Friday, April 27, 2012

bucket list

This is not a Bucket List.

If I were to create a Bucket List, opening for Christopher Williams would be on it.

Last month, I got to check that item off of my unofficial list, as CW returned to our church to play an acoustic set.  We called ourselves, "Rachel & The Holywaters."  (Rachel Schmidt & The Holowatys didn't quite have the same ring to it.)  Chris, Rachel, and I rehearsed in our living room for several nights, perfected harmonies, drank wine, and made each other laugh.

Performing was icing on the cake. 

Once again, Christopher Williams hit it out of the park with his one man show.  Guitar, percussion, harmonica, and those stories!  What once were tales from the road have now turned in to tales of his toddler son's first two years and life through the eyes of a first-time dad.  One of my favorite moments was watching the two Chris's (him and mine) sitting on the floor, deep in conversation.  You could swear they were related or, at the very least, gave each other styling tips. 

My husband doesn't have a Bucket List either, but if he did, perhaps an audience with one of his favorite authors would be on it.  For his birthday last December, I bought him tickets to see Anne Lamott at Playhouse Square.  Ten days ago, we sat five rows from the stage, dead center, listening to this adorable, self-deprecating humorist with her signature dreadlocks.  Not one thing she said was outside our reach.  She was, as she is in her writing, honest and messy and relatable.

© photo credit:

During the Q&A portion of the lecture, Chris went to the microphone and asked Lamott about grace.  I recorded her answer on my phone, which you can watch here.

Bucket List or not, we thank the good Lord for giving us moments of absolute joy and wonderment.

"Laughter is carbonated holiness." - Anne Lamott

Sunday, April 22, 2012

flaming cheese

Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, Joan Harris, Roger Sterling. If those names sound familiar to you, it's because you (like us) are a fan of the show, Mad Men.

Every Sunday since the new season started, we've gathered at the Gardiner home for a double date viewing party.  Melanie prepares the best snacks and AMC brings the drama.  The first couple of episodes were fairly dull, but things are heating up.  If you watch the show, you know.  I most appreciate the linear series of events, unlike our seven year run with Lost.

Last week, Mike spent the afternoon celebrating Greek Orthodox Easter with his family.  Which meant tasty Greek treats for our evening together, including saganaki (aka "flaming cheese").  Brandy ignited the flames and lemon juice calmed the fire.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

What a spread!  I highly recommend lighting your cheese on fire, pairing strawberries with feta, and watching the creative stylings of ad men in the 1960s (just fast forward through the racy stuff).

Monday, April 16, 2012


After our wedding, we loaded a rental truck with my things, and drove to Los Angeles to start our life together.  We spent a year and a half living alone in two different apartments in Hollywood before moving to Newport Beach, California.

It was then that we welcomed our first roommate.

For over six years, we lived communally with four (temporarily five) roommates.  Tom was our longest roommate, but we also shared residence with our friend, Adam, a homeless man named Jim, and a young married couple, JT & Petra.  Each roommate experience was unique and quirky and wonderful.  Tom was a working actor/musician (who was featured in a Verizon commercial and often toured with Maria McKee), Adam was our pastor and a  culinary genius (who moved out after marrying his lovely wife, Wendy), Jim was an elderly gentleman with nine toes who frequented the courtyard outside of our church.  We invited Jim (we called him "Captain Jim" because he looked like an old sea captain) to move in with us for a few months, as we tried to help him find a permanent place to live (one that didn't involve dark alleys and cold doorways). JT & Petra were a newly married couple from our church - both teachers working towards their doctorates, and so cute.

Before we left Orange County for Seattle in 2006, we spent our last night sleeping on JT & Petra's futon in our soon-to-be former living room.  Adam was married, Tom was living in New York, Jim was on his own again, and JT & Petra eventually moved to Boston and had a baby girl named Mila.

