Saturday, November 29, 2008

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

We found ourselves on a lonely stretch of road in the middle of nowhere Thursday night. It was late and I was tired, hungry and aggravated. At myself. Somehow in the last big town I'd missed a turn and we ended up on the wrong road and didn't discover our mistake for an hour. This was farm country and while we saw many, many, MANY cows -- no people in sight. Until finally a small road crew. Not too competent in the road repair business but they did just fine telling us how to get back to Route 8. It only took about 45 minutes over a bone-jarring dirt road path track to reach it.

So here we were only about half-way to our destination when the lightening started. At first we thought it was pretty cool -- our own little show. Since it was pitch black except for the occasional bursts of light, we enjoyed the display. Until "a little lightening here, a little lightening there" turned into a complete horizon of God's fireworks, as far as we could see in all directions. And the wind began to blow. And blow and blow and blow. Pretty soon whole tree limbs were flying by but we were about 50 kilometers from the next town (or 40 kilometers back to the last one).

Suddenly there were multiple vehicle lights ahead and we slowed down and found a huge tree across the road with a bus this side of the tree and several trucks on the other. Men were out there dragging and throwing what they could off the road. Soon enough space to squeeze through and we were on our way again, staying right behind the bus which acted as a wind block for us. Until the driver decided his double-decker bus was a bit too much like a big ole sail and pulled off at a gas station. We bravely forged ahead.

The evening had its comic moments. Like when we tried to call a friend to see if he could recommend a hotel in the next town because we kept passing downed trees and had had enough. Our elderly friend wanted to give us the phone number for his son, who actually lived in the town we were closest to, and save us the cost of a hotel. But he didn't know the number so his wife was reading him the number, he was telling the hubby and the hubby was telling me as I tried to write by a miniscule light on the dashboard. Then we were trying to read it back. I wasn't doing the greatest on translating the numbers from Spanish (hey, it was late and I was tired) plus the elderly couple don't hear all that well, and we didn't have the best phone connection either. We found it quite funny. Later.

But alas we were not able to reach the son (found out the next day his phone lines were down). So after a few more phone calls and stopping at two YPFs (to buy more minutes for the phone), we were directed to Hotel Salta and by 12:30 a.m. we were setting down our luggage in the room, exhausted and wet (torrential sideways rain had started as we hit town).

The bathroom floor was wet (small window left open) so we mopped it up. The air conditioner didn't work but the ceiling fan did. I was too tired to do anything beyond brush my teeth and wash my feet (sandals, dirt roads, need I say more?). The hubby wanted to shower but while there was plenty of water coming down in the form of rain, there was none coming out of the faucet in the form of a shower. Apparently my teeth and feet had used up what water had been left in the pipes and there was no more. So we just went to bed.

Things looked much better in the morning. Water once again issued forth from the faucets so we both enjoyed refreshing showers. Hotel Salta has a nice dining room where they serve a continental breakfast so we fortified ourselves with café con leche, crescent rolls, yogurt and fruit. Then back on the road. No more downed trees (the road crews must have been out all night) but we did see plenty of flooded fields.

Now here we are, sitting in a café in Belgrano where they have wifi and delicious fruit smoothies. We arrived in Santa Rosa around 5 p.m. Friday and I just crashed. I was (embarrassingly) asleep when our friends arrived that night. But since Pola had a headache and went straight to bed, I don't feel too badly. The hubby and Jorge stayed up for a while talking but even they didn't make it too late. And Saturday morning we enjoyed breakfast together before they had to take off. We've really enjoyed these opportunities to see old friends and catch up this week.

This weekend we are just relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet. The house is in the country about a city-block distance from the river (which is running high because of the rain) and not too many neighbors. We weren't able to find bubble bath but bought a big bottle of cheap shampoo which we discovered works about the same. Because -- joy of all joys! -- the house has bathtubs!!! A good hot soak with a book was just what the doctor ordered.

I'll be back on Monday. I have missed y'all! I haven't had a chance to read anyone's blog in days and e-mails have been short and sweet by necessity. I hope everyone had a really great long holiday weekend with friends and family and look forward to reading whatever you've been writing about!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

This will be the fastest post on record (for me anyway). We leave in less than half an hour for the big Thanksgiving meal with the extended missionary family (from several missions) here in Buenos Aires.

Yesterday we enjoyed a day in Tigre, walking around the artisan shops and taking a river cruise on the delta of the Paraná River. It was so HOT and we had to drink a LOT of water to keep hydrated. Our car broke down (alternator belt) so we had ACA (like AAA) come and give us a charge, and we drove back into the city with no air conditioning or lights. Made it almost all the way back and it stalled :-( ACA sent another mechanic out and he ended up just replacing the belt right there on a busy street! ACA is our new best friend.

The car trouble may have been a blessing in disguise because I was so ready to spend some money! The shops had the most wonderful things. Some of which we NEED. I mean really NEED. Like light fixtures, etc. And the prices were better than any other place we've seen (plus we liked more of the merchandise here) but alas we had no time to go back after the 1-1/2 hour cruise and shop. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. I guess it depends on whether I find something I like as well for as low a price. Either way, too late now.

Or as the hubby is fond of saying, "It is what it is."

We spent last evening catching up with dear friends in the next suburb over. Ricardo and the hubby go WAY back, to when they were children, and have kept in touch all these years. Graciela brought out a photo from the first time the hubby brought me and the kids to Argentina. That was twelve years ago and it's a picture of all of us at the airport when they came to see us off. Such good memories! Graciela prepared a most delicious meal and I have her receta for creamed potatoes which I'll share in an upcoming Saturday Stirrings that Carol hosts. A really easy and delicious recipe!

After the big meal today we head to Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. Finally! This will be the first chance we've had to go since we arrived OVER THREE MONTHS AGO. Only our family will understand how unbelievable it is that we haven't gone before. This is the home my hubby lived in the last three years he was in Argentina. He went to high school in Santa Rosa and helped his parents build the house. Again, lots of good memories! And a quiet place for us to unwind for a few days. And hopefully cool down, too, after the incredible heat of the city.

I know we won't have internet access there but we'll go into town and find wifi so I can keep up with e-mails and post once or twice. That's the nice thing about internet. Have computer, will travel :-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day Two in Buenos Aires

Another hot day here in Ramos Mejía, one of the western suburbs of Buenos Aires. I'm sitting directly beneath the ceiling fan where it's bearable. The humidity combined with the heat just sorta wilts us. BUT the time with our co-workers has been WONDERFUL!

We are finishing the book Teaching to Change Lives by Dr. Howard Hendricks and this is a book I'd recommend to ANYONE doing ANY KIND of teaching with ANY AGE. Just excellent truths and presented in an extremely read-able format. Dr. Hendricks is a HOOT! A great storyteller and teacher.

And a lot of planning is going on since the Argentina team is responsible for organizing the next conference for the combined Argentina/Uruguayan missionaries. It will be the first week in March and we're having it in Cordobá Province! Yeah! This conference we'll be blessed to have the director of our mission and his wife visit, and they've never been to our area before so we'll get to show them around.

Some individual responsibilities have been assigned and I'm organizing the crafts for the kids (anyone surprised?). Since the ages are 10-17, I'm having a blast thinking of ideas. And several of us are putting together the annual Ladies Tea that's always on Wednesday afternoon of conference. Plus I will be doing the door crafts -- which shall remain a secret for now because I don't want the other missionaries to know what it is yet -- but it will be both fun and functional. These door crafts are a tradition that (1) show the missionaries which room is theirs and (2) serve as a memento of the conference.

