{festivities}

It’s only just begun…

It’s okay. Go ahead and sing the Carpenters’ song in your head.

I won’t judge.

We’ve been busy getting into the holiday spirit: Our tree, my parent’s tree and our annual “Thank God it’s Christmas” party with friends! I LOVE the Holidays (read: pretty much crazy/obsessed/drive-The-Husband-nuts-with-non-stop-christmas-music). So, I am totally in hog heaven right now.

{Best Christmas Tree impression}

We went to Kaleidoscope Farms to cut down our tree – our third “married” Christmas tree! They have a lovely little shop, a donkey, a reindeer, and absolutely beautiful trees…

{Hot Cider – Yum!}

It’s a tradition to go out to a fun dinner before we set the tree up. This year, we went to Alexandria’s (remember this concert?) for cocktails and appetizers, and then headed over to Revolver (Yum) for dinner and dessert.

It was divine.

After that, we trimmed the tree, drank “egg” nog (really soy nog… surprisingly tasty!) and listened to music… perfection.

The next day, we ran errands, strung lights outside, cooked, cleaned and headed over to Andy and Sara’s house for the Annual Thank God It’s Christmas party with our friends!

{Brussels sprouts with maple, cranberry and sliced almonds and roasted squash & harvest grains were my contributions. So much good food!}

Everyone brought delicious food and fun drinks, and we laughed, talked and ate until late that night. We also worked with Halley on her Christmas card project – she is sending cards to soldiers overseas and in VA hospitals. This is her second year of the tradition – such a worthy cause. It’s a great feeling to give back during the holidays. Learn more on Halley’s blog.

{Bottom right: Zane (14), Dad, Me, The Husband, Joe (21), Bekah (9)}

The Christmas-themed marathon didn’t stop there: on Sunday we headed over to my parents to get their tree with my siblings! Mom, Dad, Bekah, Zane, Joe, The Husband and I packed ourselves into the car for our annual trek to Timbuk Tree Farm.

We ALWAYS ride the bus, and we ALWAYS go to Granville for dinner and ice cream afterwards. We started these traditions with my great-grandparents years and years ago.

We ate at Brew’s Cafe (portobella mushroom sandwich with sweet potato fries) and then went to Whit’s Custard (PB Whister) for dessert. Everything was. to. die. for.

We trimmed the tree when we got home (it was MY year to put the star on top!) and drank egg nog… only UDF brand will do in that household (it is sinfully delicious).

{Whew! Yes, that did take as long as it looks. But I got the job done. Eventually. Let’s just say that there were some picky bystanders.}

It was a wonderful kickoff to the Christmas season, and we’ve got so much more to look forward to! Potluck at the office, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, The Husband’s huge office party,  The Nutcracker, a cookie exchange, Office Christmas lunch downtown, family celebrations and lots of traveling… can’t wait!

What do you have in store in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

Care & {Keeping} of Friends

Best Friends.

We all have them… since childhood we’ve treasured them, made the mad, made up, made mud pies, gone to dances, gone to college, gone overseas, grown up, grown out, grown apart…

Sometimes, those best friends are a treasure for a fleeting time in our lives, and then things naturally progress to bigger and better things. That can be okay. But, there are other times when a simple lack of planning, lack of effort, lack of time, lack of interest, get in the way of the beautiful possibility of lifelong companionship.

{The Tin Man, Wicked Witch, Scarecrow, Dorothy, Toto and Glinda…}

Don’t always cut those glittering ties of childhood memories just because you’ve grown up. Sometimes, it’s worth it… sometimes it means the world to hold on to what was once dear, and make it dear again. And, I’ve found that there are some simple steps every friend can take to maintain these important connections.

{Meet “The Three”}

A Blonde, a Brunette and a Red Head: Hannah, Rachael and Samantha. We were more than the perfect punchline – we were soul-mates. Queens of the roost, we were all the oldest of our siblings. Hannah, the oldest of 9, Samantha, the oldest of 8, and I, the oldest of a measly 4. (My parents were under-achievers. Obviously : )

Hannah and I – friends since I was in the 1st grade, and she was in kindergarten – “let” Samantha join our group at the age of 14. We were inseparable. “The Three” enjoyed the same classic novels, became experts at Junior-year chemistry, were the harshest of fashion critics, cruised newly-licensed in cars with the tops down and scarves in our hair, listened to our parents slightly-warped records, ate ice cream with reckless abandon, put-putted, had picnics in the park, fell in love, went to camp, competed in school, painted our bedrooms crazy colors, fought, annoyed our little brothers, made-up and then…. went to college.

