Sunday, November 29, 2009

Week 48, Project 365

Only four weeks left to go. Did the year go as fast for everyone else as it seemed to me? Whoosh! It's gone. Sara, you won't know what to do with yourself when it's all done. No more getting your own post along with Mr. Linky ready, week in, week out.

Oh, that's right...you plan on having a LIFE again. lol   Well, know that we've all appreciated your efforts in organizing this project and the time you've put into it. THANK YOU!

Got a few extra this week because some days it's just too hard to choose only one photo for Project 365. Such was the case on Sunday. Which started with some friendly soccer playing on the costanera.

And continued with merienda at Centro Esperanza.

Followed by a time of singing and teaching and.....praying. During which the light globe precipitously fell, causing a bit of a stir.

One way to get those boys' attention.

Monday, typically the pastor's day off, was a good day for us to stay home and get some long-term projects knocked out. Ivan took everything out of the shed and then swept it really well before putting things back in an orderly fashion. The ants are industrious and plentiful and so was their pile of stuff.

Ivan also uncovered a family of toads living on the patio. A mama toad and 13 offspring. Wasn't fast enough to get a family photo with everyone, but here's a shot with a few of the slower moving siblings.

I think Mama Toad is a little camera shy. The only photo of her is a blur of legs.

The garden is going great guns. Meant to get a photo of the beans but forgot and it's dark now. Next week. I'm reminded of "Jack and the Beanstalk" because, seriously, these are the fastest growing beans I have ever seen! But the tomatoes aren't doing too shabby either. We've been enjoying the cherry tomatoes for a while and now the bigger variety are starting to ripen. YUM!

Thanksgiving found me working at the English school most of the day and Ivan going to a concert in Cordoba. The Suzuki school had its annual recital and our co-workers' daughters played piano. It was held in a rather old theater downtown, Teatro Libertador San Martin. Probably a good thing I wasn't able to go, considering my propensity to become light-headed if I'm more than a few feet off the ground. I think Ivan was in the highest tier of seating, about four stories up, next to the balcony railing. 

One of the other missionaries had told us about the North Market and we decided to check it out on our last trip into Cordoba. Interesting place.That silly song "Fish Heads, Fish Heads" was in my head for hours.

There was also plenty of carne available. Lots and lots of carne. Only one fish vender but probably 30 selling meat. Didn't buy anything this time because it was early in the day and I didn't think it would do too well even in the cooler. But we'll definitely be returning to the North Market.

Looking at that photo conjured up memories of a nursery rhyme that may or may not stay in your head for the rest of the week. If it does, sorry about that.


Finally, my new couch. [That's fake leather on the base. No animal was harmed in the production of this furniture.] Can't tell in the photo but the chocolate brown looks great against the light green walls and chocolate brown ceramic tile floor.

We are thrilled to have finally found the perfect couch. Took my first nap on it yesterday afternoon. FABULOUS!

Long, tiring week but productive. Now we're heading to Sta. Rosa for a few days. Ivan's going to be dealing with well issues while I continue with sewing projects as we try to get things in proper functioning order before the onslaught of summer renters. When we get back I'll be decorating for Christmas! Last year I participated in BooMama's Christmas Parade of Homes. This year she's passed the decorating baton to Nester who has scheduled the oh-so-fun event for December 14th. This is my favorite time of year and I love seeing how everyone has decorated for the holidays!

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Story of a Couch

Most people (including us) put less time and thought into buying a car than we put into purchasing a couch. Oh, the drama! Oh, the conversations, the multiple trips to look, the AGONY OF INDECISION. Fifteen months worth (refer to this post, question #2).

What's all the fuss about, you're wondering? Here's the criteria: COMFORTABLE (and let me tell you, we have found very little in the way of comfortable furniture here where Modern is king and they're stingy with their stuffing), EASY-TO-CARE-FOR (dry climate = constant battle with dirt and dust; add into the mix construction dust from next door and you get the idea), DOUBLES AS A BED (small house, one guest room, definitely needed extra sleeping space), FUNCTION could not trump FORM (we wanted PRETTY).

The indecision continued even yesterday as we drove back to a store we'd been to three times. We'd settled on a futon (Mission style) and which wood stain (dark)...all that was left was choosing a fabric color.  

But something didn't feel quite right.

We decided to park near the store where we were going to order the futon and walk two blocks on one side of the street and come back on the other, just to see if anything caught our eye. In that area are blocks and blocks of furniture stores that we'd already thoroughly examined.

The DMD (decision-making disorder) on this project has been colossal. Did we really think a brisk two block walk would change anything? To make things more fun I had a migraine plus a sore on the bottom of my foot that made walking difficult (stopped at a pharmacy where they let us buy a single band-aid).

First store we walked into had a red couch in the front window. We LOVE red couches! It was in a style we liked and was covered in fabric, not leather or vinyl (which, for some reason, most people here prefer). We asked about sofa bed options. The red couch wasn't a good candidate. But she showed us two other models that would accommodate a pull-out bed. Didn't like one of them -- really high, square, hard arms made reclining on the couch and relaxing an impossibility.

But the other...we both liked that one a lot. Shorter, slightly angled arms with pillows to provide comfortable support for a supine person. The base was covered in the fake leather so prevalent, but the sales person assured us it was very good quality and showed us a sample: thick so not easily poked or torn, and very pliable so not likely to get dry and crack. Even better were the slipcovered seat and back cushions that are easily removed and washed.

All in chocolate brown, and the fabric has a modern swirly design in taupe.

Plus, we didn't really need to get it in the sofa bed style because if you just take off the back cushions and one of the end cushions, it makes a more than adequate single bed.

In a word: PERFECT.

Comfortable, easy-to-care-for, doubles as a bed, form-meets-function in an extremely pleasant package.

*sigh of utter contentment*

We came home, Ivan hooked up the trailer and went back to retrieve our new couch. 'Cause we totally took the floor model. Which we had not seen on previous trips to the area because they'd only gotten it in stock on THURSDAY. Yes, just the day before. I wonder if they've ever moved stock that quickly before.

So today commences not only the weekly house cleaning, but also some serious rearranging of furniture. Which I do with a happy heart and a song on my lips.

[The song is not actually emitting from my lips. A good thing. Although I don't think there are noise ordinances or, if there are, they're not enforced. But still. I don't want to disturb the peace of our quiet neighborhood or cause the dogs to start howling.]

The living room seems so much more homey with a couch. Next up: get the pictures on the walls and sew new cushion covers for the Poang chairs.

P.S. Photos forthcoming tomorrow on Project 365.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What do Swashbuckling Pirates and NASA have in common?

Not much except they both figure into questions I've been asking students at the English Institute this week. With a wide range of skill levels (first to fourth year students) and spread across the age spectrum, it's never dull.

A sampling...

Question: Do you like skydiving?
Answer by 11-year-old boy: Yes, yes I am!
(had no clue what I was talking about)

Question: If you were the president of Argentina, what would you do?
Answer by teenage girl: Change everything!
(ahhhh, the certainty of that age)


Question: In the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, who is your favorite character?
Answer by 10-year-old boy with dazzling smile: Elizabeth! She is beautiful!
(watch out girls, a young Lothario!)


