Friday, December 18, 2009

Family Time

Well i'm a good beat behind, but I wanted to post about my parents fun visit and our trip to NYC and Conn. to see some family. One of the high lights of the trip was finally getting around to seeing the Newseum. It's so typical that I only get out to do these fun things when people come to see us! It's now probably one of my top two favorite museums in DC - Truthfully. They have real pieces of the Berlin Wall, a whole section on 9-11 and so many educational exhibits that remind us how important a role the media has played in US history. I don't always love the media, but this museum really shows the good side of things.
We just had so much fun with my parents. At this point, I only get to see them about 2 times each year, so it's always a special time. Aaron and I are constantly thanking the Lord for our incredible families. We feel so blessed.
We drove up last weekend to Connecticut to see my uncle, Nonz and the kids. Unfortunately, my aunt Tina wasn't in town, so we missed her! It was such a sweet time for my mom to reconnect with her brother since the last time we were all together was at our wedding! Distance sure helps keep things in perspective. It isn't easy being so far away, but it helps us to never take our time together for granted. The kids performed on their violins for us, they took us to see where they go to school and then we went out for ice cream which is always a crowd pleaser! Too bad I just officially found out that i'm allergic to Dairy...and eggs! UGH. What will I do?!?
Anyway, it was very, very cold up north so we didn't stay out as long the day after spending a freezing Friday in the city, but we did get out to catch the incredible sunset on the Long Island Sound. My uncle lives just up the street from a park where you can look out over to the city. It was breath-taking and we had to take some pictures!
It was such a fun experience to see New York City at Christmas time...something Aaron and I have not had a chance to do until now. It really is beautiful! The department stores have the prettiest window displays and I thought I was dreaming when I discovered that the Macys in the city is EIGHT FLOORS. Yes, it's true. Can we say OVERWHELMING?!? Then, that night we went to see The Lion King on Broadway. I'd heard people say it was incredible, but I'm pretty positive there aren't any words to describe it! It amazes me just how creative we can be. Broadway talent never disappoints!
Here are a few pictures that capture our fun time together!
The beautiful Long Island Sound

The fam - Minus Dad and aunt T

One of my favorite Christmas windows at Lord and Taylor

Such an INCREDIBLE show!

Mom and Dad (or GiGi and Oompa...according to Addie!)

This guy proposed to his lovely girlfriend while skating at Rockefeller Center. Hundreds of us got to watch! Super cute!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Simple Pillow Fix

I've had a decorative pillow that I use for our bed, but I was getting a bit tired of the same boring pattern. I found fabric that I LOVE and decided my pillow needed some sprucing up. Even better, the fabric was only $6.99 per yard and when I walked up to the counter to have it cut, we discovered that it was almost to the end of the spool. The woman at the counter offered me the rest at 50% off. Woohoo!! Gotta love it! I don't plan to decorate our entire place with this fabric (ha!), but I love it so much that I'm thinking of other creative ways to use it. Right now, I'm working on a little shoulder bag with a different fabric. If I like how it turns out, I may use the leftovers for that.

I enlisted Aaron's help for the button in the middle (he squeezed it down for me as I threaded). I found this little vintage thing at a shop in Arlington and it was just what I was looking for. It ran about $3.

The best thing about this pillow project is that it only took me about 30 minutes. I just re-covered the pillow I already had. It was easy to measure the fabric and you avoid the mess of pillow stuffing. Plus, I can always just remove this new fabric and re-cover it again in the future. Lovin' the easy fixes!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Day Ahead

If any of you think about it, please pray for me today. It's just going to be a an extra challenging day at work, but I know God is in control.

I just listened to these words from a new song by Casting Crowns called "To Know You." If you haven't heard this album, go listen to it!

"To know you, is to know the pain of the broken-hearted, 'cause they can't live without you."

And neither can I!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Perfect as Pie

One would think it makes more sense to blog about Thanksgiving food AFTER Thanksgiving, but I couldn't stand to wait because of how my morning has gone! Aaron and I have plans to spend the evening with some good friends, Grant and Joy, who happen to be in town and also without family in the area. I told them that I'd like to bring the pumpkin pie (I LOVE making pies) and the stuffing (my number 1 Turkey Day favorite!) Joy is a Vegan, so I knew I wanted to make both of these dishes suitable for her diet. She certainly didn't request this...but I made the decision! Vegan eating is obviously very healthy because it focuses on veggies and protein from legumes. I'm no where near a Vegan, but Aaron and I have been eating far more veggies and fruits since my diagnosis over the summer than we previously did, so I'm ALWAYS looking for "healthier ways" to prepare a classic meal. Pie, in my opinion of course, is one of those classics. I learned from my mom and grammy G when I was just a kid that you NEVER EVER buy your own pie crust. You make it from scratch! So I've gone from using Crisco, to using butter (not much better for you!), to just today learning how to use light olive oil for the crust. I've found that butter is better than crisco because it creates a flakier, pastry type crust, but olive oil is always healthier for you. I couldn't have used butter in this case because it comes from cow's milk and that isn't Vegan.

So, my first try with the recipe I found: Terrible. It wouldn't even roll out without falling apart! I thought I may have missed a step, so I tried again. STILL no luck! Then I finally looked up a different recipe...PERFECT! It worked like a charm! So I think i've found the best olive oil pastry crust recipe. After a morning of initial frustration, please allow me to share the wealth of knowledge!

For a single crust pie. Double the recipe for a two-layer crust.

2/3 C Extra-Light Olive Oil-chilled (put bottle in the fridge for about 20 minutes)...and emphasis on extra-light. You don't want a strong olive flavor to your pie!
2 1/2 C Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 C Ice Water - I suggest even putting cubes in it to make it really cold

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Add the chilled olive oil and cut in with a pastry cutter. Cut until pea-sized balls are formed. Add cold water and mix again with the fork. Then form a ball of dough with your hands. Flour your rolling pin and rolling mat and flatten dough.