Me, close to home. Hannah, in Massachusetts. Samantha, in Virginia.

Our delightful little story could have ended there. In fact, we all felt it slipping away at times. New friends, different settings, changing interests, careers, boys, too many miles. It started to add up.

But, we fought back. We deliberately chose to press against the “natural” order of things, and their tendency to become disordered and dissolve. It took work, but it ended up better than we could have imagined. And so, even after two weddings, one of us in D.C., one in rural Ohio, another in Europe, we still are close…

Everyone seems to have one of those old friends that knows them better than anyone else. Try these tips to make that road to lasting friendship as bump-less as possible:

1. Give one another space. We’ve heard of “helicopter” parents, but helicopter friends can be just as bad. Even if you talked every day for 18 summers, that kind of contact is hard to maintain (and often unwanted) when you’re at different schools, different places in life, with new responsibilities and a job in front of you to do. Be okay with silence. Be okay not knowing her every move. Sometimes, it is that space that preserves a relationship.

2. Invest the time to catch up. You’re busy, they’re busy. You’re in for the weekend to see your parents, he is visiting grandma and has a long commute. Stop. Get a coffee. Take an hour to talk about life. Even if it is just the short version, jumping in with both feet and sharing the stories and joys and sorrows of the past three (or six, or 10) months with one another face-to-face makes a huge difference. It builds a bond – much better than a phone call – helps you remember why you loved each other’s company so much in the first place.

3. Find out how they’ve grown. This step might be the most important of all. When you’ve gone through a transformation, sometimes the energy to bring an old friend up-to-speed doesn’t even seem worth it. For example: When Hannah came home from college on the East Coast, lots of our friends poked fun at her for her new sense of style, turns of phrase and academic pursuits (An english/theater major?!). They also teased her with outdated stories and old nicknames.

Now, these weren’t mean people, but they weren’t giving Hannah any room to grow. The OLD Hannah is all they knew how to relate to! But, I could tell she was getting frustrated… but why bother telling them she’d found new passions, new interests and discovered a fun new style? I decided to ask her, and Samantha, an important question next time we sat down together.

Name three things that are different about you; three discoveries that you’ve made about yourself since you’ve left.

This question was a game-changer. Learning just those three things – free of judgement, no comments or comparisons or “But remember when you said you HATED skinny jeans? What Happened?!” – made all of the difference in our relationship.

Once afraid of the kitchen and anything but athletic, I had learned that I loved running and competitions, and adored trying new recipes. And Hannah had uncovered a love for Italian, and a talent and passion for art and poetry. Because we helped one another discover these things, we had each other’s backs. We didn’t accidentally hurt each other’s feelings by making jokes about my cooking abilities, or Hannah’s elementary school sketching skills, and in just a few minutes we had dug to the core of what our usual conversations circled around but never quite reached…

That was an OLD us, but now, we were introduced to the surprising, fun, fresh young women our best friends had become.

{Samantha and I Skype with Hannah, who is living in Orvieto, Italy}

Around the Holidays is a great time to re-connect with old friends. Make sure you take some time to do so this season! Do you have a dear friend that has persevered through life with you? Tell me about it!

P.S. More about friends will follow in coming posts – including some of Hannah’s amazing work! That whole English/Theater thing… yeah, it paid off.

{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?

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?

Freshly {Peeved}

This is for your own good. Trust me.

Is this you?

Wandering through the cool fall and winter seasons blissfully unaware of the fashion-conscious people everywhere judging you like there is no tomorrow?

{‘X’ marks the spot}

If there is one thing that makes me want to scream, kick people in the shins, step on flowers, throw expensive electronic devices and then dribble into a puddle of angry tears, it is people that DON’T REMOVE THE BASTING STITCHES from their jackets, coats and skirts. They should be lined up and spanked by their grandmothers.

