Thursday, June 28, 2018

Blueberry Crisp

I've got good news and bad news, which would you like first? 

The bad news?

Ok, good. I thought so. 

The bad news is that this blueberry crisp is dairy-free and refined sugar-free and that normally means that it is also bland, boring, and generally fun-free for your taste buds. 

The good news, though? It actually tastes DELICIOUS! You'd never guess that this has no refined sugar or butter, and it's wholesome enough that you could consider it for breakfast, probably sans ice cream (or maybe you're living that #SummerVacationLife and you're considering ice cream for breakfast, do your thang...aka YOLO (is YOLO still a thing?).

This crisp comes from one of my favorite books of all time, Bread & Wine by Shauna Neiquest. I'm going to go ahead and suggest that you make this crisp and then sit down to read the book with a big bowl of the crisp. That sounds like the perfect evening (or morning) to me. 

There are a few things that make this recipe phenomenal. 
  1. A short ingredient list - the only thing you may have to run out for is almond flour/almond meal, which you can find pretty easily these days in larger grocery stores or online. My Big Lots frequently gets shipments of Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal for cheap so I always buy it if I'm close to running out. 
  2. Including baking time this recipe comes together in just under an hour - you essentially pour 4 cups of any fruit you want (either fresh or frozen) into a baking dish, make the crisp topping that takes about 5 minutes (as long as you know where your measuring cups are), pour the crisp topping over the fruit, and bake for about 40 - 50 minutes. 
  3. It works with any fruit (fresh and/or frozen) - I've tried this with fresh and frozen fruits and it comes out perfectly every single time. I've used frozen strawberries, cherries, peaches, and blueberries as well as fresh blueberries and blackberries in this recipe. All of them have been my favorite. 
  4. Because this recipe is so simple you can swap out ingredients to your preference. The recipe calls for pecans, but almonds would be so good in this to add extra crunch. You can also use whatever oil you have on hand, as well as using a flavored maple-syrup if you want. I found a bourbon barrel aged syrup and it added a little extra kick. There are no spices written into the recipe so you can use whatever you like. We've used cinnamon, ginger, vanilla bean, cardamom, nutmeg all to great success. Because this is so easy, you have the ability to experiment with flavors until you get it just right!

Blueberry Crisp

recipe from Bread & Wine by Shauna Neiquest

4 cups fresh or frozen fruit, (this specific time I used frozen wild blueberries)
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup maple syrup (This is the one I used. I'm not a maple fan, but I do love this!)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

While oven heats pour fruit into an 8x8 pan. 

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, then pour crisp topping over top of the fruit. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes (longer if fruit is frozen) or until crisp is golden brown and fruit is bubbling. 

We enjoy ours topped with a scoop or two of vanilla bean Halo Top ice cream.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Harts - Month One

Well, we made it one whole month, and what a month it was. I can say with confidence that this month was not at all what either of us anticipated our first weeks of marriage would look like, but through God's Grace, we are sticking together. I know we are both looking forward to what Month #2 will bring as we get used to all these changes and adjustments.

Some notable things about this month:
  1. Getting sideswiped by Enterprise - Yep. On my very first day back to work after our wedding and honeymoon, I left for the day and discovered someone had hit my car in the parking lot at some point during the day. I got in to put my purse in the passenger's seat and found a note attached to my windshield that said, "Call Enterprise". I thought it was someone being a smart alec and I almost didn't call. I'm glad I did even though my car still isn't repaired. 
  2. Hot water heater breaking - I got home one day after work to discover a puddle of water in our laundry room. It ended up being overflow from our hot water heater going out so I hung out at home the next day as the repair person replaced the whole unit. 
  3. Father's Day - I think this day came at a good time for both Kyle and me. We'd spent several weeks getting up early, working a full day, then coming home to unpack and organize my stuff into his place. We were both experiencing burnout, and Father's Day gave us an excuse to get out of the tiring cycle we were in. Kyle and my dad decided to go to Cranberry fishing, and Elyse and I went to the pool and relaxed all day. It was a moment of much-needed rest in a very busy season of life. We were both thankful. 
  4. Shooting my first wedding after my own wedding - I knew shooting a wedding so soon after my own would make me 100% more sappy. It definitely did. I cried during the bride's first moments with her dad. I cried during the first dance. I cried during their portrait time. It was a beautiful day. I'm so happy to be gaining more clients (especially weddings). I think the experience of being a bride myself and knowing what I wanted/expected from our photographer gave me so much more confidence. I was so calm and excited to document Chelsea & Alex's Day. 
  5. I think I killed my houseplant, Randall. - Randall, who is a Fiddle Leaf Fig, and I have been together for a few years. He was the only other living thing in my single-lady apartment other than me. He had a cozy place in front of the one-and-only window in my place and thrived. I put him outside over Father's Day Weekend and he got scorched. I'm hoping I can save him. I keep joking that Randall is the only person handling all these changes worse than me. haha 
  6. VBS - We decided to volunteer as Crew Leaders at our church, and we are so excited. VBS starts tonight and I'm looking forward to doing ministry together. 


