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Archive for the ‘helpful hints’ Category

A Very Merry Prague Christmas

December 19th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions news | Posted by Elf jennifer

Veselé Vánoce! This is “Merry Christmas” in Czech. In the Czech Republic, Christmas is celebrated a little differently with the main celebration being dinner on Christmas Eve. An old tradition is to fast before the feast in hopes to see a vision of “the golden pig” before the meal; this means good luck! Another important superstition of Christmas Eve dinner, which demonstrates the power of family and togetherness, is that no one can get up during the meal, this will bring bad luck and death to the family, instead everyone rises simultaneously. Many families after dinner, proceed to their church and participate in midnight mass.

Christmas around the world

There are different celebrations all around the world, what are your family traditions?

Twinkle Twinkle Christmas Tree History

December 18th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions news | Posted by Elf jennifer

 Northwest Christmas Tree

The history of our beloved Christmas Tree began with our ancient ancestors. Many ancient people began decorating their homes with evergreen boughs, believing that it kept out witches, evil spirits, and illness. Typically the boughs were hung above entry ways and windows. Other communities used these boughs as decoration symbolizing the festivities, for example the Romans celebrated the winter solstice as a sign that there would soon be green, abundant crops growing in the farms. To mark this occasion the Romans used the evergreens as a symbol and decoration. Another group, known as the Celts, would decorate their homes in this fashion, believing it to be a symbol of everlasting life.

 Northwest Christmas Tree

As for the Christmas Tree we know today, this tradition was started in Germany. Devout Christians would bring trees into their homes and decorate them. It is said that the Protestant Reformer of the 16th, Martin Luther, is the one who began the tradition of lighting the tree. The story says that Martin Luther, walking home one winter evening, looked up and was breath-taken by the stars shining through the surrounding evergreens. He wanted to recreated the scene, so the moment he got home he began wiring candles to the Christmas Tree.

For awhile, the idea of a tree decorated inside someone’s house was very odd. The Americans found the tree tradition very odd of the German settlers of Pennsylvania. Then, in 1846, the German Prince Albert and his wife Queen Victoria were illustrated in London News standing around their household Christmas Tree. Due to the high acceptance of the Queen, it immediately became fashionable throughout England and the Eastern Coast of America to have a Christmas Tree.

 Seattle Christmas Tree

Getting into the Spirit!

December 17th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions | Posted by Elf jennifer

Northwest Hot Chocolate

No One Can Beat Mrs. Claus’ Drinking Chocolate!

December 13th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions planning your visit | Posted by Elf jennifer

 Seattle Hot Chocolate

There is no way anyone can beat Mrs. Claus’s drinking chocolate! Three times a day, she provides us, and the big man, with her rich and decadent drinking chocolate. It helps to keep us elves going with a spark! Especially this time of year, getting busy before the big day! Recently I took a trip down to your neck of the woods (the northwest) and had a wonderful experience trying all the exceptional boutique chocolate shops’ variations of hot chocolate! Here’s a list of my top 3 favorites:

Fran’s Chocolates –

Located in 3 places, one location right across from Santa’s Cabin in U-Village, each place hand-crafting each cup of hot chocolate. It is rich, frothy, and so good with their whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top! Fran’s doesn’t only specialize in hot chocolate, indulge in their most famous Smoked Sea Salt Caramels when you’re there too! They are great to eat, take home, and make fabulous gifts!

Chocolat Vitale

This wonderful, cozy gem of a chocolate shop is located in between the bustling neighborhoods of Ballard and Phinney Ridge. They have numerous options of drinking chocolate, some with spice and some with nice, others have different amounts of cocoa, and they also have take-home packaging!


This chocolate shop has only a few different styles of drinking chocolate, and a few syrups for flavor, but excellently done! The secret I found here is to ask for all bittersweet, it is so incredibly delicious! And their whip cream has just the slightest almond flavor, yum yum! So enjoy their cozy atmosphere, and take a look at all the creative truffles they sell! Maybe try one.

