Category Archives: Birthday Club

Birthday Club: In Pursuit of Beauty and Light

“We ought to think of our initial encounter with God in terms of beauty, in which God appears to us…He gives himself to us before we even know the right question to ask” (D.C. Schindler).*    It isn’t often you get to visit your daughter’s senior art exhibition. In fact, it’s never happened to me, but for our Birthday Club outing to honor Cindi this year, we took a trip to Spring Arbor to see her daughter’s capstone project, an art exhibition at the Ganton Art Gallery of Spring Arbor University. When we visited, Ilsa and three other graduating seniors had artwork on display.Our Birthday Club usually has some surprises along the way, though, so our first stop was a visit with Cindi’s parents, who are considering a move to GR. This awesome couple sponsored our CMS (Christian Medical Society) group when Alan was in medical school 40 years ago, so it’s been a special joy to get reacquainted with them via my long-term friendship with their daughter. Spring Arbor is a couple of hours east of GR, so had needed a coffee break on our road trip at the “Coffee Barrel” in Holt, Michigan. If you’re a coffee lover and live near or pass through, it’s definitely worth a visit!We met Cindi’s daughter for lunch at Lazeez, where they have excellent Indian cuisine. It was fun to chat with the owner and discover we have mutual friends!  Josh and Amy Gelatt now live in this area, and Josh is the pastor of Cascades Baptist Church in Jackson, MI, but we all attended the same church years ago. It’s such a small world! (These plaques adorn the wall by the register at Lazeez.)We all love savory Indian cuisine, and the ginger chai tea is especially delicious!     After lunch Ilsa gave us a very gracious tour of the gallery and her artwork. I’ve known Ilsa since she was a little girl. She’s always been gifted and artistic. I was very impressed by the variety of her mediums, her creativity, and her skill.       Some of her ideas were absolutely brilliant and worthy of copyrighting.              Many of her pieces had interesting stories and were provocative. Some made really good points…like this one. That’s not chips on her shoulder, it’s a physical representation (if I understood vaguely correctly) of the softness of human beings but the fact that we all have rough edges too.  As we pondered her artwork, I remembered something from a chapel service that one of my sons said recently, “We’re disadvantaged as a community as we head into this brave new world because  we haven’t reflected theologically and systematically as we perhaps should on symbolic reality. Now is our chance to change that. I  invite you and encourage you to explore symbolic reality, symbolic theology” (Dr. Jonathan J. Armstrong, Moody Bible Institute). Jon is a big fan of modern art, although I’ve not been. Maybe I need to visit more art galleries! (BTW, Ilsa’s exhibit is gone, but there are four new exhibits now.) Admission to the Ganton Art Gallery is free, but no matter where you live, you’re probably not too far from some fascinating artwork via student exhibitions, private and public galleries. If you live in Grand Rapids but are broke, there are “Free Meijer Days” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Tuesdays 10-5 and on Thursdays from 5-9 pm.                                            I have to say, many of Ilsa’s pieces were rather unsettling
(which was her intention, I’m sure).        I’m much more drawn to the beauty God paints, so full of color and light!However, I was taken with many of Ilsa’s “Fantastic Fiends,” because I noticed the light emanating from within them and remembered this saying:  “Beautiful light is born of darkness, so the faith that springs from conflict is often the strongest and best.”~R. TurnbullAnd so, I wish light and beauty for all of us, but for those who are struggling to find light in the darkness, I pray that you may find some beautiful light born of darkness, and a deep faith that springs from conflict!But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV).

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jesus speaking in John 12:46, ESV).

(*D.C. Schindler, author of The Catholicity of Reason; Pontifical John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America. Both Dr. Schindler and Dr. Armstrong’s comments are from Jon’s recent chapel address (which is fascinating) and can be found here (although you might need to rewind it to the beginning):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFTTi_7WC_0&feature=youtu.be

