Saturday, July 30, 2011

growing up


Remember in elementary school when your teacher assigned you the task of writing a paper titled, "What I did on my summer break," or "When I grow up I want to be..."?  I was thinking about that this morning as I mixed two cereals for breakfast.

What?  Mixing cereals?  From two different cereal boxes?  

Maybe that's not so shocking to you, but as I'm in my mid-thirties now, I'm realizing that I have the say in the choices I make.  The big stuff I understood a decade ago, but the little stuff is only now becoming clear to me.  I find I'm struck at the most random moments by these realities, and they make me laugh.

Turns out, I'm an adult and all the choices I make are my responsibility.

So are the consequences.

Here is a short list of said realities:

1.  I can mix cereals for breakfast.
2.  I can eat cereal for every meal of the day.
3. I can eat in the living room without asking for permission (granted, I am over 16, which was the age of eating-in-the-living-room inclusion in my household growing up).
4. I can stay up really late (despite my dad's old caution, "nothing good ever happens after midnight.").
5.  If I make a mistake, I will still be able to go to my friend's house to play.
6.  Hard work does pay off.
7.  I can say "no."
8.  Love won't pay the bills, but it will tuck you in at night. 
9. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to throw stuff out the window of a moving vehicle, even if it is biodegradable.
10.  Friends are as good as family.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

frozen custard


Our first week in Ohio was spent at a local hotel.  It was our "first date" with the church that would become our new home.  Up the street from our lodging was a place advertising frozen custard.  

You can freeze custard?  I'm in.

Strickland's greeted our tastebuds with cheerful flavors. We visited this ice cream haven twice during that week, once for cones and the second time for pints.  Due to the time change, we found ourselves watching numerous late night movies on the Lifetime Channel, instead of our usual shows.

Not that I was complaining.  

Tonight I had my third experience with Strickland's.  This time it was as a resident of Medina and with our friend, Amanda, who recently obtained her driver's license.  This was our celebratory outing.  Her pick was chocolate in a waffle cone.  Classy.  We ordered the medium size and it did not disappoint.

The leaning tower of frozen confection suited Amanda just fine.

Frozen custard, ice cream, gelato, sorbet?  Whatever you call it, I'll take two scoops, please.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

care package


I found something we all have in common.

Life?  Love?  Death?  Taxes?

Yes, and fun mail!  Who doesn't light up when they receive something in their mailbox other than bills, advertisements, solicitations (and whatever else is considered junk)?  

I call it fun mail and have a feeling you do, too.

Yesterday, I received a box from my sister in Everett, WA.  She's not one who keeps a surprise very well (something I adore about her), so I knew it was coming a few days before it arrived.  Still, with our week spent in Joplin and much to catch up on when we got home, I forgot about it.  

Oh, what a sweet surprise!  The box was filled with brightly-colored packing paper and jars of homemade goods: jam, body scrubs and cookies. Only after I took a photo did I notice the handful of Hershey's kisses tied together in a little toile bag.  She took great care to wrap everything and make it look inviting.  It feels so good to be thought of in that way.  Thanks, sis!

And thank you to you who have sent cards, baby announcements, jars of pickles, spices, baked goods, kid drawings, wedding invitations, handwritten letters, and other items of love that bless us perfectly. What a wonderful community!

P.S. We like money, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

landmarks


Do you find yourself looking for specific landmarks when you drive home from work or school or the grocery store or an 832 mile road trip?  I do.

When we were residents of Los Angeles, we lived in Hollywood and worked in Studio City.  Every night, hubby and I would carpool after a long day and smile when we'd see familiar advertisements for a gentlemen's club or neon signs for dollar Chinese food and donuts.  In Orange County, if we noticed billboards for Disneyland and the end of the 55 freeway, we knew we were close.  Our house in North Seattle was tucked away, so the landmarks that welcomed us were the city hall and community horse riding pen.  

Here in Medina, I find myself looking for exit signs that feature the Bob Evan's logo, Buffalo Wild Wings and Super 8 motel.

Home sweet home.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

officiant


Chris married his first couple today.

