Remembering its February

In my mind, February in Seattle is a mixture of cold, clear, crisp days and mild, rainy ones.  This February has been an anomaly with a running trend of record high temperatures and warm sunshine us Seattleites typically have to remind ourselves exists.  I have been pulling clothes out of my warm weather wardrobe, passing the sweet smells of magnolia and cherry blossoms on my morning run, and watching tulips and other spring treasures pop up through the dirt like its late March.

And, then this morning as I was defrosting my windshield and worrying about our spring bulbs getting frost bite, I remember that it is only late February.  Sigh.  How spoiled we have been this winter.  The weather report for the next week reads cool, crisp, and clear.  These are my favorite days this time of year.  I usually love this weather.

But, these glimmers of spring and summer make me look forward to longer daylight hours and warmer weather.  No more running in the dark at 6am.  No more driving home in the dark at the end of the day.  There is something about the inherent hope that exists in light.  It was designed this way.

Hope was designed for light.  Or maybe, light was designed for hope.  Either way, these bright days remind me of what is to come; longer days, warmer nights, barbecues, hanging out on the porch with iced tea, etc.  You know, the essentials of summer.

Maybe it is because this winter tested us on so many levels that I am so atypically anxious to leave it behind.  I am ready for the newness associated with spring.  The fresh starts.  The changes.  The new chapters.

But, possibly it is the darkness – the winters of sorts – that make us stronger and prepare our hearts for these new chapters, changes, and fresh starts.  Its the cliche saying, “you can’t know light without darkness ,” in action.

I know that I am hopeful about what the spring and summer will have in store and faith that, for me, this winter chapter is drawing to a close and has prepared me well for the brighter days ahead – despite the morning frost on my windshield.

Eating our way through Vancouver

Last week, Tim and I got out of dodge for a couple of days.  We drove ourselves up to Vancouver for some exploring, eating, and according to my husband, marathon walking.  Tim says that my family has a special talent for turning every trip into the longest walking events.  My defense is that there is nothing like exploring on foot to give you the lay of the land.

Day One

We got an early start and arrived before 10am.  Plenty of time for walking, coffee, and some strolling around Robson Street, the waterfront, and downtown – a.k.a. more walking.  We passed some amazing looking middle eastern food places and decided to give one a try for lunch.  Babylon Cafe, ya’ll.  Try the Chicken Shwarma plate and Falafel.  You won’t be disappointed.

Tim and I on the waterfront
Tim and I on the waterfront

Now it was time to check into our hotel or maybe I should say, the cutest B&B ever.  This adorable tudor-style home in the West End – bonus for being blocks from the beach and Stanley Park – is beautifully decorated with antique furniture and a gorgeous dining room where breakfast is served (more on that amazingness later!).  Every bedroom is uniquely decorated, clean as a whistle, and lovely.  If you get the chance, stay at the English Bay Inn!  I will be leaving them 5 star reviews everywhere I can!  Tim seriously rocked the hotel choice with this spot.   Alberto who runs the hotel (and makes the best breakfasts) is wonderful as well!

English Bay Inn
English Bay Inn
The adorable front door that Tim is determined to find for our house.
The adorable front door that Tim is determined to find for our house.

One of our reasons for choosing to head up to Vancouver is the amazing asian food available in this city.  So we were determined to find authentic Chinese for dinner that night.  We had read reviews, and heard amazing things about a number of places, but ultimately chose the Peaceful Restaurant.   Alberto from the inn gave it rave reviews as well which helped seal the deal!  If you hate delicious homemade noodles and flavorful, perfectly executed dishes then you will hate this place.  We had the Dan Dan Noodles and it was our favorite dish of the entire trip!  The noodles.  Oh, the noodles.  These were by far the best hand-pulled noodles we have ever eaten.  Sorry, Snappy Dragon in Seattle.  We still love you.

Day Two

Alberto at the English Bay Inn’s take on poached eggs Benedict will forever be a dish that I unsuccessfully attempt to replicate.  Breakfast each day starts with fresh fruit, coffee or tea, and orange juice.  Plus, we got to chat with folks from all over the world each morning.  And, who wouldn’t want to eat at this dining table!? IMG_1262 I had never been up to Whistler so Tim took me on the gorgeous almost 2 hour drive from Vancouver.   This winter the Pacific Northwest has hardly gotten any snow, but the drive is worth it!

