Food and Cooking, Photography

Foto Friday No. 4

Foto Friday is on Saturday again… but these photos were only possible by result of a late-Friday-night trip to the grocery store and a leisurely Saturday morning of cooking and prepping an make-shift photo studio.

Apparently April is national grilled cheese month (who knew??), and I’ve been wanting to get in on the grilled cheese fun all month. I came across some beautiful photos on Pinterest leading me to this recipe for roasted strawberry, chocolate, and Brie grilled cheese sandwiches. Um, yes!!

Unfortunately, this went as most Pinterest posts go, meaning the sandwiches were pretty disappointing in their outcome. I don’t know if it’s warm strawberries, or too dark of chocolate (I did use Lindt’s “supreme dark” bar), but something about this combination was a little off putting. However, it was incredibly fun to shoot, and I feel like I’m already seeing improvement in my photos.

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese

chocolate brie strawberry grilled cheese


Food and Cooking, Photography

Foto Friday No. 3

Well… maybe “Foto Friday” needs to be moved to Saturdays. But I’m embracing the imperfections and frustrations of the daily grind, so for now I don’t mind the misnomer.

Today’s pictures are of the vegan banana muffins I made for a spontaneous brunch I hosted this morning. From the inception of the idea of a brunch to sipping on coffee and mimosas this morning was less than 24 hours. And it was such a needed and fulfilling time!

Vegan Banana Muffins

Finding community where I’m currently living has been trying at times, partly due to this being the first place I’ve moved post-college (where community was practically built into the experience). There are also plenty of other reasons I’ve come up with for why it’s been difficult. Well, plenty of other reasons I blame. But I made a commitment not to leave this place before I come to terms with the things that make me dissatisfied with my life here. I don’t want to constantly move on from one experience to another, seeking greener pastures and always being disappointed when my too-perfect expectations are not met.


Hospitality is a virtue I value and enjoy, and I’ve thankfully had many opportunities to practice it over the past few years. I love preparing food for others, creating a space within my home that will bring people together, and expressing my care and value of others by taking the time to cook for them. I’ve had neighbors and individual friends over for meals quite a bit, but have yet to host a dinner party. However, over the past few months I’ve been inspired to continue to branch out in developing my gift of hospitality, most recently by Shauna Neiquest‘s book Bread and Wine (her writing is absolutely an experience–I feel like I’m devouring every word and physically brought into each moment as I read. I highly recommend her!) and also one of my favorite food blogs, The Yellow Table. From the first time I found this blog and discovered Anna, the blogger, has many similar ideas about the power of food and the table, I have faithfully read every single post. I also highly recommend her blog–it is inspiring beyond just for recipes! And finally, through The Yellow Table, I heard about a project called If:Table, which is based off the idea from Acts 2:46 where it talks about the early church breaking bread together daily. The project encourages groups of 6 women to gather for 2 hours once a month for dinner and conversation over 4 questions (which are provided for you).


These women’s amazing writings about the power of food and the table to create community have further fanned into flame my desire to have my home be a place where I welcome in friend and neighbor to feed body, mind, and soul. So, while showering yesterday morning, I decided to stop bemoaning about all the various reasons why community is so hard here, and do something about it! It felt surprisingly vulnerable to send out an invite, but for the chance to spend the morning lingering over a meal together having great conversation–totally worth it. Relationships and community require perseverance and effort and vulnerability. It’s been taking me quite a while to really learn that, but I’m coming around…with a little help from my friends.


And finally, speaking of vulnerability and perseverance, photography is not something in which I feel skilled or talented. And after a couple scarring photography classes in college, where I was completely mortified to show my photos on critique days, I still don’t like putting my photos out there for others to see. I really didn’t want to work on photography as a hobby/skill to develop during my “Alternate Grad School Experience” because it would require me to face my insecurities. However, I decided to give it a try and started Foto Fridays a couple weeks ago…with the complete intention of taking iPhone photos, putting cool filters on them, and calling it a day. But I’ve realized that doesn’t really count, at least not for me. So as I made my muffins yesterday, I pulled out my DSLR and decided to force myself to start somewhere. Hopefully I’ll look back at this post in a couple months or a year and see some big improvements. 🙂


Foto Friday No. 1

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

-William Morris

I shared the above quote a while ago in my post on typography. And now, I’m starting a new tradition (which will hopefully be a little more sustainable than my last one! Which I’m still planning on finishing at some point…) to post some quick easy photos of my life on Fridays. I want to start working on capturing more moments of life through photos (and maybe videos….? I’ll keep you posted.), and I think this will be a good practice to just get me in the habit of seeing better.

