture of the dress she found for her daughter who is my flower girl. Both of those dresses are in yellow and Amy found red shoes to match. I know she is going to be so amazingly adorable. My sister is going to take my nieces out, who are my junior bridesmaids, to find their dresses hopefully this week.

Things are starting to come together and the RSVP’s are coming in too!  I am so excited for all of this and hope that I don’t get too stressed out throughout the next 70 days. I’m so glad that Matt and I decided to stay home after the wedding if only just to be able to relax and recoup from all the planning and the day. I know that I will be exhausted.

Oh, I bought a necklace to wear with my dress. I won’t post which one it is, but here is the link to the shop. I think her jewelry is darling!

I will leave you with another shop to peruse. I’ve been following this Meg Duerksen’s blog for about a year now. She has creative women come to her done-up barn once a month for a crafting weekend and they get crazy! She is a Christian and inspires me in so many ways. She just reopened her online shop, so I think you should check it out.

This next week will be – shopping for Matt’s outfit and our wedding bands! Yay!

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Getting Married: 32 Weeks – Silent Auction

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for an important announcement. If you don’t know me very well (which, if you are part of Matt’s crew, that is probably pretty true), I would like to share something that is very heavy on my heart with you. I have sought to be involved with the international community since I graduated from high school. I was intending to become a Bible translator and trekking the wilds of Nepal, teaching the Nomadic tribes about the love of Christ. Through a series of events (some felt unfortunate at the time, but the end result, I will not complain about 😀 *heart*) God took me through three unlikely countries (for me) before plopping me right back to southwest Ohio and saying that it would be here that I would serve Him. When I came home from China, I thought that God would send me back there at some point. I started offering English lessons to some of the workers in Chinese restaurants in the area. I worked on learning more about the culture and the language. But God decided to use my exposure here to teach me about something else.

Buy it on Amazon!

I got ahold of a book called “Not For Sale” by David Batstone. This book began with an account of a normal man, in a normal suburb, who found out a young Indian woman was found beaten and left wrapped in a carpet on the side of the road a few streets over from him. This woman was kept in debt bondage to a local Indian restaurant and then cast out, left for dead. It amazed this man that something like this was happening in his own backyard. This was my first real exposure to Human Trafficking.

And then it happened in MY own backyard. I discovered that it was happening to people who I had come to know and had spent time with. I was floored and began to investigate even more about this issue. Learning more about Human Trafficking, the various forms it comes in (debt bondage, sex trafficking, slave labor, child slave labor, child sex trafficking), God began to put these people on my heart. He brought a Bible verse to my attention:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
– Isaiah 58:6 (ESV) –

Yep, we thumbs up.

I was so excited when my dear friend Amy Davis shared that God had been pulling her heart towards this same issue and to these hurting people over the years as well. She has been such a blessing and helped me get beyond just thinking about the problem and raising awareness to actually doing something concrete. We started out by going through the Love146 Task Force curriculum with a group of people at our church and others. We got a Fairfield police officer to come and speak at our church about the issue in our own hometown. Also, Matt has totally come on board to help whenever work permits and that is such a blessing!

This past weekend, we organized a Silent Auction to benefit a ministry reaching out to women in the sex industry in Dayton, OH. There are so many things I could point out about Human Trafficking in Ohio. Ohio is in the top 10 for human trafficking, with Toledo being the number one city in the nation for Child Sex Trafficking recruitment. Kids are regularly taken off the street and transported to other cities and states for the purpose of prostitution and pornography. Many active adult sex workers were forced into the business before they were 18 and most have experienced some form of abuse as a child. It pains me so much to know that there are people and children hurting like this, and that the demand exists at such a high level in our state.

This was our first time ever doing a Silent Auction and I honestly had no idea what to expect on support and amount raised. When we started talking to people about it, the promises for donations came pouring in. We would come into church and someone else would hand us a basket or bag of items they wanted to donate. The women’s ministry group at the church organized all the food and refreshments. And just when I was getting discouraged about not selling enough tickets, we had a few people come up to us that morning to buy some.

Three Citizens…yes, I realize there are four of them. They still sound good.

The week before, we had a bit of music debacle, but it all worked out with finding a new group that is fantastic! [Insert plug here] These are Three Citizens. We are so grateful that they came out to play for us. We had a great time with them.

We raised over $1,000 for Oasis House! It was so good! God definitely was in control of the whole thing. If you would like more information about Human Trafficking and the impact in Butler County, you can check out the Butler County Human Trafficking Awareness Facebook page. We are completely grassroots right now, but who knows what God will do in the future?! He has done crazier things in my own life so I won’t hold Him to any plan of mine.

Here’s a link to Oasis House, as well: http://oasisforwomen.org. I’m looking forward to spending much more time with them in the future!

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Getting Married: 34 Weeks – Combining Forces

This is more of a question post.

