Jun 30, 2011

Cali - Part II {San Diego}

So sandwiched between our days in LA, we jetted down to San Diego for the weekend. Can you believe I've never been to San Diego? Not once. We went to Disneyland a few times growing up, we visited relatives in Northern California fairly often, and I was in a friend's wedding in Laguna Beach a few years ago, but I have NEVER been to San Diego until now.

It was so fun, despite our funny "hostel" situation. We spent lots of time on the beach. I "surfed" a little (aka caught some waves, got up to my knees, wobbled around a little bit, etc.) and Micah surfed a lot. We had a picnic lunch on the beach both days, ate fish and chips for dinner both nights, and hunted down a funnel cake for dessert on Saturday. I got to read, take lots of fun pictures, and just relax.

I also found a lovely little coffee shop right next to Pacific Beach called the Pacific Bean that served POWDERED white chocolate. If you know me at all, you know this made my weekend! The owner was super nice, but he asked me if I was a "spy" because I took so many pictures in his little shop. Ha!

Although I am not a spy, here are some of my favorite pics from our San Diego adventure (with a stop in adorable San Clemente on our way down the coast)...

Window shopping in San Clemente
Pacific Beach
More Pacific Beach...our fave!
San Diego skies...
Mission Beach on our funnel cake hunt...
Us in San Diego...

Goodbye Cali... I miss you already!

Jun 29, 2011

Cali - Part I {Los Angeles}

I have been in California for the past week tagging along on Micah's business trip, and it has been amazing. I have decided that vacations are very necessary for me, because if I am anywhere near my home, I feel like I have to clean it or grocery shop or organize a closet or cook dinner or something. I will have a list for the day and I will try to conquer it.

But in California, I do what I want. No list. No set plan. Especially on the days that Micah had work meetings. I think this sense of freedom comes from the fact that we stayed in a hotel. I love hotels! For two main reasons: 1) Hotels usually involve a king size bed. 2) Someone else cleans for you. I'm sold.

So our trip involved three days in L.A., three days in San Diego, and two days back in LA. Having a husband who takes "business trips" is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Hello semi-free vacation! Today, is my first day back in Arizona. I loved our time in Cali, but honestly, I am excited to be back in the HEAT. I am not lying. It was actually a pretty hot week in California - low to mid 80s in the valley, low to mid 70s on the coast, but that just doesn't leave me warm to the bone. They still have that whole west-coast-wear-a-sweater-at-night thing going on, and I'm just not sure if that's who I am. I'm a 85 degrees after dinner, sit on a patio in sundress type of girl.

One of the highlights to the L.A. portion of our trip is that I got to see lots of friends. First, I saw TCU friends, Sarah and Jayson, who just moved to LA this spring. They gave me a tour of the "Valley," drove me up Mulholland Drive, showed me the Brady Bunch house, and took me to Aroma Coffee and Tea to try to spot celebs. There were no celebs to be seen while we were there, but Joe Jonas was there last time Sarah visited the place.

I also got to see one of my very best friends since middle school, Lauren. Gosh, I love this girl. She is expecting her first baby in a few weeks - a baby girl named Lily. I am so excited for her! We met up for lunch in Costa Mesa, went shopping at a little consignment shop for babies, and I got to touch her giant stomach again and again! It was a blast. Did you know I'm obsessed with all things pregnancy and childbirth? Well, I am.

On the way home from Costa Mesa, I stopped by Huntington Beach to see my first college roommate, Jen. Can you believe it's been almost TEN YEARS since we were living together in Shirley Hall at TCU? I remember the first time we talked on the phone over the summer before freshman year to plan how to decorate our first dorm room. Now Jen is married and has a precious little boy, Cole! How time flies. It was GREAT to see her too.

Here are some more pics of LA goodness.. I will share the San Diego portion of our trip tomorrow.

Yummy food...

Fun shopping...

Lovin' CA

Mini tour of the Valley from Sarah and Jayson

Us in L.A.
There is just something about California despite it's chilly-ness. We might move here someday... either San Diego or Nashville...which would you choose???

Jun 28, 2011

Hostel? Hostile?

Tomorrow I will share with you some of the fun pictures from our Cali vacation, but today I want to tell you about the most hilarious part of our Cali trip... our "accomodations" in San Diego. Or should I say "El Cajon," a dumpy suburb 16 miles from the beach on the east side of the city.

