Boulder, Colorado

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Karli, Becca, and I had such an amazing time visiting Erin in Colorado a few weeks ago. Erin and her husband, Dave, moved to Boulder last August and they’ve both acclimated to life in their new city so well – it was a blast to tour their stomping grounds, meet Erin’s friends and co-workers, and generally just soak up all of the goodness that their new home has to offer. Us girls got to spend so much time together exploring (hiking along the Chautauqua Trailhead was one of my favorite adventures), eating (at Pizzeria Locale, Lucky’s Cafe, Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery – the banana & graham cracker + oatmeal cookie ice cream, oh my – The Kitchen Next Door, while also enjoying some home-cooked gloriousness), lingering on the patio with glasses of wine, checking out the University of Colorado’s beautiful campus (including a spontaneous private tour of the football stadium), breathing in the mountain air, and sharing life together. I cherish our girls weekends more than I can say and I feel so grateful for the memories we keep creating together. Now, where should we rendezvous next?

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Taste & Try: Guacamole with Pico de Gallo

I am not typically a fan of chunky guacamole. I prefer my guac to be a basic combination of ripe avocados, freshly squeezed lime juice, and salt, something more akin to what I use in my favorite breakfast dish, avocado toast. But last summer when my friend Rebekah made the Pioneer Woman’s version of guacamole with fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro folded into it, I was sold – each bite has such a complex flavor palette, so no taste is exactly the same. This has been my go-to appetizer since I tried it out on the Fourth of July and, as you’d expect, it pairs perfectly with crunchy, salty chips and icy margaritas. There’s a lot of chopping involved in this recipe but I assure you that the outcome is worth it.

Guacamole with Pico de Gallo

Recipe & photo via The Pioneer Woman

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Ingredients:

For the pico de gallo:

  • 5 whole plum (roma) tomatoes
  • 1/2 whole large (or 1 whole small) onion
  • 3 whole jalapeño peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Salt to taste

For the guacamole:

  • 3 whole avocados
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

For the Pico de Gallo:

  1. Chop tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños into a very small dice (leave seeds in your jalapeños for a spicier Pico de Gallo, and adjust the number of jalapeños to your preferred temperature).
  2. Chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro (just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping).
  3. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly.
  4. Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.

For the guacamole:

  1. Start with buttery soft avocados. Halve them lengthwise and remove the pits.
  2. Using a spoon, scrape the “meat” out onto a large plate.
  3. With the bottom of a clean cup (or with a fork), mash the avocados, making sure to leave it relatively chunky.
  4. Add just a couple of shakes of salt to taste.
  5. Add a generous helping of the Pico de Gallo and fold together.
  6. Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl and stir together one last time.

Hi, Mom & Dad!

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Mom & Dad visited Dallas this past weekend and I was so caught up in our fun plans that I neglected to post a Week & End recap on Friday – whoops! I guess that shows that I’m really taking this post to heart and keeping my focus on life’s sweet moments instead of being distracted by life’s list of to-dos. We had so, so much fun spending time together and, clearly, as this photo suggests, we spent a lot of time enjoying one of our favorite mutual hobbies – eating! I can’t wait to post a recap soon, so stay tuned…

 

Balance

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Is it just me or has this summer been absolutely flying by? Life feels so fast-paced these days, and in many ways, that’s a great thing. Work is stimulating and fulfilling, and our social calendar is filled to the brim with dinners with friends and church commitments and family visits and weekend trips and volunteer work, all beautiful things that I really and truly could not live without. I relish having a full calendar with lots of fun activities on it, and I can never return home from a trip without starting to plan the next one. This is who I am, someone who embraces (and craves!) the fullness and richness of a schedule filled with diverse, meaningful work, events, relationships, and travel opportunities.

