Tag Archives: Bluffton University

Baking to beat the cold and stress

In many ways, yesterday was a typical January day in northwest Ohio. Sort of. There was nearly one foot of snow on the ground, and extremely high winds had created large drifts up the sides of houses and parked cars. Icy roads made driving dangerous.

Okay, so if you live in Minnesota or North Dakota, you might be yawning by now. But hey, this is Ohio. We get snow. Some years we get a lot. Some years we get none. This is one of those “a lot” years. Windchills of 40 below didn’t make it any more palatable.

So there we were. Stuck in the house. Even Bluffton University shut down for two days. So…what to do?

One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. It’s bright. It’s yellow. And it gives me a nice view of the back yard, and the little A-frame that my dad built 20 years ago. He insisted it would probably fall apart after two years.

Looking at the A-frame sparked a memory of Dad baking bread on cold winter days. So? I baked bread.

While that was rising, I figured I could log on to my work desktop and get some work done. But since I’m really good at procrastinating, I shoved that thought to the back of my brain, and instead baked cookies.
Not just any old cookies. It’s January. I hate January. In fact, my stress level rises just thinking about January. So…since whoever decided that dark chocolate and antioxidants are good antidotes to stress, I’ve resorted to the perfect cookie, Anti-Stress Cookies.

Chock full of ingredients like whole wheat flour, olive oil, dark chocolate chips, raisins, dried sour cherries, walnuts, oats, yogurt, brown sugar, butter, and whatever else you feel like adding.  I added 1/4 cup of flax seed this time. You can’t ruin them…unless you leave the room and forget they’re in the oven. Doesn’t matter. Surely, someone in your house likes dark cookies. If not, call my husband.


Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white flour (or white whole wheat flour)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!)

By the time I was done with all the baking, I’d warmed up the house, and the frigid temps outside didn’t seem nearly so daunting.

Six inches of melting snow + warmer weather + 3 inches of rain = December flood

Well. Let’s just say it’s been a pretty weird week, given that we’re just a few days from Christmas.

The deluge began on Friday, the day before the first day of winter. Except for a few moments, it continued into early Sunday, the day after the first day of winter. One week earlier, we’d been digging of first one snowfall, and then another. So not only did we have the onslaught of 3 inches of rain but we had 6+ inches of melting snow.

And what happens with so much water? Flooding. Odd that we should have a flood on the first day of winter, but this is Ohio, land-of-the-weird-weather.

10500-saturday-night-rain-continues-and-riley-risesBy Saturday evening, we could see the lights of Bluffton University’s library reflecting on the green space directly across the creek from our house. That’s usually the first hint that the creek has spilled over its northern bank. Fortunately, we live on the high side of the creek.

My husband went out late Saturday, intending to photograph and videotape images for our website, The Bluffton Icon (www.blufftonicon.com). By the time he returned, the local police department had begun encouraging those in low-lying areas to move to higher ground. Memories of the August 2007 flood were still lingering.

By morning, streets were closed due to high water, and the high school football field was waist-high in water. But even by then, the water had begun to recede. By all accounts, we were pretty lucky, although those with soggy basements might not share that feeling.

1222-9.m.sundayAnd now? Just 24 hours after the water had begun to recede, the temps have dropped from 48 degrees to 30, and a few flurries have reminded us that we’ll likely see snow before we see that much rain again.

But it’s nearly Christmas, and thanks to the winter solstice, the days are getting longer. It’s the beginning of the end….of winter’s darkness, at least.

*For a video of the flooding, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPZ49fOaDag

(Photos and video courtesy of the Bluffton Icon.)


Pottery, ceramics, and the snap of a tongue serve as reminders of a beloved man

When you asked Darvin Luginbuhl the age-old question, “What is art?”, he’d turn it right around and respond with a pointed “What do YOU think art is?”

It’s a difficult question and one for which Darvin probably never answered point-blank. Because, artist that he was, Darv never put “art” into a box. He could find art in everything and wanted everyone else to share that experience of discovery.

For example, my husband once asked Darv if he would help him design a children’s Christmas coloring contest for the newspaper he edited. Darv very subtly suggested that the traditional Christmas picture of Santa or Christmas scene — meant to be colored by each child — lacked inventiveness and would produce nothing more than a colored picture. Instead, he suggested including a blank page with instructions that each child draw or color a picture of Christmas. It was his way of encouraging youngsters to discover art from their hearts. It worked.

Growing up, our back door was a quick, 30-second jog from the Luginbuhl’s back door. I say back doors because there was no need to use the front door. Darv and my dad, who were on the faculty together at Bluffton University for about 30 years, were often found in the middle of one of their respective gardens or in Darv or Dad’s shop. Their wives — Evelyn and my mom — still share a friendship as close as sisters.

