Grain Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

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Every potlucker has a “secret weapon recipe.” That one dish they always bring that never fails to knock people’s socks off. One that becomes the most requested item for years to come. This one is mine.

This grain salad (shown here with lentils!) is one of those dishes that can be made a million different ways. Change up the grain, change up the herbs, add some veggies and you can make endless varieties of deliciousness. I’ve used israeli cous cous, quinoa and wheat berries instead of lentils. I’ve used parsley and mint instead of basil. I’ve added zucchini and summer squash, cucumbers and even tossed in some feta cheese. Change anything but the delicious mustard vinaigrette and cherry tomatoes and you’re good to go!

This is a perfect, easy dish to take to a potluck because more than likely, you’ll already have a few of the ingredients laying around. Assorted grains and red onions are things I keep stocked, and if I had a garden and not a tiny apartment, you’d better believe I’d have parsley and basil on hand. It’s also a great dish to contribute to a group meal because it’s probably not the first thing people might think to bring, so it’s unlikely you’ll have duplicates. The vinaigrette only seems to get better over time, too, so if it doesn’t get attacked at the potluck, more leftovers for you!

Summer Picnic Foods | Bird is the Word (11 of 20)

Grain Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 cup grains (lentils, israeli cous cous, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, etc.)
  • Juice of ½ lemon, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more for cooking and seasoning
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup multi-colored cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup basil, roughly chopped
  • *I often add other veggies: grilled corn, diced zucchini or cucumber are all great additions.
  1. Cook grain accordingly. Place lentils in a bowl and chill until cooled.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, vinegar, mustard and salt.
  3. Add lemon vinaigrette, onion, tomatoes and basil to grain.
  4. Season with oil, juice and salt, if desired.

Endorsed by many happy Bird is the Word clients, this one’s a winner! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series on potluck dishes and the suggestions have made your summer BBQ’s as delicious as possible. Happy Potlucking!

Summer Lovin’

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We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled love story, for an update on the gorgeous wedding I was lucky enough to cater this weekend. What. A. Day.

Take one ridiculously awesome, organized bride, mix in a crew of the best helpers around and top it off with a beautiful, idyllic setting with shade to boot. Feeding 100 people suddenly seemed like no big deal.

The day started off with my younger brother and I loading up the rented UHaul van, stopping by the bakery across the street to pick up 24 gorgeous baguettes, and using all our willpower not to tear into one immediately. We chugged along in the van up I5 and out east towards Oxbow Regional Park. After about an hours drive, me being super cautious the entire way not to jostle the five jugs of beverages in the back, we pulled into the park. As we wound around the narrow, heavily forested road leading back to the wedding venue, I misjudged the girth of the UHaul and ran over an itty bitty giant log. Everything in the van, including my brother and I, bounced about three feet in the air. The van came to a stop and both of us just looked at each other with dread.

Luckily everything was neat as can be in the back, like we’d simply run over a stick and not half of an old growth cedar. I took a deep breath, pulled back out onto the road and only panicked about being lost for five more minutes, until we finally turned off into Group Camp Spot D. What’s a wedding without a few moments of paralyzing fear?

When we pulled into the site, friends and family were already there buzzing about and setting things up. I can’t say enough about Jane, the bride. She was a stellar wedding planner. Going into the wedding day, I had an itemized schedule, diagrams of what she wanted all the tables to look like and a list of instructions for the servers. She even ordered all her own rentals. Dishes, glasses, silverware and a giant BBQ arrived just about the same time I did. It was heaven.

There was a moment early in the day when I just looked around at everyone working away, setting things up and making things beautiful and thought, “This is my job. Working my tail off, alongside people I like, to make delicious food for magical days. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

The wedding was absolutely beautiful. All the details Jane and I had talked about as we walked around the site a few months ago, turned out perfectly. The food was pretty tasty if I do say so myself, and it sure looked like everyone was having a great time. My help was absolutely stellar and I so enjoyed each of them.

But the best part was waking up Sunday morning, just feeling so blessed. Blessed for a successful event, sure. Blessed for a place to wash my mountain of dishes while I watched HGTV (Thank you Wilmots!). But mostly, blessed by the people who sacrificed their Saturdays to come and help me, who weren’t phased when I needed them to stay longer, who poured drinks and grilled meat and scraped dishes, and who endured all my direction and still gave me compliments. It’s been scary at times, this leap into self-employment, but I’m continually encouraged by the way the right people have shown up just when I’ve needed them. Whether it’s my Mom, my little brother, my friends or a stranger I met on Facebook, help has come and work, great work has been done. It blows my mind, in the very best way.