High Teas and Birthday Parties: Killing Three Birds with One Party

high-tea               Well, hopefully we didn’t really kill any birds, bees, or bodies, quichebut we really did have fun last week with our annual high tea, and I wanted to share recipes for a couple of high tea staples: cucumber sandwiches and scones. lettuce-wraps      But first, the story, since if there’s anything I love, it’s to repeat a good tale! candle-in-a-tea-cupAfter meeting for several years to spoil each other on our birthdays, Cindi, Susan, and I started feeling a bit guilty for not including our spouses somehow,birthday-cake-flourless-chocolate-torte since they were always working hard to make it possible for us to be “at home” moms who could celebrate birthdays together (now that our kids are grown up).birthday-cakeSo, we started the tradition of a winter high tea (given that the way to a husband’s heart is half through his stomach). birthday-partyRex and Steve’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it’s pretty easy to celebrate both their birthdays by scheduling the tea on the weekend in between! korean-beef-kabobsWe each bring two savory and two sweet offerings, drink many cups of tea, savor the sweetness of a leisurely evening together, and go home feeling quite happy. sesame-seedWhen I was a young bride, one of my mentors said her theory on marital contentment was, “Keep him jolly from a little too much eating and groggy from a little too much lovin’.” sharing-a-high-tea-together     In forty-three years, I haven’t found a reason to dispute her wisdom!  🙂

Here’s my recipe for cucumber sandwiches, which I’ve eaten at every high tea from the great Northwest’s Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, to the Southeast’s Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian in Disney…to London’s Harrod and on many a Princess cruise sailing in the deep blue seas of the world. If you’re going to have an authentic high tea, you really need cucumber sandwiches, and they’re about the easiest thing in the world to make!

cucumber-finger-sandwichesCucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 cucumber sliced very (key word) thin, preferably in a processor. I learned this secret from someone married to an Englishman: Press the cucumber slices gently between paper towels to remove the excess juice.

8  oz. well softened creamed cheese. Stir together gently (not in a food processor).

truffle-saltFlavor with a pinch each of truffle salt (okay, sea salt or table salt works too), pepper, garlic and onion powder (powder, not salt; be careful not to oversalt), basil, dill weed, and chives. Chill.

To serve, slice the crusts off plain white bread and prepare them, but don’t fill the sandwiches until the very last minute, because they’ll get soggy in no time if they sit around. Make up your sandwiches and cut them in half  just when you’re ready to serve them.

gluten-free-blueberry-sconesGluten-free Blueberry Scones

Scones with clotted cream and jams are another classic staple of high teas. Susan needs gluten-free options, so I made these with gluten-free flour, but you can make them exactly the same way using regular flour:

gluten-free-bisquick2 cups Bisquick (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter
3 eggs
1 T. milk

Blend in a mixer only until all the ingredients are mixed. Don’t overblend, or it will make them tough. Add 1 pint blueberries, stirring them in very gently by hand with a spoon. The mix will hardly stick to the blueberries, but it needs to be coarse or the scones will be too wet when they bake. Form into 12 balls (flour your hands if you need to) on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350° for 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to 400° for 5 minutes or until just starting to turn a golden brown.  Serve warm with whipped cream and jams. (The classic term is “clotted” cream, but I make mine “clotted” by whipping it until it’s almost stiff…but not yet butter, and I add 1 T. sugar per cup of cream, but I’m a sugar hawk. You don’t have to do that.)

plate-of-finger-foods-at-high-teaThere is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)salami-and-pepper-roll-ups

 

Banana Crepes…Extraordinaire!

banana-pancake-dessertFor 40 days I was on a strict diet, eating only fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy products. It worked great, and I lost some weight as a bonus, although it made celebrating my birthday a little more tricky. banana-pancake-dessert-2Cindi and Susan were more than up for the challenge, however, and came up with a birthday dessert that looked and tasted totally yummy! Just in case any of you are looking for a nutritious way to have a spectacular gluten-free, dairy-free, pie-in-the-sky yummy treat, this is what they did:banana-pancakeThey made a stack of 4 banana pancakes. These were made from mashing 1 banana and two eggs together. That’s it! Well, the more pancakes you want, the more batter you need, but the ratio stays the same: 1 banana+2 eggs (for 4 pancakes they used 3 bananas and 6 eggs). You can also add a dash of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla if you want, but that’s not crucial.banana-pancake-flipThe batter looks something like crepe batter once it’s nicely whipped. They poured it out onto a hot, well buttered skillet, and let it brown until it bubbled.banana-pancake-brownedThen, they flipped them over and browned each banana cake until golden. Cindi and Susan made “whipped topping” from whipping coconut cream until frothy. It’s mildly sweet (and because I was on a sugar-free diet, it really tasted sweet). Each banana crepe was frosted with whipped coconut cream and then ladled with some type of fruit: fresh raspberries, blueberries, peaches, slivered almonds (or use whatever you love best). After the concoction was so loaded with fruits and nuts we weren’t sure how we’d ever  divide it up, we did…and it stayed pretty intact. banana-pancake-dessert-3It’s filling, but it didn’t make us feel overfull or sick, the way some extravagant desserts do. In fact, we felt delightfully virtuous in our decadence because it was made from “guilt-free” ingredients and was really quite nutritious!   🙂  What great friends to go to such bother to make a birthday treat I could eat!

