Friday, October 28, 2011

A Long Walk for Apples

Last night, the tía I was working my shift with informed me that the children would not have school today due to there being a halt on public transportation in our area of town. Every now and then, the people here decide to protest something and due so by setting up blockades that prevent traffic from getting through. Thus, anyone who needs to go anywhere has to walk...unless they're lucky enough to own a motorcycle or bicycle.

When she told me this news, my heart sank. I had plans today, being my day off, for going and doing various things around town. A halt on public transportation in our area was going to make that rather inconvenient. Sigh. Oh well. Such is life in Bolivia.

I cancelled my plans for the day, except for a trip to the grocery store. I had to go to the grocery if for no other reason than to buy apples. You see, I've been invited to a fall festival party tomorrow night and asked to bring something with a fall-ish flavor. So I decided to make a delicious, healthy apple crisp recipe that is a family favorite. Nothing else would do - blockade or no blockade - meaning it was absolutely essential that I get to the store...somehow!

Here's the tricky part. The store I needed to go to is located at kilometer 2 off the main highway that runs right by our neighborhood. Our house is down on kilometer 8 1/2. That is a loooong way to walk! But I was willing to set out and just see how far we could get before public transportation was made available again. Worse case scenario: I could buy apples at the fruit stand at the medical clinic at kilometer 5.

With 8-year-old Jhosie as my traveling companion for the day, we set off to see what the situation was. Sure enough, as we neared the end of our shady neighborhood lane, we could see that the usual traffic was non-existent....well, except for the bajillions of people who were walking the highway. No buses, no trufis, no taxis. Just lots and lots of people and a few motorcycles every now and then. Oh, and of course the stray dogs that are always out and about.

As we joined the crowds on the highway, I must admit it was really kind of adventurous! Despite the fact that we didn't go well prepared for a long walk in the hot sun (no water, no hats, no sunglasses), we enjoyed the stroll down Blanco Galindo hand in hand, Jhosie chattering away like a little magpie and me keeping my eyes peeled for fruit stands along the roadside...just in case.

We walked and walked. And Jhosie talked and talked. :) It was amusing to me to observe the people around us. So many different styles! A lot carried umbrellas as Bolivians have a dislike of the sun on their skin. Several wore hats or pieces of cloth on their heads to shade their faces. (Smart people.) A number of ladies dressed in traditional Bolivian attire carried huge burdens on their backs wrapped in the characteristic bright striped cloth so common to their culture. I got a kick out of how many vendors took advantage of the hot and weary travelers having no option but to walk. There were people selling popsicles, milk pops, ice cream, juice, fried food, empanadas, and more! They seemed to be getting plenty of business.

Finally, we reached kilometer 6 1/2 where we jumped onto a trufi willing to take us until the next blockade. Fine with me. Any distance on wheels was appreciated! The driver let us off a bit ahead of the clinic where I was expecting the fruit stand. So we walked some more. Finally, we made it to the fruit stand which just so happened to be selling apples as I had hoped! They seemed a bit pricy to me, though, so I decided it was worth it to still try to make it to the grocery store where I could buy the apples I needed as well as a few more items on my list. At the clinic location, public transportation was flowing freely again. So Jhosie and I hopped onto another trufi and rode the rest of the distance to the grocery store.

We quickly did our shopping (which included some much needed water bottles and bag of corn chips!) and then caught another trufi to another grocery store around the corner where I needed a few specialty items. At last, with my shoulder bag heavy with groceries and Jhosie bearing a small bag herself, it was time to make the return trip.

Once again, we rode part of the way and walked the rest (read 2 kilometers!). With the time being close to noon, the sun high and very hot, a couple of bags of heavy groceries, and tired feet, I can assure you that the return trip was quite a bit slower and less chatty than the way to the store had been! But my traveling partner was a trooper! She didn't complain once.

We arrived home in one piece and felt quite accomplished to have experienced the adventure and exercise of a Bolivia blockade! I got on the computer after putting groceries away to figure out exactly how many miles we had covered (since I don't compute kilometers very well in my American brain). According to what I found online, it would seem we walked a total of close to 3 miles all said and done. And that was AFTER having already gone jogging this morning with two of the boys! It's a good thing I like to exercise... :)

Amazing what some people will do for a handful of apples...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Casa de Amor Picture Day!

The Precious Kiddos of House 2

The Mitchells and their Adorable Brood from House 3


Tía Katrina and the Birthday Girls

More sweetness

Litte Miss K being goofy

Pow-wow Time

Working off some energy while waiting for the babies from House 1 to arrive

Litte Miss A

Once again, going up the slide proves so much more interesting than going down it!