I’ve got another wedding this week for a super cool couple, so stay tuned. Lots more fun to be had! I love this life!

Oakhill Organics Greens
Newberg Bakery Baguettes with butter and Jacobsen Sea Salt
Cherry Tomato and Lentil Salad
French Potato Salad
Balsamic Braised Beet Salad with Oregon Hazelnuts
Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
Grilled Keta Salmon fresh from Pike Place Market (Jane & Mike live in Seattle!)

Summer Greens Pasta Salad

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I don’t know about you, but we have been swimming in greens this summer. Glorious bunches of kale, chard, mustard greens, bok choy and lettuce abound from our CSA box every week and I find myself wanting to tuck them in to everything I cook.

Including, and especially, dishes that end up being shared with others. Spread the gospel of greens, if you will. A lot of people love the idea of including these healthy greens in their meals, but have a hard time knowing where to start. My rule is: when in doubt, put it in pasta.

On hot summer days I have a hard time getting too excited about eating a large meal. I want fresh, light and cool. This recipe can be served hot or cold, but I find it especially delicious chilled. We brought it to our family 4th of July potluck and it was a hit. I’ve even made it a couple times since. In fact, one night last week when it was far too sweltering to consider turning on the oven, Taylor and I sat on the couch and ate this salad straight out of the serving bowl. Two forks, one bowl and pass the balsamic vinegar please. De-licious.

I (very slightly) adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman who is the master of all things “comfort food,” but gave it a bit of an Oregon spin by throwing in some rainbow chard instead of kale, and hazelnuts instead of pine nuts. She also said the balsamic vinegar was optional, but I’m telling you it’s crucial. The more the merrier. I’m sure this would be equally as lovely with a different type of pasta, a variety of nuts and another kind of greens. You could even add some grilled chicken. Mix it up! But most importantly, enjoy!

Summer Picnic Foods | Bird is the Word (7 of 20)

Summer Greens Pasta Salad
  • 1 pound Bowtie Pasta (farfalle)
  • 3 Tablespoons Hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper, More To Taste
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 bunch Swiss (or Rainbow) Chard, Finely Sliced
  • ¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and add to a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Spread hazelnuts on a sheet tray and toast in the oven 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Cool and chop.
  4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and garlic over low heat so that the garlic slowly infuses the oil. When the oil starts to cause the garlic to sizzle, stir around so the garlic doesn't get too brown. When garlic starts to turn golden, add salt, pepper and chili flake, stir, and set aside for 5 minutes.
  5. After 5 minutes, pour the oil mixture (scraping the salt, pepper, chili flakes and garlic) all over the bowtie pasta. Toss to combine and set aside.
  6. Add chard and hazelnuts to the pasta and toss it all together. Check to make sure it's no longer warm, then add Parmesan shavings and toss. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

The third potluck dish makes it’s appearance next week and it’s one of my favorite go-to’s for catering. Stay tuned!

Bad Boys

This post is a part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, start here: Our Story: Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV.

I wish I could tell you that my stalking devotion to Taylor was undying and that I didn’t look at another guy from the day I laid eyes on him. But that’s not entirely true, and I don’t think I could bear being a stalker and a liar.

So here’s the truth.

Between the time I barged into Taylor’s room, demanding he know me, and the time anything really started to happen between us, there were a few, ahem, distractions.

First it was the boy who lived in the room next to Taylor’s. He was in my math class and I realized that if I worked on my homework with him, in his room, I’d be putting myself in a certain fella’s path even more often. Couldn’t hurt, right?

Couldn’t hurt anyone except for the poor boy who I accidentally gave the impression that I was interested. Apparently if you linger in someone’s room long enough, they tend to get the wrong idea.

It wasn’t my fault, really. When you go through an awkward stage that spans the majority of your adolescence, it only seems fair that you get to break a few hearts.

I mean first there was the mullet situation, which took most of third grade to remedy. Bang grow-out is rough business. Then came braces round one and the age when everyone else hit their growth spurts, except for me. Next up were the glasses and an incurable obsession with “wind pants,” neither of which did my wardrobe any favors. As if middle school isn’t already unfortunate enough, braces round two showed up right around then, as did that growth spurt I’d been waiting for, rendering all my pants a few inches too short.

I’ve always been rather self aware and didn’t spend too much time dwelling on my awkwardness, instead choosing to cling to the idea that this stage would pass and I would emerge a decent looking human with a killer personality. We talked a lot about character development in those days.