Make a day out of trying one (or all) of these locations, walk around the unique neighborhoods they are located in. Check out the surrounding shops for one-of-a-kind gifts this year, or go at night and walk through the neighborhoods to admire the Christmas lights.

Frans Chocolates

(Image Courtesy of Pintrest – Ana Facio)

Breakfast with the Big Man at Town Center at Lake Forest Park

December 10th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions planning your visit | Posted by Elf jennifer


Make your holiday extra special this year and come have Breakfast with Santa! Not every kid gets to say they have shared a meal with the Big Man. This Saturday, December 14th, from 8:45 – 9:45 AM, Santa will be joining all you lucky ones at Lake Forest Grill at Town Center at Lake Forest Park for a delicious holiday breakfast! Want a sneak peak at the menu??


Kids Breakfast –
Scrambled eggs topped with cheddar cheese, with a side of potatoes and bacon
Kids Pancake –
1 fluffy buttermilk pancake, served with a bacon smile!
Kids French Toast – Golden brown French Toast served with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and vanilla honey butter
This is a Reservations Only event so please call in advance or simply stop by to reserve your seat!
Call 206.364.1261 for reservations.
Seattle Lights

Sparkling Botanical Lights in Bellevue

December 6th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions planning your visit | Posted by Elf jennifer

Bellevue Holidays Lights

An ongoing tradition in the city of Bellevue, is the Garden d’Lights! A beautiful display of lights, inspired by the magnificent plants that inhabit our homeland; open to the public every evening from November 30th – January 4th (5:00 PM – 10:00 PM), for locals to gawk and gaze at. Tickets are sold in advance if you prefer to avoid the long lines, and be sure to check out the website for FREE event nights!

Seattle Lights

The spirit in which this event is created is so appropriate for this time of year, all the displays are put together by hard working volunteers! So show your support while you are there, and appreciate all the time and hands that went into making this possible! Happy Holidays.


A Warm Holiday Delight to Share!

December 3rd, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions seasonal recipes | Posted by Elf jennifer

I am so excited to share with you a absolutely wonderful dessert I made on Thanksgiving! It warms the soul and the belly – Bread Pudding! The dessert is very simple to make and is a favorite for everyone. When you go to the store looking for the perfect bread, I would recommend Challah or Brioche; these breads soak up everything so wonderfully and have a light airy feel to them! You could also use this as an opportunity to get rid of stale bread in the pantry!

Raisin Bread Pudding

 Yummy dessert


1 loaf of Challah or Brioche (or whatever bread you desire)

1 qt. of 2% milk

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp vanilla

1 cup of raisins

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 Tbsp melted butter

The Night Before:

Lay out each piece of bread on a cooling rack to stale the bread over night, this allows the bread to better soak up the wet ingredients. If you forget this step, you can toast each piece of toast in a toaster the day of, DO NOT brown, simply dry out the bread.

 Northwest holiday dessert


Preheat oven to 350.

Tear each slice of bread into about 1 inch square pieces. Personally, I think tearing the bread gives the dessert a more home-cooked feel than cutting it.

Put bread into a large bowl and add the quart of milk. Press down gently and turn over until all the milk has been soaked up. Make sure every piece is equally soaked.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the 3 eggs. Then, whisk in sugar, vanilla, and the spices until thoroughly combined.

Gently fold the egg mixture into the bread mixture, try not to dissolve the bread. Let sit for a minute.

Melt 3 Tbsp of butter and pour into a 9×13 baking pan. Spread throughout the baking pan.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake 35 – 45 minutes. It is done when the sides are pulling away and it is just browning a little bit.

Serve warm or later on that day, serve the day you make it. Top with your favorite carmel sauce when you serve, and enjoy!

