Thursday, February 28, 2013

rainy day


This week's weather has felt a lot like Seattle.

Rain, rain, rain.

You should see how wide my smile is.

Last night something wild happened.  I was pulling around the corner of the Starbucks drive-thru when I saw it - the exact moment when rain turned to snow.  It was dumping water and then, in a split second, the heaviness of the downpour turned into the lightness of snowfall.  I've never seen that before!  It was really lovely and almost caused me to drive in to the side of the building.

No biggie.


If you're finding yourself in a similar state of weather, and need a new soup recipe, try this one from the McCormick brand.  You can buy the pre-packaged McCormick spices in the baking aisle of your local grocery store or just follow the recipe and use the spices you already have at home.  I like a punchy flavor, so I add extra of everything (to taste).  Even if you don't like the rain (or are completely over the snow), this recipe will widen your smile, too.  

Keep it cozy, friends.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

raw chocolate


Dreams should be made of baby animals, chocolate fountains, and endless buffets.  Who's with me?

I know you're picturing it in your mind.

All of your favorite foods lined up as far as the eye can see, chocolate spilling out like hot springs, and the fuzziest little wide-eyed animals wagging their tails and purring at your feet.  In happy dreams, animals don't do anything unsavory, by the way, they just love you and they're cute all day long.  I can also imagine myself dipping marshmallows and bananas and pitching peppermint coins in to a fountain.  Maybe I'd dip a toe.

Sadly, I can't control my subconscious mind, but I do have a conscious choice in how a particular Monday night in February might go.  On one such Monday night, two weeks ago, I decided it should include chocolate.  No fountains, but plenty of the good stuff to go around. The creating part was new to me, but the eating part wasn't.  

Jennifer Wegryn is someone who inspires me and challenges me in the way she lives.  She is a raw foods educator, a nutrition coach, and a vegan foodie.  She teaches raw foods classes in her home, posts recipes and insights on her website and blog, and organizes regular Meetups in the Akron area.  And she's delightful.  

This month, she hosted a class on preparing raw chocolate desserts. It was right before Valentine's Day, and a perfect little night out for me to learn something new, meet new people, and eat sweet things. Tables were set with tablecloths and pre-made treats when everyone arrived, with Jennifer's prep and demo station at the front.  



Some of the ingredients she had were unfamiliar to me (coconut nectar, palm sugar, cacao butter, maca, lucuma powder, and cacao paste), but the kitchen equipment she used were all something I've considered buying before (Vita-Mix, dehydrator, ice cream maker).  I just added an ice cream maker to my Amazon Wish List, which is definitely  something I'll want when the sun comes out.  



We learned how to open a Thai coconut, how to "paddle" and "row" a mixture in the Vita-Mix to incorporate air, and how to make a "caramel" sauce using agave and lucuma powder.  I was fascinated by all of it and jumped at every opportunity to "assist" Jennifer in the preparations.  

While the recipes weren't terribly difficult, they were time-consuming and will take practice.  The best part about the "superfudge" (made with goji berries - yum!), ice cream (no milk involved - amazing!), and chocolate-dipped strawberries, is that none of it contained traditional sugar.  Every ingredient we used was nutritionally beneficial, which meant good for me and wouldn't induce any sugar crashes or mood swings.  I brought the leftovers home for my hubby and he ate every bite ("the husband test" is my best gauge for nontraditional cooking).


All of the recipes we created that night were from Matthew Kenney's cookbook called "Raw Chocolate," and Alissa Cohen's book, "Raw Food for Everyone."  I'm not saying Ani and I broke up, but we are on a break.  Her books and writing style are missing something to me, and lack organization.  I need organization, accessibility, and the full-color photos that boast in Matthew Kenney's cookbooks.  Ani has the photography down, but there's something about having every element in place.  Matthew's work is beautiful.

