Monday, December 17, 2012

noel

holiday prank


We came home from our overnight in Cleveland to ribbons hugging the house.  I assumed it was our repeat offenders or my best friend's family in Seattle (who go around their neighborhood doing pranks like this - they call themselves the "Christmas Ninjas"), but found out it was actually our former roomie, Amanda.  

It was when we arrived at her apartment for a housewarming party yesterday, that we saw the same ribbon hugging her front door.  The secret was out.

Holiday cheer, indeed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

meteor shower


My husband is so cool, he got a meteor shower on his birthday.

No really, it's true.

Last night, we stood out under the stars with mouths open in expectation.  We were told that the best time to see the action would be between 10pm-3am.  We chose the 10:30pm hour and were amazed by the pieces of light falling from the sky.

It was a perfectly clear 37 degrees.  

The suspense was better than a movie, as we watched and waited in-between stars.  I gasped and giggled every time I saw one fall, and enjoyed listening to my hubby share meteor facts with me. We received text messages from friends throughout the night expressing their own amazement by how awesome it was.

I have a tradition of surprising Chris for his birthday every year, and yesterday was the beginning of this year's surprise.  I wish I could claim the meteor shower, but I can't.  I can claim the new books I bought for him, the spa treatment I gave him, and the surprises I have in store for tonight and tomorrow.

God wins with the light display, but I'll win with affection.

You can't hug and kiss a meteor, after all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

endurance


"Say the word snicker doodle in a funny accent."  
"What kind of music do you like?"  
"What was your favorite class in school?"
"Who is your coolest ancestor?"
"Have you seen the new Twilight movie?"

These were just some of the things that eleven year-old Kaitlyn talked about on our road trip to Cowen, WV.  This was also the girl who told me (about a hundred times that week) that she was "so excited" to go on her first missions trip with us.  Her enthusiasm was so cute!  Also sitting in our backseat were fifteen year-old, Amber, and 22 year-old, Chloe.  Two weeks ago, the five of us, along with 27 other volunteers, caravanned to West Virginia for our third outreach to the community of Webster Springs.  


Last year, I collected friendship bracelets from around the country in preparation for our inaugural trip.  Seven months after that, we went back to the area for two additional days and provided them with food, manual labor, and spa services.  It was a poignant mission during those months, but even more so this time around, since we've come to recognize some of the families and they us.  I'm already getting excited about our fourth trip next summer.  The more we go, the deeper my heart loves the place and its people.

For this visit, we partnered with two Lutheran churches from Massillon, OH, and hosted a Christmas party, complete with party food, decorations, presents, and entertainment.  We planned the show this time, which included games, interactive songs, dancing, a skit, a message by Pastor Chip, and 44 hand chimes that we played as we sang Christmas carols together.









We had a full house.  It was good, noisy fun!

Along with pre-arranged gifts for the kids, we had an abundance of donated stuffed animals, clothing and crafts.  We also prepared 500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that got packed in to 500 lunch sacks, along with fruit and snack items.  We wanted to be sure each family had enough food to feed their household that day.








Singing assembly line!  We hollered out every showtune, Disney theme song, and Christmas carol we could think of (in 3-part harmony) to help our sandwich-making project go by faster.




Our guests came empty-handed and left overflowing.

Before the party started, some of us went to Gary & Lily's Mission to see how the volunteer dorm was coming along and to drop off donated items for their warehouse.  What a timely gift it was to bring them a rental truck full of drugstore items.  Our guys filled their empty warehouse floor-to-ceiling with goods, including pink Snuggies.  It was a joy to see just how far along the dormitory has come.  It has walls and windows now!






Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (Webster Springs endured three feet of snow in one day, downed trees, and a month without power!), this community is surviving and finding hope in a barren place.  Their stories were emotional and their faces weathered, but nothing seemed to break their resolve.

God bless them, every one. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

holy curds

© photo credit: www.blog.fooducate.com

In at least eight places in the Bible, curds are mentioned.

They are often paired with honey, sometimes in the company of nobles and majesty.  Other times they are used as a remedy for starvation, an analogy, or a precursor to wrath.

Cheese curds are serious business.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

boiling eggs


I learned a new way to boil eggs, thanks to Shauna Ahern who writes the beloved Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef blog. 

