Sunday, March 31, 2013


Three services at our church today proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, reminding us of what God can create out of dust.

My favorite moments were seeing little girls show off their colorful dresses to each other (there was twirling), watching dear friends share their testimonies from the stage (including one of my youth girls, 16 year-old Hannah - I met her when she was living in darkness and self-harm, and have had the joy of watching her life transformed over the past three years!), singing triumphant songs, and having a front row seat to the drama and dance.  

So, pretty much the whole thing.

And I traded my boots for wedge heels.  
(The temperature is above 50 today!)

Happy Easter, loved ones.  I hope you are experiencing your own personal resurrection out of past shame and regret, old identities and lies.  Today is a new and glorious day!  A day to celebrate that Christ died for you and made you a new creation.  

He is risen.. indeed!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Emily sent us this photo greeting on New Year's Day.   I think it perfectly visualizes the phrase "dramatic flair."  She is my soul sister.

In Woody Allen's latest film, Ellen Page's character (Monica) has a flair for the dramatic.  She habitually adds grandeur and tantalizing details to her otherwise ordinary stories.  As a viewer, she reeled me in with her tales, but maybe less because of the narrative and more because I do the same thing.  Sure, I am capable of stating only the facts, I just choose not to.  I prefer to add my own pinch of this and dash of that.  To quote Monica: "I like to embellish.. it's part of my creative charm."

Turns out, I'm predisposed to embellishment.

My dad is a writer: an author of books, countless articles, commentaries and letters to the editor.  He currently pens a column for his county's Journal magazine, in the "Better After 50" section. The column is called, "What Were We Talking About?"  My dad is so good at putting words together and feeding you satire and personal anecdotes like the dessert you always want after a meal.  In his January article, he wrote about storytelling and the art of embellishment:

"Can a story properly told be a lie?  Nay!  A story is an embellishment mixed with a dash of truth and a pinch of tall tale.  It makes the reality more interesting and buys you enough time to hide in the laundry bin before the full truth crystallizes into "I wrecked our car and the other guy's too."  Besides, with all the reality TV around, Americans have adopted the unhealthy practice of saying the first thing that pops into their heads.  Not good.  A story, on the other hand, takes the scenic route and allows you the time to get to the next county before Sally Whirlwind realizes where all this is going."

Taking the scenic route.  I like that.

Hubby and I are involved in conversations daily about our lives and the lives of others; and we often find ourselves repeating the same stories to different audiences.  Our stories used to sound very different from each other's, and at first it was because my husband left out all the details.  He claims it was because I embellished.  Both are probably true, but I'm starting to notice my flair is rubbing off on him, whether he will admit it or not.

What can I say?  I am my father's daughter.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

keeping warm

Medina County Schools are closed today.  

It's the first Snow Day they've had this winter, and it's (technically) not even winter!  I woke up to text and photo messages from my youth kids announcing their happiness about having a day off, but obviously stir crazy from the prolonged cold.  

My hubby chose to do some shoveling as his workout today.  I'm choosing to stay inside where it's warm, and go about my day wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt.  We're talking about venturing out in an hour to run some errands.  

I might change my clothes.  I might not.

This weather reminds me of the dinner dates we've had with families from our church recently.  We are spoiled, plain and simple.  We get food made from scratch and evenings spent with "salt of the earth" people.  Most of the time, they are able to cater to my dietary needs, but I find myself on occasion putting those needs aside for a Lenten fish fry, homemade pasta, chocolate anything, and baked brie with cranberry chutney.  Let's face it, my willpower is weak.  

A single woman named Dolores (Dee) invited us over to her townhouse last month.  She lives in a retirement community, and has a fondness for crafting and handmade doilies.  As an Italian, cooking without gluten or dairy caused her some anxiety.  But, she amazed us (and herself) with a traditional breaded chicken recipe and stewed vegetables (she made GF), with sliced Udi's bread on the side, cut fruit and applesauce for dessert.  Dee worked very hard as a single mother in her younger years, and has grown children and darling grandchildren who are thriving in her wake.  

