Late afternoon sunlight bathes the impressive Romanesque architecture of Little Flower Catholic Church in Rugby. The baldachin, with its impressive ionic columns, stands over the altar touched with painted squares of emerald and cinnamon in addition to the acanthus leaves and scrolls. Floyd Fairweather, former humanities instructor at Minot State University, referred to this ciborium as a fine example. He was right.
Did you know that there is a life-size jewel box in Rugby? Well, that is how I refer to the interior of Bethany Lutheran Church. This traditional church has interior walls coated with a soft, inviting pink paint and a display of stained glass windows rich in cobalt blue and deep violet tones that portray the timeless stories of the Bible.
As a former wedding photographer, I had the privilege of being in many beautiful churches. These are just two examples of the many that exist on our North Dakota landscape. When I first entered the world of wedding photography in the fall of 1987, I worked with Curtis Strand. He had a number of weddings behind his camera flash too many to count. Those days of riding in the car and visiting with Curt as we drove to a wedding are some of my very favorite memories. As we talked shop, we also talked weddings. He had countless wedding stories many of which had me rolling on the floor with laughter.
Charles Repnow is a freelance writer who lives in Rugby. His column appears alternate Wednesdays in The Minot Daily News.
As I came to know, appreciate, and understand Curt, I realized he loved doing weddings and took a real interest in the many details of each one. He could remember them with fine devotion. Photograph-ers keep lists in their minds about weddings as the most unusual wedding, the biggest wedding, the best cake and without a doubt, the most beautiful bride.
With this in mind, I came to ask who he believed was the most beautiful, stunning bride he photographed. He turned to me in the camera room and said, "Well, there were many, but if I have to pick one for impact, it would have to be Marie Broderick-Black. She was simply stunning when she became the bride of Leo Black on June 27, 1957."
Then he said, "By the way, the bride who had the most beautiful bouquet, without a doubt, was Alice Thompson-Koble who married Walter Koble on November 17, 1952." (I have several other favorites of Curt's, but that will have to be another column.)
As I reflect back on the 625 weddings that Jan and I photographed, I too have a few stories to share. First of all, weddings are a wonderful moment full of excitement, energy, beauty, and planning. Most of the planning tends to cascade upon the mother of the bride and the bride. They most often work with great enthusiasm to make sure every detail of the day will be lovely, impressive, and most importantly calm.
This was certainly the circumstance with Della, the mother of the bride (the name has been changed to protect her memory.) Della had a year to help plan her daughter's wedding, and she made numerous stops by the studio. Swatches of bridesmaid's dresses, the invitation, table top decorations, floral choices all appeared at the studio prior to the wedding. I must admit, it was great as she was totally into the groove of this wedding. She had planned two previous weddings for her other daughters and both were grand affairs.
This wedding was, however, a showcase of her maximum talent. One look at Della's planner and you knew she was getting out of her regular cloister which consisted of volumes of farm help, loads of canning, and baking. She looked at weddings as a complete adventure and as a detour for inspiration from her regular demanding schedule.
After seeing every detail of the wedding, I did ask her about her dress. There was a complete pause. She informed me that she had lost 18 pounds. (She was hoping for 40; however, time would not allow for that.)
She had settled on a dress which she felt would conceal her extra luggage rather nicely. Della insisted that she try in on for Jan and me. It was certainly lovely. Like aged concord grapes on the vine, the deep color of her two-piece ensemble had instant charm. The graceful drape of its elegant shawl collar was worth savoring. A real plus was that the overall pattern was an heirloom jacquard print. It gave a vibrant life to this garment. She shared that both pieces were blessed with a gentle stretch and then she tapped her tummy and said, "I will get Gertie to help this little bump." (We came to discover that her friend, Gertie, was actually her girdle!)
Just as family and friends were making comments on the many lovely flowers throughout the church, the conversation stopped. Guests seem spellbound as Della entered the chapel looking exquisite. As she passed Jan and I, she whispered, "Gertie and I are ready." She truly looked amazing and the smoothness of her figure was parallel to the wedding cake frosting. Both Jan and I knew that Gertie had to be working overtime. (We commented later that she did look amazing; however, if Gertie had a blowout, the west wall of this church would have been history!)
As the lovely and content bride came down the aisle, I could almost hear Della saying that this wedding was a success. Now keep in mind up to this point neither Jan or I had seen Della actually sit. Rather she was making merry of the wedding guests as she strolled about but never sat down.
The resplendent event had just one hitch, and that came right after the bride and groom said their vows as Della sat. They were in the process of lighting the wedding candle and all of sudden Della stood up with grace and walked to the back of the church and went out the door. Keep in mind that this wedding took place at a country church. Both Jan and I were in the balcony and the stained glass window which normally adorned this area had been removed and was being restored and in its place was clear pane of glass. My curiosity did get the best of me, and I went over and looked out. I could not believe my eyes.
On the front steps was Della. She was whipping down her skirt in an undulating beauty. What came next was just short of dazzling and mesmerizing. She with the quickness of a spark dropped her friend Gertie to the steps and then kicked her into the air with her peekaboo purple velvet pump. (Gertie was getting a good view of the usually idyllic countryside as she flew high into the sky.) Della caught her as she descended with her iridescent beaded wristed hand and thrust her into the chambers of her violet clutch purse. There was no need for a second act even the cattle across the way were thrilled by this performance on the front steps of the church.
Often folks are fascinated by the behind-the-scenes versions of weddings. This is simply one you could fall in love with. If Reality TV or Carol Burnett caught wind of this ad-lib scene, they would have recreated it. Yes, if this performance were a jewel, it would be a genuine, faceted garnet oval, beautifully bezel-set in gold.
Della then brought forth a smile which was one of comfort and joy. She returned to the front of the church but not before she plucked a rose from the bouquet in the back of the church. She arrived at her seat just before the new Mr. and Mrs. came down the aisle. As they did, she reached out and gave her daughter a lovely rose.
I was honestly on the floor trying to contain my laughter when Jan came back to see the commotion. Jan knew that Della's spirit had been released, and she was letting it fly! At that point, we both ended up laying on the pew trying on contain our laughter. I look at it this way, we must accept that progress and growth of our families requires sacrifice. Closely tending our own expanding families and friendships is far more important than worrying about a few tummy rolls.
"When Things are Nuts" Cookies
After the wedding, Della had Jan and I for coffee. These are the cookies that she served and this was her title for them. She shared with us that these are easy to make and also delicious. She made them often while planning her daughters' weddings.
Makes about 48 cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
Heat oven to 375 F.
Beat butter in mixer bowl until smooth. Continue beating, adding sugar gradually, until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg.
Dissolve baking soda in water. Stir into butter mixture. Gradually stir flour and ginger into mixture; continue stirring until dough is smooth and stiff.
Form dough into walnut-size balls, using 1/2 tablespoons dough for each; place 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until bottoms are light golden-brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack; these will store well in an airtight container.
It is the brown sugar that makes these cookies taste so good. Often people will ask when a recipe calls for "brown sugar" without specifying light or dark, does it matter which one I select?
In my experience in baking and reading about the "brown" in these two sugars, I have discovered it is a carefully designed form of molasses, added at the end of processing (not left on from the beginning).
It's basically a coating which is thicker in dark brown sugar and thinner in light. The coating adds moisture and brown sugar can contain as much as 35 percent more water than white sugar.
So when you combine this with the fact that it also traps air, you can see why brown sugar is fluffier. This is why many recipes measurements generally specify "packed" when brown sugar is called for.
In my experience if the recipe does not say which brown sugar to use, it probably doesn't matter.