Monthly Archives: October 2015

meet christie: pastor and healthy food advocate

“It’s so ironic I feel called to urban contexts,” Christie says. “We joke that we live like urban Amish, and we’re working toward going off the grid—or at least not relying on it.”

Last year, at a Well City Milwaukee event, I learned that of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, Milwaukee ranks No. 71 in terms of health outcomes. This means when you consider infant mortality, financial health, obesity and basically every way a person could be dubbed healthy, we’re second-to-last. As a resident of Milwaukee, my state’s biggest city, that is disheartening.

Now, I work on the daily to help solve these things through empowering others to grow their own food. (I work at Victory Garden Initiative with this inspiring woman.) Because of my job, I am grateful to get to meet others working to promote equality, social justice and healthy food for all. Christie Melby-Gibbons is one of those people.

Christie grew up on a homestead in northeast Iowa. Her family’s nearest neighbors—or people within 5 miles—were Amish. She grew up growing her own food and bartering for other needs. Her parents, originally from Chicago, had burned the corn on their land to restore it to native prairie. They used lumber from the forest around them to build their own home, complete with a little wood-burning stove. And for awhile, the whole family slept in one bed—our first Person With Panache on the Prairie! Then, the family later moved to Michigan, Christie went to college at St. Olaf in Minnesota, and she completed her masters at the Moravian Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Now Pastor Christie and her family live in Milwaukee, where she’s starting a wonderfully groundbreaking pay-what-you-can restaurant called Tricklebee Cafe. Continue reading

meet kimberly: chicago food entrepreneur

Kimberly Crupi Dobbins, Simple Squares, People with Panache

I asked Kimberly why she thinks her sweet Squares are successful. “People like the taste and the fact that it’s simple,” she says. “We’re very transparent—there are no fillers, no rice puffs, no highly processed syrups like agave. It’s just clear, whole foods that everybody knows what they are. If you had a garden—granted an exotic garden—you could find everything in your backyard.”

Food has become my biggest frenemy.

Four years ago, a typical day of food for me would have looked like this: a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich and Starbucks Caramel Macchiato to start my morning; Kraft mac and cheese for lunch; Taco Bell for dinner; coffee ice cream straight out of the tub for dessert; and, if I stayed up late, pepperoni pizza as a midnight snack. How I didn’t weigh 1,000 pounds is a miracle.

What happened instead was much more frustrating: My body turned against me. All of a sudden my body started rejecting all of these foods that were so normal and delicious to me—onions, garlic, apples, chocolate milk, creamy sauces, cookies. Everything made me feel like crap and came with a healthy dose of less-than-ideal repercussions. The most frustrating part is that, all these years later, I still have no answers. I don’t actually have any allergies or diseases or anything. I love eating and trying new foods, but I just simply can’t digest things the way I could before. It’s certainly one way to make a 26-year-old feel 86!

So the goal has been to pinpoint exactly which foods I can and can’t eat, and it’s really hard. While I know that list from my old life probably gives Alysse goosebumps to see (and we were roommates at the time!), I also can no longer imagine consuming any one of those things. Continue reading

meet sister adele: milwaukee franciscan nun

Sister Adele in the Vineyard, People with Panache

Before Vatican II—the first assembly of Roman Catholic leaders of such large magnitude in nearly 100 years—Sister Adele’s name was Sister Raymond after her father. Her beautiful baptismal name (in honor of her aunt) was returned to her five years after she became a sister.

The sky was bright and the breeze was perfect as I drove up for a 7 a.m. breakfast with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. Sister Adele Thibaudeau came out to meet me at my car, and we walked the grounds at this gorgeous oasis along beautiful Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. Vineyards, beehives, gardens, orchards, and gorgeous altars to Mary, St. Francis and key Catholic figures adorned the grounds, and it was so peaceful. If only every morning could start with Sister Adele!

As we walked and talked, I felt so serene and centered talking to the young nun my grandma had referred me to—Sister Adele’s tranquility is contagious. Widowed more than 25 years ago, my grandma is an associate at our local convent, which means she participates in much of the religious life without taking the vows of sisterhood. I come from a Catholic family on both sides and have very much embraced and deepened my faith in recent years, so I was happy and excited to get to share the story of Sister Adele, a woman following a path I myself have considered.

Fun fact: In a place where the median age is 80, Sister Adele is in fact one of the very youngest—though not quite as youthful as some of the sisters in If Nuns Ruled the World, one of my favorite recent reads. But it doesn’t matter. Her heart, her ideas, and her energy are timeless. Continue reading

meet laura: chicago upcycler of old into new

Dstressed Cuff, peoplewithpanache.com

My cuff I bought from Laura! “I’ve always loved vintage jewelry and stuff, so I started making cuffs where I use vintage bindings for the middle, and the snap covers are all vintage buttons,” she says.

It was love at first sight.

My gorgeous gray leather cuff, shown in the picture on the left, was lovingly made out of all vintage materials by Laura Allswang, the vintage upcycling guru behind Dstressed. While I was interviewing Laura in her home, she brought out these cuff bracelets she makes. The soft gray coupled with the silver leaf caught my eye. My fatal mistake was trying it on—it fit like a glove. So naturally, by the time the conversation was over, I had to have it. And now I wear it all the time! Today I am wearing it in honor of People with Panache, sharing Laura’s story. (And I thought it would be a great second-ever post on PWP’s brand-new Instagram account!)

Laura lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and kids (the ones not away at college). She met her husband when they were both in law school. Then, she practiced law for a short time before realizing she didn’t really want to be a lawyer. She decided to stay at home with her kids and as they grew up needed more. Laura let her creative juices flow and started painting furniture, which grew into a business involving decorative trays from picture frames, supple leather cuffs and more—all in her signature distressed style using only vintage and antique pieces. Continue reading