Add ingredients (apples, blueberries, cherries, pumpkin, etc.) and bake for 15 minutes at 425. Then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 35-40 minutes.

*Today I made a pumpkin pie and I highly recommend the pumpkin mix from Whole Foods. It's all natural and smells amazing. The color (as you can tell from the picture) is darker than usual...probably because they don't use artifical colors! Hooray!

Enjoy! This recipe makes a beautiful pie!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sew, baby!

My sweet little niece, Addie, is the lucky recipient of my first project on my new sewing machine! Lets just say that I'm loving every second of my free time because I've been busy cooking, baking and crafting! My dear friend, Rebecca, let me borrow this simple dress pattern which I variated just a bit. I found a cute red turtleneck and white sweater to go with it so Addie can wear it this winter. But I also added some little lady-bug buttons to make it wearable in the spring/summer.

I am finally getting familiar with my machine by Baby Lock and it's amazing how many features it has. One of my favorite, of course, is the button hole feature. Makes life much easier! I bought from a great little shop in Maryland that has been so helpful. They've given discounts on supplies and have spent a few hours with me showing me some tips. They threw in a basic sewing course that I was all for!

I've been hunting for great fabrics and have found a handful, so more projects to come!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Where Have I Been?!

Whew. The past few weeks have been pretty darn busy, hence my complete lack of blogging.

I started my new job almost two weeks ago now. It all happened so quickly! I had been in contact with a local pregnancy center for a few weeks looking into a potential position that was more operations oriented. Then everything changed in a matter of about 24 hours. I had spoken with the office about coming in to shadow someone working on the admin side of things. I called on a Monday to set things up, and I was offered a counseling position, instead, right on the spot. WOW. God has definitely known my heart all along! Since i've been training for the past year to counsel, this is exactly what i've wanted to do. I'm not a certified counselor or anything...though the possibility about going back to school isn't off the table as of yet. But as far as the term "counseling" in this position goes, I'm trained to counsel based on specific guidelines.

This has been a bitter-sweet job experience for me because the woman whose shoes i'm attempting to fill has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I'm sad that it was her illness that allowed this opportunity to open up for me. We continue to pray for a miracle for her. There's so much about my job that I can't write or talk about. The only difficult part about this is that I would love to share the amazing things that God is doing. It's incredible just how blessed I am through the process. But it still comes with its huge challenges. I see many clients who are in desperate need of help and compassion. It is only by God's goodness that I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. Such a humbling process. But the only boast I will make is in the mighty power of Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:17)

I've found that Romans 15 shares the truth and purpose i've come to know in this position - Just in case you wonder about (or I ever begin to doubt!) my calling here, at the pregnancy center, as well as in this life. Sharing the hope of Christ is the goal. Because whether we are talking about the life of the unborn, or the salvation of those who do not know the Savior of the world, it comes down to an issue of LIFE. So I am thankful that i've been called to this position to be a "fisher of men." (Matthew 4:19)

I love Romans 15 (1-13) from the Message Bible, so i'll leave everyone with this:

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"

That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

So reach out and welcome one another to God's glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God's purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do!

Then I'll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
I'll sing to your name!
Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise!

There's the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope! Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weekend Getaway

This past weekend we had a wonderful southern Virginia getaway with our dear friends, Jeremy and Leah Heise. Jeremy's aunt and uncle have a lake house and allowed us to come crash it! The claim to fame for this lake is that it's where "What About Bob" was filmed. So, in honor of it and to have a good night of laughing, we watched it! If you haven't seen this film, it's a classic comedy and I highly, highly recommend it.

Saturday we had gorgeous weather and there just so happened to be a family owned winery down the street from us (convenient!) so off we went to enjoy sunshine and wine. The boys also got to fish and Leah and I spent some time just chatting on the lake and catching up. We love these guys! Oh, and they've also just welcomed a new addition to their family. Sweet Aspen is a Swiss Mountain Dog puppy and full of so much spunk and love! I'm now lovingly referred to as "Aspen's auntie Jenny!" Love it! Here's a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

Jeremy and Leah at the winery

Aaron and I at the winery

Sweet Aspen girl!! Check out those paws. She's gonna be a huge dog!

Lake view

Our getaway house

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good Eats!

I was just thinking the other day that I need to start posting about the different foods I've been cooking. Ever since my awesome colon issues were diagnosed (no shame, no shame...), I've become accustomed to eating completely different. As Aaron says, "If we weren't already eating healthy before..." and I suppose he's right. But it's interesting how "healthy" doesn't always mean it's what your body wants for its fuel. I've discovered that certain foods that seem healthy, just simply don't agree with my body. But the fiber deal is the big issue - For me and for everyone! I am such a believer!! If I could offer any advice for a healthier body (and i'm talking internally) it would be to EAT MORE FIBER. The body really needs it! And especially to fight off colon cancer, fiber does the trick. Here's a run down of a few key things i've changed:

-No boxed food. Maybe occasionally, but it's expensive and is packed with things your body shouldn't have to digest.
-Bye bye, Candy. This was tough at first for me. I love candy, but I eat it VERY sparingly now.
-Less pasta, more bulgur, couscous and quinoa. Bulgur, especially, is much higher in fiber, but all 3 of these have much higher nutritional value.
-Less cheese from cows. I generally just use Feta these days. It's soooo yummy and goes great with a variety of dishes.
-Olive Oil. It's the only oil I keep on hand, even for baking. I don't notice an olive taste when I use it for baking, but some might so light olive oil is best for that. It's good to buy the right kind of olive oil, so it should say"first cold pressed" on the bottle.
-Less red meat. It's fun to eat now and then when eating out or something, but I simply don't cook with it anymore. Ground turkey and chicken is what I cook most. Sometimes pork loins. Beef is hard to digest and can do a number on the colon (in case you were concerned. Haha)
-FISH, FISH AND MORE FISH! Salmon is the best and definitely fresh caught. Farm raised salmon is horrible for your health. Basically it's been raised in a small body of water with a lot of other salmon. It inhibits their growth and causes them to be fattier and feed on their own feces. Also, be wary of "Atlantic Salmon." There are so few in the Atlantic that it's illegal to commercial fish them. So stores only sell farm raised Atlantic and might be fooling us on the label if it says "fresh."
-Green tea. I prefer it iced with a lemon. Good for health and just GOOD.
-Soy milk. Easier to digest than regular milk. Packed with good protein. BUT, I do take a calcium suppliment 2-3 times a day now. Some studies have shown soy may cause problems in women with their thyroid, but nothing has been proven and its been eaten without problems for centuries.
-Less Coffee. This one has been really hard for me, but my tummy loves me for it. I treat myself here and there :)
-Focusing on breakfast. It's such an important meal. Anyone who skips breakfast is making a huge mistake. Just google why breakfast is so important and you'll get a list of a million reasons. I start my day off with a bowl of Kashi Go Lean fiber cereal. I admit, it isn't the most pleasing to the palate, but it does it's job. Enough said. Adding sliced strawberries or raspberries gives it an exciting flair. Thank goodness!!
-I must have chocolate, but it's pretty much dark chocolate only for me. These days you can get it with nuts and mint, hazelnut, etc. I look for at least 70%.

I know there are many more things, but that’s all I can think of right now. Aaron has been very supportive. Most of the time, he’s happy to eat what I cook…unless it has tomatoes! Strange boy!

If you want a really good recipe idea, try this one. Sorry my picture stinks. My camera didn't do a very good job.

2 cups quinoa
Half yellow pepper (seeds removed) chopped
Half red pepper (seeds removed) chopped
Half cucumber, cut into small pieces
2 parts of a shallot, chopped
5-6 basil leaves, chopped
3 fresh tomatoes, diced
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Greek seasoning

Let the quinoa cool after being cooked. Add approx. ½ C. olive oil. Mix in. Then mix veggie ingredients in. Add balsamic vinegar, greek seasoning and salt (to taste). Serve with Feta cheese on top.

And thank you, Gramma G for the wonderful cook book! So far the spinach stuffed chicken is my favorite. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sweet Surrender

Just got back from church and thought I'd take a few minutes to type out some thoughts whirling around in my head. Boy, thank goodness for pastor Marty Baker. Let me rephrase that - Thank goodness for an amazing God who speaks through pastor Marty Baker. We've been traveling so much lately that today was the first time in almost two months i've been back for service at our beloved church in Burke, VA. God has such a way of speaking to me through our pastor's preaching of the word. Today we studied how God called Paul to some of the craziest places, such as Corinth. And in those times, Corinth was to the Roman Empire what Las Vegas is to the U.S....the kind of "sin city." So God called Paul to places that most people wouldn't have any desire to live, let alone preach the gospel. Places where there didn't seem to be a single believing Christian in sight. Yet, God called Paul to those places and he went....willingly....and didn't complain about it.

It got me thinking about the time we've spent here in the DC/VA area. Pastor Marty asked our congregation how many of us had moved to the area within the past 10 years. I'd say about 325 out of 450 people raised their hands (we're quite the military crowd at our church-which we love of course!) Then he asked how many of us were excited to move to this area when the opportunity presented itself. Sadly, only about 25 raised their hand! Needless to say, I was not one of those 25 people. And the truth is that when I moved here, I was just excited to be with the man I love! The idea of DC sounds great - and in some ways, it is - but it's one of those places that's easier to visit than live. But don't worry, I won't spend any more time complaining in this blog (there is a point to all of this.) One thing that our pastor really drove home was that God doesn't make mistakes. He sends us to a place and allows us to walk through certain experiences in life for a great purpose. Every person we meet....every friend we make....every job we have....there is an eternal purpose.

And then he talked about how God works in such amazing ways. He asked us if we could think of one person or one couple who we just knew God had miraculously brought into our lives. I immediately thought of our good friends, Jeremy and Leah. Leah and I met when we both attended a volunteer seminar for the pregnancy centers. I like to say that I knew as soon as I saw the cute shoes she was wearing that we'd be friends for life! But I know it was more that God ordained our time and place of meeting. And thanks to today's sermon, I now know that God has a plan in bringing such incredible people into your life just when you think there isn't anyone there. And the purpose of this is to help encourage each other to serve God and His people for the glory of the kingdom. I couldn't possibly write into words just what friendships like these mean. And in Paul's case, God brought him Titius Justus, who "just so happened" to live next door to a synagogue that Paul had been kicked out of after trying to preach the gospel there. God had such an eternal purpose in bringing Paul and Titius together! He still made a way.

And like I said, I really started to think about our time here in VA. At times i've been on the edge of bitter by how certain things have turned out since moving here two years ago (time FLIES.) But God is slowly working in my heart and i'm actually feeling the change. I was convicted today to remind myself that we are in this town for a purpose. I am already singing in my head,

"Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." And the truth is, I really believe it! And i'm falling more and more in love with where we're at because of it. If you've never heard the song, listen to it here.

There is NO ONE like our GOD. HE is God alone, and I am not. And I stand in the belief that for as prepared as we were to move - Selling our house, saying goodbye to friends, etc. - He alone must have a wonderful purpose for Aaron and I in this place. It's actually pretty exciting. I don't know it yet, but I just know in my heart that God's plan is marvelous.

I'm in what feels like a "desert" in my job search. I can accept the fact that I may just need to take what's available to me, but my heart can't shake the desire to do something more with my gifts. What an incredible year 2009 has been since beginning my volunteer work at the Alexandria Pregnancy Center. How I wish I could work there, but i'm honored none-the-less that I clould be freed up enough to volunteer my time. I have such a heart for people, but definitely for women who are faced with challenging circumstances. It may not be God's timing to do something like this as a full-time job, but I know God had me do this for a reason! Hopefully all my millions of readers out there (ha!) are seeing a common theme here: PURPOSE.

