Category: Angel’s Life

When I was 19-years old, I met a boy.  I was wrapping up my sophomore year at UC Berkeley (so was he) and though we never had a single class together, we attended the same church.  I will never forget the first time I saw him (from a distance, and I swear it was in slow-mo like in the movies) and gushed to my girlfriends that he was absolutely dreamy. We moved from admirers to friends, until one day Erik skated up to me on Sproul Plaza (yeah, he literally rolled up to me on his skateboard) and asked me to join him at a concert the following week.  I said yes, he skated away, and the rest is history.  :)  If you’re wondering about the concert: we saw The Juliana Theory & the Ataris at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  Major points if you know either of those bands.  :)

From then on, we were nearly inseperable.  We dated for the rest of our undergrad years, getting engaged during Christmas break our senior year.  I’ll share the amazing proposal story one of these days…  We got married just months after graduation, surprising most of our friends and family.  Why would we want to get married so soon, so young??

Oh how thankful I am to have spent such sweet, formative years with my one and only.  How grateful I am that we knew back then that this was IT — that love is a covenant and you choose to love every day.  Love is what you do.  We set our love upon one another, and that love has only deepened, matured and strengthened over the years.

Today we celebrate ten beautiful years of marriage (and over 12 years together).  I am in disbelief that the time has passed so quickly, and yet I can think back and see how full these ten years have been.  We have walked through so much together.  We’ve been blessed to travel to six countries together, along with many US destinations.  We both abandoned our “stable futures” and everything we had studied in college to pursue what we felt was truly our calling.  We’ve lived in four homes together.  We clung to each other in years of infertility and recurrent miscarriage.  We welcomed our miracle daughter in 2012.  We bought our first home together in 2013.  We took the leap of faith into the world of adoption in 2014 and embarked on a roller coaster ride through the domestic adoption process.  We welcomed our miracle son in 2015, via adoption.  We’ve laughed to the point of tears, we’ve cried in valleys of sorrow, we’ve fought and we’ve forgiven.  We have both GROWN, by the grace of God, and so has our love.  TEN years always seemed like the first “big” anniversary to me.  An entire decade.  Now that we have made it, I wonder if the next ten will fly by even faster?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I am currently out of town celebrating with a mini-getaway.  I’m sure I’ll share more about that on the blog eventually.  Today I just wanted to share my top ten things I love about my college (and forever) sweetheart, Erik.

favorite pic of us on our wedding day — so much joy!

singing “be thou my vision” with our guests // it’s one of my favorite pics of the day
and was snapped by a friend in one of the front rows!

  1. His unwavering faith and devotion to the Lord — he exemplifies what it means to practice what you preach
  2. His ability to be silly & playful — we have so much fun together, and I can be my goofy self around him without any hesitation
  3. His sharp wit and humor — he makes me laugh every single day
  4. His brilliant mind — Erik has always challenged me and conversations with him elevate my own way of thinking.  God has given him such an ability to study, understand, retain and teach.
  5. His patience — he has so much grace for me and others
  6. His beautiful amber hazel eyes — they are the color of golden honey and they are captivating!
  7. His tenderness in parenting — Erik is the best father to Olive and Noah and there is nothing more attractive to me than seeing how he cares for our little ones.
  8. His uncanny ability to dominate at everything he does, whether it’s a long-time hobby or a brand new endeavor.  Erik is just good at everything, and it is kinda crazy.
  9. His romantic heart — Erik has always written me the most beautiful, sincere love letters and never misses an opportunity to wow me on anniversaries and special occasions.
  10. Your loyalty and devotion to me — I feel so secure in your love and you love me so well.

to my Erik — you are my greatest blessing on this earth.  I can’t adequately express how thankful I am for you, every single day.  10 years ago, I married the very best man I knew.  You still embody to me everything that a great man is: devoted to the Lord, full of integrity and honor, respectful, well-spoken and kind, tender-hearted, wildly intelligent yet strikingly humble, utterly hilarious! and personable, and let’s face it… you’re pretty easy on the eyes, too. 😉

I know I am better for knowing you, and for having the honor of living as your companion. you teach me so much just by the way you live.  You are a constant source of encouragement and edification to me, and there is such comfort that comes from the support you give.  I know how special our relationship is.  I truly believe it to be an (unfortunate) rarity: two people committed to love each other, and also wildly in love with each other.  I treasure what we share, and I am proud to be your wife.

