Sunday, December 5, 2010

Feeding of the Twenty-Five

Feeding 25 people is not a miracle, especially when it's a potluck and all we're providing is the (22lbs.) turkey. Food wasn't the was!

Every year, on the week before Thanksgiving, our friends in the area and beyond get together for "Friend Thanksgiving". It's a tradition that started about 4 years ago. I must admit, it is one of my favorite meals of the whole year. A giving of thanks with friends.

For 2010, the numbers grew to 25 participants, which meant 25 amazing people at our house for a Thanksgiving feast. I didn't know how on earth that many people could sit or even fit in our little house. BUT, we bought the house for it's open floor plan and put it to the test. By borrowing tables and chairs, we made one long line of tables from the dinning room all the way to the living room wall. Every table surface was covered. The food and drinks took over every inch of kitchen counter space (including the board we put over the sink), and we still had to hide the dessert in the back bedroom until we could clear the dinner foods.
Half of the Feast
turkey is done!
BUT it worked! People were patient and we all had somewhere to sit.

My favorite part of the evening was the growing noise as more and more people arrived. It wasn't long before I had to nearly shout to carry on a conversation. People in groups, chatting it up with big smiles.

A holiday hosting idea : attach a mini-fundraiser to your potluck. People at the Friend Thanksgiving this year could either bring a dish to share, or $5 to give to the Haitian orphans we met last summer (learn more here, here, and here.) Most people were so sweet that they did both!

Moral of the story, it's a major blessing to have enough to survive, enough to share, and enough to give.
Disassembling turkeys

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gift Wrap Up

My family has Christmas traditions. One of which involves our yearly choices of wrapping paper. As soon as some of us were wrapping gifts on our own and out of the house (think college and beyond), we have chosen to classify our gifts with color and design. Each of us picks a single, statement worthy paper that will designate which gifts originate with which family member. We each handle it a little differently; I choose what I think will look best as an assembled stack of gifts. Sister Middle chooses her favorite personality design. Sister Youngest chooses the ugliest kitschy illustration paper she can locate. Ma and Da use gift labels that are still marked with "From : ?".

(Side note to parents, I don't know if I've ever stated out loud that I know it's you leaving the "?" gifts, and not santa. Don't stop now though!)

I am approaching the 2010 decision. Here are the current contenders. I won't post which I use until after Christmas...I won't spoil it for the fam! Any favorites?

Madline Gift Wrap/Wrapping Paper. 100 percent post consumer recycled paper. 4 sheets. 971
Madline Double Sided Gift Wrap by Smock
Marimekko® Mustikkamaa Gift Wrap
Marimekko® Kantele Gift Wrap

Snow & Graham Designer Print - Winterberry
Snow & Gram - Winterberry Paper

Christmas folk trees 3 metre roll wrap
Christmas Folk Trees Wrapping Paper
SNÖVITA Gift wrap, roll assorted colors Length: 5 ½ yard Width: ¾ yard  Length: 5 m Width: 0.7 m
Snovita Gift Wrap - IKEA

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Cheap

First Halloween in the new house! Now, I love little trick-or-treators but have never lived anywhere where a bunch of them come around. Last year, in our condo, we got ONE trick-or-treater, at about 9:30pm.

Needless, to say, I started getting really excited when 6 out of 10 houses in the neighborhood were decked out with in Halloweens finest. I mean, really decked out. This is the house right across the street.
Notice Chucky hanging from the ladder
Therefore I assumed we'd be inundated with little ones Halloween night. We have NO halloween decorations, as typically I find them slightly literal and overwhelming.  Still, I wanted to do something to welcome tick-or-treators to our home.

So here's the cheap little decorating we did.
Brown Lunch Bags, Flameless tea lights, pen, and scissors = $4.99 in additional purchases (for the tealights)
I cut little halloween shapes out of the bags (takes 10 minutes...or more when you are also watching TV)
Moon and stars, cat, pumpkin, bat, spider, ghost.
And we set them aglow on our front steps. I ended up having to put golf balls in the bottoms to keep them from blowing away.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meet...our Home

So here it is! Our first house, oh yes, in it's original state. I have big plans for you house.

Our dear house has already earned nicknames...The Cube, The Venue...we lovingly get to call it home.

