Crema

noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

No Ants, No Pants May 15, 2016

I tried on a pair of jeans that cost $187.  They were free to try on.  The adorable redhead who rocked those jeans chattered on to me about their qualities and benefits the whole time I struggled to pour my fifty-one year old body into them.  I ask you:  “Should one have to pour, pull, push, jump, suck, hold breath in, yank, and sweat to get into a pair of the correct size jeans that cost one hundred and eighty seven dollars?”  The fabric felt weighted and silky, drapey and stretchy.  Supposedly, they would not leave baggy spots where you bend (if you could bend), after hours of wear.  That’s the benefit of such a perfect denim made sustainably, produced scientifically, ensuring rich quality.  When I looked in the mirror, I thought the jeans looked painted on.  Can a woman over fifty wear painted on style jeans without embarrassing her daughters or herself?  If the painted style pour-yourself-in jeans had been marked down from $187.00 to $18.70 would it be a good idea to wear those in public?  I asked myself this in the dressing room.  My answer and the knowledgable twenty-something answer were completely opposite.  She said the jeans looked fantastic on me.   Ha…of course she would say that.  Shes PAID to say that.  I did not agree.

Two weeks later I took my pants off.  Not the expensive jeans – I did actually get those off in the store and left them there, I mean I took off my long-legged pants that do fit.  The temperature outside was 70’s warm after long months of 20’s cold.  Suddenly everyone had on completely different clothing.  Including me.  I exchanged the pants for capris – or ‘caprants’ as re-named by my friend Heidi, whose daughter thinks capris are silly.  Well Miss Mackenna, they are NOT silly, they are necessary for the greater good of humanity when one has leg skin that needs constant ironing.  It it much more appropriate to wear ‘caprants’ than short skirts at this stage of life in order to maintain personal modesty and public decorum.  You’re welcome.

Two days later, I put pants back on.

My new state of Michigan has a lot of surprises up its sleeve.  I’m not certain I will become fond of the morning surprise of sunshine.  I would prefer that to be reliable, a regular occurence not a rarity.  This is the first spring I’ve been a resident and I am gathering you go outside and do outside things when the sun is outside for tomorrow it may not be.  Today I tried three times to go outside when I saw the sun.  We started a neighborhood walk to peruse the garage sales, but it ended at block two with sudden rain and dare I say hail; possibly MI spring snow nuggets?  I’ll ask around to confirm.  By the third time I went out in a car, the garage sale hosts had given up and gone inside.  I did score a crooked floor lamp for $15.  Looks great in the spare room standing mostly straight in the corner.  Beside garage sale shopping, I wanted to get in the dirt.  My goal all week was to go outside and reduce the amount of mint that is growing and tame the fern in my gardens.    One week I had no fern.  Next week, fern farm.  I have no previous experience with mint or fern.  What I can confidently say after one partial spring, is they are both fast and hearty growers.  Clearly, they don’t need the sun like us humans do.   I’m not sure I will meet the plant reduction goal today.   Unless…I go out in the clouds with long pants, coat and mittens.

Ants.  Michigan, I need to ask you, do ants thrive here too?  I keep a relatively clean house.  Not “dutch clean” like my mom, but pretty clean.  One time in Florida we had a rat.  In My Kitchen Cupboards.  I discovered the rat before I discovered its feces in every single solitary drawer in my large kitchen.  I came undone, unravelled, repulsed, devastated that such filth touched the things I cook with.  And I kept a clean kitchen.  We also lived on the water and the rats apparently lived in the roof of the building with occasional drop downs into human dwellings. I threw our cat in the cupboard where the rat was and shut the door.  Crickets.  Fifteen minutes later (that’s long enough to take care of a rat right?), she sauntered out as if she was done using the bathroom.  She did not choose to pursue the rat.  Worthless cat…  The rat clean up project required the man of the townhouse; and later, flowers in all the drawers for therapeutic reasons. No more rat ever.  But now I have MI ants.  I’ve tried several removal tactics including letting them go outside.   When I opened my sugar bowl to scoop the raw sugar into my first cup of morning coffee and there is an ant flailing around I put my foot down, picked up the phone and called my mom.   She poo-pooed all previous ant removal systems and said get Tero.  24 hours after Tero tactic, no ants.  I hope ants are like the rat and not one of Michigan’s ongoing surprises.

Wooden shoe dancers, tulip lined streets in Holland, Fricano’s pizza, the Cone Shops soft lemon twist cones; the pure sound of Calvin Alumni Choir,  Stella’s burgers and chronic fries, Grand Rapids Opera, Marie Catribs, Fulton Heights neighborhood, the people of Art Of The Table,  solid-friendly, healthy-growing Encounter Church, Women and Wine, Grand Rapids Main Library, the acoustics of Cathedral of St. Andrews, generous beauty of all that is colorful and blooming are some of the Michigan surprises working to convince me to stay, belong, engage.  The increasing list of good surprises far surpasses the unpleasant.  The sense of settling down is happening.  I may weigh more than I want, battle fatigue more than I like, and am more conversant in grief than I’d prefer.  Those things accompanied me here.   But this new state is kindly meeting me with a sweet place to heal and renew.  Ants, clouds and tight pants, you might live here, but despite you I believe some really great new is happening.

Better than being surprised, I am so very thankful.

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The Hubby and The Ham Balls May 16, 2014

Filed under: Birthdays,Cats,Creativity,Fear,Food Stories,My husband,Uncategorized,Writing — lauradegroot @ 11:44 pm
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Disclaimer for my vegetarian/vegan friends:  the following contains material of the meat type.  In no way is it meant to offend or gross you out.

The Vitamix earned its keep.  Today it ground up the last of my ham.

I’ve owned this bad boy for approximately 6 weeks.  The majority of its life in the DeGroot household has been spent pulverizing seeds, blending fruit, and smoothie-ing kale and spinach into our breakfast (pictured below).  The Vitamix came with a recipe book which I’ve read more than once.  Most recipes take less than 5 minutes which means a fresh batch of hummus for a snack, lunch, or appetizer is always an option.  Because the hummus is so delicious and simple, garbanzo beans show up on my grocery list all the time.   That is, until I came home with 2 more cans and when I put them away I realized I already had 6.

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“Settle down with the garbanzos now Laura.”  I know I know.  I always want more of a good thing and got a little crazy with chick peas.

The Hubby has had his eye on the Vitamix for some years.  Not a new one, but the one that he could possibly inherit.  Thankfully, the relatives who own said Vitamix are in great health.  No impending inheritance…  So I suggested we save up our “funny money” & birthday money to buy our own.  The Hubby immediately labeled an envelope,  we accumulated the funds, and recently purchased the item our children now can inherit!    (But not for MANY years girls).

I can’t decide if this marvelous machine is a toy or a tool.  Either way it is a creative outlet and helps me live out my love language:  “Love people; Cook them tasty food.”

Back to the ground up ham.  I did a small batch at first.  Used the pulse button on level 5.  I didn’t want to make ham glue.  When I poured…shook…well, kinda poured-shook-scooped the ham out onto a plate I felt like something special happened in my kitchen.  I threw a little into my almost scrambled egg.  I gave Pekoe the cross-eyed kitty a few bits in her bowl.  Calvin ate them.  I gave Pekoe a few more bits in her bowl.  (Rabbit trail…Pekoe will only eat wet food.  All her 11 years of life – no dry, no cat treats, however she loves ham and pancakes.   Cats Are Weird.) I did give Calvin one ham chunk even though he stole Pekoes.  And then I talked to the ham.  “I just don’t know what to do with you yet.”

I might be lonely.  Or just really excited about making my own ground ham.

Grandma Rozie came to mind.  She used to make such good meat.  That may be where my affinity for things made with ground ham started.  Ham salad, like tuna or chicken salad, was pretty common in the midwest, best served on a soft squishy buttered white bun.  Even better was ham loaf, like meat loaf, with BBQ sauce on top.  And then there are the ham balls.  Ummmmmmm.  My mouth is watering right now.  They too are baked with a sweet and sour or BBQ sauce of some type and because of their shape, every bite comes with sauce.

The credit for the idea to use the Vitamix to grind up that ham goes to…….The Hubby!   He suggested it in hope of getting some hamballs.  I debated, I procrastinated, I almost gave up and just sliced it.  So why the emotional drama over meat?

I was afraid it wouldn’t work and I would end up with nasty ham paste, a clogged up Vitamix, and wasted time.  That’s the truth.  Ridiculous fear in this profoundly mundane thing of life.  Truthfully,  fear (ridiculous or not) often has a stronghold in the somewhat and profoundly difficult things of my life too often.  I’m working on a project about fear Knots and fear Nots.  My hope is to discover, then have as my own, tools and truths to fight and conquer fear and anxiety.

I will reach a mile marker this year – getting half way to one hundred.  Some people when facing this age,  set goals and train for triathlons, conquering high mountains or long bike journeys.  My goal is to live the second half of my life un-afraid.  I’m training for that.  On my desk are notecards with 34 of the 365 verses where Scripture says “do not be afraid/anxious/worried.”  These are some of the tools and truths I hope to understand and use to run my race.

And, like I share the wonder of the Vitamix, I hope to share what I learn about what it takes to live un-afraid.

