July 29, 2011

25 Years Old!!!

Happy Birthday to one of the most amazing people I know!!! 
This woman has blessed and encouraged me in so many ways... my life (and the lives of SO many others) is far richer because she is a part of it.  She is incredibly selfless, always thinking of others, and never lacking in a sarcastic quip.

Love you, dear friend; and I am so incredibly thankful for YOU! Wish we could be there to celebrate with you tonight!!
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July 28, 2011

My Momma's Popcorn Bowl

I have an amazing mom.  Seriously, though.  I really, really feel sorry for anyone who has not had the honor of meeting her, spending time with her, or eating her food.  She is remarkable.  This woman has taught me so much about the Lord, life, love, friendship, hospitality, and how to find a way to fit garlic into any dish you create cook. 

My mom is a whiz in the kitchen.  I gain no less than 12.5 pounds every time I go home.  She has perfected nearly every genre of food with zero culinary education.  You could say she’s a natural; and I have had the distinct honor to play sous chef to her brilliant head chef for quite some time.

As a result, however, this has – in many ways – hampered my own creativity. You see, I am now incapable of making pie crust in anything other than an 8-cup plastic measuring cup.  Nothing else will do.  Brownies are baked in this pan, garlic stored in that container.  And don’t even think about trying to store flour and sugar in anything other than *that* canister.

Not that these are rules of my mom’s kitchen (in fact, she is far more laidback about it than I), these are just habits that I have picked up along the way and can’t (or won’t) let go of for the life of me.  I am such a creature of habit that when we were registering for our wedding gifts, I made sure that I included key kitchen utensils with which I am familiar from the time I had spent in my momma’s kitchen.

You can be sure that when I opened the gift of a plastic 8-cup measuring cup, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that, now, I would be able to make pies for my new husband.  When my sweet, shoe-string mother-in-law (that would be my brother’s wife’s mother… and, yes, I made up that term) gifted us with a beautiful yellow 8x8 baking dish, I knew that I could now bake brownies. *Phew* That was a close one.

All of this has been to say, that soon… I will finally be able to make Caramel Corn.  *Sidenote* - for those of you who have not tasted my momma’s caramel corn made in her yellow Tupperware bowl, you truly have not lived.

Up to this point, I have tried many-a-time to make her caramel corn recipe, but – alas – without her yellow “caramel corn” bowl, I have destroyed nearly every batch. Mind you, when I use her bowl, it works every time.  Every. Time.

So friends, here it is… the newest member of my Amazon Wishlist… my very own Tupperware Caramel Corn bowl!!!!!!!

I know, I know... it's red.  I guess I'll have to manage... I couldn't find a yellow one.  Stay tuned for my first attempts… and further revelations of my complete nerdiness and minor OCD. 
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July 25, 2011

Superdate of the Year

To say that this weekend was amazing would be an understatement.  Seriously, though… So. Much. Fun.
  
This weekend we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and the Mr. completely outdid himself.  He planned the entire weekend – from start to finish – and had surprises left and right.  What a guy!
On Friday night, after dinner at a hip little sushi restaurant where we had some amazing sushi, we headed to a hotel in the cutest district in downtown Portland.  In ceremonial fashion, we popped open some champagne and cut into our saved wedding cake.  *Sidenote* (The cake still tasted delicious… so we decided to refreeze it for next year!)

Traditionally, the first anniversary gift is “paper.” Modern interpretations have been adapted, but the Mr. thoughtfully presented me with a beautiful leather-bound journal and the most beautiful pearl earrings I've ever seen.  For his paper gift, I put together a scrapbook of our first year together – documenting the highs, lows of our year and everything in between.
Saturday was spent lazily perusing shops as we meandered our way to one of my favorite places in Portland: the waterfront.  We basked in the 80°+ weather and enjoyed fascinating people-watching.  Then we headed back to the hotel to get all scrubbed up for our big night out.