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)

The Birthday Club Previews ArtPrize 8…Including my Entry

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-at-the-holiday-innYesterday our birthday club met to celebrate my birthday, knowing that once ArtPrize 8 begins tomorrow, I won’t have a minute to catch a breath until it’s all over. Besides, we wanted to celebrate my entry, which is at the Holiday Inn. singing-at-vans-pastriesBut, first the girls had a wonderful surprise for me! vans-pastriesWe stopped at Van’s Pastries, vans-pastry-shopwhere they have an old-fashioned hymn sing to begin the week
every Monday morning at 9:00! standing-in-the-doorway-of-vans-pastries-to-singWhat fun! It was so crowded that we had to stand in the doorway,
and more folks just kept coming.

hymn-sing-at-vans-pastries To start the day praising the Lord brightened my scan more than five cups of coffee could have, and we even got to catch up with a dear friend, “Uncle Charlie,” now retired from Children’s Bible Hour. kathryn-w-armstrongs-artprize-8-muralSecond stop was to check out my ArtPrize Entry, titled “From the Rising of the Sun,” based on Psalm 113:3, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the LORD’s name is to be praised.”

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-second-halfI still need to finish up with the lighting and various other projects,
but hopefully everything will be in order for the official start tomorrow morning.sunshine-snack-along-the-grand-river By then, it was time to stop for “Elevensies,” and the girls picnicking-along-the-grand-river—knowing I’m on a diet—made the most magnificent banana/egg pancakes
with fruit, nuts, and coconut cream topping! It was amazing and tasted great! banana-egg-pancakes-with-fruitIn fact, I’ll make a separate post to share the recipe when I get a chance! public-museum-of-grand-rapidsAfter our respite by the Grand River, we headed out to see what else we could see of the ArtPrize pieces that are already installed. color-me-orangeOf course, with 1,453 entries at 171 venues, we barely scratched the surface, devos-hall-conference-centerbut we had fun, and I now know there’s a lot of excellent competition! migration-of-monarach-butterflies-sculptureWe could have spent all day (had we had the leisure), marie-catribs-in-grand-rapidsbut our last stop (before ending at my house for a prayer time) was a late lunch at Marie Catrib’s, where there’s always a great selection of veggie dishes.choosing-dishes-at-marie-catribs We all chose the “Choose 3 Salads” option, pick-3-veggie-lunchand I came home inspired with some new ideas
for how to eat light and still ‘licious! enjoying-lunch-at-marie-catribsI have to say, it’s great to have friends who are so supportive, not only of what I’m trying to do (like ArtPrize), but what I’m trying not to do (like overeat). elevensies-along-the-grand-riverThank you, Lord, for faithful friends! I want to be a faithful friend too.quote-by-martin-luther-king“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

The Birthday Club: Bike Rides and Covered Bridges

Fallasburg Covered BridgeOn my trip to France, I had a dream one night that our birthday club was seeing all the D-Day sites, and since that night I’ve become obsessively enamored
with the idea of writing a novel about our birthday club traveling the world. Photo of Three SistersHowever, I will state up front that if this book ever comes to pass, the characters will not reflect the persons of my two dear birthday buddies—absolutely and unequivocally—as I have a friend who wrote a book with a character suspiciously like me, of whom I did not at all approve, and so I wouldn’t want my real friends to disown me for misrepresentation.

Nona's Restaurant. Ada MIStill, the adventures we have on our birthday club outings are truly a blessing, and so I’ll share this spring’s adventure with you. Flat River GrillFor a starter, the two non-birthday members go into cahoots
planning a surprise for the birthday honoree, Ada Covered Bridgeand this time Cindi had two irresistibly bright ideas for spoiling Susan: Biking near Ada Covered Bridge MITo go for a bike ride,Birthday Club at Ada Covered Bridge and to visit two (of the only eight remaining) covered bridges in Michigan.

