{TRI}ed and true

I am SO PROUD.

The Husband, who loves sports and games and golf, but is not terribly fond of pointless running (umm… remind me why we have to get sweaty if no one is even keeping score?!), successfully completed his first mini-Tri last weekend!

After an already great weekend, the two of us, along with our friends Destrey and Sheri (remember them from this adventure?), competed in a fun, low-key tri hosted at a local University. It consisted of a 250 yd. swim, followed by corn-hole, a 4 mi. bike ride, an egg race and a two mi. run. It was a blast, and the perfect way to attempt to get the Husband hooked on racing ; )

It was a small group, but we did well (Destrey got second place!). The Husband tore it up in the pool, and I only barely got an edge on him during the run. We’ve been swimming two days a week for about a month, and it’s been amazing to see his progress. He was brave just to jump in and try with such short notice (we only decided to do the race a few days before) and I think I might even be able to convince him to do another in the spring. It would be easier to persuade him if the required attire didn’t include obnoxious amounts of spandex…but I’m not complainin’ :)

Haha…awkward.

Anyway… to reward ourselves for a superior performance, even in nippy October weather, we enjoyed a post-race lunch at Wilson’s Sandwich Shop. It is a depression-era landmark, famous for its “Mity Nice Hamburgs” and “frosted malts”. Founded in 1936 by Stub Wilson, the meat for the burgers is ground fresh daily, and it beats any other fast-food hands down for quality and price.

You can’t go wrong with a hamburg, fries and a malt, but they also have awesome homemade pie, hot dogs, chicken, chili and spicy black bean veggie burgers (my choice for lunch – yum!). At Wilson’s, however, you CAN go wrong with how you order. It is an art form, and if you do it wrong you’ll get a glare and maybe even a tongue-lashing. Reminiscent of the “soup nazi“, these unwritten rules are part of this restaurant’s charm. It also makes it easy to spot newbies (like us!) who can’t seem to get it quite right…

Watch this video to learn more about Wilson’s! (And if you visit me, I might take you there… or try to get you addicted to racing. Maybe both).

Perfect end to a great weekend.

More adventures await!

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{Almost} famous…

This weekend was the perfect mix of everything we love: Friends, kids, music, volunteering, exercise, fun errands, great food, Jesus and lots of restful down time.

{In fact, it was such a mix, I needed two posts to fit everything in AND make sense…welcome to “part one!”}

We got to see our good friends, Emily and Jeff, and their new baby (so, so cute!), went to a festive party with friends from work (with sweet costumes), built tables for a local educational greenhouse, AND even met someone famous…

Drum roll please…

Matthew West!

Here’s our fun story: A well-known Christian Musician, Matthew was in town for a concert on Saturday. We knew about it, and considered going, but hadn’t purchased tickets. After volunteering in the morning, we decided to head downtown to grab lunch at Scrambler Marie’s. We were chatting away over omelets, when I heard our waitress talking to the table behind a partition right next to us. She was saying, “No way!”

I turned around, and saw a two gentlemen with glasses as the table. It was Matthew and his father! He introduced himself to the waitress (She turned out to be a big fan of his!). We sat quietly and listened as they talked, and she snapped a photo, but knew that we wanted to say hello before we left. We were looking up his songs and bio on my phone, when we turned around and saw that they had slipped by us and walked out the door!

Oh, no!

We rushed out (paid our bill first) said bye to the waitress, and walked briskly toward Matthew and his dad down Main Street. We caught up to them, and got to say hello! They both were super gracious, and his father took a photo of the three of us. We chatted for a few moments, and he offered us free tickets to the show that night – We were so. excited.

We spent the rest of the afternoon running errands, and then ate a yummy homemade pizza dinner with Valerie, Destrey, Carlie and Lydia. After brownies and ice cream (Ghirardelli are the best), we headed over to the venue.

