California Highlights

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After sending our students and staff out to change the world, we were finally up for some time off. So we jumped on a jet plane to Sweden to enjoy some quality time with the Mr.’s family. We had two fun weeks relaxing with family and friends and I finally got to experience some Swedish nature. (Which is quite different from the wide-open prairies this Minnesota girl is used to!) From there, we said our “hej då”s and boarded another plane headed farther west —

to California.

And so began our four days of California bliss! We were beyond blessed by two of Benjamin’s friends who opened their home up to us. Their hospitality went above and beyond our expectations and at the end of our trip, we both looked at each other and realized that this wouldn’t have been possible without them. We are so grateful for their hospitality and generosity! Their kindness gave us a vacation we won’t soon forget!

The whole trip to California – including the weekend spent in Tijuana, Mexico – was some kind of miracle. Somehow Benjamin managed to find incredibly cheap flights from Sweden to California ($900 round trip for both of us!) that came with a rental car for a week. So not only was our flight cheap, but travel in Cali was practically included. Such an amazing deal!

So what made it on our list of things to see and do while in California?

Whale Watchingdolphin

This was above and beyond our favorite part of our trip. We scored another deal and paid less than half price for two hours of whale watching in Newport Beach. Sure, there weren’t any whales that day, but there was no shortage of dolphins! How could we complain?

 

venbeach

 

Piers

Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, Newport, Venice. Those were the four that made it onto our list and if I had to choose, I think Santa Monica was probably my favorite. We also loved walking up the beach walk on Venice Beach. Even though we headed there straight off a 11 hour plane ride, the people watching was the best.

sessions

 

Sessions

Sessions was a sandwich shop recommended to us by our hosts. We were not disappointed! Quality food, decent price, sandwiches bigger than our stomachs.

 

Huntington Beach Farmers Market

This one was maybe a bit more of a dud – we were expecting more food than craft vendors. But it was a nice romantic evening out and we love to look at things (and people watch) so it was right up our alley. After being disappointed by the food at the actual market, we walked around the corner to Banzai Bowls and finished off the night with two giant açaí bowls.

Trader Joe’s

Not everyone is as strange as we are. But our favorite pass time is to walk around grocery stores. Not even with a list, but just because we love to look at food and how it changes from country to country, state to state. Trader Joe’s quickly stole our heart and we spent more than a few hours browsing their shelves.

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In-n-Out

Of course we couldn’t be in California and not experience their pride and joy. We took a road trip from our friends in Costa Mesa down to San Diego to meet one of Benjamin’s good friends from home who is working with YWAM in Tijuana. Before we headed down to Mexico, we needed to make one last stop. To be completely honest, the “Animal Style” fries were a bit of a letIMG_0665.JPG down, but the burger… 10 out of 10. We’ll definitely be back some day.

 

Churros 

Our experience of these happened south of the border, but we figured authentic as the best route. Walk on the beach with a bag of churros? Yes, please.

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Bartering

I learned something new about my husband during this trip. He loves to barter. As we walked through the street market, he was on the hunt. We stopped at just about every vendor that sold blankets and he tried his best to lower the price as far as he could and yet… he never got it low enough to satisfy himself. So we left without a blanket, but we laughed a lot in the process!

 

Kéan Coffee

This coffee shop won our hearts. It was the only shop we went to twice (well… if we’re not counting Starbucks…). When we drove back up to Costa Mesa after our weekend in Mexico, we had to stop just one more time.

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That’s when we said goodbye – to California and each other – and took our separate flights to each of our teams. Benjamin had the ultimate jungle experience with the team in Peru and I experienced Alaska for the first time. But I’ll save those stories for another time….

 

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Projects

sour-dough

It’s been just over five months since Ben and I were married.

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? 🙂

It’s been fun to see the pattern we’ve started to adopt in our life together. It started pretty soon after we were married. I don’t remember who started it or why, but all of the sudden we had this idea of having “projects”. This is what I mean when I use the word projects: Most couples adopt a dog or a cat to have something to take care of and share. It gives them something to do together, something to talk about, something to love. (My friends and I would also joke that it was to keep them occupied so they didn’t feel the need to have a baby. And maybe this is true. I’ll let you decide. 😉 ) Whatever the reason, it’s a project of sorts. It might add the possibility of more work and responsibility, but that gives us as humans a sense of belonging, right? It gives our lives some strange sense of meaning.

So, like I mentioned, most couples would opt for a pet.

A normal pet. Like a dog. Or a cat. Or a fish if you’re not into commitments.

But those aren’t the projects we chose.