Unbeknownst to me, we had dinner reservations at Portland City Grill.  Wow, just Wow.  The Mr. had told the restaurant that this was our anniversary; so when we arrived to our table, we found it adorned with rose petals, confetti, and a card from the wait-staff.  From our table, we had stunning views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens.  Breathtaking.  The service was fantastic, the food was out of this world, and my date was smokin' hot.  Go there.  Freals.
 
Braised Chicken Breast stuffed with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto 
Superdate.

Mr's Mahi-Mahi with Mango Chutney
Anniversary Dessert
In further evidence of the fact that my husband knows me inside and out, after dinner he whisked me away to a remarkable performance of “Hairspray”… from the 4th row. (!)  Be still my Broadway-loving heart.  It was absolutely amazing.  And the Mr. even enjoyed it too!

We enjoyed a lazy Sunday morning and didn’t check out of the hotel until the very last minute.  After a delicious brunch and some excruciating abdominal pain, my husband sent me off to Urgent Care.  A few tests and prescriptions later, I was finally headed home.  Upon arriving home, we were met with two of our close friends from college who, on their way back from the beach, decided to drop in to say hello!! It was ridiculously fun to catch up with them and lose at Settlers.  We have missed them so much.

All in all, it was such a refreshing weekend!  My wonderful man truly went above and beyond; and I cannot even convey how loved he made me feel.  Wowza, what a hunk.   
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July 17, 2011

A Must-Try Recipe (!)

I LOVE cheese. Seriously, I think it's time for a gouda-intervention.  Or mozzarella.  Either one, really.  It didn't help my addiction when I came across this recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs.

Spicy Pasta Salad with Smoked Gouda, Tomatoes, and Basil 
(aka: Heaven)

Photo Credit

Ingredients:
  • 12 ounces, weight Mostaccioli (Penne Pasta)
  • ½ cups Mayonnaise
  • ¼ cups Whole Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  • 1-½ teaspoon Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers (or One Minced Chipotle Pepper)
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper To Taste
  • 10 ounces, weight Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
  • ½ pounds Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes
  • 24 whole Basil Leaves (chiffonade)

Instructions:
Cook pasta until done. Drain and rinse in cold water until no longer hot. Set aside.
Mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, stir together pasta, dressing, halved tomatoes, and cubed Gouda. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed, and even an extra teaspoons or two of vinegar if necessary. Stir in basil at the end. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
PW strikes again!!

And all my taste buds said, "Amen."
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July 16, 2011

on our vacation...

The last of the laundry has been folded and put away... it's almost time to return to the routine of everyday-life.  But this last week away has been such a time of refreshment. Mostly.  It's taken me awhile to get around to writing about it because I think I'm still processing it...

Last Wednesday, we found out that Cole's grandfather had been rushed to the hospital with some serious health concerns.   Cole flew down to Colorado on Thursday to be with him; and I left on Friday.  What followed were three extremely emotional days.

I wouldn't say that they were bad days, in the least.  Just emotional.  Emotional because it was nearly unbearable to see Grandpa in the condition, emotional because we don't know when/if we'll see him again, emotional because we were surrounded by 43 family members who love us beyond belief, emotional because we'd stand in Grandpa's hospital room singing hymns for hours, emotional because we SO enjoy each other's company, emotional because the time together wasn't enough.  Or maybe just because I'm emotional.  (who me??!?)

Anyway, last weekend left me utterly exhausted... so much laughing and crying and singing and playing.  So much love, it was unbelievable.  Seriously, I'm considering moving there. Sorta.
After the All-Cousin Baseball Game
The only part of our "good-bye" on Sunday that wasn't sad was the fact that we were headed to Reno to spend some time with our niece!!  Oh, and her parents too.  