Our house was always filled with various pottery and ceramic items created by Darv. Because his son, Bill, and I were childhood buddies, my Christmas and birthday presents were often a ceramic pot filled with candy. When my husband and I married, my mom asked Darv to make a tea set for us. The gray and blue-glazed teapot and mugs are still in use after nearly 33 years.Tea-Set

So when Darvin died yesterday at age 91, it felt as if a huge piece of this small, Swiss community had gone with him. No more would we hear his cheery, “Vie gehts?” Even in the past few years as he struggled with health issues that interfered with his mobility, that cheerfulness remained intact and conversations were always entertaining.

Little bits and pieces flit through my mind as I thought about Darv’s contributions to life in a small town, as well as to the wider art community. For as much as we knew him as a small-town Swiss boy who produced beautiful pottery and ceramics, the art world knew him as a creator of fine art and a man of great knowledge.

But there are other, more intimate memories — like Darv and Dad calling us  home from wherever we were playing. Darv could snap his tongue against the roof of his mouth so loud that we could hear him at the old college track field nearly a quarter mile from home. At the same time, Dad blew through a conch shell, producing a quirky “conch honk” that could be heard just as far away. Who needed cell phones? If we missed one, we’d hear the other.

When we wanted to earn quick spending money, one of them would hire us to dig dandelions. We always went to Darv first because he paid a penny for a dozen and Dad made us fill a whole bushel basket. Or something like that…

Ah Darv, we’re going to miss you. We’ve got pieces of pottery to remind us of your creativity, but more importantly you left us with a passel of memories.  Thank you.

On words and a love for dictionaries

A zillion years ago, I majored in English at Bluffton College (now University). English. Not English education. Didn’t plan to teach. Had not a whit of an idea of what I would do with the rest of my life. But English was fun…all that reading, writing, analyzing, etc. And yes, I was one of a very few in my graduating class. Today, at least one of the others is a college professor. A few of us fell into journalism.

I love words. I love reading dictionaries. That wasn’t always true. Let’s blame that on my dad. Well, you can probably also blame him for the fact that eventually I learned to love dictionaries. When I was a kid and got stuck on a word, I’d ask my dad. Hey, he was a college professor with a PhD. He knew everything, right? But here’s the thing. He never gave me a direct answer. His usual response was, “You know where the dictionary is.” And yes, I did, but it was easier to ask. Eventually — probably after about 20 years — I learned to quit asking.

When our kids were growing up, we often played the dictionary game after dinner. It was a ruse to keep them at the table. Each person got to pick a word from the dictionary and try to stump the others. Yeah, we were a pretty nerdy, boring family. But it was a great way for the girls to learn new words. Thing is, they both surpassed us long ago.

So anyway, yesterday I was grading a student’s research paper draft. She’d used the word “continual.” My first thought was that she was wrong…that it should have been “continuous.” So, I logged onto my favorite online dictionary (I was not in my office and didn’t have access to the paper version, which would have been my first choice). Turned out she was right; I was wrong. She’d used “continual” in the right context.

And just in case you’ve read this far and wonder about the difference between the two? Look them up. You know where the dictionary is.

Amazing voices: Duck whistles and gospel singing

This week I’ve heard two amazing voices. Each voice is unique and beautiful.

I heard the first one during my Monday morning run in the dark. As I ran around the Buckeye, I heard a bird whistle that was completely unfamiliar. Oddly, I thought the bird was on the water rather than in a nearby tree. Puzzled over that all the way home. I told my husband about the new bird I’d heard. His response? “Oh, that’s the duck!” A duck? Sometimes my husband tells me “stories” (read: lies) so I was skeptical.

But this time he was telling the truth. Somehow I’d missed the article on our news site, The Bluffton Icon, where Linda Houshower had reported seeing a black bellied whistling duck. According to Linda, this duck has only been seen in the state four or five times. It usually lives in Texas, Florida and Louisiana., but somehow it must have blown off course and ended up in Bluffton, Ohio. It’s tiny by comparison to the other ducks and geese nearby, and has a distinctive orange bill. And if you’re lucky, it’ll whistle for you. My husband videotaped it (see the video on the righthand column of the Icon), but the duck must have been tired of whistling. If you listen to the video carefully, you can hear tiny squeaks every now and then. We went back down the next day and he whistled for us. Seems to be happy hanging out with the big ducks and geese.

Last night, a second voice caught my attention. Actually, when Dr. Crystal Sellers sings, everyone listens — even young children. Crystal, a music prof at Bluffton University, was the featured entertainment during the intergenerational program at First Mennonite’s weekly First Night. Not only can Crystal sing, she’s also pretty good as a stand-up comedienne. She began the evening singing a few traditional hymns, then explained out she “found my voice”.

