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My Cringe-worthy County Fair Memory

Born and raised in Ohio, my husband and I both looked forward to our respective county fairs.  One of my earliest memories from my family’s trips to the fair is picking out a souvenir as we were leaving. I managed to find an e-bay picture of one that I chose, a furry monkey attached to a stick with elastic – creepy.

Image result for 1960s carnival prize monkey

I remember riding the pony ride and the Ferris wheel  and gobbling up fair food, particularly the sweet, crispy waffles – tasty.

Image result for fair waffles

The fair in Wyandot County ( Where I Come From) is held in mid-September. I remember it being really hot on some days and pretty darn chilly on others. Whether it was hot or cold, rainy or dry, the fair was the place to be, especially for those of us in 4-H clubs.  I focused on sewing, photography, and crafts and have often appreciated learning to mend and sew. Here’s one of my sewing projects from the 70s – bright.

I remember helping my 4-H advisor decorate our fair booth. My right hand blistered and ached from cutting out corrugated cardboard four-leaf clovers – painful.

Image result for cardboard 4-H clover

Four leaves for Head, Hands, Heart, and Health.

I remember going to the fair with my girlfriends and walking around with the hope of seeing certain boys.  It was usually pretty fun. But one night I got myself into quite a predicament – cringe-worthy.

In thinking about what happened that night, two song lyrics come to mind – “I am fifteen going on sixteen.” and “Why must I be a teenager in love?”

It was county fair time during September of my junior year of high school. I was still desperately wanting to reunite with the guy I had dated in the spring. He was moving on. I needed to get his attention.

I happened to be at the fair on the evening when 4-H lambs were being judged, and was hanging out with a girlfriend who had lambs. We were in the sheep barn talking about personal stuff before her time to show her lambs for judging. Realizing that a certain guy might also be in the vicinity, a plan was hatched. I have a hard time thinking that it was my idea, so it must have been hers.

As I mentioned, I took sewing 4-H projects, never animals. My only experience with sheep had been adoring the tiny bottle-fed lambs at my grandma’s house and occasionally touching a sheep at a petting zoo. Still, my fifteen-year-old mind, prompted by my broken teenage heart, agreed to TAKE ONE OF HER LAMBS INTO THE ARENA FOR JUDGING. She made it sound easy. It was not.

I guess I assumed that the sheep would know what to do. It either did not, or it somehow realized that I was not its shepherd.  When a 95 lb. girl tries to control an 80 lb. lamb in front of judges and an audience that possibly contains a certain guy, she finds herself wanting to disappear. Hope arose when I spotted another guy from my church youth group helping with the judging. I can’t even imagine what he thought when I begged him to help me. There wasn’t much he could do. I either managed to stay on my feet and fake some semblance of doing what the judge asked or have blocked out an incident of being dragged around by a lamb. I don’t remember how we got out of the ring. I also did not see the faces of anyone in the stands.

Later, when I asked my friend what her project score was, she told me that she expected that pen of lambs to get a B anyway. She’s a good friend. No one else ever mentioned the incident to me.

So why would I tell  you about it? It just seemed good to keep my post light this week. There are still a lot of serious thoughts rolling around in my head, thoughts that may be collected and shared soon. But for now, you can laugh a little and know that while at that time I felt certain that the two of should be reunited, God had a wonderful plan for me to meet and marry my husband.

And there’s another song lyric. “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.” He’s a much better shepherd than I am.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Joy of Chocolate Pie and Friendship

I am an infrequent pie maker, usually only baking pumpkin pie for family holiday celebrations. Still, while I was in the book department at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (a place I love to be), an unusual recipe book called “Pies & Tarts – How to Make More Than 50 Scrumptious Pies and Tarts” captured my attention and ignited my imagination. I flipped through the colorful life-sized photos and recipes of everything from Lemon Tart to Neapolitan Pie and envisioned myself creating each one. I justified the impulse buy when I saw the $3.99 price tag.

Later last summer, with several chocolate pie recipes in mind, I had the opportunity to taste Dove Chocolate Discoveries products and to stock my pantry with a good bit of their Chef-Series Dark Chocolate. A year went by, and I only used the book once to make an Apple and Blueberry Pie.

As my turn to host my BUNCO group for dessert and dice rolling approached, I passed over all of my tried-and-true recipes and decided to prepare something new for my guests. Looking through Pies & Tarts, I selected the Chocolate Raspberry Pie. The instructions were straight forward and I already had the chocolate. The only catch was that it, like most of the recipes in this book, was to be made in a removable bottom tart pan, something I did not own.  I decided to settle for using the glass pie plate in which my mother-in-law had created so many family desserts.