So, I like traditional cooking (on a stovetop, baking in an oven) and an occasional slab of ribs too much to go completely raw or vegan, but the variety is exciting to me.  
And chocolate that works with my body?  That's just downright dreamy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

freedom

© photo credit: http://www.cleveland.com

In 2011, hubby and I joined our prison guard friend, Jeff, at the Cleveland women's correctional facility.  We led a Christmas-themed worship service with him, complete with traditional carols and a message.  The experience was so memorable then, we knew we wanted to come back.

One year and two months later, we made our return.

After going through security, hubby, Rachel, and I made our way to a cafeteria-turned-chapel, with at least 50 women dressed in blue, sitting in plastic chairs, clapping for us as we entered the room.  It was a generous welcome, and similar to the kindness we experienced the first time around.

Our facilitator, Robin, started the program with prayer, before handing the reigns over to a lively woman named Liz.  She stood in front of a small group of ladies who sat to the side of the stage.  At her leading, they all got up on their feet and proceeded to clap and sway and belt out the music of a gospel choir. 

Those who followed the choir were dressed in white t-shirts and flowing skirts.  I remembered them from before: the worship dancers.  I quickly pulled Rachel to the back of the room and whispered in her ear, "You don't want to miss this."  The dancers moved in unison to a song on CD about running towards Jesus = freedom.  My eyes filled with tears, as I watched the smiles on their faces and the intention in their movements.  I fully believed that they believed the words they were dancing to.

Did I mention this was an enthusiastic room of women?  

I found it easy to shout out "Hallelujahs" and "Amens," raise my hands, stomp my feet, laugh and pray at will in this place.  It was comfortable because they were so engaged.  This also made leading our time of singing that much more fun.  During that hour, we led them in contemporary choruses and hymns like "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art," and "Soon and Very Soon."

Oh goodness, they were so animated!  Standing up randomly, some times altogether, adding descants and harmonies, singing with their whole selves - they were all in.  At times it was hard to hear ourselves singing (with microphones!) because their voices were so loud.  It was a beautiful sound.  Two different inmates even came up spontaneously to lead a song, including the classic, "Jesus Loves Me." I have never heard that melody sung with so much passion before today.  Rachel and I sat in the audience while Chris preached about temptation and knowing we are loved by God.

And we gave hugs to a few of the gals before we left.

Today I am especially grateful for my tangible freedom, and mindful of the ladies we met with prison uniforms on.  I hope they are experiencing their own kind of freedom, somehow.

If not today, some day.  

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray --
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
- Charles Wesley

Thursday, February 21, 2013

ignited


They departed this morning, leaving behind a note on the kitchen counter.  Then they came back, because one of the guys left his backpack and wallet in our livingroom.

Another hug goodbye.

You would've thought they had stayed a whole week with how comfortable we were with each other, and how grateful they were for our housing them.  It was an overnight stay, preceded by a presentation at our Wednesday youth gathering, and a late night nosh at Applebee's.

Located in Christiansburg, VA, Ignite is a college program (within our church denomination), focused on training young people to live a life dedicated to ministry and leadership.  These students representing the school, came with enthusiasm and passion for education and the Gospel.  It was really fun to see them engage with a room full of 100 teenagers looking for "what's next after high school" inspiration. 

James, Kenny, and Bri made up the team.  James experienced radical redemption four years ago and has a desire to meet people in their brokenness.  He doesn't know what that will look like yet, but he's open to wherever God leads him.  Kenny loves recruiting kids and wants to be the president of Ignite someday.  Bri sings in a band, and has aspirations to open a sandwich/coffee (in that order) shop that celebrates the local arts, or drive a van around the country meeting people and "hearing their stories."     

It was really wonderful meeting the team and dreaming with them about their life ahead.  They have all left home, traveled to other countries, spoken in front of crowds, lived on meager means, opened their lives to pain and healing, and shared their hearts with strangers-turned-friends.  They are bold, and they give me great hope for the next generation.

I couldn't help but feel a little maternal when they were preparing to get back on the road.  We offered them coffee, fruit, granola bars, cookies, and hot showers.

They offered us accommodations in Virginia.

We're checking our calendar.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

better together

Last night, hubby and I drove through nearly white-out conditions on our way home from an evening with friends.  We listened to Tavis Smiley on the radio and held hands in-between snow drifting and slippy ice.  Much like that one birthday weekend two years ago, we relished the adventure.



This morning we woke up to a thick blanket of white outside.  I just love the way untouched snow makes everything sparkle.

Unlike 2011's sad attempt at a winter, the 2012 season is renewing my faith in the midwest cold.  This year's version has provided deliciously frigid days, and prime snowman-building opportunities.

Our Cleveland romp came a few hours after Cornerstone Chapel's Marriage Conference ended.  Like milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and roses, a  couple can function separately, but are better together.  This was the theme of our gathering, led by Pastors Jerry and Gail Birch.

Side note: I like to think that my husband and I are perfecting our annual photo booth candids with each take.  Compare last year's to this year's:


We may have cheated by going straight to the kiss.  But in this case, I think cheating = winning.

It's true, hubby and I are better together than we are apart. Listening to Jerry and Gail share their stories of personal struggle and redemption (and showing us pictures of their hair in younger years = afro-mazing!), throughout 38 years of marriage, affirmed for us that we're on the right track.  There are plenty of things that distract us in our relationship, but we are each other's lighthouse and home.  We will always find our way back.

Forgive, forgive, forgive.  Laugh.  Hold hands.

Many years ago, we would end each day with a cigarette and check-in on each other's day while puffing away.  Now, we check-in while taking turns holding copper pipes attached to an electrical box and drinking spoonfuls of liquid wormwood (parasite cleanser for our health), catching up on our favorite show, or trading sketches on the app called "Draw Something."  As much as we both love the cold, we also talk about taking afternoon walks around the neighborhood, bike rides on the Towpath, and discovering new hiking trails as soon as the weather warms up.

Whatever we do, it will be better together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

love is sweet


Valentine's Day was extra special this year because:
a.) My big brother married his sweetheart at a courthouse in Seattle. b.) I baked my sweetheart a dessert that may go down in history as the best flourless cake ever.
Love is sweet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

be mine


Here is the card I gave my Valentine today.
Inside it says, 'Love you.'
To which I added, "to the moon and back."
He's my favorite. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

turning two


In 2005 I went back to school to become an esthetician.  I had no idea then the path that lay before me.  I just knew I wanted to help people in a tangible way, and learn about my own skin in the process. Help and learn I have.  Oh my goodness!  I've had my hands on hundreds of people, maybe a thousand.  I love it.

Honestly, it's a career path I would recommend to anyone looking to care for people through touch.  It sounds funny saying that, considering most of them pay me for the service.  But what it becomes is so much more than surface contact.

Sweet Face Skin Care had its humble beginning in 2007, and continues to be a source of therapy and relaxation for the community.  In fact, just last week I celebrated my two year anniversary here in Medina with lots of well wishes, and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my husband. 


My Ohio client list is at 220 and growing!  I've been moved by your survival stories, stories of redemption and healing, surgery scars, family miracles, life and death, overcoming addiction, graduations, marriages, pregnancy, births, the list goes on.  I gave a facial to an American military veteran and a student from Saudi Arabia in the same week. I've waxed dozens of uni-brows and hairy nostrils, worked out shoulder kinks, treated troubled skin, set blackheads free, and wowed you with your own glow!

Listening and counseling, pampering and hugging - these are all elements of a dream job to me.  Plus, my clients make me laugh, and do well to listen to my crazy stories, too. The instant connection in our humanness is a gift I wouldn't give away.