Question: What are the qualifications for an astronaut?
Answer by 16-year-old boy: Lots of training. He must know first addition and how to land a space ship.
(I think he meant first aid)


Question: What did you write about for your essay?
Answer by an adult female: Comparative between the Great Depression and the current situation because I think there are many similarities and we must learn.
(a graduating student who has learned English as part of her job responsibilities because she must communicate with her contemporaries in the space program in the U.S.)

Question: If you could do anything you'd like, what would it be?
Answer by 15-year-old boy: A professional basketball player!
(he's certainly tall enough!)


Overheard by Ivan: An adult male after he finished the exam said, "She is divine!"

Still smiling over that one. Made the six hours of administering oral exams -- with one five minute break -- totally worthwhile. More today. 

Happy Thanksgiving from this DIVINE southern girl!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random Dozen Week #13


Realizing that things could get a little busy for folks by Wednesday, Lid has moved up the weekly Random Dozen meme to Tuesday. And it's all about Thanksgiving this week.

1. Are you sticking to traditional Thanksgiving foods this year, or are you being culinarily adventurous? I've already admitted we won't be doing Thanksgiving this year (horror! gasp! Can it be?)  We probably could get together with some American ex-pats in the neighboring city but Thursday happens to be a very busy day for us. I'm helping with exams all week at the English Institute and Ivan will be attending a recital concert with co-workers (whose daughters play piano). So no turkey with all the trimmings for us this year.

2. Tell me something concrete that you're thankful for. (Something you can literally touch, see, etc., not a concept like "hope.") My hubby. He stomps spiders so I don't have to, and rubs my head when it hurts. He also makes an incredible asado. He has many other wonderful qualities and skills but I do not have time to list them all here.

3. You knew the flip side was coming: Share about something intangible that you're thankful for. ANTICIPATION! I love looking forward to things...my daughter's arrival in Argentina in December for a nice long visit, the part she's bringing that will allow my handyman husband (another of his skills) to fix my Macbook, the little quilty coming my way as part of the Four Seasons Holiday Quilt Swap, wonderful rain that will nourish the ground and fill up the lake... those are just a few of the things I'm anticipating.

4. Share one vivid Thanksgiving memory. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful, just something that remains etched in your memory. 1967, the year of the Detroit riots. We'd spent the summer with a family who lived closer to where my mom worked, so mom wouldn't have to drive across town at night. Even though the riots only lasted a few days, the potential for more violence was ever present as the city simmered in the summer heat and racial anger. For almost two months six kids and two adults occupied a two-bedroom trailer and for the kids, who didn't really understand what was going on around them, it was a grand adventure! When school started we moved back home and didn't see our friends again until we returned for Thanksgiving dinner. I vividly remember how the trailer was steaming hot from all the cooking going on that day so we had to open windows and the youngest child stripped down to his underwear which nobody thought the least bit odd. Like any reunion we had fun playing "remember when" and picking up our friendships (and rivalries) where we'd left off. 

5. What is one thing that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to happen this Thanksgiving because it always does, year after year? I have no answer for this one. Thanksgiving is just not the same when you live overseas.

6. Do your pets get any left-overs? What pets? Unless we want to count the big Mama toad and her 13 offspring that are inhabiting our back yard, which Ivan uncovered when he moved some lumber yesterday. I'm hoping they prefer the spiders and eat lots of them, so Ivan doesn't have to stomp to the rescue as often. 

7. Does your family pray before the big meal? If so, do you join hands while seated, stand, repeat a formal prayer or offer a spontaneous prayer? Who does the praying? Yes to joining hands. Different ones pray each year. Generally a spontaneous prayer but we've been known to sing a prayer of Thanksgiving on occasion. Spontaneously.

8. Will you be watching football in the afternoon? If not, what will you be doing? Nope. Refer to #1 for what we'll be doing.

9. There are two distinct camps of people on this issue: How do you feel about oysters in the dressing/stuffing? Never had them. I've used the same stuffing recipe for years but do plan to try something new this Christmas after seeing PW's mother-in-law's recipe.

10. Do you consider yourself informed about the first Thanksgiving? Not really. You going to set us straight, Lid?

11. Which variety of pie will you be enjoying? If I could, I'd have pecan pie. Sadly, pecans are the one nut I haven't been able to find here :-(  A few years ago my DIL made the most incredible chocolate pecan pie I.Have.Ever.Eaten.The memory of that pie is sustaining me through my pecanless existence.


12. Do you feel for the turkey?? (This is a humorous throw back question related to the 12th question in another Random Dozen!) Am reminded of the Thanksgiving episode on West Wing when C. J. made the president pardon both turkeys. Unlike C. J., I don't feel for the turkeys because I am a hard-hearted, turkey-eating woman.

For not even doing Thanksgiving this year, I sure had a lot to say. (Sharon, stop laughing!) It will, in all honesty, be the first time we've missed it. The year we were in Uganda we hosted a potluck at our house for all the Americans and Canadians (who didn't mind celebrating a month late). Last year we were in Buenos Aires and were invited to another potluck hosted by a group of American missionaries at a campground. That was a memorable meal since a huge (and I do mean HUGE) spider suddenly appeared on the table out of nowhere and this southern girl moved with the speed of light! But as we adapt to another culture I guess it's inevitable that things change. We may do Thanksgiving next year or we may not. One thing we've learned is that for a missionary, flexibility is the key.

(And physical flexibility is crucial when trying to de-tangle oneself from a picnic bench after being surprised by giant arañas. While the hubby is busy taking photos instead of doing his usual stomping act, because he's thrilled with such a large specimen.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Meanderings

After being up several hours, my eyelids still want to involuntarily close and transport me back to sleep. It truly does feel like a Monday morning.

There was a big fire in our hometown last night. We're six thousand miles away and heard about it while it was still raging. We were skyping with our daughter, who she said she'd just seen the news on facebook. So we hopped on over to facebook too and saw some stunning photos posted by Jennie B. from our home church (you can see more on her flickr).

Sad to see such an historical building destroyed by fire. Chicago Water Grill, the nicest restaurant in town (no, nicest in the whole COUNTY), and Mays Furniture were both burned almost to the ground from all reports. We hope Wayne decides to rebuild or relocate the CWG to another building in the area; it would be really sad to lose it altogether. Mays Furniture was a long-time fixture downtown and our hearts go out to Doug, Philip and the rest of the Mays family.

We're also mindful of all the jobs lost as a result of the fire. All their employees are now out of work, right before the holidays. And we know how hard it is to find jobs these days, especially in Michigan!

