Tubing Down the Russian River

Ashley turned 30 years old this past Sunday! I'm so thankful for her and the ways we've been able to come alongside each other through our one-year of relationship. I'm excited to continue to grow with her, pursuing the heart of God more together, serving others together, and building a home and family together!

As a part of Ashley's month-long celebration of life, I put together an event with our friends to float down a segment of the Russian River in inner tubes. This is an activity that her and I have been wanting to do as individuals for a quite some time so doing it for her birthday was a dream come true for both of us.

I've never been tubing down a river before so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to do some research on logistics and to organize our friends. I came across this blog post to get a high-level idea of what to expect and how to plan. At the start of planning, I was going to ask each guest to rent inner tubes down at Johnson's Beach and that we'd float in Forestville from the Hacienda Bridge down to Russian River Pub, as the blog suggested.

But our friends Abby and Thomas, who've been before and say that tubing down the Russian River is one of their favorite activities ever, suggested that we start at Steelhead Beach and end at Mother's Beach, just short of a 2-mile journey that would take nearly 3 hours to complete (the current is super slow-moving).

Abby and Thomas also suggested that we buy our own inner tubes instead of renting them. If we decided to do even one additional trip to the river sometime in the future, that would pay for our inner tube purchases. They suggested a few items on Amazon, but I ended up getting a pair of the Intex River Run I Sport Lounge for Ashley and me (which, unbeknownst to me, was actually a very popular item on the river). I also picked up the Intex Mega Chill inflatable floating cooler to store drinks and food. A co-worker of mine also highly recommended getting a portable air pump that you could power with a car's AC adapter, so I got the LotFancy Portable Air Pump off of Amazon, too. Having one of these would save a lot of time (and a lot of breath) to blow up our inner tubes.

Ashley tends to go with wine so we picked up a few cans of Underwood wine at Trader Joe's and I snagged a couple of cans of Avery Brewing's Liliko'i Kepolo white ale, a perfect refreshing summer compliment with its hints of passionfruit. And on the morning of the trip, Ashley and I stopped over at a local grocery store to grab some sandwiches to eat on the river, along with watermelon slices and seaweed snacks. I also brought along a couple of trash bags to dispose of our empty cans, food wrappers, etc.

We had 11 people that came along, spread out over 3 cars. Originally, we were looking at chartering a Chariot to bring us to and from Russian River, but we couldn't justify the bottom-line cost (although I'd still consider this option for another local trip on another occasion). Our plan was to have all 3 cars meet at the start at Steelhead Beach, then have 2 cars drive down to the end at Mother's Beach to leave 1 of the cars there before driving back up to Steelhead Beach. This way we'd have a way to shuttle people back when we finished. 

Steelhead Beach has a parking fee (at the time of this writing, $7) so have cash handy. When we parked in the parking lot, it was a little after 10:30AM. There was plenty of parking, but it was starting to fill up. All throughout, groups of friends and families were getting their inner tubes inflated, some by mouth and others by electric pump. It was sunny out and already starting to get warm, contrasted with the foggy and breezy city that we had just come from.

Once we were assembled with gear ready, we walked a short couple of minutes through the parking lot, through the park and down to the river bank. On the river were small groups of floats and canoeing groups passing us by from some point further up river. I dipped my foot into the water: it was cool but not freezing. It felt just right.

We tied up our inner tubes together to make a small flotilla and waded into the water and began our 3-hour tour.

The river wasn't too crowded. There were groups of canoes and other inner tube groups scattered throughout. Some groups were blasting music from water-resistant Bluetooth speakers, something I wish we had come prepared with. Families in canoes paddled past us throughout the trip, and some kids had water cannons to spray us with, which was fun and funny for the first blast, but then got annoying...

The river is generally shallow. Standing up the water would reach your hips in most spots. Other areas it was deep enough to have to tread water. The current is slow-moving, although some bends are a little faster than others. At one point, I had my drink can on a separate, small individual float and it got caught up in the flow. I got out to chase after it but it was getting carried away so fast by the current. I found myself getting dragged a little bit and getting carried further from the main group!

We snacked and drank along the way, tossing bags of snacks between our inner tubes but we stopped on a sandbar a couple of hours into the trip to have our lunches. Having the floating coolers really made all the difference to keep our drinks cool and sandwiches fresh. Bags of ice can help too, but the cool river water might be enough too.

I think our group found our new favorite local summer activity. We definitely had a blast and can't wait to go again!

Outerlands

Most of my friends have already visited this brunch spot in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco (in fact, I'm sure many of them try to frequent this spot as much as they can). But I finally got my chance on my birthday on July 28 to go to Outerlands, thanks to Ashley!

I don't often find myself in this neighborhood along Judah Street: although the N Judah MUNI light-rail line travels right through it, it's still a little bit of a trek for me from the more central areas I'm in during the week. But this area is home to a few other spots that I've visited more than  once, like General Store for artisan home goods and clothes, Trouble Coffee for coffee and toast, and Judahlicious for acai bowls. It's usually super foggy and overcast in this area, so I'm never in the mood to wait in line in the cold for Outerlands.

When Ashley surprised me with a plan for brunch at Outerlands, I couldn't help but smile: soon, I would be a part of the "in crowd" by bragging about my visit to this restaurant (only kinda sorta kidding haha).

Thankfully, we went early on a Friday morning so there wasn't a line and the restaurant had plenty of tables. It almost felt like Outerlands was open just for us that morning! The interior of the restaurant felt almost reminiscent of something out of Portland, probably emphasized by the walls decked out in reclaimed wood, which I wasn't opposed to seeing around me.

I ordered the breakfast tostada, which had scrambled eggs, goat cheese crema, salsa roja and jalapeño, with an added avocado. Ashley had the cast iron grilled cheese sandwich, and she added avocado and a fried egg to it. Hers was so tasty!

I kinda wish that we ordered the day's doughnut: I don't remember what it was that day specifically, but I do know that I love doughnuts.

Oh, and we definitely recommend getting a warm cup of ginger lemon cider (it tastes like Christmas!) with whatever brunch items you decide to go with!

