Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Let me start off by saying that Grand Cayman is my favorite place in the entire world. My heart and soul live in Grand Cayman. It was our family vacation spot of choice, it is where I learned to dive, it is where I had my first rum punch, it is where I saw my first turtle in the wild. I love it. All of it.
Grand Cayman played no small role in my deep desire to be a professional beach bum. Give me a bikini, some dive equipment, and a bottle of sunscreen and I am good to go. A bottle of tequila or rum wouldn’t hurt either, come to think of it.
Naturally, when we realized that Cayman was on our cruise itinerary, we knew we had to get in a dive. We ended up booking a shore dive that left just outside of Georgetown. A shuttle took us from the port to the dive shop, and we just jumped in the water and swam out to about sixty feet or so of depth. It was gorgeous, of course. Ninety percent of the beauty of Cayman is underwater. To go to Cayman and not dive, or at least snorkel, would be a crime.
After the cruise we were hungry and not ready to go back to the ship. We asked the dive shop for a recommendation on a place to grab some food, and were directed to restaurant back in George Town.
We wandered back into town, found the restaurant, and ordered something to drink, and a bucket of fried shrimp.
One of the drinks was a Hurricane Five-very popular on the island and not very kind to lightweights (ingredients as follows):
5 shots of rum (we were told they used five different kinds of rum…)
Two drinks, one bucket of shrimp, and probably the best forty dollars we spent on the entire trip later, and Nathan was ready to find a cigar shop. Cubans aren’t illegal in Cayman- can’t miss that opportunity (or so I’m told).
Tomorrow I’ll post the few pictures that I took in Mexico and give my tips for getting the most out of your cruise!
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
The first stop on our cruise was in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We booked a shore excursion that toured a pineapple plantation in the mountains on the island. The tour bus picked us up from the port, and we set off on an hour long trip on a winding mountain road.
Once at the pineapple plantation, our tour guide spent the day explaining the ins and outs of pineapple and coffee farming and beekeeping. The plantation is known for it’s many different kinds of pineapple (you can only buy one in the US), but they also had a thriving crop of coffee berries.
Fun fact: both of those bunches of bananas are ripe.
Red Stripe because, Jamaica.
See you tomorrow from Grand Cayman, the next stop on our cruise!
Monday, February 2nd, 2015
We got married over six months ago, so now is clearly the best time to post some honeymoon photos. I’ll also be posting pictures from our Christmas vacation here soon. I’m really on top of this whole blogging thing.
Truth is, the last six months have been pretty tough. After last semester, I sort of checked out of everything for Christmas break and the beginning of this semester. But, I plan to be back on a more full time basis. I have missed this space. I want to do it justice by at least keeping up with it.
None of the honeymoon pictures have been edited in any way, and they were all taken with my digital point and shoot. They aren’t world class photos, but they make me so happy. Our honeymoon was wonderful. We took a cruise to the Western Caribbean-a first cruise for both of us. It was amazing; going on a cruise is a truly relaxing vacation. You don’t have to do anything but have fun. The most taxing part of the whole cruise was deciding when to eat and making sure we didn’t miss our shore excursions.
The first night of the cruise was pretty casual. Cruisers spent most of the day waiting in line to get on to the ship and then waiting to get their bags, so you could just wear whatever you wanted to dinner. Normally, shorts and swimsuits and such aren’t allowed in the dining room.
Dining on the ship is a one-of-a-kind experience. You can have as many helpings of as many things on the menu as you like (Nathan loved that!). Your waitstaff stays the same through the entire cruise, so they get to know what you like, and they work hard to make you experience enjoyable.
There is also a formal night on the ship. I think that was my favorite. Everyone dresses up, the wait staff sings during dinner, and there are photographers set up all over the ship to capture you in your finery.
Your cabin steward leaves a different towel animal on your bed every day. They also create mini towel animals that are left on every pool chair on the deck each day. I may have gotten attached to a particular mini elephant… He was just so cute!
Tomorrow, I will post pictures from our first stop in Jamaica.
Friday, December 5th, 2014
First, I offer you this article all about picking the very best potatoes for your mashed side dish.
Now that you know what potatoes you need, I am going to give you a recipe for mashed potatoes that will change. your. life. I’m not kidding; I like mashed potatoes, but they wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for how to prepare a potato. But! But! I do like them during the holidays, but I never want to eat them as leftovers. This recipe makes me want to eat mashed potatoes every day and then re-heat them the next day. They are that good.
As with all of my recipes, there are really no measurements. Just add as much of each ingredient as you feel is right. I trust your judgement.
Half and Half (whole milk or heavy cream would also probably work)
First, peel all of the potatoes, chop them up, and boil them until they are tender enough to mash. Once they are all soft and boiled, drain the water and add butter, cream cheese, and half and half. Using a blender, blend the mixture until the potatoes reach a consistency that is fluffy and smooth. Once blended, add as many fresh garlic cloves as you want (more garlic is always better-we used, like, six cloves in our batch). We used a garlic press to mince the garlic, but you could just cut it up really fine or smush it before you add it. After you add the garlic, give the potatoes a sprinkle with some sea salt and mix it up.