If I told you how I used to boil eggs, I suspect you'd either a) give me the sympathetic head tilt ("You just did what you saw someone else do when you were growing up - it's not your fault.") or b) give me "the Mom look" ("How many times do I have to tell you?  If you play with boiling water, you will get burned.").  I would hope for option "a," but wouldn't be surprised by option "b."

My old ways were risky, wet, and splattery.  I almost always scalded myself, and the eggs would often burst open or crack. 

Well, not anymore!  Here are the instructions from Shauna herself (from this post):  "Put the eggs on the bottom of a large pot, big enough to fit all the eggs comfortably, but not so big that they’ll rattle around in there.  Pour in the vinegar (1/4 cup white vinegar). Cover the eggs with enough water that there’s an inch of water above the eggs.  Turn the burner on high.  Bring the water to boil. Turn off the heat.  Wait 10 minutes.  Run cold water over the eggs until they are cool to the touch."

Goodbye first-degree burns, hello avocado deviled eggs!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

advent



"O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, 
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels,
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!"
-Phillips Brooks, 1868

Happy second Sunday of Advent!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

kombucha


My wellness doctor served me kombucha in a Riedel glass this morning.  Funny guy.

A few things you should know:

1.  Chris and I have become friends with said doctor and his wife over the past year.  They came to our house Tuesday night for dinner, where we had a discussion about drinking wine out of Riedel glasses and the fermentation process of a living organism.  

2.  The term "living organism" does not mean the culture will move like something out of an alien movie, contrary to my thinking.

3.  Tim and Ali live in the apartment above his office, which is where he keeps his home-brewed kombucha and drinking glasses.

Similar to Amish Friendship Bread, you need a starter to make it.  Not similar to Amish Friendship Bread are the health benefits.  If I drink enough of this stuff, I might just live forever.  Bottoms up!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

family love



When we touched down in Cleveland, after spending five days in Northern California for Thanksgiving, we anticipated snow on the ground.  Anticipation led to disappointment.

Cold, but no snow.

I suppose it was an appropriate transition, since we had just left blue sky 65-degree weather.  It was the kind of cool-warm we last felt in Spring.  Chris and I don't mind freezing, but the sun was welcomed just the same.  It allowed for long walks around the neighborhood and afternoons in the park, wearing only a light sweater and jeans. And any chance we get to see Chris's mom makes my heart happy. She is a dear woman, who makes the best chocolate chip cookies (a large batch was waiting for us at both houses we stayed in) and pie and soup and sweet potatoes and lasagna and flan (etc., etc.), all from scratch.  Thanks, Mom!


We started our vacation in Roseville (just outside of Sacramento) with a handmade watercolor "Welcome" sign made by Chris's sister's family.  This is not the sister I visited in Chicago, this is the other sister, the oldest of the two.  She and her husband have four children: two older (ages 18 & 20) and two younger (6 & 8).  The older two visited us here in Ohio last year and are still two of my favorite people to hang out with.


Elanor spent a few months this year teaching at an elementary school in Africa, and Nathaniel has traded his Akron plans for opening his own parkour gym in Sacramento.  If you don't know what parkour is, do a Google search or a search on YouTube.  It is amazing what the human body can do!  Nathaniel has fallen in love with the sport and is now teaching youth at Free Flow Academy.


You can watch him here (he's wearing the black shirt with red sleeves) and here.  The second video is one I took on my phone at the park.  Nathaniel ("Coach Nate") was there to practice with a few of his students, so we went to watch.  Before the students arrived, he and his sister, Elanor, showed us their moves.

Brother-Sister Parkour Team - totally going viral.

The second morning began with a cup of coffee and the younger two wanting to play board games with me.  First it was checkers, then it was the game of LIFE.  I haven't played LIFE in years, but they were quick (and eager) to remind me of the rules. About an hour in, I was an artist living in a log cabin, married to a guy named Larry.  I may or may not have had twins.  It's hard to remember with how excitable the kiddos were during the game.  If I could bottle up that energy, I'd be a millionaire.  As it was, I was only bringing in $30k per year.

I'm feeling good about my future.

