The Best Granola Ever

What do you think of when I say “granola?” Do you think of that Quaker Oats stuff? Do you think of a walk of life a little bit more (how should we put it?) “natural and one with the earth” than yourself?

My earliest memory was of the granola my mother would buy. I would spend precious minutes in the morning picking out the raisins from my mix. You’d think I’d just find another cereal, but I really loved the oats part. Somewhere along the way I OD’d on those little red boxes of raisins as a kid . . . and thus the scavenging to “fix” my bowl of cereal.

While working my way through my collection of books by Diane Morgan, I came across and decided to make her granola out of Gifts Cooks Love. I brought it to my classes at work as a healthy alternative to a holiday treat last year. It was more than a hit. The motto quickly became “do it for the granola!” It’s amazing what a little bribery can do.

I’m using Diane’s baking technique here, but omitted the coconut (not enough of my people love it) and added dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots and various nuts. Feel free to add or omit what you want. Just don’t over do it on the extras; the oat part is the real star of the show. AAAAHHHHH it’s so good, I can’t wait any longer! I just must share it!

Might I add that this can be stored in an air tight container for a month and would make for a wonderful homemade holiday gift! I would take flax seed-laced granola over Christmas fudge any day!

For the recipe with easy step by step instructions visit The Joyful Table…

Delicious looking photo courtesy of Noelle Ritter

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Tying the Knot & Finding Freedom

Emily & Clayton’s wedding October 21, 2012
Photo by Anthony Dimaano


Today I reached a whole new level of intimacy with my husband.  I farted in front of him.  Of course, I’ve done that a thousand times, but this time he heard it.

We’re still married.  He still loves me.  What’s more, he still thinks I’m sexy.

There is a myriad of euphemisms for marriage—tying the knot, getting hitched, being tied down—and on some level they ring true.  Marriage is a covenant relationship—a solemn vow made before our family, our friends and before God to love and to cherish one another, as long as we both shall live.  We are committed . . . “stuck”, if you will.

We’ve been married now for just over six weeks, so I don’t pretend to have deep wisdom about marriage, and I’ve been trying rather unsuccessfully to explain to my friends and loved ones what it is like to be married.

Here’s my newest attempt in a word: freedom.

Despite the sayings, despite the commitment, despite being “stuck”, there is a freedom in marriage.  In our long six weeks of marriage, my husband and I have reached new milestones in learning about each other. He’s learned that I can’t drink any beverage without burping; I’ve learned that he talks in his sleep and grinds his teeth at night; and he’s learned that my hair sheds so fast that it clogs our drain at least twice a week.  Because we’re married, I’m free to be rather gross and he has to live with it.

But the freedom goes far deeper than that.  For in marriage, it is not simply that we are free to be ourselves on a base level.  (In fact, if I want to show love to my husband, I should work to clean the hair out of the drain before it gets clogged, even if I can’t stop the shedding.)  It is that marriage is meant to mirror the relationship of Christ and Church—such that the same freedom you have in Christ should (ideally) be the same freedom you have with your spouse because you are likewise in a covenant relationship.

In Galatians 5, Paul writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. . . . You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.”

Like the freedom we have in Christ, the freedom in marriage comes from the covenant relationship. We set no expectations on each other to be perfect, we have no contractual agreement that may be terminated if the terms are not met, but rather we simply promise before God that we will love and be there for each other.  From that promise stems a freedom to be ourselves, a freedom to serve others, and empowerment from being loved.

In our marriage, we are not beholden to serve one another. No, it is that we have the privilege of choosing to serve one another daily just as our spouse has the privilege of serving us.  I would be naïve if I thought that choosing to love one’s spouse daily always felt like a privilege, but having that choice is still a privilege bestowed only upon people who are made free by a covenant relationship.

This means that I’m free to enable my husband to be his best. My husband thrives on verbal encouragement, and when I tell him how proud I am of him, how blessed I am to be his wife, he feels as though he can conquer the world.  I thrive on quality time. When my husband spends time with me, I feel ready to take on any challenge that comes my way.  We are both empowered and we are both freed to be more who God created us to be.

We look forward to the process of growing in this freedom—not simply in the culture’s freedom that ends in burping, farting, sweat pants and ultimately self-gratification, but we look forward to growing in a freedom that overflows and blesses our marriage, our friends, families and the world, just like Christ’s love has done for us.

