Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thankful for Two Years

This blog post is dedicated to my husband, Lukas. We celebrated our second anniversary last month, and I'm so very blessed to be married to him. Marriage with him is an exciting journey!

Lukas and I first met in college at John Brown University. He was finishing his sophomore year and it was my senior year, spring semester. We discovered we had many mutual friends, but because we had both chosen to study abroad (I was in Spain spring 2009 and Lukas was in Northern Ireland fall 2009), we had essentially "missed" each other by a year. When we were finally in the same place at the same time, we quickly became very good friends.

Our friendship was primarily formed during Wednesday evening "library study parties" with a small group of friends. It was during that time we really started getting to know each other better. I was intrigued by this missionary kid who grew up in Peru. I found Lukas to be a very kind person, and strong in his convictions and his desire to follow Christ. Thinking about graduating and potentially losing touch with him was really hard, and I had to seek to trust God with the blossoming friendship and the unknown nature of where it was headed.

But we didn't lose touch after graduation. Over the summer we kept in touch through facebook messages and phone calls, and our friendship continued to deepen. In July, we started dating. Most of our time of dating and engagement was long distance, as I was living and working four hours away from where he was still in college. We made many weekend trips back and forth to visit each other during that time. Long distance dating had its challenges for sure, but it was worth it. I was really blessed by good friends who let me stay with them on those visits back to JBU.

Lukas is truly an answer to prayer, and such a blessing in my life. On August 6, 2011, Lukas and I got married!

Lukas is a wonderful husband who encourages me, makes me laugh and reminds me not to take life too seriously. He's so thoughtful and caring.

After two years of marriage: We've learned and grown a lot through the joys and the challenges of marriage. I love my husband, and I'm thankfully celebrating being his wife! I look forward to a lifetime together. 

Photo credit Lovin Photography 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Confessions of an Apartment Gardener

OK, so I know I've mentioned spring in my last two blog entries, and now I'm talking about it again. I just can't help it.

I love spring.

I love the warmth and the joy of seeing new life spring forth.

I love being able to enjoy being outside again and fresh air and evening walks with my husband.

And I am discovering a new-found interest in planting and gardening.

A few weeks ago, Lukas and I planted seeds in a little greenhouse starter set inside, carefully trying to keep the cats from trampling them or knocking over the tender shoots. We planted lettuce, broccoli, thyme, parsley, basil and spearmint. These items were selected because, according to the research I did, they stand a better chance of surviving and thriving in the shade. Since we live in an apartment and our patio area only gets a few hours of sunlight a day, we knew we had to be selective with what we planted.

This past weekend we transplanted some of them into pots outside. I'm still not sure how they will do (they still look pretty small and weak when transplanted to their pots), but it is an experiment. We're still waiting on that spearmint to grow enough to transplant.

I'd sure love to he able to harvest some fresh vegetables and herbs, but this is all a bit of an experiment given our limited space and access to direct sunlight.

Besides the vegetables and herbs, we planted flowers. We went to the store Saturday and picked out marigolds, panseys and geraniums. So pretty. I love looking out the patio door and seeing bursts of color.

This is a bit of a new thing for me. While I love flowers and plants, my husband definitely has more experience in growing them than I do. Good thing someone has a green thumb in the family. I haven't really done much of it since childhood when I sometimes helped with my family's backyard garden where we grew tomatoes and green beans. I want to learn though, and I think it may be an opportunity for a new hobby.

I look forward to someday hopefully having a yard to plant a full-fledged garden. In the meantime, I'm learning how to be an apartment gardener... or as The Prairie Homestead blog put it, "an apartment homesteader." If you're interested in reading more about apartment gardening, I recommend this article: http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2011/10/how-to-be-an-apartment-homesteader.html. Nothing like bringing natural living and making God's beautiful creation part of your home--even if your home is an apartment in a town or city.