In the mean-time, I can honestly say that if it isn't God's will for me right now, i'm ready to work hard in a different capacity. So as I search, I know that God already knows. That's where I seek and then wait. I've thought to myself, "maybe it's because we will only be here until next summer." But i'm done making those types of assumptions. Life changes so fast and drastically! We can't live in a state of "on-hold." Do you know what I mean??

I remember when Aaron was deployed, he used to write to me and tell me that the song "Blessed Be Your Name" had such a new meaning to him. It's an easy song to sing when your life reflects the first verse: "Blessed be your name, in the land that is plentiful, when your streams of abundance flow, blessed be your name." But then we get to the moments in life when our song is finding us in the desert place, in the wilderness and when darkness seems to be closing in. Aaron can recount the many times that he sang that song in church in the states and it rolled off his tongue. But in that real desert place, he was learning what it meant to bless the name of God there, too.

Aaron and I both know that our story is nothing new. This is not a call for Pity. Many have come before us with the same fears, questions, confusion, uncertainty and frustration. But I know that the story didn't end there for them. God was faithful to them...back then....and we trust that He will be faithful to us now.

Of course, we would ask that fellow christ-followers would be in prayer to God on our behalf. I ask for prayer for Aaron as he settles into a brand new job (that currently has him traveling quite a bit...but only for the time being.) And pray for his sanity during my emotional tears - haha! I know he is under pressure, yet excited about this amazing new opportunity. Aaron is a man of such incredible character. I love that he is truly a gentle spirit. He may not be the first to share his struggles, but I know he would appreciate your prayers.

Please be in prayer for me as I continue a job search and tackle the task of moving all of our things into our new place while Aaron is traveling. The biggest thing is that I would find/make time to be alone with God. I've had bouts of loneliness lately. Don't worry...Aaron isn't necessarily neglecting me! I'm discovering that my need for time with God (when i'm lacking) seems to manifest itself in a feeling of loneliness. It's such a terrible feeling! Makes sense though, right? So I know I need that time. Sometimes I'm just too stubborn to slow down.

And on a final note, I just wanted to share a praise. My dear friend, Mari, whome I had various classes with at Azusa, has just welcomed home her husband Gabe after spending 15 long challenging months in Iraq. Though Mari and I were not particularly close when we attended Azusa, we've created an internet/email bond over the past year and a half that has been truly special (God had such a purpose in that, too!) Aaron and I have spent much time in prayer for Gabe and for her as she was home to be a mommy to two beautiful little girls. Mari has been such an inspiration to me and I treasure the fact that she gifted so many people with the example of her commitment to Gabe and her girls. I know it was one of the most difficult experiences they've had in their life up to this point, but they made it through....praise God! So just a little shout out to her: Mari, girl! You're amazing! Words never seem good enough, but I just have to say that i'm so, so proud of you! And we are forever grateful to Gabe for the huge sacrafice he made during the past 15 months. Please come visit us in VA so we can be real face friends...not just facebook! Haha :)

Alright, until next time!

Friday, September 4, 2009

All Around the World in...a Few Months!

Seriously folks - Here's the run-down. We've now successfully visited all of these places in the past few months:

West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Georgia, South Carolina (my fav!), North Carolina, California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Alaska (I had to write that again since we went there twice this summer!), Texas, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.

Wow!! I'm surprising myself just by typing that! We’ve traveled a whopping amount in the past few months and let me tell you, it's been a BLAST! But realty is starting to hit - Mostly for Aaron really. He just started his new job and we've been in San Antonio for his training at Randolph AFB. I say WE because I decided to fly out here with him just two days after returning from our time out in Washington and Alaska. We found out last week that he'd have about 3 weeks of training and we found out just as last minute that our condo is not ready for us to move in. The former tenant of our place decided not to clean ANYTHING, so we asked our landlord to have a professional cleaning crew come in and do it. Ugh. Yuck! I had a free ticket on Southwest air, so I booked the flight and off we were! Thankfully, our friends Brian and Megan live here. We met them when we were stationed at Andrews AFB together. He also separated from the military and is now working for a big engineering firm here in San Antonio.

So we've been having a great time with friends and enjoying all that San A has to offer. We visited the River Walk last night and loved it. It's actually quite lovely here. Aaron's company is based here since they have a huge contract working on the bases in this area, so it's likely we would be relocated to Texas next summer when Aaron's DC contract is up. But, of course, all of that is up in the air still! We're just along for the ride, shall we say ;)

To back up a bit, we had a wonderful time on our WA/AK trip! Time with family is always so precious. Our niece, Addison is growing more everyday and learning new things. She just started rolling over! Big girl! She's almost 6 months old and full of chubby-love! We just adore her.

Out in Alaska we joined in the excitement as Aaron's brother Jesse and his new wife Jen got married. The wedding was incredible! We danced the night away at the Alpenglow ski lodge and had the most incredible scenery all around us. I also got to reunite with some old friends from college. So fun!

Now we're getting back to reality and definitely ready to settle into our new place for the next year. Hopefully it won't take me very long to find a new job!

I find it unreal that it's already September! Hope everyone had an enjoyable summer!

Fun night out at the River Walk, San Antonio with Brian and Megan

We celebrated grandma and grandpa Dupar's 60th wedding anniversary the day after Jesse and Jen's wedding. These two are so cute!

Toasting our steins at Jesse and Jen's reception. Jesse is getting his PhD in German history AND who doesn't love German beer? We love their creativity!

Finally....another girl in the Meredith family!

Addie in her "yellow polka-dot bikini" and SO CUTE!

Friday, July 31, 2009

First Anniversary! And leaving the Military....