Flat River in Fallasburg County Park MIAlthough Alan and I spent years riding racing bikes together as the #1 event in our favorite Date Night Triathlon (followed by #2. soaking in a hot tub and #3. eating out), I haven’t been on a non-tandem bike in years, so riding brought me straight back to my childhood, and I came home telling Alan that we need to start biking again! (Big advantage of Birthday Club: Trying new [or old] things!)Lunch at Nona's in Ada MIThe second event in our Birthday Club Marathon was lunch at Nona’s in Ada, MI which has just opened a new restaurant. (Cindi’s daughter is working as a prep chef there this summer. The mushroom ravioli is awesome, just so you know!) The third event was touring the little village of Ada and their Tuesday Farmers’ Market (in the parking lot of Ada Community Church, where my son Stephen served as the pianist for several years). Ada County ParkI was riding my bike as inexpertly as a teen just learning to drive, so I didn’t dare bring along my camera. Therefore, most of the photos from Ada are compliments of Cindi’s photographic skills. (Thanks, Cindi!) We also biked through Ada Township Park and stopped to enjoy vistas of the Thornapple River from the Ada Covered Bridge.

Fallasburg Covered Bridge InformationAfter parking our bikes, we drove to the Fallasburgh Covered Bridge
along the Flat River near Lowell, MI, Fallasburg School Museum. MIwhere there are a number of old, historic buildings left from the mid 1800’s. Fishing at Fallasburg County Park MIIt was a perfect summer day, breezy and beautiful, and as we meandered along, Cindi read verses from the Scriptures to remind us that God “covers” us
and listens with tender affection to our prayers,
the way a loving Father attends his children. Verses on Covering(This was inspired by the “covered” bridge theme.) Dessert at the Flat River Grill. Ada. MIThe day ended with coffee and dessert at the Flat River Grill
and sharing some birthday presents, Sisters!but the sweetness of our fellowship and God’s love for us
has lingered past the sweetness of our dessert. Birthday GiftsTruly, God’s love is our best gift! He is our inheritance, our covering,
and our “exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).Fallasburg Covered Bridge. Vergennes. MII will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.” (Psalm 61:4)

Leep Art Gallery ala Birthday Club

 

Leep Art Gallery 2“From the Rising of the Sun,” my 400-photo collage project
contemplating the glory of God’s creation, Leep Art Galleryis now on display at Leep Art Gallery until July 1, 2016. sunrise-9-13It wouldn’t exist were it not for God sending the most gorgeous sunrise I’ve ever seen floating above Grand Rapids on the first day of ArtPrize back on 09/18/13.sunrise-reflected-in-lakeThat morning, our lake was awash in color, and I felt like God was pointing out that his handiwork is more glorious than anything I could create or imagine. Birthday Club partyCindi and Susan took me to ArtPrize for my birthday celebration that October, and we mused over what we’d make if we wanted to enter ArtPrize. Leep Art Gallery 5I thought I’d like to make a huge mural of the sunrise over our lake, Mural Pictures 400 copy 2but one thing led to another,
and eventually the project evolved into a 40X80″ collageLeep Art Gallery 7 of “a few of my favorite things,” mostly from around our lake home,
but also from around the world. Leep Art Gallery 1I definitely plan to enter ArtPrize 2016 if I can, but for the next three months, Leep Art Gallery 8the collages will be on display at the Leep Art Gallery in the Postma Center
(at Pine Rest, 300 68th Street SE Grand Rapids, MI 49548). SharonMany thanks to Sharon Rogers, who manages the Postma Center, Putting up collagesMorgan, who hosts and helps with everything, Getting ready to do the heavy lifting!and especially my beloved hubby, who really carried the load—quite literally—
to help me bring the artwork to Leep Art Gallery and get it all set up. Pine Rest Christian Mental Health ServicesWhat a joy it was to bring Cindi and Susan to Pine Rest Leep Art Gallery 2so they could enjoy the collages with me as part of our Birthday Club outing. (The gallery is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm.)Fire Rock GrillOf course, we had several other items on the agenda as well,Shrimp on Hot Rock at Fire Rock Grilllike lunch at the Fire Rock Grill, where they serve delicious food on “fire rocks,”Buying pastries at Paris Cafe and dessert later at the Paris Cafe, where this Bosnian lady’s husband French pastries makes all their delectable desserts from scratch. Blue Dick in Sierra Nevadas. CAFinally, we ended up at my house for our monthly prayer time. Leep Art GalleryYet another day of sweet fellowship,
“spoiling” the birthday girl and encouraging each other in our walks of faith.