Photo credit: Anthony Dimaano

Posted in Being a Woman, Marriage, Relationships | 2 Comments

Foreign Languages, Pineapples & Motorbikes

Thailand, Thailand, the land where smiles have many different meanings. A smile can mean happiness, anger, irritation, awkwardness, and more. Thailand is like a painted onion. You look at the surface and you think you understand Thailand based on the smiles you see and the seemingly accommodating and hospitable nature of Thai culture. Well, even though it’s painted, it’s still an onion, and peeling back the layers, hey, more paint, you think you’re done. No. That was just the second layer. You’ve got at least fifteen more to go. Let me explain.

This week was hard at my work, partly for cultural reasons. I work at an after-school English tutoring program run by a Thai couple. One of the challenges has been communication. The Thai style of communication compared to American style is as similar as pineapples are to motorbikes. It’s like I spent my whole life learning how to build a bridge only to discover the people I am trying to communicate with live in underground caves. I grew up learning how to clarify my ideas, speak straight to the point while using techniques that soften my words and allow room for rebuttal. I was taught that if someone wronged me, and I said nothing about it, then it was my fault for not being direct and clear. Unfortunately, bridge-making (direct communication) is not valued in Thailand like it is in America. My softening of words do not translate to a foreign language learner’s ear. Addressing something directly can be frightening and very uncomfortable for a Thai because Thai culture values face. Face is basically the outer evidence of control, composure, and respectability. Maintaining face is very important and highly valued, and one way to break face is to have one’s mistakes revealed to other people. Sound familiar, anyone? I’m pretty sure those who have grown up in a Christian home have lived with their own version of this kind of pressure.

In regards to Thai communication, indirect methods are considered respectful, especially for someone you consider higher up socially. It is the responsibility of the offender to figure out what he or she did wrong without being told directly, which means, everyone must be VERY sensitive to the smallest things like body language and a change in patterns of behavior. For example, let’s say I go to the store with my Thai friend every day after work to buy a piece of candy, but then one day she says she can’t go anymore because she’s on a diet. She’s probably not on a diet. That was a sacred ritual! Something is wrong. Now I have to spend a day or two trying to figure it out, or keep my eyes open next time I see her.

The reality is that I was trained not to be this sensitive to human behavior, so when I shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s okay. Stay healthy,” she’s probably thinking, “I can’t believe this. She doesn’t care that I’m angry with her!” If you are beginning to think I am exaggerating, just have a chat with my Thai roommate (the one who used to worry about sleeping in the same room as me because she thought I looked like a vampire). We’ve had plenty of chats clearing up some of these things (including the vampire part), but of course, it works both ways. Now that I seem disinterested, my Thai friend does not call me to hang out anymore on the weekends because she now believes that I want my space, and I want new friends, and I want to go home, and I hate Thailand! Okay, maybe now I am exaggerating . . . a little. After some sort of negative conclusion has been formed in my friend’s mind, she has decided to pull away. I’m thinking, “What’s going on? She doesn’t like me anymore!” I can’t talk to her about it. I don’t want her to feel obligated to be my friend when I go to her directly and inadvertently force her to politely include me on her weekend plans.

By the way, this story is not that much different from the true story I have thinly veiled from my readers.

After many months, I have restrained my bridge-building techniques to try and understand the ways of living in a cave (time to learn how to use a pick ax and mine for gold). Miscommunication is not as scary anymore. Granted, it takes some self-discovery, spiritual growing, etc., etc., but now when my coworkers want to slap me in the head, I’m not worried because I know it probably has to do with one of my bridge-making comments. This means me giving a little bit of explanation with a few apologies thrown in. The reality is, even though I’m living in a cave, my pick ax experts still honor me by trying to understand my foreign, bridge-making mind. We meet in the middle, as my boss would say. And yes, I still haven’t figured out the difference between an “I’m really happy smile!” and a “Get away from me!” smile. But that’s okay. I’ve only got thirteen more layers to go.

photo source

Posted in Adversity, Culture & Media, Travel | 1 Comment

Winter Willow Giveaway!

Merry Christmas!

We are hosting our very first giveaway here at On the Willows! It takes only a few simple steps to “put your name in the hat” for one of two beautifully hand-knitted prizes made by Royal Windsor Knits! On Monday, December 10th, we will announce our first- and second-place winners!

