Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Day With My Daughter

I was motivated to get up early and load up the car. 'Cause I'm spending the day with my daughter!

The hubby has some things to do around here (at the in-laws) but when it's time for him to meet up with us, he only has to put the suitcase and computer bag into the car. Everything else was loaded before 8 a.m. by my very own hands :-) We're heading to Michigan later in the day. Tonight we're visiting the church that just took on some of our support.

I was a little too efficient this morning, packing the hubby's daily vitamins and the cheese we had wanted at breakfast. Minor details, minor details.

So we're hitting the big metropolis of Ft. Wayne today. The daughter has a list of stores and things she's looking for, in order to create some very cool things to sell at an upcoming street event. I'm just along for the ride. Oh and to buy the biggest possible package of t.p. at Sam's Club (that we'll use as filler in the bigger suitcases so we don't go over the 50 lb. per bag limit).

The first time I went to Argentina (1996) I went prepared! Hearing horror stories of inadequate facilities and non-existent toilet paper while traveling cross country, I took AN ENTIRE SUITCASE OF CHARMIN. Oh yes I did! And it came in so handy! It lasted just over three of the four weeks we were there. And while the reality wasn't quite so horrible (things had improved in the almost 20 years since the hubby had been there) we were often, and I repeat OFTEN, glad for the foresight of moi in the packing of that particular suitcase.

My needs are simple, and soft bathroom tissue is one of them. So what is the one thing you-cannot-live-without-when-traveling?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


News Flash! We are fully supported missionaries to Argentina! Woohoo!

Received word this morning that a church in Michigan voted to take on the remaining monthly support to get us to 100%!

(What in the world did we do before exclamation points were invented?!)

AND (Yes, there's more!) our home church took up a love offering to help with our outgoing fund and collected more than $2800.00!


I'm having heart palpitations with the sheer joy of the moment :-)

Things remaining...eye exams on Friday morning, figuring out how to deal with our Sprint phones (will it be cheaper to continue plan until contract runs out? or pay fee for bailing early?), load another pallet, spend as much time with loved ones as possible, visit three more churches, line up land transport for our container from the port in Buenos Aires to Carlos Paz, buy a few remaining items we need to take with us, spend as much time with loved ones as possible, get rid of the "junk" still left at the parsonage that we don't want, load the container on August 11th (we think that's the date), spend as much time with loved ones as possible...and keep a brown paper bag handy at all times for frequent bouts of hyperventilation.


Monday, July 28, 2008

The Party We Missed

We were in southern Ohio on Sunday so missed the party. Three of the siblings and their extended families gathered for an afternoon of food and games. (We had leftovers when we returned in the evening and I can tell you it was a great meal!) The group from Georgia is still here today but everyone else dispersed for jobs and such. So instead of close to 30 we will be only 14 :-)

I know it was a special time for my in-laws who really enjoyed the great grandkids. The youngest is an affectionate little guy and gave great-grandma lots of hugs and kisses, and shared his repertoire of jokes with great-grandpa. And there were games going on all over the house. Good times! With dad's declining health, we just don't know how many more family times we'll have like this. But he had a great time yesterday and WON the Scrabble game. Go Dad!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

On The Road Again

That's our song! And will be until we get settled in Argentina.

Today we head for Ashland, Kentucky, where we'll stay with an old high school friend. Sunday morning we'll drive across the river into Ohio and speak at her home church. In the "it's-a-small-world" way that things happen, her pastor knows our co-workers, Tito & Adriana, in Argentina! He pastored another church some time ago that supported Adriana's parents who were missionaries.

The mapquest spewed out two pages of directions. It's only supposed to take 6 hours to get to her house, but it takes two pages of directions to do it. Should be a fun day; hopefully we'll be on the ball sufficiently and won't miss any turns.

Or we could end up like our friend who was on his way from West Virgina to Pennsylvania, enjoying the beautiful summer day and listening to the Doobie Brothers, when he suddenly realized he was in Ohio. He'd missed an important turn and driven three hours out of his way. But as he said, it was a beautiful day for a drive :-)

The hubby has done a lot of work on the car in the last couple of months; trying to keep it running until August 15th. But it's been a little sluggish and sounding funny so just praying it through the next 20 days! Especially today and tomorrow 'cause this is the longest trip we'll be taking in it before we leave.

Time to pack and load the car. Have a wonderful weekend, people! And let's all sing together, "On the road again..."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Sad Fate of the Double Chocolate Brownies

So we've had a little brownie crisis in the House of Hoyt. The first batch I made last night? I went to cut it into serving pieces and discovered it was seriously undercooked. We're not talking a little goo that's perfectly acceptable in brownies, but batter-like consistency throughout the middle. The problem was trying to make a double batch in a pan that wasn't big enough in an oven having an identity crisis (What? What do you mean I'm an oven?! Are you sure? I don't feel like an oven!).

So this morning I made another batch. Just one mix in the right size pan and I pleaded with the oven to start acting like an oven.

We ended up with biscotti.

Apparently the oven decided to be like the Little Engine That Could.

On a happier note, the squash gratin was AMAZING. Definitely a keeper recipe and the oven behaved like a perfect gentleman during the baking of the squash. Which made me happy but at the same time crazy because WHY DID IT HAVE TO MESS WITH MY CHOCOLATE?!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brownies & Caramelized Onions

No, not together. Eew! That would be gross!