Last night, we were treated to Bonnie's famous vegetable soup.  She and her daughter make 100 ounces of this meal every summer, when Bonnie's garden is ready for harvest.  They eat some, give some away, and freeze the rest.  Don and Bonnie are in their 70s and Don has dietary needs of his own, so they are familiar with living without wheat.  They served us a bounty of fresh produce and GF goodies. Don & Bonnie were married over 50 years ago, and celebrated their Golden Anniversary by road-tripping across the country.  Don was a pastor for many years, and Bonnie was a grant writer.  They oversee our church's Marriage Ministry and are mentors to several couples.

Both Dee and the Sanders are wonderful.  We loved hearing their family stories, and talking about matters of the heart.  They are beautiful people, living cozy lives.

Today is a day for building snowmen and drinking hot chocolate.

Is Easter really less than a week away?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


It is Spring, right?  On this day last year it was 78 degrees.  

Hard to believe now with the snow we have outside, and more is projected for next week.  We might experience a high of 37 on Saturday.  Clearly I was wrong about last snowfalls.  

This cold is gonna linger for a while.

As hubby and I drove to Taco Bell last night, we remarked on our joy of having one more good snow before the weather warms up (big fluffy flakes), and our first taste of Doritos Locos tacos.  

New season (we'll get there).  New pope (he's Argentine!).  New adventures (juice fast starts tomorrow.. weddings, babies, graduations, ministry opportunities, recipes, road trips..).

2013 is coming in to focus.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

no bake macaroons

These no bake chocolate macaroons are in process right now.  
I'm trying not to eat them before they're done.
It's not looking good for my willpower.

Monday, March 18, 2013

berry-almond crumble

My gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF) pursuit began just over a year ago when I started seeing my wellness doctor.  In an attempt to figure out 15 years of chronic head-to-toe itching, he suggested I abstain from obvious forms of gluten and dairy, in order to give my liver a break and keep those two common allergens from getting in the way of my healing.

I've gone GF before, but only for a few weeks at a time.  Now I'd say I'm 80-90% GF/DF.  Since I'm not celiac, and I don't notice a change in my itching situation when I go a week at 100%, my clean living journey has been gradual, and I'm okay with that.  I now have my go-to brands and products, helpful blogs and websites, and a network of GF and vegan foodie friends who help make the journey more fun. We compare notes, insights, recipes, and symptoms; and we cheer each other on.

One of my favorite phone apps for recipes (often accessed while grocery shopping) is the Whole Foods app.  You can do a search by course, time/budget preference, and dietary need.  It has helped me create some very tasty meals, including sweets!

The GF/DF dessert that has carried me through the winter months (with a nod to summer) is this Raspberry-Almond Crumble.  I use blueberries and raspberries when I make it, and serve it with whipped cream on the side or vanilla ice cream (the coconut or almond milk version) on top.  Oh goodness, it's delicious.

Whether you're living life with wheat or without, you'll like this one. And it's easy.  I'll just tell you, it calls for an 8-inch square baking dish, but please use extra berries and a 9x13-inch baking dish, and maybe (definitely) extra cardamom and maple syrup.  Feel free to share your favorite GF/DF recipes with me.

I will try (almost) anything.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

feeling lucky

Today's Google graphic reminds me of young dancers who performed in front of the garden section at Buehler's last year.

"May joy and peace surround you,
contentment latch your door,
and happiness be with you now
and bless you evermore!"
- Irish blessing

Happy St. Patrick's Day from this Irish girl to you!

Friday, March 15, 2013

furry bandit

Around 2:30am Tuesday morning, I was pulled out of sleep by the sounds of someone rearranging furniture and rummaging through our kitchen drawers.  

It was loud and clumsy and terrifying.

With my heart pounding in my throat, I jabbed my husband.  "Did you hear that?"  I whispered.  Without hesitating, my brave man got up to investigate.  

Here's the thing, I don't want to be the one who comes face-to-face with an intruder, but I don't want my husband harmed either.  It's times like these that paralyze me, as my mind spins the scenario in to something far scarier than it is (suspense films, I blame you).  Then my fear becomes curiosity when all the lights are turned on and my husband says through his mouth guard, "There's no one in here." Instant relief, I can breathe again.  

