Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Ultimate Period

I really don't know how to write this post.

That sentence, along with the salty drops that are stinging my already bloodshot, sunken eyes makes me seriously question whether I should write this post...
When initially setting up this blog (a college course assignment), my writing professor strongly cautioned against cathartic blog posts. It might feel good, might even bring a sense of healing... but that kind of writing is generally meant for a personal journal or the therapy session, not the world wide web.
Well I guess I'm sort of breaking that rule with this one.

On Thursday evening my Gramma Lolo passed away.

How does one follow that sentence? What am I supposed to write after it? What is there to write? It's not really a sentence. It's a statement. A pronouncement. Seemingly, it's the ultimate period. And why do we use the term "passed away?" What does that even mean? Away to what? It can sound so hopeless. So futile.

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field... the grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of God stands forever." ~ Isaiah 40:6b, 8. 
We humans, our lives, they are futile. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But God's Word is eternal. It's withstood the test of time. I spent the greater part of the morning scouring through it looking for what He has to say about heaven, hope, resurrection and death, since I seem to be at a bit of a loss. His words are always better than mine anyway... And as usual His Word came through.
"Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?" It has been swallowed up by the victory given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ! He promises to wipe away the tears from all faces. Promises and proclamations that bring me comfort.

As I write this I'm sitting on the couch in my apartment listening to the big fat raindrops bang on the metal balconies of the building next door with an occasional sunburst sneaking through the clouds -  nothing out of the ordinary for a spring Saturday in Seattle. And yet I find this bi-polar weather very much mimics my emotions.
Grief is an odd thing.

I know I shouldn't be sad. In fact I want to rejoice! My Gramma Lolo has not "passed away" into some dark empty void. On the contrary she has entered into the kingdom of light. She has been raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms, to the place that He has specifically prepared for her, so that she might be with Him. Now this makes me tear up!
She is now clothed with the imperishable and immortal - with her heavenly dwelling. She has a new body and is no longer held hostage in the withering shell that has confined her for so long. She has been set free. She has finally gone home. She is sharing in the joy and happiness of her Master and Creator.

For those of you who don't know my Gramma Lolo (my mom's mom), was a resident of St. John's Nursing Home in Billings, MT for 37 years. She was a sweet, petite yet incredibly strong woman who loved Jesus, loved her family, and loved to sing. When she was pregnant with her fourth child she suffered pre-eclampsia which resulted in a major brain hemorrhage. The baby died and she was left severely debilitated. (In layman's terms think Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey, only my Gramma survived and the baby did not.) My Grandpa cared for her for 8 years but it became too difficult for him with 3 children and so she was placed at St. John's Nursing Home and that has been her home ever since.

It's hard to describe Gramma Lolo to people who've never met her. While the "accident" as we like to call it, left her verbally and physically challenged, when you spoke with her or visited with her it was clear that all her mental faculties were very much intact. She knew what was going on. You could see it in her big beautiful green eyes. And I found that that only seemed to increase over the last few years when I visited with her.
Not only that but her joyful spirit, love of music and love of Jesus have always been her hallmark. Everyone, I mean everyone at St. John's knew Lolo. They knew her cute little laugh and her sweet voice that was often humming a tune or hymn. I think she'd learned the secret of being content in every situation.

The last time mom and I visited her was a little over a month ago. We'd spent a week with her and on our last day, Sunday, we had a small worship service in her room. Gramma was laying on her bed coming in and out of sleep, but as mom read this passage from 2 Corinthians I saw her eyes open as she drank it in:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."  ... 
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  
This is who my Gramma Lolo was. A beautiful jar of clay. She carried around with her the death of Jesus so that His life might be revealed in her. She taught me and so many about long-suffering and that it is possible to rejoice in all circumstances - to consider trials pure joy, fixing her eyes and her heart on worshiping her Lord and Savior. And now she is with Him. He has brought her faith to completion. She is made new.

Death is not the "ultimate period" for God. It wasn't for my Gramma Lolo and it won't be for me. And I'm so very excited to see her there in Heaven. I can't wait to talk with her and dance for her. I can't wait to see how God used her over the past 37 years to fulfill His purpose in and through her. A mystery only He can and I'm sure will reveal some day.

Death does not have to be the "ultimate period" for you too...
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Do you believe this? I pray and hope you do!

