Tuesday, August 30, 2011

dichotomy


"Only in Ohio."  I hear that phrase a lot.

Only in Ohio can you drive an hour in one direction and mingle with the art community, then drive an hour in the opposite direction and hang out with farmers and cowboys. 

Over the weekend, we did just that.  We started with dinner at a new (to us) Indian restaurant called Jaipur Junction.  After filling up on curry, garlic naan and the Maharaja Grill, we braved Cleveland traffic for a screening of a movie that won the Audience Award for Best Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival.  It's a German film with subtitles called Vincent Wants to Sea - a darling, quirky tale about three unlikely friends who escape a treatment facility in search of the ocean and themselves.  It has some unsavory language, but for sure it's a charmer.

One of my favorite elements of this experience was the audience we got to share it with.  They were my people: fully engaged in the movie and laughing with all their guts.  It was remarkable, really. I'm usually the one who's audible response stands out in a movie theatre, but here I was right at home in bolstered enthusiasm.

© photo credit: http://loraincountyfair.com/wordpress/

The very next night we drove an hour the other way to Wellington, Ohio for the 166th annual Lorain County Fair.  Our friends, Carrie and Josh Porter, invited us to join them for an evening under the stars watching the state's one and only combine derby.  The initial conversation occurred at a wedding we all attended last June.  Chris and I had both been to demolition derbies before, but not like this. It's one thing to watch old cars and retired school busses smash in to each other, but farm equipment?  

You have to see it to believe it.

Carrie used to drive one of the derby cars when she was a teenager, so I quite enjoyed hearing her stories while we waited for the event to start.  Carrie is now three weeks away from giving birth and is super cute.  Clearly, her daughter will grow up with motorsports in her blood.  The derby really was everything you could hope for (including a segment devoted to pick-up trucks).  All of the combines were painted and some were dressed up like animals.  We saw a dog-bine, shark-bine and bull-bine.  Each vehicle had sponsorship listed on it somewhere, including one for Chico's Bail Bonds.  








The Lorain County fair is (to quote Carrie) "more old school" than the Medina County Fair.  As soon as we walked through the gate, we were overwhelmed by the smell of manure, cigarettes and fried food. There were extra large waistlines and mullets everywhere you turned and women lacking.. ummm.. support.  

This fair had contests for decorating hay bails and fiddle playing, a Corn Hole tournament, and one lone camel for riding.  

After two and a half hours of demolition awesomeness, footlong corndogs, pizza and a perfectly fried elephant ear, we said our goodbyes to the Porters and retrieved our car in the parking lot manned by Boy Scouts.    

By the way, I was serious about the camel.

Only in Ohio.

Friday, August 26, 2011

fondue


I wish someone would create a diet that allowed you (me) to eat vats of melted cheese without moderation.  Wouldn't that be a delicious way to lose weight?

The other night, we all did our best to challenge that idea.  

Chris and I got together with eight of our friends and made fondue: three cheese versions, two kinds of chocolate and a marshmallow fondue.  Only one of us had an actual fondue pot.  The rest were created on stoves, in a crockpot and a microwave.  Instead of fondue forks, we used barbecue skewers, which I promise you worked just as well.



The cheese fondue I made was in a six quart crockpot and consisted of lager beer, heavy cream, hot sauce, corn starch, and fourteen cups of cheese (a combination of colby jack, sharp cheddar and swiss).  

If the pot had had a diving board, you would've jumped off of it and done your best cannonball right in to the deep end.  It was that good. The whole evening was that good.  We stuffed our faces, shared embarrassing stories, and laughed until it hurt.  

It was the kind of night you wish you could have every night.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the crew

So, I'm not what you call graceful.  

I tried my legs at ballet when I was young, but didn't last more than a year.  I adored the sparkly costumes and music and stage make-up, but was never the type who could glide or land quietly.  I still walk heavy on my feet.  


My sister is the graceful one.  I was meant for a contact sport.

Soccer was the game my siblings and I all tried at some point.  I'm not fast, but I am tough.  I was at my best in the defense position and loved playing fullback.  Being "the brute squad" against the forwards from the opposite team suited me just fine.  My favorite games were the ones played in the rain.  I loved getting muddy.  For over a decade, I played this sport (club teams, select teams, school teams, college intramurals) and was pretty good at it.

Several years later, I married an Argentine.  My hubby has fĂștbol in his blood!  He was actually living in Argentina when they won the World Cup in 1978.  It's a story I like hearing him tell.  Last year, we camped out on our couch and watched the 2010 World Cup games.  