Earlier in the day I had clicked on a link from our son's facebook status; it's a presentation of "The Geography of a Recession" -- let me just say: SERIOUSLY SCARY! [If you haven't seen it yet, you really should go over and push the PLAY button. I think this could force a run on antacid tablets; nothing like a visual to bring home the seriousness of the situation.] So while looking at photos of the fire my thoughts turned to how Michigan is all purple and dark gray on the map; they have the dubious distinction of having the worst statistics in the nation I think.

~~~~~~~~~~

The weekly soccer game was right before our evening meeting yesterday and you can imagine the aroma of a dozen sweaty teenage boys crammed into a small space without much ventilation and a soaring heat index. But we're so glad they're staying for the teaching time!

It rained some last night and is still overcast today. The rain cooled things down a wee bit, to the point I can sit in front of the fan and not continue to sweat. I'd really like to be able to sing that old chestnut, "Rainy Days and Mondays" except in my case they wouldn't "get me down" but would make me want to dance the happy dance.

I'm waiting for a decently cool morning so I can make granola. But no way am I turning the oven on in this heat.

We have a 15% off coupon good for Wednesday at Easy in Cordoba (kind of like Home Depot) so the plan is to use that toward some much needed additional fans for the house.

What I really want is to buy a walk-in freezer and move into that.

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5MinutesForMom is hosting a gigantic Christmas giveaway. Which I'm not eligible for since I don't currently reside in either the U.S. or Canada. We do keep a mailing address in the U.S.; do you think that would count? No, I didn't think so either.

I really enjoy the big giveaway carnivals; a fun way to share some of your blessings, and be blessed by others. My favorites are fabric and quilty-type giveaways.

Or swaps.

I'm fairly quivering with anticipation while waiting to receive my quilt in the mail from the Four Seasons Holiday Quilt Swap. I have no idea who made it or where it's coming from since this was a secret swap. The one I made and sent should be arriving at its destination any day now.

~~~~~~~~~~

I'm re-reading the Mitford series. Life's pretty hectic and there's not a lot of time to read, but I can't imagine a day without reading so it's fun to go back and re-read these wonderful books. If you've never met Father Tim and the folks of Mitford, you don't know what you're missing!

Father Tim gets a big kick out of how Cynthia views all of life as an adventure. Once in a while he'll ask her, "Is there anything you don't like?"  She always has some mighty fine answers.

So in the spirit of Cynthia.... I don't like droughts, fires or unemployment.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week 47, Project 365

There was a period of panic when we thought the camera ate the photos. I was so sad that this close to the finish I wasn't going to be able to participate in Project 365 so you can imagine my relief when, after having to re-boot, the missing photos "magically" reappeared. No sé que pasó pero no importa. ¡Me alegra que reaparecieron!

This first photo is rather disturbing. We noticed this dead bird in the tree next to Centro Esperanza a couple of weeks ago but I didn't remember to take the camera until this week. In order for you to see what it was I had to really zoom in, which means you can't tell that this is about 20-25 feet up in a really, really tall pine.

We first saw it on Halloween and initially thought it was some kid's idea of decorating for the holiday. But when it was still there the next time we realized it was an honest-to-goodness dead bird and not a prop.

Progress on the house next door continues faster than we expected; maybe because the property owner's brother owns the local dry construction company (although they're doing traditional block construction for the first floor)

They have a small portable cement mixer, shoveling the sand in by hand, adding the cement mix and water, and only making as much as they can use quickly.

I thought you'd enjoy seeing a page out of the flier from my grocery store. Now when I say I've gone to the Disco, you'll know my reputation is intact and I've not been out clubbing.

This auto-parts-version of Don Quixote graces the lawn at the municipality. There are odd bits of sculpture scattered throughout the city and I've decided to photographically document as many as possible.

Friday we attended a FREE concert downtown. The city hosts these periodically but few take advantage; there were less than a hundred there for this one. The Ensamble del Sur performed a spectrum of pieces "From Mozart to the Beatles".  In one word: FANTASTIC! Here they are playing the Beatles.

Our friends Julio and Magdalena were also there. Julio is the one who had a close encounter with a propeller a while back. It's amazing how quickly he's healing. You can hardly tell it sliced his chin open. The sweater hides the scars on his arm.


One of the things they did to speed healing was put slices of fresh aloe leaves directly onto the wounds and loosely wrap them into place. (An inexpensive process since aloe grows like weeds around here.)

The Hand & Foot tournament I mentioned in yesterday's post ended in stunning defeat for me and my partner and Ivan continues his winning streak (much to my consternation). We decided it wasn't important who won or lost since we were all getting ice cream anyway, so took a break midway through the game and went to Venezia's. I had sherbert: one scoop of lemon and one of green apple -- my new favorite flavor combination. Normally I'm a chocoholic but when it's this hot I want something light and refreshing and fruity.

Rolling black clouds once again tantalized us with the possibility of rain only to float on by with nary a raindrop released. No rain means the heat continues unabated. It felt so nice inside Venezia's we wanted to take our sleeping bags over and spend the night inside the air conditioned building. (While eating copious amounts of sherbert.)

The one good rainfall earlier this week served to water the grass and weeds currently covering the lake bed by our house, turning it a verdant green. A few weeks ago I jokingly called it the "park-formerly-known-as-a-lake" but it really does look like a lovely field, doesn't it? This was taken from in front of Venezia's on the costanera.



We'd much rather see the softly rippling BLUE waves of water.

This week is Thanksgiving in the U.S. While we're VERY thankful for the many blessings from the Lord, we won't be sitting down to turkey with all the trimmings. Aside from the fact that turkey is nigh unto impossible to find (and ridiculously expensive when you can), we won't be home much that day. I'm helping with exams at the English Institute all week and on Thursday Ivan plans to attend a Suzuki concert in Cordoba with our co-workers, whose daughters will be playing piano. I'm counting on my fellow Project 365 buddies to provide photos of food-laden tables next Sunday -- if I can't have any myself, I'd like to enjoy it vicariously.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Stirrings (Shrimp Spread) and a little meandering thrown in for free

Speaking of FREE, we went to a FREE concert "From Mozart to the Beatles" at the municipality last night. Lovely, lovely music! If I'd answered the Random Dozen questions AFTER the concert I may have had to change my answer to #4. Food sustains but music transports us. *sigh* Can you tell I enjoyed the concert?

We don't have to stop enjoying the music because we bought their CD, "Viena: Ciudad de mis sueños". You can enjoy their music too, because the Ensamble del Sur is on MySpace with a few of their pieces available for your listening pleasure. You're welcome.

It was the first concert of this nature I've been to since we moved. Not to say we've been lacking in culture. There have been the occasional peñas (folklore festivals) and a free dance performance by the ballet company from Buenos Aires, but I just hadnt been up to going to other ones before this. Ivan's gone and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I knew we were in for a treat.

Surprising that in a town this size (roughly 80,000) only a handful turn out for these FREE concerts. Maybe around 100. They don't even bother setting up many chairs. I guess experience has shown them how many to expect and rather than have a bunch of empty seats, they just set up a smaller number that get filled. Ivan went to one by a fairly famous guitarist a while back and only a dozen people showed up to listen. Granted, that one had not been advertised well at all by the municipality, but still....word-of-mouth is how most people learn about what's happening here. I've never seen a grapevine work so fast and efficiently (except maybe my hometown in southeastern Kentucky when it seemed my mom knew what I was up to before I did). We had no less than three people inform us about the concert this week. And our pool of acquaintances is still fairly small.

Our co-workers had to make a quick trip to Bs. As. so we are enjoying the company of their two youngest. Who aren't so young at ages 11 and almost 15. The almost-15-year-old stayed with us a while back and we taught her the ins-and-outs of playing Hand & Foot (which has as many versions as people who play, so don't think this link is the last word; our version is significantly different) and today we'll be teaching the 11-year-old and then having a good old-fashioned tournament. Winners: get ice cream. Losers: get ice cream too :-)

I cleaned house yesterday, knowing we'd have the girls over the weekend and I didn't want to have to clean while they were here. I swept the entire house and mopped those rooms that needed it. And do you know what had the audacity to show up not two hours after I finished? A HUGE, GINORMOUS, REALLY BIG dust bunny! Ivan built wonderful bed platforms that allow us to store bins underneath on both sides (helps tremendously with the storage problem) but I'll admit I rarely bother to sweep under there, preferring to let the bedskirts do their job: look pretty and hide the junk. BUT I think that's where the dust bunnies have a production factory running 24/7.