We so enjoyed our all-too-brief stay in Reno - soaking up as much of Lake Tahoe, baby smiles, and sushi as we could!  Ok, mostly the baby thing.  As far as Lake Tahoe, the Mr. spent a summer there 3 years ago, so he enjoyed playing tour guide and showing us all of his favorite haunts.  Then we laid on the beach in the glorious sun.  Glorious, I say.
Lake Tahoe
It was amazing to finally get to meet that sweet baby and spend some quality time with her parents... blowouts and all.  :)  Now, if only time would please fly by quickly until Thanksgiving... when they move closer to us!
We're back to reality now, but looking forward to our weekend away next weekend to celebrate our Anniversary!! 
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July 14, 2011

on thoughtful gifts...

Last Sunday was our first anniversary.  Due to the busyness of life, vacations, and conflicting schedules, we decided to 'celebrate it' next weekend... when life quiets down a bit.  Regardless, the fact that we have successfully enjoyed 365+ days of marital bliss did not go unnoticed by a surprisingly large number of people.  Thank you to everyone who offered their congratulations... this year has truly been the best one yet!

Most notably, however, among those well-wishers were our parents.  Besides the gifts that we have yet to give each other, our parents each gave us the most thoughtful gifts for our anniversary.  We were completely blown away and humbled by their thoughtfulness... so much so, that I simply had to share:

As we were saying our goodbyes last weekend, my parents pulled this package out of the back of their car.  Not wanting to wait the 6 days until our actual anniversary, we opened it on the spot.  And LOOK!!!!!
Now, to most people, this is just a beautiful, beautiful piece of art.  Seriously, though. I can't stop staring at it. But it has meaning that goes far beyond its utter beauty.  This picture was painted by one of my parents' friends, an amazing artist; and framed by one of my mom's best friends.   Oh, and The Picture?  It's a painting of the exact place in which the Mr. proposed.  *awwww*  Let there be no doubt as to where I get my mushy-gushy, cheesiness.

Our first piece of art. I couldn't love it more!!

Our second anniversary gift arrived in the mail the day before our anniversary.  What looked to be a sweet card from my wonderful in-laws turned out to be so much more.
Inside the card were pages and pages of copied notes...  on the first page was a letter to me from my father-in-law explaining each page.  This sweet, sentimental packet contained the clues from a scavenger hunt that the Mr. had prepared for his parents for their 27th anniversary.... 3 years ago.

Mr. was in Tahoe for a Summer Project, and his parents decided to visit him and celebrate their anniversary in a beautiful place.  So the Mr.'s gift to them was a scavenger hunt that took them to places that reminded him of their relationship and life together... all culminating in a beautiful dinner overlooking the lake. *swoon*

Anyway, if that wasn't romantic/sweet enough, my father-in-law held onto these clues and even made an entry in their journal about that night... just for me.  Mind you, this was six months before the Mr. and I even met.  My father-in-law was saving that for his future daughter to show her what a thoughtful, loving man that she had married.  *double swoon*  So, nearly 3 1/2 years later, I received one of the most thoughtful gifts... one that had been almost 4 years in the making.   Is there any doubt where Mr. gets his romantic/thoughtful/amazingness?  I think not.

What incredible parents we have... and what incredible families we have married into!!  There really is no end to the swooning.  So blessed, so humbled, so incredibly loved.

Thank you, Dad and Mom and Dad and Mom!

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on familiarity...

Eleven months, two weeks, and six days ago, the Mr. and I - fresh off a honeymoon plane from Maui - packed up our cars and headed down to our new home – 8 hours away.  Into the land of the unknown. While we were fortunate to be met with a brother and sister-in-law, we were otherwise alone. In God’s perfect grace and timing, a job fell into my lap in a matter of weeks and the Mr. began school the next month.  We found ourselves welcomed into a loving, Gospel-preaching church and into an encouraging Bible study. Everything was falling into place.

And then I had the “Safeway Meltdown.”