For you readers, do you have any tips for gardening, especially when dealing with the space and sunlight limitations of an apartment? I'm certainly interested in any ideas or advice you may have!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dreaming of Sevilla

Looking back at my last post, I realize it was maybe a bit premature... I talked about the warming weather and coming spring. Well, spring has come, but I'm not sure where that warm weather went. We actually had snow this morning. And while it didn't actually stick the fact that it is in the end of March and snowing just seems odd. Hopefully this will be the last winter blast.

Perhaps something about cold weather inspires dreams of exotic and faraway places... places that hold a special place in our hearts. Tonight Lukas and I were dreaming about places we would love to go. He was wistfully talking about Belfast where he spent a semester a few years ago, and we looked at some photos of Belfast. Then I wanted to look at photos of Sevilla, where I spent my semester abroad four years ago. It's hard to believe it was really four years ago. I'm so thankful I had that opportunity. What a semester it was!

There was such a rich culture in Sevilla and so much to explore. I loved all the news sights and tastes and sounds.

Not to mention simply having the time to spend several months overseas. How I would love to have a few months to spend overseas again sometime. There is something unique about being in college though... you have opportunities to do things that would be much harder to actually pull off as a young adult. I'm very thankful for the memories and the things I was able to do during that time.

I loved walking those old streets and seeing historical architecture. La Torre del Oro in the picture above was a landmark I passed everyday on my way to school--and it's hundreds of years old!

I loved the warmth of southern Spain. While I do remember wearing a coat in January and February, it was already warm by this time of year there.

And it was so beautiful! Aren't those flowers by the river gorgeous?

The picture above isn't actually of Sevilla, but the coastal town of Cadiz, about a two hour train ride away. I post it because it reminds me of sunshine, warmth and my love of the ocean and beach, which is accessible for a day trip when you're living in southern Spain.

Maybe one day I can return to Sevilla and bring my husband with me. You know how places just sort of become a part of you. Well, as a famous Spanish song says "Sevilla tiene un color especial"--it's a vibrant, colorful place that I will remember always.

It also made me think of the blog I kept during that time: http://anna-in-spain09.blogspot.com/. I hadn't looked at that blog in a while, but seeing the captured memories and photos there makes me happy to remember.

Besides dreaming about places I've been, I also often dream of going to new places, and seeing new sights. For example, I would love to see India, Thailand, Germany, Switzerland, Israel... and the list could go on. I have always had a desire to travel and see the world.

What kind of places do you dream about? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

[Almost] Spring Musings

We are almost to mid-March, and I can't express how excited I am about the hints of the coming spring that we're seeing. In just a couple weeks, it will officially be spring! While it still oscillates from warm to cool right now, we are definitely seeing an upward climb in temperature, and a few of the trees even have some buds on them. I'm thankful to live in a part of the country that tends to have relatively mild winters that don't usually drag out too long. I'm definitely a warm weather kind of girl. That senior year of college dream I had to live in Chicago... yeah, that died pretty quickly when I thought about how long and cold the winters would be!

With the gradually warming weather, Lukas and I are trying to get out more. We are blessed to live close to the foot of a large hill (well, they technically call it a mountain, but it's certainly no mountain by Colorado standards) with a hiking trail up the side. It takes about 30 minutes to climb to the top, where there is a retreat center and a beautiful view of the town. We climbed up the hill yesterday and enjoyed the beautiful weather (warm enough for short sleeves!) and the fresh air.

We also decided to let our kittens (now about one year old, so hardly kittens anymore) explore around outside under supervision yesterday for a bit. They are indoor cats by necessity of our current apartment living situation, but we want them to have some familiarity with the outside in case we eventually live somewhere where they can spend more time outside. Poor Selah was actually scared being outside--she makes a great indoor cat--but Firestorm was as content as could be.

Besides counting down the days until spring is officially here, I have still been enjoying cooking. I find that most of my cooking happens on the weekends. During the week, with my busy full-time job, I just don't usually have time to make anything elaborate. On weekends, however, I often try to pick a more involved meal to cook (like the crockpot chicken tikka masala I tried today) or bake something like granola or muffins for the coming week. I may post some of those recipes soon--let me know if there are any in particular you are interested in seeing.