While we have friends in Seattle with season tickets to the Sounders, it seems that in Ohio, college sports and truck pulls are far more popular.

Enter The Crew.  

Our friend, Melissa, is one of the Assistant Squad Leaders and dancers for the Columbus Crew (they call themselves The Crewzers).  I always assumed she cheered for a basketball team.  So, when she asked me to come to a home game, I was excited to see her troupe perform. Then, I found out The Crew was an MLS team and my enthusiasm doubled.




Aniko and Abi Allen joined me for that game.  We started our evening with dinner at Noodles & Company, then drove to the stadium and found our incredible seats (thanks Melissa!) where we cheered The Crew on to victory.  We stayed afterwards to give Melissa hugs, then drove the two hours back to Medina listening to Adventures in Odyssey (an audio program I used to listen to on cassette when I was a kid - now Abi listens to it on CD).



If only I had learned about the Columbus Crew last September!  Their match against the Seattle Sounders would have been fun to watch. Still, what we saw last weekend was filled with vuvuzelas, popcorn, and high energy.. and Abi walked away with a free t-shirt.  


What more could you ask for?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

tandem


There are few places I've seen in Ohio that remind me of where we came from.  The northwest is a beauty all it's own.  Ohio is different. A good different, but definitely different.

Recently, two friends of ours introduced me to the artsy town of Peninsula.  Cuyahoga Valley, where Peninsula is located, is beautiful land.  Peninsula just has that something that reminds me of the parts of Seattle and Portland that I love so much.

Part scenery, part cultural vibe.. not sure I can put my finger on it.  I just know it when I feel it.

The Towpath is a biking/walking/hiking/running trail that spans along the Cuyahoga River.  Sections of it are shaded by hulking green trees and the view beside the trail changes from what I used to see when I went camping as a child (moving water, bridging tree stumps, sandbars, sticks and pebbles) to fields of corn, backyards, swamps and highway.  




It's a friendly trail that keeps your eyes interested and your feet pedaling.

Hubby and I took our first bike ride together last Saturday.  I know, we couldn't believe it either.  In over 12 years of marriage, this was our first time setting out on bicycles as a pair.  It seems that one of us always had wheels when the other didn't.  Now, thanks to a Craig's List purchase and a donation from a friend, we can ride at the same time.  The Towpath was our first cycling adventure.  

There's something sweet about riding with the one you love, even if thoughts of adoration are overruled by the sound of cicadas in the trees and shotgun fire in the corn fields.

Friday, August 12, 2011

got skin?


August 7th was Sweet Face Skin Care's 6 month Ohio anniversary.  

Business is good.  Some weeks are slower than others, but there is continued interest and my client list is up to 55.  I am eager to meet more people and to see more growth as the months go by.

I really love what I do.

In the past six months, I've heard amazing stories of cancer survival and have seen the surgical scars.  My clients have told me about their children with special needs, caring for ailing parents, and baked me brownies. I've treated brides-to-be, missionaries, siblings, and pregnant mamas.

I helped one client experience emotional healing through touch, another experienced great relief from her rosacea, and I was with another client as she felt the presence of her late husband during her treatment (a.k.a. that darling bird chirping outside my office window).  

Another gal looked with amazement in the mirror after her first facial and exclaimed, "Is that my skin?"  She couldn't believe her face was actually fresh and youthful.  

A little TLC goes a long way.

When a new client comes in, I have them fill out a client card that asks for basic contact information, and has questions about medical history and skin concerns.  One question on the front of the card asks how the client heard about me.  My favorite answers are: "Jesus told me," "US Weekly," and "Your muh best friend.. duhhhh."  That last one was written by a 13-year old (could you tell?).

Since February, I have also met a fellow Yelper, passed my first annual inspection by the State Board, and was pursued by the daily deal site, Living Social.  

I count it all joy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

summer treats


Pool party at the Voigt's house.



Backyard fish fry (thanks, Al & Marge!).


BBQ pulled pork nachos at Melrose Grille.


An ice cream cake made by friends (thanks, Josh & Kelly!).



Summer storms and gorgeous sunsets.

The livin' is easy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

date night


One of our favorite dates began on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

We started with dinner at Nyala Ethiopian Restaurant, spent a couple of hours at The Silent Movie Theatre, and ended our evening with coffee at The Green Room on Hollywood Blvd.

Last night we had an Ohio version of that same date.  We started with sushi at Kasai on Weatherstone Drive, spent a couple of hours at Playhouse Square, and came home to Medina for a late night nosh.