Back to the ground up ham.  I think I know what I’m going to do with it.  Its time to call mom for a ham-ball recipe.  Hubby, this is your lucky day.

 

 

Cleaning Day! November 14, 2013

I have never in all of my life been excited about cleaning.  When the cleaning is complete,  the calm, orderly, put-back-in-place, sometimes even shiny space I live in, makes me happy.  But excited about the cleaning itself – never.

Until tonight.

Next to my desk is the stairway down to the front door of our apartment.  As I write, on the floor between my desk and the stairs is a line up of things ready to go.  Swiffer heads up the troupes.   Next in line is blue bucket with Swiffer refills, Mr. Clean magic eraser, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day All Purpose, 409, and Windex.  Behind them stands white container with rags, then blue container with band aids, Advil, and sponges.  Red Niwot Market canvas bag pulls up the rear carrying paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, kleenex, soap, shampoo, conditioner.  Dawn, Bar Keepers Friend, shelf paper, and toilet bowl brushes are already in the car.

Tomorrow is Cleaning Day!  I am so excited, and that is not an exaggeration or me being dramatic.  Tomorrow morning, Calvin (my labrador pal) and I are heading  to Boynton Beach to clean.  It’s official, we now own a little townhouse by the sea.  It is in need of good ol fashioned Dutch cleaning and fresh paint, a bit of carpet and a bathroom redo.  Thankfully we’ve got a few weeks before we move all our stuff in.  For now, we have all the furniture we need there (bought it with the place), in the spot we imagine spending the most time.  The patio is the part of the townhouse that sold us immediately.

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We are tremendously thankful.

I am thankful for a husband that stewards our money well so we can own a place and live within our means.  We are thankful for Michele H and Laurie S for driving us from Lighthouse Point to Boynton Beach and towns in between,  looking…looking…looking;  for all the people who helped bring the mountains of paperwork to the table; for God who led us to this place we otherwise would not have found; and for those who supported us during this long year of waiting, disappointment, searching, and adventure.

I’m relieved the closing is complete and now… I am ready to clean!

p.s.  I heard that its a 2 mile walk or a 4 minute drive to the beach from this place…

 

 

Day 30: Food Love Stories November 7, 2013

Three Food Love Stories

Key Lime Love

When I turned 40 (yesterday…not really, a few yesteryears ago) my hubby threw me a surprise party.  He planned it via email in one week and no one blew it.  A handmade card from the girls gifted me with “go out with dad and we will stay home alone and pay for your dinner.”  My sweet near 12 year olds offered the gift of bravery and we took them up on it.  JR paid for dinner.  There were 2 calls during dinner which JR took,  passing on the updates from the brave ones.  Of course, they were in on the whole thing.

We pulled in the garage, I opened the door into the kitchen and in 2.5 seconds all of this happened:

  • I noticed the room was pitch black
  • The dog didn’t come to the door
  • The girls would NEVER have all the lights off
  • There was the silhouette of a very tall man dressed in all dark clothing
  • I panicked
  • The lights went on
  • 40 people I love shouted surprise
  • I fell in the doorway.

Horrific fear and delightful surprise slammed into each other.  The next 10 seconds all of this happened:

  • I saw my BFF  sitting on my kitchen stool
  • I went to her and started crying
  • I sobbed, “I LOVE SURPRISES”
  • She laughed and said, “I know you do”
  • I turned and saw all the people and couldn’t say anything
  • Then I saw the table full of everything Key Lime you can think of
  • I indignantly said to my hubby – who pulled off this wonderful surprise,  “Why did you let me order key lime pie at the restaurant?”

He said he didn’t want to blow the surprise over dessert!  It is the best gift he’s ever given me.

Hand Me Downs

When reorganizing my file drawer after moving into our little apartment here, I came across this envelope from my Grandma Rozie (Mother Mary’s mom).  Here’s what was inside:

  • One 4×6 card with a recipe for Never Fail Tomato Soup.  It has a swirly line under the title and this comment:  From Pella’s Choicest Cooking Recipes, green book.
  • “Leanne’s recipe – Delicious” on a Ciba Seeds note page with a recipe for something that has strawberries, yogurt, marshmallows in it and she took it for a potluck in R.Rapids Health Centre
  • 6 newspaper cut outs with recipes for Three Bean Salad, Rhubarb Blueberry Jam, Crock pot Barbecued Roast Beef, Sumi Salad, Creamy Rice Pudding, and Good Moist Coffee Cake
  • A Mutual Telephone Company  ‘tear off and remit with payment’ portion of the bill with a recipe for Penuche frosting on the back.
  • And a newspaper poem.  I’ll just share these few lines:

“All angels don’t have silver wings, Or long gossamer robes of white, Nor do they have haloes,  Of gold that glow both day and night.                                                                       There are those in polyester,  Who hasten to a sick friends’ bed, With love, a bowl of chick soup, And loaf of homemade bread.” 

