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

What does Diet Pepsi, my sister-in-law, and Tina Fey’s Bossypants have in common? October 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauradegroot @ 2:20 am
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They saved my life.

Diet Pepsi out of the soda fountain only is a rare splurge.  Recently it was necessary to keep me away while driving from Florida to Michigan.  My sister-in-law Bethani has a rare sense of humor when delivering accounts of their life. Her version of teaching kids to read in the hallway of a school, my nephews crazy blood types, & the latest adventures of my brother provided  what was necessary to keep me alert on poor radio reception roadways. And Tina Fey…well she is downright funny, certainly sarcastic, refreshingly honest, appropriately edgy and she read me her book Bossypants for hours, thus the  #1 reason I was able to keep driving all the way from our townhome on the water to our 100 year old home in the Mitten.  I am alive and living in Grand Rapids MI.   Thank you Bethani, Tina, DP from the soda fountain.

It is beautiful here.  People from here bring you all kinds of freshly picked apples to say, “Hi, we are glad you are here.” Our girls are here and we can walk to each others houses.  The farmers market is more convenient to walk to than to drive to.  And this 100 year old house has the claw foot tub I asked for in a selfish prayer of want, not need; and it makes me think about my grandma Rozie and her farmhouse  in Iowa that I loved to visit.

Two weeks after our arrival here, we used our packing skills and moving brawn to move my parents from their beloved lake haven in Minnesota to Iowa, where they’ve been greeted warmly and have easy access to grandchildren.  Due to the large amount of recent experience with moving, I thought I would pass on some reality and a couple of helpful tips if moving  is in your near future.

Moving is traumatic.

Say yes if people want to bring you meals when your house is in chaos.  You will not feel like cooking and you do need to keep up your strength.  You may have to succumb to fast food, delivery pizza, ramen noodles and cold cereal.  No one will die.

Even if you are looking forward to it, moving includes loss and grief.  I’m not kidding.  Weird behavior due to grief will be seen in adults, children and pets.  Expect it.  Hugs and ice-cream help.  (So do adult beverages, for the adults…)

Craigslist is an affordable way to get a lot of boxes.  Apple boxes are the very best. Before you start packing, get all your supplies: boxes, lots of packing tape, packing paper, bubble wrap, duct tape, paper/pens, multiple sharpies because they walk away.  Its frustrating to get into the packing zone and not have what you need.

Colored duct tape is Fun and helpful.  Every room gets a different color.  Home depot has a healthy selection.  Secure boxes with packing tape (3M is the best.  Don’t use the cheap stuff  – you WILL swear) and get a heavy duty tape gun.  Put a piece of colored duct tape on top of or across the corner of your box.  This will help you see it from multiple sides when the box is stacked and believe you me, there will be stacks  Sharpies write on that tape nicely.

Write on tape OR number boxes and write on a piece of paper/notebook, the number of the box and list what is inside.  I did both for this last move.  The only thing I have not found is my winter bedding.  Where in the world can a King size quilt hide? I’m slightly concerned I took it to a cleaners in FL and forgot it there.  Why write on the box, even if you are not moving far?  BECAUSE YOU CANNOT REMEMBER WHAT YOU PUT IN THE BOX!  This is a universal fact.  No one’s memory is that sharp when the homespace gets deconstructed then reconstructed.  You can’t pack in a day or two and I promise you cannot keep track of what is in each box.  Keep track of your children, each other, pets,  whatever medication you’re on, phone/computer chargers, your Bible, and a clean pair of underware.  Write on the boxes people.

To pack dishes that you don’t want to break (this is assuming there are some you have that you hope might break so you have an excuse to get new ones.  For pity’s sake, don’t pack those dishes please – give them away and get new ones when you arrive):  put paper plates or dishcloths between each plate.  Make a stack of five or six plates.  Wrap that stack in a beach or bath towel.  Put the stack on its side in a heavy-duty box that is padded on the bottom with a pillow or towels or packing paper.  I just packed and moved two households across MANY states.  Nothing broke.  BOOM Shakalaka!

