Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Lights of Christmas

Last night I took a small group to The Lights of Christmas in Stanwood, an hour north of my home.  We were there for over 4 hours and still didn't see and do everything!  There are over a million lights on 15 walkable acres, plus live entertainment, activities for children, food, etc.
Here is our group.
"Peace On Earth"
In this lake scene (above and below), the lights changed to depict the cycle of the setting sun, 
and then the sunset..

This tree alone must have had several thousand lights!
Murtaja in front of the toy train depot.  (He took over half of the pictures I've posted.  He has an excellent camera and a good eye for composition.)
Kettle Korn for Sukinah and her daddy, Hussein.
DJ and Sue riding the Polor Express.
Dreauna and DJ in the candy cane tunnel.
Petting a little llama.
Listening to a local concert band perform.
Murtaja with acres of lights behind him.
I call this the gumball tree.
Fat penguins.
Not one bare branch on this tree!
Snow covered mountains and foothils made entirely of lights.
A model of a water wheel.
The Nativity
More mountains.
Acres and acres of lights.

This shows how the mountain lights are hung on the trees.

"Go in Peace, and the God of Peace go with you."

And this was just a fraction of the pictures we took!  As you can imagine, it is a hugely popular event --the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.  An average of  50,000 people come to the 20-day event each year.  Over 800 volunteers donate more than 15,000 hours starting in September to get this event ready each year.  They also volunteer during and long after it is over taking down all those lights and carefully packing everything away for another year.  What a work of love!  

Still marveling over The Lights of Christmas,

Love, Homestay Mama

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Persian and American Friends

We are an informal group of local Persians and Americans who potluck together once a month at each other's homes.  What we have in common is first, a love of our Savior, Jesus Christ; secondly, a love of fellowship together; and last, but not least, a love of eating a delicious variety of healthy Persian, and American foods. Four of us are single, and the rest are married--and, I might add, to their first, and only, spouses.  That's quite an impressive record for married couples these days!  I'm next to the oldest in our group (our ages span from the early 40's to the mid 70's), but age doesn't make a difference to any of us.  My friends are such a blessing to me, it's like having a wonderful Christmas present all year long!
This month we met at Mitra and Esmaeil's home.  Mitra always puts on those extra special touches that make everything look so pretty.  I don't have her gift.  When it's my turn to host, I'm lucky if my house is clean!  Just look at all the beautiful Christmas touches Mitra added to her dining room.
She also froze pomegranate seeds in ice cubes and added them to a simple pitcher of water making it look so pretty and festive!  What a clever gal, she is!
Just look at this array of interesting (and beautiful) dishes.  Mitra made the bowl of yogurt in the front--it's a good accompaniment to the chicken.  Farzaneh made the bowl of tabbouleh in the back, one of my favorite salads.
Have you ever seen chicken drums this pretty?  Mitra removed the skin for all us cholesterol-conscious folks before seasoning and baking them. They were uber delicious!
Mavosh formed these cutlets with rice, onion and ground beef before dipping them in bread crumbs and frying them.  Mmmmmm--so tender and tasty!
Mitra made this fancy platter of rice--by adding lima beans, dill and saffron for flavor and color.
Mitra also experimented with quinoa--she added raisins, currants, and spices to give this dish a wonderful flavor.  If you haven't already guessed by now, Mitra is a gourmet cook!  She's been trying to teach me how to cook some of her culinary delights, but I'm a slow learner.
And what did I contribute?  Just a plain ol' platter of fresh vegetables and dip that weren't even worthy of a picture--trust me!

Grateful for my Persian and American friends,


Homestay Mama

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Santa's helpers:  Ezra (Indonesia) and Tae (South Korea).  
First you feed them...

...then you get them to build the tree!  

In the past I'd take my students an hour north to Arlington where there's an excellent choice of Christmas tree farms, and we'd cut our own.  But every year little critters managed to hitch-hike home with us. Three years ago one of those critters spun its own Christmas decoration between the angel atop the tree and the ceiling, and that did it for me!  The very next year I switched from cut your own to build your own!

Ezra hangs the last decoration on the tree.

Then Tae exclaimed, "I've always wanted to hug a Christmas tree!"

Tae and Ezra even strung Christmas lights outside for me!

Santa's helpers were awarded chocolate brownies, ice-cream and sparkling cranberry juice
for all their labors.

Tae:  "Yes, Santa, I've been a good boy all year!" 

Oh, it's starting to look a lot like Christmas....


