Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Weeks 14 and 15: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

Wednesday, April 1

We are harvesting the last of our vegetables. Ivan was disappointed with the yield from his container garden this year, but I've enjoyed every tomato, pepper, lettuce leaf as well as the dill, basil, mint and other herbs.
It was a very rainy year, and our theory is that it was just too much for a container-style garden. Oh well, there's always next year!

Thursday, April 2

The sketching of various quilt designs continues; this is the first one that I kind of liked.

Saturday, April 4

Ivan spent the day helping a friend paint their new apartment and while he was gone, I decided it was as good a time as any to start the online photography class I'd signed up for through Craftsy. The teacher uses a Nikon so the first thing I had to do was download the user's manual for my Canon Rebel Xsi. It took me a couple of hours to get through a 25 minute lesson, since I had to keep stopping to look things up in the manual. I realize I have a LOT to learn, and this was only the first lesson, so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. But seriously? My photography skills are saaaaad.
Rain kept me inside, so my options for practicing with different types of light were limited. These are just a few of the many photos I took of my glass of water. Hopefully when I get done with the course, I'll be able to look back and see how far I've come!

Sunday, April 5

Easter Sunday!
We went to church early for a devotional followed by breakfast before the regular morning service. In Argentina, breakfast means bread. Everyone brought a variety of breads, mostly sweet. My contribution included a few leftover GF lemon and raisin scones from Friday and a fresh batch of GF cheesy biscuits.
(Disclosure: This is a borrowed photo since I forgot my camera and my photos with the iPhone were less than stellar.)

A number of people brought coffee, and there were a few mat├ęs being passed around too (the herbal tea so prevalent here).

Monday, April 6

We had to make a trip into Cordoba, and decided to go a little early so I could check out a fabric store. Took a while to find one -- it's been a few years since I'd been to the really big one and we never did find it, but did find a smaller one. Then we got lost going back to the car. Ivan stopped to see if he could figure out where it was on his phone's GPS...
...but our cellular service is worthless. You'd think it would work better in the capital of the province than anywhere, wouldn't you? We'd stopped in front of a barbershop so when it became apparent the phone wasn't going to work, I went inside and asked the barber and he was able to head us in the right direction. I knew the parking lot was near the corner of Rivadavia and Lima but had been confused about which street the parking structure faced.

Tuesday, April 7

The trip to the fabric store confirmed my suspicions that finding good quality quilting cotton here is not an option. Getting 100% cotton fabric in any form is difficult. So this morning I went through all the boxes of fabric stored in the garage, as well as the dresser out there where I keep a good assortment. Thankfully I found enough for my project.

Wednesday, April 8

A few days before we'd gone to the one and only vegetable store that occasionally has cilantro. It's always packed with people; besides having a greater variety than most places, they are also centrally located in the heart of old downtown. Anyway, Ivan bought some cilantro -- or so he thought. When I went to make salsa today, we discovered it was in fact parsley, not cilantro. So instead of me making salsa, Ivan made chimichurri! Ivan's is the best in my opinion; he uses the perfect ratio of parsley to garlic to oil and vinegar.
Normally he chops everything by hand but he decided to try making it in the blender this time.

Thursday, April 9

We started out the morning with a nice walk along the river. Someone is grazing their horses in the public areas. Makes a pretty picture, doesn't it?
But it does mean you have to be very careful where you walk.

Late morning we went to visit Magdalena, whose husband died last month. She went to Cordoba with us when we bought foam a few weeks ago and she'd asked Ivan to come over and cut it for her. Did you know the best thing to use for cutting foam is an electric knife? I found one at a garage sale a few years back while we were in the U.S. and it has come in handy on several occasions. We ended up staying for lunch and a nice long visit.

Back at home, we received a message from our friend Jennie that her husband, John, had died peacefully in his sleep. I've known John and Jennie since I was 16. He was the pastor who led me to Jesus almost forty years ago. Some of you may have already read my tribute to him here on the blog. We're so thankful for his life and legacy. This is a photo from their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

Friday, April 10

I shared this photo (from a few years ago) on Facebook today in honor of National Siblings Day.
My sister and I have so many shared memories that it only takes a word or phrase to have us both rolling on the floor laughing like hyenas.

Sunday, April 12

Still sketching...
This time I used colored pencils, but with no gray I had to use black to shade in the gray blocks. So picture the background with soft grays and whites, 'kay? And should I decide to use this design, the actual quilt will look only vaguely like this. I just wanted an idea of what it would look like to do pieced circles on a pieced background.

And the coral border might end up being blue instead. Sort of depends on if it's a boy or girl. Yes, you read that right. We're going to be grandparents again! Kyle and Tina are expecting in November, about a month before Simon turns two. Woot!

Monday, April 13

Ivan's been working on the exterior of the casita for a couple of months; a few hours here, a few hours there. He had to clean and sand the front portion that had previously been painted, then lightly sand the section we had freshly plastered a couple years ago. He also applied two coats of sealer and patched all the wall cracks. So the front and one side are ready to paint, but first he wants to get the windows done. That requires cleaning and sanding the frames and bars so the paint will adhere.
I took this photo early in the morning. He did get the other window (in the bedroom) painted by the end of the day, but of course I forgot to take a picture of that. It's one of those jobs that's a lot more tedious and time consuming than you think it will be. So he still has to do the kitchen window frame and bars as well as the screen door. Poco a poco.

Tuesday, April 14

We harvested the last of the cabbage leaves today.
I fried up a mess of potatoes, onions and cabbage for lunch, to go along with the black beans I cooked overnight in the crockpot and a fresh pone of cornbread.
Not the best picture, but Yum!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Spiritual Legacy

The man who led me to Jesus is now with Him. His wife Jennie, my 'nother mother as I call her, sent me a message yesterday afternoon letting me know.
Sometimes it's really hard to be so far away from friends and family. I'd so dearly love to be able to wrap my arms around my sweet friend and hug her tight. I'd also like to be able to sit and swap stories and laugh and cry with the family and their large circle of friends. John had such an impact in so many lives, and leaves a strong spiritual legacy. Each of us has our "John stories", some so funny you can't help but hoot with laughter and others so tender they bring tears to your eyes.

I met John Sholly almost 40 years ago, when I was selling things for some club or another at school and he bought a bunch of stuff. He always did; all the kids knew he was a soft touch and he was usually the first stop when you had candy or knickknacks or whatever to sell.

At the time John was pastoring two churches in Southeastern Kentucky, one at the mouth of Hell-Fer-Certain Creek and the other up Sheol. Here's an old photo of John at Sheol. He needed that big red truck to get to the church. There wasn't much of a road, and at one point (at least) you had to go through the river bed. I remember some nail-biting trips, especially one time when John was sick and I went with Jennie. The river was running high and I wasn't sure we'd get through. But that woman can drive. We made it to the church -- and on time!
John and Jennie poured themselves into the youth in the area, opening their home for all manner of activities and meals. They put together a choir with kids from up and down the Confluence area and "took the show on the road", traveling to churches and camps in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland. We often made the local newspaper with our various trips and activities at the church.
I was part of the Brethren Bunch for two years, despite the fact that I can't carry a tune in a bucket. The group was more about opportunity and grace, and less about talent. John and Jennie went way beyond forming a choir. During every trip they tried to include something special, whether it was visiting a synagogue to learn about the Jewish faith or stopping to see the battlefield at Antietam.
(Can you find me? Hint: I'm the one wearing a brace.)

Without a doubt, the trip most of us remember best is the one to Washington, D.C. where we swarmed the downtown streets, fascinated that we were outnumbered by foreigners in our own national capital. We visited the Smithsonian and Washington Monument, toured the White House and sang on the Capitol steps. What an amazing experience for kids fresh from the mountains of Appalachia!

We never knew what John would throw into the mix. We were aware that we could be called on at any moment to quote a chapter of scripture from memory. Some were much better at this than others (ahem). But we might also be asked to state our address -- not an easy thing to do when we didn't have street names or numbers but rather hollers and creeks. And John could be very creative in how he introduced us. None of us will ever forget the time we became "Harry Nostril and the Nine Nasty Nose Pickers" at a camp in Ohio.

John and Jennie were instrumental in my going to Grace College, when they paid the registration fee and took me to visit the school. They also came to visit during my first year away from home.
Less than a year later John was one of three pastors who officiated at our wedding, and Jennie played special music for the ceremony. They also bailed us out of a tight spot by donating a Plymouth Satellite to use on our honeymoon after Ivan's little VW Bug died a sudden and painful death (the engine seized) the week before we got married.

It wasn't the first time John had provided a vehicle for me; it was actually the third! But we won't talk about how I managed to total a beautiful Chrysler New Yorker within the first eight days and a second vehicle within four months. (Yes, this is how I came by the nickname "Crash", but we won't talk about that either.)