Birthday Celebrations for Brendon

To celebrate Brendon's birthday a couple of weeks back, I surprised him with an entire day of new experiences! One thing you should know about me early on is that I love and live for birthday celebrations. I absolutely, full-heartily love to celebrate others on their special day and I jump for joy every time mine rolls around. I was really excited this year to celebrate Brendon's birthday and to plan a full day of things he's never experienced before in San Francisco. 

The morning began with an early stop at the grand opening of a new Sightglass Coffee in NOPA (we wrote a separate post about it here). It was the perfect start to the day with free pour-over. 

Then we indulged in a comforting brunch filled with tostada's and grilled cheese stuffed with avocado and a fried egg on top paired with hot ginger apple cider at one of Sunset's finest: Outerlands. It's a must when visiting the Sunset, so I was super excited to be present for Brendon's first dinning experience. 

Before leaving the Sunset we popped into Hollow where we sat and sipped matcha and French pressed coffee and took silly photos together. 

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The afternoon led us to SFMOMA where we walked 7 floors of beautiful and exquisite modern art. The Edvard Munch exhibit did not disappoint: it evoked so many emotions that were lovely and heart-wrenching at the same time. His art is amazing depiction of what he was feeling through each painting he created. 

As we approached the final floor of the SFMOMA, we were ready for some dessert and new just the place to go. A familiar and nostalgic neighborhood for Brendon is Dogpatch where we indulged in iced hot chocolate cones with sprinkles and a cup of cookies and milk soft serve at Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous and a quick stop at the Dogpatch Saloon for a nice early evening beer. 

The evening approached and we were joined by close friends and ate noodles and curry at Basil Thai, a new Thai gem that we really enjoyed. 

We ended the evening with a pint and cheers to a great day at Cellar Maker.

The following day was a full afternoon of sipping beers at Fogbelt Brewing Company and two hours of friendly/competitive  laser tag at Laser Tag of Santa Rosa with a group of amazing friends. We didn't realize at the time how strenuous laser tag is once you hit a certain age. And after just two games, we almost called it quits but then came to our senses and thought when will we ever get to do this again? So we kept going and it was well worth it. We definitely had some sore muscles the following day, but would do it again to see how happy Brendon was! 

āina

We're very excited to have our friend Andrew Litwiller write for the Bethsaida Productions blog today! In this post, Andrew shares an overview of aina, a Hawaiian fusion restaurant in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood. More information about Andrew at the end of the post!

 

In San Francisco, every neighborhood has something to offer. One of the gems of the Dogpatch is a Hawaiian restaurant called Aina. A group of five of us went to Aina last Sunday night and were very pleased with the experience. Aina is nestled on the corner of 22 nd street and Minnesota. Surrounded by residences, small businesses, and right across the street from a park, Aina could appropriately be dubbed a “cozy neighborhood restaurant.”

When you walk into Aina, you are drawn to the sleek, modern design with a small bar and in an intimate dining area all-in-one. The colors are neutral, and there are subtle decorations on the wall. The table and chairs are made of well-polished wood. This creates a welcoming and relaxed dining experience.

Our group started the night with a round of drinks. We ordered three Hawaiian Sodas (anise infused lillet, papaya juice, matcha, lemon, coconut cream, kaffir lime leaf, vanilla bean), one Moulin de la Gardette (Gigondas, Southern Rhone ’14 - Grenache/Syrah), and one Big Swell IPA (Maui Brewing Co, Maui, HI). The Hawaiian Sodas were light and refreshing, the Moulin was full-bodied and well flavored, and the IPA was hoppy and crisp. See below for a photo of the Hawaiian Sodas.

For dinner, I ordered the Saimin (nori saimin noodles, char siu coppa, yerba mate tea egg, kauai shrimp, smoked scallop cream, shaved cured egg yolk). Another member of our party also ordered the Saimin, and the others ordered the Lomi Salmon (paprika cured salmon, chive soubise, confit baby tomato, rouille, crispy shallots, foie gras black rice crispy). One couple at our table started the meal with the Spam Bao (steamed bao, stone valley farm pork spam, preserved lemon gribiche, tsar nicoulai smoked trout roe) and the Poke’ (limu, inamona, ahi tuna, fresh hawaiian heart of palm, smoked sesame oil, shiso, sea grass). The waiter recommended both of these appetizers as favorites on the menu.

I was very impressed with the food, but even more impressed with the presentation. It’s one thing to present food well, but it’s another thing to make it an art form. At Aina, each dish is a creation to be admired. They’re colorful, dynamic, and creative. I found myself waiting a few moments to begin eating, as I admired the attention to detail that the chef had put into each plate. 

With that said, the food was also outstanding. The dish I ate was one exciting flavor after another. The bold flavors of the char siu coppa and the Kauai shrimp were offset nicely by the light nori saimin noodles and a side of greens. The egg yolk added another great flavor to the meal. The others at the table were also impressed with both the saimin and the salmon. 

Aina is a special place. There’s a reason it made Thrillist’s list of “Best New Restaurants in America in 2016.” The restaurant delivers an exceptional experience, but in a subtle way. A trip to Aina will include flavors you haven’t experienced before, with presentation that is equally as impressive. The service is outstanding, and it all comes in the most “typical-neighborhood- café” environment you can imagine. Aina has found its niche, and the Dogpatch is a better neighborhood because of it.

 
 
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Our friend Andrew Litwiller has been living in San Francisco for nearly 3 years. He loves to explore the tastes and flavors that restaurants have to offer all over the globe. Check out his food blog Food For Thought and his basketball podcast The 1-3-1

Happy Birthday Brendon!

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The man I get to marry, future husband had a birthday last Friday! When I think about describing how incredible this guy is, how blessed I am to have him a part of my life, I can't help but get a little teary eyed thinking, soon I'll be his wife. 

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I couldn't pick just one photo of him so I am sharing a few with you today and a few reasons I just love this amazing human: 

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His heart for serving people. He is so intentional about making time with others to check up, connect and grow with.

If a friend needs him, he's there, to listen, to be attentive, to laugh, or even to just sit in silence and be present. 