The church assigned my minister husband to officiate Brittany & Christopher's wedding, but knowing him, he wouldn't be okay with just showing up for the rehearsal and reading a script.  

It is our desire for every engaged couple to go in to marriage with the right heart and expectations and to have fun in the process.  While our pastoral staff is required to do part of the ceremony from a pre-written text, Chris had the opportunity to add his own word to the moment.  So, we met with Brittany & Christopher twice before the big day to get to know them.  We made a sweet connection over brunch and Panera sandwiches, and, as it turns out, they are a good balance for each other and easy to interact with.

The ceremony itself was traditional and lovely.  Brittany looked radiant in her white gown and Christopher looked dignified and so proud to be marrying his best friend.



My husband did a fine job of directing the event.  From rehearsal to matrimony, he took great care of the couple and their families and helped ease their anxiety and pre-wedding jitters.  He showed them love the way Pastor Adam Ayers showed us love the day he married us, and did so with a quiet confidence.

One wedding down, a hundred more to go (give or take).

Friday, July 15, 2011

bittersweet


Life is hard some times. 

If you have a pulse, you know this to be true.

Marriages crumble, illnesses drag on, miscarriages happen, emotional breakdowns debilitate the strong, tragedy strikes without notice, our economy is a mess, my mom has stage 4 cancer, and there is heartache.  So much heartache.

There is also joy.  And hope.  I believe that.

My brother is six months sober, my best friend's daughter doesn't need heart surgery this year, I have another new nephew (Isaac Nicholas Holowaty, born June 16th - pictured above), young friends of ours just returned from their honeymoon (so in love), and my mom is still the best hugger I know (and the worst cheater at cards).  

Did I mention?  I'm entering my first baking contest at the county fair next month.  I'm so nervous.

On Sunday morning, we begin our 13 hour drive to Joplin, Missouri. We are going with a team from our church, in hopes of offering helping hands and compassionate hearts.

As you recall, Joplin had a devastating tornado rip it apart two months ago.  I was up late last night looking through this Facebook page. Photos, videos, stories, offers of help, people being good to each other - it's enough to make your heart cramp. I cannot imagine living through this kind of horror.  At the same time, I am moved by the ways people across the country and around the world have reached out to this city.  I'm grateful we get to represent our little corner of Ohio.

We have dear friends in Kansas (just outside of Joplin) who are hurting and grieving over the loss of their loved ones, colleagues and businesses.  For sure we can't take their hurt away, but we can sit with them and be present in their loss.

I don't know why bad things happen to good people, but I do know that God doesn't waste our pain.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

strength


I used to love bugs.  

As a kid, I would collect them, rescue them, talk to them, play with them, and I have a distinct memory of eating one once when I was picking raspberries.

My fondness ended somewhere after elementary school and before I got married.  Now, they give me the creeps.  I know they're an important part of the ecosystem, and we can coexist, just as long as said pests stay outside.  As soon as they are seen inside, out comes my oversized wad of tissue.  They will meet their death with a flush of the toilet handle.  Every once in awhile, I change my mind about loathing bugs.  

Just for a minute or two.


This kind of moment happened yesterday, as I took a bag of trash to the trash can.  A slight movement on the ground caught my eye. When I crouched down, I could see that an ant was carrying part of another bug's body in its clutch.  I studied the ant for a little while and was equally impressed by its strength and determination.  Despite the size of the piece in its mouth, the ant moved fast and with focus.

I barely had a chance to grab my camera.

One of my heroines, Mother Teresa, said this about strength, "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."  

I can't tell you what was on that ant's to-do list yesterday, except maybe finding food for his colony; but I can tell you that watching him made me think about my own measure of strength.  

It's no secret that my arms are about as strong as noodles, but my legs are where the power is.  I don't have the skills to take anyone's physical pain away, but I have compassion.  I get scared some times, but try my best to be brave.  My brain isn't always analytical, but my heart has a huge capacity for loving.

Maybe that's enough.

