Engaged!

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OH yeah, I remember! Matt and I got engaged!

IMG_1750It all went down on February 22nd.  He took me hiking at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve and when we got to the scenic overlook, he sat me down and popped the question!IMG_1757I feel extremely blessed and thankful to have this man in my life.  I truly believe that God brought us together because the way it happened is way too significant to have been chance.

DSC_1772aWhat started out as two people “trying” to be a community group together has grown into a game-changer love that has redefined who I am as a person, how I love others, and most importantly, how I love God my Father.  I know who I am and who I want to be when I’m with him.IMG_1403I thank my Redeemer Jesus every day for leading me into such a life-affirming and life-altering relationship.  I feel like I only know how to love Matt because I am loved by Christ Jesus (1 John 4:19).

IMG_1358Not only am I looking forward to becoming Matt’s wife, I am excited to walk through this life together as partners.  I can’t wait to be his helpmate and biggest supporter.  I can’t wait to go on more adventures together, discovering the beauty of this world and all the people in it.  I look forward to a future family with him.  But, ultimately, I look forward to striving together toward Christ with every step we take as a married couple — helping each other become more like Him who we hold as our perfect creator and example.

August 9th couldn’t come any sooner!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Hebrews 12: 1-2

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A Little of This, A Little of That

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Heyyyy I think we’re due for some updates around here!  Here’s a little snippet of what’s been going on for the last couple of months.

+ First up, I got crafty one night and decided to finally do something with the stack of Instagram photos that I’d printed probably over a year ago…DSC_2551 DSC_2548 DSC_2545… voila!  My Instagram photo banner hanging above my bed.

+ As soon as we got back from our family trip to St. Croix, I knew I wanted to get back to eating right after all the Christmas/vacation frenzy.  My mom had success with Haylie Pomroy’s Fast Metabolism Diet so I read the book and began this “lifestyle change” of a diet.

FMD is basically all about getting your metabolism back on track by eating all natural and cutting out all processed foods.  She is all about targeting specific organs in your body with specific foods that make those organs work right in order to light your metabolism on fire.  So I committed.  I went to the grocery store and bought things that had never been placed in my cart before – things like sprouted-grain bread (the frozen aisle?  For bread?!), coconut aminos (still don’t really know what these are…), almond butter, and almost every type of vegetable in the produce section.  And with the purchase of all these new items, I was skipping out on the usual things that went into my cart – things like milk, chips, Lean Cuisine meals, bagels, etc. etc.  But as intimidating as this diet (which she interprets as an acronym: “Did I Eat Today?”) can seem with all its rules and do’s and don’ts, I actually found myself staying satisfied, eating and cooking new things, AND most importantly losing weight!  Winning!

FMD Cooking Adventures+  We went to a SuperBowl party at our community group leaders’ house and I made Chai Cupcakes to contribute 🙂  If only Peyton had been able to contribute to a win….

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+ Meredith, Matt, me, Mike, and another guy friend, David, went hiking out in the hill country at Reimer’s Ranch one sunny afternoon after church.  It was glorious and warm and beautiful … except when we got lost and learned later we’d missed the actual trail and had been hiking outside of the park’s boundaries all day.

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I feel like I’m forgetting something else important that happened recently… hmmmm….. 😉

St. Croix 2014 – Part III

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Our last full day in St. Croix was forecasted to be the worst day for weather… dark, cloudy skies, rain off and on all day.  Grrrrrreat. Remember how things always go wrong on Bryant family vacations?  Well, that had been the forecast for every day we were supposed to be there, and once we arrived, we hadn’t had more than spitting showers for ten minutes before breakfast. So, it was obvs the moment we’d all been waiting for, right?  WRONG!  Our last day ended up being the most beautiful, the most sunshiny, and the most fun day of the entire trip! Take that, Weather Channel!

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DSC_2448aMeredith and I began the day by going hiking to some tide pools on the far side of the nearest mountain!

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We tromped through the rainforest for a while, making our way over the mountain, with only a few glimpses of the ocean and our goal.  Every time we’d stop walking, tiny ants would swarm across our feet – never biting, but definitely reminded us to keep moving because the forest was alive around us.DSC_2458After a while, the trail turned into a dirt road, which then led us down to this rocky beach where the tide pools were.

