Friday, June 30, 2006

Road Trip Vignettes

We started off on the right foot-- prayer, coffee-- good combination, right? A guaranteed knock-out one, two punch for spiritual success and intelligent execution. We forgot our passports. Acutal departure time: 9:22a. A little later than anticipated. We then stopped in Tuscon for another cup of coffee. O well.
On another note, we had fabulous conversation and no conflicts, which was another small victory for us, considering that our last roadtrip we "discussed issues" for 6 hours straight on the way home from San Diego about a year ago... we were grateful for the difference a year makes.

Welcome to Texas! Our trip ended after a drive through the cloudy dessert to greater heights than we imagined. Welcome to Texas means Welcome to the Alcantars. We enjoyed fabulous hospitality from our old acquaintances, now new friends who live on the west side of El Paso on the side of the mountain. The view was amazing, especially at night where Travis and I looked out over our own private balcony over the El Paso and Juarez city lights.

Before we left, Becky warned me that road trips are always an adventure because you have to be prepared for adventure. "Constant change is here to stay" to borrow from the Covenant Life motto. We received a call from the orphanage to hear reports of disease and illness that made the team decide to change their original dinner plans, where we were going to meet up with Emily and the gang at Cattleman's Steakhouse. So, on a recommendation, we tried a steakhouse a little closer to town-- to say the least we had six hours to dream of a good Texas "steak" dinner.

When we pulled up to the restaurant, it was on the side of the highway between El Paso and Las Cruces. Not impressive by any outward show, but the Alcantars had raved. So we sat down and ordered from a beef-filled menu -- I got the marinated sirloin kabob and Travis, a 3/4 pound sirloin steak. We enjoyed a new adventure as well, because apparently Hatch, New Mexico is the capital of chilies, so we enjoyed roasted green chilies on top of our steaks. Middleway through the dinner, Travis raved in a suprised voice how tender his steak way, and that he didn't even need a knife. So I reached over and took a bite. It certainly was tender. Tender like a hamburger. He asked the waitress to come over. She confirmed. It was a steak, a chopped sirloin steak. I told Travis, "Honey I think that's the most expensive hamburger you've ever seen!"

Other highlights:
  1. Seeing Nacho Libre in a crowded El Paso theatre at 9:30p with a "sympathetic" crowd
  2. Making breakfast for dinner for 60 people on one stove
  3. Spicy hot chocolate and tea at The Greenery, an awesome grocery store in a mall.
  4. Making memories as newlyweds.
  5. Storms and trains coming across the plains at the same time
  6. Coffee with John David Maresco
  7. RAIN!!!

Being cared for by my husband who in every way tries to bless me.

Sister Surprises

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky...Travis and I took off to Mexico to steal away from the heat and to surprise my sister who was in Juarez for two weeks. See Emily's blog for more pictures and details...We snuck up behind her while she was in the kitchen preparing one of the hundred meals she made while she was serving the kids and volunteers. Her face was priceless. There is nothing better than bringing joy to another sister who is away from home.

Another sister of mine, Emily Baker, is moving away too. We have said multiple goodbyes to them this week at various friend's parties. I reminded Emily to anticipate the future with faith. As a new transplant, I am coming to realize the importance of having a heavenly perspective on leaving loved ones behind. You have to see the present as a means of grace as much as a trustworthy promise of future hope. You know the old adage, "Bloom where you are planted" ? I reminded Emily of that because God seems to have made some people like her and Eric, my friends who married military men, Sarah and Janelle, and my friends in Australia, Elizabeth and Logan to possess a unique resiliance and joy in the face of "starting over". They bear fruit where they are planted and it brings so much glory to God through their lives in transitions. I can only hope to mirror their example and access that grace.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A bright spot

One of the little boys at ICAN, the low-income afterschool and day camp program I am working at this summer, provided a brighter spot in an otherwise depressing Tuesday. I was asking the children to name different color vegetables. We started with red and then moved onto the other colors. When I asked them to name orange vegetables, a very excited Hispanic six-year old with a cute space between his front teeth, stood up in his chair and proudly yelled, "I know! CaRRRRots!" Via la Mexico.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

On Sunday morning during our seven minute break in service, the Shank kids were standing around near me. I had just finished telling Jordan about Travis' Father's Day card, which congratulated him on our expanding flock. A few minutes later, he turned to Janelle who had just come back from children's ministry and said, "Janelle, did you know that Travis got a Father's Day card?" Her face dropped. Her jaw dropped. What came out of her mouth was priceless, "WHAT!! You didn't tell me!" she exclaimed. I quickly clarified; "Chickens, my dear. Chickens. Not children." Not a nice joke;but a good one. Sometimes there are softballs you just have to take the oppurtunity to hit out of the park... Jordan may not be the sportman but he sure did hit one in the strike zone.

Friday, June 16, 2006

New additions

You know how I found Tina the other day sitting again on a bunch of eggs? With the addition of a more mature rooster to our flock, I was wondering if she was actually going to hatch them. To my delight this morning I went out to feed the chickens and heard the piercing cheep echoing in the coop. Sure enough, she's hatched 9 of them. I called my husband and said "Honey, you're a Dad! Happy Father's Day!" Now our flock has more than doubled....The challenge will be to keep them alive. But this time I know better than to let Tina do it herself... I think I'm going to lock them up in the coop together and feed them separately.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My job

Most people probably don't know what I really do for work---everyone knows I'm a registered dietitian but what does that mean? Sometimes I work at the hospital, but for these 9 weeks, I am teaching nutrition to low-income kids within summer camp programs in the valley. This week was especially a lot of work, but in the end, very rewarding. Not only did my boss announce she is leaving for another hospital but the director of Community Benefits also announced he was leaving.
So, here I was with almost 200 kids and a commitment to educate, with no funding. So I got on the phone and with (bold) faith, called all the local grocery stores. We got a large amount of funding for fresh fruits and vegetables--one donated a large amount of Red Delicous Apples, another a case of Navel Oranges and still another 20 pounds of baby carrots. Here are some pictures from my 10.5 hour day on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

One of my goals has been to get out of my food rut and try some new recipes. Usually, I can just menu plan and wing it based on what I feel like. The other night I cooked a paghetti squash that I had and decided to use a recipe from The Frog Commissary Cookbook I ran across while I was looking up recipes for our Dinner Club. This cookbook is one of my all-time favorites; it was a lovely present I might add from Miss Emily when she came to visit me.

Spaghetti Squash with Carrots, Red Peppers & Basil
1 small spaghetti sqash, baked and shredded
2 T corn oil
1 cup julienned red peppers
1 cup julienned carrots
1/2 t/ salt
1 T/ sugar
1/4 t/ pepper
3 T. rice vinegar
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
Saute the carrots and red pepper oer medium high heat for 2 minutes. Add sugar, salt & pepperand blend well. Add squash and continue to stir-fry until very hot. Sprinkle on vinegar and blend well. Remove from heat. Add basil and garnish with chopped peanuts.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A blue story

For those of you who don't know my brother Peter, he has a girlfriend. A beautiful, sporty gal, a "girlfriend" we all loved and appreciated-- that is, his three series BMW. We were all generally impressed when he finally found one he could affored, but even more so when he took care of it, washed it, waxed it, changed the sound system, learned how to repair it, and very impressed with attention he paid to it. This is the car that Travis and I took downtown to the Hay Adams. Apparently, this gal had an even more impressive life than with our family alone. When it met it's end on a windy, mountain road the other night in Maryland, apparently it wasn't the first time. It was totalled...but for the 3rd time --a Carfax never even showed up another one. We all feel very sad and are mourning the loss of this addition to our family. We especially want to commend Peter for the way he is treating the friend who borrowed and wrecked it--oops.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Deals and Steals

T minus 10 days until the dinner party. Ten minus seven = 3. That's how many chairs we were without. I hate folding chairs. Dilemma: Money. Destination: Goodwill. Saturday was a 50% off sale; and, yes, Goodwill can have sales too.
Have you ever been to a Goodwill store? It is an affront to all the senses. From the moment that the sliding doors inch back, you are assaulted with sights smells and sounds that you would normally avoid: the lingering stale body odor, the dust and dirt everywhere, even the very idea that it is a warehouse of things no one wanted. But deals are deals. And steals, on the other hand, are just plain better.
I had scoped out the scene the day before, to do some recon before I dragged my husband along. When we finally arrived at our first stop, it was clear this sale was no joke. The store was cleaned out and people were hauling away bags of items. No chairs were left that I had seen the day before. Same with the second store.
But on the third, we were more than just lucky. You know how mothers pray to find a parking spot at the mall and then they always pull around the lane just as someone in the first five cars is pulling out? Same deal. I prayed. I will convert willingly to these kinds of prayers made in faith if they turn up result like this.
At the third and final stop I reckoned this idea may not turn out as successful as I had anticipated. But in the back corner of furniture, there sat 4 chairs not present the day before. At first we didn't think we could afford them; they were each marked 59.95-- even with the discount, three of them would have been a little pricey, that is, for Goodwill purchases. But then the brilliance of my husband shined forth-- the price tag had a little word "set" on it. Sweet! Four chairs for $30. Can you beat that? And they are beautiful-- no painting or refurbishing needed (much to my relief)-- turned wood, slat back and woven rattan seats. An old lady in the parking lot commented, "You all got some beautiful chairs there, honey. They just don't make them that way anymore. You all really got yourselves a deal."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The survivor appears