So when I got to high school, slightly taller but still scrawny and teeth covered in metal, boys were not even a consideration. I didn’t pay them any mind, and I was sure they would return the favor. But much to my surprise, when prom rolled around my freshman year, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I’d been asked by a JUNIOR boy, but wasn’t allowed to date. Instead of being straightforward and sharing this information with him from the beginning, I acted like a typical 14-year-old girl and accepted his invitation, stringing him along for a week, knowing full well how it would end. But he liked me. And I liked being liked.

And so the vicious cycle began.

I wish I could tell you that I didn’t enjoy leading boys on. That I felt terrible every time I did it. That I realized the error of my ways and apologized. But most of the time, I didn’t. I was immature and insecure and I soaked up all the attention until it got a little too real and I bolted. It only got worse once the braces were off and I graduated from training bras.

I went to a Sadie Hawkins dance with one boy, a boy that I’d asked, only to spend the whole night dancing with another. I spent sports bus rides cuddling with guys I had no real interest in and then completely ignoring them the next day. I used my best friend from 5th grade to get to one of his friends and then lied to him about it. At the time it seemed innocent enough. I told myself, “guys are jerks, they deserve to have their hearts broken for a change.” But I was cruel and selfish and well on my way to becoming kind of a rotten jerk myself.

Though my life had changed when I met Taylor, I clearly still had a few bad habits to deal with before anything could happen between us.

To make a long story short, in the time between the start of school and New Year’s Eve, I was stalking Taylor, had strung along the Math boy, continued talking to my high school boyfriend, started something with one of my friends’ exes back home and kept in touch with a “friend” who had also gone to school in the area. What a mess.

I was starting things I couldn’t finish and it was less and less simple to just walk away. I didn’t like the things people were starting to say about me and the situations I was getting myself into, but I still wasn’t quite ready to own my mistakes and grow up.

Right before Christmas break, I somehow ended up alone in a common room with Taylor, watching The Fisher King, undoubtedly the result of the increasingly frequent AOL instant messenger chats we’d been having. God bless AIM.

I was over the moon, but he kept his distance.

Which of course, didn’t stop me from noticing how wonderful he smelled fresh out of the shower. Or how handsome he looked in a pair of black basketball shorts and a clean white undershirt. Or how cute it was that he wore his white athletic socks pulled all the way up. And it didn’t stop me from swooning as he talked all about why he liked the film and what he got out of it.

What the heck was I doing messing around with all these boys when I could have a guy like that in my life? I left that common room resolved to get my act together and come back from Christmas break a changed woman. But there were a few more hard lessons to be learned.

My time at home was a disaster to say the least. I remember sitting, wedged in a cold leather bus seat next to Jaime on our first road trip after the break, wondering aloud how I could have done so much damage in such a short amount of time.

In the course of a couple days at home I’d managed to have a nasty, humiliating argument with my former high school flame after finding out he was no longer interested, and end up in the arms of a friend’s serious ex-boyfriend. A guy that I’d been friends with, sure, but had no intention of pursuing in any way. I wasn’t really even sure what had happened.

Jaime had had a similarly strange experience at home with a former love, so we traded sob stories and told each other that we were done with boys. I’m sure we meant it at the time, but by February I had gotten myself into yet another mess.

For whatever reason, probably because she’s a really good friend, Jaime was in full support of my plan to seduce Taylor. She listened to all my crazy tales of campus run ins, kept me updated on sightings she’d had, scouted any potential competition and interpreted many an AIM response over my shoulder. She also spent a great deal of time sitting with me in the dorm lobby so I could be seen if he happened to walk by.

And it was sitting in this very dorm lobby that got me into trouble. I should have been tucked away in my own room, minding my own business and not associating with random guys that started to appear with greater frequency, asking all kinds of questions and bringing all kinds of flattery.

Taylor had hardly said two words to me since our Fisher King date, and being that I always get kind of bummed out the first couple months of the year, I convinced myself he was a lost cause. I threw my New Year’s resolutions into the wind and reveled in the flattery of this new fellow.

Flattery, which turned into hand holding, deep conversations and late night meet ups in the cold, concrete stairwell. Long emails, hours of movie watching and spending time tangled up on the couch. We really had nothing in common. He was looking for a serious relationship and I was looking for a warm body to tell me I was pretty and keep my mind off the fact that I was completely lost. He became my hardest and final lesson in toying with other people’s emotions.

I’d allowed the relationship to progress much further than I normally would have. I told myself it was because I was turning over a new leaf and giving love a chance, but it was really because I was too lazy to end it.