On Thursday, the eight of us piled in to a minivan and drove the two hours to Burlingame (just outside of San Francisco) where Flora shares a house with Chris's brother and his family.  The main event wasn't the turkey, it was the baby.  Jonathan and his wife, Lauren (Ren), gave birth four days prior to their daughter, Olive Abigail.  She is the third girl in a pool of ten grandchildren.  Yet another birth I wasn't present for (she also decided to arrive earlier than expected), but I forgave her when I laid eyes on her for the first time.  Beauty!


Over the last two days we were in town, with a 4:30am departure Saturday morning, we made the most of our time together in conversation, games, pillow fights, movies (go see the new Lincoln film!), eating, laughing, telling stories, and the obligatory In-N-Out run.  It was fun calling my Seattle family on Thanksgiving Day, and bringing them in to our festivities.  Everyone was so good to us last week, generous and kind.  Mom, Harold, Cynthia, Elanor, Nathaniel, Daizy, Kevin, Jonathan, Ren, all of the little ones, and the relatives in Chicago and Argentina that we saw via Skype = blessings!   







I hope your holiday was filled with sweet sweet joy, and that you're as fat and happy as we are. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

blessings


This morning was a good one.  Really good.

I met up with 24 other volunteers from Cornerstone Chapel for a caravan to Akron, where we joined Jesus Said Ministries at a church downtown.  It was their annual Thanksgiving meal for hungry families in the area, and we got to help serve.

When Judy, the coordinator, told us our job was to meet people, make them feel welcome, help them with their food trays, offer them seconds, and be all-around friendly, I knew it was going to be a good day.  I was so in my element, grinning from start to finish.

We joined a volunteer group from a neighboring church and served over 150 people.  Apparently, last year they ran out of food.  This year, we had more than enough!  Folks were able to take food home with them, and give food to their friends and family members who weren't able to make it.

I loved knowing everyone walked away full.

Hubby and I leave for California on Monday for a week of thanks with the Holowaty clan.  I will take with me the hugs and smiles and gratitude expressed today, and so many blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

breaking dawn


Should I mention it?  Okay, I'll mention it.

Chris and I saw the Twilight movie with friends last night.  I haven't read the books (I think Chris read one), but we've seen all of the movies.  I got bored after the first two.  It was my husband who convinced me to watch the third one with him on DVD.  Perhaps for closure's sake, or because we love movies and seeing movies with friends, or for that packed house energy..  Whatever the reason, Chris and I joined a theatre of teenage girls for the final installment of Kristen Stewart's mortal turned immortal saga.  I was distracted by the computer animated baby (creepy!), and Kristen Stewart being Kristen Stewart, but the Volturi made it worth it.  Oh, and that epic battle scene at the end.  People were literally screaming and crying when their favorite characters died.  Gladly, we can now put it all behind us and be thankful our local movie theatre opts for 10 o'clock premieres, instead of midnight.

I will say, it was a fun sort of addition to our anniversary date, even if we did have to share it.  The day before, a kind old man in a delivery uniform showed up at my front door with a vase of flowers. It's the one time of year that my babe sends me a bouquet without prompting, and this was the first time in years that I was home for the delivery.  Receiving his flowers was as exciting as seeing snow fall on Christmas Day.


Later that evening, we ate at a new (to us) restaurant called Crave. It's one of Akron's culinary darlings and the reviews online made it worth a look.  Thanks to Living Social, we ate a full three course meal (plus drinks) for half of what we'd normally spend.  Between the two of us, we devoured plates of paella, crab cakes, balsamic and malbec braised beef, pan-seared scallops, wild truffle risotto, and risotto made with mascarpone cheese and roasted tomatoes swimming in a warm lobster corn sauce, margarita-flavored cheesecake, and a warm brownie dessert hugged by peanut butter and chocolate pretzel ice cream.  Seriously.  It was a meal you'd want to dance the Moonlight Serenade with.  Cheek to cheek. 

My groom and I made eyes at each other throughout dinner, and we reminisced.  I wonder if we'll have a similar evening fourteen years from now.  The stories we share about our meeting and pre-wedding relationship (we still haven't decided if we really dated, since we met and got engaged so quickly) never get old to me.

For the record, he fell in love with me first.