Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DOL DAY

Drive to Covington.

Department of Licensing office #1 . . . now an Edward Jones.

Consult DOL website via my Blackberry.  Thank goodness for my Blackberry.

Drive to Kent.

Can't find office.  Call for landmark.  Find office.

Department of Licensing office #2 . . . wrong office, was told to go to a different DOL in Kent.

Department of Licensing office #3 . . .wait one hour. Again, thank goodness for my Blackberry to keep me preoccupied.

Slightly panic when asked to sign my new name as I have not much practice.

New driver license with a picture without braces, new address and NEW NAME!!! Priceless!

Amanda Elizabeth Bricknell  :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Rise to Fall



Fall has officially arrived, and the weather is suddenly crisp and very wet. We are absolutely loving the vibrant colors.  For some reason, our surroundings seem more colorful this year.  The pictures above were taken of the intersection at the entrance to our housing development.  Stunning!  What a beautiful thing to see when leaving and arriving back home! 


I have started what will hopefully be my last year of school.  For a while anyway.  This quarter I'm taking Research Methods, a Community Dental Health class (that's not the official name, but is essentially what it is, a year-long class), and International Communications (a year-long class).  This entire year will be devoted to a group community project. 


Matt has started up flag football again for the 3rd year in a row, and this is the first year I'm out here every Saturday to watch!  I'm out here every day now, and I still get excited when thinking about that :) Matt plays for a Maple Valley team called Polk High, and they are currently 4 -1, so he's pretty excited that they are doing well.  I enjoy bundling up in my warm gear and wrapping up in a blanket to cheer him on with hot chocolate in hand.  Today, however, I missed the game that went from 19-20 to 26-20 in the last 22 seconds for a Polk High win!


Today I volunteered with Serve Day at our church, New Life Christian Church.  Every spring and fall, the church takes Salvation Army donations, has dumpsters set up for people to dump their trash, a metal recycle station for large items like barbecues, a shredding company comes out to shred sensitive documents, and for the first year we provided oil changes for single moms.  It was a very wet and dirty day as we unloaded garbage from people's vehicles and gave it to the dumpsters to be forgotten about forever.  Just as Christ willingly and lovingly removes our "garbage" from our lives no questions asked.  He lightens our load and lifts our burdens, and all we have to do is show up.


A great fall find was this recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins . . . so tasty and festive!

Filling
• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons brown sugar


Streusel Topping
• 4 1/2 tablespoons flour
• 5 tablespoons white sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons chopped pecans (toasted these on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees, for about 10 minutes)


Muffin Batter
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 2 cups white sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease and flour 18 muffin tims.  (I made these mini muffins instead)


FILLING: Beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth. Set aside.


STREUSEL TOPPING: Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.


MUFFIN BATTER: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and gradually incorporate eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.


- Fill tins with pumpkin mixture until they're about 1/2 full.
- Carefully add one tbsp of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter.
- If you're using paper cups, try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper.
- Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.


ENJOY and HAPPY FALL!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Honeymooners

Six months after we were married, our dream honeymoon became a reality! I have had a "bucket list" since about middle school, only mine was called "things to do before I die". One of those was to go on a honeymoon. It was just that simple. I just wanted to be able to go on a honeymoon, anywhere; and I feel so incredibly blessed for the honeymoon we were able to enjoy.
After about three weeks since we've been back, we get to share it with you. Sunday, August 31, we took flight out of LA aboard an Air New Zealand jet. Destination: Cook Islands! We spent seven days on the island of Rarotonga, and then five days on the smaller island of Aitutaki.
We have been trying to figure out how in the world we can share our trip with you on here, because we did so much over the course of two weeks. So, here are some highlights of our trip. . . (you can click on the pictures for a larger image)
The View from our room on Rarotonga . . .


One of the Island Nights we attended, complete with fire-dancing. This night ended with a fire-dance by yours truly. I was known as "Miss America" by fellow guests for the rest of the week. We were one of very few Americans on our trip, as most were New Zealanders or Australians.


The car we rented was so cute, and SO tiny! Matt hit his head every time getting in, and it was an interesting experience for him obtaining a Cook Islands driver's license and driving on the left side of the road for the first time.

We took the church bus from our resort to the Cook Islands Christian Church to worship the South Pacific way. The singing was incredibly beautiful and boisterous, and it also just happened to be Father's Day! After the service, we were invited for lunch and fellowship; something the church provides every single Sunday.

Much time was spent around, in, and under the water. . .by Matt especially. I gave scuba diving one chance, and was fully satisfied with not going again. Matt, on the other hand, ended up diving 4 more times after our lagoon lesson. He absolutely fell in love with diving! He would also grab his snorkel gear and head for the reef any chance he could get. That boy was in heaven :)
When we arrived to Aitutaki, we received a coconut drink and an amazingly fragrant lei. Aitutaki only has a population of about 2,000 and it took us only about 20 minutes to drive around the island in our rented car as it poured rain . . .and that was taking back roads off the one main road.


On Aitutaki, we rode bikes to the end of the airport runway to a decent snorkeling spot we heard about. Matt snorkeled, and I read. . . and got sunburned.
On Honeymoon Island, it's tradition to plant a coconut if you're there on your honeymoon. So we planted a coconut! Now we'll have to return one day to find our tree :) This was part of a day-long "lagoon cruise" which also took us to One Foot Island which has the oldest post office, and we had our passports stamped; as well as "survivor island" which was one of the islands used to film Survivor: Cook Islands. Our tour guides Puna, and his wife Tutu were incredibly friendly and hospitable.
We were constantly in awe with the breathtaking views surrounding us, especially on Aitutaki!

We took about 850 pictures between two cameras, and that includes underwater pictures.
Matt's favorite part was the diving, with the food a close second. My favorite parts were the beautiful views, unbelievably teal-blue water, and the relaxing atmosphere. I read almost three books while there, and have yet to finish 1/2 of one book since we've returned. Back to the daily grind and back in school leaves little time for reading for fun :(

We also had some fun adventures kayaking, riding the bus, and seeing chickens and roosters run wild through the airport and restaurants, and trying to find a souvenir shop on Aitutaki. We had a Gecko in our room for the entire week on Aitutaki, which freaked me out a little at first. It then became a nightly game for us at bedtime to "find the Gecko". We cuddled after dinner in one of the hammocks admiring the stars that were so bright they didn't seem real. We toured the botanical gardens and Saturday cultural market on Rarotonga. At the cultural market, I was pulled onto the stage to perform some island dancing . . .not so easy. We met several other couples also on their honeymoons from Toronto, Germany, Colorado, and even Seattle.

We really miss the Cook Islands, and would highly recommend it to anyone! Although we would love to return one day, there are so many other places in the world we would like to see. We have very fond and vivid memories of the Cook Islands, and many pictures which we will never let us forget.