There will be more about conference in upcoming posts since I'm pretty excited and can't contain myself :-)

Can't talk about our get-together and not talk about the food. One word: DELICIOSO! Yesterday for lunch we had quite a spread. Peceto al horno (beef, of course! roasted with a very flavorful sauce), potato salad Argentine style (carrots and peas included), tossed salad with add-your-own-toppings, matambre (hard boiled eggs, cooked vegetables, and a cut of beef called matambre rolled up and baked, chilled and served in slices), and a variety of fresh rolls. For dessert our hostess made an amazing cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream between the layers and on top. About 9 p.m. we finished for the day and moved into the back yard where we relaxed with a variety of empanadas and iced beverages. Perfect ending to our day :-)

[NOTE: There are many, many different fillings for empanadas and I think I should make it my goal in life to make sure I try them all.]

Another missionary mom who has college age kids in the U.S. shared that last week they were able (through Skype) to watch their oldest perform LIVE at her junior piano recital in northern Wisconsin. The computer locked up at the end but they were able to listen to 3/4 of the concert. How cool is that?!

Then this morning when I checked e-mail I had an update from a favorite fellow blogger who's on the other side of the world. Sarah had posted the cutest photos from her daughter's birthday. Plus I had a really sweet e-card from one of our supporting churches.

Can we just join together and say Praise the Lord for the internet?! AMEN AND HALLELUJAH!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Morning in Buenos Aires

It's 9:30 a.m. and I'm sitting on our friends' balcony out back, overlooking a lush yard and surrounded by plants on this second story patio. Marlene has a green thumb...and every other finger is green, too, I think. (Bless her heart, she has given us cuttings from various plants, including an orchid for Ivan. Woot!) We had coffee and toast out here and now I'm just enjoying the shade of the grape arbor. Sorta need it, 'cause it's already 80° in the shade!

The trip yesterday was nine hours through completely flat country. Felt a bit like we were driving through Ohio. Back and forth for hours :-) For those not familiar with the country of Argentina, we traveled through the vast pampas (or plains). Miles and miles of fields with occasional small towns and one big city along the way.

Discovered when we arrived that it was a good thing we drove, since if we'd waited to take the bus last evening we would have been stuck because there was a strike. Shocking I know. This time it wasn't the bus drivers, but the toll booth operators.

Now we're waiting for the other missionaries to arrive. The ones from Resistencia are coming by bus, so could be waiting a while. Hope the air conditioning on the bus holds out. In 2007 we did a lot of traveling by public transport and seemed like it didn't matter what we took, the a.c. went out on it. Boat, bus, whatever. And have I mentioned how hot it is here?

The missionaries are arriving so it's adios for now!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Worship Time - God Bless The Broken Road by Selah

We'll be traveling a lot in the next few days, to and from Buenos Aires, so appreciate your prayers for safety and a trip without car problems!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Costura, Costura, Todos Los Dias

I am weary from the sewing of the curtains. This is not a difficult project, just very TIME CONSUMING. Simple pinch pleat panels are a lot of work! And because I have to make NINE panels, it is taking the proverbial forever. My goal of finishing by the end of the week? Pffft! Gone like the wind. I will be happy to have six of the nine done.

The remaining three will have to wait until we return from the mini conference with other missionaries in Buenos Aires this week. My eyes and shoulders are looking forward to the break. Sitting in one position while feeding yards and yards and yards of material through the machine is not good for the posture.

The project would be going faster if I hadn't bought excessively cheap fabric for the lining and now have to sew all those seams with a blind overlock hem stitch. Oh.My.Word. does that take a long time! But it is quite necessary or this material would quickly fray and all my hard work would be for naught as the curtains disintegrated into a large pile of blue and plaid fabric and mounds of white thread.

The finished product is looking mighty fine! I will take photos and post them when I'm all done.

Our little car is having some issues. In the last couple of days the smell of gas has been really, really strong. The hubby is going to try and figure out what the problem is, since we don't really enjoy the scent of Eau de Gasoline. But other things have been taken care of: oil change - check, getting the air conditioning re-charged - check.

The hubby's also been working on security-related projects. He finished the storage cabinet for my washer on the back patio, installed flood lights on both sides of the house, and put a better lock on the bedroom door that's going to become our study. Makes sense to be able to secure the room with all the electronics.

There are SO MANY parties going on in Bloggyville this holiday season. Y'all are a bunch of party animals! They all sound fun but there's only so much a girl can do. So I'll be checking a lot of them out, but won't be participating in too many myself. I simply do not have an ugly Christmas sweater (any more) but look forward to seeing the entries in that particular contest. Should be muy divertida!

Not sure about access to the internet while in Bs. As. this week so you may not be hearing much from me. We're staying with missionary friends. The last time we visited, there was a cyber cafe a few blocks away. That was less than two years ago so hopefully it's still there. But with the conference meetings and things going on, not sure how much I'll be able to get away.

So if I don't have another chance, let me just say: HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May you be blessed with a day filled with family and friends and food in abundance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Way More Homemade Holidays

See the cute little button in the sidebar? Just to the right. Yes, today is the day! Alrightythen, I'm excited to see what everyone shares in the Way More Homemade Holidays Carnival! Looking for a few new traditions to start in our new home/life/ministry here in Argentina so this should be fun :-)

Ever since deciding to participate in the Carnival I've been jotting down ideas about what to share. What would YOU be interested in knowing?

Would you like to know about how I started picking out one special ornament each year for my kids when they were little? It sort of evolved after several years of participating in a homemade ornament exchange at my church. Each year I'd bring home more and more ornaments. And one year the son was especially enchanted with a set of adorable wise men made from felt. While the daughter, still a toddler, couldn't keep her eyes (or grubby little paws) off the shiny beaded ornaments. So I let them have their favorites that year and the next and... Then we moved and I didn't have an ornament exchange any more. So for a few years we didn't get any new ornaments at all (not a hardship when you consider we'd accumulated HUNDREDS during my sojourn in homemade-ornament-exchange-land).

But then I saw the cutest little ornament that was perfect for my son! So of course I had to buy it. Then realized I'd have to get one for my daughter. And so the tradition was born. The goal each year is to buy an ornament that signifies something special in their lives for that year...a patriotic Santa the year my daughter turned 18 and was able to vote...the young adventurer wearing a safari hat, hiker's vest, wearing flippers and carrying a camera and backpack for my son the year he joined us in Africa and spent every chance out hiking and exploring...the Raggedy Ann ornament when the daughter played that role in a Christmas play...You get the idea. The last few years I've also added my hubby, getting him airplane or handyman ornaments. And because the other associate pastor lived with us for six years I included him as well, but with a twist. The first year the guy practically lived at the church so I somewhat jokingly bought him a church ornament. When it became apparent that his practically-living-at-the-church-lifestyle wasn't something he was going to outgrow, I kept buying him church ornaments. After the third year it became somewhat expected, y'know?

Or maybe you'd like to know about some of our weirder gift exchanges? Living on a shoe string budget can really get those creative juices flowing! I'm sure many families have gone the route of truly homemade gifts. My favorites were the gift certificates for a meal cooked by my kids, or a promise of a dreaded chore done by my hubby. But one year we drew names and then decided we had to give our person something we already owned. Honestly, the only one I remember is that my hubby re-gifted his leather jacket to our teenage son. And he LOVED it! And just a couple of years ago, an especially LEAN year, the son came up with the unique idea of PRETENDING! We chose gifts AS IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT. We either cut out magazine pictures, clipped store flyer ads, or downloaded online information about the items we'd give each other, then beautifully wrapped them. I'll tell you, that was so much fun finding out how much thought they'd put into it! If money had been no object I would have gotten some pretty cool gifts, some I didn't even know existed :-) We had a lot of laughs that particular Christmas!

