and so it began...

Six years have passed since our first date. (SIX!) The past six years of my life have been full of joy, love, and surprises. And I'm thankful that since 2 October 2009, I've been spending each year with this cutie-pie with the baby face:

Our first "couple" pic -- taken December 2009 (post first-date)

I think it was September 29. The night D$ asked me on a date (over the phone, since we lived 4 hours apart), I went home to my beautiful friends Annie and Mary, and the following few hours played out like a fashion show. Living with your two best girls = endless fashion advice and 2 extra closets of clothes that aren't your own. The date wasn't until the end of the week, but I needed a good outfit ASAP.  In the end, I wore bell-bottom blue jeans (cute at the time), grey converse, and a purple sweater. (I'm glad I remember this outfit, because I forgot to take a picture that evening!) 

So in the late afternoon on October 2 I met D in a special location. I remember it was a mild evening, but the beautiful north Louisiana landscape was drenched in warm sunlight. I remember seeing D... he had on a checkered button up shirt (purple and tan on white), denim, and some nice looking boots. Although I didn't know it at the time, he had asked me to meet him at the place his grandfather liked to visit during his life... there's a bench there now in memorial to his grandfather. I didn't even notice the bench, though, because I was too distracted by the (figurative) butterflies. 

We hopped in his old red truck and made our way to... Piccadilly.

That's right, Piccadilly. The cafeteria. You see, while we were in Haiti, our entire team dreamt of food. It seemed to be the topic of many conversations... sushi, pancakes, hot wings and milk, Dinty Moore, and Piccadilly. I remember telling Daniel that when my sister and I were young, that's where my mom would take us for special occasions. We LOVED Piccadilly*. The cubes of blue jello at the start of the line... the fried fish... the ROLLS... endless sweet tea. It was like heaven on earth for little girls (and older couples). But what I remember most about our childhood Piccadilly outings, which I told Daniel while we were in Haiti, were the Andes mints. When we Mom would pay at the end of our meal, there was always a small box of Andes mints for 5¢ each. Mom would buy each of us one mint but make us wait until we got home to eat them. We would eat the mints on the front porch, and then roll up the wrappers into little balls and see who could throw them the farthest. They always ended up landing in the monkey grass... and I seem to recall Meghan digging her wrapper-ball out for a re-throw a couple of times. Fond K Street memories. :)
*not a sponsored statement

Piccadilly with Daniel was seriously hilarious. We were notably the youngest people eating there at 6pm on a Friday. Nonetheless, the food was good and the company was even better. When we paid, D bought two Andes mints and tucked them away... I figured he was saving them for later. 

Another thing I didn't realize at the time: Daniel was basically "winging" our date. I've heard him say he thought about taking me to a movie but then didn't look up times? (Not sure if I have this information totally correct.) So he just picked me up, took me to eat, and was, from that point on, flying by the seat of his pants. He (casually, as though planned) suggested that we go for coffee at Books-a-Million and then walk around the park by the river. I thought that sounded great! Pumpkin Spice Latte and fall weather walks are among some of my favorites. However, once we made it to the park we saw a large group of people making their way into this local museum/garden called The Biedenharn. We walked closer to see what was happening, and the greeter invited us inside. It turned out that the museum was offering free dance lessons that very evening (waltz and west coast swing) for 3 hours under the stars... and, naturally, we arrived right on time.

We were pretty excited and spent the whole night dancing; the weather was amazing, the instructor was easy to follow, and my dance partner was (obviously) dreamy. My cheeks hurt from smiling by the end of those three hours, but I didn't want the night to end. Unbeknownst to either of us that evening, only 2 years and 2 weeks later on October 15, 2011, Daniel would propose to me in that very garden. 

When we left we walked a bit and chatted about bits and bobs. When we made it back to where my car was parked, D took out the two Andes mints. We sat on the curb, ate the mints, balled up the wrappers, and threw them as far as we could. We said goodbye and I made my way home... pretty sure I called Annie and Mary ASAP to fill them in on every single detail. Also pretty sure I was too giddy to sleep that night. That first date... it was orchestrated by God. And it was perfect.