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We explored a little, climbing around on the slicky sea cliffs, checking out sea glass and shells and coral that had washed up on the beach.

My favorite souvenir from our adventure

My favorite souvenir from our adventure

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Then we made our way to the far left side of the rock beach to get over to the tide pools themselves.  And to do so, we actually had to scale the cliff face!  It was your standard waves crashing on the rocks around us, waiting to jump to the next rock according to the ebb and flow of the ocean, yelling “go! go! go!” when it was the right time, and getting completely soaked (I was fearful for my camera!) in the process. But oh was it worth it!DSC_2472a DSC_2473a

By the time we got back to the hotel, we’d hiked about 2 miles round trip for most of the morning.  We met mom and dad by the pool, had some lunch, then screened up for some more beach layin’.IMG_1640 2 4 3

Oh yeah - and some body surfin!

Oh yeah – and some body surfin!

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IMG_1658 St Croix collageSt. Croix was so good to us.  Mom and Dad were so generous in taking us on such an amazing vacation.  We just had the best time together.  Very relaxing and a great way to start off the new year!  I know we’re all still missing our St. Croix paradise 🙂DSC_2399a DSC_2512a DSC_2489aHappy 2014!

St. Croix 2014: Part II

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The second full day we had in St. Croix, we went snorkeling! Oddly enough, even though I’ve spent most of my life in water – I was a swimmer during middle and high school and have loved the water since I was two – I have never officially gone snorkeling.  I know how to use one and all that, but I’ve just never been somewhere to actually go snorkeling.  So we were pretty excited about this excursion!  Meredith took care of all the booking and then we were off – me, Dad, and Meredith, spending a half-day snorkeling around Buck Island, a tiny island off the coast of St. Croix that’s actually a protected National Monument.

In case you were wondering, my mom decided to stay back at the hotel to soak up some sun – she’d prefer that to open water swimming.

In case you were wondering, my mom decided to stay back at the hotel to soak up some sun – she’d prefer that to open water swimming.

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Ready to go!  Can you tell whose legs are whose?

Ready to go! Can you tell whose legs are whose?

The water was SO beautiful that day!

The water was SO beautiful that day!

232323232-fp43888-nu=3962-8-9-883-2-538-9974233ot1lsiWe saw all sorts of fish and coral and even some lobsters!  The island featured an “underwater trail” to follow while snorkeling, so while we were moving along we got to read little plaques mounted on the floor of the reef describing all the sea-life we were looking at.  Pretty cool!

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Psst fun fact: these things sting!  Dad's leg grazed one and it left a brain-like tattoo on his leg for the rest of the trip!

Pssst fun fact: these things sting! Dad’s leg accidentally grazed one and it left a brain-like tattoo on his leg for the rest of the trip.  Beware!

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Spot the lobsters?
Spot the lobsters?7After we got back, we were pretty exhausted.  I curled up on the screened-in porch with a book, but ended up taking a nap for a good couple of hours.  As did the rest of the family.

IMG_1644 IMG_1647 7563_750762161601794_1762618654_n IMG_1648A good ending to Day 2 in Paradise!

St. Croix 2014: Part I

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The first six days of 2014, my family and I spent vacationing on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.  And it couldn’t have been a more perfect vacation – which is saying something because usually something always goes wrong when me and my family decide to go on a big trip together. We are the kind of family whose usual vacations involve spending a week sitting in a river out in west Texas, reading and getting tan together.  But then we get it in our heads that we need to go to Disney World or Europe or on a cruise and that’s where mayhem hits.  It’s not our fault or anything, things just end up going awry and while the vacation is fun, it’s somehow less than what we anticipated.

For example (the most extreme example, mind you, but you need to get a real idea of what I mean by mayhem), back when I was in college, my family decided we were going to spend Christmas break by going on a Caribbean cruise to Jamaica, the Grand Caymen, and I think somewhere else in Mexico.  Well, we were leaving out of Miami and the day we were supposed to leave port, a small prop plane crashed in the harbor. And TWENTY people died!  Because the harbor had become a catastrophe zone, our cruise ship could not leave on time, and therefore we lost all of our port times at all of our destinations.  We ended up not going to all the lovely, tropical, WARM places we were supposed to go to and instead spent a few scant hours in Key West, FL (on the only day a cold front blew in) and Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  It was cold everywhere we went, we didn’t get tan at all, and we didn’t get to go on any real excursions to see anything because our visiting times were so limited.  *Sigh* Still, I feel bad complaining about not getting to go snorkeling or hiking to see Mayan ruins when twenty people losing their lives in a freak accident is the root cause of our supposed “sufferings.”