Would you be interesting in knowing how, in an effort to make Christmas more sacred and less commercial, we moved our gift exchange to January 6th (Three Kings Day) which wasn't much of a stretch for the hubby who grew up in Latin America where this was customary. This gave us the added benefit of being able to wait and buy things at the after-Christmas sales and save a LOT of money! On Christmas Day we always baked a birthday cake for Jesus. [Note: When the kids were older and especially after the son was married, we went back to the traditional Christmas day exchange by default. When you're dealing with multiple families, things change.]

Some traditions are simply due to happenstance and not at all planned. When I returned to college to finish my degree, I was able to buy tickets at the student discount rate so the year my daughter was four we attended the Nutcracker Ballet. Oh.My.Word! Incredibly beautiful and moving and SO MUCH FUN! We dressed up for the occasion, even though it was a matinee. I'd chosen balcony seats because I wasn't sure how she'd do and wanted to be able to unobtrusively get her outta there if she started acting up. Well she did just fine, but there were moments when she was so overcome by the music that she had to stand at the end of the aisle and twirl like the ballerinas on stage. Since we pretty much had that section of the balcony to ourselves, it wasn't a problem. We enjoyed it so much and on the way home she said, "Mommy we should do this every year!" And so we did. For many years anyway. There came a year when we couldn't find a production near enough to make it practical to attend. So instead we went to see Gift of the Magi at a nearby college. Also beautiful, poignant and SO MUCH FUN! And the year after that we went to Africa. And the tradition was simply lost.

But gotta tell ya, I MISSED the Nutcracker! And last year my lovely daughter-in-law thoughtfully organized a trip for the whole family to see the Nutcracker Ballet. How sweet is that?! A special memory that I'll think about every year as we are far, far from our kids. Maybe they'll institute this tradition with their own daughters down the road (when they have daughters, that is).

So that's a few of the things we've developed into traditions over the years. Writing about it has made me quite nostalgic and not a little homesick! So I'm counting on y'all to come through with ideas of new traditions we can incorporate right here in sunny Argentina, where Christmas comes in summer and instead of snuggling around a fire while the wind howls and the snow blows, we're outside firing up the asador for an Argentine bar-b-que! Now let's all go check out what the others have to share over at Way More Homemade Holidays!

P.S. For one of our absolute favorite holiday dishes, I posted the recipe and the story last Saturday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Delegate, Delegate, Let Them Do The Laundry At Eight!

Sounds like a campaign slogan, doesn't it? How long before we get that out of our system?! Anyway...

When your kids are little and you are used to doing every-blessed-living-thing for them and for the hubby and for the house, it's easy to feel like a hamster on a wheel. Although we find joy in making our house a home, it's hard, hard work and the fact is, a woman's work is never done. This isn't just some trite cliché...well, yes it is, but that doesn't make it any less true!

The sad fact is, we bring a lot of it on ourselves by continuing to insist on Doing It All long after the kids have reached an age and ability to help more. For those of us with slight OCD tendencies that like to have the dishwasher loaded just so, or the rugs always nice and neat on the floors, or the bathroom cleaned in a certain order... It's not easy turning these chores over to young, inexperienced and for-the-love-of-all-that's-holy lackadaisical children.

But part of parenting is training them up in the way they should go and that includes the proper way to load the dishwasher.

That's for another day, however. Today I want to encourage y'all to start small. With the laundry. And I'm not talking about just having them put up their clean laundry. I'm talking about having them DO THEIR OWN LAUNDRY. How young old do they have to be to be ready?

Mine were eight years old. Yes, EIGHT. It was a fluke that I discovered how capable my son was because I'd have never thought to let him do the wash at that age. But at the time I had gone back to college and life was a little crazy. The hubby was doing the bulk of cleaning and cooking and homeschooling, but I drew the line at the laundry. We could not afford to buy all new clothes. And that would be the end result if he did the laundry. Because that man would throw everything in together and use hot water every time.

So...I was still doing the laundry. And because of my class schedule (I took 40 credit hours in one year because I could and it would allow me to graduate) I didn't have much free time and so the laundry was a once-a-week occurrence at best.

And that's when the son decided he only wanted to wear sweat pants. No jeans for him, thankyouverymuch, even though he had like five or six pair. And only three pair of sweats. I wasn't a very indulgent parent and basically told him, "Get over it and wear the jeans." At which point he came back with "What if I wash my sweats?" And I responded with a laugh and a sneer "Yeah, right!" And he drew himself up to all his 3'11" height and said indignantly "Why not? I can do it!"

The battle lines were drawn.

We marched down to the laundry room and I gave him a brief tutorial on How To Properly Use The Washer & Dryer. And he totally aced the first run. I sat back on my heels and thought, "Hmmmm, he's eight years old and has quickly mastered the art of washing clothes. What else is he capable of doing?"

It was eye opening, folks. I never looked back and when his little sister (almost five years younger) reached the heady age of eight, she too was inducted into the wash-your-own-clothes-or-have-dirty-ones fraternity. I'm a little embarrassed to admit she couldn't quite reach the knobs on the machines so I made her use a chair. Hey! Being short doesn't mean you can't!

Yes there were a few Oops! episodes. The son washed and dried something wool once. It made a nice sweater for his sister's doll after that. And there's the inevitable pink underwear. But overall the son did just as good a job as I had done with his clothes. And I'm sure his wife now appreciates his crazy laundry skilz :-)

I'm hoping that What Worked For Me might work for you, too! And don't forget to check out all the other great ideas over at Shannon's.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Know You're A Missionary When...

I recently read another missionary's blog with her list and it inspired me to think about what's unique here. So here you have it, 25 ways to know you're a missionary in Argentina...

1. You put your garbage out for collection every night, on a tall pole so the animals can’t get to it before it’s picked up.
2. You clap your hands loudly in front of someone’s house to let them know you’re there.
3. You know a car is for sale because a bottle is sitting on top of it when it’s parked.
4. The light fixtures in your house consist of holes in the ceiling, dangling wires and bare light bulbs.
5. Almost every house has a fence and locked gate.
6. A few people don’t hesitate to tell you they hate Americans.
7. Even the birds chirp in a foreign language (okay, maybe not, but it sure sounds like it!).
8. A portion of your water bill is for burial expenses should you die while living here -- they’ll dig the grave for free.
9. But you’ll have to pay a grave fee in perpetuity should you decide to be buried here.
10. No one mails their payments to the respective companies; you either have to pay them at the main office of each business or at little stores called Rapi-Pagos -- but always in cash.
11. You have to keep your gate and doors locked ALL THE TIME.
12. Roses bloom year round in your yard.
13. Each home owner is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their house, so there may be as many different kinds of sidewalks as there are houses on a block. From tile to cement to stone, in all shapes and sizes and colors.
14. You buy your milk, mayonnaise and ketchup in bags.
15. Stores still deliver right to your house.
16. You put your toilet paper in a waste basket rather than the toilet.
17. All the windows have security bars on them.
18. Your local gas station also has the best coffee in town.
19. Most businesses close for several hours every afternoon and it's impossible to find a restaurant open before 8 p.m.
20. Most people eat supper at 9 to 10 p.m.
21. Schools have so many students they have two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
22. The school year starts in March and goes through December.
23. Christmas is in the summer.
24. You spend days getting the necessary paperwork done when you buy a car (or rent a house...).
25. You feel sure you’re right where God wants you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Final Episode of Fall Into Flavor Features Fabulous Baked Beans

Yes, the show is over. Today is the last chance to catch some amazingly delicious recipes at the Fall Into Flavor carnival that Linda from 2nd Cup of Coffee has been hosting. But what a finale! Y'all be sure and git, I say GIT yourself over there and don't miss a single solitary calorie-laden post.

I am a huge fan of the bean. Fresh beans, dried beans, cooked beans, steamed beans, roasted beans...Did I ever tell you that I spent my very first paycheck buying 80 lb. of pinto beans? Oh yes I did! Nothing like a pot of "soup beans" and cornbread! One of my absolute favorite meals.

