Wednesday, December 28, 2011

{ Why I Love Downtown Seattle }

The weekend before Christmas, Mike and I spent the afternoon downtown. Last year we enjoyed our "downtown Christmas date" so much that we decided to make it a tradition. And we couldn't have asked for a more perfect December day: sunshine, blue skies, temps in the 40's, shops and streets bedecked in Christmas cheer.

We started down at the waterfront. After poking around Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and walking along the piers, we headed up to Pike Place Market.

West Seattle, seen from the pier

I have my own personal paparazzo!

I had never noticed these quirky light fixtures before. There are several of them as you approach the Market from the waterfront.

See the little sideways silver man?

And this...this is what I love about Pike Place Market: the happy riot of


I could wander through the produce stalls for hours. I would take hundreds of pictures, if I were alone. My memory card thanks Mike for keeping us moving at a decent pace!

It's like a symphony for the senses. I've been here dozens of times, and it never gets old.

Part of it is the colors--the endless combinations of brilliant hues. The fruits and vegetables I've only known from photos. Part of it is the pungent scents: earthy tubers, tart citrus, fresh seafood, sweet honey, specialty olive oils. Part of it is the almost unbelievable mix of people, the cacophony of nationalities, languages, and accents that throng here daily. Part of it is just the electricity you feel here: the air is vibrant, alive. There is so much beauty, so much newness, I feel like I need to inhale with my whole being, trying to absorb all I can through all my senses.

There were beautiful bouquets of decorative cabbage. If we weren't leaving for Idaho in a few days, I'd have asked for one.

And then...the cheese shop. We didn't buy any, but we spent quite a bit of time ogling the cases and discussing which cheeses we'd like to try.

I'm getting hungry...

It delights me that even the pigs were decorated for Christmas!

For lunch, we stopped at The Pink Door, a quaint restaurant where Mike took me for drinks on our six-month dating anniversary. It looks like a hole in the wall from its Post Alley entrance, but inside--oh goodness, it's perfect. Beautiful. Otherwordly and bewitching.

The front door, decorated in honor of The Pink Door's 30th anniversary

We had a lovely lunch next to the Christmas tree. In case you're wondering, that is a swing you see hanging from the rafters. The Pink Door has nightly entertainment, from cabaret and magic to burlesque and trapeze artists. Mike was not aware of that the first time we went, and we narrowly escaped second-row seats for a burlesque show!

Next we walked to the Sheraton. Every year, the Sheraton hosts a gingerbread "house" competition to benefit the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Local architectural firms and chefs collaborate to create amazing gingerbread "houses" to raise money for JDRF, and viewing them is free {donations encouraged ;-) }. This year's theme was train stations. Here are a few of my favorites:

Gare du Palais, Quebec, Canada

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia

Dunedin Railway Station, New Zealand

Island of Misfit Toys

The attention to detail, and the tiny-ness of those details, was such fun to see!

Then we made our way to Westlake Park and rode the carousel. Sorry, no photos--but I can assure you that Mike has the most amazing Miss America wave and plastic smile to go with it! He even made the attendants smile. I was laughing too hard to do anything but hold on to my steed for dear life!

And then, across the street, the Macy's star, all lit up!

Mike really wanted to take me on a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Seattle. It was getting dark, Christmas lights were starting to twinkle everywhere we looked...and after waiting in line for a carriage for 30 minutes, we realized it would probably be at least another 30 before our turn came. I was starting to feel kind of nauseous, so we decided the carriage ride can wait for another day. {But it was super romantic and thoughtful of you to think of it, Babe!}

As we wended our way back toward the waterfront, I was stopped in my tracks by this stunning view. The Market at sunset. How have I lived here almost 11 years, and yet have never seen this before?

All the lights, the bundled-up shoppers, the crisp air--it was magical.
Just like the whole day. I can't speak for Mike, but as far as I'm concerned, our downtown Christmas date is becoming one of my favorite days of the year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

{ Merry Christmas! }

Last week we had a fire in our fireplace for the first time. It's a shame: This is our third winter in this home, and our lovely fireplace has been filled with candles and seasonal knickknacks up 'til now. The truth is, we weren't sure we wanted a real fire: soot, smoke, did they really clean the chimney that one time?, etc. And the farm girl in me still isn't sure we can call it a real fire when we burned a man-made "log" wrapped in paper...

...but it was so worth it. We don't know why we didn't use the fireplace sooner! Cozy, inviting, nice and crackling and with the faint scent of smoke in the air...sigh. It's lovely.