I’d hardly seen Taylor since we’d come back from break, but as we piled out of our respective vans on a basketball trip to Tacoma in late February, we found ourselves face to face. I was sure he’d heard by now that I was dating someone and the thought made me sick to my stomach. I looked down at myself and over at him, dressed almost exactly alike, head to toe in gray sweat suits that read, “Bruins,” across the front. He said, “hey,” unenthusiastically, readjusted his backpack and turned away. My heart ached.

I sat in the stands during the guys’ games that weekend and watched him on the end of the bench. I watched him cheer for his teammates, smile and hug them as they scored, high five and encourage them as they came out of the game. I watched him run and jump and shoot, and thought about the fact that even though I was supposed to be seeing someone else, I’d spent the entire season watching him. I still thought about him all the time. It was still the highlight of my day when he said, “hi,” to me as I passed. I was still just as sure he was the guy for me. What was I doing!?

All the noise of the gym faded away and I realized it was time to own my past, confront my mistakes and start working on being the kind of girl I needed to be to land a guy like him.

To be continued…

Sparkling Berry Lemonade

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This summer has been a whirlwind. Between coming down with mono and tonsillitis, spending a month recovering and then jumping right into wedding season, I’ve hardly had a chance to think too terribly much about which dishes are inspiring me for summer. All of a sudden it was 4th of July and I was trying to figure out what the heck to make for our family potluck. Thinking you all might have found yourselves in the same unfortunate position, I decided it was high time I get my butt in gear and post three of my favorite recipes from the summer so far.

The key has been keeping things simple as I haven’t had a ton of time or extra energy to spend on complicated plates. The first of my three favorites is this delicious, made-from-scratch, strawberry lemonade. The perfect cure to this nutty heat wave we’ve been having.

Strawberry season has come and gone here in Oregon and we are well into the other berries, but if you’re like me and stashed a large amount of the sweet reds in your freezer, you’ll be good to go for this gorgeous beverage. I actually made this for one of the weddings I catered a few weeks ago but not much of it was consumed, so I took it to the leftovers party we had a few days after. It was a hit! Here’s the recipe, and in case you didn’t stock up on strawberries, I’m guessing one or all of the late summer berries would produce equally delightful results.

Summer Picnic Foods | Bird is the Word (1 of 20)

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 2 cups cold sparkling water or club soda
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon peel and lemon juice, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then strain into a clean pitcher.
  2. In a food processor, puree* the pint of strawberries and add to the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until well chilled.
  3. Add the sparkling water and stir well.
  4. *If you aren't into "pulpy" lemonade, you can strain out the strawberry chunks.

Stay tuned for two more summer potluck recipes coming next week!

Knocking & Introductions

This post is a part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, start here: Our Story: Part I. Part II. Part III.

If you’ve been following along so far, you’re probably thinking that I’m a total creep. What kind of person decides they’re just going to up and marry some guy they don’t even know?

I’m not going to try too hard to defend myself, because I really was a total creep. But I have to say there was some, basic, primal part of me that just knew there was something special about this guy. I can’t really explain it. It was instinctual. And though I feel a little embarrassed now about the way I acted, I’ve never doubted myself for a second.

And if you do happen to think I’m a total creep, well, what you’ve read so far is really just the tip of the ice berg.

The first time I actually met Taylor, that both of us remember at least, was a few days into the first week of school. Enough time for me to pass him on the way to and from classes, run into him in the gym and accidentally end up behind him in the bookstore. We were clearly going to be crossing paths a lot, and I decided he needed to know who I was so he didn’t go getting ideas about other girls. I was just so curious about what he was actually like. What his voice sounded like. What it might feel like to look into his eyes. What it might be like to reach out and shake his hand.

Curiosity got the best of me, and in a fit of pure determination, I verrrrrry uncharacteristically decided I would have to introduce myself. Not just “happened to be in a natural social setting where it was only polite to introduce myself,” oh no. I thought about waiting for that to happen, but decided this was a matter of urgency. I needed to know him. And NOW.

So, one night before the floor hours kicked in I marched down my hall, through the door to the stairwell, down two flights of stairs, through the door to the girl’s side of the dorm, across the common room that connected the two sides of the building, and through the door to the boy’s side until I came to a stop in front of that fateful door. Which of course was closed, so I had to knock.

If there is anything I hate more than introducing myself, it’s knocking on doors. I’m the kind who always makes whoever I’m with knock instead of me. I hate the feeling that I’m disrupting whoever’s door I’m knocking on. Invading their life with my rapping. As I stood in front of that door, the door to my future, every nerve I had mustered to get there disappeared. “What was I thinking?” I didn’t do this crap. I’d never introduced myself to a boy in my life. He was going to think I was a freak. I turned to leave, my hand still raised in a fist made for knocking.

