Chocolate & Beer

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grateful and Guilty.”

Dear Chocolate (Beer, I will get to you in a moment),

Our relationship has been going strong for most of my life.  My earliest memories involve you at pivotal moments, like when I first learned to spell c-o-o-k-i-e and was rewarded with a chocolate chip trophy of deliciousness for my efforts.  I enjoy every form and shape that you embody…whether it be as a morsel, a chip, a rich ribbon of delight flowing through the center of a cake, a syrup in my milk, a hot and cozy version peppered with marshmallows, a light and milky sweetness, a dark version that causes me to give pause in silent revelry, an indulgent cherry-covered melt-in-my-mouth candy, truffles, or an almost-incognito transformation into red velvet cake.

I will gladly enjoy you first thing in the morning as a rich accompaniment to my coffee, melted into a symphony of flavors.  I will indulge with you midday, after lunch, for an afternoon pick-me-up, as a brilliant finish to a delicious feast, and, of course, as an unexpected surprise of delight at any time.

Although my house will always have that designated corner on the top shelf just for you, I need to warn you that it’s time for some adjustments.  You know how my husband James has been introducing me to the world of microbrews? Well, (this is not an easy letter to write), it’s time that my palate be rearranged to allow for the proper reflection of my new relationship with Good Beer.  I have learned that there is a vast disparity between cheap beer (a.k.a “Alcoholic Water”) and a truly artistic blend of flavors and alcohol.

Yes! It’s true, James’ coworkers have verified that we are, in fact, officially “Beer Snobs”.  Your suspicions are correct.  My devotion to you is divided.  Sometimes, we can all get together, as in the photo below…but please be advised that although you once had reign over my palate, now it will be shared with the likes of Short’s Brewing Co, Left Hand Brewing Co, Founder’s, and New Holland Brewing Co.  Don’t feel too rejected…after all, you brought me this far in life; making me who I am. Besides, I know that there are some very delicious chocolate stouts...maybe we could all hang out as friends?

Best wishes,


Two of my palate loves photo by: Gracie K Harold 2014

Two of my palate loves photo by: Gracie K Harold 2014


Vacation Gone Awry Part 2

In my last posts “Thankful Thursday” and “Vacation Gone Awry“,  I began to detail our recent adventures in Chicago.  The following post will continue our journey:

After our delicious meal and World Cup enjoyment at Timothy O’Toole’s Pub (not to mention the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale™ that would have left the @ReformedPubcast speechless);  we headed out to Michigan Avenue for some intense window shopping.

(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014


(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014






The boys were thrilled to discover the multi-story pinnacle of their sportswear longings!   Then we found the girls’ dream store!

(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014


We were officially ready to “veg”, so we headed back to Embassy Suites Chicago Lakefront.  Check out our nighttime view!

"Suite View PM"  (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“Suite View PM”
(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

From the kids (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

From the kids
(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

We couldn’t believe it when the fireworks started at Navy Pier!

(The next photo is taken from one of the beds in our suite!)


"Suite View Fireworks" (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“Suite View Fireworks”
(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

We eventually went to sleep, exhausted from a day that was filled with adventure, twists and turns!

The next morning, we were beyond pleased with the complimentary breakfast at Embassy Suites.

Look at the deliciousness!

Embassy Suites Chicago Lakefront Breakfast (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Embassy Suites Chicago Lakefront Breakfast
(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

5 kids, 2 adults and complimentary all-you-can-eat breakfast is the perfect combination!

After swimming in the gorgeous pool, we checked out; checked our bags, and were delighted to learn that the porters had located us a taxi van so we could all ride together!

Tomorrow’s post will continue our Chicago Getaway.

Vacation Gone Awry

As I mentioned in my previous post,, James and I took the youngest 5 kids on an interstate vacation. We had originally made plans to visit my friend Kay, but a health issue arose and so, as James and I are fond of saying, “we punted” and booked a hotel in Chicago.

We had the oil changed locally a few days before the trip, and had both front ball joints replaced on the eve of our excursion, so the vehicle was barely driven home before we left in it early the next morning.

My next little divulgence is far from my proudest moment in common sense. I was chugging down my coffee as I drove along contentedly on the freeway. I kept thinking, “Wow, that’s kind of cool how there is a fog behind us but we never drive through it!”

Stating the now-obvious: it was smoke. If you ever note fog only behind your vehicle, pull the heck over and exit the car! (James has mercilessly and comically taken to say, “Hmmm…I think there’s a fog behind us..oh wait! That would be SMOKE!” He follows this with a wink and a hug as he shakes his head in disbelief.)

The kind driver on the highway flagged us down by yelling “SMOKE!” while pointing to the back of the auto. We exited in Michigan City, and passed garage after garage that was closed, until we found Michigan City Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.


Michigan City Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Michigan City Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

They began a thorough inspection of the vehicle while we ate breakfast (James and I had the kids make bagel sandwiches for the trip…we left them at home in the fridge).