 

His love for the Lord is contagious and watching someone put Jesus before anything else, well gosh, it's beautiful. 

The way he pulls us closer to the Lord through prayer, devotion and community.  

He's the guy that will take you to ice cream before dinner and eat sushi on a random Tuesday because YOU have to have it. Yet he's the same guy that will drink kale smoothies and eat tofu stir fry and love it just the same. 

He can make you laugh uncontrollably until your insides hurt. 

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When he's seen you at your worst, frustrated and tears running down your face...he'll sit with you, pray with you and wait until theres nothing left to do but smile and keep going.

He passionately loves San Francisco, its in's and out's  and values being rooted.

He loves everything Disney, enough said. 

His creativity and passion to share stories through a lense is inspiring.  

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I could keep going but I'll stop there, so blessed to partner with this one! 

Can't wait for all the future birthdays we get to celebrate! 

Sightglass on Divisadero

Ashley and I love our coffee. We're very spoiled to live in a city like San Francisco where good coffee is pretty easy to come by. The other month, I took Ashley to a coffee cupping event at one of our favorite coffee roasters and coffee shops, Sightglass Coffee. We were thrilled to learn that Sightglass was opening up a brand new shop at 301 Divisadero Street and we made sure to stop by on its opening day on Friday, July 28 (a very fitting day, which happens to also be my birthday).

We ordered two cups of Ethiopia pour-over coffees and we were pleasantly surprised that all coffee drinks were on-the-house for their opening day. We took a seat at a nearby booth, sipping on our warm, delicious cups of glory and enjoyed the scene of customers making their way inside, some curiously-wandering in to see the new addition to their neighborhood and others fully-aware of their favorite coffee roaster's most-recent opening.

We loved all of the seating that this new Sightglass has, from corner view windows tables to cushioned booths for prolonged stays. It definitely looked and felt like a Sightglass, but it also has a distinct NOPA (North of Panhandle) neighborhood feel. You might be able to attribute a part of that to the people who came in, which Ashley commented on in generalities: you had a good mix of techies stopping in before their commute to work along with young- to mid-20-somethings who look as if they balance multiple odd-jobs.

Something that this shop has going for it is their takeout window that opens right up to the sidewalk to take advantage of if you have to jet in a hurry.

Beyond all of that, the vibe was very open, very friendly, and very communal. We think that this is a great addition to this neighborhood alongside our long-time favorite coffee shop in the area, The Mill. We like that we have another great coffee option along Divisadero and that we can choose between having Sightglass coffee and Four Barrel coffee at The Mill! 

Weekend Recap: July 21-23rd

A weekend in the 'burbs visiting Brendon's parents, soon to be my in-laws (I love the sound of that). We were welcomed with a couple of warm, I mean, HOT few days in Martinez and Walnut Creek filled with lots of family, which we just love. Friday began with a slow morning sipping coffee at States, and afternoon of Mint Cold Brew, pomegranate tea and iced Matcha at a new find, Coffee Shop, recommended by an old co-worker of Brendon's. 

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An early lunch of veggie paninis paired with Berry Italian soda and Arnold Palmers with mama Patubo. That Berry Italian soda, I am still dreaming about it. 

A Friday evening of ice cream, pineapple prosecco and a njght spent in a cozy living room. Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday was spent at the 3rd annual summer birthday Luau with mai tai's, a roasted pig and hula dancers with friends and more family all hosted by Brendon's older sister Nicki, my future sister-in-law! She worked so hard to make it festive and fun. Hosting is something that brings the Patubo family such life and I love how much time, effort and love they put into each and every event they have. 

This Luau is a pretty special event for Brendon and I. Not only is it such a fun time with friends and family and a time we get to celebrate summer birthdays but last year at this Luau was when Brendon and I were both confronted by our friend James (Brendon's best man) about our feeling for one another. He challenged us to take a deeper look at our friendship and see if it was something more and if not...bluntly told me to back off in so many words hah. But if I wasn't for that conversation we would of never had the conversation about what "we" could possibly be.

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The weekend ended with Sunday at church, lunch at bun mee, afternoon boba, gelly pen finds, late afternoon movie with friends seeing Dunkirk (go see it, so good) and a a second movie night with my dad where he presented Hitchcock's: Strangers On A Train and boy was it suspenseful. 

Media Noche

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A few of you have asked us to share more about some of our favorite restaurants in the city or new ones that we're trying. Brendon and I love food and we love trying new places any chance we get. I love that about this city, that there're always new gems popping up to try, if that's a new trendy spot or a hidden hole-in-the-wall tucked away in SF's finest alleyways. 

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Lately Brendon and I have been obsessed with plantain chips: we could eat them all day if given the opportunity!  A few weekends ago we tried a new Cuban place in the Mission called Media Noche to get us excited for our honeymoon and they make their own homemade PLANTAIN CHIPS! I couldn't wait for us to have a free night so that I could suggest going! And that night happened just a few weeks ago and those plantain chips were everything! We loved them so much that we ordered two orders in one sitting! 

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As soon as you enter you're embraced with Cubán culture, from the mesmerizing floor tiles to the intricate details and whimsical designs everywhere. The menu had a great variety of sandwiches, salads and bowls to choose from. Brendon tried the El Cubano: roasted pork shoulder, smoked ham, Swiss cheese and house pickles all between two pieces of sweet brioche bread. I went for one of their signature bowls, the Lechón Asado: rice, black beans, pork and vegetables. We were told that both were pretty popular items on the menu so we were so excited to try. The portions were great sizes and we paired our meals with homemade pineapple sangria and a cerveza: Evil Twin Hipster Ale. We couldn't leave without partaking in one of their Midnight Mimosas that they're known for and didn't see until after we ordered, and since Thursday's are the new Friday apparently, why not! 

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They also have some amazing vegetarian options since we're weening ourselves off of meat and limiting ourselves to just once a week for now. (Read our post here, for why the lifestyle change). We're excited to go back and partake in those options!