But that's what's cookin' in the kitchen right now. Brownies in the oven and onions on top the stove. I'm preparing for tomorrow's dinner with friends. On the Menu: roasted pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes, zucchini & summer squash gratin and salad. Then double chocolate brownies and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I know fruit is plentiful right now BUT I WANT MY CHOCOLATE. So just step outta the way and let me have it!

Feelin' a little hormonal today, can you tell?

The caramelized onions are for the squash gratin. I'm reading "Turning the Tables: An Insider's Guide to Eating Out" by Steven Shaw and he talks about this dish which sounded SO good. I'm hoping mine looks as purty as the picture online. I don't have fresh thyme but I do have fresh everything else.

Okay, just stopped and took the brownies out of the oven (Ghirardelli Double Chocolate, did I mention?) and put the garlic heads in to roast. Didn't think it would be a good idea to do both at the same time.

I'm trying something new after the son and daughter-in-law suggested I try roasting garlic with balsamic vinegar and honey. I'm roasting two heads 'cause I need one for the mashed potatoes tomorrow and it sounded so good I figured I'd better have a second one to eat as a spread tonight :-) Nothing like freshly roasted garlic right out of the oven, slathered spread thinly over a thick slice of french bread.

Haven't really felt much like cooking lately, what with all the packing going on. But Shaw's book helped me get my cooking groove back on. At least for tomorrow.

Normally I'd make a fancier dessert for company but sometimes a girl just has to get back to basics. And there's nothing more basic than good Ghirardelli chocolate. I really do think my girlfriends who are coming to dinner will totally agree. And the hubbies will be too busy trying to out-pun each other to notice what I serve anyway.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Luscious Tomatoes

The daughter planted a garden for the first time and just harvested her first tomatoes. Aren't they beautiful?! And we'll soon be inundated with luscious ripe orbs in various sizes and varieties. Some may not make it to that stage 'cause this southern girl does like herself some fried green tomatoes :-) And these are tempting me mightily! And to think we'll be arriving in Argentina at the tail end of winter, just in time for spring and a chance to plant our own garden! The area we're moving has a climate much like the Carolinas so we should be able to grow great big luscious tomatoes of our very own. Yea!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Son's Memory Quilt

It's only taken 7-1/2 years to get my son's memory quilt quilted.

The idea for the quilt was "birthed" as we prepared to leave for Uganda back in 2001. I thought it would be great to have a project to take that I could work on throughout the year, the son was lobbying for a new quilt (his first was in tatters after years of use), and the concept of a memory quilt intrigued me. Fabric bought at a sidewalk sale served as inspiration for the color theme (brick red, teal and navy). Gathering a number of photos representing his entire life-to-date-at-that-point, I had them color copied onto photo transfer paper which I trimmed and ironed onto solid white cotton fabric.

Now keep in mind that we could only take 2 suitcases each (total: 6) and we had to take the hubby's tools (he was going as the construction manager, after all), the daughter's homeschool books, and some kitchen items. Oh, and clothes of course. But I still filled 1/3 of a suitcase with the necessary material and quilting supplies. Because I am a committed quilter. Or a quilter who should be committed?

Anyway, I sewed all the house blocks by hand, using the fabric photos as the "windows" and, when the photos were vertical, as "doors". Then we found out that one of the missionary wives had an honest-to-goodness sewing machine which we co-opted for the next five months (the daughter was learning to sew and making her own clothes). I used the machine to sew on the sashing and borders.

It was supposed to be twin size (he was in college back then) but I got a little carried away, unable to cull any of the photos (I'd made up more than I needed). So the twin size? It became a king size, oh yes, it did. And here are some close-ups. He and his sister have always been good buddies. Here's an example of photos being used for both door and window. The son, a freshman at the time, took his girlfriend AND his sister to the big party Hillsdale College threw to welcome their new president (the son had already broken up with the girlfriend by the time I made the quilt so I conveniently cut her out of the photo). Some memories are bittersweet. The son had a serious auto accident when he was 17 and during surgery they put a titanium rod into his leg. He was in a wheelchair for two months and on crutches for many more. While it's not a "happy" memory, we are thankful that he survived the crash! So why did it take so long to finish?

I'd honestly planned to quilt it myself. Back when it was going to be twin sized. But it was so MASSIVE after being turned into a king size, I knew there was no way I could quilt that thing on my little hoop. I needed a quilt frame. Which the hubby gave me for my birthday a few years later, but which has never been put up for one very good reason. WE DO NOT HAVE THE ROOM. A quilt frame takes up a LOT of space, and we just don't have it.

And with us leaving for Argentina where homes are smaller I don't think it's likely I'll ever have the room. So the decision was made to have someone else do it. That's been the plan for months. But do you think I did anything about it? Seriously?!

Until two weeks ago. With just over a month to go, I finally took it to someone who has a longarm machine. Initially Cheryl told me it would be November before she could get to it. But once the hubby explained our situation, she was so nice and actually fit my quilt in right away. I picked it up today and she did such a fabulous job! And the cost was very reasonable.

If anyone in south central Michigan or northwestern Ohio needs a professional quilter, give Cheryl a call! You can find her in Osseo, Michigan, at M & S Specialty Products.

I still need to bind it off and sew on the little buttons for "doorknobs". Just an odd assortment in different shapes and colors but they make me happy :-) And hopefully they'll make the son happy, too!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Plan C

At 8 a.m. a phlebotomist did her thing on us, after which we drank quantities of coffee and shared a big ole' omelet with potatoes and tomatoes and cheese. The phlebotomist came right to our house; she makes house calls on behalf of insurance companies who want to make sure those they are insuring for vast sums of money in the form of term life policies are not likely to die any time soon, so they won't actually have to part with any of said insurance money but simply take yours month after month after month for the next however many years.