Apparently, we’re not normal enough for that.

It all started one day – I don’t even remember when – when Ben just decided it was time to try something new. So he decided to try baking bread. But… normal bread didn’t cut it. And so we embarked on a journey that has taken us much farther than I think either one of us realized it would.

Sourdough bread.

That’s where this all started. We just wanted to try it at first. Just see if it worked. Just see if we liked it. Well. Turns out it does work and we do, in fact, love it. So the obsession continues. Then we started to look into the health benefits of sourdough bread versus regular yeast-leavened bread. And when we learned about all of the good bacterias and probiotics in the sourdough, that was it. We were solidly hooked.

sour-dough
Benjamin’s Dutch Oven Sourdough bread made with home-milled flour

Since then, it’s morphed into so much more than just bread! We’ve recently started fermenting a ginger bug which we plan on using to make ginger beer – a homemade version of something similar to ginger ale soda. And yet, much like a sourdough starter, the obsession keeps growing bigger and bigger. Lately we’re researching kombucha and trying to figure out how to start that fermenting and brewing process. Our greatest struggle at the moment is finding containers large enough to fulfill our needs. The next issue is going to be one of storage space, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

It’s just interesting, if you ask me. I never thought I would turn into some strange hippie-health-nut and yet here I am. I’ll be the first to tell you that sourdough bread is way better for your gut than the normal yeast bread we always eat. And then I’ll probably end up on a tangent about probiotics and “gut health” which will lead into me talking about kombucha and how I really want to make my own and that will then lead me to tell you that we’ve settled for a ginger bug over a scoby. (Some of you may have no idea what that last word means. I won’t bore you with the details. It’s just the bacteria culture that makes kombucha kombucha.) And for some strange reason, this makes me excited.

ginger-bug
Ginger Bug – a mix of water, grated ginger, and sugar. Feed it every day for about a week until fizzy and then start making pop!

Ben and I both have been pretty baffled at why we find all of this so interesting. The conclusion we have come to is this: We’re searching for the real deal. Nowadays, food is always so processed. Sure, it’s probably a bit less processed in Europe than in the States, but either way. It’s not natural. And that’s not to say that we can’t eat that stuff, (trust me… we definitely still do!) but this hunger for real and raw food has grown inside of us. So we’ve started exploring the old traditions. Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation. Sourdough is how people made bread rise in the “olden days” before yeast was in the picture. And in that we find some sense of reality. Call it whatever you will, but for us it’s a journey to explore a natural reality and have lots of fun along the way!

Amongst this bacteria-growing frenzy, I also adopted another project. One that is by far much less maintenance.

Cacti.

ralph
Meet Ralph. He’s known as a “bunny cactus” and has grown so big!

Our house is now inhabited by four cacti and four beautiful succulents. And yes, they have names.

And no. I’m not ashamed of that. 🙂

We all have our projects! Hobbies or activities or little lives that we want to take care of. It keeps life interesting! So that begs the question,

What are your projects? 🙂

9 Days Alone

Last week, my husband visited another YWAM base for 9 days.

9 days.

That’s the longest stretch of time we’ve been apart since December of 2015. Before that, I think the longest time we had gone without seeing each other was around 20 hours. So 9 whole days was a bit of a stretch to say the least. But it was good for both of us. We both had time to think about things we tend to ignore as well as time to simply read a book or journal. (Or paint my nails. Another one of those things that gets put off… 😉 )

It’s also amazing how much cleaner a house stays when there’s only one person living in it. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, while my husband was gone, I learned the beauty of alone time. I wouldn’t classify myself as an introvert, but I definitely need some time to myself every once and again. The usual tell-tale sign that I need to take some time alone is when I suddenly become overwhelmed with people noise. Generally it gets to the point of not being able to hear people breathe. That’s when Courtney knows it’s time. Time to withdraw and hear the sweet sound of silence. But with an empty house for 9 days, I had enough time to conduct an experiment. What would happen if I didn’t wait for the “panic” moment?

As it turns out, alone time can actually be healthy. (Who would have thought?) Especially in the “preventative” sense. Instead of waiting for the crisis, when I end up almost crashing, it was actually way more satisfying to spend at least an hour or so each day alone with my own thoughts and Jesus. No music, no TV, no podcasts, no other sounds. Just the heaters clicking every so often and the sound of my own breathing.

It was actually magical.

But I realized something.

