Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, 
as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!
- Henry Beecher Ward

It's sad to me that the one day set aside specifically for giving thanks often means a drastic shift in perspective. I so easily drift into complaining and discouragement the other 364 days of the year, focusing on what I don't have and what circumstances I wish were different. The truth is, there are countless blessings in my life that I simply take for granted: from the very air I breathe to being married to an astounding man sovereignly hand-picked for me. This season, instead of feverishly chasing Black Friday deals and making lists of the things I want, my goal is to step back and ponder with deep gratefulness all that God has done for me. Here are 30 reasons that I am giving thanks this holiday:

1. I am thankful for a job that makes my dreams come true every day; for the chance to interact and share the love of Jesus with hurting people who otherwise might never have a chance to meet Him.

2. I am thankful for godly coworkers who believe in the power of prayer and set a true example of love and compassion.

3. I am thankful for a beautiful car that makes my daily commute so enjoyable.

4. I am thankful for a lovely apartment that is filled with laughter, games and deep conversation several times a week.

5. I am thankful for food, new recipes, a big kitchen to cook in and a long-suffering husband who eats everything I put in front of him. Most of the time.

6. I am thankful for good health, exercise and energy.

7. I am thankful for my wonderful, cuddly kitty who's loved me unconditionally for 11 years.

8. I am thankful that my husband has put up with said kitty and even makes occasional efforts to befriend her.

9. I am thankful for books and words, and the unlimited opportunity to learn from the greatest minds in history.

10. I am thankful for friendships that continue to grow regardless of time and distance; for the dear ones at home who intentionally involve me in their lives.

11. I am thankful for a vibrant, growing youth group full of kids who open their hearts and lives to us, and for all the memories we've made over this past year.

12. I am thankful for our small group, the way we spur each other on in godliness, the deep friendships that are forming and that we can spend Thanksgiving together.

13. I am thankful for a church that preaches the gospel unashamedly and that has welcomed us with such open arms.

14. I am thankful for my dear Texas friends who make this home-away-from-home business so much easier; for the long talks, movie nights, sleepovers, baking escapades, travel and countless memories.

15. I am thankful for the most loving parents-in-law on earth and for their faithful prayers and support.

16. I am thankful for three incredible siblings-in-law. They are such a joy and some of my dearest friends.

17. I am thankful for my littlest sister, Sue, and that we got to spend a whole week together in September. I am thankful for her humor, creativity, passion for God and the highly entertaining letters she sends.

18. I am thankful for my mini-me, MaryLynn. I am so inspired by her maturity, intellect, faith and prayer life.

19. I am thankful for my brother Sam, and for what a fighter he is. He has remained steadfast and faithful in the midst of many trials, and embodies the truth that God is good, all the time.

20. I am thankful for Jared, my prayer-warrior brother. He has a real anointing on his life and I am so refreshed and filled with faith every time we talk and pray together.

21. I am thankful for Christene, my hero and best friend. She is one of the most Christlike people I know, and makes me love Him more. She embodies Psalm 37, and over the years I have watched her delight fully and completely in the Lord. I am thankful that God gave her the desire of her heart this week!

22. I am thankful for the perfect parents for me: a strong, hardworking and committed dad, and a mom who gives everything she has to care for and encourage her kids, and follow her husband. I am beyond-blessed by them.

23. I am thankful for the heritage of faith passed down from my grandparents, and how their continual prayers work powerful change in my life.

24. I am thankful that Jesus is King, and that nothing happens outside of His reign.

25. I am thankful for a country where we are free to worship, believe and preach the truth of the gospel.

26. I am thankful for Jhaneth and Fernando, our Compassion children, and for how they daily teach me gratefulness.

27. I am thankful for the time and the means to travel; for the myriad of photos and priceless experiences collected with my better half.

28. I am thankful for every single hardship and heartbreak that God has brought me through. I am thankful that He has been with me all the time; that He sustains me and without fail gives me the opportunity to use what I've learned to help someone else in similar circumstances.

29. I am thankful that almost 7 years ago a country boy wearing plaid and blue jeans walked in my front door and changed my life forever. Our selves are so intertwined that I honestly cannot imagine myself without him. These 2+ years of marriage to Nathan have truly been a taste of heaven, and I love and respect him more every day.

30. I am thankful that I have everything I need in Christ. When all else is stripped away, He is always there, and He is enough. The spiritual blessings I have been given in Him far outweigh the temporal things on this list. I am filled to overflowing with His goodness to me. May I never stop giving thanks!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

~ Psalm 34:1-10

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Update, in Pictures

I can't believe it's been over two months since I last wrote. So much has changed that it feels like a lifetime ago. Some snippets of our life lately:

In August we led the first youth retreat at our church's new campus. Our kids are the best in the world. We had a blast!

I got to go home over Labor Day - I hadn't been since Christmas and it was SO good to see everyone. 

I reunited with some of my dearest friends on earth...

Got a new hairstyle...

And stayed in a cabin deep in the woods with my family. 

I was in charge of dinner every night. We went all out. 
Sue, my littlest, took her first plane ride to come back with me and visit. She turned 13 while she was here! I feel old.

Birthday Girl!

Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream cake per her special request :)

Tigger had the worst withdrawal when she left...

What a little beauty :)
 The Endeavor made its last flight over Nasa Space Center - and my balcony!

Our youth group keeps growing...

And getting closer.

(Also, WE MOVED!! Check out the before and afters above)

I discovered my new favorite cake recipe...

And a fall soup that is out of this world. More on that later.

I met my hero last week, and she was everything I dreamed of: warm, sweet, funny and so complimentary. Pioneer Woman, I love thee. 

I've been on a serious bread baking kick lately. I discovered a no-knead, three-ingredient basic recipe that has endless add-in possibilities. I learned the hard way how NOT to remove the lid from a 450-degree Dutch oven, and bear the scars today. But this crusty deliciousness is so worth it. 

Lemon, rosemary and cheddar

Cranberry, orange and almond. Slay me.
Changes on a broader note: 

I quit work at the library in September when I was offered a job at  a local pregnancy center, where I've volunteered weekly since January. I now work part-time as the Office Manager and a spiritual counselor. Not a day goes by when I'm not praying for clients, reading Scripture with them, telling them about God and helping them find God's purpose in whatever crisis they're facing. I could not ask for a better job and I am SO grateful. 

Nathan now commutes almost an hour each way to an extremely demanding job, and he's studying non-stop for the GMAT. His dream is to get an MBA from a top business school. I have found such joy in picking up all the extra responsibilities around the house so he can be free to work and study. Every day I learn anew that God's grace is sufficient, and He is more than enough! 

What our life will look like a year from now still remains very much up in the air. I miss my family more every day. I want to be closer to home, but more than that I want God's will for Nathan and me. Any place that God has not called us to would be miserable indeed. I am learning to embrace with joy every season that I'm in, and live every day to the fullest - not missing out on a single bit that God has for me here, and now. With the election I am reminded of the uncertainty of the future. It is enough to simply pray every day, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done." No matter how our circumstances change, I want to be nowhere else but in the center of God's will.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

All Things Edible

My passionate love for all things edible has apparently escalated to a somewhat frightening intensity lately, judging from my husband's skeptical responses to each new dish I force on him and his diminishing ardor when faced with a new sinkful of dirty dishes (three cheers for the world's hottest, and cheerfulest, dishwasher).

I recently signed up for an organic co-op and each week is a fresh challenge in culinary creativity. There's nothing like a boxful of produce that I would never buy at the grocery store (think alfalfa sprouts, artichokes, squash and giant kiwi) to inspire me to new heights. Via a priceless Pinterest tip, I've learned to fill the sink with vinegar water and soak all the dirt, grime and pesticides off for much fresher and longer-lasting produce:

I love grapes, ok?? And when they're on sale for $0.97 a pound I freeze them for provisions in winter. Frozen grapes are a delicious, healthy way to curb my sweet tooth that rears with a vengeance about every half hour.