It is a joy to love you… for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death separates us.

happy anniversary baby <3 I love you.

spring 2008 — the image is found

december 2008 – amelia lyon

fall 2009 – jessica claire

january 2012 – jose villa

july 2014 – ryan ray

june 2015 – the image is found

I hope you’re all having a great day; see you soon!

>> 2015 LOVE & SPLENDOR WORKSHOP INFO HERE // REGISTER HERE <<

Last month I took a few days to escape to the woods with my family.  We are so fortunate to live just a short 1.5-2 hours from Big Sur: California’s most famous stretch of coast.  If you have never driven Big Sur, I urge you to put it on your list.  It is such a breathtaking, magical, soul-stirring part of the country.  On the left, it’s nothing but cerulean waters, sparkling in the sun and crashing against the rocky shoreline.  On the right, you will pass numerous state parks and endless miles of redwood forest.  The drive is notoriously perilous (read: lots of twists and turns, narrow roads, few guard rails between you and sheer cliffs) but rewards you with spectacular views.  There are countless turnouts along the drive for you to snap some photos and soak in the views a bit longer.

The drive alone is reason to visit, but we were excited to trek to Limekiln State Park for some tent camping.  Many people are surprised when I tell them I love to camp (and hike, kayak, etc.); I guess I don’t really give off the adventurous vibe (hah!).  Appearances are deceiving, however, because I absolutely love being outdoors.  Erik and I hope to pass on this love of the outdoors with our kiddos so we bravely (?) took our 3 year old daughter and 4 month old son along for the experience.  I’m happy to report it was an incredible trip!  Olive loved the novelty of sleeping in a tent and Noah is such a happy camper (pun intended) that he adapted beautifully.  We spent 3 nights out there and it was the perfect length of time for our family.

Limekiln State Park is the perfect campsite for anyone with kids, or anyone who prefers a more low key environment.  There are only 27 campsites there (so quite small): some are at the beach (literally a private little beach only accessible through the campsite — not great for swimming but perfect for relaxing) where you can fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves; others are along the rushing creek; the last group of sites are in the redwood forest.  We went with the redwood sites and were fortunate enough to nab the BEST site in the camp: #29.  I cannot tell you how many times we were asked during our stay (by passerby, other campers, random hikers) what our campsite # was.  Site 29 is elevated (above the main road) and is therefore separate from all the other sites.  You don’t border anyone, you can’t hear anyone else, and it really feels like you are in the VIP section.  😉

this is campsite 29!

We loved that Limekiln had enough nearby to keep us happy at camp (e.g. a beautiful bubbling creek and some mellow trails for hiking with kiddos, along with that aforementioned private beach).  But, we did venture out a few times to explore other parts of Big Sur.  We made stops at Big Sur Bakery & Café (a MUST — the yummiest sandwiches!), Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (more great trails and hundreds of campsites), Henry Miller library, and Pfeiffer Beach (which was incredibly windy and cold, which makes for a less than desirable beach experience… but undeniably gorgeous).

Limekiln was so great that it’s hard to imagine staying anywhere else next time we head to Big Sur.  But, there are many beautiful state parks in the area that I hope to try very soon.  It’s always a tough decision when it comes to sticking with the vetted, beloved old favorite vs. trying out something new.

During the day we explored, hiked, read, and relaxed.  We ate like kings thanks to lots of pre-trip preparations (and let’s face it — everything tastes somehow better when cooked over a campfire), and slept soundly in a large 10-person tent.  We are so glad we went with the bigger tent; we had tons of room to stretch out, get dressed, stow luggage, etc. instead of going to the car everytime we needed something.  In the evenings we had a tradition of making cocoa, coffee and s’mores and then tucking in for a classic Disney movie (played on my laptop).  I know it sounds anti-outdoorsy to enjoy technology on a camping trip, but it made our early evenings so special for Olive.  She had never seen any of these movies (Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast) so we loved snuggling together and sharing them with her.

Although we enjoyed our movie nights, we were “unplugged” for the rest of the trip.  I only had service for a few brief moments one day, when I could post a photo on IG.  Being unable to check email or social media for a few days was so good for me.  I was more engaged in my surroundings, soaking up precious time with my family and more attentively marveling in the creation around me.  I also especially loved reading my Bible outside while Olive and Noah napped each afternoon.  It was such a blessing to have that time to myself with the Word, just listening to the creek rush by, taking quiet moments to ponder and meditate.  I felt refreshed (except the part where we only had one ice cold shower, haha!) and rejuvenated and filled to the brim with gratitude.