On the Saturday before my BUNCO event, my husband and I were in Columbus to celebrate Father’s Day with our sons and found an hour to visit the just-opened IKEA store.  Son Kyle came along out of curiosity and none of us planned to make a purchase.  But, I wandered off of the path (IKEA guides you through the store) to peruse kitchen gadgets and, lo and behold, my eyes fell on the tart pan of my dreams priced at only $6.99! As store closing approached, my awesome husband went through the crowded check-out area, coming out with my prize.

On Tuesday, the day before my event, Dave was headed out the door for a business trip when the new pan caught his attention. He asked me how I planned to remove the outside ring. I hadn’t planned it at all and had a vision of myself, alone in the house, holding the pie flat on my left hand and wiggling the ring off the crust with my right hand. Then I would have the ring dangling from my arm and likely have messy crumbs everywhere. “I don’t know,” I answered. He took a moment to come up with a suggestion. He would set the pie on top of an upside-down bowl and use both hands to wiggle the ring off, letting it drop down to the countertop. During that day, as I made the cookie crumb crust and luscious chocolate filling, I thought about what a wonderful gift God has given me in my husband. He cares enough to use his solution oriented nature to help me with the challenges in my life, and I am thankful. Still, I took a minute that evening to GOOGLE how to remove a pie from a tart pan. The culinary experts described the exact procedure Dave had come up with.

On Wednesday, less than thirty minutes before my first guest arrived, I set the pie on the bottom of a bowl, said a prayer, and wiggled the ring off, leaving a perfect pie in place. My BUNCO friends and I indulged in the rich, creamy chocolate pie with raspberries on the side. I was not disappointed to have several servings to put back in the refrigerator.

On Thursday morning, two friends who also play the flute came over for a trio practice. As we finished, one needed to hurry off and I invited the other to have a piece of chocolate pie with me before leaving. We sat at my dining room table, enjoying the rare chance to share leisurely conversation over a yummy dessert. She liked the pie so much that she wanted to make it for her dark-chocolate-loving husband’s birthday, so I washed the pan, shared my tips for a good result, and sent her on her way with the pie book and my pan. Hers came out beautifully, too, and was enjoyed by all at the birthday dinner on Sunday.

I was blessed with JOY during this string of commonplace happenings as they resulted in a goal accomplished, a wonderful pie, and most of all the chance to bless several friends with a homemade dessert while we enjoyed each other’s company.

I can hardly wait to use my book and tart pan again! I’ve got my eye on the Banoffee Pie recipe (banana + toffee = banoffee).

From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. Proverbs 12:14

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Wear Out Your Chairs

I was alarmed to recently discover that the fabric on one of our dining room chairs had worn out, revealing the foam padding underneath. In fact, I tried to deny the issue by stitching the hole together and moving that chair to a spot seldom occupied. When a second seat developed a hole, I had to face the facts.

As we moved into our home nearly twelve years ago, my husband and I selected a beautiful new table with six chairs and a china closet for our new dining room. While the construction remains solid, I admit that I only looked at the pretty pattern of the fabric in 2005 without considering its durability.

Years ago, when the vinyl seat covers of some of our chairs split open, we opted to purchase a replacement set.  This time, reupholstering was the answer, so I checked with friends about who to call and started browsing through fabrics. The two of us were still sitting on perfectly good cushions, though, and didn’t feel much urgency to get the work done. I ordered a few samples from on-line stores, but weeks went by until a deadline presented itself.  (Deadlines are often-needed motivators for us. Last year I decided that we would install a long-overdue handrail in our stairway just three days prior to my mom’s weekend visit. Dave was a good sport, enlisting a handy friend’s help to complete my hastily planned project.)

This time, I gave about six weeks’ notice, telling him that I wanted the chairs ready for my Bunco group’s gathering in June.  As he wondered aloud whether we could get someone to complete the work in that time frame, I shared that I would love it if we could do them ourselves. We decided that if he could figure out a way to remove a seat, we would attempt our first upholstery project. He rounded up the necessary tools and I ordered the fabric.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, we worked together, with him removing seats while I measured and cut fabric. I then carefully stretched the pieces tightly over the old fabric for him to staple in place.

The first one was nerve wracking, mostly because I wanted them to look professionally done even though we were completely inexperienced! It turned out pretty well. (We went back later to fix one little thing.)