Click on these links to reminisce with me:

Thank you so much for your support, and for encouraging me to follow my heart.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

vinegar & honey

For the past week or so, hubby and I have traded coughs.  His is on its way out, mine began three days ago.


This is a common scene when I drag myself out of bed in the morning: extra covers in a tangled mess, pillows that have been readjusted a dozen times, shifted sheets from all that movement (half the time I can't find my top sheet - aggressive feet?), and a random throw pillow.  I feel fine in every other way, except for this dang cough.  It keeps me tossing and turning at night, no matter what position I'm in.  Propped up or not.  I've tried the conventional methods for a cure, and if it didn't leave me exhausted, I would let it run its course with only mild complaint.

But, it does leave me exhausted and makes for awkward moments in public.  You know how it is when you're talking to someone and they suddenly burst out in a coughing fit?  Loud, convulsive, spitty.  It's especially attractive on Sundays during your pastor's sermon, while sitting in the front row.

So now, I'm bringing out the big guns.  I'm trashing the drugstore goods and consulting my refrigerator and pantry instead.  Bragg's apple cider vinegar, honey, matcha, cayenne, oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, blueberries, garlic and peppermint.  I'm going to heal myself through food and supplements. 

Besides, it will taste a whole lot better than NyQuil.

What are your natural cough remedies?

Friday, February 8, 2013

american idol

© photo credit: http://www.toomuchawesomeness.com

When we lived in California, we would go over to Rich and Lucy's house for dinner and American Idol every week, calling ourselves the "Tuesday Night Crew."  We ordered take-out or made it a potluck, opened a bottle of wine, and caught up on our days before the show started. We'd even sing along to the musical intro: "A-woahhh-wohhh-oooo!" There may have been some dancing involved.

This was American Idol during the Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks years.  Anyone remember Season 1 co-host Brian Dunkleman?  Without a doubt, Kelly Clarkson is my favorite winner.  With the over-saturated feel the show has taken on, and all the shuffling of the judges, I've lost interest.  But, then!  I found out Medina High School's very own Shelby Searcy made it to Hollywood Week!   

Oh my goodness, she is adorable and talented!  Watch her videos on YouTube to see her American Idol interview and past school performances.  I don't know if I can stomach a judging panel that includes Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, but if Shelby can hold her own, I'll stock up on ginger ale and crackers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

that glow


Saturday was beautiful.  The falling snow was beautiful, the afternoon light was beautiful, and this girl = beautiful.


Her name is Dana, and she is one of the sincerest, most daring free-spirits I know.  She and I could be trouble, if left alone too long.  We both adore our husbands, creativity, loving people, and finding joy in our work.  She and her sister (and their spouses) moved to California for a year to study at the Bethel School of Ministry, came back, and now they're cooking a baby.

I just love this extended family, and love celebrating with them!

Saturday we threw Dana a baby shower.  We took turns telling our favorite childhood memories (some shared their made-for-TV birth stories - wow!), encouraging the new mom, eating yummy treats (two long tables and a kitchen counter full of yummy treats), drawing funny messages on infant diapers and writing blessings on notecards.  We each presented Dana with a children's books.  "Oh, Sully!" was my gift - created by our friend, Kevin Gard.  



At one point, a few of us ended up on the dining room floor pressing on Dana's stomach.  We all wanted to feel her baby move, and she said it was more active while laying down.  Baby was stubborn, but the moment was memorable.

You are a sweet miracle, little one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

game day


The Super Bowl is about the energy of a crowd, entertaining commercials, the halftime show and food, right?  Oh yeah, I guess some big guys run around the field smashing in to other big guys and dance in each other's end zones.

I'm usually not one for football.  But, this year I watched most of the game and liked it.  Breaking up the hours with funny ads and oven checks helped.. and the fabulous BeyoncĂ©!

She makes thighs look good.

So, we invited two friends over to watch the game with us.  Both were female.  My hubby was a patient patient man that evening, as we approached the event as many girls do: not really understanding the sport, but wanting to be part of the mix.  There were questions asked, some mindless chatter, and spontaneous singing.  