What a year it's been! With all that has happened in the past year, it sometimes feels as though things have gone pretty slow. But when one of the best memories of your life was your wedding day, you look back on all of the wonderful things and it feels like just yesterday. Through all of the crazy ups and downs of 2008 and 2009 (so far) I can honestly and whole-heartedly say that I couldn't imagine spending my life with anyone other than Aaron. He is my best friend and I always, always love him (even when i'm super mad! haha). What a gift the Lord has given us in one another. I love you, honey!

We had a beautiful, low-key anniversary this past Sunday. It wasn't anything fancy....but it was perfect. We bbq'd dinner at home and Aaron surprised me with roses! So pretty! Neither of us are into cards and all of that mooshy stuff; we'd rather just say how we feel :) Aaron has this amazing shish-kabob recipe and it's to die for! So he cooked that up for us on the grill. Such a special day!

In other news, Aaron's final day in the military was yesterday (Thursday.) The guys who work for him threw him a party/bbq for his going away. It was bitter-sweet that day. Bitter because being in the military can be pretty frustrating at times. You can feel thrown around a lot. Plus the deployments are really difficult. But I don't want to sound all negative. It was a sweet day, too. Sweet because the men and women Aaron has been blessed to serve this wonderful country with have been some of the best in the military without a doubt! As Aaron said in his "going-away speech,"....."I've had the chance to work with the best group of CGO's in the United States Military." Boy, Aaron is right! The other officers in the civil engineering squadron are just the greatest guys. They always keep me laughing and they're all like brothers to us! Aaron will miss his office.....the funny jokes, the hard work and seeing so much of that work come to fruition. Sturctures on bases all around the world are safer because of guys like these! I'm so proud of them. We will miss the "military family" the most. That kind of comradery isn't found everywhere you go.

So, thank you, honey, for working so hard and serving your country proud. It's been an honor to support you and the USA as a proud military wife!

Aaron's Colonel saying so many wonderful things about Aaron! I almost wanted to cry!
These guys are the best CGO's (officers) in the military that Aaron was referring to!

Aaron, Shane, Jack and Marcus

Can we say Southern BBQ?!? Declicious!!

Other than that, not a whole lot else is going on with us. Oh, my procedure on Tuesday went well. They did find more evidence of pre-cancer, so they removed it and its being biopsied. As my doctor report says, i'm officially "high-risk for colon cancer." Yippeee! But as I said before, thank God that we caught this early. I'm reading two books right now by Dr. Perricone that were suggested to me by a great friend of our's, Andrea (who has been SO HELPFUL through this process so far) and i'm planning to completely alter my life to follow his dietary suggestions as closely as possible. Lots of fish, veggies, fruit and other things. Dr. Perricone is actually a leading dermotologist, but he has done many, many studies on internal inflamation and how the diet we eat either prolongs our life, or promotes the growth of cancer cells and various other fatal problems. I'm thankful for the opportunity to become educated in all of these things. It's amazing how seemingly "random" things that happen can seem (in my case, weird skin issues, etc.) but that they are not random at all!! Everything is connected. So i'll also be seeking out an internal specialist in the DC area as my primary care doctor (they look at the human body more holistically).

Lastly, we leave this Sunday to spend the month of August in Washington and Alaska to visit our families and be part of Jesse (Aaron's brother) and Jen's wedding August 28! We are very excited!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Europe trip and other updates!

A view of the Swiss Alps

Wow! Again, it's been a while since I last updated! Aaron and I have had such a crazy fun travel schedule lately. We're finally back in the US again after an incredible trip to Europe that I can hardly describe (but i'll do my best in this post!) We had a BLAST, yet it's nice to be back "home" in a familiar place. I wish I could write word for word every single busy adventure we had while over there, but since that would make for the world's longest blog post i'm always open to coffee dates with anyone! :)

Before I go into the trip, i'll start with some general life updates first. Aaron is officially out of the military as of next Thursday, 30 July. It's a bit surreal since life is about to change quite a bit! Though we are excited to have the opportunity to make more decisions on our own (i.e. jobs, moves, etc.) We are sad to leave the Air Force family as we've known it and venture into such changes such as paying for our own medical insurance, full priced groceries (bummer!) and the loss of various military discounts. Huge bummer! Regardless, we're ready for the change.

With Aaron accepting a position working with the Air Force Air Staff, we decided to tour various apartments in the Pentagon City/Alexandria area since we'll be renting something for the next year. Kind of a bummer that we sold the house, but it's nice to not have strings attached since we're most likely only here another year. After many options and weighing out the pros and cons, we decided on a beautiful place right in the heart of Old Town Alexandria (which we LOVE). It's a condo with a private parking space, updated kitchen (granite, tile, etc.) and here's the real kicker....right above a Whole Foods market that overlooks a beautiful courtyard. I can't decide if this is super dangreous or really convenient! Probably a bit of both. Unfortunately, the place is only a one bedroom (don't worry, Mari, we'll give up our room for visitors!) but the price was right and the location is unbeatable - Right across the street from the King St. metro which Aaron will become familiar with to ride 3 stops to work. As far as my employment plans go, I hope to work in Alexandria to eliminate the crazy DC commute I've already experienced since living here. This has been a great time of "employment rest" for me and I trust that God has something just right planned for me over the next year. We look forward to all the wonderful things that will come our way as a result of staying here, and we are excited to have at least another year with some wonderful friends that we would have been so sad to leave! Life is full of twists and turns, but God is GOOD. He is good, all the time! Isn't he??