Homestay Mama

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Natives Rival Transplants

Sometimes steady autumn rains turn our foliage into a soggy-brown mishmash, but this year our weather has been perfect and color abounds.  One might even suspect a coloring contest going on here:  Natives rival transplants!  (Natives--those trees indigenous to Washington.  Transplants--those showy specimens we buy from nurseries.) 

Of course our native Washington trees will never equal their colorful eastern cousins in states like Vermont, Massachusetts, New York or Pennsylvania, never-the-less, I've been impressed with our natives this year.  If you click on each photo below, the larger size might better portray what I'm trying to show.

There is a stretch of freeway that I take to work where native maples flank both sides of the road.  Their magnificent beauty this year has been a daily distraction making it hard to stay focused on my commute!  This photo doesn't begin to do them justice!  If I could have found a safe place to stop, I would have framed a better view.

This morning I took my simple point-and-shoot camera with me on my morning walk. Below is a view of the native trees in my neighborhood.  Those colorful trees at the end of the street are transplants.

Yes, I'll admit our yellow natives don't have quite the 'zing' of those red transplants, but this year I give them an 'A' for effort!

Even on this grey November day, splotches of native color brighten the shady woods near my home.

Here native maples drop their color over a tangle of ivy.

In this contest of color, a maple transplant grows beneath a trio of native birch. And yes, I will admit in this photo the transplant wins--hands down!

Yet, even though their color is more subdued, I still believe there is a subtle splendor in our native species that rivals the colorful transplants.

Appreciating our autumn this year....

Homestay Mama

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer in the Pacific Northwest...


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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blossoms and Bumblebees

What a lucky shot with my simple point and shoot camera!

A 'Peace' of Solitude

Once in awhile a busy mama needs the peacefulness of solitude.  I am thankful for this little piece of creation near my home where I can go to commune with God and come away refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to face the day.

Peace and Blessings,


Homestay Mama

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May's Mish-Mash

Here's a mixture of miscellany from the month of May!
Hyun Wook, my former homestay student from South Korea, and his mother visited for a couple of days en route to his brother's graduation from Berklee College of Music in Boston. It was wonderful seeing them again!  Hyun Wook has the distinction of staying the longest in my home--six years--while he completed the intensive English program and then his associate's and bachelor's degrees.  During that time his family made several visits and his brother also lived in my home for a year.  Yes, the Cho family is very special to me!

* * * * *

This is what happens when you have a soggy spring and an old, kaput lawn mower!  If you're thinking that looks pretty pathetic, I totally agree!

So, I splurged this month and bought this fancy little machine! The old mower had left me frustrated and cranky, not to mention totally humiliated more often than I wanted to remember. Repeated yanks on the cord  extracted mostly whimper-whumpfs from the mower, and I'd end up dragging it down the street until I found a neighbor with some muscle. This new, self-propelled mower starts with a key--let's me save face AND my sanity.
* * * * *

I've got lots of pretty flowers in my yard, but my yard is not pretty.  The weeds have been growing gangbusters and it's been too cold and rainy to do anything about it.  Well, that plus I've been too tired.

Does anyone know the names of these flowers?  I think the yellow is called candy-tuft, but what are those blue flowers? Weeds?  They just voluntarily planted themselves in my yard and I just kindly let them!

* * * * *

I'd like to pick a bunch of these gorgeous lilacs to bring into the house, but this bush has completely gotten out of hand!  All the blooms are way up at the top--about 15 feet or so!

My golden chain tree looks quite nice in this photo, but it is really sprawling out of control and needs some serious pruning. Obviously, I have some major yardwork to do this summer!

* * * * *

And finally, here was tonight's dinner.  It's been eons since I made taco salad!  I couldn't remember what ingredients to use, so I did a quick Google search, but none of those recipes sounded like the taco salad I remember my mom making, so I combed the recesses of my memory and came up with the following: 
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 ears of corn, lightly steamed, then sliced off the cob
1 basket of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 can olives, sliced 
1 avocado, diced into 1/2 inch chunks
1 pound hamburger, cooked, crumbled, fat rinsed off with hot water and then seasoned with 1 rounded teaspoon each of cumin, chili pepper and paprika, plus salt and pepper to taste.
2 cups ( approx) of corn chips broken.

For the dressing I mixed a little mayonnaise and salsa together.

I put everything into a very large bowl and mixed it all together.  It turned out to be simple, yet very filling .   Actually, it tasted quite good.  Some shredded cheddar cheese would have made it even better.

Well, that's the mish-mash. for May.

Homestay Mama