Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Our Wedding, Part 5: The Real Reason (Ceremony and Vows)


Few things are more exciting than the moment you walk down the aisle towards your soon to be husband. And although, let's be honest, the party portion of the evening takes a lot more planning, the ceremony is the most important 30 minutes of the entire day....and it's the part you will remember.

Practicing for my walk down the aisle - in my mom's veil, sometime during the late 80s

I love that wedding ceremonies are usually extremely private and public all at once. In some ways, it felt like Dave and I were alone because the promises and vows were said by us alone and the relationship is exclusive to us. But, in a very obvious way (400 guests watching us), the wedding was very public, for all to see. What a perfect way to begin our marriage - both intimately and publicly. Our marriage is primarily a relationship between the two or us, but in so many ways, it's a relationship so closely related to other relationships. It's a relationship supported and challenged by friends, family and church community. We are truly blessed to have so many people who rejoiced with us and will encourage, challenge and pray with and for us. 

The front of our "church"

I always wanted a bouquet of peonies.

When you get married at 29, you've been to enough weddings and been in enough weddings that you know what you want. It's not like I planned for the past decade, but every time I attended a wedding or was a bridesmaid and heard a solo or processional I liked, I mentally noted it. So, when we got engaged, I knew (mostly) how our ceremony would go. Dave and I both wanted two preachers to perform our ceremony - one from his church, one from mine. We wanted traditional vows. We didn't want a unity candle. Although we wanted a religious ceremony, we weren't set on having it a church (thus we had it at the warehouse where the reception was going to be) We wanted conservative music (okay, I wanted conservative music, Dave wanted Journey, but I won that debate......)

And so the ceremony went mostly how I always envisioned it -- and probably not too differently than most other ceremonies. As I have shared earlier, we were very nontraditional about many things, but when it came down to the important stuff, we were pretty traditional - and the ceremony went just I had planned. Piano and Violin. Congregational Hymn. Christian and classical music. Presbyterian vows. The cutest little ring bearer who was promptly escorted out by my sister's in laws. An adorable flower girl carrying a "hear comes the bride" sign. Girls in blue dresses with gorgeous green flowers. A bridal bouquet of peonies like I always wanted.

This pretty lady got married 6 months to the day after our wedding....and 
thankfully for her, I did not sing in her wedding.

My friend Madison married this pretty lady several years ago and since I first heard her 
play her violin at church, I knew one day I wanted her to play in my wedding.

My niece did her flower girl duties perfectly. She's 
been in several weddings now -- she is an expert!

SO SO Excited to walk down the aisle.

This would have been a great pic if my dad had looked!

We had an actual homily, not just a few sentences of advice (although the homily was cut a little shorter than I wanted...due to a certain someone's nerves that day....) It was important to me that our service be a worship service, a presentation of the gospel, so I wanted something meaty, not just a couple quotes and then vows.

I'll never forget Dave's nerves on our wedding day. He was absolutely adorable. I was the opposite -- mostly calm or jittery with excitement, but Dave looked like he was about to pass out at any moment. I asked him if he was nervous or having second thoughts and he said he was certain of me, but anxious because it was such a big step, such a serious moment and we shouldn't take it lightly. I love that he was thinking about our commitment and vows, not just the party, and that he understood the seriousness of the day. (Sidenote: he was also nervous about standing in front of so many people!)

And although we had done a super early first look and then a first look, walking down the aisle was still so incredibly special. So much emotion and gratitude. Seeing my precious groom at the end of the aisle -with his pretty blue eyes and nervous look. Trying to hold back tears each step of the way. Holding tightly to my daddy's arm. Silently repeating "thank you, thank you" over and over as an unavoidable prayer of gratitude to God for this blessing I do not deserve. Catching Dave's eyes during the service, smiling at him and seeing him finally start to relax.

I love this picture. This man makes me so happy.

First married kiss

One of the sweetest parts of the day was when we walked back down the aisle, finished with the ceremony and being showered with confetti, and Dave grabbed me, kissed me and said, "We're married" His demeanor changed for the rest of the evening.  Preparing for such a commitment was serious and caused nervousness, but once the commitment was made, he was no longer so nervous. My father in law then found us and gave me a huge hug and welcome to the family -- followed by my mother who hugged me and said "I told you so" (aka, I told you that you would get married one day), followed by, "I've been waiting for years to tell you that." A little motherly commentary, that's all.

Confetti was thrown at us as we left.

