Friday, September 28, 2012

So We Bought a Car...

My sweet little 2002 Cavalier
I have been saving money ever since I got money for birthdays and Christmases. Ryan and I are both the type of people that once it's in savings, it stays there for a VERY long time...until it gets used for something big! I was lucky (and blessed) to be essentially given cars ever since I've been driving. Granted, the first car I drove was a taupe Plymouth Voyager van, I was lucky to NOT have to pay for it. After my grandparents passed away, they willed me their tiny Chevy Cavalier. I was so thankful for that meant I no longer had to drive a minivan! It was also free! The Lord provided for me in the car department, even though they were not the most glamorous, nor did they have any "fancy" features. 108k miles later and after saving for forever, I finally looked at my savings account and made a mighty fine sales pitch to Ryan that a new car was in our near future.

For two introverts like Ryan and I, car buying is essentially the equivalent to getting all of your teeth pulled. Some people, namely my mother, love to wheel and deal and to make demands for this and that. We on the other hand, are terrible at it and dread it like the plague. I hated knowing that it was going to be a war as soon as you stepped foot onto the dealership. A war where knew we had a significant disadvantage and the wrong personality for.

Excuse the awkward stance, but I was excited!
It wasn't a pretty process. We got let down a few times, we felt disrespected sometimes, we felt completely taken advantage of sometimes, and we even got ugly with each other. Hello first major marital dispute! Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed with joy that we don't have to do this for years. After about 3 weeks of looking, we knew exactly what we wanted, how much we were willing to pay for it, and who we didn't want to buy it from. When they say that it becomes a game of emotions, it's really true. We didn't want to buy it from one dealership strictly because we didn't want to give commission to the manager on our deal.

Last night, we drove all the way out to a Pohanka Honda dealership in Fredericksburg and were in and out in 2 hours and drove our brand new 2012 CRV home! We loved the quick experience we had, they cleaned/detailed the car before we even got there, and we felt really good about the people that earned our commission. Praise Jesus for power windows and cruise control...oh and a sunroof ;)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Church Planting & Window Watching

If you've kept up with Ryan and I over the past couple months, you probably know that we are a part of a church plant called Harvest Bible Chapel. For several months in the early spring, we had been wrestling with some things with our previous church and eventually decided the best thing to do was to leave and start the church hunting process. Again. It was a hard decision for us, since we had made several great connections with some people and staff there. After Googling what seemed like every church in a 30 mile radius of Fairfax and visiting a couple, we came up empty handed. What? There are LOTS of churches in Northern Virginia, and we couldn't find just one to plug into? We were frustrated and confused. We did know that Jesus calls us to be a part of the local church. So, we kept going.

The long-story-short version is that we found our church home in a church that didn't even exist yet. Through Twitter. Thank you social media. We've now been a part of a small team of a handful of families to help build up Harvest in Fairfax that just launched in the beginning of September. It has been a blessing to be a part of, but boy has it been a lot of work. I have a new respect for just how much work it takes to run a Sunday service. And right now, we're a bare bones version compared to some other local churches that have countless ministries that go on every Sunday. I also feel terrible for being a "bystander" for so many years. The truth is, I never really got plugged into a church until I graduated college. Sure I went, but I never served. I was strictly there to get fed and to evaluate how they did this and that. I was not a part of a local church, I was the window watcher and because of that, I missed out on really being a part of the church. So much of my mindset towards church was what was the church going to do and offer me, when it really should have been the other way around.

After jumping into facets of ministry I said to myself that I could never do, having to step out of my comfort zone and putting my "needs" and wants aside, I've found church planting to be both immensely rewarding and simultaneously exhausting. Sure we're the only couple without kids, we're the youngest and least experienced in life and we're in a completely different phase of life than most, but it's in those things that the Lord has chosen to use us and bless us beyond those differences. I've actually really enjoyed being around lots of kids, learning from those who are older and more established, and most of all serving under the same purpose.

The truth about church planting is that bottom-line it's not easy. There might be personality difference, you'll almost definitely do things that will stretch you, and Sunday will be a much longer commitment than your hour to an hour and a half service. My pastor, Dan always quotes Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Jesus will build his church regardless of bystanders and window watchers, like I was. But there is a greater joy that we can freely partake in by being a part of the building and serving of His church. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to use my gifts for a purpose greater and bigger than me and that the Lord changed my heart, the heart of a bystander.

From our first launch team meeting!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homemade Queso Blanco Dip: The Best Stuff on Earth

Whenever we have friends come over for dinner, I always feel the need to fool them that "oh I cook like this all the time!" Just kidding, I totally don't own up to that. I do get motivated to really cook food and to start from scratch. Last night we had some friends coming over and we had some tasty tacos complete with homemade queso blanco sauce. I've always wanted to make this from scratch since the canned stuff is pretty sub par. My heart gets weak for anything with queso sauce. It always means that whatever it's slathered on, is bound to taste 10x better. We also got to use our sweet little server that they got us for our wedding! Gifts in action!

There are lots of different ways you can cook this stuff. I saw lots of recipes where you do it on the stove and some were microwaved. I've had them both ways, but I was short on time and decided to go the quick and easy microwave way. Honestly, I think it tastes the same whether you microwave or use the stove. Stovetop recipes will have you standing in front of the pot constantly stirring so the cheese doesn't burn. When you're cooking things at the same time, this make it extra hard. I would've burned it for sure! I finally found this recipe that I pinned on Pinterest and followed it exactly other than cutting the recipe in half. Here's the full recipe. You'll definitely have leftovers! Here it is:

1.25 lb of White American Cheese (I also used Land O'Lakes and it was delish!) cut into cubes
You can find this at the deli counter, I had the lady slice it so all I had to do was rip it into little pieces instead of cutting

1/4 cup of diced green chiles (these come in a cute little tiny can)

2 pickled jalapenos, chopped
This is what's giving it some kick! The more you put in, the spicier it gets.

