Fall Decorating + Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, folks!

As fall officially arrived this weekend, I spent a little bit of time Saturday decorating for my favorite season.  I gleaned a few ideas from Pinterest (which I find overwhelming, but I’ve decided this is the norm), made a trip to Hobby Lobby, and went to work with the hot glue gun.  Here’s our newly decorated-for-fall mantle:

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These vases were 50% off at Hobby Lobby, and I think they are the perfect link between our typical blue and green color scheme and the fall yellows.

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As for the crafty part of the decorating process, I made these guys:

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My original plan was to wrap all the glass vases with twine, but as it turns out, the process is very tedious, and even OCD has a limit on how much hot glue can be taken to the fingers. 😉

Other highlights from the weekend include:

-Bowling with friends Friday night and earning what’s probably my highest bowling score of all time:

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128!  And that was with two gutter balls in the last frame 🙂 I was on fire up until that point.

-Bowling again Saturday with some youth and a few of our friends from the Virginia Home–a residential facility for adults with disabilities.

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They always make me smile.  The man about to bowl in the photo is hilarious and ever-willing to give fist bumps and secret handshakes.  I shook his hand when he arrived, and he looked down at my ring and said, “Married??”  I laughed and said, “Yeah, I’m married.”  And he threw his hands up in the air and said, “God D***IT!”  😀

-Football–we watched the Virginia Tech game Saturday, and Andrew drove to DC to see the Redskins game Sunday with his dad and friend.  Despite the Redskins losing, they had a lot of fun!

-Youth Group–love these guys and girls 🙂

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Overall, the weekend was low-key, but good.

What was the highlight of your weekend?
Do you decorate for fall?

Random Friday Thoughts

I confess that I do not have anything particularly insightful to offer on any one subject today, so instead I will share some random highlights of my week, guided by the photos on my phone. 🙂

1. On Tuesday Andrew walked in the door after work with a beautiful bouquet of tulips and said, “Happy Tuesday!  I thought you’d like these… they are fall colored!”  (Yes, they are fall colored;  never mind the fact that tulips are the quintessential spring bloom. ;-)) I love that guy.

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2. I cheered on one of the high school girls in my youth group (Gena, with whom I ran this 5K) in her cross country meet on Wednesday.  She goes to my former high school, where I used to run cross country, so going to this meet brought back a lot of memories–I even got to catch up with my old coach!  Despite the course being notoriously grueling and hilly (not all the memories were good…) Gena ran strong until the very end!  Go, girl!

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3. Garden labels:  I made them.  Using popsicle sticks, outdoor craft paint, and a hot glue gun, I created these guys this week:

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4.  My mom and her friend Bill are at the beach this week in the Outer Banks, and she sent this picture to my siblings and me:

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One summer many years ago, while we were making drip castles on the beach, a local artist approached my mom and asked if she could take our picture.  She paints everyday beach scenes, and sells the prints in a lot of beach shops.  We always look for ourselves when we see this artist’s work, and my mom found us this week!  We are a little bit famous.

5. I’m working on building up my running mileage, and yesterday I ran 7.25 miles!  I know it isn’t a long long run, but I am pleased with myself nonetheless.  My first mile was a slow 9:43, and I gradually increased speed, running the last mile in 8:44.  I’ll take it.

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That’s all the randomness I have for today 🙂

Tell me something random about your week.

Milkshakes, Vineyard Tour, and Youth Group (Weekend Recap)

Happy Monday to all!

We had a full, yet relaxing weekend here at the Storey house.  Friday we had one of those night that made me think, “27 and married is so, so different than 22 and single.”   It started when we decided to go out to eat, and I said, “I need a few minutes to get ready,” which meant brushing my hair and reapplying eyeliner.  Same clothes I’d been wearing all day?  Why not?  😉  We went to a restaurant called the Silver Diner, which is a small chain in Virginia and Maryland.  Although it’s a chain, each restaurant works with local farmers and creates seasonal menus with lots of gluten-free, vegetarian, and heart-healthy options.  It’s pretty great.

While browsing the menu, Andrew noticed the dairy-free milkshake option and suggested we split one at the end of our meal.  When the waitress asked us if we needed anything else, however, Andrew simply asked for the check.  After she walked away I said, “Did you not want to get a milkshake?”  He replied, with a little bit of crazy in his eyes, “Let’s go to Kroger and buy the ingredients, and then we can make LOTS of milkshakes!”  Done and done.

