Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wait... Can't we just rewind?

Waahh... WAIT.
This isn't how it's supposed to be... right? I'm supposed to be living on Cloud 9 in the land of Honeymooner's Bliss where everything's bright, sunny and perfect...
Well what happened? Could someone please tell me how I got here?
Ugh. Can't we just rewind and start things over? Back to September 4th?

If only this wasn't the dialogue that's played over in my head - and truthfully more times than it should...
It has been 2 months and 19 days since I married my best friend and love of my life. And it was a day I will never EVER forget - literally a dream come true. Soft salty breezes, sweet summer sunshine and a slow peaceful pace flood my sense memory as I look over all the moments captured in time by my amazing photographer. Peace. Joy. Anticipation. God's Presence. His radiant smile. They were all overwhelmingly present on that momentous day.

So many people warned me to expect things to go wrong. To just know that things weren't going to turn out the way I'd planned. I wanted to say to them, "Ok. I get it. Nothing's perfect. But maybe your plans just weren't as thorough, or you didn't communicate your vision with enough detail... That's not going to happen at my wedding..."
But I didn't. I held my tongue. I knew better. I knew I wasn't above mistakes or oversights. I just smiled. Nodded. And tried to prepare myself to let it all go. But more importantly I prayed.
I prayed over every single detail of our wedding. From the weather, to the seating chart, to finding all the vases, maps and depression glass candelabras. And God provided. In every. single. way. Even down to the light dusting of sun-filtering clouds and perfect 72˚F weather that was definitely not forecasted earlier that week.
It wasn't perfect. Nothing ever is (excepting our Lord Jesus). The ikea candles burned down too quickly at the reception tables, and Dad and I lingered just a little too long so that instead of walking down the aisle to the beautiful "ah uh a ha uh ah oooh" of Sufjan Steven's "Holy Holy Holy", it was in complete silence. But yeah... that's it.
The two things. Pittance. The closest anything in my life will ever be to perfect.
And as of now, that is the complete truth.

©Kristen Marie Photography
The most common question I've been asked over the past 2 months and 19 days is, "So how's married life treating you?"
Well to be completely honest it's been pretty rough. I wish someone would've warned me, as they did for the actual wedding day, to expect things to go wrong. But that's real life. Not sure why I've been surprised... Now I don't want to you to think that marriage has been rough. If anything, I am more certain every day that the man I married is a gift from God, and that He knew how much I would need Ryan these last few weeks and months...

 Life has been rough. September 1st and the few days that followed in quiet bliss at a cabin on the Hood Canal seemed like a dream. Come September 5th a rude awakening awaited me. Back to a somewhat tense work environment, the unconscious stress and late nights that led up to the wedding day caught up with me. Exhaustion set in. Come September 9th Exhaustion had not only taken over, it invited it's friends Fever, Fatigue and Influenza to move in as well.
Fever finally departed after ten days and Influenza followed four days later, but Fatigue and Exhaustion decided to remain indefinitely. It's taken me 10 weeks, 8 doctors visits, 4 blood tests and 1 urine-analysis to finally feel like we posted an "eviction" notice. But as with most evictions, damage had already been done...
There's no way you can miss two weeks of work right before a Rep and expect to still perform. And I didn't. But I did my best to "will" myself back to health. Apparently the mind-over-matter tactic doesn't always work. As my husband says, I'm good at everything except being sick. Yep, I kinda suck at it. And while I was glad to not pass along the wretched flu bug to any of my co-workers, it was still very hard for me to not dance in the opening Rep of my 10th season with PNB. Still harder was coming back to work feeling less than 100% and unable to give less than 110. In fact, if I'm honest I was feeling around 60% - which in most work situations is passable for a few days, even a few weeks. When you dance for a living, it's a little different.

How did I go from sixty to zero in so short a time? One moment it was summer, sunshine and smooth sailing. The next it felt like wild wind, rough waves and black stormy weather all around.

And yet in all of this God had a purpose. Finally figuring out that I've become gluten-intolerant and that my thyroid function has changed was and is Providential, explaining much of the fatigue and other symptoms that seem to persist. But there's so much more that He's teaching me that has nothing to do with my physical body.
I'm learning to literally trust-fall into His arms. To let go of it all. To rest. In Him. In the promises of His Word. That He has does have good things for me. That this is good. Right here. Right now. Where I am today. Even in the storm.