So for today, a mini-collection of  photos from around my bedroom. Things I perceived as beautiful as I saw them in the early hours of this morning:

Christopher Robin Quoteafterlight (2)afterlight (5)afterlight (3)

Monthly Review

SIX month review

SIX months down! How is this even possible?? I knew it had been a while since I had posted on this blog, but I can’t believe this project is already halfway over!

How do you feel about the project? 

I feel pretty good. I’ve come to terms with not doing absolutely everything I set out to do. I think I’ve started incorporating learning and exploration into my day-to-day, and my mind feels healthier for it.

What have you learned? 

I’ve learned loads of things on a huge variety of topics, but I think two most valuable things I’ve learned are 1. how to keep growing and learning outside the traditional education system and 2. when to keep going and when to stop. For example: pursuing creativity and developing myself (and not my “career”) professionally  are worth continuing when I don’t feel like it. Trying to master every type of bread is not worth it. It’s a hobby and not a passion. And it’s okay to not excel at hobbies.

What do you like?

My vocabulary is expanding thanks to reading more (and more quality literature).

What do you not like?

I’m still a little bummed at the realization that I won’t be able to check everything off the list at the end of this year.

What are you looking forward to? 

The future! I’m really looking forward to taking a trip and moving, and continuing to expand my hobbies and skills even after this year.

Living Well

Love Well–Live Well

This is an area of life that requires so much intentionality (and I think I’m only barely scratching the surface on understanding!), so I wasn’t really planning on writing on it just yet. However, I’m choosing today to at least start the topic of loving well because I’ve been thinking over this quote a lot over the past couple days.

“Do small things with great love.”

I had a bout of motivation to start hanging decorations on the walls of my apartment this past weekend, so I wrote the quote out and framed it to hang above the kitchen sink. Since we don’t have a dishwasher, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time standing there thinking about the quote!

I should back up a bit though. In my life, loving well involves loving in two spheres: those I know and those I don’t know, and those both can look pretty different. In loving within my relationships, I have been learning that I am only able to love people from a place of wholeness.

“We love because He first loved us.”

The profoundness of that “simple” verse from 1 John 4:19 has eluded me for years. God loving us in a crazy, radical, sacrificial way–so much so that He came to us through the person of Jesus to bring us a full, whole life. To experience Christ’s love brought an unprecedented healing and wholeness to all those who accepted His love. And from that place of wholeness, they were able to see Jesus for who He was (and is) and love Him in return. But that place of wholeness also allowed for true love to everyone around them. When you are receiving love from Christ, you have the abundance to love unconditionally, without jealousy or unforgiveness or selfishness. You’re free to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

Loving within my relationships means I,  first and foremost, need to be spiritually healthy and whole, and then I need to follow Jesus’ lead on how to care for, understand, champion, and support my friends and family.

For those I don’t know or at least don’t have deeper relationships with, loving has more to do with small things done in great love. It still comes from that same root source of God’s love and healing of my own heart, it’s just played out differently. I don’t get a free pass on loving people because I don’t have the relationship to be able to walk through all the intimate steps of life with someone. I have to choose to put extra effort into the small things, the small ways I am able to interact, and love greatly and deeply and sacrificially through those things.

This week has been exhausting for me, as we’re in the middle of several time-intensive and mentally draining projects at work and I have not been sleeping well lately. After 4 straight hours of meetings this afternoon while under a throbbing headache, all I wanted to do was come home to sleep it off after work. However, I had already made an appointment to visit a local refugee family to work on ESL with them. I would have loved to cancel, or at the very least, make the visit as quick as possible. But, thankfully, I’ve been looking at my newly framed quote all week and chose to do this one small thing with the greatest love I could. Prayers were involved, the visit went great, my headache even went away. Truly–glory to God.

