Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rub On Transfers: A Finishable Project

I am really good at choosing projects I want to do and not getting them finished or ever getting to them! I felt victorious when I completed a dish makeover to match the Christmas decorations on our mantel and tree. Last year I decided to start making some changes with our Christmas decor, trying to infuse a bit of whimsy--maybe that's what having small kids does to you! Anyway, the plates above our mantel are great, from our local pottery manufacturer, but they did not fit what I was going for.Thankfully I had bought some rub on transfers from a scrapbook store in the States. They are Heather Bailey's Autumn Leaves by Freshcuts. I had never done this before but thought it was worth a shot with plates I bought from the Chinesa Loja (what we call dollar stores here) for a Euro each. The kit comes with directions and a "burnisher", AKA popsicle stick. Rubbing the transfers on takes a bit of elbow grease and a lot of patience, checking it to make sure every bit is down, rubbing again and again. Pulling the backing paper up too fast can rip the transfer. A couple times I messed up the transfers beyond repair and had to settle with the thought that it made them look sort of shabby, in a good way.

The mantel with it's updated Christmas attire:
A close up on my favorite dish with the bird transfer:
The whole picture:

Baking with Helpers

Just wanted to share how fun baking can be with 2 small helpers on each side:

Gingerbread for our upcoming neighborhood Christmas party turned out well--in spite of it all-- with all their help. They get really excited about trying the things they "make"!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What a Scent!

I am sitting at my computer in the kitchen breathing in a fabulous smell--nothing I've baked though. It's the apple and orange pomanders the girls and I made today.
Googling "pomanders" showed me that there are many people out there that have such memories attached to making and smelling them. I have been waiting for the year that the girls would be able to push the cloves in themselves, and they (ages 3 and 5) were able to for the most part. Telling them how I once covered a whole apple in cloves and how my mom kept it around for years I think (it dried out nicely) motivated my oldest for some special pomander achievements. In the end we were happy with stripes, a heart, an egg, zig zags and other nameless yet beautiful designs. Wish I could send the smell your way!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Travel Regrets and Reminders

On the heels of an overseas flight this morning/last night/whatever time of day it was where you were, I thought I should make some notes of what to do differently the next time we embark on a flight:

1. How I wish I'd had my camera!!! Somehow it got packed in a box that was checked in. I missed precious shots of the girls riding on the back of their carry ons as Scott pulled them through 2 airports (they had to walk as their carry ons got stacked on carts this morning!). So I have no fun travel pics to share this time. But to learn from it...

2. Put heavy items in our carry ons again to take weight away from the weighed bags/boxes checked in, but do not forget to include all the allowable travel size toiletries you can fit in a quart bag per person. I never thought I'd miss our flight (when I packed) after the first leg of our trip was delayed. Thankfully the airlines put us up in a hotel AND paid for our meals. However, we had no toiletries at the hotel except the few items they offered. Overseas flying can make you look and feel grimy enough. Add a day without all your routine toiletries--whew!

3. I had read from a well traveled friend of mine to always include a change of clothes for everyone on your flight. Thankfully we heeded her advice on a past overseas flight when one of our girls had a stomach bug and went through her clothes and her sisters! So, we had the second change of clothes covered for our unexpected additional 24 hours in the USA.

4. Check into special programs and credit offers with the airlines in advance to save money on baggage fees and allowances. We found out at the counter that we could have saved a lot of money had we joined Continental's elite(?) program but it was too late. We don't have the annual miles to keep it up but we would have been given the adequate miles if we'd signed up for their credit card. The annual fee would have been cheaper than what we paid!

5. Note number 4 also says we bought/got probably too much during our U.S. furlough! Of course grandparents and family want to give to us when we're home and especially at Christmas time--and we are so blessed by that! And then the Dollar is way cheaper than the Euro so it makes stocking up on kids clothes, coats, English books, etc. look really appealing. But I'm not sure if the savings remains once you have to pay to ship it! And the work involved--so glad it's all here now, but packing it all on the other end is not something I want to do regularly. I'm not really sure how to change this scenario for the next time, but we've got some time to ponder/pray about it now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fantastic Photography

We were thrilled to see how our family pics turned out by our friend Anna Thoreson. Definitely some framers there! (And worth stopping to post about in our FULL furlough schedule!)

She was a trooper rescheduling after a morning rain and fitting us in her busy schedule (you can see all the other lovely photos she's recently taken on her blog). Then she helped us get a picture/prayer card ready to send to our supporters. An amazing blessing!

Friday, September 4, 2009

All Things French (the food post)

In writing about Bonne Maman jars in my last post, I realized I had not blogged about how I like all things French (of what I've experienced of France).

It may be sad to hear, but my culinary experiences in France do not include any expensive multi-course meals or special quisine. We get excited about things like Bonne Maman tartlets--which we recently found at a large grocery store here in Portugal. Yes, this is an empty box!

We are thankful our grocery stores here carry the yummy jams too. It was the only brand we found that had an affordable peach preserve in Germany. When we were driving through France on our way to Portugal, I had a chance to peruse a French grocery store. Bonne Maman is not limited to jams and tarts! Here are yogurts and puddings:

Have you ever tasted a French macaroon? I didn't even know what they were on our first trip to France. Such pretty little cookies, kind of like soft flavored meringues with cream in the middle. Check out this macaroon store display:

I can't not mention the amazing breads and pastries! We are headed for the boulangeries and patisseries as soon as we cross the border!

The next picture shows what kind of food we really eat in France when you have kids in tow. The French take their bread seriously enough to offer a Big Mac on whole grain buns--sort of a nutrition oxymoron, huh?
Well, it seems the focus was on food (Does that say something about me? Can't throw away those years of studying food and nutrition!). Maybe the next time I'll get to French flea markets, French linens and pottery, ...or great ways to see sights in France. Love it all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1st Attempt at Pear Sauce

I felt it was time to get something made with all the pears my neighbor had given me. They came from the orchard behind our neighborhood. She said the owner had her drive her car around, and he filled up her trunk! So nice of her to share with us! I first thought she was bringing us a huge box of Portuguese wine (as you can see).She told us these are pears with a name that meant rock, and that they were. You're supposed to let them ripen for at least a week before eating them. My neighbor and my mom said I needed to set them out in a layer so they'd last longer. So they've been outside on 2 trays the last week. I finally decided to try a recipe for Pear Sauce, since I didn't have any pectin on hand to make jam.

It turned out really well! I asked my husband if it was sweet enough, and he answered positively. I was loving that since I hadn't added any sugar yet! Here's a close up of the finished product: I don't have canning supplies now (maybe a future buy with all the fruit around us), so freezer canning will do for now. The jars I use for our homemade salsa still have a faint salsa aroma (and I even run them through the dishwasher--does that happen to you?). So I had to bust out the Bonne Maman jars I was saving for a future project. Makes it look cute though!
Now to that second tray of pears...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Scarring News

I had a hard one to swallow today--something that is somewhat silly to be concerned about. The really friendly English speaking nurse told me that our girls would need tuberculosis vaccinations to be up to date with vaccines in Portugal. I had to ask, "That's the one that leaves the scar?" Yes.

My internal response has been interesting. My flesh rises to say, "They wouldn't need that if they lived in America," and "Oh, how I don't want their nice skin to get such a scar!" But I know that this is one of those ways we choose to lay down what we want when we agree to follow what we feel called to. I know this is really NOT a big deal, it just feels like it at the moment. I trust my Father that He knows what is best for them.

And I certainly want them to be protected from such a disease. I had to take the antibiotics for TB for 9 months after I had a new positive skin test back when I was working--not any fun to be checked monthly at the health department. Looking at the internet, I am reminded at how devastating this disease can be (how can I forget all those videos they made us watch back in our internship and at work inservices?).

Anyway, thanks for reading. It's nice to share it with you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One of the Best Finds

About 15 minutes north of us in Caldas da Rainha is a fabulous find. What is in the place that is so great? I wish you could be here to let me show you! Hopefully a few pictures will give you an idea.
This is the Bordallo Pinheiro pottery store and factory. They make majolica like pottery I've always admired. We saw some old and expensive pieces in an antiques shop right after we arrived in Portugal. I was thrilled to know the new and very affordable pieces are just up the road! I just bought some plates to hang up for 1.75 Euros a piece! Here are some close-ups from the store:
These bunny platters are 2.45 Euros a piece--amazing price, huh?! Here just a few of the Christmas pieces they have. I hear they have more closer to the holidays.And for the fall: lots of leaves, turkeys--sorry no pics of those-- and pumpkins (have you seen these pumpkins at Pottery Barn?).We have a friend who has her wedding registry at Pottery Barn. Her plates look like a few I've seen here, and her's were made in Portugal. Who knows if we've found the spot?! We'll be happy with this pottery goodness regardless.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


We arrived on the scene in Bombarral expecting the yard area around the house to be taken care of quickly. It took over a month to see the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise.

Green weeds and wasteland (sorry I don't have a better pic than with our first load of clean laundry hanging out like the Portuguese do) to ...

dead weeds and wasteland to...

workers with dirt (yeah!) to ...

water (no pics of the sprinkler man, just the girls enjoying the mud) to...


Monday, August 3, 2009

Eating in a New Land

When we visited Portugal in February, I had to take a picture of this at the grocery store:

This is salted dried codfish called Balcahau. People stand in line for it and have it chopped different ways by a machine. It was very puzzling to me to think how this could be prepared into a dish.

The very first night we stayed in Portugal after our move, we ate at a small cafe in downtown Bombarral. I decided to go for the Balcahau a Bras after it's high recommendation from the English-speaking waiter we had (who was also the cook). Here's what came out:

It actually smelled good and really tasted great. I think I would have enjoyed it more as a side dish than a whole plate of it. The waiter/cook said it is made from the fish, potatoes and eggs. I may be wrong, but I think people may use shoestring potatoes to make this. They sell a lot of shoestring potatoes here too.

With a little googling, I found 1000's of Balcalhau recipes listed (in Portuguese) and this bit of information about it in English. So maybe I'll give it another shot to try in a recipe at home when I'm feeling adventuresome again (and the line at the store is not long!).

I didn't get to take any pics of the snails people were eating that night at other cafes. This came as a bit of a surprise after our girls had been collecting the same ones off the exterior walls of our home. In the past, we have thought of them as a menance to some of our plants. Portuguese people eat them. Quite an education for our girls seeing people eat them and then for sale in the fish area at the store that week.

One restaurant we ate at that I had to take a picture of when we were in the Algarve last month:

...a little bit more like home.

Friday, July 31, 2009

It’s not 3rd World

Enjoying high speed internet at my desktop for the first time in about 6 weeks. We're feeling more at home at our new home in Portugal, but there's so much to do still. Yet I'm ready to take a break a bit and post! We'll see what I can squeeze in here…

Our sprinkler man commented to my husband that Portugal is still third world. We don't think so, but then we see this on the way to the grocery store (the lady was nicely dressed holding her things): And we wondered why the signs on the highway entrances say no tractors!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Powerful Testimony After Tragedy

As I've been packing boxes down in my basement, I had the idea to try to find a humorous radio program I'd heard once on James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program. When I looked for it, I found a whole list of daily broadcasts that sound really interesting, like "Encouragement for Stay-At-Home Moms" and "Toddlerhood: Answers for Parents" . That last one is next on my list!

I got sidetracked seeing the program where James Dobson interviews Steven Curtis Chapman one year after the tragic loss of his daughter. I wasn't sure if that was the best idea to listen to (I didn't want it to produce fear about losing my own or make me sadder in my own loss of a family member recently). I felt ok about it and went for it--so glad I did!

Today I finished listening to the 3rd part of that series called "The God of All Comfort" aired May 19-21 (scroll down the list to find it). It has been a powerful teaching in a sense of God's sovereignty, the reality of eternity, and valuing those around us while they're here. There are some things Steven Curtis Chapman said that I think I will never forget--amazing examples of the fathomless mercy of God. My husband got hooked into listening when he was packing too, and we are both forever changed by this testimony. We're asking for continual comfort for this family, as we are for our own.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dyeing in a Front Loader

I am excited to have something to add to the great list of tips at Works-for-Me-Wednesday on the blog We are THAT family!