Today is my 29th birthday.
And instead of dancing hard, rehearsing Nutcracker, continuing to rebuild my stamina and strength, I am sitting in my apartment with a bag of peas on my knee writing this post. Just two days ago I had the joy of performing Kylian's Sechs Tänza on the McCaw Hall stage, my friends and family watching in the audience. Unfortunately during the ballet I injured my knee, most likely tearing my meniscus. So much for stamina and strength. I guess we'll see about Nutcracker too... If you know me, you know how hard this later one is to swallow.
But for my birthday my dear sweet husband bought me a painting I've been pining after for months. And of course, little did I know when I first saw it how appropriate it would be. How profoundly God would use it to encourage me.

"Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying "Lord, save us! We're going to drown." He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." ~ Matthew 8:24-26

Jesus is in my boat. What have I to fear? I know that if I'm with Him I'll be okay, no matter what storm arises - be it 2 months of unknown illness or a meniscus tear. And maybe, just maybe, as I sit back and admire the beautiful painting that will be soon hanging on my wall, I too can sit back and admire the storm that I am in and appreciate the great work of art that the Master Artist is painting out of my life's current circumstances. It is beautiful. It is good. And I know He will calm the storm in His perfect timing.

So no rewinding. Remembering, yes. And rejoicing in that. But moving forward in the strength and perseverance that Jesus offers. Resting in His good and great purpose. Trust-falling into His arms.

The best birthday gift that I got this year? Not a meniscal tear. Not a painting. It was a peace and a joy and an assurance from our Father that it is going to be a good, a great year.

To see a slideshow of some of our special moments captured my the amazing Kristen Parker and Carly Bish Chaney, set to the song we first danced to as Mr. & Mrs. McEliece click here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanks November!

November? Really?
Where'd you come from? How did you get here? 
Well you sure did sneak up on me...

It's hard to believe that two months and 13 days have past since I said "I do," beginning this great new chapter of my life... seems like it was just yesterday. And yet, we've been a very busy Mr. and Mrs. McEliece.

Setting up our new home (and by "home" I mean a sweet little one bedroom apartment in the U-District) has been such a joy. Creating and constructing a beautiful, inviting space that reflects not only our individual personalities, but also our mutual loves has been a wonderful challenge. And inviting it must be, because oh how we do love to entertain!
And this month we're provided with ample opportunities... 
Thanks November!

Not only do we get to celebrate the blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving holiday (promptly followed by the beginning of dun, dun, DUN... NUTCRACKER!!!!), but November is also a month of many many birthdays - my own included.

But there's one very special lady that passed a "milestone," if you will, this past weekend. So Ryan and I took full advantage of our new digs, and our love of food and entertaining to throw a wonderful celebration just for her. Miss Elizabeth "Lizzy" Murphy. You'll just have to look closely at the photos to see which "milestone" it was...

We invited her and one of our mutual friends over and threw a soiree of sorts. Setting the table with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and some of my antique silverware, we definitely classed this evening up.

The menu? I wish I could say it was a Beef Wellington or braised quail on a bed of mashed heirloom potatoes but, well, it wasn't. 
Okay, okay! It was just a roasted chicken with root veggies. I confess! Sounds kinda sad. So under-acheiving for me, I know. But in my yellow Le Crueset it looked pretty darn fancy... er, well, at least I thought so. What do you think?

The best part about this recipe (I take no credit for it... that all belongs to the incredible Alison Wilson) is that it's deceptively and deliciously simple.

Buy a whole chicken. 

Buy a lemon, celery stick and some root veggies... you know... carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes... you get my drift.

 Chop them up.

 Coat the chicken with lots of dried herbs. 

Throw it all together in a dutch oven. 

Put it in the oven. 

Two hours later and voilá! The most delicious roast chicken you'll ever taste! 
You don't even need a side dish! Although we did have a delectable cheese plate for appetizers and a yummy green salad with candied pecans. Gotta get those leafy greens!

It was a lovely night celebrating the sweetest, most wonderful co-worker and friend anyone could ever ask for. What a gift and a blessing she is to me and to so many! So Happy Birthday Lizzy!!! May our Lord richly bless you this year. Blow them candles out girl!!! Just not into your ice cream sundae.