I hope that wherever you are, your Christmas is filled with Jesus' presence. With fresh understanding and gratitude for God made helpless baby, newborn-fresh in a barn feed trough. With joy that transcends holiday stresses, family squabbles, travel woes, scorched gravy. Filled with friends and family you hold dear. With love, laughter, good food, crackling fires, rosy cheeks just in from the snow, family stories that get a little more hilarious each time they're told.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

{ Kumquat }

In case you are wondering, that is a kumquat.
And that's how big Peanut is this week.
I think we're going to stick with Peanut as a nickname for now...Kumquat is a bit of a tongue twister!
That's all for now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

{ Is it All About Me? Really? }

I am a complainer.
A whiner extraordinaire.
Really, to hear my internal dialogue on most days is to conclude that it's all about me and life is really really crummy.
If perhaps some small part of your heart disagrees with those statements, my pride would like to thank you. But unfortunately for my pride, the past six weeks have brought my whining, complaining, it's-all-about-me belief system firmly into the light and kept it there. And it's ugly.
This pregnancy, while not nearly as difficult as many I've heard about, has been quite uncomfortable at times. I've thrown up on a few occasions, I feel nauseous pretty frequently, my energy levels are lower than I ever remember. Pretty standard first trimester stuff. How I've responded to these inconveniences is another story.

I describe my miseries frequently and publicly. {Hello, Facebook friends!} {I'm very grateful, by the way, for my friends' gracious feedback--they've provided my best anti-nausea tips. What I'm saying is that my motivation for frequent "woe is me" posts is less than stellar.}
When people ask how I'm doing, my responses center around my most recent {unpleasant} physical symptoms.
I feel sorry for myself. So, so sorry.
My thought life consists of how I'm feeling, what I can do to prevent myself from feeling worse, and what will I do if I puke??
I cautiously pencil in plans with friends, making it very clear that if I feel crummy, we'll have to reschedule.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I think I deserve better than this. I don't deserve to be saddled with food aversions and a stomach that spontaneously empties with no warning. I really truly believed--the same way I believe that Jesus is God and my birthday is always on April 18--I believed that when I had babies, I'd be spared this stuff. See, I like kids, and we want to have a lot of them. The Lord says that children are a blessing and He loves them--Jesus even rebuked the disciples for trying to keep children away from Him {Matthew 19:13-15}. So I figured that since I'm eager to welcome these little people that Jesus loves, He wouldn't make me go through the nasty parts of pregnancy. I know, I know, it's absurd...but it was a very real, if subconscious, part of how I carried out my days.

I'm a wimp to begin with. I don't like pain and suffering. My preferred method of dealing with pain is medication and sleep. I suppose it's part of our culture: It's so easy, so normal, to choose that which is easiest, most comfortable, less trouble, more convenient.

And there you have it: Pregnancy isn't convenient. Much as we already love this little grape-size person, his/her presence inside me is wreaking all kinds of havoc on my comfort-and-convenience-centered heart. But isn't that what all the truly good things in life do? Stretch us, usually in places where stretching is uncomfortable {that's why it's called stretching, Nikki. Remember that.}. I'm so familiar with this concept in the context of marriage; it's almost a cliche in some Christian circles. "Marriage is about holiness, not happiness." So true but my ears can become dull even to truth and I so easily gloss over that which is familiar--yeah, yeah, I've heard this dozens of times before, I know, I get it.

I never thought to consider that this truth may apply to the next big life-change as well: Children. What if children aren't about making me happy, but another tool God uses to chisel away my ugly parts and remake me into someone who reflects His beauty, rather than her own ugliness? What if
parenthood is about holiness, not happiness?

What if this refining process doesn't begin when the baby is born, but when you feel the first pangs of morning sickness?
What if God uses even an unborn baby to transform me more into His image?
What if I've been believing a lie: that life is supposed to be easy; and the stripping away of this lie is not hardship, but mercy? Love performing soul surgery, pouring antiseptic on a soul-infection? What if nausea and weird ligament pains and strange food aversions are ways Jesus is loving me? Showing me how much I need Him?

What if this is all Love?

So this is where I am right now, what I'm wrestling with. If you ask me how I'm doing and I start to b**ch about this and that, feel free to rebuke me. Remind me that it's not all about me. Remind me of Jesus. I certainly am glad I have seven months to work through this before the real challenges begin!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

{ Christmas Goodies }

Much as I love Christmas candy, and fortuitous though it is that I'm not working outside the home, I'm not going crazy with the sweets this year.
My reason is that Peanut isn't very fond of anything in the general category of "making food"--though baking and candy-making are by far the easiest kinds of "food" for me to tackle right now!

Last year I made several kinds of candies and cookies, and Mike and I gave them in little gift bags to our nearest neighbors. We're planning to do the same this year. Though both of us love oreo truffles {recipe here}, they take f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to make--even with two people!--so I have decided to try all new recipes.

