Sunday, September 30, 2012

baked apples

I'm a big fan of snacks.

This year, I've developed a radar for healthier snacking options, even if it's not all of the time.  I do love a junky indulgence, but for the other days of the week, this kind of recipe will woo me.  Being that it's Fall, I don't think you'll object to your house smelling like baked apples and cinnamon.  Thanks to my friend, Susie, and her friend, Lindsey, convincing me was easy.

The recipe calls for two apples, but I recommend baking four.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

like never before

After closing out our cell groups, the youth kids did what they do after a Wednesday evening service: catching up with friends, meeting parents, playing games, loitering in the parking lot.. They were set free for the night, while us leaders gathered in another room to talk about them.

The excitement is building.  Fall retreat is upon us.

We have some fun plans in the works, but before any of that happens, I have some catching up of my own to do.  It seems I neglected to post about our Spring retreat last April.  I still marvel at how fast the months go by between retreats.

I mean, April.. wasn't that last week?

"Like Never Before" was the theme.  We spent it at Pleasant Hill for the second time, and our speaker was Adam Opper.  My cabin assignment included the "troublemaker" girls, which didn't scare me, but was a stark reminder of how little sleep I was going to get that weekend.  The cabin also had some of my favorite girls in it, so it was a good mix, even if the sleep prophecy came true.

On the first night, one of my girls got herself stuck inside of this 6.5 inch space (the one on the left).  She is an athletic girl with a shapely chest.  I can figure out how she got herself wedged in, but getting her out was going to be rough.  My fellow cabin leader, Erin, and I tried brainstorming on the spot, as this girl's body was hanging sideways.  Everyone was watching and giggling hysterically, as we tried to stay composed (you know, being the adults).  We tried tugging and shoving and shifting and re-shifting her body, to no avail. We finally told her that she had to get herself out or else we would have to grease her up or call on the men of the camp to come cut her out. She didn't like those options, so eventually her stubbornness won. Poor thing was bruised for a week, but it did make for en entertaining story.  There is a video out there somewhere.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, Erin and I were startled awake by one of the other girls having a panic attack in her sleep.  She was hyperventilating when we found her at 3 in the morning.  We did everything we knew to wake her, but nothing worked until we prayed over her.  We sat her up, got her some water, and talked with her for several minutes, prayed over her again, and peace returned.

Bridget was on a sugar high when I took this picture.  An hour later, she was fighting to stay awake during the service.  

Adam brought a pastor friend of his to lead us in a healing service Saturday morning.  Normally, all of the emotion and spiritual awakenings happen the second night, but at this retreat, the light of day was just as powerful.  Some of you might be skeptical when it comes to instant healing through prayer.  I was, too, until I prayed for people who were instantly healed.  I anointed each young person (who came to me for prayer) with oil and spoke words of life over them and asked God to take away their pain.  For some, He did. I even prayed over the pastor and he was healed of crippling hip pain. Personally, I wasn't healed in the way I asked for, but my spirit was enlivened and God worked through me in mighty ways.  I rejoice!

Adam did a great job of engaging the students through story and declaration, and left them with phrases like this: "Just because you're in your brand new car now, doesn't mean there won't be bumps in the road," and "We are royalty."


Saturday night was our semi-annual variety show.  In the past, I've sung in groups and played my guitar, but this time around I knew it was time to bring out the big guns.  Evie Suave.

Who is Evie Suave? She's my alter ego.  I created her when we lived in California, as a host for a friend's party.  Evie's specialty is spoken word poetry that features her friends as the subjects.  Evie needed a debut performance in Ohio, so she came to retreat and delivered. The piece was called "Ode to Pastor Mike."  Watch it here.  The youth got a kick out of it, but it was Pastor Mike's response that moved me the most.  He loved his surprise.

Even with the kids caught kissing in the woods, the boy who started the camp owner's golf cart without permission, the guys who broke a door, the girl with chronic migraines (who I ended up giving head massages to all weekend), and the not-too-distant memory of the junior highers who decided to "test" a fire extinguisher on an empty cabin, we left the weekend smiling and grateful for a God who meets us, carries us, and shows us more kindness than we deserve.