The hubby's blood was "sluggish" and she wondered if he'd been drinking enough water? 'Cause being dehydrated can cause the blood to slow down. Well, duh, he just needed the quantities of coffee we consumed as soon as the sluggish blood was safely in the little tubes. I'm sure within minutes his blood picked up enough speed to create class five rapids in some veins.

Fortified by coffee and starch, we headed to Jackson to pick up our newly written wills. Another thing checked off on the To Do list from the mission.

Still have to fill out the burial request form. So whadda ya think? Here, there, or nowhere? I say just cremate me and then he can take the purty urn everywhere he goes and I'll always be near :-)

Although where we're going in Argentina, our burial would already be paid for, should we decide to be planted there. They charge a little extra with the water bill every month that goes toward your eventual burial. Since that utility already has the earth moving equipment, they decided to eliminate an entire industry in favor of efficiency. Dig a water line or a grave, makes no difference to them.

But should we choose to go that route, we'd have to pay for the actual grave site in perpetuity and if, at some point, someone *ahem* forgot to pay the bill, you're outta there. Not sure what they do with displaced bones and not sure I want to know.

So back to plan C: cremate and carry.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We're Commissioned!

What a day! There was music, there was praising, tears and lots of laughter, more tears, and sharing by several men from the Word, and food, and yet more tears... I'm hoping the daughter, who videotaped it all, will be able to pull out the special music for some youtube action.

I can't begin to share all that's on my heart 'cause this ole heart is full and overflowing :-) But as wonderful and exciting as this day has been, this morning?... well, I just wanted to hide out in the bathroom and cry. The great big heaving sobbing kind of crying.

'Cause I was homesick before I even left.

Just knowing this was our last Sunday at Countryside was enough to set me off. As soon as I arrived and started setting up our display I could feel the pricks of tears seeping out no matter how hard I tried to keep them in.

I don't like to cry in public.

In fact it's almost an obsession, this not crying in public. Usually in situations where other people (normal people) cry, I shed not one tear. Or worse, I laugh. Yes, you read that right, LAUGH when I should be crying.

So you know it's bad when the tears will not be held back. So I slipped into the last stall in the ladies room and just let'er rip. Didn't even try to hold back, rolling off more and more (and more!) toilet paper to sop up the mess of tears. And wondered how in the world I was ever going to make it through sharing my testimony in the Sunday school hour, to say nothing of the actual commissioning service afterward.

I prayed. Prayed hard! And God answered my prayers. Although there was tear seepage (duh!) it was manageable. Praise the Lord!

The one time I really broke down during the testimony time was when I tried to share that I can't even think about leaving my kids without crying, and that today was especially hard because it was our last Sunday with our church family. But it was okay, and I noticed many other tear-streaked faces as well. So I was in good company.

And I'd write more but I have one of those cried-too-much-headaches and need to take a break before the youth group arrives in a couple of hours. We're sharing with them tonight, and hoping to challenge them to be open to doing whatever God has for them.

A little deja vu because that's what we were doing back in 2000 and God used it to convict US and we ended up in Uganda for a year which led to this whole process and now we're leaving for Argentina in 26 days!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another Short Night

Woke up early again. Becoming a bad habit! But the mind just kicks into high gear so what can you do?

Get up and on the computer of course!

Seriously, these early morning hours are great for catching up on e-mail, praying for each person I'm writing, getting caught up on my favorite blogs, and seeing what is happening in the world (confession: I am a TOTAL news junky).

Yesterday marked four-weeks-til-we-leave-for-Argentina.

It just seems SO overwhelming at times. There are still boxes to pack and pallets to load, I have to type up the Spanish shipping manifest (with hubby's help, of course), we have yet to track down a despechante and line up a trucking company to transport our goods from the port to the interior (received an e-mail last night with a good lead), there are still four churches to visit (maybe five)...

Okay, deep breath.

Very much looking forward to this coming Sunday. It's our COMMISSIONING SERVICE! Also the last Sunday we'll be in our home church until our furlough in three years. 'Cause, ya know, there's all those other churches where we have meetings in the next four weeks.

We plan on having a LOT of fun this Sunday! Good times with our church family who have loved us and "grown" us in ministry. They're the ones, after all, who called the hubby to be an associate pastor back in '96 when we had no clue what we were doing. Some might say we still don't have a clue, but we've learned to just go through the doors that God is opening. He is very good at giving the necessary training-as-you-go.

Because it's the middle of summer we know some folks who want to be there can't, but they'll be thinking of us and praying for us. They "get it" about how important prayer is to the missionary endeavor.

As we sent out the last prayer letter, we were really thankful for the many who "get it". As we wind up deputation and prepare to leave for the field this first term, we have close to 600 on our combined e-mail and snail mail lists. How cool is that?!

One example of how important prayer is: We've been asking people to pray about the situation in Argentina where the farmers had been on strike for about four months, often blockading roads. [This after the new president of Argentina placed a 45% tax on agricultural products.] Yesterday the Argentine Senate voted to rescind that tax and the strike is over! Unrest has been simmering and violence briefly erupted a time or two, but thankfully it's all over now. Praise the Lord!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Fun at Ceruleans

When we cleaned out the hubby's "office" in the basement last week we found over $25 in change. He would clean out his pockets at night and any change went on the night stand. When the night stand area became out of control somewhat messy, he would throw it all in a box or bag and take it downstairs to his "office". There were a few bags and boxes scattered about and the change total kept mounting.

Since the cash was a bonus, we decided to use it and splurge on lunch at Cerulean, the really nice restaurant where our daughter works as a server.

And today was the day since the daughter was available to go with us, and explain the intricacies of their menu. This is not a hamburger joint, people. There's no form of ground meat of any kind anywhere on the menu. Their lunch (which is very different from their dinner) menu lists a variety of bento boxes, sushi, and some unusual soups and desserts.

So what did we get for our $25 you wonder?

Hubby ordered one of the bento boxes that comes with an entree and three sides. He chose pork tenderloin with cassia apple chutney for his entree and, in keeping with a sorta sweet theme, he picked the citrus mesclun salad, broccolini salad, and asian pear salad as sides.

See what I mean about needing help deciphering the menu?

And I had been wanting to try one of their new summer soups ever since the daughter told me about them. It was really hard to choose between the creamy asparagus with shitake mushrooms and the strawberry gazpacho, but I ultimately went with the asparagus. And it was good, oh yes, it was!

The daughter ordered some edamame for us to share at the start of the meal and they are quite tasty. And she also shared her sushi: the alligator and caterpillar rolls. No actual alligator or caterpillar involved, just what they are called. [For sake of full disclosure, she paid for her own, so keep that in mind. The $25 didn't stretch this far!]

I ordered only soup, knowing the others would share AND because I wanted dessert. The daughter recommended the Toffee Tuiles (tiny waffle shaped cookies made with pecans and shaped like little baskets) filled with raspberry gelato, topped with candied almonds, sitting on a bed of berry coolis. She was SO RIGHT that we'd like them. I can't even tell you how much I heart these little desserts. And of course, the presentation was fabulous, dah-ling, fabulous!

We are a family of foodies, and we're not ashamed to admit it. Unfortunately we have caviar tastes on a liverwurst budget. So today was a real treat :-) And any chance we have to hang out with one of our kids is great, too!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Power Washing Pro

The hubby has been hard at work all day, power washing the exterior of his parents' house. He rented the equipment for a day, so has kept at it steady to just get 'er done. He was soaked within minutes of beginning and squishes when he walks :-)

From the front, the home looks like a traditional one-story ranch but the back has a drive out/walk out basement so that's a LOT of house to clean! And he cleaned in, on, and around the screened-in porch which was no small job. Even as I type, he's in the driveway where he hauled the indoor/outdoor carpeting from the porch, and he's hosing it down; it was quite green in areas (and the carpet is supposed to be blue!). I snapped one shot of him on the porch roof that shows the water spray -- which I tried to avoid but was nailed by a few times anyway. NOT that the hubby was trying or anything. And I hope it didn't sound like I begrudged my FIL's plaque honoring his years of service. I just wish they'd acknowledged the part my MIL played in his ministry. I mean, even Paul mentioned the godly women who helped in the ministry! His epistles are sprinkled with their names.

Just sayin'.

No Sausage Gravy For Three Years??!!

I woke up rather early this morning. Like 4 a.m. early. Ugh.

Brought back memories of when my mom (who was always a night owl) would wake us up real early and we'd stumble out of bed and into the dining room where a veritable hillbilly feast lay upon the table. Biscuits, sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes...

Whether that memory had anything to do with it or not, I made biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast. I can't remember the last time I did that. We have it occasionally but usually for dinner. For a long time, and for no discernible reason, Thursday became breakfast-for-supper-night. But we mixed it up with different breakfast foods each week.

Anyway, breakfast was great and I am now fortified with enough flour and grease products to fuel a day in the fields.

But I had an epiphany at the breakfast table: What if we can't get this kind of sausage in Argentina? I mean one year without was bad enough (the year in Uganda) but THREE YEARS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

So I may have to find me a recipe for making my own sausage.

In other news, I'm a bit perturbed. A group honored my FIL for his many years of service in Argentina but did not acknowledge my MIL's part AT ALL. Her name is not on the plaque and they didn't even give lip service to "his wife". Couldn't they at least have mentioned "his wife"?! Grrrrrr. He couldn't have done what he did without her help; it was definitely a team effort during THEIR 43 years as missionaries.

Okay, that's out of my system.

The hubby has gone to rent a power washer to clean the exterior of my in-laws home. I think it's been a while since this was done, since dad hasn't been able to do much for several years. And I must go pre-scrub some spots on the concrete parking pad before he gets back. TTFN (ta ta for now)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Caught Up On Paperwork & Indulging In A Little Sewing

Two days I've spent on paperwork. TWO DAYS. But it's done. Bills are paid, reports completed and thank you cards mailed. Woohoo!

I finished around 3 p.m. today and immediately plugged in the sewing machine and had at it. Not much time before starting dinner and going to church but I did get the backing on three small batiks. Long ago (as in years) I'd trimmed them out with bright, happy colors but had never gotten around to figuring out how to back them. During my last Goodwill foray I found a long measure of black fabric (about 3-4 yards) which I immediately knew would work great for this purpose.

Basically I cut pieces large enough to create about a 1" border, sewed two pieces back to back with a small opening, turned them out and ironed them, then centered the batiks, sewing just along the edges. Not an exact science since the batiks were a little wonky in shape and I didn't square them up first. But I think the wonky just adds charm. Now I just need to sew up some sleeves and attach those for hanging. Aren't these the cutest batiks? I'm thinking the animal ones would look great in a nursery. And the two at the top are ones I did actually finish a few months ago. But they were handy so I threw them into the photo :-)

I love this village scene. The others will serve as gifts, but I think I'll just have to keep this one for myself.

I am totally loving my new (to me) sewing machine! And hope to fit in some more sewing tomorrow but we'll have to see how it goes. I've already bought material to make gifts for some upcoming occasions and am afraid there won't be time to make them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Word But I'm Wordy

Arrived back in Indiana this evening and sat down to read my favorite blogs. Then the hubby informed me that the third paragraph of my earlier post is redundant. So I re-read the post and am sad to say he is right. In fact the entire post is practically incoherent. That's what pain will do to you. Now I know to avoid writing altogether when a migraine hits.

'Cause I care about y'all and would hate to cause YOU pain.

We did accomplish a lot today. I'm most excited about finishing the kitchen, packing the last of the dishes, silverware and pots. And the current-occupant-of-the-parsonage carried up the many boxes of kitchen items he'd been given by friends and family (which have been stored for months -- and some for years -- in the basement), spreading everything out all over the living room so he could see what he had and sort it before he started filling up the cupboards.

He had no clue what some of the items were for; not surprising since most of the things he asked about are used for frying (fry basket, spatter screen, and a mesh ladle). And he does not eat the fried. He's more a yogurt and fruit kinda guy.

When we left he was happily putting things into "his" kitchen. Even though we've been using his furniture since last fall, the kitchen remained my domain. He has some really rockin' things, including a very retro set of pots and pans right out of the late 60s/early 70s with funky orange and brown flowers on the side.

I'm thinking when we finally get into a place of our own in a few months, I'll be just as happy to put my own things up in the kitchen. Yep, definitely!

A Caffeine Headache

It is very hard to do much when you have a killer migraine headache. Which I do. Because I waited too long to ingest caffeine today. Silly me. I know I should wean myself off entirely but I also know that will take 3-4 days of headaches and THERE'S TOO MUCH TO DO RIGHT NOW. So the caffeine weaning will have to wait.

That last sentence has a catchy cadence to it, don't you think? It would fit right into a sad country song. A sad country song is about my skilz level if I were so inclined to write poetry today. Which I'm not. Because it's all I can do to do what I have to do.


Or re-pack as the case may be. We're getting a lot of things to take for some other missionaries and some of these things come in wee little boxes or big manilla envelopes and I am the designated opener of these packages which then get re-packaged into one big box. Or several boxes. Because there are a LOT of wee little boxes or big manilla envelopes arriving daily at the parsonage.

As well as big boxes.

Some of those boxes arrived rather battered and had to be re-packed as well. But most of them are fine and simply get opened to check for packing slips, then re-taped. This is much easier than re-packing, as you can imagine. And I like that a lot on days when the caffeine deprivation has lodged in solid little knots of pain behind my eyeballs.

Now excuse me while I return to the re-packing, re-taping, and re-caffeinating.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Stuffed Tomatoes

Is there anything more wondrous than a sun ripened tomato fresh off the vine? During the season we have tomatoes at almost every meal, including breakfast. My offering for this Saturday Stirrings is Summer Stuffed Tomatoes, a great way to use those large beef steak tomatoes! And then I have an extra little treat to share (both recipes are from Amish cookbooks). Don't forget to hop on over to I Throw Like A Girl and check out the other recipes!

Remove small slice across top of stem end of LARGE, FIRM, RIPE TOMATOES. Carefully scoop out most of the pulp of tomatoes, leaving shells intact.
Combine chopped pulp with:
1 cup chopped, cooked, cold chicken
1 chopped celery stick
1 teaspoon minced onion (I usually add more)
2 Tablespoons chopped green pepper
2 chopped hard-cooked eggs
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
Enough mayonnaise to moisten and bind ingredients together.
Refill tomato shells with mixtures. Chill. Serve cold.
[Note: Tuna can be substituted for chicken.]

Now this next recipe would have been perfect when I was first married and (1) we were poor college students and could have used some free sources of alternative meat items, and (2) I could have, in all seriousness, put up the sign "Dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off".

Fry dandelion greens in butter until they are crisp. They will turn black but they are not burned, as long as you continue to add butter while frying. Also add salt. If you can still see green, they need more frying. When they are done, put eggs on top, cover the pan and turn the burner off. Let set until eggs are done.
These greens taste like bacon and eggs, but it takes a little practice to cook them just right.

So I say, who's going to know if you've cooking them just right if they're supposed to be black?!

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Love A Free Friday Night Concert

And tonight was a good'un! Really talented young musicians and a variety of music, from Debussy to Strauss. But my favorite of the evening was Ravel's left-handed piano concerto. I mean, that's what the conductor said it's called: "Concerto Pour La Main Gauche". The pianist held onto the piano for dear life with his right hand and whaled away with his left. He plays better with one hand than most people do with two! I see great things ahead for Reinis Zarins. And sometime I'd love to hear him play with his right hand :-)

My in-laws live in Winona Lake, Indiana, home of the Masterworks Festival each summer. Rather than try to explain what Masterworks is in my decidedly confusing manner, here's their blurb:

"The MasterWorks Festival is a four-week classical performing arts training program that offers advanced and passionate students of music, dance, opera, and theatre the opportunity to learn from professional Christian performing artists in their respective field. What sets MasterWorks apart from other summer festivals is the integration of faith with the performing arts, creating an artistic environment unlike any other."

And if you're interested in learning more, check out their website.

My in-laws love music (mom plays piano and organ and dad plays baritone) but they don't like going out at night on their own, especially now that my FIL is so unsteady on his feet. Tonight was a treat for all of us, and we cherish these times we can spend with them. Dad's 87 and in declining health. Mom will be 87 in a couple weeks but she's surprisingly spry for her age, still getting out in the yard to weed and bustling around the house with the energy of someone much younger.

The concert series is almost over, but if you're in the area next weekend, they'll be performing Tartuffe! Like all their concerts, it's free to the public.

WVO Filtering System

I mentioned in yesterday's post about the daughter's use of WVO (waste vegetable oil) in her '82 Benz diesel. Thought y'all might want to see the very nifty contraption the hubby built to filter the oil before pumping it into the tank. I cannot explain how it works or what he used in the construction. But he wanted to make it as easy as possible for the daughter to use after we're gone and she doesn't have his help. I do know she pours the 5 gallon containers of WVO through that big blue bucket on the top that has sieve made from several layers of screen attached to the underside to filter out the big chunks. To get the oil into the bucket, she usually stands in her car trunk (where she's stored the WVO for the trip home from the restaurant) so she's high enough to pour without getting a hernia from the heavy lifting. Once it's drained through, she turns on the electric filter that brings it down to 10 microns, then 5 microns**, which is then ready to use. And the hubby installed a system to pump it right into the car so it's almost like pulling into a gas station.

No, she hasn't converted her car to use WVO exclusively. The hubby researched quite a bit and that's an expensive proposition AND not practical during the cold Midwestern winters. It's perfectly fine to run the half and half mixture that she does and she can do that about 8 months out of the year. Which is how long our friend's drive-in restaurant is open so it all works out quite nicely. And being a college student who's paying her own way through, the savings in auto fuel is a very sweet deal.

Speaking of sweet. The hubby talked me out of the handful of chocolate chips last night, pointing out the last thing I needed before going to bed was a handful of caffeine. I tend to be sensitive to the caffeine. So, clutching my bag of Ghiradelli through the night (I'm kidding! I merely kept them close at hand), I dreamed of chocolate scones (much nicer than dreaming about packing!). And woke up eager to bake. Which I did. But forgot to put the chocolate chips INTO the batter :-( [But if you carefully open a hot scone, sprinkle some chocolate chips on and put the top back on, the chips melt and you get the same effect.]

I'm very forgetful these days. The prayer letter I was going to get out in regular mail once we got back to Indiana (and the envelopes, labels and stamps)? I forgot to bring the computer with the label document on it :-( I know we have a lot going on, but this is ridiculous. I remembered it when we were more than halfway back to my in-laws yesterday. So... today we're printing the letter, stuffing and stamping the envelopes, taking them back to Michigan on Saturday, THEN printing the labels and slapping 'em on before finally dropping them into the mail.

**For those who thirst after technical info, a micron refers to the size of particulates left in the oil. The smaller the number, the smaller the particulate. And we want the particulates remaining in the WVO to be small indeed so it doesn't clog up the fuel line.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Being In A State Of Chocolate

Over the past week the hubby and I have eaten an entire bag of Hershey's Nuggets, the dark chocolate truffle kind (okay, mostly it was me but I did share a few with him). In theory the small pieces should mean I'd eat LESS since I can have one little piece rather than a whole candy bar (or handful of chocolate chips). But in reality I just keep eating little pieces all day long. So it ends up being the equivalent of a candy bar (or handful of chocolate chips).

But oh they are good! Luscious dark chocolate, melting on the tongue with a surge of cocoa happiness. But as they say in Uganda, the chocolates are "over". *sigh* And I am sad. 'Cause I could use a little chocolate love tonight. I am SOOOO tired. I fell asleep on the way to Indiana while the hubby drove and we listened to "Farewell My Suburu: An Epic Adventure in Local Living" (downloaded from Audiobooks>. I missed a big chunk about switching to a car that runs on waste vegetable oil.

But that was a good part to sleep through since I'm already somewhat knowledgeable about cars that run on WVO. The daughter bought a 1982 Mercedes Benz diesel last year (great deal on ebay) and during the warmer months she runs half and half diesel and WVO. Fortunately we have good friends with a drive-in restaurant who fry lots and lots of fries and onion rings and gladly allow the daughter to take all the WVO she can use. Oh, and the daughter's exhaust smells mighty tasty.

Which brings me back to the chocolate. The chocolate truffles are gone, but I just remembered that I brought my bag of Ghiradelli chocolate chips to Indiana 'cause the in-laws have central air so I can bake some yummy chocolate scones for breakfast tomorrow without self-inducing a heat stroke. It's the big bag of chips from Sam's Club so there's plenty and it's perfectly okay to grab a handful now before heading to bed in a haze of chocolate bliss. Nighty-night.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reduced To Three Boxes

The hubby's "office" was reduced to three boxes this afternoon. AND 9 bags of garbage. AND a huge pile of things-to-give-the-daughter's-boyfriend who may or may not sell it on ebay. Did you hear that big sigh of relief about 5 p.m.? This particular job has been hanging over our heads FOREVER.

Only one of the boxes holds office things. "Office" was perhaps just a cover for garage-extension-in-the-basement. Just sayin'.

You can see the floor for the first time in years.

And the desk, which we're leaving for Rob, has some office-y items in and on it but is now remarkably pile free. Woot!

I typed up the shipping inventory list today. We've been using a little Walmart notebook to keep track of the contents of each box as we pack it. But it was all jumbled since I was writing down boxes as they were packed. So a box of kitchen items might be followed by twin size bedding and then craft supplies and figuring out which number to assign to the newest box of kitchen items meant looking back until I found the last one. Wasn't always careful enough so I had several boxes with the same numbers :-( But now it's neat and orderly and in successive order. *happy sigh*

101 boxes so far. And I'm not done. But I'm close.

The life insurance saga continues. We faxed in the necessary info to another company; sorta hedging our bets in case Company Number One refuses coverage. And we just won't even think about both of 'em turning us down, now will we?

Our current prayer letter went out via e-mail yesterday. Tomorrow when we get back to Indiana (and the envelopes, stamps and labels) we'll send it to those who want it via regular mail. Seems we've been consistently about a month behind getting these out. This time due to the lag in getting all the contact info consolidated into our Mac's address book. But it's done AND even posted on our website.

It was the first time I'd posted something new there in 9 months. That'll have to change, since once we're in Argentina it will be a primary way to convey ministry updates and prayer requests. I'm doing better at blogging here more consistently so hopefully that will carry over. I guess I'll need to be a little more serious over there and then can hop over here to get my crazy on. If I can hide my crazy over there, that is. Not sure that's entirely possible. But then again, most people think missionaries are a loony bunch anyway so a little crazy is to be expected.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dreaming of Boxes

No kidding, I'm dreaming about packing. Weird dreams. I'm Lucy Ricardo in one, the assembly line bearing boxes to pack instead of candy (which I would gladly stuff in my mouth -- the chocolate craving is intense). In another I've packed myself into a tiny space, surrounded by boxes and unable to get out. The worst is the one where that designer from Trading Spaces shows up and starts creating a room with my boxes and I keep screaming I need them for packing only she doesn't listen to me and just creates an even uglier cardboard room than she did on that episode a few years ago. And so it goes... Is it any wonder I wake up exhausted?

Tomorrow we call a temporary halt to the palletizing so the hubby can help me sort through his "office" (which is a corner in the basement). I can't do it by myself, he can't do it by himself. This is definitely one of those joint projects. I'd throw everything away, he'd throw nothing away. Together maybe we'll strike a happy medium.

So we received a letter a couple weeks ago from the company we have our life insurance through. Turns out we bought a 20 year policy...twenty years ago. So we're in the process of trying to get a new policy. Which wouldn't be a big deal except we're moving out of the country and that apparently raises all kinds of red flags in the insurance industry 'cause they think every other country is a third world country or war zone. Seriously! We did phone interviews with one company rep today and she honest-to-goodness asked (1) if we'd be visiting areas outside of major cities [read: uncivilized] or (2) if we planned to move into a war zone. So we may or may not have life insurance when we leave.

But we will have plenty of boxes.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review on "The Winding Ways Quilt"

The Winding Ways Quilt is the latest in the Elm Creek Quilters series by Jennifer Chiaverini. This is a treat for anyone who loves to read and/or quilt. Since I'm guilty on both counts, this was a hard-to-put-down book, but because of the crazy that is my life, it took three days to finish.

Each self-contained chapter about one of the Elm Creek Quilters made it a little easier to spread out over three days. I really like how Jennifer used the narrative of each quilter to move the story along, as well as catch the reader up on what's been happening in the individual and collective lives of these ladies who seem like friends after twelve books!

The dynamic of the group is a lot like what we find in Bloggy Land. Different ages, backgrounds, personalities all coming together to create a community. And enough of the background information is incorporated that someone could easily start with this book and not have to go back and read the previous eleven. Although this lady can write! so you'd probably want to read them all anyway :-)

I'm a fan of the mystery but I do enjoy forays into other genres and this writer consistently delivers a great story. And if you're anything like me, you'll end up wishing Elm Creek was a real place so you could go to their quilt camp.

If you're looking for a good summer read, nothing too taxing but not complete fluff either, I can highly recommend The Winding Ways Quilt. You'll be entertained and enchanted by the women of Elm Creek. Promise!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm Not Blushing, It's Just Really Hot

When I get really hot, my face turns beet red. And my word it's hot in the garage! We've spent the afternoon packing boxes and loading pallets out there. Three pallets packed, wrapped and strapped :-) Maybe two or three to go? The daughter's boyfriend has been a HUGE help! His job in the school system ended just in time for him to become the hubby's right-hand-man for this project. He must really like our daughter! :-)

He even went late last night, when he knew third shift at Wal-mart would be re-stocking shelves, to get more boxes since we were running low. What a guy! And hopefully our other friend who's been supplying boxes will have a load for us tomorrow. Since we're taking the container and aren't worried about space any more, we're not vacuum packing anything else. Which means we'll use more boxes. Just hope that while going through customs, they don't ask us to open any of the ones we DID vacuum pack. 'Cause we'll never fit those things back into the boxes.

The past week we enjoyed time with the hubby's next oldest brother and his wife. They live in Denver now, but we all lived in the same town when we got married and I turned to the SIL frequently with questions about how to make or do something. I was a pretty ignorant young wife. I didn't even know how to make rice or weed a garden. What can I say? I was a city girl who grew up on TV dinners and take-out.

And this same SIL would have been on my speed dial, if such a thing had existed then, when our son was born. I'm sure I was on the phone at least once a day. I'd never even really babysat much before becoming a mother. It's only partly a joke when I say my kids survived in spite of me.

So the push is on to finish as much of the packing and palletizing as possible this week. We may stay through Wednesday, Thursday, or beyond, but we will get this DONE. After all, there's not a lot of time left.


Friday, July 4, 2008

God Bless The U.S.A.!

Possibly another one of those "last time we do this" events? Celebrating the good ole 4th of July in the good ole United States. With family and friends. Eating typically American food. Watching the fireworks. Reflecting on the favor God has showed our country.

So whatcha eatin' today??? Inquiring minds want to know. Our menu includes pulled pork sandwiches, pork 'n beans (of course I'll doctor 'em up), corn casserole, jello salad, tossed salad, and WATERMELON! Seed spitting contest, anyone?

And if my SIL has time, she's making flan. Which is one of my fav-o-rite desserts. Anytime of year :-)

The nap 'o yesterday didn't quite work out. I just found it hard to get to sleep amidst the activities taking place. So after an hour of trying, I got up and determined to get to bed early. Which I did. At 8 o'clock. Not to sleep right away, but I did read for a while and drifted off around ten (I think). Wonderful!!! Woke up feeling so refreshed at 7 a.m. Ahhhhhh, life is good.

In my childhood memories, it was always cool on the 4th. I'm sure that's not true of every single year, but that's how I remember it. We'd get up early and head to Stony Creek Park in the metro area and spend the day with family and friends. Mom would always dress us in shorts but we'd wear our jackets 'cause it was quite cool at first light o'clock in the morning. And for some reason I remember wearing that jacket all day long. Of course it could be 'cause I was super skinny back then and my "puny" little arms and legs just never got warm. *sigh* Those were the days. No one has accused me of being "puny" for many years.

What memories will we make today? There'll be 16 here, including our kids. Times like these make me feel so blessed. Overwhelmed by the goodness of God.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Whining My Way To A Nap

I posted a few hours ago and then decided to remove it. Why? I felt like I was whining. 'Cause I'm tired and grumpy. And nobody wants to hear Tired & Grumpy whine.

My mom used to put up with a lot, but not whining. Never whining. Whining sent her right over the edge of parental insanity. Which is too bad since I pushed her off frequently.

When I had kids of my own, I finally understood. Whining sends me over the edge, too. Especially my own whining. And I figure if it makes me nuts, what about all the poor souls in hearing distance?

And it's not any better in written form. Hence the removal of the earlier post.

Instead I am going to take a nap, which will make me less tired, and therefore (hopefully) less grumpy. I'll let you know how that works out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Creamy Goodness of Fettucini Alfredo

Today's Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Rocks In My Dryer has a theme: Recipe with five ingredients or less. I am a fan of the pasta and this recipe has become the fall-back meal when in a hurry, in need of comfort food, or just a crazy bad craving for cheese. Oh, and this is definitely NOT a low-cal recipe! But it is quick, easy, yummy, and uses only four ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

1 lb. fettucini
3 Tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup shredded fresh parmesan (or asiago or romano or any other sharp, salty hard cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to directions. While it is cooking melt butter over very low heat and beat heavy whipping cream with electric mixer until stiff. Fold whipped cream into melted butter and over low heat bring it to a very light simmer (WARNING: DO NOT BOIL!!!). After draining pasta, put back into pan and toss with butter and cream mixture and shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy creamy, cheesy goodness!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

843 and counting

The consolidating of the contacts continues. Catchy, huh?

Excuse me for being a little slap happy from all this computer work. I would go STARK RAVING MAD if I had to do this all day, every day! I know, I know, I know I will be glad when I'm done and all our contacts are in one easy-to-access place. But the getting there is killing me. So far I've typed in the information on 843 individuals or families. Whatever info I have...address(es), phone number(s), e-mail(s), how we know them, anything that might be helpful in "remembering" down the road. For some it's as simple as putting their home church, for others it's connecting-the-dots-to-how-we're-related, or a lengthy recitation of our history together.

Because when I grow old and wear purple with a red hat, I shall want this information at my fingertips in order to keep track of which "Patti" I'm related to, the one I knew as a teen, maybe the one who headed up the homeschool co-op, or if she's the mission chair from one of our supporting churches.

Yes, a consolidated contact list will be wonderful....this the mantra as my eyes glaze over from the repetitive-ness of the inputting... while the carpal tunnel aggravates the tendonitis in my right hand... while I check and re-check to make sure I'm not accidentally switching around numerals in the phone numbers or addresses or zip codes.

Have I ever mentioned I have a thing for numbers? As in, I do not care for them. They are the bane of my existence. They are sneaky and cause undue pain and suffering by hopping around in incorrect formations in my checkbook and other sensitive locations. Chaos, people, chaos! Should they hop around in our contact list, e-mails would bounce back, envelopes return as "undeliverable", and important information would be lost FOREVER.

Whew! Glad I got that out of my system.

The long weekend with the Bakimis was SO GOOD! On Monday poor Jonnes had his other two wisdom teeth pulled (he'd had the first two plus two molars pulled last Thursday). But he's tough and was still smiling, albeit lopsidedly, when we left them at 4 p.m. I can't begin to say what a blessing it was to spend time with them. They have so much wisdom to share... about ministry, about parenting, about LIFE. We would have liked a few WEEKS rather than days with them!

And being with them helped me remember that numbers are important only as a tool. They have been in ministry for 20 years (a nice round number), have served hundreds (a nice big number) while focusing on the children one-at-a-time (a nice do-able number). Any job or ministry can be overwhelming unless you break it down into manageable chunks -- which are fractions, which involve numbers. And that's what I need to be doing as we wind up our "home ministry" and prepare to move to Argentina.