Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

After traveling to visit both of our families last Christmas, we stayed home in Seattle this year.  In these early years of marriage we are still figuring out what we want our holiday traditions to be.  On Christmas Eve we (Elise) baked Pulla Bread, a Finish coffee bread, (which turned into a bit of a kitchen baking debacle!), went to a Christmas eve service,  and watched White Christmas snuggled up by the fire.  On Christmas morning we sipped coffee, read the story of Jesus' birth, and unwrapped more gifts than we ever needed!  Later that afternoon we went for a walk around Green Lake and shared a meal with some sweet friends.  The next day we headed to the mountains and strapped on our new snowshoes to get a bit of fresh air and enjoy the recent snow fall.  It was a perfect way to end the Christmas weekend!  Tomorrow is New Years Eve and we can't wait for what 2016 will hold.     

Cheers and Happy New Year!  

The Zabels 

Italy.

In early October we set off on an Italian adventure!  We spent two weeks exploring, indulging and soaking in the culture of Italy.  It was an unforgettable trip.  Here are some photos and a few highlights from each of the places that we visited.  

Venice.

Highlights: 

  • Wandering the back streets and the maze of canals.
  • The Peggy Guggenheim Collection - a modern art museum along the Grand Canal. 
  • Gelato.

Cinque Terre. 

Highlights:

  • Trekking along the coastline.  
  • A sunset boat ride to see all five cities from the sea.
  • Delicious local pesto. 

Florence. 

Highlights: 

  • Climbing the Campanile for a view of the Duomo.
  • Seeing Michelangelo's David at the Academia.
  • The best pasta dinner at Gusta Osteria. 

Tuscany.  

Highlights:

  • Winding roads, rolling vineyards and medieval hill towns.
  • Bike riding on the ramparts of Lucca.
  • Delicious wine in Chianti and Montalcino. 
  • CaffĂ© and croissants. 

Rome.  

Highlights: 

  • Such rich history (Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Vatican).
  • Exploring Trastevere. 
  • Cured meats and cheese (multiple servings per day).

Midwest Wedding Weekend.

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I were back in the Midwest to celebrate a wedding and spend time with family.  First, we flew into Chicago and spent the night exploring and indulging at few delicious spots in some cool Chicago neighborhoods.  We also played tourists - wandering Michigan Ave, grabbing coffee at Intelligencia, snapping photos at the Bean.  Then we drove north (near the Wisconsin border) for the Moreno / Welch wedding, with Kyle as the best man.  It was a beautiful ceremony and a great party!  To end the trip, we made a quick stop in Madison (we want to go back again!) on the way to Kyle's hometown where we spent time with family, rode the four-wheeler, and cuddled some new baby kittens.  It was a full weekend (a bit exhausting, and too short as always) but so fun to celebrate with family and friends! 

Reflections | Marriage Year 2.

How is it possible that a year of marriage can pass by both so fast and yet just slow enough?  

As each year comes and goes, Kyle and I want to make it a priority to celebrate and reflect together.  There is value in looking back on the past year to be thankful for how God has blessed us and where He has taken us.  This reflection comes with an honest recognition that it hasn't all been easy and picturesque, but with healthy doses of humility, tough conversations, tears, laughter and joy!  We are not the same couple as when we started this journey, and I'm thankful for the ongoing transformation.  I think the sweetest changes have been the ways our hearts continue to be softened.

Here are a few reflections from this past year:

  • If something takes less than two minutes to do... just do it now!
  • A clean bathroom makes for a happy home
  • Monthly family budget meetings pair well with a glass of wine 
  • Real community takes time to develop, but it's worth the investment 
  • Take time to adventure and dream (but don't forget rest and reality)
  • Document the moments both big and small
  • When in doubt: run it out

Cheers to the start of year three as a family of two (for now). 

The Zabels 

Farm Days | Wyoming.

Kyle and I spent the weekend in Wyoming visiting some dear friends on their new farm.  I drove a tractor for the first time, we went to the Cody Rodeo to experience true cowboy culture, and got to meet the Christofferson's newest addition Jacob Truitt! I think my favorite parts of the trip were the conversations and laughter that was shared.  I appreciate the way the Christofferson's live their life: raw and authentic.  We certainly miss having this family in Seattle, but we are excited about their new adventure.  I have so much respect for the hard work that the farm life entails!  Here are a few photos of our trip below. 

Camping | Larrabee State Park.

Spent the weekend camping in the Chuckanut Mountains.  We met some friends on Saturday and hiked Oyster Dome, made s'mores by camp stove (no campfires due to burn bans), and fell asleep to rain drops on the tent. Sunday was a slow relaxing day walking around Bellingham and grabbing dinner with friends. Love exploring the Pacific Northwest one camping trip at a time. Here are some photos from the trip below. 

Backpacking | Silver Lake.

Kyle and I had been gearing up for a backpacking adventure over the past several months and we finally decided on the weekend and route!  We took a ferry from Edmonds to the Olympic Peninsula and to the Mount Townsend | Silver Lake trailhead.   