View from a lookout
View from a lookout

When we got back, because we hit the February winter weather lottery, we took a stroll through Stanley Park with coffee – we are Seattle-ites after all.

The view from Stanley Park
The view from Stanley Park

For us, no trip to Vancouver would be complete without some sushi.  I don’t know how or why, but sushi is way cheaper, fresher, and better north of the US border.  We walked over to Sushi Mart on Robson Street.  This place has a horrible name, but don’t be fooled.  If you love Sashimi and Ngiri, this place has an awesome selection of fresh sustainably harvested options.  If you are more interested in sushi rolls, then there may be other places you would prefer, but Sushi Mart’s are still delicious!

When I make sushi at home, it never looks this pretty.
When I make sushi at home, it never looks this pretty.

For a nightcap, we hit up Central Bistro, and weren’t disappointed.  It was packed full of locals and regulars on a Tuesday!   The Banana Hammock and some drink with a title about refreshing cucumbers were awesome.

Day Three

When you get your day started with delicious french toast made with sourdough bread and topped with real maple syrup and fresh fruit without having to change our of your slippers, it is going to be a good day.  Wishing I could wake up to that every day!

We were on our way to Granville Island and the public market there – Vancouver’s version of Pike Place Market – so even though we were stuffed and had no need for anything further, I had read about that neighborhood’s Beaucoup Bakery for far too long to leave without a taste.  The kouign amann was our favorite one ever.  Sprinkling a little maldon on top is a stroke of bakery brilliance.

And thanks to all of the foodies staying at our hotel, we learned about Legendary Noodle House.  Although, we were skeptical after our amazing noodles a few meals prior, we weren’t disappointed.  We still will give the noodle crown to the Peaceful Restaurant’s Dan Dan Noodles, but at Legendary, be sure to eat the Garlic Lemon noodles.  They were delicious and full of fresh bright flavors.  Plus, we watched the noodles being pulled right in front of us.  And, if you are sensitive to spice, Legendary is the better bet.

And just in case we hadn’t eaten enough – which we had – we stopped by La Casa Gelato factory on our way out of town.  They have 218 flavors of gelato including mushroom, kimchi, wasabi, balsamic vinegar, and seaweed to name a few.  They also had some more typical favorites like mint brownie, Baileys cheesecake, peaches ‘n cream, and just about anything else you can imagine.  Of course we had fun sampling the strange ones before settling down to a cone filled with one of our trusty old faithfuls.

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Bye-bye, Vancouver.  We are already planning our next trip back!!

A box of lemons…

I could start with some cliche’ saying that starts with “when life gives you lemons…”  But instead, I’ll stick with the truth.  When your mother-in-law has a lemon tree in her yard and sends you a beautiful box full of lemons every year, what do you do with this box of luscious lemon treasures?

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First of all, if these flavorful beauties are lemons, then what on earth have I been buying at the store?  Holy cow!  All I’m saying is that if you live somewhere warm enough for fresh citrus fruits, consider yourself blessed!  Even the best of the best lemons and oranges that I can pick up from local stores, are no where near as wonderful.

So… I have made lemon bars, assembled lemon salad dressings, simmered burre blanc sauce, put lemon in my tea,  and alas, made my husband’s favorite lemon meringue pie.

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Alright, ya’ll, I am not the queen of pie crust by any means.  So when I came across this pie crust recipe on Epicurious and it worked time after time. I deemed it the most fool proof pie crust.  I typically make it with apple cider vinegar as directed but when making a pie that I think the added tang might not go well with, I substitute traditional white vinegar.  Highly recommended!

Bake the crust at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes with pie weights or some sort of make-shift pie weight (my weight of choice was parchment with some dried beans).

THE FILLING

Mix the first 6 ingredients until simmering.  Then add the egg yolks and cook until it returns to a simmer and begins to thicken.  Remove the filling from the heat and mix in the butter.  Pour filling into the partially baked crust and set aside.

Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees.

THE MERINGUE

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar

Beat egg whites with tartar and 1 tbl. of sugar until soft peaks form.  Then slowly add the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form.  Finally, add the vanilla until combined.

Carefully spoon this mixture on top of the hot filling.  Bake the assembled pie for an additional 20-25 minutes (or until the desired golden brown color appears).

Allow pie to cool for several hours and room temp.  Then place in fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, but overnight is best.