And then from somewhere in my gut came this instinct, and with it, a picture of his face in my mind. That jawline. Those dark eyes. The way he looked running down the basketball floor. Those Reebok pumps and the way his lower back muscles disappeared perfectly into those white basketball shorts. He was perfect and I had to know him.

This had to be done. So I clenched my fist a little harder and rapped on the door three times.

It seemed like 5 years before the door pulled open and that face appeared.

When I asked Taylor this week what he remembers about the first time we met, he said he was a bit surprised when this strange girl just barged into his room, asking a bunch of questions. Being the laid back fellow that he is though, he said he kind of just thought, “Huh, this must be how college works.”

I was thinking he was my destiny. He didn’t even remember my name.

That first conversation is mostly a fuzzy memory, filled in with things we both remember and things we assume we talked about.

I think I remember talking about basketball and high school and where we came from. Hearing that he had an ex-girlfriend, but was currently single. I do remember he was wearing an bright orange shooting shirt from the 1970’s that proudly read, “Silverton,” across the front, like so many of the other clothes I’d seen him wear. And I clearly remember hearing about this mythical Silverton for the first time.

He reminded me that I sat nervously on his roommate’s bed, while he leaned back in his desk chair, looking adorable and seeming totally relaxed. I couldn’t tell you what I wore.

I’m sure I saw his by-now-trademarked Reebok pumps sitting in the corner and a giant Psychology book in his lap. I’m sure we talked about majors, which classes we were in and the experiences we’d had so far at college. I imagine we joked about the cafeteria food and how many times we’d gotten lost trying to find a classroom.

I don’t remember a lot. But, I do remember thinking that somehow, despite the fact that I’d already decided he was the greatest thing since sliced bread, he was even better. I knew he was tall, gorgeous and athletic; I’d already spent plenty of time getting to know him from a distance. But I have to admit that I was a little surprised to also find him kind, genuine and funny. Seemingly secure in himself, without a trace of arrogance, despite his obvious good looks. Relaxed, witty and intelligent. And interesting. I loved the sound of his voice and I loved the way it felt to just sit and talk to him.

I’m sure I went back to my room and freaked out. I’m sure I told my friends (and my Mom) that I’d finally, actually met the man of my dreams, instead of just staring at him from afar. I’m pretty sure I told my entire basketball team that I was “officially” in love with the short-haired twin on the guy’s team and they were to keep their hands and eyes off.

I was exhilarated. But I also remember feeling a little bit terrified. Was it possible that I had met the man of my dreams the first week of college? What did that mean? What was I supposed to do with that? What if I wasn’t ready!? What happens next? What if he doesn’t like me back? Where do I go from here?

It was just the beginning. There would be a lot of ups and downs in that first semester of college. Outside of stalking Taylor, life was completely overwhelming. Convinced by my favorite TV show- Ally McBeal- that I was destined to be a lawyer, I had signed up for classes as a political science major. A few short weeks into my Intro to Poli Sci class, I was already completely in over my head and seriously doubting the career path I’d so confidently selected.

The first couple weeks of basketball were spent getting in shape and getting to know the other girls. Most of whom, I discovered, were state-wide all-stars at high schools four times the size of mine. They knew every trick I’d ever used to get the ball in the basket and I was getting my butt kicked on a daily basis. Pushed and blocked and humbled in every way. We all got along pretty well, but everyday I got a pit in my stomach around 3 p.m., knowing it was almost time to head to the gym.

I skipped lunch a lot those first few weeks. I had a different schedule than the few friends I’d made so far and standing in the doorway of the cafeteria with a tray full of food, scanning a sea of unfamiliar faces, was my worst nightmare. I was too nervous to eat anyway.

I constantly felt uncomfortable, insecure, out of sorts, confused and I’m pretty sure my veins pumped a mixture of 50% blood and 50% pure anxiety. I’d never loved change, but this was on a whole other level. I’d moved 483 miles away from everything I’d ever known and there was nobody I could count on but me.

I think that’s really why some of the brightest spots in those difficult first months were the small interactions with the boy I loved. Smiles exchanged in the quad. When he unexpectedly sat near me in chapels. An occasional “hello,” as we filled our water bottles in the gym.

When he randomly asked me to give him a haircut a few weeks into school, not knowing that I’d never done it before, I nearly exploded with joy. Spending an uninterrupted hour with his gorgeous head in my hands and his undivided attention all mine, was almost more than I could take.

