Friday, August 30, 2013

AVP Manhattan Beach Open


Last weekend, I cruised on over to the Manhattan Beach Pier to watch the 2013 AVP Manhattan Beach Open. It was great to hang out with some good friends and watch good volleyball. Manhattan Beach is such a historic place for beach volleyball and I feel lucky to live so close to it. I took this panorama picture during the Men's semi-finals. If you click on the image, you can interact with the photo and get a good feel for the crowd and size of the event.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Santa Barbara Style



Shorts: Gap, Shirt: Target, Sweater: Hollister, Flip Flops: Rainbow, Sunnies: BP, Bag: Deux Lux, Sarong/Scarf: gifted

We spent the last night of our road trip in Santa Barbara. Man, I love Santa Barbara! It's got the perfect beachy, laid-back vibe that I love and the architecture and interior design elements found throughout the city are just my style. In the morning, we took a long walk to breakfast and I decided to match my surroundings of white walls and pink bougainvillea by pairing an all-white outfit with a bright pink sarong that doubles as a scarf. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kale & Coconut Chicken Salad


I feel a bit like I'm in a cooking rut. You know the feeling? When you've been cooking with the same ingredients for a couple years and all your food sorta starts to taste the same? Well, I'm on the hunt for some new and interesting recipes and I'm happy to report on this surprisingly simple, yet delicious kale & coconut chicken salad. Not only is it simple to make, it also stores well and tastes great the next day. It's got a great Asian flavor and with protein, grains, and vegetables all in one bowl, it's quite the well-balanced meal.

Kale & Coconut Chicken Salad
From thevintagemixer.com
Yield: 4-6 servings
Total Time: about 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
5 cups kale, packed (about 1 bunch), stems removed, torn into large pieces
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
2 cups cooked brown rice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brown rice.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Toss kale and coconut with 3/4 of the sauce. Lay out the kale and coconut on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, tossing the kale once during baking.

Mix the kale and coconut in with the chicken and cooked rice, then drizzle additional sauce on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Living in Nepal

Today I'm very excited to share an interview with Katie Cook of Hope Engaged. Katie is a blogger, wife, and hero to several girls in Nepal. About six months ago, Katie and her husband accepted an opportunity to move from Orange County, California to Kathmandu, Nepal and help set up an aftercare home for girls rescued out of sex-trafficking. I had the lovely chance to interview Katie and ask her a few of my most burning questions. Read on to learn about her thoughts on moving to a new country, working with victims of sex-trafficking, and living in Nepal. Feel free to say hello to Katie and check out more amazing photos and inspiring stories at her blog, Hope Engaged.

FEST: Did you have any fears or reservations about moving abroad? If so, how did you overcome those concerns? 

KATIE: Honestly, from the minute Kevin and I got married two years ago, we had been praying for an opportunity to move and serve abroad. We absolutely love to travel, and our hearts desires were to immerse ourself in another country as a team before we had kids! However, moving to Nepal was a total surprise! In January we were approached and asked if we'd be interested in moving in April, and so with a few months to pack our bags we honestly couldn't have been more excited! The small logistical things like who will rent our apartment, and where do we put our stuff, was all worked out in such a beautiful way. It was evident to see that when the Lord calls you, he also works out the details!! 




F: What part of Nepal do you live in?

K: Kevin and I live in Kathmandu, which is the capital of Nepal. It is a dirty and polluted city, but there is an absolute synergy here that pumps at full speed and displays the most vivid hues at every turn....we LOVE it! The colors and people and food have all come together to make our experience amazing!  

F: Briefly explain what you're doing in Nepal. 

K: Kevin and I were asked to come and help build the core infastructure for the aftercare home. Kevin's background is in business and accounting, so he has been helping set up their financial systems. My background is in non-profits, so I have been working on creating policies and procedures, writing manuals, etc. Besides the structural work, we also get to spend time with the girls teaching English, playing games, and singing song. We love being with them!  


F: Can you provide some details about the home you work at? (i.e. What age are the girls you work with? How do they find the home? How many girls do you house at a time? How long do they stay at the home? Who started the home?, etc...) 

K: For security reasons, I cannot provide too many details. But I can say that this home was started almost 2 years ago, when an organization rescuing girls from India found that many of the girls had been trafficked from Nepal. Unfortunately, when a girl was repatriated back to Nepal, there were very few options for her to re-enter normal life. Often the girls own families were involved in trafficking, and so it was not safe to return home. This home was started to provide a safe and loving family for these girls. The girls are generally between 10-17. Essentially when they come to the home, it becomes their family and they are welcome to stay as long as they would like. They are enrolled in school, and encouraged in many activities. Being in the home was an incredible experience, as the staff loved these girls with a fierce love. It really was a family! 

F: Do you work in a volunteer capacity or is this a paying job?

K: The group that asked Kevin and I to move to Nepal are paying for all of our expenses. We feel so so tremendously thankful for this aspect, humbled that they would provide so much for us to be here!  



F: How does a young girl usually get caught up in prostitution?