After acquiring the necessary ingredients, driving home, and blending, we parked ourselves on the couch with our milkshakes and watched a few episodes of Once Upon A Time on Netflix.  (Does anyone else watch this?  We are hooked. [Pun intended, for those of you who are watching season 2.]  Season 2 came out on Netflix about a week ago, and we finished it Friday.  Oops…)

So that was Friday: dinner at a diner, homemade milkshakes, and Netflix on the couch.  Yeah–27 definitely beats 22. 😀

I wrote about Saturday morning here, but the gist of it is: slept in, ran 6 miles, and ate brunch.  After that we worked in the garden–we planted more kale, lettuce, and spinach–and watched most of the VT football game.

Later in the afternoon we made a trip to the New Kent Winery for a tour and wine tasting.  Oddly enough this was Andrew’s idea, and I had to convince him to watch some of the football game (“I don’t need to watch every single game.  Do you want to go wine-tasting?”  Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?)  It was my first time at a vineyard, and it was so cool!

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As an engineer, Andrew always loves tours like this and learning how things are made.  The wine we tasted was pretty good too 🙂  After one particular wine I said to Andrew, “Wow, this is unique.  I’ve never had wine that tastes like this.”  Andrew replied, “It’s not unique;  we just don’t buy $25 wine.”  Hah!  True.

We sat on the porch for a while, then walked around the grounds and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.

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The highlight of Sunday was having our first youth group of the school year!  Like last weekend at our kickoff picnic, we had quite a crowd, and it was so much fun (at least I thought so… but I planned the whole thing, so maybe my opinion is skewed ;-)).  It was a great end to a great weekend.

And now… Monday.

What was the highlight of your weekend?
Have you ever been wine-tasting?

Easy Mornin’

I know it was only Monday when I said that weekends aren’t really weekends for me because of my job.  Today, however, thanks to a couple of amazing parents who volunteered to drive a group of our youth on a scheduled service project, I have a Saturday. <Cue angels singing.> 😀

I kicked it off by sleeping in until 9:15.  That *never* happens.  I initially woke up at 7, which is pretty typical for me, went back to sleep, and the next thing I knew it was after 9.  I didn’t quite know what to do with myself!

It’s a perfect fall day today–mid-60’s and sunny–and I hadn’t done a long(er) run yet this week, so I ate a banana with some peanut butter, got dressed, and headed out the door.

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I didn’t run especially fast, but my goal was to complete 6 miles and enjoy.  Check.  🙂

I followed up the run with a delicious breakfast: blueberry oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and (two!!) cups of coffee with almond milk.  I even cooked the oatmeal on the stove as opposed to making it the night before.  Overnight oats are great, but hot oatmeal wins in terms of taste.

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Now we are getting ready to watch some football–Andrew’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, is playing–and later this afternoon we are going wine-tasting at a nearby vineyard.

Yep, it’s just an easy Saturday over here. 🙂

What are you up to this weekend?

A 5K, a Wedding, and Two Picnics

Friday afternoon as I returned to work after my lunch break, I passed a friend in the parking lot who said, “I’m so glad it’s finally Friday!”  Automatically I replied, “Oh yeah, me too!”  Then I thought, Well, when you work at a church, Friday is often like Sunday: it’s the day before everything gets crazy!  Now that it’s Monday morning, I can breathe and relax. 🙂

This weekend we kicked off the new school year in the life of the church with a bunch of awesome events that definitely kept me busy!  Saturday morning our church, in partnership with another church down the road, hosted a 5K.  We encouraged the youth group folks not only to run, but to dress up in costumes.  I couldn’t find a great costume, but I did find these fantastic purple “skapris” (oh yes, “skapris” are a skirt/capri combo) plus a purple sequin headband in the kids section at Target.  All I’m saying is that I looked pretty good. 😉

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I ran with my sweet high school friend Gena, and we rocked it!  I won my age group, and Gena placed second in hers (with a lot more competition.)  We had over 200 participants and raised a lot of money that is being donated to a couple local charities!!

Saturday afternoon, on our way to a wedding in Virginia Beach, we made a stop to visit our good friend Allison.  We ate lunch, watched the Virginia Tech football game, and so enjoyed catching up and laughing!

On Saturday evening we attended the wedding of my good friend and coworker Evan and his beautiful bride Kristina.  The day was perfect, the decorations and details were adorable, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people so excited to get married!  It was a sweet, joyful celebration.

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Just bein’ us

It was close to 1 AM when we arrived home from the wedding, and I had to be up pretty early for church, er, later that morning.  Rather than our usual three services (two traditional and one contemporary), we had one huge, blended service to bring everyone together as we kicked off the school year.  Even though I was operating on insufficient sleep, the morning was awesome!  I don’t know  how many people were there, but the sanctuary was PACKED, and we had overflow in our Welcome Center.  Some chose to sit on the floor with their kids.  The atmosphere was just relaxed and genuine as everyone came together as one community to worship God!