That doesn't mean we love all of it! :) We're going to be painting, dying, sewing, decorating, trimming, planting, grouting. We're also going to keep track of the transformation here, so if you're curious, or simply interested in seeing our stumbling first attempt at home ownership :), come back again!

Breaking the Self-Imposed Book Rule

I LOVE stories. I LOVE books. I have to read almost every night to get to sleep. Because of this, over the years I have accrued my Favorite Books. My Favorite Books have really old ugly covers, bent out of shape. They have a shelf to themselves. I read them over, and over again. These are the books that accompany me on business trips; a little consistency with newness all around. As I am someone that always likes to try new things, these books are really the only form of entertainment that I come back to regularly.

My Favorite Books (In Approximate Order):  
  1. Treasure Island, Robert Lewis Stevenson 
  2. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
  3. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle
  4. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy (I'm may or may not be a little embarassed)
  5. Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
  6. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi
  7. The Best of Isaac Asimov, Short Stories by Issac Asimov
Hm, what do these have in common? Adventures naturally, told with beautiful words. Imperfect characters that create incredible circumstances. Overcoming. Love. Trial. Faith. Sacrifice. Joy. Mystery. Humor. Creative characters. Human condition.

Books traditionally only make it to Favorite Book status over the course of several years; they are time tested. BUT. Announcement, breaking Lisa news. I think I've just added another, in record time. In a matter of one month, the Hunger Games trilogy has been inducted. I have already read all three books twice, and decided that, in addition to everything from my list above, the trilogy also has war, culture, food, rebellion, symbolism, love triangle, family, destitution, fashion....these books have it all.
Artwork by Marbi, courtesy of

       8. The Hugner Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

Only time will tell if it stays on the list. It may fade to second tier as I change, like Pride and Prejudice did, but I wouldn't be breaking the rules if I thought it was going to do that.

Moral of the story; read The Hunger Games!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Art of Living in Cincinnati

I love moments that remind me that I LIVE already in a city where adventures, culture, and community can be experienced. I've learned that, for a city of it's size, Cincinnati is passionate about the arts, and supports, participates and honors them all. Not only is Cincinnati going to be hosting the 2012 World Choir Games (the first ever American city to do so), but smaller events happen all over the city. Two examples:
The Paint the Street event in Over the Rhine (one of my favorite neighborhoods in Cinci). Sorry, they don't allow the vid to be embedded.

And also the Splash Dance (more often called flash mob) on Fountain Square, the central hub of downtown. The image below was used on the Cincinnati Fine Art Fund fundraising post cards this year. The spectators were great at this event....but the dancers were even better. Members of the Cincinnati Ballet coordinated and led the dance themselves.

Image Courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer

You can see my girl Amy in the second group that starts dancing; blond in the white shirt. All of the music is by Cincinnati musicians and groups!

Moral of the story : do you know your city?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Alternative Family (Photo)

Family is a word that means a lot to me; I don't really use it lightly. Sister, brother....they are strong and loaded words.

I believe there are many kinds of family to be assigned, claimed, or given.  There is biological family (which you can't choose, but I would have chosen mine anyway). There is church family (a beautiful societal support system). And there is friend-family. This is a shout out to my friend family.

I think friend-families develop when a bunch a people that somehow found each other, and found an interest in each other, start to take on roles traditionally attributed to biological family. Trust, encouragement, loyalty, safety...taking care of one another.

My husband and I are fiercely blessed, living away from all (but one - Double L!) of our biological/in-law family, to have a group that functions this way. 

The majority of the people I consider my friend-family are not in this picture, but I felt strangely happy to set up this alternative family photo at a church fall harvest party last weekend (think haystacks, campfires, and pig roast). We hopped right in line with the families of children and grandparents, the only group of adults, and said "cheese" for this exaggerated, ridiculous family photo.

Photo Borders

I am very grateful for all you friend-family people in my life! You are darling nuggets, and I'm glad you are in my adventures.

(hey bio-family, I am exorbitantly grateful for you to, of course. I will post about your awesomeness someday deserve your own post :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Missing Photograph of Cheese Days

The Clock-tower in downtown Monroe, WI, below this building thousands of cheese lovers are swarming. Photo by Kirsten,   I think.

There are very few cultural things I feel really attached to, but cheese is one of them. My dad grew up in the town of Monroe, WI, where the last Limburger cheese factory still operates, and where the biannual Cheese Days Festival draws thousands of cheese lovers from all over the country.