These truly are the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. They certainly aren’t healthy, but they will make you happy. And, really, potatoes are meant for happiness not healthiness anyway.
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
Nathan and I have been swapping a nasty head cold back and forth for the last few weeks. It has been dismal. I always used to treasure that rare sick day when I got to stay home from school. But, now that adulthood has reared its ugly head, sick days are not so preferable. A sick day just results in being behind in work and school and feeling crappy. Even though all of my sinuses are sore, my ears and throat hurt, and I am nursing a cough, there has been one thing that has consistently made me feel a little better. I’ve mixed up an elixir of sorts (which Nathan won’t drink) that seems to quell some of the dastardly head cold symptoms.
Ginger (I use the minced kind that comes in the jar)
First, boil some water. While the water is boiling, add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, honey, and lemon to a mug. Once the water is boiled pour it over the ingredients in the mug. Give it a stir and drink up. If you are feeling like you really need an extra kick then you could definitely add some whiskey or bourbon (but only do that if you’re in for the night).
I know that there aren’t any measurements and that’s because how much you add of everything is really up to you. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. And, honestly, this does not taste bad. I promise.
Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Now that the semester is almost over (and Thank God for that), I will have a little time on my hands. I would really like to use up that time by reading and cooking. With that in mind, I have been compiling my winter break reading list. It started with a lengthy trip to Barnes and Noble. Nathan and I could waste hours in bookstores. While I love brick and mortar bookstores, books are normally cheaper online. So, I present unto you my holiday reading list separated into cookbooks and all other books and all with a link to buy:
1. Thug Kitchen: The team behind this cookbook has a rad website (here), and creates plant based, vegan recipes. Their website liberally uses cuss words and verbal abuse to beat you into healthier eating. Reading their blog is such a kick, and I would really like to get my hands on the official cookbook. Buy here.
2. The Kitchn Cookbook: Also the cookbook product of a blog (here). I check The Kitchn blog every single day, and some of my most used recipes come from their archives. I am particularly excited about this one. Buy here.
3. Death and Co: Modern Classic Cocktails: Full of recipes and knowledge about every drink and alcohol you can think of, this book would make an excellent companion for the curious drinker. Buy here
1. Bread and Wine: I have heard nothing but good things about this book. I read Shauna Niequist’s blog, and her insight about relationships and hospitality is always on point. Buy here.
2. Gone Girl: Everyone is talking about it, and I just want to jump on that bandwagon. Buy here.
3. The Best Yes: A friend mentioned that this book had really impacted her; and, as someone who struggles with saying no, I think it might be a good read for me. Buy here.
Well, there they are. I think that they’ll keep me busy for most of winter break. What are some books that you’re hoping to read?
Monday, December 1st, 2014
As I sit here on my living room couch, watching my dad hang the snowflakes on the tree, (we don’t do ornaments, but our tree is a thing of beauty), and savoring my remaining precious moments at home. I’m trying to memorize the way the stairs creak when someone goes upstairs, the way the soft sounds of the TV trickle into the next room where I’m working, and the way the kitchen is bathed in buttery yellow light. This house is my home. I don’t think it will ever be easy to leave for an extended period of time. I’m thankful that I’ve had the privilege to grow up in a place like this, one filled with happy memories and boisterous laughter and blood and sweat and tears.
It might sound funny to be thankful for those things, some good, and some bad. But right now, in this season, I am working on practicing my thankfulness skills. Thanksgiving is over and the leftovers have been gobbled up. The tree is up, the lights are strung, and the garland greets visitors in the doorway. The Christmas season is beautiful. Sometimes, though, amid the pine and the presents and the people, I think that we lose our spirit of thankfulness. I know I do. It’s far too easy at this time of year to want, want, want, rather than give, give, give, let alone thank, thank, thank.
Right now though, as I sit here, in my home, preparing to go back to the daily grind of school and work, I’m working a little harder than normal to be thankful for this pattern of my world. The back and forth from home to school, and from school to home. Two places where I can be myself. Two beds to come back to at night, no matter what. Parents who love and encourage me, near and far. Siblings who both infuriate me and make me laugh. Friends here and there, each pursuing their own calling, yet managing to keep track of one another despite the hustle and bustle.
Thanks is more than a word and more than an action, it’s an attitude that stretches us to do more and say less and think harder. We certainly don’t live in a thankful world, but I want to do my best to be thankful for something, anything, every day. Little things and big things, happy things and sad things, good things and bad things; they all add something to this whatever place we call home. Let’s rejoice!
Sunday, November 30th, 2014
Today at church I was lucky enough to get to hang out with my Godbaby for the whole service. During one of the first songs she dozed off onto my shoulder, and then slept through the whole sermon. She cuddled right into my shoulder and snored for a solid half hour. I felt so lucky. It isn’t everyday that a baby will just fall asleep on you. Plus, baby snores are the best. They are so cute; it is really too much.
