Monday, October 27, 2008

There and Back Again

Last week was a week of day trips! On Tuesday my boss and I left EARLY in the morning and drove over to Lansing, MI (about a 4 hour drive) to have lunch and visit with a missionary couple who's currently in the U.S. on medical leave. Though our primary connection now is their service through my employer, my friendship with Tom & Lisa and their family started way back when I was in middle school and they volunteered with the junior high youth group at my church. They are a great couple who look forward to returning to Mali where they have a thriving and varied ministry in the town of Kadiolo. They also have an incredible testimony of God's faithfulness to them through some really trying times this year--back in March Lisa became gravely ill, and through various complications with her condition and the medications that were administered, woke up one morning during recovery to discover she was completely deaf. The family was evacuated to the U.S., where she spent the next six months unable to hear any sound. Then in September she had surgery for a cochlear implant (bionic ear) that has enabled her to hear again, albeit in a very different manner than she was used to. The human body is simply amazing, and there's some pretty incredible technology out there! It was such a blessing to sit across the table from them and hear them tell of how the Lord has been so faithful to them throughout this whole trial. You can check out their blog if you'd like to know more of their story. Here's a pic with my friends in Michigan:
Saturday morning Travis and I headed up to Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin (about a 3 hr drive) to meet my friend Allison, who came down from northern Wisconsin for a "rendezvous in Baraboo" (which happens to be the home of the original Ringling Bros. Circus, founded in 1884 by the 5 Ringling brothers, and where you'll find the Circus World Museum - just a little trvia for you.) After a brief stroll through Baraboo's courthouse square, we decided on lunch at the quaint Garden Party Cafe. We then spent the afternoon hiking at the park, first up the cliffs on one side of the lake and down again, then along the rim, then up and down the cliffs on the other side. The view from the top of the cliffs was incredible--the tree-covered countryside was awash in autumn hues for as far as the eye could see. It had the appearance of an impressionist painting--several dabs of green here, some spots of orange and yellow here, some splotches of red and brown over there, all running into each other and creating a spectaculuar whole. Here are a few photos from our hike:
[Egads! I looked out my window just now and it's snowing. SNOWING. On October 27th. Sigh.]

Before bidding each other farewell we enjoyed a hearty dinner at The Log Cabin Restaurant, which offers yummy food with a very cozy, north woods ambiance--if you're ever passing through Baraboo, I recommend it! And even if you're full, go ahead order the apple dumpling for dessert--you won't regret it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As Sweet As Can Be

That's what my boyfriend is! There I was at my desk this afternoon, typing away, when I heard a sound behind me. I swung around in my chair to discover Travis standing in the doorway of my office, a huge grin on his face and a bouquet of flowers in his hands. "Happy Sweetest Day!" he exclaimed as he stepped forward to present his offering, a lovely collection of flowers that includes 7 pink roses, one for every month we've been together (it'll be 8 next week). If that's not sweet, I don't know what is. Sometimes I just shake my head in amazement (likely with a dreamy look in my eyes) and wonder at being loved so well, by such a man. I had said man take a pic with my phone before he went on his way. Sigh with me, friends, or roll your eyes if you must, but there's no denying my honey's the sweetest guy around.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brand New ESV Study Bible Released Today!

As some of you know, in addition to my day job and my Wednesday evening bookseller gig, I do some freelance proofreading & indexing for Crossway Books. Though I usually work on titles from the academic and theological division, back in August I had the privilege of joining the Bible crew and spent the better part of the following 9 months checking formatting on study notes from the brand new ESV Study Bible that comes out today.

Having spent so many hours reading thousands upon thousands of study notes during the proofing phase, I am excited to finally see this Bible in its finished form, complete with all the introductions, articles, maps, graphs, tables, and concordance that join the countless study notes to make for one thorough and hefty reference.

Which is to say, I spent a LOT of time at Starbucks, Caribou, and Panera, as well as on my couch and at my dining room table, pouring over the helpful, interesting and enlightening notes for the new ESV Study Bible, and believing they are an indication of the quality of the volume as a whole, I highly commend it to you if you're looking for a new study bible. But you don't have to take my word for it. Go to to check out all the bells and whistles for yourself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Camper!

This past weekend I went on my third and final camping trip for the year, and I am happy to report that it was my best camping experience to date. The weather had a lot to do with it; the Midwest enjoyed a bit of an Indian summer last week, which meant both Saturday and Sunday were gorgeously warm and sunny days, perfect for hiking the dunes, relaxing on the beach, and sitting around the campfire. Since camping trip #1 was rather frigid, and camping trip #2 was quite damp, this was a marked improvement (even though I did enjoy myself on both prior occasions, despite the circumstances). This camping trip was also significantly better because I was actually able to sleep most of the night, which is far better than lying on the ground awake, cold, and uncomfortable, waiting for dawn to come and put you out of your sleepless misery (my experience on camping trips 1 & 2).

Saturday morning Travis and I left for Warren Dunes in Sawyer, Michigan where we met up with our friends Nate & Bethany and Chris & Jenn. Saturday's activities included setting up camp, going on a hike through the woods and up and over the dunes, lounging on the beach, making dinner over the campfire, and playing Mexican train dominoes by lantern light.

On Sunday we slept in a bit, made breakfast, cleaned up camp, and then had a campfire worship service with Scripture, prayer, and singing. We were on the road by early afternoon, and stopped for lunch at Redamak's in New Buffalo, where guests are invited to bite into a legend, as in the "hamburger" that made New Buffalo, MI famous! I'd really like to know why they feel compelled to put quotes around "hamburger" in their slogan. Is it a hamburger or not? If you're going to put quotes around something, how about "famous"? I mean, is New Buffalo really famous? Regionally renown, maybe, but famous? Anyway, the burgers were tasty, but not so spectacular that I'd consider them legendary. Perhaps my enjoyment of the burger was stifled by my perturbation at the improper punctuation. Oh well, aside from my problem with the signage, the place does have a fun atmosphere to commend it.