We’re already planning our next trip this fall!  If you have any favorite spots in and around Big Sur, let me know.  We will likely venture further north on our next visit, taking the kids to nearby Monterey and Carmel.

Enjoy the week and see you again soon!

>> 2015 LOVE & SPLENDOR WORKSHOP INFO HERE // REGISTER HERE <<

Thank you to everyone for your sweet comments here & on Instagram regarding our Target commercial!  We are so grateful for the opportunity we had to be featured as a voice for adoption.  Many people have asked how we got the gig, so I thought I’d share a little behind-the-scenes post on how it all happened.

The process started in early March, when my sweet friend Joy (of Oh Joy!) emailed me about the casting.  She knew that Target was working on putting together a series of nursery commercials and they were looking for different families to feature.  She thought we might be a fit (since we were in the adoption process) and asked if we might want to audition.  Of course my interest was piqued, but I didn’t expect Erik to want to drive down to LA for an audition.  Surprisingly, he said we might as well fill out a questionnaire and see what happened.  We were called for an audition shortly thereafter, with less than a day’s notice.  (That is typical for the industry, but atypical for us since we live hours away from LA now…)  I asked the casting director if we could bring our kids (they were just casting parents) and they said we could.  So, two kiddos in tow, we made our way to the audition.

first audition // see noah sleeping by the monitor?

Our initial audition took less than 15 minutes.  We checked in, waited in a large room with dozens of other couples, and were eventually called into an audition room.  It was just us and a sweet cameraman who filmed us answering a handful of questions.  The process was pretty simple and we felt honored to share our adoption story, even if it was just with the cameraman!  The initial auditions were conducted over a few days, and they likely saw countless couples.

Imagine our excitement when we found out we made callbacks (aka round two of auditions), which meant another trip to LA.  I saw nearly 50 families listed on the callback sheet!  On this occasion, we were called in to meet the director and a team of creatives working on the film.  Noah slept through the audition (of course!) but Olive enjoyed hamming it up for everyone, making friends with the production team and crawling up on the casting couch with them.  It was hilarious!  Once again we enjoyed the experience of sharing about ourselves, why we chose adoption, and how we had already been so blessed in the process.  We also chatted about how our fast-paced adoption made it difficult to prepare for Noah in the way most expectant couples might prepare for their little ones.

Post callback, we learned we had been selected for the commercial.  The casting director then let me know that Target loved Olive and wanted her to be in the commercial as well.  We were delighted!  We had some paperwork to handle (since Olive is a minor, she required a work permit as well as a special bank account for children in the entertainment industry) before things were made official.  As a sidenote — at the time we filmed the commercial, we were not allowed to show Noah’s face on camera.  This is one reason why he is not featured in the commercial.

in the studio

From there we scheduled recording sessions (since the commercial is a voice-over, Erik and I spent time in a recording studio), fittings, and call times.  The recording session took a couple of hours in Santa Monica, where we sat in a sound booth with the director.  He asked us tons of questions about our relationship, our family, our homelife, our fertility struggles and the adoption process.  A lot of the questions were likely warm ups to get us comfortable speaking into microphones (with a handful of people sitting in the adjacent room, listening and taking notes on sound bites they might want to put into the final commercial).  I really loved that the process was conversational, since it meant our own words were used in the commercial, not a script.  It also helped us get very comfortable with the director (the brilliant creative, Mac Premo) before shoot day.  We had a great time telling our story to him in full detail, even though only a few snippets made it into the 1 minute commercial.  A little note: I was a little sick on the day of our studio session, so my voice sounds deeper than usual in the commercial.  Of course no one could really notice but it still makes me chuckle when I hear it played back.

olive with director mac premo

The day we shot the commercial was an exciting and packed day.  We arrived early to grab coffee and breakfast (catering + craft services = one of the best parts of the entertainment business! haha) and then were rushed into hair/makeup and wardrobe.  I love that they observed what we wore to the audition (our own clothes) and just tried to mimic that.  So, while the clothes we wore were selected by stylists (the hilarious Keith Wager), they were almost identical to what we had worn to the audition.  Keith joked that it was actually hard to find quirky clothes for me.  😉  Everything we wore was head-to-toe Target, of course.  Olive was put into overalls which looked darling on her, but there was a tiny bit of drama since she prefers to wear dresses everyday of the week.  We all convinced her she looked perfect and distracted her long enough for her to forget what she was wearing.  I then had the pleasure of having my makeup done by the talented Terri Apanasewicz.  She is an industry star who styles some of the most famous faces in Hollywood (including Cindy Crawford and Gisele, nbd), yet she treated me with the utmost kindness and care.  I told her I hope our paths cross again so she can really doll me up, instead of just giving me the everyday look we were going for with this commercial.  😉  We didn’t do anything to my hair (or Olive’s!) to keep it natural.  From makeup I was literally whisked to set, and right into the first shots.  Everyone on set was super friendly and accommodating, from the producers to the cameramen to the editors.