Playhouse Square is located in downtown Cleveland and is currently hosting their 14th annual Cinema at the Square.  "This summer the Palace Theatre’s famous screen (a 20 foot-high by 47 foot-wide super Hurly-Glo projection screen) will feature 16 film favorites. Moviegoers will be treated to pre-show organ recitals on a restored 1927 Kimball organ that contains 16 sets of pipes, a xylophone, Glockenspiel, a complete set of drums and many cymbals," states the website.

The organ recital was compliments of a short-haired senior named Susan, and included renditions of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "I Got Rhythm," and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

You may be interested in knowing that Playhouse Square is actually a whole district, and one of it's buildings houses several different theatres.  Concerts, live stage performances and movies all play there.  You can even rent a theatre for your next business meeting! The Cinema at the Square series is located inside the grand Palace Theatre, which takes your breath away at first entrance.  

It makes you wish you were dressed to the nines and carrying a sparkly clutch purse.  This theatre contains two balconies and sky-high ceilings.  The floor shows it's age and the seating aisles are surprisingly narrow, but everything else is truly spectacular.



On our date, we were entertained by a screening of the 1933 film, 42nd Street.  It was billed as a Ginger Rogers picture, but the real star (in my opinion) was Ruby Keeler.  



Instead of movie trailers, we watched old Warner Brothers cartoons. And in place of college-age kids manning the ticket counter, we were greeted by silver-haired retirees in red blazers.  "The Red Coats," as they call themselves, reminded me of my very first date with Chris at another classic Hollywood haunt, Musso & Frank's.

As much as the country charms me, I will always be a city girl.  

A city girl who adores her city boy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

fair week


It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and Fair Week in Medina.

While no one was attacked by carnivorous fish at our fair, there was a power outage yesterday, and we saw several wipeouts during the motocross event on Tuesday.  I also entered a couple of baked items in to the home culinary competition.  

My chocolate stout cake won third place, while my coconut chocolate chip banana bread didn't place at all.  I did notice that most of the bread was eaten, so hopefully I gave the judges something sweet to remember me by.




Rachel and I reminisced last night, as we walked around deciding which corn dog stand to patron.  We decided that when we were kids, the fair was all about the rides.  When we were teenagers, it was all about the boys.  As adults, lets face it, it's all about the food.

Naturally, Chris, Rachel and I all stuffed our faces this week.  Corn dogs, fried cheese, fried Oreos, homemade potato chips, blooming onions, and shaken lemonade were on the menu.  

Not a disappointing bite among them.

Shark fact #80:  Great white sharks eat 11 tons of food a year! Humans eat closer to half a ton every year.  I wonder how much of that is consumed at county fairs?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

pizza


From the moment we shared a heaping bowl of pasta in their dining room, we knew we had a connection with Mike & Connie Mouser.

I like to think of Connie as "The Sauce Whisperer."  Every sauce she creates is well-composed and gorgeous.

This mama knows how to cook Italian!

Last night she made her famous homemade pizza for us.  Homemade crust, homemade sauce (a tomatoey-pestoey concoction), fresh mozzarella, oregano, sausage, parmesan, and pepperoni the size of your whole hand.  Pepperoni is normally my least favorite pizza topping, but Connie made me a believer.  She baked two large pans of this pie, and I barely got a picture in before the last three slices were devoured.  We also enjoyed lively conversation over a bottle of malbec and coffee on their new patio.  

Life is just better shared.

Monday, August 1, 2011

fortitude


We returned from our week in Joplin ten days ago and I'm still processing the experience.  

Two days after we arrived home, our team shared stories with our church family (look for the "sermon" video from 7-24-11 here).  I found it surreal to try and bring others in to what I saw and felt just with my words (and a couple of photos).  But try we did, and the response was genuine.

Suffice it to say, the week was unforgettable.


Two days were spent on the road.  With all of the stops we made (gas, food, bathroom), it took 16 hours both ways to reach our destinations, which left little time for anything other than sleep. The four days in-between we spent sharing time with a church-turned-distribution-center, a wheat field, a donation tent, and an office building.

Our first drive through town was shocking.  It was a struggle to take in what our eyes saw.  Total destruction.  Even though we arrived two months after the F-5 tornado struck this city, the damage was still too much to comprehend.  Block after block of roofless homes, foundations where buildings used to sit, businesses in shambles, debris stacked sky high, utility poles torn in two, metal wrapped around trees, trees that used to be lush resembling toothpicks, cars reduced to junk, ponds littered with drywall, houses marked with spray paint.. it was eery.  My eyes still well up with tears when I think about it, and I get that sinking feeling in my stomach.