The concert that night was amazing. I am the first to admit that I am often turned off by many Christian artists. I don’t want a cheap knock-off of a talented pop singer (“oh, here is the Christian version of backstreet boys…you’ll love ’em”…gag) but this was nothing like that.

Matthew’s songs were relevant and beautiful in their own right. I really love, “The Motions” and “My Own Little World.” One half of the concert was dedicated to a new project of his, “The Story of Your Life“, where he wrote songs based on some of the more than 10,000 stories he received about people’s struggles and triumphs, and God’s grace. The songs and lyrics met me right where I was…

It was powerful, and we were even able to catch up with the waitress, Kayla (who had also been given tickets to the show) and her boyfriend, Dustin. We chatted with them, and even ended up exchanging numbers so we could set up a coffee date sometime (you never know where you are going to meet new friends!). And, we got to get Matthew’s autograph and let him know how much he had blessed us. We felt {almost} famous!

It really was the perfect weekend, filled with encounters orchestrated by God, and a lot of fun.

Can’t get better than that….

Unless you toss in a little Justin Bieber.

{Don’t hate… Hey – Never. Say. Never.}

Have you experienced any “Divine encounters” lately?

Spaghetti Squash {your new best friend}

I love great food, and I love eating a lot of it.

While I have developed a more delicate appreciation for new dishes and fancy preparation, at any time I could still eat an ice cream sundae as big as your head. And like it.

I have never been told I eat “like a bird”, and I’ve never been one of those people who just take one dessert at a potluck. I’m pretty convinced that I could eat the Husband under the table at every meal if I wanted to. But, that wouldn’t be very lady like, and eating massive quantities of ice cream isn’t good for my girlish figure…or my mood when I wake up on Monday and my pants don’t zip.

Been there, done that. Not pretty.

I am perfectly fine handling my portion control most of the time, but there are some days (maybe when it has been a little chilly in your office all day long, and puddles have eaten the bottom of your pants so you feel soggy, and when you had a lame-o lunch that you packed in a rush this morning) that you want to just feel all warm and fuzzy and full. Like, a loaf of bread and butter and a huge bowl of pasta full. BUT, you also know that you can’t do that every cold night October – March without dire consequences…

So, what’s a healthy hearty eater to do? Two words: Spaghetti. Squash.You might be a little familiar with this lovely veggie, but I think WAY too many people are in the dark regarding its delicious potential. I think it might just be one of the best kept secrets at the super market… You might be skeptical, but don’t hate until you try it. Trust me. It’s worth it.

Picture a HUGE bowl of spaghetti goodness with marinara, your favorite veggies, a little cheese sprinkled on top and a slice of toasty bread. All for a fraction of the calories and carbs of your usual go-to pasta! This dream can become a reality tonight.

Directions

Serves 2-3

{You can find spaghetti squash at most regular grocery stores – If the Kroger in my little Ohio town has it, I bet yours does also!}

  • Pre-heat oven to 400
  • Carefully cut squash in half length-wise (this is tough – take your time and watch those digits!)
  • Scoop out the seeds
  • Lay face-down on a baking sheet lined with foil (makes clean-up a breeze!)
  • Poke holes in the skin (like a baked potato)
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife slides easily through the skin (time varies depending on size and ripeness of the squash)
  • Use a fork to scoop and scrape out the insides of the squash – It will come out in strands just like spaghetti!

At this point, you can season with olive oil or butter and a little salt and pepper and call it a day (or a great side dish). BUT, if you want the true pasta effect, take a few more steps…

Chop your favorite vegetables, even toss in the meat of your choice, and add marinara for a well-rounded healthy meal (that you can each a bunch of with zero pasta-fuled-guilt-trips).

I used mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper, onion and spinach, and added about a 1/4 lb of browned ground turkey. This dish is also GREAT with these turkey meatballs (just keep a batch of them in the freezer and pop them in the oven whenever you want!).

So, grab a squash, a bowl, the nearest green things and a jar of sauce, and get ready for a healthy, hearty meal that will leave your belly full, and your skinny jeans in your repertoire ; )

Enjoy!

