Surprise! The first recipe I’ve posted in years! My mother’s chili was always simple: beans, tomatoes, and beef. I’ve taken that a step further by adding healthy vegetables and a good dose of spices while swapping out beef for turkey. Feel free to add more of the spices as these are conservative estimates (I never measure). Don’t be intimidated by the amount of vegetables—this chili is still mostly meat. The carrots are completely hidden by the texture and flavors of the chili, just providing hidden vitamins! You will need a large stew pot and a large skillet. This recipe serves 4-6 people.

 

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 can kidney beans, drained (dark or light)

1 can chili beans, drained

1 can tomato sauce

1 can diced Italian tomatoes, drained

1.25 lbs ground turkey

1 small onion, diced

½ red bell pepper, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

¾ cup shredded carrot

1 packet chili seasoning

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp chili powder

2 tsp oregano

1 TBS garlic salt

1 tsp black pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Open all cans, draining beans and tomatoes. Place contents of all cans into large stew pot. Add cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic salt, and black pepper. Cook on medium heat.
  2. Dice peppers and onion. Keep onion separated. Shred carrots and keep separate.
  3. Brown ground turkey in skillet over medium high heat. Add oregano. When meat is finished cooking, drain and add to stew pot, along with chili seasoning packet. Stir.
  4. Cook bell peppers in the skillet you used for the turkey, approximately 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender or a desired texture other than raw. Add cooked peppers to stew pot.
  5. Cook onions in the skillet for 3 minutes over medium high heat, then add shredded carrots. Cook additional 2-3 minutes or until onions are basically translucent. Add carrots and onions to stew pot.
  6. Stir chili and season to taste. Let develop for 5 minutes before serving.

Greetings comrades! Soon I will unleash a deluge of tales from my most recent adventures! Car accidents! Strangers in strange lands! Intrigue! But, today I am going to post a brief recollection of The Beach Trip. As you might remember, I have a policy never to refuse a ride from a stranger. One day  I decided to take that policy a step further.

A myriad of petite sunbursts reflected off her aviators as she asked me, “Wanna go to the beach?” I squinted at this brunette stranger standing outside of my domicile with her three companions. I glanced at their faces, wondering why I had been chosen as worthy of this invitation. None of them looked familiar. I was undeterred.

I was properly attired and seated in someone’s car less than ten minutes later, on my way to the beach for the first time since moving to Grand Rapids. The countryside passed by in an incandescent blur of fields and grasses washed out by the brilliant light of midday. I stared with open curiosity at a chicken meandering its way alongside the tar black highway without any sense of mortality. We spent the car ride in staccato bursts of chatter and amiable silence, accentuated by the never-ending buffeting of the wind racing through our open windows.

Eventually, the road was replaced by the cloudless horizon, and we disembarked. I gleaned snippets of their lives as we lounged on the beach. Our limbs tangled and spread across the sand unencumbered by propriety, a slumbering familial group. The sand was gloriously warm, golden brown–texture like sun.

A boom box was retrieved from the car and enlisted in our quest for the perfect atmosphere. She hooked her iPod into the system, and we reflected audibly on the divergent sounds of the seagulls gliding by overhead and the awkwardly forced rhymes of Soulja Boy. We spent hours basking in the heat until the sun threatened to retire.

The brunette invited me to join her and her companions for dinner at her home. I acquiesced immediately, and we collected our things, saying a regretful goodbye to the sands which had cradled us tenderly as we napped the afternoon away. The blood orange rays set behind us as we left the shores of Lake Michigan and departed for her apartment.

“I learned to make this when I lived in the dorms and didn’t have an oven.” She remarked to me as I observed her create the meal. Her hands moved with surety as she cleverly manipulated the toaster to prepare homemade garlic bread. The glowing red coils hummed with energy as the bread hardened.

After the meal, I said my goodbyes and exited into the cool night air. I quickly gained my bearings and set out for home, perambulating without hurry as I surveyed the stars, unconsciously searching for Orion. I never saw my beach companions again, but I cherished their unfettered gift of camaraderie long after.

Greetings, comrades! I have some downtime, so I figured I would tell you about our post-wedding (but not a honeymoon) trip to Boston. It was an adventure filled with intrigue, romance, and danger! By which I mean cannolis!

