The Followers: The First 2 Gigs

Zachary loves music. Anyone who has known him long enough will know that and if you've ever been over to our house and stayed around long enough in an evening, you'll have heard him strumming his guitar during late night conversations. He loves singing & playing. He especially loves singing worship. The last few years Zachary has been playing worship every Sunday at our Church with Stan, the one with the amazing dreads. They have practiced many Friday nights, in preparation for Sundays worship. I have gone to bed many a Fridays', hearing Zachary and Stan getting super excited, as they've wrote new songs, found new beats or discovered the wonders of Garage band. It's exciting to be able to watch them! This past semester, they invited Valerio, the one on the drum, to start playing with them, too. This has added great dynamics to their time playing together! Not only has the music improved but so has the company, also, the opportunity. Valerio has been the driving force behind creating The Followers. He saw something in Zachary, Stan & his time together & knew we had to take it public! Add Katie on the drums and Scott on the piano, and you have, The Followers! Their band name, The Followers, is inspired by their role & passion as followers of Jesus. We (I say we all the time.. as if I'm a part of the band! ha! But I do hold a valuable spot, I'd say, wife of the singer & cookie maker for late night band practices! I joke and say that I'm their manager. Also, let it be known, that I have contributed with some amazing lyrics ;) and I'm always ready for some constructive criticism for the guys. ;)) Anyways, we have had the great opportunity to play at two local resturants in Qingdao. Their first night & first show was at Canvas, seen above.
 Their next show got a little better (they improve with each gig & each practice, it's amazing to see!) & a little more fancy! They played at La Cotina Italian Resturant, which is located in an old wine cellar.
The place was the perfect scene for live music, it was small, cozy and quaint. The food was amazing & the set list the guys choose for the night was perfect.
After the show we were paid in a 7 course meal. It started with salami, cheese and pizza, then salad, pasta, sword fish, and lots of dessert!
The chef is Italian and is known around the Qingdao Italian community as the best Italian chef in Qingdao! He doesn't speak English, only Italian, which I think adds to his authenticity ;). Had it not been for Valerio, who's Italian, we would never have known about this fantastic restaurant nor have had the opportunity to play here! Honestly, we'd never have been able to eat here! The menu starts at 300 rmb ($45) per person and goes up from there. Truthfully, it's worth it, though. The food is amazing. We were happy to accept this form of payment!
The guys (+ Katie) did an amazing job! So good they were asked to play again by both restaurants! This past Christmas Eve they played & are playing again New Year's Eve! They've even had people asking for their business card and had a write up online! It's so exciting for them & I am so proud of all their hard work! If you're in the Qingdao area come out to The Canvas New Year's Eve night to see The Followers!
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6 Year Anniversary @ The Himilayas Hotel

 I have blogged several times about The Himalayas Hotel here in Qingdao. As I have said before, our friend Sonny, was the general manager at The Himalayas. Because of Sonny's sweet generosity, we have been able to enjoy the hotel at several events, dinners & jazz concerts. We have loved all our experiences at the hotel but had yet to stay there. For one, it's on the same street as our apartment. And for two, it's expensive. We could never swallow spending so much money to stay down the street. BUT that was before our 6th wedding anniversary came upon us! We didn't have anything planned and had yet to buy each other gifts, so we decided to message our friend, Lina, who's the event coordinator at the hotel and see if there were any specials going on. She quickly messaged me back, asked for our names & booked us a room, at a great discounted price, which included two breakfasts!
The Himalayas is a paperless hotel, so for check-in everything was done electronically. There's something about a check-in bar lined with Mac's that make everything seem more sophisticated & cool, right? Maybe it's just me. I felt the same way with our check-in on Virgin America, too. Anyone flown Virgin America yet? Love it.
While Zachary was checking in, I enjoyed the small touches of Christmas next to the simple, modern decorations & feel of the hotel lobby.
Once we got our keys, we headed up to the 11th floor with great anticipation! Since we didn't book the room, we didn't know exactly what we'd be getting.
 Let me tell you, I was beyond impressed when we walked in. We entered the room took off our shoes, and were welcomed with Adele singing through a Philips docking station in the corner. You guys, it felt like I was in a movie. You know the scene; the good music playing over head, the viewing of the beautiful room where you'll be staying for the night, while standing next to your hot husband of 6 years. Ya, buddy. I loved that docking station. And the room. And of course, Z.
 Of course, my true test of any hotel is, Is there a bathtub? And, is it a good one? Well, this was definitely a good one and it was sprinkled with rose petals! Love!
 The coolest part of our room was that it was a corner room, and 3/4 of it was windows. Since we came in at night, all the curtains were drawn. The windows continue going around the corner you see below, all the way to the back wall.
The other side the next morning.
 The hotel also set out beautiful flowers, wine, truffles & a little card for us! Such great hospitality!
 After we settled in, I got a chance to explore the IPod in the corner. The hotel had loaded the room service menu, a music library, TV channel guide and newspaper apps on the IPod.
Here's a few more views of the room the next morning. I couldn't quite capture how large & awesome the room was but here's a few shots.
 And here's the views our our many windows the next morning. The apartments directly behind that round building (the Sports Stadium) is our apartment complex.
 We spent the night reading, enjoying the bath, wine, truffles & our time together. We stayed up late watching Miracle on 34th Street and woke up the next morning to another bath and a delicious breakfast. We felt so very blessed and thankful for this celebration of our 6th wedding anniversary at The Himalayas Hotel.
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Delicious Pumpkin Cake Bread

Even though Christmas is over, it doesn't mean we still can't enjoy the great tastes of pumpkin, right?! Should you be craving pumpkin again anytime soon, I highly recommend this pumpkin cake bread. Though I originally saw this recipe as Pumpkin brownies, the texture is much closer to a pumpkin cake or bread than to a brownie. Don't worry though! You won't be missing brownies. This recipe is delicious & left me happy & satisfied. Serve with a side of slightly sweet, homemade whipped cream, and you'll be in food heaven!
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1 can of pumpkin (15 oz)
1 c oil
4 eggs
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon 
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Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately. Combine. Pour in a glass 9 x 13 greased baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. 

Serve with a side of freshly whipped cream!
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Christmas Caroling by Candle Light

Last week our dear friends, The Esser's, invited a close group of us over for a night of caroling. They prepared some warm & cozy mulled wine, cheese & crackers, and a fantastic Christmas playlist with the nights Christmas carols. They even had a fireplace app set up on the TV, for extra coziness, and printed out lyrics to our carols for the evening. Following a tradition Justin & Catherine participated in in South Africa, where Catherine is from, we all were given a candle to hold during caroling.
 I loved the candles all over the house! It made the scene very relaxing and definitely set the mood for caroling & Christmas.
Love, love, love this picture taken by Catherine.

Even Elijah joined in on the evening! Isn't he just the cutest!? He was wearing an especially cute Santa hat this night.

Trent & Angie. :)
After caroling Justin had prepared an amazing slide show with pictures of all 7 of us at Christmas as kids. He had emailed all of our families asking for old pictures and compiled the slide show. It was amazing seeing pictures of Christmas' past & our families! It was also so cool to be able to see pictures of some of our closest friends as they grew up.  What awesome friends we have, huh?! 
Thank you Justin & Catherine (and Eli!) for a great night of caroling! Thank you for being family. We are so blessed!

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