Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer 2013 Part 3: Wedding Reception

My Washington parents, as I have so often referred to them here, Bill and Sally, hosted a wedding reception/farewell party for DFJ and me on July 27th, 2013. It was a beautiful event set in the home that I lived in during my first two years in this country. The reception was meant to be low-key as is my way of doing all things. But the beautiful, idyllic, charming home of Bill and Sally; DFJ’s mom’s flower arrangement; all the special people that came to celebrate with us; and the amazing food, made it so very special.

The love and support that everyone showed by coming to our party was overwhelming. It was very touching to see how everyone was so happy and excited for us and our new adventure. Seeing the faces of all the people who have helped me grow up and survive in this country meant the world to me. My words are simply not enough to convey what my heart wants to say.

Here are some pictures of our reception… no fancy schmancy wedding photography here (we didn’t hire one), just good ol’ pictures from our cameras.

All the flowers displayed on the tables and the serving areas were arranged by DFJ’s mom. They were stunning! The flower fillers came from the grocery store but the roses, hydrangeas, and dahlias all came from Sally’s gorgeous garden.

For favors, I made 6 batches of this granola recipe and packed them in glass jars. Let me tell you, this is the best granola ever! EVER! We labeled it “Happy Feet” granola with a picture of our feet dangling over the dock in Lake Chelan where we got married last April.

Rich Sisters catered our delicious food and scrumptious bite-size desserts. There were some delicious hors d’oeuvres and my favorite was the fresh zucchini with sun dried tomatoes. Rich made some roasted cashews with rosemary and “secret ingredients” and they were to-die-for. The main entrees included: Mediterranean inspired Israeli couscous (fresh ingredients with bright flavors); spinach salad with dates (from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem); perfectly-flavored roasted fingerling potatoes; chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice (from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem); and fresh salmon with dill sauce (this guy knows how to do salmon right). Everything was in-season, fresh, and full of bright flavors. Rich's cooking philosophy is definitely right up my alley! There were different kinds of bite-size deserts (I can’t name all of them) but I can tell you that they were all delicious and were a HUGE hit.

I think that a good time was had by all, especially the little kids who ran around carrying little chicks in their hands, catching frogs, and dancing. The adults sipped on some wine that DFJ and I bought from Kitzke Cellars, our local favorite, while listening to some smooth, relaxing, world music by CafĂ© Blanco. The lead singer, Eddie Manzanares, is the best! Bill had a beautiful speech that brought me to tears… and DFJ and I said some words as well.

I will definitely remember our wedding reception with great fondness. All the people who helped me become who I am today; the special people who brought me here, Bill and Sally; and my husband, DFJ… my love and gratitude to all of you!

To my family in the Philippines, don’t worry about missing the beautiful party, we’ll have another one when DFJ and I come home!  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer 2013 Part 2: Mt. Rainier

DFJ and I love camping! We have had a very busy summer and only got to go camping once. However, if you live in Washington State and you only go camping once in your life, ever… I highly recommend camping at Mt. Rainier. No joke, my heart constricted and there were tears in my eyes as I said goodbye to Mt. Rainier (for now). Moving away from Washington doesn’t mean I won’t ever go back, because I will. Perhaps, DFJ might even consider hibernating to Rainier with me.

Anyhoo, amidst a very busy week of swimming, a job interview gone terribly wrong, a 4th of July party, a seamstress visit, and riding bikes with friends, DFJ and I packed our gear and went camping at La Wis Wis, which is just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. We had a low key hike around the campsite on our first afternoon and proceeded to set up house and settle in. I read The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman (it's quite a fascinating read written in a straightforward manner) as DFJ was whittling the tip of a stick for hotdogs and s’mores. We ate some delicious corn chowder that I cooked ahead at home and roasted some hotdogs and marshmallows after. It was so wonderfully relaxing to just sit and watch the embers die down.

The next day we went to Ohanapecosh and hiked to Silver Falls and Glove of the Patriarchs. There’s something about the powerfull fall of waterfalls that just leave you in awe of nature’s strength and beauty. As DFJ and I went into the Glove of the Patriarchs, the big, old trees greeted us warmly… it was truly humbling to be in the presence of such natural, ancient greatness!