Friday, March 21, 2014


On our way to and from Pacific City, OR - where Ry and I went to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary, and fulfill my Christmas gift to him - we passed through Portland. 
Our ETD (estimated time of departure) was 3:30pm. We left around 4:30pm. Even though it was a Thursday night we both braced ourselves for the horrendous traffic we'd surely be sitting in, particularly since it was a glorious day - few and far between up here in the PNW during the winter months. The worst part of the drive was on the 99 Viaduct, but how can you complain when you get to see the sun setting on the Puget Sound behind the Cascade Mountains? Pretty spectacular. 
Miraculously we made it down to Portland by about 7:30. I'd brought a handful of magazines for reading material and this one just happened to be in the bunch... 
How convenient.

My tummy started to rumble. It was 7:30pm. We had to eat, and we just happen to be in Portland... Why not just eat food, but eat well? I did a little on the spot iPhone research... thank you Eater Portland app... and off we went to the Firehouse Restaurant in NE Portland. It was delicious. 

And this little sideshow foodie detour reminded me of the last time we spent a weekend in Portland. Surprisingly, our previous visit was my first time experiencing this burgeoning city and tasting of its culinary delights. 

We'd gone down to celebrate my birthday. I'd been stuck in our apartment all week icing my knee with a potentially torn meniscus. It was a week fraught with many emotions and doctors visits. Not only did I go to our sports medicine doctor, but I had to dish out another $20 co-pay to my naturopath so we could get to the bottom of the mystery illness I'd been battling since September. He drew some blood for a food allergy test and said he'd probably have the results back early the next week. So this Portlandia food adventure was my last chance to throw down the "ignorance is bliss" card. And boy was it blissful! 
But just before we left I received some great news... No meniscus tear!!! Wooooooo!!!! Happy belated Birthday to me! :)

Our first stop was Clyde Common for a celebratory drink and a delightful meal. The drinks: superb. The food: delightful. The ambiance: dark and romantic. The photos: didn't really turn out.
Bummer. Guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Saturday we slept in and woke up to a lovely brisk fall day. The plan: Powell's. I'd only heard of this Everest of bookstores (okay maybe it's a Mount Rainer), but had yet to lose myself (and my day) within its rooms and rows of treasures. We had to be sufficiently fueled for such an undertaking. Byways Cafe was just the spot. 

Since we'd slept in, it was definitely a little later. Okay a lot later. But we both wanted breakfast. You just can't start your day without it! We were in luck! Byways Cafe serves it all day long and it was just a short walk from Powell's. Reminiscent of an old-school diner, it was full of collectable plates, character and smiles. The food was lovely and the service was sweet. Their pancakes looked "to-die-for," so if you can eat gluten I'd go for those! 
Our bellies full and hearts happy we headed off to Powell's. 

And Powell's did not disappoint. In fact I got 75% of my Christmas shopping done that very day. Books for all! We walked back to our hotel that evening, lugging our loot, but then it was on to the next adventure... Dinner!
After extensive research (what else was I going to do all week on the couch while icing my knee?) I'd weeded through many menus and decided on Old Salt Marketplace in the Northeast neighborhood. 
Seeking out the restaurant was an adventure in and of itself. It's not that it was difficult to find, it's just that Portland's comprised of mostly quaint, adorable old homes dotted periodically with pockets of retail shops and restaurants. No wonder Portland's known for its foodies... How could you live here and not be, when your local haunt serves microbrews and menu items like "roasted sunchokes, parmesan fritters, hot coppa, bagna crudo"?
It was a busy night at Old Salt, so we drove down a few blocks to grab drinks and then returned. We were not disappointed. The beet and carrot salad was out of this world and my duck was one of the best I've ever had. Definitely worth the drive!

So I guess there are a couple cities where the Sunday Brunch reigns supreme. Let me give you a hint... Portland is one of them. And choosing your spot proves quite a difficult task. I'm not going to lie... I chose this place because of the decor. Just so happens the food was phenomenal too. The Woodsman Tavern. I found it while perusing the Eater Portland blog and knew we had to eat a meal there.
Side note: Eater is a excellent resource for finding great food when traveling... I've used in it NYC, Portland and San Diego and it hasn't let me down once.