I am a creature of habit. I go to the same gas stations, order the same coffee drink, and run the same running route – I could have shopped my grocery store back home with a blindfold on.  But the Safeway here is set up all wrong!  The peanut butter was in the wrong aisle.  I searched high and low and could not find it.  And that was it.  I broke down crying in the middle of Safeway because I couldn’t find peanut butter. And I felt SO alone. And I just wanted to be back “home.”

That said, it had been a tough week at work; I was missing my family; I was getting tired of not knowing my way around the area; and, to top it all off, I was stuck with a screwed up Safeway.  But still, I felt pretty silly.
Since that day, it has become much easier.  I’ve figured out my grocery stores.  I found the peanut butter.

But from time to time, I still find that “Safeway anxiety” rising up in different circumstances.  I am thankful for a husband who takes such sweet care of me and works above and beyond his call of duty to make sure I feel loved.  I am thankful for technology that allows me to keep in contact with my loved ones. And I am thankful for the people who have welcomed us into their lives with open arms.
And still, even though Washington is a big state, when I see a beautiful license plate driving around our small Oregon town, I secretly feel some sort of kinship with them and wonder if we know each other.   Just shows how much I crave familiarity.  I’m in the process of learning that it is okay to feel uncomfortable.  I guess it's a part of growth. All too often, I find myself wishing to be “back home,” when – in reality – our home is here.  We are here. Now.  The Mr. and I have made our home here for the time being.  And it’s time for me to unpack my bags.

July 12, 2011

Vacation

I apologize for the absence, but we're on vacation hanging out with this cool kid.
We'll be back soon. But not too soon... we're too busy enjoying & exploring the world of infant sneezes and spit-up.
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July 11, 2011

One Year, Best Year

One year ago today yesterday, before 350+ family and friends, my whole life changed forever.  I got a new last name, a new title: wife, a new husband, a new life. I married my bestest friend - the man who never ceases to make me smile, who shows me grace daily, who doubles my joy and halves my sorrow.  What a momentous day.
What a sweet, sweet year it has been.  I've found the one in whom my heart rejoices.

Love you to the moon, Mr.!

PS - Thanks for the sweet party last year, Dad!   ;)
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July 6, 2011

Things I've Learned Lately...

1. Adding sour cream to icing (that happens to be too sweet) works magic.
2. Running a mere 3 miles in scorching heat - while intoxicating to be in the fresh air - is a death march.

3. I get to meet my niece in T-4 days.  (!!!!!!!!)
She's excited about it... can't you tell?
4. Also, the Mr. is pretty wonderful.  I came home to find the laundry done and dinner about to hit the table. I can hardly believe it's almost been a year since we were married!!  Wowza.
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July 5, 2011

Baseball, Hamburgers: All Things American

This weekend we were blessed to celebrate with my family and grandparents in Olympia.  On Saturday, we bummed around in Seattle at Pike Street Market, basking in the street musicians, fresh flowers, and Ivar's Fish 'n Chips.  Then we headed off to cheer the Mariners on at my sister-in-law’s first Major League Baseball game. A momentous occasion to be sure.
We relaxed all weekend, soaking in the temperamental sunshine and each other’s presence.  Sunday brought homemade burgers and a patriotic cake AND a necessary post-dinner walk around the neighborhood. (Also, I was able to steal a few moments of my little sister's time for an overdue sister talk :)
I was super bummed... the icing melted!
Summer's Here!!

On Monday, we had a little barbecue & game night with some friends from church. We may or may not have spent over an hour playing a board game entitled, "Whit's End."  Be jealous, you Adventures in Odyssey fans, be jealous.

By the way, Summer, are you here for good, now? Or are you just flirting with me?

What a refreshing weekend – always a rich, rich blessing to spend time with family and friends.
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Just Us

We will also remind you that this is just a BLOG…just the highlights. We don’t sit around happily smiling for pictures all day long. Our life is far from perfect: we are imperfect people serving a perfect God. We do strive to glorify God, but we fail miserably and find comfort in knowing that our debts have been paid and we have been set free.

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