Have been thinking about the whole furniture arrangement thing too. The bedrooms are TINY so we can basically fit a bed in there and not much more. The guest room currently houses a nightstand, bed, small bookshelf and a tall chest of drawers. It.Is.Crowded. I'd like to move the chest of drawers to the kitchen where I could use it for napkins, tableclothes, tupperware-like containers and lids, food items that come in packets (put them in baskets and into drawers), and all the miscellaneous items that accumulate in that room.

Then the dresser that now sits in the living room would get moved to the guest room.

(I know this isn't the most exciting stuff. But it's my life, and that's what I share on this blog.)

We're going to put all the bookshelves Ivan built, including the one now in the study, in a corner of the living room.

All this so there will be room for the futon. For whenever we finally get it. Next week we might go into Cordoba and take a fabric swatch (from what I'm using to cover the IKEA chair cushions) so we can coordinate the fabric on the futon. Don't want it all matchy-matchy but we also don't want it to clash.

Normally we go to Cordoba once a month, to check on DNIs and do the monthly-shopping-marathon. But we've gone five times in the past 10 days. A trip to the airport, twice to take the girls to piano lessons, one time to pick up household items from a missionary who's leaving the country, and Ivan went in one evening to a Bible conference. And with all those trips there was a time element involved (as in, didn't have time for anything else) so we really want to go back and visit our friends, the Colles, and swing by the futon place.

Oh, and check out frames at Walmart. They have a HUGE selection. Yes, I am still waffling on the frame selection. Haven't seen anything yet that I really like. Normally I'm a pretty decisive person but for some reason this process has left me with a serious case of DMD (decision-making disorder). I do know what I DON'T want though! That's half the battle, isn't it?!

For those of you patient enough to hang in there while I rambled on and on and on.....here's a recipe that is totally worth the trouble. Because Dee is hosting Saturday Stirrings and has posted her (in)famous holiday recipe which means I have to come up with something equally spectacular so as not to embarrass myself.

(To be honest, it's a little hard to think Thanksgiving or even Christmas when it's ninety eleven degrees outside, but I'm trying. )

Holiday Shrimp Spread
(serve with water crackers)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 (4 ounce) cans shrimp
  • 1 cup cocktail sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato - peeled, seeded and chopped
  • bag of frozen medium-size or jumbo shrimp, already deveined
Mix cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise until well blended. Spread on large plate or platter. Drain and rinse canned shrimp. Spread over cream cheese mixture. Pour cocktail sauce over top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, then the chopped bell pepper, onion and tomato.
(The green of the bell pepper and red tomato make it quite festive and Christmasy so it's especially good to serve this at parties in December.)
Thaw frozen shrimp and then artfully arrange around edge of plate. Use generous amounts of clear wrap to cover the dish so it doesn't stink up your refrigerator while you chill it at least a few hours before serving.
Doesn't get much easier than this!
Serve with water wafers which serve as a vehicle for the shrimp spread rather than competing with the flavors as other crackers are wont to do. Some crackers just want all the attention! Use those on a different party tray.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Dozen Week #12


The fact that we have had a dozen random dozen meme posts has tickled Lid's fancy. And mine. It's kind of like the golden birthday for the Random Dozen Meme. I'd never heard of the golden birthday until a few years ago. It's when a person turns the age of their birth day (i.e., turning 25 on the 25th day of the month). Also known as the "Grand Birthday", "Lucky Birthday", "Champagne Birthday" or "Star Birthday". So since this is the twelfth edition of the Random Dozen... Oh never mind. (It made more sense in my head before I started writing it down.)

1. If you could master one sport, what would it be? Ballroom dancing. Hey, it's a sport! Or it should be. They work up a sweat on the dance floor! It requires some serious training too. 

2. When you make a major purchase, do you go with your gut instinct, or do you do research to make an informed decision? Research, research, research. And then a little more research. To the point we seldom make major purchases because WE ARE STILL RESEARCHING IT. For us, a major purchase is anything over $250. We have been researching couches for 15 months and still do not have one. By the time we come close to a decision, the money we've saved has gone for something else. Like car repairs or a new sink for the house in Sta. Rosa. So the saving starts all over again, as well as re-thinking our choice -- so more research. But this time, oh yes, this time we WILL be getting a couch before year's end.

3. There is an old kids' game that says you can find out what your movie star name would be by using your middle name as your first name and the name of the street you grew up on as your last. What is your movie star name? Faith Hawthorne (lived there until I was 9). Or Faith Bolam (through age 14). Or Faith...no clue about this last one because during high school I lived on various dirt roads up different hollers in southeastern Kentucky. [Grace, are you reading this? Do you know? Facebook me the answers please!]

4. Would you rather give up your favorite music or your favorite food? No contest, I'd give up the music in a heartbeat. Man can live with silence but not without sustenance. While I like and enjoy music, I am PASSIONATE about food.

5. There are two types of banana preferences. One is pristine yellow, almost to the point of being green; the other is spotty and more ripe. Which is your preference? Pristine, no spots please. Unless I'm making banana bread and sometimes I buy bananas for this purpose and wait for them to get all brown.

6. Your favorite tree is? Weeping Willow. So romantic with it's sweeping curves and drooping branches, it's stout and steadfast trunk that's perfect for the carved initials of lovestruck couples.

7. On a scale of 1-10, how tech savvy are you? Maybe a 3? I find this a hard one to answer with confidence. I'm a complete ignoramous when it comes to hardware or understanding HOW anything works. However... I'm getting better and better at navigating through the internet, learning how to use what's out there to do what I want. Whether that's communicating via facebook, e-mail or skype. Or doing more fun stuff with my blog. I'd really love to learn how to make my own backgrounds one of these days. But all this learning takes time which I'm in short supply of these days, what with sharing the computer and just living life. Not being from the "plugged in generation" I have to really work at all the technology stuff.

8. Has H1N1 touched your family? No, praise the Lord! Have heard it's pretty nasty. I'm praying especially for my kids. The son travels A LOT with his business and is with people all the time who could potentially share the swine love. My daughter-in-law works in a pharmacy where she's in constant contact with the sickies of this world waiting to get their prescriptions filled. And my daughter is super busy and overwhelmed between work, school, finishing up a video project and getting ready TO COME AND VISIT HER MAMA. You know when you're tired and overworked, you're more susceptible to the germs floating around.

9. Are you an analytical person, or do you just accept things the way they are without questioning or scrutinizing? I put the anal in analytical.

10. Is your personality more like that of a dog, cat, or Koala? Cat. Stand-offish at first, not quick to make friends and definitely NOT the cuddly type.

11. Do you keep in touch with friends you made years ago? Some. Facebook has helped with that and I'm re-connecting with people from high school and even before. BUT. Why is it that people who didn't like you then suddenly want to be your friend now? Upon the advice of my offspring, I am careful who I "friend" on facebook. 