My latest experiment worked! And it had been a long time coming. I was given some great pink capri pant hand-me-downs, several years before my girls were born (if that tells you how old they could be!). I got to wear them for one summer maybe before I stained them with something that would not come out. I was really sad about ruining these pants, so I decided to try bleaching them. That took the color out of everything but the threading and trim (Oh, how I wish I had taken a picture of them!). And then they sat in my to-be-repaired box... for years.

Now that we're moving again, I'm trying to go through things and get rid of what I don't want/need. I thought I should really give it a shot with these capris, especially since we're moving to a warmer climate. I found this at my German grocery store:

It is fabric dye with dyeing salts. It says it works for fabrics that can handle 60-95 degrees Celsius (140-203 degrees Fahrenheit) and wool, sink, and polyester. That was another risk. My pants said they needed to be washed in cold water, but many of my American bought garments say that while many clothes we've bought here say 40 degrees Celsius (which is 104 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. So the pants had to take a heating!

As far as I could tell on the directions in German, this is what you are supposed to do:

  1. Wet the garment or fabric. Place in the washing machine drum.
  2. Open the package of dye and pour on top of the clothes in the washing machine. (For silk you have to add vinegar.)
  3. Set your machine on delicate or easy clean at 60-95 degrees Celsius (140-203F). My machine did not allow for those temps on those cycles, so I had to use the colored fabric cycle instead.
  4. After the cycle finishes, add normal laundry detergent and start a normal cleaning cycle at 40 degrees Celsius (104F).
  5. I read online that you should add bleach to the next cycle to make sure your machine is clean. I decided to skip that and try a dark load of laundry that wouldn't hurt to have a little dye (black or brown socks and t-shirts since I used dark brown dye). I also put in an old light colored rag to see if the dye was still around. Thankfully, the rag came out it's same color, so the dye had been washed through. I washed other darks next just in case, but had no problem.

You want to see the pants?

We are amazed at the success! My husband keeps commenting about how you'd never know they didn't come that way. I think I may try to dye some old lace next!
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Curbside Finds

The first part of this week is "put out your junk on the curb for anyone to get it or else the trash man" for us in Naurod. I won't try to tell you the German name for this type of trash pick up. This time we had some to add rather than just grab! I had to put my less than perfect slip covered couch back on the curb where it came from (albeit a long way from the curb in Chicago!). The pink tricycle got picked up right away, but it has several problems that the next owner may find annoying.

This is what a neighbor's driveway looks like. My daughter and I discussed getting that wreath to work on later, but it was nabbed by someone else before we came back by. These days can be crazy for our village. It seems the whole world knows when it's planned, and they drive around in vans like vultures around and around looking for whatever is a treasure to them (or to someone they can sell it to!). So do I consider myself one of these vultures? Hmm... maybe not because I live here? Well, we're all in it for the free stuff. We've acquired a "new" couch and matching chair, another chair, treated lumber, an outdoor lounger, some enamelware bowls and 2 small dresser/side tables that work great for the girls doll paraphernalia all over the 2 years we've been here.

These are my finds for today: 2 old toy commuter trains, a pewter goblet with German on it, and a glittered plastic garland for Christmas. Some of you might think of these as junk, but I look forward to seeing how they find the right place at our next home. I've been wanting to add some whimsy to our more grown-up Christmas decorations already--maybe that's what having kids does to you! We'll miss the junk/treasure days in Naurod!

PS: One of my favorite blogs I have to say... is celebrating the 1 year birthday of her Etsy fabric store, Fresh Squeezed Fabrics . Leave a comment on her blog to enter the give-a-way for some great fabric choices or a $50 gift certificate by Thursday!

Another fabulous source for fabric, The Fabric Shopper, is having a give-a-way of Japanese fabric and a pattern of your choice along with Sheree's Alchemy. Comment before the end of the month! Here's my favorite Japanese fabric offered:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Backyard Color & Things to Come

We had the privilege of seeing our allium--but I normally call it garlic--and clematis bloom before we leave. We're hoping to see the peonies (the bush behind the garlic) open up as well. We decided to take it with us to our new home in Portugal with several other things we've planted here. It's ok to do--you take the lights that you installed and even the kitchen (if the next tenant doesn't want it) when you rent here. I'm hoping the rudbeckia (I forget that in America they're called black eyed susans) will make the transplant as well (the small plants popping up left of the garlic). Gotta love perennials!