Monday, July 11, 2011

lentils & kale


Perhaps you're like me, and you've feared kale your whole life.  And maybe you thought lentils only belonged in soup.  If both of those things are true, be prepared to have your mind blown.

To be honest, kale wasn't even on my radar until a few years ago.  It wasn't that I was afraid afraid, just unsure and intimidated by it's boldness.  In March of last year, while we were still living in our slanted apartment on S. Court St., on the top floor of that old green house (which now has a new owner and is painted pink), I needed a culinary pick-me-up.  Our kitchen in that place was tiny.  It was more like a walk-through than the open bright happy space we have in our house now.  

Looking for inspiration, I decided to check in on one of my favorite blogs to see what Deb was cooking.  This lady creates recipes and takes gorgeous photos in her itty bitty kitchen in New York City.  I figured if she could do it, I could, too.  On this particular day, she wrote a post about baked kale chips.  It was then that I decided it was time to stop avoiding eye contact with the unfamiliar greens and give them a try.  


I've been hooked ever since.  You should be, too.

Follow Deb's recipe here.

Lentils are far more exciting than they sound, and versatile.  

In an effort to help my hubby lower his cholesterol, I've been experimenting more with beans and lentils lately.  I used to think lentils were only good for soup.  Boy, was I wrong.  Lentil soup is a beautiful thing, but you need to change it up every now and then, especially when simmering soup will heat your house on an already sweaty summer day.

The recipe I'm about to share with you, I created on a whim.  You can alter it however you like, adding your favorite veggies and seasoning.  This is a combination that worked deliciously for me, and might just inspire you to eat your lentils al dente.  I've used both red lentils and green lentils for this.  The red are my favorite and take less time to soak.  The green work fine, just be sure to soak them for at least an hour (and use more seasoning).

Here's what I did:  I soaked about 2.5 cups of red lentils in water for fifteen minutes, sautéed a medium white onion (chopped) in olive oil and minced garlic (I used a heaping tablespoon because I'm crazy about garlic, but you add to your taste), drained and rinsed the lentils and dumped them in the pan.  Then I added shredded carrots and pieces of kale that I broke off by hand.  I finished it all off with sea salt, lemon pepper and this sauce (bought at Giant Eagle).  

Sauté, taste, sauté, taste.


Serve with baked chicken thighs and kale chips.

Who says healthy has to be boring (or scary)?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

weekend of boom

© photo credit: Mae Giganti

American flags lined the sidewalks, congregants wore their favorite red-white-and-blue themed outfits to church, and the air smelled of barbecue grills and sunscreen.

Welcome to 4th of July weekend in Ohio.

It was everything you'd imagine it to be.  Very warm.  Very festive.  

Very Americana.

Our weekend started with a concert at Mapleside Farms.  This is the place with the restaurant called Melrose Grille that we helped inaugurate a couple of months ago.  Every Friday night they host concerts on the hill overlooking a spectacular view of the apple orchard and countryside.  On this particular Friday night, our lovely friend Rachel opened the event with an hour-long set, accompanied by my handsome hubby and a few other young men from our church, including her brother on electric guitar.  

© photo credit: mapleside.com

Rachel and the boys rehearsed for several nights during the month of June, and seeing them perform together reminded me of all the past gigs my husband has played since we've been married.  He's done the band thing before, but it's been awhile.  Rachel channeled her inner-Sheryl Crow and welcomed the crowd with her natural talent.  She started with a Brooke Fraser cover and ended with How Great Thou Art.  Had I not been working at the entrance, I would have had a better view.  Just knowing they were up there doing their thing, in front of an audience of a thousand, made me happy.

Saturday we enjoyed a lazy day and an evening dinner with our friends, the Chapmans.  Sunday was far more active, as we spent the day with our church.  We had our services in the morning and our annual tailgate party in the evening.  The Cornerstone Chapel tailgate party goes beyond grilling burgers in the parking lot.  We had bounce houses and slides, an exotic animal petting zoo (I wanted to take the snakes & lizard home with me), hand-spun cotton candy, face painting, the Statue of Liberty on a skateboard, bagpipes, fresh popcorn, and human hamster balls.  