Have you ever had a moment where you see something and you're like "Did someone sneak into my brain and steal that idea because thought of it first!!!"? Let's just say their wall of paintings is exactly the concept I had for our apartment... But that's for a later post.
They had a buckwheat pancake that I was really hoping would be gluten-free. Yeah. No such luck. But... their bourbon baked apples were... ugh. I don't even think I can describe how mouthwateringly delicious they were. And the bacon! I won't even try... Haha!
 Ryan had The Lumberjack breakfast. Appropriate with his beard and flannel. He looked like he belonged there. Or on the cover of a Brawny ad. 

A little disappointed I'd yet to find any baked goods that were gluten-free in this food-conscientious town Ry and I drove up Martin Luther King Jr Blvd on our way out of town in search of our final treats before our celebration weekend came to a close. I mean we did need some coffee for the drive... 
We grabbed our coffee, to-go box of goodies and some gluten-free dinner roles for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast and hit the road. And boy were our treats tasty! Ryan devoured his chocolita bar.
Gluten-free? You coulda fooled him...

It was a great weekend. One I'll remember fondly... or at least my stomach will. It was a celebration. And we celebrated well. 
If you have a chance I hope you can check out some of these fine establishments. They're really wonderful! And I hope to have more restaurant-recommendation blog posts in the future as well. We sure do love good food! 

Cheers and happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Moments to walk in

So I'm really really tempted to begin this post with some serious self-deprication.
You know... the way I pretty much begin every post these days.

But then I thought that might get a little old. 
I mean really... I shouldn't waste my words writing apologies for why I haven't been writing. 
I should just WRITE. Right?
Haha... that's kind of a tongue-twister.

Aaaammmmm.... Yeah. 
So what should I write about? The words don't always come so easily.
It's not for a lack of them. On the contrary, I find I have too many. Shocking, I know... 
Sometimes I think that's the hardest part. Life happens so quickly. I feel like the older I get the faster it goes by. So many moments I'd love to just freeze, even if for a minute or two. To pause everything and walk around in a snapshot. Dig my heels in and soak it up. But like water they just slip through my fingers. 
Have you ever had moments like these? Times that you knew were extraordinary? A day that you knew was a total gift? A weekend, afternoon or evening; a coffee date; a conversation that you knew would be pivotal. Life-changing. A touchstone. A pebble to collect in your life's satchel. Or maybe it was just something beautifully simple and ordinary. The smooth caress of air on your hand as you drive along a twisty mountain road. Snow falling in Manhattan. Salt-laden sea breezes and hot sun rays on an Oregon beach in February. Seeing a smile in someone's eyes. Crawling in to bed long after "bedtime" and having your loved one unconsciously grab you close, as if to say I missed you. A blazing sunset.

These are just a hand-full of moments that I wish I could walk around in. There are volumes upon volumes of memories I'll cherish forever. I somehow want to acknowledge them all. To write them down or speak them aloud. To take a mental snapshot. Because if I don't perhaps I'll lose them forever.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with all of this or how this became the topic of my blogpost. I think maybe because this past weekend was another weekend I wished would never end. It was the fulfillment of my Christmas gift to Ryan - he asked for "waves" and so I took him for a long weekend to the ocean. The best I could do. GOD provided the waves. But it also, coincidentally, was the six month anniversary of the day our lives were joined together forever. Yep. Another day I'd love to relive over and over again.

Nostalgia. It's a powerful thing. I guess my point in writing this is to encourage any one out there who's reading this to take those snapshots- real or metaphorical. Don't let those moments pass you by. Rather, let them soak into your soul like lovely rays of sunshine. And thank God for each and every one. Remember them with fondness and thanksgiving. And keep looking forward with eyes open, searching for the next one. And don't forget to write it down so you can walk in the moment whenever you like. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Go Hawks!

"Come on, come on, come on... AH! COME. ON!!!"
"He's doing it, he's doing it, HE'S. DOING. IT!!!!!"
"OH! OH! OH! Comeee onnnn..."

The decible level is much much too high. It doesn't help that I was sitting at the end of the megaphone that is my family's home. Hardwood floors throughout = as if Mom were screaming in my ear. Literally. (Now if I were at Quest Field I think I'd need to hold a megaphone up to my own ear. For a week.) The smartest decision I made all day was moving from the kitchen to the couch.
I think in general I get most things. And by "get" I mean, you know, for the most part I have some sort of knowledge or understanding. At the very least I can appreciate or sympathize... Case in point: the Arnold Schwarzenegger Superbowl commercials.