Also fun — they hired a teacher/handler for Olive, since she is a minor.  She was so lovely and also had worked with some of the biggest child stars in Hollywood, including Abigail Breslin.  I was really blown away by the talented crew that Target had brought on for the project!

Overall I was  taken aback by the amount of people who were on-set to oversee the project.  There was someone there from Target HQ, along with the creative team who had been at the audition, sitting in a “video village” to observe the playback.  They would occasionally radio up minor comments and notes to help capture exactly what they envisioned for the project.  There was a props team, a seamstress, and countless others.  The energy in the air was palpable, and the pace frenetic yet upbeat.

It was a very full day of filming but I have to say I enjoyed every minute.  I loved just getting a glimpse of the fascinating world of film/TV.  SO much work went into putting together this spot; it made me pause to consider how much more time goes into shooting every scene of a TV show or movie.  I certainly came away with a greater respect for the art and thought and effort that goes into creating the commercials we see everyday.

I hope one day Noah can watch this film and see how excited we were to welcome him into our family.  He has truly been loved and anticipated from the very beginning.  I can’t believe he has now been with us for five months!

Enjoy your day and see you again soon!  Thank you for stopping by!

>> 2015 LOVE & SPLENDOR WORKSHOP INFO HERE // REGISTER HERE

I can’t believe it but my little family is featured in a Target commercial about adoption!  I’ve already watched it a handful of times and Olive is positively obsessed.  (Oh brother!)  Don’t worry — we aren’t quitting our day jobs.  But, we had a blast working on this project and are excited to have it as a little keepsake for our family.

Today I wanted to share the commercial (currently on their YouTube channel, but keep your eyes open: our contract allows to national TV spots as well!) but later this week I’ll share about the audition & casting process, as well as what goes into shooting a commercial like this.  It was a really unique and wonderful experience.

We’re not quitting our day jobs but hey, Olive is Coogan-account ready in case anyone out there wants to snap her up for their next ad campaign.  😉

I hope you all have a wonderful day; see you soon!

I LOVE the stage Olive is in right now.  I am constantly telling people how much fun it is to have a three-year old, and just when I think it can’t get any better, it does!  I’ve felt this way about every stage, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised any longer…  It really does continue to get better.  :)  Today I wanted to share some snippets & favorite memories from winter 2014 & spring 2015…

wearing little minis

Does everyone think their kid is the funniest kid on the planet (both on purpose and unintentionally)??  Because seriously, Erik and I cannot stop laughing at Olive all.day.long.  This girl has the craziest imagination and says the most adorable things.  Recently she found some false eyelashes in my drawer and asked what they were.  I told her they were special eyelashes for when I get all dressed up.  She instantly started pulling at her eyelashes and said, “Mama!  I want to take mine off and put these on!!”  When I finished laughing I told her that they’re only for grown ups.  She reminds me everytime we pass that drawer: “When I’m a big girl I’m gonna wear those eyelashes and your special sandals (some Marc Jacobs platforms that she also has her eye on; ha!).”  Oh brother!

Olive loves to dance and sing, often spontaneously.  We can be in a store or even the market and if the music (or muzak) moves her, she says, “Mama I need to practice my dancing!”  From ballet to interpretive dancing to all out crazy shakes, she definitely gives it her all.  :)  I love listening to her making up songs throughout the day (she is great with independent play) about the most random topics.  She’ll sing to her toys, sing while reading a book, sing to Noah while he’s crying.  She definitely loves music.  She also loves pretending to be in school (reading books, practicing her numbers and letters) and art projects of all kinds (painting, “sculpting” with Play-doh, drawing, coloring).