To be fair, I knew our place was not right by the beach. I didn't know it was a full 16 miles away by freeway, but still, Google Maps informed me I was not reserving this place for its stellar location.

However, San Diego is San Diego, right?

So Micah and I don't have tons of extra money to spend this summer. We're not poor; I just don't get paid over the summer, and since we are saving for a new house, luxurious vacations aren't really a part of our summer finances. That's why we were so thankful for a partially paid vac-cay due to Micah's work trip. Micah took one day of PTO between his work meetings and we planned to spend our three day weekend in San Diego. Hoorah! However, hotel accomodations in San Diego are not cheap, and as much as I would have liked to "Sleep Above the Ocean" at the Crystal Pier Hotel like this ....

...it wasn't really in the budget. So we talked about our different options (camping?) and finally decided to check out hostels.com to see what was available. Hey, we're still young and hip enough to stay in a hostel right? We can just pretend we are visiting from Europe and that renting a sparse room near the beach is the glamorous thing to do...

However, even the beach hostels in San Diego were way out of our price range. (Micah actually stopped by one this weekend and the owner informed him that he actually rents out his "hostel" rooms as studio apartments and charges $1,000/month. People live in them all year apparently.) So I started looking further and further from the beach and finally found a place that would work for our budget - San Diego Travel Inn.


The place had only one review online. The front desk didn't have the guy's reservation when he arrived and it took over 30 minutes to get it figured out. Other than that he said it was in a "not fun" location, but it was clean.

I can handle that. The chances of the reservation debacle repeating were slim, we would have a car to drive us to the beach, and clean is exactly what we were looking for. A clean room in which to shower and sleep and that is all.

So we arrive to the address and we aren't even sure if we are at the right place. It's a Travelodge Motel - no "San Diego Travel Inn" in sight. Micah goes into the office and comes back out to tell me it is the right place but they need more info about our reservation. Huh? I go into the office which reeks of VERY potent Indian food (wow...I think I can still smell it now), and the receptionist needs to know how much I paid as our deposit and how much I still owe. They don't have their own records of this transaction...so I go out to the car, get my computer and sit down in the lobby to pull up my e-mail confirmation. Micah is keeping the door opened a crack so we can catch a whiff of air that doesn't smell like curry. I finally find my confirmation and the receptionist writes down the amount we still owe on a piece of scratch paper. I am pretty sure my remainder already included taxes and fees, but she added them on again, so we might have been ripped of by about $10, but oh well... At least we got the key to our room in 20 minutes - way faster than the 30 it took for the guy who wrote the online review.

We arrived in our room to find find two double beds, a TV, a table, a fridge, and a fairly clean bathroom. Not too shabby, except we had to decide on our sleeping situation. Sleep together? Apart? Bed by bathroom? Bed by window? (Just kidding on sleeping in separate beds...but we did joke around about it...) Honestly, it wasn't that bad. Except for a few things...

First of all, the first time I used the bathroom and went to wash my hands, the sink faucet broke off. We spent the rest of our two day stay with the sink faucet lying on the counter next to the sink. We would use it to pull the water on and off and then set it back on the counter.

We came home on our second night after a full day at the beach to find that housekeeping had made our bed and replaced our towels. Excellent. Except this time when Micah went to dry his hands, he picked up the towel and stared at it for a few seconds. "Is this a dish towel?" he finally asked. Why, yes, yes it was. One of our hand towels was actually a kitchen dish towel. But it was clean, so whatever. However, when I went to take a shower a few minutes later, I found that my bath towel was a bit off as well. It wasn't a dish towel or a hand towel, but only slightly larger than a hand towel. I would show you how small it was in comparison to my body, but I don't want to be indecent.

Finally, and this is the funniest and scariest part of our stay, we had a wake-call of sorts on our first night there. Except it wasn't a call, but a knock. On our door. In the middle of the night. I don't know if I can explain to you how it feels to be woken up out of a dead sleep by a pounding on the door when you are staying in a uncomfortable motel in a somewhat sketchy city you've never been in before, but it's not the best feeling. I woke up to a "thud, thud, thud" and pretended I must be imagining it. Until I heard the second "thud, thud, thud." By this time, Micah was also awake and we whispered to each other before ultimately lying perfectly still and pretending we weren't there. Thankfully, these were the only two rounds of knocks and the perpetrator moved on. However, I wasn't able to fall asleep again for quite awhile. The next morning Micah and I discussed who it might have been. Our top two guesses: either teenage boys that were staying in rooms on the other side of the parking lot playing a prank or a robber. Either way, Micah wished he had brought a gun. Thankfully they didn't bother us the second night.

