Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chocolate Truffles and Poems

The countdown to Christmas is just about at its end ... 2 days to go ... well, for anyone {like myself and my family} who have pre-celebrations on Christmas Eve, we have 1 day before the festivities begin! I have printed out my recipes and made my last-minute grocery shopping list to get all the yummy components of this years attempt at creating a chocolate masterpiece. I have searched through the books, the internet websites, and family favorites, and have come to the realization that homemade chocolate truffles have never graced the Christmas Eve table at the Paredes/Richardson/Herbertson celebrations. Thus, it has become my new goal ... and to my surprise, the recipes don't look as complicated as I thought. These should be a piece of cake {or should I say, a piece of chocolate?} In the years past I have decorated the Christmas table with decadent chocolate crème brulee, killer chocolate cheesecake, rich peppermint dark chocolate layered cake, and the like ... let's hope these truffles will continue to build my baking confidence as the "wows" of the past have done.

As this is the time of year to thank the Lord for the blessings of not only his gracious gift of salvation and love, but also of the adventures experienced, the lessons learned, and the opportunities to come, my desire to write increases. Having left school and given up the opportunity to pay smarter people to force me to write papers then tear them to shreds, I have few excuses to really write anymore. My creative hand was briefly exercised while I lived overseas as I wrote my dear loved ones in the States stories of my adventures; but I no longer have much reason to write {not that it's necessarily worth reading}. My current job requires no more writing than a 3 sentenced e-mail on occasion ... not that anything I would or could write to the homebuilding industry would elicit anything creative, but that still serves as one of my excuses.

THUS, in order to exercise my writing muscles, I have
taken to filling the in-boxes of my dear family with poems; celebrating accomplishments, wishing happy birthdays, and offering congratulations and thanks. My goofy notes of rhyme have thoroughly entertained them and have even inspired my mom to continue her passion of poetry. Now, my poems are simple and involve the most basic structure ... and they almost always include a touch, if not a handful, of humor. It is for these reasons that I would never consider myself a poet. I'm not sure I want to be a poet, actually. I enjoy rhyming and creating an extraordinary line of words by adjusting the proper usage of syllables and grammatical sentence structure. That is the extent of my poem writing ... not poetry. {Very simple}

THEREFORE {sorry for the long explanation}, I included a short poem in the few Christmas cards distributed by the Benson's this year. For those who did not receive a card and note {if there are any who read this at all}, here is the story of the Benson's first 9 months together:

It’s carol time and Christmas too,

The season’s bright with winter’s dew,

With new to come, time flew so fast,

Our story here of this year past,

The month of March, day twenty-one,

Vowed we did and became one,

Now, in a drought the weather said,

But God thought not when we would wed,

The clouds came out and filled the sky,

We prayed that they would say good-bye,

But “no” He said to dry weather,

“Trust me now, rain is better,”

Tents popped up, umbrellas out,

People stood and froze no doubt,

But friends and smiles filled the day,

So blessed we were in God’s own way,

Since then, in love, we’ve laughed and grown,

Experienced even a kidney stone,

Visited friends and the E.R.,

Drove around & killed our car,

Months flew by, filled to the brim,

We worked, we played, we took a swim,

We learn a lot, every day,

And see the world in a new way,

Football, camps, an amusement park,

Youth group keeps us young at heart

Mastery of the ping-pong game,

Brought the Benson name some fame,

Good news, too, we have to tell,

He studied hard and did so well,

The test he took said yes he can,

Be an official contractor man,

It’s only been 8 months or so,

Adventures down the road, we know,

We can’t wait for a lifetime more,

Together, forever, for rich or poor,

So to you now we pray you’re blessed,

May Christmas bring you peace and rest,

God gave us every single day,

May you abide in Him along your way.

Merry Christmas

from the Bensons!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thankful for {YOU}

Well, the weather has certainly decided to move FALL along quite quickly, thus, we have welcomed winter with extra blankets, warm scarves, and heavenly mint truffle hot chocolate. (For those who don't believe California can get cold, this past weekend, it snowed 6 inches at our church - unfortunately, not where we live in Sacramento, but it's been in the 20's ... and for us, THAT is FREEZING!) Our first Thanksgiving as "The Benson's" was fabulous ... it was filled with visits from old friends, family photo shoots, big meals, rainy trips to Apple Hill, Christmas trees, and more memories to store in our story book of life.

One of my best friends from college (and roommate for 3 years), Kylee, and her husband, Nic, came to stay with us the Monday before Thanksgiving. They were on their way north to visit Kylee's grandma, and they made a stop by our little apartment to enjoy some dinner and to stay the night. I can't tell you what a joy it was to visit with them! They hadn't had a chance to meet Erik before our wedding, so it was wonderful to visit together ... and to introduce Erik to the couple that defines most of my Pepperdine experience! (I am lame and did not take a picture)

We spent Thanskgiving Day with my family at The Ranch and it was a beautiful day! Thanksgiving is a special day for us, because it is the anniversary of the first day we laid eyes on each other. We met at The Ranch in 2006, when Erik came as a guest to our family celebration (invited by my cousins). That was the day our worlds changed. We later had the incredible opportunity to get married at the same place we met ... can you say PERFECT??!!

{Our decorated Thanksgiving Table}

{The Siblings}

The day after Thanksgiving, we participated in family (Julie's side) tradition and hunted down the perfect Christmas tree in Apple Hill ... in the RAIN. It POURED on us! It was crazy and we were soaking wet, but thankfully, we like to see small obstacles like rain as an ADVENTURE ... hence it didn't stop us from getting married outside.
We then visited with Davey and Jess Anderson who were in the area visiting Davey's family. Again, a fabulous evening with great friends!

We ended our Thanksgiving celebration with the Paredes Family Pumpkin Chuck. This is the day when we rid the house of all Thanksgiving pumpkins by throwing, rolling, chucking, kicking, and my personal favorite, shooting them over the cliff. Classic.{So talented!}

{A Family Picture}

Unfortunately, the airlines that fly from Sacramento to anywhere near South Dakota like to be cruel and prevent families from seeing each other over the holidays (hating holiday rates right now), so we won't get a chance to see Erik's family this Christmas ... we will miss them dearly and can't wait to see them in the SPRING!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good-Bye Summer, Hello Fall!

Summer technically ended a month ago and we are finally starting to get some FALL weather. I have been waiting for the red and orange and yellow trees to shower the ground with their leaves. I embrace the crisp air and the ability to see my breath! The coats and scarves that have sat in my closet for the last 9 months are fantastic new additions to my wardrobe. The smell of pumpkin and the cravings for peppermint are invigorating! I am in awe of the new season that is sure to bring new adventures ... Fall is SPECTACULAR.

I can't wait to visit Apple Hill! It's almost a crime that we haven't been able to break away for a day of roaming through the apple orchards while drinking hot apple cider! The apple strudel is incredible, no matter how cold it is! Thanksgiving break will surely be our first opportunity to visit the beautiful hills that remind me so intensely of my childhood. I can't wait!
The apple bushels at Apple Hill

Apple Hill is so beautiful, Thomas Kinkade painted it.
"Sunday at Apple Hill"

The last days of summer for the Benson's were busy as usual, and they were enjoyed to the fullest! Erik spent many hours playing ping pong with the only real competition from the youth group ... Danny and Stephan ... and I am sure ping pong tournaments will continue through the winter.

The shoes are off and the game is on!
It get's intense!
{A good pair of flip flops were destroyed by ping pong}

We also celebrated Erik's 28th birthday on September 1st! I planned an evening out on the town for him. We had reservations at a fabulous restaurant and we enjoyed a great evening with friends. I hope he felt truly celebrated as it was just the first of MANY birthday's as a family!

The restaurant printed Erik's name on the menu for our special celebration! Woohoo!

Friday, September 11, 2009

{Camping Adventures}

After months of anticipating our first REAL adventure with the Andersons, we finally made it happen! Work schedules were adjusted and reservations were made ... and on August 28th, we met in the middle. The little town of Cambria was just about the only place we could find that was a relatively equal distance from Sacramento and Huntinton Beach {well, at least the only place we could find that wasn't a state prison off I-5 ... i.e. the middle of no where}. We found the only campsite in Cambria {kind of near San Louis Obispo}, and we spent two nights at the San Simeon State Park. It was the weirdest campsite we had ever been to ... only shrubs divided our campsite from everyone else around us ... and not very many shrubs at that! But, alas, we were close enough to the ocean to hear the incredible waves crashing on the shore and we were with people that we LOVE!
{The Andersons: The water was FREEZING!}

We climbed the rocks on the beach, made great food, walked the charming street {notice, singular} of Cambria, and thoroughly enjoyed the company.
{The boys making a fabulous breakfast!}
{A delicious breakfast is even better in a tortilla}

In our efforts to explore the small town, we decided to take a tour of the famous Heast Castle. It was a fabulous tour ... mostly thanks to Chuck, the coolest tour guide ever! Once he realized that Erik was in construction and had a deeper appreciation for the architecture of the building, he endulged our curiosity by giving us side tours to see extra rooms that weren't included on the regular tour! It was awesome!

{Just a GUEST HOUSE at the Hearst Castle}

{Our future Pool}

While Erik and Davey spent time catching up, finding drift wood for the fire, exploring the beaches, mountain biking, and the like, Jess and I had the chance hang out ... and I have to say that it was such a blessing getting to know her better!

{The biking husbands}

Our short adventure with the Anderson's solidified in our minds {and hearts} that we were meant to be friends with each other ... and even more, that great adventures are certainly in our future!

{{"All roads lead to Rome"}}

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Can it be said too much?? NOPE! We LOVE being married! I truly believe it is one of God's greatest blessings! He created something that gives us a taste of the passion the love, the intimacy, and the thrilling adventure that He wants to experience with us! It's incredible, because together, as husband and wife, we have become so much closer (in just 5 months!) and have fallen into a deeper love with each other that has encouraged us to whole heartedly pursue that love with God ... together and individually. It's a phenomenal experience to have with God ... and to be able to share it with the person He created for you is that much more phenomenal!We have been crazy busy with so many things ... and so blessed by the busyness! Erik's work as a handyman has sent him all over the greater Sacramento area working on everything from appliances, to flooring, to garage doors, to house fans, to installations of all kinds ... it's been so cool to see how God has provided the work when it seems like everyone is suffering from the recession.

Though the month of August has been busy, we have found time to fully enjoy our 5th month of marriage! From late night movies at the drive-ins to baseball games to new books and new food creations, we have been greatly blessed and have thoroughly enjoyed our time together!
RANDOM: We really like Chevy's and we REALLY like their salsa. Unable to find a salsa at the grocery store that resembles Chevy's (or is good at all), we resorted to making our own ... and we have determined that we are great salsa-makers!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Officially: THE BENSONS

We have been married for a little over 4 months and we are now, officially,
(Click here to see more pictures of our wedding)

Julie has finally completed the long and sometimes aggravating name change process ... her name is now Julie Kathleen Paredes Benson. There are no hyphens ... and just one last name: Benson. In honor of her parents (and her sister who did the same thing with her name), she has taken her maiden name as her second middle name.All the finalized paperwork!

We have been having an amazing summer together ... (and it's still July!)

It's been filled with early morning bike rides to the coffee shop, relaxing evenings on the balcony, breakfast for dinner, middle of the night movie marathons, trips to see friends, reading together, New York, youth group pool parties, the beach, 4th of July fireworks (and a rodeo), and incredible amounts of laughter.

It's been a BLAST being the BENSONS!
(And we have MANY years to have even more fun!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

... The Benson Visit The Andersons ...

The Anderson's have been married for a little over 3 weeks now ... and we decided that it was already time to pay them a visit! They gave us a good excuse when they had their California wedding reception on July 10th (although a delayed plane made Julie late ... so she missed the entire reception!). Regardless, we were able to spend the weekend with them and were so blessed with a friendship that we are sure will last a LONG time!
Davey and Jess live just a few blocks away from the beach in Huntington Beach ... it was incredible!
... The boys getting ready to surf ...
The hottest surfer ever!We had a 7 hour drive home and we were sad to leave the beach ... and the Anderson's!

We stopped at the cheese factory (as recommended by Davey and Jess) and this is what we found (we should have bought some!):

Overall, it was a short trip that went by way to fast! We had an incredible time and we can't wait for many more adventures with Davey and Jess!

Friday, June 26, 2009

And the Adventures Continue!

Our adventures for June brought us to
... New Jersey and New York ...
a big trip for our 3 month anniversary! Ha!

Erik was in his friend, Davey's wedding (and Davey was in our wedding) ... so Erik flew down to Huntington Beach to spend a day with Davey before they flew out to New Jersey to start getting ready for the wedding. The guys got to see a little bit of New York and even went to Yankee's game. I flew out on Thursday night, so I was able to spend most of the day on Friday with the guys in New Jersey.

Early Saturday morning, Davey and Jess got married! It rained on their wedding day too, but at least their plans were all inside! It was a beautiful wedding and we had a great time!

We are so excited they are married and can't wait to have some great adventures together!

... THEN ...
The Benson's took 2 days and 1 night ...
and explored New York!We saw as much as we could see in 2 short days ... it was a fast trip, but we were so excited to have the time together to see and experience a new place!

So awesome!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend Adventure!

We took a mini-road trip for Memorial Day weekend to Carmel and Monterey. We camped out of the truck at a park, went mountain biking, had breakfast at a cute cafe in Carmel, saw a movie in Monterey, and LOVED every minute of it!

Our truck ...

Our BBQ ... hot dogs!

The trail!

Almost at the top! (After Julie crashed ... it was an intense trail!)

It was an adventure and we are SO excited for many more! We had an incredible time getting away together for a short break. It was definitely needed!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Benson Adventure #1: HONEYMOON!

Honeymoon: Oahu, Hawaii
The first of many "Benson Adventures"!

We had an incredible time experiencing Oahu! We relaxed by the beach, went to a luau, saw Pearl Harbor, snorkeled at Haunama Bay, and golfed (Julie golfed her first full 18-holes ... we loved it!)!
We spent the whole week enjoying the beauty of Hawaii and smiling in excitement that we were finally married!

We are still in disbelief that we have been married for almost 2 months! We love our home, early mornings, reading on the balcony, and finding new adventures to experience together. We are incredibly blessed and are so excited for many more experiences as a family!