K: None of these girls are prostitutes by choice. Most of them come from a vulnerable background and their circumstances make them an easy target for traffickers. Women are not valued in Nepal, and many times it is their family who is selling them or abusing them. Sometimes the girls are promised "work" in India (in a restaurant, etc), but then once they have crossed the border they are forced to become sex-slaves. 

F: Once a girl has been rescued, does she ever feel in danger that her perpetrator will seek her out again? 

K: Absolutely. Fear is one of the most powerful tools that a trafficker holds over a young girl. Some of our girls come to the home in a very fearful state. However, over time, and with counseling, many are able to let those fears go little by little. However, healing is a lifelong process.   



F: Tell me about your most inspiring or memorable moment in Nepal.

K: Oh goodness, there are SO many! However, one story that will always stay in my heart involves one of our sweet girls. Like most of the girls that come to the home, they are Hindu. Our home is full of staff who love Jesus and passionately love these girls. After this girl had been in the home for two weeks, she pulled our house mother to the side and curiously said "I've never felt more loved in my whole life than I have in these past few weeks. It's because you are Christian's, huh?" I was so overcome with emotion when I heard this story because this little one could feel the love of Jesus in her life. And isn't that what the Bible says..."they will know we are Christian by our love". So beautiful!  

F: What are your living conditions like? 

K: Like any big city, living conditions vary. The biggest living difference is that Nepal has something called "load shedding" which basically means you have a schedule for when your electricity is going to be on. During the months it doesn't rain, you may have no power for 12-14 hours a day. During the monsoon season, the electricity is only off about 2-4 hours a day. It makes SUCH a big difference to how you live and when you do certain activities!! I will never take power for granted again!! During our time in Nepal, we have lived in the bottom floor of an apartment building. It was very different than what we think of as an apartment building in the US, however many things were the same. The differences included that everything in the kitchen (counters, etc) were so short, because Nepali's are generally pretty short! Also, like many Asian countries, the shower is not separated from the rest of the bathroom. You just shower right onto the bathroom floor (which takes a bit to get used to! haha). Another item I had to get used to was always soaking and washing my vegetables/fruit in iodine or vinegar to kills the germs! 



F: What do you find most difficult about living abroad? 

K: While Nepal is seriously stunning when you get out of the capital, unfortunately Kathmandu is an extremely polluted city! It's hard to work out when you honestly fear that you will get the black lung if you go for a run! Another aspect is that their road system is pretty bad, with many dirt roads in the city. We lived on a dirt road for part of our stay here, and when it was dry season the roads were dusty and you couldn't talk when walking down it for fear of inhaling a cloud of dust. During the rainy season, the roads became one big mud puddle!! But honestly, these things are really not that hard to live with! I love this country!! 

F: What is the most satisfying part of living abroad?

K: There are so many! The first is just the simple pace of life! My husband and I feel so much more at peace having time to just "be". We get to be with each other 24/7 which we LOVE, and i'm already starting to grieve when we move back to California and both have separate jobs! I feel it has been an incredibly healing time for me, as I have so much time to reflect and process my life and listen to God. It is also fun to learn more about the culture, including the language and typical Nepali foods! We love exploring and discovering new things and there is plenty of that happening while living abroad! 

F: How much longer do you plan to be in Nepal and what are your plans after your time there is over? 

K: We are actually leaving at the end of this month (August). It has been really hard for us saying goodbye as we have LOVED Nepal. However, Nepal has sparked a special passion in me, and when we return to California, I will be starting grad school to study counseling. I would love to move back to Nepal or another country and work with girls who need counseling and healing! My husband and his family own a few restaurants in Orange County, so he will resume his work there!! 

F: What will you miss most about Nepal when it's time to leave?

K: The girls. Plain and simple! We had our going away party this past week, and I think I sobbed through most of it! They have touched my heart like nobody in the world ever has. The way they have loved Kevin and I is beyond belief. They have taught us the power of forgiveness, and given us more courage than I ever knew possible!  

Thanks so much, Katie! Click below to read some notable posts from Katie or head on over to her blog, Hope Engaged

Friday, August 23, 2013

Under the Sea at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium was definitely one of the highlights of our trip for me. We were a little shy to pay the $35 per person admission fee, but the second we laid eyes on the Jellies exhibit, we were mesmerized. The free-flowing colorful jellies were just so beautiful and relaxing to look at. But then, we walked into the Open Sea exhibit and were completely blown away. We probably could have stood in front of that 90-foot window for the entire day. The giant tank showcases sharks, tuna, sardines and sea turtles all glazing past the glass, just inches away from your face. We were immediately enamored, intrigued, and amazed and pretty much stayed that way throughout our entire tour of the aquarium.

I feel like I only captured a fraction of everything we saw, but I hope you'll enjoy these pictures and perhaps be inspired to visit an aquarium or learn more about oceans and marine life. 




When we entered the Open Sea exhibit and walked up to the 90-foot glass window, I saw a school of massive tuna glide past the panel and excitedly whispered to Brad, "Is this fake?" I think I then squealed with more excitement as I walked closer to examine these marvelous creatures up-close and personal and realized they were real. 

^^ The whole time there I found myself singing this Beatles song in my head. (PS... click here to see one of my all-time favorite on-stage performances which happens to be set to this song.)