© photo credit: Tim Bracker

This storm changed lives in an instant.

Congregants from the Riverton Friends Church in Kansas (about 10 miles from Joplin) hosted us during our stay.  Each home treated us like royalty (and bathed us in air-conditioning)!  Chris & I got to stay with two of our dearest friends, Steve & Priscilla (we all knew each other in SoCal), which involved ending our days with them, sharing life over a glass of wine and Ruby Red port.  They had French press coffee made for us every morning, and Steve served cranberry-walnut bagels that he baked from scratch.  


The Joplin Family Worship Center was our main volunteer hub.  We met there the first day and were assigned hours of sorting clothes in a donation tent.  With the temperature at 100 and above every day, you can believe we all met our sweat quota for the year.  No matter what we tried for blotting or prevention or cooling ourselves, the sweat leaked out of our pores like rain down a window pane.




To keeps things lively, Rachel & I featured our favorite shoes throughout the day. These particular pumps were from our French collection.  The gal who chose the green pair was a sweet lady named Angie who looked worse for the wear when we met.  But, when she saw these chartreuse beauties, her countenance changed. Turns out, her cell phone case matched the pattern and color.. and the shoes were a perfect fit!  Another gal came in when we had a pair of polka dot wedge shoes displayed.  She was concerned about her balance and the circulation issues in her feet, but her eyes told me a different story.  So I untied them from the post, insisted she give them a try, and again, they were a perfect fit.  She looked at me with a wide smile and said, "I feel so pretty."

Joy in the little things.

Even my husband found a new look!


On our second visit to the distribution center, we spent the day helping hundreds of families collect donation items and free Crocs shoes.  The event was called Croc N' Roll and was sponsored by the Crocs shoe company.  The church sanctuary was cleared out and replaced with donation stations.  Each of the volunteers acted as "human shopping carts."  We helped folks decide what items they needed (toiletries, cleaning supplies, food boxes, pantry items, toys, water, etc.) and made sure they had more than enough when they left.  Walking with so many families and individuals meant hearing that many stories of survival and heartache.  Their candor was surprising and their gratitude overwhelming.  

I heard more than a dozen stories about folks hiding in bathtubs and closets, and families now living in tents, cars, shelters and toolsheds.

People like you and me.


Wednesday was the day we separated.  Most of our team went to a farmer's field and helped clear it of debris.  While his land was untouched by the tornado itself, his wheat fields were littered with junk from neighboring areas.  Any kind of household item, housing material, personal effect, clothing, dolls, photographs, you name it.. it was blown there.  Apparently, the farmer's cows were eating the insulation and dying.  Plus, the farmer was unable to harvest the wheat and continue his livelihood with all of that waste in the way. Throughout the week, several groups of volunteers took shifts walking the fields with garbage bags and picking up trash.  

Three of us worked with our friend, Priscilla, and a colleague of hers doing office work at a building in the downtown area.  Both businesses were working in a temporary location, in the process of rebuilding.  All of the mundane tasks (replacing damaged files, stuffing letters to clients in envelopes, making follow-up phone calls, data entry, filing, etc.) we did.  It may not seem like much, but when you are as overloaded as these employees were with trying to fix what was lost in the storm and keep up with business demands, it was nice for them to have one less thing to worry about.  With each file folder we opened came a whiff of debris.  

That night, we helped lead a worship service for our host church.  It was an evening of rest for our new friends.  I barely made it through all of the songs.  So emotional.  That line "break my heart for what breaks Yours" from this song gets me every time, especially in a place like Joplin.


The last day was spent back at the distribution center sorting clothing and helping families find items they needed.  Did I tell you I was interviewed for a local TV station?  A gentleman named Cris Wyly was walking through the parking lot interviewing families affected by the storm.  When he met me, he asked questions about our volunteer work and decided to interview me, too, for this station in St. Louis. It was fun to share all of the emotion and impressions from the week, in hopes that others would want to volunteer, too.

As you can imagine, this is an on-going effort.  Joplin's landscape will change because of this event and the community will grow stronger. I think it's safe to say that no one will ever be the same.  Including us.

We had a great team.  We all worked together well, resolved conflict well, we problem solved well, traveled well, and loved well.  Rachel, Olivia, Chris and I drove there and back together and we're still friends.  We even deemed Olivia's loaf of Wonder Bread as our car's mascot.  Yes, we did.



Hugging and sweating.  That about sums up my time in Joplin.  The sweating part I underestimated, but the hugging part was just right.  

I already miss those beautiful, weary faces.