Tía Elena and a "Nikon Moment"

The babies are here! All the children together at last!

My little "daughter" as everyone refers to her now. They think she looks like me, minus the blue eyes.

Love this little girl!

And this one too!

Happy Birthday A and D!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Love Affair with Oats

Oats, oats, oats! They're so healthy and yummy and a wonderful addition to many baked goods! It seems nowadays everything I make has oats in it! Just passing along a few of my favorite recipes that I make regularly here...

Healthy-ish Oatmeal Cookies

3 T. butter (room temp.)
1 egg
1 T. water
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
chocolate chips or raisins to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together. Grease cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Best Ever Granola Bars

4 1/2 c. oats
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. honey
1 c. butter
1-2 c. chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar

(can add shredded coconut, seeds, raisins, etc. I also like to put in wheat germ or wheat bran for added nutrition!)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients and place in a greased 9X13 pan. Press with a metal spatula or back of a wooden spoon. Bake 30-35 minutes until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven press again to condense. Allow to cool. At this point, you can cut into bars and eat them and they will be sort of like cookie bars. But I prefer to chill them in the fridge until they're hard, then cut into bars and wrap individually with plastic. They're much harder to cut once they're chilled but they hold together well. I store them in the fridge and grab one for a snack or when I am on the go. Delicious!!!

Baked Oatmeal

3 c. oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
2 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar or honey
1 tsp. salt.

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a pan so batter is 2-4 inches deep. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown. This is a big hit with the children of the household!

Katrina's Power Smoothie

Soy milk
Spinach (washed)
Frozen bananas
Wheat germ/bran
Flax seeds (sometimes)

Put into a blender whatever amounts of ingredients you like to get the taste and consistency you desire. Blend on high speed until the texture is creamy. Oh so delicious and super-duper healthy! A great way to start the day!

Chocolate Granola

(I make the half batch size for me and it usually lasts me about 2 weeks. If you have a big family, you can double these ingredients.)

6 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. cocoa
1/2 c. sunflower or flax seeds
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. oil
2 T. cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt honey and oil in a saucepan and pour over mixture. Stir well. (I sometimes have to add a bit extra of the liquids to get the oats coated.) Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Stir well. Bake another 10 minutes. Let sit to crunchify. (I made that word up.) :)

Modifications: I often add shredded coconut and wheat germ/bran. You can add whatever ingredients you are interested in including. Just make sure to compensate with more liquid and possibly more cocoa!

Voeller Family Granola
(Taken from the cookbok A Satisfying New Approach to Slimness, Vitality, and Health. This is the full version recipe but I only make a half batch.)

1 c. honey
3/4 c. oil
3/4 c. butter
3 T. molasses
4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
11 c. oats
2 c. coconut
1 c. wheat germ
3/4 c. sunflower seeds
3/4 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. sesame seeds (I omit these since I don't have them here in Bolivia)
(Just a note: I added chopped nuts to my granola for added protein. I highly recommend doing so!)

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients and pour over dry. (Again I cooked mine on the stove, but you don't have to!) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake another 10 minutes. Let sit. Store in an airtight container. Delicious with milk!

Leftover Cooked Oatmeal

We recently had a big batch of leftover cooked oatmeal (thanks to yours truly making way too much!), so I got online and looked up ways to use it. I tried a muffin recipe that was super yummy but way too crumbly. What ended up working best was to fry patties of the oatmeal like polenta in a greased skillet and eat with honey! It is super easy, VERY tasty, and had my kiddos coming back asking for more!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Past Week at Our House

J's new style

My laundry-folding helpers...always ready for mischief!

Before the afternoon was over, not only had this baby bathtub been used to cart laundry around, but it had also been transformed into a bed and a car by the boys who were supposed to be helping me!

School-wide day at the park

Lunch time!

Litte D - a.k.a. Chatterbox

The 8-year-old theologian (and drama queen)

Her brother, Mr. Personality

J.G. - soon to be adopted, Lord willing!

A.M. LOVED the park - she played non-stop the entire day!

B eating chicken

Tonight, I took three of the girls out for their birthdays.
They had a blast at the Burger King play place!

Little D - soon to turn 4! Our *baby* is growing up!

Hot and sweaty after a night of play!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Must-Watch. Period.

A compelling documentary about the Holocaust, Abortion, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what they all have to do with each other.

(To pause the background music, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Giving Thanks Unto the Lord For...

