Category: Adoption

Letters, winter, and sourdough

Letters, winter, and sourdough

This winter, though stressful when it comes to national news, has actually been quite pleasant at home. One of the delights has been receiving letters from our three-year-old friend, Mira. With her mom’s help, she writes a letter a day, complete with drawings and stickers. We love it, and can’t wait to hang out with these friends again when the weather warms up!

So much snow!

We’ve actually had a real winter this year, with regular snow and a lovely snow storm this month to accompany a big cold snap. Between our home downtown and Kirstin’s work at the retreat center, we got lots of good exercise shoveling snow.

Zuzu still enjoying the wood stove.

We’ve also been getting good exercise hauling wood up the stairs to our second floor home for our new wood stove. We’re not sure if we’ve been more excited about this, or our cat Zuzu, who spends her day meticulously calibrating her body temp nearer and further from the stove. Hot apple cider on the stove after shoveling has been a real treat.

Mmmmmmm …. sourdough bread.

Another lovely winter treat has been a new sourdough recipe Kirstin found. The starter we use is from our friend Sylvia from years ago, and after trying quite a few different recipes, we think we’ve finally found one that makes a dependably delicious, easy, beautiful loaf of bread. Tuesday is quickly becoming soup-and-fresh-bread night, following Monday spaghetti night.


With the pandemic continuing, we’ve been staying close to home, but Kirstin did get the chance to go on retreat in one of the cabins at work for a few nights. It was nice to have some quiet time to read, sleep, and just think.

New sign for World Fare!

In the meantime, Rob finalized plans to get a new sign installed on our building for the store on the main floor. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s going to look great! It will be nice to have a refreshed look as the weather gets warmer and leans toward spring.

Standing for peace, building community in a new year

Standing for peace, building community in a new year

We kicked off the new year with our very important tradition: Belgian waffles! Usually we’d have a big crew around our kitchen table for brunch and even though all that is on hold because the pandemic, we still enjoyed a sweet breakfast with our friend Willard’s maple syrup.

Waffles on New Year’s Day!

While we were still off work, we turned two bushels of apples from our local orchard into apple sauce, dried apple rings, and apple butter. These join a wide variety of canned and frozen foods we put up when they were in season throughout the past year. Eating local, in-season foods is very important to us for many reasons, including nutrition, supporting local farmers, and of course: the pleasure of anticipation and indulgence! Among our winter favorites: Monday spaghetti night features sauce Rob made and froze from tomatoes he grew, and Kirstin makes an amazing butternut squash mac n’ cheese.

Our fun with food is about to get even closer to our kitchen. Since 2003, we’ve helped out with a volunteer-run fair trade store on the Main Street level right below our home. This winter, we’ve been working on adding local and organic groceries, which involved a major rearranging of our small store space. We can’t wait to be able to get most of our groceries right downstairs, and we’re looking forward to raising a child who knows the shop as part of our home, and all of our fellow volunteers as part of our family.

Coming soon: Local and organic groceries in World Fare!

Even while we continue to build community in our neighborhood, the news on a national level has been pretty chaotic, with disturbing violence at the U.S. Capitol. In response, a friend of ours organized a weekly “Stand for Peace” event a half block from our house. Even though it’s just a small thing, standing outdoors for an hour on a Sunday afternoon—even in sub-zero temps—has helped build relationships and encourage our neighbors that we each have a part to play in creating a society that works for all people.

Stand for Peace in downtown Three Rivers.
Campfires and altered traditions

Campfires and altered traditions

The first week of November was our second week on retreat. It was nice to be in a quiet place away from the Internet during a contentious election week, but also a bit hard to be disconnected from the news. We enjoyed many early evening campfires and sunsets out by the pond. The weather ended up being so warm the last weekend of our retreat that Rob’s parents drove two hours to visit with us outdoors.

GilChrist campfire
Campfire by the pond

“Campfires” definitely seems to be a theme for the year: the last Poetry Open Mic of the year took place at the Huss Project, with multiple fires to keep people warm while social distancing. The featured storyteller was amazing, and even showed us how he can eat fire! Definitely an unexpected, crowd-pleasing ending to his performance, and to the series for the year.

Open Mic at Huss
Open Mic at the Huss Project

Though this year has been different in so many ways, we still helped get World Fare ready for the holidays, hoping for good sales to support our mission. The pandemic has impacted everyone in the world, including the artisans and farmers we partner with through the store, making it even more meaningful and important to encourage folks to shop locally for holiday gifts.

Christmas at World Fare
Christmas at World Fare

In this midst of readying the store, we celebrated Thanksgiving, but it looked very different this year. Instead of driving to the Chicago area to visit our families, we “gathered” with everyone on Zoom. It was actually a nice way to celebrate with Kirstin’s sister and her family, who live in Idaho and tend not to travel for Thanksgiving. Everyone adapted with smaller, but still special meals, including our household. With careful safety considerations, our good friend Emily came to visit us for a week and we enjoyed a simple Thanksgiving meal of locally-harvested foods by candlelight. Among the many lessons we’re learning (again) in this year: the value of family and friends, the abundance we can find in simplicity, and the beauty of the outdoors in all seasons!