Just a quick not to say that we found the "rooster" today(Travis and Jordan gave me such grief the other day-- swearing adamantly they knew it was a rooster because men are always smarter about chickens, right?) I've been looking everywhere for her-- the bushes, the back pen, everywhere. Everywhere but the coop. She's in the coop. Tina is at it again. Sitting on 12 eggs. She's been busy with Arthur (we finally named the red rooster-- it just seems to fit). I'll keep you posted if they happen to hatch.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday Mornings

What could be better... to wake up, go running, and then come back for a delicious cup of coffee while your Coffee Chocolate Chip Muffins from Frog Commissary are baking?? Travis and I got up early this morning and both worked out. We are very excited about this because Travis' back has been so bad that he hasn't really worked out in over 7 months. So, he's now on the "Navy Seals" program-- lots of pushups and situps and pullups-- and I'm doing the running part for him. They finally figured out that his high arches and overpronation was causing all his lower back pain. Go figure it was the feet!?
Around here, you have to get up and get going early before it gets too hot. Yes, everyone is probably wondering what the weather has been like. My answer must be in a comparision. According to a reliable source, the weather in DC has been hot and humid-- my mother said "Its like the dog-days of August are here already" (June 1, 2006). We have heat, yes. But we don't have that humidity. The hardest part is that it doesn't cool off in the evenings that much.
So, everyone gets up early here. At 7 am, my neighbor was vaccuuming out her car and several lawn mowers were already in full tilt. I on the other hand get the oven going early to get it done.
I also had to sneak in a slice of my delicious Sourdough Bread while I was baking. Kudos go to Joy of Cooking... EVERY recipe I have tried out of that cookbook has been perfect. Especially the bread section. The sourdough bread tasted even better than the "bakery" kind we used to get from Safeway....remember that bread, Peter? My mom would go shopping every two weeks and we loved that bread. This kind is just as chewy and soft and mildly sour. It took two days to make, but it was worth it. This was a bread for me....later, maybe a post on the "Ice Cream Adventures"... I purchased a Cuisinart ice cream maker for $5-- brand new in the box...banana chocolate almond, here we come...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bread for Ian

According to Emily, one of our friends, Lauren Lotinsky, requested suggestions on good bread recipes. The reason is one of the best kinds of requests I've ever heard. Her brother, Ian, another friend of ours, requested homemade bread for his birthday. So this post is for Ian--
Honey Oat Bread
makes 2 loaves

4 3/4- 5 cups whole wheat flour
2 T wheat gluten
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3 packages yeast
4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup oil

Mix together 2 cups flour with yeast and wheat gluten in the mixer bowl (use a KitchenAid).
Bring milk, honey, oil and salt to 110-120 degrees on the stove in a small saucepan. Do not boil.
Pour liquid mixture into flour and blend on low speed until combined, and then on high speed for 3 minutes. Then add the remaining flour until dough forms a ball but is still slightly sticky. Add oats. Knead for 10 minutes or mix on medium speed for 5 minutes with the dough hook attachment.
Cover bowl and let rise at room temperature for about an hour. Dough will not double. Divide into two; form two loaves by patting dough into rectangles and then rolling up tightly to form a log. Pinch seams together and place in a greased (use Pam) loaf pan. Cover again with plastic wrap and let rise about 2 hours until puffy.
Preheat oven to 375 and place rack in middle of oven. Once hot, mix together 4 icecubes with 1/4 cup water. Place bread in oven (remove plastic wrap) and toss water/ice in the bottom of the oven. Quickly close the oven door and bake bread for approximately 35-45 minutes. If top of bread becomes too brown too quickly, cover "tent" bread with aluminum foil. Bread will be done when internal temperature reaches 165 F or bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped.