Readin’, ‘Ritin’, an’ Rithmatic

It was our fine education system that helped us develop the idea that we need the three “R’s”, or maybe it was our lack of a fine education system.

Reading.

Reading grows us in ways we don’t understand unless we read. Finding books (in English) in a country that doesn’t speak English (let alone read it) is difficult nearly impossible, unless you order from an English-speaking country (and they have free world-wide shipping). BUT what I’ve found to be much more useful (an economical, especially in these days) is to pull out my PDA who’s battery died and erased all my previous data and charge it, download some books that are free, and start reading. Sure, I’m waaaaaaaaay behind the trend of the Kindle or the Nook, but mine can keep my addresses, too. Oh, wait, never mind, your i-pod keeps addresses.

So, what am I reading?

Good question! I read a blog that started about the same time that we arrived in Romania. A few short posts in, one of the bloggers posted a book list, with 20 books that he suggested everyone read. I’ve started reading these books on a couple of occasions. Not all of them were available for the PDA (or Kindle) like they are now, especially here. Yes, I did start in the middle of the list, I know. But since I was wanting to start reading The Pilgrim’s Progress to Sienna I decided it would be a good place to start.

Writing.

Writing is how we learn to best express ourselves and when we learn best to express ourselves we learn more about ourselves. I’m really ritin’ deep stuff t’night.

I try to write and keep anyone-who-wants-to-know up with what is going on in our lives currently. So, here goes with current events.

Monday I woke up with a terrible headache. It was one of those ones that if you bend down to pick up whatever it was that you were holding and couldn’t hold on to, then you stand up all dizzy with your head throbbing! I canceled my language class, it takes too much brain power to think and speak in another language when my head isn’t hurting. Paul had wanted to use the morning to do some clean up in our little yard. I had wanted to get to it, also, and it was a perfect morning to be outside. We pulled weeds and saplings from the sour cherry and wild plum trees, we swept dirt and sprayed off the patio. We gathered trash and weeds, we fixed a table and stacked our BBQ wood. We cleaned up toys, discovered cilantro growing everywhere (thanks to Sienna and her “planting”), and we planted some seedlings in the dirt. We watered plants, medicated a tree with varnish, and rearranged the back patio.  We raked and shoveled and by lunch time we were pretty tired.

Something great happened while I was working outside, my headache went away! Who knows what it was, it might have just been the fresh air, sunshine, and fun work all put together. The yard looks so good now — if we can just keep those weeds from cropping up again.

Pictures will be posted next.

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Living in Hackerville or Hackerland

I’ve been known to have a Facebook account, yes, I still have it. I’ve been known to post, usually about crashing in the bed and something about it being late.

Facebook is a good thing and a bad thing. (You have to be careful about your security in anything, but Facebook is definitely bad on that.) It’s a good thing to use to keep in touch with people, like friends and family. It’s a bad thing because I can waste a lot of time surfing Facebook or clicking all the links. :-)

But sometimes I come across some really good information or articles. Here’s one that will open your eyes to why some people in Romania can get rich quick. Unfortunately, quick money doesn’t buy manners, decorum, or anything else valuable.

If one city in Romania has a bunch of hackers, then what about the rest of the country? I’m sure Ramnicul Valcea isn’t the only city that has it’s fair share of hackers (or arrows, if you read the article you’ll know what they are). In fact, the arrows live all over, not even in Romania. Spain, Italy, UK, US, etc. arrows are all over!

Deception is very prevalent here, yes, yes, I know, it’s everywhere. But deception as it is done here (and for sure in other countries), is some that much more evil. Even people who grew up in Christian or Protestant homes don’t know what integrity means, nor do they practice it. Honest people are hard to find.

I’m not sure if the deception is a cause or a result of an economy that continues to struggle. Romania’s inflation for the month of April was 8.34%. Romania’s annual inflation is the highest in all of Europe. Romania has the 2nd lowest salaries.

So, while Romania was a growing and catching-up country, it has become a country fighting inflation with tiny salaries. It really is not wonder that people turn to making easy money on other peoples better off than themselves.

Sad.

Discouraging.

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The End of an Age

While lots of people are concerned about the end of the world (from another blog I read), I read an article about the end of a people, the end of an era. I do hope that these experts are mistaken, but I fear they are not. Apparently, we are about to lose all of our grown-ups in the US. What a frightening thought!!!

The thought that we don’t have as many of these mature adults isn’t as scary as the thought that we aren’t replacing these grown-ups with more, um, grown-ups. I was sure that this was what grown-ups were supposed to do, right? Isn’t the goal of being a parent (or one of them) to bring your child up so that he/she is a grown-up, or at least started down the maturing adult path?

Where have we gone wrong?

One flaw is that we want to give our children everything and we don’t want them to suffer like we did, and by suffering I mean that we couldn’t have ice cream everyday and that we couldn’t have the latest toy because our parents didn’t have extra money to blow on those things. So, instead we had to live with Apple (or some sort of fruit) Cobbler, which you know, isn’t as sweet as, say, Peach Crisp. And, we had to make toys, or even fix broken toys — isn’t that why they started selling super glue in the first place?

Now, now we just want to complain about the latest “hardship” we’ve had to face, like having the water turned off all day, or being without electricity, or even natural gas. What about a car that doesn’t run, or even worse, our internet died or the cable? I live, practically, next door to people that still go out to the well to draw their water for when they need it. I live next to people that don’t have but one light bulb in the whole house the size of your storage closet. I live next to people that don’t have natural gas and probably won’t for the next 50 years because the politicians, local and national, are buying themselves Beamers, Maseratis, and building humongous, sprawling houses RIGHT NEXT to these people with nothing.

Do I complain when I don’t have natural gas (we didn’t have it for a whole weekend, horrible story), ABSOLUTELY! I’m used to living with it. And I’m also used to living with running water, electricity, phone service, internet, and other nice things about the 21st century. I can say that when the gas was out, I was thankful that amidst the puke and mess we at least had running water. With the electricity I had other methods of heating water and our oven still worked.

I hope that in the end those experts will count me as one of those grown-ups, yea, the boring ones, AND that they will be able to count my daughter as one, too.

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A Day In the Life of Sienna

I’ve been waking up later, but it still gives me plenty of time to play. My favorite thing to to is to go outside and play. I love to play with the girls upstairs (Alexia and Sara). They are 10 and 8 respectively, but that doesn’t matter to me. Before I’ve had my breakfast or gotten my clothes on, I’m ready to go out and play. Mommy usually makes me wait until I’ve eaten and put on some play-clothes. Sometimes, I just go ahead outside and don’t ask. That usually gets me in trouble. :-(

Most of the time I’m so focused on playing that I forget to eat until I get really hungry, or it’s hard for me to eat because all I can think about is going outside. I love to play in the water, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside — it’s SO fun!

If  get really hungry I get cranky, mommy always gives me good-for-me food, but not always the food that I want. (I guess that makes her a good mommy.)

I think that I would like to stay out and play until I can’t play anymore.  Mommy would say that I would eventually “crash”, but I don’t think I would.

I’d say that most of the day I’m waiting. I wait for mommy to help me, fix food for me, play with me, take me places, or just wait because she said for me to wait.

I don’t like to go to bed, it’s no fun to go to sleep. Mommy says I get that from my daddy, I think he says so, too.

Good night.

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If you only had two minutes . . .

Sunday night, in the village at the youth center that we’ve been visiting, both Paul and I were able to share the Gospel. He with a teen boy and I with 4 teen girls. Neither he nor I were able to determine if a decision was made, but the seed was planted.

It brought up an interesting conversation on the way home, if you only had two minutes to share the Gospel, what would you say? I remember doing this time and time again in my Soteriology class at Bible college.

I hope that I will always have more than two minutes to share the Gospel . . . it’s just that important.

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The Cake

Sunday was a get-together with all the Sunday school teachers at the church that we have been attending while living in Cluj-Napoca. Since I’m one of the SS teachers I was invited to come, bring a dish and/or dessert, and my family.  I had a friend who was coming but was unable to make something to bring. I told her that I would make something for her.

My thought, especially here, is that you make something that you (in this case, we) like and then there will be something for you (or us) to eat at such a gathering. Why? you ask. Because. Here (in eastern Europe) you will see things but you aren’t sure what they are or how long they have been without refrigeration. (I ate a sandwich in early summer in Targovsite that had mayonnaise on it and was sick for a week.) There is an idea here that and it was stated in just this way: “It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it’s been cooked, it won’t go bad.”

Really?!

Seriously?!

Hm, I’ll give that one some thought (and research just how long it takes mold to grow on “cooked” cheese).

So, we try and take something to an outing that should nothing else look familiar, we have something to eat that’s edible. Ok, so I decided to take some Chicken Enchiladas (and I was thinking that since it was something that wasn’t normal here it wouldn’t get eaten up quickly). They were the weakest, as far as spice goes, that I think I’ve ever made. But they were still good! And I was shocked that there were several men that stood right there by them and were recommending them to others. It’s times like these that I wish I had a built-in secret video camera. Here are a couple guys saying that the chicken dish was really good. Try it! And the ones that haven’t tasted “outsider” food, looooooook at it, sideways. One guy answered, “Oh?” gave them a sideways glance and walked away. Later, he came back and got a itty bitty bite. I have to grin because he’d watched the other guys take more and they had said the dish was good, so.

So.

It was good.

Thankfully, there weren’t all that many daring people, so we had some leftovers. YES!

But the cake, that was a completely different story. See, cakes here, well, they all tend to look the same. See?

This is an especially nice looking one to the left.

The one below and right is about what they look like when brought to Sunday school for their child’s birthday celebration (or out of the frig in their home).

Usually a very interesting combination of fruit. And you’d think that they would taste great! But they don’t. So far as I know, most people don’t make the cake part themselves. They go and buy the “blats” or cake rounds. They come in a package, like this. They are then stacked with usually something similar to whipped topping, only it’s a liquid and needs to be whipped. It has a very oily taste to it. Sometimes the fruit is layered in between the cake rounds, but usually not. Before any “whipped topping” is applied each cake round is soaked in rum flavoring. So, when you get your piece, your cake is soggy, and not from the ice cream, either.

The inside of the cake looks similar to this one below, except without the extra fruit.

I’ve always found them a great disappointment, as with most desserts I’ve seen and tasted here. Most of them look waaay better than they taste. There are exceptions, I hope to make some exceptions soon.

My cake was a simple One-Bowl Chocolate Mocha Cake. I made a double batch thinking I needed two cakes to layer, not just one. I don’t have a cake pan. It’s not really a big deal, I don’t make that many cakes. So, I decided to use a pie plate for the bottom and a casserole dish for the top. It really looked like a woman’s hat. Totally unintentional.

Making frosting here has been one of the biggest challenges, so I decided that I would take the recommendation of the recipe and make a chocolate ganache instead. WOW! It turned out looking so smooth. The curves of the cake covered in chocolate. It might turn out to be a good cake, after all.

I never thought that it would be the hit it was. My friend (for whom I made it) sliced it very thinly so that everyone could have a taste. As soon as it was placed on the table the other desserts were left in the dust. This, to me, was totally unexpected. Everyone wanted to know who made it and when they knew who, they wanted the recipe.  Yikes! I don’t think I’ve ever had that kind of a reaction to anything I’ve made.

I personally don’t mind either way. If people like what I make, great. If not, great, more for us. (Smile!) Ah, yes, here’s a picture of a little cake with ganache on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the cake I made. Next time I’ll be sure and take a picture.

So, what did I learn? Well, sometimes my expectations of how people will respond here have been totally wrong because Cluj has people that have traveled (and tasted). And I learned that sometimes the thing I think we’ll make the smallest splash ends up emptying the pool!

I’ll be making this cake again — well, I already did! I made it for Sienna’s 1/2 birthday, minus the coffee crystals (she’s only 3 1/2!). I do have a picture of that one. She had already “tested” the ganache to make sure it was OK. And, it was!

She had been asking when her birthday is (yes, it had already passed). But there were kids having birthdays and she was invited to parties, etc. So, when she asked me to make her a cake, I made her this one and we sang happy half-birthday to her. She loved it!

No, I didn’t cut a candle in half and put it in the train, although both Paul and my sister asked if I did.

We sure love cake, but we love our little girl more, way more!

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What Would David Do?

In my ladies Bible study we’ve just finished studying 1 Samuel. It’s been a good study, searching out what it means to be after God’s heart. So, in light of that, I have a story that needs to answer the question (based on who David was, not who you are), what would David do.

David decides to take his son, Solomon, to the park. Solomon, quite young, loves playing in the park. He gets to meet new friends and run and play in an environment unlike home. Plus there are slides! Solomon asks his daddy, David, if they can take the dog along. David, knowing that Israel’s law requires that dogs be on leashes, gets the dog, Caleb, and hooks up the leash. They have a pleasant walk to the park. When the arrive there are two or three parents there with their children. All the children there are younger than Solomon. I’m assuming Solomon is about three. The other parents are thrilled to have their children interact with a well-behaved dog. David is glad to help the kids understand how to pet a dog, etc.

David takes great delight in seeing his dear son play with the other children, running, laughing, chasing, etc. But because there are younger children there, David keeps the dog, Caleb, close (and on a short leash).  Caleb is enjoying all the new smells, but he is also aware of where Solomon is and keeps an eye on him. He’s friendly with the other kids, but his first priority is to keep an eye on Solomon. That’s his job, you know, as Solomon’s dog.

Things seem to be going well, when a grandpa shows up with his granddaughter. I’m assuming she’s 8, maybe 9. She seems afraid of the dog, but more so, it seems like grandpa wants her to be afraid of the dog. David senses this and tries to keep Caleb at a distance all while keeping track of Solomon. Soon Solomon, a younger boy, and this older girl are all playing in the sandbox. Solomon is being a boy, but not misbehaving, at least not yet. The grandpa saw something that Solomon did and chided him for it. It scared him and he ran to David. With a reassuring pat and a smile he sent Solomon back to play. About this time Caleb thought it might be fun to jump in this very large sandbox and sniff around. Being sensitive to the older girl playing there, David immediately got Caleb out of the box.

Well, grandpa took this opportunity to tell David that dogs weren’t allowed in parks. David asked why and the grandpa responded that little kids were there.

What should/would David do?

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The Road to Nowhere

On our way out to the village of Sic, we come across this sign. It says: Monumental Ensemble in Tauseni 4 kilometers. It points off in that direction and if you look, you can see Tauseni. If you follow the road further down and come to the next village, there’s a sign there that says Tauseni is only 2 kilometers.

What is intriguing about this sign, about this road is that there isn’t a road. The sign directs you down a road that isn’t there. It doesn’t even look like there was a road there in the near past, let alone the distant past. It is obvious that it’s an old road sign, more than likely painted (by hand) under communism and more than likely it was something important. But the road wasn’t maintained.

Well, actually, that isn’t all that different to now. The road you would be on to see this sign is in worse shape that some of the “jeeping roads” I used to drive on and ride on as a kid/teenager in Colorado. It’s just been a little strange to me every time we’ve passed it to see the sign beckoning you to turn to see the monumental ensemble (would that be rocks or do they have a singing group in that village). If it were just a sight-seeing sign it wouldn’t have how many kilometers away, would it? Well, you help me. I’ll be looking forward to any comments.  :-)

Ok, so on to more of an update of the kitchen project in Sic and of Sienna’s latest adventures there.

Paul has been able to put together the upper cupboards (minus the doors) and they are now hanging in that empty space you saw earlier. The room is really starting to feel like it could be a nice little kitchen. I am sure that Sarah and Janos are going to be thrilled when it’s finished. I hope to eat a meal cooked there and have some fellowship with some great friends. Paul’s skills as a woodworking have been stretched with this project. Always learning!