John and Jennie continued to be a part of our family and our life, making regular visits and calls back and forth from wherever we were living as both families bounced around. There we were in Indiana while they were in Iowa, now they've moved to Michigan while we head to Florida...

They drove down to Florida to see us shortly after Tina was born. She was too little to do more than coo at her "Uncle" John and "Aunt" Jennie but our son Jon, who is named after John, thoroughly enjoyed all the attention they gave him. We have lots of sweet memories from that visit, including Key lime pie and walks on the beach, and a trunk load of grapefruit that caused the car to drag from all the weight.

Then it was our turn to visit them in Michigan. You know that saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" This is a perfect example.
Looks like a couple guys playing instruments while our kids look on. But there's so much more to it! Yes, there's the element of music and reminds us of all the music-making going on in the Sholly household. That cabinet serves as a lovely backdrop but what the casual observer wouldn't know is that the lower cabinet is the same one our daughter crawled into with the cookie jar, stuffing her face with so many cookies she couldn't even talk when we finally found her (and where she picked up the nickname Cookie). The uninitiated would not realize this was taken in the home where John and Jennie were houseparents to boys with multiple impairments, or that this visit would propel us into a similar position with the same organization a year later.

This organization had a main campus and four group homes. Which meant four sets of houseparents, and by the grace of God, we were all believers. The men worked together to provide activities for the boys in our care. Camping trips, days out on the boat, games of pick-up basketball... It would not have been possible to stick with that job as long as we did (nine years) had we not viewed it as a ministry -- because John and Jennie viewed it as a ministry and set the example.

The guys also shared their hobbies and skills and enjoyed spending time together. Before long three of the four men had British MG sports cars. They were always helping one another with construction projects at the group homes. It was a community-within-a-community. We were there for one another when things got tough. After John had ear surgery, Ivan was taking him home when they passed an MG parked along side the road. John suggested that could be Ivan's next project, to which Ivan replied he didn't need any more projects. About ten miles down the road, John turns to Ivan and asks, "What's a garage egg?" hahahaha  That's what he heard instead of project, and the phrase has stuck.
(One of the other houseparents created this fun magnet.)

Despite the fact that we moved six thousand miles away, we've continued to stay in touch, via email, Facebook and an occasional Skype chat as well as visits whenever we are stateside. John and Jennie also remained a part of our kids' lives. When Tina graduated from college and friends gave an open house for her in Jonesville, John and Jennie shared in the celebration.

It was a joy during a recent furlough to attend their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. What a blessing it has been to know them for most of that time and see how God has worked in and through them.

The last time we saw them, we stopped in to say goodbye and ended up in the garage where John was working on another 'garage egg'. This time a sign for their church. This is a good example of how John liked to use his talents to help and benefit others.

That was last Spring. We knew they'd both been struggling with various health issues, and John's had heart problems for years. So the news of his passing isn't altogether a surprise, and yet we are never ready for the death of a loved one. My prayer is that those who gather for the funeral will remember the way John loved to make people laugh, the way he could light up a room by just walking in, and the way he always, ALWAYS brought the conversation around to what God was doing. We have many special, wonderful memories but for me the most important one is the 40-year-old memory of John making clear the way of life through faith in the Lord Jesus. I remember him pounding the steering wheel as we traveled to Grace College, 8 hours there and 8 hours back. I was a captive audience and John made sure that I understood the Gospel before that trip was over. It was because of his life and testimony that I came to know Jesus as Savior.

I'm only one of many whose lives He touched. I'm sure in the coming days, there will be a lot of love flowing in person and through social media for the family. Lots of photos and memories will be shared. I'm going to close with a photo I borrowed from their daughter's Facebook page. They took a serious family shot at Christmas, but I like this one so much better. It truly captures a wonderful, fun, typical moment in the life of our friend.

We rejoice and grieve. I know that John is rejoicing! He's with Jesus and he's been reunited with Arjay, his son who died 30 years ago. I can only imagine how sweet both reunions were, and how much John is enjoying heaven right now. At the same time, we will miss him. Miss his booming laugh and quirky smile. Miss his prayers and encouragement. Miss his friendship and love. We will miss him.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

My reading has been wildly sporadic the past month and a half. There were a lot of busy days where I was doing good just to read a blog post or two that's delivered right to my email. We also had a couple short trips to Sta. Rosa when I had more time to read and devoured whole books in a day.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay 
3/5  This is the only book I completed from my waiting list. (I've started one of the others but am having a hard time getting into it.) Decent writing, formulaic plot, mostly sympathetic characters. Lizzy is a chef who's lost her edge. Jane is her sister who is battling cancer. The two have been estranged since their mother died. Lizzy goes to help for a few days and ends up staying much longer. The most interesting premise of the book -- Lizzy developing food that tastes good to those whose taste buds have been altered by chemotherapy -- is never fully developed, which is why I rated this a 3 rather than 4.

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
4/5  I liked "Lizzy and Jane" enough to see what else Reay had written, and have to say I liked "Dear Mr. Knightly" better. It didn't get a 5 because I felt the ending was expected and rushed. Samantha is a graduate student who receives a full scholarship with some interesting strings attached: She must write regularly to her mysterious benefactor. I liked the way the letters were used to move the story along.

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
4/5  I read this mainly because it was touted as a good book club choice. Noreen, Tess and Rosie are about as different as you can get, but they're neighbors and end up forming a walking club. The book follows the three as they work toward a goal of walking a certain amount and then treating themselves to a trip (a lavender festival in Washington state). I enjoyed the stories-with-the-story, and the secondary characters (Noreen's mom, Rosie's dad, some random teacher whose classroom Tess has decided to "adopt"). What I didn't enjoy as much was Noreen's romantic thread, which I thought was seriously overworked (a pet peeve I have with most chick lit). My favorite thing about the book was just seeing how these women support one another, even when they're out of sorts and cranky. I've kind of got a 'bee in my bonnet' about how women treat one another (which you already know if you're my friend on Facebook ;)

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
4/5  I don't think I'll ever want to stop reading kiddie lit! No matter the intended target age, a good book is a good book. I wasn't even aware that John Grisham wrote for kids until this one was offered as a Kindle daily deal. I got a kick of how Theo has become the de facto 'lawyer' for the kids at school. This book does a great job of setting up Theo to be the star in a continuing series (four so far and a fifth coming out in May).

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford
3/5  I'm a sucker for any book that's food related. Rachel Goldman is using her recent divorce settlement to take a year off. She's never learned to cook and decides now is as good a time as any to learn and, while she's at it, she'll blog about the experience. The book moves between her blog posts and her life, and I found the food parts immensely more interesting than the rest. Have I mentioned I'm not normally a fan of chick lit? There's a sameness to these books that I don't appreciate: namely the 'romance' piece that seems too easy and just plain cheap. The only redeeming feature is that in the end Rachel reconciles with her ex-husband. Call me a prude, but I like to see marriage portrayed as a commitment and a covenant, not something you can slip on and off as easily as a pair of shoes...

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
5/5  ...Which is why I enjoyed this book so much. Like the blurb says, "Welcome to the story of a real marriage. Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it's a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall." I admit I laughed out loud (actually, hooted is a more accurate term for what I did) as I read this book. Melanie accurately portrays the crazy that ensues when two cultures collide in this thing we call marriage. I've also read Melanie's first book, "Sparkly Green Earrings", where she takes on the topic of motherhood. It was good but "The Antelope" is even better. Her newest book, "Nobody's Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship" is on my wish list.

Love at the Speed of Email by Lisa McKay
4/5  Back in March I read a post by Lisa on "A Life Overseas", saw that she'd written a couple of books and ended up reading this memoir, which I found stranger and more interesting than most fictional love stories. Well written, funny, sensitive and at times heart-wrenching, Lisa writes honestly about growing up a global nomad and how that has affected her. I'm enjoying her blog, too, where she's currently describing their new life in Vanuatu, recently hit by Cyclone Pam.

Claudia Must Die by T. B. Markinson
3/5  This was a freebie and I pushed through to the end, but feel kind of blah about it. Claudia is an abused wife on the run who sees someone who looks just like her, and decides to set that person up to be killed by her crazy gangster husband. The wrong person gets killed and the story keeps taking weird twists and turns right up until the strangely satisfying conclusion.


Expectations and Burnout by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eeingenburg
4/5  I read this last September and knew even then I wanted to read it again, more slowly, in the future. It's the current book club selection for a missionary blog and they're covering one to two chapters a week. This time around I'm taking notes. The only reason this doesn't get a 5 is because at times it becomes bogged down by the research. But overall I found this book to be on target and extremely helpful as it tackles the connection between expectations and burnout on the mission field.

Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok
5/5  Chaim Potok has been one of my favorite authors since I read "The Chosen" about 20 years ago. "Davita's Harp" is my favorite of his works and I've probably read it a dozen times. We enter Davita's life when she is about four or five and follow until her graduation from 8th grade. Her parents are Communists and active members of the Party during the 1930s in New York City. Her mom is a Polish Jew who survived a pogrom. Her father is the son of wealthy Episcopalian New England parents who want nothing to do with him because of his politics, but his sister (a missionary nurse) is a recurring character. So is her mother's Jewish cousin who keeps coming to their rescue as they are routinely turned out of apartment after apartment. This is the story of Davita's gradual journey to the Jewish faith her mother had abandoned.

The only problem with reading Potok is that afterward it's hard to read anything else. When I finished reading "Davita's Harp" this time I found myself starting and deleting book after book on my Kindle; most writers just don't come close to the spare and beautiful prose of Chaim Potok.


I finally gave up on "Frozen Assets"; I was probably 3/5 of the way in but just couldn't force myself to finish it. I haven't finished the other books ("The Gathering Storm" and "The Path Between the Seas") either, but I haven't given up on those. I just wasn't in the mood for such serious material. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who reads according to their mood.) I've had enough serious stuff happening in real life, that I just wanted to read books for fun.

I have a long list of books I want to read, but who knows what I'll have time for, or what I'll feel like reading in the weeks to come. You'll just have to come back in a month or so to find out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Week 13: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

Thursday, March 26

Back in Sta. Rosa for a couple days. Took a walk this afternoon and snapped photos of the new houses that I mentioned in last week's post.
The house on the top left is the only one that's finished and you can see they've started adding some landscaping.
Right next door is the one with the bright red exterior. Although I'm not normally a fan of dark colors on a house, I think it works here. Looks like the outside is done and they're finishing up inside.
Bottom left is the most recent project, started about 7-8 months ago. It's right next to the red house, and we were interested to see they're using an aerated cement block with a higher R value. My guess is they'll start plastering the exterior soon.
The house on the bottom right is hard to photograph because of all the trees. It's going to be the biggest house in the neighborhood when it's done. They started it before any of the others, but because it's so big it's also taking the longest to finish. They have an amazing view of the river which is close enough that they built on a raised foundation.

I'm also including a photo of a remodel that looks nothing like the original structure. Too bad we don't have a before to show you, but honestly the previous house was seriously unphoto worthy. They've done a fantastic job of remodeling and adding some square footage, including the lovely porch.
A porch is something we wish we had out here. Maybe some day we can build a gazebo or something.

Saturday, March 28

Today I finished and ordered an ABC book for Adalyn!
I had so much fun putting this together! I already had enough photos for most of the alphabet and Jon and Nat were kind enough to take a few more pictures for the letters I was missing (like this one with the umbrella).

I failed to mention that the week before I took advantage of a brief Shutterfly offer for a free 20 page 8"x8" photo book and quickly made one for my friend Magdalena, whose husband died recently.
I used photos we've taken over the past six years of them, their family and us. They pretty much adopted us, including us in all their family get-togethers and holidays.

If you've never made a photo book, you can do one for free. Just go to my Facebook page and scroll down to March 28 where you'll find a link for the special deal. I highly recommend Shutterfly; I've used other companies to make photo books, but Shutterfly is my favorite. I wait for special deals or buy groupons and have never had to pay full price for a book.

Monday, March 30

I'm totally borrowing the photos for today. I could not resist sharing this one of Simon and one of his little buddies who had a birthday. I just cannot handle all the cuteness of these two boys stuffing their faces with cake!
No, Simon doesn't photo bomb all his mom's photo shoots. This was taken after the shoot was over, and the boys were just having fun. Doesn't Tina do a fantastic job?! If you're in Indiana or Michigan and looking for a photographer, get in touch with her!  

Tina also posted a close-up of Simon, which prompted Rita to comment "Little Ivan here" and then Tina posted an old photo of her dad. You can definitely tell they're related, don't you think?!

Tuesday, March 31

I have a nasty head cold. I find myself pushing through each morning and afternoon to get as much done as I can, and then collapsing into a sneezing, sniffling heap on the couch in the evening. I just don't have the energy to do more than is absolutely necessary. But I can't just sit like a lump as I go through box after box of tissues, so last evening I found myself thinking about the next quilt project. I want to do a geometric quilt but I don't want to do something that's already been done. At the same time I don't want to reinvent the wheel. So I pulled a bunch of photos from Pinterest and a couple of graphics for inspiration, opened them all on my screen and then started doodling on graph paper.
I don't love my first design (which I'm not going to share). It's just too busy. But I like the general direction I'm heading and think that if I pare down and clean it up, I'll end up with a design I'm excited about turning into a quilt. This time around I plan to blog it all, from the creative process to the finished product.