The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Moving On With Lemonade June 12, 2010

Filed under: Food & Cooking,Life in General — michellehuegel @ 9:49 am
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After 12 years in Michigan (well, including a short stint in Mishawaka), we are moving on. Upward, remains to be seen. Downward certainly, at least geographically. Around in circles, sometimes. But I think just “on” is the best description. Life goes on, even when it seems like there’s no possible way to go, somehow it marches on.  Josh has no job in San Antonio yet, we have no house there, and we are still stuck trying to sell our mobile home in Michigan – still we believe God is leading us to San Antonio. For many reasons, and maybe one day I’ll try to think through and list them all for you, but today I’m just focused on the leaving, not the whys.

I don’t want this to be a depressing, morbid post, and as I look back through my first paragraph it certainly seems to be drifting that way. To quickly reroute and avoid water damage on my laptop, I’ll tell you about the Great Lemonade Experiment at my going-away party, thrown by (who else?!) Erin and Ashley. Erin craved homemade lemonade for some reason, so she stopped at the grocery store on her way to Joel and Ashley’s (party central) to pick up the ingredients.

Step 1: Peel and Slice

I craved chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (I have an excuse, remember) so she got me some of that too :). None of us actually knew/remembered how to make real lemonade, though, so we prevailed upon Joel to Google us a recipe. He obligingly found one, but it required about 4 hours of prep time (!!!), mostly involved with making simple syrup and letting it cool (the author was obviously not familiar with refrigerators as a quick-cooling method). Since none of us had that kind of patience, even all put together, we decided to modify the recipe. Surely if we had lemons, a juicer, water, and sugar, we could dump-and-pour and come up with something drinkable, right?

Wait, scratch the sugar part. Ashley and Joel, as you might be aware from reading Ashley’s blog posts, are living on an “eat nothing invented in the past 100 years” diet and therefore had no normal sugar in the house. She had some sort of sugar replacement (maybe she can comment on this and tell us what it is?). Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to act or taste quite like sugar in lemonade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First they (meaning everyone but me, who was enjoying the “i’m pregnant” excuse to relax and put my feet up :)) had to peel and juice the lemons.

Step 2: Shove through juicer

This created a most amazing scent wafting through the house – way better than a citrus-scented candle. If only it didn’t take so much time and effort, I would use freshly-peeled and juiced lemons as an air freshener every day. As the “supervisor,” I reminded them to slice some lemons for garnish, too. We had plenty – Erin went a bit overboard and bought about two dozen.

After the peeling, juicing, and slicing, Erin started concocting. I’m sure we all got an ample dose of Erin-cooties from all the sampling/testing. 🙂

Step 3: Measure the ingredients

Step 4: Ignore the recipe's measurements. Dump and pour, tasting after each addition.

Like I said before, the “sugar” wasn’t quite up to normal sugariness, and (in my opinion) left the lemonade a bit lacking. But certainly not for lack of effort! And we drank and enjoyed it anyway. In terms of memories and good times, I don’t think I’ve ever had a sweeter, tarter glass of lemonade. A good analogy for how I feel leaving Niles, I suppose. Leaving my home of 12 years and many, many friends (not to mention Josh’s family!), along with all the uncertainty that’s surrounded this move, leaves a biting tartness in my heart. But the possibilities and excitement of a cross-country move, a new place to explore, new friends to meet, and better job prospects for Josh bring sweetness into the mix (the real kind of sugary sweetness, not that weird all-natural fake stuff). I don’t think my life-lemonade mix is quite right yet – our lives are still in too much turmoil, with too much tart uncertainty hanging over our heads. But I’m sure soon, as we trust God and move on each day in faith, He will bring more sweetness into our lives. And eventually, I trust we will find the perfect balance of missing our friends and our old home, and enjoying making new friends in a new home.

Step 5: Enjoy with friends!


Lights, Camera, Action … February 1, 2010

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 10:30 am
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There’s a movie that comes out tomorrow night, and I’m super excited. I’m more excited about this than I was about Avatar. (Oh, wait, I wasn’t excited about that.) Most of you probably won’t see it at your theaters because it’s a movie that didn’t have a big budget (but there were Disney stars!), and it was filmed in Grand Rapids. And that brings me to why I find it so exciting.