[What's up with changing all these nouns into verbs in computer-speak? Yesterday I read that "unfriend" is WOTY (Word Of The Year) according to the New Oxford American Dictionary. The whole facebook experience transports me back to second grade recess on the playground.]

12. You are checking out at a grocery store. In the express lane, there are more people than the regular lanes, but of course, their load is less than those in the regular lanes. Which lane do you choose (assuming you qualify for the express lane) and why? Express lane because I am the eternal optimist when it comes to choosing a checkout lane. No matter that whatever lane I choose will come to a grinding halt with the person in front of me who ends up requiring multiple prices checks, can't get her credit card to work or who spends five minutes digging through her purse for correct change -- the purse that hasn't been cleaned out in years and would require a team from an archeological dig to excavate it properly. This same person suddenly decides she needs one more item and smiling sweetly at all around, says she'll be "Just a minute!" and takes off into the cavernous building never to be seen again. So I get in a different checkout lane, only to have something similar happen. I spend way more time waiting in check-outs than actually shopping.

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Rejoicing at the rain! It started sprinkling about 8:30 p.m. yesterday, causing our English conversation group to move inside (it was so HOT at Centro Esperanza we had hauled the chairs outside) and around 11 p.m. it turned into a nice steady rain that kept up most of the night. Hallelujah! It's still overcast today so we're hoping for more of the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wherein we prayed all the way home that the car wouldn't explode

We took our co-workers' daughters into Cordoba for their piano lessons last evening and went to the book exchange while we waited. On the way home we suddenly started smelling gasoline. When we dropped the girls off Ivan got out to check on the problem. BIG leak and nothing he could do without his tools. We live almost directly south of them and it's all downhill so we hightailed it home, praying all the way that the car wouldn't explode. Obviously it didn't since I'm here to write about it.

Upon investigation Ivan found a small part that had worked its way completely out of place, leaving hefty leakage in its wake. He thinks it may have started a while back when an SUV in front of us suddenly went into reverse and slammed into our little Fiat Uno. He epoxied the part into place but that's a temporary fix so looks like we'll be taking the car BACK to the mechanic again. Last week it was the electrical system, this week something to do with the fuel injection pump.

Of course that's the way it is with older cars. Always something.

At least we were able to get home safely last night. For that I'm very thankful!

Didn't get a lot of books in the exchange but did find a series my co-worker will enjoy. Am missing the first out of six books; will have to see if I can find it online. Met two young couples as well as a single lady from Germany. Of the two couples, one husband is Argentine and was born near one of the places Ivan lived as a child. So the two of them were jabbering up a storm in Spanish.

We weren't surprised by the six degrees (or so) of separation we found existed. The lady hosting the book exchange is with an organization headed up by the man who used to be Ivan's roommate in Bible Institute. One of the wives is from a small town in northern Ohio not far from where we lived in southern Michigan and she knows people at one of the churches we've visited. The uncle of the lady from Ohio was a pilot with MAF in Indonesia where the other wife spent six years when her dad was a pilot with the same group. And the single German lady knows missionaries we know through our cousin in Oklahoma. Got all that? lol

Tonight will be the first English conversation group combining the women and men. (Which means I can't spend too much time on the computer because I need to get ready for it.) I'm a little nervous about it but Ivan will be there to help. I sent text invitation/reminders to nine people and have received positive responses from three but am expecting more.

I'm under strict orders not to mention how many days until my daughter arrives (you're not reading this part, are you Tina?) but if you'll notice what day it is and you know that she arrives on December 17th, you can figure that out and know why I'm doing the happy dance :-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fall Into Flavor with Sweetness & Light Muffins


Yes, that really is the name for these muffins :-)

Baking is not my forte but I've never had a batch of these muffins fail, and the recipe comes with variations that make it very versatile. It's from the Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread: A Country Inn Cookbook; and the pages are a mess with spilled ingredients from the many, many times I've used this recipe. I'm going to give you the basic recipe and then follow up with some of their variations, along with my favorite which I altered from the book (which just goes to show you can pretty much do what you want with the basic recipe).

SWEETNESS & LIGHT MUFFINS
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I just use ground nutmeg)
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled (I use Canola oil instead)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl whisk together milk, butter (or oil), egg and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry, combine with as few strokes as possible -- just until ingredients are incorporated.
If you like, fold in additional ingredients as mentioned in Variation Options.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling to 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.
Cool briefly on racks until the smell and hunger pains drive you to eat at least one while piping hot.

VARIATIONS
Peach and Nut: Add a drop of almond extract to wet ingredients. Add 3 diced peaches and 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts to batter.
Ginger-Pear-Walnut: Add 2 partially mashed, diced pears, 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger root and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to batter.
Cranberry Nut: Use larger amount of sugar in basic recipe. Add 1 cup chopped cranberries and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts to batter. You can also add 1-1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest.
Piña Colada: Use smaller amount of sugar in basic recipe. Replace 1/4 cup milk with 1/4 cup thawed frozen pineapple juice concentrate mixed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add this to wet ingredients, then mix with dry ingredients. Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (how about macadamias?) and, if you want, 3/4 cup diced fresh pineapple to the batter.
Banana-Chocolate Chip: (my personal favorite and the one I make most often) Add 2 mashed bananas,  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 cup (at least) chocolate chips to batter.

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My poor husband endured a storm of tears on my part this morning. Nothing big, but lots of little ones building up combined with PMS, makes for a Major Monday Morning Meltdown :-(  Poor guy! How he puts up with me at times I'll never know, but I'm thankful he does!

Busy weekend with soccer on Saturday followed by a meeting to explain the upcoming Word of Life summer camp and how they might earn enough to pay their way. Our co-workers have lined up a lady that makes empanadas who is willing to sell them to the boys at a discount so they can resell them for a profit. If they sell 6 dozen per week until camp in early February, they can cover all their costs (camp, transportation and t-shirt). Empanadas are small meat pies very popular in Argentina, and especially in this area.

Sunday was our co-worker's birthday and we had a fiesta after the evening meeting. Nine of the soccer boys came as well as one mom and another dad. Good times! I spent part of the afternoon in the kitchen making a huge batch of chicken salad. It took as long to clean up my mess as it did to make it :-)  I used pre-cooked rotisserie chickens from the store which saved time and meant I didn't have to heat up my kitchen. Because you can't find seedless grapes and I had no desire to spend another hour removing seeds from the ones I can find, I used Granny Smith apples instead. I think I prefer the apple because it adds some additional crunch to the salad. Just bought a variety of small rolls as a vehicle for the chicken salad -- a little neater than crackers or regular bread. Actually cleaned the grocery store bakery out of their entire stock of small rolls. lol  Do you know how much teenage boys can put away?!

Ivan thought up breakfast yesterday. He prepared grapefruit (using the grapefruit knife to separate all the sections and sprinkling a little sugar on top) while I made potato pancakes with leftover mashed potatoes, and then he threw a bunch of cherry tomatoes into the skillet and cooked them on high heat for a few minutes. We topped the pancakes with the tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream. ¡Muy delicioso! That is now my favorite breakfast.

Our co-workers' middle daughter will be turning 15 next month and that's a BIG deal here. Last evening she gave us our invitation. It's so cute! I'll post a photo of it on Project 365 next week.