Delighted that our first date turned into many more and brought us to where we are now. Undeserving of this great love. Thankful for all God's provisions since October 2, 2009.

Hubsby, I'll always dance with you.



happy first Scottiversary to us!

Today marks one year that we've lived in Scotland. Woah.

This time last year, we were arriving to Edinburgh, 4 suitcases + 4 carryons  + 2 deer-in-the-headlights looks alighting the train at Edinburgh Waverley, [unsuccessfully] trying to roll our bags across the bumpy stones, exiting onto Princes Street with all bags in tow, only to be told we needed to go back through the station and exit at the opposite side (Market Street) to find a taxi. If ever there were two people who stood out as newbs, WE were those people that day. 

Boy did we learn a lot in the 365 days following that one. 

Special shout-out to my adventure partner D$, who has made even the
tough times of our first year in Scotland some of our best times yet.
Love you my hubsby! 

Moving abroad changes you. Really, ANY move changes you. I think it shapes and develops your character, your endurance, and most certainly your patience! Both times I've moved I'm certain God used it as a way to show me that he always provides for our needs. So often I seem to forget how faithful he is. But he shows himself true to his promises every single time. 

Here are a few of my favorite, unexpected gifts from this past year in Edinburgh: 

- the amazing New College community that welcomed us with open arms
- two adorable Hewitt children that stole my heart (and now a third!)
- being able to practice Spanish with students from Spain to whom I teach English. :)
- all of our amazing, fun, out-of-town guests
- ... and so much more. This list could go on and on.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity to live in Edinburgh. The first year flew by, so I know I'll need to cherish and enjoy every minute of our remaining time here. Don't forget to come visit... you know you'll have a place to stay! :)


p a e l l a >> the simple way

A few months ago my friend Hayley convinced me to try HelloFresh. Have you heard of them? Basically, it's this super-convenient service that delivers all the ingredients you'd need for 3 meals, in perfect portions, with recipe cards included. I don't think cooking gets any easier than that! Hayley sent me a link to receive a three-meal box for only £19, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try! After the first box, though, it became a bit too expensive to make it a regular habit. But the service comes highly recommended! 

My favorite part of trying HelloFresh was that each meal they sent were recipes that I wouldn't have tried on my own. That week, I made [for the first time] lamb kaftas, pork risotto, and paella. 

Each meal was so tasty, but the paella truly stands out among the crowd. Since then, I've made paella at least once every other week, tweaking it each time. Traditional Spanish paella sometimes uses shrimp, muscles, or rabbit, but I've learned it DOES NOT use chorizo. This recipe I use is chicken-only, but it's so tasty, fresh, and is perfect to eat year-round.

[simple] paella

Total time: 50 minutes (includes veggie chopping)
Feeds: 4 really hungry adults

Cast of characters: 

- 2 cups basmati rice
- cherry tomatoes
- 2 red peppers
- 1 orange pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 chicken stock pots
- 4-6 chicken thighs, depending on how "meaty" you want it
- salt
- pepper
- olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 5-ish cups boiling water
- 3 T chopped parsley (optional)


1. Chop it all up!

I love that this recipe is a one-dish meal, but it does require about 15 minutes of chopping (depending on how fast you are) before starting. Here's what you'll do:
- dice the chicken (raw)
- slice the peppers into thin slices
- dice the onion
- half the cherry tomatoes
- half the lemon, then quarter one half

2. Cook the chicken

Put some olive oil in a LARGE pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, throw in your diced chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Cook until finished, then remove from pan and set aside.

3. WASH THE RICE & start the kettle

I cannot emphasise this step enough. You should always wash your rice... It's meant to be washed and tastes SO much better! While the chicken is cooking, give your rice a good 2 minute bath while the kettle starts with water.

