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Midweek Meals Made Easy

In true Youth Ministry fashion, Wednesdays are long days that end with late nights. If we're eating dinner before 9:30pm, we call it a victory.

In our first month (or so) of marriage, we'd come home from midweek and stand in front of the fridge unsure of what to do next. We were both super hungry, but too tired to cook anything. At these points, even waiting for bacon and eggs to cook sounded like torture.

It only took a few weeks of this before our mutual frustration was channeled into problem-solving. Slow Cooker to the rescue.

With a little bit of research and even less prep, we have hot, delicious meals ready when we get home. And, as a bonus, our house smells incredible.

Here are some absolute winners:

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (I could eat this all the time... bonus: it makes about 8 servings, so we can eat it for lunches or quick dinners for a week)

Chicken, Rice, and Green Chile Casserole So simple and flavorful.

I've shared this Chili before, but it's been a go-to around here. And I'm sure it'll be a staple as we approach the colder months. (I like to add small potatoes so it's not just straight meat and tomatoes.)

Creamy Southwest Chicken. I prefer the bell peppers diced, not sliced... other than that, this is a winner. (The photo at the top is of this chicken... doesn't it look amazing?!)

I haven't made this one yet, but it's next on my list.

How about you? Do you have any go-to Slow Cooker meals around your house? We're definitely in the market for additions to our rotation, so please share!

A Handful of Recent Favorites

I love to read. LOVE it. I'll curl up and read, turn on an audiobook while driving or cooking, and I love to sit on the couch with my friends' kids and giggle through a new children's book.

Over the years, it's become more apparent that reading a lot of books does not equate to enjoying a lot of books. Most of the time, I'll read something all the way through with the hope that it will redeem itself in the end. This, sadly, is not always the case.

So, in case you find yourself at a loss for something lovely to read, (and you trust that I will not steer you wrong) here are a handful of my recent favorites.

The Nightingale. If you haven't read it yet, do so right now. It is, hands-down, the best fiction book I've read in the last five years. As soon as I finished, I handed it to my best friend... then to my mom, who handed it to her husband, then I gave it to a coworker. It’s heartbreaking and wonderful. (You will most likely (ugly) cry at the end... be sure to pick a suitable place to do so.)

I read 85% of The Tattooist of Auschwitz on a single flight--I couldn't put it down. It was so lovely and, again, heartbreaking. (As are, I'd imagine, most books about WW2.) AND THEN I FOUND OUT IT'S A TRUE STORY.

In 2018, I made it a goal to read books primarily by people of color. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was one of my favorites. The story of love and friendship is so moving... and, having not known much about Japanese Internment camps (other than knowing they existed), found the detailed explanation of them eye-opening.

Another I loved so much was The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. I really enjoyed the Audible version.

Last, but not least, The History of Love. Two stories (one an old man, the other a pre-teen girl) woven together into the sweetest, saddest, most lovely book. I read it every few years and fall in love with it all over again. Josh read it this year, too, and even used my favorite line in his proposal.


Born a Crime was captivating. It made me laugh, it brought tears to my eyes, it incited curiosity in Apartheid. I could not stop listening. I especially loved listening to it, since the accents and pronunciation of words in South African dialects added to the richness of the storytelling.

After visiting the National Civil Rights Museum, I read everything I could from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To say Why We Can’t Wait was moving in an understatement. I'm an auditory learner, so I read the book aloud to myself. There were several lines that made me choke up, forcing me to pause before I could complete them... if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

I've planned and executed many, many events in my years of youth ministry. But my approach to brainstorming and planning shifted after reading The Power of Moments. It sparked so much thought and creativity in me that I had to read with a massive notebook open next to me so I could pause and write down thoughts and brainstorms and lists. Man, it was good.

I just finished Notorious RBG this week. Growing up, I'd heard about her work surrounding women's reproductive rights, but this opened my eyes to the battles she fought for women on many fronts. I especially loved--and resonated with--her thoughts on how she'd like to be remembered: "[As] someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid."

// UP NEXT: //
Becoming and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

We're also halfway through Harry Potter around here (on Audible because Jim Dale is the greatest narrator of all time, as far as I'm concerned.) It's my fifth or sixth time through, but Josh's first. He's super into it: pausing to make sure he has characters straight in complicated scenes (Quidditch World Cup anyone?!), pausing to guess what's about to happen ("I think the Chamber was opened by..."), pausing to react to everything that's just happened (The story of four friends in the Shrieking Shack!!!)

What have you read (and LOVED) recently? I’m always looking for new great books.

P.S. Have you heard of whatshouldireadnext.com? You enter the title of a book you love and it suggests four or five books by similar authors or with similar topics based on the recommendations of real readers. I used it in a pinch while at the new public library last week and picked up two books... this one, which I really enjoyed, and another I did not...

{top image of the Stockholm Public Library}

Top 5 Thursday: Crafts On My List

If money were no object, I'd jump at the chance to complete these five crafts:

{image via}

1. Bake this chocolate raspberry cake. You may recognize it from the opening credits of The Great British Baking Show. With every episode, I think, "Geez! That cake looks delicious!" I'm gonna test that theory sometime soon.