At one point I handed her to Nathan and he bounced her on his knee while making car noises. Her smile was contagious. And, to be honest, watching Nathan love on her just about makes my heart beat right out of my chest. She is the kind of baby that makes me feel like having babies is something I want to do someday. Nathan and I definitely don’t have plans for babies anytime soon; but, when we do, I’d like to have one just like her.
Seeing her and her mom on Sunday is one of the brightest spots of my whole week. I am sure that we probably looked a little ridiculous sneakily snapping pictures during the service, but I think we were all sort of in a baby haze. And, honestly, a little baby haze is exactly what I needed this morning. There is just something about cuddling a baby that makes everything seem right in the world. I’d recommend it.
Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Editor’s note: Hi all, sorry this is a day late! Yesterday was a busy and rough day for Nathan and me, and I didn’t get a chance to make sure that this post went up. I scheduled it to post yesterday morning, but sometimes WordPress gets a little glitchy. -Sydney
I go to school in a small town. Smaller than small. Main Street (its actual name, by the way) is less than a mile long. There’s a coffee shop, a Chinese restaurant, a pizza place, and dozens of churches. My school sits on the outskirts. Right between broken suburbia and a town that, despite its best efforts, can’t seem to quite get its feet underneath it. Between the quant coffee shop teeming with college students getting their caffeine buzz and the churches that usher people through their wide open door every Sunday, there is a current of sadness. Of despair. A current that speaks to the fact that people are people. Sometimes it’s hard to notice. As a college student, I often forget that a world outside my own, tests, papers, friends, late-night ice cream runs, exists. People refer to it as “the bubble.” People here mean the bubble of college, but when we get right down to it, I think we all live in our own little bubble. We live in a world whose values contradict those of the gospel. Where the gospel recounts the oldest story in history, the world values all things new; new and shiny and gleaming with seemingly endless promise. Where the gospel celebrates sacrifice, the world celebrates ambition. The kind of ambition that tells you to do whatever it takes to get to the top. Where the gospel centers around community, the world says each man is in it for himself. It’s this pursuit of individuality that causes us to stumble. Where Christ is wrapping people in his loving arms, we’re pushing them away with one hand and showing them the door. In order to grow closer to the God that loves us so dearly, we must cultivate lives and habits that are driven by a deeper desire to know him. In order to get to know him and spread his word, we must get to know those around us. Christians, pagans, children, adults, people we love, people we hate… they are all created in his image and deserve an opportunity to witness Jesus’s love for them in real time.
Back in high school, I spent countless hours at one of my very best friend’s houses. Despite her being a new student, it took us virtually no time to become fast friends. Her mom’s arms seemed to always be open for a warm embrace and I smiled at the sound of dad’s southern drawl as he told stories inevitably ended with raucous laughter. I relished the times spent at their kitchen counter, balanced on a wooden stool, laughing and talking. I knew where to find the chips and dip, I knew that there would always be a jug of sweet tea in the fridge, and most of all, I knew I was always welcome. And it wasn’t only me that felt the magnetic attraction that the family had. Their reputation quickly became one of inclusiveness. It didn’t matter where you were from or what your story was, you always had a place waiting for you in that little blue clapboard house. It seemed to me, and countless others, that they never tired of welcoming people into the fold of Christ’s love.
Hospitality, as it’s called in our language, is always an easier idea in our heads than it is in our hearts. We have a grand notion that being hospitable means putting on a good face and circulating an artfully arranged platter of hours d’oeuvres. Our culture places such an emphasis on perfection that hospitality is a nearly impossible, and easily avoidable task. We’ve made it too simple to use our imperfection as an excuse to close our doors and live out our lives in quiet solitude. What we are forgetting is that our perfect God died a vicious death so that he could exist amidst our everyday messes. In fact, God wants us to invite people our less-than-perfect, disorganized, sloppy lives so we can show people how he uses imperfect beings like us to make his kingdom beautiful. So instead of worrying about what shoes we’re going to wear or what food we’re going to serve, let’s simply offer an invitation and trust that God will orchestrate the rest.
Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
[Mi-24. A Russian attack helicopter]
For this year’s Fall break we headed to see my Grandpa, and on the way home we stopped by the Pima Air and Space Museum. This museum may be Nathan’s most favorite place anywhere. It is full of old military planes, retired civilian airliners, and a big “boneyard” of airplane parts. Nathan is plane obsessed, and it makes me happy to watch him explore the museum every time we go. I also feel like I get an education each time- Nathan can rattle off facts about planes at an alarming rate.
[CH-37 transport helicopter]
[Sikorsky Sky Crane]
[B-58 Hustler (the “sexiest bomber ever” according to Nathan)]
My favorite part of the museum is in the yard where they have turned about six planes into art installations. These planes are decorated in wacky and beautiful ways, and they fascinate me every time I see them.
The museum’s website: here
More on the art installation: here
A listing of the planes at the museum: here