4. Cook the veggies

In the same pan you used for chicken, add a bit more olive oil, then add your garlic and onions. Let them soften a bit (smell the heavenly aroma). Then add your peppers. Let them soften for about 3 minutes, then add your cherry tomatoes. Mix all this up and allow to cook/soften for 5 more minutes. You may want to stop here and just eat the veggies. YUM!!

5. Add the rice

Let the rice mix in with all the oil/juices and cook for about 3 minutes. This preps the rice and makes it oh-so-tasty. ** at this point, if you want, you can add your chopped parsley**

6. Pour in the water, plus add the stockpot

Once the rice has softened, add the water and the stockpot and mix really well. All of the stockpot needs to dissolve. Make sure the rice isn't sticking to the side of your pan, but is all in the broth.

7. Add chicken, lower heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes

Once it's simmered for 10 minutes, return to stove and give it another good mix. Make sure the rice on the outside of the pan gets pushed to the middle, so that it all cooks evenly.

8. Let simmer another 5 minutes

Repeat step 7.

9. Let simmer another 5-10 minutes 

Or, until the rice has soaked up the water. Your paella should stick a bit to the bottom of the pan when it's done.

10. Add the lemon and serve!

Remember that lemon we sliced? Add as much of the large half as you want, then mix your paella together. Serve hot with a small lemon wedge on the side. YUM!!

And, as the Spanish say, BUEN PROVECHO! :)

PS - I'm realizing that this is the third recipe I've ever posted, and I prepared it in our little Parisian flat. The last time I blogged a recipe was HERE in 2011 when I used Daniel's seminary apartment kitchen, and the time before that was HERE, when I cooked in a shared kitchen in Guatemala. Ha, maybe one day I'll show you that I really do cook in my own kitchen!


P a r i s i n g [on a budget]

I am fond of taking nouns and making them into verbs. As a language teacher who holds to the theory that the speaker is in charge of their language and its rules, I like to test "language creation" on a regular basis. Some of my most recent favorites include:

- to swank: "I'll never see another place that swanks like this."
- to metro: "Do you want to walk or metro there?"
- to pizza: "Imma pizza for dinner."
- to museum: "Do you want to museum after class?"
- to Paris: "We'll be spending the month of July Parising."

All of the above vocabulary has truly come in handy for July 2015, as D$ and I have been studying French in Paris. Honestly, this was my first time in my life to visit a place where I didn't know any of the language, nor have a friend alongside to help me communicate. Also, full disclosure, I have a bias toward Spanish-speaking countries... so I didn't expect to like Paris quite as much as I like Latin America. BUT, my expectations were certainly exceeded, and I can see why so many people fall in love with this city. Paris is beautiful!

We've Parised on a student budget, which is a bit tricky as Paris is quite a large and expensive city. Fortunately, I've been able to receive free entrance at many of the museums for being a 26-and-under EE member. But, for any of you wishing to travel to Paris on a tight budget, here are some tips on how to get the most bang for your... euro.

1. Visit the free and beautiful sights!
- Notre Dame de Paris - they offer free tours in English on Wednesdays at 2pm. **Check their website to make sure times haven't changed. 
- Luxembourg Gardens/Tuileries Garden - two beautiful parks for a picnic or a stroll.
- Eiffel Tower - self explanatory, right?! :) It costs money and time to elevator up to the top, but I enjoy simply admiring it from the ground. **but watch for pickpockets
- Le Sacre Cœur - basically any Catholic church you can find that still holds mass for the public will be free to enter... and they are incredible!
- Arc de Triomphe - and a walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, maybe stopping in Cartier for a free museum-like experience?
- La Maison de Victor Hugo - a cute thing to see, especially if you're fond of the Hunchback of Notre Dame or Les Miserables.
- La Canal St. Martin - specifically the part on the Quai de la Seine.
- Les Passages Couverts - Gallerie Vivienne is probably one of my favorites! I'd recommend spending a weekday to wander around and find them -- be careful, because they close and are locked up in the evenings and on Sundays. 
- etc. The list goes on and on. For a more comprehensive list, check out this site. The ones listed here are simple a few of my favorites.

