I couldn’t let Grace down by not keeping up with the title theme…

Look at her go!

Katie asked me a while back if I’d help her learn how to cook. I couldn’t wait! Visions of aprons and journals and gourmet meals danced through my head. Then I remembered my audience. Katie is a sweet girl with simple tastes and gourmet would bore her. (Not that she’d tell me. Her manners are fabulous.)

Mac & cheese that didn’t come out of a box? Well… that was a fascinating concept.

Cooking with Katie

And chicken that didn’t come in a nugget form? Amazing.

Cooking with Katie

We spent the afternoon Christmas and then grocery shopping. And because the stars aligned, four other friends showed up for lunch so Katie had her very own audience. Everyone was quite impressed.

Table set -- cooking with Katie

(Look! My new folding chairs! Thanks again Santa!)

Katie is the daughter of a former coworker. We’ve been hanging out for a couple of years. I invited her to Nicaragua with me last summer. During our work trip, we really got to know each other and not just because we ended up as roommates. I was able to see her out of her environment — able to admire her grace, her patience, her incredible work ethic and true kindness. She impressed me a thousand ways.

She was the youngest member of our team and she worked tirelessly without ever complaining. It was back breaking work, but she did it with wide eyes — excited to be in a new country. She reminded me how fun it was to be 15 with a passport, youth and a passion for the world.

She’s recently decided to go to a new high school. She’ll start all over, with a new opportunity to create who is she, in just a few weeks. I think she’s almost as excited to not have to wear a school uniform for the first time in 15 years as she is to have new classes, including fashion design. We spent a lot of our cooking time talking about who she will be at this school. For the first time — after more than a year of telling her myself — she said she’d be the smart girl. I truly had to hold back jumping up and down, I was so thrilled. She’s in a couple honors classes for the first time and I think her new-found sense of self-esteem couldn’t come soon enough.

Something tells me we’ll always be friends. And I’m going to have a lot of fun watching the amazing things she’ll do.