Ellie's Grand Adventure

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Well, it was a crazy weekend. If you followed along on social media you know that on Thursday night things got rough around here when Ellie disappeared from our yard in less than 15 minutes. Up until now the cats have had supervised free range of our yard, but we're super careful not to let them go far. Well, somehow Ellie managed to bolt so far that we couldn't find her despite searching for hours. What I wouldn't give to know what startled her!

(sidenote: Just last week I told Dave that I was truly content and happy with our life. There wasn't anything significant I'd change if I could. As you'll see, that was probably not a smart move. ;) )

The thing that made all this even more tricky was that we had a planned vacation starting the next morning. We were supposed to take off at 4:30am for Maine as a late anniversary trip and to go to a friend's wedding.

We went to bed hoping Ellie would show up during the night. Of course that was the night that we had a severe thunderstorm complete with hail and torrential downpour. To say Dave and I slept that night would be an over statement. Between the two of us we might have had 4 hours of fitful sleep.

We did end up leaving for the airport with aching hearts because we thought for sure Ellie would show up in the morning when Dave's parents stopped by to look around for her. By the time we landed in Boston and heard from them that she hadn't shown up, we realized she was probably lost for real and began to feel like we'd made a terrible mistake. We started posting her picture online so that people could keep an eye out for her and organizing friends to stop by the house and check for her.

I won't go into details, but lets just say our emotional state was not the best. Ellie is our first pet together and is a really special part of our love story, not to mention she's a huge part of what makes our house a home. We really battled against a lot of terrible feelings Thursday through Sunday, the biggest being guilt for having left home in the first place. I don't know if I've ever seen Dave that discouraged in our five years together.

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Somehow we got through Friday and Saturday and made it to the wedding Saturday evening. It was so good to be at the wedding and be able to celebrate our dear friend's marriage. That was by far the best part of the trip.

So that night, we were lying in bed complaining that our flight home wasn't until Sunday evening, when Dave started looking at flights that would get us home earlier. He found one that was relatively affordable and would get us home at least 12 hours earlier. We booked the tickets, threw our stuff in our bags, slept for 4 hours and then drove back to Boston through the sunrise. It felt so good to be headed home, where we could DO something to try and find Ellie. Things fell together really well for us, from the car rental place being open at 7am, to catching the bus to the airport and even getting seats together on the flight.

We got home around 1pm and a friend met us at home to help with the search. I got to work making huge "Lost Cat" signs and Dave did a preliminary search of the neighborhood. We even changed into fresh clothes so that they would smell the most like home and leave the scent wherever we went. 

After putting up the signs all over the neighborhood and checking at the local humane society, we started going door to door all up and down our road with flyers. When someone who usually hates talking on the phone and meeting strangers gets over their introversion and does all that, you know things are extreme. It felt so good to do something, but every false lead made our hearts sink. It was hard to keep our spirits up.

By six, we were so exhausted and discouraged. Thankfully we had friends who had come over to make us dinner. I don't know what we would have done if they hadn't been there with a hot meal and hugs. We hadn't had a real meal since Saturday morning and things looked better after refueling. We were going to head out and do a thorough search of the whole area that evening, thinking Ellie would probably be moving when it was cooler and darker.

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As I got up from our table and looked out our screen door, who did I see but Ellie! She slunk onto the front porch and sniffed the things we'd left out there to help guide her back. She almost looked like a different cat, she was so skinny and skittish. But I knew it was her right away. I was so scared she'd run away again as I unlocked the door and hurried outside to grab her.

Once she was inside we realized how tired, thirsty and hungry she was. It had been almost 3 days exactly to when she ran off and we don't think she found much to eat, drink or rest during that time. She looked unsteady on her feet and emptied her food and water bowls multiple times that night. We on the other hand smothered her with kisses and hugs.

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To say we were happy would be an understatement. We just couldn't believe the ordeal was over. And to think that if we hadn't taken that earlier flight, we wouldn't have been around when she showed up! It made it all worth it!  

We've been on cloud nine ever since. It may be hard to understand if you've never had a pet go missing, but it's a special sort of torture to know your fur baby is out there and you can't help it. She could probably get away with murder right now and we'd just let her. The one thing we won't be allowing anytime soon is outdoor time.

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Create: Charred Corn Tacos

So I'll probably never be a food blogger.  I don't have the urge and am not nearly tidy enough in the kitchen to take pictures of the cooking. I also dig into the food too fast to get a pretty photo of it. BUT. When I discover something this amazing I have to share. It's practically a duty to let you all know about these tacos.

I grew up with flour tortillas, which were fine, but this summer I discovered how yummy a warmed corn tortilla can be. Then I grilled a couple corn cobs on a whim (too lazy to boil it) and threw some peppers and onions next to them. Something magical happens to those veggies as they get a little charred by the flames. They require no more fussing than a squeeze of lime juice and a little salt and pepper and bam — best salsa ever. Add the salsa to a tortilla and other amazing things like avocado and cheese? Perfect summer dinner.