Our Seattle home was the first time Chris and I had lived alone since the year 2000.  We almost didn't know what to do with the space and quiet.  In California, we only locked our doors at night.  In Seattle, we locked them every time we left the house.  It was a different context, but one we grew to love.  In 2010, we relocated to Ohio, bought a house, and here we've lived for over two years.  If you do the math, that's 6.5 years with roommates, 6.5 years without. Clearly, it's time for another roommate.

Last Saturday, Amanda moved in.

Amanda's made regular appearances on my blog, as Chris and I have played a major role in her life since moving to Medina.  This month, she finished recovering from her knee surgery, went back to work, and moved in to our guest bedroom.  She is still settling in to our world, but we all believe this is an important step towards her independence.  Over the past two years, we have seen God move mountains in her life, including a church community she calls "family," a steady job, a driver's license, a car, a repaired meniscus, and people who really believe in her.

We don't know what the future holds for our newest resident, but it sure looks promising.

P.S.  Check out Amanda's blog.

Friday, April 13, 2012

healthy 3

Since January, hubby and I have been on a pursuit towards healthy eating and lifestyle.

We both wanted a change, but knew it would require sacrifice and diligence and the breaking of bad habits.  Truth is, we love living large through food.  Some of our best memories include rich evenings of laughter and indulgence with friends.  We didn't want to change that altogether, but we knew we had to reign it in.  We have spent more nights at home cooking this year, which has been a big help. Plus, we gave up the gym membership and bought an elliptical for the basement (that we actually use), I'm journaling my food online, and Chris and I continue to be in this together.

As my dad always says, "Slow and steady wins the race."

We aren't in a rush to get skinny.  We want to live a healthy life, enjoy having energy, sleeping through the night, and bellies that don't hang over our belts.  We do well with structure, but we like to not think about it some times, too.  So, we have adopted the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the time we eat healthy and intentionally, and twenty percent of the time we don't.  I am more mindful at the grocery store now, and buy items that are better for us, even in large amounts.  I do have coconut milk ice cream in the freezer, and kettle chips on top of the fridge, and all the ingredients to bake something at a moment's notice, but I let it be an exception not the rule (except maybe the ice cream).

I'm pleased to say that we've both lost over 20 pounds!

If you are on your own pursuit towards good health, don't give up.  It's not a one time thing, it's a way of life.

Every day is a new day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


What a lovely houseguest Flora made.

We had fun parading her around, introducing her to friends and our charming town of Medina.  Everyone adored her.  How could they not?  She is so sweet and poised and stylish (the above photo was taken circa 1971 when Chris was a toddler - look at that gorgeous yellow coat!).

Flora is a genuine lady.

After Amish country, we feasted on our buys.  So many snacks.  We made a good dent in them, namely as Chris and his mom finished all seven episodes of Downton Abbey.  To be fair, the miniseries marathon extended in to Tuesday, in-between Mom's chopping and preparing and cooking our delicious borscht soup dinner.  She made it extra chunky with beets and sweet potatoes.

I just love the color of beets.

Our church staff got to enjoy the leftovers today for lunch.  Chris said they were nervous at first, especially after we told them about the head cheese.  But, they tried it and were relieved by how tasty it was.  Pretty dang delicious!

Though we couldn't convince Flora to move in with us, we did buy our plane tickets for Thanksgiving.

Burlingame will be lovely that time of year.

Monday, April 9, 2012


My husband's mom is here visiting us from California.  She is a beautiful woman named after flowers.

Today we took her to Amish country.  She sat in Amish rocking chairs, bought pantry items at the bulk foods store, sampled fudge at the chocolate factory, and giggled as we got caught in a rainstorm.  We enjoyed watching farmers plow their fields, children playing baseball outside of a schoolhouse, horse-drawn buggies clopping along the highway, and loads of laundry flapping in the wind.

The Amish people live a simple life that, I think in some ways, reminds my mother-in-law of her rural childhood in Argentina.

We were sure to take her to Heini's Cheese Chalet for their tasting buffet.  I've been limiting my dairy intake, so I avoided the cheese itself and hovered around the fudge display instead.  Mom filled her basket with a loaf of smoked swiss, asiago, summer sausage, cream cheese spreads and a strange package of pressed meat.