The initial 3.5 mile climb with 3,400 elevation gain was exhausting in the heat of the day (not ideal).  But the views along the route were beautiful!  We set up camp at Silver Lake and went to bed early; we were eager for some rest.

Around 1:30am we woke up abruptly to a growl!  Our hearts were racing as we waited quietly for the animal to pass.  There was some sniffing and heavy footprints around our site for a couple hours.  Needless to say we didn't sleep very well!  

While making coffee in the morning we heard thunder in the distance.  Our plan for a slow, relaxing morning was ended as we scrambled to pack up our campsite, eat breakfast, and get on the trail amidst scattered raindrops.  Fortunately the rain was light and the cloud cover was a refreshing change of pace from the previous day's heat.

I learned that backpacking isn't glamorous.  It's hard work, uncomfortable, exhausting, and can bring out your best and worst, but it's also invigorating and rewarding.  A friend recently asked me how the trip was for our marriage and I've been thinking about it.  I think it reinforced the importance of communication and how to love sacrificially amidst challenging circumstances.  So here's to more adventures and life lessons!  

Here are a few photos from our trip:

Portland | Getaway.

I needed to be in Portland this past weekend for a work-related conference on Saturday, so Kyle and I decided to make a weekend trip of it!  Whenever I'm in Portland, I feel like there just aren't enough meals in the day to enjoy all the delicious food the city has to offer.  A few of my favorites from the trip were Stumptown Coffee, Blue Star Donuts, and Olympic Provisions for date night.  The weather was perfect on Sunday for exploring the city.  Kyle and I grabbed coffee, stopped in Powell's to stock up on a few books, and spent time wandering in the Rose Gardens which were in full bloom.  We even ventured out to Multnomah Falls (along with what seemed like the entire population of Oregon).  Hope you had a great weekend!    

Summer Dreaming | 2015.

Summer is our favorite time in Seattle.  I love the sunshine and warmer, longer days.  But it always seems to slip by faster than expected, so it's great to make plans to ensure the time isn't wasted!  (I did this last year too; you can find the post here.)

Summer Bucket List 2015:  

Lots of camping + backpacking + hiking. 

Visiting the Christofferson farm in Wyoming.

Wine tasting in Eastern Washington. 

Picnics in the park at Green Lake.

The Welch wedding in Chicago.

ITALY.

Time off in October has been approved.

Travel guides have been purchased. 

Flights have been booked.

Let the planning begin.

Please let us know if you have any Italy recommendations:

Things to see | Places to eat | Where to stay

COMMUNITY RETREAT.

Last weekend some members of our new community group spent time at a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula.  It was great to get out of town, eat, hike, build a campfire, and share stories with one another.  Here are a few photos from a hike that some of us took up Mt. Ellinor.

SKAGIT VALLEY TULIP FESTIVAL.

Kyle and I aren't normally very spontaneous.  Planned and methodical tend to describe us a bit better.  But this weekend we found ourselves itching for a little adventure and spontaneity!  Sunday after brunch with some friends we decided on a whim to drive up north to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  It was refreshing to drive through farm country and walk in open fields (although some were packed with tourists) viewing the beautiful flowers in full bloom.  Spring is here and summer is on its way!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

EASTER WEEKEND.

There is something about seeing flowers in bloom, greenery returning to the trees, signs of life and new beginnings that stir our hearts for something greater.  Easter weekend seems to bring a swing of emotions from the somberness of Good Friday to the culminating celebration of Jesus' resurrection on Sunday!  Kyle and I spent Easter with a morning run, church at Downtown Cornerstone, and a meal with our extended family.  Grateful for this weekend to reflect, confess, and rejoice! 

HOUSE GUEST.

I feel blessed to have such a terrific dad and I often wish he lived closer.  Fortunately, this past week he was in town visiting and I enjoyed soaking up as much time with him as possible.  While he was here, our family celebrated my Nana's 94th birthday and watched many March Madness games. On his final day, we were able to have a dad + daughter date.  We drank coffee, talked about life, and enjoyed some sunny spring Seattle weather.  I am grateful for his wisdom, laughter, and hugs in my life.  

A WEEK IN PARADISE | MEXICO.

Kyle and I spent the past week in Punta Mita Mexico.  It was a relaxing and enjoyable trip.  We flew in Puerto Vallarta and drove an hour to The Four Seasons Resort.  It's nestled in a small Pacific peninsula surrounded by a beautiful beach, jungle terrain, and a local village called Punta de Mita.  

We spent our time: 

Lathering sunscreen

Lounging in a beach cabana with fruity drinks

Reading good books

Enjoying delicious food

Running, hiking, tennis, yoga

Swimming at the pools

Massages at the spa 

Soaking in the hot tub (during a rain storm!) 

We were so grateful for the chance to get away and enjoy some sunshine and relaxation.  

Here are a few photos from our trip!