And Just Like That, it’s Christmas!

Hello, my loyal blog readers!  Can I just take a moment to thank you for reading?  Okay, I thought so….THANK YOU!!!!!  I really do appreciate you taking a few moments out to read my random and rambling thoughts 🙂  Enough with the mushy stuff, and on to the Seattle Tree Lighting!

The day after Thanksgiving, it’s my roomie’s family tradition to bundle up and head downtown to hit up a few quintessentially Christmas spots – specifically the Gingerbread houses, the Teddy Bear Suite, and the main event, the Tree Lighting.  Aaaaaaaand cue photos!

Here’s the gang at our meeting spot – the lower level of Pacific Place.  This is the “we-don’t-know-where-we’re-going-so-lets-catch-up” phase.  I love it 🙂

Our first stop was the ginger bread houses at the Sheraton Hotel.  Each year has a different theme, and this year, it was trains!  Everything from the main Christmas tree to the movies playing in the background has some relationship to trains.  Polar Express, anyone?

A train station in New Zealand.

Melbourne, Australia!

And a lovely Canadian Station!

There were a few more amazing gingerbread creations (Kings Cross and the Island of Misfits!) but these were my favorites.  By the way, the display is up all month if you want to check it out!

Next, we made our way to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel to check out the Teddy Bear suite!  Imagine a hotel suite – sitting room, bedroom and bathroom – completely decked out for Christmas with possibly hundreds of teddy bears…and I mean DECKED out!  A large, cozy fireplace with decorations and stockings welcomes you in.  A family of child-size (and I mean the size of children) teddy bears ushers you to the inner room, and trees, a canopy bed, MORE bears, and extra-big decorations dazzle you  instantly.  The lights are low and red-hued, while the green decorations bring a little contrast.  It’s quite lovely!

 

I wasn’t kidding about the child-size bears!

After much photography, and oohing and ahing over the beautiful trees in the lobby, we were off to MOD pizza for an early dinner.  SO YUM!  I was so hungry that I forgot all about pictures…but I didn’t forget to take a picture of a lovely window display:

 

I think I love everything about this display.  The plaid, the old fashioned record player, the classy suit…sigh.  And the gifts!  How adorable!  Anyways……

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the TREE LIGHTING!  The program always begins with some music and short speeches – sing-along carols and professional performances.  They sounded quite good, but I couldn’t really see them…yay for being short…ha!  And there was this little issue of crowd smash.  It was chaotic.  Don’t get me started.  Just look at the pretty lights!!!

The tree (on the right) is slightly outdone by the super-bright Macy’s star and the fireworks.

But our smiles outshine them all…cheeeeeeeeese!  Couldn’t resist 😉

We waited till the crowd thinned out a bit, then walked across the block to Westlake Center.  Marisa and I were in serious need of chocolate.  Godiva to the rescue!

This is a creme brulee truffle.  Don’t tell anyone, but I paid *cough* $2.25 *cough* for this delicious little bugger!  But it was sooooo tasty!  This truffle – half milky chocolate, half white chocolate (or creamy something), dipped in white chocolate and dusted in sugar….ah-mazing!  Gotta live a little, right? 😉

This pretty well sums up the day!  After Westlake, we ventured to Macy’s to try on fancy, far too expensive dresses, and naturally, I fell in love with one.  What are the chances it’ll go on sale?  Sigh.  If you want to see it’s beauty, here’s the link.  So lovely!

All in all, I had an excellent Thanksgiving weekend.  And now, I’ll buckle my seat belt and take a deep breath…these next couple weeks are gonna be crazy!

I’ll leave you with what is perhaps my favorite verse of a Christmas song ever.

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord

That hath made Heaven and earth of naught

And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Amazing.

Blessings,

Beth

 


 



A Lovely Evening

Hello friends!

Fun fact: you might be a college senior with projects and tests looming if…you take an entire week to get around to blogging your own birthday dinner, and even longer to blog your delightful “birthday-month” envelopes.  But such is life!  I’m hoping you’ll all forgive 🙂

I’m extremely blessed to have friends who have become family here at school.  During my sophomore year, I lived with my current roommate and her family in their home, which for me meant gaining a “Seattle Family”.  They’re wonderful!  They take me along on fun outings (Leavenworth!), invite me to share meals, and just LOVE me!  It’s great.  Why am I going on and on about my Seattle family?  Because they treated me to a delightful dinner in celebration of my birthday, full of delicious food and joyful surprises…have a look 🙂

Joce perfectly decorated the table!

Each place setting had been beautifully constructed

The theme certainly felt autumnal with charming leaves and rich tones of red and orange.

Beautiful.

And yes, I cut my hair 🙂  Do you like it?  Cause I do!

A little story from the evening: Marisa and I arrived a while before dinner, and it felt nice to just chill.  A friend, Megan, would be a bit late, so there was no hurry to get the meal on the table.  When the doorbell rang, I expected to see Megan…but I was in for surprise #3 of my birthday! (#1 – the “birthday-month” cards and #2 – the hockey game)  See, I had hoped a couple (another set of Seattle parents) would be able to come, but they already had plans to be out of town.  Except the plans fell through.  And everyone decided to keep it on the hush-hush.  So…..SURPRISE!!!!  I could hardly believe my eyes…but I was certainly happy to do so 🙂

A few minutes later, the lovely Megan arrived, and dinner was served!

Pork roast, sauteed apples, baked sweet potatoes, and roasted asparagus, with a salad on the side.  MMMMMMM!!!!!!

Sweet company plus delicious food is an excellent equation…I kinda like this math 🙂

After we could eat no more, Marisa, Megan and Joce cleared the table, then prepared dessert…with stifled giggles and mysterious sounds.  I pretended like a didn’t notice.  And then, this dish appeared before me….

Yes, that is a giant tower of fresh whipped cream.

Fresh raspberries, naturally.

And then, this.

This is a tower of brownies, with exactly 22 candles.  Which I blew out in one…ONE breath!  I kid you not!

All together!  Isn’t it splendid?  I forgot to mention the fudge sauce for drizzling…mmm!

Now that I was sufficiently sugared, the time had come for….

…presents!

A “Better Homes and Gardens” and “Martha Stuart Living”, Christmas editions from Marisa.  I ADORE magazines like these!

Between the cards, hockey game, and these magazines, I think Marisa truly outdid herself!  But I’m thankful 🙂

A bean-bag lamb (scented with lavender)…

…and a gorgeous scarf, both from Megan!

My surprise guests gave me a thoughtful gift card, and Marisa’s parents found the most beautiful lamp for my gift!  I forgot to take a picture of it earlier, and the lighting in my room is less than decent right now, so click this the link to see a photo of it!

This truly was a lovely evening.  I’m CRAZY blessed to have such a thoughtful “family” here.  Thank you Lord, and thank you Joe and Joce!

I’m off to get some work done…theoretically.  There’s always Sunday, right? 😉

Have a blessed weekend!

Beth

 

Ohhhhh Fall baking!

There’s something just so cozy about Fall baking…apples, cinnamon, pumpkin…sigh.  It’s this Fall baking that makes a house (or in my case, an apartment), smell like a home!  (Cue, cheeeeez)!  Anyways, living in a small apartment with limited space and limited funds doesn’t stop me from enjoying some delightful seasonal treats, especially when my mom hooks me up with some home-grown apples!

And the search for an appropriate and doable recipe began.  If you recall, I have some pretty strict criteria for recipes I choose to prepare.  Now of course, this recipe isn’t required to involve corn and potatoes.  That would be weird.  So hows abouts we sub the corn and potatoes for apples and cinnamon?  Mmmmmkay?  Mmmmkay.

Betty Crocker came to my rescue yet again with her delightful (and doable and inexpensive) sounding Apple-Cinnamon cake.  Thinking back to my criteria, the recipe DEFINITELY sounded good, it involved apples and cinnamon, and with only 5 (FIVE!!) ingredients (4 of which I had in my cupboard), it would be quite affordable.  Score!  So I picked up the one and only ingredient I needed and set to work.

Now, I stuck pretty close to the recipe this time, with one major exception.  The recipe calls for canned apple pie filling, but I can SO do better than that.  So I made my own!  I followed the Mini Apple Crumble recipe for the filling.

Here are my lovely, home-grown apples, courtesy of my mom and dad!

I cooked up the apple pie filling, then let it cool for a bit before moving on with the rest of the recipe.  Good thing the filling had a disguise in it’s future, ’cause boiling it too hot makes it look a little bit funny and bubbly…so don’t boil it too hot!!  🙂

If we call apples ingredient #1, then here are ingredients #2-#5!  We have cinnamon, eggs, brown sugar and a spice cake mix.  Easy as pie!  …or cake…

Gooey, cinammon-y apple pie filling and eggs are mixed with the oh-so-simple spice cake mix.  Just a warning: it smells REALLY good.  And I think it’s okay to sample the batter…but don’t tell my mom I ate raw eggs! 😉

After the batter is all mixed up (and the beaters are safely put in the sink to remove temptation), simply pour half the mixture into a cake pan.

The reason you’re pouring only half of the batter into the pan right now is because you’ve got some cinnamon-sugar mixture to layer in there!  Just sprinkle about half of it on, then evenly pour in the rest of the batter.

And here’s the lovely cake all ready to go in the oven!  Go ahead and top the cake with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.

If all goes well, you ought to have something resembling this!  Doesn’t it just look tasty?  And let me tell you about the smell…heavenly!  Seriously, it smelled like the quintessential grandma’s kitchen!