Worship.  Spirit.  Truth.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

crane fly

I've been staring this guy down all morning.

Now that it's cooled outside, I thought for sure bug weather was over.

Even though crane flies don't prey on humans like mosquitoes do, they are just as creepy.  Their legs are too long for their bodies and they bob and wobble when they fly.  They stay in one spot for a suspicious amount of time, then disappear, then they show up again when you least expect it (usually in your hair when you're brushing your teeth).

My childhood cat used to eat them.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Long before Creative Memories and the Digital Era, I was a scrapbooker.  I used to stuff binders full of newspaper clippings, cards and photographs, and sometimes type captions (on a typewriter) to cut out and place underneath each picture.  The albums I used were the kind that had full sheet adhesive pages with the plastic overlay.  I didn't realize then just how strong that adhesive was.  Now, twenty years later, trying to take a picture out to scan is like trying to pry your fingers apart after someone dares you to Super Glue them together.

Every now and then, I unearth those albums and reminisce through the pages.  I can honestly say that my four years of highschool were good years.  Eventful years.  Growing years.  College was its own mixed bag and definitely harder for me than highschool ever was.  I mean, independence wasn't something I rushed in to.  From a baby's age, I clung to my parents.  Apparently, I used to cry insufferably if left with anyone else, that one church nursery requested I not come back.  I remember sobbing to the point of throwing up when I went away to summer camp.  And let's not even talk about my nervous bladder.  Once I grew out of my separation anxiety, I flourished. Junior high and highschool were the years I came in to my own as a teenager.  

It seems like things haven't changed much for young people by way of social pressures and relational drama.  There are still cliques and lunchroom hierarchies, popular kids and rejects.  But now, girls have simpler hairstyles than boys do, skirts are much shorter, parents allow body parts (other than ears) to be pierced before the age of eighteen, and technology is far superior than when I was in school.  Still, the energy is the same.  Kids sorting through emotions, and getting excited about things like football games and fancy shoes; it's the same now as it was two decades ago.

I didn't realize I missed it until we found ourselves engaged in a weekend of activities for Medina High School's Homecoming.  We live a block away from campus, which afforded us the best seats for Thursday's parade (right outside our front door), a short walk to the stadium for Friday's football game (with a sideline view, thanks to Mark & Jackie Loomis - our friends and longtime teachers at MHS), and a quick drive for me to see one of my youth girls (Owen) all dolled up before Saturday's dance.

In the spirit of semi-formals, I untaped the box in the basement with my old photo albums and found the picture from my first Homecoming dance.  It was 1990.  I was fifteen.

I posted it on Facebook.  

Next year, my graduating class celebrates twenty years ("The way to be is '93!").  Hard to believe it's been that long!  I look forward to seeing some of my oldest friends again.

For sure the scrapbook is coming with me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

a long walk

Due to the growing pothole epidemic in this town, our cars need major servicing at least once a year.  Our Honda fairs better than the Ford, but suffice it to say, there are days we wonder why we pay so much in city taxes when the roads are less than ideal.

Still, I'm grateful we live in a clean city that knows what to do in inclement weather.  I am grateful we live in a town that has pride in its community and pride in its schools.  I'm grateful our schools celebrate the arts.  I'm grateful we have the freedoms we do and the minor crime rates we do.

I am grateful this town is friendly, and walkable.

Because of said vehicle maintenance, I have found myself walking to and from the repair shop a few times this week.  Today it was a follow-up repair, and one I decided to let linger.

Normally, car issues rattle me (right up there with raw sewage in our basement), but today I cleared my schedule and enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood (instead of sitting in the rubber-scented waiting room with a scowl on my face).  I had my phone camera ready for the interesting things I was going to see, and I greeted everyone I passed by.

