Today Ben and I went out on a hike to one of the first hikes I did following Sada’s words of wisdom, a hill called Cerro San Luis. Although it was threatening rain, we decided to hike anyway. Near the top it sprinkled on us, and then we relaxed under a tree when the rain came down a little heavier. Just before were about to start up the hill again, we said hello to a hiker headed down, and she commented that we looked so perfect with the big tree around us and said she should take our photo. I gladly shared my iPhone with her. A minute later, she continued down the trail, and I was left blessed by the kindness of this woman to notice, speak up, and capture a precious moment for us.
I am humbled by life these days. It was just two years ago that I was preparing to move to California, to start a new job and build a new home. And here I am with more than I could ever dream of, and I am humbled by this life filled with blessings. As we hiked today, it was a precious time to soak in the beauty. In this season, the green hills and wildflowers in bloom are such great reminders of beauty and blessings. May they never be taken for granted.]]>
This has been such a lovely weekend at home. Our Saturday was spent sleeping in, and staying cozy inside as we listened to the pitter-patter of light rain all day. We skyped family, made brunch, played some great games, and ended the evening with dinner and champagne, talking by candlelight. It was a little celebration of much needed rain, allowing ourselves to stay inside for the day. It was wonderful.
And, in the midst of that wonderful, I have to laugh just a little bit that we celebrated and soaked in the rain in this way. My brother and sister-in-law in Scotland experience so much rain and have a hard time imagining wanting any more, much lessing needing it. Instead, they celebrate the random days when the sun emerges and they can soak in some vitamin D. It is all about expectations and the normal.
I’m hoping for a few more of these abnormal days before our ‘rainy season’ comes to an end. It would be wonderful.]]>
Sauté butternut squash in 1 Tbsp butter. When about half cooked, add the onion, salt and pepper. Sauté until butternut squab is starting to brown but not too soft and onions are beginning to caramelize. Remove squash and onion from pan, and sauté kale in remaining 1 Tbsp butter several minutes, then add to squash. In pot, cook the pasta until it is al dente. In sauté pan, add milk, cheese, pasta water, salt and pepper in sauté pan, then add veggie mixture and pasta. Mix it all together and serve warm.]]>
My time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reminded me of Benin, of a time in life when I spent my summers in a small village in the bush doing water research and living a rather simple life. The places themselves were quite different, as was my work, and my companions. But, at its core, there was something so oddly and wonderfully familiar, something that made me smile over and over again.
Maybe it had something to do with pulling my very rough, very ‘bush’ French out of the drawer it had been stored in. Or maybe it was the sounds of the bush at night that were louder than any sound maker you would put in your room. Or maybe it was food that was new, but the spices familiar. Or maybe it was the people, a character about them that brought to mind old conversations. Or maybe it was the red dirt roads lacking motorized vehicle traffic. Or maybe it was the cloth that was full of colors. Or maybe it was bathing out of a bucket (though, sadly, not under the stars). Whatever it was, it was familiar.
This was a wonderful trip of beginning new and exciting work in a new place that had a little taste of home. Stay tuned in the months to come to hear more about this program. We are designing rain tanks and latrines for primary schools that have neither, and we will have to build a classroom for the rain tanks because the wood and mud rooms with thatch roofs that currently exist will not work. It is so exciting to be working in a new place, one where people are eager to join hands to solve their own problems. A place that is remote enough that you do not see other NGOs. It demands imagination and persistence, and those are available to us. One step at a time, we will work together and change the WASH situation and change the health of the children in this place that is new but feels so familiar to me.
A little bonus for me: traveling in fun, little planes.
We left after work and had fun finding messages our friends left for us on the back of the sign-in boards about where to find them. “Pam & Ben: All the good camp sites taken, proceed to Cold Springs.” “ Pam & Ben: We are at at site 25.” A fun treasure hunt in the dark after the drive up the crazy road through Mineral King.
The nights were cold, the days beautiful. It was a taste of fall with leaves turning yellow and cool, clean, crisp air. It was a taste of life where the drought is not so extreme as we hiked by as stream and up to a waterfall.
For Ben and I, it was our first camping trip together. We tested out our new tent and sleeping pads. We shared food by a fire and conversation with friends. Next up is making our own camping box and our own camping ‘normal.’ What fun it is to get to make new traditions and try new things with a loved one. Mineral King might have to become one of those normals in the years to come as there were so many trails we did not get a chance to explore. But then, there is so much of California yet to explore.
ps – Ben’s blog post on this trip can be found HERE.]]>
I recently found out the same can be said of pumpkin spice teas — they are not all made the same. I grabbed a box of Twinings tea thinking that would be reliable. Horrible. It has a fake pumpkin taste. Republic of Tea, however, was a light tea, but full of real flavors. Moral of this story: pay for the good stuff, hunt for the good stuff. Don’t bother with the bad stuff, or be willing to throw it out when you find it.
And then, this morning, I had a thought: why not make my own pumpkin spice latte? So, I opened a can of pumpkin puree and commenced. Friends, this is the good stuff. I will perfect it in the coming weeks, but this is the starting point.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Mix pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla in a saucepan and cook until it smells lovely. Whisk in milk and cook until nearly simmering. Add sugar to taste. Add some espresso. (I make espresso on my stove using my moka pot — not exactly espresso, but it is pretty darn great. If you don’t have a moka pot, check out Ross or other discount stores as they often have them on great sales.)
Should you be lazy, you could do this in the microwave with yummy results.
There you go. Don’t settle for the fake flavors when the real ones are so darn good!
ps – If you need something to do with some of that extra pumpkin puree, try out these ‘Healthy Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.’ Add 1 Tbs sugar to the recipe. And know that they are more yummy breakfast bar than cookie. Add a layer of peanut butter or eat with yogurt.]]>
Our Rings: All Five of Them
It takes five rings to tell our engagement and wedding story. When Ben asked me to marry him on the beaches not far from our California home, he gave me a simple silver ring with my birthstone, an Aqua Marine, in it. He had commissioned the ring from a jeweler — making one to fit my right hand that I could take with me on all of my travels around the world. Together we found an antique ring that we had copied with great grandmother’s diamond for my second engagement ring, something new from something old.
Creating our own tradition from one I knew from my childhood spent in Jordan, I got Ben an engagement ring as well, that he wore on his right hand (a very simple, very inexpensive ring – nothing special except its significance). In the weeks following, Ben would say, “Another first…. I had dinner tonight wearing a ring…. I took a shower with a ring… I taught a class with a ring…And so on.” His conclusion was that men too should get engagement rings as they are a precious reminder of a new and beautiful season, a season of preparing for marriage.
When looking for our wedding rings, we wanted simple bands that matched. For me, one that I could wear when I traveled but also to go with my wedding band. I love what we found. I love that we used jewelers working from home or local stores for our rings. I love the simple beauty and deep significance of our rings.
And this bowl. “To have and to hold.” A gift from my sister-in-law Lauren, was used by our ring-bearer (my nephew Liam) and hold my engagement rings on my bedside table when they are not on my hands.
My Wedding Jewelry: Gold from Damascus
Much of my childhood was spent in the Middle East, where women would receive sets of gold for their wedding. While we lived there, my Dad bought my Mom a set of gold that was stunning in its simplicity – handmade knots linked together. When I was 19 years old, my Mom and I went to Damascus one last time before our family left Jordan. Dad had us buy three sets of gold to match my Mom’s: one for me and each of my sister-in-laws on the occasion of our weddings. Several days before my wedding, my Dad gave me my wedding gold at a family dinner. It is so beautiful. Even more than its beauty, I love knowing that this marriage was planned for and prayed for years ago.
A Family Wedding….
This wedding was about family and friends — the wonderful community that surrounds us. Our deepest hope was that people would enjoy each other as they celebrated with us. And so we wanted to celebrate in a way that included things we loved to do with each other and those we loved, hoping for lots of conversations and laughter. Before the details, one picture of the community that gathered with us that day – representing so much family and so many friends from different times and places.
Location & Decoration: Family, Colors and Places
The wedding was held in the gardens of Aunt Louise’s house. The gardens were large enough for the ceremony to take place in one area and the reception (dinner and games) in another area. Living in California where our backyard is closer to a postage stamp than a lawn (and it is brown, not green), it felt so wonderful to be surrounded by such natural beauty.
I love bright colors, and my mom made hundreds of yards of bunting that danced in the wind all day. Cloth napkins were made into bow ties around plasticware for people to use and then take home. The fabrics we used were from America and Africa, combining beauty from the two continents of my recent life as I live here (now with my Benjamin) and continue to travel the world.
I love that we can return to the place that we got married every time we visit Pennsylvania. It will forever be a special and happy place to us.
Games: Fun on the Lawn
Ben and I love to play games together, and a garden wedding seemed a perfect place for lawn games, or games that could become lawn games. We took our photos before the wedding… part of which allowed us time to take some time to play these games before anyone arrived. It was like a little date – games and laughter — I just happened to be in a wedding dress.
Food: A Local and Family Affair
The centerpiece of the our dinner was barbecued chicken — Hoover BBQ Chicken that is — a family recipe and on a homemade grill with a Hoover Dad as the grillmaster. Sides from Wegmans (a grocery store – but prepare for a a long and serious argument from Ben should you ask why, or if, they are better than any other grocery store). It required a giant napkin to protect my white dress.
And then there were the drinks: sangria and beer. We sipped sangria right after the wedding as we soaked in the glory that we had said our vows and were actually married – we were husband and wife! A few precious moments alone. Thank you to Uncle Todd and Aunt Karen for making gallons of this sweet glory. We smuggled a quart of this into our hotel on our wedding night too. And then there was the beer that my brother Chris made and bottled special for our wedding and Lauren designed special labels for. Somehow we managed to save a few and sneak them home in our luggage. Perfection.
Dessert was cupcakes from a baker who works from her home. On cupcakes: let’s just say that flavors like Blueberry Buckle and Peanut Butter Cup make my day. Nom nom nom.
Our Wedding Party: Deep Friendships and Long Faithfulness
These dear friends are like family to us. My bridesmaids (Renee, Bethany, and Elizabeth) are ones that I have known for years, have lived in community with, and have shared the ups and downs of life with. I could not imagine this day without having them there with me. Ben’s groomsmen (Jonathan, Matt, and Duane) included his brother and two dear friends from his childhood that I had heard endless stories of since we first met. As we stood at the alter, we had the great blessing of being surrounded by deep friendships and also be six people who each have strong marriages and have been blessed by children in their homes. In the week leading up to our wedding, we heard countless stories of love and faithfulness, all encouragements that what we had now was just the beginning, that our love could grow deeper and richer with time. What a beautiful witness. And yes, all three beautiful ladies standing with had their first child this year, and so we swapped flowers for babies after the wedding… love these women, their husbands, and their babies.
Our Family: We Are So Blessed
There is so much to say about our families. We love them so much and wish that we could be close to all of them – though that would mean somehow being everywhere from Georgia to Pennsylvania to Scotland all at one time. One could always hope. We are blessed to both come from great families, to have parents who’s love has grown richer through the years, and to have siblings we love being with. And the kids – oh the fun of the nephews and nieces. As we return to a life of emails, phone calls, and skypes, it is fun to think back to this time together that was so precious.
The Ceremony: Where Two Became One
Our ceremony was simple. We were surrounded by nature and family and friends, and we were married by Gary Jacabella, Ben’s uncle. This was the most important part of the day and the one that is the most difficult for me to express. Getting married is a very surreal stepping from one reality to a new one, promising to choose to love another for the rest of my life – a promise I am sure I do not yet fully understand. There are three things that I would like to share with you: the family blessing, our vows, and the Lord’s Supper.
The Family Blessing comes from A New Zealand Prayer Book and was read by one Crane sibling and one Hoover sibling as we celebrated our families.
Eternal God, creator of us all,
we praise you for all the ways
in which your love comes into our lives,
and for all the joys
that can come to men and women through marriage.
Today we especially pray for Pamela and Benjamin
as they begin their married life.
With them we thank you for the love and care of their parents,
which has guided them to maturity
and prepared them for this commitment.
Give them strength
to keep the vows they have made,
to be loyal and faithful to each other,
and to support each other throughout their life,
that they may bear each other’s burdens
and share each other’s joys.
Help them to be honest and patient with each other,
and to welcome both friends and strangers into their home.
In all their future together
may they enjoy each other
and grow through the love they share, until, at the end of this life,
you receive us all into your eternal kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
Our vows, which will take us a lifetime to understand and to live out. May we never forget the promises we made on our wedding day.
In the name of God, I, Benjamin/Pamela, take you, Pamela/Benjamin, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, through laughter and through tears, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. Forsaking all others, I commit myself to you. I will seek to serve you with tenderness and respect, energy and intelligence, imagination and love. This is my solemn vow.
And the Lord’s Supper… our parents helped serve everyone on our wedding day as we shared in communion together for the first time as husband and wife, surrounded by our community. I wish I could extend this richness to you as well.
Dancing: Mostly in the Kitchen
Ben does not love to dance, but he dances with me… mostly in the kitchen and sometimes under the stars on the beach. To make me smile, he danced with me under the stars at our wedding. And then I danced with my Dad. I love these pictures, and goodness, I love these men.
Now: Creating a New Normal
Ben and I are back in California now…. we had a lovely week in the Poconos ignoring the world following our wedding during which we explored waterfalls and hibernated in a cabin (read Ben’s post about that here). Then a week of work and trying to make one home out of all of our stuff; we are getting there. As I sit back and remember this time, I smile at its beauty and am so thankful for everyone who made it possibly by helping with the wedding and those who traveled distances – small and great – to celebrate with us. I only wish that we could have had more time with each of you. I am thankful that friendships cover miles and years and cannot wait to see you again.
You can read Ben’s post about our wedding here.
All photographs (except the last one) are by Jen Capone. She is pure awesome.]]>
On Saturday Ben took me to my first Major League Baseball (aka MLB) game to see the Oakland Athletics play the Toronto Blue Jays. There was something all-American about a baseball game, and we lived up the experience. In-N-Out burgers on our way to the game, hot dogs and popcorn at the ballpark. A beautifully groomed field full of bright green turf. Fans dressed in yellow and green, and one special fan dressed in a yellow and green cape playing the banjo. Vendors yelling their little rhymes to entice one to buy hot dogs and iced tea and ice cream and cotton candy.
Then there was that moment (not long after asking if birds ever poop on the players), in which a bird pooped on my head. I laughed so hard I cried as Ben cleaned my hair out using the tissues in my purse. Ben has promised me that he has never seen this happen and that I should be safe in the future. I mostly believe him.
And then there was the baseball. It is infinitely more interesting game when the intricacies are understood, even at an elementary level. The details I will stumble over, so for those you should just check out Ben’s blog, The Benjamin. What I will say is that my first game had the fun of a great double play, 3 extra innings, a coach getting ejected, lots of foul balls into the stands, and the one run of the game was glorious. I think I am learning to like baseball, but this is also heavily influenced by the goofy grin of the guy who was sitting next to me all day.
Yes, menstruation is normal, and yes, this is something you should care about.
“Several years ago I was walking through communities in Northern Uganda and found this slogan painted on the side of a school building The school was out of session, so the classrooms were empty that day, and I found myself lingering a little longer, thinking about the message it shared with its students every day: Menstruation is Normal. As part of a WASH campaign, the other buildings had other messages – about handwashing and drinking safe water – but it was this one that caught me because of its boldness.”
You can read the rest of this post HERE.]]>
When I met Ben last year, I had no idea that a great adventure lay ahead of us. Since we met, the conversation that started over Thai food one night has continued while hiking hills, walking beaches, cooking dinners, and over many a meal. We discovered that we love to laugh and be together. In Ben, I have found an amazing man; his presence makes my life much richer. I am excited, even giddy, to be sharing the news of our engagement.
I am so very grateful for this new season – it is full of life and colors and new beginnings. It is full of dreams and possibilities and hope. It is a beautiful season indeed.