Tuesday, June 28, 2011

love from ukraine

This morning we said goodbye to some very dear friends.

Houseguests #7.  

They came all the way from Ukraine to visit us.  Well, us and all of their churches and supporters and friends and family here in the States.  They are missionaries with YWAM (Youth with a Mission) and have lived and served their community in Simferopol, Ukraine for the past fifteen years.  They are in America now on a 6-month furlough, and are the ones we collected clothing items for last winter.

Their story is a fascinating one.  They are those kind of people who embrace adventure, give with their whole hearts, and live by faith in every sense of the phrase. 

Sharyn and I have known each other since college.  I was her boss in campus fundraising all those years ago, and we forged a lasting friendship.  I remember hearing about this guy, Ruslan, whom she met on one of her missions trips, and loved staying connected with her life as we both got married to our Slavic men and pursued the work of the Lord.

Their two daughters (Gloria & Emily) are impossibly cute and funny and they tell the most entertaining stories.  Ask Gloria to tell you the one about Spencer the duck.

We've enjoyed sharing our home and our town and our friends with them over the past four days: making waffles, drinking goat's milk straight from a goat, having them speak to our young adults group (and trying the fish snacks they brought to share.. fish snacks that look and taste like fish!), taking walks, having their caricatures drawn at a local farmers market, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, playing games (ladder golf anyone?), the park, the community pool, singing songs and late night conversations.   

If you have ever considered overseas missions (short or long-term), contact Sharyn.  She has made a career of this and will gladly point you in the right direction.

Until we meet again.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

dialogue & sugar

As a youth leader, I have the privilege of leading small groups, which we call "cell groups" at our church.  During the school year, we meet every Wednesday night after the main message and discuss a variety of topics, depending on what Pastor Mike has talked about or what is going in the lives of the girls.

In April, I was asked to help lead a group reading through the book, Lies Young Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh. It's a text that examines the lies young ladies hear about self-image, self-achievement, faith, media, relational issues, etc.  It takes apart each lie, discusses why it exists and the consequences of believing that lie, and how to fight it with God's truth.

While I don't recommend this book for girls under the age of 13 (due to some mature themes), it is an important one.  I think parents should read it, too, as it helps better understand the pressures your junior high and highschoolers are under, and gives you Scriptures to help level the lies.

My friend (and fellow youth leader), Janelle, and I are leading this group together and have already seen growth in the ladies we're meeting with.  There are thirteen of them and they are wonderful. Last Wednesday night, I had them over to my house to continue our discussion and have fun pigging out on brownie sundaes and other sugary treats.

I get nervous some times, wondering if I'm steering the girls the right way.  I didn't have issue-specific groups like this when I was their age, or youth leaders who pursued the students like we do, so I know this is an incredible opportunity for them, even if it is a new thing for me.  Plus, I'm not a biological parent, and I realize the power our voices have in these young lives.  

It can be intimidating.

I'm pretty sure I've reminded the girls a half dozen times that this is the best time for them to form a healthy view of themselves and healthy habits for coping with stress and insecurity.  I believe that the choices they make now, and who they become during this season of body changes and uncertainty, will help make or break their future selves.

My heart is full for these kids.  I hope they always know that they are beautiful and they are loved.. no matter what.

Friday, June 24, 2011

pink lady

On a normal day, you would not see me parading around town wearing leggings as pants.

But for the kids, I'll do almost anything.

At the end of every school year, our church youth program (Revolve) hosts a spring banquet.  This year, it was a 50's sock hop theme.  I had a feeling there would be a sea of poodle skirts and chiffon scarves, and hair filled with pomade.

I wanted all of that to be theirs, so I decided to go a different route.

Two words: Pink Lady. (you know, from the movie Grease?)

Enjoy the photo evidence of my leggings debut, and the rest of the scene from that night.  

© photo credit: Debby McDermott

© photo credit: Rachel Dix

© photo credit: Melanie Gardiner

Vince Fontaine had it right when he said, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's what you do with your dancin' shoes."  

Thursday, June 23, 2011


How is it that I decide to bake things on the hottest days of the week?  I'm not sure either, but I do like what I create.