Today I'm sharing another favorite bean recipe. I had never had a home-baked bean until I was in my thirties. Really! Like most of you I grew up on Van Camp pork & beans. This, my interwebby friends, is the recipe I used for that first ever heavenly-baked-in-a-pot-of-brown-sugar-deliciousness. I have made it in a crockpot overnight, but prefer it baked in a dutch oven because the sugar on the edges caramelizes a little. Mmmmm, mmmm good! BUT, gotta say, cooking this in the crockpot eliminates the need to stir every so often and add more liquid so that might be the preferred method for busy moms. Just layin' out the options. However you choose to make it, you will enjoy the end result!

1 lb. small white dried beans
1/2 c. maple syrup (or molasses)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 lb. salt pork, scored and cut into chunks
hot water as needed
Soak beans overnight in water to cover by three times the depth of the beans.
Drain beans and put them in a pot, adding more water to amply cover. Bring the water to a slow boil and simmer, partially covered, until softened but not cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 275°
Drain beans well and transfer to a casserole dish with lid (dutch oven if you have one).
Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Add hot water to cover beans by 1 inch. Partially cover pot. Bake 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed to keep beans moist.

These are head and shoulders above any canned bean you can buy. And they're really easy to make. This makes a great side dish to any kind of meat, but especially pork. You can use the leftover beans and add chopped up hot dogs to make a mean beanie-weenie casserole for the kids' lunch, too.

And if you need a really good sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving, I posted one Saturday. Just sayin'. Two for the price of one today!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Worship Time - "If We Are The Body" by Casting Crowns

I think this song gets pretty frequent play on Christian radio stations (at least it did when we lived in the U.S.) so it may be very familiar. But it's a song with some serious Truth to it that we need to be reminded of every so often.

So, what are you doing in the body?

A recap of our week:
➀ Hubby finished the paperwork to put the car into our name.
➁ Attempted to keep up with housework and laundry (not so much).
➂ Sewed one curtain panel; eight more to go.
➃ Hubby took the car to a mechanic for some minor repairs and adjustments.
➄ Still haven't gotten married; not enough time this week.
➅ Spanish every weekday, as is the custom. During one class I had to call someone on the phone. Yikes! Not too awful, although I did tell the person that I've lived here for three tables instead of three months.
➆ Hubby continued working on the storage cabinet that will house our washer on the patio. This is a security measure. Goes along with always keeping the gates and doors locked.
➇ I shared my testimony with a ladies group in Cordoba on Saturday. Partly in Spanish and partly in English.
➈ On Friday it was in the mid 90s and we went to bed wishing we had a fan. An overnight storm blew in not only rain but cooler weather. The high on Saturday was 68°.
➉ Our attempt to shop yesterday was stymied at almost every point. So I still don't have any cocoa powder to correct the nutritional deprivation brought on by lack of chocolate scones.

As I've mentioned once or six times, everything takes longer here. Again, this is not a good or bad thing, it's just different.

As for yesterday, the shopping fiasco began when the computers went down at Easy (equivalent to Home Depot) after we'd spent several hours browsing, pricing and picking up a few things we needed right away AND more than 1/2 hour in the checkout line. It happened just as we made it to the cashier. Of course.

All that shopping and standing in line for naught made us quite hungry. But all the restaurants were closed. We'd missed the lunch hours and they wouldn't open back up for dinner until 8-9 p.m. So our late lunch consisted of sandwiches de miga and cafe con leche, plus some pastries, enjoyed in a small bakery/cafe. Sandwiches de miga are as ubiquitous to Argentine culture as máte I think. You can find them everywhere, from gas stations and kiosks to nicer restaurants. It consists of thinly sliced white gummy bread (think Wonder bread), the crusts cut off and paper-thin slices of ham and cheese tucked in but no mayo or any other kind of condiment.

I didn't suffer much any since the spread of goodies at the ladies' meeting was impressive and tasty! And they sent us home with a plate of cookies and cake, too.

On the way home we stopped at Walmart but discovered it was not the one that's open 24/7 and it closed when we arrived. At that point we were too tired to drive clear across town to the other Walmart so we just came home.

I think God really wants us to understand the concept of delayed gratification.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving

As we head into the season of gastronomic gluttony I wanted to begin sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes.

When we were houseparents for mentally and emotionally impaired teens, one of our favorite meals was a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. And we didn't always wait until Thanksgiving for it! A houseparent at another group home gave me this recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole that quickly became THE must have side dish for turkey. Never being a big fan of the melted-marshmallows-on-top-casserole, I much prefer the crunchy yummyness of this pecan topping. It's really more of a dessert but we can pretend we're getting our vegies, now can't we? *wink, wink*

Oh, and this is the recipe my son has been taking to holiday dinners since he was in college and we left him to spend a year in Uganda. Being the shy, socially backward kind of guy he is, he promptly invited himself to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. And then filched my recipe to make and take himself. I sorta forgot to make a notation on the original recipe though, to minimize the butter called for (WAY excessive) and he had a little puddle of greasy goodness on top. So I will list the amount of butter I really use for your cooking and dining pleasure.

And it will bring pleasure, of that I can assure you!

* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup butter, melted
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes

* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/3 cup flour
* 3 tablespoons butter, softened
* 1 cup chopped pecans

Beat eggs, granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup butter. Add milk and vanilla. Combine with the mashed sweet potatoes; spoon into a greased 9"x13" casserole. Combine brown sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons softened butter, and pecans, mixing until crumbly; sprinkle over sweet potatoes. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Serves 6.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Spread the Love

I've found some interesting articles and posts recently and decided to share them with you. 'Cause my mama taught me to share the good stuff!

I've thought about doing this off and on, but always seem to forget when I'm actually sitting at the computer. Maybe this is why? Memory is a tricky thing. I liken it to a computer. My harddrive is almost full and stuff is stuck in random places on the drive so it sometimes takes a while to retrieve information, often leaving the machine (me) panting from all the spinning it's had to do.

Or it could be that I am easily side-tracked and forget about the initial task because something else distracted me. Funny blogs will do it to me every time. Giggles ensued when I read this short post by Queen B. I especially enjoyed 6 Year Med Student Danielle's post about bathroom humor. And "A Natural History of Armchairs" by Jenni's brother had both hubby and me laughing out loud.

And then other blogs have such practical information I'm in awe of their ability to succinctly communicate/encourage/help all of us in B'ville. Right now Amy Scott is doing a series on being debt free and livin' your dream! You can find her introductory post here and segment one on "strong beginnings" there with more to follow. If you have any desire to become better stewards of what God has given you, you'll find Amy's reflections very helpful!

And I liked Debbie's November 11th post about teaching gratitude. I know this is also a technique used in marriage counseling, to make a conscious effort to write down five things you appreciate about your spouse every day. Soon you'll remember why you fell in love with them in the first place, and the negative thoughts will flee in the face of all the positive!

Or how about something we all grapple with this time of year: How to simplify our lives and avoid overdoing it at Christmas. Valley Girl is hosting a Reinventing Christmas Carnival in an attempt to take Christmas back. I'm thinking a lot of people have some very good ideas on how to do that, and look forward to seeing what they share. Remember we want to start some new traditions! For sure one thing I don't think is helpful: the new ads appearing on buses in D.C. I just find it sadly ironic that people are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas.

Do you realize Christmas is less than six weeks away? I've been jotting down things I want to share in coming days...some oddball unique gift ideas, an alternative to exchanging gifts on Christmas, traditions we've devloped as a family, as well as some thoughts of how I see us celebrating this year. If I can encourage even one young mom with what we've learned over the years, I'll feel my blog serves a purpose.

Other than waxing eloquent about chocolate, that is. I do have my priorities straight, y'know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Savor The Flavor

Laundry and baking banana bread, that's what I'm up to this morning. The third load is in the washer and the banana bread is still slightly warm. Couldn't wait for it to cool completely so we've already had a slice with coffee during Spanish class and I sent some home with my tutor for her girls.

And now I'm heating up leftover pizza for lunch. Have I told you what pizza is like here? The crust is pretty much the same but they use very little tomato sauce and rather than chunks of meat and vegetables you're more likely to see slices of lunchmeat and cheese spread out to (mostly) cover the crust, usually with a couple of olives placed near the center.

You can buy pre-made pizza crust in any store but I prefer my own. Not that it's anything super special but I can make it as thick or thin as I like. And pizza sauce is readily available so I slathered it on and shredded the cheese in typical American fashion. If we were having company I would have prepared it Argentine style.

One of those things that's neither good or bad, just different. Missionaries encounter a lot of those :-)

I really like the food here. With the huge Italian influence, pasta is an integral part of the cuisine and it's really easy to find pasta fresca (fresh pasta) in the stores. You have not lived until you've had fresh pasta! Light, not doughy, filled with a variety of good things. The other night we picked up ravioli stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, tomato and basil. Oh.My.Word. I didn't want to overwhelm the wonderful flavor of the fresh pasta so I made a light alfredo sauce for it.

And such a variety of salads! Our old stand-by is a typical green salad with oil and vinegar dressing, but we're trying others on occasion and I've liked them all. One constant is the oil and vinegar dressing, though. But you can totally mix it up with a variety of oils (olive, sesame, grape seed...) and vinegars (wine, balsamic, infused...).

Then of course there's the pan. You can now buy gummy white sliced bread in bags with twisty ties, just like the States. But why would you want to?! When the traditional bread is baked fresh throughout the day so that no matter what time you go in, you can pretty much count on getting some still warm from the oven? No preservatives, just good plain hearty bread. You can get your bread fat and round, long and skinny, as well as many other shapes and sizes.

Most women don't do much baking these days (which might explain why I've had such a hard time finding vegetable shortening and cocoa powder in the stores) but prefer to leave that to the numerous little bakeries you find all over. I may have mentioned the torta de ricotta (ricotta cake) that is to die for yummy. I, however, like baking and once I find a good recipe, I'll share it with y'all so you can savor the flavor of torta de ricotta yourself.

Everyone has their favorite shops...favorite bakery, meat store, vegetable store... although big grocery store chains do a brisk business, too. I haven't settled on any yet since I'm still pondering my choices :-)

In spite of all the great food I have lost weight. Considerable weight. Which I could afford to lose since I was (and still am) too heavy. [But I wouldn't recommend anyone else get sick and stay sick for two weeks; there are healthier ways to lose it.] I'm finding my pants are sagging, some almost falling off. Methinks my stomach did some shrinking because I can't put the food away as I used to do either.

And I'm just now getting my chocolate back on, because for about ten days no chocolate passed my lips. Shocking, isn't it? Those who know me well might doubt the veracity of this tale, but 'tis true, 'tis true! But once again I am able to savor the flavor of chocolate in all its glory. So you just know that banana bread has chocolate chips in it :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's All About The Family

Tracing your genealogy can be fun. Or so I've heard. I'm not that interested in knowing exactly who's in my family tree, as much as I like knowing where I came from. My Aunt Lizzie is a wonderful source of information on my mother's side, even though she was born to grandpa's first wife and mom to the second. Now don't get all like "those-family-trees-from-the-south-go-straight-up-don't-they?"

We can make fun of our crazy. You can't.

Aunt Lizzie, despite being 90 years old, is sharp as a tack. I could use some of that sharpness myself most days. Anyone else feel like they're operating in a fog most of the time?

Anyway, the last time we visited Aunt Lizzie I found out that my grandpa was descended from a Swedish barber/surgeon. Apparently back then whoever had the knife got to do any and all cutting. This Swedish dude made numerous trips between the Old Country and the burgeoning colonies in the 1600s, until one unfortunate trip that left him hijacked by pirates and left on an island somewhere in the Caribbean for a few months, only to be rescued and then hijacked yet again by more pirates. It took him eleven months to make it back home on what should have been a trip lasting just weeks (do you hear the theme music from Gilligan's Island too?).

That was enough for him so he packed up his little family and made one final trip to the colonies where he settled in New Sweden, now known as Wilmington, Delaware. Several generations later, some of his progeny reached Appalachia. Which is where my grandpa came into the picture (and of course my mom and then me).

And yes, there are a few scary people scattered throughout the family tree. But remember what I said about the crazy?

Not sure what brought this on, except I realized last night my mom's been gone twenty years now. Twenty years! I remember it like it was yesterday. I still miss her, wish she could have seen my kids grow up, my sister's kids be born...all the things we've been through as a family in the past twenty years that she's missed.

I had a rocky relationship with my mom which smoothed out considerably after I had kids of my own and started to "get it". But what family doesn't have its ups and downs? My mom loved me; I know that without a doubt, and she did the best she could given the set of circumstances that were uniquely ours.

Maybe it's the holidays. We all get a bit nostalgic this time of year. Thinking about Thanksgivings and Christmases past...

My earliest memory of Thanksgiving is 1967, a few months after the Detroit riots, crowded around a tiny table in a friend's mobile home...Six kids and three adults in a space that got so hot with the stove going all day we had to open the door for a bit and still Moe, the youngest at 2, stripped down to his diaper. But then Moe was prone to stripping no matter the temperature; the kid had a strong aversion to clothes.

The Christmas I received my first sewing machine is the first one I remember with real clarity...the way we decorated the house (we had a silver tree with a multi-colored wheel that turned oh-so-slowly and changed the color of the tree from red to blue to yellow to green, and we used a can of spray snow to create a winter scene on the living room window), the food we ate (this marked the year I began my love affair with Waldorf salad), and the feeling of being snug and cozy in our little house... I was 10 and the sewing machine was a toy, but it really sewed. I found one just like it on eBay today. I'm a few years older and have upgraded to a Pfaff but my love for sewing remains.

So what are your earliest memories of the holidays? Is it about food, the gifts, the place...?

I love the holidays, the chance to spend time with loved ones. It will certainly be a little different this year. They don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, of course, and we'll actually be in Buenos Aires for a mini-conference then.

But Christmas is Christmas no matter where you go. We brought a box of decorations with us, as well as a tall skinny artificial tree. I'm looking forward to spending a day decorating in early December (in time for BooMama's Christmas Parade of Homes! -- did you see the button on the sidebar? Did you? Did you?! 'Cause that's gonna be a LOT of fun!) and then just enjoying the season with lots of Christmas music playing ALL MONTH LONG.

I may not be able to bake sugar cookies with my daughter as we've done in years past, but I can make the sweet potato casserole that's a must at any holiday gathering. We won't be going to cut down a Christmas tree with our kids but I can decorate with the homemade ornaments we've made over the years. There's no snow in the forecast for Christmas Day but then we didn't have snow on Christmas day very often in Michigan either.

We've developed some family traditions over the years (I'll be sharing some of them for Way More Homemade Holidays on November 21st! See her cute button on the sidebar too!) that I'll miss doing with the kiddos. But who says we can't create new traditions? And maybe we'll get some ideas from y'all!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why the U.S. is the Land of Opportunity

I have a new theory about why so many people from around the world want to come to the U.S. Forget good-paying jobs, free public schools, or the chance to become rich. It's really because IT TAKES LESS TIME TO DO JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Saying the U.S. is the "land of opportunity" is code speak for "Since it takes a fraction of the time to do the necessary paperwork for living, you actually have time to do something with your life."

This theory is predicated on one the hubby developed during our time in Uganda: That the British built their empire by forming such a huge bureaucracy that the people under their dominion had no time to revolt, because they were too busy filling out forms. Other nations saw how well it worked and followed suit.

In order to buy a car we had to (1) certify that we live where we live. This required the services of an escribano. Of which there is no real equivalent in the U.S. An escribano is basically a "master of the system" (refer back to bureaucracy). When I try to translate escribano into English, comes up with "notary public," but that's just a small part of what an escribano does.

This morning the hubby is off to (2) register us with a tax authority.

And some time this week we (3) have to get married.

All that BEFORE we can (4) register the car in our name.


I wish we could have been in Indiana yesterday as the daughter was inducted into Alpha Chi. As anticipated, the worst part was trying to figure out what to wear. Oh the dilemma! But I think she made a good choice in the black ensemble with red sweater, don't you? Her grandma attended the ceremony and someone snapped this cute photo of them afterward. [A good reminder of how glad we are that Tina's living in her grandparents' basement apartment and they can watch out for one another.]

And here she is with her advisor. (I've always thought it would be fun to be a professor just so I could dress up like that on a regular basis.) When he introduced her he said some nice things, including that she's an "intelligent and entertaining" writer. Oh that does my heart good! I've always thought the same thing, but then I'm just a wee bit biased. While going through boxes before we moved I found some things I'd saved from our years of homeschooling, including some early essays by my girl. And yep, she showed signs of being an "intelligent and entertaining" writer even then :-)

Okay, Proud Parent Alert over.

We did get the garage cleared out enough to park the car inside. What a nice feeling of accomplishment! The boxes and some of hubby's tools are stacked against the back wall, somewhat hidden by a "curtain" made from rope and a tarp. And there's plenty enough room left for our little car.

Later today I hope to check out the fabric store in town and see if they have something I can use to line the curtains. It's been pretty hot and the sooner the curtains are up, the sooner we can block all the nice sunshine from making it seem like a greenhouse in here. We're also going to have to buy a fan 'cause the nights have been a tad uncomfortable.

We started making a list of all the projects around the house. Ridiculously long! But we just need to take it poco a poco. Of course other things will keep getting added. You're never truly done with a house; there's always something more. But it sure is a good feeling when you can check one off!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Worship Time: "The Chasing Song" by Andrew Peterson

For your listening and viewing pleasure this week I present a light-hearted but neverthless-filled-with-truth song by Andrew Peterson...

I will try to post a picture in the next few days of our cute little 1992 Fiat Uno. It's in excellent condition, after years of pampering by a young man now in medical school. Just about exactly 24 hours after the hubby brought it home, it's pristine condition was almost ruined by a hail storm. I saw storm clouds in the distance and casually mentioned them to the hubby who was busy painting. He realized immediately that due to the southerly nature of the storm, it could possibly be bringing hail. So he quickly finished painting and then rearranged things on our covered back patio so he could pull the car under. And none too soon!

After that little adventure we decided we really needed to do something to the garage so it will be possible to park the car in there in the future. It's got a few some dozens of boxes at the moment.

This is stretching us because we are not of the tribe that uses a garage in this manner. Except for the one year the hubby, as a gift to me, cleared enough space for me to park my car in the garage over the winter. Notice I said one year. Because before the next winter hit, the garage was even fuller than it had been before. *sigh* It was nice while it lasted.

Obviously after 29 years of marriage, something has changed for my hubby to even contemplate the concept of parking-in-the-garage. After all, he didn't really see the necessity during almost 20 years in Michigan (save that one year gift) where winters can be brutal. (I've always thought that garages were probably invented by someone living in the frozen tundra of the north.)

So why the change in perspective?

Security is a big part of it. It's not really safe to leave your car in the driveway (or in our case, the side of the house) even though we're surrounded by walls on three sides and a locked fence on the fourth. [In rural Michigan we routinely left our cars parked in the drive, and half the time the keys were in it.]

And part of it is just the realization that this car, that we've waited three months to buy because the expense was greater than we expected, has to last us a looooooong time. We're not out in the work force any more, earning a living and buying a car whenever we want. Not that we wanted to buy a car very often. We've always literally used a car until it had to be hauled off to the junk yard. With the hubby's crazy handyman skilz he's always been able to keep a vehicle on the road much longer than most.

Those skilz will come in handy in the coming years as we continue to pamper this little Uno. Because now we are even more mindful of the cost and upkeep of a car because many, many people are giving sacrificially so we can be here as church planters. The Uno is a great ministry tool that will help us be more efficient and able to do more.

And that is why we'll be parking it in the garage.

Once we make room for it, that is. Some things never change.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fin De Semana

It's the end of the week, fin de semana, and I am GLAD. Because this has been a rough one and I'm glad it's about over. 'Nuf said, and now on to more important things...

There are 13 rose bushes around my yard. There were 14 but one was dead when we moved in. The 13 are taking turns blooming. They are pale pink, bright pink, yellow with the pink tips, and red. They are glorious!

We are buying a car today. Since the seller's bank didn't want to accept a wire transfer we have been hitting the ATM daily, getting out the maximum allowed. Today we'll finally have enough. The hubby is trying to get the paperwork needed to register the car right away but not sure it will happen until Monday (or Tuesday or...).

Have I mentioned things take longer here?

The manufacturer refuses to fix our camera. Not surprised. Online research indicates their warranty is pretty much worthless. They say we dropped the camera. Duh! Has anyone ever NOT dropped their camera? But we did not drop the camera on the day it quit working. Actually the hubby dropped it the first week and it continued working just fine for two more months, hundreds of pictures and a quite a bit of video footage. Anyway, all that rushing around and getting the camera to the U.S. as quickly as possible for repair was pretty much wasted time and money. Oh well. The son is going to see about getting us a new one. It will be nice to have a camera again; my cell phone is pretty limited in what it can do. Photographically speaking.

The curtain store where we bought the hardware needed for the living room does not carry the cotton sheeting I want to line the curtains. And since the blue damask is cotton, I want to at least find a cotton/poly blend, if not 100% cotton. We can check another store in town and if that doesn't pan out, we'll have to look the next time we're in Cordoba.

I finish the antibiotics tomorrow. Am feeling much better but not 100% yet.

A lot of things were let slide while I was down for the count. But not the laundry. 'Cause I am totally addicted to washing clothes and hanging them out on the line. I'm sad when I don't have at least one load to do. Is that weird or what (rhetorical question, don't answer!).

Isn't the minutiae of my life too exciting for words?

Something I am excited about: different ones in our small group are opening their homes for Sunday night gatherings. As our co-workers just shared in their prayer update: "The group is learning the meaning of being a body, a group of believers gathered as a church, no matter in what building."

Also, on Sunday my daughter is being inducted into Alpha Chi, the National College Honor Society. We can't be there but I think her grandma is going to the ceremony. The daughter has been trying to figure out what to wear. Faculty in attendance will be in full academic regalia so it's a sure bet she has to dress up :-) Hopefully someone will be taking pictures!

Have I mentioned I'm pretty proud of my kids? :-)

And now I'm off to work on laundry. I have TWO LOADS today. Woohoo!

P.S. My hubby just informed me that we are not married. Here. They do not recognize marriages that take place anywhere else. So I guess we're "goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married" next week. Actually to the Registro Civil. Sorry but you won't be receiving an invite. I kept telling the hubby I wanted to renew our vows. But I meant in a really big whoopdedoo celebration for a special anniversary. Another example of the need to BE SPECIFIC WHEN YOU ASK.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WFMW - Fischertechnik

I'm really excited about this week's Works For Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer! Works For Me: Toys Worth Buying (Subtitled: I DO NOT WANT ANY MORE JUNK IN MY HOUSE) Although I'm through buying toys for my own kiddos, I have nieces and nephews and hopefully (someday) there will be grandkids. So I'm excited to see what tried-and-true toys y'all have discovered!

As for us, the hubby and I were never big on buying toys for the kids. I mean we bought toys, but they always had to have educational value. And we really, really hated buying anything cheap and poorly made because HELLO!, those things break almost immediately. Since we had a very limited toy purchasing budget, a lot of thought and searching went into birthday and Christmas gifts each year.

Being homeschoolers we had access to some pretty cool catalogs. Which helped a lot since we were out in the boonies. My favorite catalog of all time is from Timberdoodle, because they sell the most amazing things! We found fischertechnik through them. And for our hands-on son (and what boy isn't hands-on?), these kits are great at teaching construction and engineering while being seriously FUN. And the design meant the things he built would not break apart until he was ready to take them apart.

Here's a blurb from the fischertechnik website:
fischertechnik is the flexible construction system for young and older system designers alike. Produced in Germany to high standards, fischertechnik has been innovating and manufacturing the highest quality modeling systems since 1965. These robot kits allow a multitude of systems and system models to be created by slotting precision-engineered parts together. How is it that fischertechnik came to make the best construction system available on the globe? It starts with fischertechnik's parent company and founder, Artur Fischer. fischertechnik is a relatively small division of a firm named Fischerwerke. Fischerwerke is not a toy company. Fischerwerke's primary business is the manufacturing of industrial connectors for the construction and automotive industries. With fischertechnik, Artur Fischer took the firm's expertise in engineering and materials to construct a modeling system of superior quality and capability.

Yes, these are more expensive than Legos. But they are SO WORTH IT! These are the kind of toys that your kids will enjoy for years, and then you'll pass them down to their kids...

We look at the purchase of those fischertechnik kits as an investment. Our son went on to "play" with computer parts, building his first computer at age 10, and that led to paying his way through college doing on-site computer repair and installation, and now he's partial owner in a computer business. I think it all started when we gave him the first fischertechnik kit and got him hooked on figuring out how to put things together so they would actually work and DO something.

Another BIG plus: all their kits are completely compatible with all parts back to 1965. How cool is that? This is a company and a product you can TRUST, which is no small beans these days when toy recalls are so common.

And now I'm gonna go over to Shannon's and see what great toys your kids have been playing with. Wanna join me?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baking Powder Biscuits, One of Life's Finer Pleasures

Since a couple of you asked for a biscuit recipe to go along with the sausage gravy, I'm obligin' by giving you the one I've used for many years. Now I've been making biscuits since I was knee-high to a grasshopper but this is the best recipe I've ever come across. It's from a cookbook my sister gave me that is my favorite. It's the one cookbook that went to Uganda with me and it was the only one I packed in the suitcase to come here (all the other cookbooks took the slow boat to China Argentina).

The Home-Cooking Sampler: Family Favorites From A to Z is out of print but you can pick up a used copy. I checked first and Oh.My.Word! the cheapest used copy was $97.63. Good grief! Then I found the site I've linked to where it's only $15.24. I guess all those folks selling their copy on amazon know the true value of The Sampler :-)

Because, people, Every.Single.Recipe.I've.Ever.Tried.Has.Been.Fantastic! Many of the recipes I've shared on my blog have been from this cookbook. It's falling apart and the pages are stained with vanilla or spaghetti sauce or gunked up flour (the biscuit page).

This is a tried-and-true recipe and it's really not hard to make, requires few ingredients, and...well, you just can't compare homemade biscuits to those in the little round tins in the cooler section of the grocery store. Or even the bags from the freezer section. That's like comparing apples to oranges.

But I'm gonna let you in on a few "secrets" that no recipe will be able to teach you. First of all, you really, really need a pastry blender. Don't know what that is? It's a handy-dandy kitchen tool that allows you to easily incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients so you end up with a light, fluffy creation. I have used a large fork in the absence of a pastry blender, but it doesn't do the job as well. You can pick one up for $5-10 at any store that carries basic kitchen utensils.

But even more importantly, biscuits require a "light hand" and by that I mean you want to work the dough as little as possible. Once I add the wet to the dry ingredients, I mix just until the dry is incorporated. AND THEN I STOP. Over-beating is a common mistake and one I don't want you to make.

1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (or just use 2 cups of White Lily flour if you're fortunate to live in the South and have access)
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk, approximately
melted butter for brushing on the tops

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease heavy baking sheet (I actually don't do this).
In a bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until well incorporated.
Gradually add milk, mixing very lightly. Now at this point I get a clean linen towel ready on the counter, dust liberally with flour and spoon the gooey biscuit mixture onto it. I flour my hands and gently, GENTLY PEOPLE, form the dough into a circle about 8" across.
You can use whatever you like to cut out the biscuits. I had a small wine glass picked up at a garage sale because it was the perfect size for cutting biscuits. I dipped it in flour between each "cut". This last time I didn't cut them into circles at all. I just dipped a sharp knife in flour and cut the circle into 8 pie shaped wedges and baked 'em. Looked more like scones, but who cares?
Brush with melted butter. Place pan on middle rack of the oven and reduce immediately to 400°. Bake until very lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.

VOTING UPDATE: Our ballots were delivered to our local election office in Michigan by FedEx on Monday morning. Woohoo! Our votes COUNT!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Homemade Sausage That Is To Die For

This might be the last Fall Into Flavor recipe exchange so I want to be sure and give you the best recipe I have. And I'm sure there will be some other mighty fine recipes over at 2nd Cup of Coffee so don't forget to stop by and check them out!

Being from the south, gravy is considered one of the major food groups. We like to put gravy over just about everything. Oh y'all from other parts of the country may call it sauce or some such, but it's just gravy in one of its many forms. You can have white gravy, brown gravy, red eye gravy, pepper gravy, and my all-time-favorite, sausage gravy. Which is really just white gravy with sausage, but keep that under your hats, 'kay?

When I signed on to be a missionary, it was with the understandin' I wouldn't have to give up my gravy. And because a dear friend gave me her amazing recipe for homemade breakfast sausage, I can have some of the best biscuits and sausage gravy anywhere in the world. And you can, too, 'cause I'm gonna share it with you.

Now I realize y'all have access to some mighty fine sausage right at the local Winn Dixie. I'm not exactly a sausage snob but I do like Jimmy Dean for that right amount of fat and seasoning which is absolutely essential to a good gravy base. But folks, this recipe might have you just by-passing the sausage section and heading on over to the ground pork. Because it is BETTER than store bought!


1-1/2 lb. ground pork (or you can mix it up with 1 lb. ground pork, 1/2 lb. ground beef/veal/venison)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sweet marjoram
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt (I use coarse salt)
Simply add seasonings to meat and mix together well, forming patties to fry.
NOTE: If you use really lean meat, you will have to add oil to the skillet or it will stick. Having the butcher grind a little fat into the ground meat is a good idea in terms of both flavor and the need for fat to make gravy.

1 lb. breakfast sausage (homemade or store bought)
butter as needed
2-3 tablespoons flour
2-3 cups milk
salt and pepper to season
As you can tell, this is not an exact science. I fry up the sausage until it's done, then move it to a platter while I make the gravy and then I crumble up the patties and mix them back in.
To make the gravy you need to make sure you have a few tablespoons of grease in the pan. If the sausage was too lean, you'll need to add butter to make up the deficit. Once it's melted, add the flour. And as to how much flour? That depends on how much grease. You want to make a roux with the flour and grease that is thick but not impossibly so. And you want to stir that constantly for 3-4 minutes over the medium heat so that it starts browning just a little but not burning. Take the skillet off the burner for a minute and add in the milk. Again, this is a by-the-seat-of-your-pants skill that you learn as you go. If you added about 2 tablespoons of flour, you can figure on adding 2 to 2-1/2 cups milk, if you added more flour, it will take more milk. What you want to end up with is a gravy that's not runny but isn't so thick you have to cut it either.
Once you have the gravy to the right consistency, add the crumbled sausage back in, and season as you like with salt and pepper. And for goodness sakes, enjoy over steaming hot biscuits for the best breakfast in the world!

And just a quick update on our absentee ballots. Tracked 'em to Memphis yesterday! So it's looking pretty good that they'll be delivered in time. Yippee!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Worship Time - "Word of God Speak" by Mercy Me

If that doesn't put you in a spirit of worship, don't know what will. *sigh* I enjoy my Sunday morning worship videos since we can't be part of a congregation at this point in our life. As church planters we are part of a small group that will become a church -- but we're not there yet.

SCORE! on the sausage :-) Couldn't wipe the grins off our faces as we sat down to some homemade biscuits and sausage gravy this morning. I'll share the sausage recipe this week some time. No it wasn't Bob Evans. It was BETTER!

The envelope with our absentee ballots finally entered the system and we are tracking it. Didn't leave Cordoba until Friday night, more than 24 hours after hubby raced there to drop it off. It arrived in Buenos Aires on Saturday morning and is still there from what we can tell. Well. This was certainly a good (but expensive) lesson! We will be much more pro-active in the future.

Not much progress was made on the curtains yesterday. The headache remains. Not quite a migraine but it's impeding my activities. Did discover that the plaid fabric is about 2" narrower than the blue. Not a big deal, it will just mean a little more work.

The hubby has been researching cars since we arrived over two months ago and we've narrowed it down to makes and models that will (1) be easy for him to maintain and repair, and (2) have readily accessible parts. In the last couple days he/we have looked at four vehicles. One we really liked and it was in very good shape considering its age (we're looking at older models that aren't all computerized; refer back to #1) but we wanted to do some comparison shopping before making a decision.

It will be SO nice to have wheels again! Although all the walking has been very good for us, as it gets hotter and hotter, the walks are needing to occur either very early or very late in the day. It's Spring here, remember, and we've had temps up in the 80s. And the sun, woooee! is it ever hot. I can put a load of clothes on the line and they're pretty much dry by the time the next load is washed and ready to hang.

I think it was good we had to wait a while before being able to buy a car. It gave us time to get the lowdown on which cars are more dependable and which ones meet requirements #1 and #2. But I'm also really, really glad that extra gifts came in this past month that make it possible to go ahead and buy one now. Because the bus system is sorta sporadic (i.e., random strikes and only one bus comes down near our house about every 1-1/2 to 2 hours on its run) and the taxis are expensive ($3-$6 for one-way-trips around town), having our own car will allow us to be a lot more efficient.

I can't wait to get the camera back! I would so love to share the perfect pink rose on one of our bushes, and show you the progress the peaches are making. And I would have TOTALLY taken a picture of the biscuits and gravy this morning :-)

Autumn is my favorite time of year, so I've spent some time looking at pictures online, knowing the photos don't really do justice to the amazing colors. *sigh* Y'all enjoy it for me, 'kay? My mind is telling me it's time to start making soups and apple crisp and such, but with the hot weather it's hard to get excited about heating up the kitchen any more. So I'll just continue to enjoy autumn vicariously through the blog posts I read.

And there's something about the time change that makes it all seem farther away. Why is that? The geographical distance hasn't increased (still roughly 6,000 miles from my kids) but it just FEELS longer. We had been an hour ahead. Then we changed our clocks FORWARD an hour in October (remember, Spring here) so we were two hours ahead. And now y'all are changing your clocks BACK an hour so there's a THREE HOUR TIME DIFFERENCE. And suddenly that 6,000 miles became 10,000 miles. Silly I know, but that's how it feels.

And if you didn't remember to set your clock back an hour, go do it now!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saturday Ramblings

After a little blogging break I neither planned nor wanted, I'm back. While able to work through a migraine, throw in a few other physical ailments and I cried "Uncle!"

My time has not been totally wasted. I caught up on reading everyone else's blogs, found a few new ones, and checked out all the etsy shops here in Argentina.

I also voted. Although not without some nail chewing and concern. The absentee voter ballots did not arrive until after 4 p.m. on THURSDAY. We immediately filled them out and the hubby got online, then the phone to find out the quickest way to get them back in time. Because the time, it is SHORT! If those puppies don't arrive before the polls close on Tuesday then they don't get counted.

We went with FedEx, which I'm not sure was such a good idea. They are the ones, after all, who took SIX days instead of THREE to get the ballots to us. And after getting shuttled back and forth on the phone with various employees, the hubby hired a taxi and raced to Cordoba to get them to the FedEx office before it closed at 6 p.m. He made it and we have an international air waybill. Which number is still not showing up in the system as we try to track it. So guess who's not real hopeful about her vote?

And you don't even want to know how much we ended up spending altogether in the attempt. But remember, voting is a privilege and a responsibility and we thought it was important to do what we could. I'm just going to be muy triste if it doesn't get there in time.

There's an empty lot next door that had weeds growing almost 8 feet high, including some pretty purple thistles which I knew would send even more baby thistle plants into my yard before much longer. The hubby has pulled up so many of those pesky things in the front, back and sides -- they are EVERYWHERE! -- and even now it's not safe to venture barefoot into the yard. He's going to have to spray for broadleaf. Anyway, a couple guys showed up one evening and started clearing that empty lot. Yippee! So for now our yard is free from the Invasion of the Purple Thistles. 'Course they didn't completely kill them, just cut them down to ground level so we'll see how long before they threaten our little kingdom again.

The sewing of the curtains will commence this morning. Or maybe early afternoon. I do need to do some housecleaning and laundry after slacking off the last few days. Nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING, got done by my lily white hands this week. The hubby has cooked and kept up with dishes, bless his heart! He takes such good care of me.

Beyond being anxious to privatize our living room, I wanna finish the curtains so I can get to the FUN sewing. I have some quilts-in-progress and a few other projects that I'd hoped to have done by Christmas. Especially after finding some inspiring quilting blogs, my fingers are itchin' to do something creative.

Found out the camera must be repaired and sent to the guy returning to Argentina by mid-November, not the end of November. So pray that happens! While my cell phone does take photos, I much prefer my little Casio Exilim with it's fun little zoom feature for flowers as well as all its other cool options. If it doesn't get done in time, no big deal, we'll just have it sent with whoever comes next. But that might be a while.

The daughter's car, an older model (1982) Mercedes Benz diesel was in the shop for a few days. She has nick-named the car "Miss Daisy" since it doesn't have much get up and go. Miss Daisy is never going to be a good get-away car but it's perfect for those Sunday afternoon see-how-slow-you-can-go-without-causing-road-rage-in-other-people drives. So while Miss Daisy was having all her glow plugs replaced, the daughter was allowed to drive her aunt's Miata! Whoa baby! Gleeful doesn't even begin to describe the fun she had :-)

The son was equally gleeful when telling me how low gas prices have gone. He filled up his tank for about $30 this week, something that hasn't happened in years. With all the traveling he does in Indiana, Michigan and the occasional foray into Ohio, lower gas prices make him VERY happy!

The other thing that makes him happy is his new smoker. He's been smokin' all kinds of meat every weekend, and then makin' us drool with the descriptions. And he 'bout sent me over the edge with the link to a blog with a photo tutorial on smoking your own bacon. The wonderful kind of bacon I cannot buy here. At.All. So now I'm wondering how we can get a smoker, and the right chunk of pork to do our own. I am so ready to go all Pioneer Woman!

This morning I will attempt to make homemade country sausage. Courtesy of a recipe from a good friend, I have gathered all the supplies and am ready to squish and squash it all into a mass and make patties. If'n this turns out, I see a yummy breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy in my future. Yee Haw! I'll let you know if it turns out, and might even share the recipe. So stay tuned!