Yeah. I don't get football. 
Don't get me wrong... I'm definitely a "Go Hawks!" kind a girl. I don't think you can live in Seattle right now and not subscribe to the 12th Man club. Everywhere I go... it's as if the only colors in existence are green and navy blue. And the number 12 - I've seen it waving proud from windows of cop cars to graffitied on road construction signs. Seattle has Seahawk playoff fever. And it's easy to get sucked in to the excitement even if you're not a football fan. 

But seriously. I don't get it.
Can someone please explain it to me? Please? 
What is it about football that gets people so rilled up? That sets them on the soaring heights of ecstasy or drops them to the deepest depths of depression? That makes big burly men cry? That's inspired countless movies, made-for-TV movies, TV programs, songs and I don't know what else? That monopolizes people's Sundays and Mondays (not to mention conversations, lives, hygiene habits) for months? Silver Linings Playbook anyone? De Niro and the Ju-Ju...?
I mean it's guys in tights throwing the ball, running and tackling each other... With the number of times I've seen Rudy you'd think I'd get it by now...
There must be something I'm missing. 

Well my husband, who grew up in a household where the Hawks reign supreme, tried to explain it to me in a way that I sort of understand... 
That it's the closest thing we have these days to a good ol' fashioned battle. A war. It's the essence of man: To struggle. To fight. To win. To overcome. Our men are literally fighting to forward our cause. To win the battle and return victorious. Or to protect the home front. It's about pride. Dignity. Strength. Think Braveheart. Think William Wallace. "Freedom!" Okay maybe not.

But this I get. 

So here's to dignity. To defense. To fighting the good fight. To victory. To my Mom's screaming. To the 12th man. To the Seahawks. To the Superbowl 2014!!!!! WOOOO!!!!! 

Go Hawks!!!!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

An Even Year

Well it's a new year.
An even year.

I don't know why that matters... I've never really liked Even numbers. I don't know why. They're numbers. But I always find myself leaning toward the Odds. Maybe it's because Evens are so... well... even. They're predictable. They lack excitement or anticipation. They're round. Whole. Even.

Well 2013 was wonderfully Odd... full of some of the highest highs I've yet to experience. Checked off a few firsts. Once-in-a-lifetimer kind of events. It was also full of situations that were anything but even. Challenging circumstances. Stressful situations. Wonderfully stressful. Terribly stressful. Uneven.

You know what? I'm ready for even.
At this point I'd be game for a little predictability. A little peace. A little calm. Well if the start of this year is any indication of how the rest of it's going to pan out I highly doubt Even's gonna be a trend.

There's another person who I'm sure would like a little Even. He's someone I've known since middle school. Back then he lived in my youth pastor's basement and had a full head of hair. He's watched me grow up, from a snotty teen to a still slightly know-it-all young adult. He's a mentor and a friend, helping me recognize and grow in the gifts God's given me and provided avenues in which to exercise them. He's a devoted husband with the most wonderful wife, a father, a pastor and a very loyal fan of baseball, Pepsi and Mickey Mouse.
So when Ryan and I had to decide who would not only marry us, but facilitate our pre-marital counseling it was a fairly easy decision. Pastor Matt Conrad. Done.

© Kristen Marie Photography
I'm sure the Conrad family thought maybe with the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 Odd would have gone into remission along with the Hairy Cell Leukemia he'd battled since the previous Thanksgiving. Well at least the Hairy Cell did...

Five days. Just five days after he pronounced us "husband and wife," he received some life-changing news of his own. It was only supposed to be a routine blood draw. Some things were slightly off - enough for his doctor to investigate a little further. And praise God she did!
The news: Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Excuse me what?!!! But he just married us and was looking great (I mean look at him!)... But he just kicked some leukemia butt in January! What? You've got to be kidding me...