2. Find out when the museums offer deals. 
Like I said above, Notre Dame offers free tours in English on Wednesdays at 2pm... but they aren't the only ones. Some museums have discounted entry in the late afternoons. For example, like stated below, the Louvre is free on Fridays after 6pm for young people. Also, many museums will offer free entrance to an art or history student, and the Jewish Art and History Museum will even offer for people studying religion. The d'Orsay is reduced from 4:30 every day but Thursday (6pm). Also, almost all of the museums are FREE the first Sunday of the month. So if your trip falls during that time, plan to be at the museum when it opens for a free and less-crowded experience. Basically, do a bit of research to find the best days at the best prices.

3. Mobilis on the metro.
If you plan on doing a lot of metro traveling one day, get the mobilis ticket. Find out which zones you'll be in, and this ticket will cover all of your travel for one calendar day. They are on the SECOND page of tickets (sneaky!), but are actually cheaper than the first option which is the "Paris Visite" day-ticket. Don't get the latter unless you plan on going to the airport by metro at the end of the day... you'll lose money. But keep in mind, you'll discover so much more of Paris if you travel by foot or bike, so don't metro too much!
**note on the metros... the majority of stops are not handicap/stroller friendly. 

4. Street food is your friend. 
Food will be one of your biggest expenses while in Paris. If you want to avoid some of those costs and save for one or two nice eat-outs, consider the street food. You'll see the vendors as you walk along... little shops that hardly have enough seats for 4 customers, selling pizza, falafels, crepes!!, sausages, etc. It's a cheap option *can get by for 5e per person* plus, it gives you the opportunity to continue exploring while you eat. OR, you can be like the Parisians and find an outdoor spot to dine al fresco. Savory crepes are a must-try!

5. Some things are DEFINITELY worth the splurge.
1. Sainte Chapelle - a chapel completely surrounded by stained glass, with about 70% of it being the original glass.
2. Le Louvre - on Fridays from 6pm - 9:45pm entrance is free for all people 25 and under of all nationalities... just show your ID! Before you go, decide what's most important for you to see (i.e. Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Greek art, the Royal Apartments, etc.), because it's unlikely you'll get through the entire museum in one trip.
3. Seine River Cruise - they leave from all over the Siene, but Pont Neuf is right in the middle and they offer great prices. You can save €4 if you book online! These tours are lovely as the sun is setting.
4. Palais Garnier - this opera house is breathtaking. Go see for yourself! Honestly I liked this more than Versailles, because it was just-as if not more luxurious and had at least 100x less people. Check their website for English-tour times. They were sold out of the tour when we arrived, but it would definitely be worth it... with the tour group you get to go down into the seats close to the stage!

*Other random tips:

1. To avoid larger crowds at museums, early morning/late evenings visits usually offer a less-busy experience.

2. Versailles is beautiful and luxurious, but it's so crowded! There are 3 rooms I thought were stunning inside the chateau, but it was hard for me to enjoy the experience; so many people accidentally touching my bum because we were all so smushed together! If you go to Versailles but don't want the crowds, the gardens alone are worth the trip... plus, the gardens are free to enter! Take the RER C to the west of the city.

3. Be sure to do a little research before you come. If you're taking a short trip, it's a good idea to have a plan of what you want to see... then you can look at google maps and figure out how to group nearby-things. 

A few blogs that helped me plan our month-long stay:
*A Cruising Couple
*Well Plated
*On The Luce

Enjoy every minute of Paris; you really won't be able to help but fall in love with the city! If any of my readers are experienced Paris travelers and have additional tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below! I'd really like to hear what you all love about Paris. :)

Bon voyage!


oh, by the way, we moved to Scotland!

Yes, it's true. Daniel and I relocated to Edinburgh [ed-in-bur-uh], Scotland on 4 September 2014. If you're reading my blog (anybody?) you probably already know this. Because I post (as both the French AND South-Louisianians say) "beaucoup" pictures. 

We really like love living in Edinburgh. We think it has the best of everything you could want in a city... the greenest parks, the cutest cafes, the cosiest pubs, the friendliest people, and the list goes on and on. We love being able to walk everywhere. We love our "wee" flat, our friends, and everything about this beautiful country. *except for maybe the weather* I strongly urge you to come visit while we are living here. We'd be happy to host, and you would not be disappointed! 

About 8 months into our Edinburgh life D and I visited the US for about a month. It. Was. Great! We loved seeing friends and family while home. It was comfortable being in the culture we were raised in. We travelled so much, visiting north and south Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. I was thankful for that refreshing trip, seeing loved ones and eating too much Chick-fil-a. While we were home I spoke to several people about my #todayinedinburgh photos. It was amazing to see how many people were following our journey via social media. Helps me feel like my loved ones are less far away. People had nothing but nice things to say: "your pictures are so beautiful," "Edinburgh looks like an amazing place," "it's so neat to follow you guys in the UK." And also things like: "you guys are really living the dream," "how lucky you are to live in Scotland," "your life is like a movie." 

So, I'm writing this blog post to address the latter series of comments.

We feel so thankful that God chose to bring us to Scotland, because we really do love it here. We also trust that, no matter where we are, God will provide for our needs. And He most certainly has! Sometimes we'll say to each other (almost a year later) "Wow... we actually LIVE here!" because it's not something either of us would have ever expected. But, as the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. And in this case, while the grass LITERALLY is greener, I want to tell you that we have faced our share of hardships, but we are thankful for the hope we have that God will walk us through and provide for our needs. Take this, for instance...

When I post pictures of bright sun shining beautifully into our back bedroom it's because I've been inside all day and that was the ONLY 5 SECONDS OF THE DAY that the sun came out. What. The. Heck. Scotland?!?!

When I post pictures of tea and biscuits in bed, it's because I'm having hot tea under the covers in the middle of the day because it's FREEZING in our flat and we're too cheap to start using the heat in early October.

When I post pictures of romantic early-morning adventures with my sweet boo-thang, it's because the forecast for THE NEXT 36 HOURS is RAIN!!!!! So we better get out at 8am and enjoy the clear skies before it starts raining by lunch. 

When I post pictures of our roast chicken for #thanksgivinginedinburgh, I'm roasting a chicken because the only fresh turkey I could find was nearly $100. Heck to the no. 

When I post picturesque twilight silhouettes of church spires, just keep in mind that twilight in December was at 4pm. NOT. COOL.

Also 3:30pm sunsets in January..

When I post pictures of snowy fields, just remember that I usually WALK to work. about 2 miles, and yes, uphill. 

When I post pictures of gorgeous flower gardens, please know that it's the only 10 minutes of the day that the grey skies briefly shared with the sun.

When I post pictures of ancient castle ruins, bear in mind that the only reason we went there was because we won free train tickets and were able to enter at no cost. We packed a lunch. I don't even like packing my lunch.

The list goes on and on. Like, for example..
- Scottish Power is the UK equivalent of Comcast.
- I work 3 jobs, that, inconveniently, aren't close to one another. 
- Exciting things happen in the lives of our family members and friends back home, but we miss out. 

SO, what?

Here's the bottom line: most people nobody has a perfect/dreamy/movie-like life. We all have difficulties and hard times in life, regardless of what we post on social media for the world to see. And I've realized that, without meaning to, I've made my life seem like it's full of adventures and excitement. But in all actuality, it's probably a lot like yours! 

Love where you live, because God has put you there for a reason. Enjoy the little things, like sunshine, free day trips, bright colored flowers, delicious CHICKEN at Thanksgiving, etc., because they are so often the biggest blessings. And don't be too discouraged from the hard things in life [I'm preaching to the choir, here], but have hope and see it at work all around you.

peace & love