Head cheese.

Does everyone have a first experience with head cheese?

Flora delighted in sharing her find with us, as she reminisced about all of the other awkward animal body parts she's consumed in her lifetime.  To be honest, with a squeeze of lemon, the mixed meat wasn't terrible.  Just forget what the loaf is made from, and ignore the taut and slimy texture, and you, too, can have a palatable first (and possibly last) experience with head cheese.

Chris just introduced his mom to the popular British-American television show, Downton Abbey.  They are in the other room finishing their third episode.  I may be one of the only ones who finds the show boring.  However, I do enjoy watching Hallmark movies with my mother-in-law, which is what I did last night, while Chris was out running errands.  Something about the title, Love Comes Softly, didn't grab him.

Tomorrow, Flora is making borscht for dinner.

I think we'll keep her.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

speed dating

Trade shows are a lot like speed dating.

You go in to the event putting your best foot forward, hoping to make a good first impression.  With each person who comes to your table, you have about ten seconds to engage them in what you're selling. Whether it's yourself or your product, the attendees size you up just the same.  

I'm always so nervous at first.  What's my pitch?  How do I sum up what it is I do, my vision, my heart, my services, my products?  Will they like me?  Brevity.. what's that?  Thankfully, I catch my stride quickly.. and I can talk fast. 

My first trade show as a business owner was laughable.

We were living just north of Seattle at the time, in a city called Brier.  As with most things, I over-prepared for what turned out to be a small town parade situation.  My table was located next to the parade sound system (so loud!) and the neighborhood pizza parlor, and in front of the community port-a-potty.  The businesses represented there consisted of a doggy daycare, my skin care business, a canine rescue, and a Mary Kay representative.  Everyone went to the canine rescue table (they brought puppies), no one even looked me in the eyes.  Unless you count a few brave children who came to my table looking for candy.

I made them take a coupon to their moms.     

Last month was my second trade show.  It was the first annual "Live Well" event, hosted by Jazzercise of Medina, and sponsored by Backbone of Health (a chiropractic/wellness center where I'm a patient).  The event was located along the inside perimeter of Jazzercise's main workout room.  There were seven businesses: a professional organizer, a financial advisor, an athletic shoe company, a neighboring gym, my chiropractor, a raw foods educator, and me. We had free giveaway items and a raffle drawing.

Hubby came with me.  We wore matching shirts.  I can't say it was well-attended, but I did meet a few new people, all of whom looked me in the eyes.

Yesterday was trade show number three, and my favorite so far.

Our friend, Sarah Arend, works for Medina Hospital and coordinates the yearly, "Employee Wellness Walk."  In an effort to promote good health amongst their staff, they host this event that encourages all of the hospital staff to walk a few laps around the inside of the building, and then attend a trade show in the main lobby that focuses on wellness and clean living.  This time around there were nine tables: the hospital welcoming committee, the hospital planning committee, the hospital chaplain, the American Heart Association, an athletic shoe company, Medina County Park District, The Olive Tap, Buehler's catering, and me.  I lost count of how many people I met, but a few of them were my clients already, which was a nice treat.

The hospital provided me with a table, which was larger than I was expecting.  I displayed everything I brought with me, and held my own during my ten second intervals.  Even though my armpits got sweaty, I smiled my best smile, and had real conversations about the things I love to talk about.

While speed dating is not for me (yay marriage!), trade shows remind me that I really do have something worth while to offer.

Having a table next to the snacks helps, too. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

soup party

This is what the invitation says:

Your family is invited to a party
...No foolin’...
on April 1st.

Sandor’s Soup Party
Bring your favorite soup or try
a new one on us!

Bring the kids, bring the crackers, and a liter of pop to share.
We’ll supply the hot dogs
(for kids who stick their noses up at soup!)

How can you say no to that?

We're bringing chilled cucumber soup and bagel chips.

No foolin'.