© Kristen Marie Photography
For as hard as it's been for me post-Big Day, it's been that times 1000 for Matt and his family. And yet they've have been a source of inspiration, encouragement and hope. Their courage, honesty, vulnerability, strength and faith are awe-inspiring. I find myself personally challenged and quite often convicted by their example, oh me of little faith. They have embraced what the Lord has allowed, cleaving to Him for everything... literally. Thanksgiving, not just in the midst of the storm but for it. Can you imagine... thanking God for leukemia? For needing a bone marrow transplant? For lengthy hospital stays away from your family during the holidays? And yet that's exactly what God asks us all to do. To trust His goodness. To believe that what He has for us, where He has us is good. It's great. That we can really consider our trials pure joy when we invite Him into them. To know Him more fully. To believe in who He is. To trust and rest in His character. And then to obey. That's exactly what the Conrad family is demonstrating. And that's just one of the many things I'm learning from them.

© Kristen Marie Photography
Deanne, Matt's beautiful wife, has been keeping a blog updated with his condition and progress through the Caringbridge site. And I'm not going to lie... I've often had writer's envy as I read her posts. She definitely has a gift with words and speaks very candidly and specifically with what's going on in the hospital room and at home. If you have the chance please check it out. I think you'll benefit from it as I have... You can just click here.
And of course I know that Matt, Deanne, Austin and Sadie would so appreciate your prayers for his continued recovery. He had a bone marrow transplant early December and is now on Day 22 of the 100 day recovery process. He was finally able to go home on Tuesday, but Day 28 (Jan 18th) marks a big milestone... a bone marrow draw to get a picture on how things are going. Please join me in praying that all not only goes smoothly and painlessly, but that it's another leap toward full restoration. Toward newness.

So here's to an even year for all. And yet I know that no matter what God gives, whether Even or Odd, it is good. This is the truth.

Hello 2014! It's nice to meet ya.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wait... Can't we just rewind?

Waahh... WAIT.
This isn't how it's supposed to be... right? I'm supposed to be living on Cloud 9 in the land of Honeymooner's Bliss where everything's bright, sunny and perfect...
Well what happened? Could someone please tell me how I got here?
Ugh. Can't we just rewind and start things over? Back to September 4th?

If only this wasn't the dialogue that's played over in my head - and truthfully more times than it should...
It has been 2 months and 19 days since I married my best friend and love of my life. And it was a day I will never EVER forget - literally a dream come true. Soft salty breezes, sweet summer sunshine and a slow peaceful pace flood my sense memory as I look over all the moments captured in time by my amazing photographer. Peace. Joy. Anticipation. God's Presence. His radiant smile. They were all overwhelmingly present on that momentous day.

So many people warned me to expect things to go wrong. To just know that things weren't going to turn out the way I'd planned. I wanted to say to them, "Ok. I get it. Nothing's perfect. But maybe your plans just weren't as thorough, or you didn't communicate your vision with enough detail... That's not going to happen at my wedding..."
But I didn't. I held my tongue. I knew better. I knew I wasn't above mistakes or oversights. I just smiled. Nodded. And tried to prepare myself to let it all go. But more importantly I prayed.
I prayed over every single detail of our wedding. From the weather, to the seating chart, to finding all the vases, maps and depression glass candelabras. And God provided. In every. single. way. Even down to the light dusting of sun-filtering clouds and perfect 72˚F weather that was definitely not forecasted earlier that week.
It wasn't perfect. Nothing ever is (excepting our Lord Jesus). The ikea candles burned down too quickly at the reception tables, and Dad and I lingered just a little too long so that instead of walking down the aisle to the beautiful "ah uh a ha uh ah oooh" of Sufjan Steven's "Holy Holy Holy", it was in complete silence. But yeah... that's it.
The two things. Pittance. The closest anything in my life will ever be to perfect.
And as of now, that is the complete truth.

©Kristen Marie Photography
The most common question I've been asked over the past 2 months and 19 days is, "So how's married life treating you?"
Well to be completely honest it's been pretty rough. I wish someone would've warned me, as they did for the actual wedding day, to expect things to go wrong. But that's real life. Not sure why I've been surprised... Now I don't want to you to think that marriage has been rough. If anything, I am more certain every day that the man I married is a gift from God, and that He knew how much I would need Ryan these last few weeks and months...

