Uruguay 2016

Earlier this month Nick and I had the opportunity to go to Uruguay for about week with Leadership Excursions. We took a team of 10 people from the U.S., and we were there to lead a leadership retreat for missionary women in Uruguay. The property that we staying at is owned by our leader’s family. Her grandparents wanted the property to be used for ministry, and this is the second year that they’ve done the retreat for the missionary women. The first part of the week was freshening up the property, and getting things ready for when the ladies arrived. The second part of the week was serving them; allowing them to relax, rejuvenate, and connect with God on a deeper level, as well as connect with other missionary women in same country they serve in. It was really amazing to see them connect with one another, and forge new friendships with other women who understand the things they face on a daily basis. Uruguay is a very literate country, and it’s not very open to the gospel, so these women face a lot of hardships on a daily basis.

We had 3 flights to Uruguay, and we landed in Montevideo at about 4:00am. We had a lot of things to bring with us – supplies for the week, and special gifts for the women – and so every team member on our flights (there were 7 of us) had two, fifty pound bags. So it was quite an adventure getting those 14 pieces to where they needed to be! We had to take a city bus to the bus station, and then a bus to Colonia Valdense, and then a car ride to the property. When we arrived in Colonia Valdense, there were two cars waiting for us, and it was quite a feat to get all of our luggage packed up to the property. This was one of the cars – the trunk, and roof were packed, and we also managed to fit 5 people in the car!

Uruguay 2016

The property is gorgeous, and backs up right along beach. They call it a river, but it’s really more like the gulf of Mexico. It was massive, and you couldn’t see to the other side! The water looks muddy, but it’s actually quite clean. There is just a lot of sand and rock at the bottom.

Headed out to the beach:
Uruguay 2016

Looking down the beach:
Uruguay 2016

Uruguay 2016

We had a few hours one day (a couple of days before the ladies arrived) to go into the city of Colonia to explore, and have lunch as a team. We walked around Old Town, and it was so beautiful and amazing! It’s right along the ocean, and you could see Buenos Aires on the other side.

Uruguay 2016

Uruguay 2016

Last year only women went as a part of the U.S. team. This year men were invited so they could do some construction jobs around the property. They did so much, and we couldn’t have done it without them! Because of them, the rest of team was able to focus on getting things ready for women. Making beds, getting welcome bags together, planning meals, and organizing a “free store” for them.

This was the building that we used for session times, as well as meal times before:
Uruguay 2016

And after:
Uruguay 2016

The guys also built this cross that we hung inside as a focal point in our worship times.
Uruguay 2016

There are so many pictures that I’d love to share with you, but I want to respect the privacy of my team members, and the missionary women. There are loads of pictures of me in the kitchen because that’s where I spent the majority of the week. I did so many dishes, that I’m afraid that if I had counted them, it would have shocked me! But it was such a blessing to be able to allow the ladies to not have to do anything, and both Nick and I were more than happy to pitch in anywhere we were needed. We both grew in many ways – not only in our own personal relationships with God – but with our team members. We were a great group, with lots of different personalities, and gifts that all worked so well together. Neither Nick or myself had ever been a part of a mission trip before, but I know that this one will not be our last.

(In case you were wondering, Uruguay is NOT a vegan’s best friend. There are more cows in Uruguay than people, and they eat A LOT of beef. But God is so good, and our chef for the week always made sure that we had something to eat. We ate loads of bread, potatoes, and rice, but it was a good reminder that it wasn’t about us. That being said, Uruguay is a beautiful, beautiful country, but be sure to pack lots of snacks. 😉 )

Christmas Break

So I realize I’m a little late in posting this, but whatever. Life happens, blizzards happen. You just never know. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share a few highlights of our Christmas break with you! Nick was able to take the week of Christmas off as my best friend and her family were coming to stay for the week. That meant that Nick had two and a half weeks off! It was awesome. Definitely no complaints from me!

The week before Christmas we were given a really great opportunity to do a tour of the White House with Nick’s alumni association. We had to be into the city about 8:30, but we hopped on the metro, and got there with time to spare. I didn’t really know what to expect, but you get to see some pretty cool things! It was definitely an experience I’ll remember.