A home of our own. We are renting a townhouse until we decide what we want life to look like. It doesn't feel like home, and my heart is aching to be settled, in our own space. 

Friendships. I have found myself in a season where a group of girls who have been where I am would be very convenient to have. Sometimes change feels lonely. 

My photography business to build. I've fallen in love with wedding days. 

The Lord's guidance as I try to navigate being a wife.


The Office (duh)
The Next Food Network Star (it's so bad and so annoying...I don't know why I keep watching it)
The Bachelorette (PSA - Kyle is not watching this.) 


This is my first fiction work of the year that I've read. I'm not sure if I like it yet or not. 

I've been reading this S L O W L Y. I bought it to try to gain some skills for dealing with weird circumstances at work, and it's so helpful! 


Little moments of peace. 
Plants. Specifically, the giant potted lavender I bought yesterday. 
The pool day I had with my sister. 


I've been so busy trying to get our space somewhat organized that I've neglected food this month. There's been a lot of boring food. A lot of quick meals. A lot of popcorn for dinner. 

The only consistent thing I've been making this month is the blueberry crisp (recipe coming later this week). It's dairy-free and refined sugar-free. It sounds like it's no fun, but it's actually DELICIOUS and works with every fruit (both fresh and frozen) that I've made it with. 


A LOT of worship playlists on Spotify - "Best of Live Worship", "Worship for Fierce Faith", "Worship Wednesdays", and "Worship at Work"

The That Sounds Fun Podcast with Annie F. Downs. I feel like Annie is a real-life BFF. She's funny, deep, and has the best guests on her podcast. I send her episodes to the top of my queue as soon as they're released. 

The Popcast. Another podcast. 

Dan + Shay's new album 


Sabbath. My soul needs rest, and I'm trying to be more mindful of what things I say yes to, and doing more things that bring rest and fulfillment to my soul. 

Reading my Bible. Things got busy and I got lazy. Get it together, Mere. 


My own Home. 
A garden. 
This macro lens for the ultimate ring shots. I've rented this twice and love it SO MUCH. 


Phipps Conservatory 
The local Farmer's Market
Trader Joe's/Fresh Market (just take me to a grocery store and let me walk around)
Deep Creek for a weekend


Finish our back "deck". It's really more of a concrete slab, but my heart wants to at least make one room beautiful in our home. This one makes the most sense since where we are is temporary. 

More pool days. Weekends and evenings have been busy around here, and I'd like to keep my honeymoon tan.

Finish my business website. 

Figure out a better food routine for the two of us. Actually, just get a little more comfortable with our life routine in general. 

See a movie. 

Read more books. 

Dates that include chocolate covered strawberries. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Things to Remember About Our Honeymoon

The view from our balcony in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands

We were incredibly fortunate to have been able to take a wonderful honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas! We left early on Sunday, May 27th and drove to meet our ship in Baltimore, MD after a quick pit stop at home to drop off a few items and pick up our suitcases. The drive down was peaceful and we were able to talk about the day and enjoy the drive.

We arrived around 1pm to the cruise terminal and quickly passed through the initial gate. We sat in line for about 20 minutes while the very experienced staff guided us through all the necessary steps, got our suitcases unloaded, and got us parked. We watched the bustle of activity around the ship as food was loaded, balconies were cleaned, and the lines of people were guided to the right spots. As someone who loves a good process, this entire situation was fascinating to me! When we finally made it into the terminal and got checked in, it was about 5 minutes until we'd boarded the ship! I'd anticipated longer lines, a more frustrating process, and grumpy people, but we didn't experience any of that! 

Once we boarded the ship we quickly went to find LUNCH! And lunch we found. We decided on the fancy taco place on the Lido Deck right beside the pool called the Blue Iguana. We found out they deep fried their own tortillas for taco bowls and that basically stopped us in our tracks! We each got a taco bowl and then made our way over to the toppings bar where they had homemade salsas and delicious other toppings. We decided to sit in comfy chairs by the pool and open all the windows. It was the first moment of rest for the two of us after all the excitement of wedding week. 