We were so thankful for the provision by God of the exact dealership that we needed, in close proximity to a Denny’s® that we could eat at. Additionally, it was Ruby’s birthday when this all happened. Our server was incredibly thoughtful, and not only did she rally the other servers to sing, but she also enlisted the clapping of the other diners in the restaurant!

Ruby was so thoroughly surprised! The kids did not complain once. Seriously, not a single grumble. James never snapped at me or growled at anyone. I point this fact out not because he typically snaps at me, but because his kindness is so vastly different and opposite of my ex husband’s demeanor.

Regarding the unexpected developments of the car breaking down, we just both decided to “roll with it” and see what would unfold.

We returned to the dealership where Kelly explained that our differential seal was cracked. If we had driven any further it literally would have ruined the differential! Despite my ignorance, God mercifully kept the car running with only minor damage. It could have been so much worse.

We also remembered that the SouthShore line runs out of Michigan City and into Chicago. Kelly found us a taxi service, reserved two taxis to accommodate us and our luggage; and we were off in a flurry after birthday wishes to Ruby, best wishes for a fun time to the kids, and a hug from Kelly to me.

We boarded the train, thankful that we had managed to condense everything into a couple carry-ons and some other bags. During the two hour train ride, the kids were fabulous! Four of them had never ridden the train into Chicago before, so they were
enthralled with the journey!

Track View (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Track View (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

We arrived at our stop, gathered our luggage; and set off on foot for the Embassy Suites. We walked quite a ways, determined to “hoof it” after sitting on a train for so long.

Embassy(R) Sign

Embassy Suites Chicago Sign


Lobby at Embassy Suites Chicago. (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lobby at Embassy Suites Chicago. (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014



Suite View 1 (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

Suite View 1 (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

The kids rested by James in the lobby while I went to confirm check- in. Mr. Kent Toyota was very helpful. Apparently, I had accidentally mapped the route to the wrong Embassy Suites (there are two within the city of Chicago). When I asked about the Metra, Mr. Toyota insisted instead on calling us a taxi.

Within moments, we were whisked away via taxi. We arrived, bags were checked, and we were delighted by the beautiful foyer, plush chairs, and spacious bathrooms (when you have three girls in one family, this is a necessity).

The concierge, Doris, was thoughtful, caring, and empathic. She arranged for us to have a Lake view suite! We boarded a glass elevator and went upstairs to freshen up. The views left us breathless!

By now, breakfast was a distant memory, so we located the helpful restaurant legend which had been given to us at check-in and we were off! We quickly found Timothy O’Toole’s Pub, were seated, and had our drink orders and appetizers requested before we knew it.  James and I enjoyed our Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale™ and we split the most tender Salmon that I have ever tasted!  @TimmyOTooles

Timothy O’Toole’s Pub was airing the final World Cup match between The Netherlands and Costa Rica, and the kids quickly became enthralled with the game (on the flat screen in our booth).

Timothy O'Toole's Pub Chicago

Timothy O’Toole’s Pub Chicago @TimmyOTooles @GracieKHarold


Watching the match in the family pub downtown Chicago was the experience of a lifetime! The cheers and collective groans of the other patrons, the smell of delicious food, the incredible service, and the universal camaraderie of knowing that we were watching history unfold was soul filling.

Monday’s post will detail more of our experience on our “Vacation Gone Awry”.

Pigs in the Blanket

The humidity was high, the a.c. was cranked, and our house was packed with our 5 kids who ALL wanted some “date time” with mom…as I was attempting to finish the final edits on my book.  There is nothing like a deadline to bring out the insatiable, unquenchable desire in every family member for personal, uninterrupted attention.

I grabbed Marissa and Ruby, our daughters, and announced; “If you girls want to spend time with me before I start the final edits; please grab a pan and start greasing!”  They obliged, and we started pulling apart the pre-made dough and rolling up the breakfast sausages.  We giggled and teased each other as we worked, simply enjoying each other’s company.

Ruby whipped through her assignment quickly and hurried to take her turn with the video game controller.  Marissa and I continued wrapping the “pigs”, and then discovered that we had one extra chunk of dough left.  Marissa was quick to suggest that we give it to James, since he is the “Daddy who takes care of us all!”.

I agreed, and her next idea triggered a string of snickers from me.

“Let’s make it into a beer bottle, so he can have a biscuit and beer at the same time!”

We crafted our “beer biscuit”, and I obligingly carved into it with a knife so it read; “Dad only”.

beer biscuit


I love the creativity and imagination of children!

We placed the pans in the fridge, the girls snuggled in to watch a movie; and I was soon tapping away on the laptop right in between them.

James taught me a while back that headphones are indeed a gift of God.  I turned on my ‘get off your butt and write” playlist (seriously, that’s really what it’s called), and got to work.

I am not exaggerating when I say that every 90 seconds or so Marissa proceeded to air type over my keys, or say, “Mom!  Did you see that? Pretty cool movie, huh?”

Each time I would gently poke her or hug her or tickle her or mess up her hair and after answering her question I would say, “I see you , love.  I am right here.  Even though I have to work, I still love you and I am SO Glad that you are our daughter!  We are so glad that you are ours!”