When I take the time to come to that place, to sit in the quiet with my own thoughts, I actually start to think. I think about how my day actually was. I think about the good things that happened and the hard things. I think about the proud moments and the disappointing ones. But I don’t whine. I don’t gloat. I just think. And I pray. I talk to God about the ways I saw Him move. I ask Him why I feel so crummy after a sarcastic comment. I tell Him how much I miss my husband. But there’s an internal process that happens. Suddenly, I’m not looking for the right word to say. I’m not looking for a reaction from someone else, because they’re no one else there. I’m not worried about how my words will affect the person I’m talking to because it’s God! And let’s be real… I really can’t say anything that’s going to cause Him to turn His back on the world. He’s God and He loves us all too much for that!

But taking that time to actually think about what’s going on inside of my brain, to pray about it and process it with God, actually helps me to really know how I’m doing.  This kind of surprised me a little, to be completely honest. I’ve always said I’m an external processor. I always feel like I need to talk about things in order to really understand them and to understand what I think about them. And sometimes that’s true. Sometimes we need another person to bounce things off of. But there are also times when it’s good to just think. To talk to God about what I’m thinking and feeling. Not just run to the nearest friend to “vent” about what’s going on, but actually thinking about how I feel and taking the time to gain God’s perspective. And before I know it, I’m not actually upset about something that seemed like a big deal in the moment. Or the mountains I feel like I’m facing turn into prairies.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s still important to talk to other people. Relationship is what we are created for, so by all means we should live in relationship! But I know for myself, I can get so caught up in talking about things that I never actually take the time to think about things. Do you get what I’m saying? It’s so easy to say words. But how many of us say things before we think about them? I know I do that. More often than not, if I’m honest. So my challenge to myself is to take some time to be alone. Yeah, sure. FOMO is a real thing, I guess. (For those who don’t understand Generation Z language, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.”) But I’ll sacrifice missing out on some things so that my heart and relationship with God can remain healthy.

A Note from Mrs. Pilkvist

Apparently writing blog posts is the last thing on a person’s mind during their honeymoon.

Huh. Who would have thought?

For once in my blogging career, I feel like I have a valid excuse as to why I’ve avoided posting for two months. (I guess there’s a first time for everything!) But now it’s already been a month back into “real life,” so it’s time to break the streak of silence.

Well. We got married.

On September 17, 2016 we stood on a mountain and said ‘I do.’ You could call it magical. The rain had been fighting against us all week but it decided to give us the afternoon that Saturday. It was cold and wet, but the clouds had settled amongst the mountain tops in thin grey whips. So I couldn’t even be mad. I might have froze but at least it was beautiful while I did! The whole day was pretty laid back. We weren’t a ton of people, so it made it feel like almost like a Thanksgiving celebration. At least that’s what it reminded me of. It was just a bunch of family and friends gathered together to celebrate and enjoy the day. That was probably my favorite part.

Of course, no wedding is without it’s hiccups so we had to have some as well. Benjamin lost his tie and suspenders (which was actually my fault). It took longer to get my makeup on my face than I had expected. Once we arrived at the ceremony place, we realised that everyone forgot about the speaker, which was still at the base so someone had to run back and grab it. And since it had been raining most of the week, the grass was wet and soggy. And Courtney’s shoes were sufficiently soaked after 2 steps. Oh and don’t forget about attempting to check in at the hotel that night. It was late and the automated kiosk that was supposed to give us our key didn’t work. But I think it’s those little things that make it memorable. I’ll never forget walking up and down the streets of Davos at midnight in my wedding dress!

And, naturally, the proof is in the pictures.

I could probably spend thousands and thousands of words about what the day was like, but I won’t do that to you. I’ll let you see for yourself. It may have been a relaxed event but it’s a memory that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget when Ben and I took communion together that afternoon – and not just because I bit off more dry bread that I could chew. But because that was the moment when I knew that it was all for real.

I had made my choice. And we made a covenant together and with God.

It almost felt like the beginning of a rollercoaster ride. You know, the big ones that start with a long climb. You’re sitting there, strapped into your seat, just waiting for the drop. It always takes longer than you think it should, but then as soon as you get to the top, your mind starts racing. The car slows down and it starts to teeter over the edge. Your stomach does this little flip-flop thing and thoughts run through your mind at a million miles an hour. The thoughts that wonder what’s going to happen. There’s no way to know what’s coming over the drop.

But you’re so excited because you know it’s going to be so much fun.

That’s how it felt. I know that I have no way of knowing what life is going to bring us in the next years or even the next few weeks. But I’m so excited. And I know it’s going to be fun because I get to go through life with my best friend.

So. Having said all that, enjoy these pictures. 🙂