Yesterday I made two batches of chocolate nutella fudge with sea salt...YUM! If you want to give this creamy, delicious, hazelnutty, chocolatey, decadent, slightly salty treat a try, here is the recipe. Added bonus: her photos are much more appetizing than mine. I just have a point-and-shoot camera, but when I look at this I still want to lick my computer screen.

I've also made peppermint gumdrops, thanks to Bakerella's recipe here. In spite of generous administration of red food coloring, my gumdrops are definitely orangey, not red as I'd hoped. Oh well. They still taste like peppermint, and it's just fun to say that you've made gumdrops!

Right now I'm making oreo bark, in honor of the illustrious oreo--quite possibly Mr. and Mrs. Mike's favorite cookie. {Well.....favorite store-bought cookie. I don't think anything can shake chocolate chip cookies, or M&M cookies, from the #1 Cookie spot in Mike's heart.} I forgot to take photos...sorry. And I'm not sure why I'm so italicised tonight. Lots of things just need a little extra emphasis, apparently.

What are your favorite Christmas treats? Something your mom or grandma made? A delicious recipe you just found? Do tell!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

{ Married Math }






Due July 2012

We are beyond blessed!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

{ Thanksgiving }

Why is it that I always neglect to take pictures on holidays? Next time, it will not happen. I promise! We're going to Idaho to spend Christmas with my family for the first time since we got married--it will be the first time Mike hasn't spent Christmas with his family. Eeeeek! I'm just a little excited! I haven't been back during the winter since 2008, so this is long overdue! It's so different, being in the country, surrounded by snow {hopefully}, woodsmoke in the air. It's so still. So.....different from Christmas in the city. I'm excited to experience it with Mike.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. *ahem* Back to Thanksgiving, which was almost a week ago. As I was saying, not many photos were taken, and all of them contain only three subjects: Mike, his sister Amaryah, and me. *ahem* Apparently we're a little narcissistic....but I'll let you judge for yourself:

Mike and Amaryah goofing off

"Get your head closer to Nikki's!"

"Good...but this time smile."

Oh yes, I married a handsome man.

"OK Amaryah, now it's YOUR turn to get your head closer to Nikki's..."

I have a lot of cute, full-length aprons, and it's become something of a tradition for me to bring my aprons for all to use when we have big family dinners. Mike is always in charge of carving the turkey on Thanksgiving, and since he was dressed up, I offered him an apron. Here's the amazing part: He took it. It must be a testament to his fondness for the vest, I think. Regardless, this moment required documentation.

I tried to be sneaky, knowing Mike would not want himself wearing an apron to be documented photographically.

Apparently not sneaky enough...

Success!! {I think you look great, babe.}

We had Thanksgiving at Mike's parents' house, the only place sort of big enough to accommodate the extended family...and it was a tight squeeze! There was so much delicious food; lots of laughter; a very efficient dishwashing brigade; and then, when you were just beginning to think that maybe you're comfortably {instead of uncomfortably} full, there was dessert. Oi vey!

We have so much to be thankful for: A home. Mike's job. Functional cars. Good health. New insurance for both of us. Family nearby. Friends, near and far. In spite of the unexpected nature of my job loss last month, we are in a really good place, in so many ways, and for that I can only say, Thank you Jesus!

Friday, November 18, 2011

{ Go East, Young Woman, Go East! }

 Before it becomes ancient history, I'd like to tell you about my road trip to Eastern Washington two weeks ago. It was my first week jobless, and I jumped at the chance to take a little more time than usual and visit my dear friend Anna, who lives 300 miles away. You can read Anna's blog here, but we've been friends since way before blogging. Like, our moms were pregnant with us together. Sometimes I call us fetal friends.

The first thing I did when I got to Anna's hometown was park in front of her house, run in and hug her, and head down the hill to meet my cousin Christy and my brother Joe for coffee. They both live nearby and this was the only time that worked out for us to see each other. {Aren't I a horrible houseguest, Ann?}

Joe, Christy and I had a great time catching up. There was a significant amount of girly talk, since Christy just got engaged, as well as a significant amount of mechanical talk, because Christy is taking some sort of let's-disassemble-and-reassemble-your-car's-engine-in-less-than-25-minutes college class that goes waaaaaaay over my head. She is clearly a very well-rounded young woman. ;-) It had been much too long since I'd last spent time with these folks, and it was so fun to chat!

I'll let you guess which is Christy and which is Joe in the photos below:

That wasn't too hard, was it?