These snowmen were out on the lawn How fun are they?!
White House Tour

Lincoln! I loved this portrait.
White House Tour

How many times will you get the opportunity to get your photo taken under the REAL presidential seal??
White House Tour

Our framily (friends that are family) arrived on Sunday afternoon, just in time to relax a bit before heading to church (I love 5:00 service!) The kids had never been to DC, so we headed out on Monday to see ALL THE THINGS. We walked almost 12 miles that day! Needless to say, by the end of the day, we were beat! The weather was great, so we were able to get some great shots at the city’s most iconic spots.

This was taken outside the Lincoln Memorial.
Christmas Break 2015

I had purchased tickets for us ahead of time to go up into the Washington Monument. You can save yourself a couple dollars a person, and wait in line first thing in the morning on the day you want to go, but we didn’t want the hassle of getting 7 people ready, and making it into the city on time to do that. So I sucked it up and paid for the tickets. No biggie. It was actually pretty cool! You take an elevator up to the observatory, and then on the way down, you can see some really intricate stones that were gifted from various states in the U.S.

Here was a great view of the Jefferson Memorial:
Christmas Break 2015

And the back of the White House:
Christmas Break 2015

We were also able to see the National Christmas Tree at night. It was so beautiful!
Christmas Break 2015

Christmas Break 2015<

After Christmas breakfast, gifts, and some full-on lounging about, we all piled in the car to head to Harpers Ferry for a Christmas hike. It was foggy and overcast, but we were able to enjoy a nice, easy hike before the rain hit.
Christmas Break 2015

We had such a fun time with friends, and it was so sad to see them leave. But we definitely made loads of memories together. We also had a family poker tournament on Christmas night, and we all lost to the 17 year old. He was really motivated to win the $20!

What fun things did you do for Christmas?

Weekend Fun

After having various members of our family here to visit over the past month, Nick and I are finally back into a regular routine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to have people stay with us, but it’s also nice when it goes back to normal life, too! (as boring as that may be 😉 ) This past weekend, Nick and I didn’t have a single thing on the calendar, so the weekend was free to explore and have fun!

Saturday morning we left shortly before 9, and headed off towards Rockville, MD. I had done a search online to find the elusive pumpkin Dandies, and my search showed that Dawson’s Market in Rockville had them in stock. (the finder also said that a store in Leesburg had them, but they didn’t, so I wasn’t holding out much hope) While they didn’t have pumpkin Dandies (sob!), they did have a bunch of other great things, so I grabbed a couple of the Enjoy Life mixes that I’ve seen floating around on social media, and online. I snagged the pizza crust, brownie mix, and muffin mix. Those were the 3 that they had, and I’m excited to try them all! Since we were so close, we decided to swing by Roots Market in Olney, MD because that place is a vegan heaven! They have sooooo many great vegan options! And! THEY HAD PUMPKIN DANDIES! And gluten free earth balance mac & cheese! Woo hoo! We had just been there a couple of weeks previous (while on our way to BWI to pick up my bro-in-law from the airport) and they hadn’t had either item. So, of course, we had to stop by a new Whole Foods on our way home! They didn’t have anything we can’t get here at home, save for a bag of vegan, locally made, dog treats! It was a day to get a treat for everyone!

Here a just a few of the goodies we scored!
Haul of goodies!

Yesterday ended up being a beautiful day and so we took off to Alexandria for Doggy Trick or Treating! I know, I know. We totally THOSE people. But you know what? We don’t care! It was so much fun! We stopped at The Dog Park for our goodie bag and map of stores that were giving out treats for Halloween. While we didn’t have a costume for Olive, she did wear a festive space bandana (from her BarkBox) that got a lot of positive comments.
Space Pup

We walked around for over 2 hours gathering treats from over 25 businesses in Alexandria. Olive met tons of dog friends, got loads of pets, and came home with a bag chock full of treats! Oh, and Nick and I had a lot of fun, too. Before heading back to the car we stopped for a family picture. I’m pretty sure Olive’s face says it all. She was worn out!
Awkward Family Photo

It didn’t take long for her to relax in the car on the way home, either. Isn’t she the cutest?! Oh, and if you notice that funny scar on her leg, that’s from her stitches she had to get a few weeks ago. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time with a playful pup at the dog park. She’s all healed up now, though, and even when she had the stitches, she didn’t let anything stop her from having fun!
Worn out pup

It was a fun weekend! We ended last night with a great night at church, homemade mac & cheese, and “Homeland”. Couldn’t ask for better!

How was your weekend?

