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Gospel

Breaking Bread

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Breaking Bread

The dream I had for our back deck/porch/yard has always been to gather together with our family and friends and talk about God's word and our lives, laugh, break bread together, and play games! We have been working on our backyard for over a year now. Here we painted our deck (which sadly did NOT hold up in the Colorado weather elements). Here we laid sod, which sadly ended up frying towards the end of the summer (#renoprobz). We also decided to renovate our kitchen starting in May and much to my dismay our deck became the outdoor storage unit for our appliances and our contractor's tools and supplies. We had a dishwasher and stove among other renovation debris and tools on our deck for about 8 weeks. FINALLY, when our kitchen was nearing completion we were able to finish decorating our back deck and get some use out of it before the winter rolls in. I was afraid I would miss the precious summer time but as I am always reminded, God is faithful and I still had plenty of time to enjoy the backyard.

The day after our contractor finished up with the kitchen, I texted a group of girlfriends to see if they wanted to join me for an evening on the deck complete with yummy food and wine! I got a resounding "I am in!". During this party, my sweet friend (and also current ROOMIE! - more on that later) mentioned that she wanted me to teach her all my hosting ways for when she gets married soon. I had another friend comment to me about how it is hard to know how to host. This got me thinking. I love to host and it comes somewhat naturally to me but it isn't that hard and really everyone can do it! We all grew up with our parents showing us different skills and gifts. My mom, as well as, my dad and step-mom are all amazing hosts. My entire life, I have watched as they have thrown party after party and gathering after gathering. It is easily one of my favorite memories of growing up. Somewhere along the way, I picked up my own hosting style. A few tips I have learned through experience can go a long way for throwing an affordable gathering with a specific theme or style.

I am going to share with you how you can put together a girls evening at your house for less than $50 and not stress out in the process! I want to encourage you to invite others in to share in the hosting and use all the fun stuff you already have in your home that was a wedding present or a special purchase that we just don't use enough!

First - pick the night of the week that works for you invite girls over. I know that about 8 girls fit perfectly on my back deck. For me, I work a 9/80 schedule which means I have every other Friday off so I usually pick a Friday evening that I am already off to host my gathering! This automatically makes it less stressful for me.

Next, decide on the menu for the evening. I usually make the main meal and at least one side or appetizer. I will text the girls letting them know what I need help with. Do not hesitate to tell your girls specifically what to bring or just give them suggestions. Most of my friends love direction when it comes to contributing to one of these gatherings!  Sometimes I am as specific to say that I want someone to bring a cheese and cracker platter and sometimes I say "a side that goes with chicken". This allows people to make something they like but also lets them know what would be helpful! I love my girls, everyone is usually fighting over who gets to bring what and we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD! I love it.

My go to recipe for the meat is crock pot pork. I literally make this so much. It is affordable, easy, and Whole 30 approved!

I shop at my local Sprouts and pick up a 3.5-5.0 lbs of pork loin or pork shoulder (whichever they have that's on sale). I usually spend about $5-9 on the pork! That's it!!

The morning of the party, I put the pork in the crock pot. Then I add about two spoonfuls of garlic that is already chopped in the jar. Add some fresh oregano or other herbs from the garden (pick what you love but some suggestions are: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, & Basil). Then I add some salt and pepper to taste and put about 1/2 cup of water (or wine if you prefer. P.S. cooking with wine is not Whole 30 approved.) for the juice. That is IT! Just put on low for 8 hours and it is completely ready for your evening! Crockpot recipes make it really easy when you get home from work. You can just focus on prepping the table or the space you are going to hang out in.

For this party, I also made some basmati rice with garlic and some cilantro. I then just rummaged through my pantry and fridge and threw in a bowl of fresh cherries, some pistachios, and a bowl of green olives. All things I already had that were going to go bad if they weren't eaten soon!

When I am the hostess, I usually provide a few bottles of wine for the evening. Nothing fancy, I literally go to Trader Joe's and get 3 buck Chuck or maybe one "special wine" that is $4. I know big spender. To cutesy things up - I just poor the red wine in a decanter (a wedding gift) and put cute wine stoppers in the white and pink wines! I let the girls know they can feel free to bring their beverage of choice, so again there is no stress! I always provide some lemon and rosemary infused water in a cute pitcher (another wedding present).

To make the dinner special and set the ambiance for the evening, I usually pick up one of the $3.99 bouquets at Trader Joe's the week of the party. I keep a stock pile of my wedding decor for various church events and events at my home, so I will usually pull out a few lanterns and candles to set the table. Here is where it gets really fun... You know all that china, fancy cups, platters, and other STUFF you got for your wedding? Yeah, get all that stuff out! It is time to use it. I have been using Ben's grandmother's beautiful blue glasses, my grandmother's weeping willow dishes, and all the platters, pitchers, etc. that I have for these parties! It is so fun. At first all the girls were like, "wow! Where is all this from?" and I was able to tell them that it was basically all gifts and hand me downs and it was time to just use all the fancy stuff! This makes them feel very special and just makes the evening so much fun! You totally don't have to do this but for me, it is just really special to actually get to use all my serving ware. Finally, I pulled out the real napkins that my mom gifted me for Easter. Yep, that's right, real napkins. Don't be scared of the clean up, just throw them in the washer at the end of the night! These are from Target and are really cute!

If you can't tell already, I LOVE blue. Everything matches because, well, I buy everything in shades of blue and grey. Haha

This time together with friends was so sweet. I cherish these nights. I love encouraging the other women that they too can throw a dinner, that isn't overly expensive, isn't over the top but fosters an environment where others feel special and cherished! As you can see above, we had everything from pork to pizza rolls, to a cheese and fruit tray, to fresh cherries & veggies. We didn't have fancy Hors d'oeuvres. These nights are about being present in the moment. As a hostess, you can't lose sight of the point of the evening and you need to enjoy the friends you have over. Once I get the table set, I usually just sit down and focus on being present, I don't run around the whole time or let myself get stressed out. I just know that I don't have to control everything and it doesn't have to be perfect. I usually have at least one friend who brings their dog over to play with Trigger. We listen to country music or our favorite worship songs, sit under the market cafe lights, enjoy the amazing weather that Denver offers in the summer, and talk about life, marriage, our jobs, our ministries, and what we are learning about who Christ is. One of my favorite parts is towards the middle of the evening I usually prompt the girls to share what they are learning in God's word, what this season of life is teaching them, or how they are being stretched. I am always so encouraged during this time. I am beyond thankful for a community of women that are on mission in this city and are loving others with their time, their words, and their hearts. 

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We had such a wonderful time that I planned another evening just two weeks later. We changed up the menu but again it turned out to be such a precious time with these girls. As I swept the leaves on our deck last week, I was reminded of the changing season and I am so thankful I had these special evenings under the stars with my precious friends!

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Trigger and Abe were totally infatuated with all the food droppings they got! They were not happy to be temporarily locked inside.

Happy gathering -

 

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Mount Quandary

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Mount Quandary

This summer, I am excited to say Ben & I successfully hiked our first 14-er!! A true Coloradoan right of passage! We took our gospel community group up to the cabin for a retreat in July & 5 of us decided to take on Mount Quandary near Breckenridge, CO. 

Our crew consisted of Ben [my husband], Jack, Anna, Christi, & myself. We woke up on time [which is a big feat for this group, let me tell ya!], made coffee, ate breakfast, finished packing our packs, & were out the door only 5 minutes behind schedule! That is a win if you ask me. Our goal was to leave the cabin by 4:40 AM. We expected the drive to take us about 15-20 minutes. We had some slight GPS problems, aka we would rather follow Google Maps than take the signs that read "Mount Quandary Trailhead" at face value.

We made it to the trailhead at about 5:40 AM and began our trek. To give you some background on our experience level, Jack hiked Mount Quandary sometime in the last decade and told us that 1) If we were to get lost we had bigger fish to fry and 2) it was the "easiest" 14-er in Colorado [Anytime someone uses the words "easy" and 14-er in the same sentence is crazy!]. Anna hiked another 14-er like 4 years ago before she moved to Denver & also claimed it was pretty easy. Ben, Christi, & myself had NO previous 14-er experience. whatsoever. To sum it up - this is no group of professional hikers! 

The first quarter mile or so is quite steep. We got to a stopping point and I am like what? I thought this was "easy"!! I had noo idea what lay ahead of us. Our first 1.5 hours or so consisted of hiking in the treeline, taking layers on and off, taking pictures of the sunrise, laughing, talking, & eating snacks. 

Quandary - Sunrise
Quandary - Sunrise 2
Quandary - Group
Quandary - Girls
Quandary - Ben Morning
Quandary - Anna Morning
 
Quandary - Ben + Sun
 

We hit the top of the treeline and everything changed. We went from dirt & soft ground in the trees to all ROCKS. Loose rocks. Boulders. Everyone talked less & stopped more to catch our breathe. We eventually reached a certain point where the girls broke away from the boys and forged on. We were convinced we had some good momentum going and wanted to keep that up. Above the treeline there are several mountain goats that roam.  This provided some welcome distraction!

 
Quandary - Goats
 

So one thing to know about Mount Quandary is that there is mini peak that seems like it is the summit, but its not. My heart dropped when we realized that there was a whole other mountain to climb to reach the summit! See picture below. I was like "You want me to climb that? The snow capped mountain? You must have lost your mind!"

 
Quandary - Summit
 

This is where Anna and I decided that we were going to keep our own paces so that we wouldn't lose steam and give up. At some point on this last 2.5 miles, I started asking every single person coming down the mountain how much further I had. I had a variety of responses {One person would tell me I needed to stop focusing on how much further, its not that hard, & I should pick up the pace #rude and had one person encourage me and tell me exactly what the last part of the climb would be like and that I could do it!} but mostly encouraging responses. There were a few people on the climb that I would like to point out:

  • A kid, yes an 8-10 year old kid, passed me on the way up and then was coming down the mountain right as I was about to summit. Yeah - that will make you feel really good.
  • One guy was rogging (run-jogging) up the mountain..with no shoes on..yep that is right just barefooted.
  • There was a guy maybe in his mid 40s (the positive encourager I previously mentioned) who summit-ed in 2.5 hours - which is 30 minute miles! That is really hard to do. He seemed not even phased by the physical exertion!

Somehow, someway Anna, Ben, & I all made it to the summit of Mount Quandary! We were ecstatic. As we all trickled in, we could not stop talking about how hard it was & just completely in awe of the views & our accomplishment. It took me 4 hours to summit.

Quandary Summit - Chelsea
Quandary Summit - Anna
Quandary Summit - Ben
Quandary Summit - Anna + Chels
 
Quandary Summit - View
 
 
Ben + Chels at Summit
 
  • God's Plan to Cross Paths: We are at the summit when someone yells "Chelsea Garner!" Anyone who calls me by my maiden name, probably knew me from Texas or Georgia so I know its someone that I am not expecting at all! I yell "Who is that?!" and come to find out it is one of my community group girls from Watermark in Fort Worth, Texas!! There were four of us who were in community together for a year. During this time span we all got engaged & married. This was such a sweet, sweet season and I am forever grateful for these girls and how God orchestrated putting us altogether in a time where we really needed each other. I am still shocked that I saw Emily at the top of Mount Quandary!
 
 

On the way down you would think that it would be easier but it brings on a whole other set of difficulties. Your toes jam up against your shoes over and over again & your knees really start to hurt. Stay tuned for a future post about our 14-er tips! We wrote these down in our cabin log book and I think they are great tips to share! 

Quandary - View on the way down
Quandary - Clouds

There is something about being in nature and truly taking in God's beautiful creation that is almost indescribable. I never knew I would be one of those people that felt so close to God while surrounded with trees, blue skies, high elevation, & so many rocks! But there is just something about the wilderness that brings you to your knees and lets you know that you are so so small compared to God. That might sound scary but it is so comforting. I don't have to have it all figured out. But over the last few months of living in Colorado, I am seeing God's beauty all around me in a new light. This is not just in his creation of mountains, clear blue skies, clouds that cannot be real but also the beauty in community, friendship, and marriage. I am so thankful, so so thankful for this life.

Shout it from the mountains!

Chelsea
 

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Somewhat Misleading....

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Somewhat Misleading....

Hello friends -

You may have stumbled upon this website thinking that you will find a couple who is living out on a farm or a ranch truly living the rustic lifestyle with amazing pictures of horses, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, and all other cutesy farm animals. Well I am sorry to disappoint because that is not us, not yet anyways. You may be expecting to see pictures of a cozy house or beautiful views out in Colorado. Well you will find pictures of our cozy apartment in Denver, cozy cabin in the Rocky Mountains, & other cozy things. But we are not truly "rustic" although I must admit, I love all things rustic!

 
This is our family's cabin in Fairplay, Colorado just a short 25 minutes from the ski resort town of Breckenridge.

This is our family's cabin in Fairplay, Colorado just a short 25 minutes from the ski resort town of Breckenridge.

 

One of my biggest desires has always been to own a farmhouse or ranch out in the country, remodel it in a rustic, exposed hardwood, metal accent, and all things vintage & Texas-y style and raise our family in the presence of farm animals, four wheelin', home cooked food, shootin' guns, Jesus lovin' small town folks, and all other idyllic things you imagine that accompany this sort of lifestyle. Well... there are a few things standing in our way right now: 1) Ben (my wonderful husband) and I have NO idea how to farm or take care of these types of animals, 2) This would be a large financial undertaking which we have no real idea of cost of upkeep up a ranch or farmhouse, 3) We are both CPAs so we pretty much have jobs working in the corporate world and do not want to commute long distances to work, and 4) We have NO idea how to farm, ranch, or take care of these types of animals. :) So as it is obvious this dream will just have to wait, it does not stop me from loving all of these things. So in the mean time - I am going to practice my rustic decorating skills, sharpen my cooking skills, participate in any animal adventures that I can, watch Fixer Upper on HGTV over and over, be content and fulfilled right where God has me, and share our adventures along the way.

 
Our rather large pot of Homemade Texas Tortilla Soup - Stay tuned, I may just share the family recipe!

Our rather large pot of Homemade Texas Tortilla Soup - Stay tuned, I may just share the family recipe!

 

This blog is just the beginning of what I hope God uses to fulfill the plans He has for me. I am not sure exactly what this journey is going to look like but I look forward to the ride! I hope that you will join us.

I hope that this Thursday morning finds everyone cozy & snug inside and dreamin' about their plans for the weekend!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:23-27
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