The biggest news in my life right now is that I received some disheartening results the night we arrived home from Europe. I had gone to see a GI specialist because of my acid reflux and a few other not-so-fun symptoms i've been having (I won't go into detail here) and I had two procedures performed. I apologize in advance if this is TMI (I know it is) but basically the doctor performed an upper GI test (checking my esophagus and stomach lining) and a lower GI test (the crappy one...pun intended...) where he checked the "lower part" of my digestive system. Thank goodness I was out for these procedures! The initial result was that my esophagus and stomach lining were inflamed as well as my colon (sick, I know), so the doc decided to collect tissue for biopsies to make sure there wasn't something more serious causing it and he told me that it was important I watch my diet and add a fiber suppliment each day. He also took samples from the "lower area" to biopsy. The official results of the upper came back normal, so i'll continue to take my Nexium to control the reflux and hope that it just gets better on its own. The official result of the lower tests surprisingly came back as being what they call pre-cancerous. I was shocked (I think as was my doctor) about this because of my age and not really having any family history of cancer, let alone colon cancer. Fortunately, he removed what tested as pre-cancerous, so that's good. The bad news is that he could only see parts of what he needed to, so he needs me to have a full colonoscopy to check for more potential pre-cancerous tissue. Dang it! No kidding, I hate this stuff. Aren't old people the only ones who should be having colonoscopies?!? I've had terrible digestive problems most of my life, so I had this done when I was 18, too. Talk about poopy! (I love being able to make all of these puns...haha!)

Anyway, the difficult part in it all is that our military medical converage is coming to an end next week when Aaron is getting out, so i've been trying to get this thing scheduled before next Thursday. Chances seem slim, and i'm not hearing back from the office, so i'm just waiting it out. It's all a bit complicated, but I won't go into much more detail than that. All of that to say, i'll need to have yearly or bi-yearly colonoscopies probably for the rest of my life. I've been shedding a few tears over the frustration of this, but it's better safe than sorry. All I can think about it how I don't want to let this thing go because life is so precious. I dream of having a family with Aaron and enjoying a happy, healthy life together and there's no way i'm going to slack off on keeping this thing in check.

I praise God for how he works these things out. If I hadn't gone in for tests because of seeminly unrelated symptoms, it may have never been discovered that I had pre-cancerous cell tissue growing in my body. Isn't that crazy?? I'm a bit stressed out over this, but i'm doing my best to trust that God will work out the medical coverage details as well as the continued dr. visits i'll need over the years. He sees everything in the big picture, so I know I can trust Him to go before me and pave the way through all of this. Additionally, I am thankful for all the prayers I can get and WE are thankful for prayers as we continue to transition to a new way of life.

UPDATE: Just heard from Bethesda Naval Hospital. They squeezed me in for a full procedure next Tuesday. Praise God!

Now, onto Europe! Here's the rundown. And again, i'm lame for posting these pictures out of order! Also, be sure to check mine or Aaron's facebook for the full gammet of pictures :)

*July 9-10: We were able to hop a space-A flight out of Dover AFB on our first try! We slept the entire flight and also experienced the worst turbulance of our life so far about halfway through. It was a wild ride! We arrived at Spangdahlem AFB, Germany, rented a car and took off for Nuremberg, Germany. We only had one day, but we loved the food, beer and all the historic sites!

*July 10-12: We spent two days in Praha (Prague), Czech Republic which turned out to be my most favorite place! It's so beautiful and charming and the history is quite amazing (because of their communist past). We toured the Prague castle and had the best spot to catch the changing of the guard at the gate. Incredible! Aaron got a ticket driving there...had to pay the police officer on the spot. HA! Hilarious. It was bound to happen at some point!

*July 12-14: Drove to Vienna, Austria. We loved Vienna for all the places it has to offer which seemed less touristy than the other places we visited. They have amazing wine and beer gardens on the outskirts of the city. We also toured the Leopold museum and stopped to get lunch at an open-air market. FYI, the salami, bread and cheese (mainly because cheese doesn't have to be pasturized as it does in the states) are to die for in Europe! It's also a lot cheaper to buy food from markets than eating out, of course.

*July 14-15: Started driving to Italy with the plan of making it to Rome. Whoa, that was a bad assumption! It was too far, so we stopped in Bologna (pronounced Boloynia) for the night and experienced true Italian culture. No one spoke english! It appeared to be somewhat toursity, but mostly for Italians, not for Americans. So it was a challenge communicating with people (most like a game of charades) but we had our first experience eating real Italian pizza and it was GOOD! We slept at a small pensione and the owner was so nice to us. Again, he didn't speak english, but it was good for us to experience that!

*July 15-17: We parked our car at a train station about 1.5 hours outside of Rome and hopped the train into the city. We DO NOT recommend driving in Rome. Italy is a crazy place to drive in general (Germany is much more efficient. You can research this to find out why!) but Rome is by far the scariest place to drive, i'm convinced, in the world. We stayed at a B&B type place right in the city and it was beautiful, though, it did not have air conditioning. Rome was 110 degrees the entire time we were there. Yes, I just said 110 degrees. It was HOT but we had a nice fan in our room :) Another side-note with Rome: Pick-pockets are awful here and very skilled. Watch your things like a hawk! Especially at the train station. In general, Rome was my absolute favorite place as far as history goes. I was completely taken by the wonders of the Forum, Coliseum, and the Vatican...just to name a few. It's absolutely, hands down, INCREDIBLE! We're talking some of the oldest original structures in the entire world...thousands of years. Also, Rome has the best Gelato known to man. Just thought I'd add that!

*July 17-20: Drove up to Venice and stayed at a fun Art B&B with a wonderful breakfast each morning and saw the amazing wonders of Venice, Mirano and Burano. We took pictures on the Rialto bridge and toured St. Mark's Basilica. It is stunningly beautiful! We also happened to be there at the same time as our wedding photographer, Aaron Watson, and his assistant Thomas, so the 4 of us went on one of those famous gondola rides and Aaron did a photo shoot with us! We can't wait to see how the pictures turned out! We were also in Venice for a huge festival called the "Feast of the Redeemer" which is symbolic of the end to the black plague. We bought 3 bottles of wine and sat by the edge of the water to watch a 45 minute fire works show. Probably the best i've ever seen! We had such a fabulous time!