Bekah Claire {Age 9}

This is Rebekah Claire. She is 9.

Bekah is my little sister. I am the oldest of four, and she is the youngest. Some quick mental math, and you’ll realize that I am 16 years older than she is.

Yep, That’s a lot. Yep, same parents. Nope, she wasn’t an accident. And no, I wasn’t mortified when mom and dad told me I’d have a new sibling.

We all thought it was the coolest thing ever…

The spread in our ages does mean when I am ‘over the hill’, she will be a bubbly, perky 24, and when I pushed her stroller at the mall when she was a baby, I got the “teen mom look” from passers-by.  But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can learn a lot from a little sister. But, I think Bekah has more to offer than most. I might be biased, but she has a lot of freedom, wisdom and spunk. A great combination…

While Bekah and I have some similar family traits (hellooo…it’s 10:45p.m. Where is my nightly dessert?!), in other ways we aren’t very much alike.

She likes her hair short (mine is long), her favorite colors are blue and green (ummm…pink?), she watches super hero shows on television (I.Love. Lucy.), she cares deeply about other peoples’ feelings (not my strong point), her physique could be called ‘willowy’ (something I will never be accused of), and she goes from a “little black raincloud” (literally…she has a picture of a black raincloud she holds over her head when she’s mad) to the most sweet, sincere, lovable, apologetic angel in 3.2 seconds (only in the Husband’s dreams could I pull a 180 like that)

What do you like to do?

Bekah: I like to draw.

What do you like to draw?

Bekah: Robots and dresses.

In those splashes of sameness, it is fun for me to watch her and to bask in my own nine-year-old-memories. We did fall in love with the same “Prince Charming” daddy, after all…. and mama made us Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes in the same kitchen. But, the delightful, surprising moments of “Bekah being Bekah” might be even more fun. We all laugh and grin and poke each other with the joy of her words, songs and games. And I feel like I learn a little more about life every time I make a trip home…

{Lessons from Bekah}:

Different is fun. Bekah has the simple joy of being totally herself. Why shouldn’t she like drawing robots and dresses equally as much? One delight doesn’t exclude her from another, no matter how “opposite” it may be. Princess by day, Cleveland Indians fan by night. The juxtaposition is surprising and fun. In our own lives, those contrasts are often what makes us most interesting.

Messy Doesn’t Really Matter. My old bedroom went to Bekah the minute I left home. By now, it is used to resting quietly under a mass of dress-up clothes, dollhouse friends, dried up markers, plastic dishes and forgotten popsicle sticks. The space gets cleaned up for company and when things start getting really lost… but when you walk into that cozy space, you rarely feel like tossing things into their proper places. Instead, I’m always reminded of afternoons lost in American Girl books, make-believe with girlfriends and crafts made in secret to show dad when he gets home. If I took the same approach to my house – letting the “lived in” look reside for a few minutes before I start feeling “behind” because of a few papers and shoes on the floor –  my stress level might go down a bit, and I’m pretty sure my friends would still like me.

Be Proud of the Little Things. Look what I did!… a picture, cookies, doll blanket, 100% math test, melted-bead-christmas-ornament-thing… Bekah reminds me that it is okay to silently cry tears of joy when I finally finish “Grapes of Wrath”, and when I call my mom to tell her that I conquered my latest recipe. When I run to the Husband and tell him I remembered to take out the trash when he was out of town, and that I smile to myself when I can converse about a story I read in the local paper this morning over breakfast (because I read it diligently every day…). Sometimes, the little things don’t have to be so little. Go ahead and bask in the things you’re proud of.

Eat the Good Stuff. Ice cream and bread. I think Bekah could live off of those two items…and maybe some wheat thins and Craisins (her favorite go-to snack combo) and the occasional baked potato. Couldn’t we all?! Now, she does eat what mom puts in front of her eventually, but she always saves a little room for her favorite things. I’m not advocating the all-carb dessert diet by any means, but savoring your favorite things is not only good for you, but necessary for your sanity and the success of any healthy-eating regimen. Never eliminate whole food groups, and never give up your favorites.