2. Repaint my craft table. This 300-lb custom-built graduation gift from my dad was painted in 2005 and has been hauled from house to house ever since. It's time for a bit of a facelift... or, at the very least, a little love.

{image via}

3. Create this massive holly wall hanging. I have no place for it--no place to hang it during the holidays or store it on the off seasons--but I love it so much. Someday, I hope to make it happen.

{image via}

4. Arm knit a blanket. Gosh, this looks so beautiful and so time-consuming. It also seems like something that would show every mistake and, thus, be remarkably frustrating to create. BUT if I could... (!!!!!!!)

5. Recreate my wedding bouquet using felt flowers. Erice (at Everbloom Floral Designs) did such an amazing job creating our bouquets. Imagine how gorgeous this would be to have forever on my mantle or bookshelf!

Small Comforts

All the newness in this new season (new town, new home, new church, new marriage, new Target!) has brought with it the full range of emotions.

There are such high highs being newlyweds as we're slowly learning to build a life together. But, being unemployed and friendless for a few months has also brought some pretty low lows.

On more than one occasion, Josh and I have sat together while I've wept as we talk through my feelings of homesickness and the growing pains of realization that my worth is not dependent on what I do between the hours of 9am and 5pm each day. (Incidentally, he's wonderful at holding space for grief.)

In the midst of all of this, I've been looking out for and holding tightly to small comforts. The tiny, seemingly insignificant things that make a new place feel familiar, feel comfortable, feel like home.

Here's a shortlist of recent small comforts:

1. Running into someone I know at the grocery store.

2. The first 'belly laugh' with a new friend.

3. Singing a familiar song in church. (It amazes me how comforting--even emotional--it is to not need to stare at the screen or fight to find the cadence of the lyrics.)

4. Not needing a menu at a restaurant.

5. Feeling confident enough to greet each person in a family by name.

6. Baking something from scratch that's so good Josh's coworkers mention it a few days later.

7. Finding a serve opportunity in the church that feels in line with my gifts.

8. Completing a full day of errands without the need for Google Maps.

9. When a new friend's kid comes running across the room, excited to see me.

10. The familiar routine of making dinner, watching a show, and getting ready for bed together.

How about you? What are some small comforts you've experienced recently? Or maybe one or two you remember from a difficult season?

Our Love Story

I wrote our story for our wedding website, but in the interest of keeping everything in one place--and helping you get to know us--I thought this might be a good place for it. So, without further ado, the story of how we met.

In September 2018, I was planning an event in California. At the same time, Josh was in Texas, packing for that very event.

Little did we know, those three days would be the beginning of our forever.

It all began over dinner the first night. As Josh was standing in line for the In-n-Out truck, he began talking to fellow attendees. General things at first, Where are you from? How long have you been in youth ministry? Are you married?

Josh mentioned that the right woman “hadn’t found him yet.” They asked how old he was and immediately followed up with, "Have you met Allison?"

He said he'd been hoping to find time to talk to me during the event. So one of them quickly sent me a text, “Yo. There’s a guy out here who thinks you’re hot as sin.”

The guys brought him inside, introduced us, and then stood about ten feet away to watch as we had our first (incredibly clumsy) conversation.

I had to cut it short to keep the event moving: there were food trucks to be paid and evening sessions to get started. I told him we'd talk again later.

The next two days were filled with brief interactions—making up excuses to talk to each other and accidentally meeting eyes from across the room… all culminating in an unexpected moment at Del Taco when I ran my fingers through his beard. (I was honestly just as surprised as he was!)

On the last night of the conference, we each looked around the party, hoping to steal a few minutes together before he flew back to Texas. I even made sure to position myself right by the buses to make it that much easier for Josh to find me and ask for my number.

He didn’t.

Instead, he gave me a quick hug, said goodbye, and drove off.

As the team cleaned up that night, my mind was spinning. I was sure he kinda liked me... why wouldn't he ask for my number?

The next morning, back in the office, I tried to be as casual as possible as I asked my team if I could just send him my phone number using the group text we'd set-up for the event.

Meanwhile, Josh was telling his friend about “This girl he’d met that the conference.” (And had to admit his cowardice when his friend asked if he’d gotten her number.)

At that moment, his phone buzzed.

A text: “I hope this isn’t an abuse of power… but if you ever want to talk without 199 other youth workers watching, here’s my number.”

He sent her a text immediately. (Well, immediately after he and his friend finished screaming and cheering…)

This began a series of texts… which became long phone calls… which became hours of FaceTiming. We talked every day for a month before deciding it was time to see one another. We needed to be face-to-face to see if this was really worth our time.

I flew out to Texas and, by the end of the weekend, we both knew.

Josh came out to California to meet all of my friends--and attend my work Christmas party--in early December. On his next visit, we went to look at engagement rings.