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After the service we had a picnic lunch, and people spread out all over the church grounds–inside and out–to share a meal with friends!

And because one picnic on a Sunday is never enough, that evening we had a youth ministry picnic at a local park to kick off the school year and welcome our new families.  I was unable to do a headcount, but I estimate we had 150-175 people (youth, parents, and siblings).  I felt a little bit overwhelmed…in a good way.  🙂

I am most definitely an introvert, so being in a crowd like this drains my energy.  As soon as everyone had eaten, I’d finished speaking, and we started to clean up, I was ready to lie down on a picnic table and sleep.  Hah!  It was awesome, though, and I am so excited to see what’s in store this year!

As great as the weekend was, I’m so glad it’s finally Monday!! (…aren’t you?  ;-))

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Weekend Backpacking: The Priest and Spy Rock

On Saturday Andrew and I ventured into the mountains for a couple of days of backpacking and camping.  The original plan was to car camp–set up our tent beside the car, which we could then use as a base to store our stuff while we slept or hiked.  At the last minute we decided to make it more of a backpacking trip.  We parked our car in a gravel lot about half a mile from the Appalachian Trail and about 1.5 miles from where we camped, with the intention to still use it as a (less convenient) base, resupplying Sunday so we wouldn’t have to carry everything at once.

When we arrived Saturday afternoon we took what we needed for the night and started the ascent–the very steep ascent.  Here’s a map for reference (I’ve added red dots for your viewing convenience 😉 :

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From the parking area (marked “P”) we hiked to the AT (marked “i”).  From this point on, I will refer to that stretch as, “the half mile of doom”.  It’s a steep, dreadful dirt road that is tough with nothing on your back; add a 20-something-lb pack, and I started questioning my physical fitness levels.  From there we hiked east on the AT to the Priest, which provided little relief in terms of incline, and finally arrived at our campsite (the red dot near the shelter).

We set up camp, met a nice family from very rural Virginia, and made dinner.

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If we’d had a few more days to plan for backpacking, we would have been more intentional about bringing a lightweight pot/stove and dried food.  We didn’t though, and heavy dinner is the main reason we kept a few things in the car.  Before leaving we’d prepped dinner in a large zip-sealed bag and traveled with it in a cooler–soup with canned chicken, green beans, squash, mushrooms, peppers, cooked rice, black beans, and a bunch of spices.  We put the combination in the pot with water, heated, and enjoyed.  For a somewhat random mixture of canned foods (and a few from our garden), it actually tasted very good!  Who says you can’t eat well in the woods?

We slept–not particularly well, but not horribly either–and I woke around 6:00 AM when the smallest amount of light was coming through the tent walls.  I decided to pull myself out of the sleeping bag and try to catch the sunrise at the overlook less than half a mile away.  (Andrew decided  to keep sleeping :)).  Oh man, it was worth it:

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After enjoying God’s awesome creation and the stillness of the morning for a while, I made my way back to camp and waited patiently for Andrew to wake up.  On second thought, “patiently” might not be the right word;  as soon as I heard the faintest stirring sound, I unzipped the tent and demanded that he come outside and play :-D.  We ate breakfast, packed what we didn’t need for the day, and began the 1.5 mile hike back down to the car.

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Coffee and a French press;  it’s all about priorities, people

We dropped off a few items at the car, grabbed our day packs and pre-made lunches from the cooler, and reveled in the lightness of our loads compared to the overnight packs. 😀  Looking at the same map above, we tackled the half mile of doom from the parking lot to the AT, then hiked west to Spy Rock (well, we went a little beyond Spy Rock, but that was the highlight.)

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MmHmm.

 

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We ate lunch, hiked a bit more, then started walking back.  When we had roughly two miles left until we’d reach the car, it started raining.  Then it started pouring.  In case it’s unclear, two miles is a long way to hike in the rain.  We finally made it back to the parking lot and sat in the car to wait for the rain to stop.  At that point, I was done.  If it was necessary, I could tough out camping in the rain, but my dry bed sounded very appealing at that moment.  Andrew was not as sure, but eventually conceded that the rain was not likely to stop anytime soon and that would not make a great night of camping.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just start the car and go at that point?  It sure would be… but wait!  Our tent and much of our gear was still at the top of the dang mountain.  So, with 10 miles under our belts and water sloshing in our shoes, we had to make the 1.5 mile hike back up the steep mountain, pack all our gear, and hike back down.  Oy.

We survived but were pretty whipped by the time we arrived home.  Thankfully we had a pre-made dinner in a bag that we just poured in a pot on the stove and heated. 🙂

Even with the rain, it was an awesome trip, and I don’t regret going.  I love those mountain views and the workout they require to view them (our legs were hurting so good the next day!)

How did you spend your long weekend?
Have you hiked Spy Rock or the Priest?

Jamaica Part 2: Fitness and Adventure

While it may be tempting on vacation to lie on the beach all day–especially when a waiter walks by at regular intervals and says, “Hey Princess!  Are you doing okay?  Can I bring you a drink?”*–it’s also exciting to explore all that the activities the area and resort have to offer.  And you’ll feel better if you move a little bit between those buffets and fruity drinks. 😉

(*After this happened a few times, I requested that Andrew start addressing me as “Princess” and offer to bring me drinks regularly;  he declined.)

Here’s how we stayed active in Jamaica:

Snorkeling
When we were on our honeymoon we purchased snorkeling masks, which we brought with us last week.  The resort offered snorkeling trips, which we did once, but most days we also explored on our own just off the coast.

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A huge thanks to our friend Kevin for letting us borrow his waterproof camera for the week!

Sailing
The resort offers a variety of water sports, so we went sailing one day!  The culture difference related to this cracks me up:  In the US, in order to take out a sailboat you’d probably have to take a class, sign a waiver, pass a test, etc.  In Jamaica they said, “You know how to sail?  Have fun!”  😀

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Beach Volleyball
This was more Andrew’s thing, but I played one day too!  Every day at 4:00 the resort staff organized a volleyball game, and Andrew played most days.  Also, if I may brag on my husband for a moment, Andrew is kind of awesome at volleyball.  I had no idea (he never played on a team or anything), but I supposed I should have realized, considering is good at most sports.  The one afternoon he didn’t play, all his teammates kept saying, “Where were you??  We needed you!”

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Also, minutes after the above photo was taken, the guy on the right dove into the water to cool off and came up screaming expletives, his foot gushing blood.  We looked in the water and saw that he’d stepped on a stingray, which then pierced his foot!  We talked to him the next day after he’d spent a good portion of the night in the medical center; he was in some serious pain, but he’s okay!

Offsite Adventure: Ziplining and Waterfall Hiking
The only thing we did that was not included was an excursion to Ocho Rios (about 90 minutes from Montego Bay) to zipline and hike a waterfall.  The trip was absolutely worth the extra cost!

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The view from the sky lift

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Dunn’s River Falls is a series of 3-4 ft waterfalls with big pools at the bottom of each.  We hiked from the ocean to the top of the falls.  It was awesome (and provided some great photo ops! :-D)

The Gym
In addition to staying active outside, we did hit the resort gym a few times–once for Andrew, twice for me.  Each time I completed 20 minutes on the treadmill (intervals + a short warm up/cool down), and 20 minutes of weight circuits.  I wanted to make the workouts count without feeling like I was spending too much precious vacation time at the gym.

That was our Jamaication!  I’m still not sure about this whole, “not on vacation, back in the real world” thing, but I am slowly adjusting.  Yesterday afternoon I made myself a “transition from paradise to reality smoothie”: pineapple, mango, and strawberry.  I compromised by not including spinach, flax meal, or rum. 😉

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Not bad, but not Jamaica.

Have a great Tuesday!

Where did you go/are you going on vacation this summer?
Have you ever been to Dunn’s River Falls?

Jamaica Part 1: Food and Relaxation

Jamaica was all we’d hoped it would be–a great mix of adventure and relaxation.  This morning I will focus on the food and relaxation aspects of our vacation, and tomorrow I’ll dive into the adventure and activity aspects.  Overall, I think Andrew and I both did better in terms of being active and not stuffing our faces than we did on our honeymoon. 😀

First, I must say that Sandals handled Andrew’s food intolerances incredibly well. During our check-in process Saturday (which included a damp towel to cool off, a glass of island punch, and a comfy couch,) the sous-chef met with us and talked about what he could eat and how the food is prepared.  Anyone with a food allergy or intolerance knows that it can make you nervous to go somewhere like this and have no control over how the food is prepared; it put our minds at ease to have the chef take the initiative to speak with us and let us know that he is on top of things.  In addition to the plethora of naturally gluten-free foods, they provided a GF bread basket upon request at dinner as well as a GF pizza crust at the beach-side pizzeria!  Point one of a million for Sandals.

After checking in, we settled into our room and enjoyed our complimentary fruit and cheese plates on our balcony.

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We ate our weight in fresh fruit this week.  It was a-mazing.

The resort has five or six restaurants, with a few different breakfast options.  We decided to park ourselves at the breakfast buffet each day, partly because we didn’t go to an all-inclusive resort to eat like birds, and partly because this was the view from the restaurant:

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No big deal.

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Fresh fruit galore!

After breakfast most days we hit the beach.  The resort where we stayed sat on the mainland but had its own private island just offshore, with boats taking guests back and forth throughout the day.  We spent most of our sun time on the island.

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I have a feeling that being on the island all day is what kept us from being total gluttons.  While there was a bar as well as a husband who heard, “No, thank you, I’m fine for right now,” as, “Please bring me a pina colada ASAP,” the island restaurant served a much lighter lunch buffet.   Our lunches typically looked like this:

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Salad, jerk chicken, and a few frozen beverages 🙂

Dinners provided more of the face-stuffing opportunities.  Each restaurant created a signature drink, which the server brought to the table upon your arrival.  (Would you like this pineapple-garnished blend of delicious fruit juices and rum that I’ve already made and have for you right here?  Yes.  Yes, I think I would.)

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I failed to take any entree photos, but our dinners included dishes like Caribbean lobster, coconut-encrusted trout, garlic tiger shrimp, and filet mignon.  Yep.

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Desserts included beauties like this:

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Mango mousse and strawberry cheesecake

Between meals we filled our time with a lot of this:

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And this:

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And this:

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Pulling the lounge chairs into the shallow water?  Yes, please.

…And enjoyed views like these:

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<Sigh.>

We didn’t, however, spend 100% of our time eating and otherwise doing nothing.  Tomorrow I will tell you all about our active adventures and how we worked out more than once during our vacation. 🙂

I hope you have a great Monday!

Have you ever been to Jamaica?  A Sandals resort?  What’d you think?

Home (Bitter) Sweet Home

We are home from Jamaica, and while it’s good to be home, it’s also good to be…. well, in Jamaica.  I may or may not have had to fight back a few tears as we were leaving yesterday morning.  I plan to write a full post (probably two) in the next couple of days, but for this morning, I leave you with a few teaser photos:

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I know.

Have a great Saturday!

Boating + An Almost Farm-to-Table Dinner

Greetings on this dark, but delightfully cool morning (at least in Richmond)!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.

We kicked ours off Friday with dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant and a movie–Red 2.  We saw the first one in the theater when we were still dating and loved it, and the sequel did not disappoint!  If you’re looking for a good suspenseful, action-packed, make-you-belly-laugh movie, I highly recommend Red 2.

On Saturday, we spent the day on the bay.  One of Andrew’s coworkers, Bruce, has a bay house (technically his mom’s) and a boat, and he invited us down for the day.

IMG_1472It was a gorgeous day–warm,with a breeze, but not hot; big fluffly clouds in the sky…

We spent most of the day in the boat, but stopped at a little island beach for a while to eat lunch and relax (you know, because riding around in a boat is so stressful ;-)).

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We also did some fishing from the boat.  Well, Bruce did some fishing (Andrew and I don’t have licenses.)  In a short amount of time, he caught five decent-sized croakers, which he cleaned and sent home with us!

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Driving home we caught this awesome sunset:

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On Sunday, after an excellent worship service at church, Andrew and I (…wait for it… this might surprise you…) worked in the garden.  😉  I weeded;  Andrew demolished a stump and tilled the soil so we could put the strawberry plants in the ground (rather than pots.)  We replanted the strawberries, and planted more green bean, broccoli, carrot, and beet seeds.  Our green beans are doing well and don’t take long to mature, and we just wanted more!  Our row of broccoli failed–one tiny head was starting to emerge just as the caterpillars destroyed the plants.  We planted the beet and carrot seeds in pots with store-bought soil.  As much as we tried to improve our ground soil, it still has lumps of clay and some rocks, which produce gnarly little underground vegetables.  (Exhibits A & B.)  We’re hoping the pots will be more of a controlled environment for them!

In sad garden news, I think we are losing our cucumber plants.  The leaves are getting yellow spots, then shriveling up and dying.

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Anyone know what that’s about?  Is it a disease?  Over/under watering?  I’m not very happy about it.

For dinner last night we enjoyed the fish from Saturday with green beans from the garden and some quinoa:

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We breaded the fish in gluten-free bread crumbs and pan-fried it (healthy, I know ;-)).  Apparently the tails are delicious, but you’ll have to ask Andrew about that.

And now, I’m off to tackle Monday.

What did you do this weekend?
What the heck is wrong with our cucumbers?