Fall in love with Daddy. Bekah and I had the luxury of having a father that whisked us off our feet like queens, told us stories that enchanted us, taught us British accents and the rules of baseball, made us read tough books, and bought us chickens so we could gather fresh eggs in our aprons like pioneers. He saved us the biggest raspberries off of the bushes in the back yard, made it impossible not to love Simon & Garfunkle, and called us “punkin pie” and “dolly”. Bekah’s long Saturday walks with Dad to get donuts are some of her most precious moments, and my conversations about life and faith and dreams bring my world into focus. You never outgrow a father’s influence… and letting myself fall in love with daddy first (like Bekah is now) made all of the difference in my life.

Bekah has the gift of being yet unspoiled by the world’s expectations.

I’d like to be more like that, wouldn’t you?

Here’s to little sisters…

Curry for {Cheaters}

We had another jam-packed, fun-till-you-drop weekend.

Someday, I vow we will spend an entire weekend in our PJ’s at home. Like, when we’re 85… But for now, we love that we can go, go go!

Our days were full of family, friends and Jesus at an annual church conference in Columbus, amazing food at the North Market and a peek at Cole & Steph’s new house (where we ate more amazing food…big surprise)!

The Husband and I had such a rich time getting to know people from across the country, and having the opportunity to talk to them about the sessions we attended on “God’s Disruptive Goodness” (think: all of those times major events have happened in our lives that we didn’t plan for… and how they ended up bringing us closer to Him, teaching us things, and preparing us for even better things ahead!) . Though we learned a TON, I have to say that the North Market, my veggie curry lunch and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream were some of the major highlights of the trip : )

{Small photo above, right: Conference friends eating downtown. Sebastian, far left, assisted missionaries Dow & Lois Robinson in translating the bible into Aztec, and creating a written language for the Aztec people. The others at the table served in Costa Rica and San Antonio for the Boy with a Ball organization. Photo above: The North Market in all of its delicious glory!}

After staying up late (2:00a.m.!) chatting and hanging out downtown for two days, we were worn out on Sunday. But, not too tired to see Cole & Steph and their beautiful new home! Steph made the best, most perfect fall dinner possible with recipes from Daily Garnish and Eat, Live, Run (a couple of our favorite “blog ladies”!). Try these dishes…they are to die for. Then, you can invite me over because you’ll owe me : )

{Bison burgers with mushrooms and steak sauce, butternut squash and cranberry maple mixed grains and apple spice bread with apple cider glaze}

Well, I’ve had curry on the brain for a while. Hence the reason that I inhaled my lunch at the Market so fast that the Husband looked concerned and our new friends thought twice about inviting us to go with them… But, making real curry with real curry ingredients and real curry patience and exactitude doesn’t always float my boat. You know what does? Throwing stuff I already have laying around into one big pan. That is why I created “Curry for Cheaters”…sometimes, cheaters do win.

Real curry enthusiasts will cringe and squirm at this concoction, and I don’t blame them. But, If you want something fast and flavorful, this will do in a pinch. You can use ANY of your favorite vegetables in this dish (or whatever is languishing in your fridge). The only thing I think you should absolutely stick with is the sweet potato. Best part.

Curry for {Cheaters}

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Servings of short grain brown rice, prepared as directed (or 10 min. brown rice if you need something faster! Use Vegetable broth for the best flavor.)
  • Olive or Canola oil to saute
  • 1-2 T Garlic Gold (or one clove of garlic or garlic powder to taste)
  • 1 Bell pepper
  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 1/2 Large onion
  • 3 Stalks of Bok Choy
  • 2 oz. Shitaki Mushrooms
  • 1  can Chick peas (15oz.)
  • Handful of Snow Peas
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1 t Garam Masala
  • 1 t Yellow Curry powder
  • Dashes of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Smoked Paprika (or anything else that sounds yummy…)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (I always have this in the fridge…coconut milk, not so much.)

