Wedding Watch! Songs to Say "I Do" To!

Sometimes I'll hear a song, listen to the lyrics, and think how perfect it would be to play while a young bride walks down the aisle towards her waiting groom... or while the newlyweds embrace in their first dance as husband and wife. These five songs have sweet melodies and simple messages of joy and hope for what forever love could feel like. Whether you're walking down the aisle in a pretty chapel or a grassy field, or have your first dance on an old barn floor or backyard patio, these songs could help to capture that special memory!

Taylor Swift, "Jump Then Fall"

Ben Harper, "Forever"

Tristan Prettyman, "All I Want is You"

Ingrid Michaelson, "Giving Up"

Michael Buble, "Hold On"

Which is your favorite? Do you have a song in mind for your special day?
OR, what song did you walk down the aisle/have your first dance to? 


Thrifty Thursdays: Sweet Orange Tofu & Stir Fry Veggies!

Sweet Orange Tofu & Stir Fry Veggies
$16 for 4 servings

The great thing about this week's Thrifty Thursday recipe is that you can use as many or as few ingredients as you would like, depending on your veggie preferences. I went all out which made for a color-crammed plate of deliciousness...and a good amount of yummy left-overs! This is a great alternative for a pricy and sodium-packed take-out date night... sweet & citrusy you can't go wrong! (but you're on your own for the fortune cookies)

1 package extra-firm tofu
1 head baby bok choy
1 small crown broccoli, chopped
1 small can baby corn
1 small can peeled, whole waterchestnuts
1 small can baby "button" mushrooms
1 small can sliced bamboo
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2c red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange (juiced, zest-ed)?
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4c peanut oil
1 tbsp+ sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
1/4c Soyaki (or teriyaki sauce)
salt pepper
1c crushed peanuts for topping (optional)
2c white rice

1. Cook rice with 1tbsp sesame oil (1c rice/ 2c h2o...bring to boil, simmer for 20-25mins)
2. Chop tofu into cubes, toss with juice & zest from orange, honey, 1tbsp teriyaki sauce, 2 cloves garlic...let marinate for 20mins.
3. Steam broccoli, bell peppers about 5mins (microwave with 2 tbsp water or stovetop)
4. In a medium pan, heat half peanut oil. Toss in tofu, cook until cripsy/toasted on all sides.
5. Heat rest of peanut oil in a large wok/frying pan. Add onion, stirring for 1 min til soft. Toss in broccoli/bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo and the rest of your pantry. Cook about 5 mins.
6. Pile veggies on top of a heap of fluffy rice, top with a scoop of tofu and some crushed peanuts. Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil and teriyaki! Mmmm... Island feeeeevah!


Too Many Balloons in the Air

My mind has been quite restless the past few nights. As soon as my head hits the pillow (oftentimes already way-too-late at night) my brain springs to life and shuffles through every idea & worry that has been stored away for weeks. We are in a period of transition with summer coming to a close, Dan starting up classes again, my job plans are on the fence, selling/buying a car, trying to save money and cut back on expenses, thinking about the future (something we know we shouldn't worry about... Matthew 6:34), and simply trying to keep up with the everyday duties (work, pets, chores, errands, meals, meetings, projects, phone calls, appointments, etc!)... aish. I don't think typing all of that out actually helped!

A long time ago, a friend of mine compared this state of mind to having a big bunch of balloons floating above your head ("There's too many things floating around up there", she said, "You have to clear the air!"). Each thought/idea/worry/fear is in a balloon and the only way to clear the air is to pull them down, one at a time, and pop them! Looking up and seeing all those things looming is so overwhelming, but tackling them one at a time is practical, manageable and satisfying!

So...which of my balloons should/can/do I tackle first? God give me strength! First step is going to be figuring out just what's cluttering the air in the first place... as an avid list-maker, my first instinct is to bullet-point! First one: make list.... Oy! Wish me luck!

Quality time...

*this was supposed to be posted on Sunday but apparently never made it up, oops*
The past few months have been challenging for us due to conflicting (read: nearly opposite) work schedules and constant projects around the house. I sometimes start to play the pity card and whine about how "our whole summer has been wasted", how "we haven't had any time to just enjoy life together", and how "before we know it (well, tomorrow, to be exact) Dan is going to start school again and the little time we have now will be gobbled up, leaving not a crumb to snatch!" Wah wah wah!

Fortunately, the hub doesn't let my pity-party-for-one go on for too long... he simply reminds me that we are doing the best we can and have to try to make the most of our quality time together. But as we found out this past weekend, that is easier said/planned/anticipated than done, my friends. We decided that we would spend a few days up in Keystone for some r&r (rest and romance) and figured getting away was the only way we could capitalize on our time- away from the distractions of chores/errands/home etc.

So when Friday morning rolled around, we loaded up the car, packed up the pets, and were off and running like a herd of turtles...Keystone or bust! The first few hours were awesome- we took a great walk down to the river with the pups, made lunch, and went to the pool- but eventually, the lethal combo of exhaustion+expectations crept up on us and a bit of silent treatment ensued. We both saw it happening. We both hated it. We both wanted to make the other person knock it off... but apparently, we both had some steam to blow off and it needed to just run it's course.