Highlights…

  • Being an adorable flowergirl in Erik’s sister’s wedding (I was a bridesmaid and Erik was a groomsman) in November 2014
  • Lots of playdates with favorite pals including church gals (Jetta, Eden, Chloe), local friends (Zakary, Luke, Piper, Ellis, Leo, Alicia) and LA/OC friends, too!
  • Helped pick out our Christmas tree, put up lights + decorations, and enjoyed a traditional night of festivities in downtown Cambria
  • Continued to attend and love our local storytime one day a week!
  • Disneyland trip in December 2015 with halmunee (my mom) and our good friend Jackie + baby X
  • Multiple trips to the SB Zoo (where Michael the giraffe remains her favorite)
  • Christmas season dinner at the iconic Madonna Inn
  • Our first Christmas morning in our own house (just the three of us), before heading to LA for family celebrations
  • She welcomed a baby brother (through God’s grace of adoption) in January 2015 and has proven to be an amazing big sister — she loves Noah SO much and seeing them together makes my heart burst!
  • Attended a Valentine’s Day party with her friends (and loved every second of it)
  • She loves picking flowers everywhere we go (but always asks permission, first).  If I tell her no, she says, “Just let it grow, right?”  <3
  • She turned THREE and celebrated with donuts (of course) and a pirate-themed birthday (her pick!).
  • Held a bunny and rode a tractor at Ellis’ birthday party (not sure which was her favorite!)
  • Cried over a puppy for the first time (named “Tank,” affectionately called “Tanky” — a beagle/doxie mix at the local rescue)
  • Moved into a “big girl room” with a twin-sized bed!  She chose her own bedding at Target: Paris/ballerina themed
  • She helped Erik plant the spring garden
  • We toured a preschool (!) she will start at in the fall
  • She attended the Giant Playdate with me and had a blast
  • She had her first real job :) // more coming soon!!!

loving my solly baby wrap

photo by Callaway Gable

wearing Paush

This has been a big season of transition for our family, with the wonderful blessing of Noah’s arrival.  Olive has been so great with all of the huge changes and even more than that, I feel like she has grown into an even lovelier, kinder child since her brother was born.  I stand in awe at the way she has embraced him, loved on him, attached to him.  On one of our drives to LA, we made a brief stop at Target to go to the restroom.  I took Olive into the store and Erik stayed in the car with Noah.  As soon as we walked into the sliding glass doors, Olive started to panic and cry (real tears!).  “Mama! Mama you forgot baby Noah! We need my baby Noah!!”  It’s always “my baby Noah” and “my baby brutha” — never just Noah.  I love the way God has made her so tender, sensitive, and affectionate.

I can’t wait to see what the next season holds!!  And, coming very soon, I’ll be able to share some beautiful photos of both of my kiddos together!  Thanks for stopping by; have a fantastic week!

I had such a sweet Mother’s Day weekend this year, so I thought I’d share a few snippets of how we celebrated.  I know so many people are vehemently against “greeting card holidays” like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.  I can never truly understand why.  Of course we should honor our parents and tell our loved ones how precious they are to us more than one day a year.  BUT, I see nothing wrong with a special, dedicated day to really remind us to go that extra mile in pouring out our appreciation.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or cost a lot of money (or any at all, frankly!).  I am always happy to have a reason to celebrate the blessings in my life.  Mother’s Day is not about getting spoiled by my family (obviously not opposed to that, though! ha!), but about reveling in the joy of motherhood itself.  I want to spend special time with my family, slow down a little (read: not do dishes for a day), and just reflect on the wonderful privilege of mothering my two children.

TWO!  This year I have two beautiful children, making this Mother’s Day extra special.  We are so close to the finish line with finalizing our adoption with Noah so it won’t be long before you see his sweet face.  :)  Everyday with him is a joy and I can’t wait to share more about our journey and experience.  I thank God for these two precious blessings.

On Saturday I kicked off the weekend in the best way possible: working at the Giant Playdate by the Alliance of Moms.  This special event is a fundraiser for the Alliance for Children’s Rights — a non profit organization that advocates for LA’s foster kids.  I was honored to plan + design this year’s playdate.  It was a ton of fun (and a great change of pace from weddings) and I had the double joy of bringing my kiddos along for the last hour!  I will be sharing many more photos from this event in a full blog post down the line but here are a few sneak peeks for now.

romper by sweet threads / cupcake by sweet and saucy shop / frill from geronimo balloons

endless entertainment from best bubble parties

The following photos are by the incredible Abby and Lauren


she LOVED this camp craft station where she made me an adorable wooden bead necklace