1 ounce of pickled jalapeno juice
This measurement stressed me out, I just poured some juice from the can of pickled jalapenos (above).

2/3 cup of whole milk
We only had 2%, and I wasn't about to buy milk that we wouldn't drink otherwise. Use whatever milk you have on hand.

1/2 a cup of cold water

A pinch of cumin (optional)
We threw this in. Also, this measurement stressed me out.

1. Throw all the ingredients into a microwave safe bowl. I used a medium sized measuring cup which worked really well since it does bubble up quite a bit and I could pour it out easier.

2. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, stopping every minute (or so) to stir. You'll notice it's really watery at first, but it firms up once it's out of the microwave and fulled mixed.

3. Serve and enjoy! We poured it all over everything...our tacos, our chips. Only the best way to eat it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Easy Oatmeal Apple Crisp

Pinterest is seriously my best friend for finding new and easy recipes. Fall graced itself with either an early arrival or a preview of the awesome cool weather we'll be getting soon! Because of the weather, I was feeling inspired to make something fallish for our last Harvest Launch team meeting a few weeks ago, but I wanted it to be fresh, not from the freezer. I also wanted it to be EASY! I pinned this gem while I was on just about every wedding blog known to man trying to plan my own wedding. Here's the recipe:

6 medium apples, pared and sliced (I used gala but I heard Honeycrisps from Whole Foods are super sweet and good!)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 cup softened butter or margarine

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup of oatmeal flakes

3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease baking dish (I used a 9 x 13) with additional butter.

Cut your apples. I went ahead and cut mine twice so they were more bitesized.

Cut your flour into the softened butter until well mixed. Then add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. 

Sprinkle yummy goodness topping over your apples. I will say that I found that I needed more topping since it didn't cover the apples. I just took the remainder of the butter and added in a little bit of everything (oatmeal, nutmeg, cinnamon, flour, brown sugar, etc.)

Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.

I've already made this recipe twice, and it's been a hit! Serving warm with vanilla ice cream is a MUST!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wedding & Honeymoon Highlights


So, Ryan and I have officially reached our 2 month mark of marriage! It has flown by and yet at the same time we both feel like we've been married for WAY longer. We love not having to say goodbye to each other at night, watching an episode or two of Big Bang Theory (our latest obsession) before we go to bed, making dinner together and having "our" place to share.

I completely neglected to blog about our wedding/ honeymoon! So, here's my quick attempt at recapping two of the most memorable events in our life thus far:

The wedding was simply 100x better than I could've imagined. I had several awesome and creative helpers who made the reception look amazing, vendors who were phenomenal at what they do, and the best wedding guests a girl could ask for. We loved having family all together, literally seeing everyone off their feet and dancing, and just had such a blast celebrating with each other and so many others. It will forever be a day that I treasure and look back on as such a blessing. Jesus even held back the nasty storm looming during the ceremony by about 20 minutes. We got really lucky!

Now, I know that most girls get very caught up in the whole wedding planning process and the actual wedding day itself. BUT I was super pumped about the honeymoon! It's like the icing on the cake after the wedding! Ryan and I love traveling so we couldn't wait to cross the pond and see so many awesome places.

We flew into Rome after a long overnight flight. It was 10 a.m. there but our bodies felt like it was 3 a.m. We both didn't get much sleep on the way over, maybe about an hour. I confess I spent many of those hours I could've been sleeping, reading Hunger Games instead. All we wanted to do was sleep! But, like every other hotel, you can't check in until after 2. We only had that day to check out Rome before we left on our cruise so after finally getting into our room, showering, taking a 30 minute nap and running after the shuttle like crazy tourists, we made it to heart of Rome. We saw as much as we could--the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, and may other ruins that were just hanging out in the middle of the city. We definitely want to go back to see more since we felt like we missed a lot.

I must say, after being hesitant to go on a cruise for our honeymoon, it was such an awesome way to see some pretty awesome places in Europe. We quickly found out which places we liked and want to come back and visit longer (everywhere in Italy) and some places we would never have to visit again (France). The Norwegian Epic was an intense boat packed with countless enterainment and food options. There was never a shortage of things to do. We can't wait for the next cruise we go we have to go on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, right Ryan?? ;)

Here were some highlights:
-We got lost in the airport for a good 45 minutes trying to find the hotel when we arrived.
-Fanta from abroad tastes 10x better than it does in the States. It's not as sweet.
-We almost got picked to be on the boat's Newlywed Game. I was mortified.
-I learned how bad Ryan's snoring really was :)
-Florence had the best food and was the cutest town we went to. Unfortunately, we were so directionally challenged that we couldn't find Michaelangelo's David sculpture even though we were one street down
-We walked Barcelona by ourselves and probably covered at least 8 miles of ground trying to see Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas
-We met at least 8 other couples that were on their honeymoon. They were easy to spot :)
-France.....was not our favorite. The people were rude, the food wasn't great and if you don't know French you're not worth their time of day. They did have good shopping however!
-We learned that we liked edamame after being shown how to eat it by 2 Japanese ladies who didn't speak a lick of english. They looked at me like I was crazy for not knowing and kept asking where I was from.
-I finally got to enjoy a nice glass of sangria and tortilla espanola in Barcelona...I always knew I'd come back just to eat it!
-We bought lots of beautiful ceramic goodies in Amalfi and then they plumetted to the ground in peices from the bus. It was terrible luck and we were so bummed.

Okay this is getting long, but long story short we are enjoying each other and married life! As scary as it is to jump into a huge life-long commitment, I couldn't ask for a better partner to be walking through life with.

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