Work and personal retreats

Work and personal retreats

Each fall, we go on retreat for a weekend with our close friends who work with us at the Huss Project to look at the year past and plan for the future. Knowing we’d need to gather outside this year for COVID safety, we pushed up the date to the first weekend of October, which was our first weekend since June without a farmers market. Little did we know the temps would drop suddenly, leaving us camping out in 30-some degrees overnight! But we kept hot water on for tea, stoked the campfire, and managed just fine, with lots of good conversations. It was actually quite fun to sleep out in the woods on the property, which we’d never done before. We’re really looking forward to including our kiddo in these kinds of events and seeing them enjoy having so many honorary “aunts” and “uncles” in our community!

Campfire with our community

Of course, the following weekend was warm and sunny, so we took advantage of the weather to spend the day at the beach. We brought snacks and books, took naps in the portable hammock, and skipped stones into the lake. Lots of families were out enjoying the beautiful day, and we stayed long enough to enjoy the gorgeous sunset.

Skipping rocks at Lake Michigan
Skipping rocks at Lake Michigan

Though the farmers market is done for the season and we’re starting to put the beds to sleep for the winter, there are still quite a few veggies coming on, so we’re still canning and freezing for the winter. Kirstin’s also been busy coordinating COVID-safe activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the retreat center where she works.

Preserving vegetables
Preserving peppers

At the end of all of this busyness, we rested and renewed our energy with a two-week retreat at the center in our favorite guest house, which sits at the edge of a small pond near the pasture where the resident pony and goat live. We took lots of long walks through the woods to the nearby monastery and enjoyed rowing around their small lake (see above). We even saw a mink on the pond by the house! All in all a much-needed time away from the year’s noise, especially as the coming election grows near. We’ve spent a lot of time at this house and can’t wait to enjoy quality time here with our child, exploring the woods and shorelines, putting together puzzles, and snuggling up by the fireplace with a good book.

Puck and Minna
Puck and Minna

Saying goodbye to Grandma Beverly

Saying goodbye to Grandma Beverly

June was…let’s say a month of contrasts. After a sudden and quick decline, Kirstin’s Grandma Beverly passed away. All through her growing up years, Kirstin never lived more than a half mile from Grandpa Duke and Grandma Beverly and has many happy memories of sleepovers, holidays, and Sunday dinners. Grandma was generous, funny, fiercely independent, and always fashionable. She never let a phone call or visit go by without saying she was praying for you and loved you very much. “You’re precious to us, you know.” As a young teacher, Kirstin’s grandma had Rob’s mom for a student in second grade—how’s that for “going way back”? Since we started dating when we were 15, Grandma Beverly was very special to Rob, too, and we’ll dearly miss her prayers, hugs, visits, treats, and many kindnesses.

Grandma Beverly and Grandpa Duke

Alongside deep grief: new beginnings. Namely a new Saturday farmers market at the Huss Project, designed to bring food from local farms (including our small urban farm) to our neighbors safely during the pandemic. We’re starting small with what’s available early in the season and just a few farms represented, but we’re hoping it will grow throughout the season. We’ve also restarted our beehives and got 27 fuzzy little chicks in the mail, so here’s to honey and eggs before too long.

Huss Project Farmers Market

Though we feel Grandma’s loss every day, we continue to enjoy the beauty of the place we live in because of her adventurous spirit. It was Grandma, after all, who suggested the leisurely drive to Pleasant Lake, where she and Grandpa ended up buying a cottage in 1976. Little did they know that 44 years later, their grandkids would be wading in these rivers and longing to share such joy with their kiddo before too long.    

Wade in the river
The beginning of a pandemic

The beginning of a pandemic

Well, what a month. We could not have imagined when we returned from California that by mid-March, we’d be stuck at home waiting out a global pandemic.

One of the last gatherings we had before the shutdown was a funeral for our dear friend, Martha. We knew she was amazing, but she’s one of those people who, when they pass away and folks start telling stories, you see even more depth to their compassion and humor and wish you’d had more time with them. So many folks in our church and our community will miss Martha’s laugh, kindness, and commitment to equality. We’re grateful we got the opportunity to spend time with her and her husband Henry a few years ago in Martha’s home country of Costa Rica.

GilChrist staff

Following the funeral, much of our time was spent learning about safety precautions and making decisions around coronavirus—for the retreat center where Kirstin works, for the group of folks Rob works with at the farm, and for the fair trade store we help out with. It was especially difficult to make the decision to close the retreat center for a while, but Kirstin is thankful her organization is allowing everyone to work from home while we see how things progress.

Flowers emerging at the Huss Project

Saving graces through it all have included things like long walks to watch spring emerge, recording a silly “happy birthday” song for one of our nieces, campfires in our back yard, and starting seeds for the farm in our basement. Overall, we’re feeling very thankful to have a place to live, dependable work, and plenty of preserved food in the basement and in the freezer, and we’re paying attention for ways we can support our neighbors in need during this time.