The World’s Largest Tree House!

So technically there’s no official document stating that this is the World’s largest tree house, but until I see one bigger, I’m calling it. ;) This 97 foot tree house is located in the very same place I spent the first 10 years of my life. Crossville, Tennessee.

crossville treehouse{source} Yuuup, there’s a giant 80 foot tree in the middle of all of that that the tree house has been built around.

crossville treehouse2{source} Back in 1993 a local minister had a vision from God telling him to build this tree house. So he did. We got to see it in 2010 when we came to visit and it was amazing! Sadly it’s currently closed by the fire marshal so we didn’t get to go to it again while we were there last weekend, but it is SUCH a cool place!

tree house swingYou can’t see it very well in this photo, but that’s a SWING! You can swing out from the top of the tree house!

crossville treehouse3{source} There is a beautiful chapel inside the tree house and when we were here in 2010 there was actually a group there singing praise songs. The acoustics were unreal. So so beautiful!

For more really amazing photos of the tree house, check out this article on Enpundit.com. Gorgeous photos!

rach and jessica at tree houseWhen we went to the tree house in 2010 we met up with Jessica who was a friend of mine from my childhood days in Crossville. I did get to see her again this past weekend, but I didn’t get a picture of us together. But it was good to catch up with her! I do, however, have a classic 1990s shot of us together…

Abby and I with JessicaMy little sister, Abby, is in the middle with Jessica on one side (in the overalls) and me on the other. Circa 1996. Thankfully we have all aged well. ;)

So if you are ever in East Tennessee, you should stop by and see it! You can see it from the road even if it’s still closed. But hopefully it will be back open to the public again soon! :) And this closes my week of talking about ye olden days when I lived in Crossville, TN. It’s been fun reliving the memories. :) Happy Friday, friends!
Love Rach

That time I was a Broadway star!

Okay not really. In fact, not even close. But I did perform at the Cumberland County Playhouse in two different plays while we lived in East TN. And I had big aspirations for being on Broadway someday. Then I got older and learned that I can’t sing on key (hello, this girl had no solos) and my acting is terrible (no lines either). But let me tell you, I can choreograph among the BEST of them! ;) And they also said that I was the fastest kid they’d ever seen do costume changes. So you know, that’s helpful if I were to grow up and be a firefighter who needs to change quickly. Which I didn’t. But I digress. Anyway, I loved it. I have some of the best memories of my time in both plays. Practices, time with the cast, and that feeling of being PART of something bigger than yourself. Not to mention, I LOVED performing on stage in front of an audience. Which is kind of hilarious because if you put me up there by myself I would freak out, but with a group, I am in my element!

cumberland county playhouseThe B&W photo is the “Blue Cast” from 1996’s production of OLIVER! I’m in the front row in the super classy plaid pants. Someone asked in a comment yesterday if the curly hair was a perm or natural… it is definitely all natural. I straighten my hair now. ;) The other two photos are from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from 1997. In the bottom photo I’m in the center in the purple polkadot PJs and in the top photo I’m at the top right. :)

the playhouse 2010When we went back to visit the Playhouse in 2010 it looked exactly as I remembered it from the 1990’s! While we were there looking around, the owner of the playhouse came up to us and asked why we were there mid-day. When we explained that I had been in plays here in the mid-90’s and just wanted to show the place to my husband, she was SO happy that I’d come back that she begged us to come back for the show that night and gave us tickets on the house. We did go back and it was amazing!

So no, I never went to Broadway.  But I did perform two years in “Spring Sing” at my university (read more about that here and my moments of fame, haha!). And I have loved every moment on stage. I am thankful that I had an opportunity to be part of this as a kid and how it has grown my love for musicals. Speaking of musicals… can we just take a moment to list some of the best ones ever?!

My favorite musicals I’ve seen performed on Stage:
Les Miserables
Oliver!
Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Fiddler on the Roof
Phantom of the Opera
Annie

My favorite musicals I’ve seen in movie format:
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
My Fair Lady
Singing in the Rain
Calamity Jane
Mary Poppins
Westside Story
Grease
Moulin Rouge
The Sound of Music
Lion King / Beauty & the Beast / Pocahontas / Aladdin / Mulan / Hunchback of Notre Dame / Hercules / Little Mermaid

I am SO sure that I am leaving some off this list, but I can’t blog about musicals without at least mentioning some of my favorites! :) Also, it’s not a mistake that Wicked isn’t on this list… I know a lot of the music from it, but I still haven’t seen it! I KNOW! Terrible! I need to get on that! ;)

Have you ever been in a play or musical?
If you are a musical type person, what’s your favorite? {no judgement if you don’t like musicals… my husband has only recently come around to liking musicals in recent years… mostly because I keep taking him to them, haha!}
Love Rach

The Childhood Years

To clarify something from yesterday’s post… that wasn’t the first time I had seen Ashley since we were little girls. Reading back over it, I see that’s confusing, haha! About a year after we reconnected on Facebook, Christopher and I went to Crossville to visit her. And then a couple of years ago she came to Memphis to visit me (which I blogged about here). But it was still a 20 year old pact that we kept! :)  The last time I was in Crossville was just before I started this blog so I’ve never really written about the place where I spent my childhood so I thought I’d do a couple of flashback posts this week! :) {All the “present day” photos are actually from our 2010 trip}

the houseI lived on Woodwind Lane and if you look closely at the top right photo you can see my old house in the background (I didn’t want to walk up too close to private property). At the bottom left is the beginning of the rock quarry that my siblings and I used to play in just in front of our house. And the photo on the bottom right was taken just in front of a hidden little creek that we used to play in. My younger sister and I used to “fish” for leaves in that creek, ha!

wreck locationThis (on the left) is the spot where in 1992 I had a terrible bike wreck and split my forehead open. My brother carried me home where I received first aid before going to the doctor to get stitches. On the right you can see me happily grinning with a giant bandaid on my forehead to cover up the stitches, ha! (also pictured my sisters, Holly & Abby).

homesteadThis was my school! Well, where I went to Kindergarten anyway. The school that I went to after this closed down and is no longer there.

ponderosaThis is the restaurant that my parents managed (well, they actually managed a couple of restaurants, but this is the one where I have the most memories). On the right as it was in 1991 and on the left as it is today as a Chinese buffet.

softballOn the left is a shot of Christopher and I at the softball fields where I played as a little girl. And on the right is my softball glamour shot from 1995. The  beginning of the awkward years for me… ;)

helen's houseAt the top left is me with Helen. I couldn’t go back to Crossville without seeing her! She ran a daycare out of her home where my siblings and I stayed while our parents worked. This is actually where I met Ashley (us at the bottom right from 1996) who’s wedding I was just in this past weekend. The front porch (top right) and back yard (bottom left) hold SO many memories for me. I showed these pictures to my sisters and they too had a huge flood of memories come back. *tear*

cumberland county state parkSo so so many memories here! We went to this park often when I was growing up and it was gorgeous. We went again in 2010 (as you can see from this photo) and we went again this past weekend while we were there. It is still breathtakingly beautiful! Plus there’s a restaurant inside the park that had really tasty food! :)

I have so much more that I could write about each of these, but I am trying not to write an entire autobiography here, haha! ;) I have a couple of other memories to share with you later this week. So get excited to see more photos of the 1990s Rach. Believe me, those photos don’t come out of the vault often, ha!

- If you left a place you once spent a lot of time, have you been back to visit? 
- Did anyone else play softball? Or have stitches?
- Do you prefer to keep your awkward years photos hidden?

Love Rach

My Childhood Bestie Got Married!

This past weekend Christopher and I traveled to East Tennessee for my childhood bestie’s wedding.

rach and ashley 1996Me and Ashley in 1996!

Nearly 20 years ago Ashley and I made a pact that we would be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. After I moved away from Crossville in 1998 we kept in touch via snail mail. Then somewhere in our teen years we fell out of touch. However, when I got engaged I remembered our pact and searched for her, but couldn’t get in touch with her. A couple of years later I got a friend request on Facebook and it was her! We reconnected and hit it off again just like when we were kids. :) When she got engaged she asked if I’d be a bridesmaid. I told her I’d be honored. And this weekend we fulfilled a 20 year old pact…

rach and ashleyAshley and me! :)

The weekend started off with a rehearsal where I first met Ashley’s other friends and family (keep in mind, she and I were besties nearly 20 years ago so a lot has changed for both of us since then, haha!). There were MUCH laughter at the rehearsal!

bridesmaidsThere were especially a lot of jokes and laughter revolving around “Caitie”. One of the bridesmaids (Caitie) couldn’t make it to the rehearsal so the guy standing next to me (Denis, who did sound for the wedding) stood in for her. He did a great job and kept us all laughing! :)

ashley and bridesmaidsHere we all are together! That’s the real Caitie on the far right side. ;) And Jayna in the front!

jayna and rachJayna is Ashley’s step-daughter now. And she is absolutely precious. When she walked down the aisle (she was the flower girl) her daddy started crying. Which made her start crying. Which made ME start crying, haha! I loved getting to know her this weekend. She is sugar and spice and all things nice and I just loved her. I think she could tell that I was good auntie material because she clung to my side most of the weekend. ;)

rach and summerSummer was one of Ashley’s other bridesmaids who I’d never met before, but she and I were like soul sisters. Summer was Ashley’s bestie from high school before she too moved away. She and I are SO alike and spent a ridiculous amount of time together. We became such good friends in 24 hours that we are planning a trip to see each other soon! :)

summer and caseyI think part of the reason Summer and I connected so quickly was because she reminded me SO MUCH of one of my besties, Casey. Summer & I are on the left and Casey & I are on the right above. She talks like her, acts like her, and even looks a lot like her! Within a couple hours she and I were having really personal conversations because she reminded me so much of Casey that it was easy to open up to her. We ended up sleeping together in a tiny twin bed the night before the wedding and at that point we knew our friendship was forever sealed. ;)

rachChristopher spent a lot of time playing with my camera while we were having photos taken (he didn’t get in the way of the photographer, though!! I know that’s a huge pet peeve of wedding photographers so he was careful about that). This shot made me laugh because it’s SO a face/expression that I make when I’m flirting with him. ;)

rach and christopherSpeaking of Christopher… I love him lots. During the ceremony every time I looked out at the audience I caught him looking at me with the sweetest smile on his face. I love how he loves me. :)

Ashley was a little overwhelmed with wedding stuff so we didn’t have just a ton of time to chat, but I was glad that I could be there with her for the weekend. And so proud to stand up with her as she pledged her life to Jay. And I was so happy that I got to meet Summer and Jayna! :)

- Have you gone to a childhood friend’s wedding? 
- Any stories of keeping 20 year old pacts?
- Have you ever hit it off quickly with someone who reminds you so much of another close friend?

Love Rach

Sara

Earlier this week I got to do a senior session for one of my girls. After doing Kelsi’s session last month I thought I was prepared emotionally. I held it together great all through the session, but when I was editing photos yesterday I found myself all teary-eyed over how grown up my little Sara has become.

sara and rachI started with the majority of my girls in 2009, but Sara was one who joined our group a year later in 2010. She fit right in, though. :) I have loved getting to watch her grow up over these years. She has changed and evolved so much and I’m excited to see where life takes her next year after graduation. Also, I realized that I don’t have a single photo of the two of us together from 2014 (other than group photos, but we aren’t standing side by side so it doesn’t count)… I need to get on that! ;) But on to Sara’s session!

sara2

sara6

sara5

sara8

sara

She wanted the urban feel of downtown as well as the country feel of outside Memphis. And I love how her session turned out. :) My friend, Lyndal, did her hair and makeup so she came along with us on our downtown part of the session and she snapped this shot of me hard at work:

saraThis was actually me taking the close up shot of her face that you see up there (the third photo). I needed to be just above her to get the exact shot I wanted so naturally I just climbed up the closest trolley stop pole. Anything for the shot, you guys. ;) {and yes, brown bag with black shirt… don’t judge – that’s my camera bag!}

To see more photos from Sara’s session, check out her album here on the Rach Vendetti Photography Facebook page. :)

Love Rach

Donkey Basketball

For those who don’t know… there is such a thing as donkey basketball.

donkey basketballAnd that’s our friend, Jacob, playing it.

Yeah, so, apparently there’s this “sport” called donkey basketball that involves actual real-live donkeys on a basketball court. And the city of Brighton just outside Memphis celebrated it’s founder’s day this past weekend with a friendly donkey basketball tournament. A friend of ours, Jacob, teaches for the middle school there so he found himself roped into it. And it was awesome. You can’t understand donkey basketball just from the photos so here are some videos I took to help you understand:

 Naturally you still start with the national anthem as you do with most sports in the States. However at a donkey basketball game, instead of a marching band, there are kids riding donkeys. Naturally.

 And of course there is half time entertainment. Like a friendly game of “musical donkeys”… (the guy in white totally should’ve won that!)

 And there’s the game for you. It’s hilarious because basketball is such a fast paced sport normally, but there were no “fast breaks” down the court because you had to take your donkey with you and most of the time he didn’t want to go. ;) (the very end of that video cracks me up when the donkey takes off running the wrong direction after his rider hopped on)

I was a little concerned about the donkeys being injured (I know, I know… I am so that person), but they had several people out there “reffing” the game who were really just making sure the donkeys were okay. For the most part, the donkeys took care of themselves just fine. If they decided that they were done with you being on them, they’d buck you right off. Thankfully no one was injured (other than maybe some pride, haha)! I have to tell you guys, we laughed so hard. Everything about it just looked ridiculous and it was just hilarious.

So tell me… would you play donkey basketball?
Love Rach

A humbling experience

As you guys know, the tv show Fix It & Finish It was at our house last week renovating a room for us and filming the process. However, the week before that they had actually previously shown up with a smaller film crew to film our “pre-interview”. You know, that beginning part of those renovation shows where the couple talk about  who they are and why they need the renovation and all of that. They told us after that first interview that it still didn’t mean we had officially been chosen, but if we were chosen, it would help filming on the big day go much more quickly.

videoing3{Sam, the camera guy, sent me this photo of us from that pre-interview later}

We were nervous and so awkward on camera. They kept telling us that we were doing great, but believe me – we are not pros at being filmed. I mean, it’s one thing when it’s just the two of us making a little mini documentary about our travels or when we renovated our house. But to have a bunch of people standing around and watching you… awwwkward! Plus unlike when we film something for ourselves, we can’t edit out the parts we don’t like. So yeah, no making fun of us when you hear how awkward we sound on camera. ;)

They asked us a series of questions about ourselves and the room. Who we are, what we do, why haven’t we finished this room out ourselves. We shared about our volunteer work and how we are involved in the community and how that leaves very little time to work on home projects. We talked about how having this room finished out would make a huge difference to us for so many reasons. It would alleviate the stress of “when are we going to get around to it” and it would finally give us a place for all of our office stuff to go so that the room next to ours (which is currently an office) can someday be a nursery (ahem, no announcement at this time – remember that we started working on this space way back in October of last year and just hadn’t finished it out, haha!).

But then came the kicker. The interviewer asked us “tell me why you deserve this renovation.” This was truly a question that stumped us both. We both just stopped and looked at each other and were hit with the realization that we don’t deserve this one little bit. That there are countless others in Memphis who need a renovation like this so much more than we do. And there are countless others in Memphis who do more for our community than we do. So we told them that. On camera, we actually told them that we didn’t deserve this at all. And that we could name others here in Memphis who needed something like this more than we did.

Lauren, the associate producer looked at the Sam, the camera guy and they were both speechless. They said that no one has ever said that they don’t deserve the renovation. But for us in our situation, we just didn’t know how we could say that we were deserving of it. Yes, it would help us so much and yes, it would be such a blessing. But we don’t deserve it. We never could answer that question. After the film crew left that day, Christopher and I talked about how they probably wouldn’t choose us at this point. I mean, who wants to choose the couple who can’t even tell you why they deserve something like this?

Fix It & Finish It does, that’s who. :)

The Thursday that they showed up with a film crew, a construction crew, and a design crew was so overwhelming for us. They let us help out a little bit, but for the most part they had us sit back and hang out while they served us. We have worked on so many home projects for both our own home and for so many other people, but we have never before sat back and watched someone else work on our home to bless us. It was the strangest thing.

When we walked in for the big reveal later that day, we were totally overwhelmed and completely humbled. They did this for US. As a blessing. A gift. When the episode airs later this year you guys will see everything that they put in that room – all of it was a gift to us. I didn’t expect to cry when I walked in the room because while I am definitely a cryer – it’s usually when there is emotional music playing or when I see someone else crying. So yeah, I didn’t expect the tears that welled up in my eyes when I saw the room. But it really was just so overwhelming that they chose us to bless with all of this.  And we were so thankful. I look forward to sharing the whole process with you guys after the episode airs! :)

I know this was a wordy post, but we are just now working through our feelings from everything last week. Thanks for hanging with me, friends. :)
Love Rach