Throw things away, give things away.  Sell things on Craigslist that you don’t use, are done with, haven’t touched in a year or more or simply do not like.  You won’t miss a thing.  OK, true confession:  I do miss my piano, but it went to a really good home.

You will need things in your new space that you don’t have.  Happens every time.  You will have things form your old space that don’t work in the new.  Craigslist – Thrift – or get what you want that works, fits, makes you happy.  It’s only money.  Moderation people…don’t misunderstand me here.

During the packing and the moving, Rule Number One:  Be nice to each other.  If one person is losing it – let them, bring them hot chocolate, ice cream, coffee, their blankie.  Remember, your turn is right around the corner.  Our rule:  anyone can fall apart, just not at the same time.  You may have to adjust this for the number of people in your household.

Once you’re our and then you’re in, allow time for your mind, feet, heart, eyes, and emotions to move in and find their way around the new homespace.

Have a picnic on the floor of your new place.  Eat favorite food groups.  Call it camping with drywall.   This is a great way to break it in with memory making.

Get used to this question:  “Where is the___?”

People move everyday.  Mission:  It’s Possible!  The rough part doesn’t last forever and there are plenty of good parts.

Do you have a tip or some reality to share on the topic?  Please do.

Feeling welcomed to our new homespace, home state.



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.


“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.



The Doors Calvin Opened April 25, 2014

Filed under: Adventure,Courage,Dogs,Expectations,new places,Uncategorized — lauradegroot @ 2:46 am

The trademark of an official Floridian is that one will not go in the ocean during the ‘winter months because one thinks the water is too cold.

After 18 months, I am officially not a Floridian.  Though the water is chilly at first some days, if you stay there a wave or five, it is warm enough to enter.   Call me Coloradoan.  There are still many times I sit or walk on the sand and feel like I am on an extended time away from Colorado.  Not vacation exactly, maybe in-between there and somewhere else.

I think I was attached to familiar and would like that status again.  With the exception of a few good restaurants, a church we attend, some great people we hang out with,  and the ocean, South Florida still has an awful lot of unfamiliar.

“Unfamiliar is part of the adventure,” so say’s my confident-self.

“Listen Polly positive, where in the heck am I and what am I supposed to be doing here in this foreign place?, ” replies my cynic-self.

That dialogue needs interrupting, re-writing, a new perspective.  Or I am going to miss out on something.


It is dawning on me that walking through new doors, going to new places, meeting new people, trying new things could be done with  wide-eyed expectation.   Too often I respond with fear, defensiveness,  sometimes unwillingness.

As a natural connector, a liaison of resources, being unfamiliar is frustrating.  I am not helpful to people because of what I don’t know.  Instead I really need connectors, liaisons.    I’d rather be needed than needy.  Just being honest…  I’m aware this is a struggle, and I’m trying to let it simmer down.

Recently I  entered a place where familiar doesn’t matter.  I walked through a door that Calvin opened.   My ordinary yellow labrador, who prefers people over retrieving anything,  took me to a place I otherwise would not have gone.  The place was something like neutral territory.

Just over 6 months ago, Calvin and I took the Therapy Dog International (TDI) test.  We trained for 6 weeks and passed, even though he had to repeat the “leave it”  task.  (meaning to walk calmly by a row of bowls filled with temptations; balls, toys – no problem;   dish FULL of dog treats – problem).  Once the paperwork was complete, we just had to find a place to go ‘visiting’.

One day in the park, I met a man with a friendly goldendoodle  who was TDI certified.  He told me to contact a local Assisted Living community where they often went.   Calvin and I have walked through the doors of that place for many weeks now.  Because of my time working for a hospice in Boulder, I am fairly comfortable in the setting.  Staff and residents appreciate dog visits and Calvin is pretty good with the Elders.  He has leaned up against a few, threatening to topple them as they give his head a good scratch, but   we are working on that!  One particular man, who is somewhere between 95 and 100, (the age changes a little each time I am there), calls Calvin the beast.  Yet, when his thick fingers find just the right spot behind the ear, Calvin sits perfectly still, not even tail movement.  It mesmerizes me because this is the only person that makes Calvin goes that still.

A request came through TDI for an organization wanting therapy dogs.  The organization was a women’s drug and alcohol rehab center. This would be a big commitment as  back to back groups of women have about an hour outside having a snack, a smoke, a visit with therapy dogs.  We decided to try it once.  The outdoor setting is a circular space with a concrete half wall, bench all along the inside of the wall, shade tree in the center.  Attached to one side  is a gazebo .  A chair blocks the one way in so the dogs may wander from person to person.  Only one pup likes to play with the ball.   They all enjoy attention.   There is no familiar-unfamiliar.   No one is from there, knows someone there, or thought they would be there one day.   I’m surprised to find myself  there; ordinary me with my ordinary yellow lab.  I’m surprised by the women I hang out with.  They could be my best friend, my daughter, my neighbor, my mother, me.  Being Floridian, Coloradoan, Georgian, Texan, or New Yorkan doesn’t matter.   The neutral space was leveled by common love of dogs, being loved by dogs, and sharing dog stories.  I’m so glad I didn’t miss this.

We continue to visit there.

Maybe familiar isn’t all I need.  Maybe being Floridian isn’t the goal.  Maybe the struggle will give way to expectancy.   Maybe Calvin will open another door.

If he does…I’m going in.


Calvin and a few of his fellow visitors…
























This Is Dangerous April 8, 2014

Filed under: Cookbooks,Cooking,Dessert,Food Stories,Mother Mary,Uncategorized — lauradegroot @ 2:47 am
Tags: , ,

Frankly I’m disappointed with the publicized Foodie world.

They made my favorite food a bad 4 letter word (“carb”); they send mixed messages about what To Eat and what Not To Eat.  They make talented cooks/bakers/chefs cry on television when they are kicked off-let go-voted away from the kitchen because what they made was not good enough.  They claim: sugar – bad; salt – bad; fat – bad = Flavor – bad.  They tipped the food pyramid upside down.  They hail the praises of a food or beverage and the next thing you know, that very item lands on  the questionable or “bad” list.

Last night we had a local college student for dinner.   He is a storytelling foodie and appreciates home-made.  When he inquired about dessert, I realized I had none.  That didn’t sit well with the love language part of my being.  So, while I was talking on the phone I pulled out Mother Mary’s Cookie Book and landed on ‘Brownies From Heaven’.  From start to completion – 30 min.  Topped those hot  chocolate babies with some home-made hot fudge.  I was not going to send that boy home without dessert.

So today here is what is setting on my counter .
20140407_153851“This is dangerous.”  I spoke that out loud after cutting one, then two, then 3 small…really pretty small…like bite-size small, well maybe two-bite size small pieces.  The knife is sitting on top of the pan of uncut gooey goodness.  Hot fudge stands by…dangerous right?  My Grandma Rozie probably never ever said those words looking at the same food.  I’ll bet she would have said: “This looks Delicious.  There sure are an awful lot of brownies for Grandpa Rozie and I.  Who could I share them with?”

The bad thought about something so good startled me.  Food is not our enemy.  Food is not out to harm.  Food actually isn’t confusing.  Those brownies are Good.  Nothing bad at all about them.  The only bad thing would be for me to act on the temptation to eat the rest of the pan, one bite-size piece at a time, in one sitting.  I’ve let too much bad publicity influence my food thinking.

Yesterday I was invited to a cooking class in a friend’s home.  She had a chef come over and teach us to make paella.  A number of firsts happened during that class:  first time seeing and using a paella pan; first time seeing a whole squid beheaded, de-tentacled, relieved from its fins and cellophane backbone, then cut in rings.  I am proud to say, I didn’t look away, though near to gagging.  While de-veining shrimp I heard it repeatedly called the ‘poopsac’.  That was a first, and the last time I will let a vein stay in my shrimp. First time using real saffron threads, spanish bomba rice and spanish paprika.  Not the first time I’ve seen a chef with their own knife bag with professional tools, but it was the first time I was allowed to use one of those knives.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve eaten authentic spanish paella with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, calamari, and mussels.  First time I’ve participated in its preparation.   Yes, I ate the tender squid and the mussels too.  If I ever make it for you – I might leave those ingredients out unless I find out you love squid and mussels.   Then I would put them in for sure.

First time I’ve had someone tell and show how to “layer the flavors”.  It takes time.  And that time is worth it.

People, Food Is Good.  Learning about it, looking at it, preparing it, shopping for it, eating it.   Let’s not be bamboozled by the negative food PR.  I decided to listen Grandma Rozies voice in my head and share the brownie love with a friend who has twins on the way and a house full of kids and company.   Don’t worry hubby – I’m gonna leave you a big-bite-size one.

Eat all things in moderation.  Enjoy food.  Even brownies.  They really aren’t dangerous.




Where Did I Go? April 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauradegroot @ 7:43 am

It it time to answer this question:

“Where did you go?”

Geographically, I went 9.3 miles North and East of where I previously picked up my mail.  We bought our place in November, spent 3 1/2 weeks remodeling, moved in December and 2 days later our girls came home.

We celebrated Christmas as a family.

The college girls returned to school.

We unpacked boxes, hung things on the walls, gave more furniture and stuff away.

Then, wonderful people kept showing up – in the kitchen, on the deck; coming for dinner; staying over.

We unpacked the storage spaces and under the beds where we just “put things for now.”

Still more giving away, loaning out, a little storing.

In the leaving of one place and coming to another my desk/space disappeared.  I got a portable computer – but somehow the lack of location has become a new obstacle  of sitting down to write.  And I had been on such a roll.  Why in the world is it so hard to get started…again?

I still have no desk.  I’m sitting on the patio, looking at the boats, the water, listening to the neighbors chatter. (BTW – sound travels loudly over water).  And I am starting again with this messy little note, explaining where I’ve gone.

Sometimes it’s helpful to go back to the basics when beginning again, so I will copy here what this blog, Crema, is meant to be. (From my website:

espresso: a strong coffee brewed by forcing steam under pressure through darkly roasted, powdered coffee beans.

crema: the tan-colored foam that forms on the top of espresso–the simple, yet joyful evidence of coffee done well.

Crema is a place for writing about the simple yet joyful evidence of life done well. Not perfect mind you – not the writing nor the life, but observations of lessons learned, beauty noted, insight grasped. It is a space for stories about my favorite things, current events, and the activity of God.

Crema – the foam – is a part of the espresso beverage. It is the visual lure of espresso, the aroma, the mouthfeel, the flavor, the aftertaste of espresso.

Crema – the writing – is a part of life. It is in telling the story I share awareness of the sensation of Life, the flavor, color, commotion, the sentiment.

I most often enjoy crema, the beverage, in conversation with others. I am hoping that will happen here in Crema, the blog, as well.

I hope not to be gone so long this time.




Day 31: And Finally, A Word From My Sponsor November 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauradegroot @ 2:37 am

Final Button 3He is a self-described, King of Leftovers.  He has a love affair with White Castle and has since childhood.  He was famous in our home on Saturday mornings for whipping up pancakes or french toast or taking us all out for donuts.   He created the “clean out the container” game which we played most Sundays after church.  He likes being married to one who speaks Food as a love language.  And finally he wanted to contribute his strong opinion to the series:

Men are better fed than understood.

Thanks hubby.


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.




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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stories of a life captivated by an imaginative, creative God.


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