Things are beginning to pick up with the holidays fast approaching. And I don't mean only Christmas and New Years; in Argentina school goes from March through early December so the kids have end-of-year activities. Their system is divided into primaria (up to 6th) and secondaria (7th-12th); our co-workers' youngest will be graduating from 6th, so another party is in the works. Next week I'll spend three days helping with oral exams at the English institute again. There's a big peña on December 10th (folklore festival) as well as untold smaller parties among friends. 

Most exciting for us will be the arrival of our daughter in mid December! She has asked me not to mention how many days to go because SHE IS FREAKING OUT WITH ALL THE STUFF SHE STILL HAS TO DO BEFORE THEN so I am not talking about days at all. Not at all. Even a little bit. Because I don't want to stress her out even more. Besides you can do the math :-) No Tina, NOT YOU! Don't do the math. Just get back to work on all those things you have to do. lol

I'm happy to report that even though my son still doesn't have any sensation in the tips of his fingers, the physical therapy is helping him regain strength in the hand/wrist again. But keep praying for complete healing! On his blog he's starting a series on how to build websites which I would love to learn one day but feel I need to keep my focus on Spanish right now. But one of these days!

The daughter gave me her top four choices of frames and two of ours actually coincided! One pair that we both like, Ivan does too. But I'm still not completely convinced. Because of the really dry conditions here I can't wear contacts (I'd be putting eye drops in every hour-on-the-hour and I'm not even kidding) so I'd like to choose a pair of frames I'm going to enjoy wearing for a few years.

Also, at the second place the lady mentioned that if I went with a multifocal rather than bifocal I could get by with smaller lenses. I've been nervous about trying multifocals because I've heard they can be difficult to get used to, but I'm seriously considering the switch. That would give me more options; a good thing since my face is just too small for most of the frames out there.

My cousin Grace sent me a message after yesterday's post and said I look just like my mom. I've thought that a lot this past year after I lost all that weight (my mom was always very thin). Since I've put about 15 lbs. back on the resemblance isn't quite as strong but it's definitely still there :-)  No mistaking me for anyone other than Georgia Shepherd daughter!

I have a tablecloth I need to hem. ¡Hasta luego!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Week 46, Project 365

Project 365 marches on. Not many weeks left in which to document our year in photos.

First up, these lovely flowers bloomed over at Centro Esperanza in spite of the intense heat and dry conditions (they were never watered since I didn't even know what they were).

While on a quick run to Disco I came out of the store to find this parked next to my car.

Fernet is the party drink of choice in Argentina. I don't know from personal experience but am told it has a rather bitter taste and is quite strong so it's mixed with Coke; what I do know from personal experience is that Monday mornings we'll find Fernet and Coke bottles littered all over the costanera.

I shared our neighbor's other dog in a previous 365 post; although both are cuties, this one is my favorite -- all his wrinkles just make him more adorable, like I hope mine will in years to come :-)

Wednesday we took Andrea to the airport to catch her flight home. I was snapping photos to document the occasion and said, "Come on, show your true feelings!"

And she did :-) This was a girl who was more than ready to see her fiancé after three long months. Even though they communicated via skype or Vonage phone every day, it's just not the same.

After my 8 a.m. appointment with the optometrist on Friday we stopped at an YPF for coffee and rolls. They also bring you orange juice, a tiny glass of agua con gas (soda water) and toast with butter and jam. All for less than $3 U.S. You can't even get a café con leche alone for that in the U.S. 

Then we went shopping for frames. [It's done differently here; once you have your prescription for the lenses, you go to a store that sells frames to order your glasses.]  Ivan took a ton of photos of me modeling different pairs which I sent to my daughter and SIL for their input. I didn't like most of the frames but Ivan said I needed to show more than what I liked (only 4 pair) -- because I am fashionistically challenged (my words, not his). I really didn't like this pair; thought they were a bit over the top.

My SIL responded with her top four choices (which did not coincide with my four) and no, these didn't make her cut either. I'm still waiting on my daughter's opinion.

Those who are not regular visitors to my blog will not know of my obsession with finding "interesting" dresses. I totally scored with this gem! Sort of what I think Cindy Lauper would wear as a ballerina.

I saw a great dress a while back, but we were driving somewhere and in a hurry so I didn't stop to snap a photo. It was gone by the time I got back which made me really sad because it would have been PERFECT for my calendar..really short red and black dress with a top that reminded me of something a saloon girl might wear, and a long train of alternating red and black ruffles on the back that dragged the floor. You can be sure I won't let another one like that get away from me :-)

And that wraps up week #46 for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Stirrings - Green Chili Enchiladas

This was one of my son's all-time favorites when he was younger. It's from the Once A Month Cookbook (now expanded and revised) and back in the day I'd spend a day or two cooking up a storm and filling my freezer because life is busy when you've got two kids you homeschool and up to six others that you're houseparenting. I don't do the bulk cooking any more. It's just me and Ivan and we live in South America where there's a more relaxed pace of life (most of the time) and there's also the little issue of no longer having a freezer in which to put all the casseroles. The thing is, this is a great recipe for just any old day, especially if you're having company. You can make it a day or so ahead and stick in the fridge until time to put into the oven. Then you don't have to spend a ton of time in the kitchen when your guests are there, but can instead enjoy their visit.

Although I've never done it, it would seem this recipe could be tweaked to suit those who prefer poultry over beef. Which would make it a good way to use up some of that leftover turkey you'll soon have in your fridge. And a nice change of pace from the Turkey Tetrazzini we usually give our families after the holidays (not that there's anything wrong with Turkey Tetrazzini but year-after-year? Surprise your family with something new!).

GREEN CHILI ENCHILADAS
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (3 3/4 cups browned meat)
  • 1 1/4 cups onions, finely chopped (3/4 cup sauteed)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  1. Cook the ground beef, and saute onions until the meat is brown. Drain off fat. Add chili powder, salt and pepper. Reserve 1 cup cheese. Spoon enough meat mixture and remaining cheese on each tortilla to cover a third of it. Roll tortilla beginning at the filled edge. Place seam side down in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish treated with nonstick spray. Combine soup, sour cream, and green chilies to make a sauce; pour over tortillas.
  2. Bake uncovered in a preheated 375ºF oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
Dee is hosting Saturday Stirrings where you can check out other delicious recipes. Go! Enjoy!
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It rained last night! Not a ton, but any is better than none. Did not really cool things down much. I was up early to clean house (still a work in progress) and by the time I sat down for a break at 10 a.m. to write this post, I was dripping with sweat. What rain we did get was sufficient to soften the ground enough so Ivan could turn the soil. So he's busy doing that and putting in our summer garden! We were wondering if we'd even be able to do a garden this year. The ground was so dry and hard. Very thankful for the rain! And praying for more :-)

Yesterday afternoon there was another big dust storm where the sky turned that weird orange gray color. They had to close the autopista between Carlos Paz and Cordoba for a while because visibility was so low. Hopefully the rain helps keep the dust down now.

We were able to buy some kitchen and other household items from the single missionary lady who's re-locating to Costa Rica. I'm not sure what I'm most excited about, the small tupperware-like containers with lids that actually seal or the supply of hand towels that will come in "handy" for the little house. (Sorry, I've been married to Ivan a long time and they just pop out involuntarily now.)

Back to the grindstone. There's dusting to do as well as some organizing. Now I have to figure out where to put those kitchen and other household items. ¡Hasta luego!