 Life has been rough. September 1st and the few days that followed in quiet bliss at a cabin on the Hood Canal seemed like a dream. Come September 5th a rude awakening awaited me. Back to a somewhat tense work environment, the unconscious stress and late nights that led up to the wedding day caught up with me. Exhaustion set in. Come September 9th Exhaustion had not only taken over, it invited it's friends Fever, Fatigue and Influenza to move in as well.
Fever finally departed after ten days and Influenza followed four days later, but Fatigue and Exhaustion decided to remain indefinitely. It's taken me 10 weeks, 8 doctors visits, 4 blood tests and 1 urine-analysis to finally feel like we posted an "eviction" notice. But as with most evictions, damage had already been done...
There's no way you can miss two weeks of work right before a Rep and expect to still perform. And I didn't. But I did my best to "will" myself back to health. Apparently the mind-over-matter tactic doesn't always work. As my husband says, I'm good at everything except being sick. Yep, I kinda suck at it. And while I was glad to not pass along the wretched flu bug to any of my co-workers, it was still very hard for me to not dance in the opening Rep of my 10th season with PNB. Still harder was coming back to work feeling less than 100% and unable to give less than 110. In fact, if I'm honest I was feeling around 60% - which in most work situations is passable for a few days, even a few weeks. When you dance for a living, it's a little different.

How did I go from sixty to zero in so short a time? One moment it was summer, sunshine and smooth sailing. The next it felt like wild wind, rough waves and black stormy weather all around.

And yet in all of this God had a purpose. Finally figuring out that I've become gluten-intolerant and that my thyroid function has changed was and is Providential, explaining much of the fatigue and other symptoms that seem to persist. But there's so much more that He's teaching me that has nothing to do with my physical body.
I'm learning to literally trust-fall into His arms. To let go of it all. To rest. In Him. In the promises of His Word. That He has does have good things for me. That this is good. Right here. Right now. Where I am today. Even in the storm.

Today is my 29th birthday.
And instead of dancing hard, rehearsing Nutcracker, continuing to rebuild my stamina and strength, I am sitting in my apartment with a bag of peas on my knee writing this post. Just two days ago I had the joy of performing Kylian's Sechs Tänza on the McCaw Hall stage, my friends and family watching in the audience. Unfortunately during the ballet I injured my knee, most likely tearing my meniscus. So much for stamina and strength. I guess we'll see about Nutcracker too... If you know me, you know how hard this later one is to swallow.
But for my birthday my dear sweet husband bought me a painting I've been pining after for months. And of course, little did I know when I first saw it how appropriate it would be. How profoundly God would use it to encourage me.

"Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying "Lord, save us! We're going to drown." He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." ~ Matthew 8:24-26

Jesus is in my boat. What have I to fear? I know that if I'm with Him I'll be okay, no matter what storm arises - be it 2 months of unknown illness or a meniscus tear. And maybe, just maybe, as I sit back and admire the beautiful painting that will be soon hanging on my wall, I too can sit back and admire the storm that I am in and appreciate the great work of art that the Master Artist is painting out of my life's current circumstances. It is beautiful. It is good. And I know He will calm the storm in His perfect timing.

So no rewinding. Remembering, yes. And rejoicing in that. But moving forward in the strength and perseverance that Jesus offers. Resting in His good and great purpose. Trust-falling into His arms.

The best birthday gift that I got this year? Not a meniscal tear. Not a painting. It was a peace and a joy and an assurance from our Father that it is going to be a good, a great year.

To see a slideshow of some of our special moments captured my the amazing Kristen Parker and Carly Bish Chaney, set to the song we first danced to as Mr. & Mrs. McEliece click here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanks November!

November? Really?
Where'd you come from? How did you get here? 
Well you sure did sneak up on me...

It's hard to believe that two months and 13 days have past since I said "I do," beginning this great new chapter of my life... seems like it was just yesterday. And yet, we've been a very busy Mr. and Mrs. McEliece.

Setting up our new home (and by "home" I mean a sweet little one bedroom apartment in the U-District) has been such a joy. Creating and constructing a beautiful, inviting space that reflects not only our individual personalities, but also our mutual loves has been a wonderful challenge. And inviting it must be, because oh how we do love to entertain!
And this month we're provided with ample opportunities... 
Thanks November!

Not only do we get to celebrate the blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving holiday (promptly followed by the beginning of dun, dun, DUN... NUTCRACKER!!!!), but November is also a month of many many birthdays - my own included.