What I love about the city is the amount of quaint snippets of culture that overflow into it from around the world. If we weren't already excited about Cuba for our honeymoon this little place sure built up the momentum.  If you find yourself in the Mission, do yourself a favor and take a stroll into SF's little Cubá experience: Media Noché. 

Recommendations: 

  • El Cubanó 
  • Lechón Asado 
  • Mariquitas plantain chips} 
  • Pobrecito ( veggie bowl) 
  • Midnight Mimosa 
  • Pinapple Sangria 

Little Dates: Coffee Cupping

A few Fridays ago Brendon surprised me with an afternoon date of coffee cupping. Brendon is always super intentional (more than me at times!) to be sure to plan date days/nights for us to have time for just the two of us.  

One of the many things I love about him is that when he plans dates for us, they're always so intentional and thought out, whether that's surprising me for dinner at a place I mentioned months prior, a city hike exploring a favorite neighborhood of ours, an evening sipping cocktails at a hidden gem, or a day of coffee shop hopping and reading in the park. He takes notes of the small things and continues to show me the value of dating and pursuit. He never seizes to amaze me how wonderfully thought out his dates are for us. So smitten with this guy. 

When he told me we were going to a coffee cupping class I was so excited! We love our coffee and I'm slowly getting better at making pour-over, so I was really interested in how the experts appreciate coffee. I couldn't wait to be educated on brewing pour-over and to learn how to smell, taste and understand the notes of coffee. 

The coffee cupping was at one of our favorite coffee shops in the city, Sightglass Coffee, located in South of Market. Before dating we'd often meet here, filling our afternoons with hours of conversation paired with their signature vanilla iced coffee (try it, you won't be sorry!).

With it's modern decor, natural light flowing in, yummy pastries and delightful pour-over coffee, it's a place you'll want to visit when in the neighborhood.  It's the perfect place to read, meet up for one-on-ones and indulge in an afternoon affogato, especially when the city gives us a warm day. 

It was such a fun afternoon of discovering where coffee beans come from, how they're picked and brewed and the appropriate way of tasting coffee to truly taste all of their flavors. Brendon was pretty pleased when the expert informed us that "sipping/slurping" coffee wasn't a rude gesture but rather the right gesture to truly taste the distinct flavors of a nicely brewed pour-over. I couldn't resist rolling my eyes... (friends, Brendon slurps everything...and now that we know it's necessary...great. I love him regardless...hehe)  

Ending the date sipping an almond milk vanilla iced coffee, so bomb! Go get one now!

Ending the date sipping an almond milk vanilla iced coffee, so bomb! Go get one now!

Weekend Recap: July 14-16

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This weekend was good to us: a Thursday night happy hour with friends in South of Market; vegan sushi and ramen at one of our favorite restaurants, Shizen in the Mission District; and an early, slow Saturday morning of coffee, reading and scooping up veggies for the week at the neighborhood Farmers Market. 

To top it all off, we had no set plans Saturday afternoon and were able to join my family for an impromptu barbecue on Saturday in Bernal Heights, soaking up sun, eating loads of guacamole and sipping on iced cold beverages all afternoon. 

Easy Breakfast Idea: Overnight Oats

I love sleep. Getting up is one of the hardest things for me to do in the morning. I've tried setting an early morning alarm, but I'll hit that snooze button on my phone's alarm clock app repeatedly and before I know it, it's 8:30AM and I've got to make a trek across town to be at the office by 9AM.

So imagine my surprise that I found myself not being able to afford time for breakfast in the morning before leaving for work. Recently, I've been stopping over for a green smoothie at a juice shop on my commute, but at $10 a pop, it's been killing my paycheck. Still, I need something somewhat nutritious to start my day and coffee alone isn't going to cut it.

Enter overnight oats.

Ashley had a great idea to start preparing overnight oats for a quick-and-easy breakfast option during my rushed mornings. I thought that overnight oats were way too trendy of a thing for me so I never really considered it as an option for me. But after making it for one breakfast, I've been hooked ever since. And it really is so easy to make.

We got a 4-pack of Ball 1-Pint (16 oz) Glass Canning Jars from Target which we discovered were a perfect size and shape for our overnight oats. These wider-mouth mason jars make it easy to dig your spoon into and they're compact enough to stick into a bag or backpack for those extra-rushed mornings.

Over at Trader Joe's, we grabbed a bunch of items for our meal. Here's what we chose to put in our overnight oats:

Fill a jar about 1/4-1/3 of the way full with the rolled oats and pour either soy milk or almond milk until the jar is a little over half full. Add a small spoonful of almond butter and add a small handful of coconut chips and almonds. Cover the jars with the lids and set in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, add a dash of ground cinnamon, a small bunch raspberries, and a small dollop of raw honey, to taste. And there we are! A hearty and filling breakfast on-the-go to start your morning off right!

10 things we've learned this June:

Hers: 

  1. Being more aware and cautious of what I put in my body daily; 
  2. Thankful for community to be so present, when life throws you a lemon. For example: when you have 30 days to find a new apt because you unexpectedly get kicked out of yours and your amazing community rallies together to make sure you have a place to stay;
  3. Themed movie parties bring me such JOY;
  4. Double dating is soul giving and stomach filling;
  5. If only I could do a bread crawl every month!  #carbscarbscarbs.

His: 

  1. Walking to and from the office each day takes time and energy, but fights against long days sitting at a desk;
  2. Removing excess from our lives is surprisingly satisfying;
  3. The calendar is my friend: scheduling and prioritizing meet ups, 1:1's and double dates couldn't happen well without it;
  4. Treasuring time with our families more and more;
  5. A life partner who shares relational ministry goals is so affirming!

#21DaysofEnough: Eating Animals

During the Minimalism series at our church Canvas, Brendon and I remembered that we're super thankful that years ago on our own, we decided we no longer wanted to shop cheaply: we wanted to shop for quality and be more ethically-conscious when purchasing items. As a couple it's been wonderful being able to find quality pieces to purchase to build our home together as well as purge items in our closets of things we no longer need or use (Brendon explains more in our post here about the Minimalism series, sharing about companies we love to support that are either small businesses or where proceeds of every purchase go to a cause we believe in). Not only did this series open our eyes to what we wear but it shed light on how we're utilizing our time in our work and what we're putting in our bodies. 

During the teaching series I began reading a book called "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book has made me uncomfortable, challenging and changing my perspective on the things that Brendon and I are putting into our bodies daily. Just two-thirds in and my eyes have been opened to the realization that some things are just wrong. Perhaps others will disagree with me that animals are more than just food, but the highly-documented torture of animals is just unacceptable and the human cost Foer describes in his book, which I was unaware of, is universally-compelling.  In a nutshell this book begins with Foer, a content meat-eater, who is about to have his first child and decides to investigate eating animals. "What stories do we tell ourselves about eating animals? What do we tell ourselves that makes this OK? Finally, and of most interest to newer vegetarians; what do we tell ourselves about the absence of meat on our family table?" 

It pains my heart to think about the mass production that takes place to produce meat, eggs and poultry at farms. Did you know that only 1% of meat will actually come from family owned farms? 1%! If that doesn't make you uncomfortable...well it should. The typical cage for egg-laying hens is an 8"x 8" cage. Nearly all cage-free birds have the same amount of space as well. "To be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have "access to the outdoors,” which, if you take those words literally, means nothing. (Imagine a shed containing thirty thousand chickens, with a small door at one end that opens to a five-by five dirt patch–and the door is closed all but occasionally.) I could keep a flock of hens under my sink and call them free-range."  

Before this #21daysofenough fast I solely thought I would be ethically-conscious on what I am buying to wear or place in my future apartment, but never confronted my food ethically or where it came from really.. For the most part we eat fairly healthy when Brendon and I are together or separate, shopping for foods that are "organic" and "cage-free" for the most part (which apparently are just words). We also eat meat in moderation and due to Brendon being lactose intolerant and me not drinking milk on a consistent basis for the last two years, it's become more of a treat that sneaks in more frequently as of late (hehe, we love our ice cream).

But if I could be real with you, we love our food! We're big foodies! We love meat, we love fish, we love chicken and I don't know what life would be like without eggs! As I read page after page of Foer's book I'm challenged with the question: Why? Am I turning away from where my food comes from so I don't have to confront the reality? Or I do I love it so much that I don't care the cost?

So what's the solution?  I don't know quiet yet. I don't have all the answers. Whether Brendon and I change our lives completely or do nothing, we have responded. "To do nothing is to do something." 

Ways you can be more ethically cautious of the foods you eat if turning vegetarian isn't an option for you: 

  • Shop at local farmers markets or family farms
  • Check out this awesome website here to check products 
  • Be more aware of terms like "organic", "fresh", "pastured" "cage free", "free range." 
  • Educate yourself on what you are putting in your body
  • Find what works for you

 

 

 

 

A Jar of Pickles

I've had this thing for greeting cards over the last several years. There's something about taking a moment to write a hand-written note to a friend or a family member that is so much more special than a text or e-mail. I had a pen pal in Nebraska six years ago and we'd exchange letters and greeting cards back and forth.

I love browsing places like Paper Source or boutiques here in San Francisco like Lavish or Gather (those could be bar names or millennial church names, too) for well-designed and clever greeting cards.

One brand that I absolutely live by is A Jar of Pickles. These greeting cards are simple, fun, cute and very punny.

What I didn't realize was that the creator of this company is a girl named Kirstie, and she's actually good friends with my friend from SLO, Grace! When I made that connection, it made me appreciate A Jar of Pickles even more because I knew that my purchasing of these greeting cards were going to support a small business owner who I knew by a degree of separation. And seeing A Jar of Pickles products in various boutiques around the Bay Area made me really happy: her products are widely-distributed and attract a following.

The other month, Ashley and I had an opportunity to see Kirstie at an event at the HoneyBook office, hosted by HoneyBook, Weebly, and Brit + Co about building your personal brand online. Kirstie was actually a part of a speaking panel on the topic, which was great to see her be able to speak from her profession and expertise.

Check out the product offerings on A Jar of Pickles and send someone you know a clever greeting card today!

Weekend Recap: June 23-25

Okay, it's a little bit of a cheat, but this Weekend Recap extends into last week as well because there were a few notable events that we want to share that happened.

If there was a theme to our month of June, it would be Double Dating. Last month, we scheduled so many double dates, extending from close friends to friends we don't often share time with. A central component of our relationship is using our time, talent and treasure to bless others as a part of our ministry as a couple. That often materializes as a double date. Ashley and I love to share a meal or a drink or an experience with another couple. We recognize that it can be way too easy to turn inward and simply focus on each other, but I think Jesus calls us to a much higher calling as a couple.

Last Tuesday night, we met up with Maci, a girl from my community group (and founder and CEO of On Second Thought) and her boyfriend Ettie, at a restaurant around the block from me in Lower Pac Heights called Out The Door. This was our first time meeting with this fun couple and we had a blast sharing about our lives over tasty Asian-inspired dishes (we recommend the Hue Dumplings, Spring Rolls, Dungeness Crab Cellophane Noodles, and Fried Chicken!). 


On Thursday night, Thomas invited a few of us to come over to his apartment in Noe Valley to hang out and play Mario Kart on his Nintendo Switch. It ended up being just Thomas, Brian and I but we had a great time bonding nonetheless. Thomas put together simple drinks of vodka tonics and gin and tonics as we raced each other through the Mushroom Kingdom.


Ashley went on an overnight retreat up north with the girls from her Community Group from Friday to Saturday, so I just sat on the couch in my apartment and waited for her to come back.

When she came back to the city, we met up with Dia and Brian for an afternoon pint at Hopwater Distribution.


Sunday was a full day, starting with a beautiful morning with our Canvas family. Ashley got a small group of volunteers from her Kids Ministry to go to Alta Plaza park for a post-church picnic but she opened the invitation to others as well. We got sandwiches and snacks and laid out blankets on the grass at the park.

A small group of us branched off with a plan to go to Biergarten in Hayes Valley, so we walked and made the trek across the city. It didn't fully hit me that because SF Pride was happening that Biergarten (and Hayes Valley, in general) would probably be packed. And sure enough, when we finally made it to Hayes, every bar and open area was packed with people. Our backup plan? Buy a bottle of wine and drink it somewhere else. We stopped in at Arlequin Wine Merchant for a bottle of rosé. We didn't want to pay a $8 corkage fee so we ended up walking around Hayes, our eyes on the lookout for someone who might have a corkscrew.

With no luck, we ended up contacting Will, who lives a 20 minute walk from Hayes, and asked if we could come over to his apartment and open our bottle of wine there.

It turned out to be a wonderful idea: we set up a blanket in his backyard and sipped our rosé together. And after watching an episode of Friends back inside, we stopped in at a Thai restaurant right around the corner from Will's in Lower Haight called Thep Phanom for some Pad Thai and Pad See Ew.

And then to top off the day, Canvas was hosting a Worship And Prayer Night just down the block at First Baptist Church, where we were partnered with Crossroads, a Foursquare church in Fairfield. It was a beautiful night filled with grace, love and power.

Weekend Recap: June 16-18

Looking back at this past weekend, I can find a lot of moments that Brendon and I really loved. There were just so many good ones, like when I spent two hours laughing until my ribs hurt with my two darling cousins about future, past and new adventures; an hour meet up that ended up lasting two; or hearing about Brendon's hangout with our dear friend Jayme and all the sweet encouragement she fills our hearts with time and time again and the moments that we can invest in her life as well.

Then there were the few seconds in-between going to dinner with new friends, Gio and Monica (who are just the cutest): after not seeing each other for a few hours, when Brendon whispered  "missed you" as we walked into restaurant (gosh, I can't wait to marry this fella).

Or how about that time we decided to host a "Moana" movie night with some of the best people and the most bomb food: Pulled pork slides sandwiched between sweet Hawaiian rolls, macadamia nuts, coconut LaCroix, plantain chips, cake and piña coladas galore. But my favorite out of all of the favorites would have to be that single moment when our friends were so engaged in the film and songs...haha I glanced over at B across the room and caught him starring at the group with this look, the look that he gives when he's really happy to see others being filled. 

If you don't know yet, Brendon loves to host. He loves providing fun environments for people to connect whether it's a roof top shin dig, a casual themed movie night, cooking dinner for friends or entertaining people for just a night of conversation. He'll go above and beyond, out of his way to make sure friends, new and old, are taken care of, if that means filling their water cup a million times over before eventually washing it (hehe) or providing snacks, blankets or a cushion to sit on if we run out of seating. 

Brendon loves to host and he's great at it. 

It's one of the things I admire most about him. His love for people, his love for hosting and love for creating fun experiences for others. Since dating, it's been a fun challenge to continue to remind him to lean into the enjoyment of these great moments and worry about the dishes after our friends say goodbye...;P  

Anyway, hope this post inspires you as you head into your weekend. 

 

#21DaysofEnough: Intro

Our church Canvas is in the middle of a teaching series called "Minimalism," a 4-week series on living less in a more world. We started the series asking the question of whether we have stuff or stuff has us. As Americans, it's no secret that we love to acquire and hold on to things. On average, we have 300,000 items in our household. We spend $1.2 trillion on nonessential items a year. We have so much stuff that we need housing and storage for more of our stuff.

We've been challenged to check our hearts, seeing what idols might have made their way into our lives. Broadly defined, an "idol" is anything that has taken the place of God. It could be any good thing that's been made an ultimate thing.

As idolatry relates to our "Minimalism" teaching series, we're practically and tangibly looking at our everyday lives to eliminate things and reduce unnecessary spending. We want to do this because we believe it's 1) a better way to live, as people who can live on less; 2) we can make more informed purchasing decisions that benefit those who produce the goods we buy; 3) we can be more deeply connected with the heartbeat of God by releasing the grip that stuff has on us and simply enjoy stuff for what they are rather than putting our identity in them.

Simply looking at your bank statement can reveal what you truly value. For me, I've felt a strong conviction to:

  1. Reduce my reliance on Uber/Lyft and walk to my destinations more.
  2. Reduce my coffee-purchasing habits and make more coffee at home, with enough for both the morning and afternoon.
  3. Clear out clothes and items I haven't used in awhile (yay Christian spring cleaning haha)

And again, while taking stock of the things that you have and evaluating what you can purge is important, making informed purchases is also a habit to incorporate into your life. Here's a list of companies and products that we support as consumers (we've either shopped with them, plan to shop with them when we make a new product purchase, or simply admire their work):

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Warby Parker

With stylish frames at a great price point, I've been a Warby Parker customer for several years. I love their buy one, give one model in that every month, they tally up the number of glasses they sell, and donate directly to their nonprofit partners (primarily VisionSpring). This donation provides training for people in developing nations to give eye exams and sell glasses at affordable prices in their communities.

Learn more about Warby Parker's Buy A Pair, Give A Pair

Harry's

I've been shaving my face pretty regularly (up until recently, that is) and I live by Harry's high-quality 4-blade razors and durable handles. They give 1% of their net revenue to organizations like City Year, closing the gap between what schools are designed to do and what students actually need, and Year Up, empowering students to move from poverty to professional careers in a year.

Learn more about Harry's Give A Shave

Soma

I remember first seeing a Soma water carafe at a Community Group at a church I had been visiting in San Francisco many years ago. I loved its minimalist design and magical pour system. What I didn't realize was that Soma also supports one of my favorite charities, charity:water, a nonprofit in which 100% of your giving goes right back out to support clean water-building and water project maintenance in developing nations.

Learn more about Soma's partnership with charity:water

Sky + Arrow

We've been eyeing the blankets at Sky + Arrow for some time, whether that's a blanket to keep us warm on the couch or to bring out to a picnic with friends. With every blanket purchase, Sky + Arrow gives a blanket in need through Compassion Covers California, a great Christian organization that aims to provide comfort, hope and relief to hose living in poverty in California.

Learn more about Sky + Arrow's mission

Everlane

Everlane's products are wonderfully basic and minimalist. Ashley and I both have their classic Weekender bags and some assorted basics like tees and pullovers. Everlane boasts "radical transparency": They partner with factories around the globe and build strong relationships with them in order to ensure quality of both products and workers. They also show the true cost of manufacturing their products alongside their own markup.

Learn about the individual factories that Everlane is partnered with.

Nice Laundry

Looking for fun socks for either casual or dressy occasions with an ethical mission? Look no further than Nice Laundry. When you place an order, they'll also send you a return shipping label to send back some of your old socks and underwear, and they'll give those old garments new life through their partner  2ReWear.

Learn more about Nice Laundry's textile recycling initiative

Krochet Kids

We love Krocket Kids hand-knit, woven beanies. They've kept us warm in the winter months and during San Francisco's foggy summers. We also love that the products have a direct impact on empowering women in developing nations, providing them with jobs with a sustainable wage, education and mentorship.

Read more about Krochet Kids' impact

It's worth noting that living a minimal life goes beyond material things: living minimally is being generous with other resources you have, like your time. For Ashley and me, we've been actively making it a practice to use the time that we have as a couple on other people as much as we can. This has become a priority for us, even in the midst of planning a wedding: we recognize the value of community and the importance of investing in others' lives. As a taster, check out this blog post that Ashley wrote up about how we recently had a weekend of double- and triple-dates.

Weekend Recap: June 9-11

First thing's first: last weekend, despite how busy it was, was one of my favorite weekends in a long time. Brendon and I were able to spend a lot of quality time with friends in many of our favorite neighborhoods of the city. 

I was lucky enough to begin the weekend with a morning spent in Bernal Heights with almond croissants and walks to the library with the cutest little babe. The day continued with an adventurous day in the Mission, full of iced coffee, bus rides, running down hills, eating all the strawberries, plantain chips and basking in all the sun, afternoon cappuccinos with her tia's and long naps in between.  It was a whole day of summer, the best type of day, and boy was it exactly what was needed after a full week of event-prepping.

The day wrapped up with a happy hour with Jenn. We love having opportunities to spend time with her and be present to what's going on in her life. We are so thankful for her friendship and the life she pours into us individually and as a couple.

We tried a new little wine gem called Terrior, a was super quaint wine bar tucked away in South of Market, with a menu filled with Old World wine. When asked how long they'd been around they said they'd been there for over 10 years. I've walked by it many times, so having a chance to step in for the first time and be greeted in French was pretty whimsical. 

Then we went to Lower Haight where we met up with Betz (also known as Will, one of our members of our Squad) for some yummy Thai food. Brendon ordered Pad Se Ew and I was so jealous that I didn't order it as well: it was the best I've had in the city so far. Getting to spend some time with a few of our best friends for unplanned dinner is always such a treat to be able to connect and grow together over yummy food and so many laughs, couldn't ask for more. 


Saturday could be broken down into four major parts: 

1. Bread Crawl

2. Birthday Celebration, Uno

3. Canvas Family Event

4. Birthday Celebration, Dos

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The day was full of fun and not-so0full of picture-taking, but we did snap a couple of photos here and there when we remembered. Sometimes we just need to put the phone down and be in the moment and Saturday was for sure one of those days. 

The morning began with eating at, not one, but three bakeries all around the Mission and Church Street with a few of my favorite BS people (I'll explain what that is in a future post...hehe). We ate pastries and baguettes and all the toast we could handle, paired with hot and iced coffees. It was just the perfect morning to not worry about carbs or sugar but to indulge in these perfectly-made little pieces of goodness. This Bread Crawl was all planned by Will, who took an idea and crawled with it! ;P 

We continued the day with celebrating our friend, favorite intern, and sometimes pretend child (we keep tabs when she eats, sleeps and takes care herself when she forgets): Little Miss Lauren in Golden Gate Park for a birthday picnic. We just love this girl and getting to spend time and invest in her as much as we can. She has such a beautiful heart and we just know she is going to continue to be such a world changer. 

From there Brendon and I headed across town for an event I was hosting for our Canvas Families a "Kick Off To Summer" Shindig. I can't say enough how amazing this event was to see families connect and grow together over food was just amazing. It reminded me how thankful I am to have a job where I can invest in family community and to have a fiancé that would be supportive and present in what fills my heart. We had full attendance for this event and all I could think about was how I shouldn't be surprised, because let's be honest: the Lord was all over that event and so thankful to be called to do what I do. 

We then wrapped up the evening with one other birthday celebration across town, deeper in the Mission to celebrate our girl Gina at a brewery that we love called Southern Pacific Brewery. It was so sweet watching so many people come out to celebrate this girl and she is one to celebrate: she loves people and one of the most thoughtful people we know. To see others celebrating her was just so great. We are so blessed by her and her boyfriend of 8 years Douglas' friendship. 

Then there was Sunday, and we LOVE SUNDAYS!! After serving two services and having an afternoon meeting two new Canvas Kid recruits, I helped to organize one of my favorite events we do at Canvas: COMMUNITY LINK. It's a night where we celebrate everyone that is heading into a season of community. Gosh, it's my favorite and I just love that we dedicate an event to bring people together and celebrate what it means to grow together.

I recruited Brendon weeks before to take photos and b-roll for this event and gosh, he has such a serving heart. I can't brag on him enough: he is more of an "I" (Introvert) at times after too much social engagement and even though his tank was running really low and needed alone time, he pushed through and no one could tell. He connected, stayed present and did it all with laughs and smiles as if it were the first day of the weekend. I'm so blessed by this guy and thankful to partner with him.

I was still in need of two more volunteers for the night and without hesitation, two of our good friends Trixie and Will postponed Sunday chores (grocery shopping, laundry, Facebook...) to greet, check-in and setup with other volunteers to make this event happen. Gosh, we are blessed with such great friends, I just can't say it enough! We had 36 new people join community groups this past weekend and to see their faces and how excited they were just filled my heart. Such a great way to end the weekend!! 

Last weekend, I wouldn't change anything for the world; busy yes, but so worth it to spend time with people we love and serve full heartily. 