Once we finished lunch, it had started to rain a little so we decided to check if our room was ready....and it was, and our luggage had already been delivered. We unpacked everything and then sat on our balcony to watch the bustle of the parking lot. We watched the guys loading so many suitcases on to the ship. SO MANY SUITCASES! Our balcony was on the port side of the ship so we also had a nice view of I-95. The rain really picked at one point and we watched the hustle and bustle of the emergency crews helping redirect traffic from an accident. Once the accident was cleared up, we watched one cop car drive up I-95, turn into the cruise terminal lot, turn around, drive backwards for a while, pull into a parking space, then move again. It was so weird, and we thought it was so hilarious. We talked for a long time trying to guess what he was up to. We got called to the Muster Station Drill just as things were getting good, and by the time we got back to our room the car was gone. 

After that, we walked the entire ship just to figure out where everything was. I'm still amazed at how efficiently they utilize space on a cruise ship, and still things don't seem cramped. 

The rest of our trip was filled with sunshine, good food, entertainment, spa trips, sleeping in, and the best book I've read in quite a while. Below, a random list of things I hope I never forget about our honeymoon.

PS - if you're hoping you'll find images above is the ONLY one I took. Soak it in, people! :) 

  1. We left Baltimore around 5pm on May 27th, 2018. It was raining the good kind of rain that makes you feel SUPER relaxed and cozy. 
  2. We had two full days at sea and it was fun to watch the color of the water change as we headed further south. At one point, I looked out the window and the color of the water looked like Cookie Monster. hahahaha! Our side of the ship housed the emergency boats which were orange and white. I know the color of the boats are for safety reasons, but those rafts against the color of the ocean were so beautiful. 
  3. Speaking of emergency boats - I had to drag Kyle to the emergency meeting they have before you leave. I'm a rule-follower for sure. 
  4. We ate brunch every morning we were at sea. The first morning we decided to do brunch we ended our meal with the best cheesecake I've ever eaten. It was SO LIGHT and FLUFFY!! I could eat a million more pieces right now!
  5. Our first full day was a little overcast so we were a little lax with the sunscreen. Bad idea. We ended up being two crispy critters on day one. hahahahaaa!
  6. Our waiters for dinner always commented that we kept getting more and more lobster-like each evening.
  7. Our second day at sea was full on SUN all day! We sat by the pool, watched a hairy-chest contest WHICH WAS HILARIOUS! We read and just enjoyed the weather. 
  8. Our first stop was Grand Turk and the weather was PERFECT. We got off the boat, found a secluded place on the beach under a palm tree, and relaxed the remainder of the day. We walked down the beach and I found so many HUGE abandoned conch shells. My park-superintendents-daughter came out in me and I thought it was probably illegal to take any shells from the beach, but I don't think it was. HA! 
  9. We ended up heading into the water a few hours later, and we were surprised to find that once you get into the water it is SO ROCKY! We probably looked like a comedy show holding on to each other trying to walk deeper into the water. It was even worse trying to get out because I kept falling. hahahahahahahaha!
  10. We ended up getting 2 massages, each on the trip. I never want to have a vacation without massages now! 
  11. Our waiters kept calling Kyle, Mr. Mike. He is actually Michael Kyle Hart and filled out all the paperwork for the cruise under that name. I obviously thought that was hilarious and still haven't let it go. I'm a delight. 