Directions

  • Heat oil in your pan on medium/ medium high heat (including Garlic Gold Garlic-infused oil if you have it…so good. A gift from Steph!).
  • Chop all of your veggies, and begin sauteing onions and peppers.
  • While onion and peppers begin to soften (about 8-10 minutes) placed diced sweet potato in a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover, and cook on high until tender (time will vary – 2-5 min.).
  • Add the rest of the vegetables and the spices to the pan, and continue to cook.
  • Remove sweet potatoes from the microwave when done, drain, and add to the pan with the other vegetables.
  • Saute the mix until vegetables are tender, but not limp. A crust will begin to form at the bottom of the pan (flavor!). Time will vary depending on your veggie choice, but try around 10 minutes and see where you stand.
  • Slowly deglaze the pan with the almond milk, 1.8 cup at a time. Stir in between.
  • Curry will become a little creamy and sweet, and a lot wonderful : )
  • Serve on top of rice, garnished with plain yogurt.

So delish, so easy, so healthy. Make it now, clean out your fridge and thank me later : )

Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite toss-together dish? Let me know about it!

{Like} who you are becoming…

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than what it was before…

…you are slowly turning this central thing […] either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, with its fellow-creatures, and with itself…

Each of us at each moment is progressing to one state or the other.

I started to realize in college – in a 200 level philosophy class, actually – that I liked the person I was becoming. It wasn’t because I was having an enlightened moment brought on by my intense studies, it was because I was sitting at my desk, sipping a latte without sugar (like a real adult) and wearing a thong (without complaining about having a wedgie). True story.

It seems silly now, but, like C.S. Lewis so eloquently pointed out in one of my favorite books (above), Mere Christianity, each and every decision you make transforms a little part of you. It is up to you, however, if that decision is a wise one that makes you a person you are proud of, or a poor one, that makes you something you despise.

Believe it or not, at that point in my life, I had to decide to WORK to like “real” coffee, and I had to choose to WORK to get comfortable enough in that crazy underwear to have the lovely, panty-line free tush I desired.

I wanted those things because they were sophisticated, grown up and simple pleasures others enjoyed, but that I was actually intimidated by. No more! The coffee and undergarments had little to do with self-worth, but I realized that they mattered a little. And it was okay that they mattered. And that I had arrived…

Today, there are still some silly things that make me feel proud, and there are more serious things as well. There are also those other choices, the ones that drag me down and leave me at “war” with myself, that I still struggle with as well…

But, the point is, find those things – big and small – that make you feel happy, proud and at peace with yourself and those around you. And work at those choices you’ve made, or continue to make, that pull you in the opposite direction.

You’ll fail. You’ll succeed. And your worth as a person doesn’t depend on the outcome. It will take time. But go ahead and make a point of it… and you might just be surprised at where you find yourself.

My {becoming} list:

  • I love healthy, unique food, and being good to my body: (Like many women, I’ve struggled with disordered eating patterns, and with my body image. Unhealthy choices literally made me feel I was battling with my own body – like Lewis’s quote – But, things like reading healthy-living blogs, getting educated about nutrition, finding amazing new recipes and having an awesome husband and family to talk to has totally changed my thinking! I still struggle sometimes… but I have the tools to succeed.)

  • I’m an athlete- a runner, a swimmer and a cyclist: (I wasn’t always! It was hard to even don the label. But I admired those that competed… so I decided to join them.)
  • I can cook, and I love it: (I was not known for my kitchen ability until after I was married…my siblings are still afraid of my food ; )
  • My nails look nice, and I can even use my left hand to paint my right: (I used to bite my nails when I was younger… but now I love how nail color just makes an outfit!)
  • I have a blog, and a few people actually read (and enjoy) what I write: (I have admired bloggers from afar for a while, and then I decided to take the plunge. I love it. And the simple action of creating posts and taking pictures truly resonates with me.)