Hugging my Father in Law right after the ceremony

Final thoughts on our ceremony: The theme of the ceremony was God's faithfulness, complete with the solo, "He's always been Faithful" and verse: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)  As thrilled as I was to marry Dave, I wanted to remember that it was God who had been faithful to us. A wedding is almost always a happy occasion, a time to rejoice, a picture of God's faithfulness and goodness, but for me personally, it was a reminder that the Lord redeems horrible circumstances and "restores what the locusts have eaten."  God is faithful to me daily, but walking down the aisle was personally, a very real tangible picture of his faithfulness to restore, heal, redeem! 

Before my wedding, a friend who had recently been through some hard circumstances told me she found encouragement is seeing how the Lord was faithful and brought redemption in my life because it meant He could redeem hard things in her life time.  That was probably one of the most touching things any one has ever said to me....I want my life to be a testimony for our faithful Lord. And, goodness, sometimes wouldn't we all choose a different testimony, one with fewer tears and painful moments, but the hard things he brings us through can be used to show His goodness and glory. That was what I hoped people saw as I walked down the aisle to my sweet groom: not just a happy bride and nervous groom, but God's faithfulness to me and to Dave. Through heartbreak and brokenness and in many many joyful times, the Lord has remained by my side -- and continues to do so in marriage. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cooking Through Bread and Wine, Recipe 2: Mini Mac and Cheese

Mini Mac & Cheese

(Once again, picture is not mine, it is stolen off of pinterest 
because I am still without my Iphone and all my pictures!)

Moving through "Bread and Wine" with my attempt at recipe #2.  This recipe did not turn out nearly as well as the first one -- I melted the cheese a little too long, but we learn from our mistakes right? Even so, the mini mac and cheeses were delicious, oh so gooey and plenty cheesy! (so I can't wait to try them when done correctly!)  Also, they turned out well enough to bring (along with the goat cheese biscuits) to an outdoor cookout/dinner party at a friends out. Since it was casual, mini mac & cheeses were perfect - for cutting into -OR- eating with our hands!

I have recently reverted back to eating mac and cheese - particularly the cheap Kraft, made from a box, kind.  I somehow associate mac & cheese as a comfort food which is funny because I actually have very few memories of eating mac & cheese as a kid. Tacos? Sure. Make your own pizza night? you betcha. Cook hot dogs over the fireplace because Mom's out of town? Absolutely. (I think we now know where my random love of hot dogs comes from. Thanks dad) But, not many memories of mac and cheese. Whatever the reason, since college, I have turned to this kiddie staple whenever life is busy, stressful or unnerving. So the past 6 crazy months have included a ton of mac and cheese for me!! And, honestly, I tend to prefer the boxed noodles with the powder/milk/butter sauce to homemade macaroni casseroles. (Although my mom does make delicious homemade mac and cheese at holidays, a tradition that came about per my brother's request)  I enjoy the homemade deliciousness but I can't eat much of the heavy thick sauce in the casserole versions. Sometimes its just too rich for me! Maybe that's why I enjoyed the mini mac and cheese so much.  Although there was plenty of butter and cheese and homemade goodness, the individual bites weren't too heavy with that thick creamy delicious but make you feel sickly full sauce.  Plus, I love Parmesan (to an obnoxious point, ask my family) - so I loved that this recipe had a tiny bit of Parm cheese in it. :)

1/2 lb. elbow macaroni (or 4 cups cooked)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. butter, plus more for pan
1 Tbsp. Dijon
2 dashes Tabasco
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Smoked Paprika
  1. In a pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni for about 5 minutes, to just al dente, which is just a touch firmer than how you’d like to eat it. Drain.
  2. Brush mini muffin pan with melted butter, then sprinkle half the grated Parmesan into the muffin cups.
  3. On medium-low heat, warm butter and cheddar cheese, and whisk till smooth. Off heat, add Dijon, Tabasco, egg yoke, and whisk again. Add macaroni and mix until well coated with cheese. 
  4. Spoon into muffin cups, making them slightly rounded and packing them lightly. Top with grated Parmesan
  5. Bake at 425° for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden on top.
  6. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving, because they will set as the cool.
  7. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Serve warm or at room temperature.
**Step 3 is where I made my mistake -- just warm the cheese until it is melted and sticky  but still looks like grated cheese. I warmed mine until it was FULLY melted which made a globby mixture which was hard to properly mix into the noodles-- thus you could easily take a bite into cheese or a bite into noodles, but not always both at the same time.
**This recipes makes 20-24 small bites. If its a small dinner of 6-8 or so, that's enough, but if you are having more than 8, double the recipe as many people eat 3,4, even 5 bites!