Friday, November 13, 2009

If I had sufficient hair, I'd pull some of it out

But since it's so short I have none to spare.

Another "gray" moment this morning when we managed to misplace my new prescription for eyeglasses between the doctor's office and the store where you buy the frames and actually order the glasses.

The appointment with the optometrist went well. Ivan drove but stayed in the waiting room and I was able to communicate sufficiently with the doctor. Turns out the prescription from a year ago that I've had so much trouble with is too strong. Like a whole point too strong. So it's no wonder that the new glasses I had sent in August from that prescription didn't stop the headaches. Nor any wonder I was unable to wear my contacts last year -- it wasn't just in my head, they really did make me dizzy because the magnification was too great.

Wanted to share an interesting side note...As many of you know, Argentines kiss cheeks (or "air" kiss in the general direction of the cheek) upon arriving and leaving and this extends to everyone, men and women alike. And not just with friends -- with everyone! So we greeted with a kiss and said goodbye with a kiss the receptionist, the office manager, the doctor, and the biochemist who does all the bloodwork at the clinic and who happened to be in the waiting room. lol  How would you like to have to do that everywhere you went?!

The office manager speaks and writes fairly good English and he asked Ivan to look over a long letter he'd written to friends in the U.S. Since my appointment was for 8 a.m., we waited and had coffee and rolls at YPF after my exam and we looked over the letter then. Actually quite well done but there were some funny bits where he'd obviously struggled with the translation into English. At one point we know he meant to say he was happy to accept a responsibility but instead said he was happy to accept the "compromise". An easy mistake since in Spanish "compromiso" means a commitment. Made me feel a little better about my Spanish compositions which usually bleed red ink by the time Ivan and Marcela are finished with them. But not as much as before! I'm encouraged by the improvement (which I gauge by less red ink).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand... We stopped at two "opti" stores to look at frames and ended up taking 18 photos of me in different pairs to e-mail my daughter and SIL for their input. I'm not about to choose frames all by my lonesome because I am fashionistically (is that a word?) challenged.

[It is taking a LOOOONG  time to send them though, and I can only do it in batches of three. Makes me miss my Macbook which made it so easy to attach and send things in e-mails. *sigh*]

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There's a single missionary in Cordoba who is getting ready to shift ministries and move to Costa Rica. Tonight she's hosting a clothing exchange and on Monday a book exchange. She's invited the whole missionary community to bring what they'd like to get rid of and trade with one another. Not sure we'll make it to the one tonight but you can bet I'll be there with bells on Monday :-) Access to books is one of the things I miss most. Aside from that it will be fun to meet other missionaries who work in other areas of the province.

On Wednesday we were at the smaller Wal-mart in Cordoba. It's not the one we usually go to, but we went that day because it is near Eduardo Basualdo's where we buy paper, cleaning and personal hygiene products WAY cheaper than anywhere else. A gentleman overheard us speaking English and came over to introduce himself. He's a missionary in a town we go through on our way to the house in Sta. Rosa. They just moved here a few months ago from Bolivia to head up a new work. We spent at least half an hour talking.

It's always fun to spend time with other missionaries because they totally "get it" since they have experienced, and are experiencing, many of the same things. Having been on the other end, as a lay person in the church back in the U.S. I know there is just no way for the average American to comprehend some of the issues that missionaries contend with because it is so completely outside the scope of their own life in America. I still occasionally have "Ah ha!" moments when something happens to us and it reminds me of something a missionary has related in the past but I did not fully understand the implications until now. I know our friends and family love us, pray for us, encourage us...but you don't always understand us :-) And that's okay. We don't expect you to always "get it". I'm just trying to explain why we so appreciate these opportunities to spend time with other missionaries.

It's also why I had so much fun participating in Candle in the Corner. What a blessing -- and a kick! -- to get to know other missionary wives around the globe. I look forward to reading more of their stories. Heidi did such a fabulous job hosting this event and really encouraged us all with the time and energy she put into it, as well as her beautiful attitude. God used the project in each of our lives in different ways, some truly amazing ways and I think I can say for all of us that we're really glad we signed up for it.

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The heat continues. Last night we had two fans going in our room (ceiling and window) and it was still too hot for even a sheet. Today it's in the high 90s. Several times in the last two weeks we've had storm clouds gather overhead but they blow over without delivering any rain. Local government has divided the city into sections and the water is turned off every other day in almost every barrio. But not ours; we aren't on the schedule to have the water turned off at all. No idea why but I'm not going to complain.

So what is everyone else up to this weekend? While we try to avoid being outside too much and keep as much of the cool inside/heat outside as possible, what will you be doing?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Randomness Continues


The Random Dozen has some doozies this week! If you are new to this blog and have no idea what is going on, visit 2nd Cup and check out all the other bloggers who have linked up to share their answers to twelve completely random (and often bizarre) questions posed by The Lid.

1. What was the last song you listened to? It was something on a blog and I don't remember. Really. I honestly don't remember. It was about a week ago. There's plenty of music in the barrio with the construction guys next door blaring their radio which is set to a station which consistently plays musicians who are WAY out of tune. It's so bad it's painful. I do my best to block that music from my conscious brainwaves so it doesn't count. Besides I wouldn't have a clue what any of the names of those songs are, even if I was listening...which I'm not.

2. Have you ever had “buyer’s remorse” over anything? Once I shopped at a high end department store and bought a pair of stirrup pants and long tunic sweater (this tells you how long ago I bought it - maybe 20 years?). That outfit cost as much as my wedding dress and I had such angst all the way home. But the mall was two hours from my house so not an easy thing to take it back (which I debated doing for a good solid week). The stirrup pants are no more but I still wear (and adore) the tunic sweater in softest pink and cream, so I think I got my money's worth in the end.

3. What is something in your life that you are thankful for now that you didn’t think you would be at the time of the event? (Something that seemed ill-timed, inconvenient or hurtful which turned out to be a good thing) Kids? lol  Actually that was just the initial reaction when we found out we were pregnant the first time since we were both still in college. I cried for a couple of days. But God knows way better than we do about those things. And the second one came along during a time of transition which was a little difficult but, again, in God's perfect timing. I love those crazy kids like there's no tomorrow and am SO THANKFUL God blessed us with them! 

4. Do you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade every year? If so, do you have a favorite float or balloon? While it's something I've always loved to do, nobody else in my family ever got into it so the annual viewing fell by the wayside long before we moved overseas where I couldn't watch it even if I wanted to now.

5. Share a quote, scripture, poem or lyric which has been an inspiration to you lately. You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them." Or by asking "Where is the God of justice?" Sounds pretty contemporary, doesn't it? That's from Malachi 2:17. People we meet generally either have the idea that we're all good and going to heaven or they're angry with Him and demand to know where is the justice in this world. The whole book of Malachi proves Solomon's point that there's nothing new under the sun. All the things the Israelites were up to way back when, we're still up to today.

6. This is meant to be a fun question, and this is a G-rated blog, but please share a “guilty pleasure,” something that you enjoy that’s probably not the most edifying, time-worthy or healthy thing you could be indulging in. Did I mention this blog is rated G? I could probably list a dozen off the top of my head without having to think very hard...Dancing With The Stars is a couple hours of my life each week that I won't get back...some of the authors I enjoy, while not bad, probably aren't time-worthy...even though I get great encouragement and am blessed by the friendships in Bloggyville I probably spend too much time online (or did before my Mac busted)...No Bakes are amazingly delicious and (once you know how to make them) really easy to make but eaten in excess -- which is the only way I eat them -- are not healthy...need I go on?