Though my cheese-mania experiences were limited to visits to my grandparents house growing up, I still have a sense of family pride in, and even a snobbishness for, good, Wisconsin-made cheese.
Annie's Cheese and Salami Sandwich. Basic but awesome.
This September, my ENTIRE immediate family (it's only 6 of us, but it's still tough for us all to travel together), went to Monroe, WI to visit my grandparents and attend the Cheese Days Festival.
One of the cheese sampling tables in the Cheese Tent
The festival was all I hoped it would be. Swiss culture, hundreds of artisan cheese makers and other cheese based foods, local crafts (of which I always have a love-hate attitude toward.) We toured the Minhas Brewery which has been in operation for over 165 years and holds the largest beer memorabilia collection in the world (the whole basement room is surrounded by a wooden beam suspended from the ceiling, and on the beam are thousands of tap heads for thousands of beers). It was the quintessential Wisconsin experience...cheese and beer in a town square flavored by red brick and swiss stylings.
Memorabilia Mimics (no flash allowed around the treasures)

But. All that culture, food, and activity isn't what I enjoyed most from that weekend. That Saturday night, my whole family sat down around the table to play a word game...Blurt or something. I remember my sister's voice projecting over everyone else, my dad playing when it wasn't his turn, and my grandpa, who's struggling with short term memory loss and general health, randomly throwing in correct answers when none of us "younger folk" could come up with them. My grandma sitting near, content to watch us be the maniacs that we are.

THAT is the picture I want! I wish I was Cam Jansen. CLICK.

Lesson from Cheese Days: Local festivals are always worth checking out because you get a sense of American culture or history. Also, family wins.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Dairy Adventure

My husband and I are quite familiar with the stretch of Highway 65 from Indianapolis to Chicago. We used to drive it all the time in order to see each other over the weekend when we were in a long distance relationship. When it was only one of us in the car, we'd be in a beeline to get to the other; high efficiency travel. Now that we are married, though, and most likely traveling together, we've allowed ourselves to take in the surroundings.

And we found FairOaks Farm, right off Highway 65, in the middle of are we there yet Indiana. 

As you pull in, the sign reads "FairOaks Farms : A DAIRY ADVENTURE". You understand why we had to try this place!
The "Udder Heights" Climbing Wall
The facility operates on a HUGE dairy farm. A dairy museum tour is available for a small fee; there are milk, cheese, and cow themed playgrounds (Including the Dairy Air jumping pillow and String Cheese Maze). The actual cheese making is visible through glass walls of the gift shop and restaurant during week days. Oooh the restaurant; farm fresh ice-cream, cheese samples, and simple, homemade (down to the cheese and bread itself) grilled cheese sandwhiches. Heaven on earth.

After eating, we picked up some smoked gouda...

Not a whole $500 dollar wheel though. Just a wedge for us.

The real adventure of FairOaks Farms, is the birthing barn; where cows go to give birth. There are two stalls full of hay, and one-way glass on one side to allow the audience to watch. On the path to the barn is this stoplight : 
It's a (83lb.) Girl!
Nope, Hooves, and Head! Illuminated to let the crowd know when to come inside and watch a baby cow pushed out by her mother. Sorry I didn't get a "Head" photo...we wanted to watch! The poor cow mother made me both proud and horrified to death as a fellow female. However, as the cow babies are born every 30min to an hour (they must have so many cows!), it made me feel amazed watching such and important part of the lifecycle. It was my first live birth experience of any kind.

Any combination of dairy and adventure is bound to be a positive experience, but FairOaks Farm was a real treat...especially in the middle of a multi-hour drive. The food is phenomenal, the education is experiential not cheesy (haha, okay it is cheesy in a literal way), and the setting is really very beautiful.

FairOaks Farm Cheeses
Lesson from FairOaks Farms...if you see something intriguing from the road...STOP! You might get eat fresh farm foods!...or see cow innards.

What Kind of Haitian Name is Steve?

Meet Steve, my Haitian love. 

He is 8-12 years old, so (duh) I am not talking about romance. But this kid, though he has no idea, is in my prayers every day. After meeting him at a dump, I love him.