On Sunday morning, I woke up to an excited Olive and Erik at my bedside.  They had a card and a few hilarious gifts that Olive chose for me (one was a Barbie doll which she has now taken back for herself and the other was a light-changing bouncy ball).  We went to church and then had our usual post-church lunch of In-N-Out.  We then hit the road to Cambria, where we have gone to celebrate every Mother’s Day since 2012.  I grab an olallieberry iced team at Linn’s and we strolled around the antique and garden shops together.  The weather was perfect and we had such a lovely afternoon.  We returned home for Olive’s nap and then went for Thai food for dinner (my fav) before doing a Target run before bedtime.  Nothing super fancy but a joyful day spent with my three favorite people.  I couldn’t ask for more.

Olive’s dress by little minis / my dress by anthropologie

This week we’ve been working hard at purging and organizing (perhaps for an upcoming garage sale?) and putting finishing touches on Noah’s nursery.  I’ll share soon!  I also am working on final preparations for next weekend’s weekend in southern California.

I hope you are having a great week so far; see you again soon!

I love the excitement and anticipation that comes with this time of year.  Although much of the hustle surrounding Christmas can be closely related to a preoccupation with gifts and material goods, I strive to keep my mind and heart focused on the reason behind the season.  As Olive gets older, we are looking forward to infusing our holiday traditions with meaning, drawing her attention to the beauty of Christ and His arrival here on earth.  There are many family gatherings we will enjoy later this week, with bountiful feasts to eat and beautiful packages to open.  Above all, however, we hope Olive grows up to learn about the greatest gift we’ve received, and how it allows us to truly have joy in all circumstances.

This year will be a different experience because we aren’t going to see our families until Christmas Day.  While we will surely miss the fabulous Christmas Eve celebration with Erik’s family (the Italian seafood feast known as festa dei sette pesci), we are excited to begin laying the foundation for our own household traditions.  I love brainstorming ways to make these occasions memorable for our family!  Decorating the tree was so special this year, seeing Olive light up (pun intended) as we adorned it with heirloom ornaments.  I know that as she gets older, these activities and moments will become precious to her, too.

Here are a few fun Christmas activities we’ve enjoyed so far this month.

getting our Christmas tree (about 7′ tall) the weekend after Thanksgiving

Hospitality Night in Cambria + lights at the Cambria Pines Lodge

there’s nothing like Disneyland at Christmas

Christmas light trolley tour in Santa Barbara (our first time and SO much fun!)

3rd-annual dinner at the over-the-top Madonna Inn: it’s a Christmas extravaganza in there!

Christmas party at church!

sitting by the fireplace and watching classic Christmas movies

indulging in special treats like homemade cinnamon-sugar donuts (baked!)

3rd-annual Christmas Mamas Party for my dearest friends in the wedding industry

We are planning to have a sweet morning at home on Christmas with just the three of us.  It’ll be our first Christmas waking up in our own home!  I’ll make a special breakfast and Erik will read scripture.  Then, we plan on heading to spend the rest of the week with family.  Does your family do anything special this time of year?  I’d love to hear about your own traditions!

I hope you have a warm and blessed holiday with your loved ones. See you again soon!

It was such a joy to host our first Thanksgiving this year; in a lot of ways it felt like a rite of passage.  Once you’re hosting holidays, I think you’re a bonafide adult.  😉  We have been traveling so much this year that we felt like we just needed to slow down a bit this season.  After some discussion, we decided to stay here for Thanksgiving and simply invite our families to join if they were willing.  With my sister out of state, and one of Erik’s sisters out of the country (on her honeymoon!), we knew the family would be a bit spread out.  In the end, we hosted just a handful of relatives: my parents and Erik’s eldest sister and her family.  Our table of 9 felt perfectly intimate and cozy and we were able to enjoy a wonderful meal along with meaningful company.  I especially enjoyed watching Olive playing with her two cousins!  She doesn’t get to see them very often so it is a shriek-fest of joy when she is with them.  What a blessing!

I had my sweet mama here to serve as the ultimate sous chef.  She helped me wash, peel and chop vegetables all morning while I tended to each dish.  She also washed dishes and countertops, packed up leftovers and helped me make a lovely turkey broth.  We shared a lot of great conversation in the kitchen and agreed we ought to do more cooking together.  It is such a timeless way to connect parent and child, mother and daughter.  Working alongside one another, we laughed and reminisced and taste-tested.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for her beautiful heart of sacrificial service.  There is no doubt about it — my mom is the most servant-hearted person I know.  The way she works so hard (to this day) to bless me, my sister, and our husbands (and Olive, of course!) convicts me of my own need to serve more.  How’s that for gratitude on Thanksgiving??