This summer, I had the opportunity to be on set for the filming of a few scenes of the movie, The Genesis Code. I had originally signed up to be an extra on a Wednesday, but when I got there — on time — they had already started because enough walk-ins had shown up. So, I sat around for the next six hours, watching them film and talking to different people on set. It was an incredible experience, even if I didn’t have my two and a half seconds of fame built on that night.

Having not been in the movie at all so far, the extras casting crew signed me up to be an extra on the following Saturday night before they were offering it to anyone else on set. I arrived at the shoot a half an hour before they told me (because I wasn’t about to miss out and just sit around all night again), and I was the first person to arrive. Even crew wasn’t there yet. Oops. I guess the time that they told me was actually 45 minutes early for the time I needed to be there. Ah well.

Once we were all there and signed in, they moved us over to the other side of Calvin’s campus, where we waited in a classroom for a while. It was interesting talking to those around me for a while. I think that was the best part about being an extra for the movie, meeting such a variety of people. There were a lot of people from the area there, just like I was, to be an extra, but some of the more intriguing people were the ones who were there from out of state. I mean, come on, western Michigan doesn’t really produce the best variety of people to bump into. Most are of a typical Dutch background with some sort of religious beliefs. Those hailing from elsewhere came with a broader perspective on life, and that intrigued me.

Anyways, we spent much of the night walking up and down stairs or back and forth across a hallway, silently “speaking” with other extras in (obviously) the background. Up until that moment, I never thought much of the people wandering as extras in these shows. Now I see them in everything. It’s kind of fun, to be honest.

Due to my clumsy nature, I might have accidentally tripped across the background or up or down the steps a time or two, so if you go see it, make sure you watch for that. I don’t know when I’ll be seeing it, but I definitely know that my striped hat showed up in the trailor. Maybe I’ll have to look later for my green bag. (My coat’s as non-descript as you can get, being black and wool.)

Until then, here’s the web trailer I was talking about:


Late to Work January 26, 2010

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 2:30 am
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It was only my second week at my new job, and it was my dad’s second day at his. I never expected they might have the potential to collide.

My job is an office desk job. I get to sit at a computer and play with baby toys all day. It’s quite the leap to think that I might have some contact with my dad, a tow truck driver.

And it’s all because I was trying to save a couple dollars.

I was about to go away on a long trip that weekend, so I figured that I might be able to wait until right before to fill up on gas. The night before I went to work I thought I had enough to make it to work and to the gas station, and I think I was hoping it as much as I was assuming it.

I was rushing out the door, and I didn’t have much time to eat, and I’d just thrown a microwavable sandwich in my purse for lunch. I think I even forgot to brush my teeth that morning. (Not that it matters with the coffee I drink at work.)

Usually my mom and I leave the house at about the same time. On most occasions, she will leave before me, but that morning I was lucky. We went out to our cars at the same time that morning. Knowing I was in a hurry, she let me leave the driveway first.

I pulled out, and turned the corner to leave our subdivision. As I was going down the hill to make a turn toward the main road, my power steering went out. I was confused. Why couldn’t I make the turn as easily as I normally would?

And then it dawned on me:

I was out of gas.

On my second week of work.

What was I going to do?

I was humiliated. As I was calling the temp agency I work through, my mom pulled up beside me to see why I wasn’t rushing down the road as fast as I had been out the door five minutes before. I told her I’d ran out of gas while the phone was ringing, and hopped into her car.

Thankfully, we weren’t far from home and had a spare container to go get some gas. Otherwise, I would have had to call my dad’s work and have him bring me some. I’m sure he would have been pretty amused that his daughter would have been one of his calls that day. But alas, my mom saved me instead.

It’s mornings like those that remind me to be extremely thankful for living at home with them. If I had been living somewhere else, I would have been stuck relying on AAA, and I would have been at least 45 minutes late, rather than only the 15 that I was that day.

Oh, and did I mention my boss just laughed at me when I got to work? 🙂 Yeah, not a surprise there.


Flapjack Fiasco December 3, 2009

I am the world’s greatest babysitter. Especially after having the fire department called based on my cooking skills. (And no, they weren’t called to come join us for lunch.)

On Monday, while I was watching my regular rowdy rascals, I went to the kitchen a little later than normal in search of ingredients for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Much to my dismay, after already telling the kids I was making what I thought would be a quick lunch, I discovered a lack of bread in the house. While rummaging through the cupboard for something that sounded tasty, I came across a box of Bisquick.

Oh, how I love Bisquick pancakes. I like to think I’m okay at making them. My dad’s the master at making ones the size of your plate or larger. His ability goes so far as to our giving him a giant pancake flipper for Christmas a couple years ago. It looked a lot like this.

So, in honor of my father, and in full knowledge that the children like eating pancakes, I set about on the adventure of making lunch with two kids banging on the table and yelling that they’re hungry and a third screaming just to prove she could be as loud as her older siblings.

The first pancake went well. I would say it was perfect. Round in shape, a wonderful shade of brown on either side, yummy smelling. In order to calm the storm, and not to start a fight, I split the pancake in half and cut it up so that the kids couldn’t notice quite as easily.

I’d thrown the second in the pan to cook while I was getting the first ready for the kids to eat. Unfortunately, I’d had the heat on just a little (or a lot) too high, and by the time I looked back over at the batter, the top was hardly cooked, and the bottom was smoking just a lovely shade of, oh, black.

Having run into this issue on occasion before, I decided to at least cook the opposite side in order to scrape off some of the pancake to eat. It was mine anyways.

I looked around at that time, searching for a smoke detector to wave smoke away from in hopes it wouldn’t go off. When I didn’t find one, I thought it odd, but I figured I just didn’t recognize it. I didn’t, however, have the common sense to open a window.

As a result, the little smoke there was floated and found the ADT smoke alarm, setting it off in an awful screaming beep and alerting the security company to my follies, who in turn called the fire department before calling the house. After I explained the situation, they called off the alarm to the fire department. An inside source told me they even announced to everyone listening that “the babysitter burnt the pancakes.”

Great, now everyone in town knows of my mad cooking skills.

It wasn’t for another hour that I had the opportunity to eat my own pancake, once all the kids were in bed for their naps or “rest times”.

On the upside, the kids and I made a fort out of a giant blanket and the kitchen chairs later on that afternoon to make up for the lunchtime chaos. It was a hit, and even I momentarily forgot about the stress.

Looking back, I find it amusing that the kids continued to sit quietly at the table, munching away at the first pancake while all of this went on. The only time any of them seemed distressed was when they ran out of pancake, not when they heard the alarm go off. I wonder if Mommy has this issue often.


Christmas Music and Rule Breaking November 23, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 10:39 am
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I’m listening to Christmas music as I write this post. No, I’m not overlooking Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and I’m thankful for Christmas music.

Sometimes, I get a little rush from breaking rules. Like my rule not to listen to Christmas music before thanksgiving, or to put garlic in meat for tacos. And (only occasionally) not making the bed.

I’m convinced you can get a creative rush from breaking “rules” too, at least in first drafts. One of the rules I’m most fanatic about is active voice. So for my writing prompt this week, I’m going to write something intentionally using passive voice.

Here’s what I have so far:

I was here and she stood there

a little grin played on the corners of her mouth.

She peeked at me from beneath the stairs.

Flecks of glitter sparkled on her hands and cheeks.

A piece of red garland hung in her hair.

The light glinted off tiny streaks of tinsel on her shoulder

and evergreen air-freshener drifted through the air.

“Look Mommy! I’ve been helping you decorate for Christmas!”

So I encourage you this week in writing or life to break one of your own rules, just a little one, and see what comes of it.

Oh yeah and if you’re a rebel like me, here’s one of my favorite Christmas carols.

Maybe I really do have Christmas on the brain…


The End September 3, 2009

Filed under: Life in General,Writing — michellehuegel @ 3:27 pm
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And they all lived happily ever after... The End

Reaching the end of a book holds an exquisite sort of sadness for me. After finishing the last page, I’ll mope around in a funk for an hour or so – for a particularly good book it might even last a day. The better the book, the longer and deeper this odd depression lasts.

Now if the book is part of a series, I may skip this funk entirely in favor of immediately finding and beginning the next book. I love series – they delay the end! Unfortunately, it just all saves up and hits me when I finish the last book of the series. I may rail against the author and life in general for a good two days at the end of a great series (Harry Potter, anyone?).

Although I’ve never tried drugs, I imagine this might be a tiny bit of what it feels like to come down from a high. Just after you’ve crested the peak of exhilaration (the hero got the girl! they saved the world! everyone lives happily ever after!), comes the cold reality that this is not real life. My brief, glorious departure from reality has ended. This is the end of the line, please exit the train in an orderly fashion.

I bet I’m not the only one out there who reads books to escape from real life. That’s partly why I like fantasy and science fiction, because if I’m going to escape, I may as well go all the way! The problem is I’ve flown so far from the ordinary, riding the wings of an author’s imagination, that it’s hard to land. Some days I wish I could discover my secret magical ability and conjure a spell to fix my troubles, or be told that I’m really the long-lost heir to Fill-in-the-blank Kingdom. Then I could issue a royal decree to fix my troubles.

When I was younger I’d pretend that the book didn’t end, and I (as the heroine, of course) would go about practicing my magic spells or riding my new horse (I loved horse books too). But inevitably, the spells didn’t work, and the horse’s wheel would go flat, and I’d be left with real life.

Real Life sucks.

On the other hand, my Real Life includes a few pretty magical things–a handsome prince who (occasionally) does the dishes and gives me backrubs, a gorgeous baby boy whose smiles and coos are worth more than any castle, a family who loves and appreciates me, and cool friends I can both laugh and cry with.

Maybe my life isn’t a fantasy storybook, but it isn’t a horror novel either.


Chillin’ With the Children August 17, 2009

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 12:06 pm
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A friend of mine once told me that he thinks children are much more fun than adults any day and that he’d rather hang out with them any day. I can almost agree.

One of my favorite things about really young children is the fact that they tend to be wholly willing to accept who people are, where they are in life. At camp this year, I spent nearly as much time with kids as I did adults, partially for that reason.

When you walk up to someone you haven’t seen in a while, the typical greeting is, “Hi! How’s it going? What have you been up to?” Right? Well, at least it is if you’re an adult. The only thing children care about is what you’re going to be doing with them right at that instant, “What are you doing here?”

Greeting so many old friends at camp proved much more difficult than I imagined this year. After about a day and a half of meeting up with everyone, having to answer that dreaded question of “What have you been up to?” with, “taking care of children,” “looking for a job,” or “trying to keep up with loans.” Having to say that over and over started to chip away at my self-esteem, no matter how much I tried to joke about it.

Whenever I was hanging out with the kids, not one of them asked me how my job search was going. Sure, they were some of the kids I watch back home, but still, not one of them asked if I had found a job yet. Not one of them asked why I still live with my parents; they just think, Why wouldn’t someone live with their parents? None of them make me feel as if I lack in potential compared to the person sitting next to me, they just run up and hang off of every one of my limbs (quite literally at times). More than once during camp, I was invited to stay for dinner or stay to play when I was just walking by a lot. I sometimes stayed or took the kids on a golf cart ride to the “Ark Park” to play, but sometimes, I had places to be, and the look on their faces just about made me cave. In contrast to the feeling that I sometimes overwhelm people my own age with my presence, it’s rather touching.

In a way, the Little Prince in Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s book was completely right. The things that “matter” to many adults (counting money, doing something constantly just to feel “useful,” getting drunk, having a job just to say that you have a job, etc.) are not the things that really matter in the long run. Being passionate about life, caring for the ones you love, those things are important, not worrying about what you do for a living.

While I am not saying that wasting away one’s life doing nothing is something notable, I do think that it is important not to lose sight of the important things that we deal with, the important people in our lives. I know that chillin’ with the kids gives me a boost of self-confidence that I don’t really find anywhere else because they haven’t been bogged down by all the worries and cares in life yet. They generally don’t have loans, jobs, pressure, stress or money issues to worry about yet. They just worry about what toy we’re going to play with next or what new adventure life has in store … and if their friends or “buddies” will be there with them.

And on the other hand, when it comes to thinking like an adult, I think the best part about it is that I sometimes get paid to hang out with these kids.