I love my car.  But, I appreciate my legs more.  I miss so much around me when I'm driving and not paying attention to anything else but my destination.  I needed to breathe in the fresh air this morning and move the body God gave me.

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

Thursday, September 20, 2012

side dish

Stuck on what to serve as a side dish for your next dinner party? Consider the chickpea.

Spice this crazy easy recipe however you like.  I've been known to dress my beans in garlic, oregano, sea salt and ginger.

Season well.  

There will be applause.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


We sat at old picnic tables, joking about farm animals and life lessons.  Crickets chirped, frogs croaked, the pheasants shuffled around in their cage, while the chickens and goats stayed tucked away in the barn.

Bonfire.  S'mores.  Homemade goat milk ice cream.

It was a typical night at the Sandor ranch.  

Their neighbors' annual fireworks show was the spectacle that evening.  Just when we thought it wouldn't happen, it happened.  It started with a boom and ended with a boom, with a gorgeous light display in-between.

A summer finale spent with some of our favorite people.

Goodbye tank tops, hello mittens.

Friday, September 14, 2012

blushing bride

Wearing side-swept tresses and a vintage-style gown, Anna Joy beamed on her wedding day.

Months of planning and labor went in to making this event amazing. Her in-laws actually re-designed the landscaping of their property, transforming it in to a grand entrance.  The guests sat on blanket-covered hay bails and watched the ceremony unfold, while the bridal party (almost 30 of us) lined up.

You know how everything seems chaotic before the big moment and then the music starts playing and all is right with the world again? Yeah, that happened.  

Anna's personal shower.

Anna's wedding day.

Anna wore cowboy boots and carried a brooch bouquet (crafted by her sister/matron-of-honor), her groom wore a handsome tuxedo.  It was when she walked down the path, with the sun illuminating her profile, her father proudly holding her up, and her groom seeing her for the first time, that I didn't know who to watch.  As a bridesmaid, it was "all eyes on the bride."  But, I am enchanted by that moment when the man sees his almost-wife in all her radiance, as if he's looking at her for the first time.

In the hours prior to the bridal walk, we got our hair done, did our make-up, zipped up our dresses, took pictures, ate snacks, alternated between the humid outside and the air-conditioned inside (of my car), greeted family, fussed over the bride, took more pictures, told stories, dodged a downpour, laughed, cried, touched up our hair and make-up, prayed for the rain to stop, adjusted our Spanx, and huddled under the porch with our partners.

My groomsman was an absolutely gentleman, and a pro at accompanying bridesmaids.  The ground we walked on was uneven, muddy, gravelled and uncertain, and in 4-inch heels, that could've been disastrous.  Our guys kept us steady.

© photo credit: Hannah Norton

© photo credit: Hannah Norton

© photo credit: Sharayah Harrison

© photo credit: Hannah Norton

The family set up huge dining canopies and draped them in white twinkle lights.  The dinner was provided by extended family and friends who made their signature dishes (the barley stuffed cabbage rolls were divine!) and served them buffet-style.  During the toasts, Ken and Jan Avery (a favorite couple from our church), were given an eruption of applause for celebrating 60 years married on that same day.  I wish I would've caught it on video, it was a gorgeous moment. I did take a video of Anna and Steven giving thanks to their families. You can see it here.  Cute couple, right?  

© photo credit: Sharayah Harrison

Oh, we danced the night away!  My hubby (also looking quite dapper) left before the meal, but I stayed 'til after midnight.  Sweaty and smiling, I shook off every calorie I consumed that evening.

The biggest grin of the night went to Anna Joy.  Congratulations, dear ones!  I pray you always know this kind of happiness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

taking flight

A Cardinal family moved in to a tree outside our bedroom window.

This makes for perfect (stealth) viewing, as the parents flit from branch to branch.  The nest itself is perfectly constructed - I hope we see babies soon.  I also wonder when these animals rest, since they always seem to be on guard.  If my head was constantly jerking the way theirs do, my chiropractor would need a raise. 