I loved being the hostess this year; every part of the process delights me.  From planning the menu, to shopping for ingredients, to setting the table, I take such pleasure in creating a special experience for my loved ones.  You know how they say the cobbler’s children have no shoes?  It’s true in the event world, too: we spend so much time planning personalized celebrations for others (whom I love!) that we often skip the effort for our own families.  While I know that a get-together (especially Thanksgiving!) does not find its value in perfectly placed flatware and manicured tabletops, I still think there is worth in thoughtful details that make a guest feel special.  I tea-stained cheesecloths for a simple runner (under $5), gathered Trader Joe’s tulips + spider mums in some vintage brass and Delftware vases from my own collection, and used my own china, flatware, napkins and amber glassware to set the table.  The pumpkins are part of our home’s fall décor — I just moved them from the living room to the dining table.  Candles always elevate the formality of a tabletop so I just placed votives into extra amber goblets I had!  To top everything off, I foraged some fallen leaves from the neighborhood.  And by “foraged,” I mean I pulled over on the side of a road and picked pretty leaves off of someone’s yard while their dog barked menacingly at me.  It was hilarious and worth it!

My favorite part of our Thanksgiving table (other than the people around it) was the table itself.  My amazing husband built the table the week before the gathering, using reclaimed wood and US-made steel hairpin legs.  He even made a matching bench for one side!  We look forward to hunting for just the right vintage chairs to complete the set; on Thanksgiving we just used old dining room chairs we had.  Being the sap that I am, I felt there was a unique symbolism in gathering around a table that was built by my husband, hosting our very first family holiday.  I can’t wait to make many more memories around that perfectly imperfect table.

Here’s a glimpse of our gathering…

prep in progress

not the best pic of me and my mama but I’ll take it!  😉  Next year we’ll take more pictures of people!

before: slathered with sage butter and stuffed with shallots, apples, lemons, celery and herbs.

after!  Don’t mind my amateur trussing job.  It was delicious!

the beautiful table + bench

Erik’s beautiful sister, her husband, and two sons (Olive’s cousins) — check out Olive’s awesome bedhead!

homemade vanilla bean ice cream

dessert: apple crumble à la mode with salted caramel sauce

I hope you all are having a great weekend!  We are doing lots of tidying/cleaning — I feel like I have the spring cleaning bug a few months early.  I’m taking advantage of the motivation and purging tons of stuff.  See you again next week!  :)

Happy Monday, everyone!  I hope you had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones.  Erik and I hosted our very first Thanksgiving and it was a joyful day from start to finish.  I’ll be sharing more about our Thanksgiving celebration later this week!  In the afterglow of the last holiday, and in great anticipation for Christmas, I wanted to get this post up as soon as possible.  I actually planned to write and post it last week, for Thanksgiving itself, but prepping for our get-together took precedence.  😉

Every November here in the US, we are collectively reminded to give thanks for what we have.  It’s a time when we reflect on the bounty of what we have and savor it.  As I tick off my own list of blessings, I am reminded to direct my thanks to the great Giver of gifts: my God.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” // James 1:17

I have a powerful and loving God, and a life-giving relationship with Him.  I have a devoted, silly, inspiring husband who loves me with patience, grace and humility.  My daughter — I have a daughter!! — fills our home with laughter and my days with profound lessons.  I have a wonderful family who lends me support and encouragement on a daily basis.  I’m blessed with an amazing group of friends, near and far, who have been by my side for unspeakably joyful moments as well as the dark valleys of heartbreak.  I am fortunate to live in this beautiful country.  While it may be imperfect (as we all are), it is still a place where I can enjoy freedoms that are denied to others around the world.  I have much more than I need and a whole lot of what I want, too.  Some might say it is easy for someone “like me” to express gratitude.

It catches me off-guard when someone will tell me something along those lines — that I have it easy, that I lead some sort of charmed life.  I suppose that if you’re only seeing snippets on the blog or photos on social media, it might be possible to think that.  Those who have read this blog over time, however, or know me in real life, know that I have experienced many sorrows along with my sweetest days.  I’m not here to list off burdens or compare griefs.  That’s not what this post is about.  I’m simply saying that we all have experienced pain and difficulty.  The beauty is this: gratitude transcends those circumstances and experiences.  A spirit of gratitude revels in the everyday blessings.