I couldn't bring myself to take any pictures of our room, even of our broken sink faucet. However, this is the most accurate picture I could find online. Most of the online pictures are very edited and do not portray the truth about this Travelodge.  However, our AC unit looked just like this (except our knobs were not broken), and this was the exact lighting of our room!
So thank you, Travelodge of El Cajon, for pretending you are a hostel and for giving us a place to stay during our San Diego adventure. It's not so bad that you are a mediocre motel in a suburb outside of San Diego. It is rather questionable that you use a fake name and pretend to be a hostel on hostels.com, and even pretend that you have "dorm rooms" and "private rooms with shared bathrooms." It's also a little annoying that you have no way to track when customers reserve a room on hostels.com and the customer has too look up how much he or she still owes you upon arrival.

Still, Micah and I were laughing about our accommodations on our first night there and Micah made a good point. He's been on lots of travel adventures where he didn't always have a place to stay every night. Last time he went surfing, he had to sleep in his car and he said he would have given anything to have access to our Travelodge room. Thinking of him sleeping in a car for one night made me think of homeless people who often don't have access to a shower or a bed for nights on end, and this thought made me even more thankful for our "hostel." I was reminded to be thankful again the next morning, because when I stepped outside, there was a homeless man sitting near our door.

Jun 27, 2011

Italian Mac and Cheese

This meal is delicious. Especially if you are a pasta fan like me. If there are noodles in it, it's just better in my opinion. Not the healthiest motto to live by, but I don't care. Carb me up. The other nice thing about this meal is that it is fairly easy to make and absolutely husband and kid approved - no matter how many picky eaters you have in your house...


What you need:
1 pound penne noodles
1 pound Italian sweet sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream

1 {10-ounce} bag shredded Italian 4 cheese blend {equals 2.5 cups}
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well

1 cup sliced mushroom {optional}
1 teaspoon hot sauce {optional}
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup bread crumbs {Italian seasoned or plain}
Basil {fresh is best, if you have it!}

What you do:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to a chewy al dente, about 8 minutes. {Get the water heating on the stove and then move onto the meat, cooking the noodles as you go.}

In a nonstick skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, garlic (and mushrooms if you like that sort of thing; clearly, I do not). Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 3 to 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add flour to skillet and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in broth, then stir in cream. Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired. I added a couple drops for kicks. Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking or casserole dish.

In a bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup of 4 cheese blend, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and breadcrumbs. You can also add fresh basil to this mix. Now that Mr. Basil lives in my kitchen, I try to add a little basil to everything! Sprinkle this cheese and breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the pasta and bake for about 10 minutes. Then turn broiler on oven and broil for 2-5 minutes or until the cheese on top is slightly golden.


*Featured on Stonegable*

Jun 24, 2011

Flowers Fade Friday: God Knows

I am pulling some posts from the Flowers Fade archive. If you want to read more about my full journey through the Bible last year, you can always visit my old blog here, but for now I am just going to re-post some of my favorites on this site. I'm not re-posting because I am not reading my Bible or don't have anything new to write about, because God is constantly teaching me new things; it's mainly because my type-A personality wants to clean out all the imports that are sitting unpublished on the back pages of this blog. I hope these remnants from the archive inspire and encourage you!

* * * * *
The past two years have been a crazy, confusing, encouraging time of refinement for me. Since moving back to Washington in the fall of 2007 God has had His hand in my life like never before - convicting me of sin, enlarging my heart to truly love others, building up new community for me. At times, I felt completely hopeless - living in my parent's basement, substitute teaching, giving up a full ride to grad school, lacking fellowship with other females, watiting on God's timing in my relationship with Micah... nothing seemed to be making sense. At other times though, I completely trusted God's sovereignty over my life as I saw his love transforming me. Looking back over the past two years - I know that God used my circumstances - which often seemed miserable at the time - to make me fall more in love with Jesus and to make me more like Jesus at the same time.