We'll miss this gorgeous vine. He's had his roots here a long time...
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Is it really permanent?

My husband even encouraged me to post this: We have a couple big baby items that have been used by our organization, and therefore have been labeled with a permanent marker as such. No problem until you want to get rid of these things. We still have them after a couple garage sales and such. The resale shop here is pretty picky about stains too. I finally decided to google it and found this. We were both very skeptical that it would actually work. I thought at this point, "What do we have to lose?". So, I applied a little dry erase marker over the permanent market, wiped it with a dry rag and wallah (sp?)--it's gone! It actually took a couple applications of dry erase followed by dry rag then wet rag, but it's tons better than before. Wish I would have taken pictures to capture this amazing phenomenon!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Deal of the Day

Yesterday, I went with Heather to a flea market at the Wiesbaden International School which happens to be located in our village (no, we couldn't afford to send our kids to such a place--it would be like paying college tuition every year!). It was such a treat to be in an English speaking environment, and people were selling great English kids books and clothes for rock-bottom prices. Let's just say, I could have spent a lot more than I did! Last night, my husband and I finally decided we'd buy a train table with trundle drawers from a couple who'd given me their phone number in case we wanted it. All it took was looking through the last Pottery Barn Kids catalog I have (while I was trying to decide on paint colors for the girls' room at our next house). I saw their train table painted white with little chalkboard signs on each drawer for $349!

Who says it has to hold trains? We actually have trains and doll houses that would work well on this table in our new play room. So I checked for the price of this particular brand of train table online. The best I found for it new with 2 drawers was $250. It looks very similar to this:

So, I realize I'm not getting PBK. But wait and see what may come of this great deal for 30 Euros (about $38) with a little paint! We love it when we get vision for things, and see God's hand of provision!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Memories made

Yesterday was a special day in many ways. Of course, it's Mother's Day--even nicer now that I'm a mother! The girls had decorated wooden frames at kindergarten, and the teachers had inserted some special phrases about moms in German. So special and fun to see the girls giddy for me to open their gifts up.

My husband also took the girls downtown on Saturday to buy me some ranunculas (see how pretty) and some fresh squeezed OJ (he knows how much I make over it). Plus he was following my request to not spend too much, and we certainly don't need more to pack up at this point!

After church Sunday, we went with Heather and the kids to a favorite German restaurant, Hockenberger Muhle. We've taken many visitors there over the time we've been here, but it had been a long while. We made reservations for the back terrace so the kids could run around the playground there while we waited for our food. It was worth waiting for--so yummy! Heather and I tasted spargel soup for the first time--pretty good. Do you know what spargel is? White asparagus! Quite a treat here--people stand in line for it!

Next was the Appelblutefest (apple bloom fest) parade in our little village of Naurod. Not quite the floats of the Rose Bowl parade, but a ton of fun for our girls and us! This was the 3rd day of festivities--seeing all our friends and neighbors out and about. I teared up a bit in the midst of the huge crowd with the revelation that this was not going to be an experience our girls would have all their lives (as it has been for the past few years). I like the community feel of this festival and our village so much! I know we've been called to serve elsewhere now, so this desire to have a community like this for my kids has to die, at least for this season. And who knows what might take place in little Bombarral? I would have never imagined this here!
There she is! This year's Appelblutefest Queen sitting on the Naurod Gans (goose) float. All the girls were thrilled! We even waited on our street since the floats would come by one more time to "see her again"!

The day ended with a short but sweet talk with my mom. She couldn't chat our normal Sunday night (afternoon for her) time since she was eating out with my brother! I was a bit disappointed she didn't get my gift yet (after a request that they wait to ship it so it would be more timely for Mother's Day). Anyway, in my mom's usual form, she listens to what's going on and how she can pray, gladly agrees to take care of something for us (this time: review a newsletter), and generously gave me money for Mother's Day. She is a wonderful lady!


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