Staycation – day one

Ever since we’ve moved to the DC area, it feels like we could go on a new adventure every weekend. I love that! While we’ve tried A LOT of new things, and ventured to new places, we definitely have a few favorites that we can’t seem to stay away from. But there were so many neighborhoods and things that we haven’t seen in the city yet, so we took off last Thursday to see some more of our own backyard. Olive went to play at her friend’s house for the night, so Nick and I were free to roam about, and stay out as long as we liked!

After dropping Olive off, we took off for the city, and naturally, got caught in traffic. (there is ALWAYS traffic) Our first top was the metro station so that we could jump on the Silver Line. We got off near the the Eastern Market and walked for a bit before heading to lunch.

Lunch was nothing short of EPIC. We walked to Sticky Rice on H Street. I had found this place online a few weeks ago, and knew it was a place we needed to go. And we’re both SO happy that we did! It was amazing. Naturally, we started with a bucket of tots, and vegan special sauce.

I mean, don’t YOU think of tots at a sushi place?! Ha! THEY. WERE. AWESOME. Perfectly fried and crisp, and not too greasy. I don’t know what the vegan special sauce is, but it’s nothing short of magical. Mmmmm. So good. I’ve been dreaming of them ever since.

But we knew that man can not live on tots alone, so we ordered three sushi rolls as well. We chose The Hot Hippy (spicy marinated tofu with scallions, peanuts, cucumbers, and carrots), the Santa Fe (tempura fried sweet potato with agave jalapeño and sesame seeds), and the Avocado Tempura with the vegan option (vegan tofutti, cucumbers, avocado, vegan spicy sauce, drizzled with ponzu and scallions).
Sushi Rice
(all three, the Avocado Tempura, The Hot Hippy, and the Santa Fe going clockwise)

Wow. These rolls were so darn tasty, too! I think my favorite was the Avocado Tempura, but I’m a sucker for anything with avocado. It was creamy and crunchy all at the same time. The Santa Fe also had a great crunch from the tempura sweet potato, but it was balanced well with the spice of the agave jalapeño. The Hot Hippy was Nick’s favorite, and it was more a traditional vegetable roll, but the spicy tofu made it a little something different. They were all delicious and we devoured them in no time.

And yes. We ate the entire bucket of tots with NO REGRETS.

After exploring the Adams Morgan neighborhood a bit, we ventured off towards Georgetown. We’ve been to Georgetown a few times now, but we were headed to Baked & Wired for a cupcake. We snagged the “Hell Yeah” which was a vegan & gluten free chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream. While we didn’t snag a picture, and we didn’t eat it until after dinner, I’ll promise you that it was awesome! Nick said he would have never been able to tell you that it was gluten free. That’s always the true test! It was SUPER chocolate-y and not dry and crumbly at all. It was a perfect treat.

And let’s be serious. It’s hard to go to Georgetown and NOT get a cupcake from Sprinkles. I mean, it can, and has been done, but Sprinkles is always worth a trip.
I love Sprinkles!

The vegan red velvet is out of this world and we devoured it right outside the door. It has the perfect texture and just the right amount coconut flavor. And the buttercream?! Heavenly. Silky, smooth, and just the right amount of sweet. Worth every single calorie, for sure.

After a bit more of wandering around Georgetown, we headed back towards home because Nick didn’t want to leave his softball team hanging. They were right on the edge of having enough guys, and he wanted to give them a fair shot! After all of that, we got there and only 5 guys showed up. BUMMER. So after the time was over, and they had to forfeit for real, we took off and tried to decide what to do for dinner. We ended up at Whole Foods (we had a few things to get anyway) and ordered the Mighty Vegan Pizza. They didn’t have any vegan cheese ready, so we opted to skip the cheese and add marinated mushrooms instead. We brought it home, grabbed a drink (I chose the caffeine free Zevia Cola – yum!) and ate while watching a movie. It was kind of weird to be home without Olive around, but it was nice to sit on the couch, watch “Homeland”, and eat without having to say, “Olive, sit! This is not your pizza!”
A lovely Whole Foods Pizza all for us

This pizza was YUMMY! Big, chewy slices with loads of veggies and flavorful sauce. It definitely hit the spot.

What a great day! While it had ended up being way more humid than expected, we had such a great day together. I can’t wait to share the rest of our staycation with you tomorrow!