Heart is no longer in throat.

A few months ago, Chris left for work and noticed the garage was in disarray.  Planter pots were turned over, empty boxes were flung, garden tools were off their hooks, trash can tipped over.  It looked like someone or something had had a party-while-the-parents-were-out-of-town or felt trapped and started spinning like the Tasmanian Devil.  Chris cleaned up the mess and we shrugged our shoulders.  We didn't see or hear anything after that, until Tuesday morning.

Turns out, the sounds we heard were coming from the garage, in the attic space that sits above our bedroom.  We didn't figure out the attic part right away.  We took turns turning on and off garage and outside lights, peeking through curtains, waiting for whatever it was to show itself.  This went on for 20 minutes and reminded me of the water-in-our-basement episode of 2011.  I kinda wish we had hidden cameras in the house during these events.  In my mind we look like an old couple wearing footie pajamas, walking together in a huddle, armed with kitchen utensils.

Hubby found the prowler in the attic - a big fat raccoon.  He called me out to the garage to look up at the door he had opened and, sure enough, I could see a black snout and familiar markings.  Our presence spooked it well enough for it to stop clawing at the walls and for us to fall back asleep.  My hero husband then spent the next day figuring out a plan to get it out, humanely.  One of our friends offered the animal trap he owns and his gun.  Chris opted for courage and pieces of bread instead.  

Eventually, the beast made its way down the stairs and back in to the wild of our sleepy neighborhood. 

Thank God it wasn't a murderer.. or a skunk.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

aiming high

Even with an allergies-turned-head-cold situation, I had my game face on.  Wad of tissues to my right, cough drops in my purse, a fork and knife in each hand, I was ready.

Today was the first Sunday of Chatham's annual Sugar Bush festival and the V.F.W. pancake feed.  This was our third year attending the small town favorite, and the year I was going to beat my personal record.  In 2011, I consumed nine pancakes.  In 2012, I could only stomach eight and a half.  2013?  No excuses.  

Our table of 8 (Gail Bowman & Carl Sigel not shown) with Norman (red suspenders) & Sarah (yellow apron) Bistline who attend our church and supply the famous pancake mix from their local flour mill called the "Old Mill."
© photo credit: Carl Sigel 

Allowing myself one sausage link and giving the second away, I mowed my way through the first two pancakes and the second three. Five down?  No problem.  It was cake number 6-8 that started to cramp, but nine and ten were downright painful.  Like a marathon runner, I knew that "hitting the wall" was normal.  

Rachel's last bite, Sugar Bush 2012.
Her expression perfectly captures my final lap face.

Just.  Needed.  To.  Push.  Through.

Seven other people were my witnesses, as I squeezed 10 flapjacks in to my belly.  Winner!  (Hubby kept pace with 5 sausage links + 6 pancakes!)  I'm a lightweight when it comes to the articles they have displayed in the dining area.  Over the past 51 years, other patrons have devoured 25-30 of the hearty little cakes.  I'm pretty sure my stomach would turn inside out if I tried those moves.

What's that?  Next year they're having an official pancake eating contest?  Training resumes tomorrow.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Hubby and I text each other whenever we see snow or rain outside. We both love these elements and like sharing the moment, even when we're apart.

This morning, we had a gentle snowfall.

Sure enough, my phone lit up with a message from Chris.  He noticed it first, and then I saw it through my sleepy eyes.  The flakes made a soft descent from the sky, like a whisper.  We're thinking this could be our last blast of the year.  I've seen crocuses with snow on them before, so I suppose self-predictions are anyone's guess.

But, we're ready for Spring.

What does feel like Spring are Cadbury Mini Eggs.  I found them at the store today.  I bought, I ate.  Now all I can think about are white rabbits that sound like chickens.

What are your favorite Spring things?

Monday, March 4, 2013


She asked me with a cherry-flavored ring pop and a note that said, "Now it's my turn to pop the question.. Will you be my Bridesmaid?"

As if I could ever say no to this girl.