She grew up singing gospel music in a Pentecostal church. Her dad was the pastor and also a gospel singer. During high school, she discovered classical music and at the suggestion of her music teacher headed to Bowling Green State University to study classical voice. She explained her ongoing struggle with being told she had to choose between classical and gospel.

When her dad died, she put gospel singing on the back burner, saying that was her way of dealing with his death. She focused on classical, but somehow the pull of gospel music was too strong so she secretly joined the BG gospel choir. It wasn’t a secret for long, because she appeared on the front page of the BG News with the gospel choir. Again, she was told she had to choose between gospel and classical. When she entered graduate school, she decided that was it. Gospel was out. Classical was in. And that was that. Until the day a graduate prof suggested she embrace both classical and gospel — a novel idea, thought Sellers.

And that, as she says, is “How I found my voice.” Her voice is well-suited to both styles, as she proved by finishing the night’s entertainment with an old gospel favorite.

This morning, as I passed by the Buckeye again, I listened carefully for the whistle of the little duck. He must have been sleeping along with the rest of the ducks. Not a whistle or a quack or a honk.

I wonder what would happen if Crystal stood near the little whistling duck and introduced him to her gospel/classical voice. Would they end up singing together?

Note: If you want to hear Crystal sing, don’t miss the Bluffton University Gospel Choir concert Saturday, Nov. 13; her brother will be playing drums.

Wiping down tables, flipping burgers a means for giving back to his community

If Carlin Carpenter was the first person you met in Bluffton, you’d do one of two things. Hightail it for the hinterlands or decide to stay put. After a hearty welcome from Carpenter, Jerry and Lori Lewis decided that if his friendliness was any indication of the general population, then Bluffton was a good place to settle and open their first McDonald’s Restaurant. In fact, they never did get around to visiting the two other towns that were options for them to open their first store. That single restaurant has grown to 17 within the Lewis franchise system, but the Lewises continue to reside in Bluffton.

Scott Shaw, who has worked for Jerry since he first opened the Bluffton store, is now director of operations, and lives around the corner from Jerry and his family. Recently, Jerry gifted Scott with “key employee ownership”, which shows how much faith he has in his good friend.

Today Lewis’ restaurants employ a total of 900, with 60 of those at the Bluffton store. According to Lewis, who spoke at the Sept. 10 Bluffton Chamber of Commerce breakfast, the company is an active supporter of local activities including soccer, Child Development Center, Ricky Matter Strength and Conditioning Center, Bluffton University President’s Club, McDonald’s Basketball Tournament, library summer reading program, library expansion, MAC Grants to teachers, and scoreboards at Bluffton University. In Lima, Lewis’ restaurants sponsor a Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Civic Center, and are involved in Clean Up Inner City Lima — donating $60,000 of paint and mulch, and other supplies.

The truth is, it’s hard to make a turn in Bluffton without seeing some evidence of Lewis’ McDonald’s — whether on a billboard, a sign, a tee-shirt on a tiny soccer player.

Jerry Lewis talks with Oscar Velasquez and Ropp Triplett

Lewis, who served in the Navy for four years after high school, spent another year backpacking through Europe before returning home to southeastern Ohio. He quickly became immersed in the McDonald’s business and has never lost his passion for it.

In fact, Lewis can spout McDonald statistics like a devout OSU football fan. Stats like these just roll off his tongue: 637 restaurants in Ohio, 37,110 employees, 8.4 percent are in management, and the average length of employment is 9.2 years. Lewis is all-too-familiar with the negatives that go along with “flipping burgers”.

“Don’t study hard, you’re going to flip burgers for the rest of your life,” said Lewis, adding with a grin, “That’s what I do.”

But flipping burgers has provided Lewis with the means to give back to a community that has supported him wholeheartedly. That passion for “giving back” resulted in his being awarded the treasured “Golden Arch Award” in 2010, an award given to less than one percent of all McDonald’s owners.

Lewis’ enthusiasm for the business has begun to impact his own children. Jessica, a schoolteacher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a principal’s certificate, has taken a year of absence to spend some time working for the family business. His son, Jonathan, a finance major at Miami University, intends to join the business after graduation. But Lewis is clear; this is not a matter of nepotism in the workplace. His kids begin just like every other employee — wiping down tables.

It is, after all, how Lewis started his own McDonald’s career. From wiping tables to flipping burgers to giving back. It’s all about having a passion for doing what you love.