293. Hot showers

294. The perky smell of citrus

295. The privilege of being back at work after being down with Hepatitis A

296. Hope for the future

297. Good books

298. Vitamins, essential oils, and other natural supplements

300. Strength to hike up a mountain side

301. The discovery of loose change in my backpack pocket that will pay for several trufi rides

302. Yummy homemade nachos!

303. Cool evening breezes while pushing children on the swings outside

304. "Moto" rides with Jhosie - hearing her happy squeals!

305. Poignant sermon at church

306. My Beth Moore Bible study - so rich!

308. The beauty of adoption

309. Mona's note in the mail

310. Packages from Mema!

311. My favorite Gospel tracts in Spanish left behind from a girl on the World Race team for me to pass out

312. The peaceful beauty of the Botanical Gardens - so nourishing for my soul!

313. Goldfish snack crackers (compliments of Mema's packages)

314. The discovery of bakery-made whole wheat bread at the grocery store that looks and tastes almost identical to Mom's!

315. The discovery of whole wheat flour to do my own baking!

Soul Nourishment

This past Friday, my friend, Elena, and I enjoyed a picnic lunch and delightful stroll throughout the Cochabamba Botanical Gardens. It was one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have been to in a long time. The green grass, tall trees, bright flowers, lovely landscaping, and cool breezes ministered greatly to my spirit! There is something about being in a garden environment that makes me feel closer to God and refreshes my soul! After Elena had to leave, I stayed longer reading a book on a bench and just drinking in the surroundings. It's the perfect place to think, pray, study, and relax. I definitely hope to return soon!

To see all the pictures I took during our time in the garden, click here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Inspiring Legacy

Caleb and Anna Nelson, photo courtesy of Bethany Wissmann

I didn't even know Caleb Nelson. But I've known of his family for several years through my brother-in-law's friendship with the whole clan and my sister's acquaintanceship with one of the other Nelson siblings. It doesn't take knowing a person, though, to be saddened by their death or inspired by their legacy. Such has been the case with Caleb Nelson who died serving our country in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to his young wife and two little boys who are suddenly facing an enormous gaping whole in their life that a beloved husband and father used to fill. At the same time, I am so proud of this brother-in-Christ whom I didn't even know...for the testimony he was during his life and in the wake of his death. The testimony of a young man of character and integrity committed to the Lord Jesus and to being a light in this dark world.

Caleb was the same age I am when he was killed by a roadside bomb two weeks ago. Yet the legacy he's left behind even at this young age makes me stop and ponder. If I were to be killed tomorrow, what kind of legacy will I be leaving? A sobering thought to be sure...

My sister forwarded me a news article that was written about Caleb and it struck me as more of a tribute honoring this brave hero; in reality a breath of fresh air from the media that are usually so bent on badmouthing Christians. Not so with Caleb. I was impressed and wanted to share the article here. Even though it's likely that the vast readership of this blog did not know Caleb Nelson personally either, we can all be inspired to live life to the fullest such that we too will leave a legacy of doing our best in every situation, walking in moral uprightness, and bringing glory to God by a faith that pleases Him.

Comrades: SEAL Was Simply 'Better'

By Matthew HansenWORLD-HERALD staff writer

Caleb Nelson didn't just swim.

He once tied his wrists together, dived into a lake and saw how far down his leg kicks would take him before his lungs and brain screamed for oxygen. Then, and only then, did he come up for air.

The 26-year-old Navy SEAL didn't simply work out. He lifted giant hunks of metal, sweated and grunted and squeezed every last ounce of energy out of his gargantuan biceps until he had bench pressed more weight than any other SEAL in his platoon.

Good job, he would tell his workout buddies. You'll get me next time. And they'd laugh and shake their heads, because they knew they wouldn't.

And he didn't die the way most of us do — with a quiet funeral, a few platitudes from a well-meaning minister, a service that looks like the others.

No, Caleb Nelson went out big, just as he lived.

More than 1,000 people packed Christ Community Church on Thursday to honor the Omaha native who was killed Oct. 1 when his armored vehicle rolled over a roadside bomb in southeast Afghanistan.

These mourners laughed hard. They sobbed harder. They sang Nelson's favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art," loud enough to shake the church rafters.

They swapped dozens of stories about a young man who stood out as physically and mentally tough even among the Navy SEALs, the toughest of American fighting forces.

They marveled at a man who managed to leave an indelible mark on friends, family and even casual acquaintances during his short life.

Caleb was "a moral sounding board," said one SEAL in an email typed in Afghanistan and read at the funeral. His identity and those of other SEALs weren't revealed for security reasons. "It was his faith that everyone respected about him."

"A rock star," wrote another SEAL. "We all strived to be him."

