The Cluj-Napoca Botanical Garden

Knowing that I was feeling stressed with all the packing and planning and preparing for our move and furlough, Paul graciously took Sienna for a morning out. Plus, Sienna needed an outing, too. The botanical garden in Cluj is a cheap, but nice place to go this time of year. You get to see all sorts of things at different times of the year in bloom. The last time we were there was a year ago (see the last picture). There were so  many things to see.

Sienna was excited that she was going with just Daddy. She loves to go, go, go, but wants to be able to come home to the same place every night, at least, most of the time. While they were away looking at flowers and bananas and looking over bridges, jumping off benches, I was cleaning and packing. Who knew we had so  much? Well, actually, we don’t really have that much, but it feels like a ton when you are packing it all up.

I found things that I thought were lost, I found things I thought Sienna had broken. It was  amazing what I found! Packing can be such a tiring job and a discouraging job, too. Just when you think you’ve made some progress you step into another room and realize that there’s more that should have gone in that box you just taped up! I’ve tried to be organized about it, but in the beginning I got behind on my schedule and just haven’t gotten caught up. I read a quote that said only amateurs hurry, I must be an amateur! My mom used to say, “The ‘hurrier’ I go, the ‘behinder’ I get.” I so know that feeling!

I think part of the problem is that I keep thinking I’ll need to use this or that and so I can’t pack it up yet! Then when the time comes and I realize that I haven’t used it and I won’t be, we’re getting so close to that deadline that it’s a hectic scramble to get everything in a box and out the door to the car to be carried and packed into the garage.

Maybe next time I’ll have learned my lesson, maybe. I find that I have trouble learning my lessons, sometimes.

Nothing Exciting

Stray dogs, Bucharest, Romania
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: Arrival in Romania, Sergiu, Bataan Death March

I keep thinking I’ll come up with something exciting to share with you all, but nothing exciting has happened. OH, WAIT!! Something exciting DID happen.

It was Wednesday. I had gone and picked Paul up from class and we went out to pay the bills. On the way back I wanted to stop by the little farmer’s market stand near our place.  Sienna had asked if she could go to the park and so while I was at the fruit and veggie stand, Paul and Sienna started walking the 2 blocks to the park.

Since the fruit and veggie stand is a one-man show, waiting in line takes a while. I finally got the lettuce, corn, and probably cherries or something like that and got in the car. I was wondering how far Paul and Sienna had gotten.

As I was driving up the street, slowly, I see them. Sienna is bawling and Paul is looking angry. I see women coming out of the houses and yelling. My first thought is that Sienna had done something and it made one of the women mad. Paul waved me down, ran across the street with Sienna, put her in the car and grabbed the steering wheel club from the front seat and started back across the street. I had NO idea what was going on, but I could see the cars piling up behind me — it’s a narrow street — so I pulled forward and took the next street and parked.

Paul didn’t head in the direction of the yelling women, so that was good. Instead, as I turned the corner, I see that he’s chasing a dog.

Stray dogs here are abundant, if that’s a word that you want to use to describe the phenomenon. Here, in Cluj, there aren’t nearly the amount as there are in Targoviste. Targoviste is much smaller than Cluj. But Bucharest has a real problem with stray dogs. These dogs form packs and attack when they are famished.

When Paul returned from chasing the dog off, I, for the first time, got the full story.

Paul and Sienna were walking up the sidewalk when the dog passed them going the opposite direction. He then turned around and started following them. Next, as Paul watched, he lunged at Sienna. Paul was able to pull her out of his grasp, the dog followed Sienna and kept attacking her and Paul kept pulling her out of the way. He was yelling as loud as he could and trying to kick the dog or hit it with the water bottle, all the no avail.

The yelling brought the women from their homes and they were yelling at Paul to know what happened.

Sienna was traumatized and didn’t stop crying.