Matt and I decided that we wouldn’t talk about combining our regular finances until we absolutely had to. We both seem to have a good handle on the bills that we have and why add extra stress before the wedding by jumbling up our financial systems until necessary.

That said, I’m curious about when you all (the sparse readers) started combining the different aspects of your lives together with your spouse. Was it before the wedding? Was it after? Was it at random times, depending on the aspect? Like…I’ve taken over one or two boxes to The House of my things – decorations and such that I’ve gathered through the years until I had a place to display them. Matt also signed up for AAA, so he added me on as part of his household and now I have my own card. 😀 That was nice. Still has my current name on it. We also went ahead and opened a joint checking account just for the money we get together for the wedding. That seemed a very logical and not very invasive thing to do.

There was one thing that did come up that I was on the fence about: a return address stamp. I was hoping that I would have got the one I decided on in the mail by the time I wrote this entry, but alas, it’s taking its dear, sweet lovin’ time. A return address stamp might seem like a fairly innocuous thing. BUT, sometimes small details can really trip up a brain. By the way, I got a discount for an address stamper through Groupon, which is what brought on this whole ordeal. And a mental ordeal it was…you’ve been warned.

The traditional return address label is the bride’s family home, or the ones paying for the wedding. However, since Matt and I are taking care of the bulk of the finances for the wedding, this didn’t seem like an issue. For a practical aspect, there’s not a lot of room at my current home for lots of gifts and such that might come through the mail. At The House, there’s a whole spare room set aside for wedding things – to be converted to a project room once it’s all straightened up after the wedding. So, for things like gifts, or items we are buying ahead of time, having them sent to The House just makes sense. We’re also inviting out-of-town friends and guests to send postcards for our wedding guestbook and those will be sent to The House as well.

But, there’s still the question of the return stamp. Do we put both of our first names and the address of The House? Or do we just have the address with no names? I was really torn about it. I didn’t feel comfortable using Matt’s last name before our wedding date. I also didn’t want people to think that we’re living together already, even though most who know us would not think that. Equally important is the cost idea: I didn’t want to buy a stamp to only use for 8 months and then have to get a whole new one for after marriage. So, I made a compromise. A little out of tradition, I went ahead and ordered the stamp with my future address labeled as “The Martin House.” Yes, it’s a dumb thing to get all concerned about, but I do have 8 months, I might as well think about details like these.

So, what about you? Was there one thing about combining your life with another person that got you on edge or was a real struggle to work through? I don’t think there’s any real right or wrong answer, and our idea of a good arrangement might not work for someone else. I would love to hear your thoughts, though. Might as well learn from those who have taken this path already.

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Getting Married: 35 Weeks – Engagement Photos

Oh my word! Yesterday was such a gorgeous day! Anyone else have a great Saturday? I have to admit that I was a bit worried about it earlier this week. See, back in July, I scheduled to have our engagement photos done yesterday. No idea what the weather would be like, but I was so super hopeful. And then this week, it was cloudy, rainy, gross, cold…and when they said we would finally get some sunlight, we didn’t. I was doing my best not to get undone though, and I’m glad everything worked out great.

I am so fortunate to have a photographer as my matron of honor. Of course, I don’t want her to do my wedding photos, since it’ll distract her from other duties, but she was so excited to do our engagement photos. We’ve had her do some pics of the family (my mom, me, sisters, and their kids) and she’s done pics for friends and such. I’m thrilled to see what else she comes up with for us!

I love my Butler County, Ohio. There’s just enough city (and nearby Cincinnati) and country, that it’s a really beautiful place. The MetroParks have always been lovely, but it seems like this year, they have really stepped up and worked to integrate them into everyday life. There are quite a few parks just within a small radius of where I live, my favorite growing up being Harbin Park – which holds the highest natural point in Fairfield, maybe the county…I’m not sure on that last part. However, I think my new favorite park would have to be Rentschler Park. I had a dear friend who lived in one of the homes on the park, so I had some exposure to it while in high school. Honestly, I just didn’t appreciate it much. There’s quite a lot going on here. There are soccer fields, playgrounds, fishing pond, a creek weaving through the woods, indian earthworks (I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen these!), rustic gray barn, lots of walking paths, and a view of the beautiful Erie-Miami Canal. It makes for a beautiful time.

It also has a special place in my heart because it was here Matt first told me he loved me. Albeit by accident…but I heard it and acted like I didn’t, since I wasn’t sure if he really wanted to say it yet. Two days later, he did…and he meant it.

So, it was here that we wanted our pictures done. I’m glad that we could introduce it to Lanna and her husband, Matt. They didn’t even know it existed and I’m pretty sure they will use it again for future backdrops. Love first times! Can I just say how awkward it is getting pictures done? Especially when you’re trying to make them not look posed, but having to pose. Plus, there’s the whole kissing in front of people. Matt and I are NOT PDA kind of folks and the most we do is hold hands and sit close to each other. Other than that, it was a great experience! The weather was cooperating, except for a stray cloud that stole the sun away at an opportune moment, and we were with dear friends who we could laugh and cajole with.