But there's one very special lady that passed a "milestone," if you will, this past weekend. So Ryan and I took full advantage of our new digs, and our love of food and entertaining to throw a wonderful celebration just for her. Miss Elizabeth "Lizzy" Murphy. You'll just have to look closely at the photos to see which "milestone" it was...

We invited her and one of our mutual friends over and threw a soiree of sorts. Setting the table with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and some of my antique silverware, we definitely classed this evening up.

The menu? I wish I could say it was a Beef Wellington or braised quail on a bed of mashed heirloom potatoes but, well, it wasn't. 
Okay, okay! It was just a roasted chicken with root veggies. I confess! Sounds kinda sad. So under-acheiving for me, I know. But in my yellow Le Crueset it looked pretty darn fancy... er, well, at least I thought so. What do you think?

The best part about this recipe (I take no credit for it... that all belongs to the incredible Alison Wilson) is that it's deceptively and deliciously simple.

Buy a whole chicken. 

Buy a lemon, celery stick and some root veggies... you know... carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes... you get my drift.

 Chop them up.

 Coat the chicken with lots of dried herbs. 

Throw it all together in a dutch oven. 

Put it in the oven. 

Two hours later and voilá! The most delicious roast chicken you'll ever taste! 
You don't even need a side dish! Although we did have a delectable cheese plate for appetizers and a yummy green salad with candied pecans. Gotta get those leafy greens!

It was a lovely night celebrating the sweetest, most wonderful co-worker and friend anyone could ever ask for. What a gift and a blessing she is to me and to so many! So Happy Birthday Lizzy!!! May our Lord richly bless you this year. Blow them candles out girl!!! Just not into your ice cream sundae.

And if you'd like to make Ally's world famous roast chicken recipe here it is. I mean seriously people you can't go wrong...

Ally's Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken
1 whole lemon, sliced in half
1 stalk celery, leaves attached
dried parsley
dried thyme
dried oregano
garlic salt (or garlic powder and kosher salt)
ground pepper
1 yellow onion, quartered
carrots, peeled and cut into chunks*
yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes washed and cubed*
garlic cloves*

*amount and selection varies depending on your personal taste and preference as well as the size of your dutch oven. I say the more the merrier.

1. Preheat your oven to 375˚F.
2. Wash, peel, and cut all veggies making sure that potatoes and carrots are all about the same size (they can be big and chunky if that's what you prefer) so they cook evenly. Set them aside.
3. Rinse chicken and remove and discard giblets from inside the cavity (if you'd like to save them for stock that's fine, just make sure to cook them along with the chicken). 
4. Taking half the lemon squeeze the juice coating entire chicken. Stuff the rind inside the cavity of the chicken along with the celery stalk and leaves. You can cut the rind in to quarters if that helps.
5. Sprinkle and rub in equal parts of dried parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic salt and pepper on all sides of the chicken. Be generous. This is what makes it yummy.
6. Place the chicken breast side up in the dutch oven and surround it with all your cut veggies. Go ahead. Pack 'em in! Cut the remaining half lemon into four wedges and squeeze juices all over veggies and chicken. Toss rinds in the pot and cover with the lid.
7. Place the covered dutch oven in the oven and roast for 2 hours. Check the chicken and if need be, remove the lid and switch the oven to "broil" to brown the skin for a few minutes. (I've never had to do this as mine has always turned out perfectly browned come the end of 2 hours, but you might want to depending on your oven and your taste.)
8. Enjoy!!!!

** A "P.S." to this post...
If you love good food but you're cooking on a budget (like we are) this meal is super economical. We just eye out for when whole chickens are on sale - 99¢ sometimes even 88¢ a pound! - and we buy a couple and keep them stocked in the freezer.
And not only does this recipe yield an incredible chicken dinner, but it's the foundation for so much more. After we're done we leave the leftovers in the pot, cover it with water and simmer it for a few hours, making our own homemade chicken stock for soups and other recipes. We'll just fill an empty (and cleaned) yogurt container and freeze or refrigerate it.
Last night we used the leftover chicken and some of the broth to make the most delicious chicken & veggie soup with carrots, sweet potatoes and kale. It was so delicious and we even have leftovers of that! Like I said, it's the recipe that just keeps on giving. How appropriate for this month.