{Cue Psycho music…. Be afraid, be very afraid.}

Listen up, peeps: Just because the fabric is tacked in place, doesn’t mean that it is supposed to STAY that way. The basting stitches are there to make sure that the clothes lay correctly during manufacturing, and that pleats, vents and pockets hold their shape before their new owner lovingly takes them to their new home.

If you leave the threads in place, not only do you look ignorant and make random strangers and coworkers think less of you, but your clothes tend to bunch up in an unsightly manner around your tush. Not a good look. Trust me.

Even the fact that the thread is often a totally different color than the garment doesn’t seem to deter people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked behind someone with a HUGE white “X” on their black jacket, or even the big, bright label still on the sleeve!

{Mad Face}

I’ve also heard some complain that their pockets are “fake”. And, while there are some false pockets (it is always best to check the back side of the pocket in question to make sure that there is a liner in place!) eight times out of 10 they’ve simply never removed the basting threads. Voila! – Now you have somewhere to put your keys and wallet again… Brilliant! (Now if you could just convince him to stop stuffing every gadget known to man in his pockets. Those lumps are just weird. And awkward.)

So, please…I beg you. Save yourself, save me, save your spouse and friends and relatives from all of this distress and horror.

Snip, snip snip.

{Some are Sneaky – Don’t let them win…}

If you refuse to heed my warnings, don’t be surprised if – when you least expect it – a purple-clad iPhone whizzes dangerously near your head.

You’ll thank me someday.

On a side note, the Husband’s purple gum ball won us a free movie last night. Made his week ; )

A Good Sport…

In 1997, I could list the starting lineup of the Cleveland Indians, and my most prized possession was a Sandy Alomar, Jr. autograph. Maybe I was a little obsessed…

{Note the shirt, shorts, earrings, necklace, hat, glove and facepaint. Too bad my coordinating red and blue socks were cut out of the photos…}

Times have changed. Thank the good Lord.

Though baseball is still the only sport that I can actually follow, I can’t really tell you much about the game any more (except stories from my childhood about camping our in the living room when the Tribe was in the Series, and how I would throw myself in a corner and pray under and blanket every time one of our guys got up to bat. It was sweaty…and disappointing.) But, this weekend I got to see my good ‘ol Indians, go to a fabulous wedding AND see the Brownies take home a win (in temperatures above freezing!).

We were in Cleveland for Aaron & Carly’s wedding – The Husband was good friends with Aaron in college, and Aaron was in our wedding two years ago. The Bride and Groom are both big Tribe fans (Carly especially) and had the awesome idea of having their rehearsal dinner at the Indian’s game!

We were also very lucky, because they were honoring Jim Thome (one of those old players I actually know!) for hitting 600 homers, and many of his old teammates came to the game (I waved to Sandy…. I totally think he remembered me from that autograph signing in the 90’s. Let’s face it…I haven’t changed much.)

After watching the Tribe pull out a win, we woke up bright and early the next day to get ready for Aaron and Carly’s big day. The Husband had the honor of being the Best Man, so he helped Aaron run some last-minute errands while I got to run, eat oatmeal and write.

The wedding (and the bride) was absolutely lovely, and the music selection was superb. Aaron’s little sister sang many of the songs, and they played a bunch of my favorites. The Husband did a great job doing a special reading: It was one of his favorite passages in Jeremiah that he and Aaron had studied together in a bible study college. So special, so fitting.

We danced and ate and had fun with the photo booth (gotta love those things!). The Husband’s speech was great, and we owned the Macarena. After the reception, we plopped exhaustedly into bed at the hotel. But, more fun was in store for the next day:

A Browns game!

{Tribe game, Aaron’s grandpa serenades us on the church steps with his harmonica, Browns win!}

Carly happened to have a few connections that allowed the four of us to get amazing last-minute seats. We did have a slight run-in with some pushy scalpers, but the boys took care of us : ) The sun was shining, and it was actually hot – totally unheard of for a Cleveland football game – and we WON (equally unheard of).

The Husband and I sported brand new Browns gear (purchased right before the game) and were so, so happy to get to spend some extra time with the newlyweds : )

Congrats again to Aaron and Carly, and here’s to many more Cleveland wins!

…maybe I should start praying under the covers again.

;)

Labor & Birth {Days}

I. Love. Surprises.

As evidenced by the photo to the left, even when wearing serious cowgirl garb, I can barely contain my excitement (that’s a swing set in the trunk by the way. I loved that thing…Until I realized that wasps built nests in the glider, and then I steered clear of the thing for months). I think the bolo tie made the outfit, don’t you?