^^ No, this is not a piece of seaweed. It's a seahorse!

^^ Monterey Bay

I'd like to end this post with a short photo series I call "Bradford Looking at Things."

*This post is part of a series chronicling our two-week road trip vacation through California, Utah, and Nevada. Click here to read about our other road trip adventures: 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blueberry Tart



Did you know that there is a blueberry bounty this summer? The blueberry crop did extra well this year which means there are a lot more blueberries being sold and they're cheaper than normal. A week ago we had more blueberries in our fridge than we knew what to do with, so I decided to make this blueberry tart. It's the same recipe as this Nectarine Tart, I just swapped out the fruit for blueberries. Delicious and, can I say, beautiful?? Man, having this thing sitting on my kitchen counter really just brightens up my day. I brought this dessert to a beach picnic with friends and it was the perfect way to enjoy this gorgeous and tasty summer fruit.

Click here for the recipe. (Just swap out the nectarines for blueberries!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Road Trippin' and a Not-So-Lonely Cypress Tree



Jeans: Buckle, Sweater: Hollister, Scarf: F21, Shoes: Vans

I'm well aware that I'm wearing almost exactly the same clothes from this post, but that's what happens when you're living out of your car for 2 weeks. We took the 17-mile drive in Monterey and stopped at the lone cypress tree. I can't remember what I'm laughing about in the above pictures, but I do remember thinking this tree was pretty funny. It gets a lot of hype because it's pretty, it's old, and it has survived on the edge of a cliff for 250 years (the last 60 years have been with the support of cables). It's also the registered icon of Pebble Beach Golf Club. What makes this tree so funny is that it's actually not so lonely. You can see in these pictures that there's actually another cypress tree not too far to the left of it. As someone who works in the marketing industry, I can respect the brilliant job Pebble Beach and the whole Monterey Peninsula have done to hype this lone cypress tree. Yes, it's beautiful. Don't get me wrong. But there are a lot of beautiful trees out there. This one just happens to be quite popular. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

We weren't planning to spend time at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. We needed to get to Monterey so we would have enough time to explore the Monterey Bay aquarium. But as we drove through downtown Santa Cruz and watched the Big Trees & Pacific Railway drop off excited tourists near the bright and colorful boardwalk, I begged Bradford to find a parking spot so we could get out too. We put 30 minutes into the parking meter and walked around in the sun while I snap-snapped away. I felt like I was in a photographer's paradise. The contrast of the palm trees (my favorite thing to photograph) against the bright, colorful fair rides with the beach in the background was just so happy and bright and wonderful. It felt like the epitome of summer.







*This post is part of a series chronicling our two-week road trip vacation through California, Utah, and Nevada. Click here to read about our other road trip adventures: 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Homemade Zucchini Bread



Last week my Mom gifted me a giant zucchini. It was so big that I had to carry it like a baby. I wish I had a picture of it before I grated it to pieces. This thing was beautiful. The whole thing yielded 6 loaves of zucchini bread. I probably could have found some other things to make with the zucchini, but the bread was so good, I just kept making it again and again. What can I say, it's that good. Another great thing about this bread is the longer you let it sit, the better it gets because it allows the zucchini time to soak its juices into the rest of the bread. The bad thing about this is that it's hard not to make this bread last more than a day. Enjoy!

Homemade Zucchini Bread
Yield: 2 loaves
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 40-60 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour - 1 hour, 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup oil 
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. 

Using a whisk, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. Be sure to mix well and remove any lumps. 

In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla extract until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until fully combined. Stir in zucchini (and nuts if you prefer) and divide evenly into the two greased pans. 

Bake for 40-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy!

TIP: This bread is better on the second day as it allows time for the bread to really soak up the juices from the zucchini. Yum!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Muir Woods, Golden Gate Bridge, & Bob's Donuts

Muir Woods is a Redwood preserve just outside of San Francisco and it really is a magical place. I've grown up in California my whole life and always felt a fondness for our state tree (perhaps due to the comparison I often received due to my height), yet I had never seen a Redwood in person until this trip. This really was one of my favorite places of the whole trip. Being surrounded by such tall, magnificent trees really just makes you feel safe and peaceful and grateful. It is just so beautiful to be surrounded by those Redwood trees, I could have stayed there all day. 


^^ Thank you iPhone for this panorama picture. To get the most realistic effect of what it feels like to stand in front of a Redwood, start at the bottom of this image and scroll up.

Next, we ventured into the city to drive down Lombard Street (best hill ever!) and visit Bob's Donuts. I already talked about my love for the Golden Gate bridge, but here are some more pictures of the beauty just for good measure.


Next, it was time to try Bob's Donuts. I had heard about this place from Pinterest or Instagram or something and it took a little convincing to get Brad to agree to go, but let me tell you, he was just as excited as I was with this awesome bakery. Scroll down and you'll see why.


^^ Yes, this is a giant maple donut the size of my face. And, yes, it was delicious!

*This post is part of a series chronicling our two-week road trip vacation through California, Utah, and Nevada. Click here to read about our other road trip adventures: