Chichicastenango, Guatemala

July 27th, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset^Church of Santo Tomas^

Last week I traveled with 17 people from First United Methodist Church of Seattle (where I work) to work with Project Salud y Paz, a medical and dental mission in Guatemala. Guatemala is a beautiful country and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to visit. I’m sharing a few photos and memories from the week here on the blog.

After stopping to tour in Antigua we headed to the city of Chichicastenango. This mountain town is vibrant and colorful and I especially loved experiencing the elements of Mayan culture that were present in the city and the famous Chichi market, one of the biggest markets in Guatemala. We had the experience of staying in Chichi all week so I got to know the city fairly well; I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset^El Calvario Church^

The Church of Santo Tomas/Church of the Living and El Calvario Church/Church of the Dead (pictured above) are fascinating fusions of Catholic and Mayan religions. They are across from each other—The Church of the Living is on the east side of the street where the sun rises, and the Church of the Dead is on the west side of the street where the sun sets.

To me, these two churches of Chichi were more beautiful than the churches in Antigua. Something about these dark candlelit churches appealed to me more than all the shining gold. Simple wooden platforms sat in the center aisles covered in remnants of melted candle wax and flickering candles, and graced with scattered flower petals. The ancient artwork was covered over with years of smoke, barely visible, in need of restoration. The steps leading up to both churches were old and worn. The white-washed exteriors contrasted with the dark wooden panels and benches inside. Depth in simplicity; beauty in disrepair; full of mystery and meaning.


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I bought some fabric from a shop in Chichi on a non-market day, and I’ve already used some of my fabric to make curtains for our new house. I’ll have more snapshots from the market to share later!

See all the posts about Guatemala here.


Antigua, Guatemala

July 23rd, 2014


Last week I traveled with 17 people from First United Methodist Church of Seattle (where I work) to work with Project Salud y Paz, a medical and dental mission in Guatemala. Guatemala is a beautiful country and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to visit. We had an amazing trip, and I’ll be sharing a few photos and memories from the week here on the blog.

Our first stop after flying into Guatemala City was the city of Antigua. Antigua is full of beautiful historic architecture, gorgeous churches, cobblestone streets, and a diverse mix of tourists and students. Our team of 17 split up and we explored the city in smaller groups; it was so fun at the end of the day to hear what each person saw and the variety of experiences everyone enjoyed.

My new(ish) friends and I tackled as much of the city as we could in a day, cameras in hand!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset^Santa Catalina Arch^

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IMG_6903^Cross above, and view of the city and volcano from the Cerro de la Cruz, the “Hill of the Cross”^

IMG_6946^San Jose Cathedral^



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IMG_6224^Church of San Francisco, which was my favorite church we visited in Antigua. The inside is gorgeous, though I can’t share because no photos are allowed inside.^

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I found all the tourist attractions we visited in Antigua very walkable except the Cerro de la Cruz, which our bus driver took us to. We easily found good food, great coffee, ice cream, and pastries.


One of my favorite moments of our time in Antigua was gathering in Parque Central in the middle of the city one morning. I wasn’t sure at first about getting up extra early to join the group in the park the morning we were to leave Antigua and take the bus to the next destination but I’m very glad I did! I sat on a park bench with a sweet roll from a nearby bakery and a hot cup of coffee, not quite awake but happy to greet the day in such a peaceful way. (Pictured above; photo courtesy of team member Joyce.)

I hope for the opportunity to visit Antigua again someday. I’d even love to spent a little time there at Spanish language school, which is one of the things the city is famous for. The bittersweet part of travel is that you really don’t know if you will return. As much as you might believe your feet will walk on that ground—those cobblestones—again, it may not happen. It’s not always the easiest balance to have not only enough plans and expectations to make your time—that magical first visit to a new, far-away place—meaningful, but also the flexibility and spontaneity that travel sometimes requires.

To travel is to savor each moment like the glorious first it is and the last it might be.

And so I’ll say…adiós for now, Antigua!


Bridal Veil Falls/Lake Serene

July 9th, 2014

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Ben and I hiked to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene last Saturday. It was a gorgeous 8ish-mile roundtrip hike that we specifically picked because dogs are allowed, and bonus that it turned out to be gorgeous. You can’t really go wrong with a waterfall and an alpine lake, can you?

Kai had a great time and kept right up with us! He was actually kind of our pacesetter. I would guestimate that 75% of people on the trail stopped us to ask about Kai or pet him and he’s great with everyone, including other dogs. My favorite is when cute little kids ask to pet our puppy. He gets petted and poked and loved and is super gentle with everyone. We end up talking to way more people on the trail (and life in general) because of little Kai. He’s a conversation-starter for sure.

We also have a lot of people volunteer to take a picture of “the three of you” which I think is kind of adorable. Our little family :)

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IMG_6729^Kai testing out the Lake Serene water—my favorite of him from the hike. He has so much personality.^

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Happy trails! YellowElmsignature

San Francisco: Part 3

July 8th, 2014


“San Francisco has only one drawback—’tis hard to leave.” —Rudyard Kipling

Ben and I celebrated five years of marriage with a weekend getaway to San Francisco at the end of June. It was extremely hard to leave after such a short trip, and there is so much more to see that we could not fit into our two and a half days in the city! I hope we have a chance to visit again soon and stay a little longer.

Here are a few more pictures from the trip…(see all of the pictures here, along with some of the online resources we used to plan our trip).



We walked to Lombard Street from Chinatown with a stop at City Lights Books (pictured below) and Caffe Trieste in between. On Lombard the “Crookedest Street in the World” section is the block between Hyde and Leavenworth. I’d totally recommend walking up it rather than trying to drive. The crooked uphill part is only a block and not hard to walk.

IMG_6059^View from the top of the crooked part of Lombard St.^

IMG_6464^City Lights Books^




IMG_6501^The Ferry Building, full of great restaurants^

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset^Our treat when we visited the Ferry Building, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream. Yes please.^

sf1^Hanging out with Ben’s cousin Jessica and her husband Igor.^


^Flying away at the golden hour. My face was glued to the airplane window, watching the city fade. I love how you can see both bridges in this picture, and there were a million tiny details of the city that I could see that didn’t make it in the photo. Flying off in this golden glow was a beautiful ending to the trip even though we ended up stuck at the airport for over 5 hours waiting to get on this sunset plane ride.

Ben and I didn’t fit in everything we wanted to see on this trip but I’m so glad we had the opportunity to go. There is just something magical about finally making it to San Francisco. It’s one of those places, at least to me. As a child on the East Coast I went to New York City a lot (my dad’s family all lived there) and as magical as New York always will be it never seemed mysterious or far away like San Francisco.

Thanks for treating me well, California. *until next time*


San Francisco: Part 2

July 7th, 2014


“San Francisco is a golden handcuff with the key thrown away.” —John Steinbeck

Today I have a few more photos to share from our anniversary weekend getaway to San Francisco. As I mentioned in the first post, Ben and I packed as much as we could into a very short trip and did a mix of touristy activities as well as visiting some great local spots.

We spent some time exploring Chinatown, loosely following this walking tour of Chinatown from National Geographic. After the pork buns pictured below, my favorite stop in Chinatown was the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company. It was also worth it from a cultural and historical perspective to climb up to the oldest Chinese temple in the United States, the Tin How Temple mentioned in the walking tour link.



IMG_6033^The yummiest pork buns at Good Mong Kok Bakery. Can I have another right now??^

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The weather during our trip was absolutely beautiful—warm and sunny and breezy. Apparently that’s quite unusual for June in San Francisco so I’m extra thankful we missed the gloom.


IMG_6527^Trouble Coffee, the recommendation of This American Life episode 520 and a local friend^

IMG_6531^We walked to this beautiful beach from Trouble Coffee. I don’t know if the water was warm or not, but I loved our quick walk along this warm, sandy California beach.^


Another resource that I used to plan our trip was the Sunset Magazine Pinterest board on San Francisco. The map feature on Pinterest was really helpful in this situation. I mostly used that to pinpoint restaurants that Sunset recommended that were near where we already planned to be.

I was clickin’ away with my camera the whole weekend like a shameless tourist, so one more post with more photos is coming! :)


San Francisco: Part 1

July 3rd, 2014


“No city invites the heart to come to life as San Francisco does. Arrival in San Francisco is an experience in living.” —William Saroyan

Last weekend Ben and I celebrated five years of marriage, and in honor of the occasion we went on a weekend getaway to San Francisco. Other than spending way too much of an already short trip in the airport due to delays on both ends, we had a really amazing weekend and I hope we have the opportunity to visit again soon.






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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset^Four Barrel Coffee^


Since neither of us had been to the city before, we did a mix of touristy activities and hit up some great local spots.

Making an itinerary for a trip, especially if it’s short, is really tied to where you are staying, what transportation you have available, and what interests you, so I’m not going to write out everything we did, but over about three posts (we took a lot of pictures!) I will share a few of the resources that got me started on ideas of what to see & do.

New York Times 36 Hours in San Francisco

Design*Sponge: 24 Hours in San Francisco with sfgirlbybay

NYT 36 hours is my default lookup as soon as we decide to go visit a new-to-us city. Design*Sponge is another great resource for city guides. I’m also really thankful for some great recommendations from friends and family who’ve been to or live in San Francisco. I scribbled plenty of restaurant names on meeting agendas, exchanged a very helpful Facebook message, and got a few emails with SF favorites from friends—isn’t that the best?

More to come…





Welcome, Summer

June 24th, 2014

Camping at Lily Lake | Bellingham, WA

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Ben and I took our new puppy Kai on his first camping trip last weekend, and it was a beautiful way to spend the first official day of summer. We tried to do this trip two weeks ago but had a misadventure involving tent poles that we left at home. Oops.

Needless to say, it was extra satisfying to finally make it to Lily Lake. We chose this spot specifically because it is dog-friendly and the 4-mile hike was not too strenuous.



Overall Kai did great! Except that one time he ate a huge chunk of horse poopoo. He seems to be adapting to whatever situation we try with him. We definitely plan to take him camping again—I’d love your tips for camping with a pup.

IMG_6364^He climbed into my sleeping bag at 3 am and I couldn’t say no.^



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Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset^Happy campers!^

We sat by our campfire for hours, enjoying the long light and each other’s company. Kai did wake up right about the time of the summer equinox, which was 3:51 am Pacific Time, so we were awake to see the official beginning of summer and watch the first rays of light sneak into the sky as we dozed in the tent until a more sane hour to get up and brew our camp coffee.

Welcome, summer!



Summer Snapshots

June 18th, 2014

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I know it’s not quite summer yet but we’ve had the loveliest June in Seattle. I’m so glad our new puppy motivates me to take evening walks around the city, which explains the circumstances where these snapshots were taken.

Last week I went back to South Carolina for a visit and a lot of people asked some variation of “what is your favorite thing about Seattle?” Though it’s hard to pinpoint one thing I answered something like this:

I love being in the city where it’s vibrant and bustling, and then in just a short time you can be surrounded by peaceful and untouched nature. It’s the best of both worlds.  

My intention with that answer speaks mostly to Seattle’s location surrounded by three national parks and near(ish) to the pacific ocean, which Ben and I love exploring on the weekends, but it also applies to our amazing city parks. So much of the waterfront is free for the public to enjoy and it is so beautiful.

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The “June Gloom” or “Juneuary” weather did show it’s face, and I don’t mind another excuse to turn on my fireplace and sip hot chocolate, but mostly this month has been sunshine and roses.

Summer, we are ready for you.


Puppy Love

May 25th, 2014


Last Saturday we brought home a bundle of joy in the shape of a seven-month-old puppy.





Since then we’ve had late night walks and early morning potty breaks; we’ve cleaned up puppy potty messes in the house (oops!) and spent some money at Petco.

We signed up for puppy obedience school.

We’ve made friends with other dogs.

We have navigated lots of new territory—especially me, having only ever had a fish for a pet. I have so much to learn.

But now I have so much more to love, and it’s been pretty fun.




Welcome to our family, Kai.


Sweet Seattle #6: Cafe Besalu

May 18th, 2014

I’m visiting a new Seattle bakery {almost} every week. It’s a great way to explore the city, and the delicious things I’m finding are too good not to share!

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Last week I went to Cafe Besalu in Ballard with two new friends, Sara and Tania. You really can’t go wrong with a table full of French pastries, coffee, and good company. I tried a Pain Au Chocolat and a Cardamom Pretzel.

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What is your favorite bakery?

Be sure to let me know if you have a recommendation for a Seattle bakery—I’ve got an ever-expanding list on Pinterest that will keep me hunting desserts around the city for a good long while!

See previous Sweet Seattle posts here.

Play along: #sweetseattle