Ah, yes, I know, you are wondering about Sienna. What has Sienna been doing during the time that daddy put together the cupboards and mounted them. Well, let’s see. . .

First, she had some stories from the Winnie the Pooh book read to her. Sarah wasn’t feeling well, nothing contagious, so we offered to read to Sienna. That was ok, for a while. Then her rambunctious spirit kicks in. So, she helped mommy paint some paper plates (part of a Sunday school craft for Easter). That was good for a while. Then she needed something to eat, so a snack was sent for. Eventually, Sienna and mommy went downstairs to lunch and tried to let Sarah get some much needed rest.

When I was a little girl I loved playing in the snow and bringing it in the garage where my dad was usually working. He always had a fire in the stove to keep the place above 45F (ok, maybe a little higher, but never warm enough to take your coat off, let alone your snow pants). I would melt the snow in an old coffee can. In the fall (and other times when dad was cutting wood), I would play with the sawdust. Oh, what fun memories of playing in the sawdust!

Well, Sienna is a little bit of a messy eater, sometimes, of course. As a mommy that tries to help her clean up her messes, I carry a little broom and dustpan in my purse. You wouldn’t believe how many times it’s come in handy! Especially when Sienna is eating things like pretzels, crackers, playing with crayons, etc . . . .

She discovered the mother load of sawdust near daddy’s workroom. And she asked if she could use the broom and dustpan. What a novel idea! There was a little bucket there and with the dustpan set she was free to dump it and clean it up.

Unfortunately, she did end up dumping some of it in the flowerbeds. Oops! Not so easily swept up. It wasn’t long and Sarah was up from her nap and so she and Sienna played sawdust.

Sienna would go down the sidewalk, dump out some, leave it there and make another pile, come back to the first, sweep up, go to the second, sweep up; well, you get the idea. Whenever daddy made another cut, she was there to collect her dust.

I love this age, as I have loved all the others before. She’s beginning to understand so much. We are very blessed and very petrified to think we have the responsibility of bringing her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I’ll try and get down more of her “sayings” that just crack us up from time to time.

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Paul and Sienna

Paul has been helping some friends in an Hungarian village called Sic (said seek). Sienna always enjoys an adventure. Paul working on the a jig to help him cut the needed joints (I think that’s what they’re called) for putting together the kitchen cupboards.

This one shows the “shop” a little better. Just a long room, narrow, with very little light.

He is really excited that this is finally coming together. He has looked forward to this project for a long time. Now to show where the cupboards are going to hang in the kitchen.

Notice that there are some “funky” walls/ceiling. He’s having to work to utilize that space, too.

The gray area is for the tile that will be mounted for the back splash above the counter top. Why paint when you’ll just be tiling over it?

Meanwhile, Sienna has found a “friend”, yea, right! The really bad part about this? Well, there are two actually. One, kitty isn’t too healthy, so Sienna really needs to stay further away. Second, mommy is horribly allergic, even to the dander on her. A-choo! Excuse me.

So, after mommy and Sienna took a trip to the local park, it was back to the kittly (as Sienna says).

Finally her friend Sarah is free to play. See below for a story in pictures.

Sienna brought a ball, it was a good thing to have around to entertain her.  Rolling it up and down the hill. She enjoyed it. Then we found out there are two holes in the yard that she has to be careful of stepping in. One will fill your shoe with nasty water, and the other is the old hole for the water meter. Some places, especially village life in Romania, are not child-proof, let alone child-safe!

Sienna and Sarah decided to go to the park. Mommy got to help daddy.

Here they are, coming through the gate and posing for the camera.

It was a colder, breezier day than one would have liked. Sienna had one several layers, but she moves so much that they probably all weren’t necessary. She really loves Sarah, and probably because Sarah listens to her, plays with her, and reads with her. All the things mommy does, only it’s someone else, ya know? Mommy’s there all the time!

Next time we’ll update with pictures of hanging cupboards and the continued adventures of Sienna, Sarah, and mommy.

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