Great love in the small things is a sacrifice, often unnoticed, maybe even unappreciated.  Loving from wholeness–selfless love–may not be returned. But I’m learning that in a very strange way, loving well has more to do with me and my heart than anyone else’s response to it. It’s an act of worship and a refining of my heart to become more like the One I love. Because He loves me.

Living Well

Eat Well–Live Well

Since I’ve already admitted to my stubbornness in my last post (the post that started this “challenge” for myself to write daily… even when I forget about it and procrastinate and stay up past my bedtime… on the first day of the challenge… ), I’ll admit that one opinion on which I don’t think I’ll ever budge is that eating well is not too expensive, too much work, or not appealing/tasty.

As my interest and concern in my general physical health and wellbeing has increased over the past few years, I’ve put together some best practices:

1. Listen to your body. Obviously, at some point I have to tell my body who’s boss (for example, if I’m just being lazy or wanting to each cookies all day long), but typically, I think my body knows what I need pretty well. When I feel like I just need lots of fresh foods, I load up on salads and fresh veggies. If I feel low on protein, I’ll eat some meat. If I’m not hungry, I don’t eat as much; if I’m feeling extra hungry,  I’ll eat more.

*And now is probably a good time to note the photos you are about to see aren’t the greatest quality–I apologize, but I don’t have time for editing tonight!


I take great pleasure in entirely homemade meals. Pictured here is a homemade whole wheat roll, cherry jam (made with local fruit from my neighbor), apple slices from CSA, homemade peanut butter. And of course–coffee. I guess you could call that semi-homemade?


I probably take too many pictures of veggies mid-cooking prep. But they are so beautiful.


How creative was God with all the vegetables?? This cabbage was too great to not snap a picture.


Kale is the darling of health foods. Rightfully so, in my opinion!


Just one more. Candy beets and red cabbage. !!

2. Balance. My typical diet consists of whole grains, fresh produce, and legumes. I try to keep refined, processed, or high sugar foods low; but when I’m craving something cold and creamy–there’s only a couple blocks and a small bit of change between me and my Culver’s mixer (mini, vanilla custard, peanut butter mixed in, choco. chip cookie dough on top, please). I don’t feel bad indulging when I know it’s not an everyday occurrence.

photo 3

Example of an indulgence. But besides the herbs, oil, cream and bacon–it’s all local and natural! Oven baked parsnip and potato fries, with pork chops and a leek creamy delicious herb sauce.

photo 1

Another example of an indulgence: Mini chocolate pecan pies in phyllo crusts.

3. Support your environment and your community. This has less to do with my personal health, and more to do with the general lifestyle that’s important to me. Buying local food is not only healthier for my body because I’m getting fresher produce in me (which equals higher levels of the nutrients I need), but it’s beneficial for the environment and my local economy. *Shameless plug: If you’ve never given CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) a try–I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s great to support a small business in your community and get lots of great farm-fresh produce each week. And an added bonus is that you’re likely to get new foods you haven’t had before and will have opportunity to experiment in the kitchen!

photo 2

Again: beautiful, healthy, local, seasonal food. So good.

4. Enjoy the process. Personally, I love to cook. So a big part of eating well is enjoying the entire process–learning about what foods are beneficial, learning how different ingredients taste, learning about various ethnic cuisines. Food can be so enjoyable when you celebrate the diversity of produce and flavors and cooking traditions. AND, one thing that I really love, is preparing food for other people. Gatherings at the table are often overlooked in my generation of fast food and freezer meals (and I’ll admit eating on the go is sometimes the only way to get a meal in), but I do believe something special is shared when gathering with others over a meal.

photo 4

For the times I do need to grab food and go, this is the ideal lunch. Purple and orange carrots, kale with lemon tahini dressing, best lentils ever, and brown rice.

I don't qualify this as a meal on the go, but it's a great breakfast or snack. And SO easy. Cucumber, apple (remove seeds and stem), and beet--into the blender or processor. So refreshing. This was with a candy beet so it turned out light pink. When you use a regular beet, the color is unbelievably beautiful.

I don’t qualify this as a meal on the go, but it’s a great breakfast or snack. And SO easy. Cucumber, apple (remove seeds and stem), and beet–into the blender or processor. So refreshing. This was with a candy beet so it turned out light pink. When you use a regular beet, the color is unbelievably beautiful.

So: go and fuel your bodies well!