Freshly washed to-die-for-ness.

Last Friday's produce yielded enough sweet cherries and plums for this Honey Crisp I served to company earlier this week. Can we just talk about how incredible organic fruit tastes?? Best grapes I've ever eaten, and kiwi sweeter than candy. Not to mention that last night's plums looked like glimmering, deep red jewels. I was way too busy entertaining to snap a photo, and it was inexcusable. My...August resolution is to build a custom camera shelf in my kitchen so that my life as a kitchen prima donna does not go undocumented. In other words, this is the last time you'll see mouth-watering recipes unaccompanied by photos actually shot by yours truly.

On to the recipes!

Our company entree was classy Abs Diet Burgers (they are thick, juicy, manly, and incredibly good.) I also tried baked potatoes in the crockpot, first time ever. I wasn't a huge fan. The skins didn't "crisp" like I'd envisioned, they were slightly gummy and bore that mysterious crockpot taste which I masked with loads of sour cream, but in the future I'll stick to the good old oven-with-foil method.

Recently I made these Blueberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies for small group. Clearly, the only thing to say here is please put those in-season blueberries to good use and make these immediately. Totally, utterly divine.

Our weeknight dinners have been increasingly later and pressed for time (think hour+ commutes for the Mister and long workouts to get in shape for when he dies bikes in Moab, Utah with his dad this weekend). The other night I whipped up these Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes (normally Nate wouldn't touch sweet potatoes with a 33-foot pole) to accompany syrupy-with-a-kick Maple-Glazed Chicken. It was like dessert for dinner, and should be illegal.

I had way too much fun experimenting while Nate's friend DJ was here. Both guys belong to the Five-Dinners-They'd-Eat-Forever-And-Be-Happy Club, but unfortunately for Nate he got stuck with a wife who hates making the same thing twice. So we feasted on Pioneer Woman's version of Chicken Parmigiana, French bread dipped in herbed olive oil (H-E-B has a divine Sicilian spice blend), salad and this whopper of a Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie, a la mode. Ever made a cookie in a skillet? Do it. One pan and a giant hunk of deliciousness later, it's the easiest - and one of the tastiest - desserts I've tried.

I apparently have a huge thing for avocados: the smooth, creamy, perfectly succulent gods of summer. I never liked them much before, but one day my senses were awakened and I could not stop eating them. I made two quick, easy and unbelievable avocado dishes this week: Chicken and Avocado Soup using homemade chicken stock, and Avocado Mac 'n Cheese. Two words: holy, and cow.

My favorite dish of the week was a pescetarian spin on Chipotle burrito bowls. That these were a success can only be conveyed by describing a total fish-loather (Nate) requesting a different meal altogether, then skeptically sniffing, eyeing, tasting, eyes-widening, and digging in with gusto. A triumph! Unfortunately for our guests, third-floor apartments are not well ventilated and blackening tilapia in a cast iron skillet produces a veritable cloud of spicy, throat-coating smoke. All the better to anticipate dinner with, my dear. Without further ado, I give you Spicy Fish Taco Bowls. Amen.

And I will leave you with these. Pioneer Woman's desserts never cease to - pardon her French - make my skirt fly up. I brought these Chocolate Mint Brownie Bites to a party, where they scored rave reviews. Chocolate. Mint. Brownie. What's not to love?!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obsessed with My God

Last weekend Nate and I had the privilege of co-leading a discussion on prayer with a good friend of ours. We honestly didn't contribute much, but at one point a middle-aged woman in the audience commented with tears in her eyes that she had never seen young people so wholly devoted to Christ - that it was "kind of crazy, really." The irony of her statement made me want to laugh out loud - I'm in the middle of reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love and I have honestly never felt more deeply, recklessly in love with Jesus! And the fact that it shines through to a perfect stranger makes me deliriously grateful for God's mercy on and presence in me.