It never feels like you get to spend enough time with friends who live far away, does it? Regardless, the time that we do have together is always so rich. I love just being able to do normal life with friends: grocery shopping, errand running, going to church and Bible study. Getting to know what their normal, everyday lives are like. Anna and I, and little Oliver, did all of those things during my time with them. Anna's husband Tim was present for a lot of it, too, but somehow I didn't get any photos of him. We cooked, we did laundry {oh did we ever do laundry...I'd like to take a moment to say that if you're ever about to shake up a bottle of oil and vinegar salad dressing, during Bible study potluck, in a complete stranger's house, in the presence of 20+ people you just met, please make sure the lid is securely attached to the bottle before shaking! Otherwise you may anoint yourself, the person standing next to you, and the kitchen with oil and vinegar salad dressing. THAT'S not awkward or anything. The silver lining is that I learned Anna's stain removal tricks and maybe she'll write a blog post about them someday.}, where was I? Oh yes, we did laundry, we watched girly movies, we ate delicious was lovely.


Oliver's scrunchy faces kill me. He is such a little ham! The darlingest there ever was.

On Sunday afternoon we took a walk through a lovely neighborhood full of beautiful, stately old houses. I'm a sucker for old houses, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Look at Oliver's feet go! He was happy to be out, too.

I'm so glad I was able to make this trip. In spite of missing Mike something fierce {4 1/2 days turned into a really long time, from that perspective!!}, it was a really special time spent with dear friends I don't see nearly often enough. Even the relationships where you feel like you're able to pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it's been, are worth the effort and investment of road trips and long weekends away from the comforts of home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{ Tension }

I place so much value on productivity.

Like, soooooo much.

I am a person who thrives in structure and stability. As my friend Misha put it: "a system to create in and a process for enjoyment." That really captures the sort of structured freedom in which I work best. One of my preconceptions about becoming a stay-at-home-wife {SAHW} was that it would be an easy transition because I was homeschooled all my life 'til college. I'm familiar with being self-motivated and getting things done on my own and making priorities and accomplishing them. This'll be a piece of cake.

And yet, a couple nights ago, I literally had a fight with myself when Mike walked in the door after work. With every fiber of my being, I suddenly wanted to show him my to-do list for the day--what I'd accomplished, what I'd crossed off, how productive I'd been. I matter. I was alive today. I did XYZ and so it's okay that I don't work outside the home, look at all the important things I did! It was an abrupt and gut-wrenching desire for his validation and approval.

Do I matter, even when there is no paycheck attached to my activities, no nod of approval from a manager, no camaraderie with coworkers? When most people won't see or know what I do on a daily basis?

This morning I read an interview with Ann Voskamp in WORLD magazine. One sentence struck a deep chord in this feels-like-I'm-flailing heart of mine:
"A mother does eternal work in hidden, quiet places."

Hidden, quiet places.
Like home.
Hidden, quiet places are okay. Normal. Mike doesn't ask me to validate my day by producing a checklist of duties accomplished. He trusts that I will figure it out. I, in turn, trust that Jesus has it figured out and that by sticking close to Him, I am exactly where He wants me to be.

This word isn't just for mothers; it's for a young woman clinging to Jesus as her Rock in a world that has changed and shifted so much these past weeks.

There is a beautiful beach with a ferry dock about 10 minutes from our home. Yesterday was unusually sunny for November here in the Pacific Northwest, so after running errands I went down to the beach with a book to enjoy the beauty. Even before I went, I felt guilty. Why should I enjoy so much beauty while Mike is working in a cubicle? Shouldn't I go home and organize the storage closet while the weather's nice? This is a waste of time, really, and I'm afraid people already think I'm wasting my life now that I don't have a job, so I should really do something productive.

Ah, there it is. Fear of man, trying to rob me of gorgeous afternoon-gift from Jesus. I didn't listen. I bundled up and sat in the sunshine and read and laughed at the funny seagulls and soaked in the goodness of the moment. Today, as I look back on my rebellion against my old slavedriver, fear of man, I think of another quote from Ann Voskamp's interview:
"I preach the gospel to the person who needs to hear it the most: me. I need the truth of God's word, and to encounter afresh the grace of Jesus Christ...I will out-loud preach the gospel to myself. My children hear me quoting Scripture back to myself, giving thanks in situations, being very intentional about focusing on the Lord."

There it is. I need to preach the gospel--to myself. In these moments of uncertainty, when fear tries to grab the reins, I need to preach the gospel to myself. I need to nestle in closer to Jesus. I need to choose to believe what I know to be Truth, not what I am afraid of {or what I am afraid is truth}.

Some days, preaching the gospel to myself may just mean an afternoon at the beach, refusing to preach fear of man and pride and identity-in-works by instead saying "yes" to beauty, joy, peace, and a few hours of doing "nothing."