*July 20-21: Drove back up to Germany via the Swiss Alps and also made our way through parts of France (no Paris...oh well, next time!) The Swiss Alps are by far the most beautiful things i've ever seen. We stopped in a small Swiss town to eat a late lunch and were surrounded by a lake and the mountains. I was speechless at the sight. The Northwest and Alaska are beautiful, but this had them beat. I took many pictures, of course, but after looking back at them, they just play the sight down so much that it really must be seen in person. We then made it back to Spangdahlem AFB, stayed the night, then drove 1 hour to Ramstein AFB the next morning and thankfully made it on the first flight out to Baltimore Int'l Airport. We flew back on a huge air craft filled with troops coming back from all over the middle east. It was such a neat experience visiting with them and joining in their excitement to return home to their families. We talked with one guy who has a mutual friend with Aaron. Gotta love the military. So big, yet always like a family! When we landed at BWI, we were all greeted by the USO who are AMAZING. They just love the military and they had food and water waiting for everyone who got off the plane. It's wonderful to experience first-hand just how much they appreciate the troops and families.

We walked a ton, ate a ton, drank a ton, laughed a ton and enjoyed our time, A TON. But again, it's great to be home and we continue to relive the memories of our trip in our minds. We feel so blessed to have had this experience! If any of you find yourselves planning a Europe trip, be sure to let us know so we can give you pointers based on things we learned over there from travel tips, to food, lodging, etc. Ask away! Viva la Europe!

The view of the alps from our restaurant

St. Mark's Basilica - Venezia (Venice)

Famous Rialto Bridge!

A statue at the Spanish Steps (a gift to Rome from Spain) - Roma (Rome)

At the Forum in Rome...with a view of the Coliseum in the background. Two of my favorite places!

Trevi Fountain - Rome. Sorry the lighting is a bit bad.

View of the Vatican. LOVED it!

Vatican again

So many people have touched St. Peter's foot that it's almost flat!

The flat tire we got driving in Italy. Good thing we had a spare!

Bier (beer) garden in Vienna. We loved European beers! I was just a little excited ;)

Part of the Praha (Prague) Castle

Aaron with his beer in the Prague square

One of MANY amazing views in Prague

Monday, July 6, 2009

What we thought we wanted, and what we got instead...

I don't have much time to blog but I wanted to get this out in the open before we leave tomorrow for Europe (yay!)

So....remember my post titled, "While we're waiting"?? God does some interesting things. I wrote in that blog that even if things didn't work out the way we thought it would, He would still be praised. Well, this, of course, is ringing true and now we are TRUSTING and PRAISING God for his faithfulness and that he will lead us in the year ahead.

The job situation out west has just not gone as smoothly as we'd hoped, so Aaron was offered a position working with the Air Force air staff (Pentagon) on a 1-year contract. And just to clear up a few things: this is a civilian job for Aaron and it's ONE YEAR. I feel the need right now to emphasis this one year thing for my own sanity at the moment as I had thought all long that my heart was ready to leave this place. God has a way of doing these things, doesn't he?!?

So Aaron and I are preparing to live the city life, in a condo, and something walkable to most things....metro, office, shopping, etc. I'm actually looking forward to being a true city girl for the next year!

Please please PLEASE pray for Aaron as he makes this huge transition. It was an offer we just couldn't pass up....though there were some tears shed and many prayers in the decision-making process. We wish we weren't so far away from family :( Also, please pray for our housing situation and for me to find a wonderful job. Actually, how about we just start with praying for my motivation to look for a job - Ha! I've enjoyed the past 7 months as somewhat of a "stay at home wife" and keeping myself busy with volunteer work and watching babies for friends. I've loved every minute. Not to mention all of the fun travel we've been so blessed to experience!

So, needless to say, more and MORE life changes. Is there ever a dull moment in our lives??

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Adventures of Aaron and Jenny: Alaska Edition!

I have a little bit of time to write an update, so I thought i'd loop everyone in! Aaron and I have been in Eagle River, Alaska (which is just outside of Anchorage) for about a week now. I hadn't mentioned anything about this trip before because it was a surprise for Aaron's mom :)

We flew military space available and it was quite the experience. You really learn to be flexible. We made it to Travis AFB in Sacramento, but it took us 5 days to finally get a flight from there to Elmendorf here in AK! We can't complain too much, though. Flying this way is FREE. But, it wasn't easy because it was a bit of a let-down each time we showed up for a flight and discovered that we couldn't get on. Fortunately, my very best friend in the world, Bre, lives in Sac so we got to spend time with her! Aaron's best friend, Matt, is also in the area. He flies c-17's out of Travis, so he kindly carted us back and fourth multimple times to the terminal and then picked us up again when we couldn't make the flight. Thanks to Matt for giving us a place to shower and lay our heads!

We did end up sleeping in the terminal at Travis for one night. Thankfully the military flight terminals have showers!

Finally, we caught a kc-35 (refueler jet) to Eilson AFB in Fairbanks (6 hours from where we needed to be) but we were just happy to finally be in Alaska! Our flight there was really exciting because we got to go down in the belly of the plane to watch them refuel two Navy f-18 jets (very similar to AF fighter jets.) It was amazing to see all of the ground below and it felt like we were hanging off a cliff with the big windows in front of us! Refueling from this type of jet is done maunually, so we could see every move they made and it was strange that we could look at the face of the other jet pilots. So fun!!

Once we arrived, we thought we would rent a car and drive down, but we discovered that it would cost us $1200. Are you kidding me?!? That was out of the question. So shortly after we arrived at Eilson, we heard that Fort Wainwright, the army base just down the road, had a small leer jet leaving for Elmendorf later that day. Praise the Lord!! So we hopped in a taxi with a retiree who was on our first flight and trying to get back home to Anchorage and the 3 of us hopped a plane at 4 p.m. It was just a small 6 passenger and a really exciting experience! The flight was only 45 minutes and we got to see all the beauty of Alaska from the air. We like to think of it as our personal rock-star jet. It kinda felt like that! Ha!