Seattle Lights


A Very Merry Cranberry Brie Appetizer

December 1st, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints seasonal recipes | Posted by Elf jennifer

This extra special, melty goodness will wow any guests at your next holiday party! With its gorgeous braid of puff pastry and topped with a luscious deep red cranberry sauce, this hors d’oeuvre has all the elements – Elegant, tasty, and filling! This creation really isn’t too hard to make, the only “making” you’re doing is the cooking of the cranberry sauce. From there it’s just all assembling.

Cranberry-Rosemary Baked Brie

 Northwest Holiday Appetizer


1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen be sure to completely thaw)

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp water

Pinch of salt

8 oz. wheel of Brie

8 oz. of puff pastry

1 Tbsp melted butter



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put cranberries, rosemary, sugar, water, vinegar, and salt in a small saucepan.

Bring to a simmer, do not boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has cooked down and thickened.

Place the brie in the center of your rolled out puff pastry.

Gently bring the sides up and fold over one another creating a braided look. Leave room in the center for the cranberry sauce.

Place the pastry covered wheel on a greased baking sheet. Pour the sauce in the middle and spread to cover the whole center.

Brush the puff pastry with melted butter (or for a lighter flakier crust, brush with egg whites).

Bake 10-15 minutes, until puff pastry is turning golden.

Place on a decorative plate, surrounded by crackers, and enjoy!



Skater’s Holiday: Figure 8’s in the Northwest

November 30th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions planning your visit | Posted by Elf jennifer

Ice skating is a great way to get into the holiday spirit and include great additions to family outings! There are a few places around the Puget Sound to go!

Northwest Love

The first one is the rink that is part of Seattle’s Winterfest. The ice rink is right in the center of the Seattle Center at Fisher Pavillion, with floor to ceiling windows, it allows for a great view of the fountain while you skate! Starting November 23rd – January 6th, (exceptions to holidays), adults: $7, children 6 – 12: $5, and under 5: $2. This is CASH ONLY, so be sure to come prepared; cost does include skate rental.

Go a little further south to the Tacoma Art Museum for the 3rd annual Franciscan Polar Plaza! Starting November 22nd – January 12th. Make an outing of it and enjoy the art museum before making figure 8’s out on the ice! Adults: $8 & Children under 5: $4, Skate Rental: $2. They have special events going on throughout the season, so check out their web page!

Seattle Center

Bellevue has a great outdoor skating arena in the downtown park, with sweeping views of downtown and specials events all throughout the season! Starting November 29th – January 12th, Adults:$12, Children 6 and under $8, includes skate rentals. Checkout the website for all the details!

A Magical Holiday Experience in Bellevue

November 27th, 2013 | Filed under: helpful hints Holiday traditions news planning your visit | Posted by Elf jennifer

Bellevue Lane

(Image courtesy of Pinterest – Kim Blackburn)

Bellevue has had a tradition that is well received every year by both children and parents! With falling snow, LIVE Toy Drummers, and dancing snow characters, how could this put any scrooge in the holiday spirit?! This event will happen nightly starting at 7pm, from November 29th – Christmas Eve.

Bellevue Tree Ceremony

For one special night, Friday November 29th, Santa will make his appearance in the parade to kick-off the holiday season! After the parade he will also lead the Tree Lighting Ceremony. Santa is going to light a 30 ft tree at Bellevue Place’s Wintergarden! After the festivities, get your picture taken with all of the Snowflake Lane characters, and enjoy snacks and holiday tunes. Be sure NOT to miss all the action! Check out the website for details on parking, parade map, and times.

Bellevue Snowflake Lane

(Santa arriving last year)

All the festivities are held outdoors on the sidewalks between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, so be sure to grab a cup of hot chocolate and bundle up! This NW winter weather can be chilly (and that’s coming from someone who lives way way up North)!

There will be live performances from the high-energy snowstorm, and ladies, a chance to get your very own photo with a princess! Enjoy a holiday experience this year at Bellevue Square! And remember, Santa is watching.