Then, on a beautiful day in early March, Josh brought me to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and asked me to marry him in front of the dinosaur display and his best friend dressed in an inflatable T-Rex costume.

Neither of us can remember exactly what he said other than reciting a line from my favorite book, THE HISTORY OF LOVE: "Once there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering."

I, of course, said yes.

His mom and brother were watching from upstairs, so they took us to coffee to celebrate... and call my parents to tell them the good news! We headed home from LA and straight to a house filled with my friends and coworkers all ready to celebrate us.

Top 5 Thursday: Shows We've Binged Together

Since we dated long-distance, everything was new and exciting once we lived in the same place.

We get to sit together and watch a show together! At the same time... not counting down and trying to press play at the same time with one person's volume down to avoid an echo. We're still not over the magic of ending a long day curled up on the couch watching an episode or two... together. An entirely new level of closeness--not just in the same town, but in the same house.

Here are the shows we've loved so far:

1. The Office. (Duh.) We'd each seen it at least twice through--Josh has probably seen it about a dozen times--so it was the easiest thing to watch while we were long-distance. We'd countdown from three and press play and I'd spend the first few seconds pausing or fast-forwarding to match up to his audio. Fortunately, since I already knew the punchlines, it wasn't a huge deal if his sound cut-out or I fell asleep mid-episode. We were even Jim and Pam for Halloween when we first started dating.

2. 30 Rock. Tina Fey is the greatest. She's my answer to any "which celebrity" question. I'd invite her to a birthday/dinner party, I believe we'd be friends if we met in person, I'd have ZERO CHILL if I ran into her at the airport or on the street... Josh had seen most of these, but not all of them, so many of the episodes were new to him. It was really fun to hear him laugh at the lines I've quoted for years.

3. The Great British Baking Show. There's no way to escape it. No matter who you are or how interested you may or may not find amateur banking contests, this show will suck you in. They're just so nice to each other! I can't get enough.

4. From the Earth to the Moon. Josh went to Space Camp as a kid. I like to tell people I think the Moon Landing is a hoax. (I almost put Moon Landing in quotes, but it would be the equivalent of slapping Josh in the face, so I didn't.) It was the greatest Christmas gift I could give him, watching this show all the way through without heckling. (And it really is really well done.) What made it even better was watching while eating breakfast foods in a living room fort... because, in addition to eating like teenagers, we also act like them.

We haven't found a ton of shows we love in the new Fall line-up, but there are dozens of shows we've watched separately that we're now enjoying together.

5. LOST. As frustrating as the ending was for so many viewers, the first few seasons are really, really good TV. Lots of suspense and unexpected plot twists and some beautiful life stories. We're just over halfway through this time around. I'm sure the series finale will be a letdown after the rewatch as well, but I think I'm okay with that.

We typically try to have two shows going at a time: an hour-long drama and a 30-minute comedy... you know, depending on the mood. So, in addition to LOST, we're also watching Seinfeld.

Any suggestions for shows you think we might enjoy?
What have you and your friend(s), roommate(s), spouse binge-watched together?

Why I've Loved Being A Dasher

I’ve been driving for Door Dash for about a month now and I’ve been surprised by how much I love it.

I started as a way to make a little money... and as an excuse to get up and leave the house each day, (unemployment was beginning to make me a bit stir-crazy) and I have to admit, though I was a bit nervous at the start, since I’ve only lived here for a few months (what if I get terribly lost and then deliver cold food?), but my fears were turned to excitement after my first long shift.

Here are a few reasons I love being a Dasher:

I’m learning my new city. Following Google maps all over town, I’m learning back routes during high-traffic times, seeing new neighborhoods, (My favorite so far is Edelweiss. Its streets are named for the Von Trapps!) and finally learning where things are. (The number of times someone has said, "Oh you know, over by the Wal-Mart." and I give them a blank stare, but nod anyway to avoid an attempt to explain using another store/landmark I'm unaware of.)

I’m finding new restaurants. Each shift has brought me to at least one new restaurant for a pick-up and, my goodness this town has some great options! Last week, I found a new BBQ place with the kindest staff and the most amazing display case. This week, I picked up from a Chinese restaurant with what is, so far, the best smelling delivery I've made.

I’m meeting new people. I’m not having a ten-minute interaction with each restaurant employee or customer, but I’m given an opportunity to make small talk with, offer a smile and a “have a nice day” to a handful of people. Honestly, it feels good to practice kindness to so many strangers.

I'm making a little money. Door Dashing won't take the place of a full-time salary, but it did cover a full grocery run this week--and a few tanks of gas last week--and that's pretty good if you ask me. It's tracked in the Dasher app and automatically sent to our bank account via direct deposit once a week.

Think you'd ever be interested in Dashing? Have you found a side-hustle you've really enjoyed? I'd love to hear about it!

This post isn't sponsored. I just wanted to share a bit about how much I've enjoyed this as a side-hustle in case you're looking for an avenue for some extra spending money.

{DoorDash logo via Google Play}