First of all, my friend Devora lives in Boston, and when I spoke to her in June, she invited us to come out and stay with her for a few days. I checked ticket prices and bought a pair of round trips for less than $200 a piece via Spirit Airlines from O’Hare to Logan. Even with gas prices, we saved $150 versus flying from Grand Rapids.

However, Spirit Airlines is a piece of garbage that flies out of a garbage airport (O’Hare), and we were sorely tested before our journey even truly began. Our flight was delayed 3 hours, so we drank away our sorrows in the airport bar.

“This beer tastes like it has vodka in it.” I remarked to Kyle upon sipping Goose Island’s Matilda. A warm sensation traveled from my now-numbed tongue down to my stomach, giving me the somewhat unpleasant feeling that I had just consumed the brewery’s equivalent of pure gasoline. Nonetheless, the gasoline beer made reading the poorly ghost-written Michael Crichton novel, Micro, seem to be of as great literary merit as Ulysses or surely Great Expectations. I finished my glass.

After a relatively uneventful flight, we landed in Boston and were immediately transported to MIT by Devora who was late for orchestra practice. Left to our own devices for two hours, Kyle and I wandered MIT, and I did my best to impress him by showing off my superb Boston accent as we toured the streets.

“Go pahk the cah.” I instructed him nonsensically as we wandered afoot past a building dedicated solely to the study of memory.

“You have the worst Boston accent ever.” He retorted. Miffed, I pouted and practiced saying “Bahstin” quietly while he asked a passerby if we were correctly en route to a nearby restaurant.

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The next day we awoke early and began extensive sight-seeing (upon later calculations, we determined that we walked 8 miles this day). We visited the Boston Museum of Science and viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls. I was about to attempt convincing a fellow museum patron that I was fluent in Greek and Aramaic when I was retrieved by Kyle who discovered I had strayed away from our trio.

Devora then guided us to the Prudential Center which features a 52 story building culminating in an expansive (and expensive) view of the city in the Top of the Hub restaurant. Smoothly lying to the hostess that we were headed to the bar, we avoided the $25 per person fee for picture-taking and snapped several quick panoramas before a waiter began heading in our direction to ask us to leave. We deftly darted between tables and maneuvered around the waiter with great precision, racing back to the elevator and safely evading the fee.

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On Saturday, we slept in till an extravagant hour (10am) before embarking on another adventure, this time into Cambridge territory (5 miles this day), where Kyle informed me that I am lactose intolerant upon my adverse reaction to ingesting a large amount of ice cream. Shocked and annoyed that he was probably right, I proceeded to make him knead my stomach like a large cat in an effort to disperse the ice cream periodically throughout the day.

At the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Kyle and I stared in awe at the skeleton of a giant sloth. Devora explained to us that the skeleton (roughly twice the size of an H3 Hummer) was the South American equivalent of an elephant thousands of years ago. Simultaneously perturbed and excited by the idea of elephant-sized sloths, I spent the remainder of the museum visit in silence.

We ended our evening in Little Italy, where we purchased cannolis and ate one of the most delightful pasta dishes I have ever had the good fortune of consuming. The next morning, we lingered around Devora’s apartment before reluctantly heading to the airport and beginning the long trek home. All in all, we had an excellent trip.

I’ve received tons of questions about the music, our vows, who catered, etc. which I will answer here.

Here is the complete list of all the songs that were used at our wedding. I hand-picked each song. My bestie, Phillip painstakingly compiled all of these songs for me, and my bridesmaid Liz dumped them into iTunes. I used an app called WeddingDJ on my phone for the reception. It faded in and out for each song, even when skipping. It also allowed me to rearrange songs on the fly, and I was able to take requests.

Walking down the aisle

Walking down the aisle

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Here is the complete outline of the ceremony. I threw this together for our fantastic friend Joe Hearns who volunteered to get ordained for us when our original minister decided to back out abruptly.

INTRODUCTION

Please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices. Please remain in your rows until the wedding party has exited.

Dear Friends: We are here to witness the beginning of a marriage, and to ask God to bless Kyle Kennedy and Jordan Freeman in their wedded life together. By our presence here we all accept responsibility for helping Kyle and Jordan, and for encouraging them in their days ahead, as they grow together in love. We are called to rejoice with them in their happiness, to help them when they have trouble, and to remember them in our prayers. Let us pray:

PRAYER

Most gracious God pour out the abundance of your blessing upon this man and this
woman. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death. Amen.

ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE

Marriage is a commitment to life, the best that two people can find and bring out in each other. It offers opportunities for sharing and growth that no other relationship can equal. It is a physical and an emotional joining that is promised for a lifetime. Happiness is fuller, memories are fresher, commitment is stronger, even anger is felt more strongly, and passes away more quickly. Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid.  When two people pledge their love and care for each other in marriage, they create a spirit unique unto themselves which binds them closer than any spoken or written words. Marriage is a promise, a potential made in the hearts of two people who love each other and takes a lifetime to fulfill.

ADDRESS TO THE COUPLE

It is this potential you set about exploring in the commitment you are making today. Your marriage will foster the love you have already found; with that guide, no fences will block your way. And as you find joy together, you will bring that joy to everyone in your life.

READING

And now, Elena Campos will give a selected by the couple: [this is from a book called The Alchemist] “When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke — the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. She smiled, and that was certainly an omen — the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life. The omen he had sought to find with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and in the silence of the desert.

“It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world. He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.”

PRAYER FOR GRACE

O God, the Author and Giver of all good things, we bless you for the gifts of love and friendship and for the joys which gladden our lives. May your blessing rest upon and remain with Kyle and Jordan as they pledge their mutual love. Bless this day, and lead us always in your ways of love and peace. Amen.

QUESTIONS OF INTENTION

Kyle, you have come here to proclaim your love and devotion for Jordan. Do you take her to be you wedded wife? (I DO)

And do you promise to love her, respect her, and care for her during times of joy and hardship? (I DO)

Jordan, you have come here to proclaim your love and devotion for Kyle. Do you take him to be you wedded husband? (I DO)

And do you promise to love him, respect him, and care for him during times of joy and hardship? (I DO)

VOWS

Kyle and Jordan will now make the vows they have prepared for one another.

[I don’t have a copy of Kyle’s vows at this time]

My vows: I knew even before we started dating that I would marry you someday. You are a game-changer. You completely turned my world upside down, entering it with what I thought was surely the worst timing possible but ended up being the perfect time.

When I found you, I marveled at the idea that someone like you even existed. You are unfailingly compassionate and patient, unless it’s game night. You let me put my abnormally cold hands on your stomach when I sniffle that I am dying of frostbite. You pretend not to notice when I surreptitiously wipe my nose on your shoulder when you hug me. When I passed out at the optometrist because of nerves, you didn’t roll your eyes or tell me to grow up. You held my hand and reassured the receptionist that you would take care of me.

And you always have. You have helped me move from apartment to apartment, only complaining slightly when I told you that there were just a few more boxes to pack or that we just had a couple more trips to make.

You have always had an unwavering confidence in me, and you have pushed and inspired me to try harder or sometimes just try at all. I honestly believe that you make me a better person.

You are the only person who won’t let me get away with something just because I am cute or you love me. You won’t let me tell people when I think their baby is dumb or that they are too fat to wear a two-piece. You make me apologize to people on the internet for being rude, and you call me out if I say something nasty to our friends.

At the same time, you accept me for who I am. You understand that I am going to dance randomly in the frozen food aisle at Meijer if I feel like it, and you might even dance with me. You will wrestle with me and chase me through the house trying to kick me in the butt when I start a surprise pillow fight while you are watching ESPN. If I want to dance around the living room with Fred while singing the theme song to The Love Boat, you will chime in and sing along.

I know how much I love you, and I know that you feel the same way, so I will continue to try my hardest to be the person you deserve me to be. I love you, and I have always loved you. Sometimes there are moments in our lives where I am just so overcome by how deeply I care about you that I stop everything and acknowledge our love. I feel like this whole day is one such moment. I am so happy that we found each other, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

Also, Fred texted me that you are a butt.

EXCHANGE OF RINGS

Kyle and Jordan, the rings you exchange here represent the unending love and commitment you feel in your hearts.

Kyle, please repeat after me: [this is from the personal correspondence of two lovers Abelard and Héloïse] “To half my heart and part of my soul: what I am I entrust to you. I am yours as long as I live.”

Jordan, please repeat after me: “To half my heart and part of my soul: what I am I entrust to you. I am yours as long as I live.”

CLOSING PRAYER

And now, let us pray: [this is a modified version of the Prayer of Saint Francis]

Lord, make Kyle and Jordan instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let them sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that they may not so much

seek to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

FINAL WORDS

May the longtime sun shine on you, all love surround you, and the unfailing light within you guide you on your way. And remember: be in love with your life, every minute of it. I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.

Friends and Family, I am honored to give you Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy!

Vows

Vows

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VENDORS:

Catering was provided by Adeline Leigh Catering.

The cakes were provided by Food Dance Cafe in Kalamazoo. The cakes were: The Cat’s Meow, Carrot Cake, and Lemon Raspberry.

Our WONDERFUL photographer was Ashley Avila.

Makeup and hair for myself and the bridesmaids was done by Ashley Amaya.

The floral arrangements (with the exception of the white flowers at the ceremony) were done by Aimee Madden.

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BRIDE and BRIDESMAID STUFF

My dress was purchased for me by my wonderful mother-in-law from Becker’s Bridal in Fowlerville. The designer was Allure Bridals, style 9000. However, the dress was specially modified for me to become a close-fitting sheath dress instead of a mermaid dress.

My bracelet and earrings were purchased from Banana Republic.

My hair pins were purchased from a seller on Etsy.

My pink rain boots are Hunter rain boots.

The bridesmaids each chose their own dress from Nordstroms, J.Crew, and Modcloth.

Hunter rain boots

Hunter rain boots

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GROOM and GROOMSMEN STUFF

Kyle’s suit jacket and pants were from Express. The suit vest is from Yonkers. His tie was hand-made by a seller on Etsy.

Shawn and Ryan each had a bow tie from Etsy as well.

Carmen’s dress was purchased from Modcloth.

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DIY BONANZA!

The fabric backdrop for our ceremony was made with help from Phil Roth who assembled the PVC pipe. I then cut the fabric into strips, and friends and family glued and assembled them.

The paper flags down the aisle were hand-cut by yours truly. My wonderful bridesmaids placed them along the aisle way.

The chalkboards were the original windows from a house built in 1913 near my yoga studio. I purchased them, cleaned them up, and Kyle painted them with 3-4 coats of chalkboard paint. My bridesmaid, Emily, wrote the selected sayings on each.

The paper doily table-runners were made by Emily’s husband Sean and me.

The fabric bunting hanging from the rafters at the reception was made by Emily for her wedding. She kindly let me borrow them for my wedding.

The white flower arrangements at the ceremony were hand-made by my friend Jessica Baker for her wedding. She graciously allowed me to borrow them for mine.

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

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Well, that should be the answer to all of the questions I have received so far! Let me know if there’s anything I didn’t answer that you wanted to know about.

As a child, the highlight of the Easter season for me was the Easter egg search. I understood that the holiday was a time of religious renewal, but the thrill of the hunt spurred me into a spiritual fervor in a way that hymns could not. My mother misunderstood my restlessness as a manifestation of spring fever after the seemingly unending dormancy of winter.

Easter Sunday arrived with a burst of sunshine after a week of overcast skies and the menacing threat of a torrential flood. My body hummed with anticipation as I jammed my arms into my jacket. I was eleven years old, and this was the last year that I would be considered a child in my church. There would not be another chance, no more Easter egg hunts after this.

The lines of the parking lot had long since been bleached into obscurity by the indomitable sun. Cracks spidered across the pavement, forming slender chasms which sprouted weeds and wildflowers. My Mary Janes slapped loudly against the concrete as I ran inside the church to seek out my comrades. Unfortunately, the youth minister was ill, so the children were forced to remain with the adults.

An eternity passed. The incomprehensible sermon buzzed around my ears like a swarm of mosquitos I longed to swat away. I balled my hands into fists and was about to shriek when Pastor abruptly drew the service to a close.

Pastor’s wife instructed all of the children to migrate into the parking lot for the hunt to begin. We received our baskets and instructions. As I listened with half an ear, I took careful notes of which eggs I could see already, and I planned my route accordingly. Nevertheless, a blurb of speech entered my consciousness.

“There are many eggs, but there is only one special prize. The Easter egg hunt begins now!”

I hesitated for a moment and sought for clues as to where the special prize might have been secreted away. A ring of brush and trees surrounded the parking lot; the willowy branches were already sprouting small green buds. Renewal. A small discoloration at the edge of my survey caught my eye. There was a tiny glimmer of gold in a brush pile on the perimeter of the parking lot.