This is the second time I've made this Strawberry Summer Cake.  

Serve with whipped cream and extra strawberries.

It's darn near perfect.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

police blotter: critter chaos

CHICKENS, LUNDY LANE: For the third time, an officer found loose chickens running around at a Lundy’s Lane residence after 1p.m. on Nov. 22.  Police cited the female owner for continuing to allow the chickens to run wild.

“LOST” DUCKS, N. COURT:  A caller told police on Feb. 23 that a pack of ducks were wandering through the parking lot of a N. Court St.  grocery store.  The caller believed the ducks were “lost.”  Police located the ducks around 4:38p.m. and determined that the ducks were fine.   They were left to wander.

RUNAWAY HORSES, WARNER ROAD: Police responded to a call at 11p.m. on April 3 that several horses had been seen running through a yard.  The horses were reportedly running west through the backyard.  There was no further information at the time of the report.

ANIMAL COMPLAINT, CHILLICOTHE ROAD: A motorist found an injured turtle in the road at 11:30a.m. on May 14.  Police placed the snapping turtle in a box and transported it to Penitentiary Glen.

ANIMALS, LYNDEN DRIVE: A resident reported a den of foxes living in his backyard on May 9.

ANIMAL AT LARGE, WEST ORANGE STREET: Police received a call at 5:19p.m. on June 17 for a report of a “large snake” outside the door at the Cascade Boutique.  The snake was gone by the time officers arrived minutes later.

ANIMAL COMPLAINT, WEST ORANGE HILL: The animal warden was dispatched on June 17 after a resident reported that a turtle was burrowing in a front-yard flower bed.

JARRED RACCOON, PINE: A patrolling officer witnessed a raccoon with a jar stuck on it’s head run across the road near the 500 block of Pine Street around 9:23p.m., Nov. 5.  The raccoon quickly wandered away, and the officer moved on.

Welcome to Ohio.

Monday, June 20, 2011

city chicken

City chicken is not chicken.

This we learned last night at Bruce & Patty's house, where Patty served her version of the popular northeastern recipe.  Cubes of pork and veal (some prefer pork and beef) are rolled in flour, browned, skewered, baked and covered in mushroom gravy.  

It is a flavorful dish, not for the faint of heart.

Often I have a conversation with Bruce that goes like this:

Bruce: "Have you ever had ____ (fill in the blank with a type of food or dessert)?"
Me: "Oh yes."
Bruce: "But have you ever had Patty's ____ (same food or dessert)?"
Me: "Oh no."
Bruce: "Girl, you haven't really had ____ until you've had Patty's ____!"

We've had this exchange so many times now that it's become an inside joke of sorts and is always expressed with great inflection and laughter.. and remedied with Sunday dinners.

Tonight it was Patty's City Chicken.  Granted, Chris & I had never had this meal before, so sharing it with Bruce, Patty, Al and Marge (Patty's dad & stepmom) was an extra special treat.

Add two sons (Jimmy & Danny) who came home for a visit with their girlfriends, two energetic dogs, an emergency call (Jimmy is an EMT), a thunderstorm, Narnia on DVD, and Patty's strawberry shortcake for dessert, and you have yourself a fine Father's Day in Ohio.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

surprising Erva

Erva turned 75 last week.

Isn't that a great old lady name?  Erva.  

It's right up there with my late grandmother's name (Velma) and my mom's middle name (Doreen).  Classic.

On Sunday, we joined about 200 other people at Caro's Party Center as a surprise to Erva.  Thanks to her husband, Tom, we gathered to celebrate Erva's birthday and the renewal of their wedding vows.  Can you think of anything sweeter?

Married for as many years as I've been alive, Tom and Erva are a dynamic pair, prayer warriors and evangelists.  Tom always has Scripture cards in his pocket for whenever the moment arises.  I have received two from him in the past year, Chris has received at least one.  He is a big teddy bear with a heart for Jesus, and a deep devotion for his bride.

It was an honor to be in the crowd of Erva fans.  She is a doll of a gal with a Miss America smile.

And yes, she was surprised!  She started with her hands on her cheeks in shock, which turned in to a beaming grin and hands clasped in front of her in gratitude.  She floated around the room and thanked everyone.  I don't think one person was left out.

