Thursday
Apr242014

High Five

With our five-year wedding anniversary peeking around the corner, I thought it would be fun to take a quick stroll down memory lane today!

Our engagement video (created by my lovely and tremendously talented sister-in-law, Nina) is a gift that I love revisiting time and again. Not only does it capture the joy and hope surrounding the anticipation of our marriage, it is also a testimony of how far we have all come in these past few years.

Chris and I are extremely blessed to have friends and family who constantly encourage us to grow happier, healthier, and closer together than ever before. We are so thankful for you guys, and we are looking forward to sharing many more wonderful memories with you.

Thursday
Feb202014

Just My Cup of Tea

Chris and I have been drinking lots and lots of tea throughout this snowy winter. We’ve done quite a bit of exploring lately and have been learning about the flavors, effects, and benefits unique to each plant. It has become a nightly ritual to share a pot before bed, usually over an episode or two of House of Cards. There is nothing more comforting than snuggling up with a warm cup of tea on a chilly evening!

When it came time to brainstorm my annual Valentine's dessert, I knew I wanted to incorporate our newfound penchant for tea into a delicious treat. I decided to take a classic panna cotta and infuse it with the delicate flavor of Earl Grey tea. Topped with a blackberry compote, each spoonful was a silky bite of rich, creamy goodness mixed with a juicy pop of sweetness. I am kind of hooked, and will be making more this weekend.

If you'd like to try this simple and delicious treat, you will need:

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup tea of your choice
1 packet of unflavored gelatin
(For compote)
1 pint organic blackberries
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 half lemon

I chose basic Earl Grey tea because its deep flavor pairs well with milkiness of the dessert. You can really go to town experimenting with different teas. I cannot wait to try this recipe with chai, matcha, and floral blends.

If you are using loose tea leaves, you can steep the leaves directly in the cream mixture, and drain with a sieve. I opted to use cotton sachets, which are much easier for cleanup. Note - It may be necessary to tweak the amount of tea and steeping time, based on the type of tea you are working with and boldness of flavor you desire.

Combine the milk, cream, and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture starts steaming - do not allow to come to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk gelatin into the mixture until dissolved. Add tea and steep for 3-5 minutes.

Remove and discard tea leaves, and ladle the flavored cream into individual bowls or ramekins. Teacups also make the perfect serving vessels! Cover with saran wrap before refrigerating to avoid developing yucky gelatin skin. Chill overnight before enjoying.

Blackberry compote is super easy to make, and it lends a tart sweetness to compliment the smokiness of Earl Grey tea. I strongly advise using organic blackberries because berries are considered "dirty" produce. Simply simmer 3 tbsp water, berries, sugar, and a squirt of lemon juice over low heat until the mixture reduces to a syrupy consistency and the berries become soft and juicy. Allow to cool, and drizzle (or, in my case, pour) over your dessert before serving.

Indulge with good company, or over a wonderful book! And hang in there - Spring is right around the corner :)

Wednesday
Jan012014

Happy New You.

Chris and I do this thing annually where we go out to a nice dinner and evaluate our past year. Sort of a year-end debrief, if you will. As we we sat there reflecting last night, I started to realize what an abundant year 2013 had been. It was packed with rewarding challenges and personal growth, and it was so much fun.

We've made new plans and set bigger goals for 2014, and I am very eager to see everything this year will bring. I'll keep a few to myself for now, but here are some goals I’d like to share with you:

Go outside. Sign out. Log off. Go for a hike. After all, we do have a 500-acre forest in our backyard. I really do not have any excuses to not take my shiny new bike for a spin. I need to make more time to step out and find some peace with nature.

Church.  Several evolving circumstances have led Chris and me to prayerfully consider and reevaluate where we need to be. While we love our home church, it is good and very important to be intentional about where we worship and serve. I do not want to grow complacent or live with one foot out the door. Wherever we end up, I want to be able to commit fully, continue investing in and building our community, and keep growing.

Get healthy. Remember that sinus infection I mentioned back in February? I still have it. It has taken a huge toll on my body, causing me to feel run down all the time. After battling this thing for almost a year, a recent CT scan revealed the root of my problem - a deviated septum. As much as I hate being sick, I must admit I’ve been putting off the corrective procedure. I've been using my insanely busy schedule as an excuse (totally legitimate), but the truth is... I’m scared. I just need to suck it up and get it done and over with. Plus, the constant sniffling is not cute.

Along the lines of healthier living, I want to cook and eat more healthy foods. I also need to spend a little less time stressing myself out, and a lot more time on my yoga mat. Oh yea, and I should probably give my wine opener a break once in a while. There, I've said it.

Travel. Our 5-year wedding anniversary is coming up this April, and I would love to plan an awesome getaway with my man. I also want to go on at least one group trip with my closest friends. With so much going on in our busy lives, it’s getting harder and harder to travel together, but that’s what makes it special. Let’s make it happen and check a few places off our lists this year!

Save more. With buying, renovating, and furnishing our new home, this past year has been hands down the most expensive year of my life. While Chris and I firmly believe in living within our means, I'd like to challenge myself to set aside a little more this year. I really do have everything I need, so it's time to save up for bigger things and dreams. Plus, it feels pretty darn good to stack that ca$h.

Read more. As much as I enjoy reading all the latest and greatest NYT bestsellers, nothing compares to the richness and inspiration found in classic literature. I've recently downloaded a bunch of novels on my Kindle, and cannot wait to dig in. First up – Great Expectations.

Write more. I am so thankful for this blog, which allows me to exercise my love for writing and share my thoughts and passions. Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement – your kind words have meant the world to me throughout this past year. You guys humble and inspire me to continue doing what I love.

Keep going. I've found that the more I achieve and overcome, the harder I am on myself to accomplish and reach for more. With broader horizons, more things appear on my radar. New doors have been opening up for me, and it’s time to be brave. I will continue to invest all of my best, stay positive, and most importantly, believe in myself.

Happy new dreams, happy new desires.
Happy new days, happy new ways.
Happy new year.
Happy new you.
Cheers!