Though I’d learn later that he’d gone home to have his mom fix my rookie haircut, and when she asked who’d done it, couldn’t remember my name, it’s still one of my favorite early memories. Seeing him was always the highlight of my day. And when everything else was up in the air, he was the one thing I felt sure about.

To be continued…

Silver Linings

I want to cultivate a grateful heart. A positive outlook. I want to be a person who looks around and sees the silver linings on a regular basis. So, here’s a few from my life lately…

The farm and bags upon bags of fresh blueberries the size of my eyeballs.

The best meal I’ve had in a long time and going out even when we didn’t feel like it.

Homemade pizza made from our CSA bounty.

A 4th of July on the farm filled with fun, family and FOOD.

Keeping things simple and how sometimes that’s the most beautiful.

An extra handsome carrot grater.

Teeny, tiny air plants from this rad chick to top a teeny, tiny wedding cake.

Self-employment and the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time.

The reminder that things take time because GROWTH is happening.

Gratefulness is a gamechanger. What kind of silver linings are you finding in your life lately?

First Day

This post is a part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, start here: Our Story: Part I. Part II.

Post III
Jaime and I in the early days.

I don’t remember a ton from my first day of college. It started out like most days: get up, get dressed, go to school.

I remember pulling on my favorite pair of jeans and meticulously braiding my long red hair. Grabbing a bright, white American Eagle polo shirt out of my tiny dorm armoire and slipping my feet into a matching pair of flip flops. I remember painstakingly applying mascara and looking at myself in the mirror of the community bathroom, thinking, “I’m in college. This is what I look like in college. Weird.”

I remember feeling the coolness of the morning on my skin as I walked to my first class. Checking, double checking and rechecking my schedule, and squinting at the map I needed to navigate campus. I’d had many a dream about walking into the wrong classroom. That was not going to happen in real life.

I remember walking into my first classroom (the right one!) and scanning through a sea of strange faces, looking for a familiar one, finally realizing with a sinking feeling in my stomach that there would be none. I remember sitting through a long, intimidating overview of the syllabus and then stumbling out into the hot sun, realizing the jeans were a mistake. It was August. What was I thinking? Feeling conspicuous as I walked across the quad, simultaneously over and under-dressed and uncomfortable in my own skin, I turned towards my dorm, determined to find a more suitable outfit.

But more than any of these small, strange, slightly unpleasant details, I remember hiking back up the 55,657 steps to my dorm, deep in thought and starting at my feet. Sliding my key card and heaving open the first set of doors in the two-door entry with extra attitude. Reaching forward to grab the second set, only to find it was already opened from the other side by someone wearing a pair of red and black Reebok pumps.

“Those are sweet!” I thought to myself, as I panned up the pair of long, denim clad legs to see who was rocking this classic footwear choice. And look! Someone else had worn jeans. I felt better already. My eyes landed on his face, and I’m entirely confident my already flushed cheeks turned 50 deeper shades of red.

It was HIM. My unknowing future husband. Coming out of MY dorm, wearing his red backpack and swinging his keys, headed out to his first day of classes. This could only mean one thing. HE LIVED IN MY BUILDING.

He smiled, muttered, “hi” and danced around me to make his way out since I had completely stopped in my tracks at that point, blocking the entire exit. I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t excuse myself, or return the hello; I just stared. I didn’t even smile back at him, all I could think was, “HE LIVES IN MY BUILDING.” He must have thought I was nuts.

I don’t recall how I made it back up to my floor, but immediately upon arrival I burst into Jaime’s room and said just three words, “HE LIVES HERE.”

After moving in the Thursday before school started, Jaime and I had spent the ridiculously long and torturous orientation weekend mostly camped out in her room telling each other our life stories. Before our college career had even begun, I knew more about her life than some of the kids I had gone to school with since third grade. We were true kindred spirits, and I quickly shared with her my four-year plan to seduce and marry the handsome fellow I’d spotted at Genesis.

When I burst in her door with my proclamation she knew exactly who “He” was and what that meant. “NO WAY,” she said, a mischievous smile creeping across her face.

Once the shock of realizing he lived in my dorm wore off, the humiliation of just standing there in his way, unable to speak, set in. I’d never acted like this around a boy before. “Get it together, woman,” I thought. Jaime assured me it probably wasn’t as bad as I thought- she’s nice- and I vowed the next time I saw him I would play it cool. We were due to head to the gym for our first basketball meeting anyway, so there was no time to dwell on my humiliation. We changed our clothes, grabbed our bags and went on our way.

I had come to George Fox to play college basketball. My new coach had sent me a giant, rather intimidating booklet of workouts to do over the summer, and promised that the team would gather the first week to all get to know each other and start playing “open gym” three days a week. As Jaime and I walked through the gym doors and onto the large, bright court that would be our home for the next four years, the uncomfortable feelings I’d had earlier in the day, suddenly paled in comparison. I would be spending most of my time with these 14 girls, what if they didn’t like me?

I hardly remember a thing from our first open gym other than trying to make sure I didn’t look like an idiot, hoping I actually remembered how to play basketball and feeling nervous about how well my lungs were going to function. I never stopped to think that there might also be a men’s basketball team at my school. A men’s team that played open gym on our court, directly after we did.

I couldn’t tell you how I played. I don’t remember what my coach said to us, who I met first, liked or didn’t like. I don’t remember if I made a single shot, or how in shape I felt. All I remember was turning around one trip down the court and seeing our baseline start to fill up with the tallest, thickest, toughest looking boys I’d ever seen. They were filing through the doors, filling up water bottles and finding places on the floor to sit and lace up their shoes. There seemed to be fifty of them and they were all huge.

Before I had a chance to even focus in on a single one, that pair of Reebok pumps walked right through the door.

I should have known.

I already suspected he was perfect, but this. This was too much.

If I hadn’t already fallen head over heels, this would have been the nail in my coffin. He was dressed in a pair of white Air Jordan basketball shorts, a black reversible jersey that said “Silverton,” across the chest and in his toned, gorgeous arms, carried a pair of black high school team shoes. I stared at him in pure disbelief.

Luckily he missed my gawking and weaved his way back behind some of his teammates to lace up, blocking his perfect, basketball playing face from my line of sight. My trance was broken, we finished up our game and I don’t recall doing anything entirely too stupid, thankfully. We traded places with the guys team to disassemble our shoes, ankle braces and such, and the older girls told us we would be heading out to the track to do some cross training.

I breathlessly weaved my way through the crowd and plopped down on the floor to change my shoes, sweaty and still in a bit of a fog. Of course, as soon as I sat down, he came from out of nowhere and stopped directly in front of me. He pulled off his jersey to switch it to the other side, exposing strong wide shoulders that led down to a perfectly toned, lower back, tan and muscular. His skin glowed next to his white shorts and I was pretty sure he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. He twisted around exposing a six pack of ab muscles as he pulled his shapely arms back through the holes of his #15 jersey. Once successfully reversed, he took off wildly down to the other end of the court to shoot around, bouncing a ball in front of him and laughing all the way.

It took a minute for thoughts to form, but once they did all I could think was “oh boy,” looking around to see if anyone else had just witnessed what I had. Trying to rearrange my face from the mouth-wide-open expression I was sure I’d worn for the last few minutes. Luckily no one seemed to have noticed.

“That’s it,” I thought. He was it.

Everything I’d ever wanted, running around in one tall, tan, gorgeous, 18-year-old body. I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how, but I knew I had to be a part of his life, no matter what humiliating things I had to do to get there. And the list would be long.

It was time to meet him, for real.

To be continued…

Silver Linings

I want to cultivate a grateful heart. A positive outlook. I want to be a person who looks around and sees the silver linings on a regular basis. So, here’s a few from my life lately…

New Books!New books to ease my mind + body back into real life.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMono naps with the handsomest guy in the land.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetA brand new (nicer!) fly rod and reel from Orvis to replace my broken one.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetDisinfecting for days, which satisfies my inner Monica Gellar.

IMG_5624A teensy apartment that doesn’t take much time (or energy) to clean, top to bottom.

IMG_5625Preparation for my first wedding, one week from today!

Gratefulness is a gamechanger. What kind of silver linings are you finding in your life lately?

Going to Work

I wasn’t entirely sure where to zoom back in on our story, as I wrote the first piece a while ago. But you guys seemed interested and I’ve always thought about writing down our little tale, so maybe we keep doing this thing? It’s a little embarrassing at times to put all the smushy details out there for the world to see, but I love our story and if nothing else, it will be fun for me to try and put into words. Here goes!

This post is a part of an ongoing series about how we met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, start here: Our Story: Part I.

It wasn’t like I didn’t think about him. That dark-haired, broad shouldered Oregonian with legs for days and the jawline that just wouldn’t quit.

I thought about him a lot. I definitely did.

Post II
Drop off day at George Fox, 2004.

But I had also just graduated from high school, and by the time I got back from my fateful Genesis trip, marriage was the last thing on my mind. I was free from the oppressive social hierarchy of high school, had a few summer flings in the works and planned to spend most of my free time laying out on the dock at our family lake cabin. Priorities.

That summer is kind of a blur. I dated a boy from another school that wasn’t like any of the guys I’d ever known. He was tall and athletic and smelled like sunscreen. He invited me to play broom hockey, and took me to jump off bridges and sang me “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” while playing the acoustic guitar. Swoon. He was the first boy who kissed me like he meant it. He was exciting and sure of himself, and told me he was crazy about me. He lasted until the 4th of July.

Conveniently, around that time, I somehow rekindled an old flame with the boy who was my first “real” boyfriend. We’d remained pretty decent friends and while talking on the phone one night while I was at our cabin, he decided to drop everything and drive up to spend the weekend with my family and me. We had a full house that weekend, so we each slept on one of the living room couches. He told me that he thought I might be the only girl he’d ever really loved, and so I kissed him.

We spent the rest of the summer staying up way too late, watching movies with my little brothers and holding hands as much as physically possible. We went to parks at night and laid out on the cool grass in the summer heat, talking about nothing and everything. We talked about me going off to college and his senior year of high school, about what we wanted to be and who we were. We talked about everything but what would happen to us come September. I thought it was just about the most romantic summer a girl could ask for.

The night before I left for college, he took me out on my first “real” date. He rang the doorbell, I wore black and we went out to a restaurant that didn’t have a drive through. We sat in his car in my driveway for hours when we got back, savoring every last minute of that summertime romance, both knowing that the clock was running out. He told me he loved me, that he’d always love me and after a few salty kisses, I got out of the car. As I shut his car door behind me, heart in my throat, it felt as if I’d just closed the book on life as I knew it.

The next morning, with a car full of family members and all my worldly belongings, whether I liked it or not, it was time to start a new book.

I was so ready to get out of there. Tired of my hometown, bored with my routine and experiences, fed up with feeling like a kid. At least I thought I was. But as we traveled the distance between my old home and new, my confidence began to waver. Everything was about to change. I could be anyone I wanted. Be in charge of my own decisions. Make my own rules. But what did that mean? Who was I really? What did I want? I didn’t know! I was just a kid! I can’t make decisions! TURN AROUND!! As we pulled into the parking lot of my new dorm the next morning, my stomach filled with butterflies and whatever shred of confidence I’d had about the whole thing, blew swiftly away in the breeze.

As my entire family hauled bedding, books, school supplies and snacks up and down the dorm stairwell, I kept passing them and thinking, “when is the next time I’ll pass them on the stairs?” They’d driven me crazy for years, taking up bathroom space, nagging me about this or that, stealing my things and for some reason, being offended when I “borrowed” theirs. I couldn’t wait to get out. But as I watched them haul up my stuff from the last home I’d ever share with them, I was suddenly terrified of not seeing their faces every day.

But, I’m an oldest child, and it’s always been important for me to put up strong front for everyone else, so I kept my cool and focused on setting up the teeny tiny space that was now my home.

Luckily, Jaime was living in the room right next to mine. That made me feel loads better about the situation. She was just as nervous as me, and seemed just as grateful to be near someone she knew. We had a visit from a few of our older teammates and our coach and I started to believe everything was going to work.

It wasn’t until the next morning, at the school-wide chapel service, that I knew it was going to work.

My family shuffled into the auditorium and found a row near the back. I wasn’t paying too much attention to my surroundings, feeling more and more nervous as the time to say goodbye drew near, but as soon as we stood up to sing and I focused on where I was, I found myself absolutely dumfounded.

Right as we had sat down, a row of what seemed like Goliath’s distant relatives shuffled into the chairs in front of my family. I didn’t look too closely until we were called to stand, and my eyes began to drift down the line, starting with the towering Mom and Dad. The Dad was very tall, about 6’7” I guessed; tan and handsome. His wife was also very tall, but more fair skinned and so classically beautiful. Next to her, neatly lined up in height order, were four strapping young brothers. Blonde, skinny, curly and…guess who my eyes settled on at the end of the row? It was my Greek god! The gorgeous boy I’d spotted on campus in June. Looking taller and tanner and dreamier than ever and sitting right in front of me. Destiny!

I watched him for a few minutes as time seemed to stand still. There were probably 800 people singing in unison at that point, but I heard nothing. All I could see was this strong, muscular boy with his eyes shut tight and his hands raised straight up in the air. His whole family looked the same; eyes closed, singing their hearts out. I was stunned. Moving past the simple admiration of his gorgeous jawline, I settled on his face, and realized all at once, he was a person. This whole, new, beautiful person, and I wanted to know him.

I finally turned towards my Mom who smirked at me and widened her eyes in his direction. “Right!?” I mouthed.

This was so going to work.

To be continued…