Final Verdict: I would make this again (minus the overcooking the cheese part). This is perfect for dinners, parties, chicken, beef, pork, kids, adults.  It takes a classic that almost everyone loves and makes it a little more exciting and glamorous without changing the integrity of the dish. People have been eating cheese and noodles in some form or fashion for years, so why quit now?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cooking through Bread and Wine: Goat Cheese Biscuits

My first recipe from "Bread and Wine" (in case you missed it, I am cooking my way through this deliciously wonderful book of essays, stories and recipes!) was Goat Cheese Biscuits which turned out quite successful if I do say so myself (but you didn't taste them, so you just have to trust me!)

Dave and I were going to a summer dinner party at a friend's house and I decided to give this recipe a try. It was the perfect appetizer and since we were eating brisket, the leftovers made it on to our dinner plates as well. A perfect soft bite after a delicious mouthful of barbecue. I left some with the host and am happy to report that these little biscuits make a delicious breakfast with a little jam :)

First off, small disclaimer -- this lovely picture is not a picture of my biscuits (although they looked about the same) I am currently using a temporary phone so I don't have access to my photos. But, this gives you an idea of how the biscuits turn out when you are finished.

The goat cheese makes the biscuits fluffy and light, adding a richness to a traditional item.  However, it's goat cheese which is known for it's tangy-ness, so expect the biscuits to have a little different flavor. The author (and I) suggest you serve with strawberry preserves or marmalade or some other type of sweet jam or preserves. I don't particularly love goat cheese, but I loved these biscuits, particularly when smeared with strawberry preserves. I felt the sweet and tart mixed together nicely.

Goat Cheese Biscuits

From: “Bread & Wine” by Shauna Niequist
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup plain yogurt
6 tablespoons cold butter, divided
4 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a 10-inch cast-iron pan into the oven while it’s preheating.
Pour flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Cut 4 tablespoons of the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl, with the goat cheese and the yogurt. Stir until the mix is moistened, adding an extra tablespoon of yogurt if needed.
Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place a tablespoon of butter into it.
When the butter has melted, divide the batter into 12 biscuits, each about the size of a golf ball, and then nestle them into the pan —tuck them in snugly, maybe a ring of 9 around the edge, then 3 in the middle.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with one tablespoon of melted butter. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes until browned on the top and bottom. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.
MAKES: around one dozen biscuits
This recipe is perfect for breakfast, finger foods or a bread/side dish. I loved this dish - just make sure you have some type of preserves on hand!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cooking my way through Bread and Wine

I loved the book Bread and Wine -- short essays/stories on love, family, hope and community - and how it all often happens around the table.  I grew up in a family that usually had home cooked meals and ate our meals at tables (for the most part...that became less consistent when we were in high school and had ballgames and play practices, etc.) We still enjoy sitting around the table whenever we are all home for a holiday or visit -- and usually, our request is for a cookout (What can I say? Southerners through and through.....)

This book challenged me to think about how I want mealtimes to look in our family (both now and with munchkins one day....) Dave and I cook most of our meals, but we don't always sit down at the table...part of this stemmed from necessity as we did not have a dining table for the first 4 months we lived in DC and it's been covered in boxes for the last month. Although we do usually sit down for dinner, it is often at the couch -- and I want to change that. Goal for the new apartment -- more meals at the dining room table.

And, hopefully, our dinner table can be the type of place that feels safe for our family - a place to unwind, laugh, vent after a long day at work; a place to hear stories of kindergarten, tests, soccer practice, art projects; a place to say evening prayers and discuss the Sunday sermon; a place to set out candles and grocery store flowers for our anniversary dinners and date nights after kids have gone to bed; a place for Saturday morning pancakes and pajamas; a place to decorate Christmas cookies and eat as many toppings as we can while decorating; and a place to blow out birthday candles and make wishes as each year goes by.

A childhood birthday

29th birthday -- if you compare the two birthday photos, apparently 
my mom's cake decorating skills improved as I aged :)

Saturday Morning Pancakes (my husband's family 
has a tradition of Saturday Pancakes)

Sweet Nephew decorating Cookies 

I also hope that it's a place that feels safe to others...that it's a place for church visitors to come eat Sunday lunch; a place for girls in dress up clothes to gather for tea parties; a place where family and friends stay up way too late catching up when they come to town; a place for teenagers to laugh and eat pizza and drink way too much soda; a place for those who can't go home for the holidays to come spend it at our house; a place for our kids to bring friends home from college; a place for wedding showers and baby showers and all type of celebrations; a place for girls nights and bottles of wine; a place where people feel free to cry, laugh and share.