The first-place winner will receive The Canterbury, chunky cowl in red, gold, or white (pictured above).

The second-place winner will receive the Lady Evelyn, a knitted headband/ear warmer with a movable bow (also pictured above).

Thank you to Royal Windsor Knits for helping On the Willows host our very first giveaway! Spread the word!

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1. Theater-worthy! See it!
2. Definitely rent it.
3. Stream it on Netflix, if you must.
4. Don’t even bother.

Oh the days when the president of the United States didn’t have to have an Ivy League education and millions in the bank to get elected or to make an impact for generations to come. I absolutely loved how Lincoln showed how an informally educated (even self-taught!) man from the mid-west accomplished one of the greatest legal achievements in United States history: abolishing slavery on the federal level. It’s an historic story that’s worth telling and savoring over and over, and that is one of the reasons I say SEE THIS MOVIE! Whether in the theater or at home, don’t miss it.

A Steven Spielberg film (pictured in the middle of the photo above), the role of President Abraham Lincoln was brilliantly acted by Daniel Day-Lewis (pictured left), and was supported by a superb all-star cast, including Sally Field playing the first lady, Tommy Lee Jones as Republican leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln, and MANY more! In my opinion, the performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones really set this film apart. They were both absolutely perfect. Fantastic sets, props, costumes, and makeup (I couldn’t believe how incredible the makeup was on Daniel Day-Lewis!), set a very believable scene that definitely takes movie-goers into the American 19th-century political world.

Lincoln tells the story of America in the brutal midst of the Civil War, deeply divided over the issue of slavery (states held the power to keep it legal or abolish it at the time), with a president who was committed to ending the war and ending slavery — simultaneously, if possible. His cabinet was divided over which issue was most pressing, most of whom advised that ending the war was top priority over anything else. Lincoln insisted that both must be accomplished, no matter what. With such a heavy, sobering topic at the core of this story, movie-goers get frequent breaks with lots of chuckle-worthy humor, particularly from the sarcastic and outspoken party leader, Thaddeus Stevens, and of course from Abraham Lincoln himself. In a movie that’s 2.5 hours, moments of humor are most definitely welcomed.

Okay, time to get down to the nitty-gritty. I call this movie “good”, but not “great”. Here’s why: I thought parts of it were brilliant, and other parts were not so much. There were some pretty significant areas that fell short of greatness, and of course, I’ll tell you what they are. I won’t even touch historical accuracy, because I’m not an expert on this one, but there were moments during the movie that I actually found myself scrunching up my face and thinking “really?” I had four major scruples, to be exact. Upon discussion with my movie-going companions afterward, I discovered I wasn’t the only one.

1 & 2. I’m combining the first two because they’re pretty minor and probably unique to my personal perspective. First, there were some cheesy (in the overly-dramatic sense) moments that translated to me as confusing. It wasn’t a cheesy movie, so those moments didn’t quite fit. I don’t know if it was just Spielberg’s personal taste in art, but they just didn’t work for me. Second, Sally Field made some acting choices that missed the mark, in my opinion. I do have multiple examples if anyone’s interested, but I’ll leave it at that for now and just say I didn’t think her performance was particularly convincing.

3. I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a great choice for Robert Lincoln, and he did a fantastic job. However, it confused me that such a big-name actor would play such a very insignificant/incomplete role. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, so I’ll just say that part of the sub-plot felt a bit like it was started (on a great foot) and then almost totally forgotten about. Disappointing. My family members and I walked out saying, “what ever happened to Robert?”

4. My final critique was in how the assassination was handled. We know a lot about the actual assassination, who did it, how he did it, with what weapons, in what room, and what happened to the assassin. I realize there could be a whole movie just about the assassination, but (also risking giving away too much) this movie just about skipped right over it. It was a missed opportunity to take the audience emotionally where we needed to go. We were attached to Abraham Lincoln, but when he died prematurely, as we all knew he was going to, I for one wanted to go through the injustice a little bit and feel my love for the character sealed. Instead, it was grazed over and that was the end. I sort of couldn’t believe it.

In spite of my misgivings, I still highly recommend this movie. It is an important story that should always be remembered in America, and there was enough about it that was “great” to make the time very well worth it.

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