At dusk, we all gathered together on blankets and lawn chairs and an old leather couch, honored our veterans, and watched the City of Medina's fireworks display.





On Monday, we joined the Shumakers and Bilbreys at the Salsgiver's house for an old-fashioned BBQ and the bean bag tossing game called Cornhole.  The food and company were delightful and the perfect appetizer for what came next: Spencer fireworks.  We had our first experience with this impressive display last year, also with the Salsgivers.  It is second-to-none, with the exception of maybe Disneyland.  The difference in Spencer is that everyone sits in a wide open space *this* close to where the fuses are lit.  It's an entire field away, really, but in your body it feels much closer.
  

The boom rattles you. 




It made that giant bag of kettle corn we consumed and the colossal heap of potato chips smothered in nacho cheese sauce look like crumbs; though I'm sure our arteries disagree.  

Yeah, it was pretty awesome.

When I look around town now, there are still a few flags displayed, but every other sign of the holiday is packed away.  I was talking with a teller at my bank today about how neighborhood fireworks are legal where I come from (Boom City, anyone?), how the streets would be completely littered with debris after an evening of celebrating, and how the sounds of the holiday would go on all night.  

Here in Medina, it's a far tidier operation.  

God bless America.

Friday, July 8, 2011

golden brown


Just over a year ago, I mentioned all the foods I had seen here in the midwest that were unfamiliar to me, including sauerkraut balls.

Sauerkraut balls, you say?

Oh my yes!  They are golden brown delicious.  

Deep fried little kraut snacks dipped in a spicy honey mustard sauce (found at a restaurant in town called Rockne's).  

Chris and the Chapmans are my witnesses.

Mmmmmmmm boy!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

troubadour

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about houseguests #2, #5 and #8.

All three of these friends stayed with us for 24 hours or less, all three were on their midwest concert tours.

© photo credit: michaelmillercrusade.com

Michael Miller (#2) came first.  We've known Michael for years and years, and we've followed his singing career for as long.  I remember one of the first shows I saw was when he opened for Glen Phillips at the Coach House in SoCal (circa 1999).  A few years later, Chris was playing bass in his band (at the same venue) opening for Daniel Lanois.  Michael is one of those guys who plays it cool as a solo artist or with a band, in coffeehouses, dive bars, and at Hollywood hot spots.  He's toured with some classy folks, including Minnie Driver, and has a side business creating greeting cards.  

We got to spend time with Michael last spring and catch his show at Wilbert's in Cleveland (go there for some tasty music and French fries).  Side note: if you want to make Michael Miller smile, feed him peanut M&Ms.

© photo credit: christopherw.com

Christopher Williams (#5) was next.  You can read about our sweet evening with him here.  

© photo credit: Brad Johnson

Our most recent houseguest (#8) arrived on Wednesday.  Jeremy Hartshorn (nickname: Ed).  We also go way back in our history with Jeremy.  He and his wife are dear friends of ours.  We've all sung together, Chris and Jeremy used to rent a studio and share garage (band) space in California, Chris helped produce a few of Ed's CD projects, and they love to geek out together discussing their latest recording gear and song lyrics.  Jeremy is a powerful worship leader and co-owns a coffeeshop in Hawaii.

When he stayed with us last week, the three of us sat out in our gazebo and caught up on life, drank beer, ate peanut butter cups and air-popped popcorn.  Also while in Ohio, one of Ed's tour hosts gave him a Mercedes Benz to drive.  

It was pretty.  Black.  Shiny.

Expensive.


At about 10:30pm, the boys got a hankering for Popeye's chicken, so I (who was drinking only rootbeer) got to be the designated driver.. in the Benz.  Oh yes.  That baby had more buttons than I've ever seen inside of a car before, it remembered the way I positioned the seat and adjusted itself every time I started the ignition, and it gave me a massage while I drove.  I was hoping a woman with a British accent would start talking to me, giving me clues for my next spy mission, but instead we listened to Weird Al.


"Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same." - John Denver