Old on the left – New on the right

Feeling more confident, we did another chair that day and the remaining four on Sunday. With the Monday holiday to spare, we successfully completed the project.

As I researched fabrics, I realized that a more heavy duty material would outlast the original quilting-style fabric. That made our task of achieving a smooth fit a little harder, but I hope that it will be decades before I notice any holes.

Our dining room chairs have always been well used. In each of our homes, we have set up a table near or in the kitchen for family meals and have not opted for a formal dining room. We are on our third table (fourth if you consider our kids’ table).

 

Son, Eric, on the right and friend, Jeff, on the left in 1988.

Our first table came from my grandma’s home in 1984.

Our first purchased set lasted until 2005 after these chairs were replaced.

Our current table with the newly re-upholstered chairs.

Gathering these photos, I was surprised at the sentimentality I felt about all of the times we’ve used our chairs.  Most of our family meals have been simple, but we have been nourished physically, relationally, and spiritually as we have made it a priority to eat together after bowing in thankful prayer. With our kids grown and on their own now, only two chairs get used these days, but I treasure the meals that Dave and I share at home and our evening games of Quiddler played at our table.

I’m convinced, and research backs it up, that families who eat together are more likely to flourish. A 2014 article from The Atlantic states, “children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

So, wear out your chairs! I’ll let you know if we hang out our upholstering shingle.

 

 

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NEED HELP? (at the dentist part 3)

An update: Last week’s dental check-up went PERFECTLY – no cavities, no tartar, no yelling (see Yelled At)

my hard work paid off.

As I return to my “at the dentist” series, I share the story of 4 little words overheard in the waiting room.  A while back, a friend of mine was dealing with a painful foot problem that necessitated her wearing a walking boot.  Even walking was difficult during that lengthy time, and she was unable to drive.  It was one of those times when problems seem to compound, and she also needed to see the dentist. As she explained her situation, I learned that we go to the same dentist and that I was available on the morning of her appointment to help her out.  I’m not sure whether she asked me to do it or I offered, but a plan was made for me to pick her up at home, take her to the office and come back for her when she was done.  We built in plenty of time since the cumbersome boot would slow her down.

She thanked me over and over for the help, while apologizing for needing it. When we had made our way into the building and up to the office window, I stood next to my friend as she explained to the  receptionist that she had to have me drive her because of an injury that put her in a boot and kept her from getting there on her own. She was understandably frustrated with the ongoing pain and inconvenience of her situation.

I can still see the kindness in the woman’s face and hear the compassion in her response, “Everybody needs help sometime.” Caring and true words.

For some of us, though, “everybody” means “everybody but me.” I know people who serve others with seemingly endless energy, who recognize and meet the needs they see, but are hesitant, even resistant, to ask for or accept help. I’ve witnessed this while volunteering in our church’s Meal Train program.  Last winter, my husband and I were able to take a simple meal to an elderly couple from our church while they were home-bound with a health issue.  The wife had been reluctant to receive meals, but now admitted that the help was needed and appreciated while she cared for her husband.  This saintly lady has labored for the hungry and disadvantaged of our community for many years. I first came to know her when I began taking a turn working in our local Food Pantry, and was impressed with her strength and energy.  Last winter was her “sometime”.

Our Food Pantry is a combined effort of area churches that serves people who meet residence and income qualifications – and who admit that they need help. I’ve seen first-time visitors to the Pantry tentatively enter and get in line and heard how the lovely woman who collects their information and helps them make out their food request makes them feel welcome and at ease.  She, too, expresses that sometimes we need a little help.

Asking for help isn’t easy for many of us.  I suspect that few people ask our church for meals during a difficult situation, so it is the church family’s job to notice the need and contact our Caring Cooks coordinators about a Meal Train. Sometimes the coordinators make and deliver the food themselves rather than asking us volunteers for help!

I’m not always quick to recognize and meet other people’s needs.  It’s partially because I feel inadequate or nervous about what might be required.  Taking a friend to see my dentist whose office is in my neighborhood was easy, but if someone needed a ride to Pittsburgh or Columbus…(see Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares). Being  part of a caring church gives me opportunities to join others in making a difference in our community in ways that fit my schedule and abilities.

And when the recipients’ needs are met, I find my own heart filling up with JOY.  As gratitude is expressed, I often reply, “It’s my pleasure!” Perhaps I’ll start adding, “Everybody needs help sometime.”

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

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