I raced across the asphalt, the lacy layers of my pink dress frothed about my knees as I ran. I jumped heartily into the brush, twigs and vines snatching at my delicate stockings. I rooted through the debris like a pig searching for truffles, flinging dead leaves and dirt around without care. I could see it, the flash of gold beckoned like a siren’s song.

After a tussle with a particularly nasty handful of decaying vines, I was victorious! A shower of russet soil sprinkled my brow as I held the golden egg above my head. Each fleck of earth washed over me like a baptism of triumph. Pastor’s wife smiled indulgently at me while the other children stared jealously.

“The egg is only a placeholder. The real prize is waiting inside.” She told me as she brushed some of the dirt off of my face.

I walked into the church a champion, proudly displaying the egg which I refused to place in my basket with its more unrefined, plastic brethren. I followed Pastor’s wife into the half-lit children’s room which had been unused that day. She carefully handed me a large book, a collection of stories from the Bible. I cherished it for many years, remembering my victory fondly whenever I lifted its purple cover.

The Highway

I have reoccurring dreams of the highway.

Every so often I start out inside an already moving car, but they all end the same way. I’m running down the divided road, looking straight forward. Sometimes the road curves and my course curves with it. The rhythm of my footfall tattoos a beat on my soul.

As the pavement undulates, I pass the idea of cars. I do not see the cars before I pass them; I can just feel them behind me as I run–a hot breath on the nape of my neck. My pace increases so much that my legs blur, and I am no longer certain my feet are touching the black tar. The trees and grass crowding the sides of the road seem overly bright, like the sun has soaked into them and changed their essence.

I never turn around to see what lies behind me, and it’s not even a possibility. The pavement weaves an ebony thread across the emerald expanse of lawn and forest, and I follow it. My breath is even and steady; the cadence does not change.

On ramps and exit ramps connect and divide from my course, and sometimes I diverge to follow one. I am completely disconnected from the ground now. My whole body curves through the air as I separate from the highway momentarily. I fly mere inches above the pavement, and the wind embraces me as I travel along the ramp. The ramps all reconnect to the highway, and I fly on till waking.

July was hotter and stickier that year than we ever remembered. We spent more time lazing about on the merry-go-round than zipping past the neighbors on our bikes, pretending we were Zack and Ivy on the prowl for Carmen Sandiego. Adam and I lay on the teal disc with our arms dangling off the sides, lazily pushing ourselves to keep a light breeze.

“Do you think that you can really slip on a banana peel?” Adam inquired as I watched the russet wood chips pass by under the questing tips of my stained fingers. It was an intriguing question, and we hadn’t had a decent experiment since the time we disastrously tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk. After procuring the fruit in question, Adam consumed the banana while I watched with disgust. I had never developed a penchant for the bland, mushy produce.

We carefully placed the banana’s flayed skin on the sidewalk and proceeded to stride across the yellow peel with great gusto. We were unable to get even the slightest bit of movement out of it; the grooves of the pavement gave it too much traction to slide. Disappointed with yet another botched endeavor, we left the playground for the backyard.

We reclined beneath the apple blossom tree and watched the emerald leaves sway in the wind. The gate creaked as a gust jostled the latch. A delicate sprinkling of jade leaves dusted our shoulders as we contemplated our next steps. After discovering that we had used the last of the bananas with our previous trial, we moved onto a new test. Adam and I were determined to find an iconic cartoon sequence that was not entirely based in falsehood.

My mother and I maintained a small garden on the back porch, and I had a small green hoe that I used for groundbreaking and gathering leaves. Carefully laying the hoe on the ground with its tines pointed sharply heavenward, I stepped back and nodded at Adam. Adam gingerly placed one foot onto the tines of the hoe, and the gleaming wood handle shot up directly toward his face. He scrambled backward and narrowly avoided a braining; I crowed with elation at our success.

“Do you think if you drop a safe on my head I will end up inside the safe?” I inquired excitedly, caught up in the excitement of our success. My mother had a small fireproof safe in her bedroom closet where she kept candies and other treats. Both of us were in high spirits thanks to our accomplishment, and I thought it was the best time for us to proceed with another experiment while the taste of victory was still fresh.

Luckily for me, Adam had more sense than I did and argued against any trials with the safe. He reasoned that we would likely get into trouble if we popped the screen out of my bedroom window to drop the safe onto my waiting head below. Instead, we retrieved our swimsuits and frolicked with the hose, aquamarine droplets spraying through the air like a wealth of diamonds as we idled away the afternoon.

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