And look at those little clumps of sugary goodness…I had to restrain myself from just picking them off……

How cute!  The spice was perfect, and the amount of apples was just right.  Warm apple-cinnamon cake just can’t be beat!  Serve it up with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or if you want to be like me, a glass of vanilla soy milk pairs quite nicely 🙂

Apple Cinnamon Cake

Adapted from Betty Crocker

The Goods

1 box spice cake mix

1 recipe apple pie filling (click for the link!), about 21 oz

3 eggs

3 tbsp brown sugar

desired amount of cinnamon (about 1 tsp)

The Plan

1. Heat oven to 350*; grease the bottom only of a 13×9 pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, pie filling and eggs with a mixer on low for 2 minutes.  The batter will be thick.

3. Spread half of the batter in the pan; mix the sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle half of the mix over the batter in the pan.

4. Evenly spread the remaining batter in the pan, then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mix.

4. Bake 32-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool a bit, serve with whipped topping, ice cream or milk.

Well folks, I’m off to enjoy  the rest of my Sunday by watching Chopped and reading while sipping hot coco doing homework.  Hooray for college! 🙂  When I feel bogged down in homework and school shtuff, I read the verses taped to my wall and often linger on this one:

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14

Take it for what you will 🙂

Have a blessed week!

Beth



When the Going Gets Tough…

 

…God shows the tough who’s Boss!

Story time! 🙂

Monday night, I had a little study sesh in preparation for a composition mid term the following day.  We all thought we had it pretty well under control…that is, until we found out that this test quite possibly would require us to memorize more than we had.  I all but threw the towel in.  Annoyed?  Yep.  Nervous?  Ahuh.  Perhaps a little scared?  Maaaayyybeee.  Unmotivated?  Oh yes.  Frustrated?  Without a doubt!  But God saw it all.

“In my distress I called to the Lord,

I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

my cry came before him, into his ears.”

(Psalm 18:6)

That night, a wonderful friend called me up just to pray with me about the situation.  My mom gave me some encouragement, and promised she’d be praying for me as well.  And the Lord gave me rest!  I slept well that night, which pre-test-frustration aside is a huge blessing 🙂  But the next day…well, lets just say it brings to life the lyric, “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.”

My alarm went off typically early, and I did my gettin’ ready thing.  Nothing seemed different…until I noticed that our full size mirror wasn’t in it’s normal spot…and in it’s place hung a piece of paper taped to the bookshelf.  Intrigue!  I grabbed my phone to use it for a light to see what the paper said (my roomie was still asleep) and here is what I saw:

Confusion…utter confusion!  I didn’t read the word “month” initially, and all I could think was “uhhhmmm…it’s not my birthday.”  But I reread it and began to comprehend, when out of the the corner of my eye, I saw something all over the wall.  I swung my little light over to find this:

Oh.my.gosh. !!!!!  It took me a moment to realize what exactly was going on, but when I did realize the deal, I could have cried out of appreciation and…joy.  See, Marisa decided to celebrate my whole birthday month, beginning on November 1st.  In each envelope, there’s a note from someone, a scripture, and a quote.  I’ll share more of that later 🙂  Needless to say, this amazing surprise lifted my mood and put a smile on my face…I still felt nervous for the test, but I felt better.

God showed the tough who’s boss.

After this delightful discovery, we were off to a jazz event at a high school up north a little ways.  It went well and we enjoyed listening to a great high school band.  And on the way back, I received a text from a friend asking if I’d be in the music department that day.  I told her that I would be briefly, and that I’d find her when I came in.

Upon arriving, I quickly spotted my friend, and she excitedly motioned me over.  She reached for a little ziplock back and handed it to me…I didn’t know what the bag held.  She smiled broadly and announced that she’d brought pumpkin bread for me!  Moist, spicy…perfect.  Exactly what I’d been craving!!  And all right before the fateful test.

Again, God showed the tough who’s boss.

I took the test.  It went quite well (although I don’t have my grade yet…but I felt decently about it!).  After the test, I went for a walk in the sun, and enjoyed the crisp, fall air…my favorite!

And then came Wednesday, with a new birthday envelope to open, and an exciting chapel service to attend. World Vision would be coming to our campus so we could pack care-giver boxes, which would be sent to North Africa.  Not just any part of North Africa, though. These packages are being send to the part of North Africa that is dear to my heart, and that I plan to visit.  That’s pretty awesome, yes?  But there’s more!

This North African country is known for being difficult to work with when it comes to volunteer aid.  I don’t know all the details, but I just know it’s been tough…but they’ve finally decided to allow organizations like World Vision to deliver aid!

Let me lay this out for you:

#1. We pack care-giver packages

#2. Said care-giver packages are being sent to the country I plan to visit

#3. We literally packed the FIRST boxes to go to this country

HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!

The World Vision representatives did an excellent job of making this a meaningful experience by showing us a video of volunteer care-givers in other African countries.  They’re just normal people with basic training, but they have a huge heart and love for people.  Some of the care givers have serious medical difficulties as well, but they still sacrificially care for their neighbors.  What a beautiful thing.  And to know that I could help in a very small way…humbling.

Here’s a few photos for ya!

The assembly line

We packed basic items like latex gloves, soap, Vaseline, water purifiers, wash cloths, cotton balls and batters…things that we take for granted, and probably have in our bathrooms.

Here is a refill kit for the care-giver boxes

In front of each item to pack, they had placed a little card to describe how each item would be used.  The vaseline in the picture above is used to soothe the skin of ill people and prevent it from cracking.

More assembly line

After packing up our bag, we placed a little note in the top with our first name, hometown and a message of encouragement.  The care-givers are thrilled to read this, and pray for the person who packed the kit.

God showed the tough who’s boss.  Not just in my situation, but in the lives of people in North Africa.

I hope this didn’t sound like a downer “you-should-feel-so-blessed-cause-they-have-it-so-bad” kind of post.  I really and truly want to convey to you the different ways I’ve seen the goodness of God this week!

“Great is Thy faithfulness,

Lord unto me!”

How has God shown you His goodness this week?  I’d love to hear 🙂

Beth

It’s Not a Party Until You Add the Pasta

Guys, I really like Fall.  That feeling of slowly transitioning from warm, carefree summery days to cool and crisp, autumnal evenings, all cozy-ed up with homework a book and a cup of hot coco…seriously.  And then you add to all of that loveliness the pumpkin and apple themed goodies, the GORGEOUS leaves, not to mention the anticipation of CHRISTMAS (!!!).  This time of year is truly special.

A few weeks ago, my roommate, Marisa, posted this note on our apartment bulletin board:

Holy smokes…we’re having a pasta party!!  And I don’t just mean a box-of-spaghetti-plus-sauce kind of pasta party.  I mean a from-scratch, flour-up-to-your-elbows, homemade-sauce kind of party.  Count me in!

Finally, after much anticipation…the blessed afternoon arrived!  What a perfect day – sunny, mild, a few clouds…that, combined with the amazing fall colors and fabulous company made for a most enjoyable drive to Marisa’s home.

Are you ready for an onslaught of photos?  Good!  ‘Cause that’s what your gonna get 🙂  More pictures, less words shall be the nature of this post.

The kitchen stood ready…

…and the table…BEAUTIFUL!

And here stands 5 roommates, ready, and completely unaware of how much work, and how much FUN is involved in making fresh, homemade pasta.

Let the fun begin!!

Gotta wash up!

Nikki set to work on the ravioli filling.

The dough is quite tough to mix…and this is why Mandi held the bowl down whilst Marisa mixed…and mixed and mixed!

When mixing utensils are no longer suitable…

Before anything, and I mean ANYTHING touches the dough, it must be floured.  Hands, surfaces, tools…ANYTHING!  Elizabeth did a rockin’ job making sure the flour reached every inch of that board!  And Mandi did excellent work kneading the dough after Marisa had her share of the fun 😀

Here’s a sneak peak of dessert….MMMMMM!

Our lovely hostess and executive chef!

Here’s the key step in the process…watch and be amazed!  (Click to enlarge the pictures)

The final(ish) product – ready for ravioli or noodle-making!

Ravioli, ready for a hot bath 🙂

Elizabeth and I made quite the dough-rolling team.

And here, we have our PRO ravioli making team!

Now it should come as no surprise to you that I forgot to take some photos that would have been quite nice to have…such as the final product!  But alas, in our great hunger and excitement to dive fork-first into the fruits of our labor, I completely forgot to take pictures of the actual meal until after….sooooo uh yeah.  You’ll get an idea 🙂


This kinda sorta gives you an idea of what the ravioli looked like…and if nothing else, you’ll know that they were thoroughly enjoyed!

Remember the sneak-peak of dessert?  Well…here it is in all it’s glory!  Let me tell you about this dessert.

Jocelyn, Marisa’s mom, makes the BEST chocolate pudding cake I’ve ever had (okay, maybe it’s the only chocolate pudding cake I’ve ever had, but there’s a VERY high standard set!)  Dense, gooey, with melty chocolate chips…and ‘lots of love 🙂  Top it with fresh whipped cream and raspberries and you’ve got it made (if you’re sitting at our table, that is).  Man-oh-man, this cake is amazing!

And there you have our pasta party in a nutshell!  After dinner, we were tired but satisfied and happy.  How can you not be happy after spending a lovely afternoon with dear friends creating delicious food?  I cannot give an answer.

What a blessed afternoon, celebrating the creation of food – good food – culminating with the joyful consumption of said food.  Thank you, Lord!

Have a great week!

Beth