On Wednesday, December 16th, my best friend Katherine flew in from Virginia. She's moving to Australia in January, and had told me she'd realized that in her several trips to New Orleans, she'd never been in my classroom. Being Miss Taylor is a huge part of who I am, and she wanted the chance to see that part of my life before moving across the world.
We had the best time during her visit. I put her to work in my classroom, and my kids LOVED Miss Ross, or 'Katherine Ross' as they called her. They quickly found that she was more helpful when it came to spelling (I make them sound out words, Katherine would actually spell them for them) and Katherine had no problems telling students to stay in their seats and stop fooling around.
We also had a great time at our class Christmas party- what 6 year old doesn't love food, dancing, and watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?
Katherine also got to join me as we celebrated my beautiful roommate Laura's 28th birthday. We went downtown and enjoyed the Christmas lights at some of New Orlean's swanky bars.
The whole crew
Me and my man
Friday, Katherine's last night in New Orleans, we went to my school's faculty Christmas party and then to Cafe du Monde for beignets. Saturday morning we got brunch and then picked up Cori to ride with us to the airport. We said our goodbyes- not too sad, considering Katherine was supposed to pick us up from the Richmond airport on Monday- and Cori and I headed back to his house. We picked up Chick-fil-A, our fave, on our way home.
We ate lunch while watching Community, and somehow I wasn't at all suspicious when Cori had wine for us to drink with our lunch. We relaxed at his place for the afternoon since I was exhausted after finishing up a wonderful but long semester of school. Then, Cori sent me home to change into a dress before we headed out for the evening. He'd told me a while ago that he was planning something special for that weekend to celebrate us both being out of school, but I didn't think anything of it. Cori enjoys planning fun things for us to do when he's out of school and has the time and brain power to research things going on in the city, so I just figured we were enjoying our last weekend in New Orleans before we headed to Virginia for Christmas.
Cori picked me and had me put on a blindfold. I love surprises, so Cori will periodically have me do this with special dates so I don't have any idea what we're doing until we're there. We drove for ten or so minutes and when we got out of the car and Cori took off my blindfold, I realized we were at West End Drive, a spot overlooking the lake. We'd tried to watch the sunset there on Valentine's Day, but I took too long getting dressed and we'd missed it. This time, however, we were just in time. As we watched the sun set, Cori gave me a rose and a scrapbook full of pictures of our past year together. At the end, there were verses, which we read and then prayed together.
Cori then informed me that we needed to get moving to our next spot, so we got back in his car and arrived at our dinner destination- Ralph's on the Park. It was a very classy restaurant- we had two servers, the choice between still or sparkling water, and ate foie gras peanut butter and jelly (look it up! so crazy!), snapper, and New Orleans' BBQ shrimp. It was absolutely delicious.
After dinner, Cori had me put on jeans under my dress and said we'd be outside for a bit. While we were in the car, he put our song on his ipod touch (Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson- absolutely beautiful song) and we sang it to each other. I know, I know, cheesy, but we're in love, so let us have our moment. ;)
We parked his car at City Park, which is gorgeous this time of year because it's all lit up with Christmas lights. Cori got wine and a blanket from his trunk, so I figured we were going to sit by the lake and drink wine. I was only partially right.
As it turned out, Cori had bigger plans for us. We went on a gondola ride. Let me just say, when a man takes you on a gondola ride, you should get suspicious... but I wasn't. It was lovely... our wonderful guide, Robert, (New Orleanians, let me know if you want details on how to have your very own ride with Robert) took us out on the lake at City Park while we snuggled beneath a blanket and drank wine.
After our gondola ride, we started walking back towards the car. Cori wanted to stop at a pretty little building with a mini waterfall, so we did. Now, for the last couple of weeks, Cori and I had been playing a little game. He'd ask me a question about our relationship, I'd answer it, and then he'd give me a slip of paper with the answer. On Saturday, he handed me a roll of duct tape and asked me the questions again. As I answered, he gave me the answer to tape up on the wall, except this time he'd printed them out larger.
Before Saturday, he'd asked me 3 questions. 1- Where was our first date? (Lafrieniere Park) 2- What parish did we have our first kiss in? (Orleans Parish) 3- What state did we officially start dating in? (Virginia)
You can tell where he was going with the clues when they're arranged like that above. The last answer, Esplanade Avenue, was right where we were. Cori told me that he loved me, then handed me the last clue, the answer being Esplanade Avenue. It said, "Street that intersects with City Park Avenue at NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) where our lives change forever." This was where it finally hit me.
Cori got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I believe I said, "Are you serious?" about 10 times before I actually said yes. We reveled in our engagement for a few minutes...
Cori told me we had one more stop to make, but first... I had to sit down. I literally could not feel my legs, I was in such shock!
We walked back to his car, and Cori had me put the blindfold back on. As he drove me, blindfolded, I called my family to share the news. They had been expecting my call, and I think my mom started crying the moment I told her I was engaged. So sweet!
After parking the car, walking across the street, and up some steps, Cori took off my blindfold. We were at my house. After getting my keys from the car, we walked inside my dark home. I turned into the kitchen, and saw a crowd of people, waiting in the dark for me. The lights got turned on, congratulations got told, I hyperventilated, and I got to celebrate with some of my very best friends.
The whole gang!
So many engaged couples! Andrew and Katie, Danielle and Andrew, Cori and I
And, one of the very best parts of the whole night...
Katherine was still there! Our friend Katie Howe had picked her up from the airport 15 minutes after we dropped her off. My sweet fiance knew how important my best friend is to me and wanted her to be there for our night. He arranged for her to come in but knew the only way he could steal me away for a day was if I thought she'd left. Katherine was actually in New Orleans until Monday.
A few pictures to leave you with...
The day after- me and my future husband!
Needless to say, this Christmas break has been a blur of phone calls, staring at my ring, getting used to saying 'fiance' instead of 'boyfriend' and thinking about the future. It's been such an exciting season and I am so very thankful for the Lord has brought this incredible man into my life.
Stay tuned for wedding details. :)