  12. Our second port was Half Moon Cay, an island that is owned by Carnival. It is gorgeous with white sand, and clear water. It was absolutely beautiful. This was our longest port day and Kyle scheduled an excursion for us! We sat out stuff down on two chairs and headed to the building to go kayaking! It was a BLAST! The guide took us across a giant, clear lake and we ended up in a shallow area to explore for a while. Our guide pulled jellyfish out of the water, which we were able to hold without getting stung. We saw ENORMOUS starfish, a sea cucumber, a conch in it's shell, and a giant hermit crab. 
  13. We made our way back to the shore and something happened that I know I will never forget. Kyle lost both of his crocs in quick sand trying to pull the kayak up to the shore. 
  14. We ended up having to walk a very hot path when we got back to shore to find him other shoes. I will gladly tell anyone this story in person because it is hilarious. :) 
  15. I tried to drink a Jamaican Coffee drink which was 2% coffee, 98% hard liquor and it tasted like cough syrup to me. 
  16. I read an autobiography about the food critic at The New York Times called Garlic & Sapphires. I literally couldn't put it down. She had to make reservations at restaurants she reviewed under a false name and in disguise. It was quirky and adorable. I highly recommend it! 
  17. We tried alligator fritters. 
  18. I drank coconut iced coffee several times. It now reminds me of that week! :) 
  19. We ate about 900 ice cream cones. 
  20. We were selected to take a tour of the kitchens and do a food tasting with the head chef. It was an amazing experience! 
  21. We watched hours of the boat's channel that logged where we were, how fast we were going, wind speed, etc. We were so intrigued! LOL! 
  22. We met a couple from WV that lived about 3 minutes from us in Half Moon Cay. 
  23. We ate chocolate at a chocolate party. PRAISE! 
  24. This was probably the most relaxing vacation I've been on. It was such a blessing to get to go!
  25. The food every night was phenomenal! We ate adventurous things...and normal things. 
  26. Two desserts every evening at dinner! 
  27. We met the sweetest ladies who were mother and daughter over breakfast one day. The mother told us about her life and family. She gave us good advice, and they both guessed we were honeymooners. :) We saw them almost every evening heading to their table at dinner and they greeted us every time!
  28. I ate sushi for the first time and I'm craving a spicy tuna roll right this very minute! 
  29. It was so nice to just be the two of us. Yes there were so many people on the boat, but no one knew us!
  30. Our massage therapists were named Jenni and Sue #nottheirrealnames and they were AMAZING! We had our first massages on Tuesday right after dinner, and I left the room feeling blissfully relaxed. It was so nice! 
  31. We met a guy in the spa named Rein from South Africa. This was his last cruise before he retired, and he was headed home to train for the Olympic Weight Lifting Team. SO COOL! He was incredibly nice and talked to us for a long time about South Africa. 
  32. Our second massages were Friday before dinner. I was so sunburned, and I showed up to dinner with all the massage oils in my hair. I didn't care at all! 
  33. Freeport was a little disappointing, but it is a REALLY busy port. I think 3 other cruise ships showed up during our time there. It's crazy how you can fit so many ships into one tiny area. 
  34. That day we hopped off the boat to grab a souvenir and then got right back on to enjoy more relaxing by the pool. 
  35. Our Cruise Director was a guy named Leigh, and I want to know everything about his day-to-day life. 
  36. We had about 1 million questions for the captain. I want to know how they run a ship like that on a day-to-day basis. It's pretty impressive. 
  37. Our waiters knew it was our honeymoon and they sand a song to us and brought out a special chocolate mousse cake. The catch? They sang a song to us, but we had to kiss the whole time. If we stopped kissing, they stopped singing and would start over from the beginning. hahahahaha! 
  38. Iced coconut coffees! Somehow they tasted even more exotic and beach-like in the Bahamas.
  39. The Lord's provision and favor were SO evident to us even on our honeymoon. ! It's truly a wonderful season of life. 