And we ate well.  This was my favorite game day recipe.

While I was rooting for the Seahawks to have their moment in the sun, my loyalty switched when they didn't make the cut and my man's 49ers did.  He grew up in San Francisco, and the Niners have won the Super Bowl five times!  Part of my draw to this year's game was also that the head coaches from opposing teams were brothers.  Talk about a rivalry!  Who did their parents cheer for?

After the Ravens won, I pictured both teams lining up, like we used to do as soccer players, and walking down the line low-fiving each other.  Good game, good game, good game.    

Friday, February 1, 2013

comunique

"Miss Kelly, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, Maya.  What's your question?"
"Do you have a back-up plan?"
"A back-up plan?"
"I mean, if teaching doesn't work out for you.  
Do you have a back-up plan?"

Ah, from the mouth of babes - in this instance, a curious third grader named Maya.  This conversation happened one morning during recess when I was student teaching, and left me speechless.  I was a Communication major in college and tried my hand at Elementary Education.  I made it halfway through the Elementary Ed. program and decided not to finish.  I had a heart for children, just not for the teaching part.  Maybe Maya was a prophet?

I find it interesting how God starts something and develops it over time - often better (or at least differently) than what we anticipated. I had no idea then that I would be where I am now, spending half of my week interacting with young people.  Did I mention my Youth Ministry minor that I picked up in a fifth year at the university?  That fifth year planted seeds inside of me for work I would do fifteen years later.  God certainly knew what He was doing.

My Communication major has come in handy with every job I've had since college: Executive Assistant in Los Angeles, Purchasing Coordinator/Accounts Payable Manager in Orange County, Barista in Silver Lake, and Business Owner.  It's one of those degrees that prepares you for working with people and giving speeches.

Over the past year, a few public speaking offers have presented themselves to me.  So exciting!  My first was at a local beauty school, sharing about my experience as a student-turned-business-owner in the esthetics field.  My second opportunity didn't work out due to my holiday travel schedule, but was flattering just the same.  I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a local conference focused on empowering tween and teenage girls.

I also had two opportunities speaking at church to our high school students.  The first one was several months ago at the close of our Purity Series.  For our last session, we separated the guys and girls.  I talked to the ladies about allowing God to be the source of their identity, especially when it comes to sexuality.  Society, the media, their peers, the stuff they have, their reputation, etc. - those things will never give them lasting confidence.  Only God can fulfill their deepest desires and be their strength.  It was a message inspired by my own journey through adolescence and identity (and boys).

My first cell group circa 2010.  Junior high girls.
I won them over with candy and baked goods.


Current cell group.  High school girls.
I still bring candy and baked goods.

Last Wednesday night I spoke to all of the high school students.

Well, first I brought them cookies.  Then I spent 45 minutes engaging them in a conversation about how our choices require us to give up something in order to gain something else (New Year's Resolutions, hobbies, jobs, friends, youth group, etc.).  We talked about stories in the Bible where people had to sacrifice in order to gain (Abraham & Isaac, the bleeding woman, Jesus), and I mentioned three of a long list of women (Joni Eareckson Tada, Mother Teresa, my mom) who have inspired my life and our culture by the choices they made.  The discussion ended with what we gain as Christians.  When we choose to follow Jesus, what do we gain (peace, joy, hope, eternal life, etc.)?  It was a challenging message about freedom, endurance, and grace.  I was so proud of the students who shared their own redemption stories.

So, I guess I never planned my back-up plan.

I finished school and chose a life open to God's leading (and surprises!).  Some days I fly by the seat of my pants, other days I'm multi-tasking with focus.  God has been in all of it and has taught me so much along the way.  He pretty much saved me from myself and showed me what real health and contentment look like.  I got a husband and a name change out of the deal, and lots of good years loving kids like Maya.