  • I send cards…mostly on time, and try to complement strangers: (I like thoughtful people and handwritten notes, and when someone in the grocery store says they like your shirt, it makes your day. So, I decided I could do that too.)
  • I know Family and relationships are the core of life,  and my mom really was right…like, about everything: (I always sort of knew it, but it has really started to sink in. I appreciate the loved ones around me so much, and the connection we share means the world.)

This cycle of learning, growing and changing is a never-ending process. But, I can’t wait to see what my {becoming} list looks like when I’m 75… (maybe I’ll have pie crust down by then : )

What have you worked hard at, accomplished, or started doing recently that is on your list?

Mrs. Eisenhower’s {Apple Pie}

Fall is full of so many wonderful things: The food, the holidays, the desserts, the weather, the food, the clothes….the food.

To celebrate the season, and the fact that we were actually at home for an entire weekend (unheard of!), the Husband and I took a trip a local orchard for their famous cider, and fabulous apples.

Geckle Orchard started as a hobby for owners Gene and Jane , and now is a local favorite for natural, small-batch pressed cider, and a wide variety of apples. They also sell their aged vinegar, and honey from the bees that pollinate their trees.

We got  a mix of Gala, HoneyCrisp (my fav!), Empire, Liberty, Ruby Jonathan, Cortland, Jonagold and McIntosh. Mmmmm…

Well, with all of these apples, what’s a girl to do?

Make a vintage apple pie, that’s what!

My great-grandmother gave me a stack of magazines from the 1950′ and 60’s several years ago. I LOVE looking at the photos, advertisements and reading the stories and editorials from the pages of  “LOOK”, “Modern Bride”, “Women’s Home Companion” and “Ladies Home Journal.”

Well, an issue of Family Circle from September of 1957 (their 25th Anniversary Year) has a wonderful spread on the First Family, “When the Eisenhowers Cook.” And in it, was the perfect, easy apple recipe…

Apparently, the President’s wife, Mamie, didn’t start out being very fabulous in the kitchen. In fact, it was Eisenhower himself that was known for being a “Walking recipe book” and who was “as vain about his dishes as any fussy chef”. As a General, he paid special attention to the Army’s food-service, and it was said that he often used cooking to help him unwind during his time in office.

But, the President passed on some of his skills to wife, and though as a young bride she said she said she could “only make fudge and mayonnaise”, her repertoire expanded with his help (though the fudge did help lure her young second lieutenant). She ended up being very influential in the White House kitchen, and loved to make her husband’s favorite foods.

The dish that caught my eye – nestled between the ads for Hydrox Cookies and Diet Delight Peaches – was Mamie’s Deep Dish Apple Pie. So, I tried it. Unaltered, unhealthified and unmodernized. I wanted to enjoy it just like the First Lady, and it. was. delicious.

Old-Fashioned, and the President’s long-time favorite with cheese, ice cream, or cream

Mamie’s Deep Dish Apple Pie

{Directly from the pages of the magazine}

Ingredients:

  • 10 to 12 tart cooking apples (about 8 cups, cut up – I used Ruby Jonathan)
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

Directions:

  1. Pare apples and cut into small pieces into a bowl; stir in sugar and lemon juice to coat fruit well; spoon into buttered 9-inch shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine flour and brown sugar in same bowl; cut in butter or margarine with pastry blender or 2 knives; sprinkle over apples; pat down.
  3. Bake in moderate oven (350) about 45 minutes, or until juice bubbles around edge and topping is golden-brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream, or snappy cheese.

I was surprised to see this called a “pie”, when there is no crust involved, but I loved it. It was easy, fast and simple…and I haven’t perfected the whole “crust thing” yet anyway ; ) The only thing that might have made it better, would be a handful of chopped pecans added to the topping…

So, grab some apples and your favorite apron, and channel your inner “American royalty” as you take your first delicious bite…

…let me know if you liked the “snappy cheese”.

Enjoy!