Bird's Eye Gilia. Buttermilk Bend Trail. South Yuba River State Park CA“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”                                                          (Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV)

Hackley and Hume Historic Sites: The Power of Friendship

Hackley-Hume Historic Sites. Carriage HouseAlthough Muskegon is just 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids,  it’s an area I’ve never really explored, so my curiosity was definitely piqued whenEntry to Hackley House Cindi and Susan announced that “Birthday Club, Part B” entailed a heritage tour of several sites related to Muskegon’s lumber baron, Charles H. Hackley. Sign for Hackley House Charles Hackley arrived in Muskegon in 1857 with only $7 in his pocket, Hackley's Living Room  but at the time of his death about 50 years later, he was worth 12 million, Reading. The value! not to mention the 6 million  that he gave to the community to build a library,11201898_10155627840540296_7360865271911041471_n a hospital, churches, parks, and schools.Fireplace in Hackley House Hackley believed: “A rich man to a great extent owes his fortune to the public.” Lumbering in 1880's “He makes money largely through the labor of his employees….. Moreover, I believe that it should be expended during the lifetime of the donor, so that he can see that his benefactions do not miscarry and are according to his intent.”Hackley Library “To a certain extent, I agree with Mr. Carnegie ….that it is a crime to die rich.” Lumbering in West MichiganThomas Hume joined Hackley as his accountant, but he eventually bought into the partnership, and the Hackley-Hume Company was founded. Lumbering in Muskegon Their lumbering firm became one of the largest in America, and in the 1880’s was described as “the leading lumber center of the world,” History of Lumbering in Michigan cutting some 30 million feet of lumber every year. Friendship of Hackley-Hume Hackley and Hume remained not only lifelong partners but friends, Hackley House 2 eventually building homes next door to each other. Hume House 1 When Hume died, the Muskegon Chronicle reported that his funeral rights at their church were “notable for extreme unostentation. Marked only by their extreme simplicity.” Old Books at Hackley Library Our heritage tour began with a quick survey of the historic Hackley Library, Glass floors at Hackley Library which had innovative architecture, including glass floors and ceiling panels
to allow in more light Stained Glass Windows at Hackley Library and beautiful stained glass windows. Hackley Library Book of Kells 2 Hackley is the only library in North America to have a copy of the Book of Kells Hackley Library Book of Kells 3on permanent display, and it’s really worth a look!  Kell's Priory I’ve written about Kells Priory (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/kells-priory-irelands-majestic-monastic-ruins/Original Book of Kells and seeing the original Book of Kells in Dublin, Ireland (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/touring-dublin-in-a-day/), Hackley Library Book of Kells 4 but I want you to know that we stood in a long line
and paid good money for our pass by the original Book of Kells,Hackley Library Book of Kells  whereas at the Hackley Library you can gaze for as long as you want without paying a penny. Carriage House of Hackley-Hume Historic Sites. We also took a guided tour of the Hackley and Hume mansions
with their carriage house behind, which both families shared. Staircase at Hackley House The Hackleys had only 2 children,
and their home is an elaborately ornamented showplace. Sign for Hume House The Humes had 7 children, so their home is simpler
but nevertheless gracious and very appealing. Parlour Hackley House Both homes have been meticulously restored to their original grandeur and are on the National Register of Historic Sites. Hackley House 1 If you have an eye for beauty and a heart for history, you’ll enjoy visiting! The Lake House Restaurant As a part of our special day, Cindi and Susan took me to a lovely buffet lunch at The Lake House restaurant along the shores of Lake Michigan. What a great day! Birthday Club PartyAs I reflect back on our outing, I find myself wondering why those two families Funeral Biscuitswere so altruistic and what made their friendship so strong. One Minute With GodFrom the clues around their home, I’d like to believe it was their mutual faith.Clasp Hands We three girls certainly don’t have massive fortunes to bestow, but I hope our friendship strengthens our character and empowers us to serve God and man better as we consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrew 10:24)

(All the photos were taken in Muskegon last week, except for the two from Ireland as noted and the two cartoons, which were posted on facebook.)