Camper portapots? Dick the Bruiser? Spike Jones? The real meaning behind those search terms…

I find it immensely amusing to see what search terms have led readers to my blog. Take “camper portapots” for example. I’m sure the last thing this person expected to pop up in his or her Google search was my blog. But find it he did and for some reason he actually opened it up. I thought that was kind of funny, but I’m probably the only person who cares. You probably think that’s pretty boring.

There are only two people I know who enjoy this kind of thing other than myself. My husband and Ryan Lowry. Like the buzzards hovering over the woods behind our house, the two of them are glued to the stats on the Bluffton Icon, our online news source.  Oh yeah, my brother and sister-in-law watch the stats on their blogs too. Does that mean we have big egos or are just easily entertained by simple things?

I prefer to think it’s the latter.

Here are some of the other search terms that have led readers to my blog. I wonder what they thought of it? I wish they’d make comments so I know who they are.

  • Coral Naylor Florida (C is my co-worker and she does NOT live in Florida, so apparently there are other Corals)
  • Tiny campers, fixed-up campers, vintage campers Craigslist (etc.)
  • creating room with skewed perspective (is this some kind of feng shui?)
  • Mary Pink Mary blog
  • hair cut short
  • how not to have a skewed up thinking
  • Scott Hamilton Schwachman diamond (?)
  • Scott Hamilton skate to Spike Jones (see a thread here?)
  • Spike Jone (sic) typewriter wong (sic) (??)
  • Dick the Bruiser vs. the Sheik story
  • Pete and Kim Suter, Shannon (Pete teaches at Bluffton University, where I work, and he and Kim own the Shannon Theater and Shirley’s Popcorn)
  • boredom in a small town (this is a recurring search term)

And of course, my all-time favorite….

  • Truckin bozo Dale Sommers

Okay, I understand where some of these terms come from and I understand why people would do searches with them. As for the others…gotta say I’m flummoxed. If you can figure it out, fill me in.

Doc says stop running; feet say “WHAT”?

Runners are a strange breed. This I know for sure. I’ve been one for more than 30 years. Most people eye us with distrust, give us nasty looks as if we’ve ruined their day by just being there. Oddly, there are those who try to run us off the road. I’ve never understood this animosity.

For example, it was a frigid, snowy day. A day when no vehicles should be on the road. Feet are okay, if they’re clad in spikes. So there I was heading south on Main Street/Dixie Highway toward the bowling alley, my turnaround. A large truck approached me from the south. A dad and son. No seatbelts from my visual. But hey, if they want to take chances. I raised my hand to wave, when the driver raised his own hand in an angry fist-waving rampage. Ummmm…okay. Gee, did I do something wrong? I puzzled over that one all day.

So anyway, running. It’s been my thing since sophomore year of college. The first time I tried, one college roommate convinced the other two of us to trot around the old cinder track behind Hirschy Hall on the Bluffton College (excuse me, University) campus. My memory is that Emily informed Vicki and I that we would slowly traverse a lap at a time. When I developed a sideache, Em, the veteran, told me to run bent over. I’m sure this looked pretty stupid, but fortunately it was dark.

That was it until about six months later when I decided to try again. Somehow it got easier and I discovered it was kind of fun. Over the years, it became habit. From somewhere within me, a competitive urge popped up and I began races. I actually won a few. In fact, I’d have won one more except they somehow registered me as male. I actually got the trophy 20 years later. I don’t know if it took that long to compute, or if Dick Boehr just felt sorry for me and had one specially designed.

So…here it is almost 34 years later. Miles and miles behind me. Assorted injuries, temporary layoffs (i.e. two pregnancies and one knee surgery, two sacral stress fractures)…and even a few months of thinking I’d never run again. But oh…minutes at a time, we idiots build back up to some semblance of running.

So recently, thanks to an ongoing health problem, my doc looks at me suspiciously and says, “Are you still running.” Guiltily, I peek at my husband, who is glaring at me. Ulp. “Um…yesterday.” How far, says he, the expert? Um….3? How fast? Um…oh about, 28-29 minutes, maybe.

Stop now — you can start again when you’re stronger. Okay, this is not the order I wanted to hear. I wanted to think I could keep up my usual routine — that piece of me that has become as natural as brushing my teeth. But okay, for the sake of saving my energy for some tough times, I agree. Walk, he says. That’s okay.

The next day I find myself enjoying an early morning walk with a friend, who says she is more of a walker than a runner these days. In fact, she explains to me why runners don’t want to be known as walkers. There’s something, she says, about being known as a “runner”. It sets us apart, lets us continue to be the oddballs we like to be. It also allows us to eat just about anything we want…well, at least those who don’t have genetically high cholesterol.

As my walking feet fight my running brain, I remind myself that I’m doing this for a good reason. It’s all about energy. Saving it. Somehow, though, my brain hasn’t quite accepted that. It will. Someday. I hope.