So, when the shoot was done, we went separate ways and on with the rest of our evening. Matt and I headed over to my pastor’s house to practice some songs for Sunday morning worship and to see friends. While we were hanging out and then getting dinner, Lanna was busy editing away to get some preview shots up for us. I am so excited by what she has put out so far, I’m literally checking my phone every two minutes or less to see if there are any new ones. Alas, we have to wait for the CD for the rest, but here are the 6 she loaded for preview.

Can you say, “Awww?!?!” I have no more words. 🙂

Oh, but if you are in the Cincinnati area and would like to book Lanna for your photos, you can contact her through email: lanna.hoffman [a] gmail.com. She’s pretty fab, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my best friend, matron of honor, and engagement photographer. 🙂

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Reflections on the Planning

I love and hate that God asks us to do things that are way outside of our comfort zone.  My pastor has mentioned often that he is a huge introvert and really doesn’t like getting up in front of people.  But God called him to be a pastor and he’s an amazing one!  For me, I can’t stand planning things.  Even planning a get together with friends drives me nuts!  I would much rather someone else make all the decisions and let me know where I need to be when and what I’m supposed to do.  And yet, inevitably, I will feel God say to me, “Sarah, I think you could plan such and such.  You know, I really want you to plan such and such.  It would be great for you if you would plan such and such.”  And I start down the fairly stressful path of planning an event. 

I don’t do this often.  It’s really God who has to convince me that it’s something I need to do.  But He did so back in November of last year.  If you can’t tell, something that weighs heavy on my heart is the atrocity of human trafficking.  I’ve been in exposure and awareness mode for the last few years – learning as much as I can, attending various events, getting connected with others who are concerned about it as well.  But, as I helped out with a Fall shopping day for Stop Traffick Fashion, I really began to feel like it was something our church needed as well. 

And I cringed.  I would have preferred to tell the ladies in my church about it and then they plan it.  I would even have consented to talking about it in front of the church (another thing I’m not a huge fan of doing), but with the words coming out of my mouth, the task was placed in my hands.  Our WMU leader was really excited about the idea, because she had been reading a couple of articles recently about human trafficking in the church women’s literature.  God was in this.  I’m not saying that I did it all – by no means – Brenda Heckman and Julie Johnson (Christmas tablecloths and all *wink) and Amy Jones and Jo Collas…they are some amazing ladies.  I’m so grateful to have them as role models to learn from, especially in regards to unity of kindred women and…the dreaded – hospitality. 

I am not practiced in hospitality at all.  I can’t remember what all is needed to make people feel comfortable.  For me, I go to an event to learn something and to network…and I assume everyone else is there for the same reason.  Shocking, but that’s not really the case.  Thankfully, the ladies mentioned above organized the food and decorating and there wasn’t much for me to do on that part besides being a grunt and moving tables and chairs. 

My primary task was organizing speakers and getting the word out to the community.  I may not have done the last part as well – and really the first part, I’m thinking went exactly as it should have gone, but nothing like I planned.  I was anticipating having a speaker share at each hour something in regards to human trafficking.  Emily would share about Stop Traffick Fashion and Hagar International.  I would talk about the Christian responsibility and upcoming events in the community.  And the one I was most excited about, a Hamilton Police Officer would come and share about human trafficking in our community, state and nation. 

It was awkward trying to figure out how we were going to stop everything and have everyone listen to a speaker for all of 5-10 mins and then go on their way with eating and shopping.  The only really solid group of “fresh” people was right between 10:30 and 11:15.  So, I asked for Officer Collins to share with everyone what she had been researching.  And it was great!

I wasn’t surprised that, as a local police officer, there wouldn’t be much experience with human trafficking.  I would be surprised if even the local sheriff’s department had any experience with human trafficking.  Our wonderful local sheriff isn’t that keen on the rights of illegals – no matter what condition they are in.  So, I wasn’t surprised when she shared that she got wide eyes and remarks of disbelief or discredit from fellow officers when commenting that human trafficking may be an issue in Butler County, OH.  She talked about not finding much information within the department to go off of, so she began to broaden her scope to the state of Ohio and then to the US.  She was surprised to find that Toledo is #4 in Top Cities of Human Trafficking.  Ohio is #7 in the US for human trafficking.  It’s an issue in every city (which would include Fairfield and Hamilton…”every” being an all-inclusive term).

I think that about 50 people came to the event.  Most of them bought something from STF.  But what I’m most excited is how God brought me to a job where I would meet this police officer, who I could then coordinate with and share a concern and a need in our community with.  And that she would then become interested in the issue and maybe work on spreading it to the rest of the department. 

I don’t know what this means for Butler County.  I don’t know if we’re on the edge of something starting or if it will take a few more years for anything to get going.  I don’t know what my part will be or if I will even have a part in it.  But I know that I am available to God – even if it involves more planning – that I will keep going until He stops me.