In my Bible study with my roommates, we just started reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline and the first chapter is about meditation. I have been reading through Exodus for the past week now, and I was struck by a verse that I have been trying to meditate on. Exodus begins with Moses' birth and some background on the Israelites' situation in Egypt. Since the death of Joseph at the end of Genesis, the Israelites have been in Egypt for about 400 years and have become long-standing slaves of Pharaoh. Their legacy in Egypt now includes centuries of oppression, and it probably feels as if there is no escape. Meanwhile, Moses is born, and his life is perserved by the hand of God, even though Pharaoh is killing all the male infants of the Israelite people. He grows up living among the Egyptians, but one day kills an Egyptian for attacking one of the Israelite slaves, and then he flees from Egypt, fearing for his life. In the next chapter (3), about forty years have passed since Moses fled from Egypt, and he is called to be God's servant at the burning bush, with instructions to go back to Egypt and lead his people away from their life of slavery and into God's Promised Land. However, there is this strange little interlude in Scripture between Moses fleeing Egypt in chapter 2, and being called to return to Egypt four decades later in chapter 3, and it's this strange part of the text that really stood out to me this week.  In Exodus 2:23-25  it says:

"During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Issac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel, 
-- and God knew."

I have been meditating on the final part of that verse this week... "and God knew." How many times have I felt like the Israelites? God, I need rescue. God, I feel trapped. God, I am calling out to You. God, I know we are called to suffer with Christ, but is there any escape, Lord? The Israelites had been suffering for 400 years. Even after Moses was born, God's chosen servant to lead the Israelites to freedom, he didn't actually come to free the Israelites until he was 80 years old. But the truth of the matter is - God knew. He remembered his covenant with his people, and he was waiting for the perfect time to display his power to them. He was waiting for the perfect time to write his story of freedom and redemption. He was waiting for the perfect time to write the perfect Old Testament analogy of the freedom from the slavery of sin we find in Christ, and the hope of one day resting in the Promised Land (heaven!) with our Savior. Even when the Israelites were making bricks and crying out to God and it seemed like nothing was happening - God knew. He knows and loves his children. He is never absent. During those times when I feel like I am just waiting to see God's hand and struggling to have faith, I have to trust that God knows. It might not be His time to act, but he knows me, he loves me, he is never absent in my struggles. My God knows. And I can take comfort in that.

*It's so exciting to look back on this post a year and a half after writing it and see how God has answered so many of my prayers. Micah and I are happily married. I am in grad school getting my PhD. We have pleasant apartment in Arizona and are looking buy our first house. God is so good. He knew. He knows.

Jun 23, 2011

White Kitchens

My newest obsession is white kitchens. I love them. So much. I want one. Really bad. And by "white" I mean kitchens with white cabinets. Here are my current faves:

Love that white brick back splash!



This is probably my very favorite one!
I realllly like this one too! Look at those ceilings!
This is the same kitchen as above, but the view is from the living room. Love how open this whole space is. Sorry it's an instagram pic, but you get the idea...

And the other day when I showed Micah a white kitchen for the zillionth time, he said, "I want to give you a white kitchen someday..."

We rarely have mushy moments like this, but he can just be so sweet every now and then...

Jun 22, 2011


I promise this will be last of my dinner party posts for a while. I hate to be redundant, but there are just so many pictures to share. These are from the "fajitas and piñata" party we had last week with our missional community. The fajita meat was delish, the pinata was a "hit" with the kids (no pun intended, but now that it's there I'm pretty happy about it), and the company was awesome as usual. Probably the highlight of the night though was when the party was winding down, and all the ladies were getting their last 500-1,000 words out (each), and Micah and Adam started playing tag with all the kids. There really is nothing like watching grown men go all out in a game of tag with little children. It just melts my heart every time. Everyone went home sweaty and happy and full of steak, chicken, and shrimp...

Señor Piñata and me.

Love these ladies so much!

He just hung out waiting for us. Yes, his left foot is a soccer ball.

Us. I was talking on the phone and couldn't figure out why there
was a big black blob by my ear. Ha!

Shalyn made dirt cups for the kids!

Piñata time!

Piñatas are fun!

Then the adults took a turn...

And then we told Micah to finish him off...

The kids were so ready...

Kate is thinking "what the heck are these?" No bake cookies!

Micah had to collect a little candy too, of course!

And then a game of tag finished off the perfect evening!

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