Foodie language handed down through generations found in an envelope.  That explains a few things I love.

Crunchy Chili and Hard Tack

Michigan in the fall is spectacular.  They have colors there I’ve never seen anywhere else.  Michigan has two of the best things in my life.  1Pyc565026517m

I was just there in soup season, in my sweet spot.  Friday pizza birthday party night was a kitchen that slowly filled up with college students.  They came to celebrate,  meet and be met, and take part in dinner preparation.  I stood in the center of  kneading bread, chopping veggies, grating cheese and thinking, ‘life doesn’t get much better than this for me.’  I laughed when the girls pulled their dough covered hands out of the bowls asking why ‘hers looks different from mine’ and I remembered the missing 1/2 cup of water.  I thankfully handed the many blocks of mozzarella to ‘i want to do something’ helpers.  A meaningful conversation happened by the sink as one shared a piece of her life and learnings so kindly with me.   When it was time for assembly the volume increased around what would go on first, last, on half  or the whole thing.  Evenutally we ate the pizza creations, opened birthday gifts, shared life stories.

A day later, JR and I arrived at the house loaded with groceries once again and started some beans to soak overnight and prepare ingredients for chili the next day.  Prior to church Sunday, we threw ingredients in 2 crockpots and turned them on high.  What smelled good when we returned for lunch turned out to be chili with hard beans.  I took out a pot and poured one crockpot full into it and boiled away.  Even after 2 hours in the crock pot and an hour on the stove the beans were not very done.  Turns out that crunchy chili went well with the missing baking powder cornbread (aka: hard tack).  Yet, this less than perfect food didn’t take away anything from the joy of sitting around the table with my family and their community of delightful friends.   

Getting the food, making the food, eating the food…this is the love language I speak.

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Day 19: The Forgotten Lunch Bag October 19, 2013

Final Button 3Hot lunch.

What do those words bring up for you?

Pack a lunch.

How about those words – any thoughts?

27 years ago I packed my hubby’s lunch every night and wrote a note to tuck in the bag.  Yes I was smitten, and still am…but I don’t pack it every night anymore and I text sweet messages instead.  He does take a lunch from home nearly everyday. Lunch=leftovers…in a bag with handles that previously held leftovers from some restaurant.

For many years I packed lunch for Thing 1 and Thing 2 until they got old enough to take that on.  Though I still helped.  This college year they live off campus and are back to taking a packed lunch so we sent them new “lunch boxes” this year.

One of the Things was prone to forgetting her lunch bag at home.  I, who speak FOOD love language, couldn’t let that happen no matter how frustrated I was with the forgetting.    I am a forgetter, so really the frustration just triggers my own stuff!  A teacher or school staff member suggested not bringing it (rescuing) so she would learn to take ownership of remembering something she needed.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…………the suffering of a parent all over a child missing her peanut butter sandwich and carrots with ranch dressing for dipping.

Yesterday I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Mother Mary about Food being a love language.   2 hours, amazing stories, and lots of laughs later I ended the call with my cup of love overflowing.  I have much to share but for today, just one story about the forgotten school lunch bag and brother John.

Mother Mary:

” John couldn’t remember his lunch.  He had so many other important things on his mind.  I always brought it to the school office for him.  Until the day a teacher said stop bringing it or he would never remember to bring it himself.   So I stopped.   John’s best buddy and next door neighbor John walked to school with (brother) John every day.   Soon after I stopped bringing the lunch to school, friend John would come running back to get the forgotten lunch bag.  Friend John told me:  “I have to get it, otherwise if he doesn’t have any lunch I have to share mine because I feel sorry for him.”  From that day on I  always made sure son John got his lunch or brought it to the school office if he forgot it. So much for the teacher on that one.”

He probably wasn’t the only one of us 5 kids to be a lunch bag forgetter,  apparently just the most consistent.

All that conversation prompted my memory of a lunch bag favorite:  2 slices of white bread with Cheeze Whiz and a slice of bologna, 2 crisp red delicious apples and a Tab.  Mmmmm, tasty white, orange, brown goodness!

 

 

 

Day 18: This…Is Love In My World

The weekend begins with a little of this…wine glass

While working with this…salsa ingredients

to make this…finished salsa

to enjoy with him…JR in South Dakota

 

 
followingthewatershed

wa·ter·shed (noun) 1. an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. 2. an event or period marking a turning point, a change of course.

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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