Thanks for reading! :) 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Things to Remember About Our Wedding Day

Image by Ashley at Paige Photography 

We survived a wedding and a honeymoon, and we've been back to reality for 4 days. Hardest 4 days, ever! Hahaha! 

I'm excited to transition this space into more of a journal of our life together. A space to remember the recipes we love, the adventures we take, the life we build together. I'm sure this space will evolve over time, and I'm excited to work on it. 

Our wedding was held at Stonewall Resort on May 26th at 6pm. The day was beautiful, and I'll be sharing images from that day with you once we get them back. The sneak peeks that our photographer sent us were absolute perfection and I'm so excited to see more! 

Things from the wedding weekend that I hope I never forget: 

  1. GOD'S FAVOR. Throughout the entire engagement, wedding planning, moving, wedding, and honeymoon I've experienced favor in a way I never have before. God's provision was so evident over us during this season and it's built faith in me in a new way. I never want to forget the financial provision, the extra bonuses that just showed up, the stress-free wedding planning, the JOY and PEACE that just flowed into my life. 
  2. Moving out of my apartment. Man, this hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn't really expect it. As a single gal, I've lived by myself for 6-7 years. Leaving my home and putting all my stuff in someone else's house was WEIRD, and I felt a little sadness that the season of being on my own was coming to an end. I had a lot of pride that I took care of myself for so long, and I was afraid of what was coming next. I'm happy to report that all is well. HA! I never want to forget that there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms that day, and it didn't rain at all until around 6pm for 15 minutes. I also never want to forget eating a giant burger with Kyle and my parents at Pufferbelly's that had mac and cheese on the burger after our first load was taken to Kyle's. And then the ice cream floats afterward. 
  3. Our "fight" the day we got our marriage license. I think Kyle and I were both experiencing nerves, fighting through change, and just trying to deal with the anxiousness we were feeling leading up to the wedding. I picked up Kyle from work the Wednesday before the wedding to head to the courthouse to get our marriage license. I don't think we said 10 words to each other the entire drive to the courthouse, while we navigated downtown, and as we made our way to the second floor. The records department was empty and quiet, and a cute older lady led us down to one of stations while she asked us questions to complete our application. While we waited in silence, I noticed an entire window sill filled with rows and rows of little solar-powered toys that would dance or move according to the level of sunlight they were receiving. They all clicked in unison and I found the whole display amusing and hilarious. I mentioned it to Kyle but he wasn't as amused or entertained as I was. The woman who helped us asked Kyle some identifying information, and then it was my turn.....I ended up spelling my mother's middle name incorrectly twice and didn't notice until the completed application was printed and handed to me to sign. The lady even asked me and spelled the name back to me and I still confirmed the incorrect spelling. I blamed "bride brain". We left the courthouse in silence, and I drove Kyle back to work. We sat in my car for a few minutes without saying anything and then he left to go back inside. I was so upset that I ended up driving to my parents' house even though I was supposed to stay at our new house to get things unpacked and organized. 
  4. Our rehearsal and rehearsal dinner - what a great day! My dad and I were able to spend most of the day together. We ate breakfast at Apple Annies in Morgantown and picked up a few last minute flowers, our wedding cakes, and the candlesticks we used to decorate our tables at the reception. That day was relaxed, and it was wonderful just to spend quality time with my dad right before walking into this new season. It was one of my favorite memories of the weekend! We ended up meeting my mom, sister, and brother-in-law at our venue to unload all the decorative stuff. Our planner, Kelli, took care of all the decorating for us which was such a relief! We got back to the house just in time to shower and get ready to leave for our rehearsal...which went seamlessly! Truly! So quick and easy! We all left the rehearsal and drove to my old church for dinner. Kyle's mom had put together a Bahama's theme dinner complete with leis, coconut decorations, and Caribbean music. It was a lovely party, and even MORE lovely because our families meshed together so seamlessly. It was such a relaxed evening and made me so excited for the next day.
  5. The Wedding. Literally went off without issue, stress, or anxiety. I had such a peace and an excitement in my spirit that I was able to relax and be present the entire day. That was one of my only prayers for the day as I didn't want to rush through and be too busy going from task to task to actually enjoy. My sisters, mom, and I got ready for the day at my parents' house while my dad and brother-in-law went on a Segway tour of the resort that my dad literally built. Hahaha! We headed to the resort around 2, and Kyle and I accidentally arrived at the same time. I gave him instructions to stay in the room and close the curtains ASAP so he didn't accidentally see me before the wedding. I walked into our holding room and my bouquet had already arrived. It was so gorgeous and perfect that I thought it was fake at first. It was the most beautiful arrangement of flowers I'd ever seen! So pretty! Before long, our photographer showed up, pictures were taken, people stopped in to see me, we ate snacks, talked and laughed! I thought I'd left a bag with all my details in it somewhere, but one of my sisters ran out to the car and thankfully found it! Everything that afternoon went by so fast that we went from taking my portraits to literally running up the steps to get ourselves together to walk down the aisle. My grandmothers and my dad saw me and we all hugged and cried a little. It was such a sweet moment to be in the holding room with my dad, just the two of us, as we prepared to walk down the aisle. We looked at each other and I said, "are you ready"...and my dad said, "let's go get you married". He had to remind me to slow down as we rounded the corner...and had to remind me to stop when we reached the end of the aisle. Our ceremony also went by in a flash. I don't remember anything that was said because I literally thought Kyle was going to pass out. He was holding on to my hands so tightly. We exchanged vows and he immediately relaxed. 
  6. The reception. Our reception was everything I dreamed of. Literally. A few weeks after we got engaged, I had a dream about the reception location set up with long tables filled with our closest family and friends, so that's what we did. Stonewall set the space up and it was more beautiful than I could've done myself. Truly. We showed up to the reception after our photos ate dinner, danced, cut our cakes, talked, laughed! My mom's boss sent us a s'mores bar to enjoy with our families at the fire they made for us. It was the best night and it went by so fast. I took a moment to pause and just observe the party. We had the reception under a covered patio strung with twinkle lights. The tables were covered with white linens and decorated with greenery and gold candlesticks. We tried to keep the decor simple and it was beautiful. My sister Elyse DJ'd for us via a Spotify playlist. We added our family and friends songs so they could dance to their song when it played. Dad and I danced to "My Girl" and Kyle and his mom danced to a song that I can't remember! Ah! The evening was beautiful, and everyone lingered until around 10:30. 
The day was a dream. Filled with joy and peace. We had 60 of our closest friends and family, and I wouldn't have done anything differently. I'll be sharing more soon! 

xoxo, The Harts