Then slice and enjoy!  We sure did;)

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Found around the Web

Sometimes the grace and honesty of these authors causes me to pause and take note…. Today, enjoy these three beautiful stories of grace, trust, love, and honesty.

I love this breathtaking adoption story by Sarah Hagerty of EveryBitterThingIsSweet.com.

Read Shannan Martin of FlowerPatchFarmGirl.com‘s touching piece for Grace Table.

Check out Elise Chaffin’s honest anecdote on DeeperStory.com.

Or, enjoy a beautiful post on strength by guest author Brandy Walker on SarahBessey.com.

Happy weekend reading.

Africa

It takes a lot for news and issues from the continent of Africa to make US headlines or get air-time.  My theory is that the only reason the Ebola outbreak got so much media attention was because of the potential threat it posed to folks outside West Africa’s borders.  But when Africa’s happenings aren’t perceived to impact us, the media is quick to program coverage over their scheduled time slots – in this case -in favor of things like an extensive debate about the defense’s case in the Chris Kyle murder trial or the Democratic National Convention.

Where has the coverage on the civil war in South Sudan been?…

Heard much about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda lately?…

Sure, you can argue that Boko Haram has been in the headlines over the past year for the kidnapping female students.  But, where was the media coverage in January when Boko Haram murdered more people than any other month to date?  Yesterday, how many of you heard about the deadly blast they caused in a Nigerian market?  The truth is that Americans eat-up humanitarian stories with catchy social media-ready phrases like “#bringbackourgirls,” but when it comes to the well-being of the African continent, without the hip-phraseology, US airtime will be allocated elsewhere.

About a week ago, Tim and I were watching the nightly news on CNN when we saw an ad that the following Wednesday (this past Wednesday) their Inside Africa show would be doing a story on how the lakes and rivers in Uganda are helping industry, ecology, and the Ugandan people.  As a couple adopting from Uganda who are hoping to learn as much about the country’s culture as we can glean from books, TV, and the internet, we programmed our DVR, added the day/time to our phone calendars, and made sure we were home from our little dinner out in time for this show.

But instead, CNN decided to cover other things (see the first paragraph).  The scheduled programming reader-board teasing me with the “Inside Africa” title still showing.  Maybe they will just jump to it late.  Maybe its actually on next.  Or, maybe CNN decided, once again, to ignore Africa in favor of analyzing something that they had covered all day to death.

All right America, stop hash-tagging catchy slogans – I’m talking about you #bringbackourgirls and #blacklivesmatter – when they are popular, and start prioritizing programming that highlights black cultures in positive ways.  Contrary to popular belief, some of us were actually looking forward to watching!

When things don’t look how you expect…

Lately, there have been lots of big changes in our house. Some of them were good. Some of them were sad. And, some of them were scary.

One change started the chain reaction for all the rest of the factors to change as well. And, like I said, some of that has been a welcome and happy change. Some of it has pushed us past our breaking point.

Through all of it we have leaned on God’s guidance and trusted in his provision under the assumption that His provision would look a certain way. But, God’s provision is a funny thing. I probably don’t need to tell you, but it didn’t look at all like we would have designed it.

Right now, our church is doing a sermon series on the book of Joshua. The other week was on chapter 5. In case you are as rusty as I am on your old testament book and chapter references, this is when the Israelites enter the promised land and realize that although God stopped making manna appear on the ground every morning, quail run through their settlement, and water flow from a rock, He was still providing for them in less obvious ways. God didn’t need to provide these daily food miracles, because He provided them with a fertile new land. Not only that, He scared away the neighboring tribes who may try to compete with them for this land. Provision. You think it will look one way, but sometimes it looks another.

For us, it’s the same song, different verse.

This was our story too. Tim and I thought it would look one way and it looked another. But here is the thing by “looking differently,” I mean that it looks better than we could have ever designed it. All of our worries, all of our fears were quieted. He drew us nearer to him and nearer to one another. He exposed our weaknesses and healed our wounds.

When hard things happened, I started off telling folks that things would work out but that the timing just wasn’t great. Through this experience, I have realized that God’s timing is always perfect. It might not mesh with our human sensibility, but it is perfect. His timeline enabled us to see God work in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

As we come out of this state of awe and wonder at God’s grace, provision, mercy, and love, we will re-open up about our lives and where we are now. For those of you who are in our real, non-internet lives, thank you for the prayers and for being there for us despite our best attempts at brave faces and alternately, for not abandoning us during our meltdowns.