After lunch Travis and I parted ways with our friends and decided to take our time and the scenic route home (or at least part of the way home--we cut over to the highway when it got dark and scenic turned to sketchy). We putzed around New Buffalo a bit, then got on the road and stopped at an outlet mall not too long after that, and then stopped at the Indiana Dunes to climb Mt. Baldy (which is actually a sand dune, and not a mountain per se) and watch the sun set over Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Puppy Love

My roommate's mom is visiting this week and has been staying at our place, along with Maggie, her Japanese Chin, who looks something like this. Although Melissa's cat Nova has grown in my affections since I moved in, I'm still definitely a dog person. And since I grew up with a small dog (toy poodle), I am a small dog person at that. Well, Maggie is definitely small (weighing in at 5 lbs at the most) and is just a tiny, furry bundle of pure love and unbridled energy. Every time I've encountered her this week, she's greeted me like seeing me is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to her. It's been great. I miss having a dog in my life. I need to visit my friends with dogs more often.

Maybe it's the puppy lovin' I've received this week that made me actually read one of the forwards I received because the subject line said something about a dog. Since I'm feeling a bit canine-happy-sappy today, here are Life Lessons We Should Learn From Dogs:
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Monday, October 06, 2008

All Kinds of Apple Goodness

Between the Long Grove Apple Festival on Saturday and the Morton Arboretum Fall Color 5K & Festival on Sunday, over the weekend I consumed:
  • 2 apple donuts
  • half a dish of apple pie ice cream (Travis ate the other half)
  • a medium hot spiced apple cider (from Beans & Leaves in Long Grove)
  • a snack pack of Quaker Oatmeal Cinnamon Apple Squares (this apple-themed snack was actually unintentional...I just grabbed something on my way out the door to the race, and it happened to be apple!)
  • an organic Gala apple, straight up (compliements of Whole Foods, sponsor of the 5K)
  • a granny smith apple sliced & smothered in hot caramel along with chocolate chips, sprinkles, crushed M&Ms, and oreos
Yes, indeed, it was a weekend to celebrate autumn's prime produce and indulge my sweet tooth. We hung around the arboretum after the 5k on Sunday and met up with my friend Charity to take in the scarecrow display and partake of the caramel-apple-with-candy-in-a-dish concoction, which has become a bit of a tradition for us. As I came back to the table with my caramel apple, Travis asked, "But what are you going to have for lunch?" "What do you mean?" I replied. "This is lunch." Here's the before and after:

Yeah, it was good. Though it was raining by the time we left the arboretum, several hours earlier the weather was just beautiful for running the 5k: overcast skies with occasional pockets of sunshine and crisp-cool autumn air. I would guess there were around 2000 people who came out to run or walk the gently rolling course that took us through the deeply wooded east side. Though I didn't train at all for this race (and definitely felt it!) I managed to jog the whole thing with Travis by my side, encouraging me on (have I mentioned how great he is?). We finished in 38:23, clocking in with a 12:22 mile. I came in #607 among the women, #84 among the women in my age group (25-29), and #1143 overall. I didn't care about any of that yesterday morning when I felt like my lungs were going to explode, but I had one of those chips on my shoe and curiosity compelled me to look it up online today. So there you have it. Here's our happy "we did it!" after-race photo:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Embracing Autumn

There's something about this time of year that makes me giddy. Autumn is my favorite season, hands down, and I love all the good stuff that goes along with it--the crisp air, blue skies, pumpkins, apples, spiced cider, soup, sweaters, and leaves that go down in a polychromatic blaze of glory. Yes, this season stirs in me a special appreciation for the scents, tastes, and sights that permeate this time of year.

This weekend my embrace of autumn begins in earnest. On Saturday I'm heading up to the Long Grove Apple Festival with friends. The event features all things apple, spread out over the several blocks that make up the quaint downtown area of Long Grove, but the highlight is always the apple donuts. Yum!

Sunday morning Travis and I are running Morton Arboretum's Fall Color 5K. I haven't exactly trained for this event, so instead of "running" I should probably say "jogging" or perhaps more like "shuffling." However I manage to cover the course, I'm looking forward to the time amidst the mighty oaks and maples whose leaves are just starting to change in hue.

Next weekend I'm going camping near Michigan's Warren Dunes with some friends. Yes, for those blog readers keeping track, this is my THIRD camping trip this year! Must have something to do with the company I'm keeping these days... (Wink)

The last weekend in October I hope to catch the tail end of Wisconsin's foliage show when Travis & I head up to Devil's Lake to spend the day hiking with Allison.

When I'm not outdoors enjoying the season, I find myself thinking about what I can do in the kitchen with the flavors of the season--pumpkin, cinnamon, apples, cloves--along with looking for new recipes (and revisiting a few old favorites) for soups, stews, and chilis.

This past weekend Travis and I enjoyed a leisurely brunch at home with some friends, and I came up with "Autumn Spice Pancakes": take some pancake batter, mix in a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice, and then sprinkle mini cinnamon chips on each pancake after pouring it on the griddle. For extra autumnal goodness, serve with apple or pumpkin butter. Mighty tasty!

Do you have a tasty autumnal recipe you're willing to share? Leave a comment with the recipe or a link to it, or shoot me an email. I hope to feature more of my faves in the weeks to come!