Thanksgiving one year with family and friends - 
I've always been known to invite others over...and 
sometimes my last minute additions stressed my mom
out but it always worked out!

Our meager thanksgiving set up this year in DC

The Christmas table being set at my parents one year

It probably won't always be the same table. It certainly won't always be the same home.  And, as it happens now, sometimes these communal meals might take place in the living room or on the patio or curled up in pajamas with trays in bed (anyone else grow up with the occasional birthday breakfast in bed?) - but hopefully, the feeling created is the same. This is a busy, rushed, sometimes harsh world we live in, but for this short (or long) time each day, we sit down and this table and refuel - both physically and emotionally. (And you are welcome to come refuel with us!)

A NON TABLE meal: during the fall months, we spend a lot 
of meals in the living room, around the TV with tailgate snacks!

Another great aspect of Bread and Wine was that it included 20+ recipes that related to the stories she was telling. I have decided to make it my goal this fall/winter to cook through every recipe. (Something tells me my husband and our friends won't have a problem being my taste testers) These recipes vary from casseroles to soups to main dishes to desserts. Some recipes are healthy and some recipes are oh so deliciously not healthy.

And, while I am cooking my way through these delicious recipes, I plan to blog about these delicious foods, how to make them and whether we enjoyed the final results! I'm already two recipes into this challenge (both were amazing) and I can't wait to share!

(In case you were wondering (and you know you were...jk), my 
dream table would look something like this -- modern, hairpin legs, 
Eames-like simple right? Yep, but super pricey!) And 
no worries, I would hang artwork on the walls!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thoughts on the First Year of Marriage

Remember when I used to blog? Yep, me too…I feel I have been awful at blogging this summer, but life has been busy – and at times, difficult – and blogging seems to be the first thing to go! 

While I have been MIA, Dave and I celebrated one full year of marriage. It’s still sometimes hard to believe that after waiting and praying for a godly man, I have now been married over a year! I continue to be extremely grateful for God’s undeserved faithfulness in our lives and for the fact that this sweet guy picked me. It took months before I didn’t wake up and practically pinch myself (and give thanks) to make sure we really were married. I still feel incredibly blessed to get to walk through life with Dave by my side.

We intended to go away for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary weekend, but the B&B rates in Annapolis were a bit pricey and we are going to Toronto later this summer, so we decided to stay home. We enjoyed one of our favorite activities on Friday night – an outdoor movie in Rosslyn. Saturday, on our anniversary, we celebrated all day with a diner breakfast, a hike in Maryland and dinner at a local restaurant we had been wanting to try. We capped off the evening by watching our wedding DVD, drinking wine from our Napa honeymoon out of our wedding flutes and eating a cupcake from my favorite bakery, Baked and Wired (sadly, we lost the top layer to our wedding cake in a TRAGIC freezer accident!) The first year is the year of paper gifts, so we bought a Europe guidebook and pulled some cash out of the ATM to start saving for a European getaway (a little added each week since then, so maybe one of these days, you will be reading a blog post about Paris!)

Outdoor movies - our favorite summer activity!

Not our greatest picture ever, but we had fun hiking and climbing in the water!

Dinner at Graffiato's

Movie, Cupcake, Wine and our beautiful Champagne flutes from Prague!

I’ve been married just one short year – so I won’t (and probably shouldn't) offer a ton of advice, but I thought I’d share some thoughts on the first year of matrimony.

{1} Count Yourself Lucky.

Marriage runs a lot smoother if you think of yourself as the lucky one.  As I mentioned, when I first got married, I woke up daily and immediately felt like the most lucky gal in the whole world….but I don’t always do that now, although I should. I should walk through marriage grateful for Dave and all he does and grateful for the blessing of marriage. 

We have a happier marriage when I think I’m the lucky one and Dave thinks he is the lucky one.

(On a somewhat related note, after recently hearing some of the struggles of single pals, I felt so undeservedly lucky. None of us deserve the good things we have in life. I don’t deserve my sweet husband and I should always be grateful for this gift)

{2} Marry someone you really like (aka, my take on the 
whole “Marry your best friend” wisdom)

Obviously, you need to love your spouse and be committed to continuing to love your spouse. That’s a given. But, I think life is generally happier if you also really like the person you marry…in a completely non-romantic, non physical, best buds type of way.