Lately I've struggled with discouragement. I ask big things of God, and when an immediate answer isn't apparent I so easily drift into comparison: "Why is this prayer being answered for that person, and these people encountering God in that way, and it isn't happening right here, right now, for me?" And yet God is so, so kind. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, He is so tangibly there. I am constantly encountering, seeing, and experiencing Him anew.

He has called me to minister to the most wonderful teenage girls on this earth. When we sit in a circle and talk about Jesus, heaven, creation and the Holy Spirit; when their eyes light up with the excitement of one day seeing Jesus face to face, my love for and joy in the Savior grows so exponentially that I want to cry.

He has called me to live the rest of my life married to the kindest, most gifted man I know. When Nate putters around the house singing worship songs, stops me in the middle of whatever I'm doing for an impromptu prayer sesh, asks my forgiveness out of the blue for some seemingly insignificant offense, unconditionally forgives my multitude of offenses, leads small group discussions with grace and wisdom, and gives godly counsel to his friends, my heart cannot contain my thanksgiving at God's lavish blessings on me.

God always answers my prayers; even if it isn't in the timing or way that I imagined. He has been teaching me that I can never assume to know His will about anything. Desires that seem good and biblical must often be sacrificed in light of an even bigger thing that God is doing. Romans 8:26-27 never ceases to astound me with the truth that even my most heartfelt prayers are encompassed by the prayers of Someone infinitely greater who, unlike me, knows and prays in perfect accordance with God's will: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words...according to the will of God."

What an overwhelming truth! In the moment of my deepest doubt and confusion, when words won't even formulate, prayers that perfectly coincide with my desires and God's perfect will are constantly being lifted up for me. How can I not walk through life in free and joyful confidence that I am being led down God's intricately designed, flawlessly formed path for me? Like Francis Chan talks about, I want my life to be so filled with God that the world has no choice but to see Him in me. When life is good, may I model the person "who enjoys blessing, but who is still totally obsessed with God." When life is hard, may I magnify the One who brings both joys and sorrows to increase my growth and trust in Him. "The point of my life is to point to Him."

Saturday, July 28, 2012


For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with circumstantial joy. My happiness perpetually swings on a wide scale that ranges from giddy, almost hysterical excitement to a headlong plunge into a depths of despair that rivals Anne Shirley's most pitiable moods. The one and only answer to these fickle emotions is that they are built on the wrong foundation. When life is easy, when things go my way and everyone loves me and I'm organized and efficient and dinner is ready on time and the house is clean, satisfaction wells within me and I radiate cheery goodwill. The converse happens just as easily. I'm stressed, running late, my new car is emitting strange noises and leaks, the AC is broken and someone looked at me the wrong way, and instantly I'm a snapping turtle with seething resentment welling towards all mankind.

At our church's recent leadership retreat, we were reminded to bring the gospel to light in EVERY situation that we and those around us face. For the rest of the conference, and since, I've grappled with just what that constant gospel application looks like. Do you brush off someone facing terminal illness or the death of a child with a flippant, "Don't worry, Jesus died for you!" Does the image of a Savior hanging on a cross, bearing the sin of the world on His shoulders instantly alleviate the frustration of things and plans and relationships gone wrong? It can, and it should.

I believe the secret of true gospel application means reminding ourselves each and every day, in the midst of each trial and triumph, that this life, this day, this "slight momentary affliction" is not the final answer. For those of us who love God and are called according to His purpose, earth is a dot on an eternal line and we are simply passing through. What comfort to know that the greatest pain we feel is not random chance, but a divinely given opportunity to grow into who we were made to be. When my eyes and my hope are set on Jesus, let the storms and the sunshine come as they may - I know to Whom I belong and where my ultimate destination is. What comfort in the midst of uncertainty! What relief in the midst of hurt! May I be the kind of person who takes whatever life throws at me in stride - knowing that each circumstance is from the hand of my Father who has prepared for me "a weight of glory beyond all comparison."

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 1:3-7

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Left My Heart in Hawaii

Daily temperatures hover blissfully in the low eighties. The air is clear enough to inhale deeply without stifling from humidity. Brisk afternoon showers are soon routed by dazzling double rainbows. Roads lined with coconut-laden palms wind between blue-white beaches and towering mountains disappearing into the clouds. Local fruit stands and shrimp trucks peddle the freshest of foods. This, my friends, is the much-fabled but very real North Shore of Oahu, where time truly stands still. Our anniversary trip is one continuous blur in my mind of driving, eating, swimming, hiking, repeating. Every day for nine days. Here are some highlights and the best of our 1,000+ pictures...

Sunrise from our backyard

Day 1. After being much too excited to sleep and leaving for the airport at 3 a.m., we arrived in a sunny and very bustling Honolulu. We picked up a sporty black Mustang convertible, ate at good ole' Subway and drove an hour to our rented house, singing along to the radio (Hawaii has the BEST radio stations), mouths and eyes gaping open at the postcard scenery surrounding us, and my finger never leaving the camera button. We found our sweet little house, made friends with the owners' dogs, walked and swam at the private beach in our backyard, then unpacked and grabbed some dinner at a local shrimp truck before grocery shopping for the week. My multiple spasms of delight got a reality check as soon as we walked into the grocery store, where staple foods cost at least twice as much as I'm used to (think $3 avocados and $6 store-brand peanut butter). I kissed my immaculately planned menu goodbye and we settled for 5-ingredient-or-less meals that turned out surprisingly delicious. 

Our sweet ride
The coastal scenery was breathtaking!

Day 2. Our confused body clocks woke us at 4:30 a.m. and we set out chasing a sunrise that, unfortunately, occurred in the opposite direction. We still got some pretty good shots and found a bakery with the most incredible breakfast pastry. We snorkeled in Turtle Bay and Nate found a seal. I was dashed against some rocks. We visited a local fruit stand and drank coconut water. 

Day 3. Surfing day!!! I don't believe I'd as much as touched a surfboard before this day. After meeting up with our seriously chillaxed surfing instructors, we headed to a beach with some rather large waves and learned the mechanics of paddling and standing on our boards. On land. Water was a much different story. We paddled pretty far out, and before I knew it it was my turn to catch a wave. I saw it coming...the instructor started shrieking: "Paddle...paddle harder - harder - harder - STAND UP!" I did just as the wave caught me and the board at a rather shocking speed. I managed to stay on and balance, then lay back down and paddle back when it was over. First wave win! Nate was pretty fantastic himself. The instructors finally told him to go find his own waves and leave them alone :) At the end of the day: Me - 18 and Waves - 1. Score. 

Nate ran over this poor girl by mistake. Notice his smirk of victory.

Day 4 (otherwise known as the Day of Extreme and Life-Threatening Adventure). We set out early to beat the snorkeling crowds at the famous Hanauma Bay (Nate couldn't get his pronunciation quite right and kept referencing "Hmininima Bay"). It was the most beautiful underwater world imaginable. We went out past the others and were cloaked in an all-enveloping stillness, alone except for schools of rainbow-colored fish and each other. We held hands, examined intricate coral reefs, chased schools of yellowfish and floated close enough to touch three-foot-long fish of brilliant green and turquoise. Everything was perfect until I found myself in deep, strong currents with malfunctioning snorkel gear. I was dashed against more rocks and swam myself silly before we finally made it back to shore. I bear the battle scars today. Later we learned that the reason we were all alone out there was due to rip tides and dangerous rocks. We are extreme. Then, as if nearly drowning wasn't enough, we hiked up Koko Head Crater, a nearly vertical mountain with WWII-era railroad ties you had to climb like a ladder under the cloudless, scorching sun. I don't know how we made it to the top, but the 360-view of the whole island was more than worth it. Also on this day, I was reunited with my beloved 7Eleven. Twice. Hawaiians are nearly as fond of slurpees as I am - there were 7Elevens everywhere. We dragged our exhausted, sweaty, dirty selves to an ice-cold beachside shower and quickly changed clothes before heading to an official Polynesian luau in Waikiki. We were appropriately leid and the show and food were phenomenal - although I won't be visiting the Polynesian island where men dance and grunt ferociously with their tongues hanging out as a form of welcome. 

At last!
Hanauma Bay!
We climbed that thing.
The view was so worth it!

I don't know how I didn't fall on my face running down all these steps...
Our favorite Polynesian.

 Day 5. We chilled. We sunned. We stood in line in a storm for Matsumoto Shave Ice - one of the best things I've ever tasted. We read (caveat for Khaled Hosseini - one of my current favorite authors. I devoured A Thousand Splendid Suns while we were there, and we watched The Kite Runner on the flight back. So, so good). Nate grilled. We ate chicken-pineapple quesadillas and broiled Parmesan avocados. We slept.

Our private reading nook

Day 6. Independence Day! The beach was extremely crowded, so we stayed home and enjoyed our private little backyard haven. At low tide, we tramped through the shallows to Goat Island - an isolated stretch of rocks and a natural wildlife habitat. That evening we got fancy and enjoyed a lovely dinner at Turtle Bay Resort. The fireworks were more or less rained out, but the restaurant's computer system crashed and we got our dinner free! 

4th of July at Turtle Bay (thanks for the dress, Mom Farlow!)
Our delicious, free dinner on the beach!

Day 7. We hiked Diamondhead, which was a cakewalk compared to the insanity of Koko Head. The views at the top were amazing! We visited Dole Plantation, explored a few tucked-away local shops, got more shave ice and I bought my first fresh papaya. It was to die for. 

He surfed all by himself!

Gorgeous views from Diamondhead
An old WWII lookout post

Day 8. We packed our things and left the peaceful solitude of the North Shore for a night in Waikiki. Picture New York City transported to a crystalline beach under an endless expanse of pure blue sky. It was dazzling, breathtaking and overwhelming all at once. We visited Pearl Harbor and spent hours exploring the Arizona memorial and historical information. Later we checked into our hotel, refreshed with chilled pineapple juice and perfumed towels, and walked on the beach for miles. Downtown Waikiki shopping rivals the best that I've seen (they even have their own Galleria!). I bought a green scarf, we ate delicious burgers and frozen yogurt and watched the sun set behind a magnificent hotel. 

On the memorial

Remains of the Arizona...still leaking oil

We really love our burgers.

Day 9. The morning was muggy and rain clouds hung heavy and dark, but we ate a quick breakfast and set out, undaunted, for a reportedly muddy and mosquito-infested hiking trail. Armed with water shoes and walking sticks, we trudged through a downpour that drove away mosquitoes and less hardy tourists. This, at last, was the Hawaii that I'd always imagined - flowing streams, thick and lushly green foliage and, at the end, a breathtaking waterfall - the stuff that rain forests and Jurassic Park are made of. After quickly showering and throwing all our things in bags, we checked out of our room and ate at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the beach. There was only one item on the dessert menu, and after one bite it was obvious why. Macadamia nut ice cream pie on an Oreo crust, smothered in rich chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream. The kind of dessert where we both ate in complete silence, subtly racing each other for the last dollop of rich chocolate and staring wistfully at the empty plate 30 seconds later. (The key to my heart is nearly always food, in case there was any confusion on that point.) We made the necessary stop at Hawaii's capitol, then discovered a quiet cemetery in the mountains that beautifully memorialized the heroes of the Pacific Wars. That evening we boarded a red eye flight that truly lived up to its name - we arrived in Houston at 2 pm the next day with 0 hours sleep. Was it worth it? Heavens, yes. I would go again in a heartbeat.

Double rainbow outside our hotel!
Jurassic Park anyone?!
Incredible waterfall at the end of our journey!
Keep Hawaii LOOSE! (Jared)

Best lunch EVER

Beachfront restaurant and an indescribable dessert. 
Capitol building!

The plane that took us away from Paradise :(