But sometimes this fast-paced speed isn’t all that great, mostly because I find myself overlooking the tiny joys that are inherent in each and every day. I had to get some vaccinations recently for my upcoming trip to Ghana (since this will be my 12th visit to West Africa, some of my shots were outdated) and when I called my nurse after my appointment to clarify a few things, she gently mentioned that we had discussed those items during my visit to the doctor’s office. I cannot, for the life of me, remember that conversation. Of course it’s possible that we didn’t have the chat that she referenced (maybe she told another patient?), but this information came on the coattails of me ending up at the bank without the check I needed to deposit, at the grocery store without my list of goodies to purchase, and several other instances that forced me to wonder if maybe I’m moving a bit too fast. Not only am I overlooking some things in my life that need to be checked off of my to-do list (which comes as a shock to such a detail-oriented person), but I am also not taking the time to soak up the little things that I am grateful for because I don’t have the capacity to take all of them in.

I want to redirect my focus, allowing me to fully appreciate every single moment of this beautiful life. That means not checking my e-mail while engaged in a conversation with someone I love, enjoying a relaxing pose during my yoga class instead of contemplating my to-do list, and savoring my lunch at work away from my computer, amongst other things. This means practicing gratitude for the tiny joys in life, the things that can be easily overlooked, things like cuddling with Callie, reading a great book, or feeling the sun on my face.

Ultimately, this is about balance, about celebrating the sweetness that is the proverbial full plate (which includes copious amounts of interesting work assignments, beautiful time with family and friends, delicious food, and the exploration of new places) and savoring the peacefulness in the little moments (those nearly imperceptible things that are so easy to miss if you’re hustling and bustling a bit too much). This is about finding the sacred space in between busy and bored that is equal parts fulfilling and restful.

Image via wifeefiw.tumblr.com

 

Taste & Try: Pizzeria Locale

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Oh, man, I had the best weekend in Boulder with my girlfriends. A full recap is on its way but in the meantime it seemed fitting to do a Colorado-themed Taste & Try post on Pizzeria Locale, the amazing Boulder-based restaurant where Erin serves as the Director of Events. This centrally located contemporary pizzeria, nestled in the heart of Pearl Street, is the perfect place to post up for an incredible lunch or dinner (or, dare I say, both? yes, it’s so good that I’d certainly be willing to eat there twice in one day). Erin took us to Pizzeria Locale for lunch on Saturday, and it was absolutely a highlight of our weekend.

We had so much fun letting Erin take the lead on the menu, ordering treats for us throughout our meal. We shared all of our dishes, which is my favorite way to enjoy a restaurant experience – I love being able to try a little bit of everything. We started with the fried risotto and the seasonal crostinis (the fava bean + house made ricotta combination was my favorite), along with a round of spritzes. Let me pause for a minute and acknowledge the fact that Pizzeria Locale has a section of its menu devoted entirely to spritzes, which are bubbly Prosecco-based beverages that are beyond delicious. I chose a limoncello + basil concoction that was so summery and light (and I may or may not have ordered a second one to go with dessert). We shared a variety of salads, my favorite being the arugula, parmigiano reggiano, and balsamic vinegar concoction. The pizzas were perfect, as you’d expect, fired up in 90 seconds or less in the restaurant’s incredible oven imported from Italy. We shared so many tasty pies, but the stand-out pizza to me was the white version topped with sweet corn, creme fraiche, garlic, and prosciutto – wow. We enjoyed a crisp, clean white wine with our pizzas before moving on to a dessert of budino butterscotch pudding and lemon meringue tart. I know, I know – I’ll let you take all of that in for a minute. I’m salivating just reliving the meal.

If you find yourself in Boulder, please do yourself a favor and pop into Pizzeria Locale (just make sure to book a table in advance – this gorgeous spot fills up fast!). The decor is modern and pretty, the staff is helpful and speedy, and the food, as you can tell, is the absolute best. Make sure to say hi to Erin, too! It was so fun to see her in her element at the restaurant – she is a rock star. I can’t wait to eat at Pizzeria Locale the next time I visit her!

P.S. Pizzeria Locale has partnered with Chipotle to bring a casual spin-off version of the restaurant to the greater Denver area. Too cool!

Image via Archinect 

Week & End

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The weekend is here! I am so excited to be heading to Colorado this evening for a weekend trip with Erin, Karli & Becca! Last year we spent time together in Cambria, California (where the photo above was taken), and I know this weekend will be full of similar goodness to what we experienced during that trip – great food, lots of laughter, plenty of adventuring, gorgeous scenery, and, of course, free-flowing wine. I can’t wait!

Have a great one, and enjoy some fun links from around the interwebs!

This perfect picnic post made me want to whip up some treats, gather up a blanket, and head to a park with husband & puppy for some afternoon relaxation. I’m putting this on my summer to-do list, definitely.

This interview with Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein (of Portlandia fame) is not new to the internet but it was new to me, and I laughed out loud several times while reading it. Seriously, the last question about the ATM – how did those two get so dang funny?

This rental house in Costa Rica is actually a dream come true. Who wants to book a trip, stat?

I really like this short little questionnaire with Kate Arends, the blogger behind Wit & Delight. I love her sense of style so it was fun to get a sneak peek into her life.

I loved this Besties feature on Camille Styles’s blog – I was particularly inspired by both girls’s comments about their passion for Christ & their faith. I also super love these watermelon swim suit bottoms that Kate was wearing – adorable (I mean, seriously, paired with that chambray top – s’cute).

P.S. My newest post about creating your own backyard oasis is up on Darling Magazine’s blog!

Girlfriends & Pie

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Last night Kyla, Laura, Emily, and I got together for dinner. We enjoyed salads and pizza at Eno’s, a pretty little restaurant in the Bishop Arts District, and afterwards we meandered over to one of my favorite spots, Emporium Pies, for dessert. As we lingered over coffee and pie, I looked around the table and felt myself on the verge of a having a moment – you know, one of those sweet beats in time where you just revel in the gratitude you have for your life, your community, your people.

I’ve known Emily for ten years – we met at Pepperdine University and God has woven a beautiful story throughout both of our lives that have led us to this moment, the one where we both live in Dallas, Texas. Laura and Kyla are kindred spirits who you already know if you’ve read my blog for the last several years – they were my first real pals in this city and they have proven to be the very best friends in the whole entire world. Through connections and get togethers and parties and gatherings, they’ve come to know and love Emily, and vice versa. I love watching the world get smaller like that, sitting by while friends of yours develop relationships in their own right, ones that started because of you but are certainly sustained outside of you.

So I was reflecting on these things, watching as our lives simultaneously change and expand and grow (with the addition of marriages and new jobs and babies and relationships) while also staying a little bit the same. I love that feeling, and I love this season that we’re in, the one that allows us to stay out on a Tuesday night, savoring coffee and pie, friendship and time together.

 

Taste & Try: Sriracha Mac & Cheese

As a native Chicagoan, I didn’t eat a lot of spicy food growing up, but that all changed when I moved to Texas. Over the last few years, I’ve started craving spicy flavors in my food – as far as I’m concerned, the hotter a dish, the better. Hot sauce is a staple in our pantry, and we think it goes with everything from eggs and breakfast tacos to quinoa and pizza. Sriracha is one of our favorite hot sauces so I was super excited to try this macaroni & cheese that calls for the condiment in the recipe. James and I ate this treat alongside grilled steaks, steamed broccoli & icy margaritas – delicious! We’ve been living off of the leftovers for several days, too – this recipe makes a ton of mac & cheese. Enjoy!

Sriracha Mac & Cheese

Adapted recipe & image via Life Tastes Like Food

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (+ 2 tablespoons butter for bread crumb topping)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 4 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese (a pinch  more is always encouraged)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta for about 2 – 3 minutes (or a few minutes shy of what is instructed on the package – the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and combine until it’s lightly bubbling and just starting to smell a little nutty.
  4. Whisk in the milk, 1 cup at a time, and turn up the heat to medium. Let the milk come to a simmer so that it can thicken up a bit. (A great way to tell if it’s thick enough is if it coats the back of a wooden spoon and it doesn’t run down the spoon.)
  5. After the mixture has thickened, add the salt, black pepper, garlic powder, jalapeño, and Sriracha.
  6. Remove from heat and mix in 3 cups of cheese, 1 cup at a time.
  7. Put the pasta into a 9 x 13 baking dish and then pour the cheese sauce over it. Incorporate everything together with a spoon.
  8. Place the panko bread crumbs in a small bowl. In a separate, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and then pour over the bread crumbs. Mix well and then spread evenly across the top of the pasta and cheese.
  9. Place baking dish in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and the bread crumbs start to turn golden.
  10. Drizzle extra Sriracha over each plate before serving.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Fourth of July is here, hip, hip, hooray! The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday – kind of surprising, right? I absolutely love Christmas and Thanksgiving (and my birthday, too, if that counts) but the Fourth of July encompasses so many of my favorite things (fireworks, barbecues, ice-cold margaritas, time with family and friends, afternoons on the water, American pride) during my very favorite season (sweet, sweet summertime). This year is especially great because Fourth of July lands on a Friday, giving us three whole days to celebrate America’s independence. Since I’m not near an ocean or a lake this year (and since I think that spending the Fourth near water is 100% required), I plan to pool-hop my way through Dallas. Laura and I are going to soak up the sun at FOE tomorrow after meeting for tacos, and we’ll reconvene on Saturday at Kyla’s pool, where I’m planning to make this guacamole and these margaritas. Fun in the sun awaits indeed, folks. Have an amazing holiday weekend!

P.S. Just in case you’re in a blog-reading mood, here are some fun links from around the web:

I made this  raspberry granola today and it turned out so deliciously! I think that next time I would put the granola on two baking sheets instead of one – I like my granola crispy enough to withstand some almond milk or yogurt, and I think some of mine didn’t get cooked thoroughly enough – but I’m pleased with the result nonetheless.

Laura found this great deal on Gilt Groupe for Weekend Coffee (remember how I said I’ve been wanting to go there?) and a group of us united forces and signed up for a private coffee brewing class – so excited for that!

I love using Airbnb when I travel (I’ve used it in Palm Springs, New York & Austin) and I’ve always wanted to utilize the service during a trip abroad. Jordan Ferney’s post on booking an Airbnb accommodation in Paris is bookmark-worthy – I am definitely using this on my next trip to France!

Not that I really need any more reasons to love tacos, but this simple little recipe (of the breakfast variety) is another one to add to the list.

Speaking of food, I love Fourth of July treats so much that I wrote a blog post about it. And now I’m craving baked beans & broccoli slaw in a major way.

Photo via Coffee in the Mountains

A Portrait of Forgiveness

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Nancy Borowick, a dear friend of the Touch A Life Foundation (and me!), is currently at our Care Center in Ghana, West Africa. Prior to heading up to the facility to spend time with the children and shoot some gorgeous images of the property, she stayed in Accra, Ghana’s capital, where we have several teenage girls living communally and learning trades. Many of the girls are becoming seamstresses while one is learning to be a chef and Forgive, pictured above, is learning to be a hairdresser. I have known Forgive and the other girls since they were young, so this photo that Nancy sent me of her was particularly striking – she’s so beautiful, isn’t she? She’s really growing up.

Gosh, how I love this girl’s name: Forgive. I am so bad at offering forgiveness and grace, but Forgive tangibly reminds me of the power inherent in forgiving others and giving grace to those who need it (myself included). Forgive, like the other children in Touch A Life’s care, was exploited at the hands of an adult who stripped her of her identity and worth. In spite of the darkness she has lived through, Forgive is a light in her community and in the world. She is a hard worker who is determined to grow into a woman who can make a difference in her lifetime – and I know she can do it. She inspires me, and I hope that today Forgive inspires you, too.