She is Rachel, one of the best things that happened to me in Ohio.  I met her when she was an intern at the church, young and undecided, learning how to be a worship leader under my husband's guidance. She helped us move and remodel our house, without even knowing us. She has since become one of my dearest friends, singing partner, and the one I can laugh about anything with.  We've cried together, danced together, talked about everything together, and we eat the same amounts of food with the same amount of emotion.  Our humor can't be explained, and the stories we make up together are fanciful (bordering on the ridiculous).  Basically, she's one of my neighbors in "Amy World."  A rare find, indeed.

Rachel was never a serial dater, but she did have a couple of significant relationships before Dan came along.  When Dan arrived on the scene (they actually went to high school together, but never spoke), we all paused and watched as her best thing happened.

The first time I met him, I liked him.  The second time I met him, I asked them out on a double date, then we added him to our bi-weekly music nights.  Now, Dan and Rachel are the two friends we hang out with most, and we get to walk this journey of love and marriage with them.  Dan asked Chris to officiate their wedding with a bushy beard paper cut-out and answer-with-a-photograph instructions in the mail.  Not that Chris needs help in the facial hair department, but he played along.  

Yesterday, the other bridesmaids and I, and a collection of their in-laws, all hosted a teal and white bridal shower at the York Town Hall.  The party turned in to Dan surprising Rachel with roses and a kiss and us celebrating them both.

A buffet lunch was served on one side of the room with a collection of Rachel's favorite desserts on the other.  I got to help put the dessert table together, which meant raiding Trader Joe's for petits fours, cheesecake, gum drops, jelly beans, seeds and nuts covered in chocolate, macaroons, and chocolate ganache.  Rachel's sister's roommate made the cutest wedding-themed cookies and cake pops, which I found myself double-fisting later that afternoon.  I also picked up a couple tins of Pirouettes for the coffee table, and a bag of peanut butter M&Ms to go with my gift for the bride.

The two of them made quite a haul with their (almost) two hours of gift-opening.  I drooled over their new beautiful cookware, baking sets, linens, and wine collection.  Did I mention the pistachio-colored Kitchen Aid mixer?  I'm hoping they'll share.

Beautiful friends, we are so excited to watch you say your vows next month (!).  Tonight, we will have a little apartment-warming at your new place, and dream about your life ahead.

"May your joys be as bright as the morning, and your sorrows but shadows that fade in the sunlight of love." - Old English Blessing

Saturday, March 2, 2013

cabbage flower

As I type this, I have a large head of cauliflower pieces roasting in my oven.  This is my fifth head this week, all consumed alone.

I've tried roasting, steaming, mashing, and combining with other flavors and starches, to appease my man.  No dice.  Hubby does not like cauliflower.  I, however, am addicted.  I blame my sister-in-law, Dodie, and our friend, Rachel, for this obsession.  They both prepared me versions of steamed and roasted cauliflower that made my taste buds dance.  I don't know why right now I must have it every day, but I'm enjoying the ride.

Believe it or not, my husband will eat roasted brussels sprouts without flinching.  As long as I drench them in coconut oil and minced garlic, salt and pepper, and don't over-blanch them before roasting, he's in. We've been known to sit down with a bowl of sprouts and eat them as a snack, fresh out of the oven.

Olive oil, coconut oil or flavored oil (today I used basil oil - thanks, Heather!), I like roasted vegetables every which way.  Herbs and spices are important (mmmm.. curry), but some times simplicity (fresh ground salt & pepper) wins the plate.  The crispy bits are the best.  Some times, I'll end the cooking time with 2 minutes on a low broil, just for those crispy bits.  

Go here for a tutorial on roasting veggies.  If you're using coconut oil, place some big spoonfuls on to the baking sheet (or in your baking dish) and melt in the oven while it's preheating.  Then take the dish out after a couple of minutes and toss the melted oil with cut vegetables of your choosing (carrots, root veggies, and brussels are our favorite with coconut oil).

The oven timer just went off and our house has a distinct cabbagey cauliflower smell.  You know what I'm talking about.

Lunch time.