When all was said (eventually) and done, we had a great weekend. Saturday was perfect- beautiful hike, low-key afternoon, great dinner in Breckenridge- but in order to get there we had to first trek through that rough patch. Our recovery/bounce-back time is a fraction of what it used to be, which is a victory in-and-of itself, and the honest conversations and intimacy that come as a result are almost more satisfying than if we never disagreed at all. And as we found out this weekend, sometimes the "non-plan" plan of just spending quality time together takes a bit of patience, especially when we're a few months out of practice.

Has anyone else experienced this or have had your worst arguments while on vacation?

Here are some photos from our weekend!


Where the Heart Is...

Today my parents are moving the last pieces of furniture out of the house that my family has called home for 25 years. This is the house I was brought home from the hospital to; where we celebrated every birthday and Christmas morning growing up; where every pet we ever had is laid to rest in the backyard; where we stood on the front porch every "first day of school" each year. My parents worked hard to give my brother and I the childhood we had and they often made sacrifices (my mom gave up her career to be home with us and my dad constantly fought threats of his job relocating to another state) and tough decisions (refinancing during a tough economy) to ensure we had a safe and stable place to call home.

While selling their nest egg had always been on the list for steps to a happy retirement, it wasn't until a few major changes in life circumstances (my dad lost his job suddenly, after 35 years with his company, and my Grandma -a resident of Redondo Beach for 40 years- moved to Arkansas to live with family) that my parents realized that the time had come. They ultimately decided to sell their house and buy my Grandma's beach front condo (all 700 sq ft of it!) which is just a few minutes away, to keep the property in the family. Since March, they have been making plans to renovate and update the tiny space they (and their 2 dogs and 1 cat) will call home for the next chapter of life.

What at first seemed like the reality-tv experiment of the year (my parents are used to having 3000 sq.ft of living space to themselves for the past few years) has been a surprisingly humbling and humorous escapade for us all. I love calling my parents and hearing about all the things they have been doing together: picking out paint, tile, flooring, lighting, furniture, etc... not to mention simply walking the dogs, making dinner, and running errands. I think they have spent more "quality"  time together in the past nine months than they have in their 28 years of marriage- and it couldn't be better. For the first time in almost 3 decades, it's about them and what they want.  I only wish we could be there to help, but the time alone has forced them to depend more on one another than ever and I am so excited to see how everything comes together for them and their new itty-bitty beachy condo!

Of course...saying goodbye to "my" house (which sold in just a few weeks, praise God!) was not easy. When we were home in April, I spent time studying details like views from each of the windows and reminiscing about all the memories that are packed into each of the rooms. I took some photos so I could remember everything, but I am surprised by how peaceful and content I feel when I look at them. I'm sure it will hit me hardest next time we go home to visit and I don't turn down my street, pull into my driveway, and see my mom standing at the front door waiting to hug us and drag our luggage into my old room. I'll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, I simply want to reflect on the beautiful house that it was for my family for so many years... and that no matter what the address is, home is wherever family is (...which is luckily still by the beautiful California beach!).


Colorful Cottage by the Coast...

I could (and do!) spend hours daydreaming of the perfect little wood-shingled, weather-worn, cottage tucked somewhere along the coast in a simple seaside town. I picture a small front yard that is overflowing with lush layers of flowers who couldn't be happier to be rooted in rich soil where they soak up the sun for hours a day. I dream of a cute little porch where sandy feet gather and collections of seaglass, driftwood, and shells are testament to successful scouting trips along the water's edge. I see sunbleached wood that has been stripped and stained throughout years of exposure to salty ocean air. I long for a little house where friends and family could come from far away, for long weekend retreats spent sharing great food and conversation. I would love a little house that encourages us to live simply... and to simply enjoy the simpler things in life. And when that day comes...this is how I picture our little place: 

here's that front yard I told you about!
...and our means of transportation.

Our oceanfront fort for afternoon napping

an eclectic, colorful back porch

a big table for sharing meals and playing games

a teeny but cheerful kitchen nook with only the essentials

an awesome pallet daybed for midday resting or unexpected company

the house down the street we'd pass on our way to the beach, and envy for their amazing wrap-around porch and beautiful hedgerow.

(I have had some of these photos tucked away in random folders for ages~ if you see something of yours, let me know and I'll let everyone know how much I love it)


Monday's Music to My Ears: Here in California

Like clockwork every few months I get painfully homesick for the coast of California. I long for soft, dewy grass under my feet and salty ocean air. I dream about driving along Highway 1 up the coast to San Francisco, or winding around the bend of the Palos Verdes Penninsula while the sunset ducks in and out of sight. I miss sand in my car, the sound of crashing waves, piles of sandals by the backdoor... reminders that my heart is truly by the beach. Today's music to my ears is a beautiful song by seventy's folk singer, Kate Wolf, called "Here in California". I adore this song and the images of the gorgeous Golden State I call home!

"Here in California"
Kate Wolf