Here’s all I know about Steve:
  • Steve is shy
  • Steve forages for food, clothing, and money at a Haitian garbage dump
  • Steve wears mismatching flip flops
  • Steve has the most beautiful smile
  • Steve is dirt poor
  • Steve does not go to school
  • Steve hangs out all day with 40+ men and women that are all trying to feed themselves and their families
  • He also hangs out with 300lbs. pigs and hundreds of goats
  • Steve carries everything precious to him around in a zip-lock bag because it’s the only place he has to keep it safe.
  • His ziplock bag has some coins, other knick-knacks, and a Kreyol gospel booklet.
  • Steve represents Haiti to me: survival, smiles, poverty, hope.

When I think of him, I wish I had hugged and kissed him more and made sure that he knew I would be praying for him. It’s hard to understand and process everything that you see in a new and struggling country in the moment.

I really hope I’ll get to see Steve again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Favorite Photos of Haiti 2010

These pics are my favorite from the recent Haiti trip. I like these photos because I feel they reflect something about Haiti that I want to remember. Enjoy! My favorite one is the very last. (Also please note, when I make the pics XL, as I've done here, my blog cuts off the left side....I'm working on it, but make sure to click on the last pic to see the whole thing. There's another beautiful smiling girl on the side.)

Steve Living off the Dump
Boy in His House
Boy at Church
Nuggets Waiting for Candy
Masses of Children to Love
Poor School Boy with Coloring Book
Playing Games
Asking for Treats
Runner Up for My Favorite Picture : Dod is Dood
Port au Prince Destruction
My Favorite Pic! Cuties Laughing!

Friday, August 13, 2010

For the Love of God

Do you ever think about orphans?

Orphans are just children. Sweet children. They have no parents. They have no way to provide for themselves. There is no one to answer for them, stick up for them, or look out for their well-being. And they are only CHILDREN.

Adriano - Lighthouse Boy
How scary and lonely that must feel for a seven year old. The world is scary enough when you have a home, a family, and an income. I've taken those things as granted all my life.

We met two orphans in Haiti, brothers MacKenzie and Robinson, that survived together in the woods for two weeks after the earthquake killed their parents.

My encounter with these precious Haitian orphans made me finally realize the following : A. There are orphans. B. They need love. C. They are rather helpless.

Remember this verse about what God sees as pure and faultless religion?

James 1:27
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Just something to think about!

Here's pictures of sweet Haitian orphans just being kids:

Lighthouse kids playing with their new soccer ball
"Climb on Cee'Jay" was a popular game
These beautiful girls live at a state-run orphanage that houses over 120 children.
Orphaned nuggets with bubbles

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reggie and the Pop Bottle Boys

If you got my recent newsletter, you may have seen a section about the last night we were in Haiti.

It was glorious! After dinner, all 18 boys started drumming away with their empty pop bottles and spoons, while shy Reggie transformed into a show stealer!

This video doesn't convey how loud it was, or how happy and focused all the boys seemed. Notice the two boys on the floor behind dancing Reggie. They were banging out rhythms on a cooler.

Did I mention that this was spontaneous and that, according to our host, it happens frequently? I love a culture with rhythm in their souls!

Thanks to Myles Beeman for taking this video and letting me share it!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Way to Say "Welcome to My Country"

Have you ever been carried like a baby across a raging river by a Haitian bodyguard wearing a rainbow speedo?

I have.

Oh yes, let me set the stage:

We are on our way to visit a rural village outside of Port au Prince, Haiti. To do so, we need to cross a river, swollen and fast because of recent rains. Truly, it looks intimidating.

As my American friends start to roll up their pant legs, I step away from them, down the bank, to take some photographs. Click, click, new angle, click. I remove my eye from the viewfinder only just in time to see what is about to happen.

In the river, only a few feet away, is Marc, our bodyguard.  Marc is muscular beyond reckoning and walks with a strong-man’s swagger. But now, Marc no longer is wearing his pants. Though I try not to notice, his speedo-style underwear is rainbow stripes in color.

What? Where are his pants? Why is he walking toward –

And I am swept up into his arms, cradled like a child (or fire rescue victim), seemingly as light as a backpack. Marc carries me this way across the turbulent river without even stumbling.

Half-naked Marc carries the females through all four river crossings that day.

They didn’t put that in the brochure.

Oh Haiti. Oh butch people. So was Marc being a foresighted gentleman? Or a bit of an exhibitionist? Either way, my shoes stayed dry.

So did his pants.

Here are some pics from the village we visited that day: 
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