Several women came to the corner where we all inspected Sienna carefully to see if the dog had actually broken the skin. In God’s almighty care, she escaped without a scratch.

Since the skin wasn’t broken, we didn’t pursue the matter. Had he actually bitten her we might have been in for a round of rabies shots for her. YUCK!

Romania has a major problem with stray dogs. If someone’s dog has puppies and the owner can’t get rid of them, he just takes them out and dumps them near where the other stray dogs are found. If someone doesn’t want a dog, they just turn it loose.

Most of the animals that are turned loosed are not spayed or neutered, so they go about their natural duties and make more puppies. People have been killed, a bill was sitting in the parliament waiting to be signed to give the go-ahead to euthanize 100,000 dogs, but the people still protest. No one is willing to adopt the dogs. Most people that want a pet want a pedigree. These stray dogs are mutts. Smart mutts, some of them, we have one, but mutts nonetheless.

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The Dress

It was the best I could do, Mom. She grew so fast, she must be taller than I was at her age. I tried, but I just didn’t have a way to truly duplicate it.

Over 30 years ago, my Gammie made me a dress. I think I remember wearing it. I definitely remember seeing myself in pictures of it.

I tried to duplicate the picture, since my mom kept that dress, with Sienna. I don’t have access to a picture of myself in it, but when I do, I’ll post it here.

The top was lost, probably worn out, maybe badly stained, but the dress, the dress was kept. I found a top here, just a plain ol’ t-shirt, and fixed it right. The original had a casing along the bottom with a tie. I tried to duplicate this and ended up with the best I could do.

The picture consisted of me standing behind a wooden post, with my hands on top, folded nicely, and smiling rather unnaturally.

Actually, maybe I did duplicate that.

Well, I’m pretty sure that the picture of me had a nice scenic background and this background isn’t quite as scenic. Oh well. At least I got a picture of her, with a wooden post, her hands folded nicely on top, and she’s smiling, unnaturally.

This picture was taken by a friend last August. Here’s another just to give you an idea of how she looked in the dress.

You noticed where the edge of the skirt hits her leg? Just above the knee, right?

I decided to take some pictures in an outside setting to see if I could get some good shots. Check it out. She’s grown some.

Now it hits her a few inches above the knee. This is the last time she’ll wear the dress. I’ll put it away, maybe it will make another round, either a sister or another generation.

Thanks, Gammie, for making me a dress, and for making it well enough that Sienna got to wear it, too!

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Mother’s Day – A Month Late

I meant to write about the beautiful flowers I received for Mother’s day.

I meant to write about the fantastic card I received for Mother’s day.

And the inside says . . .

Both were great!

But Mother’s day this year we also celebrated Sienna’s 3 and 1/2 birthday. I did mention the cake and the fact that we celebrated her 1/2 birthday, but I didn’t mention that it fell on Mother’s day. It was a nice thing to celebrate since this year Mother’s day was a little blue for me. This year, on Mother’s day, I would have been 37 weeks pregnant, had I not miscarried.

I didn’t want to write about then.

This year, Mother’s day was different. I focused more on my one little one and tried not to focus on the other little one that would have been.

As I snapped pictures of the flowers and the card Sienna wanted me to take her picture, too. I love her morning hair.


She brings smiles to my day, every day!

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Fill ‘er up

It was the slogan of the days when fuel, gas, petroleum, was cheaper, significantly cheaper.

I remember shortly after I moved in ’98 to a desert state the gas on the corner was $.99 a gallon! Yes, you read that right, just $.99 a gallon, not a pint, not a quart, a gallon.

I just filled the car up. It was very low, the light was on suggesting an imminent shortage in the tank. It took 12.46 gallons. Cost? Oh, not much, just $87.69.

I’ll let you figure the cost per gallon. I’m thinkin’ it might be less than you are currently paying, even in the higher priced areas like Michgan, Illinois, and Indiana; even large parts of California or Aspen, Colorado.

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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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