So our time in Alaska has been wonderful and almost indescribable! I've seen moose, a bear down on the Kenai, TONS of bald eagles, dall sheep, Alaskan husky puppies (used for the iditarod) and I caught my first Sockeye salmon! Actually, I caught 4 and they are huge! Let me just tell you all, God really took his time working on Alaska. It is breath-taking! Aaron and I climbed Mt. Baldy which is basically in his parent's backyard. It was a humbling hike. Just when you think you're in shape, you trek a hike like this one! Once up at the top, we could see over Anchorage. Aaron also took me float-tube fishing (the link gives you an idea of what it looks like)! All of these experiences I won't soon forget!

We are loving our time with Aaron's parents and his brother Sam. We also finally got to meet Sam's lovely girlfriend, Marilyn! Our conversations together as a family are a gift to us. Time spent with family is so precious!

It's soon time for us to head back and we hope to be back in VA this Sunday. I'll be sure to post pictures of our many adventures when we return! Please pray for our safe travels and a speedy return - at least speedier than our trip out as I have a really important Dr. appointment I need to be back for on Monday. More updates soon!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hello, New England Adventure!

I just realized after uploading photos that they are up backwards! So the beginning of our trip actually starts with the pictures at the bottom. But don't be fooled, you're only seeing about half of our trip in pictures! We did SO MUCH. We experienced so much history that my brain was exhausted by the end of our trip. Really and truly, if I post everything we did, i'd have to publish a large book, so i'm just going with bullet-points in this one. I'm sure y'all understand :)

Starting from the beginning:
  • drove up to CT and stayed the night with the Nonz, aunt, uncle and cousins. The kids are big goofs! We will miss spending Turkey day with them in beautiful Old Greenwich!
  • found our way up to Rhode Island and saw the mansions and coast and then had my birthday dinner in town.
  • Finished in Rhode Island and drove up to Boston, checked in at Hanscom AFB and went out to Cambridge to celebrate over a nice birthday dessert - Aaron's buddies ditched us...i'm not bitter! ;)
  • Spent the sabbath with the Lord at Fenway Park! GO SOX! (only because we just can't possibly be NY fans.) It POURED when the game first started. I mean POURED! We, along with everyone else, were drenched. See pictures below! The sox ended up killing the Mets. It was a great game.
  • Saw Park Street church which was a dream come true for me. My grandparents were married there about 60 years ago, and we're all so thankful they did! There was a church service going on, so we worshiped with them for a little bit and then headed out to walk to Freedom trail; saw Paul Revere's house and ate lunch at the Green Dragon pub. They have so many great pubs out there!!
  • Next day, climbed the tower at Bunker Hill and got an amazing view of Boston
  • Drove out to see Ticonderoga...also met a bull dog puppy there. She was cute! (just had to mention that.)
  • Had a tour in Portsmouth at the Red Hook brewery. I'm not much of a beer my gluten-free diet doesn't support it either! But the boys loved it and it was a fun time!
  • Drove out to Maine and had fresh lobster. AMAZING. Enough said. And Maine is gorgeous! Stayed the night at a camp ground at lake...something....started with an S. There's so much to remember!
  • We also hiked in the White Mountains (New Hampshire) hence the pictures of the enormous waterfall. It was such a true taste of New England!
  • Next stop was the BEN AND JERRY'S ICE CREAM FACTORY!!! Heaven. YES.
  • Then the most peaceful stay at a campground in Vermont. We were one of two groups there and had pretty much the entire place to ourselves! We went for a long run, made a camp fire, enjoyed the beauty of silence and slept like babies - Until it rained early the next morning! Oh well.
  • Left that morning and drove out to Cooperstown, NY to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. Aaron and Jesse were in heaven! It's definitely worth making a specific trip to see.
  • Later that day, tried to find another national park campground, but couldn't. Had to stay at a DIVE motel. Seriously....New York dive hotel. We slept in our sleeping bags on top of the bed. HA!!
  • Drove back to NY City to stay at Jesse's place and Aaron took me to see South Pacific on Broadway!! I AM IN LOVE!
  • Left the next day and stopped in Philly to see Sarah Wiele, had really great conversation with her about her life in the inner-city (I love Sarah!) and visited the Liberty Bell
  • Then drove out to Lancaster PA. to Amish town (neat history there) and stayed with Julie and Jeremy. Julie and I lived together our last semester at Azusa and I adore her! I wish we took pictures with them because we had such a blast. Slept under the stars in her parent's backyard - after having a camp fire, woke up and spent most of the day on the river with Julie, Jeremy and Julie's parents. The two boys wakeboarded...Julie and I tanned in the front of the boat. SO MUCH FUN!
  • Visted Gettysburg on our way home.
  • Lastly, I had to add a picture of Aaron's promotion to Captain ceremony. My camera died right after this picture, so it's all I have :( It was the day after we returnded from our trip. I am SO PROUD of him!
Aaron's Colonel swearing he and Jon in as Captains


Liberty Bell with Sarah in Philly!

The "Flavor Graveyard" at Ben and Jerry's. RIP, Vermonty Python. Cry, cry, cry.

MMMMMMmmm hmmmmm!

White Mt. hike in New Hampshire - Probably my most favorite scenery in New England

White Mts. with the boys. No, Jesse and I aren't really twins. We're in-laws, actually.

View of Boston from Bunker Hill

Birthday shots. The boys got me to drink Whisky!

Paul Revere's house

Our new digs in Rhode Island ;)

Aaron and I at Park Street Church. If it wasn't for that man, this would look professional!

Getting SOAKED!

We love Fenway!

The fam in Old Greenwich! Silly kids