After our hike, we went to a coffee shop in Packwood for Internet because I wanted to know if my interviewers contacted me with a job offer. What a waste of time. Of course they didn’t! So, we headed back to our campground and built our tent at a new campsite (this is what happens if you don’t make reservations ahead of time). No big deal though, the ranger was so nice… he felt bad for kicking us out of a reserved spot that he gave us two piles of firewood and a riverside site to boot. Oh the kindness of mountain folk! We cuddled in our tent and took a nap under the shade of a tree. Have you ever taken a nap in a tent to the sounds of the river rushing and the breeze swaying the tree branches? It is the perfect lullaby! And the sun behind the thick trees kissing your face? Simply wonderful! We finally woke up from our slumber and explored other parts of our campground and found the Blue Hole with a rope swing that thankfully didn’t break! After all that fun, we went back and had some pasta (again cooked at home and just reheated at the campsite), more hotdogs, and s’mores. We stayed up so late just gazing at the stars. They are much brighter in the mountains and they seemed so close you could almost touch them.

The next day we drove up to Mt. Rainier. It is a jaw-dropping, breathtaking drive, all the way up. Mt. Rainier is as majestic as can be in its full glory! There are no words to describe it. We went on a hike and encountered some slippery slopes. That was on July 10th and the park just opened two weeks before we were there, so there was still a lot of snow. As I was taking slow, painful steps down the snowy mountainside, a crazy family ran past me barefoot in the snow! What?! DFJ pushed me down the hill and we rolled around some… that was the moment I realized that I needed to just relax and enjoy it. I don’t think I have enough adjectives in my back pocket to describe how beautiful Rainier is, so here are the pictures!

More on our summer adventures in the next few posts…   

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer 2013 Part 1: North Idaho

Hi guys!!! It has been a long, long while. We are here… DFJ and I managed to move our butts 3,000+ miles from Washington State to Maryland.

Just a week or so before we left, my second parents, Bill and Sally, hosted a very sweet wedding reception/farewell party for our Washington friends. After all our belongings were moved, we packed the rest into my car, cleaned our old apartment, then drove off for a mini vacation to Bend, OR. Somehow, in between this chaos, we also managed to find a place to hang our hats from across the country, thanks to my in-laws. After Bend, we went to my Greencard interview, which I passed with flying colors. Haha! Then, we embarked on our exciting cross-country drive (more on that later).

I usually get pretty wordy… but in this post and the ones to follow, I will let the pictures tell you how my summer went. Be prepared for a gazillion pictures!

As the first few weeks of summer rolled in, we decided to pretend that nothing major was happening. This summer would be just like any other summer. Which meant that we did zero packing and just goofed off!

We went to visit family in Spokane, WA and in between visiting, we went on day trips to the Hiawatha Bike Trail and Coeur d’Alene. The Hiawatha Bike Trail is a scenic bike trail that used to be a railroad that connected Idaho and Montana. It was an amazing experience to bike in the wilderness! The tunnels though, were totally NOT my thing. Brave souls, including little toddlers, breezed past me on their bikes with just their headlamps on. But I was being a scaredy cat and froze my ass walking my bike in the cold, damp tunnel for 1.66 miles (that’s not counting the other shorter tunnels that I also walked). Other than the torturous tunnels, this is an awesome bike trail. Make sure you pay attention to where you’re going though, you could fall off the cliff if you gawk at the gorgeous scenery too much! And yes, there is a high chance that you will be sharing the road with some wildlife! *wink!*

The next day, we drove less than an hour to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to bike the Centennial Bike Trail. I enjoyed this ride immensely! The wide, paved trail was alongside highways, neighborhood roads, a park, the University of Idaho, and the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. We stopped at the farmer’s market to buy some lunch and a pint of raspberries, which we finished off in less than 15 minutes. Those were the best raspberries I’ve had this summer! This bike ride was for sure 23.5 miles of heart pumping bliss!  

Man, typing this post and revisiting the pictures just made me so homesick for the Pacific Northwest. It is a beautiful part of the country… and I have more proof of that in the next post!

It feels good to be back here though… I have missed you all.