Amanda was the first to notice the birds.  This was one of a long list of nature discoveries she's included us in this year, all of which were shared with great enthusiasm.  If her Walmart gig doesn't work out, I think she should go back to school and become a naturalist.

Talking about the birds and babies was actually a timely event, as Amanda moved out of our home soon after.  It wasn't our original timing, but due to unforeseen health issues, she needed to be somewhere with medical care.  We had to make some tough decisions last month, but are confident that this was the push Amanda needed to own her life and do something excellent with it.

As I type this, I know she's scared of the unknown.  I also know she has the best support system cheering her on, including the God of the universe.  I keep telling her to "trust the process."  Trust us, and (more importantly) trust that God is at work in her life.  She has too many reasons not to believe.

Fly, baby, fly!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Having a secret admirer is one thing (still a mystery!), having serial pranksters is another.  The difference is that we actually know our pranksters.  And like the admirer's mail, we like their pranks.

Meet our favorite jokesters (you may recognize two of them from previous posts here and here):

Hannah & Tori.

And Chelsea.

Their antics started with local politics and For Rent signs displayed in our front yard.  Then they moved on to straws and marshmallows, followed by random pictures on my phone.

The last two pranks were our favorite.

Signs on our garage door:

Paint on my car windows.

It's a wonder we didn't hear them when they were outside our house, since they can't seem to move without giggling.

On a day like today, where the mood is somber and we remember a national tragedy, it warms my heart knowing the blue coloring dried on my glass came from a place of adoration. It's a small reminder that there is still good in this world.

Lovely and silly, these hooligans are keepers.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

up up & away

It was a morning to rival every other morning.

Three days from their 41st wedding anniversary, my beloved parents took the ride of a lifetime.  Last year, several of us family members pitched in to buy them the gift certificate that sent them flying.  It was good for one hot air balloon ride soaring over Woodinville, WA - one of the items on my dad's Bucket List.

Thanks to modern technology, I was able to phone Skype with my older brother during the event yesterday.  It was a bright-and-early morning for everyone on the west coast, and one that was greeted with clear skies.  I'll admit, I got choked up a few times while watching the launch and landing.  

My parents looked like they were living a dream.

There were two balloons that went up, one right after the other. Each unit had two passenger compartments.  Not the roomiest of quarters, but the space allowed the riders to stand against the edge of the basket during the ride.

Because my mom's legs are so short, she wasn't able to climb in to the basket.  So, the balloon operators let her crawl inside while the basket was on its side and she leaned in as they tilted the container upright (reversed for landing).  My mom continues to amaze me with her resilience.  She always has a smile on her face.

All of my photos were screen shots, the rest were swapped by family members - everyone was abuzz after the event.  I passed my phone around to friends and shared pictures on Facebook all afternoon, I was so proud.  What a beautiful memory!

I want to do it all over again.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Before you go thinking all of our laughter got sucked out of the room, let me bring things in to focus.  Life is trying some times, maybe all the time, but the moments in-between keep us smiling.

They include, but are not limited to:

Birthday surprises for these two beauties (Tori turned 17, Allie is 18).

Backyard movie night with friends.

Watching (stalking) the engagement of our Rachel to her Dan (he sent her on a scavenger hunt around town before proposing to her at midnight in the Medina townsquare gazebo).

Double date with the newly engaged couple to two of our favorite haunts: Lilly Handmade Chocolates (dessert first!) and Momocho.

Letting a baby cow suck my fingers.

Wedding venue shopping with Rachel.

Loving on bride-to-be, Anna Joy, at her personal shower.

Sweating in the summer heat with anticipation of two dear friends saying, "I do."  Dave and Agnes waited two years for this day, and what a gorgeous day it was.

Leading our Sunday morning worship service with Chris and Rachel.  Note proper gum placement.

And finally, with great fanfare (mostly in my head), I baked my inaugural loaf of chocolate chip banana bread.  Inaugural = September = season change = Fall is practically here!

You know you're with me, pumpkin spice latte drinkers.

"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse." - Helen Keller