Our family vacay to St. Croix, however, was NOT one of those vacations! (Praise the Lord, we broke the curse!)  It was gorgeous every day, we got just the right amount of sunburned, we got to go on some excursions, we ate like kings, and the flights were (for the most part) smooth and easy.  It was one of those vacations where you forget what day it is.  We woke up every morning to sunshine and the sound of waves crashing on the beach not twenty yards from our villa.  We sipped on rum punch and laid out on the beach, enjoying the 80º sunshiny days and the crystal clear blue water of the ocean.  It was one of those vacations where you were sad to leave but refreshed from being away and thus ready to get back to real life.  It was a vacation I think we’ll never forget 🙂

Winging our way to St. Croix

Winging our way to St. Croix

Tiny (read: scary!) little propeller planes to get us over to the island from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tiny (read: scary!) little propeller planes to get us over to the island from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Complimentary rum punches upon arrival!

Complimentary rum punches upon arrival!

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Beautiful Carambola beach at our hotel

Beautiful Carambola beach at our hotelDSC_2406a

The view from our screened in porch - the water was maybe twenty yards away!

The view from our screened in porch – the water was maybe twenty yards away!

My family enjoying our first full day in St. Croix by laying out on the beach

My family enjoying our first full day in St. Croix by laying out on the beach

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Family picture after feasting for dinner on our first full day in St. Croix

Family picture after feasting for dinner on our first full day in St. Croix

#LaterPost: Camping at Inks Lake

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The second weekend in December, Meredith, Mike, Matt, and I went camping at Inks Lake State Park—a park known mostly for its swimming hole, Devil’s Waterhole, and jumping cliffs.  We however, being the intelligent people that we are, decided to go camping at a park known for its swimming area in the middle of winter.  And while I admit that it doesn’t that cold in central Texas, this particular weekend felt ARCTIC to us.1471150_731935120151165_2016314696_nAnd due to insufficient sleeping bags (ahem Meredith!) and not enough blankets to cover heads and feet, a few of us spent the first night in a pretty miserable state.  BUT, after reassessing our needs the next day, we ended up sleeping much better the second night.  The weekend overall was tons of fun—filled with cooking meals over an open fire, smoking cigars, drinking homemade cider, waking up to frost and a flock of geese honking outside the tent, crazy dancing around the fire, hiking, touring a local cave (Longhorn Cavern State Park), and soaking up the joy that comes with pure and spontaneous adventure.

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Christmas 2013 ~ Part III: Feasting

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Fun Fact: Today is my Blogiversary!  That’s right, I’ve been blogging for a full year! But before you get to thinking I’ve had this on my calendar for months, waiting and anticipating this moment when I could blog to you about having a blog, I would like to quickly dispel that thought by letting you know that this extra special, oh-so-very important, momentous and possibly life-altering occasion was only fully realized by myself when WordPress let me know said milestone had arrived.  Womp womp… #badblogger #statsarenotmystrongsuit

Anyway, moving on.  This is the final post in my Christmas series and it just might be the most important: it’s the FOOD post, the “What We Ate” post, the #nom #nomnom #nomnomnom post.  Or what have you.

I’ll be honest, I had some great successes and then some pretty big failures with this year’s Christmas feast. Cake layers broke apart when it came time for their removal from the pans; Sweet potatoes were discovered to be hard as rocks and completely unmashable after not baking long enough; my beautiful Christmas turkey from my company that I thought was going to be the crown jewel of my Christmas feast, ended up being pre-cooked and needed only to be browned and served… ho hum.  IMG_1620 But somehow, after three grueling days of cooking, slaving away over a hot stove and standing on a hard concrete floor, every failure ended up turning into a delicious success [aka: Mom came to the rescue] and everything really was as perfect as I had hoped it would be. IMG_1623 The Menu:

Roasted Turkey and Natural Jus with Mushroom, Brown Butter and Sage Dressing [ended up just being brown-n-serve roasted turkey… delicious but definitely not the crown jewel I had hoped for]  Note to self: must read package labels better

Pioneer Woman’s Sweet Soul Taters [read: Sweet Potato Casserole with a pecan pie crust topping!]