And if you'd like to make Ally's world famous roast chicken recipe here it is. I mean seriously people you can't go wrong...

Ally's Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken
1 whole lemon, sliced in half
1 stalk celery, leaves attached
dried parsley
dried thyme
dried oregano
garlic salt (or garlic powder and kosher salt)
ground pepper
1 yellow onion, quartered
carrots, peeled and cut into chunks*
yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes washed and cubed*
garlic cloves*

*amount and selection varies depending on your personal taste and preference as well as the size of your dutch oven. I say the more the merrier.

1. Preheat your oven to 375˚F.
2. Wash, peel, and cut all veggies making sure that potatoes and carrots are all about the same size (they can be big and chunky if that's what you prefer) so they cook evenly. Set them aside.
3. Rinse chicken and remove and discard giblets from inside the cavity (if you'd like to save them for stock that's fine, just make sure to cook them along with the chicken). 
4. Taking half the lemon squeeze the juice coating entire chicken. Stuff the rind inside the cavity of the chicken along with the celery stalk and leaves. You can cut the rind in to quarters if that helps.
5. Sprinkle and rub in equal parts of dried parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic salt and pepper on all sides of the chicken. Be generous. This is what makes it yummy.
6. Place the chicken breast side up in the dutch oven and surround it with all your cut veggies. Go ahead. Pack 'em in! Cut the remaining half lemon into four wedges and squeeze juices all over veggies and chicken. Toss rinds in the pot and cover with the lid.
7. Place the covered dutch oven in the oven and roast for 2 hours. Check the chicken and if need be, remove the lid and switch the oven to "broil" to brown the skin for a few minutes. (I've never had to do this as mine has always turned out perfectly browned come the end of 2 hours, but you might want to depending on your oven and your taste.)
8. Enjoy!!!!

** A "P.S." to this post...
If you love good food but you're cooking on a budget (like we are) this meal is super economical. We just eye out for when whole chickens are on sale - 99¢ sometimes even 88¢ a pound! - and we buy a couple and keep them stocked in the freezer.
And not only does this recipe yield an incredible chicken dinner, but it's the foundation for so much more. After we're done we leave the leftovers in the pot, cover it with water and simmer it for a few hours, making our own homemade chicken stock for soups and other recipes. We'll just fill an empty (and cleaned) yogurt container and freeze or refrigerate it.
Last night we used the leftover chicken and some of the broth to make the most delicious chicken & veggie soup with carrots, sweet potatoes and kale. It was so delicious and we even have leftovers of that! Like I said, it's the recipe that just keeps on giving. How appropriate for this month. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Discovering Discovery

Well of course I should've posted these long ago. Funny... Looking back at these photos, it's hard to believe that it was only a few months ago that my very wonderful and talented sister-in-law, Kelsey Cappelletti, took these photos. Feels much longer than that! But I love them so very much and just had to share them with you all. 
There were so many to choose from, and it was quite a challenge to narrow my selection down, but here are a few of my favorites...
And I figured I'd better post my engagement photos before you get to see the wedding ones... Haha! 

This was such a fun day. Kels was incredible. Pregnant with her beautiful baby boy Ethan she spent so much time with us at the exquisitely beautiful Discovery Park - oddly enough one of Seattle's parks I'd never been to before. It was mid-April and still a bit chilly but God provided us with absolutely exquisite weather. 
When talking about our session, and asking about "outfit changes," Kelsey suggested maybe we bring some props. Ryan looked at me with big bright eyes, and his mischievous little-boy grin crept over his face...
"You could bring your pointe shoes!"
Staring back at him with a slightly disdainful, mostly humorous look that said "Are you serious?" I just shook my head. Yeah no.
Instead I decided to focus on something that's brought Ryan and I closer together... our mutual love of great food (of course beautiful presentation is 49% of it... hehe... yes, this is my mother coming out in me). 
Picnic time!!! 
And well, we couldn't have picked a more picturesque setting. Actually we didn't. Kelsey did. Good job sis! We love you so very much.

You can check out more of Kelsey's photos at her website. Just click here. She really is a tremendously gifted photographer. If you doubt my words of praise you can see for yourself... just scroll. Yeah, I might be a little bias, but I'm right. You'll see.