7. What Thanksgiving food are you looking forward to? Not sure we'll "do" Thanksgiving this year. There aren't many North Americans around to enjoy it with, and I think I'm actually working that day, helping with oral exams at the English Institute. Plus the ingredients for a traditional dinner are difficult or impossible to come by: turkeys are very expensive when you can find them (which isn't often), no cranberry sauce or stuffing croutons at all, sweet potatoes are a possibility because the stores sometimes carry those but no pecans so how can I make my fabulous sweet potato casserole? If we do anything it'll just be a nice chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, butternut squash and salad.

8. What is your favorite book to read to children, or what was your favorite childhood book? There are SO MANY wonderful children's books but my favorite and one I read to my kids is The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I wanted to live in that house!

9. Do you collect anything? (Feel free to post a photo.) My husband declared our house a collection-free zone years ago after my brief obsession with lazy susans. lol  But I did start collecting teacups and after much debate, brought them with me. I use them too! Looking forward to getting a shelf up high along the wall in the kitchen so I can unpack at least a portion of my 27 cups to display. Meanwhile they're swaddled in bubble wrap and stored in a big plastic bin.

The Ladies Tea at our last Missionary Field Conference.

10. Gift bags or wrapping paper? Both! Depends on the gift.

11. Share an after-school memory from when you were younger. What was your routine like on an average day? We lived in Michigan when I was in grade school, so a typical day found me walking home from school with my sister, possibly stopping at the library if I was out of books. My sister loved afternoon cartoons, I usually buried my nose in a book. I'm sure I had homework but I have no memories of doing it although I must have since I was a good student. After supper the kids in our neighborhood would usually congregate outside, maybe play a game of kickball in the street or a few of us would take a bike ride. Home by dark, some t.v. before bed at 9:30. After we moved to Kentucky when I was ready to start high school, the trip home involved a bus ride that lasted 1-1/2 hours. Then we hauled in coal to keep the stove going that heated our house. We helped with cooking and cleaning. I think we may have had a t.v. but I don't remember watching it then. Usually up until ten or so doing homework, then I'd go to bed and read for a while. I know, my life was completely mundane and boring; I almost went to sleep just re-reading this paragraph.

12. True story: Once, in a job interview, I was asked this question and told there would be no clarifying; I simply had to answer the question: “When you’re fishing, do you feel for the fish?” So what about you? Do you feel for the fish?? Definitely not. I don't touch the fish or worms when we go fishing. I'm along simply for moral support and while the others fish, I read. 
Feel a fish? What kind of warped question is that? I don't think I'd even want to work at a place that asked questions like that. Ewwwww.
EDITED at 8:15 a.m. Okay, so I answered these questions as soon as I got up at 6:00 this morning. AND TOTALLY DIDN'T GET THIS QUESTION UNTIL I WAS IN THE SHOWER TWO HOURS LATER. Oh my word, it hit me while washing my hair. "Do you feel FOR the fish?" As in, do you feel badly for the fish? lol  Ivan says he took the question the same way I did initially so I'm guessing I won't be the only one (hope not anyway! I would totally feel like the ditzy contestant on Miss Congeniality who answered the question, "Describe your perfect date" by talking about a day in April that was neither too hot nor too cold.). It'll be fun to see how others answered this one!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall Into Flavor with Chocolate Cinnamon Biscotti

When it starts getting cold (which is what most of you will experience once Indian summer is over) is there anything better than a hot cup of coffee or tea and some biscotti to dunk into it? No, I didn't think so either so this week I'm sharing a super easy biscotti recipe gleaned from the Chocolate Cake Doctor. This woman has taken a simple box cake mix and -- like Emeril -- KICKED IT UP A NOTCH! I haven't made it all the way through either the Cake Doctor or the Chocolate Cake Doctor cookbooks yet but I'm working on it :-) Simple ingredients and method, fantastic results. [Could also be made and given as gifts.]

CHOCOLATE CINNAMON BISCOTTI
makes 16-18
1 pkg plain German chocolate cake mix*
8 T butter (one stick)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fiinely chopped hazelnuts*
1/4 cup flaked or grated semisweet chocolate
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In large bowl mix together all the ingredients on low speed until well blended, 3-4 minutes. The dough will be thick and come together in a ball.
Turn out onto prepared baking sheet. With floured hands shape dough into a rectangle about 14" long by 4" wide and 1/2 inch thick. Mound dough so it is slightly higher in the center (slightly, people, slightly!).
Bake until it feels firm when lightly pressed with finger and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes.
Remove from oven and leave biscotti to cool for 10 minutes. (Leave the oven on; we're not done yet.)
Use a sharp, serrated knife cut one inch thick slices. You should end up with 16-18 biscotti. As you slice, carefully set biscotti on its side on the same baking sheet.
Return to oven and bake 10 more minutes. Turn oven off BUT LEAVE BISCOTTI IN THE OVEN for 30-40 minutes until they are crisp.
Remove from oven, transfer biscotti to a rack and cool completely (about 2 hours).
Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks.
* I substitute with regular chocolate cake mix since I cannot find the German chocolate here. 
Nor can I get hazelnuts, so I use walnuts instead.

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Now how simple was that? And the taste? Riquisimo!

Ivan is taking our car to the mechanic this morning because the problem has stumped him.Saturday evening after we finished with the weekly soccer game/fellowship time and were ready come home, none of the lights worked on the car inside or outside. Not good! Pray the mechanic diagnoses the problem quickly and is able to repair it by tomorrow evening. 'Cause Wednesday we have to get Andrea to the airport.

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Candle in the Corner project, take time to do it today! I've met some lovely ladies from all over the world through this project.

On my computer I was able to add accents and upside down question marks and exclamation points. I'm sure there's some way to do the same on Ivan's computer but I haven't figured it out yet (don't really have a lot of time to look either). I miss my Mac :-(  But Ivan ordered the part on Saturday to be delivered to our daughter who will then bring it when she comes to visit IN ONLY 38 DAYS.

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it :-) 

Remembering how exhausted I was after that last semester in college, we've blocked out the first week she's here so she can just rest and relax. She'll probably need a few days to catch up on sleep!

Also on my computer was our address book so until we get the Macbook fixed, we won't be able to send out e-mail updates like we typically do once or twice a month. The address book has all our contact info: e-mails, addresses, phone numbers, etc. *sigh* Probably need to remedy that problem. It took me HOURS AND HOURS almost two years ago to input all that info, because we have hundreds and hundreds of folks who receive prayer updates.

I printed out a hard copy but that was over a year ago and there have been so many changes since then. PLUS I'd have to re-input all the e-mail addresses on Ivan's computer and THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY. Meanwhile people will think we've dropped off the face of the earth.

Which I sort of feel I have, speaking in terms of being connected via social media/networking. Sharing a computer means a lot less time for stopping by facebook, reading blogs or checking out the latest on The Quilt Show site. So far I've managed to keep up with e-mails but that's about it. I'm so far behind with blogs I may never catch up. But in the infamous words of my hubby: "It is what it is."

Happy Monday everyone!