*Monday was definitely spent in slow mode 

Assembling Our Save The Dates

Ashley and I have been incredibly excited to tell our friends and family about our wedding as soon as we could. After knocking out our engagement photos (thanks to Lauren) and booking a venue in the beautiful town of Sausalito, we were ready to have our Save The Date cards created.

We asked Brian to be our graphic designer-of-choice to deploy his creative abilities for this task. Ashley sent him a few designs that she was attracted to for inspiration. We asked him to to create designs for both the front and back of a two-sided card, sized at 5"x7". The backside would have our wedding details and and the frontside would be style like an instant Polaroid photo, with one of our engagement photos pasted on it. Within a couple of weeks and after a couple of iterations, Brian delivered a design that we were all very happy with and proud of.

A few weeks ago while Ashley and I were taking a walk around the block in Pac Heights, we came across a local design and printing shop called Copy.net. In general, I've been trying to spend my dollars at local businesses as much as possible so I decided to go with them to print our Save The Dates. We were able to bring in our own card stock from Paper Source that they could work with: instead of 5"x7" cards, they asked us to bring in 8.5"x11" so that they could fit two cards per page. And in a matter of hours, we had our printed Save The Dates in-hand!

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With photos printed from Walgreens in 4"x4" squares, Ashley and I spent one afternoon physically hand-mounting each photo to a card, using glue sticks with permanent adhesive. The next day, we had some of our bridal party stop by to stuff envelopes, address and stamp them to be sent out the following business day.

We sent out the Save The Dates in a few phases and asked our recipients to take a photo of their Save The Dates once they arrived, using our wedding hashtag #brashbash17. We've been seeing photos of some of our friends receiving them, scattered about over the last few days!

That One Time We Had a Triple and a Double Date in One Week

Brendon and I always talk about how thankful we are to have such good friends who have surrounded us through our dating season, now engagement season, and soon-to-be-marriage season.

Two weekends ago we had a triple date and double date in one week. Yay, people! We love meeting up with people either together or one-on-one. 

First up for the weekend was our triple date that included our good friends Chris and Camille Bandy who've been just a constant example of loving your partner in a selfless way, like how Jesus loves. I met Chris and Camille around the same time I met B, when they first came to visit Canvas, our home church. I remember being in "awe" of their love for each other in their dating season and thought so many times, "Wow, their love is inspiring!" Brendon's known Chris and Camille for years: they attended college together and were actively involved in college ministry together and he's been able to watch their relationship blossom from friends, dating, engagement and now marriage.  People fuel them the same way they fuel us as a couple, so any chance we can get on their calendars in a huge WIN! We just love these two. 

Our friends Kevin and Lara Kleine also joined us for dinner and I just can't say enough about these two: they fill a room with so much laughter and sincerity in everything they do. We met the Kleine's a couple years back at Canvas as well and almost from the start they've been actively serving. I was lucky enough to go on my own date with these two over a year ago, in which we ate an excessive amount of Mexican food and sipped on the most delicious margaritas. They were so kind to invite me to their neighborhood where they fell in love: The Richmond. I was able to get to know who they are as a couple and saw just how beautiful their love for one another was. On one of their first dates, Kevin bought Lara a love fern that they still have till this day and it just sits so nicely in their adorable studio apartment. That night they invited me to their home where we ate a dessert I dreamed about for days that for the life of me, I can't remember what it's called. I remember after leaving that I couldn't wait to hangout with them more. When B and I first started dating I told him many times that we had to double with these two sooner rather than later because they are seriously two of my favorite people. These two have been just a joy to get to know. They have such servant hearts and really inspire us to love outside of the walls of our city and country. We look forward to building a closer relationship with them during this season for us. 

The Bandy's were kind enough to host dinner for us: butternut squash pasta with shrimp on the side, paired with a tasty green salad prepared by Kevin and some really yummy red wine brought by Brendon and me. 

It was such a fun night of connecting over hearty food. As we ate and laughed I sat and watched how wonderful this was to have such a good friends along side us. And before leaving we asked them for future marriage advice Below is what we got: 

Bandy's: Always have your own blanket. 

Kleine's: Buy separate ice cream so yours doesn't get eaten up.

These are a bit silly and of course they shared other tips but these two were my favorite because it's the little things that make you realize "WOW! I don't live alone anymore and not everything belongs to just me anymore" haha.

That same weekend we were able to have another date with our good friends Thomas and Abby Daniels, two of favorite people ever! We met Thomas and Abby a couple of years back: we all attended a Community Group together in the Mid-Market area. Thomas actually didn't start attending until half way through because he hadn't been living in the city just yet. I remember week after week we'd prayed that Thomas would get a job in San Francisco so that they wouldn't have to be long distance anymore. I can still recall when that prayer was answered and how excited Abby was to share that her then-boyfriend was moving to San Francisco. Our CG guys even came together to try and find a suit his size so he could interview for job he lined up! (Community at it's finest.) We eventually launched out a new group from that one in the SOMA neighborhood, where I co-led with our good friend Jenn. That's truly where we were able to develop and grow our relationship with the Daniels together and separately.. As I watched these two continue to grow together as a couple for those 18 months it was amazing to see the love they had for each other and the way they shared that same love by pouring their time and kindness to others. 

The way they love one another, partner together and shower others with hospitality and love is just so incredibly beautiful, such hearts of gold. Thomas is actually one of B's groomsmen and their friendship just means the world to Brendon. They have had the opportunity to grow over the last couple years with many one-on-ones and small group settings, when picking Thomas to stand up their while we say I DO was a no brainier for B! 

They welcomed us over for a night of red beans & rice and a few games of Mario Kart (which I admit I am not the best at, but love playing). The night was filled with so many stories, laughs, marriage advice, reflection (the Daniels have recently celebrated their first marriage anniversary) and lots of food and wine. Oh, and not to mention Abby's amazing baked brie that I am still drooling over. 

Community and people fuel Brendon and me. If that's enjoying nights with a small group of friends, one-on-ones or double dates or even triple dates, we'll take it. We love to invest in people and grow deeper relationships as much as possible.