Birthday excitement then…

When my Birthday dawned yesterday, it wasn’t much different. Even though I’m 25, not 4, and had to go to work, I was beyond happy to be greeted with THREE b-day surprises, including flowers from the Husband, and chocolate from the Parents. But, what excited me most of all was the prospect of dinner at my favorite restaurant in the universe: Revolver.

…Birthday excitement now

I adore Revolver’s seasonal, local, fresh, amazing food… and their retro-funk decor is a total treat. Chatting with the staff is fun, and the wine list is to die for. In short, this place is a gem, and I LOVE that it is nestled in our little city in Northwest Ohio.

We dined on poutine with duck fat french fries, braised goat and aged cheddar (not so healthy, but oh, so amazing), sweet corn bisque with vanilla mascarpone (the vanilla was intense!), pekin duck breast with roasted sweet corn, spicy pickled cucumbers and avocado, and local pork loin with fennel gratin and watercress. And, I can’t forget, polenta… I rarely DREAM of food, but Chef Mike’s polenta is simple, rich and heavenly.

For dessert, we got both the rich chocolate brownie with homemade raspberry reduction and ice cream, and the summer fruit trifle (served in a glass jar!) with fresh whipped cream and buttery pound cake and a cup of French press coffee (hey, it’s my Birthday…I can’t eat two desserts if I want.)… *sigh*. Perfection.

This day of bliss actually followed a pretty amazing Labor Day weekend. Even though it was packed, we had a ton of fun with friends and family at our annual Labor Day Family Camp (where the Husband and I first hung out eight years ago!), enjoyed great friends at a wedding, and even got to hang out along the Ohio River and take a spin on a Jet Ski!

The wedding was so lovely, and we are ecstatic for our friends Pat & Emily (they’re going on their honeymoon to New Zealand and Australia – how cool is that?). We stayed with our friends Sarah, Andy, Karen, Josh, Liz and Kyle at Sarah’s family river house after the wedding, and were treated to delicious food, a boat ride, sangria, a church service on the lawn and more hospitality than anyone could ask for (Thanks!). It’s a fun group (the guys and Karen all work together) – it felt like a little vacation.

We started and ended our weekend at Labor Day Camp. Also known as “The Best Four Days of the Year”, this camp has been a part of our lives for a long time. Our entire church family attends – a million little animals kids, parents and pastors alike, and we take time to learn, eat and play together. My lovely mama danced, my little sister sprained her ankle but was too busy running around to notice, and my brother got to sit by the fire for hours with his friends. Our stay there (even though we always leave tired, sick of the camp food, totally over the hard wooden benches and in need of a real shower) is always refreshing and delightful.


So, we caught up with friends, listened to great teachings, had amazing times of prayer and ate lots of s’mores… In short, I don’t think we’d miss it for the world (even if that means getting ready for a wedding in a camp bathroom with no air conditioning in 100 degree heat…Thank the Lord for hairspray).

I hope your holiday was just as full of simple joys, and that you get to see friends and eat at your favorite restaurant soon too.

Do it. It’s worth it.

Quarter Century….

I’m turning 25 next month and it scares me a little…

I keep thinking, “What did I want to accomplish by the time I was 30?”. I can check marriage and a house and a real job off the list (some undeserved good fortune there for sure), but what about kids, world travel, uncover hidden athletic abilities, develop a keen sense of style, local fame (hey, this is reasonable, right?) and my first million several hundreds of thousands in the bank?

There are so many inspiring young people around me, I feel like I need to truly jump in and make some things happen. Some things I think just weren’t meant to be, but a few of those I’m making a concerted effort to achieve. The “athletic abilities” category seemed to be the most easily attainable at the moment, so my latest goal is: A 100 mile bike race.

After my first Tri this summer

I’m new at the bike thing – I’m a runner that is branching out. But, when this opportunity came along and happened to be right after my birthday, it just seemed too appropriate to pass up: Quarter of a century, riding a “century”. My butt may never be the same…. but hey – I gotta check those “Before 30 bucket list” items off when I get the opportunity :)

*sigh* life was just waaaay less complicated in 1996…