There are a lot of different issues at play in her life right now.  She finally opened up to me a bit, and then after supper, James and I took her on a walk so we could dig deeper into what is bothering her.

Through our talk, we realized that adjustments take many different forms.  All parties involved need to consciously be aware of other people and their feelings.  One child may very well have needs that are completely different from another.  I need things that James doesn’t.

That’s okay; it’s all part of adjusting to normal.

Maybe I spent too much time yesterday in the air conditioning, but it seems to me that our individual needs are kind of like the pigs in the blanket.  Some of them had an extra thick blanket of dough wrapped around them, some were exactly symmetrical, some had barely any dough around them.  We all followed the same recipe and instructions, but our individual personalities shone through.

That’s what family is like.  We all are following the same guidelines, but we need to be aware that we will not all look the same, or share the same exact needs.  It’s been fun to rediscover that truth this week as we have learned how to serve and love one another individually.  I understand that there will be moments when it doesn’t seem like any forward progress is being made, moments when the kids forget that they are to think of each other first; but all in all, I think we are becoming a “pigs in the blanket” family! (Beer biscuits and all!)

Pigs in the blanket

Pigs in the blanket


Pilates & Children

pilates & children I embarked on a new adventure today!  I invited the kids to join me in my pilates routine.  The following is a loose interpretation of the transcript:

Me: Okay, the mats are set up, the DVD is in; which workout would y’all like?  The “get moving in the morning”, “the cardio”, “the strength building”, or “the intro”?

Rex: “Get moving in the morning”

Me: Let’s do it, then! (Peaceful music plays on the screen, and the instructor launches in full throttle with marches, jumping jacks, scissor kicks, etc)

Rex, David & Ruby: (panting) Who is she? I think she’s a general or something!  She’s NOT even talking…the voice is a recording! That’s NOT FAIR!  Mom! WE-Can’t-Do-this! 

Me: (stopping the DVD) Which one should we do instead?

Rex: Not the cardiAC one!  It will give me a heart attack!

David: Let’s try the strength building so we can move on quicker to Daddy’s exercise program instead of “pi-lahhhh-tees”

Me: (switching episodes on the DVD), Here we go! (After 20 seconds of it)

Ruby: Mom!  This is crazy!  They go way too fast!

Me: Huh, I do this all the time…are y’all telling me that pilates is harder than you thought and your momma is tougher than you thought?

ALL 3: Nooooo, nope, uh-uh….nooooo….it’s just, um, early….yeah; early in the morning! uh huh!

Me: (flipping over to the intro) This time we are NOT stopping…we WILL do this; just go at your pace. As the intro starts, I begin rotating among the kids to ensure proper core tightening.  Rex crumbles into a human ball of giggles as soon as I get within 12 inches of his stomach.  Pretty soon I pause it so we can all finish laughing.

I restart the DVD and things go smooth for a 1 (3) (The instructor starts the pelvic thrusts for strengthening)

ALL 3: Oooooooh….gross! Why is she humping in the air like dogs do in the spring? MOM! What kind of exercise is this anyway?!?!

Yup, Pilates & Children = a strong desire to have a beer and chocolate donut for lunch.

Why being a man is better. A slightly sarcastic post by James.

The following is a guest post (in honor of Father’s day); by my husband James:

A quick something about me.  I love God (Yahweh), my beautiful wife Gracie, and our 6 children. I am a bit sarcastic and use lots of one-liner’s.  I like beer; dark is my favorite but I don’t discriminate against light beers.

@ShortsBrewing, @reformedpubcast, @foundersbrewing; @AngryOrchard, thank you for some deliciousness in life!

@ShortsBrewing, @reformedpubcast, @foundersbrewing; @AngryOrchard, thank you for some deliciousness in life!

I think God gave us beer for our enjoyment but not to abuse.  I like talking through theology while enjoying a good beer; that’s one of the reasons why we like @reformedpubcast on twitter.

One of my love languages is joking with people…just ask Gracie.  We have a constant running joke in our house, which consists of me saying, “Yet another reason why being a man is better than being a woman.”  I am totally joking with this, but I like to wait for a weird moment when we are together and just say a random number and give a reason.  Gracie laughs at me every time.

Some examples follow:

Reason #5: Have you ever walked down the hairspray aisle with the objective of finding the perfect product? Being a man is better.

Reason #67  why being a man is better; I can go to the bathroom by myself while in public settings.

Reason #55: As a man, I don’t have to try on 95 outfits in order to find 2 that fit.  This frees up lots of time for other things.  (Seriously, we need to find a store that serves beer to men while their wives try on clothes…I’m just sayin’…)

But all joking aside, I thank God for Gracie.  I couldn’t do life without her.  God knew us men.  We need help and partnership; otherwise known as relationship.  We are after all made in the image of a relational God.

I want to challenge you to take a moment to think of your relationships and be thankful for the people who are there to help, encourage, and cheer you on; as you continue on in your journey.

May God bless you and your relationships.  Whether it be marriage or friendship; HE always provides us with someone there to help us.