+ My Grandmama’s Cornbread Dressing [the best dressing there ever was!]

+ Green Bean Casserole [can’t miss it at a feast at my house!] DSC_2337aDSC_2351a DSC_2351 (2)a DSC_2353a DSC_2355a DSC_2356a DSC_2358a Other notables for Christmas snacking included a veggie tray with a homemade dill dip and (you guessed it) Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls!  What Christmas would be complete without them?!DSC_2345aDSC_2359aEven Adalee girl knew she had to find a way to get her paws on one….DSC_2361aSo, we had Christmas dinner together as a family on Christmas Eve then the plan was to go to my cousin, Shelby’s house for a Christmas potluck with the extended family on Christmas Day.  For that, our family contributed some oven-roasted veggies, some more of Grandmama’s Cornbread Dressing, and what ended up being the crown jewel of my Christmas cooking…my New Duchess Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting, of which I am quite proud…despite having to make it twice because the first cake broke apart when coming out of the pan 😉 DSC_2328a IMG_1627

We ended up having a lovely time altogether, the way Christmas is supposed to be.DSC_2370a DSC_2374a DSC_2375aDon’t know what’s going on in that picture…

As for the cake… I like to think most people enjoyed it 😉

DSC_2372aMerry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

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Christmas 2013 ~ Part II: LIGHTS

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This year I really wanted to get some outdoor Christmas lights up.  I clipped a coupon in one of the many flyers we got in our weekly junk mail pile on the day after Thanksgiving, made a mental note to get lights on sale, and then thought ceaselessly about how and when to put them up – before Christmas preferably! Whelp, I only got them up about a week before December 25th, but they were up!!!  And now my carefully thought-out lights plan will be completely on schedule for NEXT year.DSC_2318I also got to add a cool new decoration inside that I reaped from our recent camping adventure to Inks Lake State Park (more on that trip to come in a future #LaterPost!): REAL MISTLETOE!

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Then in the midst of all the merry-ho-ho-ho, Matthew and I celebrated one year of being together!  After a nice dinner at Zax, we then replicated our first date by going to Zilker Park to walk the Trail of Lights.

DSC_2301 DSC_2306 DSC_2308 DSC_2311 IMG_1606Awwww man… no cooking after all!  😉 Okay, that’ll be up next.  Promise.

 

Christmas 2013 ~ Part I: Decorating & Baking

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The holidays are officially over and thus it’s time for a slew of #LaterPosts on what’s been going on during that “most wonderful time of the year!”  Last year was our first Christmas in the new house and I thought I went all out THEN decorating and cooking, but I’m pretty sure my goals this year outdid my attempts from last year.

Last year:

Christmas craft fail

This year:

Aleyna =

Martha

Juuuuusssst kidding.  OR am I?

From making a new handmade wreath, to throwing together co-worker gifts, to trying new cookie recipes, putting up outdoor Christmas lights, going to see performances of Handel’s Messiah and The Nutcracker ballet, walking the Trail of Lights, and then planning, buying for, timing out, and finally cooking a labor-and-time-intensive Christmas feast menu, I’m pretty sure I nailed Christmas this year 🙂

IMG_1563My co-worker gifts this year were inspired by our collective 3 o’clock snack ritual: popcorn!  Sometimes it’s done juuuust right, but most of the time someone burns it and our kitchen smells for the rest of the day.  So, I put together little personal popcorn bowls with two bags of our faves each – homestyle and kettle corn.  After all, “The office that  burns  makes popcorn together, STAYS together!”

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DSC_2249I also made three new cookie recipes: MStew’s Outrageous Chocolate Cookies, Soft n’ Thick Snickerdoodles, and Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Macademia Chip Cookies.  All delish!

DSC_2258 DSC_2261 DSC_2269 DSC_2271 DSC_2277 DSC_2288 DSC_2293 DSC_2295 DSC_2299Next up – Lights! More Christmas kitsch! And probably some more cooking…