a mexican vacation

Last week's trip to the beach with my parents and younger brother was so sweet and refreshing. I missed Matt like crazy and it was weird to be on a family vacation without my older brother who wasn't able to come, but it was still really great to relax with my parents and soak up some much-needed rest! I collected some sweet seashells, burnt the heck out of my legs and read three books. Oh, and drank all the alcohol-free pina coladas I could handle. A roaring success, I'd say! Here a few photos from the trip :)

Montana | september 2014

I have this new habit of taking tons of photos on a trip, throwing them on a hard drive, and not looking at them until several months later. I did with our honeymoon, I still have photos from three years ago in England to edit (!!) and I did it again with my trip to Montana last September. I kind of love it, though. I get to relive the beauty and the memories months later, instead of days after, when the trip endorphins are still high. Also, if there's a perfect way to edit photos of Montana, it's while listening to Bon Iver, burning a Montana Forest candle and drinking a cup of steaming coffee. So I suggest cranking some said Bon Iver and pouring a cup. Looking at these will be better that way :)

Can I just say that I am in L O V E with Montana. I discovered on this trip that I feel the most me in the mountains. Like my whole soul feels alive. I have always found God the most in the mountains. I feel like I can think more clearly and am the most creative in the mountains. Someday, I'm determined to live in the mountains. If Matt hadn't been at home waiting for me during this trip, I might have stayed forever.

I'll be back, sweet Montana. For now, I'll just be looking at these photos over and over and over again. Just looking at them takes my breath away. If you ever get a chance to visit Glacier National Park, DO IT. It will so be worth it.

^^this is the amazing lodge we stayed at all week. coffee + prayer up on that second floor balcony each morning was AMAZING.

Uganda on my mind

Since announcing two days ago that I'm returning to Uganda in January, I've been thinking about this land and the people I met there SO much. It truly captured my heart in a way that no other place I've visited has. I find myself yearning to wake up naturally to the first light from the sunrise, to watch the monkeys playing in the trees, to not know or care what time it is, what the wifi password is or what's going on in social media land. I am beyond excited to go back in January and am praying fervently that Matt can come for a bit too, if it's God's will. Join me in praying for doors to be opened and finances to come through if it's what's meant to be! I'm also SO excited to share that The Archibald Project (the rad organization that I went to Uganda with in March and now work for) just opened up applications for three Media Missions in early 2015! You can find all the details here. You guys, I cannot put into words how life-changing and AMAZING the media missions are. To use your artistry and photography to serve the orphan...to see people connect with a child's story through your photos...to see people being moved to HELP and GIVE just because you shared an orphan's story with them...it's unreal. Apply!!

For now, I'm looking forward with MUCH anticipation and excitement to the day I touch down again in the Pearl of Africa. XOXO!

the honeymoon part 2: madrid

Oh my gosh, you guys. Do you know what Timehop showed me this morning? That one year ago, I was exploring the medieval walled city of Avila, Spain with my husband of three weeks. We were on our honeymoon and having the time of our lives. And I realized earlier this week that although I took hundreds of photos in Madrid, I put them on my computer and never looked at them since...until yesterday!! Going through these photos was like opening a treasure chest, remembering the adventures, the sweltering heat of Madrid, the three-times-a-day gelato stops, the four-hour afternoon siestas. I'm almost glad these photos were left forgotten on a hard drive for a year, because coming back to them yesterday was oh so sweet. So, LONG overdue, here are some snapshots of our glorious, whirlwind, dreamy week in Madrid!

PS: Barcelona & Girona

 

We rented an apartment again, just like we did in Barcelona. It was on the cutest street and there was a cafe that served the best churros and horchata on the corner.

Madrid is very colonial and so, so beautiful.

One of my very favorite things to do on my travels is visit cathedrals. It's amazing how these huge churches were built so long ago, without modern technology, for the sole purpose of worshipping God. Absolutely awe-inspiring.

We hunted for treasures and souvenirs at El Rastro street market...

And spent awhile wandering through the gorgeous botanical gardens!

We spent a HOT afternoon being super lazy in Retiro Park. Favorite part of the trip for sure.

We took two day trips, too. The first was to Toledo, an incredible, walled city with a huge fortress on a hill called the Alcazar. It was wild!

We also visited Avila, which still has its medieval walls intact. You can walk along the top of them!! It was SO neat. And the Avila cathedral is THOUSANDS of years old.

Such a dreamy trip. Can't wait to go back someday!

the glorious PNW

Oh, Seattle. How I love, love, love you.  I visited once before--in December, when it was cold, rainy and dark 98% of the trip--so it was a different experience entirely to visit in the summer. And we were blessed with SUCH perfect weather. Breezy and cool, getting warmer in the afternoon, some overcast mornings. Hardly any rain. I could definitely live in this place...at least in the summertime! One of my best college friends, Tessa, and I traveled to the west coast to photograph another dear friend's wedding. Katelin and her husband John tied the knot on tiny Bainbridge Island, surrounded by friends and family from near and far. Katelin grew up in Indiana (we went to Ball State together) while John grew up on Bainbridge. Sooo many people traveled in for the weekend's festivities and it was so cool to be able to be part of it all.

Katelin and John have the coolest apartment in Queen Anne. It looks like something out of a West Elm catalog and they have amazing views of the Space Needle.

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On Thursday, we celebrated Katelin's bachelorette by hiking Little Si (Katelin is quite the adventurer.) Some of us (ahem, me) were wheezing by the time we hit the top but the views were so worth it.

On Thursday night, Matt arrived! Our anniversary was Saturday so it was so very fun to be together exploring Seattle for our anniversary and also celebrating Katelin and John. Friday was spent exploring Seattle as a fivesome: me, Matt, Tessa, Kaitlyn and her husband, Joe.

We of course had to visit Pike's Place Market. I'd gone before on my previous trip, but it was still so fun to wander through all the different stalls. My favorite was the flower section!

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After a quick catnap in the afternoon, we headed to Fremont to meet up with my older brother, who lives in Seattle, and see the fireworks. We had beers at the Fremont Brewery then Joe (my brother) took us up to see the Fremont Troll. We also found this super weird statue of Lenin. Joe says someone always paints the blood on his hands. So strange.

We staked out a spot under the Fremont Bridge to watch the fireworks over Lake Union. So fun! I love the 4th of July so much.

Saturday morning Matt and I went on a little breakfast date to celebrate our anniversary. We had a delicious meal at Bacco cafe (lox bagel for me, french toast for him) and then wandered around Pike's and the waterfront. I'm so grateful we were able to carve out a little us time during the whirlwind weekend! Cheers to being on year 2 of this crazy marriage ride :)

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Then it was time to catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island! We drove Katelin and John's car onto the boat--so weird!! It was a beautiful ferry trip across Puget Sound. Arriving to Bainbridge felt like arriving to summer camp. Bainbridge Island is what my dreams are made up. I want to live there forever.

We explored the island a bit; so so beautiful there.

Then it was off to John's parents for the rehearsal dinner! They hosted the dinner in the backyard of their cottage right by the water. It was seriously something out of Kinfolk magazine. I'll remember it forever.

Sunday dawned BRIGHT and EARLY. John and Katelin had an 11 a.m. brunch wedding, so we were up and shooting by 6:30. Katelin was so, so beautiful. I'm busy culling images from their perfect day so these phone snapshots will have to do for now ;) It was perfect.

After the wedding ended and Katelin and John headed for the ferry, a big group of us ended up at Point White pier overlooking the Sound. Some of John's groomsmen and Katelin's bridesmaids and a bunch of us friends, old and new, from college and elsewhere, all sat on the pier drinking beer, eating ice cream and laughing. John's best man was moving to California the very next day to start a new job. We were all flying back to our respective homes; Indiana, New York, D.C. A few people jumped off the pier into the freezing cold Sound. It was one of those moments where you want to freeze time and remember how carefree you felt for the rest of your life.

We caught the ferry back to Seattle and Matt and I went for one last adventure together. We found our way to Golden Gardens, sat on the beach and watched the sunset and hung out with my brother again for a few. Such a chill night and a perfect end to an amazing vacation.

PNW, you are SO, so beautiful. We'll be back soon!

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PS, I made it all the way home with a wedding bouquet in my backpack :) this little bit of the wedding is bringing me so much joy!!

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XO, Valerie