The treat for this weekend was white chip chocolate cookies--the first time I've tried making them. Nothing too fancy here, just Tollhouse's recipe (found here). Below you'll see a picture of the gooey, yummy, chocolate goodness that came out. I mixed up the recipe a bit, by substituting some of the white chocolate chips for dark chocolate chips--about one cup white chips and 1/2 cup dark chips (I didn't use the full two cups of chips that the recipe called for). So delicious!

This was a bit of an eclectic post, but I wanted to write about a few current simple delights in my life. I want to continue on a lifelong journey of cultivating thankfulness, and writing is a one way for me to do that. Happy almost spring, everyone! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pollo Saltado: Classic Peruvian Cuisine

This evening I am daydreaming about Peru. Lukas and I were blessed to be able to take a two-week trip to Peru in December to visit his family (they are missionaries in Lima).

It was wonderful to get to see family, explore a new and colorful country, and experience the places Lukas has told me about. The trip included exploring Lima, as well as a day and a half trip to the rainforest in Pucallpa, Peru.

Peru is filled with rich history, interesting cultural experiences and, of course, delicious food. Oh, the food... so good!

Since I can't eat Peruvian food in Peru all the time, I'm sure glad I learned from Lukas' mom how to make a few favorite Peruvian dishes. And one of the best is pollo saltado or lomo saltado. More commonly in Peru you find the lomo saltado variation, which includes thinly sliced beef tenderloin or some other type of thinly sliced steak. However, it is sometimes served with chicken instead, thus creating the cousin dish of pollo saltado, featured below. Both are delectable, but at home we have made it with chicken because it is cheaper and we more commonly have it on hand.

Whichever meat you choose to use, this dish includes a bed of rice, with flavorful, tender marinaded meat cooked with vegetables and then topped with French fries. I know, French fries seem like an odd addition, but they add the perfect touch to this dish.

It's making my mouth water just thinking about it.

Pollo Saltado

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 2 tsp cumin 
  • 10-12 cloves garlic (divided)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • Canola oil
  • 1 whole onion plus 1/3 onion (divided)
  • 2 bell peppers, julienned (multi-colored is our favorite)
  • 1/2 14 oz. can of tomatoes (drained) or fresh tomatoes (the equivalent of about 7 oz.)
  • 2 potatoes, sliced into French fries (or equivalent in store bought fries)
  • Cilantro

This recipe makes enough for about 4-6 servings.

Marinade chicken overnight in soy sauce, vinegar, cumin and four cloves minced garlic. This picture only shows one chicken breast, but you will want to use two.

The next day to begin cooking this dish, saute dry rice with 1/3 cup finely chopped onion and 6-8 garlic cloves, minced. This can be done on the stove with a bit of oil. Once some (not all) of the grains of rice start to turn golden, take sauteed rice mixture and cook in rice maker or on stove with 2 2/3 cups water.


While rice is cooking, slice up one large onion and bell peppers. You can use all one color, but we usually use multi-colored bell peppers because they look so pretty. 

Chop up chicken in bite-sized pieces, and cook on stove with a good portion of the marinade, bell peppers and onion. The marinade gives the mixture an amazing flavor when it all cooks together.

Slice potatoes and cook French fries in oil on the stove (if you make them from scratch) or bake French fries in the oven if you use store bought fries. We've done it both ways, and I think it tastes equally good either way. It definitely saves time and effort to use the store bought fries and that's the route I've gone the last couple times we've made pollo saltado. If you go this route, use about enough French fries to cover a baking sheet. However, making them from scratch probably makes it slightly more authentic. :)

Once meat and vegetables are tender, add 1/2 can of drained tomatoes to the mixture and heat (or 1-2 fresh tomatoes if you have them on hand).

 Serve layered with rice, French fries, and meat and veggies mixture. Sprinkle cilantro on top.

And there you have it--a signature Peruvian dish that you can make at home. It's chock full of flavor. OK, now that I have written all about it, I may just need to make it again, just to let the flavors take me back to Peru again! :)

Buen provecho!