You’ve probably heard the difference between happiness and joy: happiness is based on your circumstances.  It can be evoked by a delightful occasion and dashed by a terrible situation.  Joy, however, is deep-seated and unwavering.  It is a disposition of the soul — a comfort and peace that cannot be shaken or diminished.  My joy is found in my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Because of who He is and what He’s done for me, I can live and walk in JOY.  When someone tells me I seem like a really “happy person,” I know that what they’re really seeing is the joy of Christ in me.  And that is a blessing (since I am so imperfect and cannot reflect Christ perfectly)!  In times of distress and trials, I can rest in knowing that God’s sovereignty and love never change.  When my heart aches and longs for things I do not yet have, I can still rejoice in what I do have in Him — that which can never be taken away from me.

I write these words and I believe them with every part of my heart, but I still fail in practice.  I catch myself wishing or wanting for more, begrudging the abundance I have and even desiring the gifts of another.  We redefine luxuries as needs.  We compare treasure and are left wanting.  I need to be reminded sometimes (even in writing something like this post!) to give thanks at always.  I must rest in the gracious provision of God and trust that He cares for me.

Gratitude is so closely tied to contentment: simply being satisfied with what you have.  It seems like we are trained from childhood to always want more, to strive for more.  It’s a tragic misdirection of our energies.  We see time and again that people who have more are not necessarily more fulfilled.  (In fact, I’ve seen almost the opposite…)  Contentment is not about quantity but perspective.  When we live in gratitude and mindfully acknowledge what we do have, we find contentment.  We can thank God for what we have, where we are.  We can rest instead of resist.  We can lift praise rather than petitions.  Let me be clear: I am not against self-improvement or goals or ambitions of any kind.  The question is whether or not my achievement of those goals (on my timeline, according to my plans) is tied to my joy.  If I live and die by the plans I make for myself, I am setting myself up for disappointment.  I would be chasing happiness, not joy.

This year is the first year that Olive really “gets” Christmas and we are seizing the opportunity to instruct her about the true meaning of the holiday.  We pray she will grow to cultivate a heart of contentment, acknowledging what she has (and who it comes from) and being sincerely grateful for every blessing.  All I want for Christmas is a heart of contentment and a spirit of gratitude.  All I want for her is the same.

Thank you for letting me spill a bit of my heart here today.  I am truly thankful for YOU, taking the time to read my fumbling words and sharing life with me.  What are YOU thankful for?

Happy Monday, everyone!  How is it already Thanksgiving week?!  I am equal parts shocked and delighted.  This year we have the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving in our own home and I couldn’t be more excited.  With all the traveling we’ve been doing this year, it feels great to just be home for the holiday.  😉  I also look forward to creating more of our own little traditions as a family as Olive gets older.  If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a sneak peek of the reclaimed wood dining table that Erik is building for me.  I can’t wait to set it for our Thanksgiving meal!

Over the weekend, I spent some time menu planning and pantry-stocking for the big meal.  I plan to pick up the perishables and fresh veggies tomorrow from our local farm.  Here’s what’s on the menu so far…

  • Appetizers: cheese, charcuterie, lots of olives (yum!)… maybe a roasted cauliflower soup
  • Whole roasted turkey (we picked up an organic, free-range turkey from Mary’s Turkeys // raised about 150 miles from me!!)
  • Apple + Pecan + Chesnut Stuffing (apples from our favorite local apple stand: Gopher Glen)
  • Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots (a healthier take on my childhood favorite, using green beans from our local Rutiz Farms)
  • Chardonnay Glazed Carrots (recipe from Better Homes and Gardens)
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts (with and without bacon, of course)
  • Twice Baked Potatoes (fully loaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream and chives)
  • Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple and Marshmallows (yummmm!  This is Erik’s sister’s specialty!)
  • Whole Cranberry Sauce
  • Apple Crumble (Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Fuji and Christmas Bliss apples from Gopher Glen)
  • Homemade vanilla bean ice cream with salted caramel swirl
  • Our favorite warm apple cider.  It makes the entire house smell heavenly as it sits in the crock pot!

What am I forgetting??  I’d love to hear your Thanksgiving meal “must haves” in the comments.  I still have time to improvise!  :)

Hope you’re having a great start to your week — see you soon!