You will be spending a whole lot of time with this person – so make sure you pick someone you enjoy being around during good and bad times. And, by good and bad times, I’m not even referring to the tragically difficult times of family death, chronic illnesses, job loss, etc (because those tough circumstances require love and commitment, not just spousal friendship) I’m referring to every day good and bad – you know, the stomach viruses, the dirty dishes, the dead car batteries, the screaming babies and the poopy diaper blowouts. So, marry someone that will watch long movie marathons with you when you have the flu and will laugh at you and grab you a clean shirt when your child spits up on you. Marry someone with whom you can watch Netflix and drink wine after a particularly long week at work.  Marry someone who tells you corny jokes and cool architecture facts (or whatever his “thing” is). Marry someone with whom you enjoy exploring with, travelling with, planning for big adventures with.  Marry someone who will tease you about your age, tell you the same story yet again and watch Saturday football with you.

Dave is an excellent husband –truly loving, forgiving, patient, loyal….but mainly, we are the best of buddies.  Don’t get me wrong…I love that boy something fierce – and I love being his wife, but just as much, I love being his best friend. I'm glad I get to be both.

{3}Marriage is hard, but sometimes 
it’s really just Life that’s hard.

One of the motto's I grew up hearing is “Marriage is hard”. Sometimes it’s said by well meaning married folks to remind singles that even what they want and long for can be difficult at times.  Sometimes it’s said by men and women who are in the trenches, dealing with some of marriage’s difficulties.  Sometimes it’s said by those who are avoiding marriage as a reason or excuse to stay away from the institution. So, that’s how I grew up-- thinking marriage was wonderful, but it was indeed hard.  And, having been married a grand total of 13 months, I agree – somewhat. Marriage is hard, but so is singleness, work, motherhood (I don't know this yet, I just assume), relationships, school, etc. So many other life paths have their fair share of hardships and difficulties too. And, many times, life is just hard, regardless of marital status. This has been a very difficult year, but my difficulties had very little to do with the rings on my left hand or the new roomie. The year was just hard…because life is hard sometimes.

So yes, sometimes marriage will be hard, but sometimes life is what’s hard.

{4} Someone has your back.

As a single, the hardest part was doing life alone…although clearly, I know I wasn't alone – I had family, friends, roomies, a church family. But, I didn't have someone who always had my back (nor did I always have someone else’s back).  There is an element of life that’s easier when you have a “go-to” person to pick up soup and meds when you’re sick, jump start your car for you or to hold your hand and pour you a glass of wine after a bad day. It’s great to have someone willing to hear you vent when others disappoint you, to see your side and to encourage you to see a situation differently if needed. It’s comforting to have someone get mad on your behalf over an unfair situation. 

That’s the number one benefit I've noticed with marriage: having someone who has my back and I have his, even when it’s inconvenient. As I mentioned above, life is hard, no matter what you marital status is, but having someone in your corner (most of the time, we of course fail at this sometimes!) makes life a little easier to deal with sometimes.

{5} Be willing to fight, but quick to forgive.

When a couple mentions that they don’t fight often, Dave and I just laugh. Despite being very happy, we bicker at least weekly – over small things. (This is what happens when two stubborn people get married) We try to discuss things that need to be discussed, even if that leads to disagreement, but we generally don’t like staying upset very long. I think it’s important to talk about issues and not stuff them, but I also think it’s best to not dwell in anger.

{6}EVERY DAY: Kiss each other hello 
and goodbye, say I love you and ask about 
the other person’s day.

I know I discussed the fact that marriage is in large part, a really great friendship, but we can all agree  that it’s also so much more. Not every day can be romance, sweet talk and cuddling, but each day, you can make a couple gestures that show affection and love. Kiss one another goodbye each morning and say I love you. Hug and discuss your day when you get back home. Even the busiest, most stressful of days should include a few minutes for these things.

Dave is in the process of studying for his architecture licensing exams. When it’s the week before the exam, we barely spend any time together. We get up at different times and go to bed at different times. I am doing chores and watching TV in the evening while he sits in the other room and studies. We barely talk all day, but no matter what, I kiss Dave goodbye each morning and when we come home, he hugs me and asks about my day.  Just a few caring words and a little affection go a long way.

{7} Don't talk negatively about your 
husband to others.

I owe this advice to my friend Nikki. I asked her what her best marriage advice was and she told me to not badmouth my husband to my friends. It's excellent advice and I am really trying to follow it, although  I am sure I have failed.  I may make the occasional "he's talking so much about architecture" joke to our friends, but I am really trying to honor him in my words to others.

The first year really was wonderful - and in many ways, I am sad to see it go - but it many other ways, I am glad to move forward in life with Dave. I am excited for where God takes us in year two!