If you could've seen Erva's face up close and felt all of that love radiating from her, you wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

red velvet

Second time was a charm.  

Turns out, when you add a dash more vanilla and a pinch more cocoa than the recipe calls for, and you don't rush the process (or attempt it at 2 in the morning), the end result will be famous.

Chloe's 21st birthday was on June 10th, but she asked that we celebrate it on the 9th, since she was leaving for her summer job as a camp director on the 10th.  

She gathered some of her closest friends for dinner at the best sushi restaurant in town, and we followed it (a few hours later) with an after-party at our house.  Chloe wanted us all to be with her when she took her first drink of alcohol.. at midnight.

We set the scene with balloons and confetti, chocolate and cherry cordials, strawberries, and all the fixin's for daiquiris.  I offered to make her favorite dessert.  Enter red velvet cake.  

Chloe had her first drink at 12:09am and decided about 3 minutes later that she didn't care for the taste of alcohol.

Here's to you, sweet girl!  You make life better with your laugh, your stories, those purple stilettos, and that Natalie Portman smile.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Medina is buzzing with activity right now.  It's as if everyone has shook off the rain, unearthed their summer clothing and are reminded of why they love living in this part of the country.  

The community calendar is filled with events in and around the city. This is what last Saturday's calendar looked like:

9am-1pm: Medina County Farmer's Market.  Public square.
9am-5pm: Medina Gun Show.  Medina County Fairgrounds.
7pm-9pm: Jazz Under the Stars, featuring Danny Mazzocco Quartet. Public square.

We didn't do any of those things.  

Instead, I went for a bike ride in the morning, then drove to Lodi and bought some of the finest beef jerky at Mack's (the Hawaiian is  our favorite flavor).  I even had some vacuum-sealed to send to my dad as part of his Father's Day present.   

On my way home, I sat behind an Amish buggy for a few minutes, long enough to take a picture.  It's a common site that some find inconvenient (because they drive slowly).  I don't mind it so much.  I like to crack open my windows and turn my stereo low, so I can hear the clip-clop of the horse hooves on the pavement.    

That afternoon, hubby & I went to a surprise birthday party for our friend, Skylar, then we attended the Psalmist Homeschool Disciples Graduation at our church in the evening, and I drove to Akron to see one of my junior high girls dance in a local stage production.

The weekends are pleasant here.  This time of year is filled with graduation celebrations, bonfires, pool parties, festivals, and weddings.  I don't like the humidity, but I do like when an entire region is in a good mood.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

secret revealed

For as many years as Chris and I have been married, my mother-in-law (Flora) has made us chocolate chip cookies.  She has baked the same recipe for as long as the family can remember and, let me tell you, these cookies deserve blue ribbons.

Every single one of them.

Also in as many years, I've assumed her recipe was a family secret, passed down from generation to generation, especially since she never pulls out an actual recipe when she bakes.  You should see the ease at which she floats around the kitchen crafting these tasty treats, all the while holding a deep conversation with us and tending to the grandkids at her feet.  Before you know it, that sweet buttery chocolate smell is filling the room.

The week Elanor & Nathaniel stayed with us, Elanor baked these famous cookies.  While she was preparing the dough, I asked her to tell me the secret.  I knew for sure she would have the inside scoop. Much to my surprise, she told me that it wasn't a secret at all.  Flora's chocolate chip cookie recipe.. comes from.. the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip package!  


I must have said, "really?!" about a half dozen times.  For over twelve years I have convinced myself of something that isn't true.

One-way ticket to 'Amy World,' anyone?

Of course, this discovery gave me a flashback to that one Friends episode where Monica tries to figure out Phoebe's great great grandmother's cookie recipe, only to discover it, too, was "Nes-ley Toulhous-a."  It's funny every time.

To her credit, Flora does take her time with the recipe.  She mixes the wet ingredients and lets them sit for quite awhile, allowing the flavors to marinate.  She also adds a touch more flour to the recipe, and lots of love.  Plus, she has long since memorized the recipe, which I find impressive all by itself.

So, I made my mother-in-law's cookies the other day.  They still aren't to Flora perfection yet, but at least now I know the secret.