"He wasn't arrogant or snobbish, he was just better," wrote yet another SEAL. "And he made you feel like you could be better with him, even though you couldn't."

Caleb A. Nelson was the 144th service member with ties to Nebraska or Iowa to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since October 2001.

He was the fourth SEAL with local ties to die in Afghanistan since midsummer; three other SEALs, as well as a Nebraska National Guardsman, were killed when a transport helicopter was shot down by an insurgent in August.

Nelson had a talent for drawing people to him, as if they were metal and he was magnetized, said his family, which includes his parents, eight surviving brothers and sisters and his wife and two young children.

He didn't play with kids; he served as a sort of giant human jungle gym at family gatherings. He taught them how to roll out of moving vehicles and pack more force into a punch by using the shoulder, said a friend.

He didn't just exercise by himself. He persuaded his parents, most of his extended family and friends to work out, too.

The day Nelson died, one of those friends was running in the Market to Market Relay, the annual Omaha-to-Lincoln team race. She wanted to drop out when she heard the news.

Then she remembered that Caleb had always told her that if you don't throw up when you run, then you aren't running hard enough.

She ran in the race. She ran hard enough that she threw up twice. Then she smiled because she knew that would have made Caleb proud.

Nelson's magnetism drew other SEALs to him during his two deployments in Iraq and then Afghanistan, SEAL officials said.

His platoon leader named him a "recce," head of a group that planned how to best support SEALs with surveillance and sniper fire during battle.

Nelson pored over maps and satellite imagery and designed the best plans possible, his platoon leader said.

"The more you got to know (Caleb), the more you couldn't help but admire the man," the platoon leader said.

As the service neared its end, the pastor presiding over the funeral retook the stage from the virtual army of SEALs, relatives and friends sharing "Team Caleb" stories.

The Rev. Larry Nelson — pastor at Millard Alliance Church and Caleb's father — wanted to say one last thing to the crowd.

It doesn't matter how many pushups you do, how many vitamins you take, how perfectly you turn your body into a temple, he said.

"Our bodies are temporal," Larry Nelson said. "We're faced with the truth that this is the end of every man."

Friends and family said it was Caleb's faith — his insistence on finding a church every Sunday no matter where he was, his practice of listening to his father's sermons on his iPod in Afghanistan — and not his physical prowess that gave them strength on the day of his funeral.

A brother-in-law, Justin Enquist, described what he thinks the afterlife is like for Caleb Nelson:

Caleb didn't just go to heaven. He's in heaven demanding that the angels start working out.

You are looking a little flabby, Caleb tells them. Break time is over, guys.

"May we follow Caleb's example," Enquist told the congregation. "May we finish well."

For a news report video clip click here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Park, A Picnic, and A Dolphin Tale

One of our older boys is about to be adopted! We are all so excited! He has lived here at Casa de Amor since he was 1 year he is 8! This whole time he has been waiting for a forever family to come along and make him their very own. Now, his dream is coming true! A very sweet couple from Italy are currently here in Bolivia to finalize the adoption of Mr. A. In celebration of this exciting event and as a way of saying goodbye, I took him and three others on a special outing this past Saturday. We enjoyed playing at a fun children's park, eating a picnic dinner, and seeing a movie at the nearby theater. Here are some snapshots from our fun times together!

Mr. M takes to the slide!

Going up it is sometimes just as fun as going down!

Now that's a tire swing!

Miss. J conquers the saber tooth tiger!

Meanwhile, the boys conquer other heights!

Mr. J in the tunnel.

This jungle-gym apparatus kept the children busy for a long time! So much to climb on! So many slides to go down (or up)! And oh how fun Tag is when you have this to run around on! :)

Meanwhile, I was enjoying the natural beauty of the park.

The giant turtle.

Miss J in the tunnel now.

Finally catching up with Mr. A himself!

Dinner time!

We had a very American picnic: Honey/banana sandwiches, chips, apples, water, and chocolate cookies!

The other parts of the park from our picnic blanket vantage point.
(Love those mountains in the background!)

So much green!

On our way out, we saw these beautiful hibiscus and the purple flowering trees Cochabamba is full of during the spring!

Cine Center is but a short walk from the children's park. (Aren't those mountains gorgeous?) Here we saw a movie (in Spanish) called Winter, A Dolphin's Tale. I had read online about this movie being incredibly wholesome, family friendly, and very inspirational - and it certainly didn't disappoint! We all enjoyed the story of the dolphin who lost her tale and the children who helped rescue her from destruction. I definitely recommend it!

All-in-all, it was a great Saturday afternoon spent with some of my favorite Bolivian children! :)