I'm not exaggerating when I say we had these 5 times in one week. They're that good.

Since it's hot and sticky and I don't really love cooking when there are other fun summer activities to get on to, these have been perfect. I use some precooked meat, throw the veggies on the grill, and we have a fresh, delicious dinner in 15 minutes. The secret is that the grilled sweet corn and fresh cilantro make the whole taco so flavorful that these could be served at a fancy shmancy taco place.

You can fill your taco like me and proportion everything just so, or you can do it like Dave and pile it so full that he can't even pinch it shut at top. By the end of the meal he can make a whole taco from just the droppings that have fallen out while he was eating.

Also, these are just as good without the meat, so if you vegetarian or just don't have meat in the house, these are still a winner.

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Consider this recipe a guideline, the ingredients are so fresh and simple that it would be nearly impossible to mess up. We use whatever is in the fridge and throw it on the table to go on the tortillas. The salsa is the real star of the show. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper or a handful of smaller red peppers
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb pre-cooked, chopped meat of some sort (chicken, fish, pork, etc)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili powder (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • corn tortillas

Additional optional toppings (go a little crazy with these):

  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • cheese
  • chopped lettuce
  • avocado
  • sliced cabbage
  • grilled pineapple
  • lime wedges
  •  

Instructions:

  1. Heat grill to high. 
  2. Slice onion lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. shuck corn. Cut pepper in half and remove stem and seeds. 
  3. Place vegetables over flames and cook until slightly charred. 
  4. Remove and chop veggies into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper and dress with the chopped cilantro and lime juice. 
  5. Season meat with chili, cumin, salt and pepper. 
  6. Heat tortillas either in a skillet or wrapped in aluminum in the oven. 
  7. Top each tortilla with veggie salsa, chicken and all the other toppings your heart desires. 

a toast

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My little sister, Magdalena (always Magdi to me), got married a little over a month ago. It was a wonderful day and a really fun weekend. Dave and I still look at each other and say "I miss that weekend. That was fun." 

Well, she got her pictures back and I thought I'd share a few of them as well as the little toast I was honored to give at their reception.

Good Evening.  

I’m Esther, and I am very happy to be here tonight to celebrate the wedding of my baby sister Magdi to this tall dude. My mom made me promise not to make anyone cry, so I’m going to do my best.

Thank you all for being here today. I know some of you have come from far and no matter the distance I know it means so much to Magdi, Christian and our whole family.

Magdi, I still remember getting to listen to your heart beat through a stethoscope while still in utero, so you might say we’ve been friends since before you were born. With 23 years of knowing Magdi under my belt, I may be the closest thing to an expert on Magdi. So, Christian, as the bossy, know-it-all big sister, I thought I’d help you out and share some insight.

First things first, in case the 5 coffee making devices you two registered for weren’t a sufficient enough hint, always make sure Magdi has a steady stream of coffee. I’m pretty sure half her blood content is caffeine and I wouldn’t suggest depriving her.

Secondly, if Magdi ever suggests you have a sleep over with goats and chickens, politely decline. I once said yes and we ended up with fleas.

Additionally, if you haven’t yet, you’ll soon learn that Magdi is a girl with a soft heart. I once woke up in the middle the night to her sobbing across the room because a Doctor Who character had died. Be careful what movies you let her watch!

Don’t be surprised if you stop being called Christian and just become “Magdalena’s husband” especially in Hillsdale County. She’s known everywhere she goes, and those around her are defined by their relationship to her. Case in point, I’ve been “Magdalena’s Sister” for years.

Finally, if you know what’s good for you, don’t keep her up late to get stuff done or to settle an argument, just give her a kiss and send her off to bed. This girl doesn’t operate well without sleep and woe to anyone who gets in the way of her and her bed.

Christian, that’s about it, you are now prepared for all that lies ahead. You have chosen a wonderful woman to be your wife and all I ask is that you take good care of her and keep her laughing.

In conclusion, how appropriate that on the same fair grounds that Magdalena won countless 4H blue ribbons she’s celebrating her biggest trophy yet — both literally and figuratively.

All joking aside, from the bottom of my heart, it gives me great pleasure to finally call you my brand new very tall, little brother.

Please raise your glasses to Magdalena and Christian. May the happiness you have tonight only be the start of a wonderful life together.

P.S. I made my mom cry anyway, but I think by that time she was already a lost cause and anything would have got her going. ;) 

Photo credits: Luna Dolce Photography

dear future little one

(Disclaimer: I am NOT pregnant. I repeat, NOT PREGNANT.)

Dear future little one,

You’ve been on my mind lately.

Maybe it’s because of your cute cousins or maybe because it seems like so many of our friends are pregnant. Maybe because I’m the age my mother was when she had me. Maybe it’s because your dad and I finally feel like we’re catching our breath after building the business and our new home, and you might be the next step. Whatever the reason, I want you to know I’ve been thinking about you.

In case you ever wonder what your mom and dad were up to before you, these days our favorite thing is to be together (preferably outdoors). We love spending weekends in the woods, on the lake, or traveling to see new things. We savor slow evenings at home with the kitties. I spend lots of time taking pictures, cooking, and trying to make things pretty. Your dad can’t get enough of tinkering on cars, driving his convertible, and eating ice cream in bed. We visit your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as often as possible.  Everything isn’t perfect, but life is good. I’m sure someday it’ll even be hard for us to remember what life was like before you. The important thing is that we laugh a lot, enjoy life and love each other very much.

Whenever God decides it’s time for you to join us, we’re going to do our very best and trust grace to cover the rest. We have so many hopes and dreams for you already. Things like hoping you grow up knowing the joy of grass between your little toes. Or that you learn to put people before things. That you’ll find good friends in books as well as in real people. That you stand up for what’s right and defend the weak. But most of all our wish for you is that when you get here, you’ll grow up knowing how loved you are. By us as well as by your heavenly Father. Because in the end, that’s really all that matters.

Until then we’ll be here, loving each other, learning lessons, chasing adventures, and wondering about you.

Already love you,

me

p.s. If I ever seem like super boring ol’ mom, just know there was a time when I almost broke my toe jet-skiing with your Aunt Hannah and Uncle Jamie. Ask your dad about it. Even he was impressed.

 

Small Joys: Gardening

My mom and grandparents have always been the green thumbs of the family. As a kid, I saw the garden and its associated chores more as a punishment then a pleasure. But the just like my blue eyes and shorter stature, there are certain passions that inevitably pop up and take root in my heart that I can only blame my parents for passing on. This year, that gardening gene, 25 years dormant, flared up. Unable to resist my DNA, I had to dig in the dirt and grow little plant. 

I've made some mistakes, learned much and enjoyed every minute of it. Compared to my mother's half acre gardens, I've started small with just three 4'x8' beds and a couple flower beds around the house.

At our old house, I never planted anything I cared about and had no interest in landscaping. I think deep down I felt it was best not to invest too much into a place we might not stay for a long time. This new home has been the opposite. I've put effort and work into long term investments. I haven't hesitated to let my heart fall in love and let my dreams fill this place. This is home. I can feel my own roots digging deep into this place just as much as my little plant's are.

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Gathering up things that brought joy this week and taking a moment to be grateful.

These lilies surprised me. They were a bonus that came with the house and I didn't know about until recently. As they grew and put out buds I could barely contain my excitement to see what color they would be. They did not disappoint. I don't think I've ever seen this color lily and I just love it.

The same happened with a couple rose bushes I found hiding in our flower beds. They're done now, but I loved visiting them every day they were blooming and seeing their pink blossoms swarming with bees.

My vegetable garden has been doing so well, even though I'm the silly goose who planted enough broccoli and cabbage seeds to fill 10 beds with only those two plants. My mom is an expert lettuce grower and I'm working on my own skills in that category. So far so good, but not quite big enough for a salad yet.

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My peppers have baby peppers! I'm so excited to make some salsa this summer and can barely wait for it.

Along our garage someone planted three lavender plants along with strawberries. I'd never heard of this combo. My best guess is that the lavender is meant to keep pests away from the berries? This past week the lavender was ready for picking. So far I've harvested 4 bunches and have them hung to dry in our bedroom. I can't get over how amazing fresh lavender smells compared to all the scented products that claim to be lavender. The real thing is infinitely better.

Nothing has made me feel more like a real gardener than when I said "I need rubber boots." I haven't had a pair since I moved away from my parent's farm. They are completely linked to garden and farm work in my mind. I found L.L.Bean wellies that are easy to pull on and will hopefully last a long time. Now my feet don't get wet when I'm working outside. 

Love of red geraniums are another trait I inherited from my mom and this plant I bought last year fulfills every dream of deep red flowers I've ever had. Somehow I kept it alive on my dryer all winter and now it's putting our the most beautiful red petals. I've propagated a couple from this plant and I'm hoping its babies have the same color blooms.

Finally, I'm so grateful for sunsets at home. I've been spending the last hour or so of every day our in the yard tending to my plants. It's cool enough for transplanting and watering. A bonus is that it's also the most beautiful time of day. We allowed the back half of our yard to grow out instead of mowing it. Every evening I catch my breath when the wind and sunset play across the long grass. 

I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more... though I know that IS the noblest ambition... but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.
— L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams

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