And so do you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

derby girl

My friend, Chelsea, is cool.  Like, really cool.  She is one of those people who does the things that scare her, and does so with flare. She's a volunteer EMT, rides a Harley and sells Mary Kay.  

Her latest pursuit?  Roller derby.  

When the movie Whip It came out in 2009, I fell in love.  Roller derby was a sport created before I was born, but it wasn't until I saw this movie that I began to understand how empowering derby can be.  I mean, how great is a contact sport with punk rock attitude?  

So great.

Over the weekend, hubby preached, we attended a wedding, celebrated a friend's birthday, and we sweated through our first roller derby match.  Literally.  We bought tickets for Saturday's event at the Summit County Fairgrounds in Tallmadge, Ohio.  Tallmadge is smaller than Medina, includes a sizable traffic circle and a place called Wally's Waffles.

It was a double-header: Audio Assault vs. the Little Steel Derby Girls and the Rock N Roller Girls vs. the Mid Michigan Derby Girls.  The temperature was in the upper-80s and the humidity was so bad they had to delay the bout by an hour, so a dozen arena workers could dry the track.

This gave us plenty of time for crowd watching.  I don't want to sound mean, but the fans.. well.. how do I put this?  It was not a classy joint.  It reminded me of a cross between a small town biker bar and the beer garden at a Meat Loaf concert.  

The girls themselves were a sight to see in their short shorts and fishnets.. and those names!  Some of my favorites of the night were: Dirty Mary, Monty PipeBomb, Tat2 BarB, E-Rase Her (and a couple of others I can't say out loud).

Chelsea's last name is Holzinger, so her derby name?  The Whole Zinger!  She skates with the Tilted Thunder Rail Birds in Seattle.    

As for me?  I now have every major derby team in the area bookmarked in my computer, and want to join a recreational league.. some day.  Who's with me?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

maple soy glaze

Three noteworthy things happened today.

1.  I got bangs.
2.  Hubby came back to me.
3.  I made sexy chicken.

The bangs are a fun change.  This is the first time I've had real bangs since the butcher job I did to my hair in high school.  Kelly Taylor (circa 1990), I blame you.

Chris left on Sunday for a convention in Columbus.  While he was there, he got to spend time with friends from our Seattle church, attend the event as an official foursquare pastor, and serve alongside several members from Cornerstone Chapel and other foursquare churches in the area.  He came home this afternoon with much to tell me and a big fat hug.  We often quote a line from the movie, Moonlight Mile, when we say goodbye to each other.  It's what Susan Sarandon's character says to Dustin Hoffman's character, "Come back to me."

It's another form of "I love you."

(We say that, too.)

Little did my husband know, I made a new recipe for dinner.  It's a recipe that rivals beer can chicken, and maybe even demotes it to second place. I'm telling you, this recipe makes one sexy bird.  Try it and you'll see. The dark spots in the photo are from the maple soy glaze caramelizing, and the pan with the whisk is the perfectly sweet & savory sauce I made from the drippings.

It is the kind of thing that reminds me of Thanksgiving.  You know, when the house smells so good?

Chris came home to that smell and ten minutes after he walked through the door, he was carving the bird.  We didn't even use proper plates, we devoured the meal standing up, taking bites of the chicken with our forks, dipping it in to the brown sauce.  I had roasted some red potatoes in olive oil & seasonings as a side.. so, we dipped those, too.  There was no time for salad or even many words, just eating and happiness.

I should tell you that this new dish was inspired by a total stranger. It wasn't at all odd to me how it happened, since I've been known to do this to fellow shoppers myself.  I was at the new EarthFare in Fairlawn last week, when a lady came up to me, eyeing the whole fryer in my cart.  She enthusiastically asked me if I had heard about the maple glazed roast chicken recipe from Epicurious.com?  I had not, but I wanted to.  She blurted out the entire recipe before leaving with a smile and that knowing look - the one that said she knew I had a tasty meal in my future.  She was right.

Lisa Winter gets the credit for my hair.  Nice lady at the grocery store gets credit for my new favorite chicken recipe, and God gets the credit for creating edible perfection.. and taste buds.